Clive Barker

Clive Barker has been a favorite writer of mine since I discovered Weaveworld in 1987.
Clive

Weaveworld is one of my favorite books of ALL time.  And it is one of the few books I’ve re-read.  In fact it became an annual ritual that at the end of EVERY school year while I attended Southern Connecticut State University that as a release I would pick that book up and read it.

 

I treasure Weaveworld to such a degree that I own multiple copies of the book.

–A signed UK first edition
–A hand corrected (Mr Barker’s own hand) proof
–Three paperbacks
–One held together by rubber bands, the book has been read do often.
–One trade Paperback
–One mass market paperback.

 

A warning about this book:
Weaveworld is EXTREMELY graphic and if you are concerned about graphic material this is not the book for you.

 

If you can look beyond the graphic nature of the book you’ll be in a for a thrill ride.  So what is Weaveworld about?

The Weaveworld is a magic carpet, but this carpet is unlike any other magic carpet you’ve ever come across.  There are beings who not quite human who have taken sacred places to them and woven them into this carpet to hide from something that has sought to destroy them for millennia.  A guardian chosen by them has stood watch over their carpet and now the last guardian has become sick and is dying.  What will happen to the carpet now?

 

I’ve mentioned Clive Barker previously in Scranton Page Turner Teen Fiction column.  He has written many other books and readers may be turned off by him as they consider him a “horror” writer.

 

He is NOT!

 

His extensive catalogue includes several favorites:
Teen Books:
The Abarat Series

Four books about a young girl who travels to a mystical archipelago of thirteen islands.  She thinks she’s been there before but cannot recall.

 

The Thief of Always
A young adult fable.

 

Sacrament:
This is his most personal book as it discusses his coming out.  It’s the one book I felt he HAD to write as it was probably very cathartic for him.  Sacrament is more than about coming out, however.  It’s a call to action to come together and save what’s left of this planet.  You’ll have to read the book to understand what I mean.  Weaveworld also has that as a theme as those not quite humans I discussed are saving sacred places to them.  Now that I consider Mr Barker’s work more in depth I realize that his stories return to that theme again and again.

 

As with my own writing when I wrote fiction, dark fantasy is merely a vehicle to get the point across.  It’s why I’m so adamant about readers reading EVERYTHING.  If you can look beyond the genre and see the point of a particular story, you’ll come to enjoy every genre of fiction and non fiction.

 

Mr Barker simply uses his genre to express his feelings.  I’ve read everything has written other than his latest book:
Mr. B. Gone is on my list.  I just haven’t gotten to it yet.

 

Until next time…
Turn the page.


Chris

Ben Bova

Mars

Ben Bova has been writing Science Fiction for many years.  I discovered him in the early 1990s when I picked one of his books in the Planet series:
Mars
This was the first book I read by Bova and the first in the series.  He has since written Planet books:
Venus
Jupiter
Saturn
Mercury

 

He has written sequels to several of the of these.  In my opinion the best in this series is Mars.  I have yet to read any of the sequels.  I’ve pretty much stopped reading sequels, because I don’t think you can ever go back and recreate an experience.

 

That doesn’t mean anyone else should stop reading them.  It’s just how I feel.

 

I’ve also read books by Ben Bova outside is Planet series and he hasn’t disappointed yet.  See? SF/Fantasy is my favorite genre as anyone who has been following Scranton Page Turner should be aware of.

 

Ben Bova is one of the masters of this field and if you want to dip your toes into the wide array of the genre I couldn’t think of a better place to start.  If you’re intimidated by SF or if it isn’t something you think you’d like then pick up one of his non fiction books.

 

Might I recommend his 2001 book called:
The Story of Light

 

Give me a choice of several authors I could read and Mr. Bova would certainly make that list.  Check him out.  I won’t steer you wrong.  I think you’ll find him an enjoyable read.

 

Until next time…
Turn the page.

Chris

Suzanne Palmieri

What draws me to a particular book?  That’s a challenging question to answer as I read so many books a year.  Science Fiction and Fantasy are still and I think always will be my favorite genre.  Magic Realism is an extremely close second.  Authors such as as Jonathan Carroll and Alice Hoffman fall into that category.  There is just enough fantastical magic in those books to keep me turning the pages.  Last summer I discovered a third author who has made the list and moved up a notch in my list of favorite authors.

 

I met Suzanne Palmieri on Google+ where she has a profile last year after reading her debut:
The Witch of Little Italy.
WitchItaly

I felt an instant connection to that book and if you want to see how strong that connection is I recommend reading my column at Wisdom and Life about The Witch of Little Italy.

 

 

 

 

 

That book and her second book:
The Witch of Belladonna Bay

WitchBay

has magic, witches, and just a bit of the paranormal in them to keep a reader looking for that type of fiction turning the pages.  I can see the gradual improvement in Suzanne’s style with Belladonna Bay. She’s more confident in writing about the magic that permeates our world, the magic that is all around us every day.

 

You know that Magic and the Divine are around us all the time, don’t you?  And it isn’t just a select few that feel it.  We can all find that magic within us if we only work on cultivating it.

 

 

 

Suzanne has another hit with her Belladonna Bay.  If you haven’t discovered her yet, run!  Don’t walk to find her books.  You won’t be disappointed.

 

Until next time…
Turn the page.

Chris

Reading Lists

Working at my public library in Madison, Connecticut, I’ve made many many friends who relish books as much as I do.  One longtime reader of another blog I maintain, Lisa R. and I were discussing books last week.  She asked me if I always had a love for reading.  Honestly when I went to high school, you couldn’t pay me to read.  And I told this to Lisa.  I understand some of you may take umbrage with what I’m about to say, but I can say without hesitation the reason I didn’t want to read in middle school and high school is the books we were given to read.

 

Image from:
Flickr
ReadingList

Let’s be honest, many students in the primary school system aren’t mature enough to understand the symbolism in the books they are required to read:
The Scarlet Letter
Grapes of Wrath
Lost Horizon

These are just three books that are on many reading lists.  I read all three of these in high school, and I found them completely dull, and without any style.  I’m sure many students would agree.  I didn’t understand what these books were attempting to put forth.

 

Now some thirty years after high school I’ve gone back and re-read The Scarlet Letter and Lost Horizon multiple times and I adore them.  I see the books in a much different light now.  I understand the symbolism.

 

Grapes of Wrath?  Still haven’t been able to get passed 50 pages in that book.  However I’ve read just about every other book by Steinbeck.

Cannery Row is my favorite

 

Hemingway is another classic reading list book.
The Old Man and the Sea was a HUGE favorite of mine when I read the book in the eighth grade.  Hemingway became the exception.  And I devoured every book he published.  My favorite?  That’s easy:
The Sun also Rises

 

Primary School Reading Lists?
While they have their place, I think we should reconsider the books being placed on those lists.  After all the reason behind those lists is to encourage reading, correct?  Some of the books on standard reading lists need to be refreshed.

 

That’s my two cents for what it’s worth.

 

Until next time…
Turn the page.

Chris

Quantum Science

As everyone following Scranton Page Turner knows, my reading taste is quite eclectic.  Recently, thanks to a friend of mine I’ve been exploring Quantum Science.  Two books I’ve read in April have really been amazing and I can heartily recommend them.

 

Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn
Amanda Gefter
Trespassing Einstein

The author, Amanda Gefter had a love of science instilled in her from an early age by her Dad.  Now a young woman, she works for a Manhattan magazine and she comes across a notice of a physics symposium taking place in New Jersey.  Amanda sees this as an opportunity to question some of the worlds well known physicists.  She and her Dad decide to “crash” the symposium as reporters.

 

What is completely fascinating about this book and its author is that she is “learning as she goes.”  The other thing I found surprising is that I actually understand what Ms, Gefter is writing.  Granted she IS writing for the lay person, however some of what she says can only be understood if you have a passing knowledge of science.  This is one fine book and I’m so happy it was suggested to me.  Check it out.  Think you may get something out of it.

Parallel Worlds
Michio Kaku
Parallel Worlds

I’ve read about four chapters from Parallel Worlds and I can give a HUGE thumbs up to this book already having only read a small sample.  Kaku has several other books that are on my radar now.  Hyperspace being one of them.  I honestly don’t know what influences me to become fascinated by a particular genre of book but at the moment I’m completely engulfed by Quantum Science.  It’s interesting reading these two books back to back as many of the same terms are used.  I think it’s a welcome choice to read them one after the other.  I don’t think there is any particular reason to read one first as they both discuss similar topics.

 

I can’t recommend these two books highly enough.

 

Until next time…
Turn the page.

Chris

A Play on the Pied Piper

Children being taken in the night is a frightening experience.  Today I have two books with that as the central theme.  The first book:
Ridley Pearson’s
The Pied Piper

PiedPiper.jpg

is a few books into the Daphne Matthews/Lou Boldt detective series that takes place in Seattle, Washington.  I’ve read every book in the Boldt/Matthews series and each gets better than the one before.  In this book, a serial kidnapper has struck the Seattle area after striking in various cities throughout the California area.  Known as The Pied Piper because the calling card he leaves behind is a flute that is reminiscent of the original Pied Piper from mythology who lead children away with his own flute.

 

Will Daphne Matthews and Lou Boldt get the Pied Piper before he strikes again?  The Boldt/Matthews series never fails to impress and this book is fast paced and well worth your time.

The Stolen Child
Keith Donohue

NPR
StolenChildjpg.jpg

The Stolen Child is far different from The Pied Piper.  It holds some familiarity however in the fact children are stolen in the night, but in the stolen child’s place another child is replaced.  And in this story we focus on one child, and his replacement.  Why the children are stolen is something you’ll have to discover for yourself by reading this gripping urban fantasy.  I can tell you that The Stolen Child wound up being my favorite book of the year when the year ended in which I read the book.

 

As I’ve maintained since beginning Scranton Page Turner, I said I would only review books that kept me in thrall, books that I couldn’t put down.  I have an eclectic taste in books and I think that’s why my library director tapped me to write this blog.

 

I hope I’ve introduced some authors and books you might otherwise have missed.  I do my best to find books that aren’t necessarily in the mainstream.  I feel that anyone can come in and pick something off a shelf, whether it be a library or a bookstore that everyone has read.  That was never my intention with Scranton Page Turner.  I want to show you some of the hidden gems that lie below the surface.

 

Hoping I’m doing that.

 

Until next time…
Turn the page.

Chris

The Writing Life

Zen and the Art of Writing
Ray Bradbury

Zen:Writing.jpg

Bradbury became a phenom at such a young age having climbed to the top of the literary ladder by the time he reached his thirties.  Writing Science Fiction mostly, he found his niche early.  Bradbury was such a known commodity in Hollywood that was tapped to write the screenplay for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

 

Bradbury has been a personal favorite of mine for many years and I’ve read many if his short stories and novellas many times over Two of my favorite shorts follow:

A Sound of Thunder
The Veldt

 

This column being about the writing life however should concentrate on books about writing.  I DID want to give some background on Bradbury before I plunged into his thoughts on the writing process.  Being a writer myself and originally following the same path as Bradbury, writing science fiction and dark fantasy I discovered Zen and the Art of Writing in the mid 1990s when I wrote in that genre.  This book is a series of essays and I believe this is where my favorite Bradbury quote appears about writing a first draft:
Writing a First Draft is Like Throwing up on a Page.

 

I know!
I know!

 

Sounds gross, but if you’re a writer and you really dissect its meaning, that passage makes so much sense.

 

A first draft of ANYTHING requires simply getting your thoughts on paper.  Don’t even consider what you’re writing, which is the point Bradbury attempted to get across with that quote.  There will be plenty of time, oodles of time to go back and clean up the mess.  The first draft is simply spewing forth as quickly as possible before you forget. Just let those synapsis control your fingers as they type on the keyboard.

 

If you’re a writer or long to be one, this is one book to have in your permanent collection.

Writing Down the Bones
Natalie Goldberg

Writing:Bones.jpeg

This is another MUST have for the writer or the writer to be.  Know the rules first.  Then break them.  Ms. Goldberg believes there needs to less rules, not more.  Bones is a spiritual book as much as it is a lesson on writing.  Using facets of meditation and wedding them to the writing practice, Ms Goldberg has created what I think is the first book marrying spirituality and the writing life.  This is one of the few books I still own on the writing practice and I find myself pulling it out more frequently than I seriously thought I would.  This book can help any number of writers hone their craft and I highly recommend taking a look at it.  I’d be willing to bet that once the book is in your hands and you’ve skimmed through its pages that you’ll find yourself agreeing with me.

 

Still Writing
Dani Shapiro

StillWriting.jpg
Picked this book up at the library a few weeks ago as it made its way back through the book drop.  Having been a writer all my life, I’m always fascinated by what makes writers tick.  As I read this book I felt connected with so much of what the author says.

 

Dani wrote because she needed to.  Writing became her release.

I write because I need to.

 

Still Writing is different in some ways from the other two books I mention here.  This book is more a memoir and what it’s like to live a creative life; the importance of writing every day and what happens when you don’t.  A short book, I read it in a couple of days.  Because I’m a writer, I felt Ms Shapiro was directing this book to me.

 

If you’re a writer or know someone who is, Still Writing must be on your shelf.

The Looming Tower

Another column with just two reviewed books:

Looming Tower
Lawrence Wright

Unlike many books I read, The Looming Tower took me over a month to get through.  Typically, this can be seen as a challenge that I’m not liking what I’m reading.  The fact that this book took me so long is far from an indictment.  On the contrary, it was quite enlightening and educational.  I believe this is a book EVERYONE should read.  The language is dense and that being the case I found myself going back to re-read passages I’d already read.

The Looming Tower is a history of Radical Islam from its inception.  One of the reasons I love recent history books (recent in my time) so much is the fact that I get to relive the past through reading about it.  This was the case with Wright’s book.

–He discussed the assassination of Anwar Sadat.
–He discussed the early stages of  Menachem Begin/Anwar Sadat peace treaty.

The Looming Tower is just such a powerful book and anyone wanting knowledge about the world we live in today MUST read this book.  If you’re anything like me you may find the book tough going, but I implore you not to give up.  You will be rewarded for reading it through.  You’ll come away with more knowledge and you’ll be better informed of what happened during and after September 11.

Our Endangered Values
Jimmy Carter

Our Endangered Values by Jimmy Carter may well be viewed as the antithesis of The Looming Tower.  Written after September 11, Carter, a Democrat who served one term as President of the United States from 1976-1980 has been a voice of dissent during the George W Bush Presidency.

Seeing the clamp, Bush placed on American Society with various laws he enacted most notably The Patriot Act, Carter pushed back with this book.  I think this would be a nice companion to follow The Looming Tower.  I clearly understand Carter’s motivation for writing this book and I found myself agreeing with much of the content.

I recommend reading both of these books back to back.  I don’t necessarily think one should be read before the other.  However I believe you’ll understand more about recent history if you read them one after the other.

Until next time…
Turn the page.

Chris

Mistaken for Monsters

Just two books again this week and one other thing:
At the moment I’ve decided to cut back Scranton Page Turner to twice a month.  The First Tuesday and the last Tuesday of every month.  We will see if I stay on this schedule but for at least the next two to three months that’s what I will be doing.

Her Monster
Jeff Collignon

This book may be challenging to locate at the moment as I believe it is out of print, however if you can lay your hands on a copy, I highly recommend reading it.  Part fable, part gruesome tale of friendship.  A physically damaged man who can no longer take care of himself lives alone and apart from humanity and when his mother can no longer care for him either a young girl stumbles upon him.

 

Knowing he can no longer care for himself, the young girl, Katherine agrees to help him survive, bringing him food and other necessities.  A friendship develops between Katherine and her monster.  This was a touching book and harkens back to all the ostracized “monsters” of lore:
The Beast of Beauty and the Best
Frankenstein’s Monster
The Hunchback of Notre Dame

 

All misunderstood and all simply wanting a place at the table.  Do your best to find this book.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

Alice Hoffman
Second Nature

Second Nature was my inaugural Alice Hoffman book.  In fact, immediately following Her Monster. I discovered Second Nature in a box of books in the cellar of my Mom’s house.  After reading the jacket, I KNEW I found my next book.  What I didn’t know at the time was that I was about to launch a love of Ms. Hoffman’s entire collection.

 

Second nature tells a similar tale as Her Monster and I quickly discovered why Hoffman is such a master storyteller.

 

From the book’s jacket:
Robin Moore never wanted to be anyone’s savior.  But when she sees a beautiful and innocent man mistaken for a beast she rescues him and takes him home with her.

 

Thus starts this retelling of Beauty and the Beast and someone else who just wants to fit in.

 

From Second Nature, I devoured EVERY Alice Hoffman book and look forward to each successive book from this favorite author.

Until next time…
Turn the page.

Chris

Read All Genres

Essays
Part Two

There are many people I know who will read only from one topic:
Be it JUST mystery.
Be it JUST non fiction.
Be it JUST children’s literature.

 

My theory on this (big surprise) is entirely different.  The only way to become “well rounded” is to read ANYTHING and EVERYTHING.  How can you expect to be an educated individual if you read from just one topic?  I LOVE Ray Bradbury’s quote on reading and libraries:
I spent three days a week for 10 years educating myself in the public library, and it’s better than college.

 

You just know that even though he wrote primarily Science Fiction, he read from every genre.  Every writer must read from every genre.  Reading everything enriches your vocabulary, enriches your sense of place, enriches your life.

 

If you are a writer, it is imperative to read everything.  It is really the only way to improve as a writer.

Isn’t the concept of being educated to know a little from every area?

Isn’t that why in college you have to take core classes before you take classes in your major?

 

Can’t the same hold true for reading?  I find it fascinating when I come across a one genre reader and because I read EVERYTHING I do my best to break the one genre habit when I see it.

 

Wanna help?

Every time you find someone who says they only read mysteries,
Every time you find someone who says they only read children’s books,
Every time someone says they don’t read fiction…

…Give that person a book that is outside their comfort zone.

 

Until next time…
…Turn the page.

Chris