Christmas Haul 2017

Want to ensure a peaceful ending to your Christmas day?  Give books to the loved ones in your life.  There’s nothing like settling into a good read after a busy day of celebrating.  Here’s some gift books my family received:

Christmas Books 2017!

Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection by P.L. Travers, 2014.  My children are readers, even the youngest one who was born with Down syndrome.  Ever since we read Mary Poppins together, she’s been asking for the sequel, Mary Poppins Comes Back.  I struck gold when I found this edition which contains all four Poppins books with the original illustrations by Mary Shepard!

The Owl Diaries series written and illustrated by Rebecca Elliott, 2015. Reading aloud to children, even older ones, is important.  But I’m always looking for independent reading titles also.  This can be hard when you have new readers or those with special needs like my youngest daughter.  That’s why I love this clever and irresistible chapter book series. No adult help required.

The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and the Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin, 2014. We don’t have HBO, so no one in my household has watched Game of Thrones.  But my teenage son is a mega fan of Martin’s book series.  This beautiful, pictorial history of Westeros is pricey ($35.99), but “well worth it” according to him.

Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, 1950.  Years ago, I started a TO BE READ list to keep track of books I’d like to get.  When my husband asked for Christmas gift ideas, I gave him a few of these titles including this classic American thriller.  In it, two strangers meet on a train and discover both have problematic people in their lives.  One proposes they trade murders to get rid of them.

Innocent Blood by P. D. James, 1980. I love a good English mystery.  But I’ve never read one of the genre’s most famous authors—P.D. James.  Now I get the chance with this delicious 1980 title which met with rave reviews.

Hawkeye Vol. 3 by Jeff Lemire, illustrated by Ramon Perez, 2016.  My teenage daughter loves Marvel Comics’, The Avengers.  So when I saw this beautifully illustrated book about Hawkeye, one of “Earth’s Mightiest Archers,” I had to get it for her.  It’s a hit.

The Green Mile by Stephen King, 1999.  My daughter requested a Stephen King book for Christmas.  She’s not quite grown yet, so I tread carefully choosing a title. Many of his books are just too creepy. I decided on this 1999 title about a guard working death row and the special prisoner he encounters. I have dibs on it when she’s finished.

BONUS BIT:  Reading a good book while enjoying a meal is a pleasure… except when your book keeps shutting.  That’s why I asked for a book holder.  There are many types on the market, but mine came from Books-A-Million.  It adjusts to fit most book sizes and folds up when not in use.

For hands free reading, I got this Gimble Book Holder.

Classic Horror and a Picture Perfect Ending

Movie adaptations of Frankenstein always miss the mark.  Sure they capture the morbid way in which the monster was made (from dead body parts).  They show the mayhem the creature causes. Some point out the folly of the scientist who created life just because he could.

Sadly, most versions omit the pathos of the rejected monster himself.  But in The Monsters’ Monster,  Patrick McDonnell’s children’s book about a similar science experiment gone wrong, readers get an ending that delights rather than chills.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, 1818

Post format:  A Tale of Two Books

Frankenstein was written by Mary Shelley in 1818.  It’s the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant scientist consumed with making life.  When he succeeds, he is horrified by his creation and quickly abandons it.  The hapless creature is left to fend for itself.  In a number of touching scenes, Frankenstein’s creature tries to make friends and live among humans. But his hideousness scares everyone away.  Only then does he become crazed and murderous.  Shelley’s description of the monster’s super strength and speed is truly terrifying as is his relentless pursuit of the doctor who made and then denied him.  I’ve always thought this haunting, beautiful tale would lend itself more to a Masterpiece Theater series than a horror film.

The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell, 2012

In McDonnell’s tale, The Monsters’ Monster, three monsters quarrel about who is the worst and then decide to settle the argument by making “the biggest, baddest monster EVER!”. But when a lightning bolt brings their creature to life, its first words to its creators are “dank you.”  Disappointed, they then watch helplessly as he gently pets the snakes and spiders around him.  His foray into the nearby village takes him to a bakery where he buys treats.  Unlike Dr. Frankenstein, the three monsters’ initial disgust with their creation turns into affection by the book’s end.  In a touching scene, the monster hands each one a warm, jelly doughnut and the group gazes happily into the sunset forgetting about being monsters at all.

Now The Monsters’ Monster is a picture book which pretty much guarantees a happy ending.  And yes, Frankenstein, considered the forerunner to today’s science fiction and horror genres, would have faded into obscurity without its tragic conclusion.  But anyone who takes the time to read Shelley’s original tale will feel for this creature.  While the terror makes for great storytelling, part of you will wish someone had rather just taken the time to accept him.

QUESTION:  Do you have a favorite horror book or movie?