Thursday, August 24, 2017

Book Review: Gwendy's Button Box

If you're a Stephen King fan but you don't quite have the time for his usual wonderful but lengthy novels, Gwendy's Button Box should satisfy your King craving. This horror-fantasy novella, written with Richard Chizmar (A Long December, October Dreams) clocks in under 200 pages.

We meet the titular character Gwendy in Castle Rock, Maine, in the summer of 1974. She is 12 years old and has committed herself to climbing the Suicide Stairs-- which zig-zag up a cliffside-- every day in order to lose weight before the school year begins. On this particular day she meets a strange, but not dangerous man in black named Richard Farris.

Mr. Farris gifts Gwendy with a button box that has several buttons of different colors and two levers, one which dispenses a piece of chocolate, the other giving out a valuable silver dollar. He explains how powerful the box is, and what the buttons do, and insists that Gwendy must keep it safe. The rest of the novella follows Gwendy through young adulthood, as the box both blesses and curses the course of her life.

It ends up being both a dark fairy tale and a coming of age story. Gwendy begins to realize the weight of her responsibility early on, but it's only as she reaches full adulthood that she experiences the real price of the box. It's a classic "What if?" kind of story that will make you wonder what you would have done in Gwendy's shoes.

Overall I enjoyed the story and Gwendy herself, although there were moments where I felt like she lost a little bit of dimension to her character. Was that supposed to happen as an effect of the box? I'm not sure. But it's a fun experience, and will leave you wanting to know more about the box and where it came from.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Invasion of the Podcasts: Ghosts, Psycho and Murder

Thanks to some freelance work I’ve been doing, every week I get to learn about new podcasts and audio stories by reading through podcast recommendation newsletters. The irony in all of this is that I process information I see better than information I hear, so listening to podcasts takes real work for me. But I also love stories and learning, so podcasts are wonderfully tempting and I will absolutely make the effort when I hear about one that’s right up my alley. Especially after I discovered my optimal podcast-listening task: washing dishes. I love sharing the podcasts I learn about, so I’ve put together three podcasts I’ve discovered recently that horror or ghost story fans would enjoy. I hope for this to be a regular series here on Librarian of the Dead, and if so, I’d like to explore other genres, topics, themes, etc. But this is probably an appropriate way to get started.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sick Day, Bloody Sick Day

Last week I had the pleasure of my second summer cold of the season, and while lying around coughing uncontrollably I thought about good sick day movies.

For me, a good sick day film has to be relatively low on gore and surrealism. Even mild fevers mess with my head, I don’t need the film to add to it. So I tend towards older films that are creepy or fun in a spooky way. Even better if it’s something I’ve seen a billion times, so I won’t miss out if I drift in and out while sitting on what I have dubbed the Couch of Doom, due to its seemingly mystical ability to cause sleepiness even when one is perfectly healthy and alert.

So as my immune system waged a war so forceful that I hoped my respiratory system would remain in tact, I came up with three solid pre-1970’s films starring horror icons to help me pass the time.