Freak Show

Freak Show by James St. James

Freak Show by James St. James is an amazing novel  and one of my favorite reads. This book follows Billy Bloom, a teenage boy with killer style who’s just moved from Connecticut to Florida.

How do I even begin to describe Freak Show, without giving away how amazing it is? Go out purchase this book immediately and lock yourself away ‘till it’s read cover to cover multiple times! Imagine, if you will, being pulled into a comic like Archie, or Betty and Veronica and throw in a dash of Mean Girls fabulousness.

Billy Bloom, the main character, is seventeen, and as a young drag queen, challenges the WASP nest that is Dwight D. Eisenhower Academy and its denizens. The cheerleaders, the football players, and the “Aberzombies” welcome Billy with less than open arms. Billy’s attempts to shine and be accepted are met with spit ball after spit ball, igniting in Billy a fire to stand up for himself and other kids at school, who had been cast aside.

James St. James, writing style, brings the character of Billy Bloom to life. As if he’s talking to you and only you, giving you, the reader, his undivided attention.

It’s harsh, over-the-top, and all too real play-by-play of the horrors some of us might have actually witnessed in high school; either first hand, or as quiet church mice on the sidelines struggling to speak up against high school atrocities.

I knew a kid like Billy in high school, who was out and proud and stood up for himself against the relentless name calling and snickering. A strong individual, who turned hate into strength.

James St. James’s Freak Show, is a piece of literature, so touching and funny, it will make you laugh and cry. This book will give you something to think about while remaining as every bit entertaining, glamourous and fabulous from beginning to end.

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Ahhh. The Tales of Beedle the Bard. Is a review of a J.K. Rowling Book necessary? Absolutely. For those who don’t know about this book. The Tales of the Beedle the Bard was published after the seventh Harry Potter Book, The Deathly Hallows. And is, in summation, a collection of fairy tales written by Beedle the Bard for young boys and girls of the wizarding world. Now made available to all muggles thanks to Hermione Granger who translated it from Ancient Ruins, with forward and commentary by Albus Dumbledore. Complete with footnotes.

Holy Quintapeds!

It’s safe to say I grew up with the Harry Potter books. They got me through Junior High. They were with me for all my teenage years. And when the last movie came out, a nail in the coffin of my childhood had been hammered.

When I picked up The Tales of the Beedle the Bard it took me back to two little books entitled Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Throughout the Ages.
These escort books, while short, are great additions to your Harry Potter Library.

In particular, The Tales of the Beedle Bard is a fun leisurely read. I plan on reading it my kids one day. The stories are clever and creative and follow many traditional fairy tale tropes. Things coming in multiples of three and some tragic endings ala The Brothers Grimm. However, the general twist of these fairytales is wonderful here is a small excerpt from the beginning of the book.

“Beedle’s stories resemble our fairy tales in many respects; for instance, virtue is usually rewarded … However, there is one obvious difference. In Muggle fairy tales, magic tends to lie at the root of the … troubles … In The Tales of Beedle the Bard, on the other hand, we meet heroes and heroines, who can perform magic themselves, and yet find it just as hard to solve their problems as we do.”

Those still craving for a Harry Potter fix now that all is said and done, if you don’t own this book pick it up, it’s worth a read, especially the commentary by Dumbledore.

The Halloween Tree

The Halloween Tree a short novel by Ray Bradbury

Enter. If you will, for just a moment. An autumn evening as the sun begins to set, the smell of fall leaves overwhelms your senses, it’s chill but not cold enough to see your breath. It’s Halloween Night.

As I re-read this book every Halloween since I was old enough to read short stories on my own. It never, not once, in all these years has lost its magic. It’s single handedly a very memorable and charming read.

The short story follows the adventure of eight young boys on an amazing journey through space and time as they learn about the traditions of Halloween nights from cultures and times gone by. Led by the frighteningly mysterious Mr. Moundshroud.

Why do we wear the bones of skeletons, and carry the brooms of witches on Halloween? What is it about this one evening that enchants the mind? A night that brings the spirit world closer with the real world.

This book does a clever job of answering just those questions. With an ending so touching and enchanting that it still gets me a little choked up.

Perhaps because the book starts and finishes in a small midwest town similar to my own it hits a little closer to home. Or perhaps, that Halloween resonates a feeling of great mystery and longing that all of us can connect with.

If you’re looking for a Halloween read. Look no further than the Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury.

Catching Fire & Mockingjay

The Hunger Games Parts 2 & 3 Catching Fire and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

For those who read the last post. This one is a long time coming. I finished both books in the span of a week. Shortly after finishing the first. So, shame on me for not getting to this review sooner.

After finishing the The Hunger Games I was super eager to pick up the box set. Catching Fire and Mockingjay are continuations of the story from the first book.

After surviving The Games in the first book Katniss Everdeen, our heroine, returns to face a whole new set of problems. Every 25 years The Capitol holds a special set of Hunger Games dubbed The Quarter Quell. And, this time the rules are more sinister than ever which ends up (spoiler!) thrusting Katniss back into the arena! However, as Catching Fire ends, the people of Panem embrace rebellion in Mockingjay, leading up to one of the most thrilling, fast paced adventures, I’ve ever read.

I can’t say that I ate, slept, or went to the bathroom during the time I read these books. In fact it’s all a big blur. Even recalling work from day to day is hazy. Was I on vacation as I read these? I couldn’t tell you. But there is a distinct chunk of time missing from my life as I read these books, in which I was right there, in post apocalyptic North America, like a fly on the shoulder of the main protagonist, fighting for my life.

I had mentioned in my previous review that the author uses a love triangle as a plot device to drive the story. Even though it seemed like people would start taking sides, similar to the Edward/Jacob bandwagons. It really “Peeta’s” out as the last two of books progress and is not overbearing. Still present, but not in your face.

These books had me from the get go. It was a story that I couldn’t put down. But had a sense of closure when it ended.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is a fast-paced and explosive trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. I was told by multiple people to read the first book and I only wish that I had listened sooner. It was probably a good six months before I walked into a Half-Priced Books and asked if there was a copy available. The lady behind the book drop-off met my query with one sentence proceeded by a small laugh, “Rarely, and if we do get a copy it’s gone within seconds.” Deeming what I know to be an exaggeration, logically the only thing to sell in seconds are Lady Gaga tickets, I could only assume that the majority of people who bought the books are keeping them as permanent fixtures in their home libraries.

The Hunger Games

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The story follows the protagonist Katniss Everdeen, using her elite archery and survival skills as she struggles through the sadistic Hunger Games. The Games take place in a post-apocalyptic North America, a country called Panem divided into 13 districts and a Capitol. The Capitol, a magnificent candy-colored city, hosts the games as an everlasting reminder of the defeat of the 13 districts at the hands of The Capitol in a previous revolution. Every year, one boy and girl are selected from each district via lottery to participate. The premise is simple: 24 kids enter the arena and 1 leaves. Everyone’s Goal: Stay alive until you are the last one standing. (For those of you that caught the discrepancy in the math, one district does not send kids. You’ll just have to read the books.)

The first book is immensely gripping, it had me actually rocking on the edge of my seat the entire time. Without giving away too much, as I progressed through the story with these characters it was no surprise, I knew all the children were marching to less than happy fates. The questions lingering in the back of my mind were: “How long can these characters survive? How will they die?” Even though I was hoping for the best outcome, it made for a rather serious dichotomy of emotions, further complicated by the relationships between the characters.

A rather unexpected, yet crucial plot device is an emotional-triangle strained by the Games. This becomes essential in Katniss’ ability to keep her life during the slaughter. It is a thought provoking element which left me feverish, like knowing at any moment a bomb could go off somewhere. Despite its seeming cliché, it did not detract from the suspense, thrill, and twists of the story.

As I read The Hunger Games, I could feel it commanding every bit of my attention. Midway through the book, as The Games started, I couldn’t will myself to go to the bathroom. I held it till the end of the chapter, my bladder angry. Akin to going to a movie and holding it to the bitter end.

Alas, at the end of this book, there is no relief. The tension grows and it grips you. After finishing this first book in paperback, I couldn’t make it a day without picking up the second. I went to Target to pick up the whole trilogy in hardcover. I am thoroughly happy and outrageously engrossed with my purchase. In short, use the bathroom before reading this book. You won’t want to miss a thing.

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There are lessons and a bigger picture shared in the book. Societal ideals and social differences between first and second world issues are loaded into the story. Reality television, war, harsh realities, a difference in backgrounds, tolerance, and survival are major themes.