Halloween Month: How Have I not Read This #2 – The Halloween Tree

Howdy ya’ll! Super Hubs here again with another entry of How Have I Not Read This! Today we’re talking about something that I’m legitimately angry I’d never heard of. See, for the first ten or so years of my life I, like everyone else, was a stupid child with practically no say in what books were presented to me. I relied on my parents to make sure I experienced the best possible entertainment for my growing mind. I trusted them. They were all I had in life…and they betrayed me.

See, there’s a book, a wonderous, magical book written by one of the greatest authors of all time. A book that is a celebration of all things Halloween. And I had never heard of it until just a few months ago. It’s a book called The Halloween Tree written by Ray fucking Bradbury! Take that in. Read that sentence. Read it again. Read it eight times. Take in every single word and realize just how much of an outrage it is that I had never heard of this book or read it. Worse, it’s a children’s book which means my parents should have read it to me. They should have made it a yearly ritual. Instead they shoved the fucking Great Pumpkin down my throat and made me think THAT was the best Halloween had to offer. That notion was eventually destroyed when I saw Garfield’s Halloween Adventure but that special didn’t get much play in my home.

Written as a direct response to Great Pumpkin and it’s distinct lack of an actual Great Pumpkin, Ray Bradbury wrote this book to celebrate all its many flavors. It’s a magical time-travelling adventure that explores the origins of Halloween (some origins may be less factual than others) while a bunch of kids say weird things and hope their friend isn’t dead. It’s pretty weird.

This will, by necessity, be a pretty short little post since the book is a children’s book and very very short. I won’t call it a review because it’s a book called The Halloween Tree written by Ray fucking Bradbury. If that doesn’t sell you on the book, nothing will.

So the main character is a boy named Tom Skelton who is dressed as a Skeleton because of course he is. He’s meeting up with some friends to go trick ‘r’ treating. They’re waiting for their friend Pipkin who the book goes to great lengths to paint as the greatest little boy to ever live in all of time ever. He’s fun and smart and awesome and strong and cool and everyone loves being around him. Basically he’s a big hit at parties and he’s awesome at Halloween. So when he doesn’t show up to meet the rest of the group they’re all understandably distressed. They go to his house and he seems down in the dumps. He tells them to meet him later at the big ol’ haunted ass house that everyone knows is haunted. They do this – after trick ‘r’ treating of course – and they meet a weird old dude named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud and he shows them his Halloween Tree which is just a big ass tree covered in thousands of jack o’ lanterns. He talks to them about Halloween and how awesome it is then they see Pipkin disappear.

Being a responsible adult, Moundshroud tells them to rip up the side of his house and make a kite out of it, also the side of his house might be made of dinosaurs. So they make a kite and Moundshroud uses it to take them through time and explore the dubious origins of Halloween. Each time period is relevant to one of the children’s costumes and it all basically boils down cavemen were scared when the sun went down and when it started to get cold and that fear stuck with us as we evolved. It gets pretty weird and I love every page of it.

In the end they find Pipkin in Mexico being held prisoner by a bunch of mummies and the only way they can save him is if each of the children gives up one year from the end of their life. This is…very troubling but they agree and Pipkin is saved! In the end, it turns out that Pipkin had appendicitis and was at the hospital getting an appendectomy. Which…makes me feel like Moundshroud didn’t need them to give up a year from their lives to save him but oh well Halloween is great and everyone loves it. Moundshroud communicates with Tom Skelton telepathically and is like “yo bro, I’m Death btw lol byeeeee!” All the people extinguish their jack o’ lanterns and the Halloween Tree goes dark and the story ends.

This book is amazing and I can’t wait to read it to my children every year. And possibly every day. Shut up and go read it. You have no excuse. It’s 144 pages and the font is big and it’s written by Ray fucking Bradbury. Shut up and read it!

Happy Halloween! Only 365 days to go before it comes around again. Go forth and be spooky my friends.

Halloween Month: How Have I Not Read This #1 – Night Shift

Howdy folks! El marido here, and I want to start this off with an irrelevant story.
In Icelandic witchcraft, there is an item called nábrók (translation: necropants). These are a pair of pants made from the skin of a dead man that are capable of producing an endless supply of money. Here’s how they’re made:
1. Ask a dude if you can take his skin after he dies; if yes,
2. Flay him from the waist down and put that shit on like pants;
3. Steal a coin from a poor widow—she has to be poor;
4. Put that coin in the dead dude’s scrotum along with a certain magical sign;
5. Profit.
I just felt the need to share that with you because…just read it. My favorite part is that you have to politely ask to take a dude’s skin but fuck that widow; just take her money!

So as you may or may not know by now, I’m a huge Stephen King fan. Big a fan as I am, I haven’t actually read everything he’s done. Some of the things of his I haven’t read are almost embarrassing…in the way that things can only be embarrassing to a very particular subset of people. One of these terrible oversights is Night Shift, Stephen King’s first short story collection. Released in 1978, this collection includes one of King’s most famous stories, one of his most infamous, two stories that work as a prequel and sequel to Salem’s Lot, and one that’s sort of a prototype to The Stand. There’s a lot going on here. And I’m gonna talk about it all! Stories with a * denote ones that have been adapted to film. Continue reading “Halloween Month: How Have I Not Read This #1 – Night Shift”

When the Lewis Lady Met the Gilmore Girls

Hellooooooooo, ladies and gents (and all you lovely folk who don’t subscribe to a binary gender). It’s ya girl Nikkie, and I’m back at it again with that blog life. In case post titles mean nothing to you, today I’ll be talking about my experience watching the early aughts’ TV “hit,” Gilmore Girls, for the first time.

The decision to watch this show was a purposeful accident. Basically, I was looking for a new show to watch because I was in a reading slump. I brought this up to my bestie, who suggested Gilmore Girls because she considered it “mindless” TV that I could just throw on while going about my life. I was on the fence because the very minimal deets I knew about the show did not interest me in any way—and I have an irrational hatred of Jared Padelecki, a main player in the first five or six seasons—so I wasn’t prepared to take her advice. But then I took several “What should I watch next on Netflix” quizzes, and the majority offered up the same selection. It was clear the universe wanted me to get acquainted with Lorelai and Rory Gilmore and their quirky ilk over in Stars Hollow. Having completed the series, I have one question for the universe:


From the very beginning, I was not a fan. Have you ever rage-watched an entire show? That was my experience here. I just couldn’t believe that this show had been so popular and apparently worthy of seven full seasons, so I kept watching because I naively believed that it HAD to get better. No, no. It got worse.

It was obvious that I had to write a blog post about this experience. But I have so many thoughts not just about the show but about the art of TV in general that there’s no way I can fit it all into one post. So for today, I will be focusing on my likes (yes, there were a few) and dislikes about the show.

To the friends of mine who are currently watching the show for the first time: Don’t go beyond this point! SPOILERS ABOUND, so if you care about that kind of thing, geeeeet ooouuuutttaaa heeeeeere.
To fans of the show: If you choose to read any further, you are opening yourself up to potential hurt feelings. I will not go easy on this show, and I will not apologize for that. If this is your absolute favorite show in the whole entire world . . . I will wonder if you’ve been trapped in a bunker with only this as your option for entertainment, but my intent in writing this is not to try and change your mind or make you feel bad. These are just my thoughts. So if you dive into these murky, hate-filled waters, that’s on you.
Everyone else: . . . Are y’all ready for this?

Continue reading “When the Lewis Lady Met the Gilmore Girls”

The After Word: Faces of Fear

Let’s talk about John Saul. John Saul is a horror author who’s…kinda popular but only really among horror fans. He doesn’t have the deep understanding of character that Stephen King does or a unique style like Anne Rice. He doesn’t have the name recognition of Dean Koontz or the brash attitude of Bentley Little. What John Saul had was consistency. I say “had” because he hasn’t released a book since 2009, but before that, he had one book out per year (or, in the case of 1997, five) and they were all…solid. They weren’t always good, but they were rarely bad—and almost all of them were bestsellers. Which is weird because I don’t think I’ve ever met a single other person who’s read a John Saul novel other than my mom.

I’ve read a few of his books, and my impressions of them have ranged from “Meh” to “That wasn’t bad.” Again, he’s not a bad writer by any means; just a safe one. He has bragged in the past that he wrote his first novel in 28 days, and everything I’ve read by him feels like they took about that amount of time. He’s competent, and he can be pretty good at building tension, but his books rarely dive very deep beneath surface level. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you just want some light reading. So, for my first review of Halloween month, I decided to talk about America’s 5th favorite horror author! I’ll…review some better stuff later. Promise.

(This is just gonna be a quick review, so I’ll spare you any overly long plot summaries and just stick to the basics. That being said . . .  if any of you are worried about spoilers for an 8-year-old John Saul novel: spoiler alert.)

Plot speed-run

Alison Shaw’s parents get divorced because her dad is gay (don’t worry; they remain friends). Conrad Dunn is an insanely successful plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills who changed his wife from a “normal woman” into the world’s most successful supermodel. A boating accident scars his wife’s face, and everyone in Beverly Hills can’t help but be total shits about it in all the ways you would expect. She kills herself. One year later, Conrad Dunn and Alison’s mom are getting married, and Alison is moving to Beverly Hills. Her friends joke with her about getting free plastic surgery. The kids she’s going to go to school with in Beverly Hills have all had work done, and they say she should get it too ‘cus her boobs are small. Her mom suggests she should. Conrad suggests she should. Eventually she does. She has a birthday party and invites her old friends; her best friend gets pissed off at her because she’s changing and got fake boobs. Meanwhile, someone is going around killing ladies and stealing their body parts and glands. Alison’s mom discovers a shrine in the basement to Conrad’s dead wife. And Alison, who originally found Conrad very creepy, is slowly coming to accept him and his profession. Guess where it goes wrong.

It turns out that the killer is somehow related to Conrad—it doesn’t really mention how, but I guess the killer was a plastic surgeon too. She mentions that she was always better than Conrad and Conrad was obsessed with proving he was the best and blah blah blah. Point is: the killer is a famous woman named Danielle who was once a man named Daniel. Conrad helped her transition to a woman, and she became a cosmetics creator. He’s blackmailing her into killing these women by threatening to out her as trans. She had developed a way of keeping body parts alive for years and years and uses glands to create her cosmetics and ointments, and now Conrad wants to use that to rebuild his dead wife. So Danielle has been searching for women who have the exact right body parts and killing them to harvest those parts (and I mean literally every part—eyebrows, breasts, cheeks, lips, etc…) and Conrad has been trying to find the woman with the exact right bone structure to remake his wife’s face. Guess what: that “woman” is Alison. He kills Alison’s mom and tries to perform surgery on Alison, but he’s stopped by her dad and his new husband.

The book is, once again, okay. It’s probably the best Saul book I’ve ever read but not because of its writing—because of its subtext. The whole book is about Alison slowly being seduced by Conrad and being made more comfortable with changing herself and her appearance. Alison starts out as a well-adjusted, intelligent girl who looks at Conrad and his profession with skepticism, but she slowly comes around to relying on his opinion about her appearance and life. In fact, the only reason he doesn’t get his way is because Alison’s mom finds out what he’s trying to do, so he has to move quicker than he had planned. It’s a story about a girl having her agency stripped away, and a look at how society (particularly a male-dominated society) makes that happen to lots of women. And it was actually pretty well done. The way Alison is changed and seduced legitimately disturbed me. It was just the rest of the book that wasn’t all that good.

The subplot about Danielle was really unnecessary but thankfully much less transphobic than I had originally anticipated. It was pretty obvious that she was the killer as the prologue is all about a man who wants to become a woman and is going to use the help of a talented plastic surgeon to do it and then that character never shows up again. So you know that she’s one of the characters we’re seeing, and there are only a few logical candidates. I guessed pretty early on that it was Danielle and wasn’t surprised by the revelation. I was surprised by the treatment of her character. We get one chapter of her POV after it’s revealed that she’s the killer . . . and she gets killed by Conrad in it. We get a look inside her head and how she had struggled her whole life to be happy with herself and how, when she finally got the body she wanted, Conrad used it to exploit her. Then he kills her. So it was nice that it wasn’t the unfortunate horror trope of “trans person is a killer because they’re trans” (see: Sleepaway Camp), but it was the unfortunate trope of “trans person exists only as murder fodder.” And really, she didn’t need to be in the book. Conrad could have been the killer himself. Danielle’s character really boils down to “created green fantasy goo that keeps organs alive for decades.”

The rest of the characters are completely throwaway, which is less a commentary on the superficial nature of wealth and fame in Beverly Hills and more just Saul padding out pages. Alison’s dad is nice, and his story with his new husband is fun. The most natural writing is when Alison is hanging out with her dad.

Overall, the book is okay. I read it in like five hours, so it wasn’t a huge time investment, and it was better than I expected. All in all, I don’t really recommend seeking it out. But I will point out that I got it for $5 at Office Max and, after it gathered dust for two years, it helped me pass the day at work. So if you’re in a bind and happen to come across it for a few bucks, it wouldn’t be the worst use of your money.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go carve a pumpkin.

Words Gone Silver: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (SPOILERS)

Welcome, welcome, you fellow film fanatics. Nikkie and Super Hubs here to break in yet another new segment (category): Words Gone Silver. In all posts that bear this moniker, one or both of us will discuss the film adaptation of a novel—basically, how it holds up compared to its source material as well as its general quality as a movie. This will contain a bit of a book review component as well if we haven’t talked about the book yet, as is the case with this inaugural post and its focus: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, written by Ransom Riggs and adapted by Tim Burton.

This will be a very interesting post because, in a rare occasion (at least for Nikkie), neither of us liked the book much! We’ll be going into detail about our grievances with the book and the movie (which suffers from its source’s weaknesses), as well as getting into some spoiler talk, so if you LOOOOOOVE this book and/or don’t want to get spoiled, don’t read any further! If you’re curious or have no strong feeling toward spoilers, read on as Nikkie kicks things off.

Continue reading “Words Gone Silver: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (SPOILERS)”