Tag Archives: Fiction

Blaze by Richard Bachman

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He was going to make this happen. His feet and his head was set, and when he got that way, he always did what he said he was going to do. It was his pride. The only one he had.

Blaze by Richard Bachman

I remember reading From a Buick 8 a summer ago and being completely at loss for words. Not only do I feel the same after reading Blaze – a novel strewn from the mind of a 70’s writer (and who had since died of cancer of the pseudonym) who had turned the transcript to its true maker, Stephen King – but I also spy a twinge of depression in my core.

Blaze, though fictitious, seems like an actual person, who, I believe, deserves more: more justice, more truth. His character upheld the entire novel, which in turn, makes us think about options: the good ones and the bad ones, and how life would, could, should turn out to be so much more in whichever we choose; chances; the right call. The drive to stay alive. The desire to achieve something great before we die. The cohesiveness of using and being used. The importance of indulgence and freedom. We can choose to be bad if we deem it for the good of ourselves, of society, or of the ones that matter to us. We all have reasons – reasons that are not always acceptable. As Brandon Flowers sings, “You were born with goodness”, and it is amazing how the bad can sometimes end up as or for the common good.

It was sad. The idea that struck me the most was knowing how Blaze’s life could have turned out differently. How it could have been had he not triggered his father’s ire in those early days of his life, had his friends stuck with him for the latter parts of his days, had people listened and had not overlooked him, had people not used him, and had he not fallen in bad company. Fact is, Blaze is a good guy, probably the only con that you can sympathize with. All he wanted to do was to take care of that baby. He could have done so, too, but we all know that Blaze wouldn’t be going anywhere. He just kept on running, keeping the kid safe in his arms, enduring; keeping his pride – the climax that construed the complete and irrevocable sadness that I cannot even clearly express. There was just one way to end the tale.

It broke my heart thinking about life’s purpose and the freedom that comes with it. There is always the inevitable, and there are many people, myself included, who would like to come out of it embossed with things that we never screwed up; things that we carefully plotted not because of greed but because we deserve it, and we understand that best. It’s sad thinking about watching birds fly in their absolute freedom. Or dying for someone who will never know you when you’re buried in the ground. Blaze just wanted a purpose to live – anything to tell him that he’s doing well on his own; somewhere he can place his faith, among other things.

It’s painfully emotive how Stephen King can grip at your heart and toy with your feelings. Well played – it works in a surprisingly real way, too. In his foreword, Mr. King bade the Constant Reader a pleasant reading, hoping that we mist up, and hoping that they wouldn’t be tears of laughter. Believe me, the heartbreaking truths of human nature and the odd hand of God cannot suppress a laugh out of my stomach. It is more difficult now to divert ethics and morals, and I think one has to read Blaze’s story to understand why.

4/5

As by the door to get to Heaven
Seven trumpets big and bright
You hear it coming in the middle of the night
A caution to the children
Time to turn your crimson white

We’ve all got reservations
Trials will come suddenly
And without explanation
But you were born with goodness
You were born with goodness
Wherever you go now

I’m right behind you
In the light of hope
I’ll be beside you
On that dusty road
And if you get blind, well that’s alright
Wicked winds blow with grace and might
Cling to the ways of my name
When you touch the stone

Break your word over me
Sinking in the quicksand
Break your word
Don’t you see?
You’re breaking me down now

I’m right behind you
In the light of hope
I’ll be beside you on that dusty road
When no one expects you to deny
And no one accepts your reasons why
You cling to the ways of my name
When you touch the stone

No one expects you to deny
And no one accepts your reasons why
You cling to the ways of my name
When you touch the stone

Glamorous Disasters by Eliot Schrefer

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The book is incredible. I cannot believe that it took me two years to actually get to read it. I suppose it went rather well with the odd concoction of things in my life: of tutors, of active passivity, of willingness and unwillingness, of competitiveness, of wealth, of society and status, of college. I could never proceed to putting it down for it felt too real. Eliot Schrefer’s words pierced my very core and penetrated through the flaws that I had been hiding. They were cruel, and before I could understand it, I was brought back to life’s rude awakening.

Noah’s students were interesting because they were relatable. There is Cameron Leinzler who would do anything to rise above the ranks of the class. There’s Rafferty Zeigler who can’t get past the ranks. And of course, we also have the Thayers, Dylan and Tuscany who are not exactly the intellects, nor even the pseudo-intellects, the glamorous disasters.

Extracting his partying and drug habits, I actually like Dylan’s character. Because he knows of nobody who has faith in him, he has no desires, nothing to gain. He is what the book says he is:

A dissipated young man. Not happy but not depressed, sheltered from ambition and thus also from discontent. Smooth and intentionless.

I was attuned with him when he refused to listen during math or even bother to pick up the pencil to draw triangles. I felt susceptible towards his disinclination to learn and faithlessness towards himself. It was awfully painful, and I can’t help feeling sorry for him. He is just the epitome of the spoiled damned kid who feeds off his parents’ aspirations. But what really broke my heart was his choice to take the test after all without any cheat, and, as expected, ending up alienated from any university. And, the fact that he had asked Noah to stay until the test was done was proof that he only needed direction, and that had it been there before, he would have done a lot better in his life.

Tuscany is also a favourite. She was simply an attention-whore who could hold a candle when challenged. If it had not been for the spoiling nature of her junkie doctor of a mother and a non-caring absentee man of a father (who is actually smart and sly himself), Tuscany would have had more chances in life. Because, unlike Dylan, it was not too late for her. She had ambitions and goals. All she needed was a little push – and a pull away from men who were twice her age (yes, even Noah better keep his paws off her). And Noah was right: she can make it in this world. And, success story – she actually did, which begs the question: am I a Dylan or a Tuscany?

Noah was the complex one. His love interests would easily alter from one girl to another without consciousness. It would seem that no matter what he does, how he does it, or how much he’s getting paid for it, he always has these debts and loans that just won’t get waged. I believe I now understand the distress of tutors, how frustrating it is to have students of varying personas. There are those who are too competitive and there are those who are too hopeless. Of course, there are also those who are tempting and cunning and will do anything with cash. It is a profession of deceit, and losing your position seems to be the worst thought of a moment. Noah’s own head was usually filled with his observations of the Upper East Side: of the power that he wishes he had, of pride and morals, of the reputation and high status in their society. But, the thought of tutoring the well-off kids, putting off chances for the kids that were once him often leaves him bitter and resentful in his subconscious state of mind.

Eliot Schrefer, who, by the way is a Harvard graduate and was once a tutor himself did not leave us hanging. The ending went rather well with the entire novel, in fact. Did Rob lie when he denied an attraction towards men? Did Noah even touch that $80, 000? Did Noah pay off his debts? What happened to Kent? These are the questions that, I believe, were fine without an ending. I think I would like to make the assumptions to myself. 🙂 Do not be fooled by the many acclamations of this first novel. It is, in actuality, more than just those.

I’m glad that despite my discombobulated thoughts, I chose this novel right off the shelf. Initially, I had thought that a chapter or two would be a good companion while I was sick with the cold. The entire novel actually turned out to be a rather great read for the whole semester break. For the record, I never read The Nanny Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada. Every other reviewer found Glamorous Disasters, in a positive sense, a shade of both novels. Then why isn’t this a movie? I thought it would be great, honestly. I have been imagining a cast list for the novel with Penn Badgely as Noah. In a good way, I think that would be rather fitting as Dan Humphrey is also an “outsider who became a magnificently observant insider”.

I lalalove this novel!

READ IT.

5/5.

To Write

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You dont know where you come from or where you’re going, do you? But you live with it just the same. Don’t rail against it too much. Don’t spend more than an hour a day shaking your fists at the sky and cursing God. There are Buicks everywhere.”

– Sandy Dearborn (From a Buick 8 by Stephen King)

Hi. I finished reading From a Buick 8 today. I think that the Author’s Note in the end humanized Mr. King, hehe. This is not a review of the said book. I just wanted to leave a space for it on this blog because it gave me this insane, ineffable feeling. I felt so galvanized reading the latter parts. I guess the whole book has a likeness to my present disposition. And mind that the note was written on May of 2002! The book – the first Stephen King I ever bought – is flat-out heartwarming. I just felt it tug at my heart, squeezing. This was how I felt watching Stand By Me when I was nine. And take note that Stephen King wrote that as well. It’s not euphoria, not morose. But it makes me feel vulnerable yet very happy; very inspired. It makes me think again of growing up, and getting old, and leaving a whole lot behind in the midst of questions and sadness and confusion. Life’s short. Sometimes, we want answers, but there aren’t always any. But we move on, we look back at the past when we cannot change it. We makes decisions – some, pleasant; others, not so favorable. Of course, we get scared every once in a while, but we beat our obstacles to the punch. To me, it seems that the book conveys the message that life is like the Buick in the story. Hidden behind the doors of Shed B, always there without our realizing it, keeping its secrets. We live it, we’re fascinated with it, we get frustrated with it, and sometimes, we may not like what we see or feel. It’s strange because we want to learn it so we study it but in the end, we feel apt to the idea of just getting used to it. It’s a great book. And I’m looking forward to buying another Stephen King on my birthday.

Goosebumps #06: Let’s Get Invisible

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Now you see him. Now you don't.

With strange elements sucking unsuspecting kids’ souls, secret doors, tensed protagonists, and annoying girls, Say Cheese and Die and Let’s Get Invisible are practically the same book. Except, I actually liked Say Cheese and Die. When I first grabbed Let’s Get Invisible off my shelf, I thought I was actually going to enjoy it. I thought, finally, an actual copy from 1992! Time to get comfortable. But oh boy…

Okay, so the story begins on Max’s twelfth birthday. After the party, he along with his friends, brother and dog decide to come up to the attic – under the request of Erin whom Max has a big goopy crush on. Whitey scratches by a hidden door, the kids open it, they see an old mirror, they turn on the mirror light – Max gets invisible! The story mostly sets in Max’s attic too, so every chapter is almost basically all “mirror”. His friends competing for the title of “the person with the longest time to be invisible” can get really annoying as well.

Aside from Lefty’s arrogance, Erin’s competitiveness, and Zack’s silliness, the mirror actually is the only thing I can focus on. Who made it? How can people become invisible? Why does your reflection seem to come to life? RL Stine never revealed. Of course, logically, not every question has an answer. But I would have believed it more if only RL Stine had not created a Grammy and a Poppy. I thought those were their stuffs stored in the attic – yet Max never asked them about the mirror when I thought he had the chance! The scary thing about getting invisible is that after ten minutes or so, the kids starts to become light-headed “as though a force is pulling them into the mirror itself”. The only sane kid in the group was April. While everyone wanted to beat records, she was getting cynical, irritated and constantly gets the urge of going outside to do something else – like I was.

There were parts that really irked me. Like that night before their trip to Springfield and Max was still wide awake. He actually went up to the attic because he wanted to know what causes them to disappear. I just read about him sitting there for at least fifteen minutes. The he hears a faint voice call name. I didn’t even get to find out what or whose tone was that. But that part was definitely strange. Another one was Max’s chasing scenario with his reflection. It was short-lived and undeniably ineffectual. Accidentally or purposely, it doesn’t matter – but Lefty was actually the one to “break” the mirror. And it is a bit odd because Lefty’s fate is actually the most surprising of all.

I just don’t like this edition; I was constantly bored reading it. I only liked two things in this book. Primarily, I enjoyed the first person narration. And second, the eighth paragraph on page 117. I also didn’t like RL Stine’s writing here. I mean, when it comes to the attic and the mirror, everything seems to happen slowly. And again with the “I couldn’t sleep so I counted sheep”, the storming and… ehh, scratch that, I’m getting used to those anyway. Over all, I just really wanted to refrain from the attic and the mirror and the competition and Max’s friends, and the attic and Lefty’s hubbubs and the mirror and the bright mirror light and the competition and the attic and the mirror and the competition. And repeat.

2 out of 5.

Goosebumps #04: Say Cheese and Die

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One picture is worth a thousand screams.

I actually don’t have the third book (yet), so I just proceeded to this one. In Say Cheese in Die, I think RL Stine easily portrayed not only the dim-witted things kids do when they’re bored, but also the petrifying costs of these acts. Living in a small, old town like Pitts Landing (“Pitts Landing is the pits”), all Greg, Shari, Bird and Michael ever wanted was to do something. But they can’t because it’s a boring town (very much like My-Subdivision-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named). So they challenged each other to go into the deserted Coffman House; enter then leave – nothing would have been simpler than that. But then Greg finds the old camera and all hell breaks loose.

The camera isn’t broken, but it was definitely creepy. It was one of those automatic-developing cameras, and the four friends thought it was really kewl. But when Greg takes a picture of his father’s new Taurus station wagon, the photograph showed a wrecked car – and some days after, it did get totaled! Strange outcomes also resulted when Bird’s and Michael’s pictures were taken. Bird got smacked in the head with a baseball and Michael fell off the banister. What’s worse was the annoying Shari asking Greg to take her picture during her birthday party when Greg was very much against it. And when the photo came out, she wasn’t in it – then she mysteriously vanishes without a trace! It’s as though the camera knows the future or – as written on the back cover – “maybe it makes the future”. Anyway, that camera has some issues, and Greg knew it. The only problem was that, no one wanted to believe him.

If there was one character in the story who definitely made things more complicated, it has to be Fritz Fredericks, whom we’ve known as “Spidey” up until the last three chapters. Spidey is your typical neighborhood hobo; an old vagabond, wearing black clothes; allegedly sneaks into the Coffman House to keep himself sheltered. The camera belonged to him, period. And because Greg was the one to steal the camera, Spidey suddenly starts stalking him. One time, Greg even came home and found his room trashed (Spidey’s doing, as the book wanted us to presume), as though someone had been looking for something. Now, I never would have guessed that Spidey was a scientist. An evil one at that, too. And it was quite a story he told. If Shari and Greg hadn’t escaped from his clutches that night at the Coffman House, I can only wonder what Spidey would have done to them. His demise was a shocking one, of course. After years of anguish and seclusion, the camera has finally taken his soul.

When I read Say Cheese and Die, I thought it was going to be boring. Some years back, I have perused upon the opening lines one too many times; I have practically memorized them. But it’s not really entirely uninteresting. Yes, some parts were tiring, like Bird’s Little League game in where Shari and Greg just examined the camera, waiting for Bird to get hit by a baseball. Also, I noticed that every time a frightening event occurs, a storm appears. That’s getting rather annoying. Anyway, once I got past those, the story facilitates itself. It’s sort of funny reading about a camera that kills, but at least it’s better than a phone that does the job. It sort of reminded me of the movie Feng Shui. In the movie, the bagua takes the soul of anyone who catches a glimpse of their eye in its mirror. Whereas in Say Cheese and Die, the camera takes the souls of people whose pictures it has taken. I only hoped this book has a little bit of twist It Came From Beneath the Sink has. Also, when Spidey was telling the story of the camera, he mentioned that he pilfered it from his lab partner because it would cost him a fortune. How is that? Did it already develop pictures that would show the future when it was created? Really, it isn’t clear, and it’s not written. And Spidey’s lab partner put a “curse” on the camera? A scientist who was into black magic actually bewitched some thing? Wow, that just sounded even more annoying when I wrote it!

Anyway, despite all the hubbubs of the last three chapters, this book was nice. I thought it was a little exciting, plus the dialogues were graphic. The ending was far better than what RL Stine did in Stay Out of the Basement. The cover must have also been derived from one of Greg’s dream – except there are two boys and two girls when there really are supposed to be … oh well. Too much spoilers. Read it.

3 out of 5. Say sorry, Last Chapters. Could have been a better rating.

Goosebumps #02: Stay Out of the Basement

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Something's waiting in the dark...

In the second Goosebumps paperback, Stay Out of the Basement, RL Stine narrates the story of a scientist’s obsession with plants, undesirable secrets entering a household, and Margaret and Casey’s fright towards their father’s sudden change.

To his family, Dr. Brewer is a sweet intellect whose profession allows him to observe plants and get busy from time to time. His job as a botanist never did serve as an obstruction from having a good time with his kids, or coming out of the lab to say a simple hello. But somehow, quite unexpectedly, Dr. Brewer gets fired from his job at PolyTech, and he keeps the ambiguous reason hidden from the kids. The change that soon occurs in Margaret and Casey’s surroundings would be rather drastic. Margaret realizes that her father never dubs her “Princess” anymore (which I believe she thought odd), and that Dr. Brewer doesn’t even have the time to play Frisbee or Nintendo with Casey any longer. The first chapter easily directs us to this “transformation” when the kids, willing to check up on their father’s work, immediately gets yelled at by Dr. Brewer. Dr. Brewer would also end this admonishment with his threatening words of “stay out of the basement”. Other appalling acts that we may witness in the book are Dr. Brewer’s sudden impulse to devour plant food, green blood surging out of his hand, and LEAVES SPROUTING OUT OF HIS HEAD (that one sickened me, really).

The Brewers’ basement has to be the most irritating location yet. Despite the story having been set in the middle of winter, in snow-less California, the basement was scorching hot, and the kids’ clothes really stuck to their skin. Even Casey found it wonderful to take his shirt off – which result landed them in quite a predicament. The basement actually is Dr. Brewer’s work place, that’s why he always has this OCD of keeping it guarded and locked. And with all those “breathing” plants he’s working on down there, even I wouldn’t dare take a look. But the kids are just obstinate little creatures. At night, the basement would seem even more alive: audible wailing may be heard from inside; and odd noises such as crashing and knocking would often be perceived.

The plants in Dr. Brewer’s work place were “weird”. None of them would have taken a look if Margaret’s annoying friend, Diane hadn’t been so persuasive. And because of that, Margaret and Casey got themselves into even bigger trouble. Most of the plants sure were normal – a little bigger than the usual growth, but normal, nonetheless. Others were sort of shocking. Heck, one of the big ones grabbed Casey by the waist! Ha-ha! The hell was that? I have to be honest though: when I first read about the breathing plants, I thought it was a little corny. I didn’t get what was so interesting about them. But when the kids decided to open the closet door to see what was creating those awful noises inside – BAM! I was scared spitless! Mutated plants; plants with human parts. That has to be the most horrifying part yet. And because I hadn’t remembered much about the book before I started reading it again, the battle of the dads was also rather thrilling. I was evening out clues to defy which my dad pick was. It turned out that I had it correctly after all!

Welcome to Dead House certainly is scarier than this, but Stay Out of the Basement definitely is more exciting. Actually, in terms of storyline, it does make Welcome to Dead House sound weird. I have not much problem with this book. I was only a little disturbed when Casey found Mr. Martinez’s clothes inside the basement. Was it really obligatory to strip him? Maybe Mr. Martinez was getting mutated as well, I’m not sure. But then – why was Dr. Brewer rehired? I mean, his experiments practically got everyone killed! Also, the ending was somewhat unnecessary. I remember getting puzzled and a little frightened by that as a kid. But now, it just didn’t work. I was actually planning for a happy ending – imagine that! The events were intense. I admit that I did get a little carried away reading; I also was a little concerned to know if whether Dr. Brewer was lying or not. And the part in where Margaret and Casey had the sick idea of calling the cops on their father was rather believable, too. They didn’t do it, but I would have.

RL Stine did a great job on this one, that’s for sure. Portraying the hills of California also was realistic. I actually have the 2003 version of the cover. But then I also have the VHS of this and I thought its cover was way bad-ass. 😀

3 ½ out of 5.

Goosebumps #01: Welcome to Dead House

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It will just kill you.

My love for RL Stine’s Goosebumps series is no secret. I am a Goosebumps geek, and I admit that Bet and I have a massive collection of the series itself; it had been my most-prized possession as far back as I can remember, up until I was twelve years old. And because I already finished sauntering over past issues of WWE Magazine and rereading Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations, I was somehow directed towards the immense Goosebumps collection. I greatly wondered how it would be like to read those little ‘uns again. So read I planned. And read I did.

Goosebumps #01: Welcome to Dead House, the first of the many Goosebumps (originally published in 1992) didn’t let down much. I didn’t expect a great deal when I first decided to read this again, of course. After receiving a letter from a deceased (and never-heard-of) Great-Uncle Charles, Mr. and Mrs. Benson eventually jumped at the thought of permanently moving to their inherited real estate. Well mainly Mr. Benson only though, because he wanted to quit his boring office job and pursue a writing career. But their kids, Amanda and Josh weren’t exactly as fond of the idea. And when they actually get to see this “new-fangled” home, their dislike for it augmented even more.

Amanda appears as a first-person raconteur, and would then describe their new home as a “mansion compared to the old house”. It was rather unusual looking, standing so forlorn within an empty street. The trees bordering the property would bend over the mansion, casting utter darkness towards the house itself. And every time they get closer to the settlement, the wind would blow immensely cold despite having been set in the middle of July. To make the long story short, the house was simply “creepy”. The scariest thing that I first read was Amanda seeing the boy with a blond hair running around her house. By the by, she would see more kids inside, and would even receive nightmares about the house. Josh would reveal the same. And at night, the curtains would flutter even though the windows are closed!

But it wasn’t only the house; the town was rather eerie as well. Dark Falls is a four-hour drive from their old home, and is very, very different from what the kids have grown accustomed to. For instance, they didn’t see anyone in the entire neighborhood when they first arrived. Trees also bend over the other houses and the silence was almost deafening. The few kids who showed up were menacing. Two of them had already told Amanda that they used to live in the Benson’s new home.

The first sign to have shown that something was wrong began with Petey – the terrier. Everything with the dog just literally screams “Let’s get out of here!”. The first time the Bensons got to see the inheritance, Petey began yowling and yapping, even growling at the real estate officer. Mr. Dawes however wasn’t the only one who got barked at; everyone Petey saw in the neighborhood was daunting to the dog. And that was very odd because Petey was usually behaved. It even ran off the first day, directing the Bensons to Cemetery Drive. Petey’s demise was as sad as it was spine-tingling. And this was no ordinary death either; it’s the least I had imagined, actually. This incident would eventually lead to a chain of events that surprised me even more.

I never really thought that I would ever be held in suspense anymore when I decided to read this. But I admit I received a few goosebumps (:D) nonetheless. There actually were sequences that I had not remember, and most of them chilled me to my core. I had problems with the ending though, because it seemed a bit rushed. I mean, a yellow gas from a factory killed all those people? What factory? How random indeed! And why do the inhabitants need fresh blood every year? And at any rate, why the Bensons? Ah well. At least I gave it a try. I think people would still enjoy reading this book. It may be a bit cliché (it’s an old book, for heaven’s sake!), but it still hasn’t lost its spark. Also make an effort of looking at the cover illustration (by the very artistic Tim Jacobus) while you’re at it. I just noticed that there is a man looking out the bay window. Hands-down spine-chilling.

3 out of 5.