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It by Stephen King Book CoverHello, my fellow Gaston College Book Club followers!  Well, aren’t you going to say hello? For those of you who have read the book I am about to review or seen the TV mini-series from the early 1990’s, you will likely understand the previous reference.

I never thought in a million years that this novel would receive nothing more than a casual glance by me.  As I have probably mentioned in past posts, the horror genre of literature is one of the least visited ones for me other than Westerns.  Part of the reason stems from the fact that I do not typically like to be scared. However, considering that the book I am about to review is being remade into a theatrical feature, my curiosity peaked.  From time to time, I enjoy reading a novelization of some books that have a film counterpart, typically before the film itself is released.

The book I am reviewing today is a doozie, not only for its scope, but also for its length. Depending on which format you read, the number of pages can range anywhere from 1098 pages to 1500 pages.  Be forewarned:  while I will attempt to not reveal any spoilers, there is no guarantee that this review will omit key plot points.  Realize also that this is not a book for anyone who gets easily offended.  For anyone who has doubts about the content of It by Stephen King, I highly encourage you to read the “Tags” section of this review.  This is definitely NOT a novel that anyone younger than 15 should be reading, and that may even be a stretch.

The story of It is mainly a coming-of-age story about the Losers Club, a group of kids living in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. One summer, amidst not only the awkwardness of puberty but also the onslaught of a group of boy teen misfits led by Henry Bowers, the Losers’ Club encounters It, also known as Pennywise the Clown, a shape-shifting malevolent entity. Each main character comes into contact with It at various times throughout the novel, and the climax ends with the Losers’ Club confronting It as adults in the 1980’s.

The only negative aspect of this novel that deserves mention is that the story alternates back and forth from the 1950’s to the 1980’s, but this could also be dependent upon each reader’s personal preferences.

For fans of horror, this is without a doubt required reading, and it would seem strange if you are a horror genre fan and you have NOT read this novel yet.

And yet underneath all of the gross-out gore, profanity, racism, and the darker side of the human psyche lies the essence of all great stories:  believable yet flawed characters, excellent antagonists that which the reader may still sympathize, and a nasty shape-shifting villain whose demise is yet unknown to this particular reader.  I have about 200 or so pages left until my journey through this novel is complete.

What is quite possibly the best part of this novel is that there is a certain poignancy to the main characters.  Ben Hanscom, who as a child is heavyset and a hopeless romantic, is able to surprise anyone who tries to hurt any of the Losers Club members.

I would dare go far enough to say that this is one of the best novels I have ever read, easily making my Top 20 all-time favorite reads list.  Did this story scare me?  Yes.  Were there times when I read it but probably should not have and thus had nightmares?  You bet! Was I entertained while reminded of the awkward yet innocent times of childhood and yesteryear?  That deserves a resounding YES!

It by Stephen King is available for checkout at the Morris Library and is part of the Summer Reading display.  Please stop by during the library’s hours of operation to see what is available.

 

GC Lib Disp May-July 2017 Website BannerHello, once again my fellow Gaston College Book Club followers! Evening Librarian Whit Preston here once again to bring you an announcement regarding the current library display.  With the general population of the United States experiencing warmer temperatures, there of course comes many time-honored traditions.  Not only is baseball in full swing but individuals and families are traveling to a variety of places.  And naturally, the time to read books, especially for leisure, is evidently here.

With that being said, I would like to include my rationale for choosing the specific selection of books, which can be found at the following web address:  http://www.gaston.edu/library/2017-summer-reading/.  The simple keyword search “Best Summer Reading Books” returned a great many results from which to choose.  One of the initial common threads I utilized was finding duplicity across the results.  For example, if both National Public Radio’s Best Summer Reads of All Time and the New York Public Library’s Staff Picks included Dune by Frank Herbert, I strongly considered choosing that particular title.  Additionally, I tried to include literature that covered a variety of audiences, whether it be material for adults or works of nonfiction.  One that immediately comes to mind is Bugs, Bogs, Bats, and Books: Sharing Nature with Children Through Reading by Kathleen T. Isaacs.  My great hope for everyone is that I did a stellar job providing an inclusive selection of the Gaston College Libraries’ print books, audiobooks, and eBooks.

I would like to end my post by encouraging everyone to stop by the libraries to see what is available within the current Summer Reading selection.  There might be some which many have already read, but several of the novels have been published within the last 5-10 years.  That’s all for now! The next post that I will write will be about It, a novel from a genre into which I rarely venture:  horror.

Image result for the son philipp meyerHello, fellow Gaston College Book Club followers.  Whit Preston here with a review for a book that is currently being made into a television series on the channel known as AMC.  Everyone should understand that I have only ventured into the Western genre on a few rare occasions, this novel being the second attempt.  To be perfectly honest, I could only read about 100-150 pages of this book before I started to tire of the story.  However, that is not to say that this is a horrible story.  It simply was a story that was not meant for me, for whatever reason.

For the sake of being informed, I have included a few tags that will hopefully act as guidance but will also be warnings for anyone not wanting to read about certain subject matter.

The Son by Philipp Meyer is part family saga and part Western.  Like most Westerns, there is a fair amount of violence, a few incidents of rape, and at least one incident of the savage killing and eating of an animal.  The story is told in chapter form in different time periods ranging from the 1840’s to the present and with various characters.  So that the reader is able to keep track, the beginning of each chapter has a heading that tells which character and time period is of pertinence.  The novel tells the story of the McCullough family, whose main character Eli is considered the “first son of Texas”, with him and his descendants being successful cattle ranchers and oil tycoons.  A great amount of research and detail  was likely to have been conducted by Meyer.  Flora and fauna of all sorts are mentioned and, given the fact that Eli is kidnapped by a group of Comanche Native Americans, the language of this particular tribe is included.

This is a great novel for anyone interested in escaping to a different time and place that is quite, if not completely, believable.  Be forewarned though.  The details included are quite gritty at times but in some cases, a bit mundane.  The story of Eli is undoubtedly one that will remain with most readers, considering that he was thrown from one dire life situation to another, hardening him into a man as tough as the Wild West itself.

The Son is available for checkout at the Gaston College Libraries to anyone who has a library card.  Until next time, keep reading, and please be sure to stop by the Gaston College Libraries to see what new books are available.

Hello, fellow Gaston College Book Club followers.  Whit Preston here with a review for a novel that many might see as the end of a terrible trilogy of tomes, better known as the Star Wars: Aftermath series.  Star Wars: Aftermath Empire’s EndImage result for aftermath empire's end by Chuck Wendig feels weighted down for the first 250 or so pages.  However, the action and plot get extremely interesting, especially if prior knowledge of events that happen during Star Wars: The Force AwakensReturn of the Jedi and other stories are known to the reader already.  The last 100-150 pages can evoke the same sensation that a participant or spectator of a great sporting event feels: the action truly accelerates at a breakneck pace, creating an exciting end to a series.

Within this story there are hints at how the First Order, the military force that replaces the Galactic Empire, was formulated. This is only given a scant amount of exposure.  However, the details that are given will be enough for die-hard fans of the Star Wars saga plenty on which to speculate.

Star Wars: Aftermath Empire’s End is not available at any of the Gaston College Libraries.  However, there is a possibility that it could be included with the upcoming lease books.  Additionally, it can be requested via Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

 

For any previous backstory in this series of novels, please refer to the Star Wars: Aftermath book review that has been posted in a previous and separate post.  This first book in the series, is available for checkout at the Morris Library at Gaston College.

Hello, fellow Gaston College Book Club followers!  Evening Librarian Whit Preston here once again, and I know it has been some time since my last post.  But, my inner geek is wanting to tell of a Star Wars novel that I recently finished.  So, here goes:

Star Wars: Aftermath-Life Debt by Chuck Wendig, the second story of a planned trilogy of books, is hyperspace leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. But those in the loop may already know how big of a stinker Star Wars: Aftermath, the first book in the series, is perceived as being.  Gone is the viscous story flow, and in its place is a well-crafted story.  While characters from the original trilogy are far more prominent, the new characters also bring an equal amount of heft to the story.  The well-known characters from past iterations, such as Return of the Jedi, and the newcomers from the Star Wars: Aftermath series, work cohesively toward accomplishing each’s intended goal.  This is true for the protagonists and antagonists, the good, the evil, and the neutral.

The only negative part of the story is that there seems to be a kind of mundane tone to the story.  Anyone looking for a TON of action, warfare, and combat, may want to stick to other novels.  However, the relationships among the characters, and the nuanced twists, betrayals, and secrets yet to be revealed in terms of major plot events and unresolved conflicts between certain characters, can all be compelling reasons to proceed onward to reading.

This is definitely a worthwhile read for anyone looking to pass the time until Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, is released later in 2017.

Spoiler alert:  Although this cannot be proven, there are rumors that one of the characters named Gallius Rax is none other than Supreme Leader Snoke, mastermind of The First Order.

Thanks for taking the time to read this review.  And please stop by the library to see what other great books have arrived recently.

Image result for secret lives of bats

Ever wondered if all bats cause rabies?  Exactly how much food must a bat consume on a day-t0-day basis?  And why is Austin, Texas such a popular place for bats to congregate?  These are just a few of the questions answered by Merlin Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International and Ph.D. graduate in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Kansas.

The book does NOT read like a dissertation, but is interwoven with three genre formats: part narrative, part memoir, and part informative text.  One chapter discusses Tuttle’s experiences studying vampire bats, and within the chapter he tells of a young boy that essentially “befriended” one of the furry critters being studied, in very much the same way a person would raise a dog for the purposes of being used as a pet.  Yet within this same chapter he discusses the challenges he faced while using the netting to capture some of the bats, and also presents factoids such as the daily amount of guano produced by an individual bat.

Anyone interested in debunking preconceived notions and blanket stereotypes of bats should definitely consider giving this work of non-fiction a fair shot.  As with most works of fact, individual chapters can be chosen to read while others could be omitted.  In essence, an overall sense of being better informed can be accomplished, something that is paramount within the majority of works of literature.

Some of the information may feel a bit superfluous to the less detail-oriented reader, but there is something for everyone to enjoy.  And just as an all-you-can-eat buffet has a variety of food, so this book provides a plethora of situations involving the furry winged wonders of nature:  one chapter talks about cacti that have adaptive features conducive to attracting bats while another chapter discusses the obstacles and successes regarding the establishment of a national park for a specific species of bats in American Samoa.

Ultimately, this book is worth reading, if for nothing else than to browse a few chapters of interest.  The book is available for checkout for anyone with a Gaston College Library Card, and is part of the Summer Reading display located on the First Floor of the Morris Library.  I encourage everyone to stop by to see this book and others, as well.

Until next time, keep reading, and we hope to see you soon at our libraries!

Image result for we are pirates

Hello once again my fellow Gaston College Book Club followers!  Evening Librarian Whit Preston here with another entry regarding my latest read.  The Summer season is upon us, and what better way to kick off the Summer Reading months than with a book review of a book written by the author whose pen name is Lemony Snicket.

Although the idea of Summer Reading is meant more for public libraries, I like to think that there are many of you who read works of fiction, non-fiction, and the like during this time of year.  The book I am reviewing today is a modern day rendition of a pirate story, but this is not necessarily what is stereotyped as piracy, that is, the plundering of treasure and terrorizing the high seas.  Rather, this is more about the greed we as humans can possess: greed for prosperity, greed for prestige, and greed for attention.

We Are Pirates by Daniel Handler essentially is a work of fiction that pertains to the Needles, a family that can be seen as dysfunctional yet redeemable.  The story’s central character, Gwen, is at a place in life that can consist of a roller coaster of emotions and one of the most awkward phases of human growth and development, also known as puberty.  At the story’s beginning, she gets caught in the act of shoplifting, and her parents decide to have her volunteer at an assisted living facility as punishment.  During that time, she befriends another girl who becomes her partner in crime, and they also begin to obsess about being pirates.

This is a story that begins innocently enough, but by the story’s end, many readers might become depressed by the events that transpire.  There are acts of violence that occur, but nothing terribly gruesome is described in detail.  But fear not, ye landlubbers!  The story does have a bittersweet ending, and is recommended for teens, adults, and older audiences.

That is all for the time being, but please stop by the library to see the Summer Reading display, as well as the Staff Picks and the New Releases sections.