The First Story That Terrified Me

...or why I can never ever wear a green scarf.
In honor of All Hallow's Read and the giving of scary books, I wanted to share the first story that scared me. There have been great books since then that have creeped me out, made my hair stand on end, and made me keep the light on, but only one story can claim the title of my first scary story.  
When I was very young, I read In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. This book was for younger kids (6 to 8), so it was not graced with the truly terrifying images of some of his other books.
It did leave an impression on my young mind, however, and within its pages, I stumbled across a story that completely horrified me. After reading this story, I shoved the book away, covered it with a pillow, and couldn't bear to look at it for days after. Even today, rereading it gives me flashbacks to my childlike fear.
Here it is, for your spooky pleasure, The Green Ribbon.

The Haunted House by Charles Dickens

     Under none of the accredited ghostly circumstances, and environed by none of the conventional ghostly surroundings, did I first make acquaintance with the house which is the subject of this Christmas piece. I saw it in the daylight, with the sun upon it. There was no wind, no rain, no lightning, no thunder, no awful or unwonted circumstance, of any kind, to heighten its effect. More than that: I had come to it direct from a railway station: it was not more than a mile distant from the railway station; and, as I stood outside the house, looking back upon the way I had come, I could see the goods train running smoothly along the embankment in the valley. I will not say that everything was utterly commonplace, because I doubt if anything can be that, except to utterly commonplace people- -and there my vanity steps in; but, I will take it on myself to say that anybody might see the house as I saw it, any fine autumn morning.
     The manner of my lighting on it was this.
     I was travelling towards London out of the North, intending to stop by the way, to look at the house. My health required a temporary residence in the country; and a friend of mine who knew that, and who had happened to drive past the house, had written to me to suggest it as a likely place. I had got into the train at midnight, and had fallen asleep, and had woke up and had sat looking out of window at the brilliant Northern Lights in the sky, and had fallen asleep again, and had woke up again to find the night gone, with the usual discontented conviction on me that I hadn't been to sleep at all; -- upon which question, in the first imbecility of that condition, I am ashamed to believe that I would have done wager by battle with the man who sat opposite me.
      That opposite man had had, through the night -- as that opposite man always has -- several legs too many, and all of them too long. In addition to this unreasonable conduct (which was only to be expected of him), he had had a pencil and a pocket-book, and had been perpetually listening and taking notes. It had appeared to me that these aggravating notes related to the jolts and bumps of the carriage, and I should have resigned myself to his taking them, under a general supposition that he was in the civil-engineering way of life, if he had not sat staring straight over my head whenever he listened. He was a goggle-eyed gentleman of a perplexed aspect, and his demeanour became unbearable.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Book: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green

Why I Read It: Because everyone else was. I frequently give into reading peer pressure because 1) I love to read and 2) that many people usually aren't wrong.
First Line: "Late in the winter of my seventeenth year, my mother decided I was depressed, presumably because I rarely left the house, spent quite a lot of time in bed, read the same book over and over, ate infrequently, and devoted quite a bit of my abundant free time to thinking about death."

First Impression: I liked his Author's Note. Heartfelt and a great attitude toward writing and fiction in general. Good start.
Last Impression: So, it was a book about kids with cancer falling in love. The ending was what I expected, the tone was what I expected, but it was a new place and I was glad he brought me there.

Overall – 4 Heart Skipped a Beat This book is not the story of cancer, but the story of the people. In the book, Gus observes that there aren't paintings of the sick dying, people who died "of" something, but there are scores of artworks depicting heroic deaths (conquerors, explorers), people dying "from" something. Usually the only time death stories are told is when it's heroic and the only time a cancer story is told is when it's of a survivor. There is not much out there in terms of cancer "havers". This tells that story.
Characters – 5 The most well-written character is a secondary one, Isaac. The moments with him are the most honest and don't feel like an attempt to show teens with cancer, but rather like a glimpse into real moments. The main character, Hazel Grace, was inconsistent for me. A socially awkward 16 year old girl doesn't use "circle jerk" as part of her internal vernacular. But, Green did capture the otherwordlyness of a silent but connected phone line and his development of Hazel as a maturing, though dying, woman improved as the novel progressed.
Story – 3 In a book about kids with cancer falling in love, it's pretty clear how the plot will play out. It was clear pretty early on (spoiler) in which order they would die (sorry, but since there is yet to be a cure for cancer, it is the expected ending) and how they would interact with one another. The plot was predictable for the main characters; the interaction with secondary characters brought the depth and realism that just wasn't quite there between the lovestruck teens.
Narration – 4 Honest. The dialogue was natural and believable from everyone but Augustus. But with a name like Augustus, he's allowed to be a bit odd. It's written in straightforward language that reflects the tone and feel of the novel but still dotted with beautiful, meaningful lines that are popping up on T-shirts.

Read Again? No. Once was enough.

Tell Others to Read? For the adults: If they haven't already, probably not. I won't discourage it, by any means, but won't be rushing out to tell others about it. For the young/preteens: Yes. It's a unique view of falling in love. And they should see how lucky they are and how hard life can be and view all of the facets of life they possibly can. And this one should definitely be included.

Excerpt: "I nodded. I liked Augustus Waters. I really, really, really liked him. I liked the way his story ended with someone else. I liked his voice. I liked that he took existentially fraught free throws. I liked that he was a tenured professor in the Department of Slightly Crooked Smiles with a dual appointment in the Department of Having a Voice That Made My Skin Feel More Like Skin. And I liked that he had two names. I've always liked people with two names, because you get to make up your mind what you call them: Gus or Augustus? Me, I was always just Hazel, univalent Hazel.
     "Do you have siblings?" I asked.
     "Huh?" he answered, seeming a little distracted.
     "You said that thing about watching kids play."
     "Oh, yeah, no. I have nephews, from my half sisters. But they're older. They're like --DAD, HOW OLD ARE JULIE AND MARTHA?"
     "They're like twenty-eight. They live in Chicago. They are both married to very fancy lawyer dudes. Or banker dudes. I can't remember. You have siblings?"
     I shook my head no. "So what's your story?" he asked, sitting down next to me at a safe distance.
     "I already told you my story. I was diagnosed when - "
     "No, not your cancer story. Your story. Interests, hobbies, passions, weird fetishes, etcetera."
Excerpt content property of Dutton Books

Lot No. 249 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Of the dealings of Edward Bellingham with William Monkhouse Lee, and of the cause of the great terror of Abercrombie Smith, it may be that no absolute and final judgment will ever be delivered. It is true that we have the full and clear narrative of Smith himself, and such corroboration as he could look for from Thomas Styles the servant, from the Reverend Plumptree Peterson, Fellow of Old's, and from such other people as chanced to gain some passing glance at this or that incident in a singular chain of events.

Yet, in the main, the story must rest upon Smith alone, and the most will think that it is more likely that one brain, however outwardly sane, has some subtle warp in its texture, some strange flaw in its workings, than that the path of Nature has been overstepped in open day in so famed a centre of learning and light as the University of Oxford. Yet when we think how narrow and how devious this path of Nature is, how dimly we can trace it, for all our lamps of science, and how from the darkness which girds it round great and terrible possibilities loom ever shadowly upwards, it is a bold and confident man who will put a limit to the strange by-paths into which the human spirit may wander.
In a certain wing of what we will call Old College in Oxford there is a corner turret of an exceeding great age. The heavy arch which spans the open door has bent downwards in the centre under the weight of its years, and the grey, lichen-blotched blocks of stone are bound and knitted together with withes and strands of ivy, as though the old mother had set herself to brace them up against wind and weather. From the door a stone stair curves upward spirally, passing two landings, and terminating in a third one, its steps all shapeless and hollowed by the tread of so many generations of the seekers after knowledge.

Life has flowed like water down this winding stair, and, waterlike, has left these smooth-worn grooves behind it. From the long-gowned, pedantic scholars of Plantagenet days down to the young bloods of a later age, how full and strong has been that tide of young, English life. And what was left now of all those hopes, those strivings, those fiery energies, save here and there in some old-world churchyard a few scratches upon a stone, and perchance a handful of dust in a mouldering coffin? Yet here were the silent stair and the grey, old wall, with bend and saltire and many another heraldic device still to be read upon its surface, like grotesque shadows thrown back from the days that had passed.
In the month of May, in the year 1884, three young men occupied the sets of rooms which opened on to the separate landings of the old stair. Each set consisted simply of a sitting-room and of a bedroom, while the two corresponding rooms upon the ground-floor were used, the one as a coal-cellar, and the other as the living-room of the servant, or scout, Thomas Styles, whose duty it was to wait upon the three men above him. To right and to left was a line of lecture-rooms and of offices, so that the dwellers in the old turret enjoyed a certain seclusion, which made the chambers popular among the more studious undergraduates. Such were the three who occupied them now--Abercrombie Smith above, Edward Bellingham beneath him, and William Monkhouse Lee upon the lowest storey.

Beyond the Wall by Ambrose Bierce

Many years ago, on my way from Hongkong to New York, I passed a week in San Francisco. A long time had gone by since I had been in that city, during which my ventures in the Orient had prospered beyond my hope; I was rich and could afford to revisit my own country to renew my friendship with such of the companions of my youth as still lived and remembered me with the old affection. Chief of these, I hoped, was Mohun Dampier, an old schoolmate with whom I had held a desultory correspondence which had long ceased, as is the way of correspondence between men. You may have observed that the indisposition to write a merely social letter is in the ratio of the square of the distance between you and your correspondent. It is a law.
I remembered Dampier as a handsome, strong young fellow of scholarly tastes, with an aversion to work and a marked indifference to many of the things that the world cares for, including wealth, of which, however, he had inherited enough to put him beyond the reach of want. In his family, one of the oldest and most aristocratic in the country, it was, I think, a matter of pride that no member of it had ever been in trade nor politics, nor suffered any kind of distinction. Mohun was a trifle sentimental, and had in him a singular element of superstition, which led him to the study of all manner of occult subjects, although his sane mental health safeguarded him against fantastic and perilous faiths. He made daring incursions into the realm of the unreal without renouncing his residence in the partly surveyed and charted region of what we are pleased to call certitude.
The night of my visit to him was stormy. The Californian winter was on, and the incessant rain plashed in the deserted streets, or, lifted by irregular gusts of wind, was hurled against the houses with incredible fury. With no small difficulty my cabman found the right place, away out toward the ocean beach, in a sparsely populated suburb. The dwelling, a rather ugly one, apparently, stood in the center of its grounds, which as nearly as I could make out in the gloom were destitute of either flowers or grass. Three or four trees, writhing and moaning in the torment of the tempest, appeared to be trying to escape from their dismal environment and take the chance of finding a better one out at sea. The house was a two-story brick structure with a tower, a story higher, at one corner. In a window of that was the only visible light. Something in the appearance of the place made me shudder, a performance that may have been assisted by a rill of rain-water down my back as I scuttled to cover in the doorway.
In answer to my note apprising him of my wish to call, Dampier had written, “Don’t ring - open the door and come up.” I did so. The staircase was dimly lighted by a single gas-jet at the top of the second flight. I managed to reach the landing without disaster and entered by an open door into the lighted square room of the tower. Dampier came forward in gown and slippers to receive me, giving me the greeting that I wished, and if I had held a thought that it might more fitly have been accorded me at the front door the first look at him dispelled any sense of his inhospitality.
He was not the same. Hardly past middle age, he had gone gray and had acquired a pronounced stoop. His figure was thin and angular, his face deeply lined, his complexion dead-white, without a touch of color. His eyes, unnaturally large, glowed with a fire that was almost uncanny.

The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe

The "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.
But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."
It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.

The King On Writing

I have always had a begrudging respect for the "Master of Horror" Stephen King. While his genre is not my favorite, he has produced many classics and has become a legend. I mean, the general public recognizes his face. How often does that happen with authors? Rarely.

He's created some of the most classic horror stories of our generation, such as Carrie, IT, and The Shining. Even his novels that haven't become such classics are still unique and memorable: Salem's Lot, Christine, Misery, etc.

Though they have impacted the horror genre forever, I am still not a huge lover of his fiction works; Pet Sematary and Salem's Lot were great but Christine was predictable and about 100 pages too long and Dreamcatcher was forgettable.

But his novel for novelists, or at least those aspire to be so, was inspirational. I was blown away. Through an introduction that is very autobiographical, King maps out the path that took him to the page, and shares anything he feels might be useful for someone looking to find their own path. Note, he doesn't "give you the keys to the kingdom" because they simply don't exist.

He does talk about the importance of reading ("If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write"), having a place to write, setting goals ("I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I'm feeling magnanimous, I'll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with"), working with dialogue, and doing research, which is "a specialized kind of back story."

His narration is insightful, funny, and honest without pretension, and made me like him just a little bit more. I recommend this book to any author or person thinking about trying their hand at it. There is so much insight and inspiration between these pages, almost anyone who reads it will be putting pen to paper or fingers to keys.  But make sure your enthusiasm is prepared, because as the King says,

"You must not come lightly to the blank page."

The Body Snatcher by Robert Louis Stevenson

Every night in the year, four of us sat in the small parlour of the George at Debenham - the undertaker, and the landlord, and Fettes, and myself. Sometimes there would be more; but blow high, blow low, come rain or snow or frost, we four would be each planted in his own particular arm-chair. Fettes was an old drunken Scotchman, a man of education obviously, and a man of some property, since he lived in idleness. He had come to Debenham years ago, while still young, and by a mere continuance of living had grown to be an adopted townsman. His blue camlet cloak was a local antiquity, like the church-spire.
     His place in the parlour at the George, his absence from church, his old, crapulous, disreputable vices, were all things of course in Debenham. He had some vague Radical opinions and some fleeting infidelities, which he would now and again set forth and emphasise with tottering slaps upon the table. He drank rum - five glasses regularly every evening; and for the greater portion of his nightly visit to the George sat, with his glass in his right hand, in a state of melancholy alcoholic saturation. We called him the Doctor, for he was supposed to have some special knowledge of medicine, and had been known, upon a pinch, to set a fracture or reduce a dislocation; but beyond these slight particulars, we had no knowledge of his character and antecedents.
     One dark winter night - it had struck nine some time before the landlord joined us - there was a sick man in the George, a great neighbouring proprietor suddenly struck down with apoplexy on his way to Parliament; and the great man's still greater London doctor had been telegraphed to his bedside. It was the first time that such a thing had happened in Debenham, for the railway was but newly open, and we were all proportionately moved by the occurrence.
     'He's come,' said the landlord, after he had filled and lighted his pipe.
     'He?' said I. 'Who? - not the doctor?'
     'Himself,' replied our host.

The Mortal Immortal by Mary Shelley

July 16, 1833. -- This is a memorable anniversary for me; on it I complete my three hundred and twenty-third year!
The Wandering Jew? -- certainly not. More than eighteen centuries have passed over his head. In comparison with him, I am a very young Immortal.

Am I, then, immortal? This is a question which I have asked myself, by day and night, for now three hundred and three years, and yet cannot answer it. I detected a grey hair amidst my brown locks this very day -- that surely signifies decay. Yet it may have remained concealed there for three hundred years -- for some persons have become entirely white-headed before twenty years of age.

I will tell my story, and my reader shall judge for me. I will tell my story, and so contrive to pass some few hours of a long eternity, become so wearisome to me. For ever! Can it be? to live for ever! I have heard of enchantments, in which the victims were plunged into a deep sleep, to wake, after a hundred years, as fresh as ever: I have heard of the Seven Sleepers -- thus to be immortal would not be so burthensome: but, oh! the weight of never-ending time -- the tedious passage of the still-succeeding hours! How happy was the fabled Nourjahad! -- But to my task.

All the world has heard of Cornelius Agrippa. His memory is as immortal as his arts have made me. All the world has also heard of his scholar, who, unawares, raised the foul fiend during his master's absence, and was destroyed by him. The report, true or false, of this accident, was attended with many inconveniences to the renowned philosopher. All his scholars at once deserted him -- his servants disappeared. He had no one near him to put coals on his ever-burning fires while he slept, or to attend to the changeful colours of his medicines while he studied. Experiment after experiment failed, because one pair of hands was insufficient to complete them: the dark spirits laughed at him for not being able to retain a single mortal in his service.

I was then very young -- very poor -- and very much in love. I had been for about a year the pupil of Cornelius, though I was absent when this accident took place. On my return, my friends implored me not to return to the alchymist's abode. I trembled as I listened to the dire tale they told; I required no second warning; and when Cornelius came and offered me a purse of gold if I would remain under his roof, I felt as if Satan himself tempted me. My teeth chattered -- my hair stood on end; -- I ran off as fast as my trembling knees would permit.

The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

(Found Among the Papers of the Late Francis Wayland Thurston, of Boston)

“Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival . . . a survival of a hugely remote period when . . . consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity . . . forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all sorts and kinds. . . .”
—Algernon Blackwood.

The Horror in Clay.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

      Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden aeons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. That glimpse, like all dread glimpses of truth, flashed out from an accidental piecing together of separated things—in this case an old newspaper item and the notes of a dead professor. I hope that no one else will accomplish this piecing out; certainly, if I live, I shall never knowingly supply a link in so hideous a chain. I think that the professor, too, intended to keep silent regarding the part he knew, and that he would have destroyed his notes had not sudden death seized him.

      My knowledge of the thing began in the winter of 1926–27 with the death of my grand-uncle George Gammell Angell, Professor Emeritus of Semitic Languages in Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Professor Angell was widely known as an authority on ancient inscriptions, and had frequently been resorted to by the heads of prominent museums; so that his passing at the age of ninety-two may be recalled by many. Locally, interest was intensified by the obscurity of the cause of death. The professor had been stricken whilst returning from the Newport boat; falling suddenly, as witnesses said, after having been jostled by a nautical-looking negro who had come from one of the queer dark courts on the precipitous hillside which formed a short cut from the waterfront to the deceased’s home in Williams Street. Physicians were unable to find any visible disorder, but concluded after perplexed debate that some obscure lesion of the heart, induced by the brisk ascent of so steep a hill by so elderly a man, was responsible for the end. At the time I saw no reason to dissent from this dictum, but latterly I am inclined to wonder—and more than wonder.

Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of Saint Nicholas, there lies a small market town which is generally known by the name of Tarry Town.
     This name was given by the good housewives of the adjacent country from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley among high hills which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook murmurs through it and, with the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker, is almost the only sound that ever breaks the uniform tranquillity.
     From the listless repose of the place, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow. Some say that the place was bewitched during the early days of the Dutch settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson.
     Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power that holds a spell over the minds of the descendants of the original settlers. They are given to all kinds of marvelous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions.

Dracula's Guest by Bram Stoker

When we started for our drive the sun was shining brightly on Munich and the air was full of the joyousness of early summer.
Just as we were about to depart, Herr Delbruck (the maitre d'hotel of the Quatre Saisons, where I was staying) came down, bareheaded, to the carriage and, after wishing me a pleasant drive, said to the coachman, still holding his hand on the handle of the carriage door: "Remember you are back by nightfall. The sky looks bright but there is a shiver in the north wind that says there may be a sudden storm. But I am sure you will not be late." Here he smiled and added, "for you know what night it is."
Johann answered with an emphatic, "Ja, mein Herr," and, touching his hat, drove off quickly. When we had cleared the town, I said, after signalling him to stop: "Tell me, Johann, what is tonight?"
He crossed himself as he answered laconically: "Walpurgisnacht." Then he took out his watch, a great, old-fashioned German silver thing as big as a turnip, and looked at it, with his eyebrows gathered together and a little impatient shrug of his shoulders. I realized that this was his way of respectfully protesting against the unnecessary delay and sank back in the carriage, merely motioning him to proceed. He started off rapidly, as if to make up for lost time. Every now and then the horses seemed to throw up their heads and sniffed the air suspiciously. On such occasions I often looked round in alarm. The road was pretty bleak, for we were traversing a sort of high, wind-swept plateau.

As we drove, I saw a road that looked but little used and which seemed to dip through a little, winding valley. It looked so inviting that, even at the risk of offending him, I called Johann to stop — and when he had pulled up I told him I would like to drive down that road. He made all sorts of excuses and frequently crossed himself as he spoke. This somewhat piqued my curiosity, so I asked him various questions. He answered fencingly and repeatedly looked at his watch in protest. Finally I said: "Well, Johann, I want to go down this road. I shall not ask you to come unless you like; but tell me why you do not like to go, that is all I ask." For answer he seemed to throw himself off the box, so quickly did he reach the ground. Then he stretched out his hands appealingly to me and implored me not to go. There was just enough of English mixed with the German for me to understand the drift of his talk. He seemed always just about to tell me something — the very idea of which evidently frightened him, but each time he pulled himself up, saying, as he crossed himself: "Walpurgisnacht!"

Mocked By The Mockingjay

The Hunger Games books took the world by storm and will forever be immortalized. The first book, The Hunger Games, is original and engaging--a world of unfairness, strict governmental control and children death games. Katniss sacrifices herself for her little sister and unwittingly takes up the rebel cause, garnering recognition as she fights for her life. The story is addicting and the characters are dynamic; it's impossible to not be captivated.
In Catching Fire, we watch as Katniss' ambivalence breaks Peeta's heart as they fight to survive, again, as punishment for their rebellious actions. Previous winners are introduced and we're given more strong characters to root for. Readers were captivated by the Games and we're given another one here. The 75th Hunger Games is built even better than the 74th and their survival in the field is well written.
But upon closing the pages of the final book in the trilogy, Mockingjay, the story feels incomplete, heavy-handed and disheartening. At its core, the series is about fighting to survive; Katniss and Peeta fighting for their lives in the Hunger Games, the Districts fighting for freedom from the Capitol, a rebellion fighting for change and an end to tyranny. The first two books build up to the ultimate fight, the rebellious Districts against the tyranny of the Capitol. But this is not what happens.
The recently discovered District 13 and rebellion take in Katniss and the surviving rebels. The rebellion seizes control of the Capitol and the Districts and one of the first decisions they make in power is to uphold the abomination they so hated; the Hunger Games will continue, but with Capitol children rather than District ones.
As part of the rebellion, Katniss isn't allowed to fight but instead must star in propaganda films. She is manipulated as the poster girl for the rebellion and decisions that should have been made out of goodness and the moral right, such as rescuing Peeta, are only made to ensure her cooperation with the cause. Ultimately, Katniss discovers that Coin, the rebellion leader, plotted to have Prim killed (using Gale's war tactics) and framed the Capitol for her death. Learning this, Katniss realizes that there is no winning; not only has the rebellion been hypocritical immediately upon gaining power, it is no different than the leaders they just overthrew.
Mockingjay brings adult politics and deception to this children's book that had, up until this point, centered around the concept of freedom. If Collins was going to use this level of political scheming, she should have woven it throughout the trilogy and not thrown it in at the end. The lack of consistency is jarring and it undermines all that came before it.
The book ends in hopelessness; there is no triumphing over an evil regime or hope for a better future. This impacts every event in the book. The marriage and subsequent death of Finnick is especially painful because not only is one of the few happy events in the work tainted, Finnick didn't even die for a good cause. He died fighting for a leader just like Snow. Gale's warrior-like commitment to the rebellion makes him the equivalent of a Capitol guard, Peeta's loss of limb, torture and brainwashing were for naught, and the Districts empowered someone who seeks to reign as Snow had.
At the end of the series, we have learned that all leaders and governments have an agenda that goes against the will of the people. Revenge is a powerful motivator, power exists to be abused, and hope is a dangerous thing.
The sense of expectation and the subsequent emptiness left by the books is summed up rather eloquently by the opening line:
"When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold."

Christine by Stephen King

Book: Christine
Author: Stephen King

Why I Read It: I was on a scary book binge.
First Line: "This is the story of a lover's triange, I suppose you'd say--Arnie Cunningham, Leigh Cabot, and, of course, Christine."
First Impression: Well, I like old cars. This might be okay.
Last Impression: Oh my. So long winded and boring.

Overall – 3 Resting Heart Rate The first 276 pages bored me to tears. It was clear what was happening to the car, to Arnie, to their friendship, to all of Christine's victims. Everything was evident, though his prose implied he felt it was suspenseful.
Characters – 2 The human characters were flat and boring. Christine, however, was a strong character, and that's what really matters as she is our main character. Still, she was very outnumbered in the novel, and the rest of the cast isn't engaging.
Story – 3 The majority of the story felt overly long and had no suspense, but the end of the book had me on the edge of my seat. The wrap-up was poetic and realistic.
Narration – 3 King is truly a great writer, but sadly not as talented as an editor. If he had cut the book by about 300 pages, I would have been there 100%.

Read Again? Most definitely not. I didn't enjoy it the first time, and there are much better Stephen King books out there.

Tell Others to Read? The one thing about Stephen King is you don't tell others to read him, you ask what they've already read. This book is a classic, for many good reasons, and I'm sure it sits on may shelves, well-worn and well-loved.

Excerpt: She was a bad joke, and what Arnie saw in her that day I'll never know. The left side of her wind shield was a snarled spiderweb of cracks. The right rear deck was bashed in, and an ugly nest of rust had grown in the paint-scraped valley. The back bumper was askew, the trunk lid was ajar, and upholstery was bleeding out through several long tears in the seat cover, both front and back. It looked as i fsomeone had worked on the upholstery with a knife. One tire was flat. The others were bald enough to show the canvas cording. Worst of all, there was a dark puddle of oil under the engine block.
     Arnie had fallen in love with a 1958 Plymouth Fury, one of the long ones with the big fins. 
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