Book Review

Revisiting ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

Publisher: Anchor
Genre: Horror
Pages: 672
Format: Paperback
Buy Local My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

‘Salem’s Lot is still a popular horror novel, despite being published in 1975, a fairly long time ago. For that reason, I believe that it’s appropriate to write a review and revisit this renowned novel that Stephen King regarded as one of his favorites. I hope it inspires you to either read this classic for the first time, or—if it’s been a while since you’ve read it—to dust it off and dive back in. 

At its most basic level, ‘Salem’s Lot is a horror novel about vampires. It takes inspiration from vampire stories such as the infamous Count Dracula, but is far more modern in terms of writing about vampires as they infiltrate regular society, largely inconspicuous until the living start to pay closer attention.

However, upon a closer glance, the novel all is not what it seems on the surface. In fact, vampires aren’t even suspected for at least the first 100 pages. Instead, the focus is on the introduction and development of the characters. Their stories are what carry the novel and make it important and a worthwhile read. As King often does in his books, there are underlying themes woven intricately into the subplots and characters that require closer attention from the readers—mirroring the relationship between the vampire, Kurt Barlow, and the protagonist, Ben Mears (joined by the townspeople). As Mears and some of the townspeople join forces to defeat the vampire infestation, much is learned about the characters and their pasts. 

Even though the vampires are supposed to be the antagonists of the story, it could be argued that the real antagonist is the pressure of living in an idyllic town, and the damage that can be done by burying some of the traumas that the townspeople feel are better left unsaid, due to the importance of maintaining the town’s ‘squeaky clean’ image. 

That being said, there is a reason King is regularly associated with the horror genre. While there are more tender, human, components of the novel, the concept of the undead comes alive within the novel, and it is equally engaging. King stays true to traditional vampire lore, complete with nods to garlic and holy crosses. However, pairing these stereotypes with a rural North American town setting make it both modern and haunting.

With everything from scares to keep you up at night to well developed characters you’ll fall in love with, ‘Salem’s Lot is, without a doubt, a novel both worth reading for the first time or dusting off after a long hiatus.

What I Learned About Misogyny Through Reading The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy

Elizabeth Kendall’s The Phantom Prince: My Life With Ted Bundy recounts her long-lived romance with one of America’s most prolific serial killers, Ted Bundy. The firsthand account is terrifying, but not for the reasons you might think. Elizabeth doesn’t spend time detailing the killings themselves, but instead tells the story of Ted Bundy from her perspective: that of a lover. Haunting is the tale, as she slowly realizes that a person she loved and trusted was capable of such horrendous crimes.

However, upon reading this novel, there was a component I found to be far more chilling: the power that Bundy held as a man in the 1960s and ‘70s, that allowed him to more easily manipulate his relationship with Kendall. In turn, she was led to believe her instinct was wrong, which manifested in her strong feelings of guilt for suspecting him of murder. 

First, Bundy was able to begin to manipulate Kendall by agreeing to marry her, only to break off the engagement numerous times. Even as he began to betray her trust and pursue affairs with other women, she was coerced into believing he was going to marry her. This was especially important given the context of the times, because she was pressured into marriage by both her peers and parents. This allowed Bundy to wrap her around his finger and keep her looped in for years, even after she had reason to end the relationship beyond reasonable doubt.  

In addition, Bundy used her naivete and lack of self confidence to feed her sense of self-doubt. In her novel, Elizabeth often expressed that she felt ugly—especially in comparison to other women with whom Bundy was involved. These ideas were enforced often throughout the relationship, as Bundy would often tell her she was the love of his life, only to tell her she was clingy and desperate days later. This vicious cycle continued to instill doubt into Elizabeth, and contributed to her beliefs that she was inferior to her male counterpart. 

Perhaps the most crucial example of misogyny in the novel occurred outside of Elizabeth’s personal relationship with Ted Bundy. Instead, it took place when she initially attempted to speak with detectives about her concerns regarding Bundy’s involvement in local murders and kidnappings. Despite the evidence Elizabeth provided, she was often written off by male detectives as a ‘crazy’ girlfriend who was accusing her partner of a crime without any form of evidence. This, however, proved to be wildly untrue, as Bundy was eventually convicted of all the crimes Elizabeth tipped off detectives about. Even more disturbing is the fact that the male detectives seemed more concerned with Kendall’s sex life with Bundy than they were about her thoughts on his involvement in the crimes themselves. This was, without a doubt, one of the most striking examples of misogyny in the novel.

In conclusion, I feel that Kendall’s novel was very important, even in today’s political climate. Although her suspicions may have been taken more seriously in the present day, there are still parallels due to the leverage Bundy took advantage of by being the male in the relationship, and the lack of influence Elizabeth had over detectives because she was perceived as a woman with little self-confidence. The Phantom Prince is a worthwhile read for those who are seeking to reflect on gender roles and their unfair impact both within personal relationships and outside them.

Elizabeth Kendall, Getty/Netflix via esquire.com

The 2021 Tucson Festival of Books


Have you been itching to find new books and connect with fellow book lovers and authors? If so, mark your calendar for Saturday, March 6 and Sunday, March 7, 2021! On those days, the Tucson Festival of Books will take place. This year, the organizers of the event have adapted to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and are excited to offer a new, all-virtual experience for readers like you. 

The two-day event will take place completely online and will showcase live author events for adults and children from many categories. In addition, it will feature familiar venues, such as the Arizona Daily Star stage, the Pima County Public Library Nuestras Raíces stage, and the Western National Parks and Science stage. Most content will be provided live or with live Q&A, with select sessions on demand.

The event creators are very enthusiastic to provide a safe yet engaging experience in the midst of the cancellation of last year’s festival due to the pandemic. “We value the safety of the Tucson community and are excited to share this immersive, virtual experience with all book lovers and fans of the Tucson Festival of Books,” festival executive director Melanie Morgan said in a statement to thisistucson.com. 

When March arrives, don’t miss this amazing, one-of-a-kind festival! More information about the festival can be found here.


Location: Online
Date: Saturday, March 6, and Sunday, March 7

4 Heartwarming Books to Improve Your Mood

If you’re anything like me, you may be feeling stressed about the current state of the world. To start, there’s a global pandemic. To complement that, there is a lot of global unrest and political tension. Sometimes reading news headlines makes me want to curl up into a little ball and hide under my bedsheets. Sometimes it seems like we’re in dire need of some humanity and compassion—and there is seemingly little to be found. 

Because of my current mental state,  I’ve recently found myself looking for little sparks of positivity. By doing this, I hoped to balance out the negativity of both world events and the minor inconveniences of everyday life. Naturally, I turned to books. I often find that fictional stories not only prove to be a pleasant escape from reality but also offer a glimpse into the truths of human emotion and love. By living vicariously through story book characters, I’m able to examine how deeply I feel and what resonates with me in regards to the emotions of the characters. This way, I’m able to re-evaluate my life using a brighter perspective. I often finish stories feeling more empathetic and with more peace of mind than I had when I started reading. 

That being said, I’ve selected a few heartwarming novels that have made a positive impact on my life, often in more ways than one. If nothing else, they’ve helped me view life through a more optimistic lens. The following is a compilation of a few stories that are sure to improve your mood: 


The Matchmaker—Catriona Innes. Caitlin lives in her own world. It’s seemingly perfect, but, in reality, it is riddled with fallacies. This story follows Caitlin as she explores who she is, with focus on the time of social media and dating apps, when it appears as though we have never been more connected yet more isolated. The Matchmaker is a story about love, loss, and loneliness, and learning to accept your reality. It is an uplifting novel, and Caitlin’s character and her progression are sure to win your heart. 


Fangirl—Rainbow Rowell. Fangirl is the story of two twin sisters named Wren and Cath who have suffered the misfortune of growing up without a mother. Their father is also absent for most of their lives, and they cope with this in different ways. Cath is an introvert—she is content to live in the world of the internet and her books. Her sister, Wren, is also her best friend. The story follows the two girls as they embark on their first year of college, as they are faced with the need to adapt. This story is a great pick for anyone who enjoys a genuine, funny, and charming novel. 


A Man Called Ove—Fredrik Backman. This book was recommended to me by my Grandma. I was hesitant to read it at first because it didn’t immediately pique my interest. However, once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. It’s almost impossible not to be enveloped in the story of Ove, an ornery old man who has all but completely given up on life. He is retired, has a short temper, and arguably has way too much time on his hands. He uses most of his spare time to enforce block association rules that no one else cares about. He also occasionally visits his wife’s grave. Although the story starts out looking rather bleak, the novel gains traction when an energetic young family moves in next door and accidentally flattens Ove’s mailbox. In the aftermath, the family and Ove develop a sincere and caring—albeit sometimes dysfunctional—relationship. This story is amazing for anyone who needs a smile, or even some hope. 


A Mango-Shaped Space—Wendy Mass. Mia Winchell is a girl who has just entered adolescence. However, she struggles with things far beyond the typical trials of becoming a teenager, such as puberty and romance. Instead, Mia lives with synesthesia, which can be described as a confusion of the senses. For example, to Mia, words and sounds appear to have color. The novel circulates around Mia’s experiences with synesthesia and the problems she faces in school and with her friends. In learning to overcome something most people her age (and most people in general) don’t know about or understand, she navigates finding her voice and place in the world. I would recommend this book to anyone who feels stuck or needs a pick-me-up.

Book Review

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Publisher: Dial Press
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Buy Local
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

This story is about a set of fraternal twins, Noah and Jude, as they begin to navigate young adulthood. The two share a love for art—but  Noah is very open about sharing his artistic ability, while Jude tends to keep her talent to herself. Despite being extremely close as children, their relationship begins to shift as tensions rise in each of their personal lives. Further pressuring them is the impending application deadline for a prestigious art school that both twins applied to. 

As their lives progress, Noah and Jude are each faced with their own set of challenges that push them further away from one another. In addition, they begin to lose sight of their own identities. Just as it appears that things couldn’t get any worse, an unanticipated disaster strikes, changing both of their lives in the aftermath. Will something—or someone—bring them back together?

Thoughts

This novel was recommended to me by one of my close friends. I had never heard of it, and as such dove in without many preconceived expectations. To my excitement, the novel was not slow to start and it wasn’t long before I was fully immersed in the stories of each of the two protagonists. Both were very accessible characters, mostly because of the book’s multi-narrative format. Reading from each character’s point of view added a lot of relatability to the novel—I was able to empathize with both Noah and Jude and became invested in each of their stories. 

Perhaps one of my favorite components of this story was the way art was used to develop the theme of personal identity. Throughout the novel, art is something both of the twins use as a form of self-expression and communication. However, Noah and Jude are both dynamic characters—and their relationship to artwork changes as part of their development. At the beginning of the story, both use art as a way to express themselves, privately. By the end of the novel, each character has learned to use art to communicate who they are as people and as a mode to display how they want to be seen. I loved reading as each of the characters experienced this shift in perspective. It even influenced the way I viewed my own ideas concerning creative expression. 

Adding to the novel’s magic are many beautiful quotes riddled throughout. One of the most notable is “We were all heading for each other on a collision course, no matter what. Maybe some people are just meant to be in the same story.” In the context of the story, this signifies that fate may play a role in Noah and Jude’s relationship. No matter how hard they try to distance themselves from one another, they continue to be pulled back together by some unseen force. Although this may not be the case for all real-life relationships, I think it serves as an interesting examination of what causes some people to fall back into each other’s lives, no matter the circumstance.

I removed half a star from my rating of this book because it romanticizes life a little bit too much for my taste at some points. Although it was a great escape from reality, there are some parts of the story that are too overtly chauvinistic to take seriously. I do think the story offers a lot of profound insight on the meaning of life and relationships—but some are too whimsical to buy into. That being said, the moments where the book misses the mark are few and far between, and it didn’t impact the story’s readability at all. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a thought-provoking and heartwarming story.