Favorite Spooky Story

Anyone who knows me knows that I love scary stories. I love talking about them, I love reading them, I love listening to them, and I love searching for them online. I love real stories that other people have shared, and I love fictional ones created by authors to scare and entertain their readers. Ever since I was a child, I have always been fascinated by the idea of the supernatural. When my brother and I were little, we had Alvin Schwartz’s well-known trilogy of “kid-appropriate” spooky short stories, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I’m not sure if I owe my obsession with scary stories to these books, or if they just added to it, enhancing my love for all things spooky. My brother and I brought them everywhere with us, from school, to our grandma’s house, and even all the way to Canada. We would take turns reading them out loud, trying to scare each other every chance we got. One of our favorite spots to read these stories was around the campfire with our parents, roasting marshmallows for s’mores and frequently looking over our shoulders towards to woods surrounding the cabin.

Part of what made Schwartz’s collection of scary stories so terrifying would be the illustrations by Stephen Gammell that come along with them. In recent years, the collection has actually been re-released with new illustrations, trying to make it less scary for today’s generation of kids. Each story that appears in the collection is nothing more than a few pages. Sometimes, the shorter the story, the scarier it was. Schwartz gathered inspiration for these stories from folklore and urban legends around the world. He includes information in the back of the books that explains the origins of each story. While I don’t remember all the stories, I do still remember a few of the details from the stories that I enjoyed the most.

“The Hook” and “High Beams” are two widespread urban legends, and variations of them have even been used in scary movies (Urban Legends) and television shows (Supernatural). Both of these stories appear in the first book in Schwartz’s collection. My first exposure to these widely known urban legends comes from reading this book with my brother. If you’re not familiar with these stories, you must be pretty sheltered—or maybe just not be as obsessed with scary stories as I am. For those who never heard of them before, Schwartz’s simple version of “The Hook” is about a teenage boy and girl who are on a date when they hear about a murderer with a hook for a hand, who escaped from an asylum. The girl wants to go home, but the boy wants to stay in his parked car and make out. Finally, the boy agrees to drive the girl home. When he gets out of his car and walks to her side to open the door for her, he stops and stares. Confused as to why, the girl rolls down the window to ask him what he’s doing. That’s when she looks down and sees a bloody hook on the door handle. To this day, this is still one of my favorite urban legends.

“High Beams” is about a girl who’s driving home when a truck driver behind her begins flashing his bights at her and following her. The girl is terrified and races home, the truck driver keeping up behind her and following her the entire way there. He gets out of his car and points a gun towards her, only to explain that there was someone in her backseat with a knife, and he flashed his brights every time that person raised the knife as a way to warn the female driver. I still check my backseat every time I’m getting into my car at night because of this story. Although I no longer know what happened to my brother’s and my collection of these books, fortunately they are all available to read online here.

Written by Sam Miller

Something Borrowed: Novel vs. Film

If you caught the book review that precedes this, you already know my feelings on the Emily Giffin’s novel, Something Borrowed. If you happened to have missed my book review, “Book Review: Something Borrowed, this wonderful novel follows the life of protagonist, Rachel White as she tries to find what is missing in her life; at the novel’s start, she is a practicing lawyer, she has her close friends Darcy and Hillary, and she seemingly has her life sorted out, but it all changes once she turns 30. When Rachel turns 30, she realizes there is one thing she is missing and his name is Dex, also known as Darcy’s fiancé. Rachel’s life turns outside down–the good girl she was becomes just as memory as she begins an affair with Dex. This radical move blows everything up, but it also, in the end, changes her life in a positive way.

The novel and the movie share some typical similarities that one would see in a film adaptation. The characters essential to the story remain present as the core focus of the movie. Ginnifer Goodwin is Rachel, Kate Hudson is Darcy, and Colin Egglesfield is Dex. There is no question that these actors played their roles well. But, Hollywood cut one character, Hillary. Hillary is Rachel’s confidant as well as the moral compass in the novel as Rachel navigates the uncharted territory she finds herself in. Instead of removing the character, the movie people combined Hillary with the character, Ethan. In the novel, we only see Ethan in a few, brief instances before moving front in center in Giffin’s sequel, Something Blue. However,

Ethan’s role in the film is major, anyone who has seen the film can attest to that; fans of John Krasinski definitely know this role is huge as he makes us laugh and swoon as the lovable Ethan. Ethan becomes the voice of reason needed to push Rachel. He also brings the comic relief in what could be a very stirring movie–adultery does not tend to sit well with people. He is arguably my favorite part of the movie. I sit back and watch it for him 99% of the time.

I have to say, despite the adultery, I love this movie. I originally saw this before reading the book and I fell in love with both of them. Emily Giffin’s novel is witty and wonderful as is the movie the novel is based on. The emotional aspect to both is captured well and you feel what the characters feel. If you’re looking for a movie to watch or a book to read, check out Something Borrowed!

Written by Gabbi Battiloro

Book Review: ‘Someday, Someday, Maybe’ by Lauren Graham

SomedayLauren Graham’s debut novel, Someday, Someday, Maybe, takes us back to the ‘90s, 1995 to be exact, and follows the character Franny Banks as she struggles to make it in the acting biz. With the dream of being on Broadway, Franny moved to New York two years and six months ago hoping that she would make it big before the three-year anniversary of her move to New York was up, but Franny has found no such luck. With her 3-year acting deadline looming, Franny works to make the last six months count before she completely gives up on her dream of being a famous actress and heads back home.

With ‘90s references, objects, and notions that make readers, especially the ‘90s babies, feel nostalgic. Through entries in Franny’s Filofax and Graham’s voice, you cannot help but feel a connection with Graham’s work, making it easy to attach yourself to the story she has put together. Franny is an adult trying to chase her dreams so she can do what she loves for a living, to which anyone can relate. Plus, Graham’s trademark quick wit and charm remain intact in her written work, keeping the reader very entertained and hungry for more. If you are a fan of Lauren Graham or Gilmore Girls, you will most certainly get lost in Franny’s story.

While reading this novel, I felt I could relate to Franny’s sense of humor, ambition, and determination as I work towards accomplishing my goals; as long as you have a sense of humor and are willing to deal with a few bumps in the road, you can do this. Someday, Someday, Maybe reminded me that when things look bleak, you can’t give up. If you wake up feeling like you may not accomplish your dreams or that you’re not really accomplishing anything at all, you need to keep going, keep fighting, and know that one day you will succeed.

Rating 5/5

This review was written by gabbi battiloro.

Bookstore Review: The Dolphin Bookshop (Port Washington, NY)

Along Main Street in the waterside town of Port Washington lies a gem of the community The Dolphin Bookshop. A staple since 1946, the independently-owned bookstore recently moved into the idyllic location steps away from the footpath that runs through town. With the renovation came a community center playing host to art installations, book signings, children’s events and a general meeting spot for coffee, lunch or just conversation.

Walking through the front door of The Dolphin, you are greeted by whimsical gifts and seasonal displays, inviting you to think about your gift-buying list. Obviously, an array of beautiful books including coffee table books are categorized for simple browsing. But interspersed are beautiful scarves, hats, jewelry and other gift items carefully selected with the unique gifter in mind. It is clear that the typical customer expects to discover items unparallelled to other gift shops. The Dolphin also keeps the customer in mind by curating select books. Employees chat with customers on end about their tastes in literature so that they can tell which books will appeal to the general purveyor. Every turn through the maze of bookshelves reveals a new treasure. Games, tea sets, and picture frames are hidden throughout.

Making your way through the store, you will find the airy café sandwiched in between the two major sections. A plethora of tables in the multi-windowed room lends itself to a relaxing break. The aroma of Stumptown Coffee and the view of the treats available for purchase is enough to entice anyone to settle in. Lunch items include paninis with names such as Catcher in the Rye and Alice in Wonderland – which are made to order (gluten-free available) – as well as various homemade soups. A plethora of snacks are also available. The café is the venue for book talks and other events as well. On Friday nights, The Dolphin hosts free music performances.

Past the café is The Dolphin’s kids’ section, which is truly a special place for any child. Toys of various sizes are carefully selected for the customer looking to move beyond Toys R Us’ selection. Toys like GoldieBlox, designed to enhance problem solving, are just one of the unique brands that the Dolphin carries. The books available are for all ages, ranging from baby books to teenage novels. Puzzle and other activity books are plentiful as well. You can satisfy the demanding child with moderately-priced tokens to appeal to their need to leave the store.

The charm of The Dolphin Bookstore resides not only within the store but in its surroundings. Port Washington is a lovely place with antique shops and quaint restaurants. Taking a trip to the store can be a full day activity with the exploration of this destination town.

Check out the website here for weekly events.

This review was written by Denise Goldman.

 

Book Review: ‘Something Blue’ by Emily Giffin

something-blue-emily-giffin

Darcy was always the pretty and popular one who had everything handed to her. Darcy always had good things just happen to her. Life was always spectacular. However, it isn’t until Rachel and Dex realize that they love each other, an unanticipated pregnancy, and her paramour, Marcus, breaking up with her, that Darcy realizes life won’t always be so easy. Darcy realizes it is time for her to do something bold in order to change her life for the better. Darcy abandons her New York City life and hops on a plane to London to see her other childhood friend, Ethan. When Darcy and Ethan reunite, sparks fly, igniting the idea that love can be found in the most unexpected places.

Emily Giffin’s sequel to Something Borrowed does not disappoint as she allows us to see through Darcy’s eyes. As a reader, you see a natural transformation of the self-centered, materialistic Darcy to the caring, kind, considerate Darcy. If you read Something Borrowed, you already have a history with Darcy through Rachel’s eyes. You are completely aware of how everything revolved around her and how she seemingly lived the “perfect life.” In this sequel, we peek into Darcy’s thoughts and see how she becomes a completely different Darcy. Darcy’s personal growth from a narcissistic, vapid, immature person to a caring, warm individual is truly lovely as she finally sees what the world is really like and what it means to truly love someone. Sending Darcy to London to reconnect with Ethan spurs a wonderful story that once again proves how everything that is supposed to happen will happen. Just as Rachel and Dex were meant to happen, it is the same for these two characters as readers see the bickering turn to attraction and then into love.

I personally became invested in both of Griffith’s novels because of the movie, Something Borrowed, which is based on the first novel and stars the ever beautiful, John Krasinski as Ethan. I honestly was unsure if I would like either novel. However, Griffith’s wit and flow – and picturing John Krasinski as Ethan – allow the reader to keep turning its pages at lightning speed; you may start at Something Borrowed, but end up reading until you reach the beautiful ending of Something Blue. Anyone who has read the first novel, is a fan of the movie Something Borrowed, or is looking for a sappy, touching, romantic book to read will enjoy this book.

Rating: 4/5

This review was composed by Gabbi Battiloro.

 

Television Show Review: ‘New Girl’

1

One of my favorite shows on television (let’s be honest; I watched it all on Netflix) would definitely have to be New Girl. I don’t think there has ever been an episode that hasn’t made me crack up. Writer Elizabeth Meriwether knows how to get an audience laughing. Besides having one of my favorite TV couples ever, another reason I might be so obsessed with New Girl is because, as a 20-something-year-old, I find myself relating a lot to various characters on the show. For instance,

I can relate to Nick in terms of trying to live a healthier lifestyle:

2

I can relate to Winston when I eventually give up said healthier lifestyle:

3

Or to Jess about life in general:

4

And to Jess when I feel overwhelmed by grad school:

5

Or how I handle life when I’m upset:

6

Although I can’t relate to it, I can definitely understand Nick’s adult reaction to a break up:

7

I can relate to Schmidt when I feel like an old man and start complaining about people from the “younger generation.”

8

Or to Jess whenever I feel like someone older than me isn’t showing me the respect I feel I deserve:

9

While there are many funny moments in the show that I can feel myself connecting with, there are also many serious moments that I can relate to or learn from, as well.

I love this simple yet easy to forget message about love from Jess.

10

Or this reminder that being alone is not always a bad thing, but in fact something that everyone should learn to love and celebrate. After all, who doesn’t crave a night alone on the couch every now and then—with their favorite bottle of wine, favorite Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Dirty Dancing playing on the TV? Or is that just me…?

11

As a 20-something year old, I’ve been in a few relationships that completely did not work out. After each break up, I would get scared that what I am searching for in terms of love does not actually exist, and it’s comforting to see a character I’ve grown to love and respect (even if she’s completely fictional) to have the same fears and doubts as me.

12

There’s this important little life lesson from Schmidt about remembering, even as an adult, that the world does not revolve around you and there are other peoples’ feelings to consider.

18

Cece’s advice is something that will never not be useful in life. No matter how hard it gets, no matter how many times you feel like you’ve failed, keep going.

19

And last but not least, when all else fails, remember that you always have your family and friends.

20

THIS POST WAS COMPOSED BY SAMANTHA MILLER. YAY!

“She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing.” – J.D. Salinger

This quote is from one of my favorite short stories, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” from the book Nine Stories. Many of Salinger’s short stories are centered on the fictional Glass family, an eclectic group living in New York City. This story is about Seymour Glass, one of the brothers, who has recently returned from war in 1948. In this story, Seymour and his wife, Muriel, are at a hotel in Florida on vacation. Seymour is suffering from some mental issues related to his time overseas. The first part of the story involves Muriel’s telephone conversation with her mother. She is dismissing her mother’s fear that Seymour is unstable. Salinger must successfully establish Muriel’s self-centered nature immediately. He begins the story by stating the fact that the long-distance phone lines were completely tied up at the hotel, and Muriel had to wait around for her call to become available.

“She was a girl who for a ringing phone dropped exactly nothing.”

The line appears in the second paragraph, which contains only one other sentence. The sentence is not written in the common grammatical way. The partial syntax inversion forces the reader to put the stress on the end of the sentence. The ringing phone signifies her popularity. The fact that Muriel won’t budge for it indicates how narcissistic she is. In one sentence you can picture this girl, ignoring the ringing telephone, in her egocentric little world. Salinger wants the reader to understand that, even though Muriel had been waiting for the call to go through for half the day, she could still not be bothered to rush to pick up the phone. With this one line, Salinger is able to create an image of the woman. It’s a quirky sentence written by a quirky writer, and it has always been my favorite.

This analysis was composed by Denise Goldman.

ESSAY: The Dangers of Imagination: Tom’s Possible Character Development in Huckleberry Finn

Huck Tom Jim

Upon first reading Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, one cannot help but view Huck as the character who undergoes the most development or change within the novel. His growth is one of spiritual, emotional, and psychological means, and his relationship with Jim only enhances this progress. Huck heroically battles a socially constructed conscience that tells him how to live (more specifically, how to treat someone of a different race), and he expunges this inner voice as much as possible for the sake of his friend. However, Twain sneaks a character like Tom Sawyer into the novel, who seems much more obedient to society’s norms, especially in reference to racism and slavery. Tom also indulges in a romantic imagination that includes honor, adventure, and violence, for his educational background involves reading books with such elements. As Tom appears and disappears in the novel, Twain gives the reader an opportunity to view Tom as a victim to society, just as much as Huck. It is as though Tom could never survive the “real” world, which Huck has seen, because Tom’s education system and socially constructed causes him to rely solely on a privileged lifestyle, as well as an escapist mentality. Thus, Twain uses Tom as a vehicle not only for critiquing romantic ideals, but also for critiquing how this could lead to a loss of touch with reality.

Continue reading

Book Review: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn

In looking over the reviews we’ve done for this blog, I couldn’t help but notice how a majority of them are overwhelmingly positive four and five-star ratings. I initially thought I would try to write a negative review as my next entry, maybe something really scathing about a book I hated in order to diversify the content on our site, and that it would somehow give us more clout as reviewers to not constantly gush over everything.

But then it occurred to me: “Who wants to read a negative review?” We work in the Writing Center and write for this blog because we’re passionate about literature, and we want to share that passion with our fellow students and scholars. So with that being said, now I want to talk about a book that I absolutely LOVED.

Now, despite the fact that I’ve already reviewed both a book and a TV pilot about war on this blog, the truth is that war books are something I very rarely read. It just happens that I’ve read some extremely good ones this year, and I felt the desire to share my thoughts on them. Although as I get further into this review, hopefully you’ll agree with me that Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is as much about war as say Slaughterhouse Five is, even though both of these novels profoundly affected the way I view the military.

Author Ben Fountain jumps into the shoes of the titular Billy Lynn, a newly decorated war hero home on a “victory tour” as the face of the now famous Bravo Squad who are being paraded around the country for their courageous exploits in Iraq. However, much to their surprise and disappointment, Billy and the rest of Bravo Squad are scheduled to redeploy at the end of the week.

Though much is explored through flashbacks, most of the story takes place on the last day of the tour, as the squad is welcomed as special guests at the Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving game. Billy, not being much of a football fan, instead spends his time wandering the stadium, a mecca of American culture, taking it in at full force, and finding our consumer-driven way of life quite bizarre after everything he’s been through.

This novel drips with biting satire at every turn, dissecting the various aspects of post 9/11 American life such as: war, military culture, the media, Hollywood, fame, sports, pop-culture, and consumerism. Fountain’s commentary is not subtle either. In fact, at times he hits you over the head with it. Observations like: “Somewhere along the way, America became a mall with a country attached” really hammer home his points about our obsessions with new and shiny things; and he means in all aspects, from our latest toys to our latest wars.

All of this is achieved through the character of Billy. By his own admission, he’s a bit of a simpleton, and the truth is throughout the story he doesn’t really do very much. But it’s his running commentary that makes the story so compelling. The book needs to constantly remind us that Billy is only nineteen years old, because he often makes observations well beyond his years. He’s been to hell and back, and it shows. He exudes a modest wisdom that at times will make you want to laugh, cry, and sometimes both in the same sentence. Above all, what stands out about Billy is the fact that he pays attention to what’s going on around him, and that makes him the perfect vessel to point out what’s wrong with our country today.

Ultimately, the main point of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk is that there is a disconnect in America, and everyone has their own agenda. There is a disconnect between billionaire sports franchise owners and their fans. There is a disconnect between those who report the news and those who take it in. There is a disconnect between those who support a war and those making all the decisions. And most importantly, there is a disconnect between those in positions of power, and the soldiers they send to fight for them.

In a perfect world, all these people would be on the same page, but as Ben Fountain points out, that is not the world we live in.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly who to recommend this book to. The message is clearly anti-war, but I think the content is still appealing regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum. If any of what I’ve said sounds interesting, you will like this book.

Rating: 5/5

This review was composed by Brian Skulnik.

Book Review: Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin, centers around the lives of two childhood best friends, Rachel and Darcy. Rachel, our narrator, works as an attorney at a firm she despises, lacks a love life, and, to top it all off, she has just reached the dreaded age of 30. Once she turns 30, Rachel has a revelation: she has done everything she thought she was supposed to do—be a good friend to others and a good daughter to her loving parents, go to college straight from high school, and attend law school directly after that—but she has come to the startling realization that she has never done anything risky in fear of what could happen. Her best friend, Darcy is the complete opposite; she takes huge risks and somehow has everything work out perfectly. Darcy’s job at a top PR firm fell into her lap while she was bartending one night at the Monkey Bar. She has Rachel, who has been there for her since their childhood in Indiana, and her gorgeous fiancé, Dex, who she met through Rachel. Darcy appears to have it all. Rachel was always the sidekick and Darcy was the one in the spotlight. The one never-changing, consistent thing in both of their lives was their friendship. However, it all changes in one night when Rachel and Dex sleep together.

To be completely honest, I only decided to read this novel based on the movie that followed it (which featured John Krasinski a.k.a. Jim Halpert from The Office). I did not think I would enjoy the book at all. However, this novel introduces an interesting take on finding one’s self and realizing one’s self worth that keeps the reader invested in the story. Giffin keeps this rom-com-esque book relatable, giving the reader a main character that decides to rise up and take control of her own life. Rachel is the underdog. She wants more from life, but is afraid to step out of what is familiar. The author’s portrayal of Rachel’s personal triumphs has you rooting for her, despite her transgressions. Rachel recognizes the “gray” areas in relationships and realizes it is okay to put herself before others. Though the love story between Rachel and Dex begins under very scandalous circumstances, it is a love story that will make a person believe that if two people are supposed to be together, they will find their way.

This novel is great for romcom fans as well as those who are little on the fence about anything romcom related; this one entertains more so than it makes you feel nauseated by all of the typical sappy one-liners.

Rating: 4/5

This review was written by Gabbi Battiloro.