A love like ‘A Million Junes’

Normally I don’t start a book by reading it’s end, but “A Million Junes” ends with a love letter so beautiful that even if you didn’t read the rest of Emily Henry’s 391-page young adult novel, I’d encourage you to read just that.

It’s like that game parents and children play where each ask the other to guess how much they love them — the type of love you want every child to have and know.

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“A Million Junes”
By Emily Henry.
391 pp. Razorbill. $17.99.
2017.

These feelings are probably why “A Million Junes” feel like the warmest of hugs.

Henry’s book is a ballad about a love that defies death — how a child copes with the death of a beloved parent, whose body is cold even before the book begins.

Jack O’Donnell’s death is the emotional stimulus for much of his daughter’s writing, which one imagines as lyrical as Henry’s own. In it, June O’Donnell tells the tales her father passed down to her — how her great grandfather settled in the Five Fingers and started a cherry farm, how coywolves steal shoes from their backyard, and how their house is haunted by ghosts (which are mostly good).

Both are still playing that game and the child still can’t win. The child, high school student June O’Donnell, loves her dad from the moon and back while her dad, Jack, loves June from beyond.

Love has it’s own rules, of course. It can become boundaries like “if you love me, don’t.” And O’Donnell’s don’t. They don’t go to Five Fingers Falls. And they don’t hang out with their neighbors the Angerts because for generations (at least) whenever O’Donnells and Angerts meet, bad things happen. Bad things like her father’s death.

This becomes problematic when 20-year-old Saul Angert drops out of school and returns home to care for his sick father. June starts seeing Saul hanging around town and her high school. Worst of all, she starts liking him — which seems to defy her dead father’s wishes.

But as June learns, to love is to live — even if it hurts.

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Disappear in ‘The Blinds’

If you want to disappear (from the latest sexual harassment scandal, Trump tweet, breaking news push alert, or _______ ) for six hours, pick up Adam Sternbergh’s sci-fi western mystery thriller “The Blinds.” It’s the type of book you get lost in and end up finishing in one sitting.

The name for the book comes from the nickname for Ceasura, Texas — a shoebox type of town in the middle of nowhere where nothing bad ever happens. That changes when someone’s shot dead in a trailer.

To realize how strange that is, there’s a few things you have to understand about Ceasura. First off: it’s in the middle of a desert.

Second off: no one has guns.

And lastly, The Blinds isn’t your normal town.

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“The Blinds”
By Adam Sternbergh.
382 pp. HarperCollins Publishers. $26.99.
2017.

The Blinds is the place where people go to disappear from the world when they have exhausted all their other options and have nowhere else to go. It’s a place where there’s no cell phones, no Internet, no guns (except the one the sheriff carries). A place where it’s rude to ask someone about their past.

Since The Blinds was built as a safe haven when a select few can start over without a past, anonymity is key. Everyone is given a new name in The Blinds — even the sheriff and his deputies. (The formula for creating new names is to mash-up first and last names from recognizable celebrities and forgettable vice presidents.)

With these new names and identities, the residents of The Blinds are told they can never have any visitors and they cannot contact or return to the outside world.

This arrangement goes relatively well for a while — until a homicide becomes the catalyst for the town’s unraveling.

Most of the 48 residents in The Blinds don’t remember their lives before The Blinds — even if you asked. A total or partial memory wipe which took away your worst memories was one of The Blinds’ entrance fees. The only people who know their past are Ceasura’s sheriff (whose not actually a sheriff even though everyone calls him one), Calvin Cooper (whom I imagine as Sheriff Hopper from “Stranger Things” — a generally good guy with a few skeletons in his past); and Cooper’s two deputies, Robinson and Dawes.

These three are in charge of figuring out who or what killed a man they don’t even really know.

The scariest part of the new ‘It’ movie

The scariest part in Andy Muschietti’s film adaption of Stephen King’s novel “It” was never Pennywise the clown (Bill Skarsgård).

It’s the eyes you feel staring at you in the dark. It’s the feeling of frantically reaching for something you need, but can’t seem to find. It’s the voices telling you that you’re not good enough.

It’s knowing that no one can help you from the missing brothers, abusive fathers, or psychopathic bullies.

Not even the adults.

That’s where the new “It” film succeeds. It transcends the horror genre because most of these boggarts are things that we fight everyday. Those dark and suffocating feelings of powerlessness that keep us from pursuing what we really want. Those thoughts that linger even after our racing hearts have settled from the jump scares. Those voices that tell us to hide and to cower and to keep our secrets hidden in isolation so that they begin to grow and gnaw away at us, picking us apart from the inside.

These fears is where “It” thrives. Whatever “It” is. The fact that they’re nameless give them power.

But when we talk about “It” — we realize that we’re not alone. And that others might be living with “It” too.

Why you should be watching ‘American Horror Story: Cult’

The main reason: Evan Peters.

Yes, he’s great — transforming himself every season with Ryan Murphy’s anthology horror T.V. series “American Horror Story.” But “AHS: Cult” takes it on a whole new level. Peters carries the whole show as the charismatic psychopathic cult leader and Donald Trump supporting Michigan common council leader Kai Anderson.

What’s more: Peters embodies a host of other historical cult leaders in flashbacks.

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He’s scary good. We pinky power promise. But the season doesn’t get really good until about episode 9 or so.

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