Friday, December 27, 2013

Adventures with Langdon!

Inferno by Dan Brown

Robert Langdon has woken up in a hospital room and doesn’t remember the last two days of his life. He has  stitches on his head from a gun shot wound and just escaped from the hospital with Dr. Sienna Brooks. Bertrand Zobrist is an extremely smart geneticist and transhumanist who believes that humans are on the verge of extinction due to overpopulation. He has recently committed suicide after going into hiding for a year. His goal is to come up with a solution to our problem of overpopulation in the most extreme way possible: a plague that will wipe out half of humanity. Robert has been given the clues to stop this from happening but he must dive into the mind of Zobrist and its obsession with Dante Alighieri’s poem The Inferno and between his amnesia and the people trying to kill him, he isn’t having an easy time with it. Robert takes us on a journey through many countries and as always we are able to experience different European countries as he tries to save the world.
                I enjoyed this novel and it is exactly the type of writing I expected from Dan Brown, in a good way. The Robert Langdon adventures, as I like to call them, are very good at capturing our imaginations, mixed with a lot of history and imagery and of course suspense. Robert Langdon , inadvertently, is always a tour guide in these novels because he has to describe to you the imagery and explain in detail its history. Dan Brown is just very good at doing this without slamming it down your throat or beating you over the head with it. I have never been to Europe and I get excited when reading Dan Brown novels because this imagery is so beautiful and entrancing. Dan Brown is very adept at creating interesting story lines. Here we have the issue of overpopulation, which is an issue that I believe many try to ignore. He takes this issue, engages the reader and uses it to not only horrify you with the realities but to make you reexamine the issue humans pose as a whole.

                I found that this novel was much better than The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown’s previous novel. It might be because I am so interested by the topic or that the cast of characters around Dan Brown were better. If you are a Dan Brown enthusiast or simply want to try a new suspense novel I would suggest this novel. The mix of history in our real world is breath taking. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Adult Goosebumps

Red Rain by R.L. Stine

Lea was in Cape Le Chat Noir when Hurricane Ernesto swept through the island killing many of the islanders and destroying the landscape. Daniel and Samuel’s parents died during the storm and their home washed away. Lea, who feels an unnatural pull to the boys, adopts the twins and brings them home with her to Sag Harbor. Her husband, Mark, is a child psychologist and author, who doesn't agree with the two new additions to the family and only agrees to their presence to help his wife get over the tragedy she suffered. Elena and Ira, Mark and Lea’s son and daughter, are ambivalent to the presence of two new brothers. But the atmosphere in the home begins to change. The twins have their own plans for Sag Harbor and they see their “new pa” as a threat, a threat that needs to be eliminated.
                Let’s face it, kids are creepy. When you take two abandoned 12 year old, blonde hair, blue eyed boys, who look like innocent dolls and turn them into the antagonists of your story then you have created a creepy novel. There are a few facts about the island that are introduced in the very beginning of the novel that set the tone. Well, for starters, there was a hurricane that happened in 1935 that also devastated the islands and included a considerable body count. Also there is a ritual done on the island known as Revenir where priests raise the dead. So, two kids without identification of any kind, with no parents or family on the island are taken to a new place to be with a new family. This spells trouble! Little odd things start to happen. The twins aren't fitting in at school or with their other siblings. Mark doesn't trust them and finds their easy confidence unnerving. Mark and Lea are at odds because she fills like the twins are meant to be in Sag Harbor with her as part of their family. It’s all a setup. You feel the pot boiling and you, as the reader, are just waiting for the top to blow off.

                R.L. Stine did not disappoint with this his second adult horror novel. He opens the book with death and despair and keeps the book very raw throughout. My jaw dropped more than once with some of the revelations throughout the book. I found it extremely enjoyable and horror at its finest. I know a lot of people didn’t enjoy this book. It felt like what it is, Goosebumps grown up! It’s not a book that is meant to intellectually stimulate at all, it is pure unadulterated fear put into words.  There were a few points that were predictable but with this book it was easy roll with the punches and enjoy the story as it unfolded. If you are in the mood for a page turner, and you like a good fright (or you were a fan of Goosebumps) then I would definitely suggest this book. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Love In War

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Lieutenant Henry has fallen in love with Catherine Barkley. He is an American ambulance driver for the Italian Army. She is an English nurse. This is World War I. Love in itself is complicated but to be in love during the war is a fight within itself. The war pulls them apart and brings them back together after Henry is injured during an attack from the Austrian Army. During his recovery their love and passion intensifies. They discover she is with child, but he must return to the front. Things take a turn for the worst during a retreat when Henry must run for his life and somehow find the woman he longs to be his wife.
                A Farewell to Arms was an honest interpretation of new love. Catherine at times can be annoying with her proclamations of love but she was raw with her emotions. Henry was much more reserved with how he relayed his information but was still very willing to convey his feelings to her. Henry was the narrator of the story so we were exposed to his every day activities, his friends and his duties as Lieutenant in the Italian Army. I commend Hemingway on creating such a unique situation where we have an American in an Italian Army during the first World War. It made for an interesting landscape for this story to play out. People would encounter Henry and in many situations were not sure exactly how to react to his presence. Some thought he was a traitor, others a spy. He was easily recognizable as the American “Tenente” which did not always work towards his advantage.

                I’m not sure how I feel about this novel. Was it interesting? Yes. Was the writing enjoyable? Yes and extremely detailed and filling. Would I recommend it? Yes, but it was very bleak. There was a lot going on in this novel. There were parts that I enjoyed, like conversations between Henry and his friends and the relationship as a whole between him and Catherine. But I personally would have loved to see more of Henry as the Lieutenant in the war. The war was almost played as a filler between Henry’s interaction with Catherine. I have to take into consideration that this book was released in 1929 so I don’t know how much information was available for him to elaborate on the Italian front. What this novel did make me do though, was root for the couple. I wanted them to be together, be married and be happy because I felt how honest the relationship was and how much they were willing to go through to be together. For that reason alone I would suggest you give a try.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Burn Baby Burn

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

We are now in a time and place where books are forbidden and burned if found by Firemen. Now the job of a Fireman isn’t to put out flames, but to set houses found with books on fire. The world has moved on from books and those found harboring them risk losing their home and being arrested. Guy Montag, who has been a Fireman for ten years, knows the joy that comes from watching the burn. His father and his grandfather were both Fireman before him and he willingly enough has followed in their footsteps. He has a wife, Millie, who takes part in everyday activities like watching TV and taking part in some of the TV shows.  And this is society. But there are those that still read, that still converse, that still question, that still wonder but they are outcast. There are those that will sacrifice there lives before letting these choices to be taken away from them. These outcast affect Guy in a way that he would never imagine. It sets off a fire in him of imagination that causes him to make decisions that will forever change his life and the lives of those around him.
                The first time I read this book I was in high school and instantly intrigued. How can a society without books exist? How ignorant would that society be? Bradbury doesn’t show a society of ignorance, instead he shows a society of complacence where people are happy not having to question or wonder or care about anything except for what is presented to them. Throughout the book you are given glimmers of hope through those citizens who rebel against the norm. This is, for me at least, a desperate and depressing situation but extremely fascinating.

               Bradbury did an amazing job at presenting a world beyond our imagining. A world where people chose to be complacent, uniformed individuals.  A world where entertainment has taken the place of education and a higher education no longer exists. Menial task have taken over the day to day life and the majority of people are ok with the situation, in fact they enjoy having no responsibilities and no knowledge. I could never imagine a world where that is okay and applauded. I recommend this book to everyone for all these reasons. Never become complacent. Never allow your mind to be so involved in entertaining society that it forgets to challenge itself. Enjoy this book but let it serve as a warning to what can happen when everyone decides that knowledge is no longer necessary. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Different World After War

The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K Dick

It’s been over a decade since World War II has ended and the world is a different place now that Germany and Japan has won the war.  Very little remains of what was the United States of America, with the east coast now German Territory and the west belonging to Japan. Most of the Jewish population has been terminated with those surviving living behind plastic surgery and false names. Since most of the world is now under German or Japanese control, rulers are looking to colonize other planets like Mars. But in the midst of all this change, life still continues. And with all this change someone has written a book, that has been banned in Germany and all its territories, about what the world would have been like if the United States and Britain had won the war.
                The Man in the High Castle introduced quite a few different characters, from an American antiques dealer, a Jewish man in hiding, a leading German officer governing in Japanese Territory, and a Japanese official just to name a few. The author was very thorough in introducing different characters representing altering points of views and situations. The novel was almost hostile with fear, racism and cultural awareness being constant ideas throughout the book. All of the characters are under a certain amount of pressure in this new environment to present themselves a certain way in order to prevent being mistreated by others. Image in this new world is all that matters.
                Now I found the idea of having this novel incorporate itself into the story line to be brilliant. The idea that some of these characters are reading a novel that is the alternative reality of their own is intriguing because its exactly what I’m doing. When I opened this book, I entered into an alternate reality, which is theirs, and they were doing the exact same thing. It was a little unnerving at first, simply because of the reaction some of the characters were having to this world where the US and Britain won but it was realistic.
                I, for the most part, enjoyed this novel. I can appreciate why it received the acclaim that it did upon its release. I personally found the story, in its beginning, very hard to connect with. Phillip K Dick definitely dived right in to a situation that you were not at all familiar with. Each character introduced a different ideal and understanding and it wasn't until you observed all these different characters that you truly started to grasp the severity of these new situations. I would recommend this to readers who simply want to read an interesting book about how different life could have been. People ask themselves “what if” questions all the time and this answers one: What would life be like if Germany and Japan had won the second World War?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Long Live the Queen

She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor

The young King, Edward VI, King Henry VIII’s only legitimate heir is dying. Before his death he goes against his fathers will, which states that Mary Tudor and Elizabeth Tudor would be the next in line for the throne, to appoint his cousin, Jane Grey’s male sons heir to the throne. The politics of this decision go back hundreds of years and are thoroughly discussed within these passages. You are first introduced to Matilda (1102-1167) who was the heir to Henry I, but never took the thrown in her own place, always being seen as a figure for her husband or son. Then, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1124-1204) is introduced. She was Queen of France and later Queen of England. Extremely powerful she would eventually help her son defy his father in his quest for the crown. Isabella of France (1295-1328) is the third woman observed. She was the wife of the Edward II of England and after constantly being ignored by her husband for his favorite male counterparts, she would eventually lead a revolt against her husband, with her son in place as heir and the soon to be king. Margaret of Anjou (1430-1482) then takes center stage as we began to look at the War of the Roses. This civil war took place between the York and the Lancaster. Margaret was a pivotal figure during this war and at times led the Lancastrian front in her husbands place. These women all faced distinct challenges in their rules that had a lasting effect on the culture that is England. So this brings us back to Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. Their half-brother, Edward VI’s, ploy to prevent his sisters from ruling failed. Mary did rule as Queen and with her death, Elizabeth took the throne.
                This was an extremely informative historical novel about a history of England that is not often addressed. Queen Elizabeth is by far one of the most famous female figures in history, but I’ve never read anything that incorporated the history of so many different queens and their struggles. I am not a historian, by any means, but I am extremely fascinated by The Tudor dynasty and this was a definitely a crash course in English Dynasties, which at times felt like information overload.  This novel focused on the struggles that these women had to face to rule. In history, most women could only rule as a regent to their son, or as a hand to the king, even if in Matilda’s instance, you are the heir to the throne. This made it interesting to say the least to read about women who played such dominant roles in history.
            I would suggest this book if you want a history lesson on Queens of England. I enjoyed taking this walk back into history class and observing these woman so thoroughly.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Beat of a Heart

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

I’m sure most people recognize the title of this book because of the movie that was released in 2000 starring Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd. I thought the movie was great and was really excited I was able to get my hands on the book. Where the Heart Is follows the life Novalee Nation who was left in a Walmart in Seqouyah at seventeen, while pregnant, by her boyfriend Willy Jack Pickens. The couple was on their way to California where Willy Jack was going to work with his cousin, when he decided it would be easier to continue on without Novalee and left her without a second glance. Novalee then began leaving in the Walmart, unbeknownst to anyone, and became friends with Sister Husband, a caring recovering alcoholic, and Forney who lived in the town library with his sick sister. Novalee gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Americus, in the Walmart, and moved in with Sister Husband. Forney, who helped deliver Americus, became one of Novalee’s best friend along with the nurse’s aid from the hospital, Lexie and photographer, Moses. While Novalee and Americus lived their lives in Seqouyah, Willy Jack has been traveling the US as the singer known as Billy Shadow. Not long after abandoning Novalee, Willy Jack was picked up with a minor and put in prison. There he was able to get a guitar and right what would be a great single but his reliance on drugs and alcohol would be his downfall and eventually send him searching for the woman he left behind.
                The book focuses on the forming of relationships more so than the failure relationships. Novalee was left in an unimaginable situation: no family, no money, no friends and hundreds of miles away from home. It was because of the kindness of strangers like Sister Husband and Forney, that Novalee was able to make a life for herself and Americus. She learned to become independent but she always had the strength of people who loved her, and her daughter, and wanted the best for her. I loved that we were able to get glimpses of Willy Jack’s story as well. It brought home how Novalee more than likely dodged a bullet when left at the Walmart. While Novalee is growing and maturing, Willy Jack never changes. His irresponsibility leads to his downfall and though sad to watch, it felt like justice.
                I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed the movie. Billie Letts did a very good job of looking at how different relationships are created and maintained because of love and loyalty. The characters who came into Novalee’s life all brought different life experiences and stories to tell. They created their own unit that was completely supportive of each other. It showcased unbroken bonds and different levels of friendship. I appreciated the story and would suggest that if you loved the movie to give the book a shot.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Thanks for the Love!!!!

I've got to take a second and say thank you to my girl, Mrs. Dominique Penn for the shout out and love on the blog! Thanks love. Check her out and The Next Book On My List feature out!

EverythingMrsPennLoves: Book Worms Lets Go!!:

From time to time I like to check to see what the new readings are every now and then. Little did I know one of my book worm best friends has a blog that gives you a authentic review of the books that she reads! If your ready to start a book club and are in need for books, or if you want to just get your read on check her out at!! She's amazing and credible!!! Enjoy!!

A Life, Removed

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Woman can no longer hold bank accounts. Women can no longer hold jobs. Women are not allowed to read. If you are a handmaid, you are not allowed to do much at all. Walk to the market. Wait. And bear children. That is your job as a handmaid, or mistress as some would call it. You are here to bear children for your commander and his wife. You are only useful if you can bear children. Offred is at her third home and has her last chance to bear a child before being sent away to the Colonies if not worse. Offred had a daughter once, before things changed. She had a job, her own money. She was in love with her husband, Luke. But now she doesn’t even know if her daughter or her husband are alive. Everything before this is a memory. Her life and the lives of everyone around her has changed. Religion has taken over in the Republic of Gilead, what used to be the United States. The President is dead, as well the members of Congress and the constitution has been suspended. At first everyone assumed things would eventually go back to normal, but the rights of everyone, especially women, were slowly being stripped away.
                The Handmaid’s Tale brings out the fear women have of going back to the stone age. Here you have a country where women essentially have no rights and are viewed as possessions. Every woman has a purpose whether you are a wife, maid or a child bearing vessel, but you are only good for that purpose. The most frightening thing to me about this novel is that she remembers what it was like before. She remembers when things were different. She remembers what it was like to be independent, educated, important, valued, a mother. This change happened so swiftly, so quickly and everyone was too scared to say anything, scared of dying or missing. Religion was the backbone. Religion and simplicity.  Life would be so much simpler for women, and of course men, if women didn’t have to make any decisions anymore. So the choice was taken away.
              This was a complex story.  Because of the world we live in now, it is hard to imagine a world where women can be stripped of every single right. Even though we see the debates over birth control and women’s rights in the news all the time, we know there are too many women and men who would fight for us to keep those rights. But what if? That what if is what makes things complex. The novel never says explicitly what happened or how the take over occurred: how the army changed, how women were abducted for reproductive purposes or how these roles were created. Offred recalls what she can of the changes when she reflects on the time before but she only knows and has been told so much. Reading this novel made me grateful. You don’t realize how precious things are until they are taken away from you. That realization came to late for Offred, whose hidden joy is the fact that she can still remember her loved ones and her real name. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Man On Mars

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein

Stranger in a Strange Land chronicles the life of the man from Mars, Valentine Michael Smith, after being brought back to his home planet, Earth. Born to scientists who died during an expedition to Mars, Mike, a human, was raised by martians.  He understands their language, mannerisms , way of life and community. He was discovered when a second expedition was sent to the planet over two decades after his birth. The discovery of Mike sparked the curiousity of every human on earth and he was brought back to his home planet. Once there Mike had to adjust not only physically but mentally to this new planet. He had to adapt to the language, the movement, the lifestyle and the presence of other humans, not to mention the fact that he had never seen a woman until arriving to earth. Mike tries to adapt as best as he can to his new surroundings while also introducing his way of life and understanding to others.
                Interesting is an understatement when describing this novel. This was a complex roller coaster of understanding while at the same time extremely enjoyable. Mike, as he is called, doesn’t understand the simplicity of being human compared to the life that he lived with the Martians. The differences are very complex but understandable at the same time. Martians don’t believe in property, because everything belongs to everybody. They take part in cannibalism when one of their brothers "discorporates" or passes away.  They are in complete control of their body and mind.  It’s almost as if they operate on a different plane of understanding. Now Mike comes from this environment of selflessness to earth and he struggles to understand or “grok” what is going on around him. This book is all about understanding humans: how and why they interact the way they do, the complexity of having both male and female, the competitiveness between adults (instead of nymphs or children on Mars), the idea of possessions and money, religion and the idea of God and of course politics.
               I am not a huge fan of science fiction but Heinlein is considered one of the best for a reason. His imagination and creativity when taking an outside look at our culture is nothing short of amazing. This book was written in 1961 and the observations he makes then are just as accurate now. I found a lot of the observations he made extremely interesting and insightful. Sometimes we need to step outside of ourselves and take a look at the lives we lead and why. And it certainly helps to have an outsiders perspective as well.

Friday, October 18, 2013

All That Glitters

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

Meredith Delinn is the most hated woman on earth, after her husband, Freddy, has stolen billions of dollars in a Ponzi scheme through his business. Now she is under investigation, as well as her oldest son, in the conspiracy that she thought was her life. She has been black balled and shunned and has nowhere to turn. Desperate and alone Meredith reaches out to Connie, her best friend who she hasn't talked to in three years. Connie has been alone since the death of her husband two and half years earlier. Connie is well aware of the situation surrounding Meredith and Freddy which has been all over the news for months. Freddy’s business was partly responsible for the parting of ways between Meredith and Connie and they both hope that enough time has passed and the friendship can mend. Connie takes Meredith out of New York to Nantucket where Connie stays during the summer. Here Meredith can hide, or so she thinks. But when you are the most hated woman on earth, there is nowhere to hide…
                This book was an observation of friendship and the consequences of betrayal.  Meredith and Connie’s relationship had been damaged for a number of reasons, but when Meredith was in need her best friend was there. Connie had her own reasons though; she was tired of being alone. They needed each other in different ways to heal.  Connie took in Meredith knowing the risks with her being under investigation and they dealt with those issues as they announced themselves. They learn together that there is still room to love, and to heal and to grow.
              I liked this book. It was an easy read that would have been great for the summer, but I enjoyed curling up on the couch with this book in my lap. Hilderbrand keeps her writing simple and honest. I was intrigued but not overly invested in the story. The interactions all felt real and unforced. I can see myself reading other books by her in the future   to pass the time.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Stories From The Past

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is an author who can write anything and I’ll read it. I’ll see that she has new novel released and without any hesitation the book will be purchased.  With that being said I didn’t know what I was getting into when I began this novel. I didn’t expect to get thrown into the horror that is the Holocaust. I didn’t expect to start crying on the couch when the SS officer recounted shooting hundreds of people simply because they were Jewish. I didn’t expect to put the book down because I couldn’t handle the Holocaust survivor, tell of the horror she lived through. I was completely unprepared and it left me raw. So let me prepare you. This is not a story to be taken lightly. It is a credit to the amount of research she put into this story and her talent as a writer that I was able to show such emotion when reading this book. But this is a fictional account of real events. What’s in the pages I just read wont compare to what people actually survived and that more than anything is what broke me while reading this book.

Now on to the story…
Josef Weber has asked Sage to help him die. He has tried to kill himself before and failed. He claims it will be a mercy to him but first she must forgive him. He was SS: a Nazi officer, SS-Totenkopfverbande, Death’s head unit. Even though she is a self- proclaimed atheist, she comes from a Jewish family and he hopes her forgiveness will be enough. What he doesn’t know is that her grandmother, Minka, is a survivor and still alive. Now it’s Sage’s turn to listen, to both of their stories. With the help of Leo Stein, an attorney from the Department of Justice who helps prosecute Nazis because of their war crimes, she searches for the answer within both of their truths. How can a well liked and prominent man in the community, once have been a part of the massacre that took place over half a century ago? How can a woman raise her family and love her grandchildren but never talk about her past? How does the monster in a man take over and who can be blamed when it does?
                Sage was put in an extremely difficult position.  After Josef reveals the truth to Sage she has to go back and listen to him recount the things he had done. Not only because she was having a hard time believing him but because she now had to collect evidence for the case she was building against him. Her grandmother had never spoke to any of her grandkids about her past and it was a truth she didn’t want to face. She revealed all to Sage. She spoke of the death she encountered, the loss she felt, the senselessness of it all and how hard it was to live after she survived.
                I found this novel to be disturbing in its honesty. Jodi is a beautiful writer and she chose such a powerful and emotional subject for this book. I loved that the main struggle of this book became trying to understand a monster. You can’t understand evil and Sage continuously struggles with what’s been presented. Here is a man, Josef,  who has committed horrible murders and believed what he was doing at the time was right. Then he hides for a half century and now comes to her asking for help. Sage has no reason to forgive him, especially not when her grandmother is living proof of the hell he condoned. This was a beautifully written novel meant to pull at your heart strings and put you in an unimaginable situation. Picoult is very adept at making you put yourself in a characters position and struggling with that character’s problem as well as doing some soul searching yourself.

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Loved Author, A New Name

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

So what do you when you are the world renowned author of the Harry Potter Series and everyone wants you to keep writing books like Harry Potter? You create a penname and release your newest novel under that name, which should then give you a shot at having a career outside of Harry Potter. The cover, of course, was blown and everyone knew immediately after the release of The Cuckoo’s Calling that it was written by JK Rowling, and not the debut author, Robert Galbraith. Even though the attempt at obscurity failed the book was a success. Much like her other novel, The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling stepped out of the realm of magic and into the real world, one of celebrity obsession, drugs, race relations, and murder.

                A young model fell to her death in an apparent suicide and her troubled brother has a hired a wounded veteran, now a private detective, to solve what he believes is an actual murder. Our private eye, Cormoran Strike, is in debt and even though he thinks it may be a waste of time, desperate for money, he takes the case. With the assistance of his newly hired secretary Robin, he delves into the life of Lula Landry, the very successful model who had issues not only with drug use in her past but also with her mental health. Adopted as a young child by a white family, Lula who is biracial, became obsessed with her biological family and briefly before her death had an uncovered her biological mother and was searching for the father she had never met. Strike discovers the paranoia Lula felt due to the media attention she garnered and how she began to question the people who had been closest to her.  But who could’ve or would’ve murdered the young model. The drug addict boyfriend who she was seen arguing with the night of her death? A jealous friend who may have been leaking information to the press? Or a long lost family member?

                I thoroughly enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling. JK Rowling used the idea of a deceased model to touch on a lot of issues we see in today’s society: the obsession that’s been created over the young and beautiful in the entertainment industry, mental health and how that can contribute to drug addiction, what makes a family bond and what can cause those bonds to form and break.  Strike is the vessel through which we look at this world. Not blinded by the lights he sees in Lula’s world of “glamour” we get a clear picture of the players in this story. This didn’t lack in suspense at all and I found the ending to be exactly what I needed and didn’t know I wanted. I would suggest this novel to any fans of JK Rowling who have been eager since The Casual Vacancy for another novel. JK Rowling’s talent for weaving an interesting and telling story about our society as always is evident.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Magic


That’s exactly what it has felt like the last couple of months while reading nothing but Stephen King since. I’ve said more than once that Stephen King is my favorite author and this year I wanted to experience just his thought process through only his novels in chronological order. It was an experience I can barely explain. I don’t know of any other author whose ideas, and stories blend in the ways that his did without being a part of a series. If it wasn’t for The Dark Tower series, where Stephen King voiced that all of his novels came from the same universe, I would have never thought of taking on this project. But now, I don’t know what took me so long!                                                                                                                                                                

To put it simply the man is a genius, whose writing, by design can be slightly terrifying, somewhat gross, extremely intense, incredibly in-depth and suspenseful. This week I finished his last two novels: Joyland and Doctor Sleep. Unfortunately because I am so far behind in the King reviews I am only going to go over these last two novels. If you have any questions about any of the King novels, shoot me a message and I’ll give you a quick rundown of what I thought of that novel. I plan on reading his collection of short stories throughout the rest of this year and probably into 2014.

A broken-hearted young man, the ghost of dead girl, a young psychic and a killer that was never found. Sounds about right for a Stephen King novel. Did I mention the carnival known as Joyland? Even though this isn’t the typical back drop for a King novel, he did great job turning the carnival lifestyle into his own. This, I believe, is Kings only Hard Case crime novel and he kept the suspense going throughout. I loved that he turned it into a ghost story. The house of “fear” is haunted but what is the story of this ghost and why has the murder never been solved. If you aren’t a fan of gore, then I would definitely suggest this novel. Though suspenseful I wouldn’t label this as a horror novel.

Doctor Sleep
I’m not going to lie, I’m not sure how I felt about beginning this novel. This is the sequel to The Shining, one of the books I read in my younger days that brought on nightmares then and during my reread earlier this year. I don’t know how many have seen the movie or read The Shining but here is a quick recap. A young boy, Danny Torrance, is gifted. He has what can be known as the shining or shine. His father, Jack Torrance, is a writer and an alcoholic who has an abusive pass. Desperate for work Jack takes a job as a caretaker at The Overlook Hotel in Colorado where he and his family will stay for the winter, isolated and alone. All goes to hell, literally. The hotel possesses Jack and forces him to try and kill his wife, Wendy, and son, whose shining the spirits who dwell in the hotel desire. Jack was killed when the boiler exploded at The Overlook Hotel the night he tried to murder Wendy and Danny. Dick Hallorann, The Overlook Hotel cook recognized the shine in Danny, which began their friendship and ultimately saved Danny and his mother. 
               This book was amazing! There are no two ways about it. I was impressed with the story line he created for Danny after 35 years. I was sucked right back into Danny’s story, terrified as ever. Was it what I expected? Not at all but what are you supposed to expect from a sequel decades in the making. You never know what life can throw at you and it was heartbreaking to see that Danny was drinking like his dad. Even though he wasn’t abusive, he still made some pretty bad choices. There were things to admire about his character, but they only became obvious once Dan was sober, once he became Doctor Sleep, the orderly who would assist those passing on to do so without fear. 
             Abra, the young girl with a high amount of shine, was a wild card. You are never sure of how powerful this young girl will become. Danny is an anomaly himself: he was very strong at a young age and now has quite a bit of shine as an adult. But his power pales in comparison to Abra, who at the age of two months was able to reach out to Danny. 

            Now who are these Empty Devils? They aren’t vampires but they live a semi-immortal existence but are only able to do so because they feed on the essence or “steam” of youth who have the shining. Rose the Hat, their leader, is ruthless and ready to feed. She has never come across a child like Abra and not only is she intimidated, she sees the life that Abra can provide for her family, the True Knot. 

          I would suggest reading this novel, only after you have read (not watched the movie) The Shining. This book reminded me of why I love Stephen King and why I wanted to take on this project to begin with. He can invest you as a reader into the story and life of his main characters. With this book especially I got the right amount of everything: I was scared but I didn’t have nightmares, I was curious and had enough information to make great guesses but was still blown when I learned the truth. It kept me on my toes. I didn’t want to put it down but I was relieved when I reached the end. Another great work by Stephen.The man does what he does for no other reason than because he is great at it!       


Friday, July 5, 2013

Playing Catch Up

So it’s been a rough couple of months. There were a lot of personal things going on in my life that made it hard for me to keep up my reading pace, let alone write an update on my journey through Stephen King. I am getting back into the groove and I am finally ready to update you on what’s been going in the mind of Stephen King. The following reviews are short (very short) and pretty much my view on each novel so far. You will probably recognize a fair number of these books because they are pretty famous movies. Before you even ask, to me all the books are better. Let’s begin.

Another Richard Bachman thriller, this one deals with the cost of crossing the wrong person. It could literally cost you your life. Probably one of my favorite Bachman books. Translated well to film.

Definitely a coming of age story, with a terrifying twist. Kids in Derry disappear and this group of kids figure out why. I will admit that is not my favorite King. I didn’t care for the way he wrote the book. It goes from modern day conversation to flashbacks quite often and honestly I just wanted him to tell the story. It was interesting none the less and for those on their way to The Dark Tower you’ll notice the Turtle reference and the significance it holds in the series. If you loved the movie then I would definitely recommend reading.

The Eyes of The Dragon
A fantasy novel by Stephen King that made me wish he wrote more fantasy novels. A turn in a different direction for King that I rather enjoyed. One of his major antagonist of King plays a huge role in this story.

The Drawing of the Three: The Dark Tower 2
In this book we travel with Roland as he “draws” those who are destined to be his companion. It focuses a lot on one of the main themes of The Dark Tower novels which is following your “ka” or destiny. This book also sets the tone for the other novels. This book isn’t as dark as the first novel and is a much easier read.

What does it mean to be someone’s biggest fan? Well it certainly shouldn’t mean keeping them in your house hostage while you force them to write a novel for you, but maybe that is just my opinion. This book definitely had me on edge. There was no end to this woman’s madness. If you have seen this movie and you’re thinking she wasn’t that bad then please read this book. I’ve never seen Hollywood turn down crazy like they had to do with this book to screen adaptation.

The Tommyknockers
This book looks at the psyche of an entire town when placed under an alien influence. Easy enough read. Interesting idea to say the least, executed well and in Stephen King fashion.

The Dark Half
This book was a very interesting look at everyone’s alter ego, your essential dark half. The main character of this book, Thad, is an author whose alter ego has somehow materialized and is out to kill him and other people that have prevented him from taking over throughout the years. Sounds dramatic because it is but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Wastelands: The Dark Tower 3
Roland and his “ka-tet” become fully assembled and embark on their journey. I am intentionally being vague when it comes to The Dark Tower novels. I don’t want to give anything away for those who will take this journey…My apologies!

Needful Things
This was a great look at how greed can take over and destroy. What are you willing to give for that one object you desire? Are you willing to kill? Are you willing to deceive? Are you willing to watch your town go up in flames? He used one of his well known locations for this novel about how greed can take over. A lot of familiar names and faces were mentioned in the book.

Gerald’s Game
Now for those of you who have read Fifty Shades of Grey, this is what can happen when foreplay and handcuffs go terribly wrong. Suspenseful, yes. Predictable, not at all. It played well on your worse fears.

Dolores Claiborne
This was a bit of a departure in style for Stephen. This book was written in the first person with no chapter breaks as if the main character was having one very long winded monologue. And it worked for this story. I don’t know if he could have pulled off this style of writing with any character besides Dolores Claiborne. Another interesting fact is that this book took place at the exact same time as Gerald’s Game and the two main characters shared a psychic connection.

I’m going to end it here. There is definitely more Stephen to come and I will try and get another summary of books out soon but until then I hope you have enjoyed this catch up!

Monday, June 24, 2013

From Years Past: Into Thin Air

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

           Jon Krakauer is an experienced climber who was offered the chance of a lifetime to climb Mount Everest, expenses paid, to write an article for Outside magazine. He made it to the top of Mount Everest and back to base camp alive, but he was one of the lucky ones. Nine other climbers died that day on Mount Everest. Another three died soon after. A rogue storm blew through the mountain with little warning and the unlucky ones perished trying to achieve their dreams.

          The Mount Everest Disaster is described in detail by one of the survivors, Jon Krakauer. He describes what it was like for him that day, and the preceding weeks trying to prepare to climb Mount Everest. He explains the choices one had to make to survive, and what it was like to wait, not sure of how many would return once the storm blew in. The view from Krakauer eye’s and the experience he details for many will leave the heart racing but for the others it will leave the question why? Why go through a such a dangerous feat when life is not guaranteed? Why test a mountain that might not mean to be climbed? But that answer can be found easily in his pages. It was for the thrill. It was for the sense of accomplishment. It was because man has and can climb the mountain. The fear exists for him, especially since traces of those who have failed, the bodies of those who could not be brought down stay in plain view on the mountain frozen in time, but the goal is to conquer that fear. Some succeed at that goal, but during his experience many failed.

          Into Thin Air is an extremely interesting read, especially for those that are in any way fascinated by climbing Mount Everest. But it is also extremely disparaging to read about the condition people put their body through to accomplish this task. Its not for the light hearted as is made clear by this book. Two experienced guides perished during this disaster and that fact alone will make plenty think twice. Jon Krakauer delivers his own experience with an informative and captivating tone. He tells his story the only way his knows how: honestly, and he makes you want to finish this journey with him.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

From Years Past: Eighteen Acres

Eighteen Acres by Nicholle Wallace

Yes, ladies and gents, we have the first female US President Charlotte Kramer presiding over the White House and its eighteen acres. A married mother of two will soon be facing re-election and with her female Chief of Staff, Melanie Kingston, by her side the United States is theirs for the taking. Not so fast because of course there is scandal in the mix in the form of a cheating husband. The First Man is having an affair with a member of the press that works closely with the White House known as Dale Smith. Now the fun really begins. The story revolves around these three ladies and the choices women today have to make when it comes to having careers. One situation examines family and how being the leader of the free world can have its draw back. Another situation examines how you can move up the chain of command and yet be steps away (literally) from where you started at. The most controversial situation surrounds that of loving a married man and how things change when the affair is no longer private.

          Nicholle Wallace did a great job with this story. As cliché as it sounds, this story was as accurate as you can imagine when it comes to acceptance of the roles we have chosen to live in our lives. We make decisions every day and our decisions affect other people and it is in those moments when we can truly look at ourselves and examine who we are. Each of these women had goals about life and love and careers and they were at the peak of these goals when they realized that other things were lacking. Eighteen Acres examines the complexity of being a woman and having to make sacrifices for love, for family, for self and for you career. Yes I recommend this book because not only was it well written but it was a great story that I believe many people can relate to.

Happy Readings

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Thread

So let’s get back to Stephen! (I gave you a break now onward)

I’ve read a lot of different authors over a number of years. When it’s an author that I enjoy I will definitely read more novels they’ve written. I have never seen anything like what Stephen King has done with his body of work. I can only describe it as threads in a blanket: the blanket being the complete body of work and the threads being the individual works. Almost everything ties into each other. That does not necessarily include the Bachman books but everything that King put his name on is OBVIOUSLY King. It’s the Stephen King Thread. It’s the DNA that runs through his novels. He mentioned with writing the Dark Tower Series that all of his books come from the same place. It’s true and reflective in all of his novels. I do though take issue with the fact that his books are largely categorized as horror books. He is not (I repeat is not) a horror writer. Yes, some of his novels are extremely terrifying but many of them are not. Many of them are suspense. Some of them are fantasy. They tend to become a mixture of suspense, horror and fantasy. If you are a fan of his work the trends become obvious. Reading through the novels in chronological order you begin to appreciate his “signature” throughout his work. You begin to recognize and expect the threads.

Now picking up where we left off:

We live in a day and age where it’s hard to imagine being stuck in a car unable to call for help because everyone has a cell phone. When you need help you pick it up and call the cops. Even if you have a lock on your phone you can call out for help. Well in the 1980’s you didn’t have that option. So if there was a rabid dog loose and you just happened to stop by hoping to get your car fixed and that dog trapped you in the car, you were stuck until someone came to help. I know it sounds extravagant but this book was painful to read. It didn’t help that Stephen centered the story on a mother and her child left in an impossible situation. The monster from the child’s dream is literally trying to kill them. The fear becomes contagious. I wanted to turn the page but was scared to see it end. Not horror, but terrifying none the less.

The Running Man
Back to Bachman. It almost seems like Stephen predicted reality TV to take a gruesome turn. In this book we see a man with nothing, risk his life to provide for his family by going on a reality television titled “The Running Man.” On this show you are literally hunted down and the viewing audience is invited to cash in on the fun. If they see you in the street they can call in and collect a cash prize. This book moved well. You are rooting for the main character to win even though you know it’s impossible. If you like Kings style as Bachman then give it a shot.

 The Gunslinger: Dark Tower 1
“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”    
Stephen King admits to this being a difficult read so I won’t elaborate on it. This is the beginning of a journey. The journey of the last Gunslinger, Roland. If you want to embark on this journey then you have no choice but to read this book. It is strange because you are thrust into a different time when the world has moved on and you don’t know how to feel about that change. I was told when I read this book for the first time that if I can make it through this book and enjoy it, then I will enjoy the rest of the series. Begin to read if you want to meet Roland and understand his journey.

I will openly admit that Christine is one of my favorite Stephen King books. It is a coming of age story. A dark coming of age story but one none the less. Everyone has been attached to something that might not be so good for them. In this case it’s a car. A car that can regenerate itself and kill people that take advantage or wrong its owner. Yeah, it is exactly as bad as it sounds. The magic of this book is how it is written. You want Artie, the geek, to grow into being a strong, independent young man and he does but not in the way that you expect. The car gives him strength but takes away some humanity from him at the same time. I love this book not only because it was written well but because everyone got what they deserved. You’ll never look at a car the same way again.

 Pet Sematary
I found it interesting that Stephen King considered Pet Sematary his scariest novel. This is a reread for me. I read it when I was in middle school and enjoyed it but I think I kept reversing back and referencing the movie while reading. I didn’t have that problem the second time around. I was able to read it fresh and enjoy. I still believe The Shining is his scariest novel BUT I understand why Stephen said that this is his scariest. It’s about the choices we make regardless of the consequences. The consequences in this book are terrifying and the fact that our protagonist still makes his decisions is mind-boggling. Real life events inspired Mr. King to write this novel and I appreciate the work put forth.

 Cycle of the Werewolf
The title gives this book away. This is about a werewolf. It reads like a novella, considered a novel. Each chapter is a month. Each chapter there is new victims. The book takes place over a year. The art pieces are amazing.

 The Talisman
This book was interesting and extremely sci-fi/fantasy. This is the first of two books Stephen King co-wrote with Peter Straub. Their writing styles blended well even if a little slow moving at time. This book takes place within two worlds: the world of here and now and that of the others. A young boy must embark on a journey to discover the truth of his father’s death and save his mother. This book was a nice little twist on a coming of age story. A journey to save your mother and the universe or universes that exist. It moved well enough with everything that was going on.

 That’s enough Stephen for now, but expect another update soon…

Friday, April 26, 2013

From Years Past: What The Dead Know

What The Dead Know by Laura Lippman

Laura Lippman is an author that you know is going to deliver, whose story is going to be interesting and best of all she is going to have an amazing twist at the end. What The Dead Know is the second novel by Laura Lippman that I have had the pleasure of reading. It is about the appearance of one of the Bethany girls, sisters who disappeared almost 30 years previously and were never seen again. Now one of them has returned and she has a story to tell but is reluctant to tell it, afraid of losing her current identity and being exposed to the media. But not everyone understands her logic. She claims her sister is dead, so why doesn’t she want justice? She was released by her captor decades ago, so why is she choosing now to come forward? Why did she wait so long to return home, if not to tell her story? What is the truth and is she even really a Bethany girl?

          A lot of questions were asked and more things were considered as the pages turned in this novel. You got to view all sides of the story, considering the Bethany family, the mystery woman’s past and the detectives then and now who are investigating the case. Doubt around the woman clouds the story but proof in her memories leads the audience to their own conclusions. You wrestle with the possibility of the woman lying throughout the story but you want to believe her and the past she speaks of. A resolution is what you’re seeking. The knowledge of what truly happened so long ago. You see how the lives of those in the story have been affected and changed and it many ways the changes are heartbreaking. You want to see the end.

          Laura Lippman took you to a time and place in these characters lives that could not be predicted. She wrote an interesting novel that keeps you turning the pages. Delving in the past after living in the future did become tiring at some points. As much as you wanted to know what happened in the past, you want the mystery woman to tell her story in the present. Her lapses in the past were a great device to keep the audience interested but I personally wanted everything to happen in the now, so all the characters would have a level of understanding about what happened. I would definitely recommend this book if you are in the mood for a fascinating look at how life unfolds after a tragedy. I was not left wanting and I don’t believe any one else will be either.

Friday, April 5, 2013

From Years Past: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

           Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet examines the lives of a Chinese boy, Henry and a Japanese girl, Keiko and the friendship that ensues between the two during World War II. Henry and Keiko’s friendship is a result of both of them being outsiders in their schools and very much so in their town. The all white school that they both attends looks at both of them as the enemy, even when Henry wears a nametag stating “I am American” people laugh and throw insults his way, it does though keep him from being labeled the true enemy which in his day and age was the Japanese. Keiko doesn’t apologize for her nationality nor does she accept responsibility for the actions of those who attacked Pearl Harbor. The unlikely pair’s friendship brings out both of their strengths and helps them both keep faith that one day things will change.
           This book was written in both past and present tense, through the eyes of Henry. You get to observe the relationship he has with his parents who are teaching him to abandon his Chinese ways to truly become American during these times and how that affects him living in a community that doesn’t accept him as an American. You experience his confusion as an older man trying to bridge the generation gap between him and his son. You also get to experience the loss of friendship and love due to circumstance and how the past can unexpectedly come rushing into your life.

            Jamie Ford’s style of writing is inviting and keeps you interested in the story at hand. He introduces history without being overwhelming and tries to make every situation relatable in order to gain empathy and understanding from the reader. It’s easy as the reader to find yourself imagining what you would do if you were in the situation of the main characters, trying to maintain your identity when your surroundings don’t accept you.

            I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I thought it moved with ease and kept me interested and curious of what each page would present. The American reaction to Japanese and their culture after the attacks on Pearl Harbor is a subject that I had not explored. This was a great introduction into that era and the struggles of all involved. I hope you too can appreciate it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Oh Jodi

(Yes, it’s not a Stephen King Post!)              

So I wanted to take a second to introduce everyone to another author that I absolutely adore, Jodi Picoult. I’ve been obsessed with her since college. I needed a book to read on a flight home to Los Angeles and stumbled across My Sister’s Keeper, the story of a young girl suing her parents for the rights to her own body. Yep, you read that right. Medical emancipation. It was great. One of those books you immediately start raving to your friends about. It was the book that made me a fan.

            Since then I have read quite a few of her books and have never been disappointed. With every single book I’ve read by her so far I have been able to ask myself one simple question: What would I do if I were in their shoes? What would I do if my daughter wanted to be medically emancipated from me? How would I react if my son was on trial for shooting students at his school? What would I do if my daughter had been raped? Her characters are always placed in difficult and trying positions. She makes you as the reader take a moral stand and evaluate how you look at different and extremely difficult situations. I know a lot of people who don’t like reading books that are emotionally trying and if you are one of those people don’t go anywhere near Mrs. Picoult. I have cried while reading quite a few of her books because these books are meant to tug at your heartstrings. These books are meant to be felt not just read.

            One more thing I must mention about Jodi is the amount of research she puts into each of the books that she writes. She goes above and beyond to educate you as the reader throughout the book. Whether the topic is cancer, leukemia, birth defects, judicial proceedings, it doesn’t matter. If it’s in the book she took the time to find out every detail available about the subject and I really appreciate that in her writing. So if you are in the mood to try something new, definitely give Jodi Picoult a chance.