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.