Sunday, August 30, 2015

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Finders Keepers by Stephen King


                In 2010 Pete Saubers found a trunk filled with thousands of dollars and over a hundred Moleskin notebooks. The money would help Pete’s family through a very difficult financial time and save his parent’s marriage. Thomas’s father had lost his job and was at the City Center in 2009 when Brady Hartsfield, also known as Mr. Mercedes, rammed into a crowd of job seekers. Thomas was injured that day and his injury added tension to an already struggling family. The money was a godsend but the notebooks were the real treasure. They belonged to John Rothstein and held all of his writing since he disappeared from the public eye. Decades worth of writing held inside of the trunk, including two new Jimmy Gold novels. The Jimmy Gold trilogy is what made Rothstein famous. It was also what made Morris Bellamy murder Rothstein and steal all the money and those manuscripts in 1978. Years have passed and Bellamy’s only thought is of one day retrieving those notebooks.
                When I found out that Mr. Mercedes was going to be a trilogy my interest in the story peaked. Mind you I would have read the book anyway and found it thoroughly enjoyable but when you know a book is going to be part of a series that fact stays in your mind. I start to look for ways that the story can continue to unfold. I didn’t find any clues to a sequel while reading Mr. Mercedes. Once promotion started for the second novel Finders Keepers I learned that it would somehow involve a person affected by the City Center Massacre and it would also include the protagonist from Mr. Mercedes, the retired detective Bill Hodges. I knew I was going to have to read Mr. Mercedes again in order to catch the subtle hints King would undoubtedly drop and I am glad I did. It takes over a hundred pages for the characters in the first novel to be introduced in Finders Keepers. This time was spent wisely in developing the characters and history of Morris Bellamy and Pete Saubers, two characters brought together by chance and circumstance. By the time we meet Bill Hodges and his accomplices we are well invested into the lives of Morris and Pete and are fearful of the clash that has yet to come.

                Stephen King. If you aren’t a fan, you should be because more so than anything the man can write. This novel was great. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the tension that exhibited itself throughout. The characters were well developed. The story was just left of crazy. The pace was brilliantly kept. The history of the all the characters and their integrity was kept throughout the story. This is the kind of writing I expect from King and why I continue to buy his books. I love when I can read a novel and be amused, terrified, disgusted, entranced, horrified, confused and utterly aghast. I love when a story brings me through a wide range of emotions that can cause my eyes to bulge from their sockets, my stomach to flip and an audible gasp to leave my mouth. This was it. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. This story ends with a hint about what is to come next and makes me feel like the real reason behind this novel was to act as a bridge. I will patiently wait for the next one, or at least try to. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King



                There was a time in my life when, even though I was a huge Stephen King fan, I was not at all interesting in reading this memoir about writing. I was in high school when this book came out and I remember seeing it at the bookstore, being intrigued, flipping through the pages, and then putting it right back on the shelf. I didn’t want a memoir. I wanted horror. I wanted something that would give me chills up and down my spine or nightmares. I was young and I can see now that I simply didn’t appreciate King or his writing. Now, after 2013 and the adventure that was reading all of his novels in their order of publication, I fully appreciate him and the universe he has created. I consider him to be a master storyteller that encompasses much more than the horror genre and I am ashamed of the child I was and how easily I dismissed this amazing memoir. I mean seriously it’s a book about Stephen King and how he writes! What was I thinking?
                In retrospect everything happens for a reason. I was ready for On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft now and can share with you my thoughts. King decided in his memoir to give you a brief history about himself and how he developed his style and became a successful writer. He talks about his upbringing, his relationship with his mother and brother. He candidly talks about his wife and their relationship, including their struggles early on. King also talks about his addiction to drugs and alcohol and how said addiction affected his writing and his family.  Cujo, a novel I enjoyed but found to be one of his most desperate and haunting, King barely remembers writing because of his addictions. Reading his candid reflections on life proves that he is human, has faults and has had to overcome obstacles to succeed. He shares all of this to be encouraging. It works.
                The rest of the memoir focuses on how he writes and what works for him. It may not work for everyone, which he repeats throughout this section, but it works pretty well for him. And he is pretty damn successful! I’m not in the middle of writing a novel but if I were (or when I do try) this is definitely the book I am going to read before I set forth to conquer the literary world. Why? Because everything he says is practical and makes sense! “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.” That is just one essential lesson that he reiterates throughout and it makes sense. King talks about everything from his creative process, his character development, grammar, vocabulary and even getting a literary agent. He wrote a crash course on writing filled with sensible tidbits that you may need if you want to be a writer.

                In conclusion, if you like Stephen King read this book. If you want to be a writer read this book. If you like to read, then read this book. I loved it. It’s full of humor, honesty and it makes you think and consider what it takes to be a writer. I thoroughly enjoyed it and give it 5 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony by Libbie Hawker

Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony by Libbie Hawker




                The story of Pocahontas is of course one that I am familiar with. I mean, seriously, who hasn’t seen the Disney movie, absolutely loved it as a child and then been entirely disgusted when learning the truth behind the movie. Tidewater: A novel of Pocahontas and the Jamestown Colony is a beautifully told, moving and realistic account of Pocahontas and her life. I am not a historian but from the moment I started reading this novel I felt fully consumed in the history of the characters. They were brought to life in amazing fashion with well-developed and thought out characters and a fully developed world.
Amonute, also known as Pocahontas or “mischief,” lived in her father Powhatan’s, village in the Tsenacomoco. She was a girl that had only seen ten winters, the last few of which she spent with her father, having left her mother’s village of Pamunkey. The tassantassas, white men, had come to the shores of Tsenacomoco and had been looking to trade with the villagers. Among them was John Smith who was brought to the New World in chains for suspected mutiny, only to be given a position of some power by the Virginia Company. He is one of the few English men who understand the importance of establishing relationships with the Naturals of the New World. With aggressions coming from both sides and a lack of trust prevalent, the history of both sides would be changed forever.
You know what I really loved about this story? I loved that it was told in three different perspectives: Smith, Pocahontas and Opechancanough, the brother of Powhatan. By allowing the story to be told with the differing points of view, you can better understand the frustration of all the characters involved. Language barriers and differing cultures obviously would hinder relationships. The English were under the impression that the Naturals would want religion and want to be civilized. What they really wanted were for the English to leave their land and never to return. The Powhatans were ready to defend their lifestyle and the English were willing to defend what they thought was their claim to the New World. It was all extremely complicated. Hawker though did a great job expressing the predicaments. The novel was also told in four different parts. With each part, new challenges and circumstances emerged in the lives of all the characters. It was well done and executed with just enough action to keep the pace of story moving and interesting.

I was extremely emotional while reading this story of Pocahontas. I was frustrated, angry, sad, amused at times, heartbroken and unnecessarily hopeful. This book was over 500 pages and I enjoyed every single one. I know in the historical note Hawker mentioned she may be doing a sequel and I would be more than happy to continue this journey with her again. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone slightly interested in the history of Pocahontas. It slows down slightly towards the end but it was absolutely amazing. I give this 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry



           Annemarie Johansen is a ten year old girl, currently living in German occupied Coppenhagen. The year is 1943. It has been three years since the Germans took over her country. Three years of seeing soldiers at the corners. Three years of steadily decreasing food rations. Her sister Kirsti, doesn't remember a time before war, but Annemarie does. It's the Jewish New Year and Annemarie was going to celebrate it for the first time with her friend Ellen Rosen, whose whole family is Jewish. But plans change. Ellen is going to stay the night with the Johansens. The Rosens expect there may be a raid and the only way they can be safe is to separate and hide.

           Number the Stars is a well-written, easy to read, children's historical fiction novel. Lowry focused on the occupation in Denmark and built a story around the escape of the thousands of Jews to Sweden before they could be "relocated." Focusing young readers on one significant part of World War II made the story feel less ominous than other young adult/children's historical fiction novels based around this time frame, that take in a broader scope of the war. The story of Annemarie, Ellen and their families is one of strength, bravery and doing what is right even if it puts your own life at risk.

           I enjoyed this story. This wasn't a moment of World War II history that I was overly familiar with so I thought it was a great introduction. However you only saw true character development in Annemarie. None of the other character's experienced any kind of growth. I also got a sense of this novel being slightly toned down. I'm not saying that this book needed to go into graphic detail about atrocities but if a child were reading this book, I'm not sure if they would understand just how terrifying these events were. I see the word Nazi and it resonates with me because I know and can grasps the events that took place. A child reading this book may simply assume that there was a boogeyman taking people away.  It was easy for me to imagine the fear that pervaded through the lives of both families while this story took place but I'm not sure if there would be for a child. There needed to be more information about what was taking place in my opinion. But like I said I enjoyed this book and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. I can see how this is effective in relaying a tragic part of history to young minds.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane Von Furstenburg

The Woman I Wanted To Be by Diane Von Furstenburg




The “Wrap Dress” made its debut in 1974. This dress changed the life of Diana Von Furstenburg. It was a simple, yet elegant and beautiful dress that cinched at the waist, was made out of jersey material, hugged the body and usually boasted amazing, vibrant prints. It was also Diane’s key to financial independence. The Woman I Wanted To Be is the memoir of the woman behind the dress. It is the story of her dedication, her drive, her losses, her loves, her struggles, her triumphs.
         Let me start off by saying that I was completely biased the entire time while reading this memoir. I am obsessed with Diane Von Furstenburg and her wrap dress. I have been a huge fan of her work for years, ever since seeing it for the first time on Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in “Sex and the City.” I love it! I love the way it holds the body, framing even the most petite woman’s frame. I am not one for prints but I have always found her choices vibrant and gorgeous. It is so easy and yet magnificent. So needless to say, I am a fan. When I came across her memoir, The Woman I Wanted To Be, (a signed copy nonetheless!) my heart soared. Here was my opportunity to learn more about the woman behind the dress! I dived into these pages head on!
But wait. This was not the story I was expecting. It was more, much more and I recognized it within the first few pages when she talked about her mother, a Holocaust survivor. It was her mother Lily, who endured thirteen months as a prisoner at both Auschwitz and Ravensbruck, that taught Diane strength, determination and how to be fearless. That information provided so early in the book set the foundation for the amount of honesty and candor that would flow throughout the pages. Diane would go on to speak of the story of her parents and how she would have to get affection from her father, who was extremely loving toward her and instilled in her a confidence that she would fall back on throughout her life. Diane then honestly describe falling in love with men in many different relationships and affairs. She would become a princess after marrying Prince Ego von und zu Furstenburg at 22. Their marriage would deteriorate but the friendship would not. They had two children together, Alexandre and Tatiana, who together would hold Diana’s strongest love. “Love is life is love is life…”

Diane created such a well done, honest memoir about her life! It’s set in six different parts which are easy to follow and really emphasize the different phases of her life and career. You get to know her personality and her history in the first three parts The Woman I Am. Then you get to learn about her impact on fashion and how it all occurred in The Business of Fashion. This memoir was simply well thought out and honest. I love how she was able to reflect on her life and honestly describe those events that shaped who she is. She isn’t always cast in a great light and she struggled with her identity on and off for years. Diane made sure to express that! She wants the reader to understand that they too can overcome hardships. This memoir was also fun. The fashion, the lifestyle, Studio 54, it was all great and extremely entertaining. The people she knows, the life she has experienced the places she has traveled! All so breathtaking! I adored this book (again, I’m biased) and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Reading this memoir made me appreciate the beauty that I see in her work and that I see in her.