Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Stephen King has a way of getting into the darkest reaches of the human mind and this book is the darkest. King noted that this collection of four short (for him) stories is the deepest he has gone into that dark world. Of everything I have read by him, I would agree. This book is about the separate parts of ourselves - the "normal" and the "darker" parts.
In 1922, King shares the story of Wilfred Leland James as he tries to save the family farm from his wife. She inherits 100 acres and wants to sell them and their farm to move to the city. Wilfred wants to stay and farm. He kills her with the help of their 14 year old son and everything goes downhill from there. It's not only the story of murder but how desperation makes a terrible bedfellow. Their world may not have been perfect and life may still have been a struggle but the dark cloud that hovered over them left them just as dead as his wife - they were just waiting to fall. There were so many rats in this story that I was sure they would haunt my dreams just like Wilfred's but thankfully my mind did not incorporate that nightmare into my nightly journeys.
Big Driver was one of my favorite stories in this book. The main character, Tess, seemed like such a every day sort of gal and one I could really relate to. Tess is a writer who writes cozy mysteries and makes enough money to live off of. She gets an offer to speak at a neighboring library and takes it up. Everything is going great; the event went well and the nice librarian shows her a short cut home that will get her home to her cat before dinner. There's something that comes to mind in reading this and it's "Have we learned nothing from Red Riding Hood!!!!" I can't imagine 10 minutes is worth all the heart ache. As you can guess, her shortcut ends badly. She finds herself on the side of the road with a flat tire due to nail riddled boards on the road. The man who stops to help her does unspeakable things to her and leaves her for dead. She doesn't die and what happens from there is a wonderful story of redemption and salvation. Makes me wish I had her strength when it comes to those who have wronged me (not that there is many).
Fair Extension was my least favorite. It was the shortest story in the book and maybe that had something to do with my dislike. There wasn't enough in the story to make me care and I really didn't like what happened. Dave Streeter is dying from cancer and makes a deal with the "devil" to get an extension on his life. As all deals with the devil, there is a down side. He must choose someone to take his place. He chooses his best friend who has always had better luck than he has. It's just a really sad tale of what jealousy does to people and made me really hate Dave (very early one). I am sure that was the point but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
Which is why I was so grateful that the book ended with A Good Marriage. This was my absolute favorite. Darcy and her husband have been married for 27 blissful years. It's a comfortable, average marriage for two average people. It's a nice little tale until Darcy discovers her husband has a horrible secret. To tell you what it was would ruin the surprise but I wondered myself what would I do in her shoes. The secret haunts her and there is nothing she can really do about it without destroying her family in the process. But she does do something and it wasn't what I thought she would do. I almost wish there was more to her story because she was such a great character but there was nothing more to tell that wouldn't ruin her.
I recommend this book for stronger readers. Stephen King is not an overly difficult writer to read when it comes to the actual words but sometimes picturing the scene can be difficult and sometimes you really don't want to because it's too scary. Because the stories are shorter this may work for those in middle grades but some of the scenes are quite graphic so you may want to save it for a more mature reader.

Friday, January 21, 2011

My Flashy Words by Nancy Cavanaugh

I am knee deep in the middle of Stephen King's newest book Full Dark No Stars, leaving me with no book to share this week. I didn't think that was acceptable especially since I am trying to not let my blogs fall behind. I could have slipped in the copy of Walking Dead I got from the library but I think that would really be cheating. Instead I want to offer something I have been reading that is still fiction.
I have a group of writer friends who have their own blogs. Nancy Cavanaugh's blog is filled with little tidbits of horror, science fiction and a lot of humor. She truly is a master of the short short story and flash fiction. Most of her posts are stories but occassionally she slips in some information about where you can find her work outside of her blog. I highly recommend her blog and think it's a great place for reluctant readers to find some written entertainment. Her blog can be found at

Friday, January 14, 2011

Odd is on Our Side by Dean Koontz

This is the second graphic novel written for the Odd Thomas series. I rather like the series. I have read the first Odd Thomas novel and plan on reading more when I make time (so many books so little time).
This edition is a unique story to the series which is really nice since the first graphic novel was a rendition of the first book. I like this story and it returns to a time before Odd's girlfriend was murdered. I really like her character and it's nice to have her back. I really like Odd - he's such a normalish kid.
Odd is a fry cook for a local diner with a comfortable life. He doesn't really wish for anything more except a life with his girlfriend Stormy. He just happens to see ghosts. He feels compelled to follow through with his bad feelings and he occasionally helps the police. He doesn't want to be in law enforcement and he doesn't really want anyone to know he can see ghosts - except those close to him. He knows his gift is meant for helping the dead so he doesn't mind helping them. He's so candid it's refreshing. Odd doesn't really have any existential crisis' nor does he dislike his life in any way. I like that he's content. And I really like that everyone just accepts him the way he is. There are days I would love to live in Odd's world and know that everything is going to work out fine if I just believe in myself.

Elixir by Hillary Duff

When I saw this book on the bookstore shelf I knew I had to read it. It seemed to be in a genre I would enjoy but the idea that bubblegummy Hillary Duff wrote a book seemed to good to be true. I don't think it was the best book ever written but the plot was great - it swept me away and I read it in hours.
The story follows Clea as she tries to uncover what happened to her father and who is the mysterious man who keeps appearing in her photographs. The story is part mystery, part romance and a lot supernatural.
I can't say that I liked the ending and I don't think the story was wrapped up as neatly as I would have liked but then again maybe she's working on a sequel. The ending was a bit of surprise as Hillary Duff wove a love triangle that spanned lifetimes.

American Vampire by Stephen King and Scott Snyder

This was a fun book to read. What a twist on the average vampire tale. I see this and a few other books as an indication of where the vampire tale is going. People are tiring of the romantic version of the vampire and they want vampires back where they belong - in nightmares. The story weaves two tales - one set in the old west and the other in the 20's as a gunslinging outlaw becomes a new breed of vampire - the American Vampire. He's ruthless and different from his European counterparts - he can move in the day and doesn't seem to have the same weaknesses.
This story is moving to a battle between the two types of vampires. Sadly, Skinner Sweet, the outlaw, was the only one of his type until he meets Pearl and makes her like him.
Again this book is a lot of scene setting and little plot even though we get Skinner Sweet's story of how he became a vampire and what measures were taken to prevent him from rising.
It's a really good tale but not sure it's one they'll do for the big screen - at least not yet.

Locke and Key - Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill

I would not have even thought of this book had I not read American Vampire (which I just realized did not make it on my list of books read - must fix that). In his introduction, Stephen King notes that he used this series to help him figure out how to write a graphic novel.
Joe Hill is an amazing writer and I think I would like anything he has written. I loved Heart Shaped Box and found myself disappointed when there was nothing else of his to read. I remembered him reading Stephen King's notes and went to the library to find they had this book (and another which is patiently waiting to be read). For those who don't know, Joe Hill is Stephen King's son. Joe opted to use his mother's maiden name to develop his own following instead of hanging on his dad's coat tails. He was still promoted as Stephen King's son (I actually discovered Heart Shaped Box through Stephen King's essays).
This story is wonderfully woven but I am sad to say it's not complete and I hope the next one comes out soon.
The book follows a woman and her children as they return to her husband's family home after he is brutely murdered. The youngest discovers a door where you die and become a ghost going through it and an "echo" in the wellhouse. The echo is not what it seems and I am afraid to say may be responsible for all the horrible things the family goes through. The book spends a lot of time setting up the scene which is one of the disappointing things about serial graphic novels. The house is amazing and this is one story I would love to see on the big screen just because the house is so much a part of the story.

Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K Hamilton

Laurell K Hamilton's books are on my ever growing list of books I want to read. I was excited to find her graphic novels at my library. Our library is buying them in a funny order so I am not positive which book this was. The books are entertaining enough and perhaps the actual books offer better character development than the graphic novels. I do enjoy these books and maybe my lack of connection comes from the out of order way I read these books. I feel confused about which character is doing what. I suppose that when they break up the graphic novels things can easily get confusing. I enjoy the mystery but I forget the details between the books. I much prefer either a complete story or a graphic novel of a book I have already read. Now I did enjoy the stories and I think I like Anita Blake as a character but I can't be certain.

Trouble Maker by Janet Evanovich and Alex Evanovich

This is a graphic novel version of the Alex Barnaby books (Metro Girl and Motor Mouth). I like to read graphic novels, especially of series I haven't read because it gives me a quick glimpse of potential series' I might like. I really enjoyed this book. My mom reads the Stephanie Plum books and says they are great but I haven't gotten into them yet.
I can see why Janet Evanovich is so popular. Her books combine action with humor and slightly off-kilter romance. I rather like that. I hate when the romance becomes the book or when the writer is so serious that the character comes of cold and emotionless. Alex Barnaby came off rather real. I like her quick wit and her resolve to just go with the flow.
This particular book was not a full story so I don't know how it's going to go but I may just pick up a copy of Metro Girl and go from there.

Kiss of Death/Ghost Town - Morganville Vampires by Rachel Caine

I love the Morganville Vampire books and was really disappointed that I read books 8 and 9 so quickly. Rachel Caine weaves such an amazing story that I devoured her books and then have to wait so long for the next one (days is too long for these books, months are forever).
The series begins with Claire attending college in a small Texas town. She is super smart and quite young (barely 17 when they start). Her parents convinced her to attend a college a little closer to home before she goes onto MIT. Claire is tormented by another student, Monica and finds her way to The Glass House where she eventually moves in. Claire has a way of finding trouble and soon discovers that the sleepy little town of Morganville is really a sanctuary for vampires. This starts an adventure for her that causes her to grow up really fast.
If you haven't read the series, I highly recommend it. They are action packed stories and Claire's angst is real. She is forced several times to choose between what's right and what's convenient for everyone else. She falls in love and has to make some really tough choices. For 17 years of age, Claire is really strong and isn't afraid to stand up for herself and others.
The people and vampires she meets are complex and interesting. I find myself wanting to know more. Once I pick up her books, I can't put them down.
I have to say that Ghost Town may be amongst my favorites. Claire shows amazing resolve. The entire town is losing their memory due to a faulty device and Claire must get everyone to safety, stop the machine and make everything right all while dealing with her friends and her boyfriend not being able to remember who she is. The emotional complexity of this book made me fall in love with the characters over and over.
The next book Bite Club comes out in April (wonder if I could make an early Mother's Day request).

Kingdom Keepers 3 by Ridley Pearson

I apologize for sharing another sequel without sharing the first books. I have a few series that I love to read and sadly I am in the middle of them all.
This series is so fun for anyone to read. Ridley Pearson has woven a tale about Disneyworld that makes me wish I didn't live on the other side of the US (I am in Washington which I believe is the furthest state from Florida in the continental US).
Kingdom Keepers follow 5 middle school kids who have been selected to be part of a new Disneyworld program as holographic guides to the park. After getting all the recordings and programming done, the kids think they are done only to find that at night they become their holographic counterparts. They have a mission to save Disneyworld from the evil Overtakers which are Disney characters that come to life at night. It's fun to read about all the different characters and experience the parks in a new way.
I have never had the privilege of visiting Disneyworld but I feel like I know the parks because of these books. There is action, adventure and a little confusing romance as the kids learn about themselves and their tasks.
They are encouraged by Wayne who tries to make them into leaders (in this book Wayne is missing and they have to find him). The five are joined by two runaways who have special gifts - one can dream about the future.
I, almost, hope they turn these into movies (almost because I enjoy the books so much I would prefer everyone read them than settle for a quick fix movie) because I think Disney needs a little more suspense. I found the mysteries to be well thought out. There's a lot to discover in these books from riddles to human nature.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Books of 2010

I had planned to write this the first week of January but, alas, time flew by and I didn't. My goal each year is to read 100 books. 2010 was the least successful year I have had since I began. This year I read just over 60 books. Still not too bad.
Some of the books I loved this year were:
Buddha in your Backpack by Franz Metcalf - this is a teen book about finding answers to life's questions through Buddhism. It's not meant for conversion but a different sort of guidance.
Sister's Grimm by Michael Buckley - this series is so fun. The books follow two orphaned sister's who discover they are the descendants of the Brother's Grimm and all their stories are true (and still alive).
The Passage by Justin Cronin - this was an amazing book. The story is a strange journey in a world were vampires rule the night and the lights are about to go out.
Whales on Stilts by MT Anderson - cute story that throws in so many jokes that I laughed from beginning to end. Most of the jokes are probably better understood by adults than children, only because they pertain to radio shows and the 50's.
The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall - these juvenile books have a very classic feel to them and are fantastic.
I think that's a good list of books not included in this blog. It's been a wonderful year of reading and I have enjoyed most of what I read. 2011 is already underway with lots of wonderful books and I can't wait to share them all.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

After watching the newest re-make of the movie (with Jim Carrey) I found myself wanting to read the story. I found it on, a free site for classic books (those no longer copywrited). I recommend the site as it has such a great selection of classics.
The story was amazingly short. I had envisioned the book being deeply detailed but it was quite reader friendly. I am not going to bore any one with the plot details since most everyone should know what the plot is. However, I was amazed at the imagary and simplicity of the story. There was so much story in so few words. To be honest, reading the book actually made little parts of each movie make sense.
I was surprised to discover that Scrooge's morning reaction to the Spirit's doing it all in one night did make sense. Originally, Scrooge was told that the Spirit's would be coming over the course of three nights. It may be mentioned in the movies but what isn't is the distortion of time. When Scrooge finally falls asleep it's after 2 am. When he awakes after the first Spirit he remarks that he thinks he slept well into the day since it's about 12. He's confused and unsure of the time. The second Spirit takes him on a journey that he remarks feels like weeks but he is sure that the Spirit has changed time so he has no idea how long he's been gone.
The other thing that I was sad to see not in the movies is that Scrooge really starts to feel bad right away. His life was so hard that it made him mean and greedy but when he's at his school looking over the young version of himself he thinks back to a young man he cursed at in the day and feels bad. He even mentions Bob Cratchet before he sees his Christmas. That sort of feeling didn't convey in the movies. Most of them kept Scrooge hardhearted until towards the end.
Such a great story and I see why Dickens is considered a great writer.

Tao Girls Rule by CJ Golden

I, originally, review CJ's first book Tao of the Defiant Woman on
I was excited to get the opportunity to review this "sequel" on the same site but things change I didn't get the chance. I finally pinned myself down to finish reading this book and share my thoughts about it.
I loved Tao of the Defiant Woman because it was the sort of woman I wanted to be. Tao Girls Rule is a book that just comes too late in my life. I would have loved to have had a copy in my teens, which is the point of this book. Tao Girls Rule is for young woman who are finding their footing in this world. It's designed to help them feel better about them selves and make choices that will lead to lingering happiness not momentary happiness.
I think what's really great about this book is that it encourages girls supporting girls. CJ Golden runs workshops and invites the girls to participate on her website. I'm sure that in this day and age of technology there is a way for these lost girls to find each other and connect through the book. (I just don't know how). I, almost, wish I had my own teenage girl to pass the book on to.
Now I think it's time for CJ to find someone to do the teenage boy equivilent.
Take the time to check out her books - you will not be sorry.

The Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke

Supposedly this was the next book in the series but something has gone wrong. This book was a little confusing for me since a character that has been killed off a few books ago is introduced in this book. I don't know if it's a publishing error or what but I pre-ordered this book so I don't know.
The book is really cute as are all Joanne Fluke's books. They follow everyone's favorite baker Hannah Swenson who discovers another dead body. Well, in her defense Norman really found the body - she was just in the room.
This is a Christmas tale with the murder victim being the swindling Christmas Tree lot owner.
There's a little sub-plot with Norman's mom who is suddenly canceling all her get togethers with everyone.
It's all good and the recipes are great. I tried the Squash soup and the Minnesota Plum Pudding at Thanksgiving (I am so behind in blogging). They were fantastic.

Hold Me Closer, Necromance by Lish McBride

This book was great. It was funny and suspenseful. As a first book, Lish McBride sure hit the ground running.
The book follows Sam whose life is just fine. He didn't make it through college but he has a job at the local burger place and is spending his time just coasting until he comes up with a better plan. Well, it didn't work out that way. He's discovered by Douglas, the biggest baddest necromancer in Seattle. Douglas knows that Sam is not who he thinks he is. Sam is a necromancer too. What happens next is unbelievable. Sams friend is murdered and her head is brought back to life. He is attacked by a rogue werewolf and then put in a cage with the local packs heir to the throne. If that isn't enough, a young "ghost" comes to help him sort it all out while he's trying to uncover his talent and his past.
The story would have worked without all the supernaturalness but what it adds is a level of ridiculous and flavor that makes the Twilight books fall way flat.
I look forward to Lish's next book and I secretly hope it involves the next chapter of Sam's life.