1) The main character Kirby is fantastic. She is a survivor (literally), independent, courageous and dete...more There's a lot for me to love about this book:
1) The main character Kirby is fantastic. She is a survivor (literally), independent, courageous and determined, a bit of a smart ass with a smart mouth. But she's no mere Mary Sue, possessing vulnerabilities and flaws that make her uniquely "Kirby" and nobody else. I found her funny and totally sympathetic. Quite honestly, the entire novel pivots around her. Without her, the intricate house of cards the author builds would collapse in on itself at the slightest shift.
2) The villain Harper is a skeevy, creepy predator, a wholly horrific construct of misogyny and homicidal tendencies. There isn't much depth or nuance to this guy -- he's just a walking talking body of hedonistic impulses and demented desires. We don't get any personal history for him or why he should have become what he's become. We know some of his twisted motivations derive from the magical qualities of "the House" -- but not all of them. You could even argue that "the House" sees the evil in him and draws Harper to itself.
3) It's about time travel in that tangly mind-fuck way that makes my brain itch, a pleasant buzz but one with bite. The mechanics of the time travel are not explained or explored in the ways they usually are in a sci-fi novel. The time travel just exists. There is a "House" that holds the magic and its door opens onto different years of the same city anywhere from the 1930s to the 1990s. It's this "House" that allows for a time traveling serial killer, and for that unique premise alone the book deserves a second look.
What can I say? This book has a lot going for it, and I liked it, I liked it a lot. But not once did I love it. I was intrigued, I played along with the mystery of the time travel, fitting pieces together where I could and trying not to get too caught up in the logic, faulty or otherwise. While Kirby stood out bright as the sun as one of "the Shining Girls", the rest of Harper's victims feel underdeveloped by comparison, almost throwaways, mere plot devices. It was hard not to get them mixed up with each other.
I also felt a tad underwhelmed by Kirby's "hunt" of her attempted killer. The uncovering and following of clues felt clunky, a cobbled together hodge-podge process where results are based more on luck and coincidence than real groundwork and actual "hunting".
This is largely a plot driven piece and if puzzles and the snake eating its own tail nature of time travel appeals to you then definitely check this out. As I was reading it, I was struck by its cinematic qualities, and won't be surprised if The Shining Girls gets optioned for the big screen.
2.5 Stars. Okay let me get this out of the way first -- I'm a huge fan of this show which -- over the course of six seasons and counting -- has consis...more2.5 Stars. Okay let me get this out of the way first -- I'm a huge fan of this show which -- over the course of six seasons and counting -- has consistently offered so much more than cheap, dime-store, cotton-candy thrills. The writing is truly exceptional, the story arc original and perfectly paced, the scares are truly scary, and the humor side-splitting. Ghosts, monsters, demons, archangels, Lucifer, the Apocalypse – this show has everything! What more can you ask for from network TV?
And then there's Dean Winchester (be still my heart), the guy that caring writers have taken the time to carve into an iconic yet flawed character definitely worth 10,000 watts of fangirl adoration. Because this Winchester brother is much more than a pretty boy with a voracious appetite for sex, pie and mullet rock; he is a man of integrity and devotion, fierce loyalty and a golden heart. He might not always say the right thing, but when the chips are down, he will always do the right thing -- or die trying. I have become addicted to his acerbic, smart-alecky, movie referencing ways, his uncomplicated, deeply appreciative approach to food, sex and music and his fierce loyalty to his brother that guides every decision he ever makes.
I usually turn to these pulpy series novels when the show has wrapped up for another season, and there's that long stretch of Winchester-less summer before me until September. This latest installment - War of the Sons - is okay for a quick fun read. But just okay. Building on Season 5 canon, the story is rich in inside jokes and benefits from being able to draw upon the Apocalypse story arc. The time-travel twist is interesting, although I thought that so much more could have been done with the brothers in 1950s New York. I didn't like the love interest for Dean in this one either; it just felt forced and contrived. Some of the action sequences went on a little too long as well, and I found myself skimming more than reading several times.
Overall, these knock-off books used to promote the series are just that -- cheap knock-offs. They certainly could never be used to attract new fans, that's for sure. They are a poor substitute for the real thing. (less)
All hail the King! Talk about ending the reading year of 2011 on a high note. Review to follow. Happy New Year everyone!
I may be a mad dog fan of Ste...moreAll hail the King! Talk about ending the reading year of 2011 on a high note. Review to follow. Happy New Year everyone!
I may be a mad dog fan of Stephen King, but that doesn’t mean everything he writes gets me foaming at the mouth. Over the years there have been disappointments -- but this book is not one of them. I would rank King’s foray into time travel and historical fiction as a rousing, emotional, unforgettable success for in it he is doing what King does when writing at his absolute best – create an epic, original story arc that grips the reader with a serious case of “the gottas” (as in, I gotta know what’s going to happen next) and people it with richly drawn characters with unique pasts and motivations that empower them to walk right off the page.
Kennedy’s assassination may not be THE shot heard round the world, but it definitely qualifies as one of them. For those Americans who lived through it (and other interested observers from afar) it became one of those watershed moments in history (where were you when it happened?) Not just because a President was murdered in cold blood (a rare event if there ever was one), but because he was the youngest President, a father of two small children with a beautiful wife, cut down in the prime of his life. Kennedy carried a mystique around him as a tall, handsome, capable man who was going to steer America into the horizon of a happy ending. He had his detractors (no doubt about that) and those who felt he robbed Nixon of the 1960 election, but his obvious charisma and charm garnered him an equal amount of support and admiration as well.
His death shocked millions and left a generation of supporters to wonder what if? What if Kennedy had lived? It’s easy to build someone into a hero and a saint after they have died too young. It happens all the time. When it happens to a man such as Kennedy? That myth-building starts immediately and never ceases. The "walk on water" Christ mythology that sprouted up around Kennedy since his assassination definitely exists. Baby boomers like to believe that had he lived he could have saved an entire generation, but that's just wishful thinking. Kennedy was just a man. Not a saint or a miracle worker. He had his flaws and shortcomings like anyone else. Yet the temptation to believe an America where Kennedy had lived would be a better America persists to this day, and King, being the master storyteller that he is, taps into that long held dogma and runs with it as only he can.
At the heart of this story is the sexy question: if you could change history, would you? Should you? It’s nothing but hubris and complete folly to assume that the changes you wrought would guarantee something better. There are no guarantees in this life except for one: the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. King is taking one of his country’s watershed moments – the Kennedy assassination – and sending an unassuming English teacher back in time carrying all the “good intentions” in the world. Jake Epping has a mission and his heart is filled with the certainty that what he is doing is the right thing. Such a man can be a fool, a hero, or very dangerous. At his most influential, such a man will be all three.
I love time travel – the unintended consequences, the paradoxes, the complete mindfuck it can turn out to be. That’s why The Butterfly Effect is one of my favorite movies and I adore when Homer sends himself back in time to the land of dinosaurs and tries to get back to a present he can live with. Without getting too geeky science-fictiony about the whole process, King creates a believable portal into the past complete with its own rules and peril.
Something else this novel does is paint a very intimate portrait of small town American life circa 1958-63 (and a visit to Derry!) King knows small towns like nobody’s business and when he writes them he takes the reader by the hand and drops them directly into the landscape. But King isn’t doing just small towns here; he is writing a particular time as well as place. He creates a sense of nostalgia, but one with teeth. There is the sugary, Land of Ago where everything is cheaper and shinier and seemingly more innocent, but mixed with the darker, hidden elements of racism, domestic violence, and poverty. King’s microscope misses no detail – there is glory and wonder, but there is ugliness and harshness too.
Under King’s microscope is also a very real historical figure, and that is Lee Harvey Oswald. I love what King is able to accomplish here, showing Oswald as a regular guy, a small man who beat his wife, a small man who suffered from a bad case of arrogance and delusions of grandeur. Under the microscope is also Oswald as the Lone Gunman. Was he or wasn’t he? I found this part of the novel to be the most gripping and engaging. Jake Epping’s long, lonely stakeouts, his stalking and hunting of Oswald made the most sense to me, and rang the most true. Jake Epping finds love and friends, but his relationship with Oswald is the one I will never forget.
Epping is us and we go on this adventure not just with him, but in a way as him. I figure this is as close any of us will ever get to traveling back in time in an attempt to change history. It all feels so real -- King hits upon every sense – you are seeing, smelling, tasting, touching and hearing all at once. It is an intoxicating brew, a cautionary tale for the ages.
The past is obdurate for the same reason a turtle's shell is obdurate: because the living flesh inside is tender and defenseless.
…when that happens, you see that the world is barely there at all. Don’t we all secretly know that? It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life. Behind it? Below it and around it? Chaos, storms. Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns. Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand. A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.
I feel awfully sorry for anyone if this is their first (and only) introduction to Jamie and Claire and all that is Outlander awesomeness. What the hec...moreI feel awfully sorry for anyone if this is their first (and only) introduction to Jamie and Claire and all that is Outlander awesomeness. What the heck was Gabaldon thinking???? I can't believe she's responsible for this hack job -- how or why would you hack yourself? I think it's supremely ironic for an author whose books are notably brick-length, to abridge her most accomplished novel and reduce it to such a fluffy, at times confused, unsatisfying read. Not only is it ironic, it's out and out tragic. A travesty I say!!!
And it's not just that there is so much left out, it's that the graphical representations of the main characters are so woefully ridiculous. In the novels, Claire is described as a "buxom" woman with a "shapely arse" - but since when does that imply a Triple D bust - she's got more boobage going on than Pam Anderson and Dolly Parton combined!! Jeesh.
My advice: skip this piece of shite and get the book. You will love it I promise. Even if you never read on in the series, read Outlander, one of the best pieces of historical fiction published in the last 20 years, a rip-roaring adventure, and a love story that will melt even the most cynical hearts. (less)
Over the years this has remained one of my favorite pieces of King's writing. In a phrase, IT IS AWESOME. The first time you read it there is so much...more Over the years this has remained one of my favorite pieces of King's writing. In a phrase, IT IS AWESOME. The first time you read it there is so much mystery, tension, what the bleep mindfuck going on that it literally keeps you on the edge of your seat. As a science fiction story, I proclaim it a classic.
You really want to come to this novella completely blind, because the reveals are so rewarding you don't want to be robbed of them early. But I have discovered upon subsequent re-reads (and now my first "listen") that the story has legs no matter what you know or don't know when you begin it. As with The Long Walk, there are rewards every single time I read this story.
This isn't King at his most emotional or epic -- this is King at his most cut-throat, imaginative storytelling best. He is having delirious fun taking a group of people and putting them in an unknowable, impossible situation. He has created a locked room mystery -- a puzzle -- with a very real and logical solution, but I bet you five dollars he'll keep you guessing to the very end!!
This story is such kick-ass, high-octane energy you will fly through the pages and come out the end grinning like a monkey. I just love it.
[A word on the reader: Willem Defoe is pretty awesome except for the voice he uses when speaking for Bethany. Ahhhhh! Nails on a chalkboard. He makes her sound like an 80 year old Fran Drescher who's smoked and drank whiskey her whole life!](less)
While I don't read him anymore, I read a lot of Dean Koontz in my late teens/early twenties, and this had to be one of my favorites. Loved the time-tr...moreWhile I don't read him anymore, I read a lot of Dean Koontz in my late teens/early twenties, and this had to be one of my favorites. Loved the time-travel angle. Koontz offers a unique and thoroughly engaging spin. For a rip-roaring yarn, you can't do much better than this one. (less)
The paperback edition of what is the sixth book in the Outlander series is over 1500 pages long and sorry to say, I did not hang on every word. Who co...moreThe paperback edition of what is the sixth book in the Outlander series is over 1500 pages long and sorry to say, I did not hang on every word. Who could? There's so damn many of them! Talk about bloated. Diana Gabaldon's editor must love her a lot, or is just too nice for the business. "Kill your darlings" -- remember that timeless piece of advice from Mark Twain?
I love Jamie and Claire (not so much Roger and Brianna) and have been hooked since Outlander, but the series is floundering, and has been for some time. I could not even finish the fifth book, The Fiery Cross. As for Breath of Snow and Ashes, how many times can any handful of people escape from prison, mob scenes, near death, kidnappings, etc, etc. Maybe I'm just cranky because while I was reading this tome, I could have finished at least four other books on my to-read list. But I sacrificed, I persevered, and I wanted to LOVE this book, I really did. But alas, it was not meant to be.
There was enough Jamie and Claire antics, and classic Gabaldon humor, to recommend this title, but only to hardcore Outlander fans. Remember, 1500 pages is a huge chunk of prose which translates into a huge investment of your precious reading time. Approach with caution. (less)
I may come back to this volume (or not). I just couldn't get into it, and it's the first time in the series where I felt like somebody else could have...moreI may come back to this volume (or not). I just couldn't get into it, and it's the first time in the series where I felt like somebody else could have written it; I really missed Gabaldon's voice for some reason. (less)