This is a great short story. It's classic Palahniuk - creepy, sadistic/masochistic characterizations, and downright devilish plot points. Don't miss t...moreThis is a great short story. It's classic Palahniuk - creepy, sadistic/masochistic characterizations, and downright devilish plot points. Don't miss this one!(less)
I borrowed this from the Prime Lending Library right after the Newtown shootings and just got around to reading it. The essay is very interesting, del...moreI borrowed this from the Prime Lending Library right after the Newtown shootings and just got around to reading it. The essay is very interesting, delving a bit into King's connection to mass murderers (via his short story Rage), and laying out all the reasonable arguments for stricter gun laws. It's not provocative but does detail some statistics and put them in perspective. A good read for those on either side of the debate.
I didn't think it was possible for the second book in this series to outdo the first, but it did. This is an incredible addition to a story that will...moreI didn't think it was possible for the second book in this series to outdo the first, but it did. This is an incredible addition to a story that will quickly capture your imagination and keep you hooked through each longish piece (each of these books is over 500 pages long). I cannot wait to see how this story is resolved.
The basic story is post-apocalyptic in nature - a vampire virus discovered in Bolivia makes it into the hands of the U.S. military, and they try to develop it for the purposes of warfare. They test it on 12 violent convicts (thus, the title of this installment). Predictably, something goes awry and The Twelve are unleashed upon the world; they decimate the population. The first book was about the passage between the old world and the new (thus, the title of that installment) and ends with the realization that the 12 principal "virals" (their word for the vampires - I like the concept. It makes you consider vampires from a different perspective and prevents picturing them as traditional vampires - these creatures are anything but traditional) must be killed in order to regain the freedom of the former world. This second book is about the hunt for The Twelve.
Amy, The Girl From Nowhere, plays a crucial role in this installment (as in the last). She is set apart in time, and carries the same virus as the virals. But it affects her differently. In this installment, Amy finally moves beyond her long girlhood into womanhood and then something else. Her blood allows her to commune with the virals on some level and she sets off with an imprisoned military man - her familiar - who she breaks out of jail. Her journey toward her shared destiny with her viral "brothers" is marked by a literal transformation from child to woman and beyond.
This portion of the story explores what happens when the virals have killed off most of their food source - they may be powerful, but they can die. Knowing this, The Zero (original carrier of the virus) calls his brothers - The Twelve - to reunite and make a plan for world domination instead of uncontrolled feeding caused by the creation of so many other virals.
In service of this plan, a viral (Guilder - you get to hear the story of his transformation) creates a prison complex in what used to be Houston, TX. Humans are enslaved for the purpose of building and maintaining the prison complex and are kept mostly starving and under demoralizing circumstances to keep them cowed. Some are sent "to the basement" never to return. BUT - there is an insurgency afoot, and some familiar faces and new characters are involved. This plot - and the battle that ensues - is described in incredible detail and with impeccable pacing - I'm not sure I've ever read a better action scene.
Cronin is a master at the cliffhanger and, just when you think the story is over, the purpose of the third book reveals itself. I can't wait to read it!
The writing in this book is taut and spare, but does not skimp on the details. It's easy to see this story adapted to film. And I love that the women characters in this book are just as strong - and respected - as the men.
This series has been compared to "The Stand" - and it is similar in many ways. But - and I might have to turn in my Stephen King fan card for saying this, since The Stand is my favorite SK book - this is a more nuanced version, a more mature version. This is not about good vs. evil, but about a complex problem of a new species being introduced into the world. Even if all of them are killed, there are still those who are hybrids caused by the crisis. How will those people fit into the larger society? Interesting stuff.
Now THIS is a ripping good yarn! I don't know how much of a hand Joe (King's son) had in this tale, but this is a classic short story by the master of...moreNow THIS is a ripping good yarn! I don't know how much of a hand Joe (King's son) had in this tale, but this is a classic short story by the master of short stories! If Joe is this good a write, I look forward to reading more of his work.
Like many other King fans, I love (most of) SK's books, but LOVE (most of) his short stories. When he limits himself in this form, only his sparest and most compelling prose shines forth.
This story is described as "Mile 81" meets "N"; that brought up a bit of conundrum for me since I couldn't remember anything about "N" (I said I love MOST OF his stories:). After reading the plot summary of "N", I can see why the story is described in that way, but don't love the comparison. "Mile 81" is a very good story, "N" was "meh", but this one is better than both. It's creepy, shocking, gory, and downright scary. It hits themes that SK has worked with many times (tall grass was featured in Firestarter and, of course, Children of the Corn; religion is an oft-used theme; the idea of a touchstone imbued with special powers invokes Tommyknockers; etc.). Even the ending is classic Stephen King.
Even saying one word about the plot would ruin the experience - go and read this great story - it's the perfect time of year for it!(less)
The story follows the birth and evolution of a utopian community in upstate New York. The main character, Bit (so named because he w...moreI loved this book!
The story follows the birth and evolution of a utopian community in upstate New York. The main character, Bit (so named because he was born prematurely - he's "just a bit of a hippie"), is born while the community is still young - they are living in vehicles and tents as the story begins.
As the community coalesces and grows, so does Bit's awareness of their way of life, and his knowledge about the people with whom he grows up. The community is based on an enhanced level of sharing, and this device allows the reader to learn a great deal about the other book's characters than one otherwise might. We get to immerse ourselves in this community.
Bit is not omniscient, however, and the author does a great job of showing us how Bit perceives his life and companions and how imperfect his knowledge is. He can see the tension in his mother between her desire for a Utopian existence and her cynicism based on real-world experience, but he can't fully understand why this tension exists. He witnesses his mother going into deep depressions and thinks he can "call her back" - he doesn't understand the physiological component to depression because he's never been exposed to it.
Eventually Arcadia breaks up and all the members go their own ways. The story follows Bit as he navigates the outside world, how his previous existence has given him advantages and disadvantages that mark this navigation...
The story reaches just a bit (heh) into the future to complete the arcs of Bit's loved ones. I'm not sure the plot device (which I'm not giving away) is actually necessary, but I see why it was done and it does not detract from the story at all. In fact, this book has a very satisfactory ending. I really loved the way many themes were brought together and intertwined by the end of the story.
I've left a lot of the plot out so as not to spoil the book for first time readers. This book is a treasure of character development and imagery of all kind...with a touch of magical realism thrown in. A great find!(less)
Wonderful book and fun to read. Kind of slow, but with a few Heinlein-esque passages which, of course, I love. Not sure I'll read the rest of the seri...moreWonderful book and fun to read. Kind of slow, but with a few Heinlein-esque passages which, of course, I love. Not sure I'll read the rest of the series, but I did enjoy the concepts introduced in this novel.(less)
The unique convention of telling this story from a 5-year-old's point of view elevated this novel from good-but-nothing-special to extremely-interesti...moreThe unique convention of telling this story from a 5-year-old's point of view elevated this novel from good-but-nothing-special to extremely-interesting.
The story is simple, but the pace of revelations makes it compelling. A 19-year-old girl is kidnapped on her way home from college and imprisoned for 7 years. In that time she has given birth to her son, Jack, the 5-year-old narrator of the story.
In the first half of the book, this back story is gradually revealed through Jack's thoughts and feelings and the details of their daily routine. Despite Jack's sensory limitations - his mother tells him that everything in "Room" is real while everything outside is TV (not real) - Jack is generally a healthy and intelligent child. Shortly after he turns 5, however, the situation with the kidnapper escalates - he's lost his job and the house is being foreclosed upon. The kidnapper, "Old Nick", enacts a frightening punishment for a perceived infraction. He turns off the heat and does not bring food for 3 days. Ma (we never learn her name) decides that it's time to escape and, with Jack's cooperation, she succeeds in getting Jack out, leading the police to her prison (a converted garden shed), and getting Old Nick arrested. This is the only part of the story that stretches the reader's credulity, but the second part of the novel is good enough to overcome this minor flaw.
The second half of the book deals with Jack & Ma's lives after the rescue, and I found this part to be the most compelling and realistic. The adjustments they have to make to become part of "Outside" are significant and we're not always sure they're going to make it. But they always remain true to one another - trusting each other as they could no one else in their lives. The end is not earth-shatteringly surprising, but it is a redemption/revelation of sorts and is a very satisfying conclusion to the story.
Nothing fancy here - just a great story told in a straightforward manner. A very good read!(less)
I am an unabashed fan of Richard Russo. As a longtime resident of upstate NY (WNY), his writing speaks to me. He is a master at capturing the dichotom...moreI am an unabashed fan of Richard Russo. As a longtime resident of upstate NY (WNY), his writing speaks to me. He is a master at capturing the dichotomy of die-hardiness/hopelessness that characterizes small manufacturing towns.
This collection of 3 shorts stories and a novella is physically simple and beautiful. Four slim volumes are slipcased and include postcard-sized original paintings by Richard's daughter, Kate. The paintings are very evocative and greatly add to each of the pieces. I found myself not wanting to open the volumes all the way so I could preserve the initial look and feel; I'm sure that as the years go by, I'll get over that so I can mark up my favorite passages.
And therein lies the *only* disappointment with this set. I understand where Russo is coming from in his rant against Amazon and his opposition to ebooks, but I love Amazon and ebooks, and it would have been much easier to capture all the great quotes to go back and mull them and take notes and such if this book was available in digital format. But that's a small nit; I also happen to adore physical books.
I read the stories in random order - just pulled one out of the set and read it. The first story I read, "Intervention", is very good but the weakest piece in the set. It's about a realtor who has just been diagnosed with cancer and how his relationships shape his decision for moving forward. His wife, old friend, brother, and posthumously his father and uncle, all make an appearance and weigh on his mind - especially the relationship between his father and uncle - and he gains insight into his relationships with each and comes to terms with his diagnosis through the lens of how each has acted in certain situations. A good read.
Of the four pieces, I had already read "The Whore's Child", a wonderful story about a nun who crashes a writer's fiction writing class in order to write something very important to her. The story within a story (one of my favorite conventions) is wonderful and unfolds dramatically. The framework of the nun's story is equally compelling and ends up teaching the narrator some things about his own life and choices.
"High and Dry" is really wonderful - a reprinting of a piece Russo did for "Granta", and a sort of tribute to his hometown of Gloversville, NY. It revolves around the dangerous work of glove-making (where'd you THINK the name of the town came from?) and all of the men who have suffered, been hurt or maimed, or died from working in this toxic manufacturing industry. Russo is at his best when he talks directly about upstate New York, and unflinchingly describes the hard life people experience, and the various ways they become trapped in that life. The ending of this piece is just amazing - so touching.
"Horseman" is the final story I read, and it's tied with "High and Dry" as my favorite story in the set. As in all the best Russo stories, a character's life is shown from two completely different angles (and provides multiple dimensions/motivations through which to view the characters' actions). The story opens on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break. The main character, a college professor, has just caught one of her students cheating. His reaction is not what she expects and she ducks into the campus bar to commiserate with a colleague. Another colleague (an old lecherous drunk) prompts a memory of a relationship with her graduate school mentor and his opinion of her writing. All of this ties in with her personal life - her mentally-challenged son and caretaker (of the son) husband, who she feels is under ambitious. Framing the whole tale and providing an ominous rhythm is a children's poem, "Windy Nights." The main character cannot get this poem, which her son demands be read to him every night by her husband, out of her head. It haunts her, like her shortcomings with her son haunt her. You can actually read this story online at "The Atlantic" website, but it's much more enjoyable to read under the covers, with the actual book in your hand.
Overall, not an essential Russo book, but one I'll treasure and go back to as the years go by, simply to immerse myself in the language and familiarity of small towns and their characters.
If you haven't read "Nobody's Fool" or "Straight Man," go out and read them right now! They are both introductions to the great storytelling power of Richard Russo.(less)
I really wanted to like this book. I've been fascinated with Helen Keller since I was a kid and had never heard that she had had a lover...or heard AN...moreI really wanted to like this book. I've been fascinated with Helen Keller since I was a kid and had never heard that she had had a lover...or heard ANY stories beyond her carefully managed public persona. I'm sad to report that this book does not accomplish what it set out to do - present Helen Keller as a real person, with desires and hopes and wishes like any ordinary person would have.
First the good things - the book does a good job of painting a picture of Helen as a constructed public being, dependent on her caretakers' generosity/obligation for her continued well-being and, indeed, her life. It demonstrates her need to please, to say the right thing, to appear "normal" (even so far as to replace her blinded eyes with attractive blue glass eyes). It paints her life as it probably was - a bird in a gilded cage. She was given money by some famous people, but she was also generous with her own money and, as a result, was living in a poor financial situation. The book also handles dialogue nicely by simply putting the dialogue out there without "she said," "she signed," or the like.
The book falls short on several fronts.
First, there's not much going on. The plot is all about the love affair, but that single-minded focus ultimately takes away from the book - after all, the author does not KNOW Helen's thoughts about the affair (that's the part that the author attempts to recreate in the novel), and yet there are few outside events (historically accurate or not) that could illuminate her feelings or actions towards Peter Fagan.
Second, I found the book to be confusingly inconsistent. We are meant to understand that Helen must say and do what she believes people expect of her or (she fears) she'll be left alone. But there are times when she acts in a manner that DOES anger Annie Sullivan or Kate Keller, and in ways where you would think Helen would avoid in order to not be left on her own. There are numerous parts of the book where Helen professes to feel one way but acts in another. I found it to be a little jarring.
Third, the sex is icky - the stuff of bodice-ripping romance novels. And it happens the same way every time - with Helen's hands held above her head. I found that off-putting as well - it seems to symbolically shut her up since she can only "talk" with her hands.
Fourth, everyone seems one-dimensional. I felt this book could have been longer and would have improved from further character development.
The only bright spot is that the author listed her sources at the conclusion of the novel, so I can check those out to see if they are better.(less)
My brother made fun of me for reading this book (he read it when he was 13). :) It's a delightfully soapy space adventure by the author of Tarzan. Jus...moreMy brother made fun of me for reading this book (he read it when he was 13). :) It's a delightfully soapy space adventure by the author of Tarzan. Just a fun, quick read.(less)
What a wonderful book! I can't believe this is the first thing I've read by T.C. Boyle - I can't wait to read more by him!
The book is about famous Ame...moreWhat a wonderful book! I can't believe this is the first thing I've read by T.C. Boyle - I can't wait to read more by him!
The book is about famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and the four women who captivated, and were captivated by, him: Kitty, Mamah, Miriam, and Olgivanna. While I've listed them here in the order in which he was involved with each, the book tells each of their (intertwined) stories out of order. Mamah's story (which I already knew from reading "Loving Frank," which I also highly recommend) is told last, although she was a big reason why Taliesin (Frank's dream house and studio, and the main setting of the novel) was built in the first place.
The story's narrator is the grandson-in-law of one of Frank's former apprentices at Taliesin, who notes the architectural accomplishments as an aside, mostly in footnotes. While this sounds a little strange, it very nicely focused the story on the women and their relationships with Frank. In other words, the footnotes placed the events in context with what was happening in Frank's professional life but didn't distract from the important part of the story.
I won't summarize the plot beyond that - it would be best if new readers went into this story with no preconceptions, as I did - it unfolds as a delightful exploration of four extraordinary women and their effect on the life of one of the most famous and talented American architects. It shows how society not only felt that they had a right to know about people's personal lives, but also sought to constrain "immoral" behavior and punish those who did not fall into line. And it also highlighted the less savory aspects of Frank Lloyd Wright - his arrogance, his impetuousness, his utter disregard for other people's livelihoods (in regard to his financial dealings).
The book - the writing - is an utter delight to read. I could not put this book down and felt bereft when I had to. Isn't that the best kind of book?(less)
I got this book on Tuesday, when it came out, and finished it this morning. I think it was a worthy addition to the Dark Tower series, but didn't add...moreI got this book on Tuesday, when it came out, and finished it this morning. I think it was a worthy addition to the Dark Tower series, but didn't add anything significant to the series. You find out a tidbit or two about Gabrielle Deschain, Roland's mother, but nothing shocking or revelatory.
The book is a story within a story within a story, which is always fun and Stephen King's forte. It falls in place between "Wizard & Glass" and "The Wolves of Calla" in "real" time. The travelers (Roland, Jake, Eddies, Susannah, and Oy)must take shelter from a starkblast - a kind of super deep freeze - and so Roland tells his companions a story to while away the time.
The story Roland tells takes place after he & his ka-mates have returned from Mejis. Roland's father sends Roland and another mate, Jamie de Curry (whose nickname is "Silent Jamie") to another out of the way place to kill a "skin man", a deadly shape-shifter who's been responsible for the deaths of several people. Shortly after Roland and Jamie arrive, the skin man strikes again at an outlying household, and the only survivor is the cook's son, an 11-year-old boy (King's favorite archetype).
While suspects are rounded up, Roland locks the boy in the jail for his own protection and spends the night with him to ease his fears. Over the course of the night, Roland tells the boy the story "The Wind Through the Keyhole", which also features another young boy and is meant to give the survivor of the skin man's attack courage and comfort.
Of the three stories, this last is the most compelling and well told. I won't go into details, but it's essentially a fairy tale miniature of "The Talisman".
For those who have read SK for years, there are no surprises in this story, but it is enjoyable nonetheless to add this little story to the Dark Tower series. My criticism of the book is that it doesn't place itself well within the series. You have to remind yourself that the travelers have just left Lud after a traumatic series of events. You have to remind yourself that, placed in time, the story of the skin man happened after Roland got back from Mejis where his love and their unborn baby were burned alive. Roland had killed his mother not long after that. This story deals with Roland's anguish over killing his mother, but the events that led up to it have no discernible effect on Roland in this story. It just seemed a little odd that it wasn't mentioned at all.
And "Silent Jamie" is aptly named in this story, but I wonder if that was just a convenient conceit for King - Jamie could have been missing completely from this story and it wouldn't have affected anything. It was disappointing that King missed an opportunity to more fully explore one of Roland's former ka-tet, and he didn't take it.
Overall, liked it but didn't love it. Will always think that King's most consistently great form is the short story.(less)
I've actually read all 3 of these books now - Amazon Prime members can borrow for free from the Prime Lending Library. This was a great series; I tend...moreI've actually read all 3 of these books now - Amazon Prime members can borrow for free from the Prime Lending Library. This was a great series; I tend to read very little YA fiction, so the fact that this held my attention and interest through three books is noteworthy. The last series that was able to do this was the"Dark Materials" series by Philip Pullman (which is an OUTSTANDING series of books).
The best of the three Hunger Games books was the second, but the original book carries a lot of drama and makes you interested in the outcome. Very nice job on the conclusion of this series, too.(less)