Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

It does seem odd to me that I wanted to read this second installment of the Bill Hodges Trilogy.  Mr. Mercedes was so gruesome but so good I couldn't put it down.  This time I prepared myself for the horror to come because the writing is just so damn good.

The opening scene introduces us to Morris while engaged in a robbery of the home of his favorite author.  Morris knows the guy is hiding notebooks filled with the manuscripts of sequels to his favorite books of all time.  He has to have them.  Robbery leads to murder and he hides the cherished notebooks until the coast is cleared.  He ends up in prison for another crime for several unexpected decades leaving his treasure unattended.

Enter Pete, a teenage boy who discovers Morris' stash.  Pete is also a young literary connoisseur who becomes consumed by the contents of the trunk.  Let the action unfold.  And Stephen King is a master at doing just that.

If I have any criticism, it's that the action really doesn't get started until two thirds of the way through.  Once it starts however, hold on to your hat.  The tension builds swiftly like only Stephen King can do it.  The stage is set for the return of Mr. Mercedes villain, Brady Hartsfield, but he plays only a minuscule role in this book.  He seems to have been inserted in Finders Keepers so we'd be sure to come back for book three.

And maybe I'm getting used to all the gruesome stuff.  This book didn't bother me as much in that regard.  I'd hate to think that I'm becoming hardened to violence and I don't think I am.  I'm just mesmerized by one incredible author who has an amazing voice on the page.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows, Mary Ann Shaffer

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows, Mary Ann Shaffer

I've read this book before but decided to read it again.  Why?  Because in 2 weeks time I'm leaving on a cruise around the British Isles.  And the first stop is St Peter Port, Guernsey, The Channel Islands.  This novel seemed like the perfect way to prepare for what I'm going to see there.

Juliet is a writer looking for a topic for her next novel when she receives a letter from a man living on Guernsey.  He's read a book by his favorite author and the book had been inscribed to Juliet.  So begins her correspondence with the post war residents of the island.  Their stories of the German occupation are fascinating and Juliet just may have landed on the perfect new story for publication.  She decides to visit them and falls deeply in love in more ways than one.

The members of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society are an eclectic cast of characters who all want to get in on the action to correspond with the well known author.  They each tell their own story in their own words. And what a story they tell about life during the German occupation.  They found joy on even the darkest days.

I love stories that are written as letters.  Modern society has lost the fine art of written correspondence.  An email is simply not the same.  Fine penmanship has also gone by the wayside. Juliet and her new friends were able to convey emotion in a handwritten post that brought them together quickly.  Their bonds sealed by the time they had licked the stamp and dropped the letter into a mailbox.   I can't wait to see this charming place and imagine each of the inhabitants as they went about their daily lives.  And I can't wait to handwrite a postcard, buy a local stamp and mail it home.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

I read several glowing reviews of Sweetbitter and its portrayal of the inner workings of a restaurant in New York City.  I thought why not?  Something new, young and fresh about a topic I'd like to know more about.

Here's the spoiler.  I never made it past the 20% mark.  I gave up, which for those who know me, is an extremely rare event. The characters were all limp and lifeless.  Probably because all they did was drink, do drugs and have sex before running themselves ragged serving fine food and wine to some very snooty and particular customers.  I had no sense of the setting either other than food was served there.  I didn't smell the cooking of fine cuisine, or hear the clatter of dishes in the kitchen. Flat as a pancake is the best description I can whip up.

To summarize, Sweetbitter is dull and uninteresting and I didn't care what happened to any of the people in it.  In other words, Sweetbitter was as listless as wet bar towel forgotten on the floor overnight.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy

I don't know why I've never read any Pat Conroy.  He's the kind of writer right up my alley.  I listened to The Prince of Tides on a CD in my car.   His prose is rich and lyrical, full and blossoming at each turn of the page or in my case, each new track.

Some of this story seemed familiar to me, but a lot of it wasn't.  I must have seen the movie starring Nick Nolte and Barbra Streisand.  In fact it's their faces I imagined as the characters, Tom Wingo and Susan Lowenstein.  And there are just two memorable scenes that I clearly remembered.  The first is when Tom's mother serves up a canned dog food casserole as dinner to his irritable and irrational father.  The second is when Tom holds Lowenstein's husband's Stradivarius over the balcony from the fortieth floor of their New York City apartment.

Both of those are quite memorable parts of the novel as well. But the novel includes so much more pure and raw emotion.  The story of the Wingo family unfolds when Tom leaves his home and family in Charleston, rushing to the bedside of his twin sister, Savannah who has yet again made an attempt to commit suicide.  Her psychiatrist, Lowenstein, seeks clues into Savannah's troubled past through Tom.  He tells the story of his family with precise detail and ends up healing not only Savannah, but himself.  Believe me, everyone in this story needed a boatload of healing, so that was nothing short of miraculous.

When I tell you that The Prince of Tides is a gorgeous read, I mean that it is able to tap into every emotion a reader can have.   I often laughed out loud and other times, I was totally sickened by the action of the characters.  Sometimes I could anticipate what might happen next and other times, I gasped at an event so unexpected it took my breath away.  These kind of feelings can only happen when the characters are fully developed, allowing the reader to envision them as a best friend or hated bully and the setting is described as lush garden completely natural to letting the events of a troubled life unfold.
The Prince of Tides is long, but don't let that scare you away.  It's a masterpiece worth every single minute of the time you invest in it.

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant

The Clothes on Their Backs by Linda Grant

This review will be short and sweet.  Or maybe not so sweet.  I just plain and simple didn't get it.  The prose was pretty but only served as fluff around a weak story.  I kept finding myself looking back to see what I might have missed.  The plot limped along and what I thought to be the climax turned out to be quite anti-climatic.

Vivian is the daughter of Hungarian immigrants to London after World War II.  Her parents rarely leave their apartment and she, being a modern girl wants more out of life.  She knows her father has a brother but he will never speak of him or explain why he hates Uncle Sandor so much.  One day Vivian strikes up a conversation with a man while sitting on a park bench.  She knows the man is Uncle Sandor and accepts a job transcribing his life story for him.  So the deception begins.

The Clothes on Their Backs has the components to make a great novel, but fell short.  Nothing in the book connected for me, and the end left me unsatisfied.  And why the title of this book references clothes, will always remain mystery for me.  

City of Thieves by David Benioff

City of Thieves by David Benioff It's World War II in Leningrad, Russia.  17 year old Lev elected to stay behind in the city when h...