The Dark Tower

I finished. It took me two years. But I finished. And it was worth every minute. Again, I’m a huge Stephen King fan, so it was crazy that I had never read his series, which many consider one of his best works. The Stand being the other one, which I have read and loved. I am going to try to do this book and series justice, however, the best I can do is urge you to read it.

The final book picks up right were book six Song of Susannah leaves us. There are various plotlines while our ka-tet is separated. And obviously, no spoilers because if you’ve come this far, I don’t want to ruin anything for you. However, it’s been hinted at for a couple books that Stephen King makes an appearance in the series. He does, and it’s really clever. I was very suspicious about how successful this would be, but I loved it.

Many people complain about King’s endings. Some of his books end much weaker than others, like Revival and Under the Dome. And I will say there is one aspect of the ending to the series that I didn’t care for. However, this book has an Epilogue and a Coda, and I really liked what happened in both of those. It’s no secret that King loves the battle between good and evil. And, considering the entire series was inspired by this poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, King definitely used many of the concepts loosely in this book, down to the last two lines.

I know King’s writing isn’t for everyone. However, let me say that this really isn’t like anything he’s written. There are some shocking and horrifying things that happen, but it is definitely not graphic horror, or even really suspenseful or scary.

If you consider all his works in a graphic, I would put this in the middle with his other works branching off of it. Many of his other novels are connected to this one by events or characters. There is a lot of overlap between the series and ‘Salem’s Lot and Insomnia. The nemesis in this series is also in The Stand and Eyes of the Dragon. The list of connections goes on and on. But this series is the backbone of his entire bibliography.

And it is worth every minute you spend in Mid-World. Long days and pleasant nights.

 

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The Deep

So, I’m a big Stephen King fan. He’s one of my absolute favorite writers. I am slowly but surely working through his entire bibliography. And thankfully, he is an avid reader and likes to recommend books to his Twitter followers. When I came across his recommendation of The Troop, by Nick Cutter, I did a little research and found that Cutter has only written a few books, and I figured I might as well read them all. Through my Kindle lottery, The Deep was the first of his to come up.

And wow. Oh wow. What a creepy book! Premise is that the world has been taken over by a disease called the ‘Gets where everyone forgets things, starting with small stuff, leading to forgetting to breathe and dying. Young and old, alike, are afflicted. However, a new discovery in the depths of the ocean leads researchers to a hopeful cure for the ‘Gets. Luke’s brother, Clayton, is the head researcher, but living at the bottom of the world has its drawbacks. The dark plays tricks on people. The noises are eerie and reminiscent of children’s laughter. Luke is summoned to go retrieve his brother, because no one has heard from him in quite some time. Once there, Luke realizes the discovery, called ambrosia, isn’t the magic elixir everyone thinks it is. And the other researchers have slowly but surely lost their minds.

The creepy factor ramps up the longer Luke stays below. Occasional flashbacks give us insight into Luke’s life, namely his childhood with his abusive mother and brilliant brother. And these flashbacks play cleverly into the resolution of the book. The book is much more suspenseful and creepy than outright graphic horror, which I think makes it better. There are some rather gross parts, but nothing that I would consider graphic, but I also have a strong tolerance. If you love animals and hate to see them in pain, then I certainly would avoid this book, though. There are some animal testing scenes.

If The Troop is anywhere near as good as this book, I will be really pleased. It’s rare a book holds the suspense for the duration, but this one certainly did it.

Abandon

There are some authors who never seem to disappoint. I have read a good chunk of their stuff, and it always seems like they are quality authors with something interesting to say. So far, Blake Crouch is one of those authors. I have read The Wayward Pines trilogy and Dark Matter, so when Abandon came across my Kindle, I was really excited to delve in.

Unlike Crouch’s other works, there is no heavy science aspect to this one. And although I find the science stuff interesting, this book doesn’t seem to be lacking anything without it. Basically, everyone in the town of Abandon (clever!) disappears Christmas Day one year in the late 1800s. The story unfolds from the modern era, juxtaposed with the varying points of view from the past. A girl, her father, two paranormal experts, and a couple guides travel through the mountains of Colorado to find the abandoned town. There, they try to solve the mystery of what happened to the townspeople, who seemingly vanished without a trace.

What I enjoyed most about this book was the two perspectives. Layer after layer, you get answers about the past from the townspeople themselves. And simultaneously, the people of the modern day reveal a few secrets of their own. The book’s resolution is satisfying, with no sequels needed. I get tired of cliffhanger books and series after awhile. So far, Crouch is batting 100% in my book, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

The Instructions

Back in 2010, I was a member of The Rumpus Book Club. We were a small group of close-knit people who had a love of books in common. We had never met but formed lasting friendships over our shared interest. I still keep in touch with many of them via social media. Many of us have moved on from the book club (time and money prevented me from staying) but the book club still exists. For $27/month you get a book sent to you every month. You get to read the book together, discuss via a message board, and interact with the author in a Q&A. And the books they select are fantastic. I was one of the first people to read Wild by Cheryl Strayed because of the book club. Fun fact: Strayed was Dear Sugar on therumpus.net for quite some time. Here’s a link to the Book Club if you are interested.

We were warned by our book club editor, Isaac Fitzgerald, (now the Buzzfeed books editor) that we were going to receive a monster book for one of our selections. Shipping was taking longer than usual because the book was gigantic. The only buzz we knew about the book, other than its size, was that it was published by McSweeneys, and involved pennyguns. Intriguing, right? Little did we know the epic we were about to encounter.

The story covers 4 days in the life of Gurion Maccabee, a 10 year old in a Cage program in a Chicago middle school. Gurion may or may not be the messiah, by the way. He is in the Cage program because he has been expelled from other schools and is viewed to be a danger to himself and others. He immediately makes friends with the other Cagers and this is where the story picks up. In these four days, Gurion falls in love with Eliza June Watermark, destroys school property, breaks the heart of another girl, breaks up various fights between friends, starts fights with other friends, loses a best friend, regains a best friend, and aquires a following of Scholars.

Gurion is an Israelite. The religion in the book is woven through in a variety of ways. Not only is Gurion deeply religious, so are many of his followers, especially in the belief that Gurion is the messiah. Gurion never actually states that he is, but he never dismisses it either. And then comes the 11/17 Miracle. This book is over 1000 pages. And, because of the binding and the thickness of the paper, it’s also the biggest book I own. And you spend 800+ pages before getting to 11/17.

The story is written in a unique way. The author, Adam Levin, doesn’t always use quotation marks, so this takes some getting used to. But once you do, the book becomes easier to manage. Over the course of the four days, you get to know Gurion (1st person narrator) well. You learn his wants, needs, passions, and brilliance. To say Gurion is a genius is a mixed bag. He certainly is, but he also causes so much disturbance and emotional trauma to those around him, that he is hard to sympathize with.

There’s no way for me to explain how much I love this book. Even the second time around, the book holds up. There is something lost knowing what the 11/17 Miracle is before you even start the book, but you also go into it loving the characters already. If anyone knows how to contact Adam Levin, please tell him how much I love this book. Gurion is such a rich character. I used to teach gifted and talented kids so Gurion spoke to me on a level that few characters ever do. So, thank you, Mr. Levin, for bringing Gurion to life. WE DAMAGE WE

314 Trilogy

I’m not a big reader of graphic horror. I like Stephen King, and although his books are technically horror, they aren’t as pervasively graphic as some books I’ve read. There have been a few books that I had to skim because the writing was just too much for me to handle. American Psycho comes to mind. I had to skip several pages at a time in that one. And the dentist scene in A Million Little Pieces was quite memorable as well. But I can usually stomach most anything, and even if I can’t, as long as the story is good, I will stick with it and skim if I have to. This is how I made it through the 314 trilogy.

I read the first one for free from Bookbub and knew that I had to read the rest because the first was just so interesting. I skimmed  a lot, I’m not going to lie. But the story was captivating. People in the the town of Widowsfield are reliving the same day over and over again, March 14, and at 3:14 PM, tragedy strikes. The Watcher in the Walls and The Skeleton Man come for them and force some to do terrible things to ones they love.

I read the first two books quite some time ago, so I really don’t remember what happened in which book, but the story of Widowsfield unfolds nicely, with more information coming the more you read, and this is especially true in the last book. You learn the origin of the Watcher and where the Skeleton Man lives. And even though the story is impossible and not grounded in reality at all, you still get an answer that seems somewhat plausible.

I was pleasantly surprised how well the books are written. The language and characters aren’t spectacular or unique, but the story itself was quite clever. If you can get past the graphic violence, these books are a lot of fun.

2017 Book Challenge

Popsugar has released their 2017 book challenge!

Here is a clean copy of it. See below for what I am hoping to read in each category

2017 book challenge

Book recommended by a librarian:
Book that’s been on your TBR list for too long:
A book of letters:
An audiobook:
Book by a person of color:
Book with one of the four seasons in the title:
A book that is a story within a story:
A book with multiple authors:
An espionage thriller:
A book with a cat on the cover:
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym:
A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read:
A book by or about a person with a disability:
A book involving travel:
A book with a subtitle:
A book published in 2017:
A book involving a mythical creature:
A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile:
A book about food:
A book with career advice:
A book from a nonhuman perspective:
A steampunk novel:
A book with a red spine:
A book set in the wilderness:
A book you loved as a child:
A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited:
A book with a title that is a character’s name:
A novel set in wartime:
A book with an unreliable narrator:
A book with pictures:
A book with a main character that’s a different ethnicity than you:
A book about an interesting woman:
A book set in two different time periods:
A book with a month or a day of the week in the title:
A book set in a hotel:
A book written by someone you admire:
A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017:
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas:
The first book in a series you’ve never read before:
A book you bought on a trip:

More categories for the advanced reader

A book recommended by an author you love:
A bestseller from 2016:
A book with a family member term in the title:
A book that takes place over a character’s life span:
A book about an immigrant or a refugee:
A book from a genre/subgenre that you’ve never heard of:
A book with an eccentric character:
A book that’s more than 800 pages:
A book you got from a used book sale:
A book that’s mentioned in another book:
A book about a difficult topic:
A book based on mythology:

 

Book recommended by a librarian: TBD
Book that’s been on your TBR list for too long: The Three Musketeers
A book of letters: The Historian
An audiobook: Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Book by a person of color: Parable of the Sower
Book with one of the four seasons in the title: Winter’s Tale
A book that is a story within a story: Jellicoe Road
A book with multiple authors: Rage Against the Night
An espionage thriller: Cryptonomicon
A book with a cat on the cover: Master and the Margarita
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: the Cuckoo’s Calling
A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read: Way of Kings (fantasy, ugh)
A book by or about a person with a disability: Ghost Boy
A book involving travel: Well of Lost Plots (time travel!)
A book with a subtitle: The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
A book published in 2017: The Song Rising (third book in the Bone Season series)
A book involving a mythical creature: Dreams of Gods and Monsters
A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile: Subtle Knife
A book about food: The Man Who Ate Everything
A book with career advice: Masterminds and wingmen (I am raising two boys)
A book from a nonhuman perspective: Watership Down
A steampunk novel: The Golden Compass
A book with a red spine: Sanctuary (Faulkner!)
A book set in the wilderness: All the Pretty Horses
A book you loved as a child: Sweet Valley Confidential (loved the series in middle school)
A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: HP and the Cursed Child
A book with a title that is a character’s name: Lisey’s Story
A novel set in wartime: 1984
A book with an unreliable narrator: Annihilation (love this series!!)
A book with pictures:  TBD
A book with a main character that’s a different ethnicity than you: The Joy Luck Club
A book about an interesting woman: TBD but this won’t be hard to find
A book set in two different time periods: It
A book with a month or a day of the week in the title: December
A book set in a hotel: The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris
A book written by someone you admire: Mycroft Holmes (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a childhood hero of mine, and his opinion pieces are fantastic)
A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: A Monster Calls (a reread. What an amazing book)
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: The Halloween Tree
The first book in a series you’ve never read before: The Young Elites
A book you bought on a trip: American Pastoral

A book recommended by an author you love: The Troop (Stephen King recommended)
A bestseller from 2016: The Underground Railroad
A book with a family member term in the title: Daughters of the North
A book that takes place over a character’s life span: Life After Life
A book about an immigrant or a refugee: Alexander Hamilton
A book from a genre/subgenre that you’ve never heard of: S by JJ Abrams (Ergodic literature)
A book with an eccentric character: Sherlock Holmes
A book that’s more than 800 pages: Carrion Comfort
A book you got from a used book sale: the second Way of Kings book
A book that’s mentioned in another book: Tales of Beedle the Bard
A book about a difficult topic: The Hour I First Believed (about school shooting)
A book based on mythology: Lost Hero

 

Beloved

There is absolutely no way to do this book justice. No matter what I write, the adjectives I use, the descriptions I provide, they will never be enough to convey the power of this book. This is my second Morrison book this year (see The Bluest Eye review for further opinions on Morrison, most of which are the same as I presented here). For the 2016 book challenge, I was going to select One Hundred Years of Solitude for a 20th century classic, but I was so moved by The Bluest Eye that I selected Beloved instead.

Published in 1987, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, horribly adapted into a movie (please don’t watch. It will ruin you) and censored by stuffy housewives everywhere, this book has no equal. Morrison’s prose is breathtaking. One scene a slave dares to speak his mind, is then whipped, and the owner reminds him that “Definitions belong to the definer, not the defined.” It is rare that a sentence of such magnitude is formed so perfectly with such minimalistic language, yet holds such a profound meaning. This sentence sums up our society today. Labeling another person is a national pastime these days. And Morrison captured this concept perfectly.

The story isn’t an easy one to read. Between the vocabulary, unexpected shift in narrator, non-chronological order, and the plot itself, this book will drain you. But every minute of reading is worth it. Morrison is easily the best writer of our modern era. And sadly, her books are rarely studied because of the aforementioned stuffy housewives who don’t want their special snowflakes exposed to the horrors of the world. Not only is it valuable to expose children to difficult times, it’s also critical so we learn to never repeat our mistakes.

Morrison is considered one of the greatest African-American writers in American history. I agree wholeheartedly and will go on to say she’s one of the most important writers, among the very best of all writers in American history. Her ability is like none other. She is simply the best.