Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Reports: Fourth of July Creek, Finders Keepers, Death on Demand and Among Others

I was in sort of a reading rut.  I went and got allthebooks from the library and then I felt compelled to just plow my way thru them.  None of these were bad per se (well the first one sort of was) but none of them blew my socks off either.

Let's start with Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson.  No idea how this got on my list, but the back of the book  makes it sound mildly interesting, right? After trying to help Benjamin Pearl, an undernourished, nearly feral eleven-year-old boy living in the Montana wilderness, social worker Pete Snow comes face-to-face with the boy's profoundly disturbed father, Jeremiah. With courage and caution, Pete slowly earns a measure of trust from this paranoid survivalist itching for a final conflict that will signal the coming End Times.

But as Pete's own family spins out of control, Pearl's activities spark the full-blown interest of the FBI, putting Pete at the center of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.

In this shattering and iconic American novel, Smith Henderson explores the complexities of freedom, community, grace, suspicion, and anarchy, brilliantly depicting our nation's disquieting and violent contradictions. Fourth of July Creek is an unforgettable, unflinching debut that marks the arrival of a major literary talent.

I do enjoy a survivilist tale, especially when you add in the religious nutter element.  Remember that made for TV movie about Ruby Ridge with Kirstin Dunst? Loved that. I mean, a menstrual shed?!?! Come on!!

Anyway, this book did not deliver, for me personally.  Here's my initial review: "I don't know what to think about this book. Other than 'what the fuck did I just read?' It was bad. It had the potential to be great. It was well written, but I didn't enjoy the way it was written at all, the stream of conscience type? It didn't work for me. And I want my social workers to be super heroes, not flawed alcoholics. Although his heart was obviously in the right place and mine broke for him. So much heartbreak. I have a hard time believing Rachel would make the choices she made, picking the streets over what seemed (to me) to not be that bad a situation. Why not go to Pete? And what exactly was this book about? No clue. I kept wanting to quit and now I wish I had. I'm sure a ton of people will love this. But not me. Sorry."

And I still think all those things.  It was well written, but it just wasn't for me.  

Next was Finder's Keepers by the great and powerful SK. It's a sequel to Mr. Mercedes, which I loved, and I loved this one too.  He's obviously going for JK's Cormoran Strike vibes, and she seems to be going for a Jack Reacher (but waaaaaay better) vibe and I love Jack Reacher and Cormoran Strike and Bill Hodges and SK and JK and Lee Child, so I'm good to go.  I didn't write a review at goodreads, but I did mark it four stars and I really did enjoy it.  Morris didn't creep me out like Brady did, and actually I found myself feeling sort of sorry for him, which was NOT the point at all.  You know how some books you're supposed to feel bad for the psycho? Not this one. 

But I don't know, the idea of getting my hands on the sequel to my all time favorite book, being THISCLOSE to finding out what happens next and then having it all snatched away? That would hurt.  That would SUCK.  I was panicked that SK would die from being hit by that van and never finish the Dark Tower.  Let's not discuss what we think about the way it ended, but imagine it just HADN'T ended?!?! That would be the worst. 
I think it's worth noting that Angela didn't like this one, and it got mixed reviews on goodreads.  I got it from the library, but I would have been completely satisfied to have spent fifteen bucks on it. And from me, that's a ringing endorsement ;)

Oh, here's the back of the book.  Almost forgot: “Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.

And here's a screenshot of a scene that just basically sort of explains why this book got me so good

If you can't read it, I'll copy it out: For reader's, one of life's most electrifying discoveries is that the ARE readers- not just capable of doing it (which Morris already knew), but in love with it.  Hopelessly.  Head over heels.  The first book that does that is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts: Yes! That's how it is! Yes! I saw that too! And, of course, That's what I think! That's what I FEEL!

For me, the first book was The Giver, and it will TRULY never be forgotten.  And SK, man, he GETS IT.  He's just amazing.

Also, side note- this is how I do things now? I screen shot it? That's how I take notes? What is happening to me?!?!

Then there was Death on Demand by Paul Thomas, which I don't have much to say about.  The back of the book: Maori cop Tito Ihaka, “unkempt, overweight, intemperate, unruly, unorthodox and profane “, is a stubborn investigator with an uncanny instinct for the truth. He hunts a shadowy hit-man who could have several notches on his belt, including that of an undercover cop. To complicate matters Ihaka becomes involved with a female suspect who could hold the key to everything.

My review:  "Didn't love it, didn't hate it. There are certainly better 'foul mouthed detective' books out there, and there are definitely worse. I'm truly indifferent to this one." The only thing I would add is that there were way too many coincidences. 

And lastly, Among Others, by Jo Walton, which I wanted SO SO MUCH to love and adore.  And I did, to a point. The back of the book: Startling, unusual, and yet irresistably readable, Among Others is at once the compelling story of a young woman struggling to escape a troubled childhood, a brilliant diary of first encounters with the great novels of modern fantasy and SF, and a spellbinding tale of escape from ancient enchantment.

'It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books.'

Fifteen-year-old Morwenna lives in Wales with her twin sister and a mother who spins dark magic for ill. One day, Mori and her mother fight a powerful, magical battle that kills her sister and leaves Mori crippled. Devastated, Mori flees to her long-lost father in England. Adrift, outcast at boarding school, Mori retreats into the worlds she knows best: her magic and her books. She works a spell to meet kindred souls and continues to devour every fantasy and science fiction novel she can lay her hands on. But danger lurks... She knows her mother is looking for her and that when she finds her, there will be no escape.

For my review, I used a quote from Mor herself: To begin with, I thought I really liked it, but now I'm not sure at all.'

I don't really understand how it won the Hugo.  It was nice, a good read, but I certainly don't think it was scifi.  I mean, she reads a lot of scifi.  But I got the distinct impression that the 'magic' was supposed to be all in her head?

But she LOVES the library.  And man, so do I.  At one point, she contemplates suicide (sort of...) and thinks something along the lines of well I need to finish this book I'm reading, plus a world with interlibrary loans can't be all that bad, can it?
She also talks (Mor talks, not the author herself, if that makes sense) about how nice it is when authors she loves recommends other authors she loves.  WHICH I ALSO LOVE.  Half the shit I read, it's bc SK said he likes it.  For reals. 

Anyway.  Maybe if I read more scifi it would have been more tender for me? I've barely read anything at all that she talks about, and she talks A LOT about it.  But as far as books in general, how magical and wonderful they are, she nails it.  And at the end of the day, that's good enough for me.  

I suppose. 

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