I had kind of given up on Stephen King - I believe the last novel of his I tried to read was "Lisey's Story" a few years ago which I couldn't finish. I loved all of his earlier works including "Salem's Lot," "Carrie," "The Shining," "The Stand," and on and on, but some of his later stuff just didn't do it for me. But when I first heard about "11/22/63" and its premise of going back in time to stop the Kennedy assassination, I had to read it! I got a copy as a Christmas gift and I was not disappointed. This has to be one of King's best books since "The Stand" - I loved every word of it (and that's a lot of words - almost 850 pages worth)! I was 13 in 1963 when Kennedy was killed and I actually remember thinking at the time that it would be nice to go back and prevent the killing - it really was like a bad dream. King's book uses this idea and the resulting novel is all that you could ask for in a time travel story. Some of it was reminiscent of the "Back to the Future" movies including using known sporting events results as a betting tool to make money. It also reminded me a little of "It's a Wonderful Life" and how changes can effect other events and people's lives. Along the way in this novel, King takes us back to Derry, Maine and the events of his novel "It". He then provides a myriad of information about Lee Oswald and his wife Marina, and the events leading to 11/22/63. The novel also includes a great love story and the ending I thought was near perfect. This is the first book I have read in 2012 and I doubt I will read a better one this year - very high recommendation!
I happened to find this little book in a Goodwill thrift store and recognized that it is one of Thurber's classic tales that is also on the 1001 Books You Must Read list. This really was a thrilling and fun fairy tale that I read in one sitting. A prince named Zorn is disguised as a minstrel named Xingu and seeks to free a princess from an evil duke who is cold and has slain time â all thirteen clocks in the duke's castle are frozen at ten minutes to five. The prince must find a treasure to free the princess and he is helped by the Golux, a tiny wizard with very strange logic. So will the prince succeed and will love prevail?
I enjoyed this tale that I think was written for adults as well as children. The language is very inventive and filled with rhymes and riddles. At the time this was written, Thurber was losing his eyesight which is reflected in the story by descriptions of dark rooms, figures moving in shadows, and nights brightened by lightning. I remember reading Thurber's Secret Life of Walter Mitty as part of a middle school English class but otherwise I really hadn't read anything else by him. But I would definitely recommend The 13 Clocks. One other coincidence: I recently read a story by Edith Wharton titled Xingu which is actually a river in Brazil. (See my review of Ethan Frome and Selected Stories). I thought it interesting that Thurber used this as the name of his minstrel in this story.
I recently read one of Ben Bova's science fiction novels, JUPITER. In this novel, a group of scientists on a research station orbiting Jupiter embark on a mission to determine if there is life on the great planet. The commander of the station is Chinese and names the space probe that will go to Jupiter, the Zheng He. The commander explains to the crew that Zheng He was a 15th century Chinese admiral who commanded seven expeditionary treasure voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, West Asia, and East Africa from 1405 to 1433. According to legend, his larger ships carried hundreds of sailors on four decks and were almost twice as long as any wooden ship ever recorded. Although I hadn't really heard much else about Zheng, I remembered that I had this book, 1421, on my shelves for several years and that it related that Zheng and other Chinese admirals supposedly explored much more of the world. Anyway, I decided to read the book and draw my conclusions from it.
1421 is a very well-researched book and unequivocally states that the Chinese explored and colonized much of the world from 1421-1423. Menzies asserts that the records of these voyages were destroyed by the Chinese Emperor based on a self-imposed isolation from the world after the destruction of the Forbidden City in Beijing by fire. The book propounds that four Chinese fleets circumnavigated the world and were comprised of more than 800 vessels containing both sailors and concubines. These fleets charted the world and supposedly passed these charts and maps on to Portugal. The charts were then used by European explorers including Columbus, Dias, da Gama, and Magellan. According to the book, the Chinese sailors and concubines settled in Malaysia, India, Africa, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, and other islands in the Pacific. The fleets went as far as Antarctica in the South and around Greenland in the North.
Menzies does use some somewhat compelling evidence in his research including maps that predated Columbus, stone carvings from various locations around the world, DNA evidence showing that native in various locations have Chinese DNA, etc. But how much of this is true? Looking on line, I have found many people who debunk Menzies claims and some compare him to Erich von DÃ¤niken and his claims of ancient aliens who colonized the earth.
Overall, I found this book to be very interesting although it was sometimes repetitious. I confess that I skimmed a lot of the last chapters of the book. But in my opinion, based on what is known about Zheng He and the Chinese treasure fleets, it could be feasible that the fleets could have gone much further than records show. But if Menzies theories are somewhat accurate, why haven't mainstream historians and scientists latched onto this possibility and further developed it? Overall, I would mildly recommend this but whether or not it is true is left up to the reader.
I recently read Tom Hanks' book of short stories: Uncommon Type. One of the stories in the book was about a man who time travels back to 1939 and visits the World's Fair in New York. I found this story to be quite enchanting and remembered that I had a book about the 1939 Worlds Fair so decided to read it.
Overall, I was a little mixed on this one. It provided a lot of information on the fair and interwove a fictional love story into the book about two young people who visited the fair. The woman kept a detailed diary of the visit and this was used as a way of describing the fair attractions. The book also provided a lot of information on America in 1939 including the habits and ways of the people. People were much more proper back then wearing suits and dresses everyday and using manners and etiquette that have long since gone by the wayside. The fair came about at the end of the Depression and right before WWII. And with all that was going on in the world the fair's message was that the future was going to be bright for most Americans with a utopia-like-world projected for 1960. The fair focused on technology including the introduction of television and even had a robot long before the computer age.
The fair's centerpiece was the Trylon and Perisphere, a tall obelisk placed adjacent to a large sphere. These objects symbolized the future and were used on a myriad of fair promotions and souvenirs. There were many other attractions including Futurama, a display by GM showing the cities and roadways of the future. This was the most popular attraction there. And then there was the parachute jump ride which was dismantled at the end of the fair and moved to Coney Island where it is still an unworking attraction there.
Although the book has a section of photographs, the descriptions in the text were sometimes lacking. I found myself searching online to see photos of many of the fair's attractions and exhibits. I did find the overall information of the fair's history and the mores of the people of the time to be very worthwhile. The interwoven love story that was used as a device for the fair was a little unusual but was also quite interesting. However, a lot of the descriptions were quite dry and I would only mildly recommend this one.
I found this to be a real eye-opener! Coming from a Mormon background (I grew up in Utah), this book was very relevant for me. I thought Ebershoff did a great job in telling this story that includes the roots of polygamy in the Mormon Church along with a modern day murder mystery in a polygamist cult and how the two stories connect with each other. I tend to agree that the story would have perhaps been better if only the story of Ann Eliza Young was told, but I did get engrossed in the modern-day story as well. Reading the story of the Mormon beginnings and Brigham Young was definitely not the same stories I was taught in Mormon Sunday school. Especially the baser aspects of why Brigham and Joseph Smith entered into polygamous relationships and some of the other historical aspects such as the "hand-cart tragedy." This is a work of fiction and it is hard to separate the fact from the fiction, however, I think the author tried to accurately portray the events as much as possible.
The story within the modern-day cult reminded me a lot of the HBO series "Big Love." I would recommend this series highly. This book also piqued my interest in reading more about Ann Eliza Young -- I would like to read her book "Wife No. 19" at some point. I didn't realize she had such an impact on the Mormon Church's renouncement of polygamy. Overall a high recommendation for this book.
This was another page-turner in the Reacher series. In this one, Reacher is on a bus going through South Dakota in the middle of the winter. The bus is involved in an accident and Reacher is stuck in a small town with a lot of problems including a motorcycle gang selling meth and a potential murderer about to strike the town. Well, needless to say, Reacher gets involved in what turns out to be an epic climax. I don't know if Child was thinking of ending the series with this book (given the ending which leaves you wondering about whether Reacher survived) but the series continues with "Worth Dying For" - the only remaining Reacher book I haven't read. I did have a couple of quibbles with "61 Hours" - first, it seemed like Reacher was not quick enough to figure out who was doing the murders in the small town (I had this figured out about half way through the novel), and second, I didn't really like how the novel left you wondering at the end. That being said, I still liked the book and would recommend it along with all of the previous Reacher novels from Child.
I never know what to expect from Koontz. I was expecting this book to be possibly a kind of haunted house type thriller but in actuality it was more of a sci-fi what-if novel with themes of overpopulation and post-humanism. I was somewhat surprised at this because the recent Dan Brown novel Inferno also used these same themes but in a totally different way. Shadow Street took the reader into a very bleak future where mankind had been wiped out as a result of a need for population control and use of nano-technology to develop super-humans who were more-or-less immortal. A very scary portrayal of this future including the use of "pogramites" to eliminate the overpopulation. I would mildly recommend this book and rate it above some of Koontz' more recent novels but still not in a league with his earlier work such as Watchers.
When I started reading this, I thought it was going to be a very campy, comic-bookish, off-the-wall kind of read. However, I was pleasantly surprised by all the research the author did into the life of Lincoln. If you throw out the vampire story, this would be a pretty good biography of Lincoln from his childhood through his untimely death. I especially enjoyed some of the possibilities laid out there including things like Lincoln's possible friendship with Edgar Allan Poe. The author then does a great job of blending Lincoln's history with the vampire story and at the end even left room for a possible sequel. The writing style to me was very good and did not detract from the story. I would overall give this one a high recommendation. It made me want to read more about Lincoln's life and tragedies.
I have been meaning to read a Faulkner novel since I took a literature course in college that included Faulkner over 40 years ago. Well, I finally finished this one and I have to say it was a challenge to read with the page-long sentences and its stream of consciousness style. But I'm glad I stuck with it. I know Faulkner is considered one of the greatest American novelists and I can see why. I can't imagine how he was able to write in the style he did for over 300 pages. The story was told from different points of view and was sometimes very convoluted - I found myself having to reread several sentences to get the full meaning of what was being said. The novel tells the story of the rise of a plantation owner in Mississippi and his downfall. It includes themes of race, slavery, incest, the Civil War, and the downfall of the South. Overall, a rewarding experience but not sure when or if I will try to tackle another Faulkner - maybe I'll try Moby Dick instead.
An okay thriller. The Absence told the story of a very dysfunctional family and how each family member's guilt played into an ancient and evil presence at an old mill house in the Fens of England. I would give this one a marginal recommendation although I thought the story was a little long-winded and overplayed its premise of the absence. The novel reminded me somewhat of James Herbert's horror stories although I enjoyed Herbert's novels much more.
This was a very different and strange novel from Oates. THE ACCURSED is set in the town of Princeton, New Jersey in 1905-1906. There is a lot of the supernatural in the novel including specters, ghosts, and shape-shifting vampires. At the root of the story is the Slade family that is "accursed" for some unknown reason. Winslow Slade is the patriarch of the family, a Presbyterian minister and former governor of New Jersey. He dotes on his grandchildren especially Annabel who is about to be married. But on her wedding day she is abducted by a man who is not what he appears to be. But is she abducted or did she go with him willingly? There are other atrocities throughout the novel including murders but the heart of the novel is not really the horrors of the curse but the oppressors of the American ruling class. A lynching of a black brother and sister occurs in nearby Camden; women are oppressed and cannot vote; non-whites are not permitted to enroll at Princeton University; the working class has little rights and work at slave wages; and children are also forced to work 14 hour days.
The novel includes several historical figures from the time including Woodrow Wilson, who is then president of Princeton University; Upton Sinclair, who is just getting fame for his novel The Jungle; former President Grover Cleveland; Teddy Roosevelt; Jack London; Mark Twain; and even Sherlock Holmes puts in an appearance. Upton Sinclair is a socialist and also a prolific writer who wants to make life better for the working class. He admires Jack London, another socialist, and wants him to head his society. But Sinclair is disillusioned with London after meeting him in New York. London turns out to be a loud obnoxious brawler who likes his drink more than the ideals of Sinclair. Wilson is also very flawed. He takes no action on the lynching that happened nearby, he believes in segregation and wants to keep blacks out of Princeton, and he has an affair with another woman. Roosevelt and Twain are also not shown in the best of light.
This was a long novel at over 600 pages and it was sometimes difficult to read but I did find it compelling and I enjoyed Oates look at the historical figures included in the story. I have read several Oates novels and collections of stories and I have not been disappointed in them. I'm sure I will be reading more. Based on this one, I also want to read more about Jack London, Sinclair, Wilson, and Roosevelt. I did read The Jungle several years ago and I know Sinclair was aiming it at the deplorable working conditions of the men in the packing houses of Chicago but it is better known for its role in the enactment of the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
I really enjoyed this latest Reacher thriller and thought it was on par with most of the other Reacher novels that I have read (I still have 5 or 6 left to read). This one takes place while Reacher is still in the army immediately before his discharge and the events of The Killing Floor. In fact it nicely ties up how Reacher happened to go to the little town in Georgia where the Killing Floor takes place and how his brother happened to be there. I always thought this was way too coincidental when I first read Floor. As far as the events in The Affair, Reacher sifts through the evidence and even with some misdirection comes to the right conclusions as usual and handles the outcome in the usual Reacher way! I would recommend this one! Now I need to finish reading the other books in the series.
This novel takes place in the late 1800s when spiritualism was at its peak. I thought the novel did a good job of delving into this religious phenomenon as Margaret tries to seek out its beliefs and practices. And as usual with Waters, one of the book's themes is Lesbian love. The ending to the novel was somewhat surprising although it was to be expected. Overall, I enjoyed this look at 19th century lifeâincluding the believers in spiritualism and the appalling life inside a women's prison.
I really enjoyed this one more than I thought I would! This steampunk novel comes at you from a lot of different directions and ties them all up neatly at the end. First, there is a plague that came from India that is decimating the lower class population of the Whitechapel area of London. This plague turns people into "revenants" or zombie-like creatures that attack the living similar to "The Walking Dead." Then there is a series of murders in the same area that are supposedly done by a bobby that has a blue glow. These murders are similar to another case some 12 years earlier where a dead bobby supposedly got revenge on his murderers. Then there is the wreck of the airship The Lady Armitage, a Zeppelin-like ship that crashed in London killing 50 people. All of this is being investigated by Sir Maurice Newbury and his assistant, Miss Veronica Hobbes at the direction of Queen Victoria herself. The captain of the downed airship turns up missing and it is revealed that the captain was in fact an automaton, developed by the airship company to pilot the ships. The automatons are made of brass and are supposedly driven by mechanical clockworks and punch-cards...but is this really the case? And how did the automaton piloting the ship disappear? (I kept picturing CP30 from Star Wars as the automata in the novel.) All of this takes place around 1900 in and around London. Overall, very enjoyable in a kind of Sherlock Holmes way with elements of steampunk thrown in. I know Mann has written some sequels to this book which I will be on the lookout for. He has also written a couple of Sherlock Holmes novels that I would also like to read.
I picked this book up at a thrift store recently not really having any idea what the book would be about. At first, the book was basically the story of a young man, Jason Tull, from a rich family who becomes obsessed with reincarnation and trying to find a "golden case" that cannot easily be dismissed by skeptics. The book describes a couple of pretty solid cases of reincarnation and then Jason finds Mallory Hastings, who upon waking up in a hospital after a car accident, becomes hostile and terrified and is unaccountably mute. Jason sends her a message telling her that "1) You're not Mallory Hastings at all; 2) You don't know how you got where you are; and 3) You're afraid to speak the truth to the people around you." Mallory grabs onto this and decides to trust Jason but can Jason find out her true identity prior to being reincarnated?
Okay, all of this was rather fascinating and the novel was really drawing me in. Then all of sudden, Quinn pulls the rug out and the novel takes a very unexpected turn! The reality is that Jason is living 2000 years in the future and Mallory had lived her previous life way back in the mid twentieth century before what was know as the battle of Dachau when time was reset to "After Dachau" or AD time. In this future world the "mongrel races" have been eliminated and Hitler was perceived as a legend who led the Aryans to victory. There is a quote from Napoleon in the book that "history is an agreed-upon fiction." This book uses the quote as a way to say that everything one knows is in doubt.
This was a really thought-provoking and jaw-dropping narrative that I won't soon forget. A really high recommendation for this one. Now I also want to read Quinn's other works including his most famous, Ishmael.
Finally finished this long massive story of Ahab's wife (666 pages). I've been reading this off and on for the past several weeks concurrently with some other books. This one seemed to take me forever to read -- not that it was boring, I just had to read it in small doses to get the full impact of the novel. Of course, this was the story of Ahab's wife (yes the Ahab from Moby Dick), Una, and what a tale it was! I hate to admit that I have never read MOBY DICK, but maybe this will motivate me to do so.
The story starts out with Una at her mother's cabin in Kentucky during a snow storm, while Ahab is out to sea. While there she gives birth to her first baby, Liberty, who dies before morning. She is assisted by a runaway slave, Susan, while her mother has gone to fetch a doctor resulting in her death in the frozen snow. Then the narrative switches to Una's life as a young girl where she stays at a lighthouse with her aunt and uncle and young cousin, Frannie. Later she decides to go to sea on a whaler dressed as a boy where an ensuing tragedy occurs that was apparently based on the real life events of the whale-ship Essex, the basis for the Moby Dick story. (I read In the Heart of the Sea which details this story several years ago). Una is stranded on a whale boat for several weeks along with some other shipmates and the methods taken to survive haunt Una throughout the rest of her life. She eventually weds Ahab and waits out his encounters with Moby Dick. Along the way she also meets several historic personages including Emerson, Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglas, and others. And she gets involved in many of the issue of the day including women's rights, abolition, and transcendentalism.
Overall, I would recommend this one but I did like the first part of the novel better than the last third or so of it. In the last part of the book, it did get a little tedious as Una is waiting on the fate of Ahab and deciding what to do with the rest of her life. And, as I said, the book was long -- I think it could have been cut by a couple of hundred pages to make it flow better.
This novel is the first in a series featuring Nellie Bly. Bly is a real person who in 1885 began her reporting career at the Pittsburgh Dispatch. Then she travels to New York seeking a journalist spot at the New York World and finally lands a job after selling the idea of going undercover as a woman committed to the notorious Blackwell's Island Asylum for ten days to the newspaper mogul, Pulitzer. When she is committed to the asylum, she find out that a Dr. Blum is murdering prostitutes that were committed there. She is almost murdered herself when she discovers him in the act. After her release from the asylum and writing an exposé about her experiences, she learns of a serial killer in Whitechapel London using the name Jack and connects him to Dr. Blum. She goes to London after the Ripper but fails to catch him which then leads her to Paris on the trail of a similar slasher. In Paris, she meets Jules Verne, Oscar Wilde, Louis Pasteur and Toulouse-Lautrec who end up assisting her in her search for the slasher. The World's Fair with the Eiffel Tower is in progress while a black influenza is killing many of the poor in Paris. Overall, I thought this was a good historical mystery novel told by Bly as she hunts for a psychopathic killer on two continents. The novel also involves anarchists who are willing to take any steps for their cause of injustice to the downtrodden. The descriptions of Paris at the time are very well done and the reader gets a real feel for the city including the Moulin Rouge and the horrific conditions of the poor. This is the first in a series and I will probably seek out the next books.
Patterson/Ledwidge are back on track with this latest Michael Bennett thriller! After being a little disappointed with the last outing, Burn, I was glad to see this book was a straight-forward good page-turner without too many side stories and distractions as in Burn.
In this one, New York is being terrorized...first by a subway explosion, the mayor is then assassinated by a long-range sniper, and then a large section of New York is brought to a standstill by an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) device which burns out the electrical grid including car batteries, cell phones, etc. Bennett is teamed up with his old friend, the FBI's Emily Parker, to catch the shadowy criminals who claim responsibility-but they're as good at concealing their identities as they are at wreaking havoc. But are there more attacks to come? Are Islamic terrorists behind it or could it be the work of a lone attacker? Along the way Bennett and Parker travel to Colorado to interview the unabomber, Ted Kaczynski, who provides them with some insight on the type of person involved in the attacks.
During this outing, Bennett's love interest, Mary Catherine, is taking care of some family business in Ireland, however, love is expressed on both sides. Maybe they will finally get married in the next book!
For Patterson, I thought this was a very powerful novel delving into the racial injustices in the South during the early 20th century. Although the title of the book implies that this is an Alex Cross thriller, it is actually much more. It tells the story of Cross' great uncle, Abraham, and his cousin, Moody, in the town of Eudora, Mississippi. It is the story of lynchings, racial bigotry, hatred, and violence towards African Americans at that time, and paints a very ugly picture of man's inhumanity to man. The book is written in Patterson's fast short-chapter style and is a very quick read but the subject matter leaves you with something more to think about that his usual action thrillers. The trial sequences in the book were somewhat reminiscent of "To Kill a Mockingbird" but not quite in the same league. The book includes references to historical figures such as W.E.B. DuBois and Teddy Roosevelt but I'm not sure of the historical accuracies. If the South was anything like what is portrayed in this story, there is a lot to be ashamed of! Overall, a high recommendation for this one.