April 29, 2017

Z ~ Zicree

Marc Zicree is yet another author I discovered quite by accident at the Friends of the Library book sale.  Yes, I have been very lucky with my used books from that source.  His Magic Time trilogy was magical.

I loved all three books.  You can read my reviews here:  Magic Time, Angelfire and Ghostlands.  I really only bought them because of the artwork (I'm a sucker for great cover art) and because the author's name started with that impossible-to-find letter Z, but I ended up finding out that they contained an original story that I loved.

Look for them.  Try the Friends of the Library book sale.  Or Amazon.  Or your local library.  They're worth finding.

April 28, 2017

Y ~ Yarrow

Charles de Lint is one of my favorite fantasy authors.  His Newford series is (as usual) very long and completely wonderful.  Yarrow starts with Y and is pretty much everything I ask for in a fantasy novel.  I remember thinking I'd never love another of his books as much as his The Riddle of the Wren, but I was wrong.  Mr. de Lint has an endless ability to write books I love.

It was a keeper, but somehow has been lost in one of my many moves.  I wish I still had it and hope one day to find another copy.

April 27, 2017

X ~ An Xt Called Stanley

An Xt Called Stanley by Robert Trebor is one of those books I love because it surprised me.  I found it, with it's interesting artwork and intriguing synopsis, at yet another Friends of the Library book sale.  When you get a book you've never heard of by an author you've never heard of for a quarter, you hope for the best and prepare to be disappointed.

This book was such a great example of classic science fiction.  I read it almost ten years ago now and still remember it with fondness.  I don't imagine it's easy to find but if you find a copy, grab it.  You will be glad you did.

April 26, 2017

W ~ Without Remorse

Without Remorse by Tom Clancy is part of the Jack Ryan universe.  This series includes so many great thrillers:  The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, The Sum of All Fears, and Executive Orders, just to name a few.

Many of them have been made into movies.  Harrison Ford has played Jack Ryan.  Sean Connery was in the movie version of The Hunt for Red October.  These are seriously some of the best political thrillers ever.

Sure, there are twenty-two novels in the series, some of which I haven't read yet, but I've yet to be disappointed and I do love a good, long series.  They are everything good thrillers should be.

April 25, 2017

V ~ Van Scyoc

Sydney Van Scyoc writes some of the most enchanting science fiction out there.  I've read nearly all of her stories and they are so very good.

I loved her series Sunstone Scrolls best of all.  It's one of my keepers and that is saying something.  I currently have 225 books, most never read, so keeping something I've read means I know I'll read it again some day.  If you love really good science fiction and haven't tried this author, you're missing out!

April 24, 2017

Song of Susannah by Stephen King

Title:  Song of Susannah
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  411
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 6

From the Portland Sunday Telegram, June 20, 1999:
STEPHEN KING DIES NEAR LOVELL HOME

Synopsis: Song of Susannah is at once a book of revelation, a fascinating key to the unfolding mystery of the Dark Tower, and a fast-paced story of double-barreled suspense.  To give birth to her "chap," demon-mother Mia has usurped the body of Susannah Dean and used the power of Black Thirteen to transport to New York City in the summer of 1999. The city is strange to Susannah...and terrifying to the "daughter of none," who shares her body and mind.

Saving the Tower depends not only on rescuing Susannah but also on securing the vacant lot Calvin Tower owns before he loses it to the Sombra Corporation. Enlisting the aid of Manni senders, the remaining ka-tet climbs to the Doorway Cave...and discovers that magic has its own mind. It falls to the boy, the billy-bumbler, and the fallen priest to find Susannah-Mia, who, in a struggle to cope -- with each other and with an alien environment -- "go todash" to Castle Discordia on the border of End-World. In that forsaken place, Mia reveals her origins, her purpose, and her fierce desire to mother whatever creature the two of them have carried to term.

Eddie and Roland, meanwhile, tumble into western Maine in the summer of 1977, a world that should be idyllic but isn't. For one thing, it is real, and the bullets are flying. For another, it is inhabited by the author of a novel called 'Salem's Lot, a writer who turns out to be as shocked by them as they are by him.  These are the simple vectors of a story rich in complexity and conflict. Its dual climaxes, one at the entrance to a deadly dining establishment and the other appended to the pages of a writer's journal, will leave readers gasping for the saga's final volume (which, Dear Reader, follows soon, say thank ya).

Review:  Again, I was amazed.  I'd read this story before, but I'd forgotten how magical and darkly scary it is.  I promised myself I'd spread these books out, but that promise is broken.  I've already started the next (and last) book in this series.

The synopsis gives the bare bones of the plot, but doesn't mention the wonderful character that Roland and Eddie meet in Maine.  They meet John Cullum, an older man who helps them with incredible courage and hospitality at a time when they need both.  They also meet Stephen King, the creator of their epic tale.  Pretty cool stuff.

It also left me on a cliffhanger....and longing for more of the story.

Rating:  10 / 10


U ~ Untamed

Untamed by A. G. Howard is the companion novel to the absolutely wonderful Splintered series.  It is partially a rather disturbing re-telling of Alice in Wonderland and I didn't expect to love this young adult series half as much as I actually did.

The first book, Splintered, was a bit of a trial for me, but the rest were much better.  If you can get past a bit of teen angst and love a little dark, twisted fantasy, I highly recommend this series!

April 23, 2017

T ~ The Deathlands

The Deathlands series is serial science fiction.  James Axler is a name used by the publisher and there have been several authors behind the books.  It's a look at a future of what Earth could become in the wake of nuclear war.  These books are the definition of dystopia.  They're full of guns, violence, sex and gore.  They show the best and the worst of humanity.  And they are usually just so darn much fun to read.

I've read a grand total of 119 of these books.  I have five more on my TBR list.  There are two more that I don't have yet.  Then, my 16-year love affair is over.  The publisher cancelled the series back in 2015.  I was devastated and wrote a farewell post.

I'm purposefully saving these last few books.  I can hardly stand to think that someday soon I'll be done with them forever.

April 21, 2017

S ~ Stewart

Mary Stewart wrote what is, to date, my very favorite King Arthur series.  I love the idea of the sword in the stone, the magician, and the round table.  I've read dozens of books about King Arthur and Merlin.  None of them compare to this set of five books.

The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, The Wicked Day, and The Prince and the Pilgrim were all just wonderful.  I gave them rave reviews (and several perfect 10's).  They are the one set of books that I gave away that I wish I never had.  I will have to replace them one day.

I want to read them again.

April 20, 2017

R ~ Redwall

The Redwall series by Brian Jacques is a wonderful group of stories.  All twenty-two books are about a world filled with animals that talk.  They are fantasy books written for ages ten and up, but I read them all as an adult and loved them.

I wasn't blogging back then, so no reviews, but they are so worth the time!  I know that 22 books is quite an undertaking, but you won't regret giving these stories a try.

They are magical.

Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

Title:  Wolves of the Calla
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  709
Genre:  Fantasy
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 5

"..Gilead has been dust in the wind for a thousand years."

Synopsis:  Roland Deschain and his "ka-tet" are bearing southeast through the forests of Mid-World, the almost timeless landscape that seems to stretch from the wreckage of civility that defined Roland's youth to the crimson chaos that seems the future's only promise.

In this long-awaited fifth novel in the saga, their path takes them to the outskirts of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a tranquil valley community of farmers and ranchers on Mid-World's borderlands. Beyond the town, the rocky ground rises toward the hulking darkness of Thunderclap, the source of a terrible affliction that is slowly stealing the community's soul. One of the town's residents is Pere Callahan, a ruined priest who, like Susannah, Eddie, and Jake, passed through one of the portals that lead both into and out of Roland's world. As Father Callahan tells the "ka-tet" the astonishing story of what happened following his shamed departure from Maine in 1977, his connection to the Dark Tower becomes clear, as does the danger facing a single red rose in a vacant lot off Second Avenue in midtown Manhattan.

For Calla Bryn Sturgis, danger gathers in the east like a storm cloud. The Wolves of Thunderclap and their unspeakable depredation are coming. To resist them is to risk all, but these are odds the gunslingers are used to, and they can give the "Calla-folken" both courage and cunning. Their guns, however, will not be enough.

Review:  I had forgotten how exciting this book is.  It's an incredibly thrilling story and very sad in places.  It also leaves you in a bit of a cliff-hanger, so I've already started the next book.  I'd promised myself that I'd space these novels out throughout the year but, like Roland, I'm getting near to the Dark Tower and, really, I can't stop now.  This is especially true because I have only read this book once before.

I'd forgotten that Father Callahan (from Salem's Lot) had such an important role to play.  He came to Roland's world in 1983.  He becomes a part of the ka-tet and his story is eerily familiar to the rest of the group.  So many coincidences are beginning to happen.  It's obvious that the Tower is near.  Roland would call it ka and he'd be right.

Unlike the beginning books of the series, there wasn't much of a wait for the next novel so I didn't need to re-read it.  This and the last two books that follow it will hold many surprises for me, I'm sure of it, since I always find new things even in the ones I've read several times.

I can't wait.

Review:  10 / 10

April 19, 2017

Q ~ Quests

There's really nothing I love better than a great fantasy story, complete with knights, dragons and elves.  A great quest is usually required.  Whether it is for a ring or whether it is to defeat an evil creature, it doesn't matter to me.

I love the sweeping drama, romance and scares.  I love the fact that the fate of the whole, entire world rests with a few unlikely heroes.  I just love a good quest.

My favorite quests have been found in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson and The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, although The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan is a very close second.


April 18, 2017

P ~ The Passage

The Passage by Justin Cronin is a really great story.  It was recommended to me in the tiny, little library in Melrose, Florida.  That library had the most wonderful of things -- a rack of books you could take for free and keep.  You just had to bring books you were done with to trade for the books you took.

The librarian, who I can picture clearly in my mind but whose name I've forgotten in intervening years, saw that the books I brought and the books I took were almost all either Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror.  She loved The Passage and told me about it one day.  I'm so very glad she did.  It was wonderful and scary.

April 17, 2017

O ~ One Thing

The One Thing I love the most.  Yes, of course, I love books (and dogs, and games, and many other things).  But the thing I love best I love because of my books -- my bookshelves.  It's where all my old friends and my (hopefully) soon-to-be new friends hang out.

When I move, the bookshelf is last thing packed and the first thing unpacked.  I keep my books in alphabetical order by author and then by title.  I've used stacked milk crates.  I've had bookshelves built out of used cardboard boxes and tape which I considered a real triumph of ingenuity (see photo!).

Currently, I have what I would call a 'fancy shelf'.  I purchased it at Walmart and I put together myself with a screwdriver, a hammer, and some curse words.  Sure, the books are double-stacked but I always know where to find the next one I plan to read and, when you have as many books as I do, that's pretty important!

April 16, 2017

N ~ The Novice

The Novice by Trudi Canavan is the second book in the Black Magician trilogy.  I wasn't sure what to expect.  It was a new author to me.  I love fantasy, but know (unfortunately) that there is plenty of mediocre fantasy out there.

This series was really good.  It's easy to lose yourself in these stories.  I read this trilogy back in 2011 and it still sticks in my mind as a really wonderful set of books.  I gave them all a solid 8/10 or better.  

The Magicians' Guild (book 1) and The High Lord (book 3) are both equally memorable.  Give this series a try.  I can't imagine it will disappoint you.

April 14, 2017

M ~ McCaffrey

Anne McCaffrey wrote dozens and dozens of books.  She is best known for her Dragonriders of Pern series, but she has written many other fascinating science fiction / fantasy novels.

I've read 47 of her novels and have another ten I haven't read yet.  There are a few more on my wish list.  After that, all that are left are her few novels involving cats, which I doubt I'll read.  Ms. McCaffrey passed away and there won't be any more.

Her son, Todd, is continuing her Dragonriders books and they are good, but he doesn't quite have his mother's talent.

I'm so glad that about 10 years ago, I wrote away for a bookplate hand-signed by Anne McCaffrey.  She sent me two.  They are treasures to me and I haven't put them in a book yet.  They are still in the envelope they came in, all the way from the Ireland.

April 13, 2017

L ~ Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, along with the other 8 books in the series, were some of my very favorites when I was young.  This picture looks exactly like my copy did (although mine was not in very good shape, having been read over and over by my much younger self).

I was also a great fan of the TV series based on these books starring Melissa Gilbert and Michael Landon.

These stories were of a gentler and perhaps, in some ways, better time.  There were still unkind people and still things to be afraid of, but Pa and Ma were always there to take care of the family.  My set of books were given away or sold at a yard sale decades ago.  I'd like to find another set.  I believe I'd still be enchanted.  Definitely worth reading, even if you don't have children.

Trader by Charles de Lint

Title:  Trader
Author:  Charles de Lint
Pages:  464
Genre:  Urban Fantasy
Series:  Newford, Book 5

Synopsis:  Max Trader is a luthier, a maker of guitars. Johnny Devlin is chronically unemployed. Trader is solitary, quiet, responsible. Devlin is a lady-killer, a drunk, a charming loser.

When they inexplicably awake in each other's bodies, Devlin gleefully moves into Trader's comfortable and stable existence, leaving Trader to pick up the pieces of a life he had no part in breaking.

Penniless, friendless, homeless, Trader begins a journey that will take him beyond the streets of Newford to an otherworld of dreams and spirits, where he must confront both the unscrupulous Devlin and his own deepest fears. This is a novel of identity, an adult coming-of-age story in which a man discovers his own hidden strengths with the aid of a strange and wonderful community of unexpected friends...and of a beautiful musician who is willing to follow him beyond the boundaries of the world.

Review:  There is a reason Mr. de Lint is called 'a master of urban fantasy'.  He is that and so much more.  He makes you believe, which is really pretty incredible.

This series is long and I love it.  It is one of those series that you can read a book and stop, then pick the next book up later and not be lost.  You cannot possibly forget the stories.  They are just thoroughly wonderful and scary and seem so very real.

This author is on my top five list of authors.  I can't give this book anything but perfect marks.  It read like a dream and left me wishing there were another 400 pages to read.

Rating:  10 / 10

April 12, 2017

K ~ King

Stephen King is one of the most prolific and well-loved authors ever.  I've read a whopping 62 books written by him.  Some of them were short story collections and some had more than one novel in them, so if I was to count stories...well, the number would be even higher.  This number also doesn't count the number of times I've re-read the same book because I loved it so much.  I have another half-dozen yet to read (which doesn't include the ones he's written that I don't have yet!).  And, he's not done.  Of this, I am sure.

From Carrie (1974) to Sleeping Beauties (2017), from The Stand to the Dark Tower series, this man has earned the title The King of Horror, although I think he's actually The King of Story-Telling myself.  So many of his books have been made into movies (or mini-series), it's incredible.

My favorite books remain the Dark Tower series (which I'm currently re-reading) and The Stand, which is also my favorite of his film adaptations, although the movie made from The Shining with Jack Nicholson and The Shawshank Redemption starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are very close seconds.

He is and has been for as long as I can remember the one person I'd like most to meet.

April 11, 2017

J ~ Jordan

Robert Jordan has written one of the better fantasy sagas out there.  His Wheel of Time series is just plain wonderful.  Swashbuckling adventure and a quest to save the world.  What more could you ask for?

Unfortunately Mr. Jordan died before finishing his epic.  He left behind copious notes and tape recordings, thankfully.  Another very fine author, Brandon Sanderson, took up where he left off and finished the story.

There are a total of 14 books (and 3 novellas, two of which I've skipped) in the set and none of the novels are short.  You could build a house with these books!  It's a huge investment of time, but so well worth it.  I have the last three waiting for me and I just can't wait until I finally find out how it all ends.

April 10, 2017

I ~ Intruder

The Foreigner series by C. J. Cherryh is one of the two science fiction series I consider 'keepers'.  Intruder is the 13th book and, while there are other books in this series that start with 'I', this is the only one that starts with 'I' that I've actually reviewed.  I lost most of my collection a few years ago and am trying to get them all back, but it's hard when there are currently 17 books and I only have six.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I love this saga.  Bren, Banichi, and Jago are such wonderful characters -- as are all of the characters in these books.  The world of the atevi is incredible.

My goal is to get all the books again and start from the very beginning... and review them all.  I know I will love them all as much as I did the first time around.

April 9, 2017

H ~ Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling and the movie franchise based on these young adult novels are among some of my very favorites.

I've read them all (twice!).  I've watched the movies twice through and probably will again.  They are magical, fun, exciting, scary and just so wonderful.

They may be considered young adult, but they are timeless and ageless.  I loved them.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Title:  The Storyteller
Author:  Jodi Picoult
Pages:  460
Genre:  Fiction

"Yes," she said.  "But see how much of me is left?"

Synopsis:  Sage Singer becomes friends with an old man who is particularly beloved in her community after they strike up a conversation at the bakery where she works. Josef Weber is everyone's favorite retired teacher and Little League coach. One day he asks Sage for a favor, to kill him. Shocked, Sage refuses, but then he tells her he deserves to die. Once he reveals his secret, Sage wonders if he is right. Can someone who has committed a truly heinous act ever redeem themselves with good behavior? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you are not the party who was wronged? And most of all, if Sage even considers his request, is it murder, or justice? What do you do when evil lives next door?

Review:  There is so little I can say about this book without giving too much away.  So, I'll just say that Josef Weber did the most horrible thing imaginable.  Sage is stuck in a nightmare, trying to figure out what is right and wrong, now that she knows the truth.

I'll also say that Sage wasn't my favorite character.  I found her to be a little self-centered and dishonest.  Lou Stein, who she contacts to help with Josef, is a much better person.  But, Sage's grandmother, Minka, is the best character in the story by far.

As always, this author made me feel very deeply about the story and the subject matter.  Have a box of tissues and be ready to be upset if you decide to read this novel.

Rating:  9 / 10

April 7, 2017

G ~ Grisham

John Grisham.  I love his legal thrillers.  I've read every one I can get my hands on.  I've been reading his work for somewhere around 30 years now.  His novel A Time to Kill is one of my all-time favorite thrillers.  It was also made into a pretty spectacular movie, as were many of his novels.

If you love thrillers and haven't given Mr. Grisham a try, I can only tell you that you're missing out.  His novels about baseball and other topics aren't quite as good, but his legal thrillers are absolutely the best out there.

April 6, 2017

F ~ Fantastic Fiction

Fantastic Fiction is a website that is always first on my favorites.  Here, you can search by title and author, browse books, or find books similar to one you really liked.

It's my go-to place for finding out what books are in a series.  This is of ultimate importance because, assuming the series is complete, I won't start a series until I have all the books that belong with it.  I really do not like being left hanging.

If you love books, want to find out information on authors, or just find a new book to read, this website is a necessity.

April 5, 2017

E ~ Emprise, Enigma, and Empery

I found the Trigon Disunity trilogy by Michael Kube-McDowell at one of my many visits to the annual Friends of the Library book sale.  The descriptions promised a good science fiction story and, best of all, the titles all started with E.

Why was that so exciting?  

Every year, I used to try to fill in all the letters of the alphabet with author names and titles.  A few times, I tried to do the alphabet twice through.  One year, I managed to complete the alphabet four times (scroll down, it's there!).  I gave up the practice a couple of years ago because I had run out of some of the harder letters and, really, I couldn't keep getting more books when I already had so many.

To find three titles, all starting with E, just about made my day.  Finding out later that all three books were solid 10's... well, that was even better.

April 4, 2017

D ~ Dystopia

Last year, I learned something new.  There is a word that describes so many of the books I've read and will read.  Dystopia.  I learned about it from last year's Dystopia Reading Challenge at Cornerfolds.  I'm sure it's not a new word, but I didn't know it, even though I've read hundreds (literally) of books that fall squarely into that realm.  Think 1984, Logan's Run, One Second After, The City and the Stars, the entire Deathlands series and, well, you get the idea.

If asked, I would have called them post-apocalyptic or cautionary tales, but some of the books I've read didn't really fit in those categories even though they certainly portrayed a world that's almost unrecognizable.  I'm glad to know there's an actual word out there for the paths we all hope no world, including ours, takes.

April 3, 2017

C ~ Collectorz

Collectorz software is a godsend to anyone who collects books.  They also have versions that work for movies, albums, comics and games.  I've been using their book software since 2007.  It's easy to use and keeps track flawlessly.

There is no affiliate program and I've never seen any advertisements.  The product speaks for itself.  Thanks to their software, I know exactly what books I have, what books I want, and what books I have already read.  I know when I got a book, when I read a book, and what series it goes with.  You even get free web space so you can share your collection -- here's mine!!

I own the iPad, Android, and PC versions.  No matter where I am, my book collection is at my fingertips.  Priceless.

B ~ Books

I've been called 'that lady who's always reading'.  What is it that I love about books so much?

I answered part of that question in my A post, but here's another reason:  When I was a child, I spent a lot of time indoors.  I have allergies that include grass, trees, flowers, stinging insects, and many other things.

The internet wasn't even invented yet.  We had three channels on the black and white TV.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  Books educated and kept me company.

I'm not stuck indoors any more (thank you, Benadryl), but books...I love them still.  I love their smell, the way they feel when I hold them, how they take me away to a whole new place and time, how they give me new ideas to think about, and how the really good ones can make me laugh or cry.  My favorite characters are like family.

Books are right up there with food and water, at least to me.

April 2, 2017

Mount TBR Checkpoint #1

Well, I'm slowly climbing Mount Ararat.  I've read 11 books so far that count towards this challenge, which equals 3862 of the 16854 miles I have to go.  It's all uphill from here!

My favorite cover came from By the Light of the Moon by Dean Koontz.

Shep O'Conner, also from By the Light of the Moon, is simply the most fun, most unusual and most lovable character I've come across in a long time.  Yes, he's autistic and rarely speaks, but he steals the show!

I was surprised (and not in a good way) by The Witches of Eastwick.  I'd waited so very long to finally read the book that had been made into the movie starring Jack Nicholson and Cher.  Unfortunately, it was....well, just really awful and boring.

My word for the Scrabble is Gads!  (I wish I could do Gadzooks, but I'm missing that double O and the K!).  The word is made up of books I really liked!

G ~ The Gunslinger by Stephen King
A ~ The Awakening by Thomas K. Martin
D ~ Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
S ~ State of Fear by Michael Crichton

I'm still climbing.  I've got a Jodi Picoult novel coming up next and I can never put her books down!

April 1, 2017

Zombies and Other Unpleasant Things by William Bebb

Title:  Zombies and Other Unpleasant Things
Author:  William Bebb
Pages:  192
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  E-Book, 2013

Synopsis:  This is a collection of short, and some not so short, stories that involve the undead as well as a wide variety of very unpleasant things.

Some of the unpleasant things include mentally deranged psychotic clowns, someone being pushed from a very tall building, a giant six foot tall fluffy pink talking bunny that a man discovers in his kitchen at 2:47 in the morning, an elderly deranged man who believes he's a ninja, a vacation near Albuquerque that ends very tragically, and many other things.

Review:  I picked up this digital book for two reasons:  first, it had the story Southwestern Road Trip which is a sequel to Valley of Death, Zombie Trailer Park by this same author (which I read and enjoyed) and second, I do like scary stories.

Unfortunately, this book was not everything I expected.  The stories were okay.  The sequel kept my interest (mostly).  This author has no editing staff and it's obvious when you're reading sentences that make no sense whatsoever.

Still, it was free on Amazon, it was scary (and gross), and the story The Fall of Bayonne was actually quite good although, as the author says, it's more of a novella than a short story.  I think, perhaps, this author should stick to longer works.  His short stories just aren't really all that good.

Rating:  3.5 / 10

A ~ April Fools' Day

What in the world could April Fools' Day and books have in common?  I was born late in the afternoon on March 31st.  I was almost an April Fools' baby.  My mother read to me long after I could read for myself.  There were always books in our house and I had a library card of my own when I was very young.  I believe that these are the reasons why I love to read.

I remember my very first favorites still:  Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson, and Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss.

I turned 50 yesterday and I've always gotten a new book to enjoy either as a gift from my family or as a gift to myself....just in time for April Fools' Day.

March 29, 2017

End of the First Quarter 2017 Wrap-Up

I'd been trying to do monthly wrap-ups last year, but I just can't seem to get on schedule.  So, I'm going to try quarterly this year.  I'm a little early this time around, but I have plans this weekend.

I haven't finished any challenges -- yet!  I have visited 11 US states...well, 10 and Washington, DC which isn't a state but is on my list.  I've also visited 4 countries.  I've actually visited more than that, but I'm not counting places that are just stop-overs.  They have to be a real part of the story.

My favorite new-to-me book this time around is State of Fear by Michael Crichton.  My absolute favorite, however, was a re-read, The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King.  It would likely be my favorite under almost any imaginable circumstances.  2017 has been a great reading year so far!

The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

I reviewed this book just a couple of years ago, back in 2015.  My original review is here.  I'm not going to do a full review again, just some new thoughts.  I was a little angry when I read this book last time around.  I'd waited so long for the Dark Tower series to be completed and then, about eight years later, a new book was added.

"I want a bumper sticker that says I Waited Out the Starkblast in Gook."

Today, now that the book is no longer "The Addition Just When I Thought I Was Done", I find it much better than I did the last time.  It was scary and wonderful and well worth a higher rating.  It shows the incredible bond of friendship that has grown between Roland and his ka-tet.  I'd give it a 10 easily.

"A person's never too old for stories, Bill.  Man and boy, girl and woman, never too old.  We live for them."

Some of my favorite quotes remain the same (some day, I will have that bumper sticker!), but I found a new one that I'm not sure how I missed the last time around.  We are never too old for stories, indeed.

Updated Rating:  10 / 10

March 26, 2017

Faery in Shadow by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Faery in Shadow
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  310
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1994
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  A curse, a sin, and a dark bargain with the Sidhe had condemned Caith mac Sliabhan to wander the wild woods, outcast from all humankind.  Only Dubhain -- a pooka, a Sidhe sprite -- was his companion.  Caith now was bound to do the will of the Sidhe, always fearing that his own taint would somehow make him cause pain and sorrow to others...

But even an outcast like Caith could not resist taking refuge in a forest cabin, where two mysterious golden youths, boy and girl, dwelled.  "Husband and wife, we are," the boy said, but Caith would have sworn they were twins..

The mysterious couple were under a spell themselves -- and despite his curse, Caith felt compelled to aid them.  Caith soon fell into a dark adventure that led him and the Sidhe into the evil hands of the notorious witch of Dun Glas.

Review:  C. J. Cherryh is one of my top three favorite authors, yet this book has languished on my shelf since 2010.  I love this author's science fiction, particularly her Foreigner series, but her fantasy is sometimes wonderful and sometimes not.  So, her fantasy novels are often neglected because I'm half-afraid they won't be as good as I expect them to be.

This one, however, was strange and fey and darkly magical.  I won't say I adored it, but I will say I couldn't put it down this weekend.  It was hard to read in places.  The characters' accents are difficult to translate at times.  It was very much worth reading, however, and I'm sorry I waited so long to give it a try.

Rating:  6 / 10

March 23, 2017

The Associate by John Grisham

Title:  The Associate
Author:  John Grisham
Pages:  373
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Doubleday, 2009
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  If you thought Mitch McDeere was in trouble in The Firm, wait until you meet Kyle McAvoy, THE ASSOCIATE.

Kyle McAvoy grew up in his father’s small-town law office in York, Pennsylvania. He excelled in college, was elected editor-in-chief of The Yale Law Journal, and his future has limitless potential. But Kyle has a secret, a dark one, an episode from college that he has tried to forget. The secret, though, falls into the hands of the wrong people, and Kyle is forced to take a job he doesn’t want—even though it’s a job most law students can only dream about.  Three months after leaving Yale, Kyle becomes an associate at the largest law firm in the world, where, in addition to practicing law, he is expected to lie, steal, and take part in a scheme that could send him to prison, if not get him killed.

With an unforgettable cast of characters and villains—from Baxter Tate, a drug-addled trust fund kid and possible rapist, to Dale, a pretty but seemingly quiet former math teacher who shares Kyle’s “cubicle” at the law firm, to two of the most powerful and fiercely competitive defense contractors in the country—and featuring all the twists and turns that have made John Grisham the most popular storyteller in the world, THE ASSOCIATE is vintage Grisham.

Review:  I didn't care for the main character, Kyle McAvoy, all that much.  My favorite character was actually Kyle's father, John McAvoy.  He was sensible and loving and funny.

This was a really fast-paced, impossible to put down story.  Of course, that's true of most of John Grisham's novels, so I wasn't surprised.  I am continually surprised at how many different stories he has to tell, though.  This was a really good one.

Rating:  9 / 10

March 20, 2017

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal 2017



I really had trouble with my theme last year and ended up changing it part way through.  This year, I'm keeping it easy!

My theme is (drum roll, please!):

Books, Books, and More Books!

I'll post about books I love (obviously), but also about authors and books in general.  In other words, anything to do with books is on the table.  I wrote a few posts in advance, but not all of them.  It'll be fun seeing what I come up with and then visiting others to see what they came up with!

March 19, 2017

The Witches of Eastwick by John Updike

Title:  The Witches of Eastwick
Author:  John Updike
Pages:  340
Genre:  Fantasy / Fiction
Publisher:  Random House, 1984
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  Toward the end of the Vietnam era, in a snug little Rhode Island seacoast town, wonderful powers have descended upon Alexandra, Jane and Sukie, bewitching divorcĂ©es with sudden access to all that is female, fecund, and mysterious.  Alexandra, a sculptor, summons thunderstorms; Jane, a cellist, floats on the air; and Sukie, the local gossip columnist, turns milk into cream.  Their happy little coven takes on a new, malignant life when a dark and moneyed stranger, Darryl Van Horne, refurbishes the long-derelict Lenox mansion and invites them in to play.  Thenceforth, scandal flits through the darkening, crooked streets of Eastwick -- and through the even darker fantasies of the town's collective psyche.

Review:  Ever since I saw the movie starring Jack Nicholson that is based on this book, I've been dying to read it.  Unfortunately, none of the fun of the movie is present in these pages.  The writing is difficult to read.  The descriptions are overdone.  And Darryl Van Horn is gross, slobbery and insulting.

To make it worse, the only real message in this story seems to be, 'No woman can possibly be happy without a man in her life'.  Ugh.  Maybe the author was trying to be ironic, but it didn't come across that way to me.  The writing was so dull, even the parts that were meant to be exciting were like watching paint dry.  All I came away with was a strong desire to throw the book in the garbage (I didn't, maybe someone else will like it) and an even stronger desire to get my wasted time back.

It's the same basic tale as the movie, but it's just really awful and impossible to get interested in.  I have the flu and was stuck in bed all weekend and still I could barely get through to the end.  I kept hoping it would get better.  It just didn't.  Very disappointing.  This is the second novel I've read by this author (the first was The Terrorist) and I didn't like either of them.  I won't be trying a third one.

Rating:  1 / 10

March 18, 2017

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

Title:  Wizard and Glass
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  672
Genre:  Fantasy / Romance
Publisher:  Plume, 1997
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 4

"It wasn't blood but roses."

Synopsis:   Stephen King invites readers back into the world of Roland the Gunslinger, in this, the eagerly anticipated fourth volume in his epic series of horror and fantasy. Wizard and Glass picks up where the last book left off, with our hero, Roland, and his unlikely band of followers escaping from one world and slipping into the next. And it is there that Roland tells them a story, one that details his discovery of something even more elusive than the Dark Tower: love. But his romance with the beautiful and quixotic Susan Delgado also has its dangers, as her world is torn apart by war. Here is Roland's journey to his own past, to a time when valuable lessons awaited him, lessons of loyalty and betrayal, love and loss. As he did in the first three volumes in the Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger, The Drawing of the Three, and The Waste Lands, Stephen King displays his marvelous talent for storytelling. Wizard and Glass is Stephen King at his very best.

Death for you, life for the crop.  Charyou tree.

Review:  This is probably the most difficult book of The Dark Tower series for me to get through.  A great deal of the story is about Roland's past.  His childhood takes several horrible twists and turns.  I know it's required.  How else would he become the Gunslinger he needed to be later in life?  But, that doesn't make the story any less tragic.

I also never loved the way this book brings portions of the The Wizard of Oz into the mix.  It just seemed strange and unnecessary to me, although I admit it does create an oddly scary backdrop for the meeting with Randall Flagg.  It can be argued that Maerlyn's Rainbow and The Wizard of Oz fit together seamlessly, even if it is in a twisted fashion, but the fit seems just a little too forced, a little too bizarre, and somehow out of sync.

All that aside, this story is a necessary part of the quest.  It defines how, when and why Roland began the quest and why, after all this time, he must continue it to the bitter end.  It's also a great story, even though I find it strange in places.

Rating:  9 / 10

March 9, 2017

By the Light of the Moon by Dean Koontz

Title:  By the Light of the Moon
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  431
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Bantam, 2002
Series:  Stand Alone

"No Goldfish, no pee, no fold."

Synopsis:  Dylan O’Connor is a gifted young artist just trying to do the right thing in life. He’s on his way to an arts festival in Santa Fe when he stops to get a room for himself and his twenty-year-old autistic brother, Shep. But in a nightmarish instant, Dylan is attacked by a mysterious “doctor,” injected with a strange substance, and told that he is now a carrier of something that will either kill him...or transform his life in the most remarkable way. Then he is told that he must flee--before the doctor’s enemies hunt him down for the secret circulating through his body. No one can help him, the doctor says, not even the police.

Stunned, disbelieving, Dylan is turned loose to run for his life...and straight into an adventure that will turn the next twenty-four hours into an odyssey of terror, mystery--and wondrous discovery. It is a journey that begins when Dylan and Shep’s path intersects with that of Jillian Jackson. Before that evening Jilly was a beautiful comedian whose biggest worry was whether she would ever find a decent man. Now she too is a carrier. And even as Dylan tries to convince her that they’ll be safer sticking together, cold-eyed men in a threatening pack of black Suburbans approach, only seconds before Jilly’s classic Coupe DeVille explodes into thin air.

Now the three are on the run together, but with no idea whom they’re running from--or why. Meanwhile Shep has begun exhibiting increasingly disturbing behavior. And whatever it is that’s coursing through their bodies seems to have plunged them into one waking nightmare after another. Seized by sinister premonitions, they find themselves inexplicably drawn to crime scenes--just minutes before the crimes take place.

What this unfathomable power is, how they can use it to stop the evil erupting all around them, and why they have been chosen are only parts of a puzzle that reaches back into the tragic past and the dark secrets they all share: secrets of madness, pain, and untimely death. Perhaps the answer lies in the eerie, enigmatic messages that Shep, with precious time running out, begins to repeat, about an entity who does his work “by the light of the moon.”

"Feel how it works, the round and round of all that is."

Review:  I was expecting this to be really scary.  It was frightening in many ways, but it is definitely a thriller and not a horror.  The main characters are all very likable.  Shep is one of the three main characters and he hardly ever speaks and, when he does, it makes very little sense.  He's autistic.  But, whether he speaks much or not, he steals the show.  He's a wonderful young man.

I liked this book very much.  It was really easy to get into and nearly impossible to put down, especially at the end.  It was humorous and thrilling and heart-warming.  The descriptions are so wonderful, it's like you're right there.  It was everything a good novel should be.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

March 4, 2017

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Title:  Doomsday Book
Author:  Connie Willis
Pages:  445
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Bantam, 1992
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  For Kivrin, preparing for on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone.  For Dunworthy and her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be retrieved.

But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in the most dangerous year of the Middle Ages as her fellows try desperately to rescue her.  In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin -- barely of age herself -- finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.

"Anno Domine," the clerk said from the bed.  He tried to lick his lips with his swollen tongue.  "One thousand three hundred and forty-eight."

Review:  I originally read this book some time in middle school.  I remember checking it out of the library and sitting up late, reading it.  I was lucky to have parents that allowed me free range of the library, even the adult section.  I read many wonderful books and this one is no exception.  It is a great story.  I found this copy for sale at a used book store and grabbed it, thinking some day I'd re-read it.  I'm glad I did.  It scared me then and it still scares me.

In December of 2054, at a university in Oxford, England, Kivrin is supposed to be sent back to December, 1320, in the hopes that she'll be dropped near enough to Oxfordshire to see how things really were.  She will stay for three weeks and learn all about the Middle Ages first hand.  Unfortunately, the technician makes a mistake and Kivrin ends up in 1348, just as the Black Plague is sweeping through the land.

Called the 'blue illness' or the 'black death' by the people of the time, the bubonic plague was nearly always fatal.  Kirvin watches helplessly as the people she has come to know die, one after another, while she survives -- she got inoculated back in 2054.  It's a horrible way to die and this author does not pull any punches.  It's gruesome and awful in places, sad and pitiful in others.

In the end, however, this book is mostly about the strength of the human spirit and that spirit shines brightly in Kivrin; in Dunworthy, her mentor; and especially in Colin, a young boy from 2054 who has courage to spare.  Father Roche, the priest of the village Kivrin stays in during her time in the past, out-shines them all.  His faith, compassion, and goodness are extraordinary.  If you love time travel books, aren't too squeamish, and are a fan of the Middle Ages, I highly recommend this novel.

Rating:  9 / 10

March 1, 2017

Blogging from A to Z - 2017


I found this blogging challenge last year and it was really a challenge for me.  I'm not great at writing.  I'm certainly not great at blogging daily.  The challenge is to blog for 26 days in April, each day for a different letter of the alphabet.  I'm still thinking about my theme, but I'm pretty sure I know what it'll be.  The rules have changed a little from last year, but I think that's a good thing.

I love this new addition especially:  Each day of the Challenge, we'll add a post with the letter of the day to the A to Z Challenge blog. When you've posted your entry to your blog, post a comment to the Challenge blog with a link to that day's post on your blog.

And I found the support and community created by this challenge to be wonderful.  I can't wait to try again!

February 27, 2017

The Waste Lands by Stephen King

Title:  The Waste Lands
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  422
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Plume, 1992
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 3

...the voice of Yes; the voice of White; the voice of Always.

Synopsis:  With The Waste Lands, the third masterful novel in Stephen King's epic saga The Dark Tower, we again enter the realm of the mightiest imagination of our time.  King's hero, Roland, the Last Gunslinger, moves ever closer to the Dark Tower of his dreams and nightmares -- as he crosses a desert of damnation in a macabre world that is a twisted mirror image of our own.

With him are those he has drawn to this world, street-smart Eddie Dean and courageous wheelchair-bound Susannah.  Ahead of him are mind-rending revelations about who he is and what is driving him.  Against him is arrayed a swelling legion of fiendish foes both more and less than human.

And as the pace of action and adventure, discovery and danger pulse-poundingly quickens, the reader is inescapably drawn into a breathtaking drama that is both hauntingly dream-like....and eerily familiar.

"YOU ARE KA-TET; ONE MADE FROM MANY. SO AM I. WHOSE KA-TET IS THE STRONGER WE MUST NOW PROVE."

Review:  I really need a new copy of this book.  It's in even worse condition than the The Drawing of the Three, which I thought was just about impossible.  It's got a slit in the middle of the front cover that goes all the way through the pages, all the way to page 105.  I have no idea how it happened, but at least it's small enough that I could still read the words on the pages.

Jake, a child from New York City in 1977, has been drawn.  He and his new-found friend, Oy the billy-bumbler, are a great addition to the ka-tet.  I love Oy.  He's something like a large, smart racoon creature with golden eyes....and he talks, sort of.  
The group continues to follow the beam to find the Dark Tower and they must pass through the mostly-destroyed city of Lud to get there.  It's a harrowing tale.  I love this story almost as much as I love the previous one.  It's full of great quotes and high adventure and really horrible bad guys and monsters.  It's pretty much everything I love and I'm giving it a perfect rating because it's kept my interest each and every time I've read it.

Rating:  10 / 10

February 22, 2017

The Final Day by William R. Forstchen

Title:  The Final Day
Author:  William R. Forstchen
Pages:  348
Genre:  Dystopian Thriller
Publisher:  Tom Doherty, 2017
Series:  John Matherson, Book 3

"I'm quit now, quit forever.  This is the final day."

Synopsis:  Since the detonation of nuclear weapons above the United States more than two years ago, the small town of Black Mountain, North Carolina has suffered famine, civil war, and countless deaths. Now, after defeating a new, tyrannical federal government, John Matherson and his community intend to restore their world to what it was before the EMP apocalypse. For the most part, they are succeeding.

This period of relative stability doesn’t last long. A new, aggressive government announces that it’s taking over and ceding large portions of the country to China and Mexico. The Constitution is no longer in effect, and what’s left of the U.S. Army has been deployed to suppress rebellion in the remaining states. John fears he and his town will be targets.

General Bob Scales, John’s old commanding officer and closest friend from prewar days, is sent to bring John into line. Will John and his people accept the new, autocratic regime? Or will revolution rip the fledgling nation apart at the seams?

"Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh so mellow."

Review:  This author has an uncanny ability to write a fictional story that leaves you believing that what he portrays is *exactly* what would happen.  The first novel in this series, One Second After, left me chilled and horrified.  The second book, while very good, didn't touch me in quite the same way.  This final novel left me angry.  Really furious.  And I believed every bit of what he described was absolutely what would happen if our government ever had a crisis like this one take place.

It starts out about 2 1/2 years after The Day, the day the EMP hit the United States, and ends exactly 3 years after the first novel begins.  For such a short period of time, there is so much happening and it's exciting, terrible, incredibly sad and a little hopeful, too.  While this story didn't quite have the impact of the first novel, it was very good.

This series is far and away the single most important set of books I've read.  They opened my eyes to the fact that I'm not safe.  Nobody is.  And it made me realize that I am responsible to make myself safe and to prepare for what could happen.

Rating:  9 / 10

February 15, 2017

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

Title:  The Drawing of the Three
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  399
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Plume, 1987
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 2

The gunslinger had no idea what tooter-fish was --- only that it was delicious.  That seemed enough.

Synopsis:  In 1978, Stephen King introduced the world to the last gunslinger, Roland of Gilead. Nothing has been the same since. More than twenty years later, the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar. A classic tale of colossal scope - crossing over terrain from The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman, Black House, Hearts in Atlantis, ’Salem’s Lot, and other familiar King haunts - the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page.

 And the tower awaits....

To pay hell is one thing.  But do you want to own it?

Review:  I still have the over-sized paperback version of this story that I bought sometime in 1989.  It's dog-eared and worn out.  The pages are stained and the covers are bent.  The edges of the cover are peeling and the spine is crinkled.  It's in horrible shape.  I keep promising myself a new edition, but somehow.......somehow, I can't seem to quite let this one go.  It's my very favorite of all of the Dark Tower stories and this is the book I read it in first.

I love Eddie, drawn into Roland's world from 'our world', where he was hopped up on heroin and living in New York City in 1987.  I love Odetta / Detta, the rights-activist with a split personality from New York City in 1964, who was drawn next.  And I really love Susannah, the woman she becomes after she is forced to face her problems, making her the third of 'the Three'.  The third door, which does not (thankfully!) bring another person, is filled with a man I absolutely do not like.  But, Roland takes care of him so it works out in the end.

I really, really love how Roland views our world.  There is so much of everything!  The waste, the huge number of things available in stores, and the sheer number of people are more than he can believe.  Paper, bullets, drugstores, and police officers fill him with equal measures of awe, scorn and confusion.

I love the whole series.  But I love this story best.  It's just so good and so funny in places and so horrible in others.  In other words, it draws me in and drags me along.  Even after having read it so many times, I still can't put it down once I've begun.  And I still eat tooter-fish sandwiches.

Rating:  10 / 10

February 13, 2017

State of Fear by Michael Crichton

Title:  State of Fear
Author:  Michael Crichton
Pages:  580
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  Harper Collins, 2004
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: The undisputed master of the techno-thriller has written his most riveting -- and entertaining -- book yet.

Once again Michael Crichton gives us his trademark combination of page-turning suspense, cutting-edge technology, and extraordinary research. State of Fear is a superb blend of edge-of-your-seat suspense and thought provoking commentary on how information is manipulated in the modern world. From the streets of Paris, to the glaciers of Antarctica to the exotic and dangerous Solomon Islands, State of Fear takes the reader on a roller coaster thrill ride, all the while keeping the brain in high gear.

Review:  Wow.  This book is not just thrilling.  It's terrifying.  The thought that the things described in these pages could happen just scared me to death.  And they could happen, so easily, if the right powerful people decided they should.

The main character, Peter Evans, isn't particularly likable at the start of the story, but by the end he's grown to the point that you see him for the better person he is becoming.  Come to think of it, none of the characters are all that likable.  They all have their human vanities and preconceptions, just like normal people.  There are the people trying to do wrong and the people trying to stop them, but none of them are people you'd probably consider lovable.  But, that just made the story more realistic.

I've been hoarding this book for some time, mostly because I'd read all of this author's works except two novels.  Michael Crichton is dead now, so I know there won't be any more.  I was saving them and now I'm down to just one more.  That makes me incredibly sad because none of his novels have been anything but wonderful.  Some are better than others, but all of them are far above the average novel.  This one rates high because it was just so darn good.

Rating:  10 / 10

February 6, 2017

Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper

Title:  Beauty
Author:  Sheri S. Tepper
Pages:  463
Genre:  Historical / Fantasy
Publisher:  Bantam, 1992
Series:  Stand Alone

"No forest, no prairie, no birds, no fish.  It all went to Fidipur."

Synopsis: With the  critically acclaimed novels The Gate To Women's Country, Raising The Stones, and the  Hugo-nominated Grass, Sheri Tepper has established herself as one of the major science fiction writers of our time.

In Beauty, she broadens her territory even further, with a novel that evokes all the richness of  fairy tale and fable. Drawing on the wellspring of tales such as "Sleeping Beauty,"  Beauty is a moving novel of love and loss, hope and  despair, magic and nature. Set against a backdrop both enchanted and frightening, the story begins with a wicked aunt's curse that will afflict a young woman named Beauty on her sixteenth birthday.  Though Beauty is able to sidestep tragedy, she soon finds herself embarked on an adventure of vast consequences. For it becomes clear that the enchanted places of this fantastic world--a place not unlike our own--are in danger and must be saved before it is too late.

Review:  This book has it all; time travel, fairies, magic, love and even horror.  It combines fairy tales and reality to create a magical past and a horrible future for the world.  The main character travels between 1347 and 2089 with a few side trips in between.  It's fantasy, romance, science fiction and portions of it are dystopian....and some of it is almost too terrible to read.  It isn't an easy combination to pull off, all these very separate story types in one novel.  This author manages it, but I found myself only liking certain portions of it and not others.  There were just too many themes, although the main one is that we are ruining our world and the beauty of nature.

I'm not overly fond of novels that grind an ax quite so loudly as this one did.  I agree with her ideals.  I just don't agree with her beating the readers over the head with them, not to this degree and not in fictional literature.  I was determined to finish because I fully expected "and they lived happily ever after" at the end, but it wasn't that way at all.  I'm giving extra points for originality though.  There was certainly plenty of that and it's always refreshing to find.

Rating:  5 / 10

January 30, 2017

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Title:  The Gunslinger
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  231
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Viking Penguin, 2003
Series:  The Dark Tower, Book 1

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Synopsis:  Eerie, dreamlike, set in a world that is weirdly related to our own, The Gunslinger introduces Roland Deschain of Gilead, of In-World that was, as he pursues his enigmatic antagonist to the mountains that separate the desert from the Western Sea. Roland is a solitary figure, perhaps accursed, who with a strange single-mindedness traverses an exhausted, almost timeless landscape. The people he encounters are left behind, or worse - left dead. At a way station, however, he meets Jake, a boy from a particular time (1977) and a particular place (New York City), and soon the two are joined—khef, ka, and ka-tet. The mountains lie before them. So does the man in black and, somewhere far beyond...the Dark Tower.

"Go then.  There are other worlds than these."

Review:  I read this story for what I estimate is the 11th time - 8 times in the original format and three times in the 'remastered' edition.  I found the original in 1989 and fell in love.  I purchased the sequel, The Drawing of the Three, almost immediately.  Then I waited.  Three years for book 3.  Six more years for book 4.  Another six years for book 5.  Then, the last two books came out one right after another several months later.  A companion novel, The Wind Through the Keyhole, came out eight years after the final book in the series.  Nearly every time a new novel came out, I started back at the beginning and read them all over again.  And sometimes when the wait was too long, I'd dust this one off and read it again - just because.

I've tallied it up and I waited a whopping 16 years to find out what happens at the end....and another 8 years after that for the additional book, for a grand total of 24 years.  Twenty-four years.  To be fair, the author did spend over 40 years (with some long breaks) writing the eight novels that make up The Dark Tower series.

That being said, even now I learn new things.  I didn't remember that in the introduction, Mr. King makes reference to the fact that he got his idea for a western backdrop from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly starring Clint Eastwood.  That explains why I've always pictured The Gunslinger as a man very much like some of Mr. Eastwood's characters.  And why, even though this is obviously a fantasy novel, it always also felt like a western to me.

I last read this novel in 2015, when I finally got my copy of the newest book.  I couldn't re-read the entire series.  It just seemed like too much work at the time.  I think I was a little miffed that the author had written another story, after I finally thought I'd read them all.  Today, I want nothing else than to delve right into book two and keep right on going, all the way through.  But, I am going to space them out this year.  Or, that's my plan at least.

This remains, even after all the times I've read it, one of my favorite books.  It is also the beginning to one of only four series that have a permanent place in my collection.  I quite simply love these books and never, ever get tired of them.

Rating:  10 / 10
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