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.
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