Archive for November, 2014

I’ve read some really good Stephen King books lately. I think my favorite is a draw between this one and ‘The Long Walk,’ though my answer will probably change the next time I think on it. There’s just so much feeling in this book! Every time I thought it might be over, things started up again. Poor John Coffey. Poor all the nice guards.

Before I go any further, here’s the blurb:

At Cold Mountain Penitentiary, along the lonely stretch of cells known as the Green Mile, killers are depraved as the psychopathic “Billy the Kid” Wharton and the possessed Eduard Delacroix await death strapped in “Old Sparky.” Here guards as decent as Paul Edgecombe and as sadistic as Percy Wetmore watch over them. But good or evil, innocent or guilty, none have ever seen the brutal likes of the new prisoner, John Coffey, sentenced to death for raping and murdering two young girls. Is Coffey a devil in human form? Or is he a far, far different kind of being?

Now, my major issue with Stephen King is that he has a tendency to put in something supernatural when something less fantastical would do (and might in some cases make even more of an impact.) He can also have the tendency to make his evil folks too evil so they stop seeming human. I think he did a good job staying away from those issues in this book.

This whole book seemed to ask the question ‘what is evil?’ Our narrator Paul Edgecombe takes pains to say that not all the prisoners he came across on death row fit into the category we see as evil. We see the dignity ‘The Chief’ carries himself with on the way to the chair, and the sweetness and caring of Eduard Delacroix as he dotes over his pet mouse. We see John Coffey crying all the time and his childlike fear of the dark.

Then there’s Billy the Kid. I wouldn’t hesitate to call him evil, but King doesn’t leave it at that. He seems like a spoiled kid who views the whole world as his playground, and the people in it as his toys. You know that kind of kid you met when you were little who snatches up the other kids toys and breaks them because he thinks it’s his right to. I can’t name a single nice thing about the character, but he’s not a faceless evil villain. I understand him and see him as human – a horrible human, but a human none the less.

Percy Wetmore is similarly a nasty guy. He doesn’t delight in chaos as much as Billy the Kid. Percy holds grudges. He believes he’s special, like Billy the Kid does, but unlike the Kid he uses threats instead of violence to get his way. He’s content carrying on as a normal human would, as long as he’s not asked to do much, or feels that his high status brought by his relative’s important job is in question. He wants people to respect him, and it’s when he thinks this respect is in question that he gets dangerous.

In some ways he’s more dangerous than Billy the Kid, because Billy doesn’t care about getting in trouble, Percy does. So he’ll go after the weak who can’t fight back, or use his connections to threaten someone’s job, or target a beloved pet mouse.

Both are evil, and maybe even Delacroix is evil for the crimes he committed before coming to the green mile. Maybe even the nice guards could be considered evil for what they’re forced to do near the end of this book. I won’t give away the ending, except to say that it is beyond sad. Everyone was crying, I was near tears. But the impact of what they’ve done doesn’t really hit until years later when Paul loses his wife. That was the biggest impact for me, because you realize how many lives John Coffey could’ve changed for the better if he was still able to.

In short this is a powerful book, and I recommend it to everyone. Seriously, go read it.

For more reviews on this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11566.The_Green_Mile

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This one is the tenth book in the series.

Links to my reviews of the previous Dresden Files books:

One: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-storm-front-5-stars/

Two: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/book-review-wednesday-fool-moon-dresden-files-4-stars/

Three: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-grave-peril-4-stars/?preview=true

Four: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/book-review-wednesday-dresden-files-summer-knight-5-stars/

Five: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/book-review-wednesday-death-masks-dresden-files-book-5-5-stars/

Six: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/book-review-wednesday-blood-rites-dresden-files-five-stars/

Seven: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/book-review-wednesday-dead-beat-dresden-files-5-stars/

Eight: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/book-review-wednesday-proven-guilty-dresden-files-book-8-5-stars/

Ninth: https://samaustinwriter.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/book-review-wednesday-white-knight-dresden-files-book-9-5-stars/

I’m going to assume by this point you know what this series is about. So here’s the blurb for this particular book:

The new novel in the New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series. No one’s tried to kill Harry Dresden for almost an entire year, and his life finally seems to be calming down. For once, the future looks fairly bright. But the past casts one hell of a long shadow. An old bargain has placed Harry in debt to Mab, monarch of the Winter Court of the Sidhe, the Queen of Air and Darkness-and she’s calling in her marker. It’s a small favor he can’t refuse…one that will trap Harry Dresden between a nightmarish foe and an equally deadly ally, and one that will strain his skills-and loyalties-to their very limits. It figures. Everything was going too well to last…

Like some of the previous books in the series, if you jump in on this one without reading the others you’re likely to get confused.

This is classic Dresden at his best. Lots of lovely snark, his giant dog, giant cat, white court vampire brother, and lots of evil and scary creatures. There are a few storylines weaved together to make a complex but enjoyable plot. Mab comes to collect on her debt in all her frightening glory. Only, what she asks for doesn’t seem too bad. Marcone (the gangster guy who’s Dresden’s sometimes ally, sometimes enemy) has been kidnapped. Mab wants Dresden to find him. Doesn’t seem too dangerous, right? After all, saving people in trouble is what Dresden does best.

Wrong. Things rapidly get more complicated. His allies in fairy land start trying to kill him, and he finds himself stuck right in the middle of a conflict between the Winter and Summer fae. Michael is having doubts about Dresden’s trustworthiness. All bad news, and of course no one seems nice enough to tell him why he’s suddenly on everyone’s hit list.

Cue lots and lots of action, while scrambling to find out what happened to Marcone, and what’s going on. The Archive gets a big role in this one (that little girl with hundreds of years of knowledge.) She is of course as adorable as ever, and even Kincaid her bodyguard gets a few sweet moments. There’s some struggles of loyalty and morality going on in this book, with Dresden’s choices sometimes putting him at odds with allies. It added an interesting theme to the book, and I think forced Dresden to do a bit of growing up.

For more reviews on this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/927979.Small_Favor

 

I’d recommend reading the previous book in the series before this one, but you might be able to swim along without it. I for example due to supply have only read books 1 (a drink before the war) and 4 (gone baby gone) in this series before this one. I got along well enough.

In this book Kenzie is less bright eyed and bushy tailed than in previous books. His hectic life seems to be getting to him. Poor guy. In the last book (I think it was explained enough in this book that you shouldn’t get lost) he broke up with Gennaro: the love of his life, so he starts off really down about everything. Then we get to see him claw his way back up. Before I go any further, here’s the blurb:

The master of the new noir, Dennis Lehane delivers a shattering tale of evil, depravity, and justice that captures the dark realism of Boston’s gritty blue-collar streets.

Private Investigator Patrick Kenzie wants to know why a former client, a perky woman in love with life, could, within six months, jump naked from a Boston landmark–the final fall in a spiral of self-destruction. What he finds is a sadistic stalker who targeted the young woman and methodically drove her to her death. A monster the law can’t touch. But Kenzie can. He and his former partner, Angela Gennaro, will fight a mind-twisting battle against this psychopath even as he turns his tricks on them.

So yay, Gennaro comes back, which helps things along hugely. We also get to see a lot of Bubba who manages to be both adorable and terrifying.  So that’s already pretty awesome.

The plot is a good one with lots twists and turns as is usual for the series. I love this series for three main reasons. One: so many twists and turns. Two: the gritty hard hitting atmosphere. Three: Kenzie’s witty remarks.  Now, Kenzie is slightly less witty than previous books, but I can forgive him that. There is wit enough to be happy about. And this book isn’t as hard hitting as the previous books I’ve read in the series (books 1 and 4) but still has enough gritty atmosphere to keep its usual style. The twists however are their usual twisty selves.

The stalker in this book is a scary guy. I was amazed by how much a person can damage another person’s life without even interacting with them. Which of course makes it a lot more difficult to get the law involved, and makes Kenzie and Gennaro’s job far from easy.

I gave this book four stars. To be honest, it probably lost that extra star due to high expectations. Both the two previous books in the series I read had moments and twists that were ‘oh my god, almost drop the book’ kind. The wit was sparkling. The atmosphere was at times too hard hitting to take.

This book had great twists, good wit, and interesting atmosphere. In short it was good, great even, but it didn’t have the same impact on me as the other two books had. So while I still recommend it, it’s a four star book for me.

For more reviews on this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21683.Prayers_for_Rain

First of all, a warning. I found the ending to this story so sad, as soon as I finished it my mind went ‘nope’ and promptly rewrote it. In my version our main character: Ray Garraty and the character he grew closest to: Peter McVries kept each other going until they were the last two. Then they found a loophole by falling down at the same time. Since a victor was needed, they were both allowed to live (although the rules would surely be changed the next time around.) They then spend the rest of their lives being best friends and helping each other through their ordeal.

In my head that’s what happened! If you start talking about the real version I’m prepared to cover my ears and chant ‘I’m not listening’ over and over again until you stop. You will not take my vaguely happy ending from me.

To see what the real ending was, you just need to look at the blurb:

On the first day of May, 100 teenage boys meet for a race known as ?The Long Walk.? If you break the rules, you get three warnings. If you exceed your limit, what happens is absolutely terrifying…

A hint? Only one victor is needed, and they basically get anything they need for the rest of their life.

I’ve heard people criticize this book by saying  that no one would volunteer for something like this. I’m not so sure. America’s a pretty big place to find a hundred idiots. And as Stephen King points out through the characters, people (particularly young people) tend to think they’re immortal. You’d go into this thinking of the prize, not the other kind of prize that awaits you after your third warning.

The characters have a long time to think about why they volunteered for this, and it’s interesting to look at some of the reasons. I’m reminded of teenagers who do stupid stunts like jump from cliffs into water, try to jump over moving cars, or play with guns. Is it because they didn’t think things through, because they loathe themselves on some level and have a death wish, or just because they were bored?  The guys in this story mention all these reasons at some point, and it provides an in depth look on areas of our own society.

Stephen King uses a more intimate POV in this story than he usually does. That and the rich characters made me feel like I was seeing a lot deeper into the characters than I usually do. Some like Garraty and McVries I couldn’t help but fall in love with. And I ended up liking most of the others we’re introduced to. With the exception of one hateful guy, but even with him I didn’t want him to end up the way he did.

Reading this, my feet hurt, I was thirsty, hungry, tired, too hot, too cold. But most of all my heart ached for these guys who were in such extreme conditions that they couldn’t help form friendships, only to know they’d lose them soon enough, and most likely their own lives too. I think this one has earned the new title of my favorite Stephen King book ever (although I’m never reading it again because of the ending.)

For more reviews on this book check out: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9014.The_Long_Walk