Three-Star Books Read in 2015 Part Three: Fiction and Genre


Continuity Girl by Leah McLaren: Meredith Moore: reluctant daughter, devoted friend, flawless continuity girl, raging sperm bandit.
Meredith Moore is the perfect continuity girl. An on-set film script supervisor, it is her job to make sure every frame of the picture is consistent with the one before. She is the error catcher. The needle-in-the-haystack finder. A cigarette in the left hand when it should be in the right, a prematurely melted ice cube in a half-empty glass of Scotch, a stray lock of an actor’s hair—these are the details by which she measures out her life.
But when Meredith wakes up on the morning of her 35th birthday yearning for a baby, her personal sense of continuity is thrown into flux. Determined not to marry, she impulsively flees to London to reunite with her eccentric single mother and accept a new job on a well-known producer’s film set. Her covert plan: to become a Sperm Bandit and find an unsuspecting donor to father her child.
Navigating London’s murky social waters, Meredith is thrown into a strange new story, one that quickly spins out of control. In her quest to get pregnant on her own terms, she will accidentally uncover a web of secrets that will change the way she envisions both her working life and the nature of love.

I've never liked Leah McLaren's column persona much - she seems sort of smug and superior and judgy and says mean things about Christmas cards and fat people. I've always thought she seemed really cool, though - she's lived in London! She's an arts editor! She always seems to have a razor-sharp perfectly-edged bob! So it's with a certain low-key but definitely mean-spirited glee that I report finding this book.... meh. It's not horrible, but it's sort of a cheat. I know this is a type, a genre even - the mid-life woman who has a series of madcap adventures that involve quitting or getting fired from one or more jobs, an eccentric parent or two and several things falling over and/or being set on fire. But really, who COULDN'T make some sort of novel out of those elements? She also makes what I've heard called the cardinal sin in character description - having her character describe herself while looking in the mirror. So at least I don't have to add 'envy of her fabulous novel-writing skill' to the list of things I feel about her.

Summer Crossing by Truman Capote: A lost treasure only recently found, Truman Capote's Summer Crossing is a precocious, confident first novel from one of the twentieth century's greatest writers.
Set in New York just after World War II, the story follows a young carefree socialite, Grady McNeil, whose parents leave her alone in their Fifth Avenue penthouse for the summer. Left to her own devices, Grady turns up the heat on the secret affair she's been having with a Brooklyn-born Jewish war veteran who works as a parking lot attendant. As the season passes, the romance turns more serious and morally ambiguous, and Grady must eventually make a series of decisions that will forever affect her life and the lives of everyone around her.

I have this ridiculous habit of deciding on a whim that I need to read something by a great writer that I've never read before RIGHT NOW. This results in me casting around wildly in whatever bookstore or library or elibrary I am presently occupying and coming up with the first book by Iris Murdoch or Gustave Flaubert or Aldous Huxley that I can find, because if I wait, this noble impulse might flee as rapidly as it appeared. Sometimes it works out alright - The Razor's Edge was a perfectly acceptable place to start with Somerset Maugham, I think, and Such Is My Beloved gave me an enduring appreciation for Morley Callaghan. Just as often, though, I end up with some second-rate early work or something cobbled-together after the author's death, something I would be better off reading as a completist, not as a beginner with that author. I bought a Pearl S. Buck book because it was cheap at the Kindle store and the name rang a bell - over a dozen books she wrote, won the Pulitzer and the Nobel Prize, and I'm starting with a "recently discovered",  heavily edited who-knows-what. John Updike - did I start with the well-known Rabbit series? No, I picked a book called Brazil which was actually pretty good, although the over-riding image I was left with was the repeated comparison of the man's sexual organ with a yam (this was before I knew that yams were different from sweet potatoes, so boy howdy was I confused for a while). 

Which brings me to this "lost treasure". I'm going to read some Truman Capote! Oh, one might think, In Cold Blood? Breakfast at Tiffany's? No! An abandoned first try at a novel that someone dug out after his death! I didn't actually write a review for this one, but some of my favourite lines from other Goodreads reviews are: "Seriously, the amount of "stuff happening" here makes Lost in Translation look like a Michael Bay production in comparison"; ""You published that mess?! Oh darling no..." is probably what Capote said from his grave about Summer Crossing, a posthumously published early work"; "The back story of this book is (to be honest) more interesting than the book itself". I didn't, in fact, dislike it. It painted a very vivid picture and contained flashes of brilliance. But I really should check out In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany's. Can somebody confirm that no one compares genitals to vegetables in either of those? 

The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier: From Kevin Brockmeier, one of this generation's most inventive young writers, comes a striking new novel about death, life, and the mysterious place in between. The City is inhabited by those who have departed Earth but are still remembered by the living. They will reside in this afterlife until they are completely forgotten. But the City is shrinking, and the residents clearing out. Some of the holdouts, like Luka Sims, who produces the City’s only newspaper, are wondering what exactly is going on. Others, like Coleman Kinzler, believe it is the beginning of the end. Meanwhile, Laura Byrd is trapped in an Antarctic research station, her supplies are running low, her radio finds only static, and the power is failing. With little choice, Laura sets out across the ice to look for help, but time is running out. Kevin Brockmeier alternates these two storylines to create a lyrical and haunting story about love, loss and the power of memory.

This was one of those second reading experiences where I had very little memory of the first reading other than the first chapter. Brockmeier is a really interesting and original writer, and I loved The Truth About Celia and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Illumination, but I feel like this one fell a bit flat in the end. The description of the city was very interesting, and then adding Laura's story made it seem like we were on the verge of something deliciously strange and rife with possibility and then it all sort of devolves into dreamy images that don't mean much of anything. One of my rules for magical realism or literary speculative fiction is that I'm not against a writer avoiding too-tidy closure, but there's a difference between that and having the sense that he just wasn't sure how to finish. With this book it was the latter. 

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff: It is 1875, and Ann Eliza Young has recently separated from her powerful husband, Brigham Young, prophet and leader of the Mormon Church. Expelled and an outcast, Ann Eliza embarks on a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. A rich account of her family’s polygamous history is revealed, including how both she and her mother became plural wives. Yet soon after Ann Eliza’s story begins, a second exquisite narrative unfolds—a tale of murder involving a polygamist family in present-day Utah.  Jordan Scott, a young man who was thrown out of his fundamentalist sect years earlier, must reenter the world that cast him aside in order to discover the truth behind his father’s death. As Ann Eliza’s narrative intertwines with that of Jordan’s search, readers are pulled deeper into the mysteries of love, family, and faith.

The author did a great job of getting across a great deal of well-researched Mormon history in a very readable fashion. The present-day mystery was also quite good, although a little unevenly paced. I went to a book club (not my regular one) where this was being discussed, and one of the women who was Catholic said she found it very disturbing to read how manufactured the religion was, and that she had to stop thinking about it at a certain point. 

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life.
Now Tony is retired. He's had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove. 

When I like Julian Barnes, I really, really like him. Wait, no, that doesn't make sense, because I liked this, I just didn't really, really like it. Well, I really, really liked it until almost the end, and then I couldn't tell what the hell was going on anymore. I always find it interesting to read how different people can have extremely diverging memories of the same events. I don't like it when some deep, dark secret is promised and then the secret is either not deep or dark or is totally incomprehensible.

We Are Water by Wally Lamb: In middle age, Annie Oh—wife, mother, and outsider artist—has shaken her family to its core. After twenty-seven years of marriage and three children, Annie has fallen in love with Viveca, the wealthy, cultured, confident Manhattan art dealer who orchestrated her professional success.
Annie and Viveca plan to wed in the Oh family's hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut, where gay marriage has recently been legalized. But the impending wedding provokes some very mixed reactions and opens a Pandora's box of toxic secrets—dark and painful truths that have festered below the surface of the Ohs' lives.
We Are Water is an intricate and layered portrait of marriage, family, and the inexorable need for understanding and connection, told in the alternating voices of the Ohs—nonconformist Annie; her ex-husband, Orion, a psychologist; Ariane, the do-gooder daughter, and her twin, Andrew, the rebellious only son; and free-spirited Marissa, the youngest Oh. Set in New England and New York during the first years of the Obama presidency, it is also a portrait of modern America, exploring issues of class, changing social mores, the legacy of racial violence, and the nature of creativity and art.
With humor and breathtaking compassion, Wally Lamb brilliantly captures the essence of human experience in vivid and unforgettable characters struggling to find hope and redemption in the aftermath of trauma and loss. We Are Wateris vintage Wally Lamb—a compulsively readable, generous, and uplifting masterpiece that digs deep into the complexities of the human heart to explore the ways in which we search for love and meaning in our lives.

I read the first few chapters, thought "hmm. Not loving this. Not nearly as good as his other books", then proceeded to gulp down the huge rest of it on the following Sunday. It it wasn't a Wally Lamb book I probably would be quite satisfied - it certainly had good narrative energy. But since it is, I would say it lacks the subtlety of his other novels; it sometimes reads more like he was writing for a cause, and the grab bag of issues - racism and child sexual abuse and white privilege/guilt and religious conservatism - might have gotten a little out of hand.

Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun: Insomnia has claimed everyone Biggs knows.  Even his beloved wife, Carolyn, has succumbed to the telltale red-rimmed eyes, slurred speech and cloudy mind before disappearing into the quickly collapsing world.  Yet Biggs can still sleep, and dream, so he sets out to find her.
He ventures out into a world ransacked by mass confusion and desperation, where he meets others struggling against the tide of sleeplessness.  Chase and his buddy Jordan are devising a scheme to live off their drug-store lootings; Lila is a high school student wandering the streets in an owl mask, no longer safe with her insomniac parents; Felicia abandons the sanctuary of a sleep research center to try to protect her family and perhaps reunite with Chase, an ex-boyfriend.  All around, sleep has become an infinitely precious commodity. Money can’t buy it, no drug can touch it, and there are those who would kill to have it. However, Biggs persists in his quest for Carolyn, finding a resolve and inner strength that he never knew he had.

I'm not sure if there are more books about insomnia plagues these days or if I've just come across more. I can't help thinking it's something about the zeitgeist - everyone feels sleep-starved and many people wish they could give up sleep to have more productive hours in the day. This book is a kind of twisted wish-fulfillment of that scenario. Both the descriptions of the sleepless and of the isolated few who can still sleep but risk violence at the hands of the plague sufferers are quite moving. There is a bit less narrative energy than there could be, but the open-ended style and evocative writing work quite well with the subject matter.

Just Beneath My Skin by Darren Greer: In the small town of North River, every day that goes by bleeds into the next. Poverty begets hopelessness, hopelessness breeds violence, violence causes despair. The only way to change fate, a minister tells his son, is to leave. The minister's son, Jake MacNeil, chooses to ignore his father's advice. Only when he realizes what has become of his life - working a grueling dead-end job, living with a drunk, friends with a murderer - does he decide to make something of himself. But nothing comes without a cost: in choosing freedom, Jake abandons his own son, Nathan, to the care of the boy's abusive mother. Years later, a reformed Jake comes back for Nathan, to finally set things right. But in North River, everything comes around again; and when a dangerous figure from the past becomes hell-bent on dragging the new Jake "back down where he belongs," three generations of MacNeil men must come together to pay the full price of hope. Gritty, unrelenting, yet peppered with Darren Greer's trademark mix of wit and poignance, Just Beneath My Skin is the work of an author at the height of his game.

This was very well-written, but I can't say I really liked it, almost certainly because it was just too dark for me when I read it. It read sort of like a super-dark Lynn Coady. Very effective. Gut-wrenchingly sad.

Us Conductors by Sean Miller: Winner of the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize.
In a finely woven series of flashbacks and correspondence, Lev Termen, the Russian scientist, inventor, and spy, tells the story of his life to his “one true love,” Clara Rockmore, the finest theremin player in the world. In the first half of the book, we learn of Termen’s early days as a scientist in Leningrad during the Bolshevik Revolution, the acclaim he receives as the inventor of the theremin, and his arrival in 1930s New York under the aegis of the Russian state. In the United States he makes a name for himself teaching the theremin to eager music students and marketing his inventions to American companies. In the second half, the novel builds to a crescendo as Termen returns to Russia, where he is imprisoned in a Siberian gulag and later brought to Moscow, tasked with eavesdropping on Stalin himself. Throughout all this, his love for Clara remains constant and unflagging, traveling through the ether much like a theremin’s notes. Us Conductors is steeped in beauty, wonder, and looping heartbreak, a sublime debut that inhabits the idea of invention on every level.

Kind of on the fence about this one. Despite my general dislike of fictionalized accounts of actual historical figures and events (which I seem to have thrown to the winds anyway), I enjoyed learning more about the life of Lev Termen. The writing was quite lovely, but I felt more like I was observing a series of beautifully-shot cinematic scenes than following a plot with any narrative energy - and I like a little narrative energy. I found the romance with Clara really annoying too; it was like he met her and just decided to be in love with her for no apparent reason, and then spoke about her like a besotted romantic without ever detailing WHY, exactly, he was in love with her. For all I know, though, this is the way it really happened - I hated the way Hemingway and his wife called each other cutesy nicknames in The Paris Wife too, but I understand this is based in historical fact, so what can you do? All in all, I'm glad I read it, but I wish I hadn't bought it. (When I started putting this post together and saw this title, I recalled a Facebook exchange in which a friend's brother who had written a book liked this more than I did, and, I thought I remembered, had snootily suggested that maybe this was because Miller was a 'writer's writer'. I searched my feed to find the exchange and discovered, to my embarrassment, that I was the one who had said maybe I didn't like the book because he was a writer's writer - isn't it neat how this little anecdote demonstrates my lurking inferiority and persecution complexes AND my crappy memory all at once? In point of fact, I don't think it's because Miller is a writer's writer that I didn't love the book. It just didn't grip me on an emotional level. And that's fine.)

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber: It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter. 
Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival. Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us. 
Marked by the same bravura storytelling and precise language that made The Crimson Petal and the White such an international success, The Book of Strange New Things is extraordinary, mesmerizing, and replete with emotional complexity and genuine pathos.

I was so excited to read this based on the description. Overall I can admire what it accomplished, but I found the experience of reading most of it tedious in the extreme. For a fantasy work it's very realistic - it reads like a documentary of the events in question, which would be fine if they'd actually happened, but since they didn't I would have appreciated some fictional spark.


Don`t Look Back by Greg Hurwitz: In Don't Look Back, Eve Hardaway, newly single mother of one, is on a trip she's long dreamed of—a rafting and hiking tour through the jungles and mountains of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico. Eve wanders off the trail, to a house in the distance with a menacing man in the yard beyond it, throwing machetes at a human-shaped target. Disturbed by the sight, Eve moves quickly and quietly back to her group, taking care to avoid being seen. As she creeps along, she finds a broken digital camera, marked with the name Teresa Hamilton. Later that night, in a rarely used tourist cabin, she finds a discarded prescription bottle—also with the name Teresa Hamilton. From the camera's memory card, Eve discovers Teresa Hamilton took a photo of that same menacing looking man in the woods. Teresa Hamilton has since disappeared.
Now the man in the woods is after whoever was snooping around his house. With a violent past and deadly mission, he will do anything to avoid being discovered. A major storm wipes out the roads and all communication with the outside world. Now the tour group is trapped in the jungle with a dangerous predator with a secret to protect. With her only resource her determination to live, Eve must fight a dangerous foe and survive against incredible odds—if she's to make it back home alive.

A little more substantial than I expected, although a little over the top with regard to the villain. Some good characterization and the plot didn't go the generic female-in-peril route - the female protagonist had a good arc and was actually pretty kick-ass over all.

A Killer in the Wind by Andrew Klavan: Three years ago, working vice for the NYPD, Dan Champion uncovered a sex slavery ring run by a kingpin known only as the Fat Woman. Obsessed with bringing her down, Champion infiltrated a world of sexual obsession and perversity. He broke the case, but the case also broke him. He started taking drugs and soon began to form hallucinations…a dead child prowling the streets of New York…a beautiful woman named Samantha who would have given him the love he always wanted—if she’d only been real.
Now Champion is a small town detective, chasing burglars and juvenile delinquents, hanging out at the local tavern where he is romancing a waitress. The ghosts and hallucinations are finally behind him as he begins to rebuild his life. Then one night Champion is called to examine the body of a woman who has washed ashore. Yet when he looks at her face, he sees that it’s Samantha, the woman he dreamed about long ago...a woman who doesn’t exist.
Suddenly, Champion is haunted again, only this time it’s by a team of expert killers who want to make sure he never finds the truth: the truth about the dead child who wanders through his imagination; the truth about the lover who inhabits his dreams; and the truth about a killer who has been on the run — in the wind — for a lifetime. The ghosts of the dead are all around him, and Champion has to find out who murdered them, fast, or he could become one of them himself.

I've been reading Andrew Klavan for years and years, since he published deliciously noir hardboiled mysteries under the name Keith Peterson. My favourite by far is a kind of pulpy sort-of ghost story called The Scarred Man - it had a wonderfully twisted plot, great characters, a completely absorbing romance and was just kind of unpretentious and fabulous. The Animal Hour was another great mystery - I was awake until six a.m. finishing it, I kept putting it down, turning out the light, lying there for ten minutes then turning on the light and picking it up again. Lately I just find his work is getting too dark and icky, with some deplorable treatment of women. Some authors seem to think that a hero can't be heroic if the situations he's trying to be heroic in aren't described in totally vomit-inducing detail. I still can't say I don't 'like' reading an Andrew Klavan book, because he can really tell a story. But when a new one comes out now I feel kind of weary and apprehensive instead of excited and happy. And that's too bad. 

Hush Hush (Tess Monaghan 12) by Laura Lippman: The award-winning New York Times bestselling author of After I'm GoneThe Most Dangerous Thing, I'd Know You Anywhere,and What the Dead Know brings back private detective Tess Monaghan, introduced in the classic Baltimore Blues, in an absorbing mystery that plunges the new parent into a disturbing case involving murder and a manipulative mother.
On a searing August day, Melisandre Harris Dawes committed the unthinkable: she left her two-month-old daughter locked in a car while she sat nearby on the shores of the Patapsco River. Melisandre was found not guilty by reason of criminal insanity, although there was much skepticism about her mental state. Freed, she left the country, her husband and her two surviving children, determined to start over.
But now Melisandre has returned Baltimore to meet with her estranged teenage daughters and wants to film the reunion for a documentary. The problem is, she relinquished custody and her ex, now remarried, isn't sure he approves.
Now that's she's a mother herself--short on time, patience--Tess Monaghan wants nothing to do with a woman crazy enough to have killed her own child. But her mentor and close friend Tyner Gray, Melisandre's lawyer, has asked Tess and her new partner, retired Baltimore P.D. homicide detective Sandy Sanchez, to assess Melisandre's security needs.
As a former reporter and private investigator, Tess tries to understand why other people break the rules and the law. Yet the imperious Melisandre is something far different from anyone she's encountered. A decade ago, a judge ruled that Melisandre was beyond rational thought. But was she? Tess tries to ignore the discomfort she feels around the confident, manipulative Melisandre. But that gets tricky after Melisandre becomes a prime suspect in a murder.
Yet as her suspicions deepen, Tess realizes that just as she's been scrutinizing Melisandre, a judgmental stalker has been watching her every move as well. 

Usually when I find a series I love I feel slightly bitter when the author writes standalone novels. In this case I'm kind of ready for Lippman to toss the series and write standalones exclusively. I loved the Tess Monaghan character, but now that she's married and a mother the series just feels kind of soggy. Usually the plots are darkly and deliciously convoluted with a steely logic - here the whole thing seemed to hinge on cutesy and confusing details, which I usually associate with much less mature authors. The subplot kind of went nowhere too. Also, not that this is the author's problem, I hate the name Carla Scout - like, really hate it. Either one would be fine, but together they make my teeth ache. There were still astringent observations and some nice writing, but this was by far not my favourite of Lippman's books. 

The Far Time Incident by Neve Maslakovic: When a professor’s time-travel lab is the scene of a deadly accident, the academic world and the future of St. Sunniva University get thrown into upheaval. As assistant to the dean of science, Julia Olsen is assigned to help Campus Security Chief Nate Kirkland examine this rare mishap…then make it quietly go away!
But when the investigation points toward murder, Julia and Chief Kirkland find themselves caught in a deadly cover-up, one that strands them in ancient Pompeii on the eve of the eruption of the world’s most infamous volcano. With the help of their companions—a Shakespearean scholar and two grad students—Julia and the chief must outwit history itself and expose the school’s saboteur before it's too late.
The Far Time Incident is a smart, richly inventive novel that skillfully weaves together mystery, history, and science to create a mesmerizing and addictive read.

Pretty lightweight, but fun. 

Indexing by Seanan McGuire: “Never underestimate the power of a good story.”
Good advice...especially when a story can kill you.
For most people, the story of their lives is just that: the accumulation of time, encounters, and actions into a cohesive whole. But for an unfortunate few, that day-to-day existence is affected—perhaps infected is a better word—by memetic incursion: where fairy tale narratives become reality, often with disastrous results.
That's where the ATI Management Bureau steps in, an organization tasked with protecting the world from fairy tales, even while most of their agents are struggling to keep their own fantastic archetypes from taking over their lives. When you're dealing with storybook narratives in the real world, it doesn't matter if you're Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, or the Wicked Queen: no one gets a happily ever after.
Indexing is New York Times bestselling author Seanan McGuire’s new urban fantasy where everything you thought you knew about fairy tales gets turned on its head.

When I started reading it, I felt like THIS was the book I wanted from Into the Wild by Sarah Beth Durst. But by the end, I felt kind of shut out of this one too - I was reading about emotions without really feeling them, and a lot of the fairy-tale scenarios got really convoluted and confusing - too many poisoned objects and sleeping princesses, I guess. It's an interesting experiment and a great idea that would quite likely work well for many readers. 

Revival by Stephen King: A dark and electrifying novel about addiction, fanaticism, and what might exist on the other side of life.
In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs -- including Jamie's mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.
Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of thirteen, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family's horrific loss. In his mid-thirties -- addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate -- Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil's devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.
This rich and disturbing novel spans five decades on its way to the most terrifying conclusion Stephen King has ever written. It's a masterpiece from King, in the great American tradition of Frank Norris, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe.

There are so MANY Stephen King books, it's impossible not to start seeing themes and characters - even phrases - repeating themselves. On the whole I thought this was quite good. I was thinking that there was something particularly horrible about the fact that Charles Jacobs starts out as such a sympathetic character and is twisted by circumstances into his final state, but on further reflection I can see that the seeds of his obsession were present early on. All the good King stuff is here - the vivid descriptions of childhood, of understanding adult emotions and discussions imperfectly, the slow-burning sadnesses of age and loss, and the skillful evocation of dread. I enjoyed the blending of science with superstition and mysticism also. It was certainly quite bleak - I'm glad I didn't read it in the winter.

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy 2) by Stephen King: A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes
“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.
Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.
Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.

Liked it, although not quite as much as Mr. Mercedes. Intrigued to see that this is turning into a more traditional Stephen King book - it's just taking three books to get there. Eagerly anticipating the next one. 


Alison said…
"Can somebody confirm that no one compares genitals to vegetables in either of those?" Snort. I love it when a punch line catches me off guard like that.

I am the opposite when I decide to read an established author--if it's not a series, I deliberately choose their most famous book. Then if I love it I'll read the rest of their work--often disappointed that the early stuff doesn't live up to the best. I hate the trend of publishing unfinished work that the author deliberately didn't choose to publish. I still haven't read Go Set a Watchman (although I probably will this year.)
DaniGirl said…
I'd totally forgotten about Continuity Girl - read it a few years ago and never made the connection to Leah McLaren. Obliviousness FTW! Anyway, I totally agree with your review. I liked Finders Keepers better than Mr Mercedes because FK felt more complete and engaged me from the beginning, whereas I spent half of Mr Mercedes wondering if the boogeyman was even in the closet.
Nicole said…
I LOVE Summer Crossing - I just love books of that era, with that feel. LOVE.
StephLove said…
I remember being disappointed in Revival, but not why. I'm liking the Mr. Mercedes series better.

I just read Blaze, one of his Bachman books from the 80s I missed when it came out and I really, really liked it. The character's world is small but completely immersive. I also re-read Under the Dome several months ago and liked it for the opposite reason or rather the same reason achieved by opposite ends if that makes any sense. What I always want from King is to be sucked into a world and he usually delivers.

I've got Bazaar of Bad Dreams on my bedside table now but I haven't started it yet.

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