Monday, December 30, 2013


by Joe Hill

In 1999, when Stephen King was hit by a distracted driver and nearly retired from writing, I wondered what his faithful fans (me) would read if there were no more King books. Fortunately, his "retirement" was short-lived and he has provided followers (me) with hours more fun and fright. But I think King must have also considered this quandary during his rehabilitation and determined to fix that problem by subjecting his son to a vulcan mind meld. Writing under the pen name Joe Hill, he is King, but not exactly. It's like he wandered into his father's world and camped out right between Derry and Castle Rock.

NOS4A2 is brimming with flavors and references to his father's works: The Shining, It, Christine, The Dark Towers, Joyland, 11/22/63, Doctor Sleep, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, and etc. And so in keeping the King tradition, Hill let's you know where he's been and then takes you to a new place; and here it's Christmasland, and yes it's creepy.

NOS4A2 is Hill's It and Charlie Manx is Pennywise. For many of you that is enough said, but if not here is the low down. Victoria McQueen can find lost things, but not in the ordinary way. She can find them using the bridge of her imagination, which appears when she concentrates on a place while pedaling like a madman on her bike. During one of her adventures, she runs into Charlie Manx, who is "rescuing" children from their unfit parents, using a similar technique as Vic, only his transport is a 1938 Rolls Royce Wraith sporting the license plate NOS4A2 (nosferatu=vampire). Although Vic slips through Manx's fingers as a teen, he is not finished with her. Years later, he returns for revenge. Let the battle begin!

Any fan of those early Stephen King's (and some of the newer ones) will love this book. If you're afraid of the dark, skip it.

Friday, December 27, 2013

What's in a Name Challenge 2013

Yes, I did nearly forget to complete this challenge. I started off the year quickly reading books to fulfill the title requirements, but then got stuck trying to find a book containing the word Up or Down in the title. Since it was early in the year, I figured I had plenty of time to sort it out, but then as the year progressed, it kind of slipped my mind. However, last week I got a notification to register for the 2014 challenge and realized I still had one book to read.

So here's last year's wrap-up:
1. Up or Down in the title: Coming up for Air
2. Something found in the kitchen in title: Red Herring Without Mustard
3. A party or celebration in the title: The Philosopher's Danse
4. Something fire related in title: The Arsonist
5. An emotion in the title: Great Expectations
6. The word Lost or Found in the title: The World We Found

This year the challenge has been moved to a new host, The Worm Hole and only has five book title requirements:
1. A reference to time in the title
2. A royal position in the title
3. Title that contains a number written in letters
4. A proper name in the title
5. A element of weather in the title

You can sign up here.

Another little challenge I am giving myself is to read at least one book a month from my "stack" either the real book one or my virtual one on Goodreads. A few weeks ago I noticed my virtual stack was getting so long I did a little weeding... too many books, too little time!

The other challenge I wanted to mention is that I completed the Bible in a Year program. I am trying to find another Bible reading plan on You Version. If you've done one that you particularly enjoyed I'd love the recommendation.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Coming Up for Air

by George Orwell

I stumbled across this book as I was searching for something to read and finish out the 2013 book challenge, which I nearly forgot! Did you know Orwell wrote anything beyond those required dystopian texts Animal Farm and 1984? Me either.  But he did, and Coming Up For Air is a surprising reflection on life, aging and remembering.

George Bowling has hit middle age and is struggling coming to grips with the mundane prospects of his future. Not only is he overweight and toothless, he feels trapped in a loveless marriage, has two bratty kids and a dead end job. So he starts remembering the good old days, before the war (WWI), and how much better things were then and how great his life was just playing and fishing. So he decides to sneak away for a week and return to the town of his youth. Only problem is that once he's there nothing is as he remembered.

While nothing eventful happens and George comes across as having a dull life, the book is far from boring. I enjoyed the reflections on England leading up to the war and George's contemplations on life. If you enjoy memoirs you'd like this book.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Burgess Boys

by Elizabeth Strout

Some authors have a unique ability to create background stories within their novels and weave the details seamlessly into the narrative, making it relevant, but I think that is a rare skill. When it doesn't work, the book ends up being disjointed and unfocused, which is exactly what happens in The Burgess Boys. There are several story lines running and it's unclear which is supposed to be the main point. First is the struggle the Burgess siblings have in dealing with the death of their father after a freak accident when they were children. Then there are all of the relationships each of Burgess kids has with their spouses and friends and kids. Finally is the hate crime story.

This book didn't do much for me. I never really cared about any of the characters and in fact found their interactions and behaviors at times appalling. I guess I just couldn't relate. However, I think if this was a book club selection it would generate some lively discussion related to the various current issues addressed but never resolved.