David Copperfield ★★★★★

davidcopperfield (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: David Copperfield
Series: ———-
Author: Charles Dickens
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Classic
Pages: 853
Words: 357.5K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The story follows the life of David Copperfield from childhood to maturity. David was born in Blunderstone, Suffolk, England, six months after the death of his father. David spends his early years in relative happiness with his loving, childish mother and their kindly housekeeper, Clara Peggotty. They call him Davy. When he is seven years old his mother marries Edward Murdstone. To get him out of the way, David is sent to lodge with Peggotty’s family in Yarmouth. Her brother, fisherman Mr Peggotty, lives in a beached barge, with his adopted relatives Emily and Ham, and an elderly widow, Mrs Gummidge. “Little Em’ly” is somewhat spoiled by her fond foster father, and David is in love with her. They call him Master Copperfield.

On his return, David is given good reason to dislike his stepfather, who believes exclusively in firmness, and has similar feelings for Murdstone’s sister Jane, who moves into the house soon afterwards. Between them they tyrannize his poor mother, making her and David’s lives miserable, and when, in consequence, David falls behind in his studies, Murdstone attempts to thrash him – partly to further pain his mother. David bites him and soon afterwards is sent away to Salem House, a boarding school, under a ruthless headmaster named Mr Creakle. There he befriends an older boy, James Steerforth, and Tommy Traddles. He develops an impassioned admiration for Steerforth, perceiving him as someone noble, who could do great things if he would, and one who pays attention to him.

David goes home for the holidays to learn that his mother has given birth to a baby boy. Shortly after David returns to Salem House, his mother and her baby die, and David returns home immediately. Peggotty marries the local carrier, Mr Barkis. Murdstone sends David to work for a wine merchant in London – a business of which Murdstone is a joint owner. David’s landlord, Wilkins Micawber, is arrested for debt and sent to the King’s Bench Prison, where he remains for several months, before being released and moving to Plymouth. No one remains to care for David in London, so he decides to run away, with Micawber advising him to head to Dover, to find his only known remaining relative, his eccentric and kind-hearted great-aunt Betsey Trotwood. She had come to Blunderstone at his birth, only to depart in ire upon learning that he was not a girl. However, she takes pity on him and agrees to raise him, despite Murdstone’s attempt to regain custody of David, on condition that he always try to ‘be as like his sister, Betsey Trotwood’ as he can be, meaning that he is to endeavour to emulate the prospective namesake she was disappointed not to have. David’s great-aunt renames him “Trotwood Copperfield” and addresses him as “Trot”, one of several names David is called by in the novel.

David’s aunt sends him to a better school than the last he attended. It is run by Dr Strong, whose methods inculcate honour and self-reliance in his pupils. During term, David lodges with the lawyer Mr Wickfield, and his daughter Agnes, who becomes David’s friend and confidante. Wickfield’s clerk, Uriah Heep, also lives at the house.

By devious means, Uriah Heep gradually gains a complete ascendancy over the aging and alcoholic Wickfield, to Agnes’s great sorrow. Heep hopes, and maliciously confides to David, that he aspires to marry Agnes. Ultimately with the aid of Micawber, who has been employed by Heep as a secretary, his fraudulent behaviour is revealed. At the end of the book, David encounters him in prison, convicted of attempting to defraud the Bank of England.

After completing school, David apprentices to be a proctor. During this time, due to Heep’s fraudulent activities, his aunt’s fortune has diminished. David toils to make a living. He works mornings and evenings for his former teacher Doctor Strong as a secretary, and also starts to learn shorthand, with the help of his old school-friend Traddles, upon completion reporting parliamentary debate for a newspaper. With considerable moral support from Agnes and his own great diligence and hard work, David ultimately finds fame and fortune as an author, writing fiction.

David’s romantic but self-serving school friend, Steerforth, also re-acquaints himself with David, but then goes on to seduce and dishonour Emily, offering to marry her off to his manservant Littimer before deserting her in Europe. Her uncle Mr Peggotty manages to find her with the help of Martha, who had grown up in their part of England, and then settled in London. Ham, who had been engaged to marry Emily before the tragedy, dies in a fierce storm off the coast in attempting to succour a ship. Steerforth was aboard the ship and also died. Mr Peggotty takes Emily to a new life in Australia, accompanied by Mrs Gummidge and the Micawbers, where all eventually find security and happiness.

David, meanwhile, has fallen completely in love with Dora Spenlow, and then marries her. Their marriage proves troublesome for David in the sense of everyday practical affairs, but he never stops loving her. Dora dies early in their marriage after a miscarriage. After Dora’s death, Agnes encourages David to return to normal life and his profession of writing. While living in Switzerland to dispel his grief over so many losses, David realises that he loves Agnes. Upon returning to England, after a failed attempt to conceal his feelings, David finds that Agnes loves him too. They quickly marry and in this marriage, he finds true happiness. David and Agnes then have at least five children, including a daughter named after his great-aunt, Betsey Trotwood.

 

My Thoughts:

I don’t know how to write this review without resorting to manly beating of my chest and loud hollering of execrations against my enemies in jubilation of their downfall.

Dickens’ strength is in his characters. This book showcases some of his best characters in my opinion. From the titular character of David Copperfield to the child wife Dora to the competent Agnes to the never quite his fault Mr Micawber to the sniveling Uria Heep to the selfishly evil Steersforth. Dickens makes every single one of them a real person that you can think is real.

I also appreciated that Copperfield wasn’t a golden boy. He had a hard life and had some pretty bad things happen to him. But it made the happy ending all the sweeter. I NEED the majority of my books to have happy endings of one sort or another. Or at least the chance for a happy ending. I think that is what I like so much about Dickens’ writing. He knows that people need a happy ending in their stories and he’s not afraid to give it to them.

Dickens also isn’t afraid to face the very nature of human nature. He realizes some people are just downright evil and he writes his characters that way. He doesn’t make excuses for people like Uriah Heep or Steersforth, he simply portrays them as they are. While evil can be abstract in ideas and philosophies, it can also be personified in a character.

And that turns out to be all I have to say. I’ve been staring at the screen for almost 30 minutes and nothing else comes to mind. While I enjoyed Dickens earlier in life, I have never enjoyed him more than now. This only excites me about reading him again in another 10-15 years!

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Harrowing the Dragon ★★★★☆

harrowingthedragon (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Harrowing the Dragon
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 185
Words: 86K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.com

“The Harrowing of the Dragon of Hoarsbreath” (from Elsewhere, Vol. II, Nov. 1982) – a young dragon harrower and a girl from a mining village clash over whether the land’s long winter is caused by a dragon.

“A Matter of Music” (from Elsewhere, Vol. III, Apr. 1984)

“A Troll and Two Roses” (from Faery!, Jan. 1985)

“Baba Yaga and the Sorcerer’s Son” (from Dragons and Dreams: A Collection of New Fantasy and Science Fiction Stories, Apr. 1986)

“The Fellowship of the Dragon” (from After the King: Stories in Honor of J. R. R. Tolkien, Jan. 1992) – Five young women are tasked by their queen with saving her lover, the court harper.

“Lady of the Skulls” (from Strange Dreams, Jul. 1993) – a story of personal transformation requiring a knight to look past what meets the eye.

“The Snow Queen” (from Snow White, Blood Red, Jan. 1993) – retelling the familiar fairy tale in a contemporary setting, highlighting the universality of love, loyalty and desire.

“Ash, Wood, Fire” (from The Women’s Press Book of New Myth and Magic, Nov. 1993) – the story of a cinder-girl who has reduced the people around her to their functions as she sinks into her own essence.

“The Stranger” (from Temporary Walls: An Anthology of Moral Fantasy, Oct. 1993)

“Transmutations” (from Xanadu 2, Jan. 1994)

“The Lion and the Lark” (from The Armless Maiden and Other Tales for Childhood’s Survivors, Apr. 1995) – a “beauty and the beast” retelling, in which a young woman loves a shapechanger, loses him, and must prove her love through many tests and trials.

“The Witches of Junket” (from Sisters in Fantasy II, Apr. 1996)

“Star-Crossed” (from Shakespearean Whodunnits, Sep. 1997) – the Verona constabulary investigate the deaths of Romeo and Juliet.

“Voyage Into the Heart” (from Voyages: The 25th World Fantasy Convention, Nov. 4, 1999) a heartless hunt to acquire a unicorn’s horn.

“Toad” (from Silver Birch, Blood Moon, Mar. 1999) – a “frog prince” retelling in which the prince is far from innocent.

 

My Thoughts:

It did not feel like it had been 13 years since my previous read of this book. While not quite “just yesterday”, if you had asked me point blank and I had to simply rely on my memory, I would have said from 5-8 years ago. How time flies!

This was a real mixed bag in terms of both interest and writing. Some stories were more interesting than others and some of the writing was much better than others. It also felt like McKillip was really experimenting with stuff and figuring out what worked for her and what didn’t. Considering the stories were written between 1982 and 1999 I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I wouldn’t recommend this as a starting place for McKillip, as I feel that a familiarity with her style is necessary to be able to appreciate some of the very quirky stories told here. For someone with a couple of her books already under their belt, this would be a solid edition to your reading and to be able to experience some of her writing in shorter form.

This was the last McKillip book I had for this cycle of re-reads. I began back in 2017 with a re-read of The Tower at Stony Wood and now I end in 2020 with Harrowing the Dragon. Three years to read 21 of her books is just a win on every single count. I enjoyed them all, I hopefully praised them enough (I really think I did but covering my bases just in case, you know?) and I trust that I dragged at least one person into McKillip’s sphere of influence.

So while this particular journey has ended, the road is still there and I know I can re-travel it any time I like. Perhaps in another 10-15 years. The question then will be who I am at that point and will you be around?

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Mr Murder ★★★★☆

mrmurder (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Mr Murder
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Thriller
Pages: 500
Words: 141K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Bestselling mystery writer Marty Stillwater was recording himself one day when he realized that he was saying “I need…” repeatedly. When he rewound the recording he found that he had been unconsciously repeating “I need” for over 7 minutes. Marty was tense that whole day, when he put the kids to bed though he calmed down considerably and was finally consoled.

Meanwhile, the Killer is roaming the streets before his job. He goes into a bar and leaves with a prostitute to go to a motel. He has sex with her and then murders her because she cannot assuage his frustration. He proceeds to kill his targets and returns to his hotel. That night, still restless, he is drawn for some reason towardsTopeka. Suddenly, he starts saying:

“I need… to be… I need to be… I need to be…” As the suburbs and finally the dark prairie flash past on both sides, excitement builds steadily in him. He trembles on the brink of an insight that, he senses, will change his life. “I need to be… to be… I need to be someone.” At once he understands the meaning of what he has said. By “to be someone,” he does not mean what another man might intend to say with those same three words; he does not mean that he needs to be someone famous or rich or important. Just someone. Someone with a real name. Just an ordinary Joe, as they used to say in the movies of the forties.

— Mr. Murder page 48-49

The Killer is attracted like a magnet by some force he doesn’t understand to the Stillwater residence. On his way he kills several people; an old couple for a set of clothes and a gas station clerk to steal food and money. When he breaks into the Stillwater house he sees a picture of Marty and believes it to be himself. He observes books authored by Marty and decides they are his. He sees the pictures of the daughters Emily and Charlotte and Marty’s wife Paige, he then decides he wants to be the father and husband. He attempts to write a book but cannot and in his frustration he destroys the computer.

Marty was quite upset about his fugues (a break in one’s memory) and so went to see a doctor. The doctor attributed it to stress.

When Marty comes home he finds things misplaced and his computer smashed. The Other then enters and accuses him of being an impostor. He menaces Marty who shoots him twice in the chest, but the Other is unfazed. The fight catapults them over the banisters leaving the Other seriously injured but he gets away. Marty’s family returns home, and Marty sends them to their neighbour’s house. Soon after, the police arrive. Cyrus Lowbock, the detective, interrogates Marty and doesn’t believe his story, insinuating it is a publicity stunt. Marty and his wife refuse to cooperate and the police leave.

The Other’s body has rapidly recovered from his injuries but the effort leaves him ravenous. After consuming massive amounts of food he returns to get Paige and the girls back from Marty who he believes has stolen them. He manages to get the daughters from the neighbour’s house, but Marty sees him and gives chase. The car crashes and the girls escape but the Killer flees again.

Drew Oslett and Karl Clocker, two operatives of a clandestine government agency are sent to retrieve the Killer (referred to as “Alfie”) They discover the bodies of the two seniors and Alfie’s tracking device. A message from their agency leads them toward the People magazine article on Marty Stillwater and they discover his connection with the Killer. They meet a contact who might help them find Alfie. To maintain their cover they decide the Stillwaters have to be terminated to look like a murder/suicide and Alfie has to be brought in.

Meanwhile, the Stillwaters flee to a cabin in Mammoth Lakes and prepare to defend themselves against attack by The Other. Paige hides under a rock to ambush The Other, but unpredictably he rams his car through the cabin. The Stillwaters then flee to an abandoned church. Here Marty is shot and Paige and the girls are trapped. As The Other prepares to kill them, Drew and Karl track him down. Drew kills The Other and is then killed by Karl who has turned against the agency. He rescues the Stillwaters, provides them with new identities, a new home and evidence to bring the agency down. He explains that cloning and genetic engineering were used to create a breed of elite assassins, with Marty’s tissue samples accidentally becoming involved in creating Alfie. After a few months Marty mails the evidence to the authorities from an anonymous name and the Stillwaters begin their new lives.

 

My Thoughts:

This is what I was hoping for from Koontz. Pure thriller through and through. I was thinking, when I reached the end, if I enjoyed this or Lightning more. It’s a real tossup and I would recommend either one if you wanted to dip your toes into the Koontz ocean (seriously, this guy has written a bajillion books).

In terms of tension, Koontz did an admirable job of keeping me in suspense even while staying true to his trademark “The Hero Doesn’t Die” platform. I figured the wife and kids were safe as well, but when the girls are kidnapped, I wondered if all bets were off. Thankfully, they were ok. Marty’s parents (Marty being the main character) however, were pure cannon fodder and I almost wished they’d been off’ed nearer the beginning rather in the last 10% so as to provide even more tension about the wife and kids.

I’ve got a quote or two I’m including in this review instead of doing them as separate posts (Gulag is taking up the Quote posts for the whole month, the greedy hog!)

“Standing in his kitchen, holding the loaded Beretta, Marty knew that he and Paige now constituted their own last line of defense.

No one else. No greater authority. No guardian of the public welfare.”

~ Page 248

“She wondered what it was about storytelling that made people want it almost as much as food and water, even more so in bad times than in good.”

~ Page 320

The first quote made me think about the Law and the police, as the embodiment of the Law. The Law does not PREVENT crime from happening. Nor should it. The Law states “X is the Law and if you break the Law you will be punished”. Cops are meant to be an “after the fact” part of the Law. They find and arrest the perpetrators. They don’t sit outside a private citizens house and prevent it from being burgled, that is the responsibility of the home owner. However, that is not the reality of life today. The majority of my fellow countrymen have given up their responsibility to take care of themselves and handed that off to the government. The inevitable outcome of THAT is always tyranny. Just look at how the Governor of the State of New York has acted during this covid19 outbreak to see tyranny in action.

The second quote, and its attendant idea, was much more pleasant to contemplate, thankfully. Koontz, being a writer, talks up storytelling as much as he can. He touches on the idea of stories being an escape but also states he thinks it goes deeper than that; that the need for a story is built into us, like God put it in from the beginning.

So to end this, I thoroughly enjoyed this tense thriller even while knowing the protagonist was going to be ok. That is the kind of story Koontz tells and it is the kind of story I like to read. The Good Guys Win, the Bad Guys Defeated, Evil Vanquished.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Above the Law ★★★☆☆

abovethelaw (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Above the Law
Series: ———-
Author: Max Brand
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Western
Pages: 83
Words: 22K

 

Synopsis:

Black Jim is a notorious outlaw known for robbing stage coaches of their payload of gold. Ruthless and a deadshot, several small towns have banded together and offered a big reward for his capture, dead or alive.

An out of work actress conceives a plan to have her partner pretend to be Black Jim, “capture” him, take the reward money and then once she has left, have her partner reveal he really isn’t Black Jim. What could go wrong with that? Of course, the real Black Jim shows up and takes the actress prisoner and also the other actor.

Black Jim is living in a community of outlaws, who are “Above the Law” and when he brings a woman into the mix, things get heated. The actor devolves and fits in with the other outlaws and they plan to kill Black Jim, steal all of his stolen gold and take the Actress for themselve.

Black Jim and the actress are married, make a daring escape and decide to go legit.

 

My Thoughts:

A classic “woman finds out outlaw has a heart of gold”. Not as mawkish as I was afraid it might be at the beginning. However, the short length saved it from becoming tedious.

This is my 3rd foray into the western genre. While L’Amour I would consider a success (in my reading I mean), Zane Grey was a complete flop. Based on this story, ol’ Max Brand is going to fall squarely in the middle.

Honestly, I’m hoping to read as much of his stuff as possible just to change up my reading.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Kingfisher ★★★★½

813bb0ae2cd9d5bf7e732d08597f0bd9This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Kingfisher
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 302
Words: 87K

 

Synopsis:

From Tor.com & authored by Alyx Dellamonica

Pierce Oliver lives in a world that fuses our high-tech present day with the top-down political structure of a high fantasy medieval kingdom. It’s the kind of place where limousine-riding kings preside over jousts, where the court magicians argue over the academic citations and feminist interpretations of their ancient texts, and where the bastard princes are doing well if they manage to stay out of the tabloids. The country’s biggest ongoing problem is keeping its surplus of troublesome knights from taking it into their heads to overthrow the government.

When Pierce is a young man this hardly matters, because he lives in a small town far removed from the capital, a backwater whose existence is known to but a few. His home is in fact concealed by magic, an enchantment wielded by Pierce’s somewhat clingy mother, Heloise, a retired witch living incognito as a slow foods restaurateur. One day three knights stumble through town by accident, and by the time they’ve moved on, Pierce has decided to strike out on his own, seeking information on the father he never knew and–perhaps as importantly–cutting the apron strings that have bound him so tightly to his mother’s chosen refuge.

Packing up his car and charging his cell phone, Pierce heads down the road and almost immediately stumbles into–rather surprisingly–another restaurant, this one in a dilapidated hotel called the Kingfisher, a place that has fallen on hard times. There he encounters Carrie, a hard-working chef who also dreams of escaping her particular Nowheresville of a community. Pierce partakes of a peculiarly ritualistic fish fry there, before spending the night in one of their rooms. On his way out the door, he gives in to an irresistible not-quite-whim to filch a cooking knife from the place.

The theft, of course, is less a failure of moral fiber than a magical imperative, and by the time Pierce makes it to the capital, the effects of his minor act of banditry are reverberating throughout the land. The King has decided to declare a nationwide quest for… well, definitely for something. A grail? A relic? A fountain of youth? Whatever the Object in question is, his upstart knights will surely know it when they see it. In the meantime, if their motoring forth and scouring the kingdom keeps them from getting up to revolutionary scale trouble, so much the better.

The problem with this scheme is it isn’t entirely a PR scam. The quest Object is real enough, and the mere idea of seeking it sets off a feud between two major religions, a fight that breaks down more or less on gender lines: there’s a cult with masculine, metal-dominated values and a male god, and a watery, priestess-led faith centered in the ladies’ birthing chamber. Both sides are absolutely, positively sure that the quest’s Object belongs to their patron deity. And for at least some of the men and women on the hunt, this ambiguity is awesome, simply because it means they have a license to stampede around the whole countryside, kicking over lesser shrines, sifting through their relics, and beating on anyone who might object.

Carrie and Pierce have other problems too, in the form of a third restaurant owner, a slippery figure called Stillwater who is almost certainly in the know about whatever it is that has blighted the Kingfisher Inn. Now he has his sights set on Carrie herself, and is tempting her with job offers she definitely ought to refuse.

Publishers Blurb & Me

Hidden away from the world by his mother, the powerful sorceress Heloise Oliver, Pierce has grown up working in her restaurant in Desolation Point. One day, unexpectedly, strangers pass through town on the way to the legendary capital city. “Look for us,” they tell Pierce, “if you come to Severluna. You might find a place for yourself in King Arden’s court.”

Lured by a future far away from the bleak northern coast, Pierce makes his choice. Heloise, bereft and furious, tells her son the truth: about his father, a knight in King Arden’s court; about an older brother he never knew existed; about his father’s destructive love for King Arden’s queen, and Heloise’s decision to raise her younger son alone.

As Pierce journeys to Severluna, his path twists and turns through other lives and mysteries: an inn where ancient rites are celebrated, though no one will speak of them; a legendary local chef whose delicacies leave diners slowly withering from hunger; his mysterious wife, who steals Pierce’s heart; a young woman whose need to escape is even greater than Pierce’s; and finally, in Severluna, King Arden’s youngest son, who is urged by strange and lovely forces to sacrifice his father’s kingdom.

Things are changing in that kingdom. Oldmagic is on the rise. The immensely powerful artifact of an ancient god has come to light, and the king is gathering his knights to quest for this profound mystery, which may restore the kingdom to its former glory—or destroy it.

In the end, Stillwater is recaptured by the women of Ravenshold, Prince Damion brings peace between Ravenshold and Wyvernshold, the magic is brought back in balance to the Kingfisher and the Holy Grail is revealed to be a magic cooking pot used at the Kingfisher.

My Thoughts:

The reason this still only gets 4.5stars instead of 5 is because of the cover. I’m sorry, but Kinuko Craft covers are the physical embodiment of the stories that McKillip tells. This bland, no-nothing cover is a blot. Now, that is the fault of the publishers, so I don’t blame McKillip one iota but it still plays a part. Penguin, and their imprint Ace, should be heartily ashamed of themselves. In fact, I would gladly volunteer to help them commit seppuku for this disastrous, face shaming act they committed against this great book.

Now, there are some differences from her previous books. This takes place in “modern” times even while magic is in existence. There is also a much larger cast of characters. There are also several concurrent storylines instead of just the one or two. These various differences, while not bad, definitely contributed towards this feeling like a highly embroidered neckerchief instead of a wall scroll with one central picture. Smaller in scope but more “things” going on to keep one occupied.

I was thinking this was the last McKillip I had on my re-read journey and was pretty sad about that. It was coloring this whole read until about half-way through I realized I still had a collection of short stories to go through entitled Harrowing the Dragon. Then the sun came out, the birds began chirping and cherries fell directly into my mouth, already pitted. Life was wonderful again 😀

★★★★½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Ticktock ★★★☆½

ticktock (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Ticktock
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Comedy Horror
Pages: 352
Words: 90K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

Tommy Phan is a first-generation Vietnamese American in southern California, a successful detective novelist whose greatest ambition is to live the American Dream.[3] The story opens with Tommy getting a new Corvette. He argues with his mother, refusing her offer for dinner. In a fit of rebellion, he eats two cheeseburgers, something his mother dislikes. He meets a blond waitress there (which he will meet later in the story again). His radio quits working during one of these two trips, and in the static are eerie voices.

Once home, he finds a Rag doll on his front steps, along with a note, written in Vietnamese, which he knew when he was a child but has forgotten in his quest to be a true American. After taking the doll into his study, it soon bursts open to reveal an evil creature who seems intent on killing Tommy. A message is left on his computer screen saying he has until dawn, but what will happen at dawn, Tommy does not know. After fate brings a meeting with Del, a woman who appears to speak somewhat cryptically, they embark on a race to flee the creature. She believes him too quickly, and often has mixed stories for all of her abilities. (At one point she stole a car, saying one minute she hotwired it, and the next that the key was in the ignition.)

The doll appears to be growing larger as their journey continues. They visit Tommy’s brother, Gi, to try and translate the note. They then go to Del’s apartment, where we learn she’s quite rich, but is a waitress anyway. She also shows another side to her when Tommy wants to see her paintings, and she threatens to shoot him if he does. Her dog seems incredibly smart, something that unnerves Tommy.

In their journey to escape the ever-growing doll, Tommy’s Corvette is trashed, two cars are stolen, and one large boat is trashed. They arrive at Del’s mother’s home, which seems utterly odd. They claim to be able to listen to live stuff from the past with their radio. Del’s mother shows an uncanny sense of time when she knows exactly when the rain will stop.

Gi calls and tells Tommy to go to their mother, and not to bring the blonde along. Tommy brings Del along anyway, where he then learns the doll was conjured to scare him back home by a friend of his mother. They begin a ritual that, after a few harrowing minutes, completely dispels the monster.

Tommy sees Del’s paintings and they’re of him. She had remotely viewed him over the past 2 years because she knows he is her destiny.

He and Del get married in Vegas. Then they go back to their normal town

My Thoughts:

This started out horrifically creepy and I was all set to get some real chills. Then by slow degrees things started to get silly. By the end, things were just ridiculous.

In the afterwords, Koontz explains how it was all deliberate and WHY it was done that way.

A good romp but I have to admit, I was looking forward to something actually creepy by Koontz. Ah well.

★★★☆½

bookstooge (Custom)

The Bell at Sealey Head ★★★★★

bellatsealeyhead (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Bell at Sealey Head
Series: ———-
Author: Patricia McKillip
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 245
Words: 71K

 

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia

The small ocean town of Sealey Head has long been haunted by a phantom bell that tolls as evening falls. The sound is so common that many of the town’s inhabitants do not even notice it, let alone questions its existence. Ridley Dow, a scholar from the city, comes to investigate the mystery, and sets up residence at the old inn owned by a young man named Judd and his ailing father. To aid Ridley, Judd enlists the help of his friend and love-interest Gwyneth, a young woman who writes her own stories to explain the bell.

On the other side of town is the ancient manor Aislinn House, whose owner, Lady Eglantine, lies dying. Emma, a servant in the house, is able to open doors that lead not into another room, but into another world. On the other side of Aislinn House’s doors is castle where the princess Ysabo moves through her daily rituals, tasks that Ysabo hates and does not understand, but cannot question. While Emma and Ysabo are able to speak to one another, neither has ever tried to cross into the other’s realm.

When Lady Eglantine’s heir Miranda Beryl comes to Aislinn House, Sealey Head’s secrets begin to reveal themselves, sometimes with dangerous consequences. Miranda brings to Sealey Head an entourage of friends from the city, as well as a strange assistant. As the town gets pulled deeper into the strange magic that Ridley, Judd, Gwyneth, and Emma uncover, Ridley breaches the border between Aislinn House and Ysabo’s world. It is only when the bell’s location and owner are discovered that Aislinn House and all of Sealey Head are able to return to safety.

 

My Thoughts:

I so enjoyed the time I spent reading this. While my reads in March were pretty cool, there is just something about McKillip’s writing that soothes my soul.

Everything I might have to say I’ve said about McKillip before. I’m not going to repeat it ad nauseum. Beautiful language, highly recommended, go read it.

You Are Welcome.

★★★★★

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

Lightning ★★★★☆

lightning (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Lightning
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 533
Words: 145K

 

Synopsis:

Wikipedia and Me

As Laura Shane is born in January 1955, during a freak lightning storm, a mysterious blond stranger (Stefan) prevents a drunken Dr. Paul Markwell from attending to the difficult and complicated delivery. Her mother dies in childbirth, though Laura is a perfectly healthy, exceptionally beautiful baby, and she is left to be raised by her father Bob Shane. When Laura is eight years old, a junkie attempts to rob her father’s convenience store; however the blond stranger reappears, saving them both and instructing them on what to tell the police. In 1967, Bob Shane dies of a heart attack. At her father’s funeral Laura sees the stranger watching over her yet again and begins to think he is her guardian angel, along with an unnamed man calling for her when she tries to follow him.

Laura is sent to live in the McIlroy orphanage, where she is housed with a set of twins, Thelma and Ruth, who later become her best friends. She also meets Willy Sheener, a frightening child molester who is also the maintenance man and custodian. Willy becomes infatuated with Laura due to her uncommonly good looks, haunting her wherever she goes in the orphanage. However, due to past experience the twins warn Laura that reporting Sheener, also known as “The White Eel” or “Eel” for short, will do more harm than good. Laura is eventually sent to live with a foster family that exploits her, so she purposely behaves badly and they send her back to the orphanage. After several disturbing incidents, her mysterious angel visits Sheener and brutally beats him. This scares him off for some time, until Laura is sent to live with the Dockwielers, with whom she quickly forms a bond. Sheener comes to their home one afternoon; Laura is able to fend him off and eventually kill him, but the shock of discovering the scene causes her new foster mother to suffer a fatal heart attack, sending Laura back to the orphanage. Shortly thereafter, Laura turns 13 and is moved to another orphanage for older children, and receives the devastating news that Ruth was caught in a fire in McIlroy and died.

At college, Laura’s creative writing brings her to the attention of Danny, a naive man who has fallen in love with her from afar. After a botched attempt at being her secret admirer they agree to date and over time, fall in love. After their marriage Laura becomes a celebrated author of several books and gives birth to a boy, Christopher Robert. The birth was difficult, making it so she will not be able to have any children in the future.

Years later, Danny, Laura and Chris are saved from a horrific accident by the blond man’s (revealed to be named Stefan) intervention. The unnamed man shows up moments later. Both Danny and the blond man attack but Danny dies of several gunshot wounds, before Stefan kills the man and tells Laura what to say, like years ago at the grocery store. He promises to return soon and tell more, but due to mistakes, he doesn’t return until a year later, wounded, in an isolated stretch of winter woods. Laura and Chris are able to treat him at a doctor they locate in the phone book, but must battle unknown assassins shortly thereafter.

The group hides out in a small motel. Stefan recovers and finally tells his story. He was born in 1909, making him 35 years old. He is from Nazi Germany in the year 1944, and is part of secret time traveling experiments, sending agents to the future to uncover ways to change the outcome of World War II. Stefan had previously arrived in an alternate version of 1984 and had seen Laura, who was a quadriplegic because of Dr. Markwell’s drunken errors during her delivery. However, despite her disability, she wrote beautiful books of poetry which inspired Stefan to renounce his mission, and travel to difficult parts of her life to change them. However, his superior Kokoschka became suspicious of him and followed him, sending the assassins into the future to learn of their path.

With the help of Thelma, who has become rich as a comedienne and actress since her sister’s death, they gain many supplies they need. Fat Jack, an arms dealer, supplies them with guns and Vexxon nerve gas. With the aid of modern computational technology, Stefan is prepared to go back to his time. He uses the nerve gas to kill the five men on duty at the time and disposes their bodies six billion years in the future. He makes a jump to see Winston Churchill and convinces him that the institute containing the time machine must be bombed; Churchill agrees. Stefan also makes a trip to Adolf Hitler, to convince the dictator of various threads that must be cleared up, in reality sabotaging the German war effort.

While he is gone, Laura and Chris, in an empty patch of rain washed desert, are attacked by more Nazis, as records of a police stop have been discovered. Stefan returns to find Laura and Chris dead. He works around the time limit of the machine by sending Laura a message to save them. Despite this, Chris and Laura still have to battle all four men themselves. The second cylinder of nerve gas proves invaluable. It is Laura who eventually kills all four men pursuing them, as she protects Chris as best she can. In the long months that follow, Laura and Chris are questioned by the police. They soon believe a story of ‘drug dealers’ who wanted revenge. Laura backs up her story by turning over Fat Jack, something she was going to do anyway (he does not blame her, due to his personal beliefs). Stefan, who had been hiding with Thelma, comes to live with the two again. After even more time, Laura finds herself falling in love with him.

The book ends with Stefan realizing that a throw-away comment he made to Winston Churchill had lead to the downfall of the Soviet Union in this world and that this is now the “real world”, the World That Was Meant To Be.

 

My Thoughts:

This book was published in 1988 and the Terminator movie was released in 1984. Considering my thoughts about Koontz and the Terminator franchise in my Hell’s Gate Review I’ve realized that the idea comes from Koontz first, and it is also something he simply cannot “not” write about. Every story he writes usually has some sort of either time traveling or alternate reality traveling.

I think this was my most enjoyable Koontz so far, beyond Odd Thomas of course. This was also one of his longest books yet. Like I said in my Quote post, this felt like Koontz was at the top of his game when he was writing this. With this being slightly longer than his normal book, Koontz doesn’t have to rush the ending, which is one flaw of his that he doesn’t seem to see as a flaw in most of his books. I was thankful for that, as it made finishing the book more enjoyable.

Now, while I enjoyed this a lot, there was some subject matter that needs to be talked about, as it could be a real problem for people. Laura was “fated” to either be crippled or raped as a child. There are two times where she is almost child raped but her protector Stefan steps in and keeps it from happening and while nothing happens, the very idea that it “could” happen was just very disturbing. It definitely was NOT a Lolita style of story plot, but the simple inclusion of it really disturbed me. Thankfully Koontz never gets graphic, but he also doesn’t shy away from his characters stating what they plan to do to Laura. So just be aware of that particular subject matter.

I mentioned the non-rush ending, which is not typical of Koontz and how much I liked that. What I REALLY liked however was how Koontz slips in a “better” future that was “meant to be”, one without a Soviet Union. I never saw that outcome coming and seeing how he wrote it into the storyline was cool. I just smiled at how he uses time travel and the rules he sets up.

I’d recommend this book as long as you handle the tension of child Laura being in real danger.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Hell’s Gate ★★★☆☆

hellsgate (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Hell’s Gate
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 190
Words: 68K

 

Synopsis:

Victor Salsburys awakes with almost no memories and a voice in his head telling him what to do. Without emotion and almost no control, Victor obeys and kills a man, who looks just like him. Wondering what is going on, Victor follows the instructions of the voice and finds a cave and falls asleep.

Waking up 2 weeks later, Victor moves into a house in a small town. He seems to have shaken off whatever control the unseen voices had over him but he is filled with knowledge that he doesn’t know how he owns. He IS Victor Salsbury but he appears to also be something else, something stronger, faster and smarter. Victor is attacked one night by an automaton that uses weaponry Victor instinctively understands. However, Victor is wounded and is nursed back to health by the young woman who sold him the house. Victor also saw a glowing portal through the attacker came and behind that portal were beings of demonic visage.

One of Victor’s pieces of luggage turns out to be a super computer and tells him that he is an experiment from the far future where Earth and all alternate Earth’s have been conquered by the beings Victor saw. Victor is humanity’s last chance at destroying the machinery that allows the creatures to travel across the multiverse. Victor must cross the portal, make his way to Earth Prime and destroy the starship base where the demons live.

He succeed with the help of other alternate Earth humans and returns to the girl and lives happily ever after.

 

My Thoughts:

Funny thing about Koontz. Even though he re-uses the same ideas over and over, he re-uses them in different combinations so that no story is the same. We have the name Victor, proto-flesh that doesn’t bleed, inimical beings that want to destroy our world, etc. And it is a completely new story.

I had to wonder if James Cameron read this before he made the Terminator movie. While I was reading this I had to look up the published date (it was 1970 by the way) because so many of the things reminded me of the Terminator. A soldier returned to the past, portals that could only pass certain materials through, unstoppable killing machines that were vaguely humanoid. It wasn’t a play by play but the similarities were enough that it raised questions in my mind. The ending is as rushed as ever, or maybe I should say Koontz rushes the ending and has never stopped that practice even in his books today?

And yet, while I complain about stuff and only give this 3 stars, I have no intention (as of yet anyway) of stopping my reading of books by Koontz. I still enjoy them even while acknowledging their inherent weaknesses. I guess that makes him a good author? Facepalm

Oh, and that cover? It really does look like that. It is the weirdest thing ever.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

Warlock ★★★☆☆

warlock (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Warlock
Series: ———-
Author: Dean Koontz
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 221
Format: Digital Scan

 

Synopsis:

The Darklands, a loose coalition of city states presided over by General Dark, have been at war with the Orogonians, led by the tyrant Justin Matabain. There have been credible reports that the Orogonians have breached the Mountains and found the fabled land filled with technology left over before The Blank, a time of crisis 1,000 years ago.

General Dark sends a small detachment led by his most trusted Captain to Shaker Sandow. Shakers are powerful men with powers beyond the normal. They need the Shaker and his 2 apprentices to help them find this Orogonian outpost and take it for themselves, or at worst, deny it to both sides. Before the expedition even starts out though, 20 men are murdered in their beds and the 3 Shakers are set upon. Thus they all realize that the Orogonians have some spies within their midsts.

On their journey to cross the mountains and find the fabled city of treasures, the spies kill almost half the group before being revealed themselves. But they aren’t human. They are wire worm things inhabiting the bodies of their hosts and taking over. They are dealt with and killed.

Once over the mountains, the Darklanders must deal with Orogonians who have made use of such technology as airplanes and guns. Shaker Sandow uses his powers to find an unused entrance into the city where the remaining Darklanders fall victim to the descendants of genetically modified humans inhabiting the bodies of massive blue apes.

Turns out the apes were just incapacitating them all to be on the safe side, since the Orogonians had been treacherous and tried to kill all the apes. They all team up, wipe out the Orogonians in the city, take a super-submarine back to their land and wipe out most of the Tyrant’s stores of technology and his castle where he lived, thus hopefully wiping him out.

Shaker Sandow and his apprentices realize they have brought the potential for unending war back to life and envision a time when all the Shakers can come together and lead the world into a utopia of peace and knowledge.

 

My Thoughts:

This was written in 1972. It reminded me a LOT of John Christopher’s middle grade series The Sword of the Spirits trilogy that was released in 1970. Post-apocalyptic Earth with humanity rising again. Koontz is a bit more on the positive side though, with his ending foreseeing a return to the stars and a Utopia established. I did have to roll my eyes because the idea is predicated on the “fact” that knowledge alone will temper humanities’ worst impulses. Koontz has definitely bought into the Religion of Scyenze in this book. Sadly, Hitler, an extremely educated man, really taught that Generation nothing.

A decent story with some action but I didn’t feel any of the tension that I think Koontz meant to inhabit the pages. Part of that is I’m a widely read reader so nothing of this is new any more and I’ve read enough Koontz to know what he likes to write about. He likes to write about new flesh that is super in some way and while not an exact replication of that idea, the wire worms taking over the bodies were as close as could be gotten.

In regards to that “widely read reader”, there was a small section of the story where the darklanders came across an oasis of jungle land that was converted all to crystals of various kinds, ie, rubies, diamonds, sapphires, etc. Plants, animals, all turned to jewels. It immediately made me think of JG Ballard’s short story, The Illuminated Man from his Complete Short Stories Collection. That was published at least in 1964 and I’m sure Koontz “used” the idea because he thought it was cool. However, as a reader, it came across as”I don’t have enough of my own ideas so I’ll use somebody else’s to pad my own story”. That can be a fine line. Sometimes it is cool to see an idea recycled from one author to another and sometimes it really isn’t cool.

Overall, I’d call this a decent story. While it lacked the pizzazz and tension I prefer, it also didn’t end on a “pull it out of a hat” ending that I’ve experienced with some of Koontz’s other stories.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)