Saturday, November 26, 2011


by Stephen King
2011 Scribner
Rating: 4/5

     I am a huge fan of Stephen King's short fiction. His last book Full Dark, No Stars was one of the darkest things I have read in years. I have not read one of his long novels in almost 10 years, but the subject manner of this one convinced me to give it a try.
     Jake Epping is a recently-divorced high school teacher in a small town in Maine. He gets a call from a Friend who runs a local diner. All shows him a portal in the diver that goes back to September of 1958. Al is obsessed with using the portal to go back and stop the JFK assassination, but has so far not been able to do so. He is now ill and recruits Jake to try to stop Lee Harvey Oswald.
     Jake sets out to do that, along with fixing a few other wrongs that he thinks should be righted. What he does not count on is that time has a way of trying to keep the timeline unchanged. In the 5 years of the past he has to live through before November of 1963, Jake gets in and out of trouble, meets a wonderful woman in Josie, Texas, and tracks the movements of Lee Harvey.
     As usual, King is a master of characters and dialogue, the conversation in the book almost always ring true. The book may be a bit overlong at 849 pages, but it reads quickly. The New York Times said
 "The pages of “11/22/63” fly by, filled with immediacy, pathos and suspense. It takes great brazenness to go anywhere near this subject matter. But it takes great skill to make this story even remotely credible. Mr. King makes it all look easy, which is surely his book’s fanciest trick."
     I got lost in this book, staying up way too late several nights to get through one more (and then another) chapter. One thing that did pull me out of King's world is that he got small facts wrong occasionally. They are things that won't bother most readers, but local sports fans or Ft. Worth residents may stop and say "That's not right!" As the book started to wind down, I became concerned that King was going in a bad direction with the ending, but he pulled it off with several satisfying twists.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Adjustment

The Adjustment
by Scott Phillips
2011 Counterpoint
Rating: 3/5

     As far as I am concerned, Scott Phillips has yet to turn out a bad book. The Adjustment is my least favorite of his titles so far, but I still had a hell of a time reading it. All of his book are dark and the characters pretty unlikable, but I still root for them. Publisher's Weekly says; "The author's unapologetic depiction of a thoroughly bad egg will appeal to hard-boiled fans who don't need redeeming features to become engaged with a character."
     Wayne Ogden has returned from to Wichita, Kansas from being a supply sergeant in the Quartermaster Corps. He is trying to fit back into regular life in after blackmarketeering and pimping across the European Theater during WWII. Now he is the bagman and fixer for the head of Collins Aircraft.
     Phillips has a sick sense of humor and a real talent for creating characters from way on the wrong side of the tracks. Wayne Ogden has appeared as a supporting character in The Walkaway, and his story is also tied into The Ice Harvest. Just a  note, Phillips' Cottonwood is one of the most twisted books I have ever read, a Western fiilled with sex drugs, serial killers, and one hell of a tornado.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


by Jeffrey Eugenides
2002 Picador
Rating: 4/5

     Yes, I am almost 10 years late to the party on this winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize For Fiction. It has been recommended to me by many friends and customers, but I just never hit that tipping point that got me to read it. I recently read an excellent review of The Marriage Plot, the author's newest book, and decided I needed to seek out this previous title.
     Middlesex is the story of Cal Stephanides, a hermaphrodite man raised as a girl. The first half of the novel is about Cal's family, and depicts his grandparents' escape from Smyrna, a Greek city in now in Turkey, to America 1922. I found this part of the book fascinating. I loved the characters and their assimilation into American society. The first two generations of the family's struggle to make it in the Detroit area was well told, a great dose of history along with wonderful storytelling.
     Unfortunately, I felt the second half of the book, with Cal's discovery that she is a man, fell short of the power of the first half. Other than the physical and genetic problem, Cal was not anywhere near as interesting a character to me as the rest of her family. For me, Middlesex was a fantastic read, just not quite as good as I was expecting.