Saturday, December 31, 2011

My Favorite Reads of 2012!

I read 175 books this year (not counting the 2 books I'm hoping to finish up today), but here were 33 of my favorites.  No doubt I left some good books out!

Kate's 2011-favorite-reads book montage

Curse of the Wolf Girl
The Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest
Minding Frankie
The Book Thief
Started Early, Took My Dog
The Peach Keeper
The Girl Who Chased the Moon
32 Candles: A Novel
Mr. Monster
The Last Little Blue Envelope
The Night Bookmobile
A Discovery of Witches
I Don't Want to Kill You
The Night Season
Robopocalypse: A Novel
Not a Fan: Completely. Committed. Follower

Kate's favorite books »


What were some of your favorite reads in 2011?  Did any of mine make it on your list?

Happy New Years!!!  May the best book you read in 2011 be the worst book you read in 2012!
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Friday, December 30, 2011

More 2012 Challenges!

So, you know I can't resist a Reading Challenge... although I am pretty resistant at finishing them... Oh, well, 2012 will be a new year so you never know when they'll come up with a cure for procrastinator's like me!

Here's some more challenges I'm joining, you can find the complete list on my left hand side bar.

Basically all this challenge requires is for you to pick book titles (the first letter in each title) that spells out your name. Now obviously, Midnight Book Girl would be a ridiculous choice, so I'm going with KATE.  It seems like a fun challenge, and one that's within my powers to actually finish!!

I did this challenge in 2011 and actually finished it!  I love the treasure hunt aspect to this challenge, and this year I'll have to read books who's titles refer to: topographical features, something you'd see in the sky, creepy crawly, type of house, something you'd carry in your pocket, purse or backpack, and something you'd find on a calender.  This one can be a bit tricky, but it's 6 books in all and I'm hoping it will lead to some creative reading on my part!

What I like about this challenge is that I have already decided that I have to do something about my crazy TBR shelves.  Most of them are books I really, really want to read!  It's insane to keep piling up books that I'm not reading.  So no more of that!  I'm going to focus on trying to get it under control so that I can enjoy shopping for new books without the guilt of those dying a slow death on my shelves.  There's different levels for this challenge, but I'm choosing Mt. Ararat, which is 40 books.  I hope to go higher, but I want to keep it realistic too.  I read 175 books or so in 2011, there's no reason on earth that I can't get to 40 books off my own darn shelves in 2012!  I plan on getting to 3-5 books on my tbr shelves a month, which would put me at 60 tbr books, but I don't want to push my luck.  

I'm going big on this one, since it coincides with my Mount TBR challenge.  I'm choosing to do the Semi level and here's the 13 books I plan on getting to:
1. Across the Universe
2. Bran Hambric and the Fairfield Curse
3. Anna and the French Kiss
4. Matched
5. Anna Dressed in Blood
6. The Invention of Hugo Cabret
7. Twenty Boy Summer
8. Drive
9. What My Best Friend Did
10. The Forest of Hands and Teeth
11. Feed
12. Uglies
13. The Screwtape Letters 

Books You Can Read In A Day Challenge:

I'm going with Level 1 on this challenge, which is to read 15 books- not all at once, but separately, in one day.  Here's a (partial) list of books I already have in mind:

1. Digit: She's Got Your Number by Annabelle Monaghan
2. Drive by James Sallis
3. Anna Dressed in Blood
4. Bewitching
5. Smokin' Seventeen

A-Z 2012 Challenge

I love this challenge and am so glad that Kim of Page After Page is hosting it.  I had a huge problems with letters K and Y, but was able to pull out a win in 2011.  Of course I got lucky with some of my letters, like Queen of the Dead, Zombies Vs. Unicorns, and XVI... so 2012 might be a bit more difficult!!

Reading Challenge Addict!

Feeling as addicted to reading challenges as I am?  Then this is a great group to join!  Plus it's a great way to learn of even MORE Reading Challenge!!
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

Read Me Baby Wrap Up

It's almost time to bid adieu to 2011 and to wrap up the Read Me Baby, 1 More Time Challenge!  Fortunately the best thing about re-reading books is that it's never truly goodbye.  So how'd you do this year?  Would you be surprised to know that I didn't do that much re-reading myself?  2011 was my year to let go and to challenge myself to read more, so I just didn't have time to curl up with all my old favorites, although I always find time for old literary friends.   I'm sorry I didn't do a bang up job at hosting my first challenge, but I've learned from my mistakes... I hope!!

Comment below and tell me how you did, or link a post!  And if you didn't participate, just let me know what books you're hoping to re-read in 2012.  I'm looking forward to some Harry Potter re-reads and The Night Circus- loved that book and I really want to spend some more time with it!

 So even though I was a pretty dismal host of this year's Read Me Baby 1 More Time Challenge, I will be hosting again in 2012... but with some changes.  There will be a place to link up any reviews of books you've re-read every month (I will master the art of Mr. Linky!) and I'm going to encourage lots of comments on these reviews from all of us participating.  That's going to be a big part of 2012 and blogging for me- community.  Lori is busy designing a new challenge button for us, so I should have the new Challenge post up by Tuesday.  Lori designed my challenge button last year and then this past May she turned my blog into something magical (seriously, check out her designs if you're thinking of a makeover, she's ah-mazing!). 
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper 
by Sarah Addison Allen
From Goodreads:
It’s the dubious distinction of thirty-year-old Willa Jackson to hail from a fine old Southern family of means that met with financial ruin generations ago. The Blue Ridge Madam—built by Willa’s great-great-grandfather during Walls of Water’s heyday, and once the town’s grandest home—has stood for years as a lonely monument to misfortune and scandal. And Willa herself has long strived to build a life beyond the brooding Jackson family shadow. No easy task in a town shaped by years of tradition and the well-marked boundaries of the haves and have-nots.

But Willa has lately learned that an old classmate—socialite do-gooder Paxton Osgood—of the very prominent Osgood family, has restored the Blue Ridge Madam to her former glory, with plans to open a top-flight inn. Maybe, at last, the troubled past can be laid to rest while something new and wonderful rises from its ashes. But what rises instead is a skeleton, found buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree, and certain to drag up dire consequences along with it.

For the bones—those of charismatic traveling salesman Tucker Devlin, who worked his dark charms on Walls of Water seventy-five years ago—are not all that lay hidden out of sight and mind. Long-kept secrets surrounding the troubling remains have also come to light, seemingly heralded by a spate of sudden strange occurrences throughout the town.

Now, thrust together in an unlikely friendship, united by a full-blooded mystery, Willa and Paxton must confront the dangerous passions and tragic betrayals that once bound their families—and uncover truths of the long-dead that have transcended time and defied the grave to touch the hearts and souls of the living.
My Thoughts: Loved this book! The only thing that would have made this book better is if there had been  more detail from Georgie and Agatha's time, and a little more Devlin, but still it's a fantastic, up all night read!  Allen's books are truly magical, she does, after all, write "magical realism".  While I personally like The Girl Who Chased the Moon, I know other readers didn't feel it measured up to Garden Spells and The Sugar QueenThe Peach Keeper is closer to the first two books than TGWCtM.  I have loved Sarah Addison Allen's writing from her very first novel, and now that she has four books under her belt I can officially claim her as one of my favorite all time writers.  When I give books as gifts, she is one of the authors I love to introduce people to.   So... how long until her next book?

Another reason to love this book- Willa's assistant, Rachel, and her ability to tell things about people through their coffee orders.  

The Peach Keeper gets a Midnight Book Rating of:
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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Hope you all got all the bookish presents you wanted (not needed, since we all have more books in our tbr pile than we can ever get to) and wishing you a great ending to 2011.

Christmas has been a little sad for us this year, since we lost our cat, Joey, on Monday.  She, yes Joey was a girl- named after Joey Ramone, was with us for over 8 wonderful years and we will miss her!

On a happier note, I made our Christmas tree out of books!  I still need to add lights, but this thing is staying up forever!  It's a little sad that taking all these books off my shelves barely made a difference...

(presents and fake snow were added digitally)

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Unraveling Isobel Review

Unraveling Isobel 
By Eileen Cook
From Goodreads:
 "Thrilling and creepy, super sexy, and so very hilarious." --Lisa McMann, bestselling author of the Wake trilogy.

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.
But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

My Thoughts:  Unraveling Isobel features some of my favorite YA topics- ghosts and hot stepbrothers.  Mental illness also makes an appearance, but unlike the recent Life is but a Dream, this book features the more common plot tool of "is the heroine crazy or haunted?".  For me this was the only draw back of the book as mental illness has a huge stigma in our society and for most of the book Isobel's mom, and Isobel to a point, treat the threat of schizophrenia as if it's the bubonic plague.  The author does a good job of making up for it at the end, which I thought was sorely needed.  Yes, schizophrenia is bad, but it's a mental illness that can be treated, like high cholesterol or diabetes.

Okay, getting back to what I loved about this book, because I realize that the above paragraph might make you think I didn't like the book, but I really, really did!  This is my first Cook book (sorry :), but I loved her writing style.  It was snarky and funny.  Isobel was an infinitely relate-able character.  It's easy to be on Isobel's side in the beginning of the book when she's forced to move her senior year because her mom has decided to marry a man she recently met on the internet.  Especially when the new stepfather's name is Richard, aka Dick, Wickham (for all you Pride & Prejudice fans out there you know that can't be good).  And now Isobel is stuck living in a huge house, sorry- estate, called Morrigan (again a omnious name for any King Arthur fan out there) on a tiny island.

The upside is that house and stepdad come with a cute, hunky stepbrother. And even though Isobel is forced to utilize the town library in order to get dirt on Morrigan, she's aided by a likeable librarian.  It's a bit nice to see some research done old school style and not just on Google.  Isobel is determined to discover if she's going crazy or being haunted by Dick's dead daughter- because his wife and daughter died under tragic circumstances just the year before.

You'd think having a creepy new stepdad, a possible haunted house and a questionable crush on your stepbrother (because while it's not incest you have to admit it's a bit weird, since they have to live with each other) would be enough for Isobel to contend with.  But the house and new family come with more secrets and for some reason the resident head Mean Girl wants to mold Isobel into a happy little Stepford bff.

So back to what didn't work for me- Isobel's mom.  The woman is self-absorbed and ridiculous.  Her behavior seems a bit out there to me, but that said there are plenty of self-absorbed and selfish parents in the world.  The other problem I had was small, and a bit spoilerish, but I would think that if I was a psychiatrist  working out of my home I'd make darn sure that the heating vent in my office didn't allow my teenage daughter to spy on my private conversations with clients.  Just saying...

Although I knew from the beginning that Isobel wasn't going all Girl, Interrupted on us, Cook delivers a good twist at the end.  It's not that it was a surprise per say, but the details were unexpected.  But honestly it wouldn't have mattered even in the ending had been predictable since I really enjoyed the characters so much. 

Good ghost stories are hard to come by, but Unraveling Isobel is proof that they are out there.  I feel comfortable recommending this read, although for those of you that have a low tolerance for cursing in YA books you should know that there is some in this book.  I don't know that it needed it, but it's pretty realistic considering teens in real life swear.  Except for the Duggar teens and of course the perfect angel you have raised (or will raise in the future).  ;)  The sexuality is pretty tame, yet still a tad steamy since we are dealing with the topic of hot stepbrother.  Trust me, Glee is more explicit.

Unraveling Isobel gets a Midnight Book Rating of:

It's not quite a Midnight Read, but it'll keep you up and turning the pages nevertheless.  And while I love the cover, I probably would have gone a bit darker since it seems a little light for the story contained inside. I also rated it slightly higher here than on Goodreads but that's only because Goodreads doesn't allow the half star, which I find to be very necessary in ratings!

***I read Unraveling Isobel as part of the Around The World Arc Tours, but all opinions, snark and wit are my own.  I was not given anything to sway my opinion and passed the book on to the next tour member on the list.

Expected Book Release Date: 01/03/2012
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Juliet Review

by Anne Fortier
From Goodreads:
Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. 
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?
From Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.
My Thoughts: I really loved this book, but then I've been a fan of the Romeo and Juliet since high school. This was a great, mysterious and intriguing look at the origins of the play, and the love that inspired it. I don't know if this book is for everyone, but if you liked The Historian or Discovery of Witches, then you'll probably like this book. And if you don't already have your passport up to date, then you'll want to get it before you pick up Juliet, as Siena, Italy is described in great detail. Just don't go with any anti-war protestors like Julie did on her first visit!
Juliet gets a Midnight Book Rating of: 

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What The Night Knows

What the Night Knows
by Dean Koontz
From Goodreads:
In the late summer of a long ago year, a killer arrived in a small city. His name was Alton Turner Blackwood, and in the space of a few months he brutally murdered four families. His savage spree ended only when he himself was killed by the last survivor of the last family, a fourteen-year-old boy.

Half a continent away and two decades later, someone is murdering families again, recreating in detail Blackwood’s crimes. Homicide detective John Calvino is certain that his own family—his wife and three children—will be targets in the fourth crime, just as his parents and sisters were victims on that distant night when he was fourteen and killed their slayer.

As a detective, John is a man of reason who deals in cold facts. But an extraordinary experience convinces him that sometimes death is not a one-way journey, that sometimes the dead return.

Here is ghost story like no other you have read. In the Calvinos, Dean Koontz brings to life a family that might be your own, in a war for their survival against an adversary more malevolent than any he has yet created, with their own home the battleground. Of all his acclaimed novels, none exceeds What the Night Knows in power, in chilling suspense, and in sheer mesmerizing storytelling.
My Thoughts: A little darker than some of his more recent books, What the Night Knows is still full of what Koontz does best- precocious kids and magical dogs, although the dog's part is small. What the Night Knows is about John, who lost his entire family to a serial killer. Before 14 year old John kills Alton Turner Blackwood, the killer makes a promise to return some day when John has kids. Flash forward 20 years, and John is meeting with Billy, a 14 year old with choir boy looks who just blew away his entire family, his crimes and words echoing Alton Turner Blackwood. Now John, his wife and his 3 adorable moppets, sorry, children, are in danger, as are other innocent families.

There were lots of things I liked about this book, but they are also things that might turn people off of it. First the kids, they are all pretty perfect and speak like tiny adults, it's not very realistic buy hey, they are home schooled. Like most Koontz books, this is about a struggle against good and evil, and it is clear what side Koontz is rooting for, and although this book is about a truly heinous serial killer there is still an underlying faith. There are also lots of extra characters, most are not the cute, harmless friends and neighbors one sees in other Koontz books, as these are people who walk the darker side of the streets, but the reader is given a glimpse into their minds, and they are known.

Koontz's writing full on Odd Thomas, and I think it would almost be better to listen to the audio version of this book. There are whole passages that would come alive if read out loud, but otherwise feels a bit cumbersome at times as you're reading. And although you get to read Alton Turner Brown's journal, I still don't know why he picked whole families to kill, or why no one in the Calvino house talks of the haunted feeling the house acquires upon Blackwood's return.

Overall it was a Koontz win for me. It is very violent, maybe more violent than I've come to expect from Koontz, but he stays away from Richard Laymon territory. There's always hope in Dean Koontz books, yes there will be death and despair, but there's still the hope that good can defeat evil.

What the Night Knows gets a Midnight Book Rating of:

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Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's Challenge Time!

That's right, readers, it's Challenge Time!  And yes, I am doing the hammer dance as I type this up.

So 2011 went better for me than 2010 as far as challenges go.  I actually completed several, crashed and burned on a few, and made a poor attempt to host my own challenge (which I will be wrapping up soon, so for those participating in the Read Me Baby, 1 More Time challenge, I have not forgotten you!).  I doubt I'll be hosting any challenges this year, although I thought about doing the Re-read challenge again but the truth is that I've had less and less time to re-read books since finding a billion new books to read through all of your blogs.  So what challenges will I be doing in 2012?  Here's what I'm starting with:

1. The 15,000 Page Challenge hosted by my friend, Courtney, at Abducted By Books.

The challenge is to read 15,000 pages in 2012!

Basically, in the year 2011 a lot of my reading centered around reading graphic novels and listening to audio books. So when I was thinking about how I wanted to challenge myself in 2012, I decided to challenge myself on how many pages I read.

It will break down like this...

read 41 pages a day
read 100 books of 150 pages 
read 75 books of 200 pages
read 50 books of 300 pages
read 30 books of 500 pages
read 15 books of 1000 pages

Do you see how easy this will be?


1. You have to actually read the pages, i.e. no audio books but I will include e-books since you are actually reading the words. Just look up the book on goodreads or amazon to get a page count number and I trust you to be fair.
2. Graphic Novels are not including because a majority of this genre is centered around the graphics and not the text.
3. You can only include the pages you read between January 1st, 2012 and December 31st, 2012.
4. You can only include the pages you actually read, so if the book has appendixes but you choose not to read them, don't include them in your final tally.
 Chances of Success For Yours Truly: High

2. 2012 YA Contemporary Challenge hosted by Reading Angel and Katie's Book Blog.


There are different levels that you can choose to challenge yourself in:
Level 1: 5+ books
Level 2: 10+ books
Level 3: 15+ books
You can read any contemporary YA novel that is published between January 1, 2012and December 30, 2012 but you must read them in 2012! (All formats accepted: paperback, ARC, e-book)
I'm going for Level 2 for now.  I do a lot of ARC tours now so that will help, especially as I'm really trying not to buy any books that aren't absolute must haves.

1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
2.  Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
3.  Red Heart Tattoo by Lurlene McDaniel
4.  Dead To You by Lisa McMann
5.  Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

I will add links to the titles as I read and review them for this challenge.

Chances of Success For Yours Truly: Fairly High

More to Come!
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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Blood and Chocolate Review

Blood and Chocolate Review
By Annette Curtis Klause
From Goodreads:
Vivian Gandillon relishes the change, the sweet, fierce ache that carries her from girl to wolf. At sixteen, she is beautiful and strong, and all the young wolves are on her tail. But Vivian still grieves for her dead father; her pack remains leaderless and in disarray, and she feels lost in the suburbs of Maryland. She longs for a normal life. But what is normal for a werewolf?
Then Vivian falls in love with a human, a meat-boy. Aiden is kind and gentle, a welcome relief from the squabbling pack. He's fascinated by magic, and Vivian longs to reveal herself to him. Surely he would understand her and delight in the wonder of her dual nature, not fear her as an ordinary human would.
Vivian's divided loyalties are strained further when a brutal murder threatens to expose the pack. Moving between two worlds, she does not seem to belong in either. What is she really—human or beast? Which tastes sweeter—blood or chocolate?
My Thoughts:  I've been meaning to read this book for years, and I actually saw the movie when it came out, although the plot in the book is fairly different from what I remember about the movie.  I liked Vivian as a character- she's not insecure, she's not whimpy, and she's not a victim waiting for the right boy to save her like so many other heroines of YA.  The struggles Vivian faced were handled well, and her pack dynamic was very interesting.  Normally I don't particularly care for werewolves, but this past year I seem to be enjoying them more and more (the Shiver series, the Lonely Werewolf books).  Vivian's mom is a piece of work, though, and the romance with Aiden definitely does not follow YA teen formula.  All this works for me.  Plus for a 1990's YA book, there's lots of smexy smex going on, which is a bit surprising.  Of course, the 1990's books I was reading as teen were the early 90's and dominated by R.L. Stine (no sex), Christopher Pike (some sex but all older teens) and L.J. Smith (hinted sex, but all off screen and just the "bad girls").  By the time Blood and Chocolate came out I was already in college (and I use "in college" loosely, as I was there, but not really there, as in "not really in class". Which might be why I have a book blog instead of owning a book store- education, people!  Take it seriously!)  So, back to the book, it was good.  I liked it, even though I have as much in common with Vivian as I do a supermodel (which is NOTHING, not even the same species).

Blood and Chocolate gets a Midnight Book Rating of:
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Last Little Blue Envelope Review (in which I give much love to Maureen Johnson)

The Last Little Blue Envelope
by Maureen Johnson
From Goodreads:
Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny's backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.
Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he's found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart. This time, there are no instructions.
My Thoughts: There are few sequels that are better than the original novels, but it seems that every Maureen Johnson book I read is suddenly my all time favorite! Maureen is an amazingly funny writer, I was underlining quotes like crazy- the one dig at Nicolas Sparks was a particular favorite. New characters Ellis and Oliver were wonderful additions. Ginny really matured as a character and was far less passive this time around.  Her European adventures from the first book have given her some confidence, and I went from liking the first book to loving the second book. I always know I'm going to laugh when I pick up one of Johnson's books, and that's a great thing to be able to depend upon.

I hope for further adventures starring Ginny, and I now realize that I must read all of Johnson's books. I follow her on twitter (she's hilarious) and the same wit and silliness are evident in her writing. The Last Little Blue Envelope was a fantastic up-all-night kind of read, and just like Aunt Peg's letter, I don't want an ending!

The Last Little Blue Envelope gets a Midnight Book Rating of:

You, and by you I mean all of you reading this, all of you not reading this, and all of you who actively block me from your lives, need Maureen Johnson in your life.  If I could kidnap her, clone her and give her as a Christmas gift I would.  But until the technology catches up with my diabolical mind, I'll just have to settle with telling you that you must read her books.  You must.  Right now.  Okay, maybe after a few minutes if you need to grab a bite to eat or check her out on twitter.
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Monday, December 5, 2011

11/22/63 Review

By Stephen King
From Goodreads:
 On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King's heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination-a thousand page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment-a real life moment-when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students-a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning's father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake's friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane-and insanely possible-mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake's new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake's life-a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.

A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best.

My Thoughts: Is there any topic, any era that Stephen King can't bring to life? I don't think so either. I loved how he brought the late 50's and early 60's to life- yes, certain aspects of life back then were simpler, but King also reminds us that 10 cent gallons of milk come with racism, sexism and choking cigarette smoke. Sure you could leave your doors unlock, but you also stayed with your husband after he beat you. Yes, you could pick up hitchhikers without getting your throat slashed, but it was best not to be caught talking about equal rights for women. I recently watched a 1964 movie called "Kisses For My President" about the first female president having to handle her husband's pride while also trying to be the leader of the free world. Then she gets pregnant and, of course, steps down as president, and her husband tells her "You know, darling, it took 40 million women to get you in the White House but only one man to get you out." It's supposed to be a chuckle moment, and indeed the wife, former Madame President, just smiles instead of decking him. Because that's how it was in the Land of Ago- as Stephen King calls it. Of course a communist would have had a better chance of getting elected as President in 1964 than a woman, but the movie is a comedy.

Back to the book: I am astounded by the thought and research this book required of King and his helpers. He first came up with the idea in the 70's but I'm glad he waited. The idea that changing one big act in the past could change the course of our future is thrilling. Because while I don't buy into the whole Kennedy fairytale, I do think his assassination ended whatever innocence our country still had back then. And the idea that if Kennedy hadn't died then maybe Martin Luther King, Jr and Bobby Kennedy would have lived too, that maybe John Lennon would have been somewhere else, that Vietnam wouldn't have happened... life is based on so many chances and decisions that it just boggles the mind.

But in King's time travel tale, the past isn't that easy to change, because it doesn't want to be changed. It's not as simple as walking up to Lee Harvey Oswald and slipping some arsenic in his soda. And the main character, Jake, wants to make sure that Oswald really is the killer. I have always believed that he was the lone shooter, but there have been so many conspiracy theories it's hard not to have some doubts. Would you want to go back in time to shoot a man that might not even be guilty and still have Kennedy assassinated by some shadowy group? And if you are able to change the past, what kind of future are you going back to?

11/22/63 is a brilliant novel, it's not quite The Stand or It for me, but it's still a thrilling read. I am thankful to whatever muse is wielding the whip to keep King writing, because I don't know if I want to live in a world that isn't graced with his imagination.

I often say that I'd love to live inside Stephen King's mind, but that's not exactly true.  I just want to be able to visit once and awhile.  Although there's lots to like about 11/22/63, the best part of me was seeing Bev and Richie from It.  They make a quick cameo as Jake heads to 1958's Derry to stop a brutal murder.  I've been blessed with amazing friends, but part of me will always feel a part of the Loser's Club with Stuttering Bill, Bev, Beep-beep Richie, Stan, Ben, Mike and Eddie ("This is battery acid, you slime!").   I wish there was a Stephen King amusement park, where you could explore the sewers of Derry, take the Cujo car ride, a dance at Carrie's prom- just be sure to leave before she's crowned Prom Queen!  Seriously, how is this not already in production?

“I had been hobbled, perhaps even crippled by a pervasive internet society I had come to depend on and take for granted... hit enter and let Google, that twenty-first century Big Brother, take care of the rest.

In the Derry of 1958, the most up-to-date computers were the size of small housing developments, and the local paper was no help. What did that leave? I remembered a sociology prof I’d had in college - a sarcastic old bastard - who used to say, When all else fails, give up and go to the library.”

 “On that gray street, with the smell of industrial smokes in the air and the afternoon bleeding away to evening, downtown Derry looked only marginally more charming than a dead hooker in a church pew.”
“Like all sweet dreams, it will be brief, but brevity makes sweetness, doesn't it?”

 “The past is obdurate.” 
 11/22/63 gets a Midnight Book Rating of:

Because, really, if King can't give me a Midnight Read than who can?  Happy readings!
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