Let’s keep this Best Of 2019 thing going! So far, I’ve covered my favorite classic horror movie viewings of last year and now I’m on to books. I keep this rad super hero wall-mounted shelf in my office and stack up the physical books I’ve read throughout the year. As you can see in this photo, I also have a list next to it that I can put digital and library conquests on as well. It sure makes it simple to do a list like this!
Alright folks, we’re hitting the home stretch here with the last post about books I read in 2018. Hopefully, I’ll keep up on writing about the novels and non-fiction works as I read them, so these year-enders (or beginners at this point) don’t become so unwieldy, but we’ll see about that. Check out parts one and two here and here then hit the jump for the last entry.Continue reading My Favorite Book Reading Experiences Of 2018 Part 3
A few weeks back, I was trying to think of some Stephen King books to listen while driving out to Ohio to hang out with my friends from home for a weekend. Last year, I was elated with my choices of Joyland and Revival (a book I STILL think of several times a week) and hoped to have an equally great experience this time around.
After kicking around a few ideas, I settled on getting Desperation and Regulators because I read that they play well off of each other. Unfortunately, between then and leaving on the trip, we got two feet of snow and the requests didn’t come in. So, I went to the actual library and grabbed a pair of his short story books in audiobook form: Just After Sunset and The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams. Continue reading Riding With The King: Just After Sunset (2008)
Like any hopeful reader, I have boxes of books just waiting to be read in my garage and even a fair number waiting in the digital realm. There’s not much rhyme or reason to which ones I choose or why they take me so long to read, but I figured I’d put a few thoughts down about these four books I’ve finished in the relatively recent past including books by Joe Hill, Erik Larson, Tina Fey and Roger Moore. Continue reading Four Books I Liked By Joe Hill, Erik Larson, Tina Fey & Roger Moore
A few weekends back, I went on a 10-ish hour trip to hang out with some of my grade and high school buddies near Hocking Hills, Ohio. I knew I’d need some fast paced, engrossing audiobooks to listen to while I made the solo trip. When perusing that section at the library, I immediately headed to the Ks and found myself a pair of Stephen King books: Joyland and Revival. I grabbed the former because I have a hard copy in my to-read box and the latter because, well, it looked like it would get me through the rest of my trip there and all the way back. Continue reading Riding With The King: Joyland By Stephen King, Read By Michael Kelly
My wife and I primarily listen to audiobooks while driving to and from our parents’ houses. Hers live about four hours away while mine are 10. In the past few months we’ve driven out to both and also took a trip down to Philadelphia so we’ve been listening to a variety of different books at different times (partially because I lost my iPod temporarily while on the way home from Thanksgiving).
Anyway, while the iPod — which had the next book on it — was missing, we listened to The Broker a book by John Grisham as read by Dennis Boutsikaris which my inlaws passed to us. Clocking in at just about five hours, this book was a wonderful listen that stayed on point and kept us involved the entire time we listened.
The plot revolves around Joel Backman, a D.C. lobbyist who went to jail after getting mixed up with some international spy satellite tech. He’s given a surprise pardon by an outgoing president at the behest of the CIA who place him in Italy. While there, they secretly control his entire life in an effort to learn his secrets before letting the international spy community know where he is so they can kill him. Of course, Backman doesn’t know about these plans, so he does his best to learn Italian and blend in to his new surroundings, eventually catching wind that something is up before going on the run and grabbing a little insurance.
Like I said above, this book is a nice, taut thriller with a surprisingly likable character. You really start to feel for him as he tries to figure out his new life. At the same time, the spy and political worlds are dealing with the situation in various ways. Even though the scope of this book is fairly broad, it still stays focused without driving off course too much. I also enjoyed the ending which showed Backman mixing his old skills with some of the new ones he learned while on the run. All in all, I give this one a big thumbs up. For what it’s worth, this is the first Grisham book I’ve ever read or listened to which seems pretty crazy, especially considering how insanely popular he was back when I was at the peak of my voracious reading appetite.
Patricia Cornwell’s The Bone Bed, another Kay Scarpetta novel read by Kate Reading, was a lot more of a time commitment and not quite as focused as The Broker. We listened to this one on the way to and from Philly, to New Hampshire, part of the way to Michigan (after finishing The Broker) and then finished it early on our way back home after Christmas.
This time around, super duper medical examiner Kay Scarpetta is investigating or involved in a series of murders or disappearances. As the story continues, they seem to be connected and Kay eventually stumbles into the truth about what’s really going on and who is behind it all. Meanwhile, she’s also dealing with some potential problems with Marino, the advances of a young doctor she works with and her husband’s FBI partner who has eyes for him.
Bone Bed came after Port Mortuary and Red Mist. One of the big problems we had with Mortuary was that Kay wound up not doing too much in the story and was basically playing catch-up in her office while everyone else was doing things out in the field. Red Mist went a different direction as did Bone Bed, but BB did have a bit of a problem. A few actually.
First and foremost, Cornwell seems to really enjoy telling her readers about traffic patterns in and around Boston. As a reader, I could care less about these descriptions. When you’re in a story and have just read/heard something really interesting and want to get to the next stage of figuring it out, the last thing you want to learn about is a traffic jam. We listened to the unabridged version, which might have been a mistake, but I think these scenes would have been pretty boring had I read it the traditional way.
The other problem involves the end of the book. After so much detail was put into the scientific side of the investigation, SPOILER Kay winds up getting kidnapped by the killer while she’s talking to a different person altogether. Why an ME is out interviewing people is beyond me, but I can live with that. It just felt kind of quick and unearned for me. At the end of the story, she really doesn’t have any agency and doesn’t even free herself, but relies on her team to do that (though she was ready to defend herself). I get that the killer was worried because things were starting to heat up thanks to Scarpetta’s investigation, but I would have rather Scarpetta’s investigation more directly lead to the killer’s capture.
And speaking of the killer, while his motivations were really interesting, I didn’t feel like his immense skill at what he was doing was well explained. This person set a really elaborate trap with the first body discovered in the book. We understand why a person would do that, but not why this person did it, especially if their main motivation seems to revolve around killing stand-ins for a hated person. How did he even think of that crazy plan?!
At this point, we’re still pretty solid Scarpetta fans, but I’m not sure if the last few listens have been all that great. If these were books by other people would I like them as much? Probably not, but since I’m already a fan of these characters, I’m more forgiving.
Alfred Hitchcock once said that you shouldn’t make a movie out of a good book. That’s what he supposedly did with The Birds and that worked out pretty well, right? Well, apparently Steven Spielberg did the same thing with Peter Benchley’s Jaws. The book, much like the movie, finds a resort town terrorized by a great white shark. Sheriff Brody, shark scientist Matt Hooper and grizzled fisherman Quint are the only three people willing to go out and put a stop to all this.
I spent most of the day listening to this book while doing work and watching our daughter and have to say, I was pretty bored. Things start off interesting, with Brody trying to figure out how to handle this unusual problem. While, in general, I think the movie is all around better than the book, I will say that the complexities of keeping the beaches open are more deeply explored in the book and make more sense than “the mayor’s a jerk.”
Speaking of the mayor, he’s a far more detailed character in the book, but I’m not sure if that’s such a great thing. The overall problem with the book is that it spends far too much time away from the shark. As you may or may not know, there’s an entire subplot the finds Brody’s wife having an affair with Hooper, whose older brother she dated in high school. There’s a whole dinner party scene and then one where they go to dinner. All of this took about an hour in audiobook form. AN HOUR! Even worse? It didn’t really have much to do with the story other than to make us feel a little better when SPOILER Hooper dies in his shark cage (something Spielberg was supposedly going to keep in the film version, but changed for a bit of a happier ending). At the end of the day, when you’re writing a book about sharks, write about sharks.
I know I shouldn’t be comparing the book to the film as much as I am, but it’s nearly impossible because I’m so familiar with the movie and it’s one of the best films ever made. Still, there are some interesting meta elements that I noticed while listening to the book. First and foremost, the movie kicked off huge interest in sharks that we’re still experiencing today. In a roundabout way, that makes the shark action in the book much easier to picture. In fact, with the ending, I was basically watching a slightly edited version of the film in my head while it was going on.
I don’t think Jaws is necessarily a bad book — it sold like gangbusters when it came out in 1974 — but I do think it’s a less focused version of this story than Spielberg’s. In fact, had the affair subplot been excised or shortened, I would have liked it a lot more. I even enjoyed some of the characters who aren’t in the movie like Hendricks and Meadows, though completely understand why the nicer version of Hooper in the film was able to carry a lot of their weight. At the end of the day, if you’re interested in both the book and the movie, I’d read the book first and then watch the movie, which is the exact opposite thing I would suggest if you’re interested in The Shining.
Finally, I absolutely loved Brody’s line, “I’ll never be as old as I feel today.” I feel like that at least three times a week.