Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes

Stephen King is by far my favorite author.  Every time I hear he has a new book coming out I just can’t wait to pick it up and read.  His latest novel is Mr. Mercedes and it did not disappoint.Mr. Mercedes

If you’re looking for a King horror book, this isn’t the one to get – Mr. Mercedes is more along the lines of  a suspense/thriller book.  There are no scary monsters, cars that come to life on their own, or a telepathic type power that can kill at will.  The scary monsters are all too human and the car, while the weapon that harms, maims, and kills is a car, it’s not one that acts of its own accord.

The book starts out with the action that spurs the story line.  A classic Mercedes plows into a large group of unemployed people lining up and waiting for a job fair to start.  Somehow the driver escapes without a trace, even though he leaves the car behind.  The killer is dubbed “Mr. Mercedes”

Next we meet recently retired Detective Bill Hodges.  His retirement is one of boredom, monotony, and borderline depression.  One day Bill receives a letter from Mr. Mercedes which snaps Bill out of his rut.  He’s invigorated and feels as though he once again has a purpose.  The retired detective is compelled to investigate the case he wasn’t able to close before retiring.  He pulls in a trusted neighbor/handyman to help with the investigation, while at the same time using his police contacts to help, albeit, dipping in the realm of hiding evidence from those same contacts.  Hodges also makes a connection with the sister of the women who owned the Mercedes used in the killing.  This connection brings him into contact with an unexpected and valuable resource.  This leads to a fun trio of “investigators” who work well together and compliment each other in any areas the other is lacking.the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-button

I really enjoyed this book – it had a quick pace and kept me interested.  I had laughed at myself when I picked up the book and thought “this feels light and seems kind of short”.  The book is over 400 pages.  If you’re a regular King reader you know a lot of his books are long.  So, a 400 page book seems like nothing compared to the usual.  I think Stephen King has evolved as a writer over the years.  He’s always been good, but as time has progressed, you can see how he’s become more of a nuanced writer.   He can still give his constant readers the horror stories they love and have come to know him for, while at the same time give those same readers something a little different and new.

This constant reader highly suggests this book if you’re a fan of Stephen King.  Even if you’re not, this may be one to pick up.  It’s not the horror King is known for.  It’s well written, light on the number of characters and interesting.  King has made it known Mr. Mercedes is the first in a trilogy so fair warning for those who don’t like to read a book just to wait for the next one to come out. The ending of this book didn’t feel like an open ending, so I’d say it’s safe to read it right now!

FX’s Tyrant

Last night FX premiered their show Tyrant.  My reaction – wow, this show is bad.  Tyrant is about Bassam “Barry” Al-Fayeed” and how he returns to the fictional Middle Eastern country of Abbudin for his young nephews wedding. Barry’s father is the ruthless dictator of this fictional country, which Barry fled when he was 16.

Where to begin with what is bad?  Well, first off, the guy who plays Barry, Adam Rayner isn’t even Middle Eastern – he’s British and American.  Usually I don’t take issue with someone’s nationality in a role.  However, in a show where the main plot is a man from a Middle Eastern whose family is of the same and the main guy isn’t of that same ilk, makes no sense.  Then there’s Barry’s kids – the stereo-typical self-centered American kids.  The 16-year-old son is self-absorbed and snotty, while his 17-year-old sister looks upon the country she’s visiting with contempt.  The son, when arriving in Abbudin, is clearly taken with his relatives wealth and power.  Never a good sign for a kid who’s had an easy life so far.

Barry’s wife is not a developed character.  She spends most of this episode staring at her husband, trying to get him to share his thoughts and feelings.  It’s obvious that Barry is a man who is not one to pour his heart out each and every time something bad happens.  Towards the end of the first episode, when Barry is trying to fly back home after some stressful scenes, his wife again tries to get him to talk.  When Barry keeps saying “not now” his wife starts to cry and states she doesn’t know how much longer she can deal with this, threatening a possible divorce.  Really?  You have one bad incident with your husband and you are ready to call it quits?  Just made me dislike her so.

When Barry and his family arrive in Abbudin, his brother meets him at the airport, right after the brother raped a married woman in a room where her husband and children could hear what was going on.  His brother is clearly a scumbag.  His further scenes back this notion up.  Barry’s father appears to be very happy with Barry’s return but we get glimpses of the type of man his father is.  It’s not a good man.

The episode ends with the future of Barry and his family up in the air.  Are they trapped in this country, will they be able to leave of their own accord, is Barry really the Tyrant of this show?  Previews of upcoming episodes don’t look promising.  His wife seems like she becomes more annoying and the portrayal of the people in Abbudin doesn’t seem to flatter them.

I don’t know if I’ll watch future episodes of this show.  I was not impressed with what I’ve seen so far.  FX seems to have wasted an opportunity to have a show about a different culture and life.  Instead they give viewers a bunch of drivel, poorly developed characters and a bad story line.  The future of this show is definitely up in the air.

Songs Only You Know by Sean Madigan Hoen

I don’t read too many memoirs.  It’s not that I’m uninterested in them, more of a I have too many other books to read and if I start tossing in memoirs, I’ll go broke and have no time to read anything.  Then I saw Songs Only You Know by Sean Madigan Hoen sitting on the “discover new writers” shelf in the bookstore and I had to get it.

The thing that drew me in was Hoen’s involvement in the music world.  He was involved in the Detroit punk scene of the 90’s. Image taken from sohopress.comMy best friend tuned me into the punk scene when we were in high school and, although I don’t follow it now, I still love to read books about it because it reminds me of my best friend and the good times we had.  Sean’s story is about the struggle he faced with the self-implosion of his family as well as his own battle to come to terms with his own demons.the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-button

Hoen’s family started out in a good way but when his dad’s crack cocaine habit surfaces, things go to hell for everyone.  Sean’s dad goes from bingeing to rehab over and over again.  During this time Sean’s mom does her best to keep the family together and provide the support and love they need.  At the same time Sean’s sister starts a spiral into depression that causes great heartache and sorrow for everyone.  Sean deals with all the things going on by immersing himself into a band where he can hide from his family and let all his anger and emotions out.

Songs Only You Know is a well written but overall sad book.  When his sister loses her battle with depression you can feel Sean’s pain and know that he will forever miss her.  I teared up reading that part of the book – it was written with such emotion and true feeling and was refreshing to read something that wasn’t hidden by typical sentiments.  I could identify with Sean because it seems as he internalized everything, something I do myself.  Hoen doesn’t hold back, he admits his faults as well as is aware enough to know he needs to make a change.   Although it does take a long time to realize this and a few relationships are lost because of this.

I thought this was a compelling and honest account of the writers life.  I do wish he would have offered a better tie up at the end, but I don’t think Hoen has had that yet.  And it’s really too much to ask someone offer up a nice clean ending when their past is so muddled.

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Joe Ledger has just came face to face with a guy he knew he had killed a few days ago.  How can this be?  There has to be something going on that Joe doesn’t know about.  That something would be a new biological weapon that is suspected of being released in the next few days: Zombies.

In the novel Patient Zero, by Jonathan Maberry, zombies take on a whole new meaning.  Weapons to be used by suspected terrorPatient Zero, a Joe Ledger Novel by Jonathan Maberryists as well as by a pharmaceutical giant.  Joe Ledger is the man who is asked to lead the fight against the zombies and help find out who is making ththe-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-buttonem and where they are coming from.  Joe is a Detective for the Baltimore police and has a military background as well as excellent fighting skills and an ability to think while the action is erupting right in front of his face.

I have to admit that I went into reading this book thinking it was about something else.  I read a synopsis of the book but it was very short and didn’t offer much in the way of details.  When I realized the book was more of a thriller/suspense one that was focused on Joe Ledger, I was surprised and had to think of this book in a new way.  Not to say the book was bad – it wasn’t – just that it wasn’t what I thought and had to adjust my thinking.

Joe is a man’s man but has a soft, decent side to him.  Joe is recruited to work with the DMS – Department of Military Science – a top-secret agency that has technology no one else has even heard of or seen.  The DMS is also able to act with impunity and has a direct line to the president.  Ledger is thrown into action quickly with no time to get to know his team or with the needed knowledge of what is really going on.  His good friend and psychologist, Rudy, is unexpectedly thrown into action with the DMS as well.  The zombies Joe and the DMS face are ones that are made – not quite the risen dead, rather a manufactured virus that they come to face in various stages of speed and viciousness. The brains behind the zombies think no one will ever find out who they are.  A brilliant but egotistical scientist is on the bad side.  The bad guys use terrorists to their advantage as well.

The pace of this book was good, not too fast and not too slow.  This is definitely an action type book and I can see this easily being made into a movie.  The ending chapters got a little bit too winded and long for me.  They seemed too much like a long drawn out action scene that is in need of some editing.  There was a tinge of too much macho-ness for me as well but I still enjoyed this book. The main character is a likable enough guy and the surrounding cast is interesting and doesn’t slow the pace.  Maberry has a full Joe Ledger series as well as a follow-up to Patient Zero that I’d be interested in checking out.  I’d say this is a fun book to read and not take too seriously.  I liked the zombies as a bio-weapon aspect, which made the book seem slightly different from a typical thriller/suspense novel.  Overall a good book that is enjoyable and a fun read.

Amazon vs Hachette – the Battle for Books

Amazon, the online Juggernaut of books and a whole bunch of other stuff, has been in the news again in regards to book prices and deals with publishers.  Negotiations are with the publisher Hachette and neither, no doubt, will want to give in.

The negotiations center around e-book prices and co-op deals (go here David Gaughran’s post for a decent explanation).  Amazon has been accused of delaying delivery on books, saying a book is out of stock and pointing customers to another book, and saying several books aren’t available for a few weeks.  If true, all of these tactics are very underhanded and petty.  Or if Hachette is just running a smoke and mirrors PR campaign, that is equally underhanded and petty.

What lies at issue for me is both companies are playing with people’s lively hoods and passions.  I understand companies wanting decent contracts that favor themselves and the other side not wanting to give in because they want something favoring themselves as well.  They are businesses and the purpose of a business is to make money.  When that battle involves someone’s work, the battle affects more than the company.  Publishers clearly need to get with the times and update their antiquated contacts.  Much like the legal industry has come to understand, publishers need to realize business is done differently today.  Technology has changed the way books can be accessed, printed, and distributed.

There are scores of writers out there who have taken the self-publishing route and Amazon does a good job at offering these writers a way to sell their books.  There are also scores of writers who don’t want to go with self-publishing route and want to sign with a traditional publisher.  Both of these types of writers should have the option of pursuing what works best for them.  Traditional publishers need to step outside of the box they are so entrenched in and start looking at different types of books/writers.  Stop pursuing the next 50 Shades or the next Dan Brown.  Start looking at something that is a bit different and doesn’t fit the mold of the next best seller or fit into an easily identifiable category.  Take a chance and change how they do business.

I do not own an e-reader (yes I could download on my phone/tablet/laptop, but I like physical books, sorry) so I may have a slightly skewed viewpoint, but that’s Okay.  Everyone should have a viewpoint.   I do not want Amazon to be the only book seller out there (I don’t think they want that either).  I don’t want Barnes and Noble to close. I don’t want to see another indie bookstore close.  All of these retailers offer choices to the customer, which is good for everyone.

Choice is what is needed, for the seller, the buyer, and most importantly, the writer.  The writer is who I love, who I look forward to when a new book is set to come out, who I don’t want to see be limited or, worse, discouraged and give up.  So Amazon, Hachette, and whoever is next: get it together.  Figure out a new way to do business.  Stop living in the box and take a chance.  You aren’t the important ones here.  The writer and the reader are.