Owen and Stephen King Sleeping Beauties Tour

“He’s so fucking weird.”

That’s what Owen King said about his father, Stephen King, when asked a question during their September 30th appearance at The Riverside Theater in Milwaukee. The two writers made a stop in my hometown promoting their new novel Sleeping Beauties and I was able to grab a few tickets to the show.

As a lifelong S.K. fan I was beyond thrilled at finally having a chance to see King in the flesh. Their new book is about what happens if all the women in the world fell asleep and kept on sleeping. They didn’t talk too much about the book, focusing more on the interaction between themselves. It was more like listening to two friends hang out and talk to each other. Father and son clearly have a good, close relationship and they played well off of each other.

The elder King had recently turned 70 and the younger King joked about the olders memory and then pulled out the Stephen King trivia book. Stephen is a prolific writer with well over 50 books, many of which have dozens and dozens of characters in each book. Impressively Stephen got three of four questions about Misery correct. It was fun to watch S.K. answer one right away, pause for a beat with two, and fail on one.

The last part of the show was for audience questions. And of course the lines at the mics were insane. Given Stephen’s popularity, almost all questions were for him. I felt a bit bad for Owen on this but S.K. did a wonderful job at answering questions while also bringing Owen into the response or finding a way to have Owen respond. There were a few cringe worthy questions but those were handled with respectful deflection by both authors.

The night went fast and was everything I hoped it would be. It has been a lifelong dream of mine to see S.K. in person and to finally have the dream come to fruition was incredible. The night ended on a really high note for me. All attendees got a book with their tickets and 400 books were signed by both writers. These signed books were randomly given out as the audience was leaving and I was fortunate enough to receive a signed copy (A friend who attended the show with me received one as well!). Fullfilling another lifelong dream – to have a signed book by Stephen King. Needless to say my night was made. An appearance I will always fondly remember and a book I will treasure. This constant reader could not have been more happy.

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Jawp-1472254326241.jpgson Dessen left the bar in a bit of a huff. A small disagreement with a longtime friend has made him upset. He makes one stop at the store for some ice cream before going home, but the fateful stop ends much differently than Jason expected. He ends up being thrust into a world that seems his own but isn’t. His wife is not his wife, his son doesn’t exist, his co-workers and friends he does not know, and everything about his hometown is slightly off.  Where is he and how can he possibly make it back home? What if he’s trapped here forever? Questions that Jason struggles to find answers to. And answers he may never get.

Wow. That’s what I thought while reading Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. A sci-fi thriller that moves at a blinding speed and, while it does have some predictable moves, keeps the reader’s interest and doesn’t disappoint. Jason and his wife have made some sacrifices in favor of family life in terms of career goals. These sacrifices have made for a very happy family as well as a happy life. That life is ripped from Blake’s world in a unusual way. The reader figures out fairly quickly what has happened, but that doesn’t take away from the story.

Dark Matter has a terrific pace, some due to the writing (single line paragraphs that eat up space) and some due to wanting to find out what happens next. I found myself quickly attached to Jason, thanks to well developed characters by Blake. As for the predicable part, it’s not that it makes this a bad book in any way. It’s just a fact for most of the book. Until it takes an unexpected turn that most, well, at least me, readers didn’t see coming. Which piqued my interest even more and made me want to keep reading.

This book stayed with me for several days after reading it. I wasn’t even able to start up another book until two days later, and even then, I was still thinking about Dark Matter. I find myself wishing I could read it anew again. This seems like heavy praise but this is the effect this book had on me. This is the first book of Crouch’s I’ve read. I watched the t.v. show Wayward Pines, based off of his books, but I hadn’t read anything before this.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a fast, interesting read, has characters to care about, and has an outcome that was unexpected.

Wednesday night book haul

New books on a Wednesday night? Weird I know. I don’t usually make a stop at the bookstore midwp-1470937404975.jpg-week, but my book-club met last night and we were just down the street from my local B&N so stopping by made sense.

This week I picked up three new books: Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch, The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating, by Carole Radziwell, and The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer.

I watched Wayward Pines, based off of books from Blake Crouch, and enjoyed the t.v. show.  I hadn’t read any of his books before but the reviews of Dark Matter have been positive so I thought I’d give it a chance. It’s about a guy who wakes up to a life that is not his own and he has no idea who the people around him are. Sounds like a good “where the hell am I” story.

The Widow’s Guide to Sex and Dating is my next book club read. My fellow clubbers and I have all had a stressful past few weeks and I recommended this book as a good, mindless, fun read. Nothing too heavy or serious since we all could use a bit of brightening of mood. This one is written by Carole Radizwell, most recently known for her role on Real Housewives of New York, but she’s got the skills and experience to back it up – a BA and a masters, and she worked for several years at ABC News – so it’s not one of those “I’m a reality star and now I’m a writer” things.  The plot of the book somewhat mirrors Radziwell’s own life – a woman widowed at a young age who finds herself out in the crazy dating world. Seems like this one will be a fun one to read.

And the third book, The Cemetery Boys, is by an author that I’ve read before. Heather Brewer wrote The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod, a YA vampire series that I liked quite a bit. This third buy is about a teenager and his family who are broke and need to move in with his grandmother to a small, creepy town.The teenager meets a girl and her twin brother and things get strange after that.  Again, not a deep thought read, but since I liked the author I figure I’d give this one a chance.

Percentage chances of me reading these books:

  • The Widows Guide to Sex and Dating – 100% It’s for my book-club and I’ve read every book so far. Plus,this is one I picked to read, so it’s being read
  • Dark Matter – 95% I’m curious about this book since it sounds so interesting. Slim chance it’ll sit in my TBR pile for a long time
  • The Cemetery Boys – 85% Probably won’t read this one right away, want to read a few others before it. Certainly another that won’t be relegated to the TBR pile for long

Look for more book haul posts since one of my addictions is buying books. Hope you enjoyed this one.

 

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Life suReady Player Onecks in 2044.  Most people live their lives via the virtual reality world OASIS – a free online, VR place for people to “live”. Wade Watts spends almost every minute of his waking life there, hoping to find a better life in a fake world.  When the creator of OASIS, James Halliday (who was also the richest man alive), dies he leaves a puzzle within OASIS where, after someone finds all three hidden keys, that person will inherit Halliday’s money.  Needless to say, this starts a frenzy of action since everyone desperately wants to be the winner. Wade doesn’t realize his quest for the keys will be fraught with danger and unexpected surprises.

Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, was recommended to me by a friend.  I have to admit the synopsis I read for the book didn’t sound all that enticing to me. I’m not a gamer and I had a hard time thinking that a book based in a VR gaming world could be good. But I gave it a shot anyway since I usually end up enjoying books this friend recommends. Happily,  I wasn’t disappointed with this one.

RPO is loaded with 80’s nostalgia and reading this book was like a trip down memory lane for me.  Cline is spot on with his references and you can tell he actually lived though and grew up in the 80’s rather than researched the 80’s. The James Halliday character set up his game so that those trying to find the keys would have to have almost the same knowledge of the 80’s as he did.  This means that Wade has spent hours upon hours watching, reading, listening, and researching every single pop culture, and non-pop culture, eventh, thing, or moment that happened in the 80’s. This isn’t to say Wade doesn’t have any friends.  Well, not in the real world at least.  He’s got a few close friends within OASIS, though no one has ever met the other in person.

And that is the basis of this book.  Not the 80’s tsunami of information or the additive world of gaming and VR.  It’s the strong relationships that are formed within OASIS that is the driving force. One can live in a fake world but one still needs to have other people to talk to, to get to know, to feel a connection with, even if they’ve never met face to face. The strength of Wade’s relationship is what makes him a likable person and helps him on his quest for the keys.

The first quarter of the book is very heavy with tech references. This is necessary since the book needs to set the VR world and explain how it works, how others interact within it, and how dependent upon it everyone appears to be.  Once you get past the techy stuff, the book progresses nicely and becomes more interesting.  Wade goes up against a mega corporation that wants to win the quest so that they can then start charging people to use OASIS. The struggle between Wade and the corporation forces Wade to get to know his VR friends on a much higher lever and work together in order to have a chance at winning.

I was pleasantly surprised with this book and was very happy to have read it. RPO is more about the strength of relationships, even if you’ve never met in person, not allowing yourself to become isolated due to fears of rejection, the never-ending corporate greed, and a tiny bit about the environment.I highly recommend this book, even if you don’t find video games or VR interesting. This book has so much more to it and is well worth the read.

Redshirts by John Scalzi

It’s twpid-20151021_074435.jpghe year 2465 and Andrew Dahl has just joined the crew of the ship Intrepid as part of the xenobiology lab.  Dahl will have a the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015chance to serve on away missions with the ship’s captain and a few other high level officers. Only, things seem a bit odd.  Dahl’s lab mates seem evasive and conveniently disappear whenever the captain makes an appearance.  Dahl has also noticed that away missions tend to always involve a deadly alien encounter, the captain, along with a handsome lieutenant and three other high-ranking crew members, always survives, and a low-level crew member always dies on an away mission. Always.

What’s goodRed Shirts by John Scalzi is a humorous riff on old sci-fi shows and I really enjoyed the idea behind it.  Scalzi writes instantly likable characters who try to figure out what is going on with their ship while trying to avoid getting killed themselves. It’s a tad campy at times but I took it that it’s supposed to be that way. It’s a quick read and I did chuckle/laugh out loud a few times. After the end the are three codas told in first, second, and third person points of view. These three codas (the original name of the book is Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas) focused on three later characters and were all exceptionally written and very heartfelt.  I almost teared up during one of them and I dare say I liked the codas even better than the main book.

What’s not so good: Well, not much really.  The only thing that I didn’t enjoy was an over reliance on the use of “….he/she said.” I found it a tad distracting that almost every time there was a line of dialogue from someone, the line would be identified with “…Dahl said; …the captain said…”, etc. I actually started to omit reading those qualifiers as the book went along. Other than that, I found the book to be very enjoyable.

I don’t want to give away too much of the book since the reason for the crew members always dying and the high-ranking officers always surviving is a goofy, fun reveal that sets the plot for the rest of the story.  Redshirts was a fun, fast read that had likable characters and a good ending. The three codas were standouts for me, though I certainly enjoyed the whole book.  If you are looking for a fun, sci-fi read, or just an enjoyable read, I highly recommend Redshirts. You shouldn’t be disappointed.

The Andy Cohen Diaries – by Andy Cohen

wpid-20151003_100834.jpgAndy Cohen’s latest book, The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year, is, on its face, a shallow look at a year of the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015Andy’s life.  However, dig a bit deeper while reading this book and you can see that there is a bit more to Andy Cohen than party hopping, name dropping, and drinking.  Cohen cares deeply about the city he lives in, has a wonderful relationship with his parents, and seemingly became a better person after adopting his dog Wacha.

Admittedly, no one should read this book expecting a stellar literary experience (though it is well written). What you can except to read about is Cohen’s party life, his drama dealing with various Housewives (from Bravo’s various Real Housewives of… series), and his struggle to get in shape. All of this is a fun read. Cohen has a close circle of (famous) friends who play a big part in his life. He also has a great relationship with his parents, who are a big part of his life as well.  His search for companionship brings Wacha, his rescued Beagle mix, into his world, which allows the reader to see Cohen is capable of finding love. Throughout the book Cohen laments the gentrification of his beloved NYC – local businesses being pushed out by sky-high rents, chain stores or franchises replacing mom and pop type stores, etc. – all of which serve to take away what makes NYC unique.

The last two items, Wacha and his sadness of the changing storefronts of local NYC, were the most interesting part for me to read. Sure it’s fun to read about Cohen partying with Kelly Ripa and her husband, his European vacation with AC (Anderson Cooper), and his Met Ball experience with Sarah Jessica Parker, but a diary should connect on a personal level as well. Cohen does that when he talks about Wacha – when it sunk in that Wacha was in a kill shelter and how, after initially having Wacha live with him for a few days, he knew Wacha was his dog –  his own romance with NYC, and his love for his hometown baseball teams, the St. Louis Cardinals. These items are why I found Diaries to be a fun read.

Diaries is a fun read, and while shallow (as the title says), lets the reader see what Cohen cares about.  Family, friends, Wacha, and love are the things that really appear to touch Cohen’s life. That’s what makes this book interesting and a bit less shallow.

Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn

HostileTakeoverWhat’s an amiable assassin to do when the woman he loves tries to kill him and the company he’s worked for all his life betrays him? the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015Why, marry that woman and aggressively take over the betraying company, of course. John Lago, the likable assassin from The Intern’s Handbook, is back in Hostile Takeover, by Shane Kuhn.  This time John is fighting for a life with Alice while at the same time trying to get Human Resources, Inc., running in his vision.  Though things don’t go as smoothly as John would like.  Helming HR, Inc. with Alice is troublesome.  Alice wants to run things her way while John wants it to go another way.  Add to that a mysterious client whom Alice is not willing to reveal to John, and you have trouble in paradise.

Hostile Takeover (HT) is the second book in the John Lago series.  I wouldn’t call this a sequel since the story stands on its own and there’s enough background on John and Alice’s past you don’t need to read the first book (though, I highly recommend you do).  HT offers more depth into John’s character and is really about John and Alice’s relationship.  Running a company is hard enough.  Throw your spouse into it and things get downright contentious.  John and Alice start things off great and the honeymoon stage is everything John dreamed of.  However when John and Alice get started with the business side of their relationship, things go downhill fast.  John has a weakness of not taking people out when he should, and that comes back to bite him in the ass in the most inopportune moment.  Alice is a cutthroat as ever, as well as a bad-ass who shouldn’t be messed with. John’s got a real battle on his hands this time around.

I’ve read comparisons where Shane Kuhn is said to be in the same vein as Quentin Tarantino in terms of the feel of his books (Dexter is another but I haven’t read/seen either so won’t speak to that).  I think Kuhn is more along the lines of Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico). Kuhn’s stories have more substance and intelligence to them than coincidence and luck (Tarantino vs. Rodriguez).  HT has a bit of a slower pace than Intern’s Handbook, but the action sequences are well written and easy to visualize. John Lago is a fun and enjoyable character who is determined to find happiness in his life. Kuhn does a good job of tying things up at the end, while also leaving room for future stories to happen.

I highly recommend Hostile Takeover (as well as The Intern’s Handbook). It’s a good, enjoyable read, with a likable main character who is easy to root for.