Review: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

Disappearance at Devil's RockThinking her fourteen year-old son Tommy is spending the night at one of his best friend’s house, Elizabeth Sanderson in disturbed to receive a phone call saying her son has gone missing. As the shock sets in, Elizabeth can’t help but feel that history is repeating itself. Tommy’s father vanished in the night years before. Could it be that her son has followed in his father’s footsteps?

The answers are far more compelling and interesting than that and they make this book one that was, at times, next to impossible to put down. Add in an element of the potential supernatural and you’ve got the another winner from Paul Tremblay — an author who after reading just two of his books has been put onto my “must read anything he writes list” and whom I eagerly seeking you his back catalog.

Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock starts with a heck of hook and doesn’t let up until the final page is turned. The question of how well you really know your kids and your family haunts every page of the novel and drives much of this superlatively told, suspenseful mystery. Like his earlier haunting A Head Full of Ghosts this is one of those novels that defies categorization beyond “a really good book that everyone should read.” Continue reading

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Why Shouldn’t We Read What We Want?

Year ago, I worked with a young lady who seeing that I was reading the latest best-seller from a popular author noted that she only picked reading material from the “classics” section of the bookstore.

When I asked her why she did this, she replied that if it was a classic, it must be good and that she felt obligated to read it.

But are you enjoying them, I asked.

She told me that didn’t matter.  What mattered was she was making herself a better person by reading these books — even if she didn’t enjoy the experience.

As someone who loves reading, that statement depressed me a bit.  To feel like you were being forced to read from only an accepted list of classics — and not for the sheer pleasure of reading — made me a a bit sad.  It also made me feel a bit sorry for the limited scope of reading material that might be available to my friend. Continue reading

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Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Favorites

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Time again for the Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish).

This week’s topic is the top books I’ve read recently.   Looking back over my Goodreads feed for the past couple of months, these are my picks.

  1.  Better Get to Livin’ by Sally Kilpatrick
  2. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay
  3. You by Caroline Kepnes
  4. A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor
  5. Best American Science-Fiction and Fantasy 2015
  6. The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Waterson
  7. The Far Side Gallery 4 by Gary Larsen
  8. Scary Close by Donald Miller

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Monday Memes: Musing and Movies

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Time to kick off the week with a couple of memes.  First up is Musing Mondays hosted by Books and A Beat.  This week’s open-ended question is:

Have you ever read a book after watching the movie/television version only to find that you don’t like the book as much as the adaptation?

For the most part, my literary side wants to read the book first (if possible) and then see the adapted version.   But there have been a few times I’ve seen the adaptation and gone back to the source material to find I didn’t like it as much.  One of these is Forrest Gump, a movie that took some of the good ideas from the book and created a far better movie.  The original novel doesn’t quite have the same heart that the movie does and I think it loses something in the translation. Continue reading

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Review: Defending Taylor by Miranda Kinneally

Defending TaylorWhen her senior year at her prestigious private school comes crashing down on her, Taylor is expelled in disgrace. Covering for her boyfriend, Taylor figured her powerful senator father’s reputation and influence would be enough to help her survive being caught with a backpack full of prescription medication.

Turns out she was wrong.

Now she’s home, forced to go to the Hundred Oaks High School and starting over. She’s got daily visits with her guidance counselor to make sure she’s staying away from the drugs and trying to recover from this huge hit to her goal of getting into Yale and following in the family business.

But what if the life that Taylor had planned out for herself isn’t necessarily the one she wants or needs?

Miranda Kenneally’s latest Hundred Oaks Defending Taylor novel examines this question and gives us a fascinating character study into Taylor and the people who inhabit her life. Taylor’s frustration at her family, her situation and her ex-boyfriend spill over time and again and are well explored. As with Kenneally’s other novels, the characters and situations in the novel feel completely authentic and are well realized. Taylor’s struggle to find her role on her new soccer team is well done, as is her confusion over her feelings for that one boy who broke her heart years before but has suddenly turned back up. Turns out that like Taylor, he’s harboring his own secrets from his family and the two find themselves back in each other’s orbit with feelings beginning to resurface. Continue reading

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Review: The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

The Guest RoomTrying to be a good older brother and best man, Richard Chapman offers his home for his younger brother’s bachelor party. But Richard couldn’t know that the “entertainment” for the evening wouldn’t be mere strippers but instead Russian sex slaves who were looking to exact a piece of revenge on their captors and escape. Before the night is over, Richard will endanger his marriage, find his home a crime scene and his world collapsing around him.

The first two-thirds of Chris Bohjlian’s The Guest Room is a fascinating, dark story of people trying to make good decisions under the worst possible circumstances. Chapters alternate between the backstory of one of the young girls who is preyed upon by her captors and forced into a life of selling her body for money and the events current unfolding during and after the infamous bachelor party. As with many of the best crime writers today, Bohjalian is less concerned with the who-done-it aspect of the crime and more interested in the impact of the crime upon his characters and their community.

As Richard finds his world collapsing around him (his wife mistrusts him, he’s put on suspension at work and one of his brother’s friends tries to blackmail him), we see how the crime and its implications have far reaching tendrils both before and after the murder of the two men sent to guard the two sex workers.

At its best The Guest Room is a compelling, character driven, page-turner that offers up a fascinating dilemma without any easy ways out of it. Well, that is until we get to the last third of the novel when things take a turn that feels like it’s right out of a Hollywood blockbuster and not the well-established and realized world that Bohjalian has created to that point. It’s not the ending is terrible so much as it’s a disappointment. Richard begins to make decisions to get his life back and I’d hoped to see more of the implications of that than the ending we got here.

I’m being vague here to avoid SPOILING too much of this novel because I really think the first two-thirds of the story are worth reading. It’s just the last third that let me down.

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The X-Files: My Struggle II

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After last week’s installment of The X-Files, I was concerned that Chris Carter wouldn’t be able to stick the landing for this six-episode event series.

And that concern, unfortunately, was realized with the muddled mess that was “My Struggle II.”

Beginning things with a voice-over monologue by Scully of things we learned just five weeks ago is not a good sign.   Pile on the typical mythology trope of separating our two heroes for much of the episode and then wrapping it all up with little or no closure and a cliffhanger ending and you’ve got — well, you’ve got a mess that was the final few seasons of this show.

Watching the episode on my DVR, I kept pausing things, thinking — oh great, it’s going to run over and I didn’t pad the recording time enough so that I’ll see how this all winds up.  Except that Carter wasn’t really interested in giving us resolution so much as he was about trying to keep us on the edge of our seats, not give us any answers and then leave us wanting more.    Continue reading

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