Reading Challenge: January 2015

I’m not one to make New Years’ Resolutions. They are carried out so rarely that it seems like setting myself up for failure. Plus if I want to do or change something, I tend to just dive in. No resolution needed here.

This year my mother (HI MOM!) challenged me to follow her resolution: read one book a week and document it. I am something of a speed reader and enjoy it immensely, so I decided to take her up on her challenge. Welcome to 2015- the year of reading.

Mom and I have each been keeping track of the books we read in notebooks to be exchanged at the end of the year. It’s a great way to get ideas for new books to read in the coming year. I’ve decided to also document what I have been reading here with the hopes that maybe I’ll inspire someone to give a book a try that they otherwise might have missed.


dumakeycover

Duma Key by Stephen King
Published: 2008
Pages: 611
Read: 1/3/2015 

Duma Key was an excellent choice to kick off the new year. I loved this book so much that I read it as fast as I could. The story starts out pretty straight forward: construction company owner Edgar has a major on-site accident that results in the loss of his arm and severe head trauma. He is left feeling angry and confused by his new found migraines, mood swings, and speech impairment. After his wife divorces him (unable to deal with the violent outbursts), Edgar takes a “geographical” to Florida to extend recovery and offer relaxation. Initially he spends his time walking up and down the beach, mostly keeping to himself. It’s when he begins painting and learning the history of the island he moved to that things get supernatural and super interesting. Fascinating characters (including the reclusive old-lady next door and her former lawyer caretaker) and King’s enriching details make the story come to life. I would highly recommend Duma Key, even to those that aren’t generally Stephen King fans. It is easily the best book I’ve ever picked up from a flea mall.


JoylandcoverJoyland by Stephen King
Published: 2013
Pages: 309
Read: 1/4 – 1/5/2015

I was at the grocery store looking for a quick read when I spotted this Hard Case Crime thriller. The cover has an old school noir look that drew me to it and I’m ever so glad that it did. The story follows a young man recovering from the heartbreak of first love by working at an amusement park in North Carolina. He soon hears the tale of a female murder victim’s ghost haunting the (duh) haunted house ride and begins investigating. Along the way he makes friends with a dying boy who has extrasensory perception and his mother, the former wild child daughter of a televangelist. It’s a fun, quick read and the twist ending was totally unexpected. I really loved this well-written thrill ride.


underthedomecoverUnder the Dome by Stephen King
Published: 2009
Pages: 1074
Read: 1/5 – 1/8/2015

I’ve been wanting to read this book for ages. Not only was it turned into a CBS miniseries event, but a lot of my Stephen King loving peers highly recommended it. The concept is a fascinating ecological study: what happens to a small town of mostly upstanding citizens when they are suddenly trapped together with no foreseeable way out? In King’s world of Chester’s Mill, complete chaos ensues.

I have a love-hate relationship with this book. On the one hand, King does an excellent job of showing the political and economic ramifications of such an event with startling realism. Everything unfolds exactly as you would expect it to- bulking up of the police department, fear-mongering of the local politicians, scapegoating of the rational town members that dare to oppose said politicians. I loved every second of the first 500 pages or so. It’s when I reached the halfway point that I was begging for someone to grab a gun and start slaughtering the so-called town savior and his laughable police force. It’s the easiest resolution and none of characters seem to even consider it.

It’s not the first time that King would benefit from cutting one of his epics in half, but I would still recommend the book to very patient readers.


motoriouscoverNotorious by Allison Brennan
Published: 2014
Pages: 401
Read: 1/9/2015

I took a break from Stephen King to read a trashy thriller that I found at the grocery store. I really wish I had stuck with more King. Notorious is about a young, nationally-renowned investigative reporter with her own television show dedicated to showcasing cold cases. Maxine returns home for the funeral of Kevin, an old high school friend accused but not convicted of killing Max’s best friend during their senior year. Upon her arrival into town, Max soon finds herself swept up into solving her best friend’s cold case, investigating a recent murder at her alma mater, and solving the decade long disappearance of another student. And what do you know, all three events are tied together!

Max is my least favorite type of character. She is meant to be portrayed as a strong, independent female (just look at her masculine name!) but she just comes off as a bitch. She is antagonistic and rude to everyone she encounters, be they family, friends, or local police officers offering to help her. The author attempts to infuse her with some humanity by making her a poor little rich girl, abandoned at her grandparents’ house by the mother who never loved her. As a result she was raised in a mansion, given the best schooling, and inherited millions of dollars. Please excuse me if I fail to feel sorry for her.

Between the tepid pacing, unlikeable main character, and too many plotlines that all tangle together, I cannot recommend that anyone read this book.


mrmercedescoverMr. Mercedes by Stephen King
Published: 2014
Pages: 448
Read: 1/21 – 1/22/15

King returns to form in Mr. Mercedes. It’s a fast paced thriller about retired police detective Bill Hodges and “Mr. Mercedes”, the deranged killer who stole a Mercedes and drove it into a crowd of people waiting at a job fair. Hodges has spent the first six months of his retirement contemplating suicide when he receives a letter from Mr. Mercedes, one of the unsolved cases he worked on. He soon rededicates himself to the investigation, stopping at nothing to track the killer down before he strikes again.

The characterization in Mr. Mercedes is on point. King brilliantly alternates between the points of view of Hodges and Brady Hartsfield (aka Mr. Mercedes), providing the reader with a complete look into both characters. Getting to watch both sides of the cat-and-mouse chase is both fascinating and a welcome departure from the “whodunnit” of a lot of the detective novels I’ve read. I cannot recommend this book enough.


mrkissandtellcoverVeronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Published: 2015
Pages: 330
Read: 1/23/15

I have been a Veronica Mars fan for ages. I have all three seasons of the television show, supported the kickstarter campaign for the movie, and have now read both books. Thankfully, Mr. Kiss and Tell is on par with the rest of the V Mars canon. The setting is Neptune, six months after the events of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line. Veronica is working in concert with her father at Mars Investigations. The latest case? An assault at the Neptune Grand that somehow managed to escape the notice of any of the guests, staff, or surveillance cameras.

Thomas is the master of all things Veronica; he was able to stay true to her voice every step of the way, sometimes to the point of frustration. Like every other LoVe fan, I was elated that Logan was featured more prominently than in the previous book. I found myself disappointed with the way Veronica treated him. She was upset that he put himself in danger (serving his country!) when she constantly puts herself in less than safe positions. It would have been nice to have one drama free installment.

Overall, I found the book to be satisfying. The central mystery had several little twists that were surprising and kept the story moving along at a brisk pace. The secondary investigation with Weevil was a nice tie-in with the events of the movie. I would definitely encourage Veronica Mars to check out Mr. Kiss and Tell.


izombiedeadtotheworldcoveriZombie: Dead to the World by Chris Robertson and Michael Allred
Published: 2011
Pages: 144
Read: 1/24/15

When I heard that Rob Thomas (creator of Veronica Mars and Party Down) was creating a new television show based on a graphic novel about a zombie who eats brains and solves murders, I knew I has to check out the source material ASAP. I was pleased with what I found. Dead to the World contains issue one through five, as well as a story House of Mystery Halloween Annual #1. It was a nice introduction to Gwen, a gravedigger/recent zombie, and her interesting cast of friends (SPOILER! 60’s ghost and werewolf included). While the first installment was a little slow, it really set the stage for what I imagine are more exciting adventures to come. I eagerly look forward to both the next collection of issues and the upcoming TV show.


cursedcover

Cursed by Carol Higgins Clark
Published: 2009
Pages: 205
Read: 1/27 – 1/28/15

Cursed is a frothy dive into mystery-lite. PI Regan Reilly helps a flaky friend track down her boyfriend who disappeared after borrowing $100,000. She is quickly swept up in a murder investigation, deals with a stalker, and survives an earthquake. Whew! It is utterly exhausting, not to mention virtually impossible, for one person to get swept up into so much drama over the course of a few days.

Higgins Clark is by no means a talented writer. Her characters are all thinly written and oh how many characters there are! I could scarcely remember how they were all supposed to be connected nor did I really care. Confronted with reading another one of Higgins Clark’s books again, I too would be tempted to run and hide. The best I can say is that is was a quick read, requiring only a few hours of suffering.


All in all it wasn’t a horrible crop of books to start with. I’m looking forward to expanding my horizons in February and possibly venturing out of my Stephen King comfort zone. Please share your book suggestions in the comments!

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