Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some comments and some reviews

Good morning everyone,

I've tried to keep the entries on this blog timeless. This means you should feel comfortable going back through the older posts. There are stories, poems, reviews and useful bits of information I wouldn't want you to miss.

Also, I'm going to once again encourage everyone to leave comments. Your feedback is important to me and to those who follow - even if you have something to say I might not like. For example, one fellow told me he probably wouldn't come back because the blog template was dark and the white type too hard on his eyes. You can see I changed the template.

Now, here are a couple of reviews of a few traditionally published books you might want to check out...

By Joy Fielding, Seal Books/Doubleday, 442 pp., $12.99

Joy Fielding has spent her career peeling back the skin of ordinary people. From her novel See Jane Run to Don’t Cry Now, I’ve always found myself drawn into the lives of the people she writes about. While HeartStopper may seem to be a departure from the rest of her works, I would beg to differ; In HeartStopper, Fielding rips off the face of a small town and gives us look into the true nature of the people who live there.

Welcome to Torrance, Florida. Population: 4,160. Deputy sheriff, John Weber, 20 years on the job is having his competence questioned because of a serial killer who’s targeting beautiful young women. The town, the mayor, even John himself are worried he can’t protect these Heartstoppers. With a wife and a daughter he doesn’t like, John throws everything he has into his job. Teacher, Sandy Crosbie, an emotional wreck—thanks to a straying husband—is too caught up in rebuilding her life. She may not be watching her own daughter, Megan, (one of Torrance’s heartstoppers) as closely as she should. We also get to peer into the lives of a number of highschool students who show such a tendency for cruelty that you just have to shake your head. Then there’s Kerri, Sandy’s husband’s new girlfriend, a veteran of so many cosmetic surgeries no one knows where the fake stops and the real begins. And Fielding doesn’t stop there. We get to read the serial killer’s journal and witness the violence of one of the main suspects for the murders.

HeartStopper is Fielding’s first foray into what I would call popular fiction, and she does it with style. I certainly enjoyed the novel. Couldn’t put it down.

If all mainstream novels delved into character as well as Joy Fielding does, the landscape of popular fiction would look much different—and I would have to say better.

Copyright © 2008 by Clayton Bye

Duma Key
By Stephen King, Scribner, 611 pp., $32

Stephen King has built his career by putting ordinary people into the most unusual of situations, slipping horror into many of his stories as naturally as you and I go through our days. "Duma Key," although set in the Florida Keys with a less than ordinary King protagonist, does not disappoint.

Edgar Freemantle —the millionaire contractor who’s lost an arm, suffered some serious brain trauma, wrecked one leg and lost his wife—has found himself recuperating on a sparsely inhabited Florida Key with a handfull of interesting characters. Turning to an old skill, Edgar begins sketching and painting as a kind of therapy. But instead a peaceful return to some semblance of normality, he finds himself painting a series of disturbing works, some of which he barely remembers painting.

This being a King story, we automatically look for the fright factor. Is it Edgar’s strange paintings, his new friend with the bullet in his head or the strange old woman that lives in a mansion up the road? Bringing us slowly, almost leisurely, into the lives of these people, we begin to sense something is very wrong on Duma Key. Centering on the theme of creativity unleashed by injury to mind and body (something King has worked into several novels since his near death experience in 1999), the maturing author gives us a frightening look at the cost of second chances.

A welcome read after his disappointing novel, “Cell,” King returns to the unusual character creation he gave us in “Lisey’s Story,” and once more takes us masterfully to the edge of our imaginations.

“Duma Key” brings us sea shells that talk, paintings that kill, giant frogs with “teef” and birds that fly upside down. Only King could write a book like this. I’m glad he decided not to retire.

Copyright © 2008 by Clayton Bye

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