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THE GREEN MILE BY STEPHEN KING

GREEN MILE

The Green Mile by Stephen King

Orion Books (paperback), 1999

462 pages

 

www.stephenking.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Green_Mile_(novel)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Green_Mile_(film)

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

At Cold Mountain Penitentiary, along the lonely stretch of cells known as the Green Mile, killers await death, whilst their guards watch over them. Good or evil, innocent or guilty, none of them have ever seen the likes of brutal new prisoner John Coffey, seemingly a devil in human form. 

EXTRACT 

This happened in 1932, when the state penitentiary was still at Cold Mountain. And the electric chair was there, too, of course.

THE TWO DEAD GIRLS 

REVIEW 

The Green Mile was first published as a serialised novel in six parts. I’ve never read it in this format. I’ve read The Green Mile half a dozen times. The movie version is the best King adaptation I’ve ever seen. The Green Mile is one of my favourite King novels.

The Green Mile was first published as a serialised novel. Each section of the novel opens directly where the last section finished and even includes the last few sentences of the previous section for continuity. This would have worked really well if I had bought The Green Mile in six parts but jars a little reading The Green Mile as a whole.

I love the story of The Green Mile. I think King offers something very original. The Green Mile is not your typical prison novel. The Green Mile could be an awful novel riddled with clichés. A novel about a convicted child killer who had has the gift of healing. In a lesser writer’s hands The Green Mile could have been a disaster but King makes The Green Mile something tragic and wonderful.

I loved the character of John Coffey. King does a great job of bringing this gentle giant to brilliant, memorable life. Coffey is one of the most believable fictional characters I’ve ever read. My heart went out to him. I wept with Paul and the other guards at the end of the novel when Coffey meets his maker on old Sparky even though he did not commit the crimes he has been found guilty of. Michel Clark Duncan was brilliant in the movie.

The Green Mile is written in the first person narrated by Paul Edgecome who was the head guard when Coffey was sent to the fictional Cold Mountain Penitentiary. The narrative voice is great in The Green Mile. I love the way Paul tells the story, weaving his memories of Coffey and his time on death row with little anecdotes about his life in a nursing home and the guard who could be Percy Wetmore from Cold Mountain’s reincarnation. Paul’s got a good storyteller’s voice that pulls you in and sweeps you along.

The Green Mile has got some great moments. Bill Wharton’s arrival and his attempt to choke one of the guard’s to death. Del’s pet mouse. Percy’s nastiness. The moment when Coffey cures Paul’s urine infection and Paul starts to wonder if Coffey might be innocent. There are a few stand-out moment’s that are among the best I’ve ever read. The day Del is executed and is actually barbecued alive and screaming because Percy does something nasty to get revenge for Del laughing at him. Coffey curing the warden’s wife of cancer. Coffey keeping the sickness bugs he takes from the warden’s wife and forcing them into Percy who loses his mind and murders Wharton. Great stuff.

There is a scene in the movie when Coffey gives Paul a vision of what really happened to the girls he’s been convicted of raping and murdering and just how evil Wharton is. This scene never happens in the book. I completely forgot it and was so confused I actually flicked back through some pages to see if I had missed something. I like the way Paul figures it out on his own without Coffey’s help but actually mis-remembered the scene being in the book. I’ve read The Green Mile several times and really thought the scene happened. Damn Hollywood and their movie budgets for confusing little old me.

The Green Mile is a great read, absolutely great. I loved every page. King can count this among his greatest works. I would like to have read it the way it was originally published though. I’d have gone mad waiting for each instalment.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

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MYTHOS BY HEATHER MCLAREN

mythos

Mythos by Heather McLaren

Paladin Timeless Books (e-book), 2013

260 pages 

http://heathermclarenfantasy.webs.com

I received a free copy from the author in exchange for a review. I read Mythos on my kobo.

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

True love was the last thing David Cooley expected to find in the Bahamas, but the moment he laid eyes on Faren Sands, he knew he had found the girl of his dreams. How could he know she was a mermaid from the lost island of Atlantis? 

Because of the strict laws regarding human contact, the couple flee the consequences of their forbidden passion, while at the same time they struggle to survive a conflict that has been brewing between the mermaids and sea demons for millennia.  

Once the epic battle begins, fate forces David to make a decision that will forever affect his young life. Should he stick by the woman he loves, risking his mortality for a civilization that hates him? 

EXTRACT 

THE YEAR WAS 8,000 B.C.–THE AGE our beautiful islands flourished above the sea. It was a time when we walked upon two legs, as men do today. Our lives were full and we knew no need. Arts and music came of our leisure. Our brilliant engineers had inventions that surpassed those of today. But we still loved to hunt and fish, as all people have done since the most ancient of days. How could we have known fate would throw us so far off course that future generations would consider our existence to be a mere legend? 

REVIEW 

I agreed to review Mythos because I’m a closet YA paranormal romance fan. Who doesn’t love Bella and Edward but secretly wishes she’d picked Jacob because werewolves are like so much sexier than vampires? I was intrigued by the premise of Mythos. I’ve never read mermaid fiction before so thought it would be worth reading to get something a little different than the usual.

I thoroughly enjoyed Mythos and found it impressive for a debut. David and Faren were everything you would expect from love’s young dream in this genre. I did find their relationship a little simpering and twee at times but realistic. I’m sure I was that nauseating the first time I fell for someone. They are both fleshed out, good characters. The other characters in Mythos are also strong. David and Faren’s love story was important but was not the central core of the novel. I liked this. Mythos would have been slushy gibberish like a Mills & Boon novel if it had been all about them.

One of the best things about Mythos was the setting. McLaren really brings the Bahamas to life. I felt like I was right there with David, Faren and the other characters. I felt the sun beating down on me. The sand squished between my toes. I really liked the scenes set in Faren’s world. The ocean was brought to vivid, memorable life. I think setting is important in fiction especially a fantasy novel. An author needs to make the world come to life and breathe. McLaren really pulls it off. It was really cool that Faren’s world was Atlantis. Nice touch.

I must confess the bits I enjoyed the most about Mythos were the action scenes. Some of my favourites include: When Faren is arrested after a Tristian, a Mer who is in love with her betrays her. They characters are attacked by sea demons and other monsters. There a big battle between the Mers and the sea demons. I wanted the love stuff to hurry up so the story would get back to death, tragedy and chaos.

I didn’t think the ending worked as well as the rest of Mythos. Humans come out of nowhere and save the day revealing a secret, ancient alliance between humans and Mers. I just thought this was sort of convenient. An oh let’s send in the cavalry to save the day moment. I did enjoy the rest of the ending through.

Mythos is the first book of the five part Mer Chronicles. I would read the rest because I want to see where the characters go plus Mythos ends on a cliff-hanger so I need to know what happens next.

RATING

4-star-rating

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2014 in E-book, Fiction, Heather McLaren, Novel

 

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ABARAT (ABSOLUTE MIDNIGHT) BY CLIVE BARKER

ABARAT 3

Abarat (Absolute Midnight) by Clive Barker

Harper Voyager, 2011, First Edition (Hardback)

569 pages 

clivebarker.info

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_Midnight

 

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

A dazzling fantasy adventure for all ages, the third part of a quintet appearing at two yearly intervals, richly illustrated by the author. 

The Abarat: a magical otherworld composed on an archipelago of twenty-five islands – one for each hour of the day, plus an island out of time.

Candy Quackenbush, escaping her dull, dull life from the most boring place in our world, Chickentown, USA, finds that in the Abarat she has another existence entirely, one which links her to marvels and mysteries; and even to murder… 

In this, the third volume in Clive Barker’s extraordinary fantasy for both adults and children, Candy’s adventures in the amazing world of the Abarat are getting stranger by the Hour. Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight, has sent his henchmen to capture her. Why? she wonders. What would Carrion want with a girl from Minnesota? And why is Candy beginning to feel that the world of the Abarat is familiar to her? Why can she speak words of magic she doesn’t even remember learning?

There is a mystery here. And Carrion, along with his fiendish grandmother, Mater Motley, suspects that whatever Candy is, she could spoil his plans to take control of the Abarat. 

Now Candy’s companions must race against time to save her from the clutches of Carrion, and she must solve the mystery of her past before the forces of Night and Day clash and Absolute Midnight descends upon the islands. 

A final war is about to begin. And Candy is going to need to make some choices that will change her life forever… 

EXTRACT 

ON THE EARLY COAST of Idjit, where two a.m. looked south over the darkened straits toward the island of Gorgossium, there was a house, its facade much decorated, set high upon the cliffs. Its occupant went by the name of Mr. Kithit, and several others besides, but none of the names were truly his. He was known simply as the Card-Reader. The cards he read were not designed for games of chance. Far from it. He only ever used the Abaratian tarot deck, wherein a reader as expert as Mr. Kithit might find the past murmuring, the present in doubt, and the future barely opening its eyes. A decent living could be made from interpreting the way the cards fell. 

REVIEW 

I loved Absolute Midnight. The novel is the third volume in Barker’s Abarat series. I also have hardback, first edition copies of the other two books, Abarat and Days of Magic, Nights of War. Absolute Midnight picks up right where Days of Magic, Nights of War finished after Chickentown has been almost destroyed by Izabella, the Abaratian Sea and Candy has discovered Princess Boa has been living inside her head since Candy was born with her soul inside her.

I would like to say a word about the first edition copy of Absolute Midnight before I continue. The hardback contains over 100 prints of paintings Barker created especially for this volume. The book is printed on very thick, glossy paper. The title of the book is embossed on the front cover. Overall, the novel is a very attractive package and well worth the money. It’s book demanding to be read. Very impressive.

Absolute Midnight is packed with tension, action and adventure as things really take off. Almost from the start Candy is plunged into chaos. She uses magic to have Princess Boa removed from her mind into a physical body. Too late, Candy realises Boa is a nasty piece of work when she tries to kill Candy and then kills the son of the sorceress who separated them when Candy evades her. One adventure follows another at a dizzying pace. Events are much more space out in Abarat and Days of Magic, Nights of War. Barker gives you more room to breathe in the first two volumes. You barely have time to catch your breath in Absolute Midnight. I enjoyed this much faster pace. Everything that happened in the last two volumes has been leading up to this. Absolute Midnight is much, much darker than the previous two volumes. Hence the title. Christopher Carrion’s gran, evil old bitch Mater Motley unleashes an army of darkness on the islands. Queue big battle, massacres and lots of blood and guts. Absolute Midnight contains some truly chilling moments. One of my favourite scenes is when Candy visits her mother in Chickentown in her dreams and is captured by her father, who’s lost his mind and formed a church. He has been corrupted by a set of magical Abaratian hats of a nasty piece of work Candy killed. Candy’s father and his attempts to remove Candy’s memories with an Abaratian machine were truly chilling. There are so many moment I loved and that made me turn the pages over and over again.

One of the best things about Barker’s Abarat series is the characters. Absolute Midnight is no exception. Candy becomes a much more mature and stronger character when she expels Boa from her body. Candy’s father becomes a true, full blood villain and not just the violent thug who haunts Candy’s memories. Mater Motely is every bit as evil as Barker has hinted in other volumes.

Day of Magic, Nights of War was published in 2004, seven years before Absolute Midnight. That’s a long wait. I read Day of Magic, Nights of War for the first time not long after it was published. I’ve forgotten some of what happened in Day of Magic, Nights of War. I found myself getting confused a few times with some of the references in Absolute Midnight to the other volumes. I hope I don’t need to wait as long for the next volume or I may need to do some re-reading.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in Clive Barker, Fiction, Novel

 

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ALL MY SINS BY DARYL SNEATH

ALL MY SINS

http://darylsneath.com

http://nonpublishing.com/all+my+sins/book/43/3

I was given an advance review copy for free in exchange for an honest review.

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

Ben Dunn has not been trafficking marijuana to his high school students. He has, however, been intimate with one, which is probably why the authorities come looking for him one afternoon. After a night spent in the drunk-tank, Ben commissions his friend’s help in planning a revenge-plot against the fellow teacher he blames for his forced removal from the school. In the end, however, he just wants to begin anew. To have his name cleared. To fix the things he’s broken. And to go back and undo the awful things he’s done. But he’s stuck in the present, where the past lingers and the future looms. 

EXTRACT 

‘Shakespeare should have ended the play with Hamlet’s final words. But the end is never where we want it. The way something ends—such as life or love—can be as unpredictable and removed from reason as the way it begins.’

I was sitting-slash-leaning sideways against the desk at the front of the room when I said this, one knee up, shoulders square to the class. Like I was getting my picture taken. I read in Teacher Man that it’s a more confident looking pose than the one where you keep both feet on the ground, hands clasped in your lap. Hard to tell, though, when you’re the one posing.

Regardless, it’s a limited posture. I don’t see it working in any other stage-like context. 

REVIEW 

I loved All My Sins. I absolutely loved it. I started to read it late last night and fell asleep over it at 2am and resumed reading as soon I woke up. You know a books great when you absolutely have to pick it up again.

I love the first person narrator Sneath uses for All My Sins. I really like first person narrators but it can be tricky to pull off so most writers opt for the easier third person narrator. Sneath makes it work a treat in All My Sins. I love the way the novel is written as if Ben, the narrator is telling his life story (confessing his many sins) to Aislin, the love he lost. Sneath even includes little footnotes where Dunn offers additional insight to Aislin (i.e. I said or did this but this was the real motivation). This works really well.

Dunn is a great character. He’s a bit of an anti-hero. He has the best intentions but always manages to fuck it up. He staggers from one disaster to another like a blind man groping in the dark. You know what they say about the road to hell being pathed with good intentions? The choices he makes don’t show him in the best light and he comes across a total asshole at times. But there is something endearing and lovable about him. I wanted to hug him, pat his head and tell him, there, there, it’ll all work out in the end; you just need to stop shooting yourself in the foot. You can’t help root for him and prey he’ll dig his way out of the pit of shit he’s stumbled into eventually.

There are a lot of moments in All My Sins that left me with a lump in my throat. When his Dunn’s father dies and no one can get a hold of him in Ireland because he lost his phone. When Aislin tells him their few day’s together years ago is not significant to her and he believes he’s the father of her child. The times he gets wasted and makes a total arse of himself and everyone around him.

There are a couple of sections where All My Sins takes the form of a play because Dunn wants to accurately record what was said and done. The first time I saw one of these sections I thought oh lord, what the hell is this? Sneath makes this work really well. I thought it was particularly effective when Dunn is arrested for being off his face and trashing a bar.

There is only one thing about All My Sins that niggled me. There are sections where there are several pages of nothing but dialogue. I thought this was too much and should have been broken up with action or reported speech. This didn’t spoil my enjoyment of All My Sins. I’m just not a fan of pages of continued dialogue.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in Daryl Sneath, Fiction, Novel

 

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MR CAMPION’S FAREWELL BY MIKE RIPLEY

mr campion

www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/r/mike-ripley

http://severnhouse.com/author/Mike+Ripley/9486

I was given an advance review copy for free in exchange for an honest review.

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

“The idyllic English village of Lindsay Carfax isn’t run by the parish council or the local cops as you might suppose. The real bosses are the Carders. They’re a syndicate who run this place – with their own rules.” 

Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion returns to centre stage in this quintessentially British mystery, with appearances from all of Allingham’s regular characters. 

A must for fans of Margery Allingham, Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers.  

EXTRACT 

‘I find it shocking,’ said Clarissa Webster. ‘Shocking, and, if you must know, rather frightening.’

She pushed back the papers on her roll-top desk, put down an empty glass and lit a cigarette. The back room of the shop called appropriately The Medley, once the kitchen of a Tudor cottage, was part office, part store. Canvases, framed and unframed, lined one wall; cardboard cartons of artists’ materials, convex mirrors, bookends and tourist souvenirs, were stacked in that curious disarray which suggests that it is part of a system understood only by its creator. 

REVIEW 

I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Campion’s Farewell. I’d never heard of Margery Allingham or the character before I agreed to review the book. It sounded like a good old mystery yarn and a pleasant change of pace from some of the books I’ve read recently. I loved Mr Campion’s Farewell. I just might have to read some of Margery Allingham’s work now because I liked the character so much.

Mr Campion’s Farewell is an old fashioned mystery novel. We have ageing sleuth, Albert Campion sent to the little village of Lindsay Fairfax to visit his niece. What could possibly go wrong? Strange disappearances. Vandalism. Accidents that may or may not be attempted murder. The tragic death of some students a year before that may or may not be linked to the current events. Oh and not forgetting the Carders, the secret society who rule the village and keep everything hush-hush.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about Mr Campion’s Farewell is the sense of mystery that runs all the way through. These things keep happening and I was left wondering how they were connected. A school teacher goes missing and turns up after nine days. Campion learns of the local legend around ‘nine days wonder’. Odd things happen from time to time and the number nine is usually significant. A school teacher starts to mouth off about the Carders, vanishes and turns up nine days later. A group of students and hippie causing a ruckus are given nine days to clear out and on the ninth day they OD on drugs and two of them die. Campion’s niece takes a bad fall when someone intentionally lays a trp. How is this connected to the school teacher or Campion’s car being trashed? I constantly had all these questions running through my head and had to keep reading so where all the little threads joined in a big knot. I love it when writers do that and let you think for yourself instead of spelling it all out. I really liked all the references to the number nine and thought the idea of a secret sect in Suffolk was great.

I really liked the characters in Mr Campion’s Farewell. Campion was my favourite. He reminded me a bit of Sherlock Holmes, creeping about the woods and village at night, spying and trying to solve a mystery. There is a great scene where he gets shot in the arse while out hunting with some of the Carders that made me laugh so much I had tears in my eyes. I loved Campion’s wife as well. There are some great scenes between them when Campion is hospitalised after being shot in the arse. I like the other characters as well.

I thought the ending of Mr Campion’s Farewell was great and very original. I never saw it coming. I had no idea how everything connected and was pleasantly surprised. I love it when writers surprise me and Ripley pulls it off.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Fiction, Mike Ripley, Novel

 

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NIGHT-SIDE BY JOYCE CAROL OATES

NIGHT SIDE

www.usfca.edu/jco

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

Eighteen tales devoted to mystery and imagination, to other worlds of dreams and nightmares, mediums, odd happenings. 

EXTRACT 

Disturbing experience at Mrs A-‘s home yesterday evening.

NIGHT-SIDE 

REVIEW 

Night-Side is a very early collection of JCO published in 1977. All of the stories were previously published in various magazines.

I thought Night-Side was okay but not on a par with her later such as Heat and Other Stories (1991). I particularly enjoyed the title story, Night-Side, The Widows, Lover, Bloodstains and The Thaw.

Unlike her later collections (Heat and Other Stories), no story really stands out. I probably won’t remember any story I read a week from now. There are stories in collections like Heat and Other Stories that I still think about several years later. No story from Night-Side will stay in my head for very long.

I’ve read much better story collections and a lot worse. There are stories like Night-Side and The Widows that could be something great but sort of fizzle out and never quite fulfil their potential.

I didn’t hate the stories JCO offers in Night-Side but I didn’t love them either. I found the majority of them average and couple were even lacklustre. They stories were just so-so. They are a good example of JCO’s earlier work though and you get a glimpse of how great she could be. I still remember the first time I read High Lonesome: w & Selected Stories, 1966–2006 and JCO blew me away. The stories are all well written they just lacked – something.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

 

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THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON BY STEPHEN KING

THE GIRL

www.stephenking.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Girl_Who_Loved_Tom_Gordon

BLURB FROM THE COVER 

‘The world has teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old. Lost in the woods.’ 

Trisha has only veered a little way off the trail. But in her panic to get back to the path, Trisha takes a turning that leads into the tangled undergrowth. Deeper and deeper in the terrifying woods.

At first it’s just the bugs, midges and mosquitoes. Then comes the hunger. For comfort she tunes her Walkman into broadcasts of the Red Sox baseball games and the performances of her hero Tom Gordon.

As darkness begins to fall, Trisha realises that she is not alone. There’s something else in the woods – watching. Waiting . . . 

EXTRACT 

THE WORLD had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted. Trisha McFarland discovered this when she was nine years old. At ten o’clock on a morning in early June she was sitting in the back seat of her mother’s Dodge Caravan, wearing her blue Red Sox batting practice jersey (the one with 36 GORDON on the back) and playing with Mona, her doll. At ten thirty she was lost in the woods. By eleven she was trying not to be terrified, trying not to let herself think, This is serious, this is very serious. Trying not to think that sometimes when people got lost in the woods they got seriously hurt. Sometimes they died. 

REVIEW 

I’ve read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon several times though not for years. I love the title of this short little novel. The title gives away absolutely nothing about the novel and even implies it might be love story. Very clever Mr King.

On the surface The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon seems to be a deceptively simple story. A girl gets lost in the woods. You can guess what happens. However, in his usual style King offers something much deeper with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I love the way King gradually builds tension and suspense. Trisha is quite calm at first and confident she will find her way back to the path. As she gets more and more lost, the novel takes on darker and darker tones and becomes quite unsettling. I love the contrast of light and dark in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.

I think King created a very real world in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. I could easily imagine a real girl getting lost in the woods and stumbling deeper and deeper into the woods, overcome and delirious with hunger and cold. King gave me shivers down my spine with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. This novel focuses on psychological horror and trauma rather than supernatural ones. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is one of King’s very few ‘straight’ novels.

There is only thing about The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon that just doesn’t work for me. Trisha is hunted through the woods by a bear. King makes the mistake of giving the bear supernatural elements (i.e. Trisha feels something has drawn a circle around her when she’s asleep somehow marketing her out and scaring off other predators). Trisha imagines the bear is some kind of wasp god! There is a scene towards the end when she prepares to fight the bear that I found ludicrous. Why couldn’t it just be a hungry bear looking for dinner?

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is a very good novel. King offers us something different than his usual stuff.

RATING

4-star-rating

 

 

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