Toys by James Patterson
(Little, Brown and Co., 2011, 364 pages)
First of all, let me say that I’m a big fan of James Patterson and will probably read anything that he writes! Unfortunately, his latest, Toys, was not among one of my favorites. Set way in the future, it’s about humans who have created super humans. Now the super humans, which are called Elites, want to destroy the humans, who are called skunks, and take over the world. One of the top Elites, who thought the humans were the scum of the earth, finds out that his parents were human. They were doctors and they operated on him to make him one of the Elite. So he finds out that he’s human himself and sides with the humans, using his super powers to help take out the Elites! I know, it gets to be a little confusing.
The book was somewhat action-packed, though. It kept my interest to see what was going to happen to the humans and because I’m a James Patterson fan and I was determined to finish the book. I actually ended up enjoying it somewhat. Just not as well as I enjoyed his other books. If you pick this up, just expect something a little different from the James Patterson you’re used to. This is not one of his typical crime thrillers that I’m used to reading from him. I guess it’s okay to step out of your comfort zone once in a while, but I want to see more of the old James come back. Out of four stars I would give Toys two.
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
(St. Martin’s Press, 2010, 352 pages)
Still Missing is one of those books you just can’t put down. It is the first novel by Chevy Stephens. Set in Vancouver, the story is told by the heroine in a series of sessions with a psychiatrist, but I don’t want to give anything away so that is all I am going to say about the plot. It is a thriller in every sense of the word and would make a great beach/summer read. Again, I literally couldn’t put it down.
Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
(Scribner, 2010, 268 pages)
I like Stephen King novels but I love his short stories. His new book is a collection of four stories that were deliciously scary, I almost screamed at a couple of parts. The title for the collection is very apt, dark tales with very little light to cut through the darkness. The first story, “1922,” is a sort of a ghost story set on a farm. A farmer kills his wife to keep some land she wants to sell but of course it doesn’t work out like he thought it would. The second story, “Big Driver,” is about a woman who writes a sort of Miss Marple/Murder She Wrote type of mystery series called “Willow Grove Knitting Society.” She encounters trouble on the way back from a book signing and is thrust into a mystery that is much more violent than the ones she writes. The third (and shortest) story is “Fair Extension.” It is a surprising twist on the old tale of making a deal with the devil. The fourth story, “A Good Marriage,” is the creepiest tale and tackles what happens when a wife finds out something devastating about her husband of over 20 years. If you like a good scary story, this book gives you four that will make you sleep with the lights on.
White Oleander by Janet Finch
(Little, Brown & Co., 1999, 390 pages)
This book was one of Oprah’s picks in 1999. I found it browsing the shelves looking for something to read on my road trip to Florida. I loved it and read it in a day and a half. This was Janet Fitch’s first novel and it reads like a dream. It is the story of Astrid, a 12 year old girl thrust into the foster care system in Los Angeles after her mother, Ingrid, is jailed for murdering her ex-lover. Ingrid is a larger than life character – a beautiful, captivating, but tough as nails poet. Most of the novel is about Astrid’s journey from foster house to foster house, all the time trying to come to terms with her mother’s crime and how she can separate herself from the pull of Ingrid and not turn into all of that hardness.
Astrid tells her story and her voice is hypnotizing, describing each new situation and looking for beauty in the ordinary things, trying to escape the hardships she has to endure as a foster child. Los Angeles comes to life in this book and each passing year is marked by the season of the Santa Ana winds. A very good read.
The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich
(HarperPerennial, 1999, 338 pages)
The Beet Queen has been on my “to read” list for a while now so I’m glad I was finally able to get to it. I loved this book. Granted, I think I would love anything written by Louise Erdrich. . . but that’s neither here nor there 🙂 The story spans a period of 40 years and begins with the arrival of two siblings, Karl and Mary Adare, in the small town of Argus, North Dakota. Karl and Mary quite suddenly found themselves “orphans” and traveled to Argus illicitly by box car in order to reach the house of their aunt Fritzie. Karl and Mary’s lives quickly take two very different paths. As the years pass we see them grow, adapt, and become intertwined with a broad cast of characters – all of whom end up profoundly influencing one another in some way, shape, or form as time goes on.
Sita, Celestine, Wallace, and Dot are the 4 main “supporting” characters in this story – although they each get their own unique storyline as well. There are so many different twists and turns that I don’t want to give anything away. Just trust that Louise Erdrich is a clever and engaging storyteller and she has a way of drawing you in. You’ll want to see how the lives of her characters change from 1932 to 1972 and odds are you’ll find yourself compelled to read more of Erdrich. If you like this I’d recommend The Master Butcher’s Singing Club because it deals with a few of the peripheral characters here in more detail.