The Long Walk by Stephen King


My quest to read every Stephen King book continues and this one was a doozy.  Originally published as a Bachman book, the intro is an essay from King about becoming Bachman.  Kind of fascinating, from a writing point of view and a reading point of view.  In the essay, King says that Bachman has a darker view of the world, something that we would see in the ending of The Long Walk and so I went into it with that and the glowing review from my husband.

What I kept hearing about The Long Walk was that it was a dystopian world where a dangerous game is played.  And, honestly, I had some problems with this.  The world was not very well formed.  There were hints about what the world was like.  Characters talked about death squads and that one could disappear if they spoke out against the Long Walk.  There was a brief mention of banned books.  Really, though, it didn’t feel like the world played much of a roll in this one.  What it really felt like was a commentary on the darkness in people.

Would you watch a game where the losers die?  I wouldn’t.  I couldn’t.  But I have a feeling that a lot of people could and would.

The Long Walk is an annual event in which 100 teenage boys walk for days without stopping.  They much maintain a pace of at least 4 miles per hour.  Each time that they fall below this pace, they are warned.  After three warnings they “get their ticket.”  Basically, a military man shoots them.  They walk until they all die except one and the winner gets whatever he wants for the rest of his life, if he survives.  There is a lot of talk about the winners dying after the walk.

I never thought that I would find this book interesting.  I mean, the whole story is about a bunch of boys walking.  For miles.  For days.  Through states.  Over rivers.  Up hills.  There still manages to be a lot of action.  Plus, it ends up being something of a very character driven book.  As Garraty, our MC, walks, he talks to other contestants.  He learns about their families and friends, about how they ended up on the walk, and they, in turn, learn about him.

The terror isn’t even necessarily in the deaths, though some of those are pretty damn gruesome.  It’s in how the mind turns.  The characters are given this task and they know that all of them but one will die and in spite of themselves they begin to make friends only to watch them die.  Eventually, they begin to lose their minds, become animals.

This was a rough one for me.  I liked it.  It was a good read.  It was just terrifying toward the end.  Yesterday I read a paragraph that completely summed up my biggest fears.  When I finished reading the last 15 pages in bed last night, I felt like a century had passed and it took me a long time to fall asleep.

A kind of physical and psychological horror that slowly takes root.  Excellent read.

Believe Me by Eddie Izzard

I love Eddie Izzard.  He is, like, one of my favorite comedians forever.  So, imagine my surprise when I found out that he had an autobiography out and my delight when I found out that he read the audiobook himself and that the audiobook had extra little tidbits in it.  To hell with the audiobook I already had checked out!

For the most part, I did enjoy this book.  It was exactly what I expected, the story of his childhood and his growth as a comedian and his coming out, all told with wit and jokes and a dash of history here and there.

Honestly, I don’t know if I could have made it through the print book.  Maybe it would have been easier.  Izzard uses footnotes throughout the book which might have been easier to follow in print.  While I enjoyed the book, it was easy to get lost because Eddie Izzard reading his autobiography is exactly how you would expect it to be, he goes off on long side notes that are great but distracting.  Some are so long that you forget where you were at when it started.

One the other hand, this was honest and funny.  It covered losing a parent, going to boarding school, learning how to stage a show, being a better comedian, and even running a ridiculous amount of marathons.  Definitely worth the read for any fan.

Where the Heart Is by Billie Letts

I don’t think that there is a book nerd of my age who didn’t, at one point, decide to read the Oprah Book Club books.  Y’all, I worked in a library and had no idea how to navigate the adult fiction section and they just seemed like easy picks.  I didn’t even watch Oprah.  Never in my life have I watched a whole episode of the show.  But I had a printed list of the book club books and I was going to read them.

I read Where the Heart Is when I was in high school and really it was kind of the perfect pick.  I actually read it for an English class where we got to pick the book we wanted to do our report on and when I asked to read Stephen King I was given this instead.  Of course I liked it.  Of course one of my favorite teachers would force me into reading something so not Goth that I would love.  I decided to re-read it earlier this year when I was pregnant because it just seemed like a good book to read during that time.  I mean, at least there was a pretty good chance that I wouldn’t be having my baby in a WalMart.

It’s a good book.  You know how sometimes you try to read something popular and it feels like you are reading something that’s just poorly written?  I didn’t feel that way about Where the Heart Is then and I don’t feel it now.  It has the ability to suck you into this little town where the characters feel real and you can’t help but want to know about their lives.

Where the Heart Is is the story of Novalee Nation who is seventeen and seven months pregnant when we first meet her.  She’s going to California with her boyfriend, Willy Jack, who is going to get work with a rail company only his real plan is to have an accident and collect a settlement, like his cousin who lost a thumb.  When Novalee needs to pee, Willy Jack stops at a Walmart and gives her a little bit of cash for some shoes and then leaves her there.  Novalee takes up residence in the WalMart but by the time the baby is born she has already found her way into the hearts of some new friends.

I really do like this kind of book, this small town quiet story of a life as it snowballs.  Also, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I almost cried at my desk while I finished this one even though it didn’t seem like I should be crying.

Graphic Friday- Archie, vol. 3

It’s happened.  I’ve become confused.

I read the second volume of Hot Archie back in December and in the meantime, well, a lot has happened.  Besides the fact that my brain is having a hard time accessing details from Before Baby, I’ve also gone and gotten myself addicted to Riverdale and in the past two weeks have watched eight episodes.  (It’s hard fitting in binges right now but I’m doing my best, dammit.)

So, it took a little adjusting but I eventually managed to get back into the groove.

Look, I have always been an Archie fan.  I used to pick up the occasional comic at the grocery store.  I was a fan of the Prom digest every year.  I know that The Archies are credited with the song “Sugar, Sugar.”  I recognize most of the characters, though I did have to look a few up for Riverdale watching purposes.  What I’m saying is that I am biased.  I am going to be here for all of the new Archie.  I may not read the new Jughead  (I didn’t like it.)  but I am IN for the new Archie.

In this volume, we find Veronica shipped off to boarding school in Switzerland where she meets her nemesis, Cheryl Blossom.  When the two wage war on one another and Veronica gets the upper hand, Cherly manages to weasel her way to Riverdale where she sets her sights on Archie as the ultimate revenge.  While Archie and Betty are both dealing with their broken hearts, Veronica is frantically trying to get back home before it’s too late.  Good old fashion fun!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Yes, I know that this is another classic I’m late getting to.  Maybe it’s just the corners of the internet that I hang out in, but it seems like so many women have memories of reading the Anne books when they were girls, or of having them read to them.  When I was growing up, I had no interest in the Anne books.  I wanted to read Fear Street, not something that would be all girly and flowery and probably religious.  But this is why I am glad that I have saved so much of this stuff for later in life.  Would I have loved the Little House books when I was 10?  Hell no, but I found them super fascinating as a 32 year old.

And now I’m 33 and finally getting around to Anne of Green Gables.  I have so much more of a reading history now that it added to my enjoyment.  I DID enjoy it, you know.  I laughed and chuckled and gasped.  Anne was not nearly as naughty as I expected and her life wasn’t as dark as I was lead to believe.  (I recently read about Anne being a tragic character in the first book and while I feel that she would really like the label I also feel like it doesn’t quite fit.)

When Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, middle-aged siblings who never married and keep the family farm together, decide to get an orphan, they settle on a boy who will be able to help with the chores.  Due to a misunderstanding, when Matthew goes to fetch the orphan from the station he finds that he has been sent a girl.  Matthew has never been good at talking to girls or women but Anne merrily fills up the conversation all the way back to Avonlea.  By the time they get there, Matthew is taken by her and manages to quietly convince his sister to keep her.

Anne is always getting into scrapes.  Her head is in the clouds.  She is dramatic and a dreamer.  Also, I felt she was kind of a Pollyanna, which I think is absolutely fine. The book follows Anne’s life through a series of years as she grows up and learns lessons and becomes dear to those around her.

I did enjoy this book and I am ready to start the next.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

I am going to do my best not to spoil this for you.  However, I went into this one knowing what the big twist was because of blog.  I didn’t want to know.  I intended to read the book eventually.  But the spoiler was on its own line right under the spoiler warning with no extra spacing and I saw it before I could look away.  Then I shook my fists in rage and have bitched about it numerous times since.

Because *some people* don’t seem to get how to properly warn of spoilers.  ~Some people.~

That did put me in an interesting spot to start this book because I went in knowing the truth and got to look for clues along the way.  I STILL missed stuff, you guys.  I mean, I knew what was coming and kept thinking, “How is she going to do this?  What is her plan here?”  When the twist came, it was still a surprise and I still HAD TO KNOW.  Kudos, Lockhart.

Cady Sinclair leads a charmed life.  She comes from an old family with trust funds and an island.  Every summer she goes to the island with her family and spends it with her cousins, Johnny and Mirren, and Gat, who she calls the liars.  Everything seems to change during Summer Fifteen when Cady finds herself in love with Gat.  But then an accident sends Cady away from the island and into a reeling sickness of amnesia and headaches.  When she returns, everything is different and nobody will tell her why.  She only has four weeks to figure out what happened during Summer Fifteen.  Was she the victim of some terrible crime?  What did she do wrong?

This was a great read.  It pulled me in right away and I devoured the first half of the book in one sitting.  (The internet was down.  That probably helped.)  I didn’t want to read but once I started reading, I didn’t want to stop.  I held the pages open with baby feet so that I could keep reading.  So, the question then becomes: Can you still love a book if you hate the ending?  I did not even hate the twist, just the way that it was executed.  It felt, I don’t know, unnecessary to me somehow even though it was the whole point of the book.  The sense I get is that you will either hate it or love it.  I can tell you that hating it did not make me love to rest of the book any less.

Also, fabulous summer read.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Marrow Lindbergh

I finished this book a week ago and just haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet.  Reviews are one of those things that I tend to push to the wayside when I am busy and I am busy.  Working full time, managing a household, mothering, wifing, friending, daughtering.  It is a lot and that is kind of the point of this book, which I came across after it was mentioned in another of my favorite books.

Lindbergh used a two week vacation on the beach to work out some of her thoughts on being a busy woman and finding balance.  Her argument is that we all need a little space and solitude in order to continue giving.  We give until our cup is empty and then we must fill it back up with some solitude.

It was a relief to hear someone else say that women need solitude.  I found myself jealous of Lindbergh’s vacation, remembering a girls’ trip last year when I stayed in the cottage one night and read in the blissful quiet.  I missed my quiet mornings in my office, journaling and meditating behind a closed door.  Mostly, though, I realized how important it is for me to take time for myself.  It’s kind of like how you get more done if you just slow down.

I’ve noticed that I am accumulating a little collection of women’s books that I’ve been underlining and really thinking about, a kind of special collection.  This book will go there to be looked back at time after after.