Rose Madder (Stephen King)

I have few rules for what I write here; one of them is to write within half an hour of finishing a book. (These aren’t serious book reviews — sorry to dissapoint. I just want to remember exactly what I was thinking when I finished a book, before looking at and listening to other people’s opinions may have changed my mind.)

The fact that I finished Rose Madder on Saturday and am writing about it six days later says a lot. (This entry is back-dated to provide an accurate listing.)

Take the movie “Sleeping With the Enemy”, add pointless supernatural elements, ratchet up the gore, and you get Rose Madder. It’s tied to the Dark Tower series, according to the listing at the beginning of “Wolves of the Calla”, but only through vocabulary; the book is just as tied to any of the other King books it jokingly references. The book is told from two different viewpoints, and one is set entirely in italics — sometimes for page after page, which makes it very difficult to read. The build-up is good but the payoff is meh, and only the extended coda rescues the book even a little bit. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if this were a second pass at a much earlier “trunk novel”.

I wish the first book of 2004 was better.

It Got Away: I didn’t read Coraline soon enough and it had to go back to the library. Ah, well, I’ll get it again.

Running With Scissors (Augusten Burroughs)

I had to fight hard to start this book, because I kept wanting to compare it to David Sedaris’ stuff, and it just didn’t stack up. Once it did start I read it in one big crunch and finished thinking that it just didn’t stack up to David Sedaris’ stuff. It may seem unfair, I suppose, but the parallels are definitely there, right on top and not hidden at all. If I were unkind, I could say I doubt this book would’ve been published without Sedaris’ before it.

And Burroughs’ writing just doesn’t have the humor or the humanity of, say, Naked; it seems a bit flat. Not exactly wasted time, but I wish I’d read a different book.

Insomnia (Stephen King)

I’m a soft touch, an easy mark. I’m the one who sniffles at movies, and it’s really easy to make me sad about any characters I’ve spent some time involved with. I got up to wash my face twice in the last twenty pages of this book.

My second time through this book, which is essentialy an extended side-story to the Dark Tower, though entertaining enough to be read on its own. Not one of the best books ever– not even one of King’s best, meandering and messy at times, and over-long by about a third– but… but… like I said to someone when I started it, sometimes sitting down with a King book is like settling in for a long conversation with an old friend. You’ve talked with him plenty before, and even maybe had the same conversation before– but that doesn’t matter; you know him and the way he talks and the whole thing is somehow comfortable.

Mr. Timothy (Louis Bayard)

This starts off with what seems to be the worst premise ever– “Tiny Tim, grown up, solves murders”. However, as loath as I am to participate at Readerville any more, they do come up with some cracking good recommendations– so I put in a loan request at the library.

The book turned out much better than that. It’s a period novel, but unlike, say, The Quincunx, it makes no moves to take the form or language of the period. The action sequences manage to be exciting and not just distraction from the plot. And the book, in the end, turns out to be about family– losing it, refinding it and rebuilding it.

It has the best ending of any book I’ve read for a while.

I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith

This book feels a lot like the good old “Jane Austen updated for the current day,” except that the current day in this case is the 1930s, when it was first published. Charming journal of a young girl; at turns romantic, incisive and very, very funny. Recommended.

There’s a movie, which I now want to see– Roger Ebert thought highly of it– but, God help me, it has Marc Blucas in. Sigh.

Death Masks (Jim Butcher)

Fifth in the “Dresden Files” series by Butcher. Harry Dresden is a professional wizard in Chicago, kind of a supernatural private investigator. He helps out the police — the Special Investigations unit — from time to time, when he’s not getting into magic-related problems of his own.

Yeah, sounds a lot like Anita Blake to me, too, and reads a lot like it from time to time. However, this series has ever-escalating danger levels without the ever-escalating hero power levels that have almost destroyed the fun of the Anitaverse. (And there’s a lot less sex, and what there is is less graphically described, as well.)

My favorite character is still Bob the talking skull, so I was very frustrated when he goes into a dangerous situation in this book, is hurt — and then is never mentioned again. What’s up with that? It’s like Harry’s more worried about his fucking coat than his assistant…

Wolves of the Calla (Stephen King)

I won’t say much about this book; I’m a Dark Tower junkie from way back. They had a copy of the original hardcover edition with illustrations and all at the local library when I was a kid. I think I was 13 or 14 when I read it; it was before “The Drawing of the Three” came out, in any case.

Did I enjoy it? Oh yeah. Did it end on a cliffhanger? You betcha. At least we know when the next book is coming, in this case — June next year, with the final volume in November.

When I read the last book, it’ll have been 20 years since the first time I read the first. Hell of a long time to wait for an ending. Will it be worth it? I’m betting it will.

Partial reads beforehand:

Anne Rice, The Witching Hour: Although I loved this the first time around, my irritation with “modern” Anne Rice must have influenced the re-read; I only got about 150 pages in before giving up in exasperation.

Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant: Thought I hadn’t read it. I had. Discworld is great, but re-reads must be spaced far apart. Far far apart.