Friday, September 25, 2015

'Lair of Dreams'

It's not easy finding a sequel that is just as good as the first novel.

When I find one, I get very excited to read it.  "Will this keep me reading until the early morning hours?".  If it's good, I take it to work, or I read it in the bath tub.  I'll even forget about Facebook and Twitter.  Who needs social media when you have a solid story waiting to bewitch you?

And especially now.  Halloween isn't far away, and it's time to start reading spooky-scary stories.  One of my current reads is a new collection of Shirley Jackson's stories (but not all of them are spooky-scary.  Some are very ironic, though, which is scary in itself).

But the book I just finished reading is the second novel in Libba Bray's 'The Diviners' series. 

'Lair of Dreams' doesn't entirely concentrate on Evie O'Neill, the protagonist from the first novel.  She's there, alright, but the story slowly showcases two characters, one being new to the group (and I hope to read more about her in the next book).

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O'Neill has outed herself as a Diviner.  With her uncanny ability to read people's secrets, she becomes the star of a radio show and soon earns the title, 'America's Sweetheart Seer'.  As a publicity stunt, she and her friend, Sam, pretend they are romantically involved, which brings both tremendous favor with the public.  But a darkness soon descends, and Evie is pulled in, despite the fact that she prefers to go to various parties and drink until morning.  

Pianist Henry DuBois and Chinatown resident, Ling Chan are two Diviners trying to keep their powers a secret; they can walk in dreams.  And the dream they are both pulled into is but the surface covering of a dark evil that is threatening to take innocent souls hostage via the city-wide 'Sleeping Sickness'.  Henry searches for a lost love, and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, but once they are pulled into the dream, they find a friendship that can only make them stronger.

Author Libba Bray
Although this book took me a bit longer to read, I still spent two days happily submerged in a story that is set on the cusp of the 1930's. The characters from the first book appear, and I'm glad that Bray didn't abandon them.  I learned more about their backgrounds, I loved watching some of them take charge of their responsibilities (while some tried to run away from them), and I was intrigued by the romantic relationships that bounced back and forth. But, most of all, I loved the mysticism, the eeriness of the whole series.  It was so atmospheric and a great 'pre-Halloween' read.

But a great surprise was the way Bray managed to insert Gemma Doyle (heroine of Bray's 'Gemma Doyle' trilogy) into the story. Just a short appearance, but enough to make me wonder if she'll be included in the third book.

Make it so, Ms. Bray.  Make it so.

'Lair of Dreams' by Libba Bray, and published by Little, Brown and Co., is available in hardcover at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  ISBN 9780316126045

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

'Finders Keepers'

Little Stevie Kings gets me every time.  

Just when I think he's touched on the distinctive human experience, minus the horrors, he proves that life is nothing but horror.  Everything we go through is nothing but horror; worrying about our children getting home before curfew, not getting called to the principal's office when our kids have done wrong.  The dreaded call from the police when our children have decided to end the constant suffering.

Yeah, it affects me every time.  And I love him for it.  I get in touch with myself, with my daughter.  His current series intrigues me with its compassion and humanity.  I love you, Little Stevie King.  I hope to speak with you some day. Apart from the public, the conventions, the signings.  I'd love to speak with you in a coffee shop; cups in hand, Tabitha sitting back, listening to our exchanges.  You're a real guy.

So, as a sequel (somewhat) to his marvelous 'Mr. Mercedes', I find a great settling of the 'chills' from his previous novel.  But I still don't trust it.  I know there's something dark and thrilling waiting for me.

"Wake up, genius!" Stephen King has written a riveting story about a vengeful reader.  The genius  is John Rothstein, who created a famously beloved character (think Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye'), Jimmy Gold, but who hadn't published a book in decades.  One of Rothstein's most faithful fans kills him because his non-conformist character, Gold, has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein, maybe for cash, but his real point is the treasure trove of notebooks that contain at least one more Gold novel.

But Morris hides the money and notebooks before he lands up in jail for a previous crime. Decades later, a young boy by the name of Pete Saubers, finds the money and the novels (and whose father is injured in the previous novel, 'Mr. Mercedes').  Pete discovers he is being rescued by the previous team of Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson from Morris, who is released after 35 years, and wants his money and his notebooks back.

King's follow-up to 'Mr. Mercedes' is all real, yet fictional, experience; the sweat and tears, the terror, the horror of finally facing up to the final altercation.

But they highlight the infamous Brady Hartsfield in slight little references.  But the reader knows that he will be the focus of the last book in this trilogy.  And that's where the horror comes in.  Fully-fleshed out.  Fully realized, as only King can do.

But 'Finders Keepers' is a rather mundane story.  Kid finds notebooks and money.  Criminal who found it and buried it decades ago.  Criminal is released from jail and begins a journey in order to get back the precious notebooks (he's not concerned about the money).  Kid who refuses to give it all back.  That's the power of this story.  Who deserves it.  Who would use it for their better selves.

King constantly astounds me.  What is good?  And what is bad?  But, most of all, I'm so glad he's provided a sense of the supernatural.  Because that is what makes him so significant, so 'branded'.  I love his horror novels; no one else can convey a special horror as well as Stephen King.

Author Stephen King
It is his sense of every day horror confronted in every day life that has terrified me for so long. His book, 'Gerald's Game' has left me with a strange sense of claustrophobia.  

His brilliance in creating real characters, people we'd see on an almost daily basis, is what always surprises me.  These are people who are 'real'. Breathing, consistent, actual human beings.

That is his genius.  He makes us care.  And you'll care a lot when you read the first two books in his 'Mr. Mercedes' trilogy.

But I'm scared to read that third book. That's how good Stephen King really is. He brings darkness into the sunniest day.

Stephen King's new novel, 'Finders Keepers', ISBN 978-1-50110-0007-9, is available at your local library and favorite independent bookstore.  But make sure you read 'Mr. Mercedes' first.  You'll thank me.