Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Summer Reading Extravaganza!

As you all know, Laura, Garrett, and I took a wild ride up and down highway 5 this summer.  We spent a lot of time driving, a lot of time with friends, and a lot of time with family.  But we also spent a lot of time with books. 

One of the highlights of the books experience this summer was our trip to Powell's Bookstore in Portland.  That place is amazing.  It is my wish for everyone to take a trip there someday.  I have mentioned before how I receive daily book reviews in my email via Powell's Review-a-Day newsletter, so I've had an invested desire to visit the actual store at some point.  It was more than I could have hoped and it made me desire a good, local bookstore all the more.  This place is no Borders or Barnes & Noble.  Though organized, there is no simple floor plan, no chairs dispersed throughout the store.  It has a gritty, hard edge to it that screams in your face that this is a used bookstore, a proud used bookstore that won't apologize.  And it doesn't need to.  There is a tremendous selection of books.  And one of the best aspects is that new editions are placed right on the shelves next to their used counterparts.  So, while browsing, you can decide to purchase a new copy or a cheaper, more loved, used copy.  Brilliant!  It was so fun, going up and down the stairs and aisles, searching for who-knows-what and finding books on everything (even entire books devoted solely to fountain pens!).  We spent about 4 hours in there and it was not nearly enough time.  We also spent a pretty good amount of money which was not really enough (but I had to cut myself off at some point.)  We walked out having bought something for everyone, but it was the experience I will treasure.  Okay, it is really the books I'll treasure, but the visit to the world's largest independent bookstore was special. 

As for actual reading, I've done an impressive job of covering some written ground this summer.  So I'll just jump right it with my reviews and when I'm done you can tell me how impressive it really is.

Book one: I started Under the Dome by Stephen King the beginning of June.  It took me just over a month to complete it.  I thought the 1072 pages would take me all summer.  But this book really is a quick read.  And it is fun.  In the author's notes King says "I tried to write a book that would keep the pedal consistently to the metal."  He delivers.  He most certainly delivers.  This books was a thrill ride that starts on the first page and keeps going; which is why it was such a quick read.  There were many nights where two more pages turned into 20 more pages.  It was just as hard to put down as it was to pick it up (Ha!  a joke about its size). 

Here's the plot: an impenetrable dome drops out of no where on the small of Chester's Mill in Maine. It locks the people that were in town in, and the rest of the world out.  This even happens in the first two pages.  The rest of the book deals with the ramifications of people being locked up with ever dwindling resources. 

But I would be remiss not to mention at least one of the characters, Big Jim Rennie.  You'll hate Jim Rennie.  He is a big fish in a small pond and instead of looking for a viable option of getting out from under the dome, he uses the dome as an opportunity to assert his power and agenda over the towns folk. 

There are numerous other characters (and a convenient character list at the front of the book).  You'll root for the two main protagonists, Dale "Barbie" Barbara and Rusty Everet and all the people that join their side, once it is clear that sides are forming in this small town.  But the biggest reaction you'll have is to wonder what you would do in such a situation.  You'll wonder how totally out of control life would spin if a dome locked you inside with 2,000 other people. 

King's writing is tremendous and I feel terrible for brushing him off as a cheap horror writer.  He is an expert story teller.  Though intense, this is no horror story.  It is a thrill ride.  The riot that breaks out at Food City is told with such speed, urgency, and pacing that it was delightful to read; it was really more like watching it in slow motion where you can catch every tiny detail yet it kept the pace and excitement of intense moments of action. 

He also makes sudden shifts of narration on occasion which help break up the story.  He does it expertly, not in an annoying way at all. 

Bottom line, 5 out of 5 stars.  The resolution, I think left a little unexplained.  I feel he might as well just gone on for another 200 pages to round it all out, but the resolution still worked and did not leave me disappointed.  Oh, and the bad guys use bad language and do bad things.  The good guys also occasionally let a soft swear fly.  And King doesn't shy away from gritty descriptions, but that made it all so real. 

I'm realizing now that this could end up being one really long blog post that no one will bother to read.  So, I think I will cut it off for now and just like Pastor Ken, will take my one part book review and turn it into a 3 or 4 parter.


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