Top Ten Tuesday: Ten recent novellas that I really, really loved

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Favorite Novellas/Short Stories.

I’m not a huge short story fan, but I have read some amazing novellas lately. Here are some of the best:

1) The Wayward Children novellas by Seanan McGuire:

Every Heart a Doorway (review)
Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Beneath the Sugar Sky

2) The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells (review)

3) Time Was by Ian McDonald (review)

4) The Binti novellas by Nnedi Okorafor

5) American Hippo novellas by Sarah Gailey (review)

6) The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander (review)

7) Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar (review)

8) How to Marry A Werewolf by Gail Carriger (review)

9) The Dispatcher by John Scalzi (review)

10) Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant (review)

 

What are the best novellas and short stories that you’ve read recently? Please share your TTT links!

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Book Review: The Outsider by Stephen King

 

An unspeakable crime. A confounding investigation. At a time when the King brand has never been stronger, he has delivered one of his most unsettling and compulsively readable stories.

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

 

I’m a Stephen King fan, no question about it, but I sometimes find that his books don’t stick the landing. I’ll be absolutely fascinated, glued to my seat, on edge, for 75% of the book,,, but when the ending finally arrives and all answers are provided, I can find myself feeling a bit let down.

No so in The Outsider. This is one terrific (and horribly disturbing) read, start to finish.

From the start, the premise is tantalizing and well-executed. A horrible, disgusting crime is committed. There are reliable eyewitnesses who definitively ID the perpetrator, a beloved public figure in their small town. Terry Maitland’s fingerprints are all over the crime scene and weapon and the interior of the vehicle used to commit the crime. He’s seen leaving the area, covered with blood. DNA at the crime scene is his. Ralph Anderson, lead detective on the case, is so outraged and infuriated that he orders the arrest to be made in as public a way as possible. There’s no doubt that Maitland committed the crime, and the public is aghast and infuriated.

But wait. Maitland has an alibi, and the more Ralph investigates, the more unbreakable the alibi seems. He was with other teachers at a conference out of town, and not only will they all attest to his being there, but he’s actually caught on video at the event at the same time of the murder. Can a man be in two places at one time?

By the time enough doubt has come up, more tragedies have piled on top of the initial murder. An out of town investigator is brought in, and soon, the trail seems to point to not only more crimes with a mystery double involved, but a fact pattern that can’t be explained by anything in the realm of what’s considered normal.

Wow.

This book grabbed me from page 1, and just didn’t let up. If pesky things like work and sleep hadn’t interfered, I’d have read it straight through — it’s that good, and that compelling.

I was particularly delighted by the appearance of…

MINOR SPOILER FOR KING FANS AHEAD!

STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW!

(BUT NOT A SPOILER FOR THE RESOLUTION OF THE OUTSIDER)

Holly Gibney, the memorable, remarkable, oddball heroine of the Bill Hodges trilogy, who has carried on with Finders Keepers, the detective agency she founded with Bill, even after Bill’s death at the end of the trilogy. Holly is brought into the investigation here on the recommendation of one of the Maitland family lawyers when a strange set of facts emerge about a family trip months earlier. Holly jumps in, unearths enough odd clues to start connecting some seriously weird dots, and ultimately is the one who gets the investigatory team to consider answers that lean more toward the supernatural than any of them could possibly have considered on their own.

I loved seeing Holly again. She brings a humanity to the proceedings that’s a breath of fresh air, and her offbeat demeanor and unlikely acts of courage are what’s needed to crack the case.

The entire cast of characters is well drawn and quite strong. Ralph is a great leading man, and I loved his relationship with his wife Jeannie. The lawyer, the DA, the investigator, the state policeman — all are quite good, and really emerge as individuals rather than stock characters in a legal drama.

But it’s the unfolding plot, with its mystery and creepiness and outright scenes of horror, that propels The Outsider at such a dynamic pace. I don’t want to say much more about what happens or why — but this is top-notch King, and you shouldn’t miss it.

A final word of caution for King readers: If you haven’t finished the Bill Hodges trilogy, but you plan to, you might want to hold off on reading The Outsider. The plots aren’t connected, but in conversations, Holly and the detectives discuss the cases she and Bill handled, and basically give away major plot point resolutions from the trilogy.

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The details:

Title: The Outsider
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: May 22, 2018
Length: 561 pages
Genre: Horror
Source: Library

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Shelf Control #112: Wizard and Glass

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower IV)
Author: Stephen King
Published: 2003
Length: 700 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In 1978, Stephen King introduced the world to the last gunslinger, Roland of Gilead.  Nothing has been the same since. More than twenty years later, the quest for the Dark Tower continues to take readers on a wildly epic ride. Through parallel worlds and across time, Roland must brave desolate wastelands and endless deserts, drifting into the unimaginable and the familiar. A classic tale of colossal scope—crossing over terrain from The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, Insomnia, The Talisman, Black House, Hearts in Atlantis, ’Salem’s Lot, and other familiar King haunts—the adventure takes hold with the turn of each page.

And the Tower awaits….

Roland and his band of followers have narrowly escaped one world and slipped into the next. There Roland tells them a tale of long-ago love and adventure involving a beautiful and quixotic woman named Susan Delgado. And there they will be drawn into an ancient mystery of spellbinding magic and supreme menace…

How and when I got it:

As with so many of the books on my shelves, I picked up my copy of Wizard and Glass at a library book sale several years ago, soon after starting The Gunslinger.

Why I want to read it:

I never really meant to quit reading The Dark Tower series. I read the first three books, took a break to focus on other things for a while, and somehow never got around to going back. Now, it’s been a few years since I finished the 3rd book, and I’m a little nervous about continuing without a good refresher (or a re-read) of what’s come before. Still, I know the series is supposed to be amazing, and I really enjoyed the books I’ve read, so I just need to commit to returning to the Dark Tower world and seeing if it still speaks to me.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Shelf Control #100: Needful Things

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

cropped-flourish-31609_1280-e1421474289435.pngTHIS IS MY 100th SHELF CONTROL POST! Wooooooo. And the scary thing is that I’m not in any danger of running out of unread books on my shelves. Of the 100 books I’ve chosen for Shelf Control, I’ve managed to read only 11 so far, plus one more that I DNFd and one that went in my most recent discard pile. That’s not a particularly impressive reading rate… but, I keep moving forward.

Onward to this week’s pick…

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Title: Needful Things
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1991
Length: 690 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Stephen King’s #1 national bestseller about a store where Leland Gaunt can sell you whatever your heart desires—sexual pleasure, wealth, power, or even more precious things—but not without exacting some price in return. “A read in the tradition of The Stand” (Booklist).

Leland Gaunt opens a new shop in Castle Rock called Needful Things. Anyone who enters his store finds the object of his or her lifelong dreams and desires: a prized baseball card, a healing amulet. In addition to a token payment, Gaunt requests that each person perform a little “deed,” usually a seemingly innocent prank played on someone else from town. These practical jokes cascade out of control and soon the entire town is doing battle with itself. Only Sheriff Alan Pangborn suspects that Gaunt is behind the population’s increasingly violent behavior.

How and when I got it:

I don’t remember buying this book, but I do have a copy on my shelf. Maybe it just showed up by itself one day. Kind of creepy and appropriate for a Stephen King book!

Why I want to read it:

Stephen King! Castle Rock! I’m a big fan of King’s, and still have some major reading gaps when it comes to his books. I’m trying to fix that, bit by bit, so whenever I’m next in the mood for a King read, I think this will be the one to grab.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments!
  • If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

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Book Review: Mr. Mercedes

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.

Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

I’m super late to this party, having finally read Mr. Mercedes just about three years after its publication. Why did I wait so long? No idea… but I’m glad I convinced myself to pick up the paperback that’s been sitting on my shelf for so long.

In Mr. Mercedes, Stephen King introduces us to a wonderful main character, Bill Hodges — a retired detective with nothing much to do except watch TV and fiddle with his gun, until he’s contacted by an elusive mass murderer who lives for the destruction he causes. As Hodges becomes reenergized by his search for the killer, he risks himself, his allies, and possibly thousands of lives to track down the psycho before he strikes again.

The plot is so tight and exciting that it’s impossible to look away. I sped through the story, because it’s one of those books where you just need to know what’s next and what’s after that.

I loved the main character and his two unlikely sidekicks, and found the chapters told from the killer’s perspective utterly chilling and convincing. Ick. Inside Brady’s head is not a healthy place to be. I also loved the shout-outs to King’s earlier works, as well as the mention of Judas Coyne from Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box.

I can’t wait to continue with this trilogy! Stephen King is my go-to guy for when I need a book to keep me company while traveling, and he never lets me down. Mr. Mercedes is a winner. A must-read for King fans, of course (and why did I ever doubt that?), but also just a great crime thriller for anyone who enjoys the intensity of the genre.
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The details:

Title: Mr. Mercedes
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: June 3, 2014
Length: 436 pages
Genre: Thriller
Source: Purchased

Novella: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

Whoosh. I read this novella all in one sitting… and I think you will too. Stephen King fans will just eat this up. It’s a quick story that casts an eerie spell, just the right length to sink its unsettling claws into your brain.

I wouldn’t call it horror, exactly. There’s very little outright blood or gore, although bad things do happen. Most of the tension and horror is psychological, as we see what happens to Gwendy after that fateful encounter at the top of Castle View.

The strange man gives Gwendy an oddly beautiful box, with eight differently colored buttons on top and levers on the sides. He shows her the levers: One dispenses a tiny piece of chocolate, which will be absolutely delicious, but which will also eliminate her cravings for junk food. The other lever dispenses a rare old silver dollar in perfect condition. As for the buttons on top, the man provides cryptic explanations, and then entrusts the box into Gwendy’s care.

And soon, her life begins to change. Gwendy at 12 is a little on the heavy side, and she’s determined to reinvent herself before starting middle school in the fall. Between her daily runs up the Suicide Stairs, and her new-found freedom from the lure of desserts and sweets, Gwendy gets in better and better shape. Is it Gwendy’s own effort paying off… or does the box have something to do with it?

Other positive changes soon follow. Gwendy’s vision improves to the point where she no longer needs glasses. She becomes a star athlete and a top student. Boys want to date her and girls want to be her friend. Her parents’ over-indulgence in alcohol seems to dwindle away with any noticeable effort. But the box is still there, hidden away for safe-keeping, and Gwendy never quite manages to get it out of her thoughts or to stop wondering what would happen if she actually pressed any of those colorful buttons.

Man, this is a good story! Even though Gwendy’s life gets better and better, there’s a dangerous undercurrent that plagues her — and us. What’s the price of all this good fortune? And who will pay it?

I don’t want to say much more. It’s a quick novella that can be read in one gulp, which is really what I recommend. There’s something about getting from start to finish without breaking the disturbing mood that lends the story even more power.

Gwendy’s Button Box is a must-read for King fans (which probably goes without saying) — but really, anyone who enjoys a tightly woven plot with an air of mystery and dread should check it out.

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The details:

Title: Gwendy’s Button Box
Author: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Publisher: Cemetery Dance Publications
Publication date: May 16, 2017
Length: 175 pages
Genre: Horror
Source: Purchased

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Thursday Quotables: Bag of Bones

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

Bag of Bones

Bag of Bones by Stephen King
(published 1998)

I seem to be on a Stephen King tear right now, probably because it’s summer, and somehow King’s brand of writing ends up being my perfect choice for beach reading. (What does that say about me???) I really loved Bag of Bones and the creepy mood sustained throughout.

That’s enough, a voice in my mind said uneasily. That’s enough, now. Go on back and get your car.

Except that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to go down the driveway, just as I had in the final dream, the nightmare. The plan was to prove to myself that there was no shroud-wrapped monster lurking in the shadows of the big old log house down there. The plan was pretty much based on that bit of New Age wisdom which says the word “fear” stands for Face Everything And Recover. But, as I stood there and looked down at that spark of porch light (it looked very small in the growing darkness), it occurred to me that there’s another bit of wisdom, one not quite so good-morning-starshine, which suggests fear is actually an acronym for Fuck Everything And Run. Standing there by myself in the woods as the light left the sky, that seemed like the smarter interpretation, no two ways about it.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Thursday Quotables: The Long Walk

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

Long Walk2

The Long Walk by Stephen King
(published 1979)

I read this book on vacation last week, and it gave me chills in all the right ways! How had I never come across this book until now? I love so much about it, including the fact that I can flip it open to a random page and immediately find a paragraph to share for Thursday Quotables:

Garraty became entranced with the coming dawn. He watched as the sky and the land lightened by degrees. He watched the white band on the horizon deepen a delicate pink, then red, then gold. The guns roared once more before the last of the night was finally banished, but Garraty barely heard. The first red arc of sun was peering over the horizon, faded behind a fluff of cloud, then came again in an onslaught. It looked to be a perfect day, and Garraty greeted it only half-coherently by thinking: Thank God I can die in the daylight.

Such a creepy, haunting read!

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

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Vacation reading wrap-up

I just spend a glorious 10 days on vacation! Glorious, because VACATION. Also glorious, because my husband and I traveled to two beautiful southern cities, Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina, ending with a few days of utter relaxation at Hilton Head Island, doing not much more than sitting on beach chairs, wading in the ocean, and basking in the sun.

Oh, and did I mention reading? Because I did a little reading. Enough to cause darling hubby to shake his head at me a few times and lovingly call me ridiculous.

Here’s a quick wrap-up of what I read on vacation, with my take on the vacation-worthiness of each book. The number of little beach umbrellas reflects my own personal feelings about whether or not this is a good choice for tucking into your beach-tote!

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RainwaterRainwater by Sandra Brown: Set during the Depression in drought-stricken Texas, this is the story of a single mother who runs a boarding house while caring for her autistic son, and the stranger who comes to stay and ends up changing both of their lives. I’ll admit that I never would have picked this up if it weren’t my book group’s pick for July. It looks and feels like the kind of book you’d pick up in a supermarket check-out line. That said, I was surprisingly engrossed by the story. Rainwater‘s depiction of the historical setting was very interesting, and I learned a few things about the time period that were completely new to me. That may make the book sound stuffy, and it’s not. The love story is sweet and passionate and unexpected, includes some strong commentary on social justice issues, and has an ending at once tragic and uplifting. The writing isn’t exactly literary, but it’s a quick and compelling read.

Vacation ratingumbrellaumbrellaumbrellaumbrella

 

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Liam1Liam2Fire and Ice and So Sure of Death, books 1 & 2 in the Liam Campbell series by Dana Stabenow. Big surprise for anyone who reads my blog from time to time — I’m a huge fan of Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak series, and have gotten far enough into that series that I needed to detour into her related series about Alaska State Trooper Liam Campbell. The Liam books did not let me down in the slightest, and are perfect vacation reads: Fast-paced, great characters, unusual settings, mysteries that kept me engaged, and personal relationships that are fresh, believable, and utterly engaging.

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Sandcastle GirlsThe Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian: This is a heartbreaker of a story, a historical novel focusing on the Armenian genocide of 1915, as seen through the eyes of a young American woman who travels to Aleppo to offer aid and assistance to survivors. Elizabeth’s eyes are opened by the horrors she witnesses, while at the same time, she discovers love in a most unexpected place. The historical elements are framed by a modern-day woman’s exploration of her grandparents’ histories. The modern-day story felt more like a distraction to me, as what really gripped me was the story of Elizabeth, Armen, and the other supporting characters we meet in 1915. The Sandcastle Girls is powerful, beautiful, and devastating, and is a must-read — and yet, I don’t think I’d recommend it as a vacation read. It’s an amazing book, don’t get me wrong, and I think everyone should read it — but the seriousness of the subject matter and the unrelenting suffering portrayed here don’t jibe very well with beach umbrellas, flip-flops, and cold fruity cocktails. Read this book — but read it at home.

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Crooked HeartCrooked Heart by Lissa Evans tells the story of a young boy evacuated from London during WWII. Noel is an odd little duck, and when his eccentric godmother/guardian dies, he’s left without a soul to care for him. Vee is a con woman who schemes to earn a little cash because she really has no other way of supporting her deadbeat son and her doddering mother. Vee takes Noel in so that she can collect the fostering fee for housing evacuees, but the two soon find that his brains combined with her slippery ethics make for successful money-making. This is an unusual and offbeat story, with a lot of charm, plenty of humor, and lots of heart-tugging sentiment too. The historical setting is nicely conveyed, and the mood is sincere and sometimes sad, but never so heavy as to make reading it a drag. I definitely recommend the book, and I enjoyed it while swinging in a hammock.

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Long Walk2The Long Walk by Stephen King: Ooooh. This is a good one. I’d never heard of this book, one of King’s earlier works (written under his Richard Bachman pseudonym), until I saw Bonnie’s review on For the Love of Words (check it out here — great review!). In The Long Walk, 100 teen-aged boys participate in a walk that continues until only one is left standing… because all the others are dead. The boys start at the Maine/Canada border, and walk. That’s it. They walk — and walk, and walk, never falling below a 4-mile-per-hour pace, because if they do, that’s a warning. And after three warnings, the next infraction means you’re shot to death by the armed guards who travel alongside the walkers. The boys never stop, not to eat, sleep, or pee. If they fall or pass out or get a cramp, that could mean the end. Wow, is this a disturbing book, and yet it’s so, so good. Meanwhile, the boys who walk talk and reflect and learn the truth hidden inside the deepest, darkest corners of their hearts and minds. Why they walk is only explained at a surface level (there’s a Prize), but it’s clear without ever being explicitly shown that this is an alternate version of the United States in which watching a group of boys walk to death is high entertainment, and which is bleak enough that the 1 in 100 shot at the Prize is enough to get more or less sensible boys to bet their lives.

You might think that all this makes The Long Walk too dark for a vacation read… but no. Stephen King is pretty much always perfect for vacation. The fast-paced storytelling and immersive experience makes you happy to glance up and see the sun still shining. It’s horror, but (oh, this makes me sound like a bad person) totally fun horror.

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sun-151763_1280Blue AsylumBlue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall: I loved this book! Set during the Civil War, this historical novel tells the story of Iris Dunleavy, a young woman who somewhat blindly enters into a marriage with a plantation owner, only to realize that his cruelty is more than she can bear. When she attempts to expose his crimes, he instead has her declared insane and sends her away to an island asylum to be “cured” of her irrational defiance and delusions. While there, Iris meets Ambrose, a Confederate soldier haunted by his wartime experience. Iris and Ambrose fall in love, but Iris’s determination to escape with her lover and start a new life is doomed from the start. It’s a haunting and tragic love story, beautifully written, with an unusual setting and a memorable and well-defined cast of supporting characters. I just adored this one. Sad? Yes. And still, I consider it a great vacation read. The asylum is set on Sanibel Island off the coast of Florida, and the descriptions of the beaches, sea, birds, and sky give Blue Asylum a feeling of sunshine and freshness, even when the plot makes me want to cry.

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And that’s my vacation reading wrap-up! As you can see, I read some amazing books — not all are books I’d describe as beach reads, but not a single dud among the bunch.

If I had to pick one to recommend the most, I’d say definitely check out Blue Asylum. For anyone who loves historical fiction, powerful love stories, and strong female lead characters, this is a can’t-miss book.

Shelf Control #39: The Green Mile

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Welcome to the newest weekly feature here at Bookshelf Fantasies… Shelf Control!

Shelf Control is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers.

Want to join in? See the guidelines and linky at the bottom of the post, and jump on board! Let’s take control of our shelves!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

Green MileTitle: The Green Mile
Author: Stephen King
Published: 1997
Length: 536 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Welcome to Cold Mountain Penitentiary, home to the Depression-worn men of E Block. Convicted killers all, each awaits his turn to walk the Green Mile, keeping a date with “Old Sparky,” Cold Mountain’s electric chair. Prison guard Paul Edgecombe has seen his share of oddities in his years working the Mile. But he’s never seen anyone like John Coffey, a man with the body of a giant and the mind of a child, condemned for a crime terrifying in its violence and shocking in its depravity. In this place of ultimate retribution, Edgecombe is about to discover the terrible, wondrous truth about Coffey, a truth that will challenge his most cherished beliefs… and yours.

How I got it:

I bought it!

When I got it:

I picked up a copy at one of the more recent library sales, definitely within the past year or two.

Why I want to read it:

It’s Stephen King! I feel like The Green Mile is one of those holes in my reading history, something that a true King fan would have read years ago. Confession: I’ve also never seen the movie. To be honest, prison stories do not appeal to me, but like I said, it’s Stephen King, and I feel like I’m missing out.

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Shelf Control