Becky’s Ninety-Third Book Review: “Deeply Odd” by Dean Koontz

“I was only a fry cook with paranormal abilities that were not a blessing but a weight to carry. And considering that I had no job, I couldn’t claim to be even a fry cook, but simply a man with a burden, which was one of the most common creatures on the earth.” (Deeply Odd, pg 209). I like this quote. I think it helps to show how Odd Thomas acts and thinks. He is a humble man who is just trying to do the right thing and use his gift to see the lingering dead to help others.

Deeply Odd is the sixth and latest novel in the Odd Thomas series. I have been reading the Odd series for a few years now but it is kind of a funny story as to how I stumbled upon it. I saw a paperback copy of ‘Brother Odd’ and thought it looked interesting so I got it with the plan on reading it right after I finished whatever book I was reading at the time. I believe I bought the book at a bus or train station…there was some form of travel involved, it might have even been an airport. Either way, I got the book and was about to start it. I opened the cover and that is where I saw it. Two other novels with very similar titles were suggested. It could only mean one thing–this book was not a standalone as I initially thought but rather a book in a series and not the first book either. I almost made the mistake of starting in the middle of the series! Luckily I noticed before any real harm was done and was able to get my hands on the first two novels. I quickly devoured them as tends to be the case with any book that I find and enjoy. The series is about a young man named Odd Thomas who has special paranormal abilities. He can see the lingering dead and he gets visions of a kind. Typically he can sense when something bad is about to happen and then he takes it upon himself to stop evil wherever he can.

I found Deeply Odd to be a very entertaining novel and I think that the series overall is a very worthwhile read. The books would appeal to both those who have been reading Dean Koontz for awhile and those who have never picked up one of his books. I think that the books would appeal to both male and female audiences. I wrote my recommendation up here so that those who haven’t read the series can stop reading here and not run into any spoilers.

 

SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST ODD THOMAS NOVEL: DO NOT READ BELOW

 

Deeply Odd sets up almost immediately after the last book left off. It has been sixteen months since the shootings at the Green Moon Mall in Pico Mundo. That was the first book. It is in the first book of the series that we meet Odd Thomas and find out about his gift and then witness him using his gift to try to help those that he can. He senses that there is something terrible about to go down but he doesn’t know what and he spends most of the book trying to figure out what it is and how to stop it. Once Odd finds out that a group of men is planning on shooting up the Green Moon Mall, he heads for it to save the day. He does save an awful lot of people, but sadly not everyone. One of the victims of that day’s shooting was Odd Thomas’s soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn. Ever since she passed on to the next world, Odd Thomas has been wandering the country trying to find meaning and trying to stop the horrible things that are inevitably planned by those who have evil in their hearts.

Odd Thomas has not had an easy life. He had rather neglectful parents, he has to deal with the burden of seeing the dead and not always being able to help them, and he has a great love whom he is separated from by death. He has many burdens to deal with, and yet he remains a very grounded, kind, polite, optimistic young man. That in itself is amazing to me. Most individuals who have been through what he has would not work so hard to make the world a better place, but rather just focus on how to dull the pain. For Odd Thomas, he finds the best way to dull the pain is to help others.

Deeply Odd is a very entertaining book. I really like Odd Thomas’s view on life. He seems rather insightful in most of what he says. There was this one soliloquy that just really struck me when I was reading. It is a little long, and originally I was going to only include a few sentences, but I think that reading the entire thing is better. It gives the full effect and hopefully will inspire you to go pick up this book.

“Among the nations of Earth, in all its history, ours is one of the precious few that has not brought forth its Hitler, its Stalin, its Pol Pot, its Mao Tse-tung, its Vlad the Impaler, the one who is never satisfied to have every knee bend to him but wants also to be the architect of a new world by destroying the existing one. But something is afoot. Atrocities like this, once rare but ever more frequent, would have at one time shocked the country but now seem to titillate as many people as they shock. My vision on the freeway in Los Angeles, others that have come in dreams, and thinks like this collection lead me to fear that our turn on the rack and wheel is coming. In this age when innocence is ever more mocked, when truth is aggressively denied if not actively hated, when so many people despise those with whom they disagree, when priests and teachers molest those whom they should protect, when power and fame are celebrated but true law and modesty are disparaged, what fire wall remains between the people and the forces that would devour them?

I am just one fry cook with a special talent, not David certain to bring down Goliath, one mortal man trying to make his way through a storm in which swarm uncountable leviathans. I am only you, like you, born of man and woman, but with this gift or burden.” (Deeply Odd, pg 232-233)

 

 

Becky’s Ninety-Second Book Review: “11/22/63” by Stephen King

If you could go back in time, would you? The even bigger question is, if you could change the past, would you? This is a question that Jake Epping is asked by a friend, Al Templeton when Al summons Jake to his diner after school lets out for the summer. Jake the English teacher soon realizes that Al is serious, he believes that there is a ‘rabbit hole’ in the back of his diner that will take Jake into the past–to September 9th, 1958 to be exact. Al is dying and therefore eager to convince Jake that the rabbit hole exists. Jake makes a skeptical journey, buys a root beer, and comes back still not quite believing that he traveled back to 1958. No matter how long a person is in the rabbit hole, when they return to the present only two minutes has passed.

Al charges Jake with a mission–go back to 1958 and prevent the assassination of JFK. Al goes on to sell the idea to Jake explaining how if JFK never died, then so many other events wouldn’t have happened. “Oh, I’m talking about a lot more than that, because this ain’t some butterfly in China, buddy. I’m also talking about saving RFK’s life, because if John lives in Dallas, Robert probably does run for president in 1968. The country wouldn’t have been ready to replace one Kennedy with another.” “You don’t know that for sure.” “No, but listen. Do you think that if you save John Kennedy’s life, his brother Robert is still at the Ambassador Hotel at twelve-fifteen in the morning on June fifth, 1968? And even if he is, is Sirhan Sirhan still working in the kitchen?…Or what about Martin Luther King? Is he still in Memphis in April of ’68? even if he is, is he still standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel at exactly the right time for James Earl Ray to shoot him?…And if MLK lives, the race riots that followed his death don’t happen. Maybe Fred Hampton does get shot in Chicago…For that matter, maybe there’s no Symbionese Liberation Army. No SLA, no Patty Hearst kidnapping. No Patty Hearst kidnapping, a small but maybe significant reduction in black fear among middle-class whites.” (11/22/63, pg 61-62). Al doesn’t see a downside and is able to talk Jake into going back to 1958 once again.

I have always enjoyed reading Stephen King’s novels and I typically read them very quickly. “11/22/63” was no different, I devoured the book, all 849 pages. I was hooked from the very beginning. I have wanted to read this book for awhile and went through two Christmases without being given it as a gift. So I decided to buy it. It was an awesome decision. “11/22/63” was quite a page turner.

Jake was provided several key items from Al including a drivers’ license from 1958 with a new identity. Jake went down the rabbit hole and became George Amberson. He then went on quite a journey. Jake/George was interested in whether or not he really could make the changes that Al thought were worthwhile so he went on a mini-mission to discover if he could save a whole family from being murdered. This is an event that occurred in Derry, Maine which any Stephen King fan would recognize as the setting for the book “It”. Two main characters from “It” make an appearance in “11/22/63”, Beverly and Richie. I love when Stephen King intertwines the different fictional worlds that he writes about. He does it quite a lot but it is usually rather subtle. Only the most devoted Stephen King fans are likely to notice all the similarities.

I really enjoyed reading a book written in this perspective. You had a character who was alive in 2011 and then got to go back in time to 1958. He recognizes all the differences between the two worlds and they are seemingly different worlds. The food is less artificial, the air is different, people talk differently…for the first part of the book Jake/George is talking about all the wonderful experiences he is having in 1958. He paints it as an ideal world and it isn’t until he stops and asks to use the bathroom that he notices a sign and realizes not all was well and good in 1958. There is a bathroom for ‘whites only’ and then a sign that says ‘colors’. Jake/George followed the sign to see where it led and there was a board across a creek. So if a guy needed to use the bathroom and didn’t fall into the ‘white only’ category, he had the option of peeing into a creek or if he had to do more than that, he could sit on a board and take care of business. Growing up in my generation, I never really saw anything like that. I was born in 1987 and it truly was a different world from that that Jake/George describes when he is in 1958. It’s not all sunshine and roses.

Jake/George paints a very interesting picture of 1958. Since the mission that Al has sent him on will not happen until 1963, he has to wait. In order to fill the time, Jake/George decides to get another teaching job after obtaining a bootleg degree. It is when Jake/George is teaching that he really starts to make a difference in so many lives. At this point, Jake/George is no longer worried about the butterfly effect since he is planning on making such a major change by saving JFK. While he is teaching in Jodie (a small town that feels so much like home to Jake/George), he meets a woman–Sadie. Soon his story is not so much focused on saving JFK and changing the world, but on being with Sadie.

I found the entire book to be very entertaining. When Jake/George was trying to decide what changes he could make without upsetting the overall balance of the world and when Jake/George is focused more on the small things in life, like his life in Jodie and his relationship with Sadie. “11/22/63” is very well written. I would highly recommend it to most people. Even those who don’t usually gravitate towards Stephen King would probably enjoy this book. There is not nearly as much horror as in his other books and it makes it more accessible and a great read.     

Becky’s Nintey-First Book Review: “Eyes of the Innocent” by Brad Parks

“Eyes of the Innocent” by Brad Parks is the second book in the Carter Ross series. Sometimes when authors go on to write sequels to books that I enjoy I see a decline in the writing. This was so definitely NOT the case with Brad Parks’ second Carter Ross book. I really enjoy all the different aspects of his writing. His main character, Carter Ross is a very amusing newspaper reporter.

In his first novel, Carter is showing the ropes to a young, flamboyant male intern. (Who is constantly trying to get Ross to take his fashion tips). In this second novel, Carter is showing the ropes to another young intern–only this one is a hot, female blonde. This led to quite an interesting turn of events and quite a few amusing situations. For example, after Ross writes a short article the intern starts raving about his writing and asking him how he does it. “I debated telling her about the frequent-urination method but decided such advance concepts in fluid dynamics were better left to the professors at Princeton. So I gave my other standard writing advice: “writing is like a muscle,” I said. “The harder you work it, the stronger it gets.” I immediately regretted the metaphor. “I bet you’ve got the biggest muscle of anyone I’ve ever met,” she gushed. I coughed uncomfortably.” (Eyes of the Innocent, pg 43). These kinds of amusing exchanges occur throughout the book. It adds a nice comedic relief to an otherwise rather brutal murder mystery.

Carter Ross is a very likable character and I find myself relating to him a lot. I don’t know if this is because he is a writer or because he makes it a point to solve crimes. Ok, granted, I don’t actually solve crimes myself…but I write about it and love to read about it. So sort of. Either way, I very much enjoy reading about Carter Ross’s adventures and where he ends up. In “Eyes of the Innocent” there are a lot of supporting characters that were introduced in the first Carter Ross novel. One of these characters is a source for Carter and he is a very amusing black guy. Ross points out, “He liked the novelty of having a white friend–in some parts of Newark, it was almost like keeping an exotic pet.” (Eyes of the Innocent, pg 85). As I pointed out earlier, throughout the novel Brad Parks keeps things light with the ever-present comedy.

Would I recommend this to a friend? Most definitely. I think that Brad Parks is a very talented writer and I cannot wait for him to write more books. I am curious to see what direction he will take his career. So far there are four books in the Carter Ross series and one short story. I am looking forward to reading more Carter Ross books and also reading some stand alone novels. “Eyes of the Innocent” was a great read that I think would appeal to a wide range of readers. I highly recommend it.

Becky’s Ninetieth Book Review: “The Other Queen” by Philippa Gregory

“The Other Queen” by Philippa Gregory follows the story of Mary Queen of Scots. There are several different characters who tell the story, Mary the Queen, and a husband and wife who are put in charge of caring for the queen, Bess and George. This is all taking place in Protestant England under Elizabeth’s rule. This is a time of paranoia, where everyone is capable of being charged with treason. Elizabeth’s most trusted adviser, Cecil, has convinced her that everyone is plotting against her. Her paranoia causes her to make hasty arrests, look the other way as Cecil tortures people in order to get confessions out of them, and overall make living in England a frightening experience. Enter Queen Mary. She is the cousin to Elizabeth and a queen several times over. She was born heir to the throne in Scotland and England and was married to a French prince who became king and in turn, she became queen. Her husband dies and so she leaves France to return home to Scotland where she is put in charge until she is run out of town. She flees to England in hopes that her cousin will help her to regain her throne. Instead, Elizabeth keeps Mary under house arrest.

Throughout the book, Mary is convinced that as a queen three times over that any moment a rebellion will rise to set her free. When she is the one narrating the story, the reader can expect to see all the hardships that she has endured during her life and the lengths that she will go to to escape her prison.

Bess and George tell their stories in a different perspective. Bess is a woman who came from nothing and built herself up through marriage. She married several times, each time climbing further and further up the social ladder. Her latest marriage to George left her a countess. Her opportunities are all largely based on the fact that when the Catholic church was overthrown for the Protestant church, abbeys, monasteries, churches, and anything to do with the church were raided. Her husbands took advantage of this. George on the other hand, comes from nobility and so when he and Bess are charged with keeping the queen in their home, George cannot comprehend why Bess is so upset that Queen Elizabeth isn’t paying them to house Queen Mary. He is so used to money never being a problem that he can’t grasp why Bess is always talking about it.

While all the main events really did take place, I am no history buff so I really didn’t know what was going to happen. This made reading the book much more interesting, I think, than if I had known what was going to happen. Philippa Gregory practically holds the patent for writing historical fiction surrounding the throne in England. She does take liberties, but you can pretty much guarantee that her novels contain the bones of what really happened. I am a big fan of her writing styles and I think most people would enjoy “The Other Queen”. I would recommend it, I especially think it would appeal to a female crowd.