Hearts in Atlantis – Stephen King

My Dad gave me “Hearts in Atlantis” by Stephen King to read after he had read it and said it was very good. It’s a little different from books I normally read in that it is split into 5 stories, with each one shorter than the one before. There is some overlap of characters and there is also a time jump between most of them. 

The first story is “Low Men in Yellow Coats” and is set in 1960. This story introduces the main set of characters who we then see pop up again in the following stories. There are also crossovers from this book to King’s “Dark Tower” series, which I am still yet to read. The main characters in this one really are Bobby Garfield, a young boy living with his Mum, and Ted Brautigan, an older man who has moved into the same building as the Garfields. There are also many supporting characters, most notable Bobby’s Mother, his best friend Sully-John and his girlfriend, Carol Gerber.

 

The second story is “Hearts in Atlantis” and is set in 1966. This introduces a new protagonist, Peter Riley, but sees the return of Carol Gerber from the previous story.  

 

The third story is “Blind Willie” and is set in 1983. The only character in this really is Willie Shearman (who also goes by Bill and Blind Willie). Willie was a minor character in “Low Men in Yellow Coats” and crossed paths with Bobby, Sully-John and Carol.  

 

The fourth story is “Why We’re in Vietnam” and is set in 1999. This is told from Sully-John’s perspective and we see what has happened to him since the Vietnam war.

 

The final story is “Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling”. This is also set in 1999 and returns to Bobby Garfield’s perspective.  

 

Throughout the 5 stories we can see Carol’s life change dramatically from the care free childhood she appears to have in “Low Men in Yellow Coats”. This is mainly due to the Vietnam war and the fact that she starts to question why the war is taking place.  

 

In “Low Men in Yellow Coats” Ted Brautigan gives Bobby Garfield a copy of “Lord of the Flies” to read and the book affects Bobby in a very profound way. You can then see some of the themes of “Lord of the Flies” throughout the other stories in this book. The way people can change, especially in a group, and how violence can easily seem to be a solution. I read “Lord of the Flies” when I was at secondary school as part of my English GCSE but haven’t read it since as I think the level of analysis I had to give as part of my GCSE kind of put me off reading it again. I have decided to give it another go after reading this though as it was obviously an influence on Stephen King.

 

All 5 stories were very well written and I especially liked seeing the same characters popping up in the different stories. It’s also given me another reminder that I really need to read the Dark Tower series at some point as I have read several of King’s books now that have contained a nod to this in some way.

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Raging Heat – Richard Castle

As I had gotten a little behind on the Castle books I was able to read the sixth book, “Raging Heat”, immediately after finishing the fifth. “Raging Heat” actually has quite a large time skip with it being mentioned that it’s been around 2 years since the events of “Deadly Heat”.   

I really enjoyed this one. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s been my favourite of the series so far. The inclusion of Hurricane Sandy was a nice touch of realism and I liked the little bits that were taken from cases and events on the TV show as well.  

 

There were parts that caught me unawares as they were completely unrelated to events from the TV show, can’t really say more without spoiling the book for anyone who might decide to read it. I did manage to pretty much figure out who the killer was but didn’t entirely work out the full events surrounding the murder in the case.

 

I know in the TV show Beckett is quite often in danger but it does feel a little like there is someone with a personal vendetta against Heat in every book and it is starting to get a little old. I’m sure real NYPD Detectives don’t have to have uniformed officers guarding them as often as Heat does in these books.  

 

I particularly liked that the Acknowledgements at the end were written by an Editor as Richard Castle was “unavailable” this fits with the timeline in the show as Castle went missing for 3 months so obviously he had finished the book but not quite done the acknowledgements yet. I thought that was a nice touch for people who watch the show.  

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Deadly Heat – Richard Castle

“Deadly Heat” is the fifth book by fictional author Richard Castle from the TV show “Castle”, starring Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic. The events of “Deadly Heat” take place around a month after the previous book “Frozen Heat” and are based loosely on the case of serial killer, Scott Dunn, from Season 2 of the TV show.   

As with the previous books it is very well written and the action is fairly fast paced. I love trying to catch all the little “easter eggs” that can be found if you are a fan of the show and the actors in the show. I especially love that there is a Detective Malcolm and a Detective Reynolds who are partners so nearly always mentioned together, fans of Fillion will recognise these names as the name of his character in the incredible Joss Whedon show, “Firefly”.  

 

There were a few twists and turns and I love trying to solve the case along with the characters and trying to see if I can figure out what the next plot twist will be.  

 

I’m not going to claim that Castle’s books are the height of literary excellence and the most incredible books ever written but they are fun, quick to read and hold my attention right to the end and some times that is all I want from a book. I would recommend them to fans of the show or people who just like crime fiction as the cases are interesting and well thought out enough to work as stand-alone books so it wouldn’t matter if you don’t watch the TV show.

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How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran

I’ve read Caitlin Moran’s non-fiction books so when I saw “How to Build a Girl” on offer in Asda I decided to give it a try and see if it was as good as her non-fiction writing. I wasn’t disappointed. 

Moran confirms at the start of the book that although some parts of the book are familiar to her own early life the events that happen in the book are entirely fictitious. It is easy to see why she has felt the need to put that in, “How to Build a Girl” tells the story of Johanna Morrigan, a young girl from quite a large family in Wolverhampton who goes on to get her first job as a writer for a music magazine. Anyone who has read Moran’s autobiography will know that this is pretty much how Moran started out but, as she has said, that is where the similarity ends and she has created entirely fictional experiences for her characters.

 

After a slightly disastrous TV appearance, 14-year-old Johanna Morrigan decides the only way to get ahead in life will be to reinvent herself. She changes her style of dress and starts to write music reviews under the pseudonym of Dolly Wilde.

 

I really enjoyed this book. I think if people are honest with themselves most of us have thought of reinventing ourselves at one time or another and a lot of us have probably done it. As Dolly Wilde, Johanna gets into a lot of scrapes and adventures whilst learning a lot about herself along the way. It was very funny and I loved the dynamic within Johanna’s family.  

 

It’s a very honest book, which won’t be a surprise to anyone who is a fan of Moran’s work, with Johanna being pretty much obsessed with masturbation and sex and not being afraid to talk about it.  

 

I’d definitely recommend this, I don’t think it matters if you are male or female as there is something for everyone.

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Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

I picked up Stephen King’s “Mr Mercedes” whilst shopping a few weeks ago and have been desperate to read it since. My Dad has also recently read it and recommended it so I was really excited to get started. 

Whilst I would say this is a crime thriller it is different from a lot of other books in that genre in that we know who the criminal is. The story is told via 2 different narrators; Bill Hodges, a former Detective who has recently retired and is struggling to find the point in his life; and Brady Hartsfield, also known as the Mercedes Killer.  

 

I know some people don’t like books that have changes in narrator but I actually don’t mind it and in this case it is always very clear who’s narrating at each point. As always with King’s books, I found the characterisation to be excellent and I liked the way he hinted at some things that were happening rather than coming right out and saying it.

 

The plot was really interesting and I liked the fact that we saw both sides of the story with the 2 narrators, although it did mean that sometimes I almost wanted to shout at Hodges to tell him what was happening!  

 

I liked the twists and turns along the way and was happy with the outcome of the case. I was also interested to read that King has written another book with three of the characters from “Mr Mercedes” so will be looking forward to reading that when it comes out in paperback.  

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Bones Never Lie – Kathy Reichs

Some slight spoilers for a previous Kathy Reichs’ book, “Monday Mourning”. Do not read any further if you haven’t read that book and don’t want to be spoiled. 

 

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I have just finished reading Kathy Reichs’ 17th book in her Temperance Brennan series, “Bones Never Lie”. This is set around a year after the events of “Bones of the Lost” and sees the return of a character from the 7th book in the series, “Monday Mourning”, in the form of “the one that got away”, Anique Pomerleau.  

 

For the most part, the Temperance Brennan series doesn’t have much in the way of a continuing storyline. The interpersonal relationships between the characters obviously change from book to book but each book tends to contain a new case so it is quite easy for a new reader to jump in without being too confused as to what is happening. That has changed slightly in “Bones Never Lie” as the suspect they are looking for is one who managed to escape capture in “Monday Mourning”, Anique Pomerleau. Reichs’ does a good job at getting the reader up to speed with the basics of that case by having Brennan tell her colleagues in Charlotte what happened as the Pomerleau case was one she handled in Canada with Detective Ryan. The return of Pomerleau also calls for a return of Ryan, which is always welcome to me. I don’t think it would be the end of the world if you were to read “Bones Never Lie” without having read “Monday Mourning” but it certainly helps to have read it. I must admit, it has been that long since I read “Monday Mourning” I did find myself a little rusty as to the details of what had gone on in that case anyway. At some point I might read the two back to back.

 

The characterisation, as always, was brilliant. Reichs’ does a good job at getting you to care for the characters. That being said, I did find some of the new characters that were brought in were underused and a little pointless. I’m sure the plot could have been set up in a slightly different way and they wouldn’t have been needed as they didn’t really do an awful lot.    

 

I’m never happy with Brennan being put in danger and needing to be rescued by one of her male colleagues and I’m pleased to say in this case that didn’t happen. It was good to have Ryan in the book as I am definitely a fan of their relationship and partnership and I also liked the secondary plot with Brennan’s Mother. Can’t wait til the next instalment now to see what happens next!

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The Woman Who Stole My Life – Marian Keyes

As regular readers of the blog will know, I love Marian Keyes’ books so I couldn’t wait to get started on her latest book, “The Woman Who Stole My Life”. I think Keyes herself should take this title as I couldn’t put the book down and wasn’t getting anything else done! I loved it.   

The protagonist, Stella Sweeney, actually reminds me a lot of Keyes from things I have read on her Twitter feed. Stella is supposed to be writing a book but spends more time procrastinating on Twitter and eating Jaffa cakes rather than writing.  

 

The plot was excellent and the characterisation was brilliant as usual. I loved Stella’s crazy family and friends, especially Jeffrey, her slightly odd, teenage son who pretty much hates her and is always doing yoga and meditating rather than engaging in stereotypical teenage behaviours. I also had a bit of a soft spot for Stella’s ex-husband, Ryan, who decides to do a karma experiment and give away all his worldly goods and trust the universe to provide for him. Obviously, with this being a Marian Keyes book, this has hilarious consequences.

 

Between Ireland and New York, this book covered two of my favourite places and I always love reading about places I’ve visited in New York. I must admit I was a little envious of Stella getting to live there for a bit!

 

There is a bit of back and to in the action with us seeing things that have happened and then what is happening at the present time but I quite like that and it was very easy to follow. Obviously it meant that there were some slight spoilers as characters that are together in the flashbacks aren’t in the present day so you obviously know something is going to happen to come between them.  

 

All in all, this was another brilliant book by Marian Keyes and I would recommend it to anyone. I also happened to see her being interviewed on the Paul O’Grady show recently and am very excited as she mentioned she is working on another book about the Walsh family, who I absolutely love so I can’t wait for that to come out.

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