Son by Lois Lowry – A Book Review

I read The Giver in high school and adored it.  I loved its abstract nature while still rooting itself mostly in reality.  I recently watched the film adaptation, and doing so inspired me to revisit the book.  Because three companion pieces came out between the time I read the original work and the movie, I felt compelled to read the entire quartet.

Gathering Blue and The Messenger proved to be a rather large departure from The Giver, happening in the same “universe” but still only loosely related.  Both of those books leaned far more into the realm of fantasy than science fiction, and I frankly had trouble connecting to the ambiguous morality tale they assumed.

Son, however, offered the best of both worlds.  It begins in The Giver’s community, but it ends in the village of the other two books.  As most will agree, Son is a direct companion piece to The Giver as it initially occurs parallel to Jonas’ story.  It follows Claire’s story, a birth-mother who doesn’t last long at her assignment.  She yearns to be with her only child, which is a rarity in the community, and takes drastic action to do so.  However, she’s beaten to the punch by Jonas, and it becomes fairly obvious rather quickly that Claire is Gabe’s mother.  It seems Gabe was destined to live as it is revealed he had two protectors all along.

Once Gabe is taken, Claire decides to do anything to be with her son.  Through a series of hardships and obstacles, and though it takes years, she eventually makes her way to The Messenger’s village where Gabe is now a hearty young man.  Claire, unfortunately, is now unrecognizable thanks to a vicious evil, an evil which Jonas declares Gabe must eradicate.

When I initially read The Giver, I related to Jonas as he was similar in age and temperament.  Interestingly enough, I now relate to Claire as I am the father of two children myself.  I understand her innate need to be with her child, to love her child, to protect her child at all costs.

Son utilizes both science fiction and fantasy as it begins heavily with the former and ends almost exclusively with the latter.  I personally found it ended more akin to a fable than anything, and I honestly felt disappointment as Claire took a backseat to Gabe when the story became his.  I cannot argue, though, that it ties the previous three books together nicely and answers some frustrating questions introduced in The Messenger.

Son is a worthy conclusion to The Giver even if it is a departure in both tone and theme.  I am so glad to know Jonas and Gabe’s fate, and Claire cemented herself as a pinnacle character in the series as well.  I have no doubt young adults will particularly relish Lowry’s tale of overcoming evil, the enduring love of family, and the call of morality we all should heed.

It’s Kind Of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini – A Book Review

I’ve seen It’s Kind Of a Funny Story on several must-read lists, especially those aimed at young adults.  I must admit that when I learned of the book’s plot, as well as the author’s unfortunate passing, well, it was with morbid fascination that I finally sat down to read it.

The premise is sadly common.  A teenage boy named Craig becomes overwhelmed by the demands of life, particularly his rigorous school, and decides to take his own life.  He finds his way into a psychiatric ward, and there he finally meets people with whom he can relate.  Though only required to stay for a short while, the fifteen year old recognizes his issues, has an epiphany on how to manage them, and leaves the ward on a happy note.

Of course, this is oversimplifying everything about the book.  The important thing to note is that Vizzini truly captures the essence of depression, he creates real characters, he expertly draws out various emotions, and, in the end, he provides hope to both Craig and the reading audience.

This book is sad, it is funny, it is uncomfortable, it is affirming, it is real, it is life.  No matter what your age, I highly recommend it.

 

Share My Passion

In 2011, I began an experiment called Dr. Nekros.  I’d created the character a few years prior, but it wasn’t until that time that I fully committed to telling his story.  Amazon Direct Publishing arrived on the scene, and I realized it provided the perfect platform to execute a form of storytelling I’d never experienced firsthand – the serial.

I knew I wanted Dr. Nekros’ odyssey to span eighteen episodes, and I knew I wanted three major story arcs that ultimately told a much grander tale.  When I started, I pretty much had the first six episodes mapped out. Beyond that, I can’t claim to have fully understood where the story would ultimately end.

Writing a serial proved a thrilling experience, especially because I figured much of it out as I went.  I hoped to release an episode every two months, and, for the most part, I stuck to that schedule.  Oddly enough, when I about hit the half way mark of the series I came down with a terrible case of the stomach flu.  My entire family suffered from it.  This thing lasted for days, and none of us could hardly get out of bed.  Since I had so much downtime, I took advantage of it to finally map out the end of the series.  Looking back, I think I may have been a bit delirious because Dr. Nekros takes a fairly surreal turn near the end.

Those years spent writing Dr. Nekros proved to be the busiest of my life thus far.  Just a few months before the serial started, my wife and I moved into a new house we built, I returned to my full-time high school teaching career, I started and finished my Master’s degree, and we had our second child.  Throughout it all, Dr. Nekros’ adventures unfolded.  In many ways, the not-so-good doctor kept me sane.  I am the sort of person who always needs a creative outlet, and in the midst of so many obligations, he gave me the opportunity to do things my way.  Of course, that’s not entirely true.  The serial very much took on a life of it’s own, and I, at times, felt as though I was merely the tool for this story to arrive.

If you have not yet read the Dr. Nekros serial, I do hope you’ll share my passion and give it a try.  It is an epic work, and I believe it has qualities appealing to most readers.  I found the entire process incredibly satisfying, and I am thankful to have experienced such creative passion.

Simply click the image to visit the works on Amazon.

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The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell – A Book Review

Like you, I felt excited to read The Bone Clocks because David Mitchell also wrote Cloud Atlas.  Now, I’ll be honest, I consider Cloud Atlas one of the more difficult books I’ve ever read, and, as a former English major, that’s saying something.  In fact, I really didn’t decide that I liked Cloud Atlas until after I finished reading it.  It was a labor of love, and my pride wouldn’t let me give up on it.

Having said all that, The Bone Clocks is every bit as imaginative as Cloud Atlas, and, I’m happy to share, far more accessible.  In fact, The Bone Clocks engaged my heart and mind immediately. 

The Bone Clocks is another work of interwoven plots, fateful coincidences, and miraculous occurrences.  It is also, I’d like to add, an incredible character study.  In fact, I feel that these are some of Mitchell’s most believable characters yet.  Ironically, he also includes some of his most unbelievable characters.  I don’t say that because these unbelievable characters feel fake, but rather because they are deeply ingrained within the realms of fantasy and science fiction.

Though I personally loved it, The Bone Clocks is largely written as a very realistic story of family, loss, love, resolve, and indecision; however, there are significant moments when Mitchell pulls no punches and throws you into the deep end of an otherworldly conflict that has existed for centuries.  Mitchell is a fine writer, a pleasure to read, but some readers may find the sudden travels to an alternate plane of reality too jolting, too unrealistic, and too out of context.  Except it’s not out of context.  Mitchell lays the foundation of this fantastical tale from the very beginning, and by story’s end, you realize you’ve been reading a superb work of genre from the start.

Like Michael Chabon, I love genre.  I think genre should be celebrated.  Some of our dearest works of fiction, those belonging to the classical canon, could easily be considered genre works.  Mitchell has given us the best of literature – an expertly written story that offers insight into the human soul while regaling us with a tale that enlivens the imagination.

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Read “Send-Off” – My Most Disturbing Short Story

In one of Scott William Foley’s most disturbing tales, a runner happens across a smart phone along a mountain path. After realizing the phone is not secured, and after discovering why the phone lay near the mountain’s edge, the runner takes actions that will both appall and terrify you. Originally published in Illinois State University’s literary magazine (Euphemism), this morbid story will haunt you long after you fling it aside.  You can download it now for $00.99 with your free Kindle App.

http://www.amazon.com/Send-Off-Scott-William-Foley-ebook/dp/B00O6L6ZX0/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1412559196&sr=1-1&keywords=send-off

For All You Binge Readers – Now Is the Time

After years of serialized release, my eighteen-part Dr. Nekros saga is finally complete and available to read in one massive binge.

If you enjoy stories that span centuries, encroach upon the boundaries of reality, delve into family dynamics, provide nonstop action, and demand contemplation, then you’ll love Dr. Nekros.

You can read yours today by clicking HERE.

*At present, you will need the Kindle app for this series.  The Kindle app is free for the PC, smart phone, and tablet.

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – A Book Review

I promise to reveal nothing secretive about this book during my review, for to give away even a single detail will likely ruin the experience as a whole to the new reader.

I will simply say this: the first half of the book is utter genius.  I can’t recall of late a time I found myself so riveted, so completely engrossed, so eager to turn the page.  Flynn set everything up perfectly.  Perfectly.

As I read that first half, I actually found myself thinking, “Where will Flynn take it from here?  What direction is this thing ultimately going?”

And then, I reached the book’s halfway point, and Flynn blew my mind.  I’m talking my jaw hit the table.  The book completely changed direction and I loved it even more.

Sadly, however, the last third of the book did not delight so thoroughly.  Without being too specific, I found Flynn tossing in characters and details that, compared to the earlier installments, felt poorly conceived and even flat.  I hate to say that because this is a really well written book.  Flynn has a great style and proved herself skilled at constructed interesting, varied sentences.  It seemed almost as though she pinned herself into a corner and didn’t quite have the best exit strategy.

Honestly, the first half of the book was so good that there really was no place to go but down.  It would have been nearly impossible to deliver a satisfying ending to a story that broke out of the gates so hard.  I’m okay with the ending, don’t get me wrong, I just didn’t find it as masterfully plotted.

Would I recommend this book to a friend?  Absolutely.  I haven’t read anything quite like it—period.  I love Flynn’s characters, her style, her themes, her dialogue, and most of all, I love her plot.  I simply didn’t love the immediate events leading up to the ending, or, obviously, the ending itself.