Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Stephen King’s newer novels do not disappoint…trust me. Especially the Bill Hodges series. The first novel in the Bill Hodges series is Mr. Mercedes. If you haven’t heard of the novel (or the upcoming television show), it’s about a retired cop named Bill Hodges who comes out of retirement to finally take down a serial killer known as Mr. Mercedes. I’ll spare the gruesome details of how Brady Hartsfield becomes Mr. Mercedes. It’s pretty self explanatory…he kills people using well, a Mercedes. There are a lot of twists and turns in this well written novel, and Bill Hodges is definitely a character you will come to love. However, if you’re expecting a classic King horror story…you’ll be VERY disappointed.

This book instantly hooked me. Although the story line was a little gruesome, (what Stephen King books aren’t?), it kept me on the edge of my seat and I could NOT stop reading it. This book was not in the least predictable and every character was extremely interesting. Brady Hartsfield was one of the most awful characters that I have ever experienced in a novel— but he was a very interesting character. Honestly though, some portions of this book were a little much. Brady Hartsfield is a lot to take in, and I wouldn’t recommend this book for the faint of heart. I had nightmares…trust me. That being said, Stephen King doesn’t half-ass anything. Of COURSE I got nightmares. The story is a lot, the characters are a lot…but it all comes together for a super interesting story.

Like I stated before, this isn’t typical horror Stephen King. It’s actually more on the crime fiction side. This is a genre that really interests me (sometimes I get lost and bored with supernatural stuff…sorry Carrie!). But, if that’s not for you, I can’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy this book. A unique characteristic of Mr. Mercedes that King implemented so well was the switching of view points between the characters. It kept me even MORE on the edge of my seat and the story line become more exhilarating with every page turn. As I said earlier, Brady Hartsfield is A LOT. And when it became his turn to narrate the story, I often had to pause to take a moment to regroup. He maayyyy make your skin crawl, but it makes for a much more authentic and exciting story.

This is is no sense a perfect novel. However, it is proof that Stephen King has still got it. It’s a read that will consume you so much that you’ll need to finish it as soon as possible. And at the end, it’ll leave you wanting more. And on that note, I have a pleasant surprise. The Bill Hodges series contains 3 books, and I’m going to review all of them! So, if you’re a fan of King/the crime fiction genre, definitely give Mr. Mercedes a try. You won’t regret it!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Green Mile by Stephen King

The one thing I love most about novels is the range of emotions they make me feel. These emotions range on a wide scale of ecstatic to depressed. The Green Mile by Stephen King made me feel EVERY. SINGLE. emotion in between this wide range.

Let me start off by saying that it is apparent, (to me at least), where Stephen King’s strength lies— the prisons. Both of his stories on prison life that I have read (The Green Mile and Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) have been two of the most quality pieces of writing that I have ever experienced. King accomplishes the task of making his characters so likable and human, despite their misgivings. These are prison inmates that you can’t help but fall for. Especially John Coffey. Oh, John Coffey…the tears that I have shed for you are endless…

Can I just say that this book, this work of fiction, actually made me second guess my thoughts I previously held on capital punishment. THAT is how impactful this novel is. The Green Mile is a story narrated from the perspective of a prison guard who works in the section of the prison reserved for inmates on death row. The narrator is classic King protagonist to a T— male, extremely likable and relatable despite his shortcomings, etc. Paul Edgecombe is writing down his experience on the Green Mile (and specifically with John Coffey), to relieve himself of the demons he still has to reconcile with. So the narrator is recalling a past story quite eloquently, with a few moments in the present.

There were some inmates that I absolutely detested. Ones that made my skin crawl. However, there were inmates that I saw humanity in— and I think that’s the point. Paul Edgecombe, and people who work in prisons around the world, are still human, and will see human qualities in the inmates as well. This book explores the notion of how capital punishment effects everyone, not only the person sentenced to death. What about the workers whose daily job it is to kill these people? What about the witnesses and doctors sentenced to attend these killings? This is something that I never reflected on in my entire life. But Stephen King made his work of fiction so REAL, that I had no choice but to reflect.

The Green Mile is easily one of King’s best works. This book will make you uncomfortable…and upset…and disgusted…and so much more. You will find yourself desperately wishing for outcomes that you know are never going to come. You know there is no happy ending from the very beginning. But in that sense, it is all the more realistic. I swear by it, but King has a way of magic with prison stories. There is a seed of hope embedded in these dark and depressing tales. But isn’t that life? Something dark, and scary, but riddled with hope?

Pick this book up. Read it. Give John Coffey a chance and learn his story. Let Paul Edgecombe vent to you. Experience the humanity. Do it. You won’t regret it. Rating: 5/5 damn stars.

Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit by Chris Matthews

I have been obsessed with one thing for a few weeks now: The Kennedy’s. CNN is airing an amazing docu-series about the legendary American family…and one person in particular caught my eye. It’s common knowledge of JFK’s greatness, and many people know about the romanticized fantasy of Camelot. However, I had no idea that the political champion I should have been celebrating all these years is actually JFK’s younger brother, Bobby Kennedy.

After becoming interested in RFK, I sought out the best books on him. Chris Matthews’ (MSNBC anchor on Hardball) book Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit kept reappearing on the must-reads list for the Kennedys. So I bought it. Best decision ever? Definitely.

Matthews writes a very personal and heartfelt account of Bobby Kennedy’s life. Because Matthews was a college student during the height of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights movement, many assassinations, and many other important events, he can accurately recollect the despair in America. Matthews acknowledges that these events were indeed tragic…but there were many bright lights of positivity at that time. And one of those lights was Robert Kennedy.

If you have ever fallen to the myth that JFK was the true president from 1960-1963…you’re mistaken. Bobby Kennedy was the closest thing America has ever had to a co-president…and half of the things that I assumed were JFK’s own decisions were actually Bobby’s. Bobby needs to be credited for all of the attention JFK paid to civil rights (he couldn’t be bothered). Bobby kept JFK collected during the Cuban Missile Crisis…the list goes on. Not only did I never know about Bobby’s influence, but I also didn’t know why.

In an America full of dishonest politicians, the idea of Bobby Kennedy is a breath of fresh air. He is remembered in history books as ruthless, (mainly due to his pursuit of organized crime), but RFK is truly gentle-hearted. I was moved to tears multiple times by his kind and caring nature. He truly cared about civil rights. He truly wanted to rectify all the bad in the world. He didn’t see America as a place where inequality had a home. He believed that we were required as a nation to assist those living in poverty. He began to staunchly oppose the Vietnam War. He singe-handedly wanted to right every injustice in this world.

If you didn’t know these things, PICK UP CHRIS MATTHEWS’ BOOK! I cannot imagine the world we would have lived in if we saw a RFK presidency. Would the world have been a better place? Would America be less divisive? More caring? We will never know. But Chris Matthews at least allowed me to imagine. I feel as if Bobby Kennedy was an old friend of mine, who I can now fondly look back on. As Americans, it is important that we recognize valuable characteristics in our leaders. This way, we can hope and pray that America finds another politician like Bobby Kennedy.

Rating: 4.5/5

Different Seasons by Stephen King

In life there are those rare books that completely capture your soul and leave an imprint on you forever. Different Seasons by Stephen King (specifically two of the four novellas) did exactly that for me. Like I stated previously, King includes four novellas that are each so unique and magnificent. This review won’t do the book or the feelings it gave me justice. 3/4 of these are horror. The only one that isn’t (you’re probably familiar with the cinema counterpart) is “Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption”.

“Shawshank Redemption”…all I can say is oh my god. This novella made me go through so many emotions…laughing yet weeping, scared yet triumphant. This novella is so well done. It’s easily my favorite story from King. It is not only a page turner, but an absolute masterpiece. These are the kinds of stories that I gravitate towards but don’t experience often. The kinds of stories that I carry with me forever and will always have a tender spot in my heart. That is why this individual novella is granted with the rare 5/5.

The second novella, “Apt Pupil”, is where Different Seasons went extremely downhill for me. All I can say is…wow. Is the story encapsulating? Yes. Is it well written? Extremely. Is it King horror that will scar you for life? TREMENDOUSLY. This story is so dark, and I actually had to quit reading for a few days because it almost made me feel physically ill while reading. The characters in this novella are by far the worst that I have ever experienced in my reading career. A young boy discovers that a Nazi lives in his town and instead of being disgusted, he is fascinated. In the worst way. However, this tale of evil is extremely well-done, and I eventually picked Different Seasons up again and trudged through. And honestly? I’m glad I did. Rating: 3.5/5

The third novella is another tugged on my heart strings and will stay with me always is “The Body.” This story made me reminiscent of King’s It because it surfaces around kids who I was rooting for the ENTIRE time. Their lives are nowhere close to the easiest and are riddled with loss, conflict, and hardship. Despite this, the kids have such great potential and are easily likable. This is a truly wonderful coming of age story that is unique in so many senses. Also, this novella stays true to King’s usual horror— there is a dead body (hence the title). Rating: 4.5/5

The final novella “The Breathing Method” is creepy, mysterious and leans towards King’s supernatural-horror genre. This particular novella confused me at first, partially because of the supernatural factors that are never truly explained, and partially because it was a tad slow. After I got past that, I found myself enjoying a decent story. I think I was mostly disappointed because the prior 3 stories were SO gripping and page-turning and this one just…wasn’t. I enjoyed it, but not with fervor. Like I said, it was a bit confusing, and overall lackluster. Therefore, I’ll award this last installment in Different Seasons a 2.5/5.

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

“He came. He left. Nothing else had changed. I had not changed. The world hadn’t changed. Yet nothing would be the same.”

Although nothing significant happened throughout the duration it took me to read Call Me By Your Name, I too felt changed. Maybe it was because I spent the last 40 pages crying and needing to take breaks because my tears were making it difficult to read. Or maybe it was because Elio and Oliver are two characters that will stay with me forever. Or maybe it was because it reminded me of so much in my own life and relationship. Or maybe it was because representation matters, and CMBYN succeeded in creating a beautiful, unique love story between two young men. Honestly, it was probably a combination of all the reasons listed, along with a few other reasons that I’m not even sure of.

The mechanics of CMBYN are truly beautiful. Aciman’s style of writing is prose-like and it absolutely entranced me as I read. Like I said before, these characters are so well done. I even became attached to Elio’s parents, despite the fact that they were honestly background characters (with an exception at the end of the novel). I loved being in Elio’s mind and being able to hear first-hand the narrative voice that struggled with desire, lust, love, and every emotion in between. At times, I felt like an intruder in Elio’s head. Some thoughts were so intimate, that I almost wanted to hide and give him the privacy he deserves. But I LOVED being inside the mind of a character with such intense thoughts. It was so realistic. We’ve all been there to some extent— wanting a person so bad that it practically drives us crazy. I could totally understand Oliver and Elio’s attractions to one another too. I loved their intense and intelligent conversations. I loved partaking in the beautiful scenery of Italy with them. I felt like a third party, a ghost, hovering invisible, but witnessing every second of their love story all the same. It was so damn real. And for that, it was breathtaking.

This isn’t a spoiler. You know from the first few pages that this is not a love story with a happy ending. It doesn’t just magically work out. You know that the narrator is in the future, recalling his past six weeks with Oliver that changed his life. But I loved how realistic a love story CMBYN is. Not every love story works out. Not every lover we have is destined to be “the one”. Sometimes, in order for the love to have the greatest impact on us, we need to suffer from loss.

Overall, CMBYN was a beautiful love story that transported me to the shores of Italy in the early 1980s. Everything was so real— the characters, the love story, the setting, the tone…everything. Aciman’s characters literally came to life and captivated me in all of the best ways. As Elio was falling, I was falling too. Not just for Oliver, but for every single aspect of the story. When the story came to the end, I felt ever single ounce of pain Elio did.

You should really give this incredible book a try. I know I’ll be watching the film adaption this week! I doubt it can live up to the incredible bar the novel set, but that’s okay. I had already experienced something amazing with the novel. Thank you, Andre Aciman.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

For years I have strayed away from the label “feminist”. Mostly, this was because in the conversations around me, the term/label “feminist” was associated with mostly undesirable attributes. Feminists were pushed into the category of being angry. Of never being satisfied. Of not being positive. Of not being “the right type of woman” (except, isn’t that what feminism is all about? That we don’t HAVE to be the “right” type of woman? That we should be able to be assertive or tough, like men, and not be thought of as horrible people? Right?). Anyway, I grew out of this. I embraced the term feminist, because, hell, that’s what I am. Feminists believe that women should have equal rights, including economic rights and reproductive freedom. Well, that’s what I believe in. So I’m a feminist.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay discusses most of my feelings about feminism. Gay presents this idea that there is no one way to be a feminist, and that we don’t have to fall into the rigid lines/expectations of feminists. This novel is a compilation of essays, which include topics such as: Roxane Gay’s life, gender and sexuality, race (specifically in the entertainment industry), and politics. Honestly, I expected this book to be more about feminism than the other topics, and it wasn’t, but that’s okay! I enjoyed reading about Gay’s life, and it allowed me to understand and appreciate her opinions even more. I also really enjoyed the category of race and the entertainment industry. I literally want to sit down with Roxane Gay and discuss the new Marvel movie, Black Panther. I believe that representation in media is important too. We share a lot of similar beliefs, so this novel was an easy read.

I totally understand the struggle of attempting to read a novel by an author who has an extremely different viewpoint from yourself. However, if you’re opposed to feminism, either moderately or diligently, I suggest you read this book. Understand that there is NO one way to be a feminist. Understand that mostly every single woman wants to be equal to men. And that’s what feminism is all about! Understand that it does not matter whether you’re a stay at home mom or a CEO, you should want to be equal. And whatever position a woman finds herself in (stay-at-home mom or CEO), is extremely important. Every woman should be validated! That’s the whole DAMN point!

Roxane Gay’s tone had me LOVING this book. She is funny, she is witty and she is very opinionated. I loved that though. No one should be half-assed when discussion topics such as feminism and race. She also allowed me to come to terms with myself. Slight spoiler ahead, but nothing big. She discusses some popular series such as The Hunger Games, Twilight, and 50 Shades of Grey. These are all series in which I have read, and honestly, have guiltily enjoyed. I recognize their HORRIBLE way of displaying gender and sexuality at times, especially in regards with what women should put up with in romantic relationships. But Gay reminds me that it’s okay to critique novels or movies and still enjoy them. It’s okay to find all the things wrong with a piece of media, but still find things about it to appreciate. Me actually not wanting to put down these books does not automatically revoke my “feminist card”. I am not less of a feminist because I love the color pink or dye my hair blonde or love makeup or really want to have kids someday. And I appreciate that point of view. A lot. I think more people should adopt the idea that feminism does not have to look one way, and it definitely does not have to be looked down upon. So thank you for presenting these ideas and sharing them with the world, Roxane. I appreciate you.

Rating: 4/5

We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Why is it that I find it so hard to sit down and write a book review on a novel that was so amazing that it left a mark on my soul?! I think it’s because I’m almost speechless. There are no amount of words that can describe a feeling correctly. There are no amount of words to describe a gratitude for an author so knowledgable and so authentic. And there is certainly no way to measure the gratitude you feel towards an author who presents an argument about race that is so damn eloquent and universal. There are NO excuses why everyone, of any race, cannot agree upon the tragic history of race in America and that we need to do better. Now, there are arguments on how to do better— what ways are most effective, which ways we need to avoid, etc. But the overarching theme should be able to ring true to any moral person. I wholeheartedly believe this. That being said…

Wow. We Were Eight Years In Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates is spectacular. This MAN is spectacular!! This is, unfortunately, the first time I’ve encountered his work, but since I’ve been watching some television interviews and man…this guy is GIFTED. Let’s step back a moment though. What is We Were Eight Years In Power about? Good question, before I go off on my tangent.

The title refers to the fact that for the past eight years, President Obama, a black man, was the president. At the time, people thought that America had finally transcended race. We finally elected a black man as our president. Things are better. Fast forward those eight years, and as Ta-Nehisi Coates calls Trump, we have our first “white” president. This basically means that Trump’s whole campaign revolved around a black president. Coates draws a general path for us to how we went from one extreme, to the other. Coates included mentions of Trump’s incessant accusations about Obama’s “birtherism”, and how Trump’s campaign was targeted around hateful/fearful rhetoric.

This novel is comprised of a collection of eight essays that Coates wrote for every year President Obama was in power. What precedes every chapter is “notes” on Coates current thoughts and critiques about his essay, and other current events that relate to the essay.

To give you an idea about what some of the essays include, I will highlight a few. “This Is How We Lost to the White Man” is an extremely interesting essay that actually focuses around Bill Cosby’s controversial black activism. In today’s culture, we hear more about Cosby’s sexual allegations than his preaching, so this is particularly interesting to reflect on. Another chapter that I found extremely interesting was “The Case For Reparations”, where Coates describes the present day consequences of slavery, and how we as a country may go about reparations. I have always been aware of the debate for reparations, but rarely had an idea of how reparations can feasibly come about. This chapter really expanded my knowledge on this topic, and for that, I am extremely thankful.

I cannot stress enough how INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT this book is. Not only to America, but to the whole damn world. Coates is not only a fantastic writer (he really, really is gifted), but he is so knowledgable about these issues. The issue of race is so important in today’s social and political climate. If everyone were just a *tad* more knowledgable about race, the world would truly be a better place. That’s why I urge you to get a copy of this book. Read it with an open mind. Read it, and be hopeful for change and a better tomorrow. Act on a better tomorrow. BE a better version of yourself tomorrow. We sure need it.

Rating: 5/5 (my first perfect rating!)