The Taking, by Dean Koontz

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“On the morning that will mark the end of the word they have known, Molly and Neil Sloan awaken to the drumbeat of rain on their roof., “At first is seems like just a heavy rain but it smells different and the effects are frightening. Soon it is evident that an alien race is intent on wiping out the survivors of the rain and the world is under attack.

The rain stops but fog replaces it and those left face attack dead bodies come back to life and fungi that inhabit and live on everything it touches.

Molly and Neil and a golden retriever named Virgil are the children in their small towns only hope it seems. At first, they fear that the aliens have allowed them to rescue the children to harvest them for some more terrible end, but they come to hope that maybe they have been spared for a special reason.

Comparing Koontz to Stephen King seems natural with the subject of this novel being horror. King writing seems more at home in the genre, but Koontz offers a little more hope eventually in his plot. Well worth reading if you’re a fan of Dean Koontz especially.

Quotes

“Reality isn't what it used to be.” 


“Maybe there's nothing impossible tonight. We're down the hole to Wonderland, and no White Rabbit to guide us."


If I remember correctly, the White Rabbit was an unreliable guide, anyway.” 


“Although the human heart is selfish and arrogant, so many struggle against their selfishness and learn humility; because of them, as long as there is life, there is hope that beauty lost can be rediscovered, that what has been reviled can be redeemed.” 

“...like a scene from the swamps of Louisiana or the mind of Poe on opium.” 

“Although she had resisted this knowledge all her life, had lived determinedly in the future focused there by ambition, she understood at last that this was the real condition of humanity: The dance of life occurred not yesterday or tomorrow, but only here at the still point that was the present. This truth is simple, self-evident, but difficult to accept, for we sentimentalize the past and wallow in it, while we endure the moment and in every waking hour dream of the future.” 

“The human imagination may be the most elastic thing in the universe, stretching to encompass the millions of dreams that in centuries of relentless struggle built modern civilization, to entertain the endless doubts that hamper every human enterprise, and to conceive the vast menagerie of boogeymen that trouble every human heart.” 

“We don't call them inmates,' Molly said, quoting one of the psychiatrists.'We call them patients”

 

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

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“Marsh is not swamp. Marsh is a space of light, where grass grows in water, and water flows into the sky. Slow moving creeks wander, carrying the orb of the sun with them to the sea, and long-legged birds lift with unexpected grace- as though not built to fly- against the roar of a thousand snow geese.”

Delia Owens continues telling us that “On the morning of October 30, 1969, the body of Chase Andrews lay in the swamp” We eventually learn what happened and we learn about Kya Clark, the Marsh Girl.

Kya has been the subject of rumors for year in the small town of Barkley Cove on the North Carolina coast. She has survived for years alone in the marsh that is her home. Her friends are the birds and she knows the marsh better than anyone.

Two young men from town are intrigued by her, touch her life, and she opens herself up to being touched by love. We are touched by Kya’s life and the story brings with it a melody and feeling that helps us fold into the story ourselves.

A coming of age story that shows us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were. A book that we won’t forget.

Quotes

“Autumn leaves don't fall, they fly. They take their time and wander on this their only chance to soar.” 

“His dad had told him many times that the definition of a real man is one who cries without shame, reads poetry with his heart, feels opera in his soul, and does what’s necessary to defend a woman.” 

“Why should the injured, the still bleeding, bear the onus of forgiveness?” 

“Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.” 

“Unworthy boys make a lot of noise” 

“lot of times love doesn’t work out. Yet even when it fails, it connects you to others and, in the end, that is all you have, the connections.” 

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Love, by Stendhal

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Stendhal states: "I want to impose silence on my heart, which thinks it has much to say. I constantly fear having written nothing but a sigh, when I believe I have set down a truth."

Four kinds of love are discussed.  Passionate love, mannered love, physical love, and vanity love. Stendhal draws on history, literature, and his own experiences and what we get is a picture of the author’s innermost feelings.

At the core of this book we find Stendahl’s obsession with Mathilde Viscontini Dembowski whom he called Miltide. She did not return his love nor understood him. He tried to explain his love to her and in doing so dissected his passion.

According to Stendahal the Italians were torn between hatred and love and lived by passions. The French by vanity and the Germans who he felt were discontent and unsophisticated, by their imaginations.

Stendhal said that “a novel is like a bow, and the violin that produces the sound is the reader's soul.” The book is a look into his soul.

See Review of The Red and the Black by StendhalThe work he is best known for.

Quotes by Stendhal

  • “A good book is an event in my life.” ...

  • “One can acquire everything in solitude except character.” ...

  • “There are as many styles of beauty as there are visions of happiness.” ...

  • “I love her beauty, but I fear her mind.” ...

  • “A novel is a mirror walking along a main road.”

  • “If you don't love me, it does not matter, anyway I can love for both of us” 

    “Our true passions are selfish.” 

    “God's only excuse is that he does not exist” 

    “Beauty is nothing other than the promise of happiness.

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Love
By Stendhal
 

Cell a novel by Stephen King

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“The event that came to be known as The Pulse” began at 3:03p.m. eastern standard time, on October 1st and within ten hours, most of the scientists capable of understanding what happened were either dead or insane”

The Pulse was a signal that comes through an international cell phone network into those listening to their phones and it turns everyone who hears it into mindless maniacs referred to as phoners.  Some who didn’t have cell phones are still normal, but it is unclear how many are left. The world has become a battleground between two visions of the future.

The story starts in Boston Common with Clayton Riddell getting ready to celebrate his new novel’s release by buying an ice cream cone. He is surrounded by several people talking on cell phones. A man hangs up his phone and turns on the ice cream salesperson and tears his throat out with his teeth. Anyone who was on the phone at that time changes into a mindless monster.  The phones signal has erased their minds.

Tom and Clayton get away and decide to go to Maine to find and rescue Clayton’s son. Alice, and Jordan both teenagers and team up with them.

Stephen King got his idea for this book when he observed a woman walking out of a hotel. The Cell is the 53rd book published by Stephen King and was his 44th novel.

Quotes

“Man has come to dominate the planet thanks to two essential traits. One is intelligence. The other has been the absolute willingness to kill anyone and anything that gets in his way.” 

“This is how a man looks when he's deciding that the risk of death is better than the risk of change.” 

“He said the mind can calculate, but the spirit yearns, and the heart knows what the heart knows.

 

Dante, by R.W.B. Lewis

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Dante, by R.W.B Lewis, is about his seeking, finding and defining himself at every turn in this literary history.  He becomes fascinated with the mythic Beatrice, the lyric poet obsessed with life and death, the grand master of dramatic narrative and allegory.

Lewis writes of Dante’s wandering the Tuscan hills to his time as a young soldier fighting for democracy, his love for his civic duties, his literary ambitions, his religion and for Beatrice who he considers.  We learn of the politics Florentine politics the led to the Dante’s banishment from his native city.

Dante as a person shows his dark feelings about those who persecute him where he uses the word Purgatorio to promise vengeance as the ultimate poetic justice and predicts their depravity will be exposed in the end.

Lewis has in a small book made the life of Dante a revealing and easy to read biography.

Quote by Dante

…….and thence we issued forth to see again the stars

The secret of getting things done is to act!

There is no greater sorrow Than to be mindful of the happy time In misery.

Do not be afraid; our fate Cannot be taken from us; it is a  Gift.

The path to paradise begins in hell .

The more a thing is perfect, the more it feels pleasure and pain.

 

Cross Fire, by James Patterson

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In Cross Fire Alex Cross is going after a sniper who is assassinating corrupt politicians and judges. Leaks to the press by the sniper has divided public opinion with some thinking the sniper is a hero rather than a murderer. The killings are in the jurisdiction of the Washington Metro Police Department (MPD) and the FBI. Max Siegel, an FBI agent, is assigned to this case and a turf battle begins.

Kyle Craig was previously sent to prison through the efforts of Cross and he surfaces planning to kill Alex and his entire family. The book starts out telling us: “It had been months since Kyle Craig had killed a man. Once upon a time, he’d been the type who needed everything yesterday, if not sooner. But no more. If years of hellish solitude in ADX Florence in Colorado had taught him nothing else, it was how to wait for what he wanted.”

Kyle Craig’s is a considered to be very smart, even a mastermind. Now that he is out of prison, he creates a plan to get revenge by getting close to Cross and even his family. He also finds his way into the sniper case that no one sees coming.

The sniper killings and Craig’s return all come at a time when Cross is planning his wedding to Brianna Stone. The storyline is complex and gives us a view of Washington DC and the homeless population who are part of the plot.

This book is #17 in the Alex Cross series.

“Beware the anger of a patient man.” James Patterson

 

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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Viet Thanh Nguyen starts his book, The Sympathizer, saying: “I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides.”

The novel gives us a important and unfamiliar perspective on the war from the point of view of a conflicted communist sympathizer who is a Captain in the South Vietnam army.

The story begins in 1975 with Saigon in chaos. A general in the South Vietnam army is deciding who will get seats on one of the last planes. His trusted Captain, whose name we never learn, is a double agent and the trusted assistant to the general. They make it to Los Angeles and start their new lives but the Captain is secretly reporting on the group to the leadership of the Viet Cong.

The Captain is the books narrator. He had a Vietnamese mother, and French Catholic priest father and was raised in Vietnam but attended college in the U.S.

The book gives a different focus to this war and the events that followed it.

Quotes

  • “If youth was not wasted, how could it be youth?” ...

  • “I could live without television, but not without books.” ...

  • “We don't succeed or fail because of fortune or luck. ...

  • “While it is better to be loved than hated, it is also far better to be hated than ignored.”

The Shape Shifter by Tony Hillerman

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Joe Leaphorn is a former, now retired, Navajo Tribal Police Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn.  Joes last case went unsolved and the thoughts about it still haunt him. He finds a picture of a rug that seems to be identical to what he felt was a one-of-a-kind rug that had been destroyed by fire in the still unsolved crime he just couldn’t forget. The rug was considered priceless and commemorated a terrible time in the American Indian history. The rug was felt to be cursed. The picture had been brought to Joe’s attention by a man that has now gone missing. It seems like a murderer could still be on the loose.  

Joe’s former colleagues officers Jim Chee and Bernie Manuelito just back from their honeymoon or  else Joe would have asked them right off to get involved but instead sets out to learn what he can about who owns the house and rug in the picture. Another officer is sent to check first and he winds up dead seeming to just run off the road on the way back.

Tony Hillerman doesn’t disappoint us with the twists and turns of this story. The Shape Shifter is Hillerman’s eighteenth crime fiction novel in the Joe Leaphorn & Jim Chee Navajo Tribal Police series, first published in 2006.

Quotes by Tony Hillerman

  • “From where we stand the rain seems random. ...

  • “Everything is connected. ...

  • “IF you are not for yourself, who will be for you? ...

  • “Terrible drought, crops dead, sheep dying. ...

  • “An author knows his landscape best; he can stand around, smell the wind, get a feel for his place.

Run Away, by Harlen Coben

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Harlan Coben is well known for his writing style of misdirection and catching readers off guard,  his new book, “Run Away” is a masterpiece bringing unexpected twists to this mystery.

Simon Greene is a successful Wall Street executive and his wife Ingrid is a successful pediatrician. They have three kids but the oldest, Paige, recently quite college and disappeared. Simon saw his daughter, now a drug addict playing the guitar and panhandling in Central Park.  She runs. Simon chases her but is confronted by her boyfriend who is also an addict named Aaron.  Both Aaron and Paige get away.  The confrontation is captured on video and it goes viral and Simon looks bad. It isn’t long before Aaron is found beaten to death and Simon is a suspect. Both Simon and his wife, Ingrid, focuses on finding Paige.

Several story-lines are also unfolding. One has to do with a Chicago-based private investigator named Elena Ramirez, who is searching for another missing person and several other cases are taking place in Boston and New Jersey.  It becomes clear that the cases are connected but it is a surprise when it all becomes clear.

Quotes

“Most religious people don’t believe the dogma, Ash. We take from it what we want, we discard what we don’t. We form whatever narrative we like—kind God, vengeful God, active God, laid-back God, whatever. We just make sure we get something out of it. Maybe we get life everlasting while people we resent burn for eternity. Maybe we get something more concrete—money, a job, friends. You just change the narrative.”

 “Terrific," Simon said. "The psychos are on my side.” 

“This is for Jersey, the good dog, who would be happy to share this bench with you”

 “And bad stays. Bad doesn't go away. You bury bad, it digs itself out. You throw bad in the middle of the ocean, it comes back at you like a tidal wave.”

 “Love your parents - while we are busy growing up, they are growing old.”

 “Truth is truth. By definition. Anything else is a lie.” 

 

The Artist's Way, by Julia Cameron

Julia Camerson says of her book, “The Artist’s Way”, that it is the quasi-spiritual manual for “creative recovery.” 

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The book, first published in 1992, explores what creativity is. It suggests two approaches to finding that self. The first is what she refers to as “Morning Pages” which are a stream of consciousness approach to writing where there is no right or wrong way to do it, just three pages of whatever is on your mind. She tells us that this organizes your thoughts and ideas.

The second approach is to take your “inner artist” on a date once a week and do something you enjoy and want to do. The effort is a creative expression.

Camerson said of her approach to teaching that: “My students don’t get lectured to. I think they feel safe. Rather than try and fix themselves, they learn to accept themselves. I think my work makes people autonomous. I feel like people fall in love with themselves.”

Now 70, she lives in a adobe house in Santa Fe, overlooking an acre of scrub and the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. A must read for the creative mind.

Quotes

“Most of us are not raised to actively encounter our destiny. ...

“In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. ...

“As you move toward a dream, the dream moves toward you.” ...

“Leap, and the net will appear.”

“In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now. The precise moment I was in was always the only safe place for me.” 

 



Target, by James Patterson

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 First the President, Catherine Grant, dies and the story opens with a procession route from Capitol Hill to the White House that is lined with mourners. Then with Cross and his families at the funeral.

When Senator Elizabeth Walker is shot dead by a sniper every agency is on high alert and soon, we see that the United States Cabinet is also a target. A constitutional crisis is full-blown. Bree Stone, Alex Cross’s wife, is the chief of DC detectives and Dr. Cross is called by the new President to investigate both play a role in finding out what happened.

The plot is twisted and fast paced, and it involves a team of six assassins and James Patterson still holds our interest even after 26 books in this series. Even so, Cross’s impact seems to be less than in prior books in this series.

See the worlds best selling author James Patterson’s web site https://pattersonbooks.worldsecuresystems.com/

See more about James Patterson in BJ’s Favorite Author Section

Quotes From Target

“Even wolves have moments of kindness.” 

“wondered at the human brain’s ability to seize on some terrible personal event and let that event define and control every action for years, decades, even lifetimes.” 

Other James Patterson Quotes

“The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective.”

“Max, you're the last of the hybrids who still has...a soul.' ... 'She doesn't have soul,' Gazzy scoffed. 'Have you ever seen her dance?

“Popcorn for breakfast! Why not? It's a grain. It's like, like, grits, but with high self-esteem.” 

What Is Art, by Leo Tolstoy

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Leo Tolstoy is best known for his epic novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina. He was a novelist and moral philosopher who studied and wrote about good and bad in relation to human life.

Tolstoy tells us in his book, “What Is Art”, that “Becoming ever poorer and poorer in subject-matter and more and more unintelligible in form, the art of the upper classes in its latest productions has lost all the characteristics of art and has been replaced by imitations of art.” He refers to this as “the perversion of our art.”

He defines art as anything that communicates emotion, rather than beauty: "Art begins when a man, with the purpose of communicating to other people a feeling he once experienced, calls it up again within himself and expresses it by certain external sign.”

Tolstoy wrote about the art of the future rejecting that is would be just a portion of highly refined art that only might appeal to the very enlightened but instead that it would evolve to art that is chosen from that known to all humanity, not just the upper classes, and would transmit feelings embodying the highest principles. This willingness to divide art into good art with morality being a judgement is a big step for defining art.

These conclusions shocked both his critics and admirers as attacked and rejecting cherished beliefs, institutions and established values, religious images and practices.

See Questions In Art Review Section

Quotes

"A real work of art destroys, in the consciousness of the receiver, the separation between himself and the artist." ...

.Art is not a handicraft, it is the transmission of feeling the artist has experienced.

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.

All happy families resemble one another, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

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