25 May 2013

The DomeAlong Starts Today...Are You Joining?

Have no fear! While the readalong technically starts today through July 27, everyone is of course starting whenever they want to and reading at their own pace. (Which is why there aren't dates on the buttons!) If you'd like to join, click here for the sign-up post.

A few questions came up over the past forty-eight hours, and I thought a quick post might be helpful.

I read fast and know I'll finish before the deadline.

Awesome! Just put together a post to collect and save your thoughts but schedule it to be published on the final date. That way, if you have spoilers you want to talk about, it won't surprise anyone by that point!

Er...the Twitter hashtag looks weird...
Yes! #domealong could be construed in a VERY WRONG way. Hence, #DomeAlong was born! Capitalize that D and A and no weird spammy things should come our way.

Is there anything I should be prepared for with Stephen King?
Great question for the new SK reader!

Stephen King likes to tell a story. And I mean TELL A STORY. Under the Dome is over a thousand pages, and he is always criticized for having too much story and that everything should have been edited down to 200 pages less. King meanders and tells a tale and he makes no apologies for it. Just give it time and stick with it and it will all make sense.

King is not just a mass-market horror writer. It's actually unfair to lump in that category. Does he write a lot of scary stuff? Of course. But anyone who has read 11/22/63 or On Writing, or even Lisey's Story, can tell you that there is so much, much more to his work than just meets the fearful eye. Give him a chance.

He does include the bizarre s3x scene or two that sometimes make no sense and really are just out of place. Meh. I'm used to it by now. Although there were a few things in IT I would take issue with.

The most important thing is that Stephen King has created this alternate universe and most of his books are somewhat linked together. When you've read a number of his books, you'll realize that characters from one book make an appearance in others, such as Dick Halloran in The Shining, who then makes an appearance as a major character in IT. Or Richie and Bev from IT making a cameo in 11/22/63. Castle Rock and Derry are regularly featured towns in Stephen King's books, they almost take on a life of their own. I also recently learned all of these intertwining tales and characters are crucial to The Dark Tower series, which is on my list to read sometime later this year or next, and only once I've read more of his other works that contribute to that series. There are many more Stephen King tips, so once you start reading his work, don't stop!

Other Notes 
  • Click here to visit the Official Stephen King page for any insights to the author and books. I'm particularly excited for one of his upcoming pulp novels entitled Joyland that he has chosen to not release as an ebook. Click here for an exclusive excerpt shared by HuffPost Books. His intent is for everyone to purchase it at an independent bookstore. Go, Indies! Not to mention that Dr. Sleep, the sequel to The Shining, will be out this fall. 
  • Click here for the Stephen King's Fans Goodreads' page, run by one of the readalong participants Angie!
  • Click here for my tiny Goodreads page for Stephen King and here for my other blog The Stephen King Project. It's been a rare posting or two on that site, but the goal is to get back into it all now that Uncle Stevie has motivated me yet again. I promise I will change the picture so it no longer reads 2012! 
  • Click here for The Stephen King Project on Facebook. 
  • And TWITTER! Don't forget to participate in the discussion on Twitter by using #DomeAlong.
And here are the official participants from Wednesday's sign up post. If you still want to sign up, please do, never too late. Click here to enter in your info and I will update the participants' list below. You can sign up at any time! And to fellow participants, please do what you can to visit each others' sites to read their kick-off post if they have one. And for those who aren't yet convinced to join the crazy train, give it time. You will...


22 May 2013

Thanks go out to...
  • Ms. Jilly Bean, aka Fizzy Thoughts, for the fabulous idea earlier this year for an Under the Dome readalong. While I won't be able to send gifts out to everyone (I am not creative like that, have no idea what to do), I hope everyone enjoys the collaboration together.
  • Thanks also go out to Trish at Love, Laughter, Insanity, Lesley at Prairie Horizons, and Lisa at Lit and Life for dealing with my last minute Twitter panic that I missed the readalong, and then thoughts on set up, all in the past twenty-four hours!
Although the mini-series will premiere in exactly one month on CBS, our summer readalong starts now and will extend past the mini-series premiere. I plan to DVR the show and watch it after the readalong has concluded. Reading and blogging has taken a backseat for many of us this year, but I can definitely attest even more so to it. I think the only thing that can bring me back into the thick of things is a combination of Stephen King and, most importantly, a summer readalong with all of you!

Notable Notes
  • Published: 2009
  • Number of Pages: 1,074 (my copy)
  • Genre: Sci-fi Horror (Keep in mind that The Stand was considered horror-ish, but only the first part as it set the stage was scary; the rest was more of an epic journey and battle than anything else.)
  • New York Daily News reviewed Under the Dome and proclaimed Stephen King "returns to his glory days of The Stand."
  • This is an Indie Next List choice from Indiebound.org.
  • A CBS mini-series premieres June 24, 2013.

The blurb on the back of my book
My copy, all 1,074 pages
On an entirely normal, beautiful fall day, a small town is suddenly and inexplicably sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. Planes crash into it and rain down flaming wreckage. A gardener's hand is severed as the dome descends. Cars explode on impact. Families are separated and panic mounts. No one can fathom what the barrier is, where it came from, and when - or if - it will go away.

Now a few intrepid citizens, led by an Iraq vet turned short-order cook, face down a ruthless politician dead set on seizing the reins of power under the dome. But their main adversary is the dome itself. Because time isn't just running short. It's running out.

The CBS mini-series trailer

You Want Structure? You Got it.
  • Do you need a blog to participate? No way. If you don't have a blog, you can either sign up in the comments below, or you can create a free account with either Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing and enter that information into the linky below. Any of those sites will make it easier for you to track your thoughts, or you can use a Twitter account to sign up. If you don't want to do any of those, but still want to participate, then you can post your thoughts in the comments for each of the mile-marker posts throughout the readalong.
  • Timeline: May 25 through July 27
  • How many posts? Who cares! It's informal. However, if you want a little structure, you can do a kick-off post now, then a middle-of-the-road post (halfway through the book) on June 24 (to celebrate the mini-series premiere even though we all probably won't watch it until we're done reading), and then a final sayonara post on July 27. Sound good?
  • Twitter-chat? Use the hashtag #domealong
  • Mini-series Twitter chat? After the readalong as we watch our DVR'd recordings of the show? Maybe?
  • And do anything you want in-between! Throw a "Stephen King, you are freakishly awesome" party, or do a screamfest movie marathon, or write a gushing post on the fall release of Dr. Sleep, the sequel to The Shining. Or, you can just post your glee on the fact that you've been a horrible blogger and reader in 2013 and this readalong is going to bring. you. back. Back, baby! Oh, maybe that's just me...
So the buttons are available below and above. Choose whichever you prefer! Then, if you want to read the book and participate in the fun, enter your details below. If you want to link to a kick-off post, go for it!

Doing a kick-off post? Then feel free to give details on:
  • Show us your copy! Audio or print?
  • Have you read Uncle Stevie before?
  • What are you familiar with about Under the Dome or Stephen King?
  • What are you looking forward to?
  • Or, just throw your hands up and screech, "HEY! I'M GOING TO READ THIS BEAST OF A BOOK NO MATTER WHAT!"
Whatever works!


20 May 2013

I don't normally stamp my foot when business decisions are made in the online world because I understand moves and changes happen in Corporate America and it is what it is. However, maybe I'm just not technologically savvy enough to figure this recent issue out.

What I Like to Do
Many other book reviewers prefer to include links in their posts to other bloggers who have reviewed the same book. It's an opportunity for online networking, advertisement to fellow readers, etc., and I like doing it because I like it when other bloggers link back to me, etc.

The Issue
One of the many things I appreciated about Google Reader was the ability to search the blogs I follow for specific keywords. It easily filtered to those blogs that reviewed the same book and I could quickly link to that specific review in my post so other readers could visit those sites.

I have connected to both Feedly and Bloglovin in anticipation of the big demise of Google Reader in July to see which I preferred to work with, but I am stumped with both... whenever I click in the search fields to only search the blogs I follow, I instead get results of every blog with that keyword on either Feedly or Bloglovin, respectively.

The Big Question
Do you know how to do it and I'm just confused?? Would love any insight you have.


09 May 2013

It's been a long time since I felt comfortable diving into a series, one right after another, and foregoing all other new releases. As a blogger, you tend to feel that if you don't regularly change it up, you'll disengage your audience and lose readership. This year, however, has been a fairly complacent year of posting new reviews anyway and my "short" sabbatical was unintentionally extended for much longer. My last post was almost a month ago.

And yet I feel so much better. I am enjoying this relaxed approach and while I realize readership might be declining, I'm comfortable with it. This roller coaster year has given me more than I anticipated, so taking the time to just enjoy the pleasures of reading, listening to audios, and posting whenever I want to, has been a thrill.

So I decided to finally dive into The Talented Mr. Ripley series by Patricia Highsmith (also referred to as the "Ripliad"). And it was incredible. Which then motivated me to listen to the second and the third in the series as well. There are two more remaining to complete the series, so I'll get to that later this summer.

Written in 1955, released in audio format 2012
Narrator: Kevin Kenerly
Audio Time: 9 hours, 35 minutes
Publisher: Audible, Inc.

If you haven't watched the beautiful 1998 film version starring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law, you really must pick it up. I'd advise you to read the book first, of course, and if you're really feeling cheeky, you might as well try the audiobook. The first in Highsmith's disturbing psychological series introduces us to Tom Ripley, who really is a loner struggling to find his place in life, and quite an up-and-coming con artist in training. When he is recruited by the father of Dickie Greenleaf to find Dickie lounging in his nonchalant and casual life in Italy spending his father's money, Tom accepts immediately. It's only when Tom meets Dickie and Marge that he realizes the life Dickie has is the one he wants. What follows is a dark and disturbing foray into Tom's world as he manipulates, cajoles, fools, and even kills, in order to get everything he's ever wanted.

This was my favorite of the first three I listened to. Kevin Kenerly was pristine in the role of narrator, his voice clean and eerily distinct. It was my first time listening to him, and I've become a big fan.

Written in 1970, released in audio format 2012
Narrator: Kevin Kenerly
Audio Time: 9 hours, 42 minutes
Publisher: Audible, Inc.

Not really my favorite, but still silkily delivered by Kevin Kenerly, which therefore kept me completely tuned in. In this Ripley installment, it's been several years since the Dickie Greenleaf events. Now living in France, Tom has several entrepreneurial investments going on to keep him and his wife well off in the French countryside. Although still occasionally haunted by Dickie which sometimes ruins Tom's credibility, Tom remains successful. His current project of interest is the Buckmaster Gallery which houses several famous Derwatt paintings. When an American questions the authenticity of one Derwatt, Tom decides he must keep up appearances for the gallery and convince the American that the Derwatt painting is real. As Tom gets caught up in his own acts, one wonders if this time he really will get caught.

Written almost fifteen years after the first installment, Ripley Underground was interesting, but I think it fell a little flat compared to the disturbing nature of the first. I didn't have a hard time going through this at all, though, partly because of the short audio time, but mostly because the narrator was just fantastic.

Written in 1974, released in audio format 2012
Narrator: Kevin Kenerly
Audio Time: 9 hours, 13 minutes
Publisher: Audible, Inc.

Ahhh, now we get back to good ole Tom being completely off his rocker, even though he's really not. Which is probably what is the scariest about it all. Tom is clearly unstable, but it is because he is so incredibly "normal" in his approach, and his ability to know people so intuitively, that he can manipulate every moment to his desired result. He is a brilliant sociopath. In this third story, the title truly fits. This one really is a game.

Tom, now in his late thirties, early forties, has established his reputation as a problem-solver. He is approached by a businessman he's worked with before to murder a member of the Mafia hurting his business. Tom, however, really doesn't like murder and only uses it if it is the last possible resort, so he simply turns it down. After thinking about it, Tom instead decides to offer a replacement to commit the murder. At a recent party, he had been mildly insulted by Jonathan, a local picture-framer, and felt that Jonathan's terminal cancer would be something Tom could manipulate to get him to agree to commit the murder. What follows is a story filled with more psychological and sociological disturbances, told from both Tom's and Jonathan's perspectives. This switch between perspectives is new for the series, but oh, boy, was it brilliant.

I highly recommend the Ripley series from Patricia Highsmith, and of course Kevin Kenerly was outstanding in the role of narrator. I've got the next in my Audible.com wish list and I can't wait to start.

Side Note
I think the beauty of Patricia Highsmith's work is that it is so straight-forward in its disturbing psychological process playing out for each character, scene, triumph, and failure. It is oddly engaging, charming, humorous, yet deeply dark and frightening. I think I'd love to have dinner with Patricia Highsmith and Daphne du Maurier. Well, at least be a fly on a wall? I might be too scared to lower my guard around those two freaky writers.

About the Author
Patricia Highsmith was born in 1921 and passed in 1995. She was an American novelist, and was known for several acclaimed novels and film adaptations, including her first novel Strangers on a Train, which many may know because of Alfred Hitchcock's film version. Her novels also include the Ripliad series (Tom Ripley), The Price of Salt, The Two Faces of January, and more. For a full list of her work, please click here.