Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The City: A Novel by Dean Koontz...This Brand New Novel NOW Released (07-01-14)! [BONUS: "The Neighbor," The Short Story Prequel Review Included!]

The City: A Novel, by Dean Koontz is
available for purchase on July 1, 2014
from most book vendors. Amazon.com
has the title in Kindle (e-book), hard-
cover, and audio (or Audible)
formats. [1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     My first Dean Koontz novel was a borrowed paperback edition of One Door Away From Heaven. My daughter insisted I read Dean Koontz and told me how much she loved him as an author and that if I read his books, I, too, would come to love him. She thrust the paperback into my hands. I turned it over, read the back cover, looked at the front, then, accepting the fact that I'd never hear the end of it if I didn't give the book a try, sat down to read.

[2]
     I finished the book the next day (May 26, 2009) and had to admit I enjoyed the read. I decided that I would like to read other Dean Koontz books, if they were as good as One Door Away From Heaven (I gave it 4.0 stars out of 5, recording it in my own personal Reading Journal as I always do when I finish reading a book.).

[4]
     Today, I checked my reading list and found that I've read thirty-six (36) of his books, to date--including today's book review title, The City: A Novel. I am only about one-third (1/3) of the way through Koontz's books; and since his titles number over one hundred (100), [3]  it may be some time, yet, before I make my way through them all. 

[5]
     Since starting this blog in August 2013, I have reviewed two of Koontz's books. The two books are as follows: Innocence: A Novel (and the short story, Wilderness), click here to see that book review; and Odd Thomas, an Odd Thomas Novel, Book 1, click here to see that book review. I am happy to have had the privilege to be able to read today's book, The City: A Novel, through NetGalley via an Advance Reader Copy (ARC).  Now, I'll tell you how I found the book to be.

SHORT BOOK SYNOPSIS, The City: A Novel:
     Jonah Kirk's best friend, Malcolm, encourages him to tell his story, and, albeit reluctantly, Jonah begins recounting his story of the light and the dark days. The publisher tells us that Jonah relates his story, about how "The City" changed him, about his need to relate the story about her and all of the "terrible...and wonderful...and amazing things that happened." Importantly, Jonah wants to share with us why he is still "haunted by them."

A young boy at the piano (Frank
"Sugar Chile" Robinson). [6]
     Jonah was born a musical prodigy, destined to be a great piano player. Coming from a musical family, his mother was a wonderful singer and his grandfather was a "piano man" who played with many of the greats of his day. Jonah is just beginning to see his talents come alive.

     Jonah's life is turned upside down when first one, and then a group of dangerous people, cross his path. Though he tries to avoid them and the consequences they bring, he is, nonetheless, brought into their world with life-changing and life-shattering consequences. Jonah tells us how "mysterious" the city is and how one mysterious night, when the group of dangerous people crossed his path, he "died and woke and lived again."

Malcolm lived across the street from
Jonah. Malcolm played the sax-
ophone and often went to visit Jonah.
The two boys played and practiced
together. [7]
     The story of Jonah and his "remarkable" family is subtly revealed in a "portrait" of the city and the world that helped to make him who he is. Koontz utilizes the boy's exposure to music, art, and architecture to show us all the dreams we share. Jonah learns about the power of friendship and of surprising heroes who also cross his path. The story, much like Jonah's pen light, shines light in the dark places, illuminating magic, "dark and light," enchantment, malice, courage and honor. The only question is, will Jonah be able to recover from the "life-shattering" consequences?

WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE BOOK:
     WHAT WORKED: First, Dean Koontz's extensive experience in writing books clearly shows in the facile way he weaves multiple themes and motifs together throughout the book. Initially, Sylvia (Jonah's mother) talks to Jonah about being a whole man, not half-men like Harmon Jessup (a black man) or William Murkett (a white man). And then there are dark, scary dreams (of the past as well as prophetic dreams) versus the positive dream Jonah has of becoming a piano man. 


Some of the motifs used in the book include dark and light.
We find dark and light images, dark:  in shadows, dark
rooms, "shady characters," "dark deeds," black men, ver-
sus light: sunlight and day, candles, pendants, white-
skinnned people, etc. Koontz also points out "dark
and light magic." [8]

     Continuing with the concept of black and white, I especially appreciate that Ted- dy Bledsoe (Jonah's grand- father--the "piano man."), doesn't like categorizing people into racial groups, black and white--he thinks of all the black and white musicians he has known simply as "musicians." Maybe this is why it is so easy for grandson, Jonah, who is black, and Malcolm, who is white, to become fast friends. Their shared experiences tie them together. Loss and gain. Tragedy and triumph. And, of course, music. 

     Other Koontz concepts I enjoyed included the motifs of "orphans and adopted," versus people who were childless or adopting. And a really big one: Living from the inside out:  internal changes stemming from growth versus external changes of appearance--not living your life by being impacted by outside things such as the news, but by making your own choices along the way, not letting others or circumstances dictate how you should live.

Manzanar War Relocation Center. [9]
     Other images and motifs I enjoyed included the following: Jonah as being in the belly of the whale; the consideration of the theme of "family;" the image of "The City," personified; "juju" or "voodoo thinking" versus magical thinking, and finally, I loved how Koontz worked in all the images and stories about Manzanar and its people to reinforce "living from the inside out."  

     Finally, without going through the list of all the characters, I have to say as you read the book to pay attention to Teddy Bledsoe and George Yoshioka (a Japanese tailor, formerly from Manzanar)--love those two  men. And though these two especially touched me, I also loved how Koontz made other characters come alive (like Donata Lorenzo and Jonah's mother, Sylvia--and you have to love Malcolm, what a character).

     I can't tell you more about the plot, as it would spoil the book for your reading enjoyment. Many twists and turns abound in the novel, and I am sure you will enjoy the surprises Koontz has in store for you.

WHAT DIDN'T WORK FOR ME:
[10]
     While I liked many things about the novel a couple things didn't work for me. First, in spite of the publisher's promo about magic, "light and dark," and even in the book, itself, the same statement about the existence of dark and light magic, I didn't really see any "dark" magic. There is light or good magic. And, there was the dark imaginings of the little boy, Jonah, as kind of superstitious fears, but it was explained to him that "juju" or "voodoo thinking" just wasn't real magic. No one in the book is a witch or warlock, necromancer or evil being or thing that uses evil or dark magic. Don't get me wrong, there are very bad people in the book, the way Hitler might have been called evil, but no magic wielding entity utilized dark magic. So, I felt a bit led on about the whole "magic dark and light," thing--dark and light images pervade the book, but no dark magic. Just bad guys.

[11]
     Second, the story is told from the perspective of a fifty-seven-year old, looking back at his nine-year-old self. He leads the story from the beginning to the climax slowly building the story. The story reads almost as a who-done-it with a crime to be solved and bad guys caught. I think the problem, here, is that I was ready for one kind of story, but got another.

     And finally, the pacing is a bit slow in the first half of the book and could have been spiced up with a little more action. The end of the book was good and had a wonderful climax and resolution; but like I said, the beginning was a little slow.


MY RECOMMENDATIONS AND RATING:


     This book is for adults even though the protagonist (Jonah) is nine-years-old for most of the story. Jonah is telling the story orally, recording it, including all the dark and scary parts of a very troubling time he lived through. So, for these reasons, anyone who is young or of a sensitive nature should consider the reading material before actually picking it up to read. For all adults who do not fall into this category, the book will be very enjoyable and thought-provoking.

While it had a few minor problems,
I still enjoyed this book and give
it 4.0 stars out of 5. [12]
     I enjoyed this book. It was a fun read and I am glad I read it. I would even consider buying it for a gift to my daughter who loves Dean Koontz as an author--I think she will love it. And, for all the above reasons, I would give this book 4.0 stars out of 5.

___________________________________
THE NEIGHBOR by Dean Koontz
[A short story prequel to the novel, The City]

[13]


















    BRIEF SYNOPSIS:
     In this prequel to The City: A Novel by Dean Koontz, publishers have told us that twelve-year-old Malcolm, lives at home with his dysfunctional parents (who can't stand each other) and his best friend and sister Amalia. The geeky and socially awkward Malcolm and his beautiful and intelligent sister have their curiosity piqued when a very secretive and enigmatic neighbor moves into a neighboring house in the dark of night.

WHAT I THINK ABOUT THE PREQUEL (SHORT STORY):
     Since I've already completed the review of The City: A Novel, we know that Malcolm is Jonah's friend. This short story takes place shortly before Malcolm and Jonah meet for the first time.

     The story is so short that if I tell you too much, you'll figure out the punchline. But, I think I can tell you that the story really goes far in showing the relationship between Malcolm and Amalia (Malcolm's sister). The two work together to figure out what is going on next door. The story is suspenseful and spooky and great fun to read.


I guess Malcolm or Amalia ate half of one of the
cookies they were taking to the neighbor! This story
was great fun. 4.5 stars...er...cookies out of 5! [14]
     The story was short, so I read it quickly. The cost was only $.99, so I thought it to be a good bargain for the quality of the story. I highly recommend this Dean Koontz short to everyone! I rate it 4.5 stars out of 5 for the reasons I have stated and just because I enjoyed it so much.
    
Double White Rose of Sharon. [15]
This flower is in honor of my daughter's announcement,
today, that she will be having a little girl and naming
her Sharon Kathleen. I send my daughter and my
namesake all my love and prayers. 
     Thank you all for joining me, today, as we looked at Dean Koontz's exciting new book release, The City: A Novel. Please join me, again, next week when we will look at a new title that will shortly be coming to the big screen.

     God bless you all. Be kind to each other, and don't forget to pick up a book and read for a little bit, every day. Reading is fun, good for your brain, your heart, your life. Take care, my friends, and I will see you next week. Until next time...

...many happy pages of reading.

All my love,

Sharon.
_________________________________________________________
REFERENCES
[1] "The City: A Novel." [Dean Koontz] amazon.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[2] "One Door Away From Heaven." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[3] "Koontz's Dog Days." cbsnews.com. Retrieved 06-17.14.
[4] "Innocence." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[5] "Odd Thomas: Odd Thomas Series, Book 1." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[6] "Young Little...." youtube.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[7] "Cool Character." staff.rockwood.k. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[8] "Hamlet: William Shakespeare." shrdocs.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[9] "Manzanar Relocation Center." fords.org. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[10] "That Old Black Magic." artistdirect.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[11] "Oooh." rapgenius.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[12] "Fredchuckdave." giantbomb.com. Retrieved 06-17-14.
[13] "The Neighbor." amazon.com. Retrieved 06-18-14.
[14] "The Smart Cookie Cook." thesmartcookiecook.com. Retrieved 06-18-14.
[15] "Pictures From My Garden." sparkpeople.com. Retrieved 06-18-14.