Palisades Park Review


Palisades Park - Alan Brennert

I picked up this book at my local BAM for $6, and it’s one of those rare occasions where I would have happily paid full price for a clearance rack book.

Palisades Park covers the lives of the Stopka family over the course of four decades, and how the titular amusement park factors into their existences. I enjoy stories that take place over lengthy periods of time and carnival/amusement park stories. It’s no wonder I enjoyed Palisades Park as much as I did.

I grew up in a household that was essentially an extension of the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. My father loved his John Wayne Westerns, Old Yeller and Shane, and my mother loved her TMC and AMC flashback classics, like The Greatest Show on Earth and Yankee Doodle Dandy. Palisades Park took me back to my childhood, back to sitting in front of our floor set watching these big-budget black-and-white movies with ensemble casts. This is the first book I’ve ever read that felt like it was filmed in black and white and Technicolor at the same time. Read it. You’ll see what I mean.

What I did not expect to enjoy as much as I did was Alan Brennert’s enthusiastic love for all things Hawai’i. My grandmother, a belly dancer until the day she died in 2011, had this challenge she offered all of her grandkids. If you graduated high school, you got a trip to Hawai’i, all expenses paid. The only caveat was that you had to go with her. Whatever. It was Hawai’i and it was free. None of those who went complained. Unfortunately, I was one of the only grandkids to miss the opportunity. I had to drop out of school my junior year to help my mother make ends meet. She’d broken her knee at work while descending wet stairs, and while workman’s comp took care of 66% of her income, it wasn’t enough. At that point in my life, we were living paycheck to paycheck, and not having that other 34% hurt. Badly. So I went to work stuffing the broiler at Burger King for as many hours as child labor laws allow a sixteen year old to work. I eventually went on to get my GED and go to college, but I’d missed my chance at a free ride to Honolulu. Reading about Eddie Stopka’s time on the islands during his stint in the Navy made me, for the first time, regret not getting that trip to Hawai’i. There’s nothing I could have done to fix it, short of letting my family starve, but I didn’t know how much that missed opportunity meant to me until I read this book. Brennert obviously adores the islands, as his rich descriptions and tangible passion shows page after page. One day, when my kids are both old enough to enjoy it, I’ll take my trip into the South Pacific. While I’m there, I’ll lift a glass to my grandmother, the woman who bought me my first electric guitar and told me to be whatever made me happy and damn the rest of the world, and wish that she was there.

My, I do ramble at times, huh? Sorry to all those who started reading this expecting a detailed review, but that’s not really my bag. I attach books to memories, and my memories attach themselves to books. The good, the bad, the absolutely unreadable, they have all marked my life in some way. Palisades Park will always remind me of my grandmother. Thanks, Mr. Brennert.

In summation: Palisades Park is a touching story magically and masterfully told. If Palisades Park in its heyday is where you want to be, brothers and sisters, Alan Brennert will take you there. It might take you a few other places, as well. I wish you all a pleasant journey.

Final Judgment: Breathtaking and heartbreaking and wonderful.

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I’ve been down with a migraine for the past 48 hours, but I’m slowly recuperating. Until I’m back, I leave you with these beautifully wise words.

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Reading progress update: I’ve read 120 out of 692 pages.

Nightmares and Dreamscapes - Stephen King

Dolan’s Cadillac, as read by Nick Andros himself, Rob Lowe, doesn’t hold up to a second reading, and has become as tedious and as boring as a twice told joke. I’m giving it two stars for this reread. This one really hurts because I loved this story the first time around. Now I can’t remember why. Rob Lowe did a great job, though. 

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In the Tall Grass Review


In the Tall Grass - Stephen King, Joe Hill

(Note: This is an old review that I’m adding to my Booklikes account. Not sure if I feel the same why now as I did when I first reviewed it, but this gives me a point of reference should I choose to  revisit it.)


“In the Tall Grass” is one of the more disturbing tales I’ve read. This is the first Stephen King story, or Joe Hill story for that matter, that actually turned my stomach. The writing is vivid, filled with brutal simplicity that drives the horror home. I didn’t feel all that attached to either Cal or Becky, but what Becky goes through in the later part of this short story would crush the heart of any parent. No, not just crush. Decimate.

This is also the first collaboration of father and son where I was able to pinpoint which author wrote what sections. I’ve come to know Hill’s work well enough that I can catch certain sentence structures he commonly uses. I couldn’t imagine writing such a piece with my son or daughter, but these two pulled it off.

“In the Tall Grass” garnered five stars simply for affecting me as much as it did. I will never forget this story.


(Side note: I say in the review that I gave this story five stars, but I actually only gave it four on Goodreads. Odd…)


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From a Buick 8 Review


From a Buick 8 - Stephen King

There are many problems with this book, but they can all be summed up with a quote from the actual text:

From page 297 of the hardcover, third paragraph, starting fourth sentence in:

But–this is important–tell me a story, one that has a beginning and a middle and an end where everything is explained. Because I deserve that. Don’t shake the rattle of your ambiguity in my face. I deny its place. I repudiate its claim. I want a story.

No. Fucking. Shit. King spends a great deal of this book explaining to the reader that there’s not always a definitive ending. He prepared us. But that doesn’t mean I accept it. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Listen, friends and neighbors, I can get behind a short story or a novella that leaves me with an unsatisfactory ending because they aren’t time sinks. To be in the audience of a magic show wherein the magic is only alluded to is a terrible trick. I don’t need everything explained. I don’t need my hand held. But I want a complete story. This is not a complete story. It is a rambling mess. The shifts in tone are jarring. You never know what kind of book you’re reading. The characters are taken part and parcel from The Green Mile. If you’ve read both books, you’ll probably see where I’m coming from. I mean even down to the wild fucker named Billy. Billy the Kid… Billy Lippin. And yes, Sandy Dearborn and Paul Edgecomb are the same fucking person. I don’t care what their names are. Sweet baby Tom Cruise, the parallels are so obvious it feels like Desperation/The Regulatorsall over again. Only this time, the books aren’t supposed to be that way! Fuck this book. Take it out back and put a goddamn bullet in its brain.

Still, I cannot stand to give it any less than two stars. I want so badly to give it that single star, but I simply cannot allow myself to put anything King’s written in the same category as the unedited garbage floating around out there. This was, according to Goodreads’ star explanation, an okay read. I guess. I mean, I finished it. Twice. There are books out there (if you can even call them books) by authors (if you can even call them authors) who can’t stay in tense for a single sentence. Some don’t know the simple difference between their, there, and they’re. These bumbling yucksters don’t have a single fuck to give for their craft. King does. He’s had his missteps, but he cares about the language. He cares about literature and the future of reading and readers. So no, I cannot bear to give this book anything less than two stars.

Spoilers for books other than From a Buick 8 in the spoiler section. Click on “view spoiler” at your own risk.


Conspiracy theory: I believe the car comes from the same realm as the creatures from The Mist. I have no idea why the fucking thing looks like a buick, but there. That’s how I connect it to the King-verse and the Dark Tower. Sorry, but I just can’t be bothered to look any further into this trunk novel.


In summation: I can’t believe I did it. I read From a Buick 8 twice. I might be the only numb fuck to have done such, but YAY ME! or some shit.

Final Judgment: Only slightly better than a lemon juice enima.

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