Cody's Bookshelf

So many books, so little time

Movin' On

I'm leaving Booklikes. Nothing personal, I just like Goodreads more — it's convenient and doesn't suffer from glitches. You can find my GR profile at


The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

Synopsis: Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

     In Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor—engineers and conductors operate a secret network of tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora and Caesar’s first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But the city’s placid surface masks an insidious scheme designed for its black denizens. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom.

     Like the protagonist of Gulliver’s Travels, Cora encounters different worlds at each stage of her journey—hers is an odyssey through time as well as space. As Whitehead brilliantly re-creates the unique terrors for black people in the pre–Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once a kinetic adventure tale of one woman’s ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shattering, powerful meditation on the history we all share.




This is a book about hope, redemption, and darkness in the real world. It's a brutal read, and it made me cringe more than once. Not because of bad writing or unbelievable characters or forced dialogue — no, Colton Whitehead has created an almost perfect novel in The Underground Railroad, a work I am sure will soon enough be deemed a modern classic. Hell, it's even an Oprah's Book Club book. That's, like, everything.


This is the story of Cora, a teenage slave who runs away from the plantation in Georgia she's been sold to. She embarks on a journey of highs and lows, of wonder and terror. Whitehead does an astounding job of conveying her confusion and awe once getting off the Railroad (which, in the book, is an actual train — a nice touch, I thought) the first time. The reader knows that once Cora has a taste of freedom, she will never go back.


I'm going to keep this review extremely short, because I can't even begin to put into words the profound impact The Underground Railroad had on me. The author carved out a gem with this one. He handles a touchy, horrific subject such as slavery (and, with that, rape and murder) with great care and skill. Young Cora's journey to the north is one I will not soon forget. I really can't recommend this one highly enough. Check it out if you're into historical fiction or just a really good story populated with well-drawn characters. I will be checking out more from this author!


This book is my 'diverse author' selection for Halloween Bingo. (I slacked off on Halloween Bingo during September. I will remedy that in October.) 


Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 320 pages.

The Underground Railroad (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - Colson Whitehead

Finally continuing on with my Halloween Bingo reading! While this book isn't 'horror' or 'suspense' I am including it as my Diverse Author selection. 

Reading progress update: I've read 340 out of 340 pages.

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Helen Ruth Elizabeth Ware

I'm finally finished with this atrocity. I won't be reviewing it; I don't even want to remember reading it. Kudos to Scout Press for shinin' up this turd enough to trick me into buying. Every character in it is awful, there is almost no real 'mystery' and the reveal is lame. But it's over. It's done. And I will never read another book by this author. 


This fulfilled my 'mystery' square in Halloween Bingo. 

Reading progress update: I've read 250 out of 340 pages.

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Helen Ruth Elizabeth Ware

Ruth Ware should be ashamed that she wrote this steaming pile of book.


90 pages left. I can handle 90 pages.... right? Right?

Welcome to Taylor Ridge....

As some of you have probably noticed, I've been largely absent as of late. I've been writing fiction like a madman. I'm in a writing phase, not a reading phase. 


I've been working on a series of twelve short stories about a small town in Alabama — a town not unlike where I live. I've been doing extensive research into the history of my town, which has helped shape some of the strongest fiction I've created. I've never been more excited about a project than I am about this one. 


The stories will span decades in this small town. The earliest year represented is 1941; the latest is 2023. Some of the stories are about major ideas, like the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Some are about friendship, sexuality, nature, et cetera. I am working diligently on the fifth story, which is quickly turning into a novella. Not that I mind! 


Anywho, I thought I'd post a small snippet from one of the stories. It's an excerpt from a rough draft, so grammar issues might be present. I'm putting it in spoiler tags so those who don't care to read it don't have to. Feedback is welcome and appreciated! I'm only twenty, and despite writing for fun all my life I am new to writing 'professionally' (which means I'm working hard and hoping against hope that I'll find a publishing platform someday). 


Here goes:




"Peaches" (1941)


For my hometown



Anthony 'Digger Ant' Merchant hung his shovel and pickax in the maintenance barn just behind the Sawyer family plots and spat on the ground. He stomped his boots. He removed his gloves and pulled out a cigarette from the front pocket of his overalls. After exiting Plainview Cemetary's gates, he made his way up the street with a limp in his step. It was dog days, and he was getting on up in years. He couldn't remember if he was turning 64 or 65 come September, but he knew it wasn't s almost retiring time. He'd been digging graves for a lot of years. The arthritis was getting quite bad.

For lack of a car Digger Ant made his way down 42nd avenue on foot, aware of the swelling crowd. He passed the First Baptist Church and the First National Bank. He passed the high school and Mo's General Store. He made it to the town square and rested on a bench in the shade of the Confederate Memorial. Farmhands and bankers and teachers and coal miners lined the streets that crossed downtown. They crowded on the courthouse steps, buzzed in front of L.J. Vickery's, and leaned against the front windows of Woolworth's. Some waved American flags and others held banners. The doors of the dry cleaners stood open. Men in hats and ladies in dresses embraced one another, the smiles on their faces radiant with a fullness of life that only comes in the depth of summer, when the grass is lush and the sky is blue and daily living has taken on a leisurely pace. Their young'uns ran in high spirit, playing the games children play. Digger Ant knew them all. He had lived in Taylor Ridge, Alabama since birth.


He smelled the aroma of cotton candy. He smelled hot dogs. What wasn't in the air was the disagreeable smell that emanated from the lumber mill. That stench usually hung over the town like a cloud. Tarker Kane must have shut down the plant for the day. Good on him. That skinflint old man usually didn't even shut down for Christmas. From nearby was the sound of kettle popping. From a few blocks away he could hear the high school's band warming up for the procession. A dog barked. Car horns honked. A clown juggled pins for the little ones. Adults laughed and talked, standing in clumps and nodding their heads. It was a hot day, but no one seemed to mind. The crowd continued to swell.

"Digger Ant, is that you?" a man's strained, aged voice cried out. Digger turned and took in old Herman Curt. The man was nearing ninety, and was now completely bald. He was much shorter than Digger remembered (for it had been many a-year since the two had seen each other — Digger lived in the townhouse and Herman lived out in the county), and walked with a limp and cane. He was wearing a wrinkled, discolored blue suit — it probably the best outfit he owned. Like Digger, Herman had spent his life since childhood tilling the ground and relying on his own sweat and determination to make ends meet. Neither of them had ever needed to dress nice (except for church, o'course) before today. Today was special.

"Yeah, yeah, that's me ya old bag! How've you been?" he responded, jumping up from the bench and patting the old man on the shoulder. "Sit a spell. I've got smokes," Digger said," patting the chest pocket of his dirty overalls.

Herman held his hand out for a smoke, and Digger lit it. He then lit one for himself.
"Cain't stay," Herman said, leaning on his cane. "Wanna get a little closer to the street'n all. I ain't never seen a president 'fore. Even if he ain't worth a hoss kick in the winter, I wanna see'm!" The two men threw their heads back and laughed at this. Digger Ant could feel the warmth of the sun on his neck. It was quite a day to be alive!

"Well, you here with anyone?" Digger Ant asked the old farmer.

"Yuh, my mess of young'uns 'round here somewhere," Herman responded, looking around. "I'll find 'em. I ain't afraid to move anyone outta the way with this cane." He laughed again, showing off his tobacco-stained teeth. "Gonna go up to the college?"

"I might," Digger answered. "Though everybody's gonna go, reckon? Might not can get through."

"Mayhap not, but this is a special day. Can't believe that shit senator of ours got Roosevelt to come."

"Well, it's a favor for an old friend, I reckon," Digger Ant. "It bein' the openin' of the college and all. I heard the senator and the president go back a ways."

"Hmmmph," Herman responded. "Hmmph."

The excitement in the air was palpable.

Well, how's Mary?" Digger Ant asked.
"Oh, Ant. She passed away — oh, must've been six or more months ago now. Pneumonia."
"I hate to hear that," Ant said, unsure of what to say. He had never married. "Holdin' up okay?"
"I do my best. I got my gardenin' and the farm animals to look after, y'know."
"Still. That's a tit."
"Yuh. 'Tis."

Herman started. "Well, I'm gonna go try'n find Jackie if I can, that kid —"
"Jackie's older'n me!" Digger Ant said. "He ain't a kid no more, old man."
Herman wagged his wrinkled finger and offered a fake scowl, and the two laughed again.
"Come by sometimes, and get some peaches," Herman offered. "If you ever get out my way, 'course. They're mighty sweet. Picked 'em just yest'day."
"Mmm!" Digger Ant responded. Peaches sounded nice on a day like today.
Herman looked at Digger for a moment and said, "Must get lonely at that old townhouse."
"Oh, I make do. I make do. I stay so busy with work'n all. Peaches sound mighty fine, though. Might take ya up on that!"
"Sounds fine." Herman then began to shoulder his way into the crowd, and townsfolk cleared a narrow path. "See yuns around!" He was swallowed by the mass of people. Digger Ant crossed the street, and stood on the corner in front of Rexall Drug. He wanted to have a nice view of the president, too.

(show spoiler)


Reading progress update: I've read 195 out of 340 pages.

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Helen Ruth Elizabeth Ware

Not making much progress on this book because: a.) it's horrible, and b.) I have been working on a major writing project. I hope to update here more throughout the week.

More Book Mail!


A+ to whoever designed the covers of the new Stephen King paperbacks. Being an obsessive King fanboy, I'm wanting to collect them all, eventually. Can't wait to reread these soon. :) 

Book Mail!

Here is a picture of what the mailman delivered to me yesterday evening — including Word  by E. I will be using the edition of It as seen here for the buddy read in October. 


Reading progress update: I've read 46 out of 340 pages.

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Helen Ruth Elizabeth Ware

This book is pretty okay so far. It's making me want to go on a cruise. 

Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 340 pages.

The Woman in Cabin 10 - Helen Ruth Elizabeth Ware

I am now shifting gears to a new release, The Woman In Cabin 10, for the 'mystery' square in Halloween Bingo. Let's go! 


Skeleton Crew - Stephen King

Synopsis: In this brilliant collection of twenty-two stories, Stephen King takes readers down paths that only he could imagine….

A supermarket becomes the place where humanity makes its last stand against unholy destruction…a trip to the attic turns into a journey to hell…a woman driver finds a very scary shortcut to paradise…an idyllic lake harbors a bottomless evil…and a desert island is the scene of the most terrifying struggle for survival ever waged.




I finished Skeleton Crew with tears in my eyes. I thought I'd read "The Reach" — the story that closes out this collection — before, but I guess I hadn't. It was an entirely new experience for me, and it packed quite the emotional wallop. As I write this review I'm still trying to mentally recover from that one, so pardon me if my thoughts are a little scattered. My Fornit died, and I'm stuck doing the job myself.


By the time this collection was published in 1985, Stephen King was a bona-fide literary rock star. His fame was gargantuan, beaten in size only by his addiction to dope and alcohol. According to the man himself, his study was the site of nightly parties for one, where the beer flowed and nose candy was always available. Yeah, King wasn't in a great state of mind for most of the eighties. He warns the reader in this book's introduction that the act of writing short stories hadn't gotten easier for him over the years — instead, it had gotten harder. Novel deadlines made it difficult to carve out time for shorter tales, and everything the man put into his Word Processor of the Gods wanted to be six hundred pages in length. If this reviewer is being honest, that's painfully apparent with this collection. A handful of the tales presented here should've never made it off the cutting room floor and several others could have been trimmed a bit. Most of what the reader is presented with is great (hence the four stars), but King overwrites like crazy here. That's my problem with a lot of his output from this decade — excess verbosity.



After the reliably folksy, mood-setting introduction to this collection from Sai King himself, things get rolling with "The Mist," the first (but not last) story in Skeleton Crew about ordinary people stranded and facing likely death, due to out-of-this-world circumstances. "The Mist" is a novella, and I always enjoy every word of it. Yeah, King overwrites in several places in this book . . . but this story ain't one of 'em. I have quite the fear of mist, thanks to this story. Other favorites of mine include "The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet," a delightfully paranoid story King could have never written before or after cocaine; "The Raft," which was my very favorite in this collection for a long time; The Monkey," a story that doesn't get as much love as it deserves; "The Reach," the previously mentioned story that moved me to tears; "The Jaunt," which, for my money, contains King's most haunting story ending yet; and "Cain Rose Up," a story that other reviewers like to rag on but I can't help but dig.



All that said, there are several stories here that should have gotten canned. "Here There Be Tygers" makes no sense and is downright gimmicky; the two "Milkman" stories also don't make much sense and go nowhere. "Uncle Otto's Truck," a story about (you guessed it) a haunted truck, feels worn out and old — King has touched on this theme so many times in his career. I also don't like "For Owen" at all, and "Paranoid: A Chant" should have been folded into "The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet" where it belongs. It's a shame this collection is somewhat weighed down by so many DOA entries, because there are several genuine classics here. This one just isn't very consistent, and if that's what you're looking for might I recommend Night Shift or Just After Sunset?


All in all, this is very much a collection worth checking out. It was released during King's "classic" period, so of course it's worth a purchase. The theme of external isolation and humanity's will to save itself is done really well in "The Mist," "Beachworld," "Survivor Type," and "The Raft." I also like this book's "Do you love?" motif — it makes this collection hang together much better than it probably should. This is definitely a strong read, and I will come back to my favorites for years to come.



King connections:


(I tried to take actual notes for this one, as I knew there are connections to the King universe all over the place. I know I missed some, but here's what I caught while reading. Sorry my notes are a little scattered.)


"The Mist"


  • P. 94 - David Clayton, our main character, thinks of a character as "looking like a crazy gunslinger in an existential comedy."
  • It is theorized that The Shop is at least partially responsible for the mist. I could totally see that. 
  • I'm not sure if this is a connection or not, but when David and a few others make the courageous trek to the pharmacy next door, they encounter an "otherworldly" presence that takes the shape of a spider . . . though they know it's something more. Any relation to IT? Totally possible, as that book was published the following year. 


"Mrs. Todd's Shortcut"


  • It takes place in Castle Rock, home of several King novels and short stories.
  • P. 182 - Joe Camber of Cujo is mentioned.
  • P. 186 - Haven gets a shout out!


"The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands"


This one could be could be seen as a spiritual successor to "The Breathing Method," even going so far as to reference that earlier novella. It revoles around the same, strange story-telling club that we first met in Different Seasons. 




  • It takes place in Castle Rock, firmly placing it in the same universe as "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" as well as several other King stories.
  • The narrator of "Nona" mentions once getting "messed up" by Ace Merrill, the local baddie — an antagonist in "The Body" and Needful Things.
  • The narrator lets the reader know he grew up in Harlow, Maine — the setting of "N." and Revival.
  • P. 347 — Vern Tessio of "The Body" gets a brief mention. Cool!


"Uncle Otto's Truck"


Both Derry and Castle Rock play an important role in this one. 





  • P. 421 - Cora Simard and Henrietta Dodd are mentioned. George, the protagonist in "Gramma," listens to one of the ladies' phone conversations on a party line. Cora's daughter, Rhonda, was a student of Ewen High School and was among Carrie White's tormentors. Henrietta Dodd was the mother of Frank Dodd, as seen in The Dead Zone and mentioned in various other Castle Rock stories.
  • Joe Camber gets another mention! This story takes place near Castle Rock in 1977-ish (I think), so before the major events of Carrie and Cujo. Hmm.


Favorite story: 


"The Ballad Of The Flexible Bullet" 


Least favorite story:


"Big Wheels: A Tale Of The Laundry Game (Milkman #2)"


Favorite quote: 


“I sit on the bench in front of Bell's Market and think about Homer Buckland and about the beautiful girl who leaned over to open his door when he come down that path with the full red gasoline can in his right hand - she looked like a girl of no more than sixteen, a girl on her learner's permit, and her beauty was terrible, but I believe it would no longer kill the man it turned itself on; for a moment her eyes lit on me, I was not killed, although a part of me died at her feet."

(from "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut") 


Up next: 


It's everything you ever were afraid of. It's . . . IT


(Also, this book was my free space selection. Two spots down in Halloween Bingo!) 


Reading progress update: I've read 415 out of 512 pages.

Skeleton Crew - Stephen King

The "Milkman" stories are such a chore to read, and I still can't grasp the point of them. 

Book Mail!

Today the mailman delivered three more of my Halloween Bingo choices. Can't wait to dive in! 



Reading progress update: I've read 140 out of 512 pages.

Skeleton Crew - Stephen King

It's a shame the order in which these stories are presented is so messed up. Every genuine classic is followed by a real momentum-killer. "Here There Be Tygers." Yeesh.

Reading progress update: I've read 75 out of 512 pages.

Skeleton Crew - Stephen King

No matter how many times I read "The Mist" it still scares the bejeezus out of me. 

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It by Stephen King
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