Showing posts with label stephen king. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stephen king. Show all posts

Monday, August 22, 2016

More Mini Reviews with Boston Bound and The Fireman

Guess what starts today, my friends?  My first day of my first semester as a college student (well, round 3 after my bachelors and masters degrees).  :)  As such, I expect my pleasure reading time to diminish significantly, but I do have 2 more mini reviews to share with you as I enter this drought period.  Unless you want me to review my Sports Management textbook...?

Boston Bound by Elizabeth Clor
Createspace, 2016
personal purchase

I encountered Elizabeth Clor's recently-released memoir via her Instagram page, and was immediately intrigued.  Elizabeth started road racing in 2005, and has since run 20 marathons (as well as countless other races at shorter distances).  She began her marathon career at the mid-pack with the rest of us average Joes, but after years of hard work and persistence, she started to realize that a Boston Marathon qualifying time was in her reach.  However, the time between her first inclination towards that dream and its realization was SEVEN years.  Elizabeth knew she was capable physically, but anxiety and a host of other mental barriers stood in her way.  Boston Bound is the story of how she overcame them to earn her BQ (she finally ran it this year!).
I ended up giving this one a 3 on Goodreads.  There's no doubt that Elizabeth's story is inspirational, especially for those of us that are "hobby" runners, training in between jobs and families and everyday life.  Plus, as someone who deals with many of my own anxiety issues, I made note of a lot of the strategies that Clor used to realize her dream.  Running is about 90% mental for me, so I relate to that struggle!  That said, the reason I gave a 3 instead of a higher rating was because of the writing.  Clor's formatting doesn't give her story a solid flow, and her race recaps eventually started to sound repetitive.  Her takeaway advice is excellent, but the journey for readers to get there is a bit clunky.  Plus, she relies heavily on past blog posts from her running blog (Racing Stripes), which ends up making the whole book feel like a long blog entry--not really the tone I was wanting from a memoir/nonfiction book.
Overall, runners will like this one, as it certainly has a lot of inspirational material!  It's just not the most well-written running book that I've encountered lately.

The Fireman by Joe Hill
William Morrow, 2016
borrowed from the library

Oh, I have so many feelings about this book.  Let's start with the good thing: the creative post-apocalyptic world that Joe Hill has created.  Basically, a spore called Dragonscale has infected humans, and the people infected are spontaneously combusting into flames.  So there's fire and mayhem and just overall good, end-of-the-world chaos.  This premise alone was reason enough for me to pick up the book, and Hill certainly delivers as far as interesting sci-fi-ish plots go.  I absolutely expected to love this novel.
BUT (and you knew there was a but).  I had two serious issues with the The Fireman.  First was Harper, the protagonist.  I felt like Hill was trying to make her too many things at once.  She's cutesy and naive and loves Mary Poppins, but then she's swearing like a sailor and unfazed by carnage and violence at the same time.  I wanted to be like, PICK A SIDE, DUDE.  I am all for complicated characters, but in 747 pages I never felt like Harper came together.  Second issue was that this book is trying way, way too hard to draw off Stephen King's The Stand.  Which is awfully interesting, considering that Joe Hill is King's son but has (in the past) gone to great lengths to hide it.  But in The Fireman, we have a deaf character named Nick, a main character who is pregnant and has the middle name Frances (goes by Frannie...), and all sorts of little Easter eggs referencing other aspects of King's work.  I'm surprised SK didn't read this and be all, "Get your own apocalypse epic, sonny-boy."  This, paired with the fact that Hill constantly references Harry Potter (seriously, so many JK Rowling references, let's give it a rest), the Rolling Stones, and other aspects of popular culture, makes this book feel like it is not at all his own creation.
A longer review than I intended, but I 3-starred this one.  It had promise, and despite the length of the book it moves along at a brisk clip.  However, in the end I was disappointed with how Hill put the pieces together.

What are you reading these days, reader friends?  I will add your suggestions to my list for after the semester ends!  :)

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December Minis: A Library, A Bazaar, and Earthquakes

Yup, it's that time again.  More mini-reviews!  I am enjoying this format for the time being, and I hope you all are too.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
Crown, 2015
borrowed from the library

While this book doesn't seem to be super widely-known, several bloggers that I love and respect were singing its praises, so I had to check it out.  That said, I was a little nervous, because many reviews mentioned "magical realism" and "fantasy", two genres with which I haven't had much luck.  But, I gave it a go.

Quick synopsis: Carolyn and a dozen other children were "adopted" long ago by the mysterious Father.  Each child was taught one category of Father's knowledge over the years.  Now, it's 20 years later, and Father has disappeared.  Carolyn & co now have to fight to see who has the power (and the knowledge) to take Father's place.

You guys, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING.  Yup, it's full of fantasy and magical realism and things you would never believe in real life, but Hawkins wrote it so well that it DOES NOT MATTER.  It is horrifying and hilarious and mysterious at the same time.  The story unravels in such a way that there is always another piece of information you need, that you can't put down the book for, and as such you will indeed never put down the freaking book.  Full disclosure: I did not love the ending (it was less explosive than the rest of the novel, and as such felt unfitting), but I still recommend it.  Highly.  (As long as you can take some gore.  A lot of gore, actually.)

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Scribner, 2015
borrowed from the library

It's been a while since I ran out and read the latest King release, but I knew that a new collection of his short stories was a good excuse to do it.  My love of SK began with his short stories.  Where his novels, while often excellent, can enter the territory of being overly verbose, his short stories are more concise, hitting readers hard and fast right between the eyes.

This collection is no exception.  While not every story worked for me ("The Bone Church" was one--more of a poem, and an odd one at that), I was wow'ed by the majority of them.  I know many people hear Stephen King and immediately think horror, but that is not the overarching theme here.  (Though some are certainly horrific..."Mile 81" comes to mind immediately. Avoid if you're queasy, or if you dislike children in distress.)  Instead, I'd say there is a general sense of unease in each of these stories.  Questions of morality, of good conscience, of what it means to be just.  You are left feeling disturbed, rather than scared.  And if the stories aren't enough, the book is made even more amazing by the notes King has left before the start of each one, giving you the background on what inspired it and how he wrote it.  Is there anything better than a Stephen King introduction?  And now you get 21 of them.  Winner winner, chicken dinner.  A great read for die-hard King fans and newbie SK followers alike.

Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld
Random House, 2013
borrowed from the library
The latest pick for my MOMS Club book club.  Discussion is this Sunday, and I think it's fair to say there'll be a lot to discuss!  Basic premise: Kate and Vi are twins who were born with psychic abilities.  As they get older, Kate distances herself from these "senses", while Vi embraces and hones them over time.  Now in their 30's and living in St. Louis, Vi predicts very publicly that a disastrous earthquake will soon hit the city, throwing Vi, and Kate, into the spotlight.  Kate is forced to reconsider her own abilities, as well as her roles as sister, daughter, wife, and mother.

I am a Sittenfeld fan (Prep and American Wife are truly excellent reads, if you haven't gotten to them already).  That said, the novel started out very slowly for me, and I felt like the narrative was wordy and jumpy for no discernible reason.  Plus, I found Kate to be positively grating.  She's weak, whiny, impulsive, dispassionate, and seems to be just going through the motions in what boils down to a very comfortable life.  (It could also be that I hate the picture she portrays of stay-at-home moms.  She makes us look ridiculous.)

However, Kate finally does something so outrageously stupid that it makes the last quarter of the novel completely un-put-down-able.  I ATE IT UP.  So I'm not sure if I should love this book because I was so entirely enraptured by it for the second half, or if I should dislike it because the protagonist is godawful and it's her ridiculous godawful mistakes that make the second half of the book worth reading.  I don't know.  I guess I need to discuss that at book club.  :)

What did you read so far this month?

Monday, November 30, 2015

A Post-Thanksgiving "What Are You Reading?"

Howdy, reader friends!  I hope all my American readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  We had a phenomenal time celebrating with my crazy family in Connecticut.  There was much food, and football, and more food, and wine, and all that good stuff.  With the holiday, and all the travel it involved (7+ hours each way with a 4- and 1-year-old, FUN!), plus a terrible stomach bug I endured the week before, blogging fell a bit by the wayside.  However, I am back in the saddle with a quick reading update.

What am I reading now?  That would be The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, Stephen King's latest release.  It's a short story collection, and I have long been a fan of SK short stories.  I'm about 2/3 done at this point, and still mulling over what I think of the collection as a whole.  Though there are some common themes, each story is so different and elicits such a varied range of reactions from me that it's hard to review!  But I'll have my thoughts posted here soon enough.

Up next?  I'll be tackling Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld, the next book chosen for my MOMS Club book club.  The summary sounds intriguing and I've enjoyed many of Sittenfeld's other novels, so I have high hopes here.

Okay, back to my short stories!  What are you reading this week?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Book Review: The Dark Half by Stephen King


Title: The Dark Half
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Viking Adult
Publication Date: November 1989
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Thad Beaumont would like to say he is innocent.

He’d like to say he has nothing to do with the series of monstrous murders that keep coming closer to his home.

He’d like to say he has nothing to do with the twisted imagination that produced his bestselling novels.

He’d like to say he has nothing to do with the voice on the phone uttering its obscene threats and demanding total surrender.

But how can Thad disown the ultimate embodiment of evil that goes by the name he gave it—and signs its crimes with Thad’s bloody fingerprints?


My Review:

Such a long journey I embarked upon with this novel!  I started it way back in October, as it was supposed to be my last "spooky" read around Halloween time.  However, things got away from me, and suddenly it was Nonfiction November, and I put this one on the back burner.  However, I'll admit that I also put it off because the beginning of this book was just not doing it for me.

A lot of my initial dislike stemmed from my view of Thad Beaumont (the protagonist).  He was extremely difficult for me to like--he seemed to enjoy talking (at great length) just to hear himself talk, and his wife Liz appeared to suffer from the same affliction.  The two of them together were hard for me to stomach, even as I was supposed to feel mildly afraid for them as their friends began dying one by one.

Around this time is when I took my break from the book.  When I picked it back up in late November, the action intensified, Thad stopped talking so much (thank God), and I felt myself getting into the Stephen King happy place that I know and love.  By the end, I was whipping through pages and completely absorbed in the story.

I did end up enjoying the second half of the book, and the way it wrapped up, though it's worth noting that this novel was written from a unique perspective.  King released The Dark Half in 1989, 4 years after his own pseudonym (Richard Bachman) was outed.  There are many (many!) similarities between King's pen name experience and Thad Beaumont's--the work he wrote under Bachman was darker than his King novels (as Beaumont's novels as George Stark were darker than his Beaumont novels).  He and Beaumont were both teachers...they were both "outed" by random nosy citizens in Washington DC...Beaumont and King are both alcoholics...the list goes on.  Obviously, the idea of the pseudonym coming to life is exclusive to Beaumont, but it is interesting to read this book with the knowledge that King grappled with his own "dark half" at one point in his career.

(Also, I can't help but wish that King didn't model Beaumont too closely after himself, given the whole "Beaumont talks just to listen to his own voice" thing that I was harping on before.  I love Stephen King too much to assume that about him...)

Despite the rocky beginning, The Dark Half ended like the thrilling, horrific King-style novel that I was hoping for.  While not in my top 10 for King's work, I still think it's an intriguing read, especially when you take the King/Bachman backstory into account.

(Oh, and for the faint of heart--you may want to choose a different book from King's canon to try.  'Tis a bloody one!)

Have you read The Dark Half?  Where is it on your list of King favorites?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Happy Monday! What are YOU reading?

Hope everyone had a great weekend!  What are you reading today?
Our weekend was busy with all sorts of good stuff.  On Saturday, I got a tattoo (my third) of an infinity symbol with my boys' names woven into it.  I LOVE IT.  I wish I could show it to you, but as you know, they go by Small Fry and Tater Tot on the blog, and that is not what the tattoo says (although that would have been pretty fantastic).  So for privacy's sake, you'll just have to imagine it.  But this is the idea photo that I provided to the artist, if you want the gist:

It went on the inner part of my upper arm (bicep area) and it didn't hurt all that much.  Because after childbirth, nothing else hurts all that much.  Anyway, these kids better love me forever, because they are totally stuck to me now!

Sunday we took Small Fry and Tater Tot to one of the local farms that were doing a fall festival.  It was awesome!  Pumpkin patch, train rides, giant slides, playground, sandbox, petting zoo, corn maze, etc.  The weather was gorgeous and we had a great time.  (An even better time when we got home and both kiddos passed out for a nap--woo!!!)

As for what I'm reading these days:

Larger Than Life by Jodi Picoult

From Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and My Sister’s Keeper, comes a gripping and beautifully written novella, now available exclusively as an eBook. Set in the wilds of Africa, Larger Than Life introduces Alice, the unforgettable character at the center of Picoult’s anticipated new novel, Leaving Time
 
A researcher studying memory in elephants, Alice is fascinated by the bonds between mother and calf—the mother’s powerful protective instincts and her newborn’s unwavering loyalty. Living on a game reserve in Botswana, Alice is able to view the animals in their natural habitat—while following an important rule: She must only observe and never interfere. Then she finds an orphaned young elephant in the bush and cannot bear to leave the helpless baby behind. Thinking back on her own childhood, and on her shifting relationship with her mother, Alice risks her career to care for the calf. Yet what she comes to understand is the depth of a parent’s love. (From Goodreads)

Yes, it's that time of year again!  Jodi Picoult's latest release is on the horizon.  (If you are unsure about my level of excitement for this, please educate yourself here.)  Leaving Time will be available October 14, but readers are getting a special treat beforehand--this novella that delves into the past of one of Leaving Time's central characters.  It's only in eBook format, but was offered for free for a short time (score!).

The novella is interesting so far--not full of the twists and turns that you expect from a Picoult book, as it's more of a character study to get your curiosity going for the novel that is to come.  But I love getting this early glimpse at one of the new book's characters, and it's definitely getting me psyched for release day.  Picoult fans should check this out--it's a quick read and a fun way to gear up for her latest work.

What will I read next?
Several options ahead for me!  I have The Hunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson from the library...getting ready for spooky Halloween-ish reads.  I'm also considering a Stephen King novel (as I always do this time of year)...perhaps Bag of Bones.  And I've also got my new pick from the TBR book baggie--Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  EEK!  I have a feeling that one might wait for a while.

What's in your reading plans this week, friends?  Any fun Halloween reads coming up?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

It's been a long time, friends!  But I thought today's Top Ten Tuesday topic (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) was an interesting one, so it's time to jump into the fun.  This week's focus is...

Top Ten Books I'm Not Sure I Want to Read

You know, books you bought but now aren't sure you want, books that get tons of hype and you feel like you SHOULD read them but are kinda iffy about, etc.  We've all got books on our lists like that!

1. World Without End by Ken Follett

Several years ago, I read Pillars of the Earth, back when EVERYONE was reading Pillars of the Earth.  And it was...okay.  I liked it, but it was kind of slow and tedious and OMG LONG.  And now I feel like I have to read the sequel...even though I kind of don't want to.

2. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Or really any David Sedaris book.  I read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim a few years ago, and was so excited to laugh out loud, like everyone told me I would.  Aaaaand...I didn't.  I just did not get the Sedaris hype at all.  I feel like I need to give him another try though, because SO many people adore his work.  I'm just not super pumped about giving it a second chance.

3. 50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James

I have read just enough excerpts from this book to feel like I can comment on my opinion of it with some authority.  (If you are unclear on my opinion, please feel free to go over to the search bar on the right side of my blog, search for 50 Shades, and enjoy the biting commentary that I have shared here over the years.)  However, there is a part of me that feels like I should read it, because EVERYONE has read it, and if I'm really going to pan it, shouldn't I read it cover to cover?  Even if it might make me die a little inside?

4. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

This is a tough one to admit!  I've owned this book (and the next 4 in the series) for something like 5 years now, and never touched them.  I bought them because I heard so many rave reviews, how could I not read them?  But...historical fiction (especially LONG historical fiction) is really hit-or-miss with me.  (See book #1 in this post.)  And it's such a long series...am I ready to commit?  It all seems so daunting.  (Katie from Words for Worms, I see you bursting at the seams over there, please feel free to unleash in the comments.)  :)

5. A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin

See: everything I said about Outlander.

6. The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

So hard for me to admit!  Because everyone knows I just adore Stephen King.  However, I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of his books that have a heavy sci-fi bent.  Like, Insomnia was kind of painful for me.  Even The Stand was a little tough at times (but was saved by the more solid "real life" story of those that survived Captain Trips).  King says this series is his magnum opus though...how can I avoid it?

7. Extras by Scott Westerfeld

I read the Uglies trilogy a few years ago, and overall I really enjoyed it.  I saw that Extras is a companion novel to the trilogy, taking place after Tally's story is over with a new set of characters.  I feel compelled to read it because it's related to the Uglies trilogy...but I'm not sure I'm on board with a totally different protagonist after following Tally for 3 novels.  I feel this way about pretty much any "companion" novel to a solid trilogy.  Sometimes authors need to quit while they're ahead.

8. MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

This is book #3 in the MaddAddam trilogy.  I read Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood a couple of years ago.  I liked them, but didn't love them.  Honestly, I read The Year of the Flood because I felt like I had to after finishing Oryx and Crake.  Now I feel the same about MaddAddam.

(This post is teaching me that I have a lot of guilt issues to get over regarding my tendency to not finish series.)


9. The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

Or pretty much any Philippa Gregory that I haven't already read.  Back in 2008, I discovered her work with The Other Boleyn Girl, and got fully ADDICTED.  I ripped through a ton of her books and adored them.  However, I think it was a case of burnout, because after a while I felt way overloaded on her stuff.  A lot of it reads somewhat similarly, so I got a little tired of her material.  Since then, I've looked at her other releases with a vague sense of yearning, but also a bit of uncertainty...will I enjoy it, or am I going to think it's too much of the same again?

10. Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

This is described as the Japanese version of The Hunger Games, which is why it's been on my TBR list.  It actually came out a few years before HG, but is way, way gorier (so I've been told).  Hence my hesitation.  I am outrageously curious about this novel, but not quite sure I'm ready for the blood and guts.  Same goes for the movie version!

Readers: what books are YOU unsure about reading?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: Blaze by Richard Bachman


Title: Blaze
Author: Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: June 12, 2007
Source: personal purchase

Summary from Goodreads

Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., was always a small-time delinquent. None too bright either, thanks to the beatings he got as a kid. Then Blaze met George Rackley, a seasoned pro with a hundred cons and one big idea. The kidnapping should go off without a hitch, with George as the brains behind their dangerous scheme. But there's only one problem: by the time the deal goes down, Blaze's partner in crime is dead. Or is he?

My Review:

For those unfamiliar with the connection between Richard Bachman and Stephen King, Bachman was the pen name that King occasionally wrote under in the 70's and 80's.  Bachman "died of pseudonym cancer" (as the book jacket explains) in 1985, when King was basically outed.  However, he continued to occasionally release books under that name, including this one, which was actually written before King made it big with Carrie but was not published until 2007.

This is my second "Bachman book" (I read The Long Walk the year before I started blogging), and I have to say that this one definitely has a different feel to it than your average King novel...I suppose that could be because it was written in his very early days, even before Carrie.  The Long Walk is extremely King-esque in nature (macabre, gory, with an all-around dreadful premise), but Blaze is distinctly...not.  It has some elements that are recognizable from his other work (namely, a LOT of suspense, and a child playing a fairly central role), but otherwise I'd say this one could have flown under the pseudonym radar pretty cleanly.

Blaze is not a terribly long novel, but even so, it took me a bit to get into it.  It opens with a slow build as you learn more about Blaze's background, his now-dead crime partner George, and the kidnapping plot that he plans to execute alone.  I was finding the whole thing a bit blah, honestly, for the first 25% or so.  However, after that point, two things happen.  One, the story starts to flash back for longer periods into Blaze's past--and you learn a lot of things about his history that are rather disturbing.  And two, the actual kidnapping gets underway, which is pretty nail-biting.

(Side note: reading about a 6-month-old baby getting kidnapped (albeit fictionally) while you are feeding your 2-month-old baby is a good way to induce a blood pressure problem.)

The ending isn't particularly earth-shattering...in fact, it winds up pretty much the way you would expect, once you get to know Blaze.  But that's where the hook of this novel lies--with the characters.  As with so many other King works, he creates an amazingly complex protagonist, and given the short-ish length of this book, it's rather impressive that he was able to do that with Blaze.  If this book was really about the kidnapping, it would be called...The Kidnapping.  Or something.  (WHATEVER, nobody ever said I would be good at choosing book titles, you get my point.)  But it's not, and by the end you'll know why.

So, despite the slow start, Blaze hooked me well before the mid-point and kept me along for the ride all the way to the last word.  A bit of a cleaner ending than I'm used to with Stephen King, but if you want to see a different side of his repertoire, definitely give this one a try.

This was my second pick from the TBR Book Baggie and a good one at that! My next pick from the baggie is:

Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell!

Oooooh a 30 Before 35 book!  EXCITING!!  Gonna take me a while to finish that chunkster though...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Literary Love: Short and Sweet


Hello, valentines!

All week long, I've been dying to jump in and contribute a post to the Literary Love event (being hosted by Estella's Revenge, Doing Dewey, Love at First Book, and From Isi).  Each day, I wake up and say, "This is the day!  I will write this post TODAY!"  And then...Tater Tot wakes up and wants to be fed, and Small Fry wakes up and starts demanding eggs WITH CHEESE, and we have to be at playgroup by 9:30, and the sink is full and I have to work out at some point? and did anyone go grocery shopping this week? and now suddenly it's 9pm and please just hand me a glass of wine so I can watch more Olympics.

So, in honor of me not having time to do anything ever, I thought I'd give you a quick list of my favorite short (ish) novels that pack a big punch in a small number of pages.

1. The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
Much like all of Albom's other work: beautiful, moving, thought-provoking, no matter what your religious beliefs.  One of my all time favorite books!

2. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
An inspiring story that's sure to make you think about what your "personal legend" will be.  I wish I had gotten this as a high school graduation gift--it would have given me a lot to mull over!

3. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Kind of cheating, because this book is not short.  BUT, it's made up of short STORIES (novellas, really), so that works, right?  I love SK's short works and this collection is phenomenal.  (Also, not super horrific/gory, for those that shy away from his more...brutal stuff.)

4. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
One of my favorite classics!  Not only is the storyline engaging, but I like the allegorical message it conveys about human instincts and society.

5. Naked Pictures of Famous People by Jon Stewart
It's Jon Stewart.  Writing like Jon Stewart.  You need no further prompting.

What are your favorite short books?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King (#SleepAlong!)


Title: Doctor Sleep
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: September 24, 2013
Source: personal purchase

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.


My Review:

As you all know, I took part in the Doctor Sleep Read-Along hosted by Tif Talks Books and Charlene at Cheap Thrills.  You can read my first two check-in posts HERE and HERE (caution, some spoilers).  However, now that I've finished the entire novel, this is a SPOILER-FREE full review to recap my thoughts.

So, a sequel to The Shining.  At first, I must say I was unsure that it could be done well.  King admits as much in his note at the end of this novel, saying that The Shining is one of the top books fans mention to him when naming a list of his novels that scared the bejesus out of them.  How do you top that?

I wouldn't necessarily say that King "topped" The Shining here.  Doctor Sleep is not nearly as horrifying, in my opinion, and if that's your basis of comparison, you may be disappointed.  However, what King has managed to do is create an entirely different storyline that still brings in enough overlapping detail from The Shining to make the novels compliment each other perfectly.  From that perspective, I think King nailed this sequel.  He doesn't try to bring Danny Torrance right back into the world of the Overlook--I think that's an effort that would have bored fans and led to too much direct comparison to the first novel.  Instead, we get to see how the Overlook experience has changed Danny over time, while also bringing in an entirely new cast of characters.

And speaking of that cast of characters, I was captivated by them--especially the members of the True Knot, King's "bad guys" in this story.  Not quite humans, not quite vampires, they travel the country in RVs and hunt down little kids who have "the shining".  Creepy, eh?  Other than the interest I had in their particular brand of scariness, I also love how King took such an innocuous group of people (middle-aged RVers that travel the country relatively unnoticed) and turned them into this menacing force.  I'll surely never be looking at a Winnebago the same way again.  Muahahaha.

A few notes on the reading experience as a whole: the prologue of the book moves a bit slowly, and I know this has turned a few people off.  For me, I do think it took me a while to dive in at the beginning, but being familiar with King's brand of slow pacing, I hung in there.  By the end of the first chapter, I was hooked, and by the end of the novel, you'll see exactly why the prologue was important.

I was a little surprised that I predicted one of the biggest "twists" in the novel well before it was revealed.  I mentioned in one of my Sleep-Along check-ins that I had a prediction about a family relationship between two of the characters, and it ended up being spot-on.  Unusual for me (I NEVER see twists coming), but especially in a King novel.  I wouldn't say that this ruined anything in the book for me, but the amazement that comes with a big reveal was lost on me--something that I think other readers really enjoyed.  Ah well.  I guess I need to pay less attention next time?

One of the Sleep-Along questions this week was whether we feel it is necessary to read The Shining before reading Doctor Sleep.  Even though the storylines are so different, I would answer this with a resounding YES.  There are many small details that overlap between the two stories--for example, a quote during a job interview that Danny goes to is taken directly from a quote his father had during a job interview in The Shining.  Another example: Abra (the young girl in Doctor Sleep) has the same nervous tic that Jack Torrance had in The Shining.  Plus, the ending weaves in some very important information from Danny's childhood experience at the Overlook (details from the book, not the movie--so don't just substitute the Kubrick film!).  Is it imperative that you know these details before reading Doctor Sleep?  I suppose not...but your reading experience will not be nearly so fulfilling if you don't have this background beforehand.  If you want the full Doctor Sleep experience, get thee to The Shining first!

Final thoughts?  Doctor Sleep is the perfect compliment to its predecessor.  I love that it didn't try to repeat The Shining, but instead added on to it in a way that made many of the relationships from the first book (especially the one between Danny and his father) that much fuller.  It has a great blend of creeptastic-ness and suspense, plus a new world of characters that leaves you with more than enough to sink your teeth into.

Ever wonder what happened to little Danny Torrance?  Then you MUST read Doctor Sleep and find out.

Have you read Doctor Sleep?  How do you feel it compares to The Shining?  If you haven't read it but you did read The Shining, do you have any interest in the sequel...or do you want to leave little Danny as he was at the Overlook?  :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Going dark!

Hello readers!  Just an FYI that I will be MIA for a few days...because my little (not-so-little anymore) brother is getting married this weekend!
Visiting little bro on the job this past June.  And to think I used to push him around and steal his Halloween candy.
We are off to Cape May, NJ to celebrate the big day with him and his beautiful bride (seriously, my brother is marrying a girl who could runway model, it's craziness).  I am super excited for them, as well as for Small Fry's big debut in the ring bearer role!  :)

I hope everyone has a great weekend of reading.  We have about 8 hours of driving to do each way, so I'm hoping to finish up the end of Doctor Sleep, and/or make some progress in Wally Lamb's We Are Water.  Both reads are fantastic so far!

What will YOU be reading while I'm away?

Monday, October 14, 2013

#SleepAlong check-in THE SECOND!

Happy Monday, all!  Today is the second discussion day for the #SleepAlong, the Doctor Sleep read-along hosted by Cheap Thrills and Tif Talks Books.
**Just a warning: all Sleep Along posts are likely to contain spoilers for both The Shining and whatever part of Doctor Sleep we're reading up to that week!**

This week we read up to the end of Chapter 13, around page 360.  Here's the discussion questions:

In Part One, we get to know Abra mostly through her parents or other adults. In Part Two, we get to know her much better. What do you think of this extraordinary girl?

Stephen King obvious has a knack for writing excellent child/adolescent characters.  I think Abra is no exception.  She had to be a challenge for him to write, given her age, because even if she didn't "shine", she'd still be at a point in her life where she's showing more maturity, but is still really a child.  And with the shining mixed in, that makes her development even more complex.  I think (so far) he's reached a great balance between her childlike and more adultlike features.

I am immensely interested in why Abra has the same type of "tic" that Jack Torrance did in The Shining!  She rubs her mouth as a calming technique, something that Jack often did to the point of making himself bleed.  I have a very faint prediction about a family connection between Abra and Dan (due to the fact that Abra's grandfather is unknown), but we'll see if that pans out.  If it does, it could explain a lot of things...

Do you have any speculations on what the True Knot are? We know how they sustain themselves, and we've seen the way they die. They're not, as Abra calls them, "ghostie people," but they aren't really human either.

I don't know if I have a specific category to place them in.  My guess is that they are meant to be a villain all their own, just like vampires, werewolves, etc. are all in their own "species".  I do wonder if the True Knot is the only band of people like themselves...are there others out there?  Or is Rose's group the entire population?  I do like the fact that they are extremely flawed.  I think about books like Salem's Lot, where the vampires really ran the show all the way up until the very end.  Here, we see the True Knot tripping up quite a bit, which adds a lot of unpredictability to the plot.

I also want to know how they are connected to the spirits in the Overlook--there HAS to be some relation there.

Considering that Chapter Thirteen is one of the most intense in the book so far, did anyone actually stop reading here? Or could you not wait to race on ahead?

I did stop reading there!  Mostly because I just finished it this morning and have not had time to go on.  Haha.  But I am looking forward to jumping back in ASAP!

How's Doctor Sleep treating you so far, readers?

Monday, October 7, 2013

#SleepAlong check-in THE FIRST!

Happy Monday, all!  Today is the first discussion day for the #SleepAlong, the Doctor Sleep read-along hosted by Cheap Thrills and Tif Talks Books.
**Just a warning: all Sleep Along posts are likely to contain spoilers for both The Shining and whatever part of Doctor Sleep we're reading up to that week!**

This week we read up to the end of Part One, around page 195.  Here's the discussion questions:

Doctor Sleep picks up not long after the closing of The Shining. For those who have recently read The Shining, do you think it proves to be helpful in diving into the sequel? If you have not recently read The Shining, do you feel you are missing out on some of the details?

I love the fact that Doctor Sleep picks up when Danny is still a boy, even if it is only for a few chapters.  I recently re-read The Shining, and this continuation really makes Doctor Sleep feel like a true sequel.  I think it would be very disorienting to go from Danny at 6 years old in The Shining, immediately to Danny as an adult in Doctor Sleep.  The introductory part of Doctor Sleep is, admittedly, a little slow-going plot-wise, but I think a necessarily element in bridging the two novels.

Plus, I love that I did a re-read so recently!!  There is an overlap in some small details that I would have never picked up if I hadn't had the first novel fresh in my mind.  (Ex. when Dan is in a job interview as an adult and thinks of his interviewer as an "officious pr*ck"...definite overlap from Jack Torrance's job interview at the Overlook.)

Danny has now become Dan. In Part One, we watch his transformations from learning to live with the horrors of The Overlook to succumbing to the drink (like his father) to his road to sobriety and earning the title of Doctor Sleep. What do you think about the journey King has taken Dan on thus far?

It was, honestly, a little hard for me to stomach all of these changes at first.  Danny changes to Dan quite rapidly between the introduction and Part One, and it's a little hard to see how he jumped from innocent pre-teen to drunken 28-year-old so quickly in the novel.  Part of me almost wishes there was a little bit more detail about his teen/early-20's years to provide better transition.  (Ex. I would love to know what a struggle he must have gone through when he first started in with alcohol, especially knowing how horrible it was for his father.)

However, with Part One ending at a time when Dan is sober (and has been for quite some time), I am very curious about how his battle with alcoholism will escalate when he encounters the True Knot...

We are also introduced to the True Knot in this first section. What do you think about this group?

Terrifying and fascinating all at once!  I didn't know what to think of them at first, but by the end of Part One, I was sufficiently freaked out by their activities and their very premise.  It's obvious how their story is going to clash with Dan and Abra, now it's just a matter of waiting for the showdown.  I also enjoy how King has chosen a seemingly innocent group of people that we've all encountered (RV-ers) and made them into eternal child-killers.  GAH.

Overall, what do you think so far? Have you completely fallen into the story? Or, has it taken a bit longer to get back into the life of little Danny Torrance?

At first, I was slow to get into the novel.  As I mentioned, the intro didn't pack a lot of punch for me, even if it did provide good background, so I wasn't feeling completely absorbed as I started Part One.  However, as I got a better sense of Abra's story and the intentions of the True Knot, I found myself getting sucked in.  Can't wait to see what else is in store.

How about you, readers?  Anyone else have thoughts on Doctor Sleep so far?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy Monday, readers!

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend!  What are you reading today?
My weekend was a bit hectic, but a good one.  As a final (free!) birthday gift, my dear husband took Small Fry for Saturday morning and I spent it at the library...alone...reading and lurking through the shelves.  (Since we just moved here, I am well within my rights to do a fair amount of lurking as I get to know my new library.)  It was awesome!  I rarely get more than 30 minutes of uninterrupted reading at a time these days, so having 3 whole hours was a real treat.

Otherwise, it's been lots more unpacking, sorting, and trips to Home Depot as we settle into the house.  But it's nice to be done with moving trucks and just be busy putting everything in its place now.

(On a related note, can someone please tell my husband that there is no such thing as having "too many books"?!?!?!?)  :-P

Sooooo, what am I reading today?

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Yes, this is one of my 30 before 35 books...there's nothing like a little challenge to get me motivated to read something that's been on my TBR for ages!  I have been dying to read this ever since I finished Flynn's Gone Girl, and (about halfway through) I am not feeling disappointed.  It's a completely different subject than Gone Girl, but still with the dark and unsettling notes that I remember from that novel.  I probably won't wait long to jump into Flynn's other novel, Dark Places.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

I was very very excited to FINALLY see this download to my Kindle at midnight on the 24th!  I started King's latest over the weekend, and even though I'm not too far in yet, I am already super happy with how it picks up from The Shining.  I expected a bigger time lapse between the end of The Shining and the beginning of Doctor Sleep, but Danny is actually still just a boy as the story commences.
I am taking part in the #SleepAlong (a Doctor Sleep read-along), hosted by Charlene at Cheap Thrills and Tif at Tif Talks Books.  It starts TODAY and goes through October 21.  If you want in, check out either of their blogs ASAP!

What will I read next?
I am excited to have an ARC of Wally Lamb's We Are Water up for review at the end of October, and I will probably get it started pretty soon.  Other possibles are The Memory Palace by Mira Bartok and Me Before You by JoJo Moyes.

What's in your reading plans this week, friends?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Book Review: The Shining by Stephen King


Title: The Shining
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 1977
Source: paperback copy that I've owned for ages

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

This tale of a troubled man hired to care for a remote mountain resort over the winter, his loyal wife, and their uniquely gifted son slowly but steadily unfolds as secrets from the Overlook Hotel's past are revealed, and the hotel itself attempts to claim the very souls of the Torrance family. 

The Shining stands as a cultural icon of modern horror, a searing study of a family torn apart, and a nightmarish glimpse into the dark recesses of human weakness and dementia.


My Review:

I suppose I've made no secret of the fact that I am JUST A LITTLE excited about the upcoming release of Doctor Sleep, Stephen King's sequel to The Shining.  In preparation, I felt it was necessary to do a re-read of this King classic, since I'm pretty sure I was in 7th or 8th grade the last time I read it.  (I know, hold the phone, what was a 12-year-old doing reading this freakish novel?  This explains so much about my mental health.)

Returning to this book 15+ years after my original reading was a completely different experience.  Yes, I already knew what was going to happen--and I pretty much did the first time around too, thanks to the movie.  (Oh my God, why did I watch this movie when I was younger than 12 years old?  Do I even have parents? (Kidding, Mom. It was Dad who let me watch it anyway.))

But even if you've seen the movie, or read it before, The Shining doesn't get any less haunting upon subsequent reads.  The novel focuses on the Torrance family (Jack, Wendy, and 5-year-old Danny), recently relocated to Colorado after Jack lost his job in Vermont.  Jack has signed on as the winter caretaker for the Overlook hotel, a gigantic resort in the Rocky Mountains that gets so snow-bound in the winter, the hotel has to shut down completely from October to May.  So yes, that's right--Jack and family will be living alone, in this enormous hotel, for 6 months.  Before you say "NBD, loves me some Candy Crush time," let's keep in mind this is 1977 and once the snow flies, they're cut off from the world except by CB radio.

I'm not doing spoilers here, but this is Stephen King, so obviously the entire scenario goes downhill fast.  That's no secret--in fact, King starts to plant the seeds of impending doom in the earliest pages, building your sense of dread all the way up to the inevitably dire conclusion.  Even though Danny is arguably the star of this show, I definitely found myself most fascinated by Jack's decent into madness throughout the novel.  If you've seen the movie, this is a central portion of its plot.  Jack Nicholson's character slowly turns from (semi) responsible family man to raving murderous lunatic.  The difference in the book (and what makes me love it justalittle more than the film) is that it's not just about Jack--it's about the hotel.  The movie does incorporate this, but not nearly to the extent that King does in the book.  Yes, Jack begins to lose his mind--but why?  How much of it can be attributed to his alcoholic past, or his abusive father...and how much of it is the hotel itself?  It's much more complex than what you'll see in Kubrick's screen version, and I love that.  King has a knack for the supernatural elements in his stories, and this is no exception.

However, during this reading I also paid particular attention to Danny.  Doctor Sleep picks up with Danny as an adult, so I wanted to really focus on his role in The Shining.  Danny has a gift of precognition, or the "shine" as it is described to him, and this is the driving force behind much of The Shining's plot.  Danny, that poor kid--he has to do a lot of growing up as his parents slowly lose control of the situation.  I can't wait to see how these horrible events come back to haunt him (probably literally) in Doctor Sleep.

This was less of a review and more of a "let's get pumped for part two," but obviously, The Shining is one of my King favorites.  The suspense is intense and the character development alone is a great reason to delve into it.  If you're not sure about SK horror, I will warn you that there is some gore, and you may not want to read this one at midnight as you're trying to drift off to sleep.  But I hope you won't let that deter you.  I was happy to revisit it as an adult, and I can't wait to see what else is in store for Danny in the sequel.

Have you read The Shining, or seen the movie?  (If you've done both, I could have a whole separate conversation with you about the differences...)  And if you have read it, what are your thoughts/hopes about the upcoming sequel?

UPDATE: In a random coincedence, my friend Damen (who writes for the film blog Hey U Guys) wrote a blog post today about some crazy theories re: Stanley Kubrick movies (including The Shining).  If you've seen the movie and want more Shining fix today, check it out HERE.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

From the Land of Gas Leaks and Broken Ovens: August 2013 in Review

Oy vey, August has already managed to come and go.  Though I did have a few fun posts, I also had a record low number of posts for the month (only 12! Ouch).  Fitting, I suppose, given the chaos of our recent and upcoming moves.

I mentioned previously about some of the struggles we had with our temporary rental, the list of which has grown to include the 4 (fixed) natural gas leaks, a broken oven, 2 broken dishwashers, an immovable, enormous fire pit in our backyard full of broken glass, a burst pipe, and neighbors who have had a few too many visits from the local police force for my liking.

HOWEVER, I am happy to report that we will be officially moving to our (forever?) home starting September 14, less than 2 short weeks from now.  Oh, how I count the very minutes.  YOU CAN'T IMAGINE.  (For any new followers getting lost in this story, feel free to read back here and catch up a bit.)

September is also going to be crazy-slash-awesome because it is mine and Hubster's 6th wedding anniversary, the start of my third trimester, AND my 30th birthday (of which I am not scared in the least, thankyouverymuch).  Plus, you know, autumn and all the greatness that is apple picking, pumpkin spice lattes (decaf...sigh), and cooler weather (especially for this sweaty preggo. What I would give for a 65-degree day).

(Oh, and in book news, don't forget that Stephen King's Doctor Sleep comes out September 24...which is, OF COURSE, my birthday...and I've already preordered it and will be staring at my Kindle at midnight to watch it download.)

ANYWAY.  That's this month.  Let's recap a bit of last month.

The August 2013 Fave/Least Fave picks go to:

August 2013 Favorite: The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison
August 2013 Least Favorite: Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman

In total, I read/reviewed 5 books:
The Never List by Koethi Zan

Race Across the Sky by Derek Sherman
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Banks of Certain Rivers by Jon Harrison
Hungry by Darlene Barnes

Otherwise, I was admittedly a bit absent, but I did reveal that Tater Tot is going to be a boy, and we went back to 1990 to reminisce about pen pals.


So, there's August...bring on September and all the chaos that shall ensue!  (I promise my months will get uneventful again soon, maybe in October?  Well, at least until this baby arrives.  

Nevermind, I make no promises.)

Monday, July 8, 2013

Under The Dome: An Initial (Unfavorable) Reaction

I posted briefly about this on Twitter last week, but I felt it needed at least a brief post of its own.  This is for anyone who's read OR watched (or both) Stephen King's Under the Dome!
I do like that this mirrors the cover art so closely!
So readers (and watchers)...what do you think of the TV miniseries so far?  (I fully promise that I will manage this discussion without any spoilers!)  This question is coming from someone who absolutely adored the book, so I guess I should say that up front.

After the first episode, I was intrigued.  Several things had changed from the book, but it was early enough in the story that I wanted to see where the producers were going with it.  However, by the end of the second episode, they were starting to lose me.  The changes, I think, are having too much effect on the feel of the story as a whole.  A lot of this is character driven.

First and foremost: Barbie (Dale Barbara) and his new background story.  In the book, Barbie didn't kill anyone before the dome dropped, and certainly not Julia's husband--because Julia didn't HAVE a husband in the book.  This completely changes Barbie's persona in the miniseries.  He's much more macho-mysterious-outlaw on TV, which I guess plays better for viewers than the mysterious-but-actually-a-pretty-decent-guy thing he has going on in the book.  Anyway, it's clear they want every female character on the show (and viewer?) to find him bangable, so I guess mission accomplished, Hollywood.

My other character issue (so far) is with Junior.  They took so much horror out of his story!  Without giving anything away--his book character is much more menacing than anything they've portrayed on TV up to this point.  And it seems like they aren't going to work in a lot of his actions that they've already skipped over.  On TV, I feel like he just comes off as the overly-creepy boyfriend, but in the book, he is much more than that.  I really hope they amp this up.
The fact that this meme even exists says a lot.
The problem is, I'm not sure if I'll stick around to find out.  The third episode airs tonight, and I'm debating if it's worth my time to watch.  I'm just feeling so mehhhhhhhhhh about it so far...though there is a part of me that's curious to see what they do with the ending.

What say you, readers/viewers?  How do you like the miniseries so far?  Should I keep watching, or better spend my time watching House of Cards (new addiction!)  And if you read the book, how do you think it's stacking up?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Audiobook Review: Joyland by Stephen King


Title: Joyland
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever. Joyland is a brand-new novel and has never previously been published.

My Review:

You guys know about the relationship that is Me + Stephen King.  He's had a few flops in my eyes (The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon...eh, and I'm so-so on Cujo), but for the most part, I devour and adore his work.  His most recent release caught my eye, partially because of the premise (creepy amusement park crime novel, oooooh!) and partially because of its somewhat-limited release.  It was primarily printed in paperback and audiobook format only...no e-books and very few hardcovers.  I decided to go with the audio CD, narrated by Michael Kelly.


(Side note: while I was listening to this, we went on vacation to New Jersey and visited Wildwood one day.  Their boardwalk amusement parks totally reminded me of Joyland!  Which is probably not saying much for Wildwood...haha.)
Wildwood...or Joyland?  Hmmm...
Anyway!  About the book.  I quickly realized that this is not a typical Stephen King horror story.  It certainly has its chilling, supernatural elements, but it's probably more of a coming-of-age story than anything else.  It's narrated by Devin Jones, now an adult, but in the summer of 1973, he was working at Joyland, a seaside amusement park in North Carolina.  As the summer progresses, he struggles to get over a recent breakup while also uncovering the details of a murder that happened at the park not so long ago.  Along the way, he encounters a unique-though-fatally-ill child whose clairvoyant abilities are startling.

(Because what would a Stephen King novel be without a child with superpowers?)

I finished this audiobook a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still having a hard time deciding how I feel about Stephen King as a "whodunit" author.  The identity of the killer didn't come as a great surprise to me, which is what made me feel that this was less about the mystery and more about the maturation of Devin over the course of the story.  And Devin's character is great, but I guess I wanted more than just that from the book at times.  I go to Stephen King and want suspense--he's clearly the master of that arena.  However, that is not a big element of this novel, and in that regard I felt mildly frustrated.

That said--ignoring my feelings about the lack of suspense, this is an excellent example of a coming-of-age story.  As I mentioned already, Devin's character is excellent: witty, sarcastic, honest about his faults.  I enjoyed watching him change throughout that fateful summer at Joyland.  And Michael Kelly is an awesome narrator for the audiobook.  He helped me visualize Devin in a clearer way than I may have been able to do while reading the paperback format.  So in this regard, the book is a win.

Overall, this is obviously a mixed review.  Joyland is not a typical King novel, so I'd say it's best to know that up front.  If you focus more on the "human" element of the story, you'll be sure to admire it.  But your average King creep-factor will be missing...so if that's important to you, you may want to try another of his works.

Any other King fans have thoughts on this one?  If you've never read any King, have you ever been thrown off by a book written by one of your favorite authors?
 
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