The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King (Book Review)

The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story centers upon Roland Deschain, the last gunslinger, who has been chasing after his adversary, “the man in black”, for many years. The novel fuses Western fiction with fantasy, science fiction and horror, following Roland’s trek through a vast desert and beyond in search of the man in black. Roland meets several people along his journey, including a boy named Jake Chambers who travels with him part of the way.

My Thoughts:

Another quickie book review! I figured I better “review” The Gunslinger since The Dark Tower movie is out now in the US (and out August 18th in the UK). Not many positive reviews so far, though! Damn.

Stephen King is easily my favorite author. I’ve read almost all of his books other than The Dark Tower series, which never really appealed to me for some reason. I got into King in my early teens (maaaaaaany years ago now) and I did read The Gunslinger early on but didn’t remember a thing about it other than that I didn’t really enjoy it at the time. Therefore, I guess that’s why I never continued. I hate re-reading books. Don’t know why. But I obviously had to re-read this one before I could continue with the series & the movie coming out has finally forced me to read it again.

I lie – I do remember one thing from reading it many years ago. Desert! Lots of desert. I remember the book dragging in the first half (in the desert). Reading the book again now, I wonder if I didn’t actually finish it as I remembered nothing at all from the second half of the book, which I found much more enjoyable. The story really picked up once Roland met up with Jake (toward the end of the long desert journey). I mean, I love King but a guy walking alone through a desert gets a bit boring after a while. Maybe I just don’t like stories set in the desert? Nah, that can’t be – I love post-apocalyptic desert landscapes (like in Mad Max: Fury Road or the book Wool). And I don’t mind long journeys (like in The End Of The World Running Club or King’s own The Long Walk or, you know, The Lord Of The F*^king Rings…). So. I dunno. Wow, I suck at reviews lately.

I think the main problem may have been that I didn’t really buy into the character of Roland Deschain. I didn’t like him (not that you’re meant to). He’s so stoic. Having to walk through the desert with that guy would be a total drag. I made him super hot in my head, though, so that helped. Oh! I did like the flashbacks to when he was young & being trained to one day fight to declare his manhood. The flashbacks & the time spent with Jake were the best bits (for me) and made up for the bits that dragged on a bit too long (like the time spent in Tull, although I liked his relationship with the woman while there). The “man in black” was a disappointment but I’m assuming we get a lot more of that story in the remaining books…

Well, I did like this book more than it probably sounds from this so-called review. I’m probably rating it half a point more than I otherwise would since a) it’s Stephen King & b) I can see a lot of potential for the remaining books. I’m assuming this first book barely even scratches the surface of this story. You really learn nothing whatsoever about Roland & the “man in black” and I found it entertaining enough to want to continue & learn more, especially about Roland’s past. I’ll read the rest. Eventually…

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
– The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Currently Reading: End Of Watch by Stephen King (book 3 of the Mr. Mercedes trilogy)

Oh, and it looks like the Mr. Mercedes TV series is starting today on the Audience (?!) network in the US. So I don’t know how I’ll see that in the UK but I’d like to as I enjoyed the book (more than The Gunslinger). Here’s the trailer for the show, starring Brendan Gleeson, Harry Treadaway, Mary-Louise Parker, Kelly Lynch & Ann Cusack:

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Book Review)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1985 dystopian novel by Canadian author Margaret Atwood. Set in a near-future New England, in a totalitarian, Christian theonomy that has overthrown the United States government, the novel explores themes of women in subjugation and the various means by which they gain individualism and independence. The novel’s title echoes the component parts of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, which comprises a series of connected stories (“The Merchant’s Tale”, “The Parson’s Tale”, etc.).

My Thoughts:

I liked this book but didn’t love this book. I’ll be honest and say I knew nothing about it until the TV series started and, when hearing that the novel was “feminist dystopian apocalyptic sci-fi”, I was all “WHAT? That’s so my type of thing!!”. It’s a very good book. I can see why it’s a modern classic but I can’t say it’s one I’ll ever call a favorite of mine.

This is a novel that’s worthy of thorough analysis & discussion. You’re SO not gonna get that on my silly little movie blog! 😉 I’m happy to discuss it with any of you in the comments if you want but I think there are far better places online to find good write-ups of it. I would imagine that The Handmaid’s Tale is now studied in high schools (or perhaps colleges – Americans can be extremely uptight, so the sexual content would probably keep it out of high schools). Or… Is it? It should be studied & discussed, especially as it’s worryingly feeling more & more like a future that’s entirely possible in our lifetimes. I do remember when the TV series started & some people online were all “This show is obviously  anti-Trump!”. Ha! Hilarious. This show based on the book from 1985. Do these people not realize that seeing so many similarities between this book’s “fictional” dystopian future & modern day politics is scary as f*%k?!?!

I think it’s unfortunate, in a way, that this book has been labelled “feminist” as this term bizarrely has negative connotations to some people and would probably keep them from reading it. It’s a very well-written & important piece of work that deserves recognition alongside old literary classics (although I suppose that 1985 is now “old” – it just seems like yesterday to me since I’m so damn old myself). At what point is a modern classic no longer a modern classic? Okay – I’m old & depressed now. Where were we?

Oh yeah – Feminist dystopia. Don’t let labels keep you from reading this book if it interests you. Even Margaret Atwood doesn’t approve of this being labelled sci-fi & prefers to call it “speculative fiction” (I read that HERE at Wikipedia, where there’s an interesting bit about the book’s genre classification). Sci-fi does bring futuristic technology to mind whereas this book, although set in the future, feels like it’s set hundreds of years ago due to society’s regression. Once again, it’s scary as hell as it’s starting to feel like we may be headed in that direction.

As for this book’s overall “readability” (as in, is it at all enjoyable as opposed to just worthy), I’d say it has a tiny bit of that “They’ve forced me to read this book in school” thing going on. I don’t really mean that as an insult & I personally found the story itself entirely engrossing. The story kept me very interested and turning the pages but, unfortunately, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. Also, I’m not one of these annoying people who require an explanation for EVERYTHING but you really don’t find much out in this book. Whatever happened to cause this apocalyptic(?) future is never fully explained and things from the past are only hinted at through the vague thoughts of Offred, our main character. I felt like we didn’t really get to know her, which made it hard to connect with her. Although I know that’s kind of the point as any kind of emotion must be hidden & she’s living her life in constant fear. Atwood also has an odd sort of writing style, which I think further made it slightly difficult to fully connect with the book. Fantastic concept & great story but a book I can’t say I loved since I didn’t have much of a connection with the characters.

As for the current TV series, I did watch the first episode after finishing the book. Rubbish. I won’t be continuing. Sorry to anyone who’s a fan of the show but, if you’ve not read the book, I definitely recommend it over what I’ve seen of the show. Long, drawn out scenes for zero reason other than to appear “deep & brooding”.  Added violence that was not in the book (what was done to Janine didn’t happen in the book). And the episode ends with, I think, a final line that is, very importantly, never said in the book. Why?!?! After that, I knew I couldn’t continue. They’re clearly going to change too much & piss me off. And now, hearing there’s a SECOND season?!? Piss off. Don’t milk it. End it where it’s meant to end. Pffft. Adaptations annoy the hell out of me sometimes. Skip the show & go straight to the book with this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Books I’ve Read So Far In 2017 (ranked from least favorite to favorite…)

– Tape by Steven Camden
– The Sisters by Claire Douglas
– We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
– If I Stay by Gayle Forman
The Circle by Dave Eggers
– The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
The Dinner by Herman Koch
– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
– The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
– Blaze by Stephen King
– A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
– Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie
– Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
– All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
– The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Now currently reading: The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Book Review)

The film adaptation of Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon comes out today in the United States. It was directed by Stella Meghie and stars Amandla Stenberg & Nick Robinson. I must admit that I really enjoyed this book and am annoyed about the three month wait to see the film in the United Kingdom (the release date is set for the 18th of August here). Here’s my review of the novel…

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The novel centers on 18-year-old Madeline Whittier, who has severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID), also known as “bubble baby disease”. Due to her condition, Madeline is stuck inside her house in Los Angeles, where she lives with her mother, a physician who takes care of her.

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book. But I must admit that it’s a full-on “Young Adult” teen book. I know plenty of grown-ups like myself who still read YA stuff and there have been some fantastic novels in this genre. Unfortunately, though, the Young Adult label has a somewhat negative connotation to it nowadays. This is probably partly due to the fact that there seems to be so much of it now. There wasn’t half as much of it around when I was a young adult myself. Man, I’d have especially loved the post-apocalyptic dystopian thing that is so overused in this genre now. 

What’s my point? I’m getting off topic! I think my point is this: don’t automatically assume a book isn’t good just because it has the YA label. Some feel very teenage while others are just really good stories that transcend any sort of recommended age range (is Harry Potter considered YA? I would assume so). And like them or not, The Hunger Games books don’t immediately make me think “ugh, teenagers!!!”. 

Some YA, however, is very teen and Everything, Everything is clearly written with its teenage audience in mind. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aiming to please your target audience. This would’ve probably been a favorite book of mine if it had been around in my early to mid-teens (although it would’ve been a very rare favorite in the romance genre as it’s not often that I go for a love story of any sort). As an adult, I can’t say this could now ever be a favorite book of mine but I did find it a very enjoyable read (easily one of the most enjoyable I’ve read so far this year). It has a fairly unique story, an unconventional romance, and a really likable main character. 

I think a lot of YA novels don’t always write convincing teenage characters, probably because the authors are usually adults. The characters either seem too grown-up or too childish and are often hard to like. I think Yoon got the right balance with the character of Madeline as she felt like a real 18-year-old with the hopes & dreams you’d expect from a girl who has been stuck in her home for 18 years due to having severe combined immunodeficiency. She was intelligent but not mature beyond her years and, most importantly (to me), she was very likable in a convincing sort of way. I do think that not enough attention was given to the other characters: the neighbor boy she falls in love with, her mother, and the nurse who cares for her during the day. We don’t get to know any of them as well as I’d have liked but I can forgive this as it’s not a very long book. Madeline is very much the novel’s main focus and I was happy with her character. 

I’m having a hard time explaining why I liked this one… I doubt I’ve talked anyone into reading it! But if you do really like YA novels (probably aimed more at a female audience in this case), this is one I’d definitely recommend as a lightweight but entertaining read. Madeline has had to find ways to keep herself entertained while being a “prisoner” in her own home so we get to see some fun drawings & doodles of hers throughout the book plus we get to read e-mails & instant messages between her and the neighbor boy she falls for. These gimmicks may not be for everyone but I like books that have this sort of thing as it makes it a bit more personal & fun to read. It also shows how Madeline has managed to maintain a sense of humor through her illness. Plus, as I said, I just liked the story/setup. It’s a topic I’ve found interesting ever since seeing John Travolta in The Boy In The Plastic Bubble (Ha! The 1976 TV movie… I totally just aged myself). Well, that movie was far from “good” and Everything, Everything has done a much better job of telling the story of a teenager with the “bubble baby” disease. Plus I really wanted to see what/if/how things would be resolved in this book. I will of course stay spoiler-free but the ending probably left people divided (and that’s all I’ll say). I liked it. I hope they’ve done a good film adaptation. 

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the trailer for the movie (but I think it gives away too much of the story so skip the trailer if you want to know as little as possible…):

The books I’ve read so far in 2017, from least favorite to favorite:

15. The Sisters by Claire Douglas
14. Tape by Steven Camden
13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
12. The Circle by Dave Eggers
11. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
10. The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
9. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
8. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
7. The Dinner by Herman Koch
6. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King
5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
4. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
2. Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
1. Murder On The Orient Express by Agatha Christie

And I’m currently in the middle of reading Blaze by Stephen King (so far, so good). 🙂

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Book Review)

Big Little Lies is a seven-episode series starring Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman & Shailene Woodley. It’s airing on HBO in America this Sunday (19th of February) and looks like it will air on Sky Atlantic in the UK sometime in March.

Based on the novel of the same name by Liane Moriarty, the show was created by David E Kelley & directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (director of films such as Wild & Dallas Buyers Club). Having just read the book, I figured it was time I do a quick book review for anyone who may be interested in either the novel or the TV show…

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Perfect family, perfect house, perfect life; Jane, Madeline and Celeste have it all . . . or do they? They are about to find out just how easy it is for one little lie to spiral out of control.

My Thoughts:

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed this book as it’s certainly not my usual sort of genre (give me Stephen King, fantasy, dystopian, or post-apocalyptic!). Is it chick lit? I hate that term – It’s so condescending. And I hate the so-called chick lit genre as it tends to be the “silly” books that are given this label. I suppose it’s certainly aimed at female readers, though.

I haven’t read reviews at all but I would assume the main comparison being used to describe this book’s story & overall feel is Desperate Housewives, which would be extremely accurate. I have a confession: I’m not a girly girl & watch very few girly things but I watched all of Desperate Housewives (despite its AWFUL title, which almost made me not watch it in the first place). But then the opening DH scene started with a tragic death and a woman who then happily realized that it meant she wouldn’t have to return (some kitchen appliance she’d borrowed – can’t remember) to the now-dead woman. And I was hooked! Well-written dark humor with rich characters is something I can get behind. Who cares what label you give it? I don’t think Big Little Lies is quite as good as that first season of Desperate Housewives (as with all shows, DH went badly downhill in later years) and it doesn’t have as much of that darkly humorous streak but it’s a fun satire on parents, particularly mothers, and the crazy world of school politics.

Big Little Lies starts with a tragic & unexplained death on the night of the adult-only trivia fundraiser taking place at the novel’s school. Our three main characters, Jane, Madeline & Celeste, each have five-year-olds attending their first year of school. This is a fairly long book that I found a very quick read thanks to the way it was broken up into so many chapters & the way most chapters ended with statements from witnesses who were there on the trivia night. After the opening chapter in which someone has died, the novel then goes back to the beginning of the school year to introduce us to all our main potential victims and murderers. I loved not even knowing who ends up the victim, which kept me reading as I was anxious to find out. The witness statements at the end of the chapters give us little clues along the way as to what may have happened.

Big Little Lies isn’t exactly some piece of “worthy literature” but it was a light & entertaining read and should make for an enjoyable TV series. I’d actually like to see them up the dark humor for the show if they can. The book sounds more shallow than it actually is – It tackles some heavy issues, especially at the end, but it could’ve done with sticking more to its sassy satire we mainly glimpse in the witness statements and through the character of Madeline. Speaking of Madeline, the casting of Reese Witherspoon for this role is absolute perfection – I can totally see her as this outwardly superficial character with the deep down heart of gold. I can also see Woodley & Kidman as Jane & Celeste now even though Celeste won’t be how I pictured looks-wise but Kidman definitely has the right sort of personality & manner to suit the role well. With a lot of big names involved, including Jean-Marc Vallée as the director, I think the show is in good hands & I’m looking forward to seeing how they adapt the book.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Here’s the UK trailer for the TV show. I think they’ve upped the drama! Hope the show doesn’t take itself too seriously…

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Book Review)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

What It’s About: (via Amazon)

What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.

One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America. The world will never be the same again.

Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse. But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.

If civilization was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?

My Thoughts:

This is a pretty fantastic book within my beloved post-apocalyptic genre. I don’t know why I’m obsessed with this genre… But, anyway – I’ll probably compare this to The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J Walker since I read this just after that one. Running Club focuses on one main character & his family immediately after the world is pretty much annihilated by asteroids while this one follows several different characters twenty years after most of humanity was wiped out by the “Georgia Flu” as well as showing us some characters in flashbacks before the pandemic. I’d say I liked both of these books equally but Station Eleven is definitely the “better” one of the two. I believe it won an award (Yep – I just looked it up. It won the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 2015, which is “a British award given for the best science fiction novel first published in the United Kingdom during the previous year“). This one feels like, I dunno… Proper literature! What I mean is that I could see Station Eleven being read in schools while Running Club is more mainstream fiction. Did I somehow manage to just insult both books in that sentence??? 😉 I didn’t mean to in any way – I really liked & recommend both books but they have quite different styles.

Station Eleven is very unique in the way the characters are connected, both past & present. Kirsten, an actress in a group of performers who travel the country to entertain people after society has collapsed, is obsessed with gathering information on a famous actor she worked with in a Shakespeare play as a child & who died before her eyes on the stage. That same night is when the Georgia Flu pandemic took hold & we slowly learn how Kirsten has come to be with this travelling group of actors & musicians twenty years later. There are very few survivors left after the pandemic and no electricity, medicine, etc. Travelling can be very dangerous but this group wishes to keep the arts alive.

Two of the only things Kirsten has left from the pre-pandemic world and her most prized possessions are the first two issues of a comic book called Dr. Eleven. The parts of the book that detail this comic book and its author plus the comic book’s story set on a space station called Station Eleven are my absolute favorite parts of this novel. It’s through this comic book that, unbeknownst to Kirsten & several other main characters, they’re all linked.

I’ve not given it a lot of thought but I suppose this book is making a comment on how humanity is all connected, even without the current modern technology that makes staying connected so much easier (Skype, air travel, etc – all these things no longer exist in this book). Also, it shows that we long for this connection and there are attempts to rebuild things in the book (the publishing of a newspaper given out to travellers and the way the symphony continues to travel & perform despite the danger). There are also the obvious parallels between this post-apocalyptic Earth and the hostile space station that Dr. Eleven finds himself on in the novel’s comic book.

I’ve not read another Emily St. John Mandel book but she’s written a fantastic novel here and the way in which she weaves these characters’ lives together was truly unique. This was quite different from other books I’ve read & is well worth a read no matter what sort of genre you like. I have to say that this book, based on its writing & originality, deserves a slightly higher rating than I’m giving it. The only slight downside for me was that I didn’t buy into the characters as much as I’d have liked. I can’t explain why, however… But for whatever reason, I cared more about the characters in The End Of The World Running Club. Like I also said with that one, however, this would make for an absolutely brilliant film if the right filmmakers/actors were involved. I’d love to see this story brought to life on the screen and for this book to get even more recognition. I’d happily read another book from Emily St. John Mandel if they’re as good as Station Eleven.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Revival by Stephen King (Book Review)

*I’m taking it easier on blogging so am re-posting some mini book reviews I did in one long post HERE at the start of this year. Here’s my mini-review of Revival by Stephen King…

Revival by Stephen King

What It’s About: (from StephenKing.com)

In a small New England town, over half a century ago, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs. Jacobs; the women and girls feel the same about Reverend Jacobs—including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister, Claire. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond based on a secret obsession. When tragedy strikes the Jacobs family, this charismatic preacher curses God, mocks all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. Wed to his guitar from the age of 13, he plays in bands across the country, living the nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll while fleeing from his family’s horrific loss. In his mid-thirties—addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate—Jamie meets Charles Jacobs again, with profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that “revival” has many meanings.

My Thoughts:

Stephen King is and always will be my favorite author so I’m going to put a book of his fairly high on any list (I ranked it 5th on my list HERE of the 14 books I read in 2015). I’ll say that this isn’t one of his best (it probably ranks somewhere in the lower middle for me if I were to do a list of all the King books I’ve read).

I find that I’m quite often a little disappointed with how King’s books end and this one has the same problem of starting out great but then kind of fizzling out at the end.

However, King once again draws a very detailed picture of small town American life which I can always relate to in his books and what makes me love his work so much. I was very much drawn into this small town where a young boy and tragic preacher reside. I just wish these two main characters had remained as interesting in the second half of the book as they grew older (the book spans many years).

Well, I enjoyed it anyway – read it if you love King. I enjoyed it more than his son Joe Hill’s book NOS4A2, which I read at the same sort of time, but will admit that Hill’s book was probably actually a little better than this one. *Note to add: I’ve read even more Hill books now and he’s great! But I still love his father’s books more and likely always will…

My Rating: 3.5/5

Note to add: I’ve also done a new review of King’s Mr Mercedes, which I read recently. I’ll be posting that tomorrow. 

The End Of The World Running Club By Adrian J. Walker (Book Review)

The End Of The World Running Club by Adrian J. Walker

What It’s About: (via the back cover)

The Ultimate Race Against Time Thriller

When the world ends and you find yourself stranded on the wrong side of the country, every second counts.

No one knows that more than Edgar Hill. 550 miles away from his family, he must push himself to the very limit to get back to them, or risk losing them forever…

His best option is to run. But what if your best isn’t good enough?

My Thoughts:

I’ve been obsessed with all things apocalyptic for years now. I don’t know why that is but I think it possibly started when I was a kid & loved old episodes of The Twilight Zone where “the end of the world” was a common theme for a lot of episodes. I’ll read any book in this genre and would love recommendations from anyone who knows some good apocalyptic books. Any apocalypse will do! War, asteroids, zombies, disease, etc. I’m interested more in the setting of a post-apocalyptic world & it’s okay if we don’t necessarily know the cause of Earth’s near-demise (like in Hugh Howey’s book Wool – which reminds me that I need to continue reading that trilogy).

What I like most about this genre is seeing how the characters deal with extreme situations & how they interact with one another. Is humanity good or bad? Will people work together and try to re-build civilization or will there be a bunch of murderous psychos running around while the few remaining good people just try to survive? I like the character studies & social commentary often involved in this genre (which goes back to those old Twilight Zone episodes such as the brilliant The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street & The Shelter).

I wouldn’t say that The End Of The World Running Club is the deepest or the best book in this genre but it’s an entertaining story with good pacing and some strong characters. It explores the dark side of humanity a little bit but its main focus is on a small group of characters thrown together by this situation and, particularly, one man’s journey to “find himself” just as much as to find his family. That man is Edgar Hill & his wife, young daughter, and baby son are 550 miles away from him in England while he’s stranded in Edinburgh, Scotland. He has a limited amount of time to get to them (I won’t get into why to avoid spoilers) and the only way to do that in this post-apocalyptic scenario is to physically run to them. Shit – now I have Bryan Adams stuck in my head. Cause when the feelin’s right, I’m gonna run all night. I’m gonna run to you!

I’ll say that you do get to see the cause of the apocalypse as the story starts out just before & as it happens. You also get to see Edgar Hill & his family together, which I think is important as we needed that character development in order to care about whether or not they’re reunited. I won’t say exactly what happens but it’ll be obvious from the start that the family are together at first & then somehow separated.

The one main flaw with this book, for me, was that I wasn’t sure if I liked Edgar Hill all that much. From the very start, we are shown a man who isn’t very involved with the lives of his wife & children. Like most of us (okay – me included), he just drifts through life trying to survive one day at a time without truly caring about much. Go to work, come home, eat, sleep, repeat. He’s overweight & depressed. He does love his wife & kids but admits (in retrospect) how hard he found it to adjust to family life. This is all fine as the entire point of the book is that he’s on this journey physically as well as spiritually and the age old “it takes a tragedy to make you realize how important people are to you” and blah blah blah. I like that he’s flawed throughout the entire book, making his character much more realistic as suddenly becoming the perfect husband & father would feel fake. The problem is that Adrian J. Walker has written a few fantastic characters who go on this running journey with Edgar and I ended up liking & caring more about them than I really did about him. His personality is weak in comparison but I suppose that’s kind of the point as Edgar is meant to be the common man in a situation that requires him to try hard to achieve something for the first time in his life.

But that negativity aside, this book was a decently paced page-turner & I found myself finishing it very quickly as I wanted to find out what would happen. As I said, some of the characters on the journey with Edgar were very strong and I liked them a lot. I can easily picture each & every character in a movie adaptation if one gets made so Walker clearly did a good job developing them. I think, if done right, a movie adaptation could be even better than the book if they chose the right actors. And the right director, of course. Oh man, Frank Darabont could make this into an absolutely brilliant movie! Maybe someone reading this can make this happen like when I said while reading Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children that Tim Burton should adapt it. I know what I’m talking about with this kind of stuff! I’d really like to see these characters brought to life on screen, especially Bryce, Grimes & Harvey. Someone make this movie happen! If you can get Darabont, I’ll help with casting. 😉

My Rating: 3.5/5

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (Book Review)

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals… a used hangman’s noose… a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest purchase, an item he discovered on the Internet:

I will sell my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder…

For a thousand dollars, Jude has become the owner of a dead man’s suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. Suddenly the suit’s previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door… seated in Jude’s restored Mustang… staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one hand…

My Thoughts:

This book got third place in my poll asking which book I should read next (I reviewed Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere HERE & Terry Pratchett’s The Colour Of Magic HERE).

This is now the third Joe Hill book I’ve read and I’d say I’m definitely a fan & will continue to read all of his books. I love the sound of his book The Fireman – that’ll be going on my Christmas list this year (hint hint, hubby?). I’d have to say that both NOS4A2 & Horns are better than Heart-Shaped Box (I reviewed both of those books HERE) but this one was still an enjoyable read and I liked it more than NOS4A2.

The thing that worked for me the most was probably the fact that its main character is an aging metal dude. I love metal & I love metal DUDES! I think, deep down, I want to be one. In my next life, maybe I’ll be the next Ozzy Osbourne or something. There were some fun rock references thrown into the book here & there but it could’ve done with more of these. Judas Coyne is a great name for the character & Hill does well to make him a believeable old metal guy. I mean, he’s kind of a dick at first but that’s what you’d expect. This book didn’t have the same problem as NOS4A2, though, in that I didn’t really like or care about the characters very much in that one. This is a shorter book with a far more simple ghost story but I think that helped to give us more time to get to know Coyne, which is why I enjoyed this book more as I love good character development. The story is obviously important but, if it gives me characters I don’t care about, it then feels like a waste of my time.

As far as being scary, I can’t say that this one creeped me out but it’s rare that a book really does that to me anyway. It started out good but I found it less scary as the book went on. I think there was a bit too much of the ghost plus he was more creepy and mysterious at the beginning when we knew less about him. I don’t have any big complaints about the book but there was one element in the story that I would’ve liked left out. I found the conclusion okay, though, so that was good as I find that a lot of horror stories don’t seem to know how to end.

Heart-Shaped Box did take a while to get going & at one point early on I wondered how Hill would fill a whole book with a basic “haunting”. I liked the direction the story later took, though, and I finished the second half of the book very quickly as I was eager to know what would happen. It’s just a shame that the second half of the book, which was more “exciting”, didn’t manage to also maintain the same sort of eeriness we had in the first part of the book.

I do think Hill stands on his own as a very good modern horror author but he will always be compared to his father and I’m sure he knows that & is used to it by now. I have to say that I’ve enjoyed his books so far but none have quite lived up to Stephen King’s books for me. I have yet to find the worlds created by Hill as fully immersive as those in his father’s books but I’d say that of most authors anyway so it’s unfortunate that he’ll always be compared to King. Compared to authors other than King, Hill is a new favorite of mine. One of these days, I’ll really love one of his books. I know it! I look forward to reading The Fireman to see if it’s the one. For now, I’m happy to just casually date his books. No being invited in “for coffee” yet!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (Book Review)

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart — and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed — a dark subculture flourishing in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city — a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known…

My Thoughts:

This book was the winner when I asked all of you in this poll HERE which book I should read next. I’ll try to read them all in order according to how many votes they have. I’m now also almost done reading the one in second place (Terry Pratchett’s The Colour Of Magic).

Neverwhere is my first Neil Gaiman book. I really do like fantasy novels (and sci-fi) but never really explore those genres as I mostly stick to Stephen King. Easy option that rarely lets me down! I liked Neverwhere. I didn’t love it and I probably won’t rush out & read another Gaiman book based on this one but I’d still read more of his work at some point. I was completely unaware that it was a BBC mini-series first but that they had to leave things out of the show & change things so Gaiman released the original story exactly how he wanted it. I want to see the show now! Although I don’t know anyone in it other than Peter Capaldi…

Actually, I’ve changed my mind – after looking up images from the show, it looks a little dodgy. But back to the book!

The thing the book does best is make some memorable characters. The main character, Richard Mayhew, is so stereotypically British. He reminded me of when Hugh Grant would so often play a charmingly awkward pushover in annoying rom-coms (back in those days when he was dating Liz Hurley & just before he was caught with a hooker). Well, I hated those Hugh Grant characters… Mayhew is more likeable than that. I liked the story of the girl he helps, a character named Door from a bizarre sort of alternate reality in the sewers & subways of London. She has a unique power that I’d have liked to read even more about. There could easily be a prequel to this involving the history of her family & their special gift.

There are many odd characters throughout the story (not to mention the rats, who are an important part of this other reality). There are the Rat-Speakers who can talk to the rats, a pretty kick-ass female bodyguard who would probably be my favorite character in a movie of this if played by the right person, two very dangerous assassins, the Marquis de Carabas, and plenty more I won’t mention to keep some surprises in case any of you want to read this. I did like the clever use of London subway & borough names in developing various characters’ roles in the story.

The most interesting character by far, though, was the Marquis de Carabas. He helps Mayhew & Door on their journey (or does he??). He’s mysterious & suave and you’re not sure if he can be trusted or not. He’d also be awesome in a movie! They really should make this into a movie with a decent budget (the images from the BBC show really do look pretty dodgy). I bought a short story along with this book called How The Marquis Got His Coat Back, which tells an additional story within the time period of this book, and I enjoyed that just as much as the full novel. Gaiman could easily do a spin-off series of Marquis de Carabas stories.

Overall, though, I didn’t quite buy into this story & its world in the way I was hoping that I would. The characters were fun & Gaiman has a great imagination but I didn’t find myself wanting to pick this one up & continue reading it all that often. It really is a world that could be further explored in more books & short stories as there’s a load of potential there. Even the most minor characters’ life stories would make for their own entertaining spin-offs. I can’t really put my finger on why this one didn’t quite work for me as I think all the right elements seem to be there for this to be a book I really love. I can say that I’m thoroughly enjoying Terry Pratchett’s The Colour Of Magic, though, and know I’ll be reading another Pratchett before another Gaiman. Oh well. I’ll read another novel by Neil Gaiman at some point and will happily take recommendations of other books he’s written. I suppose I should read the book he did with Pratchett! 🙂

My Rating: 3.5/5

Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett & Alan Martin (Book Review)

I did a long post at the end of the year with mini-reviews of everything I’d read in 2015 (you can see that post HERE). I posted it New Year’s Day so it got very little action as I suppose everyone was hungover. 😉 I plan to re-post a few of those mini-reviews of my favorites from that list. I’ll post the original but will add a little more as some were only a few sentences.

In the case of Tank Girl, I’ve since seen the movie. Um. Urgh…. The film is, shall we say, not as good as the book?!? (Unlike Tank Girl, I’m being really f*%king polite by saying that). But I’ll be posting a review of the movie tomorrow – for now let’s talk about the Tank Girl graphic novel.

Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The eponymous character Tank Girl (Rebecca Buck) drives a tank, which is also her home. She undertakes a series of missions for a nebulous organization before making a serious mistake and being declared an outlaw for her sexual inclinations and her substance abuse. The comic centres on her misadventures with her boyfriend, Booga, a mutant kangaroo.

My Thoughts:

This is the second (of two!) graphic novels that I’ve read (the other being Watchmen). Wait – is this a graphic novel? It’s more of a collection of several comics… I think?? Is there a difference?

This sort of thing is something I have NO knowledge in but I have to say that I did enjoy Tank Girl. She’s a cool character and I really appreciated the (inappropriate) humor (it took me a while to read it all as I had to keep putting it away someplace where my young daughter wouldn’t grab it). I mean, Tank Girl has sex with a kangaroo. Whaaaat? It’s pretty damn bizarre but it’s fun and I was entertained.

What I didn’t talk about in my mini-review was why I decided to read Tank Girl. My hubby bought it years ago and it had always been sitting in our bookcase (with that exact blue cover up there) but it wasn’t until last year when I’d run out of things to read that I decided to ask him about it as I did like the look of that image on the cover.

To be honest, although I hadn’t seen the movie, it looked really bad & was trashed by critics so I never gave the comic much thought. Well, hubby was all “you know why you’re drawn to that cover? Because its co-creator (Jamie Hewlett) also created Gorillaz with Damon Albarn”. That convinced me to finally check it out as I LOVE the band Gorillaz! I’ve always thought their virtual cartoon band was a brilliant idea (helped by the fact that the music was equally as cool as the band members Hewlett designed) and I’ve never understood why they weren’t absolutely huge in every country. Here they are:

Anyway, as for Tank Girl, I loved its “attitude” and the fact that the title character does NOT give a fuck. She’s violent, irresponsible, alcoholic, surprisingly dumb, and her boyfriend is a kangaroo yet you can’t help but like her. The “storylines” are all over the place (kind of like the inside of the character’s mind, I suppose) but I didn’t care as it was, overall, a funny & enjoyable read. I don’t exactly know if I can recommend it, though, as it’s not for everyone. It would really need to be your type of thing if you’re going to check it out but I’m glad that I finally did.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (Book Review)

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Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

What It’s About:

On the morning of Nick Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, his wife Amy goes missing. The police immediately suspect Nick. The mystery unravels as we get to know Nick in present time throughout the investigation and Amy through her past diary entries.

My Thoughts:

This isn’t normally the type of novel that I read. I’m always reading Stephen King (or Dean Koontz when I need something lighter than King) or the tons of quite good young adult fiction that’s floating around these days. But sometimes I grab one of these best seller types for proper “adults”. I really did enjoy the story in this book and would possibly read one of Flynn’s other books in the future (after Doctor Sleep, of course).

This book is pretty much impossible to talk about without spoiling the entire story so I’ll have to focus more on the characters. It’s definitely the story that had me hooked. I always prefer when the main characters are likeable in books and in Gone Girl they definitely aren’t. Nick & Amy got on my nerves. They’re both writers (absolutely nothing wrong with writers! I’d love to be able to be a writer!). But sometimes I find this a little annoying in books. I know you often “write what you know” so that’s why books so often feature writers (hell, King is the worst for this & I love his stuff). Nick & Amy are both a little pretentious & totally selfish and the things they do and the way they act just didn’t feel very realistic. The way they bicker is more like a couple who has been together for YEARS & maybe had kids and all that – it’s hard to believe a marriage is so awful after only five years but, then again, they both seem like extremely hard people to live with. Amy’s parents are odd, her ex-boyfriend is weird, and past situations involving Amy are too far-fetched. For a smart guy, Nick is a dope who does some idiotic things. The best character is Nick’s twin sister – she provides some laughs. And the main investigator is okay. But none of the characters in the book felt “real” to me, even though they were very well written. Gillian Flynn does do a great job fleshing them out & I felt I knew them very well by the end of the book – I just didn’t “like” them.

The story, however, is great. Lots of twists & turns that constantly keep you guessing. I take ages to get through a book but I finished this one pretty quick as I wanted to know what would happen. I liked how the story is told from two sides (Nick’s story as it happens & Amy’s story through her diary). It was an interesting way to get to know the characters. Unfortunately, the first half of the book was better than the second half and the story does fall apart a bit. Then… The ending. I won’t say a word but that must have divided people. I wasn’t crazy about it but it sort of makes sense. It will be interesting to see what they do with the movie. It could make a very good movie if done right. It’s being made by David Fincher so it has potential. However, it’s also starring Ben Affleck so… Maybe not. SO wrong for the part of Nick! Rosamund Pike doesn’t seem a bad choice for Amy, though, so we shall see. Oh, and Doogie Howser is in it, too.

Summary:

Gone Girl is an exciting psychological thriller that constantly keeps you guessing with its twists & turns. Flynn has written a very entertaining story that seems destined for the big screen so I’m not surprised that we’ll be seeing the film soon. The main characters, although unlikeable and almost impossible to relate to, are richly developed & very complex and you’ll feel like you know them by the end of the book. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys a thriller with a good mystery you won’t have completely figured out by the second page.

My Rating: 3.5/5