Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli & Every Day by David Levithan (Book Reviews)

I recently posted mini-reviews of these books in my March Roundup of all that I watched & read last month. I’m posting these same reviews again as Love, Simon is now out in UK cinemas and Every Day has a release date of April 20th.

Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

The movie adaptation of this (Love, Simon) came out in UK cinemas last Friday. This is a YA book (yeah, I do like YA books) and it’s one of the better ones I’ve read in this genre in the past few years. I’m not normally one for YA “romance” (give me the apocalyptic stuff!) but this one was done well and I really bought into this relationship. In the book, Simon is a gay high school student who connects with then starts an anonymous online relationship with another student at his school. I’ve never wanted a couple to get together so bad! The boy Simon talks to is extremely protective of his identity and Simon struggles with this as he wants to meet the boy he’s fallen in love with. I was like “Tell him who you are!!” (you, the reader, aren’t aware of his identity either). Beyond that, there’s not much to say about this book as it’s a fairly typical YA romance. But it’s a good one. I can’t wait to see the movie, which has had excellent reviews. I’ve even heard rumors of it having a John Hughes vibe?! Sounds good to me!

My Rating: 4/5

Every Day by David Levithan

This is a book that I read because, like Mortal Engines (mini-review HERE), I loved the original concept. It’s hard to find stories that feel unique. And, again, it’s a YA romance (Ugh. Sorry!). Here’s the synopsis from Amazon: “Each morning, A wakes up in a different body. There’s never any warning about who it will be, but A is used to that. Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere. And that’s fine – until A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with – every day . . .” The story does feel truly original and I really appreciated that. However, I just didn’t quite connect with the characters. A, who switches bodies every single day, was very interesting as you get some insight into the mind of someone who doesn’t define themselves by their body, gender, family, friends, etc. since these things change every single day. As I said, it’s a great concept but the book is just okay. I didn’t find myself caring as much about these characters as I’d have liked. This also has a movie adaptation coming out this month, but the reviews are meh. I’ll still watch it to see how they handle the story, though.

My Rating: 3/5

Here are the trailers for the movies:

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Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (Book Review)

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami
Batoru Rowaiaru
Japanese: バトル・ロワイアル

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
The story tells of junior high school students who are forced to fight each other to the death in a program run by the authoritarian Japanese government, now known as the Republic of Greater East Asia.

My Thoughts:

I watched the Battle Royale movie as one of my Blind Spot choices this year (review HERE). I really liked it but my one complaint was that it felt a bit more “shallow” than I’d been expecting. So I picked up the (very thick!) book in the hopes that I’d get more of an in-depth look into why these children are being forced to fight to the death and to also get to know the characters and their motivations a bit better. I now have to say that reading the book if you’ve already seen the movie isn’t necessarily needed…

Don’t get me wrong – I liked the book a lot so I don’t feel like I wasted my time on this (very thick!) novel. I did get to know the characters better, especially the main three that are followed (Shuya Nanahara, Noriko Nakagawa & Shogo Kawada). It was also cool to get a good few pages or sometimes even several chapters (mostly on the best friends of our main character) devoted to each and every one of the 42 students in the Battle Royale program.

However, the film is quite faithful to the book & I didn’t learn much more than I did from the movie. And what did get changed for the film actually worked for the better, I think. This was especially true of the changes to the man in charge of the group, Kinpatsu Sakamochi. I was surprised to find, in the novel, that he actually has no prior attachment in any way to these students while there’s an interesting link in the film. Also, the film pushes the girl (Noriko Nakagawa) front and center a bit more while she’s the least-developed of the main characters in the book & it’s very much the boy (Shuya Nanahara) who is the star. The book’s male characters are better developed overall than its females are but, again, I did appreciate getting to know the extra characters in the book as the movie obviously couldn’t devote time to all 42 of them.

All in all, Battle Royale is a thoroughly entertaining (and gory) book & film. It has a message of sorts but I feel it’s sort of lost in the gore. I can now see why Quentin Tarantino loves the film as it feels like violence for the sake of violence. I do now have to admit that The Hunger Games is indeed very close plot-wise in so many ways that it’s understandable why Battle Royale fans called that series a rip-off. The Hunger Games is Battle-Royale-Lite, though – both are considered Young Adult in their country of origin but the violence is far more excessive in this novel. Just a warning – I doubt anyone will be handing this book over to their 13-year-old to read anyway. I feel kind of “bad” for enjoying this one as the violence seems excessive. But I really liked the main characters & getting to know all the other students, the action and pacing worked well, it was a fairly quick read (despite being very thick!), and that whole Lord Of The Flies setup is still an intriguing one. But you really can just watch the movie if you don’t fancy the (really thick!) novel.

My Rating: 4/5

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King (Book Review)

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
The stolen Mercedes emerges from the pre-dawn fog and plows through a crowd of men and women on line for a job fair in a distressed American city. Then the lone driver backs up, charges again, and speeds off, leaving eight dead and more wounded. The case goes unsolved and ex-cop Bill Hodges is out of hope when he gets a letter from a man who loved the feel of death under the Mercedes’s wheels…

My Thoughts:

Mr Mercedes was a very enjoyable read but I have to say that, for some reason, it didn’t exactly feel like a Stephen King book to me. I do always prefer when King’s books stick more to the strange & supernatural stuff as “crime” fiction really isn’t my thing. However, this was a quick and thoroughly entertaining read with some of the most likable characters he’s ever written so I definitely plan to read the remaining two very soon.

This was just, in a way, a far less intense novel than most of his other weighty tomes. King is and always will be my favorite author so I don’t mean this in a bad way but I have to be in the right mood to start his novels as they’re such a huge commitment & tend to leave you emotionally exhausted by the end of them. Actually, that’s a good thing – it shows what a talented writer he is! But Mr Mercedes almost felt more like a light read along the lines of authors such as Dean Koontz. Don’t get me wrong – I have a weird & frustrating love of Koontz books but you always know what you’ll get from them: likable characters, predictable but fun stories (usually with a supernatural twist), and more often than not a “happily ever after” ending.

Mr Mercedes is still much darker & less predictable than a Koontz book but King has certainly written these characters in a different fashion than usual. I really liked that – the characters are memorable & easily some of my King favorites. They’ll work fantastically in a TV/film adaptation (is one still going ahead after the tragic death of Anton Yelchin? He’d have been great as Mr Mercedes). Okay – I guess I can just Google that myself! Looks like this will be a 2018 mini-series & Yelchin has been replaced by Honeymoon’s Harry Treadaway.

The central character (and star of this series of books, so he clearly survives the first two at least) is retired cop Bill Hodges. The Mercedes Killer case was never solved & still haunts him after his retirement and blah blah blah – your usual retired cop story setup. Very mainstream for King! When he receives a letter from the killer, he decides to do his own investigation without getting the police involved. The one & only thing that bothered me in this story is that he secretly works on the case with a friend of his – a teenage neighbor boy who helps him with his computer & mowing his lawn. I thought that was putting the boy in too much danger, though Hodges was always mindful of trying to keep him safe. I won’t get into spoilers too much but there are two female characters that worked really well, including one that really grows on you by the end. As for the baddie, he’s a psycho but not totally over-the-top, which often annoys me (like Negan in The Walking Dead at the moment. Okay – you’re a bad guy. We get it!). Damn – Yelchin would’ve been fantastic playing this character.

Well, I won’t say much more about the plot for those who haven’t read this yet. This is a King novel I’d recommend to those who aren’t necessarily fans of his as well as those who are. It’s a pretty straightforward crime thriller that should make for a very good mini-series. People love the retired cop crime story thing so I would think it’ll be more successful than Under The Dome, which even I got bored with & didn’t finish. I watch all King-related stuff! But Under The Dome was one of very few King books that I really didn’t like very much, due to there being so many disgustingly hateful characters. I want to like a book’s characters, so it was great to get that from Mr Mercedes. They may (so far) be a little less complex than some of King’s other characters but I’ll happily read more stories involving this unconventional group of friends & crime investigators.

My Rating: 4/5

The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (Book Review) 

The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

I absolutely love Stephen King’s short story collections. The very first thing I ever read of King’s was Night Shift when I was in Junior High and it blew me away. I went from reading YA Christopher Pike books straight to Stephen King thanks to Night Shift turning me into a huge fan. My first proper “grown-up” book! It’s funny how memory works – I remember every single story in Night Shift as if I only read it yesterday (I only read the book that one time well over 20 years ago) whereas I struggle to remember the short stories in his collections from recent years.

I do think Night Shift happened to be a fantastic book and maybe it was a little better than collections from recent years but I can’t say for sure – I do just have a scarily weird memory for things from my youth but can’t even remember what I had for supper last night. Ah, old age sucks! (Oh yeah – it was a burger…)

I did really enjoy The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams (as I do all of his short story collections). I read it a while ago so I better write a little something about the stories now as my memory is already getting hazy. I do think it had some stronger stories than his previous few collections.

My Quick Thoughts On Each Story:

Mile 81:

Not my favorite in the book but a fun read and SO very “King”. What is it with him & murderous vehicles? Some of this collection consists of previously published material so I didn’t have to re-read this one as it’s the first thing I read on my brand new Kindle years ago when I still knew how to use that thing. Old age, again! I should see if I can figure out how to even turn it on again. Speaking of Kindles, Ur was one of my favorite stories in this book. I’ll talk about that later (I’ll do these in the order they appear in the book).

Premium Harmony:

This story wasn’t a favorite but it’s one of those that has that special way of sticking in my mind that I only really get with King’s writing style & it’s why I’m such a big fan. It’s not a horror story & he’s written it after reading a lot of books from another author (Raymond Carver, an author I don’t know) and King says it has a Carver feel to it. Oh – there’s a King intro to each story, by the way. I really like when he does those.

Batman And Robin Have An Altercation:

I found this to be a pretty heartbreaking story about a son & his elderly father (with Alzheimer’s?). As always, King writes such rich characters, even in his short stories.

The Dune:

One of my favorites in the collection, this very short story deals with a tiny island where prophetic messages appear in the sand. King writes excellent stories even when he steps outside the horror genre but my favorites will always be the ones that contain anything supernatural.

Bad Little Kid:

That little kid was creepy as hell. This was a fun story – I think it would make a good adaptation to screen somehow. I really wish they’d do more of his short stories as TV adaptations, like they did with Nightmares & Dreamscapes.

A Death:

I couldn’t remember this one & had to refresh my memory by skimming it just now. I didn’t like this one, but I suppose I liked the ending which has somewhat of a twist.

The Bone Church:

I wasn’t a fan of this either, which was written in the style of a poem. I think. I’ve never been into poetry at all. I suppose that means I have no class. Can anyone tell me how “There once was a man from Nantucket” ends, though?? I’ve always wanted to know that.

Morality:

A weird story with people who are pretty hard to like. But I suppose that’s the entire point. Again, not a favorite & I found it a bit too long.

Afterlife:

I had to refresh my memory on this one as well, although it was a good story. One with a great idea behind it but, for whatever reason, it didn’t fully connect with me.

Ur:

I liked this horror story about a Kindle a lot – it’s one of my favorites in this book. Only Stephen King could write a scary story about a Kindle, for crying out loud. And it works really well. That damn Kindle gave me the creeps! Maybe I don’t want to get mine working again after all.

Herman Wouk Is Still Alive:

Another pretty heartbreaking story that feels too “real” for my liking. King is so good at capturing human nature & the sort of every day tragedies that we all read about in the news but I read for escapism and, like I said, I’m happier when he sticks to the strange & supernatural. I get enough “real life” in real life.

Under The Weather:

Another absolutely heartbreaking “real life” sort of story. But it’s so good & such a well-written story that I did like it (and, again, it would make a good TV adaptation). The end is extremely obvious from early on if you’ve read enough stories but it was still heartbreaking & kept me wanting to read to see how he’d handle the ending.

Blockade Billy:

I wasn’t really a fan of this one. The story is about a baseball player & it’s an okay story but still has too much baseball talk for my liking.

Mister Yummy:

An okay story but not the best. King explores mortality so often & this is yet another one with this theme. He’s done far better stories dealing with this topic – this one is fairly forgettable.

Tommy:

This was an interesting story of a hippie who died in 1969. King doesn’t give much detail in his intro but alludes to the fact that it’s somewhat based on someone he knew? It’s a well-written piece & evokes a 60’s mood that I really liked.

The Little Green God Of Agony:

Yet another so very “King” tale. It’s a bit bizarre & something that only his mind could come up with. He says in the intro that he wrote it several years after being hit by that van, once the worst of his pain was gone. I knew that accident was pretty bad but didn’t realize quite how badly he was hurt. Anyway, I enjoyed this story & its typical King weirdness.

That Bus Is Another World:

A pretty simple story that, once again, explores human nature & morality. A good story but probably not one I’ll remember years from now. Was hoping for more of a supernatural twist with that title.

Obits:

A good story with a great concept. Not the best in the book but one of the strongest ideas. Another one that would make a great adaptation for the small screen.

Drunken Fireworks:

I really liked this story. The thing that King always does best is capture small town American life (usually in Maine – I’m too lazy to see if that’s where this was set too but I assume so). The characters are great & feel like people I grew up with in my own small American town. Probably not the best story in the book but, if it’s the type you can relate to, it’s probably a favorite for some readers. Would probably just squeak into my top five in this collection (I’m not gonna be sad enough to rank these. Well, maybe…).

Summer Thunder:

The final story in the book & definitely one of my favorites. It was the perfect story to end the book as it’s a post-apocalyptic tale. I don’t know why I have such an obsession with this genre – I think it’s because any sort of apocalypse is a genuine fear I’ve had since a young age. Anyway, I thought this was a strong story for its very short length.

My Overall Rating For The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams: 4/5

Okay, I’m gonna choose my five favorites. Hmm… Here are My Top Five Stories (in book appearance order):

The Dune
Ur
Under The Weather
Drunken Fireworks
Summer Thunder

Honorable Mention: The Little Green God Of Agony

The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett (Book Review)

The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett (the first novel in the Discworld series)

What It’s About: (via Amazon)
Imagine, if you will . . .

a flat world sitting on the backs of four elephants who hurtle through space balanced on a giant turtle. In truth, the Discworld is not so different from our own. Yet, at the same time, very different . . . but not so much.

In this, the maiden voyage through Terry Pratchett’s divinely and recognizably twisted alternate dimension, the well-meaning but remarkably inept wizard Rincewind encounters something hitherto unknown in the Discworld: a tourist! Twoflower has arrived, Luggage by his side, to take in the sights and, unfortunately, has cast his lot with a most inappropriate tour guide—a decision that could result in Twoflower’s becoming not only Discworld’s first visitor from elsewhere . . . but quite possibly, portentously, its very last. And, of course, he’s brought Luggage along, which has a mind of its own. And teeth.

My Thoughts:

This book got second place in my poll asking which book I should read next (I reviewed the winner, Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, HERE). I really liked The Colour Of Magic! I far preferred it to Neverwhere. This is my very first Terry Pratchett book – I’d been wanting to check his stuff out for a long time but really didn’t know where to start. Maybe I was too ambitious in deciding to start with the first Discworld novel… I didn’t know there were 41 in the series!  Maybe I’ll read one each year. Yep, that’s my new goal. And if I make it to book 41, it’ll mean I’ve lived to a pretty ripe old age! 

This book, published in 1983, is a comic fantasy. I’m a big fan of the fantasy of The Lord Of The Rings novels and my all-time favorite book is comic sci-fi (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) so checking out a comic fantasy really appealed to me. It isn’t laugh-out-loud funny like Hitchhiker’s but I loved the subtle humor. The characters of the pessimistic only-knows-one-spell wizard Rincewind and the childlike & always optimistic tourist Twoflower are fantastic and work so well together. I hope they’re together in a lot of the other books? I see only some are “Rincewind” tales. Then, of course, there’s Twoflower’s violent & overprotective chest of luggage and his strange talking camera. 

This bizarre cast of characters, along with the many more they meet on their journey, are what truly make this book so hugely enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong – the story is fun but even the best story won’t hold my interest if the characters are dull. It’s not a very long book but the characters are so richly developed that I know, even if I take some time in getting to the next book, that I’ll easily remember the small details & characteristics of even the lesser people, animals, creatures & anthropomorphic furniture we only meet very briefly. Rincewind is the most straightforward & least bizarre of those in the book but he’s also the very best – he’s one of those characters you feel like you actually know after reading the book. This may only be my first Pratchett novel but I can already see why his books are so popular. I’m certainly eager to read more Rincewind tales and also to meet other crazy characters created in the mind of Terry Pratchett. 

My Rating: 4/5

NOS4A2 & Horns by Joe Hill (Book Reviews)

I finally read my first two Joe Hill books this year. His father, Stephen King, has been my favorite author for years and I can be a little stuck in my ways so I wasn’t overly excited at checking his stuff out as I already had a favorite horror author & didn’t need another one. I figured there was no way he could top his dad’s stuff anyway.

It must suck being compared to your famous parents all the time but it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Stephen King is his father, especially when he’s gone into the exact same field as his dad with these two books. Well, neither of these books topped his dad’s work for me but they were still really good. Okay, I’ll admit that they top some of his dad’s not-so-good books but they’re not as good as King’s very best. Those here who have read & recommended these two books to me may be surprised at which one I liked more, though, and I’ll try to explain why. Let’s talk about them! 🙂

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (aka U.K. title NOS4R2)

What It’s About: (from the back cover)
Young Victoria McQueen has a gift for finding things. All she has to do is ride her bike through the Shorter Way Bridge and she’ll come out wherever she needs to be… it’s an ability she keeps secret because no one would understand it. Until she discovers she’s not the only one with a special gift.

Charlie Manx takes children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with its NOS4R2 vanity plate, driving them away from their families, their homes, even their own humanity. When they reach their destination they’ve changed, utterly. They’ve become Charlie’s children: as unstoppable and insane as Manx himself.

Only one kid ever escaped Charlie Manx: Vic McQueen. But the end of that nightmare was just the beginning of their life-and-death battle of wills… a battle that explodes a quarter century later. Because now Manx has taken Vic’s son. And Vic McQueen is going to get him back. Or die trying.

My Thoughts:

**I first want to say it’s weird that this book is called NOS4R2 in the U.K. but I’ll use A2 for the review. I just wanted to share this story: I got this book from my husband & my daughter was curious about it. Obviously, it’s a nasty horror book not for kids so he told her it was about “C-3PO & R2-D2 on a quest to find a nose for R2, everyone’s favorite little droid“. Too cute.** 🙂

This book is definitely the better of these two, which I’m sure most everyone would agree with. I never read any book reviews online other than from a few bloggers I follow but I’m pretty sure I remember them saying this one was better… Although it contains one of the two topics I normally avoid in books & movies, children being harmed (rape being the other thing, which is in Horns), I did enjoy the book and found it to be an interesting & original story. I mean, it’s supernatural – I can handle “horror” and murder & all that stuff in the supernatural realm but I’m not the type you’ll ever find reading a “true crime” type of story. I don’t know – I can’t explain it. Maybe I’m weird. Or I suppose I can only handle evil when it’s not something that could happen in real life. But I do love the supernatural and this book has plenty of that. My favorite bits involved the main character, Vic McQueen, riding her bike through a covered bridge that only she can see in order to find things that people have lost.

The bridge and Vic as a child are in the first half of the book, which I found to be much stronger than the second half. I suppose it depends on what you prefer but I thought Hill did a better job setting things up in the first half of the book. Vic was a sympathetic child with a difficult life and it reminded me of the way in which Stephen King develops such rich characters and an overall setting that’s so real that it feels like you’re going to set down his book & then open your front door to find you’re in Castle Rock. I could so easily picture Vic’s “Shorter Way Bridge” and thought this book was on its way to being pretty damn fantastic at first. Unfortunately, as I often find with a lot of King’s work as well, it loses its way a bit halfway through as the action picks up and we see much more of the character of Charlie Manx. Like I say, though, it depends on what you want from a book and I’m sure many people prefer the second half – I just found myself losing interest in Manx’s story and found the book a little longer than was necessary.

I know I keep bringing up Stephen King in this review but that’s because NOS4A2 feels so much like a King book. Indeed, if you love King like I do, this is the Joe Hill book I’d recommend to you of these two. I think my main complaint is that it’s too similar to his dad’s work. We already have a Stephen King and he’s great so I don’t really want another one of him. I think that’s a big part of the reason why, although NOS4A2 is more well-written and has, I suppose, the more “accessible” storyline (as far as strange & supernatural stories go), I enjoyed Horns more. Horns is utterly bizarre and I can see why it would maybe be the less popular of these two but I felt like I was reading a book by a whole new author I’d never read before. I liked that!

NOS4A2 is a good book, though, so don’t let my somewhat negative-sounding review keep you from reading it if you think you’d like it. I just happened to read a King book (Revival) as well as this & Horns all within a few months of each other so I’m going to be comparing them all in my mind. I’ll be honest, though, and admit that this was better than Revival was overall, although I preferred a storyline that didn’t involve a child “murderer” (of sorts…). I can see why this is the Joe Hill book I’ve seen recommended the most.

My Rating: 4/5

Horns by Joe Hill

What It’s About: (from the back cover)
Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, he had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – and Ig was the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, he was and always would be guilty.

But now Ig can hear people’s deepest, darkest secrets and means to use this ability to find whoever killed Merrin.

It’s time for a little revenge. It’s time the devil had his due.

My Thoughts:

I won’t talk about Stephen King in this review. Promise! Because this book doesn’t feel like a Stephen King book. Horns is, well, pretty damn bonkers. It’s a bit all over the place as well & seems to lack focus. Plus it gets pretty seriously “What the fuuuuuuck?” at the end.

Geez, I’m making it sound so good! Well, it’s not one that everyone will like but I enjoyed it quite a bit despite its obvious flaws. And there’s no being evil to children in this one! There’s a rape, however. I think Hill handles that bit alright (it’s not gratuitous from what I remember) but he makes the character of murdered Merrin far too “perfect” and the “ideal girlfriend”, which didn’t feel real. I didn’t exactly find any of the characters very well developed in this one beyond Ig and maybe his brother somewhat. I think I just really liked the story and the fact that I’ve never really read another one quite like it. I also have to say that I really liked the love story. That’s pretty typical of me – screw shit like The Notebook & give me a fucked-up love story instead!

I think I’ll keep this one short as I’ll probably be discussing it a little more when I review the movie next week. I can tell you now that the film adaptation started out so good then ended up so bad. What a disappointment! I suppose it was a difficult one to adapt, especially near the end when it gets so weird but they changed too much with certain characters.

As for the book, the characters are a little too one-dimensional but, hey, when you’re dealing with a guy sprouting Satanic horns out of his head, the purely good vs purely evil thing works out okay. I gotta say that Hill & his father must have a pretty low opinion of humanity – when Ig sprouts his horns & starts hearing people’s deepest & darkest thoughts, it seems that everyone is a complete asshole deep down if not a complete psycho. Normally this would annoy me (it’s why I actually hated King’s Under The Dome – those people were awful) but it somehow works in Horns. The main focus anyway is the love story between Ig and Merrin and then Ig’s desire to find her killer. It’s sort of a “revenge” story and I often like those. Especially a revenge love story.

Yeah… I’ve only just now realized why I liked this – it reminded me of The Crow (the movie), which I adore. I want a supernatural devil-man or a dead crow-man to avenge my death! That’s totally romantic. (The Crow is much better, though).

Oh shit – I mentioned Stephen King in this review after I promised I that wouldn’t. Oops.

My Rating: 4/5


(It was also a little too weird having Harry Potter playing Ig)

Hey, everyone – it’s October tomorrow so I’ll be starting my October Horrorfest! I figure I can’t skip out on reviewing any big new non-horror releases for a whole month but, besides a couple of things like The Martian, it’ll be ALL HORROR, baby! And it’ll be truly horrific as I’ve unfortunately ended up watching a load of shit in preparation, which wasn’t my intention.

I’m going to stick with my little routine and have Tuesdays be my own IMDB Top 250 reviews (horror movies only) and Thursdays be Top Ten Lists (all horror-related of course). But I’ll be skipping Music Video Friday as there isn’t much I could do beyond Michael Jackson’s Thriller but, hey, my music video posts get no love anyway. Well, I love ’em! 😉 So, see you all tomorrow for my first Horror Top Ten of the month. 🙂

Joyland by Stephen King (Book Review)

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Joyland by Stephen King

***SPOILER-FREE REVIEW***

What It’s About:

It’s 1973 and heartbroken college student Devin Jones takes a summer job at an amusement park called Joyland. What should just be a simple summer job brings Devin lifelong friends, heartache, and some of his best & also most horrific life experiences. These experiences make him an adult but will also forever haunt him as much as the ghost of the girl named Linda Gray, who four years previously was mysteriously murdered in and now haunts Joyland’s Horror House ride.

My Thoughts:

I adore Stephen King. I don’t read as much as I’d like but I always make time for King’s books. Love him or hate him (does anyone hate him?), I think he’s an amazing writer and I find myself “lost” in the world of his books as I read them far more than I do with other authors. I suppose he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because of the whole horror thing but I’ve always preferred the supernatural and horror genres when it comes to books so he writes the sort of stories I love. And what a great storyteller! I’d love to see inside that crazy-ass brain of his.

Joyland is quite a simple and pretty straightforward sort of pulp murder mystery. This appears to be King’s second book published by “Hard Case Crime”. The Colorado Kid was the first, which I’ve not read but should as I love the Haven TV show that’s (loosely?) based on it.

I won’t go into the story much as it would ruin it for anyone who reads it. Yes, the Linda Gray ghost & murder mystery is a fairly big part of the story but there’s much more to the book than just that. I’ve also always been fascinated by books with a funfair type setting & the whole carny thing so we get a great big dose of that in this book.

It takes a while for the story to really get going and the best part of the story & a couple of the most important characters (other than Devin) don’t make much of an appearance until over halfway through the book. But King spends a lot of time developing the character of Devin and I really enjoyed that. My favorite King books are the ones in which he focuses more on character development and giving us characters that we really like & care about. He doesn’t always do this and those in which he doesn’t give us characters that are very memorable or gives us ones that are pretty much all downright hateful (Under The Dome) are the books that end up being my least favorite.

Speaking of Under The Dome, that book definitely had a better overall concept than Joyland but then was filled with main characters I didn’t really care about (and can barely even remember as I type this) and such over the top “baddies” that it was one of the more difficult King books to work through despite the great story idea and really wanting to know how it would end. I loved the characters in Joyland, especially Devin & the two important characters he meets later in the book (I won’t go into that as they’re only hinted at on the back cover) but also the other college friends he makes at Joyland and all the regular Joyland employees. For a short book, I felt like I knew more about even the most minor characters in Joyland than I did about anyone in Under The Dome.

The story in Joyland isn’t going to change the world – it’s simple and pretty predictable but I had fun with it & thoroughly enjoyed the book thanks to the setting & especially the great cast of characters. They’re still quite black & white but that works in this “Hard Case Crime” style of book. When you buy a book as thick as Under The Dome, you expect a bit more.

Note: Sorry to compare it to Under The Dome so much but it’s on my mind as the series is finally starting in the UK (this coming Monday night on Channel Five). Yay! As disappointing as the book was, I still enjoy watching ALL things Stephen King-related and never miss them even though I know some adaptations have been truly horrible.

Summary:

Joyland was a great read. It’s pretty “light” for a King novel but that doesn’t make it any less worthy than his more lengthy books. It’s quite a straightforward crime thriller but with just enough of the weird & supernatural to keep King fans happy. But the thing that works best is a great set of well-developed characters, even down to the minor ones. We care about the people in Joyland and the last half of the book, a big part of which has nothing to do with Linda Gray’s murder, is surprisingly moving and reminds us how great King’s books can be when he focuses on making us understand and truly like the people in his fictional worlds.

My Rating: 4/5

This is my favorite book I’ve read this year, closely followed by The Perks Of Being A Wallflower then the rest below. I haven’t managed to read a lot so far but they’ve all been pretty good:

Wool by Hugh Howey Review

Wonder by RJ Palacio Review

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green Review

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky Review

Wool by Hugh Howey – Wool Trilogy 1 (Book Review)

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Wool by Hugh Howey – Wool Trilogy Book 1

What It’s About:

Wool is a science-fiction novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where people have been forced to live in a large underground silo hundreds of stories below the earth in order to survive in a world where the air is now toxic. It is part 1 of a trilogy with Shift and Dust being the 2nd & 3rd books.

I know the focus of my blog is movies but I do occasionally read a book. 😉 So to get your attention, I’ll say the film rights for Wool have been snatched up by 20th Century Fox and the person most-rumored to direct is Ridley Scott and to write the script is Steve Zaillian. I can’t find any up-to-date official information (IMDB currently lists J Blakeson as director but there’s zero other info) but Ridley Scott is the name most mentioned and would be an excellent choice for this dystopian tale. So hopefully I have your attention now. I think this book is certainly worthy of being made into a film by the director of Alien & Blade Runner.

My Thoughts:

Odds were pretty good that I’d like this book as I’m a sucker for all things apocalyptic and/or dystopian. I should maybe see someone about that… Anyway, Wool surpassed my expectations.

Wool starts out early on with a “cleaning”. The people living in the silo are forced to follow strict rules & regulations. The population numbers are controlled through a lottery. Those with curious minds are considered dangerous and are closely watched. The survivors in the solo have survived for many generations and very little is known of how and especially why they are living in this silo. They are simply told that the outside world is dangerous and to even talk about it (and especially to express an interest in it) can lead to the punishment of “cleaning”. Those who are sent to cleaning literally do just that – they are given a protective suit to allow them long enough to be sent outside & clean the silo’s camera lenses, which offer a view of the outside world through a large screen in the uppermost floor of the silo. The person sent to cleaning then dies as the toxic air eats through their suit. The days following a cleaning are a celebration of sorts, in which those living in the deeper levels of the silo will try to make the days-long trek to the top level to get the temporarily clearer view of the outside world.

Wool does start out a little slow as the characters of the silo’s mayor, sheriff, and deputy are developed. Howey does a great job fleshing out these characters and making you care about them and want to know more about them. I’ll never complain about time spent on character development – that’s very important to me in a novel. For those wanting to get to the action, though, they may be a little disappointed that it takes quite a while to get there. It also takes a long time to finally be introduced to the novel’s main character, Juliette, who works in Mechanical in the deepest depths of the silo and who they wish to recruit to come & work “at the top” as the deputy was very impressed with her when she helped them out once in the past.

Once we meet Juliette, the story really picks up as we start to learn more & more about all the secrets & lies within the silo. Juliette is a very strong-willed and curious person and curiosity in the world of the silo is a very dangerous thing. When I got to the final third of this book, I could NOT “put it down” (Man – that’s said all the time but I didn’t know how else to say it. Which is why I’m a reader and not a writer). 😉

Summary:

A fascinating book exploring a very possible & frightening future for humanity if we don’t shape the hell up. But how did the characters end up living in this underground silo? That’s not yet answered but I’m assuming all will be revealed in the further two books (the second one, Shift, is a prequel and the third one, Dust, picks up where Wool left off). As far as I know, anyway – I’m not reading too much about them yet in order to avoid spoilers as I’ll definitely be reading them both. Wool does stand well on its own, however, with a satisfying conclusion for those who may be worried at an abrupt ending as there’s a further book. I highly recommend the book and really do hope they make a film out of it – With the right people involved, it could be a great one.

As for Hugh Howey, I find his story of self-publishing interesting. For wannabe authors, you’ll probably want to look him up if you aren’t already aware of him (but you probably are). In another life, I’m a successful Young Adult author. But not this one. Because I’m rubbish in this life. It took me two hours to write this “review” and I still can’t do this fabulous book any justice! Just read it, dammit. 🙂

My Rating: 4/5

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green (Book Review)

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The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is the story of 16-year-old Hazel, who’s had Stage 4 Thyroid cancer since she was 13. An experimental drug is helping to keep her alive but there’s no cure for her cancer. She attends a support group for kids living with cancer (when her mom forces her to go, that is). One day at support group, she meets a new boy named Augustus Waters. He’s charming & intelligent & there’s an instant attraction. As to be expected, she soon falls for Augustus Waters (as did I!).

To say much more about the story will give too much away. Yes, this is very much a typical “young adult” novel these days but it’s one of the GOOD ones. (What I’m saying is that it’s no Twilight). The characters are strong, which is what I always find most important in a book. Hazel & Augustus are both funny & very intelligent. I liked the relationship between Hazel & her mother and the relationship between Hazel and both her parents seemed realistic. Another good character is Isaac, a boy in the cancer support group and best friend of Augustus. They have a great friendship & keep each other’s spirits up & are both able to maintain a sense of humor through some very difficult times.

Hazel is an avid reader (funny how female characters in young adult fiction ALWAYS are!) and her favorite book is one about a girl her age who also has cancer. The book is called An Imperial Affliction & she shares her love of this book with Augustus, showing how much she trusts him & wants to open up to him. Again, I can’t say any more about this but it’s an important part of the plot & leads to the introduction of who I suppose was one of the book’s more interesting characters.

This book takes a serious subject & I think it handles it pretty well. Those who are suffering aren’t shown as always being “strong & brave”, a point which is made in the book. Because that’s what’s always SAID about people with cancer. Augustus is the one who is able to stay strong for everyone for the longest – I totally fell in love with Augustus Waters! We’ll just pretend he’s not half my age. And fictional…

The only TINY complaint I’d have about the characters of Hazel & Augustus is that they’re TOO intelligent. They don’t talk like teenagers of today. They use full sentences & BIG words & have very deep thoughts. Um… Okay – I admit to not really knowing any teenagers at the moment but that’s not how I see any of them. Don’t they all use txt spk? (Did I abbreviate text speak correctly? I’m rubbish at text speak!). I think this is why young adult fiction seems to be so popular with women of my age (30s). The books are written by people in their 30s so all of us 30-somethings can relate to them. They’re written in a way we WANT to see teenagers or maybe how we saw ourselves when we were teenagers. It was exactly the same way with the characters in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (which I loved). These books are obviously doing well with actual teenagers too, though, so there must be enough things in these books that they can relate to. Maybe I’m not giving teenagers enough credit. I suppose it’s only the obnoxious and mouthy ones making duckfaces into their camera phones that you notice, not the ones reading quietly in a corner… 😉

Summary: The Fault In Our Stars is an excellent and well-written book with smart, funny, and sensitive characters that felt very “real” (although maybe a little too beyond their years). Although living with cancer at such a young age probably does make you wise beyond your years… I recommend it to anyone of any age who likes this sort of YA fiction. It’s my first John Green book & I’ll happily read more of his books now based on how much I enjoyed this one.

My Rating: 4/5

Now Reading: Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – 2013 Book #1

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Just finished Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – my first book of 2013. Hoping to read one or two a month but my IMDB Top 250 movie project comes first. 🙂

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower was my favorite movie of last year. I liked it so much that I decided to read the book after seeing the movie (I think I’ve only done this a couple of times – I hate reading a book after seeing the movie). Anyway, I really enjoyed the book as well. It’s SOOO similar to the movie, which is great as movies can often end up so different from and not near as good as the book. Probably helps that the writer of the book wrote the screenplay and directed the movie! They should really let the authors do this more often if this is the result – I felt that the movie was a great adaptation. I’d even say the movie achieved what very few movies adapted from books manage to – it was, in a way, even better than the book. I think this was down to such good performances from the main actors.

Not going to go into some long review of this book as I’m trying to stick more to movie reviews but just had to say I think this is a great example of some of the young adult fiction that seems to be getting better & better these days. But if you’re not that into reading, I do at least recommend the movie as you wouldn’t be missing much from the book.

My Rating: 4/5

Think I’m going to start this one next:

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