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. 

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The Death Cure by James Dashner (Book Review)

I’ve finished reading the Maze Runner trilogy so I’ll do a short review of the final book: The Death Cure. I did a full-length double review of the first two books, The Maze Runner & The Scorch Trials, HERE. To be honest, I’ll only really be saying the exact same things again so I’ll keep this post brief. Let’s talk about The Death Cure

The Death Cure by James Dashner

What It’s About: (via The Maze Runner Wiki)
It’s the end of the line. WICKED has taken everything from Thomas: his life, his memories, and now his only friends—the Gladers. But it’s finally over. The trials are complete, after one final test. Will anyone survive? What WICKED doesn’t know is that Thomas remembers far more than they think. And it’s enough to prove that he can’t believe a word of what they say. The truth will be terrifying. Thomas beat the Maze. He survived the Scorch. He’ll risk anything to save his friends. But the truth might be what ends it all. The time for lies is over.

My Thoughts:

I love apocalyptic and/or dystopian books and I’ll happily read any YA books as long as they’re halfway decent. I’m very “must read the book before seeing the film!” but did it the other way around this time after seeing & really liking the first The Maze Runner movie. I then ended up quite disappointed with the first book. Yep – this is one time where I’ll say the movie was much better than the book! It managed to flesh out the characters & make them far more likable. Then I read The Scorch Trials & liked it a fraction more than the first book (until it totally went to shit at the end). Then I read The Death Cure. Then I watched The Scorch Trials movie (I’m all ass-backwards!). Oh. My. God. What in the HELL was up with The Scorch Trials film “adaptation”??? Did they read the book at all?!? (I’ll review/bitch about that movie tomorrow).

What am I even talking about? I’m so confused. Oh! The Death Cure. The final book. Well, except for a prequel, I think? Which I won’t be bothering to read. All I can say is that the third book is like the others in the trilogy, written in the same weird style and feeling like it’s being made up as it goes along. Looking at my reviews of the others, I see I threatened to throw this book out the window if it didn’t give answers & come to a satisfying conclusion. I’m happy to say that this book does come to a proper conclusion. There’s no cliffhanger or teasers of more to be added to the story. Hallelujah! I was worried that I was being strung along this whole time.

Am I happy with the ending? Meh – it was okay. I think I’m mainly annoyed that YA books of this genre all feel the need to be an entire series of books. I suppose it’s to milk as much money as possible out of its young audience but it’s getting old & tired now (like me!). Weird writing style aside, this was an enjoyable enough story overall that I think I’d have appreciated far more if it had been edited down into one book. I stand by my opinion that the first film is quite good and the story was intriguing enough to make me seek out the books but the second film is so awful that I have zero desire to see the final one(s?). As for the books, The Death Cure was my least favorite of the three but that’s not saying much – they’re all really the same thing. I feel bad saying this as I do respect anyone who is able to write a successful book and I believe in always reading the book before watching the film but, if you’re interested in this setup, I actually recommend going straight to the movies with these. It’s even possible I’d have liked the second film more if I hadn’t known that it doesn’t. follow. the. book. in. any. way. what. so. ever. What the hell…..?!

My Rating: 2.5/5 (same rating I gave the other two books)

The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer (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 The Shock Of The Fall…

The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer

What It’s About: (from the back cover)

I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.

My Thoughts:

My favorite books to read are always horror, sci-fi or fantasy but I do try to sometimes read bestsellers or ones that have awards slapped on their covers (like this one) which are probably bullshit half the time anyway. This is an example of a book that was pretty good and plenty of people probably liked it but it just didn’t really work for me. Oh! I also judge books by their covers and this has a good one plus I was intrigued by the back cover synopsis (above).

That synopsis sounds interesting, right? This is a book where you’ll easily find out what it’s about if you read anything whatsoever about it but if you like knowing nothing other than what’s on the back cover, skip over this next part….
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SPOILER:

This book is about mental illness (schizophrenia) and told from the viewpoint of the young adult (Matt) who is suffering from it. It’s a fairly unique book & I’d recommend it if it sounds to you like one you’d like.

I have to say it’s actually a better book than some of the others that I ranked higher HERE on my list of books that I read in 2015. But, as always, I rank mainly by my level of enjoyment & I found myself not really wanting to pick this one up much so it took me quite a long time to finish.

My Rating: 3/5

Florence & Giles by John Harding (Book Review) 

*I’m taking a little blog break 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 Florence & Giles…

Florence & Giles by John Harding

What It’s About: (via Goodreads)

In 1891, in a remote and crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence and her younger brother are neglected by her guardian uncle. Banned from reading, Florence devours books in secret and talks to herself—and narrates her story—in a unique language of her own invention. By night, she sleepwalks the corridors and is troubled by a recurrent dream in which a mysterious woman appears to threaten her younger brother Giles.

After the sudden violent death of the children’s first governess, a second teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives, and immediately strange phenomena begin to occur. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against this powerful enemy, Florence must use all her intelligence and ingenuity to protect her little brother and preserve her private world.

My Thoughts:

I grabbed this from the library as I’d been wanting to read it for a while based on The Times quote on the front cover: “Imagine The Turn Of The Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe”. It sounded like it would be all gothic & atmospheric but it was pretty disappointing.

A young girl in the late 1800s must protect her younger brother from a sinister & otherworldly new governess after the mysterious death of the previous woman who cared for them. The girl (and narrator if I remember correctly??) isn’t allowed to read but teaches herself & reads loads of books in secret. It’s caused her to develop a strange sort of language of her own and having to read the book with all her odd words took some getting used to (and was slightly annoying).

The girl also isn’t that easy to like and the book is extremely slow until finally picking up in the final half. It was a good story but not a very fun read. I actually think it could make for a great film if the right people were involved.

My Rating: 2.5/5

The Unlikely Pilgrimmage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (Book Review)

*I’m taking a little blog break so am re-posting some mini book reviews I did in one long post HERE at the start of this year. Here’s my REALLY mini mini-review of The Unlikely Pilgrimmage Of Harold Fry…

The Unlikely Pilgrimmage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

What It’s About: (via Goodreads)

Harold Fry is convinced that he must deliver a letter to an old friend in order to save her, meeting various characters along the way and reminiscing about the events of his past and people he has known, as he tries to find peace and acceptance.

My Thoughts:

Not to be all snobby as I certainly don’t read many “worthy” classics or anything but this looked like one of those supermarket books you see old ladies reading on the bus. Well, I suppose it kind of is but, screw it, I AM an old lady on a bus!

The basic story is simple: Retired Harold Fry decides to make a pilgrimage by foot across most of England to visit an old work colleague & friend named Queenie, who has written him to say that she is dying. It was a slow read to start but I was fairly hooked as Harold got closer & closer to reaching his destination.

As you may expect, Harold goes on a “journey of self-discovery” during his long walk and this was the best thing about the book and was handled quite well. Something becomes obvious pretty early on but it made me want to keep reading to find out exactly what happened & how.

My Rating: 3/5

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins (Book Review)

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

What It’s About: (via the back cover)

Every Day The Same. Until Today.

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens.

She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking, and in one moment everything changes.

Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see: she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

My Thoughts:

I pretty much hated this book. I’ve never read a book full of so many annoying & hateful characters! The characters in this made me almost like the people in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. I’d rather be friends with everyone in Gone Girl than with any of these self-absorbed assholes. Why was there so much hype over this book? Between the hype & knowing it was going to be made into a movie starring Emily Blunt (I love her), I was really excited to finally read this one. Ugh. I’m never listening to hype again.

Rachel is our main character, the girl on the train. This is who Emily Blunt will be playing and I hope they make this character a little less pathetic for the movie. It’ll break my heart to see Blunt go from playing someone so kick-ass in the excellent Edge Of Tomorrow to playing a woman who spends the entirety of this book drinking & moping around just because her husband left her. Okay, it’s sad to be dumped but I think this takes place a year or so later and you just want to scream at her “Get over it! Move on!“. You’d maybe feel sorry for Rachel if she didn’t end up being so hateful.

At least we get some other characters, right? Luckily, the book also spends quite a bit of time on the characters in the homes that Rachel can see from the train. Unfortunately, though, they’re just as hateful. One thing I really can’t stand are people who are completely self-absorbed & I think this is actually a huge disturbing trend in today’s society (thanks, Kardashithingies – I refuse to spell that name out as I don’t want it linked to my blog). Each character is so “me me me” and cares only if their actions have immediate consequences for themselves. The women are obsessed with themselves & with their men (or lack of men). The men, who are secondary characters, are so one-dimensional. I felt like both the men & the women were written as gender stereotypes and I’ve never been so completely unable to relate to anyone in a story.

So what about the story? It’s hard to get into the story at all since it revolves around a mystery and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone still wanting to read this or to watch the movie. I’ll say that the story is okay. I’ll even say that I was very into the mystery at first & read this book very quickly as I was so eager to find out what was going on. But it falls apart at the end & I wasn’t happy with the direction it took. Predictable & silly. One character also does something so horribly unforgivable & inexcusable, naïve or not, that I was actually quite angry at this being used as a plot device. If not for that one thing, I’d probably be a little more forgiving of the story.

I can’t help but compare this to Gone Girl as both were huge best sellers involving a mystery & similar sorts of characters. But Gone Girl, despite its faults, was actually very well-written and a far better book. You have to give a little bit of credit to The Girl On The Train for obviously being inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s brilliant Rear Window but, well, it’s certainly no Rear Window… Yikes. What an insult to Grace Kelly & Jimmy Stewart! Rachel is like the anti-Grace Kelly.

Hated Rachel. Hated Anna. Hated Megan. Hated the men whose names I can’t even remember as they were written as such shallow characters that I was insulted on behalf of men everywhere. But the story wasn’t the worst thing ever, I suppose. It moved along fairly quickly & would make for a good made-for-TV movie so the fact that it’s a big Hollywood movie with big stars must mean I’m missing something that everyone else isn’t. This book has very positive reviews all over the place online so, if it interests you, give it a go as my opinion seems to be an unpopular one. To be fair, this isn’t the type of book I normally go for so I may be slightly more negative because of that. I think I’ll just stick to horror, sci-fi & post-apocalyptic from now on.

My Rating: 2/5

*The film adaptation of The Girl On The Train comes out next week on the 5th of October if you’re interested… 

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

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

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

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

Sweet Valley High Covers Artist Takes Commissions

OMG I was obsessed with Sweet Valley High as a pre-teen in the Eighties!

I saw this the other day & just had to share it here too. James L Mathewuse, the artist who did over 250 Sweet Valley High covers, takes commissions! I want to be painted like one of the Wakefield twins!!!!

Seriously, though – you can view the artist’s site HERE and a good article about it all HERE. But now I need to reminisce…

Yeah, I read the above three books. I think I stopped at book number thirty-something (I did outgrow them eventually). I wrote to Francine Pascal, the creator of the series, when I was about 12. This was for a school project, okay?? I wasn’t quite nerdy enough to write fan letters in my spare time. 😉 I thought it was really cool when I got sent an audio tape of the first book, though.

I’ve had a lot of fun just now Googling images of the original cover art. It’s shocking how they all came back to me as I looked at the covers! I can remember my favorites based on the artwork. Double Love, Playing With Fire, Power Play, Kidnapped! Those were awesome. How embarrassing… I was briefly very girly.

After Sweet Valley High, I moved onto YA “horror” instead. Christopher Pike’s books were my favorites. Remember Me, Chain Letter, Spellbound… This kind of thing was way more “me” (and my gateway to Stephen King). I really wish I still had those books with their original artwork – I’d love to be able to pass those on. Hell, I’d probably read all the Christopher Pike books again to see if I still thought they were great or if they can only truly be enjoyed by Young Adults.

I’ll shut up now. But I’d love to hear from other Sweet Valley High or Christopher Pike lovers! Jessica was such a bitch, though. I always identified more with Elizabeth. 😉

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

Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin (Book Review)

At the end of the year, I did a post with mini-reviews of every book I read in 2015. I’m re-posting & adding to those short reviews of some of my favorites. Tuf Voyaging, my first George R.R. Martin book, was a close third-favorite after Ready Player One & The Martian. Here’s my updated review:

Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin

What It’s About: (via Wikipedia)
Tuf Voyaging is a 1986 science fiction fix-up novel. It is a darkly comic meditation on environmentalism and absolute power. The novel concerns the (mis)adventures of Haviland Tuf, an exceptionally tall, bald, very pale, overweight, phlegmatic, vegetarian, cat-loving but otherwise solitary space trader. Due to the venality and cutthroat tactics of the party chartering his one-man trading vessel, Tuf inadvertently becomes master of Ark, an ancient, 30-kilometer-long “seedship”, a very powerful warship with advanced ecological engineering capabilities. Tuf travels the galaxy, offering his services to worlds with environmental problems, and sometimes imposing solutions of his own.

My Thoughts:

This is the first and only George R.R. Martin book I’ve ever read and I loved it! I got the Game Of Thrones book for Christmas 2014 but haven’t yet had the energy to embark on that massive journey. So when a woman I work with brought in a bunch of books that she was getting rid of, I was excited to see this standalone Martin book so I could see what his work was like.

I can only compare this to the Game Of Thrones TV show but I’d have to say it’s quite different from that. This is sci-fi comedy! I’ve read very few books in this genre but one happens to be my all-time favorite book (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) so this one was perfect for me and I enjoyed it immensely.

I’ll say that, although Martin’s books are clearly popular, I had no idea of what a great writer this guy really is and it has me definitely wanting to read more of his stuff. I’ll also admit this: I’m a casual reader & clearly like light & easy entertainment. My vocabulary is limited (as evidenced by my so-called “reviews” 😉 ) and I’ve never had to look up so many words for their definitions while reading a book as I did while reading this. (Not tons, maybe six or seven words). But that’s awesome – I don’t have to do that with my YA books!

Martin truly has a great way with words and his characters (especially Tuf) felt so alive. And it was actually funny! After watching Game Of Thrones, full of so much tragic death, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a sci-fi comedy from the same author. Plus the story itself had me hooked. Loved it. Can anyone recommend any of his other work?

More Thoughts On Tuf Voyaging:

That was all my initial mini-review but I’ve read up on this book a bit now & would like to add a little more. First of all, I had to look up what a “fix-up” novel was. Ah HA! This book is actually a collection of previously published stories about Haviland Tuf (and his voyages) all brought together into one novel. That makes sense as, yes, it’s a series of several stories involving the character of Tuf but it didn’t feel at all weird while reading it as they all tie together nicely. I actually really liked that there were several stories, meaning that everyone reading it will have different favorites. Luckily, what I liked most was a story they kept coming back to as it had the strongest character (other than Haviland Tuf) and it was fun to watch their relationship develop. 

Speaking of Haviland Tuf, he’s such a well-developed character and I can still picture exactly how I saw him in my mind. He reminded me of how strong the characters are in the Game Of Thrones TV show so apparently Martin is fantastic when it comes to character development. Tuf changes quite a bit through the novel but his odd quirks (and love for his cats and no one else) were a lot fun. I found it funny to read the following tidbit at Wikipedia as this Game Of Thrones actor was indeed the EXACT person I pictured the entire time I was reading Tuf Voyaging:

“In a February 2013 post, Martin wrote on his website that, from time to time, he is asked by fans about writing more Tuf stories; he continued, saying that he hopes to do so again someday. He also hinted that he thought Irish actor Conleth Hill, who plays Varys on HBO’s Game of Thrones, based on his bestselling A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, would be a good choice to play Tuf for a pay cable TV series.”

I’d love to see this made into a TV series! And the guy playing Varys is the perfect choice. 🙂

Well, I struggle with book reviews so I probably haven’t done this justice but I do hope some of you will check this one out if it sounds like the sort of genre that interests you. It’s not a book I’d go around recommending to everyone as it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. It’s a little silly & bizarre at times but that’s why it was so enjoyable. Plus, it’s hard to not like Haviland Tuf by the end even though he’s truly awkward when it comes to interacting with people. It touches on some quite deep themes so it’s not as silly as it seems on the surface but it was nice to get a break from all the dreariness in Game Of Thrones

My Rating: 4.5/5

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

Book Poll Results: And The Winner Is…

Thanks to everyone who voted in my poll HERE, in which I asked what book you all thought I should read next.

I’ve just started reading the book with the most votes: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I’ll try to read the rest in order so feel free to still vote! I’ll check if any of these change before I move onto the next book. At the moment, these are the results:

1. Neverwhere
2. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
3. TIE: The Colour Of Magic & The Princess Bride
4. TIE: Heart-Shaped Box & Mr Mercedes
5. The Prestige
6. TIE: Off To Be The Wizard & Body Of Evidence
7. TIE: 20th Century Ghosts & The Snowman
8. The Death Cure

Which Book Should I Read Next? (A Poll!)

Last Christmas (2014) I got a lot of books as gifts, which I worked my way through in 2015 (the only one of those that I haven’t read is A Game Of Thrones – I don’t have the energy to start that yet!). I did a Top Ten (okay, 14) of everything I read last year including reviews of each of those books HEREif you’re curious.

I have to say that I really lucked out last year – I absolutely loved several of the books that I read (especially Ready Player One and The Martian plus I read my first George R.R. Martin and Joe Hill books, which have me definitely wanting to read more by those authors). This last Christmas, though, I got no books. However, I got a load of vouchers! So what did I buy? Books! They’re in the above photo, including some I’ve had for years but still not read.

I mainly stick to reading Stephen King most of the time. And, okay, I admit it – I read way too much Dean Koontz. I’ve just always loved horror and the supernatural when it comes to books but for some reason have barely explored the genre I love above all others: sci-fi. I like fantasy as well but have read very little of it (I do adore The Hobbit & The Lord Of The Rings).

I think, with sci-fi, I’m scared of it. I don’t have a science-y mind. Those books are for smart people! The technical gobbledygook in Star Trek: The Next Generation confused me enough as it was (god I loved that show). Maybe it’s why I like sci-fi comedy when it comes to reading (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is my favorite book ever). So I thought it was time I try some new authors. The first two books I picked up were a Neil Gaiman & a Terry Pratchett. Look at me! Expanding my horizons and shit!

I’m in the middle of reading Stephen King’s The Bazaar Of Bad Dreams at the moment but I thought it might be fun to do a poll asking everyone which book I should read next. It’ll give me an idea of what’s the most popular. I would also love it if people would like to recommend any other authors, especially in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. Or horror & supernatural… The one thing I never really like is “crime” novels, though – the Patricia Cornwell was given to me and I don’t know if I should read it or not. Any fans of hers here?

Enough of my blathering – here’s the poll. You can choose up to three. And feel free to discuss any in the comments – I love a good book chat. 🙂

My Top Ten Books Read In 2015 (and mini-reviews!)

Happy New Year, everyone! Wow – I’ve read a record 14 books in 2015! (That’s a lot for me. Hey, I’m a movie blogger – not a book blogger). 🙂

I’m really bad about getting around to doing book reviews so I’ve only reviewed a few of these (I’ve included links to the full reviews I have done). For the remainder, I figured I’d just do some very short mini-reviews right here right now. And, as my regulars know, my Top Ten lists rarely contain ten things so it seemed stupid to ignore four books when I’ve only read 14.

So here are My Top Ten (14…) Books Read In 2015, counting down to my favorite:

14. The Gospel According To Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright

I believe this is what they call “chick lit”? Which isn’t very “me” but my hubby picked this up for me based on the title since he knows I’m a fan of Drew Barrymore. I thought that was very sweet & thoughful of him! 🙂 Anyway, I really liked the concept. Through flashbacks, we watch the relationship develop between two (40ish?) best friends. They’re very different from one another but we see how they bonded over Drew Barrymore movies at various points in their lives (such as E.T. & Poison Ivy). Unfortunately, the book just isn’t very good. I didn’t like one of the women and the Drew Barrymore gimmick really did feel like nothing more than a gimmick – the references to her felt awkward & forced. It was a good idea but without that gimmick, you’re left with two characters I really didn’t give a crap about. My Rating: 2/5

13. Florence & Giles by John Harding

I grabbed this from the library as I’d been wanting to read it for a while based on The Times quote on the front cover: “Imagine The Turn Of The Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe”. It sounded like it would be all gothic & atmospheric but it was pretty disappointing. A young girl in the late 1800s must protect her younger brother from a sinister & otherworldly new governess after the mysterious death of the previous woman who cared for them. The girl (and narrator if I remember correctly??) isn’t allowed to read but teaches herself & reads loads of books in secret. It’s caused her to develop a strange sort of language of her own and having to read the book with all her odd words took some getting used to (and was slightly annoying). The girl also isn’t that easy to like and the book is extremely slow until finally picking up in the final half. It was a good story but not a very fun read. I actually think it could make for a great film if the right people were involved. My Rating: 2.5/5

12. The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer

My favorite books to read are always horror, sci-fi or fantasy (which will be obvious when we get to the top of my list) but I do try to sometimes read bestsellers or ones that have awards slapped on their covers (like this one) which are probably bullshit half the time anyway. This is an example of a book that was pretty good and plenty of people probably liked it but, like the previous book, it just didn’t really work for me. Oh! I also judge books by their covers and this has a good one. And I was intrigued by the back cover (which I’ve grabbed here from Goodreads): “I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.” See? Sounds interesting. This is a book where you’ll easily find out what it’s about if you read anything whatsoever about it but if you like knowing nothing other than what’s on the back cover, skip over this next part. SPOILER: This book is about mental illness (schizophrenia) and told from the viewpoint of the young adult (Matt) who is suffering from it. It’s a fairly unique book & I’d recommend it if it sounds to you like one you’d like. I have to say it’s actually a better book than my next two choices but, as always, I rank mainly by my level of enjoyment & I found myself not really wanting to pick this one up much so it took me quite a long time to finish. My Rating: 3/5

11. The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I admit to enjoying Young Adult books, especially as the current trend seems to be YA books that are dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic. I love dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic! I don’t normally do it this way around but I saw The Maze Runner movie first and I liked it so decided to read the books. Well, I’ve read the first two so far and will continue in order to see how they end but I’ve certainly read far better YA books. I also get the feeling that the story is going nowhere plus the author has a strange writing style that many people don’t seem to like. I’ve reviewed this & The Scorch Trials in full if you want to click on the links. My Rating: 2.5/5

10. The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

This & The Maze Runner are pretty interchangeable but I suppose I’ve put this higher as reading it was a bit more enjoyable since I didn’t see the movie first so didn’t know what would happen. Meh. Yeah. Again, not the greatest book… I just like the overall concept, which is why I’m continuing with the series. My Rating: 2.5/5

9. The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Not to be all snobby as I certainly don’t read many “worthy” classics or anything but this looked like one of those supermarket books you see old ladies reading on the bus. Well, I suppose it kind of is but, screw it, I AM an old lady on a bus! The basic story is simple: Retired Harold Fry decides to make a pilgrimage by foot across most of England to visit an old work colleague & friend named Queenie, who has written him to say that she is dying. It was a slow read to start but I was fairly hooked as Harold got closer & closer to reaching his destination. As you may expect, Harold goes on a “journey of self-discovery” during his long walk and this was the best thing about the book and was handled quite well. Something becomes obvious pretty early on but it made me want to keep reading to find out exactly what happened & how. My Rating: 3/5

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve just finished this book and I can see why some people have told me that they really loved it. I wanted to like it a little more than I did. I’ll say that Zusak did a great job developing some rich characters that I very much cared about. Liesel, a young girl in WWII Germany, is the central character and I liked her strong will. Even better, though, were the characters Liesel loved most (her foster parents and best friend plus two other important characters I won’t mention to avoid any spoilers). Unfortunately, despite some great characters, I felt something that I can’t quite put my finger on was “missing” from this book. I think the problem was that it was narrated by Death (as in, The Grim Reaper). It’s a better “gimmick” than the Drew Barrymore thing above and I didn’t mind it at first but, in the end, I think it actually got in the way of what was a good enough story without any gimmicks. Also, the ending felt rather abrupt & rushed after this long journey that we’ve just gone on with all these characters (it’s a pretty thick book). It was a good book & I’m interested in seeing the movie now but I wish it was higher on this list. My Rating: 3.5/5

7. Tank Girl by Jamie Hewlett and Alan Martin

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. I suppose I should watch the horrible-looking movie that doesn’t appear to resemble the comic much now? Or… Should I not?? My Rating: 3.5/5

6. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I read my first two Joe Hill books this year & I have to say that, so far, I may end up almost liking his work as much as his dad’s. This one seems to be a favorite but I enjoyed the other book more and found that I didn’t really care that much about the characters in this. But it’s a good & very original story. You can read my full review at the above link. My Rating: 4/5

5. Revival by Stephen King

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’ve not yet reviewed this one but I will try to do a full review soon as it’s a King book so I’ll keep this short. For now 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. I’ll say that 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’s NOS4A2 but will admit that Hill’s book was probably a little better than this one. My Rating: 3.5/5

4. Horns by Joe Hill

I suppose Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a slightly better book than Revival and also Horns but I read this one first & actually enjoyed it the most of this father/son trio that I read this year. It’s weird, especially as it gets to the end, and not everyone would like it but it was quite refreshing to read something so totally unique & unpredictable. You can read my full double review of this and NOS4A2 at the above link. My Rating: 4/5

3. Tuf Voyaging by George R.R. Martin

This is the first and only George R.R. Martin book I’ve ever read and I loved it! I got the Game Of Thrones book last Christmas but haven’t yet had the energy to embark on that massive journey so when a woman I work with brought in a bunch of books that she was getting rid of, I was excited to see this standalone Martin book so I could see what his work was like. I can only compare this to the Game Of Thrones TV show but I’d have to say it’s quite different from that. This is sci-fi comedy! I’ve read very few books in this genre but one happens to be my all-time favorite book (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) so this one was perfect for me and I enjoyed it immensely. I suppose I also owe this one a full-length review at some point… I’ll just say that, although Martin’s books are clearly popular, I had no idea of what a great writer this guy really is and it has me definitely wanting to read more of his stuff. I’ll also admit this: I’m a casual reader & clearly like light & easy entertainment. My vocabulary is limited (as evidenced by my so-called “reviews” 😉 ) and I’ve never had to look up so many words for their definitions while reading a book as I did while reading this. (Not tons, maybe six or seven words). But that’s awesome – I don’t have to do that with my YA books! This guy truly has a great way with words and his characters (especially Tuf) felt so alive. And it was actually funny! After watching Game Of Thrones, full of so much tragic death, I wasn’t sure what to expect of a sci-fi comedy from the same author. Plus the story itself had me hooked. Loved it. Can anyone recommend any of his other work? My Rating: 4.5/5

2. The Martian by Andy Weir

I can’t believe I never had a chance to watch this film considering how much I loved the book! Oh well – I’ll catch it at some point. I did at least review this book in full so I can keep this short. I guess I really do love my sci-fi comedies (although this is more sci-fi than comedy but I loved the central character’s amazing sense of humor). I find very few books to be perfect (I’m almost always disappointed with the endings) but I really can’t fault this one in any way other than it ending too abruptly. But I suppose that’s because I was enjoying it so much. The Martian is easily now an all-time favorite of mine and I highly recommend it. My Rating: 5/5

1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

I’m so disappointed in myself for not getting around to reviewing this yet even though it’s the very first book I read after receiving it for Christmas last year. Thanks to anyone who has actually read this (really long & rambling) post! I’m sorry to do this to you now at my number one but I’m not going to say much about this one. Yet. It deserves a full-length review from me as it’s my favorite book in a very long time & nothing could be more “ME“! This was written for Eighties-loving geeks like me by an Eighties-loving geek and I absolutely adored it. I had so much fun reading this one. I hope the movie does it justice! My Rating: 5/5

My Top (Seven) Books Read In 2014 (and mini-reviews!)

Happy New Year everyone!!! 🙂

I’ve been doing my end-of-the-year top ten lists (My Top Ten Movies Of 2014 & My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2014). I can’t do a top ten here as I only managed seven so here are My Top (Seven) Books Read In 2014. I’ve never been great at writing book reviews and, of these, I only managed to review The Giver. As I probably won’t ever get around to doing full reviews of most of these, I’ll do a brief mini-review of each of them now.

7. The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year by Sue Townsend

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I mainly read things like Stephen King, a tiny bit of sci-fi, and Young Adult fiction. This book isn’t very “me” but I thought it would be good to read the type of book that women my age are MEANT to read. Well, this is why I don’t fit in amongst women of my age, I guess… 😉 I’m sure most middle-aged women absolutely adored this book and I do think Townsend wrote some truly funny & witty bits. However, the characters are SO hateful, including the “heroine” at times. You’re meant to feel for her & you do at first but, by the end, you just think “Get out of bed & the HELL away from your horrible family full of assholes!” It’s well-written and I assume Townsend probably has better books with better characters? As always, it’s hard to enjoy a book if you don’t like at least ONE person in it but it does have its funny moments (although it’s a very British sense of humor).

My Rating: 2.5/5

6. Paper Towns by John Green

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I know John Green is a very big YA author and I did really like The Fault In Our Stars book (which I reviewed HERE). I’m also kind of a sucker for a decent-looking book cover and Green’s books always look so good sitting on the shelves in book stores (shallow, I know). Unfortunately, I found Paper Towns quite disappointing. Like The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year, this was full of characters I didn’t really like. The main boy was fine, at least, but the object of his affection (and obsession) is extremely selfish and it’s very hard to understand why he would feel so strongly about her. I also didn’t like how it ended – it just sort of fizzled out. However, I’ll still give more Green books a shot as I know Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger is a fan but she also didn’t like this one so much. She’s done a good full review of the book, which you can read HERE. Yep, we agree on this one, Zoe!

My Rating: 2.5/5

5. The Night Rainbow by Claire King

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This is another one that’s not exactly “me” but I thought it was fairly good. However, it’s totally heartbreaking. I don’t really want a book that’s going to make me cry and leave me horribly depressed by the end of it. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting this to be as sad as it was after reading the description on the back and, when something quite obvious finally hit me toward the end of the book, I felt stupid for not realizing sooner and also incredibly sad about the situation as I think it’s probably a somewhat common thing. I know that was incredibly vague but I always try to stay spoiler-free. It’s very much another “middle-aged woman” book but, if you’re of that age and especially if you’re a mother and you like bittersweet dramas that may make you weep (a lot of women seem to like that sort of thing – I’m not sure why!), this book may be worth a read for you.

My Rating: 3/5

4. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

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Yeah… 2014 really was a year of me reading books that aren’t very “me”. This is another one. 😉 I just can’t get into these “older lady books”! I was also once again taken by the cover of the book plus I liked the sound of the “fairytale” aspect of the story. It’s inspired by a Russian fairytale of an old childless couple who build a daughter made of snow who comes to life. It’s no Stephen King so was never going to be my favorite book in the world but I thought it was actually very good and I can see a lot of people (okay, women) loving it. It would make a great movie. It’s also a little heartbreaking, although it didn’t leave me nearly as sad as The Night Rainbow did. If it sounds at all like the type of story you’d like, I do recommend this one.

My Rating: 3.5/5

3. The Giver by Lois Lowry

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I won’t go into this one much as I’ve already done a full review HERE. “Young Adult dystopian future” book! Much more my type of thing. Plus this is one that came along years before the current trend of copycats. It’s aimed at a younger age than things like The Hunger Games (probably about age 11) and is a book I’d happily give to a kid of that age to read before they read the more current books in the genre. Anyway – I really liked The Giver and highly recommend it over the movie, which changes quite a lot of the story.

My Rating: 4/5

2. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

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I’m actually not sure what to say about this one other than: Can you believe I’d never read it until now?! I know it’s such a HUGE teen classic for people of my age and the generation before mine. I’m not sure if it’s as popular with teens these days as well but it does deserve its status as a classic. I LOVE that Hinton was only 16 when she wrote this and I wish that teenagers still had this same sort of ambition and creativity these days. I don’t know… Maybe some of them do? Anyway, I’m not sure why I never explored Hinton’s stuff plus I’ve also never seen Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of this. This is shocking as, even though it’s not had the best reviews, it’s from 1983 and full of so many famous actors from my generation. Okay, I’ve actually managed to not say a thing about this book. I plan to watch the movie sometime this year so I’ll try to do a full review of the book at the same time too.

My Rating: 4/5

1. Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

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Of course this was going to be my favorite… No, it’s not as good as The Shining but I think it’s a decent enough sequel. I liked re-visiting characters from The Shining and liked the main girl, Abra, and her relationship with Danny plus I thought the “villains” (The True Knot) were very effective, especially their leader Rose the Hat. This was the first book I read in 2014 so I finished it quite a while ago. I of course thoroughly enjoyed it while reading it but it’s already fading from my memory a bit as it just didn’t grab me in the way other King books have. I’m not sure why… It’s good but I think King has written better books in recent years. I think 11/22/63 is a better book overall plus I possibly enjoyed Duma Key and even Cell slightly more than Doctor Sleep, although I’m sure I’m very much in the minority there. (I also had a lot of fun with Joyland, the only King book I’ve ever reviewed so I suppose I should mention it). Doctor Sleep is certainly one of King’s better books overall but it’s probably not QUITE up there with my very favorites although I was hoping it would be. By the way, Brian, I’ve given it some thought and The Dead Zone is possibly my favorite King book although I also love Salem’s Lot, The Long Walk, The Shining, The Green Mile, and I love his short story collections almost more than his full novels sometimes. It would be possibly be a big favorite except for ONE bit I really don’t like in it. Night Shift was the first thing of his that I read and that’s what got me hooked. I’m sure you all wanted to know my Stephen King history, right?? 🙂

My Rating: 4/5

I got a load of books for Christmas & they’re much more “me” than most the stuff I read in 2014. I can’t wait to read them and, so far, I have to say that I’m LOVING Ready Player One. Has anyone read any of these?

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My Top (Eight) Books Read In 2013

Should I even post this?? I only read eight books in 2013. How embarrassing. But, hey – I’m Cinema Parrot, not Book Parrot! Since starting this blog, I’m definitely watching way more movies & reading fewer books. But I ranked all the movies I watched so I guess I might as well do that with the books I read too. You can read my full review for each if you click on the title (except The Good Guy & Miss Peregrine – I’ll try to review those soon). I still have no clue how to go about reviewing books & have to force myself to do them. Movie reviews are easier!

My Top Books Read In 2013 in order from my favorite to least favorite (although none of them were bad):

1. Joyland by Stephen King

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I know it’s not the BEST book out of these but King is my favorite author and if I’m really honest, I did enjoy this one the most. A simple, easy read unlike his long novels and very light on “horror” but I really liked the characters & the story was fun.

2. The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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I wasn’t sure where to rank this as it’s hard to think of it separately from the film, which I loved so much that I read the book after seeing it. Since the author also made the movie, it’s the most faithful adaptation I’ve ever seen. Love them both.

3. The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

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Funny & heartbreaking, it’ll be interesting to see what they do with the movie out later this year. Loved the characters in this book even though they seemed wise beyond their years but that’s probably true of those in their situation.

4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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I actually gave this a lower rating than the books I’m listing after it but I have to admit that, although the characters were completely unlikeable, it was a great story & very exciting read and has stuck with me longer than the ones below.

5. Wool by Hugh Howey

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A post-apocalyptic tale where people are forced to live in a large underground silo – This kind of story is very much my type of thing. It’s the first in a trilogy but was a bit overlong & slow in places. However, I’ll definitely be reading the rest as I really want to know what happens & find out more about the story behind why these people have been forced to live this way.

6. Wonder by RJ Palacio

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The “youngest” book I read, I think this should be (and possibly is?) required reading in schools. It’s the story of a ten-year-old boy with a severe facial deformity who starts school for the first time after years of being home-schooled. We’re told the story from several different viewpoints. It feels very honest being told this way and of course emphasizes the importance of being kind to people.

7. The Good Guy by Dean Koontz

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I totally forgot that I read this & had to amend my entire post. It also happens to be the last book I read so that’s pretty bad but I’m not surprised – this is how most Dean Koontz books are for me. If I’m going to be totally honest with all of you, I’ll tell you that I’ve read more Koontz books than those by any other author & he’s my big guilty pleasure. I always grab one when I need a “break”, which may not exactly sound like a recommendation. Did I enjoy this one? Yes. Will I remember it in a year? No – it’ll meld together in my mind with 90% of the other Koontz books I’ve read. I better do a full review soon before I have no clue anymore what it was about.

8. Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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I LOVED the concept of this book. Apparently the author found all these great old, creepy photos & wrote a story around them. The photos are throughout the book & I thought that was pretty awesome. I’m not sure if the story QUITE worked, though, and I was very disappointed at the ending which is clearly left open for another book (or two). I’m not sure if there are more yet but there are so many young adult book series(es? Lol. Seriei!) these days that I really wasn’t interested in starting yet another one – I wanted a one-off book. I’ll review this soon.

Books For 2014:

I only got a few books for Christmas this year (luckily, as I still have some left over from last Christmas). I think my only reading goal this year is to read the ones I already have in the photo below – no new books until those are read! Oh, and Carrie as it’s one of the few Stephen King books I’ve not read and I love the sound of it after reading Smash’s review on her great Stephen King blog The Kingdom. And maybe Divergent as the movie is coming out & Zoe gave it a decent review on The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger.

Any other recommendations from anyone?? Actually, no – I won’t have time for any others! Any recommendations on which of the below books I should read first? I’m currently in the middle of Doctor Sleep – That will probably take me three months. 🙂

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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