I’ve had The Dinner on my Amazon wishlist for a while, but I don’t actually remember why. I remember reading some list a long time ago of book recomme...moreI’ve had The Dinner on my Amazon wishlist for a while, but I don’t actually remember why. I remember reading some list a long time ago of book recommendations; it might have been on Slate.com. I put a bunch on my wishlist and promptly forgot about them.
Every once in a while I would go back and look at the list, but I never felt like I had enough of a reason to spend money on them. But we met up with a potential wedding invitation designer at Barnes & Noble on Saturday, and got there pretty early…and so ended up buying a few books each. The Dinner was one of the ones I picked up. I started reading it while waiting for our appointment to start, got home and kept reading it, and then finished it this morning.
It’s been called a European Gone Girl, and while the plots aren’t very similar, the style certainly evokes Gillian Flynn’s work. Two couples, each with a fifteen-year-old son, meet at a restaurant to discuss the heinous crime their sons share responsibility for. The tensions rise as they discuss movies, the weather, anything to avoid the subject that brought them together in the first place. As the meal reaches its end, civility begins to disintegrate as they discuss their children—and how far they are willing to go to protect them.
So, this was my reaction upon finishing Allegiant:
No no no no no No no no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO
I thought maybe a few days would go...moreSo, this was my reaction upon finishing Allegiant:
No no no no no No no no no no no no NO NO NO NO NO
I thought maybe a few days would go by and I wouldn’t hate it so much, but not so. I still hate the ending. I invested far too much of myself in this series for it to end the way it did.
CAUTION: This review contains both large and small spoilers. If you don’t mind minor spoilers, feel free to read everything except the blanked out part. If you don’t want to read any spoilers, finish reading Allegiant first and then come back and read this review. :)
I actually didn’t like much of Allegiant at all. I’m so disappointed. The plot seemed all over the place and very contrived, like Roth felt she had to make up the NEW problem of “genetically pure” vs. “genetically damaged” when I don’t really think she needed to. Introducing brand new stuff in the conclusion of a trilogy is just no. A conclusion is for concluding things, not introducing an entirely new plot line.
Guys, Dr. Sleep was awesome. I mean, I knew it would be, but I was also afraid a little because this is the first true sequel (other than the Dark Tow...moreGuys, Dr. Sleep was awesome. I mean, I knew it would be, but I was also afraid a little because this is the first true sequel (other than the Dark Tower series, I suppose) that Stephen King has ever written, and I was worried it might spoil the stand-alone-ness of The Shining, or even Dr. Sleep itself. Luckily, it did neither of those.
Dr. Sleep’s introduction picks up a mere 3 years after The Shining ends; the lady from the tub in room 217 has found Danny even though they live thousands of miles away from the site of the Overlook. Dick Hallorann, after a panicked call from Wendy Torrance, comes to visit Danny and teaches him how to lock the bad spirits away in his mind so that they can’t get to him anymore.
After this, we see brief flashes of Danny’s (now Dan’s) life as an alcoholic. Though he swore to never follow in his father’s footsteps, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray, as the saying goes—and Dan spends at least a decade waking intermittently from alcoholic stupors to find himself broke, homeless, jobless, or all three. Finally, he gets off a bus in the tiny town of Fraizer, New Hampshire, determined to start a new life. There, he joins AA and eventually gets a job as an orderly in a hospice.
Soon after he moves into the upstairs room of the hospice, he begins to occasionally feel as though someone is reaching out to him in the way that Dick Hallorann used to, except this person isn’t speaking—they’re just “there” somehow. As the years go by, the telepathic link between him and this other person—a girl a few towns over named Abra—grows stronger.
Meanwhile, a band of vampires that calls themselves The True Knot travels the country in a caravan of campers and motorhomes. They survive on “steam,” which they steal from children with the shining, children like Dan and Abra, by killing them slowly and torturously. Abra’s shining is much stronger than any the True Knot has ever come across, and they want her badly—and now Dan must help save Abra from Rose the Hat, the terrifying leader of the True Knot.
To be 100% honest, as soon as I saw the word “vampires” in the description of this book, I was minorly turned off. I wasn’t crazy about ‘Salem’s Lot (I know, I know) and have just never really been into the whole vampires thing. But I couldn’t NOT read this, especially considering how much I loved The Shining, and I’m so glad I didn’t just write it off as another vampire novel. It was a great novel that could technically stand on its own, but it does refer to the Overlook and the happenings there enough that it’s certainly helpful to have read The Shining. My recommendation would definitely be to read The Shining first because everything will make more sense. (Plus, it’s just an awesome book.)
I really wanted to like this book. The premise was so interesting, and I love me a good thriller. I was also intrigued by the fact that this was writt...moreI really wanted to like this book. The premise was so interesting, and I love me a good thriller. I was also intrigued by the fact that this was written by a father-daughter team, and I thought that was kinda cool. But this, frankly, was anything but.
First of all, the characters are all 100% flat and not developed at all. It’s like they didn’t even try. Everyone was characterized by exactly one (or maybe, maybe two) traits. Caitlin is smart. Lisa is frustrated. Gavin is brilliant. Blah blah blah. Whatever.
Second of all, the plot was not fleshed out at all, nor was the timeline. It was unclear throughout the entire book when exactly all this was happening. I remember FINALLY coming upon an indication of how long they had been hiding, and it had apparently be nine years since they had left Massachusetts. And it was very much like, wait. Hold on. Those few chapters spanned nine years?
That was a problem throughout the book. What I read seemed like an outline of a novel that would be fleshed out later. There were no details. It was very much like: First this happened. Then it was Christmas. Then this happened. Then this other thing happened. And oh look it’s Christmas again. Within a span of pages!
About once a year (or twice if I’m lucky), I come across a book that is so good that I immediately demand that everyone I know also read it. Gone Girl...moreAbout once a year (or twice if I’m lucky), I come across a book that is so good that I immediately demand that everyone I know also read it. Gone Girl is that book for me this year.
I’d heard some good things about it and the premise was intriguing, but I did not expect the psychological thrill ride it took me on. I was hooked from the first chapter, and it just kept getting darker and more twisty until the end, which I loved and hated at the same time (loved because it was sort of like, how else could it end?, but hated because ARGH. You’ll understand if you’ve read it).
The structure of the novel was brilliant. Alternating between present-day chapters (narrated by Nick) and entries from Amy’s diary provided a LOT of suspense from chapter to chapter. At the end of one of Nick’s chapters, I would be reluctant to move on to Amy’s diary, but by the time I got to the end of her chapter, I wouldn’t want to go back to one of Nick’s. Flynn’s writing is absolutely superb, and the unique voices she creates for both Nick and Amy are fantastic.
Let me just fangirl here for a second: OMG THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING AND EVERYONE EVER SHOULD READ IT!!!!1!!!1!!!111!!!
*Ahem.* Okay, I’m done now.
But seri...moreLet me just fangirl here for a second: OMG THIS BOOK WAS AMAZING AND EVERYONE EVER SHOULD READ IT!!!!1!!!1!!!111!!!
*Ahem.* Okay, I’m done now.
But seriously, I LOVED this book. Everything about it was perfect. Just the right amount of creepy Gothic suspense—Mrs. Danvers scares the pants off me—and lots of good twists. It reminded me a lot of why I liked Flowers in the Attic back in the day, despite it being a cheap romance novel: it had some of the same Gothic influences.
I devoured it in 4 days. If I hadn’t had to go to work, I probably could have finished it in 2. I read it at work during my lunch breaks and (shhhh) ended up taking much longer breaks than I had intended because I couldn’t put it down.
If you asked me about this book while I was reading it, you would have gotten very different answers depending on when you asked. The beginning of thi...moreIf you asked me about this book while I was reading it, you would have gotten very different answers depending on when you asked. The beginning of this book, the part that takes place in current day before the spread of the virus, had me completely hooked. I was loving it. It was very much The Stand meets Dracula, and since I was also reading Dracula at the time, it was an interesting mental comparison. I loved the characters (especially Brad Wolgast), and their development, while bare in some places, was still enough to really give you a sense of the person behind the character—in Justin Cronin’s case, sometimes less is more when it comes to character development.
If you had asked me around the time I was a few chapters into Part IV, “All Eyes,” I would have said something along the lines of “meh,” and that I had kind of lost interest and had been (guiltily) avoiding it for a few days…which turned into a few weeks. Part of it was that the setting and characters had changed so abruptly that it felt like I was reading an entirely different story, and I was still in mourning for the characters I had left behind at the end of Part II. There was a LOT of exposition in this middle part. The large majority of it was absolutely necessary, of course, because this part takes place about 100 years after the present day, but too much of it was told in flashback sequences. It was very difficult for me to figure out what exactly the timeline of events was, and the struggle made me want to give up, so for a few weeks, I did...
“Sometimes, dead is better.” This is the haunting tagline of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, which I made myself finally finish last night. And despite...more “Sometimes, dead is better.” This is the haunting tagline of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, which I made myself finally finish last night. And despite having read it before, I am still utterly horrified by it and I expect it’ll take me a few days to fully recover. Let’s get through this review quickly so I never have to think about this book again.
Pet Sematary, like many of King’s novels, is set in small-town Maine, this time in a town called Ludlow. Dr. Louis Creed and his family move there from Chicago in late August so Louis can direct the University of Maine’s infirmary. They move in across the road from Jud and Norma Crandall, an elderly couple who have resided in Ludlow for their entire lives. The road is a busy one, often besieged by huge fertilizer-bearing tractor-trailers. Jud warns Louis the day he moves in to make sure to keep the family cat away from the road, which, in his words, has “used up a lot of animals.”
That same day, Jud leads the family—Louis; Rachel, his wife; and Ellie and Gage, his young daughter and toddler son—through a path in the woods near their house that leads to a somber little spot called the “Pet Sematary,” where, for generations, local children have been burying their pets. Rachel, who has never been comfortable confronting death, is horrified and later forbids Louis from taking the kids there again. And although Louis believes that death is part of life and that the kids must come to term with it someday, he agrees.
But beyond the Pet Sematary lies a secret: the kind of small-town secret of which everyone knows but no one speaks; the kind of secret that only a grizzled old-timer, like Jud Crandall, would believe in; the kind of secret that has the power to destroy you. And now that Louis Creed knows exactly what lies beyond the Pet Sematary, will he be able to resist its power?
I had actually forgotten that Stephen King and his son Joe Hill were releasing a short-story e-book this year. It was released back in October, but I...moreI had actually forgotten that Stephen King and his son Joe Hill were releasing a short-story e-book this year. It was released back in October, but I didn’t buy it until the end of November because, like I said, I had forgotten about it. But I’m really glad I remembered.
Becky and Cal DeMuth, not twins but only 19 months apart in age, have been inseparable for most of their lives. When Becky becomes pregnant at 19, she decides to stay with her aunt and uncle—a cross-country drive from the DeMuth’s New England home—until the baby is born. Cal takes the semester off from college to take the drive with her.
Driving through Kansas on a warm April day, windows down and no radio on, they hear it: a cry for help from the tall grass on the side of the road. A cry that sounds like it comes from a little boy, lost in the grass that must be twice his height. Cal and Becky decide to “rescue” the boy—who, they assume, must have come from one of the houses along the road—and, upon walking down the embankment into the grass, immediately lose each other.
They soon discover, to their horror, that it is impossible either to meet up with each other again or to get back to the road. Every time they jump up above the tips of the grass to get their bearings, they seem to be in a different place. Unable to find either each other or the little boy who drew them here in the first place, they begin to panic…
I thought the book blurb was being dramatic when it said that beneath the peaceful exterior of Pagford lay a town at war—but it was not exaggerating a...moreI thought the book blurb was being dramatic when it said that beneath the peaceful exterior of Pagford lay a town at war—but it was not exaggerating at all. It seemed like no one in this town liked anyone else. They were definitely all looking out for themselves, often to the exclusion of all others. This was not at all a well-defined battle between good and evil, and it seemed like J. K. relished the change. I did too. In a way, it makes the story all the more intriguing because you can’t…quite…decide who you want to prevail, rather than always knowing who you’re “supposed” to root for. (That’s not to say that I didn’t eventually figure out who I *thought* we were supposed to root for, but I was never absolutely positive.)
The one thing I thought was similar to Harry Potter (yeah, you had to know I was going to go there eventually) was the way that the kids were the clear heroes, not to mention the catalysts of the plot. Like the adults, they all had their flaws—Fats and Krystal especially—but they all had good (if still somewhat selfish) intentions, whereas the adults were portrayed in a rather more negative and petty light. Only the kids could see through all the petty posturing and blustering of the adults as they fight among themselves for Barry’s seat on the Council.
So I happened to be at a library a few weeks ago—I say “a” library rather than “the” library because I wasn’t in my local library—and I saw a cart of...moreSo I happened to be at a library a few weeks ago—I say “a” library rather than “the” library because I wasn’t in my local library—and I saw a cart of paperbacks with a sign that said “25 cents each.” Of course I couldn’t help but look (who could resist getting a book for a freaking quarter??). Most of the books looked to be trashy romance novels and super-corny chick lit, neither of which I’m into, but Kiss The Girls by James Patterson caught my eye (my dad likes the movie) so I bought it. I didn’t realize at the time that I was jumping into the second book of a long series about a detective/psychologist, but it ended up not being a huge deal.
Anyway, the premise is this: Naomi Cross, the niece of Alex Cross (the aforementioned detective/psychologist), has gone missing. It comes to light that she is probably the victim of Casanova, a serial kidnapper/rapist/murderer who has been working the Research Triangle in North Carolina. Simultaneously, another serial kidnapper/rapist/murderer who styles himself “The Gentleman Caller” is working his way through the West Coast—and seems to be in cahoots with Casanova.
The Mist originally appeared as a novella in the 1985 collection Skeleton Crew. They made it into a movie a few years ago when I was in college (I thi...moreThe Mist originally appeared as a novella in the 1985 collection Skeleton Crew. They made it into a movie a few years ago when I was in college (I think it flopped) and published the novella as a separate paperback. I’ve read it two or three times and I think I finished it in a day each time—so it’s short. But it’s also pretty good.
Set in the small town of Bridgton, Maine, The Mist starts with David, Stephanie, and Billy Drayton weathering a huge thunderstorm in their lakeside house. The morning after the storm, a thick, unnatural mist moves slowly across the lake, eventually enveloping the whole town. David and his son, Billy, have gone to the grocery store with their neighbor, leaving Stephanie, his wife, at hone to garden. Once at the store, the mist continues to move across the town, reducing visibility to almost zero. Soon, the people in the grocery store begin to hear screams of fellow townspeople through the mist, but cannot see who—or what—is causing the desperate screams.
Eventually, it becomes clear that there are bizarre, unearthly creatures in the mist that attack and kill any human they come across. Thus trapped in the supermarket, tensions between factions of townspeople continue to grow as David and a few others begin to plan an escape…
Four years after the untimely death of his beloved wife, Jo, from a brain aneurysm, novelist Mike Noonan is still in mourning—and suffering from write...moreFour years after the untimely death of his beloved wife, Jo, from a brain aneurysm, novelist Mike Noonan is still in mourning—and suffering from writer’s block. He decides to leave his Derry, Maine home for Sara Laughs, the lakeside cabin his wife loved. In the unincorporated, rural part of Maine known as TR-90 (called “the TR” by the locals) that Sara Laughs is part of, Mike becomes involved in the plight of the young and beautiful but poor Mattie Devore, whose young daughter is in danger of being taken away by Mattie’s spiteful father-in-law.
The Dead Zone is another one of Stephen King’s better-known novels—at least to me—probably because I remember hearing a lot about the TV series when I...moreThe Dead Zone is another one of Stephen King’s better-known novels—at least to me—probably because I remember hearing a lot about the TV series when I was younger. (It was actually more successful than I thought, running from 2002-2007!) It’s one of his older books, published in 1979, and is one of the “Castle Rock” novels, along with Needful Things, Cujo, and a number of other short stories.
The prologue begins with Johnny Smith, as a young boy, getting in an accident on a frozen pond while playing with other neighborhood kids. He hits his head badly, but does not seem to suffer any adverse effects—although he does wake up with strange words on his lips: “don’t jump it no more, Chuck.” A month or so later, long after Johnny has all but forgotten about the accident, Chuck Spier, a neighbor, is terribly injured while trying to jumpstart his car.
Many years later, Johnny Smith, now a young schoolteacher, takes his sweetheart Sarah to the county fair. After a strange, unsettling encounter at the Wheel of Fortune, Johnny drops Sarah off at her apartment and makes his way home—but is severely injured in a car accident on his way, ending up in a coma for almost five years. Meanwhile, a politician named Greg Stillson is slowly rising to acclaim despite the myriad mental problems that the reader—but not the characters—are privy to…
Prince Caspian is the fourth book in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. This one has restored my faith in the series after I didn’t particularly enjoy...morePrince Caspian is the fourth book in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. This one has restored my faith in the series after I didn’t particularly enjoy The Horse and His Boy.
The story begins with Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy sitting on the platform of a train station, on their way back to boarding school for a new year. Suddenly, instead of sitting on a dreary platform, they have been transported to a forested island, where they stumble upon the ruins of an ancient castle. Eventually, they realize that the ruins are those of their own Cair Paravel, the castle from which they ruled Narnia when they were kings and queens.
Soon, they meet a dwarf who tells them that Narnia is now under the rule of the cruel Telmarines, who have all but stomped out the Talking Beasts and other magical creatures the Pevensies knew when they last saw Narnia. The dwarf tells the children of Prince Caspian, the rightful heir to the Narnian throne, whose father was killed by the usurper Miraz—Caspian’s uncle and the king’s own brother. And now that the king has a son to inherit the throne, Caspian has left the castle on the advice of his tutor.
Now it’s up to the Pevensies to help Caspian and the Talking Beasts of Narnia overcome the Telmarines. Will they be able to defeat King Miraz’s armies and restore Caspian to his rightful place?
I really liked Prince Caspian! Lots of great adventure and battles and Aslan being awesome (including turning water into wine…hmmm…). I really like Caspian, as wildly unrealistic as he is (but I mean, this is a fantasy series after all). It was also cool to see that so many generations had passed since the Pevensies’ last visit (only a year ago our time, but centuries in Narnia time) and that everyone reacted to them as though they were gods and goddesses come to life. It was also interesting to see how quickly and easily they slipped back into their old roles as kings and queens, even though they’re still children.(less)
The Horse and His Boy is the third installment in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. It takes place during Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy’s reign in Na...moreThe Horse and His Boy is the third installment in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis. It takes place during Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy’s reign in Narnia—but actually has very little to actually do with Narnia until the end.
Shasta, the son of a poor Calormene fisherman, one day overhears his father, Arsheesh, offering to sell him to a wealthy nobleman. Through listening to the conversation, Shasta discovers he is not the fisherman’s son at all: many years ago, Arsheesh discovered Shasta in a small boat that mysteriously washed ashore, and raised him as his own. Dreading his fate as a slave to the nobleman, Shasta contemplates running away, deciding to make that thought a reality when he discovers the nobleman’s horse is a Talking Horse from Narnia.
That night, Shasta and Bree begin a journey from Calormen to Narnia. Along the way, they meet up with another Talking Horse, Hwin, and her rider, Aravis, a young Calormene girl intent on escaping an arranged marriage. Together, they endure the bustling crowdedness of Tashbaan, Calormen’s capitol city, and the blistering heat of the desert, sometimes getting separated before finding each other again. Eventually, they make it to Archenland and then on to Narnia, where Shasta learns his true origins—and finally finds peace and plenty.
I don’t have much to say about this one other than that aside from the blatant racism, it was a pretty cute story. Didn’t hold my attention as well as the other two that I’ve read so far, but it was definitely one I’ll want to make sure to read to my kids: lots of good morals, a decently exciting story, intrigue, mystery, talking animals…good stuff.(less)
Mile 81 is a short e-book (a novella, if you will) released by Stephen King in September 2011. It was released only as an e-book, so I had no idea how...moreMile 81 is a short e-book (a novella, if you will) released by Stephen King in September 2011. It was released only as an e-book, so I had no idea how I’d ever be able to read it—but then a coworker let me borrow her Kindle at the end of September at an overnight staff function and I got to read it and it was awesome.
Fast-forward five months, and I still hadn’t written about it. By that point, I figured that I wouldn’t be able to remember enough of it to review it, so I figured I’d just forget about it. But then, I got my shiny new iPhone, with its awesome app, iBooks, and I was able to download it on my phone! I was able to read it again, and this time I’m actually going to write a review!
When ten-year-old Pete Simmons is left behind by his older brother, George, on a boring, overcast day during spring vacation, he decides to go investigate the abandoned Mile 81 rest stop near his house. Having heard tales of Really Big Kids going there to do coke, drink, and “suck face” with their girlfriends, Pete can’t wait to explore—and prove to George and his friends (who call themselves the “Rip-Ass Raiders”) that he isn’t just a little kid.
Upon getting to the rest stop, Pete finds a half full bottle of vodka and takes a few nips—you know, so he can give George and the Rip-Ass Raiders an accurate report—promptly overwhelming his ten-year-old body. Eventually, he nods off on an old mattress inside the rest stop building.
After Pete falls asleep, a nondescript station wagon makes its way into the rest stop, barreling through the orange barriers blocking its way. Then, its driver’s side door opens…but no one gets out. The entire car—including the windshield and even the interior—is covered with mud, obscuring the make and model; it has no license plates. The open door seems almost to beckon.
What is the secret of this mysterious car? Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, will soon find out. So will Julianne Vernon, the entire Lussier family, and Maine State Trooper Jimmy Golding. Eventually, Pete Simmons will wake up to a horror he could never have imagined. But perhaps he, unlike the others, will be able to stop it.
Normally, when it comes to Stephen King, I generally prefer his huge, chunky books, like It and The Stand. While I like his short stories, they just haven’t always been the easiest things for me to get into—although I think part of the problem is that I get too into them, and feel let down when the story ends before it really seems to begin. But Mile 81 seemed like just the right length. It probably only took me about two hours cumulatively to get through (less the first time), but it was a simple plot that wrapped up quite nicely, in my opinion.
It’s too long to be a short story and too short to be a novel, so I can’t really compare it to much else of King’s work that I’ve read…the only thing I can think to compare it to is The Mist (a novella King wrote that was first published in a horror anthology called Dark Forces in 1980), which I read a few years ago and enjoyed, but Mile 81 was tons better, in my opinion. I kind of felt that The Mist could probably have been longer than it was and better fleshed out—perhaps a two-part book with part one being in the grocery store and part two beyond—because it was a pretty complex story. Mile 81 was simple: evil car. Sound familiar? I wonder what it is with Stephen King and evil cars…
Anyway, if you’re looking for a quick read and you do have an e-reader (or an iPhone) and are willing to spend the $2.99 for a great story, you should download this one. King fans will immediately recognize (and love) his unique narrative voice and well-crafted characters. Enjoy!(less)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the second book in the Narnia series. This is the one that I read when I was in fifth grade (or sometime in e...moreThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the second book in the Narnia series. This is the one that I read when I was in fifth grade (or sometime in elementary school) and didn’t like. I don’t remember why except that I apparently found it difficult to understand. Twelve years later, I’d like to say that I understood it much better—and enjoyed it quite a bit more!
This story picks up many years after The Magician’s Nephew ends. The tree that Digory planted in his backyard—the core of the magic apple—has come down after many years. Digory, now an acclaimed Professor, made a wardrobe out of it many years ago; this wardrobe now sits in his huge old country house.
Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are four siblings who are sent to the Professor’s house from London during the air-raids of WWII. One rainy day, they decide to explore the large, rambling house, and Lucy, the youngest, stumbles upon a strange wardrobe. She climbs in to see what’s inside, and discovers double rows of fur coats…but does not find the back of the closet. She continues feeling her way toward the back of the closet, only to find herself in the middle of a snowy wood. After spending a few hours there and meeting a magical creature called a Faun (who explains that the wood she has stumbled upon is called Narnia), she makes her way back through the wardrobe to the Professor’s house.
Initially, Peter, Susan, and Edmund don’t believe Lucy’s story of a wood behind the wardrobe; though she has been gone for hours in Narnia’s time, she has been gone for mere seconds in our world’s time. Eventually, the other three also make their way into Narnia—where they must escape the White Witch, who is the reason for Narnia’s eternal winter and who is determined to turn all four children into stone so she will eternally remain the Queen of Narnia.
This second installment of The Chronicles of Narnia was fantastic. Even though it’s clear that it was written for children, I don’t feel talked down to or anything like that. The Christian allegory is continued here—also very reminiscent of Harry Potter—but I won’t say more than that so I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it.
Something I’m seeing as a theme between the two books I’ve read so far is that it always seems to be the boys who make the dumb decisions—the girls are always sensible and restrained. For example, in The Magician’s Nephew, it’s Digory who wakes Jadis and ends up bringing her back to our world; in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Edmund (sort of) befriends the White Witch, eats the enchanted Turkish Delight she offers, and agrees to bring his brother and sisters to her. I mean, it was published in 1950, so I can see where the sexism would come in. (It also makes sense, then, that Father Christmas tells the girls they aren’t to be part of the battle to come because “battles are ugly when women fight.”)(less)
The Magician's Nephew is the story of Digory and Polly, two children who meet and become friends during a rainy London summer. One dreary day, they de...moreThe Magician's Nephew is the story of Digory and Polly, two children who meet and become friends during a rainy London summer. One dreary day, they decide to explore the attic tunnel connecting their two houses, planning to make their way into a third, abandoned (and, perhaps, haunted?) house that is also connected. Instead, they stumble into a mysterious room where Digory’s Uncle Andrew (who fancies himself a Magician) performs strange experiments.One of those experiments sends Polly hurtling into another world—and Digory must go after her in order to bring her back.
Together, they embark on an incredible journey to other worlds where they encounter evil queens, talking animals, and trees with silver, life-giving apples. One of these worlds is the infant Narnia, born from the song of Aslan, a Lion. There, they witness the coronation of the new King and Queen of Narnia and Digory receives an incredible gift from Aslan before returning home.
Okay, I’m just going to go ahead and say I didn’t know what I was talking about when I was younger, not being interested in these books. Even now, at 22, this book totally hooked me. I love C. S. Lewis’ narration style—it actually seems like he’s sitting next to me telling me a story. It’s very conversational and very different from many other things I’ve read, so it’s a nice change of pace. It’s also nice to be able to get through a book in only a few days (or, depending how much time I have on my hands, a few hours!). I had no idea that they were as easy reads as they’re turning out to be…I guess when I was in fifth grade the style just confused me.
The Christian allegory is also something I can appreciate. It’s pretty obvious, but not in an “I’m going to beat you over the head with it” way. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of it plays out.
Mostly, though, I just really loved the story. The creation of Narnia was amazing. Some of the descriptions were just so terrific that I could really see (and feel, and hear, and smell) what was happening. But enough of it was left up to the imagination as well to create just the right amount of mystery. The descriptions of Uncle Andrew were particularly hilarious, as were the illustrations. One of the best parts for me was when he faints from shock at the talking animals and they can’t decide whether he’s a tree or an animal, so they try to plant him (thankfully not face down!). Ah, so awesome.
I really, really enjoyed this book and I’m so glad I decided to make myself finally read the series! I especially can’t wait to read them to my kids someday (or maybe just give them the books and let them read them once they’re old enough to read on their own). I think this is also Andrew’s favorite of the series, so he was really happy that I liked it. Yay!(less)
The Stand is without a doubt one of my favorite SK books. I think it was the first one I read; either that or It. I remember I bought them at the same...moreThe Stand is without a doubt one of my favorite SK books. I think it was the first one I read; either that or It. I remember I bought them at the same time, and I think my dad told me to read The Stand first, because he thought it was less scary. I was only twelve or thirteen at the time, so I could see how that would be a concern.
Anyway, I just recently acquired a new copy of The Stand; back in high school I lent my copy to a friend, and never got it back. I’d been meaning to buy a new copy forever, and when I got a Barnes & Noble gift card for Christmas, I figured it was time.
The Stand is a magnificently woven tale of the American survivors of a superflu epidemic that decimates the country. With a 99.4% communicability rate and an even-closer-to-100% mortality rate, the survivors are few and far between. As the last of the afflicted die, the survivors begin having vivid dreams—some are drawn to an elderly black woman known as Mother Abigail who sits on her porch and sings hymns, who eventually leads them to Boulder, Colorado; others are drawn to Las Vegas, Nevada, where a dark man waits to build his empire. Each society views the other as a threat to its own survival. In this post-apocalyptic battle of good and evil, who will prevail?
One of the coolest things about The Stand for me is the way the point of view constantly changes from person to person, and how there are many different storylines all going on at the same time. Many of the books like this that I enjoy eventually knit most if not all of those plots together; The Stand does this, to some extent, but not completely. For example, Lloyd Henried, a petty criminal who ends up as the dark man’s right-hand man in Las Vegas, never once interacts with Stu Redman or Larry Underwood, who are drawn to Mother Abigail and, eventually, to Boulder. Some storylines, like Trashcan Man’s, are kept almost completely separate from everyone else’s (even though he does end up in Las Vegas and has passing interaction with some of the residents there). It can be difficult to keep all the narratives straight in your head (somehow I always mixed up Lloyd and Larry, even though they’re nothing alike), but it’s so cool to watch them all play out.
I’m also just drawn, for whatever reason, to the post-apocalyptic/dystopian genre. It’s really fun (and really frightening, at times) to contemplate what the world will be like in the future, whether decimated by some superflu virus like in The Stand, a burned wasteland like in The Road, or a freaky society where everyone’s role is determined before they’re born, like in Brave New World. The Stand is actually probably what got me into that genre in the first place, because it’s the first post-apocalyptic novel that I remember reading; up until I started reading Stephen King, it was all Babysitters’ Club and V. C. Andrews for me. So thanks, SK, for starting a decade-long-and-counting obsession with what might have been—and what still could be!
I would not hesitate to say that The Stand is truly a masterpiece. With an incredibly diverse and well-drawn cast of characters, skillfully interwoven plots, and good helpings of action, love, suspense, and horror, The Stand is what every novel should be. It hasn’t quite edged out It as my favorite SK novel, but it’s up there for sure, and I’d still rate it 5/5.(less)
The premise of The Road is pretty simple: a father and son (always referred to as “the man” and “the boy,” never named) are wandering through a post-a...moreThe premise of The Road is pretty simple: a father and son (always referred to as “the man” and “the boy,” never named) are wandering through a post-apocalyptic, burned out America. That’s about the best I can do without stealing from the blurb on the back: “Their destination is the coast, although they don’t know what, if anything, awaits them there…It boldly imagines a future in which no hope remains, but in which the father and his son, ‘each the other’s world entire,’ are sustained by love.”
I’m going to be honest here. I finished this book before the New Year and have been avoiding writing about it because I didn’t like it and frankly couldn’t think of anything to write about. The other night, I was talking to a friend about it and told her how I thought it was boring and totally not engaging, and she explained to me that it’s not about the plot—it’s about the love between the man and his son.
Okay, fine, I get that. Except that’s not why I read books. I read books because I like stories. I don’t want to read an exposé of the love between a father and a son. I’m not really into touchy-feely books like this. It’s just not my thing at all.
I also wasn’t a big fan of the writing style…no quotation marks, run-on sentences, really just not a lot of punctuation in general. I am a big fan of punctuation. As a linguistics major, a grammar nerd, a constant reader, and an amateur writer, punctuation is my friend. I may not always use it correctly (I find I’m particularly fond of dashes where they don’t necessarily belong), but at least when I write, it’s usually decently readable. (Readers, tell me if I’m wrong.) Now, The Road was not nearly as bad as some of Faulkner’s “stream of consciousness” BS, but it was still kind of off-putting to me. Rules exist for a reason. Throwing them out the window doesn’t make you “cool,” at least in my eyes. I suppose that was my frustration with e. e. cummings, thinking he was so awesome and special for not using punctuation. But anyway, I digress.
I didn’t really like this book. Like I said, I guess I just didn’t appreciate it for what it was. I’m more of a plot person, not a “let me read almost 300 pages about how much this guy and his son love each other” kind of person. This book was definitely not for me.(less)
Whispers is the story of Bruno Frye, who believes his mother keeps coming back from the dead in different bodies, no matter how many times he kills he...moreWhispers is the story of Bruno Frye, who believes his mother keeps coming back from the dead in different bodies, no matter how many times he kills her. Now, he thinks his mother is inhabiting the body of Hilary Thomas, a successful screenwriter who lives in LA. After having killed his mother successfully many times before, Frye is not prepared when Hilary fights back.
When Hilary reports the attack to the police, they find something astonishing: Frye had been in his Napa Valley home the entire time the attack was occurring. Hilary, convinced it was Frye who attacked her, believes there is something more to the case than what meets the eye. Tony Clemenza, a sympathetic LAPD detective, believes her. But what dark secret could possibly allow Bruno Frye to be in two places at once?
I believe Whispers was one of Koontz’s first bestsellers. On one hand, that doesn’t surprise me, because it’s true to Koontz’s best form: A lot of characters, a few separate storylines, and one major thread that eventually ties them all together. On the other had, while I liked the story, I found there was rather a lot of gratuitous sexing. Not that people shouldn’t have sex, but almost all of it was graphically described. And I mean graphically. Leave it for the romance novels, Dean.
On a similar tack, another thing that was slightly disturbing was the amount of sexual deviancy going on here. Like, weird shit. For the first time in a long time I felt embarrassed while I was reading this and wondered what the heck was going on in his head when he wrote it. By the end I understood that most of it was necessary for the storyline…but not all of it was. I feel like some of it could probably have been left out, and the book would have made me feel a little less dirty.
Overall, though, I did enjoy it and I’m glad I read it. The characters were drawn really well, and I particularly enjoyed Joshua Rheinhart, Bruno Frye’s attorney. He’s a work-a-holic curmudgeon who has been trying very hard not to be a work-a-holic curmudgeon since his wife died, and I find his gruffness particularly adorable – especially since he’s described as having “fluffy white hair” and I can just picture him scowling and trying not to smile.
I would definitely not recommend Whispers as highly as I would recommend some of Koontz’s other books, and I would especially not recommend it to those who blush easily – but if you’re a fan of classic Koontz, this is a must-read.(less)
The Invisible Man is a science-fiction story about—you guessed it—an invisible man. He appears first as a mysterious, hot-tempered, bandaged stranger,...moreThe Invisible Man is a science-fiction story about—you guessed it—an invisible man. He appears first as a mysterious, hot-tempered, bandaged stranger, asking for accommodation at an inn in Iping. Eventually, the inn owners as well as some of the other villagers realize there is something strange about this man, and when they realize exactly what it is, the town is thrown into chaos as the Invisible Man tries to escape. He succeeds, and seeks refuge with a former school friend. But the Invisible man has a much more diabolical plan than anyone thought at first, and the villagers must go to great lengths to stop him.
I am a big science-fiction fan, and The Invisible Man is one of the first older science-fiction-y books I’ve read, other than Anthem and 1984, if those count. I really enjoyed it, mostly because Wells made it seem almost plausible for there to be an invisible man, despite what I know about science (which, admittedly, isn’t all that much).
It was also interesting to see the total angst the Invisible Man (Griffin) is going through. Prone to fits of rage when he isn’t just being generally unpleasant, he immediately alienates himself rather than waiting to be alienated by those he encounters. I honestly sympathized with him for most of the book, until I found out what he actually intended to do with his invisibility.
I normally find a lot of my enjoyment of a book in deep character expositions, and this is an area in which The Invisible Man is lacking somewhat. However, 140 pages is not a lot of space to develop characters, and I actually really liked the way the story was told in short spurts about certain people’s encounters with Griffin. Not much character expo there, especially since these were people who encountered the Invisible Man briefly and then were on their way—and I liked this perspective rather than seeing everything more from Griffin’s perspective. I haven’t read anything that is completely or almost completely third-person omniscient in a while, and it was refreshing to see quite a few different perspectives throughout, even if most of them were never fully fleshed out.
I will definitely read this again, and I would certainly recommend it to science-fiction lovers (although they have probably been aware of it much longer than I have)!(less)
I was tempted to start this entry with “Victory! I have found a Jane Austen novel that I don’t want to call my favorite!” but that seems wrong of me,...moreI was tempted to start this entry with “Victory! I have found a Jane Austen novel that I don’t want to call my favorite!” but that seems wrong of me, considering how much I love Jane Austen. But it’s true: after a second reading, I’ve found that Northanger Abbey is definitely my least favorite Austen novel.
Northanger Abbey is the story of Catherine Morland, who even the narrator acknowledges is an “unlikely heroine”: she is rather plain, not poor but certainly not rich, and spends most of her time reading Gothic novels. When she falls in love with Henry Tilney at Bath and is subsequently invited to visit with the Tilneys at their home, Northanger Abbey, Catherine’s imagination runs away with her as she begins to see Northanger Abbey as a site of nightmarish horror. Eventually, of course, Catherine is set straight, and though it’s up in the air until the very end, the novel does end happily.
Maybe I just wasn’t really paying attention either time I’ve read Northanger Abbey, but I find this story to be the least memorable of any that Jane Austen has woven. Yes, the passages in which Catherine freaks out during her first few nights at the Abbey are amusing, but that’s about the extent of what I really remember, even though she doesn’t actually end up at Northanger Abbey until halfway through the book.
I also haven’t had a heroine annoy me quite as much as Catherine annoys me. She’s a likable enough person, I guess, but silly and gets way too carried away with herself. It’s fine to have a vivid imagination, but the assumptions she makes are so incredibly unrealistic that it’s clear she has her head more often in the clouds than on solid ground.
Not to mention that the guy she falls for, Henry Tilney, is sort of an ass. Not as much of an ass as her other option, John Thorpe, but still…an ass. He gets better throughout, as in he stops correcting her in every little thing she says, but I already disliked him enough that I didn’t care. I wanted Catherine to marry him because, even if I didn’t like her that much, I wanted a happy ending, but still.
I still think you should read Northanger Abbey because Jane Austen’s writings really need to be read as a set (this includes her minor and unfinished works as well, like Lady Susan, Sanditon, The Watsons, etc.). And all the crazy little stories she wrote as a young girl—those are hilarious. But my point is, just because I didn’t particularly love Northanger Abbey doesn’t mean you won’t, so you should definitely read it because, come on, it’s Jane Austen.(less)
The basic premise of Cold Fire is this: Jim Ironheart, a thirty-something guy from southern California, has a mysterious savior complex that allows hi...moreThe basic premise of Cold Fire is this: Jim Ironheart, a thirty-something guy from southern California, has a mysterious savior complex that allows him to know when and where someone will be in danger, and how to save them. He doesn’t know where this power comes from or why he is the instrument through which it works; he avoids all publicity and has no close relationships. That is, until he saves a young boy in front of Holly Thorne, a reporter from Portland. As they are drawn to each other, seemingly by the same mysterious force that sends Jim flying about the country saving people he doesn’t know, they are faced with a dark revelation: just what, exactly, is working through Jim—and is it as benevolent as it seems?
I don’t have much to say about this book except that I enjoyed it. Not one of Koontz’s best by a long shot, but certainly nowhere near his worst. There were plenty of twists and it was paced very well—kept me on my toes throughout, and did a good job of preventing me from getting any work done. The story was creative, for sure, and as usual, did a good job of incorporating Koontz’s usual themes of love and faith.
One part that I was disappointed wasn’t explored more was early in the book, where Jim saves a young woman and her daughter, and then rides off into the Mojave desert on a motorcycle. He ends up suffering from severe heatstroke, and is nursed back to health by a priest. The priest decides to take Jim’s care into his own hands because—get this—when he finds Jim unconscious in his church, he discovers that Jim is marked by stigmata: nail holes in each of his palms and feet, scrapes around his forehead that could have come from a crown of thorns, and a gash in his side that could have come from a spear.
But then that’s it. The priest reveals this to Jim as he rushes him to the airport on another of his strange missions. I don’t think the stigmata ever come up again; it’s definitely not part of the big revelation at the end. It definitely drew me in, but since it never came up again, it just seems out of place now.
I did like the book, though. Didn’t love it, but it kept me occupied, which is sometimes all I can ask for.(less)
The Castle of Otranto is a novel we read for my Jane Austen class my senior year of college, primarily to give us a glimpse into the kinds Gothic nove...moreThe Castle of Otranto is a novel we read for my Jane Austen class my senior year of college, primarily to give us a glimpse into the kinds Gothic novels Catherine Morland reads in Northanger Abbey. It’s a teeny little novel, less than 100 pages, and for this I was grateful.
Otranto is the tragic story of Manfred, a usurper of the Castle of Otranto, and his family. His initial attempt to marry off his young, frail son to the princess Isabella ends in tragedy when the boy is crushed by a giant helmet falling from the sky (no, seriously). We eventually learn that Isabella is a descendant of the family from whom Manfred usurped the crown, and that Manfred’s plan all along had been to unite the two families so his grandchild could be the rightful heir of Otranto. What follows is disaster after disaster as fate interferes with Manfred’s plans, ending in a rather Shakespearean final tragedy of love lost.
I actually liked this book more than most people in my class did, I think. It was an entertaining story with plenty of plot twists, some more predictable than others. I especially liked the giant limbs showing up all over the place (the introduction to the book describes them as “disproportionate forces” indicating that “the passage, and metaphorically the will, of the living is blocked by the intentions of the dead”) and terrifying everyone out of their wits.
The worst thing about the book for me was that there were very few paragraph breaks, even with dialogue; there were also no quotation marks to indicate dialogue, so it took a while to be able to easily identify when someone was speaking. It was especially confusing when one person’s dialogue ended and another’s began with no indication until a “s/he said” at the end of the sentence. Eventually, however, I was able to figure out who was saying what with relative fluency: each character had a unique enough voice that this was usually possible, and context helped a lot as well.
I’m not sure that I would read it again, but I’m glad that I did read it and I’m looking forward to reading other Gothic novels. If you’re interested in the Gothic and don’t know where to start, I would suggest this one for two reasons: one, it’s “The earliest and most influential of the Gothic novels” (according to the back of my copy); and two, it’s short, so it’ll give you a good idea of whether or not you like the Gothic before you dive into something huge like The Mysteries of Udolpho.(less)
My cousin Duncan recommended this book to me when I was about twelve. He let me borrow his copy, which was one of the most battered-looking books I’ve...moreMy cousin Duncan recommended this book to me when I was about twelve. He let me borrow his copy, which was one of the most battered-looking books I’ve ever seen: it was in at least two pieces, held together by a rubber band. It was also signed by Orson Scott Card, so despite its terrible condition, he obviously wanted it back. Even though I finished reading it within a few days (I remember reading it while visiting another relative’s house, staying up into the wee hours of the morning, eating lemon drops out of a dish on the nightstand of the guest room, completely glued to the book), it took me quite a few months to send it back—I didn’t want to part with it.
I eventually got my own copy. This one, like Duncan’s, was well-used and well-loved, though all still in one piece. The summer before my first year of college, I lent it to my now-ex boyfriend, who, to the best of my knowledge, still has it. Too embarrassed to ask for it back, I suffered through about a year and a half of Ender’s Game-less existence before finally buying a new copy at The Strand, the best bookstore ever, in New York City during spring break my sophomore year. This is the copy I’ve lent to several other people, including my roommate and my boyfriend, and gotten them hooked on it as well. It’s currently in the possession of another friend, who also loved it. This is one of the first books that comes up in conversation about favorites, mostly because most people have heard of it but not all of them have read it, and it gives me a chance to reinforce whatever other recommendations they had been getting about this awesome book.
Ender's Game is set far in the future. Aliens (or “buggers”) have already attacked earth twice, and the second time, Earth’s victory was only just barely snatched from the jaws of defeat. Now, in preparation for the Third Invasion, genius children are whisked away from home and sent to Battle School to learn to be military commanders. Ender Wiggin is the smallest and youngest of these children, but also perhaps the smartest. Able to see weaknesses in the system and exploit them, Ender soon rises to the top of the Battle Room standings, much to the ire of his older peers. However, Ender perseveres, and ends up changing Battle School—and life as they know it—forever.
I loved Ender’s Game when I was twelve because it was about genius kids, and while I didn’t fancy myself a genius, I was definitely part of what you might call the “nerd herd” at my school. My cousin was the same type of student, although definitely a ton smarter than me, and I idolized him (still kind of do, actually). So another part of the reason I loved the book so much is because I knew he loved it, and that he wanted me to love it too. And I did.
Unlike other books I was reading around the age of twelve (lots of V. C. Andrews), Ender’s Game has been a lasting favorite of mine. Other than the Harry Potter series, I don’t think there’s another book that could be considered a favorite of mine for that long. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, the story itself is enduring. Who hasn’t wondered once in a while if there’s life elsewhere in the universe, and whether or not aliens would be peaceable? The book is rather short but intense, rarely giving the reader a break to breathe, staying true to the breakneck pace of Battle School. It’s an adventure, and it’s one that almost everyone can relate to: everyone was a kid once, and everyone has wondered about the possibilities of life beyond our own home planet.
Second, the characters, for the most part, are drawn realistically. Ender and the other main characters are all dynamic, well-developed, round characters—and even the more minor characters are pretty lifelike. Watching their exploits, their successes, and their failures is like watching my own friends (and let me tell you, I would love to be friends with a lot of these characters if they were real). I sympathize with them and cheer them on as if they really are my friends, and I think it’s terrific when an author can really make characters come alive like that. It was also comforting that as I grew up, they stayed the same. Throughout a rather tumultuous adolescence, I could always turn to Ender’s Game and be soothed by the familiar words…and also the fact that the kids I was reading about were a ton younger than me and had much bigger issues to deal with than I did: they had to worry about saving the world, while all I had to worry about was getting good grades and surviving my parents’ divorce. I could probably say this about a lot of my favorite books, but only Ender’s Game was there throughout almost my entire adolescence.
This post is already too long, so I’ll stop here. But if you’re ever skeptical about Ender’s Game, just talk to me and I’ll make you not skeptical. I don’t care who you are, you should read it, and you will enjoy it. I promise.(less)
Digital Fortress is the story of TRANSLTR, the NSA’s invincible code-breaking machine. When TRANSLTR encounters a code it can’t break, Susan Fletcher,...moreDigital Fortress is the story of TRANSLTR, the NSA’s invincible code-breaking machine. When TRANSLTR encounters a code it can’t break, Susan Fletcher, senior cryptographer, is called on the scene. Simultaneously, David Becker, her civilian fiancé, is sent to Seville, Spain, on a related NSA mission—and is trailed by a mysterious man. Almost as soon as Susan arrives at Crypto, the NSA’s code-breaking division, she’s caught in a web of deception. As Susan gets closer and closer to the heart of what’s really going on inside TRANSLTR, she must discover who the real enemy is before it’s too late.
One of the first things that struck me about Digital Fortress is that it was so typically 90s, especially the fact that people had pagers. I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a pager, much less knew someone who had one (I know my parents didn’t). It’s really funny to read about times when current technology was just being born, because I think we tend to forget that cell phones and modern computers haven’t been around even close to forever.
Typical of Dan Brown, Digital Fortress was an easy and quick read, and by quick I mean I was burning through the pages because I needed to know what happened. I had to get up early Monday morning but still stayed up late Sunday night finishing the last forty pages—I don’t know if I even read anything on the page, I just got the gist of it before moving on because those last 40 or so pages were intense. But also typical to Dan Brown, the end was reasonably satisfying and gave me room to catch my breath—I hate when thrillers just end and don’t resolve anything. That’s one of my biggest issues with a lot of the newer thrillers: it seems like this whole “ending the book without resolving anything” is some kind of trend. Not my favorite.
This is definitely a good book to pick up if you’re bored and want something that you won’t be able to put down, so it was a good choice for me for a weekend when I could more easily shirk what I was supposed to be doing. I really enjoyed it and will absolutely read it again—I think it was even better than The Da Vinci Code, to be perfectly honest. So you should definitely go out and read Digital Fortress if you haven’t yet and you like Dan Brown!(less)