Book reviews

11/22/63, by Stephen King

Book description: Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful. 

Reading Challenge category: Book with a number in the title

My review: As always, King is the king of creepy. I really enjoy Stephen King, but I always seem to forget that fact. But he’s a great writer – enthralling, even. And he scares the shit out of me. The scariest book I’ve ever read is still It. I mean, sentient evil dressed up as a clown? Are you kidding me? I once had to throw that book across the room and refused to go near the corner where it lay for a week. Where does he come up with this stuff? Also the creepiest short story, The Jaunt. If you want to spent the rest of the day contemplating terrifying eternity, you can read it online here.

I would say that 11/22/63 is less scary than incredibly suspenseful. But it grabs you by the throat from the beginning and you must know what happens. I know that King often writes in the past, particularly the fifties, but it’s interesting to see him write it from the perspective of a man of the future – it allows him to more directly speak about what that era means to him. I especially liked how Jake starts to question himself whether he really is a saviour, or a demon sent to the past.

I liked how he tied in some stuff from his other books, particularly the part of the book set in Derry (where It was set). Just actually being reminded of It was the scariest part of the book, but you also kind of feel in on the secret. All in all, a great book, very recommended as you will not be able to put it down.

 

The 100, by Kass Morgan Book description: Something like 200 years in the future, the Earth has basically been destroyed by nuclear war and all the remaining humanity lives on a space station that is segregated into different communities – some wealthy, some poor. As we discover, the station is running out of oxygen, so they have been killing off all criminals, no matter how minor their crime. Now, 100 youths who are sentenced to die on their 18th birthday have a reprieve – they are being sent down to the Earth’s surface to determine whether it is ready to be repopulated.

My review: I was really disappointed with this book, because I really like the TV show. Have you seen it? It’s a CW show, but you know what? CW has some really fun shows and I bet you just don’t want to admit it to yourself. The show is dark and entertaining. The book was fluff and boring. I had so many problems with the book. Like the whole segregation of society. There’s like, a few thousand of you? And the “lesser” stations work for the richer stations, so they are all mingling pretty much on a daily basis. And yet they have different accents, and different children’s stories? Makes no sense.

Also, if you get pregnant without permission, you are sentenced to die (so is the father, so it’s not a sexist issue). I get the whole, population must be controlled. But have you not heard of the pill? Despite the fact that pregnancy is a death sentence, apparently the only birth control is abstinence. Or, like, abortion. Sucky, but better than being executed.

The characters were not well rounded and most of them made me pretty angry. Do not recommend the book. At all. But watch the show.

 

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Book description: Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Reading Challenge category: Book recommended by a friend

My review: I had a slow time getting into this book. A big part of that for me was the way it was written, passing back and forth between France and Germany every page, essentially following two entirely different stories at the same time. As a result, every short chapter is set up almost as a small contained vignette. It was very prettily written, but it lacked an engaging story line until much later in the book. However, it was lovely, and deep, and I did enjoy it.

bookcover

Let this be a warning to you if you ever lend me a book – I am very hard on books. They will come back tattered and broken. That’s just the way I read.

The Leftovers, by Tom Perrotta

Book description: Three years ago, a portion of the human population disappeared. Largely viewed to be the Rapture, the rest of humanity is left wondering how to go about the rest of their lives, not knowing how long that would be. Do you try to go back to normalcy, or do you cut ties with everything you knew before? The Leftovers follows a family that falls apart in the wake of the sudden disappearance.

Reading Challenge category: Book based entirely on the cover

My review: Since I usually always read my books on ereaders now, I had to seek out a book with an engaging cover. And isn’t this engaging? It certainly creates a lot of questions. Also, I’m pretty sure this is Justin Theroux’s back? It’s a nice back. I hadn’t realized the book had been made into a TV series until I saw this.

After reading the book, though, I’m not sure I want to watch the show. It is dark. And sad. And scary. It certainly is thought provocative, but I also thought there might be more room for hope as well? I wasn’t expecting answers, and I would have been disappointed if Perrotta had gone there. But as the book drew towards the end, I was getting more and more desperate – this isn’t going to get any better, is it? The last few pages in fact were very revealing, but only led to many many more questions. The book as a whole was almost too realistic for me to enjoy. But I’m not sure it’s supposed to be a book you enjoy. Hmm, if I think of it that way, it’s actually quite good. I’m talking myself into this book. For conflicted emotions, read this one.

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