INSOMNIA Review

INSOMNIA Review

Review:

Insomnia - Stephen King

Writing this review is going to break my heart, so I’m going to get it over with as quickly as possible. Deal? Okay.

The most interesting thing about rereading Stephen King’s works in chronological order is seeing how my opinions of them change in comparison to how I felt years ago. Experiencing his releases one after the other in publication order puts them in a new light, and that new light can often shine previously unnoticed brilliance or bring dark shadows to my attention. 

Insomnia is a novel I used to number among my favorites; after this reread, I cannot, in good conscience, give it a higher rating than two stars. It’s just such a deeply silly work. Yeah, the concept itself is one of King’s coolest — Ralph Roberts, elderly Derry resident, begins to see strange auras and Little Bald Doctors after developing insomnia in the months following his wife’s death — but I feel it’s really bungled. Reading this man’s novels in order has opened my eyes to this fact: post-drugs King rambles. A LOT. Entire chapters of this novel could have easily been cut; this thing is filled to the brim with exposition. And yeah, of course I want King to explain this strange concept he’s come up with, but he holds the reader’s hand. Nothing is left to the imagination. And what’s more, not much is done with these crazy happenings — said happenings are merely talked about. It feels like the characters spin their wheels at times by ruminating on the same things. Something happens, and the main characters spend an entire chapter discussing it. Ridiculous. The worst offending scene that comes to mind is Ralph and Lois on the hospital roof. If you’ve read this book, you know what I’m talking about. So much of that chapter could have and should have been axed. 

A large component of this 1994 tome is pro-life vs. pro-choice debate going on in Derry. It’s almost tearing the town apart, though none of it feels particularly . . . vital? Energetic? Like, it feels as though the reader is really supposed to care about this issue, but King writes it so ho-hum. I dunno. As my friend Aaron pointed out, this plot line really doesn’t go much of anywhere; it just gathers everyone up for the finale. Maybe I’m just burned out on politics as of late (despite it deeply annoying me, I stay in tune with the news every day); maybe that’s why reading this grated my nerves a little. The entire political aspect of this work adds a cynical, unpleasant flavor to the dish. (And my god, what is up with everyone in Derry apparently owning a super specific political bumper sticker? Seriously. Like, nine or ten times King makes mention of bumper stickers. Weird.) 

Laborious and so intricately plotted the energy is totally sapped from this doorstop, Insomnia is, unfortunately, the worst time I’ve had in the Stephen King reread yet. From the hokey, unrealistic dialogue to the laughably silly climax featuring the Kingfish, I cannot recommend this one. Though filled with cool references to several King novels — especially his magnum opus, The Dark Tower — this hefty volume is a chore to wade through. 

No favorite quote or references today. I’m grumpy. Sad face.

 
 

 

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FRIEND REQUEST Review

FRIEND REQUEST Review

Review:

Friend Request - Laura Marshall

Facebook is certainly an interesting thing. Despite my frustrations with the social media site, I still use it quite often to keep up with friends and family, share in major life events, and of course occasionally creep on those long left in my past. We all do it. Naturally, when I read this book’s premise I had to immediately request an advance reader’s copy from Netgalley, and luckily I was accepted. The conceit — grown woman receives a Facebook friend request from a high school friend who has been dead for twenty-five years — is one that grabbed me from the start. Unfortunately, the story did not live up to the thrills and scared promised by this novel’s synopsis.

 

It was steady going for the first twenty percent or so . . . and then I started making excuses for not returning to this story. Louise, the main character, is likable enough albeit not relatable to me. I could not really empathize with her, nor could I with any of the other characters. Honestly, these people just weren’t fun to read about; I found them to be rather lifeless.

 

I was expecting a twisty, psychologically taxing and challenging story — instead I got a bit of a snooze fest. I figured everything out by the time I was a third of the way in. The ending is largely telegraphed, and I was largely able to predict a lot of the plot. Lame! This is supposed to be a thriller mystery, and it fails on that basic level — hence my low rating. This author can write well: her word choices are good and her prose flows. I would, theoretically, be interested in reading something else by her. Her skills as a writer kept me going until the end, even when I didn’t want to. It is simply unfortunate the plot of this mystery about ghosts from the past and long-buried grievances wasn’t more involving or challenging.

 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC, which was given in exchange for an honest review.

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MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE Review

MIDNIGHT AT THE BRIGHT IDEAS BOOKSTORE Review

Review:

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore: A Novel - Matthew J. Sullivan

It begins with a suicide: Joey, a young man in his twenties who is a regular bookstore patron, hangs himself from a shelf in the Bright Ideas Bookstore—which is where this novel’s main character, Lydia, is an employee. Joey leaves behind messages meant only for Lydia; it is from there this suspenseful novel unfolds. 

There is so much I want to say about this novel, but I’m finding myself at a loss for words—that’s how you know it was good. That, and the fact that I finished this in a single day: something that almost never happens. This novel is populated with some of the most fully drawn characters I’ve come across in some time: Lydia’s friends and families and the bookstore itself are all unique and divine creations and will surely stick with the reader for a long time. 

How would I classify this novel? It is certainly a mystery, and maybe horror, too? Sullivan certainly isn’t afraid to go to dark places, and there are several scenes herein that gave me the certifiable creeps. Yeah, a horrific mystery sums it up well! 

Simultaneously a thrill ride and love letter to book lovers, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is not to be missed. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy, which was given in exchange for an honest review.

 
 

 

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PERENNIALS Review

PERENNIALS Review

Review:

Perennials: A Novel - Mandy Berman

I never went to summer camp when I was growing up. I wasn’t deprived, or anything like that. My parents would have let me go, had I asked — I simply was (and am) of the antisocial sort. I was the type of kid to haunt the local library during summer break. I wasn’t one for physical activity. LOL. 

However, I do like reading about summer camps — through them I experience what is maybe lacking from my own childhood. Truthfully, I don’t feel I missed much . . . but still, the topic and setting of summer camp often makes for interesting (albeit cheesy, usually) stories. How does Perennials measure up? Well, it’s not interesting or cheesy. It’s just lifeless and lame. 

Firstly, this novel has more structural problems than a termite-ridden set of wooden stairs. The first two chapters take place in 2000, at the summer camp that acts as the focal point of this novel, and then randomly switches to 2006. The two characters that are seen in the 2000 chapters are still around, but the reader is suddenly introduced to a ton of new campers, none of them fleshed out whatsoever. I think the main characters were supposed to be… Rachel? and . . . I’m blanking on the other girl’s name. Yeah, I just finished this one and can’t remember any of the characters’ names. That’s bad! Bad bad bad. 

So the plot hops from character to character and situation to situation, and almost none of it is necessary to furthering the story, nor does most of it come together by the story’s end. Either this one leaves a ton of loose ends hanging, or I was too bored to care. I sorta get what the author was going for: the wide ranging impact summer camp can have on young teens, but the problem is this novel is just too short. There are way too many characters crammed into this story, and all of them want to be the main protagonist. None of them are written well at all, and I just . . . God, I’m boring myself talking about this. 

I honestly didn’t have high hopes for Perennials, but I was expecting to at least get a breezy, fun summer read. Nope. This is just bland, flavorless melodrama populated with excessively, offensively boring characters and trite situations. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free review copy, which was given in an exchange for an honest review.

 
 

 

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My Top 10 Stephen King Novels

My Top 10 Stephen King Novels

This was originally going to be a topic for Top 6 Thursday, but I find it’s so hard to contain my favorite Stephen King novels to such a small number — so ten it is. I am currently up to Insomnia in my massive King reread project, so my tastes could easily change by the time I’m done with that. It happens. My opinions on King’s work changes as often as the wind blows. I will probably post a revised version of this list when I’m finished with said reread project, whenever that is.

For now, though, here is my top 10…

darkhalf1992

10. The Dark Half 

I didn’t like this novel for a long, long time. It took three rereads for me to finally appreciate what King was going for here. Before, I could never quite wrap my head around what George Stark is; now, I realize it’s up to interpretation and have my own. Not only is this one of King’s scariest and goriest works, it’s also his most fun read. 

HeartsInAtlantis

9. Hearts in Atlantis 

I love it when King goes literary; he did that a lot when he first signed on with Scribner. Technically, this isn’t a novel . . . but it kind of is? It’s a collection of five interconnected stories that, in the end, come together to create something very close to a novel. I’m a student of the Vietnam era; the politics of the age endlessly fascinates me. Hearts in Atlantis deals with those years in a real and memorable way. King’s prose in this 1999 release is especially powerful and poignant. By the time I finish “Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling,” I’m always in tears.

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8. Duma Key 

King’s commentary on the creative process is always fascinating, and no where is it more captivating than in this 2008 novel. Perhaps what is most remarkable about this particular story is the setting: it takes place in Florida, not Maine. The descriptions King gives of the Keys are vivid and colorful; every reread makes me want to buy a house in Key Largo (oh, I wish!). Duma Key sees the marriage of Literary King and Horror King, and the results are awe-inspiring.

Cujo_(book_cover)
7. Cujo 

I almost didn’t include Cujo on the list, simply because it’s such a nasty, brutal story. But honestly, I couldn’t count it out. It’s such a marvel from a writing standpoint: King grabs the reader from page one and doesn’t let go until the epilogue. I always finish this one in a day, two days tops. The scenes in the Pinto are among the tense and spirit-breaking in all of horror fiction, and King’s exploration of the social classes and infidelity are subtle and, yet, rather riveting. Those scenes are perhaps his most Dickensian. But, in the end, this is Cujo: a scary-as-hell story told by a ruthless author.

Revival
6. Revival 

The most recent release on this list, Revival was very much a return to form for King. Though I’m still not completely sure how I feel about the ending, the fact that I still think about it almost three years after is certainly a point in the book’s favor. This 2014 novel is, in my opinion, King’s bleakest; it is also one of his finest character studies yet. I’ve only read Revival once and cannot wait to give it another go.

DoloresClaiborneNovel
5. Dolores Claiborne 

One continuous chapter, told in Maine dialect over the span of 300 pages. This could and should have been a disaster, but it’s not; quite the opposite, in fact. Dolores Claiborne is King’s finest female character. Tough and real and stubborn, she isn’t afraid to fight for her children, and she is an absolute joy to read about. Like Cujo, this is a book that cannot be put down once begun.

11-22-63
4. 11/22/63 

This was the first King novel that released after I became a bonafide Constant Reader, so it’s special to me in that regard. As I said when discussing Hearts in Atlantis, I am fascinated by the ’60s and ’70s, and tend to agree with King in his estimation that the JFK assassination is the dividing line in modern American history. If Kennedy hadn’t been assassinated, would action in Vietnam have progressed? Would Nixon had been elected in 1968, thus causing major distrust in the American government to bloom after Watergate? King explores these questions and many, many more in this epic novel. I love time travel, so naturally this 2011 novel had to make it into my top 5! This book also features one of my favorite King romances; I just love Jake and Sadie.

Shiningnovel
3. The Shining 

A King classic by every standard, this is a claustrophobic, frightening novel that retains all its power after multiple reads. I should know; I’ve reread this 1977 horror classic more times than any other book in my collection. Jack’s plight is a tragedy in the truest sense. And one cannot ever forget the Overlook Hotel: King’s scariest and most memorable setting.

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2. Needful Things

For a long, long time, this this was my favorite King novel . . . it’s basically tied with the number one spot, okay? This is certainly SK’s most complex work: the way the characters interact is truly fascinating. This is, in my opinion, King’s most successful small town novel. On full display is the dark comedy: long stretches of this story are devilishly funny while stills exploring the darkest parts of the human psyche.

DeadZone
1. The Dead Zone 

A quiet wonder. A gentle, haunting, and tragic journey through the life of the character who is, arguably, King’s most likable and relatable creation: Johnny Smith, everyman. And it is the novel in which King introduces his readers to Castle Rock! From end to end, this 1979 novel is simply sublime; from the prologue set at the skating rink to the heartbreaking final chapter, this is King at his very best, his most melancholy. Despite being very much a long look at the 1970s as a whole, this novel does not become dated. In the era of Trump, it has only gained relevance and powerful. Johnny and Sarah’s doomed relationship is King at his most Shakespearean. And through Johnny’s psychic powers, King brings the story of Cassandra into the modern day; it is with that engine SK drives, full speed, filled up with confidence and grace.

That’s my top ten! What are your favorite Stephen King books?

AS YOU WISH Review

AS YOU WISH Review

Review:

As You Wish - Chelsea Sedoti

Release date: 01.02.18

DNF at 32% (Though I did skip to the final chapter to see how things ended.) 

Jesus Christ, this was the worst book I’ve tried to read in a long time. Maybe young adult fiction is not for me anymore? I don’t know. This book is set in a small town in the desert, near Area 51. Nothing much goes on in said town, except for the occasional tourist on his or her way to find aliens. Oh, and everyone in town can make one wish that comes true on their eighteenth birthday. Why? “It just happens,” one character says. “There isn’t a reason.” 

This book is so damn lazy. The characters are drawn in the broadest of strokes, and the main character (Eldon? Ellwan? I don’t know) is the worst. He’s a total brute: insensitive to the point of being cruel for no real reason other than his girlfriend left him for a guy he — said MC — plays with on the football team. That’s . . . it, basically. And the fact that he was once the best on the football team but no longer is due to other players’ wishes making them better has him down, too. So there’s a lot of generic teenage angst and confusion about the future, which is okay . . . if written well. It’s not, here. This main character is mean to his friends, his parents, everyone. And yet, he constantly reminds the reader that he’s super hot and can have sex with any girl he wants. Yay, character development? 

32% is more than fair, I think. This book is flaming trash and may no one pay full price for this turd when it comes out in January. 

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC, which was given for free in exchange for an honest review. This is it. Sorry your book sucks so much, but at least the cover is cool.

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THE CHILD Review

THE CHILD Review

Review:

The Child - Fiona Barton

I always give authors at least two chances to impress me. While I did not totally dislike Fiona Barton’s debut novel, The Widow, I did feel it dragged substantially in its latter half and didn’t really work as a compelling mystery. Its twists and shocks — such as they were — were easy to predict, making for a relatively boring experience. However, Barton has a background in crime reporting and does know her way around a phrase. Her books are, technically, well written. They make sense; they have credible setups and characters’ motivations are clear. I felt that way when reading The Widow(which I gave three stars to) and feel that way about this, her newest release: The Child

How does The Child measure up against Barton’s previous outing? It is certainly an improvement! Though quite similar in tone and pacing to her other release, in this the author amps up the macabre and intrigue and dread. Though I was able to predict some of the twists in this mystery, I didn’t see most of them coming. Fiona Barton seems more comfortable as a novelist here; it makes for a very pleasant reading experience. 

The premise is rather simple: the skeletal remains of a baby are found buried at a construction site. Who buried it there, and why? The Child sees the return of investigative reporter Kate Waters, a main character in The Widow. She is the one digging at this, trying her hardest to find out what happened. The novel is centered on this mystery, and the lives of the people who are entangled in this strange discovery. 

I really enjoyed this. Though I do have a few qualms — the story needlessly drags in places, Barton’s male characters aren’t fleshed out at all, the ending is a little rushed — I can definitely say I was a little surprised by how much I loved this novel. Part crime drama, part mystery, part thriller, this is certainly one of the more memorable and rewarding books I’ve read in 2017. Highly recommended.

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