books · Reviews

“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why” – 11.22.63 Review

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A few days ago I finished reading 11.22.63 and yet I am still apprehensive about writing this review. This is not because I didn’t enjoy this book but because there is too much to cover in one blog post.

I guess I should start at the beginning.
11.22.63 is a novel by Stephen King about an English teacher called Jake who goes back in time to the year 1958 in an attempt to stop the assignation of J F Kennedy. But, each time he returns to the rabbit hole which transports him to the past, everything ‘resets’ itself. Without going into too much detail he decides to do a ‘test run’ by saving a family from being murdered by the father. In doing so he realises that the past is very reluctant to be changed.

During his wait for 1963 he lives in a small town called Jodie where he meets the love of his life Sadie, the librarian of the High School he teaches at. He has a pretty wonderful life during this period and it was really nice to be absorbed into the simple, happy life of Jodie. Of course this doesn’t last long when a certain Lee Harvey Oswald arrives.

I didn’t have much prior knowledge of JFK’a assassination, so there were certain parts where I drifted off and got a bit bored during the politics discussions. That aside I found the book really enthralling. I loved being absorbed into the Jodie lifestyle and its juxtaposition with the rising pressure of Jake’s mission.

I loved the romance of Jake and Sadie too and I thought she was a great character. It was refreshing to see a genuine, three dimensional depiction of a woman, especially as a love interest. In fact I would say that Jake was the one who was lacking in character, his personality wasn’t very striking. But I guess it could be argued that that is the whole point, hes a pretty average man who suddenly becomes a hero of the world.

I really really enjoyed reading this book and I’m actually quite sad that its over. I miss Jodie already! I also LOVED the part where Jake goes to Derry and meets Richie and Bev! I was ridiculously excited at that part and fangirled pretty hard whenever Pennywise was mentioned.

There were a lot of parts where I was literally on the edge of my seat as the tension was too high! It really says something when a book can stress you out so much!

So overall I would give this book a whopping 4.5/5 being just short of IT.

books · Reviews

“Time was a wave, almost cruel in its relentlessness”: Han Kang’s ‘The Vegetarian’ – A Review

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This book is a stunning example of writing, it is so beautiful and vivid, and the way it challenges the male gaze is really interesting.

Each third of the book is narrated from a different character’s perspective and follows the transformation of a young woman called Yeong-hye, after she decided one day to become a vegetarian.

The first third is told by her asshole husband who cannot understand why she has decided to give up meat. Rather than try to talk to his wife and understand her decision, he berates her. When her family find out about her lifestyle change they try to reinforce their views onto her, to the point that her abusive father physically holds Yeong-hye down and tries to force a piece of meat into her clenched mouth.

The point of the book though isn’t really about her being a vegetarian but is about the attitudes that others (especially men) have towards women and how society treats those who are different. Han Kang explores the strict social constructs of South Korea and their suffocating effect on women. Because Yeong-hye no longer obeys her family’s rules she is shunned from their family unit.

When she gets admitted into a mental hospital it is only her sister In-hye that sticks by her. However the guilt and the responsibility of this role eventually takes its toll on her and the novel ends with her finally understanding her sisters rebellious behaviour.

I love the fact that each third is narrated by a different character none of which includes Yeong-hye, thus preventing the reader from fully understanding her inner thoughts and decisions. The second third of the book is narrated by Yeong-hye’s brother in law who sexualises her, only  viewing her as a mysterious, erotic and sensual work of art.
Its interesting that its only her sister who sees her for what she is, a mentally ill woman in need of help. The men do not appear to see her as an actual person but either a burden or an object of desire.

I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t put it down! I loved the beautiful language and imagery and the contrast with the brutal reality of the hospital. Deborah Smith has done a wonderful job in translating this text and manages to capture the artistry of Kang’s language. ⭐️4/5 ⭐️

 

books · Horror · Reviews

“God! Whose hand was I holding?”: ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ Review

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The Haunting of Hill House was one of the first books that I have taken out of the library since I graduated from Uni and boy am I glad I did!

At 246 pages it is a relatively short book, but what it lacks in length it certainly makes up for in content! I thoroughly enjoyed this book and even during times of confusion (mostly due to the fever I was running) I still wanted to learn more about Hill House.

It follows the narrative of four strangers, united in their mission to discover the psychic manifestations of Hill House. The four includes Doctor Montague, who invited the three to the house, Eleanor: A shy outsider, Theodora: An artsy type, and Luke: An heir to the house. Although they come from different backgrounds they all immediately get along especially the two women, who are implied to have a sexual chemistry.

The narrative is very familiar, a big haunted house being investigated for paranormal activity, but this is because it is Shirley Jackson who really kicked off this ‘genre’. What I loved about this book was the fact that you do not ‘experience’ much paranormal happenings in the house, such as ghost sightings or blood dripping off the walls, but what you do see is the growing fear in the characters through the eyes of Eleanor and how their fear manifests itself. The perspective of Eleanor allows the reader to question the accuracy of her narrative, is there actually a paranormal entity possessing her or is she allowing her fear to take over her senses?

Jackson builds the suspense terrifically with an almost melodic style which really gripped me. The knocking on all the doors leading up to the girls’ bedroom terrified me! Such a simple thing was exaggerated to become a really scary read! In fact all of her descriptions of the sounds of the house were so detailed that I could almost hear them! And her beautiful description of the dark, towering house was just brilliant, I could imagine it perfectly.

This was my first book of Shirley Jackson’s and it definitely will not be my last! ⭐4/5⭐

 

P.S. here is my favourite quote of the book:

“I am like a small creature swallowed whole by a monster, she thought, and the monster feels my tiny little movements inside.”

books · Horror · Reviews

Joe Hill’s ‘NOS4A2’ Review

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I haven’t posted a review in quite a while, mainly because I have been ill with the flu for 2 weeks. But thankfully I’m finally feeling human again!

I was gifted NOS4A2 for Christmas and was pretty excited to delve into it. The book had received a lot of hype and a lot of love on Bookstagram so I was expecting/ hoping to love it, but honestly I actually didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked.

The plot had a really good premise  and was mostly executed very well however, I’m not so sure how I feel about Hill’s characterisation. I was pretty aware the whole time reading it that Vic was written by a male. I can’t quite put my finger on why but I just didn’t connect to her as a character as I just didn’t see her as believable. This meant that I could not fully grow to like her and began to lose interest half way through the novel when the spooky stuff cooled down and her life story took over.

For me there was too much waffle in the middle, especially as it was mostly focused on a character that did not interest me. I also didn’t really believe in Vic’s love for her son as I felt that she didn’t really bother about him until he went missing. This aside, I was still rooting for her to rescue Wayne and was on the edge of my seat when she raced to Christmas Land.

I really like Christmas Land. I thought the whole concept was so disconcerting, with the charming festive atmosphere mixed with the horror of the undead children. Another thing I loved about the book was Manx and his creepy sidekick Bing, in fact I felt the whole time that I wanted more of them. I thought like Christmas Land, Hill created a beautiful concoction of charming and disturbing in his characterisation of Manx. Every part that Manx was present felt like what I expected the whole of NOS4A2 to be. I have since found out that there are graphic novels that delve more into Manx and the origin of Christmas Land, but I think that 600+ pages gave more than sufficient space for Hill to at least give us a bit more information on Manx’s background and character.

His sidekick Bing also really interested me as he was clearly a very deranged individual. I  would have liked to have spent more time in the narrative with him and his crazy thoughts than stayed with Vic.

It wasn’t all bad though, I did genuinely enjoy this book especially the first third and the last third. When reading the first 100 pages or so I couldn’t help envisage how awesome this book would look as a film, it was that good! Hill’s descriptions are really detailed and quite quirky in nature which I thought worked really well. The whole concept of being able to go through a magic tunnel and come out exactly where you need to is awesome!

Hill’s writing is easy to read and really sucks you into the story. I think he is a really good writer, and I know that this review probably seems quite negative but I really did enjoy this novel! I would definitely read it again and who knows, maybe I will enjoy it more the second time now I know what to expect. ⭐️3.5/5 ⭐️

books · Horror · Reviews · Stephen King

“I am your number one fan” – Misery Review

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Where do I even begin with this book?! It was one of the most suspenseful books I’ve read in a long time!
Although I am already a huge fan of King’s work I feel that you do not need to have read his previous books to enjoy Misery. The action begins immediately and throws the reader right in the deep end, with Paul slowly regaining consciousness in a foreign environment. Along with Paul we experience his confusion as he pieces together what happened to him. What I loved most about this book was the fact that we only see through his perspective and not Annie’s, adding to the claustrophobia as he remains trapped inside her guest room.
And what can I say about Annie?! I think she may be one of my favourite King characters! I love her unpredictability; You can never tell what mood she is going to be in, and whether she is about to have an episode! I love her moral ambiguity as well. Yes, she is a murderer but there is something about her that seems very childlike and naive which sometimes made me feel almost sorry for her, as she clearly has many mental health issues. She could be so sweet and nurturing towards her favourite writer then suddenly switch to a sadistic maniac, who *Spoiler Alert* cuts his leg off! I think King wrote her perfectly and really showed off his talent.
Only a truly amazing writer can evoke suspense and fear from a story involving only two characters in one room! 4.5/5
 

books · Reviews

Red Dragon Review

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I’ve had a bit of a reading break since completing ‘It’ so have only read one book this month. My friend suggested that as a fan of horror I should read the Hannibal series. She kindly posted me her copy of Red Dragon which also included Silence of the Lambs so I was excited to start.

My only exposure to Hannibal had been through the film Silence of the Lambs so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. At first I was surprised by the lack of Lecter as he was a predominant character in the film, but soon I realised that as the title suggests, the novel is about the Red Dragon.  At first the Red Dragon gave me the creeps, especially as he repeatedly watched the murder tapes. However I was quite surprised to be strangely willing him to end up with Reba. Don’t get me wrong I still thought he was a gross psychopath but I actually felt a bit sorry for him when we discovered his past. You would think that the revelation of a murderer’s tragic childhood would be a cliche but actually I didn’t find it to be the case in this book. His confused relationship with his Mother and Grandmother explained a lot and I can understand that he needed an outlet for his love that he couldn’t express to his family.

I thought that Reba could possibly change him and help him to function as a normal human being. Alas I was wrong and he died morally ambiguous. When I believed that he had killed himself to save Reba I was weirdly touched and thought that maybe he had beaten the ‘Dragon’, however when he attacked Graham and it was revealed that he faked it I was a little bit disappointed. But I much prefer this ending to the one I had imagined as it portrays the complexity of his condition, be it schizophrenia or multiple personality disorder and shows that although he did save Reba, he was still the murderer he always was.

The book had a good pace and style which was easy to follow and kept me wanting more, so overall I found it an enjoyable read. 4/5

 

books · Horror · Stephen King

‘You’ll float too!’: Review of IT by Stephen King

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Continuing my Stephen King binge I decided to read ‘Salem’s Lot’ and ‘Pet Sematary’ both of  which were brilliant. However the increasing hype for the new remake of IT couldn’t be ignored and so I decided to read the book ahead of it’s release.

IT is a pretty large book of 1392 pages, making it one of the longest books I’ve read in a while. But unlike many big books (I’m looking at you The Casual Vacancy) its content was consistently gripping and did not feel dragged out.

The plot follows seven kids who live in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. They are brought together by an evil force which thrives on the town, causing numerous peculiar murders. This evil thing they refer to as ‘IT’ lives in the sewers and can shift its form to impersonate the deepest fears of the children it feeds on, the most popular manifestation being Pennywise the clown.
Through the use of flashbacks we follow their story as their adult selves try to piece together what happened during their forgotten childhood and what exactly they had promised to return to 27 years ago.

This skipping between the past and the present was what I liked most about this novel, especially when a character would begin a sentence in 1985 and finish it in 1958, for example:

‘I think it was the same knife he had that day. When we went into the sewers. Do you remember?’
‘I r-r-remember’, Bill said grimly. “Eddie listen to me. I want you to

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g-g-go back and tell B-B-Ben to c-come up h-h-here.’

Because of the length of the novel I could connect to the characters and thus ‘root’ for them to defeat IT. I think King has mastered the art of writing and understanding the inner workings of people, especially those of the ‘bad’ characters, for example Bev’s husband. He is abusive to Bev and even recounts a time where he raped her, however we also see his genuine love for her and how he helped her grow her fashion label, reminding us that nothing is always black and white.

The characterisation of the ‘Losers’ was very well done as the children’s’ voices conveyed ‘authenticity’. What I mean is that I believe that eleven year old kids would behave like they do in the novel, and unlike Danny Torrance in The Shining,  I felt as if they used a lexicon appropriate for their age group. I enjoyed the idea that only children could see IT’s tricks, for example when blood bursts out of Bev’s sink and all over the bathroom her parents cannot see it. King really plays with the idea of the childish imagination. This is also why IT chooses mainly children as it’s victims as their fears are easy to manifest. Becoming a werewolf or a witch is a lot less complicated than impersonating a fear of rejection or of failure for example.
I also found it interesting that it was the children’s belief in magic that allowed them to defeat IT; Bill had faith that he could defeat the monster which gave him the power to kill it, just like when Eddie convinced himself that his inhaler contained acid so he could burn IT’s face with it.

I love the juxtaposition of the children’s fear of a monster with the evil force that causes the town to turn on each other every 27 years. At first the reader is led to believe that a creepy clown is stalking children, but as the book continues they realise that its more than that, it is an energy that has been a part of the town since the beginning of time. IT is Derry. Although trippy at first I really enjoyed this concept; Here was a novel that didn’t just follow the conventions of horror but completely turned them on their head.

Thus I found IT (especially as Pennywise) absolutely terrifying in his relentlessness to kill the children and its ability to cause the town’s folk to look the other way at their cries for help.

The book isn’t just about murders and evil though, it also demonstrates friendship and the love between childhood friends, as well as a lot of humour. Richie in particular was my favourite and really reminded me of some of my old school friends. For me he completely steals the show which makes me incredibly nervous for the film adaptation of his character. I think the portrayal of Bev was very well done, as I have mentioned before King is very good at creating young female characters. I was glad to see a girl who was ‘one of the boys’ without compromising her femininity. She was just as physically able as her friends and was in fact better at using a slingshot. However, she still wore dresses and skirts and did not reject any references to her gender. Overall she was a fully developed female character whom I could relate to. However what ruined this for me was what occurred in the sewers with all the boys (if you’ve read it you will know what I’m referring to). I really did not enjoy that part and to be honest didn’t really understand its purpose other than to sexualize an eleven year old girl, especially as she appeared to enjoy it. However King has since stated that he regrets that part of IT so I’ll do my best to ignore it.

Overall I really loved IT and am honestly sad to have completed it. Although there was that one part that I despised, I thought it was a genuinely incredible book with enough great content to remain a favourite. I cannot wait to see the film adaptation on Sunday!   
5/5

Beep Beep Richie!