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books and reading

The Shining

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This book is the first Stephen King book I read, over 20 years ago. I sure did start out with a bang! Since I have yet to read Doctor Sleep, I wanted to revisit The Shining to refresh my memory of the Torrance family. This book is one where you can’t compare it to the movie at all. They are vastly different. It’s pretty well-known that King isn’t a fan of The Shining movie, calling it “a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it.” Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the movie just never really captures the terror presented in the book.

We first meet the Torrance family, Jack, Wendy, and five-year-old Danny, after Jack has stopped drinking and is applying for a job as the winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel in Colorado. High up in the mountains, the Overlook closes from Sept-May. Jack’s drinking troubles have ceased, but the memory of him breaking Danny’s arm lingers. Wendy loves her husband but is wary. And Danny is a great kid but an unusual one. Danny can see things before they happen. Once they get to the Overlook, Danny meets the head chef, Dick, who can also see things before they happen. This skill, Dick says, is called “the shine.” Dick knows the hotel isn’t harmless and is nervous for the family. He tells Danny to call him, mentally, if he needs him.

Slowly, the hotel begins to take possession of the family. Jack is the easiest to turn because he’s mentally troubled with his alcoholism. Even though the place is dry, the instability he has previously suffered makes him an ideal candidate for going crazy. The hotel also tries to get Danny into its grips by showing him horrifying things that have happened there. Wendy is the strongest, but she is at the mercy of her husband and son.

The ending of this book is nothing like in the movie, and giant chunks of the plot were altered, which was unnecessary. The book really is great as is, no adjustments needed. Aside from the end, the book is only graphic in a few spots but is really more of a psychological horror than anything else. I’ve read dozens of his books, and this one really does stand out as one of his best.

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books and reading

Spoon River Anthology

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I don’t have a ton to say about this book, but I do want to mention it because it’s really creative, and I think a lot of people would be interested in it. The story is of the town of Spoon River, but the story is told via epitaphs.

The writings on the gravestones are written as if the person who died was writing it for him/herself after death. So, each one is written from the third person and tries to explain something about the person’s life, death, or both. A lot of accusations are made in one person’s epitaph which are resolved in another person’s. Explanations about divorce, murder, and the like fill the gravemarkers and, through these, you get a good idea that Spoon River isn’t the greatest place in the world, nor are its inhabitants.

Published in the early 1900s, the stories are much dated, but that really doesn’t matter because they are still salacious. And while I ultimately enjoyed the book, it was just so long and so many graves to keep up with. I found my brain wandering and skimming a lot. So, I recommend this book for its uniqueness and value in literature, but I can’t say I’ll pick it up again. But one more PopSugar Reading Challenge knocked out. Clearly this fit the “anthology” category.

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books and reading

The Perfect Nanny

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I love a good thriller. Only a few stand out, though. The Silent Patient, Gone Girl, All the Missing Girls, and Girl in Snow, and Baby Teeth all come to mind as being better than the rest. I’m always searching for another good one. Unfortunately, most are just ridiculous. An Anonymous Girl, The Woman in the Window, The Woman in Cabin 10, all just irritated me. Sadly, The Perfect Nanny joins this list, but for reasons different from the aforementioned titles. Most fall into terrible tropes, namely the “I drink too much and can’t remember anything” one. I am just so over that type of story.

The Perfect Nanny starts with the ending. And I HATE that concept. It completely takes me out of the plot. Instead of wondering what will happen, I am left wondering why. I *should* be wondering both, especially in a thriller where a terrible event happens. Even though it’s not the first chapter, I’m not going to say what it is, other than awful. Skip ahead a bit, Louise is a dream come true in the nanny world. The kids adore her, she cooks, cleans, can stay late or come early, and the parents end up relying on her more and more. All seems well.

What’s frustrating about this book is that it’s an omniscient narrator, so you never really get into Louise’s head. She’s clearly not a good person, and you learn a bit about her back story, but nothing really explains her anger. She has a “mood disorder,” barely mentioned, but that’s really all we learn about her mindset, other than a few flashbacks. This book would have been so much better from her perspective to really get into the unreliable narrator’s thoughts. I fit this book into the “book with a three-word title” for the PopSugar Reading Challenge but was ultimately disappointed.

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books and reading

The Book of Lost Things

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For the PopSugar 2020 Reading Challenge, I need to read a book with a book on the cover. Surprisingly, this was a difficult challenge. I scoured my shelves and ended up with the silhouette of a book and called it a day. This one had been recommended to me ages ago, but I never got around to it. So, I was excited to give this one a chance, even though I really knew nothing about it.

The story is set in the 1930s, and after David’s mother dies, his father remarries and has a baby boy with the new woman. David feels like he has pushed to the side and is really struggling with this new family. His only escape is within a book, and, thankfully, his new home is full of them. David begins fainting every now and then, and while he’s out, the books whisper to him. Slowly, David gets drawn into the books, and eventually, he hears his mother’s voice calling to him. David goes into the garden and somehow slips into another world.

This new world is lorded over by a king, and David believes this king can help him get home. Along the way, David meets plenty of people who want to help him, but many who don’t, namely the Crooked Man who tries to get David to tell him the name of his little brother. Clearly, the Crooked Man is evil, but David tries his hardest to escape him. While traveling to the king, David stumbles upon various tales like Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, and “The Most Dangerous Game.” I was shocked at how violent this book was. It’s not that I was offended by it, but I thought this book was for kids, so the violence took me aback.

As much as I rooted for David, I really didn’t get sucked into the story. Most days, I just read just to get to the end of the book. That said, it’s probably just a personal preference. This is a really creative book, and David’s a great character, but it just didn’t capture me.

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books and reading

Still Life With Woodpecker

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A friend of mine read this in school as an example of satire, a genre I enjoy, but I had never heard of this book. But, she recommends pretty great stuff, so I added it to my list and didn’t think much more about it. I stumbled across a cheap copy somewhere and bought it, simply for the delicious old book smell, but also in case I decided to read it. The 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge requires a book with a great first line. So, while searching the internet for great first lines, this book is recommended for the following: “If this typewriter can’t do it, then fuck it, it can’t be done.” Consider me sold.

This bizarre love story follows Princess Leigh-Cheri and her would-be love interest, The Woodpecker, AKA Bernard. She is an environmentally conscious teen, he’s an older dynamite enthusiast. Match made in Heaven, right? They meet in Hawaii, and their love blossoms, as do their explicitly described sexual escapades, so what could go wrong? Unfortunately, Bernard gets caught up with “the law” and ends up in prison. Leigh-Cheri knows what she must do while she waits for his release. She must also imprison herself with nothing more than Bernard has. A simple cot, a chamber pot, and a pack of Camels. Ain’t love grand?

Leigh-Cheri is young and really doesn’t know much about love. Bernard is more of a rapscallion than Leigh-Cheri admits, so this separation doesn’t go as well as expected, but I’ll leave you to find out why. To put it straight, this book is hilarious. There are so many delightful phrases I flat out snorted at in laughter. It did take a bit to get into, but once they get to Hawaii, the pace picks up quite a bit. I’m going to be honest and say that this book is flat-out bizarre, but I really enjoyed it.

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books and reading

The Girl Who Lived Twice

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I’ve been a big fan of the Millennium series from early on. I read the first two in the original series, but the newest trilogy by David Lagercrantz isn’t quite the same. If you are judging them separate from the first, they definitely hold up on their own as interesting murder mysteries. This book meets the “book about or by a journalist” category in the 2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge.

This newest installment finds Lisbeth in hiding, yet again, plugging away at some version of revenge. Mikael Blomkvist is investigating a mysterious death, even though he really has other stories he should be writing. We meet a few new characters including a journalist “lady friend” of Mikael’s and as he digs deeper into the death, he unlocks a lot more information than he really intended to. I really don’t know much about Russian or Swedish espionage, so a lot of it I just read without understanding the magnitude of the betrayals, but the point gets across anyway.

These books are worth reading, even if they aren’t the original. I have enjoyed them quite a bit, and I like to see how Lisbeth has evolved. It might not be a huge evolution (spoiler alert, she’s still sullen in this one), but she has let a few people into her life, which is a big step. I’m not sure if there will be other books in the series, but I will stick with them, if Lagercrantz writers more.

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books and reading

Series I’m Working On

I  have a terrible habit of starting a book series and then never going back to it. Because I do the book challenge each year, I will start a series by reading the first book because it fits into a prompt, but then I get distracted and don’t continue the series. Every few years, I make a point to wrap up any series that I’ve started, whether through the book challenge or not.

This year I’m finally finishing The Lunar Chronicles (Cinder review here) and The Dublin Murder Squad (In the Woods review here and The Likeness review here).  I have really enjoyed both of them, up to the point I’m at. Last year, I started a few more series, but I am making an effort to wrap up everything. Here is what I’m working on:

  • The Jackson Brodie books by Kate Atkinson. I have read the first three and am currently working on the fourth.
  • Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi
  • The Armand Gamache books by Louise Penny. I have read the first two. These are so much fun to read, given that they involve murder. The people of Three Pines are charming, and Gamache is a great investigator.
  • The Harry Hole books by Jo Nesbo. I read The Bat this year.
  • The Jack Caffery series by Mo Hayder. I’ve read the first two (Birdman review) and have really enjoyed them, but they are definitely some of the more graphic police detective books I’ve read.
  • The Penny Green books by Emily Organ. (Limelight review). I discovered her by accident, honestly. I needed a book with a fruit or vegetable in the title and searched my Kindle for various fruits and stumbled upon lime. I have gotten most of her books for free and have read the first two. They are a lot of fun. Penny is a reporter in 1800s England works closely with the police to solve murders. They are really well-written and clever.
  • The Red Queen series by Victoria Aveyard. (Red Queen review). I’m really iffy about this one. There is a giant plot hole in Red Queen and it still irritates me. But I’ve been told that the rest of the books are better, so I’m giving them another chance.
  • The Charlotte Holmes series by Brittany Cavallaro. I listened to A Study in Charlotte a couple summers ago and really enjoyed it. It’s a bit of a modern Sherlock Holmes Dr. Watson series (involving their descendants) and is more complex than I was expecting.
  • The Broken Earth series by NK Jemisin. The Fifth Season review. I really liked this one even though fantasy isn’t my favorite genre.
  • The Inheritance series also by NK Jemisin. I didn’t like this one as much, but I’m going to stick with it.

Between finishing all these series and the PopSugar reading challenge, I’m going to be very busy this year trying to complete them all, but I look forward to it.