Monday, August 24, 2015

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over. 
The Heart Goes LastThis is an interesting story, yes, but it could have been written by anyone. From the moment I started it to the last page, I didn’t really hear much of Atwood’s usual voice in the narrative. None of the poetic, lush language she is so well known for is there.

The characters are well developed, though none of them are likeable enough to root for. I love the bleakness of Atwood’s vision of the future, and the violent tendencies in humans that she bring to light, but I wish she had written all of this with her voice! At points, her word choices even felt as if they had been dumbed down to attract a wider audience. 

There are plenty of absurd scenes, with Elvis impersonators galore, which make me think she might have meant the novel to be a dark comedy, but the comedy aspect falls flat. As a reader who will buy anything Atwood writes, I truly hope she has gotten this style of writing out of her chest and gets back to the beautiful writing and poignant storylines she is known for.

Monday, August 10, 2015

It by Stephen King

ItTo the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw - and felt - what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one's deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality.

Stephen King is a master at what he does. If there were any doubts in my mind as to his skills as a story-teller, then this novel wiped them clear. Not only is it frightening, but it is told in a way that unfolds the horrors in its pages slowly, building up the tension until it boils. 

One of the things I most enjoy about Stephen King novels is the way that he brings a group of characters together, bonding them with each other and with the reader, so that we feel just as much a part of the group as they are. The protagonists in this novel are all lovable and wholly real. I would have liked, however, to have learned a bit more about Robert Gray.

 King’s foreshadowing is masterfully done in this novel, as is the way he connects one chapter to the other fluidly. The only thing I felt a bit disappointing was the defeat of It in the present day. It was a bit anti-climactic, with not nearly enough of the tension that King is so good at building. He recovers from this well, though, because he brings a particular poignancy to the last few chapters of the novel. I won’t reveal what happens, but the ending leaves the reader feeling as if they have just lost a good friend.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Hand that Feeds You by A. J. Rich

The Hand That Feeds YouMorgan's life seems to be settled - she is completing her thesis on victim psychology and newly engaged to Bennett, a man more possessive than those she has dated in the past, but also more chivalrous and passionate.

But she returns from class one day to find Bennett savagely killed, and her dogs - a Great Pyrenees, and two pit bulls she was fostering - circling the body, covered in blood. Everything she holds dear in life is taken away from her in an instant.

Devastated and traumatised, Morgan tries to locate Bennett's parents to tell them about their son's death. Only then does she begin to discover layer after layer of deceit. Bennett is not the man she thought he was. And she is not the only woman now in immense danger ...

The premise of this novel is interesting, but its execution leaves quite a lot to be desired. The pacing is stilted, with lurches of action that then slow down to a crawl, and with writing that sometimes reads as less than professional. 

The story does have some satisfying moments, but its conclusion is much too rushed, with the protagonist getting her life back together in about two paragraphs. There is also quite a bit of “telling”, entire important scenes brushed aside with a  few words. It feels like the author got bored halfway through some plot points and decided to speed things along, no matter how awkward it read.

More than anything, the novel needed a few more intensive rounds of editing to get rid of some of the forced sentences and the uneven pacing that plagues its pages.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week… 

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What book (or books) would you take with you on vacation? Why?

I love taking Stephen King books on vacation. They are such engrossing reads that I can read them wherever I am and at any time of day or night. I especially love taking them with me when I go camping. There is nothing quite like reading Stephen King novels in a tent. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Paradise of One by Everett Peacock

A Paradise of OneAn extremely elderly man is left in a Honolulu city park, abandoned by his caregivers, his family and his past.
In a bid to help a young woman he finds himself befriended by a unique group of homeless people making the best of an untenable situation.
From Waikiki to Waimanalo beach his adventures help him discover the magic inherent in people who help. Eventually, he discovers a beauty of a deeper source. Just in time. 

 This is a lovely example of what Indie writers can bring to the publishing world. It is a beautiful, touching story that has something for everyone, from those of you who enjoy more literary fiction to those of you who like a bit of action in your stories. 

Of course, as with any of Peacock’s books, the lush scenery in which he sets his novels takes precedence. It is almost like another character, infusing the plot with its whims. It is so much so that the reader cannot imagine the story taking place anywhere else. The protagonist is fully fleshed out, making him very real to the reader. 

The plot is well done, with pacing that keeps you interested but without the rushing that you sometimes get from books that are completely plot-led. This novel has a balance of character driven and plot driven action that feels natural and flows easily. 

If you are looking for a book that is different, that provides the tropical atmosphere of Hawaii as well as a fun plot and a great set of characters, then this one is a good choice.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is a weekly meme that asks you to choose one of the following prompts to answer:
  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but… 

I'm currently reading It by Stephen King. Have to say that this is one scary book! I thought I was used to King's fright style but this is intense. I am loving it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

ItTeaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From It by Stephen King

 “Everything's a lot tougher when it's for real. That's when you choke. When it's for real.”