Monday, November 13, 2017

Book Review #697 - The Shining (The Shining #1) by Stephen King

Jack Torrance's new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he'll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote...and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

My Rating: 4/5

This is my third Stephen King novel and it's definitely my favourite so far (with the other two being Carrie and Salem's Lot).

This book was completely different than what I was expecting. I did not expect the protagonist to be a five year old boy, even though I did love him in that role.

I found the setting of the story to be the main element in the whole thrilling nature of the book. Not only is the Torrence family alone in a very old, isolated and haunted hotel but a huge snow storm causes them to become even more isolated.

Family is an important theme in this book especially between father and son. Danny idolizes his father Jack but Jack hasn't always treated Danny well in the past, especially when he gets drunk.

Flashbacks show that Jack had a similar relationship with his own father.

I really liked the supernatural element in this story. Danny has the ability to hear people's thoughts and at times see the future. This ability is called "the shining". 

This ability and Danny's young age make him very vulnerable and innocent which makes me think he probably needed a life time of therapy following the way the book ended.

When the family move to the isolated hotel where Jack finds employment, Danny's ability becomes stronger as the hotel makes all three of them suffer bouts of insanity. 

I'm not sure how I feel about Jack. He wasn't a very nice person to begin with and the hotel made him worse. The flashbacks to where he was drunk and the way he treated Wendy and Danny make him unlikable. 

The book wasn't as thrilling as I thought it was going to be but it did have a number of hair raising moments. I can definitely see why Joey Tribbiani felt the need to put this book in the freezer.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Book Review #696 - Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

The classic story of a young boy who seeks his fortune on the streets of London.

After Oliver Twist asks nasty Mr Bumble for more food, he has to flee the workhouse for the streets of London. Here he meets the Artful Dodger, who leads him to Fagin and his gang of pickpockets. When a thieving mission goes wrong, Oliver narrowly avoids prison and finds himself in the care of kind Mr Brownlow. But Fagin and the brutal Bill Sikes go in search of the young orphan, determined to drag him back . . .

My Rating: 5/5

I have been trying to read a book a month from the 1001 books list for sometime now but have avoided the real 'classics' simply because they intimidate me and I don't have a good record of finishing them.

Oliver Twist was my first Charles Dickens novel I ended up reading it in less than a day which is by far the fastest I have read any book so far from the 1001 books list.

I wasn't the biggest fan of Dickens' writing style. I found he had a rather indirect way of describing things which caused me to have to reread sentences here and there.

Considering that this story was published in increments over the course of 2 years shows how much planning would have gone into creating the story as multiple stories seamlessly weave together in the second half of the book.

Dickens has a way with characters names that make them wholly unique. A favourite of mine was Charley Bates who was referred to throughout as 'master bates'.

Oliver, the character the book surrounds was an interesting and likable character. I couldn't help but feel sorry for him as he suffered throughout.

The book has 3 antagonists worth mentioning. The first is the one most people remember which is Fagin, who controversially is referred to as 'the jew' throughout. Fagin was basically just a typical, evil villain who wants to drag Oliver down with him.

The second antagonist was Bill Sykes. This guy kind of sneaks under the radar as at first he just seems like one of Fagin's minions but his actions at the end were purely shocking and unexpected.

The third antagonist was Monks who is introduced about half way through the story. He makes it clear he has a motive for interfering with Oliver's life and happiness and this motive becomes the main plot twist.

Also worth mentioning to a lesser degree is Mr Bumble, the local beedle which from what I gathered is the Victorian era equivalent of a policeman. This guy completely takes advantage of the power he has in his position and takes high amounts of pleasure in doing so. When Mr Bumble was mentioned in the epilogue I couldn't help but fist pump.

Victorian London in this book is such a terrifying place. The poverty and squalor was described in such vivid detail.

The character of Nancy was probably my favourite. She was so complex and enigmatic. She was caught between her loyalty to Fagin who she has worked for pretty much her entire life and her need to protect Oliver from going down the same miserable path she did.

After reading and absolutely loving this book I am excited to read more Dickens. I think my next read will be A Tale of Two Cities as the only other Dickens novels that I currently own seem very similar to Oliver Twist (Great Expectations and David Copperfield).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review #695 - How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

“Every war has turning points and every person too.”

Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.

My Rating: 3/5

The book starts with Daisy going to live with her aunt and cousins Edmund, Isaac, Osbert and Piper. It is also alluded to numerous times that Daisy has an eating disorder so this book does tackle much deeper topics.

At first I found this book really hard to read. It is told almost entirely through inner monologue and really long sentences. The lack of speech marks is what bothered me the most.

The protagonist Daisy was not easy to like or get along with. She was a typical moody teenager.

The book is just under 200 pages long but it is so incredibly slow paced that it felt much longer.

For that reason I definitely liked the second half of the book more than the first half. The second half focuses on Daisy and her 9 year old cousin Piper's quest for survival after they are separated from the male cousins (Piper's brothers) after the outbreak of war.

At first Daisy and her cousins are very naïve about the war. When the British Army take them away, separating them is when the book significantly picks up the pace.

The romance was another aspect I didn't particularly enjoy because Daisy happens to fall in love with her cousin. They never even really acknowledged what they were doing was wrong. This whole interaction made me cringe.

The ending was rather abrupt and I did not like it at all but then I am not sure how else to end a book with this type of topic.

For a book about war, I thought that Daisy was left rather sheltered. There was only 2 or 3 moments throughout the book that she saw the real traumatic nature of war. My view was further solidified when we are briefly told Edmund's way of life during the war. I can't help but think this book could have been a lot better had it not been a young adult novel.

I also watched the movie adaptation after reading this book. I was unable to watch the movie in one sitting because it was just as slowly paced as the book. I did really love Piper in the movie though, she really encapsulated the youthful innocence with a war going on around her.