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Review – The Shining by Stephen King

 

The Shining

by Stephen King

SummaryPast horrors and evil lurk in Colorado’s Overlook Hotel, threatening winter season caretakers Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their young son, Danny. Gifted with the shining, a clairvoyant Danny must battle the darkest evil in the remote hotel in an attempt to save his family from its influence.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I’ve seen the movie The Shining a hundred times, both the original and the remake. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King novels and I have a list of books from him that I need to read. I’ve grown up seeing so many of the movies and mini series, but sometimes it takes me awhile to finally pick up the brick of a book and dig in. I read Misery over the fall and realized that the book was even better than the very well made film, so I was excited to pick up The Shining finally. 

I enjoyed The Shining and I will admit that the years and years of seeing the movie has kind of ruined it for me because Jack Nicholson was such a strong and terrifying character. The book wasn’t nearly the same in that regard and I realize now why King has said in the past that he didn’t not enjoy the adaptation due to the casting of Jack Torrance. I get it now. The story is much more of a slow build up as the hotel chips away at Jack’s fears and flaws in order to get to Danny. It was more of a delicate dance than a slasher horror with a crazy father. I am inclined to agree and I think if anyone picked up the book after loving the movie and being disappointed are because they expect more from Jack Torrance that the book doesn’t give. He’s not insane. He’s a troubled man trying to do the right thing, dealing with alcohol abuse, and he finally cracked. 

Anyway, regardless of how anyone feels about the movie, the book was spectacular and enjoyable in a lot of ways I wasn’t expecting. It was still easy to plow through even though I knew the general gist of the book. Some of my favorite movie scenes weren’t there, but there were scenes in the book that were just as amazing that didn’t make it into the film. My favorite part was that Wendy wasn’t an unbearable dimwit in the book. And Danny, while strange, was much more tolerable to me, too. I enjoyed the characters quite a bit. The book was a creepy and haunting book and I’m glad I picked it up. I definitely recommend it to any King fans.

Star 4

 

Review – Horns by Joe Hill

 

Horns

By Joe Hill

SummaryIgnatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty.
Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power – with just a touch he can see peoples’ darkest desires – to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Horns has been on my TBR for a few months. I try to grab what Joe Hill books I haven’t read if I see them at a bookstore, but I wait until I’m in just the right mood to open them up. I’ve enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2, but Horns isn’t quite the same genre. I suppose it’s still horror, but it’s not the same kind. 

I loved Horns. It was easy to get sucked in from the beginning when Ig woke up to a pair of grotesque horns on his head. He thought he was hallucinating, but then his interactions with other people made him think something even worse was happening. For some reason, they noticed the horns but didn’t react in the way anyone would expect and then they would reveal their absolute worst thoughts to him. Was this some sort of punishment?

Horns is really quite brilliant. It was a book about human nature, which is quite terrifying. People are awful and they lie everyday. There Ig was, trying to be a good person, loving everyone with all he had, and it counted for nothing when it really mattered. No one believed he didn’t kill his girlfriend and nothing he seemed to do or say changed the opinions everyone had. Sure, he “got away with it” and wasn’t convicted, but to everyone in his town, including his family, he was guilty. If the premise wasn’t already extremely intriguing, this angle really got me because I just can’t imagine not being believed by people and it would be really awful to walk around in a place where everyone thinks you’re capable of the worst sort of crime. 

Horns was a mix of the supernatural, a murder mystery, a glimpse of a small town life with small town attitudes, a horror, and a bit a dark humor to tie it all together. Joe Hill created characters I immediately couldn’t get enough of. The story bounced from the present, the recent past when Ig and Merrin were together, and the early past as Ig met Merrin, was saved from drowning by Lee, and disappointed his father by not being able to play the horn instruments like his older brother. We got the whole story from multiple sides and it was broken up into chapters/parts that all served different purposes to building the story. It was a story that took me through a small town and the interpersonal connections between everyone and lead me on a dark road with terrifying conclusions. 

I really don’t try to compare Hill to his father, but when I do, it’s nearly always a compliment. It’s really freaking hard to find an author who captures people the way King always does and Hill does it so perfectly. What lies inside of human beings is the really scary part of King’s horror novels and that’s essentially the same in Horns, though Hill creates unique characters and finds his own voice. I’m always impressed when an author really tackles those essences of horror instead of just giving me a bump in the night kind of story and that’s what sets King and Hill apart from the crowd. I love this kind of story and that’s why I compare Hill to King.. I would do it even if I knew they weren’t related. Because they both do exactly what good horror authors should do.

I highly recommend Horns. I really loved Heart-Shaped Box, but I think Horns might actually be better in a lot of ways, so I suppose I have two favorites now.

Star 5

 

Review – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

By Shirley Jackson

Summary: Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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This book was one of those last minute, omg-that-cover-is-awesome type of bookstore buys that I wasn’t planning on buying. As a horror lover, the cover hooked me and I couldn’t resist. I read the book before October one fall. I’m a little mad because I swore I typed up a review and now I can’t seem to find it, so I’m trying to write this based on memory from over 6 months ago.

The book is great and perfectly creepy, mysterious, and weird. It’s frustrating in a way because Mary Catherine was so immature, but the family dynamic totally hooked me. What was going on in that strange house? What happened to the Blackwoods? I mean, we knew, but we didn’t know why. What was going on in that house? Why would she poison her family?

I was compelled and I devoured the book quickly. It isn’t the in-your-face horror novel that I think modern horror lovers expect, so I understand why there are so many disappointed reviews, but I thought the book was brilliant and fascinating. It was completely screwed up and I think it’s important to note that it was written in the 60s. It has all the right odd feelings of an old Tim Burton movie or something and I absolutely loved it. From the judgement of outsiders to the family dynamics of the remaining Blackwoods, I was thoroughly intrigued. 

If you’re into the slow horror, the not-so-direct horror, and intrigued by the synopsis and title, I highly recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was awesome and creepy in so many ways. 

Star 4

Review – NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

 

NOS4A2

By Joe Hill

SummaryNOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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NOS4A2 was completely insane, twisted, and engrossing. 

It was the tale of Charles Manx, a man who kidnapped children in his Rolls Royce and took them to Christmasland where they would never die. It was the story of Vic, The Brat, McQueen, who had a magic bridge that took her places she needed to go. Every talent had its price. The book took place over the course of Vic’s life for the most part. She was the only child who ever escaped Manx, but when her own son was kidnapped, she knew she needed to find a way to use her talent again.

While part of me was blown away by the sheer uniqueness of the idea presented and the awesome way it was horrifying and twisted and completely messed up, part of me was a little uncomfortable because this really felt like a Stephen King approach to a novel and I’m disappointed by it. I think Hill did his own thing in Heart Shaped Box, but the span of time, the reflection on childhood, the classic car, the creepy old dude, and even the twisted Christmas theme just feels SO Stephen King! Scenes and quotes took me back to a King novel and, while I appreciate the style, I think it’s important that Hill stays in his own style. However unfair it is, he of all people has a tough act to follow when it comes to writing horror.

Despite the fact that I’m a little disappointed that the voice/writing seemed a little too close to his dad’s style, I can’t help but be impressed. I was sucked in through all 600+ pages and that counts for something. It was creepy and captivating and I’m eager to see what else Hill has up his sleeve. It’s clear he’s as imaginative and well versed as his dad, though I really do hate to compare the two. 

I loved Manx’s character and the way that nothing turned out well for people. I love that there were consequences to the talents and that the characters messed up many times. It made it all feel a little real despite the obviously out of this world plot. 

I definitely recommend NOS4A2. It was creepy. Just.. don’t read it before/during Christmas. Or you’ll be terrified of your tree. Or.. read it DURING Christmas if you’re hard to scare. Lol.

Star 4

 

Review – The Merciless by Danielle Vega

The Merciless 

By Danielle Vega

SummaryForgive us, Father, for we have sinned

Brooklyn Stevens sits in a pool of her own blood, tied up and gagged. No one outside of these dank basement walls knows she’s here. No one can hear her scream.
 
Sofia Flores knows she shouldn’t have gotten involved. When she befriended Riley, Grace, and Alexis on her first day at school, she admired them, with their perfect hair and their good-girl ways. They said they wanted to save Brooklyn. They wanted to help her. Sofia didn’t realize they believed Brooklyn was possessed.
 
Now, Riley and the girls are performing an exorcism on Brooklyn—but their idea of an exorcism is closer to torture than salvation. All Sofia wants is to get out of this house. But there is no way out. Sofia can’t go against the other girls . . . unless she wants to be next. . . .
 In this chilling debut, Danielle Vega delivers blood-curdling suspense and terror on every page. By the shockingly twisted end, readers will be faced with the most haunting question of all: Is there evil in all of us?

Source: I received a paperback as a gift for Christmas.

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The Merciless was crazy. It was like Mean Girls, maybe a little of The Craft, and a dash of Stephen King. It’s hard to really describe it. I picked it up expecting a YA Mean Girls type of horror novel, not really sure how it would all go. It was recommended by a friend and she bought both of us a copy. 

The story began with Sofia. She was a new student in her high school and had a brief encounter with Brooklyn, who seemed friendly enough, but a little rough around the edges. Sofia immediately drew the attention of the popular trio, Riley, Alexis, and Grace. She had never been popular, so she was happy enough to fit in with them. There was some history between Riley and Brooklyn, but Sofia wasn’t sure what it was. 

The girls were religious, but not in the southern way that seemed familiar. Instead, they seemed heavily focused on Catholicism and had a ritualistic approach, relying heavily on those comforting things like holy water and communion. Their interest seemed obsessive and not necessarily genuine, which is partly why I associate the book a bit with The Craft. Riley accused Brooklyn of being possessed by the devil, sure that it was the cause of her wicked ways. The few strange things that happened in town, like the weird skinning of a cat in the school grounds, were attributed to Brooklyn, though Sofia wasn’t so sure Brooklyn was even into anything like that. 

Sofia was a follower in every sense of the word and it seemed to work out until she entered the basement of one of Riley’s parent’s abandoned homes in a development and saw Brooklyn tied up and terrified. And Riley was ready to do an exorcism…

And then, things just got CRAZY.

I loved how fast paced the book was and how quickly things spiraled out of control. It teetered delicately on the line of being believable and yet completely insane at the same time, which was great. The ending was probably the best part. 

The book gets a bit violent and horrifying, so it’s not for the faint of heart, but it’s also not like nail biting scary either. It’s disturbing and fun and I’m glad I read it. I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes horror and stories where teens go a little crazy and gang up on others. The occult symbol and horror synopsis on a bright pink cover really says it all… lol.

Star 4

Review – The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

 

The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova

SummaryTo you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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The Historian was a well researched and fascinating book that mixed history and legend together to weave a tale about Dracula. Part historical fiction, part horror, The Historian was very well done. The author did her research and was able to combine fact with the legends we know about Vlad the Impaler/Dracula and tie it together with a fictional tale about a daughter and her father. 

The story involved professors proficient in history and anthroplogy who happened upon a strange book that lead them to research more about the Dracula legends. For the characters involved, the research became highly dangerous. The main character, a sixteen year old girl, happened upon her fathers strange Dragon book and it prompted him to finally tell the story of his travels and his experiences with the book. 

The book shifted from present day, with the main character narrating in first person, to the father’s tale that he told verbally throughout many of their trips together. Then, a series of letters were introduced by her father’s mentor and colleague, another Profressor who disappeared many years ago. Other series of letters were introduced, so the reader was slowly introduced to the full picture and everything came together at the end.

The Historian was very long and slow. I’m glad I read the book during a time when I didn’t have much going on and didn’t have any reason to start the lofty 2017 reading goals I set for myself. In some ways, I feel like the length and the slowness were worth slogging through, as the story was well told. In some ways, I feel like the book was too long, too over the top, and the author could have told the same story and condensed in quite a bit, solving both the length and the issue of it being very slow and somewhat boring in some sections. But The Historian was a debut novel and one written by an author more geared towards the historical and academic aspect of everything. 

If you enjoy the idea of Vlad the Impaler, the Dracula legends, and the history surrounding all of it, The Historian is very enjoyable and worth the read. It’s sort of a combination of Dracula and perhaps The DaVinci Code, in that the main characters galavant all over the world in search of history and monuments, meeting just the right people at the just the right time in order to further their research, with a major threat hanging over them if they fail. I think the writing is likely a bit more intellectual than that of The DaVinci Code, but I still think it’s a fair comparison. For some, the coincidental convenience of the characters and their research will be too much and too unbelievable. I don’t know much about spending time in a dark and dusty archives and how plausible it is to happen upon people with similar research topics, but I was happy enough to let it slide by. After all, perhaps the history and location the characters were researching was one of those “small world” type of scenarios and they got lucky.

I recommend The Historian and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I do warn anyone that it is very very long. 

Star 4

Review – Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

Gerald’s Game

By Stephen King

SummaryStephen King cranks up the suspense in a different kind of bedtime story. A game of seduction between a husband and wife goes horribly awry when the husband dies. But the nightmare has just begun…

Source: I purchased a paperback

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It’s so funny how different Stephen King books are and how some fans like some books and other fans love his other books. How can two huge Stephen King fans have such different opinions about his books?! But his books are so different from each other and there are so many, it’s just like a regular book genre. Some people like some books, other people don’t. Gerald’s Game is one of the books that seems to really test the line. Reviews go from 1/2 stars or 4/5 stars and there doesn’t seem to be very much in between. This book either scares you and impresses you or it makes your eyes bleed from boredom.

Gerald’s Game has to be the absolute worst Stephen King book I’ve ever read that I can remember. I hated it. I hated Jessie from page one and reading about her adventures handcuffed to the bed was the most awful thing ever. And it’s surprising because I certainly didn’t mind being in Paul Sheldon’s head while he was trapped in a bed going crazy, so it’s not that Stephen King isn’t great at weird story lines like that. Gerald’s Game is not a book for everyone. I’m a huge King fan and I usually like SOME aspect of a story and I really just wanted to either save Jessie or kill her, but just END THE FREAKING BOOK because it didn’t need to be that long. Ugh.

Some people really enjoyed the book. I would say that if you’re a fan of internal monologues and flashbacks and an overall lack of real plot, this book is perfect for you. And you’ll know within the first few chapters whether or not Jessie’s head is an enjoyable place for you. I didn’t enjoy myself at all and will be taking my shiny paperback to the used bookstore as soon as possible because I hated it. 

And if you loved this book and love King, please do not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES recommend this book to people who haven’t read King. No matter how you feel about it, it’s unfair to subject someone to this book without them at least knowing what King is capable of. I would never pick up a Stephen King book if this was my only impression of his work.

Star 1