Monday, January 23, 2012

Review: 11/22/63 by Stephen King

11/22/6311/22/63 by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is Stephen King at his best. Although I still think there could have been some editing done that would have picked up the pace in the middle of the book, after reading the book in its entirety, it was worth the pacing issues to get to the end. I am going to be very careful not to give ANYTHING away in this review because the ending is great, especially if you come to it unaware. Unfortunately, another reviewer did not mark their review as a spoiler, so I had some sense of the ending. It was still impactful but I think coming at it blind would have made it amazing! So, the less you read about this one, the better. Just trust me - READ it.

Sometimes even I forget what a great writer King is ... he knows how to spin a story, develop a character and use his imagination to take you into amazing situations. This is unlike any other King novels that I've read - it's not horror, at all. It's so much more that what I think people have come to expect of King - there are supernatural aspects, historical pieces, plus some philosophy & science fiction all packaged alongside a really nice love story. It has it ALL.

King's ability to build excitement and suspense are legendary & this book is no exception. I found myself holding my breath, wondering what was coming, then shocked by something coming out of nowhere and then sighing with relief. It's an emotional roller coaster of the best kind!

I have no doubt that King did a ton of research for this book. I don't know all of the history in any level of detail but I do know that King made the time period and the experiences come alive on the page. It all felt true. It felt real. It felt like I was visiting another time and place.

Although The Stand is still my favorite Stephen King novel, this one is a close second, edging out It and the Shining as my number 2s ( I can't decide between those so I had two of them). I definitely recommend it even if you aren't a fan of his other novels ... this is a special book that I think most readers will enjoy!

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

AttachmentsAttachments by Rainbow Rowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a lovely little book! This is a nice, easy to read novel that is light, fun and interesting. I found it refreshing and charming in every way! I didn't want to put it down - in fact, I spent half of my Saturday curled up with it when I really had other things that I needed to do. But, I couldn't wait to find out how the stories of Lincoln, Beth and the rest of the characters would continue. And, then, when it was over, I was so sad - because I'd thoroughly enjoyed my time in the world that Rainbow Rowell created.

The format that Rainbow Rowell uses to frame the story by weaving in emails was genius! It gives the novel such a unique and interesting vibe! The characters in the novel just threw themselves off the page - I wanted to be friends with these people! And the setting/time period, made me want to go back to the late 1990s for a few days!

I don't want to give anything away but wanted to mention that I felt that the author handled the ending of the book very well - I never felt that it went too far. It was just right, for me.

I just loved this book and already emailed several friends to tell them to PICK THIS BOOK UP! I think its a great read & I'm so happy to have found Rainbow Rowell! I can't wait to see what else she has for us in her future novels!

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Review: Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

Lost Memory of SkinLost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me say, first and foremost, that this is not a book for everyone. The subject matter is likely to make some people extremely uncomfortable. Although there is no gratuitousness to the novel but the situations and events described can be off putting. This book explores the life of a young sex offender and the people/places that populate his life.

I now understand why I've heard so many wonderful things about Russell Banks ... what he creates in this novel is nothing less than amazing, in my opinion. His storytelling is stellar ... his ability to take his readers through something morally repugnant and help them to see it in all its complexity. Because of his skill at slowly but surely breaking down the social barriers, allowing the reader to begin to have some sense of understanding for the main character, whether you like him or not. I found this to be one of the best things about this novel. The journey that Banks took me on could have gone bad ... and easily. But, he so deftly guided me through the nuances of the characters flaws. This gave me the opportunity to see an additional layer of humanity where I assumed there was none.

I'm not sure that anyone is interested in sexual predators, per se, but I did find this novel's exploration of their lives, their alienation and their complexities to be thought provoking. It offered me a new view of something that I felt fairly decisive about. Russell Banks appears to be able to take his readers into the darkness of humanity and allow them to better understand themselves and the world around them. So I won't say that this was a fun book - its dark and its certainly not fun. It is compelling and thought provoking.

The writing is simply amazing in places ... there were moments that simply took my breath away. This man can write! Banks simply amazed me with his characterizations & how he made the characters come alive for me. They are complex and fascinating. Almost every single character that he writes into the novel captivated me in some way - I found myself resonating with characters that I never believed I could possibly find anything compelling in.

I appreciate the themes that Banks was exploring in this novel - I came away from this novel with so much to think about personally. This novel is tragic and sad. There isn't much happiness or hope here. But, its a strong exploration of homelessness, sex offenders and attitudes about sexuality in general. There are pieces and parts that I didn't think worked in the novel but there were other pieces that blew me away. It wasn't easy to root for anyone in this novel but I think that's a testament to Banks' talent at crafting the story.

I definitely recommend it but know that its not for the faint at heart and there is a great deal of content that relates to sexuality in a number of forms. It's not gratuitous but it could be disturbing to some.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

The Family FangThe Family Fang by Kevin Wilson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When beginning this novel, I went in with no expectations beyond the fact that several of my friends loved it and several didn't love it. I also thought it was about vampires for some reason - probably the word Fang in the title. The bottom line - this book was nothing like I'd expected it to be.

I was pleasantly surprised. It's perhaps one of the most unusual books I've read in some time. I found it to be a very readable book about a very unusual family. On the surface, it's simply an interesting take on an extremely unusual and dysfunctional family. That alone kept me interested in reading the novel. But, the author really did a fantastic job of using the family & their journey to explore a number of themes around art and family. The book was thoughtful and compelling for me. I was fascinated by the characters even though I didn't like many of them. I thought the story was very clever and kept me intrigued throughout. Words that I would use to describe this one vary - dark, unusual, touching, and (darkly)humorous. The book is really quite a contradiction.

Looking back, I'm not completely sure why I really liked this book but I did. It's one of those books that when I think of all the components, I can't find anything redeemable about them yet when put together by a good writer, it all comes together. All in all, I really enjoyed this one. I'm not sure that its a book for everyone but I do recommend it if the premise sounds interesting to you.

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