Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Shining by Stephen King

After enjoying 11/22/63, my first Stephen King novel, I decided to follow it up with The Shining which is one of his earlier books and always on the list of his best ones ever. This had all the elements for a suspenseful atmospheric novel. A family of three are hired as caretakers of a Colorado summer hotel from September to May during which time they are completely snowed in and cut off from the outside world. To top it off the son has psychic powers and the dad's a weirdo and a recovering alcoholic. I have to say this book just didn't do it for me. I wasn't scared or creeped out at all. I've seen the film which was excellent but this was just mweh... Stephen King does write well but I thought this book was more about the father's character trying to stay away from the bottle and slowly going insane. No...sorry. It didn't scare me at all. That said, I'm still on a Stephen King kick since I followed this up with The Dead Zone and am now reading Salem's Lot.

I'm including this review in the  Stephen King project hosted by Natalie from Coffee and a Book Chick and  Kathleen from Boarding In My Forties.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Boy, was I wrong about Stephen King! I've avoided him for years thinking he's just a commercial horror novelist. Somehow seeing wonderful movies based on his books didn't really alter my view. I'd completely forgotten that King is the source for the original material of Stand By Me, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption to name just a few. I decided to read 11/22/63 because I was attracted to the premise of the novel - English teacher Jake Epping travels back in time to 1958 to prevent the Kennedy assassination and thus change the course of history. Since it's only 1958, he has to wait a few years to do his deed so in the meantime he enjoys the simplicity of life in this time period, teaches at a local high school, falls in love with a lovely woman and spies on Lee Harvey Oswald, the future assassin of JFK. This is quite a book and as I said before you wonder how an author can pull all this off but Stephen King did just that. Besides the exciting plot, Jake learns quite a number of life lessons along the way. As the reader we are left wondering about particular events in our own life and what would happen if we could alter them. Where would we be now?

This was really an excellent read. It's the perfect choice for a long plane ride or for lazing around on the beach. I loved every minute of it. King writes so effortlessly it's no wonder he's known as being quite prolific. It's obvious he's a natural writer but besides that his imagination is limitless. The plot, dialogue and characters were all fantastic. I am now keen to read more King. Isn't it great to discover a writer who's been around for like forever ? Now I have quite a number of his novels and short stories to look forward to.

I'm including this review in the  Stephen King project hosted by Natalie from Coffee and a Book Chick and  Kathleen from Boarding In My Forties.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Book Art

My friend Irene in Hong Kong emailed me the picture above. Times Square in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong is exhibiting the work of Mike Stilkey. The book sculpture above is 24 feet tall and covers the entire ground floor of the 12-story major Hong Kong shopping centre. Stilkey is well-known for his painted book installations. His uses mixed inks, colored pencils, paint, and lacquer painted across piles and piles of books.

For more information, check out his website at: www.mikestilkey.com

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Out by Natsuo Kirino

I was completely immersed in Japanese fiction a few weeks ago. That's because there is truth to the saying that 'one book leads to another.'  I picked up Out by Natsuo Kirino right after finishing The People Who Ate Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry. The latter is a true crime novel set in the underbelly of Tokyo. I was so caught up in that world that I just couldn't leave it so I decided to finally read Out, a book that's been on my To-Be-Read pile for years. The first time I tried it, I was so turned off by the lurid details that I had to stop. But I was ready for it now. To say that I loved the book sounds so strange considering it's a psychological crime novel that involves dismemberment. But it's so much more than a crime novel. I would say it surpasses genres. Out is also about women banding together to save one of their own kind; about women discovering their own dark natures and the fragility of some female friendships. It's about being desperate and doing things one would never do in normal circumstances. There's actually quite a lot of layers in this book and it stays with you long after you've finished it. It was also an extremely intense and compelling read. It's not a pretty book as it's full of desperate characters in an ugly world.  Out is  not for the faint of heart but I wish I could recommend this to my book club because there's certainly tons to discuss.

In Out, four females who work the night shift at a bento box lunch factory form an unlikely friendship because of their jobs and their unsatisfactory lives - unhappy marriages, problem children and strained economic situations. When one of the women, Yayoi, kills her gambling and philandering spouse, her friends decide to help her get rid of the body by dismembering it, separating the parts into several garbage bags and disposing the bags in several trash sites in the Tokyo area. The women are now bound together because of their crime but the ties that bind them are fragile because of jealousy, suspicion and self-interest. One of them makes a careless mistake that will expose them to unexpected danger.

In spite of their crime, I felt empathy for most of the characters especially for Masako, the leader of the group. Out shows how easy it would be to just slip into the dark side; it's a scary thought. I am so impressed with this author that after Out I picked up another one by Kirino, Grotesque. I just wish more of her books were translated into English. Out, released in 1997 won the Mystery Writers of Japan Award and was a finalist for the 2004 Edgar Award.

I'm including this in the Japanese Literature Challenge 6 hosted by Dolce Bellezza  Do check out the site for  more reviews from other bloggers.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reading Stephen King

I never thought I'd say this but I'm so enjoying my first ever Stephen King novel, 11/22/63. I'm having a blast and I don't want it to end. With tons of books on my To Be Read pile it's rare to just want to savor a novel and take it slow but that's exactly how I'm feeling with this book because it's fantastic so far. The premise of the novel is what initially attracted me - man travels back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination and thus change the course of history. With such a plot you wonder how an author can pull this off but King does just that and with such panache. He is obviously a born writer because his prose flows naturally. It's no wonder he's so prolific. I'm only at 50% of this 800 plus page novel but here's hoping this book lives up to the hype. I'll be back with a full review once I've finished it. In the meantime, if you have read Stephen King then which novels would you recommend?
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