Gripping – The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining

by Stephen King

halloween shining

Published 1977

Genres: Fiction / Horror / Suspense / Thriller

Yep, that’s a copy of The Shining in my freezer up there.

Thanks for the hot tip, Joey Tribbiani.

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“They were alone. Aspen leaves whirled and skittered in aimless packs across the lawn that was now neatly mowed and tended for no guest’s eyes. There was no one to see the autumn leaves steal across the grass but the three of them. It gave Jack a curious shrinking feeling, as if his life force had dwindled to a mere spark while the hotel and the grounds had suddenly doubled in size and become sinister, dwarfing them with sullen, inanimate power.

Then Wendy said: ‘Look at you, doc. Your nose is running like a fire hose. Let’s get inside.’

And they did, closing the door firmly behind them against the restless whine of the wind.”

And so it begins.

Our story is set at The Overlook Hotel, set up high in the wild and breathtaking mountains of Colorado. The peak season is over, and winter is about to set in. The Torrance family, Jack Torrance particularly, are engaged as caretakers, to live in and maintain the hotel over what is expected to be another harsh and isolating snowy season.

But little Danny Torrance has “the shining”, the ability to see into the future, to know things that are otherwise unknown, and to look into the minds of those who also possess even the smallest morsel of this extraordinary ability.

From the time the Torrances first arrive at The Outlook, Danny starts to feel, see and hear things that shouldn’t be there. But is it in his head? Or is it the hotel? Before too long, cabin fever sets in, all while the mysterious and historic hotel is weaving its spell over not just Danny, but Mum and Dad Torrance too. How bad will it get?

Janelle says…

Lately I’ve had such a craving to read horror, and with it being October and all, of course I was going to indulge. I looked to my bookshelves, and immediately chose this old, battered, second-hand copy of The Shining. I don’t think I can imagine reading a shiny new version of this book, to be honest. That just wouldn’t fit at all.

This is my first time reading The Shining, although I have seen the movie many years ago. It totally fulfilled my horror craving and left me feeling content, and also with that lost, unmotivated feeling that happens after reading an incredible book, when you’re not sure when you’ll read something again that measures up to what you’ve just finished.

It’s a reasonably-sized read, my copy is just over 400 pages. Usually anything over say 300 pages makes me slightly nervous at taking a risk on it, because of the time commitment involved to finish it, and the potential for the story to drag. But I sped through this book, and I finished the last quarter or so in one epic session that had me staying up way past my bedtime (again).

Oh man, It. Was. AWE-some!

“From behind him, that soft flump sound of falling snow came again. He turned around and the head of one of the hedge lions was sticking out of the snow now, snarling at him. It was closer than it should have been, almost up to the gate of the playground.”

AAARRGGHHHHH! Freaky hedge animals that move!!

The pace of the story was just perfect, it kept rolling along with intrigue, building in ferocity. I didn’t want to put the book down. The scary bits were for the most part that creepy, tingly kind of scary as opposed to the in-your-face, gory and screamy kind of scary. I caught myself with my fingernails between my teeth a few times.

The book also has themes of domestic violence, anger management, and alcoholism, which I found to be sad in parts, but not upsetting. The parts of the book told in Danny’s voice also clearly represent a young child who is taking in perhaps more of the adult world than he should at his age, yet not completely understanding everything he’s hearing and seeing.

My interest was held fast the whole way through the book, and the length, the pace, the depth of character background and reflection, the plotting…..it all felt perfectly suited to my own personal preferences. It was a great ride, and I think would make a fine introduction to horror for those new to the genre. Read it for Halloween!

 

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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Engaging – The Girl Who Slept With God by Val Brelinski

The Girl Who Slept With God

by Val Brelinski

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Published August 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“Jory took a shaky breath. She suddenly saw that this moment weighed as much as all the previous ones combined. That all the other mental skirmishes had been small change, child’s play. Here, now, was her very own unexpected expected. For one small suspended second in time, she still had the ability to do or not do something, that once done she would then never be able to undo.”

Our story centres around Jory, the middle daughter of the Quanbecks, a family of devoted Christians with strict boundaries and strange routines. Jory is not as devout as her older sister Grace, and not as innocent as her younger sister Frances. Her life is turned on its head when her father sends Jory and Grace to live alone on an isolated farm, after Grace returns pregnant from a Christian mission to Mexico. Grace claims that the baby is God’s, but no one believes her. This upheaval leads to Jory and Grace welcoming some new characters into their lives – the kindly old Mrs Kleinfelter who shares the farm property with the girls, the mysterious, scruffy yet friendly Grip who drives an ice-cream van but doesn’t seem to sell much ice-cream, the brash kids at Jory’s new rough school. All of these people will leave their impressions on the sisters – some for better and some for worse. But how will they cope with living apart from their family, without the familiar people and places that they know, while staying true to their faith? And is Grace’s baby really God’s?

Janelle says…

I loved this book SO MUCH. There’s a lot to say about it, I don’t know where to begin and I don’t think I’m going to do it justice.

Val Brelinski has managed to cram so many emotions and issues into this one book, it kept me intrigued and wanting to keep reading. I adored most of the characters and felt genuinely invested in them, her character development is great. There were many relationship strands between characters but not so many that it felt overwhelming, just believable.

The main character, Jory, is exposed to things that are new to her because of her sheltered, religious upbringing, and because of her pubescent age, some things of which she has never even heard of before. She’s naive, but she’s curious, and she lets her heart lead the way (which gets her into trouble a lot). Growing up, or maybe self-development, is a major theme of this book.

There is also loads of family drama, including one scene of an all-in family fight which felt so real that I could found myself tensing up.

The question of religion and faith is a running theme throughout the book, and this would especially appeal to people with religious upbringings who could relate to this exploration.

There were times when I gasped, times when I laughed, and times when I was on the verge of tears. I really felt like this book had something for everyone, and for every mood. It didn’t lean too far in any one direction, it felt completely balanced, and natural, and beautiful.

As suspected, my review effort has been pretty lame in communicating just how wonderful this book is, so all that’s left to say is – read this book. It will be a great investment of your time, I know you’ll love it.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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 Linking up with The Weekend Rewind at Life, Love & Hiccups

A quick bookish interview with your hosts!

Just for fun, we decided to ask each other 5 questions about our reading selves. You can tell so much about a person by their reading habits and opinions, don’t you think? If you’re feeling curious, you can ask us questions too! Leave us a comment below.

Hey Mel…

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Mel and her bookcase

What was your ultimate favourite book/s as a child?

I would read anything by R.L. Stine and the Babysitters Club series. Thankfully my school libraries always had the entire series, so I would work my way through each book during class (don’t tell my teachers!)

If you could be any character from a book you’ve read, who would you like to be?

This is a tough one. I didn’t want to say someone that most would expect, Harry Potter *cough* Hermione *cough*.

As a fellow spouse-to-a-non-reader, how do you cope with that? I find it frustrating, to be honest…

It irks me that I can’t recommend books to the husband, or that he doesn’t recommend reads to me. Also, reading time in bed is so relaxing and then he will climb into bed with the iPad and watch videos which I find really distracting as I’m trying to get into a story. JUST START READING ALREADY!

What reading goals would you really like to kick this year? Eg. A certain number of books read? Experimenting with a new genre?

I would like to get into authors I have never read before. I have begun my first Stephen King novel and am kicking myself that I have never read his stuff before.

Next on your reading list?

I would like to read H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. It has great reviews and sounds really different from my normal comfort reading zone. *Janelle says – Ha Ha, I scored the next copy at the library before you :p

Hey Janelle…

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A “shelfie” from Janelle’s house

As a parent of two small children, which book/s are you most excited for your children to read when they are old enough?

Oh, I think you know the answer to this one. I have been daydreaming about reading the Harry Potter series to my children, since before they were even born! It’s hard to hold off considering my eldest, Mia, is 5 now, but in my heart of hearts I still think she’s too young for us to start. Soon, my precious, soon….

If you could live in one book forever, what book would it be and why?

Eat Pray Love? Pretty sure I could handle not working and travelling the globe to “find myself” instead! Plus, there’s food, and yoga. Sign me up! I mean, ideally without the emotionally devastating divorce beforehand.

If you could only read 3 books in a year, what books would they be?

Now that’s just cruel! Why? Why would you only limit me to 3?!

Instead of choosing books that I know and love, I’m going to go with books that I have been dying to read. I would choose Bird Box by Josh Malerman, The Martian by Andy Weir, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

What genre of books do you tend to shy away from and why?

I have turned my back on romance up to this point, which I wrote about here. But I am definitely open to changing that!

When someone asks you for book recommendations, what book/s do you find you tend to recommend more than others?

I don’t get asked a lot for recommendations, but more just get involved in conversations with people about books we’ve read. BUT the book I’ve been telling everyone to read since I read it myself, is Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. An instant favourite for me, so good.

What about you – how would you answer some of those questions?

Joining in with The Weekend Rewind over at Maxabella’s

Read by Janelle: September 2015 – The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips

The Beautiful Bureaucrat

by Helen Phillips

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Suspense / Mystery

“Back in 9997, Josephine stood beside her desk, eyeing the accumulated files, dizzy. A bead of sweat rolled from her armpit down her torso. She did not dare touch them. Like snakes. Handle with a stick, avoid skin contact at all costs.”

Married couple Josephine and Joseph have moved to “the big city” to make a new life for themselves. They both score mediocre jobs, frankly just to make ends meet, and spend a lot of time moving from one questionable basement apartment to the next. Josephine’s job is unusual, her one and only role is to input specific lines of data into The Database, ensuring that she works through the mountain of files that magically appear on her desk every morning. Her boss, who we know only as The Person With Bad Breath, gives no hints as to the purpose of The Database or the logic behind the data that is being added to it. Their workplace is a windowless cube, with no obvious corporation name or other way to identify it, other than the entry doors on the outside of the building, marked “A” to “Z”. Before too long, this sterile environment begins to take its toll on Josephine’s mind and body. She becomes suspicious of those around her, both at work and outside of work. And then Joseph starts to disappear for periods at a time with no explanation. What have they got themselves into?

Janelle says…

think I liked this book? I’m still not completely sure, it was such a whirlwind fast read (less than 200 pages) with a whole lot of mystery and weirdness thrown in, I’m still making my mind up. One minute I was totally absorbed in what was happening, the next minute I was frustrated and thrown by how completely bizarre the writing was.

The mystery at the core of the book is The Database, and trying to figure out what it’s for and what the data in it means. Josephine slowly works this out as the story progresses, and all is explained. But in the meantime, get ready to scratch your head in bewilderment a lot. I present to you – Exhibit A:

“She didn’t know whether pomegranates should be selected based on firmness or fragrance or hue.

Poor me granite.

Pagan remote.

Page tame no.

This starts happening more and more as we move through the book, because Josephine’s strange occupation is slowly sending her bonkers. Every couple of paragraphs or so, she will pull apart a word that is mentioned and rearrange the letters to form new words, as above. At first it’s kind of funny and intriguing, then it just becomes annoying, even though it is proving a point about our protagonist’s state of mind. And then, we have this:

“A laundromat, washers and dryers all filled with bright clothing, but the machines static, not spinning. A gorilla in the driver’s seat of a parked car. A transparent bird, a snagged plastic bag, a woman’s arm vanishing into a brick wall. Three luminous Coca-Cola trucks pulled up to a factory.”

It goes on. For a whole page. I have no idea what’s going on here. She is drunk at this point in the story, or at least a little tipsy, but is it possible she is also high on ‘shrooms or something and I didn’t know? What the actual?!

I enjoy books that are slightly off-centre, I do, but to a point. “The Beautiful Bureaucrat” ebbed and flowed in its weirdness, and its saving grace was that it wasn’t completely ridiculous the whole way through.

I really enjoyed the whole mystery around The Database, and whenever I was reading Josephine outside of the office, I was thinking “hurry up and get back to work!”. I love a good puzzle story. The conclusion was satisfying, and it left just enough unturned to let the reader continue to wonder a little more. I loved the whole concept of this story, and ultimately this is what has just tipped me over on to the “liked this book” side of the scales.

This book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea that’s for sure, but if you enjoy your mystery/suspense novels with a good side dose of crazy, then this short read might just be up your alley.

 

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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