Buddy Read – 11/22/63 by Stephen King

August/September 2017 – Mel’s choice

11/22/63

by Stephen King

Published 2011

Genres: Historical Fiction/Thriller

 

“You’re healthy and in the prime of life. You can go back, and you can stop it.’
He leaned forward, his eyes not just bright; they were blazing.
‘You can change history, Jake. Do you understand that? John Kennedy can live.”

Maine high school teacher, Jake Epping is about to have his life turned upside down. The owner of the local diner reveals to Jake that he’s discovered a portal to travel back to the 1950’s, and wants to enlist Jake to carry out his plan to stop the Kennedy assassination. What will life be like for Jake in a different era to the one he knows? And could he really stop Lee Harvey Oswald?

 

Mel says…

Wowsers, what a ride!

11/22/63 took me 2 months to read from cover to cover. It was a damn big commitment when it comes to books, at 1080 pages, but I kept chipping away at it and boy am I glad I did.

This is my second attempt at completing this book. The first attempt was a ‘did not finish’ (DNF) due to lack of dedication and the sheer volume of pages to devour. BUT, I picked this as our August (come September) Buddy Read so Janelle and I could keep each other motivated enough to stick it out to the end.

Aside from the sizing of literature, this was an excellent addition to the Stephen King collection. It is only the second King novel that I have read, but it won’t be the last! The amount of research and thought that were put into these pages is astounding and evident. If I was naive enough, you could tell me this was a Non-Fictional recount of a time travellers journey and I would whole-heartedly believe you.

I felt that 1080 pages was too long for this story however, as it was edging to the finale, I was sad to think it would soon be over. As the day of the assassination neared, I myself felt the nervousness and eagerness that I could believe of George Amberson/Jake Epping and felt that King took his readers to those emotions with such cleverness, from a master of the written word.

I rate 11/22/63 4.5 stars. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever been fascinated by the JFK assassination and has ever asked themselves, ‘was Oswald a lone gunman?’

Rating:

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

 

Janelle says…

I had a bit of a love/hate relationship with this book. However, I am glad that Mel chose it as our Buddy Read, as I think the sheer size of the thing would have forever turned me off it had I not been forced to read it.

I agree with Mel that it did not have to be quite so lengthy. The middle of the book did get taken up with the details of George Amberson’s/Jake Epping’s new life in the past, and while some of that was necessary to the plot, I got bored with the story at this point. It was difficult to motivate myself to read on to the end, and I did consider DNF’ing the book.

BUT I wouldn’t let it defeat me! It started out so strong, and having had previous success with reading King, I persevered. The story raced towards a thrilling finish and I ended up breezing through the last third of the book. I’m not sure I was entirely satisfied with the ending, only because a possible (and much more exciting, in my opinion) ending was hinted at and then didn’t eventuate, so I had been expecting and hoping for a different conclusion. In general, I was expecting and hoping for more time travel back and forth, and was somewhat disappointed when the protagonist got stuck in the late 50’s/early 60’s for the majority of the book.

Overall, not my favourite King so far but well worth the read if you can handle the commitment.

Rating:

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

 

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Surreal – Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

 

 Fever Dream

by Samanta Schweblin

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Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Literary / Horror

“You’re confused, and that’s not good for this story. I’m a normal boy.”

“This isn’t normal, David. There’s only darkness, and you’re talking into my ear. I don’t even know if this is really happening.”

“It’s happening, Amanda. I’m kneeling at the edge of your bed, in one of the rooms at the emergency clinic. We don’t have much time, and before time runs out we have to find the exact moment.”

 

Amanda lies in a clinic, talking to the young David. What transpires between them is confounding, eerie, and unsettling. As they, and you, try to put the pieces together, they speak of grief, the family bond, and secrets. And they relive their mutual experience in an effort to find the key to it all – where they are, what they’re doing there, who David is, and what has happened to Amanda.

 

Janelle says…

 

I heard a couple of early reviews of this book, which seemed to be unable to go into specifics about the plot but emphasised just how strange the book was. I had to check it out for myself.

Strange doesn’t quite do it justice. This is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. At 183 pages long, I read it in one sitting, and if you’re going to read it too I suggest you do the same. It’s at its most powerful that way. Don’t look up from the page or you’ll break the spell.

Just like other reviewers before me, I don’t feel like I can talk about specifics either, and I still don’t quite know what it was about or exactly what happened. The only way I can describe it is by saying that our two main characters are searching for answers about the things that have happened to them, but their conversation doesn’t really make any sense. Certain details do seem to connect to each other and this connection becomes apparent as you go along, however their meaning is unclear.

But I enjoyed the experience. And that’s exactly what this book feels like, it’s not just a book, not just a story….it’s an experience. By the end I felt like I’d been on some kind of time-travelling acid trip, following the stream of consciousness recollections of the protagonist, Amanda, whose discussion with creepy David almost seemed like as if she were under hypnosis. I don’t recall a book ever making me feel the way this one did. It was so weird, and unsettling, and confounding.

I know how I’m describing it probably makes it sound awful, but I loved it. I just couldn’t put it down, from the first page I wanted to know what was coming next and where it was leading. I don’t how Samanta Schweblin (and translator Megan McDowell) has done what she’s done here, I can’t help but feel like maybe she knows some great secret that we don’t.

If you’re not into totally bizarre books that make you think “WTF?”, then steer clear because you’ll probably end up throwing it at the wall. But if, like me, that’s your bag, then you need to pick this one up because it will rock your world.

Rating:

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

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Intricate – The Summer that Melted Everything by Tiffany McDaniel

The Summer that Melted Everything

by Tiffany McDaniel

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“The lukewarm past had been overtaken by the scalding now. Gone was the perfect temperature. The breeze. All replaced by an almost violent heat that turned your bones into volcanoes, your blood into the lava that yelled their eruptions. Folks would later talk about that sudden onset of heat. It was their best evidence of the devil’s arrival.

The Bliss family live in the small, humble town of Breathed, Ohio. In the summer of 1984, local prosecutor Autopsy Bliss publishes in the town newspaper an invitation to the devil to come visit the town. Soon after, thirteen-year old Sal appears, alone and grubby on the courthouse steps, where he is met by Autopsy’s son, Fielding. The Bliss family take in Sal like he is one of their own, but there are others in town who are less than thrilled to hear that the devil has arrived. As a freak heatwave sends frustrations and patience simmering, a number of shocking incidents befall the residents of Breathed. But where will the blame be laid?

 

Janelle says…

This started out kind of comical, slowly building your rapport with the main protagonists, the Bliss family, so that you felt protective towards them as the story progressively got darker.

For me this book threw many questions out there – like what is good and what is evil, to what extent do they need each other and where does the line get blurry. And then we have the issue of labels, and group mentality. Young Sal, as the devil, is the scapegoat for every bad thing that befalls the town, the label applied to him enough to condemn him despite people not taking the time to get to know him. Is he really evil? Is it all really his fault? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Fear is a running theme. The fear of Stella Bliss, who refuses to leave her house because of a phobia of the rain. The fear of Grand Bliss, who has a secret in a time and place of hatred when he is likely to be misunderstood. The fear of Sal, who doesn’t want to own the label that is pinned to him and despite fearing the townfolk, tries to show love and compassion. The fear the town has of Sal, believing he has brought the heatwave and the spate of terrible events to them. Some of these characters will overcome their fears, some will succumb to them, some will not be able to live with them.

Overall, I’m still trying to gather my thoughts about this book and decide exactly what impression it’s left on me. But while reading it, there were a number of times I read over a sentence more than once because its composition was so clever. The writing was beautiful and intricate, many times I paused to admire how the author had put together the message, especially when in the mind of the main character Fielding and the dialogue of Sal. And a book that I still think about long after finishing it is always worthy of credit in my opinion.

 

Rating:

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

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Buddy read – Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf

February 2017 – Janelle’s choice

Our Souls at Night

by Kent Haruf

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

We’ve been by ourselves for too long. For years. I’m lonely. I think you might be too. I wonder if you would come and sleep in the night with me. And talk.”

And that’s how the story starts. One night in Holt County, Ohio, Addie Moore visits her neighbour Louis Waters, with this simple proposition. From there, an innocent and honest friendship blossoms, but some of the bystanders surrounding this couple aren’t too pleased.

 

Janelle says…

I chose this book because it was mentioned on an old episode of the ABC’s The Book Club and all the panellists doted over it, a rare occurence! And it sounded sweet. And it was sweet!

This is a quick, 180-page read but for such a little thing, it really does manage to cover a bit of ground. It explores growing old, how society sees people of a certain age bracket and expects them to behave, and whether we can claim any ownership over the actions of our loved ones, our elderly and frail loved ones especially. This exploration is made all the more poignant and beautiful by the fact that this novel was published posthumously, written by the author as he was dying. This post/review by The Guardian really does a good, honest job of paying homage to both the author and the book if you want to know more.

I fell in total love with the two protagonists, Addie and Louis. I was in their corner from the very first page, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would try to deny them the friendship they were creating with one another. But over and over again their meetings are judged as shameful by those around them, and I just wanted to jump inside the book and shake everybody by the shoulders!

I really found the dialogue to be written in an interesting way. There was no “she whispered”, “he moaned”, “I gasped” etc., it was purely just the actual words spoken between characters. It was just a different style of approaching dialogue, and I noticed that difference straight away. I liked it, it kept the story flowing in a very realistic way, without the need for drama.

I think more than anything, this is a book about hope, and the message that it’s never too late to chase happiness. And I think it’s one I’ll come back to again, when I feel the need to hear that message.

 

Rating:

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

Mel says…

This book was 180-pages of pure sweetness. I fell in love with Addie, Louis and their companionship. Their little adventures were adorable and all I wanted to do was pack my bags and join them on their picnics, lunches and camping trips. At one point I sighed and asked my husband if we can please go camping, it sounded so pleasant.

The picture that Kent Haruf paints of this world is written in such an unusual way, that at first I struggled with the dialogue, but once I was roughly 20-pages in, it became quite easy to read and was a definite page turner.

Over the course of the book, I grew very attached to Addie and Louis and became very defensive about their companionship. So much so in fact, that when the towns folk began questioning the relationship in the beginning, all I wanted to do was tell them to mind their own business.

If you are looking for a short and relaxing read, then this is the book for you. It is light and a breath of fresh air. I thoroughly enjoyed it!

 

Rating:

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

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Buddy read – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

January 2017 – Mel’s choice

Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson

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Published 2013

Genres: Fiction / Historical / Literary

As the story begins, Ursula Todd is born with the cord wrapped around her neck and does not survive. The next chapter, the same incident occurs, but this time, the doctor is present and is able to remove the cord from Ursula’s neck, so she lives through this ordeal, only to die in a differing way a few years later. As the plot progresses, so does Ursula’s life through the differing scenarios that play out and as she surpasses these various events from her previous lives, she begins to suffer from deja vu. 

“All those names,” Teddy said, gazing at the Cenotaph. “All those lives. And now again. I think there is something wrong with the human race. It undermines everything one would like to believe in, don’t you think?”

“No point in thinking,” she said briskly, “you just have to get on with life.” (She really was turning into Miss Woolf.) “We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try.” (The transformation was complete.)

“What if we had a chance to do it again and again,”Teddy said, “until we finally did get it right? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?” 

Mel says…

I was super enthusiastic to read this book, as the premise of the story is doing life over when you don’t get it right the first time. What put me off reading this book for so long after I purchased it, was the 600+ pages, but in the end, I was intrigued enough to make this my first read of 2017.

I must admit, the plot sounds slightly confusing and it was at times. I found after roughly 200 pages, I was constantly wondering who certain characters were, as well as getting irritated with the use of various languages for a sentence here and there, with minimal translation applied. These were minor irks, but ones I carried until the very last page.

The positives were the way in which Kate Atkinson writes. It is so descriptive and she builds the characters personalities in such a way, that I felt I had built rapport’s with the main characters, by the end of the first hundred pages. The uniqueness of this book was a standout and one that I enjoyed exploring.

Specifically, I was intrigued to read about Atkinson’s interpretation of the raw brutality that was World War II and I actually felt like she got her descriptive details so perfect, that I could just imagine the colourless and depressive nature that was London during this significant part of history. The “version” I guess we will call it, of Ursula’s life as a warden during World War II, was my personal favourite. I found it so confronting and interesting at the same time, but it also felt so appropriate to the time period that she was living in.

Overall, I felt this book didn’t require 600+ pages to complete the story. I began waning with my enthusiasm by page 400, but pushed on with minimal reward. There are several unanswered questions, which is always irritating, but I enjoyed it enough to grant it 3.5 stars.

Rating:

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

Janelle says…

I was similarly intrigued by the premise of this story, but the size of this book meant I was put off again and again from starting it. The new year does feel like a great time to sink in to a massive tome, though! And I’m glad I did.

The story explores how a life can be irrevocably changed through one small movement or decision, which unbeknownst to you, could end up defining your future. Something which is terrifying, yet accurate and fascinating.

I, like Mel, also thought that the book was longer than it needed to be. There were some chapters in the middle of the book that were soooooo long that I started to struggle with them. But it was the uniqueness of this book, my curiosity over where it would go next, and my love for the well-developed characters that kept me going.

This is not a book about only one character, we become deeply familiar with all the members of the Todd family and others around them. Because deja vu is a theme that runs throughout this book, there are links between chapters – sometimes the links are strong and obvious, sometimes so small they’re almost overlooked. I loved this clever trick, it felt like going on a treasure hunt.

I did lag with this book at times but nonetheless I was still keen to sink in to this world again and again to revisit the characters I had grown to love. I was expecting to get a different resolution out of it, but found that at the end I wasn’t completely satisfied that it had been tied up neatly enough. However, ultimately it was the unique format Kate Atkinson employed to pull off this premise that was enough to warrant a four star rating.

 

 Rating:

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

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Loveable – Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley

Lily and the Octopus

by Steven Rowley

lilyoctopusimg400

Published June 2016

Genres: Fiction / Literary

 

“….Thursday nights are the nights my dog, Lily, and I set aside to talk about boys we think are cute.”

Ted lives with his long-time companion, his dog Lily, and through their years together they see relationships come and go, they share heartbreak, they have adventures and they ponder cute male celebrities. But with the arrival of the octopus, their world could completely change.

 

Janelle says…

 

It was the wonderfully weird synopsis on Netgalley that enticed me to read this book – “…a struggling writer finds himself unable to open up to the possibility of love – except through the companionship of his aging dachshund Lily. But with the unexpected arrival of a small octopus that affixes itself to Lily’s head, it soon becomes clear the invader is strangling the life from his dog and threatening the bond with his one true friend.”

Now who wouldn’t be intrigued by that?

I don’t really want to say too much about the story here for fear of giving away spoilers. What I can say is that this is the story of a long friendship between a single man and his dog, and that for both of them the relationship is the most important one in their lives.

The animal lovers among us will know that our pets are there with us through our challenges and triumphs, like any other member of the family or close friendship circle. You’ll empathise with the bond that these two characters share, although perhaps you might not have been absolute best friends with your pet like Ted is with Lily in this book.

The book certainly is strange, but there is a sad logic to the strangeness. Overall I just found it to be very sweet and I was immediately endeared to Ted and Lily. I laughed out loud in spots, and then in others I teared up. At times this book felt like a great big hug, and at other times I felt like I had been punched in the chest. And I’m not saying anything more! Other than if you’ve ever loved a pet, and even if you haven’t, I think this book is well worth your time.

Lily and the Octopus will be published in June by Simon & Schuster.

 

Rating:

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

*I was provided with an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review*

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Mysterious – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children

by Ransom Riggs

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Published 2011

Genres: Fiction / Young Adult

 

“There’s no time,” he whispered. Then he raised his head off the ground, trembling with the effort, and breathed into my ear: “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940.” I nodded, but he could see that I didn’t understand. With his last bit of strength, he added, “Emerson – the letter. Tell them what happened, Yakob.”
With that he sank back, spent and fading. I told him I loved him. And then he seemed to disappear into himself, his gaze drifting past me to the sky, bristling with no stars.

A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very peculiar photographs.

Mel says…

Right from the start, I was drawn into the world of Miss Peregrine. I had only heard little snippets of feedback about this book and it was all mysterious, which intrigued me even more.

The protagonist, Jacob, is enthralled in his Grandfather’s strange behaviour and stories about a world he knows nothing about. After a family tragedy, Jacob begins to question what his Grandfather’s life was really about and decides to make a trip back to where it all began. As answers unfold, I found the pages were turning more quickly, as I was becoming more and more excited to know where this story would lead.

The photographs throughout the book add an extra air of mystery and add some reality to the stories of individual characters in the book. This is something we rarely see in fiction, but I would love to see more of as it worked so well to add that little extra oomph to the story. If you decide to read Miss Peregrine’s, please ensure you read the book and don’t go for the audio version, which I almost made the mistake of doing. The photographs are worth your reading time alone!

This is the first book of the series and I can safely say I will be continuing the series to see where it leads. I was also excited to find out that Tim Burton is bringing this book to life in a movie, due to come out late 2016, so if you are wanting to read this book, do so before the movie is released! It is worth the hype!

Rating:

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

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Buddy Read – All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

February 2016 – Mel’s choice

All The Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary Fiction / Historical Fiction

“..maybe the Germans are advancing as inexorably as lava, but Marie-Laure is slipping into something like a dream, or perhaps it’s the memory of one: she’s six or seven years old, newly blind, and her father is sitting in the chair beside her bed, whittling away at some tiny piece of wood, smoking a cigarette, and evening is settling over the hundred thousand rooftops and chimneys of Paris, and all the walls around her are dissolving, the ceilings too, the whole city is disintegrating into smoke, and at last sleep falls over her like a shadow.”

For Marie-Laure, blind since age six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the priceless diamond that is guarded in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth.

 

Mel says…

This book has received so many rave reviews, as well as being the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner for Fiction, so naturally I was eager to read this book and see what all the fuss was about. Initially, I must admit, I dragged myself through the first hundred or so pages and thought ‘meh’. BUT, I did change my tune as I pushed on.

The first thing you must know is that this book is not a quick, easy read. It is very deep and emotionally driven, which you would expect as the story is based during WWII, and the Nazi invasion of France.

This is a beautiful story of two innocent children, Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure is a young, blind girl who relies heavily on her father to assist with daily life tasks, so once the invasion of Paris begins, her story and life become very different from many others.

Werner is a young, German orphan who grows up with his sister, Jutta, and who is led into a life of service by the Nazis. He is still a child when he is enlisted and I believe he is fairly unaware how much of an impact on the war his engineering skills actually make.

This story is generously flecked with beautiful metaphors, and the meaning behind the title just makes Anthony Doerr’s work that much more exciting. All The Light We Cannot See is a must read for anyone wanting to read something with a little more depth and meaning.

Rating:

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

Janelle says…

Like Mel, I was keen to read this based on the positive reviews I’d heard, and the fact that it had won the Pulitzer. And my reading experience was actually the opposite of hers – starting out of the gate, I was really engaged with the characters but I became less motivated as the book went on. I really did like the format of very short chapters all throughout this book, it meant that I could read small snippets if I only had a short amount of time to spare, and it was always possible to simply read to the end of a chapter before putting the book down, rather than stopping mid-chapter. However, it felt like it took me FOREVER to read this (it took me two weeks), and I started to feel twitchy to finish it and move on. I’m beginning to think that perhaps I just lose interest with long books!

War stories are not a genre I’m that interested in reading (surprising, given that I worked in a war museum for many years. Perhaps I’ve just had my fill of them). But I did appreciate that this story was delivered from an angle a little different to most. Our protagonists are two children – one a German orphan boy, the other a blind French girl. And it’s in the development of these two characters where this story really shines. I was taken with both of them immediately, especially Marie-Laure. I had never wondered before about what it might be like to experience something as life-altering as living through a war, if you had a sensory impairment like blindness.

I can see why this book won the Pulitzer. Doerr’s writing is beautiful, he sets the scenes so vividly and delivers his characters with tenderness. If you enjoy fiction surrounding WWII then you should definitely give this a read. Personally, I did like this book, but I had trouble maintaining enthusiasm and focus from about mid-way onwards, and unfortunately it just didn’t “wow” me.

Rating:

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

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Buddy read – American Housewife: Stories by Helen Ellis

March 2016 – Janelle’s choice

American Housewife: Stories

by Helen Ellis

american housewife

Published January 2016

Genres: Fiction / Short Stories / Humour

 

Meet the women of American Housewife: they wear lipstick, pearls, and sunscreen, even when it’s cloudy. They casserole. They pinwheel. They pump the salad spinner like it’s a CPR dummy. And then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven.
These twelve irresistible stories take us from a haunted prewar Manhattan apartment building to the set of a rigged reality television show, from the unique initiation ritual of a book club to the getaway car of a pageant princess on the lam, from the gallery opening of a tinfoil artist to the fitting room of a legendary lingerie shop.

Mel says…

Reading through this collection of short stories had me laughing out loud, cringing at stereotypes and wondering if women like the characters in each story actually exist.

I loved the differing perspectives of writing for each story and think that Helen Ellis nailed the variety of styles in each story. In one story you are reading it from a characters living perspective, the next through emails from differing characters and the next via a list of must-do’s.

If you are looking for an easy and quick read, this book is a must. It is light and funny and a good book to break up what can sometimes be an intense time in reading, when you have a long ‘to read list’ and just need a bookish holiday. This book keeps you turning pages until the very end. It is non-committal as protagonists constantly change and you aren’t required to make any emotional commitments to them, through their experiences.

This is one for the lady-on-the-go who needs to fill in a small amount of reading time.

Rating:

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

Janelle says…

I do love a short story collection. Especially when the other book I have on the go is almost 1000 pages long. Anything to distract me from the massive commitment staring at me!

Short story collections are the anti-commitment books. Perfect “in-between” books, and great for when you’re busy. This collection had me at the title. American Housewife? Say no more, just hand it over. At 185 pages long, I can practically fit it in my back pocket.

I was expecting a snappy little collection of witty, humorous stories about the stereotypical housewife, perhaps a story or two that dared to smash that stereotype by exposing “the truth” of how much work is actually involved in being your average housewife (note: not your rich and privileged housewife) (ie. a lot). Fast forward to the contents page, with story titles such as “What I Do All Day”, “Hello! Welcome To Book Club”, and “How To Be A Grown-Ass Lady”. Oh yes, this was going to be good.

And it was good. Just good. Not fabulous. I laughed (“The Wainscoting War” – I could have read a whole book just of that one story!), but I also meh’d (“Dumpster Diving With the Stars” – which just happened to also be the longest story in the collection). I wasn’t expecting that this collection would touch on some of the not-so-funny realities of being a housewife. Like loneliness, and jealousy, and subservience. I think it’s great that it did though. That’s real life.

But I did find myself at times thinking, “ho-hum”. So for that reason, I’m ranking American Housewife in the middle, with 3 stars out of 5.

Rating:

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

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Buddy read – Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

February 2016 – Janelle’s choice

Horrorstor

by Grady Hendrix

IMG_0761

Published 2014

Genres: Fiction / Horror

“During the day, Orsk was a building like any other, a sensible container built with modern materials to house furniture and people. But after eleven o’clock, when no one roamed its aisles, when its back offices went dark and the last customers were escorted out the front doors, when its entrances were dead-bolted, when its final floor partners went home, it became something else.”

That quote pretty much sums up the premise of this book. Inexplicable things keep occurring overnight in an Ikea-copycat store. A group of staff decide to sleep over in the store one night to figure out what’s going on (as you do). Gory and creepy things ensue.

 

Janelle says…

Ikea only opened here in our city a matter of months ago, so I thought it was the perfect time to buddy-read this book with Mel! I assumed that it would be a bit of suspenseful, nail-biting fun, nothing too terrifying or scarring, and I was absolutely right.

There’s no great social or political moral or message here. I wouldn’t read Horrorstor if you’re in the mood for a book to really sink your teeth in to, or if you feel like having the crap scared out of you. But this is perfect for those times when you just want a break from heavier reads, and you’re after something quick and enjoyable but with a hint of squeam.

“Amy screamed. She thrashed and struggled, bruising her shoulders against the sides of the box, but it was no use. She could barely move. And the less she could move, the more she needed to move, the more she needed to get out right now.

That’s when she felt the water.”

I adored the format of this book, which was reminiscent of a store catalogue. Each chapter was named after an individual product found in the store (and some only found after the lights are out – oooooooo!), complete with sales taglines to persuade you that your life won’t be complete until you buy said catalogue. The store floor plan at the front of the book was a nice touch too, and made it easier to follow the movements of the characters as they ran around between the furniture displays.

The only point that brought this book down for me at the time was the repeated moments of characters making really dumb decisions. Yes, this is a plot that sees characters in some scary situations, and if you were in a similar situation your rational decision-making mind might be a little off its game, and you would never be in a situation like the one in this book anyway because it’s fiction and it’s outrageous….but stillllll. It just irks me when as an observer of a book or movie, you find yourself shouting in frustration – “What?! You IDIOT! Why would you DO that?” But thinking about it now, if we didn’t have those moments, the book or movie would probably be pretty boring I guess….

So my general consensus on Horrorstor is that, while it wasn’t quite good enough to score a 5/5 “AMAZING” rating, it was still a damn entertaining book and I had a great time reading it.

 

Rating:

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

Mel says…

When I first collected this book from the library, I was excited, as the layout of this book is mimicking that of an Ikea catalogue. It isn’t the usual novel size, nor does it follow a traditional layout throughout. These aesthetics were the start of my excitement to read this book.

The moment I began reading, I almost devoured the entire story in one sitting, if it weren’t for previous social plans *shakes fist*, I would have.

Right from the start you know that the fictional store, Orsk, is eerie and that there is more to the furniture store than initially meets the eye. After a few “situations” that involved soiled furniture stock, manager Basil approaches store partners Amy and Ruth-Anne to cover a night shift to see exactly what was happening in the store after hours. This is where the fun begins!

There were a few moments that I found I would groan in annoyance at the characters and their occasional stupidity, but there was also many times I found I was covering my eyes with my free hand and reading between my fingers. There is one such scene that made this claustrophobe very uneasy, to the point I had to place the book down and have a tea break before continuing. If that doesn’t hint at good writing, I don’t know what does!

Horrorstor is full of ups and downs and takes you through a world of supernatural fun. The only let down for me was the characters themselves. I didn’t form a connection with any of them, but the exciting plot outweighed this negative.

A trip to Ikea will never be the same, once you read Horrorstor!

Rating:

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

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