Satisfying – The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power

by Naomi Alderman

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Magical realism

“…she knows she has enough left in her skein to stun a man, at least, maybe more – can feel the power sloshing across her collarbone and up and down her arms. The thought makes her laugh again. She finds she’s doing that more often now, just laughing. There’s a sort of constant ease, as if it’s high summer all the time inside her.

 

What if the power were in women’s hands?

One day, women discover they have the ability to deliver electric shocks and with them, terrible pain and even death. And with that, the tables start to turn. Through the eyes of four characters we watch the world get flipped on its head. For better or for worse, everything has changed.

 

Janelle says…

I’ve used the word ‘satisfying’ to sum up my experience reading this book, but really there are so many other words I could have chosen to use. ‘Important’. ‘Relevant’. ‘Genius’. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book before that was so of its time.

The Power presents a world in which the balance of power between the sexes is turned 180° overnight, and instead of finding the middle-ground equality that feminists dream of, humanity is presented with a mirror of what we have always known. Young women start to discover a new ability to inflict pain with a flick of their hands. Baby girls are now born with this ability. As the knowledge is passed on to older women as well, the female race rises up strong and confident. With the power in their hands, literally, it looks like true gender equality could be on the cards once and for all. But along with this newfound state, extremist men’s rights groups also start to form, as do fanatical mobs of women intent on dishing out revenge and justice for everything that once was.

As a female, in parts this book is gleefully satisfying, but in other ways it’s terrible and sad. It asks the questions- What if the tables were turned? Would the world be a better place? Would we learn from our past mistakes? Is true equality really achievable?

This book is masterfully written and extremely thought-provoking. There is no better time for this book to come in to existence, and I’d encourage anyone who believes in feminism and gender equality to give it a read. If you’re a fan of The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll also resonate with this book. It asks more questions than it answers, it is confronting and maddening. But ultimately, the thought you’ll be left pondering is, When it comes to the balance of power, what do I want the world to look like?

 

Rating:

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

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Buddy Read – Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

June 2018 – Mel’s choice

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

by Jonathan Safran Foer

Published 2005

Genres: Fiction / Historical Fiction

 

In a vase in a closet, a couple of years after his father died in 9/11, nine-year-old Oskar discovers a key….

The key belonged to his father, he’s sure of that. But which of New York’s 162 million locks does it open?

So begins a quest that takes Oskar – inventor, letter-writer and amateur detective – across New York’s five boroughs and into the jumbled lives of friends, relatives and complete strangers. He gets heavy boots, he gives himself little bruises and he inches ever nearer to the heart of a family mystery that stretches back fifty years. But will it take him any closer to, or even further from, his lost father?

 

Mel says…

I think anyone who is old enough to remember 9/11 and where they were on that day can agree, it is an event that we will never forget for as long as we live. This is why I chose this book, as it delves into the psyche of direct loss from that act of terrorism, albeit in a  fictional sense, however I found Oskar’s story of discovery and mourning intriguing.

Oskar was an extremely quirky 9 year-old, and the trauma that Safran Foer so cleverly portrayed through Oskar’s personality was both brilliant and heartbreaking.

The format of EL&IC was interesting with letters, narrative and images that made each chapter different from the next. There was a large amount of chapters that I skimmed through, due to lack of interest. Generally these were chapters from the Grandparents past which I felt were slightly confusing and uninteresting.

By the end of EL&IC, I was waiting for answers and closure that never came, but after a bit of thought felt that this was consistent with how Oskar would feel throughout his journey for closure.

Although I did enjoy EL&IC, I didn’t love it and was happy with a 3/5 star rating.

Rating:

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

 

Janelle says…

I went in to this book not really that interested in reading it, but I thought I’d give it a go and hope to be pleasantly surprised.

Like Mel, I found the story told from Oskar’s point of view to be incredibly sad, all the more because of the fact that this trauma was and is real for so many people. But I also didn’t really care about the flashbacks of the earlier generation scattered throughout, and by the end of the book it still wasn’t obvious to me why they were necessary. I also felt a sense of “Ok…..aaaaand?” with the ending.

Frankly I struggled to get through this one, I didn’t learn anything new from it and it was all just a bit ho-hum. I gave it a 2-star rating on Goodreads, but the more I think about it post-read, the closer to a 1-star my opinion gets! There’s not really much more to say about it, other than don’t bother.

 

Rating:

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

 

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Tear Jerker – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

by Heather Morris

IMG_2001.jpg

Published 2018

Genres: Historical Fiction

“He must transfer the five digits onto the girl who holds it. There is already a number there but it is faded.
He pushes the needle into her left arm, making a 3, trying to be gentle.
Blood oozes.
But the needle hasn’t gone deep enough and he has to trace the number again.
She doesn’t flinch at the pain Lale knows he’s inflicting. They’ve been warned – say nothing, do nothing.
He wipes away the blood and rubs green ink into the wound. “

The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the true story of Lale and Gita Sokolov, two Slovakian Jews who survived Auschwitz and eventually made their home in Australia.

In that terrible place, Lale was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival—literally scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.

Lale used the infinitesimal freedom of movement that this position awarded him to exchange jewels and money taken from murdered Jews for food to keep others alive. If he had been caught, he would have been killed; many owed him their survival.

Mel says…

I have been eager to read The Tattooist of Auschwitz since before it was released here in Australia. The Holocaust is such a dark time in human history and I feel that by listening/reading to the stories of the victims, that I am somehow paying my respects.

The incredible story of Lale and Gita’s survival over 3 years spent in Auschwitz-Birkenau, is absolutely mind blowing and incomprehensible.

Lale’s heroic, and sometimes ignorant, approach to survival ensured that many of his fellow Jews were able to fight of starvation and to work together to defy all odds and walk out of the concentration camp, when many, many people were not so fortunate.

From the recollection of the gas chambers, through to the shootings due to pure boredom by the SS guards, Lale recalls it all in this raw story, based on true events.

If you read one book this year, make it this one. It will send chills down your spine and make you appreciate how fortunate you are to not be exposed to such horrors.

Keep the tissues handy!

Rating:

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

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Quirky – Turtles All The Way Down by John Green

Turtles all the Way Down

by John Green

IMG_1711.JPG

Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Young Adult

‘Okay, so there’s this scientist, and he’s giving a lecture to a huge audience about the history of the earth, and he explains that the earth formed billions of years ago from a cloud of cosmic dust…’

An old woman in the back raises her hand, and says, ‘That’s all fine and good, Mr Scientist, but the truth is the earth is a flat plane resting on the back of a giant turtle.’

‘The scientist decides to have a bit of fun with the woman and responds, ‘Well, but if that’s so, what is the giant turtle standing upon?’

And the woman says, ‘It is standing upon a shell of another giant turtle.’

And now the scientist is frustrated, and he says, ‘Well, then what is THAT turtle standing upon?’

And the old woman says, ‘Sir, you don’t understand. It’s turtles all the way down.’

“It’s turtles all the way fucking down, Holmesy. You’re trying to find the turtle at the bottom of the pile, but that’s not how it works.”

Mel says…

To be honest, before I requested this book from the library I didn’t actually read the synopsis. I purely wanted to read it based on my past experience reading John Green’s novels.

I love a good Young Adult fiction and this was no different. Such a cruisey and easy read that I managed to knock over within a couple of days.

Green creates such a loveable and quirky protagonist in Aza Holmes. At so many times I wanted to give her a big hug and try to help her get out of her head. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to suffer from OCD, but Green paints a damn realistic and horrifying picture.

Although at times I felt this novel was veering off course and going off on odd tangents, I still couldn’t help but enjoy the story of Aza.

3.5/5 stars – I am in a generous mood so have rounded this up to 4 stars!

Rating:

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

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Buddy Read – Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

April 2018 – Janelle’s choice

Hex

by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Published 2016

Genres: Fiction / Horror

“At first he didn’t understand where the heavy, stale stench of corpse was coming from. “Okay, just come…” he began, but then he heard the whispering. He looked around, straight into the tormented, nightmarish face of Katherine van Wyler.”

Welcome to Black Spring, a picturesque town with an ugly secret. A 17th century woman with sewn shut eyes and mouth walks its streets day and night… enters its homes… watches its people when they sleep. They call her the Black Rock Witch.

So accustomed to her presence they’ve become, the townsfolk often forget she’s there. Or what will happen if her eyes ever open.

 

Janelle says…

Expectations were high for this one, it had been talked up and guaranteed to deliver the scares. The premise sounded so good to me – a seemingly normal town, with the exception of an ancient witch from the dead who randomly pops up in the street, in people’s houses, etc., and this is so normal to the people who live there that they barely bat an eyelid. WHAT?!

I went back and forth on this one while reading it, I enjoyed the beginning but then found the book to drag a little, then it picked up again, then dragged a little, and then I raced through the end because I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen. So in terms of a story, yes I think this delivered.

But the big question is, was it scary? And surprisingly I’d have to say “meh”. It was creepy, sure, but I didn’t find myself hiding under the covers at night like I thought I would be. And let’s face it, that’s what I was here for. So while I did enjoy this read, I felt it didn’t really deliver on its promise to me, and so I can’t go above a 3-star rating.

Rating:

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

 

Mel says…

Please note that I am STILL shivering from some of the creepy moments in Hex.  I have read only a handful of horror books in my life (criminal, I know!) and all have been good reads, but none of ever made me feel like I need to look over my shoulder to make sure I am in fact still alone in my room. Enter Hex…

Janelle introduced this book to me by saying she’d heard it is ‘one of the scariest books ever written’, so I was initially sceptical/eager to see what all the fuss was about.

The first 1/4 of the book was a bit of a drag and to be honest, I didn’t understand the initial introductions of the “witch” better known as Katherine. All of a sudden a family is having dinner while an ancient witch, whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut, is standing motionless in their living room. Like seriously, wtf!? Then the shivers started.

By the halfway mark I was upset that there wasn’t enough time in my day for me to sit and purely read, with no distractions. I stayed up until the wee-hours of the morning and got out of bed early on Sunday to finish this eerie book and I was glad I did.

The ending made me want to cry, and that wasn’t the first time I felt this way. Aside from the chill-factor, Hex was also a story about the lengths a parent will go to to protect their child. Love does funny things to people and this was very apparent.

This wasn’t quite 5 stars, so I am doing a cheeky 4.5. Grab a blanket, hot tea and Hex. Thank me later!

 

Rating:

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

 

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Yawn – The History of Bees by Maja Lunde

The History of Bees

by Maja Lunde

IMG_1470

Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Crime Fiction

“The little plastic container was full of the gossamer gold, carefully weighed out. I tried to transfer invisible portions lightly out of the container and over into the trees.

Each individual blossom was to be dusted with the tiny brush of hen feathers, from hens scientifically cultivated for precisely this purpose. No feathers of artificial fibers had proven nearly as effective. 

….in my district the tradition of hand pollination was more than a hundred years old. The bees here had disappeared back in the 1980’s, long before The Collapse;..”

 

 Mel says…

This was in my TBR pile for so long and I finally got my hands on a library copy. The History of Bees had such high praise on Goodreads, so I was really looking forward to the concept of 3 intertwining stories, all set in different eras of time.

The story of William, set in the 1800’s was probably my least favourite of the 3. He begins by being bedridden with an unexplained illness and his family try desperately to get him to begin participating in life once more. He is then driven by immense guilt from his children to get back on his feet (literally and figuratively) and develops a brilliant idea to design a new concept of bee hive. Fast forward through his dramas and his story begun to bore me to the point where I skipped the last handful of his chapters, as my care factor was ZERO!

George is a modern day bee keeper who has a struggling honey farm. He fights battles to keep his farm and family together. He is also an ignorant father and angered me to the point I wanted to throttle him with the book. Some of the conversations he held with his son and wife made me wonder how the hell these people managed to put up with him. Such a prat!

Finally we have Tao. Tao lives in China, post “Collapse” and works tirelessly to make ends meet. Her son is struck with a mystery illness and he is taken away for “treatment”, which Tao and her husband then have to struggle to find where their son was taken and what has happened to him. I related the most with Tao, as she demonstrates the lengths a mother will go to for her children. She is a fighter and a bad ass woman, who never gives up hope of finding her son alive.

Overall, The History of Bees had very few subtleties as to how each story related to the next and I found the minor links boring. I am still scratching my head as to how this book has such a high star rating on Goodreads because I unapologetically give it 2 stars.

Rating:

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

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Buddy Read – Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

January 2018 – Mel’s choice

Everything, Everything

by Nicola Yoon

IMG_0734

Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Young Adult

“According to the Big Bang theory, the universe came into being in one single moment – a cosmic cataclysm that gave birth to black holes, brown dwarfs, matter and dark matter, energy and dark energy. It gave birth to galaxies and stars and moons and suns and planets and oceans. It’s a hard concept to hold on to – the idea that there was a time before us. A time before. 

In the beginning there was nothing. And then there was everything.”

 

Maddy is allergic to the world; stepping outside the sterile sanctuary of her home could kill her. 

But then Olly moves in next door. And just like that, Maddy realises there’s more to life than just being alive.

You only get one chance at first love. And Maddy is ready to risk everything, everything to see where it leads.

 

Mel says…

This book had been sitting on my Goodreads ‘to read’ shelf for so long, so as part of my 2018 Reading Resolution to read more of the books on my current ‘to read’ shelf, I chose this for our first buddy read of the year.

I’m glad this was the first buddy read of the year, as it gave me the warm and fuzzies. I liked the unusual plot line of Madeline being a “bubble girl” and reading about the life  challenges she faces each day, being so isolated from the open world.

It was very clear through the narrative that Maddy was a positive, well educated young lady, who had a very loving mother. To begin with, she didn’t appear to loath life in her “bubble” as she simply didn’t understand what she was missing out on in the outside world.

As the plot develops, this shifts and her world opens up to mass possibilities.

One negative I could find, and this is minor, is that there were many similarities to John Green’s ‘A Fault in Our Stars’, in a young romance novel way, but this did not deter me from enjoying this book.

I highly recommend this book to all of my Aussie friends as a great summer beach read, or to anyone else enjoying an icy start to their year, for a cosy warm hug.

Rating:

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

 

Janelle says…

The premise of this book had me intrigued, and like Mel, it had been on my TBR for a long time.

This was a welcome change of pace for me, and most of all I enjoyed the sweetness of the relationship between the two teen protagonists, Maddy and Olly. I also loved how the book was formatted, with drawings, IM chat transcripts, made-up word definitions etc., strewn throughout to break up the text and show a different perspective of their daily lives.

I had been expecting more focus on the way Maddy had to live her life because of her illness, isolated from the world and never without risk of being infected by a mystery contagion. That aspect of the plot was probably what interested me most, but in fact I found the book didn’t seem to dwell too much on it. I also thought that the connection between Maddy and Olly was all a bit too sudden and convenient to be believable.

So this didn’t rock my world, but I would definitely recommend this if you enjoyed The Fault In Our Stars or if you’re a fan of YA in general.

 

Rating:

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

 

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Let Down – Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water

by Paula Hawkins

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Published 2017

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Crime Fiction

“Again! Again!”

The men bind her again. Different this time: left thumb to right toe, right thumb to left. The rope around her waist. This time, they carry her into the water.

“Please,” she starts to beg, because she’s not sure that she can face it, the blackness and the cold…

…She sinks. By the time they drag her out the second time, her lips are the blue of a bruise, and her breath is gone for good.”

 

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

Mel says…

 

Ugh, whhhhyyyyyyyy!!!???? Why was this book such a let down?? What did Paula Hawkins do that was so different to The Girl on the Train?! Sigh…

It took me roughly 3/4 of the book to finally understand who’s who, without having to read 1-2 pages of their designated chapter and that was my biggest pet peeve. What was with the large amount of characters that the plot followed? Why couldn’t the plot be solely told through the protagonist, who I am still confused as to whether it was Jules or Lena, but either would have been fine.

The plot was interesting and intriguing, but my focused wained due to the confusion from all the different angles and I began resenting this book by page 200.

This was my main holiday read over the Christmas break and I’m somewhat disappointed that I stuck with it.

2/5 stars 😦

Rating:

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

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Buddy Read – A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

December 2017 – Janelle’s choice

A Darker Shade of Magic

by V. E. Schwab

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Published 2015

Genres: Fantasy

“Kell brought the blade to the back of his forearm. He’d already carved one line today, for the door that brought him this far. Now he carved a second. His blood, a rich ruby red, welled up and over, and he returned the knife to its sheath and touched his fingers to the cut and then to the wall, redrawing the circle and the line that ran through it. Kell guided his sleeve down over the wound – he’d treat all the cuts once he was home – and cast a last glance back at the babbling king before pressing his palm flat to the mark on the wall.
It hummed with magic.
As Tascen’, he said. Transfer. 
The patterned paper rippled and softened and gave way under his touch, and Kell stepped forward and through.

In this richly fantastical world exists four parallel Londons – dull Grey London, vibrant Red London, dangerous White London, and banished Black London. Kell is one of only two Antari, someone with a magical gift that allows him to travel between the Londons. Not long after coming in to possession of a mysterious object, Kell meets Lila Bard and the fates of the two become intertwined as they learn the truth about the object, and fight together to keep it out of the wrong hands.

Mel says…

When Janelle suggested ADSoM, I had heard zero about this book/series. She explained the concept of parallel London’s to me and as a self confessed London literary lover, I was sold.

I devoured this book in just over a week (an achievement for me, as I have a very active toddler) and I was not disappointed. After 100-odd pages, I was able to understand the differing versions of magical versus non-magical London’s and how the movement between each “city” worked.

There were a few sections to the book that I felt could have been written better and others that bored me, but overall it was an exciting tale and one I would be interested in continuing through the series.

I bumped up my review from 3.5 to 4 stars, as it isn’t very often, lately, that a book has me eagerly wanting to get home and read.

Rating:

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

 

Janelle says…

I’m so glad I finally got around to reading this book! I’ve heard so much about the Darker Shade of Magic series (there are now three books), and the concept of parallel cities and being able to move between them was so exciting to me. Especially with that city being London, there’s just some kind of extra special magical air about it.

This world was so vast and detailed, I just loved V. E. Schwab’s imagination. She must have had a blast writing this. In the first 50 or so pages I felt a bit overwhelmed by all that was being thrown at me, but then stuff started happening and I sank in to it quite comfortably.

The scene-setting and richly-drawn characters, landscapes and details of the lives in this world where my favourite part of this book. When I look back at the plot now that I’ve finished reading it, I feel like at the bones of it, it was a pretty simple story that has been done before. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it and will definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

Rating:

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

 

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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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