Review: Pet Sematary

Pet SemetaryPet Sematary
By Stephen King
(Pocket Books, Mass Market Paperback, 9780743412278, 2001, 576pp.)

The Short of It:

Probably one of King’s best.

The Rest of It:

In my late teens, early twenties, I somehow managed to read Pet Sematary twice. I think I read it a second time, right before the movie came out. I remember it being appropriately scary but not overly so. To compare, IT, to this day, is still his scariest book ever but anytime death is involved and you try to change things, you are really grabbing the bull by the horns and things just can’t go well when you try to do that with death. Trust me.

After Louis Creed accepts a position as a university doctor, he and his wife Rachel buy a house in the country and look forward to raising their two small children, Ellie and Gage, in the beauty of God’s kingdom. Except, there is a pesky road that is the main through-way for trucks getting from point A to point B. Across the way, are their elderly neighbors, the Crandalls and oh, let’s not forget the Pet Sematary, which is really the smaller part of an Indian burial ground and which just so happens to be on their property.

Indian burial ground. Yep.

As you can probably guess, that busy road becomes a very important part of the story, as does the Pet Sematary, which is spelled that way because that is how a child chose to spell it years and years ago. The story reads quickly, because once you get to a certain point, you really can’t stop reading as you must know how it all turns out.

As you may recall above, I didn’t think the book was overly scary when I read it in my twenties but that was before kids. Reading it recently, I couldn’t  help but flashback to those times when my kids hurt themselves or how afraid I was of hurting them accidentally. Really, just recognizing how fragile they were. Well, the experience of parenthood adds some additional terror to the mix. For sure.

I read this for the #gangstercats read-along so I definitely had the support of others, which always makes reading a book like this a lot more fun. Plus, we got party favors too! There’s nothing like a good King discussion to bring people together. There was some interest in maybe watching the movie while live tweeting, so if that happens, you’ll hear about it soon.

Pet Sematary Read Along

King’s new book Finders Keepers comes out in June but what shall we read next?

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: South of the Border, West of the Sun

South of the Border, West of the Sun
South of the Border, West of the Sun

By Haruki Murakami
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780679767398, March 2000, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

Success and happiness don’t always go hand in hand.

The Rest of It:

Okay, guys. My love for Murakami is approaching full-on creep level. If I could shrink him down and put him in my pocket, I’d carry him around all day long. Weird, huh?

I saved this book for a long time because it was the last translated novel that I had not read but when my father passed away and I was unable to pull myself out of bed, I reached for it and Murakami’s writing did what I expected it to. It soothed, refreshed, made me ponder life in a big way, and all of a sudden all these feelings were rushing through me again.

This is probably one of my favorite novels, ever. It’s right up there with Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. It’s a plain, simple story about a middle-aged man by the name of Hajime. He has a loving wife, and two beautiful daughters. He owns a couple of very successful Jazz clubs and enjoys the life he’s earned. But deep down, there’s something missing.

Not fully understanding this sense of longing, he’s reminded of a girl he knew in childhood by the name of Shimamoto. She was his everything but that was a long time ago. Is it possible that she even remembers him?

Memory plays a big role in this story and it’s beautifully handled. Murakami paints vivid, broad strokes when it comes to Shimamoto so it’s easy to see why Hajime is so taken with her. In childhood she’s this beautiful, delicate untouchable thing but when she walks into his club one rainy evening, Hajime begins to doubt his own existence and is no longer sure what happiness is.

This novel is full of romantic interludes but I hesitate to call it a romance because it’s much deeper than your typical romance novel. If you are familiar with Murakami’s writing at all, you know that his books can walk the surreal line. Some of his books are way out there, like Kafka and Wind-up but others are more subtle and this one is definitely one of the quiet ones but oh, how I loved it. That last page! That last line. Sigh.

If I want to try Murakami, which book should I read first?

Everyone always asks me which book to read first. It’s really hard to say. I read Kafka on the Shore first and it was like an acid trip. At page 50 I was about to give up on it and then something clicked. But that’s me. I like it when an author surprises me. But I think about 75% of you would run screaming from a room if you picked that one up first.

So then, to be on the safe side, I usually suggest After Dark, which dips into the surreal but not overly so but if you like excitement then that one might not work for you. Then, there are his short story collections. Some of you adore short stories and some of you don’t. But, I have to say that South of the Border, West of the Sun is the one I will recommend for first time readers from here on out. It’s beautifully written and well-balanced. Not too much of any one thing which makes it a good read for first-time readers of his work.

Just for Fun

Check out this cafe which became a hangout for Murakami fans. I’d like to live there.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Bookseller

The Bookseller
The Bookseller
By Cynthia Swanson
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062333001, March 2015, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Blurred lines between what’s real and what’s not keep you guessing in this story about a woman’s longing for a perfect life.

The Rest of It:

In 1962, Kitty Miller is a single woman who runs a bookstore with her best friend, Frieda. Although being a bookseller is very rewarding, the business is struggling with its current location, away from the excitement of the city. Additionally, her single status makes for a lonely life. With no romantic prospects in sight, Kitty seems to accept her future as an old maid and for the most part, is okay with it.

However, when she falls asleep at night, she visits an alternate world as Katharyn Andersson, who happens to be happily married with children of her own. Her husband Lars is the doting husband of her dreams and although she is fiercely proud of her children, she worries constantly about her one autistic son. In this world, she seems to be living the life that she’s always wanted. But as soon as she wakes, she is returned to the life she lives at Kitty.

Remember that movie Sliding Doors? In it, the character in essence, lives two different lives but at the same time. This is slightly different because the world that Kitty visits is just a bit into the future, 1963 to be exact. Although the device used to carry Kitty into her alternate world is pretty seamless, sleep, I grew tired of it halfway through, knowing that all she had to do to return was simply wake up. However, the author tosses in a nice little twist to keep things interesting so although the story was mostly predictable, not all of it was.

That said, what I felt was missing, was the tug of both worlds. In the movie Big, Tom Hanks finds it hard to return to his life as a boy because he’s found love in his adult life. I WEPT for him. I really did. Here, I was mildly sad for the character but that’s it. I think the author had all the right ideas, but I needed more emotion to tie it all together. I needed to see more conflict within the character herself and in that sense, she was a little thin.

Also, I bet a lot of readers will pick this one up based on the title and cover alone but very little of it has to do with book selling so keep that in mind if you decide to pick it up.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: The Girl on the Train

The Girl on the Train
The Girl on the Train
By Paula Hawkins
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594633669, January 2015, 336pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

A nosy woman on the train witnesses something odd and decides to look into it further.

The Rest of It:

This book is a lot of fun. Lots of page turning, plenty of twists and a classic unreliable narrator. Good stuff.

Rachel is an alcoholic and has lost her job. She rides the train all day to keep her roommate from knowing that she’s now unemployed. Her train happens to pass by the house she once owned with her husband, Tom. Tom is now married to Anna and they live happily in what was once her home. Rachel’s train ride through London is often spent tipping a bottle back. Seeing her old home and sometimes even catching a glimpse of the other woman, is enough to make her drink and drink she does. So much so, that what she sees is often not remembered later.

That memory thing becomes a problem early on.

Yes. It. Does.

Rachel’s daily observances include a couple that she’s come to know as Jess and Jason, names she’s made up to give them substance. She watches them interacting on the balcony of their apartment, and she’s dreamed up a back story for them. But when Jess does something out of character for her, and then a crime is committed, Rachel takes it upon herself to investigate.

As you can imagine, things get out of hand. Rachel sticks her nose into their lives and in the process, ends up involving her ex-husband and his wife. Both, really want nothing to do with Rachel but out of obligation, aware of Rachel’s raging alcoholism, Tom tries to look out for her when he can, which infuriates Anna.

Tension mounts as the story unfolds and when you get to those last few chapters, you can’t help but turn the kids away, let your dinner burn, etc. The ending needs to be read uninterrupted. Don’t tell me that I didn’t warn you.

But, honestly, Rachel’s antics were a little tiring. Just when I started to grow bored with her, some critical piece of info would surface and then I’d be flipping pages again. I suppose that’s a sign of true suspense because there was no way I was going to put the book down. I knew that from the start. Does it deserve the hype? Yes, I think so. If you pick it up for pure fun, you will enjoy it quite a bit. If you pick it apart and compare it to other books, you might find fault with some of it but really, who has the time for that?

Read it, because it’s fun and it’s a great distraction from all the crap going on in the world today.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Her

HerHer
By Harriet Lane
(Little, Brown and Company, Hardcover, 9780316369879, January 5, 2015, 272pp.)

*No Spoilers*

The Short of It:

Two women at different stages in their lives, form an unlikely friendship that eventually leads to something darker.

The Rest of It:

Emma and Nina are close to one-another in age, but that is where the similarity stops. Nina is an accomplished artist with a teen-aged daughter while Emma is the mother of a toddler and a young baby. Nina is polished & sophisticated. Emma on the other hand, is riddled by the daily reminders of motherhood, the cluttered house, the unkempt hair, the dishes in the sink, and the boredom that fills her hours while other women are out having lunch with friends. The two women could not be more different, but when Nina recognizes Emma one day, she sets out to insert herself into Emma’s world and the two form an unlikely friendship with one another.

The story alternates between Emma and Nina and from the very first pages, I just knew that Nina was up to no good. That is actually made very clear from the start and that fact keeps the tension running high as you read about these women. And Emma, who is in awe of Nina and the sophistication she embodies is constantly trying to remember who she was before the kids. When Nina provides her with a much-needed break, Emma has this to say about herself:

I used to know this person, I used to understand her; maybe I’ll get to know her again.

Emma’s need to know Nina is tangible. She’s happily married, but trapped by the day-to-day routine and Nina’s friendship reminds her that there is a life outside of child rearing. But Nina’s motives aren’t entirely clear and so the reader is led along, knowing that something horrible is about to happen…or not.

Lane nails motherhood and that feeling you have when the baby spits up on your clean shirt and you decide to go to Target anyway. Some moms handle motherhood well and others do not. Emma falls between the two. She’s a good mom but tired and has let herself go. She misses her other self, the one that worked 9-5, had interesting conversations and could “do” lunch at a moment’s notice.

The last few pages of this book will make you angry. VERY angry. I won’t give it away but when I first read the ending, I wanted to hurl the book across the room. Now, after sitting on it for a day or two, I appreciate the ending a little more but I suspect that many of you will be angry with the book just because of the ending. Don’t ignore this book just because of the ending because it’s actually quite good and even, dare I say it, brilliant.

I don’t know what else Lane has written but I’d read her again.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Net Galley
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: West of Sunset

West of SunsetWest of Sunset
By Stewart O’Nan
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670785957, January 13, 2015, 304pp.)

The Short of It:

The glitter and sparkle of the Jazz Age is not present in this novel. Instead, we are given the gritty bits of a struggling F. Scott Fitzgerald as he tries to make it in Hollywood while, poor Zelda languishes away in a sanitarium.

The Rest of It:

The Great Gatsby is a novel that I love more and more as time passes, but I was not a fan of it when I first read it. Turns out, many did not care for Gatsby when it was first released. Written in 1925,the book did not sell well and was widely unpopular with many. Unable to match the success of his first novel, This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald found himself if a bit of a predicament. Zelda, his wife, was losing her mind and living full-time in a sanitarium and his daughter, Scottie, was attending a rather expensive boarding school which frankly, he could not afford. To make ends meet, he moves to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter for MGM. West of Sunset is a fictionalized account of his life in Hollywood and his long-time affair with the gossip columnist Sheilah Graham.

I should tell you that this book has received very mixed reviews but I adored it. I knew little about Fitzgerald’s life in Hollywood and I found it all very fascinating to read about. Far from being a Golden Boy, he struggled to turn out quality work and many of his film projects were shelved but his daily interactions, his attempt to participate actively in an affair with Graham while taking care of his wife and daughter, wore him down quickly.

As in real life, the Fitzgerald we read about in West of Sunset is weak and chronically ill and being an alcoholic doesn’t help matters. Graham is constantly coming to his aid to nurse him back to health. The long weekends at the beach house, spent wiping his brow and tending to his every need. As a reader, you can’t help but wonder why a successful woman like Graham puts up with it, but love is a funny thing and although the falls from grace continue to plague them, she remains in his corner through all of it.

In between the long periods of illness, there is a lot of writing and lunches with Hollywood execs and interactions with big stars like Joan Crawford. The Hollywood that O’Nan writes about is the old Hollywood that’s we’ve all come to know. There is glamour, but not the type of glamour Fitzgerald participates in or contributes to. His world is colored by his need for drink which lends a darkness to an otherwise exciting time.

I found myself fascinated with all of it. After finishing the book, I wanted to re-read Gatsby or pick-up one of his other books. I am a big fan of O’Nan’s work and West of Sunset is no exception. Just know going in, that it’s not the glittery, feel-good book that you might expect from its cover.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: TransAtlantic

Transatlantic
TransAtlantic

By Colum McCann
(Random House Trade Paperbacks, Paperback, 9780812981926, May 2014, 336pp.)

The Short of It:

Non-fiction elements mingle with fiction in this Irish-American tale which begins in 1919 with the first nonstop transatlantic flight.

The Rest of It:

If you’ve read McCann’s work before, you may recognize the format of this novel, which feels like a collection of interconnected stories. The story opens with Alcock and Brown’s first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to County Galway. Their mission is riddled with challenges, of which, eventually lead to a crash landing. From the title, you’d think that the book is about this trip alone but no, after just a short section on the flight itself, McCann moves on with his story which focuses on Frederick Douglass’s visit to Ireland just as the Great Famine begins to fully take its hold. From there, we meet Lily Duggan, a maid who is inspired to create a new life for herself in America.

This story spans many years and goes back and forth as it’s told and I know for some, including myself, this doesn’t always work for me. In fact, as soon as I realized I’d be jumping back and forth in time, I audibly groaned. But honestly, McCann’s handles it so well, that it never seemed to bother me at all and his style of writing, which consists of short, clipped, sentences made the reading experience quite a pleasant one. His writing creates a sense of urgency which gives the story that “unputdownable” quality that so many of us look for in a book.

There’s a little bit of history, which prompted many in my book club to look up additional information and the fictional parts were well-done and engaging. I read it in just one sitting, which is not something I often do but the story is constructed in such a way that it’s hard to find a good place to set the book down. A good problem to have, if you ask me.

Have you read Transatlantic? It came out some time ago and I immediately added it to my Kindle after reading Let The Great World Spin, but for some reason it just sat there, unread.  Such a shame because I really enjoyed it.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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