An attempt at blog resuscitation; Book Review: Carrie

Carrie

My relationship with Stephen King began oh, I don’t know, about twenty years ago maybe, when I mistakenly read The Shining while on a cross-country road trip with my parents.  Up until that point in my reading life, I thought it was impossible for a book to scare me.  As a middle-grade reader, I had been a huge fan of Mary Downing Hahn’s spooky ghost stories, and then moved on to R.L. Stine’s Fear Street series and Christopher Pike’s seemingly endless array of teen horror stories.

So, I thought I was ready for something a bit more, well, adult.  I thought I was ready for Stephen King.  And maybe I would have been, had it not been for the circumstances surrounding my initiation.  I have a distinct memory of checking in to a hotel in a room number of great significance in The Shining and outright refusing to even enter the room, which was the source of great hilarity for my parents.

Needless to say, it’s been a little while since I’ve felt the urge to pick up another King novel.  But boy, am I glad I did.

Goodreads summary:

Carrie knew she should not use the terrifying power she possessed… But one night at her senior prom, Carrie was scorned and humiliated just one time too many, and in a fit of uncontrollable fury she turned her clandestine game into a weapon of horror and destruction…

Carrie is King’s first published novel, although I’ve recently discovered that it was actually the fourth he wrote.  It is written in an epistolary form, with the narrative interspersed with many (fictional, I hope) scientific articles, news reports, and snippets of memoirs written by significant characters.  While I must admit that this style initially took some getting used to, I ultimately feel the non-fiction flavor that these excerpts create contributes greatly to the overall impact of the novel.  While I was of course aware that I was reading fiction, the sense that King’s style gave me is of having read something that actually happened – or could.

I have to admit to having some idea of the plot of this novel prior to reading.  I think this is just one of those stories that has become so much a part of pop-culture that it’s almost impossible to avoid spoilers in one form or another.  The cover of some of the books and film adaptations certainly contribute to this, as many of them depict the climax of the book – Carrie drenched in blood.

What I didn’t expect to experience was a sense of sorrow, pity, and even empathy for Carrie.  She is constantly bullied, teased mercilessly, and at the hands of a religiously fanatic mother who has controlled and sheltered her all her life.  Were it not for the actions she takes at the Prom, Carrie would have been entirely a sympathetic character.  And were it not for the relentless bullying, perhaps Carrie’s telekinetic powers could have made her a Matilda-type character, straight out of one of Roald Dahl’s childhood favorites.

While Carrie is certainly of the horror genre, I read it ultimately as a great tragedy.  Carrie is a lost and lonely girl, whose only influence in life is her overbearing mother.  She is taught that her body’s changes through puberty are a result of Eve’s sin, the same sin that she was conceived by.  Carrie has no friends, and even the authority figures at her school – namely Miss Desjardin – are at first disgusted by her.

When Carrie discovers her telekinetic powers, it is as if she is first realizing that she herself has some control over her world.  She doesn’t need to subject herself to her mother’s punishments and control over her.  In fact, when she re-discovers her powers at puberty, her mother begins to fear her.  So when she is asked to go to the prom with Tommy Ross, she is first able to assert her independence from her mother.

Oh, and how she asserts her independence!  I’m glad I read this book.  I’m glad I’ve rediscovered my love of horror fiction (thanks oodles, Stephen King!)  And I’m really glad I resuscitated this little book blog.

Hooked by Catherine Greenman

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Thea is the daughter of divorced parents, currently living with her mother and trying to work through a strained relationship with her father.  During her junior year of high school, she meets Will, and BAM – insta-love (blech).  Surprise, surprise, not too much later…Thea finds herself pregnant.

I have somewhat mixed feelings about this book.  I didn’t hate it, but “like” also seems too strong a word for my feelings towards it.  I got through it, but there were definite moments where I questioned why I was trying to finish it.  Going into it, I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but somehow, it didn’t live up to my expectations (if that makes any sense).  By the last twenty or so pages, I had pretty much figured out how the book was going to wrap up and had already started to think about what I was going to read next (not a good sign).

What I liked

 I liked how the author didn’t use this book as an opportunity to get preachy about, or glamorize, teen pregnancy.  If anything, this book reminded me of one of my favorite guilty pleasure TV shows, 16 and Pregnant.  The characters were (mostly) realistic in their actions, motivations, and emotions throughout.

I really enjoyed the growth of Thea as the protagonist, and especially the growth of her relationship with her father.  I think Greenman did a really nice job portraying how becoming a parent, and a single parent at that, can change your own life perspective, especially in relation to your own parents.

What I didn’t like

This book was set in New York City, which didn’t really work for me.  I felt like there were too many Manhattan cliches – the workaholic, alcoholic father, the flighty not-really-there mother, the prep school education, etc.  It all added up to my not really connecting all that well with the characters, which is sort of necessary in order to enjoy a character-driven novel.  I also found the setting to be sort of off-putting in the way that the characters’ circumstances are totally unrealistic to potential readers.

Plot-wise, there were parts of it that I really enjoyed, and that kept me interested.  But then there were other parts where I felt like the story really dragged on.  The knitting and crocheting descriptions REALLY worked my last nerve.  I get that there was a motif going throughout the book, which did kind of work, but I do NOT need that much information about bikini patterns.  Ever.  If I was looking for that, I’d read a McCall’s pattern book, thanks.

Would I recommend it?

Ehh…not really.  I mean, I guess I would if you’re desperate for a contemporary YA romance revolving around teen pregnancy.  But I think there must be better books out there even for that purpose.  Recommendations, anyone?

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

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Before I launch into my thoughts on this one – and there are many! – I feel like a brief synopsis is in order.

Rachel and Darcy have been BFFs since grade school, but their friendship has always been somewhat lopsided.  Darcy has always been the prettier one, the more outgoing, the bolder, the sassier, the luckier in love.  She is also more than a little bit self-centered.  Why on earth would Rachel want to be friends with her?  I found myself wondering the exact same thing.

But anyway, the book starts as Rachel is celebrating her thirtieth birthday.  Which, as anyone who has celebrated one can attest to, it’s sort of a big one.  Rachel is feeling all those things that anyone who is unattached and unlucky in love feels at that age.  She is wondering if she will be alone forever.  She is asking herself if she is fundamentally unlovable.  Is there something wrong with her?

So, at her birthday party, Darcy and her other friends leave and Rachel is left with Darcy’s fiance, Dex, who she met in law school.  In fact, it was Rachel who introduced him to Darcy.  Well, one thing leads to another, and Rachel and Dex end up in bed together.  And the rest of the book details the aftermath of that one evening, as Rachel, Dex, and Darcy sort through their messy, entangled lives.

What I liked

I loved, loved, loved this book.  I loved how it felt like sitting down with a girlfriend over coffee and hearing her dish about her love life.  I loved how it made me think about myself, my past relationships, and how I might handle finding myself in a situation like Rachel’s.

I liked how morally ambiguous the characters are.  Without giving anything away, there are quite a few moments in this book where the characters’ actions are questionable at best, heartless at worst.  But, I’m not the kind of reader that needs to actually like the characters I’m reading about, or even be able to relate to them.  I wouldn’t want to be friends with any of the characters in this book, but I still really enjoyed reading about them.

What I didn’t like

Let me start off by saying that this isn’t really a complaint, because I totally understand the author’s motivation for doing it, but…At a certain point, I started to get annoyed with all of Rachel’s internal thoughts about Dex.  I just wanted to shake her and tell her to get a grip.  There’s no man on Earth that’s worth all of that inner turmoil!

Would I recommend it?

Yes, especially for fans of Jane Green or Helen Fielding.  This book reminded me quite a lot of a Jodi Picoult-type book, but with less drama.  Or less drama over serious, life-threatening issues, anyway.

Review: Where She Went by Gayle Forman

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So, it has to be said, I’m one of the last people on the planet to read this duology.  I have no excuses.  These books have been on my radar for eons.

What I liked

I liked hearing Adam’s story.  If If I Stay made me crush on him, this book had me falling hard.  Also, I’ve just always liked to revisit familiar characters from a different perspective.

I also really liked the direction that Adam and Mia’s story goes in.  While it would have been easy to look at Mia as an unforgivable character for her actions, I thought that what she did and how she handled things was very realistic.  Not that I know from personal experience (thankfully!), but something about her just rang true to me.

What I didn’t like

Okay, so you know, I really saw it coming.  But did the teaser on the front cover really need to remove all doubt by saying, “A gorgeous portrayal of rejection and rekindled love????”  Um, hello, spoiler alert!

It bothered me that both Adam and Mia are in sort of unrealistic circumstances.  It just felt so unnecessary to the plot of the story.  I mean, if they had just been at separate colleges/universities for one reason or another, the story could have been the same.  And the rest of their story is just so relatable!  Their circumstances threw me for a loop, and not in a good way.

Would I recommend it?

Absolutely!  But not without reading If I Stay first, of course.

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Oh my goodness.  I don’t know what I can possibly say about this book that hasn’t been said a hundred times already.  I can’t believe I waited so long to read this book.  Why, Lauren, why??  I seriously cannot wait to get home tonight so that I can get started on Where She Went.  Oh, and Brandon dear, if you’re reading this – can we please, please watch the movie this weekend?  I will make the popcorn and provide cuddles if you say yes.

What I liked

The romance.  I found the relationship between Mia and Adam to be so unlike the “typical” teenage romance.  I feel like if I had read this as a teenager, I would have spent the rest of my years crushing on Adam.  He’s just amazing in so many ways.  First, he’s into some great tunes.  Secondly, he’s such a gentleman.  I mean, come on, he and Mia have unsupervised time in her room, and we all know what every other red-blooded male teenager would do.  But no, Adam and Mia have this incredibly sweet moment where they “play” each other like instruments.  Kudos to Gayle Forman for making this moment so hot and sweet at the same time.

Okay, so at first, I didn’t like how jarring the accident was.  We’re getting a glimpse into an ordinary day for this family, and the story is just moving along, flowing so nicely.  And then all of a sudden, BAM.  You’re hit with this horrific thing.  But the more I thought about it, I think that’s exactly how it would happen in real life.  Accidents hit you out of nowhere, and there is no preparation for them.

What I didn’t like

Can I say that it ended too soon?  And left my mouth hanging open?  I mean, this book is the epitome of why I never read books when the series hasn’t been finished yet.  If I had had to wait more than a mere 24 hours to get my grubby little hands on Where She Went, I just don’t know what I would have done with myself.  Gayle Forman herself may have had to take out a restraining order on me.

Would I recommend it?

Yes, a hundred times, yes!  I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone.  But not unless you have easy access to Where She Went immediately after.

Also, can I just say I wish I was part of a book group, because this is exactly the kind of book that makes you want to have a group of people to talk about it with afterward.