As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:
- (★★★★★): Loved it, won’t shut up about it for the foreseeable future
- (★★★★): Really liked it, enjoyable experience
- (★★★): Liked it enough, no strong opinions
- (★★): Didn’t care for it, would actively discourage people reading it
Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.
It by Stephen King
Genre: Fiction, horror
GoodReads rating: 4.24 / 5 (907,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (purchased for Kindle library)
Summary: In Derry, Maine, seven children are haunted by a horror that manifests differently for each of them. Now grown up and successful, they are drawn back by their united past to once again face the evil of their hometown and defeat It once and for all.
Warning: This book contains themes of homophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, self-harm, suicide, sexism, child/domestic/animal abuse and pedophilia (basically, everything horrible you can think of is in this book)
Thoughts: I’m so proud of myself for finishing this in a timely manner while also participating in Non-Fiction November. This book has been on my TBR the longest and is the longest book on it. It’s no secret that this book is fucking long: 1,116 pages to be exact. Inevitably, that means there’s a lot of story that’s seen as superfluous for many people, myself included. The intricate character development and world-building are great but at times it’s a bit much. For example, when introducing the Derry Library, King also delves into the summer reading program, the posters in the library, the layout of the library, etc. that were ultimately inconsequential. With so many full names given (not to mention repeated names like one of our main kids Eddie and a detailed side story about a child with the same name), I had a hard time determining who would be important to the plot and who wouldn’t.
I’d say the writing is dated, but as recently as 2014 (Mr. Mercedes series is the most recent book I’ve read of his), he’s still dropping n-bombs and is suspiciously good at writing racists and abusers. I agree with my friend Caro Joe when they said “[h]e tries to distance himself from it by criticizing the obvious hatred but he has it so internalized that this is not entirely successful” and the amount of slurs were excessive for me as well. The hardest parts to read were definitely the abuse scenes (child, animal and domestic) that I literally felt ill, as if the horror of a shape-shifting clown wasn’t enough. I also hate the way he writes about young people’s bodies in a sexual way (let’s not even mention the child gangbang). It is so vile and unnecessary.
I’ll end on a good note: obviously since I read it in a timely manner, I liked the story a lot. Although it dragged at times, it didn’t feel like 1,000+ pages and I read the last 35% in a day, it was so gripping.
Other adaptations: According to Grant, the 1990 TV special is every bit that: dated and cheesy. However, the 2017 and 2019 movies with improved special effects and an exception performance by Bill Skarsgard follows the book well and is truly terrifying. I tried watching just the trailer and couldn’t make it through, I hate horror movies!
People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd
Genre: Fiction, suspense, thriller
GoodReads rating: 3.36 / 5 (15,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)
Summary: Emmy Jackson is a mum Instagram influencer and her husband Dan is a struggling novelist with two young children. When their family is put in very real danger, Emmy’s online presence starts to come at a price.
Warning: This book contains mention of miscarriage and abortion.
Thoughts: I finished this not a week ago and had to really rummage through my memory for a single thing that happened. First, it was hard to get past the dumb names of their kids: Coco and Bear. I really thought the twist was that their kids weren’t human but a Pomeranian and golden retriever. The writing was pretty unforgivable, being so abrupt and lacking flow like something you’d see from a fourth grader’s essay (e.g. “She entered the room. It was dark. She heard a noise”). I don’t think we saw/knew much about the antagonist to build enough suspense or ultimately care. I’m sure there’s a message about putting your family online in there somewhere, but it was lost in the awful writing and weak plot.
The Test by Sylvain Neuvel
Genre: Science fiction
GoodReads rating: 3.85 / 5 (15,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library)
Summary: “Britain, the not-too-distant future. Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test. He wants his family to belong. Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress. When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death. How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?”
Warning: This book contains themes of xenophobia.
Thoughts: For as short as this book was (about 100 pages), it had so many twists and turns. This was an amazing short story, without giving too much away, I can see this as a Black Mirror episode.
Hostage by Claire Macintosh
Genre: Fiction, thriller
GoodReads rating: 3.98 / 5 (14,000 ratings)
Medium used: E-book and audiobook (borrowed from library)
Summary: On the maiden voyage of the first non-stop 20-hour flight from London to Sydney, flight attendant Mina is handed a note from a passenger threatening her daughter if she doesn’t comply with their demands.
Warning: This book contains mention of sexual assault.
Thoughts: Meh. Honestly, just another mediocre thriller. The plot wasn’t too hard to suss out about halfway through, it was pretty clearly laid before us. It has a lot of things we’ve seen before so nothing super-shocked me. Also, the audiobook was a bit confusing as the voices didn’t change either between Mina’s POV and that of her husband’s. I would have liked a male actor to voice Adam and also some more variation between characters within POVs. Finally, the motive of the hijacking required a bit of suspended disbelief… (start spoiler) basically, they were climate activists claiming that airline travel is the biggest threat to climate change, which is 100% not true. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined and non-stop flights are significantly better for the environment as a large portion of emissions from take-off and landing. (end spoiler)
Have you read any of these?
Photo by Radu Marcusu.