Friday, 18 October 2013

'Salem's Lot

Title: 'Salem's Lot
Author: Stephen King
Pages: 751 (paperback) (and I have a few words to say about this later)
Published: November 1st 2011 (first published 1975)
Published by: Hodder and Stoughton

"Turn off the television—in fact, why don't you turn off all the lights except for the one over your favourite chair?—and we'll talk about vampires here in the dim. I think I can make you believe in them." Stephen King, from the Introduction. 

'Salem's Lot is a small New England town with the usual quota of gossips, drinkers, weirdos and respectable folk. Of course there are tales of strange happenings—but not more than in any other town its size.

Ben Mears, a moderately successful writer, returns to the Lot to write a novel based on his early years, and to exorcise the terrors that have haunted him since childhood. The event he witnessed in the house now rented by a new resident. A newcomer with a strange allure. A man who causes Ben some unease as things start to happen: a child disappears, a dog is brutally killed—nothing unusual, except the list starts to grow.

Soon surprise will turn to bewilderment, bewilderment to confusion and finally to terror . . .

Ben Mears spent a few years in Jerusalem's Lot when he was growing up, living with his aunt. He had a traumatic experience which haunts him to this day. Take also that his wife recently died in a motorcycle accident, and he decides to come back The Lot for some cathartic writing. Unfortunately, he finds himself caught up in all kinds of trouble which even he - as a successful author - never could have imagined. Because the house which is the source of his nightmares is occupied again, and strange things are happening to the residents of 'Salem's Lot.

I started this book a couple weeks ago, and finished it off as part of Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon last weekend. It took me a while to really get into it, and sitting and reading for an extended period of time was exactly the impetus I needed to finish it off. By no means is it a bad book: there's suspense and intrigue and vampires (proper ones; no sparkly vampires here!). But I think the problem is the same for a lot of Stephen Kings' books.

His complex stories are amazing. I really like that you don't just see what's going on for the heroes, but random little snippets from around the town too. It makes the story fuller, gives you a better sense of just what's going on. He doesn't just do it here, but in Needful Things and The Stand (and probably more that I haven't read/can't think of right now). But with all the setting up it does mean that the story takes a while to actually get going, and the names of all those people are pretty difficult to keep track of. For me at least. I usually have to rely on what's going on before I know which person they are rather than the name being mentioned and knowing what's already gone on for them. Of course, as I've already said this does overall provide a richer background, but it doesn't have its disadvantages as well.

There were a couple of seriously creepy moments in this book, but nothing that had me sleeping with the light on. It's more implied terror here. You know things are going on and can see the effects of it, but there is very little of that side of it that is actually documented in the story. And, in all honesty, I don't think King is ever going to top The Shining for scare factor. Although I do still have a couple to read before my final judgement is reach!

Ben Mears is a perfectly good leading man. He's intelligent and thinks things through, and isn't willing to take unnecessary risks. He likes to have everything laid out and clear in his mind before acting, even if situations do get away from him sometimes. His supporting crew are probably more interesting than him, though. Not so much Susan Norton, but Father Callahan, Matt Burke and Mark Petrie all made very good reading.

My final point is a dig at the publishers more than the story. If you buy the Hodder and Staughton version with the cover be warned that the page count is a bit deceiving in that the story finishes with about 150 pages to go. What follows are two short stories serving as prequel and sequel to 'Salem's Lot, and then a load of 'deleted scenes'. Quite interesting? Well, maybe, except that the two short stories are included in Night Shift which I read a matter of weeks ago. And from movies, I've learned that deleted scenes are usually deleted for a reason. I can only imagine the same holds true for books. There is no mention of these anywhere on the blurb, and I was very disappointed when I read the last paragraph and realised that was the end of the story, then confused about what the rest of the book was for, then disappointed again. You have been warned!

But as I said, I can't really mark the book down for that. So all in all, a very good read with generally good characters, if a little slow moving and maybe not quite as terrifying as it could have been.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Read-A-Thon, October 2013

Today is the day! Dewey's 24-hour read-a-thon is here once again, and while it turns out that I have quite a busy day I will be sitting down and reading every chance I get for the next 24 hours!

I'm already half-way through 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King, so the first order of the day is to get that finished. After that, I have a few more books lined up, starting off with Days of Blood and Starlight, the follow-up to Daughter of Smoke and Bone which I adored.

So, in T-minus 11 minutes (and with my first ever apple pie in the oven!), the read-a-thon will commence.

Bring it on!


So 1 hour 45 minutes into the read-a-thon, I've finished 'Salem's Lot. Why so early? Because this book lies! It's actually 'Salem's Lot, followed by two short stories from Night Shift (which I read about two weeks ago), then a load of 'deleted scenes'. There's an extra about 150 pages after the story itself. I was so excited to see what was going to happen in these pages and then nothing. No warning anywhere on the blurb about all this extra stuff. So I'm a bit disillusioned now.

That aside, it was a good book. King has the same problem as always in that his complex stories are amazing, but take a while to get going. And it's great that you see little snippets from random people who live in the town, but all these names and people are quite hard to keep track of when you go back to them later on. Creepy in places, but in all honesty I don't think he's ever going to top The Shining for scare factor.

Now - on to Days of Blood and Starlight! Yay!


4 hours down, 20 to go! But life is getting in the way right now so reading will be more sporadic for the next couple of hours before going away completely *gasp*.

Days of Blood and Starlight has taken a bit of a beating though, and I'm 174 pages into it and very much enjoying it so far. It doesn't have the wow and mystery factors that Daughter of Smoke and Bone did, but I'm looking forward to reading more of it.


So...I'm back! I've made it for the final hurrah, and shall be trying to spend the next three hours or so reading. Wish me luck!


And that's it, all over for another 6 months. I've not got as much reading done as I would have liked, but I'm about two-thirds of the way through Days and very much looking forward to some resolutions. It's been very interesting to see more of the Seraphim/Chimaera world in this book, and there's been lots of Zuzana to keep me entertained. She may only be a secondary character, but she's quite possibly my favourite.

I'll be posting full reviews of both books in the coming weeks, so feel free to come back and see the full low-down!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Gone Girl

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Pages: 432 (ebook)
Published: June 5th 2012
Published by: Crown

Marriage can be a real killer.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Nick and Amy started out as the perfect married couple. Very much in love, and neither too demanding of the other. Then the recession came along and both of them lost their jobs in the space of a few months. When Nick's mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he decides that they're moving back to his home town in Missouri to help his sister look after their mother and father. This is when things start to go wrong, and two years later, on their fifth wedding anniversary, Amy goes missing. There are signs of a struggle in the lounge, and forensics show cleaned up blood in the kitchen. Where is Amy?

This isn't really my kind of thing at all. I'll occasionally dip into crime thrillers, but very rarely, and I'm only reading this for my book club. For all that, it wasn't bad by any means, and I didn't not like it or anything. It's just...not my thing. If it was, I'd probably appreciate it a lot more.

Because this is a very clever book, with clever characters and a storyline with twists and turns abounding. It all makes sense, and looking back there are hints in the very early pages of some of the underlying things which later come to light. The whole thing has been very cleverly thought out, and both Amy and Nick make sense as people when you learn of their respective backgrounds, the way they've been brought up and the kinds of people their parents are.

At first, it felt a little like I was being clobbered around the head with adjectives, but this soon settled down. Or I just got used to it, in which case I'm willing to attribute it to the two narrators being writers. Others I know who've read it have commented on the excessive use of language, but in all honesty I didn't notice anything particularly out of the ordinary. Maybe I've just grown used to swear words in the media, or maybe it's just differing sensibilities. Either way - be aware of this, and know that this is definitely not a book for younger readers!

Nick is a very likeable guy, for the most part. Yeah, he has his idiotic moments but he makes sense as a person, especially given the horrific situation he finds himself in. He's trying to make it seem like he hasn't killed his wife despite some pretty damning evidence by hiding the things that might back up what's already there, which in the end only makes things worse. He's flawed - very flawed - but he is essentially a good guy, I think. He just got a little lost and made some stupid mistakes, which he himself is willing to admit to.

Amy...Amy is a difficult one. We see her through her own diary entries for the most part, and a little through Nick's memories of her. She comes across as a very sweet, likeable person, if a little bitter about the literary counterpart her parents created of her: Amazing Amy. No pressure growing up at all!

There was a twist I didn't see coming, although again looking back it wasn't a complete surprise, but the ending was a little predictable once it came down to it - it just wouldn't have made sense for the outcome to be anything else.

A good book and an intriguing read, and I can see why it has propelled Gillian Flynn into the limelight. Would I read anything else by her? I probably wouldn't pick it up, but I wouldn't actively avoid them by any means. Again, it just comes down to the fact that crime is not my thing.