Bag of Bones by Stephen King

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This was the first Stephen King book I’d ever read. My husband loves Stephen King, but I can’t stay this particular was a favorite for either of us.

The story follows Mike, a writer, after his wife passes away. He moves to their lake house and things get a little…ghosty. He begins to get mysterious messages on his fridge, hears children crying in his house, and knows he isn’t alone in the house. He meets Mattie and her daughter, who are currently fighting a custody battle with Mattie’s father-in-law. The further the book goes on, the more Mike helps Mattie and the more he looks into the mysterious disappearance of Sarah Laughs, a black singer who used to own his house. The two interests collide in unexpected ways and there are numerous twists and turns throughout the story before coming to its rather brutal ending.

So, the first thing that ticked me off was his over-description of certain events that didn’t actually have anything to do with the story. Fortunately, this was primarily at the beginning and faded after a couple chapters. The second thing that kind of annoyed me was how obsessed Mike became with wanting to sleep with Mattie. I know he was a guy and all, but even my husband said it was kind of extreme. The third thing is that there was a lot of violence. I can’t say there was a whole lot of it, the majority of it was only eluded to or implied, however there were a couple particularly violent scenes. Overall, though, the book is just…dark.

There were a lot of difficult topics the book addressed as well, but they were handled really well I think. Racism, small town loyalty, egoism, arson, demonic possession they were all present in the book, but woven into the story line brilliantly to serve a purpose. I can’t say I was a fan of these items while reading, but they painted a true picture of what dealing with the issues is like.

Also, what kept me going in this book was the writing. I mentioned before that he was over-descriptive with things that didn’t pertain to the story line. However, once he got to the story line, the amount of detail and his phrasing sucked you right in and made you feel like you were Mike, you were living this crazy, paranormally-twisted world. I mean it was brilliantly written. If I pick up another Stephen King book, it will be because of how he writes.

Overall, I would have to just say that I wasn’t a big fan of the story line, but the book was amazingly well written. If anyone likes ghost mysteries, horror, murder mysteries, or psychological thrillers, this is a definite read. It’s a little longer than a standard novel, but shorter than most of Stephen King’s other works. If you aren’t too keen on violence, particularly towards women, this is probably a pass. Also, this would be a good read for ghost story readers. Lots of ghost action going on here – LOTS. It made some of the events really interesting to have the ghosts involved, particularly some of the back story. However, if you are just getting into Stephen King, I don’t think this would be a book I’d recommend, start with The Shining instead is what my husband suggests.

My rating:

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

 

I chose to read this book because it always pops up around Halloween and I felt like reading it. Usually, I am pleasantly surprised by classics and I fall in love with them. However, it was not the case with this book. After reading it, I chose to place it in my reading challenge as “a book with bad reviews”. After I read it, I looked it up on Goodreads and Amazon and I was not surprised to find that others did not like it as well.

My biggest issue was the story line – there really wasn’t one. The story opens with Icabod Crane moving to Sleepy Hollow to teach and starting to woo a wealthy heiress. There are other suitors that are also vying for her attention. The story discusses two or three times he meets with her and ends when he is chased by the headless horseman and disappears. That’s it. That’s the whole story. There really isn’t any emotional depth to the characters, actually you don’t know much about anyone except Ichabod. The book talks a lot about how superstitious he is and how he studies the various myths and legends of ghosts and witches, thus leading to him being so utterly terrified by the headless horseman. Also, I usually love the language used in classics, but in this book it didn’t work as well. There wasn’t a large range of vocabulary and the sentences and phrases were all set up similarly which did not help the story in any way.

I do have to say that as an audiobook, the narrator, James Mio, did a phenomenal job. He added a lot of emotion to his voice and stressed different words and phrases to add emphasis, as well as drawing out different areas to create suspense. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recommend this book, which is rare for me. For as much drama and action the narrator added, it was really dry and boring.

My rating:

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The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James

I came across this book in my BookBub feed on sale a few weeks ago. I like ghost stories, and the premise sounded interesting so I bought it. I read it in a few days, so it was nice and long. It was also really easy to follow, which is sometimes hard with ghost stories.

The book is set in the early 1920s in England, right after the end of World War I. The story follows Sarah Piper as she is hired by Alistair Gellis to help her on a ghost hunting expedition. The ghost hated men and he therefore needed a female assistant to help him find evidence to support the existence of the spirit. She had no idea how her world would change. Through multiple encounters with the spirit of Maddy and interviews with her surrogate family, you learn the story of Maddy. A story about a traumatized teenage girl who takes her own life and finds herself still stuck in the world. As the book develops, you are drawn into wanting to help Sarah. Along the way, you meet Matthew, Alistair’s usual assistant, and many members of the nearby town. The details of Maddy’s arrival at the Clare house and her subsequent shuddered life begin to unravel and it is a race against time to find an answer to Maddy’s questions and demands.

I was blown away by this book. Usually, books with ghosts are a pretty standard story line and romance component, but this one stood head and shoulders above the others. I will definitely read it again. I loved the intricacies of the characters and the unwinding of the details of the story. There was a love story component in it, but it was not the focus of the story, which was nice since the book was not filled with sex scenes. The whole book fascinated me and kept me engaged in the story. I can’t wait to read another the author’s works. I hope they are just as good as this one was!

My rating:

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Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier

I absolutely loved this book. Like the original Sevenwaters trilogy that she wrote, Juliet Marillier has developed a completely complex, original, and captivating story line. You are pulled into her world with such ease. You can see, hear, and get the feel of the environment in a way that only a master story teller can do. You feel for every character, cheer for their triumphs, and cry for their losses. The story unfolds and you find yourself wanting to read ahead to make sure it all turns out well in the end, no matter the trials in between – and such trials! Oh the difficulties and obstacles!

The story follows a young woman fleeing from her abusive home and landing in a strange, conflicted place. Her influence starts to stir small but mighty changes in the castle, bringing hope, light, and love where only darkness prevailed. Throughout the story your emotions are caught and heartstrings pulled with the strong emotions expressed by Caitrin and the other prominent characters of the story. It is a story of love and loss, the power hope, the incredible strength of courage and faith, and the utter despair of revenge. Acceptance of differences is also a prime theme throughout the story, which I found to be a wonderful aspect because you do not see it enough. Not just the overcoming of physical difficulties, but of each others natures. I do not want to spoil anything, so I will not delve into that particular topic further, but trust me it is fantastically done and also in a way that is not blatantly pointed out. There is a love story woven in as well, but it is definitely not the main focus. It is subtle, but also powerful, shifting in and out of the story with amazing ease.

I cannot say enough about this book. It is one I will return to over and over, the story so strong and memorable. For anyone getting into sci-fi & fantasy, this is an extraordinary book by an amazing author. Even if you are not normally a fantasy reader, but want a really in-depth, complex, and fascinating story line, this is a great book to reach for. I would recommend it to anyone.

My rating:

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