Thursday, August 10, 2017

When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn

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When I Am Through with You by Stephanie Kuehn

5 stars

“Tragedy is infinitely more interesting than bliss. That’s the allure of self-destruction.”

Ben Gibson has a lot to say about what happened on the trip to the mountain. His first trip out of Treyben and how it slowly became a nightmare. This is Ben’s confession about what happened on the mountain, how nine people went on a school trip and only five returned, and what he had to do for Rose. This novel is intense. It’s dark, twisty, and it doesn’t put a smile on my face. Stephanie Kuehn is gifted with writing loathsome characters who go through horrific events. This novel is unsettling and I feel unsure of myself and the characters. I question their intentions and what really happened. Was everything I just read true or was it all a lie? This is my second Kuehn novel and once again, I’m amazed at her talent. Yes, this is YA, but it doesn’t read like YA. Kuehn has the ability to write novels for a target audience that tiptoe into the adult genre. Her content is dark, barren, emotionless, and helpless. She puts you into the head of our confessor, Ben, and she shows us how hopeless a lot of these teens were when they went onto the mountain and how they remained hopeless after it.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.75

“Be humble,” he said to us. “That’s the only way to survive out there.”

There is a huge cast of characters for this novel. There’s Ben, our lead protagonist, who we quickly learn is behind bars for the murder of his girlfriend, Rose. There’s Rose, a character who can be cruel and is constantly looking for the worst in humanity. Dunc and Archie, two friends who seem to constantly be getting drunk or high. There’s Shelby and Clay, two characters who are there and seem to be going through a lot of personal issues. There’s Avery, a girl who has a crush on Ben. Tomas, Rose’s twin brother and Ben’s least favorite person. Mr. Howe, the teacher who is chaperoning the trip and who wants to help Ben. I don’t won’t to tell you anything about any of these characters, especially Ben. I think it’s best to go into this novel absolutely blind to the characters’ pasts and personal motivations.


Character Scale: 4.5
The Villain- There are many villains in this story, but I think it’s up to the individual reader to decide who was in the wrong and who was in the right. Everyone has their own motivations, but were their motivations justifiable? That’s the question you have to ask yourself and keep in mind while reading this novel.


Villain Scale: 5

There’s a chapter in this novel where everything that goes wrong could possibly go wrong and it was one of the most intense chapters I’ve read in a YA novel. As much as I disliked a lot of these characters and questioned their motives and actions, I really wanted to see them make it off the mountain and I was rooting for them.


I recommend this novel to fans of YA who are looking for an intense psychological thriller or suspense novel. I also recommend it for YA readers who want to read something darker, but aren’t ready for the adult genre. I think Kuehn’s novels are a great bridge between YA thriller and adult thriller because her novels touch on a lot of darker themes.


Plotastic Scale: 5

Cover Thoughts: It’s a creepy cover, but it’s nothing fantastic. It fits the mood and tone of the novel, but it doesn’t catch my eye.


Thank you, First to Read and Dutton Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
 
Are you fan of Stephanie Kuehn? What's your favorite book by her? What are some of your favorite thriller/suspense novels? Let me know down below in the comments! 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Suspense/Thriller & Classics Book Haul

 
Hi, everyone! I hope you are all doing well. Summer is coming to a close for me. I move into my apartment Saturday and start band camp on Sunday. The fall semester is quickly approaching. This is a continuation book haul in a series of book hauls. I accumulated these books from August 2016 to June 2017. You can watch the other genres below:

THE BOOKS:
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 I've read 2/7 and I'm currently reading The Screwtape Letters. I gave both Dolores Claiborne and Animal Farm 5 stars. I highly recommend both of them, but for every different reasons.

Have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts? Let me know down below in the comments.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

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Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

4.75 stars

“But I deplored silence. I deplored stillness. I hated almost everything.”

NOTE: I am not spoiling any major events in the spoiler tags, but I do hint to characters' pathology and actions without mentioning what the big finale/climax is. Click at your own risk.

Eileen recounts the reason why she left X-ville at the age of twenty-four. Eileen Dunlop lives with her alcoholic father and works at the local juvenile detention center, Moorehead. When Rebecca Saint John, arrives Eillen begins to find her place that she has been searching for, but one-night leads down a dark path. A path Eileen has a morbid fascination and obsession with. In this psychological novel, Eileen’s story is brought forth in an intense character study. This study is provided by Eileen herself as she tells the story of who she was and why she left X-ville. Since Eileen is the one providing thoughts on her own demeaner, actions, and obsessions, the story itself is incredibly unreliable. We are given no information as to if everything or anything Eileen leads us to be is real or actually happened. We also don’t know if her actions weren’t altered or if her memory of events has faded as she gets older. This character study of a disturbingly morbid woman is provided by an old woman who was an avid alcoholic and thief. Moshfegh leads Eileen down a winding road of quiet stillness, drunken stupors at home, lolling moments in her life, and ends the novel with a large bang. Not everyone is going to Eileen, the story or the narrator. In fact, I think to like this novel you have to dislike Eileen. That’s what makes this psychological thriller so brilliant. It’s unlike anything I’ve read. It stands on its own for being a slow-burn introduction that hints to what is to come and leaves off with an intense unforgettable bang that alters the pace of the story and the reader’s perception of Eileen.


Whimsical Writing Scale: 4.5

“I was always furious, seething, my thoughts racing, my mind like a killer’s. It was easy to hide behind the dull face I wore.”

Eileen is a disgusting character. She says questionable things, mentions a lot of orifices, and has uncomfortable obsessions. She judges her father’s harsh and heavy drinking, but partakes in drinking just as much as he does. She has an obsession that turns into stalking with a coworker at Moorehead. She obsesses over gruesome possibilities of death or murder. Eileen is an unsettling woman and as an old lady, she pities who she was and describes in great detail how pathetic the Eileen of the past was. While, Eileen is horrible she is also fascinating and is a character that could lead to countless hours of discussion. The most interesting thing about Eileen is  that she hints to obsessions with morbid and macabre acts of violence, but when faced with the ability to kill someone, she attempts to console the possible victim. It provides knowledge that Eileen is just a person who doesn’t know who she is, but when confronted with the opportunity to partake in the darkest of humanities acts, she shows kindness in multiple different ways.


Rebecca quickly becomes Eileen’s newest obsession and hope to be noticed. Eileen longs for friendship, companionship, but most of all she longs for someone to listen to her. Rebecca is a glamorous new doctor at Moorehead that offers Eileen the chance to reinvent herself. Slowly, Eileen hints that Rebecca may be more manipulative that she seems. There are subtle hints, mainly in phrasing and odd word choice. For instance, a normal conversation with Eileen has the odd phrasing of, “It’s sort of my modus vivendi, or my pathology- depending on who I’m talking to.” Rebecca immediately struck me as off and as the story progresses, it’s obvious that she is just as lost as Eileen and as morbid.Rebecca orchestrates this big set up, but in the end, she is a coward who leaves Eileen to clean up the mess she made.


The only other large character in this novel is Eileen’s father. He is an ever-looming presence, skulking in the corners of Eileen’s mind. His character is really detestable, as all the characters in this novel are. However, I won’t say too much about him because the more I say about him, the more I’d give away about Eileen’s backstory.


Character Scale: 5

Villain Scale: 5


This is a character driven story and the opening 20% relies completely upon characters. There isn’t much plot in this story, but I feel that is what makes this such a successful psychological thriller. The problem with most psychological thrillers today is that they want to be the next Gone Girl or want to have the novel with the most shocking, groundbreaking twists. However, the problem with having shocking, crazy twists is that they leave plot holes in a character study. It’s why The Girl on the Train didn’t work for me. I found it to be cheap, but Eileen works for me because all the signs pointed to where this was going to build up. The question was the ending and how everything played out.


I only recommend this novel to those who love character studies, unreliable narrators, psychology, and slow pacing. I think this is the perfect read for the winter. The story’s setting is cold, emotionless, and bone-chilling. While this story isn’t for everyone, I am so happy to have picked this up. I wouldn’t have ever picked this novel up, if I hadn’t heard about it from someone who has similar tastes in psychological thrillers as me.
“I’m not a criminal. She deserves far worse, but I’m no villain.”

Plotastic Scale: 4.5

Cover Thoughts: I don’t feel like the cover is striking, but it has an audience who will be pulled to pick it up.

Thank you, Netgalley and Penguin Press, for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
 
Have you read Eileen? Are you a fan of character driven novels? What is a psychological thriller that you love? Let me know down below in the comments! 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My Journey with Stephen King

Hi, everyone! Today I want to talk about an author who has slowly become my favorite author. I have a long history with Stephen King, but it wasn't until this year that I really became a King fan.

                                                                  The Beginning
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I originally came across Stephen King at a very young age. I was aware of and that he was a popular since probably the age of eight or nine, which is quite young to know about an author of his caliber. I really became a big reader in fourth grade when I binge read a few Goosebumps books during testing week and then accompanied my mother to a library while she did genealogy research and discovered R.L. Stine's Fear Street. I read a good majority of Fear Street novels (probably around 80) and dabbled in Christopher Pike's mysteries (about ten) and then moved onto paranormal YA (Twilight, HoN, etc.).


The Discovery 
In the summer before my sixth grade year, I discovered Stephen King's expansive section in my local used bookstore (which is now closed RIP). I have no recollection of what lead me into the adult horror section. I was a fan of horror novels from an early age and I think I wanted to try the more mature novels to see if I would like them. I quickly bought six or seven Stephen King novels that day. It became eleven-year-old Sarah's mission to read all of Stephen King's works.

                                                          The Book I Started With
644173I probably started in the most daunting place with Stephen King. I picked up IT. Yes, the whopping 1,138 page novel that for the longest time was his longest and most expansive work. I was drawn to IT because a mean prank had been played on me at a sleepover where my friend and I were lead to believe that her sister and friend were possessed by IT. I picked that novel up, I think to overcome whatever lurking fear was associated with that memory and the name. Also, that joke was as far off from the mythos of IT as you can get and those girls probably confused IT with The Exorcist. It took me two months to read IT, which is impressive for an eleven-year-old and I was mentally scarred by a lot of the scenes that IT provides. Check out my GR thoughts here. I would love to revisit IT as an adult and hopefully I can do that one day. I'm also SO EXCITED for the upcoming film. I originally gave IT two stars and I don't know if that ranking would hold up today. I feel like it will be much higher, but we shall see when I revisit it.

                                                   The Continuation of a Journey

 I didn't stop with IT. I continued to want to read and pick up Stephen King novels. I think I accumulated about 30 of his novels. The second King novel I picked up was 'Salem's Lot. This book is over 600 pages, but for some reason I took longer to read this novel than IT did. I really struggled through 'Salem's Lot and I'm not sure exactly why I couldn't fly through it, but I really didn't like this novel. I feel like today it would be a novel that I'd have a greater appreciation for when I revisit it, but as of right now, it's a King novel I'm iffy about picking back up. As of now my rating stands at 2 stars on GR.
I took a small break from King, but eventually returned and picked up his first novel, Carrie. Carrie, for the longest time, was my FAVORITE King novel. I absolutely loved and adored this book. I don't know if it's because pimply twelve-year-old Sarah identified and saw herself in Carrie, but this book really meant a lot to me for the longest time. It's one I'm really excited to revisit and I would love to reread it soon. Also the original movie and the newer movie are both films I love to watch when they come onto TV. I must have seen the Sissy Spacek one ten times by now. As of now, my rating on GR is a 5 stars.
The next King book I picked up was Night Shift. His first collection of short stories. It took me a little while to read this one and I think it's because I picked it up in the summer and didn't really make it a priority. I have a really old GR review where I broke down my thoughts on each of the stories in this collection. I originally gave this collection 3 stars. Some of my favorites were:
Quitters, Inc., The Lawnmower Man, Sometimes They Come Back, Children of the Corn, I Know What You Need, Strawberry Spring, The Graveyard Shift, The Man Who Loves Flowers, Trucks, and Jerusalem's Lot.
Immediately after picking up Night Shift, I dived into Four Past Midnight. This collection follows four novellas and I really picked this up because I wanted to see the Secret Window with Johnny Depp that the second story was based after, which by the way is one of Depp's best performances,  in my opinion. The first story in this collection is The Langoliers and it is about a group of people on a plane. Something mysterious happens that causes the majority of the passengers to disappear and this novella follows the remaining ones. I personally didn't love this story, but I really liked it, that was until the end. The ending was confusing and left much to be desired. The second story is Secret Window, Secret Garden and it follows a writer who is confronted by a man who claims that he has plagiarized one of his stories. I really enjoyed this story and it was one of my favorite stories that King had written when I was younger. The third story is The Library Policeman and it follows a boy who has overdue library books and a myth that has come true. This was so horrifying to read as a child who went to library frequently and I don't know why this monster had to rape kids with overdue fees it was horrifying. I think this is a story I'd have to revisit as an adult and contemplate on. The final story is The Sun Dog and this story follows a boy who finds a camera that shows a dog running towards the photographer with each photo. It was spooky and really cool. This collection is one that I remember very well and really want to revisit to see if I like the stories any more or less.
I took a couple of months off from King, but eventually picked up The Cycle of the Werewolf while I was sick in bed. This book has art in it and I find a lot of it to be very graphic and gruesome. Probably a little too much for my age, but I liked it.
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                                                                     A Long Hiatus
10042119After The Cycle of the Werewolf, I didn't pick up another King book for a long time. I came to the conclusion that King wasn't for me and I foolishly gave away all of my King novels, except Carrie. I was a FOOL. It was a whole five years before I picked up another King novel. In May 2015, I found myself adding all of King's works to my TBR shelf on Goodreads. I wanted to give him another shot and I went to another used bookstore in my area and picked up two King novels: Full Dark, No Stars and Dreamcatcher. I decided to read Full Dark, No Stars for Halloween that year and I was instantly enamored with King again. The first story in this collection is 1922 and it is one of my favorite King stories. It's dark, gritty, and really shows the decay and rot of a family. Also rats and it's a very psychological horror story. It was a great way to reintroduce myself to King. Big Driver and A Good Marriage where also fantastic stories and I highly recommend this collection for anyone who likes psychological thrillers and/or psychological horror. I gave this collection 4.5 stars.

                                                          Rereading King- 2016
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I was at BooksAMllion one day and randomly picked up a copy of Night Shift. I had already been buying King books again, but I decided to pick Night Shift to add to my collection. I randomly decided to pick it back up and reread it. I started it on September 29, 2016 and I was so excited because I had a creepy book to read for Halloween. Revisiting this collection was a lot of fun. I was already familiar with the stories, but I had forgotten a lot of the plot and major occurrences in a few stories. I also wanted to see if I would find certain stories scarier than I did when I was a kid. My thoughts on this collection changed a lot. I found myself loving a lot of the stories. I read when I walk to class and it was a lot of fun to be walking on cloudy days and read a scary scene. My overall rating for this entire collection is 4 stars.  Continued favorites are: Graveyard Shift (5 stars), Trucks (3.75 stars), Sometimes They Come Back (4 stars), Quitter's Inc.(4.75 stars), I Know What You Need ( 4 stars), Children of the Corn (4.5 stars), and The Man Who Loved Flowers (4 stars).
New favorites are: I Am the Doorway (5 stars)- I absolutely despised this one the first time I read it, but it's my favorite in the collection. I read it and then read it again after finishing it because I loved it that much. The Boogeyman (4.5 stars)- This story scared the crap out of me when I was little and it still does as an adult. Gray Matter (4.5 stars) ,(The Mangler (3.75 stars), One for the Road (4 stars), and The Woman in the Room (5 stars).

                                                               Reading King in 2017
I started The Bazaar of Bad Dreams at the beginning of December when I finished finals and I didn't finish it until January 5, 2017. This is Stephen King's most recent short story collection. I continued to pick up King's short story collections because I was easing myself into his different writing styles and really getting to know him as an author. With reading The Bazaar of Bad Dreams I got to know King as a writer, a person, and I got to see the difference in his writing from Night Shift (his first collection) to now. I gave this book an overall 4 stars and I have a video review for it. Some of my favorites in this collection are: Mile 81 (4.5 stars), The Dune (5 stars), Bad Little Kid (5 stars), A Death (3.75 stars), Morality (4.25 stars), Afterlife (4 stars), UR (5 stars), Under the Weather (reread 4.25 stars), Cookie Jar (5 stars), Obits (4.5 stars), and Summer Thunder (5 stars).
 I picked up The Gunslinger on January 19. I didn't take much of a break from King and I was really excited to pick it up because I was really intrigued by the massiveness of The Dark Tower series and was interested in picking it up. It's a short novel and it has its faults, but overall I like The Gunslinger and I can see the largeness of the world is setting up. I gave this book 4.5 stars overall and I'm really looking forward to picking up the next book in the series.
I took a two month break from King, but saw a post when I was sitting in my anthropology class (I know I should've been paying attention and I was... kind of). This post really caught my attention because it was a Stephen King post and it talked about a book I knew of, but didn't hear a lot about. I was so excited when I found a copy of it a couple of days later at BooksAMillion. Dolores Claiborne is one of the most evocative, intense, emotional, gripping, and well-written novels I've ever read. I knew I would like this book. I owned it a long time ago, but I had no clue back then as a kid how much this book would move me and change me as a person. I gave this book 5 stars and I know that when I will write my review, I'll be really excited and hope that someone will pick up this amazing novel. I also read this novel in eight days, which is really fast for me during a school semester.

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                                        Discovering My All-Time Favorite Novel
9813753About 14 days after finishing Dolores Claiborne, I was watching YouTube and decided to look up Stephen King videos. I watched a few of them and one of them made me really interested in picking The Stand. The Stand is not a short novel. The uncut edition I own clocks in at 1440 pages and I've owned it for a year or two. I was always intimidated my this novel, but all of a sudden it was like I was called to it. I am a religious person and I 100% believe that God sends things when you ask for them. I had recently realized when watching someone talk about their favorite book of all-time that I didn't have one. I didn't know when I picked up The Stand that it would be the novel that I needed. This novel is everything I have wanted in a novel. It's a brilliant expansive story that touches on multiple different genres and will appeal to multiple different people. This novel also really shocked me because of how religious it is. I wasn't expecting it at all and reading it alongside The Book of Revelation was a really eye-opening experience. This is a book everyone needs to read. If you are only ever going to read one Stephen King novel, it should be this one. As Tom Cullen would say, "Laws yes. This is the novel you should read. It's fantastic. M-O-O-N that spells fantastic." It took me a month and a half to read this novel, so don't be worried about it's readability. It's a very fast-paced story that tackles multiple facets of society and different people in this world. It's never a dull moment.

                                          My Most Recent and Current King Read
 A couple of days after finishing The Stand, I picked up another King novel. I gave myself a couple of days to decompress after finishing such a heavy and wonderful novel. I was in the mood for an alien book. I have no clue why, but I wanted a really good alien novel. I decided to pick up The Tommyknockers. Funnily enough, The Tommyknockers is considered to be King's worst novel by King himself. It was written at the end of his addiction with cocaine and it has a lot references to addiction with a main character being an alcoholic poet. While many dislike The Tommyknockers it was exactly what I needed and asked for in an alien novel. I was pleased and gave this novel 4.5 stars.
A couple of days before I finished The Tommyknockers, there was a Stephen King movie marathon on Sundance. I watched Stand By Me for the first time and loved it. I'm looking forward to reading the novella it's based on.  I watched Christine for the fifth time and I still haven't read the book, but I plan on getting to it one day. I also saw the Firestarter for the first time and I was really blown away by it. Towards the end of The Tommyknockers, The Shop makes an appearance and I really wanted to read more about The Shop and what their motives were. So I picked up Firestarter and so far, I'm absolutely loving it. I'm over 400 pages in and I can tell that this is going to be an amazing novel.
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                                                              What's Next?
There are a lot of Stephen King books and I haven't read half of them. I do have a good amount on my shelf that I can pick up and I would love to do an update in a couple of months on my continued progress with King's novels. Here's some books I own that I would like to read:
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Have you read any Stephen King? What are some your favorite Stephen King novels? Any that you recommend I get to sooner rather than later? Let me know down below in the comments!