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The Beginning of a Classic, Ain’t It?

Let’s face it, Stephen King is one of the most recognizable authors in our lifetime. He produced such hits as The Shining and Pennywise the Dancing Clown, cementing himself as horror royalty. He’s no William Shakespeare, but King has to be doing something right.

Even kings and queens have their beginnings. Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, released in 1974. It spawned a movie in 1976 that got rebooted in 2013, and turned into a musical in 1988. But we’re not talking about show tunes – we’re talking about the book that brought fiction a new challenger.

Isn’t she lovely? Go ahead and say hi!

Carrie follows, oddly enough, Carrie White, a high school girl who is wildly unpopular with the other kids. She lives with her insanely religious mother who shelters her from about almost everything not in the Bible, including that time of the month. Carrie struggles to function in the nightmare called high school, tormented and teased at every turn. Your basic misfit toy.

Oh, Did I Mention She Has Telekinetic Powers?

King writes Carrie in a similar trend as Dracula. The story is told through a collection of articles, interviews, and the like. Unlike Dracula, there are interludes in which we get to really see into the characters’ minds. These interludes give a linear story; the collection teases us with the climax.

Most particular is Carrie herself, as we follow her uncertain thought process. She just wants to escape pain. King really gives us a feel for what it’s like to be ostracized by your peers and demonized by your own mother. In the climax of the novel, Carrie is humiliated at prom, promptly loses her s–t, and tears the town apart. At that point, we’ve lived with Carrie, and understands why she freaks out. It’s not psychologically healthy to destroy the neighborhood, but who hasn’t wanted to rip apart a building?

Mind powers would be pretty sick.

I almost cried as Carrie’s life shattered around her. It’s a horrifying yet empathic moment as this poor girl lashes at a cruel and uncaring world. Her mom tries to kill her, her bully tries to run her over, and about three gas stations plus a school blow up. It all ends with a scared tiny child asking for her mother as she dies.

What Do I Think?

I’m not going to lie to you, it was a quick read. If you’ve got the time, you could probably do it in one sitting. Is it worth it? Only if you want to see the starting point of Stephen King, and the origin of a classic horror character: poor, sweet Carrie. It has its moments, certainly does high school a solid portrayal, but is not particularly scary. Tense, no doubt, but it is not exactly crap-your-pants-on-the-public-bus terrifying.

Not at all like my calculus textbook. Freaky stuff in there.

Three out of five Cthulhus. Easy read, certainly enjoyable, but it might gather dust on my bookshelf for a while.

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Photo Credits: Cover of Carrie, 1986 edition by New English Library; Screenshot from Carrie, 1976 film from Red Bank Films (United Artists)

Book Reviews

What Have We Done: Alex Finlay Produces Another Hit

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  • Jenna: A stay at home mom with a secret assassin past
  • Donnie: An alcoholic rock star
  • Nico: An executive producer of a reality television show

They all have a past, but who is out to get them?

The Plot

Jenna, Donnie, and Nico share a troubled past. They were all orphans who lived at Savior House — which is much less savior, much more terror. When their friend Benny, a famous judge, is murdered and the FBI comes looking, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico must race against the clock to figure out who is targeting them.

The Verdict

From the author of The Night Shift, which I reviewed here, I would expect nothing less than what Finlay has delivered. Finlay notoriously creates stories with palpable thrill and spine-tingling revelations.

I particularly enjoyed the character of Jenna. She is a reformed assassin living a normal life as a new stepmom. When she is called in to make a hit and her family is threatened, she goes badass mom on ’em. While I still thought Donnie and Nico as characters were engaging, it was nothing for what I felt for Jenna.

Also, major props to Finlay for creating a character that kills with a very unique weapon. Read it to find out more!

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

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Book Reviews

“The Writing Retreat” Gone Bad: Julia Bartz’s Debut

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Keeping it all in the family, Julia Bartz’s The Writing Retreat is the debut novel of the sister of Andrea Bartz, author of We Were Never Here, which I reviewed here.

I was much more impressed with The Writing Retreat than I was We Were Never Here.

The Plot

Five up and coming female writers under 30 are invited to a writing retreat hosted by the reclusive and acclaimed horror writer Rosa Vallo. Rosa reveals the details of the retreat: each writer must complete a full length novel from scratch over the next month. The best novel wins a multi-million dollar publishing deal with Rosa.

Suddenly, the retreat turns into a nightmare when one writer goes missing in the snowy terrain outside.

The novel hinges on friendships in turmoil and has a focus on LGBT+ representation as well as interpersonal female relationships. The novel explores the dark publishing world and the search for fame and the Great American Novel.

The Verdict

This novel is atmospheric and intellectual, page turning, and the English major’s required reading. I absorbed this novel and found Julia Bartz’s writing and conceptual chops to be leagues above her sister’s.

Ths novel releases on February 21, 2023 and it should be in your cart right now.

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Buy it here!

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Book Reviews

A Murder in Reverse: “Wrong Place Wrong Time”

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The Plot

“A brilliantly genre-bending, mind-twisting answer to the question How far would you go to save your child?”  — Ruth Ware, #1 New York Times bestselling author

Jen watches her son murder a stranger. Stab him to death. She and her husband, Kelly, watch as their son Todd is taken into custody.

The next morning, Jen wakes up and it’s yesterday. Jen knows that at the end of the night, her son kills someone. She is determined to stop it.

Jen goes further and further back in time trying to discover why Todd murdered a stranger and how to stop it.

The Verdict

This book is twisty. Right when you think you know the ending, something else is there to prove that the story is more multifaceted than that. While the premise of the novel is simple, Gillian McAllister elevates a simple concept with deep, dark twists.

It is best that you don’t know too much going into this one. For fans of Blake Crouch, this is such a good thriller with time travelling vibes.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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