Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dr. Sleep, by Stephen King

Dr. Sleep

Stephen King returns to the character and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called the True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, the True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the steam that children with the shining produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel, where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant shining power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to this icon in the King canon.

My thoughts at 25%:
This book doesn't have quite the same creep factor as The Shining did, but I love the way King stayed so true to Dan Torrance and the way he was impacted by his childhood traumas. I also love the sneak bits of pop culture hidden in the story, and particularly enjoyed the brief mentions of towns from other Stephen King novels. But where with The Shining I was already a little horrified by this point, in Doctor Sleep I'm not so much horrified as I am curious.

My thoughts at 50%:
It has taken me a while to get this far but not because I lack interest in the book itself. Truthfully, I've been super busy with work, focusing on building my other blog - but I've been missing reading so much! This book is fascinating in a strange way; it fits perfectly with the Shining and is a great sequel, but so far it lacks the sense of horror I usually feel with Steven King. Instead, I'm still curious ... so intensely curious. It's nothing like a train wreck, but I still can't look away just out of a need to see how it all unfolds and where the story is going next.

At this point, Abra's in trouble and Dan has realized he really has no choice but to help. Things are heating up with the True, and ... well, we'll see where it goes.

My thoughts at 75%:
Still not horrified, but at this point I'm pretty much utterly unable to put this book down. Not because it's irresistible but because the sense of fascination that's been with me this whole time is still here. Dan Torrance's development of his talent is amazing, and his quick relation to Abra as a fellow shiner feels like finally coming home after a long day. And to see him surpassed by her power - to see him both fascinated and afraid of her capabilities ... I have to keep going simply because I can't stop until I know how it all turns out.

Stephen King is a genius ... But then, I already knew that.

My thoughts at 100%:
I really loved the way this book ended - it fit so perfectly, not only with the stories of the characters, but with Kong's style of wrapping everything up so nicely. There was a great surprise in this section of the book too, a flashback to The Shining which was a nice relief. Dan Torrance has now stepped up to take his place as my all-time favorite Stephen King character, and I'm as glad that I took a chance on Doctor Sleep as I was glad to have finally read The Shining last year.

Five stars for
great entertainment value,
strong characters,
and a plot only Stephen King could dream up.

Buy It Here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sum It Up, by Pat Summitt

Sum It Up: A Thousand and Ninety-Eight Victories, a Couple of Irrelevant Losses, and a Life in Perspective.

THE BLURB: Pat Summitt, the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history and bestselling author of Reach for the Summitt and Raise The Roof, tells for the first time her remarkable story of victory and resilience as well as facing down her greatest challenge: early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Pat Summitt was only 21 when she became head coach of the Tennessee Vols women's basketball team. For 38 years, she broke records, winning more games than any NCAA team in basketball history. She coached an undefeated season, co-captained the first women's Olympic team, was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, and was named Sports Illustrated "Sportswoman of the Year."

She owed her coaching success to her personal struggles and triumphs. She learned to be tough from her strict, demanding father. Motherhood taught her to balance that rigidity with communication and kindness. She was a role model for the many women she coached; 74 of her players have become coaches.

Pat's life took a shocking turn in 2011, when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, an irreversible brain condition that affects 5 million Americans. Despite her devastating diagnosis, she led the Vols to win their sixteenth SEC championship in March 2012. Pat continued to be a fighter, facing this new challenge the way she's faces every other - with hard work, perseverance, and a sense of humor.

My thoughts at 25%: (3h 20m - audiobook)
I have known about Pat Summit for many years, and have admired her from a distance, but I never knew her in person and never knew quite as much about her as did the people around me. Living in Knoxville, I heard her name often and held great respect for what that name meant, both for women and for athletes. But reading (listening to, actually) this autobiography has given me an entirely new perspective not only on her career as a headstrong and determined woman in basketball, but also as an independent and much-admired woman facing the loss of the life she had worked so hard to build. I found this book just after Pat Summit died when, in learning more about her from local memorial programs, I began to get more curious about her career, her Alheimer's diagnosis, and her life in general. Through this book so far, I feel that I've fostered a sense of camaraderie with her ... a sense of understanding her as a woman, a sense of learning from her as a mentor even though she is no longer in this life - and a sense of new compassion for my own grandmother, who is currently degrading due to her own battle with Alzheimer's disease.

My thoughts at 50%: (6h 40m - audiobook)
Wow. This woman was phenomenal. Strong and determined, she struggled sometimes to find a balance between her tenacious passion for life and her love for her team, friends, and family, but she managed her own struggles well and always seemed to meet whatever life gave her with her head held high. If ever a young woman facing adversity of any kind needed a hero, she need look no further than Pat Summit for inspiration of the highest caliber.

My thoughts at 75%: (10h - audiobook)
This book hasn't yet failed to amaze me. No, Pat Summit wasn't the most gentle coach, nor did loving kindness always come easily for her - especially when she knew her players needed tough love in order to be pushed to success. But she did love her players nonetheless, and she did make sure they knew it. I'm sure plenty of players not mentioned in Sum It Up might argue otherwise - Pat was admittedly a very hard-voiced, insatiable coach who sometimes pushed her players to the brink of giving up the game - but her legacy lives on nonetheless, both in the team she helped to build during her career, and in the bonds now broken with those who loved her, those who must surely still mourn her loss.

My thoughts at 100%: (approx. 12h 20m - audiobook)
I cried at the end of this book, listening to Pat's words (although not spoken in her voice) as she literally summed up her life and her career, proud of her accomplishments but willing to accept the fact that her path in this life was coming to a close. I heard my grandmother in Pat Summit's strengths, and wept for the loss of what these women had once been. Having read this book, I will be forever grateful to Pat Summit, not only for her dedication to women both in and out of athletics, but for having the courage to share the vulnerabilities of her story in such a public way. I will never forget the sense of understanding she lent me with her words, nor will I forget the admiration and determination her story gave me.

Thank you, Pat, not only for the legacy you left behind, but also for the ferocity you lent this world while you were here. Four stars.

Buy It Here.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

My Favorite Books In 2016

Since I started this blog so late in the year, here's a list of the books I loved most in 2016, which I posted recently on my author blog. The first four books featured in the list linked above are not reviewed on this site because I read them before the launch of The Quarterly Book Review - but the post does include links to my reviews on Amazon.

Featured books include:
  • Girl Least Likely To Marry, by Amy Andrews (Contemporary Romance)
  • The "A Dance With Destiny Series", by JK Ensley (Epic Fantasy)
  • Wonder, by RJ Palacio (Children's Fiction)
  • Girl In The Water, by Dana Marton (Romantic Suspense)
  • Slammed, by Colleen Hoover (Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction)
  • The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green (Teen/Young Adult Fiction)