#135 – Just Good Friends, by Rosalind James
This was a mash of tropes I love and tropes I don’t care for.
I’ve never been a fan of romances that rely on bets–even if this one was a “bet you can’t be my friend without making a move on me” bet. Because we know it has to fail for a romance to take place.
It’s an excellent example, however, of You Infuriate Me, But I’m Falling For You. Kate and Koti can hardly have a conversation at first without aggravating each other, and it’s amazingly fun to watch the angry sparks slowly turning into romantic ones.
Kate’s tragic backstory may be laid on a little thick, but this time (as opposed to last week’s Just This Once) our hero isn’t perfect–he’s got major issues with his career and life goals and his motivation to work toward them. Flawed heroes are much more interesting to me than those who never put a foot wrong.
#136 – Everything’s Eventual: 14 Dark Tales, by Stephen King
It’s always hard for me to properly rate and review short story collections, because the stories can vary so wildly. I liked more of the stories than I didn’t (only two really bored me) and several of the stories I actually loved.
The “dark” in the title is appropriate, because rather than all of these being classic horror, many of them had more of a psychological or sometimes moral creepiness. I remember reading a different collection of King’s stories as a tween (bad idea) and having trouble sleeping for the next week–but this one wasn’t frightening, just unsettling. Which isn’t worse or better than straight horror, just different.
#137 – Carrie, by Stephen King
Considering I’ve had the plot spoiled for me numerous times over the years–I think the first time I heard about Carrie’s “Prom Night” I wasn’t even ten yet–I’m surprised how much I enjoyed this. Yes, it’s clearly early work, without the level of narrative and metaphoric sophistication King has developed since–but I enjoyed it.
Mostly, I think, that’s due to the documentary-style, after-the-fact structure, where much of the information about the climax is given through excerpts from interviews with the survivors, transcripts of wire reports, newspaper articles, books, and so on. Even given that I knew what was coming, I appreciated the level of foreshadowing, and the effectiveness of the structure as a hook to keep me reading.
And it takes a heck of a hook, because not only are none of the characters likable as people, most of them aren’t particularly interesting as characters, even Carrie herself. Maybe Sue, she’s the most developed of any of Carrie’s initial antagonists, and because she gets the pseudo-redemption arc of guilt over her behavior towards Carrie and her attempt to make it up to the girl. But everyone else is flat at best and stereotypical at worst.
Still, I’m glad I read it.
#138 – Crazy, Sexy, Ghoulish: A Halloween Romance, by G.G. Andrew
A cute novella that might have been a better read if it were longer and more developed.
I liked Nora and Brendan’s chemistry–their text flirting was absolutely top-notch–but the development of their fledgling romance felt rushed because of the short space it had to play out in, and because so much weight was given to Nora’s ex-mean-girl angst and guilt. Not that that doesn’t send a good message, that bullying is wrong; and a side character she picked on as a kid doesn’t forgive her, which is a nice contrast to Brendan deciding to move on.
But I would have liked to see this as a full novel. Maybe a short one, the story wouldn’t need 500 pages, but I feel like it needs more than it got.
#139 – The Wake, by Neil Gaiman
If this had ended after the first half, the three issues directly depicting the wake the Endless held for Dream, then I could have given this five stars. But there were three more issues, each a self-contained story: the first followed Gadling, and was marginally amusing; the next followed an old Chinese man in exile from court, and while I was bored by the slow pace of his story, at least it had a great art style; and the final issue concerned Shakespeare and his final play, The Tempest.
Which I have not read. Not the biggest fan of Shakespeare.
So that last issue probably would have felt like a better ending to me if I had at least read The Tempest, and better still if I actually liked it, but I find myself disappointed that a solid, satisfying ending got muddled by three extra stories tacked on to it.
#140 – The Sandman: Endless Nights, by Neil Gaiman
Seven vignettes, one for each of the Endless, cap off the series with a flourish of varied art styles. The stories were short and touching (or disturbing, when that was more appropriate) and I LOVED THE ART of all of the chapters that departed from the standard comic style. “15 Portraits of Despair” was my favorite, easily, with its blend of inked drawings, photo collage and pasted-on words.
I am now fully recovered from the disappointment of the second half of The Wake.
#141 – The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, by Stephen King
I’m not even remotely a baseball fan, so this wasn’t for me. I know that’s an odd thing to say about a horror novel, but so much of Trisha’s story involved her hero worship and eventual hallucinations about the (fictionalized) baseball star Tom Gordon–and I simply can’t relate to that. I barely watch any sports, ever, and when I do, I much prefer individual sports (tennis, figure skating, gymnastics, etc.) to team sports.
With that out of the way, it wasn’t by any means a bad book. The more survival-oriented parts I found interesting, though my disconnect from Trisha as a character meant that I didn’t really find the horror bits frightening at all.