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21 June 2015

Life Is All This
Sheila Blanchette
Publication Date
April 2015

Description from Amazon

In the summer of 1975, Samuel Ryder sets off to hitchhike to the Grand Canyon where he realizes life is very good. Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona the road ahead appears to be one neverending smooth ride full of fun, adventure, and pretty women.

Late at night in a vacant hotel lobby in South Florida, decades later Sam finds himself trying to come to peace with the fact that plans do not always work out and the life you imagined is not always the life you end up living. Alone at the front desk, he writes novels and communicates via email with his wife who has left him and now runs a food truck in Colorado. The two of them alone but at the same time together, trying to work things out, trying to hold onto a marriage that has moved just out of reach.

With a sharp eye for the world around him, Sam’s memories wander through the decades of his life as a traveling salesman, husband, and father. His story takes the reader on a journey from 1960’s New Hampshire where he writes letters to his brother in Vietnam, to Boston and New York where he and his wife raise their young family during the tumultuous years at the turn of the century, to South Florida during the Great Recession.

Against the backdrop of the conflicts and anxieties of a changing world, Life Is All This is the story of a modern American family facing life’s hardships with hope, optimism, and humor while discovering that pain, loss, and distance can strengthen their love and enrich their lives. 

My thoughts / review:

A delightful little book which, as often, I read on my daily commute. 

Aged the wrong side of 50 and with grown up children, Sam Ryder looks back on his life. He works nights at a hotel reception, which gives him the chance to write books. I could immediately identify with Sam. Though a bit younger than him, with different life circumstances (and I'm certainly not a published author) there were so many pages when I thought: 'I know exactly what you are talking about.' And if you managed your children through the teenage years, you will feel for Sam and his wife.

As an aspiring writer, in a funny kind of way,  it was nice to read about a 'fellow writer' and 'how they do things'. Certainly, we all know about the little notebook we carry with us at all times to take down thoughts, conversations, ideas don't we? Another part I really liked was the chapters which dealt with how Sam looks after his war vet brother Joe and I had a tear in my eye. Beautifully written without being over-the-top, which can so easily happen with this kind of topic (a terminal disease). And despite many challenges for Sam and his family, there is a positive vibe in this book which will lift you. 

This book won't change the world, but I recommend it especially if you are at that age where your children have just flown the nest or are about to. 

I have received this book from the author in return for an honest review.

20 June 2015

The Shining
Stephen King
Publication Date

Description from Amazon

Danny is only five years old, but he is a 'shiner', aglow with psychic voltage. When his father becomes caretaker of an old hotel, his visions grow out of control. Cut off by blizzards, the hotel seems to develop an evil force, and who are the mysterious guests in the supposedly empty hotel?

My Thoughts / Review

I would regard King as my favourite author and I had never read The Shining? Don't know why, just the way it happens and I never seem to have bought this book. Maybe because I came to King later in life. 

This is on of King's early works, published in 1977 and King's 3rd published novel, after Carrie and Salem's Lot. The book is regarded as on of his classics and within the first few pages it becomes clear why. King's success formula was born. A plot surrounding the supernatural and very strong characters, mostly involving a writer. It was here that King also first engaged with the topic of alcoholism and domestic abuse which shall become a reoccurring theme in his books.

But the real strength for me lies in the characters, as so often with King's books. This book has 4 main characters: the 3 members of the Torrance family (father Jack, mother Wendy and son Danny) and cook Dick Hallorann. Each of them will become unforgettable. He also effortlessly weaves the backstory in - another one of King's strengths.

It is well known that King did not like the movie made with the same title and famously starring Jack Nicholson. If you have seen the movie before reading the book (like me), it will be impossible to read without seeing the faces of Nicholson and ...
There are differences in the book and the movie. The ending is a bit different, and the whole scene with Wendy finding the book manuscript of endless "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy".  is not in the book at all. The movie is now a horror film classic in it's own right, and though the few special effects are clearly 1970's, the film manages to create a very tense atmosphere and I felt it was a great adaptation of this book. 

In summary, both book and movie are a must for any King fan. 

9 June 2015

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter 4)
J K Rowling
Publication Date
July 2000


The Triwizard Tournament is to be held at Hogwarts. Only wizards who are over seventeen are allowed to enter - but that doesn't stop Harry dreaming that he will win the competition. Then at Hallowe'en, when the Goblet of Fire makes its selection, Harry is amazed to find his name is one of those that the magical cup picks out. He will face death-defying tasks, dragons and Dark wizards, but with the help of his best friends, Ron and Hermione, he might just make it through - alive!

My review

Book 4 marks for me a slight change from the previous 3 books. I felt that books 1 to 3 where mainly aimed at children, and this is reflected very much not only in the story line, but also in the writing (repeating information, explaining concepts, often telling rather than showing) and choice of words. But with book 4, I think J K Rowling now gets much more grown up with this series. This, of course, also cleverly reflects Harry and his friends growing up and facing more 'grown-up' tasks. And, of course, the book is much longer than the previous ones. 

The same formula of course still works. Harry is spending the summer holidays with the dreadful Dursleys but of course returns to Hogwarts for his forth year, together with his best friends Ron and Hermoine. New challenges await him. This time, a tournament takes place at Hogwarts with two other wizard schools coming to Hogwarts as guests for the year and a host of new characters and student wizards. The tournament is dangerous and students have been known to get killed. But Harry is too young to enter. But then is name appears in the Goblet of Fire as being chosen to compete the tournament. While it is an honour, it is also very dangerous. Maybe someone wants him to be in danger?  

Rowling has previously addressed stereotyping and discrimination (against the none-pure wizards with Muggle blood). Here, she takes it further when Hermoine starts a campaign to help house elf who have to work long hours and receive no pay. Also, Hagrid is revealed as 'one-half' giant, and giants are seen as brutes. Hagrid is of course, anything but a brute and tries to hide his heritage, knowing the negative stereotyping. 

 Finally, with book 4, I got into Harry Potter and can't wait to read book 5 now.