Book Review: The Institute by Stephen King

 

The Institute - Stephen King

SUMMARY

Luke Ellis is abducted from his bed in the middle of a night, and his parents are murdered. The super intelligent twelve year old with special powers is spirited away in a black SUV. When he wakes, Luke is in a room, at The Institute, hidden deep in the forest at Maine. The room is set up to look like his own at home, but with one difference. There is no window. Luke soon realises that The Institute is home to many children, who arrived in the same way that he did. All of these children, along with being intelligent, have the extra special powers or telepathy and telekinesis.

The children of The Institute are subjected to a series of experiments. The staff are dedicated to these experiments, and don’t give any thought to the children’s desires. The children are rewarded for going along with the experiments, and punished very severely for choosing not to be compliant. As children that Luke has become close to, begin to disappear, he becomes desperate to find a way out and to get help. But nobody has ever escaped from The Institute.

MY THOUGHTS

I really did enjoy this book, although I felt it was a little bit flat and repetitive before the action started, towards the end. As is usual with a Stephen King novel, I find that in a review, less is best. I’d rather the reader dive in without knowing too much.

The large cast of child characters were very endearing, and I found myself caring very much about what was happening to them. King’s usual excellent characterisation was evident here. It’s my opinion that he is the master of characterisation. The story is mostly about the children and their experiences, with some great action towards the end.

What The Institute was doing to those children was horrifying, but I didn’t feel that I was reading one of King’s horror stories. I do prefer his books that make horror and unreal situations totally plausible. And I did enjoy this book. But I do have to declare that I am a fan of King and have been since I first read Carrie in 1975. As usual when reading a Stephen King novel, I find myself wondering ‘how on earth does he come’ up with his ideas’.

I found the author’s note at the end to be very very touching.

STAR RATING
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

King at the 2007 Comic Con

Stephen King is a No. 1 Best Selling Author many times over. He is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. Many of his books have been adapted into major films and TV series. King received the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.  In 2007, he won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America and in 2015 he received America’s National Medal of Arts.

He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist, Tabitha King.

Published on 10 September 2019 by Scribner.
Softcover 482 pages plus author’s note.

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Book Review: One Good Deed by David Baldacci

Summary

This novel, set in 1949, introduces a new character, Archer, a WW11 veteran who has recently been released from prison, where he served time for a crime he didn’t commit.

On his release, he encounters many obstacles that make it difficult to honour his parole conditions. His good intentions to stay out of trouble are challenged over and over.

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this character and look forward to the next in his series. The storyline had me hooked from the start and I enjoyed the historical aspect. I’m not a regular reader of crime but would definitely recommended this novel.

Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the author

David Baldacci has been writing since he was s small child and his mother gave him a pen and notebook to write his stories down.

His first novel ‘Absolute Power’ was published in 1996. He has now had 39 novel published and translated into many languages. He has also written seven novels for younger readers.

David and his wife are co-founders of the Wish You Well Foundation which supports family and literacy programs in the United States.

Published 23 July 2019 by Grand Central Publishing

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The First Lady by James Patterson & Brendan Dubois

The First Lady

Summary

American President Harrison Tucker has been caught out in a scandal, and the media is  all over it, sending shockwaves through his Presidential Campaign. It is probable that the will lose everything that he has worked for, unless his wife, Grace Tucker, the First Lady, stands by his side, and shows her support.

For years Grace has put up with her husband’s deception, broken promises and betrayal. But this time she refuses to give in to his demands to stand by him. GraceTucker disappears and is nowhere to be found.

But there are doubts about her disappearance. Did she run away? Or is she in grave danger? 

My Thoughts

This story is fast paced and filled with political intrigue and mystery. There were many twists and turns, which kept me guessing right up until the ending, which caught me by surprise. I enjoyed the strong female characters that were the backbone of this novel.

This collaboration between two succesful crime writers really is a good read, and I look forward very much to their next project. A quick read with short chapters and enough mystery and action to keep me well and truly engaged.

I listened to The First Lady as an audio book. The only criticism I would have, is that of the narrator’s pronunciation. I can only imagine that it must have driven American’s nuts to hear the way some of their place names were butchered. Even this Aussie picked up on it.

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Authors

James Patterson

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller. He has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today, with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He has sold over 380 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, among them The President Is Missing with President Bill Clinton, Patterson also writes fiction for young readers of all ages, including the Max Einstein series, produced in partnership with the Albert Einstein Estate. He is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists. – https://www.goodreads.com

Brendan DuBois

Brendan DuBois of New Hampshire is the award-winning author of twenty novels and more than 150 short stories. His novel, “Resurrection Day,” won the Sidewise Award for Best Alternative History Novel of the Year. In addition to his thrillers, Brendan DuBois is the author of the Lewis Cole mystery series.  https://www.goodreads.com

 

 

Published in December 2018 by Century.

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Book Review 11.22.63 by Stephen King

15739070The day that changed the world. What if you could change it back

Summary

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke…… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful  – from the back cover

My Thoughts

As with many of Stephen King’s novels, this time travel story had me hooked from page one. I’m a huge Stephen King fan, but a few years ago, became disappointed with the novels he was writing. I have decided to go back to those novels, and give them another try. This novel is the first of those. I’m so glad I did, as this is exactly the type of King novel that I enjoy. Stories about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. And not a monster in sight! The love story thread is quite touching and lovely. Not something normally equated with a Stephen King novel.

I really enjoyed the portrayal of life in 1950s and 1960s America, with it’s references to the popular culture of the time. And then there is the story of the shooting of American President JFK by Lee Harvey Oswald. King builds up a picture of the life of Oswald before the shooting which I found to be totally believable.

During the entire book, even as the date of the assassination was approaching,  I couldn’t decide how King was going to end the story. Would the assassination be foiled? If so, what would be the ramifications of that. Even after 740 pages, I was still enthralled and surprised by the ending.

Stephen King has such a talent for writing about real people. The plot might be bizarre, but the strength of his characters makes the storyline totally believable. He makes it very easy to believe that everything his characters say and everything that happens to them is real.

This book is fantastic!

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About the Author

King at the New York Comic Con in February 2007

Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American  author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction, and fantasy novels. His books have sold more than 350 million copies,many of which have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television series, and comic books. King has published 58 novels (including seven under the pen nameRichard Bachman)  and six non-fiction books. He has written approximately 200 short stories, most of which have been published in book collections.

King has received many awards.  In 2003, the  National Book Foundation awarded him the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He has also received awards for his contribution to literature for his entire oeuvre, such as the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement (2004),and the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America (2007) In 2015, King was awarded with a National Medal of Arts for his contributions to literature. He has been described as the “King of Horror”. – Wikipedia

Stephen King is known as one of the best novelists of our time.

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 Published on July 5 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton. First published November 8 2011. Paperback 740 pages

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A Month of Sundays by Liz Byrski

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Summary

An online bookclub has been meeting for over ten years, but they have never met face to face. Until now…

Adele invites members of her book club to the Blue Mountains, where she is house sitting. Each member has been asked to bring a book that will teach the other members more about her. The women in this club are all at the stage of their lives, when life as they have always known  it, is changing. Each week. as they studied another book, not only did they learn more about the person who chose the book, but they were learning more about themselves.

My Thoughts

I asked myself what book I would choose to teach others more about me. I’m still not sure about that. It was interesting to see the books that were chosen.  I was surprised at each choice, as I did expect the author may have chosen more well known books or best sellers. The books chosen by each character were perfect to help better understand her life and what she was going through at the time.

As a member of two bookclubs, I do enjoy a book about bookclubs, and this one was no exception. I came to love the characters despite their flaws. They seemed very real to me, and by the end of the book, I wanted to know what would come next for each of them.

This is the first book that I’ve read by this author. I will definitely reading her previous books.

Recommendation

“Byrski is by turns turbulent and tender. Her characters are portrayed as warm, funny, flawed heroes and heroines grappling with the cards destiny has dealt them.” – West Australian

“A Month of Sundays demonstrates the capacity of a book to act as a mirror to the soul and an eloquent guide to a more contented future.  Executed with wit and affection, the novel delivers exactly what it promises” – Weekend Australian

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About The Author 

Liz Byrski

Liz Byrski is a writer and broadcaster with more than 40 years experience in the British and Australian media. She is the author of eleven non-fiction books and five novels, and her work has been published in national and international newspapers and magazines.

In the nineties Liz was a broadcaster and executive producer with ABC Radio in Perth and later an advisor to a minister in the Western Australian State Government; she now lectures in Professional and Creative Writing at Curtin University of Technology in Perth, and has PhD in writing with a focus on feminist popular fiction.

Liz was born in London and spent most of her childhood in Sussex. As an only child she spent a lot of time alone, much of it buried in books. She began her working life as a secretary and later moved into journalism working as a reporter on a local newspaper until she took up freelance writing when her children were born. Before moving to Western Australia she also worked as an appeals organiser for Oxfam.

After moving to Perth with her family in 1981 she once again established a freelance career writing for Australian publications including The Australian, Homes and Living, Cosmopolitan and Weekend News.

Liz lives between Perth and Fremantle and in addition to enjoying the company of family and friends, she spends most of her time reading, writing and walking. She has two adult sons and twin grandsons. – Goodreads.com

Recommendations

What book would you choose to teach others more about you? I found this a tough question, and would love to hear about your book choice. I promise to reply to all comments made.

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Published in July 2018, by MacMillan Australia. Paperback 352 pages

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#AtoZChallenge Z is for The Zahir by Paulo Coelho

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

The Zahir is narrated by a best selling author, who lives in Paris and has been living the perfect life with his wife, war correspondent Esther. But now, Esther has disappeared with a friend Mikhail. It’s not known after her disappearance, if Mikhail is her lover. He may be, but then again, he may not be.

Esther’s disappearance is a mystery, as she also appears to have been living the perfect life, with her husband. Was she murdered or perhaps kidnapped. Or did she escape the confines of a life with her husband which left her feeling unfulfilled and empty.

The narrator is lost for answers. Eventually he is contacted my Mikhail, who promises to reunite him with his wife. In the process of this the narrator discovers something unexpected about himself.


“…I had convinced myself that I could only be happy with her, not because I loved her more than anything and anyone in the world, but because I thought only she could understand me; she knew my likes, my eccentricities, my way of seeing the world…….I was used to seeing the world through her eyes.” – Paul Coelho, The Zahir


“…suffering occurs when we want other people to love us in the way we imagine we want to be loved, and not in the way that love should manifest itself – free and untrammeled, guiding us with its force and driving us on.” – Paul Coelho, The Zahir

My Thoughts

I’m a huge Paul Coelho fan, so was looking forward to reading this book. I wasn’t at all disappointed. The Zahir is a pilgrimmage of sorts and cover the themes of love, loss and obsession. I love Coelho’s writing, and this book is no exception. As is usual, in Coelho’s books, he focuses on the meaning of life, the mean of love, and finding our place in the world.

The narrator of the story annoyed me at times, and parts of the story annoyed me at times. However, I really did enjoy this book. The questions the narrator asked himself and the tiny bits of trivial information he felt that he needed, truly did captivate me. There were many literary references which I also enjoyed.

My Star Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the author

Paulo Coelho

 

Paulo Coelho was born in 1947 in Rio de Janeiro. Before dedicating his life completely to literature, he worked as theatre director and actor, lyricist and journalist. In 1986, Coelho did the pilgrimage to Saint James of Compostella, an experience later to be documented in his book The Pilgrimage.

His books are written in Portugese and translated into English.

 

 

Published in 2006 by Harper One. Paperback 336 pages

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#AtoZChallenge Y: You by Caroline Kepnes

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

This is the debut novel, by Caroline Kepnes. Guinevere Beck, an aspiring writer, wanders into a book store. Soon, she is having a friendly conversation with Joe Goldberg, who is working in the store. Joe googles her name from her credit card, to find out all he can about her. He checks out her public Facebook page, and her Twitter feed, where he gets a huge amount of general information about her and about her life.

When she posts on Twitter that she will be at a particular bar that night, Joe makes sure that he is there for a ‘chance’ meeting. From there, he makes sure he has her under his control to the point that he takes over her life.

On the surface Joe is her perfect man. However, things are not as they seem. Joe is controlling her and stalking her. This is a story about the modern age of communications and living life online. You demonstrates how vulnerable we all are in the digital age, to stalking and being manipulated, without even being aware.

My Thoughts

You has been compared to Psycho, Gone Girl and even Stephen King’s Misery. I loved all of those books, but unfortunately I can’t say the same about You. Everything that happened seemed to me to be too easy for Joe.  But perhaps that’s the way the world is today, in this digital age.  The story line seemed to me to be very contrived and convenient.

For me, You was a difficult read, as I didn’t really care too much about the characters and could have put the book down. and decided not to finish it, at any time. I definitely didn’t feel it was a page turner, though going by some of the reviews, it appears that I am in the minority. I also should state. that I’m not a huge fan of crime or psychological thrillers, so am probably not the best person to comment on this book.

About The Author

Caroline Kepnes

 

Caroline Kepnes was born and lives in the U.S, dividing her time between California, Cape Cod, and Massachusetts.

My Rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️

First published in 2014 by Simon & Schuster
Paperback 424 pages

 

 

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#AtoZChallenge X is for X by Sue Grafton

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

A Kinsey Milhone mystery

  This is the 24th novel in Sue Grafton’s series of novels that are named after each letter of the alphabet. Investigator Kinsey Milhone, known by regular readers of this author, is based in a fictional city in Los Angeles and ready to solve the latest mystery.

A glamorous redhead hires Milhone to find her long lost adopted son. This should have been a quick easy job for an investigator but the mystery quickly builds when Milhone finds that she was paid with notes that were marked. It becomes clear very quickly that this client has something to hide.

My Thoughts

I’m not a regular reader of the crime genre but I did enjoy this suspenseful mystery, with it’s very well rounded characters.  As this is the 24th book in this ‘alphabet’ series, I can help but wonder if Grafton’s books are written to an obvious winning formula. I will definitely be reading another of her books, and expect to be able to form an opinion after that reading.

Recommendation

“Kinsey Milhorne is up there with the giants of the private-eye genre, as magnetic as Marlowe, as insouciant as Spenser…….Exhilarating” – Times Library Supplement

My Rating:  ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

About The Author

SueGrafton.jpg

 

Sue Grafton was a Number One International Bestselling and very prolific author of mystery and detective novels. Her books have been published in many languages and have appeared on The New York Times Bestseller lists many times and for many weeks each time.  She passed away in 2017 before Z for Zero was published and so the alphabet series ends at Y.

 

Published by Random House publishing in 2015

Have you read any of Sue Grafton’s novels. I’d be very interested to hear what you think and promise to reply to all comments

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#AtoZChallenge W: We were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

 

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

Summary

The Mulvaneys of High Point Farm in Mount Ephraim, New York, are a large happy family, who have been blessed with good looks and a happy, future full of certainty. But as time evolves, things don’t go to plan for the Mulvaneys. On Valentine’s Day in 1976, an incident, involving a member of the family, causes upset and reverberation through the family for the rest of their lives.

The story spans twenty five years, and is told years later by Judd, the youngest son, as he attempts to make sense of the past and the events that destroyed his happy family.

My Thoughts

We Are The Mulvaneys is a story of the rise and fall of a family. Of how quickly the perfect life can become a tragic life. The first few chapters contain quite long character introductions, which some may find tedious as I did at first. But they grew on me, and later in the book, I was thankful for such thorough introductions, as they helped me understand why certain characters did what they did, and why they reacted the way they did to unexpected circumstances.

Recommendation

It was the title that had me hooked immediately, making me want to read this book. We WERE the Mulvaney’s. Why ‘were’? Immediately I wanted to know more about what happened to this family.

I say every reader out there should read this book, but I may be biased because I love love this story of the Mulvaney family. I was totally enthralled from start to finish and couldn’t get enough of this slightly wacky family and their wacky ways. Perhaps this book means more to me because of events beyond my control that destroyed my own happy family life. I did feel a connection and sympathy towards the Mulvanney Mum, even though many times, I felt like shaking her and telling her to wake up and do something to bring her family back together. 

“It is a book that will break your heart, heal it, then break it again” – Los Angeles Times
“One of our most audaciously talented writers: – Erica Jong
“Novelists such as John Updike, Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer slug it out for the title of the Great American Novelist. But maybe they are wrong. Maybe, just maybe, the Great American Novelist is a woman” – The Herald

Star Rating 4.5 star

About The Author

Oates in 2014

 

Joyce Carol Oates is a prolific American author, born in 1938. Her first novel was published in 1962 and she has since published a further 42 book. She has won many American and international awards for her writing and her books. We Were The Mulvaneys became a best seller after being selected as an Oprah’s Book Club book.

Published by Harper Perennial, Harper Collins Publishers in 2007.
First published by Fourth Estate in 2001. Paperback – 454 pages

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#AtoZChallenge U: Untold Story by Monica Ali

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter

The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge  is for bloggers who wish to participate by publishing a blog post every day in April except for Sundays. Each blog post will focus on a letter of the alphabet. For example April 1 will be A, April 2 will be B and on it goes. By the end of April, a blog post for every letter of the alphabet will have been posted.

 

Summary

The most famous woman in the world.
Her death mourned by millions.
What if she hadn’t died after all…..?

What if Princess Diana didn’t die? Her seemingly idyllic life was both nightmare and fairytale. She may have been living a priveleged life, but she often felt lonely and trapped. Could she have been tempted to take the opportunity to start her life over again, but this time live her life quietly, and out of the spotlight of the media glare.

Fictional English Princess Lydia, thought someone was plotting to assassinate her, so she decides to stage her own death and and start a new life in a quiet area of Midwest America. Life abroad goes well for her, as she makes Kensington her new home. She makes many new friends but she cannot forget the family she left behind.

Unexpectedly, she has an encounter with paparazzi and the new life, and her anonymity, that she has worked so hard to create for herself, are put under threat and she wonders if she will ever be able to put her past behind her.

My Thoughts

The topic and plot of this story drew me to it. However, I didn’t enjoy the way the story went from the present day, where it is narrated by Lydia and the photographer who is sure he knows her real identity, to the butler in her past, who helped her to disappear. The story is also told from the letters that Lydia wrote to the butler ten years earlier.

I was irritated by the way the chapters seemed to jump back and forward from past to future and to the letters.  This spoiled my enjoyment of the book. The premise and plot could have made an engrossing read, but the style that this book was written in, just didn’t do it for me.

My rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️

About the Author

Monica Ali

 

Monica Ali is a British writer and novelist, born in Bangladesh.  When she was three years old, her family moved to England, where she still lives today with her husband and children.

 

First published in Great Britain by Doubleday, 2011.
This edition published by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd 2012. Paperback, 342 pages

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