May 6th, 2012

Labyrinth: Jareth Eyes

Book 4 - 11.22.63 by Stephen King

Haven't read any Stephen King in years, so didn't really know what to expect from this, but thought it was an interesting idea.

I LOVED IT!! - WARNING:  PROBABLY GOING TO BE A FEW SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON...

Everything about the book was brilliant. It was well paced, the characters were many and varied, with some wonderful creations in Deke and Miz Mimi, and the central love story was so good. The pace builds towards the end, and there's enough to keep you guessing as to whether Jake will indeed change the course of history, and what the consequences will be if he does so.

Am very sad to leave these characters and this world behind, but I'm sure I'll read this one again, even knowing the outcome, it was so good.

Jake Epping is a teacher in 2011. His friend shows him a rabbit-hole into the past, 1958, and between them they devise a plan to save the life of JFK. The beauty of the novel is not really in this main plot line though, it is the building story as the years lived in the past from 1958 into 1963 see Jake cross paths with a variety of interesting, sometimes evil characters. He prevents the mass murder of Harry Dunning‘s family, a man from 2011 who witnessed his father murder his whole family when he was a child. Upon accomplishing this, Jake resolves to go ahead and, when he’s completely convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald was the sole shooter on that fateful day, stop him by any means necessary, including killing Oswald.

Along the way Jake meets Sadie, a school librarian with an abusive ex-husband. As the two fall in love the complexities of Jake’s life in the modern day are too much to share with her, and the two part. Even then, Jake is still worried. He comes to learn that the past harmonises, and there is much similarities between Sadie and Doris Dunning, Harry‘s mother, to the point that he warns their friends and Sadie herself to watch out for the husband.

The tragic consequences of taking his warnings too lightly come when the husband returns and attacks Sadie, brutally slashing her face with a knife before slitting his own throat. Doctors are able to help to some extent, but as one tells her, 30 years in the future they would have been able to help her more.

Of course, Jake decides to take Sadie with him once he’s stopped Oswald and goes home.

Fate has other ideas though, and in the end Sadie goes with Jake to stop Oswald and is shot dead.

But, each trip through the rabbit-hole is a reset, or so Jake thinks, so he wants to bring her back to life, only it’s not a total reset at all, its another time string, as the mysterious yellow card man tells Jake, and too many strings will cause reality to shatter altogether.

And so Jake is left with the awful choice - the woman he loves, or the whole of reality.

It’s very sad, but the conclusion is also very satisfying. I loved this book so much. The minor characters are great, including Deke and Miz Mimi, who work with Jake.

Absolutely marvellous. I can’t believe it’s over, but I’ll probably be reading this one again.

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Book 46: Long Lankin by Lindsey Barraclough

Book 46: Long Lankin.
Author: Lindsey Barraclough, 2011.
Genre: Horror. Gothic. Ghost Story. Period Fiction. 1950s England. YA.
Other Details: Paperback. 464 pages.

Says my lord to my lady as he mounted his horse, “Beware of Long Lankin that lives in the moss.”

The novel opens with the lyrics of the folk ballad Long Lankin setting the tone for this haunting tale set in post-war England.

In the summer of 1958 Cora and her little sister Mimi are sent to stay with their Great Aunt Ida in the isolated village of Bryers Guerdon in the Essex marshes. It is clear from the start that Ida does not want them there and the girls themselves are desperate to return to London. Ida's home is the crumbling Guerdon Hall, built on land that had been in the family since the Norman invasion. Ida commands the girls to keep all the doors locked and not attempt to open any windows despite the oppressive heat. She also forbids them to go anywhere near the nearby abandoned church, All Hallows.

Of course, this injunction only increases their curiosity and soon they are investigating the church in the company of Ralph and his younger brother Peter, two local boys they befriend. What the children don't realise is that Aunt Ida is all too aware of the local legend of an ancient evil that for centuries has preyed upon young children in the area. An evil that has already touched Ida's life and now begins to stir again.

I was immediately drawn to this title with its reference to this folk ballad when I spotted it on the library shelf and I've since bought my own copy. Barraclough uses three narrative voices to weave the story: Cora, Ralph and Aunt Ida; with the changes between narrators marked by little name plaques. Though marketed as Young Adult, it is a novel that appeals to all ages as it evokes both the delights and fears of childhood in a highly effective way.

From its opening pages I was drawn into this atmospheric tale. Lindsey Barraclough realises her setting perfectly, evoking a sense of timelessness once away from London into a countryside that embodies the past in its landscape and architecture as well as its lingering superstitions and legends. It is a novel filled with strong characterisations. Cora emerges as courageous, spirited and resourceful while Ralph comes across as a cheeky lad with a kind heart. His narrative also provides moments of humour. The friendship between Cora and Ralph is genuinely touching. Aunt Ida is also more than a cranky old woman as we learn more about her past. In addition, there are a range of supporting characters including some fairly eccentric ones.

I found it a superb novel that worked on a number of levels. The hairs on the back of my neck were certainly pricking during certain sequences. The creep factor grows quite slowly. I always find this kind of horror more compelling than the visceral kind. That sense of what might be lurking in the shadows. Yet this is more than just a chilling horror story; there are themes of coming-of-age, family, friendship and the way the past and present can intertwine as well as a compelling portrait of post-War England in the late 1950s.

The cover art, which I assume will also be used in the USA edition due in July, is very effective. One of those ones where the more you look, the more you see. Given that it is a début novel, Barraclough is certainly someone to watch.
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

While on my rounds, yesterday, I finished reading another ebook.

This was Osprey Campaign #241: The Coral Sea 1942: The First Carrier Battle, a major naval battle of WWII. It was a tactical loss for the Allies, but a strategic loss for the Japanese, as it stopped their initiative, and began to turn the tide for the US Navy. It was the prelude to the Battle of Midway, soon to take place. There's some terrific plates, in here...