11.22.63 by Stephen King
Although its 750 odd pages were initially daunting, I’ve read other long King books (such as IT, a personal favourite) and once you’ve started they are always richer and more engrossing for their length.
11.22.63 initially sounds totally different to King’s usual thing – more rooted in history, though with an obvious element of the supernatural with the intrinsic time travel, it follows Jake Epping as he accepts a dying man’s challenge to travel back and attempt to save JFK from assassination. They hope it will improve the world for the better if JFK lives – but these are high stakes.
The book is a sci-fi, occasionally horror-tinged love story and the balance of all these elements and the richly-painted 50s/60s setting just makes it unputdownable. If you haven’t read any King in a while, this is an easy and rewarding one to get back into his work – despite its great length.
After You by Jojo Moyes
I was expecting this to be an unnecessary, limp, directionless sequel to cash in on huge hit Me Before You. ‘What else was there left to say?’ I thought. ‘What’s the point?’ Happily I was very pleasantly surprised, as I enjoyed this story both for itself and as part of the Me Before You world.
After You follows Louisa Clark after the assisted suicide of Will Traynor, a quadriplegic after a motorbike accident with whom she fell in love during the six months she spent caring for him. She now has to find a way to move on and live a good life without him, keeping in mind some of the ambitions he held for her: “Live boldly,” he had repeated. But Louisa is struggling with a dead end airport bar job, living alone in London, and needs a new direction.
Although there were some parts, especially the beginning, when Louisa just went on and on about how rubbish her life had become, the new characters and the big plot events were really enjoyable. I loved sweet and funny ‘Ambulance Sam’ and his relationship with Louisa. I loved the grief support group’s dynamic. And although new teenage character Lily was annoying and infuriating for much of the book, you eventually understand why and everything ties up nicely – definitely happier than Me Before You!
Curtain Call by Anthony Quinn
I read Curtain Call as part of Poppy Loves Book Club, an online group I’ve recently joined (it has in-person clubs too but I managed to do that yet). I wouldn’t otherwise have chosen it for myself, but I did enjoy it and would give it three stars out of five.
The book is anchored around the actions of a serial killer, after a West End actress accidentally interrupts an attempted murder one afternoon and a group of characters end up unknowingly linked.
Although I was initially looking forward to a murderous-sounding plot, the serial killer is in fact largely forgotten about for the central portion of the book, with newspaper reports simply reminding some of the main players from time to time that the murders are still happening. Instead, Curtain Call ends up being more of a character study, with players including a well-known painter, a theatre critic and his assistant, and an escort.
Around this, events are well placed in the 1930s, a setting which is painted vividly and adds much to the book’s enjoyment. It was something a bit different for me, and worth picking up for a change.