Book review | Carrie by Stephen King

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She had tried to fit. She had defied Momma in a hundred little ways, had tried to erase the red-plague circle that had been drawn around her from the first day […]. She could still remember that day, the stares, and the sudden, awful silence when she had gotten down on her knees before lunch in the school cafeteria – the laughter had begun on that day and had echoed up through the years (22).

Stephen King’s Carrie is definitely one of the horror classics. Most of you probably know what this story is about even if you haven’t read the book, but for those of you that don’t know… In short, Carrie is, big surprise, about Carrie, a teenage girl who lives with her fanatically religious mother in a small town. Because of her clothing and deviant behaviour, she is the laughingstock at school. When after a brutal teasing one of the participants shows regret and helps Carrie to come out of her shell a little bit, life finally looks up for her. Until one of the girls banned from prom for bullying Carrie takes revenge and all hell breaks loose.

Even if you are not a fan of the supernatural, Carrie might still be for you. Carrie’s telekinesis is the only thing supernatural in this novel. The real horror is the ruthlessness of teenage girls and mankind in general. Carrie, suitable for both teenagers and adults, can be a perfect starting point for a discussion about bullying at school and its consequences. This novel first published in 1974 is unfortunately still awfully contemporary. Stephen King gives us a painful reminder of the social hierarchy and peer pressure at school.

I must admit I am not a huge fan of Stephen King’s novels. Although his stories intrigue me and I always pause at the Stephen King section in second-hand bookshops, I have trouble finishing his books. The main reason is I find it difficult to relate with his main characters and Carrie is no exception. The narrator’s descriptions of Carrie only seem to create more distance and do not evoke empathy. The reader does not get a whole lot of insight in Carrie’s thoughts. Does she have hopes and dreams? How does she deal with the bullying?

Stephen King’s style of writing might keep me from getting lost in his books, his stories are out of this world. Carrie did not evoke as strong an emotion as I would have expected from such a vicious story, but I did finish it without any effort. Since it is a short read, it is a perfect novel for a dark and rainy evening.

King, Stephen. Carrie. London: Hodder & Stoughton, (1974) 2013.

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Book review | Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

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rating-3-stars

I often bring a book with me wherever I go. However some time ago when I was at my parents’ place I didn’t have a book in my bag, since I hadn’t planned staying that long. So I asked my youngest brother if he had a cool book lying around. He handed me Anna Dressed in Blood and I am very happy he did. I just really (really!) liked it. I had an awesome afternoon reading this spooky book.

Anna Dressed in Blood is a terrific ghost story. It felt like reading about a younger cousin of the Winchester brothers from the TV show Supernatural. Cas hunts ghosts ever since his ghost hunting father was killed by an incredible nasty one. Cas and his mom move from place to place chasing ghosts. When Cas is tipped about Anna with her white dress soaked in blood, he knows it will be his next gig. However Anna is an incredible powerful ghost and defies a lot of Cas’ knowledge about ghosts. Is she too much for him to handle?

This book is a goose bump read. Not too spooky, but spooky enough to keep you in your seat reading as fast as you can to find out what happens next. It contains Voodoo magic which always scares the hell out of me. Kendare Blake writes fast-paced, action-packed scenes that make you laugh one moment and hold your breath the next. I love Cas’ sarcastic humour and the book’s gory descriptions. My only point of critique: although it is a young adult book, the language and writing style seems to better suit a children’s book. Since I no longer fit in the young adult category, the reading level of this book was way too easy for me.

This does not make Anna Dressed in Blood a less entertaining read though. If you are in for some creepy hours on the couch, I would highly recommend it. Has anyone read the sequel, Girl of Nightmares? I saw this book trailer (caution: contains Anna Dressed in Blood spoilers) and it really makes me want to read it.

Blake, Kendare. Anna Dressed in Blood. Antwerpen: Uitgeverij Manteau, (2011) 2013.

Book review | Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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rating-4-stars

A few weeks ago I wandered around in The American Book Center, my favourite English bookstore in Amsterdam. I quickly found myself drawn to the horror section. Though I am a bit of a scaredy-cat, spooky stories always intrigue me. On that day, one book in particular caught my eye. The strange photos on the dust jacket, the linen cover with gold writing, the old photographs and the decorated pages… I just could not resist picking up a copy of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It felt like browsing through an old journal and I could barely wait finding a cosy nook to start reading.

 So what is Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children about? Sixteen-year-old Jacob grew up with his grandpa’s unusual photographs and tall tales about children with special abilities. After his grandfather’s tragic death, he soon finds himself on a remote island off the coast of Wales. Here Jacob discovers an abandoned orphanage, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and he begins to doubt if his grandfather’s stories were only stories.

 Expecting it to be a ghost story, I obviously did not dare to read it after dark. However after the first creepy chapters, the book swept me up in an exciting story without any real ghosts, I promise. The pictures in the book give the story a strange sense of reality. It also reminds me that all pictures come with a story that, peculiar or not, are often still pretty wonderful. In the photograph above, I included some pictures of my family’s stories. For instance, the horse once saved my then three-year-old father by not wanting its favourite snack. My grandfather found it strange, looked at the ditch behind him and saw that his son was no longer standing there. My grandfather was just in time to fish my father out of the water. Isn’t that one peculiar horse?

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is the first book of a trilogy. I have read them all and I loved every minute spent in this strange, gothic fantasy. I would like to point out it is a Young Adult book. Since I found it in the horror section, I did not realise it until I was already fascinated by the pictures, plot and characters. I do not mind a good YA book once in a while and these books were definitely worth my time.

For more information about these books, the author and photography visit Ransom Riggs’ website: www.ransomriggs.com

Riggs, Ransom. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2011.