Eclectic Mini Reviews: Atonement, It and I Heart Vegas.

Eclectic Mini Reviews
Hello, bookworms of the blogosphere! Today I bring you three for the price of one, aka, mini book reviews. Woohoo! These novels all told very different stories in contrasting genres, but all of them have one thing in common, I had somewhat conflicted opinions about them. Do you ever have that problem when there are some aspects you LOVE intensely about a book, but there are so many other things that get in the way of you being able to rate it as high as you want? These are all books that meet this criteria. So without further ado…

Overall Impression: Excuse me while I go cry into my bookcase… *Sniff.* It’s all good. Atonement-by-Ian-McEwan_thumb*sniff.*

Atonement by Ian McEwan is a tragedy in every sense of the word. In fact, it’s probably one of the saddest books I’ve ever read. If you into kittens, cheery sunrises and unicorns, this one may not be for you! The story follows a family in England, set amongst the backdrop of World War 2. The novel is mainly narrated by 13yr old Briony who witnesses a scene between her sister, Cecilia and Cecilia’s childhood friend, Robbie which she misinterprets, and from then on none of their lives are ever the same. Briony has made a mistake for which she will spend her whole life trying to atone.

In many ways, this novel is phenomenal. The characters are complex, flawed and on the whole unlikable but in the best possible way, especially Briony, who is so blinded by her arrogance, certainty and obsession with a good story to the detriment of everybody else around her. The plot is full of tortured souls and their plights will make you feel like entering a mood of eternal melancholy on their behalves because THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS HAPPINESS IN McEWAN WORLD CLEARLY.
Yet, for all the awesome, this book was painfully slow. It seemed to drone on forever and nothing noteworthy occurred until 200-odd pages in when Briony caused a serious injustice. Also McEwan’s writing style, something I am so, SO conflicted about! And thinking it over, I think it’s because it’s a case of heart vs brain. McEwan uses intelligent, almost lyrical prose throughout Atonement worthy of making an English literature student swoon and it’s so clever how he’s constructed the story, yet, on the other hand McEwan is detailed to the extreme to the point where it becomes tedious. Because of this, I never felt like he engaged me as a reader. It was one of those weird cases where I admired the author’s technique but didn’t actually enjoy reading it! If I was basing my rating on literary appreciation this novel would probably earn 4 stars, but for me, entertainment always trumps technique, and I think a truly great author is capable of doing both. (Also, another one to tick off The Rory Gilmore Challenge, huzzah!)

Writing Style: 4/5 // Originality: 5/5 // Entertainment: 2/5 // Character Development: 3/5 Would I recommend this book? Only from a literary appreciation point of view.
Overall: 3/5

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Overall Impression: Escapism encapsulated in an entertaining 330 page book.I Heart Vegas by Lindsey Kelk

Next up we have I Heart Vegas, the 4th book in Lindsey Kelk’s I Heart series that follows a British blogger who moves to New York City after catching her fiancé cheating. In this installment, Angela is having visa problems of the serious variety and faces the possibility of being deported. But instead of facing the reality of the situation, she takes a trip to Vegas with her best friend and boyfriend. Could an Elvis style shotgun wedding be the solution?

Lindsey Kelk’s books are my happy place. Whenever I’m feeling down, stressed or need a break from everyday life  I can pick up one of her novels and relax, knowing I’ll be in for a good read. The stories are completely farfetched, the characters make silly, illogical decisions and don’t even get me started on the stereotype reinforcements, but at the end of the day these books are so damn entertaining. Angela and her buds get into lots of trouble, have drunk shenanigans and swoon over cute guys that make smooshy romantic declarations. And then there’s Angela’s rockstar boyfriend Alex… *sigh.*
Having said that, I was disappointed with this book. The plot was flimsy at best and I really wanted to reach through the book and shake Angela at points. The novel seemed to be stuck in a repetitive cycle of a romantic incident, getting drunk, romantic incident, getting drunk. Plus, Angela spent the whole book worrying about her visa problem and then continued to do nothing about it, lying about the seriousness of the situation to her friends. It was infuriating to me as a reader because she moaned and worried for 90% of the book while doing nothing logical to solve the problem.
But, that ending. OHH MY GOSH THAT ENDING. It reduced me to a puddle of giddy love-struck feels and I couldn’t stop smiling! So much so that I was able to overlook *most* of my previous complaints.

Writing Style: 4/5 // Originality: 2/5 // Entertainment: 4/5 // Character Development: 3/5 Would I recommend this book? Yes!
Overall: 4/5

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Overall Impression: A coming of age story about a group of friends battling a malevolent force.It by Stephen King

So, I did it. I finished my first ever Stephen King novel! And a beast of a book it was too at 1,376 pages, phew. I feel like I deserve a medal! It tells the tale of a small town named Derry, where there are an unusual number of child deaths and a menacing presence lurks in the sewers. A team of seven unlikely misfits band together to take revenge and put a stop to IT for good. But 26 years later the deaths start up again, and the group find themselves facing an unwanted reunion. They’re going back in the deep end…and they may not come back out alive.

I had no preconceptions about this book before I started it, other than that there would be a clown involved – possibly a very scary clown, and in many ways the story wasn’t at all what I was expecting! King is a master storyteller and builds his tale of horror through blending scenes from Derry’s past and present, slowly painting a picture of the mysteries that have haunted the town for years. The novel goes through peaks and troughs slowly adding tension. I was surprised, as a reader, by how real Stephen King’s imaginary town felt, through careful precision he builds up the layers of the town’s history in detail to the point where I felt he hadn’t made it up at all, and that I might stumble across it one day walking down a deserted road.

What I really loved about this book though was the characters, and I honestly, I didn’t think I would fall for them as much as I did. The book centres around a group nicknamed ‘The Loser’s Club’ who are all victims of the town bully, there’s ‘the fat kid’ (Ben), the ‘stuttering kid’ (Bill), the ‘jewish kid (Stan)’, the ‘black kid’ (Mike) the ‘tomboy girl’ (Bev), the asthmatic hypochondriac (Eddie) and the wisecracker (Richie). All of them were so vibrant and funny and smart and chaotic and silly – like kids are. Stephen King really has a knack for depicting childhood, right down to the feelings of invincibility and the terror of what creeps in the shadows. I loved following all the crazy situations they got into and the development of their unbreakable friendship. You really feel like you get to know the characters inside and out having followed their journey from childhood to adulthood. And that ending…ohh how I had a tear in my eye!

The downsides to this book? It’s too long, unnecessarily so. Some things simply didn’t need to be in there and at times I found myself losing patience. Plus, because there was SUCH a long buildup towards the group’s fight with IT, the whole thing felt anticlimactic.  Oh, and all that rubbish about the turtle and the mind thing? Not amused. I lost the plot with that bit. Finally, I didn’t find It as scary as I was expecting, and I was really looking forward to being scared! But I guess that’s down to my own preconceptions rather than anything else.

Initially after finishing It I planned on giving it 3 stars, but after some time to think I’ve upped it to 4 because those character will stay with me for a long time. I think we can call my first Stephen King novel a success, and I’d definitely be willing to try another one of his books!

Writing Style: 4/5 // Originality: 4/5 // Entertainment: 3/5 // Character Development: 5/5 Would I recommend this book? Yes!
Overall: 4/5

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Have you read any of these novels? Have you read any books recently that have left you feeling conflicted? Let me know in the comments! Also, any further Stephen King recommendations greatly appreciated. 🙂

Image Sources:
Atonement Book Cover // I Heart Vegas Book Cover // It Book Cover

36 thoughts on “Eclectic Mini Reviews: Atonement, It and I Heart Vegas.

  1. I know exactly what you mean about Atonement. I admire McEwan’s writing, but I don’t always like it, if that makes sense? I find him a bit coldly intellectual at times, and that distances me from the story/characters. I still keep reading him though!

    • Ah, I’m so glad it’s not just me! It felt odd to simultaniously admire but not really like his writing. Yes, that’s exactly it! You do feel distanced from the characters even though they’re complex and interesting. What other McEwan have you read? I don’t know if I should give him another shot.

      • It’s definitely not just you! I’ve read The Cement Garden, Amsterdam, Enduring Love and On Chesil Beach – all very impressive, (The Cement Garden is probably the weakest, just because it was his first novel and he was still finding his feet) but I did find them all a bit cold. I would recommend On Chesil Beach if you want to give McEwan another go, as I know several people who quite liked it, and it’s fairly short (more of a novella) so if you decide to give him up at least you’ve not committed to a long novel!

      • Oh! I saw the film Enduring Love and it was so flippin’ strange! I can’t even imagine how it would read on paper.
        Awh that’s a shame, I like the title The Cement Garden. In that case, I will definitely have a look into On Chesil Beach and read the blurb – see if it sounds interesting. I’m liking the idea of it being short too, hehee!

  2. Yayyyy!!!! You liked King :). His books are long and definitely not light and fluffy, easy reads, but I am always blown away by his outstanding writing skills. I agree that sometimes they could be shortened up, but everything else makes up for that. Welcome to the Stephen King fan club :).

    • I did! If it wasn’t for you and a couple of other bloggers, I probably wouldn’t have ever tried any of his books. Yay for the internet! Yes his writing is pretty brilliant in this understated way. It’s not all fancy and trying to be literary, but it really hits the mark and he knows how to write a damn good story.
      Yay! Do I get a badge? 😉

      Also gotta know, what’s your favourite Stephen King novel?

      • Yes, you definitely get a badge :). As for my favourite King book, I don’t think I could ever pick just one. The problem is that I have been reading his books over a span of like 37 years, so it’s hard to remember exactly how I felt about each one. However, when I was really young I remember reading Salem’s Lot and thinking it would always be one of my favourites. More recently I was very fascinated by 11/22/63 because of how much of a mind f*#% it was LOL. It really made me think and consider the question of whether a person could go back in time and change history or not. Oh there are so many good King books. Some are good because they’re creepy as hell while others are great because they make you think :). You will just have to read them all. Hey wait, I haven’t even read them all yet!!

      • Yaaaaay!
        Ahaha, I had a feeling you might say that. 😉 37 years, whoa. I’m not surprised! Oooh well that’s good to hear because I own both Salem’s Lot and 11/22/63 so it looks like I picked my books right. 🙂 I haven’t read many novels on time travel so I’m looking forward to it.
        Hahahaa! If you haven’t read all of Stephen King’s book by now, I doubt I ever will, that man is a writing MACHINE. Which makes book recommendations all the more important. 🙂

  3. IT is one of the central stories in King’s universe; there are so many peel away from it, from minor characters (One of the people at the fire at the Black Spot is the cook in The Shining), to major ones like the whole Turtle thing in The Dark Tower books.

    Glad it worked out for you…what’s next on your King list? 🙂

    • Oooh, exciting! I still feel all giddy when someone mentions all the interesting ways that Stephen King’s worlds connect, I love that kind of stuff. Although if I’m honest, with that many characters, I may not even notice if one reoccured, it would probably pass me by!

      Ohh no, not the Turtle!

      Thanks Mr T. 🙂 I’m not sure which book of his I’ll pick up next. I own a few – 11.22.63, Salem’s Lot and The Gunslinger. But I really fancy giving Carey a go so I may actually skip all of those and try and find a copy! Any tips on which I should go for first? *Bows to the person with superior Stephen King knowledge.*

    • I’m not surprised, IT is a BEAST of a book! It is quite intimidating to look at. Have you read any Stephen King before?

      I picked up Stephen King’s On Writing Memoir a couple of years ago for required reading and I thought it was fantastic! I came away buzzing with enthusiasm to write and read so I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a really interesting read, whether your in it for his advice on writing, his life story or simply to admire his words. (I reviewed it here if you’re interested: 🙂

      I really fancy giving Carrie a go as well, I might just have to make that one my next Stephen King read!

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by Blaise. 🙂

      • I haven’t read King before, except for an excerpt in a Writer’s Handbook from the 80s. I have On Writing on my shelf, which means I may start with that by default. It’s nice to hear that it’s so inspiring, though~ It’s almost always a good thing. Thanks for linking me to your review of it!

      • Ahh right, I wish you the best of luck then! This was my first ever fiction Stephen King book so I was really worried I wouldn’t get on with it, especially as I don’t normally read horror. I hope you end up liking it as much as I did!
        I think On Writing would be a great place to start, especially if you already own it.

  4. I am SO glad you felt the same way about Atonement! I finally made my way through it (it. took. forever…) and I ugly cried pretty hardcore. The writing was very beautiful, but it was just so detailed. Because of that, I think this is one case where I actually enjoyed the movie better (gasp!)

    • Right back at cha! I thought maybe I was missing something because it’s a book held in such high esteem but yes, it took me forever to read as well! But with the war and the penance and the death, agh, IT WAS SO SAD.
      I agree with you, I also preferred the movie, although it’s possible that had something to do with McAvoy. 😉

  5. Nice reviews! Totally agree with you on Atonement – I loved the first third of the book, swooned over Robbie (because I pictured him as the delightful James McAvoy of course) and quite enjoyed the sad but unexpected ending (although it had been ruined by a friend years ago). BUT, I also felt that the storyline dragged and I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I could have been.

  6. I have read Stephen King’s epic, dark fantasy series The Dark Tower which I loved. There are some great characters in it so perhaps you would like it too. I have also read the short story collection Just After Sunset which was great too. I haven’t been brave enough to read one of what I call his ‘proper horrors’ yet. Sounds like It wouldn’t be the best place for me to start.

    • Ooooh, good to hear! I don’t know anything about The Dark Tower series, other than that it exists, so it’s great to hear you enjoyed it. Characters are so important so that’s big plus for me. Just After Sunset sounds like fun too, I’d like to give some short stories a go. 🙂
      Hmm, maybe not. I mean, don’t get me wrong there is a LOT of scary stuff in this book, but I feel like because I was reading it rather than seeing it I didn’t find it as scary if that makes sense? I’m sure seeing the clown on TV would freak me out more for instance, so don’t let me put you off! Good luck. 🙂

  7. It’s been a while but I think I struggled with Atonement and found it quite slow moving too. I felt much the same about On Chesil Beach, another book by the same author.
    I loved IT and my thoughts about the good and bad elements pretty much mirror yours. Great cast of characters but what was with that weird turtle part? I’m guessing some kind of magic mushrooms may have been involved when writing that bit!
    I haven’t read I Heart Vegas yet, but it’s on my list ’cause I enjoyed the New York and LA stories. I see you mentioned a flimsy plot, but I don’t think the other ones had very serious storylines either 🙂 so I’m sure I won’t mind.

    • That seems to be the consensus from everyone in the comments, I’m so relieved that it’s wasn’t just me! It’s such a shame because if it wasn’t so slow and tedious at points it could have been a brilliant read. Shame to hear you found the same thing with his other works too, I’m undecided whether I would give any of his other books a go…
      I remember loving your review of IT and I just reread it on Goodreads and I agree with everything you said as well. I’m thinking magic mushrooms isn’t too far off the mark. 😉
      Ahh yes, when I said flimsy I meant way more flimsy than the other two plots, I don’t know, there was just something that wasn’t quite as good about this one. However it’s still an excellent series and like I said, the ending more than makes up for the problems. You’ll love it when you get to it! Look forward to hearing what you think. 🙂

  8. Finally getting round to bombarding you with comments!

    I really enjoyed Atonement but I completely get what you mean. There were times that I really didn’t like it and I couldn’t get a grip of the characters at all, but by the end I was in love! It was a very bizarre experience.

    I’ve only read I Heart New York and it seems like they’re pretty good for quick, light-hearted reads. I’d probably give another a go! And, like you said, I’m also a sucker for a gushy ‘awww!’ ending.

    I’ve never read a Stephen King! The size of IT would genuinely put me off ever wanting to read that particular book. Think of the poor trees! It’s a proper commitment to read something of that weight. He’s definitely an author that I want to try, even though I’m a complete wimp.

    Marvellous reviews as always.

    • Oooh yay! No complaints here. 🙂

      I remember reading your review of Atonement way back when. I’m glad you fell for the novel eventually, I wish that had happened to me! I think seeing the film first didn’t help either because the clever twist at the end and all the significant reveals weren’t surprises so they weren’t very dramatic. I have to say from a literary technique point of view I was very impressed though!

      Yeah, the I Heart series is great fun and it’s really nice to pick up when you don’t want something too rooted in the real world. Perfect escapism!

      Really? I’m surprised, I thought with the dark elements and his sense of humour that he might be your sort of thing. 🙂 But yes, the length is SCARY. If you were interested in trying a shorter Stephen King, I got Carrie through the post and it’s a LOT shorter, like 300 pages.

      Thank you, lovely!

  9. Hi!! I read “It” last summer. LOVE the book.
    Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. I’m agree with that “It” is too long. Do you have a favorite character from It?

    • IT certainly drew me in, and I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would! Now I can’t wait to get reading more Stephen King. 🙂
      Hmm, I’d have to go for the boring answer with this one and pick the main character, Bill, I LOVED that he became a horror writer in later life. I thought that was a brilliant touch!

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