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The book – one of King’s most beloved works – is essentially a story of good vs evil, in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was initially published in 1978 and then reissued including parts that had been cut from the original publication (for financial reasons). In the later version, the setting was moved from 1980 to 1990. It was the later, bigger edition which I read, which came in at over 1300 pages. So a big brick of a book!

The books starts with a man made plague sweeping the earth and killing most humans, although a few remain immune. After the plague come the dreams – people dream of a faceless man who terrifies them, and an elderly lady who they see as a saviour. Two groups form – followers of the faceless man – Randall Flagg, and of the elderly lady – Mother Abagail.

The scene is set for an epic battle between the forces of good and the forces of evil; between God and the Devil or certainly at least between their emissaries on earth.

The story has everything – the supernatural, horror, human relationships and the gamut of emotions – there is love, hate, fear and despair, hope and friendship. There are unlikely heroes and tragic villains. It’s epic in every sense. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although on balance I still prefer Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King, which I read earlier this year.

The Stand is a wonderful book though which really drew me in, and I really came to care about a lot of the characters. Stu Redman was my favourite character in the whole story and I also have a soft spot for Nick Andros. It took the me the best part of two months to read, which is a LONG time for me! But it was worth it. Highly recommended.

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The Blurb:

Every few Sundays, Anna and her extended family and friends get together for lunch. They talk, they laugh, they bicker, they eat too much. Sometimes the important stuff is left unsaid, other times it’s said in the wrong way.

Sitting between her ex-husband and her new lover, Anna is coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy at the age of forty. Also at the table are her ageing grandmother, her promiscuous sister, her flamboyantly gay brother and a memory too terrible to contemplate.

Until, that is, a letter arrives from the person Anna scarred all those years ago. Can Anna reconcile her painful past with her uncertain future?

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My Thoughts:

I am in two minds about this book. First of all, I listened to it as an audiobook and the narration by Karen Cass was excellent. Secondly, I really liked the format of the book – each chapter revolves around a different meeting of the Sunday Lunch Club – the Piper family take it in turns to host – and the menu for each gathering is at the top of the chapter. From the events of the each ‘club’ meeting, it becomes clear what has happened between chapters.

However, I was a bit put off by the obvious attempt to shoehorn as many social issues into the story as possible. It was so obviously politically correct that it got a bit tiresome (to clarify, I have no issue with political correctness but there were so many instances crammed in here that it felt very deliberately done). The ending was predictable and I was waiting for a particular twist that never came.

I wouldn’t say it was awful but just a bit too treacly for me. Nonetheless it helped pass time while I was out on some long runs.

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Year of first publication: 2018

Genre: Family, drama

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Murder Mystery (2019)

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Nick and Audrey (Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston) are headed to Europe for a cheap anniversary holiday when they are invited to spend their holiday aboard a luxury yacht, courtesy of Viscount Charles Cavendish (Luke Evans).. While on the yacht, Charle’s rich uncle is murdered and Nick and Audrey find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery. There were limited guests on the yacht, and one of them is a killer. And when others start turning up dead, it’s clear that all of their lives are in danger! It sounds like an Agatha Christie novel, and this movie definitely plays homage to Christie, but it’s played strictly for laughs. I personally find Adam Sandler very hit and miss (more miss than hit) but I really enjoyed this film.

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Year of release: 2019

Director: Kyle Newacheck

Writers: James Vanderbilt

Main cast: Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Luke Evans, Gemma Arterton, David Walliams, Dany Boon, John Kani, Adeel Akhtar, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Luis Gerardo Mendez, Shioli Kutsana, Terence Stamp

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Genre: Comedy, mystery

Highlights: Jennifer Aniston, a great ensemble cast

Lowlights: None

Overall: If you like wacky comedies and mystery stories, give this a whirl. It’s never really tense, but always entertaining

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When your main cast is Christopher Walked, Morgan Freeman, William H Macy and Marcia Gay Harden, you have to ask – why have more people not heard of this film? It’s certainly very entertaining throughout and gave us plenty of laughs. Walken, Freeman and Macy are three security guards at a Boston art museum, who are devastated when they learn that their favourite pieces of art are to be transferred to an art gallery in Denmark, and they hatch a plan to steal the pieces for themselves…

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Year of release: 2009

Director: Peter Hewitt

Writer: Michael LeSieur

Main cast: Christopher Walken, Morgan Freeman, William H Macy, Marcia Gay Harden

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Genre: Comedy, crime caper

Highlights: Everything! Lots of comedy, and a superb cast

Lowlights: None

Overall: Give this a watch – I can’t imagine you will be disappointed

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In this short book, renowned psychologist Susie Orbach discusses how our bodies have become a commodity, something to be altered by surgery, weight loss, make up, etc. Social media has reinforced ideas of the perfect body, and anyone who doesn’t have one (i.e., most of us) is made to feel that it is our fault and that we need to change it to be accepted. Our body is no longer somewhere to live from, but a commodity to prove our worth in the world. In Scandinavia, women who think they are too tall are having their femur broken and reset to make them shorter; in China, people who think they are too short can have a metal rod inserted to make them taller; women are having plastic surgery to shrink their waist and enlarge their breasts, while men are having surgery to increase the length and girth of their penis. Something has gone very askew in the way we view our own bodies.

Orbach also examines extreme cases such as Andrew, a physically healthy man who felt that he could only be happy if he had his legs amputated, and she looks at the psychology behind such stories.

It’s a short book at 145 pages and is something of an introduction to the ideas contained within, rather than a full scale investigation, but it makes for fascinating reading, talking about how the dieting industry is based on failure and plays on people’s insecurities. This is a book to make you think, it’s a book to make you angry, and it’s a book that everyone should read. Fascinating and highly recommended.

‘Vice’ (2018)

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The story of the fall and rise of Dick Cheney, vice President to George W Bush. This film charts the transformation of a young, drunken ne’er-do-well Cheney, into one of the most powerful men in America, and a man who basically played George W. Bush like a violin. It stars Christian Bale (both brilliant and unrecognisable) as Cheney, Steve Carell as Donald Rumsfeld and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush. Amy Adams stars as Lynne Cheney, Dick’s wife who is just as detestable and ambitious as her husband. The film aims to tell the truth as far as possible, but there are moments of high comedy and satire which are genuinely laugh-out-loud in places (unexpected in a biography of such a hate-filled and unpleasant character), and certain scenes necessarily take a certain dramatic licence.

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Year of release: 2018

Director: Adam McKay

Writer: Adam McKay

Main cast: Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Amy Adams, Sam Rockwell, Alison Pill, Jesse Plemons, Lily Rabe, Tyler Perry

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Genre: Drama, biography, satire

Highlights: The whole cast are superb

Lowlights: The only lowlight is that Dick Cheney is actually a real person

Overall: Excellent – well acted, well scripted, compelling and even funny in parts. Recommended.

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The Blurb:

Imagine you meet a man, spend seven glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything.

So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.

But he doesn’t call.

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence.

What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason – and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?

The truth.

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My thoughts: 

This was an audiobook which I listened to mainly while running. In all honesty, I think the cover art and the title are a bit misleading (the original title was ‘Ghosted’ which I think was better, but anyway…) in that they give the impression that this book is chicklit, which it actually isn’t.

I did enjoy this book a lot. I liked both Sarah and Eddie, and also Sarah’s friends Tommy and Jo. I don’t think it’s spoilery to say that there’s a twist, but I am not going to give any clues about what it is. Suffice to say that I didn’t guess it at all, and thought it was very cleverly done. But this is not a thriller, it’s more a drama which centres around the sort of thing that has happened to almost everyone at one time or another.

My only criticism is that I think the ending was slightly drawn out, and could have been a bit ‘tighter’. Overall though, a nice story, well written. I would definitely read or listen to more by Rosie Walsh. Credit also to Katherine Press, who did an excellent job of the narration).

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Year of first publication: 2018

Genre: Drama, romance

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