Review: Revival – Stephen King

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SYNOPSIS: In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister. Charles Jacobs, along with his beautiful wife, will transform the local church. The men and boys are all a bit in love with Mrs Jacobs; the women and girls – including Jamie’s mother and beloved sister – feel the same about Reverend Jacobs. With Jamie, the Reverend shares a deeper bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.

Then tragedy strikes the Jacobs family; the preacher curses God, mocking all religious belief, and is banished from the shocked town.

Jamie has demons of his own. In his mid-thirties, he is living a nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Addicted to heroin, stranded, desperate, he sees Jacobs again – a showman on stage, creating dazzling ‘portraits in lightning’ – and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings. Because for every cure there is a price… – via Goodreads

Yes, another King novel. I have made it my life’s mission to read everything from him. I absolutely love and adore King and his work and have read a hell of a lot of it, but a lot still isn’t all, so I am rereading the ones I have read and starting the others I have not. This is one I was curious about, as it is one of the more recent ones, and when I saw it in my library I thought it was time to give it a shot.

Man, I am so glad that I did. Revival is really good, exactly what I hoped for. You journey through life with a character, from when they are children to when that one, big, crazy event occurs, and as always, Kings blows it out of the park. When Jamie looks back on his life and reminisces, it feels as though you are, because his journey has become your journey.

Charles Jacobs is an interesting character, and the man is crazy to boot. I can totally understand how a tragedy like that could push someone clean over the edge, but the things that Jacobs was willing to do for his research is intense. I really liked reading this, and enjoyed Jamie as a character. I must say I enjoyed the gaps and the encounters between Jamie and Jacobs, though many have complained. The books devolves into plain crazy by the end, but typical King style, it takes you there and you have fun with it.

Revival is well written and an enjoyable read, definitely honing in on that Lovecraftian tribute, and something I thought was really good. I breezed through the book, and though there were some niggles, and I found the secret electricity thing to be a bit much at times because we never really got anywhere with that, this is still definitely worth the read.

Review: Finders Keepers – Stephen King

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Bill Hodges #2

SYNOPSIS: Wake up, genius.

The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years. – via Goodreads

Oh my goodness! I somehow managed to publish Mr Mercedes and then End of Watch, but forgot this one in between! That is awful!

You know, I liked Mr Mercedes well enough, and was interested to see how the story would continue, and I must say, I liked this even more than the first. Not because the first wasn’t good, it was, but this one just worked more for me, I don’t know. I really liked the concept. Brady Hartsfield is, without a doubt, the stronger villain, and I am hoping he will make his return in End of Watch, but Morris was a solid bad dude, and I really liked Pete.

Finders Keepers starts the story off way back in the day with a crazy murder, and progresses to a modern day time. It takes about a hundred or so pages before Bill and Holly make their appearance, but this doesn’t detract from the book. As is typical Stephen King, you get drawn in by the characters you are reading about, and it just works so well. Naturally he blends it seamlessly from the story told into Bill’s connection, and it works.

It’s great to see characters such as Jerome and Holly returning, and to see how well the two books tie into each other. They feel like they gel well, so that is good. Not like trying to tell stories without remembering that they are all linked together, and I like that, though King is the master of world building.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one, and I am looking forward to seeing how King closes off this trilogy. I can highly recommend these ones, especially for someone who wants to give King a shot. They are different from his usual works in that these are more detective mystery novel type deals as opposed to horror and drama, but they work and are good.

Review: End of Watch – Stephen King

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Bill Hodges Trilogy #3

SYNOPSIS: In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake, and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney—the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him on the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk, as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend Jerome Robinson and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back, and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends, but on an entire city. – via Goodreads

And so ends the Bill Hodges trilogy, and that’s sad, too, because I enjoyed the trilogy. This one definitely had me drawn in because I wanted to see Hartsfield and Hodges have their showdown again, for them to go toe to toe and all that, and I was not let down, though I honestly was hoping that Hartsfield was more Carrie than an electronic handheld device, but no matter.

End of Watch is, of course, well written, and brings Hodges, Holly, and Jerome back together, and I always like it when the trio teams up and gets to it. This is definitely the first of the three books that goes back to a typical strange, supernatural King story as opposed to the simple, clean investigative mysteries so far, which I like, as it marries this current series with a style of his we are more familiar with, and he does it successfully.

This is a fast, easy read, and I must say that the story was engaging. A little more predictable than some of the other work we are more used to from King, but well worth it. I don’t really have an awful lot to say about this, other than I enjoyed it.

End of Watch is a solid end to a good trilogy, and I enjoyed it. Well written, good pacing, characters we have come to love, I would recommend this trilogy for anyone wanting to check out King, especially if they are looking for his work that is not firmly rooted in the supernatural horror.

Review: The Mist – Stephen King

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SYNOPSIS: It’s a hot, lazy day, perfect for a cookout, until you see those strange dark clouds. Suddenly a violent storm sweeps across the lake and ends as abruptly and unexpectedly as it had begun. Then comes the mist…creeping slowly, inexorably into town, where it settles and waits, trapping you in the supermarket with dozens of others, cut off from your families and the world. The mist is alive, seething with unearthly sounds and movements. What unleashed this terror? Was it the Arrowhead Project—the top secret government operation that everyone has noticed but no one quite understands? And what happens when the provisions have run out and you’re forced to make your escape, edging blindly through the dim light? – via Goodreads

I have been on a real roll with King recently, and wanted another read recently, but did not want to commit to a bigger book again (don’t even judge me), and decided I have put off reading The Mist for way too long now, even though I have seen the movie and enjoyed it, too. Well, The Mist is a great pick as you get your King fill and it breezes along so quickly that it is over before you even know it.

The Mist is not a long book (obviously), but is a bit longer than one would expect for a short story, so it’s pretty cool like that. The book wastes no time setting itself up and diving into the story, and also doesn’t spend too much time exploring the whys and the whats, it just gets into it all, which is fantastic. You get this little slice of terror and then it is over, leaving you reeling, asking all the questions that won’t really get answered, and that is okay.

For a short story, there are quite a few characters, and more are fleshed out than you would expect, and I liked that. Our main peanut is David Drayton, and we read of him, his struggles, and how he tells the story of all the crazy that ensues after Maine suffers a heavy, odd storm. Ollie is a character I enjoyed, as well as Mrs Reppler (teacher). Mrs Carmody peeved me, so in a few short pages King still manages to give you a character to dislike.

The Mist is a great example of a monster horror, which is awesome. Not much mincing around with the paranormal or psychological here my friend, oh no, let’s get straight into that bizarre, nasty, monster horror that one sometimes so desperately craves. This book totally delivers on all fronts there, so that is good.

Overall, The Mist is a pretty damn good short, quick read if you are interested, and has monster horror to keep you going. It knows what it is and it goes for it, no mincing about. It is well written and barrels along, definitely worth the read.

Review: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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“Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”
– Andy Dufresne

SYNOPSIS: Two imprisoned men bond over a number of years, finding solace and eventual redemption through acts of common decency. – via IMDB

Seriously. Truly. Wow. I definitely know there are more eloquent reviews on this movie, and it has been discussed endlessly, and it is that great and all, but I am going to try and share my two cents about this movie. I decided to rewatch The Shawshank Redemption recently after watching Gone With The Wind. Not because they are remotely the same or anything like that, but because I was in the mood for serious(ly) fantastic movies.

Well, this certainly ticked those boxes.

The Shawshank Redemption has a great story to tell, sure, but it is the characters and the performances from the actors that played them that are really the stars here. Everyone lives their role, gets right into it, and because of that you are swept up into the narrative as delivered by Red. Red tells you Andy’s story, we see Andy’s story, and it is told with such spirit that you can laugh like crazy in some places and just love all that is going on, and then be driven to sadness and heavy contemplative silence within five minutes of one another. It’s an amazing thing when a film can so successfully balance the opposites like that.

Andy suffered some extreme situations while in Shawshank, but there were also some amazing things that he achieved, even while imprisoned. Naturally there are the men who went on to become Andy’s friends, headed up by Red. The band of men have great camaraderie between one another, and they really all respect each other and get along. They are quite tight-knit, and it is sweet. The Shawshank Redemption is a story told from within a prison, but there are large sections of time where you forget this fact when watching the men together, and then the point is run home when you realise that they have to barter to have a few beers while working, or that they have to report to someone the whole time.

The movie doesn’t really dwell on the crimes these men committed to land them in Shawshank. It focuses a lot more on Andy’s story, sure, but also how these men have adjusted to life, and how they have worked through the acts that landed them there. Some for the better, some not so much. It’s also something to say about the storytelling that the free, law-abiding men are all twisted and crooked, and the men on the inside, the convicted criminals, are often portrayed as the more trusty, honest lot. Interesting times.

The score for this is absolutely fantastic, and truly lends itself to the experience. The performances are all great, and the pacing for the story drags you in and makes you forget all about the clock, and I love it when a movie is able to do that. You feel genuine hope, happiness, anger and sadness when watching The Shawshank Redemption, and it is great when a movie can make you feel all these emotions, not just some of them. I would highly recommend The Shawshank Redemption, and if you have seen it, I think it is high time for a rewatch.

Review: Mr Mercedes – Stephen King

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Bill Hodges Trilogy #1

SYNOPSIS: In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again.

Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable. – via Goodreads

This is yet another of those books that I have been meaning to read and just never got to… I am seriously starting to contemplate a book blind spot list alongside my movie one! Anyway, I have thoroughly been enjoying the King books I have been reading recently, and decided that now was a fantastic time to dip my toes into this trilogy, and boy, I wasn’t wrong!

King, as always, weaves some truly interesting characters. These didn’t necessarily feel as nuanced as some of his other works, but they were good. I really liked Jerome, he was a really good character, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his interactions with Holly as well as Hodges. Holly, too, was a character I grew to like a lot, as I was rather suspicious of her initially. Hodges and Janey have such a lovely relationship, and it was something I did look forward to.

Mr Mercedes is a book that gets down to business relatively fast. There are characters we meet, they get killed, and the story gets underway. The books breezes by really quickly, too, so it just gets into the swing of things, and reads as though this is not the first instalment in a series, which is an art to be appreciated. The humour, too, was pretty solid here, and I had a few smiles throughout. I also really liked the Judas Coyne reference that was thrown in here by King – little Easter eggs like that are thing I super enjoy in his world.

Brady is an engrossing villain, too. I was hooked reading all his pages, though he made me sick. Without a doubt he was definitely off his rocker in some fundamental ways, and it was so sad to read about his childhood – not for him, but for Frankie. The relationship between him and his mother is proper disturbing, too.

Mr Mercedes might not be King’s greatest work, but it is definitely still well worth the read. It flows well, has a good story and it is interesting, and is peppered with characters you will get involved with and invest in. I will definitely be checking out the other books in this series.

Review: 1922 (2017)

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“I believe that there’s another man inside of every man. A stranger. A conniving man.”
– Wilfred James

SYNOPSIS: A simple yet proud farmer in the year 1922 conspires to murder his wife for financial gain, convincing his teenage son to participate. – via IMDB

So, in keeping up with 2017 being Stephen King’s year, I had to check out some more offerings. I quite enjoyed It, and heard good things about the Netflix offerings, so I figured I may as well check it out. 1922 is engaging, one can absolutely not deny that. It is a slow burn, which might irritate some, but I thought it was the right pacing to set the right tone for this film, because the story is not a fast, crazy horror. It is a psychological slow burn that creeps up on you and takes you down.

First off, while the world might not love Thomas Jane, I quite enjoy him, and I think he is pretty awesome for King adaptations, so I was pleased to see him return for yet another outing. He plays Wilfred James, a farmer who is quite taken with his lands, and to watch him move from simple farmer, father, husband to some greedy man is wonderful, as Jane handles the shift well.

1922 has some solid pacing working in its favour, too, as this is not a story that should be told in a rush. It is a deliberate setting with a deliberate outcome, and is not a mile a minute story. The slow burn totally worked for me, but I know not everyone is sold on it. The story is rather fascinating, too. Not revolutionary, that’s for sure, but engrossing nonetheless. There were some rather intense section to sit through, too.

I think that 1922 is a solid outing and worth the watch. You get a chilling look into James’s mind, his greed for the land and his manipulating and conniving was quite something to watch. His refusal to accept the repercussions was intense, and to see what his horrendous plans did to his son and to his family is something else. 1922 is a dark tale that slowly sets itself out before you, one that gets under your skin. Well worth the watch.

Top Ten Books I Read In 2017

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So I decided to put together a list of the top ten new (to me) books that I have read this year. Now, I read some amazing books this year, but I also read some really meh books, so without further ado, here are the ten books I enjoyed the most this year.

10. Her Last Day – T. R. Ragan

I was quite impressed with Ragan’s newest offering, especially considering that I am not really a fan of the Lizzy Gardner books. I found this one to be similar but refreshing, featuring a much better story and characters that actually interest me and come across as more realistic. Worth the read, and I will certainly be checking out more books in this series as they come along.

9. The Killer Inside Me – Jim Thompson

First book I have ever read from Jim Thompson, definitely encourages me to check out more! The book is creepy in that it gets under your skin, telling the story from the perspective of a criminal, where you get a good look-see inside the mind. I liked it a lot, and I believe there is a movie now, too. I will certainly be looking into that.

8. The Innocent Wife – Amy Lloyd

Man, was this just something else or what? A debut novel from Amy Lloyd and all! The book tells the story of a woman who falls in love with and marries a man on death row, and we all know how morbidly fascinating that is. Well, The Innocent wife is well worth the read, and I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for more from her in future.

7. The Hazel Wood – Melissa Albert

Man, I really liked this. Fantastical, magical, dark adventure, and I quite enjoyed undertaking this journey. It sweeps you up and carries you away, and it is well worth the read.

6. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Indeed, it took me far too long to read this, but I am glad that I have. I totally get why this book is a classic. It reads pretty easily and has plenty sass and humour to it as well as a ton of social commentary, all the while going with the classic girl meets guy she hates but later doesn’t story. I was so hooked on this, and can see this being something I will return to time and time again.

5. It – Stephen King

This was one of my monster reads of the year, and I have no regrets. It is such a good book. While not King’s greatest work, it is a mammoth story that engages you throughout, and has some truly amazing character work going on. It is such a coming of age story mixed in with some solid horror, and was worth every second I spent on it.

4. The Bone Collector – Jefferey Deaver

Heck yeah, I am so stoked to finally have started this series, and it’s been a blast! The Bone Collector is one hell of an opening for a series, and I truly enjoy reading about Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs. The book reads fast, has so many great twists and has plenty good humour and is good fun while still having some grit to it.

3. The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel

This book was so my cup of tea. Oh yes. It is dark and gritty and explores some heavy themes, and is set out in such away you are drawn in. Amy Engel was also super cool about it all on Twitter, and I always appreciate it when an author/writer/director/actor/whatever gets involved with their fans. The Roanoke Girls explores a taboo subject, and the book is quite compelling and fascinating throughout, and tells the story of Roanoke in a really chilling way. Plus Cooper is book crush of the year for me. #JustSaying

2. The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter 

I love Karin Slaughter. She’s amazing, and a brilliantly talented writer. This was probably the book I was most excited for this year, and let me tell you, it did not let me down at all. I was yanked in from page one and got so super invested in the lives of Charlie and Sam. Wow, what a story. I loved it, and could highly recommend this Slaughter standalone. Ballsy, heavy, some absolutely fantastic humour and great characters, this is the definition of a fantastic read.

1. 11/22/63 – Stephen King

Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that, after I finished this book in January 2017, I have yet to stop hanging. This book blew my mind apart. What an amazing read! If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favour, do it. Don’t let the size put you off. King weaves a masterful story with amazing characters. 11/22/63 is engaging, sharp, and stays with you long after. Yes, I am a Kennedy assassination junkie, so this was going to appeal to me, but the book is ultimately more than just attempting to stop Kennedy’s assassination. Read it. Do it. Now.

Review: The Dead Zone – Stephen King

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SYNOPSIS: Johnny, the small boy who skated at breakneck speed into an accident that for one horrifying moment plunged him into The Dead Zone.

Johnny Smith, the small-town schoolteacher who spun the wheel of fortune and won a four-and-a-half-year trip into The Dead Zone.

John Smith, who awakened from an interminable coma with an accursed power—the power to see the future and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone. – via Goodreads

I recently read It, after being in the mood for a King novel for ages. I thoroughly enjoyed it and read a few other books, but the King bug bit me again, and this time I ventured for The Dead Zone. Totally worth it folks, totally worth it.

The book is actually a rather quick read, and flows really well. The story is quite good, and draws you in from the beginning, though it does feel (especially when you get to the end) that you got a slightly more in depth snapshot of something that happened (like a moment in time), but served no real purpose, though you can also sit and think on that and see how it actually does mean something. This totally depends on what you take from the book, and everything will take something else.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Johnny and Sarah, his accident, his parents and how they (and Sarah) coped with Johnny’s coma after his accident. This is typical Stephen King, weaving some in depth characters to look at and chew on, and this book is no exception. Vera is a woman that starts off sounding like a woman with a bit of a stick up her ass, and then completely devolves into denial and some major mental health issues. Herb is a lovely man, and while he has some dark thoughts about Johnny, you can understand them, too.

The Dead Zone is proper psychological thrills. There are only few instances where there is some extreme violence and/or blood. The rest is all about Johnny and the “ability” he woke from the coma with. It is really interesting to read about Johnny’s recovery, and how this ability is something he fears, but is not something he can get rid of, and so it will haunt him. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how the people around him treated him, how they didn’t believe him, thought he was crazy, feared him, respected him, or were creeped out. There were some really nice characters in here, too.

Overall The Dead Zone is a pretty good read that zips on by rather easily. I was engaged throughout, and once again can appreciate King’s craft, he is really talented. The book is well written and engaging and has a solid story to chew on, whether you feel ultimately that it made you ask questions, or just gave you a snippet of a few years in a young man’s life, it is worth checking out. Man, all I want is some more King to read now!

Review: It – Stephen King

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SYNOPSIS: To the children, the town was their whole world. To the adults, knowing better, Derry, Maine was just their home town: familiar, well-ordered for the most part. A good place to live.

It was the children who saw – and felt – what made Derry so horribly different. In the storm drains, in the sewers, IT lurked, taking on the shape of every nightmare, each one’s deepest dread. Sometimes IT reached up, seizing, tearing, killing . . .

The adults, knowing better, knew nothing.

Time passed and the children grew up, moved away. The horror of IT was deep-buried, wrapped in forgetfulness. Until they were called back, once more to confront IT as IT stirred and coiled in the sullen depths of their memories, reaching up again to make their past nightmares a terrible present reality. – via Goodreads

Man, oh man! I have been itching for a Stephen King novel for some time now recently (ask Natasha, I have been putting off rereading 11/22/63 – it will happen sometime soon), and decided the other day screw it, let’s do It, what with the movie coming and all. I spent a chunk of September reading this because, aside from being a massive book, it takes time to hit a rhythm, but when you do it flows. My problem? Reading snatches of it on the tube every day (when I change three times) is not conducive to slipping into a rhythm.

Now, on to the book. Right off the bat, Stephen King is a master storyteller, someone who can really weave a tale to draw you in, and It is no exception. After each character is introduced to us, you rapidly develop an understanding of their personalities, and can easily discern each from the other – they all have a distinctive voice. The book serves as a constant reminder for the phenomenal character building King can do – each one of these kids brought something to the table with them. Bill, Eddie, Richie, Mike, Ben, Beverly, Stan, each of them had something unique going on.

It skips between 1957 and 1985, and the stories unfold concurrently, which I think is great. You see the encounters come as they are adults, and you make the discoveries with the adult versions of these kids as they make them, and I liked that bit of storytelling. The friendship between these kids is great, too.  I truly enjoyed how this is a book about growing up, friends, fears, reality, abuse, hopes and dreams – heck, just know it has a lot of themes it deals with, and plenty drama. It also goes from that and delivers all the gore, blood and guts you could hope for in the final third of the book – you get your blood and you get a story with heart, so it is a pretty good double whammy.

I had some issues at times that there was some waffling (it can happen in a King novel), and there was a really questionable cop out ultimately with Tom Rogan (for reals?! After all that?!) and Henry Bowers, and I really wanted answers about what happened to Mike Hanlon’s family farm, considering his dad worked real hard on it and made some smart financial decisions for Mike. That being said, there was way more to like about this than not. I thoroughly enjoyed the world building King got into here, too. What a crazy ride!

It is interesting and put together well, and keeps you engaged throughout. It is quite a story and it is engaging. It deals with a multitude of themes, and handles them all rather deftly. I would highly recommend It. It is a long journey, and I felt a little lost after completing this leviathan read, but I enjoyed it. Thoroughly.