Book Review: 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King

Book Review: 11/22/63: A Novel by Stephen King

11-22-63-novel-stephen-king-book-reviewI’ve mentioned Stephen King several times on my blog and that’s because he’s my literary hero. But that’s a story for another day.

When readers hear the name Stephen King, I’m sure many think of his hits that were turned into movies. Those like Carrie, Pet Cemetery, or Cujo. If you’ve seen these movies or read the books, you know King has the ability to write gruesome stories, yet keep the story interesting enough that the horror doesn’t take away from the plot.

Still, many people don’t enjoy horror, including me. At least these days. I used to LOVE King’s horror stories, but I’ve grown out of them.

That’s why 11/22/63 surprised me. I know King’s books aren’t all horror, but this one was different for me. It was easy to tell King was the one who wrote it. It had his humor, his attention to character detail and intricacies, but the feel was different.

Book Description via Amazon

Dallas, 11/22/63: Three shots ring out.

President John F. Kennedy is dead.

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in a Maine town. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away . . . but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke. . . . Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten . . . and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

In Stephen King’s “most ambitious and accomplished” (NPR) novel, time travel has never been so believable. Or so terrifying.

Book Review

I wasn’t even alive when President Kennedy was assassinated, yet the idea behind this book was intriguing because of the stories my parents told. They couldn’t tell much, but they knew exactly where they were when they heard the president was killed. They knew the feeling, the horror, and the sadness. I couldn’t wait to hear what ideas King could create during this time period.

This read was well worth the wait. I had to wait until my father-in-law and a brother-in-law finished with their copy. I guess I didn’t have to, but seeing that $35 price tag on the hardcover gave me pause.

King sucks you in from the very first chapter. It helped that I had an idea of what the book was about, but it wouldn’t have mattered. You’re given tension, a great plot idea, and flawed characters right from the beginning.

The characters? Amazing as always. Each character has their quirks, their small details that make them real whether it is the way they say a specific word, the way they wear their hat, or the way they smell.

If you haven’t noticed yet, 11/22/63 is a HUGE book. The hardcover edition is listed at 849 pages. Not a big deal if you’re an epic fantasy fan such as myself, but if you’re not used to books this long, you may get bogged down.

Getting bogged down wasn’t possible for me throughout most of the story because the intensity and interest level were kept on over-drive. If there was one area where a reader may get bogged down it would be during a part when the main character just observes. It was interesting, but I personally could have used a little more action, or had it broken up a little more. I think that was around page 500 or so, and went on for around 50 pages.

However, if I was alive during that time period, or if I was a history buff, the details alone probably would have kept me interested. I also wonder if this was King’s idea of the calm before the storm. There wasn’t necessarily a calm, but once this part was over, I read the last few hundred pages in a day.

Other than that one portion, I have no complaints. It was one of my top three favorites by Stephen King, maybe even my favorite.

If you enjoy typical Stephen King, you should try it. The same goes if you’re into historical fiction, alternate histories, time travel stories, the Kennedy assassination, or just an awesome book.

I give 11/22/63 by Stephen King five of five stars. This book is well worth the read.

Grab a copy here on Amazon US, or here on Amazon UK. You can grab a copy here on Barnes and Noble.

Check out the Amazon reviews for 11/22/63 below.


Becoming an Indie Author – Guest Post by KJ Waters

You know how you get to that point where you’re so far behind you just need to take a break? That was me… only my break has been around a month. Lucky for me, I have friends like KJ who keep reminding me I need to get back in the social media game.

I’m sharing a guest post she sent me quite awhile ago. This is my public apology to her for hiding in that writer’s cave for much too long this month.

Enough about me, read on to learn about KJ Waters and how she became an Indie author. Stay tuned until the end to check out a link to the first chapter in her upcoming debut novel, Stealing Time.

Guest Post by KJ Waters

Well, here I am back on Kirkus’ blog. Thank you, Kirkus, for giving me another crack at it. Aren’t you all excited about his new novel, Wrath! Have you had a chance to read the sample chapters and buy it? What are you waiting for? It’s brilliantly dark and twisty and you’re going to love it.

(Check out a sample on Amazon by clicking on the cover on the sales page here)

Round Two as a Guest Blogger

Kirkus asked me to talk about the process of writing my first novel. This is rather fitting because Kirkus has been a huge inspiration for me to get my book out this year.

I’ve been working on it for seven years now, off and on, between having children, moving across the country, and a number of typical curve balls life throws at all of us. Last winter, I got on twitter for the first time and early on I met Kirkus. He, as his usual uber friendly supporting self, offered oodles of writing advice and amusing anecdotes.

As a curious sort, I bought The Fall of Billy Hitchings, his first novel that had been out for a few months. I wanted to see what an Indie Author with a gazillion twitter followers would write. I have to admit, I was an Indie virgin (can I say that on your blog Kirkus?) having not read any self-published eBooks. I was very impressed with his novel and equally impressed with the massive social media monstrosity he has developed in support of his dream of writing.

My hesitation at finishing my novel was in part due to the daunting task of marketing it to a publisher and waiting up to two years for any kind of response. Then finding that I needed to purchase the first 10,000 copies or some other weird nonsense as a first time author. That was what I was told from an insider in the traditional publishing business. Do I look like have money to buy 10,000 books? Well I don’t!

To sum it up, Kirkus was the window through which I saw my future as a novelist — an Indie author. A whole new world of social media marketing opened up to me, something that I could do on a shoestring budget. After all, time is what I do have, not the free flowing cash to purchase a garage full of books. Thank you, Kirkus, for opening that door for me and shoving me through it!

Now I’m blogging (Blondie in the Water) and have an all about me page, author face book, blah, blah, blah killing oodles of hours to update statuses, tweet, and blog. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed learning the nuances of this new form of marketing, but even more importantly was meeting Kirkus and all the other amazing friends on twitter.

How did I get the idea to write a novel?

Excellent question. I was on a family trip heading to Maine. We lived in Florida, and yes, we drove so you can imagine the number of hours I had available to think in between handing drinks and food back to small blonde people strapped in their car seats.

One of my favorite authors is Diana Gabaldon, the author of the Outlander series. She talks about her writing process as developing snippets of the story that she later connects to other snippets. No giant structure, no anal planning and plotting. I realized that I could do that. I am a creative soul with a ton of ideas, but I thought to be a successful author you had to organize them to death. Not so according to lovely Diana.

I began to develop a story with the background of what happened to me the previous summer. We moved to Florida arriving three days before Hurricane Charley hit. Thank you Florida for the warm welcome! Within our first six weeks in that lovely state, we were also hit by Hurricane Francis (the size of Texas), and Hurricane Jeanne. In between those, Ivan missed us and devastated the gulf coast.

Stealing Time - Unofficial Cover - writing

Unofficial Stealing Time Cover

I couldn’t think of a better backdrop for my novel. I’ve been fascinated with time travel since I was a kid so that became a crucial element. I think I’ve tackled the subject matter in a very original way and hope you check it out when I’m finished.

When I returned from our trip, I began scouring the bookstore for advice on writing. I came across The Marshall Plan, by Evan Marshall. This book has been an amazing help in outlining the novel. It creates the structure for your novel based on genre and word count. It pushes you to end each scene in a dramatic way.

Talk about a perfect fit! I am great at idea generation and this book provides the structure to make it work in a fully organized plot, keeping track of point of view characters, adding to the suspense and drama, and juggling subplots, character story lines, and a lot more.

I recently found Evan on twitter at @MarshallPlanet and found that he now has Marshall Plan available in software format. I’ve had it for about a month and it has been an invaluable tool in helping get the big picture of the story line while tracking all the minute details.

Here is the link if you want to check it out: The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing.

On twitter, I’ve met a dozen or so amazingly supportive writing friends. Since we’ve been talking, they’ve all released new books and I’m still cranking this baby out that I’ve been working on for years.

Why is mine taking so dang long?

I offer no explanation except to say that I am a stay-at-home mom with kids in tow at all times. This does not leave an abundance of time to work on the book, and I’ve already admitted to my “problem” with structure. I am working diligently on Stealing Time away from the family and hope to get it out by the beginning of 2013, with book two and three to arrive sometime after that.

Thanks KJ!

Thanks for being an awesome author (and Twitter) friend. You’ve shown amazing support since the beginning. As I say to all my friends, just keep nudging me and eventually this anti-social writer will come out to play.

Be sure to check out the prologue to Stealing time on the KJ Waters blog by clicking here!

Connect with KJ Waters



Blondie in the Water – Blog


Writing Update – What I’m Working On Now

I thought I’d throw out a quick writing update to let you all know what I’m up to these days.

Short Story Contest

I’m in the midst of writing and editing a short story for a contest I recently heard about. My original plan was to submit In Search of Nectar until I read the instructions more carefully. The short needs to be a completely original work.

writing with penSo far, I really like what the my new short story has to offer. It’s almost a suspense/drama type work. It’s strange compared to what I’ve written in the past. I’m not sure if it’s because of a book I’m reading right now, but I chose first person present point of view. Not as easy as it looks.

As part of the contest, we’re supposed to promote our page on their site and get readers to check it out. I’ll put out updates as I learn more.

If you’re an author interested in submitting a story, you can find more information here: America’s Next Author.

Novel Ideas

I’m in the idea stages for the third John Reeves novel, and the world-building process for an epic fantasy. My goal is to write both simultaneously, but it really depends on how my brain works since I have issues switching between genres when writing.

Other Writing Formats

I may, let me repeat that, MAY release my first two books as audio books some time in the next year. I’m about 90% sure I’ll do it, but it’s more a matter of when. I’m also undecided about whether I’ll read them myself or hire a professional. It depends on whether my past acting experience allows me to read my books at the quality I prefer.

Random Works and Ideas

I’m also designing covers for a couple short stories I’ve released on my blog already. I hope to have those published online by the end of the year.

On a final note, it’s been suggested I begin converting The Fall of Billy Hitchings to a movie script. This wasn’t in my plans when I began writing, but I certainly see the benefits. This isn’t at the top of my list, but we’ll see how things go.

If it seems as if I disappear for a few days at a time, now you know why! Gotta go. Time to finish up my new short story.

WRATH (A John Reeves Novel) Now On Amazon!


Cover Design by www.ethinkgraphics.com, Copyright 2012

From the moment I released The Fall of Billy Hitchings in November of last year, my mind has focused on Wrath. I knew I was on to something in this second John Reeves novel and I’ve heard nothing but good things so far.

My original plan was to release Wrath as part of the KDP Select program on Amazon. As I mentioned in the Kirkus MacGowan Newsletter, this limits a book’s availability to only Amazon, but the promotional benefits greatly outweigh the negative aspects. Usually.

After careful deliberation, I’ve decided to release it on multiple platforms. It may slow the sales in the short term, but my hope is that we can find new readers from other sites such as Barnes and Noble. I’ll update links on the Wrath page as it becomes available at these other sites.

In case you haven’t had the opportunity yet, I’ll introduce you to the second John Reeves novel.

Wrath Book Description

John Reeves moves back to his childhood home and takes an easy job as a Private Investigator with his high school friend. A grieving widow asks for help when her husband’s bizarre death is unofficially labeled a suicide. John joins his brother Alan, a local police officer, to learn why the town’s residents are dying horrific deaths at a breakneck pace.

What Readers are Saying About Wrath:

Wrath “started with one gruesome death and just kept going from there. Don’t be mistaken though, this wasn’t a blood soaked book for the sake of gruesomeness. There is a story here that started long before the Reeves boys had their first bouts of teenage acne”

~Tom Stronach

Read the full Amazon review here

“I found myself gripping the edges of my Kindle with my nose inches from the screen out of fear for the characters, then laughing out loud at some goofy comment by John.”

~Alexis Jones

Read the full Amazon review here

“I was going to compare Kirkus to James Patterson but I think he is going to surpass even that guy! I encourage anyone who loves a good whodunnit to read this book!”

~ Rebecca Nielsen

Read the full Amazon review here

A Pipe Dream Realized?

I’m pumped! I love the response to Wrath so far, and I just hope it continues at this rate.

If Wrath sounds like something you’re interested in, you can grab it here from Amazon US, or here from Amazon UK (other sales sites coming soon).

If you’re a little technologically savvy and you can’t wait for Wrath to come out in your format, check out this post I wrote about how to change the format of eBooks without DRM: eBook – How to Change the Format Using Calibre

Thanks for the support you’ve all shown for my pipe dream. As one Twitter friend mentioned the other day, I may need to stop calling it a “pipe dream” soon. Pipe dreams are considered unattainable.

WRATH Giveaway and Amazon Gift Card Winners!

Thank you to all the bloggers who helped spread the word about Wrath (A John Reeves Novel), and thank you to all of you who commented on our blogs!

As a reminder, I entered the name of every commenter into a document and assigned him or her certain numbers depending on the amount of entries. I used a random number generator to pick each winner. On top of the original twenty winners, I also added a special bonus winner!

Winners of the FREE eBook copy of WRATH (A John Reeves Novel):

1. uya – Kayleigh’s Spot

2. Cissy Gouthro – J. A. Gouthro’s Blog

3. Andrew Seaward – The Top Shelf

Cover Design by www.ethinkgraphics.com, Copyright 2012

4. C.J. Listro – Kayleigh’s Spot

5. Khari Wellman – Kayleigh’s Spot

6. Opus N. Bill – Kayleigh’s Spot

7. Gale Minchew – Blondie in the Water

8. stefanie gladden – Kayleigh’s Spot

9. Dianne Parchman – Kayleigh’s Spot

10. Valentine – Blondie in the Water

11. Kennyc – Blondie in the Water

12. jasli98 – Multifaceted Moi

13. delanea – The Literary Schmorgasboard

14. Ashley T. – Celebrating Authors

15. Ted G – The Literary Schmorgasboard

16. Holly CartonofCare – Blondie in the Water

17. bessamy – The Literary Schmorgasboard

18. Norman House – Multifaceted Moi

19. nedrahej – Celebrating Authors

20. Terry Tyler – Blondie in the Water

Winner of a FREE eBook copy of WRATH and a $25 (approximately £15.82) gift card:

Stefano Scaglione – Lia London Come Write With Me

Congratulations on your win Stefano! Enjoy the Amazon gift card!

A special thanks to K. J. Waters from Blondie in the Water for garnering the most comments on her WRATH giveaway announcement! I’ll contact the bloggers who helped me out via eMail soon.

Bonus winner of a FREE eBook copy of WRATH:

I try to reward those who have helped me out the most when running a promotion. I give this bonus copy to chrisineedtoshare for the amazing support shown on multiple Wrath blog posts. Every comment entered made me want to read my own book! Thank you so much for the amazing comments. Now I just hope Wrath is everything you’re looking for!

If you’re one of the winners listed above, please contact me at kirkus(at)kirkusmacgowan(dot)com with the words, “WRATH is mine!” in the subject line.

Information to include in the eMail:

1. Your real name.
2. The name you commented with.
3. The eBook format in which you wish to receive WRATH.
4. If you prefer the Kindle format, please share the eMail address on your Amazon account so I can send it to you directly through Amazon.
5. If you prefer the Kindle format, please let me know whether you prefer Amazon US or Amazon UK.
6. If you’re the Amazon gift card winner, please let me know whether you prefer Amazon US or Amazon UK, and the eMail used on that specific account.

I’ll try to get a copy sent to you within forty-eight hours from the time you send me the above information. If you don’t hear back from me within that time frame, or if you have any questions, please contact me at kirkus(at)kirkusmacgowan(dot)com and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. If I don’t hear from you by Midnight EST on August 31, your copy will go to another entrant.

For those of you not on this list, thank you so much for your support as well. Remember, you can still grab a copy of WRATH for $3.49 on Amazon by clicking here, or for £2.29 on Amazon UK by clicking here. If you don’t use Amazon, WRATH will soon be available on other online retailers such as Barnes and Noble, Kobo Books, and others. You can check the WRATH page on my blog for sales links.

Remember to sign up for the Kirkus MacGowan Newsletter for future updates and giveaway information. Click here to sign up.

Thanks again!

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