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Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

The Shining

In Book Reviews on June 15, 2014 at 6:00 am
Hodder & Stoughton 1977

Hodder & Stoughton 1977

Continuing on with my Stephen King fan-girling, I’ve finally read The Shining. A lot of people have told me that this is their favourite of his books. I’m really sad to say that I didn’t like this one very much. Or maybe I didn’t like it as much as his other stuff. I really wanted to like it a lot more than I did because it’s by Stephen King, but I just wasn’t feeling the love.

Nutshell blurb: 5 year old Danny and his family move into a creepy-ass hotel in Colorado where his father will be acting as caretaker for the winter.

Where this book fell down for me was that there was sooooo much back story and exposition. On the one hand, that’s ok because in true Stephen King style the characters were fantastic. Jack Torrence wanted to be a good person but he was so flawed that he couldn’t be. He lacked the ability to control his anger and he was a recovering alcoholic. He was wracked with guilt for breaking his son’s arm a couple of years earlier yet sometimes he found himself fantasizing about hurting his wife and child. The tenuous grasp he had on his self-control made him a really interesting character. We spent a lot of time in his past, though, which didn’t appeal to me as much. I understood the need to explain the kind of person he was, but there was just way too much of it for my liking.

Danny was interesting as well. He had the ability to know what people were thinking and could sometimes see snippets of what was going to happen in the future. That must be terrifying for a 5 year old. I really got a sense of how alone he felt.

I felt that this book moved very slowly. It would build up to the point where I would start thinking that something was going to happen, but then nothing would. I find that very frustrating in a horror book.

Before you ask, no, I haven’t seen the film yet. I know that it is nothing like the book, but I feel that I have to watch it now.

The fact that I wasn’t crazy about this book doesn’t diminish my admiration for Mr. King in any way. He’s still one of my favourite authors, although I’m really glad that this wasn’t the first book of his that I’ve read. Otherwise I might not be able to say that.

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Cujo

In Book Reviews on March 30, 2014 at 6:00 am
Macdonald & Co 1981

Macdonald & Co 1981

To Cujo, the words coming from THE MAN meant nothing. They were meaningless sounds, like the wind. What mattered was the smell coming from THE MAN. It was hot, rank, and pungent. It was the smell of fear. It was maddening and unbearable. He suddenly understood THE MAN had made him sick. He lunged forward, the growl in his chest mounting into a heavy roar of rage.

I’ve re-discovered my love of Stephen Kings’ work and am making a point to read the books of his that I’ve never read. When I look for his books, I am always struck by how many he has written. I have a lot of catching up to do.

This time around, I decided to kick it old school and read a classic. Therefore, I give you Cujo. (No seriously, you can have him. This dog freaks me out.)

Nutshell blurb: Cujo is a 200 lb Saint Bernard who gets bitten by rabid bats. Thus begins his descent into madness. And his mauling of people.

I must say that the body count in this story is surprisingly low, especially for a Stephen King novel. That certainly didn’t keep it from scaring the pants off of me though.

My favouriteĀ thingĀ of any King novel is the way he focuses on characters and their interaction rather than on just the blood and guts. There’s a marriage on the rocks due to infidelity, another marriage on the rocks due to domestic violence, a spurned lover who wants revenge all thrown together with a rabid, man-eating dog.

We all know that there is no cure for rabies and that the only way one can deal with a rabid animal is to kill it. Unfortunately, Cujo wasn’t as easy to deal with as Old Yeller.

I did feel sorry for the dog. Before he went rabid he was the gentlest and most loyal dog who would never dream of hurting anyone.

We do get to experience things from Cujo’s point of view occasionally and like any good villain, he has a reason for doing what he does that goes beyond the need for mindless violence. He becomes convinced that people are responsible for making him feel ill which drives a need inside him to kill those people.

This is actually one of those books that I wish I had read in one or two sittings rather than on my commute and during my lunch hour. Let me tell you something folks, it’s hard to leave the break room when someone in your book is trapped in a car by a slavering, blood-thirsty beast and then have to wait until quitting time to pick up the story again. Talk about painful.

A lot of tension came from not knowing who was going to die. No one is safe in a Stephen King novel and you never really know whose number will come up. The end left me feeling sad and a bit antsy. I won’t spoil it in case you haven’t read it but it wasn’t what I expected.

I was also thinking about getting a dog, but perhaps I’ll just leave it for now.

Joyland

In Book Reviews on January 29, 2014 at 6:00 am
Titan Books 2013

Titan Books 2013

This book was quite unlike Stephen King’s usual fare. I expected to be terrified but instead found something far different. This certainly isn’t a bad thing. Just not what I expected.

Nutshell blurb: Devin Jones recalls a summer in his youth where he worked at an amusement park in North Carolina called Joyland. A murder was committed years ago and the crime looms over the park and those who work there.

This story is a murder mystery with a heavy focus on the characters. The murder mystery isn’t the main point of the book, though. It focuses mainly on the protagonist and the things he’s going through in his life at that time. There isn’t a lot of action, but I found that to be ok because we really get into the main character’s head.

I know I’ve said this in previous posts, but Mr. King has a talent for creating characters that are relatable. His characters feel as thought they could really exist. For me, this is what makes his scary stories even scarier.

For this book, it was more about painting a vivid picture of a really likable guy.

I felt really sad when I finished this book. It was very moving and I had quite the book hangover when I finally put it down. Unfortunately, I finished it while I was on my lunch break and I found it really difficult to switch gears and get back to work.

Note to self: Don’t finish any more books at work!

It was pretty painful.

I really loved this book. It has a lot of soul. I think that you’ll be disappointed if you go into it thinking that it’s going to scare the pants off of you, but it’s worth a read if you can appreciate an excellent character study as well as a slow-burning murder mystery.

The Dark Half

In Book Reviews on December 4, 2013 at 7:06 pm

Hodder & Stoughton 1989

George Stark. Not a very nice guy.

Nutshell blurb: Thad Beaumont is a writer. He’s written some books under his name and some under the pen name of George Stark. He decides to ‘kill’ George Stark and write only under his own name, but what do you do when your alter ego comes to life and starts killing people?

This book was deliciously creepy and I’m really glad that I’ve decided to renew my relationship with Stephen King. He’s such an amazing writer and has a knack not only for characterisation but also for scaring the bejeezus out of me. I never know who’s going to kick the bucket in his books. It’s usually pretty safe to assume that most of the characters will be killed off. I try to prepare myself for it so that I’m pleasantly surprised if they manage to live through the book.

I liked the premise of this book a lot. A guy’s nom de plume manifests himself as a real person and kills off the people who killed him off. Also, who knew that sparrows could be so sinister?

Mr. King’s timing is impeccable as well. He never reveals things too soon and when he does it always leaves me breathless. He certainly is the master.

I think that one of the aspects of this book that I connected with deeply was the idea of having a darker half wandering around, knowing what you know with the ability to screw your life up monumentally. It makes me wonder what my dark half would be like.

As with most Stephen King books I’ve read, this one is incredibly gory. If that’s not your thing, you might want to steer clear. Otherwise, it’s a thrilling read that kept me gripped until the very end.

Under the Dome

In Book Reviews on October 2, 2013 at 9:59 pm
Under the Dome

Hodder & Stoughton 2009

Whoa. 877 pages, people. 877.

Before I share with you my thoughts on this book, I want to take a moment to explain to you my relationship with Stephen King.

I was a big fan of his back when I was a teenager. He writes the kind of books my parents would hate. The only books they ever told me that I couldn’t read when I was that age were romance books, but I think that if they had ever read a Stephen King novel they would have taken them right away from me. That made me like the books even more. (Yes, I was a horrible teenager. Who wasn’t?)

Anyway, they fulfilled my childish need for rebellion. There’s a scene in IT where some kids try to light their farts and I remember thinking ‘People write about this stuff in books?’. *Snicker, snort* The stories were good too, but I liked that Mr. King told it like it was.

Once I left my teenage years behind, I stopped reading his books. It wasn’t any kind of conscious decision. I just read other stuff. And then last year I decided that I needed to get back to reading some of his work and I picked up the first book of the Dark Tower series. I was dismayed to find that I didn’t like it at all. I don’t know what it was but I just didn’t connect with the characters. That’s when I had my big revelation.

I’ve outgrown Stephen King.

So, I read a review of Under the Dome from one of the blogs I’m following and for the life of me I can’t remember which one of you it is because it was a while ago. I remember that the person who wrote the post did an embroidery of a quote from the book which said “God bless you, but I don’t give a shit”. (Please identify yourself so that I can give you some credit.) Anyway, it made me rethink my stance on his work. I decided to read the book based on her review.

To my intense delight I found out that I haven’t outgrown Stephen King at all! So forgive me, Mr. King. Forgive me for doubting your literary prowess and writing it off as fodder for my teenage rebellion.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can move on with what I thought of the book.

Nutshell blurb: A mysterious dome has descended around the town of Chester’s Mill cutting the people inside off from the people outside. No one knows how it came to be there or how to make it go away. The story follows the inhabitants of this dome and how they cope with being isolated.

Boy, what a cast. I think that one of the things that makes Stephen King’s books so scary is that his characters are so real. Characterisation is certainly the most important aspect to me when reading a book. I’ve just put down a different book (that shall not be named) because the characters didn’t spark my interest at all. Mr. King’s characters could easily be friends, family, neighbours, you or me and what’s terrifying is when he puts those ordinary people into hair-raising situations and lets them stew. Or die. Horribly.

It was kind of good that this book was so long because I needed periodic breaks from it. It is packed with action from page 1 to page 877 and it left me breathless at times. One would think that a book that long would have lulls in it but one would be oh so very wrong. It just never stopped. And I loved that.

The dialogue in his books is also always amazing and makes me giggle a bit. It’s colourful, brutal and sometimes quaint. I think that this passage is my favourite:

They were coming up on the hospital now. Stewart saw a gray Ford Taurus pulling out of Catherine Russell.

‘Hey, that’s Dr Rusty,’ Fern said. ‘Bet he’ll be glad to get this stuff. Give im a toot, Stewie.’

Stewart gave im a toot.

In between reading sessions, I was thinking about his other books that I’ve read. (Needful Things is one of my favourites.) None of his characters are alike, that I know of, anyway. I don’t feel like I recognise them from his other books. I’m blown away by the sheer volume of ideas the man has. I know that I’m gushing. I can’t help it. He’s the master.

My one complaint (and it’s a niggling one) is that he used a character from a different author ‘off-screen’ in the story. I’m not a big fan of that. In this book, one of the police officers was once in the army and reported to Jack Reacher. I don’t mind references to characters, songs, films or whatever. I just don’t like it when a character from a different, unrelated story is represented as a character in a book. It’s a personal preference, but it kind of feels like cheating. If it had been by a newly published author, I would have really thought about whether or not I wanted to press on with the story. At the very least there would have been some heavy eye-rolling. But it’s Stephen King so I guess he can get away with it.

I’m sure he’ll be thrilled to have my dispensation.

Anyway, if you can’t tell from my gushing, I loved this book. It made me gasp out loud several times on the train, which is always the sign of a good book. I’ve actually just finished it and now I feel drained. Also the sign of a good book.

It’s certainly not for the faint of heart.

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