Category: Stephen King

Dolores Claiborne

It’s been so long since I sunk my teeth into a Stephen King book. I’d been reading lots of upcoming fiction or picture books so I hadn’t stopped to spare a thought for my favourite author. I couldn’t decide which of King’s many works I should start but I narrowed it down to Dreamcatcher and Dolores Claiborne then I did the sensible thing and asked my fellow SK superfans to decide for me. My ka-tet came through and unanimously nominated Dolores Claiborne. I hadn’t heard much about Dolores but knew there was an old film starring Kathy Bates but didn’t know the plot.

Dolores Claiborne is telling officers Andy Bissette, Frank Proulx and Nancy Bannister the fate that’s befallen her employee Vera Donovan. The almost 300 page ‘statement’ starts from the day Dolores is hired as a housekeeper to look after the holiday home of the wealthy Mrs Donovan. Dolores is a young mother to a small daughter, already pregnant with her second child and starting to realise that her marriage is already showing cracks. On top of that working for Mrs Donovan is demanding and unrewarding. The wealthy, taskmaster is relentless and thinks little of her staff, she only gets harsher after the death of her husband.

I won’t say too much about the story of this one but you need to know that this is some of King’s best writing. Dolores is the best female character he’s written, she’s sharp-tongued, bold and so strong. Dolores is the personification of hard work and every page was a tragic pleasure. I loved this book and if you’ve read any King you’ll be blown away by how great his writing is in this novel.

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It only took me a few days to finish Dolores Claiborne, I would have finished it sooner if I had gotten myself into such a podcast hole. I’ve never been into audiobooks but I’ve been devouring some of the audio dramas on itunes. If you’ve enjoyed Night Vale check out Tanis, The Darkest Night, The Magnus Archives and Homecoming just to mention a few. And if any of you can recommend some more that’d be swell!

The Dead Zone

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Now that I had rediscovered the ability to read and my generous baby graciously lets me have more than five hours sleep a night, I thought it best to get back on the Stephen King train. Four books were jumping out at me and it was though deciding what one to start. I narrowed down my never-ending collection to Christine, Cujo, Desperation and The Dead Zone.

I still couldn’t bring myself to read Cujo, my love for all things dog is far too strong so once again I made myself a pathetic excuse and put Cujo on the back burner for a second year. I remembered a pal (@BooksellerEmma) saying about how much she had enjoyed The Dead Zone. I didn’t know anything about this Stephen King novel so I was quite excited about starting this one.

Straight away you know what you’re in for with The Dead Zone. It reads like classic Stephen King and reminded me a lot of ‘Salem’s Lot and Pet Semetary.  If you’ve made it this far without reading a Stephen King novel, The Dead Zone is great starter novel. King’s writing is enthusiastic and gripping and will have you roaring through the pages.

The Dead Zone opens with a brutal prologue of a man viciously attacking a farm dog. Dog violence… way to freak out your readers on the first page Mr King. Our main character John Smith is very much an every-man, hence the plain name. Johnny is one of King’s more likeable main characters and from the off he’s very readable.  At the start of the novel Johnny is a fairly unremarkable young man, injured as child, Johnny bumps his head when skating on frozen ice, he comes to with a touch of premonition. When Johnny’s in his twenties he has a great girl, a great job and everything’s peachy until a horrific car accident leaves him comatose. When Johnny wakes from his slumber four years later he finds he can see into ‘the dead zone’, he has a much stronger precognitive ability than what he had as a child.

The obvious chaos ensues when John realises his new ability but it really comes into play when Johnny is contacted by Sheriff Bannerman who is desperately searching for a serial killer who has been at large for six years. After this display of power the story really escalates in a way that I won’t spoil for you.

The Dead Zone has been one of the most enjoyable King novel I’ve read in a long time. The Dead Zone is a proper page turner and the characters are brilliant (King has a real knack for writing fanatical mothers). The Dead Zone is just a fun read that you’ll bust through in no time!

Next up… The Welcome to Night Vale novel!

An Unexpected Journey

I’ve been away for a long time. Not too long after March I took an unexpected hiatus from blogging, reading and life in general.

I had just finished Sarah Lotz’s chilling latest novel Day Four when the I got caught up in the woes of moving house. If you’ve ever had the displeasure of moving you’ll understand how truly horrible it was. Add in the hassle of setting up broadband in a new home, I knew I wasn’t to get much reading or blogging done. After I had settled into my new home I picked up Stephen King’s Wind Through the Keyhole. I wanted more than anything to become lost once again in Mid-World.  Roughly 30 pages into The Wind Through the Keyhole something very unexpected happened… my baby arrived a whole two months early. Thus to say I did not finish this final dip into Mid-World.

So, catching me off guard I found myself so overwhelmed with life, reading had to go on the back burner. Over the past two months I managed to read one book in full and that was Stephen King’s follow up to Mr Mercedes, Finders Keepers. Finders Keepers got me through the toughest three weeks of my life. I spent between 10 and 12 hours a day sitting next to an incubator in a hospital waiting for the the fantastic doctors and nurses to let my daughter come home. It felt like I was waiting forever but I passed the time by ploughing through Finder Keepers. The day I finished Finders Keepers I got the fantastic news that my daughter had gained enough weight to come home. That’s when the reading stopped.

Some insane logic had made me think, “I’ll get so much reading done with a newborn baby in tow”. As any parent will tell you, you’ll get absolute nothing done. During her first few weeks home I tried to finished Wind Through the Keyhole but I could only get about 10 pages in before another baby related issue arose. I then came to the conclusion that it wasn’t me, it was the book! I needed something I could be completely swept up in. So I started Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, this was one of the stupidest ideas I’d ever had. At over 700 pages there was no hope of me finishing this book. I then figured I needed to read an author I was more familiar with.

That’s when I started David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, this is a book that’s defeated me before. And it defeated me again.

But yesterday something magical happened…

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Friend and colleague @CatrionaRoseann (follow her, she’s got some great recommendations) told me about one of her much loved reads. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. I could honestly say I had never heard of this book, but this was the book that got me back on track.  This is a dark, dystopic and bleak to boot. The Unit tells the tale of fifty year old Dorrit who is forced to leave everything behind when she becomes a resident of the Second Reserve Bank Unit. For the first time in that felt like forever I devoured this book. I started The Unit just around 3AM as I couldn’t get back to sleep after my daughter’s feed, I finished The Unit at 10PM the same day.

Get a copy of this book! And in short… I’m back!

Up next is The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley.

Happy Mother’s Day

Mothering Sunday is that age old day where we turn to the wonderful women in our lives and say a big fat thank you. So there’s no better way to celebrate Mother’s Day with a Stephen King book. Here’s my five most maternal reads that prove that King writes some of the most bad-ass ladies in fiction.

5. Frannie Goldsmith – The Stand – All though we don’t see Fran’s mothering skills all too much in The Stand but throughout the novel she’s easily the best mum-to-be in a apocalyptic situation. Not stopping until she finds a community and safe place for herself and her baby, Frannie goes from bolshy teen to a strong adaptable young woman in a matter of chapters. Even with the constant threat that her baby could be taken by ‘Captain Trips’ the moment it’s born or the looming presence of Randall Flagg, fran doesn’t quit.

4. Annie Wilkes – Misery – Technically Annie isn’t a mother but she’s certainly one of King’s most caring and matronly characters when it comes down to it. Yes, she shows her love by keeping her favourite author captive and there’s that matter of the infant deaths when she was a maternity nurse, not to mention the other strange deaths surrounding her, but nobody’s perfect! Annie Wilkes is not only of my favourite characters in King’s back-catalogue but she’s that misunderstood motherly figure who just wanted to keep those dirty birdies in check.

3. Mia – Wolves of Calla/ Song for Susannah – Mia is one hell of a mother and flourishing in the early stages of pregnancy in King’s fifth Dark Tower instalment. Longing for a child Mia finally gets her wish when she makes a bargain with Walter. Mia whilst in possession of Susannah does some down right vile things to feed and nurture her growing ‘chap’. The opening chapter of the Wolves of Calla made me feel physically sick but considering some of the things I went through in my first trimester of pregnancy, it’s nothing really. Pregnancy and motherhood are Mia’s only priority and when she gives birth to that beautiful half-spider child that rips off her breast and kills her, Mia’s work is done.

2. Wendy Torrance – The Shining – Wendy really has her work cut out for her. With an unhinged husband and weird psychic five-year-old, Wendy has a fair amount of stamina when it comes down to the nitty-gritty. Wendy is pretty drippy in the personality department but she puts Danny first and does whatever she can to protect her son. Beaten with a mallet and with the Overlook hotel against them, Wendy still manages to get the better of her manic husband in The Shining.

1. Margaret White – Carrie – Carrie White’s mum is a force of nature. Instilling religious fear and sheltering her already unique daughter, Mrs White is extremely old fashioned in her approach to child rearing but like most mums, she thinks she’s doing the right thing to protect her little girl. The right thing by God that is, certainly not the right thing by any sane person. Margaret White is down right banana splits. Almost as a strict warning to parents out there, King proves that we all surpass our parents at one point or another and it helps if you have wicked cool telekinesis powers.

MD

You’ll Float Too

The second half of IT is a book that evolves as it progresses. When I finished reading IT I found myself at a bit of a loss, I think this may have been the Stephen King novel I’ve enjoyed the most.

Around half way our young (old) protagonists find their ways to Derry, King throws an extra spanner or two or three into the works. As if the threat of IT/Pennywise wasn’t harrowing enough three more potential disasters are thrown into the mix. Bill’s wife Audra decides to find out why her husband suddenly left he country in such a hurry, Beverly’s abusive husband makes it his mission to hunt down his wife and give her a whuppin’ and finally the institutionalised Henry Bowers listens to ‘the voices in the moon’ and makes his escape to Derry.

I found IT to be quite a boyish book. The female characters aren’t up to scratch compared to King’s other novels, Beverly as much as she’s one of the strongest characters as children becomes a fairly weak adult. Even when she leaves Tom it’s a harrowing scene and as a reader I didn’t find myself rooting for her, I found myself worried and convincing myself that she’s not going to get very far.  When young Beverly takes part in the rock fight and when the Losers confront IT in the sewers, she’s such a fierce girl and one of my favourite parts of IT was Beverly’s determination to take part in the smoke hole so I was a little disappointed to see what she had grown into.  Bev’s husband was a great plot device to show that there are different kinds of monsters we face when we grow up. Or it’s just a point that King makes that Bev was abused and beaten as child and she’s fallen into the same cycle of abuse as an adult.

One thing King manages to write fantastically again and again is bullying. The ordeal Carrie White suffers is brutal and distressing so to come across it again in IT was a surprise. The Rock Fight chapter was an exceptionally intense read, with Henry, proving how relentless children can be. King seamlessly took readers across a line where kids stop being bullies and become dangerous young people.

I was nearing the 1000th page of IT when I realised how much fun I’d had reading this novel. I was never that excited about reading IT and I thought that it might have been a bit waffle-y. Aside from the chapter about the fire at the Black Spot, every little side story had me riveted and it kept me hooked right up until the final showdown with IT. Towards the end of the novel King writes from the point of view of IT which is genius move. We get an insight into what motivates this monster and why it does what it does. When we approach the final chapters King switches more rapidly between past and present. In final arch of the story our characters are so well developed you can’t help but go through that last confrontation with the Losers club.

IT is a big nasty book that was probably the scariest King novel I’ve read so far. I was shocked at how easily this book freaked me out and got to me, King taps into everyone’s childhood fears whether it’s werewolves, clowns or our parents and he teaches us the lesson that things don’t stop being scary the older you get.

We All Float Down Here

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I wanted to start off 2015 with a Stephen King classic. I spent days agonising over whether to Cujo, The Dead Zone or IT would be the right one. Once again I found myself putting off Cujo due to my insane love of dogs and I started reading IT. Much like The Stand I had been avoiding this title due to the length of the book but I bit the bullet and decided to have a crack at this King epic.

When I started reading IT I was sitting on a train to Charing Cross and within the first few pages it struck me that no one in this carriage knew how scared I was and had no idea of the internal freak-out i was going through. The first chapter of IT is Stephen King writing horror at his utter finest.

IT is such an iconic horror film. Everyone knows who Pennywise the clown is, regardless of seeing the film. Strangely enough I hadn’t seen the film adaptation of IT. When I was 12 or 13 I remember watching the first 10 minutes and I was (to be quite honest) scared shitless. Makes sense seeing as the source material is brilliant story-telling.

I’m roughly 600 pages into IT and I’ve been blown away by the standard of writing in IT. With a truly horrific start, IT is a semi-coming of age tale and part revenge-horror. IT flits between our main characters, ‘stuttering’ Bill, Ben, Mike, Richie, Eddie and Beverly as young children, encountering a horrific presence in their hometown which it intent on traumatising and killing children, and the current time when our main characters have grown up and are brought back together to current dark goings on in Derry.

King’s way of going between past and present is so well done. I can’t wait to read the rest of IT, so far this has been one of the most enjoyable King novels to read. 2015 is off to a great start of reading.

For the sake of your Father

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Hile gunslingers! Obviously I’m going to spoil everything that happens in the final book, so go back and read them now!

It has taken me literally months to finish the final Dark Tower novel. Back in September I caved into curiosity, I had to find out what was going to happen to Susannah and her impending birth, not to mention the death trap that Jake and Pere Callaghan were about to walk into. I was so excited, book six had ended on such a level tension i couldn’t handle waiting any longer.

So first things first; I thought the start of the final book was awesome, the Susannah/Mia chapters were outstanding. I had just started to feel sorry for Mia and I loved how vulnerable she was, as a reader you really start rooting for Mia and Susannah… Until it came down to the birth stuff. When baby Mordred turned up and we came to the end of the Mia arc of the book it was Stephen King writing at his finest, it was sharp, tense and down right horrible.

So while Susannah was off having her chap, Jake and Callaghan had to face off with the low men and humes inside the Dixie Pig. The happenings inside the Dixie Pig were easily up there with my favourite parts of the Dark Tower saga, King portrayed a truly detestable place and I found myself roaring through the pages. This is where we suffered our first casualty, Callaghan’s time had come to a timely end and I for one was extremely disappointed. Even though he’d only been with our ka-tet for a short time I thought he was such a brilliant character and every sentence involving Callaghan made me want to read ‘Salem’s Lot all over again.

After the departure of Callaghan I hit a major reading speed bump and I stalled my literary car. I moved house and work went insane and I put down the last instalment of The Dark Tower for about two weeks.

I managed to get back into the swing of things not too long after my little Dark tower hiatus, King introduced so many great characters in this final part of Roland’s tale, it was a shame to not have them around for longer. John Cullum was a fascinating character and the trio from Devar-Toi perked up the pace of the story. Until King hit with the shocking death of another one of our beloved ka-tet. I didn’t see the death of Eddie coming at all, I was so taken back and his parting words to Susannah and the rest of his allies made you realise this really was the end of their journey.

When Roland and Jake head back to Maine to save Stephen King I was knocked-for-six. The last thing I expected from this part of the story was the death of another main character.

The final leg of the story was brilliant. I wasn’t massively keen on the introduction of Patrick to the story but following up his introduction with the departure of Susannah had me tentatively racing towards the end of the Dark Tower.

I only finished the Dark Tower last night and the ending has left me cold and hollow. I thought I had figured out the ending but I was completely surprised but it. I don’t know whether to start reading the first one again or to sit in a dark room for a long time.

So with that The Dark Tower is a phenomenal fantasy saga and I say a thankya to Stephen King and to Hodder & Stoughton for letting me get so lost in Mid-World.