Category Archives: stephen king

My Five: Books on my Unofficial Summer Reading List

Okay, so I know I blogged a few days ago about how I wasn’t going to have a summer reading list this year–and technically I’m not. My to-be-read pile is massive and I like the wide variety from which to choose on sheer whim when looking for the next book to read.

However, I thought I would offer my two cents on five books that you ought to consider reading this summer. I can’t really say whether these are beach reads as such, but these are books that I have either read and enjoyed thoroughly this year or am set to read very soon.

#5: The Bishop’s Man by Linden McIntyre – This was last year’s Giller Prize winner (a Canadian award for literature). I don’t think I’ve ever read a Giller winner, and if I have it was purely incidental. And McIntyre is a fellow Maritimer, so there’s one more reason to place this book on my library queue. The subject matter is a bit bleak, dealing with a priest called in to deal with accusations of child molestation by another priest in a Maritime parish. Timely by accident, as it was published before the whole fiasco involving the Vatican this year.

#4: The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman – Sarah Silverman is adorable and unassuming, but that girl has a real potty mouth. I think that’s why I love her. I have enjoyed her stand-up and her canceled-too-soon sitcom, and now she’s written what might best be described as a memoir–though I think this will be a more entertaining read than anything the self-indulgent celebs could write.

#3: Sparrow Rock by Nate Kenyon – It’s a wonderful thing when you can watch a horror film or read a horror novel involving teens and not feel like your intelligence has been insulted. It’s even better when the story is riveting from the get-go and manages to ramp up the tension with each chapter. Kenyon managed to tip-toe around a lot of possible clichés and offer an apocalyptic tale that feels fresher than most.

#2: Broken Glass Park by Alina Bronsky – This book came out of nowhere–well, it actually came out of Germany. Bronsky (a pseudonym) offers a very good debut effort with the story of a teenage girl named Sascha and her sullen existence in a seedy part of the city lovingly known as Broken Glass Park. One of the main things getting her through the day is a seething hatred for the man who killed her mother, the father of her two step-siblings–and the promise to herself that she’ll kill him as soon as he’s out of prison. Grim subject matter, but an engrossing read.

#1: Black Hills by Dan Simmons – This is my favorite read of the year so far. Dan Simmons somehow managed to blend the supernatural with a literary piece of historical fiction. After a young Sioux boy touches the body of a freshly killed General Custer, he becomes haunted by the war hero’s ghost–or something of that sort, it seems–through the rest of his life. The book jumps back and forth through time, showing Paha Sapa’s formidable youth, blossoming romance with a white woman, and his dying days as he plans to blow up Mount Rushmore on the day of its unveiling. It’s a gripping piece of work that you definitely ought to read.

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Filed under fave five, Joe Hill, Jonathan Maberry, Linden McIntyre, Sarah Silverman, stephen king, summer reading list, TBR pile

Rabid Reads: "Night Shift" by Stephen King

Title: Night Shift
Author: Stephen King
Published: Hodder Paperback (2007); originally published by New English Library (1978)
Pages: 488
Genre: Horror; plus fantasy and contemporary
ISBN 978-0-340-95267-2

As good a novelist as Stephen King is, he might be even better at the short story. Truth be told, some of the books that solidified my appreciation for King as a storyteller were his collections of short fiction. Nightmares & Dreamscapes, Four Past Midnight, and Everything’s Eventual to name but three. My most recent delving into King’s short stories came in the form of his first collection, Night Shift.

It’s odd that I haven’t read a great many of his earliest works–still have to get around to reading Carrie and The Dead Zone. So I figured I would check out the book many consider his best collection of short fiction. Maybe that opinion stems from the fact that quite a few of the stories in the collection were adapted to the big screen. I mean, who wouldn’t love the story that inspired Maximum Overdrive, “Trucks.”

Now, considering this isn’t a novel, I figured I would concentrate on briefly discussing some of the more memorable stories contained within.

“Night Surf” – “After the guy was dead and the smell of his burning flesh was off the air, we all went back down to the beach.” That, my friends, is a hook. In what felt like a missing chapter to The Stand, a group of beach bums kill time in a dystopian landscape after a virus has ravaged humanity. The dwindling days of summer roll along while they hang out at the beach with a near blithe ignorance to how devastated a world they are now in.

“Battleground” – A hitman returns home and receives a mysterious package. Upon opening it, after some very close scrutiny, he becomes the target of an impossible enemy bent on his termination. There was a touch of whimsy with this story that made the mayhem feel satirical without being too comical. The ending had a nice payoff too.

“The Ledge” – A tennis pro is propositioned by his lover’s dangerous and competitive husband. All he has to do is make it all the way around the ledge of the penthouse floor and he’ll avoid a less than desirable fate at the husband’s hands. As I read this one, I could swear I something eerily similar to it on an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Maybe the story was adapted to a teleplay. Either way, it’s fun suspense that’s a little hardboiled.

“Quitters, Inc.” – This might be my favorite of the whole collection. A businessman runs into an old colleague at the airport and receives a calling card for a new and unconventional program to quit smoking. What ensues is just a great tale that could put any chain smoker on tenterhooks. Vic Donnatti was a great antagonist–can’t quite call him a villain.

“Children of the Corn” – I can’t even remember the movie anymore, it’s been so long since I saw it and I have never really felt the need to watch it a second time. The story, however, was very good and has convinced me that I should check that movie out again. I may regret it, but this creepy story about the small town of Gatlin and those damned kids will always scare me.

“The Last Rung on the Ladder” – This isn’t exactly a horror story. It’s more a nostalgic tragedy about a brother and sister. I think it resonated with me so much because I have a little sister too, and those moments where childhood antics can lead to some potentially calamitous consequences really hit a note with me.

There are twenty stories in all, plus a foreword by Stephen King and introduction by John D. MacDonald. I highly recommend this to anyone, especially those who don’t usually read short fiction. There is a variety of stories here, not all what you would label as horror, so there is undoubtedly something for everyone. And it’s likely available all over the place, whether you buy it new, borrow it from your local library, or find a copy at a used-bookstore (like I did). I can’t be bothered to nitpick anything about this book; it’s deserving of all the praise it’s ever received.

You can read another review of this book at: Too Much Horror Fiction

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Killer Kitsch: Dollhouse Miniatures

I don’t own a dollhouse.

An odd statement to blurt out, I’ll admit, but I only preface this blog entry with that statement because I’m going to talk about dollhouse collectibles for a bit. I will say this though: If I had a dollhouse, I’d be looking into snagging a couple of these things.

I’m referring to the Miniature Bookshelf. I can only assume this site exists because dollhouse owners like to give their little houses lots of accessories and decorations. And if you’re also a bibliophile, then what better way to show that love of books than by displaying a couple of your favorites in miniature form.

Get a load of that, will ya. Take a penny out of your pocket or from between the couch cushions and get a load of that. For $5.99 that tiny little fake book could be yours … or you could buy the real thing for that much at a used-book shop. Your call.

There’s more than just a few Stephen King books on the site–there are a ton to be found there and on Amazon, though. You can find book replicas from other authors.

How about some Edgar Allen Poe or Shirley Jackson for your little dolls to read? Or maybe they’re Tom Clancy or Danielle Steele fans.

I just find the whole notion of this to be a bit creepy. But, I don’t own a dollhouse. Who am I to judge? The site is worth checking out if you’re curious, as there are miniature toys, groceries, and even movie posters. I found the one I’d want for my G.I. Joe action figures.

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Getting Graphic: "The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born" by Peter David

Title: The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born
Author: Peter David; with plotting by Robin Furth; based on the novels of Stephen King
Illustrations: Jae Lee and Richard Isanove
Published: Marvel (2007)
Genre: Fantasy/Western
ISBN 978-0-7851-2144-2

If I have a favorite series of books, it’s Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. I read the first book, The Gunslinger, back in ’04 or ’05 and was hooked. Of the seven books total, I’ve read five–I’m purposefully stalling so I can savor this epic as long as possible. Then I discovered there are graphic novels too. I dare not dream of a day when the story of Roland is told on the silver screen, as the adaptation would most likely be lacking severely, but a graphic novel … there’s a medium that could really get knee deep in the subject matter.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down to read the hardcover edition. It turns out it’s a part of Roland’s story I’m already familiar with–his coming of age story. In the seven chapters of this book (I assume each was a separate issue when originally published), we see a more direct telling of this story. In the fourth book of the series, Wizard & Glass, a much older Roland reminisced about this same story to his friends while journeying towards the Dark Tower.

The story basically deals with Roland being sent on his first mission as a Gunslinger after hastily challenging and defeating his trainer and mentor. He and his two friends, Cuthbert and Allain, ride from their home of Gilead to Hambry to figure out what plans Farson and the Good Man have in store for the coming war. It’s there that Roland falls in love with a young woman, and betrothed mistress to the town’s mayor, Susan, who will haunt his heart and memories for the rest of his life.

Romeo and Juliet has nothing on this tragedy. Well, I say that to those who like a bit of sorcery, fist fights, and shoot outs mixed in with your romance.

While the artwork doesn’t match up much at all with what my own imagination has built over time thanks to the books, it’s some beautiful stuff to behold while reading along. Each character is distinct, and while appearances differ from what I’ve already dressed them up as in my own mind, their personalities and idiosyncrasies are captured with precision on each page.

The only real contention I had with this book was some of the glaring omissions with the narrative. If you’ve read the books, then you’ll probably agree with me that there are a few quick jumps over assorted scenes. Minor stuff, really, when you see how the big picture has been condensed so well, but I still couldn’t help noticing some scenes cut abruptly and others left out altogether. However, to include everything in The Gunslinger Born, Peter David and gang would have probably needed another seven chapters.

If you’re not in a hurry to read the books, feel free to pick up this one and check it out. I really think you’ll appreciate the story being told that much better if you’ve at least read the first couple of books, where pieces of this story are alluded to though not told like it is in the fourth book.

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Rabid Reads: "Duma Key" by Stephen King


Title: Duma Key Author: Stephen King
Published: Pocket Books (2008)
Pages: 773

Genre: Horror

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-5296-3

ISBN-10: 1-4165-5296-0

Stephen King is sometimes accused of having lost a step, that his books are hit-and-miss nowadays. I’m not convinced of this. The man has been fortunate enough to make a career out of telling stories, many of which have resonated with a vast readership, and a fair amount of his imagination has seeped into the American lexicon. We cling to his classics like gospel, however, and that tends to create an aversion to the new. Add that with the fact that a person evolves over time, both personally and professionally, and it’s a damned miracle King hasn’t lost a step. He may not be the same writer who gave us Carrie and Salem’s Lot, but it is unfair who expect him to be.

With Duma Key, King gives readers a chilling story of rebirth and renewal for a fallen man, a man who is quite literally damaged goods. Edgar Freemantle made his fortune in real estate development, married his true love, and raised two beautiful daughters. Then, one day, his life was torn apart in a horrific construction accident. He suffered severe head trauma and lost his right arm–he’s a southpaw, so that’s one bullet dodged–and the aftermath of the accident creates too great a strain on his marriage. He’s divorced, his kids are off to college, and he’s out of the house with no direction or real will to live. But, when he is begrudgingly convinced by his psychologist to move someplace else as a way to jump start his new life, he for some reason choose the Florida Keys–Duma Key to be precise.

At first while reading this novel, I thought it a bit of a contrivance that Edgar would be a millionaire. But as I read, I felt it worked. His life was luxurious yet humble, and when he’s thrown the mother of all curve balls–more of a monkey-wrench–he has to face a hard life while still being surrounded by an idyllic setting and more money than he can shake a stick at. Wealth can’t mend brain damage or a marriage … not yet anyway.

While on Duma Key, Edgar meets up with the only two permanent residents on the island, Elizabeth Eastlake and her caretaker, the Wireman. It is through these two that Edgar helps find both a path to redemption and to merciless torment. As I read this book, Wireman became one of my favorite Stephen King creations in recent memory, and I rooted as much for his story as I did for Edgar’s. And I think that’s what makes this book such a treat to read, and so painless to read considering it’s nearly eight hundred pages. King creates very genuine characters even when they seem a bit familiar. There’s something about the Wireman that reminds me of other characters in books and film, but I haven’t put my finger on it.

If there are gripes about this novel, I suspect it is the pace and the somewhat subdued suspense. Oh, there’s suspense in this book, but I think this story leans more towards The Green Mile than it does The Shining. Those are unfair comparisons anyway, as I already mentioned how King isn’t the same man today that he was when creating those other works. But, there’s enough there to draw a line and see hints of it. The atmosphere of the story is fantastic and reminds me of some of those great haunted house stories. We’ve got more of a haunted island story here, but that’s fine.

I did find it strange how quickly the pace shifted in the last act of the story, though. For much of the story, there is this brooding and foreboding vibe coming off the pages. And in the big climax, it comes perilously close to turning into an Indiana Jones Meets The Mummy kind of tale. It all works, thankfully, and the book is a really fun read as a whole. The sparse moments when it feels like the story is about to stall are fleeting and there always seems to be a twist that gives the reader something new to chew on.

It’s probably one of the most mature novels I’ve read of King’s work. That’s not necessarily an attribute that classifies it as better than his other work, but it’s different and can be appreciated in that regard.

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Book Trailer: "Under The Dome" by Stephen King

Unless you’re living under a rock, or some other residence with bad reception, you’ve probably heard about Stephen King’s latest novel, Under the Dome. It’s huge. The book, that is.

Anyway, I discovered there is a book trailer thanks to Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews, so I thought I’d post it too. Enjoy.

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A Book Contest Link: "Under The Dome" by Stephen King

Stephen King’s latest novel is epic in size, if not story. At nearly 1,100 pages, Under the Dome is going to be some hearty reading for anyone with the temerity to pick it up. I am one such individual, and have discovered a book blogger’s first contest that has Under The Dome as the prize.

RK Charron is the place to visit if you want to throw your name in the hat. The contest is open worldwide, with the winner being drawn on American Thanksgiving.

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