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A one-armed painter summons demons literal and metaphorical in the Florida Keys.


Duma Key

Scribner, 2007, 609 pages




A terrible accident takes Edgar Freemantle's right arm and scrambles his memory and his mind, leaving him with little but rage as he begins the ordeal of rehabilitation. When his marriage suddenly ends, Edgar begins to wish he hadn't survived his injuries. He wants out. His psychologist suggests a new life distant from the Twin Cities, along with something else:

"Edgar, does anything make you happy?"
"I used to sketch."
"Take it up again. You need hedges...hedges against the night."


Edgar leaves for Duma Key, an eerily undeveloped splinter of the Florida coast. The sun setting into the Gulf of Mexico calls out to him, and Edgar draws. Once he meets Elizabeth Eastlake, a sick old woman with roots tangled deep in Duma Key, Edgar begins to paint, sometimes feverishly; many of his paintings have a power that cannot be controlled. When Elizabeth's past unfolds and the ghosts of her childhood begin to appear, the damage of which they are capable is truly devastating.

The tenacity of love, the perils of creativity, the mysteries of memory, and the nature of the supernatural: Stephen King gives us a novel as fascinating as it is gripping and terrifying.


It's almost like the old King )

Verdict: Duma Key is almost "King-lite" compared to the monster epics he used to write. It shows all of King's writing talent after he learned to keep his id on a leash. A good story that will still give you a little frisson of fear from the old master, but for real batshit King, you need to read his older stuff.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of Blaze, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Lisey's Story, Cell, and The Shining.




My complete list of book reviews.
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Ghosts and alcoholism drive a writer crazy during a winter stay at a sinister hotel.


The Shining

Doubleday, 1977, 447 pages




First published in 1977, The Shining quickly became a benchmark in the literary career of Stephen King. This tale of a troubled man hired to care for a remote mountain resort over the winter, his loyal wife, and their uniquely gifted son slowly but steadily unfolds as secrets from the Overlook Hotel's past are revealed, and the hotel itself attempts to claim the very souls of the Torrance family. Adapted into a cinematic masterpiece of horror by legendary director Stanley Kubrick, featuring an unforgettable performance by a demonic Jack Nicholson, The Shining stands as a cultural icon of modern horror, a searing study of a family torn apart, and a nightmarish glimpse into the dark recesses of human weakness and dementia.


The Overlook Hotel is a metaphor that eluded Stanley Kubrick. )

Verdict: The Shining is one of King's better books, possibly one of his best. It's quintessential King. The horror is both supernatural and human, there is quite a bit of subtext, and (unlike many of King's novels) it actually has something like a decent ending. If you've only seen the Stanley Kubrick movie, you should read the book for more depth and less artsy visuals, and a character who's more believable in his madness than Jack Nicholson's demonic ranting. If you haven't liked King's later books, this would be a good starting point to sample his classic horror novels, back when he was writing drunk better than most writers write sober.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of Blaze, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Lisey's Story, and Cell.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Default)
Ghosts and alcoholism drive a writer crazy during a winter stay at a sinister hotel.


The Shining

Doubleday, 1977, 447 pages




First published in 1977, The Shining quickly became a benchmark in the literary career of Stephen King. This tale of a troubled man hired to care for a remote mountain resort over the winter, his loyal wife, and their uniquely gifted son slowly but steadily unfolds as secrets from the Overlook Hotel's past are revealed, and the hotel itself attempts to claim the very souls of the Torrance family. Adapted into a cinematic masterpiece of horror by legendary director Stanley Kubrick, featuring an unforgettable performance by a demonic Jack Nicholson, The Shining stands as a cultural icon of modern horror, a searing study of a family torn apart, and a nightmarish glimpse into the dark recesses of human weakness and dementia.


The Overlook Hotel is a metaphor that eluded Stanley Kubrick. )

Verdict: The Shining is one of King's better books, possibly one of his best. It's quintessential King. The horror is both supernatural and human, there is quite a bit of subtext, and (unlike many of King's novels) it actually has something like a decent ending. If you've only seen the Stanley Kubrick movie, you should read the book for more depth and less artsy visuals, and a character who's more believable in his madness than Jack Nicholson's demonic ranting. If you haven't liked King's later books, this would be a good starting point to sample his classic horror novels, back when he was writing drunk better than most writers write sober.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of Blaze, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Lisey's Story, and Cell.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Default)
Cell phone rage turns apocalyptic.


Cell

Scribner, 2006, 368 pages




On October 1st, God is in His heaven, the stock market stands at 10,140, most of the planes are on time, and Clayton Riddell, an artist from Maine, is almost bouncing up Boylston Street in Boston. He's just landed a comic book deal that might finally enable him to support his family by making art instead of teaching it. He's already picked up a gift for his long-suffering wife, and he knows just what he'll get for his boy Johnny. Why not a little treat for himself? Clay's feeling good about the future.

That changes in a hurry. The cause of the devastation is a phenomenon that will come to be known as The Pulse, and the delivery method is a cell phone. Everyone's cell phone. Clay and the few desperate survivors who join him suddenly find themselves in the pitch-black night of civilization's darkest age, surrounded by chaos, carnage, and a human horde that has been reduced to its basest nature...and then begins to evolve.

There are one hundred and ninety-three million cell phones in the United States alone. Who doesn't have one? Stephen King's utterly gripping, gory, and fascinating novel doesn't just ask the question "Can you hear me now?" It answers it with a vengeance.


Those damn teenagers and their cell phones... )

Verdict: A good zombie novel by one of my favorite writers, though it's far from his best and he pretty much stole most of the plot from himself. Cell reads a bit like one of King's earlier books, when he mostly wrote straight-up horror novels, so I recommend it if you are a fan of his earlier works. As a zombie novel, it's also an interesting new take on the genre, though like a lot of King fiction, you have to kind of roll your eyes and forget everything you know about how stuff actually works. Reality always takes a back seat to plot in Kingland.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of Blaze, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and Lisey's Story.
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Cell phone rage turns apocalyptic.


Cell

Scribner, 2006, 368 pages




On October 1st, God is in His heaven, the stock market stands at 10,140, most of the planes are on time, and Clayton Riddell, an artist from Maine, is almost bouncing up Boylston Street in Boston. He's just landed a comic book deal that might finally enable him to support his family by making art instead of teaching it. He's already picked up a gift for his long-suffering wife, and he knows just what he'll get for his boy Johnny. Why not a little treat for himself? Clay's feeling good about the future.

That changes in a hurry. The cause of the devastation is a phenomenon that will come to be known as The Pulse, and the delivery method is a cell phone. Everyone's cell phone. Clay and the few desperate survivors who join him suddenly find themselves in the pitch-black night of civilization's darkest age, surrounded by chaos, carnage, and a human horde that has been reduced to its basest nature...and then begins to evolve.

There are one hundred and ninety-three million cell phones in the United States alone. Who doesn't have one? Stephen King's utterly gripping, gory, and fascinating novel doesn't just ask the question "Can you hear me now?" It answers it with a vengeance.


Those damn teenagers and their cell phones... )

Verdict: A good zombie novel by one of my favorite writers, though it's far from his best and he pretty much stole most of the plot from himself. Cell reads a bit like one of King's earlier books, when he mostly wrote straight-up horror novels, so I recommend it if you are a fan of his earlier works. As a zombie novel, it's also an interesting new take on the genre, though like a lot of King fiction, you have to kind of roll your eyes and forget everything you know about how stuff actually works. Reality always takes a back seat to plot in Kingland.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of Blaze, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, and Lisey's Story.
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A criminal who never had a chance tries to pull off one last caper, in the last of the Bachman novels.


Blaze

Simon and Schuster, 2007, 285 pages




A fellow named Richard Bachman wrote Blaze in 1973 on an Olivetti typewriter, then turned the machine over to Stephen King, who used it to write Carrie. Bachman died in 1985 (from "cancer of the pseudonym"), but in late 2006, King found the original typescript of Blaze among his papers at the University of Maine's Fogler Library ("How did this get here?!") and decided that, with a little revision, it ought to be published.

Blaze is the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., and of the crimes committed against him and the crimes he commits, including his last, the kidnapping of a baby heir worth millions. Blaze has been a slow thinker since childhood, when his father threw him down the stairs and then threw him down again. After escaping an abusive institution for boys when he was a teenager, Blaze hooks up with George, a seasoned criminal who thinks he has all the answers. But then George is killed, and Blaze, though haunted by his partner, is on his own.

He becomes one of the most sympathetic criminals in all of literature. This is a crime story of surprising strength and sadness, with a suspenseful current sustained by the classic workings of fate and character, as taut and riveting as Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.


Richard Bachman is almost as good a writer as that Stephen King guy. )

Verdict: Blaze is a surprisingly touching story about a giant, murderous thug. If you are a fan of Stephen King for his storytelling but not so much for his blood 'n guts, and especially if you liked his Bachman books, then while this is not likely to be anyone's favorite King novel, it's certainly something that was worth digging out of his trunk.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Lisey's Story.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Default)
A criminal who never had a chance tries to pull off one last caper, in the last of the Bachman novels.


Blaze

Simon and Schuster, 2007, 285 pages




A fellow named Richard Bachman wrote Blaze in 1973 on an Olivetti typewriter, then turned the machine over to Stephen King, who used it to write Carrie. Bachman died in 1985 (from "cancer of the pseudonym"), but in late 2006, King found the original typescript of Blaze among his papers at the University of Maine's Fogler Library ("How did this get here?!") and decided that, with a little revision, it ought to be published.

Blaze is the story of Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., and of the crimes committed against him and the crimes he commits, including his last, the kidnapping of a baby heir worth millions. Blaze has been a slow thinker since childhood, when his father threw him down the stairs and then threw him down again. After escaping an abusive institution for boys when he was a teenager, Blaze hooks up with George, a seasoned criminal who thinks he has all the answers. But then George is killed, and Blaze, though haunted by his partner, is on his own.

He becomes one of the most sympathetic criminals in all of literature. This is a crime story of surprising strength and sadness, with a suspenseful current sustained by the classic workings of fate and character, as taut and riveting as Stephen King's The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.


Richard Bachman is almost as good a writer as that Stephen King guy. )

Verdict: Blaze is a surprisingly touching story about a giant, murderous thug. If you are a fan of Stephen King for his storytelling but not so much for his blood 'n guts, and especially if you liked his Bachman books, then while this is not likely to be anyone's favorite King novel, it's certainly something that was worth digging out of his trunk.

Also by Stephen King: My reviews of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon and Lisey's Story.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity: (Default)
The widow of a famous author goes dark places to save herself from a madman.


Lisey's Story

Scribner, 2006, 513 pages




Lisey Debusher Landon lost her husband, Scott, two years ago, after a 25-year marriage of the most profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, best-selling novelist, and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey had to learn from him about books and blood and "bools". Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went, a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive, or give him the ideas he needed in order to live.

Now it's Lisey's turn to face Scott's demons, Lisey's turn to go to Boo'ya Moon. What begins as a widow's effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited.

Perhaps King's most personal and powerful story ever, Lisey's Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.


Average King is still pretty damn good. )

Verdict: Only Stephen King can so shamelessly reuse his ingredients so successfully. There are many Stephen King novels I've liked more than Lisey's Story, and several I've liked less, so it only rates as average for me compared to his other stuff, but it's a fine book, combining themes of madness, creativity, love, loss, and sisterhood.

Also by Stephen King: My review of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
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The widow of a famous author goes dark places to save herself from a madman.


Lisey's Story

Scribner, 2006, 513 pages




Lisey Debusher Landon lost her husband, Scott, two years ago, after a 25-year marriage of the most profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, best-selling novelist, and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey had to learn from him about books and blood and "bools". Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went, a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive, or give him the ideas he needed in order to live.

Now it's Lisey's turn to face Scott's demons, Lisey's turn to go to Boo'ya Moon. What begins as a widow's effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited.

Perhaps King's most personal and powerful story ever, Lisey's Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.


Average King is still pretty damn good. )

Verdict: Only Stephen King can so shamelessly reuse his ingredients so successfully. There are many Stephen King novels I've liked more than Lisey's Story, and several I've liked less, so it only rates as average for me compared to his other stuff, but it's a fine book, combining themes of madness, creativity, love, loss, and sisterhood.

Also by Stephen King: My review of The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
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One-line summary: A little girl gets lost in the woods.



From the author's website:


Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland strays from the path while she and her recently divorced mother and brother take a hike along a branch of the Appalachian Trail. Lost for days, wandering farther and farther astray, Trisha has only her portable radio for comfort. A huge fan of Tom Gordon, a Boston Red Sox relief pitcher, she listens to baseball games and fantasizes that her hero will save her. Nature isn't her only adversary, though - something dangerous may be tracking Trisha through the dark woods.


Reviews:

Amazon: Average 3.7. Mode: 5 stars.
Goodreads: Average 3.35. Mode: 3 stars.

Stephen King has always been one of my favorite authors. I don't think he's a great author, the sort whose work will stand the test of time and make him the Charles Dickens of future generations (for one thing, a lot of his work becomes dated quickly with all of his pop culture references), but I do think he's a damn fine storyteller, the sort of who can make a book about a girl lost in the woods entertaining and even exciting. Of all the King novels I've read, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon wouldn't rank as one of my favorites, but I did enjoy it more than I've liked a lot of his more recent stuff. (I may be committing King-fan heresy here, but I've only read the first volume of the Dark Tower series, and I just couldn't get into it.)

The summary above gives you the plot in a nutshell: nine-year-old Trisha wanders off the path during a day hike, beginning a nine-day ordeal in which she manages to cover over thirty miles, crossing forests and bogs and marshes and wandering all the way from Maine to New Hampshire. King always researches the little details, which is what makes her improbable journey somehow plausible, and because he's such a fine storyteller, he manages to stretch it out over the course of 264 pages without it ever dragging. In retrospect, however, it did seem more like a novella from one of his short story collections (e.g., Different Seasons) padded out to novel length.

It has all the usual trademark King elements: certain words and pop culture references (some genuine, some made-up) take on a disproportionate importance in the story; the main character suffers both remarkably good and catastrophically bad strokes of luck; adults are shown in all their honest, fucked-up frailty; a vaguely pseudo-spiritual current runs through the story. (I know King's not an atheist, but his belief in something resembling a deity seems to be wishful thinking more than anything heartfelt.) Trisha suffers one miserable bone-bruising experience after another, until the poor girl is a bruised, bitten, bleeding bag of bones, literally on death's door when the story reaches its climax. Of course it wouldn't be a Stephen King story without a touch of the weird supernatural, and here, it is the Thing in the woods, the God of the Lost, a barely-seen monster that stalks Trisha all throughout her journey, and until the very end we are left unsure whether it's an actual creature or just one of her hallucinations.

King doesn't forget that protagonists have to be proactive, though, and Trisha is an endearing character. She's only nine, so much of what happens to her is beyond her control, but she's brave and resourceful and plucky and everything you expect a heroine to be, but not unrealistically so. (She's still a little girl lost in the woods, so quite naturally, she's terrified most of the time.)

I expected this to be one of his "lighter" books. The violence and gross-out elements were very minor compared to most of his books. And while I knew King is not above writing a grisly demise for a nine-year-old girl, I figured he probably wouldn't kill off a nine-year-old girl when she's the main character.

Right?



Verdict: If you like King, then this book should satisfy even if it's not mindblowing or one of his darker gems. If King makes you nervous because of all the gore and grue he's noted for, then you might try this book as an example of his storytelling skills, since it's fairly light on the ick-factor.
inverarity: (Default)
One-line summary: A little girl gets lost in the woods.



From the author's website:


Nine-year-old Trisha McFarland strays from the path while she and her recently divorced mother and brother take a hike along a branch of the Appalachian Trail. Lost for days, wandering farther and farther astray, Trisha has only her portable radio for comfort. A huge fan of Tom Gordon, a Boston Red Sox relief pitcher, she listens to baseball games and fantasizes that her hero will save her. Nature isn't her only adversary, though - something dangerous may be tracking Trisha through the dark woods.


Reviews:

Amazon: Average 3.7. Mode: 5 stars.
Goodreads: Average 3.35. Mode: 3 stars.

Stephen King has always been one of my favorite authors. I don't think he's a great author, the sort whose work will stand the test of time and make him the Charles Dickens of future generations (for one thing, a lot of his work becomes dated quickly with all of his pop culture references), but I do think he's a damn fine storyteller, the sort of who can make a book about a girl lost in the woods entertaining and even exciting. Of all the King novels I've read, The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon wouldn't rank as one of my favorites, but I did enjoy it more than I've liked a lot of his more recent stuff. (I may be committing King-fan heresy here, but I've only read the first volume of the Dark Tower series, and I just couldn't get into it.)

The summary above gives you the plot in a nutshell: nine-year-old Trisha wanders off the path during a day hike, beginning a nine-day ordeal in which she manages to cover over thirty miles, crossing forests and bogs and marshes and wandering all the way from Maine to New Hampshire. King always researches the little details, which is what makes her improbable journey somehow plausible, and because he's such a fine storyteller, he manages to stretch it out over the course of 264 pages without it ever dragging. In retrospect, however, it did seem more like a novella from one of his short story collections (e.g., Different Seasons) padded out to novel length.

It has all the usual trademark King elements: certain words and pop culture references (some genuine, some made-up) take on a disproportionate importance in the story; the main character suffers both remarkably good and catastrophically bad strokes of luck; adults are shown in all their honest, fucked-up frailty; a vaguely pseudo-spiritual current runs through the story. (I know King's not an atheist, but his belief in something resembling a deity seems to be wishful thinking more than anything heartfelt.) Trisha suffers one miserable bone-bruising experience after another, until the poor girl is a bruised, bitten, bleeding bag of bones, literally on death's door when the story reaches its climax. Of course it wouldn't be a Stephen King story without a touch of the weird supernatural, and here, it is the Thing in the woods, the God of the Lost, a barely-seen monster that stalks Trisha all throughout her journey, and until the very end we are left unsure whether it's an actual creature or just one of her hallucinations.

King doesn't forget that protagonists have to be proactive, though, and Trisha is an endearing character. She's only nine, so much of what happens to her is beyond her control, but she's brave and resourceful and plucky and everything you expect a heroine to be, but not unrealistically so. (She's still a little girl lost in the woods, so quite naturally, she's terrified most of the time.)

I expected this to be one of his "lighter" books. The violence and gross-out elements were very minor compared to most of his books. And while I knew King is not above writing a grisly demise for a nine-year-old girl, I figured he probably wouldn't kill off a nine-year-old girl when she's the main character.

Right?



Verdict: If you like King, then this book should satisfy even if it's not mindblowing or one of his darker gems. If King makes you nervous because of all the gore and grue he's noted for, then you might try this book as an example of his storytelling skills, since it's fairly light on the ick-factor.
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Netflix recs: Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? (available for instant streaming from Netflix) is a documentary about a truck driver who bought a painting at a thrift store which might or might not actually be a Jackson Pollock worth millions. Trust me, it's really entertaining and interesting, even if you're not into art or Jackson Pollock.

I've also been watching The Wire on DVD. I'd never seen this show before. This is the best police drama ever! Holy crap. I'm almost done with Season Two now. I can't believe there are still three whole seasons left to watch! I'll never be able to watch Law & Order again.




My Favorite Authors



Since a couple of people asked me who my favorite authors were, I'll reel off a few (some of these I have mentioned before). This is by no means a comprehensive list of every author I like or all those whom I've read a lot of, but these are the ones who stick out and whose books I would always want to have on my shelves.

Some of my favorite authors )
inverarity: (Default)


Netflix recs: Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? (available for instant streaming from Netflix) is a documentary about a truck driver who bought a painting at a thrift store which might or might not actually be a Jackson Pollock worth millions. Trust me, it's really entertaining and interesting, even if you're not into art or Jackson Pollock.

I've also been watching The Wire on DVD. I'd never seen this show before. This is the best police drama ever! Holy crap. I'm almost done with Season Two now. I can't believe there are still three whole seasons left to watch! I'll never be able to watch Law & Order again.




My Favorite Authors



Since a couple of people asked me who my favorite authors were, I'll reel off a few (some of these I have mentioned before). This is by no means a comprehensive list of every author I like or all those whom I've read a lot of, but these are the ones who stick out and whose books I would always want to have on my shelves.

Some of my favorite authors )

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