Tag Archives: stephen king

New additions to Recommended Reading

It’s been a while since I updated the Recommended Reading section of this website. The last addition to the short stories list, I believe, was Priya Sharma’s ‘The Absent Shade’ back in January 2015. Since then, I’ve read 64 short stories in 2015 and 24 in 2016 (to date). From those 88 stories, here are those I unequivocally recommend (in the order I read them):

SHORT STORIES/NOVELETTES

Men Wearing Makeup by Ralph Robert Moore – Black Static #46 (May-Jun 2015)
All the Day You’ll Have Good Luck by Kate Jonez – Black Static #47 (Jul-Aug 2015)
A Case Study in Natural Selection and How it Applies to Love by Eric J. Guignard – Black Static #47 (Jul-Aug 2015)
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver  –  What We Talk About When We Talk About Love (collection, 1981)
Morality by Stephen King  –  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (collection, 2015)
I Have Heard the Mermaids Sing by Ray Cluley  –  Probably Monsters (collection 2015)
At Night, When the Demons Come by Ray Cluley  –  Probably Monsters (collection 2015)
Obits by Stephen King  –  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (collection, 2015)
Drunken Fireworks by Stephen King  –  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (collection, 2015)
Summer Thunder by Stephen King  –  The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (collection, 2015)
Ishq by Usman T. Malik  –  Black Static #43 (Nov-Dec 2014)
Dirt Land by Ralph Robert Moore  –  Black Static #49 (Nov-Dec 2015)

Other additions:

NOVELS

Point Hollow by Rio Youers (2015)
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick (2014)

NON FICTION:

On Writing by Charles Bukowski (2015)
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield (2013)
Beneath the Neon: Life and Death in the Tunnels of Las Vegas by Matthew O’Brien (2007)

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2015 – What I Read (and Loved)

Okay, so I only read 16 books (fiction/non-fiction) and 64 short stories in 2015. It isn’t a lot, I know, but for what it is worth here is a list of the titles I particularly enjoyed and do not hesitate to recommend. In no particular order:

BOOKS

  • On Writing – Charles Bukowski (2015)*
  • Point Hollow – Rio Youers (2015)

* This is perhaps one for fans, rather than a starting point for readers interested in Bukowski’s work.

SHORT STORIES

  • The Absent Shade – Priya Sharma (Black Static #44)
  • Men Wearing Makeup – Ralph Robert Moore (Black Static #46)
  • All the Day You’ll Have Good Luck – Kate Jonez (Black Static #47)
  • A Case Study in Natural Selection and How It Applies to Love – Eric J. Guignard (Black Static #47)
  • What We Talk about When We Talk about Love – Raymond Carver (collection of the same name)
  • Morality – Stephen King (collection: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams)*
  • I Have Heard the Mermaids Sing – Ray Cluley (collection: Probably Monsters)*

* I am still  currently reading The Bazaar of Bad Dreams and Probably Monsters.

How I Spent My Summer…in Derry

It

There will be no short story list for August.  I’ve read a few, but not enough to warrant posting on here. Instead, I’ve been rereading the classic horror novel, “It” by Stephen King. It’s been twenty years since I first read this 900+ page tale about childhood and monsters, and although I went into this, my second reading, with some enthusiasm I did not expect to be as blown away as I have been. I’m loving every page. Even those sections I remember being weak, such as the dark, historical interludes about Derry and some of the adult-POV stuff have been riveting this time around. I didn’t expect that at all.  And even if the ending disappoints this time as much as it did in the Nineties (I’m 200 pages from it at the time of posting) I will be catapulting this novel back into my top 5 or even top 3 favourite King novels regardless.  Now, to find time to revisit “The Stand”…

UNDER THE DOME, Stephen King: book review

To coincide with the season finale of the rather abysmal “mini-series” (which has now been renewed for a second season *sigh*), I thought I’d post my review of the book, which first appeared on my old blogger site in Jan 2010…

Under the Dome

A mysterious dome descends upon the town of Chester’s Mill. A woodchuck is split in two and a light airplane explodes, raining debris (and body parts) on Route 119. And so begins Stephen King’s latest novel, Under the Dome

Forget The Simpsons Movie comparisons. They’re unfortunate and distracting. This 1072-page epic deserves to be judged as a new King novel, end of. And he’s having a lot of fun here, you can tell, watching his one-hundred-plus cast move around like a kid staring at ants through a magnifying glass. So what if I didn’t feel quite the same connection with any of the Chester’s Mill inhabitants? I did, however, feel involved enough in their stories to keep turning page after page. Besides, Under the Dome is about people in general more than individuals. It is also about action, pace, tension, and story. In fact, King’s prose is leaner here than it has been in years, and if it’s not quite ripped, he has certainly worked hard to rid himself of not all but most of the flab that comes with TMI: Too Much Information. Indeed, hand on heart, I can say I wasn’t bored for a single moment, quite the opposite, and when you consider the length of the novel, that’s a massive achievement.

Anyway, Dome in place, things quickly heat up inside. Divisions form. Dale ‘Barbie’ Barbara, an Iraq veteran, on one side, ‘Big Jim’ Rennie, used-car dealer and town second selectman on the other. King tries to blur the lines a little, but what we essentially get is a battle of Good versus Evil. Global Warming, albeit in microcosm, is addressed also, and with admirable restraint. As for the politics in the novel, purported to represent King’s own beliefs, they seem to have angered and even turned some readers off. They did not particularly interest me, so I won’t go there other than to say I don’t believe they encroached upon the story, perhaps because I saw this as something deeper than religion or politics. It’s an unflinchingly dark portrayal of human nature and society, but it may also be an honest and true one. Therein lies the horror.

Now for the ending. You will find out what The Dome is and why it is there, but whether you like the explanation or accept the explanation comes down to you, the individual reader. And in traditional Stephen King style, it will disappoint some and satisfy others. Fortunately, after a thousand-page read, I found myself in the latter camp. Again, for me the novel was a study of human behaviour above all else, and for the most part King handles this aspect with great skill and understanding. Okay, one or two characters lost it a little too quickly for me, but what do I know? I’ve never been under the dome…

Finally, would I recommend picking up a copy? Let me offer some perspective. Here are my top three Stephen King books:

1. The Long Walk (granted, written as Richard Bachman)
2. Hearts in Atlantis
3. Duma Key

Under the Dome supplants Duma Key at No.3 on my list, though it is a close decision. As the smoothest, swiftest, most thrilling read from King so far, I would have to say, yes – get your hands on a copy.

JOYLAND, Stephen King: a short review

Joyland

Back cover:  “College student Devin Jones took the summer job at Joyland hoping to forget the girl who broke his heart.  But he wound up facing something far more terrible:  the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and dark truths about life—and what comes after—that would change his world forever.”

I have a few problems with Joyland.  Firstly, it isn’t a Hard Case Crime novel.  Okay, technically it is – the 112th title in the series, in fact – but I suspect the rules have been bent for Stephen King, albeit understandably; he is a massive draw and will likely sell more copies than any other HCC author.  However, it is hard not to feel a little disappointed when Joyland is misrepresented as a hard-boiled crime novel or for that matter a crime novel at all.  Granted, there is a crime in this 283-page novel but it is far from being the central focus.  As for the horror or ghost story element, it’s seems like an afterthought, and the novel would have been no more or less enjoyable without it.  Or the psychic abilities of a certain minor character.

Joyland is, at heart, a coming-of-age story.  And it has a heart, bigger than anything I’ve ever read from King.  It is also a literary novel, strong on character and observation and language (the carny-talk in particular) but slightly lacking on plot and, particularly, satisfying plot development.  For example, King eschews traditional clue-gathering (perhaps to save space) and opts instead for having a minor character turn up with a briefcase full of all the information necessary for the protagonist to solve the crime(s).  It feels lazy and reinforces the feeling that the author was more interested in the characters than the crime aspect.  Clues could and should have been provided piecemeal, but there’s a tangible urgency in the text to return us to the relationships.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but remember this is supposed to be a crime novel.

Stephen King is no stranger to characters with psychic abilities.  But in Joyland the powers of one character are used to resolve the plot and little else.  Again, it feels lazy.  Half-assed.  But where Joyland does work and works best is in the characterisation:  the people and the park (a character in its own right).  Devin Jones is one of King’s most likeable and memorable (certainly in recent years), and the supporting cast are likewise well-drawn.  The “Joyland” amusement park itself is an endlessly fascinating place, too.  Indeed, the first half of the novel is all about the people and the location with little to no plot.  Nevertheless, King manages to draw the reader in, deep, with skilful and often beautiful prose, acute observations, and plenty of heart.  Everything feels slightly rushed in the second half, as if he suddenly remembered, Hey, this is supposed to be a crime novel, time to get on that.  And it suffers a little as a result, but such weaknesses in the story aside, Devin, Mike, Annie, Tom, and Erin are five characters I thoroughly enjoyed spending my time with, if not for a whole summer then at least for a couple of days…  7/10.