All posts tagged: Stephen King

Book Review: Doctor Sleep

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Title: Doctor Sleep (The Shinning #2)

Author: Stephen King

Genre: Horror

Book procurement: Purchased from Exclusive Books – Greenstone Mall.

Synopsis:

Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever,The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.

On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”

Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of devoted readers of The Shining and satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.

Review:

I’ve read a number of King books through the years, and this was the first one I had to consider twice when reading at night. It wasn’t necessarily scary but it had its moments where paranoia creeped up on me faster than you can say Abracadabra. I still expect dead people to just show up in my bath.

The story starts off after the events from The Shining, when little Danny is revisited by ghosts of his past and realizes that his past will always be a part of him. We fast forward to an older Dan struggling with alcoholism, fighting the “shine” that still sparkles within him and his eventual sobering up at an AA that all links back together in a typical Stephen King fashion. There are no such things as coincidences with this man.

King is the master of characterization. I can imagine each of the characters in the book and won’t even need to read a name to know who is who. As usual. We have young Abra, who is a feisty, strong young girl with quite a “shine”, we have Dan whose shine get’s him the name Doctor Sleep, and we have the travelling band of “shine vampires” known as the True Knot who go around collecting “steam” from children who have the shine. Then there are plenty dots of characters thrown in the mix to help better understand who Dan Torrance, Abra Stone and the True Knot are. Each with their own characteristics and vital roles to play in the story.

In terms of writing, it’s all typical King. Vivid characters with identifiable attributes that I was able to visualise clearly in my mind. Worldbuilding at it’s finest, travelling across America through the eyes of Danny and the True Knot to experience the landscape. Flashes of The Shining in various places, and the passage of time that King’s recent books use (Revival comes to mind).

Once again, ordinary folks in extraordinary circumstances have been written into chilling reality by the King of horror.

Rating: A sleepless 4 out of 5

Nthato MorakabiBook Review: Doctor Sleep
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Book Review: 11.22.63

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Title: 11.22.63

Author: Stephen King

Publisher:  Hodder & Stoughton

Book procurement: Bought at Exclusive Books.

Release Date: Jul 5, 2012.

Synopsis:

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family.

Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke…

Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

Review:

Gee this book was long. 700 (740 if you add author’s notes) pages of time travelling goodness. Well it started off that way but… let me not jump the gun.

So the premise is quite simple. Jake Epping is dragged into going back in time to stop the assassination of J.F. Kennedy. He’s just a simple English teacher with zero CIA/FBI/Time Patrol training, only a stack of notes that Al Templeton, the person who convinced him that time travel was not only possible, it was also just behind his pantry, had compiled about the assassination and the person who killed J.F.K. – Lee Harvey Oswald. He jumps back to 1958 – and proceeds to ignore every warning and do whatever he pleases. Okay maybe that’s not fair but come on Jake, what were you doing!

The novel is written in first person perspective, giving us insight into the mental workings of Jake Epping. He’s intelligent. He’s resourceful. He’s human. His humanity makes him both vulnerable and prone to stupidity, especially considering he’s a man from 2011 going back 50 years to a world where he is not born yet. Has he heard of the butterfly effect? He has. Does he live in light of it? Gee, I don’t know. Have you read any Stephen King novels? You know how it’s going to go right? *bangs head on table*

The book starts off slow. Not boring, mind you, but slow nonetheless. Jake takes a trip through the course of history and changes a few things here and there for the sake of preventing something awful in the future. The results are not what he expects… which should be a given considering he’s messing with time travel. (Are time travelers always trying to mess up the time line? *Looks askew at The Flash, Morty McFly). It never ends well does it?

Did I enjoy the book? Well… it started off really well. King has a tendency of providing foresight to what’s about to happen (as he usually does) which builds tension. I like that. He also likes to create coincidences that aren’t really coincidences that the main characters see, internalise in a monologue, and then completely ignore anyway. Like… what? Oh and that ending? The one part I saw coming as it was about to happen. It was the only way it should have happened. The second part I was like “Huh? Well okay then.” and you know what, that’s okay.

As usual, King’s characters are on point. Authentic. Believable. And he doesn’t spare them a dime. Imagine the worst thing that could happen to a character… and then keep making it worse into a downward spiral. Yeah. That’s King for you.

Rating:  A meh 3 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiBook Review: 11.22.63
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Dolores Claiborne

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dolores

Title: Dolores Claiborne

Author: Stephen King

Genre: Thriller

Book procurement: Bookstore selling secondhand books. Available on Amazon, Takealot, Exclusive Books.

Synopsis: (Goodreads)

Suspected of killing Vera Donovan, her wealthy employer, Dolores Claiborne tells police the story of her life, harkening back to her disintegrating marriage and the suspicious death of her violent husband, Joe St. George, thirty years earlier. Dolores also tells of Vera’s physical and mental decline and of her loyalty to an employer who has become emotionally demanding in recent years.

Review:

It took a while for me to get into the groove of this book. Told from a very different first person almost second person perspective, it was as though I was a fly on the wall eavesdropping on a conversation. The whole book is Dolores’ story and she is the narrator. There are parts in the book where she asks for a drink of water, once again reiterating the fact that she is speaking out loud. Once I wrapped my mind around this I sat back and let Dolores speak, and what a tale she was telling.

Although there were elements of horror, I wouldn’t classify this book as a horror. A thriller is as close as I can call it and even then it’s a wishy-washy thriller; perhaps more of a drama than anything else. If there’s one thing that comes out of this novel, it is that Dolores is… well I can’t use that word so let’s go for stubborn-strong-headed-woman-who-says-what-she-thinks-and-doesn’t-care-what-anybody-else-says. Yep that’s Dolores.

The story is told in a strong narrative voice, using slang and spelling words like they are being said. “I c’n read you easier’n an underwear ad…”. It creates a different mood to the whole novel. Makes Dolores more real. Makes her story feel like it’s her story and I have to commend the King on achieving this so well. As I stated in a tweet while reading this novel, “When Dolores’ voice gets in your head, it’s over.” By that I mean, once you read the book and you no longer hear yourself read but Dolores speak with the voice your mind has imagined, then King has accomplished his goal. It is no wonder they made this a movie. I haven’t watched it but I’m going to add it to my list anyway.

Now as much as this is Dolores’ tale, it’s also about the other women in her life, mainly Vera Donovan and Dolores daughter Selena. They add in an amazing dynamic to the story. Vera is more hard-headed than Dolores and the two have disturbing feuds trying to gain an upper hand over the other. There was one particular episode that still shocks me to this day *shivers*. The next is Selena, the oldest and only daughter. Dolores really goes out of her way to protect her child and once again I see the depth of motherly love. Without these two characters, Dolores Claiborne would have been a boring character… and a boring book.

In overall it was a great book. Great characters. Unique storytelling. Not so much of a horror which was disappointing. Had a few shocking moments. A worthwhile read.

Rating: A well-meaning 3 out of 5.

Nthato MorakabiDolores Claiborne
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Revival

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stephen-king-revival

Title: Revival

Author: Stephen King

Genre: Horror

Book procurement: Birthday gift. Available on Amazon, Takealot, Exclusive Books

Synopsis:

In a small New England town, in the early 60s, a shadow falls over a small boy playing with his toy soldiers. Jamie Morton looks up to see a striking man, the new minister, Charles Jacobs. Soon they forge a deep bond, based on their fascination with simple experiments in electricity.

Decades later, Jamie is living nomadic lifestyle of bar-band rock and roll. Now an addict, he sees Jacobs again – a showman on stage, creating dazzling ‘portraits in lightning’ – and their meeting has profound consequences for both men. Their bond becomes a pact beyond even the Devil’s devising, and Jamie discovers that revival has many meanings.

Review:

The King does it again. Another fascinating tale of humans verses the unknown, and all the things that make us human; with just a dash of horror to liven it up of course. What I really enjoyed about this book was the fact that the horror itself was not in the form of monsters or aliens or anything of the sort but the realm of the unknown and the ever sought answer to life’s greatest mystery: what happens after death.

Told from the perspective of Jamie Morton, we “grow up” with the six year old boy playing with toy soldiers to the young man falling in love to the older man caught in a web between himself and his old preacher Charles Jacobs. I want to say more, but I have to keep it vague in fear of writing a spoiler.

King has always been a name dropper. Band names, songs they sang, the people in the band. Places. People. Things. King makes them part of the story which thereby gives a sense of authenticity to his books; as though it were a tale that happened in the very world we live in. Looking up almost all the references in Revival leads you to a factual person, band or song, and I love that aspect of “world building” in it.

I must say I was sourly disappointed by the end. Not the ending itself but the big reveal of the mystery at the end… so anti-climatic. I mean sure, it was very King-like, and if you have watched any SK book-to-movie adaptations, this ending will fit right in. But it was not that scary nor was it spectacular. I would have thought that I was perhaps desensitised to it, but there were other aspects before hand that made me put the book down and shake the image out of my head. *shivers*

All in all, a typical King book and story that I enjoyed.

Rating: Resuscitating 3 out of 5

Nthato MorakabiRevival
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Finders Keepers

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finders-keepers-stephen-king

Title: Finders Keepers (The Bill Hodges Trilogy)

Author: Stephen King

Genre: Thriller

Book Procurement: Christmas Present. Available on Amazon, Takealot and Exclusive Books

Synopsis:

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years

Review: 

Stephen King has always been a big influence in my life when it comes to reading and writing. I have been a King fan for over a decade now, starting back when I was a Primary School bookworm, who took out seven books from the library for the week (at that age you were only allowed a maximum of two but I was given the exception).

My goal in life is to read every Stephen King novel out there and so far so good. Have you seen my Goodreads page?

Finders Keepers was, for me, a different read when it came to my expectations of a King novel. At first, this was in a bad way as I felt like it was so different from his other books. His nuances were evident, his writing style obvious and the trademark “This was his biggest mistake” subtlety before, as one of my mentors says “The paw-paw hits the fan.”

The story is not necessary a follow up of his previous book Mr Mercedes (even though it is part of a trilogy), but it does refer to it many times, including the predicament that put the young protagonist, Pete Saubers, in the situation he finds himself in when he finds a bag full of money and extremely rare writings of a famous author who was murdered – an author he has fallen in love with. There is also the convict, Morris Bellamy, who murdered the author for his books, was incarcerated for an entirely different reason, and once released, goes out to find his hidden treasure trove – of the author he has fallen in love with. The result is a back and forth page turner between Pete, Morris, and the det-ret (retired detective) Bill Hodges, spanning over three decades and spiraling into a thrilling adventure about book lovers who get a little too attached to books and the author who penned them.

I won’t lie, I was not too impressed at the beginning of the book but as the suspense built and the three characters began to intertwine into each other’s lives without either of them being aware of it, I was gripped. The novel is also a well of knowledge as King name drops so many authors, songs, books and devices both modern and old, that if it were a blog post it would be on the first page of every search engine (thanks SEOs -Search Engine Optimization).

If there is one thing I appreciate about King, it is his excellent character development. He has an ability to put you right into the mind of the various characters, understand their quips and quirks, feel their anxiety, their worry; their fears. I find I relate to them on some level and that makes them believable, and that makes his books worth a read. Finders Keepers jumps between different characters and even with the jumps, you know who is who and who they are, and that is really what I enjoyed about this book.

Rating: Unbiased by my love for Stephen King, I give this an enjoyable 4 out of 5

Nthato MorakabiFinders Keepers
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