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Book Reviews Stephen King

Stephen King * Stationary Bike Short Story

You can. You should. And if you’re brave enough to start, you will. —Stephen King

A riveting riff on artistic frustration, midlife mortality, and hard-won redemption, Stationary Bike is a thrill ride that could come only from the mind of Stephen King.

I think most people find the prospect of insanity far more frightening than the bogeyman. The main character in this book loses his marbles a little after beginning to exercise for the first time in his life. His doctor tells him to picture a work crew inside his body, a metaphor he takes a bit too literally and starts to have some powerful hallucinations about them. Where does Stephen King come up with this stuff? And how does he make you believe it without feeling ridiculous? An added bonus is that the moral of the story seems to be that you should occasionally have some cheesecake, which is a lesson I can really get behind.

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Book Reviews

Joyland * Stephen King Book Review

I’ve avoided purchasing “Joyland” when it came out for very simple reasons. I thought that a carnival-themed book would include a clown and I loved “IT” too much to want to ruin Pennywise. The joke was on me as “Joyland” was more like a supernatural story with ghosts and a murderer that escaped than a story about a killer carnie.

You’ll have interesting, fruitful lives, my young friends. You’ll do many good things and have many remarkable experiences.

But I hope you’ll always look back on your time in Joyland as something special. We don’t sell furniture. We don’t sell cars.

We don’t sell land or houses or retirement funds. We have no political agenda. We sell fun. Never forget that. Thank you for your attention. Now go forth.

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Stephen King

The Gingerbread Girl * Stephen King

“The Gingerbread Girl” is a 56-page novella originally published in the July issue of Esquire magazine on 15 June 2007, and later included as the second entry in King’s own 2008 collection Just After Sunset. An audiobook version of the story, read by Mare Winningham, was released by Simon & Schuster audio on 6 May 2008.

After the baby died, Emily took up running.

So starts a story about a marriage falling apart following their baby’s death, a story about motherly loss and finding ways to cope with it, a story about to go terribly wrong when she crosses the path of a serial killer out to get her.

The first part of the book is an emotional rollercoaster. Emily and Henry’s marriage is on the rocks and there’s no trying to make it better. She blames herself for the baby’s death even though crib deaths are not an unusual occurrence (though a sad one)

More than 2,000 babies died of SIDS in 2010, the last year for which such statistics are available. Most SIDS deaths occur when in babies between 1 month and 4 months of age, and the majority (90%) of SIDS deaths occur before a baby reaches 6 months of age. However SIDS deaths can occur anytime during a baby’s first year

Source: https://www1.nichd.nih.gov/sts/about/SIDS/Pages/fastfacts.aspx

They have tried to work it out, she tried to be the strong one in their partnership, but it wasn’t working well, as she had no-one to comfort her.

She believed that comfort, not bread, was the staff of life. Maybe eventually she would be able to find some for herself. In the meantime, she had produced a defective baby.

She takes up running in an attempt to find the limits to her own endurance, and possibly as a form of punishment and catharsis. Her marriage finally collapses in a final argument and she picks up her card and moves immediately into a motel and phones her dad for help.

That reproachful look. She could no longer stand it. Given his rather long face, it was like having a sheep in the house. I married a Dorset gray, she thought, and now it’s just baa-baa-baa, all day long.

She moves in into her dad’s summer house in an estate designed for the rich, the very rich and the absurdly rich and spends her time running on the beach and healing.

 “There’s plenty of beach to run on, and a good long stretch of road, too. As you well know. And you won’t have to elbow people out of your way. Between now and October, Vermillion is as quiet as it ever gets.”

It’s only when a new neighbor turns up before the summer ends that she gets into trouble. While running past his house, she notices some blonde hair coming out of the trunk of the car and bits of blood. She gets smacked over the head and when she comes through she finds herself as the latest victim of a psychopathic serial killer. He is truly deranged, bringing young girls to kill for years and years to the same place, having never been caught.

The survival battle begins, wits against wits, she is trying to get him out of the house and find an escape route. She reminded me of the woman in Gerald’s Game. Maybe Stephen King prefers his woman in the most dire of situations to show how they can get out (if they can). I had to stop a few times and take a breather as the tension was killing me. What happens: she manages to slowly untie her taped chair feet from the floor by flexing her calf muscles, manages to destroy the chair against the fridge and get it loose around her and then he returns.

She fights him off and manages to get a good blow to his head and render him unconscious. This is where I was thinking she was going to do what Ender suggested: When your enemy is defeated, continue until he can never raise again to be your enemy.  Instead she leaves him there and decides to find a way out of the house. Ummm, phones, anyone?

He wakes up and begins to follow her from floor to floor until she is trapped in a bedroom with no escape. Remembering her younger years, she jumps through the glass window, rolls upon landing, and starts running towards the beach in an attempt to lose him. She finds a Mexican guy on the beach and with broken Spanish she asks for help. He tells him that she’s been drinking and is a bit crazy so the poor guy does not know what or who to believe. In the end, Mr. Pinkerton (the killer) drops his scissors from behind his trousers and after a short struggle, stabs the Mexican in the mouth and in the eyes. Poor guy, he just happened to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

Emily runs towards the water in an attempt to swim away but he catches her and just about as he’s about to stab her, she turns around and pulls him in the water. This is when she finds out that the killer can’t swim! (Talk about Deus Ex Machina and easy way outs!) She manages to use his panic in her advantage and pushes him into the sea where she watches him slowly drown. Retribution.

She should have finished him in the kitchen while he was unconscious.


I really enjoyed The Ginergerbread Girl. I found that Emily was a fully developed, complex character in spite of the limited amount of time that Stephen King had to develop her. Usually, there is a lack of connection between myself and the characters of short stories. This prevents me from becoming invested in the story. That wasn’t the case with The Gingerbread Girl. Because of the time that King took to develop the character at the beginning of the story, telling us about Em’s recent loss and her home life, I found myself concerned with the character’s well being.

We’re not given any backstory on the Mr. Pinkerton character with the exception of knowing he brings a new “niece” to his beach house each year and leaves on a boat after a couple of weeks. The “niece” is never seen again. With Pinkerton, it’s not a big deal that the character isn’t developed anymore than he is. He’s the bad guy. He kills girls and gets away with it. That’s all that is necessary for the story. If I were given a choice, then I would have loved more background on the character, but the lack-there-of does not take away from what he adds to the story.

One thing that I didn’t like about The Gingerbread Girl is how easily Em catches Pinkerton and reveals him as a murderer. This is a guy who has been getting away with murder for untold years and he slips up by leaving a dead body in the trunk of his car with the trunk and residence gate open? How did he get away with killing these girls so long? Someone so careless would be caught very, very quickly. I’m not buying that someone so meticulous, as he is shown to be in the story, would make such a mistake.

Otherwise, good book, good ending, good plot. 5/5

 

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Stephen King

Willa – Stephen King Short Story (Just After Sunset)

The story is the first one in the collection Just After Sunset. In the endnotes in the collection called “Sunset Notes”, King writes of this story: “This probably isn’t the best story in the book, but I love it very much, because it ushered in a new period of creativity for me – as regards the short story, at least. Most of the stories in Just After Sunset were written subsequent to ‘Willa’, and in fairly quick succession (over a period of not quite two years).”

A railway station in the middle of nowhere. David is looking for his girlfriend: Willa. They were on their way to their own wedding, when an accident made them stuck at a small railway station. Now Willa is missing and none of the other fellow passengers know where she is. Although the next train is so supposed to come any minute, David leaves the railway station to search for Willa…

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Stephen King

Bachman Books (Stephen King) * Blaze * Short Story

Although there is nothing I like better than to pick up a 1000 page novel by this extraordinary storyteller, sometimes less is better. This is one of those times. A simple plot, great characters, and a perfect ending.

Blaze is a big hulking galoot who doesn’t have much going on in the brains department, complements of his abusive father. Irretrievably damaged with a dent in the middle of his forehead, he is removed from the home and plopped into the uninviting lap of the state orphanage. After a particularly horrendous placing in a foster home, he is returned to the orphanage. Surprisingly, Blaze grows up to be a gentle giant, eager to please and thus, easy to manipulate, a veritable tool in the hands of a smalltime con-artist, George.

Our characters are rather eccentric, and I think they were wrote this way on purpose, kind of like the good cop, bad cop routine. George, the evil go-getter who thinks he is entitled to everything, and then there is Blaze, who worships the ground George walks on and would do anything he says. King tips his hat to Steinbeck in this one, it being a shadow of Of Mice and Men

The links are very apparent when Blaze gets another break from the orphanage to work on a farm as part of a summer work program. He falls in love and gains the attention and respect of the farm’s owner, a Mr. Bluenote. It looks like things will finally work out for Blaze. Bluenote doesn’t want to send Blaze back to Hetton House. He wants to keep him on the farm as a hand, train him, and help him along. It sounds perfect, but on the last day of the program Bluenote has a heart attack and dies on the spot. All that hopeful future blows up in his face, and Blaze is back at Hetton House.

“Memories are contrary things; if you quit chasing them and turn your back, they often return on their own.”

of-mice-and-men-4946-web.jpg
Cinnabar Theater’s “Of Mice and Men,”

Blaze is written in a way that readers will feel bad for him at one point, and then angry at him the next, so they end up on a fence, do I like him or do I not?  Clayton Blaisdell Jr. may be a sweet, somewhat interesting character, but he has a dark, murderous side, and so much bad luck that Thomas Hardy could have created him.

To be honest, Stephen King did admit that this book was one of his earlier novels – after The Running Man, Roadwork, etc. but before his success with Carrie.

The story slowly comes to its peak as Blaze meets a George who uses Blaze to work a series of low-level cons. George decides that kidnapping is the big score, a way to get rich for life. George picks a perfect victim too, the newly born son of wealthy parents who live in an all-too-easily-accessed gated community. The baby’s name is Joe Gerrard.

“Blaze himself was pretty sure he himself was going to hell, as were most other people. It was a dirty world, and the longer you lived, the dirtier you got.”

I don’t usually root for kidnappers, but I honestly do believe that neither Blaze nor George had any intention of harming the kid. So in a sense, I started cheering for Blaze, hoping that things would work out for him. Of course, given Blaze’s luck, we know that couldn’t happen. George is killed in a gambling fight before the kidnapping can even take place and Blaze is left to carry out the crime all by himself. What follows is a study in poor decision-making, disastrous mistakes, and more bad luck… though at least Blaze doesn’t listen to those voices that urge him to kill the baby. In fact, he learns to love the kid. But the outcome is just as disastrous and inevitable.

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Much like some of the other Bachman stories, the brevity and focus on a single individual really shows how well King can flesh out a character when he’s not using them as props to keep a 600+ page narrative moving. Though not quite as edgy as “Rage” or “The Long Walk” this is right up there with Stephen King’s better shorter works. Despite being begun at the same time as those other stories, it has a much more mature feel (though, I’m not sure how much of that is original, and how much came from revisions prior to publishing).

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Book Reviews Stephen King

Stephen King’s Sisters of Eluria Book Review

“The Little Sisters of Eluria” is a prequel to the first volume of the Dark Tower saga.
It was originally published in 1998 in a collection called Legends: Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy. In 2002, it was collected and included in King’s Everything’s Eventual.

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Book Reviews Stephen King

The Colorado Kid * Stephen King Short Story

GW226H176.jpgThe premise of the story is quite simple. One mysterious dead body, a set of newspapermen trying to find clues as to who’s done it and more importantly, how it was done. It’s a tale about mystery and the way to explain it and was adapted into a TV show called “Haven” (which by my humble opinion was a lot better)

A mystery with no resolution plain and simply pisses people off. People want a happy conclustion to a problem–whether it be why 9/11 happened, why oil prices are so high, why a young woman in Wisconsin was murdered, or how a man from Colorado went to work one morning and ended up dead on a little island off the coast of Maine only hours later.

“Curiosity killed the cat, you know, but satisfaction brought him back snap-ass happy.”

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Book Reviews Stephen King

Dark Visions * Stephen King Short Stories

Take three of the leading names in contemporary horror writing, commission one-third of a book’s worth of stories from each, and the result is Dark Visions

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Stephen King

Stephen King * UR – Short Story

“ Does this gadget of yours have a smell?” “Nope,” Henderson replied. “Not really. But when you turn the pages…here, with this button…they kind of flutter, like in a real book, and I can go to any page I want, and when it sleeps, it shows pictures of famous writers, and it holds a charge”

What would you do if you’d have a Kindle and you could download the works of all the authors from all the parallel worlds? I honestly would starve to death because, really, who needs food?

“The gadget had come with The New Oxford American Dictionary preloaded. You only had to begin typing your word and the Kindle found it for you. It was, he thought, TiVo for bookworms.”

200369-amazon-kindle-2-stephen-king-s-urI loved the concept of this book, and it thrilled me to no end seeing the King universe tied into the story. The connection didn’t feel as unplanned as some of his other books do, more like he sought to write a book that tied in the Dark Tower series with a story about a Kindle, but even so it was pretty cool. I loved the concept of what the UR edition Kindle could do. I would absolutely be searching out more of King’s works… I would have to cover the Kindle in plastic to avoid ruining it by drool, but still… I would be in heaven.

“Kindle, isn’t it?” the waitress asked. “I got one for Christmas, and I love it. I’m reading my way through all of Jodi Picoult’s books.” “Oh, probably not all of them,” Wesley said. “Huh? Why not?” “She’s probably got another one done already. That’s all I meant.” “And James Patterson’s probably written one since he got up this morning!” she said, and went off chortling.”

UR-Stephen-KingImagine having 3 other Harry Potter books, The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring and the last book in The Kingkiller Chronicles. By the way, have you checked Rothfuss’ review of the last one? It’s one of the most popular reviews on Goodreads and it talks about time travelers. But I know they aren’t time travelers. They’re people who own an UR Kindle and Stephen King is to blame because all things serve the Tower.

“The Tower trembles; the worlds shudder in their courses. The rose feels a chill, as of winter.”

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Book Reviews Stephen King

Different Seasons * Stephen King

“Until we see each other again, keep your head together, read some good books, be useful, be happy.”

Different Seasons (1982) is a collection of four Stephen King novellas with a more serious dramatic bent than the horror fiction for which King is famous. The four novellas are tied together via subtitles that relate to each of the four seasons.

Novels
Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (Hope Springs Eternal)
Apt Pupil (Summer of Corruption)
The Body (Fall From Innocence)
The Breathing Method (A Winter’s Tale)