Outsider – Stephen King

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I feel like Stephen King just gets better and better. Which is a huge complement, because I already thought his books were amazing.

Outsider is Stephen King the latest novel in a long line of novels by the “Master of Horror”. I believe one of the reasons that Stephen King remains a master is because he writes about real fear. Yes, monsters are scary, but the scariest monsters are the ones that live next door to us. Our deepest fears are what he writes about it. I believe I have said this before, and it holds true for Outsider.

In this story we open with Detective Ralph Anderson arresting a popular teacher and coach, Terry Maitland at a little league game for the murder of a little boy. In the subsequent chapters, we get a look to why the cops arrested Terry and their compelling evidence of his guilt, and we see Terry’s counter evidence to his innocence. The cops, district attorney, lawyers and detectives are then forced to leave what is black and white and go into a shady gray area that none of them are ready to deal with.

This story is a gripping, page turning ride that leaves the reader, as always, wanting more.

I really enjoyed this book and encourage any Stephen King fan to read it.

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The Ritual – Adam Nevill

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Do you ever read books that you enjoyed but at the end you can’t really say why? This is what this book was for me. I follow a few people on twitter that give out book recommendations which for me, are some of the best recommendations out there. Times might tell me about a great new author or book, but for some reason when someone I have never met on Twitter says, “This book the reason I don’t go camping”. I just have to read it.

This book is about four friends (Luke, Hutch, Phil and Dom), who go camping for a ‘guys weekend’ to reunite. Life got in the way, marriage, kids, jobs, etc. Two of the men are healthy, avid outdoors men and two of them have as they say, let themselves go. After trekking through the Scandinavian wilderness for a few days, Hutch and Luke realize that Phil and Dom just can’t make the hike they have planned. Dom’s knee is busted and Phil’s feet have painful blisters. They decide to take a shortcut through the woods but unfortunately, (despite Hutch’s knowledge of the forest), they get hopelessly lost. The discover a gruesome sight of a desecrated animal corpse strung out between two trees and that is where things go from bad to worse.

The reader is stumbling, falling, crashing and suffering right along with the men as they try to desperately get out of the forest. Unfortunately, they are not alone and the there are things in this world that cannot be explained and should never be seen.

Although the book (in my opinion) meandered a bit and felt a tad rushed at the end, it was still gripping and Adam’s detail both in character and scenery and scenery description was very rich and at times even too detailed.

I enjoyed this book and will look for others by Adam Neville.

Strange Weather – Joe Hill

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This is a collection of four shorts stories by Joe Hill and each story has some sort of “weather” attached to it. Except for Loaded – unless it was the heat.

Snapshot is a story about a boy who is taking care of his elderly neighbor who has what appears to be dementia or some kind of senility. He runs into a man with a strange camera and is unnerved when the lady warns him to not let the man take his picture! What follows is the boy leaving the realm of the known into the unknown as he tries to save what is left of his neighbors mind. Come to think of this one doesn’t have anything to do with weather either – unless it is the torrential down pours.

Loaded is just about everyone’s nightmare and one of the hardest ones to read – you will see why. A girl working in a jewelry story is driven to violence and decides to shoot her manger/lover. When a security officer who has a few screws loose comes to the ‘rescue’ and things escalate in a bad way. The fallout is told and the ending leaves the reader shocked and dismayed at the realization that this could happen…and maybe even has.

Aloft was kind of a fun story. Aubrey is terrified of heights but has agreed to go skydiving to impress the girl he is madly in love with. As he gets close to the jump he decides he can’t do it. Unfortunately, the plane has malfunctioned and he has no choice but to jump out to save his life. Him and his instructor jump but instead of making it to the ground they land on a cloud. The story tells of Aubrey discovery that he is on the cloud and his desperate attempt to get off it.

Rain is one of the sadder stories. I don’t think any character in this story doesn’t have either a tragic backstory, or a tragic plot line. One day in Boulder instead of raining normal rain it rains nails, spikes, needles. Tiny crystals that stab and kill people. Scientist are baffled, people die by the thousands and travel is near impossible because the spikes can flatten tires and go through shoes. Yet, Honeysuckle must travel to Denver to tell her girlfriends family that she was caught in the storm. On her travels she sees how quickly things fall apart, how quickly hope turns to despair, how some people try to help while others only look out for themselves. You realize that you never know the person you are with until the end, until it is almost too late.

I would say that out of all the stories I liked Rain the most. I could almost see it being a full length book, but also feel like it wrapped up nicely. In fact, all four stories wrapped up nicely which is one thing I find a problem with usually in short stories. These were perfect, I read them, I enjoyed them; when they were done I was done as well. Great collection for the Joe Hill fans.

 

 

The Bad Games – Trilogy – Jeff Menapace

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I found out about these books through a Facebook ad. I guess my love of horror novels has flagged me as being someone who enjoys horror…they got one right! I was able to download them on my kindle for about $7.00 – which is a great deal for three books. The books are titled: Bad Games, Vengeful Games, and Hellbent. Each of the books follows on family as they are unwillingly thrown in a sick game of cat and mouse.

In Bad Games the reader meets Patrick, Amy and their kids Caleb and Carrie, who are setting off to enjoy a weekend at the lake. We also meet two brothers Artie and and Jim who are also heading to the lake; who also happen to think they will be enjoying their time there, especially now that they have found some new people to play with.

In Vengeful Games the reader is introduced to the aftermath of the weekend at the lake. There are survivors and there are causalities and each plays a huge part in this story. The family thinks the horror has ended only to find out that it can get a whole lot worse.

In Hellbent we see what terrible and dark things person can do to another person. Some of the things that have been thought up in this book are so unimaginable. In fact, I would go on to say that a lot of the things that go on in this book come from a very dark mind indeed.

Jeff has taken some very depraved ideas and turned them in games that leave this family tortured and broken. It leaves them changed for better or worse. It brings a side of them out that may have lied dormant forever. Perhaps we all have it in us to kill if the circumstances are right. Perhaps vengeance isn’t so far fetched when your family has been through hell and back. I hope I never find out.

That is why it is fun to read these. From the safety of your couch you can get lost in a book that is, at some points, super disturbing and then put it down and go back to your normal life.

This series had a Saw like feel to it, especially the last one. It was very fast paced, a lot of dialog which helped move the story along really well. The main characters were likable and relatable. I would recommend to anyone who likes horror, mystery, fiction, suspense or just a good ‘ol page turner.

The Stand – Stephen King

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Full disclosure – this is one of my favorite books of all time. I remember the first time I read it, I was working at a telemarketing company and nights were slow. I know, the whole point was to make money and in order to do that you had to take phone calls but, lets just say I was a pretty poor sales person. I started reading this and it took me months to read it the first time. I felt that if I had to read “rundown boot heals” one more time I would scream. However, after getting use to Stephen King’s style, I can’t imagine (nor would I want to) a book of this epic magnitude to not include a few hundred descriptions of the same boot heals walking down those lonely summer roads.

The unabridged version of this book is really the only way to read it. I say this having never read the abridged version. I just can’t see how that version of this book (or any other abridged version of any book for that matter) can be worth your while. Stephen King has a forward in the unabridged edition that is quite comical in of itself. He implores the reader to read it before making the purchase. He wants you to know that this book isn’t a new book and the characters aren’t going to be doing anything different, but instead we would just get, more of the characters. More backstory on Trashcan Man and the rest. Again, my opinion here, the background to some of these characters is absolutely vital to the story. Yes, you can read the whole thing without learning more about Larry or Trashcan Man…but why would  you want to? Why wouldn’t you want to know the complexity of these characters? For at the end of the story you truly see how far each of them has come.

I have written papers about this book. No really I have. I won’t bore you, instead I will just give you my brief description and beg that anyone who loves Stephen King, mystery, fiction, intrigue, Post-Apocalyptic fiction, good/evil, or horror pick this one up and read it. The full version. No cutting corners.

The Stand takes place in 1990 when a government made super flu has been released and kills over 99% of the population in a matter of weeks. Havoc is unleashed, mass hysteria, looting, rioting, and your basic society breakdown ensue. The survivors are scattered all over the country, confused, scared, in shock and in great despair. With no idea or answer to the “what is next” ? question, they all starting having dreams that lead them to two opposing forces. One – a 108 year old black woman by the name of Mother Abigail, the other, a mysterious dark man that goes by the name Randal Flagg. The survivors band together and realize that the death, the hurt, and the blood shed, has only just begun.

It is an epic tale of good and evil, of survivors, of love and loss and of change (good and bad). It is a story that spans the entire country of America from Maine to Los Vegas. It has Stephen King’s optimism that people, for the most part are good, with his twisted little knife reminding us that some people are very bad.

I again – can’t even begin to say enough for this story except that you should read it. Read it and get lost in the stories within this story. Read and wonder if things would or could happen the way he describes. Or what you would do or wouldn’t do. Read it and wonder… and afterward say goodbye to the friends you made on page  3 as you close the book on page 1,153.

 

IT – Stephen King

 

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This book took me over three months to complete. Okay two and half months. Frankly, I am almost gave up a few times. Once I got to the 500 page mark though I was determined to finish it, even if it took the rest of the year.

It isn’t that I don’t like big books, if it has less than 400 pages I usually won’t even pick it up. I love The Stand and that has 1,152 pages (unabridged version). IT has 1,138. So you see, it wasn’t the length of the book that made this hard to read. Of course, it wasn’t the writing either. I love Stephen King’s writing style and do not find him to be wordy. He mentions in a little note to the Constant Reader in the beginning of the Stand that he has been accused of being wordy: “for a writer who has been accused over and over again of having diarrhea of the word processor”  I, personally, do not believe he has that at all. His stories are rich, engaging and I can’t imagine the unabridged version of The Stand nor have I read it. So, neither the page count nor the writing put me off from this story. It was just difficult to read.  I found it might have been because I watched the movie when I younger so I have this image of John Ritter playing one of the characters and one scene where little Eddie says “This is battery acid you slime”. I recently saw the re-make, not bad as far I could tell, and so had a little of that in my head as well. I think what it really came down to was I just didn’t care. I didn’t care if Pennywise won, or the kids did, or if the whole town went up in flames. Again, by absolutely no fault of Stephen King. I did finish it though, and certain scenes will stick with me, little Georgie and his boat, seven scared kids wandering in the sewer system fighting something they can not comprehend, the idea that there are somethings in this world that go beyond all reason.

This book was published in 1986. The book goes back and forth between 1958 and 1984. The children are 11 in 1958 when Bill Denbrough’s little brother, Georgie, is murdered by a thing in the sewer. The adults chalk up the strange murders that happen to the kids as the work of a serial killer perhaps, or childhood accidents, perhaps they run away. Bill and his six friends, know otherwise. Once they start to learn about the thing that lives in the sewers and comes out every 20 or so years to feed before going to sleep again, the thing starts trying to scare them away. It becomes a mummy for Ben, a leaper for for Eddie, Georgie’s ghost for Bill, a werewolf for Richie, two drowned boys for Stan, a bathroom of blood for Beverly. They decide it is time to kill it, for their peace of mind and for all the dead children. Even though they think they have accomplished it, they make a blood oath to come back if it the events start happening again.

As adults, they have all forgotten Derry Maine. When they receive a phone call from a long lost friend reminding of the oath, they come back. This time to finish what they started.

I will say the movies don’t do the book justice at all. There is no way Hollywood could capture some of the images in the book, the concepts or the internal monologues.

IT has the themes that have become a part of what we expect from Stephen King, horror of course, forces of good and evil and what people do when faced with the choices. Friendship, love, human condition, childhood trauma. Above all it is the playing of fears, it is the unknown and the unthinkable. It makes you shudder and wonder when you wake up at three am and look in the mirror. You think to yourself…is it true? Do we all float?

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Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King and Owen King

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Imagine a world without women in it. At first, it may just sound weird. It may not seem like that big of a deal. After some thought though, the realization that woman are the only ones that can reproduce, are usually the primary care givers of small children and generally, whether it is unspoken or not, organizers of the households. For any length of time, the lack of women in the world would make a very chaotic world. Now imagine, that instead of disappearing, the woman are all asleep, wrapped up in cocoons. When they are disturbed they turn violent and harm the person who disturbed them before going back into their cocooned sleep. This is the world that Stephen King and his son Owen King have created in Sleeping Beauties. 

The story takes place in a small town where, there is one woman who seems to be able to fall asleep and wake up without turning into a cocoon. Stephen and Owen weave a tale that sounds very believable while still being a fantastic fantasy. They create characters that are both lovable and despicable. They create unlikely connections within these characters and show how quickly things can go from weird to Armageddon. As usual, with Stephen King’s work, you are often left wondering, what would you do in this situation? How would your react? Who do you feel is right? Who is wrong? Or is anyone right or wrong?  And what would happen if it had been the other way around? What would happen if all the men disappeared?

This is a wonderful, deeply intricate tale of a world that could be if all woman somehow just ceased to exist and what that would may look like if all hope was balanced on one person. Or even, if all hope was lost. I suggest this book to anyone who loves Stephen or Owen King, mystery, fiction, horror, or fantasy novels. A very good book to end my 2017 book challenge.