DOLORES CLAIBORNE Review

Review:

Dolores Claiborne - Stephen King

Five stars for one of my very favorite Stephen King stories: the enthralling and legendary 1993 novel, Dolores Claiborne.

 

As old as this book is, and considering it was made into a big budget film starring Kathy Bates (my favorite King adaption, by the way), almost everyone knows the plot — so I won’t rehash too much. But I will say this is the story of a woman — easily the strongest woman King has ever created, and simply one of the best damn female main characters I’ve ever come across in fiction. This is her story — her confessional — all told in first-person, in Maine dialect. The writing style is unique, something most authors wouldn’t have been able to pull off . . . but King isn’t most authors. Novels like this one are why he is my favorite writer, full stop.

 

There is so much I want to say about this book and I find I can’t really say much at all. A complex, taut, fast-paced domestic thriller/drama/mystery, this ranks among King’s most un-put-downable and intriguing. defy any reader to finish the story and not think of Dolores from time to time.

 

A classic. A must-read. Etc.

 

Favorite Quote

 

In the fifties… when they had their summer parties – there were always different colored lanterns on the lawn… and I get the funniest chill. In the end the bright colors always go out of life, have you noticed that? In the end, things always look gray, like a dress that’s been washed too many times.”

 

King Connections

 

Several references to Shawshank prison are mentioned.

 

On page 226, Dolores is driving home on the day of the eclipse and takes note of the deserted roads — she comments on how hey reminded her of “that small town downstate” where it is rumored “no one lives there anymore.” A reference to ‘Salem’s Lot? I’ll say maybe.

 

This is the ‘sister’ novel of Gerald’s Game. Both books’ most crucial moments take place on the day of the eclipse.

 

<b>Up Next</b>

 

It’s a world of color, a world of darkness . . . It’s Insomnia.

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THE WATCHER Review

Review:

The Watcher - Emery Armstrong Ross

Release Date: 04.25.17

 

Ross Armstrong’s forthcoming debut novel, The Watcher, is a stylish and experimental challenge — one that will surely leave many a reader scratching his or her head when the story is done, but not without a faint sense of satisfaction . . . an inkling that something unique was just experienced.

 

Lily, the protagonist, lives in a new apartment building with her husband, Aiden. An avid bird watcher, she has taken to watching the people in the apartment building next to hers. Though she does not know these people, she is fascinated by them — going so far as to make names and backstories up for them. Soon she witnesses a murder and becomes entirely obsessed with catching the culprit, for she suspects he lives in the apartment she has spent so much time studying. Things get dangerous, out of control, and confusing . . . needless to say, Lily is the definition of an unreliable narrator (and I don’t consider that a spoiler, as it is very much hinted at in the synopsis and apparent from page one). This is an in-depth look at a spiraling character in duress. The reader is totally inside her mind, helpless to do anything except hang on tight.

 

Like most reviewers have said, this novel confused me — but that’s the point. It’s intentional, though the reason for that does not become apparent until the story’s final quarter. I must admit, I spent the first 50% of this one annoyed, lost . . . intrigued, too. This one just broods, right from the start. Lily is an interesting character, for sure. The author keeps the reader at a distance from her, yet by the end one feels as if he or she fully knows this character. I can’t explain it, for this book is up to tricks I’ve ever experienced in modern fiction. I’ll say this: The Watcher contains reveals that will knock you on your ass. So buckle up.

 

I finished this one feeling relieved that I made it through, relieved that it was over . . . and so happy I requested an ARC. While I can’t award it a full five stars (the experimental style isn’t a full success; I don’t feel as though I fully grasped everything, either . . . maybe that’s the point?), I can give it a solid four. Recommended. The Watcher hits shelves on Tuesday; check it out if you’re looking for something off-beat and a little weird.

 

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DARK SCREAMS: VOLUME SIX Review

Review:

Dark Screams: Volume Six - Stephen King, Norman Prentiss, Richard Chizmar, Brian James Freeman, Joyce Carol Oates

Release Date: 04.25.17

 

This was my first Dark Screams collection, but it certainly won’t be my last. Color me impressed!

 

While I wasn’t particularly scared by any of these stories, most of them do deal with dark themes and toe the line between natural and unnatural. They range in voice and style, obviously, as the six stories were written by different authors.

 

I think my personal favorite is ‘The Manicure,’ by Nell Quinn-Gibney, a brief and haunting story about childhood traumas and phobias that come back in adulthood. Another standout is Norman Prentiss’ ‘The Comforting Voice,’ which might have made me tear up a little.

 

The stories here are sublime, for the most part. I felt my attention wandering during ‘The Corpse King’ and I wasn’t impressed with Stephen King’s ‘The Old Dude’s Ticker’ — an old Poe pastiche that should have stayed in the drawer. My favorite author contributed my least favorite story in Dark Screams. Bummer.

 

I am very impressed with this collection, and will certainly check out past editions of this series.

 

Thanks to Netgalley and Hydra for the ARC, which was given in exchange for an honest review.

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GERALD’S GAME Review

Review:

Gerald's Game - Stephen King

Gerald’s Gameis a brutal, exhausting read. With this 1992 novel Stephen King did the impossible: he wrote a harrowing, haunting novel about one woman trapped in a room . . . and he managed to make it so damn interesting! Not only that, I feel this is King’s scariest work. That’s subjective, of course, but it’s the opinion of this humble reviewer.

 

Jessie and Gerald Burlingame have gone up to their summer cabin on Dark Score Lake in the middle of October for a weekend getaway. The community is almost empty — the summer people have long gone home — and the couple plan to spend a lot of time in bed. Gerald is a fan of bondage and Jessie is not. He forces her into handcuffs and she kicks him, her overweight, middle-aged husband, in the stomach and testicles. Hubby drops dead, and Jessie is alone, chained to the bed . . . with no means of escape. And that’s chapter one!

 

This is the mother of character studies. Over 400 pages or so, by way of flashbacks and inner voices, King deeply explores Jessie’s psyche and what it means to be a strong woman in this macho, male-oriented world. When I think of Gerald’s Game, the word I immediately associate with it is ‘brave’. Stephen King could have rested on his laurels: he had become known for creating small towns only to burn them down by novel’s end; he was known for traditional horror tropes like ghosts and vampires and aliens. Don’t get me wrong — in King’s hands, all those things became new and invigorated once more, but this novel shows the horror master turning a corner in his writing. What would follow is a string of novels unafraid to poke and prod at highly sensitive, current social issues, all featuring some of the damn best character work of the man’s career.

 

All that said, this novel is not without its faults. On the whole it is very good, but it is too wordy at times; repetitive, too. And the ending overstays its welcome, I fear. I feel the novel would have been stronger had it ended with Jessie in the Mercedes, and perhaps a brief epilogue added on a’la Pet Sematary. What the reader is instead given is sixty or seventy pages of largely unnecessary wrap-up.

 

This will never be top King, for me, but it’s a fine novel all the same.

 

Favorite Quote

 

““If anyone ever asks you what panic is, now you can tell them: an emotional blank spot that leaves you feeling as if you’ve been sucking on a mouthful of pennies.”

 

King Connections

 

The Burlingames’ cabin is on Dark Score Lake, which would loom large over King’s ’90s output, especially Bag of Bones.

 

The towns of Chamberlain (Carrie) and Castle Rock (several short stories and novels) are mentioned in the novel’s final chapters. Jessie muses on the fire that happened in Castle Rock “about a year ago,” which is a direct reference to the events of Needful Things’s climax.

 

This novel is, of course, the fraternal twin of Dolores Claiborne, but I will discuss that connection in depth when reviewing that novel.

 

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NEEDFUL THINGS Review

Review:

Needful Things - Stephen King

Needful Things is my favorite Stephen King novel. Hell, it’s probably my favorite novel, period. I felt that way going into this reread, and those feelings did not change upon reading it for the…fourth time, I think it is now. King nails everything here: exceptional character work, horror and comedy in equal measure, and one of his most memorable endings to date.

 

I know this novel has its detractors, and that’s cool. Different strokes for different folks, brother. This novel is long (but not extraneous, he emphasized) and stars one of King’s largest casts. I dig that, and some readers don’t. Personally, I love every character here: Buster Keeton, Nettie Cobb, Hugh Priest, Willie Rose — that old Catholic-hating reverend. This novel is King at his most Dickensian: these small town people are folks all readers can relate to; the way these characters’ lives intertwine with one another are an absolute joy to read about. And like the best of Dickens’s work, this book is hilarious at times. I laugh until I cry every time I read Needful Things; typically I find King’s humor to be a little hit or miss. In this 1991 satire, he hits the nail on the head every. single. time. I would wager SK had a ton of fun writing this novel because it’s a blast to read. That’s not to say this book is lighthearted or breezy; it’s anything but. While it has it’s hilarious moments, those are contrasted sharply with some of the darkest, most despairing scenes King has ever penned. Why is this book not mentioned in the same breath as Pet Sematary or Cujo when this author’s bleakest works are discussed? Some of the text is almost too downtrodden to bare (I’m thinking, for instance, of Cora Rusk’s distraction — her longing to go back to her Elvis fantasy — and inability to understand what has just happened to her son. No spoilers!)

 

As well, it is as relevant today as it was in 1991 — if not more so. For the last eighteen months or thereabouts, I have watched roughly 40% of my country’s citizens fall victim to an aging con man, someone who preyed and still preys on the weak, scared, angry and greedy to win the presidential election and further his agenda (or sow chaos; whatever you want to call it). In a sense, this novel feels just as chilling and timely in the Trump era as 1984 or It Can’t Happen Here.

 

Needless to say, this is King’s masterwork — at least, for me it is. Some folks would say that title falls to the Dark Tower series or It or The Stand. That’s fine. Literature is so damn subjective and every Constant Reader is different. But for me, Needful Things is the tome that shows the impossible heights King is capable of climbing to. He’s come close since — and he had come close before this novel released — but this is in a class all its own. My highest recommendation, and then some.

 

Favorite Quote

 

“The goods which had so attracted the residents of Castle Rock — the black pearls, the holy relics, the carnival glass, the pipes, the old comic books, the baseball cards, the antique kaleidoscopes — were all gone. Mr. Gaunt had gotten down to his real business, and at the end of things, the business was always the same. The ultimate item had changed with the years, just like everything else, but such changes were surface things, frosting of different flavors on the same dark and bitter cake.
At the end, Mr. Gaunt always sold them weapons . . . and they always bought.”

 

King Connections

 

Confession: I did not take notes while reading this. I know, I know; bad Cody! I just wanted to enjoy the ride.

 

This is subtitled “The Last Castle Rock Story”, so of course it’s the punctuation mark on the Castle Rock saga. Connections big and small to The Dead Zone, The Body, Cujo, The Dark Half, and The Sun Dog pop up.

The book’s epilogue is set in Junction City, Iowa, which was the setting for 1990’s novella The Library Policeman.

 

The car Ace Merrill picks up for Mr. Gaunt is a Tucker Talisman — a type of car that does not exist, and I am almost tempted to say its name is a reference to The Talisman. As well, when Ace sits in the Talisman for the first time he thinks about how fine a new car smells. “Nothing smells better,” he remarks, “except maybe pussy.” This line is almost certainly a throwback to Christine, as that same thought is expressed by a character in that novel. Pretty cool.

 

I am sure there are many more connections to be found here (there are references to Derry and some scenes are set in Cumberland Hospital, which is close to Jerusalem’s Lot), but I didn’t feel like chasing them. Say sorry.

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