Rose Madder - Stephen King

Stephen King once famously proclaimed himself the Big Mac and fries of literature — meaning his works are popular and enjoyable, albeit perhaps lacking in nourishment. I heartily disagree with that assessment, for the most part. Novels such as ITDolores Claiborne, and The Dead Zone are intricate, multi-layered masterstrokes; methinks King is too modest in regards to his own creations. 

However. . . the Maine author’s observation does hold true in a few select cases. Christine is a barrel of fun, but it certainly offers no depth. That’s cool. King’s 1983 novel about a haunted car is campy horror at its campiest. I think I would put Rose Madder in the Big Mac and fries category, too: while fun and involving, one comes away feeling full but perhaps not particularly satisfied. 

This is a brutal, hard-edged tale of spousal abuse, escape, and recovery. The main character is Rose, a woman dealt physical and mental trauma from her husband for fourteen years. Rose Madder is her journey to self-discovery and freedom. Like previous novels Gerald’s Game and Dolores Claiborne, King takes an unflinching and daring look at femininity and what it takes to be a woman in the modern age. And, for the most part, he succeeds. 

Perhaps my biggest problem with this story is not the infamous magical painting Rose escapes into (a plot point that didn’t work for me the first time around, but I had a bit more fun with it on this reread), but Norman — the abusive husband. This dude is so over-the-top it’s unreal. King is a master at creating despicable, terrifying humans; it’s nothing short of fascinating that he failed so completely with Norman. He’s a walking cliche, and King never takes the time to give the reader any reason to sympathize with him. He’s just CRAAAAAAAAAYYYYYY from literally page one, and he only gets worse. Because of that, much of this novel’s potential menace is lost. Shame. 

That said, the mythological elements of this novel . . . are interesting. They don’t always work, and sometimes they seem awkwardly juxtaposed with the woman-on-the-run thriller feel, but it’s whatever. King would explore escaping into an alternate, mythic world to better effect in Lisey’s Story

Rose Madder is Stephen King at his most average. While containing interesting ideas, some captivating prose (especially that prologue — sheeeeesh!), and a serviceable main character in Rose, this novel just feels tired, inessential. At times I got the sense King was getting bored with the story, and was ready to finish the damn thing. Recommended, but perhaps only for King completists. 

King Connections:

There are a few tangential connections to Dark Tower, such as references to ka and the City of Lud. 

Paul Sheldon of Misery fame gets a few generous shoutouts. 

Favorite Quote: 

“In that instant she knew what it must feel like to cross a river into a foreign country, and then set fire to the bridge behind you, and stand on the riverbank, watching and breathing deeply as your only chance of retreat went up in smoke.” 

Up Next:

I thought Desperation was next, but I forgot The Green Mileexists. Ha!

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The Whispering Room - Dean Koontz

Release Date: 11.21.17

Picking up immediately after the action of this novel’s predecessor, The Silent CornerThe Whispering Room — Dean Koontz’s latest thriller — hits the ground running. Jane Hawk, blacklisted CIA agent, is still on the run and working hard to solve the massive conspiracy she uncovered in Koontz’s previous release. Certain people have been chosen to kill themselves, for no apparent reason . . . except to manage the gene pool, perhaps? 

In a lot of ways, this book feels like the antithesis of The Silent Corner. I thought that book was exciting, fresh. It was a techno thriller that, for the most part, felt original and believable. I read it in three days and gave it a glowing review. The Whispering Room . . . is a sequel. Bringing nothing new to the table, this is Silent Corner redux. Jane is a boring cipher here; before, I thought she was perhaps one of Koontz’s finest creations. Everything that interesting about her before is not really present here. Like Koontz’s 2005 novel Forever Odd, this is a sequel that saps all the energy and vitality from its main character. And the villains . . .? I’m going to be totally honest and say I’m not exactly sure who the villains were in this one, aside from the mysterious “government agents” Koontz LOVES to use this century, to varying degrees. 

In essence, this is a chase novel. There’s no character development — it’s all action: running, gunfights, boom boom boom. And at one point Jane helps children from an orphanage of sorts, in a scene straight out of Brother Odd. Laaaame. 

Yeah, this book is pretty terrible. I dreaded reading it every day, which is why it took me so long to finish. It was just a big bore, that’s all. Constant action isn’t for me. I like world building and character development. I will give it two stars for its first 25% or so, which did hook me in. And, as usual, Koontz’s prose is professional and without error. 

Overall, this is a disappointment. 

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


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Halloween Bingo 2017!

It’s that time again: Halloween Bingo! This is the second year I will be participating, and hopefully this time I won’t get bogged down in reader’s block. Below is my custom Halloween Bingo card (thanks, Moonlight Reader!), and my novel choices. At the moment this is a working list; things could certainly change depending on my mood . . . I tend to be pretty indecisive in regards to my TBR. 



The Dead Will Walk: The Walking, by Bentley Little 

Ghost: Ghost House, Clare McNally 

Werewolves: The Nightwalker, by Thomas Tessier 

Terror in a Small Town: Haven, by Tom Deady 

Diverse Voices: The Good House, by Tananarive Due 


Haunted Houses: Burnt Offerings, by Robert Manasco

Vampires: They Thirst, by Robert R. McCammon

Murder Most Foul: Sweet Aswang, by Anthony Hains 

Monsters: What Do Monsters Fear?, by Matt Hayward 

In the Dark, Dark Woods: In the Woods, by Tana French 


Witches: Grimm Memorials, by R. Patrick Gates 

Amateur Sleuth: Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach 

Supernatural: Mister B. Gone, by Clive Barker 

Darkest London: Incarnate, by Ramsey Campbell 


American Horror Story: Desperation, by Stephen King

Classic Horror: Psycho, by Robert Bloch

Genre Horror: Video Nasties, by Duncan Ralston 

Modern Masters of Horror: Sour Candy, by Kealan Patrick Burke 

’80 Horror: By Bizarre Hands, by Joe R. Lansdale 


Chilling Children: Suffer the Children, by Craig DiLouie

Serial Killer Spree: Whispers, by Dean R. Koontz

Demons: The Unborn, by David Shobin 

Terrifying Women: The Devil Crept In, by Ania Ahlborn 

Gothic: Candles Burning, by Tabitha King & Michael McDowell 







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Insomnia - Stephen King

Writing this review is going to break my heart, so I’m going to get it over with as quickly as possible. Deal? Okay.

The most interesting thing about rereading Stephen King’s works in chronological order is seeing how my opinions of them change in comparison to how I felt years ago. Experiencing his releases one after the other in publication order puts them in a new light, and that new light can often shine previously unnoticed brilliance or bring dark shadows to my attention. 

Insomnia is a novel I used to number among my favorites; after this reread, I cannot, in good conscience, give it a higher rating than two stars. It’s just such a deeply silly work. Yeah, the concept itself is one of King’s coolest — Ralph Roberts, elderly Derry resident, begins to see strange auras and Little Bald Doctors after developing insomnia in the months following his wife’s death — but I feel it’s really bungled. Reading this man’s novels in order has opened my eyes to this fact: post-drugs King rambles. A LOT. Entire chapters of this novel could have easily been cut; this thing is filled to the brim with exposition. And yeah, of course I want King to explain this strange concept he’s come up with, but he holds the reader’s hand. Nothing is left to the imagination. And what’s more, not much is done with these crazy happenings — said happenings are merely talked about. It feels like the characters spin their wheels at times by ruminating on the same things. Something happens, and the main characters spend an entire chapter discussing it. Ridiculous. The worst offending scene that comes to mind is Ralph and Lois on the hospital roof. If you’ve read this book, you know what I’m talking about. So much of that chapter could have and should have been axed. 

A large component of this 1994 tome is pro-life vs. pro-choice debate going on in Derry. It’s almost tearing the town apart, though none of it feels particularly . . . vital? Energetic? Like, it feels as though the reader is really supposed to care about this issue, but King writes it so ho-hum. I dunno. As my friend Aaron pointed out, this plot line really doesn’t go much of anywhere; it just gathers everyone up for the finale. Maybe I’m just burned out on politics as of late (despite it deeply annoying me, I stay in tune with the news every day); maybe that’s why reading this grated my nerves a little. The entire political aspect of this work adds a cynical, unpleasant flavor to the dish. (And my god, what is up with everyone in Derry apparently owning a super specific political bumper sticker? Seriously. Like, nine or ten times King makes mention of bumper stickers. Weird.) 

Laborious and so intricately plotted the energy is totally sapped from this doorstop, Insomnia is, unfortunately, the worst time I’ve had in the Stephen King reread yet. From the hokey, unrealistic dialogue to the laughably silly climax featuring the Kingfish, I cannot recommend this one. Though filled with cool references to several King novels — especially his magnum opus, The Dark Tower — this hefty volume is a chore to wade through. 

No favorite quote or references today. I’m grumpy. Sad face.



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