loulamac’s #CBRV review #58: The Shining by Stephen King

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The Shining was my first foray into the dark, charming, inescapable world of Stephen King, back when I was about fourteen. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was outgrowing the James Herbert and Shaun Hutson schlock horror that had titillated me. The Shining was something different; scary but in far subtler and more sinister ways. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with the Kubrick movie (I know, don’t tell Big Steve), and for many years my memory of the story, the hotel and the Torrances has been overshadowed by that. So, with the hardback Doctor Sleep burning a hole on my bookshelf, I decided to go back to The Overlook to see what I’d make of it as an adult.

For the seven of you out there who don’t already know, the book tells the tale of the Torrance family. Jack is a dry drunk who, having lost his job at a New England boys’ school, takes wife Wendy, son Danny and play-writing aspirations to a resort hotel in the Rockies where he has snared a job as the winter caretaker. The three of them will be snow-bound from October till May, and Jack sees the Overlook as a chance to get his life back on track; perhaps the last chance he and his family will get. Needless to say, things go very very badly wrong.

This time, I read an edition that had an introduction written by King in 2001. A quarter of a century older (and no doubt wiser), he said ‘there is a cocky quality to some of The Shining’s prose that has come to grate on me in later years’, and he’s right. While all the signs are there, King wasn’t yet the master story teller and wordsmith he has become. But adverbs and overblown phrases aside, the book is a terrifying study in addiction, the collapse of sanity, and the nature of evil. In the relationship between Danny and Dick Halloran (chef at the Overlook, and fellow ‘shiner’), King really hits his groove, and I can’t think when I’ve been touched by an on-page relationship more. It is Dick who helps Danny get through his trials that winter, although they barely make it out in one piece. Danny Torrance learns how to live in constant fear, and if the reviews of Doctor Sleep are anything to go by, The Overlook is still casting its long shadow over him. Bring it on.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #161: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

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“That’s a good book, by the way,” a coworker told me as he passed by and saw me holding Doctor Sleep. In response, I gave him what I can only think to describe as a sort of grunt. By then, I’d read enough to learn otherwise. When my Google search for reviews turned up this, one which has the audacity to put Doctor Sleep and his death-sniffing pussy, Azzie, on a pedestal above The Shining, well I…

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Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 review #88: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

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Long awaited, hugely anticipated and freaking brilliant. King writes his first ever sequel to a previous standalone with wonderful results. This is the second review of Doctor Sleep on CBR5, after Lady Cordelia’s, but I doubt it will be the last. The full review can be found on my blog here.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #45: The Dark Half by Stephen King

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Cannonball Read V: Book #45/52
Published: 1989
Pages: 469

Genre: Crime/Horror

Thad is a writer who didn’t have much success until he wrote a series under a pseudonym, George Stark. After his success with the George Stark books, Thad decided to “kill” Stark and try his luck once again under his own name. Then people connected to Thad start getting murdered by someone who looks and acts suspiciously like the fictional George Stark. Is Stark a real person or just a figment of Thad’s imagination?

Read the rest in my blog.

Lady Cordelia #CBR5 Review #95: Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

sleepI was a huge Stephen King fan when I was a teenager.  I think Dead Zone was my first, which absolutely scared the beejeezus out of me, and then I slowly worked my way through the lot – always finding something new at the library or a secondhand bookshop.  I always had a preference to the novels I read back in the heyday – Salem’s Lot, Christine, The Shining, It…  Some of the later novels weren’t really my cup of tea, so I stopped seeking them out.  But hearing that Doctor Sleep was a sequel to The Shining was enough to get me back on track, and this book is absolute classic King.

Doctor Sleep is the story of Danny Torrance, now a grown man.  His psychic abilities – his “shine” – has lessened now that he is older, but he is still haunted by memories of his experience as a child, and embraces alcoholism in an attempt to block everything out.  This of course creates new demons and Dan is in a self-destructive spiral.  Now working as an orderly in a hospice, Dan uses his abilities to assist the passing of the residents, and gains the nickname Doctor Sleep.

Abra is a young girl with a very strong shine.  She is being pursued by members of the True Knot, a vampire-like group who feed on “steam” which emanates from children with shine as they die.  The True Knot travel constantly across the US in an RV convoy, searching for their victims.  They appear as completely harmless seniors, totally escaping notice.  Abra becomes aware of them and reaches out to Dan to help her.

Because this is a Stephen King book, there is obviously a whole lot more than that going on.  This is a fast paced book that really sweeps you along.   There is a real sense of peril, compelling characters and great dialogue.   I loved a couple of the throwaway references to other books – nicely played.  I’ve read a lot of negative reviews about this novel, basically coming down to the fact that this isn’t as good as The Shining.  To me, I think that I have a sense of nostalgia about all of King’s early novels that will always make them seem to be the classics, but I did find this to be an enjoyable read.

Travis_J_Smith’s #CBR5 Review #154: The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King

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I’ve read 41 Stephen King books, and none are more simplistic or convenience-driven than The Eyes of the Dragon. King explains in the afterword how he wrote it for his young daughter, but didn’t want to dumb it down and question her intelligence; unfortunately, he seems to have done exactly that, as each plot point hinges on a moment that caused me to ask “well, now isn’t that convenient?”

Even the best stories have some elements of convenience. Breaking Bad’s detractors will be quick to point out dozens of them in the show’s run, for instance. The Eyes of the Dragon goes beyond the necessary amount, however. If everything hadn’t happened just so, the story would’ve ended before it even began.

Once again, I’ll admit that this could be said of most stories. In the screenwriting course I took at Pitt, my professor defined a plot point as something that must happen in order for the plot to continue on. Isn’t that all it’s guilty of then, following normal story conventions, you ask? Yes and no.

The sort of moments I’m taking issue with are the ones where everything comes together way too nicely for me to buy it as mere coincidence, such as the role that Peter’s dollhouse comes to play later on in the book. I can’t buy that everything would slot into place so perfectly.

In addition, it’s not an overly complicated story. Flagg seeks to run Roland’s kingdom to ruin. To do so, he must first get Roland out of the way, and he does so by poisoning him and setting it up so the weaker-willed of Roland’s sons will become king. The rest of the book is then about how and when his treachery will be uncovered and him punished. That’s about the gist of it.

Strong characters could counteract the negative effects of so simplistic a plot, but no one, save Flagg himself, stood out to me. The only thing that did was, as usual, King’s writing itself. Even when the story he’s telling isn’t that impressive, King tends to do an above-average job of telling it, and The Eyes of the Dragon is no exception. With that in mind, I can really only, in good conscience, recommend it to people who are already fans of his work.

Badkittyuno’s #CBR5 Review #64: The Wind Through the Keyhole (The Dark Tower #4.5) by Stephen King

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I apologize for flooding y’all’s feed today. I read five books on maternity leave and haven’t written up any yet. So these reviews are to the best of my sleep-deprived recollection.

Full disclosure: I adore anything by Stephen King, specifically Dark Tower, so it was unlikely that I would dislike this book. But I really did think it was good. The Wind Through the Keyhole takes place approximately between Wizard and Glass (book four) and Wolves of the Calla (book five).
The Wind Through the Keyhole is a story within a story within a story. The ka-tet take refuge during a horrible storm, which reminds Roland of a similar such storm from his childhood (not that Roland was ever really childlike…). In this flashback, Roland and a friend find themselves investigating some murders in their capacities as young gunslingers. Roland finds himself needing to calm a younger child. To do so, he tells the boy the story of brave Tim Stoutheart. So we hear Tim’s story (which composes the bulk of the novel and is quite good), then learn the conclusion of young Roland’s tale, then finish the novel when the storm ends for the ka-tet.
If you have never read a Dark Tower book in your life, it’s still an interesting read because Tim Stoutheart’s tale of bravery can really stand on its own. But really, you should just suck it up and read the entire Dark Tower series. You’ll find your life was missing something without it.

Scootsa1000’s #CBR5 Review 40: Joyland by Stephen King

UnknownI’ve been reading Stephen King books since I was going in to the 8th grade, many, many years ago. I’ve probably read more than 90% of everything he’s published since then (there are lots of those random short stories floating around, in magazines I’ve never heard of). I’ve loved a lot of his stuff (hello, Dark Tower books 1-5, how are you?). I’ve been less than enthused with some of his stuff (Under the Dome! Song of Susannah!). But I can’t think of a single book by King that I’ve ENJOYED as much as Joyland, ever. I had such a good time reading this book. It was fun. What more do you need to know?

Joyland is a coming of age tale (which nobody does like King) about a guy named Devin who is a student at UNH in the 1970s. He gets his heart broken and decides to get some fresh scenery, taking a summer job at an amusement park in North Carolina. Joyland is filled with colorful characters, lots of “carny” speak, and of course, a mysterious ghost story. Rumor has it that a few years before, a young woman was murdered in Joyland’s haunted house, and her ghost still haunts the ride for a select few who can see her. Devin hasn’t seen her, but he sure would like to.

Devin also has the pleasure of meeting young Mike Ross (a dying young boy, who, because this is Stephen King, has a bit of “the touch”), his beautiful mother Annie, and their delightful Jack Russell terrier, Milo. He befriends them and gives the boy one of his dying wishes — to spend a day at Joyland.

Of course, the two plots intersect and overlap each other. And while the ending isn’t what I’d call “happy”, I still enjoyed every last bit of it.

Yes, in true King fashion, the scene in which we find out “whodunnit” is a bit clunky, but I’m going to let it slide this time. It really didn’t deter from my enjoyment of the story.

This is King at his best — think Rita Hayworth & Shawshank Redemption or Stand By Me — where he tells a nostalgic story with a sympathetic narrator. Yes, there is a ghost and a bad guy, but the story is more about a good guy growing up to become a good man. I highly recommend it, to King’s Constant Reader and the non-King reader alike.

You can read more of my reviews (with lots of Stephen King) on my blog.

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loulamac’s #CBRV review #52: Joyland by Stephen King

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The Master’s latest offering is set in the magical world of a fading New England amusement park in 1973. Wonderfully, the fact that the novel shows much of the behind the scenes workings of the place does nothing to diminish that magic. King creates a place that is timeless yet aging, mysterious yet every-day, down-at-heel yet enchanted. As the reader you are as sucked into it as the book’s narrator and hero, Devin Jones.

Dev is a 21 year old college student who, rather than staying on-campus to work in the cafeteria, takes a summer job at Joyland. He is soon dumped by his first love and nursing a broken heart, for which his tasks manning the carny rides and dressing up as Howie the Happy Hound, Joyland’s mascot, provide some small distraction. He makes friends amongst the summer staff and old-timers, and becomes fascinated by a young woman and her terminally ill son. The thread that holds it all together, and makes the story more than just a memoir, is Dev’s interest in the unsolved murder of a young woman that happened on the (rumoured to be haunted) Horror House ride four years before.

There’s everything you’d expect from a King novel – a naïve young hero who’s about to go through life experiences that will make him grow up, the lasting friendships he makes during a time of adversity, a strangely gifted child, an older mentor, a charming dog – and more. The short (for him) novel is packed with lump-in-throat and wry-chuckle moments, and in its air of nostalgia, loss and celebration is reminiscent of The Body (later filmed as Stand By Me). The feel of King’s more accomplished work is present elsewhere too – the section where Dev is interviewed for the job at Joyland is like the good twin of Jack Torrance’s application to the Overlook Hotel – but overall the book is very much its own. The solving of the ghost story/murder mystery is secondary to the emotional journey our young hero goes on, and if I have any criticism it’s that the revelation of the identity of the killer and the final showdown are a bit clunky, but only by King’s stratospherically high standards. I can’t wait for Doctor Sleep.