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Review – Thinner by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

 

Thinner

By Richard Bachman

SummaryBilly Halleck sideswipes an old Gypsy woman as she is crossing the street in their quiet Connecticut town of Fairview, and everything in his pleasant, upwardly mobile life changes. He is exonerated in the local court by a friendly judge and the sheriff…but a blacker, far worse judgement has been passed on him nevertheless.

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Source: I borrowed a hardcover from my stepmom.

Review:

I absolutely love the awful B movie, Thinner, that is based off of the book. I mentioned wanting to read it while my parents were in town visiting and my stepmom happened to have her copy with her, which somehow always happens to us, so I borrowed it and finally crossed it off of my To Read list.

Thinner was just as good as the movie, which is a good thing even though I think the movie is terrifically terrible. The movie is awesome even though it’s such a cheesy movie, but the book kind of had a similar feel to it. It was a serious matter, but also kind of entertaining. 

The story involves selfish and cruel lawmen who ran Gypsies out of town, were awfully racist and classist, and pretty much let the death of one of the Gypsies go unpunished. The Gypsies got revenge, turning the rather large Bill Halleck into a shrinking husk of a man. It is such a great revenge story and I loved getting the point of view of the victim who started the story as a the villain. I enjoyed watching him start to realize that maybe he was an elitist jerk. 

The best part, aside from the horrific aspects of the book, was that it so perfectly portrays why revenge is so terrible. There are more than two sides to every story. Any victim can be the villain in another person’s story. People don’t see how awful they can be.. on both sides. And getting revenge feels good, but when does it go too far? Thinner is a cautionary tale in that regard while also being a tad creepy. 

I recommend Thinner, especially to people who are easily scared by King’s other horror novels and/or intimidated by the length of Stephen King novels. Thinner is not nearly as bone chilling and it is a very short novel.

Star 4

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Review – Firestarter by Stephen King

 

Firestarter

By Stephen King

SummaryFirst, a man and a woman are subjects of a top-secret government experiment designed to produce extraordinary psychic powers.

Then, they are married and have a child. A daughter.

Early on the daughter shows signs of a wild and horrifying force growing within her. Desperately, her parents try to train her to keep that force in check, to act normal.”

Now the government wants its brainchild back for its own insane ends.

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Source: I purchased a paperback from a used book store.

Review:

When my husband and I started watching Stranger Things, he said that Eleven’s story reminded him of Firestarter. Amazingly, I had never seen the movie, but it just took a few bits of research to realize it was based off of the Stephen King novel. Stories like this are right up my alley, so I began the hunt for the book (which wasn’t easy, actually). I finally found it a few months later and dug right in. 

Firestarter was interesting. And like most Stephen King novels, it was pretty in depth in regards to exploring who people are and what makes them tick. I loved the concept. I’m already intrigued by government conspiracies, especially those that involve strange drugs and testing because there is some truth to that in American history and I love seeing the aftermath had any of those tests been successful. What if someone gained some sort of mental power because of top secret testing and weird serums? It’s such a great idea that anyone can build on.

In Firestarter, two test subjects gained slight mental powers. And then they fell in love, got married, and reproduced. Their child, Charlie McGee, was the firestarter, with the ability to create heat and flame, from small to large and explosive.

For much of the book, Charlie and her father, Andy, were on the run. Her mother had been murdered by the agency called The Shop, and found them after they got careless and settled into a place. Andy could “push” people and make them believe different things and influence them. But it wasn’t easy and it gave him headaches that sometimes took him days to recover from.

I don’t really want to give any of the plot away, but I do have to admit that for a book with such a cool concept, it wasn’t as exciting as I’d imagined. There was just a lot of running, a lot of Andy being worried about stuff, a lot of him trying to comfort his daughter, and a lot of near misses. Some sections switched to agents working for The Shop as well. The second half of the book was a little more interesting because Rainbird was interested in getting Charlie to unleash her abilities and he was playing both her and The Shop, but I was mostly just intrigued by his insight into human nature.

It’s difficult to rate because it came out in the early 80s and there have been hoards of fiction regarding the same topics that I feel have better expanded upon some of the aspects of conspiracies, testings, abilities, etc. For its time, Firestarter was probably pretty awesome, but today it just didn’t impact me as much as I’d hoped. There wasn’t a lot of emotional connection to the characters and ultimately, that’s what made it fall kind of flat. I would’ve rather seen through the eyes of Charlie, I think. I would’ve liked a more complicated agency and more of a complicated plot, but I did enjoy the book.

 Star 4

Review – Disappearance at Devil’s Rock by Paul Tremblay

 

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

By Paul Tremblay

SummaryA family is shaken to its core after the mysterious disappearance of a teenage boy in this eerie tale, a blend of literary fiction, psychological suspense, and supernatural horror from the author of A Head Full of Ghosts.

Late one summer night, Elizabeth Sanderson receives the devastating news that every mother fears: her fourteen-year-old son, Tommy, has vanished without a trace in the woods of a local park.

The search isn’t yielding any answers, and Elizabeth and her young daughter, Kate, struggle to comprehend his disappearance. Feeling helpless and alone, their sorrow is compounded by anger and frustration. The local and state police haven’t uncovered any leads. Josh and Luis, the friends who were with Tommy last, may not be telling the whole truth about that night in Borderland State Park, when they were supposedly hanging out at a landmark the local teens have renamed Devil’s Rock— rumored to be cursed. 

Living in an all-too-real nightmare, riddled with worry, pain, and guilt, Elizabeth is wholly unprepared for the strange series of events that follow. She believes a ghostly shadow of Tommy materializes in her bedroom, while Kate and other local residents claim to see a shadow peering through their own windows in the dead of night. Then, random pages torn from Tommy’s journal begin to mysteriously appear—entries that reveal an introverted teenager obsessed with the phantasmagoric; the loss of his father, killed in a drunk-driving accident a decade earlier; a folktale involving the devil and the woods of Borderland; and a horrific incident that Tommy believed connected them all and changes everything. 

As the search grows more desperate, and the implications of what happened becomes more haunting and sinister, no one is prepared for the shocking truth about that night and Tommy’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock was a somewhat creepy and engaging book about a missing boy, a shadow, and secrets between a group of boys. 

Paul Tremblay is someone who understands the horror genre. It’s correct to put his books in horror, but they don’t scare me in the same way that other horror novels do, but I’m not upset about it. This book and his other, A Head Full of Ghosts, remind me of Jennifer McMahon novels where it’s more about the secrets between people, the lies we tell ourselves, and the fact that the truth is so hard to uncover. Those things combined with the small essence of supernatural possibility had me looking over my shoulder at home and trying not to see things out of the corner of my eye. 

I loved Disappearance at Devil’s Rock. I wanted to know what happened to Tommy and why, but I was also interested in the aftermath, like the relationship between Elizabeth and her daughter, the other boys Tommy was friends with, and the town itself. I devoured Tommy’s journal pages because they felt so realistic. 

I definitely recommend the book and I’m definitely on the lookout for more of his books because I sense some real talent and amazing storytellings from Tremblay. I felt like the story was so plausible, despite how insanely far fetched some of it was, but that’s just part of being a kid and being drawn to the stories about the landmarks in your town, eager to get some sort of supernatural vibe from things. I will caution anyone that the book isn’t your typical bump in the night horror, but it does a great job of creating the atmosphere and keeping you on your toes, eager to see what other clues there are. It was well written and explored/was inspired by a lot of different elements of horror.

 

Star 4

Review – The Shining by Stephen King

 

The Shining

by Stephen King

SummaryPast horrors and evil lurk in Colorado’s Overlook Hotel, threatening winter season caretakers Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their young son, Danny. Gifted with the shining, a clairvoyant Danny must battle the darkest evil in the remote hotel in an attempt to save his family from its influence.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

I’ve seen the movie The Shining a hundred times, both the original and the remake. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King novels and I have a list of books from him that I need to read. I’ve grown up seeing so many of the movies and mini series, but sometimes it takes me awhile to finally pick up the brick of a book and dig in. I read Misery over the fall and realized that the book was even better than the very well made film, so I was excited to pick up The Shining finally. 

I enjoyed The Shining and I will admit that the years and years of seeing the movie has kind of ruined it for me because Jack Nicholson was such a strong and terrifying character. The book wasn’t nearly the same in that regard and I realize now why King has said in the past that he didn’t not enjoy the adaptation due to the casting of Jack Torrance. I get it now. The story is much more of a slow build up as the hotel chips away at Jack’s fears and flaws in order to get to Danny. It was more of a delicate dance than a slasher horror with a crazy father. I am inclined to agree and I think if anyone picked up the book after loving the movie and being disappointed are because they expect more from Jack Torrance that the book doesn’t give. He’s not insane. He’s a troubled man trying to do the right thing, dealing with alcohol abuse, and he finally cracked. 

Anyway, regardless of how anyone feels about the movie, the book was spectacular and enjoyable in a lot of ways I wasn’t expecting. It was still easy to plow through even though I knew the general gist of the book. Some of my favorite movie scenes weren’t there, but there were scenes in the book that were just as amazing that didn’t make it into the film. My favorite part was that Wendy wasn’t an unbearable dimwit in the book. And Danny, while strange, was much more tolerable to me, too. I enjoyed the characters quite a bit. The book was a creepy and haunting book and I’m glad I picked it up. I definitely recommend it to any King fans.

Star 4

 

Review – Horns by Joe Hill

 

Horns

By Joe Hill

SummaryIgnatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty.
Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power – with just a touch he can see peoples’ darkest desires – to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Horns has been on my TBR for a few months. I try to grab what Joe Hill books I haven’t read if I see them at a bookstore, but I wait until I’m in just the right mood to open them up. I’ve enjoyed Heart-Shaped Box and NOS4A2, but Horns isn’t quite the same genre. I suppose it’s still horror, but it’s not the same kind. 

I loved Horns. It was easy to get sucked in from the beginning when Ig woke up to a pair of grotesque horns on his head. He thought he was hallucinating, but then his interactions with other people made him think something even worse was happening. For some reason, they noticed the horns but didn’t react in the way anyone would expect and then they would reveal their absolute worst thoughts to him. Was this some sort of punishment?

Horns is really quite brilliant. It was a book about human nature, which is quite terrifying. People are awful and they lie everyday. There Ig was, trying to be a good person, loving everyone with all he had, and it counted for nothing when it really mattered. No one believed he didn’t kill his girlfriend and nothing he seemed to do or say changed the opinions everyone had. Sure, he “got away with it” and wasn’t convicted, but to everyone in his town, including his family, he was guilty. If the premise wasn’t already extremely intriguing, this angle really got me because I just can’t imagine not being believed by people and it would be really awful to walk around in a place where everyone thinks you’re capable of the worst sort of crime. 

Horns was a mix of the supernatural, a murder mystery, a glimpse of a small town life with small town attitudes, a horror, and a bit a dark humor to tie it all together. Joe Hill created characters I immediately couldn’t get enough of. The story bounced from the present, the recent past when Ig and Merrin were together, and the early past as Ig met Merrin, was saved from drowning by Lee, and disappointed his father by not being able to play the horn instruments like his older brother. We got the whole story from multiple sides and it was broken up into chapters/parts that all served different purposes to building the story. It was a story that took me through a small town and the interpersonal connections between everyone and lead me on a dark road with terrifying conclusions. 

I really don’t try to compare Hill to his father, but when I do, it’s nearly always a compliment. It’s really freaking hard to find an author who captures people the way King always does and Hill does it so perfectly. What lies inside of human beings is the really scary part of King’s horror novels and that’s essentially the same in Horns, though Hill creates unique characters and finds his own voice. I’m always impressed when an author really tackles those essences of horror instead of just giving me a bump in the night kind of story and that’s what sets King and Hill apart from the crowd. I love this kind of story and that’s why I compare Hill to King.. I would do it even if I knew they weren’t related. Because they both do exactly what good horror authors should do.

I highly recommend Horns. I really loved Heart-Shaped Box, but I think Horns might actually be better in a lot of ways, so I suppose I have two favorites now.

Star 5

 

Review – We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

By Shirley Jackson

Summary: Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp. 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

This book was one of those last minute, omg-that-cover-is-awesome type of bookstore buys that I wasn’t planning on buying. As a horror lover, the cover hooked me and I couldn’t resist. I read the book before October one fall. I’m a little mad because I swore I typed up a review and now I can’t seem to find it, so I’m trying to write this based on memory from over 6 months ago.

The book is great and perfectly creepy, mysterious, and weird. It’s frustrating in a way because Mary Catherine was so immature, but the family dynamic totally hooked me. What was going on in that strange house? What happened to the Blackwoods? I mean, we knew, but we didn’t know why. What was going on in that house? Why would she poison her family?

I was compelled and I devoured the book quickly. It isn’t the in-your-face horror novel that I think modern horror lovers expect, so I understand why there are so many disappointed reviews, but I thought the book was brilliant and fascinating. It was completely screwed up and I think it’s important to note that it was written in the 60s. It has all the right odd feelings of an old Tim Burton movie or something and I absolutely loved it. From the judgement of outsiders to the family dynamics of the remaining Blackwoods, I was thoroughly intrigued. 

If you’re into the slow horror, the not-so-direct horror, and intrigued by the synopsis and title, I highly recommend We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It was awesome and creepy in so many ways. 

Star 4

Review – NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

 

NOS4A2

By Joe Hill

SummaryNOS4A2 is a spine-tingling novel of supernatural suspense from master of horror Joe Hill, the New York Times bestselling author of Heart-Shaped Box and Horns.

Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. On her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she makes her way to a rickety covered bridge that, within moments, takes her wherever she needs to go, whether it’s across Massachusetts or across the country.

Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. With his old car, he can slip right out of the everyday world, and onto the hidden roads that transport them to an astonishing – and terrifying – playground of amusements he calls “Christmasland.”

Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

NOS4A2 was completely insane, twisted, and engrossing. 

It was the tale of Charles Manx, a man who kidnapped children in his Rolls Royce and took them to Christmasland where they would never die. It was the story of Vic, The Brat, McQueen, who had a magic bridge that took her places she needed to go. Every talent had its price. The book took place over the course of Vic’s life for the most part. She was the only child who ever escaped Manx, but when her own son was kidnapped, she knew she needed to find a way to use her talent again.

While part of me was blown away by the sheer uniqueness of the idea presented and the awesome way it was horrifying and twisted and completely messed up, part of me was a little uncomfortable because this really felt like a Stephen King approach to a novel and I’m disappointed by it. I think Hill did his own thing in Heart Shaped Box, but the span of time, the reflection on childhood, the classic car, the creepy old dude, and even the twisted Christmas theme just feels SO Stephen King! Scenes and quotes took me back to a King novel and, while I appreciate the style, I think it’s important that Hill stays in his own style. However unfair it is, he of all people has a tough act to follow when it comes to writing horror.

Despite the fact that I’m a little disappointed that the voice/writing seemed a little too close to his dad’s style, I can’t help but be impressed. I was sucked in through all 600+ pages and that counts for something. It was creepy and captivating and I’m eager to see what else Hill has up his sleeve. It’s clear he’s as imaginative and well versed as his dad, though I really do hate to compare the two. 

I loved Manx’s character and the way that nothing turned out well for people. I love that there were consequences to the talents and that the characters messed up many times. It made it all feel a little real despite the obviously out of this world plot. 

I definitely recommend NOS4A2. It was creepy. Just.. don’t read it before/during Christmas. Or you’ll be terrified of your tree. Or.. read it DURING Christmas if you’re hard to scare. Lol.

Star 4