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Review – Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Full Dark, No Stars

By Stephen King

SummaryNow in mass market paperback, a collection of four riveting, never-before-published novellas from Stephen King. Also includes the new short story “Under the Weather.”

“I believe there is another man inside every man, a stranger . . .” writes Wilfred Leland James in the early pages of the riveting confession that makes up “1922,” the first in this pitch-black quartet of mesmerizing tales from Stephen King. For James, that stranger is awakened when his wife, Arlette, proposes selling off the family homestead and moving to Omaha, setting in motion a gruesome train of murder and madness. 

In “Big Driver,” a cozy-mystery writer named Tess encounters the stranger along a back road in Massachusetts when she takes a shortcut home after a book club engagement. Violated and left for dead, Tess plots a revenge that will bring her face-to-face with another stranger: the one inside herself.

“Fair Extension,” the shortest of these tales, is perhaps the funniest. Making a deal with the devil not only saves Dave Streeter from a fatal cancer but provides rich recompense for a lifetime of resentment. 

When her husband of more than twenty years is away on one of his business trips, Darcy Anderson looks for batteries in the garage. Her toe knocks up against a box under a worktable and she discovers the stranger inside her husband. It’s a horrifying discovery, rendered with bristling intensity, and it definitively ends a good marriage. Like Different Seasons and Four Past Midnight, which generated such enduring films as The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me, Full Dark, No Stars proves Stephen King a master of the long story form. 

Source: I borrowed a paperback from my stepmom.

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Review:

When I saw 1922 show up as a movie on Netflix, I knew it was finally time to crack open this short story collection and get to reading. It’s been on my shelf for what seems like ages and I’m awful at picking Stephen King books up unless it’s autumn.

Full Dark, No Stars was one of the darkest collections I’ve read by Stephen King. 

1922 was a story similar to that of The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe set in a farming town in Nebraska. It was the biggest chunk of the short story collection and was awesomely haunting. The Netflix movie was also phenomenal.

Big Driver was an absolutely terrifying story… it was perhaps the most graphic and disturbing of them all. It gave me the shivers multiple times as I realized it’s something all women probably fear to some degree. 

Fair Extension was about a guy who made a deal with the devil and reminded me almost of Thinner because it was more upbeat. It was actually perfect that it came right about Big Driver because I needed something a tad less horrifying.

A Good Marriage was… well, it was quiet interesting when a wife discovered her husband was a little more into some stuff than she realized… and it wasn’t anything she could ignore.

I really enjoyed the short story collection and I can’t believe it took me this long to read it. It’s still not my favorite King short story collection, but it’s hard to top Skeleton Crew in my opinion. Whether you’re a fan of old or new King, Full Dark, No Stars delivered a little a both that worked well.

Star 4

 

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Review – The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

 

The Girl with all the Gifts

By M.R. Carey

SummaryMelanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy.

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Review:

The Girl with all the Gifts was a unique and somewhat terrifying novel. It’s hard to really explain how and why without throwing out a few spoilers. Although the world was unveiled rather quickly and it didn’t take long for the reader to get a full grasp on what was happening and who Melanie was, I still feel like the story is best read without knowing too much about it.

In many ways, The Girl with all the Gifts is like Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Something strange was happening, the POV was from a child in the school, and they didn’t know a whole lot about their world. I think this is the best comparison because it hints that things aren’t what they seem, that the book may fall into a sci-fi spectrum, but it’s kind of subtle and not quite expected. Still, it pains me a little to compare the two because, though TGWATG was good, it will never be as good as Never Let Me Go.

I think we can all agree that some genres are beat to death and overdone. Still, there is always room for stories to be told within a genre that gives it a fresh perspective. TGWATG is not the first book to give us a unique perspective in an otherwise run-of-the-mill genre fiction, but it does it well. I felt for Melanie and wanted to see how it would all unfold. The way it unfolded honestly surprised me and I think it was worth the read. I enjoyed the adventure. It was a unique book that I feel gave me something new in an otherwise overdone genre, but it’s still just a [insert spoiler-y genre name] book when it’s all said and done and I am always 100% disappointed when I realize that’s the kind of book I’m reading. 

It was well done, though, which is why I’m still giving it 4 stars.

Star 4

 

Review – Lord Loss (Demonata #1) by Darren Shan

 

Lord Loss (Demonata #1)

By Darren Shan

SummaryGrubbs Grady has stiff red hair and is a little big for his age, which means he can get into R-rated movies. He hates history and loves bacon, rats, and playing tricks on his squeamish older sister. When he opts out of a family weekend trip, he never guesses that he is about to take a terrifying journey into darkness. Hungry demons and howling werewolves haunt his waking nightmares… and threaten his life.

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Review

Lord Loss was full of gore and horror and violence.

The book was in the YA section of the bookstore and not the Middle Grade section and I think that’s largely due to how much gore was in it, but otherwise, I feel like it belongs in the MG section. Which is part of the reason I only rated it 3 stars. 

Lord Loss would be the perfect book to give to fans of Goosebumps who have begun to grow out of that phase and long for something a little darker, but is still a younger teen. It’s a great book for those who aren’t old enough for actual horror, but aren’t prone to nightmares. It’s a perfect book for kids young enough to distrust parents and adults, but old enough to not be completely horrified by blood and demons.

As an adult who loves YA, I do have to be careful sometimes because there are books in that section that are too young for me and Lord Loss was one of them. Some books just feature younger characters while others rely on the reader to also be wary of authority and adults and once you are an adult, those books just don’t work anymore. I’ll gladly read about a 15 year old main character, but not if he thinks that even though this one adult is being super upfront and open about a subject, that person should automatically be suspected and it’s perfectly acceptable to slink around and not trust them and go with your gut about something you have zero experience with. *sigh*

To be fair, though, if you have a teen (especially a teen boy) who seems to not want to read and loves horror, this book will probably get him to read again. It’s fun and violent and awesome.

Star 3

Review – Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and RIchard Chizmar

 

Gwendy’s Button Box

By Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

SummaryThe little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.

There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.

At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.

One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”

On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…

Journey back to Castle Rock again in this chilling new novella by Stephen King, bestselling author of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December. This book will be a Cemetery Dance Publications exclusive with no other editions currently planned anywhere in the world!

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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Review:

Gwendy’s Button Box was a short story about a girl and a box. Gwendy Peterson met a man in a hat one summer day who gave her a box that changed her life. The buttons could do the worst, but one of them just gave her a piece of chocolate that kept her from craving the sweets and extra portions that made her heavy. She was determined to shake off the Goodyear nickname when she began middle school. A lever gave her a silver coin worth hundreds of dollars as well. Mr. Farris, the man in the hat, said that she was the right fit for the box. She wondered what that meant. 

I loved the book for about 90% of it. Gwendy was faced with such a conundrum. She was improving her own life, losing weight, getting good grades, and excelling in sports. She improved the lives of her parents who, before the box, were spiraling into a unhappy cycle of alcoholism and hating each other. She could see the good it did. When she pressed the bad button in a moment of curiosity, she was sick for days and a horrible cult was poisoned. Was that her fault?

I loved the premise of the book/novella and I was eager to see how it would all unfold.

I really hate to spoil books, but it’s hard to properly review this one without mentioning how much I disliked the ending. And as a King fan, I’m used to some pretty unfinished endings. But this one really takes the cake. I almost want to throw the book across the room, but not because the ending was BAD. I hate to spoil it, but the book’s ending was good… Everything worked out well for Gwendy and I just feel little bewildered. I mean, this premise isn’t supposed to end well, right? 

I feel like I wasted my time, but I suppose the novella was short enough to not really matter in the grand scheme of things. But seriously. Who ends a story like that?

 

 Star 3

 

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

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