Photo Review – Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Dolores Claiborne

By Stephen King

Summary: Now available for the first time in a mass-market premium paperback edition—master storyteller Stephen King presents the classic #1 New York Times bestseller about a housekeeper with a long-hidden secret from her past…one that tests her own will to survive.

“Everything I did, I did for love…”

When Vera Donovan, one of the wealthiest and most ill-natured residents of Maine’s Little Tall Island, dies suddenly in her home, suspicion is immediately cast on her housekeeper and caretaker, Dolores Claiborne. Dolores herself is no stranger to such mistrust, thanks to the local chatter and mysterious circumstances surrounding her abusive husband’s death twenty-nine years earlier. But if this is truly to be the day of Dolores Claiborne’s reckoning, she has a few things of her own that she’d like to get off her chest…and begins to confess a spirited, intimate, and harrowing tale of the darkest secrest hidden within her hardscrabble existence, revealing above all one woman’s unwavering determination to weather the storm of her life with grace and protect the one she loves, no matter what the cost…

Source: I received a paperback from a friend

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I really enjoyed Dolores Claiborne. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the narration style at first as Dolores spoke to the detective and stenographer in a room and no other dialogue was spoken, but it didn’t take very long for me to be transported into her story and forget I had any thoughts at all about the writing style.

I loved the story and I love that Stephen King can write about so many different aspects of horror, expanding upon what horror really is. He gets people right and I think that’s what I love most about his writing.

The story will stay with me and will make me think about the lives of the ordinary and plain “nobodies” I may pass every day throughout my life.

I definitely recommend the book, especially if you’re just getting into the horror genre or want something a little more real world, without the ghosts and supernatural stuff that dominates the genre.


Photo Review – Rose Madder by Stephen King


Rose Madder

by Stephen King

SummaryThe #1 national bestseller about a woman who escapes an abusive marriage is “one of Stephen King’s most engrossing horror novels. Relentlessly paced and brilliantly orchestrated…fueled by an air of danger immediate and overwhelming” (Publishers Weekly).

“What woke her up was a single drop of blood, no larger than a dime.”

After surviving fourteen years of hell in a violently abusive marriage, Rosie Daniels finally summons the courage to flee for her life. But leaving her husband, Norman, for a new city and a new start is a very daunting prospect. It’s hard for Rosie not to keep looking over her shoulder, and with good reason—Norman’s a police officer with the instincts of a predator, a force of relentless terror and savagery…a man almost mythic in his monstrosity. He’s very good at finding people, even if he is losing his mind. Rosie’s only hope for salvation may lie in a far more dangerous place, where she must become her own myth and the woman she never knew she could be….

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Someday, I’ll finally complete what seems like a never ending Stephen King to read pile. I picked this up at the store when I realized I hadn’t yet read it or owned it. I didn’t know anything going in, which I sometimes enjoy because then I have no expectations.

Rose Madder was a completely engrossing tale about an abused woman who decided to leave her husband one day. Her husband was a police officer and she was terrified of him finding her.

In a lot of ways, the plot is kind of similar to Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks, but it’s much more horrifying and it ends a bit differently. Rosie was terrified of her husband, but eventually, with help from people she met in her new town, she was able to grow and flourish into an independent woman.

I loved the book because it was real life horror combined with an element of fantasy. It was incredibly well told considering the author has likely never been a battered woman, but I felt that Rose’s story was authentic and chilling.


Star 4

Photo Review – The String of Pearls or, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet-Street (Penny Dreadfuls)


The String of Pearls or, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet-Street

from Penny Dreadfuls short story collection

Summary: Penny Dreadfuls: Sensational Tales of Terror is an anthology of twenty tales of horror and the supernatural published in the nineteenth century. In addition to works by Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins!, and other well-known writers, it features several sensationalized retellings of famous folk legends and accounts of notorious highwaymen. The book includes two full-length novels: the original 1818 text of Frankenstein, which was considered more shocking before Mary Shelley toned down its gruesomeness for the better-known 1831 edition, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, a genuine penny dreadful that has served as the foundation for all accounts of Sweeney Todd written since. The book will appeal to readers who are currently enjoying the literary horror mash-ups featured on the hit Sky Atlantic series Penny Dreadful.

Source: I purchased the collection in hardcover.

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(I read through the stories, omitting the stories I’ve read before and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because I own that story separately. I’m only reviewing Sweeney Todd at this time.)

I read this for the 2018 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge for book that is also stage play or musical.

The String of Pearls was a horrific and entertaining tale of a gruesome barber who murdered his clients. I enjoyed the story in print, but it was nowhere near as amazing as the musical.

I thought the short story was kind of long and drawn out as it was quite obvious that Mr. Todd was murdering people, but it was long and drawn out in a way that made it kind of hilarious that not many people seemed to figure it out, despite the many clues in everyone’s face.


Star 3

Photo Review – Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco


Stalking Jack the Ripper

by Kerri Maniscalco

SummaryPresented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion…

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord’s daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy

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It’s that time of year, so I decided to dig into something horror themed that I’ve heard so much about. I’ve been spending a lot of time in adult fiction and horror, so I picked this up since it was on my TBR.

As I suspected, I enjoyed the theme and mystery of the novel since Jack the Ripper and his crimes were horrifying and dark. The main character worked alongside her uncle to perform autopsies on the bodies of the victims in order to gather some clues about his identity.

As much as I loved the theme and the gruesomeness of the subject matter, it wasn’t quite enough to offset the way I felt about the main character. Stalking Jack the Ripper had some overdone YA tropes such as a mysterious love interest who seems pretty shifty, a heroine who is not like the “other girls” and has all of these interests that make it hard for her to fit in with “dumb girls” like everyone else, and teenage character galavanting through the night because the small pieces of evidence she finds mean she knows above all others who the real killer is because she has taken 12 seconds to analyze a slice of evidence and went with her gut. Insert eye-roll here.

If you love YA and don’t mind the tropes, this book was fun, but I have such a love/hate relationship with YA these days and I couldn’t get this one to work for me.


Star 3

Photo Review – End of Watch (Bill Hodges #3) by Stephen King

End of Watch (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3)

End of Watch (Bill Hodges #3)

by Stephen King

Summary: The fabulously suspenseful closing volume of the Bill Hodges trilogy, in which Brady Hartsfield, the killer Stephen King introduced in his Edgar-award winning book, Mr. Mercedes, returns to drive his victims to suicide.

“He’s not done with you yet.”

For nearly six years, in Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, Brady Hartsfield has been in a persistent vegetative state. A complete recovery seems unlikely for the insane perpetrator of the “Mercedes Massacre,” in which eight people were killed and many more maimed for life. But behind the vacant stare, Brady is very much awake and aware, having been pumped full of experimental drugs . . . scheming, biding his time as he trains himself to take full advantage of the deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room. Brady Hartsfield is about to embark on a new reign of terror against thousands of innocents, hell bent on taking revenge against anyone who crossed his path—with retired police detective Bill Hodges at the very top of that long list…

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Bill Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the supernatural suspense that has been his trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and an up-all-night page-turner

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Source: I purchased a paperback


End of Watch was the book I’d been waiting for… things got weird in the way that things typically get weird in a Stephen King book. Brady was back after experimental medicine given by a doctor, but he was back in a strange way.

Bill had to try to put the pieces of the puzzle together while also feeling as if maybe they weren’t connected at all. Maybe he was just obsessing about the one that got away as a cop.

I thought End of Watch was a thrilling finale and I loved the characters and the journey a lot of them took throughout the series. I definitely recommend it and I think this book was my favorite because it was the most King-like.


Star 4

Photo Review – Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges #2) by Stephen King

Finders Keepers: A Novel

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges #2)

by Stephen King

Summary: A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes much too far—the #1 New York Times bestseller about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So announces deranged fan Morris Bellamy to iconic author John Rothstein, who once created the famous character Jimmy Gold and hasn’t released anything since. Morris is livid, not just because his favorite writer has stopped publishing, but because Jimmy Gold ended up as a sellout. Morris kills his idol and empties his safe of cash, but the real haul is a collection of notebooks containing John Rothstein’s unpublished work…including at least one more Jimmy Gold novel. Morris hides everything away before being locked up for another horrific crime. But upon Morris’s release thirty-five years later, he’s about to discover that teenager Pete Saubers has already found the stolen treasure—and no one but former police detective Bill Hodges, along with his trusted associates Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson, stands in the way of his vengeance….

Not since Misery has Stephen King played with the notion of a reader and murderous obsession, in this #1 acclaimed bestseller filled with “nail biting suspense that’s the hallmark of [his] best work” (Publishers Weekly).

Source: I purchased a paperback

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The trilogy switched gears a bit in this one, focusing on other characters. Bill took a bit to grow on me, so I honestly didn’t mind the change of focus, as the plot was interesting. Pete, a young boy, found a chest buried near his back yard filled with money and notebooks. Meanwhile, the owner of the chest was serving time in prison for a crime, but not for the theft of the money and manuscripts. I liked the villain and the main character and was anxious to see how it would unfold. I was also curious to see how Bill and his band of “private investigators” would get involved.

I think, as a reader and lover of words, I enjoyed the way that books and the author of the fictional book in the story were such a main focus. For the villain, he cared less about the money and more about the unpublished manuscripts of his favorite author. He was like Annie Wilkes, but a lot less patient.

I loved the final chapter, as it brought the story together with Brady, the original villain from book 1. As I’ve mentioned, I wanted to read this trilogy after reading The Outsiders, and there are things I knew about the Brady case that I’ve been waiting for, and I felt like the final chapter went somewhere I was anxious to be.

I definitely recommend the trilogy!


Star 4

Reread and Photo Review – Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1)

By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

SummaryThis morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

Source: I purchased a hardcover

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2016 Review:

Illuminae was one of kind, an absolutely thrilling story told in a unique way and had a flawless execution.

I’ve heard a lot of praise for the book, but whenever I picked it up in the store and saw the way that it wasn’t a story in the traditional sense, with strange pages and transcripts and emails, I would put it back down. That style of storytelling has never worked well for me and I’ve always seen it as a great idea theoretically, but it sacrifices writing and details and would be better told as a movie if it’s not going to be a true story. It feels like a gimmick and it feels like a gimmick that stands in place of true storytelling.

Illuminae completely blew me away and shattered my preconceived notions. I’m so glad I finally just grabbed it and decided to read it. I went into it feeling very nervous about it, afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up or that it would be dull or hard to read. But as soon as I dove in, it was easy and thrilling.

I cannot gush enough about how amazing the story was. Now that I’m done, I think the weird format was what made the book even better. It didn’t feel like a gimmick. It didn’t feel like the authors used the tactic to avoid writing well. There was incredible writing throughout the book and some poetic and moving sections. It was heart pounding. Terrifying. Absolutely mind blowing.

The book was a brilliant science fiction tale of loss, love, horror, war.. it was everything. Parts of it reminded me of Event Horizon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, 28 Days Later, Starship Troopers… it’s rare that a science fiction YA novel really gets it right and Illuminae did it… and truly captured the essence of great science fiction.

It mainly featured Kady Grant, a teenager living on Kerenza who was pretty good wth computers. She broke up with her boyfriend and her planet was attacked by a giant corporation. Refugees were rescued by a scientific research vessel and a military vessel and were on the run from the corporate ship. The military ship did not come out of the rescue unscathed, leading to some problems with the ships being able to make a swift escape. It sounds cool, but it could’ve easily been an eye-roll inducing dystopian space novel and because of the writing and the layers of storytelling, it was so much more.

I did not expect the book to be so terrifying in some moments and I say that as a horror lover. The story was absolutely stunning and executed flawlessly. I can appreciate and savor each and every page.

Illuminae was smart, clever, adventurous, emotional, scary, and so much more. I highly recommend it. Do not let the strange format stop you from reading the book! It was brilliant!


2018 Thoughts:

I still feel the same way about Illuminae and I was super stoked to read the rest of the series now that I own them all.

I love the combination of horror, sci-fi, adventure, romance, and humor.