Tag Archives: Stephen King

Bout of Books – Wrap Up

So I’m a whole week late with this post but good things come to those who wait right?! Also I was like a social butterfly last week, dancing from engagement to engagement – there were bridesmaid dresses to be bought, emigrations to be toasted and softball matches to be won which left precious little time for blogging. But enough of all that here’s my progress for days 6-8.

Day 6 (Friday): I needed a new tube book for Friday and I chose Mr Mercedes by the incomparable Stephen King. I had made myself a promise to ration King’s books but with IT also sitting on my bookshelf it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon! Unfortunately, due to yet another social engagement, I was only able to do any reading on my morning commute so I only got through 43 pages on Friday.

Day 7 (Saturday): Saturday was an absolutely glorious day so I took Mr Mercedes to a local park and lay on the grass in the bright sunshine to read about some dark goings on. I was there for several hours, got my first sunburn of the year (note to self, buy suncream) and COMPLETED Mr Mercedes (363 pages). It was different to any of King’s books that I’ve read before as there was no supernatural element at all, it was a straightforward detective novel but with King’s effortless storytelling and guy-next-door characters.

 

Mr Mercedes goes to the park

Mr Mercedes goes to the park

On Saturday night my childhood dreams came true when I went to see S CLUB 7 at the O2 in London. It was like the biggest and bestest S Club karaoke you can imagine and I loved every second of it (but didn’t get any more reading done).

Day 8 (Sunday): Sunday was another beautiful day so I returned to my favourite local park this time with Alias Grace for company. Alas the warm sun on my back coupled with the excitement of the previous day and the fact that I’m still not really loving Grace meant that I didn’t get much further than 33 pages before I fell asleep! After that laziness won out and I was done with my very first read-a-thon.

Alias Grace on the water

Alias Grace on the water

Which gives my totals for the week:

100 Days to Victory: 189 pages COMPLETED

Alias Grace: 263 pages

Mr Mercedes: 405 pages COMPLETED

Total: 857 pages

And so, while my main goal, which was to finish Alias Grace, goes uncompleted, I am significantly further along than I had been and there’s only 140 pages left to go. But not only that, I’ve found that I’m actually enjoying Grace much more than I had been which was one of the secondary goals of my read-a-thon.

I said right back at the start that I don’t feel like I’ve really been enjoying reading lately and that I’ve been struggling to find something I can get my teeth into but I think that Bout of Books has helped me get over that for which I am incredibly grateful!

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The Shining – Stephen King

Ahh Stephen King. I’ve mentioned before that I was a latecomer to the fantastic writings of this wonderful man but I’m doing my best to make up for it. Of course one of the books from King’s back catalogue that I was keenest to read was…The Shining. I watched the Stanley Kubrick film many years ago and if I’m honest I didn’t love it as much as I expected (apart from Jack Nicholson who is amazing) but I was keen to see what the book was like. I found a copy in my local charity shop but I had a lot to get through before I could let myself indulge.

Boy was it worth the wait.

Stephen King has an incredible gift in that he creates stories that keep you reading even when you’re not actually interested in the story. Before The Shining I also read Lisey’s Story and Dreamcatcher neither of which particularly appealed to me – too much gore in Lisey’s Story and a load of extraterrestrials in Dreamcatcher – but I couldn’t put either of them down.

The ShiningThe Shining, however, was different. From the very first page I was hooked. I couldn’t wait to start teasing out the mysteries that were central to the book: who is Tony? What’s in room 217? And what is redrum (alright I  might have already known the answer to that one but I still wanted to see how it was revealed!)?

But first things first, and in case you’re not familiar with the story of The Shining here’s a brief summary. Down on his luck Jack Torrance is forced to take a winter position as caretaker of The Overlook Hotel up in the Colorado Rockies. Cut off from the world by the deepening snow, the hotel starts to come to life and works on the fears and vivid imaginations of it’s winter visitors.Jack, his wife Wendy and their young son Danny become increasingly disturbed by the happenings around them and as each of them attempt to deal with the hotel’s darker side in their own way they struggle to stay together. Much of the book centres on Danny’s’s uncanny ability, or ‘Shining’, which allows him to tap into the heart of the hotel and see things that others can barely even imagine but what effect does this have on the Overlook? And will it help or hinder his family in their battle for survival? Only time will tell.

Like I say it didn’t take long for me to fall for this book, King’s writing was as perfect as ever and beyond that, Jack and Danny were both fantastic characters who I was firmly behind from the very beginning. The glimpses we see of their past and the fights that Jack had already survived only made me love them more and cross my fingers even harder for their continued survival. But lets be honest, this is a Stephen King novel so it was never going to be an easy ride.

The plot was a slow burner but burn it did and the little hints dropped along the way built to a flaming crescendo with sparks flying left, right and centre. I’m going to stop with the fire metaphor now but rest assured the emotions it stirred in me smouldered for a good while afterwards.

I’ve tried but I genuinely can’t think of a downside to this book, I can see how it might be too slow for some people but I loved the way it gradually unfolded , mirroring the steady unravelling of Jack’s mind. A slow burning plot with lots of character development and revelations a-plenty is exactly what I love in a book and The Shining has it all. It’s another A* offering from Stephen King and a perfect example of why so many people are in love with this man’s writing. I cannot wait to get my hands on Doctor Sleep!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Christmas TreeAhh Christmas I love it. I love the cold weather, the huge jumpers and ridiculous scarves, the fact that it’s acceptable to drink hot chocolate all day long, the snow, the music and the endless streams of tinsel.

And of course the presents.

For the last few years my letter to Santa has mostly been a list of books I want and I sent off my yearly wish list just last week to the relevant authority. And then disaster struck.

Yesterday I finished reading Tess of the D’Urbervilles, (if ever there has been a more put upon woman in the history of literature I have yet to hear of her; poor, poor Tess) and on arriving home to pick up my next book I realised…….

THERE WAS NOTHING LEFT ON MY SHELF!!

Horror

“It’s ok,” I said to myself, “Tomorrow’s Saturday and (because the stupid Northern line isn’t running again) you have to go into Wimbledon so you can visit all the charity shops and pick something up.” Calmed I went to bed and had sweet dreams of the new books about to fall into my hands.

So this morning I sprang out of bed at the break of day… Alright I clawed my way out from beneath the blankets an hour after my alarm went off and eventually hauled myself up into a position where I could throw some clothes on and emerge glaring at the sun and giving off waves of “Don’t talk to me or I might eat you” (I’m not a morning person)… And headed for the shops.

It was when I was standing in Oxfam with an armful of books that I realised: I couldn’t remember what I’d asked for. Last year I requested Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson which a lovely relative dutifully bought, wrapped and shipped up to Preston for me to open. Which I did. About a week after buying my own copy. That was an accident but I had the awkward feeling that if I did it two years running, questions may be asked.

So I stood there paralysed with indecision until ultimately I came to the realisation that the book in my hands was almost definitely not on the list I sent off. But Mum, if you’re reading this, don’t buy me Lisey’s Story, I’ve got that one covered 😉

Santa list

Where in the world I’ve been (Books on the Metro part II)

I’ve been pretty quiet of late I know, I’m going to be traditional and blame this on the insane amount of work I’ve been doing lately. I was procrastinating the other day and decided I’d look at all my old statuses and see how many of them were about work. It turns out most of them. Here’s a sample:

  • There’s nothing like digging through bins to find tubes you threw out yesterday to end a day.
  • When this much goes wrong before 9am you know it’s time to go back to bed
  • How to tell you’re back at work: it’s take three hours to print 10 pages and the highlight of the day is new tweezers

There’s always something fun going on when you work in a lab…

But actually it’s not all been work of late, I’ve just come back from a week in Madrid which was only half work. I went for a four day conference but I went four days earlier to experience the city.

It was fantastic, I went on a free walking tour round the city (with Sandemans, check them out if you’re doing any European travel), went on a tapas bar crawl, saw a private flamenco show and tried out my moves at a salsa night (they were terrible but it was fun!). Stupidly I left my camera at home but here are a few photos from my phone.

A library on the Metro

A library on the Metro

A street bookshop

A street bookshop

A flamenco group at our private show

A flamenco group at our private show

The ancient capital, Toledo

The ancient capital, Toledo

One of very few statues of Satan in the world

One of very few statues of Satan in the world

 

The Royal Palace of Madrid

The Royal Palace of Madrid

The conference was really good as well – lots of exciting talks and a gala party catered by a 2 Michelin starred chef. Very fancy but not nearly enough food and it was all a little bit odd!

While I was out there I also did a little reading, believe it or not.

I took two books and despite the fact that I didn’t read on the journey to the airport (because I was running late and was terrified I was going to miss my plane) by the time I arrived in Spain I was already a quarter of the way through the first one.

JoylandI was reading Joyland the latest book from Stephen King. Set in 1973 it tells the story of Devin Jones who spends a summer working at a funfair in North Carolina in order to forget a lost love. Working there he gets caught up in solving the mystery of ‘The Funfair Killer’ one of whose victims is still haunting a ride at Joyland.

I raced through this book. Despite my best efforts to pace myself it had me gripped and I just had to keep reading. I had the identity of the killer figured out before Devin but that was ok, it was still full of twists and turns and the other story about Mike and Annie was more interesting for me anyway. Mike is a young boy who is dying of Duchenne muscular dystrophy which, incidentally several of the talks at the conference I was attending were about. Mike was only about 10 but today a boy with DMD can expect to live to around 25 and in the future, maybe gene therapy will extend that even further.

The RoadMy second book was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I bought this one principally because I’m currently reading On The Road by Jack Kerouac and I thought it was a funny match. Which is ironic because this was NOT a funny book. In a post-apocalyptic world an unnamed man and his son are travelling across America looking for food, safety, anything. The cause of the apocalypse is never revealed except it clearly involved some kind of fire and the entire book is suitably grim. It was hard going for a holiday read and to be honest I don’t feel like I got much out of it except the impression that if I was ever in an apocalypse I’d probably hope for a swift death rather than a drawn out survival with a shopping cart, a lighter and a handful of tinned goods. There were a few typographical things that bugged me about this book – mostly the sporadic use of apostrophes, they were rarely used in contractions although always used for possession. There were no speech marks used but although I wrote a post about how much that annoys me recently I didn’t struggle to follow conversation too often. Mostly because there wasn’t a lot of conversation and when it did happen it was pretty simple. The ending managed to touch me but on the whole it left me cold. Just like the characters in the book.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately, hopefully it won’t be too long before my next post!

To read Books on the Metro part I click here.

30 Day Challenge: Day 27

27. Your favourite genre of book.

Genre? Urgh that’s like a dirty word to me. Can’t we just say I like these books but I don’t like those ones and have done with it? Hmph.

But since you ask I suppose that looking back over these posts the obvious answer is fantasy which is true in part. When I was younger I read a LOT of fantasy books. In fact almost exclusively which is why so many of them rank on my best-ever lists. But I don’t read nearly so much now. I had an epiphany reading the Wit’ch series by James Clemens in which I realised that almost all epic quest fantasy stories are incredibly similar. I could take most of the characters from that series and displace them with characters from the Belgariad and equally I could predict a large amount of what was going to happen.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped reading fantasy but I have limited my intake. And even when I was reading lots of fantasy I was picky. I don’t like sci-fi when it involves spaceships and aliens and inter-galactic war but I’m quite happy reading about other planets if it’s only incidental.

And then there’s the Earth’s Children series which my library categorises as fantasy but I would term historical so how can I pick a favourite genre if I’m not even sure what fits where?

Perhaps it would be more fair to say that my favourite genre today is thriller, especially given my new-found appreciation of Stephen King but even though I love reading those books, few of them make it onto my favourite lists so is that justified?

In reality my favourite TYPE of book is one where characters unfold throughout the story and some hidden secret slowly emerges. I don’t know how you would categorise that but it’s the kind of book Joanne Harris writes and since I have no qualms in admitting that she is my favourite author it only follows that her books are my favourites. I guess I’m more about character development than anything.

So there you go, if you can pick an answer out of that then please do but if not then maybe that’s the way I meant this post to end. Until tomorrow friends.

30 Day Challenge: Day 14

An early post today because I’m off doing things all day.

14. A book you regret not having read sooner.

This is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy!

CarrieCarrie (Stephen King).

I admit it, I’m a wimp. I’d heard for a long time what an incredible author Stephen King is. I knew his books were loved by millions of people all over the world but I’d never read any. And why? Because I thought they would be too scary.

I have history in this area, I still haven’t finished reading The Witches by Roald Dahl because it scared me too much as a child and I had a similar experience with Carrie’s War by Nina Bawden so I stayed as far away from King as I could.

But eventually curiosity got the better of me and having heard the story of Carrie I decided I would brave it and found myself a copy. I was relieved to see that it’s quite a short book so if it was scary, at least it wouldn’t worry me for too long.

Having let it sit on my bookshelf, a little brooding, threatening presence, for sometime I finally found the courage (outside on a bright sunny day, just in case) to pick it up and start reading and boy, was I surprised!

I didn’t really expect to enjoy it, to feel for the characters, to really care where the story was going but I did. Carrie herself is so sympathetic, my heart ached for her and I felt like I was sharing her pain as the horror to come was slowly revealed. I wasn’t scared, I was just sad.

Having originally been pleased about the low page count I ended up worrying about it as there didn’t seem nearly enough page for everything that had to happen but in the end it was probably just about right, it’s a short story but one that kept me gripped to the very end.

But it’s not just because I loved Carrie that I wish I’d read it sooner but because since then I’ve been reading more and more of King’s books and I’ve loved them all. So I’m thrilled that I’ve finally thrown off my fears but I wish I’d done it sooner because now I know what brilliant stories I’d been missing out on!

30 Day Challenge: Day 12

12. Your favourite authors.

I don’t make much of a secret of it when I love an author so there are a number of people on this list who need little explanation beyond that which is already given in other places around this blog:

1. Joanne Harris (apart from The Lollipop Shoes and Blackberry Wine I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by this lady.)

2. Markus Zusak (if I thought there was anything more I could say to explain how much I love this man’s writing then I could. He’s a genius. If you haven’t read any yet then go and find one of his books. Now.)

3. Stephen King. I haven’t read a lot of King’s work, I only really discovered him a couple of years ago but I’m fast becoming a huge fan. I mean, he even managed to get a totally, utterly, unfeasible genetic concept past me and that, my friends, is hard to do. He creates epic stories such as The Stand and Desperation  which are huge tomes full of human characters and unspeakable evil slowly revealed with an ever-present sense of fear and trepidation. He is a true master of suspense and yet unlike a number of other thriller writers I’ve encountered, never lets us down at the end.

And so to other authors who I may have been less vocal about:

4. Anne McCaffrey. I’ve never been a huge fan of traditional space books, I’m not that into futuristic machinery and weird alien races but I adore McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series. This series is set on Pern, many years in the future and yes, the humans who live there arrived in a futuristic space craft but since arriving their society has “regressed” to a state that is similar to Earth before the Industrial Revolution. With one major difference. Due to the constant threat of

Dragons fighting Thread on Pern

Dragons fighting Thread on Pern

Thread, a parasitic organism that falls from the skies devouring everything it touches; members of the planet are partnered with telepathic dragons and together they burn the Thread to ash before it touches the ground. The world McCaffrey created has a rich cast of characters and the novelty of the setting and the unique problem facing the planet drew me in from the first time I picked up a book. The first of the series (Dragonflight) was published in 1968 and 45 years later (2 years after McCaffrey’s death) Pern books are still being published by her son Todd. The series covers more than 2,500 years on Pern and my favourite time period will always be during the Ninth Pass as that includes the first books I read and so includes the characters I am most attached to. However it is a mark of what an immensely enjoyable world McCaffrey created that I still want to read books that cover other times and other people and learn as much about Pern as I can. Oh and another thing: McCaffrey loved the world of Pern so much that she named her house “Dragonhold-Underhill”. When an author cherishes their work to such an extent, it shines through in their writing.

The Psychopath Test5. Jon Ronson. Occasionally I’m tempted by a non-fiction book and most recently it was The Psychopath Test that caught my eye. This is basically a book in which Jon Ronson goes looking for psychopaths and debates whether or not he fulfills the criteria. It’s quite a light-hearted look at the world of madness, full of interesting anecdotes and amusing encounters which nonetheless raises some awkward questions about the way we see the world. But it’s not the book on the list, it’s Ronson himself and that is because (having since read his other books), I enjoy his brand of investigation, Ronson comes across as one of those undeniably affable reporters who manage to get people to reveal their secrets simply by being nice, and jolly. There’s a humour to his writing but he also manages to put across the more serious messages without coming off as preachy which is a winning formula in my book.

I’m sure there are more people who should be going on this list but these are the lucky few that my tired brain could come up with, it’s been a long week!