Review – Bag of Bones

Bag of BonesThere are so many good reviews of this that of course I had to read it. It’s one of King’s many books that I never got around to, and with the number of books this man writes and publishes, I’m not surprised it took me this long to read it.

Mike Noonan is an author, a good mid-list author at that. He leads a comfortable life with his wife Jo in New England. When Jo unexpectedly dies of a brain aneurysm, Mike is left alone and almost incapacitated by her sudden death. His wife also left him with a bit of mystery and he wants answers. Since Jo’s death, Mike has developed writer’s block, something he’s never even briefly experienced in his career as a writer. Thinking a change in scenery will help with his writer’s block and hopefully quell the obsession he’s developing with his dead wife’s coming and goings, Mike heads to his vacation house on a lake in the woods of Maine. Shortly after arriving, he finds himself caught up in a nasty custody battle over a three year-old girl he accidentally made friends with when he saw her walking down the middle of a busy road. Unwilling to let Mattie, the young mother, get destroyed by the system, Mike steps in and learns what it means to be a stranger in this part of Maine.

I jumped into this book anticipating a full out ghost story and found myself in the middle of a custody battle. Strange how books emerge sometimes. The ghost element was more than strong and I liked the small town history and how it all tied back to Mike and the property he owns but the custody battle felt like it really never fit for me even when every last tie was explained. I think my expectations were set up to be very different from what I actually got in reading the book. This sounds negative but it’s not. It just wasn’t what I had in mind when I started this book.

That said, I did enjoy this book very much. It reminded me of 11/22/63 in the slight love story that starts to develop, and then when the ghosts start in, there’s nowhere to hide for the reader or the characters. This book spooked me early on but as the story got going, I was more interested in the ghosts themselves than some of the living characters. Anything that scared me in the beginning was out the door by this time because I wanted to know every last detail of this town’s ghosts and have them out every bitter secret.

Even with all the ghosts and their brutal pasts emerging, the main story was sad. Mike Noonan is a man lost without his wife and drifting without a career now that he can no longer write without getting violently ill. When he decides to visit the lake home, he hopes he’ll be able to write again, and when he does, it’s not what he thinks it will be. He ends up have to mourn not only his wife but a part of his life he never thought he’d lose. The custody battle is heartbreaking, as all are, but there’s a cruel aspect to it all that ties back very well to the area’s unfortunately well-known and well-hidden past.

There are a few references to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca in Bag of Bones. I adored Rebecca and referencing it here only made my love of it stronger. Why not invoke a book with a ghostly aspect to enhance another ghost story?

I know many people might stay away from an author like King and may not like horror/ghosts stories either. Well, in some ways this book is many of those things but I still want to encourage you to try it. It’s a good story with some extra supernatural parts to make it interesting. It’s more than its ghosts. In other words, it’s a keeper.

Bag of Bones
By Stephen King
Scribner
ISBN: 9781439106211
4 stars

Stephen King Button BlueThis book was read for The Stephen King Project Challenge. You can find more information here.

Review – Under the Dome

On the day Dale Barbara has decided he’s had enough of the small town of Chester’s Mill, Maine is the day the dome descends on the town closing it off from the outside world. The town Selectman, James Rennie — Big Jim to those who know him, which is everyone in town — takes charge seeing his efforts as all for the greater good. When hell begins to rise in the dome, Colonel Cox, a former colleague of Dale’s, wants to put him in change by order of the President of the United States but Big Jim has other plans. And those plans don’t involve letting Dale take charge of anything.

Want to know what will cause society to break down? Put people under a dome and let them have at it. And that’s pretty much what King does, or course, he adds a few little bumps to help it all come to a burnt crisp in the end by throwing in a meth lab, religious zealots, a nut job with a brain tumor, and mix up a few outsiders with the town natives with opposing thoughts on how things can and should be done and what you get is a big mess.

There are two points in the story when a character mentions burning ants with a magnifying glass and that’s essentially what this story is. A study in what people would do when forced into a situation they can’t control and can’t change. I liked the thought behind it, and frankly, the entire story up until the point when I found out what the dome was and how it got there was good. There are hints along the way but I didn’t want that to be the explanation and was a bit disappointed that was the case but, like I said, the story and what’s going on under the dome is what you want to focus on.

It’s not a nice story by any means. People are brutal to each other, they murder each other, and they go crazy. In a way, I guess I can see that being the result but I had trouble believing that so many of these mean bastards were all gathered in the same town. But that aside, it was where all the drama came from so you have to go with it.

This was a story I couldn’t put down though and due to a mistake on my part (when I put this book on hold at the library, I accidently put the large print edition on hold and it’s a very large book in large print) I read this book only in the morning and the evening. I couldn’t wait to get back to it every day and find out what these crackpots were doing to each other and the fresh tortures they managed to inflict on their fellow townspeople. This is what I expect out of a King book and I was satisfied with that.

There’s something I need to mention and it’s not something I ever thought would happen when reading a King book. He made a reference to a character created by another author. The author in question is Lee Child and his Jack Reacher character. It made me stop cold. Did he really do that? Yes, I think he did. Well, why not. It was so weird I had to mention it.

Here’s the thing about this book — I liked it. I really did for all its violence and horrible actions. Then again, I don’t go into reading a King book thinking I’m getting unicorns and rainbows so I was OK with that. If you’re not, try 11/22/63. The violence is more manageable, there’s a little love story, and it will still give you the chance to look in on the crazy things characters will do to each other.

Under the Dome

By Stephen King

Thorndike Press

ISBN: 9781410423962

4 stars

Review – Salem’s Lot

I’ve been re-reading a lot lately. I tend to re-read when I’m in a slump but earlier this year I decided I would pick up several books that I kept meaning to re-read and actually do it. So I did. This is one of those books. After finishing 11/22/63 last year, I wanted more King but what I wanted was old King. Salem’s Lot seemed like a perfect match. The last time I picked this one up I was high school and I’m glad to know this one still delivers. It was as creepy as I remembered.

Ben Mears is a writer looking for inspiration and believes he’ll find it in Jerusalem’s Lot, Salem’s Lot to the locals, where he spent several happy years as a child living with his aunt. He’s also planned to exorcize a few demons while writing his next book and he thinks he know what will give him the inspiration to do it — the old Marsten house in Salem’s Lot which gave him nightmares as a child. Ben tried to rent the old house but as it turned out, it was already sold. The house, which was the place of a murder/suicide, is now home to something much more sinister. When strange things begin happening around town, and the dead start disappearing, Ben and a few friends go hunting for more than just the truth about the strange rumors in town.

The start moves slow but builds quickly once the people start disappearing. Isn’t it always that way? While it takes more than vampires to be creepy these days (at least none of these sparkle in the sun!), King does what he does best, creep you out by making you think that noise you heard was really nails tapping on your window and not a tree branch. Yes, pale faces hovering at second story windows, nails tapping on the glass, eyes as black as coal, teeth long and pointy, blood, and gore all about to happen. Oh, good fun. The vampire myths are pretty straight forward in this book — stakes through the heart, garlic, crosses — and I liked the simplicity there. I also liked that they were dead and dead-looking. There was no attraction to these monsters. The aspect that religion plays is small but I liked that it was included, and I liked even better that it came in the form of an alcoholic priest with faltering faith. Really, what a better way to fight vampires than a priest who doesn’t believe what he preaches. I’m not calling it out for hypocrisy but for reality. I liked that about the priest.

I read horror every once in a while and always enjoy the genre when I read it. I’ll even say that there are very few books that scare me, but for the first time in a long time, I found myself reading this book strictly during daytime hours and switching to another book to read in bed. The reason? Well, at first, I didn’t think much of it because when I’m reading two books I tend to consider one a day book and one a night book. In this case, I think my subconscious made the decision for me. Who am I kidding; I didn’t want to imagine ghostly white faces hovering outside my bedroom window. There I said it.

So, yes, it was worth the re-read. Now I need to see what other King I have on my list and get to it. It’s nice to re-discover an author every few years.

Salem’s Lot

By Stephen King

Pocket Books

ISBN: 067103975X

4 stars

Review – The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower 1

A co-worker was cleaning his bookshelves and graciously gave me the first five books in The Dark Tower series. :) A good day for me it was. I decided that since I was participating in The Stephen King Project that this would be a perfect way to get started on that challenge.

I’m familiar with this series and was surprised to find myself a little slow in getting into the story. In fact, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. Nothing much happens in this first book is what I’m getting at.

The Gunslinger is coming out of the desert when he meets a man with a raven. The man takes him in for the night and the Gunslinger tells him about the town he just came from and the destruction left behind. He spends one night with the man and moves on, keeping on the heels of the man in black, the man he’s after. Along the way, he meets a young boy who seems out of time and place. He feels sorry for the boy and takes him with him on his search for the man in black. There is nothing that will keep him from the man in black.

I was compelled to keep reading even though this was turning out to be nothing more than watching two people walk in the same direction, and yes, it’s obviously all setup for the next book. It’s a series after all but I did feel slightly disappointed that more wasn’t explained.

The Gunslinger is an interesting character but not so fast on the uptake. There are hints he should be picking up on but it sometimes take a minute for him to see things clearly. The young boy, Jake, is an oddity not only in the story but in character. He seems to be some sort of time traveler, remembering things that were and blurting out answers to things he shouldn’t know. I became attached to Jake and I should never have done that. This is a King book after all and I should have known better. No, that’s not some sort of spoiler.

I’ve been told by the co-workers that shared these books that the story does pick up so, on I go with the series. Besides, I’m pretty much incapable of stopping after the first book in a series anyway.

Have you read this book or the series? What should I expect?

The Gunslinger: The Dark Tower 1

By Stephen King

A Signet Book

ISBN: 0451210840

3 stars