Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Paranormal Suspense

The Outsider by Stephen King (Audiobook Review)

I think it’s a fair goal to continue to read one Steven King book every month until I’m sick of it. The good news here is that every book I read just causes me to crave more 😅

Additionally helpful towards this goal is the fact that Will Patton narrates a considerable number of Stephen King’s books and he is by far my favorite audiobook narrator of all time.

I think the first question that readers looking at The Outsider should consider is: Do I have to read the Bill Hodges trilogy first? Do I want to? It’s a bit of a commitment but I do believe that meeting Holly Gibney prior and having some familiarity with that series will greatly enhance enjoyment of The Outsider, as it did for me. That said though, you could absolutely read this one alone and only miss a few references. (Plus Will Patton also narrates those books so you could take that route 😅)


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Outsider
  • Series: Holly Gibney #1
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, 2018
  • Length: 576 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ not for the fainthearted

Here’s the synopsis:

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is discovered in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens—Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon have DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying details begin to emerge, King’s story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face? When the answer comes, it will shock you as only Stephen King can.

As a quick note on the audiobook: offered by Simon & Shuster Audio, narrated by Will Patton at almost 19 hours and worth every second. 


Alright this one starts out as a straightforward enough crime novel, and then takes a rather jarring turn for the supernatural once Holly gets involved.  I think though that since this is something I’ve come to expect from Stephen King, the supernatural transition worked for me and was neither a shock nor a jar as I’ve seen some people writing in their reviews.

As you can tell from the first sentence of the synopsis, if any kind of child brutality bothers you definitely do not read this one. I don’t think I would recommend it as someone’s first Stephen King book either, but I have no problem saying you could start with the Bill Hodges Trilogy and then work into it.

I almost always love the majority of King’s characters.  Ralph is enjoyable both as a detective and a person, especially towards the end when he is willing to suspend disbelief to help Holly the most.  He’s a real hero! My other favorite character was Yune Sablo, although I’m not sure if I would have liked him as much without Will Patton lending his voice.  Yune served as a bridge between all of the other factions and was one of the first to throw some legitimacy into the supernatural line of thought. That and he was just funny.

After the events of End of Watch I wondered how Holly was going to hold up, and thankfully she seems to be doing well. Quirky and whip smart as ever.  I like watching her manage her issues and relate to others in her own way, and it’s undeniable that she’s as brave and prepared for action as anyone on the force.

While the book was brutal and a little bit hard to read at times, I appreciated The Outsider because the action never let up and there was always something to be interested in.  At least in the first half of the book too it was fun to play detective and try to figure out how the heck the crime had occurred. I like the themes of the supernatural versus the terrible things that criminals do in everyday life, and how different really is our understanding of these things? Holly had some excellent insights too into the nature of the paranormal and humanity’s potential reaction to the possibility.

Overall, I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of Kings writing or a fan of crime/paranormal detective thrillers.  I’ll certainly continue to seek out other books along this line that he’s written.

(P.s. no, I have not seen the TV series yet but I am 100% interested in it, especially since Stephen King liked it, so maybe I’ll try to track that down this winter!)


Thanks for checking out my book review & audiobook review of The Outsider by Stephen King! 

Categories
audiobooks Crime Horror Paranormal

Later by Stephen King (Audiobook Review)

I continue to have no regrets about reading through my endless Stephen King backlog.  In October I finished both Wizard and Glass (The Gunslinger #4) and Later, which is his third surprisingly deep horror & crime novel for the Hard Case Crime publisher.

What I like most about King as a person, and an author, is that it’s 2022 and he’s still writing amazing shit like “he kept moving further west like some fucked up braindead pioneer” to describe the main characters uncle, who kept moving to cheaper nursing homes as the family’s finances got worse.  It’s equal parts fucked up and hilarious – King is my go to author when I need a break from the politically correct world.

As an aside, I started and now love following King on Twitter.  His comments are like a little morale boost in the middle of a crazy world.

Anyway, ok let’s talk about Later


BOOKISH QUICK FACTS:

  • Title: Later
  • Series: N/A
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Hard Case Crime, 2021
  • Length: 272 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for classic King & horror/paranormal fans

A note on the audio: Later is narrated by Seth Numrich, who has narrated many King novels and is absolutely phenomenal. Solely rating Numrich’s narration, an easy 5 stars. 6h32m long for Simon & Shuster Audio

Here’s the synopsis off Am*zon:

SOMETIMES GROWING UP

MEANS FACING YOUR DEMONS

The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

LATER is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel ItLATER is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.


Later is a short little novel that has an incredible amount packed into it.  It’s a coming of age story for Jamie, it’s a touching-at-times story of different ghosts, there’s a crime aspect, and it’s a horror story.

Like I said, this is a horror story

It’s so much more than that though.  I love the characters too, from Jamie to his mom to the old professor that the family stays friends with and eventually guides Jamie through his murdery ghost problem.  Nothing like an eccentric old man that likes to make fairy tales sound academic and terrible, right?

Oh, right.  I was absolutely never bored, and thankfully never that scared either.  Some King books are downright horrifying but Later never quite fit that mold even when it was in it’s horror element.  I think he meant to keep a slightly lighter tone and focus more on the people than the scares in this one.

Another of my favorite King aspects is that he loves to shout out his prior novels and other authors too.  The Ritual of Chud is back.  Jamie’s mom runs a literary agency and mentions many, many books & authors including Sue Grafton.

I was so ready to smash that 5 star button until that very last reveal! It wouldn’t be a King book if someone didn’t have a mommy problem, but, it didn’t work for me at all.  I’m glad to see others agreeing with this sentiment🤣

I don’t want to ramble forever but I would wholeheartedly recommend this one if you like fast paced stories with a little bit of humanity, horror, action, ghosts, monsters in all their forms, and King’s classically offbeat sense of fucked up humor.

As a note about Stephen King audiobooks – I don’t know if King personally hand picks his narrators or what but I’ve discovered most of my favorite narrators through listening to his books.  They are an amazing bunch including Will Patton and Seth Numrich, both of whom bring their stories straight to life and add that little bite that adds something extra to King’s novels!

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction Horror

Wizard & Glass by Stephen King (or, why I can’t finish a series)

Ever notice that I tend to get about three or four books into a series and then quit? The fact is that in between ARCs I never had time to read these giant, door stopping books, and once they got above 8-900 pages I was just about out of luck …

Well, this book was one of these clonkers. It took me two weeks to get through it even listening on partial audio (28 hours total 😭) so it’s kind of easy to see where a reader with deadlines gets to these longer books and comes to a screeching halt.

Or maybe that’s just me.  Anyway, the great Mark Lawrence wrote (see GoodReads) that you are either a Roland (and hate Wizard & Glass because no progress is made) or an Oy (you love everything about the journey despite it being a giant flashback).

For once I am glad that I’m taking the time to be an Oy, and this is a more than appropriate kickoff to GrimDarkTober.


Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Wizard & Glass
  • Series: The Dark Tower #4
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Grant, 1997
  • Length: 704 original hardcover (my PB around 930 pages) 
  • Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐✨ I’m team “enjoy the journey”

Here’s the synopsis:

Roland the Gunslinger, Eddie, Susannah, and Jake survive Blaine the Mono’s final crash, only to find themselves stranded in an alternate version of Topeka, Kansas, that has been ravaged by the superflu virus. While following the deserted I-70 toward a distant glass palace, Roland recounts his tragic story about a seaside town called Hambry, where he fell in love with a girl named Susan Delgado, and where he and his old tet-mates Alain and Cuthbert battled the forces of John Farson, the harrier who—with a little help from a seeing sphere called Maerlyn’s Grapefruit—ignited Mid-World’s final war

So this book started out where The Wastelands left off, in an epic riddling contest between Eddie and Blaine the Mono. Was I belly laughing at the dead baby jokes? 

Um…. Maybe? I had a cathartic laughing experience at the baby and the SuperFlu one, I have such tied up feelings about pandemics and it’s not usually who I am but I think I just needed to laugh at something particularly horrible.  Some inner turmoil definitely released there, so thank you Mr King.

Anyway, Eddie is probably turning into one of my favorite book characters of all time, even if our main characters essentially drop off the page once Roland starts his story.

It’s creepy, dark, witchy, mystical, had me absolutely cringing at some especially gory parts, and was everything I’ve come to expect from King at this point.  I wanted Roland and Cuthbert and Alain to succeed. It was painful to watch youth and inexperience war against the more hardened players as they uncovered the true goings on in Hambry.

Not going to lie, I’m all for Roland and Susan too.  I was actually pretty broken up about how that all ended.  P.S. none of this is spoilery, it’s all alluded to in prior books.

Character wise – really quick – yes I liked the boys and their personalities. It was nice to finally “meet” them. Rhea the witch is probably the creepiest witch I’ve read in a LONG time, and more than once I had to put it down and go think non-gorey thoughts for a bit.  Sheemie was the real hero in the pages for sure.

One thing that struck me was the level of anticipatory grief that I was having for certain character deaths that actually never occured. They have to happen at some point but not all happened here and for that I was glad, because it was hard enough to read what was already there.

I do wish that King hadn’t essentially gone all Wizard of Oz at the end. It was just weird, and felt a lot weirder than the whole Charlie the Train thing he had going on before.  I won’t hold the ending against the rest of the book but it did put a weird taste in my mouth after such a disturbingly wonderful journey.

Quick note on what I heard from Frank Muller when I was listening – he’s a great narrator and added a LOT to the story, made my skin crawl reading Rhea’s parts!

Long story short: I’m an Oy. I appreciated the journey and am excited to keep reading forward.  When will I have time for the next book, even longer at 931 pages? I hope next month! 


The Dark Tower series so far:

1. The Gunslinger

2. The Drawing of the Three 

3. The Waste Lands


Categories
audiobooks Fiction Paranormal

Elevation (+ Laurie) by Stephen King – Book & Audio Thoughts

I needed a Novella for the SFF Oasis book bingo this month and listened to Elevation (and Laurie) written and narrated by Stephen King!

I don’t want to spend too much time talking about these novellas so here is a pair of mini reviews:

Elevation 🌲🌲🌲

I thought this novella was kind of ridiculous. It had an interesting premise but was more about the town of Castle Rock getting woke than the sci-fi element, which was never explored or explained at all.  I liked the characters, character development, and storyline well enough.

What lacked was that I expected King to explore the gravity loss idea and sci-fi element a lot more than he did. As he did not, I found the whole thing lacking. I won’t spoil the ending but found it, just, utterly stupid.  Ok, bye Scott

Laurie 🐶🐶🐶🐶🐶

This seems very un-King-like but I loved Laurie! A man who lost his wife is being nagged by his sister, who brings a puppy to his house. Obviously he gripes and complains and the puppy going to pee on the rug and he hates her, etc etc, but then all cuteness ensues. There’s even a thrilling event at the end.

I need more animal cuteness from King, who usually makes his animals terrifying

He is a pretty good narrator too, he should read more of his own books!

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Elevation
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, October 2018
  • Length: 160 pages
  • See ratings above

A quick note on the audio: about 3:46 long from Simon & Schuster audio, released at the above date and narrated by the author

Here’s the synopsis:

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face—including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

Categories
Dystopian Fantasy Science Fiction

The Waste Lands by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

After all, there are other worlds than these and that fucking train rolls through all of them

-Jake Chambers

The Gunslinger was weird wild west and a chase across world and time.

The Drawing of the Three was alternate reality, gangs of New York, and some psychological thriller.

In The Waste Lands... King took on a dystopian, post apocalyptic type storyline here.

The craziest thing I’m finding in this series is how different each book is, while they’re also linked together in continuity. I think King is finally realizing that this is going to be a long, epic story, and he got the characters supposedly about halfway to the Dark Tower here in book three.

What I really want to say is that I am living and dying for the full color illustrations in this book 😍

IMG_20220713_184115292_HDR

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Waste Lands
  • Series: The Dark Tower, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: originally Grant, 1991
  • Length: 448 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐✨ the best book so far, it has a lot of great elements but got excessively vulgar at times

Here’s the synopsis:

Several months have passed, and Roland’s two new tet-mates have become proficient gunslingers. Eddie Dean has given up heroin, and Odetta’s two selves have joined, becoming the stronger and more balanced personality of Susannah Dean. But while battling The Pusher in 1977 New York, Roland altered Ka by saving the life of Jake Chambers, a boy who—in Roland’s where and when—has already died. Now Roland and Jake exist in different worlds, but they are joined by the same madness: the paradox of double memories. Roland, Susannah, and Eddie must draw Jake into Mid-World then follow the Path of the Beam all the way to the Dark Tower. But nothing is easy in Mid-World. Along the way our tet stumbles into the ruined city of Lud, and are caught between the warring gangs of the Pubes and the Grays. The only way out of Lud is to wake Blaine the Mono, an insane train that has a passion for riddling, and for suicidal journeys.

There you have it; riddling and suicidal journeys, more or less the plot of the entire book! I should add that I read the revised edition, released in ’05, but unlike The Gunslinger I have no idea what was revised. The original hardcover had full color illustrations.

Anyway – the best parts of this book were the journey finally getting underway, and the characters coming out of their shells and into their roles.

Beating heroin was child’s play compared to beating your childhood

Eddie is going to be a force of nature going forward I think! Susannah is also much more stable now and both are settling into their gunslinger roles.

I like Jake too, and Oy, the fuzzy little doglike wild animal companion that showed up, was a highlight of the entire book. Bring in a loyal animal companion and books get so much better.

Roland, Roland, Roland. Roland finally got to play Gunslinger too in all it’s historic roles, like moderator, diplomat, teacher, and we saw the extent of it through Susannah’s eyes as she realized the many non firearm related things he was capable of.  Roland – if I daresay – gets to play father now as well, he seems to have adopted Jake (and Oy too).

Blaine … Blaine the suicidal train. King loves to take innocent children’s things and make them absolutely terrible.  Here he twists our (also absolutely terrible) Charlie the Choo-Choo.

E9FA4ECE98BAAA5129BCA05B46476AC6DBB97044

images

So the characters are bad ass, the journey is started, and King took on a true dystopia post apocalyptic vibe for the last part of the book.  I wasn’t so much into the Lud part except for Blaine. There was also an extra crass Susannah vs the demon part prior to that, and I think we are going to see a very… Unhuman spawn at some point now.

Do ye want to put away your iron, or shall we all toddle off to hell on the same handcart?”

King did nail the “the characters get trapped by a psycho in the remains of a large city” part of the post apocalyptic journey trope.

The cliffhanger was something else too, I thought King’s apology for it in the afterward was hilarious.

Roland Vs Blaine, aka my favorite part:

I cannot call you a sucker of cocks, for instance, because you have no mouth and no cock. I cannot say you are viler than the vilest beggar who ever crawled the gutters of the lowest street in creation, because even such a creature is better than you; you have no knees on which to crawl, and would not fall upon them even if you did, for you have no conception of such a human flaw as mercy. I cannot even say you fucked your mother, because you had none. 

Long story short – KILL IF YOU WILL BUT COMMAND ME NOT! YOU FORGOT THE FACES OF THOSE WHO MADE YOU!

Roland kicked so much ass I just wanted to applaud him at the end.

Overall… I didn’t love certain parts of this one but by far it’s the best written of the books so far.

A note on the audio: narrated by Frank Muller, from Simon & Schuster audio in 2015. Approximately 18 hours. I listened to the back half of the book and loved it for sure


My Thoughts So Far:

The Gunslinger

The Drawing of the Three 

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Fiction

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (Book Thoughts)

Continuing my The Dark Tower series read, The Drawing of the Three is even weirder than The Gunslinger! I imagine the conversation when planning this book went something like –

King: I want to write about the gangs of NY and schizophrenics

Tabitha: yeah well you started with a weird horror fantasy western

King: I’ll incorporate interdimensional travel into the story, it’ll be fine

Tabitha: impossible

King: hold my beer

Ha .. ha… Ha… Actually …. KA

Ka?

“Kaka,” Eddie said, and laughed. “Come on Roland. Let’s take a hike”

Alright alright most joking aside, let’s talk a bit about this wonderfully weird book

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Drawing of the Three
  • Series: The Dark Tower #2
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: 1987, I read the Signet edition
  • Length: 463 pages
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ yes for those who can stomach the typical King level of vulgarity 

Here’s the Synopsis:

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland, the last gunslinger, encounters three mysterious doorways on the beach. Each one enters into the life of a different person living in contemporary New York.

Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean and the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

Once again, Stephen King has masterfully interwoven dark, evocative fantasy and icy realism.

Ah gosh it’s hard to review these kinds of books because I know I’m not adding anything to the Canon, so I just talk about my experience.

The Gunslinger was weird and wild and this book utterly surpassed it in that regard. Roland has parlayed with the man in black, apparently for 10 years, so this installment picks up afterward on the beach with a pile of bones and the remnants of a tarot reading

I still think King just tossed a bunch of random ass ideas together to create Roland’s ka-tet.  Gangs, sure why not.  A crazy schizophrenic lady, sure why not.  Gotta get a serial killer in there too… and the funny thing is that at the end of the day, it worked

The Odette/Detta character annoyed me senseless, probably because of how accurately King portrayed schizophrenia/multiple personality disorder.  Props, props, I just found her to be way too vulgar and had me thinking about excessively vulgar patients I’ve dealt with, and yeah, no thanks. Her back story is great though.

 I loved Eddie, and I’m glad he arrived first in the text. He’s like a lost boy with a rough family history and bad decisions.  The whole storyline with Balazar and the drugs was pretty entertaining, then you toss in the Eddie & Roland dynamic and you get wonderful madness   Roland trying to make sense of NYC was equally amazing, I think King nailed the entire WTF of the experience and created a fully wild novel

Seeing as how Roland had no freaking idea what was going on in the modern world, he took it in incredible stride. Definitely my favorite part was how he kept misinterpreting the words and having to think on his feet

The journey from the terror of the beginning to the camaraderie at the end was a wild one.

What does the lobstrosity say? Well – you should listen to the audio to find out.  I listened to a few hours.  Frank Muller took over this narration (through Simon & Schuster audio) and the whole thing is about 13 hours if you go that route. 

Screenshot_20220630-183150

There are lobstrosity tshirts… That’s all 

The Dark Tower Series reviews:

1 – The Gunslinger 

Categories
audiobooks Fantasy Paranormal

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (My Experience)

Go then, there are other worlds than these

Now that I’ve read a few Stephen King books I am aware of a couple of things. He has gone through some significant and very different life stages, and depending on which stage he was in when he wrote a book, it’s going to be a very different reading experience.  His thoughts on this book began in college …..

The Dark Tower series gets a vast amount of praise from readers across all genres and I figured it was about time I check it out.  Number one, The Gunslinger, is short and felt rocky at times, which can be explained by the fact that it was originally 5 short stories!

There are ideas, there are flashbacks, there’s action in the present day, and there’s certainly a lot of room for King to move forward. My main impression is that I don’t think he knew it was going to turn into a giant epic series when he first wrote The Gunslinger. After doing some research I found that after the other books were written King went back and did some serious revising to the first to make it more consistent with the other books, and this is the version I have.  It’s interesting though because you can see where the five stories are and while each has its own individual flavor, they mostly fit well when pieced together to create Roland’s adventures.

And there you have it from Wikipedia. So what are my impressions of the book? I had no idea if I was reading fantasy or dystopia or what.  They should have left the Whelan cover to make it clear at first! You’ve got lowkey demons, a sharpshooter, a talking raven, throwbacks to something like Arthurian times in a castle court, with guns, and an overarching Old West feel.

It’s bizarre and brilliant and I’m keenly interested. I have so many questions about how the world’s fit together, how Jake ended up in this wasteland, how 10 years can pass in a moment, and so many other things! 

If nothing else King has me hooked lined and sunk as far as continuing to read on because I want all the answers. 

I don’t know where this thought fits into the rest of my thoughts but there’s this whole over current of weird hormones and sexy situations haha I think King had some issues to work through at some point, as also indicated by the Bill Hodges trilogy and “honeyboy”🤣

It’s also no secret that Roland is considered a hugely iconic character, so let me look at him quickly.  He’s obviously a badass sharp shooter on one level, but when he talks about his past he seems ancient. How did he get from a beautiful green world of castles and courts to a dystopian desert chasing the Man in Black?  His interactions with Jake Chambers shows that he has never heard of our Earth, even though his world mirrors Earth in many ways.  Roland isn’t fearless, he has deep feelings where the boy is concerned, but he’s also quite singleminded in purpose at this point in the series. 

And if that spiel on time and size at the end doesn’t blow your mind, nothing will 😂

One penultimate note is that Michael Whelan did the original cover! That makes it a legitimate fantasy as far as I’m concerned

Screenshot_20220621-100659

And the last note – it was recommended to me to try the audiobooks because the narrator adds a lot of fantastic personality to the text and I couldn’t agree more.  Most of my King reading has been on audio because of Will Patton narrating quite a few books, but George Guidall   is absolutely phenomenal as well.  Would highly recommend to fans of thrillers and fantasy.

Here’s the Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: The Gunslinger
  • Series: The Dark Tower, #1
  • Author: Stephen King, narrated by George Guidall
  • Release: Originally 1982, there are so many versions this is confusing to me now
  • Length: approx 7 hours audio, around 280 on page
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ heck yeah to thriller and fantasy, weird western fans

Here’s the synopsis via GoodReads:

The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.

Categories
audiobooks Paranormal Suspense Thrillers

End of Watch (book & audio thoughts) by Stephen King

I know there’s not much that I can add to the King review canon, but here are my thoughts on End of Watch! I fully recommend this series and book to anyone looking for unlikely heroes, great character arcs, and low-key creepy vibes that increase in this final book.

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: End of Watch
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, June 2016
  • Pages: 448
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ yess for thriller and mystery, paranormal fans

Here’s the synopsis:

The spectacular finale to the New York Times best-selling trilogy that began with Mr. Mercedes (winner of the Edgar Award) and Finders Keepers

2017 Audie Award Finalist for Fiction and Best Male Narrator

In End of Watch, the diabolical “Mercedes Killer” drives his enemies to suicide, and if Bill Hodges and Holly Gibney don’t figure out a way to stop him, they’ll be victims themselves.

In Room 217 of the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic, something has awakened. Something evil. Brady Hartsfield, perpetrator of the Mercedes Massacre, where eight people were killed and many more were badly injured, has been in the clinic for five years, in a vegetative state. According to his doctors, anything approaching a complete recovery is unlikely. But behind the drool and stare, Brady is awake and in possession of deadly new powers that allow him to wreak unimaginable havoc without ever leaving his hospital room.

Retired police detective Bill Hodges, the unlikely hero of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers, now runs an investigation agency with his partner, Holly Gibney – the woman who delivered the blow to Hartsfield’s head that put him in the brain injury ward. When Bill and Holly are called to a suicide scene with ties to the Mercedes Massacre, they find themselves pulled into their most dangerous case yet, one that will put their lives at risk as well as those of Bill’s heroic young friend, Jerome Robinson, and his teenage sister, Barbara. Brady Hartsfield is back and planning revenge not just on Hodges and his friends but on an entire city.

In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding supernatural suspense that has been his best-selling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense. No one does it better than King.

This is a really satisfying end to the trilogy.  It can stand on it’s own but I highly recommend reading them all, and in order, or the audio books are absolutely phenomenal as well (but you all know I just LOVE Will Patton).

Brady Hartsfield is back, and King finally found a way to weave the supernatural / paranormal into this one.  He does so in an utterly creepy way too, with Brady developing telekinesis due to experimental drugs and using it to orchestrate mayhem and suicide through handheld game consuls.  Brady really isn’t as smart as he thinks he is though, some of his mishaps had me laughing.

The title tells the reader what’s coming at the end, and it’s revealed pretty early on. That storyline is definitely sad as hell but it also lets Holly and Jerome shine on a new level.  One of my favorite aspects of the trilogy has been these unlikely heroes with their unlikely friendship, and Bill Hodges being the elderly, unlikely hero that holds them together.  All three had the chance to shine in this King left us no doubt that Holly’s gonna be ok.

Exciting, tense, sad, hopeful, fast paced – are all good describing words for this one.  I liked the pacing and how it kept connecting back to prior books.  King wrote a lovely authors note at the end about suicide prevention too that would lift anyone’s spirits after the ending.  I have also enjoyed the picnic scenes at the end of each book and was glad that End of Watch included one as well.  It gave the characters some final emotional closure

What I really want is a Holly and Pete spinoff book or series – I know that If It Bleeds is at least a short story but I hope he writes more.

Here are a handful of my favorite quotes: 

Things can get better, and if you give them a chance, they usually do.

One foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel

It’s about how some people carelessly squander what others would sell their souls to have: a healthy, pain-free body. And why? Because they’re too blind, too emotionally scarred, or too self-involved to see past the earth’s dark curve to the next sunrise. Which always comes, if one continues to draw breath

And the funniest one …. “Darker than a woodchuck’s asshole”

I definitely highly recommend this series on both book or audio format if you are looking for a great detective, suspense, thriller series.  Will Patton, as always, adds something special to the narration and will creep you out even harder singing the fishing hole song!

Categories
audiobooks Mysteries Suspense Thrillers

Finders Keepers (book thoughts) by Stephen King

Continuing my binge of the Bill Hodges Trilogy, I think Finders Keepers had a lot of great points and quotes and characters. It didn’t quite hold up to Mr. Mercedes but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the sequel, especially to literature and book lovers.  Probably the thing that surprised me the most is how this could read as a standalone

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Finders Keepers
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scriber, June 2015
  • Length: 448 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ for the book itself, 5 for the audio experience

Here is the blurb:

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.

Finders Keepers is a love letter to being a Reader. The way King describes that feeling of finding the book that made you realize you were a Reader. I will just quote it:

For readers, one of life’s most electrifying discoveries is that they are readers—not just capable of doing it (which Morris already knew), but in love with it. Hopelessly. Head over heels. The first book that does that is never forgotten, and each page seems to bring a fresh revelation, one that burns and exalts: Yes! That’s how it is! Yes! I saw that, too! And, of course, That’s what I think! That’s what I FEEL!

“Shit don’t mean shit” and the birthday f*cc quotes are obviously meant to be quotable too, and I loved the book for those one-liners.  The Jerome and Holly scene at the end with the t-shirt was one of my favorites.

Another thing I really liked was how Morris and Peter were really quite a bit alike. Throughout the book King drew parallels between them.  (Morris was a bit like Annie from Misery but he was a whole different take on the theme of obsession). The interesting part was seeing which direction Pete would go.  At the end when Pete kind of broke away and realized that, thankfully, they weren’t alike at heart, it was a nice thought in stark contrast to the horror happening in the background at the end of the book.

Pacing and suspense wise – the first third was a little weird and slow for me since I expected to see Bill and the screw sooner, but it took until the second 3rd of the book. There was plenty of suspense, action, brutality, and gore, and of course the Happy Slapper is back.  With that real sense of danger and suspense it was hard to put the book down.  I feel like King has thoughts on people who’s butt fat you can carve with a hatchet 😂😂

Anyway, what I didn’t like so much was how long it took to get Hodges and the crew involved. Jerome and Holly having bigger roles was awesome, but leaving them out of the first third of the book seemed odd.  It helped the book as a standalone though because even with all the Mercedes tie-ins, there was a new set of characters, new crime, new mystery, etc.  Enough background to get by easily.

Also at least as of yet, I’m not into the tiny supernatural bit poking it’s head out at the end! This has been a pretty straightforward and amazing mystery / thriller series so far, it seems like bringing in a supernatural element is unnecessary? Maybe not. I think I’m just going to binge the series and start End of Watch next.

(P.S. I have already started it and the supernatural aspect is the crown ruler of WEIRD, but I’m on board)

I’m also going to guess that King doesn’t know anything about legal proceedings and doesn’t feel like researching it, because I would have really liked to know about Pete’s legal fallout at the end, if there was any.  He kind of ignores that after book one as well.

My last random thought it about how not only did the book focus on literature affecting people differently, and how readers vary, but about discussing books too.  Ricky the teacher and his whole “this is stupid” speech had me howling but he was so right

About the audio-

Will Patton obviously also rocked it again, although probably for the first time ever I didn’t like how he did a voice – Tina’s. It didn’t help that she was annoying anyway (oh stfu we get it, Pete might be mad), but WP sounded a lot lile Jim Dale trying to do a whiny teenage female. Besides that, the man could sell me a reading of the dictionary.

I say it again that you want the tone, the snark, the snide of the killer, even Holly’s clipped words, I think Patton stands alone at the top of male audio narrators.  Finders Keepers earned him an Audie nominee for best solo male, and I *think* he won it for End of Watch finally.  At 13 hours and change and with a 4.5 rating on Scribd, I’m glad to see others agree!

Long story short:  love love love these characters and their story arc and this trilogy so far.

Categories
audiobooks Crime Fiction Thrillers

Mr. Mercedes (Book Thoughts & Audio) by Stephen King

I am finally adding King into my backlog book rotation.  I find it utterly embarrassing, as a reader, that I haven’t read many of his books.  I thought they were all horror but he has branched out into many other genres including serial killers, thrillers, and cops, which is where Mr. Mercedes falls in.

I would also listen to anything Will Patton narrates, including the Bible, dictionary, or cereal box, although he truly delivers another WOW performance in the audiobook

Bookish Quick Facts:

  • Title: Mr. Mercedes
  • Series: Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Publisher & Release: Scribner, June 2014
  • Length: 448 pgs
  • Rate & Recommend: I am starting to think King is a must read author e

Here is the synopsis:

WINNER OF THE EDGAR AWARD FOR BEST NOVEL
#1 New York Times bestseller! In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable

I always love the “unlikely heroes” theme and this book just nailed it so hard.  Bill Hodges is one level of personal hell away from eating his father’s gun when the killer that got away decided to contact him.

Teaming up with his computer savvy lawn trimmer, Jerome, and eventually the psychologically challenged cousin of a victim, Bill goes off the legal path to nail the bastard.

What a ride!  The chapters from the killers point of view were some mix of disturbing, funny, and just WRONG.  He was not the most interesting serial killer, but sometimes I think it’s more about the circumstances and delivery than creating anything other than a deeply traumatized, crazy dude bent on inflicting harm.  Not to say Hartsfield isn’t interesting but I certainly wasn’t rooting for him, he just seemed predictable.

Either predictable or Hodges was just that good!  Their dynamic over the chat room communications was fun to read

Not a book for the faint of heart or easily upset, but totally worth it.  Am I going to hell for laughing at the dog having the only Black name in Jerome’s family? Maybe, but I loved the family dynamic and also the found family one.  Give me ALL the unlikely allies stories

As with the other King books, Mr Mercedes is extremely well written as well. I like how he really gets into both the det-ret and the killer’s heads. I also love how Will Patton brings out all the inflections and nuances of the story in the audio. Whatever tone the author is going for, Patton amplifies it to perfection. I won’t hesitate to recommend anything he narrates, and I am thanking whoever pushed for the Patton and King combination because it’s unbelievably good.

All things considered: yes there is violence, gore, racism, and incest, but if you want a really memorable story I feel like these things can become part of a well done plot. I like my thrillers memorable and ya don’t get that when all the hard things are sugar coated

All the stars for this first installment of the Bill Hodges Trilogy

A brief note on the audio: Narrated by Will Patton, an Audie award finalist for this performance, released in 2014 by Simon & Schuster audio. 14 hours and change,