Reading Stephen King – September 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). I thought the best way to start my Fall reading is with some Stephen King books. I have only ever read his novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, which was fantastic. I was looking forward to joining the millions of readers that love Stephen King.

0671024256.01.LZZZZZZZTitle: On Writing
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Memoir, Writing
Publisher: Scribner
Publication Date: 2000
Pages: 288
Format Read: Audiobook & Book
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app & Library book sale
Date finished reading:  September 6, 2019

Goodreads Description: “Long live the King,” hailed “Entertainment Weekly” upon the publication of Stephen King’s “On Writing.” Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, “On Writing” will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

christineTitle: Christine
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: April 29, 1983
Pages: 503
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library Libby app
Date finished reading: September 14, 2019

Goodreads Description: Just Another Lovers’ Triangle, Right?

It was love at first sight. From the moment seventeen-year-old Arnie Cunningham saw Christine, he knew he would do anything to possess her.

Arnie’s best friend, Dennis, distrusts her—immediately.

Arnie’s teen-queen girlfriend, Leigh, fears her the moment she senses her power.

Arnie’s parents, teachers, and enemies soon learn what happens when you cross her.

Because Christine is no lady. She is Stephen King’s ultimate, blackly evil vehicle of terror…

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

apt pupilTitle: Apt Pupil 
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Viking Press
Publication Date: 1982
Pages: 179
Format Read: Ebook
Standalone or series: Part of Different Seasons short story collection
Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle
Date finished reading: September 15, 2019

Goodreads Description: Todd Bowden is an apt pupil. Good grades, good family, a paper route. But he is about to meet a different kind of teacher: Mr. Dussander. Todd knows all about Dussander’s dark past. The torture. The death. The decades-old manhunt Dussander has escaped to this day. Yet Todd doesn’t want to turn him in. Todd wants to know more. Much more. He is about to learn the real meaning of power—and the seductive lure of evil.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ 

38926465._SY475_Title: The Body
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Viking Press
Publication Date: 1982
Pages: 80
Format Read: Ebook/Audiobook
Standalone or series: Part of Different Seasons short story collection
Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle
Date finished reading: September 21, 2019

Goodreads Description: It’s 1960 in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine. Ray Brower, a boy from a nearby town, has disappeared, and twelve-year-old Gordie Lachance and his three friends set out on a quest to find his body along the railroad tracks. During the course of their journey, Gordie, Chris Chambers, Teddy Duchamp, and Vern Tessio come to terms with death and the harsh truths of growing up in a small factory town that doesn’t offer much in the way of a future.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

shiningTitle: The Shining 
Author: Stephen King
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: January 28, 1977
Pages: 659
Format Read: Ebook
Standalone or series: Series Book #1
Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle
Date finished reading: September 30, 2019

Goodreads Description: Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote…and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five-year-old.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

My Review: As an introduction to Stephen King, I think this month went really well. I do not read many horror novels, so I was nervous on how I would handle reading Stephen King, hence why I started with his nonfiction memoir On Writing. However, much to my surprise I really enjoyed reading Stephen King from his memoir to his short stories to his full length novels.

First, let me say that his memoir is fantastic and should be read even if you are not a Stephen King fan. I am not just saying that because he mentions DePere, Wisconsin, a town I lived in for 3 1/2 years. Half of this book is a memoir about Stephen King’s life and the other half provides his writing tips and conversations he has had about writing. On Writing gives you a glimpse into King’s childhood. He also discusses his addiction to alcohol and his recovery after being struck by a car. That event in his life occurred during the writing of this book and almost killed him. For the most part, I absolutely loved this book. I guess the only thing that started to make me a bit uncomfortable was how many times King mentions the full name of the individual who was driving the car that struck him. Frankly, that individual was not sufficiently punished by the judicial system, and so maybe King mentions him repeatedly in his book out of the bitterness of this situation, which is justified, but still made me feel uncomfortable.

After reading, On Writing, I was ready to dive into his works of fiction. I listened to Christine on audiobook. When I was on my lunch break, I would read his short story from the Different Seasons collection called Apt Pupil. I actually thought this was a good pairing, because it helped me establish why I loved Christine but did not like Apt Pupil very much. Christine was an absolute thrill ride (pun maybe intended). Apt Pupil really dragged for me. While they both had very violent scenes, I found those scenes much more tolerable in Christine than I did in Apt Pupil. The characters in Apt Pupil were just so sick and twisted. I can also say to myself that those were humans doing those acts of violence in Apt Pupil, where as in Christine much of the violence is done by a car (an object). I also really enjoyed the telling of Christine through a narrator (Dennis).

The Body was also told through a narrator, Gordy, and was a good next short story to read, as it was far less disturbing than Apt Pupil. I feel horrible writing this, but this style of literature made a much better movie. If you haven’t seen Stand By Me, you should. It is a great adaptation of this story. I found it a little confusion in the reading of The Body to understand if the narrator was in the past or the present. That could also be because I listened to it on audio instead of reading my physical copy. However, the experiences and conversations between the four friends, Gordy, Chris, Teddy, and Vern, as they go in search of a dead body, were wonderfully told – entertaining and at times funny.

To end my month of reading Stephen King, I finally read The Shining and no it is not like the Jack Nicholson movie (though I admit I love the movie too). This was a great conclusion, as I absolutely loved this book. It was my favorite for sure. It had characters I cared about, fantastical elements (a possessed murder house & people who have a special ability called the shine), and intense, scary moments that made it hard to read but at the same time made it hard to stop reading. Also, Dick Halloran, you rock my world! I can’t help but be tempted to read King’s follow-up novel called Doctor Sleep, but I am nervous that he changes the characters enough (especially Danny) that I won’t enjoy it.

I have heard from other readers, that Stephen King’s writing it too simplistic. It may be simplistic, but I think he creates magic with his words – simple or not. He makes you scared of things you never thought you would be scared of and uses important topics as themes in his stories, like bullying, alcoholism and friendship. “Friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant, did you ever notice that?” (from The Body) I avoided Stephen King for so long, because I just did not think I would enjoy his type of horror (or the horror genre in general). I was wrong though and am glad I finally read his works. I will definitely be reading more.

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Have you ever read Stephen King? If so, what are your favorites?

Book Review: Big Magic

th (2)Title: Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
Author: Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre: Nonfiction, Self-Help
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Pages: 288 pages
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Library’s Cloud Library App
Date finished reading:  February 5, 2019

Goodreads Description: Readers of all ages and walks of life have drawn inspiration and empowerment from Elizabeth Gilbert’s books for years. Now this beloved author digs deep into her own generative process to share her wisdom and unique perspective about creativity. With profound empathy and radiant generosity, she offers potent insights into the mysterious nature of inspiration. She asks us to embrace our curiosity and let go of needless suffering. She shows us how to tackle what we most love, and how to face down what we most fear. She discusses the attitudes, approaches, and habits we need in order to live our most creative lives. Balancing between soulful spirituality and cheerful pragmatism, Gilbert encourages us to uncover the “strange jewels” that are hidden within each of us. Whether we are looking to write a book, make art, find new ways to address challenges in our work,  embark on a dream long deferred, or simply infuse our everyday lives with more mindfulness and passion, Big Magic cracks open a world of wonder and joy.

My Review: I listen to the By the Book podcast. In this podcast, the two hosts live by a self-help book. This week, they are living by Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, so I decided I wanted to read this book with them (not necessarily live by the book) but at least familiarize myself with it, as I am a fan of Elizabeth Gilbert’s previous book, Eat, Pray, Love.

The problem with me reading self-help books is that I get too critical of them. I want them to cater to my needs or expectations. Big Magic definitely did not do that. My expectation (or hope really) when starting this book was that it would not just encourage the reader to be more creative or to embrace his/her creativity, but that it would show the reader different ways to be creative and how to fit creativity into busy lives. Unfortunately, I do not feel that this book met my expectations.

I had a hard time not being turned off of this book at the very beginning when Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story of an older woman who decided to start ice skating again, which is something she enjoyed doing as a young person. I think this is a wonderful thing to do, but then the author stated that children who are passionate about things like ice skating as kids should not give them up. I, myself, grew up dancing (mainly ballet and tap). I invested 16 years into that art and loved it. However, there came a time in my life when I realized that I needed to start planning for my future. Dancing would not be my future, and I knew that. I needed to focus on my studies and work toward something that would be a career. Even now, I would like to be more creative in my life, but working hard at my job is my priority. I do not have the financial luxury to stop working or to cut back on working to explore a more creative side. I just couldn’t help but feeling like the author was speaking to the more privilege members of our society.

The second thing that rubbed me the wrong way was her attitude. Yes, if fear is stopping your creativity, then it is important to try to overcome fear. However, I felt that Elizabeth Gilbert was belittling those fears a bit. She is not a trained psychologist and can not just tell the reader to get over his/her fears.

I felt uncomfortable with the section where she talks about an idea she had for a story but hadn’t invested the time in that story. Years later, writer Ann Patchett would write that story. I understand that Ann Patchett and Elizabeth Gilbert are friends, but I could not help but find this section a bit like Elizabeth Gilbert was taking credit for Ann Patchett’s work. The point was clear: if you have an idea, run with it, don’t hesitate, or someone else will come up with that idea. I just felt awkward with her personal anecdote that demonstrated this.

The final thing that Elizabeth Gilbert states in Big Magic that rubbed me the wrong way was when she was talking about creative endeavors being solely for yourself. I do agree with that. At one point in the book, it is stated that if someone is embarking on a creative venture that is not making that person happy, they should cease that venture and move onto something else creative that will make them more happy. However, Elizabeth Gilbert says that she writes for herself and only for herself, that none of her books are for anyone else. My immediate thought was, “then why am I reading this.” By definition, self-help books are written for other people. That an author takes their own knowledge and experience to try to help others.

Overall, I felt that this book might be more useful to those who are already pretty creative in their lives and are just trying to progress in that area (not me). There are some good points that I picked up:

  • The creative process can be magical.
  • Do what you want.
  • Put your ego in check.
  • Open one mental channel by dabbling in a different one.

The conclusion of her book is the best part and very inspirational:

“Creativity is sacred and it is not sacred. What we make matters enormously and it doesn’t matter at all. We toil alone and are accompanied by spirits. We are terrified and we are brave. Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege. Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us. Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul and I promise you can make anything..”

My Rating: ♦ ♦