Audiobook Review: Gwendy’s Final Task by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

 

Title: Gwendy’s Final Task
Authors: Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Narrator: Marin Ireland
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: February 15, 2022
Print length: 408 pages
Audiobook length: 7 hours, 23 minutes
Genre: Thriller
Source: Review copy (ebook) via NetGalley; audiobook purchased via Chirp
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

When Gwendy Peterson was twelve, a stranger named Richard Farris gave her a mysterious box for safekeeping. It offered treats and vintage coins, but it was dangerous. Pushing any of its seven coloured buttons promised death and destruction.

Years later, the button box re-entered Gwendy’s life. A successful novelist and a rising political star, she was once more forced to deal with the temptations that the box represented—an amazing sense of wellbeing, balanced by a terrifyingly dark urge towards disaster.

With the passing of time, the box has grown ever stronger and evil forces are striving to possess it. Once again, it is up to Gwendy Peterson, now a United States Senator battling the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease, to keep it from them. At all costs. But where can you hide something from such powerful entities?

Gwendy’s Final Task is a wildly suspenseful and at the same time deeply moving novel in which ‘horror giants’ (Publishers Weekly) Stephen King and Richard Chizmar take us on a journey from Castle Rock to another famous cursed Maine city to the MF-1 space station, where Gwendy must execute a secret mission to save the world. And, maybe, all worlds.

Gwendy is back, and this time, she’s going out on her own terms.

Gwendy’s Final Task is the third in the unusual, bizarre, frightening, and inspiring trilogy focusing on a powerful central character, Gwendy Peterson, and the strange box that’s become inextricably intertwined with the main events of her notable life.

[I won’t recap the first two novellas, but if you’re interested, see my reviews of Gwendy’s Button Box and Gwendy’s Magic Feather to catch up on the backstory.]

Here in book #3, time has passed, and we’re now a few years in the future. It’s 2026, the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, although its impact is still felt, and 64-year-old Senator Gwendy Peterson is about to be launched into space on a privately funded mission to MF-1, the Many Flags Space Station in orbit around Mars. As a US Senator, she’s one of two civilian passengers on the mission — the other being Gareth Winston, the billionaire whose corporation provides the big bucks needed to further the US space project.

Gwendy also has a secret, or actually, two secrets. With her, in a sealed cased marked “confidential”, is the button box that’s followed her all her life. The presence of this confidential case piques the curiosity of her teammates, but she’s keeping its contents to herself. Also kept secret is Gwendy’s early onset Alzheimer’s. She’s faking it as best as she can, but there are days when she can’t even remember how to tie her shoes. As she prepares for launch, Gwendy can only hope that she can hold it together long enough to accomplish her final task.

As the story progresses, we learn more about how the box reentered her life for the third and final time, what her mission truly is, and what she’s done to prepare for it. We also learn more about the challenges and heartbreaks Gwendy has endured to get to this point. I couldn’t help but admire her for her dedication and perseverance — most of us would likely have given up in the same circumstances, but not Gwendy.

The plot moves forward at a fast pace, alternating between the recent past building up to the mission and the days onboard the space station during the mission itself. We see Gwendy’s struggles to keep her mind together, to focus on her task, and to both reassure the crew members about her own stability and to evade the suspicious behavior of the resident billionaire, who seems to be encroaching more and more into Gwendy’s personal space as the days go by.

The two previous Gwendy stories have been novellas, so I was curious going into Gwendy’s Final Task to see whether a full-length novel would fit with the mood and style of the previous installments. Fortunately, yes, it does — this 400+ page novel absolutely delivers, but never feels overstuffed or unnecessarily drawn out.

I love Gwendy as a person by this point, having seen her all the way from early teens through to her mid-60s. She’s strong, fierce, and determined, with an unbreakable moral core and a deep love for her family. She’s also been through a lot, and I felt her pain so keenly as she reflects on her losses and struggles to keep hold of her memories just a little bit longer.

While initially I though the premise far-fetched (how exactly would a Senator with Alzheimer’s ever make it through the intense screening required for a space mission?), eventually, it all makes sense. And even before I got to an explanation that helped connect the dots, I was immersed enough in the story to push my skepticism way to the side, so it never stopped me from enjoying the story as it unfolded.

For long-time King fans, there are lots of references to amuse and delight. There are plot points centered around the town of Derry, Maine (including a local’s description of hearing voices coming from the drains and another’s tale of being chased by a clown), and later, references to the Dark Tower as well. [Note: I never did get through the whole Dark Tower series, but I think I got the point here anyway.]

The audiobook narration is terrific. Marin Ireland is a gifted narrator, capturing Gwendy’s inner voice as well as describing the surroundings and events. She brings the crew members and ground control into the story very well, and gives an immediacy to all descriptions and dialogues. This is a change in narrator from the first two Gwendy audiobooks, but it didn’t feel jarring, and overall, was very well done.

There are creepy moments, one decidedly gross/icky scene, and plenty of existential dread and overarching terror. Still, by the end of the book, I was feeling very emotional about Gwendy herself and the conclusion of the story. Despite the horror and the thrills, the biggest takeaway for me was the heartbreaking beauty of Gwendy’s journey, and that’s really saying something.

This is a convincing and well-plotted conclusion to an unusual and inventive trilogy, and I’m so glad to have been along for the journey.

Audiobook Review: Gwendy’s Magic Feather by Richard Chizmar

 

Title: Gwendy’s Magic Feather
Author: Richard Chizmar (with a foreword by Stephen King)
Narrator: Maggie Siff
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication date: January 21, 2020
Print length: 223 pages
Audiobook length: 4 hours, 37 minutes
Genre: Thriller
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In this thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestselling novella by Stephen King and award-winning author Richard Chizmar, an adult Gwendy is summoned back to Castle Rock after the mysterious reappearance of the button box.

Something evil has swept into the small Maine town of Castle Rock on the heels of the latest winter storm. Sheriff Norris Ridgewick and his team are desperately searching for two missing girls, but time is running out.

In Washington, DC, thirty-seven-year-old Gwendy Peterson couldn’t be more different from the self-conscious teenaged girl who once spent a summer running up Castle Rock’s Suicide Stairs. That same summer, she had been entrusted—or some might say cursed—with the extraordinary button box by Richard Farris, the mysterious stranger in the black suit. The seductive and powerful box offered Gwendy small gifts in exchange for its care and feeding until Farris eventually returned, promising the young girl she’d never see the box again.

One day, though, the button box suddenly reappears but this time, without Richard Farris to explain why, or what she’s supposed to do with it. Between this and the troubling disappearances back in Castle Rock, Gwendy decides to return home. She just might be able to help rescue the missing girls and stop a dangerous madman before he does something ghastly.

With breathtaking and lyrical prose, Gwendy’s Magic Feather explores whether our lives are controlled by fate or the choices we make and what price we sometimes have to pay. Prepare to return again to Stephen King’s Castle Rock, the sleepy little town built on a bedrock of deep, dark secrets, just as it’s about to awaken from its quiet slumber once more.

Gwendy is back!

In the 2017 novella Gwendy’s Button Box (reviewed here), we meet teen-aged Gwendy — a young girl whose life is forever changed by the mysterious box entrusted to her by a stranger. The box doles out treats and rewards, but also has the power to cause very, very bad things to happen.

In this 2nd book, Gwendy’s Magic Feather, Gwendy is all grown-up. After becoming a bestselling author, Gwendy became determined to make a change in the world, and is now a US Congresswoman. While her photojournalist husband flies around the world to cover developments in war zones, Gwendy works hard in her DC office. She’s had a successful life and has made real achievements, but always wonders: How much of what she’s accomplished did she do herself, and how much is thanks to the box?

She’s shocked and horrified when the box suddenly reappears in her life, right before her return to Castle Rock for Christmas with her parents. She has enough worries in her life already — her mother has recently finished cancer treatments, her husband is halfway around the world in the midst of a rebel uprising, it’s the eve of Y2K, and the hardliner new President seems to be blustering his way toward war. Tucking the box into her carry-on, Gwendy heads home, but the power and temptation of the box is never far from her mind.

While Gwendy’s Button Box was co-authored by Chizmar and King, in Gwendy’s Magic Feather, Chizmar is flying solo. And honestly, it still feels very King-like! There’s mounting tension, a small town with secrets and bizarre occurrences, weird happenings that may be supernatural, but also plenty of ordinary humans going about their business and having better or worse days than usual.

Gwendy is a terrific character, and it’s so interesting to see how her life developed after her eventful and traumatic teens. I’m glad I got around to this book, as #3 — Gwendy’s Final Task — will be published in May 2022. This new book will be the final in the Gwendy trilogy, and appears to be full novel-length, as well as co-written once again by Chizmar and King.

I listened to the audiobook of Gwendy’s Magic Feather, and loved it. Maggie Siff (Tara from Sons of Anarchy) is the narrator, and her voice is just perfect for Gwendy’s story.

This is a terrific 2nd book in a fascinating trilogy, and I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time)

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books I Read In One Sitting (or would have if I had the time). My list is a combination of both… here are my top ten:

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne M. Harris

This illustrated retelling of the selkie legend is slim but beautiful. At 215 pages, it was pretty easy to read it all in an afternoon.

Fables graphic novels by Bill Willingham

I loved the entire Fables series, and gobbled up each new volume as soon as it was released. It wouldn’t be possible to read the whole series in one setting, but each individual book is definitely doable!

The Duke & I (Bridgertons, #1) by Julia Quinn

The Bridgertons books have become my go-to reading material for plane trips. I read this one on a coast-to-coast 5-hour flight!

October Daye books by Seanan McGuire

These are more “I wish I could read in one sitting” type of books. As soon as a new one comes out, I have to drop everything and read it, but all in one sitting is typically more than I can manage.

Wayward Children books by Seanan McGuire

Speaking of Seanan McGuire… the novellas that make up the Wayward Children series tend to be under 200 pages, and keep me reading straight through from start to finish.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

This is a short (60-page) book that I read with my book group. Given its length, it’s no wonder that I read it all in one sitting… but the story flows so well that I think it might lose a bit of its magic if read in smaller chunks.

The Long Walk by Stephen King

This book is so strange and creepy, and I was thoroughly hooked. Luckily, I was on a beach vacation when I started it, and spent the whole day on a beach chair reading this book!

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

It’s easy to look back at the Twilight craze now and sneer at the books… but remember when the first book came out, and how insane everyone was about it? Sure, I have tons of issues with the writing and the plot and the basic logic of it all… but at the time, I devoured this book.

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander, #8) by Diana Gabaldon

At 800+ pages, this is absolutely not a book that can be read in one sitting. But I really wish it were! When this book came out in 2014, I was on a family vacation… but basically ignored my family during every single moment of down time and stayed up ridiculously late until I finished the book.

I’m already expecting similar behavior when #9 comes out in November!

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

I was so terrified of stumbling across spoilers when HP7 was released that I spent every waking hour reading, until I just couldn’t stay awake a moment longer… and ended up calling in sick to work the next day so I could finish!

What books have you read in one sitting… or do you wish you could read in one sitting? Please share your TTT links!

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Shelf Control #257: Thinner by Stephen King

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Thinner
Author: Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)
Published: 1984
Length: 188 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Billy Halleck, good husband, loving father, is both beneficiary and victim of the American Good Life: he has an expensive home, a nice family, and a rewarding career as a lawyer…but he is also fifty pounds overweight and, as his doctor keeps reminding him, edging into heart attack country.

Then, in a moment of carelessness, Billy sideswipes an old gypsy woman as she is crossing the street–and her ancient father passes a bizarre and terrible judgement on him.

“Thinner,” the old gypsy man whispers, and caresses his cheek, like a lover. Just one word…but six weeks later and ninety-three pounds lighter, Billy Halleck is more than worried. He’s terrified. And desperate enough for one last gamble…that will lead him to a nightmare showdown with the forces of evil melting his flesh away. And away. And away…

How and when I got it:

I picked up a used copy about a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

Sooner or later, I want to read everything by Stephen King! I remember hearing about Thinner for years and years, and after reading King’s more recent book Elevation, I saw a lot of reviews comparing it to the concepts from Thinner. I need to see what I’ve been missing all these years!

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2021

snowy10

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2021.

I highlighted some of the upcoming releases I’m most excited for in my winter TBR post from a couple of weeks ago — but it’s always fun to look ahead and make even more reading plans! So, here are ten MORE books releasing between now and the end of June that I’m super excited to read.

  1. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah (2/2)
  2. A History of What Comes Next by Sylvain Neuvel (2/2)
  3. Later by Stephen King (3/2)
  4. An Unexpected Peril (Veronica Speedwell, #6) by Deanna Raybourn (3/2)
  5. Whisper Down the Lane by Clay McLeod Chapman (4/6)
  6. Hour of the Witch by Chris Bohjalian (4/20)
  7. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (5/4)
  8. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry (5/11)
  9. The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren (5/18)
  10. Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (5/25)

What new releases are you most looking forward to in 2021? Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

Shelf Control #229: Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales edited by Stephen King

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

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Title: Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales
Edited by: Stephen King & Bev Vincent
Published: 2018
Length: 332 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Fasten your seatbelts for an anthology of turbulent tales curated by Stephen King and Bev Vincent. This exciting new anthology, perfect for airport or airplane reading, includes an original introduction and story notes for each story by Stephen King, along with brand new stories from Stephen King and Joe Hill.

About the Book:

Stephen King hates to fly.

Now he and co-editor Bev Vincent would like to share this fear of flying with you.

Welcome to Flight or Fright, an anthology about all the things that can go horribly wrong when you’re suspended six miles in the air, hurtling through space at more than 500 mph and sealed up in a metal tube (like—gulp!—a coffin) with hundreds of strangers. All the ways your trip into the friendly skies can turn into a nightmare, including some we’ll bet you’ve never thought of before… but now you will the next time you walk down the jetway and place your fate in the hands of a total stranger.

Featuring brand new stories by Joe Hill and Stephen King, as well as fourteen classic tales and one poem from the likes of Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Roald Dahl, Dan Simmons, and many others, Flight or Fright is, as King says, “ideal airplane reading, especially on stormy descents… Even if you are safe on the ground, you might want to buckle up nice and tight.”

How and when I got it:

It was an impulse buy while I was visiting a favorite bookstore about a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

I’m not a short story reader, but every once in a while, a collection catches my eye… and how could I resist this one? I mean, look at the authors included!

Table of Contents:
Introduction by Stephen King
Cargo by E. Michael Lewis
The Horror of the Heights by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Nightmare at 20,000 Feet by Richard Matheson
The Flying Machine by Ambrose Bierce
Lucifer! by E.C. Tubb
The Fifth Category by Tom Bissell
Two Minutes Forty-Five Seconds by Dan Simmons
Diablitos by Cody Goodfellow
Air Raid by John Varley
You Are Released by Joe Hill
Warbirds by David J. Schow
The Flying Machine by Ray Bradbury
Zombies on a Plane by Bev Vincent
They Shall Not Grow Old by Roald Dahl
Murder in the Air by Peter Tremayne
The Turbulence Expert by Stephen King
Falling by James L. Dickey
Afterword by Bev Vincent

I have a feeling I’ll be terrified and will never want to get on a plane again… but then again, with the pandemic’s end nowhere in sight, it’s not like I’m traveling anyway. So maybe now really is the perfect time to read this collection!

What do you think? Would you read this book? 

Please share your thoughts!



__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Books I Loved but Never Reviewed.

Between my blog and Goodreads, most of my more recent reads got at least a short review. So, for this topic, I mostly went back to books I read in my pre-blogging days… or books that I loved so much or that are so universally adored that there didn’t seem to be much point in writing a review (other than the old short stand-by: “I loved it!).

  1. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (yes, really– for all that I talk about this book on my blog, I’ve never written an actual review)
  2. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  4. 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  5. March trilogy by John Lewis
  6. Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall
  7. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  8. Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn
  9. The Samurai’s Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
  10. Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

What books are on your TTT this week? Please share your links!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Ten authors I’ve read the most books by

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Authors I’ve Read the Most Books By.

It looks like I did this topic back in 2015, but my reading habits have changed since then — so, new and improved for 2020, here are ten authors whose books dominate my shelves.

Note: The numbers as reflected in Goodreads aren’t entirely reliable, since they include novellas and stand-alone stories that I’ve marked as read as well as actual novels and other published materials. So… take the the numbers below with a grain (or ten) of salt.

Seanan McGuire – 38 

Because I adore the October Daye series and the Incryptid series, as well as her various other novels and novellas and, well, basically anything she writes. And this doesn’t even include the 12 works I’ve read by her alter ego Mira Grant.

 

Jim Butcher – 29

And more coming this year, with two new Dresden Files books releasing this summer and fall! Besides the Dresden books, this number includes Codex Alera, some story collections, and Bigfoot!

 

Dana Stabenow – 27

The Kate Shugak series is at 22 books (and counting), plus there are 4 Liam Campbell books published so far, and I’ve read a collection of her non-fiction travel writing. (Plus, I have more books of hers on my TBR, but who’s counting?)

 

Patricia Briggs – 25

I love the Mercy Thompson series, as well Alpha & Omega, plus I’ve read any and all Mercy-verse stories that have appeared in various anthologies.

 

Diana Gabaldon – 23 

I’m going to keep using this picture, because hey, I met DG once in person and it was awesome!

No, there aren’t 23 books in the Outlander series, but this include the Lord John books, the reference books, and the various novellas and stand-alone stories.

 

Gail Carriger – 23

According to Goodreads, that’s 4 each for the Finishing School and Custard Protocol series, 4 for the Parasol Protectorate, a whole bunch of novellas, and two works published as G. L. Carriger.

 

Stephen King – 21

Considering how many books he’s written, this is just scratching the surface! I don’t think I’ll ever run out of backlist King books to read, not to mention keeping up with the never-ending new releases.

 

Tamora Pierce – 19

I went on a Tamora Pierce reading binge last year, reading basically ALL of her Tortall books, one after another. And loved them all! (Mostly.)

 

John Scalzi – 19

So there’s the Old Man’s War series, the Interdependency trilogy, the Lock In books, and various others too.

 

And finally, one that maybe should go into a separate category…

Robert Kirkman – 33

Because I’ve read the entire Walking Dead series in trade paperback editions, and that’s 32 books, plus one more about Negan.

 

Which authors have you read the most? Do we have any in common?

Please share your links!

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Book Review: If It Bleeds by Stephen King

Title: If It Bleeds
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Publication date: April 21, 2020
Length: 447 pages
Genre: Horror
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author, legendary storyteller, and master of short fiction Stephen King comes an extraordinary collection of four new and compelling novellas —Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life of Chuck, Rat, and the title story If It Bleeds— each pulling readers into intriguing and frightening places.

A collection of four uniquely wonderful long stories, including a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestseller The Outsider.

News people have a saying: ‘If it bleeds, it leads’. And a bomb at Albert Macready Middle School is guaranteed to lead any bulletin.

Holly Gibney of the Finders Keepers detective agency is working on the case of a missing dog – and on her own need to be more assertive – when she sees the footage on TV. But when she tunes in again, to the late-night report, she realizes there is something not quite right about the correspondent who was first on the scene. So begins ‘If It Bleeds’ , a stand-alone sequel to the No. 1 bestselling The Outsider featuring the incomparable Holly on her first solo case – and also the riveting title story in Stephen King’s brilliant new collection.

Dancing alongside are three more wonderful long stories from this ‘formidably versatile author’ (The Sunday Times) – ‘Mr Harrigan’s Phone’, ‘The Life of Chuck’ and ‘Rat’ . All four display the richness of King’s storytelling with grace, humor, horror and breathtaking suspense. A fascinating Author’s Note gives us a wonderful insight into the origin of each story and the writer’s unparalleled imagination.

The novella is a form King has returned to over and over again in the course of his amazing career, and many have been made into iconic films, If It Bleeds is a uniquely satisfying collection of longer short fiction by an incomparably gifted writer.

Call me crazy, but Stephen King books are my version of comfort food. When I need distraction from the drama of daily life, I know I can sink into a King book and get carried away from everything weighing me down.

So getting a library e-book download of If It Bleeds this week was just perfect timing! Also very surprising, as I’d expected to be on the hold list for months… so thank you, San Francisco Public Library!

I approached If It Bleeds a little hesitantly, as short stories are really not my thing. Still, there was the book, just waiting for me on my Kindle, so how could I resist?

I’m so glad I dove right in! If It Bleeds consists of four novella-length stories, all unrelated, and all very different in content and tone. And each was a treat!

The story that garnered the most pre-publication buzz is the title story, If It Bleeds (which appears 3rd in this collection). If It Bleeds stars Holly Gibney, whom even Stephen King refers to as a favorite character! Holly was first introduced in the Bill Hodges trilogy, and then was a key character in The Outsider (the adaptation of which aired on HBO recently).

Here, Holly is the lead in her own story. She is horrified by news of a terrible mass murder by bombing at an elementary school — and then is hooked by a discrepancy she notices in the appearance of the local newscaster who was first on the scene. Holly is never one to let go of details, and as she investigates, she becomes personally involved in tracking down and stopping a monster.

It’s a good story, very suspenseful, although I’m not sure how much sense it’ll make to someone not familiar with The Outsider. It’s not an exact sequel, but the earlier novel definitely informs the way Holly’s case unfolds and what she knows.

As for the other stories… well, I loved them!

In order of preference, my least favorite would be the final story in the book — although don’t get me wrong, I still really liked it! Rat is the story of a writer who’s never been able to finish a novel, although he has published some highly regarded short stories and is an English professor. When a new story idea appears to him, he’s sure it’s his novel at last, and decides to retreat to his family’s remote backwoods cabin to work on it in isolation before the inspiration disappears.

Rat is an interesting look at creativity, the writing process, a writer’s fear, and the superstitions and bargaining that may accompany a fickle gift. Stephen King does love to feature writers as main characters, and then put them in dangerous, awful situations. Is the writer here really experiencing the disturbing things he thinks are happening, or is he losing his grip on his sanity? Read the story and decide!

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone is the first story in the collection, and feels like classic Stephen King. It combines his patented nostalgic look back at childhood with a small-town setting, the loss of loved ones, and a piece of technology that changes everything. It’s a story about growing up and saying good-bye, but also just a good, spooky, odd ghost story. Very cool.

Finally, the 2nd story in the book, which was my favorite of the bunch. The Life of Chuck is weird and wonderful, and I adored it. Told in three sections that move backward chronologically, this story is surprising and captivating, and strangely moving too. I don’t want to give away a single thing about it! Definitely check it out!

All in all, a terrific collection! As I mentioned, I don’t typically seek out story collections, even from my favorite authors, so I’m really grateful that I happened to be able to get this from the library.

And true confession time: I loved it so much that I ended up using an Amazon gift card to treat myself to my very own hard copy!

If It Bleeds is a great addition to Stephen King’s huge body of work. If you thought he might possibly run out of original stories to tell… this book shows that that’s not at all likely to happen. A must-read for King fans!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten Stephen King books I need to read

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is: Genre Freebie (pick a genre and build a list around it! i.e., best/worst romances, non-fiction for travelers, memoirs for foodies, classics that feel timeless, romance novel kisses, science fiction that feels too real for comfort, women’s fiction for newbies, etc.)

I was thinking about horror — fitting for these days, right? — and mind naturally went to Stephen King, and how even though I think of myself as having read a lot of his books, there are still plenty more to get to. So, without too much fuss or bother, I thought I’d share the ten Stephen King books that are highest on my Stephen King TBR list!

Note: While putting together this list, I realized that I’ve already read ALL of SK’s releases since 2009. Go, me! And I’m only include one Dark Tower book on my list, even though I actually have four from the series still to read. Because if I never get around to reading the next one (#4), why bother listing the ones that come later? I also realized that the reference list I was using for Stephen King books didn’t include his Richard Bachman books, so actually, there are even more SK works for me to get to! In any case, here are my ten priorities… for now.

1. The Dead Zone (1979)
2. Firestarter (1980)
3. Needful Things (1991)
4. Dolores Claiborne (1993)
5. The Dark Tower: Wizard and Glass (1997)
6. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (1999)
7. The Green Mile (2000)
8. Dreamcatcher (2001)
9. Lisey’s Story (2006)
10. Duma Key (2008)

If you’ve read any of the above –which one should I read first?

What’s your TTT topic this week? Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!