Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: thriller

‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King: New Read

I’ve succumbed to PEER PRESSURE and decided to read ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King in the spirit of the season!

'Salem's Lot

Another new read, Michelle? Really?

Hey, I’m only reporting on what’s going on around here. Don’t blame the messenger!

What can I say? I read a lot.

It irritates me when I become a follower, but so many book bloggers and “bookstagrammers” on Instagram were posting about Halloween reads that I decided to go with the flow and pick up “‘Salem’s Lot” off my TBR shelf. I bought it several months ago but was pretty burned out on Stephen King at the time, so I had set it aside for other (shorter and less terrifying) things.

The time has come to crack open this gargantuan paperback and peek inside. I’ve never read it before, and I know there was an old tv miniseries based on the book but I’ve never seen it. Now it looks like there will be a new movie coming out next year. Looks like a recurring theme, doesn’t it? Didn’t we just go through this with “The Stand?”

“‘Salem’s Lot” was first published in 1975, only three years after yours truly was born, and his second novel. I didn’t know this until I picked the book up off my shelf, (Yes, I bought it without really knowing what it was about. It’s Stephen King and one of his first. I need no other enticement.) but this book is about VAMPIRES! I love vampire stories! Why have I not read this before? Weird.

As you can probably tell, I’m excited to dive into this novel. Yesterday’s read brought me 94 pages in and I’m making very few notes. I usually read with pencil in hand to mark passages that I feel are particularly enlightening, but King writes differently. It’s not a stand-alone sentence or paragraph that makes you go, “Hmm…” It’s his timing and build-up. He creeps in there over pages and pages of words that you might think are extra. I mean, please, do we need to describe everything?!

Apparently, yes, we do, because you’re reading along and then you get a chill, you realize you haven’t taken a breath in a page, maybe two, your heart starts to speed up, and then he backs away again, only to creep up on the horror a few pages later and catch you by surprise. This is going to be so much fun.

My Analog Reading Log

I think I’ve mentioned it before in one of my annual reading summary posts that I keep a log of what I’m reading and when. It’s a paper book (because I’m all about analog) and each January I make up a statistics report about how many books I’ve read, what kind, how much time I spent, and how many pages. I know you’re wondering, “Why?!” Because I have a very strange sense of fun and this pleases me immensely!

Bookly App Screenshot

This past week I decided to try using the Bookly app to track because I heard that it makes pretty reports. These are the things that bring me joy! This is what I have so far, but when I finish the book, it will make a sweet little graphic of all the details and I can share it here and be proud of myself. I’m THAT kind of crazy.

For the time being, I’m logging in my paper book AND on the app. It remains to be seen whether I will keep using both. I’ll probably go back to the analog way eventually. Pencil and paper also please my little heart. Technology can lure me for a while, but I typically end up returning to my old ways. I like the tactile feel of it all. And seeing the physical reading journals lined up at the end of my bookshelf makes me happy.

The last book I read by Stephen King was The Stand, but there are others. Click over to my Autobibliography page to find them!

Book vs Movie: Final Thoughts on The Stand

Book vs Movie, the only argument I’m willing to have these days, so I’ll jump in and give my two cents worth. In this instance, the contestants are many. The original 1978 book vs the Complete and Uncut 1990 version and/or the ’94 movie vs the ’20 movie.

book vs movie

When I closed the book, my first thought was, “Holy…wow…that was a long book!” Even though I’m a big fan of Stephen King, I don’t think it needed to be THAT long. There were plenty of drawn-out scenes that were awesome but didn’t move the story forward or add to character development. But I get it. If you loved the original, more is always better!

The Stand was originally published in 1978. In the introduction, King writes to the reader to warn them that there isn’t much of a change from the original, just about 400 pages that were taken out of his original manuscript at the request of the publisher because that many pages makes the book more expensive to print and therefore more costly at the retailer. They know people will only pay so much for entertainment, one of those economic principles I’m sure my son knows all the college words for.

In fact, the introduction was my favorite part of the book. I can’t help it, I enjoy King’s voice most when he writes directly to the reader. It’s why I cared so much for his memoir On Writing. Oh my…I just spent ten minutes looking up the post that I wrote about that book (because I LOVED IT so much) only to find that I never did. I read it in November of 2018, back before I regularly wrote about the books that I was devouring. Makes me think that maybe I should go back to my favorites and say a few words “in memoria,” starting with this one.

Anywho, back to The Stand!

Opening up The Stand was the beginning of a month-long relationship for me. Like I’ve said before, I’m not a fast reader, and this book went by at my average, around 30 pages an hour. But book vs movie? I’m sad to say…you’re going to kill me…I think watching the new movie on Paramount+ was enough for me, even if I didn’t like Whoopie Goldberg’s portrayal of Mother Abigail. It wasn’t a waste of time though. I did learn a few things, it was interesting, and I did enjoy my time in the story.

Sure, scenes were moved around and combined in the new movie. Some characters were switched. But the feeling was all there, the motives. I liked the new movie because of the diverse characters and women had more aggressive and independent motives of their own than the book seemed to portray.

One thing that really did make me crazy (and this is my inner feminist coming out), I cringed every time someone was referred to “my woman,” “his woman,” or “her man.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve said the same thing about my husband in jest. “My man always takes care of me!” But this use and the frequency of it felt different and it pulled me out of the story every time I read the words. Pet peeve, I suppose.

Come to think of it, one could write a whole article about the differences in the portrayal of female characters in book, the 90’s version of the movie, and the ’20 version. Someone else do that, please, but not in a nasty man-hating way. It’s just interesting how things have changed and why.

I was relieved at finally finishing this book. It’s a big fatty and I’m tired of looking at it!

If you’d like to use the Wayback Machine and see what my first thoughts going into this epic, click over to The Stand by Stephen King: A New Read, a whole freakin’ MONTH ago!

The Stand by Stephen King: New Read

Seems appropriate, doesn’t it? “The Stand” by Stephen King is a re-read, but I don’t remember any of it other than “virus kills the world” and the feeling of “Wow! That was epic!” I read it back in high school (31 years ago), so don’t hold it against me that I can’t remember the book. Statute of limitations, man!

The Stand

Why didn’t I go get the book when our pandemic started 18 months ago, when someone mentioned that the whole thing seemed like the plot of a Stephen King novel? I guess I had other things to worry about and a long list of other books to read. Besides, I don’t think I really needed the imagination boost at the time.

So why pick it up now? Because the universe has brought it to me in the strangest of ways. A few weeks ago, we were looking for a new show to watch in the evenings and a friend recommended “Yellowstone.” For some reason, we thought it was on Paramount + and started the subscription, found that it wasn’t, but other interesting shows were, so we kept it. Then there was The Stand. I said, “Oh shit! I loved that book in high school. Don’t remember what it was about much other that virus kills the world.” We binged watched it and loved it.

I told my brother about it over the phone, and he said the 90’s one was WAY better, that he hated Whoopi Goldberg, but watched some of it anyway and it sucked. I thought, “If this one sucked and I liked it, I’m going to LOVE the old one!” Crazy thing but, I didn’t. I thought it was terrible. Maybe it’s a case of “the first one version you see of something is the one you love”?

Watching the old version, I thought, “I should read the book and see what’s different.” I ordered “The Stand – The Complete and Uncut Edition” used on Thriftbooks and I dove in as soon as it arrived. I don’t know what it is about Stephen King books, but I completely lose track of time when I’m reading them. The trouble is that I don’t read very fast, more like the pace of reading aloud in my head, and this 1164 page will take me well over 38 hours to read (there goes my book count on Goodreads). I’m a few chapters in and the difference is fascinating.

The first thing I noticed about the ’94 version of the movie, other than the old “made for tv” miniseries feeling, was that everyone in that movie was white. No surprise really because everyone in the book was white (so far). I’ve only gotten into the book as far as I got into the ’94 miniseries, Larry Underwood goes to his mom in New York and Nick Andros is at the jail with the guys that beat him up.

We started talking about this immediately, given the social climate of our own time. The new movie has a “multicultural” cast and not in a bad way. What’s a bad way? When you notice it. You know the difference. There’s a feel you get when the cast is just a little TOO diverse, you know. I can’t put my finger on that just yet.

The talk we had was over why the cast would be so different. I think it has less to do with racism and a lot more to do with marketing. The ’94 version was on live TV at certain time of day. It was made for the widest market at that timeslot, middle class white people watching tv for an hour or so after dinner and before bed. You want to identify with what you’re watching on tv. You want the characters and situations to reflect your version of the world. The producers want you to watch because they get paid by advertisers for your eyeballs. Makes sense.

Today things are different. Anyone of any social class can be watching at any time, so now they want to make shows that reflect a more diverse population so that more of us will watch it. It’s not nefarious, it’s marketing. I found the pronounced difference fascinating.

I don’t know yet which movie version follows the book more closely. So far, they both seem fairly accurate. The Stand was written in 1978 and set in the early 90’s, so the ’94 version may have been more accurate because of that. The 2020 version would have to be made more modern to make it feel like our time and not some past event.

Here’s something crazy I learned while doing a little research about the new movie. The had just finished the major filming in March 2020. Geez! Can you imagine? I just finished making a movie about a manmade virus that escapes and kills the world…switches on the news…oh shit…

Read more at Book vs Movie: Final Thoughts on The Stand

Prayer for the Dead – New Fun Read

Prayer for the Dead book cover on an end table.
“Prayer for the Dead” by David Wiltse (1991)

“Prayer for the Dead,” a cheap paperback thriller novel? Really, Michelle?

Yep. And what brought my attention to it? The chilling title and it was free. What can I say? I’m easy.

I’m on page 108 and it’s exactly what I thought it would be. Not a bad book, but it’s fairly predictable so far, like watching a Netflix crime drama. It starts off with creepy suspense, there’s some cat and mouse, some sexual tension and release, and, of course, any leads that they find, no matter how obscure, are exactly what they need to catch the bad guy. That last bit is what makes me roll my eyes. I’ve been on the receiving end of police work like that. It’s a sore spot.

It is entertaining, I’ll say that. And since I’m already reading two informational books that I’m trying to digest slowly, this will help give me a break between the more difficult reads. I don’t have to think much about this book. It’s the one to read for half an hour with my coffee. It’ll wake me up before I get to the meat, an appetizer.

I don’t think there will be many posts about this book in the coming days. I haven’t underlined or starred a single sentence. I have made the occasional comment about its crime drama similarities and the obvious, the good guy shares some of the same mental traps as the bad guy, hints.

I’ll keep reading it though. Maybe there will be a surprising twist to it?

Do you read novels for fun? I usually read horror, like King or Koontz, when I’m in the mood for entertainment. Horror/thriller novels are fun reads, scarier and more suspenseful in print than on the screen almost every time. Have you read Prayer for the Dead or anything else by David Wiltse? I’d never heard of either until I saw it in the free pile. I honestly just loved the cover. It reminded me of Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. Jeez…that reminds me. I read that when I was in high school and it terrified me. I should read it again!

Read my final thoughts on this book at the post, Crime Drama Classic: Prayer for the Dead. Yeah, I liked it.

Held Captive by the Writing on the Wall

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Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

“D.D.S.R.”

The letters stood out black and heavy on the clean white wall of her cell. She sat there before them, cross-legged, and puzzled.

How long had she been here, she couldn’t say, but she did remember when they arrived to take her. She could still hear the doorbell ring. She flew, freshly showered and barefoot, to the door only to find three men in black suits instead of the friend she expected.

These are no salesmen, she thought, immediately trying to close the door and blot out the vision before her. Before she could get the door closed and latched, a heavy arm clothed in black polyester reached though and stopped it. She could still see his hand on the door, his fat fingers curling around the edge, and the door suddenly pushing open into her face, the blinding pain as the door hit her nose and knocked her backward.

As the doorknob pulled from her hands, she reflexively reached to her face and stumbled backward into the foyer. The first man at the door entered quickly, the other on his heels, the last turned to shut the door behind him.

He strode quickly toward her and grabbed her upper arms to stop her from falling completely to the floor. The man behind, taller and thinner than the fat-fingered man that had hit her with the door, moved lithely to her left side and behind her, holding her shoulders so tightly she knew there would be no struggling against them. They had her pinned. She was upright but not standing on her own two feet.

The third man, the one that turned to shut the door as the first two entered, stood quietly by the door. So surprised by the sudden attack, she wanted to scream out but could not find the breath. She was held between the two men in shocked silence.

The door shutter, also clothed in a fine black suit, clean-shaven and serious, like the characters in Men in Black, looked from his steel-blue eyes and blankly stated, “You know why we’re here.”

She stared. “I do?” she stammered out.

“Don’t play stupid, Carrie. We know who you are. You can’t talk or buy your way out of it this time.”

With a flick of his wrist, he signaled to her captors to bring her toward him. Turning to the door, he opened it, took one quick look down the street, saw no one, and motioned them to follow. They lifted her like she were a floor lamp, clamping a smelly cloth over her mouth as they approached the door.

That was all she remembered. When she woke, she was unmolested. Nothing hurt but her nose from when the door hit it. She was dressed the same as when she had so eagerly answered the door. But now she found herself in this empty, windowless room, with these letters hastily painted on the wall before her.

Where was she? Why did they call her Carrie? And what did these letters mean?

Bad TV. Great Book. Surprise!

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How many times have you read a book and then found out it would be a movie or tv series? Just about everyone that reads has had that experience and it’s rarely positive, right? We automatically anticipate that the movie will not measure up, even though we secretly hope that it will. How can it? Not only can a book’s several plot lines and depth of characters not easily be condensed into two or three hours, but we each conjure up our own visions of those characters and scenes that just don’t seem to compare when presented to us in visual form from someone else’s imagination.

Long, complicated books are being turned into some pretty decent limited series programs on things like Netflix and Amazon though. I’ve seeen several amazing shows that follow a book or series of books very closely and I’ve loved them. I do wish some of the historical fiction they are creating right now would focus more on the historical aspects and less of the sensationalism of graphic sex and violence, but I digress.

A few years ago, we started watching “Under the Dome” in the evenings and were sucked into the story. It’s an intriguing idea. A whole town cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome, like a giant glass jar was dropped over the top of it. What would happen? What would the world outside do? What would the trapped people do? And where in the world did it come from? This was why I kept watching, only to be completely disappointed by the end of the series, prompting the whole family to look around in disappointment when we realized it was over. It was like they only half tried to make a story.

And then I found out that it was based on a book by Stephen King, one of my very favorite authors. I hadn’t read anything new from him since I was in college. Was he really writing books this bad? Or did the tv producers ruin it? I couldn’t imagine a famous author letting someone do that to his story? Crazy part…I was so disappointed in the show that I just forgot all about it.

Fast forward a few years later and I’m at Barnes & Noble looking for fiction and I stumble across “Under the Dome” by Stephen King. It’s a fat book, of course! On the front cover was the review, “Seven words: The best yet from the best ever. – Lee Child.” Not from what I saw on TV! Well, I love him, so I gave him a chance to redeem himself.

While not the best book I’ve read by King, I still enjoyed the story very much. It was classic. Several storylines, several characters going through a bunch of typical things, with clues to the bigger story all along the way, leading to the thing that ties it all together. I loved it. At the end of each hour of reading, I could feel the air getting more and more stale, the slow building urgency of the whole town and every resident’s different reaction to the event. How in the world does he do that?!

Don’t worry. I won’t give away the ending! Let’s just say that it seems to me that the TV show wasn’t even trying to portray the big picture, the “lesson” we are supposed to learn from all this. It was a huge let down. And I’m not sure how anyone could have liked that show at all, unless just going through the motions of life, not trying to figure out the whys and hows is how they live their life and like to watch the same on TV. I know. It’s harsh. But damn. Really? Did anyone that wrote the show read the book? Or did they get the Cliff’s Notes version and go from there?

A classic example of “the book is better” and these days there really is no excuse for that other than laziness, in my oh so humble opinion. If you watched the TV show and want answers to all your questions, read the book. They’re in there. And it’s worth your time!

Bird Box – Book Review!

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The first most terrifying book I ever read was Stephen King’s IT. My heart sped the entire time, culminating in the most horrifying “boss fight” I had ever read, before I even knew what a boss fight was. (for those older or non-gaming readers, a boss fight is the big battle at the end of a video game level.) When the mini-series came out (for those younger folks, that’s what we used to have before “Netflix Original Series”), I was so excited to get to see that same level of horror on the screen with actors I loved. Tim Curry, people! You couldn’t ask for a better Pennywise.

I have no idea why, but scary books and movies were my favorite “comfort food” growing up.

And then I saw the movie.

It wasn’t that the movie was bad. It was just that, for some reason this book just couldn’t translate onto the screen for everyone the same way Kujo could. The point of the whole book was that the monster was specific to you. It was what horrified you the most. Your own personal nightmare. To see it on the screen was a letdown. That was someone else’s nightmare. Watching it felt like waking up from a horrible dream and explaining it to your brother. “Then a spider chased me with a balloon and grandma laughed. It was just horrible, this feeling of dread…” He’s laughing his ass off and you realize while you’re speaking that there was nothing inherently scary about the dream. Not that I’ve ever had that happen. I just imagine that’s what it would be like. Really.

The movie was such a letdown from the book that when they made the new movie, I didn’t bother to watch it. We’re talking about a 27-year letdown here. I hold a grudge when it comes to this kind of thing. Seriously.

Bird Box is the same kind of book. It. Is. Terrifying.

While searching for a new show to watch on Netflix recently, we watched the trailer. It looked awesome. You didn’t see any monsters, just the woman, blindfolded and wondering what was out there. My husband and sons are not into scary movies, but I was so intrigued by what kind of a nightmare it would be. Maybe I could watch it during the day while they are at work, I thought.

Then I found the BOOK! Oh. My. Gourd. This will be epic. I threw it onto my pile on my way to the register, even though I had already picked up my quota.

IT made my heart race. Bird Box made me stop breathing. I’m sitting there on the couch with the book up to my spectacled face, holding my breath. Every few pages I’d suddenly remember to breathe, sucking in lungs full of air. I felt like I was there, blindfolded and feeling my way. It was horrible.

And I loved every minute of it! I still haven’t seen the show. I doubt it could be as good as the book. It’s the same kind of thing as IT. To see the monster would ruin it. The only way they could make the tv show would be to have the scenes go black whenever people put their blindfolds on. It would make for a pretty boring visual experience.

Books aren’t visual experiences. They’re all in your head. That’s what makes them amazing!

If you like horror, you will LOVE this book.

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