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Stephen King

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

While Stephen King will always be considered a horror writer, some of these stories had more of a science-fiction bent or had a coming-of-age angle. These stories were written in the 1970s to the early 90s, so it is a time capsule of life then- certainly “modern-day”, yet very dated several decades later. I’ve also noticed in many of his works, that he has bad things happen to good people. That actually scares more people, because these people are not deserving of their fate, and readers worry that tragedy could befall them around the next corner, and that is frightening indeed.

Suffer the Little Children

An old-school third-grade teacher thinks one of her students is possessed. When she also begins to suspect it is spreading among her students, she takes drastic measures.

Crouch End

Two detectives investigate a neighborhood in north London that seems to have an otherwordly portal that opens without notice which has caused people to go missing over the years.

Rainy Season

Inspired by Shirley Jackson’s story The Lottery, a married couple is unlucky enough to visit a town that demands a sacrifice every seven years. Venomous toads rain down on the town one night, and the townspeople move on quickly afterward, explaining away the tragedy and are not willing to break its ugly cycle. The audio edition was voiced by Yeardley Smith, so it was incredibly distracting to have the story read by someone who sounds like Lisa Simpson, from the cartoon series The Simpsons.

Dolan’s Cadillac

When a schoolteacher’s wife is killed by a mobster for testifying against him, the husband vows revenge. He then plans the most ridiculous, convoluted and difficult Rube Goldberg type of trap to capture this man on a deserted stretch of road.

The House on Maple Street

Based on the story prompt and picture from Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book The Mysteries of Harry Burdick, four siblings discover their house is transforming into a rocket ship and they conspire to get rid of their ogre stepfather.

Umney’s Last Case

Told in a noir-type manner, a detective’s life starts to go to shit with people leaving him and disrespecting him. Holed up in his office licking his wounds, a client comes thru and reveals he is an author and that Umney is a character of his in a book and he intends to change lives with him.

Head Down & Brooklyn August

Head Down is an essay that is an ode to baseball and Brooklyn August is a short poem also celebrating baseball. Neither is horror related at all.

Chattery Teeth

A traveling salesman buys a set of novelty teeth for his son, and when his trip across a desert goes sideways because of a psychotic hitchhiker, this little gift helps him out in an unexpected manner.

My Pretty Pony

“Time is a pretty pony, with a wicked heart” is the theme of the story as a grandfather ruminates on the nature of time to his grandson. Kinda boring, and not horror related.

Sneakers

A recording engineer notices dirty sneakers in a bathroom stall near him for weeks, before finding out that a drug deal gone wrong years ago resulted in a haunting of the building by the victim. This ghost tells him who killed him.

Dedication

A working-class mother is thrilled that her son has written a novel that is bound to be a best seller and she tells a friend how she was able to use some black magic years ago to give her son his writing gifts. Overly long story.

The Doctor’s Case

King decided to write a non-canon Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson story in a pastiche manner- honoring the original style and building upon it. In this story, a horrible father is found murdered and the duo needs to figure out if it was his put-upon wife or abused sons that did it. Dr. Watson figures it out before Holmes, and it is unrealistic, but true to the style of British mysteries written during that time frame.

The Moving Finger

What’s worse than finding a rat in your NYC apartment? How about a moving finger?!

The End of the Whole Mess

A man recounts in a journal how his prodigy younger brother discovered a cure for aggression in a water source, without noting it also brought on dementia. While trying for world peace, he instead doomed the whole planet to death. The last part of the journal reminded me of Flowers for Algernon.

Home Delivery

A timid young widow who is pregnant needs to learn how to cope by herself when there is a zombie apocalypse and those in the local graveyard come back to life. This was a surprisingly strong story with realistic details on how a small island community would survive.

It Grows on You

Set in Castle Rock, King’s favorite fictional Maine town, a house seems to mysteriously have new wings added on that correlate when bad things befall the townsfolk. This story didn’t seem complete.

The Fifth Quarter

A heist gone wrong…a double cross…a shootout. Meh.

You Know They Got a Hell of a Band

A couple takes a scenic backroad and gets lost, leading them to the picturesque town of Rock and Roll Heaven, Oregon. The town inhabitants look very familiar, and soon they realize there is no escape from this strange vortex. Reminded me of Pines by Black Crouch and In the Tall Grass written by King years later with his son Joe Hill. Grace Slick was the inspired choice for the audio narration of this story.

The Night Flier

A sleazy tabloid journalist reports that a vampire is on the loose. What happens when his headline is actually true?!

Popsy

The vampire is back! A gambler makes a grave mistake when he grabs a child to sell and finds out he shouldn’t have messed with Popsy and his creepy grandson! An effective story that was also one of the shortest.

Sorry, Right Number

Written like a screenplay, a wife receives a frantic call phone call from someone in distress but doesn’t realize until five years after her husband’s death who was actually making the call. The audio version was terrible.

The Ten O’Clock People

A bizarre story about how people who are trying to quit smoking and thus are in nicotine withdrawal are the only people to see how evil bat people are taking over society.

The Beggar and the Diamond

A short retelling of a Hindu parable. I thought it was an odd addition to this collection.

Chattery Teeth, Home Delivery and Popsy were my favorites from this long 816-page book. While I didn’t enjoy every story, I admire how King likes to vary his writing style and tries new approaches. His short stories have always appealed to me, and I will continue to seek out his work.

Later

Later is a short horror novel by Stephen King, that could best be compared to the movie The Sixth Sense as the young teen Jamie can see dead people, but that would do it a disservice as this book is more than that.

Jamie has always had the ability to see and speak to dead people, but only his single mother knows, who wisely tells him to keep his abilities to himself. Sadly, she does not follow her own advice and tells her cop girlfriend, who then uses Jamie’s abilities to her own ends. The first time she does so, a demon attaches to him with dire consequences. Told from Jamie’s perspective, this is more a slice-of-life story with supernatural underpinnings, rather than the horror story it claims to be. This pulp-style book gave me a Pet Sematary vibe, and other reviewers said it reminded them of It, but I never finished that book as it was much too long (I much prefer his smaller books and short stories). The ending tied up some loose ends, and it didn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, yet the narrative could definitely be picked up for more stories in the future. If so, I am ready for more adventures with Jamie! 

LeVar Burton Reads: Season Ten

I love being introduced to new authors by LeVar’s podcast, and then serendipitously finding that author in other works and books soon after. This podcast always expands my reading boundaries and I look forward to listening to a new story weekly for several months at a time while each season lasts.

The Wishing Pool by Tananarive Due

Careful what you wish for! An adult daughter, Joy, finds her widowed father in ill health when she visits him at the family cabin, both physically and mentally as he has worsening dementia. She remembers a nearby wishing pool that she and a childhood friend would visit in the nearby woods, but her wish for her father has (of course) unintended consequences. This story was a perfect blend of the harsh reality of caring for elderly parents and then the fantastical.

Different People by Timothy Mudie

In this story, a man meets a refugee from another dying but similar dimension whose first husband was him in their world, and they end up marrying themselves. But he begins to doubt that they should be together, as he is jealous of the other him, and wonders if they were meant to be together in this world. This multi-verse storyline is very popular in sci-fi tales, as there is a lot to explore in why things are the same or different in other worlds and what that means to the characters living through it all.

The Usual Santas by Mick Herron 

Set in London, eight mall Santas discover a ninth among them at the year-end Christmas Eve party. Is one of them an imposter, or could he be the real Santa? Who then led the crime caper at the mall, in which many gifts were given to orphans and the needy the next day?

Drones to Ploughshares by Sarah Gailey

A sentient government surveillance drone is captured while out on a mission and must determine what to do next when offered freedom. Is it a trap? A sweet, but somewhat light, AI story.

To Jump is to Fall by Stephen Graham Jones

Told in first person, a telepathic spy gives us a stream of consciousness as he freefalls after a jump off a plane. When he realizes his mission has gone sideways and he and the pilot are purely collateral damage, he makes a radical decision.

The Placement Agency by Tobias S. Buckell

A fresh take on the “Hitler Dilemma”- what do you do with mass murderers from history when time travel is available and you have a chance to rewrite the past? The short story started out slowly but gained traction as you realize the true nature of the temporary job that is outside of time and space.

The Galactic Tourist Industrial Complex by Tobias S. Buckell

*This story was originally in Season Four, but remixed with new sound* I found this tongue-in-cheek short story delightful. Sometime in the future, Earth has become a tourist playground for wealthy aliens, with Manhattan being the favored location. While aliens are looking for authentic experiences in the city, life for humans actually living on Earth has become anything but, as the entire economy is based on the service industry and catering to tourists. A cab driver, whose flying taxi is on its last legs, has to deal with an alien falling to their death from his vehicle and trying to avoid an interspecies war when the alien’s family investigates. While this tale is amusing, it’s also a reflection on how our society relies on social media with trying to make their life look perfect when really it’s only a facade.

The Final Performance of the Amazing Ralphie by Pat Cadigan

In deep space, an AI magician is utilized to entertain hospice patients, and during a performance, the patient dies. The caretaker, who already had strikes against them, tries to explain what happened during a review and discovers that the AI saw a situation unfolding and took steps to offer comfort to the dying patient. I didn’t vibe with the narrative- although LeVar offers commentary at the end of the story, I didn’t really get this story.

Open House on Haunted Hill by John Wiswell

A sentient house, not quite a haunted house, aches for new owners. During an open house, it utilizes some powers to convince a father and daughter that it would be the perfect house for them. The house just wants someone to love it and live in it! A charming little story.

John Dillinger and the Blind Magician by Allison M. Dickson

Set in an alternative magical world in 1934, mobster John Dillinger goes to a speakeasy to find a magician to help him escape the feds. Two magicians get roped into the scheme, and of course, there was a double-cross. Meh.

Troll Bridge by Terry Pratchett

Set in author Pratchett’s Discworld (he has written 41 books set there!), this wistful short story includes a grizzled Cohen the Barbarian crossing a troll bridge and how the two old-timers reminisce about times gone by. This is a bittersweet tale, that stands on its own, about lamenting the past and reflecting on how much has changed in one’s lifetime. My husband and I recently had a conversation about how much has changed since we were children, and how things you take for granted then, are not around as an adult. While set in a fantasy world, this tale is universal and will pull at the heartstrings of adults who can relate.

The Last Truth by AnaMaria Curtis

The winner of LeVar’s first ever short-story contest was this bittersweet tale of how memories define us. Set in an alternative world, Eri is an indentured thief, who is forced to pick locks for her mobster employer. However, locks are opened by revealing memories, that then disappear from their minds, which results in a great cost for the thief. Eri meets a musician on board the ship they are on, and both wish to escape together, but will Eri be Eri any more once she completes the last required lock-picking? As Eri faces an uncertain future, readers will ponder if friendship, music and/or love can reestablish old memories. Will a possibility of good new memories renew her?

Afterlife by Stephen King

I am a huge fan of Stephen King’s short stories, so I read this story before in his collection The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, but as with other short stories that I have read before listening to on the podcast, LeVar can put an interesting twist on it. In this story, a man who recently died of cancer is given a chance to relive his life again, hoping to correct the wrongs he committed. But we find out he has done so numerous times, with no change, even to the atrocious sin he committed while in college. A disquieting tale, but I expect no less from King.

My favorites this season were Different People and Troll Bridge. I enjoyed listening to the winning entry, The Last Truth, from LeVar’s contest and hope he does one again. So, in the meantime I suggest you check out his podcast if you haven’t already, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”

-Nancy

Fiction’s Fearless Females: Wendy Torrance

The last of our planned eight piece series on Fiction’s Fearless Females is here! In celebration of Women’s History Month and beyond, both of us here at Graphic Novelty² joined forces with some amazing bloggers to celebrate women. Kalie of Just Dread-full features Wendy Torrance, the scream queen of the Stephen King movie The Shining, and brings us home with her post. While Wendy might seem an atypical choice for this series, Kalie expertly shows how Wendy persevered despite her fear. And while you are checking out Kalie’s post, make sure you read the rest of her blog about horror books and movies, for her writing is dread-fully insightful!

Guest Blogger: Kalie of Just Dread-full

Photo Credit — The Shining

One of my favorite scenes in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is a two or three second shock during which a series of terrifying events happen.  At this point in the film, Danny has been replaced by Tony, who’s saying “Redrum” in a voice that’s robotic at first and amplifies in intensity and urgency as Jack’s presence gets closer.  As Danny—or “Tony,” his psychic alter-ego—screams “Redrum,” Wendy reads the words backward in the mirror.  The camera pans in on the word “murder” written in childish handwriting with blood-red lipstick.  Almost as soon as we, the viewers, read “murder” in the mirror, we hear the unnerving sound of an ax chopping through wood and the camera moves to Jack, who wields the huge, sharp, silver device and uses it to slice through the wooden door of the caretaker’s quarters, where Danny and Wendy reside.  As if this nexus of sensation weren’t enough to alarm us, the viewers, and pull as even a little more deeply into The Shining’s sinister, unpredictable world, Wendy’s voice intercepts this moment with a simultaneously frenetic and bone-chilling scream—a scream that we’ll hear different variations of for the rest of the movie.  In turn, we, as the viewers—at least a little bit—start feeling Wendy’s maddening fear, and our cognition is ultimately forced to accept a mis-en-scene and narrative moment that’s eliminated anything reassuring or comforting for us to latch onto.  We are, in a sense, in the void, and we are there with Wendy.

Photo Credit — The Shining

Wendy may seem like an unusual choice to write about for a series entitled “Fiction’s Fearless Females,” for as any cursory fan of The Shining knows, Wendy—played by scream queen Shelly Duvall—is a flawed, often anxious character who lapses into a state of unbridled, near hysterical terror as the horror in The Overlook Hotel intensifies.  It occurred to me shortly after electing my character for this series that I may have chosen a character who I happen to love, but who doesn’t quite qualify as “fearless.”  Isn’t fearlessness something like maintaining impeccable sangfroid in the face of sometimes unspeakably horrifying, life-or-death situations?  Maybe fearlessness is only Princess Leia’s impressive, almost unwavering calmness and confidence, despite every obstacle she faces, in Episodes IV-VI of Star Wars.  Maybe fearlessness is only Ripley’s stolid leadership and remarkable competence as large, gooey, sharp-toothed, aggressive otherworldly beings invade a vulnerable ship floating around in outer-space.  Maybe—as some of my students suggested when we watched The Shining in my Reading the Monster class—maybe Wendy reifies some stereotypes of the quintessential “hysterical” woman.  Maybe she exercises bad judgement when she stays in the hotel with Danny as long as she does.  Maybe she exercises bad judgement because she’s stayed with Jack for so long, period.  Maybe she’s a door-mat.  Maybe she’s a chicken-shit.

Photo Credit — The Shining

Maybe.  The aforementioned observations are all compelling ones.  Reasonable minds could agree with all of them.  Most reasonable minds might agree with some of them.  For myself, personally, I’m inclined to think that by the time Wendy has reason to make her way down a mountain in what kind of equals a glorified snowmobile, Jack has annihilated all her escape options.  And it’s quite possible that she’s been emotionally abused by Jack throughout their whole marriage—at least, in Kubrick’s rendition of King’s story—and therefore is trapped in a typical cycle of abuse, a cycle that often precludes even the “strongest” women from breaking free as soon as they otherwise could or as soon as we often estimate they should.  What’s more, when it comes down to it, Wendy is plenty willing to sacrifice Jack to save herself and Danny.  After all, she conks Jack over the head with a bat and locks him in a freezer, with the intent of leaving him there while she escapes from The Overlook with Danny on a trip down a mountain, in the snow-cat, in the middle of fierce Colorado winter. And she befriends a sizeable kitchen knife during her ordeals so that she can stave off her raving husband by any means necessary.  So, we may be able to argue against some assertions that would make us question Wendy’s alleged “strength.”  But despite all of the possible arguments and counter-arguments about Wendy’s fortitude, at the end of the day, I’m not so sure any of it matters.  Wendy is evidently under insuperable distress.  In some ways, she’s a little bit of a mess before and during this distress.  Therein, I argue, lies not only her charm, but her ticket into this series.

Photo Credit – The Shining

I was having a conversation about courage once a long time ago.  One wise friend asserted that courage is that calm feeling of reassurance you have in your heart, the absence of fear in the face of incredible f***ing danger.  Shit, I thought to myself, in that case, I don’t know that I’ve ever had courage in my life. Luckily for me, another friend interjected and argued that courage was the decision to move forward, to take action, no matter how afraid you are.  Fearlessness, in this analysis—however paradoxically—lies not so much in the absence of fear, per se, but in the ability to push through that fear and act, no matter how much trepidation lies in your heart, no matter how riled up you might appear.  It is the refusal to let fear stop you when you’re called to action, and to perform the action anyway.  This definition, I’ll admit, I much preferred as I listened to the conversation, and it’s the one I tend to adopt in my life, though not always successfully.  It turns out that even being “fearless” in this way—demonstrating fearlessness by acting, no matter how scared you are—is a fairly daunting goal—as anyone who’s lived a few years on this earth can probably understand.  But it is this sort of fearlessness that Wendy accomplishes, despite whatever flaws she may have, despite her indisputably evident outward terror—and that, I think, is why I love her.

Photo Credit – The Shining

It would be easy, after all, to give up in Wendy’s situation.  She’s in a secluded hotel in the middle of the winter, and I would be inclined to argue that not only does she have a psychic son who’s a partial victim of his own power, not only is she warring against a mad husband who is malicious and mean beyond reason, to the point of murderous nefariousness, but she has—as I view the film—an entire, active pantheon of ghosts, an essentially vengeful, psychic hotel that encapsulates a wide range of unhappy spirits, acting against her.  It’s a force that exists beyond human force, a force that wants to kill her, a force that wants to subsume her husband and eliminate that pesky psychic son.  The situation is, in some senses, hopeless.  But, as the saying goes, “nevertheless, she persisted.”  Wendy shrieks and jumps and screams and cries and fights, and she plans and she reasons and she fights some more, and she puts Danny’s life first while simultaneously trying to preserve her own, if, primarily, for his well-being.  In fact, I’d argue that in the midst of traumatizing absolute terror, she makes smart decision after smart decision, and as a result, she and her unusually smart son beat the hotel at its own game.

Photo Credit — The Shining

Wendy is a jolting, electric force without being perfect, and I like that about her because in my own life, I find that coveting perfection can be beneficial, but it can also be counterproductive.  I often envision a more organized self who moves effortlessly and quickly through her PhD program, who is a dynamic, engaging teacher every single day and at the same time a perfect friend, girlfriend, sister and daughter – someone with strong convictions and a good heart, who keeps a meticulous house and eats leafy greens with every meal.  I want to be a grad student who’s always dressed impeccably and stylishly, but whose savings account is always ample as well.  I want to be centered and peaceful, to create the perfect interior and exterior—and maybe, if I have time, the perfect social media persona.  Sometimes, in fact, my ideal self becomes so exhausting to think about (and so far from the real story) that it’s no wonder I resent perfection. It definitely has its place in film; there are a lot of almost “perfect” film characters that I adore—and I certainly believe in striving to be better in my own life, despite how I might meander, at times—but good God, trying to live up to my own ideal of perfection is exhausting.  And I think that’s kind of how perfection works for most of us—the desire to improve is a motivator, for sure, but taken to extremes, visions of perfection can also be barriers to fulfillment.

Photo Credit – The Shining

Jacques Lacan said that human existence is defined by lack. This is how I understand his point: To some extent, our inner selves are always consciously seeking a more perfect version of the ego, a better “self” to replace the self that we perceive doesn’t have enough of one quality or another.  When I first heard this concept, it really resonated with me, because I think I’m someone who’s always been far quicker to register what she lacks than what she possesses.  But to Lacan, this is a universal element of being human; we all wish we had certain attributes that we don’t, and so we define ourselves by what we aren’t, instead of what we are.  This is the appeal of characters like Wendy, characters who don’t embody complete perfection.  As someone who tends to wish she were a little more “calm and collected,” a little more pulled together than she is, I get Wendy when she’s screaming and crying and wheezing while she’s trying to stave off her maniacal, murdering husband, even though I could never fully imagine being in an ordeal like hers.  And I doubt, most of the times, that I’d be doing her job as competently as she does it toward the conclusion of Kubrick’s film.  She is a spasmodic mess at points in the film, but she gets the job done—and she’s a good person, on top of it all.

Photo Credit — The Shining

When we walk away from Kubrick’s narrative, after all, we leave behind a Jack Torrance who’s an opaque shade of candy-colored white-blue, sitting, frozen stiff, in the cold.  Wendy and Danny have escaped.  We’ve seen them run to the snow cat that Dick Halloran drove when he demonstrated his own act of fearlessness and traveled to The Overlook to try and help the family.  The blustery winter is still formidable, and it may well be a symbolic harbinger of the blustering winter that lies ahead for Wendy and Danny—a life that will never feel completely safe or comfortable, a life without Jack, a life that will never be the same since madness and malice have further disrupted their already seemingly tumultuous relationships.  After all, any realistic viewer knows when they watch Wendy and Danny run through the snow to the snow cat, that should they make it down the mountain, it’s not the whimsical happily ever after that I perhaps imagined when I first watched the movie at age eleven and sighed with a sort of exultant relief at their surprising escape.  Life, which is just sort of inherently hard, will be harder for them, yet.  And still, they are alive.  And they are still alive, in large part, because of Wendy—a Wendy who emits maddening screams and tears, a Wendy who has her own flaws, a Wendy who can be hysterical to the point of spastic, but a Wendy perseveres and ultimately triumphs.

[Kalie’s Note: I wrote this piece as part of an epic blog team-up aimed at celebrating Fiction’s Fearless Females. The series launched on International Women’s Day and continues through…my belated post. Other awesome bloggers in this super-awesome series include: Kathleen and Nancy of Graphic Novelty2 , Green Onion of The Green Onion Blog, Jeff of The Imperial Talker, Michael of My Comic Relief, Rob of My Side of the Laundry Room, and Kiri of Star Wars Anonymous. ]

Catch up on all the other Fiction’s Fearless Females:

Ellen Ripley

Captain Janeway

Amy Pond

Wonder Woman

Scarlett

Princess Leia

Rey 

 

The Dark Tower Series

Many of you already know that my obsession with the Dark Tower series began when I read and reviewed the graphic novel adaptation, The Gunslinger Born, back in the summer. I’ve been steadily plugging away at the books ever since. Well, I just finished the 7th novel and I have a lot of feelings! 8D

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

So begins the tale of Roland Deschain of Gilead, last of the line of Eld (that would be King Arthur to the rest of us). He has been chasing the Dark Tower his whole life. He’s sacrificed much for the road… family, friends, even the love of his life. No matter. What does matter is the road to the Tower. He means to climb to the top and see what lies within.

Oh yeah, and the Crimson King and his lackey, the man in black, are screwing with the Beams that hold up the Tower. If the last of the Beams are destroyed and the Tower falls, it means the end of the universe. For there are other worlds than these.

Though Roland is a gunslinger – sort of like a knight of the Round Table, but with guns instead of swords – he cannot stop the Crimson King alone. He draws three people from our world to aid him on his quest. One is Eddie Dean, a heroin addict from the late ’80s. Next is Odetta Holmes, a schizophrenic black woman missing her legs from the knee down in a freak accident during the ’60s. The last, a child named Jake Chambers, whom Roland has met before, and they didn’t part so amicably…

This band of misfits, lost in time, come together to form a ka-tet. One from many, with Roland as their leader. Under Roland’s tutelage, they become gunslingers themselves, seeking out the Dark Tower, following the ever-turning wheel of ka, of destiny…

Will they climb to the top of the Dark Tower? Will they even find it? Will those they encounter on their quest help them, or do they mean to kill them before they reach it?

I was held completely in thrall from the first sentence of the first novel to the last word of the seventh. Say whatever you want about Stephen King, the man knows how to write. The story has so many layers and intricacies to it that you take the time to savor every detail. Now that I’m done, I want to go back and see what I missed… maybe after a short break =P

The characters go through tremendous growth through the course of the series, but none more than Roland. At the start, he’s a hardened warrior, single-mindedly pursuing his quest at full speed, blinkers on and blind to all else. As the series goes on, we see him soften, open himself up to love and friendship. It’s not without consequences, and what happens to him is cyclical. Ka, destiny, time, is a wheel, and that’s the message at the heart of this series.

What’s most fascinating about the series is that it’s not one genre. Throw a little bit of Western, fantasy, science fiction, horror, along with a good dash of tongue-in-cheek pop culture and a sprinkling of supernatural and romance in the blender, and you end up with this series. I’m a librarian, and I could recommend it to just about anyone:

  • Love fantasy? The characters are on an epic quest, and there are multiple books to boot. The tone is atmospheric, like you would find in many fantasy novels, and there are elements of magic.
  • You read science fiction? Technology is rampant (though rapidly deteriorating) in this world. For instance, there are robots, both of the benign and killer variety, along with discussions of the theory of time travel and the multiverse.
  • Western reader? Roland himself is very much like a hero cowboy, and much of the setting is reminiscent of the Old West. There are no shortage of shootouts or action scenes either!
  • Horror connoisseur? First of all, I must ask you why you haven’t read this series yet, written by the King of Horror, and containing references to many (if not all) his previous works. Then I’ll tell you that there are monsters of multiple varieties, and passages that truly make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
  • For those of you who hate horror, however, I’m right there with you! There wasn’t nearly enough in this series to turn me off to it. You can also predict many of these scenes coming so you can skim if you need to.

See how easy that was? I’d also tell anyone that this is easily one of the best book series I’ve ever read. The literary quality is unparalleled: it’s just written masterfully. The story, action, and characters will keep you entranced from start to finish. I laughed, I cried, I cheered at Roland and his ka-tet’s triumphs and I despaired with them in their losses. It was truly a wild ride and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I really don’t know what to do with my life now, though… I’m totally at a loss for what to read next!

– Kathleen

King, Stephen. The Dark Tower series.

Best Reads of 2017

As we did last year, we went through all the graphic novels we read and reviewed this year to give you a Top 10 list – the best of the best!

RoughneckNancy: Roughneck is a beautifully told standalone tale of a brother and sister’s quest to reconnect with one another and their cultural identity written and illustrated by the talented Jeff Lemire. Lemire handles the storyline of Derek and Beth’s Cree heritage with grace and respect. The reality of native families becoming disenfranchised from their cultural heritage, is mirrored in the excellent book The Outside Circle, which also deals with First Nation individuals whose circles of community were broken which led to fragmenting generations of people with no connection to their tribe anymore. The ending is open to interpretation, and while I at first looked at it one way, re-reading it I saw a more melancholy but poignant way of concluding the story.

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Kathleen: A review of this book is upcoming, but last week I read this graphic memoir, Lighter Than My Shadow . The illustrations were all drawn by hand by the author, who suffered from anorexia when she was younger. This is the story of her recovery, and all the difficulties and choices that came with it. I don’t want to spoil my own review (edit-added link!), but suffice it to say for now that the illustrations are among the most beautiful and effective that I’ve seen this year.

Nancy: This graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s story, Kindred, was extremely well done. Butler’s original novel, published in 1979, was a ground breaking story that liberally dipped into historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy within a time traveling framework. The author herself called the story “a kind of grim fantasy”, and this adaptation shows just that. This was a heartbreaking story, and through the juxtaposition of Dana’s (the main character) experiences in two different centuries, this fantasy novel actually gives a highly realistic view of the slavery era.

interior ortc.inddKathleen: Beauty is an adult fairy tale in graphic novel form. It tells the story of Coddie, a fishmonger, who wants nothing more than to be beautiful so she’ll stop being the laughingstock of her small village. When a fairy grants her wish, however, she quickly learns that she can now have whatever she wants – at a steep price. The child-like art belies the serious messages and themes within. The figures are loose and almost caricature-like. The writing is phenomenal, with unconventional characters and fairy tale tropes turned slightly askew. If you like your fairy tales with more of a brothers Grimm than Disney flavor, this is perfect for you.

Nancy: Although the Superman: American Alien has Superman in the title, it is really Clark Kent stories. The seven stories are chronological and fill in the gaps in the Superman canon. We start with Clark as a boy learning how to fly, move through his adolescence, and finally settle in his early years in Metropolis. Every story is strong, and fits in seamlessly with what we already know about Superman. I highly recommend this book, for it humanizes Superman. The seven stories are all excellent, and they flow and connect into one another, to form the larger picture of who Clark Kent is and who he will be. A must buy for Superman aficionados!

5820769-21Kathleen: Unfortunately, DC Rebirth has been a hit or miss for me, but the one story that I’ve consistently loved is Wonder Woman. Bringing Greg Rucka back to her title was the best decision they could have made! After discovering that she’s been tricked into thinking she could return to Themyscira at will, Diana sets out to discover the truth of herself and who has deceived her once and for all. She is vulnerable and human here, and I’ve cried shamelessly as she struggles to figure out the truth – her own truth, the truth of who she is. Greg Rucka is without a doubt one of the best writers of Wonder Woman. The art is nothing to sneeze at, either, beautifully detailed as it is!

Nancy: Vision- Little Worse Than A Man is as far from a superhero story as possible. While grounded in the Marvel universe, with cameos by other Avengers and villains, this book is about our definition of humanity. This quietly ominous story had such power, and felt especially moving to me to read at this time when I worry about our nation’s future. I feel some in our country have embraced a bullying rhetoric, and turn a blind eye to facts and justice for all.

91epsqx38slKathleen: The memories of her childhood ice-skating days became the subject of Tillie Walden’s graphic memoir called Spinning. The uncertainty of moving to a new city, starting middle school, and discovering her body and her sexuality make Tillie’s ice-skating routine comforting to her – until she starts questioning that, as well. The art is fantastic: only purples and yellows are used, and yellow quite sparingly, to highlight important parts of the story. Great blocks of deep purple around a single figure illustrate Tillie’s loneliness and uncertainty more than her words could.

Nancy: Briggs Land is an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering. The second volume is scheduled to be released in late January, and I dearly hope it stays as strong as it’s debut volume was.

gunslinger-rebornKathleen: Like the rebel that I am, I read the graphic novel adaptation of The Dark Tower series titled The Gunslinger Born before I started the books. But let me tell you, it left me desperate for more and started my new-found obsession. The young Roland sets out with his two best friends to Mejis, where they are sent by their fathers to stay out of trouble. What they find in that sleepy little town is a conspiracy loyal to the Crimson King – and Roland’s true love, Susan, who may doom them all. I can’t say enough about the art in this book. I was in love with the stark contrasts and the way the figure’s faces were usually in shadow, leaving the reader to guess at their true intents. If the seven book series scares you, try reading the graphic novel first and seeing how fast you devour the books after that 😉

And there you’ve got your must-reads of 2017! We spanned several genres and publishers, and each of us had a DC and Marvel choice. Surprisingly Image didn’t make the cut. Here’s hoping 2018 brings us many more excellent graphic novels… we don’t think they made it hard enough for us to choose ;D

– Nancy and Kathleen

Fall Book Tag

It’s still November! We can still legit do the Fall Book Tag! We were tagged by Zezee With Books to do the Apple, Pumpkin Book Tag (which was a combo of two tags for her) and by Dani of Perspective of a Writer to do the Fall Time, Cozy Book & Manga Tag (in which she embellished). While they were quite different, they both had to do with fall, so we decided to combine the two into our own awesome mash-up! We alternated answering- can you figure out who answered each question?

From ZeZee’s Tag:

Granny Smith: An overbearingly sweet work or character

Faith is a kick ass heroine that also is super sweet. You go girl!

Red Delicious: A book that would be perfect if it was only judged by its cover

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Darkness Becomes Her. Man, the cover is beautiful and the synopsis was so good. But don’t be fooled. It’s a hot mess inside.

Golden Yellow: A book with yellow on the cover

Hark! A Vagrant has awesome riffs on history and literature, and is done so in an intelligent and hilarious manner.

McIntosh: A writer that has influenced or would influence your writing

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Isabel Allende! She definitely has influenced my (fan)fiction writing.

Honeycrisp: A book you have read that is in great demand

Written in 1986, this dystopian tale seems so very timely during our current political climate, and still is checked out regularly.

Gala: A work that fits under many genres

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Can’t talk enough about it – the Dark Tower series! An intoxicating mix of fantasy, Western, horror, and sci-fi.

Ambrosia: A long work that was easy to follow

The six book series Locke & Key kept me enthralled the entire time. Hoping for more books from this duo and the upcoming Hulu series. (Edit- now Netflix has the rights and is filming the series!)

Pumpkin Soup: A work that you first enjoyed, but then lost interest

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The Mistborn series. The first book was great! I could not make it more than a quarter of the way through the second book, though. *yawn* Booooring.

Pumpkin Picking: Within the last year, in which genre did you purchase the most books

Ummm….hello….what is the name of our blog? Graphic Novels of course!!!!!! Pictured is the graphic novel shelves at my library that I do all the purchasing for.

Pumpkin Painting: A book with magnificent illustrations

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Need I say more? (Actually, I did. In my review of TSS.)

Pumpkin Ice Cream: The most random work you would recommend

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I just finished this photography book by Gregory Crewdson.  Filled with surreal photographs that are dark and disquieting. A fascinating book that I looked at over and over again.

From Dani’s Tag:

Crunching Leaves 

The world is full of color Choose a book that had reds/oranges/yellows on the cover!

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An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson. Not a bad YA novel. Bonus because it takes place in part in autumn =P

Cozy Sweaters 

It’s finally cold enough to do warm cozy clothing  what book gives you the warm fuzzies?

This is my crazy favorite YA book. Young love in the 80’s…

Fall Storm

The wind is howling & the rain is pounding  Choose a book that you like to read on a stormy day…

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Man, if I’m in the mood to get spooked on a stormy day… this book is it. Beautifully unsettling.

Cool Crisp Air

Makes you breath freely  What’s the coolest character you’d want to trade places with?

Tyleet from the ElfQuest saga is my favorite elf! She’s kind, patient and steady. She’s not a flashy character but the kind of person/elf you’d always want by your side.

Hot Apple Cider

Warm autumn drink What under-hyped book do you want to see become the next biggest, hottest thing?

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*SLAMS FISTS ON THE TABLE* GIVE ME AN 8 SEASON TV SHOW ON THIS SERIES

Coat, Scarves, and Mittens

The weather has turned cold & it’s time to cover up   What’s the most embarrassing book cover that you’d like to keep hidden in public?

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This was an awesome book, but it just screams that I’m a geek for reading it.

Pumpkin Spice

Time for some Starbucks  What’s your favorite Fall time comfort foods (i.e. genres) and a book/manga that represents them.

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Fantasy ❤ Autumn is the best time to read fantasy, imo.

 

Thanks ladies for choosing us! We are not choosing to tag anyone, because fall is almost over, and our tag is a hopeless muddle of our favorite questions from the tags above. And now that this autumn tag is complete, we are ready for winter- bring it on!

(Okay, Nancy is obviously ready for winter, but I DEFINITELY am not… can’t wait for it to be over!!! I’m so sad autumn is almost finished 😭😭😭 )

-Nancy & Kathleen

Road Rage

Lately I have been on a Stephen King and Joe Hill kick, and Goodreads noticed. Recently I read The Cape and and on the “readers also enjoyed” sidebar Road Rage was recommended.  I was able to track down a copy and was pleased to see that the book included two short stories- the first written by the father and son duo of King and Hill, but also included an adaptation of the classic story Duel by Richard Matheson.

Throttle: Written by Stephen King and Joe Hill, Adapted by Chris Ryall, Art by Nelson Daniel

With an introduction by Stephen King, the reader is given a homage to Richard Matheson, for this first story was originally included in He is Legend, a book collection of Matheson-inspired stories. King gives Matheson partial credit for shaping him into the writer he is today.

We are introduced to a group of ten bikers, that have a Sons of Anarchy vibe, although they are called The Tribe. The three main characters are leader Vinny, Lemmy, and Vinny’s son Race, with the other bikers getting less face time. At a truck stop they are discussing a drug deal gone wrong, that resulted in a death, and their plans to try to recoup their losses. The leaders speculate that one of the truckers might have overheard their conversation , but figures “No one with any sense would want to get involved in their shitpull”. They were wrong. Out on the road the trucker comes after them, and blood and mayhem endue. You will just have to read the story to find out the trucker’s motives, and the resulting causality count.

The story is illustrated by Nelson Daniel who did the art in The Cape, also written by Hill. I enjoy his work, and liked his computer generated dot matrix that he uses for shading. He was able to make each biker unique looking, and had some great layout designs in his panels.

Duel: Written by Richard Matheson, Adapted by Chris Ryall, Art by Rafa Garres

This story included a second introduction, this time by Joe Hill, and he recounts some fond childhood memories of road trips with his father. As a child he had been fascinated with the movie Duel, directed by Steven Spielberg, and he and his father had fun in the car imagining what they would do under the same circumstances.

The premise is simple, a traveling salesperson is on a deadline, and wants to pass a trucker on a desert stretch of highway. He does so, but the trucker is incensed and starts to play cat and mouse games with the hapless driver. The driver pulls over at a truckstop, knowing he will now be late for the meeting, but as he fears for his safety, he wants to let the menacing trucker go by. Unfortunately for him the trucker also stops as to continue their driving duel. To find out who wins the duel you must read this book and/or watch the movie! In fact, the movie is my Friday night plans, as I was too scared by it in my younger years to watch it to completion.

The art is reminiscent of the famous painting The Scream by artist Edvard Munch, with the swirling lines and emotion of fear coming through the work. Colored with a muddy palette the browns, yellows and oranges aptly depict the barren landscape. At first I was not a fan of the illustrations, and was turned off by the impreciseness of how the driver looked. But his seemingly melted face conveyed his terror as his day went to hell in a blink of an eye.

I would definitely give this book a recommendation, but it will come as no surprise to King and Hill fans, the book is for mature audiences as it has quite a bit of violence with some graphic illustrations.

-Nancy

A variant title page showing King & Hill!

 

Hype or Like Friday: I’m A Scaredy-Cat…

It’s Friday the 13th today! And what better way to celebrate than with this writing prompt- Hype or Like Friday: I’m A Scaredy-Cat… list the top 13 books and films that scare you the most! You will quickly see I like my horror stories short and scary. I am a big fan of Stephen King, but typically only of his shorter work.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys by various authors

Impressive collection of horror/fantasy/paranormal short stories that were all inspired by old movies or books. The inspiration of each story is listed at the end of each story, but the fun is in guessing before you know for sure.

 

Everything’s Eventual by Stephen King

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King became too wordy for me a long time ago, so I now stick to his short stories for I feel he writes them very well. I liked how not all of them had horror or a supernatural element to them, but they all brought the characters to life. Some authors write a whole book and you still don’t have a fully fleshed out character, so I have always felt short story writers who can pull you in quickly are the best authors.  My favorites were Everything’s Eventual (listened to this on audio-Justin Long nailed it), Riding the Bullet and The Road Virus Heads North.

 

Poe: Stories and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe, adapted by Gareth Hinds


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When I wrote my discussion post on whether classic stories should be adapted into graphic novels, I deliberately left stories about Poe off. I love many of the macabre poems and short stories he wrote, and I had heard that this adaptation would be out soon. The illustrations here are evocative, and I will be reviewing this particular book in a few weeks. (Edit- here it is!)

 

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

Four very dark short stories with Big Driver and A Fair Marriage being my favorites. This was the book that truly gave me the most chills, as they were very realistic and grim.

 

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriquez

One of the best graphic novel series I have ever read, Locke & Key starts with a family tragedy as the Locke family is terrorized by two students who have an ax to grind with the father, Rendell, who is a high school guidance counselor.  After the father’s murder, the shattered family leaves California and heads to Massachusetts to start over at the Locke family estate, where Rendell’s younger brother Duncan provides them sanctuary. But alas, more evil awaits them there. This supernatural thriller set in a small coastal town is a winner and is being developed for a series on Hulu.

 

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These early stories of King stories grab your attention, and wonderfully describe the characters and locale in just a few pages. Favorites were Jerusalem’s Lot, Strawberry Spring, Children of the Corn, and I Am the Doorway. That many of these short stories were adapted into movies say a lot about the strength of his writing.

 

As for the movies…

Alien– There is no place to escape in space! That alien is so freakin’ creepy.

The Ring– The urban legends are true! Don’t watch the video!

The Blair Witch Project– The first of the “lost footage” movies that was perfectly done and set the stage for a new genre.

Poltergeist– I watched this as a child and it freaked me out. Children in danger, killer clown toy, and a house built on a graveyard- this had everything to scare me!

Carrie– Religious fanaticism, telekinesis and mayhem at the prom!

The Silence of the Lambs– Cannibalism and mind games at their finest.

Arachnophobia– Spiders…nuff’ said.

Give these stories and movies a chance, and you’ll be sure to have a frightfully good time!

-Nancy

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