BOOKS AND FUN
January 2020 Roundup
What Have I Been Up To?
“It is growing cold. Winter is putting footsteps in the meadow. What whiteness boasts that sun that comes into this wood! One would say milk-colored maidens are dancing on the petals of orchids. How coldly burns our sun! One would say its rays of light are shards of snow, one imagines the sun lives upon a snow crested peak on this day. One would say she is a woman who wears a gown of winter frost that blinds the eyes. Helplessness has weakened me. Wandering has wearied my legs.”
― Roman Payne
January was an exciting month for me. I started my King’s Quest challenge wish is to finish off Stephen King’s catalog. Read a bunch of wonderful short stories and graphic novels. Here are the books, short stories and graphic novels I tackled in January.
Books I Read in January
The Unspoken Name by A.K Larkwood
“Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due..”
Prosper’s Demon by K.J Parker
In the pitch dark, witty fantasy novella Prosper’s Demon, K. J. Parker deftly creates a world with vivid, unbending rules, seething with demons, broken faith, and worse men.
In a botched demonic extraction, they say the demon feels it ten times worse than the man. But they don’t die, and we do. Equilibrium.
The unnamed and morally questionable narrator is an exorcist with great follow-through and few doubts. His methods aren’t delicate but they’re undeniably effective: he’ll get the demon out—he just doesn’t particularly care what happens to the person.
Prosper of Schanz is a man of science, determined to raise the world’s first philosopher-king, reared according to the purest principles. Too bad he’s demonically possessed.
Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.
There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.
At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.
One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”
On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…
Journey back to Castle Rock again in this chilling new novella by Stephen King, bestselling author of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December. This book will be a Cemetery Dance Publications exclusive with no other editions currently planned anywhere in the world!
Come Tumbling Down (Wayward Children #5) by Seanan McGuire
The fifth installment in Seanan McGuire’s award-winning, bestselling Wayward Children series, Come Tumbling Down picks up the threads left dangling by Every Heart a Doorway and Down Among the Sticks and Bones
When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister–whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice–back to their home on the Moors.
But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.
Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.
Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi
“Riot Baby bursts at the seams of story with so much fire, passion and power that in the end it turns what we call a narrative into something different altogether.”—Marlon James
Rooted in foundational loss and the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is both a global dystopian narrative an intimate family story with quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.
Ella and Kev are brother and sister, both gifted with extraordinary power. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by structural racism and brutality. Their futures might alter the world. When Kev is incarcerated for the crime of being a young black man in America, Ella—through visits both mundane and supernatural—tries to show him the way to a revolution that could burn it all down.
Elevation by Stephen King
Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.
In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.
The Friday Edition by Betta Ferrendelli
Christmas is coming to Denver, Colorado, but it isn’t only snow that’s falling.
A beautiful young woman, who also happens to be a Truman County Assistant DA, tumbles from her apartment balcony to her death on Christmas Eve.
The incident is ruled a suicide, but the DA’s sister, newspaper reporter Samantha Church, isn’t buying it.
Feverishly Samantha throws herself into finding out what really happened to her sister. She pursues her sister’s killers, maneuvering through a minefield of intrigue deliberately set out to divert her from the truth. She invariably stumbles when confronted by the inescapable specter of a greater enemy: the alcohol dependency that has already cost her the respect of her peers, and, worse, custody of her daughter.
Samantha must summon the courage to face not only a cartel of criminals, but also her own demons. Physically threatened and betrayed, she nearly defeats herself through her own insecurities and fears. She not only must summon the courage to get beyond her own shortcomings, but she must work quickly to beat her nemesis – a reporter at the major metropolitan daily newspaper, who is also in close pursuit of the developing story.
Can Samantha ultimately prevail, write the biggest story of her career, and finally begin to change her life before it is too late?
Befellow by Jeremy C. Shipp
From Jeremy C. Shipp, the Bram Stoker Award-nominated author of The Atrocities, comes a tense dark fantasy novel of psychological horror in Bedfellow.
It broke into their home and set up residence in their minds.
When the . . . thing first insinuated itself into the Lund family household, they were bemused. Vaguely human-shaped, its constantly-changing cravings seemed disturbing, at first, but time and pressure have a way of normalizing the extreme. Wasn’t it always part of their lives?
As the family make more and greater sacrifices in service to the beast, the thrall that binds them begins to break down. Choices must be made. Prices must be paid. And the Lunds must pit their wits against a creature determined to never let them go.
It’s psychological warfare. Sanity is optional.
Highfire by Eoin Colfer
From the New York Times bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series comes a hilarious and high-octane adult novel about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who lives an isolated life in the bayous of Louisiana—and the raucous adventures that ensue when he crosses paths with a fifteen-year-old troublemaker on the run from a crooked sheriff.
In the days of yore, he flew the skies and scorched angry mobs—now he hides from swamp tour boats and rises only with the greatest reluctance from his Laz-Z-Boy recliner. Laying low in the bayou, this once-magnificent fire breather has been reduced to lighting Marlboros with nose sparks, swilling Absolut in a Flashdance T-shirt, and binging Netflix in a fishing shack. For centuries, he struck fear in hearts far and wide as Wyvern, Lord Highfire of the Highfire Eyrie—now he goes by Vern. However…he has survived, unlike the rest. He is the last of his kind, the last dragon. Still, no amount of vodka can drown the loneliness in his molten core. Vern’s glory days are long gone. Or are they?
A canny Cajun swamp rat, young Everett “Squib” Moreau does what he can to survive, trying not to break the heart of his saintly single mother. He’s finally decided to work for a shady smuggler—but on his first night, he witnesses his boss murdered by a crooked constable.
Regence Hooke is not just a dirty cop, he’s a despicable human being—who happens to want Squib’s momma in the worst way. When Hooke goes after his hidden witness with a grenade launcher, Squib finds himself airlifted from certain death by…a dragon?
The swamp can make strange bedfellows, and rather than be fried alive so the dragon can keep his secret, Squib strikes a deal with the scaly apex predator. He can act as his go-between (aka familiar)—fetch his vodka, keep him company, etc.—in exchange for protection from Hooke. Soon the three of them are careening headlong toward a combustible confrontation. There’s about to be a fiery reckoning, in which either dragons finally go extinct—or Vern’s glory days are back.
A triumphant return to the genre-bending fantasy that Eoin Colfer is so well known for, Highfire is an effortlessly clever and relentlessly funny tour-de-force of comedy and action.
Zed by Joanna Kavenna
Self-anointed guru of the Digital Age, Guy Matthias, CEO of Beetle, has become one of the world’s most powerful and influential figures. Untaxed and ungoverned, his trans-Atlantic company essentially operates beyond the control of Governments or the law.
But trouble is never far away, and for Guy a perfect storm is brewing: his wife wants to leave him, fed up with his serial infidelities; malfunctioning Beetle software has led to some unfortunate deaths which are proving hard to cover up; his longed for deal with China is proving troublingly elusive and, among other things, the mystery hacker, Gogol, is on his trail.
With the clock ticking- Guy, his aide Douglas Varley, Britain’s flailing female PM, conflicted national security agent Eloise Jayne, depressed journalist David Strachey, and Gogol, whoever that may be – the question is becoming ever more pressing, how do you live in reality when nobody knows anything, and all knowledge, all certainty, is partly or entirely fake?
Doctor Sleep (The Shining #2) by Stephen King
Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special 12-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals.
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless – mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky 12-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.
Short Stories Read In January
Premium Harmony by Stephen King
They’ve been married for ten years and for a long time everything was O.K.—swell—but now…
Mile 81 by Stephen King
At Mile 81 on the Maine Turnpike is a boarded up rest stop on a highway in Maine. It’s a place where high school kids drink and get into the kind of trouble high school kids have always gotten into. It’s the place where Pete Simmons goes when his older brother, who’s supposed to be looking out for him, heads off to the gravel pit to play “paratroopers over the side.” Pete, armed only with the magnifying glass he got for his tenth birthday, finds a discarded bottle of vodka in the boarded up burger shack and drinks enough to pass out.
Not much later, a mud-covered station wagon (which is strange because there hadn’t been any rain in New England for over a week) veers into the Mile 81 rest area, ignoring the sign that says “closed, no services.” The driver’s door opens but nobody gets out.
Doug Clayton, an insurance man from Bangor, is driving his Prius to a conference in Portland. On the backseat are his briefcase and suitcase and in the passenger bucket is a King James Bible, what Doug calls “the ultimate insurance manual,” but it isn’t going to save Doug when he decides to be the Good Samaritan and help the guy in the broken down wagon. He pulls up behind it, puts on his four-ways, and then notices that the wagon has no plates.
Ten minutes later, Julianne Vernon, pulling a horse trailer, spots the Prius and the wagon, and pulls over. Julianne finds Doug Clayton’s cracked cell phone near the wagon door—and gets too close herself. By the time Pete Simmons wakes up from his vodka nap, there are a half a dozen cars at the Mile 81 rest stop. Two kids—Rachel and Blake Lussier—and one horse named Deedee are the only living left. Unless you maybe count the wagon…
For I Have Lain Me Down on the Stone of Loneliness and I’ll Not Be Back Again by Michael Swanwick
UR by Stephen King
Reeling from a painful break-up, English instructor and avid book lover Wesley Smith is haunted by his ex-girlfriend’s parting shot: “Why can’t you just read off the computer like everyone else?” He buys an e-book reader out of spite, but soon finds he can use the device to glimpse realities he had never before imagined, discovering literary riches beyond his wildest dreams…and all-too-human tragedies that surpass his most terrible nightmares.
Sanctuary by Allen M. Steele
An edge of your seat hard SF adventure as colonists on a new world find that nothing is what they expected and that travelling to a distant star is far more dangerous than they’d ever imagined…
Batman and Robin have an Altercation by Stephen King
A middle-aged man named Sanderson brings his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father to their weekly lunch, that ends in an challenging adventure based in the strong bond of love have united them since forever.
short story from The Best American Magazine Writing 2013
Graphic Novels Read
From Hell by Alan Moore
“I shall tell you where we are. We’re in the most extreme and utter region of the human mind. A dim, subconscious underworld. A radiant abyss where men meet themselves. Hell, Netley. We’re in Hell.”
Having proved himself peerless in the arena of reinterpreting superheroes, Alan Moore turned his ever-incisive eye to the squalid, enigmatic world of Jack the Ripper and the Whitechapel murders of 1888. Weighing in at 576 pages, From Hell is certainly the most epic of Moore’s works and remarkably and is possibly his finest effort yet in a career punctuated by such glorious highlights as Watchmen and V for Vendetta . Going beyond the myriad existing theories, which range from the sublime to the ridiculous, Moore presents an ingenious take on the slaughter. His Ripper’s brutal activities are the epicentre of a conspiracy involving the very heart of the British Establishment, including the Freemasons and The Royal Family. A popular claim, which is transformed through Moore’s exquisite and thoroughly gripping vision, of the Ripper crimes being the womb from which the 20th century, so enmeshed in the celebrity culture of violence, received its shocking, visceral birth.
Bolstered by meticulous research that encompasses a wide spectrum of Ripper studies and myths and coupled with his ability to evoke sympathies in such monstrous characters, Moore has created perhaps the finest examination of the Ripper legacy, observing far beyond society’s obsessive need to expose Evil’s visage. Ultimately, as Moore observes, Jack’s identity and his actions are inconsequential to the manner in which society embraced the Fear: “It’s about us. It’s about our minds and how they dance. Jack mirrors our hysterias. Faceless, he is the receptacle for each new social panic.”
Eddie Campbell’s stunning black and white artwork, replete with a scratchy, dirty sheen, is perfectly matched to the often-unshakeable intensity of Moore’s writing. Between them, each murder is rendered in horrifying detail, providing the book’s most unnerving scenes, made more so in uncomfortable, yet lyrical moments as when the villain embraces an eviscerated corpse, craving understanding; pleading that they “are wed in legend, inextricable within eternity”.
Though technically a comic, the term hardly begins to describe From Hell’s inimitable grandeur and finesse, as it takes the medium to fresh heights of ingenuity and craftsmanship. Moore and Campbell’s autopsy on the emaciated corpse of the Ripper myth has divulged a deeply disturbing yet undeniably captivating masterpiece.
The Stand: Captain Trips (The Stand: Graphic Novels #1) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Adaptor), Stephen King (Story), Mike Perkins (Illustrator), Laura Martin (Illustrator)
Exclusive hardcover edition, collects The Stand: Captain Trips series of comics (#1-5) into one Hardcover volume. It all begins here: the epic apocalyptic battle between good and evil. On a secret army base in the Californian desert, something has gone horribly, terribly wrong. Something will send Charlie Campion, his wife and daughter fleeing in the middle of the night. Unfortunately for the Campion family, and the rest of America, they are unaware that all three of them are carrying a deadly cargo: a virus that will spread from person to person like wildfire, triggering a massive wave of disease and death, prefacing humanity’s last stand.
Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman #1) by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth (Illustrator), Mike Dringenberg (Illustrator), Malcolm Jones III (Illustrator), Todd Klein (Letterer), Karen Berger (Introduction/Editor)
New York Times best-selling author Neil Gaiman’s transcendent series SANDMAN is often hailed as the definitive Vertigo title and one of the finest achievements in graphic storytelling. Gaiman created an unforgettable tale of the forces that exist beyond life and death by weaving ancient mythology, folklore and fairy tales with his own distinct narrative vision.
In PRELUDES & NOCTURNES, an occultist attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. After his 70 year imprisonment and eventual escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On his arduous journey Morpheus encounters Lucifer, John Constantine, and an all-powerful madman.
This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings,” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl Death.
Includes issues 1-8 of the original series.
Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman, Lorenzo Mattotti (Illustrator)
Hansel and Gretel is a well-known fairy tale of German origin, recorded by the Brothers Grimm and published in 1812.
The story follows a young brother and sister who discover a house of candy and cake in the forest and a child-devouring witch.
Middlewest, Book Two (Middlewest #7-12) by Skottie Young, Jorge Corona (Contributor), Mike Huddleston (Contributor)
Abel’s journey to deal with his family legacy continues as a newfound sense of stability slips through his fingers. Writer SKOTTIE YOUNG (I HATE FAIRYLAND, DEADPOOL) and artist JORGE CORONA (NO. 1 WITH A BULLET, FEATHERS) take Abel to some places both familiar and inevitable, others wild and new. The journey across Middlewest has shown these travelers that their homeland has more hidden away than they could have ever thought.
Constantly by GG
Link to Article
The Dark Man: An Illustrated Poem by Stephen King , Glenn Chadbourne (Artist)
Stephen King first wrote about the Dark Man in college after he envisioned a faceless man in cowboy boots and jeans and a denim jacket forever walking the roads. Later this dark man would come to be known around the world as one of King’s greatest villains, Randall Flagg, but at the time King only had simple questions on his mind: where was this man going? What had he seen and done? What terrible things…?
i have ridden rails…
More than forty years after Stephen King first wrote his breathtaking poem “The Dark Man,” Glenn Chadbourne set out to answer those questions in this World’s First Edition hardcover featuring more than 70 full-page illustrations from the talented artist behind The Secretary of Dreams.
i have slept in glaring swamps…
This Cemetery Dance Publications hardcover is a true marriage of words and art, with Chadbourne pulling the images from King’s imagination and illustrating them in magnificent detail. This incredible blending of King’s words with Chadbourne’s art creates a unique page turning experience you can return to again and again, always finding new details hidden on every page. You’ll discover hidden layers and mysterious secrets for years to come.
i am a dark man…
So who is the Dark Man and why is he traveling the country? The answers are terrifying….
The Stand: American Nightmares (The Stand: Graphic Novels #2) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Adaptor), Mike Perkins (Illustrator), Laura Martin (Illustrator), Stephen King (Story)
The deadly super flu Captain Trips has devastated the country and now the few survivors must pick up the pieces and go on. Larry Underwood seeks escape from New York City. Lloyd contemplates an extremely unsavory dinner option in jail, and Stu Redman makes a desperate bid for freedom from his interrogators. Most ominous of all, the strange being called Randall Flagg continues his dread journey across the devastated landscape of America. Collects The Stand: American Nightmare
Snowpiercer – The Prequel: Extinction by Matz, Jean-Marc Rochette (Illustrator)
The prequel story to the Snowpiercer graphic novel series.
The Snowpiercer saga continues with this brand new story by original artist Jean-Marc Rochette and Eisner nominated writer, Matz. Set before the extinction event that caused the new ice age in which the Snowpiercer travels perpetually around the globe, witness the terrifying events that led to the need for and creation of the eponymous train.
Where We Live: Las Vegas Shooting Benefit Anthology
On October 1, 2017, Las Vegas, Nevada suffered the worst mass shooting in modern American history, resulting in 58 deaths and over 500 injured. It broke my heart. Las Vegas is my home. I felt like something needed to be done to help in a unique way. — JH Williams III, Artist & Curating Editor
This “unique way” was the genesis of the Where We Live anthology — a riveting collection of both fictional stories and actual eye-witness accounts told by an all-star line-up of the top talent working in comics today. All the creators have graciously volunteered their time and talent to help bring some sense to this senseless act and, in the process, raise money for the survivors and their families.
The book will include a variety of perspectives with key themes exploring gun violence, common sense gun control, the value of a compassionate society, mental health stigmatization, aftermath of tragedy and how individuals & communities persevere and an appreciation of Las Vegas as a vibrant community.
100% of the proceeds for the Where We Live anthology will be donated to an existing GoFundMe campaign for the survivors in Las Vegas.
The Stand: Hardcases (The Stand: Graphic Novels #4) by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Adaptor), Mike Perkins (Illustrator), Stephen King
The Trashcan Man was spared for a reason. To join the Dark Man Randall Flagg’s swelling army and to set the world on fire. It’s a dream come true for the pyromaniac, but he has to reach Flagg’s compound in Las Vegas first–and, somehow, survive crossing paths with “the Kid,” a hardcase who’s even crazier and more dangerous than Trashy is! The villains are front-and-center as we cross the mid-point of this epic adaptation of Stephen King’s horror masterpiece! Collecting: The Stand: Hardcases #1-5
You go, Beth!!! Jan was a great month for you:)
I had my eye on Zed, but kinda glad I passed on it.
It wasn’t my favorite book, which might be do to style. The idea is interesting. And thanks! It was a fun month. OHHHH by the way, Middlegame 2 made me think of you, have you read it? I think you will dig it. It is better than the first.
Ahhhh… Ok, I’d def be willing to give it a shot.
Love to hear your thoughts on it.
Beth you are a reading machine! I also have a plan to read Stephen King’s entire catalogue. Except I’m only two books in at the mo lol.
lol Nah, It was a good month. Which two books have you read?
Carrie and Pet Sematary. I thought Carrie was a bit ‘meh’ but enjoyed Pet Sematary a fair bit. Gonna read Salem’s Lot next.
Salem’s lot is one of his best. I thought Firestarter was really good too.
Sounds like a fantastic month, Beth! I just got Riot Baby out from my library, hoping to get to that one soon.
It’s so good. Heartbreaking and intense.