Favorite Stephen King Books

There have been two occasions recently where I have gotten into discussions about the work of Stephen King, once online and once at a barbecue a few weeks ago.  The online discussion included the fact that King is known pretty singularly as a horror writer.  There is undoubtedly some truth in this.  Almost every book of his has moments that are at the very least unsettling and at the most pretty horrifying.  But King is really much more than that.  He’s written fantasy, westerns, crime novels, and non-fiction.  His writing is definitely not for everyone.  Some think he’s too verbose.  Some just don’t like his style.  And some people don’t like anything even a little bit scary.  That’s all fine; I would never presume to tell you what should move you when you’re reading.  I personally enjoy horror, and King has been my favorite writer since I was in my early teens.  Combine all of this with the fact I just finished reading his latest novel Mr. Mercedes yesterday and it made me decide to do a top ten list for King’s works.  These are my personal favorites, and if you pick up one of these you may have an entirely different reaction to it than I did.  Some of them mean what they do to me based on the time in my life I read them, some because I just love the characters.  I’ve read most of his work, so this list is fairly inclusive.  I have not read his non-fiction books (they’re on my ever growing list) and I have not read 11/22/63 or Dr. Sleep yet.  Finding time to sit down and read lately has been an effort, and King’s books require a chunk of time.  But as of right now, here are my favorites.

All images from Goodreads.  If there is not an image, it’s because the Goodreads cover is one I honestly just don’t like as much.

1) Blaze

Blaze

This is one of the works that King wrote under the pen name of Richard Bachman.  The Bachman works tend to be a little grittier and more crime based than King’s other works.  This book is about a semi-retarded man who kidnaps a baby for ransom.  The main character, Clayton Blaisdell, Jr., is a prime example of why I love King.  He is drawn with such understanding and compassion I truly felt horrible for him, even though he has done this horrendous thing.  King has a talent for creating characters I love and relate to, and it’s well done in this book.

2) The Eyes of the Dragon – 

The Eyes of the Dragon

I talked about this before in my list of favorite kids books.  This has a wonderful, sit by the fire, cozy story-telling feel to it.  A pure fantasy set in the kingdom of Delain, it has dragons, a scheming wizard, and a wrongly imprisoned prince.  Plus some pretty great artwork, if you like that sort of thing.  (I do).

3) The Talisman

The Talisman (The Talisman, #1)

 This is another work that at least borders on fantasy.  Jack Sawyer, a 12 year old boy goes on an epic hero quest to save his mother.  He has the ability to flip back and forth between this world and a world that lies adjacent to ours, known as the Territories.  This is just a great work about the power of determination.  There is also a great deal of ugliness in this book, and Sunlight Gardner is one of the most truly terrifying characters I have ever come across.  But to me the overall theme of this is the power of love, family, and friendship.

4) Cycle of the Werewolf – 

Cycle of the Werewolf

The name pretty much says it all.  Pure monster book.   Fun and creepy.  Also, great artwork.

5) The Dark Tower III – The Waste Lands – 

The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3)

 

I’ll be honest, I could include every volume of the The Dark Tower Series.  I love this series so much.  It’s epic in scope, in concepts of good versus evil, in so many ways.  It gave me Eddie Dean, who is probably my favorite fictional character ever.  But this volume is something special in a series that is nothing but great.  I definitely would not recommend reading one without the others.  I don’t even know if I can define why I love this more than the others, unless it’s because of the insight you get into Eddie.  Nonetheless, it is my favorite of the Dark Tower Books.

6) IT – Probably the cause for a great many clown phobias, IT takes place in a small Maine town named Derry in two different times: summer of 1958 and in 1984.  A small group of “losers” band together to fight an evil being (who sometimes wears the face of a clown and goes by the name Pennywise) that kills children.  This one I love for the characters.  I don’t re-read this one in it’s entirety very often since it’s also over 1100 pages, but I dip into it a lot.  I like to go and visit Bev Marsh and Ben Hanscom, and laugh with Richie Tozier.  This is one of those books that’s on the scarier side, but it also makes me laugh until I cry in places.  I love every single one of the Losers.

7) Insomnia – Ralph Roberts is an elderly widower who is waking up earlier every morning and unable to go back to sleep.  He starts to fear he will never sleep again, and worries about going crazy.  But there are forces at work in his hometown of Derry that have a use for him.  This work to me is about the importance of each life, whether on a grand scale or a small one.

8) Hearts in Atlantis – This is a collection of five stories, and my favorite is the second one.  This is a comprehensive work about Vietnam.  The first story doesn’t really deal with it, but the other four do.  And you see it from all perspectives.  From someone who felt she had to protest it, to someone who volunteered to serve, to a draftee who feels guilt for the things he did, both there and other places.  Spanning from 1960 to 1999, the five stories weave together in a way that reminds you everything done has consequences.  And, once again, about the magic of friendship

“What I remember best about that day – the only thing about it worth remembering – is that Bobby Garfield stood up for me.  Sully was bigger, and Sully might have stood up for me if he’d been there, but he wasn’t.  Bobby was there, and he carried me all the way up the hill.  He did what was right.  It’s the best thing, the most important thing, anyone has ever done for me in my life.”

9) The Green Mile – This was an interesting experiment that King tried.  An offhand conversation between two associates of King’s brought up the fact that many of Dickens’ novels had been published in serial installments.  There was then some speculation on what would happen if it was tried by a current popular novelists.  Well, Stephen got a hold of the idea and ran with it.  At the time it was pretty risky, a book put out in six parts.  It turned out to be a huge success, based at least partly on the following that King has.  But mostly I think because the book is just so damn good.  It’s also one of the only movie adaptations I have seen of King’s work that I truly love.  The story of John Coffey, a man who has been found guilty of murder and sentenced to die, it’s truly a powerful work.   It’s told from the POV of Paul Edgecomb, who is a great narrator for the events of the story.  John Coffey is one of the best characters I have ever read, and he has a speech that never fails to make me cry

“I know you been worryin, but you ought to quit on it now.  Because I want to go, boss”

***

I’m rightly tired of the pain I hear and feel, boss.  I’m tired of bein on the road, lonely as a robin in the rain.  Not never havin no buddy to go on with or tell me where we’s comin from or goin to or why.  I’m tired of people bein ugly to each other.  It feels like pieces of glass in my head.  I’m tired of all the times I wanted to help and couldn’t.  I’m tired of bein in the dark.  Mostly it’s the pain.  There’s too much.  If I could end it, I would.  But I can’t.”

10) The Body – This is my number one, my very favorite work.  It’s actually one of four stories in a book named Different Seasons.  Most people are familiar with this work, but not many people know it was written by Stephen King.  This story was adapted into the movie Stand By Me, which most everyone I know has seen at one time or another.  This is the first work I ever read by the man who would become my favorite author, when I was about 12, I think.  I’ve read this more than any other work, about 15 times probably.  For awhile I read it once a year, and I’m way overdue for another re-read.  The basic plot is four friends take a walk down the railroad tracks to look at the body of Ray Brower.  But it’s an excellent snapshot to what life was like in rural Maine in 1960.  It’s also a story of friendship, which is a running theme through many of my favorites.  The movie is pretty good, and the casting was fantastic.  Keifer Sutherland as Ace Merrill was inspired.  But my love will always be for the novella, because that’s how I found my way into the world that King writes in.  And for that, I will forever be grateful.

Vern laughed.  “Goin without you’d be like goine with Slitz instead of Budwieser’s, Gordie.”

Ah, shut up”

They chanted together: “I don’t shut up, I grow up.  And when I look at you I throw up.”

“Then your mother goes around the corner and licks it up,” I said, and hauled ass out of there, giving them the finger over my shoulder as I went.  I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve.  Jesus, did you?

Well, there you have it.  I can’t tell you how hard it was for me to compile this list because I honestly love pretty much every single work of King’s I have read.  So thanks for letting me ramble about my favorite writer for a while.

 

Self-Perception vs. Self-Deception

So last time I dropped by I talked about the new family of choice that I had made recently in the fabulous realm known as Ren Fairs.  One of the people I met made a statement to me that I’ve been thinking about ever since she said it.  And because it meant so much to me, and made me think differently about myself, I thought I’d share.

Bit of back story.  My son and his friend Rachel are trying to convince me to try out for cast.  I don’t think I have it in me to do some of the things the cast does performance wise, and I also don’t feel I can commit every weekend (both Saturday and Sunday) for four months.  I was talking about this backstage with one of the cast members and telling her I loved being a part of the world but didn’t know if I could be on cast.  She told me that while they would love to have me on cast, they also loved me just being around.  She talked about how I was willing to help out whenever possible, whether that be with helping untie a corset or going to get a bottle of water so someone could sit for a few minutes and take a break.  She also said I was just a joy to be around because I always had a big, beautiful (her words, I swear) smile for everyone and would ask how their day was going when I ran into them backstage.

This simple statement has honestly meant more to me than more than anything else said to me in recent memory.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been fairly unhappy in aspects of my life lately, most notably work, but I had begun seeing myself as a sort of  negative person.  It probably doesn’t help matters much that not too long ago I had a co-worker text me about what a rude, weird, and anti-social person I am.  All of which are at least partly true, but the way it was stated hurt my feelings very much.  There is also the fact that I always worry how I come off to people who don’t know me well.  I’m always afraid that I’ll try too hard and end up having people I want to like me think I’m crazy or something.

Truth is, I like doing things for my friends.  It’s a bane of my current existence that I can’t do more for people because of financial stress.  I love to buy presents for people, and I see things all the time I wish I could buy for this person or that.  I like to cook (especially bake) for people.  I once took cookies to some internet friends I was meeting for the first time (Hi, Snark Ladies!).  I also made four batches of cookies for the cast a few weeks ago, which ended up being almost 240 cookies.  I want the people I love to be happy, and if I can do little things to make that happen, I will.

But I don’t think anything about it when I’m doing those things, because to me they are little things.  Everyday kindnesses that we should all be doing for those we love.  I never thought anything about it was special until this cast member said all these things to me.  And a similar sentiment was echoed by another cast member on closing night.  To have them tell me how much fun I am to be around made me feel really, really good about myself in a way I haven’t in a long time.  I get a little teary just thinking about it.

Maybe it’s just because my co-workers and I have so few common interests.  (I have one who is truly puzzled by the fact I read Harry Potter once, much less more than once).  I tend to be very inside my own head while I’m at work.  I don’t interact with very many of my co-workers except in a strictly work capacity.  And to me a good weekend consists of a good book or binge watching one show or another while never having to put on actual pants (boxer shorts FTW, yo).  I was beginning to see myself as the grumpy old cat lady who hates everyone.  This cast member probably didn’t think what she was saying would affect me like this, because to her it just seemed very matter-of-fact.  It didn’t seem like she was trying to praise me, really, just stating how she saw me.  But it changed how I see myself, in a good way, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.

Has anyone ever said anything to you that changed how you view yourself?
-Wendy

Where I’ve Been (And Why)

Good God, it got dusty in here. . .

Yes, I disappeared for two months.  Not just from here, but from the majority of the internet as well.  I would dive bomb Twitter then go away for another hour or two.  I haven’t read very many blogs, much less written anything new.  And the reason I’m only six books behind on my 2014 challenge is because Good Reads lets me count graphic novels.  So my first post coming back should clearly be an explanation.

You see, folks, from the first weekend of April through Memorial Day, there is a wondrous thing that happens about an hour from me.  I’ve talked about it a little, and flailed all over Twitter when it was starting, but I haven’t gone into a lot of detail.  (Twitter is many wonderful things, but it is not a place to expound in detail on why you love something.)  So I’m finally going to talk about Renaissance Faires and why they’re so awesome.  I know some of you have attended them, some of you have never been but would like to go someday, and some of you don’t know what the hell these things are.  And some of you are tentatively planning to try to come and join me for a weekend next year.  Which makes me a stupid amount of happy.  *Ahem.  Anyway.  To quote the repository of all knowledge (Wikepedia), a Renaissance Festival is “an outdoor weekend gathering, usually held in the United States, open to the public and typically commercial in nature, which emulates a historic period for the amusement of its guests.”  People dress up in period garb, there are all kinds of shows and things to see and stuff to buy and it’s just wonderful.  Now, in the spirit of disclosure, everything I am going to say deals specifically with Scarborough Faire, which is held in Waxahachie, TX every spring.  This is because it’s the only one I have ever personally attended.  But it’s been named on more than one list of the best in the country, so I feel pretty confident in my love.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to go to more, but that money thing can be an issue.

The first reason to love is that it’s not a huge amount of money for a day’s entertainment.  Admission to Scarby is about $25, parking is free, and the only money you have to spend is for admission and any food or drink you want.  Gates open at 10:00 and close at 7:00, with entertainment outside both before and after.  So when I say a day’s entertainment, it’s an entire day.

On the flip side, you can drop a tremendous amount of coin.  All of the stage entertainment work for tips, and I feel if you enjoy the show you should tip.  Even if it’s only a buck.  Many of the stage acts also have merchandise, whether it’s t-shirts, CD’s or DVD’s.  Another potential money pit is beer.  If you drink it can get pretty pricey.  Personally, I wouldn’t recommend that.  If you’re going to be walking around all day in 90 degree Texas weather, drink water.  But there is beer and wine available to buy.  There are also a huge amount of merchandise you can buy.  Which brings me to. . .

Shopping.  Most of the items on sale are unique.  Hand carved or drawn or forged.  So you know there isn’t anything else like what you’ve bought.  For example, the green man bracelet below is a custom carved piece Todd Runfeldt made for me when I asked if he could make something similar to the necklace I bought from him the year before.

There’s jewelry (1 and 2 below):

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 Cool stuff to hang on your walls (3 and 4 below):

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Fountains for your yard (#5):

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Custom artwork.  This is a hand drawn book mark.  There are also custom coloring books, which I was unable to buy this year.  It’s on my list for next year.

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And a multitude of other stuff, including but not limited to: costumes, masks, and weaponry.  Which leads to. . .

Violence.  The cast of the fair stage demonstrations several times a day showcasing sword-fighting, wrestling, and other types of lane fighting.  There is also a human chess match where the pieces fight each other.  Sometimes with swords, sometimes with staffs, sometimes other ways.  And the women get to be totally badass.

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And on a fairly shallow (actually, more like a wading pool) note, there is a ton of pretty.  Whatever your preference is,

DSCN2311 you can find someone

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that floats your boat.

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The setting itself is beautiful, as well.  It’s on 33 acres of land with a rose garden you can get married in, a haunted house, and various really cool buildings all of the shops are located in.

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But by far the best thing about going to Ren Faires is the people you get to meet.  You get to hear music you don’t hear very often, like bagpipes.  You also get to see acts like Zilch the Tory Steller, who tells stories like Parunzel.  (That’s a long video, but you really should watch.  Not at work, because if you’re like me you will be laughing hysterically very shortly).  And if you like the bawdy side of things, meet Iris and Rose.  I would say none of their videos are safe for work either, for laughter and language.

Also, the cast who play the villagers and royal court are incredible.  I think I mentioned my son got on cast this year (his character is a privateer named Jack Barlow.  That’s him on the left.  His crew mate Roland is on the right).

DSCN2435So I got to meet a group of people who spend every weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, putting on historically verified costumes and playing characters just for the love of it.  For four months, since the work shops start in February.  There is no money involved.  And these folks are amazing.  They are in every way awesome.  (I desperately want that axe.  Just saying).

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They seem to think in the same way as me (which is probably an insult to them, because the way I think is fucked up) and they make me laugh.

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They made me a part of their family.  They fangirled with me over movies, books, and comics.  I got into a discussion about whether the better version of the Dark Knight Returns is the graphic novel or the animated movie made from it.  They talk gaming, both console and role-playing.  We talked about jobs, and relationships, and families.  And while it’s nice to have my weekends back, I already miss it.  After all, how often do you get to see your son in a historically accurate dress?

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So, that’s what I’ve been doing.  I hope some of you have a better idea why I love this so much.  And maybe some of you might even be inspired to join in #meetup2015.  I would love if my internet family and Ren Faire family were in the same place.

<3 Wendy

Addendum:  I decided instead of putting links below the pictures of items I have purchased, I would make a list of them at the end.  Yes, all items pictured are things I have spent my own money on.  And next year I want a sword.  Or an axe.  I’m honestly not terribly picky.

  1. Todd the Carver – When I asked him, he said he would rather have his FB page linked.  I know he has an Etsy page also.
  2. Silvernail Jewelry – The lady who assisted me told me this is a fairly new site, so it might not be as polished as some of the others.  But the jewelry is gorgeous.
  3. cutting board – One of their mugs is high on my “I want it” list.
  4. Signs of Spirit – This guy is so amazing.  A beautiful human.
  5. Casteel Galleries.  I wish I could link, but there was a sign in the booth that said the website was www.don’t have one, don’t want one, don’t ask.  So, probably not going to be one set up any time soon.  The most I can tell you is the base of locations is in Auburn, NY

I could have sworn I picked up a card for the bookmarks I bought, but I can’t find it.  And since she was only there for one weekend, it’s not on the main website.  But go there anyway and have a look around.  Because there are a plethora of shops I haven’t gotten to buy stuff from yet.

–W

Derek – Series One

Today is unseasonably cold for April in north Texas, and it’s raining as well.  So I did what any sensible minded person would do: go searching on Netflix for something to watch.  I decided to give Derek a try because I like Ricky Gervais, and I think he’s genuinely funny.  He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I have enjoyed his work in the past.  I went in thinking it was a kind of sarcastic British humor, which I love, and it really wasn’t.  While there were bits I laughed at, I spent far more time being teary-eyed (damned hayfever) and by the last episode I was outright sobbing.

Sidebar – Who decided putting entire seasons of things online was a good idea?  I have lost the entire afternoon watching one season of this show in it’s entirety and only stopped because I was at the end.  OK, it’s a totally great idea but I had stuff I was going to do today, dammit.  Like go to the store and the gym and be adulty.  They should have an episode limit you can activate or something.  Something that’s totally by choice, like parental controls.  Only for people who will binge watch while lying in bed and not showering, instead of for parents who don’t want their kids to come across a stray boob or four letter word.  Not that I know anyone who would do that.  Nope, not at all.  Looks shifty.  Not buying that at all, are you?

Back to thoughts on the actual show.  For those that don’t know, it’s a show that’s based in a care home for the elderly where Derek Noakes, who’s played by Gervais, works.  Derek is slightly simple, but in spite of what some people think I don’t believe it’s a demeaning or insensitive performance.  In fact, I think it’s Derek’s kindness that sets the series apart.  As the series goes on, each of the characters talks about Derek and how knowing him has made them better people.  I would say the show’s emphasis is on kindness and empathy, and it makes it truly touching.  You may have to watch the entire run to get the fullness of how important the empathy is, but it’s only seven episodes, about 25 minutes each, so it’s not a huge investment of time.

The thing that struck me most was the compassion the elderly are treated with on the show.  There’s an episode where animals from a pet shelter are brought in to visit with the residents that left me a little weepy.  The voice over talks about how they bring in the fully grown, calmer animals and how beneficial it is to the residents to have a friend to cuddle.  Gervais is well-known for his work with animals, and was PETA’s person of the year in 2013. If you follow him on Twitter (he’s @rickygervais) he often posts pictures of animals and calling for and end to animal cruelty.  He wrote all the scripts for the show, and I think his love for animals shows strongly in this episode.

Second Sidebar – If you do go looking on Twitter, you should know he’s a strongly outspoken atheist.  Also, his language is pretty blue, as it is sometimes on the show itself.  Just an FYI in case that kind of thing bothers you.  But if it does, why oh why are you here on my blog?

When I was watching the show, I was thinking about how rarely the elderly get treated with any compassion or decency in Hollywood.  There aren’t very many movies that come to mind when I think of having an older cast, and fewer that don’t seem cliche.   There is a wonderful scene in the last episode of the season where Gerald visits his wife Lizzie, who has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t remember much.  I’ll quote from the show because I love this speech:

“No, she doesn’t always know me.  But I look forward to seeing her every day.  She’s still the same person.  And every day, I introduce myself and we get to know each other all over again.  I’m lucky.  Who else gets to fall in love 365 times a year?  You see, here’s the thing.  People see a couple of doddering old fools caught in a time warp, waiting to die.  But I see a beautiful young girl from Dublin who wants to spend the rest of her life with me.  I win.  Don’t feel sorry for me.  Or Lizzie.  We had the best life we could ever have had, because we spent it together.”

By this point, I’m ugly crying.   This is how love should be portrayed, and celebrated.  The show said so much to me about mortality, and friendship.  I went in looking for a laugh and ended up with something thought provoking and emotional.  I wish I could say something relevant about each episode.  But I think I’d rather just leave this:

 source

And he truly is.  Highly recommended watching.  Just take tissues.

Dismissive Words

A couple of weeks ago I was getting a haircut and I somehow got into a discussion with the stylist about the recently deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman.  In the course of our talk, we ended up on the subject of addiction.  I told her I have never really been tempted to try drugs (or, honestly, even drink alcohol very often) because I have a very addictive personality.  It runs in my family.  There are multiple alcoholics in my dad’s family, and my dad was a heavy smoker for over 40 years.  Even after he was diagnosed with cancer and was going through chemo he didn’t quit.   So I’ve always had that in the back of my mind and have tried not to put myself in the path of temptation.  She said she didn’t understand why people would want to use drugs at all and it seemed really selfish to her because think of all the damage done to the families and etc.  Ummm, excuse me?

whaa?

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This bothered me at the time and has continued to bother me, enough that I don’t know if I will go back to her for my next hair cut, even though I really like the way she does my hair.  The statement was just so focused on the “me” mentality as opposed to trying to understand that some people have demons that are different than yours.  Instead of being grateful you don’t struggle with those and trying to be supportive, you just blow it off with a dismissive comment.

Now, maybe it’s because I had this at the forefront of my thoughts, but I have run across several other comments that have this same dismissive quality lately.  I get them at work sometimes because my interests are so different from the other people I work with.  “Comic books?  Really?”  Or “Why do you like kids movies so much?”  (Mostly in reference to animated stuff, which I love.)  There is also a lot of “Ugh, that’s a book written for teens” mentality about young adult novels.  There was a comment on twitter (I wish I could find who said it) about how books for teens are under valued in culture because teens themselves are under valued.  As a theory, I think it’s spot on, but as a mentality it’s ridiculous.  Because if you don’t value the people who come next, what will that do to the structure of society as a whole?  And there isn’t much that will tell you more about someone than the media they consume.

Example: a work I love. Also, source

And it’s everywhere.  One of the examples that bothers me the most is the feminist looking down at women who choose to be stay at home mothers.  I have always thought the point of being a feminist is to make sure women have choices and are free to do the things they want.  I could never be a stay at home mom, but my sister-in-law is, and I know it’s something she put a lot of thought into.  I respect someone who makes that decision, even if it’s not something I would do.

Which is the problem with this type of thinking.  People tend to disdain things they don’t understand.  I’m certainly not excluding myself, either.  I get snobbish towards things that I deem are too “girly” because I’ve never been terribly interested in things that are ultra-feminine.  But I need to try be more aware of this and try not to use girly in a way that’s disparaging, because it’s looking like my niece is going to be pretty typically feminine.  I never want her to think I love her any less just because she’s different from me.

 

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VS

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So I’m making a vow, to try to think my words through a little more.  Be a little bit more “I don’t personally like that, but tell me why you do.”  Maybe I’ll be convinced and find something amazing to enjoy I haven’t been aware of.  (Probably not Twilight or 50 Shades.  I don’t think I will ever bend on those).  And even if I don’t enjoy the things you do, or my life has led me down a completely different path than you, I will promise to not think less of you for having different struggles or different tastes.  All I ask is you do the same for me.  Because diversity in all aspects is what makes the world a wonderful, sometimes puzzling, and sometimes enraging place.  Deal?  Deal.

–W.