Last Book Read...



  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    Yes, agreed re House. Looking forward to Moriarty 😁

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    I love hardcover books; they don't need to be first editions but I just love how they look on the bookshelves and the larger print makes them easier to read. If they have some evocative jacket art, so much the better. Even though I've always considered myself a tech savvy person, I've never been able to enjoy reading a digital copy via Kindle or other readers, nor have I ever really been able to get into audiobooks. Sitting in my reading chair, with only my reading lamp to light the way as I lose myself in a good book has become one of my favorite pastimes as of late. As to my latest...

    Duma Key by Stephen King

    As a result of a horrible construction accident Edgar Freemantle loses his right arm and suffers severe brain damage. In the aftermath of his ordeal he struggles with bouts of rage and loss of memory, watching helplessly as his marriage falls apart. Wracked with pain both physical and emotional, Edgar is contemplating suicide when one of his doctors suggests a change of scenery might be of help; he also suggests Edgar find himself a hobby. After relocating to a beautiful tropical hideaway in Florida known as Duma Key Edgar takes up painting; quickly making a name for himself in the local art scene. But the scars of his accident run very deep and the same event that took so much away has also given him the strange ability to influence the very fabric of reality thru his paintings, an ability can lead to both miraculous and horrifying outcomes. As Edgar makes new friends and explores the limits of his newfound power, he also stumbles across an ancient presence that takes a keen interest in his particular gift.

    Unlike so many of King's other works, this one takes place largely in and around the Florida Keys; the change in venue lends a different vibe to the a story but it is still full of twists, turns and King's signature scares. Once again he gives us an interesting protagonist (not a writer for a change, but still someone who creates stories, just in a different medium) while introducing us to a host of interesting supporting characters who we get to know really well so that by the end we are invested in them and their diverging fates. As is the case with many of his novels, we really don't get much insight into the central antagonist's motivations; at the end of the day I guess evil doesn't always need a reason to be evil. There are a few deaths along the way and one in particular was quite emotional.

    Even though it is a rather hefty tome, weighing in at around 600 pages, Duma Key was a fast read that I got thru in about 5 days. The plot advances at pace that feels both brisk and leisurely until those final chapters where the stakes amp up and the urgency sets in. I enjoyed it a lot.

    This has been the 8th Stephen King book that I've read since the spring. By sheer coincidence (or maybe not?) number 9, my hardcover copy of Bag of Bones, arrived about 45 minutes after I'd turned over the last page on Duma Key. Hope to start that one in a day or two.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    I would say that is one of my favourites, but I say that about all of his! Enjoy!

    Nice thoughts about "Duma Key", and I agree. I must read that again soon. At present I'm on the third part of the Gwendy trilogy, will report when that's finished.

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    @Barbel, the spoiler-free summaries to those Gwendy books sound interesting; they're definitely on my list. My problem is that I've only gone thru a little more than half of King's library so there's still a ton of stuff for me to check out; even though I've read a lot of his more famous novels I've still not read some of his earlier stuff like Carrie and It; sometimes it almost feels like being a kid in a candy store and not knowing what to try next.

    I'm not sure if you heard about this but in a recent podcast Stephen King has said he may yet write that final sequel to The Talisman & Black House. Apparently, Peter Straub had written him a very long letter before his passing where he passed on some ideas and King said he has a few ideas of his own. It would have to be one of his really long novels and he says he just needs to build up the energy to tackle it. Fingers crossed. That same podcast also mentions another volume of previously uncollected Stephen King short stories will be published some time after Holly hits the shelves.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    You have a lot of good reading ahead, @TonyDP, I know you will love it.

    I hadn't heard about the Talisman/Black House sequel and I hope he does get round to doing it. He still can do a long book even these days but it obviously is harder work than when he was 40 years younger.

    And of course I'm looking forward to a short story collection though not as much as Holly!

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,189MI6 Agent

    It’s strange that I love the King novels but I couldn’t get past halfway of Gunslinger so have read no more of that series and the same with the Straub team-up, I just could not finish The Talisman. I haven’t read the full unexpurgated version of The Stand either, the original was long enough!

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    You know far more about books than I do, but I suggest trying "The Drawing Of The Three" rather than "Gunslinger" as your way into the Dark Tower series. There is a change of style which may be appealing. You can always come back to Gunslinger later- in fact, there's an ideal point to do just that, but I can say no more.

  • CoolHandBondCoolHandBond Mactan IslandPosts: 6,189MI6 Agent

    I’m not sure I know more about books than you or anyone else on here to be honest. It may be fair to say I know more about selling books, though! I might give that a go at some point but my current project is completing reading the nearly 300 westerns written by the so-called “Piccadilly Cowboys” from the 70’s to mid 80’s. I do read something else In-between as a change of pace sometimes, though.

    Yeah, well, sometimes nothin' can be a real cool hand.
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    For some reason western novels have never appealed to me, although I enjoy the movies. Each to his own!

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    Gwendy’s Button Box  

    Gwendy’s Magic Feather    

    Gwendy’s Final Task   


    A trilogy, with the first and third parts being by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar, and the middle by Chizmar alone. I’m going to attempt to be spoiler free- these cover most of the life of one Gwendy Peterson. The first book has her as a teen, in the second she’s in her 30s, and in the last she’s in her 60s. The first two are novellas while the third is some 400 pages long.

    The series becomes darker and more serious as it progresses though it retains a fairy tale atmosphere throughout. Gwendy is a very appealing protagonist, and I felt pulled into her experiences in the customary King manner. The middle book doesn’t feel much different in style, perhaps because of many flashbacks and the use of familiar characters, though it is the least eventful of the three.

    Gradually the extended story becomes more and more part of established King lore, and that’s about all to be said without giving too much away. It’s not a spoiler to say that a very important character has the initials R.F., which Constant Readers will know the significance of.

    If you are a King addict (like me) you’ll love this.

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    @Barbel, I've added these to my list (yes, the RF comment did the trick). Might tackle these next after I finish my current book.

    Started Bag of Bones a couple of days ago and only made it thru 100 or so pages; not very productive by my standards. The story is great and already has me hooked but my brother and I are caregivers for our elderly mother and she's been a handful lately. Hasn't left much time for anything else.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    All best wishes with your mother, @TonyDP, I completely understand how that is.

    Loved BoB, will say no more other than don't watch the adaptation starring none other than Pierce Brosnan till you're finished.

    Have just started Anthony Horowitz's "Moriarty".

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    Thanks @Barbel. I just take it day by day.

    The Gwendy books have been ordered and should arrive next week. Amazon had good deals on all three (I got the hardcover of the third one for only $2.55)

    I didn't even know that there was an adaptation of Bag of Bones, much less that it started Piece Brosnan. I can be really clueless about some things.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    That's less than I paid, dammit!

  • chrisno1chrisno1 LondonPosts: 3,246MI6 Agent
    edited August 2023

    A KESTREL FOR A KNAVE by Barry Hines (1968)

    KES (1969)

    A modern classic [is late 1960s modern?] concerning a young boy in a northern pit town of England who adopts a wild kestrel as a pet, trains it and discovers something of himself in the process, only to learn his talents come to nothing when confronted by the hardship of real life. Barry Hines was a northern lad himself and utilised true tales both experienced and told to provide a semblance of grit and genuine character into the incidents, locations and persons of his short, eminently readable novel.

    Billy Casper is a fourteen year old set to leave school and go straight down the pit. His talent for rearing animals goes completely unrecognised by his drunk louche of a mother and his bullying brother. Only a kindly English teacher notices the boy’s husbandry skills. Everyone else, from his family to his friends, school masters to students, reckon he’s a no-good, no-hope nuisance. To a person they are self-obsesses, indulgent intimidating menaces. It’s no wonder young Billy has been in trouble with the law. He wants to make a go of it, works a job so his mum can go drinking and tries to keep just the right side of the law. His sense of justice – or misjustice – manifests itself in language and actions that provoke rather than placate. Nobody talks to Billy, so he immerses himself in the animal kingdom, but not in some softcore Disneyfied version, no he picks out a wild hawk, suffers the birds scratches and bites, perseveres and rears it into a trained display hunter.

    If anything, the business with the kestrel gets in the way of the narrative. Hines uses the wild freedom of the hawk and its environment as a metaphor for Billy Casper himself, dangerous, untamed but trained, wild, hungry, silent, fast, evasive, seeking reward and reassurance. Billy, despite his upbringing, supplies these facets of life to his kestrel, yet nobody does so for Billy, whose  life is one of no hope and little joy. When asked to explain his time with his hawk, whom he names Kes, we get a sense of his breathlessness overtaking him, that joy suddenly appears from behind the coal pits and coke piles.

    Hines is careful not to make Billy an overly sympathetic character; yes, we empathise, but he is no angel and in a way this endears him to us more. The one-note attitudes of his mother and brother build a picture of a controlling, uncared environment which these days would probably constitute child abuse. There’s a tremendously affecting sequence where he writes ‘A Tall Story’ about a night at the pictures and a chip supper with his dad and mum, a story achingly told as it isn’t such tall tale at all. Later we discover his last memory of his father was following a night at the local cinema, now a derelict husk on the edge of town. It’s as if his life has descended into black tatters along with the fortunes of the Palace Cinema.

    A potent novel which addresses the poor state of the British education system of the time as well as the decay of the family unit. While it is set in a northern English working class landscape, and the dialect attests to this, it might just as well have been set anywhere as its message rings through even as Billy Casper evades the calls of his mother and the fists of his brother. It isn’t Billy and his ilk who need to learn, but everyone else around them who need to notice the individual and the talent they possess, to nurture and encourage it like a kestrel feeding from the lure, trained and toughened and understood.

    An exceptionally important novel which brought the curtain down on the ‘kitchen sink’ era of British literature. Ken Loach’s adaptation the following year did the same for the ‘kitchen sink’ movie. So it is worth considering the movie alongside the novel, not to see which is better, but to see how they differ.

    Loach and his fellow writers Tony Garnett and Hines himself, open out the story to allow a more sympathetic view of Billy’s homelife. We see his brother Jud’s uninspired days at the pit, his nights at the working man’s club where his mum flaunts her new boyfriend. We hear her complain that neither of her sons will come to anything. There’s an air of nothingness pervading the Casper’s house and the town they live in, of greyness and toil. While it is still clear Freddie Fletcher’s imposing Jud bullies his younger brother, Lynne Perrie’s Mother is a more rounded character, battling her eldest son, a man who waits impatiently for an unworthy inheritance.

    While the Casper’s may garner a little more of our attention, the schoolroom antics – which grip in the novel – are less successful and occupy the vast majority of the film, as the director forsakes the magical scenes of the kestrel for the drudgery of the playing field and assembly hall. This might be seen as a critique on the education system, but the film is looking far beyond that into the repetitive non-aspirational lives of generations of northern pit workers – and by extension any working class generations – and it is only the free flying kestrel who draws Billy and hence the audience into the world outside the pit, the club, the betting shop and the hand-to-mouth existence.

    The film climaxes better than the novel, although with less nuance. In terms of an artistic piece as opposed to a socio-political work, the film is well photographed, well adapted and scripted, has a charming music score and a series of believable performances that interpret Hines’ page-worthy characters excellently. Despite the good points, or perhaps because of them, it feels very dated and less relevant than some of its forebears in the ‘kitchen sink’ oeuvre. David Bradley’s Billy Casper is a slight presence who holds our attention, but Billy doesn’t have the bearing or pivotal heart-change of Burton’s Jimmy Porter or Finney’s Arthur Seaton. He’s even more of a dreamer than his namesake Billy Liar and you wonder if he doesn’t bring disaster upon himself in a similar rose-tinted, self-indulgent fashion. Where the novel made us understand why Billy Casper is as he is, the film misses this point altogether and tries to make villains of what are equally damaged and desperate individuals, his mother and brother.

    It's a decent lick, I suppose. I wonder if Kes might have looked better and resonated more in monochrome, those black satanic mills and hills, houses and schools looking more wretched in gloomy black and white, while the open fields would blaze in glorious sunlight.

    Ah, well.

    You can read a lot of good professional reviews of both book and film on Wikipedia and the like.    

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    Moriarty  Anthony Horowitz

    Before he was a James Bond continuation author, Anthony Horowitz was a Sherlock Holmes one and this is the second of his two (so far) novels in that vein, the first being the excellent “The House Of Silk”.

    This one isn’t quite as good, though it’s still pretty entertaining. There are plenty of little touches to delight Sherlockians, and several familiar characters return. The plot shouldn’t really be explained beyond that for fear of spoilers, but I found it ingenious enough. There is a distinct lack of Holmes and Watson although they aren’t totally absent- don’t want to say any more.

    I hope Horowitz gets around to further Holmes novels, but only after he’s done maybe another three Bond continuations! (I do realize that this is unlikely.)

  • Sir MilesSir Miles The Wrong Side Of The WardrobePosts: 26,554Chief of Staff

    Glad you enjoyed it…and I agree entirely with yourself on this book…

    Now you can move on with these…

    Although they are a pretty mixed bag 🤔

    YNWA 97
  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    Just what I wanted- more choices! 😗 Thank you, Sir M!

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    Bag of Bones by Stephen King

    After the sudden death of his wife and their unborn daughter, author Mike Noonan descends into a years-long bout of depression and writer's block. When he starts having disturbing dreams and visions involving his dead wife, Mike returns to Sara Laughs, his summer retreat in TR-90, an unincorporated town in Maine. There he appears to finally get over his writer's block (or does he?) and also befriends single mom Mattie and her daughter Kyra, becoming embroiled in a custody battle with Mattie's evil father-in-law who has his own plans for little Kyra. Slowly all these threads come together as Mike confronts a terrible curse born of a horrible act that has cast a pall over the town for almost a hundred years.

    Bag of Bones is a novel about grief, loss and slowly finding one's purpose in life again. While it is full of the requisite scares, some downright disturbing events and a few really unsavory characters, ultimately it turns into a love story about how even death cannot completely sever some bonds.

    The book was an entertaining read though some characters suffer from being a little underdeveloped. Supporting players like Romeo Bissonnette and George Kennedy (as a fan of his acting namesake I really warmed to George) appear, play a small but important role, then get left behind without any followup as to where they ended up. It's both a credit to King's writing that I wanted to know whether they were ok, and also disappointing that I never really found out what happened to them.

    The Gwendy trilogy is next; books two and three have already arrived and the first one is due next week.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    I probably said earlier, but BoB is a favourite which I've enjoyed twice and will hopefully do again one day. Nicely handled spoiler free review!

    You mentioned the lead character suffering from writer's block - I heard that King himself had that once, and it was the worst four minutes twenty seconds of his life.

    No novel at the moment - I'm randomly reading short stories by Raymond Chandler, King, and our own @chrisno1 among others.

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    😄 Good one @Barbel.

    I've read the first two books in the Gwendy trilogy. After all the thick King opuses I've gone thru over the summer these were breezy fast reads and I got thru each book in just a few hours. Hope to start the final one today or tomorrow.

    After that, I might give The Tommyknockers another go; it's one of the few King books I wasn't able to get into on my first try.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff
    edited September 2023

    That's good, I'd like to hear your thoughts on those.

    Edit: Got cut off there. I'm glad you rattled through the first two Gwendy books, and now you can slow down a bit for the third. It's still a lighter read than his norm.

    Ah, Tommyknockers! I might give that another go myself but will keep quiet till you finish.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    So I went shopping today and guess what I found....

    Once I finish the current short story I'll be diving in!

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent
    edited September 2023

    I look forward you spoiler free review.

    The Stephen King subreddit is alight with posts about Holly. I'm staying spoiler free and won't be getting to it for a while. I want to read the stories with Holly in them in order so there's a lot to catch up on first.

    I'm about 160 pages into Gwendys Final Task. Interesting read so far. The quasi sci-fi setting is right up my wheelhouse and the budding links to King's larger universe are getting interesting.

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    The Gwendy Trilogy:

    Gwendy's Button Box - Stephen King & Richard Chizmar - 12 year old Gwendy Peterson comes into possession of a strange box with magical powers. Entrusted to her by a mysterious individual for safe-keeping, the box can both help its caretaker but also cause terrible events.

    Gwendy's Magic Feather - Richard Chizmar - Now in her late 30s, the mysterious Button Box again comes back into Gwendy's life. Now a congresswoman, she is once again tasked with its care while also navigating several personal crises.

    Gwendy's Final Task - Stephen King and Richard Chizmar - 64 year old Gwendy, now a senator, comes into possession of the box one final time. As dark forces seeking the box converge on her, she must figure out how to dispose of it once and for all so that it's tempting and terrible powers can never be put to use.

    Compared to Stephen King's usual writing, the first two Gwendy volumes were very light fare. The first book is really a novella that I was able to finish in one sitting. Gwendy herself is a likable character and it's entertaining to watch her grow and mature in that first book. The second volume is similarly lightweight and not much really happens. Even though it is written solely by Chizmar his use of characters and locations from King's other works gives it all a familiar feeling. The final book takes on a much darker and more serious tone while also exhibiting some very strong ties to King's Dark Tower opus, expanding the lore of that series in some interesting ways. The final book also veers into science fiction which was an unexpected but also entertaining and, for me at least, welcome turn and I enjoyed the subtle nods to staples of the genre like 2001 and Star Trek. By the time I was done with all three books I really felt I'd come to know Gwendy as a character and now that her adventures are over (I guess they are?) I will miss her. King's constant readers my bristle at this but I found her a more interesting, engaging and just more endearing character than Holly Gibney (heresy, maybe but what can I say).

    About the only thing I really didn't get and I would love to get @Barbel's take on this is the character of Richard Farris. Given his initials, you'd think he's really you-know-who but he doesn't act at all like said you-know-who and that left me quite perplexed.

    Regardless, the Gwendy Trilogy was an enjoyable and largely breezy read that I was able to get thru in a few short days. It's also made me curious about Richard Chizmar's other works and I may have to check some of those out at some point.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    I would say that you-know-who gets around a lot. He isn't necessarily moving through time in a linear fashion and what he does in, say "The Eyes Of The Dragon" doesn't necessarily contradict what he does in "The Stand". It may appear that Richard Farris's actions and motives (such as we are permitted to see) are at odds with you-know-who's in The Dark Tower series but we are never told that they are one and the same, it's only a guess.

    Somewhere, in the state of Maine, a man in his 70s is quietly laughing. He might make everything plain one day, or he might not....

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    I kind of came to the same conclusion. Seeing as King continues to reference the Dark Tower so much, even all these years after the final book was published, I sometimes wonder if he has one more story to tell, maybe about Roland's next turn of the wheel as it were. Certain things are said toward the end of Gwendy's Final Task that have me thinking this book takes place after the events of Dark Tower 7 and that may also factor into Richard Farris' conduct and King's future plans. Regardless, it's always fun to be reading one of these books and suddenly get even more lore into King's larger universe. It's even more fun when it's a collaboration and you're really not expecting it.

    The Tommyknockers is next up for me; might start that in the next day or two.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    Holly Stephen King

    The latest from Mr K, or at least it was last week - he's probably written two more by now.

    This stars, as the title implies, series character Holly Gibney who over half a dozen books has grown from quirky supporting player to main protagonist. King himself admits that she has grown on him in a pleasant way, as she has with this Constant Reader and millions more.

    She is joined by her familiar supporting cast as her attempts to find a missing young woman uncover a more extensive and downright gruesome villainous plot... which is about all I want to say to avoid spoilers.

    The book gripped me in the way that I love books to, especially King's, and I'm looking forward to his next. Fortunately that won't be long.

  • TonyDPTonyDP Inside the MonolithPosts: 4,280MI6 Agent

    Glad to read your positive comments on Holly, @Barbel. My copy arrived last week (also picked up The Outsider while I was at it) but they'll be staying on the shelf for a while. Plan to pick up and read thru the Bill Hodges trilogy first.

    Currently working on The Tommyknockers. About 3/4 of the way thru and while it hasn't grabbed as much as some of his more recent efforts it's still an entertaining read. Just got to the part where they find the hatch so I'm sure things will be ramping up from here.

  • BarbelBarbel ScotlandPosts: 36,281Chief of Staff

    Tell me when you're finished please, I have a question to ask about that story.

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