Billy Summers, by Stephen King

Seven stars

Stephen King is one of the most versatile writers I have discovered in my many years of reading. While many know him for his horror and supernatural work, King has some great reads that flirt with other genres, and do so well. This is a branching out yet again, more of a noir thriller where the protagonist reveals himself slowly throughout the piece, tasked with a goal and finding other important events along the way. King does a stellar job pulling the reader in from the opening pages, as they learn a little more about Billy Summers throughout. A winner for those with great patience!

Billy Summers is a hired killer who presents himself as being overly simple. While he is the best in the business, many wonder about his intelligence, which he has been able to mask well over the years. Billy’s only caveat is that anyone he is hired to kill must be a truly bad person. All that being said, Billy is tired of the life and wants out, once and for all.

When he is approached by a Vegas mob boss, he contemplates making this kill his last. A swan song of sorts to allow him to tip his hat and say goodbye to the life. He’s told this is a man whose evil is like to other, making Billy take notice and agree to the kill. Blending into the local community, Billy prepares to do the shooting and hopes nothing gets messy. Of course, ‘the last kill’ could not go off without a hitch and as soon as the bullet kills the man on the courthouse steps, there are witnesses and he is a wanted man.

Now on the lam, Billy tries to stay one step ahead of it all and seems to be doing well. Then, one night, he sees a woman attacked and left for dead, which spurs him on to help her and seek justice. While her is hiding from the authorities, Billy does all he can to help Alice find her way and exact some revenge on the attackers. This creates a connection between them, one that cannot be simply erased with the nod of a head. Billy’s committed and must act accordingly, if for no other reason than he wants to bring justice into the world. A complicated and well-plotted piece by Stephen King, which reminds me why I enjoy the author so much.

Stephen King seems never to run out of ideas, no matter then length of his pieces. This book, much different than anything else I have read by him over the years, touches on so many themes and branches off at times, making me stop to take a moment so I know what I have been reading. King provides the reader with something exciting, intriguing, and altogether entertaining throughout this literary journey, which appears to include many twists and turns.

Billy Summers serves as a useful protagonist, though there is something about him that is not entirely captivating. He has done a lot, seem a great deal in his life, but he prefers to hide in the shadows. As King guides the story along, the reader learns much about Billy, from his time as a war vet to his backstory as a child, all through the guise of his being an author, part of blending into a small community before he commits his final hit. There is much to learn from him throughout this piece, which the reader can devour at their own pace, which remains highly entertained throughout the experience.

The versatility that Stephen King presents in this piece is sure to impress many readers. Those who know him solely as the master of horror will be impressed with how he can recount a tale that does not delve into too much blood and gore, while fans of his mystery work will likely enjoy this game of cat and mouse. King uses a strong narrative to push the story along, complete with typical tangential commentary throughout. A vast array of characters help entertain the reader throughout the experience, as King is a fan of offering much detail up about all those who grace the pages of his book. A plot that is only partially scattered will keep the reader entertained and guessing, as a simple plot line explodes as the story progresses. While not my favourite of his novels, I can see what others might laud about herein. I am eager to get back to some of his grittier work, something King used to pull me in from the start of my exploration of his work.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another great piece your fans will enjoy and discuss for years to come. I hope to see more of your mystery work soon.

Gwendy’s Final Task (The Button Box #3), by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Eight stars

Completing their collaborative trilogy, Stephen King and Richard Chizmar bring Gwendy and her mysterious button box back for another adventure, complete with a new challenge that could prove more daunting than meets the eye. After years living with her button box as a memory, Gwendy Peterson is visited once again by the elusive Richard Farris. After much secrecy, Farris mentions that he has one final task for Gwendy that involves the button box, which must be completed post haste. Peterson has made a name for herself, now a member of the US Congress and is headed on a space mission. With the button box in hand., Gwendy takes her task seriously and hopes that she can fulfil the final wish Richard Farris asked of her, saving the world one final time. King and Chizmar end the series with this great story that works well alongside the previous two.

At the age of twelve Gwendy Peterson was visited by a man in a black bowler hat. Richard Farris offered her a small box with many buttons, but warned that with this gift came a great deal of responsibility. Gwendy accepted this, as series readers know well from the previous two pieces, as she explored the powers of this box and what it meant for her.

Decades later, Gwendy has taken on many other responsibilities in life including as a sitting US senator, as well as being prominent around her home state of Maine. When she is asked to join a space mission, she is eager to see what that will mean and how she might be able to influence those around her.

Richard Farris appears to her with a task, to take the button box once again for a final mission. It would seem that the past seven holders of the box have met horrible demises and he is worried about the future of the button box. He asks Gwendy to take possession of it and take it along with her into space, where it can be disposed of properly.

After a few catastrophic events prove to Gwendy that the box still has negative powers, she prepares to take it up with her into space. Gwendy learns that there are others who want to get their hands on it, hoping to use the box’s powers to advance themselves in ways they could not accomplish on their own. Gwendy will have to make some serious choices, as she orbits Earth, hoping to make Richard Farris proud and ensure the world is a safer place. A great end to the trilogy, in which King and Chizmar left the reader thinking a great deal about the power of suggestion and how control can sometimes be too much for a single person to handle.

I remember picking up the novella that began this series, thinking that it was an ingenious idea by two established authors. The collaborative efforts of Stephen King and Richard Chizmar brought about this unique story that has many interesting twists to keep the reader engaged. Chizmar worked well on bridging the novella with a full-length novel and now both authors are back to tie everything off nicely. With a great story and some effective plot twists to keep the story moving along, King and Chizmar solidify their collaborative efforts with this series finale.

Gwendy Peterson has come a long way since her appearance at age twelve, when she was first handed the button box. She’s matured and developed a life of her own, which is paralleled by the added responsibilities put upon her by repeated time with the box. Her backstory and character development work hand in hand throughout this final story in the series, which pushes the reader to really come to understand Gwendy on many levels. Complementing her are some strong characters who pave the way for a climactic ending, just what the authors had in store for series fans.

When authors are able to work well together, the fruits of their labour are usually beneficial for the reader. Such is the case here, with Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. Both have established themselves before and bring this renewed connection to craft a strong story for all to enjoy. A great narrative pushes things forward, never sure where things will go, and the characters are usually quite unique. King and Chizmar keep the reader guessing with twists in the narrative, such that there is little time to rest and ponder, as something is always happening. Short chapters serve as teasers, while longer ones develop the storyline effectively. While there was a great deal of jumping around to provide context for Gwendy Peterson’s life, it is done properly and proves easy for the reader to follow throughout. It is sad to see the series end, but I wonder if this is the last we have seen of the King-Chizmar team!

Kudos, Messrs. King and Chizmar, for bringing a wonderful conclusion to the series. I like what I have seen and can only hope that there is something else brewing soon.

Later, by Stephen King

Seven stars

When it comes to Stephen King, few expect to find something straightforward and easy to digest. Such is the life of a man with a million ideas, racing from one side of the page to the other. While King certainly stands alone in the genre, he can sometimes come up with some gems that stick with the reader for years to come. Other times, it seems as though he simply needs to open up his head and get the idea out, a sort of mental spring cleaning. This piece appeared to be somewhere in the middle for me; entertaining with a slice of ‘well then’.

Jamie Conklin wants to grow up as normally as he can, though that is is not in the cards. His mother is raising him alone and struggling each step of the way, though provides the best she can for Jamie, even with the secret the young boy possesses. While it’s to remain a secret, Jamie can communicate and visualize those who have passed on.

This proves to be quite troubling for Jamie, as he cannot turn it off and on, but rather must live with the consequences on a daily basis. As Jamie inches into adolescence, the skill gets even more intense and he’s pulled into a scenario where his abilities could help others, while ruining himself at the same time. Jamie’s got to master the art of developing the skills without letting it subsume him.

After someone on the NYPD learns of Jamie’s ability, it could be a major benefit, particularly with a killer on the loose. Could Jamie lead the authorities right to the doorstep, using the ability to speak with victims in order to ascertain who’s behind the killings? Anything’s possible when Stephen King’s at the helm!

I have usually enjoyed reading Stephen King’s work, more because it is varied and one never knows what is waiting around the corner. His vast array of ideas and characters makes any read something unique and highly unpredictable. However, I cannot connect with every story or plot, making some pieces less alluring to me than others. I find myself in a grey area here, not sure what I thought or how to react to the experience.

As with many of the characters King develops, Jamie Conklin was an interesting individual with his own backstory and quite the active life. He’s seen a lot for a kid and does not hold back when speaking to the reader. The maturity he possesses is great, though it is matched with some bombastic and outlandish choices, some of which leave him in a great deal of trouble.

Those who have read a fair bit of the Stephen King collection will know that he rarely enjoys being succinct. Adding tangents upon tangents, King can spin a tale into a massive tome or take the reader down what appears to be a rabbit hole, only to turn it into the main theme of the novel. Doing so can create odd narratives that appear out of nowhere, as happened at times in this book. I sought something a little more straightforward, but got this. While there was strong narrative progress, it just did not go in the direction that I wanted and left me hoping for more. What that ‘more’ is, I cannot be entirely sure, but it is an itch that has not been scratched. King’s prose is strong and creates vivid images in the reader’s mind. Those who are new to King will have to learn that patience is the greatest tool in order to find answers within his stories.

Kudos, Mr. King, for an interesting take on the ‘child with powers’ theme. Not one of my favourites, but I applaud the effort.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Firestarter, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Needing a little King horror in my life, I turned to this classic piece by the author who never seems to run out of ideas. While he was ‘banned’ in my house growing up, I have come to find out just how masterful King can be and his varied ideas keep me coming back for more. Andy McGee and his daughter are on the run from a ruthless group of government agents, call The Shop. The McGees crept under the radar not long after Andy’s wife was killed and young Charlie was sought by The Shop for their own greedy reasons. With flashbacks to years ago, the reader learns that Andy and his eventual wife, Vicky, were part of an experiment in college, where a government group injected them with a drug. This drug was said to aid in the creation of telekinetic powers, though for many it was useless, as the ‘high’ counteracted any usefulness. The Lot 6 experiments were shelved, but the patients were closely monitors, perhaps to keep them silent. However Andy and Vicky were not only successful, but also fell in love, married, and had a child of their own. Now, Charlie presents with new and even more interesting powers, pyro-kinesis, which allows her to set fires at will. This is sure to be something that the government can utilise to their advantage, though they will have to capture young Charlie and keep her powers at bay. While Andy and Charlie remain on the run, the little girl wants nothing than to be ‘normal’ and keep those powers hidden away. However, the need to explore how her fiery abilities could benefit America seems too strong and Charlie is eventually taken captive by The Shop. As Andy tries to use his own telekinesis to communicate with his daughter, there is a definite intensity to how Charlie will handle herself around her captors. One little girl could be the start to a new and chilling weapons program, if all goes well. But how to keep a little girl’s temper from getting the better of her, while also tapping into the depth of her powers? King takes readers on quite the ride in this one, sure to pique the interest of those who want some old school writing. Recommended to those who love a good King horror piece, as well as the reader who seeks a tingling thriller sure not to fizzle out.

I never tire of looking into the older Stephen King novels to see what I missed growing up. While some of his newer stuff is great, I miss those massive tomes that were so popular and led the genre for a long while. King does really well with this piece, upping the ante in the creepy factor without the need for excessive gore. Young Charlie McGee has powers and can use them to create havoc, which she does, but there is a desire to dampen them, not use them in some maniacal manner. She wants to be a little girl she is and forget that which makes her so vert different. King’s creation of a plot that has Charlie and Andy constantly on the run allows for some third party interactions, some of which reveals what Charlie can do, while others are based on the odd idea that a man and his daughter are constantly running from something. Hints at kidnapping come up, which makes for some interesting sub-plots throughout the piece. Charlie and Andy may be joint protagonists, but King offers enough backstory on the Lot 6 program and those tasked with finding the McGees that a number of characters receive great development throughout this piece. The story is somewhat meandering, but always in a way that King has perfected, with nuances and tangents to keep things interesting. Those not familiar with older King writing may want to begin here, as the gore and gratuitous bloodshed is minimal and the mental experiments are more the central focus. Not as intense as some of the King pieces I have read, but I still enjoyed it enough and can check this one off, waiting to see if the movie lives up to expectations. Yes, I know movies and books are always moody cousins, but that’s for another review.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winner on your ‘old school’ novels list. I will have to find some more to pique my interest soon, though I do quite enjoy the newer stuff as well.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Children of the Corn, by Stephen King

Eight stars

I chose to end the month with a final Stephen King short story, picking one that mixes a bucolic setting with a spine-tingling plot. When Burt and Vicky run over a boy in rural Nebraska, they are panicked. However, once they examine the boy, they discover that the car accident was not the primary cause of the boy’s injuries and death, as his neck has been slit. Driving into Gatlin, they try to alert someone as to what has happened, only finding remnants of a corn-based religious group, strong on biblical retribution with a ‘husk’ spin. Burt and Vicky discover that they have drifted into a place that no tourist brochures were likely to document and for good reason. Fire and brimstone await them, but they will have to handle things on their own. Returning to the fields, they try to poke around, only to have handful of children emerge and pass judgment upon them. Vicky’s taken into their custody and Burt flees to save his life, but soon comes to his senses. When he pushes through the stalks and finds these children again, it is far worse than he imagined, as they take no prisoners in the name of God. Chilling in its depiction and yet short enough to be read in a single sitting, King shows that he is the master of the genre and full of ideas. Recommended to those who love Stephen King and all his varied ideas, as well as the reader who likes a little horror as they much on a snack, perhaps popcorn?

I love finding myself in the middle of a Stephen King piece, be it a short story, novella, or one of his major works. King is able to pull ideas from all over and works them out in one of a few ways. This piece pushes towards a horror genre (and yes, I have to see the movie soon) and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, especially the unique corn-based religion approach that weaves its way into the narrative. King works through a number of issues, including social commentaries of the day, reaching out to the reader and forcing them to think as they flip pages. The attentive reader will find hints to other King works, even in passing, which adds a new level of entertainment. While this was only a short piece, I found myself able to connect with the characters and follow the narrative, which never let-up until the final sentence. Chilling to the core, I won’t be stopping among the stalks of corn anytime soon.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winner. I do need to see the movie, as my imagination is going wild!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Riding the Bullet, by Stephen King

Eight stars

A short story by Stephen King is a treat like no other, particularly one that pulls the reader into the middle of an exciting tale. As I needed to fill some time before my next major reading adventure, I turned to one of these short pieces. Alan Parker is a student at the University of Maine. He receives a troubling call that his mother is in the hospital after having a stroke. Without a vehicle of his own and worried about his only living parent, Alan makes the decision to hitchhike down to see her. His first driver is an older man with some obvious health issues, so much so that Alan begs off early into their journey. As he awaits the next vehicle to pass by, Alan comes across a small graveyard with markers. When headlights illuminate the road, Alan gets in and strikes up a conversation with the young man behind the wheel, which veers towards a death-defying rollercoaster called The Bullet. Alan has eerie memories about it, but listens as his driver tells of riding it multiple times. What follows is a scary tale about riding the Bullet and a bargain made on the way to central Maine. Another interesting piece with twists that only King can create effectively. Perfect for a short trip or to pass the time.

I have long been a fan of Stephen King’s work, both the longer stories and shorter pieces like this. He has a wonderful ability to create characters and offer them much backstory in short order. His ideas seem plentiful and he uses the simplest event as a major plot twist. With themes woven into the fabric of his pieces, the reader learn a great deal about themselves as they read. The tangential nature of a well-crafted King piece is sometimes lost in the shorter works, but there is no lack of depth or intrigue. No matter what choice Alan Parker makes in this story, the possibilities are endless and King always lays them out for the reader to ponder, even late into the night.

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winner. I love how my mind races whenever you are writing and cannot wait to see what you have in store for your fans next!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Road Virus Heads North, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Always a fan of the odd short story, I have been filling some time with a few by Stephen King, who always seems to have something to say that holds my attention. In this short piece, an inanimate object seems to have a mind of its own, wreaking havoc in a small New England community. Richard Kinnell had a feeling he should not have stopped at the yard sale on his way back from a book forum, but he did. The regional author allowed a painting to catch his eye before he decided to buy it, thinking of the perfect spot it could hang. Not deterred when he learned that the artist committed suicide soon after painting it, Kinnell loads up his new artwork and heads home. However, he stops in to see his aunt on the trip back. When he pulls it out, the painting, titled ‘The Road Virus Heads North’, appears to have changed slightly, but Kinnell wonders if it might be that he is so tired. After his short visit, Kinnell finish’s the drive to Derry, where he plans to relax. However, the painting again seems to have shifted, leaving Kinnell with a very off-putting feeling. Soon, thoughts of the author’s suicide enter Kinnell’s mind, leaving him sure that the ‘road virus’ must surely be heading north and he wants nothing to do with it! An eerie story that only King could pull off, this short piece is a perfect filler for those who need to bridge between fun-length reading commitments.

I have long been a fan of Stephen King and his work, both the longer pieces and short ones like this. King is able to turn almost anything into something gripping, if not spine-tingling, using his vast array of ideas. The reader can never quite tell what awaits them as they read, but can be guaranteed that it will leave an impact, at least for a while. These short pieces are wonderful teasers for the reader who awaits a major novel by the author, though I miss the tangential writing that King has made his own over the years. Still, I won’t be buying any yard sale art anytime soon, that’s for sure!

Kudos, Mr. King, for a great piece to fill the time while I had a refreshment. Always keeping me on my toes as I wait for a book I want to arrive on my iPod.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

Apt Pupil, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Turning to another of my Stephen King novellas, I wanted to see about the hype this story has received over the years, as I fit it into my reading experience. Todd Bowden is a great student, who has mastered many of his classes at school. He is also quite intuitive, something he likes to show those who pay him some mind. While delivering a newspaper to one of his customers, Todd confronts the elderly Mr. Kurt Dussander. Todd explains that he knows Dussander is not who he purports to be, but rather a Nazi war criminal hiding in plain sight. After some deflection, Dussander admits to it, allowing himself to be extorted as Todd asks many questions about the time running one of the concentration camps. Dussander thinks that he might be beholden to the boy, until Todd begins having horrible nightmares about what he is being told and his grades take a nose dive. Todd and Dussander enter into an agreement with one another to keep both their secrets safe, growing closer as they do. From there, the story moves into a set of odd occurrences, whereby both Todd and Dussander target those who are less fortunate for their own sick joys, still extorting one another in a way. Dussander’s ultimate secret remains under wraps, though time might push the truth along faster than anyone could have expected it. A chilling tale that King tells so well. Recommended to those who love a good dose of Stephen King, as well as those who enjoy novellas filled with masterful narratives.

The versatility of Stephen King’s work is on display here with something that is less horrific in its true sense, yet still spine tingling. King portrays the interaction between two characters with little in common yet almost a match made in heaven, where they must rely on one another. Todd Bowden is a sharp student who has everything going for him. His curiosity gets the best of him and he soon finds himself caught up in a web of lies and horrible tales that he could not likely fathom on his own. This spiral out of control leads to many an issue and Todd is soon trapped inside a game of blackmail tug-of-war with an old war criminal. On the flip side, Kurt Dussander finds that the life he has tried to keep hidden from everyone is one telephone call from being revealed. Though elderly, Dussander knows that he would not be handled gently and wishes to take his horrible past to the grave. Both characters engage in some highly suspicious behaviour, as though feeding their secrets with the pain of others. The handful of secondary characters work well in this piece to serve as backdrops to keep the story moving, though none make too much of a lasting impact. The story works well and King is able to develop it in such a way that the reader cannot know what to expect, while knowing the end result at the same time. These secrets have a way of getting out, even if Dussander and Todd try to keep them hidden. Even an apt pupil will sometimes speak of the lessons his instructor inculcates through daily interactions!

Kudos, Mr. King, for another winning novella. I cannot get enough of your work and will keep devouring the stories whenever I can.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

The Mist, by Stephen King

Eight stars

I have always found that Stephen King can pull a reader in with his writing, no matter the length. I needed something to fill my time and turned to this novella, which showcases some of the greatness I have come to expect from the author. David Drayton and his family live in rural Maine, watching as a storm rolls across the sky, closer to them. The fork lightning excites young Billy, who wants to stay up as things seem to be falling apart around him. In the morning, the storm’s destruction is apparent, with felled power lines and trees having smashed into houses and vehicles alike. David is tasked with getting some things at the store, an activity that he and Billy will do together. However, before they depart, both notice an odd mist hovering over the water, something David can only surmise must be an odd meteorological aberration. As they make their way to town, Billy and David review the list given to them, noticing that the mist seems to be here as well. Once inside, it would seem others had the same idea about grabbing a few things, as David and Billy queue up with other townsfolk. The mist thickens, almost enveloping the store, as many ask about it and what it could mean. Some venture outside, not seen again, but their piercing screams fill the air. Worried now, David and some others try to determine what this mist could be, witnessing a grotesque tentacle emerge and pull someone into its centre. This is no longer a low cloud, but something with a mind of its own. How anyone will get out is left to be seen in this King classic novella. Sharp, with a mix of spine-chilling actions, Stephen King keeps the reader on edge throughout. Recommended to those who enjoy the work of Stephen King, as well as those readers who find pleasure in stories about the weather.

I find that Stephen King is able to come up with some many varied ideas in his writing, pulling from his vast experiences. This piece, which begins as a simple nighttime storm, soon becomes a horrifying story about a seemingly innocuous weather system. David Drayton plays the wonderful protagonist in this piece, mixing a laidback nature with a passion to get to the root of the issue. He leads his family in being as safe as possible, but tries to downplay some of the worries his wife exhibits throughout the story. When it comes down to it, David exerts a leadership role that the reader will discover throughout, particularly when things get especially problematic within the store. Other characters offer interesting flavouring to an already hyped-up story, giving King much to work with as he spins this tale effectively. The piece itself is full of wonderful imagery, from the powerful storm to this sinister ‘thing’ floating over the water, which will eventually eject its slimy arms to pull unsuspecting people inside it, as though feeding off the fear that the townspeople have of what’s going on. King never shies away from this detail, which is balanced out by some of the climactic writing that divides the chapters. Anyone looking for some suspenseful work with not too much in the way of gory description need look no further. At a time when some feel they are ‘living in a Stephen King’ novel, I am left to wonder if I would prefer isolation from COVID-19, or from this mist!

Kudos, Mr. King, for a wonderful short piece that kept my heart pumping throughout. I will keep finding and devouring these great stories of yours.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

If It Bleeds, by Stephen King

Eight stars

Any reader familiar with Stephen King will understand how versatile he can be. King’s ideas seem endless and he is able to spin them into pieces of varying lengths. In this collection of four short stories (I’d almost call them novellas), King shows not only how he can chill the reader to the core, but that his ideas are vast and yet usually tied to current social trends.

Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (four stars)

Craig has been working for his elderly neighbour for a few years, reading to Mr. Harrigan and learning a little more about life. When Craig comes into some money, he decides to take a leap and purchases Mr. Harrigan an iPhone, as they are the new ‘thing’ on the market. While Mr. Harrigan is not sure he’d use it, Craig converts the Luddite and soon the elderly man is hooked. After the old man’s passing, Craig honours his friend with a final act. What follows leaves Craig wondering just how strong the tie was that connected him to Mr. Harrigan, as well as what role smart phones have in our ever-changing and impacted world!

The Life of Chuck (three ‘weak’ stars)

The piece is told in three parts, though this is perhaps the most straightforward aspect of the entire reading experience. Each part is in reverse chronological order, beginning with an apocalyptic event where many of the people lose everything, but billboards and online advertisements hail Charles ‘Chuck’ Krantz as having served well over the last 39 years. As the story progresses (regresses?), the reader learns a little more about the earlier Chuck and the life he lived, but adds an ending that will likely leave the reader scratching their heads. Not the stellar King of which I am used to praising!

If It Bleeds (four and a half ‘strong’ stars)

The story that holds the collection’s name is also, in my mind, the best of them all. Tied into King’s recent full-length novel, the reader revisits Holly Gibney and the Finders Keepers Investigation Agency, both of which are doing quite well. When Holly sees a news report about a bombing at a middle school, she becomes fixated, not only with the story, but those who are recounting it. Might there be another Outsider who is responsible for the carnage? Holly goes to look into things, soon pulled into a long-developing theory by an elderly gentleman who has much to share. Where this story will go might baffle the reader!

Rat (four stars)

In King’s final tale, the reader meets Drew Larson, a college English teacher who is hoping to write his ‘great novel’ during a sabbatical. Unable to do so at home, Larson decides to travel up to the family cabin, much to his wife’s chagrin. When Larson arrives, hoping to get the writing bug, he discovers that he’s just beaten a major storm. While the winds gust, Larson tries to put something onto paper. Still struggling and finding himself falling ill, Larson finds himself visited by a rat who seems to be trying to escape the weather. They come to an agreement about how to ensure this new book will prove to be successful, though the sacrifice might be more than Drew Larson can handle to find fame.

Anytime a reader chooses something by Stephen King, they can expect something exciting and unique. King did not disappoint in that regard, though some of his ideas could leave the reader less than impressed. The fact that King leaves that unsettled feeling proves his abilities, as his ideas appear all over the spectrum. These four stories could not be more different from one another, which gives more readers a chance to find something they will enjoy. While King always makes some social commentary, it is up the the reader to decide what they wish to take from the pieces. With his usual random references to past novels and locales, King keeps his fans on their toes as they push through these pieces, forcing those who are keen on details to see how the pieces all fit together. Not to be missed for those who love a little chill alongside their reading experience. I cannot wait to see what else the King of Horror has in store in the years to come!

Kudos, Mr. King, for another wonderful collection. I’ll not soon tire of your variety of writing ideas and the means by which you deliver them.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons