Tag Archives: Reflection

Fall Reading List: Stephen King

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Picture this: it’s a dark, chilly September evening, much like tonight. You are curled up on the couch in your comfy sweats and favorite long-sleeved tee, wrapped in a soft, cozy afghan. A cat is napping lazily beside you. An over-sized mug of tea sits steaming gently on the coffee table in front of you. The scent from a “twilight woods” candle wafts subtly about as the light from the flame flickers on the walls. The wind blows noisily outside, and a branch taps gently at your window.

What is missing from the perfect evening described above? The perfect book, which will make your heart race, your pupils dilate, the hair stand up at the back of your neck. Enter Stephen King.

I’ve been a fan of The Master of Horror since I was a little girl. And by “fan,” I mean hardcore, dedicated, the-only-thing-that-makes-my-life-complete-is-owning-every-King-novel-in-hardcover, nonviolent stalker. And by “little girl,” I mean from approximately seven, when I watched, for the first time, a movie based on a King book. It was certainly a mistake for my parents to allow a child to see an R-rated horror film, admittedly, yet one which began a lifelong obsession with “catching the fear” that few authors or even movie directors are able to provide.

Thus, from one professional fear-searcher to another, I bring you my choices for the top scariest Stephen King books. I’ve ordered these novels from “scary enough to make you jump” down to “sleeping in Mom’s bed tonight.”

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12. Pet Sematary: A magical place exists where you are able to bury your loved ones and they return to you. In what condition would you be willing to accept them when they come home? How high is the price you would pay for this ability? Would you sacrifice your reputation, your friends, your sanity? While there is a movie for this popular novel, I read the book in only a few days in college, because I couldn’t put it down. It was one of the first King novels I ever read, and  I remember being simultaneously sad and scared for the majority of the book.

11. Thinner: It seems like a dream come true when a morbidly obese man is told by an aging traveler that he will start to lose weight and it actually happens. (If only, am I right?) However, as is typical of curses placed on those who murder a gypsy’s wife and cover it up without punishment, life soon becomes quite unbearable and the rapidly shrinking man finds himself making difficult and dangerous choices in order to reverse his fate. I’ve read this book four times and have loved it each and every one.

10. Gerald’s Game: This novel could quite convincingly be placed under another author’s name in the bookstore, as it is drastically different from King’s typical style. It is fairly short and more verging on terrifying realism than supernatural terror. I read this in a weekend in college and am still deeply disturbed by it. An abusive husband dies after handcuffing his wife to a bed in a secluded cabin. Her subsequent time dealing with the aftermath of her situation is truly chilling. Furthermore, I loved catching the connections this novel has to others in the King universe.

9. The Tommyknockers: This is the King novel I read most recently, and also one which plays to my inner conspiracy-theorist. Imagine, if you will, your town is suddenly and irrevocably changed by an invasion we are all completely incapable of fighting off. “Late last night and the night before, Tommyknockers, Tommyknockers, knocking at my door.”

8. Delores Claiborne: This monologue is, in effect, a confession by the title character of a murder she committed. While this stylistic choice is commonly reserved for poetry and short stories, it is an underused — though, in this case, highly effective — format for a novel. I found this realistic book to be an exceptionally quick read. It provides an incredibly satisfying tying up of loose ends in Claiborne’s life, as well as a very obvious (and intentional) link to several events described in Gerald’s Game.

7. Night Shift: So many of the short stories in this collection are genuinely disturbing. A few of my favorites are “Sometimes They Come Back,” “Quitters, Inc.,” and “Children of the Corn.” If a full-length King novel seems too much to commit to, try this one out and just read those three first — I promise you’ll want to devour the other stories in the book as fast as possible.

6. ‘Salem’s Lot: I was too scared to sleep in my room in the basement while reading this one summer during college. I remember vividly the anxiety I felt lying alone in the dark, and deciding instead to run up the stairs to sleep on the couch each night. My mom never laughed at this, but instead explained it was a novel by which she, too, had been frightened. The moral of this book is that strangers are dangerous — a valid life lesson, it seems.

5. Needful Things: Few books have left a mark on me the way this one did. I read this in a couple of days, despite its intimidating length. I still grapple with the deep issues raised by the reading. What am I willing to trade to get what I want? Who would I be willing to betray to fulfill my own dreams? Am I strong enough to avoid the temptations to which others would fall prey? Can we truly stand against evil?

4.The Stand: A devastating plague known as “Captain Trips” wipes out most of the world. Those remaining alive must rebuild society but are forced to choose which side to aid: Randall Flagg (a recurring character in King’s novels with a flair for both leadership and destruction) or Mother Abagail, who brought survivors together to begin building “the Free Zone.” This novel is most horrifying in the contemplation of a preventable mistake leading to an unstoppable apocalypse.

3. Misery: A fanatical follower with an untreated mental illness and questionable past captures and cripples the writer of her favorite book series. This story line is literally the biggest hurdle I face when penning my own novel. I just know that some snowy day I’ll crash my car and find myself at the mercy of Kathy Bates.

2. The Shining: The ultimate psychological meets supernatural horror story, this novel has been at the top of my “I must reread this before I die” list since I finished it the first time. Despite its immense size, this book was so engrossing that I finished it over a weekend home from college and actually slept in my mom’s bed because I was so afraid. Allow me to reiterate. I was a grown adult woman in my early twenties who slept in my mom’s bed while Dad was forced to sleep on the living room couch. Apparently, even as a college student, I needed my parents’ protection from a fictional character. Let that sink in.

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1.It: Of course the novel about a supernatural evil entity who takes the form of a murderous clown tops my list. This is the movie I was, for some inexplicable reason, allowed to watch before I’d even turned double-digits. As though that wasn’t bad enough, I had several unfortunate run-ins with a real-life clown that were highly unpleasant. While I may seem a bit biased, this book is hyped for a reason. It really is as good as people make it out to be. This novel is one of King’s longest, yet best written. I owe my phobia of circus freaks as well as my loathing of balloon popping to this story; you owe it to yourself to take the time to read it. Soon. Just make sure your spouse is cool with sleeping with the lights on for a while.

Peace and love.

Book Review: The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien

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***Warning: Spoilers Ahead!***

Check out my review of the first book, The Fellowship of the Ring

SUMMARY: In a continuation of the journey begun in the first book, this chronicles the travels of Frodo and Sam, now led by Gollum (the previous owner of the ring and one most untrustworthy). It also explains the fall of Orthanc, the tower of Saruman, a wizard overcome by evil and desire. His downfall is accomplished by the Ents, a race of tree-guards, who keep Merry and Pippin safe until the arrival of their friends. They are reunited with Gandalf, who has become “white,” a symbolic transformation occurring as a result of his return from death. Gandalf helps Theoden, king of Rohan, Aragorn, Gimli, and Legolas defeat Saruman’s attacking army at Helm’s Deep. Frodo and Sam make it to Mordor, only to have Frodo stunned by a giant spider (as per Gollum’s plan) and carried off by Orcs. This leaves Sam to wonder how he may save his master and friend.

REFLECTION: The towers mentioned in the title may have multiple meanings. First, and most obviously, may be that they are symbols for good and evil. Second, they may represent Cirith Ungol (Mordor and home of Sauron) and Orthanc (Isengard and home of Saruman). This is likely, as men are being squeezed on both sides by two forces of evil. Finally, they may be Cirith Ungol and Minas Tirith (in Gondor), both having stood since the “ancient battle.”

Check out my review of the third book, The Return of the King.

Peace and love.

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Success Series Part 1: Happiness

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People are always looking for the “key” to success. I am by no means a “life expert” — a term I’ve heard thrown around but don’t actually fully understand. How does one become a life expert? By living? In that case, all who are currently alive would qualify, technically. I digress. I am just going to do some thoughtful analysis (let’s call it creative and active thinking because it has an acronym of CAT) in a new blog series.

What determines whether someone is “successful” in life? There are far too many variables and opinions to give a definitive answer; that being said, a point on which most would agree is “achieving happiness.”

What makes one person happy would, however, not necessarily be fulfilling, exciting, or satisfying for another. I can state with complete certainty that I would not be happy as the ring leader of a rodent circus; someone right at this moment, though, is elated that they have finally realized their lifelong dream of dressing up, training, and touching rats all day long (I just can’t even…oh my word).

Unfortunately, people often rely on others to make themselves happy. They “need” a boyfriend or girlfriend, they “wish” they were popular, they “can’t live without” their cell phones, and they “would just die” if they were publicly humiliated. This type of mindset is detrimental to true happiness, which can only be found inside oneself. Other people’s opinions of my life are not something I care to lose sleep over; I do what makes me feel good, and surround myself with like-minded people. I wasted a lot of time in the past, trying to please everyone else (which, as has been famously said by one far wiser than myself, is an impossibility), and my personal happiness was often placed as the lowest priority. That, I realize now, was a mistake.

I am not attempting to say that one should always thoughtlessly choose his or her own desires over others’ at all times. That would be selfish and narcissistic, and would inevitably lead to unhappiness in the long run. I am saying that, in general, the things on which we should focus the most time and energy are the things which provide not just short-term happiness but will also lead to contentment and satisfaction over time.

Let me elaborate a little on this point. To use an analogy, I love cheesecake (I am pretty sure it loves me, too, but is afraid of commitment). Eating it makes me happy. Imagine this scenario: I choose one evening to eat an entire cheesecake for dinner, blatantly refusing to share any with my husband. It is fulfilling and full of creamy deliciousness right away. But it makes me sick when I attempt to sleep, and my husband is tossing and turning from hunger. The sicker my body feels, the more I regret the cheesecake; the more tired my man grows, the more he resents me. We end up divorcing. He moves on with someone who (begrudgingly) gives him a sliver of her cheesecake. I turn to cheesecake for comfort. I continue eating cheesecake for dinner every evening of my long, lonely, self-centered existence, because I know it makes me happy in the moment. I rue that decision every night, like a vicious cycle. My clothes stop fitting. I stop combing my hair. I can’t understand why I have no friends and am unattractive, so I drown my sorrow with more cheesecake to make myself feel better, if only for a few minutes. Even my many, many cats eventually leave me, refusing to watch me destroy myself. I can’t grasp the reality that something that makes me so happy (cheesecake) causes me to be so unhappy.

Through my long-winded explanation, it is clear that there are many different types of happiness, and even some emotions are mistaken for happiness when they are actually something entirely different. So, how can one avoid the pain of a “false” or “temporary” sense of satisfaction and focus on legitimate, lasting contentment? Henry David Thoreau once stated, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Put simply, honestly self-analyze and figure out what will make you genuinely happy and healthy, and do it as much as you can.

I believe that planning one’s future is essential to his or her future happiness. I don’t mean plan out every last detail down to the exact date (I was supposed to be independently wealthy three years ago, by the way). I mean, one must know what types of things will bring future happiness and what will not. Then, keep focused to make the good things happen and eliminate the bad. We must actively tend the metaphorical garden of our lives: plant our goals on the sunny side, water the dreams daily, fertilize the passions regularly, pull the destructive weeds as soon as they crop up, and watch your happiness bloom.  531553_3963563483314_1887143721_n

One final vow: I will always share my cheesecake with my husband. He makes me happier than all the cheesecake in the world.

Check out part 2 here. Peace and love.404285_2799947473641_945394804_n

Book Review: The Green Mile by Stephen King

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***Warning: Spoilers ahead!***

Summary: This lengthy novel describes the autumn of 1982 in the life of Paul Edgecombe, a supervisor in the death row wing of a prison. The hallway was lined with green tile (hence the title) and ended in Old Sparky, the electric chair. This novel is a frame story, being told as though elderly Paul was writing his memoirs. In the year he writes about, an extraordinary inmate named John Coffey arrives, convicted of the murder of twin children. Through the course of the novel, we discover John is innocent and that the crime was actually committed by another inmate. We also learn that John has a God-given gift to heal. Because it is the south in the 1930s, Coffey is not given a new trial, but is executed with as much dignity as Paul and his officers can give.

Reflection: One key idea King presents is that the damage we receive from those we depend on and love is often irreparable, having a lasting impact on our minds, bodies, and lives. Another idea is that we often destroy the things we love in favor of protecting our fears, biases, and reputations.

Peace and Love.

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