7 Days of King (#kingathon 2019)

  1. Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King ★★★★(3.75/5)
  2. Finders Keepers, by Stephen King ★★★★(4/5)
  3. End of Watch, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆ (3.25/5)
  4. Dolores Claiborne, by Stephen King ★★★★★ (5/5)
  5. The Outsider, by Stephen King ★★★★(4/5)
  6. Gerald’s Game, by Stephen King ★★★☆☆ (3.5/5)
  7. Insomnia, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (4.5/5)
Introduction (9/23/19)

With Spookathon fast approaching, I am inspired to do a quick test run. I have yet to read Stephen King’s Bill Hodges mystery series and was thinking, why don’t I do a readathon for his birthday? When is that, oh the 21st, I really should have known that. That means this week I’m going to read the entire trilogy (Mr. MercedesFinders KeepersEnd of Watch). That wasn’t my intent when I had this idea, but hey, what the hell? I have had a pretty good turn around rate with recent books, so I figure I wouldn’t be losing too much reading time if I get it out in a weeks time. I also kinda want to give horror a break for hot minute before the spookathon.

I am giving myself until the end of Monday next week to finish, just in time for horror (and maybe the Outsider, the horror mystery follow up to this series). With ~14hr books, my average speed will take about 30hrs. That should be enough if I listen every morning and evening, still leaving time to read a bit of Gather Together in My Name.

Concluding thoughts (9/30/19)

This started as 3 book readathon over the course of one week. My goal: (belatedly) celebrate King’s birthday by giving his crime novels a shot and see if I can read 3 books in one week. It quickly became not 3 books but 5 then 7. I realized I could do a book a day, on average. That was all together exciting and exhausting. I love the idea that I could get through more books in one week than I did the first 6 months of the year.

This readathon is yet another good thing to come of this book blogging I’ve been doing. I enjoy thinking about what I read, and I always want to read more. If I can read 7 in a 7 days, then there is no reason not to read 5 a month. That would make 60 in a year. I never dreamed I might be able to do that. Hopefully, this sticks. Grad school is a fickle thing, and it my fade into the back. I hope not. I have been watching less TV, playing next to no video games, and these audiobooks force me to find something productive to do (biking, cleaning, etc.).

That is why I hope to make this a monthly thing. At least 1 readathon a month will ensure I more than meet my initial quota, and it will make up for possible dips in my free time. One week out of the month isn’t that much to give up. October will be #spookathon 2019. Then I will go from there. I absolutely love #kingathon. It is the perfect excuse and way to dig through that massive King list of books without only ever reading him (something I have been guilty of).

In the end, I am glad I did this, and I am glad I chose the books I did (for the most part). Most of the books were enjoyable, and the biggest disappoint (Gerald’s Game) was okay. Although, for that one mediocre read I found one of my yearly favorites with Dolores Claiborne. Of all these, the last one, Insomnia, was the only one I found myself reading for the sake of it, even if I realized I needed a break. That undoubtedly took away from that experience, but that was the risk I took with such a long book. This is a learning process, and I can work on my approach.

On that note, it is far easier to do these when listening to 1.8x speed. I thought 1.3 was the best I could do, but I was shocked at how quickly I acclimated to faster speeds. It as good as cuts the time in half. Insomnia, I bumped up to 2.0x for a lot of the story for the sake of time, but I think I am going to stick with 1.8 for most of my future reads. I bet if I had listened more quickly to To Say Nothing of the Dog, I may have retained more interest.

All in all, this was a success. I got to read Stephen King. That included a few books I probably wouldn’t have read but am glad I did. It brought me to Dolores Claiborne and Insomnia. Insomnia was the one odd ball here; I read it because I owned it on hardback. The biggest problem, I think, was it kept me so busy I never read any of Gather Together in My Name, which I was reading a bit everyday. Time to return there now! In any case, I loved this readathon, and I look forward to doing #kingathon 2020 next year September 19th to to the 25th.

Insomnia, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#kingathon)

Introduction 9/29/19

The final novel I am reading in my #Kingathon is Insomnia. This book is both larger and more of a fantasy than a mystery/suspense/thriller, but I am running thin on those type of books by King (in particular those on my TBR bookshelf, i.e. already owned). It was either Insomnia or a collection, but I know I will want to stop for every story to write a blurb which is surprisingly time consuming. The time now is after 8PM Sunday. This 24hr book, 13.5 at 1.8x speed, is seriously pushing my abilities, as I want this done by 12AM tomorrow night. However, a good deal of reading tonight (I need to prep some food anyway) coupled with a couple hours before school, I am confident I can get this done before tomorrow night is out. Thus making this #kingathon a successful 7 books in 7 days.

I don’t know a lot about insomnia, but I know it ties into Kings greater universe. That is what has peaked my interest. I really look forward to this one, and I hope I end this on a high note!

Finished 9/30/19

This was a great story. When I think about the problems with King’s more recent series, I can’t help but compare them to the classics like IT or the Stand. This is on par with those. Don’t get me wrong, it never create reaches the same intensity; I didn’t feel for this story as strongly as I have for others. However, it is a solid story masterfully woven into the larger universe.

King explores what it is like to age. He probably has a better grasp on that now (being 30 years older), but I think one of the best parts of the book is the emotion of growing old, from the love shared with a partner, to loss, to adjusting to living in your later years. Couple that with the multiverse of the Dark Tower and this becomes even better.

My biggest regret with this read is my wanting to finish it in time to meet my 7 day challenge. I can read faster than I realized, but I was pushing it with this one. I probably missed a bit of stuff. I may give this another read one day. I’ve read IT and the Stand multiple times (well, more often IT), and I think this might be worthy of that too.

There was also the atrocious production of the audiobook that constantly ruined the story. Music has been in each of these books since Dolores Claiborne (save the Outsider), but each book has been tolerable until now. It is as if they either don’t trust their narrator or they don’t trust the reader to feel the emotion in the story. It isn’t just that it is there, it’s how loud it is every time.

In the end, I still really enjoyed the book even if it wasn’t my favorite of the set. It still sits up there as one of the best I read this week. 4.5/5 stars rounding down.

Gerald’s Game, by Stephen King (#kingathon) ★★★☆☆

Image result for geralds game cover
Introduction 9/28/19

I’m 17% through, and there isn’t much to say. It seems interesting, and I’ve noticed some differences from the movie. One thing is Jessie comes across as less stable in the books. The film felt like a projection of her thoughts, but here, we see clearly she thinks shes talking to multiple voices that have existed even before whats going on. If its preexisting, then is this exactly normal internal dialogue (as I thought in the movie?

The recent film was amazing, but Gerald’s Game isn’t my top choice. However, it seems to fit best into the general theme of more suspense/thriller novels I’ve been reading. I also am pushing for 7 king novels in 7 days, and this one isn’t long. Plus, Dolores Claiborne wasn’t a priority and that was amazing. In any case, the Outsider marks 20 books this year, a first ever for me.

Finished 9/29/19

I am the kind of person who enjoys rereading or rewatching something that I love. Gerald’s Game, the film I have seen several times. I think it does a fantastic job telling this story in a gripping way while still digging into Jessie’s inner dialogue. I wish I the same could be said for the book. It starts so strong, and I am fascinated even as I’ve seen this play out on screen; the film is a pretty faithful adaption. Unfortunately, I quickly lose interest. Is it because I knew what was going to happen (doesn’t stop me from loving the movie) or am I getting burnt out from 6 books in 6 days? Its tough to say. In the end, though, I just lost interest in what is otherwise a solid story. Toward the end, we begin to learn a few extra details that peaked my interest, so maybe it is just my knowing. In either case it just wasn’t all that interesting of a read.

Maybe the problem here is the length. Normally, I love King’s exposition, but had this been a novella it would have been more effective. The idea is interesting, and the themes it allows King to explore is interesting. We dig into a marriage, and see what it looks like behind closed doors. Then there is the dynamic of a family that severely messed up in more than one way. The biggest of course is Jessie’s father, which is the center of this novel in a lot of ways. What I like about this is that he represents how villains can be deceptive. They can appear pure and well meaning. That is to say, they are not just a demonic clown that lives in the sewer or an abusive father who beats his wife and murders his children. For once, King gives a different kind of monster. I think that part of the story was pretty effective. Which really leaves the problems being with the slow drawl of her trying to escape.

The film felt like a logical progression of events. Here felt like the plot going from one to another. There are an abundance of ways I could have improved my chances of enjoying this from reading it at a slower pace or not during a readathon, but all the things I do for this novel I do for the others. I am not going to apologize for not loving this one as much as I had hoped. 3.5/5 Stars rounding down (which really isn’t that bad of a score, because it isn’t that bad of a book).

If you are considering giving this a shot, hopefully you haven’t seen the movie yet. Although, if you have no interest in reading the book, I strongly urge you to check out Gerald’s Game on Netflix because Mike Flanagan (the director) does an amazing job, and he is arguably one the best horror film makers these days (see the Haunting of Hill House).

The Bill Hodges Trilogy, by Stephen King ★★★★☆ (#Kingathon 2019)

Introduction (9/23/19)

With Spookathon fast approaching, I am inspired to do a quick test run. I have yet to read Stephen King’s Bill Hodges mystery series and was thinking, why don’t I do a readathon for his birthday? When is that, oh the 21st, I really should have known that. That means this week I’m going to read the entire trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch). That wasn’t my intent when I had this idea, but hey, what the hell? I have had a pretty good turn around rate with recent books, so I figure I wouldn’t be losing too much reading time if I get it out in a weeks time. I also kinda want to give horror a break for hot minute before the spookathon.

I am giving myself until the end of Monday next week to finish, just in time for horror (and maybe the Outsider, the horror mystery follow up to this series). With ~14hr books, my average speed will take about 30hrs. That should be enough if I listen every morning and evening, still leaving time to read a bit of Gather Together in My Name.

Update (9/26/19)

The Trilogy is done in record time (yay!), and I am turning this into a full on readathon and try to read as much Stephen King as possible! (See update at the end)

Update: Finish Mr. Mercedes (Book 1) (9/24/19) ★★★★☆

This personal readathon is coming along great! A day in I am done with book one and nearly half way through book 2 (Finders Keepers). Mr. Mercedes was a perfectly fine book that gives exactly what you would expect. A mystery thriller written in the writing style of Stephen King. King, for me at least, is naturally entertaining. This book isn’t exceptional, but it was a solid build up and progression. I’d give it 3.75/5 stars.

The story was compelling and effective at what it wanted to do but nothing exceptional. One problem with King’s works is most of his villains are caricatures without any depth. They are monsters through and through. I can tell King tried to give Mr. Mercedes, a mass murder and psycho, some backstory, but it wasn’t very redeeming. He was messed up from the get go making his life the way it was. There was a romance included, and that felt rushed or unearned. It was necessary to give the story emotional weight. A great example of what a romance can do is seen in 11/22/63, but this is not even close to that work.

If I hadn’t committed to this #kingathon, I probably wouldn’t be continuing the series. However, I am enjoying book 2. It is as enjoyable as the last and probably more. The structure is different. I’m halfway in and Hodges has barely even appeared. Instead, we get to see the history of crime told along side a present day story that quickly shows itself to be tied to the crime of the past. 25% of the book is spent walking us through the crime, a killing of an author by a disgruntled fan. This is an interesting exploration of the author-fan relationship, but again, this feels like a rehash of a better previous work (e.g. Misery). The more I read King, the more I should notice overarching themes. Although, they shouldn’t feel like cardboard cut outs of previous plot lines. To be clear, this isn’t a terrible book. I am glad I am reading it. I like the structure of this book more than the last, and I am primed to rate it 4 stars instead of 3.5. Of course, this is subject to change.

Lastly, I want to touch on how fast I am getting through these books. I am more comfortable with King, so I have experimented with faster speeds. I can tolerate 1.7 speed even as I grade (tedious grading that requires minimal thought). I think this really bodes well for my spookathon coming up in a couple weeks. I may even go so far as to read the spin of book, The Outsider, before the week is out.

Update: Finish Finders Keepers (Book 2) (8/25/19) ★★★★☆

Yet again, I am glad I chose to do this challenge. I have a better appreciation for how much I can handle and how fast I can listen to audiobooks and still enjoy them. It is hard to justify listening too fast. I listen to podcasts at accelerated speeds, but some of these are news that I want to here but it is more out of obligation than pure enjoyment. Listening fast forward can be a great way to save time, but when I’m re-listening to things like Harry Potter or 11/22/63, its because I want to savor every last detail of the text and the narration. I know I can’t be getting as much listening faster. At the same time, it is nice being able to enjoy these books and have time for another! 7 days was the plan. Instead, I’m 70% through book three, and I’ll probably end in less than 3 days. What’s more, this challenge and decision to speed read led me to reading books I never had any real interest in. There are so many great books I need to read and a lot of older books by King as well. I figured this would be a good chance to try it out. I am glad I did.

Finders Keepers was a solid novel. Despite its similarities to King’s other works, I enjoyed it more than the first novel. One key difference is the focal point isn’t Hodges. Hodges just isn’t that interesting in my opinion. I have no interest in an ex cop story line. The premise alone is what turned me off to this series, but let it be known, this series is much more than that. It spans the first novel and continues as a side plot throughout the series. Still, King knows how to be mostly original. He takes his ideas and reforms it. I found myself with characters I liked more and stakes that felt more emotionally significant . A tragic killing in the first book shocks us, but I felt little because the pain was mostly focused on Hodges point of view. That is no longer the case. This is a Mystery but not like the first. This is a story of a crime and an innocent boy caught in the middle with Hodges tacked on to make it fit into the trilogy. 4/4 Stars, maybe 4.25.

This story is also the one that sees Holly Gibney, a major character of The Outsider (I believe), a main character in the Hodges gang. I am intrigued because, like i said, I am not a fan of Hodges himself. I am especially intrigued because with the third installment, End of Watch (of which I am nearly finished), we finally enter the world of the science fiction/supernatural of Stephen King. I love this stuff. As a story, it is a continuation of book one and less of a stand alone like book two. It reminds me of our one dimensional villain. Even so, King makes it work, and we find our-self in a truly impossible situation. A situation I think would be next to impossible to solve or fix. Unfortunately, I think they will. I feel this series suffers from a bit of predictability. King shocked me once, twice, three times. Each time, I was surprised to learn these were all fake outs. Moments framed to be more severe then they were. It makes for a great excitement, but these can only work for so long before you become predictable. I mean, I finally care about your characters and what happens to them. Why not do something seriously lasting? (Possible spoiler: With the title of this novel, End of Watch, and a new series featuring Holly, I sort of expect Hodges to die in this one)

Update: Finish End of Watch (Book 3) (9/26/19) ★★★☆☆

I hate to say it, but my opinion went down with the ending. It wasn’t that it was particularly bad. I just kind of stopped caring. Shocks and sad moments were present, but the fact that I thought the ending was pretty much what I expect made it sort of anticlimactic. Long story short, what happens when a villain gets supernatural powers. You can blame it on my speed reading if you like, but it all felt rushed. The super powered villain felt like a plot device to achieve a certain “crime” that may be thematically appropriate but not necessarily a natural progression of where this concept will take you. Like Captain Marvel in the Avengers, you can’t let this character break the story line you want, so you have to shape the narrative to make it work even if it isn’t completely natural. I really thought this would be a solid 4, but it is more like a 3.25/5 stars.

Total Score for the Trilogy is 3.67/5. It is far from my favorite, but it is a fun and engaging read with a few great moments.

#kingathon 2019 Update

I’ve completed three books completed in less than three days. This #Kingathon is going better than I expected. I am going to keep reading through next Monday for a full 7 day stretch. I’ll read Outsider, but I am sure I have more than enough time. I am going to take a break from the Hodges “Universe” and switch over to another mystery by King, Dolores Claiborne. Then Outsiders, and if I am lucky another book or two before Monday night. I am officially calling King’s birthday week the week of the #Kingathon (Stephen King Readathon). Granted, I am off by a week, but I got the idea late. I am also just one person, so who cares! #Kingathon 2019 will hopefully become a yearly thing. It will give me an excuse and chance to dig through King’s backlog (I have so many on my shelf I haven’t read, and more still to buy) without taking up too much of my normal reading time that I could spend on new authors throughout the year.