Reading by Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Finders Keepers

by Stephen King

Hardcover, 448 pages

Fear State: Perfection (5/5)

Finders Keepers begins in the home of famed writer John Rothstein. King explores one of his reoccurring themes of famed authors and their crazed fans in the fatal events of a robbery going wrong in Rothstein’s home. A young man named Morris Bellamy is obsessed with a character written by Rothstein named “Jimmy Gold”. He refuses to believe Rothstein would allow his beloved character to sell out and be normal. Rothstein’s response to the young man’s criticism of his writing would ultimately result in his death. The author had gone into a self-imposed seclusion after the success of his novels. It was rumored that he still wrote daily. Bellamy heard those rumors which birthed the idea of robbing the authors. His unwitting accomplices believed the robbery was about money. Yet, what they didn’t know the true prices what one hundred and fifty novels of unpublished work. They made off with the cash and the journals. Bellamy would bury the items he stole from Rothstein right before he’s sentenced for a rape that occurred shortly after.

The novel time hops between the aftermath of Bellamy’s mishaps in 1978 and the current life in 2009 of the Saubers family. Tom Saubers a husband and father of two was critically injured in the City Center Massacre by Brady Hartsfield. This story illustrates the aftermath of his family’s limping along financially after mounting medical bills drive them into more debt. On top of the fact that Tom was already laid off hence his reasons for being injured on that fateful day he’s developing an opioid addiction while recovering from his injuries. His marriage is becoming strained as he mentally attempts to wrestle with his new normal and depression over not being able to provide for his family. 

The Saubers children find themselves tormented by their parents constant fighting. It overwhelms them intensely. That is until you Pete Saubers finds a trunk buried in the back of their home full of money and over 150 journals. He asks his sister what she would do if she found a buried treasure. As any other nine year old living in the turmoil of their parents’ daily fights she says, “I’d give it to mom and dad, so they could stop fighting.” Surely, Pete takes his sister’s advice sending his family into a slow but much needed recovery from their financial crisis. The journals introduce the teenager to the writings of John Rothstein. Now in the google era it doesn’t take young Mister Saubers very long to figure where the journals came from. This takes the boy on a tailspin trying to figure how the journals could further help his family. That is until the original thief sets out to claim what he believes is rightfully his. This installment in the Bill Hodges trilogy is more of a character builder diving deeper into the domino effect of City Center. 

I actually enjoyed all of the characters. While it’s a slower read it provides deeper insight into how one event creates chaos in every possible way. It doesn’t seem as if the television adaptation will touch on this novel at all. I just caught up on the second season which seems to fully jump to the final installment of the trilogy. Finders Keepers is still worth the read in my opinion. Hopefully the Saubers family will make an appearance in Season 3?


Happy Reading,

PHA

Reading Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Mr. Mercedes

by Stephen King

Hardcover, 448 pages

Fear State: Perfection (5/5)

Mr. Mercedes is the first installment in a three-part trilogy. The nucleus of the plot is the what the trilogy refers to as the “City Center Massacre” where the main antagonist Brady Hartsfield took a stolen Mercedes Benz and plows it through a crowd of job seekers in the morning hours prior to a local job fair. What I love most about the three novels is that it hones in on how one event can forever change everyone involved. Thus, creating a domino effect of which the novels continue to illustrate as only King can. 

Bill Hodges is a retired detective. He can be cantankerous at times but someone that if you keep prodding him with love he’ll return it back. It’s a frustrating yet endearing quality which makes him one of the most relatable characters in the story. He receives a letter from Brady Hartfield taunting him on his inability to catch Mr. Mercedes prior to retirement. Brady also imploring Hodges to kill himself because without the job he’s nothing thus tugging at his will to live. This fixation with suicide would become the framework for Brady’s favorite method of taking his victims over the stretch of the novels. While you probably are feeling as if I’m spoiling the entire novel for you I haven’t. I’ve only scratched the surface. Many of you probably watched the television series that’s loosely based on these novels. The novel unravels differently from the television show. They are still worth reading.

I can’t leave this review without touching on the lovable auxiliary characters Holly Gibney and Jerome Robinson. I love them both dearly. Holly’s high functioning OCD and host of mental handicaps gives her character such texture. She leaps off the page forcing you to love her dearly without direct eye contact. Still love her just the same. I feel as if Jerome is a true caricature of one of my cousins. He’s smart, ambitious and has a neatly executed wit. I wanted to see both of these characters not only win but I love the framily they create with Detective Hodges after the events of this first novel. 

Brady Hartfield isn’t my favorite of the characters. Which is surprising because under normal circumstances I nearly always root for the villain. Not so much here. He’s not likable in the least. However, that’s the point of villains. So don’t mind me at all here. He’s manipulative, sinister and plagued with angst of that seems to be a common thread of young men in his generation. The thing that sets him a part is his lurking desire for mass destruction. The dark twisted details of his back story didn’t make him any more endearing. I wanted him to lose. I don’t know what it was about him, but he gave me the heebee geebies. I realize that he was supposed to. But, it left me disappointed because again I usually identify most with villains. Nevertheless, the Mr. Mercedes is a nice separation from most of King’s work. As he slides into the suspense realm of writing it’s a lovely change of pace. I think you would enjoy it even if you’ve already seen the television adaptation. The novels take their own pivots and are twistier. Lol

Happy Reading,

PHA


Reading Mad Black Wheel by Josh Malerman

Mad Black Wheel 

by Josh Malerman

Hardcover, 304 pages

Fear State: Perfection (3.5/5)

Mad Black Wheel was strange for even me. I loved Malerman’s prose. I love the way he unravels’ a story. This story begins with a sound. A sound that can cause irreparable harm to anyone that hears it. First, he has us afraid to look outside and now we should be afraid to hear? What are you trying to do to us Josh? What’s next? Will be touched by some threat causing our skin to sluff off slowly and painfully. 

Wait, Josh. If you ever read this don’t run with that!

I just want to make sure you’re not going for a theme to attack our senses. I’m completely sold though. If I haven’t said this before I’ll proudly say it again. I believe in the Malerman brand. It’s necessary. This novel introduces us to a character named Philip Tonka a member of a band the Danes. Upon meeting him every bone in his body has been broken. He’s recovering and has no recollection of how he ended up in his condition. As if his situation couldn’t get any worse all of his band mates are missing. The last thing he remembers is the government recruited the band who themselves are former military to locate this sound.

This novel unravels similarly to Birdbox with chapters alternating between the past and the present. The exact details of the mission are unclear as the events are being pieced together by Philip six months after the events took place. After waking up from a coma his thoughts are disjointed taking us spiraling down the rabbit hole with him to figure out the truth. I didn’t altogether love Philip. I wanted to given his predicament. But, he was missing something. Malerman is excellent in creating what I like to refer to as onion characters. People are complicated with layers and texture. Philp was missing a few layers. Given that I didn’t altogether fall in love with Philip it was hard for me to understand why his nurse Ellen did so easily. Was this relationship motivated to pull the plot along? I don’t know if it’s fair to assume that. But, after the first read it’s what I’m left with. 

The true crux of the story was the sound. It’s the driving force and where Malerman lives. Given that he was a musician prior to diving into the writing game it didn’t surprise me at all that this part of the story would leap off the page. I love rock which is why I could dig it. Maybe you will too. 

Happy Reading, 

PHA


Reading Becoming by Michelle Obama

Becoming

by Michelle Obama

Hardcover, 448 pages
Perfection (5/5)

“My husband is making his own adjustments to life after the White House, catching his breath. And here I am in this new place with a lot I want to say.” ~Michelle Obama (Becoming)

I purchased several copies of Becoming for myself, Paige and close friends as Christmas gifts. Once I saw Auntie Chelle performed the audiobook an additional purchase was a no brainer. Becoming is a beautifully written introspective. There’s a lot to unpack. This memoir is moving, clever, at times poignant and other times downright funny. Also, you’ll find yourself getting a peripheral view of Barack. He’s this regular smegular guy (well not completely...he’s like gifted or whatever). He’s always late, messy and annoyingly calm during arguments. It don’t get more smegular than that. Then she spills all the behind the scenes tea of the Obama presidency. I got a chill when she spoke of the first win, presidential motorcade, the bubble that engulfed life as they knew it. This memoir is as surreal as it was watching the first black man take the stage for the world to address him as Mr. President back in that chilly November in 2008. The audiobook is a conversation. A good one. I’m not sure I personally know anyone who wouldn’t leap at the opportunity to have a conversation with Michelle. You’d do yourself a disservice not to read it or listen to her read it. Whichever way you approach it you won’t be disappointed.

If you’re not familiar with Audible here’s an awesome opportunity to try the service. Audible hasn’t hired me to do commercials so I’m just dropping jewels here. A late Christmas gift from me to you!  #yourewelcome 😉😏

  1. Go to www.audible.com and sign in using your Amazon account information. 

  2. Sign up for the 30 day free trial. Your first book is free.

  3. (Download Becoming by Michelle Obama...😉) In the event that you’ve already purchased the book you can listen to the audiobook for free. #yourewelcome 

  4. Download the Audible app to your mobile device. (Note: You can also listen to books via the website from your laptop or PC.)

  5. Audible is $14.95 monthly. You can cancel whenever.

Easy Peasy!

It’s real cute too! Audible will give you these little credit thingys once a month. You can use them to purchase future books! Anyway, Auntie Chelle is waiting to have a conversation with you. Again, YOU’RE WELCOME and Happy New Year! 

Reading Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King

Sleeping Beauties

by Stephen King

Hardcover, 720 pages

Fear State: Perfection (3/5)

I received an email from the Stephen King fan club saying, “Stephen King and Owen King will be going on a book tour to promote their latest release Sleeping Beauties.” Well, you know if I could’ve done a back flip I would’ve. I purchased my ticket. The day of I didn’t plan properly. Needless to say, I should’ve gotten there with the chickens. I ended up in a mile-long line to get into this place. It was incredible to see an author still have such a strong fan base after four long decades of writing. People came out in droves. You would’ve thought Bruno Mars came to Naperville. Who knew an author could create such pandemonium? 

My legs were numb. My heart was pounding. I was going to share the same oxygen as a man I’ve looked up to nearly my entire life. I’m almost forty and reading him since I was a pre-teen like many others. While I’m still trying to find myself as a writer the day I met Stephen King was a big deal. Well, “meeting him” is a stretch. I sat close. Listened to him speak. He was right there. I literally spent most of the evening crying. 

I’m not ashamed of it. 

He’s my hero! 

I’m an emotional creature! 

There…Pheare cried. 

Yuck it up. 

Then the most amazing thing happened. Well, I need to give you a little back story here. When I was a teenager I wrote out this bucket list. Silly thing. I won’t even go into everything that was on it. I’ll cover only two. 

1) Write and publish a novel

2) Have Stephen King read me a bedtime story.

I wrote and published my first novel in 2009 called Str8 Laced. I didn’t know what I didn’t know about writing or publishing at the time. But, I did it. I’m still proud of it. Go read it. Here’s the amazing thing. Who knew one night in my late thirties I would be sitting in the audience when Stephen King read a large excerpt of his novel Sleeping Beauties. When I wrote that list at seventeen anticipating my journey into adult life I didn’t really believe Stephen King would ever read me a bedtime story. A kid could dream though…right? I cannot put fully into words what that moment meant to me. I wrote about that night as opposed to writing an actual review about Sleeping Beauties because I can’t bring myself to write a full page of why I didn’t like something Stephen King wrote. I just can’t. But, here we are. I’m putting into words that I didn’t like Sleeping Beauties. It was not one of my favorites. I’m honestly under the full assumption that his son Owen King wrote the novel entirely and Stephen wrote the revisions. The novel was very heavy handed on feminism. I’m saying that and I’m a WOMAN. While the overall premise of women falling into a deep sleep, being cocooned and waking up in a murderous rage killing men definitely blew up my skirt. We didn’t get to second base though. Somewhere along the way we (Sleeping Beauties and I lost each other). I struggled so much with this novel I had to finish listening to it on audiobook. The ending fell flat which drove a stake through my heart. I had such high hopes about loving this novel. Still I can look on it fondly because it physically brought my hero and I together and the dedication to the memory of Sandra Bland was beautiful. Don’t take my word for it…you may like it. 

Happy Reading,

PHA

American Horror Story Episode 2 Recap

Fu@k it!

No literally…fu@k it!

Everyone was caught with their pants down tonight. Now that the “no unauthorized copulation” rule has been completely destroyed what will become of our two love birds? I honestly believe this budding romance is going to lead to the birth of something truly sinister in this season.

Also, so I may be jumping ahead here but is Mr. Gallant copulating with himself as the ghost Tate Langdon from Season 1 Murder House? That’s just seriously bizarre even for AHS. I really wonder how that’s going to unravel. The fact that it was revealed that Mr. Gallant thought he was sleeping with Michael Langdon the anti-christ. What is with the interviews he’s conducting. He had Mr. Gallant’s nickers all bundled. Then exposes the rotting core of Ms. Venable who appears to be suffering with a spinal condition. This makes since as she moves with the assistance of a cane. I can’t wait to see the backstory surrounding her condition. What horrors lie behind her shame?

Now that it’s slowly being exposed that the Cooperative isn’t behind the strange rules of this particular outpost I’m wondering if they are behind Michael Langdon? If there truly is a Cooperative or if he himself is the entire Cooperative? Is there truly a sanctuary? It feels that he’s already made his selections of who will survive. The interviews seem to be more for his entertainment.

Finally, is Miriam Mead a robot? I mean come on….what was going on in that gun shot wound of hers? I thought I was watching Bishop from Aliens check his wound? Android? Who knows. I know AHS loves to throw curveballs in every direction.

Until next week!

PHA

Reading Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman

Unbury Carol

by Josh Malerman

Hardcover, 384 pages

Fear State: Perfection (4/5)

Oh, love. The horror of love. And the horror of betrayal that you never saw coming. Take a moment to reflect on times when you opened your heart and mind to someone. You shared your hopes, dreams, secrets and in doing so made yourself completely vulnerable to that person. That’s scary right? Some will say you have to trust that things will work out and this person will be “the one”.  You’ll never truly know until years or if your lucky decades have passed and all went well. You and “the one” haven’t killed each other in a fit of rage over the toilet seat being left up or nagging about too much golfing. You don’t really know until you know and by then time has gotten to the both of you. Or something goes dreadfully wrong and the person you loved reveals their true intentions. This story took the premise of Sleeping Beauty, wrapped tenticles around and strangled it.

The latter is what happened to poor Carol Evers. This character suffers from a rare condition that sends this lovely woman into comas that to many makes her appear dead. The comas can happen quickly and suddenly. This sort of condition makes her vulnerable to those around her. She spends most of her time worried about who she can trust with her condition. Many either don’t know how to respond or handle it altogether. Shortly after the passing of a dear friend Carol passes out into one of her spells. After dealing with the condition for many years she refers to the place she drifts in during her coma Howltown. The most disturbing this is while in Howltown Carol is still aware of her surroundings in reality. She can hear everything and feel her body being handled or moved. She finds out that the person she loves the most can’t be trusted. Once the betrayal gets back to her former lover James Moxie he plans to rescue her. To keep this from happening a villain named Smoke is hired to kill James Moxie before he can intercede on Carol’s behalf. 

What I loved most about this novel was Smoke. He breathed, moved and swayed into this novel with such sinister intentions. Nothing is more disturbing than a man that wants to watch the world burn. Malerman has a way of handling the suspense and the horror of Smoke’s rage and motivations unlike any other author I’ve read in a very long time. Reading Smoke’s character was intoxicating to me. I’m nearly always rooting for the villain. If ever I could plant a thought deep enough in someone I would bury the seed in Josh Malerman’s brain to give a sequel with Smoke as the central character. A back story of sorts. That’s the world I one day want to live in…where that story exists. The host of other characters was amazing and the story unfolding in only a way Malerman could deliver. I’ll even admit while some didn’t altogether love the ending I was sold. Malerman is becoming one of those “he can’t do any wrong writers” in my book. 

Happy Reading, 

PHA


Reading The Outsider by Stephen King

The Outsider

by Stephen King

Hardcover, 576 pages

Fear State: Perfection (5/5)

I’m not going to bore you with my love of Mr. King. If you’ve followed me for any short period of time you know he’s is the Alpha in the birth of my love for the horror genre. My father gave me a book called Needful Things when I was probably twelve or thirteen. It was love. More than twenty years later we are still here. The man has influenced a full two generation of writers and readers a like from books, to television and film. The horror genre wouldn’t churn without the Stephen King brand. He’s my hero. It’s incredibly rare that I don’t give him five stars. Rare. It has happened. (My Sleeping Beauties review is forthcoming. It wasn’t my favorite.)

I did love The Outsider. We find ourselves tainted by the details of a horrific crime involving the brutal rape and murder of a child. Now that I’m a parent reading the horrid details make me cringe. Thankfully, there are a number of witnesses, DNA and even fingerprints at the scene of the crime. The police believe they have a slam dunk case. So much so the lead detective Ralph Anderson orders his men to arrest the prime suspect Terry Maitland in front of a baseball field full of the town’s residents. He requested the charges be announced loudly and once a man he once believed to be his friend to be handcuffed in front of everyone. Anderson learns slowly but surely that this decision could cost him everything. I mean everything. 

The detective is warned several times away from this case. Anderson finds that he’s confronting elements so old and sinister that will shake the fabric of everything he believes. The murder forces the town to separate corners dismantling friendships and the wholesomeness that once lived there. If you know King then you know there’s a monster lurking in the crevices. This story takes you on a multi-state chase to find out if Terry Maitland is truly the man he’s portrayed for many years. Everyone has different faces. It forces you to ask yourself, "Do you ever truly know anyone?" Or do we all have monsters living inside of us underneath it all? 

No one could tell this story better than the man himself. As I’ve said many times over, “Long live the King.”

Happy Reading, 

PHA


Reading Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird Box

by Josh Malerman

Hardcover, 262 pages
Fear State: Perfection (5/5)

Imagine not being able to look outside because there were creatures that could drive you mad enough to kill your children or spouse or even yourself? Terrifying right? Seriously, since reading this novel I think about it every time I leave my house to run to the store. Every now and again taking my morning walk gives me pause. Creatures…just an unsettling plot. Needless to say this novel stayed with me. 

The novel begins with a woman named Mallory. She’s in a refuge that has sealed windows and locked doors her only company are her two children. They are simply named “Boy” and “Girl”. The fact that she hasn’t even considered their names is unsettling. This small detail clearly paints the picture that there are larger issues afoot than something so trivial as naming your babies. Mallory has decided to finally leave the home that has been a sanctuary to her and her children for four years since their birth. It’s a terrifying revelation given that there are forces she has no idea of how to protect them from. They also have to make this journey blindfolded. Remember, the creatures will drive you mad if you see them.

The story continues from the onset of the apocalypse to the very end of her life with the housemates she lived with right before the children were born. I love the blood stains in the beginning. They add texture to the story all the way to the conclusion of how they occurred. What I loved about this novel is Malerman understands the fear doesn’t lie in the seen and obvious attempts to scare someone. The fear lies within the unseen. The fear lies within the impending threat that could come from any direction and the loneliness of darkness. It lies within a terrifying sound or the feeling of someone’s breath on the back of your neck. His style of writing overwhelms me. In this novel his prose is perfectly executed. I believe in the Malerman brand with my whole heart. I’ve already devoured two of his other novels. Reviews on Unbury Carol and Mad Black Wheel are forthcoming.

In my September newsletter I’m giving away a free kindle download of Bird Box. Please make sure if you’re subscribed to my newsletter that you click on the give away!

Happy Reading,

PHA

American Horror Story Episode 1 Recap

Let’s “Encyclopedia Brown” this whole situation. 

Before tonight the only information released about this season is that it’s a crossover version of Murder House (Season 1) and Coven (Season 3). Tonight, the show began after a series of nuclear missiles took out several major continents. The characters find out a fallout shelter has already been prepared in the event “all hell broke loose”. Of course, certain rich people have already purchased tickets to have a place in the shelter provided by a group referred to as the “Cooperative”. When questioned about this we are told that those funds used from the rich made such a shelter possible.

“Oh okay.” *Insert Side Eye….ANYWAY.

The main characters are introduced to their hostess Wilhemina Venable, who asked to be referred to as the right arm of the Cooperative, and her right hand “Miriam Mead”. The characters are given purple clothes for the “chosen ones or elite” and the gray clothed characters are “servants”. The guests are seated at the table for dinner where they find out their meals will consist of a vitamin Jello substance. When characters complain they are slapped.

They are given simple rules:

1) Do not go outside.

2) There is no unauthorized copulation.

When two of the characters are found to have radio-active particles they are scrubbed profusely. When one doesn’t come clean he is killed. Then later possibly eaten by his other compadres…it’s just all out pandemonium. Their hostess is low-key a sadist and her rules may have absolutely nothing to do with the Cooperative. This outpost may’ve gone completely off the reservation. I have no idea where they are taking us. But, that’s the magic of American Horror Story. I do believe the baby is going to born of two of the characters in this shelter. They were chosen for their superior genetic makeup. Also, their romance is budding.

We shall see. So far so good!