The King of Horror

The Shining by Stephen King.

The Shining

At the most recent WI meeting I attended we did a blind book swap. I got this. Stephen King, I know, is often referred to as ‘The King of Horror’ but it may surprise some of you that I have never actually read any of his work. I’ve read work by his son Joe Hill (Horns and Heart Shaped Box) and I’ve seen plenty film adaptations of his work over the years (Misery, The Shawshank Redemption and Secret Window) but not actually picked up any of his books. So I was really pleased to find this in the package I unwrapped.

Although I have seen the film version of the book, the first thing that struck me was how much of the book offers up more of an insight into Jack Torrance and what leads him to become the caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. I really liked this because it makes what happens later on in the novel much easier to understand. Likewise it was also great to hear more about his little boy Danny, and his mysterious invisible friend who appears to him and shows him thing.

I really loved the style of writing, it was so perfectly descriptive that it enabled me to envisage everything clearly in my mind. At first it seems the Torrance’s are going to be fine in the hotel but as the days get colder and snow gets more persistent the tone of the book begins to take a more sinister turn. Wendy Torrance begins to notice her husband is behaving like he did when he’d come home drunk, although she can’t smell any alcohol on his breath. Danny tries to heed the advice of Mr Hallorann who told him he had the ‘shine’ so should avoid certain rooms in the house, and Jack seems to be obsessing over old papers in the basement that tell the chilling tale of the hotel’s dark history.

It’s at this point that Stephen King displays his ability to send shudders down your spine with his imagery. Granted I didn’t find the foliage animals coming to life particularly creepy but the description of the dead woman in room 217 made me feel cold. The way King played with the characters minds and imaginations, hearing the elevator going up and down in the middle of the night, these are the things that made me scared. I tore through the 497 page book in 3 days and will definitely read some more of his work in the future.

Star Rating out of 5: 4

‘They stood on the porch in the fading light, Jack in the middle, his left arm around Danny’s shoulders and his right arm around Wendy’s waist. Together they watched as the decision was taken out of their hands.’

If you have read any Stephen King novels and would like to give me some suggestions of what to read next, please feel free to comment below.

Happy Reading!



Heart Shaped Box – A Review

I’m a proud member of Manchester Women’s Institute and actually run the sub-group for reading. We’re called ‘The Bookish Broads’ and once a month we meet for tea/coffee and cake and discuss the book selected from the previous month’s meeting. This month we’ll be discussing the book that was selected as part of the Halloween/Horror theme for the October meeting.

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill.

Heart Shaped Box Joe Hill

I read Horns by Joe Hill last year and loved it. It was dark, humorous, tragic and kinda weird, which I liked. As soon as I posted that I was reading it on Facebook I had so many people telling me I just had to read Heart Shaped Box, so l went out, bought a copy, put the book on the shelf and never gave it another thought (ominous considering one of the chapters of the books only consists of the words ‘He put the box on the shelf, in the back of his closet and decided to stop thinking about it.’ Until recently that is, I put it forward as my suggestion and the lovely ladies of the Manchester WI selected it. I think we were all relived that it seemed less of a chore to read than Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.

I settled down one evening and was gripped from the word go. I’m something of a novice to the horror genre, with the exception of a couple of horror related novels, it’s not a genre I’m overly familiar with. But with Joe Hill being the son of horror writing legacy Stephen King, I should have known that this would be a cracking book, and I wasn’t disappointed. This isn’t something I have divulged in any previous blog posts but I have always had a fear of a certain type of ghost. The idea of ghosts in general don’t really bother me but anything that involves creepy old men in old suits or women in old fashioned black dresses really sends me reeling. Which is funny considering that I have read the book Woman in Black, seen the film and the theatrical adaptation, why do I do it to myself? I don’t know but I suppose that I like to feel ‘something’ I like to experience an emotion when I read something or watch something, and I can tell you Heart Shaped Box delivered plenty of those moments for me.

Judas Coyne is an ageing rock star who collects macabre things, when he is told that there is a haunted suit for sale on the internet he asks his assistant Danny to buy it. Little does he know that the suit is haunted by the ghost of a man named Craddock who is set on destroying Judas’ life, the reason? He blames Judas for the death of his step-daughter. The storyline is interesting enough but it’s the haunting imagery that Joe penned that really struck a chord with me.

‘In the moments that followed, Jude felt it was a matter of life and death not to make eye contact with the old man, to give no sign that he saw him.’

Moments like this, for me, perfectly capture the cold fear we all feel at some point. When I was a little girl I used to wake sometimes in the evening and would need to build up the courage to go to the bathroom in the dark, I’d be as quick as I could walking back to my room and would always have the sensation that someone was watching me, like Judas in this sentence, I always felt that it was always much safer if I never looked back and just climbed under the covers and squeezed my eyes shut. It’s that inexplicable fear that something just doesn’t feel right.

‘He smiled at Jude, showing crooked and stained teeth and his black tongue.’

As the book progresses the dead man, Craddock, grows more and more violent and controlling of Jude and his girlfriend Georgia. When the pair decide to get away from the house things get even creepier and weirder and it’s soon revealed that Craddock was a controlling and abusive man in life too. There’s a very human element to the story that deals with abuse and estranged relationships between families, which stops this book from falling short of being a little too cheesy at times, and adds some much needed realism. That being said there were aspects towards the latter part of the book that just seemed to not make any sense to me as the actions didn’t seem to fit in with the story as whole. Saying that it was an enjoyable read and full of imagery that had me genuinely shuddering at times, another great novel from Joe Hill.

Star Rating out of 5: 4


‘He could see himself there, and the dead man standing beside him, hunched over, whispering in his ear.’

Happy reading fellow bookworms, let me know your thoughts if you have read this, or even if you plan to read it.