Book Review: Needful Things by Stephen King

Name: Needful Things
Author:
Stephen King
Number of Pages:
933 (Paperback)
Published:
May 12th 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton
Genre: Thriller, Horror, Supernatural

Goodreads

Needful Things, the sign says. The oddest name. A name that causes some gossip and speculation among the good folks of Castle Rock, Maine, while they wait for opening day. There was something for everyone at a price they could just about afford. The cash price that is.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

Welcome to Castle Rock, Maine, a town where life is about to get very interesting.
A new shop is opening, shrouded in mystery. Everyone speculates what the shop will sell. And when it opens? Turns out this shop may just have your heart’s desire. A very particular baseball card, carnival glass lampshades, Elvis memorabilia, whatever you want, big or small, wander past the window of Needful Things on a particular day and you may just find that exact item displayed there.
And it can be yours, for a price. Sometimes the monetary price is unbelievably low. People leave the shop, purchase in hand, in a dazed state, having negotiated with the owner, Leland Gaunt, the man who no one can bare physical contact with and eyes that apparently change colour. Charmed by deep blue eyes? Then you can guarantee that on the day you visit that’s exactly what you will see staring back at you.
There’s another price of course, to supplement these low cash prices. A harmless prank, a joke, played on another resident, someone known or just a passing acquaintance. The buyer never knows why they have to do these things, or what harm it could possibly do, they just know they must do what Mr Gaunt tells them.

And this is how everything starts to spin out on control.
Mr Gaunt seems to know of old rivalries and conflicts. He knows exactly who to pit against whom, using some poor third party who has no idea what they’re about to start. The pranks become increasingly cruel and the mere suggestion that these old rivalries are stirring again is enough to send women out into the street with knives.
A town of (mostly) respectable and peaceful people becomes the scene for chaos, murder, scheming and an explosive finale, all through this one man (if he even is a man) who knows just how to play on human greed and desire.

It falls to sheriff Alan Pangborn to try and set things right and get to the bottom of the chaos stirred up by the mysterious Mr Gaunt, whom he never manages to meet in person for the most part of the novel, although Gaunt has Pangborn literally in sight at one point, a wonderfully creepy little moment.
Can he sort out the tangled mess that Gaunt has so carefully created before it’s too late, or is this the end of Castle Rock?

At over 900 pages Needful Things is certainly a long novel, but it didn’t feel overly long. There are so many characters and relationships to establish before the whole peaceful community comes crashing down that the build up is worth it just to witness the spectacular chaos that one shop stocking your heart’s desire can bring about. And once Gaunt’s plan really starts to escalate the story becomes a real page turner and the last 200 or pages flew by.

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The How I Choose My Books Tag

I think it’s time for another Book Tag. I haven’t done one for a while, so I’m looking forward to this. I haven’t been tagged, but spotted this over at not-so-modern girl and thought I’d give it a try. So, let’s get started….

1. Find a book on your shelves with a blue cover. What made you pick up the book in the first place?

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King.
This was always one I was going to want to read. I usually enjoy a Stephen King novel so always look out for his latest offerings. I had this on my wish list way before the cover reveal, but such a gorgeous cover is definitely a bonus!

2. Think of a book you didn’t expect to enjoy but did. Why did you read it in the first place?

The Inn Boonsboro series by Nora Roberts. I doubt I would ever have picked up this series, but someone who’d just finished the first book (The Next Always) told me how much she had enjoyed it. She really sold it to me so I decided to give it a try. I ended up reading all three almost back to back. It was just something very different from my usual reading tastes and I think that was probably why I enjoyed it so much.

3. Stand in front of your bookshelf with your eyes closed and pick up a book at random. How did you discover this book?

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. I bought this based on already having read the rest of the series.
I discovered the series in the first place via the first movie. I remember going to see it at the cinema and really wanting to read the book as well. The rest is history.

4. Pick a book that someone personally recommended to you. What did you think of it?

Someone recommended the Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canavan. I thought the first book, The Magicians’ Guild, took a while to get going, but once it did I really enjoyed it and am reading the final book of the trilogy at the moment.

5. Pick a book you discovered through book blogs. Did it live up to the hype?

I saw Caraval by Stephanie Garber literally everywhere and it sounded so intriguing. I think I may have become a little over-hyped though and didn’t end up enjoying the novel quite as much as I thought I would.

6. Find a book on your shelves with a one word title. What drew you to this book?

Carnivalesque by Neil Jordan. Okay, I admit, initially it was the cover that drew me to this book, all blue and gold with stars, it just drew my eye.
But the story, of a young boy who goes to a carnival and ends up trapped inside a mirror sounds like it might be good.

7. What book did you discover through a film/TV adaptation?

Cell by Stephen King. I’m trying to read as many Stephen King books as I can anyway, but this particular title came to my attention after I watched the recent movie version. I enjoyed the movie but I didn’t like the ending and wanted to see whether the book came to a less grim conclusion. I won’t spoil anything here, I’ll just say that I definitely preferred the ending of the book.

8. Think of your all-time favourite books. When did you read these and why did you pick them up in the first place?

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin – I gave Game of Thrones a try previously, but didn’t think it was something I would get into, all those strange character and place names, and I hadn’t read much in the way of fantasy at that point, so I put it aside.
Then I saw that it was going to become a tv series and something about it caught my imagination again, so I had another attempt to read the first book. I have no idea why it seemed so different second time around but I became totally hooked.


If you feel like having a go at this then you’re tagged.
Have you read any of the books I chose this time? If so, what did you think?
Until the next time…

 

Booking Ahead: October 2017

Booking Ahead is a feature on Pages and Tea where I glance through my never-ending TBR list/pile and select a few potential reads for the coming month. If I’m not reading books I love talking about books I’d like to read, so this post is a perfect excuse to do just that.

Welcome to another Booking Ahead.
Time for the monthly glance at my book pile/list to decide what I’m going to read next. I have a feeling I won’t be reading a massive number of books this month as I have a couple of huge reads on my list which I’m really looking forward to.

New Books

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King – Have you seen this book yet? It’s definitely one that would catch your eye. Such a lovely cover, and I like the novelty of the inside covers being embossed with an animal too. The tiger or fox are probably the ones I like best.
Look at me, so engrossed with the cover, which we all know shouldn’t be the main concern.
And it isn’t, really, it’s just an added bonus.
The story sounds like something I’m really going to enjoy. I just hope I’ve not ended up over-hyped, because this has been known to happen before. We’ll see…

Books from the Backlist

Needful Things by Stephen King – Looks like I’m having a King-themed month of reading! I’d already started this book at the end of last month, and it’s LONG. Over 900 pages long. I think things in Castle Rock, Maine are about to become very interesting for all those visiting the new shop in town, Needful Things. There’s something for everything, at a price they can just about afford, or can they?

The High Lord by Trudi Canavan – This one appeared on last month’s list too, but hopefully I’ll definitely get around to reading it and finishing the Black Magician trilogy this month.


What are you hoping to read this month?
Have you read of my picks, and if so what did you think?

See you again next month for another Booking Ahead.

Monthly Summary: September 2017

Welcome to another Monthly Summary on Pages and Tea.

It’s been quite a good month of reading for me, and for once I actually managed to read a book that came in at less than 200 pages. I really enjoyed going for something shorter for a change, and finishing a whole book in an afternoon, well, I can’t remember the last time I did that.
I also had a go at a couple of Top Ten Tuesdays ( I always love an opportunity to talk about my endless TBR list!)

Here’s what happened on Pages and Tea…

Book Reviews

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Featured Posts

Booking Ahead

September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday

Throwback Freebie

My Fall TBR

Reading Review

Reading Resolutions 2017

September Progress

Beat the Backlist Challenge Progress

Reading Review: September 2017

Welcome to my Monthly Reading Review.
This post is my attempt to keep track of how I’m doing with my reading challenges and resolutions.

BOOKS I’VE READ

The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Total Library Books Read This Month: 3
Total Own Books Read This Month: 0
Overall Total Books Read This Month: 3

Total Library Books Read 2017: 22
Total Own Books Read 2017: 3
Overall Total Books Read 2017: 25

MY READ OF THE MONTH

I sat for a while going back and forth between two books this month, but am settling on The Ninth Rain by Jen Williams. I’d wanted to read it for a long time before I finally got around to it, and it lived up to all the positive reviews I’d already read. I’m also looking forward to the next in the series.

BEAT THE BACKLIST

My total for this challenge is currently 13 books read. So far I’ve read:

Cell by Stephen King
Golden Hill by Francis Spufford
The Trees by Ali Shaw
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
The Muse by Jessie Burton
North and South by John Jakes
The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan
The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher
Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling
The Magicians’ Guild by Trudi Canavan
Feed by Mira Grant
The Novice by Trudi Canavan

GOODREADS

After meeting my original goal of 20 books last month I’m currently at a total of 25 books. I keep thinking I might put my target up a little, but I think I’ll just keep reading, see how many books I end up with then maybe alter my target next time.

GOALS

Still keeping up with my reviews, and these monthly progress updates.


So concludes September’s Reading Review. See you again next month.

Book Review: Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar

Name: Gwendy’s Button Box
Author:
Stephen King and Richard Chizmar
Number of Pages:
175 (Hardback)
Published:
May 16th 2017 by Cemetery Dance Publications
Genre: Horror, Fantasy, Mystery

Goodreads

The little town of Castle Rock, Maine has witnessed some strange events and unusual visitors over the years, but there is one story that has never been told… until now.
There are three ways up to Castle View from the town of Castle Rock: Route 117, Pleasant Road, and the Suicide Stairs. Every day in the summer of 1974 twelve-year-old Gwendy Peterson has taken the stairs, which are held by strong (if time-rusted) iron bolts and zig-zag up the cliffside.
At the top of the stairs, Gwendy catches her breath and listens to the shouts of the kids on the playground. From a bit farther away comes the chink of an aluminum bat hitting a baseball as the Senior League kids practice for the Labor Day charity game.
One day, a stranger calls to Gwendy: “Hey, girl. Come on over here for a bit. We ought to palaver, you and me.”
On a bench in the shade sits a man in black jeans, a black coat like for a suit, and a white shirt unbuttoned at the top. On his head is a small neat black hat. The time will come when Gwendy has nightmares about that hat…
Journey back to Castle Rock again in this chilling new novella by Stephen King, bestselling author of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Richard Chizmar, award-winning author of A Long December. This book will be a Cemetery Dance Publications exclusive with no other editions currently planned anywhere in the world!     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

I devoured this entertaining, well-paced novella in a single afternoon.
It was my first visit to Castle Rock, Maine, the setting for a number of King novels, but it certainly won’t be my last (coincidentally I picked up Needful Things after I finished this, so I was straight back to Castle Rock).

Young Gwendy Peterson completes her usual run up the Suicide Stairs (she does not want the nickname Goodyear, like the blimp, as bestowed on her by some charming schoolmate), only to find a mysterious man in black (!) sitting at the top.

Richard Farris offers her the button box of the title, a mysterious box of untold powers. He charges her with the safekeeping of the box, and shows her which buttons will provide a delicious chocolate treat, or a valuable silver coin. The other buttons?  There are who knows what sort of tricks in store should she choose to press those, and consequences that may reach all across the world, so Gwendy steers clear of them.

Upon eating that first magical chocolate everything starts to go well for Gwendy. She can do no wrong, and failure just doesn’t happen. The owner of that box would certainly never be called Goodyear. All sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?

And it may be, for there’s always a temptation to experiment with the box, just to try it out, and see what happens if Gwendy did indeed press another button. What would the consequences be, and will the mysterious Richard Farris return and take the box back? And in the end, will Gwendy actually be glad to be rid of it?

An entertaining read and a good way to spend an afternoon. Now I’m off to Castle Rock again with Needful Things!

Book Review: The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

Name: The Bedlam Stacks
Author:
Natasha Pulley
Number of Pages:
336 (Hardback)
Published:
August 1st 2017 by Bloomsbury USA
Genre: Historical, Fantasy, Magical Realism

Goodreads

In 1859, ex-East India Company smuggler Merrick Tremayne is trapped at home in Cornwall after sustaining an injury that almost cost him his leg and something is wrong; a statue moves, his grandfather’s pines explode, and his brother accuses him of madness.
When the India Office recruits Merrick for an expedition to fetch quinine—essential for the treatment of malaria—from deep within Peru, he knows it’s a terrible idea. Nearly every able-bodied expeditionary who’s made the attempt has died, and he can barely walk. But Merrick is desperate to escape everything at home, so he sets off, against his better judgment, for a tiny mission colony on the edge of the Amazon where a salt line on the ground separates town from forest. Anyone who crosses is killed by something that watches from the trees, but somewhere beyond the salt are the quinine woods, and the way around is blocked.
Surrounded by local stories of lost time, cursed woods, and living rock, Merrick must separate truth from fairytale and find out what befell the last expeditions; why the villagers are forbidden to go into the forest; and what is happening to Raphael, the young priest who seems to have known Merrick’s grandfather, who visited Peru many decades before. The Bedlam Stacks is the story of a profound friendship that grows in a place that seems just this side of magical.     – from Goodreads

My Rating:

My Thoughts:

The Bedlam Stacks gets off to an intriguing start – a country estate in Cornwall with exotic (explosive) trees, statues that may move, especially to get out of the rain, and an older brother who is convinced that Merrick, the man at the centre of our tale is slowly starting to go insane. His answer to this? Merrick has two options, the asylum, or occupying his mind by becoming a parson.
Merrick hasn’t led the kind of life that would see him adjust well to the latter, having been a smuggler for the East India Company in bygone years, during which time he sustained a leg injury.
When the opportunity for escape comes via the India Office, who want Merrick to travel to Peru to collect cinchona cuttings, which are required to make quinine, used to treat malaria, Merrick takes the chance, despite being physically unprepared for such a demanding and dangerous expedition. For other parties have gone before him into this land, and there are tales of gangs and murders and missing explorers.
Merrick has ties to this region though, his father and grandfather both visited, so there’s a certain familiarity about it even though he’s yet to venture there himself.

After an engaging beginning I found the story a little slower paced as the expedition, including Merrick and his friend Clem and his pregnant wife Minna, set out. I stuck with it though and once they arrived in Peru I was engrossed once more.
As the group meet up with Martel, who insists they are accompanied by the enigmatic Raphael, I couldn’t put the book down.

Raphael is a fascinating character, and the slow burn way the friendship between him and Merrick develops is great. There’s such an air of mystery surrounding him, about where he came from, and whether his connection to the Tremayne family actually goes further back than this new friendship with Merrick, for Merrick is charged with delivering a letter to ‘the priest’ of Bedlam, a letter written several years before by his grandfather, who also visited Bedlam. Raphael being so much younger, Merrick assumes this letter was for his predecessor, the previous priest. But is that true?

Bedlam itself sounds magical, with its great glass stacks which magnify the sun to such an extent it’s possible to burn in their heat at certain times of day, and the mythology and history woven in with a strange truth surrounding the stone figures, or markayuq, who are treated with reverence and respect. The pollen that glows gold, leaving gold trails in its wake sounds magical. It’s all like a fairytale blended with history in a great mixture.
Of course, there is death and danger, with the dark forest marked out by a salt border and warnings not to cross at risk of death. People have gone over that line before and never made it back, for something or someone doesn’t want them there.

This is a read to savour; historical, supernatural, fairytale and magic weave together seamlessly around the central friendship of Raphael and Merrick. While after that great opening it initially took me some time to fall into this novel, once I had it was a great adventure of a read. The scenes created are magical and wondrous, and there’s even an appearance from a certain character from Watchmaker, which just added to the appeal of The Bedlam Stacks.