Book Review: Later by Stephen King

Name:  Later
Stephen King
Number of Pages: 
248 (ebook)
March 2nd 2021 by Hard Case Crime
Genre: Thriller, Mystery


The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.
Later is Stephen King at his finest, a terrifying and touching story of innocence lost and the trials that test our sense of right and wrong. With echoes of King’s classic novel IT, Later is a powerful, haunting, unforgettable exploration of what it takes to stand up to evil in all the faces it wears.

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Later is the story of Jamie Conklin, who discovers as a young boy that he can see dead people. Not only that, for the brief time that the dead linger, he can converse with them, and they are bound to tell the truth if asked questions. At first this unique skill is used to harmless ends, bringing small comfort to a recently bereaved neighbour, but it’s a skill that can also be used for less well-intended means should the wrong sort of person become aware that it’s possible.
And of course, that’s what happens, leading Jamie into all manner of trouble as he grows up and he’s dragged into danger in the real world whilst also somehow managing to attract the attention of something entirely other, something that he’s not sure he’ll never be rid of.
So, for the most part Later is a thriller, but there’s a supernatural twist to the tale which I enjoyed. 

I always enjoy one of King’s epic-length novels, and am currently working my way slowly through the Dark Tower series for the second time, but this novel, at less than 300 pages was a really nice change. There are a lot going on in a short space of time – great characters, awful characters, and an engaging narrative from Jamie as he tells of his unique talent and the things he encountered because of it.

I liked the family relationship between Jamie and his mother, trying her best to support herself and her son, her knowing about his talent and accepting that it’s real whilst trying to make sure it stays a secret, and the friendship between Jamie and Professor Burkett, who becomes convinced that the things Jamie confides to him aren’t just tall tales spun from a vivid imagination.
There’s also Liz Dutton, former partner of Jamie’s mother Tia, who wants to use Jamie for her own career salvaging prospects, regardless of his reluctance. She’s more unlikeable than any of the otherworldly things that Jamie sees, and will go to great lengths to get what she wants. Talking of the supernatural, there’s certainly one figure I would have liked to know more about. So much more. I would love another novel featuring Jamie, just to know more about that particular story.

Later is a fast-paced, exciting, slightly creepy read with an good narrator and quite a small but interesting set of characters. Definitely one to pick up if you’re looking for something exciting with a hint of the supernatural.

Book Review: The Naturalist (The Naturalist #1) by Andrew Mayne

Name:  The Naturalist (The Naturalist #1)
Andrew Mayne
Number of Pages: 
382 (ebook)
October 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Thriller, Mystery


Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

The Naturalist is a page-turning thriller and proved to be addictive reading for me. The story follows Professor Theo Cray, an academic working in bioinformatics who finds himself suspected of murder when one of his former students is found dead. So begins a hunt for a serial killer who most of the police are not convinced even exists.

Theo is an intriguing central character. He knows how to analyse information and data in ways that others may not see, to look for patterns and use his knowledge and skills to make discoveries and connections that are not initially obvious. This comes in useful when he finds himself initially at the centre of a murder inquiry. A former student turns up dead and Theo is brought in for questioning.
That would be alarming enough for most, but when the death is declared the result of a bear attack Theo isn’t happy. The evidence and the signs point to human involvement and instead of getting out and back to his usual life, Theo immerses himself in tracking the data and following where it leads, despite this putting him back under the eye of the police.

The plots drives on at a rapid pace that left me wanting just one more chapter before I had to put the book down as Theo follows the patterns and becomes increasingly convinced there is a serial killer operating in the area and that it’s been going on for many years. There are some wonderfully creepy moments throughout as Theo narrows down the options as to who this killer might be and where they might be.
Alongside all the action the story includes all kinds of science information and it’s delivered in a fascinating way without being overwhelming.

Some of the actions Theo takes as he discovers more evidence seems likely to raise suspicions against him again and yet he doesn’t stop, he’s so convinced there is more going on that random animal attacks. He puts himself in danger more than once and the lengths he goes to to convince the police become more and more extreme.
Following a trail that becomes more grisly with each revelation leads inevitably to an exciting final showdown.

I really enjoyed The Naturalist, and as it drew to an exciting and tense conclusion I was almost sorry I’d reached the end of the tale, but it’s the first book in a series and I would certainly like to check out more of Theo Cray’s adventures.

Booking Ahead: July 2021

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to 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.

It’s time to select a few potential reads for the coming month. I’m going to list a few titles but the first book I must mention is the next in the Dark Tower series, Wizard and Glass. It’s a very long book, so I may be being a bit overly-optimistic with the rest of this list but there are quite a few books I’d like to try and get around to, and who knows what else will make it’s way onto my TBR list as well?

Here are a few of the books I’d like to read throughout July…

Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower #4) by Stephen King – This is the book that gives a glimpse into Roland’s past – his time with his old friends Cuthbert and Alain and his meeting with Susan Delgado. I remember enjoying this the first time I read it, so I’m looking forward to revisiting the story to see if I still enjoy it as much.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal – On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process.

Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too.

Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her.

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow – In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the Eastwood sisters–James Juniper, Agnes Amaranth, and Beatrice Belladonna–join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten words and ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote-and perhaps not even to live-the sisters will need to delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.

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.

Book Review: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Name:  Gods of Jade and Shadow
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Number of Pages: 
367 (ebook)
July 23rd 2019 by Del Rey
Genre: Fantasy


The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty, small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it–and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan God of Death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey, from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City–and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.Mixing the excitement of the Roaring Twenties with Prehispanic mythology, Gods of Jade and Shadow is a vivid, wildly imaginative historical fantasy.

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a magical tale from Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Last year I read Mexican Gothic, and I enjoyed that so much I wanted to check out more by this author. The strikingly colourful cover and the tale of a quest undertaken by a young woman and a Mayan god was intriguing and so I began.
An adventure, a quest, a strong-willed young woman kept in a place she has no desire to be in by an overbearing family, and an immortal being in search of items that will restore him as the rightful ruler of a vast and varied underworld. How could I resist such a tale?

There’s a lot to enjoy here, so let’s begin with the main characters. Casiopea Tun is a young woman longing to escape, to dance, to swim in the sea, to drive an automobile, to experience life. Her family may have other ideas, mainly around Casiopea keeping house and doing chores. Little does Casiopea realise that someone is about to enter her relatively small world with the potential to make all her daydreams and more possible…

Hun-Kamé is the God of Death lured into a trap by his own brother and imprisoned with some help from those in the human world. I liked him just as much as Casiopea, from his remoteness to begin with, him being a god and all, to the way he slowly began to change as the pair travelled across the country, taking in many places and experiences as they moved closer to finding the items that would restore his power and give him his position back in the underworld.

The story evolves as Hun-Kamé becomes more human and as Casiopea takes on small bits of power in the face of all manner of wondrous beings, most of whom are set against them, having allied with Hun-Kamé’s brother.

There are many exotic settings – big cities and towns, the likes of which Casiopea has never seen before, places where there is dancing, colour, and music. The striking contrast to this is the otherworldliness of Xiabalba, a vast and elaborate kingdom where all is dark and grey.

As Casiopea begins to realise that in the end Hun-Kamé is still a god, that it’s unlikely there will be a time ‘after’ their shared adventure, I started to wonder how it could all end, and whether there really would be any future for these two, so different yet so tied together through their adventure.

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a great read – a tale of love, adventure and forgiveness. I’ve enjoyed both of the books I’ve read so far by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, and I would love to read more. I like the sound of Certain Dark Things, so perhaps that will be my next choice.

Book Review: The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3) by Stephen King

Name:  The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3)
Stephen King
Number of Pages: 
612 (ebook)
March 11th 2010 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published August 1991)
Genre: Fantasy


Roland, the Last Gunslinger, is moving ever closer to the Dark Tower, which haunts his dreams and nightmares. Pursued by the Ageless Stranger, he and his friends follow the perilous path to Lud, an urban wasteland. And crossing a desert of damnation in this macabre new world, revelations begin to unfold about who – and what – is driving him forward. A blend of riveting action and powerful drama, “The Waste Lands” leaves readers breathlessly awaiting the next chapter. And the Tower is closer…

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

The Waste Lands is the third volume in the Dark Tower series by Stephen King and throws us straight back into the action as new threats in this strange world reveal themselves.
Events from the recent past are starting to catch up with Roland. His previous actions affect his state of mind as he attempts to make sense of the truth of a boy called Jake, whom he is convinced is real but also never existed.
There’s a good recap of The Gunslinger in a conversation between the trio as Roland tries to reason out the mystery of Jake. I’ve gone from one book to the next so far with no break so it’s fresh in my mind still, but worth noting if it’s been a while since you picked up previous volumes.

The Waste Lands reveals more about this world, about the way it is formed, and the idea of the Dark Tower being the centre around which everything else is built. There’s talk of the Tower, and the Beams which hold the world together, the fact at the world is getting bigger, but also starting to decay; things are failing, becoming weaker, and Roland thinks that may impact other worlds too. The sheer scope of what may be at stake if the quest fails becomes clearer.

There are still hints of something very similar to our own world, little details such as the name Shardik reminding Eddie of rabbits, and previous mentions of familiar songs. These things, and the descriptions of the technology of the Great Old Ones almost makes it feel as though Roland’s world is possibly somewhere way in the future.

The group grows closer as they learn more about each other, and how to work as a team. Eddie and Susannah learn how to be gunslingers in this dangerous world where a mistake could mean death. As the travels continue Roland opens up, becomes more human somehow, less remote and closed off, especially as the group encounters other people. He’s a fascinating character and the way his history is teased out makes you want to know more.
The lengths these characters go to for each other and the risks they take show their bonds are strengthening. One particular reunion made for wonderful reading, and again showed Roland’s humanity. There’s also the introduction of a unique animal companion in Oy, the billy-bumbler, a stray who becomes part of the group and joins them on their adventures.

Aside from Roland’s world and all it’s mysteries, there are some great settings within our own world, including The Manhattan Restaurant of the Mind, a bookstore that Jake visits on the day he goes truant, and where he finds something that may become very important as time goes on.
The Mansion in Dutch Hill is a fantastic setting for a final ‘drawing’. It is a house with so much atmosphere it’s almost, and literally, a character for the too brief duration of its appearance. That section of the story reminded me of reading about the House of Usher, a tale I hadn’t read the first time I read this book.

Other things to discover in this story include a visit to River Crossing, a place where people try their best to survive in a harsh landscape. There‘s also the intriguing history of the city of Lud with it’s ongoing battles and the way the world moved on.
And, of course, there’s Blaine the Mono, built up from the moment that Jake first picked up a child’s story book about an apparently different train. More on Blaine later.

The build up to Lud and Blaine still somehow doesn’t prepare you for the sheer scale of what happens when our group arrive in the city. They encounter a wild place inhabited by different factions, and discover the way they live, their rivalries, and the perceived threat from the ‘ghosts in the machine’ that fuels their fears. It’s intense, and the last third of the book is a real rollercoaster. There’s so much going on, so much danger, so much threat, and times when it looks like the end for various members of the group.

And then there’s Blaine. How can a monorail train, and one that hasn’t been in use for many many years, possibly centuries, become such a dominant character? I mean, it’s a train! It’s also much more than that. That’s the Dark Tower series for you. And it’s a series that I am very glad I decided to read again, because it’s just as entertaining the second time around, and I cannot wait to venture on to the next volume, Wizard and Glass. I’m really glad the series is complete, because The Waste Lands ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger, and even having read the books before, I need to get back into the adventures of Roland and his ka-tet.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that Made Me Want to Read More Books Like Them

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Click on the link for more info and to find out about future topics.

This week’s theme is:  Books I Loved that Made Me Want to Read More Books Like Them

I always like it when I find a book that I enjoy so much it leaves me wanting to find something similar whether that’s another book by the same author, or a tale with a similar theme or a particular setting or similar characters.  

This week I’ve chosen a few titles that I experienced this with, some of them standalone, some either a trilogy or a series (because even then you can never have too many books, right?!).  

As always I’ve linked to any reviews just in case any of these covers or titles catches your attention.


Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) by Mary Robinette Kowal


The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell


The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Gunslinger DrawingoftheThree WasteLands

The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

BearandtheNightingale girlinthetower WinteroftheWitch

The Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden

The Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch

promiseofblood CrimsonCampaign AutumnRepublic

The Powder Mage trilogy by Brian McClellan

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James


The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

So, what did you write about this week?
See you again next time for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Booking Ahead: June 2021

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to 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.

It’s that time again, a glance at my TBR list to select a few potential reads for the month of June. I’ve been reading very slowly of late so I won’t choose too many titles, especially since I must mention…

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King. This is the fourth book in the Dark Tower series, and I do want to continue my reread this month so I imagine this will take up a fair amount of my reading time. It’s been a long time since I read these books but from memory I think this was one that I really enjoyed, where we learn more of Roland’s past and about his friends and some of their adventures. Can’t wait to get back to it.

A few other titles I’d like to read this month may include…

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton – I’ve wanted to read this for a while now.  I enjoyed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle so much I can’t wait to see what’s in store of this tale of murder, mystery and possible supernatural happenings on board a ship bound for Amsterdam.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – My current and ongoing read which I should definitely finish this month. It’s so good, and I can’t wait to see how it’s going to end, although I don’t really want to get to the end.

If I manage to read any/all of these choices I might return to the Joe Pickett series by C. J. Box. I read the first book recently and find myself wanting to discover what happens to Joe and his family next.

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.

Book Review: The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2) by Stephen King

Name:  The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower #2)
Stephen King
Number of Pages:  
438 (ebook)
March 11th 2010 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published May 1987)
Genre: Fantasy


Roland of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger, encounters three doors which open to 1980s America, where he joins forces with the defiant Eddie Dean and courageous, volatile Odetta Holmes. And confronts deadly serial killer Jack Mort. As the titanic forces gather, a savage struggle between underworld evil and otherworldly enemies conspire to bring an end to Roland’s quest for the Dark Tower…Masterfully weaving dark fantasy and icy realism, THE DRAWING OF THE THREE compulsively propels readers toward the next chapter. And the Tower is closer…

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

The Drawing of the Three picks up Roland of Gilead’s tale only hours after the conclusion of events in The Gunslinger. Roland is on a beach, deciding where to go and what to do next, and that’s about the only moment of peace he has as new threats reveal themselves almost immediately and then the mysterious ‘drawing’ that the man in black talked about begins to happen. From there it’s all action. Things that were only hinted at during The Gunslinger start to play out in this novel, and the story really takes off.

Gone is the Old West feel to the story, as Roland discovers ‘our’ world, or more specifically the eras of our world inhabited by those who will be drawn into his group, or ka-tet, those bound by fate, and without whom Roland’s quest for the Tower cannot continue. They’re a vastly varied group, drawn from different ‘whens’ but the ‘where’ is New York during different decades – the 80s, 60s and 70s respectively.

Through these meetings more of Roland’s own character is revealed, his drive and determination in his quest, and the lengths he will go to should it be necessary, but this volume really belongs to those who must travel with the gunslinger- Eddie Dean, Odetta Holmes/Detta Walker and someone drawn after the gunslinger’s encounter with an apparent serial killer.

Each of these new characters is afforded a great introduction – to us, to each other, and to Roland – and once they leave their own world behind it should be onward into the strange world that Roland inhabits.
I don’t want to elaborate too much on these characters, the joy is in the discovery, but they’re an intriguing bunch, and at times it’s impossible to decide whether the group are going to be able to join together to venture into this wild and strange land of the gunslinger, or whether there will be trouble before the quest even starts. Through various sabotage attempts, illness and trials, the mysterious Tower seems an incredibly long way off at times.

I enjoyed Roland’s varied forays into our world, and the way he learned to navigate a place that to him was as alien and strange as his own world must be to those he has drawn there. This came through wonderfully in the final third of the story, when he encountered Jack Mort. I don’t want to spoil anything, so won’t say more.

For all the action, and there’s plenty in each of the locations that Roland draws his three from, I did enjoy the quieter moments as the group progressed along the interminably long beach towards an unknown destination. Moments in which Roland and Eddie could talk, find out more about each other, and form a bond of friendship. Moments where Eddie and Odetta could bond over the strangeness of their situation, Detta Walker permitting. It gave the story a nice balance.

And so as this volume of the saga ends, the three have been drawn and the group are about the leave that awfully long beach and it’s horrors behind. On to The Waste Lands. I don’t think it will be long before I pick that book up. The Tower awaits…

Booking Ahead: May 2021

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to 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 the TBR pile once again! I’ve picked out a few potential reads for May.

I think my Dark Tower reread may continue this month with the 4th book the series, Wizard and Glass.

There’s another book that I’d like to read this month as well which is another by Stephen King…

Later by Stephen King – The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child. Born with an unnatural ability his mom urges him to keep secret, Jamie can see what no one else can see and learn what no one else can learn. But the cost of using this ability is higher than Jamie can imagine – as he discovers when an NYPD detective draws him into the pursuit of a killer who has threatened to strike from beyond the grave.

Beyond that I’m not sure yet what else I’ll be reading.

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.

Booking Ahead: April 2021

Booking Ahead is an opportunity to 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.

The monthly wander through the endless pile/list of books is upon us again as I select a few potential reads for April. Bring on the books…

The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower #3) by Stephen King – I have a feeling that my Dark Tower reread will be continuing this month as I can’t seem to put those books down at the moment.
I’ve seen various suggestions for other King books connected to the Tower, and as if several thousand pages of Tower wasn’t enough, I’m actually considering adding a few of the connected novels in too.

That said, there is at least one other book I would like to mention here too…

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – I’m reading this at the moment and it’s very good. I picked it after enjoying Mexican Gothic so much.

So, there are a couple of the books that may feature in my reading this month. There’s also the chance that something completely unexpected will catch my eye…

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.