Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Stand

The Stand
Originally published September 1978

M-O-O-N spells one AMAZING and EPIC book!

Confession- I am beyond nervous penning this review.  How? How am I ever going to do this book justice? Coming on 35 years later (holy shit!), this book is still a must read for everyone!  It is timeless. An epic journey of good vs. evil.  Well, I'll give it a try. I am certain I will fail miserably....


The Stand is arguably one of the best (if not THE best) Stephen King books.  The novel is broken down into three sections.  We open with "Captain Trips" or more basically known as the superflu.  A highly contagious form of a government made virus that sweeps through the country and kills off 99.4% of the population. That was after it was "accidentally" released from a military base. Oops.
"That wasn't any act of God. That was an act of pure human fuckery." Thank you Larry Underwood for that wisdom. So true.
We had a brief glimpse of Captain Trips in Night Shift, but here in The Stand, we get down to the nitty gritty of what SK was imagining when he invented this virus. The beginning of the book is peppered with graphic descriptions of various nasty symptoms that accompany the flu.  Well, in a nutshell "it sure ain't pretty".  It is an interesting start to a book. We are introduced to character after character, only to read about their deaths. I guarantee the first time you read this novel (and any time after that) and you are out somewhere, and someone sneezes near you, you are going to want to run screaming from the store!  For me, the opening of this book is by far the most horrific part, as it can frighteningly happen!  Hell, we are in the middle of flu-pocalypse of 2013 right now!

During this opening of the book, we are introduced to (as we learn later) some very key characters.  Now, you can't discuss The Stand without talking about Stephen King's ability to develop characters.  He is THE master.  You can try to convince me there is another author who is equally successful of being able to do this, but I recommend you save your breathe.  Nothing you say will sway my opinion.  If you have any heart at all, you will find yourself falling in love with these characters.  There are too many amazing people introduced in The Stand for me to get into the specifics of all of them, but like any SK novel (and there will be many to come) he makes you feel what is going on by how well he connects you with his characters.  Even his nastier ones....but we'll get to that in a moment.

The second section of the book is "On The Border".  This part of the book chronicles the survivors of the superflu and their next steps.  People begin having dreams or nightmares of two separate people.  A charming (albeit very old- 108 years old!) woman, named Abigail Freemantle or Mother Abigail,who resides in Hemingford Home, Nebraska.  It becomes clear, very quickly, she represents "good" for the survivors.  People are drawn to her and want to be with her. And then there is the Dark Man. It is during the second part of the book we get our first good glimpses of Randall Flagg, also known as the Dark Man or the Walking Dude. He is set-up as the evil adversary to all the good Mother Abigail represents.

As people flock to either Mother Abigail or Randall Flagg, there is a divine line drawn in the sand.  Do you represent good or are you evil? See where we are going with this?  Good vs. Evil? Ultimate showdown? I mentioned before it is a reoccuring theme that SK incorporates into many of his stories.  No novel does it better than The Stand.

Mother Abigail directs her "followers" to Boulder, Colorado (aka The Free Zone) where they restart life after the superflu, all the while trying to garner a plan on what to do about Flagg.  Randall Flagg on the other hand has dug in, and commands his supporters in Las Vegas (and seriously, could he have picked a better spot?).  It is clear through the pages that Flagg means business and won't tolerate anything outside of his strict plan. While life in The Free Zone is a little less structured. They flounder, struggle to maintain direction, and slowly start to fall into a pattern that mimics life before the superflu. Is that necessarily a good thing? Do you want a government again? They caused this in the first place.  It leads to interesting thoughts and questions if you wish to sit and dissect your thoughts.  Even more interesting with the constant debate these days on how much involvement our government should have over matters.  See? I told you the book was timeless. 35 years later and it still mimics real life.  Boy, I got off topic there....

The Third section of the book is called "The Stand".  It sets up our two sides to make a final confrontation. In the process of getting to that point in the story, some wonderfully interesting things start to happen.  Mother Abigail feels she shamed herself in God's eyes by being too proud of her role in what is going on.  She goes on a "journey" to punish herself and make herself right in God's eyes again.  Only to return near death but with news God wants four of the key characters to head West to see the Dark Man. Say what?!? Walk into the hands of the Dark Man. Ok....

While in Vegas, you start to get snippets that maybe the Dark Man isn't as all powerful as he believes. Things start to go wrong, things are missed, plans don't go as they should. His followers start to take matters into their own hands. The end is quite fascinating, as in, it probably isn't the end you expected would be coming.  Flagg and his followers come to their demise through a combination of one of Flagg's own people (which I love this irony) and what appears to be the hand of God reaching down to smack out evil (literally).  I loved the end because it does become a showdown of good (God) vs. evil (Flagg/ Satan?). You have to know who is always going to win. Predictable? Maybe. But it never takes away from the impact of the book.

We may lose some wonderful characters through this book (ok, we lose a shit ton!) but the ending is sweet in that our survivors start to rebuild and start over.  Happily ever after? Well, that remains to be seen, but I love the message that SK leaves on us.  Repeat the mistakes we once made, where will we end up again?  If you read the extended and uncut version of the book, the ending also leaves you with a lead-in of things that are to come.  We see Randall Flagg (well, with his new name of Russell Faraday) being reborn. We can all hunker down and get comfortable with Flagg.  He'll be making quite a few appearances (in some shape or form) in many novels to come.  

Recapping this book just doesn't do it justice.  Nothing can do it justice other than picking it up and reading every last word.  It includes some of the best characters to grace a page, an AMAZING (yet horrifying) premise to the story, a satisfying ending and everything in between.  Clearly, The Stand is a favorite for me.  I can talk about it till I am blue, but you'd do better just to pick it up and read it.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Night Shift

Night Shift 
Originally published February 1978

Not every author can master a short story.  Many try but fail to produce that story that grabs you and leaves you thinking about it.  Stephen King is the exact opposite.  Over the years, he seems to churn out these bite size stories that leave you breathless!  Night Shift is the first compilation of short stories SK released. Many had been published in magazines prior to the books release, but for the purpose of this reread, I added these stories based on the actual book's release date.

As with many SK stories, he likes to include snippets or "Easter eggs" of characters or information from previous stories. This collection of short stories is no different.  We kick off with Jerusalem's Lot, a story that takes us back (in place) and back (in time) from Salem's Lot.  It was an interesting prequel to Salem's Lot.  I loved getting the beginning story of Jerusalem's Lot and the "residents" from there.  The history of the family that seems to be drawn to the area made this story particularly interesting.  SK, as usual, adds his touches of humor to the story   I love that the characters thought the "things going bump in the night" were rats. You could almost hear them thinking "those are some big fucking rats!"  The flip side to this short story is One for the Road.  Now we get a story that takes place after Salem's Lot.  As much as I liked, Jerusalem's Lot, I LOVED One for the Road.  Suspenseful and compelling.  You know it is not going to end well. You see it coming pages before the end, but you just can't put the story down. You have to see what happens to that poor family. SK delivers a wonderfully descriptive ending that leaves you seeing the terror unfold. Excellent story.

Even though we haven't gotten far enough into the reread to have included The Stand yet- I must point out the story Night Surf.  It is an intriguing post-apocalyptic story of a group of "survivors" who have lived through a virus called "Captain Tripps" that wipes out most of the population.  Sound familiar?  No? Well it will soon if you are reading along with me.  It does make me want to ask Mr. King himself "Which came first? The chicken or the egg?"  I haven't researched this story to see if it is the actual idea behind The Stand or was The Stand in the works already and this short story sort of jumped off in the sidelines?  Either way, it is a great addition to Night Shift.

Not all the stories are SK's best. But that is to be expected.  It is hard to pull the reader into every short story and make them feel compelled to care about the characters in such a short amount of time.  The Mangler stands out as one of the weaker stories. Or I could just be jaded over the fact I actually went to the movies to see that monstrosity when it came out. Hubby and I hid in our seats till it was over, we were so embarrassed to be there. Ah, such is my love for SK that I volunteer to sit through shit movies that have his name attached to them.

I can't conclude this review without including some thoughts on Children of the Corn.  Probably one of the creepier stories of the bunch.  A poor couple happen upon a nearly deserted town to discover it is being run by "evangelical" children who sacrifice themselves to a corn demon?  The imagery depicted as the children chase Burt through the corn while carrying sickles and machetes is horrifying.  A perfect mix of horror, creep and gore. For what it is worth, Children of the Corn is one of the better adaptions of an SK story into a movie. If you haven't seen it, you should. That kid who played Malachai was batshit crazy and absolutely outstanding! He still gives me the creeps!

All in all, if you are a fan of short stories, Stephen King will not disappoint!  He is a master of making each one count and grab you from the beginning.  I find these short story collections to be such fun reads. You can usually get through one a night.  It leaves you going to bed digesting the events you just took in, and then on to the next the following day. Perfect if you ask me!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Shining

The Shining
Originally published December 1976

The Shining is one of Stephen King's better known novels. Arguments could be made that it's popularity is also due to the well known movie adaption of this book, directed by Stanley Kubrick.  Whatever the case, it is a great book (and a good movie, though we'll focus on the book!)

If there was ever a slow build to a story- boy, is it this one!  We start off meeting Jack Torrence, an aspiring writer who is looking to make a fresh start with his family and save his marriage.  He accepts a job being the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel.  It is a job that has been wrought with peril in the past, as a different caretaker went mad and murdered his family over the long winter months..  For some, the seclusion of that time alone all winter can be too much.  Jack is sure he is perfect for the job and will have no problems whatsoever.  We are then introduced to Jack's wife, Wendy, and his son Danny.  As we meet Danny it becomes clear that Danny is no ordinary boy.  Through his "imaginary friend" Tony, he "sees" things. You learn quite quickly that some of these visions may be ominous.  Only time will tell.  Danny becomes quite the interesting character for the story.  Through his "gift", he becomes a window into the dangers and evil that is lurking everywhere. It is a very powerful tool using the fear and views of a child to share some of the darker scenes of the book. But I digress...

After the family makes the move to the Hotel, it is here we meet (what I think) is the most pivotal character of the book. The Overlook Hotel.  Yes, I just called the hotel itself a character.  It really does have a life of its own. We also meet Dick Holloran, the hotel's cook, and learn that he possesses the "shining" like Danny  and can "see" things. He hints to some interesting occurrences that have happened at the hotel and gives a little more insight on how careful the Torrence family will need to be at The Overlook over the upcoming winter.

It doesn't take long for that slow build to kick in once the family is alone in the hotel.  Whether it is open doors, a feeling outside of an overnight room, noises, fire hoses quickly get the impression this hotel is much more than an empty hotel quietly waiting for it's next season to come again. Again, it is here that the hotel becomes that extra character in the book. The nuances and small scenes that bring it to life are wonderfully written.

I think one of the better scenes of the book is the whole wasp nest scene. Jack is working on the roof, happens upon a nest, gets stung, bombs the nest and decides to give it to Danny to keep in his room.  Reading the book, you could almost hear the music that would be building to a crescendo at this point in the story. You knew shit was about to go bad! Of course, the wasps come back to life and sting Danny.  It is not even the craziness of what just happened that makes this scene so great! One of the underlying themes of the book deals with the trust issues between Jack and Wendy, and it is this scene that you start to see those fractures start to break open again between the two of them.  It begins Jack's character down a very angry path and is a pivotal point to the story.

By the time we get to the hedge animal scene (and admit it- for anyone who has read this book- when you come upon a hedge animal, tell me you don't think of this scene? It makes Disney World become a veritable nightmare! But again, I digress....) By the time we get to this scene, you realize there is absolutely no going back. The hotel has clearly become an entity at this point.  It is just a matter of how long it will take at this point for this to become an all out clusterfuck for this poor family!

The spiral of Jack's character at this point is fascinating. Does the hotel affect him so much because he came to the hotel with so many weaknesses already? A failing marriage, alcoholism, doubts? Or is it the fact that Danny is in the hotel that makes the hotel stronger and able to affect things so quickly?  The progression of events also become sharpened through Danny's "Shining" and helps to heighten the fear of the situations.

I guess it is at this point I should mention Stanley Kubrick's movie version of the book.  It is definitely not the best kept secret in Hollywood that Stephen King was not a fan of this adaption.  I will be the first to admit, I have seen the movie MANY more times than I have read the book.  It is very easy to reread this book and find yourself mistaking upcoming scenes for what would be happening in the movie.  Usually it wouldn't matter but there are GREAT difference between the book and the movie. Do I even need to state the obvious that the book is better than the movie?  No? I didn't think so.  I bring up the movie, because it seems to collectively  be the version most people seem to know or remember. But it is the book that is far superior (duh, I know), more specifically, the ending.  In the movie ending, the hotel turns Jack completely against his family and it ends in that creepy maze scene where Danny barely escapes.  The book ending has so many more complexities to it.  Yes, the hotel is controlling Jack. The hotel WANTS Danny. But just as Jack is about to attack, there is still a part of Danny's dad that is alive enough to stop himself long enough to allow Danny time to get away.  It is great because you get that last scene of love between a dad and his son even though things are still so horribly wrong.  I think it is a much more believable ending. It is also a much more horrific ending. Once the hotel realizes it won't be able to use Jack any more it makes Jack kill himself, and rather graphically I might add.  Much more dramatic than Jack just sitting down and freezing in a hedge maze.

Overall The Shining is just a great book of wonderfully interesting characters.  Except for Wendy.  I have never been a fan of Wendy. She has always seemed too weak to me.  It is not a book that will come right out and scare the crap out of you, but is much more suspenseful and creepy. The underlying plots of trust issues, past digressions, the hotel's history just add to the many layers of this book.  This reread (followed closely by a rewatching of the movie) just made me realize how I need to pick up this book more vs. cheating with the movie. The book is just so much better!

I had such a difficult time reviewing this book. There really is so much more that goes on in this book, that it is hard to get it all into a review.  The history of the hotel and the ghosts that make appearances are wonderfully creepy. SK writes the scenes with just enough subtlety to make them get under your skin and simmer there. It takes a sharp writer to be able to work that slow build onto a reader and still make it surprise you when the shit starts to hit the fan.  I guess that is why SK is the master!

Thursday, October 18, 2012


Originally published under the pseudonym Richard Bachman
December 1976

Rage is the only Stephen King story not currently in print.  After a series of "copycat" incidents, SK and the publisher agreed it would be best to no longer keep this story accessible. It was originally released under The Bachman Books. A collection of four novels penned by SK under his pseudonym Richard Bachman.  
The story centers around Charlie Decker. A loner, and frankly, miserable High School student. He is an outcast at school (due to a recent issue of violence against a teacher) and hates his home life. He has a volatile, at best, relationship with his father. And to cap off his banner life, he is about to be expelled from school. So, he decides to take the "system" into his own hands one day.  He shoots two teachers and takes the students of a classroom hostage. In the time that follows, while police are trying to gain control of Charlie and the situation, an interesting shift in the story takes place. The students being held hostage start to understand why Charlie is doing this. They start to sympathize with Charlie in an odd sort of Stockholm Syndrome scenario? The climax of the story is when the students being held hostage, gang up on one of the other students to demonstrate how he needs to learn the lesson Charlie is trying to portray with his act of terrorism. They attack the other student so severely he is left catatonic.

I wish I could remember my original thoughts on this story. I can't remember the first time I read it for the life of me.  Knowing me, I loved it.  Now, I am jaded by being a parent.  I hated it. I couldn't understand Charlie. He is quite unlikable as a character in general.  It is impossible to gain any sympathy for him as he seems to not have any care or remorse for what he is doing.  Maybe my opinion is altered because I worry on a daily basis that my kids may inadvertently piss of the wrong kid and pay for it later. Or, God forbid, they head down a path of angst and become this angry bitter person who feels they need to get back at the world.  Crazy? Knowing my kids now it would seem so, but that doesn't mean it may not happen and I don't worry about it.

The ending, of the class attacking a fellow student to teach a lesson, is horrifying. But maybe that is the point? That we all have a terrible evil side to us? Some of us can control it, while others cannot like Charlie.  Maybe the point of this story is the fact I am NOT supposed to like it. It is far from pretty, that is for sure. It is scarier than any "monster" SK can dream up because this CAN happen and has! I can understand why the publishers and SK decided to stop printing it. As an author, I wouldn't be able to sleep knowing my work may be the influence for something like this happening  But is that right? No author can claim responsibility for how someone interprets their work, and even self censorship is still censorship. I can think of three or four books off hand right now, that have been published since with a similar plot. Why does one resonate with those troubled souls while others do not?

I didn't like rereading this story. It hits too close to home now. I didn't like seeing how all the students sort of "followed pack" and ganged up on the lone hold-out. I also think SK may be a genius. I think I am taking from the story exactly what he wanted his readers to feel.  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Welcome to SALEM'S LOT

Salem's Lot
Originally published October 1975

Welcome to Jerusalem's Lot (Salem's Lot for short). A sleepy, quiet, run down town. Some may even say a dead town.  A town where the biggest excitement in memory is a fire that overtook the town years ago.  Well...isn't that about to change.

As we begin Salem's Lot we are introduced to Ben Mears, a writer and native of Salem's Lot.  We learn fairly quickly that Ben has some "interesting" memories of his childhood.  He's come back to Salem's Lot to face his childhood fears and write a novel he hopes will put him in the big time. In typical SK fashion, we are introduced to a plethora of characters right off the bat (so many in fact, you may find yourself thinking "Who is this person again?" as you read).  It becomes very apparent as the story progresses, that one of the main characters introduced is an actual house. The Marsten House. It sits high above town almost staring down on the residents.  It is this house that played a central role in Ben's childhood trauma. Ben returns to try to face what he saw at the house as a child (while sneaking into the house on a dare) only to find the house has been rented out. Who are the mysterious new residents who bought the house? We'll soon find out.

The interesting thing with Salem's Lot is that you spend the entire first half of the book sort of meandering along.  We don't quite know where the story is going, and only get small clues and snippets as to where SK will be taking us. That is where I start to fall in love with this book.  Think of all the folklore you've heard or learned about Vampires. SK uses all those superstitions to hint at the shitstorm he is about to deal us. But more on that in a minute.

Though they are brief, readers start to get glimpses of the "men" who purchased the Marsten House- Straker and Barlow. It becomes pretty clear early on that there is something odd about these new residents of Salem's Lot. We are given pictures of them "introducing" themselves to the residents of the town. Just what is wrong with Barlow? So charismatic and handsome but.....  In addition, we learn more about the Marsten House in that it seems to welcome evil and bad things. Coincidence? I think not. We also meet some other wonderful characters. One being the child Mark Petrie. We'll see through many different novels, SK puts much faith in his child characters. Mark Petrie being no exception!

Let's get back to our "superstitions" and see where they lead us. Many of these are mentioned in SOME form and left sitting for the reader to guess the implication
1. Avoidance of light.
2. Excessive daytime sleepiness and draining of energy.
3. Pale complexion
4. Bewitching of people's minds to make them under your control.
5. Having to "invite" someone into your house.
6. Wearing a cross around a neck
7. Garlic
There are many more mentioned in the book, but a clear picture is painted of the trouble that has come to Salem's Lot. Vampires! Once this revelation is fully spelled out, well, the train wreck has left the station! There is basically no stopping the chain of events  and the transformation of this little town into a town of the undead!

It is at this point in the book, that things take another shift and we enter into one of my favorite themes that SK will continue to write about in multiple books. SK can try to complicate the plot with the side stories of families and loved ones, but ultimately Salem's Lot boils down to an old fashioned Good vs. Evil novel.  It is at this point in the book we are introduced to Fr. Callahan, the local priest who is flawed in his own ways.  Through Fr. Callahan the reader is taken on a journey of faith. Can a man of the cloth have enough faith in his religion to battle an ultimate form of evil. Or will his faith waiver and allow evil to conquer? During one conflict between Barlow and Fr. Callahan, Barlow taunts the priest with
Then will you throw away your cross and face me on even terms- black against white?
It is an interesting turn of events on how Fr. Callahan's story progresses. He faces off against Barlow yet doesn't win! Rather than rebuild his courage and try again, he tucks his tail between his legs and hightails it out of town. So much for the faith of the church.  It will be shown, that the faith of a child, is a completely different story. Ben teams up with Mark Petrie to take on, well, the town! Again, I cannot stress how wonderful SK creates his characters who are children. They have hearts of adults and intelligence! A strong faith in "it has to work or else" is all it takes for these two to face the most horrible things imaginable.  It is a wonderfully climatic ending and showdown for our "heroes" who face Barlow.

Overall, just a fantastic story. The plot is amazing. Though the novel starts off with a slow build, the climax (which is really the entire second half of the book) keeps you on the edge of your seat and wanting more.  The scenes that are painted through SK's writing leave you feeling as if you are within the story.  It is hard to imagine that this is just his second novel.  There are great things to come!

Salem's Lot movie:
I know I mentioned I would comment on the movies when they applied. Salem's Lot was made into a movie but it has been so long since I have seen it I don't feel like I can make any honest remarks about it.
I do remember being scared by the scene when Ralphie Glick comes to try to visit Mark Petrie and get him to let him into his room.  Well done. Other than that- I got nothing. Clearly it is time for a rewatching.

Monday, October 1, 2012



Originally published April 1974

Carrie was Stephen King's first novel. Well, first published novel.  He wrote three manuscripts prior to Carrie that were rejected (oh the horror!- pun intended). For those who don't delve into all the little bits of information on SK, he originally threw Carrie away thinking it crap.  Stephen's wife, Tabitha, dug it out of the trash and told him to finish it. Thank you, Tabitha! Carrie then went on to become the book that put Stephen King on the map. 

Most people will describe Carrie as a coming of age story about a high school girl named Carrie White, who realizes she has Telekinesis power and eventually goes batshit crazy on her classmates and town. The end.  Sound good? Intriguing? Yes? Carrie is so much more! It is a horrific look into how fucking miserable high school can be! How hard it is to be the outcast of your high school class. How incredibly cruel and mean kids can be without realizing the repercussions. How, all it can take is, one person hellbent on tormenting another to make someones life just miserable.  

You see touches of SK's amazing character development in Carrie (this will be interesting to watch as we continue through all the books). You feel for Carrie from the beginning as SK opens the book with quite a scene. Cue a women's locker room in high school. Girls showering and getting dressed after gym class. The quiet girl with no friends in the shower discovering she has blood running down her leg, and having no idea what it means. All the classmates laughing at her distress while throwing tampons and maxi pads at her yelling for her to "Plug it up!"  Quite the set-up for a book.  You'll quickly see Carrie's misery extends beyond school, as you meet her unstable and fanatically religious mother, Margaret White. Poor girl can't catch a break!

The book is told from a very interesting perspective.  It bounces from present tense to future news and media clippings.  These news clippings will talk of the horror that will be the climax of the book.  This becomes an interesting writing tool for SK in future books. He likes to tell you of what is to come, most times revealing a death or even the most pivotal points of his books.  As in Carrie, with the news clippings, you already know Carrie is going to be a mass murderer, but yet, you are compelled to feel sorry for her! Oh, SK you are a genius.

As a first novel, let's face it, this a great piece of work. Had I been reading this for the first time, I would be giving it ultra high marks.  Now, is where I see how hard this reviewing and offering opinions is going to be for me. Carrie is solid writing, strong characters, an incredibly unique plot and story. BUT (and see that's a big but) I know what is to come! So I can't give it 5 stars because there is no way Carrie trumps The Stand or IT or 11/22/63! Maybe for the sake of this blog, I won't give star reviews but will do an attachment listing the books in my order from best on down.  Thoughts? I'll just update the list as I go? Bear with folks, this is a work in progress.  

As we go through this journey together, I plan to touch on any movie adaptions of SK's books that have been made.  Let's face it- some STINK! Carrie is not one of them.  The movie is a great adaption of the book.  It is hard to even read Carrie now, without thinking of Sissy Spacek as Carrie (even though she resembles nothing of SK's original description).  Piper Laurie may have actually been in SK's head as he penned Margaret White. Wow, what a performance!  I know I'll knock a few people off their seats when I pronounce "the book was way better than the movie". It still shocks me the amount of people out there who will watch a movie and then think "they know the book". Idiots. I prefer the ending of the book to the changes that were made for the movie.  Better to fuck up a whole town than just a high school (well, in my opinion). 

All in all, Carrie is a great place to start for any SK "newcomer".  The movie is a great introduction into the cinematic world of SK movies (brace yourself for this journey folks. It will be a bumpy ride at best!). Next up, will be Salem's Lot!  I should be starting soon for anyone who wishes to read along!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Let's go on a journey....

I guess I should explain why I am doing this.  I was asked (by my friends on the internet of all places) to rank the SK library of books from my favorites on down.  I tossed this idea around for a while. This could be fun! Why not try this then?  In order to do it true justice, I need to start at the beginning. It has been YEARS since I have read many of these.  So, in honor of my starting this reread of the entire SK library...

(an ode to SK...)

Care to take a journey with me? It may take a while. But that's ok, isn't it?  We'll venture to some far off places, some close to home, some places that you'll love, and others that may leave you feeling frightened.  We can hold each others hand as we peek in every dark corner to see what may be lurking there. You may want to stop at times, but I'll be sure to pull you along. Why, you ask? Because I can promise you, you'll meet many characters that you'll absolutely fall in love with, some that you'll hope to see die, but it will be an experience like you've never had before and you'll not soon forget!  Now, I can't forget the monsters....those that go bump in the night! Who come to scare us when we least expect it.  Picture in your head what might scare you most. Do you have it? I can almost guarantee we'll meet it along the way, but together we'll fight it till the end. So take my hand now, hold on tight, it's going to be a wild ride!