Of Musings and Wonderings

imagesCAWJ4247 Like most of the Stephen King books I’ve been reading recently, I haven’t seen the film for this one. I had absolutely no idea what the storyline would be. I knew it involved pets, and I had some sort of idea that it would involve pet resurrection, but, as anyone who has read this would know, there is a hell of a lot more to this book. The Creed family move to a new home, and everything seems perfect. Physician father, starting work at a local college campus, beautiful wife and adorable children, along with the family’s pet cat. Their neighbour takes them for a walk on the land behind their house, taking them to the local Pet Sematary, where children have buried their pets for years. The family think no more on it, and Louis Creed begins work. However, on his first day, a young college student dies, a bad omen for what is about to come.

Louis Creed’s job involves helping people, saving people. And right from the start, he is presented with events that make it impossible for him to do anything, impossible for him to do his job and fulfil his role. As this builds up, it becomes easy to see why Louis makes the choices he makes, why he goes to such extremes to try to keep his family happy and together.

Although King is known as the master of horror, one of the things that keeps me coming back to his work, time and time again, are the emotions he pumps into his characters. He has a knack of really drawing you inside the head of whoever he is writing about, of laying out their thoughts and feelings and ramping up, not just the tension, but the emotions throughout the novel. Pet Sematary is a brilliant example of that.

After reading the introduction, by King himself, I did have a suspicion of what was going to happen to the little boy in the novel. But even that didn’t detract from the suspense built up before that scene. And the way King handles it, the way he draws you right into the emotions of the family and especially of Louis Creed, and the impact that one, single chapter has, where he manages to convince the reader that everything is actually okay…

I mostly read in work and on my way to and from work. And I had to put the book down, just for a few moments, just to stop myself from breaking down and blubbering in public.

Pet Sematary is a brilliantly written novel, dealing with death and grief and the extremes humans will go to when pushed. It’s a book that lingers in your mind afterwards, and really makes you wonder if you would do the same as Louis, if confronted with an untimely death of a pet or loved one, even knowing the risks involved.

It’s basically King doing what he does best; showing humans, going through human lives, but revealing the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves, those parts we don’t want to face, the parts we try to keep hidden. If it’s not a book you’ve read yet, I’d strongly recommend it.


drop dead gorgeousI made a huge mistake. That mistake was reading Doll Parts, the sequel to Drop Dead Gorgeous, before reading this one. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy Doll Parts, but the whole way through it really did feel like I was missing something. Luckily, I read Drop Dead Gorgeous and all those missing pieces finally fell into place.

Drop Dead Gorgeous tells the stories of various people, after the whole world around them seems to have died. The characters range from school-kids to messed up twenty-something’s to a washed up, older DJ. It also tracks a former IRA member as she joins a soldier, leading a group of people to safety.

Each group of survivors have their own issues and kinks to work out. Some have pretty dark pasts, and it seems that this event could help them rebuild a new life. Others have to learn how to cope with each other, especially Mairead and Roy, who find a young girl in a school building and who then act as her parents. A truce is made between them, but it’s a truce that cannot last, as Roy tries to ensure the safety of the community and Mairead witnesses the true extent he will go to for this.

This is not a zombie apocalypse novel. Instead of showing us these characters facing off against a horde of the undead, we see a much more bleak view. We see what they’re like when there are no enemies, no one to fight, just a daily struggle to live and find a reason to keep going. And we see the way humans turn against each other, even without any sort of outside threat to force them to do so.

There are zombies, of a sort. But they don’t creep in until the end, and they’re presented in a much more unique way than the shambling corpses we’ve come to know. Instead, these creatures seem to possess some sort of reasoning, clinging onto memories and acting accordingly. It’s a much more interesting look, and a haunting one, as they stalk their prey and go for those who have done them harm, rather than simply attacking any living, breathing thing in sight.

Drop Dead Gorgeous shows humanity at its worst, and yet still offers small glimmers of hope as characters fall in love and in some cases, really do look out for each other. Even the characters that make the worst decisions do it in what they believe to be the best interests of the others around them, even when totally misguided in that. It’s a brilliant book, a must for any fans of horror.

{September 21, 2013}   Sleepy Hollow – 1×1: Pilot [TV]

SLEEPY-HOLLOW-TV-Series-600x425 Sleepy Hollow starts with protagonist Ichabod Crane trying to kill a mysterious red-coat soldier wearing a mask and with a bow tattoo on his hand. The soldier cuts him down, even after getting shot, and as he falls Crane manages to cut off his head. Both men die, and 250 years later Crane wakes up in a cave, and stumbles out into a brand new world.

Meanwhile, Abbie and her partner (the sheriff of Sleepy Hollow) investigate something mysterious at a nearby farm. There, the sheriff is killed, his head cut off, and Abbie witnesses a strange man, wearing a Civil War era red-coat, ride off into the night.

Abbie and Crane meet, and Abbie realises he could be the only link they have to the horseman. They begin to unravel the mystery together, with Abbie having to throw out her ideas of how the world should be after she sees that the horseman does not, in face, have a head.HORSEBUTTThe pilot of Sleepy Hollow doesn’t hold a lot back. The cards are laid out nicely for the audience, rather than being kept close to the chest. We learn that the horseman is death, that Crane was connected to him and his wife – a witch – performed a spell to link the two together. Crane is the first witness, and it’s possible that Abbie is the second, destined to work together for seven years to stop the apocalypse. They – and we – learn that they need to keep the horseman from becoming whole, from finding his head.

So we know the direction the series will take. We know how high the stakes are and know what our protagonists have to face. Question is, will the series pull all this off?

As a fan of Supernatural, I feel like I’ve already witnessed two people stop the apocalypse and deal with the horsemen. And the series has already given itself a set deadline; seven years could mean seven seasons, if they survive that long. But it’s risky, because it means anything up until the seventh season could leave things open, could give no satisfying ending, and if the show did get cancelled, that would make things difficult. Or, if it’s successful, what happens after seven years? Do they keep going? Do they extend it out so Abbie and Crane end up fighting something else?

new-tv-shows-2013-sleepy-hollowThere’s a lot in the first episode to take in, but it doesn’t feel like it’s all been squeezed in unnecessarily. It would have been annoying if this stuff was held back from us to keep us watching. Instead, explaining the overall situation means that right from the start we’re invested.

The characters work well together, and it’s entertaining to see Crane trying to get to grips with the new world, where black women can wear trousers and work in law enforcement, and where there’s a Starbucks on every street. It’s done quite well, and it’s not too over the top or used too much.

Sleepy Hollow’s pilot episode did exactly what a pilot episode should do, and fingers crossed the season keeps up the standards set by this episode.

Always on the lookout for new things to watch and read. If there’s a film, book or TV show you think I should check out, let me know in the comments or drop me an e-mail at gracebunting@hotmail.co.uk.

ImageA couple of weeks ago, my mum returned from the weekly Tesco shop and came into the middle room, where I’m usually glued to my laptop. She dropped a book on the desk. “I picked this up in Tesco.” The price tag on it was something like £1.97. I glanced at the blurb, and saw why she’d brought it. See, ever since my parents started watching The Walking Dead, Mum has latched onto anything zombie or apocalypse related. And I figured, why not? I started reading.

And couldn’t put the book down.

White Horse tells the story of Zoe, a woman making her way through Europe once the world has ended. From the beginning, Adams plants questions in your mind of where the story is going; we know Zoe worked at a laboratory, and we find out she worked at Pope Pharmaceuticals as a cleaner. Although the text doesn’t make it clear, anyone who knows anything about apocalypse stories is probably already wondering what Pope Pharmaceuticals’ actual role is in the disease named ‘White Horse’. Because, come on, there has to be a link there somewhere, right?

Then, of course, there’s the question of the jar, mysteriously appearing in Zoe’s flat one day. The jar itself prompts Zoe to go see Dr Nick Rose, and even in his first appearance it’s clear that there’s something between him and Zoe.

Throughout, Adams shows us glimpses of Zoe’s past and present, separated with the simple words Then and Now. Although the ‘then’ sections sometimes jump a bit further ahead than last ones, the progression of the story is always easy to follow, and Adams skilfully spreads the seeds of questions with every bit of text.

We follow Zoe as she treks through Italy, meeting and picking up other survivors on the way. The characterisation of these people is done brilliantly. All of them are seen through Zoe’s eyes, and they remain solid and realistic; some are naïve, others more world-weary, but all of them are aiming for the same thing; survival.

One of the things that really endured me to Zoe was her relentless grip on her humanity. She doesn’t let herself become jaded by what has happened to the world, and there’s always the touch of optimism to her, which remains despite everything but never comes across as naïve. And the emotions are really carried through the book; you feel the hope of these characters, their despair, and desperately want them to reach their goals.

I really wasn’t expecting much from the book, but I was pleasantly surprised. So much so that when I glimpsed ‘Red Horse’ near the end of the book, along with a sample prologue, I couldn’t help but feel extremely pleased that the book had a sequel.

The story itself, the settings, characters and even the effects of the disease are all original, even if it seems at first to be just another apocalypse story. It’s a book that will keep you gripped from start to finish, and a brilliant book if you’re looking for a slightly different end of the world.

White Horse – Alex Adams (Amazon)

{September 26, 2012}   Time to Weep: Great Sad Songs

My taste in music has been largely informed and influenced by my family. Anyone who has seen my work on Fictionpress (or even at University) can see how important music is to me. The truth is, it’s important to my whole family. In this house, in the morning, there’s sometimes three radios on; Nation Radio playing in the bathroom and my bedroom, and Radio 2 in my parent’s bedroom as me and my mum get ready for work. As a kid, I remember the house always being full with music of various kinds. Trips to my great-grandparents (most likely about half hour, but back then it felt like it took half the day) meant Queen playing in the car, despite Dad’s objections. When we discovered Napster, Mum, my two brothers and myself downloaded everything and anything we could get our hands on. From that point, car trips meant playing the CD we had burnt for my dad, involving some of his favourite hits. Most of these were pretty sad – heartbreak and death being the main theme running through them. Thinking about the songs that were usually played when I was growing up, it’s no surprise really that I’m drawn, even now, to songs with real stories behind them. Maybe it’s partly the writer in me, too. Either way, I decided to compile a list of five songs with great stories to them, mostly from the sixties and seventies, and the ones that make up just part of my dad’s music collection. Enjoy!

1. Keith West – Excerpt from  a  Teenage Opera (Grocer Jack)

If you haven’t yet heard this song, or never really listened to the words, please listen now. I’ll wait. Done? Okay, good. This is one of those songs that I heard countless times as a child, but it wasn’t until I was a bit older – and hadn’t heard it for years – that the words really struck me. As a kid, I thought Jack had simply left town. In reality, his heart was weak and after years of working for the townspeople with no affection or thanks from them, he dies. It’s a sad, sad story, and one of the most powerful things about the song is the use of the kids. They don’t understand what’s happened to him, as much as I didn’t understand it years ago. It draws out a great emotional response, especially at the end.

Best line: Is it true what Mummy says, you won’t come back?

2. Bobby Goldsboro – Honey

One of the reasons I think this song works so well is because some of it does sound light-hearted, especially the parts in the song that talk of stories revolving around Honey, including her worrying about his reaction to the car, or being embarrassed that he will find her watching sad shows in the afternoon. Throughout it all, there’s such a sense of love between the two. Their story is told in just under four minutes and, yes, it is a much better love story than Twilight. Their relationship is revealed to the listener through little tales, and there’s a nice sense of subtly when he tells of coming home early one evening. It works because he has made you feel for Honey as much as he does, in the same way you would feel for any character in any book, and it makes it that much sadder.

Best line: I came home unexpectedly, and caught her crying needlessly, in the middle of the day.

3. Ricky Valance – Tell Laura I Love Her

Well, I had no idea he was Welsh. One up for us, I guess. Moving on…as the video explains, Ricky Valance bucked the tread for ‘death songs’, and did pretty damn well with this one. It’s a beautiful, haunting story of a man so in love with his girlfriend he risks his life in order to give her an expensive engagement ring. He doesn’t really even get to speak to his beloved one last time. The image of him riding to his death in a car race is simple but oddly powerful, and his echoes in the chapel as Laura prays…there’s also a bittersweet feel to it. I doubt Laura would have wanted something expensive. Of course, in songs like these there’s little we really get to know about the characters, meaning we fill in the blanks. Which means I can say Laura wouldn’t have minded a piece of rope for a ring, and someone else could say Laura was a selfish cow who wanted an expensive ring and therefore killed him, but we’d both be right. Yet I doubt it’s the second one. There’s too much love there, from Tommy, and as it says at the start, ‘he wanted to give her everything’. It’s sad because in love, you do want the person to have everything.

Best line: No one knows what happened that day, how his car overturned in flames…

4. John Leyton – Johnny Remember Me

This song is pretty haunting. The imagery is enough to make any writer jealous, in a over-the-top sort of way. Mainly because songs can actually do that sort of thing effectively, whereas in writing it would just fall flat. Anyway, the descriptions work to create a scene in a short space, important for any song. And the addition of the female in the background…again, haunting. You can imagine a lone man wandering through some woods, trapped in his own memories and trapped by his past. That’s what’s so sad about it; not just the death of his loved one, but the fact that she’s always there with him, reminding him. There’s almost a touch of hope in one line, where he sings about finding a new love, but you know any relationship he has in the future is going to be overshadowed by her death. It is, in essence, the story of a man who cannot move on.

Best line: Yes I’ll always remember, till the day I die, I’ll hear her cry, Johnny, remember me…

5. Meatloaf – Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad

The only song on this list that isn’t about death. Instead, it’s about something that at times can be just as devastating. Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad has the ability to make me tear up every time I hear it. Anyone who has ever loved and lost can relate to the words. It’s the breakdown of a relationship, of a man who just can’t love the girl he’s with. And you can feel the pain, for both of them. Again, it’s easy to picture; him, reaching for her, her – curled up, perhaps – refusing to look at him or acknowledge him. The thing is, who’s to say what he feels isn’t love? And who’s to say you could stay with someone, if they’ve already told you love – as far as they know – isn’t something they can feel? It’s hard, and painful, because there’s so much emotion there. Let’s face it, Meatloaf’s love songs are powerful. He does have a great voice, and he manages to convey so much here. The saddest thing about this isn’t what’s happening during the song; it’s the before and after. It’s the creation of this vicious cycle, the idea that he’s still in love with a woman who’s still in love with somebody she used to know, so what happens to the girl he’s singing to here? Two out of three may not be bad, but it depends on what the missing factor is – it can easily outweigh the other two he – or she – can offer.

And, after being in any break-up, the song hits home even harder. That’s what makes it so God damn powerful. You can relate to it; you can see where he’s coming from and you can feel her pain.

Best Line: She kept on telling me, I want you, I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you. Now don’t be sad, ‘cos two out of three ain’t bad.

 Notable Mentions: Meatloaf – Not A Dry Eye In The House, The Shangri-Las – Leader of the Pack, Dr Hook – Sylvia’s Mother, Driver 67 – Car 67,  Johnny Preston – Running Bear

So, what about you? Any great stories, hidden in songs (sad or happy) that you want to share?

et cetera