Random Review: Full Dark, No Stars

Yesterday was my birthday and I spent most of today trying to dodge the impending threat of a migraine, but I think I’m finally up to reviewing the book I finished on Monday:

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King

This collection of four long- and short-stories are not among King’s best. I only gave the book three stars on Goodreads. However. As my French VI professor once did with one of my lit tests (with abominable grammar), I graded up pour les idées. For the ideas.

All four stories in FD,NS deal with the shadows inside ordinary folks. People who might otherwise consider themselves “good” people, doing terrible things under extraordinary circumstances. A mid-western farmer, an astonishingly average mystery-writer, a middle-manager at a bank, and one very complacent housewife each take the reader on a journey to the heart of their own personal darkness. King is stretching here: two of the stories are written from a female point-of-view, something which has not always proven to be in his wheelhouse. The first story, 1922, is written in a first-person confessional style. Only one of these characters is a writer, and that one is female. It may be worth a read for long-time King fans, just to see the well-established writer continue to grow and take stylistic risks rather than going for the tried and true.

On a very basic level, each story could be tied to certain vices: 1922 with themes of pride, Big Driver’s wrathful writer, Fair Extension a parade of envy-borne cruelty and greed, and the complacent sloth of Darcy Anderson in A Good Marriage. These stories will keep you thinking beyond that first level. The moral quandaries presented in the female-driven stories are of the grayest hue Each of the male protagonists makes a strong case for why “they done what they did”, but it adds up to a lot of rationalizing what mostly amounts to greed and wounded pride.

None of the stories works perfectly. Housewife Darcy Anderson and mystery-writer Tess are drawn pretty broadly, and at times their inner dialogue is more like the idea of a woman than a fully-realized female. Pacing is an issue with 1922, which hums along in fine voice for long passages only to trip over dialogue straining for authenticity and overlong reflections on the narrator’s guilty conscience. The last few lines were cringeworthy, simply because I had to suspend too much disbelief (someone writing a confession would take the time to write that?). Fair Extension ends up laying on the moral a little too heavily, despite being the shortest story of the four, but it wound up being the story I thought about most when I finished reading. A few of the stories and characters will feel familiar to those well-versed in King’s work: Fair Extension‘s devil is reminiscent of Needful Things‘ Leland Gaunt, the story itself shows shades of Thinner. A Good Marriage follows a course similar to that of Dolores Claiborne, though Dolores proved a far more more memorable heroine than Darcy Anderson.

This collection is worth reading for serious King-fans, or those who are particularly interested in the craft of writing. The author tries some interesting things that work out often as not. For a casual horror-reader or someone just getting started with King’s work, it might be better to pick up another of his short-story collections.

Chair Rating:

For specific tastes, not the safest choice.




This morning I issued a challenge to my crit partner, T.L. Albright, and she has accepted. The challenge was issued thusly:

I propose a challenge. By midnight tomorrow night each of us has to e-mail the other a picture, to be used as a prompt. Then we each have to write a story based on the prompt by the end of May. What do you think?

This is the image I received from her moments ago:

A John Bauer Painting













And this is the one I sent in return:

A Bryan Froud print.












Let the challenge begin!

If any of you readers would like to take the challenge yourselves, and create a story based on either of these prompts, I would be pleased to share it here on Ink as a guest post

Because I’m a sucker for a time-wasting meme…

…and because I started a short story earlier and the main character is still suspended upside-down in midair over a roller coaster, trailing a vomit comet…and I’m not sure what happens next.

30 Day Book Meme: Day 1

Day 01 – The best book you read last year
Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
Day 03 – Your favorite series
Day 04 – Favorite book of your favorite series
Day 05 – A book that makes you happy
Day 06 – A book that makes you sad
Day 07 – Most underrated book
Day 08 – Most overrated book
Day 09 – A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
Day 10 – Favorite classic book
Day 11 – A book you hated
Day 12 – A book you used to love but don’t anymore
Day 13 – Your favorite writer
Day 14 – Favorite book of your favorite writer
Day 15 – Favorite male character
Day 16 – Favorite female character
Day 17 – Favorite quote from your favorite book
Day 18 – A book that disappointed you
Day 19 – Favorite book turned into a movie
Day 20 – Favorite romance book
Day 21 – Favorite book from your childhood
Day 22 – Favorite book you own
Day 23 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
Day 24 – A book that you wish more people would’ve read
Day 25 – A character who you can relate to the most
Day 26 – A book that changed your opinion about something
Day 27 – The most surprising plot twist or ending
Day 28 – Favorite title
Day 29 – A book everyone hated but you liked
Day 30 – Your favorite book of all time

Day 01 – The Best Book You Read Last Year –

That is a toughie. I read a lot of good books last year. I’m gonna go with The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater (it seems to be a very Maggie day here at “Brushes and Pens”). Here is my Amazon review, which was slightly more informative than what I posted here:

The Scorpio Races is far and away Maggie Stiefvater’s best book to date. Pitch perfect from beginning to end, it lacks for nothing. Like any Stiefvater novel it is savage, beautiful, subtle, and unpredictable. Not only are main characters Puck and Sean deftly characterized and fully realized, so are a dozen or more secondary and tertiary characters. This is a book for anyone whohas ever had a family, been in love with anything or anyone (romantic or otherwise), taken a great risk, or hoped to do any of the above. This novel will scare you, make you angry, make you ache…the reading experience becomes more intense with each turn of the page, but you will dread the end. I cannot wait to see what the author writes next.

Note: I am not saying this is a perfect book, but I loved it a lot. It was just the kind of book I like to read (and Maggie drew a horsie in my copy). Also, I may be alone on this, but I hate the cover. It makes me think of John Grisham novels.