What I've Been Reading: Cell by Stephen King

I finally got in a little reading last weekend! Reading is one of the things that falls off my list when I struggle to find time for everything, but I took a Saturday for myself and read Stephen King's Cell from cover to cover. What did I think? Well, as a romance author, I have to say my reactions were mixed. hardcover_prop_embedArtist Clayton Riddell had been in Boston negotiating a successful deal to sell his comic book project.  His joy at finally hitting it big is shattered by an event called The Pulse which causes all those who were using their cell phones at the time of The Pulse to become zombies attacking and killing anyone in their way.  Fortunately for Clay, he does not own a cell phone.  In the panic to get out of Boston and find his way home to his wife and son in Maine, he is joined by Tom McCourt, a man he meets in the meleé immediately following The Pulse and a young girl, Alice, who they rescue from being killed by one of the “crazies.”  The story follows their terrifying journey, avoiding capture—and worse—by the “crazies” who are beginning to “flock” and are led by one they call Raggedy Man as they attempt to reach Maine and a place called Kashwak which they hope will be their salvation.

This is the first Stephen King novel I've read. It's been something on my to-do list for a long while, but other than reading On Writing, I haven't delved into his writing. I've seen almost every movie version, though. :) And since I began reading the books of Jonathan Maberry (and enjoying them immensely) -- and since it was a book on hand (my daughter had a copy) -- I decided this was a good start.

The story itself, I really did love. It was exceptionally well plotted, the characterization was spot on, and the ability to make even the smallest, most repetitious actions interesting was phenomenal. King has long been lauded as a master author, but I did not realize quite how seamlessly that skill played out on the page. I didn't necessarily care about the characters immediately, but I wanted to understand what was happening to them. They were interesting, and as time went on, I found myself rooting for them, living through their eyes, feeling what they felt despite the sparsity of language.

And that was where I wavered.

I've heard it said that King abhors adjectives and adverbs. I did find them used only rarely. King's style is bare, almost more of a report than a retelling, though what he is reporting are thoughts and feelings. Descriptions aren't flowery or overstated, but the details King chooses to focus on bring the entire scene to life. They're just right. It's very interesting -- and very different than what I was used to. The romance genre doesn't work that way, and I think a romance novel written in this style would never have worked. And yet, with the subject and the genre of Cell, King's style enhanced the other elements of the story instead of taking away from them. He let us focus in on what was important, not everything around us in the story.

Oh, one caveat: Cell ends on a cliffhanger (and since there's no book two, you never find out what ultimately happens with Riddell and his son, though the state of the world itself is pretty clear at the end). I had a heads-up that this was the case before I read the story, so I was prepared for it. Others who weren't warned told me they wanted to throw the book across the room. :) Be warned ahead of time!

So, did I enjoy it? I did. Not in the way I'd expected, but I did. I will definitely try another, maybe The Stand, since they are remaking the movie version. Next, though, will probably be Lisey's Story (since I already own a copy, and since it's about a writer). But for next month, I'll be returning to romance, I think. I have to switch it up, doncha know!

~ Ella

Zombies, Plagues, and Head Shots...Oh My!

ella sheridan, romance, jonathan maberry, joe ledger, dead of night, countdown, zombiesHello, my name is Ella and I'm a romance junkie. But that's not a romance picture over there on the left, is it? That's because recently I've been so focused on my own writing that reading romance has stressed me out more than it has helped me relax. One day, totally fed up with reading my old "keeper" romances for the billionth time, I pulled out my Kindle and did something I really don't like doing: I went shopping. And brought home zombies.

Really, I'm not kidding. I am a huge fan of World War Z (the book AND the movie), and so I started looking at zombie books. And ran across Jonathan Maberry's Dead of Night. I was hooked immediately. Being a romance writer, I wasn't sure I would like the commitment-phobic heroine, but hey, there were zombies, so I read it anyway -- and actually came to like her. :)

At the end of Dead of Night, there was a short introduction to Maberry's Joe Ledger series. The series begins with "Countdown," a short-story introduction. I immediately loved Joe Ledger's "voice." He is a hero both strong and fallible, horrified at what he has to do but doing it without flinching. He is human and, at times it seems, a superhero. I could identify with his pursuit of martial arts to gain control of his life after a tragedy nearly destroyed him as a teen. I could follow his thinking and relate to the fact that he didn't always "get" the science (which thankfully is explained in fairly simple terms!). He is gritty and raw and broken and heartbreakingly deadly (and makes more head shots than I think is probably realistic, lol). This was no romance, but I loved it!

ella sheridan, romance, zombies, jonathan maberry, dead of night, joe ledger, assassin's codeThe series begins with zombies, but it doesn't stop there. Plagues, secret societies, conspiracies out the wazoo. It's a smorgasbord of evil with Joe in the middle. And Joe deals with it all the best way he can, which is not to say he brushes all the death and dismemberment off. The man has a therapist on speed dial, for goodness sake! And for good reason. :)

Sometimes, we need a change. We need to step out of our comfort zone and broaden our horizons and feed our creativity with something different. I'm glad I did. And I'm glad there are six books in this series, because I'm hooked. For Christmas vacation I went through the first three, so thankfully there are still some Joe Ledger adventures to fill my downtime in the coming weeks.

What do you read outside of the romance genre? Anything else "float your boat"? I know a lot of writers who read YA novels for fun. Or maybe, like me, you enjoy dark and gritty. Which is it? For now, I'm off to spend my last night on vacation with Joe... ;)

~ Ella