If It Bleeds by Stephen King

source: purchased
title: If It Bleeds
author: Stephen King
genre: short story/mystery/suspense
pages: 436
published: April 2020
rated: 4 out of 5 stars

If it Bleeds is a collection of four new novellas —Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life of Chuck, Rat, and the title story If It Bleeds— each pulling readers into intriguing and frightening places.

A collection of four uniquely wonderful long stories, including a stand-alone sequel to The Outsider.

News people have a saying: ‘If it bleeds, it leads’. And a bomb at Albert Macready Middle School is guaranteed to lead any bulletin.

Holly Gibney of the Finders Keepers detective agency is working on the case of a missing dog – and on her own need to be more assertive – when she sees the footage on TV. But when she tunes in again, to the late-night report, she realizes there is something not quite right about the correspondent who was first on the scene. So begins ‘If It Bleeds’ , a stand-alone sequel to The Outsider featuring the incomparable Holly on her first solo case.

Dancing alongside are three more long stories – ‘Mr Harrigan’s Phone’, ‘The Life of Chuck’ and ‘Rat’.
The novella is a form King has returned to over and over again in the course of his amazing career, and many have been made into iconic films, If It Bleeds is a uniquely satisfying collection of longer short fiction by an incomparably gifted writer.

My thoughts:

If It Bleeds is a collection of four short stories that I read last year but have just gotten around to reviewing now. The theme of living in a digital era is common in all four stories.

In the first story Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, 12-year-old Craig is hired by wealthy Mr. Harrigan to read to him daily. The two form a friendship and when Mr. Harrigan passes away Craig is one of the few people who was close to him. A cell phone ties the two together even after death. I enjoyed this one and found it creepy, imagine if we could connect to people who’ve passed on via cellphone? This story has been made into a movie on NetFlix and I watched it after reading this book. The film version was pretty good and stood true to the story.

The first half of The Life of Chuck takes place in a not-too-distant future pending apocalypse due to what humans have done to the planet. Bees don’t exist anymore except a few hives in South America so no more honey, the Southern half of Florida is uninhabitable, all major food producing regions in the country are gone and power outages happen more often and for longer periods. The story then switches over to Chuck’s life. I found myself confused with the way this was written and on reading King’s afterword, I realized this story was written backwards. Interesting.

At nearly 200 pages, If It Bleeds was the third and longest story in this collection and actually takes place after book The Outsider so you should read that book before diving into this one. I read and enjoyed The Outsider at the start of the pandemic and I also watched the mini-series, which was great, so it was nice seeing the main character Holly again in this story. She’s on a case to find a school bomber and thinks something paranormal may be going on as she realizes who the bomber may be. While I enjoyed this novella, it nearly put me into a reading slump. I’m not sure why, because it was a really good story but it took me a while to get through this one for some strange reason. I may have just not been in the mood for it. It was nice to see Holly again though.

My favorite short story in this collection is the last one titled The Rat. Drew Larson is a creative writing teacher who suddenly gets inspiration again for a full-length novel after a failed attempt a few years prior. Against his wife’s wishes Drew insists on spending 3 weeks alone at his late father’s abandoned cabin in the woods to write the book. The cabin is located several hours drive from home. There’s no cell service out there just a landline so Drew will be pretty isolated. I loved this story, with the isolated cabin in the woods setting and the unreliable narrator, and the last line made me sarcastically laugh out loud. This short story made this whole collection worth it.

So overall, If It Bleeds was a nice collection. I enjoyed the nods to King’s other works throughout like Everything’s Eventual and Storm of the Century. This was a good dose of weird, creepy stories although I do prefer his full-length horror novels. I want to sleep with the lights on after reading his books. These stories were more suspenseful than anything else but still a solid collection. Also, check out Serena’s great review of If It Bleeds by clicking here. She listened to the audio version.

“Love is a gift; love is also a chain with a manacle at each end.” – p.274, If It Bleeds by Stephen King

About the author:
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His first crime thriller featuring Bill Hodges, MR MERCEDES, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award. Both MR MERCEDES and END OF WATCH received the Goodreads Choice Award for the Best Mystery and Thriller of 2014 and 2016 respectively.

King co-wrote the bestselling novel Sleeping Beauties with his son Owen King, and many of King’s books have been turned into celebrated films and television series including The Shawshank Redemption, Gerald’s Game and It.

King was the recipient of America’s prestigious 2014 National Medal of Arts and the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for distinguished contribution to American Letters. In 2007 he also won the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. He lives with his wife Tabitha King in Maine.- quoted from Amazon.com


Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. I purchased my copy of If It Bleeds by Stephen King.

Strange Weather by Joe Hill

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source: Free ARC via LibraryThing
title: Strange Weather: Four Short Novels
author:  Joe Hill/ Twitter
genre: short stories/science fiction/horror
pages: 438
first line: Shelly Beukes stood at the bottom of the driveway, squinting up at our pink-sandstone ranch as if she had never seen it before.
rated: 4 out of 5 stars

A collection of four chilling novels, ingeniously wrought gems of terror from the brilliantly imaginative, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Fireman, Joe Hill.

my thoughts:

I read most of Strange Weather: Four Short Novels by Joe Hill as part of the October 2017 24 Hour Read-a-Thon. This is a nice set of four novellas, scary, sad, strange and entertaining. All four got under my skin a little.

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Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman


source: free review copy via Harper Collins
title: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances
author: Neil Gaiman
genre: short story/fantasy
pages: 368
published: October 27, 2015
rated: 4 out of 5 stars

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction—stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013—as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion…

my thoughts:
The folks over at Harper Collins kindly sent me an ARC of Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances back in January of 2015 and look how long it has taken me to read it.

I liked the introduction by the author and after reading each story, I’d go back and read his comments on each which was a nice touch. I savored each of these stories with a few poems thrown in. What I like about short stories is that there is not too much commitment. You can read one or two a day and feel a little sense of accomplishment at the end of each one.

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Things We Lost in the Fire Stories by Mariana Enríquez

thingssource: ARC via AmazonVine
title: Things We Lost in the Fire
auhtor: Mariana Enriquez
published: Hogarth (February 21, 2017)
pages: 200
genre: short stories/fiction/mystery/suspense
rated: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Macabre, disturbing and exhilarating, Things We Lost in the Fire is a collection of twelve short stories that use fear and horror to explore multiple dimensions of life in contemporary Argentina. From women who set themselves on fire in protest of domestic violence to angst-ridden teenage girls, friends until death do they part, to street kids and social workers, young women bored of their husbands or boyfriends, to a nine-year-old serial killer of babies and a girl who pulls out her nails and eyelids in the classroom, to hikikomori, abandoned houses, black magic, northern Argentinean superstition, disappearances, crushes, heartbreak, regret and compassion. This is a strange, surreal and unforgettable collection by an astonishing new talent asking vital questions of the world as we know it.

my thoughts:
Things We Lost in the Fire is a quiet, intense and at times disturbing collection of 12 short stories. I dipped in and out of this one intermittently. I’ll cover a few of the stories here in my post.

The Dirty Kid was about a woman who lives in an old house handed down to her by her family. The neighborhood in Buenos Aires which used to be nice, is now seedy and riddled with crime. A five-year old child and his drug addicted mother are homeless and sleep on dirty mattresses in the neighborhood. The narrator here cannot help but become involved and tries to help the five-year old.

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The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

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source: purchased
title: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams
author: Stephen King
published: November, 2015
pages: 495
rated:4 out of 5

A master storyteller at his best—the O. Henry Prize winner Stephen King delivers a generous collection of stories, several of them brand-new, featuring revelatory autobiographical comments on when, why, and how he came to write (or rewrite) each story.

Since his first collection, Nightshift, published thirty-five years ago, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.

There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past….

my thoughts:

You might know that Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. I first began reading his short stories in my early twenties and was hooked since. I brought The Bazaar of Bad Dreams on vacation last month and I found it the perfect book to dip in and out of while relaxing in the sun. This is a collection of 20 short stories, some brand new, others previously published. King also includes his personal comments on each story which gives it all a nice touch.

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