Thursday, June 20, 2013

Goodreads Reviews: "Joyland" and "Killing Floor"

JoylandJoyland by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You can't really call it a Great American Novel, but "Joyland" is an entertaining, exciting and, yes, touching tale that is a perfect summer read.

"Joyland" follows college student Devin Jones, who nurses a broken heart while working at an old-school amusement park called Joyland. He soon gets wrapped up, though, in the mysterious murder of a young woman years ago at the park, while also slowly building a relationship with an ill young child and his mother.

There is murder and crime and mayhem and some supernatural craziness, as befits a book by a master of horror like Stephen King, but like all of King's books, the real thing that makes the book wonderful is his storytelling prowess. It's not the big set pieces - the ride through the spooky haunted house or a scene on a ferris wheel in a storm - but the small, personal moments King inserts in his writing that really make his books entertaining and intensely readable.

Devin is a realistic teenager in the middle of his first real heartbreak, and I loved watching him as he slowly but surely found his path in life. He's a familiar character in many ways, mainly because he bears resemblances to many of King's other main characters. However, he rang true, and I was soon completely engrossed in his story.

Setting the novel in an amusement park was a great instinct. It allows for a lot of colorful characters and some extremely funny moments, as well as darkness. Old amusement parks and carnivals, after all, have an underlying creepiness to them, and "Joyland" takes some of those half-formed ideas about the things that go on behind the scenes and gives them life. Joyland is a place of joy, for children and for Devin, but it is also an unnerving place. These ideas go together well in this book.

In many ways, and like many of his other books, "Joyland" is not so much a horror-crime potboiler, but rather a coming-of-age story that exists within the framework of a crime story. King's chatty style of writing, colorful characters and unexpected moments of true emotion make "Joyland" a solidly entertaining read. It's not quite among King's best books, but it sure is a lot of fun to read.

View all my reviews
Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, #1)Killing Floor by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After seeing the movie "Jack Reacher," I decided I should check out the source material.

"Killing Floor" features Jack Reacher, a former military police officer who now drifts through life with no home and virtually no belongings. When he drifts into a small Georgia town on a whim, he ends up accused of a murder he did not commit and wrapped up in a plot that encompasses nearly the entire town.

Reacher is a quintessential bad-ass action hero protagonist. He's kind of ridiculous, in the way that 80s action movie heroes played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford are ridiculous. He is incredibly intelligent, super strong and very brave, with very few flaws. If that's not your bag, then "Killing Floor" is probably not going to be your kind of book. There is some depth to Reacher - he is forced to face some uncomfortable truths about his relationship with his brother, and he does start a relationship with a woman in the town - but author Lee Child doesn't spend too much ink on that kind of thing.

The plot is a pretty basic action-crime plot, the kind I've seen in a million different movies, but some of Reacher's quirks and personality traits make for some interesting deviations from the basic plotline - definitely enough to keep me interested, anyway.

In many ways, "Killing Floor" is nothing terribly special, and yet, I couldn't put the book down. It's definitely firmly in the brain fluff category, but it's entertaining, engaging brain fluff. I can't wait to read more!

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Kel's Reading Roundup

A whole lot of reviews!

Lessons of Desire by Madeline Hunter
Remember a couple weeks ago when I hated The Rules of Seduction. This is the second book of the series and I quite enjoyed it. Phaedra Blair is highly controversial and does not follow any of the rules of society, including wearing her bright red hair flowing down and a flowing black dress. She is now the sole owner of her father's press. Her first book is going to be her father's autobiography, which includes a passage about the Rothwell father that could hurt the whole family. Elliot Rothwell sets out to stop her from publishing it, which involves saving her from being imprisoned in Italy.

Elliot is weird like his brothers, but to a lesser extent. He is pretty nice and is terribly annoyed by Phaedra. Phaedra is annoyed by Elliot as well since she does not want to ever be under the control of any man, be it as her captor or her husband. Of course, she ends up under Elliot's protection numerous times.

Lessons of Desire is a very fun book. Phaedra is one of the most unconventional characters in any romance novel I have read. There is a bit of a mystery to the plot, which makes it a bit more exciting than just the romance aspects. It also had a lot of action and adventure. I really enjoyed it and am glad I stuck with the series after not enjoying the first book.

Confessions of a Little Black Gown by Elizabeth Boyle
This was my first Elizabeth Boyle book that I have read and I quite enjoyed it. Tally Langley is smart. She is tough, she is resourceful, and she is smart. I cannot stress enough how smart she is. Both intelligence and common sense. She wins. Larken is a spy for the crown and is sent to Hollindrake's house party (Hollidrake, being Tally's brother-in-law) disguised as a vicar in order to find an escaped pirate and kill him.

When Tally meets Larken, she knows right away that he is hiding something and is not the unassuming vicar he is pretending to be. No one believes Tally, but she is smart enough to see through everything. This made me so unbelievably happy. Usually in books, the girl doesn't realize or she does and lets herself be convinced otherwise. Tally is awesome.

Black Gown was exciting and fun and full of intrigue and mystery. I think I would have understood the dynamic between Tally and her sister and cousin more if I had read the previous three books in the series, but it didn't hamper my enjoyment. It took a while for me to get used to Boyle's style of writing. She used a different set of old-timey slang than I am used to (used demmed a lot instead of damned, etc.) and the rhythm of the writing was different from what I usually read. Not a bad thing, just something to get used to. Overall, I am looking forward to reading more by Boyle.

The Naked Earl by Sally Mackenzie

The last of the Naked series. And probably my favorite of the series. Lizzie has been in love with Robbie forever. Robbie has been in love with Lizzie forever. Robbie has a secret that he refuses to tell anyone, including Lizzie, which makes him think he cannot marry anyone ever.

This is a book that had a character with a legitimate problem that made sense why he wouldn't tell. And a heroine who was smart and fun and tough. It was frustrating in that the two were obvious in love and perfect for each other. But it was frustrating in a really good way. And it really made the ending very very satisfying.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I read this for book club and it was so good. OMG read it if you have not read it already. WWII novel, written for YA, main character is a preteen/teen girl, the narrator is death. It is written in a really unique way and it truly amazing and heartbreaking and uplifting.

A Dangerous Love by Sabrina Jeffries

The first of a series about three spinster sisters. Griffith Knighton is the heir of Swanlea; Swanlea stole Griff's parent's marriage certificate, so Griff has grown up with people calling him a bastard. Swanlea is dying and will give Griff the marriage certificate if he marries one of his daughters. Griff switches roles with his man of affairs in an attempt to get the marriage certificate without marriage. Rosalind, the middle Swanlea daughter, is determined that none of the girls will be forced into marriage and sets out to make sure "Knighton", who is really the man of affairs, does not marry her sister.

It is a pretty confusing concept, but a really fun book. I liked all the fighting between Griff and Rosalind. And I just really liked Rosalind. She was a good foil to Griff and always was smart and strong. I like all of Jeffries books and this one did not disappoint. The first of a trilogy and I look forward to the other two books.

Once Upon a Tower By Eloisa James

Another of the fairy tale retellings by James. And probably my favorite of the group. Gowan needs a wife, meets Edie, decides to marry her, offers for her, done. Edie met Gowan when she was very sick with a fever and therefore was unusually quite and complacent. She accepts Gowan's proposal and doesn't regret it...much.

I have never read a book with so much bad sex. Not badly written or "bad" sex. Just...the sex was bad for Edie. A rather novel concept in a romance novel. But very amusing to read. I don't want to really get into the details because it really is more fun to discover. But Gowan is an idiot, though I really like him, and Edie rocks. Gowan chose her because she was vacant and delicate when they met. But he still likes her when he meets the "real" Edie. They genuinely like each other and make a hot mess of their marriage for most of the book. I loved it.


I don't think I am going to really review books that I have reread, but I will mention them. Obviously if I am reading them for a second time, I liked them!

Fat Chance by Rhonda Pollero (the third of the series; I am rereading so I remember what happens when I read the newest book)
One for the Money & Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich (Jen is reading the series for the first time and was making me jealous, so I started rereading)