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.

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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!

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