Becky’s One Hundred and Thirty-Seventh Book Review: “Joyland” by Stephen King

I am always excited when I pick up a new Stephen King novel. I believe he is very talented and while there are occasional novels that flop, I keep going back for more. “Joyland” is definitely one of his shorter novels. That is part of the reason that I picked it up, I just wanted something I could get through quickly and enjoy. I’ve been reading a lot of heavier things lately and wanted something easy to digest. That being said, I was a little disappointed when it was over. Then again, isn’t that the mark of a good book? It leaves you wanting more?

“Joyland” focuses around Devin Jones, known to his friends as Dev or Jonesy, a college student who takes a summer job at a theme park called Joyland. He comes into the amusement park and starts to learn the ropes and the Talk. Once there, he learns about the rumor that a girl haunts one of the rides – a girl who went on the ride one day with her boyfriend and never came out. He slit her throat, dumped her body over the side, and walked away. Dev develops an obsession with the idea of seeing the girl. Throughout the novel he is trying to get over his first love, which may be part of the reason that he forms such an attachment to the girl haunting the ride.

Although this is a Stephen King novel where the premise seems to revolve around murder and revenge, the truth is that this novel is more so about a boy growing up. “When you’re twenty-one, life is a roadmap. It’s only when you get to be twenty-five or so that you begin to suspect you’ve been looking at the map upside down, and not until you’re forty are you entirely sure. By the time you’re sixty, take it from me, you’re fucking lost.” (Joyland, pg 26). Dev learns more than how to repair games and keep a park clean and functioning when working at Joyland. He learns a whole new outlook on life. He learns the pride of wearing the fur – a reference to the mascot of Joyland (a dog) that different employees dress up as on a rotating basis. Dev also learns that sometimes life works in mysterious ways. He has a few people come into his life who make a big difference. It goes both ways. He helps out a few people in his time at Joyland and it works out for the best. Dev is a good guy with a broken heart and a fascination with a dead girl.

Would I recommend this book? Yes, I think anyone who has a taste for a mystery would enjoy this book. Although Stephen King wrote it, it doesn’t have as much of the gore and horror that one comes to expect from him. His addictive writing style is still there and you can clearly hear his voice through the character of Devin Jones, which just reiterates the fact that Stephen King was the author here. I believe that this book, as I believe was the fact with “11/22/63” would be a good book to hand to someone who isn’t a huge fan of Stephen King. It’s like diet King. The book was quite enjoyable and I wish it were lengthier because I would love to have stayed in the Joyland world just a little while longer. Either way, “Joyland” was enjoyable and I believe it would appeal to a wide audience.

 

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Becky’s One Hundred and Thirty-Sixth Book Review: “The Heist” by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

I’ll admit it. I thought Janet Evanovich was losing her touch. The Stephanie Plum novels, while still entertaining, are just pretty much formula now. I think she ought to retire the character at book 25 for a nice round finish. That being said, I was a bit skeptical about her new series featuring Kate O’Hare, FBI agent and Nick Fox, elusive criminal. It’s been sitting by the couch pretty much since I got it and finally I decided to pick it up.

A very short time later, I had devoured the entire book. It was SO good! First of all, Kate O’Hare is a strong, smart, problem-solving kind of individual. She doesn’t hide her gun in the cookie jar. She wields it as it meant to be and she doesn’t back down. She also is not the type of character that needs rescuing every five minutes. Sorry Stephanie, but it gets old fast – grow a backbone and get yourself out of these messes yourself!

The premise for “The Heist” is Kate O’Hare finally captures her unicorn – Nick Fox. Then she finds out that he has escaped and with some help. She soon discovers how and why and finds herself unhappily teamed up with Nick with the plan to take down a bad guy. While she never forgets that he is a bad guy, she still finds herself taking precautions despite the fact that Nick knows her weaknesses. “He was luring her into a stupefied complacency with chocolate. The pan was pure evil.” (The Heist, pg 99).

While Nick and Kate are fun characters, there are some really great supporting characters. My favorite was her dad, Jake. He is former Special Forces (I believe) and knows how to kill a man sixteen different ways with a pair of tweezers. Now he lives in the garage at Kate’s sister’s house. “I’m still fighting wars. We’ve got a real problem here with morning glories invading the common areas. I’m leading the landscaping committee’s offensive to repel the invasion.” (The Heist, pg 51). Like I said, a real fun character.

The book is a page-turner for sure. It still has that fun amount of humor in it – something that I always enjoy in my books. If you can’t tell already, I would definitely recommend this book. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next one. That is the truly fun part about starting a series a little late, the next book is usually already out. Kate is a really fun character and her chemistry with Nick Fox makes for some really entertaining situations. I am really looking forward to reading more of their adventures. 

Becky’s One Hundred and Thirty-Fifth Book Review: “The Player” by Brad Parks

There is just something about the way that Brad Parks writes. It’s addictive. According to him, “I lace them with Class 1 narcotics” (via twitter). I wouldn’t put it past him. Part of the thrill that I get reading these books is diving deeper into Carter Ross’s world. He is such a fun character – he may be a journalist, but he has ideals and that’s admirable. He is someone that you can easily relate to, especially when it comes to his pizza addiction and his appreciation for the occasional frothy glass of nectar (otherwise known as beer). All that together with his sense of humor just makes him someone that you just want to go back again and again to revisit and learn more about. Carter Ross is a compelling character, but at the same time there are a lot of great supporting characters that give Brad Parks’ books that extra addictive flavor.

There are those characters that are in each book, Tina Thompson, Harold Brodie, Tee Williams, Buster Hays, and of course Deadline. Then there are the interns. Interns are one of the highlights of the Carter Ross books. We first met Tommy Hernandez in “Faces of the Gone”. Then with each book we got a new intern, each one with a unique story. There was the infamous Sweet Thang in “Eyes of the Innocent”, the loveable Lunky in “The Girl Next Door”, the gullible Ruthie in “The Good Cop” (those pregnancy tests!!), and then in “The Player” we meet Pigeon. She got the unfortunate nickname from covering a story about a one-legged homeless guy with a one-legged pet pigeon that once perched on her shoulder, pooped on her. This was not a nickname she enjoyed, “She groaned. ‘What if I become executive editor someday? That would mean people would have to stop calling me Pigeon, right?’ ‘No, that would mean we’d have to stop calling you Pigeon to your face.’” (The Player, pg 12). The nickname is part of what allowed Carter Ross to so effectively talk Pigeon into doing whatever he wanted when it came to pursuing his stories. She was willing to bend the rules that she was working under with the prospect of getting a better nickname. “It was worth whatever slim chance of success it had. Sometimes reporting is about instinct. And sometimes it’s about getting lucky when you throw something sloppy against a wall and it sticks.” (The Player, pg 95). Reading about Carter Ross mentoring the interns is something that I look forward to with each new book I pick up.

One aspect of this Carter Ross book that was different was we got to learn more about his family. We also learn that he has three last names: Carter Morgan Ross. His parents are quite entertaining and it was fun to learn that he has siblings. I hope in future books we can learn even more about his family. I especially enjoyed reading the interactions between Carter and his mom, “Mom, you’re talking to your son who named his cat Deadline. When am I ever late?” (The Player, pg 95).

The premise for “The Player” is there are people getting sick and no one knows why. Carter gets wind of this story and soon finds himself sick as well after interviewing some of the individuals that were complaining about getting sick. He starts to dig deep to find out what is causing all this illness and meets some very interesting characters along the way including a hippie environmentalist with a trust fund named Quint and a tanning salon worker named Vicki. Both of which were entertaining. After hearing Brad Parks do his ‘Jersey girl’ impression at his book signing, I enjoyed reading the part with Vicki even more. I don’t want to give too much away – there are some revelations in “The Player” that got me very excited but it wouldn’t be fair to get into it. Surprisingly, I cannot wait for the next book!

Would I recommend this book? YES!! I think that the Carter Ross series in general is a must-own for everyone. The books have just the right balance of humor and drama and Brad Parks’ characters will just keep having you come back for more. “The Player” is no exception.

 

 

Becky’s One Hundred and Thirty-Fourth Book Review: “City of Glass” by Cassandra Clare

“City of Glass” is the third book in the Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare. Ever since the whole “Twilight” fiasco, I’ve been a little wary of young adult novels. Seeing as how the Mortal Instruments Series is a young adult series, I did approach it with a certain amount of reservation and caution. I’m very pleased to state that Cassandra Clare hasn’t disappointed, her novels are unique, entertaining, quick-paced, and have just the right amount of humor balanced in the mix.

Before I get into the review, I just want to state for the record – I love how this series is clearly numbered! On each cover it clearly states which number book it is. The cover says in small type “The Mortal Instruments” and under that “City of Glass”. Between the two titles it says in a dark circle “book three”. I have more than once picked up a book not realizing it was in a series and started to read it only to find out I was going out of order. It’s a very unfortunate situation and I’m glad that the author/publisher had the foresight to include this small but wonderful detail. Now the review:

 

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS SERIES (CITY OF BONES AND CITY OF ASHES) AND ARE PLANNING ON IT

 

“City of Glass” picks up with Clary planning her trip to Idris to meet Ragnor Fell, the warlock she has been told will be able to wake her mother from the spell she is under. She is bursting with anticipation, not only at the prospect of finally getting to talk to her mom about the whole new world she is now a part of, but at the idea of going to the land of the shadow hunters.

In all her excitement, she still finds herself frustrated by Jace and his blatant displeasure at the idea of her going to Idris. They argue over it and leave one another in a huff. Then on the day that they are supposed to be leaving, Jace calls Simon to get him to lie to the Lightwoods and say that Clary would rather stay in New York with her mother. Simon is apprehensive at first but Jace is on the verge of talking him into it. Before Simon can make the lie however, they are attacked by Forsaken and all hell breaks loose. Simon is gravely injured and Jace pulls him into the Portal that they are all escaping through.

Clary arrives at the Institute to discover it deserted, dark, and silent. Magnus Bane – the warlock who made the Portal for everyone to get to Idris – is there and explains the attack of Forsaken on the Institute. Clary demands he open another Portal for her so she can get to Idris and save her mother. Magnus tries to explain that this is easier said than done when Clary decides to take it into her own hands. She draws a Portal using her newfound talent of creating runes and goes through it with Luke in tow.

I don’t want to give too much away because that’s no fun, but so much stuff happens in this book! I have to say that I picked up this book with plans to read it by the couch, getting through a few pages at a time. Then I got sick and was not in the mood to do anything other than sleep. When I picked it up again, I finished it in one day. I couldn’t stop reading it!  

Would I recommend this book? Yes, “City of Glass” is a great read that would be appealing to a wide range of people. I look forward to seeing what else Cassandra Clare has in store for us. She is very talented and certainly knows how to keep readers wanting more. 

Becky’s One Hundred and Thirty-Third Book Review: “Midnight Whispers” by V.C. Andrews

SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVE NOT READ THE FIRST THREE BOOKS IN THE CUTLER FAMILY SERIES AND ARE PLANNING ON IT

 

“Midnight Whispers” is the fourth book in the Cutler Family Series by V.C. Andrews. In staying with her typical series formula, this book follows the daughter of the main character of the first three books. Christie is the lovechild of Dawn and her music teacher in New York that she fell for in “Secrets of the Morning” (book two in the series).

This book opens on Christie getting ready to celebrate her sweet sixteen. The hotel has been decorated and she is very excited about her beautiful gown. She has a blast at the party with all her friends and was especially excited to see Jimmy’s half brother, Gavin. Jimmy married Dawn and helped raise Christie but is not her biological father. Gavin and Christie are very good friends and on the night of the party he confesses his true affections for her. All seems well in her life. This illusion quickly dissolves when she comes home from school to find the hotel burning. In the fire, both Dawn and Jimmy die and Christie and her brother Jefferson are left in the hands of their aunt and uncle.

With her world turned upside down, Christie now has to deal with sharing her beautiful house with a family she has never gotten along well with. She and Jefferson try to stick together, but they feel their aunt, uncle, and cousins edging them out of their own home. Changes are being made against Christie’s wishes and she soon finds herself the unwanted attentions of her uncle. This being a V.C. Andrews book, I saw this coming a mile away and was not at all surprised by what happened next. In case you feel the need to read this book yourself, I am not going to go further.

The story in itself isn’t a terrible one, but I am just not pleased with V.C. Andrews overall as a writer. Everything is so formula with her. I’m definitely regretting getting all of her books before reading a single one. Now I have them all and am forcing myself to read them to get my money’s worth I guess. Plots are very predictable, characters are rarely likable, and overall reading these books is more of a chore than a fun activity.

Would I recommend this book? No, I really had to push myself to finish reading this whole series and I wasn’t captivated enough to want to share the series with anyone else. Perhaps if I were immortal and I had the time to read all the books in the world I would recommend them, but the fact of the matter is – life is too short to waste on bad books. Considering V.C. Andrew’s first series is the most well known and most frequently brought up, I think I will read it and if that series sucks too then I’m done with her books. Next up, the Dollanganger series.