Joyland by Stephen King: Review

IMG_0842As a younger person, I was a huge Stephen King fan. I read all his horror classics: Salem’s Lot, Christine, Pet Sematary, etc. Joyland is much different than those books. First of all, it’s “Hard Case Crime” novel. There is a murder mystery, and yes, also a ghost and some psychic stuff. It’s quite a nostalgic story. An older man is thinking back to the summer he was 21 in 1973, when he worked as a carnival worker in North Carolina.

Devin is a college student looking for summer work which he finds at Joyland along with several other young people.Sometime during the first few weeks, he’s dumped by his girlfriend. He’s heartbroken but the carny life of Joyland keeps him distracted. He’s especially intrigued by the murder of Linda Gray four years earlier. The young woman was killed by her companion on the Horror House ride and the rumour is she still haunts the tracks. As summer turns to fall, Devin continues to feel the lure of the amusement park, even after his friends return to school. He just can’t let it go yet and he can’t shake the feeling that the answer to the death of Linda Gray is hidden somewhere in the park.

There are a lot of feelings in this book. The whole thing is one big long flashback and the narrator often interjects to tell us how so-and-so died and it was sad. There’s a sick kid too. Also sad. It reminds me of the interesting stories my mother-in-law would tell and then end with, “And then they died 10 years ago.” It would get awkward. I wonder if that’s how I’m going to get. So, it’s one big long grandpa story.

That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy Joyland because I did. I loved the characters: Devin, his friends, the carnies, Annie, and the little boy. The women in the book aren’t shrinking violets, which I appreciate. I did find Devin to be somewhat too good to be true but at the same time relieved that he wasn’t an extremely emo guy. He did listen to The Doors a lot but he wasn’t an angry at the world type.

Joyland takes awhile to get started but once Devin is settled into Joyland, the pace picks up somewhat. There’s an exciting though predictable ending.

It wasn’t my favorite King novel. Next time I read something by him, I’m just going to reread The Shining. I still get creeped out by Redrum.

Mini-Reviews for Mini-Books: Lord John and the etc, etc

I read not one but two Lord John novellas. Lord John is a character from the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon who has his own spin-off series. Gabaldon fans seem to be divided into 2 camps regarding this series: well, at least this will tide me over until the next Jamie and Claire instalment in 2121, or dammit, where’s Jamie, woman?!

custom of the armyLord John isn’t tied to the the Frasers like so many other characters. He gets to flit around the world solving people’s problems and occasionally gets a little something-something. In The Custom of Army, after a electric eel party (yes, an electric eel party) goes awry, Lord John feels the need to flee the country. Conveniently, he’s needed in Quebec, where an old friend is fighting for his life and against corruption.

A Plague of Zombies finds Lord John in Jamaica, where once again corruption is the culprit. The Governor is hiding from zombies, not “braaaaaaaiiiiiins!” zombies but the ones created by shamanplague to commit acts of vengeance.

I enjoyed A Plague of Zombies more than The Custom of the Army. The latter seemed to veer off from the main plot. I don’t even remember the main plot really. It was all over the place. It seemed like an excuse to get Lord John near Wolfe and the Plains of Abraham, a controversial battle for Canadians, and for John to hear him exclaim some of his famous quotes. Lord John also enjoys a brief romance with Manoke, well, more like a fling since the structure of the story doesn’t allow the reader or John to get to know him that well.

A Plague of Zombies is a shorter story but straighter in narrative. Lord John arrives, hears there’s a problem, and sets out to fix it. During his stay in Jamaica, he learns a little about the culture of the non-British inhabitants, including the particulars of zombie making. And just for fun, Gabaldon has him encounter another Outlander character, the notorious Geillis Duncan. Some readers might find the inclusion of zombies gimmicky, but since the people zombified here represent traditional zombies and not the George Romero version, I didn’t mind it. Gabaldon writes in her notes that she found inspiration for the story in The Serpent and the Rainbow.

I wouldn’t say either of these were my favorite Lord John stories but I still enjoyed reading them. They made a plane trip bearable.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: A Gotta Week

It’s been a ‘gotta week,’ as in, I gotta do this and I gotta do that. First, I started back to work and had a slight schedule change. So, I hadda (gotta) get used to that. Then there were appointments, minor dilemmas, etc. Then the weekend, when I gotta clean this dirty floor and get some stuff done in the house. I think I’m caught up now.

I also hadda get some strawberries since it’s the end of the season and I need my freezer jam fix. I wasn’t picking them this year, so instead bought a flat.

IMG_0093

It’s a helluva lot of strawberries. I’ve made 3 batches of jam and still have lots left. We’ll be having strawberries in everything!

It wasn’t all gotta this weekend. Hubs and I found some new patio furniture. I took a nice little nap on it Saturday after supper. Plus, we found time for a swim. Sometimes you gotta take it easy too.

Since I think I’m caught up after the big vacation, I hope to have time for Joyland by Stephen King. So far it’s pretty low key.

Not so low key was having a tornado warning Saturday night! I know many of you have those all the time, but that is not normal for here. When I heard about it, I just wandered around my house wondering, “So what do we do?” Hurricanes and blizzards I can wrap my head around but tornados, no. Anyway it ended without any problems.

IMG_0988

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters: Review

45162Sue Trinder is an orphan raised by a group of thieves living in a house in London. Sue’s life is unusual but stable. Her foster mother takes in babies who stay a little while before be farmed out somewhere else. Sue is the exception. Mrs Sucksby keeps her close. The comings and goings of the London hooligans barely affect her. This is her life and her moral compass is dodgy at best. As she turns seventeen, she wonders if her life will ever change or will she just stay in the house of Mrs Sucksby forever.

Then Gentleman appears with a scheme straight out of a Wilkie Collins novel. He’ll marry some poor, naive heiress, stick her in an asylum, and claim all her money. He just needs Sue to pose as her maid to lead her to the slaughter. Sue is afraid to leave London for the back of nowhere but her family is depending on her. She’s unaware that she’s a pawn in a bizarre con game.

When I first started reading Fingersmith, I thought the plot was familiar. In fact, it could have been a rewrite of The Woman in White but with the point of view being from the thieves’ side. However, this is a Sarah Waters novel, so of course the plot turns ass over tea kettle about halfway through. At this time, the point of view switches to the other leading lady and the reader hears a very different story. Up until this point I wondered if this book was going anywhere; it was slow.

The girls’ motivations in Fingersmith were much more understandable to me than Nan’s in Tipping the Velvet. Nan just came off as a brat. These girls do the things they do out of fear and desperation or because they were raised that way. There is definite improvement in character development by Waters.

As always, Waters creates beautiful prose, even if the plot gets a little Days of Our Lives at times. The scenes at the estate of Briar were particularly Victorian Gothic with damsels in distress and creepy uncles. Yikes, the uncle. His, um, career was like something from a pervier Dickens novel.

Fingersmith ended much better than it began. I found it more enjoyable than Tipping the Velvet but The Little Stranger is still my favorite.

Return of Lazy Sunday Thoughts

Magic Kingdom

I’m back from my vacation at Disney World! What a trip! We had a great time, even though it was screaming hot. We were there for the Fourth of July, and you know what, Americans really like fireworks. True story! It was so crowded for the fireworks but the crowd was so well behaved. Probably because no one was drunk. There was a group of teens in front of us that were so good, I thought they were TV teens. Congrats, America!

We took a detour to Hogwarts at Universal, where the line was so long I could have watched a couple of the Harry Potter movies while waiting. I can’t even tell you what the ride was like, it was so fast and crazy. There was a dragon and Harry was there.

Hogwarts Universal

I rode so many rides they’ve started to blur altogether. I’m a rollercoaster lover so I did lots of those. I love when things go fast! It was a fantastic but exhausting trip. I put many kilometers on my feet. I have to say I was glad to come home where I am understood. My accent confused a lot of people.

I did some reading while on the plane so I’ll have to get some reviews up. At the moment, I’m reading Save Me the Waltz by Zelda Fitzgerald. It’s good but sometimes confusing. I think I’m going to read more of it out on my deck.

I hope you’re all enjoying July so far!