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review 2018-10-22 15:29
"Joyland" by Stephen King - highly recommended
Joyland - Stephen King

"Joyland", an Amusement Park in North Carolina in 1973, sells fun to all the rubes conies who walk through its gates. In "Joyland" the novel, Stephen King sells his readers a total immersion in a time long past, in a youth long-lost and in a Carnie culture now extinct. He sells the possibility of abilities beyond the normal and most of all he sells the possibility that ordinary young people can do things that make the world better.


Part of King's power to immerse us in "Joyland" is that he doesn't just set his story in 1973 and hope to take you there. He has the story told as what the now-sixty-year-old Devin Jones remembers of the summer, forty years earlier, that changed the life of his younger self.


This looking back changes the nature of the telling. It gives us the views and experiences of Devin then and Devin now. It gifts us with both intimacy and distance. It also allows the sixty-year-old Devin to be wiser and more articulate than a young man in his twenties was likely to be, which means king can stud his prose with pleasing phrases, that enhance the text the way herbs and spice enliven food. Here's an example that says something I know to be true better than I would be able to say it and yet is still a phrase that fits neatly in the story and comes believably off the tongue of the narrator.

"When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction."

Although this book is short by Stephen King standards (283 page) it is as richly textured as any of his novels. 


The background is given by the "Carnie" world which exists as an invisible overlay on the world the visitors see. It has its own language, rituals, roles and rules and King brings them all to life the eyes of a young man hungry for something to become part of.


The plot is driven partly by a murder mystery, with Devin trying to discover who killed the pretty girl who is now thought to haunt the House of Horror ride and by a strong sense of foreboding imparted by a  the predictions of Carnie fortune teller,' who may actually have flashes of The Sight, for people Devin needs to look out for.


The emotional impact of the book comes from Devin Jones' coming of age story. We see him fall in love with Carnie life because it allows him to become someone more than he has been. When he "wears the fur" and becomes a loveable dog character, he discovers that he can make kids light up with joy, He finds that he wants to be the bringer of all good thing and this leads him to fall in love first with a dying boy he sees each day on the boardwalk and then with the boy's mother because of her love for the boy and her strength and of course, because she's hot.


As I read this book, I was so pleased with it that I wondered whether King's normal "woo-woo" topics would spoil my pleasure by force-fitting the supernatural onto a story that was already compelling. I should have had more faith. As he did with "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon", King weaves the supernatural in to enhance the story, rather than letting it become the story. He makes The Sight and ghosts feel as real as the rides in Amusement Park.


King avoids clichéed romance and tacky nostalgia by being deeply truthful. He also fits every emotional button available with merciless skill, leaving his readers feeling they too have been for a hell of a carnie ride.  


I listened to the audiobook version of "Joyland" which is expertly performed by Michael Kelly who manages to give just the right mix of innocence and regret to Devin Jones-

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review 2018-10-18 04:54
Not Really a Review: Endless Night
Endless Night (Audio) - Agatha Christie,Hugh Fraser

Endless Night

by Agatha Christie
audio book narrated by Hugh Fraser



When penniless Michael Rogers discovers the beautiful house at Gypsy’s Acre and then meets the heiress Ellie, it seems that all his dreams have come true at once.  But he ignores an old woman’s warning of an ancient curse, and evil begins to stir in paradise.  As Michael soon learns: Gypsy’s Acre is the place where fatal “accidents” happen.

Well... I certainly did not see that ending coming.  Though in hindsight, I am not so surprised, despite the fact that I'm not very well-versed in Agatha Christie novels.  This is only the third of hers I've read, and I'm not quite sure what to make of this one in particular.

Did I like it?  Did I not like it?  I don't know anymore.  That ending more than made up for the drag that was the beginning... and yet, I still haven't quite recovered yet.

Also, when I'd updated about the marriage between Mike and Ellie not ending well... this was NOT what I had been thinking would happen.

I am going to need to mull this one over, but more than likely, I won't come up with anything more to say.

Well played, Dame Agatha.  Well played.

Also, on a side note, Hugh Fraser is a wonderful narrator.  I will definitely be keeping him on my radar.




Halloween Bingo 2018
(any book that relates to bad luck, superstitions, including (but not limited to) black cats, ravens or crows, or the unlucky 13, either in the title, series, book cover or page count)



Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2018/10/not-really-review-endless-night.html
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text 2018-10-16 23:11
"Silence Fallen -Mercy Thompson #10" by Patricia Briggs - read for the Shifter square in Halloween Bingo
Silence Fallen - Patricia Briggs

"Silence Fallen" is the tenth Mercy Thompson book, a point where some series start to creak, strain and repeat themselves. Patricia Briggs avoided this by filling "Silence Fallen" with firsts: the first time Mercy has been to Europe, the first time sections of the story are told from Adam's point of view and the first time that the Patricia Briggs has gone with a not-entirely-linear timeline.


It mostly worked.


The parts told from Adam's point of view did give me a different perspective and also rounded-out some of the secondary characters but Adam lacks Mercy's snarky optimism and, surprisingly, her ruthlessness, which made him less fun to be around. The politics was interesting but went on a little too long.


Mercy sparkles from the first line: 

"I died first, so I had to make cookies."

What a way to start a book.


The move from this kind of silly domestic humour, with werewolves LARPing as Pirates to Mercy taking sudden violence in her stride, is central to the appeal these books hold for me. 


Moving the story to Europe was a smart idea and opened up some interesting back stories but Mercy sometimes sounded too much like a guidebook to Prague without really giving a sense of the place. I didn't like the World War II stories being woven into the werewolf world. It felt a little exploitative and wasn't entirely necessary to the plot.


I enjoyed Mercy's resourcefulness and the way she thought her way out of difficult spots. There were some new developments on her relationship with ghosts that seem promising and I thought having her fight using a scythe was inspired.


This was fun but not more than that. I'm hoping the next book, "Storm Cursed", will go back to a more Mercy-centric way of telling the story.


Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear the start of the book. The audio version gets two narrators this time and manages the shifting timelines without too much fuss.


[soundcloud url="https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/310662490" params="color=#ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true" width="100%" height="300" iframe="true" /]

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text 2018-10-15 22:36
Reading progress update: I've read 35%.
Joyland - Stephen King

There are times when I wish that Stephen King didn't write horror.


"Joyland" hasn't had any supernatural content in it yet (unless you count a little precognition - in which case I guess "A Prayer For Owen Meaney" is horror as well - what a thought) but it is filled with whimsy, nostalgia and a well-crafted consideration of how our concept of grief or bravery or love or even common-sense change as we age. They may not get better but they change.


This would be reason enough to read the novel. 


I know there must be horror or at least spooky uncanny woo-woo stuff coming. I wonder whether it will the grated Parmesan that completes the flavour of the dish or the limp basil leaf garnish that most people leave on the plate?

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text 2018-10-15 09:13
Reading progress update: I've read 13%.
Joyland - Stephen King

I've had "Joyland" in my TBR pile for over two years now. The Creepy Carnival square on Halloween Bingo finally nudged me into reading it.


This is a short book by Stephen King standards but I like that he still takes his time settling into the story and the people. 


The story is told by a sixty-year-old man looking back on his twenty-year-old self, something that I am now able (but seldom inclined) to do. King does it with style. His prose is studded with phrases that please me in the same way that the subtle use of chilli does in food. Here's an example that says something I know to be true better than I would be able to say it and yet is still a phrase that fits neatly in the story and comes believably off the tongue of the narrator.


"When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction."

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