These ‘about me’ sections, or even sections that inform you about blogs, have never been my forte. Much to my chagrin, I was never taught the unwritten rules of what you are supposed to say. The links at the side of the blog – Twitter and Goodreads, for example – are liable to tell you more than I could ever say in words.

Mostly, this will be a book blog. I read a lot, and I love to share my views on my most recent reads. I try to read a little bit of everything, but if you look closely you’ll notice I will occasionally become obsessed with one specific genre for a short period of time. Old books, new books, yet to be released books – I read them all. If you’re an author looking for advance readers or just wish for more reviews of a book you’ve already released, please feel free to contact me. There is a contact form at the side of my blog – if you scroll down below the Twitter and Goodreads sidebar you will find it – so drop me a message and I’ll be sure to get back to you in double time. After all, finding new authors is what makes the book world go around.

Thanks for taking your time to read this. With a little bit of luck, you will find my blog much more interesting than this mundane introductory section.

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Review: Joyland

Joyland Joyland by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have the most complicated relationship with Stephen King books. There is this weird love hate thing going on, something more intense than what I share with any other author. Some authors I will pick up all of their books because I adore their work. Some authors I will avoid like the plague because I cannot bring myself to enjoy their work no matter how hard I try. Stephen King, however, is different. King’s books fall upon a spectrum. It’s a rather complicated spectrum, whereby he has earned every possible rating for a book, and yet I continue to pick up his stories. I never know whether I’m going to get something wonderful or whether I’m going to get something that will leave me wanting to ignore his books for the rest of my life. As I’ve had both, I’m always tentative when I enter his books.

Thus, when I entered Joyland, I was unsure was to what I was going to get.

Would I be receiving a Misery, one of my five star King reads? In these five star reads Stephen Kings creates something wonderful, showing us why pretty much every person has a King novel on their bookshelf. These are the books that let you know why he is such a big name.

Would I be getting a four star read, where things get more complicated? Complicated as there are high and low four star ratings. The high ratings go to the likes of Pet Semetary and Under the Dome. High four star books really grip you but they’re lacking in some of the things which made the five star books. The low four star books belong to the likes of The Shining and Doctor Sleep. I’ve found in such cases it is the writing that lets them down. Stephen King can create a truly wonderful story (in most cases) but his writing style is very far from being my favourite. What often leaves me giving low four star ratings is when the story blows my mind but the writing style isn’t quite up to his better standards. For example, The Shining would have been a five star book for me had it not been one of my earlier King books when I was in the stage of comparing his writing to better authors.

Would I get a three star read? The three star books generally sit in the middle. Either they’re great ideas with the poorer writing or they’re his better writing with poorer ideas. So we’re split down the middle with the three star books – hence why his short story collections are so often three star books as in these we’re given the mixed bag of goodies.

Would it be a two star read? The two star books are the ones where the story leaves me wanting so much more. Take Gerald’s Game and Dolores Claiborne. I kept waiting for something to happen and it never really did. There was the odd thing here or there to remind us that it was a King book yet for the most part time is wasted by reading theses.

Would I get a one star read? Sadly, there are the single star books. I should point out that I hate giving single stars to books. Authors have taken the time to create something and whilst it may not be my cup of tea a book is something to be proud of. Alas, sometimes I dislike books so much that I have to hand off just a single star. For King, Dreamcatcher falls into this category. The single star goes to those where I want nothing more for the story to end, where I’m unsure why I tormented myself by finishing the book. It’s repetitive stuff. It’s ‘so boring it took me days to read’ stuff.

I know these ratings will be argued by some people, but for me that is how King works: you either receive something mind blowing or you are left feeling as though you want to blow your brains out. Thus, I was on edge as to what Joyland would give me.

Surprisingly, I was given a four star read. A high four star read. Truthfully, I had not expected as much. The synopsis left me fearful that the book would be somewhat drab. It had potential, yet I was unsure how a book so short could fulfil as much as was being promised. Boy oh boy, was I wrong. This book was great. It wasn’t what I was expecting, not at all, and yet it gave me so much more than I had ever imagined it could.

I’m sure you recall that scene from Shrek where they talk about onions and all the layers – well, that’s what this story is. It’s an onion. There is so much more to it than you would initially believe. It’s a coming of age story. It’s a mystery. It’s a horror story. These things are all brought together to create a story that flows beautifully, creating a tale with much more depth than the synopsis would ever have you believing.

I really could say so much about this one, but I’ll cover those three main themes quickly and then leave you to read it yourself. After all, if I’m being honest, half of what I want to say will ruin the story for you. It’s a short read, a gripping read, and you’ll be done with it before you realise.

First up, then, is the coming of age aspect of the story. Personally, I would not go as far as to label this a young adult book. It’s an adult book with coming of age aspects. It’s a retrospect, looking back at youth. You’re not getting The Perks of Being A Wallflower, not here. Yet, you do watch as the main character goes from being a boy to a man. We have the heartbreak of youth, the decisions that will impact life, the naivety of having your entire life ahead of you. It has all the aspects of a coming of age story whilst being aimed at those who have already been there and done that, those who can look back at the folly of youth and realise how silly things seem with the eye of experience. At the same time, however, it is possible for the younger readers to enjoy this one. I would say it is more for the older end of the young adult fan base, but it is possible for those readers to enjoy it as well.

Second, we have the mystery aspect of the story. It isn’t your typical detective novel. In fact, this aspect of the story is nowhere near as prevalent as giving it a ‘mystery’ label would have you believing. Crimes have been committed, there is a murder leaving a dark cloud over things, and yet solving the mystery is more of a side hobby than the real focus of the story. That is not to say it is unimportant… merely there is no running off to play private investigator in a ten-on-one gang shoot out. It is a simple mystery, one that can be worked out with ease, but there is enough information thrown around to leave you questioning things.

Finally, we have the horror aspect of the story. This is not your super fearful King read. This is a simple paranormal encounter. A lowly haunting. We’re lacking in the freights offered up in his classical horrors, but such is fine. This book does not need the fear of other books, it just need the supernatural elements to add something more to the story. It wasn’t a necessary aspect to add, yet it was nice to see it. It was almost as though it was an ode to King’s usual work, a small way of saying he is still capable of adding in the spooks people want even if he doesn’t leave your heart palpitating.

Honestly, I had so much fun with this one. I really was surprised, and I would certainly recommend it to both new and old King fans. It’s not his usual, yet it is certainly one of his better works.

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