Riding High

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I have a lot of ridiculous habits. I’ll spare you details (and me the onslaught of shame) by keeping most of them to myself, but there is one in particular I think would serve this review well, so I’m going to share it with you.

Because I read so many books in such a short amount of time, I have to quick-fire decompress between them.  I obviously don’t have the luxury of waiting a week (gorging out on reality TV and cold pizza – as depressing as THAT sounds) to start a new book, so I have to find an easy, quick (and effective) way to zip up the previous book, and move on.

Most of you might think this is easy. And for some…it might actually be. But I (as most of you probably know by now) tend to get emotionally attached to books. I disappear into their world, and (more often than not) find it hard to find my way back out. I used to try TV. Watch a show here, a crappy informercial there…and tada. All’s well that ends well. But, like most things…that became old (and incredibly ineffective) very quickly.

So one night (and by night I mean 3am) I picked up my little black book of quotes and began reading. Honestly, I didn’t think this would work. It was after-all a book fill with quotes from other books. How in the world would this ever help me? But the more I read the more I relaxed. Instead of focusing on one book, it reinforced my love of reading ALL books. And, if I read ANOTHER novel…maybe, just maybe, I could find another awesome quote for my book.

The first time I did this I read 27 pages of my scribbly handwriting before stopping. The second, third and fourth times didn’t fair much better, but I did realize (after the fourth time….don’t judge me, I’m a slow learner) that I always flipped to the same page (to read one specific quote) before putting it down.

 “there’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.”

Now, ironic as this may be (considering what I’m currently reviewing) this is a Stephen King quote (from his novella collection “Different Seasons.”) and it is the first time I have EVER had to go back (while in the middle of a story) and read it again.


Well…because this is Stephen King, and I ALWAYS expect the best…it’s just that THIS TIME, I didn’t prepare for the worst.

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

To be fair, this is not the worst book I have read. Hell, it’s not even the worst King book I have ever read. But it also…wasn’t what I wanted or expected.

To sum things up, “Joyland” is 85% coming of age, 15% hard crime. Most of the time I wouldn’t have a problem with this (hey, I was young once…I can relate.) but this time it just rubbed me the wrong way.

For those of you that have never read a “Hard Case Crime” novel let me explain what it is. Hard Case Crime (in their words) brings you the “best in hardboiled crime fiction, ranging from lost noir masterpieces to new novels by today’s most powerful writers, featuring stunning original cover art in the grand pulp style.”

In short…novels whose plot revolve around wit, violence and the ability stage cheap thrills.

“Joyland” had all of the above. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by Devin’s need to pine over a (less than intriguing) ex girlfriend, or his need to learn the local “carne” lingo. (For the record…I got tired of the “language” about 5 pages after it was introduced.) In the grand “coming of age” scheme of things, his inability to except reality and move the hell on was entirely appropriate. The problem arose when it dominated the bulk of the story line leaving very little room for the actual “crime.” Each time the “ghost/murder” was mentioned it was quickly swept under the rug and replaced with a four page monologue on how to fly a kite, or the best words to use when playing Scrabble.

I enjoyed the characters. They were very well developed, and equally as interesting. I just wish they could have seen more action. I wanted mystery (not predictability.) I wanted pulp, noir, blood in the backseat of an old beat up truck. NOT crime “lite” if you will.

And speaking of the crime (which finally found it’s focus at 90%!) it was just a little too tidy for my taste. For a ghost that has been haunting an amusement park ride for so darn long, you’d think it’d take more than a little wave and a wink (not literally) for it to move on.

I will say that when the action DID hit, it hit hard. But by that point I had all but given up on that aspect of the story. Chocking it up to what it was instead of what it was supposed to be.

I know what you are thinking…”Misty, if it was so bad, why did you give it 3 stars?” Well, there is a fairly easy explanation for that. Devin’s story was an interesting one. It was introspective, and ultimately sweet. If I hadn’t been tainted with hard crime expectations I probably would have enjoyed this book more than I actually did. But as it is…it was just ok. Slow in places and too quick in others. 

In the end, I think if you are looking for hard crime, you need to look else where. BUT if you enjoy the cadence and complexity of King’s writing, without the expectation of violence (like I was) then chances are you will enjoy it. It all boils down to understanding. Understanding what the book is about. Understanding your preferences, and understanding your expectations. If you have all of those under control…then I think you are educated enough to make a wise decision.

Happy Reading my fellow Kindle-ites and remember: “Come to the book as you would come to an unexplored land. Come without a map. Explore it and draw your own map.”  – Stephen King (Hearts in Atlantis)

Rating Report
Overall: 3

About Misty

Your friendly neighborhood narcissist. I'm sarcastic, cynical and a bit cranky. I own a soap box so big that sometimes I have difficulty stepping down off of it, and I'm about 94% certain I have multiple personalities. I don't sleep enough, and I read more than any person should ever consider normal. I have anger management issues, especially when I'm stuck in traffic and I have an unhealthy obsession with my Kindle. I am a vampire lovin', zombie obsessed, book-in-hand, iPod freak. You either love me or hate me. You be the judge.

2 thoughts on “Riding High

  1. I get what you’re saying. Yet, maybe this is the problem with ‘genre’. It leaves no room for a writer, simply, writing the story he wants to tell. Readers with ‘category’ expectations, going in, and publishers, intent on positioning books for sale, make it hard for ‘genre-less’ writers to get a foothold.

    Perhaps, as more people are writing books, a new ‘genre-less’ “genre” will be available more often.

    I love Stephen King. I didn’t, but could have followed him from the 70s when he first unleashed his marvels of story and scare. But the first book I got into was “Bag of Bones” and it was interesting that it had a less “Stephen King genre” about it.

    In fact, THAT would be a good genre for writers to create: a “fill-in-your-name” genre. Maybe that will happen. Maybe not.

    You write credible posts. Thank you.


    1. I like that… “fill-in-your-name” genre.

      I think SK has an amazing talent, but sticking him in a hole can be dangerous. If I was a reader that didn’t enjoy reading for {simply} the love of reading (regardless of genre) I would have despised this book. I was disappointed to be sure. Who wouldn’t be, when they expect one thing to be offered up something entirely different. But I found that I could appreciate it for what it was all the same. That’s not always the case.

      Thanks so much for the compliment and the comment. 🙂 – Misty

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