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62 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2013
This book is deceptive in its simplicity. The plot is fairly straightforward, and there is plenty in there for the Constant Readers out there. There are nods to Tolkein and King's own past as an upcoming writer. We meet Devin much in the same way we meet the 18 year old King in the preface to the Dark Tower. Full of hopes and dreams, but painfully naive, just like the rest of us. There are a few heavy handed tropes in the opening paragraphs to pull you in, but nothing cringe-worthy, and you just glide along with it. I have to admit to being a massive King fan, so it's not hard to drag me in to one of his books, but even for the uninitiated, this books is beautifully written.

From there we start to learn more about Joyland, and the people behind it. Although it's billed as a horror story, there isn't much blood, and the horror is contained in the 'dark ride' and the fragility of human life. The suspense and anticipation comes from the idea that this horror could be released somehow. This tension builds throughout and the ending will not disappoint.

I don't want to write more and risk spoiling the plot, but this book touched me and stayed with me. The last few pages were read through teary eyes. You will find part of yourself in this book, the part of you that you lost years ago and can never get back.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
There are a few books in the 'Hard case Crime' series which don't really fit in with their mission statement, and this is one of those. I have had this book sitting on my TBR pile for a while, after buying it in a moment of weakness. Stephen King did have another book published by this Press, The Colorado Kid (Hard Case Crime (Mass Market Paperback)), which lets face it, was average at best. With that in mind to be honest I wasn't really expecting much of this, but to my surprise I found that I loved this story.

Whether you are a fan of King or not you will admit that some things he does brilliantly, whilst others he isn't so good at, so if you decide to read this book bear that in mind. To be honest, the finale as it were for this book is more of a quick bang and fizz, where arguably other writers could have made something a bit longer and better, but despite that I did enjoy the ending.

Devin Jones reminisces about when he was twenty one, still a virgin, and started work at an amusement park. What King does best is small groups of people, either small town communities or other smaller groups, such as in prison i.e. The Green Mile. This story mainly centres around the amusement park and some of the employees there, and a mother and son who live on the way there. Devin originally takes on a job in the school term break to work at the place along with others. We read about his girlfriend, his relationships with others and his emotional state. He finds out that the Ghost Train ride is apparently haunted by a girl who was killed on the ride. As Devin and friends look into this they find out that there could have been more than the one killing at that particular amusement park perpetrated by one man. A man that has never been caught, and no one can identify.

With a little boy suffering from Muscular Dystrophy and his mother who make Devin's acquaintance, can the murderer actually be identified? With some supernatural elements this story should have quite a broad appeal, and is easy to get into. Despite its size this book does feel longer, mainly due to the steady slow pacing of the story, which works better with this plot. This is a good solid read that falls into those books by King that aren't really horror, but seem to defy proper categorisation.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2015
Joyland - Stephen King *****

King has always been one of my favourite authors, renowned for his horror writing it always surprises me at how good an author he is when taken away from his usual genre. True Joyland does have more than a little supernatural element enclosed within its plot, but it is primarily a tale of a boy becoming a man, that happens to include a murder mystery. The book is sold as 'Hard Case Crime' and I have not read any of the other titles so I am unsure as to how well it fit's into the genre.

What is it about?

It follows Devin Jones a student who takes a summer job at an amusement park called Joyland, here he makes friends with Tom and Erin Although they all fit in well, Devin seems to take to it the easiest, leading some long term workers to claim that he must have some 'Carny' in him. However, there is a dark history lurking there. A number of years prior to that summer a girl named Linda Grey was brutally murdered in the haunted house and the killer is still at large. In a nod to King's earlier work 'The Shining' there are certain characters here with a psychic ability to tell the future and sense the dead. The first Devin encounters is the fortune teller who gives him a reading offering both a glimpse of his future and a warning. Intrigued by the murder Devin begins to investigate the events surrounding the event.

Along the way (as foretold by the fortune teller) he encounters a woman and a crippled son that watch him walk to work daily. A friendship with the boy begins against the mothers wishes, and his own personal problems soon become an integral part of the choices Devin is forced to make. All this, coupled with a broken heart, leads Devin on a personal journey of discovery.

What did I like?

Everything. Aside from the Dark Tower books this has to be the best King book I have read. It follows in the tradition of Hearts in Atlantis, The Body, and The Green Mile in allowing the reader to really care about what happens next. I have read other reviews that describe this a coming of age novel, but I really have to say that there is so much more to it than that. King has expertly blended the real life problems encountered by a boy growing up with a mystery even Agatha Christie would be proud of. I am far from an emotional person, but even I couldn't help but be drawn into the storyline, and while I can't say I was a gibbering wreck at the end of the novel I certainly felt myself filling up. That is a first for me. I don't want to go into the story any more than I have as it unfolds so beautifully that any more information would spoil the enjoyment. The ending was just so wonderfully written it will stay with me for a long time to come.

What didn't I like?

If I had to be very critical, the only thing that I could say was the 'carny' language (alternative words used by fairground workers) was used a little too much, but not so much that it detracted from the storyline.

Would I recommend it?

In a heartbeat. Some people are turned off King because they have read his horror stories and felt let down by either the plot development or the mediocre endings (Under the Dome anyone?). I think Joyland would be an ideal place both as an introduction to the author or those willing to revisit and give a second chance, of course King's constant readers will need no persuading to get stuck into the book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 21 August 2013
Joyland follows Devin Jones, a twenty-one-year-old who works the summer shift at a North Carolina amusement park to raise some funds for his return to school. Whilst working at Joyland he learns the secret language of the carnies who work there, wears the fur, sells fun and even saves a couple of lives. He also has to deal with a few difficult emotional situations such as the break up of his first ever relationship and befriending a dying child.

The main bulk of the story focuses around Devin's obsession with trying to figure out a long unresolved murder that took place at the park. Linda Gray was murdered in the House of Horror and the murderer has never been found. With the help of his friend, Erin, and some assistance from the dying boy's mother, Annie, Devin eventually uncovers the mystery and confronts the killer.

A relatively short novel for King, it lacks none of his usual magic. King writes prose that is so easy to read, engaging and full of emotion. He captures the pains of adolescence and growing up like no other author I know. He also has a knack for imbuing the mundaneness of everyday life with a sense of wonder that involves the reader with his characters and keeps them reading for more.

Essentially a crime story released by Hard Case Crime the book does attain some of King's trademark supernatural touches, including the ghost of a murdered girl and - King's absolute favourite! - a couple of characters with 'the sight'! The ending is nicely judged and quite moving, although the resolution of the crime element did come a little easily for my liking. King has always had difficulty finishing novels well, but I would put this down as one of his more satisfying attempts.

I finished the book in record time, it was that hard to put down. Just one more page, I would tell myself, and then fifty pages later I would realise I was still reading.

Overall a wonderful book and a definite read for any fans of Stephen King.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 1 July 2013
Stephen King's 'Joyland' is something different from Stephen King, that reinvents many of his familiar tics and tropes in an original and absorbing way.

There's no need to provide a synopsis of the plot in this review, as I'm sure that's easy enough to find above and below, but what's interesting to talk about is how the supernatural and American folklore are brought together in something that's branded as a pulp crime novel.

In the opening sections, there is a hint that maybe there's a ghost involved and maybe psychic abilities will play a part in this story, but this isn't The Shining. There's a haunted amusement park with a mystery that a newcomer - the narrator of this tale - finds himself unexpectedly drawn into. There's no great and talented detective here, and we don't even know that this is a whodunnit as the possibility that the crime that added to the ghost story of the actually haunted haunted funhouse ride titular 'Joyland' can actually be solved. There is a ghost, yes, but she's a sad figure, not a frightening one, despite the way in which she changes the lives of the characters in this story.

Where 'Joyland' really excels is in presenting a window into 'Carny' folklore and traditions. This is the lifestyle of the people who run amusements and carnival type fairs that are part of America, but which are dying out and becoming commercialised. The idea of the carnival and fairs and circuses are a slightly otherworldly liminal experience that are familiar to most, but are a step to the side from everyday life.

The slowly unravelling of the mystery is satisfying to behold as the main character also goes through a few coming of age experiences and grows up in his summer at Joyland along the way too. This is Stephen King at his subtlest. There aren't any great set-pieces of horror here, and it's very much a murder-mystery not a horror novel, despite a few tinges of the supernatural and a ghost or two and some psychic powers being involved.

You already know that Stephen King is one of the world's treasures and that he more than knows how to write a compelling story. This isn't King firing on all cylinders. He's holding back, but 'Joyland' is all the better for it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2013
Mr. King has recently taken to write nostalgic tales. In early work, he wrote about monsters, creepy kids and personal fears, but, as he ages, Mr. King has made the past the point. 'Joyland' proves that he can write haunting, moving tales with nary a beast. There are ghosts a-plenty, but horror stems from victims in the way, rather than monsters on the march. Some might say that the book is less a Hard Case Crime and more Classic King, but it is still a worthy read. Spend a few hours in this fairground. You will wish that you could stay.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 17 June 2013
If the thought of skipping out on Joyland crossed your mind - well, I'd have forgiven you. His recent output is nothing compared to his older titles, with Duma Key, Lisey's Story and Under the Dome all averaging out at 'okay'. But Full Dark, No Stars, and 11/22/63 brought a return to form, and the trend continues with Joyland, one of King's strongest offerings in a long time - a book I have no qualms in calling one of his best.

The book purports to be a crime novel, and I suppose it sort of is. But though that is an element, it's not hard-boiled detective work, and in fact for the most part it's background, woven in here and there. Instead what you get is a coming-of-age story; a tale of heartbreak, simple yet incredibly well-rendered through King's catchy and accessible style. It's a book about friends; about growing up; about the world. In that respect, it's somewhat slow. Yet as with other highlights of King's career, such as Pet Sematary with its gentle ramping-up of events, the expert cadence prevents it from ever feeling slow.

Joyland was an excellent read from start to finish. It's addictive. The characters are well-rounded; the places interesting; the lingo a joy. It's a little bit heartbreaking at times. It's not particularly scary, and the scares that do take place are entirely human, even with the slight supernatural elements mixed in - but that doesn't matter. Joyland is King at the top of his game.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 15 June 2013
In Joyland we meet Dev, a young man facing rejection from the woman he loves, who takes a Summer job at Joyland, where they sell fun don't you know! A few years before his arrival a young woman was brutally murdered and her killer never found...her ghost is said to haunt the park and Dev finds himself interested in her story. Can he mend his broken heart and catch a killer?

Of course this is Stephen King we are talking about so while the above synopsis is what the book is about, its certainly not what the book is ABOUT. An evocative haunting tale, its a character driven coming of age story, where the mystery is secondary to the people involved in it. The characters Dev meets while on his journey to true adulthood will touch your heart - its just as much about friendship and finding yourself as it is about a dead girl and what may have happened to her. You will fall in love with some of them - and yes, at the end I cried. Quite a lot. Which is always a good sign!

I always find books like this hard to review because almost anything I can say about it may spoil the ambience for true readers - I don't want to let you know very much at all. I want YOU to find it all out for yourselves. Suffice to say, if you are one of Mr King's "Constant Readers" this is likely to head towards the top of your favourite King books. If you havent read his novels before, then this would be a great place to start - its not one of his "epics" and the Hard Crime series are always worth a dip into even when its not Stephen King writing them. In this case its so much more than a crime book BECAUSE it also has that magic King touch. So I hope you pick this up. Certainly you will not be disappointed.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
"A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." -- Proverbs 15:13 (NKJV)

I know many Stephen King fans, and I'm fascinated by his writing methods and style. Yet I find his books hard to take due to the ghastliness involved in many of them. Consequently, I don't read many. I'm glad that I made Joyland an exception. It's a superb book with only the tiniest aspects of what normally repels me (and obviously attracts many others).

Characterizing this story according to genres is a challenge. It's clearly an homage to the carney world. There's a murder mystery. It's also a coming-of-age novel. And, of course, there's a non-Biblical supernatural element. Ultimately, the book is perhaps best understood as being gracious and full of charm, upholding the idea of doing the right thing. If that's the kind of uplifting book that appeals to you, consider Joyland. The book is written from a male perspective in every sense, so don't expect the kind of cosiness that a book with a woman's perspective often brings.

Mr. King does a great job of adding many appealing, and unforgettable characters, the kind that you might like to have as friends, coworkers, and neighbors. I can't remember many novels of this length that succeed so well in this regard. Excellent!

Perhaps the best thing to say for capturing this book is that while many of Mr. King's books start from fragments of a nightmare he has had, perhaps this one story started with a daydream while sitting under a pleasant apple tree as summer retreated into fall.

Nice going, Mr. King.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 August 2014
I am a big fan of Mr King, and have been looking for this title for ages. I was surprised to see it on Kindle (as I don't believe it was first off) and the next day I loaned it from my local library. I read it in 2 days. Personally, I don't think it's as good as say, "Delores Claiborne") but I still really enjoyed the story, including all the characters, and the only slightly supernatural aspect. The two problems (very, very minor points, so please don't take it personally as it is only my opinion) is the ammount of bad language in the book, which doesn't really add anything to the story, and secondly, like the majority of Terry Pratchetts works, which I love, btw, there are no chapters in Joyland, only paragraphs. If I get tired, I say to myself, 'I'll read to the end of the next chapter' and alas, this time I couldn't. I was also annoyed that I didn't guess the identity of the killer. Who would have suspected mild mannered...? (just kidding, no spoilers) At the end of the day, I have every intentention of reading the book again, and if I can find it for under £2.00, I'll add it to my Stephen King collection.
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