Joyland – Stephen King

joylandAlthough I devoured Stephen King as a teen and young adult, it’s probably been 15 years since I’ve read a King novel (Bag of Bones, which I loved). I decided to give Joyland a go and it was like settling into a comfortable pair of slippers. (I know, it’s ridiculous to compare the Master of Horror to a pair of comfy slippers, but I’m talking more about that feeling of just knowing that you are in really good hands – which you always are with King.)

Joyland is not a horror story really. It’s the story of Devin Jones, a college student who takes a job at Joyland, a Disney-style amusement park (I imagined Family Kingdom at Myrtle Beach, S.C., which I visited once as a teen) in North Carolina.  Devin tells the story of his summer and autumn at Joyland through the lens of late middle age. He says

That fall was the most beautiful of my life. Even forty years later I can say that. And I was never so unhappy. I can say that, too.

Devin’s unhappiness stems from his recent break-up with his first serious girlfriend, Wendy. Devin has an inkling that their relationship has run its course when Wendy doesn’t even hesitate to encourage him to take the job at Joyland, even though it means that they will be separated for the summer. “It’ll be an adventure” she tells him, without realizing just how much of an adventure it’ll actually be.

Devin meets a cast of interesting characters at Joyland and in the little seaside town he calls home while he works there. Characters like Lane Hardy (who shows him the ropes around the park) and Rosalind Gold (the resident fortune teller who makes a couple of astute predictions about Devin’s future) and Emmalina Shoplaw (who owns the boarding house where Devin rents a room and who tells him about the murder associated with Joyland’s  Horror House) add a bit of local character to the story.  Other characters, like Mike and his mother, Annie, have a more profound impact on Devin’s life.

Devin Jones calls that summer “the last year of my childhood” and he is right. King expertly balances the story’s nostalgic look back, and his protagonist’s bittersweet reminiscences (“I still want to know why I wasn’t good enough for Wendy Keegan”). Joyland is as much a coming-of-age tale as it is a murder-mystery. Both aspects of the novel will keep you turning the pages.

End of Year Book Survey

best-books-2013-1024x862Once again, Jamie over at at The Perpetual Page-Turner offers bloggers the opportunity to  reflect upon their blogging year. Who doesn’t love that?

Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

I’m going to break this category into three:

Best YA: The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie was laugh-out-loud funny and, man, I was rooting for Junior all the way.

Best Other: Our Daily Bread – Lauren B. Davis

I pick this one because the characters just really got under my skin and they’re still under there. I just want to save them all.

Other – A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

I couldn’t really put this in the YA category because I think you could read this at a much younger age. This is a beautifully written and illustrated novel which had my sobbing like a baby even though I knew exactly what was coming.

Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

Helen Dunmore’s The Greatcoat. I am a huge fan, but I just found this slow-moving. Not saying I didn’t like it, but I didn’t LOVE it.

Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013?

Never Fall Down – Patricia McCormick surprised me because my son said, “Mom, we tried to read that book in school and even the teacher thought it sucked.” I really liked it.

Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

I’ve probably recommended David Levithan’s Every Day the most.

And I still haven’t stopped talking about Our Daily Bread. Read it. Please.

Best series you discovered in 2013?

I’m not really a series reader. I just feel like I’d really have to love the book to want to invest a bunch more time into its sequels. I mean, I will do it if I really have to…but I didn’t find that series this year.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Tana French. I read In the Woods and I will definitely be reading more.

 Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

My comfort zone is pretty big and I stay pretty clear of genres I am not interested in – like straight up sci fi or fantasy.

 Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

I raced through the first 200 pages of David Bell’s Cemetery Girl but then it all fell apart. I guess if I had to pick a page turner it would have to be Gillian Flynn’s Dark Places (which is, imho, better than Gone Girl) or Andrew Pyper’s The Guardians.

Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

I won’t be rereading anything. I have WAY too many books on my TBR shelf.

 Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?

eleanor and parkbellman

YA cover: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

I love the clean, simple look of her covers. Loved the book, too – just not the ending.

Other cover: Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield

 I loved the cover, but I didn’t like the book.

 Most memorable character in 2013?

Hands down – Albert Erskine from Our Daily Bread

Runners up: ‘A’ from Every Day, Auggie from Wonder – R. J. Palacio, Cormoran Strike from Robert Galbraith’s The Cuckoo’s Calling

 Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

Let my copious tears be a testament to the beauty of the book.

 Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?

Our Daily Bread – Lauren B. Davis

It did all the things a great book should do for you – make you think, give you characters to care about, move you.

 Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read?

In the Woods – Tana French

It’s been on my radar (and on my tbr shelf) for a long time. Don’t know why I waited.

Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

Most recently I loved, “When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.” from Stephen King’s Joyland

Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

The World More Full of Weeping – Robert J. Wiersema, 101

With My Body – Nikki Gemmell, 480

Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Albert & Bobby and Ivy & Dorothy from Our Daily Bread

Sophie & Otto from Endangered by Eliot Schrefer

Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness. Big fan and have read the Chaos Walking trilogy.

  Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Um, this is sad – but nothing. I’m the person who gives recommendations, but I rarely get them from other people. Sometimes students recommend books, but it doesn’t always end well.

 Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

Of the 62 books I read in 203, 32 were YA and of those 32, one was non-fic and two were graphic.

 Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

Park from Eleanor & Park because he just doesn’t give up on the girl, even when she’s prickly.

 Best 2013 debut you read?

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith – who I admire more and more with each book I read. (It doesn’t even really technically count, though.)

  Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick dropped me right in the middle of Cambodia and shook my until my teeth rattled.

  Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Why We Broke Up – Daniel handler.

I loved the format…all the drawings.

 Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness. And I cried hard.

 Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

Our Daily Bread – despite being long-listed for the Giller, I’d never heard of it. It’s not an easy book and the subject matter won’t be palatable for everyone, but it packs a punch that should not be overlooked.

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2013?

Just found this one:

The Unputdownable Book Club

 Favorite review that you wrote in 2013?

Our Town. I loved thinking about this play again.

Best discussion you had on your blog?


Sadly, not many people stop by.

 Best moment of book blogging/your book life in 2013?

Live tweeting with Lauren B. Davis at the book club meeting where we talked about her book.

 Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

My Reader’s Table got the most views …but that’s a page that is relatively static.

 Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

I’d love to have a lot more interaction with readers…hell, I’d love to have a lot more readers.

 Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I set a reading goal of 60 books this year and I had reached it by Dec 13th.  My grand total was 62.