Thursday, October 10, 2013


by Stephen King

I can always count on Stephen King to get me out of a dry spot in reading. School has been keeping me really busy since I added a class this semester, I'm sinking in short and reflective essay grading and not having as much fun reading time... one bummer about my job. That's why I love King's writing style, he can just start the story and go, and even if it's not one of his best, his writing is so engaging you just zip right through the book, no matter how long.

Joyland is a bit of a side step from the King novels of late. First off, it is a new genre for him, Hard Case Crime. In addition, it is relatively short, considering his typical tomes this one is only about 300 pages. Even so, he fully develops each character, immerses you into the culture (this time a carnival), he gives sufficient background, he keeps the mystery alive and he keeps it moving.

The story is about a college student who spends a summer working the carnival in North (South?) Carolina, which happens to have a haunted house ride. The catch is that the house is actually haunted by a young girl whose boyfriend murdered her while riding through. Devin decides to solve the mystery and find the murderer, who came as a complete surprise.

The good: it's Stephen King.... what else do I need to say?
The not so: heavy on the "carny" stuff, the ghost, mystery and murder seemed a little sidelined by the Devin story.

I'm not real familiar with Hard Case Crime so I can't judge whether this book would be a good portrayal, but I can say it was pretty true to what SK does best, which is tell a story. And while it's not his best, it's a good read. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Child 44

by Tom Rob Smith

This book has been on my "to-read" list for a few years, when it was listed as candidate for the Man Booker Prize. The novel is a suspense/thriller set in Stalin era Soviet Union. The story boils down to this: one of the top Soviet MGB officers determines there is a serial child-killer on the loose, but the Soviet State refuses to accept this premise, so Leo Demidov is forced to find this madman alone. As he follows the trail of the murderer, he is haunted by Child 44, who, as one of the victims, happens to be the son of a colleague.

Here is my take: the book focuses more on the communist state than developing a suspense. While many a gruesome detail is included in the story, I found little mystery as to the culprit, although other reviewers seemed surprised by the ending. I'm also not sure how accurate his depiction of the Soviet State is because several of the scenarios seem implausible within a socialist regime. For an example, one side story involves Leo's wife and the question of her loyalty to both her husband and the State. Leo's superior tells him to investigate her, which seems rather unlikely that they would leave that to her husband.... but you never know. There is an unexpected twist toward the end of the book, but it is somewhat irrelevant, only in that it places the hero in a moral conundrum.

Again I have found myself unwittingly reading the first novel in a series. Fortunately, this was fine standing alone because I didn't love it enough to read two more. However, if you like suspense with a little history, you might enjoy these books.