All posts tagged thriller

Book Review: Joyland

Published July 24, 2013 by mrsrag

Author:  Stephen King.  Crime/Mystery/A Smattering of the Paranormal.  288 pages.

Easily the best author of my lifetime, perhaps any lifetime, Stephen King has been entertaining and scaring the shit out of me for over three decades.  From The Stand (my all-time favorite) to Cujo, Christine, The Tommyknockers, Dreamcatcher, Hearts in Atlantis, Carrie, The Shining, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, It….sorry I have to stop.  The list is nearly endless, and I’m sure my point has been made.  You’d be hard-pressed to find a person on this planet who hasn’t been touched at some point by the man’s words; in print or on the screen.  We recently embarked on a colossal road trip and we made the wise decision to bring a book on CD, Joyland, with us.  Set in the 1970’s in an amusement park in North Carolina, Joyland follows the story of Devin Jones, a young man working his way through college at a summer job.  Sad and confused because the love of his life has seemingly cut him loose, he makes new friends and learns of some dark secrets at his new position on the midway.  Devin tells us the tale of his summer those many years ago, teaching us the language of the “carnies” and pulling us into his attempt to solve a cold case murder along the way.  Devin is a writer in the present, and I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that Stephen King has written A LOT of himself into the character.  Joyland is yet another masterpiece of story telling from the master of masters.

I am nowhere near the caliber of Stephen King fan that my writing partner is, but I thoroughly enjoy the man’s work.  I think the first King masterpiece I ever experienced was Carrie.  And holy crap, what a first!  I don’t think I slept for a good week.  The depth of his stories and the details that create unbelievably vivid characters are a distinct characteristic of his exquisite writing.  He can paint a picture so well that you feel as though you know the people and the places as he’s creating them or describing them to you.  We had an added effect since we were driving right through North Carolina and other towns mentioned in the tale, both on the venture up and the trek back down the Eastern seaboard.  Including an exciting stop by the writer’s home in Bangor, Maine!  We hadn’t even planned on checking out his digs, but we literally were in the neighborhood.  The story was also markedly enhanced by its reader, Michael Kelly, known for numerous acting gigs on some small and big screen features.  You’ll recognize him, but it’s hard to describe one specific role he’s played…


This guy is really good.  We’ve listened to our share of audiobooks and Kelly was by far the best reader ever, his different voices for both male and female characters alike were spot on.  It truly improves an audiobook experience when you have an entertaining reader who cares about the integrity of the story.  King does so much research for his novels and this is evident in the way he nails down specifics like the jargon between carnies.  I found Joyland suspenseful, exciting, intriguing and intelligently delivered.  It was an excellent choice for our trip and would be a great decision if you find yourself bored in the car.

We listened to, and ripped via review,  Fifty Shades of Grey.  Beyond being some of the worst writing in history, the woman who narrated the story was abysmally putrid.  Michael Kelly was nothing short of phenomenal on Joyland.  Of course, he was working with light years better material, but you could feel that he was invested in the story.  The narrative flowed so naturally that I was totally immersed in it.  Devin Jones is a good guy, trying to do the right thing, and you’re right there with him every step.  Nothing too creepy or scary in this one; when all is said and done you’re left with a good, old fashioned, twisting murder mystery.  Well mostly, but with a few Stephen Kingian ghosts thrown in for good measure.  I loved trying to figure “whodunit”, and did a pretty good job I might add, though not without a bit of waffling.  Also, it was truly a kick seeing SK’s house in Bangor.  Nice, big, but not pretentious, and nary a feel of foreboding while standing in front of it.  The only glimpse of anything dark were the bats on the fence, and they were cool not scary.  I couldn’t thank the guy enough for the hours and hours of joy he’s given me through his books and movies.  And Joyland is right there with some of his best, as he proves again, that he doesn’t NEED to shock or scare us to keep our attention.  But damn, he is sooooo good at it.

He is truly a master of his craft.  One of my favorite things about King is how he examines a different perspective of the human condition in each of his tales.  Joyland examines the difficult nature of growing up; coming-of-age while dealing with the trials of love, the emotional impact of loss and the certainty of death.  King seems to have a deep understanding of all these experiences, which is why he can deliver his message with such clear conviction.  Whether you give it a listen or a read, Joyland is a thrill ride you don’t want to miss.


Ross’ Rating:  5 Bookmarks out of 5!

Maria’s Rating:  4.5 Bookmarks.

Recent DVD Release: Jack Reacher

Published May 13, 2013 by mrsrag

Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelolo, Werner Herzog, Jai Courtney, Robert Duvall.

Rated: PG-13.  Action/Crime.  Running Time: 2 hours 10 minutes.

How can Tom Cruise pull off the most bad ass dudes on screen and be such a fruit in real life?  The guy is a great actor.  Just take a glance at his extensive resume: Top Gun, Risky Business, Cocktail, The Color of Money, Mission Impossible, War of the Worlds, etc.  Nobody does cool, calm & collected, bordering cocky, bad ass like Tom.  Jack Reacher is a perfect example of Cruise’s signature role.  Ross and I recently embarked on one of our long road trips, which seem to breeze by with the help of audio books.  Additionally, we had just heard from one of our trusty film sources, Kevin, that Jack Reacher was worth a look.  I spotted a collection of three Reacher novels by author Lee Child and decided the plots sounded right up our alley.  Especially after our failed attempt at listening to the unbelievably horrendous 50 Shades of Grey.  Arguably some of the worst writing of the 21st century.  Anyhow, I thought it would be cool to get a feel for Reacher as a character prior to viewing the movie.  This was a good move.  Although Jack Reacher is based on the ninth book in the series, One Shot, the three novels we listened to really gave us a feel for the tone of the story and Reacher as a chracter.  I found the film clever, witty and deliciously entertaining.  But then again, as much as I want Tom to disappoint me, he rarely ever does (See ‘Eyes Wide Shut’).

Maria didn’t mention our favorite Cruise role, as Roy Miller in Knight and Day.  Probably because we’re two of the few who’ve seen it.  Trust me on this one, rent it or buy it or watch it on HBO.  Cruise and Cameron Diaz are awesome together, and the movie is funny, thrilling, ridiculous and doesn’t take itself too seriously.  “We should have sex.  I think we’d have really great sex.”  Okay, Jack Reacher.  I had never heard about the character and the series of books until the movie came out.  Maria bought us the first three books on CD and they were very entertaining.  The insight into what makes the guy tick vastly increased my viewing pleasure as well.  In this one Reacher, an ex-Army criminal investigator who now drifts from place to place, has come to Pittsburgh to take care of a sniper who killed five people.  The guy was caught quickly, open and shut case.  Not quite.  Even though he knows Reacher would be coming to kill him (they had a history), he specifically asks for him.  Jack teams up with Helen (Pike), the reluctant defense attorney and daughter of the D.A. (Jenkins), and the truth begins to unfold.  Can you say conspiracy?  Jack Reacher is an honest man, a brilliant investigator and of course, a great fighter.  He is also a vigilante, and he will kill your ass if you deserve it.  In the books he’s 6′ 5″, Cruise is 5′ 6″, but he somehow works in the part.  The guy really is pretty frigging good.  I remember Interview with a Vampire.  No way did I EVER picture him as Lestat, but sure enough, he killed that one too!  

Cruise is definitely surprising.  And although he may not exactly be my cup of tea, he’s good at his craft.  Ross & I do love Knight and Day.  His role as Roy is quite possibly the most lovable character I’ve seen him play.  Charming and still a serious bad ass.  Tom epitomizes the Hollywood guy that you want to hate in reality.  But for some reason, I still find him entertaining on screen.  Jack Reacher is a film you can feel safe about.  I wasn’t thinking what I often do, “Can I have my 2 hours back?”  I felt invested in the story and enjoyed having someone to root for.  A classic tale of right versus wrong always appeals to me.  And this one has sequel written all over it.  I’m game, but I think I can wait for the DVD.

Oh, I’m positive there will be sequels, plural.  There are 17 more Reacher books and counting.  I’m sure there are die hard fans of the series that would disagree with me, but Cruise is made for the role.  $220,000,000 gross box office worldwide isn’t Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings or Iron Man money, but I’m guessing it’s enough for at least a couple of more installments.   Robert Duvall showed up late as the character Cash, a kind of Morgan Freeman to Batman-type relationship with Reacher that I enjoyed, and I hope he’s back for the sequels.  Maria and I have two more road trips planned for this summer, and we’ll definitely try to find more Jack Reacher on CD.  It’s not award winning, life affirming or world changing literature; just good old fashioned, American fun.  And he maybe a glazed over, Scientologist nut job in real life, but old mister “Born on the 4th of July” sure knows how to entertain us.

Maria’s Rating:  3.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.

Ross’ Rating:  3.75 Gummies.