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Joyland (Hard Case Crime)
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon March 5, 2016
Although I have not been enamored by all of Stephen King’s books, I keep reading them because I know that the ones that I don’t particularly enjoy are few and far between and the gems are plentiful.

This character driven mystery is one of those gems. It is a murder mystery with just a bit of the supernatural. Also, for readers of a certain age, this story, set in 1973, can bring back memories of a different era, when amusement parks and carnivals were an entertaining but tawdry world, full of fun with an underlying current of danger.

I was not sure that I was going to really like this book at first, since the early pages put a lot of emphasis on carnival lingo. However, I found the characters to be so interesting and was quickly invested in the plot. Stephen King has such an ability to bring his characters to life and make readers care about their outcome. The suspense is sustained until the very satisfying ending.
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VINE VOICEon February 23, 2016
It's kind of a misnomer for this to be in the "Hard Case Crime" series as there's no real hard crime in this. Other books in the series have more of a noir flavor to them, but this is more of a coming-of-age story. Since it takes place in an amusement park, it makes me think of "Adventureland" or "The Way, Way Back." Basically a kid graduates from high school and spends the summer working at Joyland, an amusement park in North Carolina. Along the way he falls in love and learns about love and stuff.

Since it's Stephen King there's a ghost and psychic powers a la "The Shining" involved as well. Most of the story is really well done. The part where the girl in the red hat chokes on a hot dog felt like a punch to the gut emotionally.

The murder part is actually the weakest aspect of the story. The final confrontation felt so cliche that all the bad guy needed to say was "If it weren't for you meddling kids..." and it could have been an episode of "Scooby-Doo."

Still, it's a very good book overall. More the Stephen King of "The Green Mile" or the Richard Bachmann novels than "The Stand" or "It" or his horror novels. So don't go into it thinking it's a horror book.

That is all.
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on April 22, 2018
Joyland was a bit of a departure from the usual Stephen King novel. For one thing, although it had supernatural elements to it, it was at its heart a mystery. Also, I’ve never read a Stephen King book that took place in a carnival setting, although Joyland was technically an amusement park, it still seemed more like a travelling carnival. There was a good deal of carny lingo in there at the least.

The story’s protagonist, Dev, is a college kid who had just gotten his heart broken by his college sweetheart. He spends the summer far from his university working at an amusement park in North Carolina. The park has a haunted house type of ride that is actually haunted from a woman who was murdered while going on the ride—and that is the heart of the mystery in this novel. What shapes the story is when Dev sees the park’s fortune teller, who actually has some psychic ability, and she tells him that a young boy and girl will figure prominently in his future. As it turns out, this young boy, besides suffering from a debilitating disease, also has psychic abilities, and figures in his quest to solve the mystery of the haunted ride murder.

This was an enjoyable novel. It was really strong from a characterization standpoint. There were very memorable characters, from Dev on through numerous side characters. Although the mystery element was well done, most of the book did not focus on that part of it. Most of the book focuses on his evolving as a person and his relationship with the crippled boy and her mom—both of whom are also standout characters. I liked the supernatural parts of it, and thought it meshed well with the mystery. The one negative was a groan-inducing part at the end that involved the reveal of the killer, but otherwise this was a satisfying novel.

Carl Alves - author of Battle of the Soul
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VINE VOICEon June 6, 2013
Devin Jones, a college student from the University of New Hampshire, gets a summer job on the North Carolina coast at a "B-List" amusement park called Joyland. This book was published by Hard Case Crime which specializes in pulp fiction stylized novels that many of us cut our literary teeth on back in the `50s.

Now, close your eyes and get a feel for what a writer of King's caliber can do with the premise of a young wholesome college kid dropped into the edgy setting of a Theme Park; Carnie folk; a murder in the Horror House ride; A ghost and serial killer; A young wheelchair bound boy; Heartbreak; and the wonderful beachside setting of the Carolinas.

The cast of characters pull Devin, and the reader, along as the plot unfolds. Lane Hardy runs the Carolina Spin, a huge Ferris Wheel, and gives a lot of fatherly advice. We have a Fortune Teller who may actually know a thing or two. Devin lives in a rooming house on the beach owned by Mrs. Shoplaw who also has insight into the goings on at Joyland. Also residing in the boarding house are Erin who is a Hollywood Girl photographer (see the great cover art) and his new buddy Tom.

The day-to-day work-a-day world and jargon of the characters in this small time carnival atmosphere is so interesting that the reader soon feels like an insider. Central to the plot is the mystery of a murder that is eerie and disturbing but keeps the novel moving along.

If I need to find a fault to round out my appraisal it would only be that the main character is telling this tale from 40-years after the fact so the reader knows that nothing fatal of life or limb transpired back when he was coming of age in Joyland.

I am a fan of Stephen King but this is only my second Hard Case Crime book and I found both excellent. In fact, after finishing this one I went on line and bought a couple more. Great writing, great premise.
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on July 21, 2013
This is one of those Stephen King works that isn't the typical horror-show.
Yes there are some super natural elements but King also graces some of his characters with some of the best traits of humankind.
The characters experience most feelings anyone has from young love to jealousy to superstition and fear...and more.
As a long time and hardcore Stephen King fan I thoroughly enjoyed this even though I had tears streaming down my face by the end. And not out of sorrow but from hope more humans embody the spirit of the hero.
I'm not a book critic but simply a fan of Stephen King's books who loved this story.
I'm sure many would say this is a maudlin work and not his best...but if you are a fan of SK's you won't be sorry for one minute if you buy this.
Yeah I know a lot are going to rate this review as "not helpful" but I predict SK fans will get it.
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on December 14, 2017
Oh wow, this was certainly a King novel to remember.

So sublime that it fits in the Hard Case Crime label.

It reads like one of those old, thin, paperbacks with the stench of cigarettes and libraries that you can get for a dollar from the local used book store. It reads like the trash pulp that was wasting away until you found it and devoured it on your train ride to work....only written by a, well, a King.

It's a great King story and a great story for anyone that likes pulp, right down to the carnival.
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on April 18, 2014
For many many years now Stephen King and I have had a perfectly cyclical relationship. It goes like this: I learn that he has a new book coming out--> I buy new book without worrying about reviews (I already know I'm going to like it- it's just a question of where it will fit in my evolving collection), or price (although I can remember how painfully slow it was saving up my money from babysitting and a paper route)--> inhale new book and be grateful that I can enjoy it again and again--> wait for news of a new book. HE may not be aware of our relationship, but I have now spent a huge part of my life in it. Joyland is no exception.

I think that out of all of the authors I've read over the years, and there have been many- both authors AND years- Stephen King has always been one of the best at putting me there, right in the middle of the story. Whether it's the description of a chilly fall day or the last day of school, right before the bell rings for summer vacation, I can see it, feel it, remember for a minute EXACTLY how it was. I can't describe it better. He just somehow always manages to get it right. The beach at the beginning of summer changes as fall approaches. This is the setting for the story, and any of us fortunate enough to have spent a summer and fall near a beach will recognize the feeling of the change of seasons.

Devin Jones is a young man on the cusp between the end of childhood and manhood. He is opening his eyes to the world. He is nursing a broken heart and decides to take a semester off college and continue to work at Joyland Amusement Park after working there for the summer. His decision is partially because of his heart, but mostly because of Linda Gray. The ghost of a murdered young woman who didn't leave Joyland alive (and evidently has been unable to leave it dead either). He will stay for a boy named Mike and his mother, Annie. In their own ways both will usher in Dev's adulthood.

Mike brought back fond memories of Jack Sawyer from The Talisman and Jake Chambers from The Dark Tower. These are special boys who, willing or not, are destined for tough journeys. They have had to grow up too early and all three contain a fine threading of steel that will propel them forward despite terrifying circumstances. Survival and long life is definitely not guaranteed and for Mike, early death is a foregone conclusion.

This murder mystery grabbed me immediately, held me until the very end, made me remember old times, laugh, and damn near cry at the end. Classic Stephen King. I would expect nothing less.
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on September 18, 2013
I have a confession to make: I'm not the world's biggest Stephen King fan. Know what? After reading this book, I'm sure a bigger fan now than I ever was before! JOYLAND is a book that can cross many genres. It could appeal to the romantic; to the mystery solver; the paranormal enthusiasts; and to the young adult and young at heart alike.

It's the 1970's and college student and aspiring writer, Devin Jones, is in love with Wendy. Wendy, not so much. Devin decides to spend his summer working at Joyland Amusement Park in North Carolina where he meets a cast of characters more amusing and interesting than the amusement park itself! Add to that cast of characters the Stephen King twist of an unsolved murder begging to be solved and things just got REALLY interesting in that small town.

Linda Gray was murdered in the "Horror House". Folks around town say that she still haunts that Joyland ride. On a rare day off from work, Devin and his new friends, Erin and Tom (who also work at the park), decide to spend the day being visitors at the park rather than employees. Their plan~~to ride through the "Horror House" and see if there is anything to the rumor that it is haunted.

For one of the three friends, things just got very real.

Determined to solve this mystery of Linda Gray's murder, and mend his broken heart, Devin stays on at Joyland as a full time employee after the "rubes" of summer have long gone and the park is closed. The story unfolds as told to us from the Devin in years to come as he reflects upon that summer. Oh that summer.

My book club chose this book as our Summer Group Read and we had quite the spirited (no pun intended) discussion. By all accounts, mine included, this book is Mr. King at quite possibly, his finest.

I'm giving this book a 4.5 star rating. And if anyone at all is reading this that has any influence with Mr. King whatsoever, how about a prequel to this book? Please? I'd love to know that back story of Linda Gray and her killer.
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on December 5, 2016
Joyland, a supernatural mystery by Stephen King, is a first-person retell of events that occurred in 1973. 21-year-old Devin Jones tells us about his summer experience working at the Joyland Amusement Park in Heaven, NC. As Dev works in the park, he learns about the unsolved murder of a young woman whose ghost haunts the funhouse. With the help of his friend, he learns of other similar murders and assumes that all the unsolved murders all are related.

As the story unravels, the reader learns about carny life, carny "Talk, " and the particulars of Joyland. But the book is not all about Dev's work experience and the mystery of the Carnival Killer. It is about coming of age, developing friendships, and being heroic; in fact, to me, those were the more interesting themes in the novel.
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on January 22, 2017
Great story from Stephen King. Might be the clean living, or, the morning walks with Mollie before hitting the keyboard. The clarity of the writing, the occasional insider nod to the reader and a laser focus on pacing polishes the King Diamond even more.
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