Posts Tagged ‘psychological

28
Feb
18

Goodreads Review: Joyland

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JoylandJoyland by Stephen King

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Joyland’s premise is simple; drop an unsuspecting college kid on the edge of a nervous breakdown into a (potentially haunted) amusement park, toss in a damsel in distress, an unsolved murder (or four…) and maybe a ghost or two, let the mess sort itself out.

Fairly standard King, in other words. And it’s not all that inaccurate; Joyland is indeed like much of King’s backlog. Take one depressed post-teenager, a semi-mundane (but slightly surreal) setting, add spooks, and stir. But like most King novels, there’s a lot more under the hood if you stop to look.

Dev Jones comes to Joyland one summer to put some cash in his pocket and get a little perspective on life. When he joins the rest of Team Beagle at the dog-themed amusement park, we’re given a vivid description of carnival terminology and a slice of a life beyond what most of us will ever be used to. Unlike most of his fellow “greenies,” Dev takes to it with a will, even requesting that he stay on for the off season, taking a semester off from college (and away from his cheating ex-girlfriend). The local fortune-teller’s cryptic warnings, and the friendship Dev forms with Mike, Annie and Milo Ross along with the whispers of a ghost haunting the Horror House certainly help make that decision as well.

To say much more would likely give the game away, but the point of it is this: The on-top story (about friendship with Annie, Milo and Mike and digging into the murder in the park) is just paint. Joyland is really about living, growing up, the scabs and scars that get inflicted on us in our youth and what we do with them as adults. And those moments that, as King puts it, “are treasure. They’re precious. They shine.” Hidden underneath all the carny-talk and whodunit questions, you see Dev trying to rebuild himself, to be a better man… and from the occasional interjections of his older self (who’s telling us this story) you see the places where he succeeded… and where he failed. Joyland will rest happily alongside IT and ‘Salem’s Lot as a testament to those ideals, to childhood and learning to grow up – or thinking you had, only to see that it’s all still there, from that first kiss with the girl next door to the fear of the boogeyman under the bed or in the closet – and the bittersweet taste of your childhood’s departure. It’s about feeling something, and that always has been what King does best… even without a parade of beasts.

I recommend this one to anybody, but especially to people who like a good whodunit or ghost story, and those looking to be punched right in the feels, as the internet is fond of saying these days. Joyland makes you care about Mike Ross, Laura Gray and Dev Jones, and the epilogue is more touching and somehow right than any thousand romances or “heartwarming stories” that clog the shelves these days. Check it out.

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28
Feb
18

Goodreads Review: Food Therapy

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Food Therapy (3:53 a.m. #2)Food Therapy by Nocomus Columbus

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have a hankering for some immensely disturbing and disjointed peeks into a fractured individual (or three)? Then this is for you. As with his previous effort (3:53 a.m.), Food Therapy introduces us to some incredibly fractured individuals and lets us spend some time in their heads… until they get their just deserts, that is.

Speaking of deserts, Corey, our first new friend, loves them. As he tells his mother, why he’s only had two cases of Oreos today! Having been a hefty lad from the start, Corey ballooned up to over 800 pounds following the loss of his father, and has since taken up residence in the living room, reigning over his mother like a petty, piggish despot; his implement of rule? The backscratcher, his mighty scepter. Corey proves to be both vile and sympathetic (occasionally both simultaneously) as one eats their way through the pages (pun most definitely intended) and witnesses the tyrant’s rise – and eventual fall – while he obsesses over the pizza delivery girl, makes friends with a former solider, and talks to the ashes of a preacher’s son.

Then there’s his mother. Though we’re rarely allowed directly into her head, her actions convey the implication that she’s just as warped as her son… if not more so. From the moment she informs him that she’s opening a new business – a massage therapy center, to which exclusively male clients come, hmmm… – one has to wonder what’s going on in her head. When Jim, perhaps the only friend Corey has ever made, proposes they begin dating she only grows worse, culminating in her actions in the epilogue of the piece.

Lastly, there’s Jim. With “salvation” and “redemption” tattooed on his arms, he’s seen – and done – some terrible things. Before the tale is done, he’ll add at least one more to his count. With a clever callback to 3:53 AM, Food Therapy is tied up in a tasty bite sized package, leaving the reader wanting more.

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26
Feb
18

Goodreads Review: For Those With Eyes To See

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For Those With Eyes to SeeFor Those With Eyes to See by Troy Blackford

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What do a blogger selling hate culture, an ominous refrigerated U-Haul, a mysterious iPhone e-mail and a bunch of “googly eyes” have in common?

This book, that’s what. A collection of short stories, For Those With Eyes to See spans the spectrum of the bizarre, worrisome and horrifying. While a lot of similar anthologies suffer from obvious “weak points,” stories that either don’t fit the overall tone or that are somehow inferior to the others, Blackford’s collection seems to suffer from no such weakness; each tale serves as a quick read, often with an O. Henry punch at the end, and keeps you hungry for more without feeling incomplete. Each piece has something to recommend it, whether it be the eventual fate of the almost-too-nice crafter who just wanted some eyes for her stuffed animals in the titular tale or the sudden reversal and light of hope found in ‘Now for the Sunbeams.’

The language is clear and well-written, having a knack for finding just the right word without needless excursions to the thesaurus or dictionary. (the singular exception being ‘All in Your Head’ and it’s use of otolaryngological… but given the context and the way it’s used, we’ll give that one a pass.) The characters are entertaining and well fleshed out given the truncated word count, and each of them are entertaining in their own way (my favorite being Paul Whirlpool from ‘That’s When You Know You’re Doing Something Right’), with a unique voice and feel to them that sometimes evades short fiction.

If you have a taste for the weird, miss the days when short fiction was common and collections were the norm (especially those who enjoyed Barker’s In The Flesh or King’s Night Shift) then this book is probably worth a look. If you don’t feel like reading it in order (which you should, because they’re all great and I thought the order of placement was part of the fun), I at the very least advise you to check out ‘That’s When You Know You’re Doing Something Right,’ ‘Such A Good Idea,’ and ‘Monday Morning,’ which were my personal favorites.

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09
Jan
18

Layers, Part 2

(Missed Part 1? Click here!)

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I pulled up the drive, stomach in knots. The back of my throat was coated with acid, making every swallow torture, every breath ragged. The air felt like it was made of heavy, bitter syrup and no matter how many blasts I took from my aspirator, my asthma wouldn’t let go.

I’d dreamed of this moment. Dozens – maybe hundreds – of times, since I was just a kid. I’d done everything I could to change the circumstances. In the dreams, it was always late in the day, at the edge of twilight; I’d left early, as soon as the sun was up, to be there before that. In the dream, I was always in an old red sedan, and to avoid that I’d rented a gray pickup.

Of course, the year-old and recently inspected truck didn’t make it up the trail. It blew a rod and died at the side of the road with no help in sight. By the time I’d gotten ahold of the rental company and had them come fetch me, the day was mostly gone. The car they brought as a replacement – apologizing the whole time, as it was the only one left in their fleet – was a red Chevrolet Cavalier.

I should have quit right then. Should have known better. But there was the sense that I didn’t really have a choice in this. That one way or another, the dreams were going to end today. Maybe it was pointless to try to resist the script that had been playing out in my sleep for the better part of three decades. Better to go with the flow.

Of course, the flow ended with a painful death, but at this point, that seemed unimportant.

Layers, again; peel away the best-laid plans to discover that you’re dancing to someone else’s tune. Peel away the nightmare, intending to expose it to the light and to the so-called real world, discover the nightmare was the truth all along.

Maybe that’s why I kept going. To be done with the onion-peeling, to be done with everything. I was tired. So tired. Not just of the dreams, of insomnia and headaches and nosebleeds and everything that went with them, but with life. One way or other, it would be done. I could put it all aside and be something else… or not have to be bothered by any of it at all.

I got out of the car, listening to the gunshot echoes produced when I slammed the driver’s door shut. The echo bothered me, but it took me a minute to figure out why. There was no response. No other sound. No little birds chirping, no bugs buzzing, no sense that the sound had disturbed any natural order that would otherwise be going about its business at the tail end of a sweltering day in July.

I could feel it. The house – or whatever was waiting for me inside – pulsing like a tumor in the landscape, a diseased heart sending whatever passed for its blood through the surroundings. Poisoning them, twisting them, making it unfit for anything that it didn’t allow to exist.

In that toxic heartbeat, I could hear it calling my name. God help me, I answered.

“I’m here,” I whispered. “I came.”

Without conscious thought, I walked towards the house, running my fingers along the smooth wood of the banister attached to the short steps leading to the porch. Despite the age, the length of time since someone had actually lived here, it was in good shape. No signs of rot, dust, or damage. No graffiti or broken windows, no cigarette butts and used condoms. Whatever aura the old place had, it was enough to keep the kids away.

I laid my hand on the brass doorknob of the stout wooden door, squinting, trying and failing to get a glimpse of what lay beyond through the frosted glass panes at the top of the door. The knob was cold, icy, beneath my hand. I felt that if I pulled my hand back and looked at it, I’d see a rime of ice melting against my palm. I didn’t try the experiment.

For a moment, I found myself hoping it would be locked. I knew it wouldn’t be, but if it was, I could be free. I could shrug and walk away. Despite following the madness this far, I wasn’t going to break a window or kick in the door just to sate my obsessions. That’s what I told myself, anyway.

It was a futile hope. The knob turned easily, without even a squeak, and the door slipped open like a mouth waiting to swallow me.

I couldn’t see what lay beyond; the clash between the darkness inside and the lingering bright outside left my eyes going spastic as they tried to decide which to focus on. Not that it mattered, anyway; I think the darkness was from something other than a lack of lights being on, and even if I’d thought to bring a flashlight it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Sighing, resigned to what was coming, I stepped through the doorway.

(Want more? Part 3 lies ahead!)

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