Saturday, January 3, 2015

Some of My Favorite Reads in 2014

Favorite Love Story: Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Gosh, it's been years since I've read anything by Stephen King other than On Writing. However, I came across a link to his Rolling Stone interview, and read this:

If you had to pick your best book, what would it be?
Lisey's Story. That one felt like an important book to me because it was about marriage, and I'd never written about that. I wanted to talk about two things: One is the secret world that people build inside a marriage, and the other was that even in that intimate world, there's still things that we don't know about each other.

More of King's Interview 

I just had to read the book. It's a voluble work. In an Author's Note, King says "yes, this book was edited". But I want to know: Was 10% cut? (His rule of thumb for whittling a manuscript down.) On the other hand, much of the architecture of the secret world of Lisey's and Scott's marriage is verbal so perhaps that's the point of the wordy repetitiveness. I don't know. But I was a big fan of King when he wrote: Salem's Lot, The (Edited Version) Stand, The Dead Zone, Pet Sematary... I began losing faith after Cujo and Christine (Apparently an English version of the book is no longer available!). But what I always loved about King was his ability to capture the inner thoughts of the common man. The Day We Planted Gage. So Louis Creed silently names the registry of his son's funeral as he slides it onto the top shelf of a closet. Wicked accuracy. Because those are the kind of sardonic things we're apt to say in an effort to cope.

King captures the inner workings of a devoted marriage so well in Lisey's Story it's almost creepy! The ways we navigate, negotiate, share, and look the other way when necessary. Although very much there, the lacing of horror is almost secondary. The most gripping aspect in that regard being the dark but ingenious: blood bools...

My Goodreads Review of Lisey's Story

Favorite Fairy Tale Retold: Charming/Cindermaid by Laura Briggs

Written in old-fashioned prose, this is one long read. Although sold as two books, it's definitely one story. I've read several "Cinderella" retellings; this is by far the most intricate and the most amazing. If you're into fairy tale retellings you must read this. But pick it up when you have some time, and you don't need to be rushed. Every detail of Prince Charming's and Cinderella's history is imagined to a completely satisfying culmination.

My Goodreads Review of Charming
My Goodreads Review of Cindermaid

 Favorite Fairy Tale Re-envisioned: The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy

When I got this home from the library, I kind of groaned: it's a retelling set in World War II. I just wasn't in the mood for a story about The Holocaust! Sorry! But this re-envisioning of Hansel and Gretel, Crones and Stepmothers, Bread Crumb Trails and Ovens, won me over rather quickly. Set in the Bialoweiza forest of Poland this is a profound fairy tale retelling not to be missed.

My Goodreads Review of the Real Story of Hansel and Gretel

Favorite Original Fairy Tale: Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez

Although not billed as a fairy tale, it is... a variation on Rapunzel and her long hair.

The surprise lay on the third niche of the high altar, the side where the Gospels were kept. The stone shattered at the first blow of the pickax, and a stream of living hair the intense color of copper spilled out of the crypt. The foreman, with the help of the laborers, attempted to uncover all the hair, and the more of it they brought out, the longer and more abundant it seemed, until at last the final strands appeared still attached to the skull of a young girl. Nothing else remained in the niche except a few small scattered bones, and on the dress eaten away by saltpeter only a given name with no surbames was legible: SIERVA MARÍA DE TODO LOS ÁNGELES. Spread out on the floor, the splendid hair measured twenty-two meters, eleven centimeters.

And so the story begins... Although there is no Happily Ever After, the love story is tender and the journey is an amazing one—told in only the way that Gabriela García Márquez could tell it.

My Goodreads Review of Of Love and Other Demons

Favorite Book on Aging: Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriela García Márquez

I thought I would hate this. García Márquez, being Colombian, is not exempt from the... um... prejudices towards the fairer sex that are... um... often inherent in that culture. I feel comfortable saying that because I was raised in a bicultural, bilingual household. As I grow older, it becomes more clear how I am not distinctly American nor Spanish... although my skin color is white, my mind is a mix. There is so much I love about the Latin culture: the musicality of the language, the vibrancy, the passion, the drama;) When I hear the language in any of it's variations it feels like home. However, every culture has its dark and light sides. Perhaps the light and dark of American is: the bright light of freedom afforded the individual; the dark being a will to inflict our way of life/"achievements" upon all we come into contact with! And the light of the Latin might be: a gifted metaphysical and organic way of viewing life and the world, with the dark being rigid gender stereotyping that is wholly synthetic. So... certain words make me cringe: Bitch, Whore, Cunt. I just don't like them. Especially, oh especially, when they are gratuitous.  So... the word "Whores" in the title didn't do much for me. But I am a rabid García Márquez fan. Despite the chauvinism inherent in every story he tells, at least, he doesn't lie about the frailties of being of man. And in Memories of Melancholy Whores he does this most eloquently and heartbreakingly. It's just a wonderful counterpoint of truth and acceptance, sorrow and hope.

My Goodreads Review of Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Favorite Book on Why Sugar is Truly Evil: Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

Long have I battled with sugar! Really. As more and more information is revealed about the "health evils" (Visit for a rundown!) of that offending white substance I am left both validated and frustrated. Frustrated that I was right, and didn't heed my own knowledge to the degree that I could have and should have; and validated that yes: Sugar is a health disaster, and we, modern society, are only half-living in the wake of the tsunami of the white crystals that we have ingested. (In moderation, of course!)

Island Beneath the Sea is not a happy story, but it is a lovely one. It is enough to make you abstain from sugar for moral and ethical reasons, if not for health, as the roots of the industrial production of sugar are told primarily through the eyes of a Haitian slave, Zarité. Pretty Powerful Stuff.