The Best of 2013 List…

In Descending Order (links to the reviews included):
  1. Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir by Beth Kephart
  2. The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
  3. Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy
  4. Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
  5. The Time Between by Karen White
  6. Survival Skills: Stories by Jean Ryan
  7. Unexplained Fevers by Jeannine Hall Gailey
  8. Lotería by Mario Alberto Zambrano
  9. Solving the World’s Problems by Robert Lee Brewer
  10. The Scabbard of Her Throat by Bernadette Geyer
  11. The Neruda Case by Roberto Ampuero, translated by Carolina De Robertis
  12. Six Sisters’ Stuff: Family Recipes, Fun Crafts, and So Much More
Here are my honorable mentions for this year, in descending order (links to the reviews included):
  1. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein
  2. Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent by Beth Kephart
  3. Joyland by Stephen King
  4. Seduction by M.J. Rose
  5. Black Aperture by Matt Rasmussen
What books made your list of favorites this year?

Joyland by Stephen King

Source: Purchased at Public Library sale
Paperback, 283 pages
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Joyland by Stephen King showcases that same storytelling ability King has demonstrated his entire career, but rather than focus on the gruesome or horror, Joyland is about amusements, growing up, and tangentially crime.  Devin Jones is a 21-year-old college kid who goes down to North Carolina from New Hampshire on a whim to become a greenie at the local amusement park, Joyland.  The park, which houses a number of rides and is fading in popularity in 1973, has a haunted past.  Jones is just getting the hang of being on his own away from college, finding a room to rent and learning how to butter-up the powers that be to get the job.  While he’s great at making friends and impressing the supervisors, he’s also crap with women from the girlfriend who’s leading him on a string and bucking his attempts at romance to the sisterly love of Erin Cook.

“The truck’s headlights went out.  I heard the door open and shut.  And I heard the wind blowing through the Spin’s struts — tonight that sound was a harpy’s screech.  There was a steady, almost syncopated rattling sound, as well.  The wheel was shaking on its tree-thick axle.”  (page 258)

This summer, Jonesy learns a whole new language and way of life — carny from carny — and at the same time nurses a broken heart while having as much fun as he can with the kids who attend the park looking for Howie the Hound and his young friends, Erin and Tom Kennedy.  He’s constantly surrounded by a typical cast of carnies from Madame Fortuna to Lane Hardy and Eddie Fu****g Parks.  These subordinate characters are far from that, playing an integral part in Jonesy’s experiences during the summer and into the fall when the other college kids have gone back to school.  Unlike, King’s typical horror novels there is little gore and slashing here, but he makes up for it in setting, character, and story.  Readers will be immersed in the carny life and language, getting caught up in the lingo, the scams, the rides, and the sheer summer fun just like his main character, Dev.

King is adept at building stories from the ground up, weaving in details from several story lines through the nostalgic point of view of his main character (aged and wiser) in a way that never gets bogged down.  Readers will feel as though they are sitting by the campfire listening to a tall tale, much like the feeling Dev experiences when his landlady, Mrs. Shoplaw, tells him about the Linda Gray murder in Horror House.  Very much a period piece, this novel is the 1970s from the cultural references and the religious fervor that held women to a certain standard, but it also has a modern feel in how it is told through the eyes of an older Dev looking back on this summer of firsts and lasts for him.

Joyland by Stephen King in some ways is reminiscent of IT‘s story telling as characters look back on themselves and their actions from the present, extracting things and feelings they may not have expressed at the time, providing a new perspective on their experiences.  Dev does this, and while not as steeped in the supernatural as IT was, there is murder, psychics/seers, ghosts, and an early televangelist.  King has brought to life the childlike joy of carnivals and amusement parks and brought in a dose of reality as Dev is put to “wearing the fur” and scrubbing down the rides until the sweat pours off of him, while at the same time unraveling a murder mystery to its gyrating climax.

Like IT, this will be on the coveted Best of King shelf and likely will be re-read.

About the Author:

Stephen King is the author of more than fifty books, all of them worldwide bestsellers. His recent work includes Doctor Sleep and Under the Dome, now a major TV miniseries on CBS. His novel 11/22/63 was named a top ten book of 2011 by The New York Times Book Review and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association. He is the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives in Bangor, Maine, with his wife, novelist Tabitha King.

Mailbox Monday #231

Mailbox Monday (click the icon to check out the new blog) has gone on tour since Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page passed the torch.  August’s host is Bermudaonion The Reading Fever.

The meme allows bloggers to share what books they receive in the mail or through other means over the past week.

Just be warned that these posts can increase your TBR piles and wish lists.

Here’s what I received/bought:

1.  Lake Como by Anita Hughes from the author for review this month.

Hallie Elliot has a perfect life. She is an up-and-coming interior designer in one of San Francisco’s most sought after firms, and has just recently become engaged to Peter, a brilliant young journalist. But when she stumbles upon Peter and her boss in what seems to be a compromising position, her trust in her perfect life is shaken.

So Hallie escapes to Lake Como, Italy to spend time with her half-sister, Portia Tesoro, an Italian blueblood dealing with the scandal of a public estrangement from her cheating husband. While staying in the Tesoro villa, Hallie falls in love with the splendor and beauty of Lake Como, and finds work designing the lakeside estate of a reclusive American tech mogul. The caretaker of this beautiful estate is a handsome man named Angus, and Hallie finds herself drawn to his charm and kindness, despite hints of a dark secret in his past.

2.  Flow: The Life and Times of Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River by Beth Kephart, which I purchased from an Amazon third-party.

From acclaimed writer Beth Kephart, author of A Slant of Sun, comes a short, imaginative telling of the life of the Schuylkill River, which has served as the source of Philadelphia’s water, power, industry, and beauty for the city’s entire life.  Before that, it fed the indigenous people who preceded William Penn, and has since time immemorial shape our region.

3.  The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, which I purchased at the library.

Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero.

Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.

4.  Joyland by Stephen King, which I purchased from the library.

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.

What did you receive?