Monday, September 10, 2012

Best Book Bets - 9/11/2012

In Memorial. The ashes still fall.

In war, unlike in choosing quality book titles, there are no winners. The first two titles find insightful ways to touch upon the collateral damage brought about by 9/11 and the subsequent conflicts. Before rushing out to your bookstore, take a quiet moment to reflect on the suffering and service brought on by this tragic event and be thankful.

(Ecco Press)
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
CLOTH. Its Thanksgiving in Dallas and Billy Lynn has returned from Iraq, a brief break before being again deployed. Our hero and the fellow troops of Bravo company are is still very much innocents and as they travel through their once familiar hometown seeing it through new, jaded eyes. Do to a viral video of them in combat they have become media darlings and are to be honored during the halftime show of a Cowboys game. They are even offered a motion picture deal to consider. What follows is tragic-comic as they are dragged through the gris mill of pop culture while keeping a lid on the grim reality of what they have been through together. That's what they have to cling onto, not fame, ego, or noble causes, but each other just trying to make it through this crazy world. You will laugh, cry and emotionally have the back of these unlikely heros.

(Grove/Black Cat)
Fobbit by Davis Abrams
CLOTH.  This is a novel but it is based on Abrams own experiences in Iraq and proves far more disturbing than the novel, Jarhead. A fobbit is a soldier who avoids combat by remaining at a Forward Operating Base (FOB). In the back seat of the war, troops, eat sleep, do office hours and when not on the clock play XBox, watch T.V., even get lucky in vacant Porta Pottys. Chow time and leisure is more important to them than military operations. The humorous exploits display a slacker mentality that seems diametrically opposed to the do-or-die mentality of the troops in combat on the front lines but shows the same culture clash we experience at home thrives so many miles away. This may be this generation's M*A*S*H, or better, due to its stronger cutting edge of social satire, Catch-22. Fobbit rings true revealing the SNOFU of modern warfare in these difficult times.
Oryx and Crake  by Margaret Atwood
CLOTH.  I remember when I first read A Handmaid's Tale. It came across as a feminist 1984 to me. It showed me how limitless the relevancy of fantasy fiction can be and even more importantly, how science fiction and fantasy could indeed be considered literature. Here Atwood takes another stab at a distopian future, this time post-plague, a land where our protagonist searches for his best friend, Crake, and the woman they both loved, Oryx.  They may be the last of their race and the last romantic triangle in existance. The novel is writhe with corporate overlords and technological wastelands. As with all her writing accomplishments, what sells this story is no matter how out there the future she writes of is, it is founded on our current fears and our society's failings. We totally buy into her vision... again.

The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma
 First and foremost, my first love of authors was H.G. Wells (my local librarian allowed me to take out his complete works during the summer of my sixth grade and I crunched through it veraciously.) So, give me a novel where H.G. Wells is the central character and you've already hooked me. Luckily you don't have to be a Wells devotee to enjoy this genre-busting novel. It's a literary mash-up of Sci-Fi, Romance, Horror, Thriller, Revisionist History, you name it. It is loosely a sequel to the author's  The Map of the Sky although it stands up on its own quite well. Palma is a skillful storyteller who makes the era of gaslight come alive. Join Wells (and even Edgar Allan Poe if you can believe that) as the aliens actually do start invading earth. Here's an example of using the theme of war as escapism, like playing an intellectual video game where all humans fight together for one cause. We can only wish.

Young Adult Hot Pick of the Week!

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Mermaid tails (sic) seem to be all the rage in young adult novels (I confess to have a variation of them in my own work) For the most part they mostly seem pale reworkings of Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. I need something more, something with teeth. This novel sees being merfolk as a sort of ancestral curse that dooms the generations. If you fall in love, you die. How's that for reducing Anderson's damnation into one line?  Fama uses parallel story-lines unraveling the tale to great effect; one story, that of a mermaid from the 1800s and the second, one of a more current day teen plagued by the curse. The answers to what binds the two is buried deep in the soil of Plymouth, MA, a perfect setting for a nautical mystery embedded in history. There are also forces that are determined to keep the mythic truths hidden. Spooky & heartfelt!
(Prime/S&S Childrens)
Shelf Life edited by Gary Paulsen
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. Gary Paulsen spearheaded this writing project for ProLiteracy Worldwide (1,400 programs just here in the States.) Paulson, who proclaims that 'books saved his life,' asked authors to contribute stories to the compilation to help the charity. One rule, all stories must use books as a device in the story. The result, ten stories from an all-star list of popular IR/YA/Fiction authors; Jennifer L. Holm, Gregory Maguire, Kathleen Karr, M. T. Anderson, A. LaFaye, Marion Dane Bauer, Joan Bauer, Ellen Conford, Margaret Peterson Haddix, and Ellen Wittlinger. My favorite short story is Holm's Follow The Water about a girl on Mars who so wants to return home to Earth. There are tales here, however,  for every taste, all celebrating the power and the importance of books. Plus, the profits from the sale go to a fine cause. Buy, Read and pass the gift of reading forward!

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