Monday, September 24, 2012

Best Book Bets - 9/25/2012

Its time for hoodies and hardcovers!

First things first, these are more recommendations than reviews, a short list for you, the hungry, insatiable reader, to find the best of the new. FYI, the usual suspects you won't find on the list (then, dear bookie, why is J.K. Rowling on this week's picks?) but just so you know, Lee Child, J.D. Robb, Patterson, Cussler, Gerritsen, and (groan) Mitch Albom all have new books out. If you like them, then you don't need me to tell you that you will again, right? Here's this week's front runners in my not so humble opinion.


(Little, Brown)
The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling
CLOTH. So how's this for a challenge, recommend a book that no one in the media has read and who are forbidden to review until Thursday (release day, as opposed to Tuesday)? Well, I'm a bookie, its what I do and I'll hedge my bets that even if this novel isn't a literary triumph, the second coming of Dickens, even if it is a train wreck, it will be a satisfying read merely because of all the anticipation. What I do know about this big novel about a small town (what does that even mean?) is it will possess the same sooo British sense of place and people that warmed us to the cast of characters at Hogwarts. There is a buried family secret to be revealed which was the backbone of the Potter franchise, and her editor is top notch in the world of thrillers so, buy it and read in in the first ten days. You can start flash book groups in public spaces to wax pro and con of Rowling's first plunge in the deep end. Being the person who single-handed save the book biz, I don't think she'll need her floaties.

(St Martins)
The Forgetting Tree by Tatjana Soli
CLOTH. Soli, the novelist of the critically acclaimed, The Lotus Eaters, delivers a book about survival and acceptance of that which you can't control and how transcendence never happens on an emotional island. Claire is a widow, faced, now alone, close to losing her ranch in the town Pagford. Her next trial is her own failing health. Only by facing the fears she shares with an unlikely and acerbic caregiver, Minna, does the healing properties of the land soothe both of their troubled souls. As you read this you begin to think of people like wine or coffee; the land you are reared in becomes an intrinsic signature in your personality, be it in the bountiful fields of California or the Caribbean. The characters' strong will and deep seated pains are palatable in Soli's beautiful economy of phrasing.
Telegraph Avenue  by Michael Chabon
CLOTH. Give me the beat boys, and thrill my soul! Pop goes the literature in this culture clash of the musical obsessions that orchestrate Pulitzer winning author Chabon's lovable characters. It comes across like Maupin's Tales of the City if it was written by Nick Hornby. In that I mean its equally a celebration of people's differences and the pop culture they use to define their individuality. Humorously this search for personal vision is the very thing that bonds us. Where the unifying heart beats with the throb of blaxploitation bass beat is Brokeland Records, a church of vinyl on Telegraph Ave. (In Boston we had a similar shop, Skippy White's, a discophile's dream where I could get lost for the better part of a day in its stacks.) Together the varied cast fight against the brass railings of progress as the neighborhood's color is threatened by redevelopment. Chapon's style is as exciting as his characters, even constructing run on sentences that would make Harlan Ellison blush. This 7th outing is a work by a man at the top of his craft. In one word, outta-sight!

Sutton by J R Moehringer
 CLOTH.  There is something about bank robbers that makes even the most morally sound Americans silently root for them. At the cusp of the twentieth  century the economic climate was not too far off where it is today, banks forcing people to lose work and job, unemployment skyrocketing and the origin for these woes, the banks, seeking bailouts. From this strife was born one of the most revered criminals, Sutton. Brooklyn bred with a tough Irish soul he became a legend of bank break ins and prison break outs, became the number one most wanted and, natch stole the heart of the woman he loved. This book is slavishly researched yet reads like a Hollywood movie. Moehringer, also a Pulitzer winner, has you rooting for Sutton without writing his life's story in an overly sentimental manner. This book should give Lehaine's upcoming novel a run for the money.

(University Press N.E.)
Killer Show; The Station Nightclub Fire, America’s Deadliest Rock Concert by John Barylick
NON-FICTION, CLOTH. Rock 'n Roll, especially heavy metal, is supposed to have a dangerous edge. Its all part of the show, like Alice Coopers gullotine or Ozzy's rat eating. But the night Great White's pyrotechnics hit a niteclub's shabby sound proofing and ignited a club in seconds the difference between reality and escapism became all too real. If you come from New England you can't help but remember the tragedy. 2/2/03, West Warwick, Rhode Island, 96 dead, 200 injured. The world saw the horror up close on YouTube. The roadhouse bar, The Station (now being protested by the community to be converted into a memorial) proved negligent, the band members indited and personally devastated and a community has to live with a scar of lose burned across their hometown. Barylick was on the legal forefront of what followed after that harrowing night and leaves no stone unturned in this documentation of a tragedy that rivaled the fires at Cocoanut Grove  jazz club fire in Boston years before.

How Music Works by David Byrne
NON-FICTION, CLOTH. David Byrne, the brainchild behind The Talking Heads, thevowner of one of the most revered international music labels, and big-suited posterboy for popular art rock, takes on defining the mechanics and pathos of music. Not since Aaron Copeland (a modern composer in his own right who wrote What To Listen for in Music) has there been a book on just what makes the art tick, or boom.  This book is not only an intellectual discussion of how different music styles influence each other and how technology fits into the evolution of the art form, it also proves to be an entertaining autobiography of this Renaissance man. Creating music is what makes us human but how we do it, how others do it, and how that influences what we do, in turn redefines our unique sound. Did he just blow your mind? It is a fascinating way to look at music and its relevance in our lives.
Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. This author, a teacher first, storyteller second,knows what kids like and what drives them to read. I spent many afternoons reading chapter after chapter of Gidwitz first foray into the world of classic fairy tales, A Tale Dark & Grimm. It is an engaging, humourous, and OK, terrifying read. The asides to the reader warning of upcoming ghastly events are as enjoyable to read aloud as they are to read alone. Alas, all books have to end... until now! Our hero and heroine this time out is Jack and Jill rather than Hansel and Gretel, but that doesn't mean there will be any less blood and fear as they leave their pails aside and climb a vine to new horrors. What follows is a mash-up of fairy tales and a finale that is, well, unnerving, but in a pleasantly disturbing way. As the author clearly states, happily ever after isn't cutting it anymore. Personally, I can't wait to horrify the neighbors again (P.S.- kiddos, don't tell your folks, they just won't understand.)
 (Little, Brown)
The Diviners by  Libba Bray
INDEPENDENT READER/YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Wow, this is like a paranormal take on Boardwalk Empire as teenage Evie is plucked out Smallville U.S.A. and transplanted in the prohibition nest of debauchery called the Big Apple. New York is all flappers and hooch, decadent shops and movie stars. Evie bonds with  Ziegfield dancers and Dickensian pickpockets who share her rambunctious nature. Her new digs are at her odd Uncle Will's, the curator of what she calls  "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies." and owner of a cryptic tarot deck. He discovers in Evie a paranormal premonition and armed with this gift, she looks to help solve a series of murders. Murders are nothing new in this city, except when they are shrouded in the creepy and images she has seen in the museum. Bray who gave us the emotionally charged Going Bovine and Beauty Queens has created a unique take on the teen paranormal adventure. You envision it all in a grey and sepia flicker of old time movies as you read. That might sound like I'm reaching a bit, but read it and you'll know what I mean. First in a series,so quit dancing the Charleston and get writing Libba!

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