Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Best Book Bets - 10/30/2012

All Hallow's Read Eve!

If Sandy taught us one thing its that there is nothing scarier than real life. That, and of course, dropping your hard earned moolah on an unrecommended book. The Bookie's got you covered. This week we have some late Halloween picks and some transcendent works of fiction.

NOTE: Until midnight on Halloween night you can upload a free copy of S.E. Toon's latest short story, Got Your Nose, created to celebrate this year's All Hallow's Read. Learn more about the new holiday tradition by clicking the tab above.

Motherless Child  by Glen Hirshberg
CLOTH. This is not an easy book to find but it is worth the search. In celebration of Halloween this book is released by Earthling Publications. It is a welcome addition to the onslaught of vampire fiction. Nobody sparkles here. We have evil, dark and old in the form of The Whistler who take two mothers of young children and transform them into blood suckers. Now begins an intense battle between maternity and monster, friendship and fiend as the mothers battle with their fate. They set out to protect their children even as they long to be reunited. meanwhile The Whistler has designs on one of them infatuated by her lingering human drive. The writing is top notch and the exploration of the characters pathos makes this one horror novel you can sink your teeth into.

(Deckle Edge)
The Elephant Keeper's Children by Peter Hoeg
CLOTH.  Hoeg's bestselling novel, Smilla’s Sense of Snow ushered the reader into a surreal world of the protagonist's mind, to see the world through there eyes. He has created another fascinating take on the selectivity of reality. He has created a fictional island world for his characters to inhabit. As Hans, his teen narrator, Hoeg tells us the story of a land run by the mysterious governing body, the Grand Synod and the mystical elephant keepers. He takes the time to flesh out the world and the pressure it puts on Peter and the other youth. The children are the sane one here and they persevere in spite of a carnival of odd adults to save his parents. It is a challenging read filled with humor and insight, a meditation on how faith and family loyalty drives the best of us.

(Little, Brown)
Ask the Passengers  by A.S. King 
CLOTH. Like The Age of Miracles, this novel could fit just as well in the young adult section as it does in literature. Similar to the aforementioned novel King uses an otherworldly device to illustrate the coming of age. Astrid Jones finds herself falling in love with a girl but feels that she can't tell her family, or anyone. She makes a habit of lying in her backyard and watching airplanes fly overhead, each filled with people going, away, as she wishes she could. It is with these faceless unknowns she finds a safe place to confide her secrets. This becomes the stepping off point for this young girl as she confronts societal pressures and conflicting feelings of self worth and guilt. It is more than a rite of passage, its a transcendent tale of not just coming out, but coming through puberty realizing one's relevance in the world. This book not only captures the struggle and intense loneliness of the bullied and the ostracized it gives the other people in their lives a sense of just how it feels to confront their undeniable feelings.

(Simon Schuster)
The Secret Keeper  by Kate Morten
CLOTH. "I just can't put this down.Its just what you hope a novel will be," a trusted avid reader told the Bookie so we took a peak. It certainly has a good pedigree, Morton was responsible  for The Secret Garden which was a bestseller and won her many a loyal reader. Here she has another generational tale starts in  England in 1959. A farm girl yearns for more than the hum drum of her life. She then witnesses a crime and gets her first glimpse of the darker side of the world that lies beyond the farmlands. Switch to present day, the girl is a revered actress and returns to the farm of her youth only to gets caught up in the mystery behind the crime from long ago and its connection to her mother. Flashing back and forward the pieces start to connect in a satisfying mix of character and plot. "I didn't want the novel to end," I was told and what better recommend can you get? Morten has proven time and again that she has a unique talents at intertwining family secrets with character's longings. Put another log on the fire, its going to be a long night.

(U. of Washington)
Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon   
by Cindy Ott
NONFICTION/CLOTH. You see it all around you, Pumpkin Mania! So you only have a day before Halloween to pick this up. You have Thanksgiving coming around the corner, another holiday that celebrates this revered gourd. We put it on a pedestal, pick favorites that we won't even eat and when we do consume them its primarily only at special holiday times where elsewhere in the world its a basic staple. We carve them, bake them, drink them, chuck them... Why? This should be more of an academic work but instead it is an insightful read on how we instil meaning in the everyday. It examines origins, traditions and how its significance has grown in our society. A Great Pumpkin indeed!

A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald
 by Errol Morris
NONFICTION, CLOTH. The biggest injustice ever perpetrated at The Academy Awards was when Morris' first documentary, A Thin Blue Line was not allowed to be considered for Best Documentary because it used reenactments of the featured crime that altered based on the perspective of each person interviewed. It was inspired, accurate, well-researched, and resulted in an innocent man being released from prison. He uses the same investigation chops here, understanding that using a little storytelling helps us discover the truth. Here we have the MacDonald murder case where a police officer was convicted of murdering his family in Fort Bragg. The husband always claimed his innocence and after a 20 year investigation, Morris proves it out. He shows us how the media and the judicial system can be complicit in such acts of injustice. You may never trust the news or the status que of the system again. Makes for a great book but I feel guilty wishing it was a film.

 Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

Dead Girl Moon by Charlie Price
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. What if you were a teen an stumbled upon a dead body but you knew that in your hometown the police weren't necessarily your friends. Grace a runaway does her best to cover up her discovery but her efforts fail and she is becomes a suspect. Small town corruption rules as the teens learn that the authorities are covering up for a local big wig and they would do anything to keep the deep pockets from being implied, including murder. A touch of The Outsiders realism keeps you engaged as the teens scramble to remain free and disclose the truth. Captures adolescent neurosis and brings up the age old question, "Are you paranoid if they really are all out to get you?"
Burning Blue by Paul Griffin
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. This novel brings the horror of acid burning to stateside. Nocole was born wealthy and beautiful. Suddenly Nicole's world is forever altered when she is deformed by an unknown assailant. Her life comes crashing in around her and she becomes the latest media fodder. One other teen, Jay, who sees himself as a freak himself, decides to use his geekish prowess at computer hacking to find the criminal that attacked her. What starts as a mission to avenge Nicole's tragedy turns to an act of devotion. The more Jay learns the more he has to confront his feelings for her and the real motivation behind the incident. The who and why will challenge what the reader believes about love, beauty and obsession.

Goblin Secrets  by William Alexander
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. This came out earlier this year before the Bookie started posting but since it just got a National Book nomination I thought I should point it out. Plus, it's almost Halloween and we have goblins here... and witches! A clockwork witch named Graba collects stray children. The youngest acquisition is Rowanie who had been searching for his actor brother. In Zombay where they live, acting is prohibited so Rowanie runs away to join a troupe of play-throwing goblins. Natch. Oh yeah, the goblins want to find him too because he may be the only person that can save the town from disaster. Trippy stuff yes, but Rowanie's passion to reunite with his brother and even the sympathetic goblins need for family and survival breathes life into this surreal adventure.
Zom-B   by  Darren Shan illust. by Cliff Nielson
CLOTH. We only have two more days to celebrate Zombie Preparedness Month so here we go (NOTE: for YA zombie lovers, Jonathan Maberry's Flesh and Bone is now out,. Go buy, like a zom hungry for brains!!) Be it a social commentary of our times (society chooses its monsters as a reflection of the fears of the day) Zombie's are all the rage. Here is a chapter book for the kiddo who loves his reads on the dark side. Zombies attack Ireland. B (our narrator and eventual zombie)  lives with his racist fatherhen news reports start appearing of a zombie outbreak in Ireland, B's abusive and racist father has taught B to be a bit of a bully himself. His fighting skills however brings him friends when then the zombie attack his school. He shows his schoolmates how to defend themselves against the undead and each other and finds purpose in his life on the way. Comes with some gruesome illustrations and is the start of a series so there are more short, brutal adventures to come.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Best Book Bets - 10/23/2012

Fall into a good book!

A Halloween is just around the corner and I have a few more sure-fire frights to put a little extra chill in your evening. Throw in some smart mysteries and a real life OMG scary nonfiction book and you are set for a week of quality reads.

(Thomas Dunne)
Little Star  by John Ajvide Lindqvist, trans. by Marlaine Delargy
CLOTH. John Ajvide Lindqvist has given us some of the most heartfelt horror in a decade. Let The Right One In and its two film adaptations has just as much heart as blood spewing from it. Equally his second novel, Handling the Undead, gave zombies and their loved ones a soul. Now instead of giving old horror conventions a humanist slant he creates a  new and terrifying vision. This spectacular piece of horror combines the contemporary scares of Stephen King,  and ventures into the pathological world of Peter Straub. A man finds a near dead baby in the woods and with his wife they raise her in their basement. She is stolen by their son and she ends up competing in a American Idol type competition. What results is a siren's song for the media bloated modern age. Then... wow! Its great to actually fear a book again. Its been a long while. The horror bar has just been raised!

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro
CLOTH.  All around the world, but especially here in New England, no crime thrilled the imagination more than the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist. Boston was dumbfounded when 5 mil of irreplaceable treasures disappeared from its walls. This event is the jumping off point for this clever crime novel. Claire Roth is given the moral decision of her life; make a spotless reproduction of one of the Degas masterpieces that were stolen that day in exchange for a museum showing of her work and the fame that would surely follow. A deal with the devil is struck and what follows is one reveal after another. Was the stolen painting itself a forgery? If so, then where is the original? Who's deceiving whom? This novel will keep you guessing as its beautifully written passages transcend the usual thriller trappings being more about Claire battling selling out and her love of art. 

Jimmy The Stick  by Michael Mayo 
CLOTH. Another crime, decades before that captivated the American public was the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. The homeland panicked, fearing for their own children and the authorities scrambled not only to capture the criminals but quell the mass panic. In the midst of this all is Jimmy, a career mobster and bootlegger who ran his own speakeasy. Prohibition's taboo pubs were a place where the police and the crooks met in private, each looking out for the other and looking the other way. Right after the abduction Jimmy is beat up for no apparent reason. He ends up being dragged back into the crime world  to protect his ex-partner's son from being kidnapped. There he finds new temptations and has run ins with the likes of Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano; people well aware of his shady past. A well researched historical crime novel that takes the back road to capture the most dangerous era in U.S. history. A great followup after reading Lehane's Live by Night.

Phantom  by Jo Nesbo
CLOTH. If you are one of the millions of people who were caught up in the whole Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy madness, you MUST know of Jo Nesbo. If not, stop reading and run to your bookseller to pick up one of his novels now. The Harry Hole novels start with The Redbreast but his latest novel stands alone enough for you to start with the latest, Phantom. Here Harry has now put down his badge, and transplanted himself to Hong Kong. He searches to clear the name of a former lover's son. No longer an officer makes for a rewarding read for now its the mission of a solitary rogue. Back in Oslo he finds him back on the drug-addled streets fighting his old ghosts. The dank Norwegian backdrop that set the tone of Larrsen's books hangs here as well. Save for possibly The Snowman (now being made into a movie by Martin Scorcece) this is Harry's best outing to date. Even though there is not a strong female leads like Lisbet this series will become one of your new favorites.

True Blood; Eats, Drinks & Bites from Bon Temps 
 by Gianna Sobol w/ Alan Ball, Karen Sommer Shalet
NONFICTION/COOKING CLOTH. Just in time for Halloween! If you are like many True Blood fans and are less than whelmed by the latest season of the television adaptation to Charlene Harris' vamp/mystery series you are in need of something meaty to sink your teeth into. Here you get selections from the menus of Fangtasia and Merlotte's Bar and Grill from the series. Many recipes play off many of the crucial scenes of the series, presented by the many colorful, fictional characters of the series. Even the series creator pitches in. Most importantly, there are 85 party foods that will be the hit of your boo-tiful buffet! Tons of photos from the show of the delicious food that plays integral bit parts in the series. Take a slice of Bon Temps home and hope that the series finale can redeem its current lull. (or, better, just wait for Harris' finale!)

(W W Norton)
Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic 
 by David Quammen
NONFICTION, CLOTH. First published in the beginning of the year this alarming study gets the big pub treatment. Filling the population with more dread than IEDs is the question of what will be the next killer strain to come down the pike. Its a global fear that we find difficult to admit to. To date Ebola, SARS, AIDS, and Hendra all curse the population and baffle the medical community. Where do this resilient and relentless evils come from? Wild animals! Forget about fears of monkey attacks, horse kicks and bear maulings, its the bugs carrying this spillover that we need to worry about. This alarming study reads like a Michael Critchton novel as it analyses know super viruses and speculates on future catastrophies. Who needs distopian fiction when non-fiction reads like this.

 Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

(Harlequin Teen)
Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. NO. This isn't another of those endless mash-up novels that followed Pride, Prejudice and Zombies. This is a young adult novel by paranormal romance queen-pin Gena Showalter. Alice wakes one morning to discover that the monsters her Dad told her of are real and are coming for her (They're coming for you, Barbara??- Night of the Living Dead reference... never mind.) Its her legacy of sorts. In this new world of survival she teams up with bad boy and conveniently available love interest Cole. Ali soon learns that some things are more dangerous than zoms. Boys with secrets. The melancholy journal approach to Alice battling her romantic dorkiness keeps this book from being just another rehash of zombie apocalypse scenarios. This is the first of the White Rabbit Trilogy so don't expect a lot of tied up ends here. WARNING: You must love romance for this to be a sure bet, but, if you do, its unconventional approach, weaving in Lewis Carroll references breathes new life into the genre.

Poison Princess by Kresley Cole
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Another New York Times bestselling paranormal romance author who is throwing her hat into the YA novel ring is Kresley Cole. Part of me thinks its unfair for heavy hitters like Jodi Picoult and James Patterson to push there way into Young Adult fiction but sometimes it works when they show other authors how its done. Case in point, Cole's Arcana Chronicles, a post-apocalyptic tale  (sorry, devoid of zombies) of Evangeline, her horrific visions of the future, and the tarot cards that drive them. Evie, as every girl needs to in a romance novel, finds her bad-boy. Jack's talents exhibited on his mile-long rap sheet do well to keep her safe as she prepares for a kind-of teen The Stand, the ultimate battle between good and evil. If that's how the lines are being drawn, then which side would Jack be on? Hmmm. Showalter's novel is classic romance making Poison Princess more susceptible to the pitfalls of the genre. She is smart enough to keep the action flowing before the romance bogs the story down. Evie could save the world—or destroy it, but not for two more books worth of hubba hubba so expect a cliffhanger. Same WARNING as given about Gena Showalter applies here, for romance novel lovers only.

The Last Dragonslayer: The Chronicles of Kazam, Book One  
by Jasper Fforde
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. Now if somebody has the imagination to take a break from genre-defying fiction to write a children's series its Jasper Fford. He gives us a wacky fairy tale set in the modern day. The Ununited Kingdoms is run by magic. Once magicians were revered and their feats amazing but now in the day of modern science it is nothing more than a birthday party novelty. Enter Jennifer, founder of Kazam, an employment agency for magicians, not a good business plan in a world where magic is drying up. Then comes the prophecies of the death of the last dragon and the coming of Big Magic. You can imagine, Jennifer's work and her life get busy and quick. The off-beat comedic writing keeps the whimsy of the tale intact and Jennifer's character is the logical anchor keeping this crazy world together. Overall an inventive social parody.
(Little, Brown)
Who Could That Be At This Hour?   
by  Lemony Snicket
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. He's back!!! This is not the further adventures of those meddling kids but the first of Snicket's autobiographical quadrology, All The Wrong Questions. (but, can we really believe anything this narrator says?) So begins another foray into the world of subversive children's storytelling. First things first; this book should NOT be read, it speaks truths best untold and tells the secrets of secret societies. Read at your own peril. That said, this is actually a bit of a prequel to A Series of Unfortunate Events. Here we find the author's incessant wordplay and similar oddball characters but this time its more hard-boiled, a kid caper noire. The solution to this novel will be revealed while leaving a dozen Red Herrings and MacGuffins in his wake. Or are they?? Great fun, welcome back!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Halloween Treats 10/16/2012

Celebrate All Hallow's Read with this selection of ghastly good reads for boils & ghouls, from adult to little ones. We present these in time for you to special order them from your local bookseller if they don't already have them on their shelves. When you order them, tell them the Literary Bookie sent you!
The Twelve by Justin Cronin
CLOTH. If you haven't already read Cronin's The Passage (now available in mass market paperback!) then you missed the best epic scare this side of King's The Stand. The combination of government conspiracy, post apocalypse survival and man-made vampire killing machines keeps you riveted to the page as you follow a small group of survivors from different walks of life search for meaning in the nightmare. The second installment in The Passage Trilogy  has to battle the sophomore jinx and does so with the minimum amount of slack. Pre-viral attack history exposition starts to distract from the main characters quest but that's because Cronin has ratcheted up the suspense to such a high level that anything less than salvation would be a distraction. It is a trilogy and he can't give up the marbles midway. The hefty volume reads like a Hollywood blockbuster war movie with the future of humanity in the balance. Big plus for recommending this is, well, if you read The Passage, you have no choice but to read The Twelve, if just to get to the finale of the next book. Also, after reading, you'll never want to look at a sparkly vampire again.

The Fifty Year Sword  by Mark Z. Danielewski
CLOTH. If you ever read (or is it fair to say experienced) House of Leaves then you know who Danielewski is and what to be prepared for. This novella, first published in 2005 finally hits the States in time for All Hallow's. The Storyteller reads at a Halloween Party. The stories wind down the sides of the pages, color-coded for the orphans being read to and about, as the real scary story, the tale of a seamstress tortured by a rocky divorce battling her needs for revenge unfolds. The Storyteller character and the author Danielewski both play the puppet masters as they use their at times experimental skills of tale telling to leave you with a palatable feeling of disquiet (the author is famous for typographic mischief). This dissertation on our darkest impulses will make conventional readers perhaps scratch their heads but for Danielewski's fanbase, it will bring a devilish smile.

 (St. Martin’s Griffin)
A Book of Horrors edited by Stephen Jones
ANTHOLOGY, CLOTH. (reviewed last week but...) 'Tis the season with Halloween just around the corner! In a day when practically every anthology in horror and sci-fi has a theme or sub-genre (or just a general regurgitation of reprinted classics) it is refreshing to find a new compendium of stories by a cross section of contemporary masters. Yes Stephen is King and a new short story from him is always welcomed and trust me when I say the tale The Little Green God of Agony does not disappoint. Add veteran Ramsey Campbell, the incomparable Caitlin R. Kiernan (her Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint one of this book's highlights) and horror master Richard Matheson's progeny Richard Christian Matheson (like King's son, Joe Hill) and you are building quite an ensemble of macabre. A welcome addition to any horror lover's library.

Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America's Fright Night  by Lesley Pratt Bannatyne 
NONFICTION TRADE. Next to Christmas, Halloween is the biggest holiday here in the States, frightening as that sounds (just ask any retailer). Its no longer just kiddies and candy either and Bannatyne acts as a Halloween archeologist as she examines how the holiday went from Samhaim to the cultural phenomena it is today. To quote one of Edgar Winters' album titles, They Only Come Out at Night. and Lesley walks with them in that dark night and we get up close and personal with everyone who can't wait until October 31st, from Goths to pumpkin enthusiasts, Bannatyne unearths just what fuels our obsession.Moo ha ha!
The Curiosities; a Collection of Stories 
by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Otherwise known online as The Merry Sisters of Fate, this triumvirate of teen paranormal novel writing decided to clean out the drawers of their writing desks and publish a collection of short stories. The Curiosities is a great title for this collection, especially for their fanbase. Within this collection of the best of over 250 stories they had posted online you see the writer's revisit themes more fleshed out and their major works. The stories serve as a work place where they can flex their creative muscle. Coolest attribute to this collection is the author's sidebars that serve like bonus material when you buy a DVD. They explain their thought process pertaining to the story being read, a glimpse at process that is valuable to fans and aspiring teen writers alike. Who knows, this book might spawn another Fate Sister. That would be quite scary.
(Farrar, Straus,Giroux)
The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Like living through the great Chicago fire wouldn't be scary enough, imagine waking up to an alternative reality where the event didn't happen? That's just what happens to Darcy. She tries to adjust to how she perceives this new world (how many teens always feel like its not the world gone mad, it must be them.) She acclimates to school and even a new love interest. Meanwhile pesky monsters called Shades plague the earth and her existence may be tied to them. To save her sanity and possibly this troublesome new world she infiltrates the society of the Shades to learn their plans for world annihilation and to discover her true fate. Smart, romantic, action-packed, and down-right spooky, Rutkoski delivers a fresh take on the apocalypse.
The Spindlers by Lauren Oliver, illus. by Lacopo Bruno
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. Take your classic brother/sister combo and throw in a dollop more creepy than in your average IR fantasy and you get this welcomed adventure of Liza. Her life gets complicated when she wakes up to find that Spindlers, spidery soul stealers had gone off with her younger brother's as he slept. To save her brother Patrick, Liza, a broom as her sole weapon, will need to go to the ends of a phantasmic world full of creatures, both familiar and original, that serve as obstacles and alliances on her trek to save her brother. Yes, there is an evil queen and instead of flying monkeys, sleazy rats do her bidding. All the storybook conventions are here but Oliver makes it all seem fresh. The results is a nail biting ride for our heroine as she fights to protect that which she loves. A new scary  for the younger reader.
(Random House)
Tales From Lovecraft Middle School by Charles Gilman
Welcome to Lovecraft Middle School, where creeps roam the hallways and the entrance way to the underworld may be just behind your homeroom door. We're not talking Grimm, Poe, or especially Lovecraft here, but series like this, R.L. Stines' Goosebumps and Cirque de Freake are a good stepping stones to more substantive writing. These are easy reads with a nice serving of slimy scares to keep the hesitant reader turning pages. Volume 1 - Professor Gargoyle. Here we are introduced to the bizarre school where our new student Robert meets up with the "mad" science teacher, an infestation of pests and the secret of the school, that it may be the portal to the realm of the Ancient Ones.
(Random House
Volume 2 - The Slither Sisters
 Robert continues investigating his new school only to discover that two of his female classmates are actually Medusa-esque monsters. Don't you hate that when that happens? We are not talking a brain trust of clever writing that would keep an independent reader entertained but that is with intent. Gilman knows what keeps early readers reading and there he succeeds big time. Throw in some obligatory tentacles (Lovecraft without tentacles, are you daft!?) and monsters that get ticked off when you start discovering their secrets and you have a superior sequel in this series. Throw in an alternative universe and portals and you keep the kiddos guessing. BONUS: Each volume is illustrated (less words, happy non-reader) and features a lenticular portrait on the cover (that means they change from normal to monstrous as you pass by!)
(Simon & Schuster)
Creepy Carrots  
by Aaron Reynolds, illus. by Peter Brown
CHILDRENS, CLOTH. What child doesn't think that his food is out to get him? Maybe beets or cauliflower but his nor her favorites? A lot might after being read this little, creepy gem. Jasper the rabbit starts getting stalked by the very carrots her loves to eat, especially the ones he takes from the field. Think of this as Peter rabbit in The Twilight Zone. Brown's illustrations are whimsical and grow increasingly spooky as Jasper's paranoia builds. A fun tale of guilt, greed, and obsession (sounds heavy but trust me it isn't, it just has a morsel of a moral as all good storybooks should.) In the end this book will make parents smile as well as the child. Also has an eBook to pair with your reading.
Monster's Monster  
by Patrick McDonnell
CHILDRENS, CLOTH. The juxtaposition of proportions makes this spooky book a real treat. Three mini monsters think they are the scariest, baddest, and especially biggest monsters that ever walked the earth. That is until they stumble upon a Frankenstein monster that towers over them making them reconsider just how monstrous they are. They learn something more too, not all big things are scary and friends can come in all size packages. The illustrations are precious and the story is spooky lite with a tender message tucked in as a little treat.

(Little Simon)
Hush Little Monster  
by Denis Markell, illus. by Melissa Awai
CHILDRENS, CLOTH. I'm a sucker for stories that rework lullabies and the like (5 Little Pumpkins for example) They are fun to read in a sing-song manner and boils and ghouls love that. Here we have a reworking of Hush Little Baby that's perfect for a Halloween night, especially if the little one got the willies scared out of them during the evening. Empowering the child as a monster always does the trick! Starting with,  Hush, Little Monster, don’t you howl. you will be on the way to a happy little creature fearless against the dark.
Monster Mash  
by David Catrow
CHILDRENS, CLOTH. In 1962 The Monster Mash was a graveyard smash. The novelty record by Bobby (Boris) Pickett and his Crypt Kicker 5 was all the rage, hitting number 1 spot on Billboard and became the most loved Halloween song of all time. David Catrow applies the same sentimental reverence in this storybook adaptation that pairs the lyrics with remarkable illustrations that are a celebration of the hit single in all of its goofiness. They're all here, Drac, Wolfman, feasting vampires and jolted ghouls. Before you know it both you and your creeps will be singing along, maybe even trying the mash for yourself! (FYI- take the Mashed Potato and add some Frankenstein moves and you've got it.) Question is still out there though, "Vhat ever happened to the Transylvanian Twist?" 
Awesome Autumn by Bruce Goldstone
CHILDRENS NONFICTION, CLOTH. O.K., I get it. Some parents get all bent out of shape about Halloween and recruiting children into the legion of the dark lord. Well, everyone has to admit Autumn rocks! I feel bad for people who live where it is a non-event because, in New England, it's... it's, well, awesome. Here is a collection of nature's events (leaves changing, harvest, migration, etc.) with a minimum of the Halloweeny. It even celebrates football, leaf piles and ultimately Thanksgiving. Its not all boring facts either. A bunch of photographs and crafts are crammed inside. Almost as fun as making a costume, getting treats and reading a spooky story.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Best Book Bets - 10/09/2012

Put another log on the fire!

A week without blockbusters is a great excuse to focus on some superb titles who's subtlety can be easily dismissed when perusing the stacks. I am fascinated that, quite by coincidence, many of the following titles share thematic attributes. Take a deep breath of the mulled-cider before you and prepare to be moved.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe
CLOTH.  How would you reconnect with a parent who is only month away from hospice. Embrace their bucket list, maybe. How about a literary bucket list? Will does just that with his mother Mary after she is diagnosed with a fatal cancer. She shares her world view through her selections and he offers up some contemporary chestnuts as the two embrace life through the pages of books. The result is a triumphant testament to the power of the written word as it illustrates how our relationship with reading shares the same spiritual bonds as those between parent and child . “What are you reading and what does that say about you?” To share a book is to share something that helped sculpt your soul.

Love Anthony  by Lisa Genova 
CLOTH. I can't tell you how many people who's family has been effected by Alzheimer's disease whom I have recommended Genova's Still Alice. I was taken by its emotional honesty as it put into words conflicting emotions. Her latest effort presents another delicate subject with the same unflinching style; grief and how healing can come from the least expected places in your life. Set in Nantucket (I always love a good New England setting) Olivia mourns the passing of her young autistic child while Beth is trying to move ahead with her life after a marriage of infidelity. Beth uses writing as therapy and discovers the voice of her protagonist just may be autistic. The two women support each other in their emotional rescue guided by a wide-eyed child who may have never left. The paranormal suggestion makes for a  great device to allow both women to move on.
The Forgiven  by Lawrence Osborne
CLOTH. The clash of Western opulence and destitute survival is the underlying theme of this disturbing personal thriller eloquently written by journalist Osborne who obviously walked the sands of Morocco where this novel is set. A member of the privileged 3%, David, and his friend Jo accept an invitation to a three day party at a desert villa. During the weekend they go on a drunken road trip where David kills a local in an accident. He returns to the party with the body, the identity of the murderous infidel is discovered, and a fatwa of sorts is cast on him. What follows is a power keg on tension as the revelers continue partying on in spite of the tragedy and the help, the grieving father and the surrounding community seek accountability and revenge. The novel reads like a Moroccan Bonfire of the Vanities. As other-worldly as the locale reads the underlying political tension couldn't feel more like home in the land of the haves and have-nots.

(St Martins)
Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend  by Matthew Dicks
CLOTH. There are so many hues in the spectrum of autism and Asperger’s it proves difficult to identify and manage the children who are differently challenged. Also, behavioral conditions aside, how many people had an invisible friend at one point in their lives to help them through some difficult times. Most eventually move on relying on things grounded in the here and now. Not so with Max who clings on to his imaginary pal Budo longer than most. What follows is an adventure of sorts as adults try to do what's best for Max, Max himself tries to defend the existence of his friend in the cruel world of childhood and learn to survive in a world without imagination. Did I mention that the book is written in the perspective of Budo? Now you have to read it, right? You'll be glad you did. To quote Budo, "Just believe."

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
CLOTH. The setting of this inventive, I guess you could say, work of speculative fiction rather than traditional science fiction, reminds me of a high tech version of Ye Olde Curiosity Shop. The title is where Clay finds himself working after jettisoning himself from the hungry do eat dog world of tech design. The store is not what it seems it is and Clay becomes obsessed on learning the truth behind the idiomatic store and its mysterious owner. What follows is the literary equivalent of The Matrix, a tale worthy of Vonnegut. Sloan has fabricated a novel that is not only a celebration of high tech tom-foolery, but a testament to the transformative powers of print.

 (St. Martin’s Griffin)
A Book of Horrors edited by Stephen Jones
ANTHOLOGY, CLOTH. 'Tis the season with Halloween just around the corner! In a day when practically every anthology in horror and sci-fi has a theme or sub-genre (or just a general regurgitation of reprinted classics) it is refreshing to find a new compendium of stories by a cross section of contemporary masters. Yes Stephen is King and a new short story from him is always welcomed and trust me when I say the tale The Little Green God of Agony does not disappoint. Add veteran Ramsey Campbell, the incomparable Caitlin R. Kiernan (her Charcloth, Firesteel and Flint one of this book's highlights) and horror master Richard Matheson's progeny Richard Christian Matheson (like King's son, Joe Hill) and you are building quite an ensemble of macabre. A welcome addition to any horror lover's library.

Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. This existential fairy tale has everything I love in a classic children's tales. The consummate underdog, Jepp, a dwarf who has been denigrated as a court jester, an insurmountable Goliath of oppression, in this case the Spanish Infanta, and a cast of star-crossed characters with enough heart to make the impossible possible. Marsh's research of the time and place coupled with the magic of being awestruck by a night sky and perhaps by the limitless potential in life delivers a slap dash plot that fulfills the promise of the best children's classics. This book is as destined as is characters for greatness.
The Peculiar by  Stefan Bachmann
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. 'Do robotic owls dream of electric mice?' Just askin'. Take classic fairy tales and add a steam punk aesthetic and you get this fresh debut by 18-year-old Bachmann (who was a mere teen when he started writing) who's rich writing style belies his age. Like suggesting children read Paoli's Eragon because he was near their age when he wrote it is just one of many reasons to suggest this book to children of all ages. Everything old is new again as peculiars Bart and Hettie are takes on the Irish legend changelings, babies taken in infancy and switched with inhuman doppelgangers. Neither human, nor fairy, they are shunned by society when discovered. When the two investigate some very odd goings-on they quickly wish to be ignored. This wind-up Gothic tale adds a humorous slant to fairy tale conventions as characters like Jack Box, Raggedy Man (all composites of classic characters) and the changeling children get swept into a murderous mystery that could only occur in the mind of the young.