Monday, October 1, 2012

Best Book Bets - 10/2/2012

Pumpkins, cider, and a great read!

The winds have changed. The leaves changed hue, struggling to stay on their soon-to-be-bare limbs. The skies have grown darker and so has the bounty of powerful reads this week. Wrap yourself in your favorite comforter with one of these sure-things, spike your drink with cinnamon, and welcome Fall in all its richness.


(William Morrow)
Live by Night by Dennis Lehane
CLOTH. If you thought J.K. Rowling was the big Fall release then this book simply wasn't on your radar. Talk about a perfect storm of book release timing, just when Boardwalk Empire has made everything prohibition era hip, mystery writer extraordinaire, Lehane gives the era the Boston Irish treatment in this powerful stand-alone novel. Cutting his teeth on his great American novel, The Given Day, has allowed him to balance this thriller with a historical resonance that in previous efforts took a back seat to his plotting. Its the classic prohibition story a young lad armed with ambition seduced by the underbelly of society but in Lehane's hands what could feel like cliches come across as vital flesh and blood. As our protagonist, Joe Coughlin, rises to power in the world of crime in Florida's Ybor City he becomes a prohibition Tony Montana, clouded by excess and haunted by a doomed fate. With a brilliantly realized cross section of 20's society, this novel raises the bar once again for this formidable master who has elevated what was once genre fiction into literature.

(Simon and Schuster/Atria)
Something Red  by Douglas Nichols 
CLOTH. Trust me, give me a fantasy novel with a sword-wielding hero protecting a damsel from beasts and I start to grown as I quickly put it back on the shelf. That's just me, perhaps I was spoiled by La Morte D'Arthur. But take the setting of a good English murder mystery and throw in a cast of sorcerers, shapeshifters and other mythological icons and you have one unique novel in the works. Molly, a gifted healer, struggles through a 13th century winter. She is keenly aware that her loved ones and her are being pursued by something otherworldly. They seek shelter in a castle that isn't really there and things start getting strange and fast. The combination of real characters being thrown into this fantasical world of ninja monks and battling knights and a well paced menace in the dark of the woods keeps the pages turning. Good first outing, Nichols!
(St. Martin’s Dunne)
This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It   
 by David Wong
CLOTH. Wong's first novel John Dies at the End had the most repugnant cover in recent memory, a severed hand in full color.  Now the book is in production as a movie with Paul Giamatti in the lead role and the author delivers one equally grotesque and humorous sequel. As a unique combination of Clerks slacker mentality with F. Paul Wilson's Repairman Jack's resourcefulness, the dubious John and Dave discover that the whole zombie craze in the media has created a type of mass hysteria that creates what at first seems like a zombie apocalypse. What is really happening makes zombies seem like puppy dogs as this rollicking tale fakes you out with humor only to give you a few good gut-wrenching thrills. You got horror in my comedy! No, you got comedy in my horror. Either way, heed the warning, beware,but, come on, touch it, touch it, touch it.

Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone  by Stefan Kiesbye
CLOTH. So you don't like to laugh out loud when you read horror, then here's one for you. Even the title voices the primal fears of every parent, right? Just like the cover, this novel recalls the disquieting eeriness of the film classic, Children of the Damned. Hemmersmoor is a great Gothic backdrop, remote, shrouded in superstition, secrets behind the lips of all its inhabitants. Sometimes children's games and tales of long ago are based on horrible truths and the mystery behind the village's evil un-spools with the voice of an assured storyteller. This is the type of story that leaves shadow images that you recall long after bed. Put another log on the fire, this is going to be a long, creepy night.

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson  by Mark Siegel
GRAPHIC NOVEL. Coming in at 400 pages, this is not merely an epic achievement in graphic novels, it is a haunting epic of American mythology. What starts as a steamboat captain rescuing a mermaid in peril grows into a personal tale of love, longing and purpose. The words are as carefully chosen as each charcoal smudge evokes atmosphere and emotion in every panel. Siegel's work has taken the strength of the written word and the power of the visual medium and created a hybrid of storytelling. These illustrations are still presented in classic graphic novel form rather than as a device as in the work of Brian Selznick's Hugo Cabret. Still, the static panels create quiet spaces of mystery and introspection as the novel grows its haunting and hypnotic tone with every page turn. 

Bully; An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis 
by Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen, and Dina Santorelli
NON-FICTION, CLOTH. October is officially "Stop Bullying" month so its appropriate that film moguls the Weinstein Brothers would release this companion to their documentary. This is the bible of bullying education, an exhaustive reference for all parties effected by this phenomena that had gained muscle with the text and post generation.  As the titles implies, it doesn't matter how you are affected by this nine-headed Hydra, this book will help all begin the healing. Pair this with this year's bully-themed novel, Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and you have a good foundation for approaching the topic with your children. 13 million children will be bullied in the U.S.this year unless we all make an effort, just sayin'. 
Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

The Turning by Francine Prose
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Everybody loves a good haunted house story. Throw in a couple of ghostly kiddos and you crank up the spooky gauge. That's just what National Book award finalist Prose does in her tale of Jack, who should have known better than to babysit in an isolated house, on an island, without access to the world on shore. He quickly discovers that the odd-ball kids he is supposed to care for aren't what they seem, possibly, not even real at all. As the summer progresses the line between reality and madness grows thin in Jack's mind. This updated meditation on madness is a re-imagining of Poe's Turning of the Screw and has maintained the unsettling timbre of the original while making the scares and the underlying themes assessable to a new generation. Moral might be that babysitters should also do background checks on who they will be working for.
Crewel by  Gennifer Albin
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Here's a new spin (sic) for paranormal fiction. Alice is ostracized from her schoolmates not unlike Stephen King's Carrie White. Instead of psychokinesis, Alice has the gift of time weaving, literally weaving timelines. She has been chosen to be a Spinster, an honor that brings eternal beauty but probably makes you what is generally accepted as the tradition translation of the word; forever partner-less. That may be the downside of being able to embroider the very fabric of life. Alice just wants to be normal as every teen does, and she makes every effort to dodge her fate. So begins her adventure in a metaphor-laden, but a refreshing take on  teen angst.

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