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!

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