Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Best Book Bets - 10/13/2012

World Kindness Day = Pass a Good Book Forward!

Like we need a day to remind us. I started thinking how people say that e-books are conservation savvy, that is until you upgrade and all the old models go into the funeral pier of technological obsolesce. Would I sacrifice communing with the pages of a hard copy of a book for the sake of the planet? Then I thought, like yard sales and donation drives, making a habit of passing forward a good book to someone who would like it would be world kind. Kind of a year-round All Hallow's Read but the books don't necessarily have to be scary. Now, as far as the glut of remainders aka bargain books, direct digital press will take care of those (we already see shorter runs, print-on-demand, heck, even a major publisher's warehouse is closing.) The paper books are being printed on has become increasingly green. So, you're welcome world!

Less books being printed means its all the more important to buy new releases to let the industry know you appreciate the quality of their limited output. That said, here's today's Best Book Buys starting with a scary one (sorry, my heads still in Halloween) Buy a book and don't  feel guilty, the world smiles on a literate mind.

The Colony  by A.J. Colucci
CLOTH. Sure it sounds like an atomic era shlockfest premise or the Syfy movie-of-the-week but Colucci does for ants when Benchley did for sharks. Like Jaws it is armed with enough ant lore and research to makes the unfolding infestation seem entirely plausible. How many times have you read about deadly fire ants and went what if? Well this is how it would go down and it isn't pretty. They sweep the high population of New York City. Now you add a Michael Crighton angle where these are not just ordinary killer ants but may have been genetically modified, twice the normal size and pissed off. Soon an estimated trillion miniscule land sharks roam the streets. Scientist Paul O'Keefe wants to nuke them back to hell while his ex-wife Kendra wants to use the scientific approach and isolate the queen. Does New York fall do to nuclear fallout and our own panic or by its inhabitants being eaten one by one from the inside out? OK, it does sound a bit like drive-in fare but in the novel's defense the ants aren't the size of houses and it, as long as you keep reading, you believe it could happen. Pass the popcorn.

The Lawgiver  by Herman Wouk
CLOTH. You're kidding? At 97, 22 years since his last novel, the author of such brillient but stodgy works such as Winds of War, War and Remembrance, and The Caine Mutiny cranks out a work of contemporary fiction that rings so true to our times that one would assume it was written by a talented writer one quarter his age? Well, it seems the answer is yes. That's what the real pros are capable of. For the better part of his life Woulk wanted to tackle the tale of Moses but it wasn't until we entered the age of Twitter and Skype that he found the vehicle to bring the story home. Using modern communication as his new lexicon he tells us the tale of Margo Solovei, a protege filmmaker, an Orson Welles for our times, who has one of the 1% fund a film about the life of Moses as long as the script meets his approval. Enter a parade of media types, including Woulk himself, who are brought in to make the film project worthy of completion. Ambition, faith, love, devotion; all are shone in a new light in this unlikely classic for our modern world. Take that young literary whippersnappers!

(Seven Stories)
LoveStar by Andri Snaer Magnason
CLOTH.  I often wonder if having books translated to English from another language gives their sentence structure a certain gravitas. Case and point the work of Magnason which is translated from Icelandic by Victoria Cribb. The author of Dreamland, a self-proclaimed self-help manual for a frightened nation, delivers another work of speculative fiction. In this brave new world people have been freed from their gadgets because the world that they live in, run by REGRET is, in essence, one gigantic app inself. Instead of giving blood those down on their luck can be hired as viral marketers howling affaffirmations to citizens who consume the correct products. Death becomes literally fireworks and the fate of our civilization is in the hands of a dying overlord called LoveStar who wants to free people from the oppression of freedom. The few, like star-crossed lovers Indridi and Sigrid, who buck the system find themselves at odds with convention. Orwellian allegory, Vonnegut's clever turn of phrase, and Douglas Adams fearless wackiness combine into the weaving of this chilling future. You will never look at your iPhone the same way again. Press Like.

The Testament of Mary  by Colm Yoibin
CLOTH. I know what you're thinking, "Whoa, hands off, blasphemer." and I will admit that for Christians who cling to a literalistic depiction of the Bible one may be taken back. Still Tibin's portrait of Mary comes from a place of reverence and of compassion. This novel explores the post-crucifixion Mary, an older mortal woman struggling to understand her son's sacrifice and the rise of the Gospel writers. She has no time for them, nor they for her. She is a mother who lost a son and no painting of pearly gates makes that any better. She pians herself for leaving her son's side as he died and she freely focuses that anger on others who try to glorify the event. Here is Mary in all her humanity, accessible and relate-able, less a deity and more flesh and blood. This deftly written portrayal brings out a sad beauty any mother can relate to without any ill intent. Another emotion driven classic by the man who brought us Brooklyn and The Master.

(Free Press)
Brain On Fire by Susannah Cahalan
NONFICTION/CLOTH. It hasn't been until just recently that studies of the brain could explain away the grips of demonic possession and voodoo as anything more than mass hypnosis and incurable insanity. What if such conditions were treatable, like a virus? Well the science of such a cure and the horror of the inflicted are both delivered in Cahalan's memoir of surviving a ravenous autoimmune disease that manifests itself with psychosis and violence. One day she is balancing relationships and her fast track to a career in journalism and the next she is strapped to a gurney unable to move or speak. Enter Dr. Souhel Najjer, a brillent neaurosurgeon in league with television's Dr. House. Starting with a sketch drawn by the author a cure is hunted down. Cahalan's writing style makes her memoir read like a thriller. She puts you down on the bed experiencing her fear, her madness, and eventually, her wonder as the medical team prods in the dark for her cure.

Help, Thanks, Wow: Three Essential Survival Prayers
by Anne Lamott
NONFICTION, CLOTH. It seems aptly appropriate that the same week Cross Roads by William Paul Young (The author of the uber-successful and, admit it, uber-depressing christian fiction novel, The Shack) is released that the ever inspirational New York Times-bestselling author Anne Lamott would release a new book about the three simple prayers essential to coming through tough times, difficult days and the hardships of daily life.  She is responsible for some religious main stays such as Plan B and Grace, Eventually as well as the inspirational Bird by Bird, a guide for aspiring writers on how to write in order to discover truth. She always has a knack at using humorous insight to show us the religious significance of the around us. Until Young, she does that without dragging you through hell and brimstone to get there. Now she gives us faith in a nutshell; three prayers to see us through. Her own personal revelations is what gives this book life and this is sure to be a bed table favorite.

 Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

Reached by Ally Condie
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Finally, the conclusion of her Matched trilogy and, third time around,  Condie delivers. After a lack-luster sophomore effort she is now free to tie up the loose ends. The series paints a future of predetermined destiny akin to The Uglies series with our heroine Cassia having left Society in search of The Rising, the revolution. To topple the evil regeim she must again leave her love Ky and return to Society to battle them from within. And yes, of course there is a romantic triangle with Xander, like freeing the world isn't enough. If you are already a fan this will be a winner. If there is a downside its that she has written some characters you really care about which makes reaching the final page bitter sweet. In an age of cookie cutter young adult novels that's no small feat. 
Break My Heart a 1000 Times   by  Daniel Waters
CLOTH. What if ghosts weren't just see through flashbacks of the past but life forces that want to regain control of the world they lost? This premise fuels Water's tale of distopia of life after the Event.  Ghosts now are part of the everyday. Many like Veronica wish them gone and with her friend Kirk she tries to understand this new evolution. It seems that not everybody comes bacl. Why? To find the answer would Veronica have to die herself to enter their realm? What do the ghost beings really want? The answers will creep you out and keep you up nights in this inventive variation on hauntings and the afterlife, a far cry from Water's previous cookie cutter novels of the series Generation Dead. New ghosts for a new millennium!

Bartholomew Biddle and the Very Big Wind   
by Gary Ross, illus. by Matthew Myers
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. From the director of The Hunger Games (less said about that the better) comes an inventive tale of an unbridled soul that goes on a classic series of adventures. Of all things a bedsheet transports Bartholomew out of his hum drum life and soars him away to a swashbuckling world of hedonist pirates. Suddenly, like Peter Pan without his shadow, he finds himself caught in a world where the wind doesn't blow, making it impossible for him to return home. Myers illustrations add to the retro storybook feel of this collection. Some things work better on the page than they ever will on the screen. A big nod to Ross for knowing the difference.

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There   
by Catherynne M. Valente, illus. by Ana Juan 
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. From the fertile imagination of novelist and long title lover Vallente comes another chapter from the history of her darkly magical world. Trust me, this isn't a fantasy world inhabited by Tinkerbells. This novel takes off where her previous installment (take a deep breath) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making left off. Little September returns to fairyland to face her dark side, her shadow, who now rules the nether world, kind of an opposites-day version of Fairyland. September is a great, complex heroine that will appeal to adults as well as children as she explores the ramifications of her decisions and the difficulty in knowing what is right and wrong. There is a fulling fleshed out history of the different realms, their population, landscape and trials that is never too much information, just enough for the reader to be there with September as she fights for right. Juan's wickedly drawn artwork adds to Valente's vision.


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