Monday, November 19, 2012

Best Book Bets - 11/20/2012

Don't be a Turkey!

48 hours until turkey time, 72 hours until the real turkey time when people shake off the residual effects of Tryptophan and the warmth of family and friends to throttle their fellow man for this year's Furby (which despite the manufacturer's efforts WILL NOT be the Furby.) My solution, resist the Siren's call of the commercial holiday season and curl up with a good book. Maybe if none of us shop this weekend, retail employees will be given time off to be with their families next year. Sounds like the start of a really good book! I can dream, can't I? In fact, isn't that the reason we read, to get away for awhile?

 Heck, when you do attack your holiday gift list why not make each of your presents a book. Support your local bookseller who can advise you as well as the Literary Bookie and reward them with your continued patronage.  

The Bookie will be giving you a shopping list soon so make sure to get your email alerts. But not this weekend, now is the time for, food, family, football and fiction (or non-fiction if you insist.)


Back To Blood 
by Tom Wolfe
CLOTH. With Wolfe its always been a love/hate relationship as a reader. I find the depth of his characters bordering on stereotype. Similar to Hitchcock's actors, they are just chess pieces on a board. What is important is the game being played. What makes his books crack is his capturing of time and place. Is there really a better snapshot of '80s self-indulgance and narcissism that Bonfire of the Vanities? Here he is at his best/worse capturing the pressure cooker of culture shock and vitriol in Miami. The moral dilemmas brought about by the city's racial tension is never addressed despite how fertile the subject matter would be. Wolfe is more interested in what excesses are spawned in such an environment and how they in turn continue to perpetuate the downfall of the people living in it. The result reads like an episode of CSI Miami produced for adult cable. His descriptions are written oft times tongue in cheek as he documents all the city's excesses. In his world everyone gets what they deserve and in Wolfe's Miami, that's squat. 

Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm 
by Philip Pullman
CLOTH. With the latest re-imaging of the world of Grimm on television and on film this redux is sorely needed. Pullman, the author of the stellar IR fantasy epic The Dark Materials handles the brother's work with the reverence it deserves. It's hard to think that it was only 200 years ago that these grisly moral tales were unleashed on unsuspecting children. Here he takes  50 tales, some all too well known (am I the only one ODing on Snow White interpretations?) to the more obscure but equally jarring forgotten gems (Doesn't even the title,The Girl with No Hands give you a chill?) Pullman, a master storyteller in his own right, stays pretty straightforward, just tweaking the tales to make them pop for more contemporary readers. His research is insightful but never overly academic. This book is a treasure for anyone who holds the power of story as paramount and for any parent who needs to put the fear of God into their children.

(Pegasus Crime)

by Iain Banks
CLOTH. The most refreshing part of Bank's Stewart Gilmour mysteries are their locale, Scotland. Forget the muted desolation of Larsson's Iceland. Scotland makes for a great location. It becomes a driving part of the story as his characters plod through foggy streaks each looking out for themselves. Even a bridge over the Stoun River has meaning. Is it where lost souls go to die, where two timer's lives are cut short, or where one faces the demons of their past. The town of Stonemouth is gritty, its inhabitants working class and desparate, living in the shadows of battling crime families. The story isn't all doom and gloom however. Bank's is fascinated with his characters and presents them rich in detail and quirks. In the end what bonds them is surviving the mean streets long enough to tell their tales, morn past acts, and forge forward.

(Grand Central)
You Came Back 
by Christopher Coake
CLOTH. One of the strongest coping mechanisims for people working their way through the grieving process is their belief in a hereafter, of a place where they can finally reconnect with loved ones. What if this elemental heaven was here on earth and the lost need to connect with us so that we can both move on. This is the world young father Mark Fife finds himself in as he puts his son's tragic death behind him and starts to get along with his life. A new house, a new wife, a new start. That is until the owner of his old house contacts him to tell him that it is haunted by the ghost of his lost son. His ex-wife believes, he is skeptical, fearful that to pursue the phenomena would just open old wounds.Still, something like the tapping of a branch on a windowpane, keeps at him. If it is his son how can he help him this second-time around? A touching vision of the bounds of shared grief and parental love.

Keyhole Factory 
by William Gillespie
TRADE PAPERBACK.  With some many post apocalypse novels being cranked out recently (a reflection or our times? It always is) it is refreshing to read authors who break convention and allow the words to weave meaning between the letters. This is kaoes theory writing. Here we have a conceptual collection of short stories dressed up as a singular work (I think of collections like Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, which up front is a selection of stories but when seen as a whole becomes something mystically one) The thread that binds these tale is the end of days, a Supervirus hits us, game over. Each of Gillespie's fascinating yet obscure characters veer off in opposing tangents yet cling to one unifying compulsion; to find meaning in a world devoid of it. 

(Little, Brown)
My Ideal Bookshelf 
edited by Thessaly La Force, 
illus. Jane Mount
NONFICTION/CLOTH. Black Friday Alert: Stay Home! If you don't heed my advise (that would be my best pick of the week however) and you have a book lover on your list I might suggest this coffee table book. If you are an avid reader, the books you cherish define you. Here we have author and celebrities picks for there favorites, the spines illuatrated in novel (sic) style by Jane Mount. From Malcolm Gladwell to Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers to Chuck Klosterman, Judd Apatow to Patti Smith, all spectrums of the book world present their choices, explain their importance in their creative life and possibly most importantly make the reader poise what spines their drawing of favorites would reveal. There you go, one name off the list, now on to get that iPhone and a $5 toaster!

Buddy: How a Rooster Made Me a Family Man by Brian McGroryNONFICTION, CLOTH. Marley with feathers, enough said! Boston Globe journalist McGrory needed a fowl to teach him the meaning of life and with a whit on par with John Grogan (another newspaper writer who turned to memior) he tells us how a chicken changed his life. . He was always the alpha, the top dog, bonded only with man's best friend that he related to on a canine to canine basis. After his dog passed, Brian found he needed more in his life. Enter love interest, his dog's vet, Pam. Who would have thought, right? So as quick as you can say Green Acres he has to contend with a petting zoo of dogs, cats, kids and a rooster named Buddy who has a chip on its shoulder as large as his own. Big stretch for a big-city boy about town. As his relationship with Pam becomes stronger he has to come to terms with Buddy. At first he dispises him, then becomes jealous of him, and eventually, emulates him.

 Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

(Entangled Teen)
by Melissa West
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. I knew it! Aliens are monitoring our every move and are just waiting for us to be conscious of their existence to break into an all out war against us! Well our protagonist, Ari, sees one in her bedroom and he just happens to be the boss man on campus. I suppose you could find worse things hanging from your ceiling. Bad choice to be seen by because she's like the girl in Run, Lola Run, trained for the eventual alien war by her Dad. Yeah, but she likes Jackson the hunkie alien boy but canoodling with him, even admitting to seeing him, could veer her world into obliteration. What's a girl to do? Sounds a bit hackneyed I know but West has her pulse on what young adult fantasy romance lovers crave, star-crossed lovers and action and more action. And you guessed it, its a series. Just keep reading and don't look up, Scully, they're out there.
Four Secrets 
by Margaret WilleyYOUNG ADULT/CLOTH. This past year has been the year of bully awareness (like every one who has been bullied through the years could ever forget.) Its almost systems overload. Teens and there parents start to tune out the societal sinkhole bullying can be. Its a perfect time for this novel. Like Wilhelm's The Revealers, four girls decide to take revenge on king bully at thier school into their own hands since the school administration are incapable of reigning him in.  They make a pact, bound by the secrets they keep and the larger one that must never be revealed, they were the ones responsible for the bully's kidnapping. Secrets are fragile things, hard to keep and promises even easier to break. As the bullied become the bully each girl's friendship with the other is tested in this honest story of the complexity of emotions and the repercussions of one's actions. This is one book that addresses bullying without the reader feeling that they are being preached at.

The Vengekeep Prophecies 
by Brian Farrey, illus. by Brett Helquist
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. Like the Goblin Secrets that just recieved the National Book Award, this book is so filled with imaginative twists and turns that even adults will be swept away in its vast landscape of magic and danger. Jaxter, raised by a family of thieves lives in a world of logic. All magic is flim flam. When his family steals a tapestry his land uses to see into the future with a forgery. With the fake as a catalyst a disastrous future unfolds. Enter the monsters. I guess there is some magic that is true. Jaxter goes off on a quest to restore the original tapestry, destroy the cursed knockoff and save the future of Vengekeep. Sharp writing, believable characters and illustrations that make you feel that this tale has been on bookshelves for hundreds of years.
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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