Monday, August 27, 2012

Best Book Bets - 8/28/2012

Bottom of the Ninth

We've already taken the seventh inning stretch but that doesn't mean our summer's over. You still have a couple lazy weeks to tear through your summer reads. Need to replenish the beach bag, here's a few and not a knuckle ball amongst them (knuckleheads? That's another thing.)

Lionel Asbo; State of England  by Martin Amis
CLOTH. What if the bully amongst bullies, as nefarious and sin-consumed as a criminal can be, wins the lottery. Will it send him on a downhill cart straight to hell or will their be an epiphany? (personally fueling pit bulls with tabasco sauce gets you that one way ticket to Danteland be I regress.) How will Desmond, the well meaning orphan, the only thing outside of his greed Lionel cares for with a Dickensian loyalty, influence what the man does with his new found riches? Equally peppered with black humor and pathos Amis' 13th novel finds a masterful mix that is as much a commentary of our culture as it is on our consumer hunger and soullessness.  A surprisingly moving moral tale.

(Grand Central)
Valley of Ashes by Cornelia Reed
CLOTH. If you are looking for a new mystery heroine to read up on and haven't already discovered Madeline Dare, here is a great start. This fish out of water tale takes her off of the mean streets. Now she pursues the idealistic dream of the suburban housewife. Her passions not being fanned by the doldrums of child rearing and being a domestic goddess she dabbles once again in journalism at the local paper in Bolder, Colorado. The town is not exactly the hotbed of criminal activity, or so she fought. Soon she finds herself in a battle between an arsonist's rage and her maternal instincts. Her greatest fears are realized as the underbelly of her trade takes sights on the other love of her life, family. Trick is Madeline isn't your run of the mill Stepford Wife and the criminal has bitten off more than he can chew, the pages turn themselves.

(Henry Holt)
Me Who Dove Into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman
 CLOTH. Sometimes I'm just in awe at the original story lines authors come up with. This debut novel by Mexican playwright/poet Berman is a beautiful tale of finding one's purpose in life. The Me of the title is Karen, an idiot savant, raised feral during the early part of her life, now under the care a family of fishermen. She wanders the beach alone, communing with the sea life. Under her aunt's care she comes into her own and, similar to Temple Grandin devising the cow hugging machine for slaughterhouses, Karen proposes that the family's tuna industry could become caring fishing. What follows is Karen's fame, inspiration and controversy as she just follows her heart. A lyrical examination of how we ethically fit in the food chain.

(W W Norton)
Dreamland; Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep 
by Davis K. Randall
CLOTH NONFICTION. We've always heard that a good night's sleep will do us a world of wonders but outside of resting the body to restore itself physically we don't really consider the restorative qualities of what goes on behind the curtain once our eyes are closed. As entertaining as it is enlightening (quite like the best of dreams) Randall's examination of dreaming is constantly fascinating. This is not about dream interpretation rather the ramifications of dreaming (or not) on everyone around us. What he uncovers is at times alarming, often humorous, and always insightful scientific revelations and testimonies on the inner workings of the mind. Hoping that what it reveals doesn't keep you awake, enjoy, then sleep, perhaps to dream. 

(Harper Perennial)
Bottom of the 33rd;  
Hope, Redemption, and Baseball's Longest Game by Dan Barry

TRADE NONFICTION. This new baseball classic came out in paperback this spring just as our beloved boys of summer returned to give us the thrills only that quintessential summer sport can. The team I'm talking about (especially after this season) is our beloved PawSox. Pulitzer prize finalist Barry tells a masterful tale presenting the baseball game that just wouldn't end in epic proportions. More than just documenting this oddity in the world of baseball it captures the spirit of the game that drives every minor league player game after game and draws true lovers of the sport to the Cape year after year.
Young Adult Hot Pick of the Week!
Splendors and Gloom  by Laura Amy Schlitz
IR/YOUNG ADULT. First things first, dolls, especially puppets, freak me out. So all I need to hear is that Newbery Award winner Schiltz is putting out a gothic tale featuring the creepy things and I'm cautiously eager. Based in London (sure, that's where they have some really creepy Victorian dollies, right?) it is the tale of a master puppeteer who is famed for creating uncannily realistic puppets (gulp!) . Wealthy child Clara asks for him to perform for her at her ritzy birthday party. He arrives with his two orphan assistants and they are all in awe of Clara's world of oppulence. Then guess what happens? Right, she disappears. Sounds like its by rote but the story is original and the children are well fleshed out. What follows is one creepfest as the puppeteer and an evil witch battle to see who really pulls the strings. Think of this as a period piece Coraline, entertaining but riddled with an eeirie horror that gets under your skin (or is that just me?)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Best Book Bets - 8/21/2012

Late Summer Sleepers

More picks to peruse; chills, thrills, tear-jerkers and fresh reflections on the world's favorite domestic goddess.

(Spiegel & Grau)
Devil In Silver  by Victor Lavalle
CLOTH. Some of my favorite summer read memories surround the scary reads, passed from person to person until the pages unfurl like a kabuki dancer's fan You know the ones I mean; Blatty's The Exorcist, Benchley's Jaws, Straub's Ghost Story, King's Salem's Lot and now if there is any justice this novel will join those hallowed ranks. National Book Award winning author Victor Lavalle tells us the tale of Pepper, our protagonist finds himself wrongly convicted of a crime and sent to a mental institution. During his first night of incarceration he is visited by monstrosity. Its not the medications, it is real as the many colorful patients in the ward attest that it roams the hospital ward's each night. It quickly becomes Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest meets Matheson's Hell House as they bound together to beat a very real devil in our midst. The writing elevates horror to literature as it meditates on our fear of madness and the unknown.

The Lincoln Letter by William Martin
CLOTH. What if David McCullough wrote thrillers instead of documenting the facts of the past. He would undoubtedly be this man. He is able to weave break-neck plot lines of fictional whimsy with an accurate representation of historical time and place. From Back Bay throughout his extensive catalog of titles he has built a legacy of subtle speculative fiction, never using a garish stroke of technique to keep us turning the pages. His new title could not be more topical giving the latest barrage of non-fiction Abraham Lincoln titles being released. His treasure hunters Treasure hunters Fallon and Carrington search for the elusive Lincoln diary. It is believed that the President's inner most thoughts, if wiki-leaked to the public could help throw an important election. The power of his candid words could prove as divisive today as his speeches were nation building when he was alive. What follows is action, both in Lincoln's time and in the present. Martin is atuned to the current state of the national where spin is more important than facts. Like the civil war? Read it. Like political thrillers? Read it. Just read it and witness a writer's at th top of his game.

What Happened To My Sister by Elizabeth Flock
 CLOTH. You mention the novel Me & Emma to anyone who has read it and they immediately start praising it making it a hard act to follow. This sequel of sorts is one of those dark family secret stories. This time its Libby and her daughter Carrie making it on their own in a new town, a history of violence behind them. Young Carrie bonds with a family of women who help them with there new start but there is no way to escape your past without confronting it. Same goes with her newfound friends and together they embrace the adage, the truth shall set you free. Flock calls upon her skills as a journalist to find the story behind the story and reveals the secrets of the heart with exquisite honesty.

Dearie by Bob Spitz
CLOTH NONFICTION. I don't know a single person who doesn't have fond regard for the joie de vivre of Julia Child. Even a new generation was touched by the blog/novel and subsequent movie Julie and Julia. The soul behind the film actually came from Child's own account of becoming a cook and a partner, My Life in France. This book with a title as affectionate as the biographer's style, celebrates her hundredth anniversary. It proves a fine companion to Julia's own words. Like in his take on the Fab 4, The Beatles, he respects his subject matter and it comes through in every line. He sees Julia as a vanguard, a women constantly searching for individuality. 6'3" and fifty she takes over the world when The French Chef firsts air and she becomes a most unlikely ambassador of the culinary arts. Bon Apetit!
Young Adult Hot Pick of the Week!
After Eli  by Rebecca Ruff
YOUNG ADULT. As a nation we all share a profound sadness for the mortal and emotional damage war perpetrates on our brave soldiers and their families. This is little out there that confronts the battle at home for the surviving families of the fallen. Daniel Anderson tells us about his legendary older brother who died in the war and how he struggles to make sense of it. Daniel constructs a Book of the Dead  where he documents people who have died, how and, most important to him, why. He has to learn the meaning of his own life and pull himself from his project and continue the life going on all around him. Its not all doom and gloom, there is a quirky humor to Daniel's emotional mending and failing romance and friendships that gives us even more of a reason to root for him as he becomes one of the living. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Best Book Bets - 8/14/12

Get Yer Hot Picks Here!
Clocker Toon has your hot sheet for late summer reads!

(Random House)
The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
CLOTH. Welcome to the compassionate side of distopian fiction. Where Cormac McCarthy drags us down the gut-wrenching Road Peter Heller sees an aspect to our humanity that does beyond survival. I thought of Harlan Ellison's A Boy and his Dog for an instant since the novel concerns a man cruising the post-apocalypse with dog as his co-pilot. Where Ellison more than hints that we as a race get what we deserve, Heller agrees but concedes that what we deserve, what we are capable of, is seeing the beauty it what still is. His stint as editor of such man-reads as Outside Magazine, Men's Journal, and NatGeo Outdoors serves him well here. I loved his novel Kook, about an everyman compelled to embrace the California dream of surfing. Here again he captures the true heart of masculinity, tough, guarded and deep with suppressed emotions. In this novel, our pilot, forced off the grid by global tragedy, hovers above the remains, hunting and fishing not only for survival but for the link it has to his old life, Then he hears a radio transmission like the whisper of a promise and he ventures forth to recapture what he almost lost, community.

(Reagan Arthur)
What in God's Name? by Simon Rich
CLOTH. You thought the U.S.A. was getting too corporate? Now it can be revealed, Heaven is incorporated and God, the CEO, is burnt out and just wants to whip up an Armageddon. Our world is now in the hands of two angels in the Dept. of Miracles, employees who really, really like there jobs. God will call off the horsemen if the do goody good angels can make two unlikely, socially inempt characters on earth to fall in love. For Simon Rich, one of the funniest guys out there you may not have heard of (from Pixar to SNL with a slew of stories, even a novel already under his belt, yeah, he's got comedy chops) this is fertile ground to weave a humorous mix of oddball sentimentality. Here he comes across like the lovechild of Albert Brooks and the late, great, queen of comedic romance, Nora Ephron (I mean that as a good thing, Brooks without the neurosis, Ephron without the schmaltz)
Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz
 CLOTH. There was a day when you would have to wait and wait for a new Odd Thomas or Frankenstein novel from Koontz so its reassuring for fans that his impressive output has become more timely without sacrificing quality. Odd Thomas, a fry cook thrown into paranormal mysteries not unlike Repairman Jack, sees the dead which is a great help when trying to unravel evil curses and the like. This is all done with an author’s wink of the eye and witty banter making the creepy more of a fun house ride than disturbing images that will keep you awake on hot summer nights. Odd’s latest haunts are housed in a Hollywood mansion named Roseland which could prove to be his own personal Overlook Hotel. If you follow this series you will not be disappointed. If not, what are you waiting for, welcome the Odd into your reading life. P.S.- cool goose egg (can books have them, answer now is yes). With a Koontz app you can watch one of his disturbing visions unfold on the cover!

(New Market)
The Jaws Log by Carl Gottlieb
CLOTH NONFICTION. Forget amount Shark Week, in New England its been Shark Summer. We don't need a mechanical shark to scare us when great whites are actually feeding on our shores. That said, Jaws is back! Coinciding with the Blue Ray release of the '70's horror classic (like the reissue of the retro Narragansett beer cans Quint crushed on his head) this classic behind-the-scenes documentation of the ill-fated film production that almost got its director banned from the industry reads as fresh as it did in 1975. I owned a copy and bent the paperback pages back until it fanned in the sea breeze. Now available in hardcover with an ample amount of interesting footnotes and esoterica, this captain's log reporting one mishap after another makes for one fine read for anyone who loves the extras attached to their movie discs. New England locals will especially enjoy all the Vineyard references. The resulting movie propelled Spielberg into one of the greatest filmmakers of our time but not without him facing Murphy's Law straight on. We might fear the dum-dum-dum and what lurks beneath the waves, but this book reports Steven's nightmare. 
Young Adult Hot Pick of the Week!
(Henry Holt)
Guy-Write; What Every Guy Writer Needs To Know 
by Ralph Fletcher
YOUNG ADULT NON-FICTION. It It sounds like stereotype, but guys read less than gals AND dudes write less than dude-ettes (but you could never tell by looking at the ratio of men vs women published writers, go figure?) Fletcher tapped into the first problem with Jon Scieszka in the book Guys Write for Guys Read: Boy's Favorite Authors Write About Being Boys. Now he attacks the phobia many boys have with essays and other writing assignments at school. Fletcher makes sport of the task of writing, giving tips to engage the rapscallions into tapping into their creativity, whether its about serious issues or farting. It all comes from the same place. Boys don't like swinging a bat until they learn how. Same with writing. Here's some of the coaching they need to be as confident with a pen in their hand as they are up at bat!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Best Book Bets - 8/7/12

New & recent releases just out of the gate!
Still a few weeks until pens n' books n' teacher's dirty looks. 
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann
 CLOTH. Perfect for the hot August days in New England this tale of familial intrigue is a pitch perfect summer read. To start it takes place on Martha's Vineyard just as World War 2 wanes. Not all is well under the roof of the palatial Tiger House. Flash forward to the 60's and the family fight their generation emotion distance when a brutally murder body enters their lives and their privileged lives begin to unravel anew. Told from the perspective of five different characters ala Akira Kurosawa's storytelling style in Rashomon, the mysteries and longings of the family come to light as the pages turn. The revelations thrill without falling into a tired mystery style. A fresh and auspicious debut.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce
CLOTH. Fairy stories aren't for kiddos anymore (well I think Charlaine Harris proved that a while ago with the Sookie Stackhouse series, but I digress). Here we have Tar Martin who disappeared when she was 15 only to returns to here hometown twenty years later. She hasn't aged a day and claims that she was taken away by fairies. It’s rare that we would recommend a collection of short stories in this week’s picks being that only 5 titles as recommended, one a trade paperback and one a young adult title. How's that for a setup? Her beautiful study of dream and reality doesn't disappoint and the omniscient third person narrating feels like Fate himself weaving the mystery and pulling the strings. Joyce gives it all a British charm as well with ethereal word craft. And, yay, no vampires!

Broken Harbor by Tana French
CLOTH. You want some stone cold murder mystery with police work and pycho motivations at odds? Then you don't get much better the Tana French. From her bestselling debut on up she has bettered herself and she continues the trend with this new novel that will keep you up at night with fear and an inability to stop turning pages. You get inside the head of Sgt. Mick Kennedy who has seen more than his share of the grisly and illogical. He begins to question if his years on the force are starting to take its toll as he works a case in Dublin, England that challenges his ability to fight, as he puts it, the chaos. Does he continue to walk the walk of proper police work or does he along his emotional damage to revert him into the very beast he hunts. Riveting suspense fueled by the complexity of the lead character. 

Gallery Books
11/22/1963 by Stephen King
TRADE PAPERBACK. You don't need me to tell you that Stephen King makes for one darn good summer read. Even the lesser of his over 50 bestsellers, back when the plot lines were more cookie cutter, always managed to get under your skin with the believability of the main characters facing the impossible. It seems that facing down his devils and death itself, King has had a new renaissance, ever since Lisey's Song he has infused his themes with a new urgency. What was the single event before 9/11 that shook us to our core? The Kennedy assassination, right? It's the old bar room poser, if you could go back in time what would you change? This book answers that question in a breathtakingly probable manner, the time travel never seems gimmicky, and the psychological needs of his characters have never been more fleshed out, except perhaps in the aforementioned novel.
Young Adult Winner
(Reagan Arthur)
Dare Me 
by Megan Abbott
YOUNG ADULT CLOTH. It is official, this is the summer of Megan Abbott. I have already recommended Abbott's The End of Everything for one of the best adult summer reads! Now this?   Attack of the Killer Cheerleaders? Really Mean Girls? Teen Girl Fight Club?  The latter is not too far off for like Palahniuk she can get under the twisted motivations of her characters in a believable manner. Our main character Addy Hanlon's high school friendships are tested when the new edgy cheerleader coach arrives on campus and introduces some of the girls to the adult world high school has sheltered them from. The novel has the same taboo vibe as Perotta's Little Children.The team is investigated after a teen suicide and loyalty, right and wrong and personal ambitions are tested to the limit. Riveting, real, and written with the urgency of adolescence this book's title will be on every girl's lips, every literate indie chick in school. 

Best Book Bets 7/31/12

This week's picks for the best in new and recent releases
We’re at the halfway point, still half a season of Summer Reads left!

The Light Between Oceans  
by M.L. Stedman
 CLOTH. Aren’t the greatest novels the ones that make you question right from wrong as you witness the characters being tested in high moral stakes. This breathtaking debut is one heck of a page turner, filled with suspense while not fitting any thriller formula. A man returns from war and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Australia. He shares the practically year round isolation with his steadfast wife. After many tragic experiences she has accepted the fate that the two of them will go through life childless. That is until a dead body and a live child wash up on the shore. I’m stopping now, your mind’s racing right? Trust me every dilemma crossing your mind is visited and keeps you hanging until the last page.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Shout her Lovely Name  by Natalie Serber
CLOTH. It’s rare that we would recommend a collection of short stories in this week’s picks being that only 5 titles as recommended, one a trade paperback and one a young adult title. These stories and how they capture the loving, yet often-times contentious, relationship between mothers and daughters is such a feat that we would be lacking if we didn’t praise it. The honesty of Serber’s words, how she gets to the underlying tug-of-war of emotions are spot on. The forging of the character of young women and the mother’s trying so hard to make their child’s emotional life better than theirs is candid and insightful. This is one book on that unbreakable bond that mothers will read and pass forward to her daughter then years from now that women will forward to her child.

Center Street
by Neil Abramson
TRADE PAPERBACK. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Just look at that face, devotion, need, and did you catch it? A sadness. This is how the book was recommended; it’s a story about a lawyer whose wife dies. She was a veterinarian who left him with house full of damaged but deserted pets. He needs to move on with his life and career; a big case looming. Oh, yeah, and the narrator is the dead wife. I’m thinking sarcastically, “There’s a feel-good novel if I ever heard one”.  Well it is! This debut speaks to that mystical bond between humans and animals and how they can bring out the best of us and because of that gift we are obligated to stand up for them. 
Good boy! Good book!

William Morrow
Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury
edited by Sam Weller and Mort Castle
TRADE PAPERBACK. What do YOU think of when someone mentions summer read fav Ray Bradbury? I personally think of how his stories showed me when I was young that fiction could be fantastic and literature, but that’s just me. Ask such noted authors as Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, Joe Hill, Ramsey Campbell, Audrey Niffenegger, Dave Eggers, Harlan Ellison who all contributed to this 22 story collection and they’d say… just read on and feel the love of his contributions to popular fiction.
by Kirsten White
YOUNG ADULT CLOTH. All Evie wants out of life is to be a normal teenager, who doesn’t. When you work for government agency, in this case, the International Paranormal Containment Agency, normal is not easy.. Throw in a delicious romantic triangle, an insidious Dark Faerie Queen and a slap-dash whit that every teen wish they had and you’re set for one wild ride as Evie tries to save the world and her teenage dreams.  Who needs Bella when you’ve got Evie!  A cage match with Katniss, that’s something altogether different;  but if you have a drop of paranormal blood in you, watch out for Evie.

Best Book Bets - 7/24/12 Young Adult Midsummer Update

Young Adult Midsummer Sleepers
(sure bets not already picked) 
There are book you gotta read
and THEN there’s books you wanna read. Here are some of the latter.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse. Wow! What a start. Eh? This is the tale of August Pullman who was born with a facial deformity. If he thought life was hard then he better be prepared for the fifth grade! This is an easy read that will hook you from the start. Humor, tragedy, and everything in between, you will be rooting for August in his fight to just be normal. Bullying themes are there but not heavy handed. This book has such a following that the author is now finishing writing an adult literature version of this book. Again, wow!

Of Poseidon  by Anna Banks
Talk about a summer vacation to write a report about! How about being Emma, strolling the beach, minding her own beeswax when she stumbles into the arms of a nautical prince. I know, happens every day, right? Now what if you, in this case Emma, discovers that she can communicate with sea life AND that is just what the aforementioned prince needs to save his kingdom? This novel has it all. It is told in Emma’s and Prince Galen’s point of view, is plum full of action (can somebody say sharks!), enough romance to make Sebastian the crab blush and a humorous take on all the proceedings. Plus it has one cool cover that will look oh-so-stylish peeking out of your beach bag.
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
I know, I know, when you hear the word dragons you think of the Eragon series or St. George in battle. Well his isn’t your parent’s or your brother’s dragon realm. Hartman weaves a brilliant tale of a land where dragons can fold themselves into human shape and are deeply entrenched in the politics of the world. Our title character is a forbidden half breed of dragon and human. Despite her horrible secret she may be the only thing that can keep the age old peace and restore harmony to her world (yes, that was a musical reference). A fantastic tale of someone discovering their self-worth and everyone’s potential , their  ability to make a mark on the world.
The Selection by Kiera Glass
O.K., bear with me, the main character is America Singer, consider her a Katness lite, who finds herself in a competition, not of her choosing, to win the heart of a prince. Think Hunger Games meets the Bachelorette. This is also a meditation on mass media and an emerging caste system that will connect with the reader. She loves another but the Prince is more than opulence and privilege and America is torn between her hatred of the world of the haves and have nots and the affections she thought she never could feel for another. Action, passion, a handsome prince… Disney would be proud!
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
We love it here when a local author hits the mark, pun intended. Gaughen’s reimagining of the tale of Robin Hood from a woman’s perspective is an inspired choice. Taking the lead from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Scarlet poses as a boy amongst the band of merry men while she alludes the retaliation of a truly evil Duke. Hood and his henchmen, finally on to her ruse, let her join in the fight against the rulers of Nottingham. Bravery and a passion that should never be shared fuel her in this fresh take on a swashbuckling classic.

Best Book Bets 7/17/12

Hot! Hot! Hot!  
Not only out by the pool, this summer has been a literary heat wave with no sign of letting up. Here’s some new release recommends to pass the lazy, crazy days.
Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian
Yet another MUST READ. We read reports of genocide, staggering numbers, at the same time horrifying and strangely distant. Some families have been touched directly by the senseless devastation and their personal testimonies give a face to the unfathomable. Bohjalian pulls deep from his family’s emotional well as he shares the events of the Armenian genocide through a fictionalized tale of the loves, losses and confusions of allegiance his parents endured before finally embracing the American, rather Armenian American dream.  As archived by a young family member, the life drama unfurls and  what it takes to embrace life in uncertain times is revealed.
Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook
As sure as the return of the plovers when its summer in New England summer read enthusiasts anticipate the arrival of the latest Claire Cook novel. Nationally known as the author of Must Love Dogs, Claire oeuvre embraces the freedom of a sandy shore and futures of possibility. With backdrops of fictional seaside towns (Scituate, Duxbury, hmmm?) she provides the reader with retreats where life’s little riddles can be solved. This time its Deirdre Griffin who has to discover the joy within and between walking out of the shadow of her celebrity brother and dancing with the stars (for real!) Wallflower is another in a catalog of feel good, pick-yourself-up-by-the -bootstrap novels that squeaks a tear then prompts a smile.

Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koertge
Illustrated by Andrea Dezso
This gruesome collection of fractured fairy tales is NOT for children. This is NOT A Tale Dark and Grimm which was also a clever reinterpretation of fables. This IS a collection of twenty twisted tales told in free verse with black silhouette illustrations rebooted for a new generation. Sounds innocent enough right? What it IS is subversive, what it IS is gory (or perhaps Gorey?) Koertge, a noted YA author has embraced his dark side with a delicious sense of irreverence that makes this book your guilty pleasure of the year. DISCLAIMER- If your child gets a hold of this wicked collection we can not and will not be held responsible for the consequences.
The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell
(trade paperback) Anyone alive at the time have been asked the one question that bound a nation together, Where were you when President Kennedy was shot? Not the interruption of the soap opera incident followed by a brave boy saluting, the first Kennedy, RFK. The photographs of the mass of humanity in mourning as his body was delivered for burial is etched in our minds but this auspicious debut novel, uses multiple character storylines of a diverse group of people, a cross cut of our fractured nation, to capture the time and place. The result is effecting as the incident was on our social consciousness, a haunting meditation on loss.
                               Young Adult Release
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Mash-ups either work (Pride & Prejudice & Zombies) or they don’t (Sense & Sensibilities & Sea Monsters) Sometimes they are pure brilliance. Take Cinderella and give it a futuristic twist. Add some steam punk esthetic and you get one of the best young adult reads of the season. Cinder is a cyborg who falls for a human prince only to find that she aspires to break taboos, she has fallen into the middle of interplanetary war. Add human’s vulnerability to disease and what’s a machine to do? The Asian cultural references make this dystopian world entirely here own. The follow-up in this Lunar Chronicles series, Scarlet drops early next year (yes, another fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood to be followed by Rapunzel and Snow White) Can she keep it as fresh as this debut, only time will tell, but she has started with a bang!

Best Book Bets - 7/10/12

Summer is in full swing!  
Pick the book escape of your choice (or what the school told you to read), ice the cooler, head for the beach and to quote Kurt Vonnegut, “…wear sunscreen.”
Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
The follow up to the wildly adult A Discovery Witches continues the All Souls Trilogy, a world where witches conspire with vampires and a myriad of historical figures. Christopher Marlowe is side by side with Sir Walter Raleigh. Shakespeare, even Elizabeth I join the fray to unravel the magical power of a legendary manuscript. A unique combination of fantasy fluff whipped up with stellar literary skill as the author lends her scholarly expertise to making the 16th century breathe life. Lovers of speculative historical fiction or all out genre fantasy will both be satisfied with the spell Harkness weaves all the way to the novel’s  tantalizing cliffhanger ending.
Albert of Adelaide by Howard Anderson
Sometimes you just have to take a recommendation on faith. This book is one odd duck, or rather, duck-billed platypus. The title character, Albert, is such an oddity. Add more of the wilds of the Australian outback like wombats, dingoes and Tazmanian devils, strip away humans altogether and you get one of the most touching tales of friendship and self discovery to come along in a long while. Albert escapes from the zoo and embarks on his own personal walkabout encountering one adventure after another, a band of assorted miscreants and potential friends. Think an Aussie version of Rango. It is written for adults but a sharp witted, deep feeling teen would get Albert’s dilemma. No animal narrated book has touched me this much since Fine Art of Racing in the Rain.
The Other Woman’s House by Sophie Hannah
It’s all about the twist, isn’t it? Many you see it a mile away, others are well set up but when all is said and done you read the last page unfulfilled. Enter Sophie Hannah, she is an author who knows how to deliver and does so in this unnerving novel. Lovers of Tana French will love following detectives Zailer and Waterhouse (no worries, this can be read as a stand-alone book) as they work with a woman named Connie. She may have seen a horrendous crime scene only to have all evidence of it removed moments afterwards. Once we learn the Connie may be a victim herself, to mental illness, we are left to search for the truth where the lines between reality and madness blur. 
The End of Everything by Megan Abbott
(trade paperback) From Edgar Award-winning author Abbot comes a chilling coming of age tale about 13 year old Lizzie. Her suburban life is shattered when her best friend goes missing. She thought she knew everything about her BFF but as she performs some Nancy Drew in the real world investigating she stumbles across secrets never shared. They question the friend’s picture-perfect world her best friend was raised in. This tale of the end of innocence is adult in nature though well grounded seniors will find the tale of consequences intriguing.

Railsea by China Mieville
Ahoy! Here’s a YA novel that doesn't write down to the teen level, it challenges them with a post-modern awareness of all the grand sea adventures that preceded it. Here oceans are desert wastelands littered with twisted railroad ties and rusted salvage, the ships that sail them, trains. At first glance Railsea is a steampunk reimagining of Melville's Moby Dick. You wouldn't be entirely wrong if you replace the white whale with a massive mole. Replace Ahab with a female sea captain named Miss Naphi and you're even closer. Her arm has been replaced with robotics, the arm rumored to be taken by the great pale, sound familiar? But as the first line declares (and reverberates throughout) this is really about something else altogether, a blood-stained boy/hero. 
 in Dark Tales for Teens at

Best Book Bets - 7/2/12

Happy 2nd of July!
Another week of summer reads to peruse between barbeques, 
parades and fireworks, and not a dud among them.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
For all of you who have a fear of the hardcover book, the day has arrived! Local literary sensation Morgenstern’s fantasy masterwork is available in paperback. What if Bradbury wrote a romance? This stylized world of monochrome dreams and fears will delight anyone from teens to seniors, anyone who needs an escape. The prose breathtaking, the invention of a world not yet seen, stunning, and characters are driven by powerful emotions that keep them from being lost in the intricate set pieces. The mysterious travelling circus arrives without warning. "Opens at Nightfall. Closes at Dawn.". Never fear, buying the book is admission. Hold on tight and enjoy the ride!
Summerland by Elin Hilderbrand
Nantucket is the backdrop for this tragic summer read of the damage a moment’s indiscretion can perpetrate on the world around you. Hilderbrand is known for his definitive summer reads and with Summerland he delivers one of his best. The result of a drunken evening at a graduation bonfire on the beach results in screeching wheels and twisted metal. One friend is dead, another close, and two other survivors of the crash are unscathed on the outside but are hurting deep within. A summer of coping and questioning ensues as the mystery over just what happened and why that one fateful evening will have you forgetting to reapply sunscreen as you keep the pages turning.
Gold by Chris Cleave
In 2009,Cleave’s Little Bee became a must-read book and a book club favorite. His follow up is certain not to disappoint. Just in time for the summer Olympics comes this story of competition, dedication and sorority. Kate and Zoe are Olympic track cyclists competing for more than just the gold medal, but for the riches only family and friendship can provide. This is why the world watches every four years to watch such souls compete. The two women are equally driven, both with polarizing philosophies on how to succeed. You feel their hearts beating, breaking, their skin sweating as they carry one another through this race we call life.
The Unfinished Work of Elizabeth D. by Natalie Bernier
Local Boston author Bernier delivers one wallop of a setup. Summer vacation hell; Kate’s closest friend, Elizabeth, dies suddenly and Kate inherits a trunk of her friend’s journals that contain dreams, aspirations and fears. What unfolds is the story of a woman Kate, her family, and Elizabeth’s husband never knew. As the mystery of just who her friend really was and why she concealed the truth is enthralling as you delve further alongside Kate. Long after the last page, this devastatingly honest testament to friendship, motherhood and human frailty will have you questioning why we present ourselves to the world the way we do.

                               Young Adult Release

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour
Sick of every summer read being about paranormal lovey-dovey, magical powers and sparkling vampires? Award winning author LaCour provides you with literary garlic. Take a dash of Glee, a sprinkle of American Idol and a liberal dose of DIY spirit and you get The Disenchantments, a girl band following their dreams before the adult world, perhaps even college, closes down their endless summer. Band leaders Colby and Bev tour the West Coast playing any hole in the wall that will book them all the while struggling with what they will do with the rest of their lives. Friendships are tested and the love of music and its ability to enrich life makes for an awesome road trip. Girls rock!