Monday, November 26, 2012

Best Book Bests - 11/27/2012

Buy a book for a reader, not a reader for the Bookie!

I need the tactile feel of the pulp under my fingers, well chosen words raised on them, for me to fully appreciate the reading experience. I was told when I was very young that I could go anywhere between the pages of a book. I wasn't told their true magic, that I could see that world through other people's eyes, that I could laugh with them, mourn with them, and stand in awe beside them as the words presented symmetry to the chaos we call life. In short, reading a book is an intimate affair. The pages are warm, the non-glare of a digital readers screen o so cold. In these days when daylight is at a premium there is no decision to be made. Here's this week's chestnuts to read, read, as opposed to virtually read over an open fire (real please, no fireplace DVDs).
NEXT WEEK: THE BOOKIE'S BEST GIFT BOOK BETS LIST TO HELP YOU SHOP!

(Penguin)
City of Dark Magic  by Magnus Flyte
CLOTH. How's this for a recipe? First-time novelist Flyte weaves historical fiction with romance, combines a rapier wit with a penchant for the mystical, all to produce a suspense thriller. The studies of musician Sarah uncovers a mystery hiding in Beethoven's artifacts. The Immortal Beloved he made reference to was indeed flesh and blood, especially blood. Before you can say hocus-pocus she is unearthing a murder mystery and a discovering a romantic interest. If that doesn't sound convoluted enough, let's see, Prague may be the portal to hell, Sarah's handsome prince is an ancient dwarf and her sexual liaisons lead her to drugs that allow her to play with the time line continuum. I know what you're thinking, it sounds like every other funny, spooky, historical romance you've ever read... NOT!

(Orion)
The Black Box  by Michael Connelly
CLOTH. This is the 18th time we get to follow Harry Bosch as he solves crimes. In many other author's hands (I'm talking to you, Patterson) this could just be another cookie-cutter mystery thriller. This time out however Connelly takes one of the most famous backdrops of racial tension and uses it to reveal the corruption of apathy in post-riot Los Angeles. Stacey Coon is acquitted for the Rodney King beating that instigated the urban unrest. A woman's body is found shot dead in the aftermath, a case barely investigated during the melee. Leave it to Bosch decades later with a bullet from the crime scene to reveal the crimes behind the crime. Sometimes the greatest danger isn't on the streets. A mature, heartfelt thriller told by a master who still knows how to surprize us as the mystery unfolds.

(Algonquin)
Life Among Giants  by Bill Roorbach 
CLOTH. David, the Lizard, has a bright future, popularity and athletic talent that promised an ivy league education and stardom. That is until his parents are killed and he spends his days trying to solve their murders. He still gets all he was promised, an NFL career, life among the rich and famous, even dalliances with a famous dancer but still the mystery that clouds his life wears on him. What will it take for The Lizard to be an active participant in his privileged life? The truth? It is a dizzy ride along with the haves as he searches for the one thing that will give relevance to his opulent lifestyle. As the mystery unravels you fear for both David and his older sister that the truth will not set them free but damn them. Reading this novel allows you to look through their jaded eyes at the world from the inside of their limo longing for contact.

(Viking)
Cascade by Maryanne O'Hara
CLOTH.  Being from New England, novels set there have a natural appeal to me. In the 1930s Desdemona was building a reputation as an accomplished artist in Boston when marriage and family obligations tear her from her dreams. The Depression hits and in the concurrent rebuilding of the infrastructure of America her hometown is slated to be flooded to provide water for Boston where her dreams had died. Desdemona's dreams still wait her there in the form of a fellow artist and love interest. Will she break from her established responsibilities as wife and daughter or defy convention and finally live her life for herself? Does she even live in a time where that is even an option? Her moral dilemma will bond you with her as she struggles with life first torn apart by poverty, now by impending war, each pulling her away from true love.
.
(William Morrow)
Sacre Bleu; A Comedy D'Art  by Christopher Moore 
FICTION/TRADE PAPER. Starting with Lamb (the tale of Jesus' teen years told by his best friend, Biff), Moore has proven to be an outrageous satirist. His obsessions, once set, are truly that, he takes everything to its intellectual extreme. If its Jesus, Santa or bloodsucking freaks, he puts every convention on its head just for a laugh. This book came out earlier this year and has just came out in paperback in time for gift-giving season. If you are looking for the perfect book for art lovers, humor lovers, literature lovers, even lovers, then this book could fit the bill. WARNING: You couldn't be any more left of center than in one of his novels. Potential side effects; side stitches, unexpected knowledge of the art of the French Masters, and a disorientation enhanced by not knowing what is historical fact and what is glorious hooey!

(It Books)
Talking Pictures  edited by Ransom Riggs
NONFICTION/CLOTH. Riggs magical young adult novel Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children combined a classic Gothic tale of orphans and a town's hidden secrets with an at times disturbing collection of found photographs that captured the author's imagination. This is one of the author's obsessions, collecting these lost oddities at flea markets, awkward and inspired moments strangers' lives. Here he presents some of his collection without a storyline to back them up. Here you see the photos story-telling strength in their raw form. All the emotions are captured in faded sepia with the sparsest inscription alongside. Think of it as an arty PostSecret. As you take in this collection you share the author's fascination with their emotive quality. No wonder such photos inspired him to write one of the best children tales in many a year.   

(Viking)
1775 by Kevin Phillips
NONFICTION/CLOTH. 1776 gets all the props, even a musical and a holiday but it was the year before that was the stepping stone for that banner year. Phillips builds a detailed account of the increasing unrest that preempted Lexington and Concord. A hungry people, increased oppression from Britain and the foundations of a class based government so much like what the colonists risked life and limb to get away from; all building a powder keg that was sure to blow up eventually. Phillips more than hints at that being the very intention of the British, to force the conflict and strip away the colonists power once and for all. Little did they know how calculated the colonys were at preparing for the inevitable. A thoroughly researched and passionate argument.

 Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

(Scholastic)
Rootless   by Chris Howard
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Here we have Banyan, kind of a post-apocalypse Lorax who wants to save the few remaining trees in his dying world. Trees were a thing of legend until a tattooed  stranger tells him of a land where they still exist. Before that day young Banyan constructed replicas of them for the rich and the privileged. After finding himself newly orphaned (of course) with nothing to lose he embarks on a journey through a desolate world battling pirates and even man-eating insects. On his journey he makes seemingly unwise alliances and learns that his obsession with the trees is more connected to his family than he ever knew. This brilliantly imagined world provides one thrill after another as treacherous wastelands are revealed and forgotten lands are ultimately discovered. An powerfully original take on dystopian fiction with ecology and genealogy at its heart.
(Houghton Mifflin)
Son by Lois Lowry
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Every young adult I know has at one time or not had to read The Giver as a summer reading assignment. Good thing too, for this Newbery award-winning book, along with its sequel Gathering Blue are some of the best examples of distopian fiction.  Little did we know that Hunger Games would propel such themes into the pop culture lexicon. Less slam-bam than Suzanne Collins, Lowry's voice has a more lyrical quality that counters her chilling vision of future society, more reminiscent of Atwood's Handmaid's Tale. This summer she has delivered the fourth and final in the series. Water Claire finds herself in a land devoid of emotion. Pregnant women are vessels not mothers, offspring product, not children. Still, the government can't refuse her heart and she joins in the final clash between good and evil for no better reason than reunion and the sanctity of family.

(Hyperion)
Beta   by Rachel Cohn
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. With all the hubbub over Cinder this past summer here is one futurist young adult thriller that way have been glossed over. Similar to The Giver orThe Uglies series, Beta presents a world of conformity except this time it isn't the dominance over humans to contruct a utopian society, it is achieved by building the perfect societal beast. Elysia is born (constructed) a teenager, a blank chip off the assembly line. It takes the death of a real life girl to infuse this replicant with life experience. What could go wrong? She has been built to serve the remaining people on the island of Desmene. So this perfect female creature with the underlying heart of a dead girl becomes curious, then envious of the comforts and emotions of the human inhabitants. Any sign of humanity would result in her dissemblance so she plays along, and learns. Also, she's not the only one in the population of machines to feel these human emotions. Anyone who have read I, Robot can tell you this will not end well. This is a series so only the seeds of revolt are planted but in all it makes for a compelling read.




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.)

(Little/Brown)

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. 



(Viking)
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)

Stonemouth 
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.

(SoftSkull/PGW)
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!

(Crown)
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)
Gravity 
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.
                            
(Carolrhoda)
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.


(HarperCollins)
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.
 
(Feiffel&Friends)
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.



 

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.

(St.Martins/Dunne)
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.

(Simon&Schuster)
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.

(Scribner)
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.

(FaithWords)
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!

(Dutton)
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. 
                            
(Hyperion)
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!


(Candlewick)
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.



 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Best Book Bets - 11/6/2012

Fall Back = More Time To Read!

Leaves are falling and thermostats are rising in the land of literary prognosticators. No better time to pick up a good book, save for on the beach, or in the throws of Winter, or in the return of warmth in the Spring... O.K. There is NO bad time to crack the spine of your next read. Here's some help to make your reading time even better.

(HarperCollins)
Flight Behavior  by Barbara Kingsolver
CLOTH. Here's another one of those literary heavyweights whose titles drop in time for giftgiving season. The case with Kingsolver is that she delivers classics (brillient fiction like Poisonwood Bible or even her nonfiction work on the benefits of eating and living locally, Animal Vegetable, Miracle)that are accessible to the average reader. That is simply because they are so deeply entrenched in the emotional outcome of there protagonist that anyone can relate. Set in Feathertown, Tennessee, we have young Dellarobia. While struggling with life and love in her rural squalor she comes upon a forest where a silent red fire smolders. The revallation of her discovery to the world would surely ostracize her from the world but it could also free her from the isolation of her life. A great portrait of person struggles and the bravery it takes to break free fueled only on faith.

(IG)
The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets  by Diana Wagman 
CLOTH. There is something about abduction stories that really get under my skin. Even when they are thoroughly original like Room, I can't help throw them in with torture porn. That said this story of now-single mom Winnie's kidnapping by a deranged man who's obsession is his pet iguana proved an acceptation. Winnie is smart and resorceful and rather than constantly trying to escape she tries to get under the skin of her captor. It is this psychological chess game that ratchets up the suspense more than the kidnapper's ulterior motives. Dark humor, reptile miscellany, and a keen sense of how crime has been elevated to celebrity status makes this a must read for people who aren't freaked out by such things. Moral? Don't mess with a mama bear!

(W W Norton)
Magnificence: A Novel by Lydia Millet
CLOTH.  Here's another tale that uses the window dresssing to help set the thematic tone of the novel. Lydia Millet inherits a mansion complete with all of its baggage. Included is a vast array of taxidermy decorating the Pasadena palace in the past and stuffed death. As she begins to reconstruct her own life she commits to the care and mending of the artifacts. What follows is a cast of equalling damaged characters coming to reside in the estate who need similar tending. Other family members of course she this as nothing short of crazy. Lydia and her new found acquaintances must fight for there survival. Not only is the mansion an all encompassing metaphor, his is a labaryinth of widing halls, secrets and revelations for both the reader and the characters to discover. Truely transcendent writing from a modern master.
(Reagan Arthur)

The Snow Child  by Eowin Ivey 
TRADE PAPER. First released back in February this had become one of the Bookie's favorite books of the year and I'm not alone. Talk to anyone who's read it and the gush over the emotional ride it takes you on. Its Alaska in the 1920s. A brutal land to live off of, especially for the childless Jack and Mabel. Their love has grown as desolate as the landscape. One day, perhaps a vain attempt to recapture their spark, they build a small child out of the season's first snowfall.  The next day, the sculpture is gone but they see a blonde girl and a fox running between the trees. The girl Faina is both a confounding mystery and a potential miracle. The couple wrestle with the girl's existence, seduced by witnessing their dreams come true but cognizant that they live in a world where prayer's are often denied. You will be as mesmorized as the couple from page one.

(Akashic)
Boston Noire 2: The Classics  edited by Dennis Lehane
CLOTH. Local mystery writing hero edits yet another collection of tales filled with New England flavor and draped in the shadows of Boston's back streets. There are 14 tales including David Foster Wallace, Linda Barnes, and even Lehane himself who proved with his collection, Coronado, that he's no slouch when it comes to short stories. Where New York is a backdrop of cold grey hussel and busseling and Los Angles, a bleached stucco of soullessness, Boston gives us an old school back drop of brownstones, cold shores and colonial decay, Boston Sepia if not Noir. These are some strong standards, a great companion to the original collection, for lovers of Denis' work and for mystery lovers in general.

(Knopf)
Elsewhere by Richard Russo
NONFICTION/CLOTH. Russo is the kind of writer that I am so jealous of, like Anne Tyler, he is able to make subtle dramatic arches out of the every day and make the reader commit to his characters and hang on their every seemingly trivial action. With a grace similar to his Emire Falls Russo makes a narrative out of his own life experience without imbedding them in fictional characters. He grows up in the 50s in a community that lived of of (and died because of) the leather business he learned early that life could be cruel and not always fair. With his mother instilling him with dreams of a life beyond his hometown, the two of them chart a new future realizing that there are parts of home that you can never shake off. Funny, sad, and moving, this book would be another one of his great novels if it wasn't a memoir.

(Knopf)
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
NONFICTION, CLOTH. At one point in time everyone will admit that they had seen something that really wasn't there. Some call them ghosts, UFOs, religious epiphanies or what have you but for that moment they were as real as the hand on their face. Welcome to the word of hallucinations. As Andrew T. Weil alluded to in From Chocolate to Morphine man constantly hungers for transcendent experiences. What if they can be explained as away by science? Once considered a phenomena reserved for the clinically insane, Sacks, a thought provoking archivist of new science ( The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat, Musicophilia) presents the facts of hallucinations alongside historical antidotes questioning their paranormal other-worldliness and even our very perception of our reality. This is a good trip!

 Young Adult Hot Picks of the Week!

(Razorbill)
Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zach Stentz
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. Like Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, we have a autistic narrator unraveling the clues to a crime. HIs life experience, seeing our world as an outsider is perfect for the task. Colin Fischer's condition manifests itself with an inability to be touched, disdain for anything blue and an inability to read facial expressions. What he is very attuned to however is details which he notes and connects with miraculous detail. A gun is found in school, a bully is fingered and  his only chance of proving his innoscence comes from one of his victims, Colin. Together they teach each other about growing up and chancing on friendship (and how to be an unlikely crime fighting team.) The writing team are action screenwriters are they know how to move a plot along  to keep young hands turning pages.

(Little, Brown)
Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
YOUNG ADULT, CLOTH. If you have already read the first book in this series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, there is no need in me recommending this. If not, the first book should simultaneously come out in trade paperback (read; cheaper!) so run to the bookstore now. Karou, our lead character and heroine, is plagued by her fate, to make monsters and collecting teeth for Brimstone to fight a war that can only lead to more darkness. Now an orphan she goes it alone. On the other side of this war of the gods is her star crossed lover Akiva. Two lovers on opposite sides, each not believing in their causes. Will they have what it takes to usurp the regeimes and reunite? And what about the poor Chimeras? There is so much original, punk mythos coming at you from Taylor's creative mind your mind will spin. The end will leaving you hanging for the forthcoming finale but what do you expect in the era of paranormal trilogies.

(Philomel)
Curse of the Thirteenth Fey; The True Tale of Sleeping Beauty   
by Jane Yolan
INDEPENDENT READER, CLOTH. Forget Stephen King, Yolan has written over 300 books from The Devil's Arithmetic to How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? (one an essential summer read title, the other an adorable storybook.) In this foray into the paranomal young adult market she reimagines the fairytale of Sleeping Beauty. In lesser hands this could have been just another in a long line of contemporary re-tellings but in Yolan's masterful hands we get a tale knee deep in mythology. Fated with following rules or bursting into stars young Gorse does everything to stay on the straight and narrow. Her youthful, bumbling nature finds her weaving a spell that will curse families, kingdoms , and herself. All fairytales aside, this is the true, authoritative account of the incident, rife with back stories and boundless imagination. Smart, funny, and from what I'm told, true!