Thursday, January 24, 2013

Best Book Bets - 1/22/2013

Winter is my favorite time to read, curled up in front of a fire, warmed by a much-loved comforter. Except for Summertime under an umbrella, a sea breeze cooling the shade as I sip a beverage. Fall though, now that's a time I love to read, the woody fragrance of the falling leaves and the bite of the breeze as they eddy at my feet as I turn a page. Then of course there's Spring with its promise of new beginnings and satisfying novel endings. O.K. my favorite time is anytime I can squirrel away to read and if you are reading this I'm sure you are with me. So hears another week of the Bookie's best; another list of winners.This week we have the scary, the thrilling, the heart wrenching, and yes, the funny.Read & enjoy!

The Uninvited - Liz Jensen
(FICTION/CLOTH) This reads like payback for all the atrocities plaguing our children as of late.A friend mentioned reading an essay explained using children as villains worked so well because of the mating of good and evil as an effective tool for jarring our senses because children are the embodiment of all things good and kind in the world.  There is a world-wide epidemic where children are killing their families. Anthropologist Hesketh Lock uses the observational advantages of his Asperger's Syndrome to discover the cause in hopes of a cure. His stepson Freddy begins to act erratically and he fears he may be coming down with the disease. As Freddy appears to be implicated in a murder Lock has to come to terms with a future where nurturing and parenting becomes a thing of the past. This distopian thriller will make you flinch when you see a young one for days on end.
(St Martins)
Snow White Must Die - Nele Nehaus
(FICTION/CLOTH)  There seems to be a growing facination with mystery writers from other countries (Larsson, Nesbo). Well this novel should make these people very happy. It was an international bestseller (3.5 million copies to date) and its english translation is accessible although possesses that different point of view that makes these foreign entries so compelling. Detectives Kirchhoff and Bodenstein investigate a body that has apparently fallen from a bridge down into a car below. The case brings them to a village of secrets involving the disappearance of a pair of teens years before. The convicted "killer" is released, the accident tied to him and then, another teen goes missing. Its the classic case of community hiding their dirty laundery and the reveals are delicious.

(St Martins)
The Good House - Ann Leary
(FICTION/CLOTH) Here is a more lighthearted story about small towns and the secrets they keep. Hildy Good is a success at everyt role she takes on, real estate agent, motherhood, neighbor, alcoholic. Her family and friends hold an intervention, much to her dismay, but Hildy just feels persecuted and continues living her life on her terms battling the bottle and reality. In her town there is much to drive Hildy to drink and as she is dragged into one of its scandals the book becomes a tug of war between Hildy's desire to drink and the tragic yet at times hysterical events that happen around her that prompt her to tipple. The novel doesn't come off like a Lifetime Movie of the Week, instead its a thoughtful and amusing meditation on why we do what we do and how we choose to live our lives.

Me Before You - Jojo Moyes
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Louisa (Lou) Clark likes her life just as it is but when her job at the tea shop disappears as does her love for her boyfriend she finds herself a care assistant for someone else who has lost the value to there life. Her client Will is a quadriplegic due to a motorcycle accident. His life is as joyless as Lou's. Their oil and vinegar relationship tests each of them but after a few verbal shake-ups they begin to fill the darkness in each others lives. This has already been a big success in England where they call such stories "weepies." What makes this novel rise above the lot is how real all the characters are on the page (even the acerbic mother of Will.) Bring out the Kleenex and turn the page, this story gives Segal's Love Story a run for its money.

(Free Press)
Y: A Novel - Marjorie Celona
(FICTION/CLOTH)  A remarkable debut novel about unbreakable spirit.Talk about someone born down on their luck, Shannon is dumped at a "Y"MCA in a dirty sweatshirt, armed with a Swiss Army knife. She is also armed with an old soul that takes the foster system head on. She revives abuse and neglect while in the system until she finds a foster parent with as resilient a spirit as hers, Miranda. The novel weaves the similar tales of the two with Miranda's mother, Yula, and celebrates what a brave act being a family can be. “Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over. Why? . . . My life begins at the Y.”Seriously, how cool is that?

The Drowning House - Elizabeth Black
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Here is another notable debut author. Black presents to us Clare Porterfield, a successful photographer who impending divorce overshadows a death in her family. To avoid the inevitable in her personal life she jumps at the chance to escape back to her hometown,Galveston, Texas, to participate in an exhibition and tend to family affairs.  Her story parallels the tale of Stella Carraday who, legend has it drown in her family house during the hurricane of 1900 when her hair got tangled in a chandelier as the water rose. The truths behind both there fates turn dark and interwoven as Clare comes to terms with her family secrets and her life going forwards. A powerful talent that weaves a tone of Southern Gothic to the tale-telling.
The Forgotten Writings of Bram Stoker - edited by John Edgar Browning
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH)  Granted this collection is probably more exciting for us literature nerds out there than for the casual reader, these previously unpublished works shed new light on the man who combined horror, romance and the fear of foreign influence into the classic Dracula. There is fiction, an assortment of poems, journal writings, even a listing of the contents of his personal library. A little more dry but just as enlightening are some pieces done on Stoker from back in the day. As a whole they reveal his interests and influences, the underpinning to his classic work and further advocate his importance as an architect of Gothic literature.

For the Love of Letters: The Joy of Slow Communication - John O'Connell
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) I'm getting on my soap box for a moment. Letterwriting and the practice of cursive writing has been the key to civilization's soul. Has anyone anywhere, paused before their keyboard or mobile device, to construct the words that would describe the beatings of one's heart as you would when composing a letter? If you say yes then sorry, you're lying. Keyboards are cold and thumbs texting as knumb as the calluses such practice creates. That said, here's a fine book that celebrates letter writing. It is a collection of writings from Churchill to Austen to Dunne; all fine examples of the many values of what was once the only mode of communication, now an art form. To quote Natalie Goldberg from her book Writing Down the Bones "Handwriting is closest to the beat of the heart." Amen, sister!

Splintered - A.G. Howard
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH Re-imagings are all the rage, especially with young adult titles and their subsequent film adaptations. Most are dreck but every once in a while an author takes the term to heart. Howard rebuilds the legend of Alice in Wonderland from the ground up with such attention to detail and pathos it would make Rick Burton blush. Alyssa hears the thoughts of bugs and flowers but don't tell anyone, it landed her Mom in an institution years before. She is an ancestor of Alice Liddell, the girl Lewis Carroll based his novel on. What Alyssa learns is that the tale wasn't woven of fantasy and whimsy but facts. Yes there will be a tea party and a bandersnatch but this psychedelic grotesque is now your mother's wonderland. 

(St. Martin’s/Griffin)
Uses For Boys - Erica Lorraine Scheidt
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)   Growing up and becoming sexually aware can be such a drag. On the surface not so for Anna who uses her relationships with the boys in her life as a substitute for the lack of family in her life. Her Mom is busy dealing with her life in a similar fashion, man to man. The girls in school consider Anna the school slut. Her routine of using boys by being used herself changes when she meets Sam, who has a well-grounded family who enjoys each others company. She learns what is missing in her life and what it will take to fill it. Tough, gritty and as real as the sexually changed world teens live in. Its really about breaking through all that noise and finding what counts in life.

This Moose Belongs to Me - Oliver Jeffers
(INDEPENDENT READER) (Philomel) The classic tale of boy meets moose that has taken the NY Times bestseller list by storm!. Wait a second isn't that usually a dog? Jeffers is no slouch when it comes to children's literature and his chops are well used here. Confession, I love moose (mooses? moseses?) so I was smitten by this tale immediately. Wilfred, probably a little OCD, loves order in his young life. Rules are rules, dot the "i"s. Moose is the perfect companion for young Wilfred. He never barks for example. What Wilfred doesn't realize is that a moose can be very obstinent, especially one that doesn't know that it is owned by a little boy. Still the two strike a bound that works for both of them, for Wilfred companionship and for moose, apples (O.K. a little companionship as well to be truthful.)

Jinx - Sage Blackwood
(INDEPENDENT READER)  Witches, werewolves and trolls, oh my! Welcome to Urwald, the world of Jinx. It is a magical world where wizards are not to be trusted. Jinx knows that but against everything he had been told he takes the advise of crotchety wizard Simon Magnus and ventures off the safe path in search of magical powers. There lies the aforementioned monsters and more in every shadow. His worldly experiences build his knowledge in magic and the more he delves into the unknown the more good looks evil and evil, well, evil still looks even but maybe not so much. In the end Jinx must rely on the magic within. Beautifully rendered world with classic overtones makes this journey a treat.

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