Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Beat Book Bets - 2/19/2013

There's nothing better on a cold Winter's night than a warm fire and a cool book. To provide that latter here is another batch of quality reads chosen for you by the ubiquitous bookie. 6 novels, 2 non-fiction, 2 young adult, 2 independent readers, even a book for the kiddos. While you enjoy your new read give the bookie a toast with your hot toddy!

Three Graves Full - Jamie Mason
(FICTION/CLOTH "There is very little peace for a man with a body buried in his backyard.” How true for poor antihero Jason who ends up killing a man and burying him in his backyard only to find that he wasn't the first person with this idea. As he covers his tracks he finds two more bodies there and so begins the intense and often times hilarious turn of events as Jason tries to cover up his crime and those he did not commit. Driven by guilt and an instinct for survival he diverts detectives while unearthing the truths of the three deceased. Think Jerry Lundegaard from Fargo played by William H. Macy, a common man driven to despicable acts only to get the full whoop-ass of Fate. Truth told, he should star in the eventuual film adaptation of this crowd-pleaser of a novel.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles - Ron Currie, Jr.
(FICTION/CLOTH)  If you are a writer or one who loves the fine art of writing you tend to love novels about the craft, stories that get underneath process. Currie's novel Everything Matters! wow the lit crowd. Now he trumps himself with this imaginative take on novels being the offapring of the novelist. Like John Irving with his Last Night in Twisted River the main character is a fictionalization of the author who's latest manuscript is destroyed in a fire. He mourns its loss as much as the passing of his father and his own love lorn life. He decides a geographic switch woulk be best and heads for an island retreat where he fakes his own death in order to escape his self-imposed grief. The hasty act proves to catapult his into celebrity. Soon Currie the character (the author?) finds that being dead is far more difficult that dealing with the trials of the living. His dizzying yet technique at storytelling will enthrall all who dare go for the ride.

American Elsewhere - Robert Jackson Bennett
(FICTION/CLOTH) Ahhh! The American Dream! Little pink houses John Cougar Mellencamp crooned. We all know that striving for an ideal comes with costs. no more than Wink, a little uncharted slice of utopian suburbia lit by a pink moon. Beneath the veneer is, you guessed its.... secrets. Mona returns to her hometown to realize that the town of her childhood is not at all as she remembers. That Children of the damned and make the kids a neighborhood and you'll begin to get the tone of this deftly written tale of American Gothic. I'm sure film director David Lynch can't wait to get his hands on this downright spooky novel.

The Dinner - Herman Koch 
(FICTION/CLOTH) This bestselling phenomenon has been hailed as the international equivalent of Gone, Girl. Two families meet at an upscale restaurant not to enjoy the cuisine or each others' company but to avoid then confront a horrific act committed by each others' offspring. It starts as an uneasy comedy of manners and turns dark and spiteful as the meal continues. This reminded me so much of the play Carnage where to couples has to put all their past discretion over the coals to fess up to the inevitable. The conversation goes from congenial to primal and the evening progresses with a finale that is worthy of the setup. This has already become the water cooler read of the rest of the world and the debate should continue hear in the states as well. 

(Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
See Now, Then - Jaimaca Kincaid
(FICTION/CLOTH) Sometimes the only way to come to terms with one's life is to strip it bare in a fictionalized version of itself, Such it is with Kincaid in her novel of the caustic end of a marriage and the unsure future that follows. How Mrs. Smart's love turned to hatred alludes her but rages in her veins. She fights against it to prevent herself from making further bad decisions. She married a well to do man who in part protected her from deportation. She had children with him, beautiful children, one who her husband sees as more that just beautiful. What follows is a Pygmalion of cruelty as she learns to read, write and think for herself realizing that there is more to life than a lecherous and hateful overlord. But hatred can be inherited. Will she be able to save herself and her children before his bitter soul turns her children from her? Read on.

Ghostman - Roger Hobbs
(FICTION/CLOTH)  It is so refreshing to find a new and original voice in the genre of mystery/thriller. Hobbs bursts onto the scene with this smart novel about the underbelly of the criminal life. Be careful when you make a deal with a devil, or in this case, a ghost. Jack is the bat signal for criminals, an untraceable nobody with skills up the wazoo who can get the job done. He is hired to cover up a botched robbery in Atlantic City. The feds are already on to this phantom uber criminal. Everybody wants the payoff and Jack needs all of his infamous experience to get out of this pressure cooker alive. Each action is countered, each lead a MacGuffin requiring Jack to implement his skills like a jazzman. This novel with its intricate pacing and intelligent writing is the beginning of a new crime story superstar.
(Harper Perennial)
The Little Book of Heartbreak; Stories Soldiers Won't Tell You about What They've Seen, Done, or Failed to Do in War - Kevin Sikes
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) The one thing that leaves me daunted in the presence of our heros is their stoic nature when it comes to what happened "over there." Its their demons, left in the dark, weaving nightmares and P.T.S.D. to all who supress the horrors no mortal should witness. This is a rare glimpse into the the source of the burden they will carry til the end of their days. Eleven soldiers, many marines, talk about the killing, the ramparts, the atrocities the burn behind the retina. Sikes deftly fades into the background allowing the stark honesty of the soldier's accounts speak for themselves. May the healing powers of storytelling help heal the sould of these brave men and women would are forced into an ugly world where the line between right and wrong blurs.
(Random House)
With or Without You - Domenica Ruta
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) In the suburban squallor of Danvers, MA Ruta lives a life that stronger people would want end. Her world is literally built amidst trash. He drug dealer mother has her hooked on the Oxy and dressed like a rag doll. Domenica educated herself, always in a book, and knew that there was more to life than this. She soon learns that you can leave but the past has a tendancy to tag along. She leaves Danvers with the monkey still on her back and now has to fight her addiction to gain the life she read about. A powerfully gritty testament to the trials of the abused and the addicted documents how clinging to a dream can see you through even the darkest of times.
The Whole Stupid Way We Are - Nicole Griffin
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  Winter in New England? I know we've already had enough of the white stuff but it makes for a great backdrop in this finely crafted novel about a girl's fascination with the troubled loner. Skint (what a great loner name) won't even wear a coat when it's stinkin' cold out.Turns out Skint worries more about other people than he does himself. That's where Dinah comes in, she's a born helper.Skint has more troubles on the home front than he lets on and when Dinah pushes her way into his life she becomes ensnared in the drama. The characters are three dimensional and their tales comes with no easy, storybook answers. Life is hard, you just better learn to bundle up.
Mind Games - Kiersten White
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  From her refreshing debut Paranormalcy where she chronicles the loves and adventures of a teen psychic I've always enjoyed Kiersten's writing. She knows how teens think and she can write those feelings down on the page in a manner accessible to them. She also has a crafty way of using the supernatural to expose those conflicting emotions. She now amps up both the fantastic and the angst-driven in this futuristic ode to sisterhood. Fia's instincts are right on and valuable to a group of corporate baddies. Annie, her sister, has similar powers but they are more subtle, more open to interpretation. The are thrown into a school of children with similar powers to work for the evil conglomerate, kind of a girl-power Maze Runner. Now they have to work against their captors without being found out. Intense and character driven, this novel will appeal to any teen who believes every day is a fight to just be themselves. 
(Katherine Tegen)
Destiny, Rewritten - Kathryn Fitzmaurice
(INDEPENDENT READER) Destiny is Fate, Fate, Destiny. There is nothing you can do to change that and 11 year old Emily is told over and over again. Her fate is to be a poet like Emily Dickinson. That doesn't suit Emily. She has other plans her English teacher mom will have no part of. Then Emily loses her signed copy of Dickinson's poetry and with it a family secret. The search for the book sends Emily on the adventure she so desired in the face of fate.Emily's new world is a intricately drawn place to explore and it is a joy to tag along while she discovers her true purpose.

(Philomel )
A Tangle of Knots - Lisa Graff
(INDEPENDENT READER)  The novel is just that, intertwining voices telling us tales  from slightly different perspectives in this joy ride through  a fairy tale world. Little orphan Cady has a Talent, everybody does. Her's is for concocting the most elegant cakes. This makes the Talent thief lick his lips and she soon finds herself locked up with other children with unique Talents the bad man has collected. Throw in a an old recipe she discovers along with the knowledge that she may not be an orphan at all and the adventure really begins. More than a fancy confection, Tangle of Knots cooks up a delightful tale about  never giving up on things you care for deep inside

Open This Little Book - Lisa Graff
(CHILDREN)  A kids book as a series of Russian Nesting Dolls? What a concept! Chronicle Books are the kingpins of presenting concept books, be they creative cookbooks for adults or fanciful books for children.(Check out the cloth-bound cover for the young adult title The Space Between The Trees to see their dedication to creative presentation.) Start reading this charmer and alas, another book. Read on and the, again another even smaller book. and again, and again. It is more fun than a pop-up and more a celebration of the joy on a physical book. (can't do THIS on a Kindle!)

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