Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Best Book Bets - 02/05/13

Another month has passed. The Super Bowl is in our rear view mirror, Valentine's Day and The Academy Awards loom on the horizon. Our life is made up of an endless series of events, each which we give importance and glow in the moment or dismiss with a yawn as they pass. Book releases are like that. Here's another assortment of quality releases for you to be the judge and jury; will they be on your to-read list or will they be voted off the island? Your choice, the bookie just betters the odds for a good read.

(Free Press)
The Love Song of Jonny Valentine - Teddy Wayne
(FICTION/CLOTH Wayne is considered a wunderkind in the world of novel writing. His first novel Kapitoil has been hailed as one of the best of  his generation. Even Jonathan Franzen bows at his alter. All the more surprising that he would now deliver a pop novel that is. well, Bieberlicious. Wayne takes his at first unassuming yet surgical sharp commentary and focuses in on our media culture, celebrity and its effect on our world. Jonny is a manufactured music icon who just wants to live his life like any other 11 year old. Jane, his mother is literally and figuratively high on fame and the plasticine life it provides her. A battle of wills ensues and between the snark and the sincerity of Jonny, the narrator we see that fame and noterity doesn't shield you from the pains of adolescence. 

A Natural History of Dragons - Marie Brennan
(FICTION/CLOTH) We had to present the cover art folded open just so you can see the breadth of this auspicious undertaking. A while back there was a book about Santa's reindeer written as a National Geographic book that made me smile. Brennan  goes one better by offering us the mythos of dragons in a faux academic text that follows the history of dragons through time with such slavish detail and authoritative sincerity. It truely is a marvel that will make you believe. It plays as a trascription of the memoirs of Isabella, a dragon naturalist, who has endured many an adventure as she documented dragons in our world. From the swamps of Mouleen to the peaks of Mrtyahaima she confronts the battlers of Keonga, rock-wyrms of Vystrana, and of course, dragons. It proves a great device to project you into a world of fantasy even if such writings isn't your obsession.

The Promise of Stardust - Priscille Sibley
(FICTION/TRADE) This novel is a battle between true love and mortality that will have you question every thought you have about the two. From their earliest memories Matt and Elle have been in love, theirs was the childhood sweetheart romances that make you wonder if you could ever be that much in love. Their cross to bear was the difficulties they confronted when they attempted to conceive. Still, their love held strong. Then one fateful day Elle has an accident leaving her brain dead. In cruel irony Matt discovers that she is also pregnant. Matt decides to refute his wife's will and keeps her alive for the sake of the baby. A family battle ensues and the fate of one's will and another's love is played out in court. Sibley doesn't flinch as she tells us this heart-wrenching dilemma.

Schroder - Amity Gaige
(FICTION/CLOTH) A heated custody battle over his daughter Eric kennedy flees with her to Vermont eluding his wife Laura. It is a time of bonding, a snapshot moment for him to cherish until she learns of his past when he was an East German immigrant named Erik Schroder. We follow this and many other revelations of the life he had lived, reconstructed, and lived again all told to us in confessional detail from the confines of a prison. A moving and passionate tale of what we do for the things we love and the repercussions of our action.

All This Talk About Love - Christopher Castellani
(FICTION/CLOTH) One of the hidden jewels in the world of writing is Grubb Street in Boston, MA, an organization that tutors and promotes writers, helping each reach their potential and find their true voice. One of its vanguards is Castellani who has written a oeuvre based on the histories of his family. His latest tale of his Italian heritage is a work of passion; for family, for love, for the gritty survival instincts of the common man, and mostly for the traits past down through the blood. This novel will serve as Exhibit A next time he coaches other writer about finding one's voice.

Six-Gun Snow White - Catherynne M. Valente
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Mash-ups are all the rage and when they're good, they're great, and when their not, they're odorous. As wacky as the concept seems this is definitely the former. Valente is a best-selling novelist who brings hefty writing chops to this fairy tale transported to the wild west. The Grimms Brother's tale is rewritten with Gun That Sings, a half blood crow woman of stunning beauty, as the title character. Early in her life she is married off to a Nevada silver baron. After a life lived in the shadows her evil stepmother cruelly names her Snow White and unleashes her into a world where indians are scorned. An enchanting tale that embraces the soul of the fairy tale and uses it as a stepping off point for a surprisingly original fable.

(Walker & Co)
Last Ape Standing: The Seven-Million-Year Story of How and Why We Survived - Chip Walter
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH)  Can we just end this debate already. Man comes from apes and dinosaurs come from birds and never the twain did meet. That said, we have here an entertaining presention of evolution. There have by now been 27 species of man discovered. Armed with the latest discoveries Walter tells us the rise and fall of our forefathers and how their unique surval skills and interbreeding led to modern man. It also alludes to the reason why early man became self-aware while the other animals around did not.  His oft times amusing work gives us a glimpse in why we act like we do today. (and YES, there were hobbits!)

The Lady and her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Attempts to Reanimate Dead Tissue, and the Writing of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - Roseanne Montillo
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) What a great idea, to combine the study the quest for reanimation and the aspirations of a technological revolution with the works and inspirations of Shelley. Real life characters she modeled her cast on are presented as well as how fertile a time for forward-thinkers her era was. The dark arts of doctors is examined as is the writers of the day pining for simpler times. It was inevitable that the Arts would be influenced by science and visa-versa. The waning Romantic era was so warm, the Industrial era cold, her macabre masterpiece was just destined to be.
Scarlet - Marissa Meyer
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  This is one of the most antisipated young adult novels of the year and it doesn't disappoint. The sequel of the cyber fable Cinder, the second in the  Lunar Chronicles takes Little Red Riding Hood as inspiration just as Cinder did Cinderella. Scarlet's granny has been living a miserable life and now is missing. Scarlet teams up with Wolf, a street fighter with a questionable past and even sketchier motivations as they search for her grandmother. All the while the evil Lunar Queen. Along the way they team up with Cinder from the first book who has a battle of her own. Together they fight for truth and love in a world possibly devoid of both.
(St Martins)
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)    Do you remember your first teen crush? Does it it hurt you too much to even remember or are they by your side to this very day? Probably a distant memory still raw. This novel is the perfect Valentine for a young adult. A romantic novel that is not necessarily a romance. It reminds me of the film 500 Days of Summer or the novel Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist, both battles between love and alienation. The year is 1986 when they meet, two jaded souls who believe in love but know too well that every story has an ending. As the publisher states; "You’ll remember your own first love – and just how hard it pulled you under." Happy Valentine's kiddos!
Athlete vs. Mathlete - W.C. Mack
(INDEPENDENT READER) There are not enough independent reader titles that will appeal to the dudes out there. Most are Matt Christopher or Andrew Clement easy readers or the rare Lupica gem. Here sibling rivalry hits new height in this junior high Freaky Friday story. Owen is the star jock in the school. His brother Russell is the brainiac in the family. They couldn't be more opposite. Then Russell is put on the basketball team by the coach and finds himself pretty good at it. Owen now has to fight for some game time. Russell is also the captain of the math team. Will his new interests and his competition with his brother jeopardize his position or will the brother's make a truce to help each other? Finally a book that will get the boy's flipping pages after shooting hoops.

My Brother’s Book - Maurice Sendak
(CHILDREN)  Sedak always credited his late brother for giving him his creative spark. This final storybook is a proper homage to both this late, great writer and illustrator of such gems as Where the Wild Things Are. He said that he had long been obsessed with death since he was a child and this obsession weaves through this tale. It also makes Shakespearean themes assessable to a young reader. Beautiful and grief-stricken, sentimental without an ounce of scmaltz, this book is a fitting finale to a body of work that has always been without compromise and who's passion for his readers is unquestioned. Even literary scholar
Stephen Greenblatt gives an introduction to confirm the status of this classic of literature.

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