Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Best Book Bets 2/12/2013

If March comes in like a lamb and comes out like a lion then this February came in like a mountain lion threatened with neutering. The bookie has been without power going on four days ( the lair is a nippy 34 degrees.) Four inches of salty mud water has permeated the perimeter yet the dauntless defender of literary quality has managed to give you the best picks of the week. Thanks to Cravings in Marshfield MA, a) for having power and heat, b) for having cloud Wi-Fi up, c) for not being annoyed by a writer/reviewer bivouacking in the corner of their establishment, and d) just being all smiles while serving a community at wit's end. When your venture to the South Shore (in better climes) make sure to stop by (the pome frittes are to die for, just not by hypothermia.) ALSO- VALENTINE PICKS FOR KIDDOS (if you can get to a bookseller.)

(Knopf)
Vampires in the Lemon Grove - Karen Russell
(FICTION/CLOTH Clocking in just over 30 years old, Karen Russell has become a force of nature in the literary word and anything after her passionate tour de force, the Pulitzer nominated Swamplandia! is welcomed by hungry arms. What she gives us this time out is a collection of short stories, three which have already been chosen for best of compilations. A teen mulls through angst by means of a talisman in a seagull's nest, slave worker's in a silk factory have a Kafkaesque transformation that frees them, massaging tattoos evokes healing powers rather than Bradbury's demons... you get the picture. Each tale uses a device of literal metaphor to delve into the trials of the heart. Each tale is rooted in the real world no matter how "out there" the premise. While I still hunger for her next full length baby I am satiated by the sheer audacity of her writing. Each sentence makes me smile.

(Hyperion)
The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs - Nick Trout
(FICTION/CLOTH) One of the best dog books the bookie could recommend is the non-fiction novel penned by this Boston vet, Tell Me where It Hurts. From the sullen bandaged bulldog on the cover to the heartwarming connectivity of the veterinarians, it's everything a dog lover looks for in a book about the loyal and lovable companions. This time out Trout weaves a novel set in a world is rooted in. Dr. Cyrus Mills took a hiatus from his hometown and his father's veterinary practice. His father's passing brings him home to the Bedside Manor for Sick Animals. The business is failing and Cyrus intends on selling the business and getting back to his isolated life as pathologist. In spite of his nature of keeping a distance from the emotional he can't help but be pulled in by the menagerie of uniquely lovable animals, their maladies, and the equally quirky patients. When it comes to the healing of the heart, oft times a dog can lead you as is the case of the doctor who begins to find himself able to call the manor and the town home.

(Philomel)
Out of the Easy - Ruta Sepetys
(FICTION/TRADE) The French Quarter in the 1950s was rife with secrets and sin. Josie, the seventeen year old daughter of a prostitute has secrets of her own. She plans her way out of New Orleans and her impending destiny. Her plans are stalled when she is implicated in the death of a man in the New Orleans streets. It makes her question her bond to her mother and her madam Woodley and the underworld life she grew up in. She needs to discover the truth but also needs to get out before her opportunities disappear like her mother's dreams. Sepety's gift at building the town brick by brick and secret on top of secret gives the novel a strong southern gothic vibe.

(Putnam)
The Lost Art of Mixing - Erica Bauermeister
(FICTION/CLOTH) Just in time for Valentine's Day the author of the extremely popular School of Essential Ingredients creates a sequel that uses the preparation of food and spirits as an allegory for the social mixing of her characters. Lillian is the consummate hostess and her personality making her restaurant a success. She tries to keep her staff, each with their own little dramas from effecting the reputation her food and presentation has earned. Expect liaisons, fights, regrets, and forgiveness as the cast of characters are vinegar and oil one moment, Fra Diavolo sauce the next before settling into a gastronomic bliss bonded by friendships that trump all their diverse lusts and ambitions. Bon app├ętit.


(Morrow)
Truth About Love and Lightning - Susan McBride
(FICTION/TRADE) Another Valentine treat is this new novel by McBride. She is known mostly as a solid chick lit author with Little Black Dress, The Cougar Club. This time out though she raises the bar to great effect. A tornado has just ripped Gretchen's life apart. Her life is equally disheveled. Her pregnant daughter with now intentional on marrying the father moves in. A mystery man with amnesia arrives at her door with the rubble of the storm. Her daughter Abby believes him to be her long lost father. There is more to The Man Who May Be Sam than Gretchen has shared and the secret might ignite a new storm. The novel is an emotional meditation on the insidious nature of untruths and the remarkable bond of people who truly love one another.

(Putnam)
Above All Things - Tanis Rideout
(FICTION/CLOTH)  If you are searching for a new historical novel that is a testament to the power of love and devotion look no further. The event the story is woven around is the ill-fated attempt by George Mallory to conquer Mt. Everest but the real story is of na different type of bravery, that of his wife, Ruth, who loves a man as much as he loves living on the edge. The novel is built on a series of motages that keep coming back to that fateful day. George's story reads like Jon Krakauer as he braves the elements and contemplates that which he left behind. Ruth's tale is more meditative, the recollections of a survivor, be it World War I, a  challenging relationship with a driven man's man, and the loss of her dreams of what they could be one day. The author's slavish research pays off as the reader is transported into each snapshot of an era that demanded resiliency from all who lived it.
(Plume)
The Little Book of Heartbreak - Meghan Laslocky
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) Does the exchange of heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, dozens of roses, and lacy teddies make you want to yak? We got what your green skinned devil needs, a prescription for mending a broken heart. No, not Ben & Jerry, a box of wine, Bee Gee records or the umpteenth viewing of Sleepless In Seattle, what Meghan Laslocky advises might really work, not fan old fires. Her solution is reading as therapy. Here she tells you how to build the perfect "Over You" mix tape and is a compendium of the disastrous romantic endings of many celebrities and historic figures (hey, at least you're in good company.) Also included is correct listening, reading, and viewing list to get your groove back.

(Voyageur)
Celebrating Pride and Prejudice: 200 Years of Jane Austin's Masterpiece - Susannah Fullerton
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) What could be more perfect for the literary love muffin in your life than the authoritive volume on thae patron saint of romance, Jane Austen, and her crowning triumph that forever defined the modern romance, Pride and Prejudice. This is not a dry academic volume though its research is exhaustive. Its funny, giving us sly insights into Austen, her life, her inspirations and the world she tolerated. Can you believe that her first draft of the masterwork was have been completed when she was merely twenty? Wow. The book also chronicles her life post novel and how the novel has effected ever romantic novel that followed. Constantly fascinating, it at times it reads like a novel all its own. If your valentine loves Austen this is a must.
(HarperTeen)
Pivot Point - Kasie West
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  Addie is a Searcher (aren't we all?) who lives in a futuristic town called The Compound.  A searcher is an existential medium that can see the repercussions of one's actions before a decision is made. She lives with the Norms (who are also searching but not in a psychic sens.) Enter Trevor, the emotionally intuitive artist who gets her. Together they both see a future outside of the Compound. A school jock type has the hots for her and may make their plans go astray. Thus is life in hormonally charged high school or in a dystopian prison. Part melo-drama, part psychic thriller, it is an nonthreatening read for all teens (aren't they all searchers?)
(Delacorte)
Janie Face to Face - Caroline B. Cooney
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  Cooney has had a long and successful career writing for teens but it was in 1990 when she published The Face on the Milk Carton that she gave the reading public one of the first young adult novels in memory that didn't dance around the reality of gritty criminal monsters in our midst. Now 5 novels in this chapter is the grand finale of the series where all will be revealed. Hopefully all of Janie and Reeve trials and tribulations will be vindicated, not without a final struggle for their lives that's for sure. (No, I'm not going to post a spoiler alert here.) 
(Eerdmans)
When No One Is Watching - Eileen Spinelli, illus. David A. Johnson
(INDEPENDENT READER) This book is an ode to all of the shower singers in the crowd (you know who you are.) With hairbrush or bar of soap in hand and no one around, you are a superstah! This charming book presents an awkward wallflower of a girl. When she's alone she feels free to, well, be herself. When she gets a BFF with Loretta she finds someone else who feels the same way and together they can just let it all hang out. Isn't that what friends are really for?

(Candlewick)
Maggot Moon - Sally Gardner
(INDEPENDENT READER)  Who would think that the best dystopian novel of the year would be written at an independent reader level? Standish, a misfit with eyes of miss-matched colors, Standish who is judged by others for not being very bright, Standish tells us his story about how he paints outside the lines in his world known as The Motherland. One day and one rogue football chased reveals the truth behind the bleak existence he lives in. What if the moon landing was faked for realsies and you where the only person who knew? Standish literally finds the devil is in the details of his world. Teaming up with his friend Hector they journey past the fence to discover the truth behind the Motherland.  100 easily digested chapters reveal the wonder that tears through gloom in this funny, epic, triumph of the outcast.

VALENTINE'S DAY BEST BETS FOR YOUR LITTLE CUPIDS!
"Hey there, no angel, we make perfect valentines- match made in heaven"


(Random)
I Haiku You - Betsy Snyder
(CHILDREN) This book is a great gift for the young and the young at heart. I can picture it nestled in a hope chest to be shared with the next generation. Betsy Snyder is an award winning author at the deft nature of her simple turns of phrase play your heartstrings. She knows her stuff. The words transport you to innocent time when you would dare cooties for your first kiss. Whether you buy it for a young'n or your lovey dovey this little treasure will become a family treasure, a Valentine that will last longer than roses and chocolate-covered strawberries (though I'd love to read this aloud while eating them.)
“You be my jelly.  
I’ll be your peanut butter,
 Let’s stick together” 

(Dial)

The Yuckiest, Stinkiest, Best Valentine Ever - Brenda A. Ferber/ illus. Tedd Arnold
(CHILDREN) Its hard to find a book about Valentine's Day that won't make a little boy cringe. Most are all lace and cupids. Leon has the love bug...; bad. The boy who denies his doe eyed infatuation  battles the Valentine he intends to give her and he ends up chasing his romatic heart through town as if it was Frosty the Snowman. "Valentine's Day is all about CANDY!" says the card. Leon knows its about a little bit more. O.K., the little tyke you read it to will cringe but he'll get it too.

(Houghton/Mifflin)
We Go Together - Calef Brown
(CHILDREN) This small gift-book sized charmer is another collection of romantic snippets that is well suited for adult Romeo and Juliets as it is for family storytime. The collection, subtitled A Curious Selection of Affectionate Verse celebrates the strength of friendship rather than the kissy kissy. 14 poems celebrate playful words and the meanings cloistered beneath. Brown';s illustration share the same sense of whimsy.
 “We go together, like fingers and thumbs.
Basses and drums., Pastries and crumbs.
We go together, like apples and plums.
Molars and gums., Genuine chums."

(Aladdin)
I Loathe You - David Slonim
Here's the book for the child that wants NOTHING to do with Valentine's Day save for the candy. Like me, that precocious child probably has an unhealthy fascination with monsters. (covering up the fact that they are really, REALLY, spooked out by them.) Here's the trick, a book about true love loathe, a monsterly love only another little monster would appreciate.
Here's a taste (gross!)

I loathe you more than tooth decay
More than blizzard snow in May
More than garbage in a dump
More than splinters in my rump
No matter what, through thick and thin,
I loathe you there and back again!

Happy Valentine's day to all my literary monsters out there - The Literary Bookie

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