Sunday, March 3, 2013

Best Book Bets 2/26/2013

If March is going to come in like a lamb, this February is going out like gangbusters in the the world of the printed page. Check out these beauties the Bookie has chosen for you (and your loved ones, YA, IR, & Children's picks at the bottom of post.)

(Soho Press)
Man in the Empty Suit - Sean Ferrell
(FICTION/CLOTH) Since the days of H.G. Wells tales of time travels have been done ad nauseam. Even flights of fancy such as Time Traveler's Wife fail to tap the potential of timeline continuum as a narrative device. Here's a new twist, a man who has been there, done that through the entirety of history. Each year he celebrates his birthday with a miriad of himself from all different ages. This year's melancholy celebration is a bit different. He finds his forty year old self shot in the head. Also there is a mystery woman named Lily who has crashed his party with himselves. Now he has a year to find out what happened before God knows what will happens to his lives. Heady, fun stuff as a man's significance is judged literally by his peers.

Lady of Ashes - Christine Trent 
(FICTION/CLOTH) This work of historical has the ratcheting effect of building tension that made The Reliable Wife such a thrill to read. Violet essentially runs the family funereal business using her maternal instincts to tend to all of her clients concerns pertaining to grieving. Her husband Graham owns the business in name only. He is too busy with an underground scheme to sell arms to the American South to aid in their succession. As a bitter Englishman he considers his actions payback. Violet gets the opportunity of a lifetime, to tend the funeral arrangements for royalty. Her good intentions and her husband's nefarious dealings put them both in grave danger as the story and the schemes unfold; suspense to die for!

Farewell Dorothy Parker - Ellen Meister
(FICTION/CLOTH) Its one thing to be inspired by the strength of the famous and successful and quite another when you allow the mentoring inspiration to hijack your life. Violet attributes her career as a movie critic to her emulation of Algonquin mistress of ceremonies, Dorothy Parker. After visiting the famed hotel as if going on a pilgrimage she comes face to face with the outspoken author's restless ghost. Now Violet life has new challenges as she contends with this battle of voices that both want to commander her life; that of the feisty spirit who needs to be put to rest and that of herself that she has been searching for. Funny at times, tender at others, the former fueled by the author channeling Parker's acerbic wit keeps this novel from being a variation of The Ghost & Mrs. Muir.

The Comfort of Lies - Randy Susan Myers
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Tia is in love with that which she can not have. He is happily married with two children. Her obsessive fling results in a pregnancy. She leaves the scene to have the child and give it up for adoption. Life goes on until her lover's wife uncovers a letter sent to her husband that included photographs. The baby pictured has an uncanny resemblance to her husband. The husband denies being the father. His wife searches for the baby her husband may have sired. Everyone has secrets. Which are real and what are just perceived and just how far will all the characters deny the truth and let the unspoken answers tear their lives apart? The novel shares the reality of how far reaching a simple act of infidelity can be to all involved.

(St Martins/Griffin)
Last Days - Adam Nevill
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) This hailed horror novel is finally released in the U.S. to keep you up nights. As in most classic Gothics, the evils of  past centuries can't stay buried. Nevill gives this classic plot a postmodern spin by making his novel the literary equivalent of The Blair Witch Project. Kyle's latest documentary is on the Temple of the last Days cult. He goes on location to an Arizona desert where the cult's massacre took the life of their leader. Or did it? Spooky going-ons, the deaths of the survivors they interview and other paranormal shenanigans lead the crew and their director to the cult's true demonic leader, the Unholy Swine. Well paced and fervidly imagined, this novel is a horror debut as important as that of Hill's Heartshaped Box.

(Harper Collins)
Shards and Ashes - edited by Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong.
(FICTION/CLOTH)  The flavor of the month in fantastic fiction is the Dystopian novel. There have been many successes (The Dog Star, The Passage,Hunger Games) and too many less stellar efforts to count. What was once the fodder for sci-fi diehards of speculative fiction has become mainstream, largely because of the burgeoning young adult market. Here to satiate your hunger for post apocalyptic drama is a collection of nine short stories chalk-full of chaos and characters hell-bent on survival. The editors (who also contribute) are YA paranormal authors but the stories can be enjoyed by adults (who purchase a hefty amount of this genre intended for teens anyways) primarily because the brevity of the tales weens the sappy components usually found in these tales to focus more on situation and survival fueled on a passion for life.

Eighty Days - Matthew Goodman
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) There is a remarkable mystery series penned by Carol McCleary (Alchemy of Murder, Illusion of Murder) that is fueled by the real life antics of this pre-liberated woman, the resourceful woman of means, Nellie Bly. Here we have the unadulterated facts that McCleary so laboriously researched for her novels. Goodman's chronicle focuses mainly on the Nellie and her contemporary, Cosmo journalist, Elizabeth Bisland, as they participate in the world's fastest race, Nellie by steamship, Elizabeth by blimp. The stunt captured the public's imagination back in the Victorian era and this chronicle of their exploits will enthrall the reader today as well. This non-fiction reads like a thriller. No wonder McCleary is so enraptured by Nellie's spirit, she was such a larger than life woman.

The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend - Glenn Frankel 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) John Ford's Stagecoach is seen as the start of the great era of the American Western. Conversely, his film The Searchers is seen as the the opposing bookend, an homage to the American Western and its closing chapter in film history. It produced cinema's quintessential anti-hero played by John Wayne. The original telling of the ordeal of Cynthia Parker's abduction by American Indians and her eventual rescue by Texas Rangers lacked the underlying themes of racism and violence in wartime. Frankel presents the story in all its incantations revealing the project as a match head of controversy even through production of the film version.  The resulting film became one of the most significant artistic contributions of the motion picture industry with its unflinching reflection of the country at its most ugly and most beautiful.

 How to Live a Life of Crime-  Kirsten Miller
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  Dicken's Artful Dodger would have his hands full contending with the students of the Mandel Academy. A conclave of criminal prodigies in NYC has been graduating evil geniuses for years. There only the most evil survive. Flick, pick pocket extraordinaire is in the finals when the school drafts Flick's old flame to battle against him and the most-wanted-in-training. Will the academy break them or can they save each other before their souls become too dark to care? This novel plays as an urban Hunger Games except the end of days is happening right here and now, playing out in our city streets among the thieves and meth dealers.

(Balzer + Bray)
The Madman's Daughter - Megan Shepherd
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau is an often overlooked classic. It gets the young adult paranormal treatment here as young Juliet learns not only of his father's work, possible crimes against humanity, but that he is actually still alive and continuing his experiments on some remote island. She leaves her ordinary life in London and heads off to find her father to either confirm or hopefully refute his reputation. Enter her father's creations, man/beasts, one on a horrific murder spree, and Juliet and her handsome escort Montgomery find themselves fighting for their lives. Only by destroying her father's creations can they be free but something deep inside of her is also fascinated by her father's dreams made flesh. Classic, and classy, this novel is a dark journey into the mind of inherited obsessions that present themselves as destiny. 

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made - Stephan Pastis
(INDEPENDENT READER) One of my favorite comic strips is the always inventive Pearls Before Swine with its constant word play and drawings that, well, look funny. The man behind the pen, Pastis throws his hat into the early reader ring with this first chapter in the Timmy Failure series. Timmy is not only a detective, he's the CEO of his own agency. His business partner is a polar bear, of course. His Failuremobile is a Segway. With his dubious pal Rollo they fumble through a mystery with hilarious results. Throw in a four foot girl (kooties not included) who is referred to with a Harry Potter nod as The Girl who shall not be named and you have the beginning of a rewarding series for the Captain Underpants crowd. (what do you mean no dumb-as-a-post gators???)

Odd Squad; Bully Bait - Michael Fry
(INDEPENDENT READER)  Another quality cartoonist is prepared to give Pastis a run for his money. Fry penned the cartoon turned animated feature film, Over The Hedge. Here he focuses on children rather than animals, one child in particular, Nick, tshortest seventh-grader in the world. He is a loner, often times stuffed into lockers, case and point, the odd one out. He is placed in club filled with fellow square pegs. The become an uber nerd team combating bullies, dumb adults and kissy-face while building lasting friendships. Fun and poignant (though I would have liked some of Fry's critters interspersed within, perhaps a mascot? Maybe in a future volume.

Who's on First? - by Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, John Martz
(CHILDREN)  Spring training is here, what perfect time it is for this excuse for parents to introduce their kids to the funniest comedic sketch in all time. Even Lou's daughter gave this book her blessing.  Dad's especially will revel in reading this aloud with the classic rhythm and emphasis of funnymen Abbot and Costello.“Who’s on first. What’s on second. I Don’t Know’s on third.” Making the comic actors into a bear and a rabbit will appeal to the younger crowd while the beat by beat script will make adults smile even after the twentieth reading. Bedtime may be extended into extra innings because this concept book is a home run.

(Candlewick/Nosy Crow)
Open Very Carefully: a Book with Bite - Nick Bromley
(CHILDREN)  I love storybooks that pretend to be a little threatening (think Monster at the End of This Book.) Here we have a book that warns us that there is a crocodile inside that is munching away and being all dangerous inside. Dare we read on? Dare we?! Bring out the fearless warrior in your crowd between the laughter as you ham it up reading this fun and playfully illustrated book/test.

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