Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Best Book Bets - 3/5/2013

March; the month that is an order, a month of action, of forging forward towards the promise of new beginnings. Also it is the only month named after a rabbit (we can can do the chicken or egg thing but I digress.) The Bookie implores you to march (or hop, your choice) to your local bookstore and pick up one of these literary chestnuts. 

(Harper Voyager)
Dreams and Shadows - C. Robert Cargill  
(FICTION/CLOTH) Your suspicions prove true, there is alternate world, the Limestone Kingdom, that resides along side us where all the mythical beasties roam, fairies, changlings, angels, you name it. This novel mulls over the conflict over the magic and the monsters we live with in the everyday. Ewan and Colby are from there but now live in our mundane world in of all things the music scene in Austin but their repressed past still haunts them. Sounds like the setup for teen metaphysical adventure but Cargill's writing style elevates this to literature. Think the humor of Christopher Moore coupled with Neil Gaiman's love affair with the fantastic and you have a satisfying flight of fancy as the kingdom attempts to claim its own.

(Simon & Schuster)
The Demonologist - Andrew Ptper
(FICTION/CLOTH) Remember reading The Historian, plodding through page after page of what first read like a overly-detailed historical novel only to find, EEK!, here there be monsters? What we have here is another deceptive novel that will lull you with its factual presentation just to give you a scare. A college professor researches Milton's Paradise Lost in hopes of retrieving his daughter whom he believes has been abducted by demons. Filled with meticulous research of age old beliefs in the devil's legions this novel follows Professor Ullman from jaded academic to fervid believer as he breaks the secret codes of the Ages in an attempt to retrieve his daughter from the clutches of The Unnamed.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia - Mohsin Hamid
(FICTION/CLOTH) I love novels that allow us to see the world through another's eyes, provide the reader with a new world view. Problem is they are usually entrenched with weighty historical reference that make them more difficult to plod through than may be necessary. As Hamid did with his bestselling The Reluctant Fundamentalist his dismisses with a load of historical exposition and gets right to the story in the brave new world of his character. The book is about a boy pursuing the rags to riches success promised by the Asian dream. Beneath the shiny contemporary sheen of success our nameless hero/anti-hero deals with all the classic trappings of storytelling; fame, love and responsibility without ever once bringing out the violins.

(Severn House)
Son of Destruction - Kit Reed
(FICTION/CLOTH)  There have been a nice crop of Southern Gothic Mysteries as of late (check out Attica Locke's The Cutting Season for a prime example.) In this yarn Dan Cartaret returns to his hometown to take care of affairs after his journalist mother passes on. A journalist himself he claims to be covering a story of other deaths of elderly women, all liked to spontaneous combustion. Of course there is a secret, possibly of the paranormal nature, buried for thirty years in his close-lipped town that Dan must unearth along with the whereabouts of his birth father. This novel is as hot as jambalaya and just as addictive as we follow Dan into the fire.

The Romanov Cross - Robert Masello
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) Dan Brown will finally release a new novel. Until then you have this novel entrenched in cryptology and religious conspiracy to satiate your hunger. An emerald cross and its secrets is lost in the Artic along with holy powers akin to the Ark that can destroy civilization. epidemiologist  Frank Slater heads to Alaska to investigate an unearthed colony who had succumbed to Spanish flu around the same time the cross is lost. Slater connects the two incidents and works towards solving the puzzle of the ages before profiteering pirates pilfer the sites treasures. Masello's research into history of the Catholic church and Intuit customs and well as expertise in high tech archeological science roots this implausible tale in the real world suspending of disbelief and making for a thrilling read.

The Miniature Wife -  Manuel Gonzales
(FICTION/CLOTH)  It is rare that a debut of stories by a young author matches a fertile imagination with a mastery of wordcraft. Usually the short stories as jewels in the rough boding well for the author's future. Gonzales puts the outrageous in the everyday in this delicious collection of the absurd. A man shrinks his wife, quite by accident? A man talks through his ears? Killer sounds? A pilot caught in a loop of his life's mediocrity is kept in a holding pattern for 20 years? Each premise sounds more absurd than the next but with tender insight the author uses the device to allow us to see the world around us and how we interact with it in a startling new light. Watch this guy, he is positioned to be one of the better new voices in literature.

(Random House)
Good Prose: The Art of Nonfiction - Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) Following the mandate of teaching to the test and preparing students for jobs they can actually get schools have been prompted to soften the novel reading as focus more on non-fiction. That being the case it is our obligation to point them to authors who deliver a strong narrative style as they present facts. Good Prose begins at  The Atlantic Monthly, in Boston. Journalist Tracy Kidder strikes up a business relationship with editor Richard Todd that eventually leads to the Pulitzer winning The Soul of a New Machine. It is a prime example of non-fiction done right. The book examines narratives, essays, and memoirs each with loving care and candid criticism; an essential guide for both teacher and student as we enter the world where the system prompts writers to be able to crunch out dynamic business proposals and grant writing as opposed to the great American novel.

The Virtues of Poetry - James Longenbach 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) I like poetry but just like many of the reading public I approach it quite like wine or jazz. I'm not an authority but I know what I like. This book will definitely improve your pallet when it come to appreciating the delicate art of poetry. Longenbach, a man attributed to have 'a subtle ear' presents the art form in all its strengths. He presents the assemblage of words as alchemy, as transcendental magic capable of wooing the heart or sparking a revolution. It is comprised of 12 essays covering all the classics and how those building blocks achieve their timelessness by the fluidity of the interpretation of the chosen words. An essential tool for the casual reader and the academic alike for keeping the appreciation of poetry alive.

 The Center of Everything-  Linda Urban
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  Bunning, NH is all about donuts but not for Ruby. As she counts the stars from a rooftop at the Pepperdine Motors cradled in the safety of her Gran's arms she counts her blessings along with the stars. She is the center of her world until events threaten all she holds dear. She messes up.... big and the only thing that might return things to the way they were, the way she liked, is if she can read the winning essay during the doughnut capitol's Bunning Day. It would be her 12th birthday wish come true but can mere words heal the past? Do they really have that much power. Ruby hopes so, its all she has.

Under Shifting Glass - Nicky Singer
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  A glass flask contains the promise of magic in its swirls of iridescence. It seems to be more of an entity than a potion and it is Jess' secret possession. In the real world her twin brothers are born with a dire disease that Jess believes the magic inside the bottle can make right. The novel explores the healing power of the imagination and the power of a love that doesn't believe in defeat. A delicate tale embodied perfectly by the novel's cover, another artistic win by the team at Chronicle. Does the magic in life come from some sort of talisman or from within?

Ghoulish Song - Will Alexander
(INDEPENDENT READER) This year's National Book Award for teen fiction went to Goblin Secrets and rightly so. Now the next chapter in the Zombay series has been unleashed to the world. Kaile lives among goblins and witches. She has a musician's soul but when she plays her flute, its mournful song separates her from her shadow. As with Peter Pan, this can only lead to no good. The flute is doomed by a ghoul constructed by the bones of those who perished in the Zombay river. It wants the flute and threatens the next deadly flood while Kaile fights to free the flute, and her musical power in time to save her home. Spooky and classic, Alexander paints a vivid world ruled by dread yet filled with hope.

The Colossus Rises - Peter Lerangis, illus. Mike Reagan
(INDEPENDENT READER)  Rick Reardon can only crank out a book a year, possibly two if you put his feet to the fire (he may have actually done that to one of the characters in one of his books. To keep the hesitant boy reader at bay until Rick's characters battle with Egyptian gods or Greek Demigods we have a new series for them to become addicted to. Jack's only a child but soon, very soon, he is going to die. He has one hope, to find 7 Loculi, ancient relics, whose magic can cure him. They are hidden within the 7 wonders of the world and there are things out there who do not want them disturbed. Time is running out.  great premise that combines myth with teen pathos with a reading level akin to the 39 Clues series will keep young readers guessing and turning pages.

Flora and the Flamingo - Molly Idle
(CHILDREN)  They say pictures paint a thousand words. I say it as well, a thousand poorly chosen words that is. This picture book, this wordless picture book may be one of the few exceptions to my rule. The book's namesakes strike up a unique friendship as you turn the pages. Flaps to open allow the child to become part of the story that unfolds as your describe the subtle expressions of Flora and her new-found friend. This is a book that celebrates happiness even at its most clumsy and will have you both dancing for joy along with the eventually graceful duo. Bravo! Bravo! (splat!)

A Little Book of Sloth - Lucy Cooke
(CHILDREN)  Seriously, what's wrong with the internet these days with the irresponsible UTube posts, Catz who crave Cheezeburgers and that frowny cat??? Enough! Hey, check out that sloth! CUTE! They beat kittens and puppies hands down. From the people at the Avarious Sloth Santuary in Costa Rica (I joke you not) comes a collection of I admit adorable, well, baby sloths. Scold Mateo, coo over Biscuit, reach out to hug Ubu, all the while reading a BOOK not online.

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