Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Best Book Bets - 4/2/2013

Here is some budding new titles to kick off your Spring reading; no foolin'!
(St Martins)
The Whiteness of the Whale  - David Poyer 
(FICTION/CLOTH)  This novel comes across like a Moby Dick for our times. What! Compare a contemporary novelist to the literary god Melville. All I know is that when I read him I cared and feared for the agendas of everyone on the ship, tasted the salt in the tears and in the air, and didn't want the pages to end. Same here in this masterful tale of an ANTI-whaling vessel heading to Antarctica. For Dr. Pollard its a last effort to resurrect her career and in some strange way avenge the death of a Nantucket sea captain by a rogue whale. Each member of the diverse crew has pathos that can be served during their trek. A powerful tale that illustrates how one man's passion is nothing compared to the will of nature.

(Reagan Arthur)
Life After Life  - Kate Atkinson
(FICTION/CLOTH) Ursula Todd is deathless and so being might never actually be alive. Even on her first day she's born twice and dies once. Could this odd miracle be the saving grace of civilization or just the poetic device of an author spinning her wheels? Like Fitzgerald's Benjamin Button, Ursula is the perfect fabrication to examine Fate and our ability or inability to thwart it. We all wish for "make-overs", well here is a character who's life is nothing but them. Atkinson bests herself with her audacious delivery sacrificing science credibility for her analysis of what it means to be a living human. What she does with the opportunities is the fuel of this smart and funny tale that puts new meaning into the phrase "Carpe Diem."

What the Family Needed - Steven Amsterdam
(FICTION/CLOTH) Its the classic teen question, if you could have a superpower what would it be? What if it was just what you needed even if you didn't know what that was at the time? That's the gift/curse of the titles family. A girl caught in the middle of the fractured marriage of her parents becomes invisible, a reflection of herself in the family unit only to be able to see the flaws she once blamed herself for.  Each member has the ability to discover the power within and even though they are "super" as in supernatural, they are firmly entrenched in the emotional needs of each member. They are as flawed as any family who as years and lives intertwine and pass learn that love and loyalty are the super-est powers of all.

Reconstructing Amelia -  Kimberly McCreight
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Kate Baron is a mother who is blindsided by the spontaneous suicide of her daughter. Nothing foreshadowed her emotional breakdown that led to the tragic incident. She was always a smart student and a good girl. Who was this troubled young girl she thought she knew? Then she receives a message that breaks her devastating grief, her daughter didn't jump. Through a puzzle of texts, emails and phone calls Kate pieces together the life of her daughter while she was away at college. The question of what a mother will do with her revelation makes you tear through the last third of this auspicious debut novel.
Woke Up Lonely Fiona Maazel  
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Maazel gives us an Orwellian futures where social networking becomes the manipulative Big Brother. The network is called Helix and Thurlow Dan is its Zuckerberg. Its mission statement is to cure loneliness. It becomes the opium for the masses, a self-help empire with communes and endless sold-out mixers and meetings. It has becomes an international power and threat. Both the criminal element and the political arena set sights on Dan and his family. His ex-wife spies on him but Dan is too blinded by love to see it. The question of just what is good and what is more evil makes for an original and compelling vision but ends up making the reader more lonely than ever. But isn't that the point here?

(St Martins/Dunne)
Juggernaut - Adam Baker
(FICTION/CLOTH) Like Wool that got its legitimate book release last month, this dystopian zombiefest gets to put on its publishing big-pants on as well. What makes this stand out above a lot of the barrage of zombie novels of late this reads more like a military thriller than a horror novel. It may be the best zombie novel since Jonathan Maberry's stellar Patient Zero that pretty much rose the standard of zombie novels. While having less emotional resonance as Justin Cronin's The Passage it makes up for us in its intricate war-time plotting. The locale is Iraq in 2005. How many people put in their situations feel they are fighting a war where the enemy just won't die? Still the metaphor of the genre as a reflection our times is never forced. The procedures are accurate and the emotions driving the soldiers raw and real making the resulting novel less science and less fiction and in result all the more disturbing.
(W W Norton)
Gulp; Adventures on the Alimentary Canal - Mary Roach 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH)  Anyone who read her last book Packing For Mars has to admit that nobody out there can write a book on scientific research and make it such an amusing and fulfilling narrative treat. Well that was certainly a mouthful but even the titles of her science-as-entertainment novels bears this out; Stiff, Bonk, and Spook among them. Like the crew of Fantastic Voyage she takes us down the throat and through the body with all its tastes, gases, and excremate and does so like its a thrill ride in Adventureland. She riddles the book with pop culture factoids and believe-it-or-not science oddities that will perk both your interest and your funny bone.

(Duke U.)
Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style and the 1960s -  edited by Lauren M.E. Goodlad, Lilya Kaganovsky and Robert A. Rushing  
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH)  Another season is almost upon us and the television audience is in wait with an almost reverent anticipation. Could it be because of its retro sensibilities, its spot-on take on the evolving 50s-60s culture, or just the damn fine writing and acting? All of the above is the answer according to this scholarly but insightful collection of essays on the Mad Men phenomena.  From fashion to gender roles these authors analyze every aspect of the show. One uniform consensus is that this show is an important work of postmodern art worthy of the feverish study of these academics.

This Is What Happy Looks Like -  Jennifer E. Smith
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  This clever story examines the cost of fame. What if you were a young talent thrust into mega-fame like the Bieb? Would the the simple joys of life still be attainable? Child actor Graham Larkin finds out when he attempts to meet up with an ordinary suburban teenager he has been sharing emails with. First linked by their love of pigs, their posts grow more emotionally intimate. The stars seem to be align, that is until Graham decides to shoot his next movie in her hometown and take their virtual relationship to the next level. Honest and clever dialogue drives this search for true love.

In the Shadow of Blackbirds - Cat Winters
(YOUNG ADULT/CLOTH)  At the turn of the century it all seemed like the end of the world for young Mary Shelley Black. The plague of influenza was as feared as the enemy of the big war. Both took loved ones without warning. It was a time when hope was smothered. What was the purpose of it all? After her first love dies in battle she is visited by his spirit. Her ill-fated romance continues as she tries to make sense of her paranormal encounters and a world gone mad. The accompanying photographs  of the era are as haunting as her boyfriend. The social yearning and emotional urgency frightfully mirrors our own in this original tale.

Hattie Ever After -  Kirby Larson
(INDEPENDENT READER)  This book is long awaited followup to Newbury Homor winner Hattie Big Sky. Enough said, if you read that you are already asking your parents if you can go to the local bookseller. If not, hunt down the first and pick this up as well because you won't want her story to end. Hattie is a spunky orphan who finally leaves her uncle in Montana and heads for the big city to fulfill her dream of being a reporter. She sees herself as a teenage Nellie Bly and shares her wit and determination. Love and determination battle for her heart as she learns more than she wants about her past, her uncle and the the emotional cruelty of the modern world. A strong-willed character all teens will root for. Go, Hattie, go!

Who Done It?: Investigation of Murder Most Foul - edited by Jon Scieszka
(INDEPENDENT READER) A star-studded anthology including the likes of Lemony Snicket, Rebecca Stead, Kiersten White, & Libba Bray amongst the 80 children's authors contributing to this amalgamation of mysterious puzzlers.  Scirszka, a genius at getting tweens to read, creates Herman Mildew, the crotchety editor/narrator of this collection. He treats the book as a parlor scene in a stogy British murder mystery with each of the authors a suspect. They all weaves their beds of lies and misdirections leaving the readers and their repugnant host to cut through to the truth. What fun! Proceeds benefit 826nyc: a fabulous literacy non-profit founded by Dave Eggers. There are extensions of the project throughout the country including Roxbury, MA. Its storefront is the Greater Boston Bigfoot Research Institute. Check it out!

(Little, Brown)
The Dark - Lemony Snicket, illus. Jon Klassen
(CHILDRENS) "Hi dark." a fearful lazlo calls out. Between the ages of three and seven ALL kids are afraid of the dark. Its in the wiring of the human brain. Laszlo in this book is no exception. Luck for him the dark stays in the basement. One night it doesn't and lazlo has to confront his fear and in turn the fear of all the readers. Yes, the dark is a real presence that is at both times haunting and amusing. The dynamic duo of mischievous Snicket and droll illustrator Klassen sets the tone perfectly. The rooms of his house are uncomfortably sparse, most times large expanses occupy the pages practicall swallowing little Lazlo up (check the cover.) The book with its cheeky narrator and building dread aches to be read aloud. Don't worry, it all ends swimmingly as any rational adult would believe it would for the dark is just, well, the dark... right????

(Houghton Mifflan)
Ball - Mary Sullivan
(CHILDREN)  To paraphrase the words of one of my own novels, to a dog, the ball is all. There is bliss is wrapped around its slobber-drenched hide. The dog in this whimsical picture book knows to follow his bliss when his little girl master goes away to school. He needs another partner for fetch but he has no takers. Even the house cat wion't join in the fun. Will that stop this infatuated pooch? No way! Sullivan is a true comic illustrator, the pictures of the dog as he communes with his obsession are a hoot! Enter the dogs world of unconditional love for ball and master. (Fleas not included.)


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