Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Best Book Bets - 5/7/2013

What a Spring and it looks like April is going out like a lion in the world of books as well. Find yourself a place in the sun and crack the spine of one of these sure bets. Literary Spring has sprung!

First things first, The Bookie hopes you enjoyed yourself May 4th. Not only was it National Free Comic Day (!) and the wedding day of a couple of book lovers I know, it was the release day of  Vader's Little Princess by Jeffrey Brown. It is the follow-up to Darth Vader and Son. Either book is a gem of comic drawings perfect for Dad's day (only a month away.) This is the cartoonist that created the hysterical  Cats are Weird and More Observations (perfect book for feline-manic moms this Sunday) and many humorous autobiographical collections of whimsy. Now back to this weeks Literary Bookie already in progress...

 (Grand Central)
Red Moon  -  Benjamin Percy  
(FICTION/CLOTH) In the world of monster you know who doesn't get any respect? The werewolf! Lycanthropes have become the Aquaman of monsters. Once in a while a writer will take a shot at legitimacy such as Toby Barlow with his poetic Sharp Teeth, but usually they demoted to sexy beasts in paranormal romance. Then along comes this novel looking to give the vampire craze a run for its money. They are not of myth, they live amongst us and the government does what it can to keep the population safe, even bonding with the pharmaceutical industry to keep them at bay.) They are an apt metaphor for the rekindled fears brought on from the marathon bombing. Like Stoker's Dracula this is more about xenophobia and racism that terrorism feeds off of. It also grows into an Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe as everyone is suspicious of everyone because the monster could be any one of us. Powerful writing, cathartic, but not for the squeamish.

Dead Ever After  - Charlaine Harris 
(FICTION/CLOTH) In the dark forest (or in this case, bayou) of fiction vampires are king. One of the queens responsible for this obsession that will not die is Charlaine Harris and her pucky character, Sookie Stackhouse. She figured out a unique formula, take a traditional Agatha Christie mystery structure and throw a race of romantic vampires in the mix. The books are not as edgy as Alan Ball's True Blood series on HBO and that's part of their charm. She has managed to crank out 13 novels (and a sweet collection of short stories that link the books to each other collected in  A Touch of Dead) She's ending all with this swan song before the series loses its luster.Sookie is the heart of Bon Temps. Of course there is murder in town and the crime is pinned on Sookie. Eric and his like watch from the sidelines as she investigates the crime she didn't commit and learns the final truths of the town, and the people she loves. No spoilers to post here. Buy it, read it (you know you have to,) and reminisce on the years of tales, the smiles, the screams, the flop sweat and the hot 'n heavy human on vampire sweat Harris gave us for over a decade.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena - Anthony Marra
(FICTION/CLOTH) With all that has been going on it seems timely that a novel comes out that illustrates the struggles in war torn Russia. Havaa watches troops abduct her father accused of aiding Chechen rebels. Akmed witnesses it all and he brings her to refuge at an abandoned hospital run by Sonja Rabina who tends to the wounded. To offer the children shelter she would risk her humanitarian effort and the chase of ever seeing her sister again but she takes them in to help her run the hospital. They each learn purpose, compassion and the fact that their worlds is more intertwined then any of them could imagine. A human face on a desperate region of the world.

The Other Typist -  Suzanne Rindell  
(FICTION/CLOTH) I always loved the spunky girl in the film noir and screwball comedy, the second fiddle who dish it out as much as the men. Here we are in the 20's, a time of speak-easys and taking chances. Rose Baker is not "on the beat' but is the police stenographer. Her words taken down can decide the fate of many. Its tough stuff she takes in each day, the police respect that but then again, she's just a woman. Rose gets accused of murder. Now its her knowledge of crime and procedure and her puckish nature encouraged by her new younger friend Odalie that will help her save her life. A suspenseful and ,yes, funny tale that reads like a black and white movie directed by both Capra and Hitchcock.
Robert Parker's Wonderland Ace Atkins
(FICTION/CLOTH)    It was hard enough to have the torch of the word mimimalist Parker, harder still to keep the tone and the interests of his fanbase. Atkins succeeds for a second time by bringing age old sidekick, boxing coach Henry Cimoli front and center. Spenser loyalty to his male friends is second only to Sarah Silverman and when some goons rough up Henry Spenser soon finds himself up to the ears in high stakes real estate scamming. Spenser has as many enemies as friends and they all seem to join the fight for his life. What hangs over the proceedings is the ghost of Boston's old Wonderland, an amusement park and dog track who's former site is in the balance. It sets the tone of Spenser himself as he perhaps pines for earlier days. In spite of Atkins spot-on mimic of the mystery master's style, we do too (R.I.P. Parker)

(Abrams ComicArts)
Raven Girl - Audrey Niffenegger
(FICTION/TRADE)  Coming in at a mere 80 pages this book is but a mere novelty, but what a haunting gem it is. Her writing always had a metaphysical somberness to it with Time Traveller's Wife and even more so with Her Fearful Symmetry. It possesses all the creepy of Brothers Grimm as it weaves the tale of a postman who falls in love with a raven. They conceive a child (?) but (!) and she is human with the heart of a raven. A doctor offers to help and with disturbing medical frankness illustrates the  passion and absurdity of the constraints of one's physical form in comparison to the will of the heart. The author provides her own illustration which add to the spell of this fairy tale of dark reality and illuminated hope.

(Grand Central)
Adulting; How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps - Kelly Williams Brown 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) This trifle has captured the imagination of the texting, Pinterest generation by lighting up the internet with 'likes' and 'want to reads' College over but still feel like a kid? Presto, here's your operation manual for the adult body you find yourself in. Don't be embarrassed, you know you need it. This is more than just a reference book, though its a dang good one, its a humorous wink at everyone's frailty at that age. First apartment, check, sketchy office romances, check, frenemy negation, check! this blog made physical is what you'd expect a 20 something Martha Stewart would compile if she had a sense of humor. 

Life at the Marmont; The Inside Story of Hollywood's Legendary Hotel of the Stars- Chateau Marmont -   Raymond Sarlot, Fred E Vasten  
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) Twenty years ago I remember reading this and it has now been reissued and pumped up for a new generation. This hotel has through the years become the epox of Hollywood's glitterati, thorns and all. From the golden days of the silver screen with the likes of Harlow, Grace Kelly and many a star seeking safe haven to the more seedy days of Jum Morrison, John Belushi and Johnny Depp (2 out of three of them didn't make it out alive.) This has all the attraction of a tabloid at the supermarket register but the authors care about the material, the people who seek refuge there and most especially, the building itself, safe behind gates and sprawling ivy, an oasis in the middle of the dream factory where in quiet moments stars saw themselves in gold gilded mirrors as what they were, mere humans as flawed as the rest of us.
The 5th Wave -  Rick Yancey (YOUNG ADULT)  This is the most highly anticipated young adult novel release of the season. It has a great pedigree. The author penned the impressive Printz Award winning series, The Monstrumologist. He has a way with tying story to character with phrasing that satisfies adult but doesn't alienate children.  This time out its a dystopian tale. Staying alone and trusting no one is the only way to survive. That is how Cassie has survived so far until meets up with Evan Walker. But to trust him could be her end and that of her lost brother. Dare she? The first novel in this series sears off the page like Dashner's Maze Runner. Hollywood will be fighting over the rights in no time; a great summer read.

(Little Brown)
Icons - Margaret Stohl
(YOUNG ADULT)  From half of the writing team that gave us the atmospheric gothic tales of The Casters in Beautiful Creatures comes the beginning of what is sure to be a fan fave. She is responsible for a lot of the gothic ambiance in that series and she uses that same gift here. An icon brings about the end of Dol's world, her family and the land they lived in, dead. Why was she spared? One of her 'different' friends survived, Ro, and as they walk the desolation they are snatched up by the evil oppressor known as The Embassy. There she meets others her age, each with questions, each with desires. I know, it sounds like a dozen other dystopian scenarios  tied together with fish gut but Stohl's talent as a storyteller keeps it fresh. I would love to be at a campfire with her someday.
Better To Wish -  Ann M. Martin
"The things hidden and the things unsaid sometimes cause more trouble and more grief as the years pile up." Ann Martin has written too many chapter books and independent readers to count and she keeps cranking out novels with characters that age group can relate to. Her trick is simple, she doesn't talk down to them. This is the first in a quadrilogy that will span four generations as it examines how they are all interconnected. This time out. The tales are told to us from centenarian Abby who tells us about growing up in the depression, I time where wishes were better than reality. We start with a simple but unhappy life in Maine then circumstance finds her transplanted to the Big Apple. Her life's quiet but moving drama begins to unfold.
(Little Brown)
Loki's Wolves - Kelley Armstrong & Melossa Marr
Here be wolves (not werewolves.) Dystopian fiction may seem a bit too "edgy" for young independent readers but not in the hands of Armstrong and Marr. They can breach the subject of the meat and potatoes of the genre, losing everything and moving on, in a way that won't traumatize a  child. They use the Rick Reardon formula of infusing the tale with mythology, this time Nordic. The people of Blackwell are descendents of Thor or Loki. The latter, always the joker, brings about the end of the world in the form of an ever increasing series of natural disasters. Matt, while not physically the hero type does have a talisman that may aid him in the years ahead. The elders choose him to fight a serpent, some anticipating his failure but Matt is wise enough to form a team of rivals to combat the evils to come. A safe start to a series that promises more 'bite' to come.

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf  - Mark Teague
(CHILDRENS) From the award-winning author/illustrator who gave us the How Do Dinosaurs... series, Mark Teague comes the best variation on this classic tale since Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (though not as postmodern and funny as this classic.) That said you know the illustrations will be knock-outs and while they don't possess the manic detail of the former they do evoke the playful nature of this book. The book does get preachy about proper diet (I guess potato chips and sody-pop is what makes them pigs) but its a fun read. (Just don't encourage your kids to try to feed wolves a vegan diet, the results will NOT be similar.)

(Roaring Brook)
If You Want To See a Whale - Julie Fogliano, illus. Erin E Stead
(CHILDREN)  This is one beautiful book about appreciating the world of nature around us. A boy and his trusty dog start on an adventure to see a whale. Its as much about the rambling imagination of the young boy than it is about the patience of waiting. The subtle illustrations compliment the poetic simplicity of the phrasing. Get yourself a large zip-lock bag because you'll want to be reading this again and again on a beach under the shade of an umbrella with the tide lapping with the rhythm of the words.

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