Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Best Book Bets 6/18/2013

Hope you had a great Dad's Day. Before we dole out the best book picks of the week (and continue to celebrate the year of the Gaiman) we toss up this recommend for the Dads. It has all the makings of a summer of smiles.

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff: Projects You Can Build for (and With) Your Kids!  - Scott Bedford
Secret Candy Soup Can? Check!  Bunk Bed Communicator? Check! Crocodile Toast Grabber? Check! Be the cool Dad on the block by using this book as your manual. Part Dangerous Books for.. knock-off/ part hipster designer present for his own kiddos, Bedford's book celebrates creativity with scrawling illustrations fueled by an irrepressible imagination presenting straight forward directions for one project after another. Form follows function while at the same time painting well out of the box.

(William Morrow)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane  -  Neil Gaiman   
(FICTION/CLOTH) Its been a while since Mr. Gaiman has addressed the adults in the room. He has been stellar in his efforts in children's literature (The Graveyard Book even won the Newbury Award.) Still the publication of his Anassi Boys seems an age away. If you expect another modern epic of modern folklore a la American Gods you may feel let down when you put the small, just shy of 300 page, novel in your hands. Open the book and read with your eyes and mind wide open and you will discover a far greater gift than cinematic bombast; a subtlety only a gifted storyteller with years of life experience and working his craft hard can offer. The tale of a man who returns to his childhood home to recount the fantastic mystery of his childhood only to do battle with ageless monsters is more an ode to the loss of childhood and the struggle to maintain one's wide-eyed view of the world as we get older is a macabre valentine to the legions who has already been seduced by his words. Here is a man so assured of his literary voice that he can still deliver the goods while whispering.

(Random House)
Transatlantic  - Colum McCann
(FICTION/CLOTH) His Let The Great World Spin won the National Book Award a while back. Where do you go after reaching such lofty heights? How about using the same literary bravado to sketch out the odyssey of an Irish clan that spans two centuries and crosses said great world and manage to do that with an amazing economy of words. Starting with a black farmer fighting a famine, moving on to the friendship forged in the heat of WWI to the war-torn streets of politics as others fight for peace in their homelands. Then their are the women who keep the home fores burning. It becomes a testament to the will of a people. Once books of the year dropped in the fourth quarter in anticipation of holiday sales but in this case for us readers, Christmas has come early.

Sea Change  - S.M. Wheeler

(FICTION/CLOTH) A tale with a kraken that isn't written for children? Count me in. Here is a powerful fantasy that confidently breaks new ground. It reads like the Brothers Grimm wrote Water For Elephants as young Lilly befriends the aquatic beast only to have it captured and taken away to a circus. Her efforts to save her unlikley friend will have her make an unholy bond with a truly wicked witch, a circus master who desires mythical powers all his own, and other sorted individuals that are all fueled by personal desire. All Lilly wants is to save her friend, alas, as we all know by now, there can be power in that asipiration.

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton  -   Elizabeth L. Silver   
(FICTION/CLOTH) What better way to address the pros and cons of capitol punishment that to allow the judge and jury to rest in the hands of the mother of the slain. Noa is found guilty of murder in the First Degree. She is tried in a state that enforces the death penalty so her days are numbered. She has never claimed her innocence in court. Enter Marlene, not only the mother of the murdered girl but an attorney. She wants to represent Noa in an appeal to allow her to tell what really happened the day of her daughter's murder. What follows is the legal journey of two desperate souls seeking answers or at least the solace the truth may offer. The novel is an emotional tug of war as heated as the public's opinion.
(Houghton Mifflin)
The House of Impossible Loves  Cristina Lopez Barrion, trans. Lisa Carter
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Here is a new voice that reads with the confidence of a seasoned storyteller. The women of the Laguna family have been cursed. Each have inherited residency in a romantic hell; each of their tists will end in tragedy and any resulting offspring are fated to be born women so to perpetuate the cycle of misery. Clara, daughter of who the townspeople call The Laguna Witch, may have broken the cycle. After a passionate affair and the resulting cursed female offspring Clara births a son. Is her Santiago a sign that the curse has ended or goes a cruel fate await Clara, her passionate lover, and her young family. Reads like a tale passed down through the ages full of all the quirks of humanity.

In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods  - Matt Bell
(FICTION/TRADE)  Here is an powerful, challenging debut by an author who refuses to limit his imagination in search of the truth of his novel. You might say the book is a meditation on just what constitutes a marriage; childbearing or a couple devoutly sharing this epic called life. Others might say its about a couple who together search for the simpler things in life and thrive to raise a family with results that are confounding and enraging. Still others won't get past the wife's gift of weaving things into being with her voice, a birth all its own. Still others will dwell on the shadow of the bear (a nod to John Irving?) and the mystery of the land the couple tries to forge their family from. Its all of this mischagaz and more. Isn't that the beauty of good writing? 

(St Martins)
The Spy Who Loved: The Secrets and Lives of Christine Granville -   Clare Mulley 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) Christine Granville was a spy. She was a spy who died in a manner one would expect of a spy but that was only after a miraculous career of cloak and dagger living throughout WWII. Never heard of her? That's kind of the point in the spy biz. Her missions spanned the globe making her a true international woman of mystery. Her missions' successes eventually recruited her behind the lines, deep undercover, a woman of Jewish descent in the belly of the Gestapo. I would say that this is the stuff that movies are made of but if you saw her life unfurl on the big screen you would scoff saying that the story lacked believability. Here is her unbelievable life, meticulously researched by a biographer who finds the person behind all the fearless deeds.
The Boys In The Boat -  Daniel James Brown
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) We have had a good share of non-fiction accounts of individuals living through the era of WWII that give us a unique take on the time; Laura Hillenbrands's Unbroken most recently, Jeremy Schaap's Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics back in 2007. Here is another tale of Everymen taking a stand in their own indelible style. This tale of triumph is pulled from the journals of the participants. Like the talented Eric Larson, Brown finds the thread connecting the stories and uses a keen narrative style to present the passion that lead to victory as USA defeated the world right under the nose of Adolf Hitler. As fiction is increasingly being weened from school curriculum we need to depend on book's with this strong sense of story such as this to provide student's with an appreciation of good storytelling.

(Little Brown)
Boy Nobody  -   Allen Zadoff
(YOUNG ADULT)  Here a novel that reads like The Bourne Identity for the young readers set. The nobody in question is just an average Joe on campus, nothing to call attention to himself. His real identity is a covert spy infiltrating subjects marked for execution, in mean, unfortunate death by natural causes. He's not the only kid nobody being manipulated by the Big Brother-esque organization know as The Program. Though brain washed the nobody learns that his parents were victims of natural causes and so begins his battle for normalcy and identity. Lots of action to follow fueled by his paranoia as he fights to be somebody.

September Girls - Bennett Madison
(YOUNG ADULT) Don't know if this is recommended because it is a superior coming-of-age novel along the lines of Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Last Picture Show or because the book is named after a song by pop music supergroup Big Star. A bit of both perhaps. Sam is lucky enough to spend a summer at the beach in a town knee deep in gorgeous blondes. Its a male teenagers dream, right? Problem is there is something odd about it all. The girls treat him like a stud. He even starts to fall for one of them, Dee-Dee. He's sure she feels the same but she grows distant as if he is getting too close to something he shouldn't know about, something intrisinctly linked to the sea. Can someone say Ariel?

(Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Kelsey Green, Reading Queen -  Claudia Mills, illus. by Rob Shepperson
(INDEPENDENT READER) An early chapter book about reading as a competitive sport? I'm all in! Kelsey can read like nobody's business but her book worm rep is threatened by the infamous Simon who she thinks is lying about his literary accomplishments. The school has a reading contest and she'll need her non-reading friend Cody and her underachieving BFFs to step up in the reading department if they are going to beat the fabricated achievements of Simon's team. What ever gets you to read works for me.

The Monstore - Tara Lazer, illus. James Burke
(INDEPENDENT READER)  When I was a kid you could order monsters and potions and x-ray glasses from the back of a comic book. Zack has it even better when he discovers a monster 7-Eleven located in the back of a sweet shoppe. Gracie has a sister who needs a little scare. He buys his monster without reading the mouse print on the store's sign: No returns. Monsters are whimsical not scary but the story is more fun than the Monsters Inc. sequel. 
(First Second)
Odd Duck  - Cecil Castellucci, illus. Sara Varon
(CHILDRENS)  What child hasn't felt like an odd duck, like, all the time! Theodora is normal in her own wacky little world wear its normal to wear a tea service on your head. One day she meets Chad who has his own wacky sense of normal. Asks the big question, in a world of a thousand different ways to express oneself, who is to say just what normal is. The increasing nonsense that unspools will instill titters and giggles in the little tykes as the two forge a frienship accepting each other as they are. Disclaimer: Not responsible for children wearing gloves on there feet or pizza as a hat but don't worry, its completely normal.

Dragons Love Tacos -  Adam Rubin, illus. Daniel Salmieri
(CHILDREN) If only R.R. Martin knew this one of his chiff-hangers could have been a fiesta! Here is another hit by the authors of the silly Those Darn Squirrels! They love all kinds of tacos and is such fun listing them. They will eat and eat and eat some more. But what goes with tacos? When dragons try salsa as hot as their own fire breath... watch out. Fun premise accompanied by cute illustrations of voracious mythical creatures makes for a book worthy of several encores. Just don't tell the Lannisters!

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