Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Best Book Bets - 6/4/13

This is the 52nd post by The Bookie; a year full of prognostications on the best in print presented in easily digestible paragraphs of recommendation. There is now a search engine so that you can filter through the over 600 picks. Enjoy and spread the word during the second season of The Literary Bookie, already in progress!

The Shining Girls  -  Lauren Beukes   
(FICTION/CLOTH) Does time-line continuum plus a historical stalker sound too much like Time and Time Again? Time travel as a device seems all the rage lately but this novel breathes some fresh air into the almost played out premise. In this novel the stalker becomes the stalked. Trust me its more linear than it sounds. Take a psychological thriller novel and add the twilight zone twist of jumping back and forth in time to perpetrate and investigate the trail of a serial killer. It starts in the 30s where a man discovers the names of the shining girls scrawled on a wall in his own handwriting. They are all victims, save one and she is hungry for revenge. The race through time is on in a book you will find hard to put down.

The Kings and Queens of Roam  - Daniel Wallace
(FICTION/CLOTH) The Bookie loved Big Fish, first the book, a celebration of story and how legend exalt the ordinary in life, and Burton's loving film rendition. Finally there is another tale for Wallace to tell again affectionately woven from myth. There are two sisters, one older and bitter, the other, beautiful and blind. With the parents dead the younger sister has to count on the eldest in order to survive. The jealous sister creates a dangerous world outside of her blind sister's eyes to control and penalize her for her beauty. Then one day the younger girl has an encounter that sheds light on the world all around her. You will be happy to return to Wallace's land of fantasy to reap its ample bounty; the land of Roam, fantastic, the love of storytelling, gushing and how it all lays bear the many faces of the soul, captivating.

Red Sparrow  - Jason Matthews

(FICTION/CLOTH) A riveting post-Soviet Union thriller that confirms our greatest fears, the cold war is alive and well. The Sparrow is groomed as a contemporary femme fatale in the secret service. Dominika is one such lethal lady teamed up against CIA operative Nathaniel Nash. Smolder turns to passion builds threatening their conflicting missions and personal security. Stil the heart wants what the heart wants. Dominika flips, becoming a double agent on Nash's side... or does she? A tightly woven contemporary spy thriller with heart, deadly consequences and, yes, recipes (some foodie lore sprinkled in, a touch only  R.B.Parker was able to pull off, works nicely here.)

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls -  Anton DiSclafani  
(FICTION/CLOTH) The great depression is in full force but in the Blue Ridge Mountains a gathering of women are protected by the cruelty of the world past the fences that contain their horses.  One of these debutantes is Thea who has been sent to the exclusive riding school to avert the fallout of a family tragedy. Her new world is a power struggle of similarly tough-minded teens, each fighting for alpha position no matter what it takes. We follow Thea as she establishes herself in this new society and comes to terms with the events that found herself there. The parallel story lines arc up the tension in this uniquely personal and downright racy novel of taking account of one's life and having the passion to move on.
The Fainting Room  Sarah Pemberton Strong
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Ray is a respected man in society but his reputation is tanished when he falls for circus folk in the form of the tattooed exotic, Evelyn. She is his mermaid and her illustrated flesh is a powerful aphrodisiac. Evelyn never fit in with the carnies and now, with her body art hidden under long sleeves and ruffles she feels just as alienated in Ray's world. The odd couple meet up with a rebellious teen Ingrid who they help by transforming the estate's former fainting room into a study where the youth can practice her writing. Ray is as drawn to her as he was his wife when they met at the circus. Ingrid's passions lead elsewhere and soon the trio learn to defy all conventions.

(Hard Case Crime)
Joyland  - Stephen King
(FICTION/TRADE) The king of horror throws his hat into the Hard Case Crime series, an imprint that is inspired in the pulp fiction of yesteryear. Joyland is an amusement park that proves anything but joyous. Devin works as a carney. He is prepared for a carefree summer at the park until he learns of a unsolved murder that took place in the Horror House. The ride has since been haunted.There are whispers throughout the park and the staff throughout the summer but it isn't enough to keep Devin from enjoying his last summer of freedom. That is until the season wanes and the mystical threat becomes all too real. This satisfying mystery is loaded with King conventions (trappings) psychic kids, evil that threatens to consume innocence, homespun vernacular and the like but he is keenly aware that the reader knows that they are reading a King novel and uses these as o so many diversions. This is a mystery after all, a pulp-inspired one, and one must always be cautious of red herrings and McGuffins in our midst.

(It Books)
Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville -  Michael Streissguth 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) There is old school country (Grande ol Opry anyone?) and there is radio-friendly modern country (CMT anyone?) and then there were the renegades; inspired by the forefathers, keenly aware of the music style as a uniquely American folk song form, and fired by the rebellious spirit of emerging rock 'n roll and the colored music that spawned that. Here are three of the most wanted (there are book on Cash and the Sun Records boys already.) Here are the unbridled spirits that Robert Altman's film Nashville warned about; the wild-eyed visionaries that threatened to change the conventions of Country. Willie Nelson was and to this day still is a wolf in sheep's clothing, safe enough for mass consumption, dangerous enough to preserve his individuality. Kris Kristofferson, a songwriter first let the unbridled passions dictate what you can and can not do. Then there is Waylon Jennings... damn is all you can say, hot damn! This book starts in the 60s and follows these keys musicians as they lead the metamorphosis of an American sound.
(Crown Business)
Unthink; Rediscover Your Creative Genuis -  Erik Wahl
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH)  Picasso said that we are all born artists but when we grow older it is frowned on and we forget, something like that, its like playing telephone, Picasso to Amanda Palmer to The Bookie… but you get the gist. Wahl is an art renegade, graffiti artists turned inspirational speaker for the corporate set. He agrees with Picasso and in this book he attempts to give us tools to revert back to our creative selves. He not only encourages you to think outside of the box but to build something there that isn’t just another box. Rediscover the ability to see the Art all around you and the world will be your oyster… to paint!

You Look Different in Real Life  -   Jennifer Castle
(YOUNG ADULT)  If you are as old as the Bookie you remember the TV show James at 15; a documentary that chronicled a teenagers life. Imagine that the same format becomes as big as American Idol and The Truman Show combined and you have the set-up for this Everyman against Popular culture romance. In this case there are 5 subjects filmed, updated every 5 years. Justine is one of them and she has become the public’s darling. But a life in the media is no life at all and Justine, now a moody teen will find that it will be the relationships and bonds in real life that have any meaning.

Openly Straight - Bill Konigsberg
(YOUNG ADULT) There aren’t a lot of novels for teens about coming out, and of the few, few that are more accessible to the entire teen population than this story of Rafe, a sports-loving teen who also embraces his studies. And, oh yeah, he’s gay. He outed himself in the 8th grade, speaks to neighboring schools about his experience, a model student, but… all Rafe really wants is to be a regular guy. He transfers to a all boys private school and plans to put himself back-in the closet. It starts off well enough until he meets a student who is being victimized and he feels compelled to come to his aid. Using humor to breach the subject matter the novel becomes more of a universal story about being who you are is the only way to truly fit in.

(Little Brown)
The Watcher in the Shadows -  Carlos Ruiz Zafon, trans. Lucia Graves
(INDEPENDENT READER) One of the best modern Gothic storytellers out there (Shadows in The Mist for adults, Prince of Mist for teens) delivers another creepy, shadow riddled tale. A magical toymaker alone in a mansion, alone save for his creations and a wife locked in a room. There is also the lights dancing from within the abandoned lighthouse, not to mention the movement in the woods. Welcome to Blue Bay; nice play to grow up, huh? Young Irene and Ismael will need to depend on each other as forces converge and the mystery behind the bay.

The Apprentices - Maile Meloy, illus. Ian Schoenherr
(INDEPENDENT READER) Here’s a new spin on the tale of young children being caught up in a supernatural world hidden from the adults by a seasoned storyteller . After their adventure two years past (The E.B. White Read-Aloud Award winning, The Apothecary) Janie is still smitten over the opothecary’s son Benjamin. He has concocted a way that they can communicate with each other though half a globe away. Janie is in danger with no Ben to come to her aid so he uses his elixir to communicate with his friend Pip. Now the globetrotting adventure is put in motion and away we go with this Harry Potter meets Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys! The illustrations compliment Meloy’s vision of a magical world where friendship and loyalty can make anything possible.
The Night Pirates  - Peter Harris, illus. Deborah Allwright
(CHILDRENS) What’s better than laying down to sleep with pirates dancing in your heads? Arrr, lighten up mateys and read this here yarn to ye young’ins!  Poetic phrasing and amusing pictures tells the tale of the night pirates as they go a looting while the town sleeps; all save for Tom. They are girl pirates, tough ones at that and Tom joins their ranks in search of treasure. What if they aren’t the only pirates prowling in the dark? Kida will love the safe thrills this book delivers.

(Henry Holt & Co)
Missing Mommy: A Book About Bereavement -  Rebecca Cobb
(CHILDREN) This is one of the few books I have seen that deal with this heartbreaking issue and for that alone, for a voice on the page that a young child who has lost a mother can identify with, you already get The Bookie’s solemn nod. When you add some Kubler-Ross stages of grief to the mix in a gentle, not preachy way, you get a recommend. When you are able to approach a touchy issue such as this without being all Debbie Downer, instead embrace the love and support of family, you get hand claps of approval.

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