Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Best Book Bets - 5/28/13

14 more red hot best bet picks (hot off the press, not off the grill
Next week will be the Bookie's 1 year anniversary!
(that's a lot of recommended books)
We have a SEARCH BAR on the home page to play with and genre tabs to come shortly. Have fun, read, and as Vonnegut told a graduating class, "Use sunscreen."

The Son  -  Philipp Meyer   
(FICTION/CLOTH) I remember seeing Polanski's film Tess and thinking, 'I didn't think you could make movies like this anymore.' I get the same feeling when it comes to novel writing when I read this author. A still young author who's credits already include the lauded American Rust, Meyer has the unique gift of presenting multi-generational horse operas on an epic scale. It has the political scope of John Ford's The Searchers and the homespun attention to character of McMurtry. A young teen has has his mom and sis slaughtered by the Comanche who end up raising him as their own. The end result is an introspective Rambo trying to find his place in the world. Its "Texas, the Mini-series" meets Little Big Man. Enough cultural references yet? Think of this novel as a welcome addition to the canon of great American fiction.

(McSweeney's McMullens)
Mermaid in Chelsea Creek  - Michelle Tea, illus.  Jason Polan 
(FICTION/CLOTH) A literary fairy tale for adults? I'm in. Sophie is a teenage outcast, what with her wild hair and dingy clothes. Plus she tells a tale of a swearing mermaid that lives beneath the streets of Chelsea, MA. Could this loser of a girl and her mythic being breath some magic into the eyesore of a town. Maybe she is just the thing they need to believe in. A lyrical tale that is a joy to read, atmospheric and constantly weaving a spell of its own as she gives us a girl and a dream to believe in. The novel is given the classy treatment you'd expect from Egger's McSweeneys Press; embossed cover, evocative illustrations and pages you just want to hug.

Good Kings Bad Kings  - Susan Nussbaum

(FICTION/CLOTH) This debut won the PEN/Bellwether prize and once you are thrown into these characters world you immediately know why. A myriad of voices gives us a candid look into the difficult world of juveniles with disabilities and the people who try to care for them. One caretaker Joanne has just come on board and empathizes with each individual. She soon learns that it is each of the teens who lend support to each other that will ultimately elevate their lives. There is Yessenia dreams of the date that will allow her to live independently, Teddy who finds his normalcy in dressing to the nines every day, to the secretive Mia. A disturbing and enlightening novel that gives the general public a glimpse into a world unknown to them unless touched directly by these exceptional people.

Archipelago -  Monique Roffey  
(FICTION/CLOTH) This author is a previous Orange Award winner which tells you two things, there will be a religious theme running through the novel and it is guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings. Unbridled water has wreck havoc in Gavin's world. A flood took his house. When he returned to Trinidad to rebuild the threat of the rainy season is too much for his daughter to bear. Instead of retreating far away from the clutches of this seemingly malevolent expression of nature Gavin, his daughter, and their trusty dog embark sail from their Caribbean home through the archipelagos to confront the ocean in all its power and grandeur.
You Are One of Them  Elliott Holt
(FICTION/CLOTH)  This is a wild story about the extents we will go to keep that which is deemed important in our lives. Sarah's best friend, Jenny, has had her letter chosen to be sent to Yuri Andropov asking for an end to the Cold War. She is set to travel to the USSR to present it the plane flying her and her family their crashes. Now Sarah is prepared to graduate college the loss of her friend still burns. A letter arrives from the former Soviet Union that implies that Jenny's tragedy may have been a hoax. She needs to learn the truth and travels to the USSR to discover it and perhaps the most important relationship in her life. Politics are like our own minds, deception upon deception before one gets to the truth of the matter.

(Penguin/Pamela Dorman)
Looking For Me - Beth Hoffman
(FICTION/CLOTH) Sometimes you just need a feel-good, summer read. If that's the case there are few that dole them out better than Hoffman. She has knack at fleshing out unique characters you give a hoot about, all with a good ol' southern drawl. Teddi has a gift for taking people's thrown-away furniture and breathing new life into them, restoring them to their former glory. The people who frequent her shop are as unique as the pieces she restores.Once she learns that her long lost brother Josh may be alive Teddi needs to return home and do an overhaul of her own life to reclaim what was once beautiful in her family. A comfortable metaphor and a good yarn, sure to make fans of Trigiani and Flagg smile.

Ooo La La: Frech Women's Secrets to Feeling Beautiful Every Day - Jamie Cat Callen 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) This Queen of all that is divine is just what we need in trying times when we tend to forget that a little pampering does a lot to illuminate the soul. She has already taught us to say "Bonjour" to happiness and has reminded us that French Girls do not sleep alone. Now she lets us in on the biggest secret yet, French women are not more beautiful than any other country's, they are just raised to have their beauty shine. Its not in their genes but in how they feel when they put their jeans on! This is more than a makeover book, its about the attitude adjustment of her readers. Sure perfume, style, makeup, lingerie (I think that's what puts the Ooh in the La La) is all covered as if she's your inner French girl's consultant, but its when she implors us all to embrace the beauty all around you, surrounding yourself with it, and having it reflect your personal beauty that she brings it home.As Cole Porter would say, her teachings are 'C'est Maginifique!"

Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight -  M.E. Thomas
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH)  Last year there was the book that was essentially a test to see if you were one. Now we have a disturbingly candid memoir of someone who aced the test. Take Dragon Tattoo's Lisbeth and combine her with Dexter's sister and you have a juggernaut of calculated deception and manipulation. This book is an extension of her blog, Sociopathworld.com and further elaborates on her confessions on just how calculated all her interactions with people are. Even though she doesn't have a violent component to her condition her actions and lack of interest in the consequence of them cuts like a knife. Perhaps after reading this you may be better prepared to contend with the sociopath in your life but I doubt it. They seem too dang ruthless and smart.

Invisibility  -  Andres Cremer, David Levithan
(YOUNG ADULT)  Don't you hate it when your granddad, you know, the one who is a cursecaster, makes you invisible and you have to spend the brunt of your childhood in that condition? Stephen certainly does and it it isn't until a girl named Elizabeth walks into his life and, get this, can see him, that the chance at a real life can begin. They say that love can conquer all but does that apply to battling people like his gramps and the spellseekers, people who want that magic for their own? Only a budding romance and life-threatening altercations can tell.

(Simon Pulse)
How My Summer Went Up In Flames - Jennifer Sakvato Doktorski
(YOUNG ADULT) Rosie doesn't take rejection well. Just ask her ex who's car she torched. Despite the restraining order slapped on her, her attempts at reconciliation being viewed as stalking, and the fact that as each day of her Summer vacation passes she feels less and less in control of her sanity. To keep her away from continuing to harass her former boyfriend her parents implement a family road trip. Rosie wants no part of it, even fabricates a scheme of running away and hitchhiking home to win back her boy. Its a long summer and a new romance might just wait just past the next bend.

Doll Bones -  Holly Black, illus. by Eliza Wheeler
(INDEPENDENT READER) First, aren't the names Zach, Poppy and Alice perfect for a fantasy tale? That said we have one unnerving tale that has all the creepiness of Gaiman's Coraline. Kids love playing with toys, building a world they have control over. One day Zach's Dad throws away all the children's toys. Its time to grow up and stop playing with dolls. The children will have none of this. The two girls come to visit him to help him with a "doll" adventure worthy of an older boy. Seems they are being haunted by the spirit of a dead girl who's bones had been ground up to make the china doll. They must find the girl's home, its mystery, and bury the doll or the are all cursed to be haunted... forever. How's that for spooky?

(Drawn & Quarterly)
Marble Season - Gilbert Hernandez
(INDEPENDENT READER) Love and Rockets broke the ground as the first bestselling graphic novels with an autobiographical voice. Here with Marble Season Gilbert takes the coming-of-age stories of all the Hernandez brothers and shares with us the trial and tribulations of growing up in California in the'60s. Its a postmodern glimpse, keenly aware of the pop icons of the day. There are children's games that grow old, bullies who grow ornery, and teens who refuse to grow up. It is a celebration of story-telling and the power of the imagination to help us through the mini-dramas of life. Another benchmark achievement in graphic novels.

(FYI FOR INDEPENDENT READERS: Rick Riordan's The Kane Chronicles, Book Three: The Serpent's Shadow is now in trade paperback with a previously unpublished short story added!)
(Random House for YR)
When Mermaids Sleep  - Ann Bonwill, illus. Steve Johnson, Lou Fancher
(CHILDRENS  You can never have too many effective goodnight-sleep tight books in your arsenal. The Bookie has a soft spot for the sea so caught, hook, line, and sinker. This beautifully illustrated book coos of sleeping mermaids and snoring pirates, fairies, and sleepy girls. The award-winning artists will be heavy favorites again this year and the words are delicate and soothing, as sleep inducing as the lapping waves.

Octopus Alone  -  Divya Srinivasan
(CHILDREN) You wouldn't think an octopus couldnd be cuddly cute but leave it to Srinivasen's delcate strokes of pen to create quite a lovely creature. She sees her under the wave world from the safe confines of her cave; fish, turtles, seahorse, all playing. She wants more quiet and searches for another cave, one far more desolate. Once achieved the little octopus learns something quite special, even though she likes to be alone, she like to be with friends more. Srinivasan tale is both soothing and understated in presentation and message.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Best Book Bets - 5/21/13

Just in time for the unofficial start of summer, the odds-maker of the printed word, The Literary Bookie presents the latest Bookie's Dozen (O.K., it's 14 pickets but if Bakers can have 1r, then...) 6-2-2-2-2 (6 Fiction - 2 Non-Fiction - 2 Young Adult - 2 Independent Reader - 2 Children's) 14 red hot best bet picks (The Bookie's dozen come hot off the press where the Baker's dozen comes from an oven.)

And the Mountains Echoed  -  Khaled Hosseini  
(FICTION/CLOTH) It’s been six years since the author breathed life into his homeland, Afghanistan. His first novel, The Kite Runner is already a summer reading list title for teens. His follow-up, A Thousand Splendid Suns painted the passion he has for his country in even more lavish strokes. This time out he pulls the iris open wide to include a vast array of locales and customs; from Paris to San Fran and seemingly everywhere in between. His narrative strains under his ambition but his observations of human interaction and an acute sense of detail when the details reflect the souls of the characters are as spot on as his takes on Kabul. Diverse characters paths cross, each affecting the other in immeasurable ways. Like all of his books it is about the familial passions that fight with themselves; ultimately healing but not without a sizable amount of emotional damage in their wake. Plus there is a metaphorical reference to legendary monster named Dic and you know The Bookie can’t get enough of that! A fine book for his fan base.

(Random House)
The Redeemer  - Jo Nesbo and Don Bartlett 
(FICTION/CLOTH) Just as King said about Barker pertaining to the genre of horror I would like the spirit of Stieg Larssen to rise long enough to proclaim, “I have scene the new face of crime mystery and his name is Jo Nesbo!” I’m not alone thinking this author deserves such praise. Martin Scorsese, his equivalent in film, one who can making griity crime drama into an art form, is presently in production on his earlier novel, The Snowman. His character is Harry Hole, an investigator battling his own demons, each time out getting closer to being that which he hunts. On night a Salvation Army officer is shot dead in the cold streets of Oslo in a bungled hit. Hole hunts for the assassin, The Redeemer, before he can complete his mission. The hit is also tangled up with Hole’s past and an abused girl a decade in his past. His writing grabs you by the collar and shakes, never lets you go, providing one cliffhanger after another. Start here or at the beginning of Hole’s saga (this is #4.) You’ll be set for the summer!

The Fall of Arthur  - J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien

(FICTION/CLOTH) Fans of Tolkien would break into a fourth breakfast just to read the napkins of the author never mind an entire novel. It’s a fine work, shades of fleshing out evident and you can tell why he left it in the drawer to pursue his own pathos with The Hobbit. Arthur the cuckold breaks through his depression when he learns Mordred has once again rebelled. With Lancelot banished from his table he needs to coax his men together for one last battle. The text has been edited by Tolkien’s son though a rougher draft may have appealed to die-hard fans. Christopher explains his process in a series of essays but it the remaining tale the proves a rough wireframe on which to build Middle Earth.It sure beats reading napkins, but if you find any, especially penned by both Tolkien AND C.S. Lewis, let me know!

The Whispering Muse -  Sjon, trans. by Victoria Cribb  
(FICTION/CLOTH) Now here’s the stuff of legend, a man is seated at the captain’s table each night of a cruise. Each evening the second mate weaves a tale to end all tales. They take all who listen to some fantastic place far from the drear of their lives. Sjón, the author (one name, like Bjork) uses a highly stylized poetic delivery; a magical realism that is effective in its sparse detail. As the tale unfolds and all the crew and guests reflect on the growing myth it alters the perspective of all on board. Its like the best sea stories or tales told before a fire, heavy on tone, like on logic; all you know is you feel the character’s dread ebb and fall with the tide. It is truly enchanting, you too will believe in the power of story to have lifelong effects on you as well. 
Screwed Eoin Colfer
(FICTION/CLOTH)  Colfer is best known for his intergalactic young adult series Artemis Fowl. Well he's also dabbled in the mystery genre with a novel entitled Plugged. This sequel continues to follow Daniel McEvoy. He uses his finely honed skill at writing thrills and undulating plotlines to keep the pages turning but he also humble enough to realize that he is not at par with the masters of the genre and so takes a postmodern shot at black comedy more in line with Haiasson and Leonard than Patterson and Ludlum. The Irish underground has its grip on New Jersey. McEnroy sifts through a stereotypical parody of a cast of characters. Its refreshing to read a book in this genre that doesn't take itself too deadly serious. With its laughs and thrills it makes for a satisfying beach read.   

The Resurrectionist; The Lost Work of Dr. Spenser Black - E.B. Hudspeth
(FICTION/CLOTH) I don't know which is more disturbing, the manical work of the troubled Dr. Black or his obsessive etchings of his work. Its the 1800's, bathed ghostly by gaslight. Son of a grave robber turned respective doctor believes that all the mythical beasts existed before being erased by a little thing called evolution. The biography of the doctors rise to fame from working with his father, to researching the carnival circuit to his Lovecraftian disappearance is written with the detachment of a documentarian of the day. The appendix is where the chill hits home. The Codex Extinct Animalia is the disturbing sketchbook of the deranged doctor, obsessive in detail and disturbing in probability. Enter the mind of Dr. Black, if you dare!

The Prophets of Smoked Meat - Daniel Vaughn 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH) Anthony Bourdain loves inginous food from all over the globe. It makes sense that the first book on his imprint would be a gushing valentine to a land and the food that best represents it. In this case its Texas and its beloved BBQ. Daniel Vaughn had the enviable task of sampling over 500 restaurants, stands and smokers throughout the state for research. Be careful what you wish for is the lesson learned for his conclusion is that the blessed smoked meats most of us in the country chow on is garbage. This book is part an extension of his blog Full Custom Gospel BBQ and part road trip through the recipes, the inventors and the plateful after plateful of the alchemy of meat, smoke, and flame.

American Gun: A History of the U.S. in Ten Firearms -  Chris Kyle 
(NON-FICTION/CLOTH)  Whether you are on the left or the right of the gun regulation issue one thing is undeniable, guns have defined us as a population throughout our history. Kyle, an ex-SEAL and author of American Sniper certainly learned lesson one of a troop, love your gun. He uses ten of them to illustrate the dtate of the nation at the time and how they were integral in that era. Starting with the Kentucky rifle all the way to sniper preferred H&K M4, Kyle not only presents his research of the weapon in American history but hunts down and shares first-hand what its like to fire said weapons. A fascinating lens to look back at our history reenforcing how gun culture is deeply entrenched in our culture. If only all the people in our nation were so reverent towards these weapons.

Gorgeous  -  Paul Rudnick
(YOUNG ADULT)  What if your fairy godmother was a world famous fashion designer in a trailer park? How's that for a setup. As soon as you can say bippity boppity boo Becky Randle does from hum drum to va-va-voom with the zip up of one of his dresses. The novel takes on an 80s film comedy devise where the world sees her as the most beautiful teen in the world but she only sees her mousey self in the mirror. Becky becomes Rebecca, the toast of the town. Enter her prince, really, a prince who will need to fall in love with the real her, her inner Becky, in order to find true love. Campy, cleverly written fairy tale for the YA set.

School Spirits - Rachel Hawkins
(YOUNG ADULT) Hawkins takes her paranormal romance writing skills to teen lit with glee. Teens and monsters, I know, been there, read that, but Izzy is one spunky girl you want to fight alongside. She comes across as a 15 year old version of the paranormal romance heroines; write what you know, right? For Izzy its a family thing, hunting magic and slaying beasts. One day Izzy's sister vanishes and her mom decides to call the family business quits. Wouldn't you know it but the high school at the new town they move to is haunted. Hate that! Izzy has to try to fit in at school, vanquish the haunters and find her sister. Will there be a romantic angle as well? You betcha!

(Dutton Juvenile)
Theodore Boone: The Activist -  John Grisham
(INDEPENDENT READER) I get perturbed by so many adult literature authors getting into the young adult novel biz (Patterson, really? REALLY!?) I draw an exception with Grisham just as I did with Robert B. Parker when he was alive. Why? Because there aren't enough novels at this reading level that boys can comfortably sink their teeth into. Boone is a teen investigator, natch, who discovers corruption in his town and feels pressure to be the whistle blower. Enough twists and turns to keep the kids caring and a nice nod towards making moral decisions and being eternally vigilant.

Odessa Again - Dana Reinhardt
(INDEPENDENT READER)  If it was only that simple... Odessa discovers that by stamping her foot in a secret way on her bedroom floor she can rewind her life by one day. Erase, erase, a chance to coreect your wrongs, do that which you wish you did only moments after you didn't.Adjusted school tests seems a logical beginning. She starts to feel that it shouldn't be all about her and tries to tweak her brother's popularity and her parents marriage with adverse results. That's the the thing with time-line continuum, it always comes back to bite. Still Odessa wants to help, magic or none. You root for her in all her gushing passion for friends and family, you'll want to stamp on your floor in hopes of winding back a day in hopes of meeting her face to face.

Friends  - Mies van Hout
(CHILDRENS) When Happy was first released I was captivated by the textural illustrations and the feelings they evoked. The world agreed. Now comes another stellar achievement in children's illustration. Friends is sparse on words allowing the pictures to tell the story. Plus friends has the cuddliest monsters you've ever seen. They do everything that friends do together from cuddle to tease (friendship is not always sugary sweet) After reading this I'd leave milk and cookies under my bed in hopes of having one of them living there.

A Funny Little Bird  - Jennifer Yerkes
(CHILDREN) This is the charming tale of an invisible bird. See it? How can you, its invisible? But there it is. The lonely bird thinks if it gets flashy plumage it will make it popular. She certainly stands out, even to a hungry fox! A ruckus ensues and she loses her flashy new accoutrements. Again safe, the bird learns a lesson and finds itself less lonely. Beautiful illustrations fill the store with charm.