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Thursday, November 29, 2012

New York Times Notable Books of 2012

The New York Tiems has published their list of the top 100 books in fiction and in nonfiction. I always look forward to the list to see how many I have read. I'm just going to list some of the fiction works that we have that I think might interest you along with short phrase descriptions. Many, I have spoken of before but no room for pictures for this post - too many books.

An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer - one word description - espionage
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter - straight literary novel of a long lost love.
Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain - coming of age; Iraq War; Dallas Cowboys - combined in one book.
Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie - short stories by a superb short story author about the current day plight of Native Americans.
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel - second in the series of Thomas Cromwell's England
Canada by Richard Ford - coming of age and innocence lost.
Carry the One by Carol Anshaw - how a devastating drunken accident affects the lives of a group of friends.
Dear Life by Alice Munro - short stories about an ordinary life.
Enchantments by Kathryn Harrison - Rasputin's daughter and Prince Alyosha dream up a world that will never be.
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver - Applachia environment - climate change is the focus in novel format.
Fobbit by David Abrams - More on the Iraqi War with satire as the format - think M*A*S*H* and Catch 22.
Gathering of Waters by Bernice L. McFadden - Money, Mississippi and Emmett Till. Historical realism with some magic thrown in.
HHhH by Laurent Binet - Prague - 1942 - the Gestapo and two men assigned to kill it's head, Reinhard Heydrich.
A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers - a struggling salesman trying to pay his duaghter's college tuition in a Saudi Arabian city.
Home by Toni Morrison - a Korean War veteran is forced to return to his hometown, a small town in Georgia.
In One Person by John Irving - a story of unfulfilled love and trying to make yourself whole featuring a bisexual.
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash - the love between two brothers, one of whom is mute.
NW by Zadie Smith - a look at London through the eyes of 4 neighbors.
Pure by Julianna Baggott -a wide range of opinions on this dystopian novel that is not for YAs.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich - a tale of injustice  in a community where Ojibwe and white live uneasily together
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward - a story of rural poverty and motherless children that help each other survive.
Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer - A woman born without hair; her astronaut husband with Ausberger Sydrome and an autistic child and THEN the trouble starts.
The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont - a coming of age story that is filled with melancholy. A young rebellious prep school student with a desire to sail.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan - a young, beautiful, female Cambridge graduate is recruited into the British Intelligence Service.
Swimming Home by Deborah Levy - short listed for the Booker prize but beaten by Bring Up the Bodies, a book of 4 dysfunctional tourists on the French Riviera and another depressed acquaintence.
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon - a used record store in Oakland, CA run by two friends; a major new music store threatening to move in down the block; a midwivery service run byt he friends wifves which is threaten with legal proceeding on an at home birth gone bad - sounds depressing but Chabon writes with humor.
The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin - gives Mary a voice but she present a very different picture.
This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz - stories of love, longing and the weakness of the human heart.
Watergate by Thomas Mallon - a retelling of the Watergae scandal in novel format.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers - Once again the Iraqi War and a story of what war does to young men.

How many of these have you read? I've only read about 10 of the 30 I have listed. All are available from the library. Take a look at a few.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Thrilling Season

I've been silent for a time, I know. The Thanksgiving holiday got busy at my house. But I am back and although December is not a big publishing month, the months of December and January have quite an array of thrillers to interest you. There are some really, really well known authors as well as some that might perhaps be new to you.

On December 4th, Robin Cook comes out with Nano, the continuing saga of Pia Grazdani from Death Benefit. Pia goes from stem cell research and insurance fraud in the first novel to molecular manufacturing. OK - so those terms might be foreign to you but imagine tiny little molecular robots that are able to get inside you and get rid of viruses and bacteria. Imagine what some people will do for the medical discovery of the century. If you like Cook's medical thrillers, this will be a must read.

Another fairly well known author is Michael Palmer, another doctor turned novelist. He is coming out with Political Suicide on December 11th. This features Doctor Lou Welcome, who also starred in Oath of Office. As a doctor/detective, an accused friend asks him to investigate the death of a powerful congressman. Welcome is finding it harder and harder to believe his friend until he turns over some clues that lead to a high level conspiracy. This has some rave reviews from critics.

Another perennial favorite, W.E.B. Griffin comes out with Empire and Honor: An Honor Bound Novel on December 31st. This continues the adventures of Cletus Frade during and right after World War II. Even though this takes place in Oct 1945 and the war is over, intrigue and adventure continues for Cletus. The US has made a secret deal with the German Intelligence branch that handled Soviet activities. The Germans would give the US all the information about the Russian spies in the atomic bomb program IF the US would keep the people in the branch safe. Griffin writes with all the usual traditional high adventure where good men are MEN and women are beautiful.

Dick Wolf was the creator of Law & Order, the TV series and created the current Chicago Fire. He is well known and is award winning in the television community. On December 26th, he publishes his first novel, The Intercept: A Jeremy Fisk Novel. Fisk is a New York police detective who is in the Intelligence Division - modelled on the CIA. When an incident occurs on a flight over the Atlantic just days before the dedication of One World Trade Center at Ground Zero, a single terrorist is publicized by the department. Fisk has other ideas and he and his partner try to get to the bottom of the plot. Time is not on their side. Sounds like a suspenseful read.

This is just a taste of what is coming in the next 2 months. More next time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

National Book Award Winners!

Just a short post to announce the winners of the National Book Awards which were announced last night.

For young people's literature - William Alexander's fantasy "Goblin Secrets"

For nonfiction work - Katherine Boo's "Behind the Beautiful Forevers"

For fiction - Louise Erdrich's "The Round House"

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Amazon's Top 20 Books of the Year

The editorial team at Amazon has announced what they consider are the best top 10 titles of 2012. Most of these I have read and enjoyed but there are a handful that I need to read to see if I agree. Are there any of these which you need to check out?

The Round House by Louise Erdrich. USAToday has said that this title "is filled with stunning language that recalls shades of Faulkner, Garcia Marquez and Toni Morrison. Deeply moving, this novel ranks among Erdrich's best work, and it is impossible to forget." It is a tale of justice and redemption when a woman is attacked on a North Dakota reservation, her 13-year-old son sets out with his friends to get to the truth.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers. I've spoken of this title before and reviewers seem to put it in the running for book of the year. This first time authror's poignant story of 2 young soldiers in Iraq has been said to be "compact and powerful as a footlocker full of ammo." The LA Times has said it "might just be the first American literary masterpiece produced by the Iraq war, even if an imperfect one. It is, without a doubt, a powerful and disturbing statement about the brutality of that conflict, and of the deep wounds inflicted on thousands of our citizen-soldiers."

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I've spoken of this one too. I loved this book! A fascinating psychological suspense title about a troubled marriage and how people may not be who you think they are. I've recommended this book to lots of people. If you haven't read it ---do so.

The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe. This title details the conversations between mother and son during the 2 years of the mothers treatment and death from pancreatic cancer. What could be a deeply depressing tale is not as mother and son plunge into some of life’s thorniest questions.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. Another book about the Iraq War but this one is set during the Bush administration. This title follows Bravo troop whose skirmish was caught on Fox News making them all heroes. The novel takes place in one day whine the troop is honored at a football game in Dallas Stadium. Huffington Post says "Fountain has written a funny novel that provides skewering critiques of America's obsession with sports, spectacle, and war, but ultimately this is a book about a very young man who has to decide why he fights and if he will continue to do so."

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo. The New York Times says that Boo is "one of those rare, deep-digging journalists who can make truth surpass fiction, a documentarian with a superb sense of human drama. She makes it very easy to forget that this book is the work of a reporter."

A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers. The San Francisco Chronicle says this is an "extraordinary work of timely and provocative themes, including the decline of American manufacturing, the sufferings of the middle class and the collapse of the global economy." It centers on Alan Clay, an out of work salesman, who is trying to land a gigantic IT contract in Saudi Arabia. While waiting for an audience with King Abdullah, he wiles away his time feeling lonely, depressed and superfluous.

The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg. the story of a dangerously overweight woman and the relatives who are trying, in various ineffectual ways, to save her life when “everything about her was collapsing.” The Book Reporter says ""With pitch-perfect prose, huge compassion, and sly humor, Jami Attenberg has given us an epic story of marriage, family, and obsession."

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. This is a collection of essays written during the last 19 months of Hitchen's life. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the spring of 2010 and died in December of 2011. The New Statesmen says "Wit, irony, the consolations of philosophy – these are the reserves we draw on when medicine can do no more. And rarely were they more formidably deployed than by Hitchens." In other words, while definitely written about a depressing subject, this book is not depressing.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Hazel is a 16 year old girl with stage IV thyroid cancer, and has been living with an oxygen tank since she was first diagnosed at 12. She realizes she is going to die, but she is on a drug that is keeping the tumors at bay. At a support group meeting she meets Augustus Waters, who is in remission. They immediately hit it off and change each others lives drastically. This is a teen book that will make you laugh and cry - and realize that not all endings are happy.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

While You Are Waiting

Who doesn't like to laugh? Anyone out there? Those who do like to laugh, are probably already on the list for Janet Evanovich's Notorious Nineteen which comes out on November 20. If you are on the list and while you are waiting, you might want to try one of these humorous mysteries. OK - I admit it. I like a little humor in my mysteries. Two of the authors I am going to recommend are among my favorites.

Lisa Lutz writes a series on the Spellman family. The Spellmans are Albert and Olivia (the parents), David (the perfect older brother), Isabel (the rebellious middle child) and Rae (the youngest brat). All but David run a PI firm in San Francisco. Well, I love San Francisco but in addition, this series has me rolling on the floor laughing. I have heard the author speak and she is just as funny in person - irreverent, inappropriate and hysterical. The books in order are: The Spellman Files; Curse of the Spellmans; Revenge of the Spellmans; The Spellman's Strike Again; and finally or most recently (I hope not finally) Trail of the Spellmans.
Next comes Harley Jane Kozak's series about Wollie Shelley, a greeting card designers, who stumbles over a dead body and develops a talent for murder investigations. The titles include: Dating Dead Men; Dating is Murder; Dating Ex;  and most recently A Date You Can't Refuse.  Kirkus Reviews called her “funny, brave, smart, and altogether the fetchingest crime heroine since the early Stephanie Plum,”  Give Wollie a try.
Gemma Halliday has a series about Maddie Springer, a shoe designer turned amateur sleuth. The titles in order are: Spying in High Heels; Killer in High Heels; Undercover in High Heels; Alibi in High Heels; Mayhem in High Heels; and the most recent Fearless in High Heels. There are just as many quirky characters and she even has a trigger happy cohort like Lulu.

OK - this one might be a farther reach but this series by Spencer Quinn is just as funny. Instead of a woman protagonist though, it has a dog. Quinn pens the Bernie and Chet mystery series. I love this series. Much of it is told from the point of view of the dog and his voice is so very dog like that once again, I am laughing out loud in waiting rooms (people look at you strangely when you do that). Bernie runs a private detective agency out of his home and his partner is Chet, a police dog who had an unfortunate incident with a cat during his final test. The titles are Dog On It; Thereby Hangs a Tail; To Fetch a Thief; The Dog Who Knew Too Much; and just out A Fistful of Collars.  Kirkus Reviews says that Bernie and Chet are "the coolest human/pooch duo this side of Wallace and Gromit” and it has been praised by Stephen King as "a canine Sam Spade full of joie de vivre," If you want a laugh and even if dog mysteries are not your thing, give this a try.

Enjoy one or two of these while you wait.