Sunday, June 29, 2014
Several books I reviewed last year (and a few I never got around to) have recently come out in paperback, including some that made my top 10 list for the year. Those books are noted by an asterix (*). Here for your browsing pleasure is a selection of recent paperback releases:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
by Gaiman, Neil (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Neil Gaiman’s first novel for adults in 8 years is a heady combination of fantasy, horror, nostalgia, and coming-of-age tale. Like all of Mr. Gaiman's work, there is much subtext to be mined. One could discuss the fascinating Hempstock women at length--their mythic origins and their relationship to other Hempstocks in the author's catalog. Or, you could concentrate on how the author examines adulthood from a child's perspective and childhood from an adult's perspective. Or, you could identify the influences of numerous other writers on this work, and explore the importance of literature in our lives and the power of story within the tale. What I'm saying is, that while The Ocean at the End of the Lane may be short on page count, it's quite long on substance. This one’s fantastic--in every sense of the word!
by Hiaasen, Carl (Grand Central Publishing)
As I read the opening pages of Bad Monkey, I was hit by an overwhelming sense of Hiaasen-ness. More than anything, it was the protagonist
& Sons *
by Gilbert, David (Random House Trade Paperbacks)
This novel opens at the funeral of Charles Topping and is narrated by his youngest son, Philip, whose life is a mess. Attending the funeral is Charlie's oldest friend, the legendary, reclusive novelist A.N. Dyer. Women are very much secondary in the story. It is about the complicated and sometimes fraught relationships of men, especially fathers and sons. Mr. Gilbert is the most delightful sort of prose stylist--smart, sophisticated, inventive. As I read, I reflected that for whatever reason, there are few novels that examine, in depth, the internal lives and relationships of men. Mr. Gilbert has a great sensitivity for nuance, and has created some endearingly flawed and fallible characters. This novel was truly a joy to read and one which it's a pleasure to recommend.
by Yanagihara, Hanya (Anchor)
“Never had men gotten closer to eternal life than they did with Norton's discovery. And yet never had such a wonderful promise slipped away so quickly: a secret found, a secret lost, all within the space of a decade." The People in the Trees opens with a bang, in the form of news articles describing the arrest and conviction of a Nobel Laureate scientist for the rape of one of his 43 adopted children! The bulk of the book comprises Norton’s prison memoir (punctuated with asides from his best friend) recounting the 1950’s expedition that made his career. They traveled to a remote Micronesian Island and discovered a “lost tribe” with astonishing longevity. This is an extraordinary tale, beautifully written, and perfect for readers who don’t mind a rather unlikeable protagonist.
by Leotta, Allison (Touchstone)
Assistant U.S. Attorney Anna Curtis has been looking for a high-profile case to boost her career, but this may be a little more than she bargained for. A beautiful young woman has been pushed from the balcony adjacent to Congressman Emmett Lionel's hideaway office in the U.S. Capitol building. Anointed “the female John Grisham,” this is Allison Leotta’s second Anna Curtis thriller, and it is a fine entry point for the series. Anna is a terrific character to build a series around. She’s very human, and her personal life is as compelling as her cases. Additionally, Leotta has built a fine cast of well-drawn secondary characters. The author is intimately familiar with the novels’ DC setting, and does the town full justice. Ultimately, mysteries come down to their plotting. The plotting here was both smart and tight. I stayed up far too late reading. Just one warning—this novel’s ending will leave readers clamoring for the next book in the series!
The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells *
by Greer, Andrew Sean (Ecco)
I read 225 books last year and this one was my favorite! The eponymous Greta opens the tale with, “The
The Cuckoo's Calling
by Rowling, J. K. (Mulholland Books)
I was not a fan of J.K. Rowling’s adult debut, therefore I didn’t rush to read The Cuckoo’s Calling when she was revealed to be the author. My loss. When I finally got around to it, it proved to be a real favorite. For me, the difference was in the characters. In short, I fell in love with wounded, down-on-his-luck private detective Cormoran Strike and his new office temp Robin Ellacott. The case they’re investigating involves the death of a supermodel, widely accepted as a suicide, but her brother, an old acquaintance of Cormoran’s, insists it cannot be. “Galbraith” crafts a perfectly credible mystery that will keep you guessing to the end. Still, for me, the success is all about the central characters. No one was more delighted than I to hear there’d be an on-going series. As someone once said, this could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
by Barry, Max (Penguin Books)
In fantasies, words—spells—have the power of magic. But what if you could be taught through science and
by Jansma, Kristopher (Penguin Books)
This tale begins in the form of a (fictional) author's note. It launches, "I've lost every book I've ever written." And ends,"These stories all are true, but only somewhere else." The novel's first-person narrator seems earnest enough, but be prepared for sleight of hand--or whatever the literary equivalent might be. The storytelling here is unconventional, it's meta-fictional, it's challenging, it's non-linear, it's literary, and, oh yes, it is always interesting. His writing is fantastic! It's read-aloud, eminently quotable, just a pleasure to absorb. Everything about this novel is stylish, stylized, and sophisticated. It's also very funny. It's gonzo, romantic, clever, and the sort of book to remind readers and writers both why they do what they do. In short, this is an exhilarating debut novel.
The Interestings *
by Wolitzer, Meg (Riverhead Trade)
So, I’ll start by saying that I read all 538 pages of this book in a single day, so consumed was I by this tale of six friends. They meet in 1974 as teenagers at a summer camp for the arts, and the story follows their con- tinuing (or interrupted) relationships for the next several decades as one by one they either “make it” or resign themselves to more ordinary lives. Wow, did I relate to these characters! They’re not too much older than me, and the events and references of their lives, so carefully observed by Ms. Wolitzer, mirror my own. Each of these six, as well as a supporting cast, is a fully-fleshed and rather fascinating character. Artsy people are endlessly entertaining, and even more so in the hands of this talented writer with a deep understanding of people. Additionally, she has a true gift for language that is as accessible as it is elegant.
So, let me know how this format works for you, Look for posts on new fiction, non-fiction, thrillers, speculative fiction, juvenile fiction, and more in the near future.
Sunday, June 22, 2014
Okay, I haven't posted in six months, so I think it's reasonable to ask, "What's your problem?" Readers of my last post will recall that I started a new job in January. I'm a full-time independent bookseller. Well, more than full-time. I'm regularly working six and occasionally even seven days a week. Naturally, there was a period of adjustment. I haven't worked retail in decades. I haven't stood for 8-9 hours a day for decades. And, of course, there was a learning curve, as this is my first bookstore experience.
Happily, I was well-trained by my generous employers and co-workers. And, let's face it--I bring a little industry knowledge to the job. So, the transition was fast-tracked and not too stressful. Still, I don't have the free time I once had. The store is open long hours, so I work days, nights, weekends, whatever. Thank goodness I love my work! (Was there really any doubt?) I get to hang out and talk about books all day!
Readers are also aware that I read, shall we say, more than the average citizen. I figured last year's 225 books would never be equaled. I was right. We're a smidge less than half-way through the year, and I passed the 150 book mark this week. And in case you're wondering, no, I don't ever read at the store. Television, however, is a thing of the past. One of the things I discovered was how much reading time I lost writing all those darn book reviews. They never came easily. It wasn't uncommon to work two or three hours on one. Not to mention the blog posting. Time-consuming! Apparently, I can read a good chunk of another book in the time it took to sweat out a detailed book review and post it. And reading all the books in the store is so helpful with work.
Obviously, I'll never read them all, but I make a fairly impressive dent in the high-profile releases weekly. I am NOT a speed reader, but I do read a bit faster than average. More to the point, I'm good at multi-tasking, i.e. reading while: commuting, grocery shopping, getting a pedicure, laundry, cooking dinner, etc. Also, I've got stamina. If you have, say, 16 hours on your day off, you can finish three not-excessively-long novels. Trust me, you can.
Of course, I haven't given up reviewing entirely. Now instead of creating free content for the increasingly Evil Empire (Amazon), I write brief shelf-talkers for the bookstore. Brevity does not come naturally! Each review is a about a paragraph long. It occurs to me that there's no reason why I shouldn't share these shorter reviews here in batches, along with the occasional longer piece, video I still shoot, and other random cool bookish stuff. It's really sad... I spend almost every waking moment in a bookstore. When I have time off, what do I do? Visit other bookstores.
Oh, and sometimes I travel to bookish events. Back in May, I attended the Nebula Awards Weekend, and I'm off to Thrillerfest in New York for the ninth year running. Oy. So, I guess what I'm saying is, stay tuned. I took a break, but I'm going to try to do better.
Is anyone still out there? Please feel free to say "hi" in the comments.