Category Archives: Genres

Neil Gaiman – Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me

One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, was on the NPR news quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me just before New Years.

To listen to the podcast you can click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you don’t know who Neil Gaiman is, visit his website here.

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New Fiction this Holiday

The massive new novel from international sensation Murakami (What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) sold out in his native Japan, where it was released in three volumes, and is bound to provoke a similar reaction in America, where rabid fans are unlikely to be deterred by its near thousand-page bulk. Nor should they be; Murakami’s trademark plainspoken oddness is on full display in this story of lapsed childhood friends Aomame and Tengo, now lonely adults in 1984 Tokyo, whose destinies may be curiously intertwined. Aomame is a beautiful assassin working exclusively for a wealthy dowager who targets abusive men. Meanwhile Tengo, an unpublished writer and mathematics instructor at a cram school, accepts an offer to write a novel called Air Chrysalis based on a competition entry written by an enigmatic 17-year-old named Fuka-Eri. Fuka-Eri proves to be dangerously connected to the infamous Sakigake cult, whose agents are engaged in a bloody game of cat-and-mouse with Aomame. Even stranger is that two moons have appeared over Tokyo, the dawning of a parallel time line known as 1Q84 controlled by the all-powerful Little People. The condensing of three volumes into a single tome makes for some careless repetition, and casual readers may feel that what actually occurs doesn’t warrant such length. But Murakami’s fans know that his focus has always been on the quiet strangeness of life, the hidden connections between perfect strangers, and the power of the non sequitur to reveal the associative strands that weave our modern world. 1Q84 goes further than any Murakami novel so far, and perhaps further than any novel before it, toward exposing the delicacy of the membranes that separate love from chance encounters, the kind from the wicked, and reality from what people living in the pent-up modern world dream about when they go to sleep under an alien moon.

Click here for another review.

MWA Grand Master Grafton’s finely tuned 22nd Kinsey Millhone novel (after 2009’s U Is for Undertow) finds the sharp-witted California PI filled with remorse after the apparent suicide of Audrey Vance, a woman she helped arrest for shoplifting. When Audrey’s perplexed fiancé, Marvin Striker, hires Kinsey to further investigate her death, Kinsey’s astute and relentless prying opens a Pandora’s box. Was Audrey tied to major crime lords? Are these racketeers linked to corrupt cops? Kinsey’s prickly personality and tart tongue antagonize just about everyone, including Marvin, several loan sharks, a stone-cold killer, and a hapless burglar who knows more than is healthy for him. For good measure, Kinsey gets punched in the face on her 38th birthday. An engrossing subplot involves an illicit love affair that neatly dovetails into the main story. This being 1988, Kinsey relies on her Rolodex, file cards, and land line, but her intuition is her chief asset. Readers will wish her well on her feisty and independent way to the end of the alphabet. Author tour.

 

Wry humor, a fully realized lead, and tense atmospherics lift Sandford’s suspenseful fifth novel featuring Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension agent Virgil Flowers (after Edgar-winner Bad Blood). When a bomb kills a construction superintendent in Butternut Falls, a small community divided over the imminent arrival of a PyeMart megastore, Virgil gets on the case, even though it’s his day off. Three weeks earlier, a bomb exploded at PyeMart’s Michigan headquarters shortly before a board meeting. Willard Pye, the company head, was unharmed, but his executive assistant was blown to pieces. Given the number of locals hostile to the company, Virgil has no shortage of possible suspects, and the ante rises as more bombs are detonated. Coupling a thoroughly modern investigative approach with old-fashioned logical deduction, Virgil narrows in on his target. Sandford effortlessly conjures up the rhythms and personalities of a small town in one of his best outings to date.

 

Bestseller Bohjalian’s latest novel (after Secrets of Eden) is a gripping paranormal thriller set in a remote New England town. Airline pilot Chip Linton is beset by survivor’s guilt after crashing his plane upon takeoff, killing all but nine aboard. His family moves to Bethel, N.H., to escape the media glare while Chip recovers from PTSD, but they soon discover that the sleepy village harbors evil things. Their new home, once the site of a young boy’s suicide, contains mysterious passageways, hidden weapons, and a secret crypt. And their neighbors, New Age gardeners and homeopaths, soon reveal themselves to be occultists with designs on the Lintons’ twins. Chip begins receiving visits from his dead passengers, including an eight-year-old and her bloodthirsty father, who demands Chip find her a friend—at any cost. Meticulous research and keen attention to detail give depth and character to Bohjalian’s eerie world, but the spookiness consistently gives way to silliness, and the Lintons’ typical response to the strange goings on, an uneasy mix of suspicion and credulity, is a problem. Still, Bohjalian is a master,, and the slow-mounting dread makes this a frightful ride.

I cannot wait to read this next book.

The hype surrounding what’s being billed as the first pastiche ever officially approved by the Conan Doyle estate is amply justified in this authentic, if melancholy, recreation of the beloved Baker Street characters by the creator of the acclaimed Foyle’s War TV series. A year after Sherlock Holmes’s death (from natural causes), Watson takes up his pen one last time to recount a case they shared in 1890 that was “too monstrous, too shocking” to appear in print. The opening is prosaic enough. London art dealer Edmund Carstairs asks for the detective’s help after a shadowy figure in a flat cap, apparently an Irish-American thug bent on revenge, surfaces near Carstairs’s Wimbledon home. When a murder follows Holmes getting involved, the trail leads him and the good doctor to a powerful secret society known as the House of Silk. Horowitz gets everything right–the familiar narrative voice, brilliant deductions, a very active role for Watson, and a perplexing and disturbing series of puzzles to unravel–and the legion of fans of the originals will surely be begging for Horowitz to again dip into Watson’s trove of untold tales. Author tour.

In Rendell’s fine follow-up to A Sight for Sore Eyes (1999), a non-Wexford novel in which a working-class aesthete’s quest for beauty earned him an ugly, unexpected end, horror strikes the home improvement plans of Martin and Anne Rokeby. The couple are seriously disconcerted to discover multiple bodies in varying states of decay in a long-forgotten vault beneath their London garden. In the art world, the Rokebys’ address is famous as the setting of a ’70s-era masterpiece, Marc and Harriet in Orcadia Place, a painting depicting a rock star and his girlfriend. Though Inspector Wexford has retired, the police soon summon him to help solve this most gothic case. Has more than one killer used the vault as a body dump? Rendell’s recent style can feel a bit anemic when contrasted with that of A Sight for Sore Eyes, and she populates this sequel with people who resemble sketches rather than vivid, complex characters. Still, this easily outshines most of the competition on either side of the Atlantic.

The Fang and the Endeavor

A while ago I posted an article about some new and exciting books that I learned about at the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA). Article here. This is what I thought of two of the books.

The Family Fang; by Kevin Wilson

 

This book was different, in a great and touching way. The story of a strange family of artists and the two children, Annie and Buster, who rebel against their parents and their parents strange art. This strange art is a more artistic version of what you might see on the shows, and movies, of the group known as Jackass. (Bare with me.) But, instead of having a thirty-year old man dress up as a ninety-year old man and pretend to give his pretend grandson liquor in public and recording how bystanders react; the parents, Caleb and Camille, have fake marriage proposals on airplane flights and hand out fake couples for a free chicken sandwich. They believe that real art is in the reaction of the people whom have no clue as to what is going on. Some of it is funny, and some of it is painful. But how does this weird art affect a family and the children who end up in the art a Child A and Child B? What happens with the children when they grow up and suddenly their parents disappear? Is it an act?

The story is very clever and well written. The characters are fun as well as deeply flawed. I would recommend this story to anyone who likes a good embarrassing laugh.

 

This Dark Endeavor; by Kenneth Oppel

I love Frankenstein and this book did not disappoint. Like the book Finn by Jon Clinch, I felt that this book not only stayed loyal to the original story, but it added to the world of the original. Victor Frankenstein is a strange man and though I never thought about it before, when I first heard about this book I did wonder about what kind of childhood a person like that would have.

It was an itched that needed scratching and Oppel made a great story that is fun for many ages or readers. Yes, it is a young adult novel, but it is fun to read as an adult who can see the hints of what is to come in the future of the tragic boy’s life.

What makes the book fun with interest is the balance of magic and science, the very balance that Frankenstein tries to walks and untilamtely fails.

Happy Reading

 

 

 

NAIBA 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recently The Compleat Bookseller took a trip to Atlantic City to attend the 2011 New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association. When there are thousands of books around it is impossible to not have a good time. At the conference we were exposed to books, theirs authors, their publishers and their distributers. I myself came home with more than thirty books to add to my endless to-read-pile and at this risk of lengthening your own to-read-pile I would like to share with you some of the hot books of 2011.

First, lets start with a book about zombies from an author you may have heard of, but did not know that he wrote a book about zombies.

Colson Whitehead is the author of The Colossus of New York, The Intuitionist, and Apex Hides the Hurt which was the book that Washington College assigned as its First Year book in 2008 and actually brought Whitehead to Chestertown. Yes, this is a book about the zombie apocalypse, but from what I am hearing from many reviews and from the author himself, this is not a typical post apocalyptic world. Publishers weekly described it:

As we follow New Yorker and perpetual B-student “Mark Spitz” over three harrowing days, Whitehead dumpster dives genre tropes, using what he wants and leaving the rest to rot, turning what could have been another zombie-pocalypse gore-fest into the kind of smart, funny, pop culture–filled tale that would make George Romero proud.

I plan on reading this very soon since this is the season to be reading such literature and I shall let you know what I think. If you want to learn more visit here, and here, but beware of spoiler alerts.

 

Next, The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson.

This book came recommended to me from a very nice employee at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington. As she began to describe it to me my head became a little lost with all the different titles of books I discovered during the day, but I quickly caught on board and picked up a copy with ever intention of reading it soon.

Wilson’s bizarre, mirthful debut novel (after his collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth) traces the genesis of the Fang family, art world darlings who make “strange and memorable things.” That is, they instigate and record public chaos. In one piece, “The Portrait of a Lady, 1988,” fragile nine-year-old Buster Fang dons a wig and sequined gown to undermine the Little Miss Crimson Clover beauty pageant, though he secretly desires the crown himself. In “A Modest Proposal, July 1988,” Buster and his older sister, Annie, watch their father, Caleb, propose to mother, Camille, over an airliner’s intercom and get turned down (“[A] plane crash would have been welcomed to avoid the embarrassment of what had happened”). Over the years, more projects consume Child A and Child B–what art lovers (and their parents) call the children–but it is not until the parents disappear from an interstate rest stop that the lines separating art and life dissolve.

~ Publishers Weekly

For more about this novel visit here, and here.

Third, Dead End, by Jack Gantos

One of the highlights of this conference was getting to hear Jack Gantos speak and tell us about his new book, Dead End in Norvelt. Norvelt is the town where Jack grew up and it is named after Eleanor Roosevelt. See what they did there?

A bit of autobiography works its way into all of Gantos’s work, but he one-ups himself in this wildly entertaining meld of truth and fiction by naming the main character… Jackie Gantos. Like the author, Jackie lives for a time in Norvelt, a real Pennsylvania town created during the Great Depression and based on the socialist idea of community farming. Presumably (hopefully?) the truth mostly ends there, because Jackie’s summer of 1962 begins badly: plagued by frequent and explosive nosebleeds, Jackie is assigned to take dictation for the arthritic obituary writer, Miss Volker, and kept alarmingly busy by elderly residents dying in rapid succession. Then the Hells Angels roll in. Gore is a Gantos hallmark but the squeamish are forewarned that Jackie spends much of the book with blood pouring down his face and has a run-in with home cauterization. Gradually, Jackie learns to face death and his fears straight on while absorbing Miss Volker’s theories about the importance of knowing history. “The reason you remind yourself of the stupid stuff you’ve done in the past is so you don’t do it again.” ~ Publisher Weekly

When I read this it will be my first book by Jack Gantos and from what I have heard it will not be my last since I love creative nonfiction and books for young adults. For more visit here and here.

Finally, This Dark Endeavor, by Kenneth Oppel

I confess, I have never before heard of Kenneth Oppel, but now that I do I want to read this book and will read it before the other books mentioned above. I first read Frankenstein about eight years ago and love it. Then I read The Casework of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd two years ago and found it to be so powerful and moving I felt that the book could stand on its own. Then I heard Kenneth Oppel talk about his new book, This Dark Endeavor, and I must add it to the rest. Here is why:

In this stylish gothic tale, first in a planned series, teenage Victor Frankenstein makes a desperate attempt to create the forbidden alchemical Elixir of Life, in order to save his beloved twin brother, Konrad, from an untimely death. Aided by his steadfast friend Henry and his adopted sister, Elizabeth, who both twins love to distraction, Victor sets out to acquire the necessary ingredients, scales the tallest tree in the Sturmwald during a lightning storm to acquire a rare and poisonous lichen, later descending into a dangerous Swiss cave in search of the equally rare and even deadlier coelacanth. Victor, already a mad scientist in training, is passionate and easily angered, and Elizabeth makes for a fiery love interest. Written in a readable approximation of early 19th-century style, Oppel’s (Half Brother) tale is melodramatic, exciting, disquieting, and intentionally over the top. ~ Publishers Weekly

This book will be made into a film in the not too distant future and I hope the book is great so that I can look forward to a possibly good film. For more about this book visit here and here.

If you have read any of these stories or if you have heard someone talk about them please share with us you thoughts and opinions.

Happy Reading,

ORB

 

South Florida Mysteries

John D. MacDonald

I am an unapologetic mystery fan. From the moment I picked up my first Bobbsey Twins book,I was hooked. I eventually moved onto Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Agatha Christie but excitement never pounded through my veins until I picked up my first Travis McGee by John D. MacDonald.

I was home literally, I grew up in South Florida. MacDonald understood the possible fate that was awaiting Florida with its runaway development and disregard for nature but he wrapped these themes in compelling mystery novels that raised the hairs on your arms.

Many terrific writers have emerged since those early days especially now that mysteries are no longer considered a sub genre, some still think so and will never admit to enjoying a good page turning mystery.

This link here is a fairly comprehensive list of some of the great Florida writers that can meet all tastes and interests. In the long list so do not let Carl Haissen get away as he is one of the true greats.