Category Archives: New Hardback

New in Nonfiction

Here is what is new in Nonfiction at the bookstore.

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
by Erik Larson 

In this mesmerizing portrait of the Nazi capital, Larson plumbs a far more diabolical urban cauldron than in his bestselling The Devil in the White City. He surveys Berlin, circa 1933–1934, from the perspective of two American naïfs: Roosevelt’s ambassador to Germany, William Dodd, an academic historian and Jeffersonian liberal who hoped Nazism would de-fang itself (he urged Hitler to adopt America’s milder conventions of anti-Jewish discrimination), and Dodd’s daughter Martha, a sexual free spirit who loved Nazism’s vigor and ebullience. At first dazzled by the glamorous world of the Nazi ruling elite, they soon started noticing signs of its true nature: the beatings meted out to Americans who failed to salute passing storm troopers; the oppressive surveillance; the incessant propaganda; the intimidation and persecution of friends; the fanaticism lurking beneath the surface charm of its officialdom. Although the narrative sometimes bogs down in Dodd’s wranglings with the State Department and Martha’s soap opera, Larson offers a vivid, atmospheric panorama of the Third Reich and its leaders, including murderous Nazi factional infighting, through the accretion of small crimes and petty thuggery.

Jack Kennedey: Elusive Hero
by Chris Matthews

Out of his gut interest in politics and love of reading biographies of American heroes, Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, probes the details of the 35th president’s life and career to find out what Jack was like. He begins this book wanting to discover how Kennedy became the leader who, at a moment of national fear and anger (the Cuban missile crisis), could cut so coldly and clearly to the truth. Drawing on interviews with friends and former staffers, as well as on such familiar biographical incidents as Kennedy’s rescue of the PT-109 crew and his resulting back injury, Matthews reveals a man who through inner direction and tenacious will created himself out of the loneliness and illness of his youth and who taught himself the hard discipline of politics through his own triumphs and failures. For example, from the Bay of Pigs—considered one of Kennedy’s failures—JFK learned that there must be both clarity and completion when the stakes are highest and most desperate; know your enemy and your goal; and hold fast to what you’re attempting. With this resolve, Kennedy reacted to Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis with a detachment that resisted the easy path of war that others recommended. Matthews’s stirring biography reveals Kennedy as a “fighting prince never free from pain, never far from trouble, and never accepting the world he found.”

The Death of King Arthur: Thomas Malory’s The Immortal Legend
A Retelling by Peter Ackroyd

Having successfully reworked Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales for modern audiences, British editor, novelist, and critic Ackroyd (Dickens: Public Life and Private Passion) turns his talents to Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, transforming the 15th-century compilation of Arthurian medieval romances into an eminently readable narrative. Rather than precisely translating Malory’s Middle English, Ackroyd renders the original’s tone and spirit in modern prose. Readers will recognize Arthur and Galahad, Lancelot and Guinevere, Tristram and Isolde, Merlin, Mordred, and Morgan LeFay, the Sword in the Stone and the Lady of the Lake—portrayed with all their pride, self-doubt, flaws, and frustrations. We see knights caught in a medieval catch-22, trying to abide by a code of chivalry that was difficult even in that era. Their adventures produce enough dastardly villains, doomed loves, magic spells, and heroic deeds to equal the most imaginative contemporary fiction, while relations between the knights and the ladies they rescue, ravish, revere, revenge, or reject yield a surprising range of emotions and complications. Though scholars might prefer a more exact version of Malory’s work, most readers will welcome Ackroyd’s straightforward storytelling and this celebration of Britain’s literary and cultural tradition.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman
by Robert K. Massie

The Pulitzer-winning biographer of Nicholas and Alexandra and of Peter the Great, Massie now relates the life of a minor German princess, Sophia of Anhalt-Zerbst, who became Empress Catherine II of Russia (1729–1796). She was related through her ambitious mother to notable European royalty; her husband-to-be, the Russian grand duke Peter, was the only living grandson of Peter the Great. As Massie relates, during her disastrous marriage to Peter, Catherine bore three children by three different lovers, and she and Peter were controlled by Peter’s all-powerful aunt, Empress Elizabeth, who took physical possession of Catherine’s firstborn, Paul. Six months into her husband’s incompetent reign as Peter III, Catherine, 33, who had always believed herself superior to her husband, dethroned him, but probably did not plan his subsequent murder, though, Massie writes, a shadow of suspicion hung over her. Confident, cultured, and witty, Catherine avoided excesses of personal power and ruled as a benevolent despot. Magnifying the towering achievements of Peter the Great, she imported European culture into Russia, from philosophy to medicine, education, architecture, and art. Effectively utilizing Catherine’s own memoirs, Massie once again delivers a masterful, intimate, and tantalizing portrait of a majestic monarch.

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.

What’s New in Nonfiction

Every now and then I love a good nonfiction read and here is what caught my eye recently.

“[E]veryone finds their own version of Charles Dickens [1812–1870],” concludes award-winning British biographer Tomalin: Dickens the mesmerist, amateur thespian, political radical, protector of prostitutes, benefactor of orphans, restless walker—all emerge from the welter of information about the writer’s domestic arrangements, business dealings, childhood experiences, illnesses, and travels. Bolstered by citations from correspondence with and about Dickens, Tomalin’s portrait brings shadows and depth to the great Victorian novelist’s complex personality. Tomalin (Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self) displays her deep scholarship in reviewing, for instance, the debate about Dickens’s relations with Nelly Ternan, concluding that the balance of evidence is that they were lovers. She also highlights the contrasts between his charitable actions toward strangers and his “casting off” of several relatives from father to brothers to sons, who kept importuning him for money: “Once Dickens had drawn a line he was pitiless.” By the end of this biography, readers unfamiliar with Dickens will come away with a new understanding of his driven personality and his impact on literature and 19th-century political and social issues. Tomalin provides her usual rich, penetrating portrait; one can say of her book what she says of Dickens’s picture of 19th -century England: it’s “crackling, full of truth and life, with his laughter, horror and indignation.” Illus.; maps.

 

Much of Iran’s relationship with the West—and their mutual antipathy—stems from the muddled events of a single day: November 4, 1979, when Iranian militants overran the U.S. embassy in Tehran, launching a 444-day-long hostage drama. What’s often forgotten is that six Americans evaded their would-be captors and were protected and eventually extracted from Iran by Canadian diplomats. In this fascinating account of spycraft and compassion, Wright (Three Nights in Havana) puts newly unclassified documents to excellent use in recounting how Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor hid the Americans who had slipped out a side door and gathered intelligence for the U.S. government. Wright sketches the historic grievances that lay at the heart of the embassy takeover and dispels lingering myths—among them, that the occupiers were “idealistic student amateurs”—crafting an absorbing story of genuine heroism and suspense.

 

Known as the “Corrupting Sea” for the way the dense web of commercial relationships spanning its shores inexorably changes local cultures, the Mediterranean has seen the rise and fall of many of the world’s great empires, aided in the spread and propagation of the three great monotheistic faiths, and carried countless millions of immigrants and adventurers to a new life or a watery grave. This epic tome by Abulafia, a professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge, is a political history of the Liquid Continent–another of the sea’s monikers–tracing how the spread of ideas, goods, cultures, and armies across the sea has helped shape the modern world. Engagingly written, precisely documented, and liberally studded with tales of the fantastic and absurd, the book has much to offer the casual reader and is indispensible for specialists in the region. In such an expansive work, however, occasional frustration regarding the rapidly changing cast of thousands is inevitable, and nearly every page contains minor details deserving their own entire books. Abulafia’s central thesis, that human cultures shape their own destinies rather than live beholden to the currents, climate patterns, and natural ecosystems described by Fernand Braudel, the other great chronicler of the Mediterranean, is convincing. Maps.

Let us know what you think.

Happy Reading

The Night Circus

Just before Halloween, I listened to a podcast of an episode of the Diane Rehm. On the show an author named Erin Morgenstern was talking about her first published book, The Night Circus. For me, whenever I hear the words ‘night’ or ‘circus’ my ears prick up to engage my interest.

It was a great interview, which you can listen to here, and so far it is a great book. The story is very different in both the tale and how it is written. It is, for lack of a better term, full of magic and wonder. For anyone who has enjoyed reading books like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell; Something Wicked This Way Comes; or The Graveyard Book, this is a book for you.

It is a young adult book, but it is one that adults can also enjoy, same as the stories mentioned above.

For more on this book here is an article from the Washington Post and one from the New York Times.

And if you are like me and want to read the book before watching the film, this book will soon be a movie. More about that here.

Happy Reading,

ORB

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

 

 

 

New in Fiction

I love looking at new books and here is what is new and interesting at the bookstore.

The Sense of an Ending; by Julian Barnes
In Barnes’s (Flaubert’s Parrot) latest, winner of the 2011 Man-Booker Prize, protagonist Tony Webster has lived an average life with an unremarkable career, a quiet divorce, and a calm middle age. Now in his mid-60s, his retirement is thrown into confusion when he’s bequeathed a journal that belonged to his brilliant school-friend, Adrian, who committed suicide 40 years earlier at age 22. Though he thought he understood the events of his youth, he’s forced to radically revise what he thought he knew about Adrian, his bitter parting with his mysterious first lover Veronica, and reflect on how he let life pass him by safely and predictably. Barnes’s spare and luminous prose splendidly evokes the sense of a life whose meaning (or meaninglessness) is inevitably defined by “the sense of an ending” which only death provides. Despite its focus on the blindness of youth and the passage of time, Barnes’s book is entirely unpretentious. From the haunting images of its first pages to the surprising and wrenching finale, the novel carries readers with sensitivity and wisdom through the agony of lost time.
Review

The Most Dangerous Thing; by Laura Lippman (Maryland Writer)
Childhood friends, long since splintered off, uneasily reunite after the death of one of their own in Edgar-winner Lippman’s superbly unsettling tale of the consequences of long-buried secrets. Gordon “Go-Go” Halloran drives his car into a wall after a night of drinking, even though he’s been on the road to sobriety. On the brink of divorce, Gwen Robison returns home to care for her aging father and learns of Go-Go’s death from his older brother, Sean. With the eldest Halloran brother, Tim, and a scruffy, nature-loving neighborhood girl, Mickey Wickham, the five had come together in the spring of 1977. The group broke apart after a violent encounter in the woods, an event that was never spoken of again, but permeates each of their lives. Lippman (I’d Know You Anywhere) cleanly shifts between the past, following the band of kids through their adventures in the woods of their Baltimore suburb, and the present when Go-Go’s death draws them back together. Her series lead, Tess Monaghan, makes a brief appearance, but this stand-alone belongs to the children, their memories, and everything dangerous that lives in the woods.
Review

Crossbones; by Nuruddin Farah (Who actually visited Washington College four years ago as part of the PEN World Voices.)
Somali-born Farah (Knots) completes his Past Imperfect trilogy with an insightful portrait of his African country imploding so furiously that neither well-educated citizens nor well-meaning exiles who return can alter the trajectory. Farah’s novel centers on the visit to Mogadiscio of Jeebleh, a Somali-born Minnesota literature professor traveling with his journalist son-in-law, Malik. Ahl, Malik’s older brother, comes too, fearing he’ll find his runaway stepson in a region known for youthful pirates. Giving a human dimension to the tragedy of a failed nation-state, Farah interweaves points of view, the most chilling being that of a boy called YoungThing sent on a murderous mission by the Shabaab, one of several political-religious factions jockeying for control. Though YoungThing gets lost along the way, he doggedly persists, determined to complete his mission. Layer by layer, the novel digs into its sad subject as Malik conducts interviews, Ahl hunts rumors, and Jeebleh reconnects with old friends. Farah has become the voice of the Somalian diaspora, telling stories of political, religious, and family conflict without sentimentality. He sheds light on current events, but is a portraitist, not a polemicist. He shows independent women and well-meaning Americans caught in Somalia’s implacable cycle of tyranny, destruction, and revenge. Like Conrad, Farah proves a master of his adopted language, enhancing his narratives with proverbs and instances of institutionalized irrationality.
Review and interview on NPR

Happy Reading

 

The Invention of Hugh Cabret

Several weeks ago while ordering a book from my local library I met a good friend of mine who asked me what I had been reading lately. It was such a natural question and conversation for a library. Though I forget what my answer to him was I do remember this. He asked me if I had ever read a book titled The Invention of Hugo Cabret. (Hint for the link, you do not need a key.) I had not so we did what anyone would do. We looked it up and learned that the library’s copy was checked out. So I asked to have it put on hold upon its return. Then last week it came in. The timing was perfect since I was just about to finished another book.

I began reading the book on a lovely late afternoon that I think was a Wednesday and by Thursday night, the story was told and the ending was over. It is a wonderful read and unlike any other book I have ever read. Though it is not considered a graphic novel, it does incorporate the use of pictures and drawing by the writer, Brian Selznick. When I began turning the pages the pictures introduce me to the story of a boy living in the train station in Paris during the silent film era. Throughout the story the pictures are used in a wonderful way that at first gave me the feeling of something familiar.

It was not until I read about the author that I learned he was influenced by silent films and wanted to use that affect in this story. He executed his trick with wonderful talent. I would recommend this book as a great read for the coming cooler months. It is gracefully told.

After finishing the book I was told that Brian Selznick’s next book, Wonder Struck had just been published. Told in the same fashion as Hugo Cabret, I hope the story is as magical.

If you have read either of these books or anything else by Brian Selznick, please tell us your story.

Happy Reading,

ORB

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

 

What Looks Good and New

A Geography of Secrets
by: Frederick Reuss

“A Geography of Secrets” has the texture and snap of a modern-day Graham Greene novel, painting a world in which even the smallest choices have devastating consequences — and where, as one character tells us, “Secrets don’t keep, they putrefy.”

~ Washington Post

What’s New

Before I Go to Sleep
by: S.J. Watson

Memories–real, false, and a bit of both–are at the heart of British author Watson’s haunting, twisted debut. Christine Lucas awakens each morning in London with no idea who she is or why she’s in bed with a strange man, until he tells her that his name is Ben and they’ve been married for 22 years. Slowly, Christine learns that she has amnesia and is unable to remember her past or retain new memories: every night when she falls asleep, the slate is wiped clean. Dr. Nash, her therapist, has encouraged her to write in a journal that she keeps secret from Ben. Christine realizes how truly tangled–and dangerous–her life is after she sees the words “don’t trust Ben” written in her journal, whose contents reveal that the only person she can trust is herself. Watson handles what could have turned into a cheap narrative gimmick brilliantly, building to a chillingly unexpected climax.

What’s New

Rules of Civility
by: Amor Towles

In his smashing debut, Towles details the intriguing life of Katherine Kontent and how her world is upended by the fateful events of 1938. Kate and her roommate, Evelyn Ross, have moved to Manhattan for its culture and the chance to class up their lives with glamour–be it with jazz musicians, trust fund lotharios, or any man with a hint of charm who will pay for dinner and drinks. Both Kate and Evelyn are enamored of sophisticated Tinker Grey, who they meet in a jazz club; he appears to be another handsome, moneyed gent, but as the women vie for his affection, a tragic event may seal a burgeoning romance’s fate. New York’s wealthy class is thick with snobbery, unexpected largesse, pettiness, jealousies, and an unmistakable sense of who belongs and who does not, but it’s the undercurrent of unease–as with Towles’s depiction of how the upper class can use its money and influence to manipulate others’ lives in profoundly unsavory ways–that gives his vision depth and complexity. His first effort is remarkable for its strong narrative, original characters and a voice influenced by Fitzgerald and Capote, but clearly true to itself.