Monday, August 17, 2009
Setting up some serious reading for September and October of '09
Tis the season for back to school shopping and whether you're looking for the latest in fall fashion or searching the bargain bins for some good deals,one item that you really shouldn't skimp on is a great new book to start off your fall reading just right.
Yes,times are tough out there,but if you really to splurge on something that will last longer than a Twitter entry and will give you numerous hours of commercial free entertainment and/or educational value,what's better than a book,I ask you?
This season will have an amazing plethora of new titles for folks to pick and choose from,so to make things easier for the savvy shopper,here are a few highlights that I think deserve some extra special attention:
James Ellroy's new novel,Blood's a Rover,is meant to be the third volume of his "Underworld U.S.A." trilogy but there is enough exposition added into the fiery mix of the plot to help a newcomer catch on.
The setting is 1968,where three devious men find that their professional and political agendas are on a collision course towards each other,thanks to the influence of the mysterious "Red Goddess Joan". Some of the random players in this game range from Hollywood lightweights like Sal Mineo to legendary movers and shakers such as Howard Hughes and J. Edgar Hoover.
I was hoping to finish the book by this summer,but the lightning fast nuances of the writing,plus the rapid attention to details,are keeping this one by my bedside for awhile longer. I see that as a good thing,since Ellroy is one of the few authors out there who demand as much from the reader as they do themselves and such respect should be repaid in kind. Blood's a Rover is not only a great gruesome noir,it seems to be a mediation on the balance of order and chaos in society,a topic that fully resonates with our modern times(September 22):
QUITE A DIFFERENT DRUMMER,INDEED!
Pete Dexter is known for offbeat characters and situations in his books but Spooner may truly take the cake here. It's the story of a father and stepson who strive to find a middle ground of acceptance but Warren Spooner's oddball antics only makes the bridge between him and his stepfather that much more difficult to cross.
I would reveal some of the strangeness that occurs,but a few of them are in the "you wouldn't believe it even if I told you" category. Just keep Spooner in mind as you go book shopping and snatch it up,even if that shiny new bestseller on display is calling your name. It might expand your literary horizons more than you ever expected(September)
Paul Rudnick's face might not be familiar to you yet his words have made their way to your funny bone in one form or another. He's the screenwriter of such fabulously funny films as Addams Family Values,Sister Act and In And Out,plus the creator of the Libby Gelman-Waxner mock movie review columns for Premiere magazine.
His upcoming book of essays,I Shudder,talks about not only his show business encounters with oddness but the weirdly wonderful family ties that made him the wry and witty observer of human follies that he is today(September):
Shandi Mitchell's debut novel,Under This Unbroken Sky,tells the story of a Ukrainian immigrant named Tedor who seeks to make a new life for himself and his struggling family on the harsh north Canadian prairies in 1938.
As things start to turn around for everyone,a most unexpected and unwelcome visitor intrudes into their peace;Tedor's brother-in-law Stefan,looking to make trouble any way he can.
Mitchell was inspired to write this novel from wanting to know more about her family history and in doing so,reveals a bit of a historical period of time that many folks may be surprised to discover and intrigued to learn more about(September):
Robert Hicks follows up his earlier Civil War saga,Widow of the South,with a novel that focuses on one of it's most controversial Confederate generals,Robert Bell Hood.
A Separate Country takes place in New Orleans,years after the war has ended,where Hood goes to create a new life for himself. After marriage and eleven children,things are still not satisfying due to their near poverty and the ongoing struggles that many of the Hood family's friends and loved ones must endure.
However,a true test of their mettle is about to descend upon them all: the Yellow Fever plague. Hicks' novel may seem to be old fashioned at first yet another glance shows it to be a rather compelling compare and contrast to post war life and times today(September 23):
New technology and old classics join forces in this entertaining look at Facebook farce in Sarah Schmelling's Ophelia Joined The Group Maidens Who Don't Float. Starting with a Hamlet parody that wound up being published at McSweeney's,Schmelling answers the question that many of us old school lit lovers wonder about-how would classic characters like Dr. Frankenstein and Dracula,plus classic authors such as Hemingway and Oscar Wilde get along online?
Even if you don't have a Facebook page or only read Cliff Notes,this clever send up of both media realms provides laughs a-plenty for all concerned(late August,early September):
We Were Here is Matt De La Pena's third YA novel and perhaps his mainstream breakthrough book as well. Miguel is sent to juvenile hall for a crime that he doesn't want to talk about and is actually relieved to be punished for. His mother refuses to even look at him after what happened,so anywhere else on earth is preferable to home.
As part of his rehab,Miguel keeps a journal of his experiences,which includes his breakout from Juvi with a couple of new friends made while there and his goal to start anew over the border in Mexico. As it is with most journeys,where you ultimately wind up is not always where you intended to be,plus the emotional baggage you're trying to get rid of never really leaves you until you unpack and deal with it for good. A good book for and about boys to look for(October)
Joshua Gaylord goes beyond the teenage drama and hijinks of the Gossip Girl set with Hummingbirds,which features a dual rivalry between both the staff and the students of an exclusive girl's school on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
As Carmine-Casey students Dixie Doyle and Liz Warren plot against each other in the hallways,their adult counterparts,Binhammer and Hughes, draw up battle plans in the teacher's lounge in order to gain higher status and allies to their causes.
When these warring factors combine their efforts to unite against their enemies,the fallout proves to be fatal indeed. Beware of prep school,people-the snares set there for the unwary are no laughing matter(October):
As much fun as summer reading is,I long for the fall. So many great and glorious reads await us,with the added favor of musty books mingling with the crisp coolness of the falling leaves makes this truly the most wonderful time of the year for book lovers everywhere.
Despite the rising influence of the online world,solid,hold in your hands books are still the rage amongst readers and we owe the internet a note of thanks for making the getting of such treasures far more easier than it was for the generations before us:
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