Tuesday, January 10, 2012

10 Most Anticpated Books In 2012

     Just a quick post of the books that I am most looking forward to in 2012. These all come out in the first 6-7 months of the year, so there are probably some exciting titles coming out later in the year that I just haven't seen any info on yet. In no particular order:

1. Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. I loved his "The Gone-Away World"; wonderful post apocalyptic science fiction, with a touch of Douglas Adams. The new one is described by the publisher as "blistering gangster noir meets howling absurdist comedy as the forces of good square off against the forces of evil, and only an unassuming clockwork repairman and an octogenarian former superspy can save the world from total destruction." Your bit of book trivia for the day - Nick Harkaway is the son of John le Carre.

2. The Twelve by Justin Cronin. The second book of a proposed trilogy that stated with "The Passage" in 2010. Another post apocalyptic novel, this one with the few surviving humans taking on genetically mutants with many of the attributes of vampires. One of the more literary horror novels that you will read.

3. In One Person by John Irving. A new John Irving? Now if only Pat Conroy had a new one this year too. Irving can do almost no wrong in my eyes and I can't wait for this new one. This title is "an intimate and unforgettable portrait of the solitariness of a bisexual man who is dedicated to making himself “worthwhile.” Going to see John Irving speak in Dallas to promote the book this Spring. Woohoo!

4. Redshirts by John Scalzi. One of the best science fiction writers working today. His books are adventures that make you think and almost always laugh out loud. Reminiscent of Robert Heinlein, no doubt one of the things that attracts me to his writing. This one is told from the point of view of one of those poor saps on an away mission wearing a red shirt.

5. Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. Another author whose every work I have enjoyed reading. Not a lot of info on this one, but it takes place in the title area of San Francisco and involves a record store. Good enough for me. If you haven't yet, check out Chabon's "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay".

6. Gold by Chris Cleave. The author of "Little Bee" looks at two childhood friends that are now competitors in the Olympics. Sounds intriguing to me, and comes out right before the start of the London Games.

7. Bridge Of Clay by Marcus Zusak. The author of the amazing "The Book Thief" tells a story he describes as "about a boy building a bridge and wanting it to be perfect. He wants to achieve greatness with this bridge, and the question is whether it will survive when the river floods." He has been working on this for more then 10 years which could mean something really special or something really overwritten.

8. They Eat Puppies, Don't They? by Christopher Buckley. The son of William F. Buckley writes some of the funniest and most biting political satire out there. Two lobbyists attempting to gain support for a new weapons system, start a rumor that the Chinese are trying to assassinate the Dalai Lama. A political crisis (and I hope laughs) ensue.

9. The Red House by Mark Haddon. Haddon started out as a children's author, but both of his adult books, "The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night Time" and "A Spot of Bother" are favorites of mine. "The Red House" is the story of two connected and chaotic families sharing a vacation home."

10. Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore. One of the funniest writers around follows a young baker-painter as he joins the dapper  Henri Toulouse-Lautrec on a quest to unravel the mystery behind the supposed “suicide” of Vincent van Gogh.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Family Fang

The Family Fang
by Kevin Wilson
2011 Ecco Books
Rating 4/5

     It took multiple good reviews and 2 friend's recommendations to get me to read this one, it just didn't sound like it would be something I liked. It turned out to be one of the more fun books I read in 2011. All four members of the family are funny and at least a little insane, but the kids are people it would be fun to hang out with.
     Caleb and Camille Fang and their children Annie and Buster work together as performance artists. They stage strange pieces, usually in shopping malls, involving unwitting shopkeepers and customers alike. The family films everything with hidden cameras and has become wildly popular in the art world. The book alternates between looking back at these performances and how Annie and Buster are dealing with life as adults. Annie is a mid level actress whose career seems to be unraveling and Buster is a journalist with 2 novels that were not big sellers.
     As much as they want to escape the Fang legacy, they are drawn back to their parent's home and into what could be the grand finale of their career. I found myself laughing out loud several times as I read this, and then being drawn into the drama of Annie and Buster's lives. At 320 pages, this novel was over much too quickly for me.
     I like the Miami Herald's review: “[A] wildly original new novel…The Family Fang is bizarre, unique, unerringly comic, breathtakingly wonderful.”
     I think that this could make an amazing film, Nicole Kidman has already optioned tt. I would hope that if she is going to appear in it, she would be the mother and not try to play the adult daughter.

Top 10 Books of 2011

   Sorry it has been so long since I posted here, but another retail Christmas seemed to suck up all of my time. 2011 was a fantastic year of reading for me, I read 73 books - averaging 1.4 books a week. Any of my top three books this year could have been a number one in another year, they were that strong. You can click on the title of the books to see my original review of the books.

1. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. A beautifully written debut novel about so much more then just baseball. Reminded me of some of John Irving's best work. This finished on several Top 10 lists for the year and Amazon picked it as the book of the year.

2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. As much fun as I have had reading a book in many years. I have started drifting back into more science fiction the last couple of years and have been enjoying it immensely. This isn't any great literary work, but I had a grin on my face from page one.

3. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. Westerns have never been one of my favorite genres, I can only think of one other true Western appearing on one of my Top 10s over the last 10 years. Quirky characters, amazing dialogue, some major weirdness - the Coen brothers really need to make this into a movie.

4. Swamplandia by Karen Russell. Another wonderful debut novel about a family of fake American Indians running a two bit alligator themed park. A real park, Gatorland, was a favorite destination when I was a kid and that drew me to this title. At times laugh out loud funny and at least once disturbing enough to make me want to put it down and walk away. But I could not leave these characters for long. One of the NY Times 10 best books of 2011.

5. Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt. Great children's book about finding your own strengths in life. It also works as a love letter to librarians and art. Wonderful read even for adults.

6. 11/22/63 by Stephen King. One of the best books of King's career - great sales and fantastic reviews. I loved the feel of small town life in Josie, Texas. Dallas and Fort Worth don't fare very well in the story, but feel real. Don't think of it as time travel story, or a horror novel, or a JFK history, it is just an amazingly well told story. One of the NY Times 10 best books of 2011.

7. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson. Very cool story of a family of performance artists. Alternates between when the kids were young and their later lives. These are probably the literary characters from this year's books that I would most like to meet in real life. Finished on Top 10 lists by Esquire, Time, People, and Kirkus Reviews.

8. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Not a very plot heavy book, but an amazing setting and enticing characters. I would love to be able to find and visit the Night Circus one day. A magical book for adults who love the worlds of Harry Potter and Ray Bradbury

9. Nightwoods by Charles Frazier. I have very much enjoyed all three of Frazier's novels, with "Cold Mountain" being one of my all time favorites. This is a scaled down story compared to his others and the only one set in more modern times, but still a great read. Not much dialogue, these characters aren't very talkative, but a beautiful setting and wonderful adventure.

10. Once Upon A River by Bonnie Jo Campbell. A teenage girl lives on her own along a Michigan river after her father dies. At first depending too much on men she meets along the river, then slowly learning to live independently. The river is as much a character in this one as Margo.

     A few honorable mentions: "Fuzzy Nation" by John Scalzi, "Iron House" by John Hart, "Thirteen Reasons Why" by Jay Asher, "The Floor of Heaven" by Howard Blum, and "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides. Oh, and jeers to "Micro" by Michael Chrichton and Richard Preston, easily the worst book I read this year - avoid it at all costs!