Monday, June 01, 2009

Reviewing the Mail, Week of 5/30: Special BEA Edition!

First, the usual explanation: I post quick looks at the books I got in the mail the previous week early every Monday, to make sure I cover the books that I might not end up reviewing. Some weeks have more books, and some weeks fewer, but there are always some.

This was a short week, and a light one -- I only got in two things in the mail for review. But I also got an order from Amazon (six books) and picked up eight other books while at BEA on Saturday -- so there's plenty to write about this week.

First, the books in the mail:

The Vampire Tarot by Robert M. a tarot deck with vampire iconography, to satisfy two different types of irrationality at once. I don't mind vampires in fiction as much as some readers do, but I'm not particularly interested in them outside of that context. And Tarot decks are just another vehicle to remove money from gullible people. So I'm not the audience for this at all -- though the cards do look to be stylish. Price is an artist who's created or co-created four tarot decks before, so he could be considered a serial offender and extremely dangerous. St. Martin's Press is releasing this monument to magical thinking on June 23rd.

And then there was War Stories: A Graphic History, a heavily-illustrated look at war comics by Mike Conroy. His take on "war comics" is broad -- there's the usual EC/Warren/DC axis, but I also noted pages about 300, Exit Wounds, and Safe Area Gorazde on a quick flip through it. It's being published by CollinsDesign, the about-to-be defunct nonfiction arm of HarperCollins, and will be in stores on July 21st.

Edit, 6/2: CollinsDesign is not about to be defunct; I was confused. The discrete Collins group of HarperCollins is being eliminated, but many pieces of Collins are continuing, including CollinsDesign. My apologies for getting that wrong, and good luck to CollinsDesign with all of their future publishing projects.

The books from Amazon feel neatly into clumps, three-two-one, so I'll count them down.

Three recent mass-market paperbacks from Hard Case Crime, all very short and very very hardboiled, the way me and other muggs like 'em:
  • Killing Castro by Lawrence Block, a long out-of-print quickie thriller from the early '60s from one of the best writers of mysteries ever (though his best work was much later than this)
  • The Dead Man's Brother by Roger Zelazny, an out-of-character South American thriller written and shelved in the early '70s from a writer much better known for SF and fantasy; it should be interesting, if nothing else
  • The Cutie by Donald E. Westlake, one of his early crime novels, originally published as The Mercenaries and out of print even under that title for about the last decade and a half; I could copy & paste nearly everything I wrote about Block above, with possibly a greater emphasis on how funny Westlake could be -- not here, though.
Two Ian Fleming "James Bond" books that I was missing:
Sometime this summer, I hope to dive into the Bond books. I may even say that I'm going to read and review one of them a day for two weeks, if I feel energetic and have an appropriately timed vacation. Watch for further announcements in this space; I now have all of them in uniform editions (those nice and nearly retro Penguin centennial trade paperbacks from a few years ago) and so have no excuse not to dive into them.

One odd book called Veeps: Profiles in Insignificance by Bill Kelter and illustrated by Wayne Shellabarger, which tells amusing stories about all forty-one Vice Presidents of the USA, and some about recent failed candidates for that office. I've seen several good reviews for this, and I'm looking forward to reading it; I like funny history and odd facts, so it looks to be exactly the kind of thing I'd enjoy.

And then there were the eight books I picked up on Saturday at BEA, all but one of them galleys/ARCs/advance proofs:

Juliet, Naked -- a new novel by Nick Hornby coming from Penguin's Riverhead Books imprint in hardcover in September. The title refers to a new acoustic version of an aging rocker's most famous album, which makes it more than slightly bait-and-switch-y. But Hornby's books have been dependably humorous and entertaining so far, so I'll allow him that little moment of audience-grabbing.

Isis, a horror novella-as-a-book by Douglas Clegg (with illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne) that Vanguard Press will publish in hardcover in October. (And which was pressed into my hands personally by Vanguard's head, my old boss Roger Cooper, he said, dropping names shamelessly.)

The one finished book I picked up -- which I also got signed, since I was already in line -- is Michael Lewis's new parenting memoir, Home Game, collecting expanded versions of essays he originally wrote for Slate. I'm not sure how much I'm going to trust the parenting advice of a rich guy who moved to Paris on a whim with his ex-MTV-anchor wife when their first child was an infant; Lewis might be a fine writer, but his regular-guy credentials are about twenty years out of date at this point. I'm sure he loves his kids and thinks he has some insights into parenting -- we all do -- but I'll need to be convinced that he has anything significant or meaningful to say. To be fair, I've read a bit of Home Game so far, and it's entertaining, which is, I suppose, all I should expect from it. Norton is publishing Home Game any minute now.

Soulless, the first novel in a historical fantasy series by new writer Gail Carriger -- "A comedy of manners set in Victorian London full of werewolves, vampire, dirigibles, and tea-drinking," as the back-cover headline reads. Looks like it could be a lot of fun if it lives up to what it could be, and -- of course -- sequels are already coming. This one is coming in mass-market from Orbit in October.

Also from Orbit, and the only other book they were giving away at BEA, is the debut horror novel Mr. Shivers, by Robert Jackson Bennett. It's set among hobos during the Great Depression, and will be a hardcover in January 2010.

A Friend of the Family is one of the two galleys that I picked up purely because they were being given away. The pickings were much slimmer this year than usual, so I didn't get weighed down by great stacks of books I desperately wanted -- or, to put it another way, I was hunting for swag and not finding much, so I lowered my expectations. This is a first novel by Lauren Grodstein, firmly in the literary-novel tradition -- it's the first-person story of a middle-aged man who has just ruined his life irrevocably and is going to tell us about it in carefully-controlled, exquisite prose. I'm sure this book is lovely, and I do feel the urge to dip my hand into the literary novel now and then to see what's going on. Algonquin will publishing Friend as a hardcover in October.

The other book I took simply because it was there is Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You, another big messy family novel from the point of view of a middle-aged man. (Maybe I should read these two books in quick succession and do a compare-and-contrast?) Tropper's written a couple of books that I think I've heard of, such as The Book of Joe, and there are glowing quotes from five booksellers on the back cover. This one is a hardcover from Dutton in August.

And last is the book that I actually asked someone in the Bloomsbury booth about. Justine Larbalestier's Liar was the cover of their fall catalog, but I didn't see any copies of it lying about. (As I said, the pickings were very meager this year.) So I asked them if they were giving it away, and some nice publicity woman -- or maybe a marketing woman, or a sales woman; we didn't have tags breaking us down that finely -- handed me a copy. I could have gotten it signed, but I would have meant remembering the right time to schlep downstairs and stand in a long line with a bunch of teenyboppers, so I forwent that particular joy. But it will be great to read Justine's new book -- I've liked all of her novels to date (most recently: How to Ditch Your Fairy), and this one has an unreliable narrator, which I also usually love. Liar is coming from Bloomsbury's group for young readers in October, and I hope I won't be the only one reading it.

1 comment:

Bookseller Bill said...

I enjoyed Dead Man's Brother. Certain aspects felt dated, but the writing is vintage Zelazny. It made me wish there were more to come.

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