It's Coming!

Okay. Something new. I don't often talk about an upcoming book that I will be lining up at the bookstore to buy on release day. (Okay, not physically lining up because I don't actually have a real bookstore within 30 miles of my house. So I will be virtually lining up with a pre-order here...interwebz, I lurves you.)



On August 26, 2014, author John Scalzi  and Tor Books will release his newest novel, LOCK IN and for the next month I will be sitting here drumming my fingers impatiently. Now, I know a great many of you are probably wondering just who in the hell is John Scalzi and why have you never even heard of this book? Unless you are a science fiction aficionado, Scalzi may very well have never appeared on your bibliophilic-radar. So you're going to have to trust me on this: in the sci-fi world, he is a very big deal. His last novel, Redshirts, won last year's Hugo Award (although if we're going to be honest here, the competition last year was crap so...slow clap).

But LOCK IN may well end up being his genre cross-over novel and I'm going to tell you why I think you need to have your eyes on this one, even if this isn't your normal reading fare. Take a gander at the synopsis:

Fifteen years from now, a new virus sweeps the globe. 95% of those afflicted experience nothing worse than fever and headaches. Four percent suffer acute meningitis, creating the largest medical crisis in history. And one percent find themselves “locked in”—fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus.

One per cent doesn't seem like a lot. But in the United States, that's 1.7 million people “locked in”...including the President's wife and daughter.
But don't make the mistake of thinking this is your typical apocalyptic novel because Scalzi cannot be bothered with that drivel. Instead, Lock In is the story of how the American scientific community responds to those left "locked in" and the consequences and fall-out.

Of course, Scalzi being Scalzi, he wrote an engrossing short story revealing exactly how this virus, Hayden's Syndrome, got loose and destroyed so much of humanity. UNLOCKED: AN ORAL HISTORY OF HAYDEN'S SYNDROME is thirty-two pages told in the tradition of World War Z and once you read it, you'll be hooked on Scalzi's riveting premise. It's available for any ebook and for only $1.99, it's a steal. (Check it out on Barnes and Noble or Amazon or whatever your ebook thing is.)


And as all this wasn't enough, it was recently announced that the audiobook version of Lock In will actually be released in two versions. Oh yes. One will be read by Wil Wheaton (yes, I just said that) and the other read by Amber Benson. Why two versions? Because it's just completely awesome to have two different gender interpretations for this novel. Scalzi himself has all sorts of very cool things to say about it here. And if you think it's too difficult to decide which damn version to buy --- okay, admittedly I didn't because, well, Wil Wheaton --- Audible Studios is making it easy. If you pre-order they are throwing in both versions for the price of one. Um, yeah....I'm there.

So later on in September when you're seeing Lock In jumping up at you all over the place on blogs and reading lists and best-seller lists, don't forget you heard it here first. This one is going to make waves. Check it out.


 

Can we just saint J.K. Rowling and get it over with already?

In her second outing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, author J.K. Rowling is back with her erstwhile noir private dick Cormoran Strike and a whole new mystery in the recently released Silkworm. And dare I say it? Rowling is getting better and better with each installment.



Perhaps it's because this time she chose a victim no true bibliophile could possibly resist: an author. Yes, this time Rowling takes us into London's seedy publishing underworld where the chief occupational skill is backstabbing. When author Owen Quine disappears, no one thinks much of it other than his wife who decides to hire Cormoran Strike to drag his sorry ass home. No one else seems to much care that Quine has gone underground because what he's left behind is much more important: a manuscript. And not just any old manuscript. This particular novel is a good old fashioned character smear of just about anyone who is anyone in the London publishing world. And anyone who is anyone is pretty darned pissed off at Owen Quine.

So it shouldn't be much of a surprise when Strike finds his man --- murdered. And with as many suspects as there are characters in Quine's book it's fun romp to find who killed the old boy. There is little doubt that Rowling had a ball writing this novel. And who could blame her? All she had to do was take her vast experience in the publishing world and set it loose with a little imagination. What a hoot.

"But writers are a savage breed, Mr. Strike. If you want lifelong friendship and selfless camaraderie, join the army and learn to kill. If you want a lifetime of temporary alliances with peers who will glory in your every failure, write novels."

More important to the series, Rowling goes a long way in further developing the characters of both Comoran Strike and his assistant, Robin, who will clearly play a more important role as the series continues. Both characters are quite complex despite the noir-like genre Rowling has created here. Their backgrounds make them far more three-dimensional than your typical noir detectives and while hints of a future relationship are occasionally dropped, I wouldn't be surprised if this were a red herring given Robin's independence, intelligence, and general non-typical female role here. Similarly, Strike's own romantic history (see book one of the series) is so fraught with trauma, any relationship between he and his assistant would be far below his own standards (and Rowling's, for that matter). 

Learning more about Strike's past is also part of the allure of these books. Rowling doles out details sparingly, as they pertain to the situation at hand, deftly avoiding any information dump while tantalizing the reader. Sly references are her specialty, after all: 

"Hard to remember these days that there was a time when you had to wait for the ink and paper reviews to see your work excoriated. With the invention of the internet, any sub-literate cretin can be Michiko Kakutani."

How many readers will recall Kakutani's glowing review of the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo's Calling that appeared in The New York Times back in 2013? I told you Rowling was clever. Dang.


DON'T TRY TO FIND ME


One of my favorite novels from 2013 was about a mother who uses social media to reconstruct the events that led to her teenage daughter's suicide (Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCraight). I loved the incorporation of today's technology and the huge role it plays in our lives - for good and for ill. Thus the premise of Holly Brown's (a practicing family therapist herself) new novel, DON'T TRY TO FIND ME was like a magnet for me:
When a fourteen-year-old runs away, her parents turn to social media to find her - launching a public campaign that will expose their darkest secrets and change their family forever - in this suspenseful and gripping debut...
Yeah. I was all over that. And was it worth it? I thought so. Because ultimately, Don't Try to Find Me is about so much more than a missing daughter. Told in a dual - mother and daughter - narrative, Brown digs deep into the psyche of parents and teens here. She doesn't offer easy answers or platitudes because in real life these don't exist. But she does offer insights. Insights into what we as parents often do and why we do it as well as insights into the teen angst. As frustrated as I felt with the characters at times throughout the novel, I wouldn't want Brown to change a single word....it was honest. 



Don't Try to Find Me also manages to slip in themes of social media and societal judgement -- the proverbial double-edged sword. She does a very competent job of weaving this seamlessly and in the end, although not tied up with a pretty bow, she does at least tie it up. It's up to you, the reader, to decide whether these "tools" are a good thing. And if the ends are worth the means. 

Thought-provoking. This is how I would describe every page of Brown's novel. And I am looking forward to seeing it garner some deserving attention this summer.


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Title:  Don't Try to Find Me
Author: Holly Brown
Publisher: William Morrow
Date: July 8, 2014
Pages: 368
Source:  Publisher

What do you get when Rainbow Rowell invents magic yellow telephones?

A:  a really bad book

If you were to ask me to make a list of my ten favorite authors, Rainbow Rowell would most assuredly fall somewhere within that list given her fabulous showings in both Eleanor & Park as well as my personal favorite, Fangirl. Rowell's first novel, Attachments, was a contemporary romantic novel released to moderately good reviews in 2011. But her career really took off in 2013 when she found her writing groove in the Young Adult genre and published the two phenomenal best-sellers, Eleanor & Park and Fangirl. Clearly, Rowell had found where her true talents lie. Her ability to capture the essence of burgeoning teenage emotions marked her as a Young Adult author with a very bright future indeed.



Following the publication of Fangirl in the fall of 2013, readers eagerly anticipated the next Rowell novel slated for release in early July 2014. Oddly, Rowell decided to abandon her wild success in the Young Adult genre and return to writing adult contemporary romance. In Landline, Rowell introduces us to Georgie and Neal, college sweethearts now married for over a decade with two lovely young daughters. Georgie is the breadwinner of the family, or she is trying to be, working as a television scriptwriter while Neal is a stellar stay-at-home dad. It sounds like the idyllic life. Unfortunately, Neal is unhappy. And when Neal is unhappy, everyone is unhappy. He doesn't like Georgie's job. And he especially doesn't like that she still writes her television comedy scripts with her best friend and writing partner from college, Seth.

To make matters worse, Georgie and Seth have finally gotten their big Hollywood break: a chance to write their own show. This means they'll have to rush to put together their big idea and sell it....by working over the Christmas holidays. As it turns out, this is unacceptable to Neal, who takes their daughters to his parent's home in Omaha for the holidays and decides this is a good time to teach Georgie a lesson by not taking her calls.

The remainder of the novel involves a magic yellow rotary telephone and a lot of flashbacks as Georgie has an emotional breakdown over the petulant behavior of her husband and attempts to find the man she once loved by dredging him up from the past so she can love him once again. End of contemporary romance story.

Two stars. Skip it.



SPOILER VERSION - RATED R - YOU'VE BEEN WARNED (No, really....I'm pissed off here)



And this is the part where I tell you how I really felt about this book and why. Our two main characters, Georgie and Neal, had their same problems - all of them - prior to ever getting married. Neal didn't care for Georgie's job, her working relationship and friendship with her best friend Seth, the kind of socializing she was required to do for her job, etc. He resented her doing these things because he wanted her to himself 100% of the time. And yet Georgie still marries him. She thinks the power of her love can change him. People, this is NOT HEALTHY. And I'm disturbed that Rowell presents this as "true love." What the fuck?

Furthermore, the fact that Georgie's husband would take her children and threaten divorce because he is upset over her having to work one fucking holiday is completely out of line. And Rowell is presenting this as if Neal is being completely rational. Georgie isn't working the holiday because she wants to....she is doing it for a chance at writing her own show and finally making enough money for them to live decently in Los Angeles. Georgie's idea that he take the kids and go on to Omaha without her was kind, generous, and thoughtful of her. That he would turn it into an opportunity to emotionally blackmail and torture her by not answering his phone and spending his time with his ex-girlfriend is disgusting ---- this is a marriage worth saving? Really? Rowell writes this entire story-line as if Neal's behavior is completely rational. Threatening divorce when your spouse (the breadwinner of the family, I might add) has to work a holiday is RATIONAL? Moreover, Rowell presents the entire marriage as if Georgie, being the female partner, is logically the spouse who must make the changes and sacrifices to keep the male partner happy. Did I just step into a time machine? I understand Rowell is from the Midwest and loves those good, old-fashioned Midwest values....but this is fucked up.

I would submit that even though Rowell is writing this book for adults, she has garnered a huge teen following and millions will be reading this book regardless of official genre. So way to go, Rowell. You've just told millions of teen girls that the right thing to do is to give up everything you worked so hard for, your education, your career, for a petulant, lazy-assed man who demands you stay at home. That's an awesome message. Maybe that's the kind of message that still prevails in Omaha but here in the rest of the country we are actually working hard to raise our girls smarter, more independent, and even educated (I know, shocker, right?). So.... your message SUCKS. And so did your stupid magic yellow telephone. 

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Title: Landline
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Date: July 8, 2014
Pages: 320
Source: Review copy courtesy of publisher