Tony worked at the Borders in Cary for nearly ten years, and is thrilled to have followed some of the bookcases and office chairs to Quail Ridge.
This incredible debut novel is the story of two misfits: a lonely man named Ray and his one-eyed dog called simply One Eye. Baume creates poetry out of the flora and fauna along Irish country roads and the detritus washed up on rocky little beaches. Understated, heartbreaking, and oh-so beautiful, this book brought me to tears even as it reminded me of the simple joy of being alive.
Legendary horror writer H.P. Lovecraft is the starting point of this incredible tale, but layers of narrative and character expand outward in ever expanding circles. Freelance writer Charlie Willett becomes obsessed with the relationship Lovecraft had with teenage fan Robert Barlow, and, in particular, the possible existence of a diary of their love called the Erotonomicon. But is it real? And who is L.C. Spinks? And what happened to Charlie? La Farge is a master storyteller, and The Night Ocean is deep, dark, and dazzling indeed.
This could be the black comedy I've been waiting for all my life! While employing unique strategies to cope with the recent death of his wife, K. becomes quite literal-minded and loses his baloney filter. Through a series of absurd events he becomes the host of a reality TV show in which he confronts people with the truth, with disastrous and hilarious results. Currie walks a tightrope of comedy over a gaping chasm of heartbreak. This is a perfect satire of modern American culture.
This amazing debut is called a novel, but it's really a sprawling, wonderful mess of linked stories exploring the world of migrant guest workers in the United Arab Emirates. Foreign nationals make up over 80% of the population there, but have few rights and no hope of citizenship. Unnikrishnan was raised in this world, and he immerses us in it with playful surrealism and linguistic invention. The author cites Salman Rushdie and George Saunders as influences, and I think it safe to add Kafka to that list.
The Grand Tour throws together Richard, a washed up alcoholic novelist who has a surprise bestseller with a Vietnam War memoir, and Vance, an awkward young fan with a manuscript of his own who volunteers to drive Richard on the rest of his book tour. While both men are at different stages of disappointment and failure, Vance still believes in the redemptive power of literature. The success of Richard’s book gives him the resources to fail more spectacularly than he’s used to, but also to attempt some sort of redemption. The relationship between the two men produces plenty of humor as well as pathos, but never descends to the level of a feel-good road movie. The narrative in the present is intercut effectively with excerpts from Richard’s memoir. Throw in some great supporting characters and a few unexpected plot twists and you are in for a grand tour indeed.
Every year the 22 men in Chris Bachelder's quiet, comical masterpiece gather in the same hotel to renew their friendship and reenact one of professional football's most gruesome moments. With tenderness and compassion, Bachelder perfectly captures the disappointments of middle-age, the solace of play, the bedtime rituals of men far from home (brush teeth, text wives), and the sacred, almost transcendent experience of the team huddle. The Throwback Special offers a heartbreaking and hysterically funny glimpse into the worried soul of the domesticated American male.
This historical novel imagines the life of Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, and the inspiration for his masterpiece: the scathing satire of Soviet life, The Master and Margarita. Despite being one of Stalin's favorite writers, Bulgakov became increasingly frustrated with the censorship of his work. Himes imagines a love triangle between Bulgakov, the idealistic and beautiful Margarita, and a KGB agent who has been watching the author. With the melancholy beauty of a classic Russian novel, this is a wonderfully imaginative literary adventure.
Brian Van Reet is the latest in a growing wave of authors who have rendered their experiences serving in Iraq and Afghanistan into powerful and important literature. Told from the perspective of combatants on both sides of the war in Iraq, Van Reet’s beautifully written debut novel is a thrilling page-turner as well as a reminder that for many who fought in these wars, there were no winners and losers. Only losers. - Tony
A shocking tale of abuse and survival, One of the Boys is a harrowing yet beautiful debut. After a bitter divorce, two brothers are spirited away from their mother to start a new life in New Mexico with their father. It quickly becomes clear who is at the center of this dysfunctional whirlwind of a family. Narrated by the younger of the two unnamed boys, the desperation and brutality he describes is tempered by the innocence and hope of a child forced to grow up far too soon.
Down City begins with the brutal murder of the author's mother. As Carroll is only four years old, she will continually struggle to find out the truth of her mother's death and her life. But it's the complex relationship between the author and her charming, alcoholic father that is the real heart of the book. Her dad will be dead before her nineteenth birthday. As heartbreaking as the book is, it's also an uplifting memoir of survival and love.
When illustrator Edward Sorel tore up the old linoleum in his New York apartment in 1965, he found thirty-year-old tabloid newspaper pages that would fuel an obsession for decades. Actress Mary Astor's child custody case turned into a genuine Hollywood sex scandal when Astor's ex-husband threatened to expose her diary which included salacious details of her affair with married playwright George S. Kaufman. Filled with his wonderful (and saucy) illustrations, Sorel's book is a lighthearted celebration of our fascination with celebrity and sex, but it's also an affectionate portrait of a troubled and talented woman he truly sympathized with. Vignettes from Sorel's life interspersed with the main story add a personal touch. The book documents not only Astor's story, but the story of how it became so important to him. One of my favorite sections of the book is an imagined interview with Astor facilitated by a summons from the afterlife by the Catholic Church. Sorel noted Mary's "classy elocution and longshoreman's vocabulary." I understand why he was so smitten!
This is one of those books that sounds utterly ridiculous when you try to describe it: talking elephants in space! But the author creates such wonderful characters and builds such a unique, dynamic universe, that I totally fell under the spell of Barsk. This beautifully written adventure is full of heart and wonder as well as complex concepts of morality, science, and spirituality. Talking elephants in space: yes!
This pulp-fiction-inspired genre mashup is one of the most imaginative books I've ever read. In this version of 1939, the Communists are in power in Germany, and many ousted Nazis have found refuge in an increasingly Fascist-friendly Britain. It is here, in London, that we meet down and out private detective Wolf. Over the course of an investigation, Wolf meets such historical figures as Rudolph Hess, Klaus Barbie, Joseph Goebbels, Leni Riefenstahl, and Oswald Mosley. They are all acquainted with him as he was once, of course, their Fuehrer. Ironies abound as Wolf/Hitler takes on a case for a Jewish heiress that leads him to swanky book parties, Zionist liberation groups, and Nazi S & M clubs. Then again, this all could be going on inside the head of a Jewish pulp fiction writer in Auschwitz. Parallels with the xenophobia and nationalism of today (along with large doses of graphic sex and violence) make this one of the most disturbing books I've ever read.
A subtle, yet powerful portrait of an extraordinary character, Miss Jane thrills with some of the most gorgeous prose I have ever encountered. Jane Chisholm is born with a genital defect that, in rural Mississippi in the early 20th century, somewhat limits her prospects for a “normal” life. Populated with lovingly wrought characters, sly humor, and keen observations of the human heart, Watson's novel is a beautiful and rare bird indeed.
Author, illustrator, and cultural commentator extraordinaire Kalman gives us a book about dogs that is, of course, about so much more. "(Dogs) are constant reminders that life reveals the best of itself when we live fully in the moment and extend our unconditional love. And it is very true, that the most tender, uncomplicated, most generous part of our being blossoms, without any effort, when it comes to the love of a dog."
The High Line is a one-and-a-half-mile-long public park on an elevated stretch of obsolete freight railway on the West Side of Manhattan. Before I had actually visited (and then immediately fallen in love with) the High Line, somebody tried to describe it to me and I just couldn't envision it. If only this book had existed then, I may have understood something of the magic that awaited me. Documenting in exquisite detail the design, development, and construction of the project, as well as the history of the area, the book is a perfect little window onto a very special place. And like everything that Phaidon does, it is elegant, sumptuous, and stunning.
This utterly compelling, often heartbreaking story of war and lost love is told through a fascinating dual viewpoint. We see Poxl West through the eyes of his fifteen-year-old nephew, Eli Goldstein, in 1986, and through Poxl's own memoir of World War II. Eli is in thrall to the romantic war hero that comes alive in his uncle's pages, but soon finds that the complexities of one person's life may hold more than one truth. Torday has crafted a remarkable tale that shines a light on nothing less than storytelling itself.
In this oh-so-topical dystopian thriller set in the drought ravaged Southwest, water is power. Angel works as a water knife for Las Vegas, cutting the supply to weaker communities. When he finds himself in the dying city of Phoenix entangled with a water deal gone wrong, a tough, local journalist, and plenty of dead bodies, he must rethink everything he knows. Full of complex characters, The Water Knife is a compelling story set in a future that doesn't seem so distant after all.
I've read Naomi Novik in the past (the fantastic Temeraire series) and somehow I always forget what a wonderful storyteller she is,and just how much fun her books are. Uprooted is no exception. Based on the Polish fairy tales of the author's childhood, it features a heroine who doesn't know how truly special she is, and a powerful magic that bonds people to the earth for better or for worse. I promise not to forget the magic of storytelling!
The stories in Adam Johnson's new collection are simply stunning. He takes the reader to emotional heights (or perhaps depths) that I had not thought possible. Like one of his most unforgettable characters, he is prepared to face the darkness with only a dim headlamp to guide the way. Johnson is, without a doubt, the most fearless writer that I know of.
A strange, beautiful book about science, art, identity, war, and storytelling itself, I am Radar stretches its tendrils across continents and generations, and into some pretty ambitious narrative territory. When Radar is born with black skin to his pale white parents, a chain of events begins that entangles the particles of the universe from New Jersey to Norway, from Cambodia to the Congo. What happens when a radical Norwegian puppet collective meets the Colonel Kurtz of library books? Mr. Larsen's wild ride of a novel is mind expanding indeed!
Reading Jonathan Carroll can seem like waking from a particularly strange dream. Random details that seemed so vital at the time can prove challenging to explain afterwards. While cloaked in the guise of a fairly straightforward science fiction tale of alien "mechanics" battling chaos, Bathing the Lion is also a meditation on life and death, on memory and illusion, and yes, on dreams. It is a small window on the genius of Jonathan Carroll.
When a lovesick South Carolina taxidermist volunteers for a shady neurological study, he ends up a genetically modified (but still lovesick) genius. This dark and hilarious romp is the perfect satire for our post-everything culture. Filled with Ahab-like obsession, Orwellian paranoia, and a giant mutant wild boar, it skewers everything from New South hipsters to online dating to Michel Foucault. Elliott's monstrous talent permeates the pages like a brine soaked firecracker: wet, fragrant, and explosive.