This has been one of those weeks where books are flying off the shelves, necessitating some scrambling on our part to keep up with what’s new, what’s hot, and what’s new & hot. It’s a fine line that separates these three.
And speaking of separating wheat from chaff, Naomi Novik returns to the world of re-imagined fairy tales with Spinning Silver, a not-quite-sequel to Uprooted, which won the Nebula Award recently. Spinning Silver is one part Rumpelstiltskin, one part Eastern European folktale, and three parts courage, brains, and pluck. Oh, and there’s icy secrets to be uncovered and ancient magics to be countered.
And speaking of secrets, Carrie Vaughn is back with The Wild Dead, the sequel to her Philip K. Dick Award-winning Bannerless. Now the world that Vaughn works with here is agrarian, but not in that fairy tale sort of way. In this world, there’s been a fall, and much of the world as we know it has passed, leaving small communities who persist through careful attention to family and rigid sets of rules. We follow Enid, an investigator who helps mediate “issues” between families, and in The Wild Dead, Enid has to deal with a dead body. Not all that unusual really, in a mystery. However, the body isn’t that of a local, which presents all sorts of complications.
Mmm. We like complications.
We also like mermaids, which makes Carolyn Turgeon’s new The Mermaid Handbook a delightful treat. Presented as both a historical survey, an art book, and a DIY how-to manual, The Mermaid Handbook covers mermaids in history, mermaids in fashion, mermaids in art, and what mermaids like to eat and wear in their hair. Naturally, there are recipes and step-by-step guides to go along with both.
And speaking of fanciful get-ups, the third book in Gail Carriger’s The Custard Protocol is out this week. Competence—subtitled A Novel of Peculiar Incidents and Unruly Dissidents—is the latest adventure of Miss Primrose Tunstell and her wondrous crew aboard The Spotted Custard, a respectable airship involved in somewhat dubious activities. This time around, we’re following Miss Tunstell as she gets involved in a caper involving the Spanish Inquisition, atmospheric anomalies, a fake fishtail, and a lovesick werecat.
Hold all of your questions until the end, please. We trust that Miss Carriger knows what she is doing. Even if she doesn’t, the ride will be entertaining, amusing, and mildly bumpy—but not in any way that would make you reach for an air sickness bag. [And yes, there’s our pull quote: “Turbulent and zany, but not so much so that you need a barf bag.”]
Anyway, Carriger mixes Victorian manners, couture, and monsters with delightful aplomb. It’s enough to make one wistful for waistcoats and bullish for bloodsuckers.
And speaking of winsome, we also have Louise Miller’s The Late Bloomers’ Club, the story of a baker, an apple orchard filled with secrets, and a dog named Freckles. It’s also the story of the eternal conflict between corporate expansionist policies and the small town communal living, and how the final wishes of a woman no one truly knew will change an entire town. Did we mention there was baking? There’s baking, and possibly murder. But definitely baking.
And speaking of secret recipes long thought lost, Kathleen O’Neal Gear’s new thriller, Maze Master, is equal parts Jean Auel, Dan Brown, and James Rollins. LucentB—the most deadly retrovirus ever imagined—is loose, and it is up to a brilliant yet errant geneticist, one of his former students, and a paleontologist and religious studies scholar to find a cure before all of humanity is wiped out. We hope things end better for the human race than they do in Dan Brown’s Inferno.
And speaking of Dan Brown, Origin is out in paperback this week. We used up all possible effusive praise that we could talking about it when it came out in hardback, and so all we have to say about it now is: “Yep. Get yer conspiracy theory origin story. Step right up. Less than the price of a couple Frappuccinos at Starbucks. Gloss over European history and evolutionary theory with the best of ‘em.”
However, if you are in the mood for something a little more shocking, we have a book that does not have a blue cover. Jeffrey Melnick’s Creepy Crawling is a historical and psychological analysis of the impact Charles Manson and his gang of nutters made on the American psyche. Psst! Here’s a hint: it’s not good.
[Ed note: Also, don't ever google "creepy crawling" without putting in the author's last name to your search, either. We're going to be up all night now. Thanks, Internet!]
We’re not all that partial to wasting words on folks and events that don’t enrich or contribute to our underlying health and well-being, but sometimes you should take a step back and wonder how we got where we’ve gotten and where we might have gone astray. Manson’s story isn’t particularly interesting, but our cultural reaction to his story is something that has rooted deep and is probably festering.
On a lighter note, we have Zoje Stage’s debut novel, Baby Teeth, the heart-in-your-throat story of a dutiful mother, her clueless husband, and a small child that might actually be the most terrifying creature in existence. Entertainment Weekly sums Baby Teeth up as “We Need to Talk About Kevin meets Gone Girl meets The Omen,” which—using our bookseller decode ring—translates to: “savage domestic terror novel that will make you afraid to be left in a room with a cherubic baby in a stroller.”
We've gone and left us all in a bad spot here, so let's instead turn to our ever-entertaining Blind Date Books as a wonderful salve against darkness and fear. We've done a seasonal refresh on the date categories, and here are a few samples.
Naturally, you’ll have to visit the store to read the snarky fine print.