The practice of keeping a (public or private) log on the Web gave us the term “blog” and “blogging.” Once considered a pretentious and indulgent luxury, most people on the Web either have an active blog or 1 or more blogs they’ve started and abandoned.
January is always a heavy month for new blog posts, but most bloggers, like me, lose steam quickly. At the very least, I will be blogging, at a minimum, the title of every book I read in 2013, and when time permits, I’ll give a review. I’ll also rate these books, using the following criteria:
10 – Any book that suggests itself for likely inclusion in my year-end best books posting. I’ll make 2 lists: One that only includes books I’ve completed or read significant parts of. Frankly, if I like a book, though, I’ll finish it; and a second list that includes books I’ve not read but that have gleaned substantial praise from respected critics or readers, including you, and that I can endorse from that second-hand perspective.
9 – A well done book that was fun for me to read and that I will recommend to select customers, but that I couldn’t honestly elevate to the status of a great book. For example, Tim Dorsey’s best work will usually garner a 9 from me. If you see me give a genre thriller a 9, you probably will want to read it, provided that genre is one you enjoy. And even the least of John Grisham’s legal thrillers will earn an …
8 – A fine book worth spending your money on, especially if the topic or genre is one you have an interest in.
7 – There won’t be many books I’ll read that won’t earn at least a 7 from me. I have access to a lot of advance material and can choose wisely. My time, especially when it is time spent on your behalf evaluating books, is too limited to read something I don’t think will at least be a 7 on this scale.
4 through 6 – A mistake has been made on my part if I read and rate these books. I’m just not going to read Alexander McCall Smith and I probably won’t be reading Jodi Picoult. So I won’t rate and review them. I will, however share with you what others are saying about them simply because it is news that is useful to you. And I know that many of you would naturally have either of those authors rated more highly. I invite you to submit your reviews, even in the form of a brief paragraph. We’ll attribute it to you by name or by your alias, if you choose.
1 through 3 – Warning you away from these books. Examples? I could probably give you Fifty Shades of examples.
A word to the wise: Because of my job, I have access to many books well before they are available to you. Why? First because the publisher or author is eager to have me buy and promote that book. Second, because they hope that I will review/blog about it and develop a loyal and viral following. So, enjoy these blog posts while planning your future reading. I'll always give you the expected release date.
Title: Lexicon: A Novel
Author: Max Barry Publisher: Penguin Press Release date: June 18, 2013
Barry’s editors are with the flagship imprint of Penguin Group USA, which has been in the news regarding a proposed merger with Random House. I’m not convinced that’s a good thing, but I do know that Penguin Press only releases a few titles each season and Max Barry’s book is one of them.
My history with Barry extends only back to 2010’s Machine Man, but that was such a wild ride that I quickly snatched this new one out of the advance reader box. I’m glad I did.
Lexicon plays to all my pleasure points. Through the ages, some individuals have held sway over the opinions and actions of thousands and even millions. How do they do it? What natural advantages do they have that others do not? How do they develop those skills.
At school, of course. The tony school just outside Washington, D.C. called “The Academy” winnows the best candidates in order to train them to be “Poets.” Poets have, to put it mildly, a way with words. Graduates assume the names of dead poets, but their society is far less transparent than you would think. Tom (T.S.) Eliot is a “top gun,” especially when it comes to recruiting new adherents. Charlotte Brontè manages the Academy. But Emily Ruff is like no other student before her. Rebellious, inquisitive, and romantic, Emily doesn’t quite fit into the plans the Poets have for her.
When she is kicked out of school for her part in one of the more shocking literary tragedies you’ll ever read, she is exiled to the remotest part of the continent of Australia in hopes that she can develop the discipline to return and graduate. But Emily has other plans. Until she runs into a man immune to persuasion.
The plot is not linear. Emily’s story is told in flashback, while the main narrative races from deadly conflict to apocalyptic climax.
The book is both literate and fast-paced, but it is the humaneness of its characters that will cause it to lodge in your cranium for a long, long time.
Rating: 9, with a chance of a year-end upgrade
UPCOMING AUTHOR EVENT: We’re just thrilled to be hosting author Frank Bill on the occasion of his first novel for Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. It’s Donnybrook, and it takes place just a few miles from here. I’ve nominated it for the Indie Next List, though I’ll bet I’m not the only independent bookseller who was rocked by this book. I’ll share more on this book later, and although I read it last year, it comes out in March. Frank Bill will be doing a reading, book talk, and signing here at the store on Saturday, April 16, at 2 p.m. Put this on your calendar now. Bill is a major new talent and he’s from this area. I’m betting we’ll all be talking proudly about how we’ve met him and he’s one of ours. If interest builds like I think it will, we may have to make this a ticketed event. Frank previously authored Crimes in Southern Indiana for FSG, and we’ll have that book here, too, or you can read it now. We always have it in stock.