Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Next Week in the Bookstore: Pope John Paul, P.D. James and Paperback Pleasures

Haunting the aisles of my local bookstore is no longer enough for me — I carefully plot strategies to acquire the latest paperback release in my favorite science fiction series, hot off the press. While I drool over the December releases, just a month away, I can relax with views of deliberately-destroyed buildings in Las Vegas, or explore the deeper meanings of Batman and the Flash, as conceived by Alex Ross.

Tuesday, November 22
The Lighthouse by P.D. James, the 13th Adam Dalgliesh mystery, borrows elements from previous plots. James "sticks closely to formula in the shape of her mystery story but injects her characters with a range of emotions and subtlety of motive that lifts the proceedings well beyond the level of a puzzle and its solution. In the past, she has often isolated her group of victims and suspects by homing in on a particular profession, but this time she uses an even more classic mystery device: an isolated location... But it's what happens between the lines that gives James' stories their punch: the tension between Miskin and the ambitious sergeant... and, of course, the personal lives of the various suspects." —Bill Ott, Booklist

Darth Vader is back, "badder than ever," as the Emperor's ruthless black-cloaked enforcer in James Luceno's Star Wars: Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, the sequel to the novelization of Episode III. A conclusion of sorts to a literary trilogy (Luceno's Star Wars: Labyrinth of Evil and Matthew Stover's Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith) "chronicling the creation of arguably the most popular — and complex — villain in the history of genre fiction... picks up in the last hours of the Clone Wars as Vader is charged with tracking down and annihilating the last of the Jedi Order." —Barnes & Noble review

John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father by Peggy Noonan is the speechwriter and columnist's personal tribute to the late Pope, who arrived in office in 1978 just as she returned to the church. "Noonan is better at flashing insight and anecdote than at sustained argument and narrative. Her memoir of the late pontiff is, then, scrappy, though lyrical passages about John Paul's exceptionally didactic charisma and her own growth in faith predominate... many may feel Noonan focuses too much on her own doings... Uneven though it is, this is an absorbing personal tribute to a remarkable figure." —Ray Olson, Booklist

The sequel to her 2003 debut Venetian Stories, Across the Bridge of Sighs: More Venetian Stories by Jane Turner Rylands features a similar cast of fallen aristocrats, social climbers, workaday Venetians and their respective hangers-on. "When Baroness Sofi Patristi finally divorces her serially philandering husband to marry the architect Vittorio Fallon in 'Restoration,' the refurbishments they undertake to the family's historic palazzo are interrupted by a tragedy that halts any future plans. In 'Fortune,' two exes reunite to visit their ne'er do-well-son... Whether witty or shimmeringly wistful, however, each of the tales Rylands spins prove entertaining, and the interwoven stories borrow from each other's casts with ease." —Publishers Weekly

My kind of history book is Jeff Byles' Rubble: Unearthing the History of Demolition. "The controlled reduction of buildings to rubble is 'the black art of our time,' writes Byles. In this colorful thematic history of the demolition trade (a subject he was pursuing, it should be said, before the destruction of the Twin Towers), he rightfully calls Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, 'the patron saint of creative destruction.' Only in the 1910s did the simple need to topple skyscrapers emerge as a fact of urban renewal... Today, the ostentatious annihilation of gargantuan stadia and casinos draws awestruck throngs." —Publishers Weekly

A stunning coffee-table hardcover version of the November 8th release, Mythology: The DC Comics Art of Alex Ross (Special Limited Edition), is released Tuesday. "What if Batman, Superman, the Flash, and all the rest of the DC Comics heroes really existed? They'd look just the way comics legend Alex Ross draws them in this gorgeous coffee-table art tome. The gifted Ross reimagines the cast of DC superheroes as morally complex characters deeply affected by the events of life. In addition to Ross's amazing hyper-realistic paintings, Mythology includes an original Superman and Batman story by Chip Kidd and a retelling of Robin's origin by frequent Ross collaborator Paul Dini." —Barnes & Noble review

Paperback Releases This Week

If you buy the paperback of John Grisham's Broker, don't expect the author's typical tightly-plotted legal thriller. "Readers will find an amiable travelogue to Italy and its charms in Grisham's latest. What they won't find are the suspense and inspired plotting that have made the author (The Last Juror, etc.) one of the world's bestselling writers. Yet Grisham remains a smooth storyteller, and few will fail to finish this oddball tale of what happens to ruined D.C. powerbroker Joel Blackman, 52, when he's suddenly released from federal prison after six years... little action or tension, plastic characters and plot turns that a tricycle could maneuver." —Publishers Weekly

The third in Rosalind Miles' Tristan and Isolde Novels, The Lady of the Sea finds Isolde now a queen in her own right, facing a Pictish invasion. The Pictish king is determined to take the riches of Ireland for his own people, whether by war or by marriage with Isolde. "Miles (I, Elizabeth; the Guenevere trilogy) writes flowery prose that borders on the florid ('Swollen clouds raced screaming through the air and peal after peal of thunder came rolling in from the edge of doom'), mingling Arthurian lords and ladies, red-robed papal envoys, sword-wielding madmen and crooning truth-tellers. Despite the author's occasional verbal excesses, fans of historical romance are sure to embrace this paean to the power of the female sex." —Publishers Weekly

The movie tie-in mass-market paperback of Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden is "a reminder of just how silly the exhortation 'write what you know!' can be. Clearly Golden, a 40-something American male, has never lived anything remotely similar to the experiences of a geisha coming of age in the '30s, the glory days of Kyoto's Gion pleasure district. Yet it is precisely this vanished world that he re-creates with subtlety, sensuality, and supreme authority." —Barnes & Noble review

In Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep, "A self-conscious outsider navigates the choppy waters of adolescence and a posh boarding school's social politics in Sittenfeld's A-grade coming-of-age debut. The strong narrative voice belongs to Lee Fiora, who leaves South Bend, Ind., for Boston's prestigious Ault School and finds her sense of identity supremely challenged... The book meanders on its way, light on plot but saturated with heartbreaking humor and written in clean prose. Sittenfeld, who won Seventeen's fiction contest at 16, proves herself a natural in this poignant, truthful book." —Publishers Weekly

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