In the Mail – Catch Up Edition

heart-shaped.jpgQuite often these days when people ask how things are going I am reminded of that FedEx commercial (watch it here)where the guy pretends to be busy and says things like “Worky work! Busy Bee!” Except, I really do have a lot of things to do and FedEx ground can’t really help.

Anyways . . . in lieu of more substantive posting allow me to note here some interesting books that have been sent my way of late. Yes, that’s right. It’s another installment of In the Mail!

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

From Publishers Weekly

Stoker-winner Hill features a particularly merciless ghost in his powerful first novel. Middle-aged rock star Judas Coyne collects morbid curios for fun, so doesn’t think twice about buying a suit advertised at an online auction site as haunted by its dead owner’s ghost. Only after it arrives does Judas discover that the suit belonged to Craddock McDermott, the stepfather of one of Coyne’s discarded groupies, and that the old man’s ghost is a malignant spirit determined to kill Judas in revenge for his stepdaughter’s suicide. Judas isn’t quite the cad or Craddock the avenging angel this scenario makes them at first, but their true motivations reveal themselves only gradually in a fast-paced plot that crackles with expertly planted surprises and revelations. Hill (20th Century Ghosts) gives his characters believably complex emotional lives that help to anchor the supernatural in psychological reality and prove that (as one character observes) “horror was rooted in sympathy.” His subtle and skillful treatment of horrors that could easily have exploded over the top and out of control helps make this a truly memorable debut.

Black Monday by R. Scott Reiss

From Booklist

Screenwriter Reiss (the name is a pseudonym) plants himself firmly in Michael Crichton territory with this techno-thriller. A microbe that eats oil has somehow appeared in oil fields around the world. Any machine that runs on gasoline is rendered inoperable by the microbe. Greg Gillette, an epidemiologist, tries to beat the clock and find an antidote to the techno-plague before society collapses. Written with urgency and wit, the novel (already snapped up by Hollywood) is imaginative and plausibly plotted. The book doesn’t feature Crichton’s lengthy scientific explanations, but it does have the same sort of plucky characters and high-octane pacing. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser.

POSH by Lucy Jackson

From Publishers Weekly

The pseudonymous Jackson (an “acclaimed short story writer and novelist”) plumbs the lives of those who pace the halls at New York City’s exclusive Griffin School in this accomplished novel. Varied in age and income bracket, the cast is finely drawn if familiar: Julianne Coopersmith, a middle-class teen with an overprotective mother, attends Griffin on scholarship; Morgan Goldfine, Julianne’s best friend whose mother recently died, is awash in grief; Michael Avery, Julianne’s boy wonder boyfriend, is Harvard bound; and Kathryn “Lazy” Hoffman, Griffin’s headmistress, is having a professionally verboten affair with a teacher. Cracks form in Julianne and Michael’s relationship after Michael shows signs of mental instability, though Julianne’s loathe to give up on him, even when his symptoms hint at violent tendencies. Morgan mopes her way through the school year, and Julianne’s mother strikes up an unlikely friendship with Michael’s mother. Kathryn’s affair, predictably, becomes public knowledge, sparking domestic and professional upheaval. If the plot packs few surprises, Jackson’s rendering of relationships—both toxic and positive, filial and friendly—is flawlessly executed as she flits from social strata to social strata. The similarity in cover art between this novel and Prep isn’t for nothing.

Mortality by Nicholas Royle

Book Description

An amateur goalkeeper is frozen solid in a moment of ecstasy as he makes his perfect save. A young man finds himself drawn into the autoerotic asphyxiation fantasies of his deceased uncle. A photographer navigates the rapids of London’s fashion-media elite and struggles to remain afloat in a sea of drugs. These stories feature a parade of mad women, male neurotics, lovesick morticians, frustrated pizza waiters, and psychotic serial killers. Nicholas Royle’s tales are skewed vignettes of the way we live now.

The Call of the Weird: Travels in American Subcultures by Louis Theroux

From Publishers Weekly

Ten years after hosting a BBC series on weird American subcultures, Theroux decided to make a “Reunion Tour” and write a book about how his interviewees’ lives had changed. Theroux’s weird Americans were UFO enthusiasts, porn stars, Aryan Nation white supremacists, brothel prostitutes, gangsta rappers, become-a-millionaire scammers, Heaven’s Gate survivors and, strangely, Ike Turner. Theroux (son of writer Paul Theroux) likes them because he believes they use weirdness to feel “alive,” and that’s “more important than telling the truth.” Apart from that, what they have in common, 10 years later, is their unavailability—the porn star had become a computer programmer, the UFOer was inhabiting a different reality, and the prostitute was either born-again or doing drugs, hard to say. So Theroux settled for talking to others in their communities. Although he sometimes criticizes himself for botching things (trying unsuccessfully to attend the Millionaires seminar as the guest of a blacklisted former adherent), Theroux never criticizes his subjects, confining himself to what he hopes will be inoffensive questions—like, have you “ever thought of trying to be less racist?” As their rants become repetitious, these “weird” subjects become surprisingly boring. By the end, readers may wonder why Theroux still finds these people so “alive,” so interesting.

Grrr! Celebrities Are Ruining Our Country by Mike Straka

Book Description

What makes you go Grrr?

Is it the celebrity who is under the delusion that you actually care about how he or she wants you to vote, when all you really care about from the Hollywood set is how they will entertain you? Is it that Paris Hilton is dressing your daughters, Tom Cruise is having kids out of wedlock, and Terrell Owens is putting the “I” in team? From celebrities who forget that they’re not policymakers to the politicians who forget they’re not celebrities, from the office moron spouting off the latest political rant to the idiots who screech endlessly into their cell phones, Grrr! columnist Mike Straka is the voice of reason for millions of rabid readers who are sick and tired of the celebrity-obsessed world in which we live today. Straka’s hilarious yet brutally honest observations don’t stop there. Whether you’re at the mall, driving in your car, or sitting at home watching television, there’s just so much to Grrr! about, and Mike Straka, aka “The Grrr! Guy,” helps you vent with a book that exposes the injustices of the world and takes down some of our biggest offenders!

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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