PICKS FROM THE POND
Tom:Voodoo Heart by Scott Snyder
Scott Snyder's collection of short stories, Voodoo Heart, is comprised of character-driven pieces that explore the dark and strange corners of their americana settings. While that's a pretty creative concept, I was skeptical as to how drawn to it I would be. A few pages in I realized I was wrong to be.
Snyder is an author who is capable of creating really compelling plot lines to bring readers in and leading them along with interesting themes and concepts that carry over story to story, without them feeling the same. His settings are something that he clearly takes pride in. They feel hyper-defined and are highly memorable.
Together, his capabilities allow him to create vivid, memorable stories that you definitely haven't read before.
Claire:The Dinner by Herman Koch
Peter and Claire are setting out for the evening to meet Peter's famous brother Serge and his wife Babette for dinner at a local 4-star restaurant. Peter is clearly not looking forward to this familial meal - the tension is palpable when he even talks about his brother - but the reader does not yet have an inkling why. From a calculated appetizer choice to the fraught main course and on to a highly charged order for espresso, the tension between the four people at the table builds deliciously throughout the meal.
Brought together to discuss a family matter, the Lohman's and their secrets immediately draw the reader into their glittering yet dark world. The author masterfully layers the plot and raises the stakes through every course and every turn in the conversation. This was a very engrossing read that delves into family drama and dynamics in a clever way.
To say too much more about this book would be an injustice to the reading experience. It's best for the reader to go in with little pre-conceptions and let the drama unfold as it does for the book's characters. This book was originally written in Dutch and takes place presumably in the Hague, but these facts have little to do with the story. This is not a dinner you'd want to attend, but it's a fascinating one to observe!
Jen:The Barefoot Bandit: The True Tale of Colton Harris-Moore, New American Outlaw by Bob Friel
In need of a page-turner during the mid-winter rain, I hit the "Adventure Writing" section at the store and found this remarkable story about that kid you probably remember running circles around the police, FBI, and Homeland Security in the northwest a few years ago. The Barefoot Bandit is Colton Harris-Moore, and he began stealing from his neighbors on Camano Island, Washington before he was ten years old. At first, he mainly stole to feed himself, since his alcoholic mother couldn't manage to keep their run-down trailer stocked with food. As he discovered his talent for breaking and entering (sometimes slipping in, using a computer and having a snack, then sneaking back out while the owners and their dog slept in the next room), Colton graduated to taking electronics, money, and identities. He opportunistically used boats, bikes and cars to move around the island, staying at various hidden campsites in order to stay out of reach of both the law and his mother and her parade of boyfriends when their drinking turned violent. Hiding in the lush forests with his beagle, Melanie, Colton killed time playing flight simulator games that led, amazingly, to his successful theft of several small airplanes.
The author is a magazine and travel writer who happened to be living on Orcas Island when Colton burglarized most of that community, so the storytelling has the personal touches of someone who knows the setting intimately.
Though The Barefoot Bandit does have all the necessary elements of good adventure writing - a sympathetic daredevil, a difficult situation, and page-turning action - this story lacks the wilderness setting that imperils most adventurers. It's more of a good-kid-turned-bad-by-his-lousy-circumstances kind of story, but it's a wild ride that easily distracts from the miserable weather for awhile.
Justin: Black Orchid Deluxe Edition, story by Neil Gaiman, art by Dave McKean
Neil Gaiman's take on the Black Orchid is a must read for any super hero fan. In it, Gaiman exploits the qualities of this unique hero to challenge the themes most common in modern super hero stories: namely men using violence to either create problems, or solve them. Instead, Black Orchid is a female human/plant hybrid, part of DC's pantheon of plant characters (which also includes Woodrue, Poison Ivy and Swampthing, who make guest appearances in the story). Plants have a different way of doing things. As Black Orchid searches for answers to her origin and purpose, she never raises her hand in anger or violence. In doing so, Neil Gaiman tells a new kind of story in super hero genre, a story where fists and guns can't solve everything.
There is plenty of action though, as the tumultuous world swirls about in a challenge to Orchid's serenity. Heavy hitters like Lex Luthor, and The Dark Knight also make appearances. Dave McKean's art is as otherworldly and beautiful as ever, brought to brilliant new life with the Deluxe Edition's remastered colors. The Deluxe Edition is a hardcover and also includes bonus content that reveals a bit of the creative process that went into the making of this beautiful book.