The Mystery of Grace, Moxyland, The House Next Door

You guys, I have been on a huge reading spree and finished quite a few books this past week. I'm going to jam in as many as I can, but they might not all fit. Ready?

The Mystery of Grace
I love Charles de Lint's writing and the book I just finished by him does not disappoint. Called the Mystery of Grace, it's set in the American southwest. Grace is a young woman who is very close to her abuelo (grandfather) sharing his love of old cars, rockabilly and surf guitar music.
When he passes away she is left with a giant void that leaves her numb and withdrawn. She takes up smoking again and heads down to the local grocery store to get a pack of cigarettes. But while she's there something terrible happens and she essentially starts a brand new life.

It's very difficult to talk about this book without giving any spoilers but I will do my best. This is essentially a love story but it's also a story about finding yourself while learning to be closer to others. Grace has a lot of friends and acquaintances but she kind of holds everybody at a distance.

This is a beautiful story and I loved it so much. Grace is a fantastic character that I would be happy to call my friend. There are lots of descriptions of working on old cars but they don't get too technical and you won't get bogged down like you would in a Tom Clancy novel. Instead we see just enough to understand her deepest passions and to feel the connection with her abuelo. The gorgeous cover by John Jude Palancar is just the frosting on this extremely tasty cake. This is a book that you want to hand around to all of your friends. You can read an excerpt here: http://www.tor.com/2009/03/26/lemgthe-mystery-of-gracelemg-by-charles-de...

If you choose to purchase the novel using this Amazon affiliate link I will receive a finder's fee, which helps keep this site running. My thanks if you do.

Kill My Mother
I think Neil Gaiman recommended Jules Feiffer's Kill My Mother, a graphic noir novel, in his journal, but I may be misremembering. I got my filthy paws on it recently and read it straight through. Like many things I have read recently it could be summed up as terrible people doing terrible things. (I think there are three characters that aren't awful, greedy, self centered twerps. Maybe four.) Essentially everyone either shoots someone else or gets shot, so don't get too attached to the characters. The book is a fun, fast moving homage to the film noir that was so popular around the Great Depression. The author and artist was a kid when film noir was in its heydey but he says it took him sixty years to be able to draw in the proper style. I was plagued by a feeling of familiarity while I was reading the book, as though it was a well loved story, but it wasn't until I was almost finished that I realized Mr. Feiffer drew the illustrations for the Phantom Tollbooth, a book I read dozens of times as a child. You can read an excerpt here: http://www.npr.org/2014/08/12/339598213/exclusive-first-read-jules-feiff...
If you choose to purchase the novel using this Amazon affiliate link I will receive a finder's fee, which helps keep this site running. My thanks if you do.

Moxyland
If I had to sum up Lauren Beukes' debut novel Moxyland in one word it would be “whoompf.” That's the sound of the wind getting knocked out of me. This is a powerhouse of a cyberpunk novel set in the near future, in South Africa. If you feel we're all corporate stooges or wageslaves now, you will cringe over this book. In this terrifying future your phone is your lifeline and you can be disconnected at any second for not toeing the corporate line. The police can essentially taser you via your phone, so of course they do, at any provocation.

Moxyland follows the lives of four characters who are at nexuses in their lives. Kendra, who is an artist about to let a corporation experiment on her, Toby, who is basically a You Tube star with the morals of a starving tomcat and the personality of a depraved 18th century French aristocrat, Tendeka, an activist walking a narrow line as he tries to get funding for the kids he works with, and Lerato who works for a giant conglomerate, revels in her privilege but is also working to undermine the company. Because she is a thrill-seeker? It's hard for me to say.
I feel kind of odd saying I enjoyed such a dark book but I did. It reminded me a little of Cory Doctorow's For the Win which also looks at how corporations use poverty, class and racial discrimination to treat employees poorly. Although in Moxyland it's also the consumers who are treated poorly, not just the employees. There is very much a one percent trampling and feeding off the 99 percent feel.
You can read an excerpt here: http://angryrobotbooks.com/samples/Moxyland.pdf It looks as though it is about to come out for the Kindle.

If you choose to purchase the novel using this Amazon affiliate link I will receive a finder's fee, which helps keep this site running. My thanks if you do.

The House Next Door
Stephen King spends a fair amount of time discussing Anne River Siddon's scary novel the House Next Door in his nonfiction book Danse Macabre. He gives plenty of spoilers but still made it sound intriguing enough for me to request it via inter-library loan. (It's an older book so a bit hard to find.) It's a little dry but the end gave me the super creeps. It's a haunted house story about a privileged couple who are dismayed when the vacant lot next to their house is purchased and slated for development. But when they see the plans for the new building they think maybe it won't be so bad. But it will. It will be quite a lot worse than they imagined. There are no howling ghosties stretching out long, ectoplasmic limbs, snatching up the neighbors as they go by; no poltergeist smashing all the dishes and throwing people off of roofs. This haunting is more sedate but nonetheless chilling. The House Next Door is well worth spending the time to ferret it out.

If you choose to purchase the novel using this Amazon affiliate link I will receive a finder's fee, which helps keep this site running. My thanks if you do.

Bonus Treat:
This week's bonus treat is fairly melancholy. Losing Prince was quite a blow. Here he is singing the first song I remember of his.