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BY SEAN CLARK

[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]


Museum of the Weird, by Amelia Gray. Reviewed by J. Robert Lennon (New York Times).

I’ve never heard of Amelia Gray, but after reading this review, I’ll be picking up her book. I love short stories. And I especially love short stories that explore the fabulous, or the not-quite-real. Stories about marriage and lonliness bore me, unless the bride is, say, a two-foot bullfrog. Gray seems to be writing just the sort of stories I like. But Lennon’s review, which is quite readable in its own right, gives me some misgivings. He warns of randomness and non-sequitor and worse: “nonsensical events or long, bland verbal exchanges between indistinguishable characters.” But I still think I want to give this one a shot.

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The Instructions, by Adam Levin. Reviewed by Christopher Borrelli (Chicago Tribune).

Releasing an 1,100 page debut novel is pretty ballsy. However, McSweeny’s has a pretty good record of debut novelists since they began pressing books (even managed to find one in his nineties). I’m not sure I have a book that size in me right now, but I’m intrigued all the same. Give the review a read, Borrelli writes well.

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Nightshade, by Andrea Cremer. Reviewed by Susan Carpenter (LA Times)

I picked this one because the book at hand seems pretty lauagable. It’s apparaently a Twilight knockoff (the protagonist is named Calla, to Twilight‘s Bella. Really?), but with a twist. As Carpenter enthusiastically describes it:

A fantastical mash-up of religious warriors and witch hunts, of feminist will and societal oppression, “Nightshade” is historical fiction — with a modern, pop culture twist. An intelligent reimagining of the past played out in the present with shape-shifting werewolves residing in Vail, Colo., “Nightshade” is a book for well-read hopeless romantics who like their heroines conflicted, their love interests smoldering and their passions triangulated and torrid, yet unfulfilled.

Ugh. The review goes on for a while. It’s pretty funny. I wish I had found this book for JABBIC.

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The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life, by Bettany Hughes. (Guardian).

Every couple years I like to tackle a history book. I really like them, but they tend to require a slower read and I don’t have the attention span or patience to absorb them regularly. It’s about time I read another, and Hughes’s book on Socrates could be the one. This isn’t a review, but a short article on Socrates by the author of the book. Give it a read, it’s pretty interesting.

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Bonus book trailer: “He oversleeps after a tryst and chaos ensues…” Ah, smooth soul jams and snapshots of random people really set the mood for a good 2007 Christian romance.

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