Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Voice in the Darkness: "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr

It is the 1930s. Marie-Laure, a young French girl, living with her father, finds herself losing her sight. Her father, who works at  a Natural History Museum as master of all the keys, is devoted to her and will help her to reach independence and to keep her inquisitive intelligence despite her blindness.
Meanwhile, in Germany, a German orphan named Werner lives with his sister, Jutta, in an orphan home run by an older French woman. He, too, has an inquisitive mind, and one day brings home an old radio he finds on an excursion and figures out how to make it work. This opens up a whole new world for him, his sister and the others living in the home as they listen to music and news and late at night, he and Jutta listen to a lone voice talking about science and the world of the mind and Werner sees his future before him. Or does he?
Will these two cross paths one day? What awaits them at the onset of WWII and all the tragedy and deprivation and horror that will bring? Mr. Doerr's All the Light We Cannot See is a luminous masterpiece of storytelling. These young people and the world around them come alive as we follow them through this tale of survival of the spirit and of bravery in the face of all odds. Highly, highly recommended.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Trick or Treat: "The Well" by Catherine Chanter

One of the most stunningly written works that the Recommender has read recently is The Well by Catherine Chanter, a realistically futuristic look at a Great Britain devastated by a long drought and a London couple who have purchased a country farm that seems immune to the problems and hardships that plague their neighbors and the rest of society.
It begins with Ruth Ardingly's release from prison and her return to the Well, her farm, and her subsequent House Arrest for something we will discover as the story unfolds. What happens is frighteningly plausible. The Well, a character in itself, is a gorgeous farm with an almost supernatural water source, from its active stream to the mysterious rainfall that only falls there and not on the neighboring farms and villages. Crops thrive, wildlife, plants and trees flourish. Is it a miracle? Or something darker?
As we get to know Ruth and her back story, we learn she been happy in London. It was her husband, Mark, who wanted to leave for reasons which will be revealed, and Ruth supported him in the search for a refuge away from the city, away from her friends and a way of life she will leave behind. They come across the Well on a drive in the country and soon are the owners of that vibrant piece of land, one that they hope will change their lives. How it changes them may not be what they had in mind.
I won't give any more away, as you will want to discover the secrets of The Well for yourself. And, let me just say, you will never complain about a rainy day, again!
This book won't be released until May, but I wanted to get the word out, because it's that good!
And below, a lovely song that compliments the story. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Changing the Script: "Scrooged" by Laura DeLuca

Author Laura DeLuca has given her fans a special Christmas novella featuring one of my favorite fictional characters, Justyn Patko, or, as I prefer to call him Lord Justyn Patko! It's Christmas and everyone has gathered at Justyn's Mom Darlene's warm and cozy home for some paleo friendly eggnog and good times celebrating theYule. Everyone, that is, except  Stan Hope, Rebecca's father. Surly and snarky as ever towards Justyn and his family, never the in-laws he would have chosen for his only daughter. Unable to take part in the joyous evening he skulks home, alone. Even his wife, Mary, Rebecca's mother, wanted to stay to enjoy the festivities, happy to do so without him.
Well, he would just have a drink and watch Christmas movies on TV. That was better than having to spend time with those weirdos! Or was it? Falling asleep to A Christmas Carol ...Stan might find being alone on Christmas ...and maybe in his future... was something he was going to have to face up to, or possibly set a different path in motion.
Ms. DeLuca brings some sinister characters from her previous books back to help Stan shed his Scrooge outlook. Great fun and any story that combines Lord Justyn and a Christmas Carol will make this one a favorite to enjoy now and future holiday seasons! Get a copy here for only .99:Scrooged

Friday, December 19, 2014

After "In the After": "In the End" by Demitria Lunetta

Carrying on the momentum of In the After, this companion volume follows Amy and her ...Stop! Read No More if  you haven't read In the After there are SPOILERS because this IS a sequel!!!! OK, after her escape from the Ward (horrors!!!) and New Hope and leaving Baby behind because she has to find a safe place for them, Amy is making her way through what's left of civilization. Armed with some of the elite Guardian gear, like the emitter that gives off sound waves to ward off THEM (aka the Florae), and the fabulous synth suit that protects her from pretty much anything, and she's surviving until she gets a message from her Guardian mentor (and former rock star) Kay, through her amplified earpiece warning her that the evil, mad scientist Dr. Reynolds of New Hope has Baby!!!! Oh No!!! Baby is one of the sweetest, most lovable characters in  all of dystopian fiction! What can Amy do to save her "sister"???
Kay tells her to go to Fort Black and find her brother, a research scientist working on secret secrets possibly related to the Florae. Fort Black has a terrible reputation. Amy has avoided going to this other settlement but now must brave its walls and guards  and do whatever it takes so she can save Baby!
These are two action-packed yet absorbing and even believable books and so visual you can picture the whole thing going down. They might even make great films, but don't wait for the movie versions. Read these now! The Recommender says so!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Steampunk Phantom: "Of Metal and Wishes" by Sarah Fine

A co-worker at the library where I work ( Emily!) gave me a heads up about this when it was published, as a new take on the Phantom of the Opera story so...of course it had to be mine! I fell in love with the alternately dreamy/ nightmare-y world and the haunting love story the author, Ms. Fine, has created. 16 year old Wen lives with her father above his clinic based in a horrifying slaughter house. After her mother's death, she is forced to leave their lovely home on a hill, her beautiful dresses sewed and embroidered by her beloved mother and accompany her father to the rooms they now share. Now she sews tiny, neat stitches in the torn flesh of workers caught in the killing machinery.
No matter how hard her father and the slaughterhouse workers work, the bosses and under bosses call all the shots. Food and clothes are all bought from the company store and there never seems a way to save or much hope for the workers of a life beyond the daily grind.
Many of these people pray to a ghost. There is an altar where they leave gifts and wishes. Some he seems to grant. Wen scoffs at these superstitions. Then, when there is a shortage of workers, some outsiders are brought in to work on the floor, these are the Noor. They are disparaged and looked down on, not as good as the Itanyai, Wen's people, and yet there is something about them. They walk unbowed, unlike the weary workers they are joining and their leader seems to be a tall, copper haired boy with jade green eyes. They had a reputation as warriors. Wen is intrigued but when something happens to embarrass her in the cafeteria in front of the workers, she makes a wish to the ghost, herself, and then is afraid it might have come true.
The treatment of the workers by the bosses and the Noor by everyone is like an alternate version of Orwell's 1984. It's a truly frightening vision and you'll keep your fingers crossed for Wen but I don't want to spoil the secrets of what goes on behind the hellish walls of the slaughter house, or of Wen's discoveries. Or of someone observing from the sidelines.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Blood and Roses: "Those Rosy Hours At Mazandaran" by Marion Grace Woolley

From Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera: The Persian narrates Erik's time in Iran during the Rosy Hours:
"No one knows better than he how to throw the Punjab lasso, for he is the king of stranglers even as he is the prince of conjurors. When he had finished making the little sultana laugh, at the time of the "rosy hours of Mazandaran," she herself used to ask him to amuse her by giving her a thrill. It was then that he introduced the sport of the Punjab lasso.
 He had lived in India and acquired an incredible skill in the art of strangulation. He would make them lock him into a courtyard to which they brought a warrior--usually, a man condemned to death-- armed with a long pike and broadsword. Erik had only his lasso; and it was always just when the warrior thought that he was going to fell Erik with a tremendous blow that we heard the lasso whistle through the air. With a turn of the wrist, Erik tightened the noose round his adversary's neck and, in this fashion, dragged him before the little sultana and her women, who sat looking from a window and applauding. The little sultana herself learned to wield the Punjab lasso and killed several of her women and even of the friends who visited her. But I prefer to drop this terrible subject of the rosy hours of Mazandaran. "
Taking this snippet of information, dark and descriptive as it is, and turning it into a full length life story of the little Sultana, or, in this case Shahzadi, and her relationship with Erik, or Eirik as he becomes known to her, is quite a daunting task and Ms. Woolley wholly succeeds in bringing this mysterious world of the Phantom's past to vivid, magical life.
The author pulls us into this world, the mid 1800s world of life and culture under the Shah and his harem and the infighting that goes on among the wives to be chosen as his favorite, and the life of the Shah's first and favorite daughter, Afsar (which means Crown), who at 10 years of age, as the story begins, is beautiful and already feared, because, as she says, "They understood me for what I was, Death disguised as Grace".
One morning she is called to her father who has her listen to tales of an incredible circus told by a traveling fur trader. In particular, he spoke of a man, a magician so skilled he could make his voice travel and could sing like the angels, and yet he was so ugly, he had to wear a mask. The Shah promises to bring the circus to Mazandaran for her birthday. When, eventually, the circus does make its way there, Afsar will find her life irrevocably changed by her meeting with the masked conjuror, who, is there any doubt? is, of course, the future Opera Ghost. Here, at 19, he has already traveled the world and acquired a variety of skills through his travels... some of them deadly.
 If you are a fan of the Phantom you will see where some of that baggage he's hauled around with him came from. Don't miss this fascinating trip into his past and that of a minor character in Leroux's classic who finally has her starring role.
(This title will be released Feb. 14, 2015. Thank you to NetGalley for the DRC!)

And a song that has nothing to do with the book but has an apt title and a fitting mood:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sounds of Silence: "In the After" by Demitria Lunetta

Amy is a normal, happy teen. She might sometimes gripe about her parents, her mother, a government workaholic, and her dad, who's into green living. She enjoys school and her friends and then, one Saturday afternoon... the world as she knew it had ended. What was Before is over. She has to learn to live in the After. And, In the After, by Demitria Lunetta, is a wild, different, post apocalyptic look at life on earth, an earth taken over by fast, make that super fast, ravenous alien monsters, with incredible hearing that can find you and rip you apart if you just breathe too loudly.
That Saturday, Amy was home alone, while her parents were out. They are probably dead, now. Like everyone else she knows. It started with the TV broadcasts ... aliens had landed and were destroying anyone and anything alive. Then TV was gone, so was radio, after a while. She hunkers down with her books and what food they have on hand. Three weeks pass. She is safe because her mother had to protect the government secrets she brought home and had installed an electric fence which keeps Them away. She also had a gun, which her father had made sure she knew how to use, despite his reservations about having it in the house.
Needing to restock her provisions, Amy makes her way beyond the protection of the electric fence after dark. The creatures seem to disappear at night.  She learns, on that first trip, what to do and what not to. Like wearing shoes. Even the sound of a sneaker on pavement can draw Their attention.
She begins to make trips to a supermarket to restock her shelves. It is on one of these trips that she finds Baby, a little girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old who has managed to survive, despite being wounded.  At first, Amy isn't sure what to do with her, and thinks if the little girl makes a sound, she'll throw her to the wolves... or, in this case, to THEM.  She decides to take her home with her and Amy's connection to Baby becomes the heart of this gripping, disturbing look at a future where you do what you can to survive and don't know quite who to trust anymore.
I loved Amy and Baby! They are wonderfully realized characters and you fear for them in this frightening world. I won't give away any more of the plot because it is a terrific, unputdownable , surprising and twisty story and if you enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction (or any fiction!), then don't miss this one!

Simon and Garfunkle's "Sounds of Silence" from Ms.Lunetta's "In the After" Playlist...and the miracle of Youtube