In Powers’ literary novel of supernatural suspense, vampires are very much real and haunt the streets of London. When pre-Raphaelite poet Christina Rosetti was only 14, she unwittingly unleashed a supernatural horror upon not only her family, but all of London. That horror, a vampire who was once her uncle John Polidori—who is known for having published the first work of vampire-themed fiction—along with the mysterious Miss B—aka Boadicea, the ancient warrior-queen of the Iceni—plot to destroy London. Christina Rosetti and her artist brother Dante Gabriel Rosetti, former prostitute Adelaide McKee and veterinary doctor John Crawford, both of whom have managed to attract the attention of the supernatural fiends in various ways, plot to stop them and end their undead lives.
A complex and compelling plot, fascinating use of historical figures, and a unique and frightening take on the vampire legend make this historical horror novel stand out. Fans of books like The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte; and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostovawill not want to miss Hide Me Among the Graves.
Neurologist and practicing physician Oliver Sacks has written nearly a dozen popular books on the unusual functions of the human mind and, in doing so, has given us new insights into what constitutes humanness. An Anthropologist on Mars is one of my favorite books of essays by Sacks. This is a collection of seven essays, including an essay about a painter who loses all sense of color after an accident and a narrative about Temple Grandin—from which the title is derived. One of my favorite essays in the collection is about a highly regarded surgeon who is consumed by the compulsive tics of Tourette's Syndrome unless he is operating. Oliver Sacks’ books are thought-provoking, entertaining, and inspiring. Read this one if you haven’t read it already. And you can look forward to his new book,Hallucinations, which is due out this coming fall.
Therapy is a book that has been on my mind for ten years. Seriously. I started reading it ten years ago and then lost it—to my despair. For some reason I didn’t get my hands on another copy right away, and then I forgot the exact title and author—you know how that is—and from time to time I would remember this book as a wonderful pleasurable read and curse myself for losing it in the first place. But the universe often rights itself, and I recently stumbled upon the title. Hooray! Of course, I finished the book in two days: a) because I loved it b) to minimize the chances of me losing it again.
I had remembered this novel as humorous, charming, and immensely readable—which it is—but what I didn’t initially realize is that David Lodge is a serious—funny—British writer. Therapy will not be the last David Lodge book that I read. I am now a David Lodge fan. He’s funny. He’s smart. He’s a fan of Graham Greene. What more can I ask for? Anyway, what isTherapy about, you may wonder? Well, Tubby Passmore is a successful sitcom screenwriter who goes to various therapies for aches and pains and angst. That’s basically it. Well, there is a lot more involving love relationships and existential doubt…but you will just have to read it to find out.
Blindness is a novel that you will not easily forget. It is a metaphysical thriller, following a group of people who are suddenly struck blind and find themselves bound together in their struggles and desires. Eventually, the blindness spreads throughout the society. This novel is written by Jose Saramago—a writer whom you will want to read at least once during your lifetime. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998, he was a Portuguese novelist whose work examines the human condition and our need to find meaning in this often absurd world. This novel is highly recommended. If you don’t find Blindness on the shelf, try any of his other novels. You can’t go wrong.
Cartoonist Marisa Acocella shares her personal battle with breast cancer in a way only a New Yorker can in this illustrated memoir. On the eve of her marriage to a handsome Italian restaurant owner, Marisa finds a lump in her breast and it feels like everything she loves is about to be sucked into a black hole. But with courage, her faithful fiance, slightly crazy Italian mother, brutally honest friends and a little dose of fashion, she manages her eleven month treatment with grace and more than a little humor.
If you never thought a memoir on Cancer could make you laugh-out-loud, think again. With bold, witty and emotionally powerful illustrations, Marisa takes us through one of the most chaotic times of her life. This graphic novel has continually been named one of the best in its genre.
Coates’ novel, likely the first in a new urban fantasy series, introduces Sgt. Hallie Michaels. Hallie has seen ghosts ever since she died for seven minutes following an insurgent attack in Afganistan. Now she has returned home to South Dakota on a ten-day leave to attend the funeral of her younger sister Dell. But Hallie quickly becomes convinced that Dell’s death, considered by many to be suicide, was actually murder. She finds an unlikely ally in local deputy Boyd Davies, whose life-long precognitive dreams predispose him to believing in Hallie’s ghosts. They quickly zero in on Dell’s former employer Uku-Weber, a weather research firm whose new technology seems to rely on forces more arcane than meteorological science. It becomes obvious that Dell knew more about the truth than was healthy and Hallie and Boyd must find a way to take down the dangerous, magic-using Martin Weber before his body count rises.
Hallie—a brash, profanity-prone, emotionally damaged, but appealing character—and Boyd, equally emotionally damaged in his own way but much more the Boy-Scout type—make an engaging pair. Some slight awkwardness in writing style does not much detract from the characters, interesting plot, and well-drawn setting.
The always-impressive Bear enchants with this new fantasy set in an Asian-inspired land. Young Temur wakes up on the battlefield having been left for dead. He is the grandson of the Great Khagan and has been supporting his half-brother’s bid for rulership—but they were defeated in a series of terrible battles against the usurper Qori Buqa. He joins a caravan of refugees fleeing toward the mountains known as the Range of Ghosts and finds himself adopted into another tribe and paired off with the lovely young woman Edene. But his enemies are still hunting him and when Edene is stolen by an army of undead ghosts sent against him, Temur must rescue her. Along the way, he crosses paths with Samarkar, a former princess of the Rasan people and now a newly-minted wizard; and Hrahima, a tiger-woman at odds with her god and her people. The three have similar goals—and similar enemies. Qori Buqa has joined forces with al-Sepehr, a necromantic sorcerer from the Uthman Caliphate seeking to restore his sect’s prominence—and al-Sepehr’s blood magic threatens to bring back the dark days of the Carrion King.
The vivid world-building and unusual, multi-cultural setting and sympathetic, realistic characters are a delight. The parallels to the real-world cultures of the Mongols, Tatars, Chinese, and others are obvious, but each imagined culture nevertheless has a richness that never feels derivative. A great fantasy for those who may be tired of the same old Medieval Europe-inspired fantasies so prevalent on the shelves.
Monette’s second short story collection (after The Bone Key,2007) is lyrical and evocative. Where the earlier collection was tightly focused around the experiences of one character (Kyle Murchison Booth, who also makes an appearance in one story here), Somewhere Beneath Those Waves is far-reaching and diverse. Monette’s protagonists face magic and despair, hope and everyday life with equally compelling results. Stand-outs in the collection include the title story, in which a selkie and a human woman both find themselves trapped on land; Katabasis: Seraphic Trains, in which a naïve young woman uses a magical gift to save a man who does not deserve her love; and Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland, about the perils of loving the fairy queen. Highly recommended.
All his life, Joe Spork has been caught between the legacy of his grandfather Daniel, a brilliant and honest clockmaker, and his father Mathew, a vivacious and larger-than-life criminal mastermind who ruled London's underground world. As a child, Joe ran wild in Mathew’s world as Crown Prince of Crime, learning the hidden ways of the gangster. But after his father’s death and his mother’s retreat into a convent, Joe took up Daniel’s legacy, becoming a clockmaker and running the store he inherited from his grandfather. When an old friend of Joe’s brings him a client with a fabulous piece of antique clockwork needing repair, Joe’s quiet life is disrupted with explosive consequences. The clockwork device is no toy, it seems, but is actually part of a weapon of mass destruction developed by a French genius a generation before but never deployed—until Joe repaired it and turned it on unknowingly. Now Joe is caught between shadowy governement agents, a strange group of cultists calling themselves the Ruskinites, an old enemy from Britain’s past, and a now-elderly former spy named Edie Banister, all of whom want control of the device—the Angelmaker. And Joe must embrace parts of himself he’d thought long in his past if he’s going to not only survive, but save the world in the bargain.
This impressive, intriguing, and complex novel is impossible to categorize. Part steampunk romp, part espionage thriller, part gangster adventure, with dollops of romance and philosophy dropped in for good measure, the only thing one can call this novel for sure is great fun. You might not know quite what you’re reading, but you’re going to love it all the same. Muscular prose, endless inventiveness, and truly engaging characters put the icing on this particular cake.
Jacob Portman always thought that his grandfather was embellishing tales about the time he spent in a Wales orphanage during WWII in order to frighten him; the photographs he showed him of children with strange characteristics could not possibly be real. But when Jacob's grandfather is murdered and Jacob swears he sees a horrible monster lurking nearby, he decides to investigate his grandfather's past in the hopes of discovering the eery circumstances of his death.
When he travels to the orphanage on a remote island, what he finds is not only peculiar, but supernatural: a house full of children with exceptional talents who live in a time loop, experiences a single day in time over and over. When the protection of their loop is threatened by the same monsters that killed Jacob's grandfather, he must decide whether to stay and help his new found family or go back to his own time.
This is a wonderfully unique story intermingled with real photographs. They perfectly illustrate the Gothic characters and setting. Don't miss out on this adventurous fantasy meets family saga.