Pilot Chip Linton is plagued by the guilt he feels after an unsuccessful water landing claimed the lives of 39 of his passengers and crew. He and his wife Emily and their 10-year-old twin daughters decide to start over and move to a rambling old Victorian house in a small town in New Hampshire. But Chip, suffering from PTSD, phantom pains, and depression, does not find rest and respite in their new home. He quickly becomes obsessed with a strange door in the basement—a door bolted shut with exactly 39 heavy-duty carriage bolts. When Chip’s phantom pains increase, he begins to understand that what he’s feeling are the fatal injuries sustained by three crash victims—a young woman, and a father and daughter. The three begin appearing to Chip and the dead father attempts to convince Chip to kill his own daughters to provide playmates for the dead girl. Meanwhile, Emily is being befriended by a group of women in the town, all of whom are named for plants, all of whom have greenhouses filled with strange and exotic herbs and flowers, and all of whom have a very unusual and sinister interest in the Linton twins.
The Night Strangers is slow-starting, with a gradual and inexorable build-up to the truly creepy ending. However, many readers may wish Bohjalian had focused more on either the ghost story or the herbalists’s plot, the two stories being so unrelated outside of their cast that at times it feels one is reading two different books at once.
Quentin Coldwater has always expected magic. He read the Fillory book series—similar to the Narnia series—long after most children had moved on, and was always subconsciously expecting to find his own passage to those magical lands. So when he pushed through the tangled over-growth in an old abandoned lot one wintry New York City afternoon and found himself walking across a warm and summery sunlit field toward a huge stone edifice, he was startled, certainly, but not really surprised. He wasn’t in Fillory, though—just upstate New York, but the building he was walking toward was Brakebills Academy, a school for magic. Quentin, it seemed, had been specially chosen to take the entrance exam. And thus began what should have been the adventure of Quentin’s life! Except that learning magic was actually a lot of hard work, and the students and faculty were really a lot like the students and faculty at any pretigious private university, and Quentin was never quite certain just what to do with his magical life after he and his friends graduated. But when another former student showed up one day claiming that not only was Fillory a real place, but that he had a way for all of them to actually go there, the adventure of Quentin’s life really began. Except…
The Magicians has been compared to Narnia and to Harry Potter, but written for adults, and that’s a fair comparison. All three share magic and wonder and an escape from the real world. But Grossman sets out to show us that even when magic is real, people are people and life is life and there is no magic spell for happiness. Engrossing and inventive.
Famous evolutionary biologist Dawkins teams up with well-known illustrator Dave McKean to examine many of the most fundamental questions in science including why the seasons occur, whether life on other planets is possible, what are the building blocks of matter, and how evolution really works. Dawkins presents many of these ideas from a religious or mythological perspective first before delving into the real science. His writing is straightforward enough for most pre-teens or teens to grasp the concepts he’s presenting, but not so simplistic that average adults will feel that Dawkins is talking down to them. McKean’s illustrations, beautiful and complex as always, do a wonderful job of both explicating the concepts Dawkins is presenting and also demonstrating Dawkins’ central theme: that scientific truth is beautiful and magical enough on its own without any need for mythical or supernatural trappings.
Two rival magicians meet and seal a pact: each will train a protégé, and those protégés will compete in a contest only their masters fully understand. The ground on which the contest will be fought is Le Cirque des Reves—the mysterious monochrome Circus of Dreams, which arrives without warning to delight, amaze, and quite literally entrance its audience. The contestants are Celia, a young woman naturally skilled in illusions which only pretend to be illusory; and Marco, a strapping young man whose talents were won through research and study but are no less mesmerising for the effort involved. But when the two meet, their competition becomes a forbidden romance as both put their talents to work wooing the other and their masters look on, disapproving. The situation seems primed for tragedy, but can the other members of Le Cirque des Reves lend their myriad talents to save the lovers?
Whimsical, inventive, and wonderfully crafted, The Night Circus is a treat. Recommended for fans of Susanna Clarke, Peter Beagle, and Neil Gaiman.
When Anya, a teenager who is uncomfortable with everything from her body to her Russian family, falls down an abandoned well, she is surprised to discover she is trapped with the skeleton of a girl...along with her ghost. While Anya eventually escapes the cold, dark well and resumes her normal life, she feels guilty for leaving the lonely mysterious ghost, Emily, behind. By taking a piece of Emily's skeleton with her, the ghost is able to leave the well and experience life with Anya. At first, Anya is enjoying all the perks of having a spiritual sidekick, until she suspects that Emily has a darker past than she previously thought.
When Emily becomes too involved in Anya's love life, she decides to bring her bone back to the well so she can live in peace again. But there's one problem, Emily is no longer a lonely ghost; she has her own motives, desires and has even learned how to move physical objects. This quirky story takes a dramatic and creepy twist when Anya must find out who Emily really is in order to banish her back to the well. While an interesting, illustrated take on a classic ghost tale, Anya's Ghost is also a touching coming-of-age story about self-acceptance. The muted purple color pallete that Brosgol uses to illustrate the story gets increasingly darker as it progresses, perfectly complimenting the darkening plot.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Outlander, a legendary book that really has it all: time travel, romance, history, adventure and infinitely more. The story opens on Claire Randall, a strong-minded and independent nurse who is vacationing with her husband, Frank, in the Scottish Highlands after being separated for years by WWII. While investigating an interesting flower growing near a Stonehenge-type structure (botany being one of her many talents), she stumbles into a crack between two stones and is transported to 1743, landing smack in the middle of a battle between the English and Scottish clansmen. Claire, at first a captive of the Clan MacKenzie, proves herself invaluable because of her skill with "healing" and becomes quite comfortable in her new situation, despite being a suspected English spy. A romance soon blossoms between Claire and the mysterious outlaw, Jamie, and she finds herself being held to that time and place even more, despite her complete foreignness, the constant danger and her husband still living in 1945.
The plot is full of twists and turns, clan politics, witchcraft, battles, close escapes and a certain villainous English Captain who strangley resembles her husband back home. Although not a slim book (over 800 pages), you will be glued to every page. A great vacation read for historical fiction, romance and adventure fans. Find out what all the buzz is about and why Outlander is still such a sensation after twenty years.
Skyhorse’s affecting novel-in-stories offers unsentimental, clear-eyed tribute to the working class LA neighborhood of Echo Park and the Mexican Americans who live, work, and die there. Lurking at the center of all of the stories is a tragedy…a young girl, shot and killed in a drive-by on the streets of Echo Park. Her death is the stone in the pond, and the stories presented here are the ripples. Among those whose stories are presented are Aurora, a young woman who was also on the street corner that day; Aurora’s mother Felicia, a cleaning woman who becomes her employer’s only true friend; Felicia’s mother, a wealthy woman who gave Felicia away as a child and now can never get truly warm; Felicia’s ex-husband, who takes a construction job that turns out to be more than he bargained for; several gang members involved in one way or another with the shooting; a bus driver proud to have escaped a life in that same gang but who is nevertheless involved in a preventable tragedy of his own. Haunting and vibrant, The Madonnas of Echo Park is recommended for fans of Sandra Cisneros, Luis Alberto Urrea, and Ana Castillo, but can be appreciated by anyone with a taste for thoughtful, character-driven stories.
Former Olympic-class runner Gillian Shaw, in the wake of a career-destroying injury, seeks solitude and solace and rents Robin Cottage on the grounds of Cairdonan, the isolated Scottish estate of eccentric artist Dame Juliana Flagg. What peace she’s scraped together crumbled quickly when, on a tramp through the wooded grounds, Gillian unknowingly crosses a border between her reality and the realm of the fae folk. Before she realizes it, Gillian is swept up in a series of events that have haunted Dame Juliana’s family since the end of World War I when Juliana’s uncle, then a young man, disappeared without a trace while he and his sisters were playing a prank on their own uncle—an eccentric who believed in faeries. Is the disturbed and confused young man who followed Gillian back from the fae realm that long-lost uncle? Or is he someone nearer and dearer to Dame Juliana—her own adopted son, who also disappeared while still a toddler?
The second book in Warrington’s “Aetherial Tales” series, Midsummer Night can nevertheless be read as a stand-alone. Realistically troubled characters, lush descriptions of the Scottish countryside, and a superbly told story balance the fantastic elements to firmly ground this modern-day fairy tale.
Ever wonder what life would be like if The Rapture had actually taken place? In The Leftovers, the small town of Mapleton, along with the rest of the world, never have to imagine. On October 14, millions simply vanished, leaving behind family and friends to cope. One family that is not coping very well is that of Mapleton's mayor, Kevin Garvey. Although he did not lose anyone in his family to the rapture, he still finds his life falling apart; his wife has left him to join a cult, "The Guilty Remnant", his previously straight-A student daughter is hanging out with a gang of misfits, and his son has dropped out of college to follow a self-proclaimed prophet around the country. Still, even amongst his personal turmoil, Kevin finds himself drawn to another woman, Nora Durst, who lost her entire family on October 14, and is still struggling to accept her newly-single self. The novel follows Nora, Kevin, and the member's of his family as they attempt to "find themselves" after The Rapture in a world where many things don't make sense anymore.
Even though there is a sci-fi slant to this novel, it is still quintessentially Tom Perrotta. With his trademark style, he introduces us to a community of characters who are finding their own special ways to grieve, all the while infusing their stories with originality and humor.
In Amor Towles debut novel, 1938 New York City comes alive and two friends, Eve and Katey, are in the middle of it all. When they meet a mysterious and wealthy young man, Tinker Grey, on New Year's Eve, their lives change in ways they would never have expected and suddenly the two women are catapulted into the social jungle of the elite upper-class. However, when a horrible car crash leaves Eve disabled and badly scarred, the previously lighthearted competition between Eve and Katey for Tinker's affections turns serious. Out of guilt, Tinker becomes Eve's caretaker, leaving Katey alone and fending for herself in her new and unfamiliar circle of ever growing acquaintances. While she casually climbs the New York social ladder, she becomes more and more ambitious and independent in other areas of her life, all the while unable to forget Tinker and Eve.
The book finds a good balance between action and introspection through Katey and readers will quickly be drawn into her bittersweet story. Towles is truly gifted in the way he is able to create an authentic feeling of the thirties through his vivid detail, slang and style. Rules of Civility is not just for historical fiction lovers. It is a smart novel with plenty of drama, sure to please anyone looking for a good read.