The current blockbuster action movie, John Carter, has a lot of people confused and a few more people worried. The movie, you see, is actually based on a series of science fiction novels written about one hundred years ago by Edgar Rice Burroughs—yes, that Edgar Rice Burroughs, more famous as the author of another series that has often been brought to the silver screen, Tarzan. The confusion about the current John Carter movie seems to lie with the producers’ decision to remove “of Mars” from the title. I have read that this was to distance the film from other recent flops containing the word Mars, such as Mars Needs Moms, but it also serves to confuse people who only know the name John Carter as Noah Wyle’s character on the TV show E.R.! Meanwhile, the original book series has a large and very passionate fanbase (among whose number I count myself!) who are concerned that the movie will do a disservice to their beloved characters. I have yet to see the movie myself, but I have been re-reading the books over the last year or so and getting as swept up in them now as I did when I was twelve. Despite having been written so long ago, they hold up very well and hold appeal for a wide age group. If you’re wondering what all the John Carter buzz is really about, take a look at the source!
- A Princess of Mars
- The Gods of Mars
- The Warlord of Mars
The Privileges is a satirical portrayal of Adam and Cynthia—a charmed New York couple blessed with a great love for each other, beautiful children, and all of the privileges of increasing wealth—who find themselves desiring more. Because of this greed, Adam, who works in the world of private equity, makes a decision that sends him down the path of the immoral and corrupt. If you want a personal glimpse into one reason why the nation’s financial crisis occurred, this is the book for you. The Privileges is a highly readable novel with well-drawn characters whom you both empathize with and despise.
Just Kids is about Patti Smith’s relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe with a focus on their early years, when Smith was in her early twenties and fresh to New York City. But it is also so much more. It is a story of love and friendship. It is a story of the New York artist community during the 1970s. And it is a meditation on what makes an artist, as well as a meditation on life and loss. Even if you are primarily a fiction reader, you will adore this book because it contains all the elements of great fiction. Patti Smith’s writing is eloquent and insightful, and the 2010 nonfiction National Book Award she received for Just Kids is well-deserved.
In Byatt’s slender, slender, semi-autobiographical novella, an unnamed young girl who has fled to the countryside during the Blitz attempts to make sense of the war-torn world around her. Her father is a flier in the war so far away and the girl is convinced he will never return. The darkness and violence that the adults speak of in hushed tones does not match the brightly optimistic emptiness of the words mouthed at church each week. It isn’t until a copy of “Asgard and the Gods” comes into the girl’s possession that the world around her begins to make sense as seen through the lens of the much darker and more violent Norse mythology contained in her book.
Interspersing scenes from the daily life of the girl with retellings and reinterpretations of the mythology she is reading, “Ragnarok: the End of the Gods” serves as an able allegory for our times as well.
In the 1970s, a group of idealistic hippies come together with a vision of utopia, following their charismatic leader, Handy, on a cross-country trek which ends in western New York state at a decaying mansion known as Arcadia House. Bit (the littlest bit of a hippie) is the first child born to the new Arcadians and he grows up in the commune among the optimistic, romantic, and ultimately all-too-human adult founders. We see through his eyes as his mother struggles with a deep and abiding clinical depression, as his father challenges the increasingly haphazard “leadership” of Handy, as the commune grows from a tightly-knit core of like-minded individuals with a vision of cooperation into a sprawling morass of the lazy and the criminal and the insane, as the commune eventually dissolves away into nothing after Handy’s arrest. Having never lived “Outside,” young Bit is thrust into a whole new world and must make sense of it as well as he can until, as an adult, circumstances return him to an Arcadia very much changed, but still a place of refuge.
A plot summary cannot do justice to the lyrical and poignant power of this novel. Bit is a thoughtful, sensitive, and entirely sympathetic narrator and it is a pleasure to grow up alongside him, watching as his perceptions and understandings change with time. Highly recommended.
Maisie Dobbs has a truly impressive history: housemaid, Cambridge student, wartime nurse and now, a private detective. With help from her former employer, Lady Rowan, Maisie's natural ambition, intelligence and empathy aid her in solving some complex mysteries.
In the first book of the series (the ninth book in the series will be released this Spring), Maisie is faced with the strange task of investigating a retreat for traumatized war veterans which turns out to be very close to home. She must draw upon her unique detective training, going beyond the facts in a case, using psychology instead, to come to conclusions; a truly new and fascinating method. What she discovers is closely linked to England's post-war culture; why society shuns the emotionally and phycially damaged and how those in power take advantage of these poor souls.
Maisie is a wonderful heroine who is sure to grab historical fiction and mystery fans alike.
In this epic, illustrated love story, two young slaves who come to find one another against the harsh landscape of the Middle East, must struggle against overwhelming obstacles to be together. A mix of religious stories, mysticism and contemporary social commentary, Craig Thompson (author of Blankets) beautifully renders how a nine year-old Dodola and infant Zam escape slavery, grow into adulthood on an abandoned ship in the desert, and then are forced apart once more just as they begin to feel passion for one another as adults.
The complex plot follows both Zam and Dodola through their journeys apart while symultaneously telling the story of how they met and came to love each other. The magical saga is told through Thompson's outstanding illustrations that are able to convey both the lushness and barbarity of the characters' experiences and beliefs. Take a journey with Habibi and discover the power of love and fate.
Beatrice Hemmings is convinced that her younger sister Tess, a vibrant, life-loving artist, would never have committed suicide. But she is the only one who believes that; everyone else believes that Tess was suffering from postpartum psychosis following the stillbirth of her child and took her own life in a fit of despair or hallucination. Beatrice, determined to get to the truth, sets out to investigate her sister’s death, relating her progress in the form of an extended letter to her sister. As her investigations proceed and everyone around her begins to believe that Beatrice, too, has been unhinged by grief, the reader will wonder the same thing. Was Tess murdered? Is Beatrice simply unable to accept the truth? Not until the explosive and gripping conclusion will the answers to everyone’s questions become plain.
Literary, intelligent, and defying easy genre classification, Lupton’s debut is both a moving meditation on grief and also a gripping psychological thriller. Recommended.
Fearing that her powerful, abusive husband is planning to murder her as she suspects he murdered his first two wives, Rainie Hall fakes her own death with the help of her friends and moves to Crystal Falls, Oregon, to start anew. She is hesitant about applying for the bookkeeper job she sees listed at a local horse ranch—what if her employer checks her references and discovers she’s using a fake identity?—but she has to work so she takes the risk. Parker Harrigan, her new employer, is a handsome, strong, intelligent man; at first angry when he discovers her deception, he also realizes that she’s most likely running for a good reason and keeps her on. Meanwhile, back in Seattle, Rainie’s husband has hired a private investigator to locate his runaway wife and he's getting closer and closer to finding her. As Rainie’s danger grows, so too does the attraction and affection between herself and Parker.
A touching romance, as well as a novel that addresses the serious issues of domestic abuse and the long, fraught process of healing from the psychological trauma.
The icy chill of a 19th century Canadian winter is palpable throughout British author Penney’s accomplished debut. Seventeen-year-old Francis Ross disappeared from the town of Dove River on the Georgian Bay the same day his mother discovers the scalped corpse of the boy’s friend Laurent Jammet, a fur trader and former employee of the all-powerful Hudson Bay Company. The sensational murder brings outsiders to the small community: young, earnest Company representative Donald Moody, who’s there to help investigate the crime; and aging former tracker and Native American sympathizer Thomas Sturrock, who hopes to recover a carved bit of bone that had been in the trapper’s possession and which might provide valuable archaeological proof of an ancient Native written language. Unfortunately for Mrs. Ross, there are no obvious suspects other than her missing son—until half-Native trapper William Parker is caught searching the dead man’s house. When Parker is released, Mrs. Ross enlists him to help her go after her son and whoever her son had followed into the wilderness, hoping to prove Francis innocent of the crime.
Atmospheric and complex, the intertwined stories of Penney’s vibrant cast of loners and outsiders are absorbing, and Penney’s choice of time and place is a perfect backdrop.