Phelan Cle, a student at the bardic school in Caeru, never really wanted to be a bard. His decidedly unmusical and eccentric father, Jonah had other ambitions for his son, however, pushing Phelan toward music at every turn. Now that Phelan is about to finally graduate, he’s determined to make things easy on himself . He’s chosen perhaps the most commonly researched, straight-forward topic possible for his final dissertation…the myths and songs surrounding Bone Plain, said to be the origin of bardic tradition, poetry, and song, the place where Nairn the mysterious Wandering Bard failed the equally mysterious Three Trials and vanished from history. No one knows the location of the Plain, or even if it ever existed outside of metaphor and folklore. However, as he digs into the stories and records, he begins to piece together the surprising truths behind the tale. Meanwhile, his archaeologist father and his best student, the unconventional Princess Beatrice, continue digs of their own. When Beatrice discovers a mysterious artifact and and even more mysterious buried doorway, the final pieces of the puzzle surrounding Bone Plain and Nairn the Wanderer begin falling into place.
Lyrical, complex, and mythic in scope yet entirely human in detail, “The Bards of Bone Plain” is an example of McKillip at her best.
Tina Fey is the queen of self-deprecating humor, completely willing to humiliate herself for a laugh. Her new memoir comes complete with cringe-inducing photos of her childhood, humorous stories about her early days in comedy, and tales of her current struggles to balance motherhood and career. Although the book at times seems a bit of a hodgepodge, jumping from tales of her disastrous honeymoon cruise to snippets of “30 Rock” scripts, most of it is laugh-out-loud funny. You don’t have to be a Tina Fey or “30 Rock” fan to thoroughly enjoy Bossypants.
It isn’t an original set-up: two former lovers briefly reunite in Rome and sift through the ashes of their long-lost romance. Yet, Mary Gordon is such a skilled writer that she should have been able to pull it off. Her descriptions of Rome do bring the city to life, and she carefully develops both of the main characters. Still the book never quite lives up to Gordon’s usual standard.
Part of the problem is the stilted dialogue of Miranda and Adam who speak in arch, overly philosophical sentences that remind you they are fictional constructs and not real people. This is a serious flaw in a novel that’s basically a series of conversations interspersed with flashbacks. In addition, the only real conflict in the book is in the characters’ past, and it doesn’t develop any real momentum until the novel is nearly over.
Despite the lovely descriptions of Rome, even die-hard Gordon fans may want to sit this one out.
Sara Gran is a terrific writer. Her first two novellas, Come Closer and Dope, are the kind of gripping reads that keep readers turning pages into the wee hours. Gran excels at creating settings so atmospheric that they nearly become characters in the story. And the strongest aspect of her newest novel, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, is the finely drawn post-Katrina setting. She revisits the days just after the hurricane when residents were still stranded on rooftops and creates vividly accurate portraits of the city’s homeless and disaffected youth.
Her heroine is a brilliant, darkly self-destructive private investigator tracking the murderer of DA Vic Willing. While Claire is an intriguing character, the plot is murky and not nearly as fast paced as her first two efforts. The book may disappoint Gran’s fans a bit, but most readers will be willing to follow Claire through her next adventure as this new series gets underway.
Bradbury’s 1953 novel “Fahrenheit 451,” a dystopian tale of a grim future in which all intellectual expression and individuality is frowned upon and firemen burn books rather than putting out fires, is rightly considered a classic of the sci-fi genre. In this collection, 16 tales are culled from Bradbury’s own archive, tracing the progression of his work on the themes contained in his masterwork. Some of the tales are lesser known, such as “Bright Phoenix.” Others, like “The Pedestrian” and “The Mad Wizards of Mars,” will be more familiar. Also included are “Long After Midnight,” featuring an early version of the events and characters of “Fahrenheit 451;” and “The Fireman,” the novella Bradbury used as a base for the novel. This collection serves as an essential companion piece to the novel. Highly recommended.
Alexander McCall Smith, perhaps best known for his “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series, is an author who is difficult to categorize. His characters are fully rounded, though often quirky. His settings are often small towns or villages, but range geographically from Scotland to Africa. His storylines deal with real, very serious issues, but maintain a light and whimsical touch as they do so. Light, but literary, and always engaging, there is little wonder that his books are so very popular. Because of this popularity, we are often asked for suggestions for similar authors. But because of his unique style, it can be very difficult to find authors with the same mix of reality and whimsy. Here are some of the suggestions we’ve been collecting!
Bradley, Alan. “The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie”
Drayson, Nicholas. “A Guide to the Birds of East Africa”
Edgerton, Clyde. “Lunch at the Piccidilly”
Flagg, Fannie. “Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven”
Narayan, R.K. “The Guide”
Owens, Sharon. “The Tea House on Mulberry Street”
Parkin, Gaile. “Baking Cakes in Kigali”
Simonson, Helen. “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand”
Smith, D.L. “The Miracles of Santo Fico”
Solomons, Natasha. “Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English”
Zama, Farahad. “The Marriage Bureau for Rich People
There's no denying it. The zombie apocalypse is upon us--at least judging by this recent crop of zombie books. Our final challenge is to read a book about zombies. It can be funny or scary, but it's finally time to face them.
How long would you survive the zombie apocalypse?
Ajvide Lindqvist, John. Handling the Undead (F)
Beamer, Amelia. The Loving Dead (F)
Brallier, Max. Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?
Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War (F)
Littlefield, Sophie. Aftertime (NEW F)
Roff, Don. Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection (F)
Schlozman, Steven C. The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse (NEW F)
Tripp, Ben. Rise Again (F)
The long-awaited latest Sookie Stackhouse book was published early in May. In it, Sookie deals with the fallout from the fae war, has a big change in her relationship status, discovers great-uncle Dermot has a knack for home improvements, and is happy to see Bubba back from an extended trip. Sookie’s friends and family never have a dull moment as excitement and trouble happen wherever Sookie goes.
This is one of those series you really need to read from book one. If it catches your fancy, you’ll find yourself quickly devouring the rest of the series. Fans won’t want to miss this latest.
Vanessa Monroe, or Michael as she is known by her clients, is a young woman who has had a tough life. Leaving her missionary parents at the age of fourteen and living by her wits among gun runners in Africa, Michael developed the skills she needed to find out useful information, to defend herself, and to use her abilities to sell this information and make a comfortable, if sometimes dangerous living for herself. When she takes on an unusual but lucrative assignment, to find out what happened to an oil executive’s daughter who disappeared in Africa four years earlier, she nearly finds herself in over her head. As her past catches up with her, Michael works frantically to find the missing girl while keeping herself safe from enemies, both old and new.
This thriller has been a long time coming. It features a brilliant and fearless protagonist who also happens to be a young woman. The pacing is excellent, the story compelling, the setting is exotic, and the character is fully developed. Highly recommended for suspense fiction fans looking for something a little different.
There's nothing like a good thriller for beach reading. This week is pure adrenaline rush and your challenge is to read a fast-paced thriller from our list or of your choice. Looking over your shoulder occasionally or staying up all night to finish it is entirely permissable. As Michael Jackson put it:
You try to scream but terror takes the sound before you make it!
Baldacci, David. Winner (MYS)
Child, Lee. 61 Hours (MYS)
Child, Lincoln. Terminal Freeze (F)
Grisham, John. The Confession (F)
Kellerman, Jesse. Trouble (MYS)
Koontz, Dean. Velocity (F)
Palmer, Michael. The Second Opinion (MYS)
Robards, Karen. Pursuit (F)