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)
Perhaps best known for his classic novel “The Last Unicorn,” Peter S. Beagle explores a diverse selection of fantastical, mythological, and otherwise magical elements in this collection of short stories. Despite the magical ingredients peppered throughout, Beagle’s stories remain firmly rooted in the real world and real emotions. While many of the stories initially feel familiar in contruction to a widely-read fan of fairy tales and fantasy, they frequently take unexpected and delightful turns, ending up being about something very different than they initially seemed. The lovely fable “ The Tale of Junko and Sayuri” is a particularly effective example of this. Beagle’s characters are multilayered, rich, and eminiently believable, from the grouchy brilliance of the artist in “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel;” to the tortured naivity of the title character in “King Pelles the Sure;” to the nervous-yet-bold youth of the children in “The Stickball Witch.” Highly recommended.
Logue, the grandson of Lionel Logue, speech therapist to King George VI, wrote this biography of his grandfather after having discovered some letters and journals that had been kept by a different branch of the family. Mark Logue always knew part of the story, but with this new material was able to put together a much more comprehensive look at his grandfather and his extraordinary relationship with the King.
Lionel Logue was of a mind to practice speech to perfection. As a champion orator and elocution teacher in Australia, he began to study the problems some had with speech. Because there was no real speech therapy practice at the time, he used his own experiences and intuition to help his clients overcome their difficulties. When Logue and his wife moved to England, he had hardly set up practice when a call came from the palace asking him to assist the Duke of York, who was about to embark on a tour and needed assistance with his speech. The Duke had tried no fewer than nine other speech coaches and none were able to help him overcome his stutter. Logue agreed to work with the Duke and what started out as a successful professional relationship became a friendship as Logue saw him through his coronation and the dark years of World War II.
I have not yet seen the film version, so I’m unable to make a comparison, but the audio edition of this book is well-narrated and does contain a recording of the King’s actual speech on the eve of war. Highly recommended.
There has been a publishing trend toward combining classic characters with zombies or other supernatural characters. If you enjoy the original character and don't mind some monster interaction, you may have fun with this week's theme. This week's challenge is to read one of these, or other books that combine classic literature with a little creepy fun.
Classic Literature--Now with 100% More Monster!
Brown, Eric and H.G. Wells. War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts, and Zombies (SF)
Erwin, Sherri and Charlotte Brontë. Jane Slayre (F)
Grahame-Smith, Seth and Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (F)
Grand, Porter and Louisa May Alcott. Little Women and Werewolves (F)
Gray, Sarah and Emily Bronte. Wuthering Bites (F)
Nazarian, Vera and Jane Austen. Mansfield Park and Mummies (F)
Winters, Ben and Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (F)
Winters, Ben and Leo Tolstoy. Android Karenina (F)
In an unnamed 19thcentury European town teetering on the brink of war, madame Decca and brothel owner Rupert are astonished and not entirely pleased by the sudden reappearance of Istvan—Decca’s brother, Rupert’s estranged lover, and a master puppeteer. His appearance ignites jealousies old and new, placing Rupert in danger from the attentions of a volatile politician whose advances he’s rejected. At the same time, soldiers are filling the town and the whores and performers…the line between the two is blurred at Under the Poppy…are forced to entertain the rowdy soldiers and their corrupt general in more ways than one, just to survive intact.
Despite the melodrama inherent in the set-up, the storytelling is clear beneath the baroque trappings. Koje’s technique of alternating narration among the characters is effective, revealing secrets bit by bit and uncovering hidden depths. Deliberately paced, the story is nevertheless engrossing. Suggested for fans of “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters.