Fabulous Fiction Firsts #402

The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope *, Rhonda Riley's debut novel is set at the end of WWII when Evelyn Roe is sent to manage the family farm in rural North Carolina, where she finds and rescues what appears to be a badly burned soldier buried in the heavy red-clay during a driving rainstorm. The stranger heals rather remarkably fast and morphs into an Evelyn lookalike whom she names Addie. The two fall in love. When a chance encounter with a grifter offers an opportunity to avoid small town scrutiny, Addie transforms into Adam. Together, they raise 5 daughters who shares in their father's supernatural gifts.

When tragedy strikes, Adam's extraordinary character is revealed and the family must flee. "Intensely moving and unforgettable, The Enchanted Life of Adam Hope captures the beauty of the natural world, and explores the power of abiding love and otherness in all its guises. It illuminates the magic in ordinary life and makes us believe in the extraordinary."

"First-time novelist Riley's exquisite language draws the reader into this improbable, beautifully rendered, somewhat biblical love story with a wildly imaginative premise that is irresistible, tender, and provocative. " ~ —Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI (Library Journal).

Highly recommended for fans of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Time Traveler's Wife, and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

* = starred review

May's Books to Film

Iron Man 3 (PG-13) is a Walt Disney Studio adaptation of Marvel's Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov. It pits brash but brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy's hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?

For limited release is What Maisie Knew (R). With newcomer Onata Aprile in the title role, Julianne Moore, Alexander Skarsgård star this family drama, a contemporary re-imagining of the novel by Henry James. It's the story of a captivating little girl's struggle for grace in the midst of her parents' bitter custody battle, navigating the turmoil with a six-year-old's innocence, charm and generosity of spirit.

Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby (PG-13), would-be writer Nick Carraway leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922. In this era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby; across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan; and is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich.

Released just in time for summer vacation is the animated Epic (PG), based on The Leaf Man by William Joyce. It tells the story of an ongoing battle between the forces of good, who keep the natural world alive, and the forces of evil, who wish to destroy it. When a teenage girl finds herself magically transported into this secret universe, she teams up with an elite band of warriors and a crew of comical, larger-than-life figures, to save their world…and ours.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #398

If you were bewitched by The Night Circus, mesmerized by A Discovery of Witches, and enthralled by Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, then you would not want to miss Helene Wecker's debut The Golem and the Jinni, a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale drawn from Yiddish and Middle Eastern literature and mythology.

Chava, a golem is a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi as a commission for an unpleasant furniture maker wanting a wife. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire born in the ancient Syrian desert, trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago. A chance meeting on the streets of turn-of-the-century New York brings an unlikely friendship for these mythical creatures.

As Chava, unmoored and adrift her owner having died at sea, arrives in New York harbor, Ahmad is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Forming an unexpected friendship, Chava and Ahmed must learn how to survive undetected among the immigrant communities, cope with their individual challenges and desires, while preparing to battle a dangerous adversary.

"Wecker...writes skillfully, nicely evoking the layers of alienness that fall upon strangers in a strange land".

"Wecker deftly layers their story over those of the people they encounter, from the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom".

" (a) spellbinding blend of fantasy and historical fiction".

Wild Swan Theater Presents Charlotte's Web

Balcony seats are still available for Saturday April 27 and Sunday April 28 to see Charlotte's Web staged by Wild Swan Theater. The show is for grades K-5. Location is Towsley Auditorium. From the Wild Swan website: "Charlotte’s Web is possibly the best loved of all American stories for children. Set in the rural Midwest, it tells the touching story of a rare friendship between a little pig, Wilbur, and Charlotte, a most uncommon spider. The magical words that Charlotte spins in her web not only earn Wilbur a county fair blue ribbon and save his life, but inspire all of us to value what we can share with each other." More information is here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #393

Named Book of the Year 2011 by The Economist, The Afrika Reich * is "remarkable for the plot that is clever, imaginative ... wholly unexpected. In a crowded field, (it) stands out as a rich and unusual thriller, politically sophisticated and hard to forget ".

Debut novelist Guy Saville (blog) will hold you in suspense as he spins a tale of an alternate world where a victorious Nazi Germany sets its sight on Africa.

After the "Dunkirk Fiasco", a humiliated Britain under Prime Minister Lord Halifax, signed a non-agression pact with Hilter for peace in Europe and to bring her POWs home. 1952, Africa. The swastika flies from the Sahara to the Indian Ocean. The SS enslaves the native populations and threatens the ailing British colonies. At the helm reigns the architect of Nazi Africa Germany - Walter Hochburg, the psychopathic governor-general of Kongo.

Burton Cole, a retired assassin is hired to eliminate Hochburg. He is motivated less so by the huge purse that would save his little farm, than by a personal score to settle. But when his mission turns to disaster, Cole realizes his small team of mercenaries has been betrayed, and they might not make it out alive.

"Saville gets everything right - providing suspenseful action sequences, logical but enthralling plot twists, a fully thought-through imaginary world, and characters with depth."

"A skin-of-the-teeth escape at the end foreshadows a series." Book 2 (2014) and Book 3 are sure things. The waiting is the tough part.

Fans of alternative history would also enjoy In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan (you would love this one if you are a jazz fan as well); The Plot Against America by Philip Roth; and Hitler's Peace by Philip Kerr.

* = starred review

Living Life with the Gift of Do-Overs

What if there were second chances? Or third chances? How many tries would it take for you to get your life right? Kate Atkinson, author of Case Histories, weaves a tale of life and death in Life After Life that pulls the reader into the story of a woman who possesses an extraordinary gift: multiple chances at a single life.

It’s a snowy night in England in 1910. Ursula Todd is born. Ursula Todd dies before drawing her first breath. On the same snowy night in 1910 England, Ursula Todd is born again, and this time lives to tell the tale. Her life will follow this cycle of reincarnation throughout her childhood, adolescence and adulthood, taking her through countless catastrophic deaths, wars, family tragedies, and world-altering events. Each one of her deaths brings about a new lease on life, and a chance for Ursula to avoid the paths that lead to her untimely demises.

Atkinson weaves a lovely tale of life, death, rebirth and strength. It's a tale that takes readers on a journey with Ursula, a woman who experiences the turbulent times of the 20th century with wit, charm and compassion.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #391

If you are a fan of Alice Hoffman, Kaye Gibbons, and Sarah Addison Allen, you would want to get to know Rita Leganski. Set in the 1950s New Orleands, her debut novel The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow * is a magical story about the lost art of listening and a wondrous little boy who brings healing to all who love him.

Mute since birth, Bonaventure Arrow is born with the extraordinary gift of hearing. At five, he can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He also hears the voice of his dead father, William Arrow, mysteriously murdered by a man known only as the Wanderer.

With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed.

"A fine novel about love, loss, revenge and forgiveness that also touches on themes of race and class discrimination"

"Suffused with the mystical charm of New Orleans and the Louisiana bayou, Leganski's lyrical debut novel conjures dreams of voodoo, the power of healing, and the distinction between hearing and listening... Simply enchanting."

*= starred review

Voyage to Kazohinia


Finally seeing a wider publication, Voyage to Kazohinia by Sandor Szathmari, should be a highly revered classic but has never received its well-deserved due (at least in the English language) until now. It was originally published in Hungary in 1941, then in Esperanto in 1958, and had a very small, limited release in an English translation in the 1970s. But New Europe Books has given it a 4th life and a wider distribution, which I hope brings it more readers. Often compared to Gulliver’s Travels meets Brave New World with a touch of 1984 to boot, Voyage is the story of one, Gulliver, stranded on an island populated by two very different societies. The one he initially finds himself amongst are the Hins who, on the outset, seem to live in a utopia: no politics, no war, no starvation, and no disease. They enjoy a high standard of living for all, and no need for money since production is based on need. But there is a flip side: no art, no casual conversations (they only talk about rational needs), no sense of history (everything is about the here and now), no love, and no individuality (everyone wears the same style of dress for instance). It becomes unbearable as lack of conversation and loneliness take hold, so Gulliver decides to live with the Behins, who he has heard have feelings, in their walled off community. The Hins refer to them as “madmen” and he will soon discover why. This is satirical writing at its best. It will make you think about all the odd societal conventions as well as the political institutions that civilization hath wrought.

#1 Amazon Teen Bestseller: Angelfall

Currently the bestselling teen book on Amazon is Angelfall(Penryn and the End of Days, Book 1, the debut novel of Susan Ee. Romantic and dystopic, this novel has spent 97 days so far on Amazon's list of the top 100 teen books. It was written for readers about age 14 and up.

The novel opens shortly after angels of the apocolypse descended to destroy the world, seeking revenge against humans for killing the archangel Gabriel. When warrior angels grab a little girl, the child's 17-year-old sister, Penryn, makes a deal with Raffe, a handsome injured angel, and they set out through Northern California toward San Francisco, the angels' stronghold.

According to Amazon, the author "used to be a lawyer but loves being a writer because it allows her souped up imagination to bust out and go feral."

Sci-fi/Fantasy Award Nominees


The Nebula Awards, voted on by notable Scifi/Fantasy writers, are to be awarded in May and the nominees for best adult novel are:

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed: Fantasy writing doesn't get much better than this. World building that takes place in a medieval city that reminds one of an Arabian fairy tale for adults or a Ray Harryhausen adventure. One reviewer described it as, "...swashbuckling mythos mania."

Ironskin by Tina Connolly: Fey scarred Jane finds employment as a governess for a fey child following a war between fey and humans in this alt-Victorian, Jane Eyre-inspired fantasy. Great pick for older teens too!

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin: Some may know Jemisin from her Inheritance trilogy, nominated for multiple awards, this book is the first of the Dreamblood series, rich in character and substance (Jungian psychology, Egyptian history)

The Drowning Girl, by Caitlín R. Kiernan: Taking a real world subject like schizophrenia and creating a fantasy element around it can be difficult to say the least, but Kiernan accomplishes both with the character, Imp, who has 'hauntings', missing timelines, & odd coincidences

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal: Sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey set in an alternate Regency-era with some romance, lots of magic, & a bit of espionage to boot. You can place holds on the 3rd book in this series Without a Summer due out in April. Jane Austen fans take note of this inspired novel!

2312, Kim Stanley Robinson: My pick for winner. This is a brilliant, thought-provoking novel. It has real world building since Earth is eeking by from severe climate changes, terra-forming Mars, Mercury, & Venus has happened. The main character, Swan, is pulled into a plot involving personal artificial intelligences (qubes) and the destruction of the worlds. Award-winning author, Robinson, continues to amaze with some realistic possibilities for our distant future. Read the transcript or listen to the podcast with him from Wired here.

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