Fabulous Fiction Firsts #389

Child of Vengeance *, the debut novel by David Kirk is part military history, part family saga, part action/adventure, based on the real-life exploits of Japan's greatest samurai - the legendary Musashi Miyamoto.

17th-century Japan was a land in turmoil where lords of the great clans schemed against each other, served by samurai bound to them by a rigid code of honor. Abandoned at an early age by his samurai father, young Bennosuke is raised by his uncle Dorinbo, a Shinto monk in their ancestral village. Though urged by Dorinbo to renounce Bushido, the "Way of the Warrior", Bennosuke worships his absent father. When Munisai returns, gravely injured, Bennosuke is forced to confront truths about his family's history and his own place in it, leading eventually onto a path "awash with blood, bravery, and vengeance", and culminating in the epochal Battle of Sekigahara in which Bennosuke will first proclaim his name as Mushashi Miyamoto.

Legendary director Hiroshi Inagaki first captured the saga of Musashi Miyamoto on film in The Samurai Trilogy, adaptations of the novels by Eiji Yoshikawa. Readers might also enjoy samurai character-driven novels, especially the historical mystery series by Laura Joh Rowland which depicts the precarious fortunes of Lord Ichiro Sano.

British David Kirk first became interested in Japan when his father gave him a copy of James Clavell's Shōgun : a novel of Japan. He has written his dissertation on samurai cinema, and now lives and teaches English in Japan.

* = starred review

High-Seas Audiobook Adventure for Teens

One of the best things about listening to an audiobook is hearing the story in the character’s voice. In L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy, narrator Katherine Kellgren reads with a strong Cockney accent that brings the heroine dramatically to life.

After she is reduced to begging on the streets of London, teenager Mary Faber takes a chance at a new life by disguising herself as a boy, Jacky, and joining a British warship on the hunt for pirates. Things become even more complicated when she falls in love with fellow ship’s boy Jaimy and becomes the target of unwanted advances from another sailor. There’s plenty of adventure, romance and scares in this award-winning audiobook.

The audiobook series continues with Curse of the Blue Tattoo, Under the Jolly Roger, In the Belly of the Bloodhound, Mississippi Jack, My Bonny Light Horseman, Rapture of the Deep, and The Wake of the Lorelei Lee.

The Listen List 2013

Established in 2010 by the CODES section of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, a division of the American Library Association), The Listen List: Outstanding Audiobook Narration seeks to highlight outstanding audiobook titles that merit special attention by general adult listeners and the librarians who work with them. The Listen List Council selects these 2013 winners. They include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and plays.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Narrated by Daniel Weyman.
In a gravelly yet gleeful voice, Weyman narrates this swashbuckling genre-blend of spies, gangsters, and a doomsday machine. The lavish and imaginative story of Joe Spork, a clockmaker out of his depth as he attempts to save the world, is brilliantly realized through Weyman’s attention to inflection, characterization and pacing.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel. Narrated by Simon Vance.
In this grim and gripping tale, masterfully told, Vance brings Tudor England to life.
Beautifully accented and paced, his pitch-perfect narration deftly navigates the large and diverse cast and the intricate plot machinations to create a stunning glimpse into a dangerous time when Henry VIII ruled and Thomas Cromwell served as his “fixer.”

The Chalk Girl by Carol O’Connell. Narrated by Barbara Rosenblat.
The discovery of a blood-covered little girl wandering in Central Park draws police detective Kathleen Mallory into an investigation involving long hidden secrets of New York’s elite. Rosenblat’s warmly expressive voice embodies each character effortlessly while adroitly managing the pace of Mallory’s gritty and harrowing tenth case.

The Death of Sweet Mister by Daniel Woodrell. Narrated by Nicholas Tecosky. (on order)
Welcome to the world of Shug Akins, a thirteen-year-old loner coming of age in the Ozarks. Tecosky skillfully demonstrates that the vernacular of this country noir novel is at its lyrical best when spoken aloud. In a youthful detached voice, he authentically captures the violence, poverty, and heartbreaking bleakness of Shug’s life.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig. Narrated by Kate Reading.
In this lively ninth Pink Carnation romp, Eloise and Colin are beset by a film crew, while in the 19th century, agent Augustus Whittlesby, infamously bad poet, investigates rumors of Napoleon’s plotting and encounters love. Reading’s companionable, husky voice reveals all the humor in the rich banter and bad verse, as well as the passion.

Heft by Liz Moore. Narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka. (on order)
This magnificent dual narration illuminates a poignant story of the isolation, family relationships, and new beginnings of two lost souls on a collision course. Szarabajka’s richly sonorous voice captures morbidly obese Arthur’s physical and emotional weight while Heyborne’s quietly expressive voice exposes the desperation of the teenaged Kel.

The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz. Narrated by Derek Jacobi. (on order)
In a refined, resonant, and delightfully self-aware voice, Jacobi re-creates the world of Sherlock Holmes. His pacing is lovely – leisurely, inviting, and seductive – while his accents are grand and fit the characters perfectly. In this authorized addition to the canon, Holmes investigates a conspiracy linking criminals to the highest levels of government.

The Inquisitor by Mark Allen Smith. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. (on order)
Fliakos’ unflinching depiction of Geiger, an expert in the art of “information retrieval” (aka torture), intensifies this absorbing and disturbing thriller. He sets the mood from the opening line, offering a tormented, affectless but surprisingly sympathetic hero. His skill in creating tone, character and pace enhances the haunting quality of Geiger’s world.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare. Narrated by Alan Cumming.
Cumming makes “The Scottish Play” an electric event, allowing modern audiences a chance to experience it with the same excitement, horror and wonder Shakespeare’s contemporary audiences surely felt. From stage directions delivered in furtive whispers to the cackle of the witches and the grim resolution of Lady Macbeth, Cumming astounds.

Miles: The Autobiography by Miles Davis and Quincy Troupe. Narrated by Dion Graham.
With his raspy, whispery voice Dion Graham inhabits musical genius Miles Davis in this tell-all autobiography that flows like a jazz riff. While setting the record straight about Davis’s career, lovers, addiction and racial issues, Graham channels Davis’s voice and cadence so completely that listeners will believe they’re hearing the master himself.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Narrated by Ari Fliakos. (on order)
Affectionate and playful, Ari Fliakos’ narration is addictive as he expertly voices full-bodied characters, savoring their eccentricities, in this imaginative work of “geek-lit.” His optimistic wonder and understanding of the subtext bring tension to even the minutiae of this grand quest by a motley crew of book lovers hoping to crack the code of immortality.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. Narrated by David Timson. (on order)
Timson’s irrepressible performance of this rollicking romp through 1830s England in Dickens’s first novel invites listeners along as Pickwick and his crew ramble through the countryside. With broad satire and clever irony, Timson proves a delightful guide through slapdash adventures and a host of eccentric characters.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Narrated by Simon Prebble. (on order)
Prebble’s performance is like listening to a full cast production so great is his skill in crafting characters. Navigating memories of both “upstairs” and “downstairs,” dutiful butler Stevens revisits past pains and triumphs. Prebble creates a poignant reflection of a life given to service seen through the eyes of a man finally questioning his purpose.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Darcy!

It was 200 years ago this month that Jane Austen published her second, and perhaps most beloved, novel: "Pride & Prejudice." The official publication date was January 28, 1813.

Austen wrote it between October 1796 and August 1797, but publishers at first declined to look at it. After she went back and revised her manuscript, originally titled "First Impressions," nearly fifteen years later between 1811 and 1812, it was finally accepted for publication. Although she never married, Jane Austen loved her books like they were her family and was so excited when "Pride & Prejudice" arrived, she wrote to her sister Cassandra, "I want to tell you that I have got my own darling child from London."

The first edition sold out quickly and has been popular the world over ever since. It has been translated into dozens of languages and adapted for both television and the big screen. It's been given modern twists in Hollywood movies and Bollywood, too. It even has its own popular web series and been adapted into graphic novels and zombie apocalypse stories.

And of course, there are the books. From the original to all the adaptations and continuations, it's clear something about that story of misunderstandings and seemingly impossible happy endings still has a grip on us. It's easy to wonder what Miss Austen would have thought of the stages her "child" has gone through and how the world still holds such love for its characters even now, 200 years later.

Looking for more ways to celebrate Jane Austen? The library has a large collection of her other books or other movie adaptations of her work!

The Reading List 2013 (ALA RUSA)

Established in 2007 by the CODES section of Reference and User Services Association (RUSA, a division of the American Library Association), The Reading List seeks to highlight outstanding genre fiction that merit special attention by general adult readers and the librarians who work with them.

The 2013 List in 8 categories. What sets this list apart from all the other awards is the short listed honor titles, and the thoughtful readalikes.

Adrenaline
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
It’s her fifth wedding anniversary: where’s Amy? Assumptions are dangerous in this chilling psychological thriller. The dark and twisty plot, unbearable levels of tension, and merciless pacing will rivet readers.

Fantasy
The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
When Myfanwy wakes up with no memory, surrounded by corpses, she must immediately impersonate herself in order to unravel the conspiracy at the heart of a secret supernatural intelligence agency. This offbeat debut combines the fast pacing and suspense of a thriller with the gritty, detailed world-building of urban fantasy.

Historical Fiction
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Ambitious royal advisor Thomas Cromwell is at the pinnacle of his power and uses it to subtly engineer the downfall of his enemies, including the Queen, Anne Boleyn, and her inner circle. This intricately plotted character study presents a fresh perspective on the ever popular Tudor Court.

Horror
The Ritual by Adam Nevill
In the remote forests of Sweden, the friendship between four men disintegrates when they wander off the hiking trail and find themselves stalked by an unseen and increasingly violent menace. “Blair Witch” meets black metal in this dark and suspenseful horror novel.

Mystery
The Gods of Gotham
by Lyndsay Faye
The discovery of a mass grave of child prostitutes spurs “copper star” Timothy Wilde to hunt a killer through the seamy underbelly of 1840s New York City. Colorful period slang enlivens this carefully researched story about the dawn of modern policing.

Romance
Firelight by Kristen Callihan
Bartered as a bride to the masked nobleman Benjamin Archer, Miranda Ellis – a woman with a supernatural secret – becomes his only defender when he is accused of a series of murders. This is a dark and smoldering Victorian paranormal where love redeems two complex and damaged characters.

Science Fiction
Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey
One wants control; one wants vindication; one wants his daughter back; and one wants revenge (and maybe a new suit). The shifting points of view of these four distinctive characters, an electrifying pace, and the threat of an evolving alien protomolecule propel readers through this grand space adventure.

Women’s Fiction
The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway
Galilee Garner’s carefully managed routine of teaching, rose breeding, and kidney dialysis is disrupted when her teenage niece moves in. Readers will root for the growth of this prickly character as she discovers the importance of cultivating human connections.

Chickadee wins 2013 Scott O'Dell Award

Louise Erdrich's Chickadee has received the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, announced on January 16. This award was established in 1982 by Scott O'Dell to encourage writers to focus on historical fiction, and it is awarded annually to an author for a "meritorious book published in the previous year for children or young adults," according to the award website. To be eligible for the award, the book must be published by a U.S. publisher and set in the Americas.

Chickadee is the fourth installment in Erdrich's Birchbark House Series and takes place in the nineteenth century, chronicling the kidnapping of Chickadee, an eight-year-old Anishinabe (known today as Ojibwe) boy, and the adventures that follow as Chickadee tries to return home and his family leaves home to look for him.

Some previous Scott O'Dell Award winners in the library's collection:

Dead End in Norvelt

In the historic town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, twelve-year-old Jack Gantos spends the summer of 1962 grounded for various offenses until he is assigned to help an elderly neighbor with a most unusual chore involving the newly dead, molten wax, twisted promises, Girl Scout cookies, underage driving, lessons from history, typewriting, and countless bloody noses.

One Crazy Summer

In the summer of 1968, after traveling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp.

The Storm in the Barn (Graphic Novel)

In Kansas in the year 1937, eleven-year-old Jack Clark faces his share of ordinary challenges: local bullies, his father's failed expectations, a little sister with an eye for trouble. But he also has to deal with the effects of the Dust Bowl, including rising tensions in his small town and the spread of a shadowy illness. Certainly a case of "dust dementia" would explain who (or what) Jack has glimpsed in the Talbot's abandoned barn - a sinister figure with a face like rain. In a land where it never rains, it's hard to trust what you see with your own eyes, and harder still to take heart and be a hero when the time comes.

Click here for a complete list of previous O'Dell Award winners.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #374

Being released just in time to coincide with the much anticipated 3rd season of Downton Abbey, Elizabeth Wilhide's debut novel Ashenden is sure to find eager readers. It is a story about an English country house and the people who inhabit it - upstairs and downstairs, births and deaths, comings and goings, over the course of 240 years.

When siblings Charlie and Ros discover that they have inherited Ashenden Park, their aunt's much-loved house, they must decide if they should sell it. In an interwoven narrative spanning two and a half centuries, we meet the original architect who gave it shape, the families who called it home, the soldiers it billeted during the Great War, the housekeeping staff that ran it, to the young couple who lovingly restored it to shades of its former glory.

Wilhide, author (website) of more than 20 books on interior design, decoration, and architecture gives us "an evocative portrait of a house that becomes a character as compelling as the people who inhabit it."

More on the English country house and its inhabitants, try Secrets of the Manor House : inside British country homes in the early 1900's (2012), a PBS video.

For a closer look at the interiors, how about Henrietta Spencer-Churchill's gorgeously photographed Classic English Interiors? Or come along on the The English Country House : a grand tour by Gervase Jackson-Stops and James Pipkin.

For those of you who could not wait until Sunday, do you know you can watch the first 10 minutes of Season 3 right now?

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #373

A runaway bestseller in its native Germany since its publication in 2011, Alex Capus's Leon & Louise has just been longlisted for the German Book Prize. This story of enduring love that survives the tribulations of two world wars is inspired by the author's French paternal grandfather, a police chemist at the Quai des Orfèvres.

Leon Le Gall and Louise Janvier met as teenagers in the summer of 1918 in the village of Saint-Luc-sur-Marne. Their tentative romance was cut short when both were severely wounded by German artillery fire. When they met up in Paris a decade later, circumstances and their strong conviction about family and responsibility kept them apart. The Occupation of Paris during WWII sent Louise into the wilds of Africa and Leon under the watchful eye of the SS. Their love, however remain constant.

"On its surface, this is a story about enduring love. But it is also about the way that power can be abused, particularly in times of war, and the daily sacrifices people make to preserve what they hold most dear."

Capus was born to a French father and a Swiss mother. He spent his formative years in his grandfather's house in Normandy and may account for the lovely depiction of the locale (map) as the haven for Parisian holidaymakers at the turn of the 20th century. As a student of history and a former journalist, Capus was able to recreate, in great details and stoic realism the Nazi occupation of Paris and the hardships on its citizens.

A captivating read for a cold dreary day. Will appeal to fans of Tatiana de Rosnay. Readers might also like The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman, and Anita Shreve's Resistance.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #370

Based on the 80 year-old unsolved murder case of Dorothy Dexter Moormeister, City of Saints * * by debut novelist Andrew Hunt is the 2011 Tony Hillerman Prize winner.

On a cold February morning in 1930, Salt Lake City Sheriff Deputy Art Oveson is called to a gruesome crime scene where young Helen Pfalzgraf, wife of a prominent physician, lay battered and dead in an open field. As it is an election year, Art and his foul-mouthed partner Roscoe Lund are under great pressure to quickly solve this high-profile case.

Among the suspects are the victim's husband, her adoring step-daughter, and her many lovers. The investigations take Oveson and Lund into the underbelly of Salt Lake City, a place rife with blackmail and corruption, underneath a veneer of "upright Mormonism and congeniality".

This engrossing...procedural steadily builds up steam and explodes in all the right places".

"(T)his hard-edged whodunit with echoes of James Ellroy warrants a sequel."

Andrew Hunt is a professor of history in Waterloo, Ontario. He grew up in Salt Lake City.

* * = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #368

Death in Breslau * * introduces to US readers Marek Krajewski, an award-winning Polish crime writer and linguist, and at the same time, the first of a stylish and moody historic detective series featuring Inspector Eberhard Mock.

Breslau (present-day Wroclaw),1933. The city is in the grip of the Gestapo. Two young women are found murdered on a train, scorpions writhing on their bodies, and a bloody indecipherable note on the wall. Police Inspector Eberhard Mock is roused from his weekly assignation at a house of ill-repute to investigate. The urgency is heightened as one of the victim is the daughter of a powerful Breslau baron.

As Mock and his young troubled assistant Herbert Anwaldt plunge into the city's squalid underbelly for clues, the case takes on a dark twist of the occult when the mysterious note indicates a ritual killing with roots in the Crusades.

"Mock is a compelling protagonist, part Hercule Poirot and part thug, who uses blackmail as a standard investigative tool. He also has a weakness for nubile young Jewish women and chess-playing prostitutes. Krajewski's characterization of the prewar Nazis as a murderous lot who spend most of their time scheming against each other and indulging their various libidinous kinks is intriguing, but what makes this novel a stunner is the detailed portrait of Breslau in the otherworldly, uberdecadent, interwar years."

"(I)ntelligent, atmospheric... with a distinctly European, Kafkaesque sensibility", it will appeal to international and historic crime fiction fans, especially those who follow the Bernie Gunther series by Philip Kerr; and the The Liebermann Papers series by Frank Tallis, set in Freud's dangerous, dazzling Vienna.

* * = starred reviews

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