Great Reads

Lindholm, Megan and Robin Hobb. The Inheritance and Other Stories

Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors, and though I knew she also wrote under the name Megan Lindholm, I had never read Lindholm previously. This anthology is a wonderful introduction to both of the author's signature styles. Standouts in the Lindholm section include the delightfully odd tale of “The Fifth Squashed Cat,” and the first story, "A Touch of Lavender."   The real standout in the Hobb section was, again, the first story, “Homecoming.” Sure to appeal to any fans of Hobb’s Liveship Traders series, “Homecoming” provides a fascinating glimpse at the early years of Rain Wilds settlements.

Over all, this is a most satisfying collection. Whether you're a Lindholm fan, a Hobb fan, or a fan of both, you will find much to enjoy here!

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Bear, Elizabeth. The White City

In a loose sequel to Bear’s alternate history-cum-mystery “New Amsterdam,” we are taken from the New World into the depths of the old. Immortal vampire detective Don Sebastien de Ulloa seeks rest and healing, both for himself and for the human members of his court, the inimitable forensic sorceress Lady Abigail Irene and the lady author, Phoebe Smith.  The trio travel to the depths of Russia, to the White City of Moscow…a place Don Sebastien has not visited in many years.  While he seeks respite, what he finds is only more death. Visiting an old friend, he finds instead a cooling corpse and no trace of the lady he seeks. A mystery he thought was done and gone has re-emerged from hiding, embroiling Don Sebastien and his court in the dangerous jealousies and ancient rivalries of Moscow’s vampire community.

The mystery here is hardly the point. While the motivations are realistic and the crimes dramatic, what readers will find most fascinating are Bear’s characters: the ascerbic Abigail Irene, the unprepossessing Phoebe Smith hiding unexpected depths behind her smile, and, most of all, the ancient, conflicted, and decidedly post-human Don Sebastien. Bear’s vampires definitely do not sparkle, but they captivate nonetheless.

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Roy, Lori. Bent Road

Lori Roy’s debut novel is creepy from the start. It opens at night on a lonely road full of shadows and tumbleweeds where Celia Scott struggles to follow her husband’s disappearing truck around unfamiliar twists and turns. The plot of the novel is similarly dark and serpentine with a few twists of its own. The Scott family returns to the Midwest from Detroit to find a better life for their children and instead finds themselves mired in domestic violence and haunted by family secrets.  Arthur struggles to protect his sister Ruth from her violent, alcoholic husband Ray who becomes even more sinister once he is investigated in connection with a young girl’s disappearance. What’s more, the new charges call to mind the death of another sister, Eve, years before. Many suspect Ray had something to do with Eve’s murder as well.

Although the ending may seem over-the-top to some, this dark, gothic tale of family secrets makes compelling reading. Roy develops interesting characters and keeps the plot moving. Readers will be drawn into the dual mysteries, past and present, that Roy so skillfully creates.

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Just a Thought ... Genre Crossing

While it can easily be argued that the earliest forms of literature were all what today might be called fantasy –Beowulf, The Odyssey, the epic of Gilgamesh—and that the fantastic was a part of mainstream literature for a long time after—Shakespeare, anyone?—in recent decades fantasy and its younger sibling, science fiction, have been relegated to the fringes—read and loved by many, certainly, but not considered to be literary by the cognoscenti and often dismissed in favor of more realistic works. This, however, is a trend that seems to be reversing itself.  The current interest in George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” book series, prompted in part by the popular HBO miniseries based upon the books, is but one example. In addition to the public’s discovery of SF-F authors like Martin, those who have been writing in the genre for many years, there is an emerging trend of literary fiction authors turning to more speculative themes. The success of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and, more recently, Justin Cronin’s The Passage seems to have opened a door for other authors to walk through.  A variety of other authors, best known for their previous works of literary fiction, have recent or forthcoming works of science fiction, fantasy, or horror.


Bohjalian, Chris.  The Night Strangers

Duncan, Glen.  The Last Werewolf

Jordan, Hillary.  When She Woke

Koryta, Michael.  The Ridge

Perotta, Tom.  The Leftovers

Shteyngart, Gary.  Super Sad True Love Story

Whitehead, Colson.  Zone One

Yoshimoto, Banana. Goodbye, Tsugumi

Maria Shirakawa has spent her childhood waiting, along with her mother, for her father to obtain a divorce from his first wife. Mother and daughter spent those years living in the seaside inn of  Maria’s aunt and uncle, only seeing Maria’s father on the few occasions he was able to get away from his life in the city to visit. Maria grew up alongside her cousin Tsugumi, a young woman with a frail and sickly body but a vibrant and almost malicious spirit.  Freed from common behavioral norms by the deep conviction that she could die at any moment, Tsugumi is rude, loud-mouthed, spoiled, and too clever by half. She can also be enchanting and mischievous when the mood strikes her. Maria is always torn between annoyance and admiration for her cousin, who is free to flirt with boys and concoct elaborate pranks and revenge schemes with an ease Maria—who is bound by a determination to be the perfect daughter for her distant father—can only admire and resent by turns. When Maria and her mother are finally able to join Maria’s father in the city and become a true family, she finds that she misses Tsugumi bitterly. When Maria’s aunt and uncle determine to sell the inn and move to another town, Maria heads back to spend one last summer with her infuriating and enchanting cousin.

Deliberately paced, with very little emphasis on plot, Goodbye, Tsugumi is a delicate character study. Some awkwardness in sentence structure can perhaps be blamed on the translation from Japanese. For those readers who enjoy quiet, lyrical works and are willing to forego action for insight.

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