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.
Peter Grant is a rookie cop working the streets in London when, while guarding a crime scene, he meets a most unusual witness: a ghost. The ghost describes the crime to Grant in detail and Grant is able to determine that no one but an actual witness would know those details. While waiting out another evening for the ghost to show back up, Grant meets Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale. Nightingale, though few outside the upper echelons know it, is a wizard working in a special branch designated to investigate crimes of a supernatural order…and he needs an apprentice. Since Grant has already demonstrated a sensitivity to the other world, he’s given the job. Now the rookie cop is also a rookie wizard, bringing his modern scientific outlook into the work. A murderer is stalking the city, killing seemingly at random—but soon, Nightingale and Grant are able to discern the pattern. Meanwhile, Grant has to learn magic, mediate a feud between the warring genius loci of the rivers of London, and try not to make too much of a fool of himself in front of the various women in his life.
Fast-paced, clever, and original, “Midnight Riot” is a promising series start. Sure to be a hit with fans of Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” series!