Thursday, November 24, 2016
Fifteen-year-old Robert Adams is a normal American teenage boy, with two differences. For one thing, Robert sometimes has dreams that come true. And for another, his grandfather knows the way to a parallel universe. Old Thomas Elliott once told Robert that he must go back to this other land, where he left important tasks unfinished, and Robert vowed to help. But now, Grandfather's health is failing, and Robert must go alone to Pyrrha and finish what the old man began -- if he can.
The Sun Singer is a cut above your typical YA epic fantasy. Robert is an appealing hero, and the other characters in the novel -- in both worlds -- are well-rounded. There's only one elf, and no dwarves or orcs, which is a relief to this somewhat jaded epic fantasy fan. And when magic is afoot, the narrative is often lyrical -- as it should be.
The book ends with a revelation about Robert's family, and the sense that there are more adventures to come. And in fact, I believe the second book in this series is already out. So I'd highly recommend that YA fantasy fans get started on The Sun Singer now.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
The subtitle for this book is, "For Every Action There's an Overreaction," a mantra that our antihero, Gino Gibaldi, inadvertently lives by. One of his neighbors -- a slimy lawyer -- turns up dead; when the cops stop by to chat with Gino, he mouths off to them, just sort of on general principles. Unfortunately, the cops have circumstantial evidence that he's the murderer, and Gino sure looks guilty to them. You'd think he'd wise up and straighten things out, wouldn't you? He wouldn't overreact and run from the law, would he? Of course he would. And then things really begin to get interesting.
Williams calls this a quirky mystery, and there's certainly a whodunit aspect to the plot. But the best part for me was the characterizations, from Gino the misanthrope, to the Miss Jean Louise, the beauty-prize-winning hamster owned by Gino's gay neighbor. I saw a couple of instances where the Spanish wasn't up to snuff (for instance, a native Spanish speaker would say problema, not problemo -- "no problemo" is American slang), but by and large, the book is well-written and well-edited.
If you're looking for a fun mystery story, you could do worse than Gino's Law. Highly recommended for readers who like humor with their whodunits.
Thursday, November 10, 2016
Anne Tyler is a master at making family relationships come alive, in all their messy glory, and A Spool of Blue Thread is no exception. Set in Baltimore, as most of her novels are, this book tells the story of the Whitshanks -- a family who came up from nothing, yet ended up owning a house as quirky as they are.
The patriarch these days is Red Whitshank. He and his wife Abby have four grown children and a number of grandchildren. Red and Abby are getting on in years, and part of the plot centers around how the adult children can best help their parents age in place. But that's only one of the things going on here; the family has several secrets, and you can bet they'll all be revealed before the final page.
A Spool of Blue Thread was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, among its many accolades. I enjoyed the book, but I wondered whether the Booker nod wasn't as much for her career as for this book in particular. Maybe when I read it, I wasn't in the mood for a book about a quirky but charming American family, one with plot threads that weave around each other to create a fabric rather than racing toward a finish line. There's humor and heart here, but not enough to make me love the book Suffice it to say that I've read a few of Tyler's books, and this one isn't my favorite. (That would be The Accidental Tourist.)
Recommended for readers who enjoy meandering family sagas with moments of humor.
Thursday, November 3, 2016
For this month's Indies Unlimited Reading Challenge, I'm going slightly out of order and reading an indie book "of my choice." (I'll do the one-of-a-series challenge next month.)
Although one could be forgiven for thinking The Man in the Black Hat is part of a time-travel quasi-series. Bowersock's previous two novels were about a modern man named Travis who finds himself mysteriously transported into the past, and makes a better life for himself there than he has in the here and now. Clay Bauer, the main character in this book, is no Travis. He's a character actor in the movies -- the guy who always plays the heavy because of his looks. He's resigned to never being the leading man. But one day, while on location for a Western that's shooting in Sedona, Arizona, Clay stumbles through a sort of wormhole in time, and finds himself in the honest-to-goodness Wild West.
Almost immediately, he meets Ella -- which is a good thing, as he sustained a broken arm in a fall when he transitioned to her time. Ella and her brother Marcus are homesteading near where Sedona will be located someday. The two of them patch Clay up, and let him rest up and heal. But when it's time for Clay to go back to his old life, Ella has a choice: stay with her brother, or leave with the man she has come to love. But will she be able to adjust to life 115 years in the future?
I've enjoyed every Bowersock novel I've read, and this one is no exception. She has clearly done her homework on the history of Sedona, as well as on the movie business. Clay is an engaging fellow, Ella is as spirited and independent as you would expect a frontier woman to be, and the resolution to their dilemma rings true. I would highly recommend The Man in the Black Hat to readers who love a sweet love story.
I reviewed an advance reader copy of this book.