Book – Never mind The Force Awakens and its record-busting box-office numbers. If geek has really become chic, as popular wisdom would have us believe, then there is no surer sign of the fact than the existence of Luke Skywalker Can’t Read and Other Geeky Truths. Hold your head high and read it with pride, fellow liberated nerds of Warrenville, in the sure and certain knowledge, as author Ryan Britt puts it, that the geek has inherited the earth.
In a series of humorous essays, each just the right length for a bite-sized lunchtime or before-bed treat, Britt shares his love of all things geek, from space operas to hobbits to superheroes. As a devotee of genre fiction in all its types and kinds–an unabashed geek, in short–I found a great deal of enjoyment in the familiarity of Britt’s experiences and fannish devotions (I love Jeremy Brett’s Holmes too, Mr. Britt, and I was right there with you on the weekly dose of delicious-but-depressing Battlestar blues!). Even if your speculative fiction experience begins and ends with Star Wars or The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, however, I think there’s a lot of interest to be found here. Some of the most fascinating essays to me were those that covered ground I wasn’t so familiar with, like “Wearing Dracula’s Pants”, about the history of vampire stories in print and on-screen. Other essays focus on Sherlock Holmes,Doctor Who, Star Trek, Back to the Future, Tolkien, movie music, and, yes, Star Wars, among many other things. It’s a playful, cheeky, joyous celebration of how and why we love the stories that have become our century’s particular mythology, and a massively fun ride from the first page to the last.
Book – Sometimes a psychic gift can feel more like a psychic curse. Ever since a near-death experience in his teens, JK Lassiter has been able to read the memories of the people or places that he touches with his hands, sometimes so viscerally that the memories cause him psychotic episodes. Because of this, his parents shut him away from the world. When the book begins, however, JK’s brother has been recently freed JK from their well-intended imprisonment and has helped him land a construction job flipping houses. His first house is in a close-knit neighborhood of Dallas, Texas, where the prior owners have skipped town under mysterious circumstances. Though JK gets a seriously bad vibe from the house, he is determined to see the job through and grab his chance at a normal life. Despite having to wear gloves and keep some distance from people, JK tries to fit in, flirting with the sexy man next door, Nick Collier, and making friends in the neighborhood.
Things turn sour, though, when his desire for the truth and psychic abilities reveal bodies, animal and human, in the backyard of the house. Each of his new friends and neighbors, he begins to discover, has ample motive for the crime. To discover the culprit and to clear Nick and his friends, JK tries to harness his psychic ability that has to this point caused him only anguish.
Renovationwill appeal to fans of both romances and mysteries, especially fans of closed-room mysteries. I found that the culprit was fairly easy to suss out early on, but watching JK figure it out was still a pleasure. This one feels like the start of a series, so if you liked it, keep your eyes out for another one.
Book – I am always thrilled when I discover a good mystery series that I haven’t read yet. Wife of the Gods by Kwei Quartey is the first book of the Inspector Darko Dawson mysteries. Darko (love the name) is a detective inspector in Ghana who is summoned to the remote village of Ketanu to look into the suspicious death of Gladys, a medical student and dedicated AIDS worker. It is an emotional assignment, since this is the same place that Darko’s mother went to when he was a boy to visit her sister and family and she disappeared and the case is still unsolved. Could these two women somehow be connected? Darko’s investigation clashes with local law enforcement and unsettling customs – having young daughters marry local priests with multiple wives, as a penance for family sins. The author gives a wonderful sense of place and plenty of interesting characters and suspects that keeps the reader interested until the very end. We have all the books in this series for you to enjoy!
Fans of Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agencynovels may enjoy this series also set in Africa. However, the situations are grittier in the Darko Dawson mysteries and whereas Precious Ramotswe likes relaxing with a cup of bush tea and is a gentle soul, Darko Dawson prefers smoking pot and has anger management issues.
Book – As a children’s librarian, there is no doubt that I am biased in favor of children’s books, but you don’t need to take my word for it that this one makes a fun read even for grown-ups. Besides the vote of confidence from the Newbery Committee, I have the testimony of my grandparents–neither of whom is a children’s book reader in general but each of whom devoured this one in a day, laughing all the way–to back me up in that claim.
1962 is the summer of eleven-year-old Jack Gantos’ perpetual grounding. With a nose that won’t stop bleeding, on the outs with both his parents and forbidden from playing baseball with his friends, Jack might have a grim few months ahead of him if not for his feisty elderly neighbor. Mrs. Volker, the resident historian of the small town of Norvelt, needs the loan of Jack’s hands to type up obituaries of her fellow orginal Norvelters, the rare task for which Jack is released from house-arrest. But when those obituaries start coming a little too thick and fast, Jack and Mrs. Volker become an unlikely team of sleuths, and fast friends into the bargain.
Part mystery story, part fictionalized memoir, entirely small town slice-of-life, Dead End in Norvelt explores questions of community and memory without ever feeling preachy. Centering as it does on an inter-generational friendship, it’s a great choice to share within families–but even if you don’t have a child, grandchild, niece, nephew or cousin to pass it on to, it’s well worth the rollicking ride.
Movie – There are some who feel truth is just as good as fiction and at times better. The Imposter is one of those stories that may be better than fiction. For watchers of Spanish cinema, like something out of a Pedro Almodóvar film. It is a documentary about a missing child, Nicolas Barclay. In 1994 a family in Texas reported their son missing. He turns up three and a half years later in Spain. Or does he? The Barclays do not see their “son” for the first time until he is back in Texas. Their child was a blond hair blue eyed boy. The person they are reunited with is neither blond nor blue eyed, with a profound Spanish accent, and seems to look older than 16, which is the around the age Nicolas should be.
The Imposter will take you on a trip with twists and turns throughout only to leave you with more questions. There are questions about the person claiming to be Nicolas. Who is he, what is he doing, and why is he doing this? In addition, why does the family accept this stranger as their son? Serious criminal accusations will keep the viewer questioning what is going on in this family. All of this will leave you with more questions that may or may not be fully answered by the end of the film.
Whether you like true-crime or enjoy fiction, TheImposter will give you a good story, almost as good as, or even better than most mysteries. This one is for those who enjoy mysteries, thrillers, true-crimes, and love plot twists.
TV Series – The Honorable Miss Fisher is the James Bond of lady private investigators—she’s got the fancy car, the sumptuous home, the gorgeous wardrobe, and the slick pearl-handled pistol. Based on a series by author Kerry Greenwood and set in 1920s in Melbourne, Australia, this series features lush flapper-era costumes, gorgeous period sets, and intriguing historical details. Stories in this series cover the gamut of Australian society and straddle social classes, dealing with such disparate topics as clandestine back-alley abortion providers and high-society charity functions.
Despite the historical setting, however, Phryne feels very much like a modern character. She is the head of her own odd household which includes her butler (named, appropriately, Mr. Butler), her companion Dot, surrogate daughter Jane, and various other lovers and lost souls she collects. Fans of series like Bones and X-Files will appreciate the romantic chemistry between Phryne and Detective Inspector Jack Robinson, a dashing and sardonic policeman with whom she often collaborates. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries will especially appeal to fans of the wide variety of BBC detective shows, such as Inspector Morse and Murdoch Mysteries. We also own series 2 and 3 of this one, as well as the novels the series is based on, so feel free to make an afternoon of it!
Book – Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Childrenis a lively and imaginative tale that follows a young lad named Jacob. Jacob has grown up hearing the most fantastical stories of children with magical capabilities from his grandfather. An Invisible boy. A girl who holds fire in her hands. Children who, Jacob thinks, couldn’t possibly have existed. After the sudden passing of his beloved grandfather, Jacob becomes obsessed with the photos and stories they shared. The tragedy sends Jacob and his father far away to escape their grief. And that…is where the adventure really begins. While exploring the island, Jacob discovers the old ruins of an orphanage, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Jacob soon discovers that all the stories his grandfather told him might actually be true, as the children of Miss Peregrine’s Home come to life. Yet there are still questions left unanswered.
For anyone who has ever been awed by circus performers, amazed by people who can do unbelievable feats, pick up this book and take a gander. The story itself is charming, but it is the unique photographs sprinkled throughout the pages that really breathe life into the novel. It’s almost enough to make you believe that the characters are real people, each with their own history. Ransom takes these images from his extensive collection of vintage photographs to illustrate the novel; what a brilliant idea!
Book – If you have any interest in mystery, historical fiction, New York City, Holmesiana or just plain well-written human drama, Lyndsay Faye is the author you never knew you needed in your life. Unless you did, in which case well done you.
Timothy Wilde is a New York City bartender in 1845, lending an ear to the world’s problems and working up the courage to confess his love for his childhood sweetheart, Mercy. When a fire does away with his job and his life savings, however, he stumbles his way (pushed by his brother, the larger-than-life, twice as troublesome and three times as irresistible Val) into the work he never wanted but always should’ve had: as a ‘copper star,’ a member of New York’s brand-new police force. A chance encounter with a ten-year-old girl in a blood-covered nightgown puts him on the trail that ends in the bodies of twenty children and sends the entire city into a flurry of tension along racial, ethnic and especially religious lines. And while his determination to find the truth will make an investigator of Tim, it will also challenge his preconceptions about the people he loves.
Written in rich period language (a glossary is included), The Gods of Gothamis a fast-paced and atmospheric thriller that stands on its own merits as both a mystery and a piece of historical fiction. But what makes it exceptional are Faye’s writing style and command of human nature. Her prose is insightful, incisive and deeply felt, and her characters memorable and well-rounded. New devotees will be pleased to hear that Tim’s adventures continue in Seven for a Secret and the recent conclusion to the trilogy, The Fatal Flame.
Book – It is 1950 in the south of England, there is a dead body at the bottom of the garden, and the feelings of eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce can best be described as… delight.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie is the first in a series of mysteries featuring a thoroughly unconventional young sleuth. Flavia is a devoted chemist, a razor-sharp observer and–though she would never use the term of herself–a girl genius, with a noble heart but a matching talent for lying, inventing or thinking her way out of trouble. All of this ought to combine to create a completely unbelievable character. Miraculously, it doesn’t. What it creates, instead, is a genuine original, an irresistible series that I couldn’t put down if I tried.
In her first outing, Flavia solves a mystery involving a dead bird, an extremely rare postage stamp, stage magic, an academic who fell from a bell-tower decades ago, and her own father’s boyhood. Not every reader will love Bradley’s sometimes verbose and always metaphor-strewn style, but those who fall under Flavia’s spell will find six more titles waiting, the newest published just this year. the audiobooks are exceptionally good, with Jayne Entwhistle providing a pitch-perfect Flavia who never seems more than half-an-inch shy of laughter.
Book – Maud is concerned that her friend Elizabeth is missing. Maud is also aware that she frequently forgets things and becomes confused; that’s why she writes things down of importance on pieces of paper that she leaves around her house or stuffed in her pockets or purse. She is distraught because no one takes her seriously regarding her friend’s disappearance. Maud’s search brings up other old memories, the disappearance of her sister Sukey during post World War II. Though authorities determined that Sukey simply ran away to start a new life away from her husband, due to lack of evidence to suggest foul play, Maud has always been haunted that her older sister would have shared this secret with her and bid her farewell. Could the two mysteries be connected?
This is a bittersweet glimpse inside Maud’s dementia. She doesn’t always know who her daughter is, she keeps buying tins of peach slices when she has a pantry full, and forgets to drink the cups of tea she’s made. We feel her panic when she gets lost or can’t remember why she is at a certain place and why she is interacting with “strangers”. She realizes that she may only have a short time until her memory fails her completely to resolve the disappearances of her friend and sister.
This is the author’s first book and it received starred reviews from Library Journal and BookList. This novel would make an excellent book club selection.