June 2009 -- "Have you not considered the distinct possibility that the accused were simply guilty
Connie Godwin thinks her academic advisor is teasing her: she has mastered the scholarship surrounding the Salem witch trials of 1692 and knows the question he poses is preposterous. She never suspects that answering it will alter everything she knows about the past, her family, and the professor himself. Interweaving two narratives, one set in 1991 and one set three centuries earlier, Katherine Howe's debut novel is a marvel of invention
and historical reconstruction. The author employs her training as an historian to vividly depict the realities of 17th-century Salem, dramatizing the plight of the unfortunate victims as they fall prey to the mania of their accusers. But it is the leap of imagination by which she connects Connie to that distant past that turns The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane into a bewitching reading
Sent by her mother to prepare her long-deceased grandmother's home for sale, Connie finds a decrepit dwelling filled with venerable oddities, including a collection of ancient bottles filled with peculiar liquids and powders. On her first night there, Connie chances on a crumbling bit of paper, bearing the words "Deliverance Dane," that has been carefully hidden inside a key tucked between the pages of a 300-year-old family Bible. Combing the local church registry for traces of this mysterious name, Connie strikes up an acquaintance with Sam, a steeplejack engaged in the church's preservation. Together they piece together Deliverance's tragic story and learn of her precious book of spells and recipes for healing potions. When a series of sinister events threaten Sam's life, Connie's search for the book is transformed from scholarly pursuit to a matter of life and death-and love.
- Discussion questions for your reading group
- Our downloadable reader's guide (pdf)
- Watch our exclusive interview with Katherine Howe on B&N Tagged!
- See our discussion on The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane in the First Look Book Club
When first told to try the Southern Vampire Series, I was skeptical at first since I had heard about a show on HBO (True Blood) based on them and it didn't really seem like "my thing." I was so wrong! Dead Until Dark is the first of 9 (for now) books by Charlaine Harris about the feisty heroine, Sookie Stackhouse. It took me less than one day to finish and I bought all of the rest the next day so I didn't have to wait for the next book should I finish while the bookstore was closed for the night. This book (and the rest that followed) were laugh-out-loud funny! Sookie is such a dynamic character and she fills the pages with uproarious wit and stubborn panache. Her exploits, while firmly in the realm of fantasy, are so well-written that I felt as though I was right there with her, tending tables at Merlotte's.
The premise behind the Southern Vampire Series is also part of the appeal of the novels. While reading vampire novels in the past, I have always wondered what it would be like if the vampires were no longer condemned to the hidden underworld. Charlaine Harris begins her first novel of the series by answering this very question. In the series, vampires have just "come out of the coffin" due to the invention of synthetic blood. Since they have synthetic blood, they do not need to be a danger to humans and announce themselves to the world. Sookie sees the announcement on television and her bar, Merlotte's begins to carry True Blood, just in case. Sookie meets her first vampire when he comes into the bar for a drink and is drawn into the vampires' no-longer-hidden world due to her own abilities as a psychic and her blossoming relationship with the small town's very own resident bloodsucker.
Dead Until Dark combines so many elements of fiction, I recommend it to everyone. If you are looking for humor, fantasy, romance, drama, or just something new to try, I very highly recommend trying out Dead Until Dark. In the style of truly entertaining reading, it is extremely addictive and very hard to put down so beware! Should you wind up hooked on them as myself and so many others, the next books are Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #2), Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #3), Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #4), Dead As a Doornail (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #5), Definitely Dead (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #6), All Together Dead (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #7) , From Dead to Worse (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #8), and Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse / Southern Vampire Series #9) .
Dawsey, a farmer on the island of Guernsey in the English Channel, has come into possession of a book that once belonged to Juliet. Spurred by a mutual admiration for the writer, the two launch an epistolary conversation that reveals much about Dawsey's Guernsey and the islanders' recent lives under Nazi occupation. Juliet is especially interested to learn about the curious beginnings of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," and before long she is exchanging letters with its other members — not only Dawsey but Isola the vegetable seller, Eben the fisherman, and blacksmith Will Thisbee, creator of the famous potato peel pie.
As Juliet soon discovers, the most compelling island character is Elizabeth, the courageous founder of the society, who lives in the memories of all who knew her. Each person who writes to Juliet adds another chapter to the story of Elizabeth's remarkable wartime experiences. Touched by the stories the letters deliver, Juliet can't help but travel to Guernsey herself — a decision that will have surprising consequences for everyone involved.
Drawn together by their love of books and affection for each other, the unforgettable characters of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society collectively tell a moving tale of endurance and friendship. Through the chorus of voices they have created, Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows have composed a rich tale that celebrates the power of hope and human connection in the shadows of war.
Eighty-six-year-old Hennie has lived in Middle Swan, a gold-mining town in the Rockies, since before Colorado was a state. Nit has recently arrived in town with her husband and her grief, reminding Hennie of her own youthful hopes and sorrows. Finding common ground in their Southern heritage and a love of quilting, an unlikely friendship blossoms as Hennie captivates Nit with vivid memories that reach back to the mid-1800s.
"There's something about stitching together," Hennie confides, "that draws a woman out."
As they sew, Hennie recounts her childhood in Tennessee and her tragic marriage to her sweetheart Billy, soon to be lost to the Civil War. She relives the death of their only child and her journey, by wagon train, across the country to start life anew with a man she'd never met. She recalls the unexpected blessing she discovered upon her arrival in Middle Swan and describes the lively cast of gamblers and moonshiners, quilters and "soiled doves" she has come to know. Summoning the feelings, dreams, and satisfactions of Hennie's years of experience as a woman, mother, and wife, these stirring yarns serve as a healing balm for the lonely, anxious Nit-and help her piece together a new beginning for her own family.
Just as Hennie's tales weave a many-hued cloak of mountain wisdom for the benefit of her young friend, so Sandra Dallas creates for us-through a deft blend of historical detail, authentic voices, quilting lore, and, last but not least, emotional truths-a vibrant quilt of heartbreaking incident and heartwarming compassion.
Only five short chapters into Setterfield’s deft, enthralling narrative, her readers too have been transported: they’ve inhaled the dusty scent of Lea’s Antiquarian Bookshop, shared the sense of adventurous comfort Margaret absorbs from her late-night reading, and been seduced by the glamorous enigma of Vida Winter. Yet The Thirteenth Tale has just begun. Commissioned by Miss Winter to compose her unvarnished biography, Margaret is soon swept up in the tragic history she must unravel—a story stranger and more haunting than any the celebrated author has ever penned, encompassing a grand house, a beautiful yet doomed family, passion, madness, ghosts, and a secret that holds readers spellbound until the very end. Richly atmospheric and deeply satisfying, Setterfield’s debut revives in all their glory the traditions of gothic and romantic suspense exemplified by the works of Wilkie Collins, the Brontës, and Daphne du Maurier. Old-fashioned in the best sense, it’s an urgently readable novel that’s nearly impossible to put down.
I've never read a book that moved me the way The Book Thief did. Narrated by Death, it tells the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl who spends her childhood living with a foster family in Germany during World War II. Naturally, a book with that setting has its fair share of tragedy, and though this one does have one of the saddest endings I've ever seen, at the same time, it is also one of the most uplifting books I've ever read. The characters are what makes this book so special; each one has traits that are likeable and detestable. They are among the most human characters that I've ever seen, and I came to care about what happened to each and every one of them. By the time I reached the climax of the book, I was so emotionally invested in the characters, that I couldn't keep from crying, and yet I still can't think of a book that I've read recently that I enjoyed more than this one.
This is a wonderful book. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Introducing Thursday Next, Jasper Fforde's no-nonsense, smart, funny, and loving heroine of his first series. We meet Thursday in an alternate mid-1980s Great Britain - one still fighting in the Crimea with Russia - and she is hot on the trail of forgers, Shakespeare impersonators, and book thieves. Everyone is mad for literature including Acheron Hades, the most wanted man in Britain, and it is Thursday's job to catch him once Jane Eyre is kidnapped from her book leaving the remaining pages of the beloved novel blank. Fforde's first novel is laugh-out-loud funny, including obscure literary in-jokes that even the most well-read bibliophile might miss, with a drop or two of sci-fi tech, and also quite terrifying when Thursday fights for her life atop the blazing Thornfield Hall. Fforde uses Thursday's world to comment on certain aspects of our own society including government interference by large corporations (signified by the hulking Goliath Corporation), over-commercialization, and the decline in literacy. Fforde's books suck you in, which is great because you'll want to follow Thursday through the rest of her books: Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, Thursday Next, and one more Thursday novel due sometime in 2010 (or so Jasper says); Thursday learns about the Bookworld and Jurisfiction, apprentices with Miss Havisham, fights grammasites in the Well, tracks the Minotaur, takes the indecisive Dane of Denmark under her wing, and saves Pride and Prejudice from the degredation of reality TV (now I've really got you wondering...I guess you'll have to read all the books now ) - it's all very accessibly, absurd, and fun to read. Once you've finished Thursday's published books, and need a tide-over until the next one, you can start on Fforde's Nursery Crime series (Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear), following DCI Jack Spratt and his partner, Mary Mary, as they solve hard-boiled nursery rhyme crime in Reading, and his new series, Paint by Numbers, will debut in December 2008.
The women of the Waverley family—whether they like it or not—are heirs to an unusual legacy, one that grows in a fenced plot behind their Queen Anne home on Pendland Street in Bascom, North Carolina. There, an apple tree bearing fruit of magical properties looms over a garden filled with herbs and edible flowers that possess the power to affect in curious ways anyone who eats them.
For nearly a decade, 34-year-old Claire Waverley, at peace with her family inheritance, has lived in the house alone, embracing the spirit of the grandmother who raised her, ruing her mother's unfortunate destiny and seemingly unconcerned about the fate of her rebellious sister, Sydney, who freed herself long ago from their small town's constraints. Using her grandmother's mystical culinary traditions, Claire has built a successful catering business—and a carefully controlled, utterly predictable life—upon the family's peculiar gift for making life-altering delicacies: lilac jelly to engender humility, for instance, or rose geranium wine to call up fond memories. Garden Spells reveals what happens when Sydney returns to Bascom with her young daughter, turning Claire's routine existence upside down. With Sydney's homecoming, the magic that the quiet caterer has measured into recipes to shape the thoughts and moods of others begins to influence Claire's own emotions in terrifying and delightful ways.
As the sisters reconnect and learn to support one another, each finds romance where she least expects it, while Sydney's child, Bay, discovers both the safe home she has longed for and her own surprising gifts. With the help of their elderly cousin Evanelle, endowed with her own uncanny skills, the Waverley women redeem the past, embrace the present, and take a joyful leap into the future.
I have always loved fantasy novels. Growing up I loved to spend time in Narnia, Middle Earth, and Redwall, and even now as somewhat of a grown up, some of my favorite haunts can be found between the covers of a fantasy novel, And maybe that is why I fell in love with The Magicians so quickly. I could really relate to Quentin Coldwater, who even though he is near the end of high school he is still in love with the books of Fillory (think Chronicles of Narnia) even though they are much to young for him. Of course he knows that magic isn't real, that is, until he finds himself in upstate New York at Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy.
This isn't just Harry Potter dressed in a new robe. Lev Grossman has created an original, engaging story that melds literary fiction with that of the fantasy genre while paying tribute to some of our favorite fantasy worlds. The narrative really zips along, and I found myself reading it at every opprotunity. Don't expect any "happily everafters" here though, as this one is certainly for the adult audience. Quentin and his friends often find themselves in darker and darker places, as growing up is never as clean and simple as we pretend it will be.
If you are looking for that next fantastic place to escape to, you can't go wrong with The Magicians.
Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;...
Whether we read in Middle English or Modern English, I'm sure teachers glossed over Chaucer's sly humor and more ribald jokes (mine did). Instead of laughing over bickering tradesmen and hypocritical churchmen, Chaucer came off dry, boring and a little stodgy.
Enter Peter Ackroyd. Known most recently for his geographic biographies, Venice, London, and Thames, as well as The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, Ackroyd gives the reader a prose translation of Chaucer's poem. Not a line-by-line translation packed into paragraphs, with annotations and definitions, but a story that emphasizes the human characters that pout and whine, take offense, pontificate, and generally enjoy telling a naughty story or two. Ackroyd's uses modern prose and sentence structure while keeping the original narrative structure, characters and setting of The Canterbury Tales intact. This is a great introduction to Chaucer for those who might be hesitant to tackle the poem, to become familiar with the characters and the enjoy the stories without worrying over rhymes and poetic metaphor; on the other hand, those already familiar with Chaucer will appreciate Ackroyd's interpretation for the warmth and humor of the language without any loss of Chaucer's wit.
Enter also Penguin USA. Penguin has recently launched new paperback "packaging" of many classics and the paperback release of Ackroyd's The Canterbury Tales wasn't left behind (the original hardcover design is at the bottom of this post). Designer Ted Steam created a cartoon cover showcasing all the pilgrims from Chaucer's tales as they pass by the reader on the cover. It's a wrap-around design and worth every chuckle (I particularly like the richness of the Wife of Bath, the silliness of the three monks sharing a horse, and the student doggedly reading while on horseback). It reminds me of old movie posters like that of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and Animal House where the actors' characters are charicatured in the drawing. Steam also paneled out "The Man of Law's Tale" and "The Miller's Tale" on the interior flaps. You can see an image of the entire cover at the Superpunch blog (The Canterbury Tales is the third set of images in the post; the whole post is a great overview of some of the new Penguin covers).
Chaucer is a favorite of mine and I own a number of different editions but this one shines a little brighter for the warmth of its story and clever cover art.
Kafka on the Shore left me breathless.
After years of an unnamed but horrific abuse, 15-year-old Kafka Tamura deliberately plans an escape from his father, a man so evil that he steals souls. As Kafka seeks both his fortune and answers to his past in the seemingly random city of Takamatsu, he finds refuge in the stacks of a library, becoming close friends with the assistant and fantasizing that the head librarian is his lost mother.
Though the magic realism of this novel begins right away - and is at times complex and seemingly random - about a quarter of the way into the book the plot and characters burst into focus and harmony. The secondary plot (involving a mentally-damaged man who can talk to cats and is on his own quest) all of a sudden aligns with Kafka's life, and the entire story dramatically rises in a tornado of crazy events and emotions: murder, incest, and oedipal prophecy.
The ending of this story was so beautiful that I couldn't read for a full day afterward from the emotional hangover. I can't wait to read more Murakami.
Tatiana de Rosnay takes the reader on two journies simultaneously. One is of Sarah, a young Jewish girl in 1942 France who find herself thrust into the horrors of the Jewish Vel’ d’Hiv’ roundup in Paris by French soliders under Nazi orders. The other is Julia, an American journalist who married a Frenchman and has lived in France for the past 25 years. Julia is given the task of reporting on the Vel’ d’Hiv’ rounup for the upcoming 60 year anniversary. She finds a country that has just about forgotten about this shameful time and an intersection bewteen her's and Sarah's lives.
The book is truly difficult to put down. The characters instantly draw you in. The stories are captivating, educational, and definitely leave you thinking deeper. A great book for discussion groups.
Being an ardent Jane Austen enthusiast, I was nonplussed when the news hit the Internet about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, combining Jane Austen's classic novel with bone-crunching zombie mayhem! What? Did two genre's ever seem more incompatible? Even though it did not appeal to my genteel sensibilities, I was intrigued and thought it worth a look. The co-author Seth Grahame-Smith had taken about 85% of Austen's original text and interwoven a zombie subplot. I have to admit that the first line had me smiling. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains." What follows is quite a surprise. He has changed feisty Elizabeth Bennet and the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy into ninja warriors, ready to spar in the ball room as well as the battlefield against the sorry stricken who they delicately call unmentionables. It appears that anyone who is not a ninja warrior is a target for zombie destruction, so if there is a character from the original plot ripe for reproach, then it is sure to happen. Brains and gore abound, so the delicately minded take heed. If you enjoy a good ribald parody, the play between the original text and the new storyline is hysterical. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is sure to please those who live to make sport for their neighbors, and laugh at them in their turn! Read my complete review at my literary blog Austenprose.
Cheers, Laurel Ann, Austenprose
How does memory constitute identity? What is it to be human? Such immense questions underlie much of the gripping drama in Stephanie Meyer's latest novel, The Host. Melanie, a protagonist of this psychological thriller, guides her other part using memories and her internal voice. She helps her other part to adapt to new challenging emotions, pains, and relationships. Trapped between two societies, they find themselves on a quest to find loved ones and learn who can be trusted. If you did not find any interest to read Meyer's Twilight series, than perhaps you were waiting for her to exhibit her talent in this science fiction novel that is likely to be the premiere of a new exciting series.
I hated the main character of this book when I started it. Samantha Kingston is one of the most popular people in her school, but she is spoiled and mean and I didn't think I could read chapter after chapter about how awful she was to her classmates and family. But...then she died and that's when I realized this was not your normal story about a stuck up high school girl.
Sam ends up reliving the last day of her life seven times as she tries to figure out what happened and why. Lauren Oliver writes a beautiful and heart-breaking story (or, stories). I was worried that each time Sam woke up on 12 February I would be bored by the same details of her day as she went through it, but even if some things didn't change, Oliver made it seem new. I ended up finishing this novel in a fervor as I just had to get through Sam's last few tries along with her. Like her, I desperately wanted to figure out the mystery surrounding her death and began to see the beauty she was missing in her life.Before I Fall touches on many different emotions and has depth that is not always seen in teen novels.
I adore this book. It's incredibly well written, taking the best styles of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries and blending them into a seamless tapestry of literary wonder. It is delightful to read and I found myself throughout my days at work looking forward to when I could get home and crack it open. This book is subtle and doesn't pander. There aren't huge emotional moments or action scenes, so casual readers will probably not enjoy it, but in my opinion that's the beauty of this book- the strength is in each page, not the climax or the ending. Susanna Clarke has pulled off a masterpiece her first time out, and has done it spectacularly!
When I saw that Kate Morton released a second book, I couldn't wait to get my hands and eyes on it. House at Riverton had been a recommend from a fellow bookseller and, wary as I am of recommends, I read it. And I loved it. But The Forgotten Garden I loved even more.
Kate Morton has a knack for weaving the past and the present together, for spanning the continents, and for intricate character and plot details that have that "blink and you'll miss it" feel.
I devoured The Forgotten Garden. Cassandra in present-day Australia who, after her grandmother's death, is left a house in Cornwall, England. To Cassandra's grandmother, Nell, both as a child and as an adult, discovering her past. To the mysterious Mountrachet family and fairy tale Authoress Eliza Makepeace. Who is everyone? How are they connected? Who is Nell, really? And what will Cassandra learn about both her grandmother and herself along the way?
What I liked most about Morton's second novel is that it wasn't easy to figure out. The mystery shrouding the characters (each and every character, from a maid in the Mountrachet household, to Nell's parents in Australia, to a young gardener Cassandra meets) folds them all together and doesn't give anything away prematurely. I love figuring things out, but each time I thought I had something figured out, Morton added in another element. You would think with this many strings, the novel would be tangled and heavy, but that isn't the case at all. In fact, everything is necessary and everything comes to fruition.
I'd recommend this to anyone who likes to be surprised, who likes interweaving storylines, past and present, and -- well, really, anyone at all. It is phenomenal.
The Flynn City Egg Man It's Easter 1969, and no one is more excited than Cyrus Flannery, the eccentric peddler known as, The Flynn City Egg Man. He's packed up the old panel truck with Easter goodies, and if everyone forgives him for his past business dealings, he just might make the rent this year. It all looks good until...Sandy True, the head cheerleading diva, and maximus drama queen of Flynn City High decides to plot a kidnapping. Her own kidnapping It may allow her time to get to Hollywood, and seek her dream of becoming an actress.
The last person she was seen with happens to be The Flynn City Egg Man, and Sandy's boyfriend, Tyler Armstrong has plans of the peddler. If the cops can't help, Armstrong will take matters into his own hands. After all, it was blood he saw in the Egg Man's kitchen.
Cuffy Landers, a seventeen-year-old reluctant hero enters the fray, and soon befriends the Egg Man. The two are pitted against a suspicious town, and a boyfriend who is hell-bent on revenge.
Recommended for adult, teen, and young adult reading with humor, suspense, and inspiration.
"...that Jane Austen is still alive today — as a vampire."
That's the premise of Jane Bites Back, the clever and highly amusing new novel from Michael Thomas Ford.
Jane Fairfax is the owner of Flyleaf Books, located in a sleepy little town in upstate New York. Jane Fairfax is also a 234-year-old vampire and the author of some of the most beloved works in English literature. Being undead isn't all it's cracked up to be, though. She hasn't seen a royalty check in centuries, while an entire industry cashes in on her fame with sequels, prequels, film adaptations, self-help books, and worst of all… finger puppets. Then, there's Constance, the novel Jane's been trying to publish since before her "death." One hundred sixteen rejection letters later, Jane finally hits on success, but at what price? Her carefully crafted existence is imperiled by the need to tour and promote her book; a scholar who knows Charlotte Brontë a little too well is threatening to expose her; and a mysterious figure from Jane's past returns to haunt her.
From beginning to end, Jane Bites Back was a fun, engaging read. Drawing on both the current vampire craze and the unstoppable wave of "Austenmania" which began with the 1995 adaptations of Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, Ford successfully skewers them both. For readers who love English literature but aren't too sacrosanct about it, there's plenty to enjoy here. In addition to Austen, Lord Byron is a major character (and as big a literary rock star as ever!), serving as both irritant and potential romantic interest. Another major literary figure plays a key role in the novel, but to tell who would be to spoil a deliciously hilarious scene that comes at about the two-thirds mark.
Ford, best known for his gay-themed fiction and non-fiction, successfully makes the jump to 'chick lit' with Jane Bites Back. I've never read him before, but I was sufficiently impressed and entertained that I'm eagerly awaiting the next of his vampire Jane Austen novels, Jane Goes Batty.
I love love love the Sookie Stackhouse books! It's like jumping into someone else's weird world every time I read one. Each of Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Series books is deliciously entertaining and I have been enjoying reading about Sookie's life and adventures since book one!
Dead In The Family picks up after the Fairy War, which was traumatic for Sookie both mentally and physically. Things should be getting back to normal as she continues her steamy relationship with Eric, but trouble is always around the corner in Bon Temp, LA. Not only does Sookie have an unwanted house guest, but tensions are rising over the recently outted Shifters. Nothing is ever easy when Supes are involved.
These books are endlessly entertaining, but at the same time, not much happens throughout the book. Honestly, I like that. It's like peaking into Sookie's world and experiencing all of the weirdness with her. I now impatiently look forward to book 11 as Harris has kept my intrigue and has also set up a lot upon which to continue.