Book review: “The Manual of Detection” by Jedediah Berry
Book Reviews / November 6, 2013

Fantasy and hardboiled detective fiction have met before this novel—I cannot restrain myself from name-dropping “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” by Michael Chabon—but I don’t think any mash-up of the two has ever been quite like this book, its author’s first novel. It takes place in an unnamed, rainy city where the boundary between dreams and reality have become blurred. Here the forces of order are represented by a towering Agency whose detectives, clerks, and other operatives, work within the lines of strict policies. After years of successful crime-solving, hardly anything remains of the Agency’s nemesis—a traveling carnival that came to town and never left again, and whose troupe included the villain in some of the Agency’s greatest cases.

Book review: “The Ropemaker” by Peter Dickinson
Book Reviews / July 17, 2013

A few pages into this book by the author of “The Tears of the Salamander”, I decided that Peter Dickinson is probably the best writer living today. Given that I have only read these two of his fifty-odd books, that may come across as a hasty judgment. But I haven’t forgotten that “Tears” was the best book I read in 2005, and I don’t plan to forget that this was the best book I have read so far this year.

Book review: “Little People” by Tom Holt
Book Reviews / July 8, 2013

At age eight, Mike Higgins was playing Captain Kirk in his backyard when he spotted a tiny, green-skinned man with pointy ears, leaning against a head of lettuce and smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. “‘Mummy, mummy,’ I yelled out as I ran back into the house. Guess what! There are Vulcans at the bottom of our garden!'”

Book review: “The Scarecrow and His Servant” by Philip Pullman
Book Reviews / January 29, 2013

This book by the author of “The Firework-Maker’s Daughter” and “The Ruby in the Smoke” combines a fairy-tale concept with elements of the picaresque novel. That is to say, it presents a hero from humble origins, making his way through a corrupt world in a series of funny, ironic adventures. Seemingly set in Italy around the time of the Napoleonic wars, this story pokes fun at the foibles of people in an age quite different from our own – but not so different that we don’t feel the satire poking at us!

Book review: “So You Want to Be a Wizard” by Diane Duane
Book Reviews / January 29, 2013

Nita (full name, Juanita Callahan) is a bookish, 13-year-old girl living with her florist father, her ex-dancer mother, and her younger sister Dairine in a Long Island suburb of New York City. She constantly gets beaten up by schoolyard bullies and doesn’t know what to do about it. One day, while fleeing from a confrontation with her nemesis Joanne, Nita finds sanctuary in the children’s section of a public library. There, on a shelf full of career-advice books like “So You Want to Be a Doctor…a Writer…”and so on, she finds a book that just has to be a joke: “So You Want to Be a Wizard.”

Book review: “The Cockatrice Boys” by Joan Aiken
Book Reviews / January 29, 2013

This story is about an invasion of monsters that brings civilization in Great Britain crashing down. These creatures, of unknown origin, come in many varieties from bycorns, footmonsters, kelpies, and trolls to snarks, gorgons, basilisks, and telepods–this is only a partial listing, mind you. Nevertheless, they are grouped under the general term of Cockatrices, and it is to battle the Cockatrices that the Cockatrice Corps is formed. Armed with snark masks, kelpie knives, and ray guns, they set out on the stellar-powered armored train Cockatrice Belle to battle the beasties and bring needed supplies to the scattered remnants of the British race.

Book review: “Perloo the Bold” by Avi
Book Reviews / January 29, 2013

The author of “Tales from Dimwood Forest” brings us this intriguing fantasy novel for the young. Two tribes have been at war, on and off, as far back as history remembers: the rabbit-like Montmers and the coyote-like Felbarts. Among the few Montmers who know anything about this history, is bookish, shy Perloo. But when the old Granter of the Montmers is on her deathbed, she decides to elevate Perloo to be her successor…instead of her ambitious son Berwig.

Book review: “The Face in the Frost” by John Bellairs
Book Reviews / January 25, 2013

John Bellairs (1938-91) specialized in writing spooky tales of the mysterious and macabre for younger readers. One of the most mysterious and macabre things about him is the fact that he went on writing them after his death. It turns out that four of his books were completed by Brad Strickland based on sketches left unrealized at the author’s death; Strickland then went on to write at least nine more books based on characters Bellairs created.