Book Review: “Rotters” by Daniel Kraus
Book Reviews / March 9, 2014

This book is a thriller and chiller of the sort that probably would have turned stomachs a generation ago. But if you’ve been watching CSI and its spinoffs, you may already have an idea what decaying corpses look like—though, mercifully, not so much how they smell and feel. So this may be the perfect time to read a book featuring ripening bodies, graveyard dirt, and the last days of a secret subculture of grave-robbers. All the same, the content and language in this book demand an Adult Content Advisory. This may be a young-adult novel, but before parents and teachers recommend it to young adults, they should be advised that the young adults in it speak and behave like the real-life young adults in today’s high school scene. This means sexual content, strong language, and vicious bullying by both adults and fellow teens. But the darkness of the world that envelops its main character, eleventh grader Joey Crouch, is more disturbing still. Mature readers wanted!

Book review: “The Book of Lost Things” by John Connolly
Book Reviews / October 14, 2013

The trail of “things to read after Harry Potter” has already led me past many books in which real-world characters get mixed up in the world where fairy tales and children’s stories are real. Off the top of my head, these include the work of authors Chris Colfer, Eoin Colfer, Ian Beck, Frank Beddor, Michael Buckley, Marissa Burt, Michael Ende, Lev Grossman, Tom Holt, Lisa Papademetriou, and Sarah Beth Durst; even if I’ve forgotten twice as many, my point is made. If you’ve been following developments in my book review column, you might appreciate the variety that gives spice to this theme.

Book review: Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles”
Book Reviews / October 5, 2013

Before “Twilight” was a gleam in Stephenie Meyer’s eye, author Anne Rice created a sensation with her series of novels about a race of beautiful, sensual vampires. Rooted in Egyptian mythology and very distinct from most vampire lore up to that time, Anne Rice’s vampires were created by being drained of blood to the point of death, then allowed to save themselves by drinking in turn the blood of the vampire who made them. They did not fear garlic, crucifixes, holy water, or silver. Even wooden stakes were only a danger to them if the sun came up while they were struggling to get free.

Book review: “Heroes of the Valley” by Jonathan Stroud
Book Reviews / September 30, 2013

Halli Sveinsson’s world has been shaped by heroes, but the time of heroes passed long ago. Still he yearns to be like his ancestor Svein, one of twelve legendary warriors who sacrificed their lives fighting off the Trows—a race of tunnel-dwelling, man-eating monsters who have not been seen since the slain heroes were buried with their swords.

Book review: “World War Z” by Max Brooks
Book Reviews / September 26, 2013

“World War Z” is exactly what it says it is: the oral history of the zombie war. Told in a series of interviews conducted by an employee of the United Nation’s Postwar Commission, the novel takes place twelve years after the declaration of victory in the continental United States

Book review: “Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde”
Book Reviews / September 25, 2013

What I never realized until now, on finally reading the story as Stevenson wrote it, is how different his novella is from any and all of the dramatizations, abridgements, contextualizations, and “for dummies” versions on the market. The popular idea of what this story is about is also quite out of order. It isn’t about split personalities or “dissociative identity disorder.” It is about a man’s struggle with the conflicting powers of good and evil within his one personality, and the tragedy that takes place when he experiments with a drug to separate the two. It is a story about the course of a life-destroying addiction, together with a man’s losing struggle against moral corruption, guilt, and the terror of justice.

Book review: “A Tale Dark and Grimm” by Adam Gidwitz
Book Reviews / July 11, 2013

This book is what happens when a New York City schoolteacher stitches together nine fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm to form one coherent story—while, at the same time, restoring much of the original versions’ weird, scary, and bloody bits. And although the narrator often pulls the reader aside and begs him to make sure there are no small children in the room to hear the tale, the entire book demonstrates an amazing faith in kids’ guts, brains, and hearts—not only that they can understand and appreciate such strong stuff, but that they are brave enough to take it, worthy to enjoy it, and keen to learn from it

Book review: “The Empire of Gut and Bone” by M. T. Anderson
Book Reviews / June 24, 2013

And now, in Book 3 of the “Norumbegan” Quartet, Brian, Gregory, and a clockwork troll named Kalgrash travel to the new homeworld of the fey Norumbegans, seeking their help to save Earth. Instead of a nice, straightforward planet, however, the boys find themselves somewhere in the innards of a world-sized creature—the Great Body, as its inhabitants call it.

Book review: “Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde
Book Reviews / March 27, 2013

Thanks to an audiobook expertly read by John Lee, I finally found the courage to bite into this woolly, dystopian, world-building type fantasy by the author of the “Thursday Next” novels. I admit, I had held paper copies of the book in my hands a few times, and considered buying or borrowing it, but my heart always failed me. I remembered what heavy going it was, breaking through into “The Eyre Affair”—an effort that included reading Charlotte Brontë’s “Jane Eyre” for my first time—though since I did, the rewards have been rich indeed. And now that I’ve successfully penetrated another daringly original world out of Fforde’s imagining, I am glad to find out that this book is also the start of a series.