Book Review: “The Emerald Atlas” by John Stephens
Book Reviews / March 8, 2014

Kate P. barely remembers her parents. Heck, she doesn’t even remember her last name – only the letter P. Mostly she remembers the night her parents disappeared, when her mother gave her a cherished locket, told her to take care of her younger brother and sister, and promised to return someday. Since then, Kate, Michael, and Emma have spent ten years moving from one orphanage to another, never getting adopted, and never settling down for long. After the head of the Edgar Allan Poe Home for Hopeless and Incorrigible Orphans reaches the end of her patience with them, the P. children are sent to a remote orphanage in far upstate New York., so remote and far upstate that even at the end of the dock where a boat is supposed to pick them up, nobody seems to know where it is. The orphanage turns out to be a seedy mansion overlooking a miserable village where everything seems blighted and where there have been no children for the past 15 years. This is due to a certain tragedy that no one wants to discuss. There almost seems to be a curse about the place. Naturally, Kate and her siblings are the only orphans. Could it get any worse than this?

Book review: “Shadow of Night” by Deborah Harkness
Book Reviews / January 10, 2014

What do a wearh, a manjasang, a nachzehrer, and an alukah have in common? In this sequel to “A Discovery of Witches”, we find out that they are all words for “vampire” used across 16th century Europe, from Oxfordshire to the Auvergne to the Jewish Quarter of Prague. Present-day American witch Diana Bishop has the opportunity to learn about them, not only as a post-doctoral scholar of the history of alchemy, but also as the time-traveling wife of a vampire prince known by just as many names: Mattieu de Clermont, Matthew Roydon, Sebastian St. Clair, Gabriel ben Ariel… One accumulates aliases when one has lived a thousand years or two.

Book review: “The Wells Bequest” by Polly Shulman
Book Reviews / August 19, 2013

In a basement room made larger on the inside than it looks on the outside (thanks to a bit of sci-fi know-how), the Bequest is home to the real gadgets, weapons, and vessels of exploration that Wells wrote about. Stuff like the tripods that attacked the Earth in “War of the Worlds”, and the anti-gravity element Cavorite that propelled “The First Men in the Moon”; and not just stuff from Wells’ books, but from other writers such as Jules Verne. How did these amazing things make the jump from imagination to reality?

Book review: “The Woman Who Died a Lot” by Jasper Fforde
Book Reviews / March 17, 2013

In book 3 of the second quartet of “Thursday Next” novels, we find Swindon U.K.’s greatest literary detective facing a vast array of mid-life challenges, such as controlling the residual pain in the leg she broke in her previous adventure, not being bitter when command of the newly re-organized Spec Ops literary division is handed to a younger agent, settling into a new career as director of the Wessex All You Can Eat at Fatso’s (Drink Not Included) Library Service, and having trouble remembering to visit the body-art parlor to ask why she got a tattoo reminding her that her daughter Jenny is a mind worm created by a super-villain able to tamper with people’s memories.