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Posts tagged 'Fantasy'

The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue

DonohuePuppets“Never enter a toyshop after moonlight.” Such is the advice of the main character in The Motion of Puppets. Having read and enjoyed this strange and fascinating book, I will heed that advice from now on!

Main character Kay Harper, a gymnast, has the opportunity of a lifetime – a gig as an acrobat with the Cirque in Quebec for the summer – what fun! Her lovely newlywed husband, Theo, a translator of French to English, is with her, and he often walks Kay safely home after her show gets out late at night. But when Kay walks home alone, she usually stops to gaze into the puppet-filled window of a toy shop. Puppets of all kinds--marionettes, stick puppets, finger puppets, old, new, and remade--fascinate her. One in particular, a little puppet man who’s under a dome of glass, holds particular interest, and she wishes he could come alive and talk to her.

One night, after a circus performance, and a night out with the cast, Kay disappears. She fails to return to the apartment she and Theo share, and she fails to report to work the next day.  Where could this young wife have gone? Theo thinks it has something to do with her fascination with the puppets – but how could that be? When the puppets disappear and the toy shop closes, he is convinced there is cause and effect – but how can he find the puppets, and presumably, his wife Kay.

Be prepared to suspend belief as you read this well-written book, and allow yourself to join Theo as he searches for his lost wife.  There are elements of fantasy in this book, which reminded me very much of fairy tales I read as a child. I don’t normally read anything remotely resembling fantasy, but have to say that I enjoyed this book very much, and am still thinking about it. I’ll never think of puppets the same way again, and nor will you after reading The Motion of Puppets

Nancy Picks  Mystery  Magical Realism  Horror  Fantasy


Bill Broun's Night of the Animals

BrounLondon, 2052. The UK is an extreme surveillance state governed by Henry IX, a.k.a. “Harry9.” Inequality and substance abuse are rampant (the drug of choice is Flôt, a legal hallucinogen with ruinous withdrawal effects). The natural world has withered away and most of the world's remaining “natural” animals (i.e., not genetic clones) are confined to zoos. To add to unpleasantness, the sighting of the Urga-Rampos comet is causing cultists to come out of the woodwork. They're conducting mass ritualistic suicide, and they're bent on taking animals with them.

Enter Cuthbert “Cutty” Handley—a homeless “Flôt sot” of some 90 years (lifespan extending medicine and artificial organs are one positive of this future). As a child, Cutty's brother Drystan disappeared while playing in the woods one day. Drystan may or may not have become a sort of “Christ of the Otters,” as evidenced by the large mustelid Cutty saw in his brother's stead. Since then, Cutty may or may not have gained the ability to communicate with animals. His grandmother called this gift “The Wonderments.” His primary care provider, Dr. Bajwa, calls it a sign of mental illness. Either way, Cutty has taken it upon himself to free the animals from the London Zoo—especially the otters—as an act of atonement, and as a way of seeking closure with his long lost brother.

At the risk of sounding cliché, this book is unlike anything I have ever read. The story works together speculative fiction, magical realism, and world religions (Christian, Sufi, and Sikh faiths play important roles in the characters' lives). The writing is an interesting patchwork of “fading and emerging” dialects, slang, and jargon, with footnotes to help us out when needed. I would recommend this book to fans of science fiction, offbeat literature, and animal lovers. I’m definitely interested in seeing what first time author Broun does next.


SciFi  Magical Realism  Jake's Picks  Fantasy  Dystopia  Contemporary


Version Control by Dexter Palmer

PalmerThe author earned his doctorate from Princeton with a thesis on the works of James Joyce, Thomas Pynchon, and William Gaddis. The complexity and depth of those writers is mirrored in Palmer’s 500-page novel, Version Control.

On the surface, Version Control is a time travel saga built around the lives of its two principal characters, physicist Philip Steiner and his wife, Rebecca Wright. Rebecca works for Lovability, a computer dating service. Much of the book’s social commentary and humor come from passages that deal with computer dating. By contrast, Richard is a physicist who heads a team of scientists tasked with building a time machine. No one on this team seriously believes the goal will be achieved but hopes their research will lead to developments in the future. All are single minded in their dedication to the project. Unlike her genius husband and his brilliant associates, Rebecca is a somewhat average young woman who meets Philip through Lovability. He falls in love with her, and finding his emotions a distraction to his work, proposes marriage. This does not bode well for Rebecca.

In the December 8, 2015 issue of Kirkus, the reviewer notes the book “offers some of the same pleasures as one of those state-of-the-union (domestic and national) epics by Jonathan Franzen, yet its speculative nature becomes increasingly apparent as the novel progresses (while its characters apparently don’t).” The concept of time appears to be circular with different realities existing simultaneously. In different versions Palmer offers of a fatal car crash, Rebecca dies; in another, Richard does; in yet a third, their son, Sean, is killed. The plot weaves different possibilities with different outcomes.

Only at the end does the reader fully understand Palmer’s main themes. When Philip muses, “Ulysses is not a story, as much as a system of the world” (cited in Kirkus, December 8, 2015) he is speaking for the author. Palmer’s journey motif is brought to a new dimension and the depersonalization of society by social media, online dating, and the pursuit of pure science come to a spectacular end.

Time Travel  SciFy  Science Fiction  Sara's Picks  Fantasy


Andrew's Favorite Junior High Series Picks


ranger ap ruins

Book One:  The Ruins of Gorlan  by John Flanagan  

Series: Ranger's Apprentice 

Junior High 

Series  Junior High  Fantasy  Andrew's Picks  Action


Zen Cho's Sorcerer to the Crown

ChoWhat a treat Cho’s first novel is! It reads as a delightful story, yet is full of truths of history, politics, social structure, and race and gender discrimination.

The setting is Regency England. While many citizens have some degree of magical powers, the nation’s supply of magic is declining. Following the death of the Sorcerer Royal, Zacharias’ guardian and mentor, Zacharias, a young freed slave and a proficient magician, has earned the staff that only the head of The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers is able to use. He befriends Prunella, a young biracial Indian woman with exceptional magical powers; but, in England, women are not permitted to practice magic.  Zacharias struggles to continue his responsibility of serving his country using magic. He travels to Fairyland to find the source of the loss of the supply of magic.  He combats jealousy within the Royal Society and the actions of a variety of magical demonic creatures.

The novel is full of interesting and compelling characters. There are true friends and mortal enemies. There are fairies, dragons, familiars, mysterious orbs and stones, flying magic transport clouds. The story is a blend of historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, magic, and romance. It is well structured, and fast paced.  There is mystery, danger, suspense, but also wit and humor.

Cho is an award winning short story writer; this novel is the first in a planned trilogy. I am eager to know what these characters will do next and how England and the world will prosper through magic. Meanwhile, if you want to read another excellent novel with similarities in setting, although differences in tone, try Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

Retellings  Magic  Historical Fiction  Historical Fantasy  Historical  Gail's Picks  Fantasy  Dragons


Iain Pears' Arcadia

PearsWriters Theatre is performing Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia through May 1. Stoppard’s 1993 play and Pears’ 2015 novel of the same name show many similarities. Characters move between worlds and time. Mystery and fantasy and poetry abound. Mathematics and scientific discoveries dominate the discussion and the action. Both works are multi-stranded stories that move well beyond Webster’s definition of arcadia as “a region or scene of simple pleasure and quiet.” Both the play and the novel are varied and thoughtful treats for the mind, told with wisdom and humor.

Pears’ Arcadia does not follow a linear structure. The book features three worlds, with some characters inhabiting more than one. It is a delightful romp through the woods in a pastoral world, a fascinating foray into a world of scientific advances and social disarray, an everyday story set in Oxford in the 1960’s. The novel moves beyond the expected boundaries of time and place; what is past, present, or future in any world is not clear.

The role of the Storyteller is central to the novel, as is Henry Lytten, a 1960s Oxford don, who writes fiction and invents a story about a place called Anterwold. In another part of the book, Anterwold exists as a real place. Oral history, the Story, and the scholars who interpret it are at the core of that world.  Of the other major characters, Angela Meerson is a psychomathematician who invents a machine that has the power to change worlds (parallel worlds and/or time travel), and Rosie Wilson is a young girl who is a key player in more than one world and time period.

Time Travel  Mystery  Historical Fiction  Gail's Picks  Fantasy  British Literature


The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

ScorpRulesFour hundred years ago the world developed an Artificial Intelligence called Talis and charged it with saving humanity, which Talis did… by taking control. After annihilating a few cities as a statement, Talis takes all the rulers’ children until they reach the age of 18 - if they live that long. Should the leaders and governing dignitaries go to war, the children’s lives are forfeit.


Bow’s Sci-Fi novel is labeled for “Young Adults” but it’s also enjoyable for those of us who have exceeded the boundaries of YA. The main character of the book, named Greta Gustafsen Stuart, and the other Children of Peace in her school live in fear of the dust plumes that indicate a Swan Rider is coming. Swan Riders, tasked with taking the Children into the Gray Room, only come when war is declared; on the morning The Scorpion Rules begins, a dust trail is spotted.


Young Adult  YA  Teen  Science Fiction  Sci-Fi  Sarah Marie's Picks  Fantasy


Are We There Yet? Family Friendly Audiobooks for the Long Road Trip: Part 1


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