Saturday, April 16, 2016

Every Heart a Doorway

I think that many of us have a secret fantasy world.

Some have a 'Fifty Shades of Gray'-type thing going on.  But most of my friends and family have Hogwarts, Narnia, Wonderland...  The list of fantasy worlds may be endless, but there are some who are creating new worlds right now.

The Syfy channel is currently ending the first season run of 'The Magicians', the first book in Lev Grossman's phenomenal trilogy.  It's dark, it's very adult, and it's rather amazing.  In my opinion, the series is like a cross between Harry Potter, Narnia, and Less Than Zero.

However, I like my fantasy worlds to be a bit lighter in tone.  I prefer a bit of humor, a bit of fantastical magic, a bit of humanity.  If I had the choice, I'd be in Hogwarts.  
But what happens when one leaves their chosen fantasy world?  That is addressed in Seanan McGuire's new novel, 'Every Heart a Doorway'.  I waited for it for what seemed like forever, and once I got it home, I finished it in two hours; no lie.  I loved it. even has a chart based on McGuire's types of fantasy worlds; 'Logical', 'Netherworld', 'Nonsense', etc.  

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions---slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe.  Or a suitcase with a stairway. Even down a rabbit hole.

But what happens after the children are sent back to the 'real world'?  The children attending 'Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children' know all too well.  Each of them are seeking a way back into their magical worlds...even Miss West.  

Something dark, however, is threatening the school.  After tragedy occurs, the newest student, Nancy, and her new-found friends must get to the heart of the matter.

I love the characters.  So finely-drawn, so memorable.  Some shine, some are so dark.  But it is Nancy, the girl who went to the Halls of the Dead, who I remember most.  The girl who can stand as still as a statue.  The girl who is given the chance to make sure she wants to stay in the Halls of the Dead forever.  McGuire has given us a character who is meant for another time and place, yet is a fish-out-of-water in our reality.  She's a girl on the brink of womanhood, and more courageous than she realizes.

Author Seanan McGuire

Yes, it's a dark tale, and your heart will break while reading about children who had found their true happiness, but had it wrenched away. Although it's only about 169 pages long, it's a well-written tale about discovery, tragedy, and yearning.  

An excellent fable for our time.

'Every Heart a Doorway', written by Seanan McGuire, and published by Tom Doherty Assoc. (Tor Books), is available at your local library and favorite bookstore.  ISBN 978-0-7653-8550-5

Saturday, April 9, 2016

'The Passenger'

A few years ago, while happily reading the first book in Lisa Lutz's wonderful 'Spellman' mystery series, I became hooked on the witty, sarcastic dialogue, and the great character interactions. "What a strange family," I thought.  "I want to be them".  I still wish I could meet the narrator, Isabell Spellman.  To this day, I can't say enough about the series; it's still a point-of-pride knowing that I introduced many friends and customers to the books.

And now I can't say enough about Lisa Lutz's new book, 'The Passenger'.

But this isn't 'The Spellmans'.  It's dead serious, dear reader; 'dead' being the key word.

It's so good that I read it in one sitting; on the sofa, not caring what time it was.  It pulled me in and wouldn't let me go. Sure...that statement may be a total cliché, but it's true in this case.

Each chapter is headed by each name used by the woman-on-the-run protagonist, Tanya Dubois.

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband's body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair, and flees town.  And it's not the first time.

On the road, she meets Blue, a woman who recognizes the haunted look in Tanya's eyes.  They form an uneasy, yet necessary, alliance.  But who is Blue? A kindred spirit?  Or someone with nefarious designs?

There are so many twists-and-turns in this story, and if you're paying attention, you'll enjoy the ride.  Lutz has a gift for creating characters you want to explore, but they are soon left behind, and for that, you feel very sad.

The story runs at an amazing pace, yet along the way, I found myself learning more about her backstory (and her clever ways of obtaining identifications); the hair colors and cuts were firmly set in my mind, giving me a solid picture of each of her aliases.

So much of the story is breathtaking, chancy, she'sonthevergeofgettingcaught. She works hard to find places in which to hide, and you long for her to obtain some freedom, if only for a little while.  It's heartbreaking when she has to leave everything behind as she makes yet another getaway.
Author Lisa Lutz

But when she decides to go back home to 'face the music', that's when the answers are revealed.  The pieces come together as you finally learn why she's on the run, and you meet the characters who were only hinted at in previous chapters.  It all comes down to secrets being exposed...and then the surprise ending.  

And that was totally worth it.

I'm happy that Lisa Lutz has given us the gift of another fine creation.

I can't say enough.

'The Passenger', written by Lisa Lutz (author of the incredible 'Spellman' series) is now available at your favorite bookstore and local library.  Book Hog would like to thank Simon & Schuster for the chance to read this pre-publication!