The Tombs of Atuan

Dark brown cover of The Tombs of Atuan with a silver ring carved with waves and broken in two.
Cover by Dominic Harman. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Tombs of Atuan

Author: Ursula K. LeGuin

Nutshell: Arha is not her name, it is her title. When she was a child, she was dedicated as the priestess to the Nameless Ones, and they ate everything that remained about her but that role. She is their only priestess, the ruler of her very small domain: the tombs of the Nameless Ones, their labyrinth, and their treasure rooms. She commands a handful of servants, acts out her duties during the festivals and sacrifices, and prowls the corridors of the labyrinth. Until the quiet sanctity of her tombs is broken by the most unexpected person: a barbarian sorcerer from across the sea.

Readalikes: It’s been a long time since I read anything in this vein. I cannot recall any titles. Portions of it reminded me of the second Chrestomanci book by Dianna Wynne Jones, but only vaguely.Read More »

A Wizard of Earthsea

Cover of A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. Cover of a falcon stooping at the viewer by Dominic Harman.
Art by Dominic Harman. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: A Wizard of Earthsea

Author: Ursula K. LeGuin

Nutshell: Even as a lad, Duny, who would become the great wizard Ged, was powerful. His wizardry protected his village of farmers from the raiding army of the Kargs, though he was nearly dead by the end of it. Ogion, the silent mage, came then and took him as apprentice, but Duny’s heart yearned for quick power, for admiration and fame. In Ogion’s quiet abode, alone in the mountains, was none of that. So Ogion sent him to Roke, to the great school of wizards, and there Duny began indeed to win fame and power. Yet the desire for power, untempered by wisdom, can be a danger, and so it was with Duny. He allowed his power to be governed by his black temper, and woke something which had no name, something over which there could be no mastery.

Readalikes: Patricia McKillip’s books, especially Od Magic and The Riddle-Master of Hed. Diana Wynne Jone’s The Islands of Chaldea, The Name of the Wind, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are also very similar, rooted in the same traditions.Read More »

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Cover of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Art of vintage letters wrapped in a ribbow by Christian Raoul Skrein von Bumbala.
Art by Christian Raoul Skrein von Bumbala. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Author: Mary Ann Schaffer

Nutshell: World War Two is over, and for Juliet Ashton, sometime writer of a war humour column, so is the Muse of Comedy. Juliet is sick of making fun of war, and ready to write something completely new. As she tours England, two unexpected things happen. The first is that a rich, handsome man begins to court her. The second is that she recieves a letter from one Dawsey Adams, inhabitant of the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel, who owns a book that used to be hers. It’s collected writings of Charles Lamb, and he adores them and wonders if she might know of a place where he could acquire more?

Juliet, intrigued, has her favorite bookseller hunt down a volume which she sends with her reply, asking about his literary passions. He explains that he is a member of the Society given by the title of the book, which came about during the war in order to prevent their being arrested by Germans, and that only serves to fascinate her more. How could a literary society prevent arrest? Wherefore the Potato Peel Pie? And so she begins to correspond with the members of the Society, discovering the extraordinary story of one community’s occupation by Germans in WWII, and their reconstruction.

Readalikes: I have not read much WWII fiction since my girlhood. If you wish to delve deeper into the experiences of those caught in the Holocaust, The Hiding Place and Number the Stars are two excellemt choices. For those wanting more historical fiction in this style, Sorcery and Cecelia and sequals are also told through correspondence. The characters and narrative story are rather like Dorothy Sayers, without the mystery aspect.

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Airborn

Cover of Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. Art of a young man peering through a spyglass from the top of a dirigible by Peter Riddihoff.
Art by Peter Riddihoff. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: Airborn

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Nutshell: Matt Cruise was meant to fly. Being a cabin boy on the Aurora is as natural as breathing for him, even climbing on the outside of the envelope. And it’s there, outside, as the lookout, that he spots a damaged balloon drifting through the skies. When the crew brings in on board, they find Benjamin Malloy, an explorer who claims he’s seen “beautiful creatures” in the clouds. Unfortunately, Benjamin is feverish and dies shortly, and the rest of the crew write his words off as the ravings of a dying man.

Then Kate deVries, Malloy’s granddaughter, books passage on the Aurora. She believes her grandfather’s dying claims, and is determined to prove them. Matt becomes her willing companion, but they encounter obstacles as ordinary as an overzealous chaperone and as dangerous as pirates.

Read-Alikes: Agatha H. and the Airship City, by Phil and Kaja Folio is… tangentially similar.

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The Mulberry Tree

Cover of The Mulberry Tree. Painting of a bench under a tree in sunshine by Lisa Litwack.
Art by Lisa Litwack. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Mulberry Tree

Author: Jude Deveraux

Nutshell: When James Manville, emperor of a billion dollar corporate network, died, he left his widow nothing.

That’s not entirely true. He left her a ruined farmhouse, fifty-thousand dollars, and a note, saying, “Find out what really happened for me, Frecks?” But the billions of dollars, the twelve luxury homes, the yachts and planes and extravagant cars he left to his horrible brother and sister.

Lillian Manville adored her husand. He was her whole world. Now, crucified by the media, nearly penniless, and with no practical skills to speak of, she has to figure out how to survive, support herself, and possibly investigate whatever her late husband wanted. If that weren’t enough, the tiny town nearby is full of odd characters, formed by the aftermath of events surrounding six boys a generation ago, the Golden Six.

Readalikes:  I’m going to say Midnight in Austenland, since both are about women in bizarre circumstances finding themselves at the end of a marriage, and hit very similar emotional notes. If you have a better title, drop it in the comments!Read More »

My Diary from the Edge of the World

Cover of My Diary from the Edge of the World. Art of a girl and an RV under the moon by Jennifer Bricking.
Art by Jennifer Bricking. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: My Diary from the End of the World

Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson

Nutshell: Gracie is a force of nature. She’s broken her collarbone, she terrorizes her older sister, and once she tried to touch a dragon and nearly got crushed. She does things the loud way, takes no guff from anyone, and if something isn’t right, she beats it until it is.

But she can’t beat a Dark Cloud.

Dark Clouds come for people who are about to die, to take them to the afterlife. Gracie’s little brother, Sam is always sick, and the Cloud comes practically up on to their doorstep. Trying desperately to save him, their Dad buys a camper and loads them all in: Mom, Millie, Gracie, Sam, and the neighborhood runaway, Oliver, and takes them on a journey. They’re trying to find the Extraordinary Land, a place where there is no magic and people live easier lives. Lives without Clouds to carry them off.

The trouble is, only crazy people believe in the Extraordinary Land.

Readalikes: This reminds me of The Spiderwick Chronicles, by DiTerlizzi and Black. The Thirteenth Child, by Patricia Wrede is also about a hostile, magical America, in a very different time. This book is difficult to categorize because I, at least, have not read very many “whole family” adventures. The world itself is most like either Terry Pratchet or Douglas Adams.

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Spirit’s End

Cover of Spirit's End. Art of a man fighting a man made of cloud by Sam Weber.
Art by Sam Weber. Click to read an excerpt!


Title:
Spirit’s End

Author: Rachel Aaron

Series: The Spirit’s World **This is book five. Spoilers for the previous books abound.**

Nutshell: Eli Monpress gave up his freedom to save the people he loved, but Benehime isn’t about to be satisfied with that sacrifice. She requires everything from him, and she shows him the plan she has designed for the two of them. Pushed to the breaking point, Eli finally pushes back, and Benehime flings him onto the mercies of the Council of Thrones. Eli is locked summarily into Sara’s very best wizard-proof cell. With his father. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Alber Whitefall is using him as leverage against Josef.

But that’s trivial compared to what Miranda is facing. Something is causing massive panic among the spirits across the world, and with Banage in prison, it falls to her to fix things. She knows where to find answers, but she might not get them quickly enough to do anything but watch the world end.

Eli Monpress isn’t trying to be a hero. So why do people keep expecting him to save the world?Read More »