Friday Fiction Feature: Summerlist–Literary for Long Evenings

FictionReboot2Welcome back to the Fiction Reboot!

I have been sadly lost without my research assistant (the intervention of summer and a cross-country move has parted us for now, but when I take over the world, I expect to promote her to RA of Evil.) I’ve been a bit behind-hand for fiction features of late, but no longer! I remedy the omissions with today’s foray into summer reading: the light lasts longer this time of year. One must take advantage.

The Ocean at the End of the LaneTHE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE

A fable described as moving, terrifying and elegiac –  from storytelling genius Neil Gaiman:

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond the world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed – within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defense is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

TransAtlanticTRANSATLANTIC: A Novel

Looking for a long narrative, a long flight and a sweeping story? Colum McCann delivers by tying together a series of narratives that span 150 years (and two continents):

In 1845 a black American slave lands in Ireland to champion ideas of democracy and freedom, only to find a famine unfurling at his feet. In 1919, two brave young airmen emerge from the carnage of World War One to pilot the very first transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to the west of Ireland. And in 1998 an American senator criss-crosses the ocean in search of a lasting Irish peace. Bearing witness to these history-making moments of Frederick Douglass, John Alcock and “Teddy” Brown, and George Mitchell, and braiding the story together into one epic tale, are four generations of women from a matriarchal clan, beginning with Irish housemaid Lily Duggan. In this story of dark and light, men and women, history and past, fiction and fact, National Book Award-winning novelist Colum McCann delivers a tour de force that is his most spectacular achievement to date.


I always feel summer is a good time for coming-of-age novels. In this story, Jeannette Walls has written a heartbreaking and redemptive novel about an intrepid girl who challenges the injustice of the adult world—a triumph of imagination and storytelling.It is 1970 in a small town in California. “Bean” Holladay is twelve and her sister, Liz, is fifteen when their artistic mother, Charlotte, a woman who “found something wrong with every place she ever lived,” takes off to find herself, leaving her girls enough money to last a month or two. When Bean returns from school one day and sees a police car outside the house, she and Liz decide to take the bus to Virginia, where their Uncle Tinsley lives in the decaying mansion that’s been in Charlotte’s family for generations.


Last, I am happy to report that Stephanie A. Smith has a sequel out this summer, the follow-up to Warpaint (featured here with an author interview). “Baby Rocket” is the name of a child who, in 1966, was abandoned by her suicidal mother and later found by a policeman in the seat of a children’s rocket ride on Cape Canaveral. The novel is the story of this child’s (Clementine Dance) adulthood discovery of an abandonment she does not remember, and how she comes to terms with it and her past.

Upon her father’s sudden death in Santa Monica during the summer of 1998, Clementine “Lem” Dance finds a file about a “Baby Rocket” on his computer. The file suggests she is Baby Rocket but she’s never heard the name; and her late father, a former NASA employee, James Walter Dance, Jr., had been prone to romantic white lies – he claimed he once met Marilyn Monroe, for example. The file on “Baby Rocket” seems crazy and yet all too real: it contains Lem’s birth certificate, a document which shows that her father was not her biological but rather her adoptive father and emails that show he’d been in contact with her birth mother’s surviving family – as if he’d been on the verge of telling the truth.

These upheavals force Lem to retrace her parents’ lives and to re-examine her own; to get in touch with her mother’s family; and, above all, to try to remember Baby Rocket… Stay tuned, as I will be featuring this sequel and its author again soon!

Fiction Feature Friday

For this week’s Friday Feature, I have decided to toast the Middle Grade! Not quite YA, these novels are general for 10 years and up. As always, some are new, published in 2012. Others are older, like Neil Gaiman’s Graveyard Book, but still topping charts. And of course, don’t forget to send your suggestions! Next week we will be having a look at the genre self-titled “New Adult.” Have New Adult suggestions? Send them to bschillace!


The Grave Robber's Apprentice


Hans doesn’t know who he is or where he came from. When he was a baby, he washed ashore in a wooden box and was adopted by the conniving grave robber, Knobbe the Bent. Now fate has thrown him together with Angela von Schwanenberg, a young countess fleeing for her life from the evil Archduke Arnulf and his dreaded Necromancer. Together, these friends are on a daring quest to discover Hans’ true identity and to save Angela’s parents from the archduke.

Join Hans and Angela on their grand adventure as they ride through the depths of the great forest, sled down a mountain in a coffin, and sneak along the secret passageways of the archduke’s palace. The Grave Robber’s Apprentice is a world of highwaymen, hermits, and dancing bears; and of a boy separated from his family by the sea.

In this world anything is possible with luck and imagination—even for a grave robber’s apprentice.

The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid AcademyNikki Loftin’s SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY:

When Lorelei’s old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It’s every kids’s dream.

But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it’s too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.

Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she’d like to forget – and taking on a teacher who’s a real witch.

Inside Out and Back AgainThanhha Lai’s INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN:

No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama.

For all the ten years of her life, HÀ has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by . . . and the beauty of her very own papaya tree.

But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. HÀ and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, HÀ discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape . . . and the strength of her very own family.

This is the moving story of one girl’s year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next.

The Graveyard BookNeil Gaimen’s award winning GRAVEYARD BOOK:

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages