High Stakes

Listen up fiction lovers! Series editor Tabatha Hanly here, and today on the Fiction Reboot we have a very special treat: the release of the first Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles novel High Stakes by our very own Dr. Brandy Schillace!

high-stakes-frontcoverNormally these types of features would include some background on the author, maybe why she chose to write in Young Adult Fiction or why her novels focus on the intersections of myth, medicine, fantasy, and reality, but in this case I think we regular readers probably have all of those answers, and while the fascinating Dr. Schillace might be worth talking about some more, it’s more fun to get to the book right away (but here’s some Brandy-centric info for the curious).

For many of you, this is a long-awaited event- having read the first chapter here on the blog, you want her to hurry up and give us the rest already! And now she has! Available in bookstores today, High Stakes offers all the thrills, chills, and awkward teenage spills of a young not-a-vampire dealing with something much more terrifying than drinking blood: girls.

“I’m not a vampire,” insists Jacob Maresbeth, teenage journalist for the school paper. But what is a vampire, really? What happens if you have all the right symptoms, but are a living, breathing sixteen-year-old boy?

Diagnosed with a rare disease, Jake can’t help but wonder. After eight years in and out of the Newport News hospital, he’s had it up to here with doctors, diseases and dishonesty. After all, Jake’s father, respected neurologist Franklyn Maresbeth, has been hiding some of his more unusual symptoms for years… particularly that part about drinking blood.
In High Stakes, Jake records his summer vacation in the home of his maiden aunt, the bangled and be-spectacled Professor Sylvia. If that isn’t bad enough (and it is), Jake and his theatre-loving sister Lizzy must keep the “unofficial” details of Jake’s disorder a secret from Aunt Sylvia’s seductively beautiful graduate student, Zsofia. Will Jake survive a whole month pretending to be an invalid? Will Zsofia weaken his resolve with her flirtatiously dangerous Hungarian accent? Will Jake lose his heart–in more ways than one?

Speaking as one of the privileged few to have read an early edition of High Stakes, I promise it’s engrossing, entertaining, and unexpected, besides, it’s got a pun right in the title, what more could you ask for? (you know…because of the vampires… stakes… nevermind). As always, Brandy’s skill with smooth, witty, debonair characters… that’s a lie– Jake trips over his own tongue and his own head, but don’t worry, that’s even better than if he were funny on purpose. But whether it’s the protagonist himself, his clever little sister Lizzy (little sisters are always the smartest) or the fuzzy academic aunt (whose absent-mindedness may hit a little close to home for some), or even the sultry graduate student (someone has to give us a good name!), someone in The Jacob Maresbeth Chronicles will leave you pestering Brandy for the sequel which will be coming out shortly after High Stakes!

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: Reaching for Others

I have mentioned this Asimov quote before: we write because, like breathing, we need to in order to survive. In other words, we write for ourselves, first, and would do so even if no one else ever read it. But if writing is actually a kind of communal activity (which I believe it is), then we also must reach beyond ourselves–stretch out with nerve and fiber, filament and heart-string–to other people. Who hasn’t read a book, looked up to the heavens and though finally, someone who understands? Who hasn’t laughed and cried with a character, yearned with their longing or felt their heart beating? Alternatively, who hasn’t stood on the wandering, far-off shores of distant countries and looked through the eyes of a non-fiction author with the freshness of really and truly seeing? Writing is a kind of “reaching for others” that we should celebrate, and on today’s Fiction Reboot, I will be featuring new releases–as well as a few debut novels by new authors.


Marissa Meyer’s Cinder:

A cyborg’s Cinderella story, this is book one of the Lunar Chronicles. Intergalactic battle, the future of earth a gifted girl-cyborg… and a handsome prince. Published January 3rd 2012 by Feiwel & Friends, it is an interesting read. Who doesn’t love a fairy-tale’s retelling?


Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone:

Book one of the Grisha Trilogy, the novel tells the story of a once-great nation, Ravka, torn in two by the Shadow Fold (darkness crawling with monsters who eat humans. Nom-Nom, zombie fans!) The fate of this world rests on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.


Nova Ren Suma’s, Imaginary Girls:

Described as “a surreal little nightmare in book form” by Nancy Werlin, this novel tracks death, denial, secrets and sisterly love. Chloe’s older sister, Ruby, is the girl everyone looks up to and longs for, but a night with Ruby goes wrong, and Chloe discovers the body of a classmate floating in the reservoir…


First, the title of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making,almost doesn’t require one to say more.Catherynne M. Valente began the heroine’s adventures in instalments on the Web. While this is unconventional; the project won legions of fans as well as awards! This is Valente’s children’s book debut (she also writes adult fiction).


And for debut novels, I am going to reference Waterstone‘s top selections:

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Shelter by Frances Greenslade

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Absolution by Patrick Flanery

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan


These are just a few of the many, many new voices out there–and we have not begun to brush the surface of even my personal favorites (many of which are mystery novels!) But, as this blog is also a community endeavor, also reaching out to find the “others,” let me start by asking you. Do you have recommendations for the Fiction Feature Friday? Contact me or send them by blog post comment. And who knows, maybe someday I will be featuring YOU!


For more new voices in the book industry, check out the “Recent Deals” of the Knight Agency, which represents a number of fantastic authors and books (like THE ANATOMIST’S APPRENTICE, for instance–18th century historical mystery involving medicine? Am I in heaven??).