Gift Guide 2003

 

 

 

 

 

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Beautiful as the Moon, Radiant as the Stars: Jewish Women in Yiddish Stories
edited by Sandra Bark
Published by Warner Books
334 pages, 2003

When writer and editor Sandra Bark realized how little writing by Yiddish women writers was available in English, she determined to do something about it. The resulting book, Beautiful as the Moon, Radiant as the Stars, is a celebration of and revelation for Jewish women. Most of the 22 stories in the anthology were written prior to W.W.II -- "pre-Holocaust," as Bark herself puts it. The stories -- all written either by or about women -- reflect a way of life that no longer exists. But their concerns, dreams and desires indicate another deep lesson: the more we change...

Emma Brown
by Clare Boylan
Published by Little Brown
439 pages, 2003

The first two chapters of Emma Brown by Clare Boylan (Home Rules, Room For A Single Lady and others) are by Charlotte Brontë. In her Afterword to the novel, Boylan tells us that the fragment of manuscript was the last piece of fiction Brontë worked on prior to her death. Though Brontë fans will rejoice, you don't need to have knowledge of her work to enjoy Emma Brown. Boylan has done an admirable job at creating a sort of dually mandated novel. On the one hand, Emma Brown is a lovely homage to Brontë, dead these past 148 years. On the other, Boylan is a skilled enough storyteller in her own right to have done Brontë's fragment justice.

Family Resemblances
by Anne Cameron
Published by Harbour Press
302 pages, 2003

"In the earliest image Cedar Campbell could dredge out of the splintered mess that passed for her memory, she was sitting on a swing, riding higher with each shove, the breeze warm on her face, the taste of dust in the air." So begins Family Resemblances, Anne Cameron's 14th novel and over 30th book that include works of poetry, children's stories and the traditional tales -- including Daughters of Copper Woman -- for which she is perhaps best known. Unsurprisingly, Family Resemblances is a family drama, the story of a difficult mother-daughter love set against the backdrop of the Canadian West Coast. This is Cameron at her most lyrical and observing, cutting through time to the place all of us can recognize. -- Monica Stark

 

Legends II: New Short Novels by the Masters of Modern Fantasy
edited by Robert Silverberg
Published by Ballantine/DelRey
656 pages, 2003

The subtitle tells the story: these are indeed the masters of modern fantasy. Terry Brooks, Orson Scott Card, Raymond Fiest, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Elizabeth Haydon, Robin Hobb, George R.R. Martin, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Silverberg (who also edited the anthology) and Tad Williams all have contributed brand new novellas to Legends II, Silverberg's follow-up to the bestselling Legends published in 1998. The success of the first Legends is not difficult to understand. Fans of fantasy fiction tend to be die-hard: they don't like to miss even an abbreviated installment located in the worlds they've come to love. And the anthology format makes it possible to gain a somewhat intimate view of other writers, creating similar worlds, that readers may not yet have encountered. With Silverberg -- himself the author of over 100 science fiction and fantasy novels -- in the driver's seat, it's very tough for those looking for a gift for the fantasy buff to go wrong.

Lost Boy Lost Girl
by Peter Straub
Published by Random House
304 pages, 2003

Picking up Peter Straub's new haunted-house thriller, Lost Boy Lost Girl, you are transported to the porch of a long-abandoned residence. Your hand is on the doorknob. Your heart is racing. Your mind is filled with dread and excitement. By turning the knob and walking inside, you make the deliberate choice to enter an extraordinarily dark place. Welcome to Millhaven, Illinois, where soft-spoken and "quietly stressed-out" Nancy Underhill has just committed suicide for reasons that escape her self-involved and morose husband, Philip. Returning to his hometown for the funeral, Philip's elder brother, horror writer Tim Underhill (Koko, The Throat), tries to come to terms with Nancy's death, and wonders what will become of the couple's 15-year-old son, Mark. Eight days later, the mystery deepens when Mark vanishes, as well. Tim, convinced that these events are connected, determines to find Mark -- if he can. While Philip thinks his son has either killed himself or fallen victim to the "Sherman Park Killer," who's already taken the lives of two boys around Mark's age, Tim steers a different course, hiring private eye Tom Pasmore to investigate his family's recent tragedies. It isn't long before the detective discovers that Nancy was related to Joseph Kalender, who had raped and killed women in that same area 20 years before. (He was eventually found innocent by reason of insanity, only to be slain by a fellow inmate at a hospital for the criminally insane.) It seems Kalendar had lived in the now-abandoned house behind Peter Underhill's -- a place that had obsessed Mark in the weeks prior to his mother's suicide. According to the teenager's friend, Jimbo Monaghan, Mark was sure the Sherman Park Killer could be found in that house's shadows. Jimbo says he and Mark had explored the property and even spotted a man there -- though whether or not he was real isn't clear. Jimbo also recalls the strange influence that house held over Mark, and how he was powerless to prevent Mark from seeking the source of that influence on his own. When Pasmore uncovers a string of homicides similar to those occurring in Millhaven, the reality of what could have happened to Mark Underhill begins to emerge -- and leads straight back to that abandoned house. Lost Boy Lost Girl is a mesmerizing tome about family secrets, the sway of obsession and the marks that wicked deeds can leave on people and places. -- Jennifer Jordan

The Morning Star: In Which the Extraordinary Correspondence of Griffin & Sabine Is Illuminated
by Nick Bantock
Published by Raincoast Books
56 pages, 2003

We waited and waited and waited. Then we waited some more. Finally, seven years later and with 17 books in between, we are rewarded: Nick Bantock's revolutionary Griffin & Sabine series is finally expanded. In case it's slipped your mind, Nick Bantock is the man who gave interactive picture books back to adults with his world-rocking Griffin & Sabine. In The Morning Star, the fate of Matthew and Isabella is finally revealed. Not, however, without all of the pullout notes, postcards and beautiful artwork that have become Bantock's trademark.

 

An Orange from Portugal: Christmas Stories from the Maritimes and Newfoundland
edited by Anne Simpson
Published by Goose Lane Editions
236 pages, 2003

Representing over 100 years of seasonal stories, poems and essays, in An Orange from Portugal respected maritime writer, Anne Simpson, brings us the work of 32 writers. Though the focus here is on Christmas in Canada's most Atlantic provinces, the flavor of Christmas will touch everyone who celebrates the holiday. "Christmas is the time when such tales should be told;" writes Simpson, "it's the bright flame in the winter night. And these tales are like flames." We're treated to the work of Mary Pratt, David Adams Richards, Wilfred Grenfell, L.M. Montgomery, David Weale, Lisa Moore, Alistair MacLeod and others. As Simpson writes, "Each one can be savored individually. Together they make a Christmas feast."

The Pleasure of My Company
by Steve Martin
Published by Hyperion
163 pages, 2003

One thing you can't guess about Steve Martin if you've only ever seen his zany performances or his mad stand-up is that he's brilliant. Though, given his track record, it shouldn't be that much of a surprise. We think of him most frequently as a talented -- if slightly manic -- comedic actor, it is less well known that he not only starred in but also wrote the screenplays for the films Roxanne, L.A. Story and Bowfinger. Still less well known is the fact that he wrote a quietly brilliant play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and, most recently, he's turned his hand to fiction. The 2000 publication of the novella Shopgirl added another title to Martin's growing list of them: bestselling author. Shopgirl was funny and sophisticated, gentle and moving: a triumph for a man whose career has been full of them. Small wonder, then, that the release of his second novel has been so carefully watched for. The Pleasure of My Company does not disappoint. This time we meet Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a gently crazy Santa Monica resident who longs to connect with the wider world: if only he can convince himself to leave his apartment.

River of the Brokenhearted
by David Adams Richards
Published by Doubleday Canada
381 pages, 2003

Novelist, poet, memoirist and screenplay writer David Adams Richards ranks among the most accomplished and professionally celebrated writers in Canada. He is also, consistently and inexplicably, one of the least popularly known. While his books are frequently nominated for -- and sometimes win -- Canada's top writing prizes, few Canadians recognize his name. Part of this likely has to do with his oeuvre. While Richards has lived in Toronto for many years, he writes about the region where he grew up: the Maritimes, in particular the area known as the Miramichi in New Brunswick. In River of the Brokenhearted Richards brings us a multigenerational story focused on the King family who discover, ultimately, that the sins of the father can all too often indeed be visited on the son.

sMothering
by Wendy French
Published by Forge
304 pages, 2003

The title offers a clue: sMothering. In Wendy French's debut novel, Claire, a 23-year-old telephone survey-taker living in Oregon, is dismayed when her mother appears on her doorstep with way too many clothes for a short visit and -- most alarming of all -- without Claire's father. Minutes after her mother's arrival, Claire and her mother have found their old patterns: and it isn't pretty. "Her trademark sigh sparked an almost allergic reaction and I took a deep breath before speaking." French's prose is smart and sharp, her humor understated, real and funny. This is French's first book. We're quite sure it won't be her last.

The Year's Best Science Fiction
edited by Gardner Dozois
Published by St. Martin's Press
648 pages, 2003

Over 20 editions,The Year's Best Science Fiction has become something of an institution. It has also grown beyond a mere anthology. In addition to a large cross-section of the best of a genre known for strong short stories, this 20th annual collection is also a strong science fiction resource, with a summation by the editor, respected SFF denizen Gardner Dozois, editor of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, (He has received the Hugo Award for best editor 13 times.) and a list of honorable mentions: also rans worth mentioning but not anthologized in this collection. What is included is extensive: it's a big, fat book. Twenty-six stories by some of the biggest names in SFF, as well as some of the newest. Stories included are by Ian R. MacLeod, Nancy Kress, Paul McAuley, Charles Coleman Finlay, Molly Gloss, Robert Reed, Maureen F. McHugh, Charles Stross, Bruce Sterling, Alexander Irvine, Eleanor Arnason, Kage Baker, Alastair Reynolds and others. A wonderful gift for the SFF fan. From the same publisher, look for the 16th annual The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

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Gift Guide 2003