Reviews of the Week with Maggie Stiefvater, John Hornor Jacobs, and More!

Every weekday, we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight.

A stand-alone spin-off from a beloved YA series; a generational story, affably narrated; an adventurous return to a mysterious middle-grade series; a seasonal yet nontraditional duet of horror stories; a mind-bending and multidimensional story from a fresh voice in science fiction. Adventure, horror, and intrigue mark this week’s Reviews of the Day, posted between October 28 and November 1, below.

Monday, October 28

Call Down the Hawk, by Maggie Stiefvater

On his family’s farm in West Virginia, where he lives, usually alone, Ronan Lynch brings his dreams to life. It’s a dangerous, unpredictable skill, but after years of practicing, he mostly understands how to control it. But lately, his dreams have been changing, and the people he is closest to—his brother Declan, rigid and composed; his brother Matthew, optimistic and oblivious; and Adam, the boy who loves him, who is away at Harvard for school—have begun to worry. Elsewhere, art thief Jordan Hennessy is no stranger to dreams and their dangers, but a past she’s running from and a future she fears are about to collide. And Carmen Farooq-Lane knows the end of the world is coming, and if she has to kill dreamers to hold it off, then for the greater good, she will.

Tuesday, October 29

The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett and read by Tom Hanks

Hanks couldn’t be a more affable, ‘let’s-enjoy-this-together’ narrator for Patchett’s (Commonwealth) marvelous latest. From the title all the way through to the ending credits, Hanks never ever falters, always performing his charming, ever-so-likable self: “Chapter threeee” lilts up to mimic ‘wheeeeee!; you won’t stop grinning after hearing “Chaaaaaaaaaaapter seventeen.” The 10 hours of storytelling pass too quickly as Hanks embodies three generations of the Conroy family over a half-century of rags-to-riches-to-rags-to-eventual-comfort. While amassing his real estate fortune, patriarch Cyril surprises his family by buying the titular Dutch House in a Philadelphia suburb—complete with all furnishings, including someone else’s ancestor portraits.

Wednesday, October 30

The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story, by Kate Milford and illustrated by Jaime Zollars

Best friends Marzana and Nialla are hungry for an adventure, and given where they live—the Liberty of Gammerbund, a district of Nagspeake populated by former smugglers, thieves, and con artists that’s notorious for its culture of secrecy—it’s especially surprising that they haven’t stumbled across one ever. That is, until a detective, desperate for any lead, brings a puzzling kidnapping case to Marzana’s mother (who has a notorious past of her own), and Marzana sees her chance to do some real investigating, particularly when she recruits the perfect team to help uncover clues. Milford returns to the world of Greenglass House (2014) yet again in her latest mystery, a truly twisty brainteaser filled with puzzles, misdirection, and adventure, all with just the right balance of emotional weight that is pitch-perfect for a middle-grade audience.

Thursday, October 31

A Lush and Seething Hell, by John Hornor Jacobs

There are horror writers who plant you in the cemetery and show you the old grave where the ghoul resides. Then there are writers like Jacobs, who ditch many of the genre’s standard tools while staying true to its essential heart. The two novellas collected here are fine examples of horror that feels fresh and modern while still conjuring up the proper atmosphere. In “The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky,” an expatriate professor in Spain meets an infamous poet from her South American homeland of Magera. Drawn to the poet’s missing eye and obscure studies, she soon uncovers dark truths that could upend her idea of reality itself. The second tale, “My Heart Struck Sorrow,” is even stronger. After a family tragedy, a music researcher for the Library of Congress stumbles into a cache of documents that put him on the trail of a grim folk song.

Friday, November 1

Dead Astronauts, by Jeff Vandermeer

Vandermeer’s follow-up to Borne (2017) explores the multiple pasts and futures of the City and the sinister Company that twists and destroys countless living things. The fragmented narrative centers primarily on the dead astronauts at the crossroads from Borne, revealed to be three revolutionaries consisting of former Company workers/experiments Chen and Moss and the formerly lost-in-space Grayson. As these three lovers and companions come to the latest version of the City and the sinister Company, the established patterns of their war across realities begin to shift, with factors such as the demented and tortured Charlie X, a mysterious blue fox, a vast leviathan, and the dark bird known as “the duck with a broken wing” all come into play.

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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