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Wednesday, 22 May 2019 12:15

Don’t miss ‘The Missing Season’

There are some people who will simply never give young adult fiction its due. These people, for whatever reason (*coughcoughsnobberycough*) will dismiss out of hand any work that happens to bear that label. And that’s too bad, because they are missing out on some phenomenal work, all to satisfy some sort of literary holier-than-thou nonsense.

They’re missing out on the work of Gillian French.

The Maine-based author’s latest book is “The Missing Season” (HarperTeen, $17.99). It’s a well-crafted mystery that also delves into what it’s like to be young. It’s about being the new kid and having crushes and coming of age in the midst of a small town’s slow fade. It’s about what it means to be afraid, whether it’s of the boogeyman in the woods or the secrets of those closest to us.

And it’s very good.

Published in Buzz

If you haven’t already heard of Gillian French, well … it’s just a matter of time.

The Maine author’s latest offering is “The Missing Season.” It is her fourth YA novel – her previous works are “Grit,” “The Door to January” and “The Lies They Tell” – and one for which she will likely receive levels of acclaim similar to (if not greater than) those achieved by those earlier books.

It’s a wonderful piece of work, one that once again demonstrates French’s taut prose and storytelling acumen.

(Editor’s note: Check out our full review of “The Missing Season” elsewhere on the site.)

Ahead of the release of “The Missing Season,” French was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions from The Maine Edge. The author shares thoughts regarding the craft of writing, her process and – of course – her new book.

Published in Cover Story

Speculative fiction tends to shine its brightest when it is given space to grow. World building is a key component to the most successful fantasy or sci-fi offerings – those fully-realized backdrops can grant the reader the immersive experience they often seek from this sort of genre offering.

Alternate history – a personal favorite – benefits no less from such world-building efforts, though a higher degree of delicacy is required, thanks to the real-world foundation upon which the narrative realm is built. If it goes awry, it can rudely yank a reader out of a story. But if it’s done right, well … you’re in for a treat.

And S.M. Stirling does it right.

His new book is “Theater of Spies” (Ace, $16), the sequel to last year’s excellent “Black Chamber” and – one can only hope – just the latest installment in what deserves to be an ongoing series. It’s the continuing tale of an alternate World War I and the espionage agency – also named the Black Chamber – tasked with protecting the United States and her interests both home and abroad during wartime.

Marrying meticulously-researched alternate history with a spy thriller sensibility, “Theater of Spies” is both propulsive and compulsive in its readability. Like the best work within the subgenre, it strikes that oh-so-delicate balance between fact and fiction and creates a world both fascinating and familiar.

Published in Buzz

If I were to tell you that someone was a mathematician, you’d have some pretty specific ideas about who that person was. If were to tell you that someone was a football player, you’d have some pretty specific ideas about who that person was as well. And you probably wouldn’t think that there would be a lot of overlap in that particular Venn diagram.

But then you encounter someone like John Urschel and you’re forced to reconsider your preconceived notions … because he has achieved great heights in both arenas.

His new book “Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football” (Penguin Press, $27) explores the seeming disparity between Urschel’s passions. Along with his co-author (and partner) Louisa Thomas, Urschel walks readers along the parallel paths through which he pursued two dreams that were seemingly at odds. Few athletes ever approach the pinnacle of their sport. Few academics ever approach the pinnacle of their field. John Urschel – still a month away from his 28th birthday as of this writing – has done both.

Published in Sports

No American sport is as enamored of its own history quite like baseball. Even as today’s players take the field, the shadows of those who came before are omnipresent. Baseball is as much about what was as it is about what is.

But there are some moments that transcend even the game’s historical affection. These are the times that make the leap from history to legend, the instances and accomplishments that are the foundation of baseball’s long and intricate mythology.

Kevin Cook’s “Ten Innings at Wrigley: The Wildest Ballgame Ever, with Baseball on the Brink” (Henry Holt and Co., $28) is a thorough exploration of one such instance, a single game in 1979 that wound up as one of the greatest offensive explosions in the history of Major League Baseball. That game – a May 17 contest that saw the Chicago Cubs play host to the Philadelphia Phillies – ultimately went 10 innings, with a final score of Phillies 23, Cubs 22; it was the highest scoring game of the modern era.

(It was second only in MLB history to a 1922 game that, funnily enough, featured these same teams; the Cubs triumphed in that one, with a score of 26-23.)

Through a combination of personal interviews and meticulous research, Cook gives an inning-by-inning rendering of the game (known to many as simply “The Game”), breaking down every on-field moment while also delving into some off-the-field exploration into the lives of some of the major players. An historic and iconic MLB moment, the picture painted of a generational contest.

Published in Sports

While it certainly remains a significant destination, the Mount Desert Island of today is viewed very differently than the MDI of days gone by. Yes, there are still plenty of wealthy people who summer on the island, their vast estates surrounded by nature’s beauty. But a peek into the island’s history reveals that not long ago, MDI served as a summer playground for the elite of the elite.

And where the elite of the elite gather, scandals are never far behind.

Those scandals are the subject of “Bar Harbor Babylon: Murder, Misfortune, and Scandal on Mount Desert Island” (Down East, $26.95) by Dan and Leslie Landrigan. It’s a collection of some of the more salacious stories from MDI’s decades-long stint as the go-to getaway for the rich and unprincipled. This was a time when what happened on MDI definitely stayed on MDI. These are tales of deception and theft, of sex and murder – stories that once served as the kind of cocktail party gossip that only the truly privileged might encounter.

Published in Buzz
Wednesday, 24 April 2019 12:45

Machine à trois – ‘Machines Like Me’

“What if?” is the one the most entertaining questions that literature can ask. Whole sub-genres have been built around books asking and answering that single query. From pulpy paperback novels to elegant literary fiction, the power of what might have been can serve as the foundation for thought-provoking narrative.

Ian McEwan has turned his writerly eye in that direction with his latest novel “Machines Like Me” (Doubleday, $26.95). It’s a quirky and enthralling work of alternate history, a counterfactual conflation that brings forth a world quite different than our own, albeit populated by personalities that will ring all too familiar. It’s an exploration of relationships – our relationships with technology, our relationships with society … and our relationships with one another.

Rendered in McEwan’s indomitable and inimitable prose, “Machines Like Me” takes the reader inside a love triangle unlike any our world has ever seen, a romantic tangle involving a man, his upstairs neighbor – and a machine.

Published in Style
Wednesday, 24 April 2019 12:19

Independent Bookstore Day marks fifth year

A celebration of independent bookstores is marking its fifth year.

Independent Bookstore Day (or Indie Bookstore Day) began life in 2014 as California Bookstore Day before expanding into a more nationally-oriented event the following year.

IBD lands on the last Saturday in April – April 27 this year. It’s a time when many bookstores will feature special items, author signings and other events as they participate in the festivities and embrace the joys of the indie bookseller. You can find out more at www.indiebookstoreday.com.

If Independent Bookstore Day seems reminiscent of last weekend’s Record Store Day, there’s a very good reason for that. The initial California celebration was actually inspired by the ongoing success displayed by Record Store Day.

In honor of Independent Bookstore Day – and independent bookstores everywhere – we thought it appropriate to chat with some of the folks at Downtown Bangor’s beloved bookstore The Briar Patch about what draws someone to the book business, what a bookstore can mean to a community and even a reading recommendation or two.

Briar Patch owner Gibran Graham and bookseller Abby Rice were kind enough to answer a few questions ahead of the celebration – The Briar Patch will have a number of IBD-exclusive items on hand from 10 a.m. on – and share with us some of their thoughts.

(Please note: The Briar Patch is only one of the many quality independent bookstores that are scattered all over our state, each of which possessed of its own unique character and a similar devotion to the business of the printed page.)

Published in Cover Story

There’s nothing quite like a good coming-of-age-story.

Literature is riddled with great tales of young men and women dealing with that shift in circumstances between worlds, that transition from childhood to adulthood and the expansive gray area in the middle of it all. There’s something primal and undeniable about it all.

Dave Patterson’s “Soon the Light Will Be Perfect” (Hanover Square Press, $25.99) tells the story of two young men growing up in small-town Vermont. The pair must navigate the strictures of their family’s Catholic faith while also coming to terms with their own gradual (and not-so-gradual) changes. As personal and professional problems threaten to overwhelm the family, the boys are left trapped by unappealing choices and hungry for a deeper understanding of the world – the world around them and the world within them.

Published in Style

Baseball, perhaps more than any other sport, is defined by its stories.

None of our American pro sports leagues have the same lengthy history within the culture. Nor do they have the same reverence for that history. Baseball is about narrative, a constant tale-telling that is built around connecting the present to the past.

Ron Darling’s new book “108 Stitches: Loose Thread, Ripping Yarns, and the Darnedest Characters from My Time in the Game” (St. Martin’s Press, $29.99) is about telling those stories, all through the lens of his own experience in the game. And he’s got plenty of experiences to talk about – a 13-year major league career where he won 136 games as a starting pitcher and two decades in the broadcast booth.

Darling’s conceit is a simple one: A series of stories about the various figures with whom he crossed paths over the course of nearly four decades in professional baseball. All told, there are 108 tales – just like there are 108 stitches on a baseball.

Published in Sports
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