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It’s that time of year when everyone is on the lookout for their next summer read. And what could be better for a summer read than a story that involves the summer game?

Linda Holmes – perhaps best known as the host of NPR’s excellent “Pop Culture Happy Hour” podcast – has written her first novel. Titled “Evvie Drake Starts Over” (Ballantine Books; $26), it’s the story of two people, each lost in their own way, finding solace in one another’s unexpected company – solace that begins as friendship, but gradually develops into something else.

It’s a charming and engaging story that also proves willing to look at loss and how that can mean different things to different people. The way we mourn – and what we choose to mourn – can vary wildly. Sometimes we wish to be helped. Sometimes we wish to be held. And sometimes, we simply wish to be left alone.

Published in Style

The quest for immortality is one on which people have embarked since we developed the existential understanding of what it means to die. Call it the fountain of youth, the philosopher’s stone, the elixir of life – whatever it is, it is meant to extend our lives beyond the limits nature has set upon them.

But even those who are single-mindedly devoted to that quest may need fellow travelers – and those travels can sometimes lead to something more meaningful than life everlasting.

Jake Wolff’s “The History of Living Forever” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; $27) is the story of one such quest – a quest that threads through the past, present and future and sweeps into its maelstrom two people whose all too brief connection would have widely rippling impacts on their lives and the lives of those around them.

It is a story of devotion, both to the ideas we hold dear and to the dear people who first conveyed those ideas to us. It is about different kinds of love and what it means to sacrifice. It is about bad decisions made for good reasons. It is about believing that science can explain everything – including magic.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 25 June 2019 15:46

Summer reading: Short fiction edition

For some, selecting their summer reading is one of the most important decisions of the season. Choosing what we’re going to read at the beach, at camp or even just on the porch or in a backyard hammock is a significant key to maximizing our simple pleasures quotient.

And so, once again, here are The Maine Edge’s annual summer reading recommendations.

In past years, this story has focused on a variety of different reading options. One summer, the target was suitable book series. Another tackled Maine authors exclusively. Still another allowed me to offer up my own personal recommended reading list. And last year, it was a look back at some of the books you might have missed over the past five years.

In keeping with that commitment to mixing things up, this year’s summer reads story is all about short fiction. The following collections run the gamut in terms of genre and span the breadth of this century and half of the last. Some of the titles and authors will be familiar, while others may have slipped under your radar, but all are capable of fulfilling your summer reading needs.

Happy reading!

Published in Cover Story

Memory is a powerful thing. Certain memories are so vibrant, so potent, that recalling them almost feels as though we’ve been transported back to the moment in which they took place.

But just how real could that sense of transport truly become?

That’s one of the central notions in “Recursion” (Crown, $27), the new novel from author Blake Crouch. It’s an exploration of what might happen if mankind was allowed to use our most vivid memories as a gateway to what came before. It’s a compelling thriller built on big ideas – typical of Crouch’s thought-provoking sci-fi sensibility.

Published in Buzz
Tuesday, 18 June 2019 19:34

Roger Dodger – ‘They Bled Blue’

Perhaps more than any other sport, baseball is entangled with its history. Even as we witness magnificent feats in the present, our eyes turn ever toward the past. Whether it is through statistics or stories, baseball fans love to look back.

Author Jason Turbow has a knack for transporting us to times gone by and thoroughly revisiting players and teams from the game’s history. We’re not talking about grainy black-and-white history, however – these are teams whose memories are still vivid in the minds of fans of a certain age.

His latest is “They Bled Blue: Fernandomania, Strike-Season Mayhem, and the Weirdest Championship Baseball Had Ever Seen: The 1981 Los Angeles Dodgers” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26). That mouthful of a title looks back nearly 40 years, digging into the particulars of an iconic franchise during one of the strangest seasons baseball had ever seen.

Seriously – the sport had never seen anything quite like the 1981 Dodgers. From the full-on phenomenon that was Fernando Valenzuela to the era-ending turn from one of the game’s longest-serving infields, from a season split in two by labor strife to the strangest postseason set-up ever, it was a time of turmoil and triumph.

Published in Sports

There are plenty of people out there in the world who will tell you just how wonderful it is to be a parent. For these folks, there is nothing quite so rewarding as becoming a mother or father. That notion of the importance of having and raising children has been part of our society for so long as to have become engrained in the communal discourse.

But what about those who choose not to be parents? Those who choose to be childfree?

Dr. Amy Blackstone is a professor of sociology at the University of Maine; her new book is “Childfree by Choice: The Movement Redefining Family & Creating a New Age of Independence” (Dutton, $26). In it, Blackstone condenses a career’s worth of studies focused on childlessness and the childfree choice into a treatise on the concept of what it means to be childfree.

Published in Style
Tuesday, 04 June 2019 16:18

‘Middlegame’ brings its A-game

The practice of alchemy is one of those things that most people are familiar with even if they don’t necessarily know that they possess that familiarity. Certain basic notions – turning lead into gold, the Philosopher’s Stone – have transcended their protoscientific origins and made their way into the common vernacular.

But what if alchemy worked? Really and truly worked? And what if its adherents still walked among us, operating at the behest of secret cabals devoted to both preserving and elevating the practice? What if the alchemists sought to rule not just the universe, but the very laws that governed it?

That’s the world we get with Seanan McGuire’s “Middlegame” (Tor, $29.99). But our entry into this world is not through alchemy writ large, but rather through its products and practitioners and (sometimes) both. It is a story of magic by way of science – or vice versa – but it is also the story of what it means to have gifts you don’t understand. It’s about living in a world where the possible is possible, but only to a scant few. It’s about being the sort of special that scares just about everyone who doesn’t share that kind of specialness.

It’s about the choices we make and the consequences, both near-term and far-reaching, of those choices.

Published in Buzz

One of the longest-standing truisms in the athletic realm is that nothing is more important than inborn natural talent; while practice can make you better, there’s no amount of practice that can compensate for a lack of inherent ability.

But in baseball’s brave new world, with reams of data available at the press of a button, perhaps that truism isn’t quite so true after all.

“The MVP Machine: How Baseball’s New Nonconformists are Using Data to Build Better Ballplayers (Basic, $30), by Ben Lindbergh and Travis Sawchik, is an exploration of the rapidly-blossoming notion that there’s more to it than that. Teams are turning their vast data-collecting capabilities toward the field of player development, trying to find ways to maximize the talent of their players in new and sometimes unconventional ways.

It’s a new frontier, one awash in high-speed cameras and swing gurus. It’s all about spin rates and launch angles and elevating the velocity of the ball, be it thrown or batted. And the people who are the earliest adopters, from the front offices to the fields, are reaping the rewards.

Published in Sports
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
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