On the surface, Immortal resembles other teen romances — girl meets unbelievably handsome and mysterious boy; throbbing hearts ensue. But Nagle’s heroine is no hapless Bella, she’s a college student with a job, a car, and a mind of her own. Nor is the gorgeous guy an angsty vampire, although he definitely is not one of your usual folk. The plot moves briskly from encounter to threat to road trip to battle, a fine way to spend a couple of winter nights. In the end, the story is as much about how relationships help us to determine the direction of our own lives as it is about hormones. That’s what sets this YA novel apart.
If you’re nauseated by sparkly, angst-ridden teenage vampires, and you like your dark suspense with wit and political savvy, check out Blood Maidens, the third in Barbara Hambly’s turn-of-the-century vampire novels. It’s as much mystery as it is adventure or spy novel or horror, both fast-paced and literate. It stands well on its own, although the previous two are highly recommended.
I’ve been a fan of Louise Marley’s work for years now. By a wonderful coincidence, I had just begun learning the Brahms piano piece, Waltz in A Flat, when I read The Brahms Deception. For an adult beginner with small hands, playing Brahms amounts to an exercise that rivals the most complex yoga postures. The man apparently had immense hands and wrote music that he could play, refusing to compromise with anyone else’s limitations. Except, apparently, those of the brilliant concert pianist Clara Schumann. Brahms was hopelessly in love with Schumann, but biographers do not agree on whether the relationship ever went beyond the platonic. Here Marley’s imagination finds fertile ground as scholars use time travel for their researches, and an unstable, emotionally needy music historian enters into the world of Brahms and Schumann…at the country house where they have a secret tryst. When the historian does not return as scheduled, a second is sent in search of her. Marley combines drama, mystery, the perils of time travel and changing history, and delicious appreciation for the music, artistry and passion of two immensely gifted musicians. If you don’t read science fiction, read this anyway. If you do read science fiction but don’t know anything about classical music, read it anyway, too.
I would never have discovered Triptych, by J.M. Frey, had I not first met the editor, Gabrielle Harbowy. We were talking about stories that challenge conventional notions not only of sexuality but of family, and she mentioned this debut novel by Canadian J.M. Frey. The cover reveals nothing of the story within — part queer love story, part alien first encounter story, part time travel adventure, part mystery, part exploration of polyamory, all laced with skillfully woven dramatic tension and a sure understanding of the needs of the human heart.