Tag Archives: Alan Bradley

As far as Flavia De Luce is concerned, Having a skeleton in the closet (or chimney) is a good thing.

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I love Flavia.  She is one of my favorite characters – Alan Bradley has done such a good job with her I can imagine sitting together and making sarcastic assessments of passers-by.  Accordingly, I snapped up As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust almost before it hit the shelf, the latest in the mystery series that has won pretty much every big mystery award out there.  Flavia is a brilliant, mouthy twelve-year-old who loves chemistry, particularly the poisonous kind.  She is almost always far smarter than the adults around her, possesses no tact whatsoever – and has the habit of stumbling over dead bodies.  In this book, she has been “banished” to a boarding school in Canada, which may or not be a front for a secret spy training facility.  Things start looking up when a dead body falls out of the chimney in her room.

I was fortunate enough to join Alan Bradley for high tea at Toronto’s Windsor Arms along with other booksellers and some representatives of Penguin Random House.   Firstly, I highly recommend having high tea there.  If you don’t have your own fancy hat, they have ones you can use for a small donation to charity, and the food and tea was amazing (I indulged in lapsang souchong, which is the most wonderful tea for winter).  Also, I got to wear my own fancy hat. I was seated next to Alan, who I would happily have tea with on a weekly basis.  Originally from Ontario, Alan now resides in England, and is such an excellent source of British television and film recommendations that we started taking notes.

He spoke about fond memories of family book readings, where adults took turns reading aloud, and the children were allowed to stay up until the story was over.   I thought this sounded like a wonderful idea, and we discussed the impact of reading aloud to children, and favorite read-aloud books (I mentioned Narnia, and Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately the Milk).  This series would actually be a wonderful one for that purpose, because it would be entirely appropriate to read to children, but has a sly subtext for adults.

Some of the booksellers spoke about having books you saved for reading when you needed a treat, or to be cheered up, or to make up for the other book you had to read because it won an award likely due to the judges panel being drunk (this seems to happen frequently).  Alan Bradley is our reading reward, our book dessert.  Flavia is delicious, and not to be missed.

 

Christie

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I’m Baaaack

Having apocalyptic weather pretty much creates reading time, since it’s a leisure activity you can do without power or heat.   I’ve read a few great books of varying genres, which have helped me keep what little sanity I have left.

I love, love Alan Bradley’s character, Flavia De Luce. If you haven’t started this wonderful mystery series, do so now.  A young chemist whose passion is poison, an old estate, and a series of dead people make for beautifully written, highly addictive books.  The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie is the first one.  The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches is the most recent, and just as great as the first, which doesn’t always happen.

The Impossible Knife of Memory is a YA title, but definitely isn’t just for teens.  Hayley Kincaid has been on the road with her truck-driver father for years.  They have returned to their hometown so Hayley can attend high school.  Her father, Andy, is struggling with steadily worsening PTSD, a legacy of his service in Iraq.  Hayley is taking care of her father, while hiding the truth of his condition from everyone else, trying to preserve their independence.

A wonderful, wonderful story, funny and sad and dead on.

I have been re-reading the Chronicles of Elantra series, by Michelle Sagara.  A combination of epic fantasy and police procedural, this is one of my favorite fantasy series, and I own every single one.  Michelle Sagara West is a fellow book-seller and Torontonian (Bakka Phoenix, you should visit it if you’re in town), so I feel happy supporting her.  She also writes as Michelle West.

More soon, and happy (non-apocalyptic) reading.

Christie

 

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The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie

There aren’t many books written for adults with 11-year-old protagonists, but if The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie is any indicator, there should be more.

Author Alan Bradley (a fellow Canadian) has set this in England of the 1950s, with the heroine Flavia de Luce, a very unusual girl.  She has a passion for chemistry, particularly poisons, and has unfettered access to a lab of her own.  The interesting thing, though, is that you get such a sense of empathy towards her, by the end of the book I found chemistry sets starting to look appealing.    In times of trouble, she asks “What would Dr. Bunsen do?” Her scientific curiosity extends to all areas of her life, and when she discovers a dead body, instead of being horrified, she is determined to get to the bottom of the mysterious murder.

I liked her character so much, I am going to read the other books that star her to date, of which there are currently three more.  Of course, I have a soft spot for smart, mouthy little girls, having been one myself – and now having two of my own.

If you don’t mind your humour on the morbid side, and are looking for a change from the usual detectives I highly recommend this.

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