I've got no strings
To hold me down
To make me fret
Or make me frown
- "No Strings," from Disney's Pinocchio
Block was born in Los Angeles, sometimes known as "Shangri-L.A.," other times "Hell-A," depending on how the day is going. The daughter of a poet and painter, she attended the University of California at Berkeley. Francesca was a riot grrrl before the term was coined. She read the novels of Gabriel Garcia Marquez while at college; his magical realism became a major influence. Block's work is grounded in urban realities, though she sees pixies and genies in that "jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked city." She missed Los Angeles and wrote her first novel to cure homesickness. That novel was Weetzie Bat, and it made a big, wet splash in young adult literature.
Francis Orme is the last of a long line of oldest boys named Francis Orme. He wasn’t born Francis Orme, but that’s who he is now. Francis lives with his mother and father in their ancestral home, which has been chopped up into 24 gimcrack flats, The Observatory Mansions. Francis always wears white gloves, works as a “living statue,” and collects items for his Museum of Significant Objects.
It did not surprise her entirely. His advancing cancer had been their secret, allowing him to go about his usual routine as best he could. But now, on the other end of a bad phone connection, her grandmother is frantic. Why was her husband in a tiny village no one has heard of? What happened to his very personal belongings which were not returned with his body? Furthermore, she bitterly accuses Natalie (correctly) of having conspired to hide his illness.
There are all kinds of angels. There are the sort that make grand pronouncements from God—bright, shining beings that are meant to be obeyed. They usually say their piece, and then they’re gone, leaving humans to make the best they can of the situation. That wasn’t the kind of angel that followed Henry Bright home from the Great War. No. This was the kind of angel who hung around and made suggestions, pretty much constantly.
In Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden, Hallie Brady arrives in the wilderness near Hightop Mountain in 1750. Nobody white had settled this part of Massachusetts before, and the native people who camped nearby vowed that no man would find happiness west of the mountain. Teenaged, English-born Hallie comes with her not-good-for-much husband and a couple of other families he has duped into following him in circles for days before winding up in the shadow of the mountain just as the November snows are settling in.
I am a hopeless romantic, so of course I fell in love with Sarah Addison Allen’s charming books. She writes adult fairy tales where love is worth the risks. Pack her four novels in your beach bag and enjoy. The books are magical. The Peach Keeper, her latest work, is about what happens when secrets come out in the open. Walls of Water, North Carolina, has strange breezes that sound like whispers of secrets. Regret haunts the main characters and smells like lemons.
Twins Colin and Paxton Osgood, Willa Jackson, and Sebastian Rogers all went to high school together. They were known as the Princess, the Stick Man, the Joker and the Freak. Happiness has eluded all of them. Paxton Osgood is thirty years old, unmarried, and living at home, and president of the Women’s Society Club. Colin has run away from Walls of Water, his rigid ways, and his heritage. Willa has settled for a quiet life running a sporting goods store and doing laundry regularly every Friday night. Sebastian, now a dentist, has come back home but must face his difficult past.