Recent Additions

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde: A Review

From the pen of Jasper Fforde, author of the best-selling “Thursday Next” series, comes another novel set in a world that is very familiar, but . . . well, not quite right. Fforde never attempts to explain the Spontaneous Anthropomorphizing Event that took place fifty-five years before the story begins, though some of his characters speculate that it might have been an Act of Satire. The result of the Event is the addition of 1.2 million very intelligent, humanlike Rabbits to a place that looks a bit like modern Wales.

The world has adapted to the Rabbits pretty much as you might expect. The government has built a number of large Rabbit Warrens and established agencies with long, obfuscating names like the Ministry of Rabbit Affairs. There is a Rabbit language (which uses only the letters N, I, R, H, U, and F), research into Rabbit culture, and a wealth of Rabbit translations of great literature and plays. And, of course, there are the comically realistic people who don’t really know any Rabbits, and so aren’t really aware of their level of prejudice. Not to mention the members of organizations called things like TwoLegsGood, who actively hate Rabbits.

Our hero is a middle-aged guy who is one of the few people who can actually tell the Rabbits apart, so he has been forced to work for the Rabbit Compliance Taskforce as a Rabbit Identification Operative, tracing Rabbits suspected of breaking the law. His stable but not-very-happy life is interrupted when a family of Rabbits moves in next door. We all get a light-hearted lesson in how racism works as the inevitable clashes begin.

The Rabbits themselves are a peaceful people who love literature, gardening, a vegetarian diet, and the occasional carrot. They have a lot of relatives, though they do practice birth control. They believe in a democracy where everyone watches out for everyone else’s rights instead of their own.

And the Rabbits are, in fact, aware that the new government-built MegaWarren, into which their entire population will soon be moved “for their own good,” is not where they want to be. But they have lawyers, and activists, and a plan based on a prophecy and agreed upon by all of them. It won’t change anybody’s life very much, but it might break your heart just a little bit as you laugh out loud at the silliness.

Holiday Hours!

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

We want to let you know that DreamHaven will be closed on Thursday, November 26th.

We will be open Friday at the usual time, AND we’ll have some specials and giveaways on both Friday (11/27) and Saturday (11/28).

We are also starting our holiday hours. For the next four weeks (through December 20th) we will also be open Sundays from Noon – 5pm

Holiday Hours:
Monday – Saturday Noon – 6:00pm
Sunday Noon  – 5:00pm

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse: A Review

This book is the first volume in a trilogy called Between Earth and Sky. It is celebrated (on the cover copy) as “the most original series debut of the decade” and praised for finding its inspiration in the “civilization of the pre-Columbian Americas.” Having read quite a bit of fantasy over the decades, I didn’t see a huge difference in cultural viewpoints or magical abilities. But the book is beautifully written and engrossing. Its strongest point is its magnificent and wrenching characters.

Xiala is a foul-mouthed, fierce pirate ship captain, an outcast from her own people. It becomes clear eventually that her people, the Teek, are a society of women only, living in precarious harmony with the Goddess of the sea. There is a Teek saying: “Impress a man today, and he’ll expect you to impress him tomorrow too” (p. 175). And another: “The sea has no mercy, even for a Teek” (p. 227). She already knows this.

Xiala is forced to sail a mysterious young man named Serapio to a place called Tova in time for the celebration of an astrological Convergence. Serapio’s story unfolds also, a long history of abusive training initiated by his own mother, in hopes of fulfilling an almost forgotten prophecy. He belongs to the repressed Crow People, whose lamentations say, “We have become a place of long weeping, a house of scattered feathers” (p. 291). He has never met another Crow person except his mother.

In Tova, the Convergence is awaited by Naranpa, a naive woman from the slums of The Coyote’s Maw who has unexpectedly and unpopularly risen to the position of Sun Priest. Though this is a position of highest power, in actuality she has been unable to enact the reforms she sees as necessary. She is possibly the only priest who believes the Manual which states, that the priesthood is “a body of Reason and Science beyond the petty squabbles of humankind” (p. 385). She will learn otherwise.

There are others: The crew of Xiala’s boat, Narampa’s slum-lord brother Denaochi, a crow warrior named Okoa and his giant riding-crow Benunda, and the mysterious witch Zataya. All of them will be both destroyed and saved by the coming Convergence. But the outcome is truly in the hands of the Gods, and there’s no telling which, if any, side They might be on. This is not a safe or predictable world, though it is filled with wonder and aching sorrow. I would pick up Book Two at once but, sadly, its release date has not yet been announced. I’ll have to be content to wait.

The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher

T. Kingfisher, aka Ursula Vernon, is one of today’s most versatile and inventive writers. Her graphic novel, Digger, about the fantastic adventures of a female wombat engineer, won a Hugo award. It has been followed by a prolific number of works ranging from illustrated books for young children (the “Dragonbreath series”) to full-length novels for grown-ups. All of them share a delightful, quirky humor, even those that are, like The Hollow Places, billed as horror novels.

While there are certainly images in The Hollow Places that are a bit disturbing, I did not find it any creepier than the average fantasy or science fiction adventure. Perhaps this is because I found both protagonists, Kara (a recently divorced graphic designer) and Simon (a gay barista who dresses for adventure in camo shorts and fishnet stockings), totally approachable and hilarious. Or maybe it was because when the taxidermy in the “Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy” finally comes alive, as you know it must, many of the stuffed things actually try to help.

The world discovered behind one of the walls of the Wonder Museum is eerily beautiful. Kingfisher’s descriptions of both the world and the non-creatures who inhabit it are very well-written and very different from any of the many places I’ve visited in my decades of reading. I also loved Kara and Simon’s disbelieving but practical attitude toward the other world they discover, and I loved the way their relationship developed into a true, non-sexual friendship.

If you read this book, which I highly recommend, you’d best stop right after Chapter 10, because you should not proceed to Chapter 11 unless you are prepared to stay up all night.

Comics Will Break Your Heart by Faith Erin Hicks

Faith Erin Hicks is best known for her many popular graphic novels, including The Adventures of Superhero Girl, which won an Eisner Award. She is well-prepared to write her first young adult (prose) novel, particularly one which circles around comics and the people who love, draw, and write them. There are no superheroes in Comics Will Break Your Heart, but the characters’ lives are imbued with the wonder and disappointments of producing comics.

The novel is an unabashed romance between Weldon, the grandson of the writer of a wildly lucrative superhero franchise called TomorrowMen, and Mir (short for Miriam) the granddaughter of the artist for the series. Weldon’s family is super-rich, but Mir’s grandfather gave up his share in the TomorrowMen and failed in a long and unpleasant court case to re-claim it. Unsurprisingly, the rich family is unhappy and broken, and Mir’s family is poor but loving and supportive. Ordinarily I dislike this sort of stereotyping, but I found the book funny and very well-written. I actually read it in one short couldn’t-put-it-down afternoon.

I put the book in the vague category I call “nerd romance,” where the protagonists are geeky teenagers who don’t quite fit in at school and who are more interested in going to college than getting married. But Comics Will Break Your Heart is not quite a typical nerd romance. Weldon and Mir are both really rather non-nerdy. Sure, they get good grades and read comic books, but they are both socially competent, comfortable with their appearance, and relatively untroubled by weirdness. I liked them anyway.

They also have very interesting families, and I found the adults in the story just as compelling as the two teenagers. Teen novels usually provide only a glimpse of the lives of the supporting adults, but several adult characters in this book are still dealing with their own issues from the troubled history of the TomorrowMen franchise. The two kids are not the only people in the story who must deal with past events and learn to live with both the glory and perils of creating a popular work of art.

Other Recommended Nerd Romances: Paper Towns by John Green, Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja, and Godless by Pete Hauptman

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

In modern fantasy tales, the magical power of women is sometimes seen as a secret and complicated thing, imbued with the mysteries of childbirth and caregiving. This is not necessarily a benign power, since in this sort of fantasy, preventing or ending pregnancy is often one of its roles. As such, it is easily dismissed and misunderstood by those men (and sometimes women) who are more impressed with offensive power and control.

The Once and Future Witches uses storybook witchcraft, both benign and dark, as an extended metaphor for the ways in which women’s voices and power have been suppressed. It assumes that magical power is very real but has been labelled as evil and forced underground by the men with power. The novel takes place in an alternate, Dickensian, early-industrial America, where the power of men is largely political. Both burning witches and preventing women from voting are being used to keep women under control.

I found the story to be a bit heavy-handed, with too many graphic depictions of the subjugation of women by fathers, husbands, factory owners, and politicians. But the addition of a loving lesbian relationship alongside a developing heterosexual relationship gives the old tales new meaning. And the group of women fighting for their rights to both magic and politics also discover new sources of spells and support from women of color and tales of magic from diverse cultures.

The story is a gorgeously-written remix of the magic we have seen many times. In it, old wives’ tales, nursery rhymes, and fairy stories from around the world hide truths and the access to real power. Herbs and chants and blood can both heal and kill, depending on the will and knowledge of the wielder. There are ancient, magical enemies to be overcome, and the right to vote to be won.

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London: A Review

I have been a fan of Australian writer Garth Nix since reading one of his first books, Sabriel, in somewhere around 1996. When my son was growing up, Nix’s Seventh Tower series was one of the most readable and interesting fantasy series for boys. I was less taken with his recent book, Angel Mage, which seems to be written, I think, to appeal to readers looking for weighty epic fantasy populated by intricately-developed characters, something I don’t seem to have the concentration for at the moment. But as a bookseller, I couldn’t resist a book called The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, particularly with the added cover copy, “Authorized to kill . . . and sell books.”

Like Ben Aaronovich’s Rivers of London series (also highly recommended), the novel takes place in an alternate London where all sorts of magic and magical beings are real, and enough of a presence that police involvement is sometimes necessary. Aaronovich’s protagonists work for a police department that deals with magical “weird bollocks” in such a mundane way that the fact that the police actually investigate crimes seems almost as fantastical as the magical crimes they solve. Nix’s booksellers are an independent, ancient, and fearsome force of magic users who monitor magic use. The left-handed booksellers do the magical combat; the right-handed ones do the research. Both kinds are fully equipped to order new books from Penguin Paperbacks, though only the really experienced ones buy and sell rare used books.

The book is fast-paced and fun, with a good balance between action and character development. The main protagonist, 18-year-old Susan, is the obligatory woman who finds out that she’s not nearly as mundane as she’d thought. But I really liked the young left-handed bookseller, Merlin, whose irrepressible humor and cross-dressing wardrobe is matched by his skill with a magic sword. There is some hint of romance between them, but it never becomes explicit. There is also a charming, though sometimes not-so-nice, cast of booksellers both young and old, and I very much enjoyed watching the word “bookseller” become ever more ominous as the reader discovers just how powerful they are. If only . . .

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger: A Review

The world Elatsoe, as we find out on page 180 of the book, is pronounced “Eh-lat-so-ay,” and is the Lipan Apache word for hummingbird. It is also the full name of Ellie, the title character, who was named after her famous and powerful Six-Great grandmother, because her mother dreamed of a hummingbird with black feathers that glittered like photographs of galaxies. Ellie has inherited her family’s ability to raise the ghosts of dead animals, and is accompanied always by the ghost of her dog, Kirby. They have been together for seventeen years, though Kirby has been dead for five of them.

The novel takes place in an alternate Texas where many magical traditions, including those of the Native Lipan Apache, survive. There is a young vampire studying chemistry at the local college and descendants of Oberon who can travel by fairy ring (if they purchase a ticket), all living side-by-side with cell phones and cars. This is a world where disrupting your class by showing off your ghost dog is punishable only by minor embarrassment and brief suspension. It is also a world where murder can be accomplished and hidden by magical means, particularly if the magician is very wealthy comes from a more respectable magical culture.

The author is a member of the Lipan Apache Tribe of Texas and weaves Native legends into the story. This is her first novel, and the writing is not always expert, with some clunky prose and poorly-chosen phrases, but it improves throughout. I cannot judge the accuracy of the Native legends, nor of the authenticity of Darcie Little Badger’s voice, but I enjoyed Ellie’s fresh perspective on magic.

Though I liked Ellie and her dog, I found the book’s attitude toward adults to be its most refreshing and unique contribution. So often in fantasy books aimed at young adults, the older adults are either dead or incompetent, in order to get them out of the way so that the kids can have adventures. In Ellie’s case, she is the person who receives knowledge about a murder and no one doubts her need to solve it. She is aided in her quest both by the stories passed down by generations of Native women and by her actual parents who support her in her magical adventures without in any way diminishing her agency. In the hundreds of fantasy novels I have read over the years, this may be the first time I’ve seen a mother solemnly approve of her daughter’s actions and acknowledge the necessity of the risks she had to take in order to quell an ancient evil.

Magic for Liars, a Review

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

a review by Lisa Freitag

Magic for Liars takes place in a world where magic is something you are, or are not; part of a person’s identity rather than something you can or can’t do. Unlike Gailey’s earlier magic novel, When We Were Magic, which begins with a girl who has just accidentally exploded a boy’s penis with magic, this one is not marketed for teens. It tracks high school identity formation and angst into middle age with a forty-something, magicless detective who must investigate a magical death at the privileged high school where her twin, magic sister teaches. 

Gailey gifts her first-person narrator, Ivy Gamble, with a keen understanding of the way identities formed (or lies told) in high school translate into lifelong biases or barely-healed emotional wounds. As a detective, Ivy is almost magically observant, and describes her world in beautiful prose. The books in the Theoretical Magic section of the library where a death has just occurred are heard “murmuring to each other like a scandalized congregation of origami Presbyterians.” The books cease their whispering only after Ivy reveals the truths behind the death. 

Ivy is at once wise and damaged, a properly cocky noir private detective who doesn’t really believe she is competent. She does, however, believe her own lie that she doesn’t resent her sister for being magic. At the high school, she weaves her own net of lies around students and faculty as she attempts to unravel the lies that led to the magical death. And, of course, she must face her past high school self and her relationship with her privileged sister in order to solve the mystery she’s been given. 

Dragonfell, by Sarah Prineas: A Review

Dragonfell by Sarah Prineas

Another review from Lisa Freitag!

Sarah Prineas has a gift for writing for kids without compromising either plot or language by unnecessary simplification. As a mom who has read a lot of books out loud, I have appreciated her straightforward and respectful prose since her first novels (The Magic Thief series). Dragonfell is for slightly older readers, aimed at 8 to 12 years old, but could be read aloud to younger kids. 

Rafi, the boy whose chief talent seems for getting into trouble, and Maud, the somewhat clueless and unexpectedly brave girl scientist, do, indeed, find the dragons, as stated on the cover copy. But they do not find them in the usual fantasy places, or by the usual magical means. Adults who have read a lot of fantasy will find it fairly predictable, but kids will love it.

Shakespeare For Squirrels: A Review

Hi folks! Lisa Freitag has been kind enough to do some book reviews for us and if you’re curious about Christopher Moore’s latest, here is what she had to say about it.

Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore

When my kid was in middle school, I caught him watching a video stream of a random comedian whose act seemed to consist only of endless repetition of the f-word. I figured my son already knew that word, and decided to criticize the comedian, not for his language, but for his total lack of creativity in using it. This is probably not the only reason my son later fell in love with Shakespeare and his brilliant language. Like Shakespeare, Christopher Moore is not lacking in creative abilities. Shakespeare for Squirrels is packed with inventive language, mostly in the form of sexual innuendos and verbal obscenities, each funnier than the last.

The story is a very loose—or perhaps totally inaccurate–retelling of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The substitution of Moore’s first-person narrator, Pocket of Dog Snogging, for Puck–because the story doesn’t need two fools–is only one of the ways in which the story goes wrong. There are also Amazons under the command of Hippolyta, a fifth fairy named Fluffer-Nutter, goblins loyal to Oberon, and a cast of rude mechanicals ready for a class war with Duke Theseus of Athens. Not to mention the squirrels. 

Pocket has also starred in two previous novels, Fool (apparently a send-up of King Lear) and The Serpent of Venice (draw your own conclusions). Like most good fools, he can get away with nearly any criticism, as long as he hides it with clever, obscene jokes. He is obnoxious, cocky, and keenly observant, as he makes his way through the “very mythical fourteenth-century forests” outside of Athens. (What? No olive trees?) He is hilariously inventive in his profanity, farming every lewd suggestion that can be made within Shakespeare’s tale. “Fuckstockings!” These shadows have indeed offended! Delightfully so. 

Lisa

Mid-September update!

Hello, out there! Hello? Is anybody out there?

Okay, I’m exaggerating. Things have gotten a little quieter as they always do at this time of year, but we’re still open and doing business. And we’ve been continuing to get things fixed up around here. We finally have the last of the door repair/replacements finished, and yesterday we repaved the parking lot! With luck, we should be able to park in it by this coming weekend.

Also, as most of you know, Batman retired as guardian of the sidewalk earlier this summer. Well, Captain Marvel (or as some of the younger folks know him, Shazam) has volunteered to take his place and now stands proudly outside, suitable for photo ops or reading books in the sunshine.

We continue to put new things on the shelf and website for you. If you don’t see it, drop us a line and ask. We would love to carry all the new titles, but don’t have the space or time to keep track of them all. We will happily order them for you, though!

Here’s hoping you all continue to be well and we get to see you sometime soon!

Independent Bookstore Day

Hello, everybody! This Saturday is not only supposed to be sunny and cooler, but it is also the rescheduled Independent Bookstore Day. Now, we’re still at a stage where we don’t particularly want to encourage hordes of people to descend on the store, even if they are going to buy things from us. But what sort of event can we do and still be responsible?

BAG SALE!!!!

We didn’t do a bag sale this spring like we wanted to, but we’re determined to get one in this fall, so what better way to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day? We won’t have the garage open like past sales, but we’re going to be bringing out tables of goodies for everyone to take home.

Buy a bag, take home a bag full of books and comics! Fill up your Little Free Library, stock up on your reading material for the winter…heck, insulate your house! So come and join us this Saturday. We’re open from noon – 6, the bag sale will be going on from noon to 5 pm.

An almost-July update

Hi all! It’s now the end of June and I thought I’d put together a post with lots of little things you probably already know about.

We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.

We are requiring masks in the store. City of Minneapolis says so, and it’s a good idea anyway. We need a healthy customer base!

A new bit of news – we’ve been getting a lot more single-item orders via the website than we used to, so Greg has decided to lower the flat rate for shipping from $7.50 to $5.00.

We’re now putting lists of upcoming releases onto the website as well. Just look at the menu on top of the home page, and select “Upcoming Releases”. Release dates have been changing a lot over the last few months, but we’ll try to keep on top of them. If you see anything you want to make sure we order, just let us know. We don’t have room for everything, but we’re always glad to order something for you.

Update: Fundraising

Hi everybody!

2020 has been rough on everybody, and retail has been a series of ups and downs. Covid-19 cancelled conventions we go to, closed our stores, and interfered with our supply chains. And then DreamHaven got broken into and smashed up.

After a lot of thought, Greg has decided to start a Go Fund Me campaign.

Check it out. His words are better than mine. Thank you.

June 2020 Update

Hi, everybody. Hope you’re all doing well. Thank you so, so much for all your good wishes and offers of help. We wanted to update you on what was going on with the store.

To recap: around 1 am Saturday Morning (May 30) four people (Young? Male?) stopped at DreamHaven in a car and smashed the glass in the front door. They destroyed our cash drawer, smashed a lot of glass and a computer, cut into boxes ready to ship, threw books around, and set a book on fire. At some point, they were interrupted by neighbors and ran for it with electronics and some merchandise. The neighbors boarded up our door and contacted us online.

Saturday Greg came in and discovered the mess, and called for help online. People were wonderful, and came and helped us clean up and board up the store. Again, THANK YOU!

A lot of folks have been asking if we are going to set up a GoFundMe. We haven’t ruled it out yet, but Greg is still going over things with the insurance company and if we do something, it will probably be after he knows how much the repairs are going to cost.

We’ve also been asked when we are going to re-open. Right now, we’re not sure. Greg says we’ll do it as soon as it feels safe. We’ll update you here when we do. For now, we’re back to online sales. Website, ABEbooks, eBay, or drop us a note at dream@dreamhavenbooks.com. We’re happy to do special orders for you, as long as we can get the books! – Wendy