Category Archives: Alan Bradley

Author Alan Bradley Gives the Gift of Flavia this Christmas

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows (Flavia de Luce Series #4) She’s baaacccckkkk!

If you have yet to meet cheeky wunderkind Flavia de Luce, author Alan Bradley is giving you another fabulous chance. I’m Half-Sick of Shadows is the fourth installment in Bradley’s shrewd series involving the saucy eleven-year-old super sleuth, Flavia de Luce.

No job’s too big for Flavia as long as it involves a dead body and a chance for the flourishing chemist to get her Bunson burners blazing. With her lab tucked into the far corner of the east wing of Buckshaw’s crumbling estate, the solitary Flavia puts her mind and passion for poisons to work in order to solve whatever mysteries might come her way.

One wouldn’t think the pastoral countryside of Bishop’s Lacey would offer much action for anyone, let alone a gifted little girl with ants in her pants. However, Alan Bradley has imagined the perfect setting for Flavia to toy with village authorities and tinker with the clues of Bishop Lacey’s latest homicide.

Flavia is a character to behold. Fresh and enthusiastic, she has made her way into the multi-aged hearts of her readers and settled in as one of literature’s finest female crime-solvers.

Wrapping up her first mystery in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (followed by The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag and A Red Herring Without Mustard), Flavia has blossomed right alongside Bishop Lacey’s body count. Now, Bradley gives  the gift of Flavia this Christmas as she returns for some Yuletide mystery in I’m Half-Sick of Shadows (trailer).

While Flavia enchants, Alan Bradley himself fascinates. He taught Script Writing and Television Production and was one of the founding members of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. Bradley, who is an electronic engineer, worked at numerous radio and television stations and was the Director of Television Engineering in the media center at the University of Saskatchewan before retiring to write.

Remarkably, Bradley became a first-time novelist at the age of 70 and continues to rake in honors and accolades for his Flavia de Luce series.

Whispers of movie rights are in the air, but let’s hope that Alan Bradley doesn’t relinquish control of his little lady any time soon. Characters this enjoyable are much better played in the mind than on the big screen.

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– Post by Megan Shaffer

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‘A Red Herring Without Mustard’ is Oh So Delicious!

Cover ImageAlan Bradley is back at it and his readers couldn’t be more pleased. Flavia de Luce is saucier than ever in A Red Herring Without Mustard, Bradley’s third and latest installment of the Flavia de Luce mystery series.

Bradley’s de Luce books are a bit like a literary Christmas; they come once a year, are full of mystery, and guarantee a wink and a smile when they’re over. If you haven’t yet caught Flavia or Bradley’s clever style in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie or The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag (the first and second books in the series), I strongly suggest backing up to the beginning for maximum enjoyment.

Flavia is a wonder to behold. Not only does she fearlessly make her way through the creepiest of spine-tingling situations, but she also knows how to fire it up in her chemical laboratory. It’s in Flavia’s beloved lab that sass turns to spark as she calmly sifts through the bizarre clues she’s collected along the way to solving the latest mystery in England’s Bishop’s Lacey.

A Red Herring Without Mustard is no exception to Bradley’s shrewd yet perky series, and easily falls in with Flavia’s past footsteps of messy murder and mischief. Once again, the cheeky eleven-year-old super sleuth has found herself a fresh body (dead, of course) on the old Buckshaw estate and aims to get to the bottom of things.

“I have no fear of the dead,” quips Flavia. “Indeed, in my own limited experience I have found them to produce in me a feeling that is quite the opposite of fear. A dead body is much more fascinating than a live one, and I have learned that most corpses tell better stories.”

And a good story it is. Though from a comparative standpoint Herring fizzled a touch for me at the end, its ramped-up eerie factor brought about a fine balance making A Red Herring Without Mustard a delicious read.

For those of you who are already hooked on the series, Bradley’s next Flavia de Luce novel is titled I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, and will be released in the United States on November 1, 2011. Yes, just in time for Christmas.

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

Related Links

NLR’s review of The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag

– Review of Red Herring from National Post

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Filed under A Red Herring Without Mustard, Alan Bradley, Authors, Book Reviews

NLR’s 2010 Top Ten Lit Picks

Cover ImageSince the Detroit Free Press didn’t deem necessary the inclusion of their top literary picks in today’s section, The Year in Review 2010: Arts & Entertainment, I quickly compiled a “2010 Top Ten” list (in no particular order) on behalf of Night Light Revue. For those of us in the metro area who do, in fact, consider the written word to be both Art and Entertainment, this entry is for you.

*Beneath the Lion’s Gaze by Maaza Mengiste

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

*Eden Springs by Laura Kasischke

The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley

The Devil’s Star by Jo Nesbo

*The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

*The Blind Contessa’s New Machine by Carey Wallace

*The Hanging Tree by Bryan Gruley

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

Most Fabulous Book I Read Overall This Year: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon

*denotes a Michigan author or tie to the state of Michigan

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-Post by Megan Shaffer

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Filed under Alan Bradley, Bryan Gruley, Carey Wallace, Julie Orringer, Laura Kasischke, Maaza Mengiste, Michael Chabon, Rebecca Skloot

Flavia de Luce Strikes Again!

Cover ImageIt’s no secret that I loved Alan Bradley’s Dagger Award Winner The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. Therefore, I’m happy to announce that the plucky, winsome eleven-year-old chemist Flavia de Luce is back and better than ever in Bradley’s latest release The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag.

Yes, the second book in the Flavia de Luce mystery series is even, dare I say, cleverer than the first. Why? Perhaps because both Alan Bradley and Flavia are a bit bolder and a bit more daring (of course I realize that one supersedes the other). Though Flavia continues to sport a respectful air toward her elders, her inner dialogue in The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag is sheer wit and genius.

Alan Bradley is a risk taker with interpretation (just look at his titles) and an absolute superstar with a simile. Ramping up both character and plot, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag is pure head candy sprinkled with smarts.  Whether you read The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie or not, Bradley’s second shot is a hit and not to be missed.

Related Links

Poem: Sir Walter Raleigh to His Son

Jack and the Beanstalk

*Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

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Lit Legend Leonard and More


There are plenty of reading events going on in the Detroit area this week so be sure to see my last post for information. In addition, a few extra points of interest have come to my attention that are definitely worth sharing.

Tune in to this NPR interview Elmore Leonard, At Home In Detroit by Noah Adams to hear from our very own local literary legend.

The Book Beat has scheduled a signing by R & B legend Andre Williams on March 20, 2010 from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. Williams’ Sweets and Other Stories is a “tough and gritty collection of tales of tragedy and perseverance from the mean streets of Chicago and beyond.” This is the first fiction effort from Andre Williams who performed on some singles for Detroit’s Fortune Records in the 50’s and 60’s.*

Check out this week’s update on  NPR’s What We’re Reading which features The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, the second book in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce detective series. It won’t appeal to all, but this eleven-year-old girl who made her character debut in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie completely won me over. You can find NLR’s brief review by clicking here.

The Orange Prize for Fiction longlist was announced for 2010 and you’ll never believe who was on it? Yes, Hilary Mantel for Wolf Hall – what a shocker! Kidding. I actually bought this book back in December and now feel officially compelled to read it. There has been so much noise surrounding this title, I was waiting for it to die down a bit before I cracked the spine. Is it hype or is it just that good?

*Information courtesy of Book Beat site.

-Support your local bookstores, libraries, and universities. It matters!

-Post by Megan Shaffer

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Filed under Alan Bradley, Authors, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, Whimsy

Angels and Sweet, Sweet Pie

There are two books that I recently finished which are listed below with my brief review attached.  They are newer titles that currently sit on or very near the latest best seller lists. Friends will often ask me if I have read a particular title, or for the suggestion of a solid personal or book club read. Because it takes a lot of time and thought to do a detailed review of each book, I am posting these “quickies” for your reference and perusal.

The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I did not read The Shadow of the Wind, Zafon’s first novel which was a biggie with the book clubs. However, if it is anything like The Angel’s Game, I think I’ll pass. This bizarre mystery reminds me more of a Harry Potter meets Dante’s Inferno, and seemed to me a poor attempt at chills and thrills.

Dating back to the early 1900’s, The Angel’s Game spins the tale of David Martin, a struggling author who takes on an eerie writing project which ultimately throws him into the depths of his own personal hell. An abundance of dark alleys, secret doors, and hidden rooms left me both confused and exhausted as it stretched out over the span of its 531 pages. The word plodding comes to mind and a finger must be pointed at Lucia Graves for what is, in my opinion, a weak translation. I find it hard to believe Ruiz-Zafon’s original version would have a hooker in the 1900’s ask someone to “invite me in for a snack.”

*Take a pass on this one

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie,

who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?

This book is so different, so engaging, and so much fun that I can’t stop suggesting it to people.  After a stretch of hum-drum fiction, I was pleasantly caught off guard by this Debut Dagger Award winner. I’m typically not a mystery reader, but this is not your average mystery as it holds one of the most plucky, winsome main characters I have ever met.

Flavia de Luci is only eleven but trust me when I tell you, she’ll keep you busy for 373 straight pages. An aspiring chemist, Flavia’s intellectual capabilities might be a bit of a stretch, but author Alan Bradley had me clearly convinced that this girl can do it all. As Flavia dukes it out with her two sisters, Bradley’s hot, literary knowledge tucks itself neatly into the family discord adding serious prose to the dialogue. The biggest treat… life through the eyes of an eleven-year-old.

*This witty, sharp, and charming novel is a must. A quick read, I would suggest it as a great personal choice and an entertainer for any book club.

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Filed under Alan Bradley, Authors, Book Reviews, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Quickie Reviews, The Angel's Game, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie