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"The Oracle of Stamboul" - More than a fairy tale for readers of every age


Oracle of Stamboul

And now, a blog from Kyle Mares, Bookseller Extraordinaire:

As a bookseller, I recently had a long conversation in the children’s
department with a retired teacher who was interested in writin historical fiction for readers of every age. She asked for my favorite examples of such novels, and beyond a few rudimentary classics I couldn’t name any published within the last five or so years. Everything seems to be dystopian futures or time travel, with little effort spent examining the authentic past.

If Michael David Lukas noted the dearth of such novels, he surely would have felt assured that his debut novel, The Oracle of Stamboul, would fill that lack. It certainly reads unlike anything you’ve read lately: blending historical facts with a kind of magical, heightened realism, Lukas recreates the lands of the Ottoman Empire of the late 19th century and focuses eventually on Stamboul (known today as Istanbul). A young girl chafing under her stepmother’s oppression and craving both freedom and further knowledge follows her father to Stamboul, where circumstances and vague prophecy mark her as the titular oracle whose knowledge and foresight will change the very course of history. Soon she has a larger choice to make: fulfill her destiny and serve the sultan or avoid her destiny and find that elusive freedom.

Being sensitive to descriptions of place, I was always entertained and often astonished at the depth of detail Lukas weaves into his narrative. Entire pages had to be read and immediately reread to fully absorb the richness manifested in the text, and Lukas is to be commended for finding so many varied ways of describing the kind of intricate décor and architecture found in the homes, businesses, and palaces of Stamboul. Melding historical fiction with a keen sense of visual aesthetics is how Lukas conjures up this very different time and place, and the beauty of his prose makes the reader an enthusiastic traveler back to 1885. Just as fascinating is the ongoing question of the prophecy regarding 8-year-old Eleonora Cohen. Is Eleonora an exceptionally bright young girl or a prophesized shaper of
destiny? And what exactly does it mean to be the oracle?

Calling The Oracle of Stamboul a kind of fairy tale seems too simple, as its complexity and lushness combine with the magical elements in a way that moves beyond most fairy tales. I think it’s more appropriate to say that this novel has many facets that blend together as an evocative historical epic that imagines a fantastical possibility of magic in the destiny of the Ottoman Empire. Genre-busting as it sounds, The Oracle of Stamboul is highly recommended to any reader who loves the pleasure of well-written prose and the adventure of a faraway, long-ago world captured as lovingly as possible.

Get in the Halloween Spirit with "Ashes"

ashesIn the spirit of Halloween, I wanted to write a blog about Ilsa Bick's new YA horror novel Ashes. Liesl, who buys our children's and teen titles, has been going on about it for a month, so naturally I'm intrigued. Then, at our event with Laini Taylor (Daughter of Smoke & Bone) a few weeks ago, I met Katie, the wonderful reviewer behind Katie's Book Blog, and she told me how much she wanted to read Ashes, too. I've been wanting to partner more with local bloggers for some time, and this struck me as the perfect opportunity to feature a Guest Blogger. To my delight, Katie also thought this was a great idea, and has written an awesome review for a creepy book for us to feature this week. So, without further ado, I give you a Guest Blog, straight from Katie's Book Blog!:

Ashes is a dark and gritty tale of a world gone mad. Ilsa Bick does not shy away from anything and while at times it seems overwhelming, in the end it all adds up to one fabulous book.
Ashes packs a punch from the very beginning. It is full of action, suspense, and tons of terrifying revelations about what happens when there aren’t enough resources for everyone. It is full of death, destruction, and quite a few gory surprises. The scariest thing about Ashes is how realistic it is. It really makes you think that this could happen sometime in the very near future.

Every character, even the ones with the smallest roles, is three-dimensional and wonderfully well-rounded. Alex, the main character, is full of spunk, fight, and quite a few snarky comments. Ellie, one of the first characters we meet after Alex, is a breath of fresh air in the gloomy atmosphere of post-EMP United States. Even through the toughest times she lightens the moods and brings out Alex’s sweeter side. Tom is my favorite character because I think everyone can relate to him in some way. He is very real and steady. No matter what, I think everyone can find someone to relate to in Ashes.

Overall, Ashes is one of the most gripping stories that I have read in a long time. This trilogy is one to watch out for. It holds a lot of potential. If the following books are anything like this one, Ilsa Bick can expect to have a lot of engrossed fans. While it may be a little too gory and intense for some younger readers, I think older YA readers will really appreciate it.

Thanks, Katie! Here's to the start of a beautiful friendship.
Check out for other great reviews of YA novels.
Katie's Book Blog 

We the BBS Staff love "We the Animals"

We the Animals
One of the things I love about our staff here at BBS is our eclectic taste in books. Some of us are poetry nerds, others love sci-fi and fantasy, some are hard-core literary fiction fans. We've even got readers of romance, zombie novels, and the occasional zombie romance novel. With so many varied readers on staff, I always pay attention when I discover that half the staff are reading same book. A few years back, that book was The Hunger Games. Last year, it was Room. Now, it seems like everyone around here is reading We the Animals (, a new novel from Justin Torres.

I asked around for some comments on the book from our booksellers, and here's what they said:

Justin Torres writes in images, emotions, and fragments of childhood disguised as prose. His manner is effortless yet heavy. His scenes are equal parts lovely and painful. And his stories hold a truth that sinks into your stomach and buries itself there. We the Animals is a beautiful, heart-wrenching recollection of hopeless poverty and youthful exuberance that can only be described as brilliant.

We the Animals is a lyrical and captivating account of man's childhood, liberally seasoned with desperate nostalgia and universal appeal with a hint of urban tragedy. Torres delivers some of the most beautiful and heartfelt prose to grace a book cover in years. If you are looking for the next great American novella, this is it.

A thought-provoking portrayal of the dysfunctional family, We the Animals by Justin Torres will pull you in with the poetry of its language and hold you in a world that is as uncomfortable as it is beautiful. It's the kind of novel we all should read and has left me questioning my own understandings of love, support, and family.

The shock of Justin Torres' poetic novella about three young boys growing up in an impoverished family isn't the beatings, the abandonment, or the drunkenness, but the moments of tender love. It's the unbreakable bond between brothers that shines through the day-to-day horror of belonging to two people who became parents at fourteen. It's the stolen caress after the father's battering violence. It's the magnificent flow of Torres' language as he renders each painful scene in riveting detail. Finally, it's the sensitivity of a young boy living in home that has done everything to deaden tender feelings. This book is important as a testament of how love can endure in even the most impossible situations. Torres has captured the emotional heart of a wrung-out family in this jewel of a novella.

With deliberate style and delicate poetics, Torres invests a trio of young brothers with a worldliness steeling them against outside forces promising harm, yet leaving them ill-prepared against corruption from within. Sketching a complicated family trapped by heritage and class, Torres provides glimpses of the primal kind of love that binds them together and promises ultimate tragedy when it all falls apart.

Though it is marketed and sold as "fiction", Torres' story feels more like truth than the world outside the pages. In an observant and poetic voice, it is a telling of the classic story of three sons, narrated by the youngest. It's a book about brotherhood, coming of age, and the inevitable realization that our parents are people too. Lit by love and shadowed by pain, it is the true story of the human condition.

I think I know which book is next on my "to read" list...

Revival of the Geeks

Geeks Unite! Join us in celebrating the geek classics and favorites that we all love so much. You can do this by sending in various forms of homage that will be posted on the Boulder Book Store Facebook page under events, for all to see. The options for material that may be sent in are as follows: favorite clips from the movies, favorite passages from the books, poems, short stories, home videos related to the selected favorites, drawings or paintings, songs, montages about the selected favorites and lastly, dressing up as your favorite character and sending in a picture. The selected favorites are: The Star Wars Epics, Harry Potter Series, Twilight Saga, Lord of the Rings trilogies, Star Trek series, X-Men, and all other superhero series' and comics.      We can't start posting till YOU start creating! So send in before our end date on September 5! However, when we do start getting your material we will be posting on our facebook page at . But in the meantime we will be posting other fun things on our facebook page to get in touch with our inner geek, so go check it out!   We also have a blog at Blogspot!     To send in material or ask any questions you may have, you can contact Abby at or drop by the Boulder Book Store and leave a message.  *We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate content that is sent in.