Recommendations & Book Reviews

Here are some of our recent favorites; newest recommendations are listed at the top.

Nothing to See Here

Kevin Wilson

paperback fiction

 

Bessie and Roland are fire children.  They look like perfectly regular 10 year old twins–until they get frustrated and burst into flames.  The flames don’t hurt them, but they disturb the grown-ups.  Madison, hired to be a nanny to the twins, learns to keep them calm and cool.  

This is an original, tender, and moving book.

–Yvette

ME

Elton John

paperback autobiography

 

Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll…what’s not to like?  Elton John is droll, self-deprecating, and witty, sharing the story of his life from his musically gifted–but terribly lonely–childhood, to his global success as an adult.  He looks honestly at the missteps and challenges along the way, and provides a very entertaining and interesting read. 

—Debbie

Deep River

Karl Marlantes

paperback fiction

 

“Deep River” is the perfect title for this in-depth yet fast flowing story of Finnish settlers in Washington.  Strong characters, especially the women, enter and transform the new land under immense trees.  Loggers, fishermen, Wobblies, musicians, brothel keepers, families and children are all given rich lives and plenty of action.

Don’t be dismayed by the heft–this is a page turner.

Yvette

 

 

The Gifted School

Bruce Holsinger

paperback fiction

 

Thoroughly satisfying story centered on four women friends in a Colorado mountain town who’ve known each other from their children’s infancy.  It sprawls out from there to encompass the lives of their spouses, ex-spouses, children, and other friends.  The town’s decsion to open a school for gifted children catalyzes changes in relationships throughout the community and provides a lens through which to examine the values which we attach to different kinds of “gifts,” all while keeping us highly entertained!

—Georgiana

Night Portrait

Laura Morelli

paperback fiction

 

An exciting and heart wrenching novel inspired by actual people and events.  Follow the young, female art conservator as she attempts to protect priceless pieces of art from the grasp of the Nazis.  The story also follows the Monuments Men as they recover stolen works of art. 

Told in two time periods by four voices.

Sandi

Cher Ami and Major Whittlesey

Kathleen Rooney

paperback fiction

 

 

Told in alternative chapters by a pigeon and a soldier, this heartfelt novel illuminates a true moment in WWI history. But beyond the battlefield, it also elegantly explores issues of identity and fame, courage and curiosity, freedom and duty. Luckily, it is also surprisingly funny in places.

This brilliant work of imagination from the author of Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk is for all fans of literary historical fiction.

—Yvette

 

 

All the Flowers in Paris

Sarah Jio

paperback fiction

Set in Paris during the Nazi occupation, and in the current day. Heart-wrenching and beautiful.  Both story lines are intriguing and then blend satisfyingly and seamlessly.

–Sandi

Save Me The Plums

Ruth Reichl

paperback nonfiction

 

Back when Gourmet existed as a glossy magazine, Ruth Reichl was editor in chief.  Reluctant at first, but growing more confident as her tenure progressed, she transformed the staid magazine into a cutting edge publication just before the rise of the internet. 

In this warm and engaging memoir, complete with recipes, she describes tedious meetings and extravagant meals, the horror of 9/11, and the frustrations of trying to get David Foster Wallace to write about lobsters.

Pour a glass of wine, have a snack handy, and enjoy!

Yvette

Island of Sea Women

Lisa See

paperback fiction

Spanning fifty years, this historical novel follows the lives of Korea’s haenyeo–women who dive for oysters. Set on the Island of Jeju, it follows two girls from different backgrounds as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective  

As Sue Monk Kidd says, “No one writes about female friendship, the dark and the light of it, with more insight and depth than Lisa See.”

Kathryn

 

 

Circe

Madeline Miller

paperback fiction

From the very first sentence, Circe casts her magic on the reader.  You might know her only as the witch who turned Odysseus’s men into pigs; here author Madeline Miller brings her fully alive as daughter, sister, lover, and mother in a world where the gods act as selfishly and stubbornly as in any other large family, and mortals and demons co-exist.  Grounded in specific details such as the type of herbs growing on Circe’s island, the food on the plates, and color of the sea, but also smoothly encompassing a timeline of a thousand years, this book is truly an epic.

Yvette

Subduction

Kristen Millares Young

paperback fiction

 

Powerfully evocative novel of Claudia,a young woman of Mexican heritage researching the culture of the Makahs in Neah Bay.  Young does a masterful job of conveying the rich history and culture of the Makah and the land they live on, all while hooking her readers into the complicated life of Claudia–her past, what drew her to this place, and her developing relationships with the some of the people she is working with.  I like what one of the cover reviews says:  “Intelligently addressing womanhood, community, lust and loss, this is a novel as deep as it is intoxicating…..”

Georgiana

Rules for Visiting

Jessica Francis Kane

paperback fiction

Just as plants need tending, so do friends.  May Attaway is described by a friend as “prickly, but in a soft, long-needled way.”  She is much better at landscaping than friendkeeping, but when she is given leave from her job as a campus gardener, she sets out to visit four once-close friends.  She hopes to see a real day in the life of these friends, not one curated or filtered through a social media lense.  With quiet humor, precise social observations, astute literary references, and a sprinkling of Latin botanical names, Kane celebrates an ordinary life deeply enriched by personal connections.  A perfect gem of a novel.

Yvette

Disappearing Earth

Julia Phillips

paperback fiction

 

This debut novel takes us to the remote Kamchatka peninsula of northeastern Russia one summer. Two young sisters go missing from the beach, and the author follows the investigation month by month over the next year, focusing on the various people involved in the case.  The writing is evocative, and the disparate threads are nicely and satisfyingly woven together by the end.  Recommended!

Debbie

Miracle Creek

Angie Kim

paperback fiction

This excellent debut novel is primarily a courtroom drama occurring after a tragic event at an alternative treatment center.  It explores the different perspectives of all involved and how each view might be valid–but only one is the truth.  

Touches on many current topics, including the immigrant experience, caring for vulnerable people, alternative medicine, and more.  

Debbie

 

 

Actress

Anne Enright

hardcover fiction

A woman making sense of her own life as she tells the story of that of her mother Katherine, a legendary Irish actress.  They have a close bond, uncomplicated by any father figures; and Katherine’s wildly extravagant life and view of the world is fascinatingly conveyed through the eyes of her daughter Norah, who has her own mix of blindness and wisdom.  Anne Enright’s writing is, as always, immediate, brillliant, and a joy to read.

Georgiana

The River

Peter Heller

paperback fiction

 

Take a gripping adventure and survival story set in a mystical wild area (in this case, a canoe trip in the northern Canadian wilderness), and mix it with a deep appreciation for and knowledge of nature, human nature, and art; infuse it with this writer’s ability to shoot it all right into the reader’s bloodstream and BOOM–vintage Heller.  This is my favorite yet.

Georgiana

Oil & Marble

Stephanie Storey

paperback fiction

If you love history..  if you love art…   if you just love a wonderful story–this is the book for you! 

Can you imagine living in Florence while Leonardo creates the Mona Lisa and Michelangelo births his David culpture?  

This is magic!

Sandi

 

 

The Women in Black

Madeleine St. John

paperback fiction

Originally published in 1993, and set in the Sydney (Australia) of the 1950’s, this gem of a novel is timeless in its depiction of female friendship and manners.  The women who work at the upscale department store, Goode’s, must wear black frocks, and the novel takes place during the six busy weeks around Christmas.  It is hot. Tempers soar.  Dresses are sold.  It is delightful!

Yvette

Normal People

Sally Rooney

paperback fiction

 

What a treat to discover Sally Rooney!  From the current onslaught of mediocre prose transmitting suspenseful plots, this novel stands out shining.  It’s the story of a relationship between two high school classmates in a small town in Ireland as it changes through their years of college in Dublin.  Rooney’s spare and brilliant writing illuminates her insight and makes the unfolding of these two personalities completely compelling.

Georgiana

Early Riser

Jasper Fforde

paperback fiction

Fforde is back! !  This isn’t a sequel to his Shades of Gray, but if you liked that one, you’ll love this one.  Enter a fully-realized world where most people hibernate all winter.  When trouble comes, the valiant folks who stay awake in wintertime must rally the others—menaced by the sorts that Fforde does best.  

Enjoy!

Debbie

 

 

The Library Book

Susan Orlean

paperback nonfiction

If you love books and/or libraries, this title is for you.  Was it arson when the Los Angeles Public Library suffered a catastrophic fire in 1986?  If so, who did it?  And why?  Follow along with the investigation, and learn fascinating facts about books.  Unfamiliar with this whole terrible event?  That could be because a mishap in Chernobyl had occurred just before…..

Debbie

Jeeves and the King of Clubs

Ben Schott

paperback fiction

 

Bertie and Wooster are back!  Note:  this is NOT by the truly inimitable P.G. Wodehouse, but Schott does write a satisfying homage.  With a busy plot—lurid plaid slippers, a spice-sauce and a spot of spying are only some of the elements—Schott brings together all the favorite characters, setting and comedic language of the original books.  Whether you are new to the stories, or just need an escape, dive in and enjoy this bubble cocktail of a novel.

Yvette

Little

Edward Carey

paperback fiction

This novel is loosely based on the life of Anne Marie Grosholtz, who grew up to be Madame Tussaud of Wax Museum fame.  Before that, though, she was a small girl trying to survive in France as revolution simmered, then erupted.  

Interesting, quirky, and occasionally macabre!

Debbie

 

 

Best American Food Writing

Samin Nosrat

Essays

“Best of” lists always make me suspicious.  Best of what? Why these? But Sami Norrat does a superb job of collecting these essays.  Some are funny.  Some are somber.  All are well written and all make you think.  Most made me hungry—less so the one about seal oil than the one about KitKats.  Whether you nibble at this collection one essay at a time, or devour it as a feast, you will find it satisfying.

Yvette

Unsheltered

Barbara Kingsolver

paperback fiction

 

With images of bird nests and spider webs, fragile infants and crumbling houses, of a fractured family and a troubled planet, Kingsolver builds a terrifically ambitious and accomplished novel.  Alternating between stories of a fictional modern family, and a 19th century plot with a very real female biologist, Kingsolver weaves an inspiring story. Science—yes, but also intrigue, romance, discovery, and murder.

Read this as a balm against the news of today

Yvette

Tombland

C.J. Sansome

paperback fiction

This is a marvelous historical fiction series set during and after the reign of Henry VIII.  The characters are wonderful and the research is spot-on.  I love this series and this, the newest, is awesome!

Sandi

 

 

Diary of a Bookseller

Shaun Bythell

memoir

We can relate! The romance of bookselling; the tedium of accounts.  The thrill of matching book to reader; the frustration of selling in the age of Kindles.  Shaun tells his life story through the daily trials and triumphs of running a large second-hand bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland.  Funny, ruthless and surprisingly touching, this is a delight for all readers.

p.s.  Ask Sandi about the day she met Shaun!

Yvette, Debbie, and Sandi

Mornings with Rosemary

Libby Page

paperback fiction

 

Originally published under the title The Lido, this charming novel will make you want to swim some laps, then sit by the pool reading.  It describes an unlikely friendship between a young reporter and an an older woman as they work to save an outdoor pool.  Though light, the novel is anchored by a diverse cast of characters, spot-on details, and well paced plot.

Sure to be the feel-good book of the summer.

Yvette

Hollow Kingdom

Kira Jane Buxton

hardcover fiction

In a post-plague world, where beloved Seattle icons are in ruin, where 200 animals run free and zombie-like humans rot, who will save the world? How about a foul-mouthed, cheeto-addicted crow?! Profane, gory, and wholly original, this brilliant and funny first novel will urge you to respect Mother Nature—and especially crows—in a whole new way.

Yvette

This book will be released on August 6th—FREE chip clip to the first 5 people to pre-order it!

 

Once Upon a River

Diane Setterfield

paperback fiction

In a small village on the Thames, some time long ago, there is a gathering place for villagers, and those who live along the river’s banks, and travellers passing through. This is the Swan, an ancient inn reknowned for its storytelling nights, and the center itself of a story and a mystery that sprawl outward—bewitching in plot and language.
Uniquely wonderful book!

Georgiana

Labyrinth of the Spirits

Carlos Ruiz Zafon

paperback fiction

 

Terrific writing, fascinating characters, excellent plot lines…welcome back to Barcelona, with all the characters you know and love plus an intriguing new protagonist, Alicia.  You can read the books in the quartet [earlier titles are The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and The Prisoner of Heaven] in any order, and this one just may be the best of all—which is very, very good indeed.

Debbie

The Ensemble

Aja Gabel

paperback fiction

Absorbing story of the lives of four young musicians who form a quartet, and the way music and their relationships with each other shape their lives over the years.  Great story and wonderful glimpse into the world of music and musicians.

Georgiana

The Optimistic Decade

Heather Abel

fiction

Can one leave behind the pressures of society, the maddening news and the forces of change to establish authentic, optimistic retreat in nature? A charismatic camp founder, the original ranchers of the land, a college age girl raised on activism, and a dedicated  teenage boy, all come together in the summer of 1990 in a scenic Colorade Rockies location. Here they try to make sense of their surroundings, their dreams and their visions for the future. With flashbacks to the Reagan years, and ideas relevant to their own times, this is an intelligent, astute and compelling debut.

Yvette

The Overstory

Richard Powers

paperback fiction

Interlinking stories of people whose lives have been affected and shaped by trees.  Each story is engaging in a different way, and though at first the number of strands may be a bit overwhelming, they come together and form a powerful and intensely meaningful whole–a breathtaking view into the natural world.

Georgiana

My Ex-Life

Stephen McCauley

fiction

Just in time for summer reading pleasure comes this sparkling novel of family and ex-family and the bonds that last. When his boyfriend leaves him, David least expects to stay with his ex-wife under a roof he starts to repair. Nor does he expect his relationship with Julie and her teenage daughter Mandy to be so easy. But this is the magic of McCauley’s novel – witty, nuanced and with spot-on dialogue – that you will want to move in as well. This is McCauley’s best novel so far – and that is saying a lot!

–Yvette

Huntress

Kate Quinn

fiction

This is a remarkable and heartwrenching work! Be prepared to stay up late repeating “just one more chapter!” Based on real characters and events–reading the author’s notes is as awesome as reading the novel!

Sandi

Mr. Flood’s Last Resort

Jess Kidd

fiction

Move over Ove, there’s a new cranky old man in town. And what a feat of imagination Cathal Flood is! Swathed in cardigans, he lives on a vast estate populated by cats and a pet fox, where rooms of curiosities are barricaded by walls of ancient magazines. Into this situation comes Maud, a young caretaker with secrets of her own and saints literally watching over her. Magic and joyous with the perfect balance between dark humor and heartfelt sorrow.         

   –-Yvette

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

Veronica Henry

fiction

A simply wonderful story of loss and love and finding your passion. I love the role that books play in the characters’ lives. This book stole my heart!

Sandi

Happiness

Aminatta Forna

fiction

An American wildlife biologist, a Ghanaian psychiatrist and an English fox literally collide on Waterloo Bridge. What follows, as the lives of the characters weave together and a search for a missing child intensifies, is a unique picture of modern London and a profound meditation on trauma and the meaning of happiness. Vivid and fascinating novel.

Yvette

Code Girls

Liza Mundy

non-fiction

This book reveals a hidden army of female cryptographers whose work played a crucial role in ending World War II. Unmarried, bright young teachers and women who had excelled in math and languages and liked to do crossword puzzles were recruited by the US Army and Navy from small towns, especially from the “Seven Sisters” posh east coast colleges. Ten thousand women moved to Washington, DC, to Arlington Hall to begin their training in the meticulous work of code breaking. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. A strict vow of secrecy nearly erased their efforts from history. Now, through dazzling research and interviews with the surviving code girls, Mundy brings to life this riviting and vital story of American courage, service and scientific accomplishment.

Nance

The Philosopher’s Flight

Tom Miller

science fiction

The Philsopher’s Flight introduces us to an imaginatively vivid world, where magic (philosophy) is used for protection, transport, warfare, and more.  Set in Boston during World War I, the book follows Robert Weekes as he enrolls at Radcliffe to pursue his dreams of joining an elite medical resuce and evac unit, despite philosophy typically being a woman’s pursuit.  As Robert struggles to overcome the prejudice against a man on his chosen path, his more accomplished classmates strive to promote philosophy as a valued and noble practice, more than just woman’s tricks.  The book is fast-paced, gripping, and draws parallels to the social dynamics of today.  I strongly recommend this book–AND, it’s the first of a trilogy!

–Sam Miner

Peculiar Ground

Lucy Hughes-Hallett

fiction

If you love the dense, detailed, historical and multigenerational novels of A.S. Byatt, this is for you. Set in the landscaped grounds and grand house of an English estate, first in 1663 and then in 1961, this novel explores historical change through family drama and social detail. Absorbing and interesting!

Yvette

Love and Ruin

Paula McClain

paperback fiction

The author of Paris Wife introduces us to Martha Gellhorn, another of Hemingway’s wives.  Unlike Hadley (his first wife), who just gets left behind, Martha was a determined, high-spiritied journalist who was Hemingway’s match professionally and personally, with her own passionate presence on the world’s stage.  Paul McLain brings her story richly to life.

–Nance

Need to Know

Karen Cleveland

paperback fiction

This is one of the few books I could NOT put down…gripping from beginning to end!    Here are the words various major authors use to describe it, and I can’t put it any better: 
“Terrific”–John Grisham;
“Superb”–Lee Child;
“Heart-poundingly suspenseful”–JP Delaney;
“Relentless gripping”–Chris Pavone;
“Breathtaking”–Louise Penny.   
Great read! 
Nance

Macbeth

Jo Nesbo

paperback fiction

Nesbo’s latest!!   It’s not a Harry Hole mystery, but its plot and characters are as complex and riveting as the Hole series.  Using Shakespeare’s work as the bleak plot framework is ingenious, as it showcases the criminal characters and the greed and evil of men.

–Nance

(Hope you weren’t looking for something cheery!)

Long Ships

Frans Bengtsson

fiction

Viking adventure on the open seas! Fierce battles, blood feuds, romance, epic heroes! This is the novel I dreamed of as a boy. Red Orm’s exploits are told in the form of the Icelandic Sagas, with very few adjectives, and the effect is straightforward and spellbinding. Frans Bengtsson’s novel is a BLAST!

Eric Johnson from KOMO news.

The Power

Naomi Alderman

fiction

Inventive, complex, original, distrubing and a total page-turner! Imagine a world where women have the power–literally. With a touch they can inflict pain. How will they use this force? Will the world be a better place? Is this society another case of absolute power corrupting absolutely? To say too much would spoil this one-of-a-kind novel. Read it and find out!  

–Yvette

Radium Girls

Kate Moore

non-fiction

This is the fascinating, tragic, and inspiring story of the young women who painted the luminous dials on time pieces and aviation equipment in the early 20th century. Their work was necessary, precise, and deadly; and to their employers, the women were basically an expendable and renewable resource. The bravery of the afflicted women is astonishing. One of the most interesting books I’ve read.        

 –Debbie

The Newcomers

Helen Thorpe

non-fiction

The subtitle spells it out: “Finding Refuge, Friendship and Hope in America.” This is a true account of a classroom in South High School in Denver and the students in the beginner-level English class. While their personal stories of how and why they came to the USA are heartbreaking, the overall message is one of HOPE, tolerance and understanding. Give this inspiring story to a favorite teacher.  

–Yvette

The Ruin

Dervla McTiernan

mystery

Welcome to a new mytery series!  This police procedural takes place primarily in contemporary Galway, Ireland, and is a welcome addition to the shelves of those of us who like Tana French and Benjamin Black.  

–Debbie

Fangirl

Rainbow Rowell

young adult

Seeing this beautiful new edition (finally in paperback!) makes me a fangirl all over again! If you love teen romance, Harry Potter, fanfiction and snow, this is for you. The characters are so believable you want to befriend them. Funny and tender in equal measure, this is a treat. 

Yvette

Paris in the Present Tense

Mark Helprin

paperback fiction

Mark Helprin’s writing is full of passion and certainty; and it’s impossible to resist being swept up and carried away into the worlds he creates–in this case, to Paris, and the life of 74-year-old musician Jules LuCour.  Jules has lived a fantastic life, and the book is the story of his past and how it’s led him to his present, and a rumination on music, love, ageing, and–true to Helprin–thousands of other things.  The cover calls it a powerful and rapturous novel, and that is perfect.

–Georgiana

Nomadland

Jessica Bruder

non-fiction paperback

Between the Great Depression and age discrimination, older adults take to RV’s as they travel the country picking up temporary jobs to supplement social security checks.  Fascinating, heart-breaking, and hopeful.

–Kathryn

My Absolute Darling

Gabriel Tallent

paperback fiction

Totally blown away by the power of this book–the story of Turtle, a 14-year-old girl growing up isolated after her mother’s death, with her brilliant but tortured survivalist father on the northern California coast.  The sense of place, the story, and the writing are all extraordinary, and set this title apart from any others I’ve read in a while.  It’s dark, but brilliant and beautiful too.

Georgiana

Sourdough

Robin Sloan

paperback fiction

If you enjoyed what Robin Sloan revealed about books and booksellers in Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, just wait to see what he can do with bread! Lois receives a sourdough culture that is out of this world. Her forays into the cutting-edge foodie scene of San Francisco are balanced by the sage advice of the Lois club in this funny, freewheeling and fulfilling novel.         

–Yvette

Savage Country

Robert Olmstead

paperback fiction

A literary western about a fiercely independent young widow trying to save her farm and the people it employs by joining forces with her solitary brother-in-law on a dangerous and soul-searing buffalo hunt in 1873. Brilliant writing; great story.

Georgiana

Uncommon Type

Tom Hanks

short stories

Tom Hanks (yes, that one) collects old typewriters that serve as the inspiration for these 17 short stories. Photos of the typewriters at the beginning of each story set the scene for these quirky, very human stories.

–Kathryn

South Pole Station

Ashley Shelby

paperback fiction

This is a funny novel about big, serious themes – scientific research, climate change, suicide;  a warm hearted novel about the coldest place on earth, and a sympathetic novel about the misfits and loners thrown togther at the bottom of the world. Plus: Apsley Cherry-Garrard! Captain Scott! Birdie! Polar geeks rejoice.

Yvette

Scribe of Siena

Melodie Winawer

paperback fiction

Part medieval mystery, part love story (spanning hundreds of years), part time travel thriller. And I’m always a sucker for stories of the Plague. I love the writing and the sense of wonder I experienced throught this character. 

–Sandi

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Gail Honeyman

paperback fiction

The author presents a warm, humorous look at loneliness, social awkwardness, and marching to a different drummer that will captivate readers from beginning to end. This is a charming story that is both heart-wrenching and amusing.           

–Nance

My Life With Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues

Pamela Paul

non-fiction

“Bob” is an acronym for Book-of-Books, and is the author’s list of all the books she’s read for the last twenty-eight years.  Just the the titles conjure memories for her of what was going on in her life at the time.  She shares connections and anecdotes that most readers can relate to.  As the cover says, it’s a love letter to books.              

–Debbie

Mozart’s Starling

Lyanda Lynn Haupt

non-fiction paperback

This is a fascinating book for any bird brain and music lover (like me!), written by a Seattle author. Inspired by the true story of Mozart and his pet starling, the author adopts one of her own. Using this as a starting point, she writes about her charming pet, about the general destructive nature of the species, and about Mozart’s life and history. By the way, her bird’s favorite composer is…Bach!

Yvette

Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk

Kathleen Rooney

paperback fiction

New Year’s Eve 1984. Lillian decides to walk around her beloved Manhattan after dinner. During her 10 mile journey she recounts her career, marriage, and her single life. At 80, Lillian is gutsy, smart, funny, perceptive and charming. She’s a character you would love to have known. Enjoy her journey.

–Nance

A House Among the Trees

Julia Glass

paperback fiction

Julia Glass, a master at creating living, breathing, sometimes frustrating but always believable characters, takes us deep into the world of Mort Lear, famous children’s book author. The plot is simple–Mort dies, the past is revealed–but the story is rich and layered and the characters complex. Spend some time in this house among the trees!

–Yvette

The Leavers

Lisa Ko

paperback

This novel puts a very human face on the story of immigration. Polly came to New York from China, created a family and was deported–but the story doesn’t stop there. It is told in sections alternating between Polly’s brash, bold, determined, loving and frightened voice and that of her son Deming’s (then Daniel’s) confused, lonely and troubled one. Ambitious and compelling, it will open your eyes and your heart.

–Yvette

Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter

Theodora Goss

paperback fiction

What a fun book – and on thread with the recognition of women in history and literature. So many amazing characters come to life, including Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson and even Frankenstein’s monster – no offense meant to the monster community. You’ll be enchanted!

–Sandi

The Essex Serpent

Sarah Perry

paperback fiction

Steeped in Victorian detail but written in a distinctly fresh voice, this novel will transport you directly to the foggy, salty Essex marsh. There questions of science and faith, medicine and ritual, love and friendship are centered on the mystery of what lies in the water. This is a big novel of ideas, but also a vivid and well plotted story.

–Yvette

Small Great Things

Jodi Picoult

paperback fiction

For those of you looking for a book club selection, this book will inspire a much-needed conversation about race and prejudice in America. The story is told from three viewpoints: Ruth, an African-American nurse; Turk, a white supremacist; and Kennedy, Ruth’s white public defender. The dialogue is at times upsetting and frustrating, but it is a compelling and intense story. 

–Nance

Hillbilly Elegy

J.D. Vance

nonfiction paperback

Just (and finally!) released in paperback–a must-read to help us understand what happened in November 2016.

I was born and raised in Middletown, Ohio–the setting for this account of a culture that was and is still struggling with poverty.  The abusive behavior and closed, conservative attitudes described here was prevalent as I grew up in the 50’s and continues today.  It was no surprise to me that Trump had–and has–the support of those who agreed with his behavior and views. 

–Nance

My Antonia

Willa Cather

paperback fiction

A quietly beautiful novel, imbued throughout with deep feeling for the lost American prairie landscape. It’s the story of some of the first people to populate and make a living from these prairies–immigrants from the U.S. east coast and from Bulgaria, Hungary, “Bohemia”– and how they learned to live with the land and with each other. Quietly powerful characters and story–loved it even more the second time around.

–Georgiana

Magpie Murders

Anthony Horowitz

paperback fiction

Agatha Christie fans will recognize the English setting, the intriguing plot, and the character Pund as a Poirot-like sleuth in this mystery within a mystery. Well written, easy to follow plot which alternates between a present day mystery and one from 1955. Just the right amount of twists and turns to keep the reader enthralled. Good read.

–Nance

The Thirst

Jo Nesbo

paperback fiction

Harry Hole is back! Nesbo pulls Harry back from his blissfully peaceful state as a lecturer at the Police College and the husband to his great love, Rakel, to hunt for a serial killer. Oslo’s finest are frustrated and getting nowhere on this case. Harry’s experience and skills are needed, as the killer’s MO is similar to that of one killer who escaped Harry and still haunts his dreams. This novel os one of Nesbo’s best, featuring skillfully developed characters, intricate plot and suspenseful twists, all hallmarks of a master storyteller.

Nance

Lilac Girls

Martha Hall Kelly

paperback fiction

Based on real events and  people, this is the story of the Ravensbruck Rabbits–74 women prisoners in the Ravensbruck concentration camp.  We meet three women:  an American socialite who volunteers to help French citizens obtain asylum in the U.S. as Hitler’s armies invade Europe, a German docctor who serves the Reich at Ravensbruck camp, and a young Polish girl who joined the resistance before being captured and sent to Ravensbruck.  Drawing upon a decade of research, the author reconstructs what life was like in Ravensbruck.  More than a war story, this is a tale of how the strength of women’s bonds can carry them through the most difficult situations.  A compelling historical read.

–Nance

Beartown

Fredrik Backman

paperback fiction

The bestselling author of A Man Called Ove tells the story of a hockey town paralyzed by scandal.  Jobs are disappearing and Beartown is slowly dying; so for its citizens, hockey is everything.  This is the story of what happens to the town when 15-year-old Maya attends a party at the star hockey player’s home.  Things get out of hand, and this affects Beartown forever.   Ove provides rich character development and skilled handling of the tragedy and its effects on an insular town.  Dark at times; but love, sacrifice and the bonds of friendship and family shine through, offering hope and redemption.

–Nance

Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks

Annie Spence

nonfiction

Spence is a librarian and her book is an exquisitely funny collection of love letters and break-up notes to various books in her life.  Spence’s insights into her feelings about the books are witty, thought-provoking, and hilarious.  At the end, she offers wonderful suggestions of “Book Hookups (You and Two Books,” “Readin’ Nerdy (Books about Librarians,” “Blind Date (Good Books with Bad Covers,” “For Keeps (Books I’ll Never Break up With),” and many others.  This is a book for all book lovers.  Great gift!

–Nance

The Female Persuasion

Meg Wolitzer

hardcover fiction

Meg Wolitzer shines a beacon on what it means to be a woman living today. In her keely observant, multilayered and compelling novel, she brings to life four vivid main characters: Greer, fresh out of college and seeking a mentor; her boyfriend Cory; her best friend Zee; and Faith Frank, a stylish and persuasive leader in the women’s movement. As the lives of these characters unfold, Wolitzer explores themes of friendship, “sisterhood”, ambition, sexual harassment, feminism and loyalty. While these themes are up-to-the-minute, the novel reads like a timeless classic.

Yvette

The Dry

Jane Harper

paperback fiction

The oppressive heat in drought-plagued Australia is as much a character in this book as the people are. A tragic event brings Aaron Falk back to the struggling town he was forced to leave twenty years before. Sometimes small towns contain too many memories and secrets to return to… Really good police procedural!

Debbie

Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Matthew Sullivan

paperback fiction

A quirky independent bookstore is the setting for this mystery that will have you rooting for Lydia to solve the clues left after one of her favorite customers dies. This is not a cozy but rather a convoluted, intriguing, rather dark foray into secrets and relationships both old and new. It’s excellent!

Debbie

Salt to the Sea

Ruta Sepetys

young adult

Chances are that you’ve never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff 1945 maritime disaster. That really happened. This terrific young adult novel follows four young people from vastly different backgrounds as they try to escape from Prussia when the Nazis are invading from the west and the Russians are encroaching from the east. This is emotionally engrossing historical fiction.

Debbie

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep

Joanna Cannon

paperback fiction

Quietly wonderful story of a neighborhood in England, 1976. Mrs. Creasy has gone missing, and 11-year-olds Grace and Tilly decide to spend their summer vacation finding her. The story progresses through their eyes and those of other neighborhood residents. Very charming and wise. As another reviewer said, “reminiscent of Scout Finch with shades of Flavia de Luce.” 

Georgiana

Good Morning, Midnight

Lily Brooks-Dalton

paperback fiction

This is a quiet, often sad, novel that asks the question: what endures when everything else is gone? A lonely astronomer, looking up, stays at the Arctic research facility after everyone else evacuates. A team of astronauts returning from Jupiter looks down and desperately listens for a signal. Something draws these two together. Read this novel for the beautiful language, vivid Arctic scenes and spinetingling revelation at the end.  

–Yvette

A Catalog of Birds

Laura Harrington

paperback fiction

Can you ever recover from the experience of war?  Set in the 1970’s, this lyrical novel explores the impact of the Vietnam War on pilot and painter Billy Flynn and his large family.  Told with a playwright’s pacing and ear for dialogue, and infused with a keen sense of the natural world, this is a hearbreaking, beautiful novel. 

–Yvette

Strong Heart

Charlie Sheldon

fiction/young adult

Ballard resident Charlie Sheldon has worked to protect the beauty and resources of the northwest coast and Olympic Peninsula for many years. His deep affinity for and extensive knowledge of the region shines through in this engaging story of a local man’s journey into the Olympic Peninsula wilderness with some friends and his reluctant granddaughter.  Great read for all lovers of nature, adventure, or PNW history–adult or young adult. 

Simple writing, good story, very satisfying ending. 

–Georgiana

Snowblind

Ragnar Jonasson

mystery

Are you looking for another nordic/ Scandinavian mystery series??? Here you go—a thoughtful police procedural set in snowy (very snowy) northern Iceland.  This is not as graphic and gory as some others of its ilk, which is kind of a refreshing change!  I think you’ll like it.

–Debbie

LIttle Fires Everywhere

Celeste Ng

hardcover fiction

“More than meets the eye” are words to remember in this excellently written novel about what happens when the (seemingly) picture perfect Richardson family meets free-wheeling single mom Mia and her daughter Pearl. Everyone (and every situation) has more layers than you think. I really liked this!

–Debbie

History of Wolves

Emily Fridlund

paperback fiction

As mysterious as a snowy forest, and as beautiful as thin ice, this book pulls you forward into the lives of the characters and never lets you go. It is primarily a coming of age story. Linda seems to find her purpose taking care of little Paul from across the lake, but things are not exactly as they seem and her actions have far reaching consequences. I can’t wait to see what this author does next. Finalist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize. 

-Yvette

To the Bright Edge of the World

Eowyn Ivey

paperback fiction

Eowyn Ivey (whose previous book “The Snow Child” is also wonderful) writes a love letter to Alaska in this visually beautiful, richly constructed, historically accurate and magically real novel. Like the state itself, this book is filled with adventure and romance. Every character is fully realized; every section wonderfully told. It is 1885 and Colonel Forrester explores the vast untamed area of the Wolverine River, while his wife waits, but not idly, in Vancouver, WA. This is an amazing book.  

Yvette

News of the World

Paulette Jiles

paperback fiction

Captain Kidd travels through Texas, giving readings from mostly current newspapers to an audience. It is 1870 and Texas is unsettled and wild. At a stop, he is offered a large sum of money to return a young girl, previoulsy held captive by the Kiowa, to her relatives. The girl is reluctant to leave her new family, but the two set out into danger and adventure. This is a western for people who don’t usually like Westerns.

–Yvette

The Dry

Jane Harper

paperback fiction

Great book!

–Megan