Michael is the manager of our Ravenna store. He has been a bookseller since Hector was a pup and still thinks it is the best job in the world. He reads mostly fiction believing that everything important is found in a good story.
Michael is the manager of our Ravenna store. He has been a bookseller since Hector was a pup and still thinks it is the best job in the world. He reads mostly fiction believing that everything important is found in a good story.
I chose this title as my staff pick when it was published in hardcover but perhaps the price was a deterrent. Now that Versions of Us is in paperback I am renewing my praise for this amazing first novel. Laura Barnett has written a smart, entertaining and ultimately extremely moving novel of how the choices made create the life and how a slightly different choice may lead to another life. Versions of Us posits three different roads diverging from a single chance meeting between a young man and woman. The roads are different, the love is real and the disappointments are real as well.
In 2014 Peter Miller owner of the eponymous book shop gave us Lunch at the Shop, a fresh, simple and delicious book devoted to creating lunch for those of us at work. Now he is back with a second effort, Five Ways to Cook Asparagus. If Lunch at the Shop was about eating well at work, Five Ways is about creating interesting, delicious and often simple meals at the end of the work day. Organized around groups of five (admittedly more than a bit arbitrary) Peter takes the reader through the week proceeding from simple to complicated (weekend meals). Five things to have in the larder, five ways to cook vegetables, and on. There are enough lip smacking recipes here to take the cook through many, many weeknights.
What a stunning debut novel. One of the Boys tells the story of two young brothers, taken by their father from their home in Kansas to what he promises will be a life of adventure in Albuquerque. What they discover is that their father is a drug addict and totally unable to take care of himself let alone his sons. Told by the older brother the reader follows their odyssey, compulsively turning the pages but dreading what might come on that next page. This is a great new voice. I can't wait for his next.
Kent Haruf is one of my most treasured writers. His quartet of novels Plainsong, Eventide, Benediction and Our Souls at Night are as close to perfect as any books I have read. Haruf tells the stories of ordinary people, lives where not much happens yet everything that matters happens. In Our Souls at Night, Haruf tells the story of a widow, Addie Moore who makes an unusual proposition to her neighbor Louis Waters. How this relationship develops, the impact it has on their families and townsfolk makes for a touching, honest and unforgettable story.
This charming picture book is the perfect bedtime read. In it the Littlest Family enjoys a full day meeting friends, finding adventure and best of all, finding home and peace. The illustrations are exquisite, perfectly matching the quiet, poetic text. Martin perfectly conveys the small pleasures that combine to make a perfect day. This is a book that will enchant and reward adults as well as small children especially during these trying times.
The stories in the wonderful collection aren't strictly about criminals, but most of the them do involve love in many of its strange manifestations. Trueblood is an incisive writer who plumbs the depths of human nature in both direct and glancing ways. Comparisons to Alice Munro aren't off the mark. Give her a try. You won't be disappointed.
Part survial story, part love story, part survivalstory Wintering is totally engrossing. It is set in northern Minnesota in the fictional town of Gunflint along the shore of Lake Superior. Though the story covers about 60 years in the history of the family and the town most of it takes place during one late fall, early winter when 18 year old Gus' father takes him into relatively unmapped wilderness. What begins as a sort of father/son trek rapidly turns into an ordeal of survival. Gus relates this story to the woman who was his father's lover and the caretaker of his grandmother. She in turn enlightens Gus on the missing parts of his family history. Beautifully written, full of incredible description of life.
Donald Ray Pollock is one of the best writers to come down the pike in a long, long time. His first book of short stories, Knockemstiff knocked me over. Powerful, funny, deranged; they are some of the best stories this side of Flannery O'Connor. His new novel is the best book I have read this year. Set in Appalachia in 1917, it tells the story of a hapless trio of brothers, Cane, Cob and Chimney, the most unlikely desperadoes you will ever encounter as they make their way north from Georgia hoping to make it to Canada and safety. Laugh-out-loud funny, violent, and oddly moving, The Heavenly Table is unforgettable.
This quiet, stunning debut novel by agent turned writer Bill Clegg is one of the best books of the year. Set in the aftermath of unimaginable tragedy, the novel explores how people find the ability to go on. June, whose daughter, daughter's fiancee, boyfriend, and ex-husband all perish, takes off, driving aimlessly west, ending up in a motel on the Washington coast. Her boyfriend's mother, the town outcast, drifts into the clutches of a shady financial schemer. Told in simple, beautiful prose, this is an unforgettable story.
I picked this book when it was first published in hardcover, but I wasn't successful in moving enough of you to purchase it so I am giving it another try now that it is in paperback and more affordable. Under Major... was one of my favorite books of the last year; a completely original, wickedly funny, sometimes scandalous, sometimes moving fractured fairy tale. It is unlike anything you are apt to encounter. Follow Lucien (Lucy) as he pursues his fortune in the castle of the Baron Von Aux and competes for the love of the fair Klara.
Molly Prentiss NAILS the art scene in New York-1980. Artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring are just starting to make it big in the exploding art/money world of downtown New York. Her main characters; an Argentinian painter fleeing the turmoil of the Dirty War and a brilliant arts writer gifted with synesthesia are unforgettable. I couldn't put this down and finished it in two big gulps.
Finding Winnie is a nearly perfect picture book; a great story, well told and married to exquisite illustrations. Linday Mattick tells the story of her great grandfather who rescues a bear cub, names her Winnie after his hometown of Winnipeg and takes her with him when he joins the Canadian army at the beginning of World War I. When Harry is called to the front he is forced to leave Winnie behind at the London Zoo. There she meets one Robin Milne, the son of A.A. Milne. You might guess the rest for Winnie is the inspiration for that most unforgettable bear, Winnie-the-Pooh. The magic of this book lies not just in the story, as wonderful as it is, but in the marvelous illustrations. Blackall won the Caldecott Award for this book and it is well deserved. Did I say I loved this book?
Black River is a beautifully wrought debut novel with strong echoes of two of my favorite authors, Kent Haruf and Larry McMurtry. Set in Montana it is the story of of Wes Carver, a former corrections officer who has returned to his home town of Black River with his wife's ashes and the news that the man who horribly maimed him is up for parole. the novel moves easily back and forth in time and explores the themes of forgiveness and redemption in restrained, controlled prose. This is a must-read.
I have been a fan of Susan Hermann Loomis for many years enjoying her books from the first cookbooks on to her naratives including the wonderful On Rue Tatin. Susan decamped from Seattle to France and took on a delapidated convent outside Paris and turned it into a marvelous home and cooking school. One of my great wishes is to take a class from her in that setting. In the meantime I content myself with her books. In a French Kitchen combines stories of local friends and characters with 85 delicious sounding recipes. A great way to start the new year.
This amazing book of short stories comes with high praise from several writers whose work I admire, including Daniel Woodrell, George Pelecanos and Charles Johnson. Nicholson's stories all take place in Washington, D.C. in the neighborhoods of working class blacks. In prose that is deceptively simple Nicholson brings his characters to vivid life. He reminds me of Ralph Ellison. He is that good.
Megan Kruse's debut novel is a powerful, deeply moving story of a family caught in domestic violence. Kruse limns all her characters in with a profound loving intensity. I read this book torn between the beauty of the writing and a deep dread of what would happen to each of the members of this scarred family. Her portraits of the son, haltingly coming to terms with his sexuality, the daughter trying to find a way to the light and the mother torn with trying to protect her children and holding her family intact. This is a book to treasure and I can't wait for her next.
When Lucky Us was published in hardcover I chose it as my staff pick and few of you trusted me enough to purchase it, so now with the publication of the paperback edition I am giving you a second chance. The book is a classic from one of the best opening lines I have ever read, straight through to the end. A coming of age story, a family saga, triumphs and tragedies, all told with incredible style and grace. The story moves during the forties from the Midwest to Hollywood, to New York and London. The sisters, Eva and Iris endure poverty, enjoy some high living and show us what unconditional love really is. Treat yourself to Lucky Us. You won't regret it.
The Cartel is a page turner, ripped from the headlines book about Mexico and the drug wars. Winslow has written a brutal, heartbreaking novel that leaves the reader depressed at the possibility for any kind of hopeful resolution. The pace is breathtaking and 600+ pages fly by. The brutality is graphic, but there are also strange comic elements. The drug kings aspire to a kind of "normal" life of a wealthy corporate type. This is a story you won't soon forget. A week after I finished the book, "El Guapo" , the head of the Sinaloa cartel escaped from prison. The Cartel opens with the escape from a maximum security prison of Adan Barrera, the fictional head of the Sinaloa cartel. Truth is stranger than fiction.
I have long been a fan of debut novels. The pleasure of discovering a new writer, someone with a fresh voice, a new way of telling the story is one not to be missed. We Are Not Ourselves is the first novel from Matthew Thomas and it is a stunning, emotionally devastating and redemptive story of three generations of an immigrant Irish family. Eileen, the mother is the child of an alcoholic father and has dreams of escaping her Queens childhood for a bigger piece of the American Dream. When she finds Ed, she thinks she has found her ticket. It doesn't work that way. We Are Not Ourselves is profoundly moving, sad in ways that moved me to tears and yet oddly redemptive as it points us to what is truly important in life. This is not to be missed.
This memoir is unforgettable, challenging everything we assume we take for granted about identity and sense of self. After suffering a trauma and waking on a train platform in India David MacLean has total amnesia. His amnesia is determined to be the result of a reaction to an antimalarial medication. His recovery is in fits and starts. He has memory of song lyrics, but not of family or friends. He has no memory of his girl friend and the attempts at reconstructing his identity are by turns harrowing and hilarious.
Hausfrau is the harrowing, unforgettable story of Anna, an American married to a Swiss banker, living in a suburb of Zurich. Anna is unmoored, depressed and drifting through her life almost as though she were sleepwalking. Essbaum is a poet and her use of language, the choice of the perfect word, the minute interruptions in syntax that reflect Anna's unease, all amplify the anguish she feels. This is a beautiful work, one that resonates long after you finish it.
This book has everything going for it; simple, eloquent text; vibrant pictures and most of all a celebration of what really matters in life. CJ's grandmother is the best teacher, offering insight and instruction in an easy encouraging manner. The ways she shows CJ the delights of the mundane, how to see the beauty in the seemingly ugly are wonderful. Last Stop is a colorful exploration of the city and the unexpected joys found on a Sunday morning bus ride.
One of my hobbies is collecting and reading cookbooks.Twelve Recipesis a great addition to that collection. On the face of it it posits a fairly novel idea; that there are only 12 recipes and all others are variations on these 12 themes. I'm not sure I totally agree but I find his premise loaded with potential. The genesis of the book was inspired by the author's son's departure for college. The recipes and hints are valuable for the beginning cook as well as the experienced. Ask me about the pasta carbonara.
The Accident is a smart and intelligent suspense novel set in the world of publishing and guaranteed to keep you up way past your bedtime. Pavone starts with the premise of a block-buster manuscript; one that will destroy careers if it is ever published. Following the attempts to silence the editor, her assistant, anyone who has looked at the manuscript makes for a real page turner. This is the perfect book for a long plane ride or a couple of days on the beach.
In The Burning Room Michael Connelly has scored again. He has written more than 15 novels featuring the world-weary Hieronymus Bosch. And unlike most writers of series he has never gone stale, or resorted to phoning it in. In The Burning Room, Bosch now nearing retirement is paired with a young detective, new to the job. How Bosch schools the green cop is as enjoyable as watching them unravel the murder. If you haven't read Connelly this is a good place to start. I have read all his books, and found them all most enjoyable.
Falling From Horses is my second favorite book of 2014. This book has everything going for it; ranching in eastern Oregon, the Great Depression, and Hollywood movie-making.
Young Bud Frazer has decamped from his hardscrabble ranching childhood to make his way in Hollywood as a stunt rider in the movies. Along the way he makes a friend of Lily, an aspiring screenwriter. Falling From Horses is filled with some of the finest writing this side of the Pecos. Sentence after sentence begs for rereading, they are so perfect, her choice of phrasing, so fresh. I didn't want this book to end.
If you haven't read D'Ambrosio before this is a good place to start. These essays, many of which appeared in the Stranger, are intense. His writing is immediate; full of a love of language, probing and wide-ranging. He writes of suicide; the puzzling aspects of experience; family and its fragility. D'Ambrosio is a rare talent and this book is a treasure. Did I say his short stories are also incredible?
When Aunt Mattie Got Her Wings tells the tale of Lottie the chicken's beloved Aunt Mattie's last days on earth. Aunt Mattie has lived a long, fulfilled life and is tired and ready for what is next. Mathers tells the her story and the pain and loss her good friends Lottie and Herbie experience with grace and a touch of humor. Death here is treated as another part of life; a profound and moving experience and Mathers' clear, loving text and pictures provide a beautiful way for children to approach the concept of death.
This book should earn a place with the other children's classics, The Tenth Good Thing About Barney andBadger's Parting Gifts.
This is the perfect beach read. Smart, fast-paced and impossible to put down. The fact that the author is a screenwriter is evident throughout, but while the novel is incredibly cinematic, it is by no means an extended screenplay. Hayes has created three dimensional characters, including a villain, though thoroughly evil, who is somehow understandable in his single minded attempt to bring down the U.S. The hero has his own demons and an intriguing backstory. I found myself staying up way too late with this book and practically ripping the pages from the binding as I raced to the conclusion.
This is a charming, moving and utterly delightful picture book that will enchant the reader as well as the one read to. Dubuc's deceptively simple illustrations beautifully enhance the text. The story is a simple one of help given, friendship formed, loss and recovery. There are many lovely picture books published every season but this is one of the best. Give yourself a treat and spend a few minutes reading this.
Whether you work in a shop, an office or are working from home, there is plenty of inspiration to be found in this book. Peter is an old friend, the proprietor of the esteemed Peter Miller Books in Belltown, but I had no idea of this added talent of his. Lunches that can be prepared in the back room, others that can be started at home and finished at work, there are enough meals here to inspire for a long time. Bon appetit!
Wiley Cash's second novel is a worthy successor to his excellent first novel, A Land More Kind Than Home. This outing is a straight-ahead mystery involving two young sisters, one wise beyond her years, their ne'er do well father and a couple of really bad men. Cash is a great storyteller and reading him is a true pleasure.
In Benediction Kent Haruf has given us another spare, unforgettable story of small town America. In his earlier novels, Plainsong andEventide, both set in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado, Haruf created a town and people that live ordinary lives but resonate with the reader for years. Anyone who read Plainsong will never forget the brothers and in Benediction Haruf has given us Dad Lewis, who while living his last days recollects the good and bad of his life. There is a subplot involving a minister struggling with his faith that further deepens the story. Haruf's prose is so simple, so clean and clear that I felt totally present in Dad's last days. This is a book to treasure.
The Two Hotel Francforts is a wonderfully atmospheric novel set in 1940 Lisbon. Leavitt perfectly captures the fevered sense of those who have made it to the edge of Europe and are waiting for a ship that will take them to the U.S. and safety. Leavitt concentrates his story on two couples, one American and one British who have fled Nazi occupied Paris. With lives turned upside down, the two husbands begin an affair. Beautifully written, sexually and politically charged, this is an extraordinary work.
This book is a wonder. Not a recipe book per se, though there are great recipes included--it is a celebration of pie, all kinds of pie. Kate is a poet, a damn fine poet, and it shows in her writing. The illustrations by Jessica Lynn Bonin are a delight as well. If you ever get to Edison check out her store/gallery, The Lucky Dumpster. This book is the perfect gift for anyone who loves pie. And who doesn't?
Set during the epic 1927 flood of the Mississippi, The Tilted World is a fevered, swirling story that propels the reader, threatening much as the river threatens the landscape. Once again as he did in Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, Franklin has created vivid, unforgettable characters in the bootlegger and his wife and the revenuers closing in on them. In The Tilted World the river is, in many ways, the major character, always threatening the lives of the other characters. This is a book that you will want to read in a single sitting.
Don't be put off by the brevity of this book, for it is one of the best books you will read this year. Using the horrific explosion at a dance hall in the small Ozark town of West Table in the 1930's, Woodrell explores the impact on the town, on the survivors, and especially on his grandmother Alma. The Maid's Version demands a careful read--Woodrell's sentences are as beautiful, as perfect as any you will encounter.
A Good Man is Hard to Find is a wonderful entry point to the greatest American short story writer. I have never forgotten my reaction in finishing the first story in this collection. The bottom fell out and my world was forever altered. Innocence, tragedy, humor, grotesquery, religious longing, it is all there is spades. After reading these you will be ready for the Complete Stories.
Carl Hiaasen is at the top of his form in Bad Monkey, another over-the-top mystery that could only take place in Southern Florida. A detached arm and an almost hairless monkey are just for starters as Hiaasen unravels this hilarious yarn. I laughed out loud many times so this may not be the best book to read on a plane unless you want to explain to your seatmate the hilarity on nearly every page. This is the perfect beach read: smart, funny and not too taxing. Enjoy.
All That Is is one of the best books I have read in years. I read this book slowly, resisting devouring it in one sitting, though it is that compelling, but wanting to savor it as long as possible. The writing is that good, the story of Phil Bowman, that engrossing. The novel follows him from his experience in WWII through his years as an editor and encompasses the triumphs and equally the disappointments of his life. The novel is filled with sentences, paragraphs that took my breath away and demanded second and third readings. Though the life of Bowman is completely different from mine in the particulars I often felt it was my life Salter was writing.
The Andalucian Friend brings us yet another great Scandinavian mystery. Set is Sweden and Mallorca this story is incredibly cinematic; beginning with a car chase and never letting up as it propels the reader through a landscape where the good guys and the bad guys are never what they seem. This is the first of a trilogy and I can't wait for the second installment.
If you think you know Mother Goose, think again. In addition to some of the usual Mother Goose rhymes included in every collection, Petra Mathers has found and illustrated many wonderful rhymes you haven't heard before. You will find "Little Miss Muffet," of course, but also the delightful tongue twister "Betty Botter Bought Some Butter," as well as some other darker ryhmes that have been dropped from recent collections. Mather's illustrations alone are worth the price of the book; whimsical, cheery and always enhancing the text. This book is a treasure for the whole family.
This charming and moving picture book is William Joyce at the top of his form. A tribute to a man who loved books and lived his life devoted to them. Joyce's marvelous illustrations carry the story along magically. This is the perfect book to show the wonder of reading to a little one and to remind adults what a wonder a book is. An aside; I had the pleasure of meeting the inestimable Bill Morris and this is the perfect tribute to a great man.
If there was a god, or if life was fair, William Boyd would have won the Booker and every other prize. He is that great. His novels are compelling; each different. Waiting for Sunrise is set in Vienna and London during the early days of psychoanalysis and the run-up to wine.