This is the perfect answer for a book group looking for charm, literacy, and humor. The story of Major Pettigrew and Mrs. Ali and their their families in a middle-class English village will delight readers worn to the bone by the many angst-ridden and torturous family novels of today. Simonson offers a contemporary tale, but with a sensibility and sensitivity to the mores of a generation ago. Wonderful reading!
— Marian Nielsen, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA
An abandoned young girl narrates this tale set in 1974 in a small Wisconsin town as it plummets and tumbles into heartbreak. 'You don't belong here,' the townspeople tell the mixed-race schoolgirl and anyone else who is not like them. Revoyr's voice vibrates with the spiritual and physical isolation - without adornment or illusion - that is reminiscent of the writings of Carson McCullers. The pacing is perfect, and Wingshooters captures fully the tragedy of personal rejection resulting from racial tension as it explores both connection and loss and the enduring bonds of family.
— James Harris, Prairie Lights Books, Iowa City, IA
HeLa cells been the source of profound advancements in medical, biological and genetic research, but up until now the story of Henrietta Lacks and her legacy has never been heard. Her story served as the spur for reform movements in medical ethics and patient privacy, and Skloot shares the details with both candor and sensitivity.
— John Clukey, Sam Weller's Books, Salt Lake City, UT
Sarah is the typical working mother -- too busy, multi-tasking, trying to be all things to her family and her co-workers. While driving on a busy, rain-slickened highway, she fumbles with her cellphone and, glancing up, sees nothing but red brake lights in front of her. She survives the rollover accident but is subsequently diagnosed with 'left neglect,' a condition in which her mind is unable to recognize anything left of the center of her body. The story of Sarah's fight through rehabilitation, her determination to get back to work, and her family's support and understanding is one of willpower and resolve that engages the reader from beginning to end.
— Nancy Simpson, The Book Vault, Oskaloosa, IA
Room is like no other book I have ever read. This emotionally powerful story of young Jack and his mother who are held in captivity for seven years is both a heart-wrenching testament to the power of the love between a mother and child and a riveting story of overcoming horrible circumstances. Emma Donohue has written one of those rare books that you will remember reading your entire life, as you will be altered by the experience.
— Lanora Hurley, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI
This novel seeped into me slowly, but ultimately I was as utterly absorbed in it as it was in me. Goodman skillfully mingles high-tech IPOs, motherless daughters, tree-sitting environmentalists, mystical Judaism, foodie sensuousness, and three distinct love stories - and all with none of the usual head-spinning associated with that list. I was rapt, and truly delighted.
— Becky Dayton, The Vermont Book Shop, Middlebury, VT
McKibben has written his most important book about humankind's most pressing issue: global climate change and what it means. This book is a wake-up call about the 'tough new planet' we've created with our profligate behavior over the past 200 years. Read this book and recommend it widely. Hopefully you and your neighbors will get to work on solutions.
— Gary Colliver, Windows on the World-Books & Art, Mariposa, CA
Oregon State University Press
In this novel, readers are treated to stories upon stories unfolding in a tiny town on the Oregon Coast. Deeply infused with both old Irish language and Native American tales, the portrait of Neawanaka is beautifully painted through the lives and loves of its inhabitants. They dream and scheme, fight with and turn to each other for support, grieve and heal, all as the river flows through their days. Mink River is a rich and magical read!
— Sheryl Cotleur, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
Tracy Chevalier brings history alive in Remarkable Creatures, which fictionalizes the story of Mary Anning, a young fossil hunter, who in the early 1800s made a discovery along the English seacoast that challenged the world views of geologists and theologians. Chevalier's skillful storytelling takes the reader back in history to walk in the footprints of this remarkable woman.
— Carol Hicks, Bookshelf At Hooligan Rocks, Truckee, CA
Henry is a writer whose first book was wildly successful. When harsh criticism greets his second work, he retreats from the literary world. A request for help by the author of a strangely compelling play draws him deeper and deeper into the bizarre reality of its writer. While this plot may seem simple, its many-faceted story draws readers into a complex drama of guilt and the attempt to justify a horrific past.
— Linda Walonen, Bay Books, San Ramon, CA
Fresh From the Headlines
This is a very timely novel on the insidiousness of bullying and how it can affect all ages, not just kids on the playground. A Thousand Cuts opens with a school shooting committed by a teacher. An open-and-shut case becomes much more when Detective Inspector Lucia May pieces together the testimony from various witnesses and realizes that assigning the blame is not as easy as expected.
— Laura Lucy, White Birch Books, North Conway, NH
Jim Lynch's latest novel is marvelous -- it inspires delight and wonder in the natural world, illuminates the follies of border rivalries and drug wars, and examines the vagaries of small town life through the experiences of Brandon Vanderkool, a beguiling amateur naturalist whose severe dyslexia makes him an unlikely border patrolman. This is a funny, sweet, yet cautionary tale for our time.
— Mary Gleysteen, Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, WA
Nine people are trapped in the Indian consulate's visa office after a devastating earthquake. As they start to melt down emotionally, Uma, a grad student, suggests they each tell a story about one thing in their lives. The stories they tell are incredible, and you will feel as though you have known and understand each character as they wait for rescue or death. An amazing read.
— cinda meister, Booksmart, Morgan Hill, CA
Shep Knacker has been planning for his 'Afterlife' for decades, but life's pesky details always got in the way. Finally, he's ready to take off, even if he has to leave his wife behind. But when she is diagnosed with a deadly illness, Shep finds himself tied yet again to his employer so he can pay the hospital bills. This satisfying novel illustrates the arbitrary nature of the whole medical system -- including the things we bring on ourselves, the things we have no control over, and how we choose to deal with both.
— Alice Meyer, Beaverdale Books, Des Moines, IA
Families - And Other Challenges
Lin Yulan, a revolutionary and leader of the Chinese feminist movement, reluctantly returns to her homeland after a self-imposed exile. The purpose is to join with her two daughters and three granddaughters for a guided tour of 'the new China' in an effort for the nearly estranged women to reconnect. Each woman arrives in China with her own agenda, and each discovers that some shameful secrets are simply too heavy to bear alone.
— Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
Unintended consequences can destroy the dreams of those who fervently believe they know best. Dr. Dick Slepy totes his wife and his four daughters from their home in Michigan to Africa as missionaries. He is not capable of seeing the spell Africa will weave on his daughters and wife. His stern manner is no contest for the myth and magic they will encounter. Powerful and beautifully written, this family drama vividly demonstrates the devastation of dark secrets.
— Deon Stonehouse, Sunriver Books, Sunriver, OR
The isolated Appalachian setting in Bloodroot is a powerful, realistic, and truly American stage on which basic human traits emerge under the heavy hand of hardship and poverty. This multi-generational story is a must-read for those who wish to expand their horizons, experience a part of our country often ignored, and face challenges head-on through honest and sparse prose. I'm still reeling.
— Janel Feierabend, Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
The Lonely Polygamist is the story of 45-year-old Golden Richards, a hapless soul, whose four wives, 28 children, and one paramour run his life. By turns laugh-out-loud funny and hauntingly sad, this novel is a big, fat, satisfying read that will make you reconsider what it means to be part of a family. Plus, it contains the naughtiest, goofiest 11-year-old boy who will ever break your heart.
— Roberta Dyer, Broadway Books, Portland, OR
Aimee Bender's keen eye and delightfully quirky sensibilities are enchantingly reflected in this novel. When nine-year-old Rose discovers that she can taste people's emotions in the food they prepare, she learns of her mother's despair. Meanwhile, her older brother is increasingly remote and her father blissfully naive. As Rose advances awkwardly into young adulthood, the depth of her family's peculiarities is revealed. Heartbreaking, sweet, and thoroughly engrossing.
— Michael Keefe, Annie Bloom's Books, Portland, OR
Alice I Have Been is a richly woven fictional account of the life of the girl who became Alice in Wonderland. It's a mystery and a love story that follows Alice into adulthood after both tragic and wonderful experiences. A creative and well-written book, perfect for book group discussions.
— Doreen Pierson, Chapter One Book Store, Hamilton, MT
Using fictional diary entries, Boyd has created a magnificent portrait of a man whose life touches on many of the high and low points of 20th century. Real historical figures are deftly woven into a narrative so real it's hard to believe that the diarist, Logan Montstuart, isn't truly the writer. As you follow his life, the humor, folly, adventure, and pathos will make you sad when this life must come to an end.
— Kathi Kirby, Powell's City of Books, Portland, OR
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Dante may have had his Beatrice, but Paul Gustavson has Stella, a venerable pooch who is his guiding light for matters of the mind and heart. Their ongoing dialogue is smart, sweet, and poignant, and together they take on their fears of thunderstorms and seedy bars (hers) and normal, loving relationships without the buffer of alcohol (his), each bringing out the best in each other. This book is clever, heartwarming, and engaging.
— Emily Crowe, Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, MA
This is an engrossing read about Ralph Waldo Emerson's wife. When her marriage becomes less than fulfilling, Lidian's friendship with Henry David Thoreau turns into more. This book has been a favorite with our store's book club and others that visit our store. If you like historical fiction, this is sure to please.
— Shelly Plumb, Harleysville Books, Harleysville, PA
Although Amish country may seem a strange setting for kidnapping and murder, Pastor Troyer and Professor Branden are called in to help find both a murderer and a kidnapped boy. They must prove their investigative skills to both the Amish and the local sheriff. The Amish setting is as strange and intriguing as that of any foreign country, and the strong-willed characters challenge the reader's prejudices and values. This novel, the first in a series, opens the door for further exploration of the nature of these characters and their culture.
— Wendy Foster Leigh, The King's English, Salt Lake City, UT
Faithful Place by Tana French is just plain good storytelling. Frank, an undercover cop, is dragged back into his complicated and violent personal past by a shocking discovery, and as a result finds himself at the center of a riveting tale about family and how even loving relationships can turn destructive. The importance of Dublin as a setting - both in the present and recent past - can't be overlooked as French makes the city a living, breathing character lurking in the back ground of this compelling tale.
— Charlotte Tuinman, M is for Mystery, San Mateo, CA
M. L. Malcolm weaves an engrossing tale of a man in conflict with himself. Leo Hoffman's unique mastery of languages offers him opportunities that motivate choices with far-reaching consequences in the years between the World Wars. Beginning in Budapest, Leo's journey into self-deception will take him into the subcultures of Paris, Vienna, and Shanghai and threaten his integrity and his love for the beautiful Martha Levy. Readers will be captivated by the well-researched history, exciting international intrigue, and one man's enduring passion.
— Jane Glaser, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI
Emily St. John Mandel's second novel proves that she is a writer to watch out for. Anton Waker wants out of the life of corruption in which he grew up. Unfortunately, it isn't an easy thing to shake. Elena, a college drop-out in the U.S. illegally, wants never to return to her isolated hometown again. These two form a love based on half-truths and outright lies. This is a novel of suspense, mystery, and international intrigue, a tale of family loyalties and the daunting price that some must pay for their independence.
— Joe Eichman, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO
Burden's memoir of her branch of the family descended from Cornelius Vanderbilt is a delightful cautionary tale of the super rich who inherit a large fortune. The family's unraveling, erratic behavior and eccentricities make up a morbidly fascinating story.
— Avery Dickey, Inkwood Books, Tampa, FL
Kristin was very much a city girl until a writing assignment brought her to Mark's small plot of land, where he was growing food to
feed many families. It was love at first sight, at least for the farming. Falling for Mark didn't take too much time after that. The resulting CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)is a new model in which members can be completely supported by the produce, meat, eggs, and cheese they can pick up weekly, year round. This is a fascinating story of what love of the land and the desire to feed people can do for individuals and communities, and the potential impact that could have on a global scale.
— Jackie Blem, Tattered Cover Bookstore, Denver, CO
This is a beautifully written, heart-stomping, provocative memoir about a daughter's 17-year estrangement from her schizophrenic mother and their rapprochement following the mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer. Just as the daughter tries to recreate her own life after a traumatic brain injury, she is faced with revisiting her broken childhood via a cache of physical mementos saved by her mother. This memoir provokes so many questions, not just about mothers and daughters, but also about genius and sanity, abuse and resiliency, and what family members owe each other.
— Nancy Colalillo, Tome on the Range Books, Las Vegas, NM
Yes, there have been a lot of dog memoirs lately, but there are several reasons why Oogy stands out from the pack. First, Oogy is no ordinary dog story. As a puppy he was used as bait for fighting dogs, mangled, and left in a cage to die, but Oogy's good nature led him to be saved against the odds. Second, the story is as much about the author and his family as it is about the dog. It offers fascinating insights into the human-animal bond and the way that rescue is as enriching to the rescuer as it is to the animal being rescued. Oogy is a heartening story and a terrific read.
— Carol Schneck, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI
Impatient With Desire tells the story of the trials of the Donner Party through the eyes of Tamsen Donner -- wife, mother, adventurer and, ultimately, survivor -- who made great sacrifices for the sake of her family. Her story is told simply, in letter and journal format, and, in the end, you'll understand and appreciate the pioneer spirit that is the foundation of the westward movement.
— Mary Toni, R.J. Julia Booksellers, Madison, CT
Every war has produced seminal fiction, but in the case of Vietnam there have been few examples. Marlantes now increases that list with a towering, majestic novel of men in combat. Like all great literature, his work transcends a particular war because of the universality of his characters and themes. This is a novel that will endure.
— Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, MI
Knowing her unstable husband has been reading her diary, a desperate woman uses it to manipulate him, creating a false tale, obscuring her true motives, and pushing him ever-closer to the edge. Shadow Tag is Erdrich's most compelling novel in years; a gripping portrait of an unstable marriage stumbling towards its inevitable, yet shocking dissolution.
— Rich Rennicks, Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe, Asheville, NC
Random House Trade Paperbacks
Honest, forthright Jacob de Zoet, the nephew of a Dutch preacher, journeys to the Nagasaki of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, at the peak of Dutch trade with Japan. Through his eyes, we see this absorbing tale of the clash of cultures, replete with political machinations, plots within plots, graft and corruption, unrequited love, and the struggle of the 'good' to persevere throughout it all. A thoroughly satisfying read!
— Lynne Almeida, Spellbinder Books & Coffee Bar, Bishop, CA
Exciting New Voices
The House of Tomorrow sparkles with great dialogue between its two main characters, Sebastian, a home schooled science nerd, and Jared, a heart transplant recipient and punk rock devotee. Their respective guardians, the strong-willed Nana and the worried and overworked Janice, have to struggle with the realities of living a full life. When their worlds collide, it's a matter of how one chooses to live -- and we go willingly along for the ride in this debut novel that perfectly captures teen angst, spirit, and heart.
— Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX
While the quirky characters behind the headlines get front-page treatment in this moving and finely-crafted novel, it is also a valentine to the struggling newspaper business and the seemingly endangered species of editors and journalists who try to produce quality journalism. Ripe for discussion!
— Molly Young, Orinda Books, Orinda, CA
Reagan Arthur Books/Back Bay Books
In fun and bittersweet bites, this debut comic novel follows a German couple who emigrate to England during World War II, where they set about becoming quintessentially English, with all the trappings: orange marmalade, thatched cottage, golf club, and other the bits and bobs. It's a delightful diversion for all Anglophiles!
— Mark David Bradshaw, Watermark Books, Wichita, KS
Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is a story quilted with the patterns of vibrant characters whose lives become intricately connected to the emotional healing of 12-year- old CeeCee. Beth Hoffman's first novel is a tribute to the strength of women who have survived tragedy and loss to become beacons for others who suffer from emotional scars. I couldn't put it down, and book group members will be richer for having read CeeCee's story.
— Nancy Baker, The Blue Marble, Fort Thomas, KY