Archetype by M.D. Waters (Feb 2014)

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I loved this book. It’s futuristic, dystopian, scifi that should attract even those who, like me, don’t normally get into that genre.  I’m dying to read the sequel, Prototype, coming out next summer.  What I really like about this book is that you’re never really sure exactly who’s the good guy, and who’s the bad.  And with the bad guys, you’re not sure exactly how bad, or if the bad bits are actually kind of good.  There’s also romance, which is a plus on my checklist.  But again, you’re not sure whether the love is well-placed.  I’m reading another book, Parasite by Mira Grant, that reminds me a little of Waters’ Archetype, in that both deal with medical advances, and what they could mean for our future.  Corporate medicine, pharmaceutical giants, loom large — and don’t they loom large in our own lives lived off the printed page?  This real-world connection makes it easy to relate to and get absorbed in these fast-paced novels.  Hooray for M.D. Waters!  It’s too bad you’ll have to wait until February when it comes out — but put it on your list today!  Advance Reader’s Copy provided by Penguin.

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman (October 2013)

how-to-be-a-good-wife-emma-chapmanChapman has written a novel that reminds me of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper.  I suppose it also reminds me of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones.  It’s quite a good book, I couldn’t put it down.  How To Be a Good Wife is creepy in a slowly oozing sort of way.  It’s not slow, I don’t mean that — it moves along quickly enough.  I just mean it’s scary, but not in the monster jumps out of closet suddenly way.  There is no graphic violence.  There was physical harm in the main character’s past, but it is not described in detail.  The harm is mostly psychological, and it is a harm that is primarily part of the female experience: the roles we play as young women, as wives, as mothers.  The novel is about how hard it can be to be believed, and how quickly our experiences can be trivialized.  There were two junctures in the novel where I thought, “but why aren’t you doing the obvious?!”  But I believe now that the failure of the main character to do some key things to save herself, while not rational, is realistic.  We make choices.  And it’s not always about saving ourselves, when our freedom and vindication and attainment of justice means, for someone else, destruction.  There are many questions that linger after finishing this novel, in the best sense.  I can see this being a great read for book clubs.  Advance Readers Copy provided by BEA.

Morning Glory by Sarah Jio (Nov. 2013)

morningHaving grown up near Seattle, I knew the setting of this novel — the house boats on Lake Union.  It was a pleasure to read Morning Glory, by the native Seattlite, Jio, and to recognize many of the places mentioned.  I learned things I was less acquainted with, too, like the cultural strictures that even egalitarian Seattle women lived with in the late 50s, and the art scene.  The grief that the main character lives with is something I hope to never be more acquainted with.  Mostly, this was a pleasant, enjoyable, easy romantic suspense (but the mystery does not entail anything gory) that switches back and forth between the late 50s and the present, in the exact same location — the houseboats.  I pretty much gobbled up this book.  But I have to warn you:  one needs a tolerance for puzzle pieces fitting neatly together.  If you like your rough edges, you won’t like this book.  It’s not that everything ends up hunky dory.  There is real tragedy and unfairness, and real effort to survive and move on.  But the lives lived among the houseboats in this novel do end up intimately intertwined through the decades, in ways surprising and too perfect to be truly realistic.  It’s part of the fun of the story, how everything fits together.  But you have to be the “half-full” sort of reader to appreciate it; if you’re the “half-empty” sort, you might think “oh, pulease”, in spite of enjoying other aspects of the story and the writing.  Advance Reader’s Copy provided by BEA.

Escape by Perihan Magden (Sept 2012)

escapeThis is a short, quick, engrossing read that is additionally good literature.  I was taken with both the story — which is increasingly creepy and suspenseful as it unfolds — and the writing — which is poetic.  I enjoyed Magden’s previous book, Ali and Ramazan, but that book’s translation from the Turkish was awful.  Escape, however, is a very good translation.  Not that I know Turkish.  But the English flowed beautifully.  The story follows a mother and daughter who are completely isolated from other people, traveling every few weeks, months, or even days from one hotel to another, all over the world.  They always leave of a sudden, forsaking all their belongings in the hotel rooms, and we don’t know why until we start to figure it out about halfway through.  The primary narrator is the young girl, sometimes quite young, and sometimes a teenager, depending on the chapter.  Her chapters are interspersed with chapters narrated by the people who briefly interact with the mother and daughter, or who observe them.  This is a beautiful book in large part because it subtly challenges the reader to question assumptions, including one’s own pat moral convictions.  Highly recommended.  Advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher.

Little Century by Anna Keesey (June 2012)

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It’s been several days since I finished Little Century, but the images are still fresh.  I have a vision of Oregon at the turn of the 19th century, the smell of the land — sage and juniper and pine — on the high desert around Bend.  Yes, I was actually close by last month, in the mountains between the Willamette and Deschutes Rivers.  It’s Keesey’s vivid writing, though, that brings the land alive; and my recent visit, as well as growing up in the West, allows me to simply confirm: Little Century is the closest to the real thing you will get, without actually going there.  And the story itself — a girl coming of age and falling in love while being pulled in opposing directions by the range war rivalry between sheep herders and cattle men — is fascinating.  I remember reading a review of this book, and thinking, “should I?  Should I not buy it?”  I had decided against it, in part because this is her debut and I was unsure a “western” would get checked out by our patrons.  But after reading it, I bought it for the library.  It’s a can’t miss.  And I wouldn’t call it a “western” — Little Century crosses genre boundaries.  It’s literary, but so easy and delicious to read; it’s historical fiction; it’s a romance; it’s a mystery; and it should truly appeal to both men and women.  Highly recommended!

 

Trust Your Eyes by Linwood Barclay (Sept. 2012)

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In Trust Your Eyes, Linwood Barclay maintains his stride as a major author of thriller novels. This all-night entertainer is replete with thoroughly believable irony as the web of deceit becomes ever more tangled, sucking both perps and innocents into a frightening situation that escalates out of control to a climactic confrontation. Barclay maintains the integrity of his plot in the face of inventive twists through the clever device of a handicap that also represents a rare genius. His character development was suberb – it led me to hope for a sequel for the chance to revisit the innocents.  Get this book – you won’t go wrong.   — Art Perkins (Dad), advance reader’s copy provided by BEA

Roam by Alan Lazar (Nov. 2011) and The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn (Sept. 2011)

Who doesn’t like dogs?  (Well, if you don’t, poop on you).  Both stories are a lot of fun, being told from the point of view of their canine protagonists.  Spencer Quinn’s book is the fourth in the series.  I’ve read them all, and they’re all good.  I usually don’t pick up mysteries (though I’ve read most of Evanovich’s and James W. Hall’s books), but Quinn’s narrator, Chet, has my heart, because he gives a dog’s eye view on the world, and his voice is very believable. The story of Roam‘s dog is told by a human narrator, which makes the telling less hilarious and more sad.  But it ends well.  And the sadness didn’t bring on the tears.  It just intimately reinforced what animal lovers know: life is often hard for our furry friends.  But also, when life is hard for us, the devotion and love of our pets makes it so much better than it would ever be without them.

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