Spot-Lit for April 2014

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is headed your way this month. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction    

American Romantic    Frog Music    Storied Life    Lovers at the Chameleon Club    Plover

American Romantic  by Ward Just
Frog Music  by Emma Donoghue
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry  by Gabrielle Zevin
Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932  by Francine Prose
The Plover  by Brian Doyle

First Novels / Fiction

Whiskey Barons    Past the Shalllows    Sedition    Steal the Summer    Skookum

The Whiskey Baron  by Jon Sealy
Past the Shallows  by Favel Parrett
Sedition  by Katharine Grant
Steal the North  by Heather Bergstrom
Skookum Summer  by Jack Hart

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Until You're Mine    Destroyer Angel    Waiting for Wednesday    Cold Nowhere    By Its Cover

Until You’re Mine  by Samantha Hayes
Destroyer Angel  by Nevada Barr
Waiting for Wednesday  by Nicci French
The Cold Nowhere  by Brian Freeman
By Its Cover  by Donna Leon

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Goblin Emperor    Bird Eater    Days of the Deer    Afterparty    Battle Royale

The Goblin Emperor  by Katherine Addison
The Bird Eater  by Ania Ahlborn
The Days of the Deer  by Liliana Bodoc
Afterparty  by Daryl Gregory
Battle Royale – Remastered  by Koushun Takami  

Romance

                            Bet    Hotelles    Far Gone

The Bet  by Rachel Van Dyken
Hotelles  by Emma Mars
Far Gone  by Laura Griffin

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Spot-Lit for March 2014

Spot-Lit

Here’s our hand-picked list of fiction titles coming out in March. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place holds.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

Bark    Orchard of Lost Souls    Curse on Dost    Blazing World    Boy, Snow, Bird

Bark: stories  by Lorrie Moore
The Orchard of Lost Souls  by Nadifa Mohamed
A Curse on Dostoevsky  by Atiq Rahimi
The Blazing World  by Siri Hustvedt
Boy, Snow, Bird  by Helen Oyeyemi

First Fiction

Redeployment    Burnable Book    Wives of Los Alamos    Precious Thing    Weight of Blood

Redeployment  by Phil Klay
A Burnable Book  by Bruce Holsinger
The Wives of Los Alamos  by Tarashea Nesbit
Precious Thing  by Colette McBeth
The Weight of Blood  by Laura McHugh

Crime Fiction /Suspense

Accident    Disappeared    Why Kings Confess    Black-Eyed Blonde    Watching You

The Accident  by Chris Pavone
The Disappeared  by Kristina Ohlsson
Why Kings Confess  by C.S. Harris
The Black-Eyed Blonde  by Benjamin Black
Watching You  by Michael Robotham

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Man Came Out    Undead Pool    Murder of Crows    Trpoic of Serpents    Code Zero

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain  by Adrianne Harun
The Undead Pool  by Kim Harrison
A Murder of Crows  by Anne Bishop
The Tropic of Serpents  by Marie Brennan
Code Zero  by Jonathan Maberry

Romance

                    Evening Stars          Replacement Wife          Love Comes Calling

Evening Stars  by Susan Mallery
The Replacement Wife  by Tiffany Warren
Love Comes Calling  by Siri Mitchell

To see all on-order fiction, click here.

Heartwood 4:2 – Lands of Memory

Jacket with citationTurn off your interruptive devices and find a comfortable chair where you can slip into the dreamlike short fiction of Felisberto Hernández’s Lands of Memory.

The book consists of two novellas and four short stories all featuring a Uruguayan pianist as the first-person narrator. These pages are concerned with phenomena and spirit and thought and memory; they’re about people and events remembered later by a probing and persistent mind. The two longer pieces are especially satisfying – filled with episodic scenes, rich in detailed remembrances of the narrator’s life, and pieced together in sometimes surprising ways. As is the case with richly orchestrated music, those who immerse themselves in this concentrated and reflective storytelling will be well rewarded.

One of the things I especially like about Hernández’s writing is his narrators’ sensitivity to the world around him. This is not always a blessing, as can be seen in the passage below, which will give you an idea of what you can expect to find in Lands of Memory:

At times, without recalling the notes of a melody, I could remember the feeling it had given me and what I’d been looking at when I heard it. One evening as I was listening to a brilliant piece while staring out the window, my heart came out of my eyes and absorbed a house many stories tall that I saw across the way. Another night, in the penumbra of a concert hall, I heard a melody floating upon ocean waves that a great orchestra was making; in front of me, on a fat man’s bald pate, gleamed a little patch of light; I was irritated and wanted to look away, but since the only comfortable position for my eyes left my gaze resting on the gleam of that pate, I had no choice but to allow it to enter my memory along with the melody, and then what always happens happened: I forgot the notes of the melody – displaced by the gleaming pate – and the pleasure of that moment remains supported in my memory only by the bald pate. Then I decided always to look at the floor whenever I was listening to music. But once, when a lady behind me was with a very young child, I saw water appear between my own feet, gliding along like a viper, and then suddenly its head began to grow larger in a depression in the floor and eyes of foam came running along the liquid body to gather in the head.

____________________________

Felisberto Hernández’s work has influenced Latin American writers from Julio Cortázar to Gabriel García Márquez to Roberto Bolaño.

Heartwood | About Heartwood

I Love Bernie (And So Will You)

This year I decided to give my reading life a little bit of direction and structure. Though I tend to prance through life with copious amounts of chaos, I decided that I could and would cram in some reading goals for 2014. Why not stretch my mind a little? Though I’ll still be reading fun, fluffy, and frivolous books (currently reading a YA spy thriller) I thought if I mapped out my year I could easily shift in some unexpected titles and see how well I do following directions, even if they are from myself. I detested assigned reading in school but I’m hoping that taking orders from myself will go over better.

Yeah, I’m a hot mess.

Let me recap for you what I’m calling my 2014 Reading Resolutions:

  1. Read something a library patron recommends
  2. Read this year’s Everett Reads! book (see below)
  3. Read something difficult, either due to subject matter or writing style
  4. Read an award-winning book
  5. Read something that is super-popular
  6. Read a book that was the basis for a TV series or movie
  7. Read a classic work of literature
  8. Read an annotated classic work of literature
  9. Read something that will help me plan for the future
  10. Read something that will help me reconcile the past
  11. Read a graphic novel
  12. Read an entire series that is new to me

wheredyougobernadetteThis month I decided to tackle the Everett Reads! book. As Kate mentioned already, Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple is what we’re hoping all of Everett will try this month. On February 23rd at 7pm Maria will be at the Performing Arts Center downtown. We’re told she’s a very engaging and entertaining speaker, and those who wish to meet her/have a book signed afterwards will have that opportunity. Oh, and did I mention it’s FREE?!

We’ve been doing this “one book for the whole community to read” type of program for several years now. The first year we read The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. I love mysteries, so that year I read the book, discussed it with colleagues, and went to the programs offered. In the intervening years I didn’t really get excited about any of the other titles. That’s not to say they were bad books. They just didn’t capture my interest.

This year everything changed. This year we picked a book that was funny.

I’m not great at summarizing stories without giving anything away. What you should know is that, although everyone told me this book is all about teenager Bee searching for her mother Bernadette who just disappeared, it’s so much more than that. I checked out the eBook edition and Bernadette didn’t disappear until about 2/3 of the way through the book. While many books heavy on exposition and background can be tedious and overbearing, it’s just not the case here. The writing is laugh-out-loud hilarious, the best lines coming straight from Bernadette herself:

Greetings from sunny Seattle, where women are “gals,” people are “folks,” a little bit is a “skosh,” if you’re tired you’re “logy,” if something is slightly off it’s “hinky,” you can’t sit Indian-style but you can sit “crisscross applesauce,” when the sun comes out it’s never called “sun” but always “sunshine,” boyfriends and girlfriends are “partners,” nobody swears but someone occasionally might “drop the f-bomb,” you’re allowed to cough but only into your elbow, and any request, reasonable or unreasonable, is met with “no worries.”

Have I mentioned how much I hate it here?

The whole story is told through varying forms of communication: school memos, emails, faxes, magazine articles, and even a captain’s report from a cruise ship. This structure really held my interest and also provided deep insight into each characters’ motivations, feelings, and personalities. That’s a really tricky thing to do well in a book but Maria Semple pulls it off.

Unfortunately this format can be tricky to follow when listening to the audiobook, as one of my colleagues discovered. So I would suggest if you’re getting lost or losing interest in the audio, grab a hard copy of the book and try that instead. Give Bernie a chance to win your heart like she did mine.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette (yes, it bothers me that the official title does not include a question mark) has something for everyone. Bernadette’s husband, Elgie, is an avid cyclist, so this will appeal to my friends who bike to work. Elgie also works at Microsoft, and the book goes into great detail about life on a business campus. I read these parts out loud to my software engineer husband. There’s a lot of coverage of the school Bee attends and the moms Bernadette refers to as “gnats” since they’re annoying but nothing you’d really exert effort over (hello, all my parental friends who have experience in the trenches). Ever been on a cruise? Deal with motion sickness? You’ll be nodding your head (nothing that would trigger that horrible nausea feeling, though). If nothing else, this book is a great fit for anyone who has had a complicated relationship with their parents (who doesn’t?) and, of course, any humor fans.

bernie

I want to hear from you. Are you joining your neighbors in reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette? I’d love to see you all pack the house at the Performing Arts Center on Sunday, February 23rd. The program starts at 7pm but if you want the good seats you’ll want to get there a little early.

If Bee can search the ends of the earth for her mom, surely all of Everett can enjoy the same book.

Spot-Lit for February 2014

Spot-Lit

Lots of good fiction is coming out this February, including many strong debuts. Click the titles below and then the Full Display button to read reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

Still Life Bread Crumbs    I Shall Be Near to You    Unnecessary Woman    Golden State    I Always Loved You

Still Life with Bread Crumbs  by Anna Quindlen
I Shall Be Near to You  by Erin McCabe
An Unnecessary Woman  by Rabih Alameddine
Golden State  by Michelle Richmond
I Always Loved You  by Robin Oliveira 

First Fiction

Spinning Heart    Archetype    Dust    While Beauty Slept    One More Thing

The Spinning Heart  by Donal Ryan
Archetype  by M.D. Waters
Dust  by Yvonne Owuor
While Beauty Slept  by Elizabeth Blackwell
One More Thing  by B.J. Novak

Crime Fiction / Suspense

Runner    Cold Storage    After I'm Gone    Officer and a Spy    Poisoned Pawn

Runner  by Patrick Lee
Cold Storage, Alaska  by John Straley
After I’m Gone  by Laura Lippman
An Officer and a Spy  by Robert Harris
The Poisoned Pawn  by Peggy Blair

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Annihilation    Darkling Sea    Martian    Influx    Red Rising

Annihilation  by Jeff Vandermeer
A Darkling Sea  by James Cambias  (debut)
The Martian  by Andy Weir  (debut)
Influx  by Daniel Suarez
Red Rising  by Pierce Brown  (debut)

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.

Spot-Lit for January 2014

Spot-Lit

The books listed below are some of the most buzzed and highly anticipated fiction of the month. Click the titles and then the Full Display button to read summaries or reviews or to place titles on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

Under the Wide and Starry Sky    Orfeo    Carthage    Wind Is Not a River     Perfect

Under the Wide and Starry Sky  by Nancy Horan

Orfeo  by Richard Powers

Carthage  by Joyce Carol Oates

The Wind Is Not a River  by Brian Payton

Perfect  by Rachel Joyce

First Fiction

Shovel Ready    Kept    Radiance of Tomorrow    Last Days of Califormia    What I Had Before I Had You

Shovel Ready  by Adam Sternbergh

The Kept  by James Scott

Radiance of Tomorrow  by Ishmael Beah

The Last Days of California  by Mary Miller

What I Had Before I Had You  by Sarah Cornwell

Crime Fiction / Suspense

             Last Death of Jack Harbin    The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches    Dead Mans Fancy    Purity of Vengeance

The Last Death of Jack Harbin  by Terry Shames

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches  by C. Alan Bradley

Dead Man’s Fancy  by Keith McCafferty

The Purity of Vengeance  by Jussi Adler-Olsen

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.

Heartwood 4:1 – The Novel: an Alternative History

   The Novel I     The Novel 2

The Novel: an Alternative History
by Steven Moore
2 volumes.   1711 pgs.  2010 and 2013.

Steven Moore’s two-volume labor of love, The Novel: an Alternative History, is an astonishing and thorough exploration that goes back some 4,000 years. Moore defines the novel quite broadly and presents evidence that authors have been experimenting with it since its beginning, not just in the modern/postmodern era. Despite recent innovations, Moore believes that novelists in our time who attempt to step outside predominant mainstream practices are unjustly vilified by conservative critics – a reaction not nearly so prevalent for innovators in any of the other arts.

Moore includes titles many readers will recognize – Gilgamesh, The Golden Ass, Satyricon, Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy, the Decameron – but his worldwide focus brings to light many titles Westerners are likely to be completely unaware of. It’s interesting, for example, to see that quite a bit of fiction was written in Sanskrit in the first millennium, and that the Japanese novel in the 10th and 11th centuries was immensely popular. Irish fiction (8th C) and Icelandic sagas (13th) appear in Moore’s index before any fiction written in English (Le Morte d’Arthur in 1469). Readers may be surprised at the number of women authors active in earlier times, especially given present-day concerns that women writers are often neglected in terms of review coverage and critical assessment (see here, for example).

I won’t pretend to have read even half of the two volumes’ seventeen-hundred pages, but Moore’s lively, often humorous, and always informative writing has prompted me to read at length in sections I hadn’t really expected to explore. My approach has been to scan the chronological index of titles discussed, and then jump to the text after finding such curious and irresistible titles as The EggLugubrious Nights, and The Victim of Magical Delusion. Most of the titles in Moore’s book are in too little demand to be in the Everett Public Library’s relatively small collection (but you can submit requests for purchase, or ask for an interlibrary loan). We do, however, own some of these historic works, so I’ll share just a few, along with brief descriptions derived from Moore’s text (including a few of his quotes) to whet your appetite:

Life of an Amorous WomanThe Life of an Amorous Woman
by Ihara Saikaku  (1686, Japanese)
A “lively if sordid tale” that looks at the life of a woman who, when still a young girl, gives in to her sensual yearnings thus embarking on “a downward spiral into degradation.” As an old woman, after having had sex with maybe 10,000 men, it appears she has renounced her wanton ways and has devoted herself to the Buddha – until the reader reflects back to the framing device at the beginning of the book.

OroonokoOroonoko
by Aphra Behn  (1688, English)
Behn’s most famous novella features “one of the earliest examples of a conflicted narrator,” and includes such subjects as forced marriage, slavery, and colonialism. But principally, it delivers a sharp attack on religion for its failure to live up to its own ideals of nobility and justice. Moore calls Oroonoko a heroic romance at heart, but with graphic violence, and notes that it also employs the “noble savage” character type which would later be of interest to Voltaire and Rousseau.

EvelinaEvelina
by Frances Burney  (1778, English)
This novel was wildly popular at the time it was written. Its focus is a provincial young woman who goes to London for the first time, and the frequently humiliating, hilarious, and ridiculous situations she gets herself into. The book also looks at the dark side of courtship and marriage and portrays, well, just “how badly it sucked to be a woman in 18th-century England.”

But don’t settle for my boiled down accounts of these books, go to The Novel for Moore’s expanded, insightful appraisal and ebullient colloquial style – his infectious commentary will convince you that many of the books under discussion are ones you will want to check out. Moore’s history opens the doors to an expansive world of little-known fiction that awaits your exploration; let us know the titles you want to read and we will do what we can to get them into your hands.

I’ll close with a passage, pulled almost at random, characteristic of the kind of thing you can expect to find in The Novel. Here’s Moore talking about the Persian Adventures of Amir Hamza:

But the story doesn’t end there. A decade after the popular Lakhnavi/Bilgrami edition appeared, a publisher named Naval Kishar decided to bring out a complete unabridged version of the 800-years-in-the-making communal novel. He had the best Hamza storytellers (a class known for their use of performance-enhancing opium) come to his printing house and recite the portions they specialized in to scribes, and the result is the longest novel in world literature: his Urdu Dastan-e Amir Hamzah was published between 1883 and 1917 in 46 volumes averaging 900 pages each – in other words, a novel more than 41,000 pages long!

Fans of the novel owe it to themselves to poke around in The Novel.

For more on Steven Moore, see this interview in Music & Literature.

Heartwood | About Heartwood

What’s Overdue? or Books I Wish I’d Read in 2013, Part 2

Kathunk!
Thud swoosh thunk!
Jiminy kathunk zowie!

That is the sound of my 2014 reading list, created from books which I’ve checked out but not finished, piling higher and higher towards the planets and such. And I can’t seem to even make a dent in the list because I keep finding interesting, irresistible books such as 11/22/63 by Stephen King, Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger, The Undertakers: Rise of the Corpses by Ty Drago, How Music Works by David Byrne and Duck the Halls by Donna Andrews.

New unread books

I’m trying to change my reading habits so as to not miss out on any books that at one point seemed interesting, because once I return a book unfinished I seldom go back to it. The first portion of my 2014 list contains five titles, and of these I have so far read NONE. But am I daunted? Neigh I seigh, so I continue on compiling my list.

Universe versus Alex WoodsThe Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Here’s one I’ve checked out three times, read a fair bit of, thoroughly enjoyed, yet set aside for other reads. A 10-year-old boy named Alex is struck in the head by a meteorite, which scars him both physically and socially, making him a favorite target of bullies. As punishment for vandalism that he didn’t actually commit, Alex is put to work for hermit-ish Mr. Peterson, and a friendship slowly starts to grow. But the story doesn’t start here, rather it begins with Alex at age 17 detained at customs with a large amount of marijuana. How did he arrive in this situation and where will he go from there?

City of TruthCity of Truth by James Morrow
Movies featuring people who are unable to lie (Liar Liar, The Invention of Lying) have bloomed in recent years, and the premise is an interesting one. City of Truth, written in 1990, is about a city called Veritas where people have been conditioned to always tell the truth. The result is a lack of tact, total candor in advertising (beef is “murdered cow” and car models include Adequates and Functionals) and generally amusing brutally frank communication. It is in this setting that Jack Sperry learns his son has a fatal disease and realizes that it might be in the boy’s best interest for Jack to lie to him. In Veritas, lying is not a simple decision; to lie is to become a subversive. This weighty subject is surrounded by abundant humor in a story that, although based in a fantastical framework, is actually a commentary on our very own society.

Janus AffairThe Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine
One of my favorite books of 2012 was Phoenix Rising: a Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novel. This Victorian steampunk thriller features Eliza Braun, a government agent whose first move in any situation is to throw a stick of dynamite, and her de facto partner Wellington Books, an archivist with wicked mechanical skills and no desire to leave his repository. The Janus Affair is book two in the series, this time finding the gear-flinging duo trying to discover why British citizens are suddenly vanishing in brilliant flashes of lightning. Will they once again save England from naughty evildoers and make the Empire safe for its citizens?

Ready player oneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
Here’s another highly-rated book that I got a ways into, enjoyed, and put aside. In the near-future the world has become an unappealing junk-filled dystopia. Many people frequent a virtual reality called OASIS, a much happier place, where one can go to learn, socialize, play, and engage in various aspects of real life. There’s a rumor that 3 keys exist within OASIS, and whoever acquires them will inherit the greatest fortune ever amassed. Scouring this virtual world for the keys is not without danger, but there are also puzzles, romance and a large chunk of 1980’s trivia. So if I understand correctly, one can escape our mundane reality by entering this fictional dystopia, which one escapes by entering a fictional virtual reality … umm … yes.

And so goes part two of my 2014 reading list. Stay tuned as I continue to amass next year’s reading choices, and agonize with me as I attempt to push aside temptations (hey, I haven’t read the last book in the Scorch series yet!) and actually finish (ooh, new Bill Bryson book!) these excellent books that I’ve (I wonder what Steve Hockensmith is up to?) set aside. Will he? Won’t he? Only time will tell!

Spot-Lit for December 2013

Spot-Lit

Here at areadinglife, we’re getting ready to share our list of books published in 2013 that staff members have most enjoyed. Until then, take a look at our fiction buyer’s selection of notable new fiction coming your way this December.

Click the titles below to read more or to place holds.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction 

  Vatican Waltz      Brown Dog      Someone Else's      Supreme Macaroni

Vatican Waltz  by Roland Merullo
Brown Dog  by Jim Harrison
Someone Else’s Love Story  by Joshilyn Jackson
The Supreme Macaroni Company  by Adriana Trigiani

Crime Fiction / Suspense

  Innocence      Billionaire Blend      Noose      Going Dark

Innocence  by Dean Koontz
Billionaire Blend  by Cleo Coyle
Noose  by Bill James
Going Dark  by James W. Hall

First Novels

                                   Communion Town      Housemaid's Daughter

Communion Town  by Sam Thompson
The Housemaid’s Daughter  by Barbara Mutch

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.

Spot-Lit for November 2013

Spot-Lit

Some of the new releases we’re especially looking forward to this month include Sebastian Faulks revival of Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster; a powerful family drama centered around the practice of fracking (Fractures); a penetrating look at our consumer culture and the world of “stuff” – wanted or not (Want Not); and the return of popular Amy Tan. Among first novels, we have a laid-off war correspondent tracking down her friend’s killer in Big Sky country (Montana); two highly-praised historical novels; and the Danish Crime Novel of the Decade (The Dinosaur Feather). Speaking of crime, Paretsky, Bruen, Smith and Spencer-Fleming are always known to deliver. As is Gene Wolfe, in the Fantasy genre, and his new book sounds particularly fine. Elsewhere in SF/Fantasy, Cherie Priest wraps up her Clockwork Century steampunk series, and an alternative history of the 20th century featuring an alien-engineered peace is guaranteed to shake you up (Burning Paradise). Finally, if the spirit of Halloween is still haunting you, check out the gothic Victorian thriller Rustication.

Click the titles below to read more or to place them on hold.

General Fiction / Literary Fiction  

Jeeves     Fractures     Want Not     Valley of Amazement

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells  by Sebastian Faulks
Fractures  by Lamar Herrin
Want Not  by Jonathan Miles
The Valley of Amazement  by Amy Tan

First Novels

Montana     Dinosaur Feather     Red Sky in Morning     Cartographer

Montana  by Gwen Florio
The Dinosaur Feather  by S.J. Gazan
Red Sky in Morning  by Paul Lynch
The Cartographer of No Man’s Land  by P.S. Duffy

Crime Fiction / Suspense

Tatiana     Critical Mass     Purgatory     Through the Evil Days

Tatiana  by Martin Cruz Smith
Critical Mass  by Sara Paretsky
Purgatory  by Ken Bruen
Through the Evil Days  by Julia Spencer-Fleming

SF / Fantasy / Horror

Land Across     Fiddlehead     Burning Paradise     Rustication

The Land Across  by Gene Wolfe
Fiddlehead  by Cherie Priest
Burning Paradise  by Robert Charles Wilson
Rustication  by Charles Palliser

To see all the on-order fiction, click here.