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.

De-tech-tives

detechtives

Recently I’ve noticed that television detectives’ detection skills have been replaced by technology. Between cell phones, email, tracking devices and the multitude of cameras that cover every nook and cranny of the earth, it’s nearly impossible for a modern TV criminal to operate in anonymity. This is a strange and drastic change from Dragnet days when phone dialing, ledger collation, footwork and thinking were involved in any arrest.

The YardThe Yard by Alex Grecian
What fascinates me is that, before modern techniques and technologies were created, police could catch criminals at all! In the novel The Yard author Alex Grecian portrays a squalid, horrifying London of 1890 where five-year-old children work dangerous jobs, living conditions for many are abysmal, and human life is held in little regard. Scotland Yard’s murder squad consists of 12 detectives who have roughly 400 murders per year to crack, and after the unsolved Jack the Ripper killings of 1888 public opinion of the police force’s skills is extremely low. Then the unthinkable occurs. A member of the murder squad, one of the men attempting to keep London safe, is brutally slaughtered. The team’s newest member is put in charge of the investigation, but there seems no hope in unearthing the crime’s perpetrator. Even after the Ripper murders, the idea of killing for pleasure is foreign to the detectives and they don’t know where to begin to find this new type of killer. But with the aid of Dr. Kingsley, the Yard’s first forensic pathologist (and somewhat of a Sherlockian figure) the squad makes slow progress, although the murders do continue. This is crime solving at its most basic – follow paltry clues, cogitate, and find a killer.

keystone-kops-granger

These 1890’s were a time when it was relatively simple to be a successful murderer. Police had few tools-of-the-trade and criminals were able to easily disappear in obscurity. Here are a few titles that examine various aspects of the infancy of crime fighting.

Devil in the white cityThe Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
While examining the amazing feats that went into constructing the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, Erik Larson also describes the activities of H.H. Holmes, a Chicago serial killer who used the draw of the World’s Fair to murder somewhere between 27 and 200 people in relative anonymity. In fact, it wasn’t until he left Chicago, continuing to commit homicides and other crimes, that Holmes was finally arrested in Boston a year later. His Chicago killings, however, remained unknown until the custodian of Holmes’s Chicago murder castle (you’ll have to read the book for those details) tipped off the police and Holmes’s murder victims were found. This true story shows how easy it was to operate as an invisible killer in the days before advanced technologies.

Great Pearl HeistThe Great Pearl Heist: London’s Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard’s Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Necklace by Molly Caldwell Crosby
This non-fiction account of an early 20th-century jewel heist details both the plans of the thieves and the methods used by Scotland Yard to catch them. In addition to being an engaging read, Crosby’s book highlights the importance of this case to the future of British crime fighting.

Poisoner's handbookThe Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York by Deborah Blum
This entertaining book looks at the careers of New York’s first medical examiner and toxicologist. Surprisingly, these positions didn’t even exist until after World War I. Blum makes a potentially dull topic intriguing and understandable.

police corruption

As police forces moved into the 20th-century, corruption came to be accepted as a normal facet of law enforcement.

Breaking blueBreaking Blue by Timothy Egan
In 1935, during the dust bowl years, a spate of dairy robberies in the Spokane area resulted in the shooting death of Marshal George Conniff. Decades later, Sheriff Tony Bamonte of Pend Oreille County tried to shed light on the robberies and Conniff’s death. Author Timothy Egan paints a vivid picture of Spokane’s dirty underbelly and the role that law enforcement played in these crimes.

LA ConfidentialL.A. Confidential
This Oscar-winning movie portrays a shady LA police force that is rife with injustice and brutality. At a time when Hollywood was king, justice was elusive (put that on your movie poster!) and criminals often dwelt on both sides of the law.

victorian police

Certainly TV policing has little in common with reality, but then again, reality is far more interesting. So set aside your new-fangled DVDs and give an old-timey police investigatory book a try. At the very least, you’ll gain an appreciation for the accomplishments that were made with minimal means in less-than-hospitable conditions.

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

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.

Ten Books that Impacted my Life

Lately there’s been a post bouncing around Facebook asking people to list 10 favorite books. As an avid reader I gladly offered up a list, with the caveat that if I made the list another day it might consist of entirely different entries.

And now it’s another day, I’ve another list, and it is mostly different. So, more or less in the order I read them, here are 10 books that have impacted my life.

Mixed up filesFrom the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
I discovered this book in fourth grade and was immediately enchanted. A brother and sister run away from home to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My imagination was carried away as I pictured the kids exploring the museum after closing time.

Time out of jointTime Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick
It is 1959 and the world’s crossword puzzle champion lives an idyllic life. Until one day when he reaches for a light switch that is not there and begins to question all aspects of reality. This book has continued to disturb me for decades, but it also led to a love of the writing of PKD.

HogfatherHogfather by Terry Pratchett
Post-modernism, which I think of as taking something familiar and putting it in a new, unfamiliar context, is something that has long enamored me. Pratchett is a master of taking commonplace fairy tales and folk characters and throwing them into completely sideways situations. Hogfather examines some of those characters (such as the Tooth Fairy) and ponders from whence they came.

Red Mars
Red Mars
by Kim Stanley Robinson
I read science fiction almost exclusively for 15 years before Red Mars was written, and even with all of the great books I consumed during that time I never suspected that writing like this could exist. Granted, this is not one of my favorite books and I frequently set it down from boredom whilst reading it, but the sheer immensity of this exhaustive history of a civilization from the future is simply astounding.

Notes from a small islandNotes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
Travelers’ Tales India, a book sadly no longer in the EPL collection, introduced me to the magic of travel writing. Notes from a Small Island introduced me to the concept of “some books should not be read in public or I will be labeled a lunatic while laughing maniacally, ending my days in a happy room with soft walls.” Bryson is a master of imparting information while being hysterically funny.
Wodehouse
Anything ever written by P. G. Wodehouse
Screwball comedies offer a literary format which I find quite intriguing. P. G. Wodehouse builds on this framework with the most original use of language I’ve encountered. Even while enjoying the stories, I learned what dialogue could be like in my own writings, and for this I am grateful. Wodehouse is perhaps the most important writing influence on my humble existence.

Eyre affairThe Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Perhaps the cleverest concept I’ve ever run across: In a slightly alternate reality characters in books are sentient, can move between books, and are part of a thriving industry that creates entertainment for those who read. Thursday Next, an actual living person, is able to enter books and influence the activity therein.  Mischief is afoot in Jane Eyre, and Thursday is called to rescue the novel before it’s too late. Fforde’s universe shows me the incredible level of creativity that can be achieved by a writer.

to say nothingTo Say Nothing of the Dog, or, How we Found the Bishop’s Bird Stump at Last by Connie Willis
Time travel, comedy, Victorian England, suspense – a perfect mix! One of the funniest books I’ve read mixed with a superior treatment of time travel (my hidden guilty pleasure) and appearances by historical as well as fictional characters (the men from Three Men in a Boat) all create a kaleidoscopic chaos of pure adventure and entertainment.

Madison houseMadison House by Peter Donahue
Photos of Seattle’s Denny Regrade are shocking, looking like scenes from a war-torn distant planet. This historical novel looks at how the regrade affected people living on Seattle’s hills, the corruption that shaped the decision-making process, and the bucolic geography of Seattle at a time when people were scarce. This tale has forever changed the image of Lake Union and the University district that I carry in my mind.

Doomsday bookDoomsday Book by Connie Willis
Glory was the first war movie I ever saw where I felt like I understood how the soldiers felt during battle. Doomsday Book, another Connie Willis time travel story, has a protagonist who accidentally goes to plague times. She ends up in a small village, feverish and incoherent, and is nursed back to health by a local family. Because of the error in the time travel process, she is unable to communicate with her peers and is unsure if she will be able to return to her present. So she becomes a member of the small community and watches people die at a rapid pace. And for the first time I had an inkling of what it would be like to be surrounded by bubonic plague with little hope for salvation.

There you have it, 10 books that have all stuck with me in various ways over the years.

Perhaps you would like to share your list?

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

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.