Rakes, Rogues, and Ruination

Welcome to the world of the British Regency, the era from approximately 1795-1837. Everett Public Library has added over 100 Regency Romance novels to our eBook collection. Don’t let the time period fool you, within the constraints they must follow, these ladies are strong, fierce, and independent. From the darkest gaming hell to the most glittering ballroom, discover the lives and loves of Lords and Ladies, Dukes and Duchesses, governesses, wallflowers, and Bow Street Runners.

The Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn is not to be missed. Eight siblings alphabetically named, Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth, each have a novel featuring their story. The mysterious Lady Whistledown and the Smythe-Smith Quartet add a touch of humor you won’t forget.

The highly-anticipated T.V. series based on these novels, Bridgerton, narrated by Julie Andrews as Lady Whistledown is expected to air this year on Netflix starting on December 25! Read more about the series here.

Any mention of Regency Romance must include best-selling author, Lisa Kleypas. Four young ladies meet at the side of the dance floor in the Wallflowers series and make a pact to help each other find husbands. Each has her reason, Annabelle is beautiful but has no dowry, Sisters Lillian and Daisy are new-money brash Americans, and shy Evie must escape her unscrupulous relatives who are after her wealth. Be sure to check out the Ravenels for a glimpse of the Wallflowers 20+ years later.

Welcome to Spindle Cove, where the ladies with delicate constitutions come for the sea air, and men in their prime are… nowhere to be found. Or are they? Also known as “Spinster Cove,” due to the number of unmarried ladies living there, these are a series of laugh-out-loud funny books by Tessa Dare.

Three friends are expelled from a young ladies’ academy for unbecoming conduct. Since the don will be sure to close their doors on these disgraced debutantes, they determine that unconventional means need to be employed in the husband-hunting market. Rakehells—the beau monde’s wickedest members—might be the only men willing to overlook a young lady’s besmirched reputation.

But how does one catch a rake? Find out in the Disreputable Debutantes series by Amy Rose Bennett.

The grown half-brothers and sister of a thrice-widowed dowager duchess and some cousins to boot manage to find love amidst an on-going murder mystery, kidnapping, blackmail, explosions, and a London debut. There are more books to come in this series featuring three unmarried Dukes in one family. Three!

For more scandals, house parties, Bluestockings, masquerade balls, fake engagements, London Seasons, marriages of convenience, guardians, wards, highwaymen, and spies, be sure to explore other titles and authors in our Regency Romance eBook Collection.

Escape to the Future

I think most of us can currently be described as ‘forward thinking.’ The desire to see 2020 in the rearview mirror is nearly universal at this point. My reading choices have been reflecting this trend with science fiction being my go to genre of late. I’ve always liked it, but something about our current position on the space-time continuum makes me gravitate towards stories of the distant future. My reasoning being: whatever that future is, at least it isn’t now.  

Luckily for me, there are a lot of great science fiction tales being published. While it is hard to choose, here are two of my recent favorites. 

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine 

Ambassador Mahit Dzmare has her work cut out for her. Arriving in the imperial capital of the multi-system Teixcalaanli Empire, she has been tasked with preventing her independent, but small, mining colony from being annexed. While she has studied and admired Teixcalaanli culture and literature, she isn’t totally prepared for its Byzantine political structure and rituals. She also arrives at a time of political turmoil, with an aged emperor facing succession problems and a growing threat on the border. Oh, and the matter of the former ambassador being murdered, officially a case of food poisoning no less, has complicated things.

A Memory Called Empire is definitely chock full of world building and political intrigue, but it didn’t feel like a space opera to me. The author creates fully formed characters, Mahit and her cultural guide Three Seagrass especially, who you sympathize with as they try to negotiate a foreign cultural landscape. It also brings up intriguing ideas about identity and assimilation; the push and pull of simultaneously wanting, and not wanting, to be something else. All this plus lots of adventure, humor and fascinating concepts that only science fiction can provide make for a great read, or listen.

Network Effect by Martha Wells 

Murderbot, its chosen moniker, hacked its governor module long ago and is free from the corporate entities that once controlled its every move. But what is an artificial intelligence with organic elements to do with new found freedom? If it was up to Murderbot, all its time would be spent watching its beloved media serials, especially The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon, and making snarky comments. But, sadly, reality always has a way of intruding. This time around, reality includes protecting clueless, and somewhat gross humans, interacting with a cynical ship’s AI named ART, all while trying to prevent evil corporations from getting their hands on alien technology.

Network Effect is the first novel length book in the Murderbot diaries series but easily stands on its own. Wells has created a unique and incredibly entertaining central character whose take on the humans around it is both hilarious and unique. As the ultimate, but sympathetic, outsider, Murderbot’s perspective also examines the idea of looking in at a corporate culture that produces great fictional universes via popular media, but which has a reality that doesn’t match up. Ultimately, though, this is an adventure story chock full of interesting characters that is hard to put down once started.  

So if you need a little break from reality as well, give these two excellent science fiction novels a try. What have you got to lose? 

Spot-Lit for October 2020

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2020 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2020 Debuts

It’s a Mystery: Hollywood

I have this strange fascination with early Hollywood. Watching an old timey black & white show shot in southern California, wellsir, that’s about as good as it gets. And as we all know, I do love me a mystery. Fortunately, there are plenty of mysteries set in early 20th century Hollywood.

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And the Killer Is … by G. A. McKevett is the 25th and latest entry in the Savannah Reid mysteries series. While not all titles in this collection focus on Hollywood, And the Killer Is… moves between flashbacks to the golden age of Hollywood and the present. In this tale, 90-year-old former silver-screen siren Lucinda Faraday is found murdered, strangled with a pair of vintage stockings, and it’s up to PI Savannah Reid of the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency to bring the killer to justice.

Close Up by Amanda Quick is 2020’s addition to the Burning Cove mysteries series. Set near Hollywood in the 1930s resort town of Burning Cove, Close Up finds crime scene photographer Vivian Brazier in danger as she investigates the deadly Dagger Killer. Along with private eye Nick Sundridge, who solves cases with help from his dreams, Vivian is caught in the killer’s crosshairs and must find the murderer before she becomes his next victim.

Script for Scandal by Renee Patrick is the newest arrival in the Lillian Frost and Edith Head series of novels. Yes, that Edith Head. In 1939 Los Angeles, former aspiring actress Lillian Frost discovers herself entangled in the investigation of a 1936 bank robbery that’s been made into a Hollywood script. And her beau, LAPD detective Gene Morrow, the original investigator of the robbery, is a suspect in the subsequent murder of his partner. It’s up to Lillian to clear his name!

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The Impersonator by Mary Miley, an entry in the Roaring Twenties mysteries series, offers a different kind of intrigue. A 14-year-old heiress disappears and is found some years later by her uncle, acting in a vaudeville playhouse. But is this actress actually the heiress? After concluding that she is simply a lookalike, the uncle plots to use her to claim the fortune.

Girl About Town by Adam Shankman & Laura L. Sullivan, the first book in the Lulu Kelly mysteries series, spins the tale of a destitute woman who witnesses a mob murder and, as payment for her silence, is made into a Hollywood star. Along with a New-York-heir-turned-hobo she attempts to clear herself of attempted murder charges.

Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon by Clive Rosengren, the third book in the Eddie Collins mysteries series, finds former-actor-current-PI Eddie Collins helping an old flame look for her missing brother. Clues point to the brother’s ties to military police and eventually lead to Skid Row. Will Eddie succeed in finding the man as well as rekindling an extinguished romance?

Heartwood 10:3 – The Literary Sphere

The impetus for today’s post is the similarities between books by two writers from two different continents; one young and living in Paris, the other an Argentine, recently deceased. Things kind of snowball from there.

Our Riches by Algerian author Kaouther Adimi, now living in Paris, is a love letter of a novel to the real-life Algiers bookseller and publisher Edmond Charlot who opened Les Vraies Richesses (Our True Wealth) in 1935. The multi-award-winning book jumps backward and forward in time from the 1930s to the present day. It interweaves Charlot’s journal entries about the bookstore and his publishing projects, historic footnotes to WWII and French-Algerian postwar tensions, and chapters about a young man sent by the bookstore’s new owner to clear it out so he can convert it into a bakery.

There’s an almost documentary feel to much of the writing, and indeed Adimi provides a list of sources and a note of thanks to several of Charlot’s literary friends for sharing stories (the Wikipedia page on Charlot confirms the factual nature of many of the elements found in the novel). Charlot’s journal entries offer up a lot of detail about the world of the publisher/bookseller, and a treasure trove of encounters with famous authors such as Albert Camus, André Gide, Philippe Soupault, and many others. These very short notes about his everyday projects and challenges resonate with a trilogy of books by Ricardo Piglia in which he also chronicles his book-world pursuits (I’ve written about Piglia previously here).
The Diaries of Emilio Renzi include the occasional lengthier piece of creative writing, but mostly they are composed of brief journal entries that begin with the alter-ego narrator’s first encounter with books, and his ongoing obsessions with reading and writing, including his long-term involvement in the bustling Buenos Aires publishing world in the mid-20th century (he mentions “temples of used bookstores,” but did not appear to work in one). In the course of these entries he engages with such luminaries as Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Carlos Onetti, and Manuel Puig, and notes the influence of Hemingway, Faulkner, and Raymond Chandler on his own writing. He also provides insights into writers such as Tolstoy, Cervantes, and Kafka, and many, many others. In a style similar to Adimi’s novel, Piglia’s books also record the pressures, frenzy, intellectual stimulation, and financial challenges of working in literary publishing while also recording details of the frequent political strife in Argentina at that time. The third volume of the trilogy is scheduled to be released this October.

These books will have the most appeal for world-literature bibliophiles but they have also caused me to reflect on the interrelated spheres of writing, publishing, bookselling, and libraries. A number of well-known authors have opened bookstores, which strikes me as a very generous way of embracing the literary community. Sylvia Beach, founder of the Paris bookstore and lending library, Shakespeare and Co., famously brought James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses into the world, and Lawrence Ferlighetti’s publishing/bookselling enterprise, City Lights, made waves when it published Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in 1956, and went on to publish the work of other Beat writers along with many other authors up to the present day. More recently, in the book-saturated sliver of the internet where I tend to lurk, there was quite a bit of enthusiasm when Deep Vellum opened its Dallas-based bookstore and started publishing some phenomenal literature in translation (including the Trilogy of Memory by Sergio Pitol which shares similar literary enthusiasms as those found in Piglia’s Diaries and Adimi’s book). In Adimi’s novel, Charlot’s bookstore, Les Vraies Richesses, also served as a lending library to students who didn’t have enough money to buy books; for a local lending library example, check out Seattle’s own Folio (though you won’t be able to visit while we’re in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic). And now a number of bookstores offer print-on-demand publishing options for local authors, including Bellingham’s Village Books, and at least one public library is doing the same.

Are you aware of other real-world literary bookstore/publishing ventures or related hybrids? Share them in the comments. In the meantime, as a lover of good books, why not rub elbows with Charlot or Renzi or Pitol, and reflect upon the riches of world literature?

(And if you love bookstores, now would be a good time to show your support. Find local independent bookstores in your community at IndieBound, or consider making a purchase at a Black-owned, independent bookstore.)

The Summer of Jordi Perez

Normally, I would tell you to take novels about romance and shove them, but I enjoyed The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding so much that I couldn’t resist sharing it with you. My normal stance is: stuff falling in love, stuff romance, and stuff soul mates, but this novel caught me off guard.

I think what attracted me to this novel was the gay aspect. I’m not gay (well, maybe a little gay) but love is love is love and though I’m loathe to use the words “heartwarming” this one sucker punched me right in that empty space in my chest I usually save for Cheetos and horror movies. Abby is a plus-sized girl who is deeply in love with fashion. She applies to an indie fashion store for the summer before her senior year and gets the internship along with another girl from her high school named Jordi who she thinks might have been in one of her classes.

Abby came out a little while ago and has never had a girlfriend, never been in love. She’s had a couple of heart-breaking crushes (straight girls who find boyfriends and leave her in the dark), but no one has shown an interest in her. As body positive as she is in her blog about fashion, she believes that no girl could ever fall in love with her (I hear you girl; as a chubby chick, I have my doubts too) and she can’t see a future with a girl who would ever fall in love with her. That is until she finds herself competing for the job at the indie dress shop with Jordi Perez. But does Jordi even like girls? Should Abby even bother nurturing a crush on her?

At home, Abby’s mother is becoming famous for her healthy vegan recipes and ends up going onto local talk shows all while making her daughter feel bad about herself for being overweight. She lets slip one time to Abby that she would be so much prettier if she lost weight and Abby hasn’t been able to forgive her. In her plus size fashion blog, Abby never posts pictures of herself. While she’s body positive, she’s still uncomfortable showing herself.

When Jordi starts showing an interest in her, Abby is slow to believe it. After all, Jordi is tiny and a talented photographer, and Abby’s competing against her for a job at the dress store. But Jordi is into Abby and they both find themselves falling in love and spending time together. Jordi is a bit of a bad ass although the moniker of “Juvenile criminal” is a bit misplaced. She wanted to take a picture of a fire and ended up burning the lawn of an abandoned house. Both Abby and Jordi are aware that they’re competing for the same job, but that doesn’t stop them from falling in love. Ah, youth. If only I could find a way to legally suck it out of them and inject it into my bitter old heart.

Abby’s been spending time with Jax over the summer, a boy from school who she used to see as a spoiled brat with a McMansion and nice ride. He asked her to be his wingman (or wingwoman) as he tried to pick up girls and to help him out with one of his father’s inventions which happens to be an app rating the various burger joints in town. She learns that Jax isn’t quite the “bro” she thought he was and finds herself enjoying his company. Abby’s mother thinks she’s dating Jax, even though Abby came out to her parents several months ago. Abby’s mother seems to think if she lost weight and got skinny, she
might enjoy being straight.

Not so. Abby’s wildly in love with Jordi even though the prospect of them both being up for the same job in the fall is weighing on her. Abby’s job in the store is to be a social media presence and boost the popularity of the store while Jordi is tasked with being the photographer. Everything is going perfectly until Jordi does the unspeakable during her first photography show at an art gallery. Will Abby forgive her transgressions? Will Abby get over herself? Will Abby begin to see herself as more than a plus size girl? Will Abby believe that she is worth loving and being in love with?

For fans of books such as Dumplin and She’s Come Undone, The Summer of Jordi Perez offers everything: first love (that wild and nauseating feeling of handing your heart to another person), self-acceptance, and trying to accept how others see you (and accept that they’re going to see you a certain way that is totally out of your control). Get ready for an emotional roller coaster and if you have PTSD from being a teenager, take this novel slowly. I had a panic attack while Abby was trying to figure out if Jordi had feelings for her or not. I went all the way back to being 16 and almost didn’t make it back to my 43-year-old self.

Read this and then go forgive your mother for not loving you like you wanted her to. She tried her best. Please remember she’s human and lived an entire life before you were born. And now, go live your life how you want it to be. You’ll thank me later.

Spot-Lit for September 2020

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2020 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2020 Debuts

A Little Noir For Yar

Noir

As a diehard reader of detective pulp fiction and a connoisseur of comedy, I may have found religion in Noir by Christopher Moore. Not to be confused with the religion I found in Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

Lamb

If you’re a fan of Damon Runyon and his unique use of language, Noir might be just the ticket for you.

“He looked like one of those dried-up faces you carve out of an apple in third grade to teach you that time is cruel and we are all just going to shrivel up and die, so there’s no point in getting out of bed.”

Similes and metaphors run wild, like turkeys in search of a barber… Scratch that. Like the Portuguese armada during their defeat in 1588… Well, let’s just say that words are not restrained by the laws of gravity in Moore’s writing.

And speaking of gravity, classy ladies fill the pages of this prestigious tome.

“She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes — a size eight dame in a size six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle in the door and take a seat at the end of the bar.”

Moore is one of the few contemporary authors who does a credible job of creating Runyonesque prose. Each page is teeming with hoodlums, graft, gats, lookers and betties all ensconced in a miasma of despair and alcohol then rolled in a fine powder of lust and sex.

“It was the kind of kiss that he wanted to wake up to and keep refreshing periodically until he got one long last one, salty with tears, in his casket.”

For my ears, the story is almost inconsequential. Down-on-his-luck guy works in San Francisco as a bartender, is indebted to a gangster, falls for a dame… space aliens ensue, etc. etc. You know the drill, your typical post-war comic sci-fi noir thriller. Moore dots the proverbial i’s with his copious wit, leaving ample opportunity to cross the t’s with abundant atmosphere. It may not be the ride of your life, but Noir is at bare minimum the attempted hitchhike of your youth.

Why, you might even want to read Noir in a book club with your friends, and then orchestrate a moment that echoes a line from the text where:

“…everyone looks up like rats caught in a spotlight eating the brains of a friend dead in a trap.”

Of course, you might choose not to eat your friends’ brains.

So, as pleasant breaks from reality go, Noir is an excellent choice. Perhaps you could even explore Moore’s other writings, all steeped in the same blend of hilarity and repartee, not to mention jocularity. Like a fine Earl Grey tea. Tee hee.

Heartwood 10:2 – The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany

Samuel R. Delany’s name has been coming up in all the right places for years now, so I finally grabbed this thin title to give his work a try. The Einstein Intersection is mostly a retelling of the Orpheus myth, but it also includes a chapter that is reminiscent of the hunting of the Minotaur, and much of the latter part of the book is something of a futuristic western, where the cowboys ride and mobilize a group of dragons. Many other allusions swirl and mix in the book to tell tales that don’t quite sync up with their origins, but that are different and tell of difference.

Delany writes in a crisp style that moves the action along, but that also displays a more reflective nature. The chapters are preceded with epigraphs (often several) from diverse figures including James Joyce, Bob Dylan, the Marquis de Sade, Sartre, Ruskin, Yeats, Andrew Marvell, and even a snippet from a Pepsi commercial. Lo Lobey, the Orpheus character, is ready to track down Kid Death (modeled on Billy the Kid) to get Friza back from the dead (Kid Death says he took her life). Lobey has telepathic powers that allow him to hear music and words in other people’s heads, and Friza has telekinetic powers (as does Kid Death). Instead of a lyre, Lobey has a machete that has a flute built into it with twenty perforations which he covers with his fingers and his especially long toes (it’s more like he has four arms at times). The characters in this story are the successors to humans who are long since gone and whose cities are now buried in sand.

The action at the end of the book picks up speed as the dragon wranglers bring the herd into Branning-at-sea, a huge urban metropolis, where Green-eye, a mute fellow wrangler, is recognized as some kind of prince, maybe even the prince of peace. I found the conclusion to be open-ended and a bit challenging to follow  Perhaps the best way to think about this book is suggested by a conversation between Lobey and a character named Spider who emphasizes the importance of Gödel’s theorems that any closed mathematical system has an infinite number of truths that elude our grasp. Delany has taken several well-known myths or narratives and transformed them, remixed them, moved them into the future, made them difficult to recognize, and by doing so has created a kind of composite myth of his own. There’s no way I can adequately summarize it other than to encourage you to read the book and see for yourself just what he has done.

A plus for Neil Gaiman fans is the introduction he wrote to this Wesleyan edition in 1997, back when he was mostly known for his comic book series The Sandman.

Spot-Lit for August 2020

Spot-Lit didn’t run for a few months due to the coronavirus, the library closure, and disruption in the publishing world, but we’re glad to be back.

These titles – from established, new, and emerging authors – are some of the most anticipated new releases of the month, based on advance reviews and book world enthusiasm.

Click here to see all of these titles in the Everett Public Library catalog, where you can read reviews or summaries and place holds. Or click on a book cover below to enlarge it, or to view the covers as a slide show.

Notable New Fiction 2020 (to date) | All On-Order Fiction | 2020 Debuts