Oh Mother Where Art Thou?

I always enjoy the little surprises that books can provide. Recently, I finished a fantastic book while on vacation. It followed a young man haunted by the disappearance of his mother, grappling with adulthood, identity, and a tumultuous, changing world. It was the kind of book that stays with you, suppressing any desire to begin something new. I needed a book for the rest of my trip but had no idea what I wanted. Luckily I was visiting two friends with strong opinions and great taste. They clued me in to another incredible novel, this one about a young man haunted by the disappearance of his mother, grappling with adulthood, identity, and….you guessed it, a tumultuous, changing world.

Despite this coincidence, these books both feature rich, nuanced characters in very different circumstances. It was a pleasure to stumble into their lives one-after-the-other, and to have the opportunity to discover the links between them as their stories unfolded.

51ru-JNuaDLIn Lisa Ko’s The Leavers, Deming Guo is introduced as a boy living with his mother and her boyfriend in the Bronx. Deming’s life is far from perfect- his family has little money, he struggles in school, and he argues with his mother. But they love each other fiercely and seem to have an unbreakable bond. This makes it all the harder when Deming’s mother suddenly disappears without explanation, leaving him shattered and alone. Eventually Deming is put in foster care then adopted by a well-meaning but aloof white couple who take him to live upstate and, hoping to help him fit in, change his name to Daniel.

The narrative follows Deming both as a child, coming to terms with his mother’s disappearance and his strange new life, and as Daniel, a recent college dropout desperate to make a name for himself among the ultra-cool of the Lower East Side and Brooklyn. As Daniel’s life begins to unravel, the narrative also expands to include the story of his mother, how she came to America, and the real reason she disappeared from Daniel’s life.

The Leavers is a painful but redemptive story of family, immigration, assimilation, and identity. Ko methodically reveals Daniel’s and his mother’s stories, bringing careful attention to their struggles, their triumphs, and their flaws. Daniel repeatedly finds himself on the outside looking in. In upstate New York he feels too Chinese; among New York City’s hipsters, he feels like an impostor from upstate. When he finally visits China, he feels conspicuously and inescapably American. Ko’s narrative may be at its strongest when Daniel is puzzling through his questions about identity, but through Daniel’s birth mother’s story, Ko also deftly brings attention to the cruelty and inhumanity of America’s militarized immigration enforcement system.

saleemhaddad-guapaOn its face, Guapa, by Saleem Haddad, is a very different kind of story. Guapa follows a young man named Rasa who lives in an unnamed Arab country during and after the Arab Spring. Like Daniel, Rasa struggles to escape his memories of his mother, who disappeared when he was a child. Rasa is also facing a crisis point. His grandmother just discovered him in bed with his boyfriend, who is also about to get married. To a woman. Rasa struggles to salvage this romance while keeping his identity under wraps in a society where knowledge of his sexuality is a legitimate danger to his life.

As Rasa struggles through a truly terrible day, his story shifts through time revealing details of his childhood and the circumstances that led his mother to abandon him, his years as a college student in New York where he struggled to explore his sexuality and not be pigeonholed because of his ethnicity, and his traumatic days protesting during a period of revolutionary unrest in his homeland. Haddad also explores generational conflict in the Arab world. Rasa is one of many young people determined to change their country, but frustrated at every turn by a mix of oppression, extremism, and bureaucracy. On a personal level, Rasa struggles to understand his grandmother’s adherence to traditional values, particularly the idea of shame.

As Rasa’s day lurches towards decisive confrontations with the two largest figures in his life, his grandmother and his boyfriend, he contends with his own past, his country’s future, and the nagging fear that he may not have a place in the world around him. Rasa is a compelling character who seems caught in impossible circumstances, with the oppressive constraints of identity, expectations, and cultural norms bearing down on him with heart-wrenching weight.

I wish that Rasa’s New York could bleed into Daniel’s and the two could meet. While they come from very different circumstances, and want different things from their lives, they are both linked by the vacuum left behind when their mothers disappeared. Daniel might understand Rasa’s despair as he navigates his queerness and Arabness in a hostile homeland. And Rasa might understand the way that Daniel feels stretched as he tries to shed his Chinese heritage to please his adoptive parents while remaining desperate to reconnect with his mother and her roots. I, for one, felt lucky to discover these two young men and get lost in the murky, tumultuous years of their youths.

Da to A Terrible Country

Early each weekday morning, two hours before the library opens, one of my tasks is to find all the books, CDs, and DVDs that you, dear library user, have placed on hold. I start the hunt near the new books on the first floor and wind up in the 900s on the second floor where there is one of the best views in the city.

Titles on the holds list are sometimes so enticing that I have to add them to my ‘to-be-read’ list. My list is heavy on non-fiction, but on a rare occasion a novel will make the cut. This title didn’t even have to be put on any list. It jumped out at me when I was making my rounds: A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen. Displayed face-out, and not on hold for anyone, the cover caught my eye, particularly because above the title was this: “A Cause for Celebration.” – George Saunders. George Saunders is supposed to be a pretty big deal in the book world, so this book already had a leg-up on the rest.

The terrible county being referred to in the title is Russia.

After a lot of pressure from his older brother, Andrei agrees to leave his New York City life to help out their very old grandmother in Moscow. Brother Dima had been doing the caregiving up until now, but he has to hightail it out of the country just ahead of some Russian government/mafia types who are after him. Andrei is assured he will be playing as much amateur hockey (his first love) as he can stand, once he’s back in the land of his birth. It’s only going to be temporary, and since Andrei’s girlfriend just dumped him and his prospects of getting a university position seems to be drying up despite his 8 years of graduate studies in Slavic literature, he agrees to go. A change of scenery and culture may be just what he needs.

What he imagines happening – bonding over a lot of family history, joining a hockey team and fitting back into a culture he left when he was 5 – is not so simple. The time is 2008 and he has trouble getting wi-fi in the apartment and a good cup of coffee. Grandma can hardly hear, is in and out of the throws of dementia and barely remembers who he is. And, he has trouble infiltrating a hockey game. Black Mercedes and Audis are all over Moscow with mobster-like men getting out of them.

In Russia, everything has layers and layers of history and you’re never quite sure if talking with someone will get you pistol-whipped when you’re least expecting it. But there are ways to retaliate, whether it’s on the ice in a hockey game or by documenting your experiences and sending it out into the world. There’s not just danger and Soviet-era ruins and political intrigue here. There’s also romance in a reversed Dr. Zhivagian sort of way. And lots of beer and vodka.

What Andrei finds in Russia is not exactly what he was after, but he does figure out what’s important to him. This story will help you understanding Russia and Russian culture just a little bit more from a very human side, even if it’s just make-believe.

To tell you the truth, this book kind of made me want to go to Russia, but mostly, it made me think, what else has this guy written?

Best of 2017: Books for Adults

With Thanksgiving behind us and Christmas on the near horizon, it is time for the ‘Best of 2017’ lists to begin. We here at the library are not immune to wanting to get all of our favorites from the year listed and out to you. And you can bet we have a lot to share. So much so that we will be dividing up our recommendations into four posts, starting with our recommendations for 2017’s best in Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction and Graphic novels. If you want to check out the whole list, definitely take a look at the Library Newsletter.

Adult Fiction

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Kate, whose lifelong anxiety is compounded by a traumatic event, bravely switches apartments with her cousin– he moves to London and she to Boston. Right away a neighbor disappears, and this time Kate is right when she imagines the worst.

While not my usual fare, I really enjoyed flying through this page-turner of a story. With its suspenseful elements of “Rear Window” and a strong visual sense of place, I’d love to see this made into a movie!  –Elizabeth

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

When elderly author Gil thinks he sees his presumed-dead wife Ingrid, he falls and injures himself. The action takes off when Gil’s daughters arrive to take care of him, alternating between Ingrid’s story and the present-day family dynamics.

I loved Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days. While not as intense, this new work proves the author’s ability. The gradual reveal of the mystery of Ingrid’s disappearance kept me guessing to the end and beyond. Loved the setting, too!  –Elizabeth

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

Emma and Jane each rent a home from an enigmatic and stringent architect whose rules and designs are meant to transform the tenants. Their stories unfold through suspenseful, short chapters alternating between the two women—one alive, and the other dead.

I like a fast-paced whodunit. Some sections were a bit graphic for my taste, but I couldn’t put it down!  –Margo

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Less is more, unless your name is Arthur Less, and then less is never enough! He travels all over the world trying to change his luck and forget his past. But fate has other plans for Arthur.

I loved this book because Arthur was so hopelessly loveable, even though he’s convinced that he’s unlovable.  –Linda

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

A publisher and editor are reading the newest submission from famous author Alan Conway in his “Atticus Pünd” series. Then they realize the last chapter is missing. Before they have a chance to ask him where it is, Alan commits suicide. Or does he?

What a fun book! Magpie Murders is a mystery within a mystery—a really challenging whodunit!  –Linda

Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

A mother’s hurried choice of a nanny for her toddler results in multiple complications. Art, privilege, motherhood, love, and seriously dysfunctional relationships thrive in Lepucki’s second novel, which is nothing like her first, California.

Having gone to art school myself, I enjoyed the bizarre art project that the nanny contrives to undertake right under the nose of the mother. The added touches of Twitter addiction, selective mutism, and reckless behavior make this an entertaining read.  –Elizabeth

The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti

Samuel Hawley, scarred from 12 bullet wounds, has lived a life of crime about which his daughter, Loo, knows nothing. Gradually, the story behind each of those bullets is revealed, along with the truth about Loo’s mother’s death.

Despite the violence of Hawley’s former life he fiercely loves and protects Loo. This dichotomy between despicable behavior and tenderhearted parenting makes this an endlessly intriguing story, full of intensity and complexity. I loved it!  –Elizabeth

Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato

Edgar is a quirky 8-year-old struggling to find his place. His dad is dead, his mother is a messed up partier, and his loving grandmother just died. When a strange man treats Edgar with kindness, he makes the grave mistake of getting pulled under his spell.

Seriously flawed characters galore here, but you can’t help but empathize with each one and even understand their crazy actions. Suspenseful, full of twists and turns—it keeps you guessing!  –Elizabeth

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Seven tales of middle-aged guys and the women they’ve known, loved, used, and lost. One is starving from unrequited love. Another hears about his lover’s former life as an eel. One wakes up as a Gregor Samsa, a man after having been a cockroach.

It’s hard to put into words why I love Murakami’s work. It’s a sort of intense introspective wonder about people, relationships, and the world in general. I loved the incredible details of these stories, and didn’t want any of them to end.  –Elizabeth

The Echo of Twilight by Judith Kinghorn

Pearl Gibson works her way up to becoming the head maid for the wealthy and strong-willed Lady Ottoline Campbell. The two ladies’ lives intertwine over the years as they deal with love, loss, and secrets.

The Echo of Twilight is a sweeping story that is reminiscent of Downton Abbey. The descriptions of lush scenery, opulent surroundings, and interesting relationships between characters made for a fantastic read.  –Liz

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

This is the last installment in the Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. Feyre learns how to use her powers and become a leader in order to try save those in the human realm as well as those in the Faerie realm.

I would describe this book as “Twilight for grown-ups.” It’s filled with action, romance, magic, and the supernatural.  –Liz

Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

In a world where nothing holds its shape unless labeled and named by humans over and over, Vanja travels to cold, dreary Amatka to study hygiene products for the government. Initially, she is a loyal servant but soon discovers all is not what it seems.

Amatka kept me fascinated from bizarre beginning to ambiguous end, which I hope hints at more to come from this debut Swedish author.  –Elizabeth


How to be Human
by Paula Cocozza

Mary, newly separated, barely keeping her head above water, with a tedious job and a ramshackle house, becomes enamored with a splendidly gorgeous wild fox. To Mary’s horror, the neighbors want to bring in an exterminator.

This strange storyline made me a bit worried at times, wondering what might happen. But I loved the buildup of tension and claustrophobia, and finally, Mary’s transformation.  –Elizabeth

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

A strange Victorian tale of small village fears and superstitions. Is there a monster lurking in the fog and mist of Colchester? Add in a forbidden love story, a tragic case of consumption, religion, science, and feminism, and the result is intriguing.

My son called this audiobook “overwrought,” but I loved performer Juanita McMahon’s voice. Plus, the main character Cora, who wears men’s clothes and tromps around in the bog studying nature, is certainly a woman ahead of her time.  –Elizabeth

Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta

Told from a variety of perspectives, Mrs. Fletcher follows the misadventures of a 46-year-old divorcee and her son, as the son adapts to college and the mom adapts to an empty nest.

Perrotta (Little children, Election, and The Leftovers) returns with his first amusing, thought-provoking, character-driven novel in six years. As raunchy as it may be, it is far sweeter… and harder to put down.  –Alan

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

The latest from the British mystery author of In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10—this is another terrific thriller regarding teen best friends who carry a deadly secret into adulthood.

Chock full of twists and stunningly styled, The Lying Game is thrillingly engaging, especially as an audiobook performed by the incomparable Imogen Church.  –Alan

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

In 1940s Italy, teenager Pino Lella joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps and falls for a beautiful widow. He also becomes the personal driver of one of the Third Reich’s most powerful commanders.

This is a “can’t put it down” book based on a true story. Totally loved it!  –Leslie

Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith

A paean both to the public library and the book, Scottish novelist Ali Smith’s latest book blends true words from library lovers with short stories suffused with her trademark magical realism.

This book serves as a kind of literary activism. While it is known that Smith writes so beautifully, her reading of the audiobook is what really recommends this inspiring work.  –Alan

Adult Non-Fiction

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

This book has recipes, decorating tips, and lifestyle advice about how the Danes incorporate hygge—meaning comfort or well-being—into their everyday lives, making them some of the happiest people in the world.

I really love all the information about making your home more comfortable and your lifestyle more relaxed in order to fully appreciate the important things in life such as family and friends.  –Liz

Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying Yes to Living by Tim Bauerschmidt

Recently widowed nonagenerian Norma opts out of cancer treatment and goes on an adventure of a lifetime in an RV with her son, daughter-in-law, and a large poodle. This book chronicles their journey and shares the warmth, wisdom, and kindness they encountered every step of the way.

Driving Miss Norma teaches us to embrace life and adventure. We are never too old to try new things.  –Julie

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

A husband and wife team shares their personal story, from humble beginnings to their current careers as home improvement experts and television personalities.

These two have a remarkably strong relationship, four kids, work really hard in all aspects of life, and are amazing at home remodel and design. This is a fascinating story that reveals the couple behind the popular TV show, Fixer Upper–Margaret

Killers of the Flower Moon: the Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann

Osage Indians in Oklahoma were among the wealthiest people in America in the 1920s, thanks to the discovery of oil beneath their land. And then, one by one, dozens of tribal members were murdered, as were the local law enforcement officials who dared investigate the killings. The fledgling FBI picked up the case and bungled it badly.

This is one of the most chilling conspiracies in American history and a very good read.  –Leslie

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson

What is the nature of space and time? How do we fit within the universe? How does the universe fit within us? Acclaimed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson guides readers through these questions in this compact and contemplative guide to the cosmos.

Tyson brings the universe down to earth succinctly and clearly, with sparkling wit, in tasty chapters consumable anytime and anywhere in your busy day.  –Leslie

The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage by Jared Yates Sexton

Featuring in-the-field reports as well as deep analysis, Sexton’s book is a sobering chronicle of our polarization and a firsthand account of the 2016 presidential election and the cultural forces that powered Trump’s victory.

Sexton grapples with the lies, news, ugly debate, social media echo chambers…and tells us how we got here. One critic called it “A leftist counterweight to Hillbilly Elegy with shots of Hunter S. Thompson.”– Alan

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay delves into one of the most painful and deeply personal aspects of herself: her body. This is her story of how a major trauma from her adolescence played out and manifested itself through her body.

This book touches on an issue that almost every woman can relate to in our country. Gay’s honesty and vulnerability show the interrelatedness of trauma and disordered eating.  –Serena

‘Twas the Nightcap before Christmas by Katie Blackburn & Sholto Walker

A new version of an old tale—absolutely adorable and relatable! Any parents who have been up until the wee hours of Christmas Eve will wonder why it took until now for someone to write this. I loved it, and can’t wait to buy my own copy!

The story and artwork were both fun!  –Linda

Adult Graphic Novels

Motor Crush 01 by Brenden Fletcher

Domino Swift might be the best motorcycle racer alive, but her activity on the underground racing circuit is jeopardizing her official career. Domino’s real trouble begins when she finds herself battling a gang over a mysterious illegal engine stimulant.

The Road Rash-style motorcycle racing would have been enough to get my interest, but the futuristic setting along with a slight Overdrive vibe to the artwork adds a layer of depth to the storytelling and completes the experience.  –Zac

Savage Town by Declan Shalvey

Jimmy Savage is a small time gangster in Ireland struggling to keep his small empire together with threats from outside, as well as from within.

The authentic-sounding dialogue brings this story to life and makes it more than just another gangster story.  –Zac

Labor and Lumber

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To help commemorate the centennial of the Everett Massacre, we’ve pulled together this list of historical fiction titles. Only Sawdust Empire, by J.D. Howard, deals directly with the bloody events on Everett’s waterfront 100 years ago, but all of these books look at the timber industry and laborers from the 1890s to the present day (with many of them emphasizing the labor struggles of the 1930s).

Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, about an Oregon logging family that continues to work through a bitter strike, is the best-known of these Northwest labor novels. But it’s good to see the recent reprinting of Robert Cantwell’s long out-of-print, Aberdeen-set novel, The Land of Plenty (originally published in 1935). For a mid-century style and take see Roderick Haig-Brown’s 1942 book, Timber, with its detailed accounts of logging work, and his 1949 title On the Highest Hill. Cormac McCarthy fans ought to appreciate Brian Hart’s gritty 2014 novel, Bully of Order about the extremely rough and lawless world of a Northwest coast logging town in the 1890s.

If you like a bit of mystery with your historical fiction, take a look at the award-winning Timber Beasts or Black Drop by S.L. Stoner, or The Big Both Ways by John Straley.

Click here to see a list of all of these titles in the library catalog and to place holds. Or click on a book jacket below to enlarge it or to view the covers as a slide show.

For additional fiction focusing on the laboring life, take a look at the titles in this list.

Quick Picks!

c1d4eb0de14c5411ecece51e6819d96eDid you know that we have a browsing section of books at the Everett Public Library that consists of newly published trade and mass market paperbacks? They are called “Quick Picks” and you can find great titles that are almost always available because no one can place holds on these books. Think of it: Brand new hot paperback titles, yours for the taking. This is your chance to get those hardbound bestsellers that are just out in paper. Here are a few that I have eyed lately.

index-3Look closely at the photo above.  I just spied a book which is on the current paperback non-fiction bestsellers list. Do you see it? S P Q R by Mary Beard is a history of Rome with passion and without technical jargon. It’s history written with common sense, a point of view and a healthy level of snark just to keep things interesting. So this is how perusing the Quick Picks works. You find books that you didn’t even know you needed!

 

51ab-hiwhml-_sx336_bo1204203200_I recently found a stunner of a book, Isabella the Warrior Queen.  Kristin Downey takes the Spanish Queen out from behind the shadow of Ferdinand and illuminates her importance in the history of the world. As Queen, she took effective measures against the Muslim threat to western civilization, had the vision to support Columbus’ venture and set the stage for the Spanish/Hapsburg empire building in Europe and the Americas. Oh, yes. And she started the Inquisition. Oops!  Nonetheless, this is an amazing story of a remarkable woman that reads like a novel. I highly recommend it!

indexThere’s a great selection of non-fiction in the Quick Picks section. Julie, a co-worker, recommended Pogue’s Basics: Life; Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You). It’s a great ‘nibbler’ book and by that I mean you can open it up anywhere and read a bit. There’s useful information like how to remember how to set the utensils on your table: it’s alphabetical, fork, knife, spoon from the left. Also, fork and left both have four letters while knife, spoon and right have five letters. See? You gotta read this one!

index-1Welcome to Subirdia by John M Marzluff is also available as a Quick Pick. There are always overflow crowds when this University of Washington professor lectures at EPL. Avoid the crowds and get this author all to yourself with this book about how birds have adapted and survived in urban areas. In this fascinating and optimistic work, Marzluff tells how our own actions affect the birds and animals that live in our cities and towns, and he provides ten specific strategies everyone can use to make human environments friendlier for our natural neighbors.

index-2I just grabbed a copy of The Shell Collector which is a collection of exquisitely crafted short stories by the author of the acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times bestseller All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. This is a wonderful collection of longish short stories. The loose theme that weaves them together is water, the sea, love of nature, and finding your place in life, even if it means severing ties with those you love. Check it out if only to read the title story. And to gaze at the cover. Beautiful.

index-1Did you miss Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun when it was popular as a hardbound book? Read the Quick Pick! This novel by Beryl Markham transports you to 1920’s Kenya and the world of Out of Africa. This is historical fiction that is beautifully written, historically accurate, and utterly engrossing. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes strong female figures and/or has an interest in 20th century colonial Africa. This is one great read.

 

index-2Who can resist the idea of a book barge on the Seine in Paris where the bookseller, Jean Perdu, uses his intuition to select just the right book to deal with whichever emotion – small or large – is afflicting you? Nina George writes a charming, wise and winsome novel in The Little Paris Bookshop. We go on a journey with Perdu to the South of France as he moves from being lost in grief to slowly reclaiming himself and his life. The further south we go, the warmer the weather and the more Perdu comes alive. Bookseller. Lost love. The wisdom of books. All combine to make an enchanting read. Don’t miss it.

So remember to check out our Quick Picks collections at both locations. Browse a selection of mystery, romance, and notable bestsellers. Don’t waste your money on books when you can borrow them from your library. Quick! Pick a book!

Summer Reading, Having a Blast!

Book and StonesI’ve signed up for the Adult Summer Reading Program at the Everett Public Library and I’m super happy about my reading stack this summer. I’ve only read three so far, but I’m excited to get some time to read and also to share the whole pile with you. Here goes!

indexIf you’re pining for the old days when you could ride your pony to the candy store, I recommend Elizabeth Lett’s book The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation. This book tells the dramatic odyssey of a horse called Snowman, saved from the slaughterhouse by a young Dutch farmer named Harry. Harry and Snowman went on to become America’s show-jumping champions, winning first prize in Madison Square Garden. Set in the mid-to late-1950s, this book also includes a fair amount of history of the horse. I dare you not to cry when Snowy dies.

indexUnder the Wide and Starry Sky is the fictionalized account of the relationship of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson and his spunky, older American wife Fanny. It is beautifully written and meticulously researched. This novel met all of my criteria for good historical fiction: believable characters, atmospheric setting, and it leaves you wanting to know even more about the people, places, and events. Besides, the boat that they adventured in is right here on the waterfront in Everett.

index (3)Shadows in the Vineyard: the True Plot to Poison the World’s Greatest Wine is by Maximillien Potter. On the surface, it is a true story of an extortion plot against the world’s greatest vineyard, a tiny patch of land in Burgundy, France which grows the universally acclaimed best wine in the world. But it’s also the story of the family that grows the wine: the generations that have owned and run the vineyard, treating the vines like their own children, back to when they bought it after the French Revolution. Cheers!

index (1)A Hero of France: A Novel by Alan Furst is set in Paris,1941. Mathieu leads a small group of Resistance fighters. They help British airmen stranded in occupied France to make their way to Spain and then return to England. It’s dangerous work. Mathieu has to rely on his instincts to know who he can trust. He also needs to build a network of people he can rely on and be able to rapidly improvise when things don’t go according to plan (which is pretty much all the time). Meanwhile, a top German detective has arrived in Paris tasked with identifying and arresting members of the Resistance.

index (2)Seinfeldia: How a Show about Nothing Changed Everything by Jennifer Armstrong is about nothing and everything. If you are a Seinfeld fan this is a MUST READ! It goes in depth on the genesis of Seinfeld from its main characters, the writers and the real-life situations that inspired most of the insane plot lines. It follows the show from it’s inception to finale, including the “reunion” on Curb Your Enthusiasm as well as the effect that Seinfeld has on pop culture even to this day.

index (3)I am listening to Here’s To Us by Elin Hildebrand and it looks like the perfect summer read, doesn’t it? Deacon Thorpe was a famous bad boy chef. When he dies at his Nantucket house, his agent calls his three ex-wives together to the house to say goodbye. The story is told by several characters and switches from the present to the past. Secrets are revealed and at the end the family learns to forgive. This is a quick read with some interesting characters.

index (5)I’m also listening to The National Parks: America’s Best Idea by Ken Burns because we recently drove down to Rainier. Burns and Dayton Duncan delve into the history of the park idea, from the first sighting by white men in 1851 of the valley that would become Yosemite and the creation of the world’s first national park at Yellowstone in 1872, to the most recent additions to a system that now encompasses nearly four hundred sites and 84 million acres. There’s a lot of history and adventure here to be enjoyed. Going to Glacier? Grab these CD’s for the car ride.

index (6)Everyone Brave is Forgiven is by Chris Cleave, the best-selling author of Little Bee.  The plot centers on three Londoners (Mary, Thomas and Alistair) and how the war orchestrates the choices they make. The story is loosely based on love letters between the author’s grandparents. The beauty of this book is not so much the plot, but how the story is told with beautiful prose, cleverly placed humor, and a quiet urgency. It would make a good book club book.

index (4)And lastly, a co-worker suggested Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart the gal who wrote The Drunken Botanist. It is a novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs. Apparently it’s “really good”, so good, in fact, that there will be a sequel titled Lady Cop Makes Trouble. I haven’t actually gotten my hands on this one, but will have to wait. Without a gun.

Well, gotta go. I hear a hammock calling my name. What’s on your reading list this summer? Come on down to the library and check out these and other great summer reads. See you there!

Before the Wind

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Most people have never sailed.  So when you take them out, they wear clumsy shoes and start calling you Ahab or Bligh.  Or if they’re particularly nervous, they’ll quote Whitman- Captain my Captain!- and shout Bon voyage! or talk like pirates, as if this were the freshest improv:  Arrrggh!  Keelhaul the Wrench!  They’ll offer to help, but what they really want to know is where to sit and what to hold on to and when you’ll get them a drink.  –Before the Wind

You don’t need to know how to sail to enjoy Jim Lynch’s latest novel Before the Wind. Just get a drink, sit yourself down and prepare to be immersed in this creative, vividly detailed, emotional and gripping family story set in the world of boats driven by the wind. Lynch introduces readers to a cast of characters as varied and different as things can get. These characters have a lot of talents, but it’s up to all of them to keep their family together and a boat race might just be the best bet for that.

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The Family on ‘Flair’

But, if you do come from a sailing family, well, watch out! You’ll be buying copies of this book for Father’s Day or birthdays. When I asked my husband what were the highlights of his family boating history, he talked for half of an hour before taking a breath.  It started with his Dad attending the Naval Academy, romancing Mother on a sailboat while in medical school and starting many remarkable family sailing traditions. There were the sailing camps for two weeks each summer on Tulalip Bay, the races on Puget Sound (even to Hawaii one year on the Victoria to Maui race) and the family cruises on Flair and later, bigger boats.  My husband was the baby of the family and had to sleep with his head right by the head. For the longest time he thought that’s why it’s called a head. Well, he also thought that there were eight days in the week thanks to the Beatles.

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Sailing Lazers on Tulalip Bay (Red boats are in!)

My own memories of sailing over the years include wonderful weeks on the water with babies and children and their parents and grandparents. We’d dock at places like Ovens Island in Canada or Henry Island in the San Juans, go for a swim, harvest oysters from the beach and play cards and eat and drink and just enjoy the heck out of ourselves.Think camping, but on the water.

 

And then there are the frantic sailing moments like the time we were racing Swiftsure, a race from Victoria out to the Swiftsure Light boat and back. We had the spinnaker up but there was too much wind, so we needed to take it down and put up the smaller one. Well, snafus happen, and they were both up at once and we were ‘slapped down’ with the mast parallel to the water. Now, the thing you worry about is losing someone overboard or having a big piece of equipment break and knock someone out. Neither happened, and it’s a good thing because a tugboat was just coming around race rocks towards us. (Tugboats have the right of way.) Yikes! Well, we all lived to tell the tale and I’m sure that my father-in-law is cringing that I told that particular story.

Enough of my sailing yarns, let’s get back to Lynch’s tale. Narrated by Josh, the adult middle child of the famous boat-building Johanssens of Puget Sound, the family also includes the domineering father who drives his children to excel at racing, the hot-headed oldest brother Bernard and  the youngest Johanssen Ruby who is a gifted sailor. There’s also a mom who is a high school physics teacher who “might have understood Einstein better than she did us and never passed up an opportunity to explain and extol him.” And then there’s Grumps (the grandfather), the boatyard crew who work with Josh (one of which loves to quote from the March of the Penguins) and the characters at the rundown marina where Josh lives who all try to get him to fix their boats. There’s a lot of humor and some sadness in this novel and it is totally enjoyable.

Sailor or not, you need to get your hands on Jim Lynch’s new novel Before the Wind. You’ll love it. Tack on down to your local library and pick up a copy when it is finally out on April 19th. Bon Voyage!