Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The First Time She Drowned

This is the harrowing debut novel by Kerry Kletter. Cassie O'Malley has spent the last two years in a mental institution; dumped there by her mother. Now at the age of her majority, she signs herself out and enters college. Nothing in her tumultuous life prepared her for college life, though, and as she explores herself, her past, and her relationship with her mother she is challenged as never before.

This is billed as a young adult novel; but it is heartbreaking. If a youth were on the brink he/she could go either way while reading this book. Granted, there's hope, and a strong message of (finally) loving oneself... I won't be suggesting it to my young people, though. The book is full of suicide, abuse, mental illness, and jokes about these serious subjects. Mind your triggers. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

A delightful novel by Robin Sloan, this book combines many elements. It's a magical blend of cutting - edge technology and medieval mystery. Clay Jannon was a web designer until the recession swept his job away. He is now working the night shift as a clerk at a vertical bookstore with few paying customers. Instead, the patrons borrow obscure volumes from odd corners of the store. Odd, but not random. Clay enlists friends to help him solve the mystery of the bookstore and brings his analysis to Mr. Penumbra. That's when he finds the mystery encompasses much more than one curious bookstore; it is the very search for immortality.

"There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight." My favorite quote from the book. It is a highly enjoyable book about friendship and living a fulfilling life. Recommended.

Footnotes from the World's Greatest Bookstores

This is a compendium of blurbs about seventy-five of the world's most renowned bookstores by Bob Eckstein. Each report also contains a newsy little bit from that particular bookstore by someone in the know. And each entry has a magical illustration in color of the bookstore. There are two things I dislike about this: Eckstein has included bookstores that are now defunct, and the design of the book itself is unwieldy. The cover opens up, while the book itself opens in the usual manner. And to keep the cover from coming off completely, the reader must hold it up while trying to turn pages.  It is not a relaxing, read-in-bed book simply because of its design. Sad. It does have a foreword by Garrison Keillor going for it.... I checked this out of the New Book Room at the library; the back cover is already coming unglued because of the stress. Sad.

I've been reading everything I can get my hands on about books and bookstores because that's what my husband and I want to do; open our own used bookstore. We are already selling some online until we can afford a brick and mortar store. We hope the children will work with us. This is our dream.

Dark Matter

This is a novel by Blake Crouch, billed as un-put-down-able. Some people rave about this book. I am not one of those people. It is not because the physics and quantum mechanics are over my head; those are explained in an accessible, almost charming manner. I think I just couldn't suspend my disbelief enough to accept happenings toward the end of the book.

Jason Dessen is a physics professor, happily married with a teenage son. Then one night he is abducted, asked if he's happy with his life, and wakes on a gurney surrounded by people in hazmat suits. They show him true deference,  for in this world he is a scientific genius who has accomplished the impossible. Which world is real? And how can he get back to his family if that is the life he desires?  A science - fiction thriller that I thought was okay, but that many others like.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Love Letter

By Cathleen Schine, this novel is a delight to the senses! Helen MacFarquhar owns a little bookstore in a small seaside town with everything just as she likes it; she is a divorcee, mother to an eleven -year -old daughter away at camp, and very much in control of herself and her life. Then an anonymous love letter arrives in her mail, and becomes an obsession. Who is it for? Who is it from? When does passion become love? As she uncharacteristically begins an affair with one of her employees, she gets a chance to answer this last question. Shine's writing is rich and descriptive. The book perhaps depends a little too much on sex and "f*** you", but the writing is strong despite that.

It left me wondering what to do with the love letters my husband and I wrote to each other during our courtship. Some are chaste and sweet, some are graphic and yearning; but all are permanent. How embarrassed will be the people who find these letters when we are gone? Is that my business? Should the letters be kept for posterity, or should they be destroyed and remembered fondly? What if I lose my memory, or my husband? So much to consider.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Nightingale

This is a novel by Kristin Hannah. At times effervescent and at other times heartbreaking, it's another book to mind your triggers: it deals with WWII France and the Holocaust in a personal way. Vianne and Isabelle are sisters who resist German occupation of their Homeland (and their home) each in her own way. I couldn't put this book down...so well written with such great characters; I had to see what was going to happen next. Recommended.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Written by Karen Joy Fowler, this novel is not one of my favorites. Yet I had to read it in its entirety just to get the full story. It is informative, accomplished, and devastating. Rosemary Cooke is the narrator telling us of her family. Psychologist father, mother, brother Lowell, sister Fern. They live in a college town where her father conducts behavioral experiments with a steady stream of grad students. Then something awful happens and Rosemary's family is never the same. We enter the story in her college years as she looks back on the events that shattered their lives. Her father is now distant, her mother simply a shell of her former lively self, her brother wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And Fern? Rosemary hasn't seen her since she was five and she is horrified to learn her fate.

The book is good; the subject matter serious. A lot of discussion of animal testing; mind your triggers.