Book Passage President Elaine Petrocelli and Book Passage buying director Luisa Smith select their favorite new books and provide reviews about their selections in each issue of the Book Passage News & Reviews.
These books are also displayed in each branch of the Bank of Marin, as part of the program Partnership for Literacy sponsored by Book Passage and Bank of Marin. Visit any branch of the bank to find out more about this program.
January - February 2017
There are novels that take your breath away as they transport you over epic swaths of history, and others that gleam like gems as they reveal intimate details of fleeting moments. The Patriots brilliantly manages to be both of those novels at once. From depression era Brooklyn to Stalinist Siberia, we follow Florence Fein as she searches for the future she glimpsed as an idealistic youth. Brilliantly weaving together the past and the present, Sana Krasikov has written deeply moving saga about the true cost of love and the burden of regret.
Will Schwalbe writes that the greatest gift you can give anyone is to take the time to talk about books you have shared. That beautiful sentiment is woven between the fascinating tales of this inspiring memoir. Each chapter begins with a book that has shaped the experiences in his own life, from Stuart Little to Reading Lolita in Tehran, leading us along his personal journey to find the right book for the right time. Books for Living is more than an examination of the wonderful books in our lives, it is a celebration of the ever-present potential for a book to alter the way we interact with the world.
It is no surprise to discover the latest Douglas Preston novel is a heart pounding thriller, full of intriguing mysteries and shady characters. What is amazing is that this is the true story of his adventure searching for the legendary lost city of the Monkey God. Fighting his way through the breathtaking and deadly Honduran rainforest, Preston encounters con-men and jaguars, flash floods and deadly diseases, all in the quest to travel to a place preserved 500 years in the past. Lost City of the Monkey God is the captivating story of a civilization swallowed by both time and the jungle, and the fierce fight by these intrepid scientists and explorers to reclaim it.
Two couples meet at a party, igniting a spark between the wife of one with the husband of the other. This a chance meeting leads to obsession, and a momentary lack of judgement metamorphoses into a nightmare. As the violence of the aftermath becomes unambiguous, SFPD Homicide Inspector Beth Tully struggles to follow all the threads of this spellbinding mystery. John Lescroart artfully transforms a suspenseful tale of infidelity into a dark and captivating thriller. A wonderful cast of characters, complex storylines and heart stopping action are all present in this absorbing mystery. Once again, there is no doubt that Lescroart is one of the finest masters of suspense, writing today.
Days Without End is both breathtaking and brutal, reminding you of the boundless possibilities of a profoundly well written novel. Thomas McNulty, beaten by the Great Famine of Ireland, escapes to Canada and eventually finds himself signed up for the Indian Wars in the American west. This is more than a tale of Thomas conquering the demons of his past, or forging a violent future of his own, this is a novel of devotion and a man struggling with his own sense of right and wrong. The brilliant storms and epic battles, glow on the page in McNulty’s evocative narration. However, it is the beating hearts of these characters, Thomas, his partner John, and Winona, the young Indian girl, that bring this novel to life.
This is a novel of identity and survival, beautifully wrapped in the layers of Min Jin Lee’s ethereal prose. Both a sweeping epic of an interesting corner of Asian history in the 20th century and an intimate portrait of one family as they move from Korea to Japan, while confronting an unkind world with loyalty and love. As cultural details gracefully transform into universal truths, and character’s flaws reveal their inner strength, we follow the ripples of repercussions from one youthful misstep. Full bodied and compulsively readable, Pachinko is a delight!
The Impossible Fortress brilliantly brings to life being young in the 1980’s. The freedom of biking around town and causing mischief with your friends. Home computers holding a lit match to the fuel of young imaginations. Three teenage boys, fueled by hormones, hubris, and insecurity, plot their ultimate crime fantasy. The skill with which Jason Rekulak renders the first glowing embers of young love will make you wish to return to those heady days, when impossible dreams filled our heads and thrilling adventures were at our fingertips.
There exists a stark beauty in the History of Wolves, a dark story blanketed by the cold clean snow. Madeline is a child only casually cared for by her parents. Growing up on an abandoned commune, she quietly and intently watches those around her, tenuously reaching out for connection. The harshness of the environment has forced Madeline to be strong, but the easy comfort of lies threatens to be her undoing. Emily Fridlund’s remarkable debut novel confronts our all too human frailties and deftly breaks our hearts.
Like a swimmer conquering the ocean, one stroke at a time, Claire Fuller’s writing, deftly takes on such enormous topics as love, betrayal, hope, and loss, and makes it look effortless. When Flora returns home to help her injured father, she quickly finds herself drawn to the depths of the perplexing disappearance of her mother 12 years earlier. With letters tucked in book leaves and heartbreak etched on hearts, Swimming Lessons beautifully tells the tale of a marriage abandoned by trust and a family entangled by regret.
Peter Swanson builds tension in Her Every Fear like a chess grandmaster, slowly revealing his game. Kate Priddy tries to escape her dark past with a move to Boston, only to discover that she is not the only one trying to hide their secrets, and many are darker than her own. Moving seamlessly between each characters’ point of view, Swason’s heart stopping thriller draws you into this terrifying and twisted tale of revenge until the surprising end.
Finally, the Norse Myths have found their perfect voice—beloved fantasy novelist Neil Gaiman. Odin, Thor and his hammer, the endlessly slippery Loki—they’re all here, shaped into a thrilling novelistic narrative. Thor, disguised as a woman, pursues his mystical weapon after it’s stolen, with hilarious mishaps along the way. Kvasir, wisest of the gods, is rendered into a mead that inspires poets. And the entire cycle culminates in Raganorak, the climatic twilight of the gods. It’s both the perfect telling of these great myths and Neil Gaiman at his compelling best.
There is no better author at explaining the complicated poetry of the universe than Carlo Rovelli. Here he reveals our changing perception of time and space throughout history. Aristotle began us on the path but it was Albert Einstein who laid the groundwork to modern physics over 100 years ago, Rovelli takes us on a fascinating tour from our earliest understanding of the foundations of reality to the mind-bending experiments of the Higgs Boson. Rovelli is not only one of the leading minds in quantum physics, he is also a wonderfully engaging writer and tour guide.