Elaine's Picks




Elaine PetrocelliBook Passage President Elaine Petrocelli selects her favorite new books and provides a review about her 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.




March - April 2014

ISBN-13: 9780061713781
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Harper, 4/2014
I was mesmerized by Francine Prose’s intricate and magnificent, The Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932.  I, like so many others, have wondered about the famous Brassai photograph of two women sitting together at a table in Paris. By making their story a novel, Prose manages to give us truths that go deep into the souls of the characters. The fictional Lou Villars is based on the tuxedo wearing woman in the Brassai photograph, a famous athlete, race car driver and Nazi collaborator. She and her lover, Arlette, are well known at the Chameleon Club where people who usually have to pretend to be something else, are able to let down their guard. We come to know all the fascinating characters because Prose brilliantly unfolds the story from different points of view. I was especially taken with the illuminating letters from the photographer to his Hungarian parents as he describes what he is sees when he takes his camera into the Paris night. In the hands of Francine Prose the intricate threads of the people, the times, and the questions of what constitutes good and evil make an unforgettable tapestry.

Frog Music (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9780316324687
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Little, Brown and Company, 4/2014
Welcome to San Francisco in the late 19th century. Prepare to submit to a riveting, rowdy, thrilling novel that is both heartbreaking and erotic. Blanche is a French beauty, skilled in the art of burlesque and the pleasures of the flesh, but she is also a mother who fights for her strange yet irresistible child. Donoghue weaves an emotional story rich with the inventions of the time. She leaves us stunned by unforgettable imagery and the collision of luck and circumstance. Some signed first editions.

The Other Language (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9780307908360
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Pantheon, 4/2014
Get ready to be enthralled by nine amazing stories. Francesca Marciano lives in Rome but she writes about Italians worldwide—from Venice during the film festival, to India where a couple sees how fragile marriage can be, to East Africa where a woman finds her old boyfriend has changed, to New York where a woman flees all things Italian only to end up writing a book about Italian ways, and even to Southern Italy where a Northern Italian feels completely out of place. The stories are political, funny, worldly, and sometimes heartbreaking. Some signed first editions.

ISBN-13: 9780307885913
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Crown, 4/2014
It’s hard not to envy Frances Mayes for her lyrical books about life in Tuscany, her stunning novel, her olive trees, her poetry, her food, her family, and her friends on two continents. But in Under Magnolia we meet Frances as a girl in a southern family with two incredibly clueless parents. With her clear eye for details and her gentle sense of the ridiculous, Mayes introduces us to the lost little girl who has a smart mouth and a love of nature but who has every reason to be a troubled kid. Just as she brought us right into the picture in Under the Tuscan Sun, here we feel the southern heat while we smell the flowers and the rot. Although the characters are wilder than anyone you are likely to meet in a novel, Mayes’s portrait is so nuanced that we come away caring about them as we gain new appreciation for this outstanding author. Some signed first editions.

ISBN-13: 9780399165948
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Putnam Adult, 1/2014
These new essays deal with much more than the joys and challenges for a 65-yearold guy trying to parent a teenage daughter. Barry is hilarious as he takes on watching Viagra TV commercials with kids, cremation, trying to get wi-fi in the Israeli desert, and what is required to be a “real” man. He even tells you how to get rid of boys who like your daughter. As Barry says, following his advice could get you arrested. Even if you don’t think Justin Bieber looks like the Geico Gecko, or have never wondered why Fifty Shades of Grey is such a hit, you are going to want this treasure. Some signed first editions.

Thirty Girls (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9780307266385
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Knopf, 2/2014
Esther is a student at a convent school in Uganda, when the Lord’s Resistance Army swoops in and takes 139 girls. Sister Giulia can’t let this happen. She follows the kidnappers and manages to get 109 released. Esther is among the 30 kept by the psychotic rebels. Jane, on the other hand, is an American writer who is traveling to Uganda to interview girls who have escaped. What Esther has seen and been forced to do is horrific, and she is going to move right into your heart. Minot writes this novel, based on an abduction that took place in 1996, with a light touch and profound insight. Some signed first editions.

Steal the North (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9780670786183
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Viking Adult, 4/2014
Emmy is a teenager living in Sacramento with her self-sufficient single mother when she first meets her fundamentalist aunt and uncle. Convincing Emmy’s mother that they need to have Emmy with them, they take her to live with them. She does love her aunt and uncle, but her aunt’s mistaken belief that Emmy is a Christian and a virgin makes her very uncomfortable. As she comes to appreciate the stark beauty of Eastern Washington, she becomes close to the Native American boy who lives next door. Their romance does not sit well with the locals.This outstanding first novel unfolds with tenderness and beauty as we see how one generation fears that the next will revisit their own complex past. Some signed first editions.

ISBN-13: 9780812995787
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Random House, 3/2014
A Nigerian who has been living abroad comes back to Lagos where he finds unexpected sights and sounds. The muezzin’s call to prayer joins the music of John Coltrane. A woman is reading Michael Ondaatje. Our protagonist feels oddly at home and yet absolutely foreign, as he finds the city chaotic, exciting, and frightening. Cole, who was born in the US and raised in Nigeria, includes his own photographs, giving this arresting novel immediacy and sense of reality. Some signed first editions.

ISBN-13: 9780060539184
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Ecco Press, 3/2014
In 475 B.C., a father wrote a letter to his son, a Jewish soldier. When the papyrus was found two and a half millennia later, scholars learned that contrary to what they had believed, there was a thriving Jewish community in Egypt at that time. Each chapter begins with a tangible piece of history— a mosaic, a shard, a medieval child’s doodle in a Hebrew workbook—and Schama uses each of these artifacts to unveil the history of a people who were in Paris, India, Rome, Syria, and all the then known world. He ends this first of two volumes with the expulsion of the Jews from Portugal in 1492. Schama has the uncanny ability to take a mountain of information and make it fascinating and well as historically grounded. Some signed first editions.

ISBN-13: 9781594204739
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Penguin Press HC, The, 3/2014
Mark Twain arrived in San Francisco in 1863, dodging the draft and searching for adventure. He fell in with Bret Harte, who was at the top of his game, Charles Warren Stoddard, a struggling poet, and Ina Coolbrith, a poet and the protector of the group. The transcontinental railroad was soon completed and the Civil War was bringing huge profits to San Francisco. Immigrants from five continents were contributing new energy and ideas. We join Twain in San Francisco and later, when his stage presentations make him an international sensation. Some signed first editions

ISBN-13: 9781455554492
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Grand Central Publishing, 4/2014
Jane Goodall became enchanted with plants in her childhood English garden, where she climbed the beech tree and made elderberry wine with her grandmother. Today, she continues to love that garden. She takes us to her home away from home, the Gombe Forest in Tanzania, where she and the chimpanzees are enchanted by the fig and plum trees. With her intimate writing style and her passion for nature, Jane Goodall brings news of conservation successes such as the Millennium Seed Project while summoning us to meet the challenges ahead. Some signed first editions

ISBN-13: 9781455501762
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Twelve, 4/2014
During her tumultuous adolescence, Ehrenreich kept a journal. Discovering it as a middle-aged woman, she found that many of the questions about life, death and our place in the universe that bothered her then are on her mind now. She became a scientific journalist and an atheist, yet she still wonders about the inexplicable. With this philosophical yet rational memoir, Ehrenreich considers huge questions. But just as she did in her groundbreaking Nickel and Dimed, she writes a thoroughly enjoyable book that makes us think about ideas often shoved aside. Some signed first editions

ISBN-13: 9780804140843
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Harmony, 3/2014
In her candid and carefully researched book, Arianna Huffington doesn’t hesitate to talk about her own experience with racing through life and working harder and harder until she collapsed. She points out that at memorial services we tend to talk about the humor, the love, the generosity and kindness of people rather than their wealth or power. She redefines what it means to be successful as a wise, compassionate person with a sense of wonder and a capacity for passion and giving. Citing cutting edge research, she talks of the ways to find peace of mind and well-being instead of falling into the pressures that lead to a chaotic life. Some signed first editions

ISBN-13: 9780805098143
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Henry Holt and Co., 3/2014
Is there anything John Banville can’t do? Writing under his own name, he has won the Booker Prize and the Franz Kafka Prize. Then writing as Benjamin Black he has created a series of delightful, highly praised mysteries. Now he has reincarnated himself once again as Raymond Chandler’s famed private eye, Phillip Marlowe. What a treat! Marlowe is the quintessential wisecracking, hard-drinking, tough-guy sleuth with an exterior that hides a bit of a moral and sentimental streak. The setting is a few years later than in the orignal stories. But it’s still the seamy side of L.A., Marlowe still has a bottle of booze in the drawer of his desk, and once again a femme fatale walks into his office.

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