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.
Moonglow is a ravishing novel told as a memoir by a narrator named Michael Chabon who is spellbound by his dying grandfather’s revelations. With Michael, we go to WWII where the grandfather, a Jew in the heart of the European invasion, makes a discovery that will anger him forever. We are in Baltimore when a displaced French survivor with a 4 year old daughter falls for Michael’s grandfather instead of the Rabbi. We go to prison with Michael’s grandfather and we are with his grandmother in a mental institution. No review can do justice to this intricately layered, vibrant tale. Some signed first editions.-- Elaine
It’s 1944 and now that the fascists know the war is lost, their cruelty increases. Innocenzo Cenzo Vianello, a Venetian, is fishing in the dark when he comes across the body of a young woman floating in the lagoon. Turns out she isn’t dead but the Nazis are searching for her so they can kill her. In a mesmerizing historical thriller, we see the underbelly of wartime Northern Italy. We follow Cenzo to Lake Garda where the Germans have installed Mussolini and where no one is to be trusted. The pages fly by but when you are done, you know you’ve read a profound work. Some signed first editions. -- Elaine
Our narrator is seven when she meets Tracey in dance class. Tracey is clearly the talented dancer but our narrator thinks deeply about race, freedom and culture. Although the childhood best friends are estranged in their twenties, their experiences growing up together continue to impact their lives. Smith takes us from West London to West Africa where our adult narrator has been a personal assistant to a famous singer who has opened an orphanage and can order a baby as easily as a designer handbag. Heart-wrenching, nuanced, and, in spots, wildly funny, Swing Time will make you want to dance when you aren’t crying, laughing, or turning back to a particularly gorgeous passage. Some signed first editions. --Elaine
Reluctantly retired from the LAPD, Harry Bosch has two new gigs. He does pro-bono investigations for the San Fernando Police Department and he takes selective private cases. Then mega-rich engineer Whitney Vance asks Bosch to look for someone who may not exist. Sixty-five years ago, while a student at USC, Vance fell in love with Vibiana Duarte. Soon after she became pregnant, Vibiana disappeared. Now Vance wants to know if he has an heir. Meanwhile the San Fernando Police want Harry to help them nab a serial rapist. If you are a Harry Bosch groupie like me or if you’ve never read Connelly, you’ll want to dive into this thrilling novel. Some signed first editions. -- Elaine
There is nothing more exhilarating than reading an intelligent, fast paced, crime novel and Joe Ide proves that in his debut novel, IQ. On the searing hot streets of Long Beach, we meet IQ: a very smart kid from a very bad neighborhood. For baked goods or cold cash, IQ will use that intellect to solve neighborhood crimes. Unfortunately, he doesn’t listen to his own highly-attuned instincts and ends up on the wrong end of a very bad case. Ide’s clean writing and cinematic descriptions bring us more than just a tough L.A. story. He delivers a Sherlock Holmes tribute that no one was expecting and everyone will want to read.-- Luisa
There’s no question that Jacob is a troubled guy. He was raised first by his mother in an Egyptian whorehouse until his wealthy father took him to Lebanon. There he was a misfit at a Catholic school. A gay poet, he finally found love and his way to San Francisco just before the AIDS crisis decimated the community. Wracked by guilt at having been spared while his physician lover was taken by the disease, Jacob is a haunted guy. We meet him in the waiting room of a psychiatric clinic, and as his fascinating story unfolds, we are in for a gorgeous, surprising and provocative ride. Some signed first editions.-- Elaine
In Apartheid South Africa, Trevor Noah’s white father and black Xhosa mother were criminals. Their crime was mixed race love. Trevor’s mom, who in spite of the racist laws managed to secure an education and a career, had to pose as his nanny. Fans of The Daily Show know that she raised a smart, insightful, and very funny son. Born a Crime will anger and astound you. Treat yourself to this hilarious and staggering memoir. -- Elaine
The St. Louis was a transatlantic liner, filled with Jewish refugees, bound for Cuba. While most of the passengers were turned away, 27 were able to buy their way onto Cuban soil. Armando Lucas Correa’s sharp eye for detail and descriptive prowess brings this once glamorous ship to life, and reveals the heartbreaking choices and indignities thrust upon its precious cargo. This is more than a story of an ill-fated journey: it’s the story of the families aboard and their bonds that couldn’t be broken. We are spellbound by the inner strength of Hannah, a girl fleeing from Germany in 1939, and easily recognize the curious yet sensitive soul of Anna, a girl living in New York in 2014. The St. Louis’ little known story from World War II is the fascinating backdrop to one family’s lost history and the brave search for a way to heal from the horrors of the past. --Luisa
When the Nazi’s occupied Paris everything and nothing changed. Women still had to take care of their families and now with most of the men gone to war, they made decisions and compromises that would have seemed impossible just a short time earlier. As women waited in lines for hours to get a small amount of food, the Nazis were dining in luxury and enjoying the opera. Sebba introduces us to women who were collaborators: women in the resistance and women who made difficult choices to survive. Her portraits are so vivid that we come away feeling we’ve known Les Parisiennes. -- Elaine
Bruno, our hero—or perhaps anti-hero—is a backgammon shark who hustles in the international playgrounds of the very rich. Bruno detests poker, where bluffing is the secret to success, and unlike chess, in backgammon, you can’t plan your moves ahead because you don’t know what the dice will do—unless you have ESP. When our suave James Bondish Bruno develops a tumor, he returns to Berkeley, so he can be saved by a controversial neurosurgeon. If you’ve spent time in Berkeley, you may even recognize yourself. Lethem brings us a story with depth and magnificent language that’s also a fun read. -- Elaine
Billy Collins has done it again. These forty new poems may be my favorite Collins poetry collection ever. I love the way he draws us into each poem. It all feels so simple at first, and then, as we read on, we are immersed in the profound questions of humanity. Who but Collins would write a poem wondering about the life of a fish that is now on Collins’ dinner plate in Moscow? I cried when I read the amusing but ultimately poignant poem about Collins’ imaginary sister. This is a book to savor and share with your dearest friends. -- Elaine
News of the World is a book that unexpectedly grabs your heart and never lets go. It is 1870, the Civil War has just ended and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is traveling through Texas, making a little money reading the news of the world to people. Then he is offered the job of taking an orphaned young girl back to her distant relatives. Jiles is a beautiful writer, easily bringing the American landscape to life, but her true genius is in her ability to create fascinating flesh and blood characters that jump off the pages and bide you to follow them. Cranky old Captain Kidd meets his match in the young-spirited Johanna, and together they begin an uneasy waltz of trust which slowly grows into genuine love. -- Luisa
Shelby and Helene are best friends who will soon go off to college. Shelby is driving when they have a terrible accident. Physically she’s OK, but emotionally she’s a mess because Helene lies in her old bedroom in a vegetative state. Shelby refuses to visit Helene but people who believe Helene has magical powers, come long distances, wanting to touch her. Helene’s parents don’t blame Shelby, yet Shelby can’t stand the guilt. She shaves her head and starts cutting herself. She moves to New York with the town pot dealer who decides to become a pharmacist. Shelby gets a job cleaning cages in a chain pet store where she makes friends with a determined and loyal single mom. Their friendship takes Shelby’s life and the novel to a new level. Faithful is a book about guilt, motherhood, loyalty, and joy. All the characters are fabulous—including the dogs. -- Elaine