Tina Recommends


Tina V.Tina is a Book Passage manager and bookseller at our Corte Madera store. When she is not recommending great books, rumor has it that she is a go-to-woman for the best literary quotes!






The Rosie Project (Paperback)

$15.99
ISBN-13: 9781476729091
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Simon & Schuster, 6/2014
The most delightful romantic comedy to come along in years! 

Told entirely from the point of view of Don, a high-functioning but socially inept geneticist, the book begins with The Wife Project, with which our science nerd determines that he should find a wife by his 40th birthday, and commences with a questionnaire to find suitable candidates.

The Wife Project is derailed when Don's friend Gene jokingly sends him Rosie, a completely unsuitable candidate (she smokes, is a vegetarian, and lacks the required math skills). Rosie captivates our Don, however, and in the course of a hilarious disaster of a first date, tells him that she has long sought to know who her birth father is. The geneticist commences The Father Project, and we're off and running.

Through 40 father candidates, on two continents, with one uproarious class reunion, and the complete disruption of Don's carefully ordered eating, drinking, work, and exercise schedules, we meet love in all of its baffling forms--father/daughter, man/woman, friend/friend, family to its black sheep.

Fans of the current TV series, The Big Bang Theory, will see some parallels with the character Sheldon Cooper and enjoy them mightily. But though a comic figure himself, Don is also more complete, more realistically human, and we humans can absolutely empathize with his bafflements when faced with the many challenges to understanding life and love.


$15.00
ISBN-13: 9781250037756
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Picador, 9/2013
For booksellers and bibliophiles in the digital age, this book is a healing exercise, bringing together the lovers of print with the possibilities rampant in computerized texts, visualizations, and puzzle solving. It's great fun.

Clay Jannon takes a job as the night clerk in a dusty but wondrous and mostly vertical bookstore in a rundown neighborhood in San Francisco. Bemused and charmed by Mr. Penumbra, he's puzzled by the store's stock and customers, especially the odd characters coming in to borrow the books full of mysterious and puzzling text from one particular wall of shelves.

He finds that he has entered the world of the Bound and Unbound, a secret society of book lovers trying to solve a 500-year-old puzzle. When he meets an energetic young woman from Google, and begins to apply his own computer skills and unrealized resourcefulness to the puzzle, both he and Penumbra discover that the computer age might just be what the Unbound have needed to solve the puzzle at long last. But not all of the Unbound are as ecstatic as Clay and Penumbra at the possibility.

The marvels of Google, love of paper and cloth and leather books, a beloved fantasy series from Clay's school days,  puzzle-solving, typography, the history of printing, a warehouse full of abandoned antiquities in the Nevada desert, and above all the bonds and resources of friendship, all serve to make this a rich and wonderful adventure. Highly recommended.

The Human Division (Hardcover)

$25.99
ISBN-13: 9780765333513
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Tor Books, 5/2013

This is very much "tough guy" science fiction, read on the recommendation of a [male] friend. Definitely the most warrior-like, military fiction I've read in quite some time. I'm not going to dismiss it for this bent, though. It's very good, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, and will love to read more about this universe. The series begins with John Perry, a 75-year old ad copywriter, now retired and widowed, who signs up to give up his life on Earth and head into the stars to fight for the interstellar human Colonies. Recruits sign on for 2 years of military service (the small print says the Colonial army can keep them for up to ten years, though) and in return, get buff new bodies and a promise of new life on a Colony planet when their service is ended. Our man Perry realizes quickly that A) the army is definitely going to keep them all for the full ten years if possible; B) the death rate of Colonial soldiers is 75%; C) he's surprisingly well-suited to this kind of work. He's smart, savvy, gets along with everyone, leads well, and most importantly, thinks on his feet. Many battles, lost friends, clever plot twists, and advancements later, Perry is a Captain with a long period of service left ahead of him, and the dream of a simple Colony farm with a woman named Jane, in about eight more years. If he lives, and can find Jane again. Funny, engaging, political, and a great construct, this series is fast becoming a favorite of mine.

 


$14.99
ISBN-13: 9780765334794
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Tor Books, 1/2013

Andy Dahl is a newly-assigned ensign on the Universal Union's flagship in the star fleet, the Intrepid, in the year 2400-something. He and his fellow ensigns soon learn that new crew members of the Intrepid, especially when on Away Team missions, or if they happen to be present on decks 6 through 12 if the ship is under attack, have a near-100% mortality rate. Rather than take this with the fatalism of the more seasoned crew members, Dahl investigates.

It seems the Intrepid and its crew are actually the stars of a television show written in 2012, and when The Narrative takes over, they are helpless to control their actions, and are swept along in it. He develops a bold plan to go back in time from 2400 to 2012, and stop the Hollywood production of the show that runs their lives.

Obviously, for you Star Trek fans out there, this is an entire book based on the very old fan adage, that the poor characters wearing the Red Shirts on that show (usually ensign rank), always died first on Away missions or in battle. It's the cleverest danged thing I've read, well, since the last John Scalzi book I read. Loved it.

 


$16.00
ISBN-13: 9780143119685
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Penguin Books, 12/2011

Diana Bishop is a hereditary witch in denial of her powers, so she's taken up an ordinary life as an academic, in the field of science history, ironically with a concentration in historical literature of the age when alchemy gave way to hard science. At Oxford for a year's research, she calls up an old alchemical manuscript from the archives, only to find it's bewitched and reacting magically to her touch. She sends it right back. And is suddenly surrounded by witches, daemons, and vampires, who are hovering about waiting for her to call it up again.

Matthew Clairmont is a respected physician and DNA researcher based at Oxford, who also happens to be a 1,500-year old vampire. Bemused by Diana's attitude toward her witchcraft, he takes on the role of her protector from the other creatures pressing about her for access to the manuscript. His DNA research is focused on the four species --witch, daemon, vampire, human--and how they differ at the most basic DNA level, and what their evolution has been, in hopes of finding out why the 3 non-human species seem to be dying out.

The book Diana so easily called up in the Bodleian library reference collection is the legendary key to it all, long lost by all 3 species, who want to get their hands on it.

And the adventures begin.

This is marvelous stuff, full of classical literature, science, alchemy, and historical references both fictional and real. It's well-written, fast-paced, chock full of great quotes, songs, poems, languages, and historical tidbits I am going to have to go and look up (most happily), and filled with a large, vibrant, believable, intense cast of characters who draw you in.

The librarians and armchair historians I know are going to devour it. I loved it. Can't wait to read it again, and look up those tantalizing bits I want to know more about.

Highly, highly recommended.

 


Gone Girl (Hardcover)

$25.00
ISBN-13: 9780307588364
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Crown, 6/2012

It's impossible to review this book in any depth without spoiling one of the numerous plot twists. It's a thriller, it's riveting, it's readable and totally engaging.

As a water-cooler or book club discussion focus, this book is a gold mine. Insights into marriage? Check. Point of view switching? Check. Unreliable narrator(s)? Check. Also do-I-like-them-or-not characters, will s/he won't s/he, oh-no-you-DIDN'T, and much more, handled with adroit skill by former Entertainment Weekly reviewer Gillian Flynn.

The woman is a helluva novelist.

 


$16.00
ISBN-13: 9781439172377
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Simon & Schuster, 4/2010

Also check out The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing ($24.00).

Tarquin Hall
, a British journalist who has worked all over the world but was mostly based in India for the past 20 years, has begun a series of mystery novels set in Delhi. The star of the books is Vish Puri, India's Most Private Investigator. The bombastic, rotund, brilliant Puri never misses a meal (the Indian food in the books will make you hungry), over which he will regale you with his brilliance in solving cases. A master of disguise, he reads crime scenes like Sherlock Holmes (but disdains that detective, so never say so to his face). And he understands the complex class structure of Indian society so well that he and his operatives move about with great freedom through bureaucrats, Swamis, street magicians, and middle class neighborhoods.

There is a huge cast of characters: Puri's operatives are well but mysteriously drawn and have nicknames he has given them. HandBrake is his driver and his handling of Delhi traffic is hilarious; Tubelight is man of all jobs; Face Cream is a young woman with a beautiful face, scars on her back, and superior fighting skills. In addition to the major case in every book, there are a couple of vignettes—short cases interwoven to show the scope of the Investigators' work and cleverly give even more color to the portrait of India the books offer. And Puri's family is large and vivid, from the brother-in-law whose business ventures are never going to make him "the richest man in Punjab!" to MommyGee, who takes on her own little investigations despite Puri's disapproval, and his wife, who is always trying to keep "Chubby" on his diet.

A loving, humorous, really educational look at the complex, sometimes uneasy state that is modern India, these books are a delight. Highly recommended.

 


The Pig Did It (Paperback)

$13.99
ISBN-13: 9781883285340
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Delphinium, 4/2009

The Buying Director for Book Passage was in the store one Sunday, and passed me a little book she'd received called The Pig Did It, by Joseph Caldwell.

I'd never heard of Caldwell, but a peek at the book's opening intrigued me so, I took it home and finished it in one sitting. It's a slim little thing at 212 pages and a fast read. Caldwell's a brilliant writer whose prose you can really wallow in—simultaneously cynical, comic, and lyrically poetic. He just crafts these amazing turns of phrase that have you admiringly re-reading passages, in spite of how much you want to get on with the story.

Our hero, such as he is, is Aaron McCloud, a writer of the literati type in New York with several minor awards to his credit, and a writing teacher. He goes to visit his Aunt in County Kerry, Ireland, in order to wallow in self-pity because a woman he'd hand-picked from one of his classes, and set out to impress and charm, did not fall for him.

Aaron's quite a piece of work, really someone you DON'T want to like because he's so enormously self-centered. But he's also sort of charmingly bemused when things don't go his way, like when his plans to get straight to the cliffs near his Aunt's home, and get to the wallowing, are interrupted by a herd of pigs in the roadway blocking his bus, being led to market by an enticing redheaded female swineherd. One of the pigs follows him home to the Aunt's cottage. And then digs up a body in her garden. Things get more and more Irish and outrageous from there, just great comic fun.

The Pig Did It is just perfect for lovers of quirky comedy, light mystery, and beautifully drawn Irish settings and characters mixed with excellent writing. Book clubs could really have a ball with this one.

 


Garden Spells (Paperback)

$15.00
ISBN-13: 9780553384833
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Bantam Discovery, 4/2008

The Waverleys have always been an strange family. The Waverley women each has a gift that makes them, individually and collectively, outsiders even in their home town of Bascom, North Carolina. Evanelle, for one—she comes bearing gifts she is compelled to give to someone—a box of pop-tarts, a skein of yarn, a shirt several sizes too large. And yet, every time, what she brings soon turns out to be useful in some way. Crucially useful, even.

Claire, who inherited her grandmother's Queen Anne house, tends to the flower and herb garden, and uses its products in her catering business, ingredients that, used just so, produce interesting results. And the garden has this strange apple tree...

Sydney, Claire's younger sister, left away from home as soon as she was old enough, but now returns fleeing an abusive marriage with her little girl in tow. With Sydney home, things start to change—and Claire is not altogether certain she wants them to. Especially not when it comes to that disconcertingly attractive artist/teacher who just moved next door.

It's a nicely written book—charming, sweet, just that hint of magic. At times, it reminded me of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, other times of Jennifer Crusie. And Sydney's story will remind you of Nell from the Three Sisters Island books by Nora Roberts.

Highly recommended.

 


$26.00
ISBN-13: 9781400052172
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Crown, 2/2010

This is, without a doubt, one of the most compelling books I have ever read. It's not just that it's well-written (which it is, brilliant), but that the subject matter is so unbelievable and staggering and has such implications from our medical past, and for the future of medicine.

Henrietta Lacks was a black woman living in rural Virginia in the 1940s and ‘50s. A wife and mother of five, she died at the age of 31 at Johns Hopkins medical center, in the black ward, of cervical cancer. A few months before she died, her doctor retrieved a tissue sample from her cervix and gave it to one of his assistants—something they did routinely at this teaching and research center—to place the cells into a culture and see if they could grow and replicate. Such cells usually died in a matter of hours, but if they could be kept alive, were increasingly useful in the new field of virology.
 
Henrietta’s cells lived, and were named HeLa.
 
From the moment the doctors at Johns Hopkins started using them, and giving them out to other researchers to use, they began to spread exponentially. HeLa cells are now so prevalent and common in medicine that nearly every researcher in the world has touched them, and they’ve gone up in space. They have been bought and sold, replicated and shipped worldwide. They have unfortunately also contaminated other cell lines, causing uncounted millions of dollars in damage to vital research.
 
And for decades, her family didn't know, and then they didn't understand. Science writer Rebecca Skloot heard snippets of information which got her interested in the HeLa cells, realized the significance of their story, and spent more than 10 years researching and composing this book, interviewing Nobel laureates, pharmaceutical techs and CEOs, lawyers and medical ethicists, and most importantly, the family of Henrietta Lacks.

She’s done a brilliant job weaving Henrietta’s story, those of her children, and the progress of science and the HeLa cells, into a moving, riveting, personal narrative. Her access to, and eventual closeness with Henrietta’s children was a dangerous course for a journalist needing objectivity to tell this story, but she handled it well. I may even forgive her for making me cry. Twice.
 
Skloot is particularly good about the clarity of her scientific explanations for the layman, and the timeline of important scientific events and discoveries made by the use of HeLa cells. And in a strong Afterword, her even-handed examination of the legal and moral ramifications of human tissue handling, and the desperate need of science to have access to human tissue to serve the needs of us all, is thought-provoking in the extreme. I can’t get it out of my mind, in fact, and will probably be thinking about it and discussing it for the rest of my life.
 
It’s that important.

 


The Dirty Secrets Club (Mass Market Paperback)

$7.99
ISBN-13: 9780451227171
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Signet, 6/2009

Basic set up of Gardiner's series: Jo Beckett is a forensic psychologist who helps police with the "why" in cases of uncertain death. I gather that Gardiner is long since published in the UK but we've only just got her in the US, and I don't know what the holdup was!

The book's a tight, well-written roller coaster ride from the opening page to the finish. Fantastic! This woman is one of the most talented I've ever read at edge-of-your-seat suspense. Great characters, neatly and deeply drawn in a few sentences just a bit at a time while the action proceeds at a fast clip.

It didn't hurt that the book is set on our home ground of San Francisco and surroundings, and Gardiner clearly writes with an intimate knowledge of this area.

Great stuff. An author to watch!

 


$25.99
ISBN-13: 9780061791017
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Harper, 11/2010

How did the Imperial Russian court and the revolution, cabaret clubs, a breakthrough in molecular chemistry, a convent in the South of France, the flower fields of Grasse, American GIs and German troops in World War II, contribute the to creation and worldwide popularity of this iconic fragrance? Mazzeo tells all in this fun slice of history.

Knowing there are more definitive biographies of Coco Chanel already written, Mazzeo wisely gives us just enough of her background to show how and why she developed the fragrance, and what she meant to convey with it. The author also dispels a lot of old myth and rumor about the famous fragrance.

I really enjoyed the background information on chemistry, perfume categories and development, and the rich feel of the 1920s and 1930s that Mazzeo captured and conveyed. This book and a bottle of the fragrance would make a lovely gift for a Chanel No.5 fan!

 


The Thirteenth Tale (Paperback)

$16.00
ISBN-13: 9780743298032
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Washington Square Press, 10/2007

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, is an absolutely wonderful book about the power of storytelling, the value of belief, and the weight of the truth.

Margaret Lea, a clerk in her devoted father's rare books shop and a historical biographer, is summoned by Vida Winter, the most famous novelist of her time, to write the dying woman's biography. Since the elusive Winter is also famous for making up stories about her life, Margaret doubts she is going to hear the truth. But Winter seems determined to tell it at last.

What follows is an absorbing, harrowing story of a decaying estate, a dysfunctional family with a vein of madness, ghosts, twin girls raised wild with only an aging housekeeper and gardener to tend them, and well-meaning villagers who try to intervene. Margaret is drawn into the tale, investigates what facts she can, visits the dying estate and village, and struggles with the haunting presence of her own dead twin. And finally, wins the trust of the hard woman who has never told the truth before, and finds a way to lay the past to rest.

Beautifully written with incredible atmosphere and memorable characters, this is a keeper.

 


The Eight (Mass Market Paperback)

$7.99
ISBN-13: 9780345366238
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Ballantine Books, 1/1990
Wahooooooooo!!!

On the ARC (advanced promotional copies for retailers) shelf in the bookstore yesterday was a new book from Katherine Neville, who authored one of my all-time favorite historical adventure novels, The Eight. The new book is a sequel of sorts and I don't know much more than that yet. I passed the advance copy to another staffer there. She and I did mutual Happy Dances together over this; The Eight has been a huge favorite with both of us since its release WAY back in 1988 and we are thrilled to have a new book from Neville at last. We recommend the heck outta the original every chance we get.

So, what on earth is The Eight, you ask? Let me offer a publisher's blurb and then my own comments:

[Publisher blurb:
New York City, 1972: A dabbler in mathematics and chess, Catherine Velis is also a computer expert for a Big Eight accounting firm. Before heading off to a new assignment in Algeria, Cat has her palm read by a fortune-teller. The woman warns Cat of danger. Then an antiques dealer approaches Cat with a mysterious offer: He has an anonymous client who is trying to collect the pieces of an ancient chess service, purported to be in Algeria. If Cat can bring the pieces back, there will be a generous reward.

The south of France, 1790: Mireille de Rémy and her cousin Valentine are young novices at the fortress-like Montglane Abbey. With France aflame in revolution, the two girls burn to rebel against constricted convent life - and their means of escape is at hand. Buried deep within the abbey are pieces of the Montglane Chess Service, once owned by Charlemagne. Whoever reassembles the pieces can play a game of unlimited power. But to keep the Game a secret from those who would abuse it, the two young women must scatter the pieces throughout the world. ©1988 Katherine Neville]


Tina adds: What you read in the blurb is the tip of the iceberg of this complex, fast-paced, exciting book. It's full of real historical figures as characters, AND each character becomes a living chess piece of a sort; the young novices are pawns, their abbess is the White Queen, Catherine the Great of Russia is the Black Queen, and Jean Jacques Rousseau is the Black King, and so on. Even if you know absolutely nothing about chess, you will LOVE this book. It's completely fun.

 


$24.99
ISBN-13: 9780312377045
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Minotaur Books, 9/2010
The Armand Gamache novels by Louise Penny:

From the immense writing talent of Louise Penny comes Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, one of the most brilliant, warmest, most sympathetic, and best-drawn characters in modern fiction. With deep emotional intelligence and an eye for the tiniest detail, Gamache understands the darkly human motivations for murder, taking him to the top of Quebec’s homicide bureau in spite of the complex politics and betrayals lurking at the Sûreté.
 
Filled with locations from Montreal, to old Quebec City, to the eccentric, not-on-any-map artists’ colony in the tiny town of Three Pines, the novels are a wonderful immersion in French Canadian places, people, foods, and life. Characters are vivid and so real that you want to meet them, places are so enticing you’ll want to travel there, and the darkly atmospheric tone of the books will draw you in for hours of entertainment.
 
Highly recommended.

 


$28.95
ISBN-13: 9780670022410
Availability: Special Order - Subject to Availability
Published: Viking Adult, 2/2011

Diana Bishop is a hereditary witch in denial of her powers, so she's taken up an ordinary life as an academic, in the field of science history, ironically with a concentration in historical literature of the age when alchemy gave way to hard science. At Oxford for a year's research, she calls up an old alchemical manuscript from the archives, only to find it's bewitched and reacting magically to her touch. She sends it right back. And is suddenly surrounded by witches, daemons, and vampires, who are hovering about waiting for her to call it up again.

Matthew Clairmont is a respected physician and DNA researcher based at Oxford, who also happens to be a 1,500-year old vampire. Bemused by Diana's attitude toward her witchcraft, he takes on the role of her protector from the other creatures pressing about her for access to the manuscript. His DNA research is focused on the four species—witch, daemon, vampire, human—and how they differ at the most basic DNA level, and what their evolution has been, in hopes of finding out why the three non-human species seem to be dying out.

The book Diana so easily called up in the Bodleian library reference collection is the legendary key to it all, long lost by all three species, who want to get their hands on it.

And the adventures begin.
 
This is marvelous stuff, full of classical literature, science, alchemy, and historical references both fictional and real. It's well-written, fast-paced, chock full of great quotes, songs, poems, languages, and historical tidbits I am going to have to go and look up (most happily), and filled with a large, vibrant, believable, intense cast of characters who draw you in.

The librarians and armchair historians I know are going to devour it. I loved it. Can't wait to read it again, and look up those tantalizing bits I want to know more about.

Highly recommended.

 


$25.95
ISBN-13: 9780385527057
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Doubleday, 5/2012

Brief, light, interesting biography of Birdseye, who was clearly one of life's "see a need and fill it" kind of people. Besides inventing the particular quick-freezing technique that allowed for the widespread production of frozen food of edible quality  worldwide, he patented a paper making process from sugar cane, and many other disparate but useful inventions.

Recommended for lovers of food, and people who like biographies of charismatic, inquisitive, interesting people.

 




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