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The Monkey Wrench Gang
Ever wonder where the colloquial term “monkey wrench” comes from? Abbey’s zany characters show us how to sabotage heavy machinery, and they are bent on saving the desert from development and degradation by “progress.” Although a bit dated, the concept of environmental activism has not gone away, and Abbey leads us on a merry ramble through the desert of the American Southwest in a grand read.
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic
A doctoral candidate on the verge of ditching her thesis takes a weekend trip to attend a wedding. After losing her way in the woods, she finds herself in an alternate world governed by shape-shifters and magic-wielders. What ensues is a surprising adventure—a blend of the Harry Potter series and Pride and Prejudice.
-Sarah, Lake City
Hour of the Rat
When a former Army buddy asks Beijing-based Iraq War veteran Ellie McEnroe to track down his missing brother, believed to be in China, she lands in a conspiracy involving eco-terrorists and a sinister biotech company. Ellie is a dynamic and wryly witty main character; the story has lots of well-plotted twists and turns, and Brackmann gives an amazing sense of what it feels like to be in modern China without going into overwhelming detail.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Flavia de Luce is a force of nature. Quirky, intelligent and wildly funny, she is undaunted by pretty much anything life throws at her, and when you are 11 and a chemistry buff and an amateur detective, that says something. Set in the English countryside in 1950, this book is for mystery lovers, Anglophiles and science fans, but also for anyone who likes a riveting story and a glorious character. And, there are sequels!
Equal parts history, travelogue, tragedy and coming-of-age story, this achingly poignant and tender novel has a heart of steel. It tells the tale of Rachel, a small girl with leprosy living in the 1890s who is exiled to the Hawaiian island of Moloka’i. Despite the cruelty of her disease, she grows up in a loving community, eventually confronting a possible life on the mainland. Rachel is a survivor, a complicated soul and simply unforgettable.
The Necromancer’s House
A handsome, roguish wizard, Andrew Ranulf Blankenship spends his days looking for his next sexual conquest, or attending an occasional AA meeting. However, after he inadvertently kills the wrong man, Andrew finds himself stalked by an unrelenting horror that won’t stop until everything and everyone he loves is dead. Andrew must confront his past alcoholic mistakes if he plans to stay alive—but in many ways, he’s already too late.
The plague is quiet. Is there misguided hope that there is some civility in suffering? Though scenes of panic and disorder appear in this work, there is no overall anarchy, which is often presented as the norm of behavior in times of strife. Instead, the population, after the initial shock, withdraws. And despite the camaraderie of a shared condition, the only reality is that we are all in the end "alone" in our own mortality.
-Diana, West Seattle
Ready Player One
If you grew up in the 1980s or are an ‘80s fan, this book is for you!! The amount of nerd crammed into this title is enough to overwhelm even the most hardcore geek. Ready Player One is a fantastically fun, fast-paced read, and for me (an ‘80s nerd-child), struck a real chord.
Love videogames? Check!
Love movies? Check!
Love music? Check!
Love the 80's? Check-check!
Now the only question is: Are you ready?
The Coroner’s Lunch
Siri Palboun is a 72-year-old Paris-trained doctor who is “encouraged” to become the National Coroner of Laos during the early 1970s. The new government gives him little support, and he must often rely on other resources such as the helpful ghosts in his dreams. Later, during bizarre events in a Hmong village, Palboun discovers his own latent shamanistic powers, which help him solve three puzzling deaths. The first book in an ongoing series.
Dee does a great job with characters that you don't necessarily like, but care about, and The Privileges is no different. The story is about Adam and Cynthia, a young, attractive, wealthy couple who—literally—have it all, but are still unsatisfied. With any other author I would say, "Who cares!" But with Dee’s novel I wanted to see it through and find out if the characters who “have it all” find happiness as well.
My Brilliant Friend
This novel, the first in an Italian quartet about two girls growing up in 1950s/’60s Naples, floored me. Narrator Elena, a young girl who studies hard to rise above her working-class background, portrays friendship and growing up in all of its confusion and complexity. Poignant, surprising and unforgettable.
A detective from Scotland Yard’s famed Murder Squad is found stabbed to death and stuffed in a trunk. The task of finding the killer falls to the squad's newest member, Detective Day. With the help of a doctor and a headstrong constable, Day must ensure that justice prevails before the whole squad ends up dead. This atmospheric mystery will transport you to the cold and rain of post-Ripper Victorian London.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
I loved how instantaneously I lost myself in this book. Told in second-person narrative, the story unfolds the chapters of a young man's life in the developing world. The social realities of corruption, poverty and inequality pervade each chapter, yet optimism persists. Such a good read!
Havana World Series
Havana, Cuba – 1958. Set just before Castro ousted Batista from power, crime novel Havana World Series stirs the historical imagination. Mob bosses clash for control over Havana while Mickey Mantle’s New York Yankees battle the Milwaukee Braves. In a sweltering and tense revolutionary atmosphere, the Bonanno family has hired Mariano Contreras to pull off a wild heist against rival boss Meyer Lansky. I’ll never see 1950s Cuba, but this book is a suitable consolation prize.
-Richard, Capitol Hill
History of a Pleasure Seeker
Set during the Belle Époque in Paris, this novel follows the exploits of Piet, a private tutor who casts a spell on nearly everyone he meets. This isn't a book I would normally be interested in, but it's so sumptuous and atmospheric I couldn't put it down. It's both a guilty pleasure and a worthy read.
A Wild Ride Through the Night
A boy named Gustave encounters Death on the high seas and is challenged to go on a quest to defeat him. At the heart of this delightful tale is a set of illustrations by 19th-century French artist Gustave Doré, with which Moers transforms what easily could have been a creative writing assignment flop into one of the zaniest, and, surprisingly enlightening, fantasy adventures ever imagined. For lovers of Harry Potter, Neil Gaiman and Pratchett's Discworld.
The husband has had too much to drink, it is the dark of night, and the location is remote. What transpires during the drive and the days-long party, and especially between the characters, raises questions about ethics, morality, religion and cultural differences. This sumptuous tale melds serious subjects with lavish descriptions of character and place.
The Devil All the Time
This gothic novel, about lost souls in Appalachia during the middle of the 20th century, hooked me from the first paragraph. It’s a dark and brooding read, with some of the roughest and toughest characters to be found in contemporary literature. I've recommended it to all my friends and no one has been disappointed.
Moist von Lipwig hangs today. He is destined to meet an “angel” afterward who offers him a second chance as Postmaster General, a dangerous job where predecessors have ended up dead. Really dead. Lipwig will use all his confidence-man charisma to save his skin. For someone who doesn’t typically like fantasy, I’m addicted to Sir Terry’s satirical storytelling and heroic, yet human, characters. If you like Going Postal, follow Moist’s story in Making Money.
Suddenly you’re blind... That’s the premise of Nobel Prize–winning author José Saramago’s classic novel Blindness. One by one, people are losing their sight and nobody understands why. Government officials isolate the first victims, but soon the posted guards go blind and disappear. Reading this book made me feel an almost voyeuristic sightlessness, often seeing no more than Saramago’s desperate characters see. Blindness is bleak, but ultimately an uplifting reading experience I’ll never forget.
-Richard, Capitol Hill
The Thirteenth Tale
Margaret Lea has never interviewed a living person before but Vida Winter, world-renowned author of 59 books, has asked Margaret to write her “true” biography. Vida has been interviewed hundreds of times, and each time she tells the interviewer a different story of her life. At the end of her life, Vida is finally ready to tell the truth. A haunting mystery in which ghosts from both women’s pasts are revealed.
Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson
Sailor Twain is the lovely, fantastical tale of a steamboat captain who rescues a wounded mermaid from the Hudson River. I loved that I never quite knew what was going on. Nothing is what you think it is. The art is breathtaking, all shades of gray and shadows, perfect for the story. When I finished I immediately wanted to start rereading it again from the beginning.
-Christiane, Queen Anne
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, vol. 1: Pterror over Paris; and The Eiffel Tower Demon
Originally published in 1976, this series starts off in pre–World War I Paris with a female investigator chasing dastardly villains and riding a pterodactyl. Luc Besson, director of “The Fifth Element,” wrote and directed a 2010 film loosely based on “Pterror over Paris.”
Love and Treasure
Jack Wiseman’s guilty secret from World War II is tied to the locket he gives his granddaughter Natalie the day before he dies, asking her to return it to its rightful owner. Natalie’s search brings her closer to her grandfather and her Jewish heritage. The Hungarian Gold Train, filled with treasures stolen from Hungarian Jews, is a powerfully moving metaphor for all that was lost in the war.
Murder Strikes a Pose: A Downward Dog Mystery
Seattle, yoga, a devoted dog and a good mystery—this book has it all for me. Yoga teacher Kate finds herself taking in a German Shepherd named Bella and taking on solving the question of who killed Bella’s owner. First in the Downward Dog series, this is a charmer on the cozy side written by the owner of a Seattle yoga studio.