Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Finally Found For Sale, Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer, Dreamwalker by Rhys Bowen and CM Broyles, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer, and A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Oh how I wish I had money! I would buy this bookstore and move it to Maple Valley, but I am in no position, financially or healthwise, to own or run a bookstore right now. So I hope that someone reading this will take up the torch and help keep an independent bookstore within SE King County.

Finally Found Books, Auburn, Wash., for Sale
Calling it "a very difficult and personally emotional decision," Todd
Hulbert, owner of Finally Found Books, Auburn, Wash., has put the store up for sale, he wrote in an e-mail to customers and others.

Hulbert called the last three years "the most enjoyable and challenging
of my life. First to build the store from the ashes of others that had
closed, then to move it to its current location, and finally to have
built it into a profitable and viable business that will serve our
community for years to come....

"This is a wonderful opportunity for the right person. Someone who loves
books, people, and has a desire to own their own business. A new owner
that has the drive to continue building a world class bookstore and take
it to the next level. If you or anyone you know has a serious interest
(and please be sure it is sincere), please contact me or stop by the
store to talk about this rare chance to take over a turnkey, profitable

In early 2012, Hulbert bought Baker Street Books
Diamond, Wash., closed it to install new shelving, reconfigure the store
and absorb some 100,000 volumes he had in storage. In July, he reopened
the store as Finally Found Books. In September 2013, Finally Found Books
sales were too low in Black Diamond. The store sells new and used
Hulbert may be reached at 253-246-7376 or

Actually, Amazon's offices and complex of buildings are in South Lake Union area of Seattle, which is pretty far from the Phinney Ridge neighborhood wherein lies Phinney Books, but the sentiment is spot on.

An Indie Bookseller in Amazon Territory' Burmesch's video, "An Indie Bookseller in Amazon Territory," profiles Tom Nissley,
owner of Phinney Books, Seattle, Wash.
"If you thought about the typical characteristics
of an independent bookstore owner, you probably wouldn't guess that they
used to work for the biggest, and most frequently controversial online
bookseller on the planet," she wrote at Flip the Media.

I just finished Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer,and I was fairly impressed with this epistolary novel that was inspired by the relationship of Flannery O'Connor and Robert Lowell, the poet. The witty banter and the gorgeous prose combine to make the reader feel like you're sneaking a peek at your mother's racy love letters from long ago. But that's not all that make this novel so delicious. It's the insight into the minds and hearts of writers and their families in the late 1950s and early 1960s, an era of tremendous change in literature. Here's the blurb:
Frances and Bernard meet in the summer of 1957. Afterward, he writes her a letter. Soon they are immersed in the kind of fast, deep friendship that can change the course of our lives.
They find their way to New York and, for a few whirling years, each other. The city is a wonderland for young people with dreams: cramped West Village kitchens, parties stocked with the sharp-witted and glamorous, taxis that can take you anywhere at all, long talks along the Hudson as the lights of the Empire State Building blink on above.

Inspired by the lives of Flannery O’Connor and Robert Lowell, Frances and Bernard imagines, through new characters with charms entirely their own, what else might have happened. In the grandness of the fall, can we love another person so completely that we lose our dreams?

In witness to all the wonder of kindred spirits and bittersweet romance, Frances and Bernard is a tribute to the power of friendship and the people who help us discover who we are.
Though Frances can be prickly and judgmental, Bernard, who has a mental illness, can be a complete, immature jackass, which made it easier for me to understand why Frances won't marry the man. It takes a strong woman, especially in the 1960s, to be able to say that she values her work above taking care of a man for the rest of her life. She discovers, later, that he also has a problem with infidelity that has nearly lost him his teaching position. So I was glad that she missed the bullet of being shackled to Bernard. Still, it was brilliant that both of these amazing writers found people who could live with them and love them, and care for them when the need arose. I find it hard to believe that this is the author's first work of fiction (she has a published memoir) and that she's so accomplished at such a young age. A strong A for the wonderful Frances and Bernard, with the recommendation to anyone who loves epistolary novels and a beautifully-written story that will keep you turning pages long into the night.

Dreamwalker is the first book in a new YA series by historical mystery author Rhys Bowen and her daughter, CM Broyles. It starts out with prose that is a bit amateurish, but as the story gains momentum, much of that melts away like a dusting of snow in April. There are a few editing problems (as in there should have been an editor to rid the text of redundant phrases and awkward construction), but even with those, the story is imaginative and fun to read. The plot sags once or twice, but then picks up speed and rockets to the finale. Here is the blurb:
Seven Children, Seven Powers. One Enemy.

Addy Walker is a normal California surfer girl until her mother dies and her British aunt enrolls her at a boarding school called Red Dragon Academy in Wales. At first the school seems okay, if a little weird. Which other school has a sun-day when it's not raining? But when Addy stumbles upon a hallway that leads to a different and horrible part of the school she begins to have her doubts.

Addy has always had vivid dreams but now these dreams are becoming frighteningly real and she has a hard time telling dreams from reality. Was it really only in a dream that she visited the cold palace and met the man who wants her captured? He calls her a dreamwalker and it seems that this is a special and dangerous power. Is Addy really able to move between two worlds or is she finally cracking up?

Dreamwalker is the first book in the Red Dragon Academy series and in it we meet Addy, as well as snooty Pippa, brainy Raj, cheeky Sam, serious Coby, shy Gwyllum and worldly Celeste—all who may have been brought to the school because of their special powers. All of whom may be in mortal danger from a terrifying tyrant who calls himself The One, in a land that seems a lot like Wales, but isn't.
I found Addy and her gang to be a bit too much like characters from other famous children's books, yet they were charming enough that by the time Addy is on a rescue mission to gather her friends form the "other side" of the mirror, she has distinguished herself enough that it doesn't matter if she's something of an archetype. I loved that Addy's friend Celeste was able to 'create' things, like Prada shoes, by singing, and that one of the talents is to fly or move through time. A book that deserves a B+ and a hearty recommendation to those who like Harry Potter, or Mercedes Lackey or Jane Yolen (the latter two are authors with great YA books).

Speaking of time travel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells takes on time travel in a new and interesting fashion, when the protagonist, Greta, finds out that her electroshock therapy in the mid-1980s sends her back into the bodies of herself in 1918 and 1941. Each woman is different from her counterpart in the other eras, and each is living a life that the others can't imagine until they have to live it. Greta in 1918 is in love with another man, Greta in 1941 is still in love with her husband and has a child, and Greta in 1985 is mourning the loss of her gay twin brother and her marriage, which has ended in divorce.   Here's the blurb:
After the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix, and the breakup with her longtime lover, Nathan, Greta Wells embarks on a radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her suffocating depression. But the treatment has unexpected effects, and the Greta of 1985 finds herself transported to remarkably similar lives in different eras—as a bohemian and adulteress in 1918, and a devoted wife and mother in 1941—fraught with familiar tensions and difficult choices.

Traveling through time, the modern Greta learns that each reality has its own losses and rewards, and that her alternate selves are unpredictable, driven by their own desires and needs. And as the final treatment looms, one of these other selves could change everything.

Magically atmospheric, achingly romantic, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells beautifully imagines "what if" and wondrously wrestles with the impossibility of what could be.
While it wasn't exactly a carbon copy, I did find that this book reminded me in tone and in construction of the Time Traveler's Wife. There was the same 'dreamy' sense of displacement, the same internal wrestling that marks the kind of writers raised on contemporary literature, writers workshops and feel good TV shows like Friends. I know that it is popular for protagonists to malinger in their grief, because it shows that literature is serious when it's all about suffering (there is no happiness in literature!) Yet I found myself wondering why the author didn't just write a book about the gay twin brother, since he was so important to all the Gretas throughout the novel that she was willing to do almost anything to allow him to lead a gay lifestyle, even when that could have gotten him put in jail and tortured or killed. Felix (the brother) didn't seem to have quite as much concern for her as she did for him, however. Still, the prose was sterling, and the plot moved along at a nice waltz pace. I'd give the novel a B+ and I'd recommend it to those who like stories of time travel and what life was like for gays during various eras.

A Thousand Pieces of You is the beginning of another series by Claudia Gray, a pseudonym for a lovely young woman named Amy Vincent (whose name seems like more of a non de plume than Claudia Gray). This YA science fiction series also involves time travel to different "dimensions" that are layered all around us, and only require a pendant called a "Firebird" to pop your consciousness from your body in one dimension to another. Here's the blurb:Marguerite Cain is the daughter of two famous scientists behind a device called the Firebird, which allows people to travel to other dimensions where they occupy the bodies of their alternate selves. When a graduate student named Paul murders Marguerite’s father and escapes into another dimension, Marguerite and another graduate student, the handsome Theo, risk their lives by trying to catch him. As they move among multiple dimensions, Marguerite contends with a roller coaster of dangers, stress, and unexpected romance, while questioning the ethics of taking over the other Marguerites’ lives. Her feelings about Theo and Paul are also thrown into flux as she meets alternate versions of these young men. Gray (the Evernight series) gets her Firebird series off to an action-packed start; while certain plot points resolve too easily and predictably, the fascinating worlds and eras Marguerite visits make these drawbacks easily forgiven. Marguerite’s foray into czarist Russia as a member of the House of Romanov is a particular highlight as Gray effortlessly moves between the SF, historical, and contemporary aspects of her story.
I completely agree with the blurb that the Russian Marguerite was truly fascinating and her romance with Markov lovely, but I also found the ultra-modern gadgety London interesting, because hologram-telephone rings have that effect on me. I loved that the bad guy was a corporate genius ala Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates, and that they are after Meg specifically because she doesn't forget who she is as she jumps from dimension to dimension. Because the prose is so clean and snappy, and the plot a whirlwind, this book is a real page-turner that will keep you up late into the night reading. Here's hoping the author does just as well with the next book in the series, which I anxiously await. I'd give it an A, and recommend it to all those who like Divergent and other YA series that are somewhat futuristic.

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