Sunday, January 24, 2016

RIP David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey, Powells Wins Best Bookstore in Oregon, Indie Bookstores Can't Be Replicated, Ordinary Grace by Willam Kent Krueger, City of Darkness and Light by Rhys Bowen, and Rush by Eve Silver

Musician and actor David Bowie died last week at age 69. He was an amazing talent and he was a book lover. Rest in peace, gentleman.

David Bowie: Book Lover's Lament

"I'm a real self-educated kind of guy. I read voraciously. Every book I
ever bought, I have. I can't throw it away. It's physically impossible
to leave my hand! Some of them are in warehouses. I've got a library
that I keep the ones I really really like. I look around my library some
nights and I do these terrible things to myself--I count up the books
and think, how long I might have to live and think, 'F-k, I can't read
two-thirds of these books.' It overwhelms me with sadness."

--David Bowie, quoted in the Daily Beast in a 2002 interview with Bob

Of course Powell's City of Books was voted best bookstore in Oregon. It is a well-deserved title for a bookstore that is a mecca for bibliophiles nationwide.
Powell's Voted Portland's Best Bookstore
Powell's City of Books, Portland, Ore.,"dominated" the Oregonian's People Choice voting for Portland's best
the paper reported.

Powell's won 32% of the vote. "Broadway Books also made a strong
showing, garnering 19% of the vote, followed by A Children's Place with
nearly 14%. Annie Bloom's Books and Wallace Books were tied, each
receiving 8% of the vote."

One commenter wrote: "Portland has the best bookstore options in the
country, if not the world. So it's hard to pick a single best, kind of
like picking the best song ever. How could you ever do with just one? If
I really had to choose, I say Powell's City of Books! And for anyone who
says it's hard to get to, well try living in another city the size of
Portland for a while and reevaluate that question."

I completely agree with this quote, though, due to there being no bookstores in my community, I have purchased books on Amazon and Barnes and Still, there is nothing that can replace the joy of browsing and buying books in an actual bricks and mortar store, as I used to do when I worked at the Mercer Island Reporter and shopped every week at Island Books.

Indie Bookstores 'Can't Be Replicated by Amazon'
 "For years, has been the place to find the cheapest books and
in the most convenient way. Now, Amazon is trying to emulate the
neighborhood bookstores we adore with its new brick-and-mortar location
in University Village.

"But places like Third Place Books, the Elliott Bay Book Company and my
own place of work, A Book for All Seasons, can never be replaced. The
experience of an indie bookstore just can't be bought.... People are
unique. We don't want to feel like another data point, another sale in
the machine that tells the company how many books to buy. Indie
bookstores also use sales data, but we leave ample room for
experimentation and improvisation. If I remember an amazing book from my
childhood that I think we should carry, I can tell my boss. We have the
freedom to experiment, which means our customers do, too."

--Indigo Trigg-Hauger, a freelance writer and a bookseller at A Book for
Wash., in a Seattle Times opinion piece headlined "Indie bookstores

Last week we also lost another icon, British actor Alan Rickman, a huge favorite of mine from movies like Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves ("and cancel Christmas!") to an indie favorite called "Blow Dry" about a hair styling competition. He was a generous and kind man, from all reports, and a huge bibliophile who said that when he was caught reading the Harry Potter books when he was in his dotage, his grandchildren would say "You're reading them still?" and he'd respond, "Always."
Glenn Frey, founding member of the Eagles rock band also died last week, so many people are calling January a month of death. I don't blame them, it is horrifically hard to learn that actors you've enjoyed watching or musicians you've listened to your whole life are gone from this earth. I freaking HATE cancer, which is decimating the population and for some reason, we've not been able to find a cure for this evil disease.

Magnificent Actor Alan Rickman Dies Too Soon.

For most actors, it's in the eyes – that's where the camera lingers.

Alan Rickman had an extra gift: a voice that sparked shivers of every sort. He used it to disarm Bruce Willis in Die Hard, to woo Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility and to rattle Daniel Radcliffe in the Harry Potter films. That rumbling bass baritone moved audiences and made Rickman one of the most respected actors of his generation. When it was silenced by cancer on Jan. 14, the only thing left to feel was heartbreak. He was 69.

Ordinary Grace by Willian Kent Krueger is the February pick for my Tuesday Night library book group. In looking at the book, and the subject matter, I was afraid that this would be another grim and horrible novel full of whining from a old guy who wants everyone to know that his dreams never came true, and consequently, the American Dream is dead. 
I was wrong, thank heaven. Ordinary Grace is actually a lovely novel about a 13-year-old boy named Frank, his younger, stuttering brother named Jake, and their beautiful older sister Ariel.   
Frank's mother married his father when he was a law student, and after he lived through WWII and decided to become a Methodist minister in a small town in Minnesota, she has to live the rigid life that is expected of a minister's wife, though she does so will ill grace, reminding him that this is not what she signed up for. 
“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”
New Bremen, Minnesota, 1961. The Twins were playing their debut season, ice-cold root beers were selling out at the soda counter of Halderson’s Drugstore, and Hot Stuff comic books were a mainstay on every barbershop magazine rack. It was a time of innocence and hope for a country with a new, young president. But for thirteen-year-old Frank Drum it was a grim summer in which death visited frequently and assumed many forms. Accident. Nature. Suicide. Murder.
Frank begins the season preoccupied with the concerns of any teenage boy, but when tragedy unexpectedly strikes his family—which includes his Methodist minister father; his passionate, artistic mother; Juilliard-bound older sister; and wise-beyond-his-years kid brother—he finds himself thrust into an adult world full of secrets, lies, adultery, and betrayal, suddenly called upon to demonstrate a maturity and gumption beyond his years.
Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.
Having grown up in a German (with a bit of Irish and Swiss) heritage family in a small town in the Midwest, I readily identified with Frank's life and the way that the whole town knows your business in a matter of moments. Though this book takes place in 1961, when I was only a year old, things didn't change much in Iowa's small towns for years while I was growing up. There was still a great deal of bullying and prejudice, and there was always the "caste system" when it came to school, of the jocks and cheerleaders, the "smartest guys/girls" who were popular if they were good looking, the drama or band nerds and the kids that everyone picked on because they were different somehow. They were too fat or too thin, were obviously gay or lesbian, had cleft palates or some other physical deformity, were Down Syndrome or just plain "ugly" and poor.If you happened to be extremely talented at something, like disco dancing, you could climb the social ladder, but that would only get you so far. It is into this world, during the summer, that we find Frank, who is a somewhat typical PK (preacher's kid) in that he is always finding ways to bend or break the rules, and hoping to not get caught. His younger stuttering brother Jake is his conscience, and takes great umbrage when Frank embellishes stories to make himself the hero.  When a "slow" boy in town (he probably had Down Syndrome) gets hit by a train and dies, he sets off what seems like a chain reaction, with one person after another dying from suspicious causes. Things get really personal when Frank's sister Ariel is found dead in the river, and an autopsy reveals that she was pregnant. I found her affair and love of the local composer (who had been in love with her mother for years, but broke things off when he returned from the war blind and badly scarred) rather grotesque, and somewhat hard to believe, as I found the death of her high school boyfriend who is revealed as gay completely believable. Though he was from the wealthiest family in town, the shame would have been enormous for his family, as small minded small town people would never have let them forget it. The amount of religion in the novel becomes a bit cloying at different points, and though the prose is lucid and elegant, the plot intricate and sublime, I felt that readers could have done with a bit less proselytizing. Still, it was well worth reading, and I'd give it an A, and recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Gilead or Bill Bryson's books about growing up in Iowa.

Rush by Eve Sliver was a book I found for a dollar at our local dollar store, and, as I am a fan of YA Fiction, I was intrigued enough to grab a copy. Unfortunately, this book suffers from the authors laziness and her decision to not seek a less well-tread plot than the dystopian world with a teenage girl protagonist who is forced to learn to fight to protect and save the world from some outside force, in this case, aliens. This novel is basically a mash-up (or rehash) of Twilight and Hunger Games with a little "War Games" thrown in for good measure. The protagonist even has the distant/cold and totally handsome guy tell her that she "smells like strawberries" just like Bella does in Twilight, a book I loathed with all that is in me.  Here's the blurb:
Rush pulls you headlong into the thrilling, high-stakes world of Eve Silver's teen series The Game, about teens pulled in and out of an alternate reality where battling aliens is more than a game—it's life and death. Eve Silver's teen debut offers science fiction and gaming fans romantic thrills at a breakneck pace. New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong says, "Smart and original, Rush is an action-packed ride with plenty of heart."
Sixteen-year-old Miki Jones's carefully controlled life spirals into chaos after she's run down in the street, left broken and bloody. She wakes up fully healed in a place called the lobby—pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game in which she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader, Jackson Tate, who says the game is more than that and what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival—and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn't. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.
Miki, who is Asian, even has the stereotypical ability to use a martial art, in this case, Kendo (sword fighting). This is like having a black teenager with great dancing and singing skills, because that's a racist stereotype. Of course, like Bella, the idiotic girl from Twilight, Miki also has a dead/absent mother and a father who is so caught up in his own life he has no idea what is going on with his daughter, and remains blissfully ignorant of her changes in mood, circumstance, and boyfriends. But then, parents in these now ubiquitous dystopian YA novels are always either stupid, ridiculously blind to their children's lives or dead. What this says to teenagers in the past 20 years and currently reading this sort of fiction, I don't know, but as the parent of a teenager who isn't blind or stupid, I can say I find it offensive. Of course, Jackson Tate turns out to be part alien, and rather mean/cruel, which of course means that our heroine Miki can't help but fall desperately in love with him, because what girl doesn't love being treated like crap by a handsome alien teenager? Granted, he tries to protect her, to his detriment, but when push comes to shove, he uses her to get "out of the game." The prose is workman like and the plot completely predictable. I'd give this book a C, and recommend it only to those who enjoyed Twilight and who like video games and unoriginal storylines.

City of Darkness and Light by Rhys Bowen is the 13th Molly Murphy mystery, and the 10th or 11th that I've read. Here's the blurb:
Molly and Daniel Sullivan are settling happily into the new routines of parenthood, but their domestic bliss is shattered the night a gang retaliates against Daniel for making a big arrest. Daniel wants his family safely out of New York City as soon as possible. In shock and grieving, but knowing she needs to protect their infant son Liam, Molly agrees to take him on the long journey to Paris to stay with her friends Sid and Gus, who are studying art in the City of Light.
But upon arriving in Paris, nothing goes as planned. Sid and Gus seem to have vanished into thin air, and Molly's search to figure out what happened to them will lead her through all levels of Parisian society, from extravagant salons to the dingy cafes where starving artists linger over coffee and loud philosophical debates. And when in the course of her search she stumbles across a dead body, Molly, on her own in a foreign country, starts to wonder if she and Liam might be in even more danger in Paris than they had been at home.
As Impressionism gives way to Fauvism and Cubism, and the Dreyfus affair rocks France, Molly races through Paris to outsmart a killer in City of Darkness and Light, Rhys Bowen's most spectacular Molly Murphy novel yet.
Molly is, in this novel, the mother of an almost one year old child, and yet she seems content to leave him with strangers, so she can go sleuthing, and she doesn't mind putting herself in extreme danger, knowing that her child could grow up without a mother. Molly also comes off as rude, or more rude than usual, pushy and deceitful, as she continues to hide her crime-solving obsession from her husband Daniel, who has gotten her to agree to give up her private investigation business in order to become a wife and mother. Because the book is set in 1905, I understand that women had no rights at this time, and were dependent on men for a place to live and access to money, etc. Still, Molly's friends Sid and Gus, who are wealthy and live together in a "bohemian" lifestyle (code for their being a lesbian couple) somehow manage to live free and do whatever they want without much censure, though the staid Daniel clearly disapproves of them and their friendship with his wife. I find it tough to believe that someone as feisty as Molly would agree to give up something she loves so much, ie solving mysteries, for a life as a housewife and mother. Still, mysteries seem to find Molly, and now that Sid is somehow a suspect in the murder of a notorious artist and anti-semite, Molly has to go to work to solve the murder and save her friend. Sid used to be quite the feisty gal herself, until she's in trouble, and suddenly she becomes quite the weak and weepy woman, afraid of her own shadow. It bothered me that Sid and Gus also had no problem putting Molly in danger, though they know that Liam, her son, needs her. I found their selfishness upsetting, and the way that Molly kept running afoul of so many famed artists of the era, who also happen to all be rather lecherous and mean, seemed contrived, (though I did enjoy her encounter with famed female artist Mary Cassat, whose work was dismissed at the time because she painted women and children in domestic scenes.) Bowen's prose is sterling, and her plots, though meandering, always end up with a nice little twist. I'd give this novel a B+ and recommend it to anyone interested in Paris at the turn of the century, and in the Paris art scene of the time.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Plot Twist Bookstore Opens in Ankeny, Iowa, Bookstore Cats, Across A Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner

I lived just outside of Ankeny, Iowa (in a rural area called Saylorville) from 5th grade through High School, and I took the bus into town to go to school there. My family moved into Ankeny proper when I was 17, and a year later my parents got a divorce and I moved to my favorite town, Dubuque, Iowa to go to Clarke College (now Clarke University). I have too many horrific bullying memories and terrible memories of my parents break up (and the married men in town who pursued my mother like slavering dogs) to actually say that I "like" Ankeny as a town, and while I lived there, you could only get books at the Kirkendahl Library, there wasn't a bookstore in sight. All that is to say that a bookstore opening in Ankeny is a welcome announcement. I hope it thrives.

Plot Twist Bookstore Opening in Ankeny, Iowa

Mary Rork-Watson is opening Plot Twist Bookstore
of Des Moines, in April. The 1,400-square-foot store will feature new
books for all ages, gifts for readers and community events.

"What I want to offer my customers is connection," Rork-Watson said.
"Connection to the right book, to authors, and to other readers. It is
important to me to provide expertise and find the right book for each

Rork-Watson has extensive administrative/ office management experience
and said she wanted to "use my skills to operate my own business. I have
spent the last year researching the business of owning a bookstore and
decided I would be able to use my office management skills (and finally,
that English major) to operate a successful bookstore. Like most
industry professionals I've met during the last year, I am an avid
reader and book lover. As I move toward opening day, I am getting more
excited about bringing an independent book store to a community that has
never had one."

She added that "bookstores are a wonderful place of discovery and
reflect the character of a community. I always visit the funky, local
stores when I travel and I decided that I wanted to create that kind of
space. Ankeny has a strong history of supporting local culture and
businesses so it just fits here."

The store is located at 502 N. Ankeny Blvd., Unit 6, Ankeny, Iowa

I love bookstore cats, though I am allergic to them. These are especially funny photos of cats judging the bookstore patrons.

Bookstore Cats at Work: 'Silently Judging'

"Remember that New Year's resolution to read more books and watch TV
less? How's that working out for you?" Buzzfeed asked in warning that
"bookstore cats are silently judging your lack of reading in 2016
Your decision to neglect another book club meeting has not gone
unnoticed by these fuzzy-bellied, hyper-judgmental bookworms."

The solution? "Pick up a book from your local independent store. Or
bring them a peace offering of catnip, both are acceptable."

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner is the second book in the Starbound Series, which began with These Broken Stars. Here's the blurb:
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.
Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.
Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. His sister died in the original uprising against the powerful corporate conglomerate that rules Avon with an iron fist. These corporations make their fortune by terraforming uninhabitable planets across the universe and recruiting colonists to make the planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.
Desperate for any advantage against the military occupying his home, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape base together, caught between two sides in a senseless war. The stunning second novel in the Starbound trilogy is an unforgettable story of love and forgiveness in a world torn apart by war.
This sequel had all the same earmarks of the first, two people who shouldn't click at all, but do, coming together over bad things happening on a planet. Except, in this book, there is a war between the military and the planet's colonists, and the inevitable bad corporation from the first book shows up and once again tries to kill everyone who knows their secret. Lee and Flynn are wonderful characters, full of determination and compassion, and though I found the ending just a bit pat, I still loved the way that the two managed to survive all the hatred and fear and misinformation from their various groups. It reminded me of stories of Germans and Jews falling in love during WWII. The prose is lucid and strong, and the plot moves along at a swift pace. I'd give this novel an A, and recommend it to those who read the first book.

Across a Star Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund is the sequel to her book For Darkness Shows the Stars, which I read last month. Whereas the first book was a science fiction reimagining of Jane Austen's Persuasion, this novel is an SF reimagining of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Here's the blurb:
From Rampant and Ascendant author Diana Peterfreund comes this thrilling companion to For Darkness Shows the Stars, now in paperback. Across a Star-Swept Sea is a romantic science-fiction reimagining of the classic The Scarlet Pimpernel.
Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the islands of Galatea and Albion stand alone, a paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on Galatea, an uprising against the aristocracy has turned deadly. The revolutionaries' weapon is a drug that damages their enemies' brains, and the only hope is a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy. On neighboring Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous teenage aristocrat Persis Blake. Her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo . . . is her most dangerous mission ever.
When Persis discovers that Justen is keeping a secret that could plunge New Pacifica into another dark age, she realizes she's not just risking her heart, she's risking the world she's sworn to protect.
Other than Persis spending too much time distrusting and hating, or trying to hate Justen, and Justen believing, against all evidence, that Persis is an aristocratic idiot (when it's clear to the reader that she's sharp as a tack), there wasn't much not to love about this novel, which takes place on an island similar to Hawaii. As with the previous novel, I found the ways that humanity had re-invented technology and pharmacology fascinating. The flutternotes that are embeded in the hands of most people, and run by sucking nutrients out of their bodies, the genetic temporary solutions that can make you look like anyone, for awhile, the genetically engineered creatures like Persis' pet "sea mink" which sounds like a cross between an otter and a ferret...all of it was riveting. Yet all is not well, when we have a dictatorship claiming to be something like the French revolution on one Island and on another we have the aristocrats busy trying to prevent the "regs" (short for regulars) from rising up against them and turning them into mindless idiots. Throw in a couple of heated love scenes and you've got me hooked and waiting for the next installment of this series.
I'd give it an A, and recommend it to anyone who read the first book, as you will need knowledge of those characters, because they show up 2/3 of the way through this one.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe is a book that my son's sophomore high school English class is reading, and, because my son Nick had serious qualms about reading the book, he asked me to pick up a copy and read it with him. To be honest, I was shocked and dismayed at this story of pre-apartheid Nigeria/Africa, which is full of violence against women and children, and murder as well. Here's the blurb: Things Fall Apart tells two intertwining stories, both centering on Okonkwo, a “strong man” of an Ibo village in Nigeria. The first, a powerful fable of the immemorial conflict between the individual and society, traces Okonkwo’s fall from grace with the tribal world. The second, as modern as the first is ancient, concerns the clash of cultures and the destruction of Okonkwo's world with the arrival of aggressive European missionaries. These perfectly harmonized twin dramas are informed by an awareness capable of encompassing at once the life of nature, human history, and the mysterious compulsions of the soul.
Okonkwo is a horrible man who beats his wives and children, and even murders once of his foster children for the flimsiest of reasons. He's a savage and evil man, and the women and girls in this book are treated like chattel, possessions to be bought and sold and used and abused at will. When I wrote to Nick's teacher to explain my dismay, she said it was a perfect portrait of the clash of cultures that she felt students needed to read and understand, so that they might be glad they don't live in this primitive society. I find that argument somewhat specious, as things have changed in Africa since the end of Apartheid. Women have more opportunity, and there are groups like the Peace Corps that are helping women get microloans to start their own businesses and helping them lower infant mortality with well baby programs and deal with HIV with condom programs. Though I know there is still a great deal of work to do for women and girls in Africa (and America), I don't see the value in reading a book with such a reprehensible character at its center. It's a short book and I read it in a few hours, but I feel terrible for my son having to read about this horrible man and his abuse of women (along with all the other men in his tribe). I'd give this book a D-, and I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone. It's a vile and disgusting novel with no redeeming qualities. 

Friday, January 08, 2016

Reparations For Shopping Online at Elliott Bay Bookstore, Downton Abbey Launches Book Club, Anticpated Book to Movie Adaptations, Expansion for Powells and Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden

There's so much going on in the world of books, locally and nationally, that I only have room in this post for one book review. First up is a great idea for bibliophiles who can afford it to make reparations for shopping online to their favorite independent local bookstore. Unfortunately, the closest bookstore to Maple Valley is in Enumclaw, and if I were to make reparations to them, I'd need a lot more than 95 dollars!

Indie Customer Makes 'Penance, Reparations' Payment

In the mail shortly after the Christmas rush, Elliott Bay Book Co., Seattle, Wash., received a check for $94.89. The memo section of the check read: "Voluntary penance and reparations for buying books at A."

General manager Tracy Taylor commented: "While we've received anonymous
and voluntary penance from past shoplifters, we've never received
penance from Amazon shoppers. I contacted the customer to inquire
further, and he said he felt very guilty about buying books for family
on Amazon this year. The customer said he always tries to support us and
buy books here, but he had a moment of weakness this year so he looked
up the difference between the costs and decided to send us a check for
the difference."

Paying it forward, Elliott Bay is using the "penance and reparations"
money to buy and send books to Treehouse, a Seattle nonprofit that helps kids in foster care with basic needs and support.

This is a brilliant letter from a poet to bookshops about their importance to her life. I wish I could have said it as well.

 'A Love Letter to Bookshops'

Dublin bookseller and poet Kerrie O'Brien 
wrote "a love letter to bookshops
for the Irish Times recently, describing how 'bookshops have been
pivotal in my life.... People don't open independent or secondhand
bookstores to make money--they do it because they love books and they
love talking to people about them."

It's interesting that Masterpiece is launching a book club during the final season of the jewel in their crown that is Downton Abbey. Sherlock episodes are so rare and infrequent I don't think that those fans will be able to keep things going once Downton is off the air, but we shall see. There also haven't been, in my experience, many great books that can capture the wonder that is Downton Abbey during that era. 

Masterpiece Launches Book Club

PBS's Masterpiece, the network's highest-rated prime time program, is
melding screen and page with its Masterpiece Book Club
Thursday, December 31. The club offers tie-in material for Masterpiece's
hit series Sherlock and Downton Abbey, including reading lists, books
the cast and crew are reading, British book news and themed recipes.

"Great books and storytelling are at the very heart of Masterpiece, and
the book club will be a fantastic new way for our viewers to immerse
themselves in the worlds our programs create," said Masterpiece
executive producer Rebecca Eaton.

In one current feature
Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss, who also plays Mycroft Holmes, reveals
his favorite mystery authors and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories. Downton
Abbey fans can find
the show's literary inspirations, according to creator, writer and
executive producer Julian Fellowes. The site will be updated biweekly
with new material based on Masterpiece's current shows.

Unlike the new club, which is tailored to individual online use, an
earlier version of the Masterpiece Book Club, called Book & Film Club
material for libraries hosting in-person book and film clubs.

The more good books that there are, the more Hollywood clamors for them to be rendered into screenplays. Unfortunately, a majority of the time, the book is far superior to the movie adaptation, but again, only time will tell for the movies coming out this year.

For "The Year Ahead: 2016's Most Anticipated Movie Adaptations
Word & Film noted that there is "only one thing more satisfying than
spending the year ducking in and out of dark, cozy theaters as film
adaptations of our favorite bestsellers, genre novels, comic books,
classics, and literary fiction wash through us like, well, really good
reads. And that's gleefully rubbing our ink-smeared hands together as we
get a look at the year of adaptations ahead. Unsurprisingly, movies
based on books, articles, historical events, and other source material
make up a sizable (and, dare we say it, superior) percentage of the
cinematic offerings in 2016."

Island Books Roger and Nancy Page just sent an email out yesterday to subscribers talking of their "moving on" to new adventures retirement from the store, so, though Island Books used to be my favorite bookstore (especially when I was working on Mercer Island at the Mercer Island Reporter) now I'm afraid I wouldn't recognize anyone there now that it is under new ownership, and several of the booksellers who used to work there have also moved on to greener pastures. Still, this 42 year old Island institution should continue to grow readers for many years to come.

'Passing the Inadvertent Faith in Humanity Test'
"The Christmas season is over, but we can't let go of that cheery
holiday feeling without telling one last story of peace on earth and
good will toward humankind," Island Books, Mercer Island, Wash., observed on the Message in a Bottle blog. There it shared a tale that began in
November when "Cindy, our display maven, came up with a nifty way to
highlight our 2016 calendars (still a few of those left for
procrastinators, by the way). She strung a clothesline across the store
and pinned a bunch of the prettiest ones to it. In the small spaces
between the bigger items she hung some toys and other gifts, and in the
last narrow spot she pinned a single dollar bill. Kind of a visual pun
on 'money laundering' for the keenly observant, she thought." Read more

How exciting that my mecca for books, Powells in Portland, is expanding yet again! 

Expansion Plans for Powell's Books
 Powell's Books is signing a lease that will  expand its presence on Hawthorne Boulevard in Portland, Ore., connecting the two existing locations: Powell's Books on Hawthorne Boulevard and Powell's Books for Home and Garden. The additional space at 3735 SE Hawthorne, formerly occupied by Pastaworks, increases the bookseller's combined retail footprint to more than 23,000 square feet.

According to Powell's, the renovations would integrate the three
locations into one, improving customer experience and focusing on the
uniqueness of the Hawthorne locations. The combined space will also
offer a larger children's section and author events area. Both stores
will remain open during the expansion, with the work is scheduled for
completion by October 2016.

"We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to deepen our commitment
to the Hawthorne neighborhood and the east side of Portland," said
Powell's CEO Miriam Sontz. "The strong support from Portlanders and
Hawthorne-area residents has made this investment in the future

This is the second big makeover for Powell's in two years. In 2014,
Powell's did an extensive renovation
flagship Burnside store that included a new entrance, a new roof,
energy-efficient windows, fresh exterior paint, additional skylights and
new lighting.

Beyond All Dreams by Elizabeth Camden is another book produced by Bethany House publishers, which I gather only publishes Christian faith-centered books. If I would have known this before I bought this book with my birthday B&N gift card, I wouldn't have purchased it at all, I would have tried to get a copy from the library. Still, I read the book in record time, and though I had some problems with the religious content, the story itself was fascinating. Here's the blurb:
Anna O'Brien leads a predictable and quiet life as a map librarian at the illustrious Library of Congress until she stumbles across the baffling mystery of a ship disappeared at sea. Thwarted in her attempts to uncover information, her determination outweighs her shyness and she turns to a dashing congressman for help.
Luke Callahan was one of the nation's most powerful congressmen before his promising career was shadowed in scandal. Eager to share in a new cause and intrigued by the winsome librarian, he joins forces with Anna to solve the mystery of the lost ship. Opposites in every way, Anna and Luke are unexpectedly drawn to each other despite the strict rules forbidding Anna from any romantic entanglements with members of Congress.
From the gilded halls of the Capitol where powerful men shape the future of the nation, to the scholarly archives of the nation's finest library, Anna and Luke are soon embroiled in secrets much bigger and more perilous than they ever imagined. Is bringing the truth to light worth risking all they've ever dreamed for their futures?
Anna is, at the outset, an independent young woman who really doesn't need a man in her life, mainly because she has to support herself and her awful aunt, a woman who blames her for the death of Anna's uncle, who was imprisoned for forcing Anna to drink lye and burning her throat and vocal chords (she couldn't speak for years and had to have an operation to return her voice). Anna feels bad for this horrible woman who has rarely shown her any kindness, and who mooches off of her and never gives her anything in return. Anna's parents died, and her father was embroiled in a mysterious ship wreak that Anna can't let go of, since she knows there are irregularities and outright lies in the report of what happened to the ship. Yet at every turn, the Naval officers and congressmen thwart Anna's investigation, threatening not just her job, but the jobs of all the women who work for the Library of Congress (LOC). Enter Luke Callahan, who, as a member of congress, knows that if he is seen flirting or kissing or having any sort of romantic relationship with Anna, she will be fired and shamed, still insists on blustering his way into her life and her heart. Luke has had a terrible childhood living with an alcoholic mother and father in Maine, as well as a feckless older brother, an alcoholic sister and younger brother who insist that he support them monetarily and constantly bail him out of jail. Luke is even raising his sister's bastard child, gotten with a married man who fled when he discovered she was pregnant. Luke's family has a gem mine and so he's wealthy enough to get elected to political office, yet he has a temper, like his cruel father, and while he's promised himself to never touch alcohol or be a brute like his dad, that's a promise he can't really keep, with his "passionate" nature. Yet he and Anna can't seem to stay away from each other, and Anna goes from being independent to suddenly wanting a husband and family more than her hard-won career as a cartographic librarian at the LOC. She also constantly talks about forgiveness and how important it is for her to forgive her abusive uncle, and her aunt, and Luke when he's mean and everyone else, except the Spanish, who killed her father. When it comes to vengence, suddenly Anna isn't so forgiving, and she's thrilled when the US goes to war with Spain before the turn of the 20th century. That hypocrisy just didn't sit right with me, because it was out of character for the meek Anna, who of course is seen by her flame Luke as "feisty." There seemed to be a great deal of sophistry in this book, and while I understand the author had to include some religious stuff, I found the cliches and stereotypes cloying and insincere. The prose was clean and straightforward, and the plot, though meandering, got the job done. I would give this book a B-, and recommend it only to those who are interested in the history of the Spanish-American war or the early days of the Library of Congress.