Thursday, August 7, 2008
Some of Jackie's Recent Recommendations
Bookseller Jackie may read more than any other bookseller here at the Tattered Cover. Many of us are amazed by the number of books she tells us about. Here are a few of her latest recommendations:
1. A Week in October by Elizabeth Subercaseaux
Chilean born Subercaseaux has crafted what feels like a delightfully old-fashioned novel set in modern times. The formality and reserve of it makes a stark comparison to much of today's writing--and a wonderful change of pace. Clara Griffin is married to a successful but distant man--their marriage has grown stale at the very least, and he's been cheating on her. Then she discovers that she has cancer, and she feels the need to say things too long unsaid in the gentlest way possible--she writes a "novel" in a notebook, kept in a drawer where it seems that her husband is most likely to find it. Much of this book shows us the dance between these two people as one reveals veiled truths and the other has to absorb them without admitting he's been reading them. Truth is a fluid thing in this book--there's some "he said-she said", but the rest is indefinable to the very end. I found it to be a very interesting read.
2. Brida by Paulo Coelho
I've never read anything by Paulo Coelho before, so I was rather surprised by the pagan spirituality of this little novel. It's the story of Brida, an Irish girl in training to become a witch. It is full of beautifully worded prose--I found myself making little tics and stars beside many paragraphs to go back and examine again (my apologies to those who get the book after me, lol). There is some seriously high minded spirituality folded into this simple book about a woman's quest to learn to use her powers and her heart. I was especially intrigued with the Catholic Christianity woven within the more traditional magical teachings and philosophies. This is, apparently, one of Coelho's earlier works that has finally been translated from the original Portuguese. I found it a good way to whet my appetite for his other works before I come to a decision of what it is I think of him as a writer.
3. Rules of Deception by Christopher Reich
The political climate that this international spy thriller is based on could not be more current or better researched--agencies within agencies, leaders lying to their people, wars being started for public reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the agenda behind them--it's all there. Reich won the International Thriller Writers Award a couple of years ago, and it doesn't take long to figure out why. Fans of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy will embrace this author with open arms and sleepless nights as they push through his books many twists and turns that lead to spectacular endings. Men will love the action and technical details, women will love the strong central female character who is full of surprises. And every fan of thrillers will love the white knuckle last few chapters. Some readers may be bothered by an undercurrent of anti-American sentiment, but given the settings and situations is this book, it would be clearly a plot flaw for it NOT to be there.
4. The Midnight Twins by Jacquelyn Mitchard
Mitchard is a rare breed of writer who can capture the emotions and hearts of both the adult fiction and the teen fiction world (She's the author of the tearjerking Deep End of the Ocean, among many other books) . I agree with the publisher that this book is a 12 and up--it deals with some fairly violent themes as the book goes on--but the story is gripping and suspenseful and easily kept THIS adult's attention--in fact there were points where I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.
This is the story of Mally and Merry, identical twins who, on the eve of their 13th birthday, discover there is more to their minds and talents than just being able to communicate with each other telepathically (not unheard of in twins, especially identicals). These new talents begin to tear their lives apart as they pull away from each other trying to deal with and/or deny them. But they are a part of a generations old tradition of powerful women and what is required of them cannot be avoided or denied--and it's very nearly the death of them.
The story is tight for the vast majority of the book--my only gripe is with the last chapter. Mitchard becomes a bit ham handed trying to tie up too many loose ends and give the reader the back stories of too much. My best guess is she's trying to lay the groundwork for a follow up novel with these characters, but it was done in such a below par way I was severely disappointed--it was tedious and anticlimatic. For that reason alone I give it 4 out of 5 stars.