Our Favorites



Cate, Charley, Darlene, Jacqueline, Jenny, MerleAnn, Patty, Rose, Sally, Shasha

Here are some of Waucoma Bookstore's staff favorites...


The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, Vintage $13.95.

Often humorous, at times tragic, this novel perfectly captures the voice of Stevens, an English butler working for his aristocratic employer Lord Darlington during and after World War Two. He may seem almost stereotypical at first, but Stevens' complex psychology is explored masterfully by Ishiguro in a novel that is entertaining, mysterious, and compelling. A modern classic.

Strong Poison by Dorothy Sayers, Harper, $6.99.

Lord Peter returns! And this time the aristocrat-turned-amateur detective has a love interest, the fiesty, independent Harriet Vane, who also happens to be on trial for the murder of her former lover. This book introduces Peter and Harriet's relationship amidst plenty of humor and mystery. A quick, enjoyable read. Don't miss the two sequels for the continuation of Peter and Harriet's romance-and more fun and mysterious goings on!


Every Inch of Her, Peter Sheridan, Penguin, $14.00

This novel is set in Dublin and follows a heavyset, tatooed woman named Philo. She is the mother of five and decides to flee from her abusive husband. In the process she takes refuge in a convent. Her life entwines with the sisters and she brings new hope and excitement to the senior day care center. This is a fast, fun read and the strong Philo will stay with you long after the book is over.--Cate

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, Penguin, $14.00.

I LOVED this book! It is a heart-warming and relevant book about a boy named Amir. There are surprises and some tears as you follow his life from his childhood in Afghanistan to his adult life in the U.S.

This book gives a refreshingly human look at the lives of a people who live in a country we have heard so much about.--Cate

Charms for the Easy Life, Kaye Gibbons, HarperCollins, $12.95.

If you'r looking for a heartwarming, clever book, look no further than Charms for the Easy Life. The Birch family consists of three women and is led by the eldest named Charlie Kate. She is strong and earns a reputation for being a practical and skillfull physician, even though she doesn't have a license to practice medicine!

Charlie Kate, her daughter, and her granddaughter share in each other's tears and laughs. Gibbons uses a pleasantly refreshing tone while telling a superb story of life and love. A great read!--Cate


Facing the Congo, Jeffrey Tayler, Three  Rivers Press, $14.00.

This is the MT. Everest of boating—but the dangers are more than just the natural events.  If I ever had dreams of going to the Congo, they have vanished—in this case, I prefer being an armchair adventurer.  I can’t believe all this man went through.  Charley

In Search of Captain Zero, Alan C. Weisbecker, Penguin, $14.95.

If you are an old-time surfer or have lived vicariously through surfer magazines and the like, you will love this book. Charley



Dirty Blonde, Lisa Scottoline, HarperCollins $25.95.

How much trouble can one lady judge get into on the first week on the job? A lot! A woman with a scret sex life and a tendency to tell too much truth from the bench- Cate has one cop out to murder her and another one trying to keep her alive. A fun aiplane/beach/summer read!

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch, Bloomsbury $13.95>

When creatures of the very deep sea begin turning up in the same Puget Sound bay, you could expect it to attract attention. But the fact that they are always discovered by the same 13 year old boy attracts a media circus. Miles is a 4 ft, 8 inch marine biologist with a crush on his ex-girlfriend. Part kid, part worldwise naturalist, you'll be fascinated by his take on the world

Daniel Isn't talking by Marti Leimbach, Random House $22.95.

Written by a woman with her own autistic child, this novel shows a dramatic insight into the struggle to bring one child out of the darkness of autism. This mother's love for her son runs true to life. Empowering, touching, interesting-you'll gain immense insight yourself.

March, Geraldine Brooks, Viking Books, $24.95.

Preacher March (the absent father in Little Women ministers to the faithful among Union soldiers during the Civil War. His faith and idealism are tested when he tries to teach and befriend plantation slaves. Good acts bring evil effects and , as a result, both his marriage and his life are threatened. War, love, temptation, and loss--a very enjoyable novel!--Darlene

Purple Hibiscus, Chimananda Adichie, Random House, $13.00.

Set in Nigeria during a military coup, Purple Hibiscus traces a girl's emotional journey from an abusive, violent household to the discovery that life can include joy and freedom. Kambili and her brother live in a fear-drenched environment until they visit their high-spirited aunt and cousins. They discover life's possibilities: laughter, love, and appreciation for their heritage. Great book with a surprise ending! Darlene

Any Place I Hang My Hat Susan Isaacs, Simon & Schuster, $26.00.

Fast paced, funny, smart--you'll be snickering in the first chapter. Amy's dad is a loving ex-con. Her grandmother has Alzheimer's and shoplifts dinner. Amy beats her past through years at prep school and Harvard on scholarships. Now she is in search of her mother and some clues to how her past relates to her future. Much funnier than Good in Bed.--Darlene

Maisie Dobbs, Jacqueline Winspear, Penguin, $14.00.

A wonderful mix of mystery (none of it predictable), romance, and war story set during the WWI era in England. Maisie is an exceptional woman--intelligent, unflappable, full of common sense--yet vulnerable. A great summer read! If you enjoyed The No. I Ladies Detective Agency, this one is for you.--Darlene

Vegan, Virgin, Valentine, Carolyn Mackler, Candlewick Press, $16.99.

Due out in August, 2004.

Mara Valentine is a control freak until her slutty, pot-smoking niece comes to live with her family. Everything spins out of control and Mara finally discovers a few more important things than her SAT scores.

A racy, quick book to read. Funny moments move the book along.--Darlene

The Bermuda Triangle, Maureen Johnson, Penguin, $16.95.

Nina, Mel, and Avery are friends for life until one of the girls leaves for the summer. Then things change--big time!

Mel and Avery seem to be falling in love--with each other. Is it real or a mistake? Can the friendships survive?

A real life story about teens and the changes they experience. Fast paced, lively, and a great book for teens.--Darlene

Shanghai Diary, Ursula Bacon, HarperCollins, $24.95.

What a page turner! The true story of ten-year-old Ursula, who escapes Germany with her Jewish family just before World War II. The family makes a new life in China--just before the Japanese invade. This is a riveting tale of the strength of human spirit--the ability to endure and thrive. Uplifting and historically accurate!--Darlene Atonement, Ian McEwan, Anchor, $14.00.

Memorable, gripping . . .couldn't put it down. This is a great book! One of my all-time favorites! An imaginative 13-year-old girl thinks she sees the servant's son attack her sister. Later, when a girl is raped, she accuses this man of this crime. Lives are ruined and WWII intervenes before she seeks forgiveness and discovers the difficulty of absolution.--Darlene

Blue Shoe, Anne Lamott, Riverhead Books, $14.00.

A touching story of transitions. Mattie is a newly divorced woman whose life is a wreck. She holds the world together for her kids and aging mother amid the everyday madness that surrounds us. Slowly she comes to grips with a new relationship and she makes peace with her tough-to-live-with mom. Real characters, surprising story!--Darlene

Dreaming Water, Gail Tsukiyama, St. Martin's Press, $12.95.

This is a beautifully written book which honors the courageous love between mothers and daughters. Hana suffers from Werner's Disease, a genetic illness which causes her to age quickly. Her body is failing her at 38, but her mind and spirit thrive.

Dreaming Water also explores the Japanese and American cultures during World War II.

This is a book for mothers and daughters to share. It brings both laughter and tears--often. Uplifting and a reassurance of the human spirit. I think you'll love this book!--Darlene

The Gatekeepers, Jacques Steinberg, Penguin, $15.00.

This is a fascinating look at who gets into premier colleges and why. It demystifies the admissions process so that you can relax a little and understand what universities are really looking for. Lots of human interest carries this story. You'll come to care about the students profiled here.--Darlene

Law of Gravity, Stephen Horn, HarperCollins, $7.50.

You'll enjoy this page-turning novel, which is full of multiple plots and surprise twists. Philip Bardley is a once-successful Washington lawyer with a tragic past. His grip on reality is loose, at best, as he decides that the search for truth is worth his own re-entry into the world. The characters are engaging.--Darlene

Life of Pi, Yann Martel, Random House, $14.00 and $7.99.

This charming tale is both a good drama and a lesson in life. Pi is a suddenly-orphaned Indian boy adrift in the ocean with an adult tiger in his lifeboat. Wit and common sense keep them both alive. Pi realizes the tiger is his motivation to stay alive, yet the tiger would also eat him without hesitation. Great pass-along book from teens to adults and grandparents.--Darlene

Miracle at St. Anna, James McBride, Penguin, $14.00.

Hounded by racism within their own army and pursued by Germans, a small band of black soldiers find refuge during WWII in a tiny Italian village. They find much to celebrate in life even as their prospects for survival look bleak. Great historical perspective, interesting characters and an ending with a twist. It isn't a "guys" book--it's for everyone.--Darlene

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint, Brady Udall, Vintage, $14.00.

A coming-of-age tale of an Indian boy, this book is a great choice for summer reading. Edgar's earliest memory is of a tragic accident--his head is run over by a mail truck. Chance occurrences and evil intent touch Edgar's life. The miracle of his survival, again and again, is both heart breaking and heart warming. You'll pass this book along to your friends!--Darlene

Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand, Random House, $15.95.

A fast-moving, captivating tale of a horse with enormous heart. Great even if you hate horses! This is a story of winning against all odds and coming back after defeat. You'll enjoy all the human interest. Great gift for teens to grandparents. Great pass along. No one sets this book aside!--Darlene

Unless, Carol Shields, HarperCollins, $13.95.

Reta Winters struggles mightily with the bewildering loss of her oldest daughter. Her once-promising child now begs on a street corner with no explanation to her family. A one-word sign, "Goodness", hangs around her neck. Reta reforms her world but loss and the exploration of "Goodness" is always with her. A surprise ending tops off a very satisfying book. You'll enjoy this thought-provoking, gentle novel. Darlene

Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks, Penguin, $14.00.

More touching because it is based upon a true story, this is the tale of a small village in England during 1666. A young woman struggles with both love and sudden death as the plague runs rampant. Villagers willingly impose a quarantine and die as they search for reasons why they have been struck down. . .witches, lack of religious faith or newly emerging science? A surprise ending that is very satisfying. Darlene


The Winemaker's Daughter, Timothy Egen, Random House, $14.00.

Timothy Egen captures the Pacific Northwest beautifully in his novel The Winemaker's Daughter. Although Egen touches on such controversial subjects as water rights, development, and forest fire tactics, he balances out his book by capturing the art of winemaking, the power of family, and the gift of hope. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.--Jacqueline

Nights of Rain and Stars, Maeve Binchy, Penguin, $25.95.

Maeve Binchy's latest novel, Nights of Rain and Stars, takes her readers to a tiny Greek village named Aghice Anna. Here is where a group of travellers meet with locals and bond together when tragedy strikes. Jacqueline

The Law of Bound Hearts, Anne D. LeClaire, Ballantine, $23.95.

From the author of Entering Normal and Leaving Eden, comes another touching novel--The Law of Bound Hearts. This story touches on family bonds, betrayal, love, and forgiveness. LeClaire's characters are easy to relate to and they are unforgettable.--Jacqueline

The Dive from Clausen's Pier, Ann Packer, Random House, $14.00.

Wow!The Dive From Clausen's Pier is an intense novel that really puts life in perspective. In the midst of a tumultuous time in their relationship, Carrie's long-time boyfriend becomes paralyzed in a diving accident. Carrie struggles with staying or leaving and learns to live with the decisions she makes.--Jacqueline

A Song I Knew by Heart, Bret Lott, Random House, $24.95.

Bret Lott's novel, A Song I Knew by Heart, tells of the "healing power of family." Lott captures the bond between mother and daughter-in-law and takes it to a new level. This novel is also about friendship, love, betrayal, and forgiveness.--Jacqueline

Eventide, Kent Haruf, Random House, $24.95.

If you liked Plainsong, you'll love Eventide. Kent Haruf's characters are real and unforgettable. This is a great read and will leave you hoping Haruf will write more novels about these characters from Holt, Colorado.--Jacqueline

P. S. I Love You, Cecelia Ahern, Time Warner, $21.95.

If you are in the mood for a tear jerker, here is the book for you! P. S. I Love You tells the story of Holly, a 30-year-old woman who loses her husband to a terminal illness. Heartbroken and barely able to function, Holly retrieves a package from her husband that helps her heal. This is a great read!--Jacqueline

Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Shogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, Louise Rennison, Harper Tempest, $6.99.

This is a hilarious account of 14 year old Georgia Nicolson's life. Set in England, this book contains the British humor and language that is a breath of fresh air. An entertaining, quick read.--Jacqueline

A Blistered Kind of Love, Angela and Duffy Ballard, Mountaineers, $16.95.

I really enjoyed Angela and Duffy Ballard's account of their journey on the Pacific Crest Trail. Without much hiking experience, this young couple decides to take on the 2655 mile wilderness trek from Mexico to Canada. Although they face drastic weight loss, blisters, dehydration, numbness, and arguments, they continue their hike and with the humerous encounters with other through hikers, "trail angels", and others, their experience is enriched, all while they both discover a lot about themselves. Jacqueline

Dude, Where's My Country?, Michael Moore, Time Warner, $24.95.

Once again, Michael Moore stirs things up in his book Dude, Where's My Country? Using wit, humor and fearlessness, Moore questions everything about the state of our country. More important than his political tirades is the fact that he also makes suggestions on how to make this country a better place. Jacqueline

Empire Falls, Richard Russo, Random House, $14.95.

Russo is infamous for capturing small town America and Empire Falls is no exception. Russo's characters deal with love and divorce, adolescence and old age, birth and death, dreams and reality. . ..I found the Empire Falls crew to be rich in character and very easy to imagine. This is a great read. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel in its entirety. Jacqueline

Entering Normal, Anne LeClaire, Ballantine Books, $14.00.

I first picked up Entering Normal because the author is from my hometown on Cape Cod, but once I read the first page, the characters took over and I couldn't put this book down. LeClaire's heartwrenching novel is replete with rich, intriguing characters who will leave you hoping there will be a sequel. Jacqueline

Mad Cowboy, Howard Lyman, Simon & Schuster, $12.00.

Told by a fourth generation Montana cattle rancher, Mad Cowboy tells of the ills of the present day cattle and dairy "agribusinesses." With the small family farms becoming something of the past--the newer larger farms are taking over--pumping their livestock with growth hormones, antibiotics, animal "protein," and animal waste. As consumers, we in turn, eat the meat and drink the milk of these animals. Lyman tells of his days in the cattle industry, his new vegetarian lifestyle, his battles with the government, etc. He gives great insight into the perils of a meat- eating society and offers great advice in changing to a plant-based diet. This book opened my eyes and I haven't eaten meat since I read the first page. Jacqueline

One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd, Jim Fergus, St. Martin's Press, $13.95.

Wow! One Thousand White Women is the best book I've read in a while. In this historical fiction piece, I'm not sure where history leaves off and fiction begins, but the characters come alive and the plot is intriguing! This is a fantastic read!--Jacqueline

A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving, Ballantine, $7.99, $14.95.

Once again, John Irving has written a classic. His characters and plots are fun and quirky, yet rich and engaging. Thoughts of Owen Meany will pop into your head--even after you've turned the last page. Jacqueline

Rapture of Canaan, Sheri Reynolds, Putnam, $12.00

A quick and captivating read about a young girl's struggle to find her identity within the confining and strict community of the Fire & Brimstone Church. Ninah doesn't understand why her "religious" community can be so cruel in their punishments. Frightened and confused--Ninah befriends James and this is when the temptation starts. Jacqueline

The Saucy Sisters Guide to Wine, Barbara Nowak, Penguin, $13.95.

The Saucy Sisters Guide to Wine is a very approachable wine reference. If you can see past their ubiquitous comparisons of wine to men, you can learn a lot about wine regions, varietals, glassware, wine buying, wine ordering, and much more. Though this is not the most definitive wine guide, it's fun and easy reading. Jacqueline

Stupid White Men, Michael Moore, Harper Collins, $24.95.

I loved this book! Michael Moore is informative, witty, and entertaining in Stupid White Men. It is replete with factoids on the "ill state of the nation" that will outrage you--or atleast inspire you to think about all aspects of American life. This is definitely an engaging and motivating read. Jacqueline


Dr. Peter Scardino's Prostate Book, Peter Scardino, MD, Harper Collins, $27.95.

This may not be on the "best seller" lists, and the subject matter won't be of interest to everyone, but for those seeking information in this area, I think this book is one of the best. A very thorough and well documented coverage of current research findings which is presented in a very readable format for the lay person.--Jenny

A Question of Attraction, D. Nicholls, Random House, $23.95.

I picked this book for a light-hearted read, but I got so much more! This is a laugh-out-loud story of a young man crossing over into adulthood and his piercingly funny search for his identity. I winced more than once, at times felt I couldn't bear to continue reading, yet could not stop. I loved it!--Jennifer

A Is for Salad, Mike Lester, Puffin, $5.99.

Not your typical alphabet book! This one should really get those little brains clicking. Very cute with great creative illustrations. Jenny

Fortune's Rocks, Anita Shreve, Little Brown & Co., $7.99.

Set primarily in a small east coast town, this is an engaging, though not always pleasant, story of the life of a young well-bred woman in the late 1800's. Shreve is so eloquent, a true master of language and tone. Don't be surprised if you find yourself rereading a passage for the pure joy of it. A marvelous book with a great ending. Jenny

Pasadena, David Ebershoff, Random House, $13.95.

This is an exquisitely written account of a past era, overlaid with a touching family saga. Ebershoff's writing finesse is astonishing . My experience as a reader was quite frequently "Wow!" both as a response to the story as well as to his great skill. With characters simultaneously elusive and affecting, and rich with history, this is a very poignant must read--Jenny

Say When, Elizabeth Berg, Simon & Schuster, $13.00.

In typical Berg form, this is a smooth-flowing, low-drama account of a family's life that initially rails your emotions and progressively increases in intensity. Most likely you won't like any of the characters consistently, as true personalities emerge and develop into "real" people. Say When will remind you of families you have known whose experiences you hope never to share personally..--Jenny

Stick Figure, Lori Gottlieb, Penguin, $12.00

This is a must read for all parents of adolescent girls. Though nonfiction, this sad/funny story reads so quickly and effortlessly the reader is soon absorbed in this girl's reality. Unfortunately, it is one most girls and women can identify with at heart. Please give this book some thoughtful consideration. Jenny

Sweet Potato Queen's Book of Love, Jill Conner Bronne, Random House, $12.00.

A perfect book to lift your spirits and embrace empowerment as a woman! Very funny yet savvy. These women have down-to-earth, reality-based words of wisdom gleaned from their own experiences as well as from their general observations of life. A great read. Jenny

What We Keep, Elizabeth Berg, Ballantine, $14.00.

This is one of my favorite of Berg's books. Filled with emotion, it tells of the pains created and shared by sisters. Even more so, however, it demonstrates how forgiveness can seem so hopeless...and then so easy. Jenny


Prairie Nocturne, Ivan Doig, Scribner, $14.00.

Doig says in his bio that he tried out being a poet and it shows in his writing--so many analogies. It seems like he is striving to paint a picture with each sentence. He has some wonderful images and phrases. The story grabbed me and it also opened issues like discrimination and heart versus head.--MerleAnn

Cheaper by the Dozen, Frank B., Jr. Gilbreth, HarperTorch, $5.99.

This is a book that I read about yearly, for several years, until I lost my copy. I had much of it almost memorized, yet I would still laugh. It is definitely a feel-good book about an amazing family.--MerleAnn

A Year at the Races, Jane Smiley, Anchor Books, $13.95.

A most interesting look at horses and, in particular, a year in the life of racing two horses. Smiley shares the joys and disappointments, the hopes and fears, along with her relationship with her trainer, interactions with a psychic, and the philosophy of training.

"The goal is to learn, not undo. The metaphor of learning is not one of understanding why and then coming to terms with it, but one of forming new ways of thinking and acting." (page 265)--MerleAnn

To the Mountaintop: Martin Luther King Jr.'s Sacred Mission to Save America 1955-1968, Stewart Burns, HarperSanFrancisco, $18.95.

This book is fascinating both in the recounting of the history of the civil rights movement and in Burn's analyses of what went on politically in conjunction with that. It portrays the humanness of King and his spiritual journey.

It was also jolting to read page after page of the cruelties that were inflicted. A story of thousands of heroes and heroines.--MerleAnn

The Full Cupboard of Life, Alexander McCall Smith, Anchor, $11.95. Another delightful romp with Mma Ramotswe and the same cast of lovable characters. I find the Mma Ramotswe books (The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Tears of the Giraffe, Morality for Beautiful Girls, and The Kalahari Typing School for Men) both uplifting and entertaining while making many comments on morality.--MerleAnn

Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder, Random House Trade Paperbacks, $14.95.

A fascinating look at Dr. Paul Farmer, who is a real character, Haiti and its extreme poverty, some of the politics of world health and wealth, and what it is like to be so extremely impoverished and not have anything like adequate food, shelter, or medical care. It shook my bones a little by forcing me to look at how affluent I am and how much I take it for granted and presume it is my right. The amount there is to be done seems overwhelming and, yet, what has been accomplished through Farmer's spearheading and energy seems miraculous.--MerleAnn

The Wisdom of Forgiveness, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Victor Chan, Riverhead Books, $24.95.

This book is a real heart warmer. It includes both comments by the Dalai Lama on compassion, forgiveness, and emptiness and insight into a little of what the Dalai Lama's life is like and who he is. Even after all of these decades of spiritual practice, he has to sometimes purposefully change his thoughts from the negative to the positive. To me, this is a real sign that it is progress not perfection.--MerleAnn

Art of Mending, Elizabeth Berg, Random House, $24.95.

This was my first Elizabeth Berg novel even though a dear friend has been singing her praises to me for years. What a gift to now have her on my list of authors to read.

The Art of Mending speaks so much to our humanness and forgiveness.--MerleAnn

Best Hikes with Dogs: Oregon, Ellen M. Bishop, Mountaineers, $16.95.

So far Serena dog and I have checked out only one of the hikes--the one at exit 183 off of I5 near Eugene. It includes an arboretum and many paths. For the record, trail maps are available at the trail head near the parking lot.

Anyway, the book contains not only 77 hikes that are suitable for you and your canine friend but also such details as where leashes are needed, availability of water, etc. Bishop has included other important information such as what to carry in a first aid kit for your dog and how to be low impact hikers. --MerleAnn

God Has a Dream, Desmond Tutu, Doubleday, $16.95.

It is amazing to me that someone who has seen so much injustice, cruelty, and suffering can be positive and hold out so much hope for the world. It certainly was inspirational to me.--MerleAnn

Up All Night, Martha Gies, Oregon State University Press, $17.95.

Gies interviews people in Portland who work nights and keep the city going while the rest of us sleep. From nude dancer to longshoreman, she covers a pot pourri of jobs. Gies writes a fascinating account and has a wonderful writing voice.--MerleAnn

All Over But the Shoutin', Rick Bragg, Vintage Books USA, $14.00.

The prologue hooked my heart. The story is a fascinating description of his mother and her life, family, and friends and the dirt-poor Southern communities in which they lived. To me, his use of metaphor and description was truly creative and wonderful and he held my heart throughout the book--MerleAnn

Ava's Man, Rick Bragg, Alfred A. Knopf, $13.00.

In this book Bragg tells the story of his mother's father who he never met. The same culture and powerful writing as in All Over But the Shoutin'. No in-depth psychological analysis goes on here--just storytelling--at which Bragg is a pro. Wow!--MerleAnn

The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan, Random House Trade, $13.95.

Pollan's premise that the plant world manipulates us into doing what it wants is a refreshing blow to human egocentricity. He both challenges and entertains with a big look at Johnny Appleseed (who was he really) and tulipmania, a section on marijuana that rattled some of my long-held beliefs, and a chapter on potatoes that covers genetically-engineered food and some of the possible pros and cons, which got me looking at my food-buying practices. MerleAnn

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, James McBride, Riverhead Books, $14.00.

This book affirms what miracles we all are and the invincibility of our spirit. It shatters any illusions one might have of the "Ozzie and Harriet" existence.

McBride alternates one chapter from his story with one from his mother, who raised 12 children and saw them through college, giving the reader a chance to see two sides of various incidents. He caught me and held on tight. A fascinating book. MerleAnn

Crow Lake, Mary Lawson, Dial Books, $14.00.

A Beautifully written book that is intense without being black. She hooked and landed me immediately, however, I only got to read 2/3 of it at that first sitting before "life" interrrupted. I am expecting to see it win awards. MerleAnn

Counting Coup:  A True Story of Basketball, Larry Colton, Warner Books, $14.95.

I found this book both fascinating (in the “white” and “Indian” views, actions, and interactions}and frustrating (in seeing so many choices that appeared to not be particularly life affirming).  Colton’s sense of humor offers some comic relief.  Luckily, there are also very strong rays of light and hope.  I was engrossed with Sharon and her story.  MerleAnn

Empire Falls, Richard Russo, Knopf, $14.95.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2001, this recounting of the fall of Empire Falls portrays we everyday folk making it in the world, often bumbling and sometimes heroic in our ventures. I found myself caught up with these people and their lives, desperately wishing they would make more life-affirming choices, and carrying them with me after the last page. I would have liked a they-live-happily-ever-after ending but this was a novel portraying "real life" not a fairy tale. --MerleAnn

Fifty Acres and a Poodle, Jeanne Marie Laskas, Bantam, $11.95.

I have laughed outloud, been on the edge of my seat, and just generally enjoyed her writing voice. She engages with the issues of solitude and loneliness. Fifty Acres... reminded me of a modern day variation of The Egg and I. MerleAnn

A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry, Vintage Books, $15.00.

This book shows what happens when we make people less human than us--in this case, via the caste system. This powerful portrait of India since independence is replete with wonderful characters. Mistry kept me in an anxious state awaiting the next crisis to happen and it always did.--MerleAnn

Lying Awake, Mark Salzman, Knopf Vintage, $12.00.

A powerful and many-angled look at issues of faith, trust and what is the will of one’s “God”.  It portrays beautifully one sister’s inner turmoil in attempting to sort through all of this.  It affirmed for me that there are no pat answers. 

It is also a vivid picture of the life of a cloistered Carmelite nun.  MerleAnn

Peace Like a River, Leif Enger, Grove Press, $13.00.

It was delightful, full of miracles, some humor, and, even though it deals with hard situations such as the 16-year-old son killing two teenage boys, it was not black nor bleak--thanks probably to it being seen through the eyes of the 11-year-old brother. A wonderful book!--MerleAnn

Quakertown, Lee Martin, Plume Books, $14.00.

A portrayal of a small southern town in the 20's where segregation is rampant and contains a motley amalgam of characters who pulled at my gut in their loves and hates. When the black part of town gets moved to a "better" location allegiances shift and the pot boils. Martin takes hold on page one and just gradually tightens his grip.--MerleAnn

Reason for Hope, Jane Goodall, Warner, $14.95.

Goodall possesses an amazing blend of gentleness, strength, and fascination in nature as evidenced by her story of spending about 4 hours, when she was a small child, crouching in a hen house waiting to see an egg layed. Part of the book is almost impossibly hard when she tells of some of the cruelty we perpetrate on animals and people. Luckily she follows with anecdotes of caring and change. She reminded me that there is reason for hope.--MerleAnn

Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand, Ballantine, $15.95.

This book captivated me on all fronts--the people involved are fascinating characters as is the history of the period and the horse-racing culture, suspense abounds, and then, there is "The Biscuit". Hillenbrand does a great job of writing the story. It was an absolutely wonderful reading adventure for me.--MerleAnn

Take Me with You, Brad Newsham, Ballantine, $14.95.

A wonderful blend of character sketches, personal insights, "outsights", and life. It certainly stirred in me a desire to experience these places and people firsthand.--MerleAnn


The Conch Bearer, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Aladdin Paperbacks, $5.99.

Anand dreams of magic and adventure, but his reality is a very poor and harsh life in the Indian slums. One day Anand's life changes after he meets Abadhyatta and Nisha and together they embark on a quest to return a mystical conch to the Silver Valley.

Very entertaining and exciting and written by one of my favorite adult fiction authors.--Patty

The Geographer's Library, Jon Fasman, Penguin, $24.95.

A murder mystery--but oh so much more!! The plot unfolds by moving back and forth through time and countries as we follow the histories of 15 items stolen from "al-Idrisi," the librarian of Baghdad, in 1154.

A small-town reporter, Paul Tomm, is trying to write a simple obituary for a local professor, Jaan Pühäpaev. The more information he uncovers, the more interesting and dangerous the case becomes.

A wonderful line up of characters as Fasman takes us on a geographic trip around the world.

I haven't enjoyed anything this much since The Da Vinci Code.--Patty

Magyk Septimus Heap Book 1, Angie Sage, HarperCollins, $16.99.

Silas Heap and his family must flee the castle! Will Marcia Overstrand, "the Extraordinary Wizard" help them? Can they get to Aunt Zelda's safely?

This first book of the Magyk Series is fun, fast moving and very exciting. I had a great time reading this.--Patty

Singer of All Songs Chanters of Tremaris Trilogy Book 1, Kate Constable, HarperCollins, $5.99.

Behind a wall of ice, Calwyn has lived her entire life safely in Antaris. She is a "Daughter of Taris" one of the last orders of chanters.

A stranger, Darrow, appears inside their walls of ice and Calwyn leaves Antaris with him to escape the dangerous Samis. With Samis chasing them, their journey together takes them to many strange and unfriendly lands.

A well-crafted fantasy and fantasy world that I really enjoyed reading. I'm looking forward to book #2 in this series--Patty

The Waterless Sea Chanters of Tremaris Trilogy Book 2, Kate Constable, HarperCollins, $16.95.

This second book in the Chanters of Tremaris Trilogy I enjoyed as much as the first. A fast-moving, interesting plot, well written, and always exciting when Calwyn and her friends are around. I couldn't put it down!!

Does Calwyn get to see Darrow again? Read The Waterless Sea to find out!--Patty

Toast, Nigel Slater, Penguin, $25.00.

Fun and funny!! Very "quirky". British humor (at least to my American senses).

The story of Nigel Slater growing up in England with an insatiable, and unfulfilled hunger for family love and food.

A good read.--Patty

Waxwings, Jonathan Raban, Random House, $13.00.

In this novel set in Seattle we meet the immigrants Chick and Tom Janeway. Raban is a master of bringing to life the very different personalities of these two men. As the story progresses eventually Chick and Tom meet and form a somewhat off-beat relationship. One of my favorite things about this novel was the way the author took actual Seattle historic events and incorporated them into the many twists and turns of the storyline. A very good read. Patty

The Capture, Book One of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole Series, Kathryn Lasky, Scholastic, $4.99.

Soren has been kidnapped and taken to St. Aggie's to be brain washed. He and his friend Gylfie escape and, with the help of two new friends, start on a journey to warn the owl world of the evil that is among them.

A fast and exciting read! I can't wait to read number two.--Patty

The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Maarten Troost, Random House, $12.95.

Life on Tarawa, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean is anything but a relaxing vacation!! So writes Maarten Troost in this fun and humorous travelogue about how he and his girlfriend, Sylvia, spent two years of days (and nights!!) on a Pacific Island.--Patty

Kensuke's Kingdom, Michael Morpurgo, Scholastic, $4.99.

A fast-moving, adventure novel about a boy, his dog, and a tropical island--with an unexpected twist. I loved it! A great read for boys or girls.--Patty

Bold Spirit, Linda Lawrence Hunt, University of Idaho Press, $16.95.

This book about Helga Estby includes her life before and after her amazing 1896 walk across the U.S. to New York City.

The reader discovers what can happen to a woman who breaks the social, family, and Victorian codes of her time to do something risky like Helga did.

An absolutely wonderful book about a not-so-typical Victorian woman.--Patty

Leaving Mother Lake, Erche Namu, Time Warner, $14.95.

A wonderful memoir of Namu's life growing up as a Moso peasnt by the shores of "Lake Lugu" (Mother Lake). At about 16 she leaves her village and eventually ends up at the Shanghai Music Conservatory to study music and learn to read and write. Very interesting!--Patty

Bee Season, Myla Goldberg, Random House, $13.00.

A novel that explores a complex family relationship. Eliza wins her school spelling bee which starts a chain reaction within the Naumann family. Eliza and her brother Aaron have been brought up by their father Saul. Their mother Miriam is a lawyer and doesn't have much connection with either of her children or her husband. The family and story become more and more tense, building to a shocking finish, with an adept look into the mind of an obsessive compulsive personality. Patty

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Alison Weir, Random House, $14.95

This life story of Elanor of Aquitaine is fascinating. At a time (1100's) when women were essentially "given" to different kings and noblemen for political alliances and breeding purposes, Eleanor actually ruled her lands. She was a woman with power who ruled wisely and was very innovative. The movie "The Lion in Winter" depicted parts of Eleanor's life but this book gives the whole story from birth to death. Patty

Ex-Libris, Ross King, Penguin, $13.00.

A fast-paced novel that has a little of everything in it--rare books, history, mystery, and action adventure!

I loved it! Patty

Galileo's Daughter, Dava Sobel, Penguin $14.00

A wonderful look into the obstacles the early scientists met while trying to unravel the mysteries of the universe. Galileo was a devout Catholic but was constantly under scrutiny from the Pope for his astronomical discoveries--eventually being confined under house arrest for his published book Dialogue. The power of the Catholic Church in Rome to put scientists to death for their ideas that the church considered un-Catholic (which they did) is hard to imagine today.

Galileo Galilei had 3 illegitimate children--2 daughters and a son. He had both his daughters join a convent at 13 and it was from the safety of the San Matteo convent that his daughter, Virginnia (sister S. M. Celeste) wrote letters to her beloved father. Patty

Geronimo Stilton Series, Geronimo Stilton, Scholastic, $5.99.

Geronimo runs a newspaper in "New Mouse City", but he always seems to be out and about having new adventures!

I have read two of his books and they are fun, humorous, and exciting.

I think you will enjoy meeting Geronimo and some of the other members of this family. Patty

The Honey Thief, Elizabeth Graver, Thorndike Publishing, $13.00.

This book explores the strength of a mother's love for her daughter. After Miriam & Eva's move to the country, we work our way back in their lives until the hidden truth about Eva's father is revealed to her and the reader. A vivid glimpse into mental illness and how it can affect and worry a family for many years. Patty

House of Spirits, Isabel Allende, Bantam, $7.99.

Allende tells a wonderful story complete with a cast of interesting family characters. The odd-ball uncle, sister with green hair, and wife who can play the piano while the cover is closed. As always, Allende's writing is clear and beautiful. I found this book very entertaining!--Patty

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, Nathaniel Philbrick, Penguin, $14.00.

This is the true story that inspired Melville's Moby Dick. Whaling out of Nantucket in the 1800's was big business and very dangerous. Each time a whalership left port they could expect to be gone for up to three years. That anyone from the Essex survived to tell the tale is amazing! What a story.--Patty

Island of Lost Maps, Miles Harvey, Broadway Books, $14.95.

A look into the world of cartography, the study of maps. As we follow the path of antique map thievery by Gilbert Bland Jr., we also get an education on why early maps were protected and hoarded and considered more valuable than gold. A very interesting and educational read. Patty

The Northern Lights, Lucy Jago, Knopf, $24.00.

Kristian Birkeland's life reads like an adventure novel! He was an extremely gifted and insightful scientist who went to great lengths and dangers to prove his theories. Unfortunately, Birkeland's work ethic, combined with his scientific drive, led him to an untimely death. A great read! Patty

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace, Gore Vidal, Thunder's Mouth Press, $10.00.

If the essays in this book had been written by anyone less respected than Gore Vidal, they would definitely smack of "conspiracy theory."
Vidal asks many "Why?" questions of actions taken or not taken by our elected government officials and the IRS, FBI, CIA, and ATF departments. An eye-opening and mind-expanding book!!!--Patty

Pictures from an Expedition, Diane Smith, Penguin, $14.00.

I enjoyed this book immensely!! The combination of Eleanor's "quest" (because for a woman in 1876 that's what a trip to Montana was!) along with the fascinating exposure to the beginnings of paleontology in the badlands makes this a page turner. Throw in some other fun characters like Augustus, Maggie, and Little Bear and get ready to enjoy a wonderful story. Patty

The Probable Future, Alice Hoffman, Random House, $13.95.

A carefully crafted and well-written story about the women of the Sparrow family, each of whom receives a special gift on their 13th birthday.

A very enjoyable and entertaining read. Patty

Portrait in Sepia, Isabel Allende, Harper Collins, $14.00.

Allende is a masterful storyteller.  We follow Aurora del Valle from her difficult birth and early life in San Francisco to the move her family makes back to their roots and extended family in Chile.  A wonderful read!!!!  Patty

The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes, W. W. Norton, $15.95.

An Extremely interesting scientific book that reads like a mystery novel!! Sykes takes the subject of mitochondrial DNA and explains it in a very understandable and enjoyable way.

If you have ever wondered about prehistoric human origins, this book is for you.--Patty

Sister of My Heart, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Random House, $13.00.

A beautifully written novel of two cousins, Anju and Sudha, raised as sisters. We follow the girls as they grow up in India absorbing all the traditions and tales of Indian culture from their mothers and extended female family of "aunties."

A wonderful immersion into the do's and don'ts of the rigid Indian caste system.--Patty

Trail of Feathers, Tahir Shah, Time Warner, $13.95.

Tahir takes us traveling all over Peru in his pursuit of the "Birdmen". We visit Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, the famous Nazca Lines in the desert, and finally wind up on a boat trip up the Amazon. All in all, Tahir's writings and wanderings are very informative and enjoyable. A wonderful armchair trip!--Patty

The Vine of Desire, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Random House, $13.00.

Two women who grew up together in India, Anju and Sudha, are reunited in America. Both their lives have changed dramatically since they last saw each other and life for them in America has become very complicated because of loss, love, and desire.

The author uses language as a "color palette" to paint a vibrant picture of these women's lives. A thoroughly enjoyable read!--Patty


The Memory of Running, Ron McLarty, Penguin, $24.95.

For 20 years Smithy Ide has been drinking hard and overeating, until at 43 he weighs in at 279 pounds. This story begins after both of his parents have died from a car crash. Soon after, Smithy is at their house putting their affairs in order. He gets more bad news, ends up drunk, gets on his childhood bike, rides away, and keeps on riding. From East Providence, RI to Venice, CA,, he has one adventure after another, comes to terms with his past, and transforms himself.

Poignant, heart breaking, and funny, this story flows. Once you start, it's hard to put down.--Rose

Dragon Rider, Cornelia Funke, Scholastic, $12.95.

Another great novel by Cornelia Funke. Dragons are being crowded out by humans. Afraid of discovery, the dragons need to move. A young dragon named Firedrake sets out with his faithful brownie friend Sorrel to find the dragon homeland, which no one quite knows how to get to. Helped by a human boy, who becomes the first dragon rider in many centuries, and hunted by an evil enemy, Dragon Rider is full of exciting adventure and humor. Plus it's a complete story, no waiting for volumes two plus to come out. Delightful!--Rose

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Jonathan Stroud, Hyperion, $7.99.

A fun series with a twist on the magician-summons-up-the-genie-in-the-bottle story. This is told from the genie's point of view.--Rose

The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown, Doubleday, $24.95.

The Da Vinci Code has everything you could want in a mystery/suspense novel--action, intrigue, archeology, art, history, myth, religion, sex, conspiracies . . . . It will keep you up late reading and on the edge of your seat the whole time--Rose

The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Riffenegger, Harcourt, $14.00.

This is first, the story of soul mates, but it is in no way a sappy love story. It's the kind of book that gives you a fresh perspective on life.--Rose

The Adventures of Flash Jackson, William Kowalski, HarperCollins, $13.95.

I enjoyed this coming-of-age story of a tom girl who's fighting growing up. She's definitely her own person, not part of the "in" crowd. The Adventures of Flash Jackson is the story of her 17th year. It doesn't go as planned after she breaks her leg. She spends the summer healing with help from her "witchy" grandmother, whom she eventually decides to spend time getting to know and learning from.--Rose

Heartbeat, Sharon Creech, HarperCollins, $15.99.

Children's authors often amaze me. They have to write simply and keep it short and yet still manage to convey all the joys and hardships of life and keep the story compelling. Sharon Creech has written a wonderful novel in Heartbeat. It is a slice of 12-year-old Annie's life. Rich, warm, and real. Buy it for your children, but read it first for yourself.--Rose

Briar Rose, Jane Yolen, Starscape Books, $5.99.

I thought this was brilliant. Jane Yolen teaches about the holocaust by using the story of sleeping beauty. It combines the architypical wisdom of a fairy tale with the real-life horror of the holocaust. A compelling, sensitive read.--Rose

Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser, HarperCollins, $13.95.

What a great book.  When I picked this up, I was thinking of how fast food affects our waistlines, not our country and the world.  Well written and researched—this book will change the way you view our farms, government, school lunches, and, of course, fast food.  An eye opener.  Rose

Inkheart, Cornelia Funke, Scholastic, $19.95.

This creative original book is perfect for the bibliophile of any age. Inkheart is the story of a young girl whose father is such a powerful storyteller that characters literally come to life. This causes lots of problems as not all of them want to go back. Plus, he's inadvertantly reread his wife into the book. Each chapter starts with a quote from literature, which makes you want to read those books when you've finished Inkheart. A fun read.--/Rose

The Miracles of Santo Fico, D. L. Smith, Warner Books, $13.95.

This is a wonderful life-affirming "feel good" read. You'll laugh and cry and give it to your friends and family.--Rose

The Vendetta Defense, Lisa Scottoline, HarperCollins, $7.99.

Lisa Scottoline is my new favorite "brain candy" author. She writes lawyer mysteries with plenty of twists and turns. Plus her characters are alternately laugh-out-loud funny and touching. Fun!--Rose


Frangipani Celestine Vaite, Back Bay Books $12.95.

A wonderful heart felt, mother daughter story set in Tahiti. I enjoyed every minute of it- most of it with a smile on my face.

Becoming Myself Willa Shalit, TimeWarner Hyperion $22.95.

A fscinating collection of short pieces by a diverse group of women on what it means to grow up female. Women of all ages and walks of life speak their minds.

Elaine's Circle Bob Katz,$14.95

This is a true story of a 4th grade teacher in Alaska during the course of a school year when one of her students is diagnosed with a terminal illness and dies. Elaine confronts death head on & in the process all the students, the parents, the other teachers, (the readers) learn about life and death in a very powerful & moving story.

The History of Love by Nicole Krausss, Norton, $13.95.

A story within a story within a story...As soon as I finished this novel I re-read it so that I could fit all peices of the puzzle together. Totally captivating. If you liked Shadow of the Wind by Ruiz Zafon, you'll love this.

Gonzales & Daughter Trucking Co., Maria Amparo Escandon, Three Rivers Press, $12.95.

This is the story of Libertad Gonzales, a young woman in jail in Mexico. While an inmate, she establishes a weekly Library Club where she reads aloud the classics to her fellow inmates. As she turns the pages randomly we (the reader) soon realize that she is really telling her life story, one chapter at a time. And what a life she has led--in the cab of an 18 wheeler with her father, criss crossing the country. Tragedy and humor--it is all there.--Sally

Lizzie's War, Tim Farrington, HarperSanFrancisco, $24.95.

Charley and I both were moved by this book. The chapters alternate between the husband, an officer in the Marines in Vietnam, and his wife, pregnant with her fourth child, living state side. The reality of that gruesome war as well as the loneliness and strength of the families left behind was very powerful.--Sally

Fruit of Stone, Mark Spragg, Penguin, $14.00.

I loved the contrast in this first novel by Spragg--the tender, poetic writing style juxtaposed against the rugged harsh Wyoming landscape where his characters dwell. This could have been a classic tale of two men in love with the same woman, but the lyrical prose makes it so much more. A visual and literary treat.--Sally

Aspen Pulp, Patrick Hasburgh, St. Martin's Press, $23.95.

A fun, fast-paced first mystery novel, which takes place in and around Aspen, Colorado. He does not hesitate to make fun of Aspen's elite, socialite world. Lots of skiing action, too--would make a fun movie.--Sally

The Laments, George Hagen, Random House, $24.95.

What a great first novel for George Hagen. Fun, quirky, heartwarming--a wide range of emotions to experience as you follow the Laments around the globe in search of "home" and "family."--Sally

Sixth Lamentation, William Broderick, Penguin, $14.00.

An interesting mystery involving two main story lines. The first story is about a suspected Nazi war criminal who claims sanctuary in a priory in England, demanding protection from the church. The second story is told through the eyes of a dying woman who 50 years ago in occupied Paris risked her life to smuggle Jewish children to safety. Her smuggling friends were exposed by the same SS officer who is claiming sanctuary in the church. As the two stories are told, we learn that appearances can be very deceptive and what we assume is not always reality. A gripping, complex tale. Sally

Sacred Time, Ursula Hegi, Simon & Schuster, $13.00.

This is the story of a family tragedy too terrible for words, which has haunted young Anthony and his extended Italian/American/Bronx family since 1953. The story is told in 6 chapters, each set later in time. The last episode brings us to the present. In the course of this history we come to understand what it is to be human and wounded as we all are in some way or another.--Sally

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, Lorna Landvik, Random House, $13.95.

This is the story of five women (and one man) and their friendship over the course of forty eventful years--1960's through the 1990's. A monthly book group (called Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons) is the glue that holds these neighbors together over the years. You'll laugh and you'll cry as you connect with their stories. I loved the book as did my 24 and 26-year-old daughters.--Sally

The Namesake, Jhumpa Lahiri, Houghton Mifflin, $24.00.

Lahiri's quiet voice provides real insight into the complex lives of foreigners living in the U. S. We follow the Gangulis, Indian immigrants, over more than thirty years as they come to Massachusetts, raise their family, and try to settle in. The constant struggle between their worlds is so well depicted by their American born children, who are more interested in eating American food than traveling to India. Lahiri beautifully captures the loneliness and confusion as well as the burdens and freedoms immigrants experience in our culture.--Sally

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon, Random House, $12.00.

This is one of my favorite books this summer (2004). Writing his first novel from the point of view of an autistic 15-year-old boy, Haddon takes us into the very confusing and often overwhelming world of autism. Christopher, the main character, has words of wisdom for us all. His innocence and honesty make us smile and look at our own lives in new ways. A delight.--Sally

The Photograph, Penelope Lively, Penguin, $14.00.

When Glyn, a middle-aged professor, finds an old photograph of his dead wife, holding hands in a seductive way with her brother-in-law, he wants to find out the story behind it. What emerges, through the eyes of various friends and relatives, is an engaging and thought-provoking tale. Memories are personal and unique, and we learn much about our characters as well as ourselves as we dig deeply into their lives. There is a haunting quality to this novel that will stay with me a long time.--Sally

Uniform Justice, Donna Leon, Penguin, $7.99.

A fast paced, fun mystery set in Venice, Italy. Commissario Brunetti is a delight. He loves his wife, and eats good food, all while solving the crime!--Sally

Eat Cake, Step Ball Change, and Julie and Romeo, three novels by Jeanne Ray, Penguin.

Are you over 35 or 40, looking for a book with characters you can relate to (your age bracket) that would be a fun summer read? Try Jeanne Ray--she never fails to make me laugh while spinning her tales of real people.--Sally

The Circuit, Francisco Jimenez, University of New Mexico Press, $10.95.

These true stories of a migrant farm family are told through the eyes of the author as a young boy.

This is an important read for anyone, but particularly anyone in this region, where these children and families play a big role in our community.--Sally

Breaking Through, Francisco Jimenez, Houghton Mifflin, $15.00.

This is the inspiring story of the author, the son of a poor Mexican migrant family. Through incredible hard work and with the support of teachers and family, Jimenez is able to "break through" the usual barriers of poverty and prejudice by going to college. Jimenez eventually earned a PHd from Columbia and is now a professor of Modern languages and Literature at Santa Clara University.--Sally

Drop City, T. C. Boyle, Penguin, $14.00.

My daughter and her boyfriend (in their early 20's) and Charley and I (in our 50's) all read Drop City this winter and loved it. Charley and I relived part of our past as we read--we grew up in the 70's and experienced the commune and back-to-the-land lifestyle first hand. For Willow and Alex it was a history lesson told by engaging characters, which they devoured. As in Tortilla Curtain, Boyle weaves together two cultures. This time it's the California hippies, in search of peace, love, and the rural experience juxtaposed against the more rugged Alaskan homesteaders. It's hard to put down.--Sally

Good in Bed, Jennifer Weiner, Washington Square Press, $14.00.

This book sounds and looks like a sleazy "chick" book, but it is so much more. Charley and I both loved this book as did our 22-year-old daughter. A zany cast of characters keeps you turning pages often with tears of laughter. A lesbian mother, an absent father, a spunky dog, and ex-boy friend who needs to move on, and a few good friends keep Connie (the 28-year-old heroine) company. It's funny, but it's also serious and poignant as issues like body image, self confidence, love and loss are explored.--Sally

In Our Strange Gardens, Michael Quint, Riverhead Books, $12.95.

This is a gem of a novel--short but very powerful, which takes place in France towards the end of WWII. The book is first in English, then repeated in French--fun for you Francophiles. It's a real test of your French!--Sally

The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold, Little, Brown, $21.95.

Best book I have read this summer. You are hooked from the first sentence, trust me.--Sally

The Mark of the Angel Nancy Huston, Random House, $12.00

A powerful short novel by a Canadian author who lives in Paris. Having just returned from Paris to visit my mom, I loved that the book was set among streets I knew and places I had just visited. This book is set in the late 50's however, when the Algerian War was setting root and Hitler's damage was very much on everyone's mind. The three main characters represent the many factions of the city--Saffie, a German non-Jew; her lover Andras, an Hungarian Jew; and Raphael, her well-to-do musician. An unusual writing style, where the reader is drawn in as a spectator at times, makes the book fun to read despite the sad & mysterious tale. Sally

Mermaids Singing, Lisa Carey, HarperCollins, $13.00.

Another mother-daughter novel has attracted my attention--this one set in Ireland mostly and covers three generations. Beautifully written, very lyrical, the landscape very much a part of the tale. Sally

Miracle at St. Anna, James McBride, Riverhead, $24.95.

What a treat to read a beautifully written, poignant novel and learn about a period in history that I never came across in my history classes. Most of this story takes place in Italy where the Buffalo Soldiers (a Black infantry division that served during World War II) was stationed. Sally

Must Love Dogs, Claire Cook, Viking, $23.95.

A fun summer read. If you liked Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing, you'll probably enjoy this.--Sally

Nectar, Lily Prior, Ecco, $23.95.

Have you been missing the fairy tales of your youth? Here is an adult version. Instead of the evil stepmother and poor Cinderella, you have an evil albino servant girl who emits a scent that drives men crazy including the king. It's wild, crazy, full of lust & passion & deceit. Fun read. Lily Prior is the author of La Cucina.--Sally

Nothing Like It in the World Stephen Ambrose, Simon and Schuster, $16.00

This is an epic drama of the daring men who built the transcontinental railroad. It was an unprecedented feat of engineering, vision, and courage. It is the story of the investors, the enlightened politicians, the engineers, as well as the Irish and Chinese immigrants and other laborers who risked their lives doing the backbreaking and dangerous work required to build this railroad.--Sally

The Pleasure of My Company, Steve Martin, Hyperion, $19.95.

Steve Martin has done it again! He's funny, sensitive, poignant, and aware that "family" can come in many forms.

This book left me looking at curbs and the world in a new way!--Sally

Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver, Harper Collins, $14.00

This book weaves together three stories of human love within a larger tapestry of lives inhabiting the forested mountains and struggling small farms of southern appalachia. Kingsolver's message is about the interdependence of man and nature, and the need to appreciate and take care of our environment. This came alive for me yesterday, as I was hiking in the forest. A gentle reminder for all of us "socially conscious" beings to respect and care for Mother Nature. (Sally)

Quality of Life Report, Mehgan Daun, Penguin, $14.00.

This is a great summer read--easy to get into, fun, spunky characters, and a good story that makes you question and examine life. Sally

A Recipe for Bees, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, Anchor Books, $13.00

This is the story of a feisty woman growing up at the turn of the century. She manages to keep her sanity (whether by having an affair, a job outside of being a farm wife, or controversial friendships), yet still stay committed and, in the end, devoted to her husband. A fun and touching tale of a liberated woman. Sally

Red Water, Judith Freeman, Random House, $14.00.

I wanted to read more about Mormon history after finishing Jon Krakauer'sUnder the Banner of Heaven. This novel takes place after the Mountain Meadow Massacre in the late 1800's. Three of John Lee's 19 multiple wives tell their story of the hardships of frontier life and of being married to the man who was ultimately executed for his role in the massacre. A fascinating and very moving read.--Sally

Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman, Elizabeth Buchan, Viking, $14.00. Being a woman of that "certain age" I was drawn to this book. By page 10 I was hooked-- captivated by the British humor and the very real story line. The message for me was to appreciate what you have and don't take you life, your marriage, your friends, and your family for granted. Good to be reminded of that now and then.--Sally

Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd, Viking, $14.00.

This is one of the best books I've read in a while. I laughed, I cried, and I lapped up the wise words August so gently offered. The untraditional family that is the focus of this novel is an eye opener for us all and shows us how important the power of love really is. Don't miss this wonderful "first novel." Sally

Secrets of the Tsil Cafe, Thomas Fox Averill, Bluehen Books, $13.00.

What a rich novel--so full of wonderful tastes and smells. I was tempted to stop and try each recipe as I read, but the story was too compelling --I couldn't put it down. I do plan to go back and sample some of the incredible food concoctions--like cranberry chile pesto (p. 238) or perhaps the habanero pumpkin pudding with ancho maple sauce (p. 118).

Food surely plays an important role in this novel, but the real story is about the richness and strength garnered from family ties. Like cooking, life is not simple. I laughed and I cried as I read this.--Sally

Swift as Desire, Laura Esquivel, Anchor, $11.95.

A beautifully told story , written as a loving tribute to the author's father, who was a telegraph operator, as is the main character in this novel. At times humorous, heart wrenching, sensual--a fast read and full of emotion. (Sally)

Three Daughters, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, Penguin, $14.00.

This novel revolves around the lives of three sisters, who are now in their 50's and 60's. They have led very separate and distinctive lives and are finally coming to appreciate and support one another through some difficult times. This book was also a fascinating history lesson about the women's movement as well as Jewish culture and tradition.--Sally

True Believer, Virginia Euwer Wolff, Atheneum, $7.99.

Virginia Euwer Wolff, raised and schooled in Parkdale, has done it again. I was totally engrossed in this young adult novel which deals with "real" teenage issues--friendship, religion, peer pressure, sexual preference. Thought provoking, with an interesting stream-of-consciousness writing style--recommended for any open-minded adult or teen. Sally

Twelve, Nick McDonell, Grove Press, $23.00.

This first novel was written by 17 year old McDonell, who, I've heard, is somehow related to Sylvia Plath. If you want a young person's perspective on a wealthy high school community involved in drugs and alcohol, this feels like the real world. Pretty powerful what this generation is confronted with on a daily basis.--Sally

What We Keep, Elizabeth Berg, Ballantine, $14.00.

E. Berg is becoming known for her highly readable novels dealing with issues we can all relate to. This one focuses on mother-daughter issues. After 35 years without contact, Ginny and her mother try to heal old wounds. Very moving. It brought out some interesting ideas. Sally




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