Friday, January 24, 2014


 Stephen P. Kiernan

The Curiosity 

            This is a super fun read. It’s got an awesome premise in the reawakening of a man who froze nearly a hundred years earlier and is reintroduced to American life a century later. Written from four very different perspectives, the opportunity to see the players from all sides is entertaining and cool. My one complaint is that I had the sense of the novel having been rushed out the door before it was fully baked. Besides the errors in the text, there are numerous potentials that weren’t fully realized and some rather glaring holes in the plot. Mostly I quibble about the main woman character, who’s characterized as a “true scientific genius” but fails to ask even the most basic scientific questions—and mostly does whatever the plot needs her to do. I won’t say any more than that, but will unreservedly recommend this for a fun read that’s nearly impossible to put down 

Laurie R. King


            I wasn’t sure about this one at first but I then came to really savor it. Rae Newborn is a super vivid protagonist and the setting on an island in the San Juan’s is almost equally vivid.

Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible

            I’m not as much a dedicated fan of Barbara Kingsolver as many people I know, but I did completely love this book. It reads like a classic magnum opus, every word sure-footed and solid, flowing along as if unfolding. I plan to read it again.

Charlie Lovett

The Bookman’s Tale 

            As with Shadow of the Wind, this is a story about a book and I love little better than a good one of these.            

David Mitchell

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet  

The scope of detail in this novel is staggering. Truly impressive and staggering. The depth of the detail sweeps you away to the world of late eighteenth century Japan for a dose of a feudal society still closed tight like an oyster but on the brink of being pried open by Dutch and English traders.  It’s a smart book in many ways, sophisticated and richly flavored. The characters and plot are good if not great, but certainly it’s the setting and the history that are absolutely worth reading this for. It’s like a fine old cabernet for lovers of historical fiction.

Kate Morton

The Secret Keeper

    Kate Morton is a seriously good story weaver. This one is chock full of characters and time periods and she keeps it all unfolding one small piece at a time so you're left guessing the whole way. For me her books are pure candy. Almost all her settings feel mysterious and remote, full of magic possibility. Her characters are mostly smart and thoughtful, though some of them are hard to get a grasp on because they either change too much from one time period to another or else they are being kept at arms length to serve the machinations of the plot. But overall her books are a treat for those of us who love a good little mystery in a wonderfully gothic setting!

The Forgotten Garden 

            A secret garden on a large estate and a book of mysterious dark fairy tales form the core of this story, which was a fun read all the way through.

Howard Frank Mosher

Northern Borders 

         If you haven't read anything by Howard Frank Mosher, don't wait too much longer. He's written a mix of novels and memoirs and they're all whimsical and wonderful in their own way. My favorites are the novels set in and around his own town up here in the northern woods of Vermont. In his books our own Northeast Kingdom becomes "Kingdom County" and names are changed in various ways, however the smoky do-it-my-own-way-or-be-damned flavor of the place and people is perfectly preserved. Maybe it takes a transplanted flatlander (someone not from Vermont) like Howard or like me to savor how different this place is from so much of the rest of our country, but year after year I continue to marvel at the way people do things up here. Reading about these people in Howard Mosher's books holds the pure delight of diving into the world of people who, viewed from a distance, inhabit a world of mystery and intrigue I will never fully understand. 

I chose Northern Borders to highlight here because I think it's my favorite of his books and it hasn't received the attention that some of his others have received. Several of them - including Where the Rivers Flow North and Disappearances - have been made into movies. Northern Borders, though, to me captures the essence of the place more deftly than any others. It's set largely on a dairy farm in the 50's, where a young boy goes to live with his grandparents and joins their life of ridiculously hard work blended with numerous small joys and deep pleasures. The story follows Austin Kittredge through his young adulthood as it simultaneously follows a tiny Vermont town that belatedly joins the mechanized world of modern America. (Though always at least a decade behind, as Vermonters have to be pried away from anything they're used to.)

And like any good story, it holds a central mystery that comes at you sideways and makes the whole story resonate with hidden meaning.  This is a fine sweet read that is worth savoring.