Old Wives’ Tales

The Aviator’s Wife came out in January and is the latest “wife” tale in my collection. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m automatically drawn to this genre of historical fiction. Authors who choose the mysterious wives of famous and controversial men as their subjects automatically have a good premise, so all they need to do is write the already-existent story well. When done right, these novels reveal women who demonstrate humility, sensitivity, emotional strength, ability to love, and empathy for those less fortunate. In other words, the qualities their husbands lack.

Before I read The Aviator’s Wife, all I knew about Charles Lindbergh was that he made the first solo flight across the Atlantic, he was anti-Semitic, and his first-born had been kidnapped and murdered. I knew nothing of his wife Anne. There are many fascinating anecdotes about Charles and his family, but this book is about Anne’s inner life more than anything else....Read more

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A Tale of Revenge

“I had to do what I had to do. This act was before me. In the uncanny light a sense of dread so overwhelmed me that tears started in my eyes and a single choking sound, a sob maybe, a wrench of hurt, burst from my chest. I crossed my fists in the knitting and squeezed them against my heart.” —Joe, The Round House

Revenge is always a good topic, and the National Book Award winner The Round House does a sly job of convincing readers that vigilante justice is both necessary and inevitable. Joe is only thirteen, but when his mother is brutally raped, he’s forced to grow up fast. The local priest preaches that out of every evil comes good, but Joe fails to see the good in his mother’s overwhelming depression and his father’s helplessness. The jurisdiction issues that surround his North Dakota Indian reservation will protect his mother’s attacker. So what’s a kid to do when his family has been broken and justice isn’t forthcoming? The way the story unfolds makes it easy to understand why he’d want to take matters into his own hands....Read more

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The Analog Kid

It’s not easy, being a 19-year-old bookseller. I can’t remember a time when the book industry wasn’t on the brink of a potentially catastrophic restructuring, nor can I recall an era before the rise of the internet and ubiquitous cell-phone usage. I am constantly fighting to reconcile my generational ties to the digital age with my deep affection for the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar world of bookselling. While I am very much aware of my contradictory position, I rarely consider the effects that the last twenty years or so have had on the content of the very books I care about so much.

Until now, I’ve taken for granted the fact that cutting-edge digital technology and stories about storytelling rarely co-exist. I’d always found that there was an unspoken rule against combining high-tech plots with stories about the power of books. Even the most forward-looking sci-fi novels exist in the same media as our oldest written narratives, something which their authors seem loath to acknowledge....Read more

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Classic YA: The Witch of Blackbird Pond

As I tried to reclaim a reading life leading up to and right after the birth of my twins, a friend recommended I stick to reading young adult fiction. Perhaps in an attempt to regress to my own childhood, I picked up a book I remembered fondly: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.

The New England witch hunts endure as a fascinating piece of history, and before I graduated to The CrucibleThe Witch of Blackbird Pond whet my appetite for fiction about the era. Set in the late 1800s, this coming-of-age story follows the orphan Kit from her home in Barbados to a Puritan community in Connecticut. The death of her beloved father and a distasteful suitor have forced her to go to America, and Kit is grudgingly taken into her aunt’s family as something of a Cinderella. Although her aunt and one of the sisters are kind to Kit, her fiery uncle and other competitive cousin make her life particularly difficult. Kit’s loneliness prompts her into a friendship with an older widow, Hannah Tupper, who the community believes to be a witch....Read more

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RISE UP Seattle

Island Books is supporting an important event this Valentine's Day.

Womens' Network for a Sustainable Future, Business Ending Slavery and Trafficking, and Bainbridge Graduate Institute will join with activists around the world for ONE BILLION RISING, the largest day of action in the history of V-Day, the global activist movement to end violence against women and girls.
During a special event, producer Jane Charles will introduce her new film, SOLD, to be released this spring. Also on the agenda will be a variety of art forms that celebrate the women and men who resist violence:

  • University of Washington Dancers
  • Claire Hosterman singing
  • Amazing dancer Chris Daigre of Ewajo Center, leading participants in a dance of solidarity
And informational presentations about non-profit organizations that benefit women worldwide.
February 14th, 2013 5:30-7:30

@ HUB Seattle 220 2nd Ave South, Seattle, WA 98104

http://wnsf-pacificnw.org/

A Dance to the Music of Time: A Question of Upbringing

We're launching our new online book discussion group with A Question of Upbringing, the first installment of Anthony Powell's epic A Dance to the Music of Time. Even if you haven't started reading yet, it's not too late to get on board.

The book introduces us to narrator Nicholas Jenkins and a handful of his friends and relations. We meet Stringham and Templer, his roommates at school, and then their officious headmaster Le Bas, who becomes the subject of a prank orchestrated by Stringham. As the young men leave school and head into adulthood, they start to move in different directions, with the cynical Templer taking a finance job in the City. Jenkins summers in France, where he dabbles in unrequited romance and re-encounters another fellow student, the dogged but inelegant Widmerpool....Read more

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Books and YouTube Can Lead to Carnegie Hall

Whether you’re a fan of John Green or not, I suggest you peruse this New York Times piece from January 16th. It’s startling to discover that authors are taking over more than just the internet. They’re taking over Carnegie Hall. As in, the Carnegie Hall that serves as legendary concert venue to artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell. A new era for writers has arrived, and I’m not talking about the age of ebooks....Read more

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American Stories

The twentieth century will be American. American thought will dominate it. American progress will give it color and direction. American deeds will make it illustrious.

—Senator Albert Beveridge (1862-1927)

The quotation above comes from a toast made to ring in the then-new century. Strong stuff—patriotism shading over into jingoism. And prescient, as history shows. John Dos Passos cites the remark in the opening pages of his epic U.S.A. trilogy, probably the greatest literature produced by the Lost Generation. Yes, better than Hemingway, Fitzgerald, et al.,  though that’s a subject for another time...Read more

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