BookClique

Here we will post our musings on a wide variety of titles. You can comment on our posts and find the titles in our catalog.

North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person

personCea Sunrise Person spent her childhood and adolescence as part of a free-spirited family who left California to spend their nomadic life in a series of teepees and makeshift housing in Canada during the 1970s in the sunset of the counterculture movement, moving in and out of relationships, living off the land, doing drugs. Family dynamics are the most fascinating part of North of Normal, and Person’s yearning for a more normal life and a relationship with her absent biological father will resonate with readers. Almost incredibly, the author is modeling in Paris by her early teens and succeeds by the end of the book in achieving her lifelong goal of a stable family, even belatedly establishing a relationship with her father. Everything may seem to come together a little too neatly by the conclusion, but this book is more about the journey. Both readers who shared similar backgrounds and those who grew up in more traditional homes will enjoy accompanying the author from a semi-idyllic childhood through an uneasy adolescence marked by a lack of stability and her steadfast love for her mother, who loves her as well but whose main focus is on the series of unreliable men who pass in and out of her life.

Alison M.


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Shots Fired by C.J. Box

boxI am not a huge fan of short story collections, but every once in a while one comes along that I like (see Crimes in Southern Indiana). C.J. Box’s Shots Fired is one that I would definitely recommend. Not all of the stories feature game warden Joe Pickett, but they’re all good. “Blood Knot” is very short and features a teenage girl who loves her family’s annual trip to visit her outdoorsy grandpa at his fishing lodge. No one else in the family enjoys it though, and she even hears her parents complaining about it (just because there’s no wi-fi!) when they think she is asleep. However, she is the one who ends up benefiting in the end. In “Master Falconer,” we get to see one of my favorite characters from the Joe Pickett series, Nate Romanowski, get one over on an extremely wealthy man who thinks everyone can be bought. And in “Pronghorns of the Third Reich,” a ne’er do well is constantly complaining about his family being cheated long ago out of a ranch that would have made them all rich, but his story is so ludicrous that everyone just dismisses him. He even goes to court to try to get the ranch back but loses. He then cooks up a violent vendetta against the lawyer who beat him in court. These are just a few of the ten stories included in this collection. Nice, easy reading.

Stacy W.


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Savage Harvest:A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman

hoffmanAt the dawn of the ‘60s, Michael Rockefeller, a golden son of the Rockefeller dynasty traveled to remote New Guinea. A child of privilege, the trip was an opportunity to experience new and mysterious cultures, to work on a documentary film, and to prove himself a serious collector of primitive art, which interest he shared with his famous father, Nelson Rockefeller. He recorded observations and thoughts regarding his journey to obtain items for a new collection before his disappearance in 1961. Stranded on a capsized boat in November 1961, he attempted to swim for shore and was never seen again.

Author Carl Hoffman alternates between narrating the events of 1961 (some documented, some conjecture) and the details of his own investigations among the Asmat tribes in 2012. He explores the natives’ complex world view and their culture of reciprocal violence acted out through headhunting and cannibalism. His theory is that Rockefeller swam to shore that day in November 1961 and was ceremonially killed and eaten by the Asmat natives in part as revenge for an attack by Dutch explorers a few years before.

Savage Harvest takes the reader into a little-known area of the world; it did seem to be a bit overly detailed and repetitious regarding details of the Asmat culture and practices. It may have gained by substituting more details about Michael Rockefeller’s life before the fateful trip, especially for a younger generation of readers, and exploring in more depth the factors that led to his final mission. This would give a better grasp of what was lost through his haunting disappearance. Probably the most exciting moment in the author’s quest is when he believes he is about to buy Rockefeller’s eyeglasses from the natives and winds up getting “a pair of ‘90s-style wrap around sunglasses” instead.

The book makes a substantial case for the possibility of Rockefeller’s having died in this manner; however, genuine proof still eludes us. The book’s main strength is its portrayal of a little-known civilization and its description of the complex ritual involved in its practice of headhunting and cannibalism.

Alison M.


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In the Neighborhood by Peter Lovenheim

lovenheim In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time by Peter Lovenheim tells the unusual true life story of Lovenheim’s journey deep into his street, sleeping over at and spending a day with those of his neighbors who would welcome him. It’s an unusual approach to a popular topic in today’s society — that of personal disengagement. Lovenheim’s project was triggered by a tragedy — a murder/suicide on his street. He wondered if that event could have been prevented by closer neighborhood relationships and/or mitigated by trust in neighbors. Of course neither Lovenheim nor the reader can answer that question. We can however enjoy the transformation of his neighborhood by the project and consider its relevance to our own communities.

Amy P.


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Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

leavingtimeJenna Metcalf is thirteen years old, lives with her grandmother, and regularly visits her dad in the mental hospital. Yet, in spite of all the emotional drama that this could create, Jenna is fine with her life except for one small detail: her mother, Alice, disappeared ten years ago, and no one can seem to find her. Is she dead, or has she run away, leaving her daughter behind? Jenna has to know the truth. Her mother was once an esteemed researcher on elephant grief, and she would never leave her research or her elephants willingly. Jenna has made no real progress to find out what really happened so she enlists the aid of a down-and-out psychic and an alcoholic private investigator. Together, they find her mother’s journal and revisit the past to recreate the events leading up to the day Alice disappeared. As they start to put the puzzle together, they begin to realize that the truth might be something truly unexpected.

Leaving Time is a story of a mother’s mysterious disappearance, a daughter with questions, a washed-up psychic, and a world-weary detective, their stories weaving through the lives of the elephants who also share the tale. I really had a hard time deciding if I liked the human or elephant characters best. I particularly enjoyed how Ms. Picoult wove tidbits of elephant life into the story and used those facts to highlight tidbits and truths in the lives of the humans involved. Beautiful, thoughtful, wise, and wonderful: Leaving Time is not to be missed.

Annette G.


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Rooms by Lauren Oliver

roomsRichard Walker has just died, and his family is soon to arrive to start making the final arrangements for his funeral and for the sale of his empty home. Richard Walker’s family is not aware that Richard Walker’s home is not empty at all: It is the home of two ghosts, Alice and Sandra. Ghosts, as we know from the horror movies marathons of our youth, have reasons for their hauntings. They have baggage, and that baggage holds them back from leaving for the great beyond. Richard Walker’s family arrives: his ex-wife Caroline, troubled son Trenton, and unforgiving daughter Minna. Turns out, the living have their own share of baggage, and that baggage can hold them back from truly living their lives. As Caroline, Trenton, and Minna start to slough through all of Richard’s left behind stuff, they are forced to confront their own issues and unanswered questions. Watching it all, Alice and Sandra are confronting a few issues of their own.

At the heart, this is a book about forgiveness and letting go. Rooms gives us a glimpse into the hearts of both the living and the ghosts of the dead, as they all struggle with accepting their lives as they played out. An enjoyable read, simply because of the interesting telling. Perhaps, with this title, there were too many voices telling their tales, for I found I wasn’t terribly invested in any of them by the end. However, that might have been the point…to give us a larger view of these individual lives. And in providing such a view, the author succeeded very well.

Annette G.


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The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

orendaJoseph Boyden burst on the Canadian literary scene with Three Day Road in 2005, a novel about two young Cree men who volunteer in the First World War, becoming snipers. It was followed up by Through Black Spruce, set in Moosonee Ontario and narrated by Will Bird and his niece Annie Bird with the narration switching between chapters. Will, a former bush pilot, is in a coma. Over the course of the novel, Will recounts the events of the previous year which led to him being in a coma to his nieces, Annie and Suzanne. Meanwhile, in the present day, Annie recounts the previous year of her life and her visits to Toronto, Montreal, and New York City to Will in an attempt to help revive him from his coma.

The Orenda, taking its title from the Huron cognate of Mohawk (orę́˙naʔ /inherent power or song), tells the story of indigenous rivalries and battles during the 17th century and the incursion of Jesuits into the situation. Boyden’s narrative is relatively simple: three characters take the reins, and the story unfolds more or less chronologically. In no particular order, the narrators are: Christophe, a Francophone Jesuit missionary; Snow Falls, an Iroquois teen of the Haudenosaunee nation kidnapped by the Wendats (a Huron nation); and Bird, a warrior mourning and avenging the deaths of his wife and two daughters at the hands of the Iroquois. This is a magnificent and complex novel of intercultural conflict. Readers are cautioned regarding graphic depictions of violence.

“Boyden utilizes the tripartite narrative to examine what all three characters learn about themselves and others — and, in turn, what we learn about ‘them’ and ‘us,’ then and now. The Orenda, over nearly 500 pages, is Boyden’s struggle — as a writer, a Canadian, and a human being — to reconcile the irreconcilable.” —Quill & Quire

Amy P.


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The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

farmIf you ever read Tom Rob Smith’s Child 44 trilogy, you can expect his latest effort, The Farm, to be just as good although it is very different. Daniel’s parents have retired to a farm in Sweden which is his mother’s native country. Daniel wants to visit them someday but has been putting it off because he has been keeping the fact that he is a homosexual and in a serious relationship with someone a secret. One night he receives a panicky phone call from his father telling him his mother has been admitted to a hospital because of mental issues that have apparently been growing worse and worse. Daniel immediately makes plans to go to Sweden only to receive another call from his dad saying his mother has checked herself out of the hospital, and he doesn’t know where she is. Next his mother calls him and says she is on her way to London and tells him not to believe anything his father tells him. She says she has found out that his dad is involved in some bad things, and now he and his friends are trying to silence her. Most of the rest of the book is Daniel’s mom, Tilde, telling him everything and showing him her evidence. Together they hide from Daniel’s father who has followed Tilde to London. Daniel then travels to Sweden to discover the truth on his own. Fast paced with surprising twists and turns. Highly recommended.

Stacy W.


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The Alpine Christmas by Mary Daheim

alpinechristmasAs the holiday season freneticism descends, I always enjoy some light holiday reading, and The Alpine Christmas fits the bill. Written by Mary Daheim, this mystery takes place in timber country in Washington state. Its protagonist is Emma Lord, a weekly newspaper editor. Not only does the mystery take place at Christmas, but the holiday theme runs through as you get insights to how small town Protestants and Catholics celebrate the season…and each other. The plot centers on young women disappearing from Seattle and an exploration of their connections to this small community. The Alpine Christmas is one volume in the 25-volume Emma Lord series, so there’s lots more to keep you reading…all year.

Amy P.


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The Bones Beneath by Mark Billingham

bonesbeneathSettling into a new book in Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series is like finally relaxing in your favorite chair after a hard day. In Billingham’s latest book, The Bones Beneath, Detective Thorne is assigned the mentally arduous task of accompanying one of the worst murderers he ever caught, serial killer Stuart Nicklin, to the supposed burial site of one of his victims. Thorne sees the danger of letting Nicklin lead them all around by the nose, but of course the police chief (or politician depending how you see it) orders him to do it to provide “closure” to the victim’s family. Nicklin loves being out of jail, even if temporarily, and loves having a captive audience to spout off to as Thorne and his colleagues journey with him to the remote island where the victim is buried. As Thorne predicted, Nicklin has other agendas besides leading the police to the burial site and does everything in his power to make the trip take as long as possible. Besides insisting that Thorne accompany the group, Nicklin also requests (and receives) another prisoner of his choosing to come along on the trip so that he feels more “safe”. Lots of layers and non-traditional endings are two characteristics I appreciate in Billingham’s stories, and both are present in this one. Great fiction and if you’re a true country music fan (the older stuff) like Detective Thorne, you’ll appreciate his playlist at the end of the book.

Stacy W.


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