Saturday, April 11, 2015

Spring and Seveneves by Stephenson

Sunrise was at 6:29, sunset will be 7:53. I love coming home in the daylight.

Ah, the true harbinger of Spring, the lilac bush. Our bushes are really old ones, planted long before we ever lived in our house, and the oldest man on our street remembers picking them for his mom when he was a little boy.

I've finally realized that trimming them works wonders for the following year's blooms, and I really hate the suckers that spring up and have to be clipped at dirt level...lots of spiders and earwigs and multilegged beasties at dirt level.

Every year, just as winter seems to be a forever thing, the hard, curled fist-like blossoms emerge.  Sometimes they appear in snow, but they appear!  And every year, at Easter, they are almost in full bloom.  No matter when Easter happens, our trees are in bloom.  With the tulips underneath, our yard can look a little like an Easter basket.  It's really pretty and the scent is everywhere.
Looking forward to reading this on 4/3
Need a few more minutes, please! 4/10
 I just spent the last week reading Neal Stephenson's latest book, Seveneves, to be published on 5/19/15, with a one day laydown date.  That means that all stores get the books on the day before they can be put out on the shelf - I love one day laydown dates! 

Seveneves has the very bestfirst line I've read in years and I dare you to stop reading when you get your copy in your hands: 
"The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason."

When the moon explodes, the world starts to end.  Billions of people are going to die, only a very few will be "safe" on the International Space Station, and there isn't a lot of time to build more habitat for those who will be the future of humanity. 

As the moon's pieces settle into an orbit around the earth, they joggle and bump, breaking up into smaller bits, some dropping into the atmosphere where they slam into the ground.  Eventually, within a year or so, the surface of Earth will become absolutely unlivable, burning air, no water, cleared of soil and humans by tsunamis, meteors, and volcanoes.  As rocks and space debris begin to grind away into dust, forming the White Sky, other rocks will be captured by the atmosphere's drag and The Hard Rain will fall. For the next almost 5,000 years, what is left of humanity will evolve in space. 

What a great adventure this book was! Great storyline, fabulous characters, good science, Seveneves is something to be lived in rather than just read.  It took me a WEEK to read - long enough to feel as if I really knew the people who pretty much held the whole world in their hands.

Anyone who has an interest in space living, any of the sciences, environmental issues, big adventure, anyone who wants to be swept up in a story played out on a truly epic scale will not be able to put it down.  I loved it, gave it five stars, can't wait to start sharing it with others! 

As always, please shop your local independent bookstore and if you don't have one, Eagle Harbor Book Co. would be happy to be yours (206-842-5332).

(Seveneves will be published on May 19, 2015, by Wm Morrow and Company.  $35.00.  No recompense was received for this review.)

Saturday, January 10, 2015

It's Spademan, Spademan All the Time!

Crows in the trees across the street, huddled up in the cold.
Sunrise was at 7:56, sunset will be at 4:38 pm.  Tomorrow!  Sunrise will occur one minute earlier than today, tomorrow we will have 1:42 more daylight than today.  Sunrise will happen at 7:55!  Calloo Callay!  I've loved walking to work in the dark, last week I got off the ferry in Bainbridge and IT WAS STILL DARK!  It feels so special to be out at that time of day- if you've ever worked the graveyard shift you know it's different, the people are different, quieter, the very air is different from what those who work in daylight hours experience.  We notice the wind pick up as the sun rises - some people never feel that happen.  I'll miss the dark when it's daylight as the alarm goes off.  But the earth will keep spinning and it will happen all over again.

I LOVE science fiction, speculative fiction, anything that takes our current time and knowledge and uses it to change what we expect the future to be.  Science fiction takes what we know now and expands it into the far future, mostly skipping all the in-between years inventing the various things we need to survive a changed world, enough time to evolve into different beings, time to move off our earth.  Science fiction expands where we are to where we will be.

Speculative fiction moves us only slightly into the future - our world, us, we are still recognizable, things have changed just enough to still be familiar but different enough to feel wrong.  I really like reading about these shorter jumps into the future, you can trace the journey we would take to get to the point where these stories take place. 

50 years ago, Fahrenheit 451 might have been science fiction, now it’s speculative: we have walls of television screens and are able to interact with the actors.  It’s only a matter of time before we can live and work, alone, sustained by outside forces called for by punching only a few buttons…oh, wait, sorry, already there! Green trucks full of groceries, brown trucks full of everything else.

Adam Sternbergh’s series about a massively damaged New York City is a great look at how a single, admittedly huge, disaster can change the course of the future.

A few years from now, a dirty bomb was dropped in Times Square and a series of bombs were released in the subways and on the bridges severing Manhattan from the rest of the city.  Millions were killed in the fallout over the years and thousands were killed and left buried in the rubble under the cities, many more died as the infrastructure fell apart.  The wealthy “tap in” to a virtual reality that takes them away from a ravaged world, nurses caring for their physical needs, others tap in as they can afford it.  The Limnosphere is addictive and insidious, you can get anything in there.  If you have the money.

Out of the destruction comes Spademan, a garbageman before the events, a hitman after.  To Spademan, garbage is garbage is garbage, give him a name, he will take it out to the curb.  This way of life works well for him since he doesn’t have anything else to lose, his wife died in the bombings, he spent way too much time in the limnosphere, he drinks too much – after he pulled himself out of despair, he decided to keep the streets clean in his own special way.  He asks no questions, he just doesn’t care.  Until his latest client points him at the daughter of an evangelical preacher.  Obviously, she’s done something Daddy can’t abide so she has to go missing. 

I LOVE this very noir mystery series set in the near future.  Spademan’s world is pretty well contained within the greater Manhattan area, the lack of complete bridges keeps most of the action on the island, so the world building (un-building?) feels true and pretty darned creepy and the Limnosphere is a really cool, but really scary, invention.  We already know what virtual reality is like, we know that people spend a lot of time in games, but what if you could design a world so much better than anything outside your head, you never wanted to leave?  Business is conducted, beautiful people are your friends, you can do whatever you want in the Limnosphere, including murder.

With Shovel Ready and Near Enemy, Adam Sternbergh has created a very dark world with an anti-hero we will all want to believe in.  

(Book number one is Shovel Ready, available now in paperback.  $14.00.  Book number two is Near Enemy, available January 13, 2015, in hardcover for $24.00. I don’t know when number three will be available, but I want it NOW!  Random House publishes these books under the imprints of Broadway Books and Crown Publishing.)

As always, you can give us a call, come by, or go to Harbor Book Company’s website to get copies of any of these books.  We are happy to keep you in reading material!

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Family Fletcher Rules!

Sunrise from the ferry, 7:20 am December 31

Sunrise today was at 7:58, Sunset will be at 4:29. 

Ah, it’s a new year – it’s cloudy and cold today, it looks like rain, but yesterday, the actual New Year’s Day, was cold and clear and stunningly beautiful.  D and I walked at Seward Park and watched the birds and then watched football.  Go Ducks!  It was an almost perfect way to start the year.

Resolutions?  I am going to read at least one non-fiction adult book, one fiction adult book a month, and fill in the rest with genre books (mysteries, science fiction, romance) and teen and kid’s books.  I realize that I’m missing a lot of really good literature out there and I should truly widen my views.  I’m looking forward to the challenge of not only reading all these books, but writing about them in a timely way, too!

I just discovered a new favorite book, thanks to my new friend, editor Sharyn November, The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, a big rambunctious family filled with boys and two dads, soccer games, mud and dirt, new schools, new friends (both real and not), and lots of books and love.  There’s a curmudgeon next door (who has his own issues), neighbors who care about the family, a skunk, and parties and handmade skating rinks….if you love the Penderwicks, you will love the Family Fletcher.

The Family Fletcher is an alternative one, although, can you really say that, today?  We’ve been living with all kinds of families in our neighborhoods for years…But I think this is one of the first mainstream middle grade books I’ve read about a family with same sex parents (and not just one family with same sex parents, but TWO!) who are not shy about showing their affection for each other and their children.  When they introduce themselves to new teachers or neighbors, they are clear about who they are and what they decided to do with their lives.  One of the best scenes is where Frog, age 6, explained to new friends where the babies in the family came from and how their dads decided to get married.
This book is so much fun!  I think boys are going to love it and I think families will love reading it out loud (oh, yes, you will recognize yourselves in this book). It’s funny and heartwarming, I had tears in my eyes a couple of times, I snorted once and laughed out loud a lot.  The dads really have their hands full and the boys are boys who love what boys love.  The chapter heads are notes from the dads to the kids reminding them of chores or things to do and they are hysterical. 
Give yourself a break and read The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, by Dana Alison Levy.  You will have such a good time!  Ms. Levy:  Please write more stories about the Fletchers!  

Please support your local bookshop if you have one, if you don't have one, Eagle Harbor Book Company would be happy to fill that empty space.  Everyone needs a book community and we'd love to be yours.

(Delacorte Books for Young Readers.  Ages 8+.  Available now.  $15.99.)

Saturday, December 20, 2014


Sunrise today was at 7:54, sunrise will be at 4:20.  This is a photo from the Bainbridge Island side of my commute, looking back towards Seattle, taken a couple of weeks ago, just as the sun rose.  Today, well, tomorrow, I'll get off the ferry and the sun will be much farther south, behind the bit of land off to the right, and I'll already be at work before the rises.  Happy Solstice!  Monday morning, we'll have an extra second of daylight.

When the nights are so long, when you need to feel a little less lonely or need a little more light in your life, stories can help.  And......Ta DAH:

The Penderwicks are coming, the Penderwicks are coming!  Oh, how I have missed them.  It’s been a long couple of years between books in this great series about the Penderwick sisters and their little brother, Ben, and the assorted animals that live with them. These books are like walking into a long awaited hug from old friends.

I just finished Penderwicks in Spring, by Jeanne Birdsall, the penultimate book in the series, and I am already sad that there is only one more to come, probably in two years.  WHY DO I NOT SAVE THINGS FOR LATER!!!   This book came in the mail and I read it that day!!!  It was like chocolate – I couldn’t save it for later, I kept thinking about it so I swallowed it all in one sitting.  Now I have to wait for SOOOOO long for the next one!

If you haven’t read this series for younger readers, you are in for such a treat.  They are the perfect binge books for a rainy day…or a sunny one.  Or a sick day.  Well, okay, they are good anytime.  The Penderwicks are a loyal and honorable family, funny and feisty, filled with all the foibles any group with 4 girls, a dog and a rabbit would have.

They are the perfect books to insist on sharing with younger readers, mostly so the adults can actually finish them!  A lot of moms tell me they start reading them aloud and then the kids take them because they can’t stand to wait to see what happens next.  The adults have to sneak them out of backpacks and slide them out from under pillows so THEY can read them. 

The books take place in current day but the kids play outside and have many adventures, only stopping in to use a computer to check on a fact or to write school papers. They feel very old-fashioned in that respect: lots of playing outside, reading, having important discussions with family and friends. It's not all fairies and light, though: Mom died just after Batty, the youngest Penderwick, the one with wings in the first book, was born, Dad is a little lonely and works a lot, they aren't wealthy.  But, they have each other to play with and are eager to make friends, to add more fun to their lives.  The oldest Penderwick, Rosalind, is 12 when the series begins and is just beginning to notice boys which allows the series accessibility to an older reader. 

The girls are older now, in Penderwicks in Spring.  Batty is in 4th grade, Ben is in 2nd and newest Penderwick, Lydia, is just about two.  Parents are happy, kids are okay, some are in college, the Geiger boys are coming home, Ben is all about digging up rocks, Jeffrey's coming home for Batty's birthday, Lydia just wants to be wherever Ben is, and Batty has started a dog walking business.  There are some bouncy rough spots in the lives in the houses on Gardam Street, but mostly everything is good, until Batty accidentally hears Skye spilling a secret that she’s been holding forever. 

If you loved Noel Streatfield, or E. Nesbit's The Railway Children, you and your kids will love the Penderwicks, too. 

I can’t wait to start sharing this book with everyone!  Penderwicks in Spring will be available March 24, 2015.  $16.99.  Random House.  Ages:  Everyone!

Give your local bookshop a call to reserve your copies now.   Penderwicks in Spring will be out the first Tuesday after the Spring Equinox, also a perfect time to read these lovely books.

Monday, November 24, 2014

What a Book! I Remember You

Sunrise was at 7:28, sunset was at 4:24.  What a rainy day it was.  Water rushing down both sides of Rainier at 6:15 am, four feet out from the curbs on both sides, water streaming down all the streets and parking lots to add to the depths, the drains completely overwhelmed, more water going over the drains than into them. All I could think of was “rain gardens, rain gardens, rain gardens”! Exhilarating! 

Well, it's a good thing the ferry just stops on the other side.  I was reading I Remember You, by Cathleen Davitt Bell, and completely missed ALL the tells that I needed to get off the ferry: the warnings to get to your car, "walk on passengers must disembark", the bumps as we docked, the bridge coming down, the silence as I suddenly realized that I was the only one left except for the ferry folk coming to make sure no one's sleeping in a booth.  It is a REALLY good book!

I Remember You is a YA book about a couple of seventeen years-old.  They are both pretty sure they know how the rest of their lives will play out:  He will play hockey and then join the marines, she will go to college and become a lawyer.  But when they first meet, Lucas tells Juliet that he remembers her. He remembers their first kiss, the smell of her hair, how her college years will go.  Juliet is more than a little worried that Lucas could be crazy or psychic but he says it's not that: he's already lived this life with her and everything is a memory of their past and their lives together.

When it comes to trying to explain why she is so attracted to Lucas, as different from each other as they are, she can't tell anyone the truth, it's just too weird and unwieldy a story, all this talk of her future and his past, his breaking up with her (and his explanation about why and when he’ll do that), the reasons why he might be remembering his life with her…All she can do is love him. And she does, and we do - he's the perfect book crush.  He is sweet and caring, passes the hockey puck to everyone, is a true team player and thinks the world of Juliet.

I Remember You is so romantic, so well-told; I loved this book and its odd and quirky characters.  Juliet and Rosemary have a great friendship, (almost) always telling each other the truth, supporting each other without question.  Rosemary has "relationship issues" with boys, Lucas is loving and sweet, Dex is easy and bright, Jason is a little off and scary.   It is really a Young Adult novel:  There is sex, deception, a lot of drinking, also a lot of redemption, support, openness, and some really great adult characters.  And what a good premise!  Remembering your girlfriend before you even meet her!  There were a few moments where I thought, WHAT? but they passed and worked out.  As far as I know….

What a book, what a good time I had reading it! I hope you do, too.  I Remember You will be available February, 2015, from Knopf.  $17.99.  Give Eagle Harbor a call at 206-842-5332 if you need a copy and don’t have a local bookstore.  We will be so happy to help you out!