Blog: Another Read Through

The Mercy Room (alternatively titled Love Without Resistance) by Gilles Rozier; 2 stars (out of 5)

So there’s some nice language here and for me it’s an interesting story of questionable morality. I like what it does on that level. But we don’t get behind any of the character motivation and so while kind of interesting and with potential, I don’t really feel like it works quite well enough. But it’s a quick, easy, and thoughtful read, so I like it for that.

The issue of gender is unfortunately more of a party trick than a genuine, thought-provoking issue being tackled. In the beginning of the book I felt that Rozier seemed to be trying to write a woman main character but was doing it poorly, so so poorly, because the character felt so male but the author kept throwing things in that were supposed to make a reader think the character was female. I think, though, that his point is supposed to be that the main character is male, and the spouse (gender also unspecified, but assumed to be male) is female. Leading to the shock, I guess, of the relationship between the unnamed male main character and Herman. (Why else make it theoretically ambiguous?) So he wasn’t writing a woman badly after all. Except that there are so many things that make it so unlikely that the character is male. In the end then probably, Rozier wasn’t writing a woman poorly, he was writing the “trick” poorly. It’s just not well done or believable, and would have been far stronger a book and a story without the vagueness, which there really is no reason for. (For an example of writing a genderless narrator actually well, see Jeanette Winterson’s gorgeous Written on the Body. Not this book.)

There is something lovely in this book, but it’s not the “genderless” narrator aspect, at all. It’s the living through war (specifically the Holocaust and so add in issues of Anti-Semitism and discrimination, plus German vs Yiddish language) and every day morality in that situation, and maybe how you deceive yourself into thinking that your morality exists or is excusable.

Our local bestsellers are always a good place to start when looking for something to read and for ways to support your local community. Here are the bestsellers for February:

1. Jeanette Hubbard – Secrets, Lies and Champagne Highs *
2. Ruth Tenzer Feldman – Seven Stitches *
3. Tiffany Burba – Meet Me Where I Left You *
4. Lynn Knapp – Giving Ground *
5. Kate Carroll de Gutes – Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear
6. CM Spivey – From Under the Mountain
7. Athena – Murder of Crows
8. Ursula LeGuin – The Dispossessed
    Gary CorbinMountain Man’s Dog *
Ruth Tenzer Feldman – The Ninth Day *
Ruth Tenzer Feldman – Blue Thread *

* denotes that the author was part of an event in the loft, which could have boosted their sales

Two or Three Things I Know For Sure by Dorothy Allison; 5 stars (out of 5)

Wow. So I don’t like everything Dorothy Allison has ever done, but when I do like it, holy f**k I love it. This is beautiful and raw and real and honest and tearing and still beautiful. It’s an incredible statement and I cried and soared all the way through it.

Two or three things I know for sure, and one of them is what it means to have no loved version of your life but the one you make.

Two or three things I know for sure and one of them is that telling the story all the way through is an act of love.

See that? I’m not always an asshole when I review books. That’s 2 books in a row I’m giving 5 stars!

Bestselling local author’s books for Jan of this year. So many great local authors to read – this is just the beginning.

1. Jey Tehya – The Wrong Kind of Indian *
2. Kate Ristau – Shadow Girl *
3. Kate Ristau – Clockbreakers *
4. Kate Gray – Another Sunset We Survive *
5. Kate Carroll de Gutes – Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear
6. Kate Gray – Carry the Sky *
7. Margaret Malone – People Like You
    Liz Prato – Baby’s on Fire
    CB Bernard – Chasing Alaska
Bill Cameron – Property of the State
Margaret Pinard – The Keening
Lori L Lake – Eight Dates
Ursula LeGuin – The Left Hand of Darkness

* denotes that we held an event in the loft with the author, giving them a boost in sales.

Still behind. But read in January:

Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear by Kate Carroll de Gutes; 5 stars (out of 5)

I hesitate to give 5 stars because that’s just not something I usually do, but I can’t think of anything wrong with this book. (Ok, I’m not excited about the title. There.) Nothing that fell flat, not one essay that didn’t live up to the rest, no mistakes, nothing missing. Not even a typo. And it’s not like there just “wasn’t something missing”; it’s also full. These essays are so well done. The language, the content, the lyricism, the overarching story. This book is fantastic. I wouldn’t change a thing about it. (Even the title, which I don’t love, is right for the book.)

I could pull a quote or two from each essay, minimum, so instead will just note that “Can You Hear Me In That Closet You’re In” is probably my favorite essay, although it’s hard to say for sure since all of them are so good. It was like I was at a poetry reading, reading this book – after every essay I made that appreciative sigh, because each of these essays does just exactly what it needs to do, and flawlessly.

Ok, I’m a little behind on blog posts here. Since I didn’t post the bestselling local authors for the last few months of the year, I thought I’d start the year out with a good recap of the local author books that we sold all year, and round up the best of the best for you. All of these readers can’t be wrong, so this is an excellent place to look for your next read, and in the process support a local author, local bookshop, and sometimes even a local publisher (and almost always a small press, even if not local).

It took me far longer than I expected to get this tallied, but here you go:

The Top 25 Bestselling Local Authors’ Books of 2016, from over 325 individual titles sold:

1. CM Spivey – From Under the Mountain
2. Margaret Malone – People Like You
3. Kate Ristau – Shadow Girl
4. Carolyn Wood – Tough Girl
5. Lizzy Shannon – A Song of Bullets
6. Karelia Stetz-Waters – Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before
Cindy Brown – Macdeath
LeeAnn McLennan – Root
9. Kate Ristau – Clockbreakers
Bill Cameron – Property of the State
11. Ursula Le Guin – The Wild Girls
Rene Denfeld – The Enchanted
Gigi Little (ed) – City of Weird
Bill Cameron – Lost Dog
Kelly Running – Celtic Ties
D’Norgia Taylor – Seedlings
17. Ursula Le Guin – The Wizard of Earthsea
Robert Hill – The Remnants
Marlene Hill – A Matter of Trust
20. Brian Doyle – Mink River
Kate Gray – Carry the Sky
Liz Prato (ed) – The Night, and the Rain, and the River
Kate Ristau – Comma; A Primer
Kate Gray – Another Sunset We Survive
Karelia Stetz-Waters – Something True

I feel like it’s worth noting here that this is a representation of a lot of genres, so there literally is something here for everyone. Also, that Kate Gray’s Another Sunset We Survive made this list as the only book of poetry here. And that the local Forest Avenue Press has *4* books on this list and missed getting another here by 1 sale.

Actually, I think we should do a few smaller genre lists, since I worked so hard on making this tally. So:

The Top 5 Bestselling Local Mystery Books

1. Cindy Brown – Macdeath
2. Bill Cameron – Lost Dog
Kelly Running – Celtic Ties
4. Bill Cameron – Chasing Smoke
Kelly Running – Medicine Wheel
Jeanette Hubbard – Chasing Nathan

The Top 5 Bestselling Local Short Story Collections

1. Margaret Malone – People Like You
2. Gigi Little (ed) – City of Weird
3. Liz Prato (ed) – The Night, and the Rain, and the River
4. M Allen Cunningham – Date of Disappearance
Monica Drake – The Folly of Loving Life
Liz Prato – Baby’s on Fire
Lori Lake (ed) – Lesbians on the Loose

The Top 5 Bestselling Local Poetry Collections

1. Kate Gray – Another Sunset We Survive
2. Ursula Le Guin – Late in the Day
Nancy Slavin – Oregon Pacific
Sam Roxas-Chua – Everything Has a Mouth
Judith Arcana – Here From Somewhere Else

The Top 5 Bestselling Local Sci-Fi/Fantasy Books

1. CM Spivey – From Under the Mountain
2. LeeAnn McLennan – Root
3. Ursula Le Guin – The Wizard of Earthsea
4. Ursula Le Guin – Sisters of the Revolution
5. Tina Connolly – Ironskin

The Top 5 Bestselling Local Historical Fiction Books

1. Lizzy Shannon – A Song of Bullets
2. Margaret Pinard – The Keening
3. Joyce Cresswell – A Great Length of Time
4. Patricia Kullberg – Girl in the River
5. BJ Scott – The Rail Queen

The Top 5 Bestselling Local Nonfiction/Memoir Books

1. Carolyn Wood – Tough Girl
2. Sean Davis – The Wax Bullet War
3. Lois Melina – Forged in Fire
4. CB Bernard – Chasing Alaska
5Kate Carroll de Gutes – Objects in Mirror are Closer Than They Appear
Karen Karbo – How Georgia Became O’Keefe

The Top 5 Bestselling Local Young Adult/Middle Grade Books

1. Kate Ristau – Shadow Girl
2. Bill Cameron – Property of the State
3. Kate Ristau – Clockbreakers
4. Ursula Le Guin – The Wizard of Earthsea
5. Tina Connolly – Seriously Wicked

And last but certainly not least to this reader, The Top 5 Bestselling Local Longform Literary Fiction Books

1. Karelia Stetz-Waters – Forgive Me If I’ve Told You This Before
2. Rene Denfeld – The Enchanted
3. Robert Hill – The Remnants
4. Brian Doyle – Mink River
5. Kate Gray – Carry the Sky

Thank you all for supporting your local authors in 2016 and into the future!

Misery by Stephen King; 4.5 stars (out of 5)

This might need to be 5 stars. This was my first ever Stephen King, way back at the beginning of 7th grade in 1988 or so. Reading it now I can easily see why he hooked me right away and has had me ever since. The man can write. This is classic King writing and pacing, with no (virtually no?) missteps along the way.

It starts out right in the middle of the action (not the same heart thumping action as he starts Firestarter but still, you’re right in it from the get-go) and it just revs up from there. The writing is pretty flawless and the story is a plausible reality of terror. It’s completely realistic in a weird way, probably because of his excellent character development (which is thinner in this book, actually; and that in turn is ironic since the entire book is more or less 2 characters).

There is a lot in this book about Paul’s feeling as he writes, how he knows he’s in the zone by “falling into the hole in the paper” and I really wonder if this is Stephen King’s own experience. He writes so much, as Paul, about the writing and the pain of writing and the feeling of the writing, and it could easily be all fiction, or it could be at least some of how he actually feels about writing, or experiences his own writing. Not that it matters, but I’m curious.

To me, this is one of his strongest books. I prefer stories without supernatural elements in it, and he delivers a doozy with this one. He carries metaphors of caged animals/Africa, pylons/tide, and the hole in the paper through the entire book to great effect. The writing is crisp and tight, the story is creepy and feels right. Very strong effort. Lots of references to writing and process, and to how things would turn out in a book but this is reality. My only “meh” moment is his description of mental illness (depression versus psychosis) and I’m not sure he gets that right, but also how he didn’t need to say that Paul knew about it; he could have just said ‘Paul read somewhere that’ or ‘Paul thought’ or whatever, and then it doesn’t matter if he gets it right about mental illness. But that’s such a minor peeve. I’m also not sure that he needed to go quite as far as he did, with [redacted for spoiler]. I don’t think it’s implausible or out of place, but I’m not sure he had to go that far in service of the story. I’m getting softer as I get older and while I’m pretty sure the young me read that gleefully, it was harder this time around. If it’s too far it’s not by much, so it might just be me, needing a bit less gore as I age. I can’t think of anything else to complain about. Such a good book.

“The cellar windows, as if reflecting Annie’s paranoia (and there was nothing strange about that, he thought; didn’t all houses come, after awhile, to reflect the personalities of their inhabitants?)…”

Looking for some books to settle into autumn with? We’ve got you covered. Check out last month’s bestselling local authors and their titles. (Authors with an event in the loft marked with an asterisk, denoting the boost the events give.)

  1. Kate Ristau – Shadow Girl *
  2. Karelia Stetz-Waters – For Good *
  3. Margaret Malone – People Like You
  4. Nancy Slavin – Oregon Pacific *
  5. Kate Ristau – Comma *
  6. Robert Moss – Descending Memphis *
  7. Lidia Yuknavitch – The Small Backs of Children
  8. Elly Blue – Pedal Zombies
  9. Shawn Granton – The Zinester’s Guide to PDX
  10. Karelia Stetz-Waters – Something True *

Lots of great ideas here to keep you reading through the fall! Come check out our local bestsellers and support a local indie author and bookseller at the same time!

Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley; 3.25 stars (out of 5)

I think this is my first noir. I really liked what Mosley did with the characters and making race so front and center. I liked the writing and the structure and the way he wrapped it up and set it up for the series to continue. I wasn’t as interested or excited about the plot, which seemed a little convoluted and flat – why were were looking for this woman and do I care about what she was hiding? I wanted a little more to make me care about that and it held me back from liking this book more because I didn’t. But everything else is so good, I mean so clean and deeply correct, that it more than carries it, and I mostly didn’t care that I didn’t care. I actually had to keep reminding myself that I didn’t care about the story because I was taken away by the characters and the setting. (I liked this book a lot for not caring about the plot.) So good characters, good writing, and I’d be really surprised if I didn’t like the other books in the series with other stories that I’ll probably care more about.

“His grip was strong but slithery, like a snake coiling around my hand.”

“They figure that you did something because that’s just the way cops think, and you telling them that you’re innocent just proves to them that you have something to hide. But that wasn’t the game that we were playing that day. They knew my name and they didn’t need to scare me with any holding tank; they didn’t need to take my fingerprints. I didn’t know why they had me, but I did know that it didn’t matter as long as they thought they were right.”

“That was why so many Jews back then understood the American Negro; in Europe the Jew had been a Negro for more than a thousand years.”

“But I was worried about that fingerprint.
I knew that I hadn’t touched the knife but I didn’t know what the police were up to. If they really wanted to catch who did the killing then they’d be fair and check my prints against the knife’s and let me go. But maybe they needed a culprit. Maybe they just wanted to close the books because their record hadn’t been so good over the year. You never could tell when it came to the cops and a colored neighborhood.”

It’s hot out there. Here are some local authors proving themselves to be sure bets to read while you’re sitting in the a/c. Authors who had events in the shop in July are noted with an asterisk, as this gives them a selling advantage.

  1. Kelly Running – Celtic Ties *
  2. Kelly Running – Medicine Wheel *
  3. Michael Bigham – Harkness: A High Desert Mystery *
  4. Margaret Malone – People Like You
  5. Kate Ristau – Shadowgirl *
  6. Lisa Alber – Kilmoon *
  7. Ripley Patton – Ghost Hope *
  8. Leigh Goodison – Limboland *
  9. Lidia Yuknavitch – The Small Backs of Children
  10. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein – Portlandia: A Guide for Visitors

Here’s to reading these local authors with a cold drink in hand!