Fall Booknotes from Our Staff – Fiction

The Stranger’s Child
by Alam Hollinghurst (Knopf)

It’s hard to believe that Hollinghurst is a contemporary novelist. Written with detail and breadth reminiscent of Dickens, and echoes of Austen’s pre-Victorian romance, intrigue, and satire, The Stranger’s Child is the kind of novel that has become an anomaly in the post-modern literary world. It is at once both dense and juicy, filled with small gossip, illicit love affairs, and long kept secrets. When Cecil Valance—an up-and-coming poet—visits George Sawles’s family and writes what will become his most famous poem in the young Miss Sawles’s autograph book, lives are forever changed, and in a series of dramatic revelations, a truth that was hidden over decades, finds its way out. -Candra

Mr. Fox
by Helen Oyeyemi (Riverhead)

No stranger to the somewhat eerie narrative, Oyeyemi brings us lighter fare than her previous novels, but note, the depth is no less and the surreal is never too far off. Author St. John Fox conjures stories that tend to leave their female characters lifeless, if not terribly wounded. His muse, Miss Mary Foxe, enters into his world to lure him away from such endings. With a shifting voice, slipping back and forth through time, and in and out of fantasy and fact, Mary, Mr. Fox, and his wife, Daphne, travel through what it means to love and yearn, pushing and pulling against each other in this beautiful read. -Shannon

I Married You For Happiness
by Lily Tuck (Atlantic Monthly Press)

Nina’s husband, Philip, has just died in their bed. As Nina sits by his side, she travels through memories of their life together, and as one memory spawns another the nature of intimacy is revealed like a spider’s web after a rainfall. Glimmering with hope, heavy with doubts and deceits, but strung with care and devotion, the complex and delicate balance that two individuals find and nurture in order to spend a lifetime together is depicted with remarkable dexterity and insight in Lily Tuck’s new novel. Never saccharine or sentimental, Tuck unveils a complicated and enduring love with astonishing brevity and honesty. -Candra


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff: Children’s and Young Adult

Bumble-Ardy
by Maurice Sendak (HarperCollins)

Bumble-Ardy, written and illustrated by beloved artist Maurice Sendak, brings us a loveable pig, Bumble, with a birthday to celebrate! Originally created by Sendak and Jim Henson as an animated segment for Sesame Street in the early 1970s, Bumble-Ardy is Sendak’s first written and illustrated book in thirty years. The magic artistry of Sendak’s fantastical characters has a vintage yet timeless feel, and the story of Bumble’s adventures unfolds in clever rhyme. And here’s a secret: Bumble’s birthday is the same as Mr. Sendak’s! Bumble-Ardy is sure to join the bookshelf as a new family favorite. -Seth

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My Woodland Wish
by Caspar Babypants
illus. by Kate Endle (Sasquatch)

Dynamic duo Kate Endle and Caspar Babypants team up to tell this sweet tale that’s as much fun for parents as it is for the wee-ones. With her inimitable cut-paper style, Endle’s images evoke the serene wonder of nature, while Babypants’s words will lull and charm even the most savage beast. What would it be like, this book asks, to communicate with animals? Endle has created many beautiful board books, as well as illustrated such titles as Where’s the Party, but this is her first collaboration with Caspar Babypants, who is known for his “kindie rock” albums that bring rock to the masses of kids! -Leighanne

Caspar and Kate join us for a very special Children’s Storytime on Saturday, October 8th at 11:30 a.m. They will read from their new book and entertain us with songs inspired by the story. More info can be found here. Please join us! 

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Wonderstruck
by Brian Selznick (Scholastic)

In his gorgeous new book for young readers, Brian Selznick explores the lives of two deaf children growing up fifty years apart. He has perfected his mixed media method of storytelling, in which his illustrations play as pivotal a role as his warm, rich writing. First, we meet a girl who, in spite of her handicap, is pushing at the boundaries of her life. Then we leap in time to 1977 where a young boy who has just lost his mother loses his hearing as well. In alternating chapters of pictures and prose, these two incredible children fight against what is expected of them and search instead for what they need. -Leighanne

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Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff

Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane
by Andrew Graham-Dixon (Norton)

Graham-Dixon captures Caravaggio in this way: “Caravaggio lived his life as if there were only Carnival and Lent with nothing in between.” Graham-Dixon brings this dichotomy to life as he deftly captures Caravaggio’s infamous exploits, gleaning truth from contemporary biographies, court records, and perceptive critique of Caravaggio’s oeuvre. Caravaggio provides a thorough examination of one of art’s true geniuses. -Alex

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What It Is Like To Go To War
by Karl Marlantes (Atlantic Monthly Press)

The author of the modern classic Vietnam war novel Matterhorn has now written a nonfiction book that he calls his “song.” It is written for civilians, soldiers, and policy makers, and the result is a veteran’s searing philosophical and psychological meditation about being a warrior. He loved war and he hated it. For Marlantes, fighting in battle was the crack cocaine of all highs. Yet, reflecting back on it now he feels sadness. His meditation is an important one that fills the gap between the silence of our warriors and our society. -Carl

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The Swerve
by Stephen Greenblatt (Norton)

Swerve tells the tale of how Lucretius’s poem “On The Nature of Things” was returned to the world to the benefit of the burgeoning Renaissance. Greenblatt leads the reader through the life of Poggio Bracciolini, humanist, book-hunter, ex-Papal secretary, and discoverer of an ancient poem that would change the world. Greenblatt stops along the way to explain the history of books, their preservation, and the humanist spirit which spurred on the quest for these ancient tomes. Greenblatt sets out to write an accessible history for the curious, and succeeds. -Alex

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Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff: Fantasy & Science Fiction

The Night Circus
by Erin Morgenstern (Doubleday)

The best stories transport us to worlds that seem richer and more vibrant than our own. Realms so extraordinary that you feel bereft upon turning the final page and are forced to return to boring old reality. Between the covers of Morgenstern’s enchanting debut lies one of the most remarkable places you’ll ever encounter, a tantalizing playground of the mind that manifests true wonders of the imagination. A world where anything is possible, but everything comes at a price. Readers who enjoy the uncommon alchemy that blends atmospheric prose with an amazing story will delight in the transcendence to be discovered here. -Jamil

Erin Morgenstern reads from her much-acclaimed debut novel on Monday, September 19th at 7:00 pm in the bookstore. If you can’t make it to the reading call us at (206) 624-6600 to reserve an autographed copy.

Fantastic Women
edited by Rob Spillman (Tin House Books)

Fairytales and folklore are alive and well in the contemporary world. The grandchildren of tradition come to us with a female voice, and they bear mischievous weapons. From shape-shifting to human-filled stews, the tales herein are hallucinatory and relevant progressions of the mythic journey. At times, they are somber and reflective while at other times they unfold fast and funny. A few skirt the erotic and some sit haunting in their austerity. Selkies, mermaids, and miniature universes mix with the modern and mundane. And amongst these beautiful yarns, for authenticity’s sake, there’s even the requisite “little cottage in the wilds.” -Shannon

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline (Crown)

The phrase, “grabs you from the first page,” may be one of the most overused lines in the book review world, and it’s almost never true. This story is one of the few that actually grabs you from page-one and refuses to let go. Wade Watts has spent a considerable amount of his life jacked into the OASIS (a computer generated utopia that most of humanity uses to escape from an increasingly desolate world), engaged in a 1980s-themed hunt set up by the original creator of OASIS. Success could change Watts’s life forever, while failure could result in the collapse of an already teetering society. -Rich


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Fall Booknotes from Our Staff

The Absent Sea
by Carlos Franz (McPherson)

Previously unknown in the US, Carlos Franz is Chile’s most celebrated novelist. The Absent Sea is the story of Laura Larcos, a brilliant and idealistic judge posted to the remote desert city of Pampa Hundida just before the military coup that toppled the Allende regime. Within weeks the town is occupied by the military, which established concentration camps for dissidents, forcing Laura to eventually flee to Germany. After a twenty-year absence, Laura returns, and is forced to confront the real-life consequences of justice and complicity, remembrance and reconciliation, and the overriding question of what the individual is capable of when faced with a criminally brutalizing society. This book will leave you disturbed and elevated long after your first reading. -Peter

The Buddha In the Attic
by Julie Otsuka (Knopf)

Julie Otsuka’s much awaited second novel is a spare, poetic work told from the points of view of a wave of female immigrants. The author takes a risk, perhaps inspired by her real life subjects, that more than pays off. We meet these women in their homes before they cross the ocean as Japanese picture brides, get to know them as individuals and as a group, and ride their wave of experiences until they are evacuated and incarcerated as World War II era, West Coast, Japanese Americans. Lifted into the realm of art by powerful, incantatory prose, this novel is both inspired and unforgettable. -Karen

The Emperor of Lies
by Steve Sem-Sandberg, trans. by Sarah Death (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)

Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski has been called many things over the years: a savior, an opportunist, a monster. Every act and speech that Rumkowski made as the chairman of the Lódz Ghetto, the second largest Jewish ghetto of the Holocaust, has been heatedly debated. In his stirring new novel, Steve Sem-Sandberg has, through exhaustive research, shed further light on the Lódz Ghetto and the complicated sixty-three-year-old businessman and orphanage director who became the leader of a people fated to die at the hands of the Nazis. Already a sensation overseas, The Emperor of Lies is a once in a generation literary event. -Casey S.


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Summer Booknotes from Our Staff – Fiction and Poetry

The Good Muslim
by Tahmima Anam (HarperCollins)

Writing of her Bangladeshi homeland, Tahmima Anam follows her exquisite, award-winning 2007 debut A Golden Age with a no less powerful tale of a nation on the brink of civil war and violent reinvention of itself, of a harrowing time of supposed peace. A young woman and her brother find different means of healing—she trains to become a doctor; he, after having fought in the war, withdraws into fundamentalist religious practice. Benign enough, until his young son is put in peril. One family’s small story illuminates larger questions of faith, belief, practice, and empathy in a novel both telling and beautiful. -Rick

Turn of Mind
by Alice LaPlante (Atlantic Monthly Press)

The unsolved murder of an aging surgeon’s best friend is just the first layer of many stories explored within Alice LaPlante’s debut novel. As dementia erodes this once brilliant and always difficult woman’s personality, her struggle to hold on to her sanity (and her daughter’s efforts to connect with an increasingly elusive, unraveling parent) reveal painful truths about familial love, friendship, and sacrifice in the context of one of life’s most difficult challenges. How much of the person remains as her illness progresses and the essence of who she is becomes more elusive? LaPlante is hopeful, but realistic in the end. -Karen

Illuminations
by Arthur Rimbaud
trans. by John Ashbery (Norton)

For translators, few books pose as formidable and seductive a challenge as Rimbaud’s unpaginated, fevered masterpiece, Illuminations. Here, seasoned translator and Pulitzer prize-winning poet John Ashbery answers that call and succeeds splendidly. Presenting each English translation alongside its French original, this dazzling edition breathes new life into the nineteenth century voyant’s kaleidoscopic world while still preserving its intense vision and incomparable immediacy. The results are incandescent. Proof-positive that more than a century after he put down his pen and abandoned writing forever, our little Arthur is still miles ahead of everyone else. -Matthew



Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Summer Booknotes from Our Staff – Fiction

The Upright Piano Player
by David Abbott (Nan A. Talese)

Few circumstances are as suspenseful as the quiet brutality of a stalker. Nor are there many trials harder than the loss of a loved one. Entwined with the life of one so unassuming as Henry Cage, the jolting events in David Abbott’s debut novel are written so lyrically, the twists are all the more wrenching. Hung deftly on a spare, direct, literary voice, Abbott’s characters experience occasions savory and severe; transatlantic tension, foreboding suspicions, and emotional wires all crossed against a placid British backdrop, making this novel one that will stay with you long after the last page is turned. -Dave


My American Unhappiness
by Dean Bakopoulos (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Much like the American economy, Zeke Pappas’s life began to unravel in 2008. As the director of the Great Midwestern Humanities Initiative, a federal program designed to “slow the brain drain…in that region,” Zeke started the extensive American Unhappiness Project, dedicated to answering the question: Why are we so unhappy? With his funds drying up, government agents questioning his work, and his mother nudging him to find a wife, Zeke struggles to complete his thesis and make sense of a life that he thought he had all figured out. With a deft hand, Bakopoulos has created a poignant look at a man’s descent from grandeur to delusion. -Casey S.


Jamrach’s Menagerie
by Carol Birch (Doubelday)

An escaped tiger swallows Jaffy Brown, but when the enigmatic Jamrach saves him, our street-urchin is pulled from playing in gutters into the magical world of Jamrach’s menagerie. Jaffy longs for the sailor’s life, and with youthful naïveté, he accepts Jamrach’s offer to embark on a quest to catch a mythical dragon as part of the ill-fated Lysander’s crew. Birch gives the reader a graphic historical portrayal of life at sea, which reads similarly to Melville’s Moby-Dick led by a Dickensian protagonist. Long-listed for the 2011 Orange Prize. -Alex


State of Wonder
by Ann Patchett (HarperCollins)

Dr. Marina Singh, a researcher for a Minnesota-based pharmaceutical company, is sent deep into the Amazon jungle to check on the work of secretive head scientist Annick Swenson after a beloved work colleague who was investigating the field team is reported dead. Traveling by river to the village of the Lakashi Tribe where Dr. Swenson is purportedly developing a new drug, Marina is thrown headlong into a world where nothing is what it seems and her deepest fears are laid bare. Fans of Patchett, and readers discovering her for the first time are in for a treat. This is a lush and spellbinding tale that will grip you from the get go. -Laurie



Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Summer Booknotes from Our Staff – Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror

Millennium People
by J. G. Ballard (Norton)

What if the middle class decided it was the new proletariat—became a group so oppressed and restless that they refused to pay their mortgages, set their BMWs ablaze, and pulled their kids from private school—rioting in the streets over the price of parking, and the incessant mendacity of dinner parties? The unveiling of J.G. Ballard’s posthumous publication, Millennium People, will explore the possibilities of how and why such a revolution could occur, and might just make you wonder why it hasn’t already. -Candra


The Last Werewolf
by Glen Duncan (Knopf)

Vampires…please. Zombies…so 2006. Here at last is the novel that gives werewolves their depraved literary due with a toothsome lupine grin (but also a genuine heart). Although, at their basest, these creatures are but beasts who fornicate incessantly and eviscerate innocent victims to slake their monthly bloodlust, they are also part human, which elevates them with superior intelligence and emotional complexity. This humorously macabre debauch follows the exploits of Jake Marlowe who is precisely the type of impeccably dressed, perfectly coiffed werewolf you might see drinking a piña colada at Trader Vic’s—although in Jake’s case it would probably be a Scotch. -Jamil


Embassytown
by China Miéville (Del Rey)

On Arieka, a distant planet populated by humans and an indigenous race called the “Host,” a delicate balance is kept between species. Genetically enhanced ambassadors are the only people who can communicate directly with these enigmatic, seemingly benevolent creatures. But when a new ambassador arrives in Embassytown, the equanimity that once reigned may never be again, and Avice, a human colonist recently returned to Arieka, may be the lone voice of reason. Miéville turns his inimitable eye to science fiction in this tale of the machinations of aliens and men, proving that whatever subject he takes on will thrill literary audiences. -Casey S.


The Map of Time
by Félix J. Palma (Atria)

Our omniscient narrator takes us on an adventure in Victorian London with author H.G. Wells and Time as our central protagonists. This is genre-busting historical fantasy of the first order, in which three different narratives cross one another. Wells’s own novel, The Time Machine, has made the public desire time travel, and showman Gilliam Murray comes along to fulfill that desire. Can this be for real? What happens if the fabric of time is messed with? To find out you’re going to have to read Palma’s glorious “scientific romance.” -Greg

Summer Booknotes from Our Staff – Fiction

Orientation and Other Stories
by Daniel Orozco (Faber and Faber)

From start to finish, Orozco’s stories unfold in brisk and thoughtful patterns. Like the accelerated time-lapse photography of millions of cells coming in and out of existence, they are mesmerizing. The reader is held rapt from the hyper-detailed, twisted delivery of an office worker’s first day in the title story “Orientation,” to the three-tiered perspective of what it is to be alive (or not) in “Only Connect,” to the whip-like unwinding of the consequences of a great California earthquake in “Shakers.” Orozco throws it all into the pot and comes at you with some of the most innovative stories around. -Shannon

Daniel Orozco reads from Orientation and Other Stories at 7:00pm this evening at the bookstore. If you can’t make it to tonight’s reading and would like a signed copy of Orientation, call us at (206) 624-6600 or toll free at 1-800-962-5311.


Ten Thousand Saints
by Eleanor Henderson (Ecco)

It’s 1987, and two malcontent youths are smoking pot from a Coke can under the bleachers at Lintonburg’s big event: a high-school football game. Jude and Teddy are outcasts, the former an adopted son of two estranged 1970s parents, the latter abandoned by his alcoholic mother. Henderson writes a coming-of-age tale of two punks as they cope with friendship, addiction, girls, pregnancy, death, AIDS, indifferent guardians, and their hope to start a hardcore band. Ten Thousand Saints is a window into youth-punk culture from small town Vermont to New York City’s CBGB. –Alex


Centuries of June
by Keith Donohue (Crown)

Centuries of June proves that Keith Donohue, author of The Stolen Child and Angel of Destruction, is a narrative chameleon. In the middle of the night, our hapless narrator, Jack, is beaned on the head in his bathroom. While he collects his wits and susses out the situation, he is accosted by eight disgruntled, ghostly women. Each tells her story and locks onto Jack as the surrogate for the man who let her down. Fans of David Mitchell and Italo Calvino might recognize his genre-bending technique, but will discover here a master storyteller at the top of his game. -Leighanne


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.

Summer Booknotes from Our Staff: Children’s Books

Noah Barleywater Runs Away
by John Boyne
illus. by Oliver Jeffers (David Fickling)

Sometimes it’s necessary to run away from home in order to experience adventure and to avoid dealing with some unpleasantness. So, eight-year-old Noah Barleywater takes off for that great beyond without even having eaten breakfast. John Boyne’s previous book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is an astounding story about a friendship across the fence of a concentration camp, and while Noah Barleywater Runs Away reads like a light-hearted, whimsical fable about talking animals and magical trees, it is a story that imparts the truth: that sometimes things are more than what they seem. -Leighanne


Earth to Clunk
by Pam Smallcomb
illus. by Joe Berger (Dial)

A boy is assigned a pen pal at school, only this pen pal is an alien named Clunk from the planet Quazar. The boy doesn’t want a pen pal so he sends Clunk pretty much everything he hates: smelly socks, spoiled food, even his bossy big sister. Clunk sends back odd things as well, and soon an unexpected friendship is formed. What will happen when Clunk comes to visit for a sleepover? Find out in this fantastically fun tale, which shows how sometimes the greatest things come in strange packages. -David


Wow! Ocean!
by Robert Neubecker (Hyperion)

Robert Neubecker continues his delightful Wow! series, following Wow! City!, and Wow! School!, with Wow! Ocean! No need to don your diving gear to learn about sea life, just follow the adventures of Izzy and her family as they travel from mountain to sea. Playful illustrations guide us through tide pools, deep sea dives, and sunken treasure. Cleverly embedded within the drawings are the names of shells, fishes, dolphins, and much more. Both adults and children will be enchanted by Neubecker’s artful presentation, and a little learning might just sneak in. -Seth


Booknotes, the newsletter of The Elliott Bay Book Company, is written entirely by bookstore staff. It represents a sampling of recently published books that we have enjoyed reading. We appreciate every opportunity to assist in finding books to meet your interests.