Elaine's Picks




Elaine PetrocelliBook Passage President Elaine Petrocelli selects her favorite new books and provides a review about her selections in each issue of the Book Passage News & Reviews.

These books are also displayed in each branch of the Bank of Marin, as part of the program Partnership for Literacy sponsored by Book Passage and Bank of Marin. Visit any branch of the bank to find out more about this program.




September-October 2014

Neverhome (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9780316370134
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Little, Brown and Company, 9/2014
Ash Thompson is one of those rare characters who will remain with me for years. With Ash’s perfect voice, Laird Hunt makes the Civil War immediate. I could see her as she marched, dug latrines and did what had to be done. From her walk to the war, the battles, and her trek back to Indiana, I was fascinated by Ash and the men and women she met, loved, killed and saved. In this short novel, Hunt brings us an epic of a time of great upheaval with writing that is haunting, inspiring and mesmerizing. Some signed first printings.

Sweetness #9 (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9780316278751
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Little, Brown and Company, 8/2014
Get ready for a very funny novel that should scare anyone who has ever opened a packet of artificial sweetener. It’s 1978 and David, a flavor scientist, has been fired from his first job. His sin: reporting that the animals who had been fed Sweetness #9, a sugar substitute, were exhibiting depression and obesity. By 1998 Sweetness #9 is the most popular sweetener in the world and obesity has become an epidemic. Now, David’s wife and two kids are showing the symptoms he observed 20 years earlier in animals. Sweetness #9 is a hilarious take down of the world of corporate food. After you stop laughing, you’ll throw out all the processed “food” in your cabinets. Some signed first printings.

ISBN-13: 9780393240740
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: W. W. Norton & Company, 9/2014
We are in the midst of a new geological epoch, The Human Age, and Diane Ackerman shows us that it’s not too late for us to co-exist, adapt and thrive. With the shimmering writing that made such works as The Zookeeper’s Wife so enthralling, Ackerman takes us from outerspace exploration to Orangutan Outreach Initiative’s “Apps for Apes.” Although she doesn’t underplay the importance of human destruction and global warming, she also talks of “Climate Farming” including roof farms and New York’s High Line. I opened this book because I find Ackerman’s prose enthralling and I came away with optimism and resolve. Some signed first printings.

The Paying Guests (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781594633119
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Riverhead Hardcover, 9/2014
Frances’ brothers were killed in the Great War. Now her father has died, leaving Frances and her mother with a house in London and a mountain of debt. They must take in lodgers (aka “paying guests”), or lose their home. The tenants, a young couple, have a fragile marriage and before long, the two women fall in love. As they plan for a life together, they get involved in a dangerous situation and a horrible crime. Through this fast paced novel, Waters shows us the life of the British middle class in the 1920’s and the constraints on women in a changing world. The ending will leave you surprised, breathless and wanting to read the hot sex scenes again. Some signed first printings.

Nora Webster (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781439138335
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Scribner Book Company, 10/2014
Nora Webster’s beloved husband was a teacher in Wexford, Ireland where they were the happy parents of four children. When she becomes a widow at 40, Nora has almost no money and no career, yet she is determined to be independent. A proud woman, Nora hates having people offer condolences or pity. She’s determined to make everything seem normal for her family, but in the process she misses some crucial things that are happening to her children. Colm Tóibín paints a nuanced portrait of a compelling, imperfect woman. Some signed first printings.

The Bone Clocks (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781400065677
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Random House, 9/2014
Holly Sykes is a teenager with a complicated life and untapped gifts. She leaves home for an older guy whom her mother disdains. Holly’s certain all will be perfect until she finds him in bed with the girl she thought was her best friend. Too proud to return home in defeat, she wanders further afield. When time, space and reality start to bend, running away from home becomes more than an adolescent rebellion. This is only the beginning of this many-layered tale. David Mitchell, who astounded the literary world with Cloud Atlas, proves again why readers savor everything he writes. Some signed first printings.

ISBN-13: 9780670016921
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Viking Adult, 8/2014
Mai grew up in Vietnam where, thanks to the American soldiers stationed near her home, she learned to appreciate Mick Jagger and chewing gum. Now Mai, her father, mother and sister live in Virginia, but Vietnam, and especially the war, remain with them. The story is told by both Mai and her father, a former Vietnamese Army Air Commander. Lan Cao’s first novel, Monkey Bridge, received huge acclaim. Here, she illuminates that horrible war from the perspective of a complex Vietnamese family, while bringing us a novel that is both wide reaching and intimate. Some signed first printings.

ISBN-13: 9780062335944
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Harper, 8/2014
Before the Revolutionary War, John sailed the world on pirate ships. He joined the revolution and, as the war wound to a close, fell in love with Helen, the daughter of a North Carolina widower. Helen was raised with a slave who was forced to marry the man her owners chose. Helen, however, married John, much to her father’s horror. As the book opens, Helen has died and John and his pious father-in-law are at odds about everything including Helen and John’s 10 year old daughter. This is an adventure that explores parenting, friendship, and faith. Katie Simpson Smith’s descriptions are wonderful, but what I loved most was her insight into the complex characters. Some signed first printings.

Lisette's List (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781400068173
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Random House, 8/2014
Lisette loves her life in Paris, but in 1937 she and her husband move to a small village in Provence to care for his aging grandfather, Pascal. A paint salesman, Pascal also made frames for some of the great Impressionists. Rather than pay him, they often let him choose a painting. He tells Lisette the story behind each of his beloved paintings. Before Lisette’s husband leaves to fight the Nazi’s, he hides the paintings and later on it is Lisette’s task to find them. With strong characters and a window into the art of Cezanne, Pissarro, Chagall and Picasso, Susan Vreeland weaves a compelling novel that also deals with the search for the art stolen in World War II. Some signed first printings.

Night Blindness (Hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781250042835
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Thomas Dunne Books, 10/2014
Jensen is headed to Juilliard. Her father is a former NFL football hero and ESPN commentator, while her brother is a budding football star. Jensen is in love with Ryder, her brothers’ best friend. But after the terrible events of an October night, Jensen gives up her dreams and runs from Ryder and her family. When Jensen learns that her father has a brain tumor, she returns home and finds that Ryder, now a neurosurgeon, is overseeing her father’s care. This is an intriguing family story that asks questions about what we give up and why. Football plays a crucial role in the novel, and although I have absolutely zero interest in football, Susan Strecker let me see the opportunities it can bring as well as the terrible toll football can take.

ISBN-13: 9781250043931
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: St. Martin's Press, 9/2014
Yasodhara grew up in Sri Lanka in a loving family. Although they are Sinhala and the neighbors are Tamal, she is mad about the neighbors’ son, Shiva. When they sneak away to a hidden room, they don’t know it was used by their parents who fell in love but, as Sinhala and Tamal, couldn’t marry. When civil strife between the ethnic groups leads to violence, Yasodhara and her family move to Los Angeles while Shiva goes to London. They’re safe from the killing, but they long for Sri Lanka. Nayomi Manaweera paints the beauty of Sri Lanka with such skill that I could smell the flowers, the food, and, later, the burning. This gorgeous story and these people will stay with you for a long time. Some signed first printings.

ISBN-13: 9780385535373
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Doubleday, 8/2014
James Gordon Bennett Jr. owned the N.Y. Herald and, having just bankrolled the expedition that found Stanley Livingstone, he hired George DeLong to command the expedition to the Arctic. Scientists were sure the waters at the North Pole were tepid and filled with strange undiscovered sea life. The ship disappeared, but Commander DeLong kept a journal which miraculously survived. Hampton Sides writes history with such detail and immediacy, we are part of its planning, voyage and terrifying ending. Some signed first editions.

ISBN-13: 9780374280802
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 days
Published: Sarah Crichton Books, 8/2014
When Lucinda Franks met Robert Morgenthau, she was a 26 year old feminist/journalist. Her stories about radicals had won her a Pulitzer Prize. Morgenthau, the epitome of the establishment, was a 53-year-old widower, father of five, and World War II vet who was first elected New York district attorney in 1974. Franks tells the story of this unlikely, yet intensely close marriage of “two eccentrics.” Morgenthau’s cases include some of the most important prosecutions of our times The huge differences that made their friends certain that this marriage couldn’t last, in fact, strengthened their partnership. Some signed first printings.

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