Nancy Pearl is a librarian with a love of books so strong it has been officially classified as lust. No matter the mood, moment or reason, she can recommend the perfect literary companion. Below are excerpts from her blog, Book Lust Forever. You can hear her on KUOW's "Weekday" as a regular contributor. You can also subscribe to Nancy Pearl's podcast or blog feed. Need help podcasting or subscribing to RSS?
Monday, August 01, 2011 8:15 a.m.
by Jo Walton
In as few words as possible, the best way to describe Jo Waltonīs Tooth and Claw (Orb Books, 2009) is to say that although it owes a great deal of its sensibility to the tropes of the Victorian novel, the main characters are all dragons. This is not in any sense a mash-up (do not, for example, think Abraham Lincoln and vampires), rather itīs a melding of two cultures-humanity and dragonity. (And as far as I can tell, the main difference between the two cultures is that dragons ritually eat their dead in order to share their wisdom, strength, and power.) As Walton herself put it, the novel is "the result of wondering what a world would be like if the axioms of the sentimental Victorian novel were inescapable laws of biology.” As a lover of both Anthony Trollopeīs multitudinous works and fantasy novels, it was a natural choice for me to pick up. Walton begins with the bare outlines of the plot of Trollopeīs Framley Parsonage: a father dies and the family begins a fight over his bequests. One son, a parson, hears his fatherīs last confession and learns a fact that he is not to divulge to the rest of the family; another son decides to contest the original will. Meanwhile, the two unmarried daughters become pawns of the male-dominated society. How will it all work out? Will the good get their just rewards and the evil be punished accordingly? Waltonīs captivating tale is not to be missed.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 5:43 p.m.
by Timothy Schaffert
Schaffertīs fourth novel, The Coffins of Little Hope (Unbridled Books, 2011) is another triumph of storytelling, featuring quirky characters, humor, compassion, and insight into human strengths and foibles. The story revolves around its narrator, 83-year-old Essie Myles, who is the obituary writer for the County Paragraph, her grandson Docīs small town Nebraska newspaper. In one of the many intersecting plotlines that make up the book, the paper has been contracted to print the last book in a fabulously successful series of teen novels called The Coffins of Little Hope (think A Series of Unfortunate Events and hope that Schaffert someday writes the series of childrenīs books he describes so appealingly). In another, a local woman claims that her teenage daughter Lenore (whom no one has ever seen) was kidnapped by her boyfriend Elvis, a neīer-do-well photographer. And thereīs more: Essie learns that her granddaughter, Ivy, long out of touch with the family, is planning to return home-news that is especially upsetting to Doc, who raised Tess, his niece, when her mother ran off to Paris when Tess was just a child. Things get very complicated when the national media learn about the (possible) kidnapping and descend on the small town, and pages of the top secret conclusion to the aforementioned series of novels start showing up. What anchors these multiple strands of plot and makes them work so well together is Essie herself-wry, self-aware, and with a secret or two of her own. This enchanting novel is perfect for readers looking for realism with a heart by an author who cares about his characters and wants you to, too. Hereīs how it begins:
I still use a manual typewriter (a 1953 Underwood portable, in a robinīs egg blue) because the soft pip-pip-pip of the typing of keys on a computer keyboard doesnīt quite fit with my sense of what writing sounds like. I need the hard metal clack, and I need those keys to sometimes catch so I can reach in and untangle them, turning my fingertips inky. Without slapping the return or turning the cylinder to release the paper with a sharp whip, without all that minor havoc, I feel Iīve paid no respect to the dead. What good is an obituary if it can be written so peaceably, so undisturbingly, in the dark of night?
I donīt want to quote the last line, because itīs blow-your-mind perfection.