Rodie landed on the island long before nearly all of us. She earned her bookseller chops at the wonderful Madison Park Books before she joined us. Our maven of high end literature, she spends an equal amount of time combing the racks for odd titles. You might be wise to resist her efforts to sell you “How to Sit,” but not so wise if you otherwise spurn her recommendations.
I was hooked by the first sentence of this marvelous, witty and magical book: “On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel.” Baby Sophie is rescued by the eccentric bachelor Charles Maxim. Bookish Charles, now her sole guardian, has little experience with children. Their quirky lifestyle attracts the attention of child services, who wish to place Sophie in an orphanage. Sophie and Charles flee to Paris, where Sophie meets Matteo and his talented gang and becomes a rooftopper, mastering the art of moving stealthily from rooftop to rooftop. I hope this wonderful book is the first in a possible series, as I have learned from the astute Charles: “Never ignore a possibility!” Ages 9-12. ~ Rodie
It has been three years since Blue Gadsby lost her twin sister, Iris. She feels lost, friendless and invisible. To remain on the periphery, Blue becomes a videographer, recording the Gadsby family in all their eccentricity, including an older sister who’s a drama queen and two younger siblings who adore their pet rats and hold rat races for them in small model sports cars. Blue’s parents are never at home, bringing more angst to a wobbly household. Turmoil is heightened when Joss, a new-boy-next-door, upsets the fragile family dynamic. There is much to love about this achingly sad and laugh-out-loud funny book. I found it irresistible. Ages 10 & up. ~ Rodie
If I had to choose three phrases to describes Burke’s mysteries, (besides riveting, laugh-out-loud funny, and highly addictive) I would pick intelligent, insightful, and vividly atmospheric. This one, the latest in Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, includes, as always, a cast of edgy, psychologically complex characters in a superlative thriller set in New Orleans and the bayous of Louisiana. Robicheaux—a wily and charming Cajun detective—and his partner, super-tough Clete, go after an unsavory lot involved in murder, drugs, prostitution, vice and corruption. An edge-of-your-seat drama rich in historical detail and evocative, seductive prose, this is another gem from a master storyteller. I promise you won’t be bored! ~ Rodie
When the United States was recovering from the War for Independence, trade was the answer and China was where the money lay. The U.S. had ginseng, furs, silver, and sandalwood; China had porcelain ware, silk, and tea, to which the new country was addicted. China was a sophisticated country of 300 million people with a rich history of discovery and invention. The U.S. was an agrarian society of two million. The voyage between them was long and dangerous, and there was no shortage of competition. This entertaining book follows the adventures of the brave people who set sail, first in small slow boats and later in the swift clippers. It is a highly informative and well written look at how the first millionaires made their fortunes. ~ Rodie
Getting Stoned with Savages chronicles Troost's return to the South Pacific, this time to Vanuatu and then to Fiji. Of course, misadventure is not far behind, unavoidable in true Troost fashion. His descriptions of hurricanes, cyclones, cannibalism, native dress, and kava-induced stupors made my stomach ache, but I couldn't put the book down.
The Sex Lives of Cannibals follows Troost to Tarawa, a remote island in the Kiribati Republic. Expecting a tropical Eden, the author finds himself in what looks like a pilot for Survivor. After battling intense heat, polluted water, unusual sanitation practices, toxic fish, crazy natives and non-natives alike, and corrupt government officials, Troost returns to the States-and to his beloved coffee and beer-only to find life in the U.S. a bit stifling.
I've never read an Anne Fadiman essay I didn't like. This is a lovely book to savor in bits and pieces-twelve charming observations on life, love, and literature that are, to this reader, as addicting as Fadiman's passion for Haagen Dazs ice cream. I keep going back for more!
Fadiman's first essay collection is one of my all-time favorite books. This, in itself, is amazing because in high school I found essay-reading to be, in Ms. Fadiman's words, a complete snore. I avoided essays like the plague. Then I caught the Fadiman bug: I discovered Ex Libris and now, to my great delight, her latest, At Large and At Small.
This novel, based on Texas frontier history, is my favorite work by a grea author. In 1870, curmudgeonly, 71-year-old Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is hired to return a 10-year-old orphan named Johnanna to family in South Texas. Kidnapped by Kiowa raiders, raised as their own and subsequently rescued by the army, Johanna has no memory of her white past and tries to escape at every opportunity. Despite this, she begins to trust the "Kep-dun" and a bond is formed. Arriving in San Antonio, Captain Kidd finds he must make a terrible decision about Johanna's fate. With wonderful prose and wonderful characters, this book is a heart-grabber!
This is a taut thriller about a 19th century whaling ship bound for the Arctic Circle. Vivid narrative and an utterly terrifying killer will make you forget everything going on around you. Think Cormac McCarthy at minus 50 degrees below!
The rewards are many in this masterfully powerful debut novel that fuses a grand and terrible beauty with an elegant, richly layered narrative. Having at its core a handful of characters and two main settings—a village in Chechnya and a city hospital in the same country—the story juxtaposes the hurt that humans, sects, and governments wreak upon each other, against the sustaining forces of kinship, friendship, love and survival. What emerges from the pain and devastation is a convincing affirmation of the place of the child in our universe. This is the most moving novel I have read in a long time. ~ John & Rodie