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Home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Specializing in contemporary fiction, children's books, young adult, local authors, & a large Shakespeare & theatre section.

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Share your passion for books with like-minded people. Meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month, 7 pm on the Mezzanine at Bloomsbury Books. Limit: 25 participants.

Reviews by Anita

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adoubtersalmanacA DOUBTER’S ALMANAC
Ethan Canin
A Doubter’s Almanac is a very powerful novel that spans several decades from the 1950s to the present day. Milo Andret grows up as a solitary but gifted young boy, who ultimately turns out to be a mathematical genius. His genius carries a heavy burden, however, as he gradually becomes more and more neurotic, arrogant, and alienated from the world around him. Milo’s abilities, as well as his obsessions, are passed down to the next generation, and the second part of the novel is told through the eyes of his son, Hans. The story reminded me of a A Beautiful Mind, in which despite his brilliance, John Nash suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Ethan Canin has written a fascinating and compelling novel examining the precarious path of genius.

 

howtobeaherioneHOW TO BE A HEROINE
Samantha Ellis
As big girls it’s easy to recall the novels that moved us as little girls, and the heroines we tried to emulate. Samantha Ellis, an Iraqi-Jew growing up in London, revisits some of her favorite heroines, often to discover how her views have evolved or changed. Only as an adult can she recognize the moralizing in Little Women, and the strength of Melanie over Scarlet in Gone With The Wind. As she ties her new found wisdom to events in her own life, she realizes how many of her heroines were commended for being weak women, rather than strong and independent. Some heroines do, however, stand the test of time! It’s fun and interesting to think about the wonderful classics mentioned in this book, and remember the strong emotional ties we all have to books that we read as children and young adults. –review by Anita

 
troikaTROIKA
Adam Pelzman
When Perla is a little girl, her elderly neighbor gives her some sage advice. He tells her that when she is older she should find a man “who protects you, who feeds you first, who won’t take a bite of anything, won’t take a single piece of food or clothing or firewood until you’ve had enough first.” As a young woman, Perla finds such a man in the passionate, devoted Julian. But she soon discovers that this wonderful man she has fallen in love with hides a very dark past and secrets of his own. This is a beautifully crafted and compelling novel. –review by Anita

 
theportableveblenTHE PORTABLE VEBLEN
Elizabeth McKenzie
This whimsical novel takes the idea of dysfunctional families to a whole new level! Veblen is a serious and sensitive young woman who just happens to converse and communicate with a squirrel. She is also burdened (or not) with an overbearing, hypochondriac mother and an absent, emotionally disturbed father. Her fiance, Paul, a doctor who is involved in the development of a medical device, has family demons of his own, and they take an active part in this clever tale. The dialogue is snappy, quirky, and funny. The unconventional characters are likeable, and the story is ultimately quite touching.

 
goldfamecitrusGOLD FAME CITRUS
Claire Vaye Watkins
This intriguing novel takes place in the near future….a future in which California has become an arid desert totally devoid of water. The borders of the state have been blocked, and survivors like Luz and Ray must get by under devastating conditions. When they happen upon a strange, mysterious child, the three become a family, as they attempt to cross the “dune sea”. But other colonies of survivors are rumored to exist at the foot of the dune. Watkins has written a moving and disturbing novel that gives the reader much food – if not water– for thought.

 
thethingaboutjellyfishTHE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH
Ali Benjamin
Twelve year old Suzy Swanson can not accept that her friend’s death by drowning can be explained by the words “sometimes things just happen.” As Suzy sets out to discover exactly what caused Franny’s death, she retreats into silence….partly because she feels that small talk is meaningless, and partly because her last words to Franny were hurtful. This is a tender and moving story about life, perseverance, friendship and forgiveness.

 
luckyusLUCKY US
Amy Bloom
The year is 1939. Two half-sisters are thrown together in an extraordinary way – Iris, the older, beautiful daughter of the irresponsible Edgar, and Eva, the younger, plain but intelligent daughter of Edgar and his mistress. The two girls set out to seek Iris’ fortune, and meet a diverse collection of interesting and enigmatic characters along the way. From Ohio to Hollywood and New York, Bloom skillfully weaves a thread both connecting and separating family through their loves, needs, bonds, and betrayals. The characters are often sad, tragic, but ultimately “lucky.”

 
theoutliersTHE OUTLIERS
Kimberly McCreight
When Wiley’s best friend disappears, Wiley must overcome her own grief and anxiety to try to locate Cassie. This fast-paced mystery thriller will keep you guessing throughout the story. A definite page-turner, and the first in a trilogy.

 
dorothymustdieDOROTHY MUST DIE
Danielle Paige
This is an exciting return to an Oz gone wrong. When a tornado transports Amy (from Kansas, of course) to the land of Oz, she discovers a land corrupted by the evil powers of Dorothy. The tin man, scarecrow and lion (and even Toto the dog) are all villainous participants, and Amy must join forces with those that seek to save Oz and return it to it’s glorious past. The reader is transported back to the land of Oz to experience this dangerous and thrilling tale.

 

TaleforthetimebeingA TALE FOR THE TIME BEING
Ruth Ozeki
When sixteen-year-old Nao decides to take her own life, she first commits to telling the story of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun. Nao’s diary travels across the Pacific from Tokyo, and is washed ashore on a remote Canadian island. The diary, along with some mysterious letters, are found by a novelist, Ruth, who gets swept up in Nao’s story. This exquisitely told tale ties together the past and the present with intrigue, pathos and humor.

 

thelowlandTHE LOWLAND
Jumpha Lahiri
The Lowland is another masterpiece by Jumpha Lahiri. She tells a powerful story involving two brothers, their families, their deep secrets, and — one of Lahiri’s favorite topics – the immigrant experience. This riveting novel has already been nominated for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Award. A brilliant novel by an extremely gifted writer.

 

sisterlandSISTERLAND
Curtis Sittenfeld
Twins. Two identical girls. Each one possessing “senses” (which is their euphemism for having psychic abilities.) But while Vi embraces and uses her senses, Kate abhors and rejects her own abilities. When Vi draws media attention by predicting a pending earthquake, Kate becomes drawn into the drama. As adults, the two women have taken very different paths, but their lives remain connected in so many ways. A beautiful story of friendship, family and self-acceptance.

 

snowchildSNOW CHILD
Ewoyn Ivey
A beautifully told tale of an older couple trying to homestead in Alaska during the early 1900s. As the burdens of their lives weigh heavily upon them, they are suddenly transformed by the apperance of a little girl running through the snow-covered woods. How is this child surviving? Life in Alaska is magnificently depicted in this haunting and magical story.

 

THE PARTICULAR SADNESS OF LEMON CAKE
Aimee Bender
Nine year old Rose Edelstein has the unwelcome “gift” of literally tasting the emotions of those who prepare her food. This becomes a burden for the young girl as she grows older and continues to be privy to people’s secrets and emotions. Binder writes with a beautiful touch as she flirts with magic realism within a bittersweet tale of familial disfunction and love.

 

roomROOM
Emma Donoghue
Five year-old Jack has lived his whole life inside a tiny, single room. Born to a mother held captive, the two live a sequestered existence in which they develop their own language, games, fantasies and communication.  The book, which is told from Jack’s perspective, is haunting and disturbing.  Yet it is also incredibly beautiful and moving, as it explores the redemptive power of a mother’s love.

 

CALEB’S CROSSING
Geraldine Brooks
A fictionalized account of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College.  The year is 1665 and the place is Martha’s Vineyard.  Bethia, a young girl who has already experienced many hardships, lives with her family in a Puritan community, where her minister father’s mission is to convert the native Wampanoag inhabitants to Christianity.  When Bethia meets the son of a Wampanoag chieftain, she renames him “Caleb”, and the two young people form a strong, life-changing bond.  A beautiful tale of two cultures, friendship, and the risks of pursuing one’s dreams.

 

stateofwonderSTATE OF WONDER
Ann Patchett
A team of doctors and scientists are studying the Lakashi tribe who live hidden deep in the Amazon jungle. They have discovered that women in this tribe remain fertile and able to bear children well into old age. A drug company is funding a research project there, but the head researcher has remained uncommunicative and evasive. Marina, who works for the drug company, is sent to the Amazon to locate the researchers and find out how a colleague of hers died on a similar mission. A fascinating mystery and adventure story all rolled into one. This is a beautifully written novel filled with glorious and vivid descriptions. Ann Patchett at her best!

 
BURGESS BOYS
Elizabeth Strout
Elizabeth Strout “animates the ordinary with an astonishing force,” wrote The New Yorker on the publication of her Pulitzer Prize–winning Olive Kitteridge. The San Francisco Chronicle praised Strout’s “magnificent gift for humanizing characters.” Now the acclaimed author returns with a stunning novel as powerful and moving as any work in contemporary literature. With a rare combination of brilliant storytelling, exquisite prose, and remarkable insight into character, Elizabeth Strout has brought to life two deeply human protagonists whose struggles and triumphs will resonate with readers long after they turn the final page. The Burgess Boys is Elizabeth Strout’s newest and perhaps most astonishing work of literary art. available at our store

 

THE EXPATS
Chris Pavone
In the cobblestoned streets of Luxembourg, Kate Moore’s days are filled with playdates and coffee mornings, her weekends spent in Paris and skiing in the Alps. But Kate is also guarding a tremendous, life-defining secret—one that’s become so unbearable that it begins to unravel her newly established expat life. As Kate begins to dig, to uncover the secrets of the people around her, she finds herself buried in layers of deceit so thick they threaten her family, her marriage, and her life. available at our store

 

BEAUTIFUL RUINS
Jess Walter
The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poetsreturns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962…and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. available at our store

 

 

MR. PENUMBRA’S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE
Robin Sloan
Booksellers and book lovers alike will adore charming Mr. Penumbra and his towering stacks of mysterious, code-filled tomes, as well as the array of eccentric old men that make up the store’s late-night clientele. I now want to keep a log of our bookshop’s customers by Mr. Penumbra’s criteria: ‘You must keep precise records of all purchases. Time. Amount. The customer’s appearance. His state of mind. How he asks for the book. How he receives it. Does he appear to be injured. Is he wearing a sprig of rosemary on his hat. And so on.’ Wonderful!

 
floraandulyssesFLORA AND ULYSSES
Kate DiCamillo
“Holy bagumba!” Kate DiCamillo has written yet another fabulous story for children of all ages…so fabulous that it won this year’s Newbery award! DiCamillo often writes of friendship and devotion between children and animals. This time the protagonists are a 10-year-old girl named Flora and a squirrel named Ulysses. When Flora saves Ulysses from a terrible accident, they become fast friends. Flora, a self-proclaimed cynic, becomes convinced that Ulysses has superhero powers. Her mission is to protect Ulysses from evil forces that would destroy him. This book is hilariously funny, as well as touching and tender. My favorite children’s book of the year!

 

BROKEN HARBOR
Tana French
The latest New York Times bestseller from the acclaimed author of In the Woods and Faithful Place. Broken Harbor is quintessential French—a damaged hero, an unspeakable crime, and an intricately plotted mystery—nestled in a timely examination of lives shattered by the global economic downturn. Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy always brings in the killer. Always. That’s why he’s landed this high-profile triple homicide. At first, he thinks it’s going to be simple, but the murder scene holds terrifying memories for Scorcher. Memories of something that happened there back when he was a boy.

 
buriedgiantTHE BURIED GIANT
Kazuo Ishiguro
This beautiful, haunting novel is a departure from Ishiguro’s usual fare. A combination of fantasy and myth, this compelling tale, which takes place right after the reign of King Arthur, is complete with knights and dragons. A strong theme throughout the book is of fading memories, perhaps hidden or taken by the mists that surround the countryside. Struggling behind a thin veil of confusion, an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, leave their village and set out on a journey to find their son who they can barely remember. Their deep love for each other proves to be tender and moving, as their adventure unfolds. So gently and alluringly written, even if you are not a lover of legends, this book may win your heart. –review by Anita

 

language artsLANGUAGE ARTS
Stephanie Kallos
This beautifully written novel centers around a family drama that is both uplifting and heartbreaking at the same time. Charles Marlow, a high school teacher, struggles to connect with his current, “split-apart” family, as the trauma of his childhood also unfolds. There is a cast of extremely interesting characters in addition to the main protagonist: Cody (autistic son), Alison (divorced wife), Sister Giorgia (an Italian nun with dementia), and Dana (childhood friend). Kallos has created an exquisite story centered around alienation and letting go. And all this exists under the umbrella of handwriting…yes, you read correctly….handwriting. The flowing and graceful penmanship of the Palmer Method is a central theme in the book, and will make you yearn for the solace and beauty of this lost art. A wonderful book with a fascinating twist at the end.