Category Archives: Dusty Shelves

The Flight Attendant

Chris Bohjalian |  Fiction


Cassie is a flight attendant with enough seniority to work the plum international routes.  She also, to use her own words, “binge drinks” and has “binge sex.”  One might in Dubai; she partakes of both of her chosen activities and wakes up next to Alex Sokolov, his blood pooled on the bed and his throat quite emphatically slit.  Did she do it in a blackout?  If not, who did?  And why?  And why was she still alive?  Cassie leaves the scene, wiping away all traces of herself.  Thus begins a tale of intrigue, mystery, and suspense.

This is an airplane book.  If you want to pass the time, fully engaged in a mystery novel, and not hearing your flight attendant or the passenger in the seat next to you, this is an excellent book to engross yourself in.  It will pull you right along as you try to solve the mysteries along with Cassie, the FBI, and other indeterminate players.

Bohjalian has written 20 books.  His voice is clear and it seems he can tell a sharp, creative story.  I think I will try more of this author; I just requested an earlier work, Midwives, from the library.

Call Me By Your Name

André Aciman |  Fiction


It is unusual for me to read a book after seeing the movie … I prefer to do it the other way around.  Then, since the movie is never as rich as the book, I can add scenes as I watch the movie.  But something compelled me me to read this novel after seeing the movie.  As much as I enjoyed the beautiful cinematography of Call Me By Your Name, the excellent acting, and the grip of the love story, I felt that the movie was more about what occurred than about the emotions of the two main characters, Elio and Oliver.  I hoped the book would shed some light.

From the very first page, I was not disappointed.  I found myself wanting to watch the movie again with this book in hand … the movie did such a beautiful and profound job of communicating the external story, and the original novel did an exquisite job of communicating the internal landscape.

Elio, the only child of a literature professor and his wife, spends summers with his parents in a home in a small village in Italy.  Every year Elio’s dad invites a student, a protégé of sorts, to spend the summer with them, doing paperwork and correspondence, as well as research and study.  The setting, the weather, the town – all are idyllic.

This summer Elio is 17, and the guest student is 24-year-old Oliver.  This book is the story of their love ... the long slow path to its consummation, and the intensity of its passion and intellect.

This is one of the most sensual books I have ever read.  Aciman is a master.  It is also beautifully written, with lovely words and phrasing.

If you have seen the movie and liked it, I think you will enjoy this book as I have.  If you have not seen the movie, I don’t know how well the novel will land.  The story line is simple and rather slow.  I just can’t tell if it would be a good read or not.  If you read it, let us know!



Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend

Matthew Dicks |  Fiction


I LOVE this book!  It is sweet and delightful and a pleasure to read.  (Thank you, Janey!)

Max is an unusual 8 year old boy.  He likes to be by himself.  He has poor social skills.  He needs a schedule, and commitment to it.  He doesn't like change.  And sometimes he gets “stuck.”  But he does have an imaginary friend, Budo.  This delightful story is all about Max's imaginary friend.  And the fun part is, it is written by Budo himself!

Budo is invisible to everyone but Max and he can go wherever he wants, which makes him a great storyteller!   We learn what it is like to be imaginary.  Budo can be seen by other imaginary friends, like Graham and Puppy and Teeny and Oswald.  But all imaginary friends are just what their makers imagine.  Budo can walk through closed doors, because that’s how Max imagined him.  But he can’t sleep, because Max didn’t think of that.  Some imaginary friends can fly.  Some, like Puppy, are not very smart.  Budo, of course, is very smart!

Imaginary friends live until their makers forget about them.  Many of them “disappear” the first few days of kindergarten, as their makers begin to interact with, well, real kids.   But some live on much longer.

Did you have an imaginary friend when you were a child?  Someone you could talk with, play with, or seek wisdom from?  Please tell us about him/her!  I didn't.  However, I do have an imaginary friend now.  His name is Beryl.


The Great Alone

Kristin Hannah |  Fiction


I don’t know Kristin Hannah’s work well, but it seems she has a real gift for breathing life into her characters.  The Great Alone is haunting and complex.  

This novel takes place mostly in 1974 and 1978, with a resolution and completion in 1986.  Ernt Allbright has returned a changed man from serving in Vietnam, and he suffers nightmares, anger, and violence.  He can’t find his way back to the man he was before, even with the unfailing love of his wife Cora and daughter Leni.  After losing jobs and relocating his family many times, he finally decides to move them to a wild and remote corner of Alaska.  This is the Alaska that is fiercely independent, where people are isolated and all their energy goes to survival in a wild, beautiful, unrelenting, frozen land.

Leni is the protagonist in The Great Alone.  She is 13 when the novel begins, and this is her story about learning to love and survive in Alaska.  She struggles to reach womanhood, when her primary task is to attempt to protect her mother from her father, which she fails at over and over again.  There are other wonderful characters in the community in which the Allbrights carve a home.  The local wealthy guy, Tom; Large Marge; and Mad Earl ... whose names give you clues to their personalities!  And then there is Matthew.  But I'll leave you to discover these people on your own.

Before I began this book, and every single time I picked it up to read it, I had to take a deep breath (which is easier said than done since my bout with pneumonia) and steel myself, because there was a chance that Ernt was going to beat his wife Cora.  There's a lot of domestic violence in the middle third of this book.  Be prepared.

Hannah's depiction of the three main characters is what makes this novel, despite it's sad premise, compelling and difficult to put down.  Their intense and difficult love for each another, and how they fall in love with the challenges of surviving in stunning Alaska, will keep you glued to the page, and staying up later than you intend to.  Take a breath and be transported to a wild place of incomparable beauty and pain.


The Lying Game

Ruth Ware|  Fiction


Like the best seller, The Woman in Cabin 10, Ruth Ware has written another intriguing mystery novel.  I am struck by the complexity and intricacy of the stories she tells ... she’s just not like many mystery writers where the plot is:  “Someone is killed.  Who did it?”

Four dear friends, Kate, our narrator Isa, Fatima, and Thea, who attended a boarding school together when they were 15, reunite 17 years later, when a body is found in a tidal estuary near London, just a short distance from Kate's home.  Three of them receive the text from Kate they hoped they never would receive.  It says simply, “I need you.”  And thus begins the disentangling of what really happened 17 years ago among these four inseparable friends.

Absolutely, read it.  It's for fun, for intrigue, for wondering what the real story is and trying to figure it out, and for resolution.




Shadow of Night

Deborah Harkness |  Fiction


This is the second book in a trilogy by Harkness.  The first one is called A Discovery of Witches.  (See my blog posting on 01/23/2018).  I liked this second book a lot; was never bored, and it entertained me through all 592 pages.  It was the perfect read while recovering from unexpected surgery.

This second book is also a fantasy, featuring witches, vampires, daemons, and humans.  It is set in 1590, as Matthew (a vampire) and Diana (a witch) have time-traveled back in time to find a witch to help Diana learn her skills as a witch, and to search for the all-important book, Ashmole 782.

I rated it three hearts instead of four because it is all about relationships – and there isn’t much action.  The relationships are fascinating, interesting, and teach us a lot about Elizabethan London.  However, I think it may a bit slow for Outlander fans, with its pattern of relationship – crisis – relationship – crisis.

Matthew and Diana grow together and it is fun to meet their extended families.  (Well, mostly Matthew’s, since we are in the 16th century!)   I think if you like book 1, you will like book 2.  I intend to read Book 3, The Book of Life, when it is warm and sunny on my back deck this summer.


No One Can Pronounce My Name

Rakesh Satyal |  Fiction


This is the Deschutes County Library 2018 community read.  And so I really WANT to give it four hearts, but it doesn't quite slide into that category for me.  No One Can Pronounce My Name is the story of Indian-Americans living in Cleveland.  Some lived in India earlier in their lives; some were born here, all identified as Indian.  This was their story about how they maintain their culture (my mouth often watered as many social events were held around homemade pakoras and samosas); how they integrate; how they assimilate; how they befriend one another; how they deal with traditions and values and norms both American and Indian; what they gain and lose when they do assimilate.

It is not a heavy read … you will laugh and cry sometimes.  The main characters are in their 20s, 30s and 40s. They are gay, straight and questioning.  They desperately want friendships and intimacy, and don’t always find the vehicles to create meaningful relationships.  Their jobs and passions differ, and the overlap of the circumstances of their lives happen by coincidence, a chance, sharing a workplace or a moment in a bar with an unlikely other.

I learned something about the challenges of building a new social structure.  I chose three stars because I found the writing confusing at times and that made it a little less engaging than I had hoped.

If you live in Deschutes County, read this and go the workshops that are sponsored by the library and hit Bend High to hear the author speak.  If you are not local, yes, I still recommend it, just not with my full heart and enthusiasm.  It’s worth a peruse as you make your own decision.



A Separation

Katie Kitamura  |  Fiction

I made it half through this novel before I tossed it on the return pile. I think it is absurdly written.  Written in first person, our main character travels to a small town in Greece to find her estranged husband, who seems to have disappeared.  I could not wrap myself around her decisions and action.  In a very remote village, in this hotel, there are two desk clerks, one driver, one manager and only rarely, a guest.  I cannot come to terms with why she didn't tell these people she was concerned and looking for him.  His belongings were still in a room, which the hotel staff cleaned out for another guest.  So they also knew he was missing but she never asked anyone ... when did you see him last?  Did he say where he was going?  Had he gone to this place or that place?

Her actions were perhaps consistent in one way, even though they didn't make sense to me.    The main character has no name; an apt match for a woman with no emotions, no emotional depth at all.  I really didn't like her.

Then, a bit before I hung the book up, she spends something like 8 pages explaining to us a conversation between two of the staff members.  It was spoken in Greek, of which, she doesn't speak a word.  So she speculated from gestures, tones and facial expressions.  I found this egotistical, ungrounded and boring.

Something meaningful happens at the beginning of chapter 7, but I read that chapter and still quit.

Forget this one!



H is for Hawk

Helen Macdonald |  Nonfiction


What a surprise!  I thought H is for Hawk was a novel.  I don’t know what my brain was thinking … that it was a posthumous replacement of H is for Homicide by Sue Grafton?  It was a shock to discover this is nonfiction, and it really IS about training a hawk, a goshawk.  I would never have picked this book off the library shelf if I knew these salient points.  What I DID know is numerous people recommended it to me.  And so I read it.

And I loved it.  Helen Macdonald is a superb writer, I believe, to write about a hawk – a topic I had NO interest in – with such sensitivity, insight, suspense, humor, vulnerability, awareness, and knowledge!  At one point she spends an entire page explaining different hawk hoods.  Seriously?  Whatever she didn’t know already, she researched very well.

This tale of her training her goshawk parallels T.H. White’s 1951 nonfiction book, The Goshawk.  A constant theme is to compare and contrast what White is doing with his goshawk, with Helen’s decisions in modern-day England about her own.  Yes, that is the same T.H. White who wrote The Once and Future King and The Sword in the Stone. 

Helen’s father dies early in the book, and I realize that my friends recommended H is for Hawk because of how Macdonald interweaves her grief into the tale of her goshawk.  Every 20 or 30 pages she talks about what is occurring with her grief, the memorial service, being with her mom, etc., and observes what she is learning and what parallels there are.  It is a very non-sappy approach to grief, and I think one readers can understand readily.  I am most profoundly impacted by a quote she shares from poet Marianne Moore:  “The cure for loneliness is solitude.”  Makes me think.

Yes, read it.  Perhaps it will surprise you as it did me.  Perhaps you will learn something about yourself, as I did.  Perhaps you will decide to train a goshawk