WA Secretary of State Blogs

The Sea Runners: A Novel, by Ivan Doig.

November 22nd, 2016 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on The Sea Runners: A Novel, by Ivan Doig.

waves-crashing-on-the-rocks-by-axel-rouvinThe Sea Runners: A Novel. By Ivan Doig. (New York: Atheneum, 1982. 279 pp. Map.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

There exists an actual letter-to-the-editor published in the Oregon Weekly Times, mentioning three Scandinavians who had managed to travel by canoe from Russian Alaska to Shoalwater (now named Willapa) Bay in 1852/53. Doig’s novel imagines what their trek must have been like, full of trepidations and tribulations, all the way up to and including loss of life.

At the time, apparently the Russians recruited Swedes, Finns, and other “outlanders” as 7-year indentured laborers, to do the real work for the Russian-American Company’s fur-gathering enterprise headquartered in New Archangel, now Sitka, Alaska. It was not a pleasant place much of the time: cold, wet, rough, and not very civilized, with the Russians lording it over the “thugs, thieves, hopeless sots, no few murderers, . . . debtors, escaped serfs,” and the rest of “the flotsam of any vast frontier” as Doig describes them.

So perhaps it’s not too surprising that one of them, Melander by name, a former ship’s first mate, decides to plan a way out, recruiting a couple of his fellows to assist him. The idea is fairly straightforward: he engages the best thief among his fellows to squirrel away the supplies they need: food, maps, a compass, etc., and they intend to steal a large cedar canoe from the local native encampment and paddle their way south to Astoria, where they expect to find passage on the ships that stop there. As the story unfolds, the also indentured blacksmith notices what’s happening, and forces his way into the group, making for a frequently skeptical and less than enthusiastic fourth.

Their imagined adventures, replete with inner turmoil, plus all too real privations and misery, are ably described in intricate detail by the author. Doig’s language here is at times a bit convoluted, requiring careful attention to unravel his precise intent, which is not altogether a bad thing, given that the story and the imagery are worthy of the effort. As is not uncommon with Doig, the interior life, thoughts, and feelings of his characters are of at least equal significance to the landscape and actual events as they unfold. Recommended for anyone with a strong interest in NW history and landscape, and who enjoys well-crafted historical fiction.

ISBN: 978-0-15-603102-8

Available in the Pacific Northwest Collection at NW 813.6 DOIG 1982
Available as an eBook. Not yet available in Digital Talking Book or Braille format.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Another facet of the Green River Killer story unfolds as a graphic novel

October 30th, 2016 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on Another facet of the Green River Killer story unfolds as a graphic novel

gary_ridgway_1982_mugshotGreen River Killer: A True Detective Story. By Jeff Jensen; Illustrated by Jonathan Case; Lettering by Nake Piekos. (Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2011. 233 pp. Illustrations, map.)

Recommendation by PNW & Special Collections

This graphic novel provides an often neglected perspective to the Green River Killer investigation by recounting the ordeal that his father, King County Detective Tom Jensen,  endured since 1984, when he was assigned to the investigation, through to the 188 days spent interviewing Gary Ridgeway until his November 3, 2003 conviction.

The story is a procedural that balances the horrifying subject matter with a humane tribute to the dedication of law enforcement professionals and the toll such dark work can exact upon their health, their psyches, and their families.  Jensen and Case’s treatment does not reduce characters, but shows their complexity, compelling each side of the story beautifully.  Johnathan Case’s illustrations are carefully wrought to match the story’s delicate balance, making for a moving and disturbing read.  A unique recommendation for fans of true crime and graphic novels.

ISBN-13: 978-1595825605

Available in the Pacific Northwest Collection at NW 364.1523 JENSEN 2011

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Beautiful Ruins: A Novel. By Jess Walter.

September 21st, 2016 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on Beautiful Ruins: A Novel. By Jess Walter.

cinque terreBeautiful Ruins: A Novel. By Jess Walter. (New York: Harper, 2012. 337 pp.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

In 1962, a young American movie actress shows up at the remote, obscure, Italian “Hotel Adequate View” thinking that she is dying of cancer. Pasquale, the hotelier, naturally falls in love with her. 50 years later, Pasquale travels to Hollywood, in hopes of finding her again. That’s the story in a nutshell, but there’s so much more!

Beautiful Ruins is Spokane author, Jess Walter’s sixth novel. The story spans 50 years in time, and the novel took 15 years to write, according to the author. The primary venue is a tiny seaside hamlet in Italy, but the story makes brief detours to Hollywood, Seattle, and near the end, Sandpoint, Idaho.

What is the book about? Relationships, of course. Chances for new beginnings, starting over, trying again. Unrequited love, regret, happiness (the pursuit of), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The book bounces back and forth between then and now, and hops around the world, even spending a brief sidebar in Edinburgh, Scotland, of all places. The eventual cast of characters is much broader than we have time to delineate here, but it includes a jaded Hollywood producer and his bright young assistant, a failed rock singer, and a would-be screenwriter, who is trying to sell a script based on the story of the doomed Donner party, of all things, and more.

There is just something about the mood of the book:  wistful and sweet, enigmatic and hopeful, always yearning for something more. And yet at the same time, it’s a complicated story with more characters and moves than a chess game, which it not in the least resembles. Warning: start reading this book, and you’ll be drawn in, in spite of yourself.

ISBN-13: 978-0061928123

Not yet available at WSL Northwest Collections.
Digital Book editions available for Washington residents unable to read standard print through WTBBL.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Unattended Death, by Victoria Jenkins.

June 22nd, 2016 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on Unattended Death, by Victoria Jenkins.

Simpson_lumber-Shelton_Washington
An Unattended Death.
By Victoria Jenkins. (Sag Harbor, NY: The Permanent Press, c2012. 214 pp.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Carolyn Petersen, Assistant Program Manager, Library Development

Set in Shelton, WA, the first book, in what may be a new police procedural series, does a good job of capturing the ambiance of this lumber mill town.

When a body is found floating in the Puget Sound slough the investigation of an “unattended death” falls to Irene Chavez. Irene had moved back to Shelton from her job as an LA police detective as she felt Shelton would be a better place to raise her son. As it is August, the county sheriff’s department is short staffed so Irene gets the case. Irene’s  instincts tell her that the death of Anne Paris is a homicide instead a sailboat accident. The more Irene investigates Anne’s upper crust East Coast family and house guests, the more she realizes that many folks had reasons to feel wronged by Anne Paris.

Excellent character development, a strong sense of place, and a well crafted mystery with a totally believable solution make this reader hope that the author will add a second book in this series.

ISBN-13: 978-1579622848

Available in the Pacific Northwest Collection at NW 813.6 JENKINS 2012

Avaialble as an eBook. Not yet available in Talking Book or Braille format.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, by Sunil Yapa.

April 21st, 2016 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Articles, Washington Reads Comments Off on Your Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, by Sunil Yapa.

your heart is muscle the size of a fistYour Heart Is a Muscle the Size of a Fist. By Sunil Yapa. (New York, NY: Lee Boudreaux Books/Little, Brown and Company/Hachette Book Group, 2016. 312 pp.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

This is not a nice book. This is not a pleasant book. But it may be an important one. Parts of it are quite horrific, just plain awful. The descriptions of police brutality will curdle your blood, at least they did mine. This novel tells the story of the protests that accompanied the World Trade Organization (WTO) meetings in Seattle in 1999, and the violent police efforts to clear the streets of what began, at least, as a peaceful demonstration.

Most of the reviews and blurbs I encountered prior to reading the book, tend to focus on one main character, a teen who gets caught up in the protest almost by accident. But the story is actually told from the perspective of several individuals, including two or three of the protesters, several of the cops, including the Chief of Police, who turns out to be the teenager’s father (!), and one of the diplomats, hailing from Sri Lanka, who plans to attend the meetings. We get right inside their heads, and experience what they were thinking and feeling as the events unfold.

The book is well-written–the prose is poetic, even beautiful in many instances. You have to admire the author’s skill and his dedication, and his willingness to tackle a topic of this kind, even if reading it was an effort, and not something I would willingly put myself through again. But for anyone who wants to really experience this important episode in Seattle history, and can tolerate graphic descriptions of violence to get there, it is a powerful read, and one you won’t soon forget.

ISBN: 978-0-316-38653-1

Not yet available at WSL Northwest Collections or Washington Talking Book & Braille Library.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Portlandtown by Robb De Borde

April 13th, 2016 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Articles, Washington Reads Comments Off on Portlandtown by Robb De Borde

PTWN_Movie Poster_815x1200Portlandtown: A Tale of the Oregon Wyldes. By Robb De Borde. (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012. 375 pp.)

Recommendation by Carolyn Petersen, Assistant Program Manager, Library Development

What does a reader get when a writer combines gunfights, zombies, circus freaks, and a Portland pioneer family named the Wyldes?  The reader is rewarded with a crackling good read—if the reader’s brain is able to blend westerns, steampunk, sci-fi and historical fiction.  This story begins in 19th century Astoria when Joseph Wylde goes to bring his father-in-law, the town sheriff, back to Portland with him.  Unfortunately the powers Joseph’s father-in-law had disturbed in Astoria by digging up their graves follow the Wyldes back to Portland—and all hell—well the zombie part of it anyway—breaks loose.  Hopefully this is the start of a series.

Available in the Washington State Library’s Pacific Northwest Collection at NW 813.6 DEBORDE 2012
Digital Book editions available for Washington residents unable to read standard print through WTBBL.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

September 9th, 2015 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Articles, Washington Reads Comments Off on My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni

dugoni-grave

My Sister’s Grave. By Robert Dugoni. (Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2014. 410 pp.)

Recommendation by Carolyn Petersen, Assistant Program Manager, Library Development

Tracey Crosswhite became a detective with the Seattle Police Department as a result of her younger sister’s murder. Tracey never was convinced that the man convicted and serving time for her sister’s murder was the true perpetrator. When Sarah’s remains are at last discovered, Tracey thought justice would be served at last.  Instead the repercussions for the small town in the Cascade Mountains where Tracey and Sarah grew up are not at all what Tracey expected.   This title is an engrossing cross between a murder mystery and a legal thriller. If you like books by Scott Turow and Nelson DeMille, then author Robert Dugoni is an author you should investigate.

ISBN-13: 978-1477825570

Available in the Pacific Northwest Collection at NW 813.6 DUGONI 2014
Braille and Digital Book editions available for Washington residents unable to read standard print through WTBBL.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Wilderness, by Lance Weller

June 23rd, 2015 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Articles, Washington Reads Comments Off on Wilderness, by Lance Weller

wildernesspaperbackcoverWilderness: A Novel. By Lance Weller. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. 293pp.)

Recommendation by PNW & Special Collections

April 9, 1865 was the day that General Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Court House. This is often cited as the official date of the end of the Civil War between the Confederate and Union States, but when Brigadier General Stand Watie of the Trans-Mississippi Department surrendered his Confederate Indian battalion, a mix of Creek, Seminole, Cherokee, and Osage Indians, on June 23 1865, at Doaksville in Indian Territory to Lieutenant Colonel Asa C. Matthews, the ground war was finished. A straggling and uninformed Shenandoah continued to wage an unwanted naval mission until surrendering in London, England on November 6.

As the commemoration of 150 years since the War of Secession winds down, it is important to note that many Union and Confederate veterans headed northwest at the end of their duties, returning to their homes and families or to new lives beyond that terrible time. Lance Weller‘s Wilderness is a fictional account of what one of those lives might look like. The story follows Abel Truman, a soldier badly wounded in the titular battle of 35 years prior, as he and his elderly dog travels inland from his beach homestead near the Quinault into and over the Olympic Mountains. In his travels he encounters natives, scattered settlers, and wanderers — people of both the generous and the violent sort. While there are moments of the pastoral, there are also moments where the reader is flung into the maelstrom.  The story flashes back and forth between Truman’s heroic trek of 1899 and through the Field of the Wilderness of 1864, bearing witness to Abel’s reckoning throughout the ordeal.

Weller’s descriptions are vivid, verging on purple prose at times, but beautifully evocative of the sensual charms of the Pacific Northwest coast. The story is hard-bitten, but specked with lovely and tender passages.

ISBN-13: 978-1608199372

Available in the Pacific Northwest Collection at NW 813.6 WELLER 2012

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

The Impersonator, by Mary Miley

March 3rd, 2015 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Washington Reads Comments Off on The Impersonator, by Mary Miley

miley impersonatorThe Impersonator: A Mystery. By Mary Miley. (New York: Minotaur Books, 2014. 320 pp.)
(A Roaring Twenties Mystery, Book 1)

Recommendation by:
Carolyn Petersen, Assistant Program Manager, Library Development, Tumwater, WA.

Mary Miley’s Impersonator deserved to win the Minotaur Books/Mystery writers’ of America First Crime Novel competition.  The murder mystery begins with the heroine of the book, vaudevillian Leah Randall approached by a man who greets her as his long lost niece, heiress to a timber fortune. Beckett invites her to impersonate his niece and split the fortune due when the absent Jessie Carr turns  21.  Circumstances force Leah to accept Beckett’s offer. After  being tutored in the family history, Leah journeys to the Oregon coast to meet the family and begin her impersonation. A murdered woman’s body is discovered by the side of the road as Leah drives in the from the railroad station to the family mansion.  This is the first of several and Leah realizes that if she doesn’t uncover the serial murderer, she may well fall victim to him.

Descriptions of vaudeville, the life in a privileged family, and the vivid characterizations of life in a small Oregon coastal town as well as life in Portland in the 1920’s were accurate and fascinating. I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a murder series featuring the resourceful and independent Leah Randall

ISBN-10: 1250051371

ISBN-13: 978-1250051370

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Songs of Willow Frost. By Jaime Ford

December 10th, 2014 WSL NW & Special Collections Posted in Articles, Washington Reads Comments Off on Songs of Willow Frost. By Jaime Ford

ford-frostSongs of Willow Frost. By Jamie Ford. (New York: Ballantine Books, 2013.)

Recommendation submitted by:
Will Stuivenga, Cooperative Projects Manager, Washington State Library, Tumwater, WA.

Our protagonist is William Eng, a 12-year-old living at the Sacred Heart Orphanage in 1930’s Seattle. He’s been there since he was seven; no one is interested in adopting a Chinese boy. Only, he remembers his beloved mother, a singer and a dancer, and he remembers finding her slumped in the bathtub, and how she was carried off to the hospital, and he never saw her again.

But now he sees her on the screen in a vaudeville show preview down at the local movie theater—he’s certain it’s her—and he sets off, together with the blind girl, Charlotte, fellow outcast, and his best friend, to find Liu Song, aka Willow Frost, his mother.

The book recounts this seemingly impossible quest, as well as Liu Song’s own tragic story, and how she came to give up her precious child. Will they be reunited to make a life together? We’re kept in suspense until the final page.

Full of old Seattle scenes and images, this poignant tale will tug at your heart-strings, while filling in a chapter in our nation’s regrettable history of the prejudice suffered by its people of Chinese heritage.

ISBN: 978-0-345-52202-3

Available at the Washington State Library, NW 813.6 FORD 2013
Available as an eBook.
Downloadable talking book available through NLS and WTBBL.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button