What We’re Reading


A State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

A State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Another haunting tale of captivity, culture clash and love from Patchett, whose Bel Canto was a wonder of a novel. The Amazon, the main setting for this novel, is itself a State of Wonder, a sort of lotus-land jungle that combines the vaguely threatening with a golden haze of passivity and credulousness. Don’t miss the […]

Wife of the Gods

Wife of the Gods

Many of the reviews of Wife of the Gods mention that if you “like” The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency then you’ll “love” Dr. Kwei Quartey’s first novel. Nothing against Alexander McCall Smith, but I think it’s a bit “apples and oranges.” Though Wife of the Gods contains all the markings of a standard mystery—the detective at […]

The 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

The 1000 Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell David Mitchell took a 180-degree turn from Cloud Atlas to write this straight-ahead historic novel that takes place around 1800 in Nagasaki. In the harbor lies Japan’s only outpost for foreigners: a virtual prison island for the Dutch traders there. Each culture fears, mistrusts, and exploits […]

Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies”

Hilary Mantel’s “Bring Up the Bodies”

If possible, better than its predecessor Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel‘s Bring up the Bodies continues to follow the harrowing career of Thomas Cromwell as he orchestrates, navigates, and patiently out-waits and outwits everyone at the court of Henry VIII. Mantel does more interesting things with her narrative, a sort of third-person singular  from Cromwell’s point of […]

Human Cargo

Human Cargo

A smart, sexy detective; a case involving a mysterious, wealthy American and the Russian Mafia; danger, romance and pathos: it’s local, and our hero is a heroine. In a fast-paced detective novel, Human Cargo (2011) by Des Zamorano, gives us flashes of Dashiell Hammett with a style all her own. Instead of Sam Spade we have […]

Started Early, Took My Dog

Started Early, Took My Dog

Started Early, Took My Dog Kate Atkinson continues to mine England’s disaffected middle (the middle of the country and the middle class) for mysteries that are, at their heart, character-driven novels. Tracy Waterhouse, middle-aged, retired from the police force and working as a security guard at a local, depressing mall, makes an improbable decision. Both […]

“Parsifal” & “On Canaan’s Side”

“Parsifal” & “On Canaan’s Side”

Parsifal by Jim Krusoe If you have a taste for the surreal, a wry, dark sense of humor that might not be getting enough exercise, and a high tolerance for ambiguity, check out South Pasadena’s own Jim Krusoe. His latest novel, Parsifal, is as cagey and laugh-out-loud funny as his previous books. Cagey: What exactly […]

Kim Fay’s “The Map of Lost Memories”

Kim Fay’s “The Map of Lost Memories”

Fiction often gives us characters who lie, cheat, and commit murder to achieve their goals. Usually these nefarious types are presented as the villain. But in Kim Fay’s The Map of Lost Memories, our young, determined heroine, Irene Blum, will stop at nothing to claim the mysterious lost scrolls of the Khmer. It’s the mid-1920s […]

Franz Kafka Fits Right In

Franz Kafka Fits Right In

My son had to read this for his freshman year at college. I picked it up after he left and found it just as funny, sad, and absurd as the first time I read it (perhaps when I was in college myself). But, I found it a far more sinister metaphor these days, both as […]

Any Human Heart

Any Human Heart

In Any Human Heart, William Boyd sets out to chronicle the 20th century from a rather ordinary person’s point of view. Logan Mountstuart is a bit of an outsider, a bit of an insider, a moderately successful, moderately interesting person who manages to utterly charm and intrigue the reader through seven decades of fictional diaries. […]

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Maude Woods - Opening October 22nd in Pasadena

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