Tag Archives: Seattle

Friend of the Devil

Past Crimes Hamilton

Past Crimes: A Novel by Glen Erik Hamilton (William Morrow, $26.99, 321 pages)

They drill politeness into the Seattle cops with six-inch galvanized screws. It always amused Dono, and I was starting to get the joke.

When Guerin spoke again, his voice was level and hard enough to skate on. “If you go around looking for your grandfather’s associates, firing off any question that comes into your head, then we could lose a chance to build a case against someone. He could walk.”

This first novel by author Glen Erik Hamilton is semi-autobiographical. The early life of the narrator, Van Shaw, mirrors that of the author. Seattle, boating and bad behavior are what they have in common. Van Shaw is a wounded Army veteran on leave back home in Seattle. His experience in Afghanistan put him into a special class of soldier, one who has endured combat situations far more disturbing than most guys could handle.

Shaw has a complicated past that includes a broken family with long-standing grudges. He has received a letter from his grandfather, Dono. The two of them have been estranged for a while. The backstory is complicated and the author uses flashbacks to lead the reader through Shaw’s apprentice years at his grandfather’s side pulling burglary jobs, all the while learning the tricks of thievery, large and small.

The story line meanders bit as it picks up threads that form a general fabric of Shaw’s and Dono’s lives. As threads are added, the momentum builds. The reader is pulled into a messy set of situations. (Suffice it to say that Shaw becomes a prime suspect in a crime.) Hamilton keeps his end game in focus and delivers a satisfying read.

This is the promised first of a series of Van Shaw novels. Hamilton has laid the groundwork for a complex character who is likeable but troubling. (A friend of the devil, if you will.) Lee Child’s Jack Reacher comes to mind.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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Alive and Kicking

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Alive at the Center: Contemporary Poems from the Pacific Northwest (Pacific Poetry Project; Ooligan Press, $18.95, 277 pages)

“This is something new in our shared lives, how she turns so gentle.” I Am Pregnant with My Mother’s Death by Penelope Scambly Schott

Nine editors selected 151 poems for inclusion in this anthology. The poets, each represented by one or more poems, live in Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. What they have in common is a sense of un-commonality, representing the free spiritedness of the Pacific Northwest. This free spiritedness is reflected in “an array of poems that challenge… preconceptions, including those of what a poem might be.”

The reader is encouraged to “think your own thoughts,” about the worthiness of each composition. I was pleased that this buffet serving of art allows the reader to sample different styles and tastes in order to discover what resonates with one’s own life experiences. I identified with the more traditionally-styled poems, but others will no doubt be drawn to the ones with youthful edginess and rebellion.

It was a joy to discover poets whose work I want to read more of, including Alex Winstaley, Christoper Levenson, Lilija Valis, Catherine Owen, Kagan Goh, Susan Rich, Kathleen Holme, Jesse Morse, and Penelope Scambly Schott. The rainy weather that these three locales share apparently fosters rather than dampens creativity. Let’s hope that Alive at the Center is but the first release of many comprehensive – insightful yet challenging – collections of poetry from the Pacific Northwest.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

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Leaving Nothing to Jance

Two Series and One Author

Fans of prolific author J. A. Jance – whose books can be found in every airport gift shop, will be entertained by either or both of her series installments reviewed here. The first, Second Watch, is the 10th in the J. P. Beaumont series set in Seattle, Washington. Coincidentally, Ms. Jance maintains a residence in that city. There’s a certain comfort that comes with a story set in a locale where the author feels right at home – literally.

Second Watch (nook book)

Second Watch: A J. P. Beaumont Novel by J. A. Jance (William Morrow, $26.99, 368 pages; mass market paperback version, $9.99)

Tough cop J. P. Beaumont has finally agreed to double knee replacement surgery. He’s been hobbling around in pain for far too long. His hallucination in the post-op recovery room kicks off a tale involving a 40-year-old unsolved murder case in Seattle. Readers will sense a familiarity to the television show, Cold Case, where victims appear to a cop who cares.

The vision is of a young blond wearing a Washington State University sweatshirt sitting at Beaumont’s bedside while filing her brightly polished red fingernails. The characters are believable with crisp dialogue bantered between them.

The story moves along in stages, including some flashbacks. As J. P. works through his need to figure out why he’s seen the girl, more dead people come into the tale, along with some frustrating dead ends. He sorts out the sparse clues. It helps that he and wife, Mel, are with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. They make a team of bright folks who are two of a kind – out to bring justice to bear.

Highly recommended.

Remains of Innocence (nook book)

Remains of Innocence: A Brady Novel of Suspense by J. A. Jance (William Morrow, $26.99, 400 pages)

Joanna Brady is the sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona in this, the 17th novel featuring her life and career. The lives of two half-siblings are unfolded across several chapters. The first is Liza Machette, a hard-working 29-year-old restaurant manager in Massachusetts. Liza’s mother, Selma, is a bipolar chain-smoking harridan who has hoarded junk for all of Liza’s life. As Selma’s life comes to its end, Liza goes to see Selma in the hospital. Liza left home at age 18 and has not returned in 11 years. Her task is to clear out the trash and rubble of Selma’s house and life.

The startling discover of a fortune in one hundred dollar bills amid the foul-smelling debris prompts Liza to do some checking up on its source. As Liza looks into her family’s past, she realizes that she needs to hide out. Naturally, Liza makes an escape to Bisbee, Arizona where her half-brother, Guy, is the medical examiner. Oh, and Joanna Brady is the county sheriff with problems of her own. These characters are well developed and even though this is the 17th book of a series, the story line is smooth, making this an easy-to-read stand-alone mystery novel. By the way, Ms. Jance was brought up in Bisbee and now has a home in Tucson where she spends time when not enjoying her Seattle abode. Both are pretty nice choices for living arrangements, and, yes, Ms. Jance has earned her lovely surroundings!

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publisher.

Remains of Innocence will be published on April 28, 2015.

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An Interview with Sarah Jio

This is an interview with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sarah Jio, whose new book was released on November 26. Joseph Arellano

Sarah Jio

Q: There are actors who are called method actors. They like to put themselves inside the skin of the characters they play. For example, if a method actor is hired to portray a boxer, he or she will take boxing lessons and box with professionals. I tend to think of you as a method writer, one who inhabits a world before she writes about it. With this in mind, could you tell us about how you prepared to write the novel Morning Glory, which is set on a houseboat in Seattle?

A: Renting a houseboat for four months while writing this novel was the single greatest thing I could have done to put me in the right headspace to capture the essence of the floating home community. I got to soak up little details that I would have never known had I not experienced them – like how a houseboat sways ever so gently on a windy day or how a pair of Mallard ducks waddle up to the doorstep on Saturday morning and gaze in to the French doors. I will forever treasure that time on Seattle’s Lake Union writing this book.

Morning Glory 2

Q: Would you briefly summarize the plot of Morning Glory, your latest release?

A: Here is what is written on the book jacket: “New York Times bestselling author Sarah Jio imagines life on Boat Street, a floating community on Seattle’s Lake Union – home to people of artistic spirit who for decades protect the dark secret of one startling night in 1959.

“Fleeting an East Coast life marred by tragedy, Ada Santorini takes up residence on houseboat number seven on Boat Street. She discovers a trunk left behind by Penny Wentworth, a young newlywed who lived on the boat half a century earlier. Ada longs to know her predecessor’s fate, but little suspects that Penny’s mysterious past and her own clouded future are destined to converge.”

Q: In your novels, women who lived at different times (and who never met) are brought together by unique circumstances. Generally the woman who lives in current times is called upon to resolve a mystery involving a woman who lived 50, 70 or 80 years before her time. It has struck me that in this way each character gets to live twice; it’s a form of time travel. Is there an experience in your life or in your family that prompted you to write about this type of situation? Did you personally solve a mystery involving someone who preceded you?

A: I just smiled reading this question, because, yes – I love the concept of time travel, and I find it so heartbreaking that it isn’t really possible (someday?). I suppose the reason I tend to like to write books in this way is it gives me a chance to look back to the past. I feel incredibly romantic about my grandparent’s generation, and I’ve often thought that I should have been born in 1920, so I could have been a young woman in the 1940s.

Q: In Morning Glory a character states, “I know I may always ache for the past… but I want to be a bird now. I want to flap my wings through the rainstorms. I want to start my day with the earnestness of the morning glory….” Do you find yourself being both past and present oriented?

A: Absolutely, and I remember writing that passage. While I write fiction, yes, there is a lot of my heart and my own personal journey in all of my stories. It is impossible to separate the author from her characters. While they are not always me, I get to create them, and I get to choose favorites. And I often turn to my protagonists as I think about the important elements of life, or big things I’m working through.

Q: One thing I found in common among The Violets of March, Blackberry Winter and Morning Glory is that while your story conclusions are logical, they are unpredictable. Is this something that you strive for – to keep the reader guessing until the last page, or is this simply how the stories play out in the writing process?

A: Yes, I love to be sneaky like that – surprising readers with a conclusion that they didn’t see coming, or some surprising reveal at the end. Because isn’t that true of life? Often it is unpredictable and unchartered. Even the best laid plans have hiccups or surprise endings. And I love carrying this through in my books.

Q: Did anyone in our family or background use the phrase, “True love lives on….” (used by Esther Wilson in The Violets of March)?

A: No, I have never had that uttered to me by a loved one, but I believe it, and I cling to it.

Q: There are characters in your novels that are less than nice and honorable; but in general your stories tend to restore our faith in the best of human nature. Does this reflect a view on your part that while life can be mean and nasty, the better angels of our nature win out? In other words, do we see Sarah Jio’s basic optimism play out in your work?

A: Yes, we are flawed creatures – and that comes out in my books, for sure. At the end of the day, I am an optimist. We get one life, and only so many trips around the sun, and I believe in love and happy endings and beautiful sunsets that make you smile.

Q: Will most of your stories be set in the Seattle area?

A: Not all, but most. My heart is here and will always be. I naturally gravitate to setting my stories in the Northwest, but I’m interested in other locations too, so perhaps I’ll be switching things up in the next few books.

Q: I consider it as a positive that when I read Blackberry Winter, I was reminded of Jamie Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet since the two novels share a similar stage – Seattle past and present – and a journey of personal discovery. I loved both books. Have you met Ford and would you agree that the two novels are bookend-like in scope and theme?

A: I own Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, although I haven’t had a chance to read it yet (it is on my nightstand!). I have not met Jamie Ford, but enjoy following him on Facebook and Twitter and I think we’d have a lot to talk about over coffee (and anyone who is not following him on Twitter should – he’s hilarious). Readers have mentioned a similar connection in our books, and it’s a huge compliment to me, for sure.

Note: Before becoming a full-time author, Sarah Jio was the Health and Fitness writer-blogger for Glamour magazine.

This article first appeared on the Blogcritics website:

http://blogcritics.org/an-interview-with-sarah-jio-author-of-morning-glory/

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Coming Up Next…

Sarah Jio

An interview with New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Sarah Jio.

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Book Lovers

My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, edited by Ronald Rice (Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, $23.95, 384 pages)

My Bookstore (313x475)

In My Bookstore, edited by Ronald Rice, numerous authors pay tribute to their favored bookstores, which are usually, but not always, the ones located near their homes. Eighty-one bookstores are examined, including three of the best, essential bookstores — Powell’s Books of Portland, Vroman’s Bookstore of Pasadena, and the University Book Store in Seattle (across from the University of Washington). Chuck Palahnuik explains that the city-block sized Powell’s is divided into color-coded rooms and “…each of these rooms is the size of most independent bookstores.”

Californians will be pleased to see that ten of the state’s bookstores, including two in San Francisco, are lovingly described here. (But San Franciscans will be shocked to find that both City Lights Books and Dog Eared Books are excluded.) Only 3 of these “favorite places to browse, read, and shop” happen to be in southern California. The underlying message of these accounts is that one-on-one service counts. These private businesses have thrived and survived the onslaughts of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and now-departed mega-chains.

This collection of essays will no doubt cause some to visit bookstores that they were previously unaware of. And perhaps at some point Mr. Rice will ask book reviewers to write about their favorite places, and this reader will shed a light on Orinda Books and Lyon Books of Chico.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Note: City Lights Books is located at 261 Columbus Avenue at Broadway in San Francisco. Dog Eared Books is located at 900 Valencia Street in the Mission District of The City. Both are worth paying a visit to.

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Heart Like A Wheel

 

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Heart Like Mine: A Novel by Amy Hatvany (Washington Square Press, $15.00, 345 pages)

I must have been in my office when she took her last breath, when she’d crawled into bed after dropping the kids off at school. I was sitting at my desk, reviewing those client files, no idea that everything was about to change.

I had a difficult time trying to make my way through one of Amy Hatvany’s earlier novels. Well, this was not a problem with Heart Like Mine, a fully engaging story of love and family. Grace McAllister is a thirty-six-year-old woman who has never married — she’s always felt that she would be a less-than-competent mother — but under strange circumstances (they “meet cute”) she happens to meet the owner of a Seattle restaurant. Victor has two children, but that’s not an issue for Grace since their attractive mother Kelli — who was divorced from Victor three years earlier — takes care of them.

Grace and Victor become engaged to be married, and Victor meets Kelli for coffee to let her know the news. Before Grace and Victor can proceed to tell the children, Ava and Max, Kelli is found dead in her bed.

Heart Like Mine places a few questions before the reader… Is Victor the man he seems to be or is he hiding something? Can Grace learn to be a good stepmother to the children at a time when they will hate anyone who attempts to replace the mother they loved? Did Kelli, who suffered from depression and still loved Victor, take her own life after learning that he was to re-marry?

My throat thickened at the realization that I would never know when my life might come to an end. How suddenly everything might be lost.

Kelli perceives that’s she’s physically and possibly mentally ill, but seems unable to come to grips with reality. But then her life had spun out of control when she was just 14.

The story is told primarily through the voices and perspectives of Grace and young Ava; although Kelli is the narrator of a couple of chapters. Grace is excited about the prospect of marrying Victor and is suddenly blindsided by being a substitute parent to two grieving children. Her relationship with Victor quickly deteriorates, especially as he’s trying to keep his restaurant open in a down economy. Ava knows that her mother and her grandparents kept secrets and she’s determined to find the truth even if she has to run away from home to do so.

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Hatvany cleverly ties all the storylines together at the end. It is a conclusion that just might be the opening to the next part of the new family’s tale. Whether or not that’s the case, I’ll be looking forward to reading the next engaging page-turner from this writer who views life as something that’s never quite under our control.

Well recommended.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was received from the publisher. “Amy Hatvany writes with depth and compassion.” Luanne Rice, author of The Silver Boat.

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