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The Powell's Playlist | June 18, 2014

Daniel H. Wilson: IMG The Powell’s Playlist: Daniel H. Wilson



Like many writers, I'm constantly haunting coffee shops with a laptop out and my headphones on. I listen to a lot of music while I write, and songs... Continue »

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Customer Comments

Erin M has commented on (5) products.

The Chronology of Water: A Memoir by Lidia Yuknavitch
The Chronology of Water: A Memoir

Erin M, May 16, 2013

This book begins on a horrific note - a stillborn child - and from that point on, you are wrapped up in Lidia Yuknavitch, in all of her talent and beauty and selfishness and anger and brains. I finished this book and never wanted to return it to the library, and then I wanted to return it that second so that someone else could read it. I wasn't always comfortable; she is unflinchingly honest, and apparently not concerned with whether or not her readers like her. Sometimes I didn't. But I felt like I knew her. I appreciated that this wasn't trite or workshoppy - it so easily could have been, but there is a sincerity and a hardness in here that saved it.

I don't really like books that tell me everything is going to be okay. Usually they feel very sterile, and more often than not, as if everything is only going to be okay if you follow very precise and preachy rules. But here is a woman who is damaged and angry and makes very bad choices, but is also smart and passionate and full of love, and she says that if you are damaged and angry and making bad choices yourself, it might help to "make up stories until you find one you can live with." And I believe her.

I didn't always like this book, but I won't be surprised if, five years down the road, I find that it has become very important to me.
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Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi
Mr. Fox

Erin M, January 2, 2012

Stories about stories are always fun, and this one is spectacular. Its backbone is the Bluebeard tale, turned on its head - St. John Fox is an author with an irritating tendency to kill of all his female characters, Mary Foxe is his walking, talking, very annoyed, and only sort of imaginary muse, and Daphne Fox is his long-suffering wife, growing suspicious. St. John and Mary challenge one another via a series of short stories, often bizarre and always beautiful. It's a book about books, about love, about authorship, about the thin line between fiction and reality. It's certainly the most adventurous of Oyeyemi's books so far (which, after 2009's bizarre and wonderful White is for Witching, is impressive), and only continues her upward trajectory.
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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Wolf Hall

Erin M, September 29, 2011

This is probably the best historical novel I've ever read. It's the story of Thomas Cromwell, (who is usually painted as a villain in contrast to the saintly - and eventually sainted - Thomas More), an adviser to Henry VIII during and after his split from the Catholic church, and a remarkably shrewd man. The prose is dense, and there are some stylistic choices that can slow you up, but it's so good that you shouldn't mind. I can see how this might be daunting for someone without a fair bit of Tudor-related knowledge, but the lengthy cast of characters and Tudor family tree in the front of the book can be very useful - Hilary Mantel thinks you are smart enough to tackle a book that might make you work a little bit; don't prove her wrong.
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The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty
The Year of Secret Assignments

Erin M, September 29, 2011

On the surface, it's just a silly epistolary novel for kids, with some truly ridiculous cover art - but it's a lot more than that, too. There are your standard-issue romances, and they're handled really well, but the real magic is in the friendship between three private-school girls (Lydia, Cassie, and Emily), who are smart and funny and there for each other all the time. The story is told through their letters - to each other, and to three boys at a neighboring public school, as an English class project. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that Jaclyn Moriarty juggles so many characters and voices and manages to keep each one perfectly distinct. When a new letter begins, you know who's writing it without even looking at the heading, and you're always excited to see this person again.
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When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
When You Reach Me

Erin M, July 28, 2011

This books feels like it was written a couple of decades ago, in a good way. It fits nicely into that YA subgenre of New York latchkey kids navigating interpersonal and family issues, and the time travel aspect is worked in seamlessly - it does nothing to pull you out of the fairly quiet and ordinary goings-on. It's very much written for middle readers (the central mystery, for instance, is not all that mysterious, and the brief discussions of time travel theory are at a pretty basic level), but it never talks down, and the emotions are so clear and natural that I never cared that I basically knew what was going on even when Miranda didn't.

The comparison to A Wrinkle in Time is obvious, of course, but it also bears similarities in tone and warmth to L'Engle's Austin family series (particularly The Young Unicorns, another New York-based mystery) - Miranda's family may not be quite as nuclear as the Austins, but the same down-to-earth, homey vibe is there.
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