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Five Book Friday!

We also wanted to alert you to the fact that the West Branch Library is once again a site for early voting in Massachusetts!

Early voting will begin on October 22nd and continue through
November 2nd, 2018. Prior to the enactment of this new law, the only way a registered voter was allowed to vote prior to Election Day was through absentee voting. Although absentee voting will still be available for registered voters who qualify, only those who will be absent from their city or town on Election Day, or have a disability that prevents them from going to the polls, or have a religious belief
preventing the same, are legally allowed to vote by absentee ballot.
Unlike absentee voting, early voting is for every registered voter. Registered voters do not need an excuse or reason to vote early. Regardless of whether a voter wants to take advantage of early voting, vote absentee or vote on Election Day, the first step is making sure you are registered. To check to see if you are registered to vote, and to find information on how to register to vote, you may visit the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website. To be eligible to vote in the November 6th State Election, you must have registered to vote or made any necessary changes to your voter registration by Wednesday, October 17th, 2018.

Check out this handy fact sheet for early voting times and locations around Peabody!

And now, on to the books!

MelmouthAnyone who savored Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent will no doubt be delighted to hear her second novel has arrived!  For those who haven’t yet encountered this magical world, do yourself a favor and do so!  It has been years since Helen Franklin left England. In Prague, working as a translator, she has found a home of sorts—or, at least, refuge. That changes when her friend Karel discovers a mysterious letter in the library, a strange confession and a curious warning that speaks of Melmoth the Witness, a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. As such superstition has it, Melmoth travels through the ages, dooming those she persuades to join her to a damnation of timeless, itinerant solitude. To Helen it all seems the stuff of unenlightened fantasy. But, unaware, as she wanders the cobblestone streets Helen is being watched. And then Karel disappears.   What unfolds is a spellbinding, time-hopping, thoroughly haunting tale that is as philosophical as it is chilling, and is sure to keep you in suspense through these ever-lengthening nights!  Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, describing it as “An unforgettable achievement…Perry’s heartbreaking, horrifying monster confronts the characters not just with the uncanny but also with the human: with humanity’s complicity in history’s darkest moments, its capacity for guilt, its power of witness, and its longing for both companionship and redemption.”

Rage Becomes Her: The Power of Women’s Anger: Women are angry, and with every passing day, it seems that rage is more and more justified.  But, as Soraya Chemaly notes throughout this book, contrary to the rhetoric of popular “self-help” and an entire lifetime of being told otherwise, women’s rage is one of the most important resources available, the sharpest tool against both personal and political oppression. Women have been told for so long to bottle up our anger, letting it corrode their bodies and minds in ways they don’t even realize. Yet anger is a vital instrument, a radar for injustice and a catalyst for change. On the flip side, the societal and cultural belittlement of our anger is a cunning way of limiting and controlling our power.  With insight, energy, and wit, Chemaly insists that anger is not what gets in our way, it is our way, sparking a new understanding of one of our core emotions that will give women a liberating sense of why their anger matters and connect them to an entire universe of women no longer interested in making nice at all costs.  The Guardian loved this book, praising it in a beautiful review which read in part “Rage is a battle-cry of a book, drawing on all corner of contemporary life, from media to education and medicine. She takes the reader through a woman’s life, from infancy to adulthood, highlighting the systemic ways female rage is suppressed, diverted or minimalised. And she provides scientific evidence to back up her ideas. If life as a modern woman is maddening, then Rage is a sanity-restorer.”

Shell Game: Sara Paretsky’s acclaimed detective, V.I. Warshawski, is back, and taking on a twisting shocker of a case that is sure to keep fans spellbound.  Legendary sleuth V.I. Warshawski returns to the Windy City to save an old friend’s nephew from a murder arrest. The case involves a stolen artifact that could implicate a shadowy network of international criminals. As V.I. investigates, the detective soon finds herself tangling with the Russian mob, ISIS backers, and a shady network of stock scams and stolen art that stretches from Chicago to the East Indies and the Middle East. This is a case where nothing and no one are what they seem, except for the detective herself, who loses sleep, money, and blood, but remains indomitable in her quest for justice. Booklist gave this series installment a starred review, calling it “An expertly woven tale… Paretsky’s landmark series remains as popular as ever, and the social consciousness behind the stories seems ever more in tune with contemporary events.”

Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times: If you’re like me, and had a sensational crush on Chopin, then this is the book for you!  Based on ten years of research and a vast cache of primary sources located in archives in Warsaw, Paris, London, New York, and Washington, D.C., Alan Walker’s monumental work is the most comprehensive biography of the great Polish composer to appear in English in more than a century. Walker’s work is a corrective biography, intended to dispel the many myths and legends that continue to surround Chopin. Throughout this compelling text, Walker presents the intricate dynamics of a dramatic life; of particular focus are Chopin’s childhood and youth in Poland, which are brought into line with the latest scholarly findings, and Chopin’s romantic life with George Sand, with whom he lived for nine years. Comprehensive and engaging, and written in highly readable prose, the biography wears its scholarship lightly: this is a book suited as much for the professional pianist as it is for the casual music lover. Kirkus agreed, giving this book a starred review and calling it “A sensitively discerning examination of a 19th-century superstar . . . a magnificent, elegantly written biography . . . An absorbing biography unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon.”

1,000 Books to Read: A Life-Changing List: This marvelous book takes the stress of dying out of your reading experience by instead presenting the volumes that will help you live a more full, engaged life.  Covering fiction, poetry, science and science fiction, memoir, travel writing, biography, children’s books, history, and more, these selections ranges across cultures and through time to offer an eclectic collection of works that each deserve to come with the recommendation, You have to read this. But it’s not a proscriptive list of the “great works”—rather, it’s a celebration of the glorious mosaic that is our literary heritage.  There are nuts and bolts, too—best editions to read, other books by the author, “if you like this, you’ll like that” recommendations , and an interesting endnote of adaptations where appropriate. Add it all up, and in fact there are more than six thousand titles by nearly four thousand authors mentioned—a life-changing list for a lifetime of reading.  Booklist waxes rhapsodical about this work, giving it a starred review and saying “Every so often, a reference book appears that changes the landscape of its area of focus. In the case of reading and readers’ advisory, this is one such book….lively, witty, insightful prose…It might be wise to invest in several copies of this wonderful meditation on life lived with and enhanced by the written word.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Anna Burns Wins the Man Booker Prize!

We’d like to take a moment to congratulate Northern Irish author Anna Burns, who was awarded the 50th Annual Man Booker Prize on October 16 for her novel Milkman!  Burns becomes the first Northern Irish author to win the award, and the first female winner since 2013, when Eleanor Catton took the award with The Luminaries.

Anna Burns wins 2018 Man Booker Prize for Fiction with her novel ‘Milkman’, at Awards ceremony announcing winner of the UK’s most important literary prize, at The Guildhall, London.
Via https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/16/anna-burns-wins-man-booker-prize-for-incredibly-original-milkman

Burns drew on her memories of living through The Troubles in Northern Ireland to craft a story about middle sister in an unnamed city as she navigates her way through rumor, social pressures and politics in a tight-knit community. Burns shows the dangerous and complex outcome that can happen to a woman coming of age in a city at war.

Kwame Anthony Appiah, 2018 Chair of judges, commented on the book:

None of us has ever read anything like this before. Anna Burns’ utterly distinctive voice challenges conventional thinking and form in surprising and immersive prose. It is a story of brutality, sexual encroachment and resistance threaded with mordant humour. Set in a society divided against itself, Milkman explores the insidious forms oppression can take in everyday life.

Milkman also spoke to the concerns of today, Appiah reflected.  as quoted by The Guardian, he noted, “I think this novel will help people think about #MeToo … It is to be commended for giving us a deep and subtle and morally and intellectually challenging picture of what #MeToo is about.”

In addition to her prize money and public recognition, the Royal Mail is issuing a congratulatory postmark featuring the winner’s name, which will be applied to millions of items of stamped mail nationwide for six days from 17 October. It will read ‘Congratulations to Anna Burns, winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize’.

We here at the Free For All would like to add our congratulations to Anna Burns.  Milkman will shortly be available in the US, and we cannot wait to get our hands on it!

Announcing the winner of the Alternative Nobel Award!

As we reported here in September, there will be no Nobel Prize for Literature in 2018.  Following a series of cover-ups, discrediting disclosures and allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, the board was taking a hiatus.  In its place, a New Academy organized to award an Alternative Nobel this year, with input from the public.

Today, we are delighted to announce that Guatemalan author Maryse Condé has been awarded the 2018 Alternative Nobel prize!

‘Very happy and proud’… Maryse Condé.
Via https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/12/alternative-nobel-literature-prize-maryse-conde-new-academy-prize

The author of some 20 novels, Condé is renown for providing a voice for those who have been silenced by politics, poverty, and history.  The chair of judges Ann Pålsson noted of her contribution to literature, “She describes the ravages of colonialism and the post-colonial chaos in a language which is both precise and overwhelming…The dead live in her stories closely to the living in a … world where gender, race and class are constantly turned over in new constellations.”

As reported by The Guardian, Condé said she was “very happy and proud” to win the award. “But please allow me to share it with my family, my friends and above all the people of Guadeloupe, who will be thrilled and touched seeing me receive this prize,” she said. “We are such a small country, only mentioned when there are hurricanes or earthquakes and things like that. Now we are so happy to be recognised for something else.”

Conde will win about £87,000 raised from crowdfunding and donations, and will receive the prize at a ceremony on 9 December, one day before the Nobel banquet.

It is our honor to congratulate Maryse Condé on her award, and thank her for a lifetime of stories, honest, and compassion.

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free-For-All birthday to Italian poet, prose writer, editor, translator, and 1975 Nobel Prize Laureate Eugenio Montale!

From Poets.org:

Eugenio MontaleEugenio Montale was born into a family of businessmen in Genoa on October 12, 1896. During World War I, he served as an infantry officer on the Austrian front. Originally, Montale had trained to be an opera singer, but when his voice teacher died in 1923, he gave up singing and concentrated his efforts on writing. After his first book, Ossi di seppia (Cuttlefish Bones), appeared in 1925, Montale was received by critics as a profoundly original and experimental poet…He was dismissed from his directorship of the Gabinetto Vieusseux research library in 1938 for refusing to join the Fascist party. He withdrew from public life and began translating English writers such as ShakespeareT. S. EliotHerman Melville, and Eugene O’Neill. In 1939, Le occasioni(The Occasions) appeared, his most innovative book, followed by La bufera e altro (The Storm and Other Things, 1956). It was this trio of books that won Montale the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1975…Montale was also a prolific essayist, writer of stories and travel sketches, distinguished music critic, translator, and amateur painter.  He died in Milan in 1981 at the age of 85.

Visit poets.org to read more about Montale and read his stunning work!

And now: on to the books!

Small Country: A new arrival to our shelves, Gaël Faye’s novel is already a prize-winner France, and has been longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.  Set in Burundi in 1992, the book tells the tale of  ten-year-old Gabriel, who lives in the idyllic expatriate neighborhood of Bujumbura with his French father, Rwandan mother and little sister Ana.  These are carefree days of laughter and adventure – sneaking Supermatch cigarettes and gorging on stolen mangoes – as he and his mischievous gang of friends transform their tiny cul-de-sac into their kingdom. But dark clouds are gathering over this small country, and soon their peaceful existence will shatter when Burundi, and neighboring Rwanda, are brutally hit by civil war and genocide.  This is a story that focuses on some of the darkest aspects of recent African and, indeed, global memory, but also the potential for healing that came after it, make Faye’s ability to balance darkness with light is precisely what makes this work so compelling.  The Guardian agrees, calling this work
“Luminous… This is a book that demanded to be written, not only to mark the lives lost in Burundi and Rwanda, but also to show the way in which violence can take hold of a nation. With a light touch, Faye dramatises the terrible nostalgia of having lost
not only a childhood but also a whole world to war.” 

Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster: While I inherently resent books that call any aspect of history “forgotten”, there is no denying the significance of the story that Stephen Carter has told in this new book.  Eunice Hunton Carter, Stephen Carter’s grandmother, was raised in a world of stultifying expectations about race and gender, yet by the 1940s, her professional and political successes had made her one of the most famous black women in America.  A graduate of Smith College and the granddaughter of slaves,her triumphs were shadowed by prejudice and tragedy. Greatly complicating her rise was her difficult relationship with her younger brother, Alphaeus, an avowed Communist who―together with his friend Dashiell Hammett―would go to prison during the McCarthy era. Yet she remained unbowed.  And without the strategy she devised, Lucky Luciano, the most powerful Mafia boss in history, would never have been convicted. When special prosecutor Thomas E. Dewey selected twenty lawyers to help him clean up the city’s underworld, she was the only member of his team who was not a white male.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this remarkable history a starred review, describing how “Carter’s enthusiasm for his grandmother’s incredible fortitude despite numerous setbacks is contagious; Eunice Carter’s story is another hidden gem of African-American history.”

A Dream Called Home: A Memoir: When Reyna Grande was nine-years-old, she walked across the US–Mexico border in search of a home, desperate to be reunited with the parents who had left her behind years before for a better life in the City of Angels. What she found instead was an indifferent mother, an abusive, alcoholic father, and a school system that belittled her heritage. With so few resources at her disposal, Reyna finds refuge in words, and it is her love of reading and writing that propels her to rise above until she achieves the impossible and is accepted to the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Although her acceptance is a triumph, the actual experience of American college life is intimidating and unfamiliar for someone like Reyna, who is now once again estranged from her family and support system. Again, she finds solace in words, holding fast to her vision of becoming a writer, only to discover she knows nothing about what it takes to make a career out of a dream.  Reyna Grande’s remarkable memoir The Distance Between Ushas has become required reading in schools across the country, and this moving addition to her story helps us see another side of her, as well as a moving aspect of the immigrant experience overall.  Kirkus Reviews loved this book, calling it “Candid and emotionally complex, Grande’s book celebrates one woman’s tenacity in the face of hardship and heartbreak while offering hope to other immigrants as they “fight to remain” and make their voices heard in a changing America. A heartfelt, inspiring, and relevant memoir.”

The Best of the Best Horror of the Year: A perfect selection for All Hallows Read, this collection features ten year’s worth of essential short horror fiction from some of the most acclaimed names in the genre. For more than three decades, editor and anthologist Ellen Datlow, winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, has had her finger on the pulse of the horror genre, introducing readers to writers whose tales can unnerve, frighten, and terrify. This anniversary volume, which collects the best stories from the first ten years of her annual The Best Horror of the Year anthology series, includes fiction from award-winning and critically acclaimed authors Neil Gaiman, Livia Llewellyn, Laird Barron, Gemma Files, Stephen Graham Jones, and many more.  Booklist loved this collection, describing it as “A survey of some of the best horror writing of the last decade. . . . highly recommended for anyone interested in contemporary horror and dark fantasy, as well as anyone looking for a collection of some of the best and most horrifying short fiction currently available.”

The Golden StateIn Lydia Kiesling’s razor-sharp debut novel, we accompany Daphne, a young mother on the edge of a breakdown, as she flees her sensible but strained life in San Francisco for the high desert of Altavista with her toddler, Honey. Bucking under the weight of being a single parent―her Turkish husband is unable to return to the United States because of a “processing error”―Daphne takes refuge in a mobile home left to her by her grandparents in hopes that the quiet will bring clarity.  But clarity proves elusive. Over the next ten days Daphne is anxious, she behaves a little erratically, she drinks too much. She wanders the town looking for anyone and anything to punctuate the long hours alone with the baby. Among others, she meets Cindy, a neighbor who is active in a secessionist movement, and befriends the elderly Alice, who has traveled to Altavista as she approaches the end of her life. When her relationships with these women culminate in a dangerous standoff, Daphne must reconcile her inner narrative with the reality of a deeply divided world. A keenly observed, emotional tale, Kiesilng’s novel was awarded a starred review by Publisher’s Weekly, who noted, “Kiesling’s intimate, culturally perceptive debut portrays a frazzled mother and a fractious America, both verging on meltdown . . . Kiesling depicts parenting in the digital age with humor and brutal honesty and offers insights into language, academics, and even the United Nations. But perhaps best of all is her thought-provoking portrait of a pioneer community in decline as anger and obsession fray bonds between neighbors, family, and fellow citizens.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

 

All Hallows Read: Some Spooky Suggestions

Happy All Hallows Read!

It’s that time of year, beloved patrons, as the nights get longer and the winds a little louder, and there seems nothing finer in the world than curling up with a story.  If, like me, your taste runs to the kind of stories that cause the hair on your arms to rise, or that will leave you jumping at shadows, then journey on with us for a few stellar reading suggestions.  And don’t forget to check out our display of All Hallows Read books here at the Main Library!

We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other StoriesIf you’ve read C. Robert Cargill’s other works, like Dreams and Shadows and Queen of the Dark Things will know that his imagination is limitless, and tends to flourish best in the twilight shadows between fantasy and horror.  These stories work so well because they blend the utterly real, the overwhelmingly banal details of everyday life with a twist of real terror–a voice in the static of a bad connection; a whispered phrase that grows increasingly menacing with each repetition–and then launch off into the fantastic, ensuring that readers will be hooked from the first sentence to the last.  There is plenty of fun here, as well, and fans of Colby Stevens (from Dreams and Shadows) will be thrilled to see he makes a reappearance in these pages, as well. The story from which this book takes its name, “We Are Where the Nightmares Go” is horror at its most insightful, prescient, and shudder-inducing best.

Little Heaven: Hey there, if you’re looking for an opening scene that will haunt your nightmares, then look no further than Nick Cutter’s novel about cults and powers beyond human conception….A trio of mismatched mercenaries—Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenzer Elkins–are hired by young Ellen Bellhaven for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven, where a clandestine religious cult holds sway.  The task should be an easy one for these professionals.  But nothing around Black Rock is what it seems, and there is something stirring in the woods and the soil and the wind around Little Heaven that breeds madness.  And no matter how willing our trio might be to stand and fight, their combined skills are no match for whatever is coming at them.  Cutter is a writer who revels in giving readers the screaming heebie-jeebies, as fans of this other work can surely attest.  But the atmosphere of this novel is so well-crafted and the characters are so quirky and believable that it’s hard to look away, even if you want to try.

The Grip of It: A brilliant, modern spin on the haunted house trope, Jac Jemc’s slim little novel is packed with chills and shocks.  While touring their prospective suburban home, Julie and James are stopped by a noise. Deep and vibrating, like throat singing. Ancient, husky, and rasping, but underwater. “That’s just the house settling,” the real estate agent assures them with a smile. He is wrong.  Although the couple moved to this idyllic place to escape James’ gambling problem and rebuild their relationship, it would seem their house had different plans.  It seems to be both growing and decaying around them, carving itself into Julie’s skin with each day that passes.  The result is a mind-bending book that will have you second-guessing every stray noise around you, every change in the light, and have you considering the very walls around you differently.  And what more could you ask from a haunted house novel?

Until next time, dear readers, Happy All Hallows Read!

 

 

Planning For Autumn!

You wouldn’t really know it by looking out the window, but it is indeed Autumn, beloved patrons (give it a day or so, and you’ll remember).  And, like the leaves that cascade down around us, we have a big pile of programs, classes, and events going on in and around the Library this month, and into November.

As ever, we do our very best to meet the needs and preferences of our community, but if there is a program you would like to see offered, a class you would like to take, or a skill you would like to learn, please let us know!  We are, as ever and always, here for you.

And so, with that said, let’s check out some of the super offerings on our calendars, as well as some important dates to add to your datebook.

STATEWIDE: DEADLINE FOR VOTER REGISTRATION:

October 17, 2018.  Check your status and register to vote here, at the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

STATEWIDE: ELECTION DAY

November 6, 2018.
Information on State Ballot Questions can be found via the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth 


At the Main Library:

Monday, October 29: 7:00 – 8:00pm: Baseball as American Culture

Join us for a fascinating history of America’s game with UMass Lowell professor Frank Morris. Learn how baseball galvanized a divided nation in the 19th century and developed into ‘America’s Pastime” as an allegory to our cultural identity in the decades to come. Includes a history of the Boston Red Sox and a look at how the game both reinforced and challenged cultural themes over time.
This program is generously sponsored by the Friends of the Peabody Institute Library.


At the Creativity Lab:

Tuesday, November 13, 6:30 – 8:30pm: Make a Laser Cut Stamp

Learn to use the Creativity Lab’s laser cutter to make a customized stamp that you can use for any craft project. Materials will be provided.  For ages 18+ only.


At the South Branch:

Wednesday, November 7, 1:30 – 3:00pm: Make Your Own Appliqué

Learn the art of appliqué hand-stitching just in time for the holiday season! Appliqué is a form of ornamental needlework in which pieces of fabric in different shapes and patterns are sewn onto a larger piece to form a picture or pattern.  In this 2-week workshop, participants will be stitching a maple leaf in honor the New England’s most beautiful season!  In the first week, participants will learn the basic techniques of appliqué and begin stitching the design. In the second week, participants can finish their design and are encouraged to ask any questions they may have.  All materials will be provided.


At the West Branch:

Wednesday, November 14, 1:00 – 2:00pm: Heritage Films presents Norman Rockwell, Illustrator

Come join us for a 40 minute film presentation by local historian and film maker Dan Tremblay of Heritage Films! This particular film will focus on Norman Rockwell.


 

Five Book Friday

And our hearty and heartfelt congratulations to the winners of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, Nadia Murad and Denis Mukwege.

https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/nobel-peace-prize-2018-intl-dle/index.html

From the Nobel Peace Prize Committee:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 to Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict…Each of them in their own way has helped to give greater visibility to war-time sexual violence, so that the perpetrators can be held accountable for their actions.

The physician Denis Mukwege has spent large parts of his adult life helping the victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Since the Panzi Hospital was established in Bukavu in 1999, Dr. Mukwege and his staff have treated thousands of patients who have fallen victim to such assaults. Most of the abuses have been committed in the context of a long-lasting civil war that has cost the lives of more than six million Congolese.

Nadia Murad is herself a victim of war crimes. She refused to accept the social codes that require women to remain silent and ashamed of the abuses to which they have been subjected. She has shown uncommon courage in recounting her own sufferings and speaking up on behalf of other victims.

This year’s Nobel Peace Prize is firmly embedded in the criteria spelled out in Alfred Nobel’s will. Denis Mukwege and Nadia Murad have both put their personal security at risk by courageously combating war crimes and seeking justice for the victims. They have thereby promoted the fraternity of nations through the application of principles of international law.

https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1027234/nobel-peace-prize-winners-2018-Denis-Mukwege-Nadia-Murad

You can read more about both of these remarkable human beings on the Nobel Peace Prize Committee’s website.  There is little we can add here, except for our thanks to Dr. Mukwege and Ms. Murad for all they have done, all they will continue to do, and for the inspiration they provide to others.

Waiting for EdenElliot Ackerman is a veteran himself, and his experiences add real depth and emotion to his novel, a National Book Award Finalist, about a veteran coping with the overwhelming challenge of returning home. Eden Malcom lies in a bed, unable to move or to speak, imprisoned in his own mind, covered in burns and existing on life support. His wife Mary spends every day on the sofa in his hospital room. He has never even met their young daughter. And he will never again see the friend and fellow soldier who didn’t make it back home–and who narrates the novel while awaiting his journey to whatever afterlife awaits. But on Christmas, the one day Mary is not at his bedside, Eden’s re-ordered consciousness comes flickering alive. As he begins to find a way to communicate, some troubling truths about his marriage–and about his life before he went to war–come to the surface. Is Eden the same man he once was?  Who is there to tell him who he truly is?  This is a profound and moving novel that centers on a small-scale story, while making big, important claims about the world around the characters–and around the readers, as well.  As the Washington Post wrote in their review, this is: “A classic triangle story of love and friendship, a ghost story, a captivity narrative, and a study of human endurance . . . all of it easily read in one sitting . . . Ackerman’s novel quietly suggests that America itself is a ghost story, and we are all in the act of waiting for Eden.” 

The Shakespeare Requirement: If anyone else out there thought that Julie Schumacher’s first novel, Dear Committee Members, was one of the most darkly funny, cathartic novels in recent memory, then get ready for another novel about the ins, outs, ups, and downs of reality in academia, told with Schumacker’s unflinching eye for quirky detail.  Now is the fall of his discontent, as Jason Fitger, newly appointed chair of the English Department of Payne University, takes arms against a sea of troubles, personal and institutional. His ex-wife is sleeping with the dean who must approve whatever modest initiatives he undertakes. The fearsome department secretary Fran clearly runs the show (when not taking in rescue parrots and dogs) and holds plenty of secrets she’s not sharing. The lavishly funded Econ Department keeps siphoning off English’s meager resources and has taken aim at its remaining office space. And Fitger’s attempt to get an antediluvian Shakespeare scholar to retire backfires spectacularly when the press concludes that the Bard is being kicked to the curricular curb.  Schumacher writes acidic satire, with zero tolerance for hypocrisy, and an absolutely delightful sense of humor that has to be read to be believed.  Kirkus Reviews gave this sensational book a starred review, noting, “”Schumacher abandons the epistolary style of her previous novel for a straight narrative but retains all of its acid satire in a sequel that is far more substantive and just as funny… A witty but kindhearted academic satire that oscillates between genuine compassion and scathing mockery with admirable dexterity.”

Kill the Queen: The first novel in Jennifer Estep’s Crown of Shards epic fantasy series is a sure-fire treat for Game of Thrones fans looking for a new series to savor.  In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten. But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre. Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move. But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.  Booklist hailed the arrival of this series’ opener, noting “Estep starts an exciting new fantasy series full of magic, fierce women, and revenge.”

Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future: Mary Robinson was the first female president of the Republic of Ireland, and is now the UN Special Envoy on Climate Change, and as such, this slim work is powerful indeed.  Since 2003, Robinson has been traveling the world to raise awareness of, and investigate the realities of climate change. Mary Robinson’s mission would lead her all over the world, from Malawi to Mongolia, and to a heartening revelation: that an irrepressible driving force in the battle for climate justice could be found at the grassroots level, mainly among women, many of them mothers and grandmothers like herself. From Sharon Hanshaw, the Mississippi matriarch whose campaign began in her East Biloxi hair salon and culminated in her speaking at the United Nations, to Constance Okollet, a small farmer who transformed the fortunes of her ailing community in rural Uganda, Robinson met with ordinary people whose resilience and ingenuity had already unlocked extraordinary change.  Library Journal gave this remarkable book a starred review, explaining that  “Robinson puts a human face on this politically charged issue, adding to the climate change conversation. Highly recommended.”

The Tango War: The Struggle for the Hearts, Minds and Riches of Latin America During World War II: Mary Jo McConahay fills an important gap in our understanding of the Second World War with this view of Latin America, and how all the combatant nations of the world attempted to gain influence and power in the area.  The fight was often dirty: residents were captured to exchange for U.S. prisoners of war and rival spy networks shadowed each other across the continent.  Though the Allies triumphed, at the war’s inception it looked like the Axis would win. A flow of raw materials in the Southern Hemisphere, at a high cost in lives, was key to ensuring Allied victory, as were military bases supporting the North African campaign, the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, and fending off attacks on the Panama Canal. Allies secured loyalty through espionage and diplomacy―including help from Hollywood and Mickey Mouse―while Jews and innocents among ethnic groups ―Japanese, Germans―paid an unconscionable price. Mexican pilots flew in the Philippines and twenty-five thousand Brazilians breached the Gothic Line in Italy.  This is an eye-opening account that is a must-read for history buffs, espionage aficionados, and thriller fans alike! Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review, as well, praising the fact that “McConahay gives an account thick with detail and unexpected twists regarding America’s efforts to control the resources of Latin America. Fast-paced and informative, this is essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand World War II and some of the forces that led to it.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons: Happy Reading!