Five Book Friday!

And a very happy August to you, beloved patrons!

We may be, meteorologically speaking, in the doldrums, but for those of us who enjoy celebrating all that there is to be celebrated, August is far from a dull month.  Here are just a few of the holidays that you can savor this month:

August 8: National Sneak Some Zucchini On To Your Neighbor’s Porch Day

This is not a joke.  It’s in the Farmer’s Almanac, so clearly, it must be true.  August is high season for zucchini, and some people are lucky to have an over-abundance of the lovely green squashes, which can grow really quite mammoth if not picked, and really don’t store very well.  As a result, Pennsylvanian radio host Tom Roy designated August 8 as a day to off-load some of your zucchini by until the dead of night and quietly creeping up to your neighbors’ front doors, leaving plenty of zucchini for them to enjoy.

August 9: National Book Lover’s Day

This is not a drill.  It’s a whole day to celebrate you–and me–and all of us who measure our lives in pages and chapters.  So get out there and celebrate bibliophiles!  Or, better yet, come into the Library and visit with some treasured volumes!

August 24: National Waffle Day

The first U.S. patent for a waffle iron was issued in the U.S. on August 24, 1869 to Cornelius Swarthout of Troy, New York.  The first recipe for waffles (or, at least, a food recognizable as waffles) was written in the 14th century, so indulge in some history as well as some brunch today, and don’t skimp on the maple syrup!

August 30: National Toasted Marshmallow Day

Sponsored by the National Confectioner’s Association of America, this day is reserved for the blazing glory and the smoky deliciousness that is the toasted marshmallow.  Mind you, it’s not National Smores Day….that’s August 10th.  This day is for the marshmallows alone.

And every day in August is a good day for books!  So let’s take a look at some of the new titles that have paraded onto our shelves this week for your reading pleasure!

The Unwomanly Face of War: Nobel-Prize Winner Svetlana Alexievich’s stellar 1988 book is finally available in translation, and has lost nothing of its power or insight over the years.  Alexievich traveled thousands of miles and visited more than a hundred towns to record the oral histories of women who fought, worked, and served in the Second World War. nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners, and snipers. They battled alongside men, and yet, after the victory, their efforts and sacrifices were forgotten.  In this collection, this symphony of voices reveals a different aspect of the war—the everyday details of life in combat left out of the official histories, and the remarkable, every day women who made history.  This is an incredibly important work, and a huge book for anyone interested in military history, women’s history, human interest stories, and storytelling in general.  The Guardian summed it all up beautifully, calling this book “A monument to courage . . . It would be hard to find a book that feels more important or original. . . . Alexievich’s account of the second world war as seen through the eyes of hundreds of women is an extraordinary thing. . . . Her achievement is as breathtaking as the experiences of these women are awe-inspiring.”

Among the Living and the Dead: A Tale of Exile and Homecoming on the War Roads of Europe: Another fascinating tale of women in the Second World War, this one from Inara Verzemnieks, whose grandmother Livija and her grandmother’s sister, Ausma, were separated when they fled their family farm. They would not see each other again for more than 50 years. Raised by her grandparents in Washington State, Inara grew up among expatriates, scattering smuggled Latvian sand over the coffins of the dead and singing folk songs about a land she had never visited.  When Inara discovered the scarf Livija wore when she left home, this tangible remnant of the past points the way back to the remote village where her family broke apart.  This book is the interwoven story of Grandmother Livija’s life as a refugee, Ausma’s harrowing exile in Siberia under Stalin, and Inara’s quest for her family’s story, all coming together to form a beautiful, haunting tale of resilience, love, and profound loss, not only of one family, but of a nation and a generation.  Booklist called this work “Spellbinding and poetic, this is a moving tribute to the enduring promise of home.”

A Dark So Deadly: Beloved thriller-writer Stuart MacBride is back with a fascinating, fast-paced standalone story of an erstwhile group known as the Misfit Mob. It’s where the Scotland police dump the officers it can’t get rid of, but wants to: the outcasts, the troublemakers, the compromised. Officers like DC Callum MacGregor, lumbered with all the boring go-nowhere cases. So when an ancient mummy turns up at the Oldcastle tip, it’s his job to find out which museum it’s been stolen from.  But when Callum uncovers links between his ancient corpse and three missing young men, life starts to get a lot more interesting. The “real police” already have more cases than they can cope with, so, against everyone’s better judgement, the Misfit Mob are just going to have to manage this one on their own.  No one expects them to succeed, but right now they’re the only thing standing between the killer’s victims and a slow, lingering death. The question is, can they prove everyone wrong before he strikes again? Clever, funny, and full of sensational atmosphere, this is an ideal way for new readers to discover MacBride’s talent.  Library Journal agrees, praising this novel’s  “Wickedly twisty plotting and dazzling displays of black humour”.

The Half-Drowned King: It isn’t often that we get a fiction debut about mythical Vikings, but here one is, and we couldn’t be more excited!  Ragnvald Eysteinsson grew up believing that he would one day take his dead father’s place as chief of his family’s lands. But, sailing home from a raiding trip to Ireland, the young warrior is betrayed and left for dead by men in the pay of his greedy stepfather. Rescued by a fisherman, Ragnvald is determined to have revenge for his stepfather’s betrayal and rescue his beloved sister Svanhild. Meanwhile, Svanhild is desperate to escape the arranged marriage her stepfather organized–but when freedom comes at the hands of her brother’s hatred rival, will she have the courage to take it?  A fascinating adventure with lots of rich characters and deep questions, this is a book for all the adventurers out there seeking new literary lands to explore.  Kirkus Reviews loved this one too, saying in their review “While Hartsuyker’s prose is straightforward, the plot is as deliciously complex as Game of Thrones. And, in an era so dominated by the tales of men, it’s nice to see a complicated, cunning heroine like Svanhild swoop in and steal the show. Hold on to your helms and grab your shields—Hartsuyker is just getting started.”

The Seventh Function of Language: If you, like me, like your literature quirky and insolent, then look no further than Laurent Binet’s newest release.  This book has elements of a Dan Brown caper, but with the French intelligentsia as its cast of characters.  We begin in Paris, 1980, when the literary critic Roland Barthes dies―struck by a laundry van―after lunch with the presidential candidate François Mitterand. The world of letters mourns a tragic accident. But what if it wasn’t an accident at all? What if Barthes was . . . murdered?  Jacques Bayard is the hapless detective sent to investigate the case, who finds himself in search of a lost manuscript by the linguist Roman Jakobson on the mysterious “seventh function of language.”  Filled with secret societies, French philosophy, mayhem, and a love of language, Binet’s story is a bizarre and wonderful adventure that earned as starred and a boxed review from Publisher’s Weekly (no mean feat, that), who called this tale “[A] loving inquiry into 20th-century intellectual history that seamlessly folds historical moments . . . into a brilliant illustration of the possibilities left to the modern novel.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!