Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Bloomsday to you, beloved patrons!

As we discussed a while back, Bloomsday celebrates James Joyce’s masterpiece, Ulysses, which is set entirely on June 16, 1904–which Joyce chose because it was the anniversary of his first meeting with his wife and muse, Nora Barnacle (pictured on the left).  Festivals are held around the world to commemorate the day in the life of Leopold Bloom (hence the name of the day), but there is no one who can outdo Dublin .  Don’t believe me, check out the Bloomsday website, with the week-long schedule of festivities!  For those of you on Twitter, also check out the feed of the National Library of Ireland, which is having way too much fun today with their mini-Joyce:

While we don’t have a Tiny Joyce wandering through out stacks today, we do have plenty of new books that have strolled onto our shelves this week that are very much looking forward to making your acquaintance!  Check out some of them below:

Love, Africa: Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jeffrey Gettleman has covered every world conflict for the past twenty years, and has spent the last decade as the New York Times bureau chief in East Africa–the fulfillment of one of his life’s goal, which this book documents.  At nineteen, Gettleman fell in love, twice. On a do-it-yourself community service trip in college, he went to East Africa—a terrifying, exciting, dreamlike part of the world in the throes of change that imprinted itself on his imagination and on his heart.  But around that same time he also fell in love with a fellow Cornell student—the brightest, classiest, most principled woman he’d ever met. To say they were opposites was an understatement. She became a criminal lawyer in America; he hungered to return to Africa. For the next decade he would be torn between these two abiding passions.  This book is his coming-of-age story that deals with tortuous long-distance relationships, screwing up, forgiveness, parenthood, and happiness that explores the power of finding yourself in the most unexpected of places.   Critics are cheering that Gettleman brings the same passion and drive to this, his debut novel, as he does to his journalism, creating a book that is at once a love letter–to Africa, to journalism, and to life–and a fascinating glimpse into the very challenging world of international journalism.  Booklist gave it a starred review, calling it “[An] exciting, harrowing memoir …. there’s a thrilling immediacy and attention to detail in Gettleman’s writing that puts the reader right beside him…Gettleman’s memoir is an absolute must-read.”

The Girl Who Knew Too Much: Amanda Quick creates terrific historical romantic mysteries, and this mystery brings all the glamour and danger of the 1930’s to the page with her signature flair for detail and character.  When Hollywood moguls and stars want privacy, they head to an idyllic small town on the coast, where the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel caters to their every need. It’s where reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool.  The dead woman had a red-hot secret about up-and-coming leading man Nick Tremayne, which Irene, a rookie at a third-rate gossip rag, is desperate to discover.  But when Irene’s investigation threatens the famous actor, she finds herself teaming up with the Burning Cove Hotel’s owner, a once-famous magician who suffered a mysterious injury during his last performance.  Together, they realize the dreadful secrets behind the Burning Cove Hotel’s glitz and glamour–but will they live long enough to expose the truth?  Quick’s books are the perfect summer reads, and this stand alone novel is sure to keep you guessing right up until the final scene.  Library Journal loved this one, saying “This swiftly moving romance brims with surprising plot twists, delicious sensuality, and a delightfully classy 1930’s California setting. An adventurous romp that will have readers hungry for more.”

The Teeth of the Comb: I don’t think that Osama Alomar, a Syrian writer living in exile in Pittsburgh, PA, sees the world quite like most of us do.  And that is a gloriously wonderful thing, especially because he is so talented at bringing his world to life in these little parables, political allegories, and short stories, all of which feature personified animals (snakes, wolves, sheep), natural things (a swamp, a lake, a rainbow, trees), mankind’s creations (trucks, swords, zeroes) as characters. They aspire, they plot, they hope, they destroy, they fail, they love. These wonderful small stories animate new realities and make us see our reality anew.   This tiny book with big messages and grand tales is getting enormous, rave reviews from all corners–I am fairly sure some of the quoted reviews are longer than the stories!  But that just shows you what a breath of fresh air Alomar’s writing is.  Take, for example, Publisher’s Weekly‘s starred review: “There are no wasted words in Alomar’s beautiful collection of very short fictions. Philosophical and subversive, these tiny parables deconstruct human failings with a keen insight. The title story, an anecdote about the uneven teeth of a comb, reveals a cautionary tale about the pitfalls of social stratification…By working together with C.J. Collins on the translation, the author succeeds in highlighting the inherent poetics of his prose….Alomar’s work swims in the aspects of the modern world that do not make sense upon closer inspection, like the correlations between poverty and capitalism. These brief narratives are not nihilistic; they convey a plea for progress and improvement. Alomar’s writing brims with hope, and this slim volume is full of compassion and depth.”

The Loyal Son: The War in Benjamin Franklin’s House: Ben Franklin is usually portrayed as the most lovable of America’s founding fathers. His wit, his charm, his inventiveness—even his grandfatherly appearance—are legendary. But this image obscures the scandals that dogged him throughout his life, as historian Daniel Mark Epstein’s new book explores.  When he was twenty-four, Franklin fathered a child with a woman who was not his wife. He adopted the boy, raised him, and educated him to be his aide. Ben and William became inseparable. After the famous kite-in-a-thunderstorm experiment, it was William who proved that the electrical charge in a lightning bolt travels from the ground up, not from the clouds down. On a diplomatic mission to London, it was William who charmed London society. He was invited to walk in the procession of the coronation of George III; Ben was not.  But the outbreak of the American Revolution caused a devastating split between father and son, who was, by then, royal governor of New Jersey. In 1776, the Continental Congress imprisoned William for treason. George Washington made efforts to win William’s release, while his father, to the world’s astonishment, appeared to have abandoned him to his fate.  Epstein gets under the skin of this well-known story to show the very personal effects of the American Revolution on one very famous family.  Historians and readers alike have always praised Epstein’s work, and this book earned a starred review from Kirkus, who hailed it “A gripping history of a family torn apart by political upheaval . . . Drawing on much unpublished correspondence as well as published works, the author constructs a fast-paced, vivid narrative with a host of characters whose appearance and personality he etches with deft concision. . . . A perceptive, gritty portrayal of the frenzy of war and a father and son caught at its tumultuous center.”

The Refrigerator MonologuesCatherynne Valente’s imagination is absolutely limitless, and she is a marvel at analyzing, dissecting, and re-conceiving pop-culture, media, and our human fascination with in.  This book presents a series of linked stories from the points of view of the wives and girlfriends of superheroes, female heroes, and anyone who’s ever been “refrigerated”: comic book women who are killed, raped, brainwashed, driven mad, disabled, or had their powers taken so that a male superhero’s storyline will progress.  In an entirely new and original superhero universe, Valente subversively explores these ideas and themes in the superhero genre, treating them with the same love, gravity, and humor as she has analyzed fairy tales (and really, aren’t superhero tales pretty much the same thing in the modern age?).  With illustrations by Annie Wu, this is a wholly unique collection that showcases superheroes is a wholly novel way.  The Washington Post agrees, saying “In this novella, the superhero girlfriend gets to tell her own version of events in the afterlife. The women’s voices are strong: bitter and full of pain, yet steel-tipped in sarcasm and humor.”

 

Until next week, dear readers–Happy Reading!

And Happy Bloomsday!

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