Five Book Friday, and more Hurricane Help

To those of you lovers of Pumpkin Spice, Maple, and Caramel Apple, we here at the Free For All wish you a very happy Second Day of Autumn!

We had some technical and time problems yesterday that prevented us from posting, but this Special Saturday Selection comes with lots of love, apologies, and literary gems.

Via NBC News, Mexican Firefighters and Rescuers working to save earthquake survivors

This week saw yet another hurricane devastate our friends in Puerto Rico, while an earthquake has brought widespread suffering  to our friends in Mexico.  Once again, we bring you ways to help.

The island of Puerto Rico is without power, and it is making it very difficult for friends and family to check in on loved one.  There are some numbers that you can call, however:

  • If you want to check on a loved one, call Puerto Rico’s Federal Affairs Administration at 1-202-778-0710.
  • For those who know someone who needs help on the island, call 787-777-0940. This is a radio station that is receiving emergency calls.
  • Another number you can call is the hurricane hotline at 1-877-976-2400. A tourism company set up the hotline for hotels, guests and industry partners.
  • Another option is to use American Red Cross’s website to search for people who have already registered themselves as safe. Click here to search for your loved one.

Callers are asked to be patient and keep calling if the line is busy. Also, do not hang up if you are on hold.

Here is a list of the following organizations that are doing good in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Dominica, and could use your help:



As we noted before, the rebuilding and recovery efforts in these places is going to take a very long time, so if you are unable to donate now, please don’t worry.  We will be offering more information as it becomes available of any and all ways that you can help.

And now, because we all need a little bit of cheer, especially during tough weeks like these, here are some of the books that have graced our shelves this week, and would love to join you on your fall escapades….

The Book of Disquiet:  This gloriously quirky, eye-catching book is a compendium of the thoughts, ideas, ruminations, and insights by Portuguese modernist master Fernando Pessoa.  Recognized as one of Portugal’s greatest poets, Pessoa (1888-1935) wrote poetry under various heteronyms (fictional character/identities) to whom he attributed biographies different from his own, making each piece of this magical puzzle of a book a new and intriguing adventure.  Full of fresh metaphors and unique perceptions, this is a book you can read cover-to-cover, or dip into at random.  Either way, it’s a beautiful, mind-expanding journey that will have a lot of appeal for fans of existential writers like J.D. Salinger or Thomas Pyncheon. NPR agrees, saying “Pessoa’s work…is one of life’s great miracles. Pessoa invented numerous alter egos. Arguably, the four greatest poets in the Portuguese language were all Pessoa using different names.”

To Die in SpringRalf Rothmann is a little book, but it packs quite the emotional wallop, dealing, as it does, with the darkest days of the Second World Wars, and the shadow that history casts across the generations.  Distant, silent, often drunk, Walter Urban is a difficult man to have as a father. But his son is curious about Walter’s experiences during World War II, and so makes him a present of a blank notebook in which to write down his memories. But when Walter dies, leaving only the barest skeleton of a story behind, his son resolves to fill in the gaps himself, rightly or wrongly, with what he can piece together of his father’s early life.  This, then, is the story of Walter and his dangerously outspoken friend Friedrich Caroli, who are tricked into volunteering for the army during the spring of 1945: the last, and in many ways the worst, months of the war, enduring horrors that will lead both men to do what they previously imagined unthinkable.  This book is being hailed already as a modern masterpiece, with Kirkus Reviews declaring “Rothmann’s writing is spare and vivid, nearly cinematic. It is also crucial: German accounts of WWII have been relatively rare and slow in coming, especially when it comes to descriptions of their country’s own suffering. Rothmann is unflinching in his accounts of both German atrocities and misery . . . A spectacular novel . . . Searing, haunting, incandescent”

Going Dark: The Lost Platoon: From bestselling author Monica McCarty comes a new contemporary romance full of suspense, international intrigue, and some fascinating settings that kicks off what promises to be a sensational new series.  Marine ecologist Annie Henderson joins her new boyfriend on a trip to the Western Isles of Scotland to protest a hazardous offshore drilling venture. When she realizes that she may be swept up in something far more dangerous than she’d intended, there is only one man she can turn to. . . .She and the mysterious but sexy dive boat captain haven’t exactly gotten off to the best start, but something about his quiet confidence makes her think that he’s the kind of man she can depend on. Because he’s gruff and guarded, she can tell Dan Warren has secrets. But she could never imagine how high the stakes are for him to keep his cover, even as he risks everything to protect her.  Fans will know that McCarty always delivers a unique story with refreshingly inventive characters…and new readers have a perfect place to get started with this story!  RT Book Reviews loves this book, noting “A master storyteller…McCarty breathes life into her memorable characters as they face dangerous adventures. The fresh plots, infused with romance and passion, are also brimming with history and drama.”

Lightning MenFans of Thomas Mullen’s stupendous Darktown will be happy to know that the next adventure of Officer Denny Rakestraw and “Negro Officers” Lucius Boggs and Tommy Smith, who walk the dangerous streets of 1950’s Atlanta.  When Rake’s brother-in-law launches a scheme to rally the Ku Klux Klan to “save” their neighborhood, his efforts spiral out of control, forcing Rake to choose between loyalty to family or the law.  Across town, Boggs and Smith try to shut down the supply of white lightning and drugs into their territory, finding themselves up against more powerful foes than they’d expected. Battling corrupt cops and ex-cons, Nazi brown shirts and rogue Klansmen, the officers are drawn closer to the fires that threaten to consume the city once again.  Mullen’s work has drawn comparisons to crime-fiction greats like Dennis Lehane and Walter Mosely, and his characters are the kind of people who live with you even after the cover has closed.  Booklist gave this book a starred review, cheering “Mullen effectively uses the police procedural format to shine a light on the daily indignities and violence blacks suffered in the pre–civil rights South, while delivering a plot that never lets up on suspense.”

The Devil’s Wedding Ring: If you like the super-dark, mysterious North, and the mysteries that come out of is, then you are going to want to check out award-winning crime novelist Vidar Sundstøl’s latest book.  On Midsummer Eve in 1985, a young folklore researcher disappears from the small Norwegian village of Eidsborg.  Exactly thirty years later, student Cecilie Wiborg, who was also researching the pagan rituals associated with the 13th-century Eidsborg stave church, goes missing.  And then Knut Abrahamsen, a former local police officer, is found drowned with his pockets filled with stones.  Hearing of the death of his former colleague and friend, private investigator Max Fjellanger feels compelled to leave his long-time home in Florida and return to his native Norway to attend Knut’s funeral. Even though they haven’t spoken in more than three decades, Max is not convinced that Knut killed himself.  There are details about the circumstances of his death that just don’t add up…and there seems to be a link to the case of the missing researcher, which the two of them had worked together—until threats from a corrupt sheriff put an end to the investigation and to Max’s career on the police force.  But this is a case full of occult darkness and mystery that may very well be more than Fjellanger bargained for…Taut, thoughtful, and seriously creepy, this is a fast-paced adventure that earned a stared review from Publisher’s Weekly, who praised the way “Ancient myth and contemporary detection collide in this highly impressive thriller.”

One Long NightA Global History of Concentration Camps: Concentration camps have been a part of human society for over a century, but this book is one of the first to draw connections between the various sites of those camps, their evolution, efficacy, and enduring legacy.  In this harrowing work based on archival records and interviews during travel to four continents, Andrea Pitzer reveals for the first time the chronological and geopolitical history of concentration camps. Beginning with 1890s Cuba, she pinpoints concentration camps around the world and across decades. From the Philippines and Southern Africa in the early twentieth century to the Soviet Gulag and detention camps in China and North Korea during the Cold War, camp systems have been used as tools for civilian relocation and political repression. Often justified as a measure to protect a nation, or even the interned groups themselves, camps have instead served as brutal and dehumanizing sites that have claimed the lives of millions.  This is a harrowing book about the worst aspects of human nature, but it is also a startling human book that earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who explained, “Drawing on memoirs, histories, and archival sources, [Pitzer] offers a chilling, well-documented history of the camps’ development…. A potent, powerful history of cruelty and dehumanization.”


Until next Friday, beloved patrons–happy reading!

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