It’s always a sad day here at the Free-For-All when we can’t bring you our regular Five Book Friday review of the new books that are partying on our shelves….so in order to make things up to you, beloved patrons, we’re going to celebrate Six Book Saturday this week, providing you an extra helping of new reading material! We hope this makes up for the lack of new books in your life yesterday!
The Grey Bastards: Jonathan French’s gritty, occasionally gruesome, adrenaline-fueled fantasy adventure is being hailed as an ideal escapist novel for all those pining away for further episodes of Game of Thrones. “Live in the saddle. Die on the hog.” Such is the creed of the half-orcs dwelling in the Lot Lands. Sworn to hardened brotherhoods known as hoofs, these former slaves patrol their unforgiving country astride massive swine bred for war. They are all that stand between the decadent heart of noble Hispartha and marauding bands of full-blood orcs. Jackal rides with the Grey Bastards, one of eight hoofs that have survived the harsh embrace of the Lots. Young, cunning and ambitious, he schemes to unseat the increasingly tyrannical founder of the Bastards, a plague-ridden warlord called the Claymaster. When the troubling appearance of a foreign sorcerer comes upon the heels of a faceless betrayal, Jackal’s plans are thrown into turmoil. He finds himself saddled with a captive elf girl whose very presence begins to unravel his alliances. Not for the faint-of-heart, critics are nevertheless raving over this novel that makes the traditionally villains of fantasy into the most unlikely of heroes. Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review, calling it “A dirty, blood-soaked gem of a novel [that reads] like Mad Max set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth…powered by unparalleled worldbuilding, polished storytelling, and relentless pacing. A fantasy masterwork.”
The Lost Vintage: A story about taste, memory, history, and self-discovery, Ann Mah’s book is being recommended far and wide for fans of Sweetbitter and The Nightingale. To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. But no sooner does she arrive than Kate discovers a hidden room, and a long-buried secret in her family’s past. Her investigation takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation. As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection? Bon Appetit magazine wrote a glowing review for this book, noting “Fans of World War II historical fiction have a new title to add to their book club reading list this summer….You’ll easily start and finish the entire book in the span of a long weekend.”
There There: Tommy Orange’s new book is making ‘Best Of’ lists across the country for its searing, emotional portrayal of an America that few of us have the chance to know–the life within Native American/Indian culture. This book introduces readers to twelve vibrant, empathetic ‘Urban Indians’ living in Oakland, California, whose lives come together at the Big Oakland Powwow. Orange gracefully reveals each character’s reasons for attending the Powwow—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—all while spinning the novel to a shocking, yet somehow terribly inevitable conclusion that will change each of their lives. This is a book about identity, nature, beauty and rage, that copes with the issues of addiction, abuse, and suicide with which the Native American community is forced to grapple, as well as a searing study of their endangered and precious culture. Library Journal was just one outlet to give this novel a starred review; in that, they called this novel “Visceral… A chronicle of domestic violence, alcoholism, addiction, and pain, the book reveals the perseverance and spirit of the characters… Unflinching candor… Highly recommended.”
Room to Dream: Fans of Twin Peaks, and David Lynch’s other challenging, beloved, and intriguing works will no doubt find something to love, question, and explore in his unexpected memoir. Lynch’s lyrical, intimate, and unfiltered personal reflections are accompanied by biographical sections written by close collaborator Kristine McKenna. These sections are based on more than one hundred new interviews with surprisingly candid ex-wives, family members, actors, agents, musicians, and colleagues in various fields who all have their own takes on the moment that Lynch describes. As a result, this hybrid biography/memoir is weird, colorful, challenging, and thoroughly rewarding, especially for Lynch’s fans. As The Irish Times noted in its review, “ultimately, Room to Dream does provoke wonder, and advocate dreaming, and further questioning, as all of Lynch’s best artistic work does.”
American City: Flint was already a troubled city in 2014 when the state of Michigan—in the name of austerity—shifted the source of its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Soon after, citizens began complaining about the water that flowed from their taps—but officials continued to insist that the water was fine. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital, took state officials at their word and encouraged the parents and children in her care to continue drinking the water. But a conversation at a cookout with an old friend, leaked documents from a rogue environmental inspector, and the activism of a concerned mother raised red flags about lead—a neurotoxin whose irreversible effects fall most heavily on children. This book is Dr. Mona’ s quest to provide and release proof of the Flint water crisis to the world, of an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose family’s activist roots inspired her pursuit of justice, and a riveting, beautifully rendered account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of hope. Booklist gave Dr. Mona’s book a starred review, celebrating its power and saying: “Told with passion and intelligence, What the Eyes Don’t See is an essential text for understanding the full scope of injustice in Flint and the importance of fighting for what’s right.”
History of Violence: On Christmas Eve 2012, in Paris, the novelist Édouard Louis was raped and almost murdered by a man he had just met. This act of violence left Louis shattered; its aftermath made him a stranger to himself and sent him back to the village, the family, and the past he had sworn to leave behind. This book, a fascinating non-fiction novel that explores the event, Louis’ own past, and the homophobia of the society in which the assault occurred, is drawing comparisons to Truman Capote’s In True Blood for its searching portrayal of Louis’ story, as well as the effects that his experiences had on his family and friends, as well. Publisher’s Weekly wrote a deeply respectful review of this powerful and challenging work, describing how “In this moving autobiographical novel . . . Louis’s visceral story captures the overwhelming emotional impact and complicated shame of surviving sexual assault.”
Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!