Tag Archives: Author Days

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free For All birthday to James Tiptree, Jr., also known as Alice B. Sheldon!

Via Wikipedia

Bradley was born on this day in 1915 in an upper-class suburb of Chicago.   Her father Herbert, was a lawyer and naturalist, and her mother Mary Hastings Bradley, was a prolific fiction and travel writer.  As a result, Mary had to opportunity to travel extensively from a young age.  Between trips to Africa, she attended several schools in Chicago, Lausanne (Switzerland), and New York.  At the age of 19 she dropped out of Sarah Lawrence College to marry William Davey, her first husband–a move that was largely driven by feelings of familial duty rather than love–became a graphic artist, a painter, and art critic for the Chicago Sun.  

In 1942, following her divorce from Davey, she joined the United States Army Air Forces and worked in the Army Air Forces photo-intelligence group, rising all the way to the rank of major.  In 1945 she married her second husband, Huntington D. Sheldon, and following her demobilization, the two set up a small business together, and Alice began publishing her short stories in magazines around the country.  Although she and her husband were both invited to join the CIA, Alice worked for the institution for only three years before resigning and returning to college.  She susequently graduated from American University in 1959,  and earned her doctorate at George Washington University in Experimental Psychology in 1967.  She also continued her science-fiction writing James Tiptree Jr., in order to protect her academic reputation.  The name “Tiptree” came from a branded jar of marmalade, and the “Jr.” was her husband’s idea. In an interview, she said: “A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.”

Tiptree’s work is marked by her lifelong feminism.  She worked across genres, forms, and styles, producing everything from space opera to hard science fiction.  It was only in 1977 that it was announced that James Tiptree, Jr. and Alice Bradley were one and the same person.  The James Tiptree Jr. Award, created by Karen Joy Fowler and Pat Murphy in 1991, is given in her honor each year for a work of science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.

And, as ever, what better way to celebrate than with more books!  Here are just a few of the titles that meandered onto our shelves this week:

Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago: In 1929, thirty-year-old gangster Al Capone ruled both Chicago’s underworld and its corrupt government. To a public who scorned Prohibition, “Scarface” became a local hero and national celebrity. But after the brutal St. Valentine’s Day Massacre transformed Capone into “Public Enemy Number One,” the federal government found an unlikely new hero in a twenty-seven-year-old Prohibition agent named Eliot Ness. Chosen to head the legendary law enforcement team known as “The Untouchables,” Ness set his sights on crippling Capone’s criminal empire.  Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz utilized decades of primary source research—including the personal papers of Ness and his associates, newly released federal files, and long-forgotten crime magazines containing interviews with the gangsters and G-men themselves, and have crafted a compelling and engrossing history out of their epic fight for the streets of Chicago.  Fans of Sara Parestsky’s work will no doubt be intrigued to hear that she contributed a blurb for this book, calling it “an extraordinary achievement. The writing is riveting, the research impeccable—including material never published before—and the history of a city and a country teetering on the brink of total lawlessness is a sober warning for our own age.”

The Sea Queen: Fans of Linnea Hartsuyker’s The Half-Drowned King will be all aboard for this riveting sequel.  Six years have passed, and Ragnvald Eysteinsson is now king of Sogn.  But fighting battles for King Harald keeps him away from home, as he confronts treachery and navigates a political landscape that grows more dangerous the higher he rises.  Ragnvald’s sister Svanhild has found the freedom and adventure she craves at the side of the rebel explorer Solvi Hunthiofsson, though not without a cost. She longs for a home where her quiet son can grow strong, and a place where she can put down roots, even as Solvi’s ambition draws him back to Norway’s battles again and keeps her divided from her brother.  As a growing rebellion unites King Harald’s enemies, Ragnvald suspects that some Norse nobles are not loyal to Harald’s dream of a unified Norway. He sets a plan in motion to defeat all of his enemies, and bring his sister back to his side, while Svanhild finds herself with no easy decisions, and no choices that will leave her truly free.  Their choices will have repercussions not only for them, but for Norwegian history as a whole.  Critics have been loving this series from its beginnings, and Library Journal gave this book a super review, noting “Hartsuyker is a wonderfully descriptive writer equally adept at penning truly horrifying battle scenes as depicting life in ninth-century Norway. Fans of History Channel’s Vikings should find this novel equally compelling.”

The Reservoir Tapes: If you’ve not read Jon McGregor’s Booker-Prize-nominated Reservoir 13, we first, highly suggest that you do that.  And then pick up this book, which returns readers to the world of that same English village, and the community that is trying to grapple with the loss of one of its own.  A teenage girl has gone missing. The whole community has been called upon to join the search. And now an interviewer arrives, intent on capturing the community’s unstable stories about life in the weeks and months before Becky Shaw vanished.   Each villager has a memory to share or a secret to conceal, a connection to Becky that they are trying to make or break.  With each interview, a fractured portrait of Becky emerges at the edges of our vision―a girl swimming, climbing, and smearing dirt onto a scared boy’s face, images to be cherished and challenged as the search for her goes on, and the deep ties that bind and strangle these villagers together become clear.  This book adds stunning detail to the world that McGregor created in his first book, and the Los Angeles Times called it “scary stuff, this book, pounding as it does again and again with the insistent menace of people who go missing. But as the chapters accumulate, you begin to build a mental and emotional map of what’s left behind: a wounded town, fully specific enough to be engrossing but also slyly universal enough to make one consider their own common ground.”

Our House: Louise Candlish is a wizard at creating nightmares out of the most familiar scenarios, and this newest release puts all her talents on display. When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern coparenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.  Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.  This book has been getting starred reviews across the board, with Booklist calling it a “twisty domestic thriller that features everything readers enjoy about the genre: dark secrets, unreliable narrators, a fast-moving plot, and a terrifyingly plausible premise. This could be summer’s breakout hit.”

Bone on Bone: Pulitzer-prize-winning author Julia Keller is back with another installment in her Bell Elkins series.  After a three-year prison sentence, Bell Elkins is back in Acker’s Gap. And she finds herself in the white-hot center of a complicated and deadly case — even as she comes to terms with one last, devastating secret of her own.  A prominent local family has fallen victim to the same sickness that infects the whole region: drug addiction. With mother against father, child against parent, and tensions that lead inexorably to tragedy, they are trapped in a grim, hopeless struggle with nowhere to turn.  Bell has lost her job as prosecutor — but not her affection for her ragtag, hard-luck hometown. Teamed up with former Deputy Jake Oakes, who battles his own demons as he adjusts to life as a paraplegic, and aided by the new prosecutor, Rhonda Lovejoy, Bell tackles a case as poignant as it is perilous, as heartbreaking as it is challenging.  This is series with a devoted following, and this installment itself has been winning over readers’ hearts and minds.  Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review and noted “This thoughtful, painfully empathetic story will long linger in the reader’s memory.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And many very warm Free-For-All birthday wishes to Francesco Petrarca, commonly referred to as Petrarch, who was born on this day in 1304.  Quite literally the first Renaissance man, Petrarch was a scholar, poet, ambassador, professional tourist, epic correspondent, and intellectual who helped establish the period known as the Renaissance–specifically because he defined the “Dark Ages” as the period before his birth.

Petrarch himself, via Wikipedia

But despite Petrarch’s being upheld throughout time as a leading light of intellectualism, art, and the humanities, but let’s, for a few moments, focus on something a little more…human.  Petrarch loved his cat.  In fact, he loved his cat so much that when it died, he had it embalmed and placed in a glass case in his house in Arqua, Italy.  Below the case, is a marble slab with a poem written in 1635 by the next owner of the house as a joke of sorts, mocking Petrarch’s affinity for his feline friend.  Indeed, there are those who claim the whole thing, from cat to display case, is a kind of hoax meant to entice tourists.  You can still see it today if you visit Petrarch’s house in Arqua, or in the photo below (a note: we’re not sure quite why the cat is hairless.  Perhaps it’s because of the embalming process, or perhaps it’s the result of wear and tear over time.)  You are welcome to decide for yourself.

Petrarch’s Cat, via http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/literarytourist/?p=59

And while we’re on the subject, let’s have a talk about other literary matters, shall we?  Especially about the new books that have crept in, like the fog, on little cat’s feet, and are currently waiting on our shelves for your arrival!

The Calculating Stars: Mary Robinette Kowal has an imagination as wide as the cosmos, and in this new novel, she turns her talent to creating an alternate history of spaceflight that will appeal to all fans of Hidden Figures.  On a cold spring night in 1952, a huge meteorite fell to earth and obliterated much of the east coast of the United States, including Washington D.C. The ensuing climate cataclysm will soon render the earth inhospitable for humanity, as the last such meteorite did for the dinosaurs. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated effort to colonize space, and requires a much larger share of humanity to take part in the process. Elma York’s experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon, as a calculator. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too. Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions of society may not stand a chance against her. This is a book that is being celebrated by reviewers and readers alike, including Publisher’s Weekly, who gave it a starred review and noted “Readers will thrill to the story of this “lady astronaut” and eagerly anticipate the promised sequels.”

The Mere Wife: Maria Dahvana Headley’s book is, simply, a re-telling of the ancient epic Beowulf, about a knight who defeats a monster and his mother before being destroyed by a dragon.  However, in Headley’s capable hands, this is also a story about contemporary America, motherhood and identity that is as prescient as it is timeless.  From the perspective of those who live in Herot Hall, the suburb is a paradise. Picket fences divide buildings―high and gabled―and the community is entirely self-sustaining.  But for those who live surreptitiously along Herot Hall’s periphery, the subdivision is a fortress guarded by an intense network of gates, surveillance cameras, and motion-activated lights. For Willa, the wife of Roger Herot (heir of Herot Hall), life moves at a charmingly slow pace. She flits between mommy groups, playdates, cocktail hour, and dinner parties, always with her son, Dylan, in tow. Meanwhile, in a cave in the mountains just beyond the limits of Herot Hall lives Gren, short for Grendel, as well as his mother, Dana, a former soldier who gave birth as if by chance. Dana didn’t want Gren, didn’t plan Gren, and doesn’t know how she got Gren, but when she returned from war, there he was. When Gren, unaware of the borders erected to keep him at bay, ventures into Herot Hall and runs off with Dylan, Dana’s and Willa’s worlds collide.  Booklist is just one of the outlets to give this title a starred review, calling it “[A] stunner: a darkly electric reinterpretation of Beowulf that upends its Old English framework to comment on the nature of heroes and how we ‘other’ those different from ourselves… A strange tale told with sharp poetic imagery and mythic fervor.”

To the Bridge: A True Story of Motherhood and MurderOn May 23, 2009, Amanda Stott-Smith drove to the middle of the Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Oregon, and dropped her two children into the Willamette River. Forty minutes later, rescuers were able to save seven-year-old Trinity, but were unable to save four-year-old Eldon, whose body was recovered from the scene.   Stott-Smith was convicted and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison; but journalist Nancy Rommelmann remained convinced that there was more to the story: What made a mother want to murder her own children?  Embarking on a seven-year quest for the truth, Rommelmann traced the roots of Amanda’s fury and desperation through thousands of pages of records, withheld documents, meetings with lawyers and convicts, and interviews with friends and family who felt shocked, confused, and emotionally swindled by a woman whose entire life was now defined by an unspeakable crime. At the heart of that crime: a tempestuous marriage, a family on the fast track to self-destruction, and a myriad of secrets and lies as dark and turbulent as the Willamette River.  This is a difficult, challenging book that seeks in some way to understand that which seems incomprehensible, and to see through the eyes of one whose actions seem indefensible and unforgivable.  It’s not an easy read by any sense, but Rommelmann’s stunning insight, empathy, and journalistic excellence makes it a compelling and important work.  Robert Kolker, author of Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery, wrote a beautiful blurb for this book, explaining that “Nancy Rommelmann takes what many consider the most unforgivable of crimes—a mother set on murdering her own children—and delivers something thoughtful and provocative: a deeply reported, sensitively told, all-too-relevant tragedy of addiction and codependency, toxic masculinity, and capricious justice. You won’t be able to look away—nor should any of us.”

Celestial Bodies: How to Look at Ballet: As much as we all might enjoy the classical music that accompanies ballet, and no matter how fundamental to our humanity dancing might be, the art of ballet itself can often seem inaccessible to those not in “the know”.  In this engaging and accessible book, dance critic Laura Jacobs makes the foreign familiar, providing a lively, poetic, and uniquely accessible introduction to the world of classical dance. Combining history, interviews with dancers, technical definitions, descriptions of performances, and personal stories, Jacobs offers an intimate and passionate guide to watching ballet and understanding the central elements of choreography.  None other than Misty Copeland herself wrote a review of this book for The New York Times Review of Books, saying in part, “Jacobs’s book opens the door, offering a meticulous introduction to the art form and welcoming readers to have a seat and stay a while…. It’s from this insider’s perspective that Jacobs is able to offer an all-encompassing guided tour behind the curtain, then circling back to the auditorium where the balletomane, the occasional fan and the newcomer sit side by side as they interpret the performance according to their individual experiences and beliefs.”

Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray: From the artistic to the natural, physics researcher Sabine Hossenfelder’s newest book seeks to complicate our understanding of nature by accepting and reveling in all its messiness, rather than attempting to hold nature to our transient and shifting standards of ‘beauty’.  The belief in beauty, Hossenfelder argues, has become so dogmatic that it now conflicts with scientific objectivity: observation has been unable to confirm mindboggling theories, like supersymmetry or grand unification, invented by physicists based on aesthetic criteria. Worse, these “too good to not be true” theories are actually untestable and they have left the field in a cul-de-sac. To escape, physicists must rethink their methods. Only by embracing reality as it is can science discover the truth.  This is a book for math and science lovers, but it is also one that laypeople can enjoy, and learn from, as well.  As Popular Science encouraged readers, “Eavesdrop on accessible and frank conversations in Hossenfelder’s Lost in Math, which wrestles with big questions of quantum mechanics and beauty in a fun, fascinating way.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And many very happy Free For All Birthday wishes to Frida Kahlo, born on this day in 1907!

Kahlo in 1932, photographed by her father Guillermo Kahlo

Kahlo was born in Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico to a German father and a mestiza mother (the word “mestiza” a term traditionally used in Spanish-speaking countries, Latin American countries, and the Philippines to refer to a person who is of native and European descent).  Though she suffered from polio as a child, Kahlo recovered, and was well on her way as a promising medical student.  However, in 1925, at the age of eighteen, Kahlo and her boyfriend were on their way home from school when the wooden bus they were riding collided with a streetcar. The accident killed several people and caused near-fatal injuries to Kahlo herself, including  fractured ribs, two broken legs, a broken collarbone, a fractured pelvis, and the displacement of three vertebrae, which would cause her lifelong pain.  During her recovery, she started to consider a career as a medical illustrator, in order to combine her love of science and art, and she had an easel made specifically for her that enabled her to paint in bed, and a mirror was placed above it so she could use herself as a model.  

By 1927, she was able to leave her bed, and Kahlo had the opportunity to rejoin her friends, who by this time had joined a number of political organizations and student groups.  She herself joined the Mexican Communist Party and, in 1928, she met Diego Rivera, whom she would marry that same year.  Both would have extra-marital affairs, Together, the two traveled around Mexico and the United States, and Kahlo began to develop her own artistic following.  Her adoption of traditional  indigenous Mexican peasant clothing to represent her mestiza heritage became a signature wherever she visited.  She taught at the National School of Painting, Sculpture, and Printmaking in Mexico City, and was a founding member of the Seminario de Cultura Mexicana.  She also held her own solo exhibition in 1953.

Although Kahlo was remembered for some time only as “the wife of Diego Rivera”, recent generations of historians have been working to reclaim her memory and her remarkable individuality, as well as her significant contributions to art, to the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, to feminism, and to the LGBTQ community.  Those looking to learn more about Kahlo’s work and life would do well to check out Frida Kahlo, 1907-1954 : Pain and Passion by Andrea Kettenmann, as well as Frida Kahlo : The Painter and Her Work by Helga Prignitz-Poda.

And now, beloved patrons, on to the books!  Here is just a small selection of the titles that have struggled through the heat to slide onto our shelves this week:

The Cabin at the End of the World: It’s here!  The latest novel from the sensational Paul Tremblay has arrived, and is already giving us nightmares.  Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.  One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen, but he is young and friendly, and Wen agrees to play with him until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”  Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined.  Tremblay’s horror asks some incredibly deep, searching questions, and while they are unsettling, they are also addictive.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, having given this book a starred review and noting “The apocalypse begins with a home invasion in this tripwire-taut horror thriller. . . .[Tremblay’s] profoundly unsettling novel invites readers to ask themselves whether, when faced with the unbelievable, they would do the unthinkable to prevent it.”

Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity:  In this insightful and ground-breaking work, award-winning sociologist Arlene Stein takes us into the lives of four strangers who have all traveled to the same surgeon’s office in Florida in order to masculinize their chests.  Ben, Lucas, Parker, and Nadia wish to feel more comfortable in their bodies; three of them are also taking testosterone so that others recognize them as male. Following them over the course of a year, Stein shows how members of this young transgender generation, along with other gender dissidents, are refashioning their identities and challenging others’ conceptions of who they are, despite the very real risks and dangers they face in doing so.  This is a timely book that considers not only trans-men’s identity in today’s culture, but also the political, medical, and social dimensions of their lives, making for an emotional, as well as an educational work that earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who noted, “This significant book provides medical, sociological, and psychological information that can only serve to educate those lacking understanding and awareness of an entire community of individuals who deserve representation. A stellar exploration of the complexities and limitations of gender.”

The Secret Token: Myth Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of RoanokeIn 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived at Roanoke Island on the coast of North Carolina with the goal of establishing the first English colony in “the New World”.   But when the colony’s leader, John White, returned to Roanoke from a resupply mission, his settlers were nowhere to be found. They left behind only a single clue–a “secret token” carved into a tree. Neither White nor any other European laid eyes on the colonists again.  For over four centuries since their disappearance, historians, archaeologists, and countless others have tried to puzzle out the story of the settlers at Roanoke.  After a chance encounter with a British archaeologist, journalist Andrew Lawler determined that solid answers to the mystery were within reach, and set off to unravel the enigma of the lost settlers. In the course of his journey, Lawler encountered a host of characters obsessed with the colonists and their fate.  This book is both his own hunt for the secrets of the Lost Colony, and the host of fascinating, erudite, and eager searchers he met along the way.  It is also a study on why Roanoke remains such an important part of the American story that continues to be referenced to this very day.  This is a book for history lovers of many stripes, and has been earning a number of very positive reviews for its accessibility and its insight, including from Publisher’s Weekly, who described it as
“Part detective novel, part historical reckoning, Lawler’s engrossing book traces the story of—and the obsessive search for—the lost colony of Roanoke…a thoughtful and timely discourse about race and identity…. Lawler makes a strong case for why historical myths matter.”

Rainy Day FriendsFan favorite Jill Shalvis is back with another story of humor, loss, love, featuring a marvelously happy doggy on the cover who is making my day.  Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing–her husband was a serial adulterer, who convinced each women in his life that she was his one-and-only wife.  Lost and deeply shaken, Lanie is desperate for a new start, and  impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery.  Though she begins by feeling like an outsider in this boisterous family, it isn’t long before the Capriottis take Lanie under their wing–particularly Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff.  But when River Brown arrives at the winery, and takes a job there, as well, Lanie finds her position and her new-found happiness threatened in ways she could have never imagined.  This book has been winning praise from many of Shalvis’ long-time fans, as well as newcomers, and also earned as starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who  declared, “With a fast pace and a lovely mix of romance and self-discovery, Shalvis’s novel is chock-full of magnetic characters and seamless storytelling, rich with emotions, and impossible to put down.”

The Secrets Between UsReaders of Thrity Umrigar’s beloved novel The Space Between Us will no doubt be delighted with this sequel, but new readers will find plenty to enjoy in this powerful and compelling story, as well. Bhima, heroine of The Space Between Us, faithfully worked for the Dubash family for more than twenty years.  Yet after courageously speaking the truth about a heinous crime perpetrated against her own family, the devoted servant was cruelly fired. A woman who has endured despair and loss with stoicism, Bhima must now find some other way to support herself and her granddaughter, Maya.  Bhima’s fortunes take an unexpected turn when her path intersects with Parvati, a bitter, taciturn older woman. The two acquaintances soon form a tentative business partnership, selling fruits and vegetables at the local market. As they work together, these two women begin confessing the truth about their lives and the wounds that haunt them, forging an unlikely, but wonderfully redemptive friendship.  Library Journal gave this book a starred review, noting that while this will hold special appeal for Umrigar’s fans, ” this title easily stands on its own. It chronicles the triumph of women’s friendships and fortitude in the face of considerable obstacles—poverty, homophobia, illiteracy, gender discrimination, ageism, and sexual assault. It further displays Umrigar’s insights into the deep resilience of the human heart.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

We also wouldn’t want the day to pass without acknowledging the loss and legacy of Harlan Ellison, who passed away yesterday at the age of 84.  Ellison was a prolific writer of science-fiction; including more than 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays (including the Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever”) and edited volumes.  He was also notoriously contentious and argumentative–a trait that made him seem unapproachable.  Twitter, however, featured a number of tributes from authors who received kindness, guidance, and honest support from Ellison, showing that all people are complex and fascinating, and often possess the potential to surprise from the better.

Via The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2018/jun/29/harlan-ellison-where-to-start-reading

If you’re looking to learn more about Ellison’s work, The Guardian has an excellent primer to get you started.

And for those looking for some more stellar reading choices, here are some of the new books that leapt onto our shelves this week, and can’t wait to share your summer adventures with you!

The Melody: On the surface, Jim Crace’s newest novel is a melancholy story about love and loss–but in short order, it opens up into so much more…a story about social issues, outsiders, poverty, class, and humanity that is both eye-opening and moving.  Aside from his trusty piano, Alfred Busi lives alone in his villa overlooking the waves. Famed in his town for his music and songs, he is mourning the recent death of his wife and quietly living out his days, occasionally performing the classics in small venues – never in the stadiums he could fill when in his prime. On the night before receiving his town’s highest honor, Busi is wrested from bed by noises in his courtyard and then stunned by an attacking intruder–his hands and neck are scratched, his face is bitten. Busi can’t say what it was that he encountered, exactly, but he feels his assailant was neither man nor animal.  As the people of the town begin to panic, remembering old stories about an ancient race of people alleged to be living in the forests, and threaten to take action, Busi, weathering a media storm, must come to terms with his wife’s death and decide whether to sing one last time.  This is a powerful and emotional story that is resonant on a number of levels.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, calling this book “Haunting and transfixing . . . Like the simple but subtle song from which the novel takes its title, The Melody’s effects linger, coloring the reader’s feelings about the thin border between the natural world and human society.”

Number One Chinese RestaurantLillian Li’s debut novel is probably not one to read when you’re hungry.  The restaurant in which it’s set sound precisely like the kind of place you want for dinner.  The Beijing Duck House in Rockville, Maryland, is not only a beloved go-to setting for hunger pangs and celebrations; it is its own world, inhabited by waiters and kitchen staff who have been fighting, loving, and aging within its walls for decades. When disaster strikes, this working family’s controlled chaos is set loose, forcing each character to confront the conflicts that fast-paced restaurant life has kept at bay.  Owner Jimmy Han hopes to leave his late father’s homespun establishment for a fancier one. Jimmy’s older brother, Johnny, and Johnny’s daughter, Annie, ache to return to a time before a father’s absence and a teenager’s silence pushed them apart. Nan and Ah-Jack, longtime Duck House employees, are tempted to turn their 30-year friendship into something else, even as Nan’s son, Pat, struggles to stay out of trouble. And when Pat and Annie, caught in a mix of youthful lust and boredom, find themselves in a dangerous game that implicates them in the Duck House tragedy, their families must decide how much they are willing to sacrifice to help their children.  This is an energetic, exuberant novel that is as tangible in its scenic details as it is honest about its human characters, all combining to make a novel that earned a lovely review from Kirkus who praised it as follows: “Evoking every detail of [this restaurant] with riveting verisimilitude . . . Li’s sense of the human comedy and of the aspirations burning in each human heart puts a philosophical spin on the losses of her characters.”

Confessions of the FoxJordy Rosenberg’s historical novel sounds like a pitch-perfect blend of speculative history, mystery, love, and identity that will make it an ideal summertime adventure-read.  Jack Sheppard and Edgeworth Bess were the most notorious thieves, jailbreakers, and lovers of eighteenth-century London. Yet no one knows the true story; their confessions have never been found.  Until now. Reeling from heartbreak, a scholar named Dr. Voth discovers a long-lost manuscript—a gender-defying exposé of Jack and Bess’s adventures. Dated 1724, the book depicts a London underworld where scamps and rogues clash with the city’s newly established police force, queer subcultures thrive, and ominous threats of the Plague abound. Jack—a transgender carpenter’s apprentice—has fled his master’s house to become a legendary prison-break artist, and Bess has escaped the draining of the fenlands to become a revolutionary…but is the manuscript an authentic autobiography or a hoax? Dr. Voth obsessively annotates the manuscript, desperate to find the answer. As he is drawn deeper into Jack and Bess’s tale of underworld resistance and gender transformation, it becomes clear that their fates are intertwined—and only a miracle will save them all.  For all the fun in this book, there are a lot of big and important questions being explored here, giving this story critical depth and emotional gravity.  Entertainment Weekly agreed, saying of it “An ambitious, thought-provoking novel [that] explores everything from gender identity to mass incarceration, moves between centuries, and even features footnotes. . . . You’ll find yourself immersed, and maybe even changed.”

Pandora’s Box: A History of the First World War: As someone who reads a lot of the First World War history, this is a good one (if a heavy one!).  It’s even more compelling because it’s written by a German historian, who offers a perspective on the global war that we English-readers don’t often get.  Jörn Leonhard treats the clash of arms with a sure feel for grand strategy, the everyday tactics of dynamic movement and slow attrition, the race for ever more destructive technologies, and the grim experiences of frontline soldiers. But the war was much more than a military conflict, or an exclusively European one. Leonhard renders the perspectives of leaders, intellectuals, artists, and ordinary men and women on diverse home fronts as they grappled with the urgency of the moment and the rise of unprecedented political and social pressures. And he shows how the entire world came out of the war utterly changed.  Combining close-source analysis as well as grand strategy, this is a book that Professor Robert Gerwarth noted “stands out as the most comprehensive recent book on the First World War in any language… From the microcosm of the trenches to the home fronts, from the big battles in the East and the West to violent upheavals after 1918, Leonhard’s treatment of the war is wide-ranging while also giving ample space to the different layers of war experiences.”

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World: If you’re like me, and never really got over your complete obsession with dinosaurs (and not really the Jurassic Park monsters, but, like real dinosaurs…), then this is the book for you.  In this captivating narrative (enlivened with more than seventy original illustrations and photographs), Steve Brusatte, a young American paleontologist who has named fifteen new species in the course of his career, tells the complete, surprising, and new history of the dinosaurs, drawing on cutting-edge science to dramatically bring to life their lost world and illuminate their enigmatic origins, spectacular flourishing, astonishing diversity, cataclysmic extinction, and startling living legacy.  In addition to tracing the evolution of dinosaurs from their inauspicious start as small shadow dwellers into the dominant array of species we are more familiar with seeing, Brusatte also relays some of the tales of his fieldwork adventures, bringing readers along on the finds of a lifetime and making the world of dinosaurs startling, wonderfully real.  Library Journal gave this book a starred review, declaring it “should not be missed. Highly recommended for the dinosaur obsessed and anyone even mildly curious about the evolutionary importance of these iconic creatures.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

The world of letters lost an icon this week when author Philip Roth passed away on Tuesday.  Roth has been eulogized, remembered, and discussed this week by literary giants such as Zadie Smith, Elaine Showalter, and Louise Erdich, and while he remains a controversial figure in literature for his portrayal of women and the topics he chose to discuss, there is no doubt that he made his mark in American literature.  A number of outlets have been offered guides for those who are looking to read more of Roth’s work, or to discover him–you can find some excellent ones at Vox, Slateand The New York Times.

Via i24news.tv

And so, in the spirit of great literature, let’s take a look at some of the sensational new books that have ambled onto our shelves this week and are eager to make your acquaintance!

Also, a note: the Library will be closed on Saturday May 26, Sunday May 27 and Monday May 28 in observance of the Memorial Day holiday.  We will resume our regular hours on Tuesday, May 29.  Have a lovely weekend, dear readers, wear sunscreen, and we’ll see you next week!

West Like Lightning: The Brief, Legendary Ride of the Pony ExpressOn the eve of the Civil War, three American businessmen launched an audacious plan to create a financial empire by transforming communications across the hostile territory between the nation’s two coasts. In the process, they created one of the most enduring icons of the American West: the Pony Express. Equally an improbable success and a business disaster, the Pony Express came and went in just eighteen months, but not before uniting and captivating a nation on the brink of being torn apart.  Jim DeFelice’s book is the first comprehensive history of the Pony Express, the daring misfits who it employed, and the well-known historical figures who helped establish its legend in American history.  This is a book that history enthusiasts, lovers of westerns, and anyone who likes getting mail will be able to savor.  The Tombstone Epitaph, Arizona’s oldest continually published newspaper, loved this book, and since that august paper focuses on the legacy of the “Old West”, we can only bow to their authority when they call it “Fresh and engaging. … A wild ride. … West Like Lightning is sure to stand amongst the great popular histories of the west.”

The Elizas: Fans of Pretty Little Liars will be delighted to hear that Sara Shepard is making her adult fiction debut with this mutli-layered guessing-game of a thriller.   When debut novelist Eliza Fontaine is found at the bottom of a hotel pool, her family at first assumes that it’s just another failed suicide attempt. But Eliza swears she was pushed, and her rescuer is the only witness.  Desperate to find out who attacked her, Eliza takes it upon herself to investigate. But as the publication date for her novel draws closer, Eliza finds more questions than answers. Like why are her editor, agent, and family mixing up events from her novel with events from her life? Her novel is completely fictional, isn’t it?  The deeper Eliza goes into her investigation while struggling with memory loss, the closer her life starts to resemble her novel, until the line between reality and fiction starts to blur and she can no longer tell where her protagonist’s life ends and hers begins.  Here is a perfect summer time thriller for those of you looking for your newest twisty, turny adventure that blends layers of fiction with chilling effect.  Kirkus Reviews loved how Shepard “pays close attention to cinematic details, practically projecting Eliza’s descent into personal nightmare, where she cannot be certain of her own memories, onto a silver screen: Scenes are carefully framed, and a soundtrack even bubbles along…A delicious Southern California noir riddled with muddled identities and family secrets.”

Rough Animals: Rae DelBianco’s newest book is drawing comparisons to both Breaking Bad, for its unflinching view  of the darkest aspects of rural life, and No Country for Old Men for its bleak, yet gripping, road trip–so fans of both, as well as those looking for a fascinating and utterly unique tale…look no further.  Ever since their father’s untimely death five years before, Wyatt Smith and his inseparably close twin sister, Lucy, have scraped by alone on their family’s isolated ranch in Box Elder County, Utah. That is until one morning when, just after spotting one of their steers lying dead in the field.  The shooter: a fever-eyed, fearsome girl-child who breaks loose and heads into the desert. Realizing that the loss of cattle will mean the certain loss of the ranch, Wyatt sets off on an epic twelve-day odyssey to find her, through a nightmarish underworld he only half understands; a world that pitches him not only against the primordial ways of men and the beautiful yet brutally unforgiving landscape, but also against himself.   This novel is earning starred reviews from any number of outlets, including Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Furious and electric . . . The novel succeeds as a viscerally evoked and sparely plotted fever dream, a bleakly realized odyssey through an American west populated by survivors and failed dreamers.”

The Pisces:   This is a summer for unique novels, dear readers, and Melissa Broder’s novel–part mythology, part romance, part flight-of-fancy, is a perfect example of this delightful, eccentric trend.  Lucy has been writing her dissertation on Sappho for nine years when she and her boyfriend break up in a dramatic flameout. After she bottoms out in Phoenix, her sister in Los Angeles insists Lucy dog-sit for the summer. Annika’s home is a gorgeous glass cube on Venice Beach, but Lucy can find little relief from her anxiety – not in the Greek chorus of women in her love addiction therapy group, not in her frequent Tinder excursions, not even in Dominic the foxhound’s easy affection.  Everything changes when Lucy becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer while sitting alone on the beach rocks one night. But when Lucy learns the truth about his identity, their relationship, and Lucy’s understanding of what love should look like, take a very unexpected turn.  Fans of The Shape of Water will gobble up this book, and anyone looking for a quirky, compelling love story should definitely check out this book.  As The Washington Post noted in its review, “For an author who has primarily written poetry and nonfiction, and who is clearly comfortable with a confessional voice, Broder uses the fantastical elements to complicate and deepen her novel. The climactic conclusion works because of its strangeness, because of its imaginative reach and implications.”

Imperial Twilight : The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age: When Britain launched its first war on China in 1839, pushed into hostilities by profiteering drug merchants and free-trade interests, it sealed the fate of what had long been seen as the most prosperous and powerful empire in Asia, if not the world. But internal problems of corruption, popular unrest, and dwindling finances had weakened China far more than was commonly understood, and the war would help set in motion the eventual fall of the Qing dynasty – which, in turn, would lead to the rise of nationalism and communism in the 20th century.  Award-winning historian Stephen Platt sheds new light on the early attempts by Western traders and missionaries to “open” China – traveling mostly in secret beyond Canton, the single port where they were allowed – even as China’s imperial rulers were struggling to manage their country’s decline and Confucian scholars grappled with how to use foreign trade to China’s advantage.  This is a book for anyone who wants to know more about the history of globalization, finances, the drug trade, or imperial history, and is told with such energy and well-researched insight that Booklist gave it a starred review, noting “Platt brings to life the people who drive the story, including the missionaries desperate to learn more about China and its language, the drug smugglers who made so much money they still have name recognition, the officials desperate to handle a growing crisis of widespread opium addiction, and even a pirate queen and Jane Austen’s older brother.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And very happy Free for All birthday wishes to Anna Marguerite McCann, art historian, and the first American woman to work in underground archaeology!

Via Wikipedia

McCann was born on May 11, 1933, in Mamaroneck, New York.  In 1954, she graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in art history with a minor in Classical Greek.  She was awarded a Fulbright  Scholarship to attend the American School of Classical Studies at Athens for a year, before beginning her studies at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts.  She began diving with Jacques Cousteau early in the 1960’s off the coast of Marseille, France, where they explored ancient Roman shipwrecks.  Underwater projects like this were new at the time, and, like so many other fields, largely populated by, and controlled by, men.  Nevertheless, McCann’s acumen, insight, and enthusiasm helped her carve out a career for herself, but also made her an excellent teacher.  She lectured in colleges across the country, as well as at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and even contributed to a children’s book in order to inspire a new generation of archaeologists and divers!  Her book, which was an expansion of her Master’s Thesis, entitled The Portraits of Septimius Severus, A.D. 193–211, is still considered the best and most authoritative text in the field.  McCann married her childhood friend Robert Dorsett in 1973.  She passed away on February 12, 2017.   Today, we celebrate her curiosity, adventurous spirit, and lifelong devotion to education and learning!

And what better way to celebrate than by taking a look at some of the new books that have sauntered onto our shelves this week!

The Lost Pilots: The Spectacular Rise and Scandalous Fall of Aviation’s Golden CoupleIn June 1927, an Australian woman named Jessie Miller fled a loveless marriage and journeyed to London, where she fell in love with the city’s energy and the decadence of the interwar elites.  There, she met William Lancaster, who had served with the Royal Air Force during the First World War, and was determined to make his name as famous as Charles Lindbergh, who had just crossed the Atlantic.   Lancaster wanted to fly three times as far – from London to Melbourne – and in Jessie Miller he knew he had found the perfect co-pilot.  By the time they landed in Melbourne, the daring aviators were a global sensation – and, despite still being married to other people, deeply in love. Keeping their affair a secret, they toured the world in style until the 1929 stock market crash bankrupted them both.  To make ends meet Jessie agreed to write a memoir, and selected a man named Haden Clarke as her ghostwriter.  As Corey Mead shows in this fast-paced, detailed book, Clarke’s arrival changed everything for Miller and Lancaster, leading to a crime that was as infamous as they were renown.  This story takes us around the world–and through the skies–all the way to 1962, with the wreckage of a plane in the Sahara Desert, in a wonderfully engaging work of narrative non-fiction that Kirkus Reviews calls “A brisk, entertaining history of daring and passion.”

The Destiny Thief: Essays on Writing, Writers and Life: A collection of essays, addresses, and writings from beloved writer Richard Russo is a treat not only for his fans, but for bibliophiles in general.  From a commencement speech he gave at Colby College, to a comprehensive analysis of Mark Twain’s value, this collection shows Russo in all his thoughtful, emotional, and humorous glory.  These essays are personal, as well as literary, exploring his journey with a friend undergoing gender reassignment surgery, as well as how an oddly placed toilet made him reevaluate the purpose of humor in art and life, allowing us to appreciate a respected author in a new light–and perhaps helping readers find a new storyteller to follow!  Booklist agrees, noting in its review: “For aspiring writers, Russo’s musings on the art and craft of the novel are a trove of knowledge and guidance. For adoring readers, they are a window into the imagination and inspiration for Russo’s beloved novels, screenplays, and short stories. . . . Few authors seem as approachable in print and, one suspects, in person as acclaimed novelist Russo.”

The Saint of Wolves and Butchers: Those of you who loved Alex Grecian’s historical mysteries will know he is a writer with a terrific sense of place and a keen observer of emotion–and both these talents come to the forefront in his newest contemporary thriller.  Travis Roan and his dog, Bear, are hunters: They travel the world pursuing evildoers in order to bring them to justice. They have now come to Kansas on the trail of Rudolph Bormann, a Nazi doctor and concentration camp administrator who sneaked into the U.S. under the name Rudy Goodman in the 1950’s and has at last been identified.  But Goodman has some influential friends who are more than willing to stick their necks out to protect him–and the work that he has continued to this very day.   Caught between these men is Kansas State Trooper Skottie Foster, an African American woman and a good cop who must find a way to keep peace in her district–until she realizes the struggle between Roan and Bormann will put her and her family in grave peril.   This is an unsettling, unrelenting book that has drawn comparisons to both John Grisham and Stephen King.  Booklist gave it a starred review, calling it “A breathtaking thriller with plenty of action and some very clever twists . . . the grimly satisfying conclusion makes it worth it for both characters and readers. Fans of David Baldacci and John Grisham will enjoy the unpredictability and unrelenting suspense.”

Asymmetry: Lisa Halliday’s debut novel has left readers and critics alike spellbound and fascinated with her ability to weave storylines together into a single narrative that is prescient, engaged, and timeless.  Told in three distinct and uniquely compelling sections, the book explores the imbalances that spark and sustain many of our most dramatic human relations: inequities in age, power, talent, wealth, fame, geography, and justice.  From the story of Alice, a young American editor, and her relationship with the famous and much older writer Ezra Blazerduring the early years of the Iraq Wa to the first-person narrative of Amar, an Iraqi-American man who, on his way to visit his brother in Kurdistan, is detained by immigration officers and spends the last weekend of 2008 in a holding room in Heathrow, these seemingly disparate stories  interact and overlap in ways that are hard to see coming and impossible to forget.  There are heaps of praises coming in for Halliday’s novel, including from The New York Times Review of Books, which called it  “Masterly…As you uncover the points of congruence, so too do you uncover Halliday’s beautiful argument about the pleasure and obligations of fiction…It feels as if the issues she has raised — both explicitly and with the book’s canny structure — have sown seeds that fiction will harvest for years to come.”

That Kind of MotherRumaan Alam won a number of devoted fans with his first novel Rich and Pretty, and this newest book features the same gentle humor, compassion, and wit that earned such accolades.  This story focuses on Rebecca Stone, a white woman who has just given birth to her first child.  Struggling to juggle the demands of motherhood with her own aspirations and feeling utterly alone in the process, she reaches out to the only person at the hospital who offers her any real help, a Black woman named Priscilla Johnson, and begs her to come home with them as her son’s nanny.  In their time together, Priscilla teaches Rebecca not only about being a mother, but about navigating a world rich in privilege, prejudice.  When Priscilla dies unexpectedly in childbirth, Rebecca steps forward to adopt the baby. But she is unprepared for what it means to be a white mother with a black son. As she soon learns, navigating motherhood for her is a matter of learning how to raise two children whom she loves with equal ferocity, but whom the world is determined to treat differently.  Filled with timely observations and rich with sympathy, this is a novel that is both heartbreaking and redemptive.  Vogue gave it a glowing review, noting how Alam “expertly and intrepidly blends topics of the zeitgeist, including race, privilege, and motherhood, without sacrificing elegant prose and signature wit.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And many very happy Free For All birthday wishes to writer, philosopher, and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft!

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Wollstonecraft was born on this day in 1759.  Though her writing career was a comparatively short one (it is assumed she died of sepsis following the birth of her second child, Mary, at the age of 38), her career was an illustrious one.  She wrote novels, philosophical and political treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book.  But, by far, her most famous work was A Vindication on the Rights of Women.  In this seminal publication, Wollstonecraft essentially argued that men and women were born as, and meant to be equals, but that society, by refusing to educate women’s brains and care for their bodies properly, were forcing women into a subservient role, and ensuring that they would never be anything more than a pretty face.

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Mary herself survived an upbringing in an abusive household, striking out on her own at the age of nineteen after her father squandered her inheritance on speculative deals and alcohol.  Though a successful and respected teacher, Wollstonecraft nevertheless took the enormous social and financial risk of leaving her teaching position to become a writer–a highly exception choice for women at the time.  She eventually moved to France and, in 1792,  penned A Vindication on the Rights of Women, which served as a follow-up to her 1790 pamphlet A Vindication on the Rights of Man. In this seminal work, she argued that “females…are made women…when they are mere children”, meaning that girls were taught from a very young age that their only worth lay in physically attracting a man.  The result was that women were forced to remain like children for the rest of their lives.  It was not their natural inclination to be so, but the way in which they were brought up:

False notions of beauty and delicacy stop the growth of their limbs and produce a sickly soreness…and thus weakened …how can they attain the vigour necessary to enable them to throw off their factitious character?—where find strength to recur to reason and rise superiour to a system of oppression, that blasts the fair promises of spring? This cruel association of ideas, which every thing conspires to twist into all their habits of thinking, or, to speak with more precision, of feeling, receives new force when they begin to act a little for themselves; for they then perceive that it is only through their address to excite emotions in men, that pleasure and power are to be obtained. Besides, the books professedly written for their instruction, which make the first impression on their minds, all inculcate the same opinions. Educated then in worse than Egyptian bondage, it is unreasonable, as well as cruel, to upbraid them with faults that can scarcely be avoided…when nothing could be more natural, considering the education they receive, and that their ‘highest praise is to obey, unargued’—the will of man.

This is not to say that Wollstonecraft’s work was and remains utterly unassailable–A Vindication on the Rights of Women is full of class and gender assumptions, many the result of religion, that date the work considerably.  But her argument for the absolute equality of human beings remains a remarkable and moving statement that, largely, is still relevant today.

In you are interested in Mary Wollstonecraft’s legacy, check out the Mary On The Green campaign, which is working to promote Wollstonecraft’s legacy, and to erect a statue in commemoration of her life in London.

More locally, our Library has a wealth of new books that you can check out this weekend–here are a few of the titles that have sauntered on to our shelves this week:

Our Little SecretThe summer thriller season is upon us, and Roz Nay’s debut is an early smash hit.  Angela Petitjean is the focus os a police investigation, focused on the disappearance of the wife of Angela’s high school sweetheart, HP. She has vanished.  The detective in charge of the case is convinced that Angela has the answers that will solve the case.  But Angela has a different story to tell. It began more than a decade ago when she and HP met in high school in Cove, Vermont. She was an awkward, shy teenager. He was a popular athlete. They became friends, fell in love, and dated senior year. Everything changed when Angela went to college. When time and distance separated them, and when Saskia entered the picture.  That was eight years ago. HP foolishly married a drama queen and Angela moved on with her life. Whatever marital rift caused Saskia to leave her husband has nothing to do with Angela. Nothing at all. Detective Novak needs to stop asking questions and listen to what Angela is telling him. And once he understands everything, he’ll have the truth he so desperately wants…This is a psychological thriller that will appeal to fans of Paula Hawkins and Ruth Ware.  Kirkus Reviews loved this book, calling it a “mesmerizing debut…Nay expertly spins an insidious, clever web, perfectly capturing the soaring heights and crushing lows of first love and how the loss of that love can make even the sanest people a little crazy. Carve out some time for this riveting, one-sitting read.”

The Only StoryJulian Barnes manages to cross genres with apparent ease, moving from success to success–now, this contemporary love story already is being hailed on several ‘best of’ lists.  One summer in the sixties, in a staid suburb south of London, Paul comes home from university, aged nineteen, and is urged by his mother to join the tennis club. In the mixed-doubles tournament he’s partnered with Susan Macleod, a fine player who’s forty-eight, confident, ironic, and married, with two nearly adult daughters. She is also a warm companion, their bond immediate. And they soon, inevitably, are lovers. Clinging to each other as though their lives depend on it, they then set up house in London to escape his parents and the abusive Mr. Mcleod.  Decades later, Paul looks back at how they fell in love, how he freed Susan from a sterile marriage, and how–gradually, relentlessly–everything fell apart, and he found himself struggling to understand the intricacy and depth of the human heart. Publisher’s Weekly wrote a heartfelt review of this book, noting “[This] deeply touching novel is a study of heartbreak. . . . By revisiting the flow and ebb of one man’s passion, Barnes eloquently illuminates the connection between an old man and his younger self.”

Gateway to the Moon: Mary Morris’ latest novel is a fascinating historical investigation and a contemporary study of how the scars of the past can persistently effect the present.  In 1492, the Jewish and Muslim populations of Spain were expelled, and Columbus set sail for America. Luis de Torres, a Spanish Jew, accompanies Columbus as his interpreter. His journey is only the beginning of a long migration, across many generations. Over the centuries, de Torres’ descendants travel from Spain and Portugal to Mexico, finally settling in the hills of New Mexico. Five hundred years later, it is in these same hills that Miguel Torres, a young amateur astronomer, finds himself trying to understand the mystery that surrounds him and the town he grew up in.  Entrada de la Luna is a place that holds a profound secret–one that its residents cannot even imagine. It is also a place that ambitious children, such as Miguel, try to leave. Poor health, broken marriages, and poverty are the norm. Luck is unusual. When Miguel sees a flyer for a babysitting job, he jumps at the opportunity, and begins work for a Jewish family new to the area.  Interwoven throughout the present-day narrative are the powerful stories of the ancestors of Entrada’s residents, highlighting the torture, pursuit, and resistance of the Jewish people.  This is another compelling work that earned a starred review from Booklist, who described it as “[An] enthralling saga . . . The story glides effortlessly between viewpoints and vibrant settings ranging from Lisbon to Tangiers, the Caribbean, and Mexico City. With prose as clear as the star-strewn night sky, Morris’ novel explores people’s hidden connections.”

The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in the Business of Death, Decay, and Disaster: Sarah Krasnostein’s profile of Sandra Pankhurst is a multi-layered and complex study.  Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife.   But Pankhurst found her calling as a trauma cleaner, going to the places where no one else would go, and providing her patients the care and dignity she was so often denied.  But as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less.  This is a compelling, humane biography, and a powerful study about the compassionate work of a trauma cleaner.  Sarah Krasnostein followed Pankhurst into some of the most horrible of living conditions and watched her bring order and care to both the living and the dead.  Her compassion is extraordinary, and this book, though harrowing, is also a moving reminder about the power of an individual in a world of pain.  Booklist gave this engrossing study a starred review, noting “Through countless encounters with the fetid, the neglected, and the downright tragic, Parkhurst has found meaning and peace, and [author] Krasnostein a singular subject whom she approaches with well-deserved awe.”

Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book: Anyone with knitterly aspirations, from the novice to the seasoned professional, will find things to learn in this massive and marvelous book.  The good people at Vogue Knitting have updated, revised, and expanded their seminal guide to include a new library of stitches, details on hat, shawl, sock, and sweater construction, more than 1,600 photos and hand-drawn step-by-step illustrations.  With so many knitting guides, how-to’s, and illustrated help books out there, it’s hard to call any book ‘comprehensive’, but this one comes darned close.  With easy-to-read directions, helpful footnotes and cross-references, and oodles of updates, it’s not difficult to see why Library Journal gave this book a starred review and called it “An essential addition to the knitter’s bookshelf.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!