Tag Archives: Five Book Friday

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy National Doughnut Day, beloved patrons!

Via the National WWI Museum

While you’re enjoying your doughnut-related deals today, here’s a little history about the celebration itself.

National Doughnut Day began in 1938 as a fundraiser for the Chicago branch of the Salvation Army, both as a way to help those harmed by the Great Depression, and to honor the work of “Sallies”, or women volunteers who made doughnuts, served coffee, and administered to the enlisted of the First World War.

About 250 Salvation Army volunteers traveled to the Western Front to work in service huts where soldiers could have a hot meal and coffee while on rest. These huts were generally abandoned buildings or scrap-metal shacks, it was a real struggle to bake at all, or to do so in sufficient quantities.  Instead, two intrepid Salvation Army volunteers (Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance) came up with the idea of providing doughnuts, which could be made and cooked quickly and easily regardless of the setting. These are reported to have been an “instant hit” with soldiers, and Margaret Sheldon wrote of one busy day: “Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee.”

Although the doughnut subsequently became popularly associated with the American Army abroad, it is not, in fact, the reason soldiers were referred to as “Doughboys.”  That’s actually a nickname that has its origins in the Mexican-American War of 1846-7.

So enjoy your doughnuts, beloved patrons, and while you do so, spare a thought for the brave women who made it possible!

And now, on to the books!

The Truffle Underground: A Tale of Mystery, Mayhem, and Manipulation in the Shadowy Market of the World’s Most Expensive FungusIf you, like us, are fond of cooking shows and cookbooks, you’ll know that there are few things in the world that scream “luxury” like truffles.  But what on earth is a truffle?  And why do we care so much? In this delightful book, Ryan Jacobs takes us beneath the gloss of star chefs and crystal-laden tables, to where the truffle supply chain is touched by theft, secrecy, sabotage, and fraud. Farmers patrol their fields with rifles and fear losing trade secrets to spies. Hunters plant poisoned meatballs to eliminate rival truffle-hunting dogs. Naive buyers and even knowledgeable experts are duped by liars and counterfeits.  Deeply reported and elegantly written, this page-turning exposé documents the dark, sometimes deadly crimes at each level of the truffle’s path from ground to plate, making sense of an industry that traffics in scarcity, seduction, and cash. Through it all, a question lingers: What, other than money, draws people to these dirt-covered jewels? An adventure for gourmets, travel enthusiasts, and trivia alike, this is a book that Publisher’s Weekly called a “fascinating work . . . This deeply researched and eye-opening account of the lengths people will go for wealth, gratification, and a taste of the prized fungus will captivate readers.”

The Volunteer: National-Book-Award finalist Salvatore Scibona’s fascinating new novel opens when a small boy, speaking an unknown language, is abandoned by his father at an international airport, with only the clothes on his back and a handful of money jammed in the pocket of his coat. But in order to understand this heartbreaking and indefensible decision, the story must return to the moment, decades earlier, when a young man named Vollie Frade, almost on a whim, enlists in the United States Marine Corps to fight in Vietnam. Breaking definitively from his rural Iowan parents, Vollie puts in motion an unimaginable chain of events, which sees him go to work for insidious people with intentions he cannot yet grasp. From the Cambodian jungle, to a flophouse in Queens, to a commune in New Mexico, Vollie’s path traces a secret history of life on the margins of America, culminating with an inevitable and terrible reckoning. By turns moving, frightening, insightful, and captivating, this is a book that manages to be both intimate and epic.  The New York Times Book Review agreed, calling this novel “Thrilling… Scibona has built a masterpiece.”

The Lost Letters of William Woolf: Irish author Helen Cullen has crafted a delightful tale about the power of love and the written word that will hold appeal for mystery-lovers and romance readers alike. Inside the walls of the Dead Letters Depot, letter detectives work to solve mysteries. They study missing zip codes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names—all the many twists of fate behind missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills, unanswered prayers. Their mission is to unite lost mail with its intended recipients. But when letters arrive addressed simply to “My Great Love,” longtime letter detective William Woolf faces his greatest mystery to date. Written by a woman to the soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives capture William’s heart in ways he didn’t know possible. Soon, he finds himself torn between the realities of his own marriage and his world of letters, and his quest to follow the clues becomes a life-changing journey of love, hope, and courage.  The Irish Times loved this book, sending it on its way by calling it  “Enchanting, intriguing, deeply moving.”

Geek Girls Don’t Cry: Real-Life Lessons From Fictional Female Characters: What does it mean for a woman to be strong—especially in a world where our conception of a “hero” is still so heavily influenced by male characters and superheroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman?  Here’s a book that takes its lessons from the great heroines and women heroes of fiction, offering advice tailor-made for fans of any age. Andrea Towers, who works in public relations at Marvel Entertainment, outlines some of the primary traits heroic women can call upon, like resilience, self-acceptance, and bravery, pulling in stories from real-life women as well as figures from the pop-culture pantheon. She also interviews the creators of our favorite fictional heroines, who discuss how they drew from their own experiences to develop these protagonists and how, conversely, their own creations continue to inspire them.  As much fun for heroines, women heroes, and those in training as it is for those looking for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the making of comics and comic stories, this is a book that earned a starred review from Booklist, who celebrated “In a market flush with biographical anthologies of awesome, powerful, and sometimes unknown women, Towers’ book stands out, and not just because the women she discusses do not technically exist. She puts the creative in creative nonfiction as she takes the biographical details of fictional female characters and associates them with various real-life issues to empower and comfort readers.”

The Favorite Daughter: Readers looking for a gripping thriller to add to their beach bag or travel case, look no further.  Kaira Rouda’s newest novel is being hailed as one of the highlights of the early summer. Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.  It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed? How far will Jane go to find the truth?  Find out in this book that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “An exceptional psychological thriller.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

With June starting in just a few short hours, dear patrons, it’s time to start celebrating all that summer in New England has to offer.  And if you’re looking for some more fun things to celebrate, here are some fun (and some downright quirky) days for you to plan a party!

June 4: Old Maid’s Day: Founded in 1948  by Marion Richards of Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania, this day was intended to counter the high rate of weddings in the month of June with a celebration of the accomplishments of unmarried women.

June 9: National Donald Duck Day: In honor of the first appearance the sailor-suited Disney Duck in the 1934 film The Wise Little Hen.  In LA Mayor Tom Bradley proclaimed the first National Donald Duck Day.  In return, Donald himself gave the city a silver statue of himself as a gift in memory of the big day!

June 14: National Strawberry Shortcake Day: In addition to flag day, this is also apparently a day to celebrate (and savor) a great summertime desert!  Although we couldn’t locate the origins of National Strawberry Shortcake Day, it appears that you can share your own experiences and celebrations with the hashtag #StrawberryShortcakeDay.

June 19: Juneteenth: It should be a national holiday, but until it is, we’ll be advocating a commemoration of official end of the institution of slavery in the United States. The celebration originated in Texas when Major General Gordon Granger made a public declaration in Galveston, Texas, that according to General Orders, Number 3, the Civil War was over and all slaves were now freed.  The long legacy of slavery remains very much a part of the US’s past and present, but this day marks an important milestone in American history nonetheless.

June 21: The First Day of Summer: In the Northern Hemisphere,  the summer solstice is when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky and is the day with the longest period of daylight.  A day of religious, cultural, and social significance, this is the official beginning of a period of long days and (hopefully) new adventures!  We wish you all a very happy summer!

And now…on to the books (which is always a reason to celebrate!)

RebelBeverly Jenkins is a queen of the romance genre, and her new releases are always a cause for celebration.  In this first book in her Women Who Dare series, Jenkins introduces us to Valinda Lacy, whose mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans is to help the newly emancipated community survive and flourish. But soon she discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life—and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq. As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring—or wanting—her. But when Valinda’s father demands she return home to marry a man she doesn’t love, her daring rebellion draws Drake into an irresistible intrigue.  Jenkins doesn’t shy away from the difficult periods of American history, or the very real struggles of Black men and women in the period she discusses, but those elements only enrich her stories with real humanity, and make the powerful, redemptive love stories at their heart that much more important!  Library Journal loved this book, celebrating how “Post–Civil War New Orleans comes to violent life in the hands of a veteran writer and delivers a vibrant, instructive, totally romantic historical tale that will resonate with many readers today. Beautifully done.”

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American ImaginationDr. Seuss is a classic American icon. Whimsical and wonderful, his work has defined childhoods for generations. The silly, simple rhymes are a bottomless well of magic, his illustrations timeless favorites, and his wit endlessly enjoyable. Agonizing over word choices and rhymes, touching up drawings sometimes for years, he upheld a rigorous standard of perfection for his work. Geisel took his responsibility as a writer for children seriously, talking down to no reader, no matter how small.  Theodor Geisel, however, had a second, more radical side.  He had a successful career as an advertising man and then as a political cartoonist, his personal convictions appearing, not always subtly, throughout his books.  Geisel was a complicated man on an important mission. He introduced generations to the wonders of reading while teaching young people about empathy and how to treat others well.  In this fascinating biography. Brian Jay Jones gives us a glimpse into the many sides of Geisel’s character and artistry, allowing his adoring readers to see him as a well-rounded, complex, and fascinating individual.  NPR waxed rhapsodical about this book, declaring that Jones’ work is “perhaps the most complete, multidimensional look at the life of one of the most beloved authors and illustrators of our time…Jones goes above and beyond to contextualize Geisel in the larger picture at every moment of his life. [A] fascinating read that discusses the origin of the humorous, simple rhymes, bizarre creatures, and magic that characterized Geisel’s books while also showing the author’s more radical side as an unemployed wanderer who abandoned his doctoral studies, a successful advertising man, and a political cartoonist.”

MiddlegameSeanan McGuire’s imagination is seemingly endless, which is phenomenal news for her fans!  In this new stand-alone novel, we meet Roger–skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.  There is also Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realize it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.  And finally, there is Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.  Fans of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians will be pleased to hear that McGuire’s book is drawing lots of favorable comparisons to that series, and Booklist called it “an ambitious piece of world building from a master of the craft . . . thoroughly engaging.”

Deep Past: Eugene Linden’s book will appeal to science fiction readers and thriller fans alike, providing one of those intriguing summertime escapes we all crave at times. A routine dig in Kazakhstan takes a radical turn for thirty-two-year-old anthropologist Claire Knowland when a stranger turns up at the site with a bizarre find from a remote section of the desolate Kazakh Steppe. Her initial skepticism of this mysterious discovery gives way to a realization that the find will shake the very foundations of our understanding of evolution and intelligence.  Corrupt politics of Kazakhstan force Claire to take reckless chances with the discovery.  Among the allies she gathers in her fight to save herself and bring the discovery to light is Sergei Anachev, a brilliant but enigmatic Russian geologist who becomes her unlikely protector even as he deals with his own unknown crisis. Ultimately, Claire finds herself fighting not just for the discovery and her academic reputation, but for her very life as great power conflict engulfs the unstable region and an unscrupulous oligarch attempts to take advantage of the chaos. Linden himself has written several books on human evolution, so this is book, in the word of Lee Child (who wrote a blurb for it), is “An excellent thriller with real meat on the bones … makes you think as well as sweat.”

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss: Rajeev Balasubramanyam has given us a delightful new curmudgeon to meet in this novel about finding ourselves in a world that seems to be moving too fast for introspection. Professor Chandra is an internationally renowned economist, divorced father of three (quite frankly baffling) children, recent victim of a bicycle hit-and-run—but so much more than the sum of his parts. In the moments after the accident, Professor Chandra doesn’t see his life flash before his eyes but his life’s work. He’s just narrowly missed the Nobel Prize (again), and even though he knows he should get straight back to his pie charts, his doctor has other ideas. All this work. All this success. All this stress. It’s killing him. He needs to take a break, start enjoying himself. In short, says his doctor, he should follow his bliss. Professor Chandra doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. A sensational story that manages to balance introspection and humor with elegance, Library Journal declared this book a “joyful, heartwarming novel . . . Balasubramanyam invests it with compassion, humor, and kindness. . . . Recommended for anyone looking for a satisfying, uplifting read.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

Happy Friday, beloved patrons!  And very hearty congratulations to Jokha Alharthi, author of Celestial Bodies who was awarded the 2019 Man Booker International Prize this week!  The ceremony posted this video on Twitter to share the event with all of us:

Alharthi is not only the first Arab woman to win the Man Booker International Prize, but she is also the first female Omani novelist to have her book translated into English.  Celestial Bodies is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society which is slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, it tells of Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves.

Arabic author Jokha Alharthi (L) and translator Marilyn Booth after winning the Man Booker International Prize for Celestial Bodies in London on May 21, 2019
Via The BBC

Alharthi shares the award of £50,000 ($63,000) with her translator,  American academic Marilyn Booth.  In a statement quoted by the BBC, Alharthi said “I am thrilled that a window has been opened to the rich Arabic culture…Oman inspired me but I think international readers can relate to the human values in the book – freedom and love.”

We are delighted for both Jokha Alharthi and Marilyn Booth!

And now, on to some of the wonderful books that have graced our own shelves this week:

Sisters and Rebels: A Struggle for the Soul of America: Descendants of a prominent slaveholding family, Elizabeth, Grace, and Katharine Lumpkin grew up in a culture of white supremacy. But while Elizabeth remained a lifelong believer, her younger sisters chose vastly different lives. Seeking their fortunes in the North, Grace and Katharine reinvented themselves as radical thinkers whose literary works and organizing efforts brought the nation’s attention to issues of region, race, and labor.  Utilizing decades of archival research and interviews with the family, National Humanities Award–winning historian Jacquelyn Dowd Hall follows the divergent paths of the Lumpkin sisters, tracing the wounds and unsung victories of the past through to the contemporary moment, Hall revives a buried tradition of Southern expatriation and progressivism; explores the lost, revolutionary zeal of the early twentieth century; and muses on the fraught ties of sisterhood.  Kirkus Reviews gave this work a starred review, applauding how these “Sharply etched biographical portraits focus a compelling history.”

The Scent of Murder: Fan-favorite author Kylie Logan launches a new mystery series that moves away from her previous cozy mysteries into a more hard-boiled procedural that is sure to earn her a wealth of new fans.  The way Jazz Ramsey figures it, life is pretty good. She’s thirty-five years old and owns her own home in one of Cleveland’s most diverse, artsy, and interesting neighborhoods. She has a job she likes as an administrative assistant at an all-girls school, and a volunteer interest she’s passionate about―Jazz is a cadaver dog handler. Jazz is working with Luther, a cadaver dog in training. Luther is still learning cadaver work, so Jazz is putting him through his paces at an abandoned building that will soon be turned into pricey condos. When Luther signals a find, Jazz is stunned to see the body of a young woman who is dressed in black and wearing the kind of make-up and jewelry that Jazz used to see on the Goth kids back in high school. She’s even more shocked when she realizes that beneath the tattoos and the piercings and all that pale make up is a familiar face. The lead detective on the case is an old lover, and the murdered woman is an old student. Jazz finds herself sucked into the case, obsessed with learning the truth. An intense, engaging mystery, with a phenomenal sense of place, this is a series to watch!  Booklist agrees, noting that “The city itself is a character, transforming from its usual stereotype of a flyover city to a setting of intrigue. Dog lovers will enjoy the relationship between Jazz and her pets, and they’ll learn something about cadaver dogs as Jazz brings a killer to justice.”

Springtime in a Broken Mirror: The late Mario Benedetti’s work has been celebrated as among the best of his generation, drawing comparisons with other Latin American writers as Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes.  This book, which is finally available in an English translation, deals with Santiago, a political prisoner in Uruguay, who was jailed after a brutal military coup that saw many of his comrades flee elsewhere. Santiago, feeling trapped, can do nothing but write letters to his family and try to stay sane. Far away, his nine-year-old daughter Beatrice wonders at the marvels of 1970s Buenos Aires, but her grandpa and mother—Santiago’s beautiful, careworn wife, Graciela—struggle to adjust to a life in exile.  This is a powerful book that sheds light on the ways in which world events shape and influence the lives and relationships of individuals, told in tender, heartfelt, and wrenchingly honest prose. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a starred review, calling it a “rich, heartbreaking novel. . . . Benedetti’s tender yet unflinching portrait of a family in the crushing straits of history is a welcome addition to the small (and hopefully growing) catalogue of his work that has been translated into English.”

The Confessions of Frannie LangtonSara Collins debut novel is drawing comparisons to Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, which is reason enough for us to look forward to reading it, but the description of this book grabbed our attention all on its own.  All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being tried at the Old Bailey. The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore. But Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, even if remembering could save her life. She doesn’t know how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood. But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship. Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself. Collins confronts the darkest parts of history and our humanity in this book with heart and integrity, and her work has earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who called it “a bold and vibrant jolt to both the gothic and historical fiction genres. . . . Most of all, she has created in her title character a complex, melancholy, and trenchantly observant protagonist. . . . [a] gripping, groundbreaking debut.”

The Organs of Sense: Adam Ehrlich Sachs’ fiction debut is a delightfully absurd, joyfully imaginative romp through a re-imagined historical moment that will hold appeal for fans across a number of genres.  Set in 1666, the story begins when an astronomer makes a prediction shared by no one else in the world: at the stroke of noon on June 30 of that year, a solar eclipse will cast all of Europe into total darkness for four seconds. This astronomer is rumored to be using the longest telescope ever built, but he is also known to be blind; both his eyes having been plucked out some time before under mysterious circumstances. Is he mad? Or does he, despite this impairment, have an insight denied the other scholars of his day These questions intrigue the young Gottfried Leibniz―not yet the world-renowned polymath who would go on to discover calculus, but a nineteen-year-old whose faith in reason is shaky at best. Leibniz sets off to investigate the astronomer’s claim, and over the three hours remaining before the eclipse occurs―or fails to occur―the astronomer tells the scholar the haunting and hilarious story behind his strange prediction: a tale that ends up encompassing kings and princes, family squabbles, obsessive pursuits, insanity, philosophy, art, loss, and the horrors of war. This is a surprisingly deep little novel that hides its wisdom inside a tale rife with humor.  Library Journal adored it, giving it a starred review and celebrating how it is “filled with delightful tales of palace intrigue, sibling rivalry, and extensive forays into empirical thought and logic. Deep philosophy is applied to nearly everything that pops up, including the eating of soup. Yet despite these heavy themes, Sachs applies a liberal does of clever humor throughout; nearly everyone is a charlatan in what might be the most lighthearted work about the history of science ever published.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And today, we mark with a heavy heart the passing of I.M. Pei, internationally-renowned architect and MIT alum, at the venerable age of 102.

Image result for im pei
I.M. Pei, via ArchDaily

Ieoh Ming Pei was born in Guangzhou China, to a family that could trace their lineage to the Ming Dynasty, and made their fortune in medicinal herbs.  He was raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and despite being unable to speak English, he decided to matriculate to the University of Pennsylvania to study architecture.  UPenn, however, was a program that remained focused on the Beaux-Arts period of architecture (think 18th and 19th century Parisian architecture), and Pei wanted something more modern.  He transferred to MIT, graduating in 1940.  He enrolled in Harvard School of Design for a graduate degree, but less than a month after starting the program, he suspended his work in order to join the National Defense Research Committee, which coordinated scientific research into US weapons technology during World War II. Pei’s background in architecture made him a valuable asset to the program.  As he was told by a fellow committee member, “If you know how to build you should also know how to destroy.”  Following the war, Pei returned to Harvard, and worked with Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer, both leaders of the Bauhaus philosophy of architecture (a modernist movement that was influenced by arts and crafts design), which had been banned by the Nazi government.

Soon after the end of the Second World War, Pei’s career took off, and he was inundated with requests for projects and buildings.  One of the most important of his career was the John F. Kennedy library in Boston.  Although the design itself had to be modified due to location and planning trouble, the building launched Pei into the architectural stratosphere.  He would go on to design the Hancock Tower in Boston, as well as the glass pyramid outside the Louvre in Paris.  For more on Pei’s remarkable life, architectural ethos, and design history check out this fabulous selection of books available through the NOBLE network, or check with your favorite Public Services Staff to learn more.  You can also read The New York Times’ article on Pei’s Most Important Buildings, as well as the BBC’s coverage, which includes links to articles that highlight Pei’s long and storied career.  We join the world in acknowledging the work and life of this remarkable and charming man, and rejoice in the memories his building evoke.

And now, on to the books!

A Sin by Any Other Name: Reckoning with Racism and the Heritage of the South: The Reverend Robert W. Lee, descendant of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, was a little-known pastor at a small church in North Carolina until the Charlottesville protests, when he went public with his denunciation of white supremacy in a captivating speech at the MTV Video Music Awards. Support poured in from around the country, but so did threats of violence from people who opposed the Reverend’s message. In this riveting memoir, he narrates what it was like growing up as a Lee in the South, an experience that was colored by the world of the white Christian majority. He describes the widespread nostalgia for the Lost Cause and his gradual awakening to the unspoken assumptions of white supremacy which had, almost without him knowing it, distorted his values and even his Christian faith. In particular, Lee examines how many white Christians continue to be complicit in a culture of racism and injustice, and how after leaving his pulpit, he was welcomed into a growing movement of activists all across the South who are charting a new course for the region.  This powerful memoir, headed by a foreword by Rev. Dr. Bernice A. King, is a timely exploration of American culture and religion that Publisher’s Weekly called a “revealing memoir . . . open minded readers will appreciate Lee’s perspective on race in America as well as his story of working to overcome division, bigotry, and his own family’s fraught history.”

City of JasmineGerman author Olga Grjasnowa’s latest novel is one that doesn’t turn away from the heartbreak and horror of war, but also manages to focus on the light and humanity that can be present alongside it.  When Hammoudi, a young surgeon based in Paris, returns to Syria to renew his passport, he only expects to stay there a few days. But the authorities refuse to let him leave and Hammoudi finds himself caught up in the fight against the regime. Meanwhile, budding actress Amal has also joined the protests against the government and her own father, by whom she feels betrayed. Realising that they will never again be safe in their homeland, Amal and her boyfriend Youssef decide to flee to Europe in a desperate bid to survive.  But the path to safety brings its own risks, and Amal and Youssef once again narrowly escape death when their overcrowded ship sinks. Eventually they reach Germany, but soon discover that in this new life – where they are perceived as nothing but refugees – their struggle is far from over. Grjasnowa’s books have received rave reviews across Europe, and Library Journal noted that she “provides a close-as-skin understanding of what it’s like to suffer bombardment, torture, and dislocation while remaining human and hopeful… Highly recommended.”

Exhalation: Stories: Fans of the blockbuster film Arrival, which was based on one of Ted Chiang’s short stories, will be delighted to hear that a new collection of his tales have arrived, all of which focus on humanity’s longest and deepest questions through fantasy, science fiction, and a rich love of language. In “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a portal through time forces a fabric seller in ancient Baghdad to grapple with past mistakes and second chances. In “Exhalation,” an alien scientist makes a shocking discovery with ramifications that are literally universal. In “Anxiety Is the Dizziness of Freedom,” the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will. These stories span Chiang’s career, and earned a rave review from Joyce Carol Oates in the New Yorker, where she wrote “Chiang has explored conventional tropes of science fiction in highly unconventional ways. . . . Individual sentences possess the windowpane transparency that George Orwell advocated as a prose ideal. . . . It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with . . . ardor and earnestness. . . . Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress.”

Game of Bones: Carolyn Haines’ latest mystery featuring southern private investigator Sarah Booth Delaney has a very timely title, but her humor and flair for small-town settings set this series well apart from the current HBO show.  Dr. Frank Hafner is an archeologist working on excavating a new-found Native American temple site in the Mississippi Delta. He’s also too handsome for his own good, and a bit of a flirt. Oddly enough, it’s the first quality that gets him in trouble when he discovers the ritualistic murder of one of his archeological crew. When Coleman Peters, Sheriff and Sarah Booth’s boyfriend, takes Dr. Hafner in for questioning in the murder, the accused doctor hires Sarah Booth to clear his name. Soon, Sarah Booth has uncovered a number of possible suspects, but she can’t narrow them down fast enough to stem the continuing violence that seems to trace back to Dr. Hafner’s dig. When Peter Deerstalker, a member of the Tunica tribe, mentions a curse, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched–especially when a young graduate student on the site claims someone on the site is searching for something much more precious than ancient pottery.  Something supernatural seems to be lurking in the Mississippi Delta, and it’s up to Sarah to determine the truth of the matter in this mystery that earned high praise from Publisher’s Weekly, who noted that “Distinctive characters and an atmospheric setting elevate this paranormal cozy. Series fans and newcomers alike will be satisfied.”

The Reckoning: Fans of Icelandic noir most likely know about Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s phenomenal work, but for those who don’t consider this your invitation to get started on her brooding and complex Children’s House series.  In this pule-pounding second book in the series, a chilling note predicting the deaths of six people is found in a school’s time capsule, ten years after it was buried. But surely, if a thirteen-year-old wrote it, it can’t be a real threat–can it?  Detective Huldar suspects he’s been given the investigation simply to keep him away from real police work. He turns to psychologist Freyja to help understand the child who hid the message. Soon, however, they find themselves at the heart of another shocking case. For the discovery of the letter coincides with a string of macabre events: body parts found in a garden, followed by the murder of the man who owned the house. His initials are BT, one of the names on the note. Huldar and Freyja must race to identify the writer, the victims and the murderer, before the rest of the targets are killed.  Booklist gave this super novel a glowing review, praising how “Sigurdardottir offsets sharp procedural elements and gruesome crimes with masterful character development and social commentary, creating a riveting, affecting thriller.”

Until next week, Beloved Patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And it’s time again, beloved patrons, for the Peabody Elementary Schools Art Show here at the Main Library!

The Elementary Schools Student Art Show is scheduled for May 8 — 28 in the Peabody Institute Library’s Main Reading Room.  Anyone who comes to visit the Main Library during this time will have the opportunity to enjoy artwork from Peabody’s eight public elementary schools!  The art show is one of our favorite events of the year, filling the library with color, imagination, and a myriad of mixed media artwork.  Come on by and see for yourself!

And now, here are some of the books that have slogged through this damp spring to make it to our shelves, and are eager to pass the weekend by your side.

Sing To It: New Stories: Multiple-award-winning author Amy Hempel is a master of the short story, as proven in these fifteen stunning stories. Each of these bite-sized bits of fiction introduce characters, lonely and adrift, searching for connection. In “A Full-Service Shelter,” a volunteer at a dog shelter tirelessly, devotedly cares for dogs on a list to be euthanized. In “Greed,” a spurned wife examines her husband’s affair with a glamorous, older married woman. And in “Cloudland,” the longest story in the collection, a woman reckons with the choice she made as a teenager to give up her newborn infant. Quietly dazzling, these stories are replete with moments of revelation and transcendence. Kirkus Reviews gave this collection a starred review, cheering it as “A dizzying array of short fiction…Hempel packs a lot into her narrow spaces: nuance, longing, love, and loss. The brilliance of the writing resides in the way Hempel manages to tell us everything in spite of her narrator’s reticence, teaching us to read between the lines.”

Lights All Night Long: A moving stories about brotherhood, family, and the many meanings of home, Lydia Fitzpatrick’s debut is getting rave reviews from a number of outlets.  Fifteen-year-old Ilya grew up in a decrepit mining town in Russia, learning English from the Die Hard movies.  As an adult, he has arrived in Louisiana for what should be the adventure of his life: a year in America as an exchange student. The abundance of his new world–the Super Walmarts and heated pools and enormous televisions–is as hard to fathom as the relentless cheerfulness of his host parents. And Sadie, their beautiful and enigmatic daughter, has miraculously taken an interest in him.  But Ilya’s brother Vladimir is instead consuming his thoughts. The two have always been close, spending their days dreaming of escaping to America. But when Ilya was tapped for the exchange, Vladimir disappeared into their town’s seedy, drug-plagued underworld. Just before Ilya left, the murders of three young women rocked the town’s usual calm, and Vladimir found himself in prison. With the help of Sadie, who has secrets of her own, Ilya embarks on a mission to prove Vladimir’s innocence. Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a glowing review, calling it “A glittering debut. . . . The murder mystery is intricate and well-crafted, but the highlight is the relationship between the two brothers—the shy brainiac and the charming addict—and in the smoldering, seething resentment felt by young people. This is a heartbreaking novel about the lengths to which people go to escape their own pain, and the prices people are willing to pay to alleviate the suffering of their loved ones.”

Inspection: If you, like us, loved Bird Box and Unbury Carol, then you’ll be as delighted as we are about Josh Malerman’s newest release. J is one of only twenty-six students, at a school deep in a forest far away from the rest of the world.  Each student thinks of the school’s enigmatic founder as their father, and J’s peers are the only family he has ever had. The students are being trained to be prodigies of art, science, and athletics, and their life at the school is all they know—and all they are allowed to know. But J suspects that there is something out there, beyond the pines, that the founder does not want him to see, and he’s beginning to ask questions. What is the real purpose of this place? Why can the students never leave? And what secrets is their father hiding from them? Meanwhile, on the other side of the forest, in a school very much like J’s, a girl named K is asking the same questions. J has never seen a girl, and K has never seen a boy. As K and J work to investigate the secrets of their two strange schools, they come to discover something even more mysterious: each other.  Unsettling, intriguing, and compulsively readable, this is a book that is sure to keep you up past your bedtime.  Booklist agreed in their starred review, calling this story “Fast-paced, tension-filled [and] with lots to think about . . . Malerman’s latest has all of the claustrophobic tension his fans crave, but this time the monsters are 100 percent human.”

Little Darlings: Another creepy play on fairy tales and folklore, Melanie Golding’s new novel is a thoroughly unsettling tale about changelings and children. Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things. A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies. Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.  This book also earned a starred review from Booklist, who called it  “A modern story of ghosts and fairy tales . . . Golding beautifully blends the supernatural with the everyday, keeping readers riveted to the page as they question what is true.”

The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris: Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. From the Spanish flu to the 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles to the 1930 “parrot fever” pandemic, through the more recent SARS, Ebola, and Zika epidemics, the last one hundred years have been marked by a succession of unanticipated pandemic alarms. Mark Honigsbaum combines reportage with the history of science and medical sociology to artfully reconstruct epidemiological mysteries and the ecology of infectious diseases. We meet dedicated disease detectives, obstructive or incompetent public health officials, and brilliant scientists often blinded by their own knowledge of bacteria and viruses. We also see how fear of disease often exacerbates racial, religious, and ethnic tensions, all of which harm humans, while diseases continue to rampage humanity.  Kirkus gave this engaging and enlightening book a starred review, noting that it is both “Lively, gruesome, and masterful….Honigsbaum mixes superb medical history with vivid portraits of the worldwide reactions to each [pandemic] event.”

 

Until next week beloved patrons…Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a friendly reminder that PILCon, the Peabody Institute Library’s 3rd Annual all-ages Comic Con! PILCON will be held on Saturday, May 4th from 10am-4pm at “PIL”, aka, the Main Library, at 82 Main Street.  We can’t wait to see you there!

The Library will also be open as usual during the day on Saturday, though patrons should be advised that it might be a little louder and more hectic than usual outside of the ground floor reading area (where the new fiction, dvds, cds, and public computers live).  It’s all good fun, however, so please feel free to take part, should the mood strike you!

And now, on to the books!

The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays: Schizophrenia is not a single unifying diagnosis, and Esmé Weijun Wang writes not just to her fellow members of the “collected schizophrenias” but to those who wish to understand it as well. Opening with the journey toward her diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, Wang discusses the medical community’s own disagreement about labels and procedures for diagnosing those with mental illness, and then follows an arc that examines the manifestations of schizophrenia in her life. In essays that range from using fashion to present as high-functioning to the depths of a rare form of psychosis, and from the failures of the higher education system and the dangers of institutionalization to the complexity of compounding factors such as PTSD and Lyme disease, Wang’s analytical eye, honed as a former lab researcher at Stanford, allows her to balance research with personal narrative.  All together, these essays form a powerful guide through the lived experiences of patients who often go understood and understudied, providing support and insight for those who experience schizoaffective disorder, and those looking to understand the condition more empathetically.  The Washington Post gave this book a ringing endorsement, noting “Wang . . . is an implicitly trustworthy guide to this netherworld of psychosis and chronic illness. . . . Her characteristic nuance more often carries the ring of wisdom, hard won.”

RoarHere’s another collection for those looking for some more bite-sized reading, this time in the realm of fiction from much-beloved author Cecelia Ahearn.  In this singular and imaginative story collection, Cecelia Ahern explores the endless ways in which women blaze through adversity with wit, resourcefulness, and compassion. Ahern takes the familiar aspects of women’s lives–the routines, the embarrassments, the desires–and elevates these moments to the outlandish and hilarious with her astute blend of magical realism and social insight.  One woman is tortured by sinister bite marks that appear on her skin; another is swallowed up by the floor during a mortifying presentation; yet another resolves to return and exchange her boring husband at the store where she originally acquired him. The women at the center of this curious universe learn that their reality is shaped not only by how others perceive them, but also how they perceive the power within themselves.  By turns sly, whimsical, and affecting, these thirty short stories can stand alone, or be read together to create a dynamic and honest look at women’s experiences today.  Kirkus Reviews agreed, calling this book “Curiously delightful…each story resonate[s] as simultaneously personal and universal…A sharp, breathtaking collection.”

Sissy: A Coming-Of-Gender Story: From the moment a doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina, put “male” on Jacob Tobia’s birth certificate, everything went wrong. Alongside “male” came many other, far less neutral words: words that carried expectations about who Jacob was and who Jacob should be, words like “masculine” and “aggressive” and “cargo shorts” and “SPORTS!” Naturally sensitive, playful, creative, and glitter-obsessed, as a child Jacob was given the label “sissy.” In the two decades that followed, “sissy” joined forces with “gay,” “trans,” “nonbinary,” and “too-queer-to-function” to become a source of pride and, today, a rallying cry for a much-needed gender revolution. Through revisiting their childhood and calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, Jacob invites us to rethink what we know about gender and offers a bold blueprint for a healed world–one free from gender-based trauma and bursting with trans-inclusive feminism. Writing with the fierce honesty, wildly irreverent humor, and wrenching vulnerability that have made them a media sensation, Jacob shatters the long-held notion that people are easily sortable into “men” and “women.”  Their book guarantees that you’ll never think about gender the same way again.   Booklist loved this book, and gave it a starred review, noting that “Tobia writes extremely well, with insight, lucidity, occasional anger, and, when things get too serious, wit. The result is, hands down, one of the best trans narratives available; it deserves a place in every library.”

They All Fall Down: Overtones of Agatha Christie blend with the terror modern technological failures to make for a compulsively readable thriller.  Delighted by a surprise invitation, Miriam Macy sails off to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico with six other strangers. Surrounded by miles of open water in the gloriously green Sea of Cortez, Miriam is soon shocked to discover that she and the rest of her companions have been brought to the remote island under false pretenses―and all seven strangers harbor a secret. Danger lurks in the lush forest and in the halls and bedrooms of the lonely mansion. Sporadic cell-phone coverage and miles of ocean keeps the group trapped in paradise. And strange accidents stir suspicions, as one by one, they all, as the title reminds, fall down.  Publisher’s Weekly clearly got a kick out of this title, describing how “This cleverly updated version of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None…slips from funny to darkly frightening with elegant ease.”

The Binding: All we can say about this book, dear readers, is that if the cover doesn’t entrance you, the story beneath it will! Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice amongst their small community, but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse. For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored. But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.  A haunting and nuanced tale about memory, love, and the life-changing power of books, this is a novel that The Guardian called “Truly spellbinding… Many readers of The Binding will simply sink gratefully into the pleasures of its pages, because, like all great fables, it also functions as transporting romance.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And we wanted to remind you, beloved patrons, that the Friends of the Library are again selling beautiful geranium and impatiens plants, just in time for Mother’s Day and
Memorial Day.  The money raised from these sales will be used to help the Peabody Institute Libraries to offer some of the best programs and services in the area.   You can find the form on our website, in person at the Library, or right here, by clicking this link.

Orders must be prepaid and received at the Main Library by Wednesday, May 8. Plants may be picked up at the Main Library on Saturday, May 11. Make checks payable to: Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries.  You can then deliver or mail the form to any one of our libraries.  Thank you for your assistance, and we sincerely hope your flowers bring you color and joy!

And now, on to the books!

Boy Swallows Universe: Trent Dalton’s debut is being celebrated by authors and critics across the country for its realistic depiction of Australia in the 1980’s, along side a fantastical story about the power of love in its many forms. Eli Bell’s life is complicated. His father is lost, his mother is in jail, and his stepdad is a heroin dealer. The most steadfast adult in Eli’s life is Slim—a notorious felon and national record-holder for successful prison escapes—who watches over Eli and August, his silent genius of an older brother. Exiled from the people who may be able to help him, Eli is just trying to follow his heart, learn what it takes to be a good man, and train for a glamorous career in journalism. Life, however, insists on throwing obstacles in Eli’s path—most notably Tytus Broz, Brisbane’s legendary drug dealer. But the real trouble lies ahead. Eli is about to fall in love, face off against truly bad guys, and fight to save his mother from a certain doom—all before starting high school. A novel about friendship, brotherhood, family, and romance, this is a story that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who said it “makes the typical coming-of-age novel look bland by comparison…In less adept hands, these antics might descend into whimsy, but Dalton’s broadly observant eye, ability to temper pathos with humor, and thorough understanding of the mechanics of plot prevent the novel from breaking into sparkling pieces…This is an outstanding debut.”

In the Night of Memory: Linda LeGarde Grover’s introduces readers to a new generation of the Gallette family she crafted in her other words, and deals with the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, the trauma of loss, and the long and painful history of Native/American women in the United States in a beautiful and wonderfully accessible manner. When Loretta surrenders her young girls to the county and then disappears, she becomes one more missing Native woman in Indian Country’s long devastating history of loss. Habsence haunts all the lives she has touched—and all the stories they tell in this novel. After a string of foster placements, from cold to kind to cruel, Azure and Rain, Loretta’s two daughters, find their way back to their extended Mozhay family, and a new set of challenges, and stories, unfolds, creating a nuanced, moving, often humorous picture of two Ojibwe girls becoming women in light of this lesson learned in the long, sharply etched shadow of Native American history.  This is a powerful, heart-rending, but ultimately, uplifting book that Ms. Magazine celebrated for the way it “brings together themes of missing women, family and community, complicated histories and collective wisdoms.”

Loch of the Dead: Readers of Oscar De Muriel’s McGray and Frey series can delight in this fourth mystery, which brings a boatload of gothic atmosphere and a fun, twisty adventure for the two sleuths to solve. A mysterious woman pleads for the help of our devoted  Inspectors. Her son, illegitimate scion of the Koloman family, has received an anonymous death threat―right after learning he is to inherit the best part of a vast wine-producing estate. In exchange for their protection, she offers McGray the ultimate cure for his sister, who has been locked in an insane asylum after brutally murdering their parents: the miraculous waters that spring from a small island in the remote Loch Maree. The island has been a sacred burial ground since the time of the druids, but the legends around it will turn out to be much darker than McGray could have expected. Murder and increasingly bizarre happenings will intermingle throughout this trip to the Highlands, before Frey and McGray learn a terrible truth.  Nothing is what is seems in this book, and readers will be hard-pressed to guess what is coming next–or to keep from turning pages to discover the next revelation!  Kirkus Reviews gave this book a stellar review, describing it as “Steeped in history, myth, and medical lore, murky as the deepest loch, miles from the remotest civilizing forces, this provides all the thrills of an amusement-park concession for grown-ups who want to test their limits.”

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming: In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await—food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today. Frightening, but also deeply informative, this book is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation. Indeed, The New York Times called it “the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet.”

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse RaceAt the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to “the world’s longest, toughest horse race”―an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. As she boarded a plane to East Asia, she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her.  Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that re-creates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan, and many fail to finish. Prior-Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe, as American television crews chased her in their jeeps.  Told in breathtaking, breathless prose, this is the story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this amazing race.  Kirkus Reviews called this tale “Feisty and exhilarating . . . Horse lovers will adore this inspiring and spirited memoir.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!