Tag Archives: Five Book Friday

Five Book Friday!

We also wanted to let you know, beloved patrons, that our elevator will be out of service all day on Monday, April 8.  Our West and South Branches will be open and functioning as usual.  Our staff will also be on hand to help you access any area of the library over the course of the day.  We are very sorry for the difficulties this will cause, but we hope that the results (namely, a fully functioning elevator) will be worth it!

But now, on to the books!

The ParadeDavid Eggers has not only made great contributions to literature himself, but his work with young writers and literacy programs is ensuring that lots of other young wordsmiths will also be making contributions as well.  And thus, we’re quite excited to showcase his newest novel. An unnamed country is leaving the darkness of a decade at war, and to commemorate the armistice the government commissions a new road connecting two halves of the state. Two men, foreign contractors from the same company, are sent to finish the highway. While one is flighty and adventurous, wanting to experience the nightlife and people, the other wants only to do the work and go home. But both men must eventually face the absurdities of their positions, and the dire consequences of their presence.  These men are introduced only by numbers, and their pasts are hidden from us, replicating the odd, and subtly disconcerting tone of the state in which they are working. The result is a story that Kirkus described as “An unassuming but deceptively complex morality play, as Eggers distills his ongoing concerns into ever tighter prose.”

The Lost Night: Andrea Bartz’s debut has muscled its way onto a number of ‘best of’ lists, and is raising the eyebrows and pulses of readers, as well.  In 2009, Edie had New York’s social world in her thrall. Mercurial and beguiling, she was the shining star of a group of recent graduates living in a Brooklyn loft and treating New York like their playground. When Edie’s body was found near a suicide note at the end of a long, drunken night, no one could believe it. Grief, shock, and resentment scattered the group and brought the era to an abrupt end.  A decade later, Lindsay has come a long way from the drug-addled world of Calhoun Lofts. She has devoted best friends, a cozy apartment, and a thriving career as a magazine’s head fact-checker. But when a chance reunion leads Lindsay to discover an unsettling video from that hazy night, she starts to wonder if Edie was actually murdered—and, worse, if she herself was involved. As she rifles through those months in 2009—combing through case files, old technology, and her fractured memories—Lindsay is forced to confront the demons of her own violent history to bring the truth to light.  We love ourselves a good unreliable narrator here at the Free For All, so this book is on our To Be Read list, as well!  Milwaukee Magazine gave this book a great review, noting “.If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers with strong female protagonists, like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects or Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, put The Lost Night on your must-read list.”

A Woman Is No Man: Here is another stunning debut from Brooklyn-based author Etaf Rum, that looks at the immigrant experience inside one very unique family.  Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children—four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.  In Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family—knowledge that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her parents, the past, and her own future.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a powerful review of this book, describing it as “A dauntless exploration of the pathology of silence, an attempt to unsnarl the dark knot of history, culture, fear and trauma that can render conservative Arab-American women so visibly invisible…. The triumph of Rum’s novel is that she refuses to measure her women against anything but their own hearts and histories…. Both a love letter to storytelling and a careful object lesson in its power.”

Murder By The Book: The Crime that Shocked Dickens’ LondonIn May 1840, Lord William Russell, well known in London’s highest social circles, was found with his throat cut. The brutal murder had the whole city talking. The police suspected Russell’s valet, Courvoisier, but the evidence was weak. The missing clue, it turned out, lay in the unlikeliest place: what Courvoisier had been reading. In the years just before the murder, new printing methods had made books cheap and abundant, the novel form was on the rise, and suddenly everyone was reading. The best-selling titles were the most sensational true-crime stories. Even Dickens and Thackeray, both at the beginning of their careers, fell under the spell of these tales–Dickens publicly admiring them, Thackeray rejecting them.  One such phenomenon was William Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard, the story of an unrepentant criminal who escaped the gallows time and again. When Lord William’s murderer finally confessed his guilt, he would cite this novel in his defense.  In this recounting of the case and its literary roots, Claire Harman combines a thrilling true-crime story with an illuminating account of the rise of the novel form and the battle for its early soul among the most famous writers of the time.  Kirkus Reviews gave this wonderfully-researched book a starred review, calling it “An endlessly fascinating, bookish tale of true crime in Victorian England . . . Lovers of Drood, Sherlock, Jack the Ripper, and their kin real and fictional will relish the gruesome details of this entertaining book.”

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System; A Tale in Four Lives: A terminal cancer patient rises from the grave. A medical marvel defies HIV. Two women with autoimmunity discover their own bodies have turned against them.  Through these fascinating human stories, Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Matt Richtel takes us on a journey of the human immune system winding from the Black Plague to twentieth-century breakthroughs in vaccination and antibiotics, to the cutting-edge laboratories that are revolutionizing immunology. Based on extensive new interviews with dozens of world-renowned scientists, Matt Richtel’s new work is both an investigation into the deepest riddles of survival and a profoundly human tale that is movingly brought to life through the eyes of his four main characters, each of whom illuminates an essential facet of our immunological defense system. Kirkus also gave this book a starred review, hailing it as  “An expert examination of the immune system. … Richtel illuminates a complex subject so well that even physicians will learn.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

Before we get to the books, beloved patrons, we wanted to let you know about a very special event taking place at our West Branch next week.

As some of you may know, the West Branch Children’s Librarian of Dale Sampson will be retiring on April 4.  Miss Dale has been a true treasure for the library for twenty-nine years, and while we will miss her enormously, we are also so happy to see her begin a new chapter in her adventures!  To that end, the West Branch will be hosting an Open House on Tuesday, April 2, from 3:00pm – 6:00pm to give all of Miss Dale’s patrons a chance to wish her well and thank her for all she has done for the Library, for Peabody, and for all the readers whose lives she has touched.  Please help us send her off in style with well wishes, some refreshments and lots of good cheer!

And now, on to the books!

Oksana, Behave!A delightful coming-of-age novel, an immigrant story, and a moving historical narrative all rolled into one, Maria Kuznetsova’s fiction debut is a vibrant treat on every level.  When Oksana’s family begins their new American life in Florida after emigrating from Ukraine, her physicist father delivers pizza at night to make ends meet, her depressed mother sits home all day worrying, and her flamboyant grandmother relishes the attention she gets when she walks Oksana to school, not realizing that the street they’re walking down is known as Prostitute Street. Oksana just wants to have friends and lead a normal life—and though she constantly tries to do the right thing, she keeps getting herself in trouble.  As she grows up, she continues to misbehave, from somewhat accidentally maiming the school bus bully, to stealing the much-coveted (and expensive-to-replace) key to New York City’s Gramercy Park, to falling in love with a married man. As her grandmother moves back to Ukraine, her father gets a job at Goldman Sachs, and her mother knits endless scarves, Oksana longs for a Russia that looms large in her imagination but is a country she never really knew. When she visits her grandmother in Yalta and learns about Baba’s wartime past and her lost loves, Oksana begins to see just how much alike they are, and comes to a new understanding of how to embrace life and love without causing harm to the people dearest to her. But will Oksana ever quite learn to behave?  Critics and readers have been lining up to praise this comic saga, with Publisher’s Weekly cheering, “Kuznetsova’s standout debut offers a fresh and funny look into the life of a bold young immigrant woman. . . . This accomplished and frank work is a new take on an immigrant girl’s complicated coming-of-age.”

A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing: The Incarceration of African American Women from Harriet Tubman to Sandra Bland: For black American women, the experience of being bound has taken many forms: from the bondage of slavery to the Reconstruction-era criminalization of women; from the brutal constraints of Jim Crow to our own era’s prison industrial complex, where between 1980 and 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by 700% (according to The Sentencing Project). For those women who lived and died resisting the dehumanization of confinement–physical, social, intellectual–the threat of being bound was real, constant, and lethal. Yet Black women freedom fighters have braved violence, scorn, despair, and isolation in order to lodge their protests throughout the course of American history, and in this stirring and enlightening work, DaMaris Hill honors their experiences with harrowing yet hopeful poetic responses to her heroes, from Zora Neale Hurston, Lucille Clifton, Fannie Lou Hamer, Grace Jones, to Eartha Kitt, and others.  This is a work that celebrate the modern-day inheritors of their load and light, binding history, author, and reader in an essential legacy of struggle. Booklist gave this powerful collection a starred review, and named it one of their Top Ten Diverse Nonfiction Titles, noting how “In this distinctive inquiry in verse, Hill reflects on black women who resisted violent racism and misogyny, ranging from the notable and notorious to the lesser-known yet no less heroic.” 

GingerbreadHow many fairy tales and children’s books can you remember that feature gingerbread?  More than one, I’m willing to bet.  Inspired by this oddly ubiquitous food, Helen Oyeyemi has crafted an enchanting tale of family legacies and recipes.  Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (or, according to many sources, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. The world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread, however, is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend Gretel Kercheval —a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.  Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Oyeyemi is a marvelous storyteller, and her books always dance on the line between reality and fantasy in a marvelously unique manner.  The New York Times Review of Books agrees, calling this novel “Exhilarating. . .Gingerbread is jarring, funny, surprising, unsettling, disorienting and rewarding. . .This is a wildly imagined, head-spinning, deeply intelligent novel that requires some effort and attention from its reader. And that is just one of its many pleasures.”

Make Me A City: Another unique blend of history and fiction, Jonathan Carr’s novel brings us to the city of Chicago in the 19th century, and shows how the greatest of moments can come from the smallest of events.  The tale begins with a game of chess—and on the outcome of that game hinges the destiny of a great city. From appalling injustice springs forth the story of Chicago, and the men and women whose resilience, avarice, and altruism combine to generate a moment of unprecedented civic energy. A variety of irresistible voices deliver the many strands of this novel: those of Jean Baptiste Pointe de Sable, the long-unheralded founder of Chicago; John Stephen Wright, bombastic speculator and booster; and Antje Hunter, the first woman to report for the Chicago Tribune. The stories of loggers, miners, engineers, and educators teem around them and each claim the narrative in turns, sharing their grief as well as their delight. As the characters, and their ancestors, meet and part, as their possessions pass from hand to hand, the reader realizes that Jonathan Carr commands a grand picture, one that encompasses the heartaches of everyday lives as well as the overarching ideals of what a city and a society can and should be.  With it’s multi-layered narratives and rich characters, this is another debut novel that is earning praise.  Kirkus Reviews delighted in the ways that “The rise of Chicago in the 19th century provides the frame for a trove of colorful stories and characters in this entertaining debut novel.”

The Woman in the Dark: It’s so refreshing to have a woman in the title of a thriller (instead of another Girl).  In any event, Vanessa Savage’s heady psychological thriller brings all the delightful darkness of the gothic tradition into the present day.  Sarah and Patrick are happy. But after her mother’s death, Sarah spirals into depression and overdoses on sleeping pills. While Sarah claims it was an accident, her teenage children aren’t so sure. Patrick decides they all need a fresh start and he knows just the place, since the idyllic family home where he was raised has recently come up for sale. There’s only one catch: for the past fifteen years, it has become infamous as the “Murder House”, standing empty after a family was stabbed to death within its walls. Patrick believes they can bring the house back to its former glory, so Sarah, uprooted from everything she knows, pours her energy into painting, gardening, and giving the rotting old structure the warmth of home. But with locals hinting that the house is haunted, the news that the murderer has been paroled, strange writing on the walls, and creepy “gifts” arriving on the doorstep at odd hours, Sarah can’t shake the feeling that something just isn’t right. Not with the house, not with the town, or even with her own, loving husband — whose stories about his perfect childhood suddenly aren’t adding up. Can Sarah uncover the secrets of the Murder House before another family is destroyed?   Find out in this twisty treat that Good Housekeeping called “‘Claustrophobic and compelling.”

Until next week, Beloved Patrons–happy reading!

Six Book Saturday

Yesterday was not a day for lighthearted posts, dear readers.  But we also want to remind you that the Library is a place to come if you have troubles, if you need answers, or if you are looking for a temporary escape from the rest of the world.  And in the spirit of that final concept, we wanted to give you a chance to see some of the new books that arrived on our shelves this week, in the hopes they might offer some escape, some insight, and some solace.

Smoke and Ashes: Fans of Abir Mukherjee’s historical mysteries featuring WWI veteran Captain Sam Wyndham and the fascinating Indian Sergeant “Surrender-Not” Banerjee will be delighted to hear that their next adventure has arrived.  Living in India in 1921, Captain Wyndham is battling a serious addiction to opium that he must keep secret from his superiors in the Calcutta police force. When Sam is summoned to investigate a grisly murder, he is stunned at the sight of the body: he’s seen this before. Last night, in a drug addled haze, he stumbled across a corpse with the same ritualistic injuries. It seems like there’s a deranged killer on the loose. Unfortunately for Sam, the corpse was in an opium den―and revealing his presence there could cost him his career.  With the aid of his quick-witted Indian Sergeant, Surrender-Not Banerjee, Sam must try to solve the two murders, all the while keeping his personal demons secret, before somebody else turns up dead.  This is a series that features some sensational historical research, and has plenty of twists and turns to keep mystery fans enthralled!  BookPage agrees, calling this third series installment “Riveting. Mukherjee has a substantive grasp of colonial Indian history, and his books have the feel of a modern-day and much more progressive Kipling, full of high intrigue and derring-do, yet overlaid with the day-to-day reality of a struggle with addiction.”

The Devil Aspect: We’ve got some great historic mysteries and thrillers this week, friends, and Craig Russell’s new book is proof!  Set in Prague 1935, this book follows Viktor Kosárek, a psychiatrist newly trained by Carl Jung, arrives at the infamous Hrad Orlu Asylum for the Criminally Insane. The state-of-the-art facility is located in a medieval mountaintop castle outside of Prague, though the site is infamous for concealing dark secrets going back many generations. The asylum houses the country’s six most treacherous killers–known to the staff as The Woodcutter, The Clown, The Glass Collector, The Vegetarian, The Sciomancer, and The Demon–and Viktor hopes to use a new medical technique to prove that these patients share a common archetype of evil, a phenomenon known as The Devil Aspect. As he begins to learn the stunning secrets of these patients, five men and one woman, Viktor must face the disturbing possibility that these six may share another dark truth.  Meanwhile, fear grips the city of Prague as a phantom serial killer emerges in the dark alleys. Police investigator Lukas Smolak, desperate to locate the culprit (dubbed Leather Apron in the newspapers), realizes that the killer is imitating the most notorious serial killer from a century earlier–London’s Jack the Ripper. Smolak turns to the doctors at Hrad Orlu for their expertise with the psychotic criminal mind, though he worries that Leather Apron might have some connection to the six inmates in the asylum.  Steeped in the folklore of Eastern Europe, and set in the shadow of Nazi darkness erupting just beyond the Czech border, this novel earned a starred review from Booklist, who called it “One of the most memorable thrillers of the year; it’s also unique: the premise is strikingly original, and the mood created by the juxtaposition of the patients’ memories and the real-time horrors is utterly chilling.”

Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States: Ten years ago, Samantha Allen was a suit-and-tie-wearing Mormon missionary. Now she’s a senior Daily Beast reporter happily married to another woman. A lot in her life has changed, but what hasn’t changed is her deep love of Red State America, and of queer people who stay in so-called “flyover country” rather than moving to the liberal coasts.  In this moving, funny, and insightful book, Allen takes us on a cross-country road-trip stretching all the way from Provo, Utah to the Rio Grande Valley to the Bible Belt to the Deep South. Her motto for the trip: “Something gay every day.” Making pit stops at drag shows, political rallies, and hubs of queer life across the heartland, she introduces us to scores of extraordinary LGBT people working for change, from the first openly transgender mayor in Texas history to the manager of the only queer night club in Bloomington, Indiana, and many more. Capturing profound cultural shifts underway in unexpected places and revealing a national network of chosen family fighting for a better world, this is a book that the Los Angeles Times called “necessary for anyone in — or allied with — the queer community, especially those of us who see the bad news day after day. [Allen is] sharing the beauty of the spaces that LGBTQ+ people have carved out for themselves, and she’s giving credit where credit is very much overdue, because it’s the queer folk who live and stay in red states — whether by choice or due to a lack of options — who have to survive there and work to make them better.”

Joy and 52 Other Very Short Stories: Erin McGraw’s stories are very, very short, but they pack a remarkable amount of emotion, humor, and profundity.  I each of them, narrators step out of themselves to explain their lives to us, sometimes defensively, sometimes regretfully, other times deceitfully. Voices include those of the impulsive first-time murderer, the depressed pet sitter, the assistant of Patsy Cline, the anxiety-riddled new mother, the aged rock-and-roller, the girlfriend of your husband―human beings often (incredibly) unaware of the turning points staring them in the face. Crossing time, states, class, and religions, McGraw’s stories dance on the edge of pain and humor, causing you to wince even as you laugh, and guarantee you won’t be forgetting these bite-sized marvels any time soon.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this collection a starred and a boxed review (high praise indeed!), noting that McGraw is “a master of the form . . . McGraw is wise and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny, with a seventh sense for the perfect turn of phrase . . . This quintessential collection of stories serves as an homage to the form while showcasing McGraw’s stunning talent and deep empathy for the idiosyncrasies, small joys, and despairs of human nature.”

The Wolf and the Watchman: Named the Best Debut Novel of 2017 by the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers, this book is being compared to some of the most beloved authors of recent memory, from Stieg Larsson to Umberto Eco, and so it’s quite a treat to share it with you here.  One morning in the autumn of 1793, watchman Mikel Cardell is awakened from his drunken slumber with reports of a body seen floating in the Larder, once a pristine lake on Stockholm’s Southern Isle, now a rancid bog. Efforts to identify the bizarrely mutilated corpse are entrusted to incorruptible lawyer Cecil Winge, who enlists Cardell’s help to solve the case. But time is short: Winge’s health is failing, the monarchy is in shambles, and whispered conspiracies and paranoia abound.  Winge and Cardell become immersed in a brutal world of guttersnipes and thieves, mercenaries and madams, as their gruesome investigation peels back layer upon layer of the city’s labyrinthine society. The rich and the poor, the pious and the fallen, the living and the dead—all collide and interconnect with the body pulled from the lake.  This delightfully dark tale also earned a starred review from Kirkus, who noted that “Natt och Dag examines the effects of a brutal murder on those who investigate it—and explores the psychological causes for the crime…Chilling and thought-provoking. Relentless, well-written, and nearly impossible to put down.”

The Lives of the Surrealists: Surrealism did not begin as an art movement but as a philosophical strategy, a way of life, and a rebellion against the establishment that gave rise to the First World War.  And in this fascinating book, Desmond Morris (himself a Surrealist) concentrates on the artists who are associated with the movement as fully-rounded people. Unlike the Impressionists or the Cubists, the surrealists did not obey a fixed visual code, but rather the rules of surrealist philosophy: work from the unconscious, letting your darkest, most irrational thoughts well up and shape your art. An artist himself, and contemporary of the later surrealists, Morris illuminates the considerable variation in each artist’s approach to this technique. While some were out-and-out surrealists in all they did, others lived more orthodox lives and only became surrealists at the easel or in the studio. Focusing on the thirty-five artists most closely associated with the surrealist movement, Morris lends context to their life histories with narratives of their idiosyncrasies and their often complex love lives, alongside photos of the artists and their work.  Publisher’s Weekly also gave this delightful tome a starred review, saying, “Each of these biographical entries is thoughtfully accompanied by a lesser-known work of art by each artist, along with photographs of the artists as they appeared in their most active years. Alternatively funny, ribald, and at times genuinely moving, Morris’s fittingly off-kilter tribute to the Surrealist movement itself and the eclectic men and women who carried its torch is a true joy.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy International Women’s Day, beloved patrons!

Image result for international women's day 2019

International Women’s Day began in 1908, when 15,000 women marched through the streets of New York in support of shorter hours, better pay and voting rights.  One year later, the Socialist Party of America declared a National Women’s Day on Sunday, February 28–the day was specifically chosen to allow even working women to participate.  And one year after that, at the second International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin of Germany suggested an International Women’s Day. The day, as she proposed, would be recognized in every country, to advocate for issues critical to all women.   The next International Women’s Day, in 1911, was recognized by nine countries.

In 1913, the Russian Socialist Party moved the celebration to March 8, the day on which it is still observed today.  During the First World War, women’s work in international pacifist organizations used this day to promote work across borders and above international hostilities to make life better for human people everywhere. Though they didn’t bring the war to an end (though not through lack of trying), in 1917, women in Russian went on strike with a message of “peace and bread”–and four days later, the Tzar abdicated, signaling an end to Russia’s involvement in the First World War.

The United Nations recognized International Women’s Day in 1975, and the celebration has since spread around the world.  This year’s international theme is #BalanceforBetter, which emphasizes the need to build a gender-balanced world.  We are delighted to be celebrating International Women’s Day at the Library today, and Women’s History Month throughout March–stop by to see our fantastic Women’s History Month display!

And now, on to the books!

This Scot of Mine: Sophie Jordan is a favorite here at the Library, and we’re delighted that her newest historical romance has made its way to our shelves!  Desperate to escape her vile fiancé, Lady Clara devises a bold lie—that she’s pregnant with another man’s child. With her reputation in tatters, Clara flees to Scotland to live out her days in disgrace, resigned to her fate as a spinster…until she claps eyes on the powerful and wickedly handsome Laird Hunt MacLarin. Hunt needs an heir, but he comes from a long line of men cursed to die before the birth of their firstborn. When the Duke of Autenberry approaches him with a proposition—marry my ruined sister—it seems the perfect solution. Even better, the defiant lass stirs him to his very soul.  But even as Clara finds herself falling in love with her erstwhile husband, both she and Hunt fear the curse that hangs over the MacLarin line.  Will their love prove stronger than fate?  This is a surprisingly fun, emotion-packed adventure that has Jordan’s many fans enthralled.  Booklist was among the legions offering it praise, calling this book another expertly calibrated mix of vibrantly etched characters and steamy sensuality that will delight both longtime fans and new readers alike.”

The City in the Middle of the Night: Charlie Jane Anders is in possession of one formidable imagination, and this newest novel is proof positive that she is an author to watch.  January is a dying planet–divided between a permanently frozen darkness on one side, and blazing endless sunshine on the other. Humanity clings to life, spread across two archaic cities built in the sliver of habitable dusk. But life inside the cities is just as dangerous as the uninhabitable wastelands outside. Sophie, a student and reluctant revolutionary, is supposed to be dead, after being exiled into the night. Saved only by forming an unusual bond with the enigmatic beasts who roam the ice, Sophie vows to stay hidden from the world, hoping she can heal. But fate has other plans–and Sophie’s ensuing odyssey and the ragtag family she finds will change the entire world.  Though the description sounds bleak, but the reality is that this is a joyful, adventurous, utterly engaging romp that will have appeal for sci-fi fans and literature-lovers alike.  Publisher’s Weekly, who gave this book a starred review, agrees, calling this book “Intricate, embracing much of what makes a grand adventure: smugglers, revolutionaries, pirates, camaraderie, personal sacrifice, wondrous discovery, and the struggle to find light in the darkness. Breathlessly exciting and thought-provoking.”

After She’d Gone: Named the Best Nordic Crime Novel of the Year by the Crime Writers of Scandinavia, Camilla Grebe’s second novel featuring psychological profiler Hanne Lagerlind-Schön is a must read for fans of Nordic mysteries.  Out of the frozen depths of a forest in Ormberg, Sweden, a woman stumbles onto the road. Her arms are covered with scratches, her feet are bare, and she has no memory of who she is. Local police identify her as Hanne Lagerlind-Schön, who, with her partner, had been helping  investigate the cold case of a young woman’s murder. Hanne begins to recover but cannot recall anything about where her partner is, or what their investigation had uncovered before her disappearance. Police have only one lead: a young woman in a sequined dress who was spotted nearby the night Hanne was found. The young woman doesn’t come forward because she doesn’t exist: Jake Birgersson, a local teenager, had been out walking in his mother’s dress and sister’s makeup, his secret shame and thrill. Terrified of discovery, Jake hid and watched Hanne get into a car, leaving behind her diary. Reading Hanne’s notebook, Jake realizes that it contains the key to a major breakthrough in the case—but turning it in would mean admitting the truth about who he is. When another murder victim is found in the woods, Jake realizes that Hanne herself is in danger, and his only choice is to find and warn her so that together, they can stop the killer before he strikes again.  Needless to say, with all its stellar reviews and the Grebe’s legion of fans, this is a book to savor.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees.  They gave this book a starred review and called it a “stellar crime novel . . . Grebe delivers an unflinching, heart-wrenching message about the plight of refugees in this scorching thriller.”

Women Warriors: An Unexpected History: The woman warrior is always cast as an anomaly—Joan of Arc, not GI Jane. But women, it turns out, have always gone to war. In this fascinating and lively world history, Pamela Toler not only introduces us to women who took up arms, she also shows why they did it and what happened when they stepped out of their traditional female roles to take on other identities.  These are the stories of women who fought because they wanted to, because they had to, or because they could.  Toler’s work introduces you to women as diverse and fascinating as Tomyris, ruler of the Massagetae, who killed Cyrus the Great of Persia when he sought to invade her lands, The Trung sisters, Trung Trac and Trung Nhi, who led an untrained army of 80,000 troops to drive the Chinese empire out of Vietnam, and Buffalo Calf Road Woman, the Cheyenne warrior who knocked General Custer off his horse at the Battle of Little Bighorn.  Moving, entertaining, and thoroughly illuminating, Library Journal gave this book a starred review, cheering, “Toler blows past all expectations with this thoroughly delightful, personable, and crucially important history of women warriors.”

Woman 99:  When Charlotte Smith’s wealthy parents commit her beloved sister Phoebe to the infamous Goldengrove Asylum, Charlotte knows there’s more to the story than madness. She risks everything and follows her sister inside, surrendering her real identity as a privileged young lady of San Francisco society to become a nameless inmate, Woman 99. The longer she stays, the more she realizes that many of the women of Goldengrove aren’t insane, merely inconvenient ― and that her search for the truth threatens to dig up secrets that some very powerful people would do anything to keep. A historical thriller rich in detail, deception, and revelation, Greer Macallister’s novel is a gripping, heart-wrenching exploration of gender injustices that are still coded into our medical system today.  Booklist loved this title, noting how well it succeeds in “Exploring sisterhood, trauma, and the power of shared experience, Woman 99 is an undercover glimpse inside a late nineteenth-century treatment facility. Macallister fearlessly probes the dark corners of the era, exposing barbaric treatments and backward thinking surrounding mental illness.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And we hope that you have enjoyed your February vacation, beloved patrons!  We’re happy to be back and bringing the best in the world of Libraries, books, and literary awards!

Here’s a list of some of the sensational titles that have sojourned onto our shelves this week, and are eager to join you in your wintertime adventures!

Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of AddictionDrug addiction is as old as human society, but for the past generation, we have been coping with new drugs, new methods of accessing them, and increasing health problems related to addiction that have finally been recognized as an epidemic.  In this insightful and deeply empathetic new book, Judith Grisel a  renowned behavioral neuroscientist and recovered drug addict, brings new The brain’s capacity to learn and adapt is seemingly infinite, allowing it to counteract any regular disruption, including that caused by drugs. What begins as a normal state punctuated by periods of being high transforms over time into a state of desperate craving that is only temporarily subdued by a fix, explaining why addicts are unable to live either with or without their drug. One by one, Grisel shows how different drugs act on the brain, the kind of experiential effects they generate, and the specific reasons why each is so hard to kick.  This is a book that offers new insight into how the brain functions, offers critical contributions to addictive behavior, and will help inform a more rational, coherent, and compassionate response to the epidemic in our homes and communities.  Kirkus Reviews noted that Grisel “writes clearly and unsparingly about both her experiences and the science of addiction—tobacco and caffeine figure in, as well—making plain that there is still much that remains unknown or mysterious about the brain’s workings. In the end, she notes, much of our present culture, which shuns pain and favors avoidance, is made up of ‘tools of addiction.’ Illuminating reading for those seeking to understand the whos, hows, and wherefores of getting hooked.”

RuptureWe are big fans of Ragnar Jónasson’s Icelandic mysteries here at the Library, so the arrival of a new title is always a cause for celebration.  In this fourth mystery featuring Ari Thór sees the young police officer trying to solve a 50-year-old murder when new evidence surfaces. But the case proves difficult in a town where no one wants to know the truth, where secrets are a way of life. He’s assisted by Ísrún, a news reporter in Reykjavik who is investigating an increasingly chilling case of her own. Things take a sinister turn when a child goes missing in broad daylight. With a stalker on the loose, and the town in quarantine, the past might just come back to haunt them.  This is a series that has a great a sense of place as it does a cast of compelling and memorable characters, that The Guardian called “A distinctive blend of Nordic Noir and Golden Age detective fiction … economical and evocative prose, as well as some masterful prestidigitation.”

The PlottersA little bit of science-fiction, and a little bit of thriller, and a whole lot of suspense, this novel from South Korean author Un-Su Kim is making waves around the globe.  In this alternative South Korea, assassination guilds compete for market dominance.  Plotters quietly dictate the moves of the city’s most dangerous criminals, orchestrating every assassination from the shadows.  But their existence is little more than a rumor.  Just who are the plotters? And more important, what do they want? Reseng is an assassin. Raised by a cantankerous killer named Old Raccoon in the crime headquarters “The Library,” Reseng never questioned anything: where to go, who to kill, or why his home was filled with books that no one ever read. But one day, Reseng steps out of line on a job, toppling a set of carefully calibrated plans. And when he uncovers an extraordinary scheme set into motion by an eccentric trio of young women–a convenience store clerk, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed librarian–Reseng will have to decide if he will remain a pawn or finally take control of the plot.  Surprising, funny, and unsettling, this novel earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who noted, “The complex plot, in which Reseng becomes involved with a more polished, CEO-like hit man named Hanja, builds to a highly cinematic and violent denouement. Most memorable, though, is the novel’s message about the insidiousness of unaccountable institutions, from those under the military junta to those that thrive in today’s economy. The consequence of the pervasive corruption is an air of existential despair. This strange, ambitious book will appeal equally to literary fiction readers.”

What We Did: A compelling novel that confronts a number of issues in the #MeToo era, Christobel Kent’s newest novel deals with issues of childhood abuse and the dangers of modern-day retribution.  Bridget has a secret—one she keeps from everyone, even her husband. One that threatens to explode when her childhood music teacher, Carmichael, walks into her dress shop. With him is a young girl on the cusp of adulthood, fresh-faced and pretty. She reminds Bridget of herself at that age, naïve and vulnerable.  Bridget wants him away—away from her, away from that girl. But Carmichael won’t leave her alone, won’t stop stalking her. And Bridget’s not a little girl anymore. When he pushes her too far, she snaps. But what she thought was a decisive act only unravels more insidious threats—more than she could have ever imagined—and from which no one is safe, not even her family.  Not an easy novel, it’s still an important and a gripping one.  The Washington Post agreed, discussing in its review how “Kent serves up a twisting and complex plot, but the novel’s chief appeal lies in the tense character of Bridget, who learns that a life lived under the radar can’t protect her from the creepy-crawly things that live there, too.”

Europe: A Natural History: Having already produced fascinating ecological histories of Australia and North America, Tim Flannery now turns his gaze to Europe.  He begins 100 million years ago, when the continents of Asia, North America, and Africa interacted to create an island archipelago that would later become the Europe we know today. It was on these ancient tropical lands that the first distinctly European organisms evolved. Flannery teaches us about Europe’s midwife toad, which has endured since the continent’s beginning, while elephants, crocodiles, and giant sharks have come and gone. He explores the monumental changes wrought by the devastating comet strike and shows how rapid atmospheric shifts transformed the European archipelago into a single landmass during the Eocene. As the story moves through millions of years of evolutionary history, Flannery eventually turns to our own species, describing the immense impact humans had on the continent’s flora and fauna―within 30,000 years of our arrival in Europe, the woolly rhino, the cave bear, and the giant elk, among others, would disappear completely. The story continues right up to the present, as Flannery describes Europe’s leading role in wildlife restoration, and then looks ahead to ponder the continent’s future: with advancements in gene editing technology, European scientists are working to recreate some of the continent’s lost creatures, such as the great ox of Europe’s primeval forests and even the woolly mammoth.  This is a book that has been getting attention on both sides of the Atlantic, with the Irish Times calling it,“Bold and brilliant… Flannery looks far forwards as well as back, to see how pre-prehistory might inform tomorrow.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And today we honor the life, work, and legacy of Andrea Levy, who, it was announced today, has passed away at the age of 62.

Image result for andrea levy
Andrea Levy, via The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/feb/15/andrea-levy-obituary

Levy was born in 1956 to Jamaican parents who had traveled to England as part of a generation of postwar migrants.  They arrived in the UK on the Empire Windrush, the ship that brought one of the first groups of West Indian migrants to the UK in 1948.

Levy did not start writing until she was in her mid-30s, after enrolling in a creative writing class at an adult education college in London.  There were precious few books about Jamaican immigrants at the time, and in telling the story of her family and her heritage, Levy provided a voice for the thousands of immigrants who made their lives in Britain following the Second World War.

Levy was best known for Small Island, a beautiful and lyrical novel about two Jamaicans immigrants who immigrate to Britain, much like Levy’s own parents did.  Her last novel, The Long Song, was published in 2010, and dealt with the history and legacy of slavery in Jamaica, stretching from the 19th century to the present.  It was nominated for the Man Booker Prize.  Her final work was the 2014 release Six Stories and an Essay, a collection of short stories and essays compiled over a lifetime of work about her career and her Caribbean heritage.

The Guardian published a moving tribute to Levy, her work, and her significance as a British and Jamaican author.  We are honored to share it with you today, and to celebrate the live of such a strong, remarkable storyteller.

And in that spirit, we’d like to introduce you to a few of the titles that slogged through this week’s weird winter weather to make your acquaintance:

Death is Hard Work: Syrian writer Khaled Khalifa continues to reside in Damacus, despite the constant threat of physical harm and trauma caused by the ongoing violence across the country.  As a result, this work provides a searing, honest, first-hand account of modern life in a world destroyed by war, and the way it shapes the lives of three otherwise ordinary people.  Abdel Latif, an old man from the Aleppo region, dies peacefully in a hospital bed in Damascus. His final wish, conveyed to his youngest son, Bolbol, is to be buried in the family plot in their ancestral village of Anabiya. Though Abdel was hardly an ideal father, and though Bolbol is estranged from his siblings, this conscientious son persuades his older brother Hussein and his sister Fatima to accompany him and the body to Anabiya, which is―after all―only a two-hour drive from Damascus.  With the landscape of their childhood now a labyrinth of competing armies whose actions are at once arbitrary and lethal, the siblings’ decision to set aside their differences and honor their father’s request quickly balloons from a minor commitment into an epic and life-threatening quest. Syria, however, is no longer a place for heroes, and the decisions the family must make along the way―as they find themselves captured and recaptured, interrogated, imprisoned, and bombed―will prove to have enormous consequences for all of them.  This is a novel that shows the power of fiction to speak truth to power, and has earned glowing reviews from outlets around the world.  Kirkus gave it a starred review, calling it an “Insistent, memorable portrait of the small indignities and large horrors of the civil war in Syria . . . a skillfully constructed epic that packs a tremendous amount of hard-won knowledge into its pages.”

Black Leopard Red Wolf: Marlon James’ Booker Award came as something of a surprise in 2015–but only to those who had not before encountered his magical way with words and stories.  This novel is the opening of a trilogy that utilizes the tools of African legend, mythology, fantasy and historical fiction together to create a magical new world. Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard. As Tracker follows the boy’s scent–from one ancient city to another; into dense forests and across deep rivers–he and the band are set upon by creatures intent on destroying them. As he struggles to survive, Tracker starts to wonder: Who, really, is this boy? Why has he been missing for so long? Why do so many people want to keep Tracker from finding him? And perhaps the most important questions of all: Who is telling the truth, and who is lying?  This is a work that is as entertaining as it is searching and profound, and the reviews are all inspired and elated.  The New York Times provided one of many, cheering,  “Marlon James is one of those novelists who aren’t afraid to give a performance, to change the states of language from viscous to gushing to grand, to get all the way inside the people he’s created…Not only does this book come with a hefty cast of characters (like Seven Killings), there are also shape shifters, fairies, trolls, and, apparently, a map. The map might be handy. But it might be the opposite of why you come to James—to get lost in him.”

Still in Love: Readers of Michael Downing’s Perfect Agreement will recognize the characters in this follow-up novel, but there is plenty here to keep new comers spellbound, as well.  Mark Sternum is a veteran teacher. Twenty years older than when we first met him, separated for six months from his longtime lover, and desperate to duck the overtures of double-dealing deans above him and disgruntled adjunct faculty below him, Mark has one ambition every day he is on campus―to close the classroom door and leave the world behind. His escape, however, is complicated by his contentious, complicated wrestling match of a relationship with the Professor, the tenured faculty member with whom Mark has co-taught this creative-writing workshop for ten years. Their exchanges and interactions create the foundation of this of one semester in a college classroom. And it is an urgent reminder that we desperately need classrooms, that those singular, sealed-off-from-the-world sanctuaries are where we learn to love our lives. Publisher’s Weekly noted in their review that “Downing’s witty follow-up …satisfyingly transports readers to college as teacher Mark Sternum begins winter term at Hellman College in New England . . . In depicting Mark’s ordinary semester, Downing poignantly illustrates the dynamics of the college classroom as well as its potential for lasting lessons, making for a resonant campus novel.”

Early Riser: Jasper Fforde has a way with words–and with reality.  By foregoing all the traditional rules of science fiction, he has created a novel set in an alternative Wales that is as funny as it is unsettling.  Every Winter, the human population hibernates.  During those bitterly cold four months, the nation is a snow-draped landscape of desolate loneliness, devoid of human activity.  Well, not quite…Your name is Charlie Worthing and it’s your first season with the Winter Consuls, the committed but mildly unhinged group of misfits who are responsible for ensuring the hibernatory safe passage of the sleeping masses. You are investigating an outbreak of viral dreams which you dismiss as nonsense; nothing more than a quirky artefact borne of the sleeping mind. When the dreams start to kill people, it’s unsettling. When you get the dreams too, it’s weird. When they start to come true, you begin to doubt your sanity.  But teasing truth from the Winter is never easy, and the adventures you encounter on your way will make your nightmares look like child’s play.  Library Journal loved this book, describing its “Veiled commentary on corporate greed, sleep and dreaming, and twisted popular culture highlight why Fforde, perhaps best known for his “Thursday Next” series, is on par with authors such as Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams.”

The Current: Tim Johnston is a marvel at creating characters and natural settings, and this work shows him at his literary best.  In the dead of winter, outside a small Minnesota town, state troopers pull two young women and their car from the icy Black Root River. One is found downriver, drowned, while the other is found at the scenehalf frozen but alive. What happened was no accident, and news of the crime awakens the community’s memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may still live among them. Determined to find answers, the surviving young woman soon realizes that she’s connected to the earlier unsolved case by more than just a river, and the deeper she plunges into her own investigation, the closer she comes to dangerous truths, and to the violence that simmers just below the surface of her hometown. Fast-paced, cleverly-plotted, and gripping, this is a work that the Washington Independent Review of Books called “much more than a skillfully constructed, beautifully written whodunit. It’s a subtle and lyrical acclamation of the heart and spirit of small-town America. The Current is not your conventional, frenetically paced page-turner, although it smolders with a brooding, slow-burn tension that nudges the reader forward, catching you up in the lives of the troubled solitaries at the book’s core.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

It’s our first FBF of the month, beloved patrons!  And though February may be a short month, there’s still plenty to celebrate!  In addition to the holiday on February 14, there are a few other days that might strike your fancy to celebrate, such as:

February 17: National Random Act of Kindness Day (originally a New Zealand holiday that appears to be spreading)

February 25: National Clam Chowder Day

February 26: National Tell A Fairy Tale Day!

February 28: National Toast Day (as in toasted bread–originally a UK holiday, but, as fans of toast, we are delighted to join the celebration!)

February is also Black History Month.  Stop in and check out our displays and get some recommendations to enrich your reading!

And speaking of books…here are just a few of the titles that trundled their way through this week’s wacky weather to meet you!

The Atlas of Reds and Blues: Some of literature’s most noteworthy books take place within the context of a single day, and Devi S. Lakar’s novel follows in that tradition, setting out a story that unfolds over the course of a single morning.  When a woman―known only as Mother―moves her family from Atlanta to its wealthy suburbs, she discovers that neither the times nor the people have changed since her childhood in a small Southern town. Despite the intervening decades, Mother is met with the same questions: Where are you from? No, where are you really from? The American-born daughter of Bengali immigrants, she finds that her answer―Here―is never enough.  Mother’s simmering anger breaks through one morning, when, during a violent and unfounded police raid on her home, she finally refuses to be complacent. As she lies bleeding from a gunshot wound, her thoughts race from childhood games with her sister and visits to cousins in India, to her time in the newsroom before having her three daughters, to the early days of her relationship with a husband who now spends more time flying business class than at home.   This is a novel that looks at the complexities of the second-generation American experience, what it means to be a woman of color in the workplace, and a sister, a wife, and a mother to daughters in today’s America.  Based on Laskar’s own experience of a raid on her home, this is a searing and important work that earned a starred review from Booklist.  Their review describes it as a work that   “takes place in a morning; it covers a lifetime . . . Not only does Laskar bring her honed skills as a poet and journalist to her pulse-racing first novel about otherness and prejudice, she also draws on her own experience of a shocking raid on her home. Laskar’s bravura drama of one woman pushed to the brink by racism is at once sharply relevant and tragically timeless.”

The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill: Another striking debut about the dark underbelly of the American dream, James Charlesworth’s first novel is told from the perspective of the children of a ‘self-made man’.  All their lives, the children of George Benjamin Hill have fought to escape the shadow of their father, a dust-bowl orphan, self-made millionaire in bedrock American capitalism (fast food and oil), and destroyer of two families on his way to financial success. Now, they are approaching middle age and ruin: A failed ex–minor league ballplayer, divorced and mourning the death of his daughter in Miami; CIA veteran, off his meds and deciphering conspiracies in Manhattan; a Las Vegas showgirl turned old maid of The Strip, trying to stay clean; and an Alaskan bush pilot, twice un-indicted for manslaughter and recently thrown off his land by the federal government.  While their father finds himself at the center of a national scandal, these estranged siblings are drawn from their four corners of the country, compelled along crowded interstates by resentment and confusion, converging on a 300-acre horse ranch outside Omaha for a final confrontation with the father they never had.  This is a story about corporate greed, about the failures of capitalism, and, in the midst of these huge themes, there is a moving and suspenseful tale about one family’s unique dysfunctions.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a lovely review of this debut, noting, “Charlesworth doesn’t mince words. . . . For such an unabashedly polemical first novel, The Patricide of George Benjamin Hill works surprising well, due in large measure to the unremitting intensity of its prose, the unsettling verisimilitude of its characters, and the moral courage at the core of its message.”

The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction: A miraculous alchemy occurs when one person reads to another, transforming the simple stuff of a book, a voice, and a bit of time into complex and powerful fuel for the heart, brain, and imagination.  Meghan Cox Gurdon’s work tales a scientific approach to the act of reading, blending the latest neuroscience and behavioral research with a passion for literature to explain and explore the dazzling cognitive and social-emotional benefits that await children, whatever their class, nationality or family background. But it’s not just about bedtime stories for little kids: Reading aloud consoles, uplifts and invigorates at every age, deepening the intellectual lives and emotional well-being of teenagers and adults, too.  For everyone, reading aloud engages the mind in complex narratives; for children, it’s an irreplaceable gift that builds vocabulary, fosters imagination, and kindles a lifelong appreciation of language, stories and pictures.  This is a book for anyone looking to understand the power of sharing and hearing stories that Library Journal recommended “For anybody interested in reading, especially parents, teachers, caregivers, and librarians, this inspirational work proclaims its joys and rewards.”

The Girls at 17 Swann Street: As much as we are heartily over the “books with girls in the title” trend, there’s no denying that Yara Zgheib’s debut is a vitally necessary and deeply emotional story that deserves to be read and discussed.  Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.  This isn’t an easy read, but it’s an important one.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, calling it, “an impressive, deeply moving debut. ”  And can we just say, what a week it is for debut novels!

The Stranger Inside: There have been a number of books that deal with strangers attempting to move into, or already living in, someone’s, and Laura Bendict plays on those fears in this new novel.  There’s a stranger living in Kimber Hannon’s house. He tells the police that he has every right to be there, and he has the paperwork to prove it. But Kimber definitely didn’t invite this man to move in. He tells her that he knows something about her, and he wants everyone else to know it too.  His  words reveal a connection to Kimber’s distant past, and dark secrets she’d long ago left buried. This trespasser isn’t after anything as simple as her money or her charming Craftsman bungalow. He wants to move into her carefully orchestrated life–and destroy it.  This book also earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Outstanding…. Kimber’s complicated personality and unusual family life drive the ever-twisting, surprise-filled plot…. [She] is the epitome of the unreliable narrator.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!