Tag Archives: Six Book Saturday

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!

Six Book Saturday!

So due to some change in staffing yesterday, we weren’t able to bring you our traditional Five Book Friday post, dear patrons–however, we are making it up to you today (well, we’re going to try to make it up to you, anyways) by providing you with six new books that have traipsed onto our shelves this week, and who would be delighted to spend the final weeks of the year in your company!

If you’re looking for some more recommendations for reading over the long holiday weekends to come, our good friends at the Boston Public Library have released their lists of the  Most Checked-Out Books of 2018.  There is a list of Adult Books, Teen Books, and Kids Books, so have a look through these great lists and see what other readers have been enjoying this year!

And speaking of wonderful books, let’s see what’s on our list for today!

We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival: In her novel The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison confronts what she called the “Master Narrative“, which she described as “whatever ideological script that is being imposed by the people in authority on everybody else,” involving the way we understand beauty, competence, and our place in the world.  In this new work, Jabari Asim contradicts that narrative and replaces it with a story of black survival and persistence through art and community in the face of centuries of racism. In eight wide-ranging and penetrating essays, he explores such topics as the twisted legacy of jokes and falsehoods in black life; the importance of black fathers and community; the significance of black writers and stories; and the beauty and pain of the black body. What emerges is a rich portrait of a community and culture that has resisted, survived, and flourished despite centuries of racism, violence, and trauma. These thought-provoking essays present a different side of American history, one that doesn’t depend on a narrative steeped in oppression but rather reveals black voices telling their own stories.  Kirkus Reviews gave this collection a starred review, noting how Asim “places current events within the context of a legacy that is literary, political, and cultural, as well as racial, with a voice that is both compelling and convincing…A sharp vision that challenges readers to shift perspective and examine conventional narratives.”

EdenbrookeThis is an older romance novel, but Julie C. Donaldson’s novel is a staff favorite, so we’re delighted to welcome it into our collection!  Marianne Daventry will do anything to escape the boredom of Bath and the amorous attentions of an unwanted suitor. So when an invitation arrives from her twin sister, Cecily, to join her at a sprawling country estate, she jumps at the chance. Thinking she’ll be able to relax and enjoy her beloved English countryside while her sister snags the handsome heir of Edenbrooke, Marianne finds that even the best laid plans can go awry. From a terrifying run-in with a highwayman to a seemingly harmless flirtation, Marianne finds herself embroiled in an unexpected adventure filled with enough romance and intrigue to keep her mind racing. Will Marianne be able to rein in her traitorous heart, or will a mysterious stranger sweep her off her feet? Fate had something other than a relaxing summer in mind when it sent Marianne to Edenbrooke.  When it debuted, Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, calling it  a “delightful and completely engrossing Heyeresque Regency debut…This beautiful love story will warm…the reader’s heart.”

Not of This Fold: Mette Ivie Harrison’s mystery series featuring Linda Wallheim is a fascinating, insightful, and honest portrait of Mormon Utah, as well as some inventive mysteries.  When this fourth outing begins, all five of her sons have left home, leaving Mormon bishop’s wife Linda Wallheim with quite a bit of time on her hands.  She has also become close with one of the women in her ward, Gwen Ferris.  But Gwen is quickly losing faith in the church, and her issues with the Mormon power structure are only reinforced by her work with a ward of both legal and undocumented immigrants who aren’t always getting the community support they should be from their church.  When Gabriela Gonzalez, a young mother and Gwen’s friend in the Spanish Ward, is found strangled at a gas station, Gwen is paralyzed with guilt. The dead woman’s last phone call was to Gwen, and her voice mail reveals that she knew she was in danger. When Gwen decides the police aren’t doing enough to get justice for Gabriela, who was undocumented, she decides to find the killer herself. Linda reluctantly takes part in Gwen’s vigilante sleuthing, fearing for her young friend’s safety, but what the pair discovers may put them both in danger.  Harrison’s books confront homophobia, xenophobia, faith, and gender issues without flinching or compromising, making them unique and powerful in a number of ways.  Even the Association of Mormon Letters cheered this fourth installment, saying in its review “Harrison has hit her stride as a front-rank mystery novelist . . . Come for the engaging intellectual puzzle and stay for the nuanced treatment of Mormonism. Or do it the other way around. But definitely come and stay. You won’t be sorry.”
American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts: As Chris McGreal writes in this deeply felt and pitilessly researched book, the opioid epidemic has been described as “one of the greatest mistakes of modern medicine.” But calling it a mistake is a generous rewriting of the history of greed, corruption, and indifference that pushed the US into consuming more than 80 percent of the world’s opioid painkillers.  Journeying through lives and communities wrecked by the epidemic, McGreal reveals not only how Americans were sold on powerfully addictive drugs, but the corrupting of medicine and public institutions that let permitted opioid makers get away with it.  Although some were remorseless in sounding a warning against this operation, the power structures that were manipulated to produce, market, and sell opioid drugs over-whelmed all previous structures of warning.  In this book, McGreal tells the story, in terms both broad and intimate, of people hit by a catastrophe they never saw coming. Years in the making, its ruinous consequences will stretch years into the future.  Booklist gave this work a starred review, noting “McGreal, an award-winning journalist, presents this grim cautionary tale of opioids, greed, and addiction in three acts: ‘Dealing,’ ‘Hooked,’ and Withdrawal’…. McGreal goes on to successfully address the question of how the greatest drug epidemic in history grew largely unchecked for nearly two decades….What can be done to reverse this? McGreal’s powerfully stated indictment is a start.”

Influenza: The Hundred-Year Hunt to Cure the Deadliest Disease in HistoryOn the 100th anniversary of the devastating pandemic of 1918, Jeremy Brown, a veteran ER doctor, explores the troubling, terrifying, and complex history of the flu virus, from the origins of the Great Flu that killed millions, to vexing questions such as: are we prepared for the next epidemic, should you get a flu shot, and how close are we to finding a cure?  Dr. Brown digs into the discovery and resurrection of the flu virus in the frozen victims of the 1918 epidemic, as well as the now-bizarre-sounding remedies that once treated the disease, such as whiskey and blood-letting.  He also breaks down the current dialogue surrounding the disease, explaining the controversy over vaccinations, antiviral drugs like Tamiflu, and the federal government’s role in preparing for pandemic outbreaks. Though 100 years of advancement in medical research and technology have passed since the 1918 disaster, Dr. Brown warns that many of the most vital questions about the flu virus continue to confound even the leading experts.  Insightful and well-informed, this is a book that earned high praise from Science News, which described the book as “An in-depth look at what scientists know now about the 1918 strain [and] a fascinating look at the factors that make the more common seasonal flu so challenging to predict and prevent… For those who want more science with a frank discussion of the challenges influenza still poses, Brown delivers a clear and captivating overview.”

The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America’s Soul from the Revolution to the Civil WarFor decades after its founding, America was really two nations–one slave, one free. There were many reasons why this composite nation ultimately broke apart, but the fact that enslaved black people repeatedly risked their lives to flee their masters in the South in search of freedom in the North proved that the “united” states was actually a lie. Fugitive slaves exposed the contradiction between the myth that slavery was a benign institution and the reality that a nation based on the principle of human equality was in fact a prison-house in which millions of Americans had no rights at all. By awakening northerners to the true nature of slavery, and by enraging southerners who demanded the return of their human “property,” fugitive slaves forced the nation to confront the truth about itself.  By 1850, with America on the verge of collapse, Congress reached what it hoped was a solution– the notorious Compromise of 1850, which required that fugitive slaves be returned to their masters. Like so many political compromises before and since, it was a deal by which white Americans tried to advance their interests at the expense of black Americans. Yet the Fugitive Slave Act, intended to preserve the Union, in fact set the nation on the path to civil war. It divided not only the American nation, but also the hearts and minds of Americans who struggled with the timeless problem of when to submit to an unjust law and when to resist.  In this excellently-written and wonderfully-researched work, Professor Andrew Delbanco of Columbia University emphasizes how and why the fugitive slave story brought the United States to war with itself, and the terrible legacies of slavery that are with us still.  This book has been getting enormous and well-deserved praise across the country, including from the New York Times, who described how “Delbanco . . . excavates the past in ways that illuminate the present.  He lucidly shows [how] in the name of avoiding conflict  . . . the nation was brought to the brink and into the breach. This is a story about compromises—and a riveting, unsettling one at that.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Six Book Saturday!

Since we weren’t around yesterday, beloved patrons, we weren’t able to bring you our traditional Five Book Friday.  But our doors are open today, and we are pleased to welcome you to come and find your new favorite reads (or films, or music…)!  And, to make up for the lack of reading recommendations yesterday, we’re adding an extra one to our list to provide you with a stellar Six Book Saturday!

Bitter OrangeClaire Fuller’s talent for creating psychologically complex, compelling fiction has already made her newest release a highly-talked-about title, but according to readers, this novel easily lives up to the hype.  We begin in the summer of 1969, where Frances Mother discovers a peephole in her dilapidated English country mansion that allows her to spy on the couple spending the summer in the rooms below while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens.  To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.  But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur.   And as lies escalate to crimes, Frances’ small indiscretion threatens to spiral into some truly terrible.  Reviews are comparing this story to the incomparable Shirley Jackson, which, frankly, seems like enough reason to check out this novel soon!  In fact, the comparison was made by Kirkus Reviews, who gave this book a starred review in the process: “In the vein of Shirley Jackson’s bone-chilling The Haunting of Hill House, Fuller’s disturbing novel will entrap readers in its twisty narrative, leaving them to reckon with what is real and what is unreal. An intoxicating, unsettling masterpiece.”

The Feral DetectiveJonathan Lethem is a gifted storyteller with a rare talent for blending genres and tones into a work that is utterly unique.  This mystery, his second after the much acclaimed Motherless Brooklyn, features Charles Heist, a quirky detective to rival all quirky detectives.  Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She’s looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist to help. A laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist intrigues the sarcastic and garrulous Phoebe. Reluctantly, he agrees to help. The unlikely pair navigate the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and find that Arabella is in serious trouble—caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end. Phoebe’s trip to the desert was always going to be strange, but she never thought it would end quite like this.   Critics are avid that Heist needs his own series, which makes it clear how much potential there is in this story. Booklist praised Lethem’s characters, as well as his narrative, calling this books, “A funny but rage-fueled stunner. . . . Both [characters] are compelling, as are the desert setting and the vividly realized descriptions of its dwellers. . . . An unrelentingly paced tale. . . . Utterly unique and absolutely worthwhile.”

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know : The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce: Colm Tóibín begins his incisive and intriguing story of some of Ireland’s most famous writers and their fathers with a walk through the Dublin streets where he went to university—a wide-eyed boy from the country—and where these three Irish literary giants also came of age.  Oscar Wilde, writing about his relationship with his father, William Wilde, stated: “Whenever there is hatred between two people there is bond or brotherhood of some kind…you loathed each other not because you were so different but because you were so alike.” W.B. Yeats wrote of his father, John Butler Yeats, a painter: “It is this infirmity of will which has prevented him from finishing his pictures. The qualities I think necessary to success in art or life seemed to him egotism.” John Stanislaus Joyce, James’s father, was widely loved, garrulous, a singer, and drinker with a volatile temper, who drove his son from Ireland.  In this insightful study, Tóibín illuminates not only the complex relationships between these men of letters and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways these men surface in their work.  The Washington Post was just one outlet that wrote a glowing review for this slim but scintillating volume, saying “This gentle, immersive book holds literary scholarship to be a heartfelt, heavenly pursuit.”

In Byron’s Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron’s Wife and Daughter, Annabella Milbanke and Ada Lovelace: And speaking of controversial fathers….In 1815, the clever, courted, and cherished Annabella Milbanke married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a poet.  Ada didn’t. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron’s little girl was introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild spirits. Educated by some of the most learned minds in England, she combined that scholarly discipline with a rebellious heart and a visionary imagination.  When Ada died―like her father, she was only 36―great things seemed still to lie ahead for her as a passionate astronomer. Even while mired in debt from gambling and crippled by cancer, she was frenetically employing Faraday’s experiments with light refraction to explore the analysis of distant stars.  Utilizing new and under-utilized sources, Miranda Seymour has crafted a fascinating and revelatory new history that liberate Annabella and Ada from Byron’s shadow, while still recognizing the power his legacy had over both women.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a sparkling review of this book, calling it “Meticulously researched. A skilled and experienced biographer, Seymour weaves her way through cowboy curtains of rumor and gossip, showing how tabloid intrusions are nothing new, privacy has always been won at a price, and reputation―the judgment of the public―remains a slippery, fragile thing. The combination of pure mathematics and agonized personal passions gives Seymour’s book an arresting power.”

Born to be Posthumous : The Eccentric life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey: What can we say–it’s a good week for biographies! Edward Gorey’s wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth.  But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank O’Hara at Harvard, and was known–in the late 1940s, no less–to traipse around in full-length fur coats, clanking bracelets, and an Edwardian beard? An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes–but who was the real Edward Gorey?  Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with personalities as diverse as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Anna Sui, Mark Dery has created reveals Gorey in all his quirky glory, a deeply complicated and conflicted individual, a man whose art reflected his obsessions with the disquieting and the darkly hilarious.  Anyone who has savored Gorey’s remarkable illustrations and poems will love this work–NPR agrees, saying in its review: “The best biographies are the result of a perfect match between author and subject, and it’s relatively rare when the two align perfectly. But that’s the case with Born to Be Posthumous–Dery shares Gorey’s arch sense of humor, and shows real sympathy for his sui generis outlook and aesthetics. Dery’s book is smart, exhaustive, and an absolute joy to read… the biography [Gorey] has long deserved.”

The Kinship of SecretsEugenia Kim is an author long-endeared to readers, and this newest novel is a beautiful mix of historical insight and deep character work that fans and newcomers alike will find compelling.  In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their infant daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her.  But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended?  This book, told in alternating perspectives by the two sisters, is a story inspired by Kim’s own life, and is full of moving truths that make it unforgettable.  The Washington Post noted how it “Beautifully illuminate[s] Korea’s past in ways that inform our present….Kim infuses a coming-of-age story about being an outsider with the realities of the war, which forced many family separations, some of which still persist today.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Six Book Saturday!

With our apologies, beloved patrons, for missing our typical Friday round-up of all the sensational books that are awaiting you on our shelves, we present you a special weekend bonus edition of the Free-For-All, with six new titles for your consideration!

Just a reminder, the Library will be closed until Tuesday, September 4 in honor of the Labor Day holiday.  We hope yours is a safe and a relaxing weekend, and we look forward to seeing you at 9am on Tuesday!


SeveranceIt’s not everyday you hear a book described as a “wryly funny, apocalyptic satire”, but that’s precisely the way in which Ling Ma’s debut novel is being described.  Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty, and is currently content just to carry on.  So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.  Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?  This is a novel as funny and insightful as it is unsettling and imaginative, and it getting write-ups in ‘best of’ and ‘most anticipated’ lists across the country, as well as earning a starred review from Booklist, who noted, “Embracing the genre but somehow transcending it, Ma creates a truly engrossing and believable anti-utopian world. Ma’s extraordinary debut marks a notable creative jump by playing on the apocalyptic fears many people share today.”

HeartbreakerAnother wonderfully skillful coming-of-age novel that blends sci-fi and reality seamlessly, Claudia Dey’s work is getting some pretty terrific reviews.  It’s 1985. Pony Darlene Fontaine has lived all her fifteen years in “the territory,” a settlement founded decades ago by a charismatic cult leader. Pony’s family lives in the bungalow at the farthest edge of town, where the territory borders the rest of the wider world. It’s a world none of the townspeople have ever been, except for Billie Jean Fontaine, Pony’s mother. When Billie Jean arrived in the territory seventeen years prior—falling from the open door of a stolen car—the residents took her in and made her one of their own. She was the first outsider they had ever laid eyes on. Pony adores and idolizes her mother, but like everyone else in the territory she is mystified by her. Billie Jean refuses to describe the world she came from.  One night, Billie Jean grabs her truck keys, bolts barefoot into the cold October darkness—and vanishes. Billie Jean was the first person to be welcomed into the territory. Now, with a frantic search under way for her missing mother, Pony fears: Will she be the first person to leave it too?  Told through a series of alternating voices, including the boy on whom Pony has a secret crush and the family dog, Dey’s novel earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who praised how “Dey strips away the trappings of modernity to show what humans truly are at base, while eschewing the usual cult narrative. The result is a whole-cloth, word-for-word triumph of imagination.”

John Woman: Walter Mosley has created some truly iconic characters over the course of his career, and John Woman is a fitting protagonist to join their pantheon.  At twelve years old, Cornelius, the son of an Italian-American woman and an older black man from Mississippi named Herman, secretly takes over his father’s job at a silent film theater in New York’s East Village. Five years later, as Herman lives out his last days, he shares his wisdom with his son, explaining that the person who controls the narrative of history controls their own fate. After his father dies and his mother disappears, Cornelius sets about reinventing himself―as Professor John Woman, a man who will spread Herman’s teachings into the classrooms of his unorthodox southwestern university and beyond. But there are other individuals who are attempting to influence the narrative of John Woman, and who might know something about the facts of his hidden past.  There is a lot with which to grapple in this book, from issues of sexuality and power to intimacy and evil, making for a thought-provoking, heady exploration.  As Kirkus Reviews notes, Mosley “raises the stakes with this tightly wound combination of psychological suspense and philosophic inquiry…Here he weaves elements of both the erotic and the speculative into a taut, riveting, and artfully edgy saga…Somehow, it makes sense that when Walter Mosley puts forth a novel of ideas, it arrives with the unexpected force of a left hook and the metallic gleam of a new firearm.”

The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life: Science journalist David Quammen explores science’s tangled relationship with evolution and microbiology in this engaging and educating work.  In the mid-1970s, scientists began using DNA sequences to reexamine the history of all life. Perhaps the most startling discovery to come out of this new field (the study of life’s diversity and relatedness at the molecular level) is horizontal gene transfer (HGT), or the movement of genes across species lines. It turns out that HGT has been widespread and important. For instance, we now know that roughly eight percent of the human genome arrived not through traditional inheritance from directly ancestral forms, but sideways by viral infection (in itself a form of HGT). Quammen chronicles these discoveries through the lives of the researchers who made them, and emphasizing how their research pertains directly to our everyday lives and longterm health.  The Boston Globe loved Quammen’s new work, declaring “Quammen has written a deep and daring intellectual adventure. . . . The Tangled Tree is much more than a report on some cool new scientific facts. It is, rather, a source of wonder.”

The Life Lucy Knew: Karma Brown ‘s fiction is written with that same vital, engaging spark that she brought to her award-winning journalism career, and considering the praise this new novel is receiving, it’s sure to be a hit among fans and new readers alike.  After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years—the man she recently married—is not actually her husband. In fact, they haven’t even spoken since their breakup four years earlier. The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail—right down to the dress she wore to their wedding—is only one example of what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma. Her psychologist explains the condition as honest lying, because while Lucy’s memories are false, they still feel incredibly real. Now she has no idea which memories she can trust—a devastating experience not only for Lucy, but also for her family, friends and especially her devoted boyfriend, Matt, whom Lucy remembers merely as a work colleague.  Unmoored and unsure, Lucy is forced to grapple with her memories and her identity in order to come to terms with who she really is.  Kirkus Reviews enjoyed this book a good deal, noting “Brown makes Lucy’s struggle vivid and stark—she has a lovely life, but, thanks to her injury, she doesn’t feel like it’s hers…A fizzy love story with a serious streak, good for readers who like their conundrums to go down as easily as one of the cocktails the characters enjoy.”

The Last Englishmen: Love, War, and the End of Empire: Deborah Baker turns her eye to the end of the British Empire, a story huge in scope, made understandable by the intimate love story at its heart.  John Auden was a pioneering geologist of the Himalaya. Michael Spender was the first to draw a detailed map of the North Face of Mount Everest. While their younger brothers―W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender―achieved literary fame, they vied to be included on an expedition that would deliver Everest’s summit to an Englishman, a quest that had become a metaphor for Britain’s struggle to maintain power over India. To this rivalry was added another: in the summer of 1938 both men fell in love with a painter named Nancy Sharp. Her choice would determine where each man’s wartime loyalties would lie.  The cast of this exhilarating drama includes Indian and English writers and artists, explorers and Communist spies, Die Hards and Indian nationalists, political rogues and police informers.  Full of a love of language, place, and character, Baker’s history earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who noted, “Seemingly covering disparate topics, Baker beautifully connects them all with an incisive, clear writing style and sharp descriptions of the terrain.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Six Book Saturday!

It’s always a sad day here at the Free-For-All when we can’t bring you our regular Five Book Friday review of the new books that are partying on our shelves….so in order to make things up to you, beloved patrons, we’re going to celebrate Six Book Saturday this week, providing you an extra helping of new reading material!  We hope this makes up for the lack of new books in your life yesterday!

The Grey Bastards: Jonathan French’s gritty, occasionally gruesome, adrenaline-fueled fantasy adventure is being hailed as an ideal escapist novel for all those pining away for further episodes of Game of Thrones.  “Live in the saddle.  Die on the hog.”  Such is the creed of the half-orcs dwelling in the Lot Lands. Sworn to hardened brotherhoods known as hoofs, these former slaves patrol their unforgiving country astride massive swine bred for war. They are all that stand between the decadent heart of noble Hispartha and marauding bands of full-blood orcs. Jackal rides with the Grey Bastards, one of eight hoofs that have survived the harsh embrace of the Lots. Young, cunning and ambitious, he schemes to unseat the increasingly tyrannical founder of the Bastards, a plague-ridden warlord called the Claymaster.  When the troubling appearance of a foreign sorcerer comes upon the heels of a faceless betrayal, Jackal’s plans are thrown into turmoil. He finds himself saddled with a captive elf girl whose very presence begins to unravel his alliances.  Not for the faint-of-heart, critics are nevertheless raving over this novel that makes the traditionally villains of fantasy into the most unlikely of heroes.  Kirkus Reviews gave this book a starred review, calling it “A dirty, blood-soaked gem of a novel [that reads] like Mad Max set in Tolkien’s Middle Earth…powered by unparalleled worldbuilding, polished storytelling, and relentless pacing. A fantasy masterwork.”

The Lost Vintage: A story about taste, memory, history, and self-discovery, Ann Mah’s book is being recommended far and wide for fans of Sweetbitter and The Nightingale.  To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. Suddenly finding herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations.  But no sooner does she arrive than Kate discovers a hidden room, and a long-buried secret in her family’s past.  Her investigation takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation.  As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: Who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection? Bon Appetit magazine wrote a glowing review for this book, noting “Fans of World War II historical fiction have a new title to add to their book club reading list this summer….You’ll easily start and finish the entire book in the span of a long weekend.”

There There: Tommy Orange’s new book is making ‘Best Of’ lists across the country for its searing, emotional portrayal of an America that few of us have the chance to know–the life within Native American/Indian culture.  This book introduces readers to twelve vibrant, empathetic ‘Urban Indians’ living in Oakland, California, whose lives come together at the Big Oakland Powwow.  Orange gracefully reveals each character’s reasons for attending the Powwow—some generous, some fearful, some joyful, some violent—all while spinning the novel to a shocking, yet somehow terribly inevitable conclusion that will change each of their lives.  This is a book about identity, nature, beauty and rage, that copes with the issues of addiction, abuse, and suicide with which the Native American community is forced to grapple, as well as a searing study of their endangered and precious culture.  Library Journal was just one outlet to give this novel a starred review; in that, they called this novel “Visceral… A chronicle of domestic violence, alcoholism, addiction, and pain, the book reveals the perseverance and spirit of the characters… Unflinching candor… Highly recommended.”

Room to Dream: Fans of Twin Peaks, and David Lynch’s other challenging, beloved, and intriguing works will no doubt find something to love, question, and explore in his unexpected memoir.  Lynch’s lyrical, intimate, and unfiltered personal reflections are accompanied by biographical sections written by close collaborator Kristine McKenna.  These sections are based on more than one hundred new interviews with surprisingly candid ex-wives, family members, actors, agents, musicians, and colleagues in various fields who all have their own takes on the moment that Lynch describes.  As a result, this hybrid biography/memoir is weird, colorful, challenging, and thoroughly rewarding, especially for Lynch’s fans.  As The Irish Times noted in its review, “ultimately, Room to Dream does provoke wonder, and advocate dreaming, and further questioning, as all of Lynch’s best artistic work does.”

What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an 

American City: Flint was already a troubled city in 2014 when the state of Michigan—in the name of austerity—shifted the source of its water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. Soon after, citizens began complaining about the water that flowed from their taps—but officials continued to insist that the water was fine. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician at the city’s public hospital, took state officials at their word and encouraged the parents and children in her care to continue drinking the water.  But a conversation at a cookout with an old friend, leaked documents from a rogue environmental inspector, and the activism of a concerned mother raised red flags about lead—a neurotoxin whose irreversible effects fall most heavily on children.  This book is Dr. Mona’ s quest to provide and release proof of the Flint water crisis to the world, of an immigrant, doctor, scientist, and mother whose family’s activist roots inspired her pursuit of justice, and a riveting, beautifully rendered account of a shameful disaster that became a tale of hope.  Booklist gave Dr. Mona’s book a starred review, celebrating its power and saying: “Told with passion and intelligence, What the Eyes Don’t See is an essential text for understanding the full scope of injustice in Flint and the importance of fighting for what’s right.”

History of Violence: On Christmas Eve 2012, in Paris, the novelist Édouard Louis was raped and almost murdered by a man he had just met.  This act of violence left Louis shattered; its aftermath made him a stranger to himself and sent him back to the village, the family, and the past he had sworn to leave behind.  This book, a fascinating non-fiction novel that explores the event, Louis’ own past, and the homophobia of the society in which the assault occurred, is drawing comparisons to Truman Capote’s In True Blood for its searching portrayal of Louis’ story, as well as the effects that his experiences had on his family and friends, as well.  Publisher’s Weekly wrote a deeply respectful review of this powerful and challenging work, describing how “In this moving autobiographical novel . . . Louis’s visceral story captures the overwhelming emotional impact and complicated shame of surviving sexual assault.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!