Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Preview

Here are just a few of the books we're looking forward to seeing on the shelves in 2015, complete with our enthusiastic recommendations!

A Kim-Jong Il Production:The Extraordinary True Story of a Kidnapped Filmmaker, His Star Actress, and aYoung Dictator’s Rise , by Paul Fischer [Adult Nonfiction]

Paul Fischer does an exemplary job doing his research and making this book addictably readable. You've heard of Kim Jong-Il kidnapping people, but to the extent of what he did seem like an act of lunacy. Also, take in to consideration the painfully, slow process of acquiring western films to watch, and Kim Jong-Il appears to be a simple, insane son of a dictator. Nothing could be further from the truth. He used shrewd political moves to ensure his succession as the leader of the people by using anything he could lay his hands on; and that started with cinema of North Korea.”  —Jason Kennedy

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, by Rachel Joyce [Adult Fiction]

“Miss Queenie Hennessey is dying and she starts writing an extended letter that takes readers into the backstory of her relationship with former brewery colleague, Harold Fry, who is walking a 637 mile trek to see her, sending postcards along the way, asking her to 'wait for me.' Simultaneous quixotic journeys taken, one by foot along the open roads and one with a pen on paper from the confines of hospice, this gracefully written story reveals Queenie's life and what led to her sudden move away from Harold 20 years ago to the consolation of a sea garden cottage in the north of England. Confessional in tone, this compassionately written novel can be read as a companion to the Booker shortlisted title The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Frye or as a stand alone story of one woman's life filled with steadfast hope and selfless love. Destined to be one of my favorite books of 2015, this is storytelling at its best. I loved it!”  —Jane Glaser

Jam on the Vine, by LaShonda Katrice Barnett [Adult Fiction]

“Following the life of Ivoe Williams, founder and editor of Jam! On the Vine, the first female-owned and operated African American newspaper, this splendid novel is one southern African American family’s Jim Crow survival story, the rare bildungsroman of a budding female activist and entrepreneur, and the alluring love story between two disparate African American women. Jam on the Vine is written in such evocative prose with so much historical accuracy that you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time—yet so familiar that you’ll jump to answer the call to action still so relevant a century later. Not since Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God have I been as sweet on a book as I am on this lovely and much-needed debut novel!”  —Mel Morrow
Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper  [Adult Fiction]

“What a fantastic book to start the new year off with! Etta and Otto and Russell and James is full of kind-hearted, lovable characters. Everyone has a journey they need to take and at 83 years old Etta is finally taking hers. Leaving her husband Otto a note saying she's gone to see the ocean and will try to remember to come back, Etta sets off. She embarks on foot through the quiet farmland and dust she meets new friends and becomes somewhat of a celebrity through the towns she passes. Meanwhile, her husband Otto has been keeping himself busy trying out his wife's recipes, getting a pet and getting a hobby that will attract the attention of passerby. This book has heart & soul all over it. Pick it up and meet Etta and Otto and Russell and James. You'll be glad you did!” —Jen Steele

How to Be a Heroine: Or,What I’ve Learned from Reading too Much, by Samantha Ellis [Adult Nonfiction]

Traveling the Haworth moor of the Brönte sisters sets off a query between the author and a friend as to whether Jane Eyre or Catherine Earnshaw is to be the more admired heroine. Part memoir of growing up in an Iraqi-Jewish family and part literary commentary from an authorial perspective, readers will travel on a journey of self discovery focusing on the impact that  the joy of reading has on shaping our lives, in all its fluidity. Among chapters revisiting the heroines of favorite books, as diverse as fairy tales’ The Little Mermaid, Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennett, Margaret Mitchel's Scarlett O'Hara, E. M. Forster's Lucy Honeychurch, etc., the author culminates with a reflection of the tales of Scheherazade. Writers and readers alike will enjoy this multilayered examination for its honest and witty insights. For readers who enjoyed Rebecca Mead's nonfiction My Life in Middlemarch or Alan Bennett's fictional The Uncommon Reader, this is your next book! I was fascinated!”  —Jane Glaser

The Hunger of the Wolf, by Stephen Marche [Adult Fiction]

“Dale Wylie conjures a vast financial empire out of nothing as his brother Max disappears into the unsettled west to hustle another kind of American Dream: absolute freedom. The Hunger of the Wolf is the sumptuous tale of the Wylie family across three generations, following Dale, his son George, and former Alberta estate caretaker Jamie Cabot, who hopes to profit from unleashing the eccentric family's deepest secret upon the final heir's mysterious death. From the wilds of rural Canada to the urban jungle of penthouse parties featuring Manhattan's elite, Stephen Marche treats readers to a classic American adventure that's gossip column juicy, murder mystery intriguing, fairy tale ethereal, and reveals the humanity in beastliness. This book is sublime!” —Mel Morrow

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña [Picture Book] 
“Every Sunday after church CJ and his nana take the bus to the last stop on Market Street. This Sunday however it's raining and CJ asks his nana why they don't have a car, why are some places dirtier than others, how come a blind man can't see. His Nana's responds by helping CJ see that there is beauty and kindness all around him. ‘To feel the magic of the music.’ A heartwarming picture book about a boy and his grandmother who shows him to see the beauty of the world around him.” 
Jen Steele

Sweetland, by Michael Crummey [Adult Fiction]

“Offers of money and new-job training cannot weaken Moses Sweetland’s connection to his home, the island of Sweetland. As the rest of the island’s population readies for relocation, Sweetland grips the island’s memories while battling with his relatives and friends about why he must give up his way of life. Sweetland knows he needs and wants connections to other people and creatures, though; therefore, as the population shrinks, Sweetland cherishes his bonds with those who also don’t care to leave: a friend’s dog and the devoted youth Jesse. Told in two parts, one of resolve and one of grief and survival, Sweetland is never so simple that the reader can think Moses Sweetland should have done one thing over another to thrive.” —Todd Wellman

Emma: A Modern Retelling, by Alexander McCall Smith [Adult Fiction] 

Emma, one of Jane Austen's most admired novels, comes alive in the 21st century as part of the 2015 contribution to The Austen Project, which invites modern writers to rework the novels of one of the most infamous authors whose six titles are ageless in their popularity. Under the expert pen of celebrated author, McCall Smith, readers, including dedicated Janeites, will enjoy this entertaining retake of a classic that is endlessly yielding!”  —Jane Glaser

“Most people have had some kind of an addiction or obsessive hobby at some point in their life. For Patton Oswalt it was the silver seduction of celluloid. For four years in the late 90’s, Patton Oswalt becomes a ‘sprocket fiend’ at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. He spends most of his free time and thought on movies to see so he can check them off in one or more of his 5 movie encyclopedias. But this is all for a higher become a director. Silver Screen Fiend is funny, engaging, and filled with wonderful trivia (look up The Day the Clown Cried—he didn't make that up!). Pick up Silver Screen Fiend and not only will you learn about Patton's journey through the alternative comedy scene, you might just feel the sprocket junkie itch yourself.” —Jen Steele

The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds [Young Adult Fiction] 

“At the beginning of Matt Miller's senior year of high school, his mom dies of cancer. Then his dad is involved in a horrific accident. Rather than sit alone in his suddenly empty house, Matt takes a job at his neighbor's business: a funeral home. A place where, suddenly, people seem to get it. It's a hard world for young African-American men forced to grow up too fast, but in the realistic Bed-Stuy of The Boy in the Black Suit, Jason Reynolds captures the myriad tiny graces and acts of compassion that keep people going when the world seems vicious and cold--the very things that make us believe in hope and love.” —Mel Morrow

The Bookshop, by Penelope Fitzgerald [Adult Fiction]

When middle-aged widow Florence Green opens a bookshop in a small British town's abandoned building, she is met with a sudden challenge by the local patron who wishes to turn the Old House into an arts center. Provincial pettiness ramps up when the just published Nabakov's Lolita becomes the featured window display. First published in 1978 and shortlisted for the Booker award, this literary gem of a novella is being republished with an introduction by British writer David Nicholls. Following upon the Hermione Lee biography Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life, named as  one of NYT's top ten books of 2014, the author is now receiving the well deserved recognition, posthumously, that she deserves. More reprints of her novels will soon be released with new introductions, but The Bookshop is my favorite for its elegant writing and thought provoking look at the power of money and class.”  —Jane Glaser

Act of God, by Jill Ciment [Adult Fiction] 

“If you find a strange glowing mushroom in your closet—like twin sisters Edith & Kat did—you’d better get rid of it quick or risk losing precious artifacts. If you're a landlady/Shakespearean actress like Vida, and happen to discover the same glowing substance in your closet, you should call your insurance company! Unfortunately for Vida, when she does alert her insurance company, they consider the mold to be an ‘Act of God’ and refuse to cover the cost of removal or repairs. Soon, this 'supermold' spreads all over the neighborhood and everyone has to endure HAZMAT showers, eviction, and the loss of everything they hold dear. Act of God is a delightfully dark comedy that shows us the touching beauty to be found even during hard times.” —Jen Steele

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli [Young Adult Fiction] 

“Becky Albertalli weaves a sweet mystery for higher school student Simon to solve: who is the mysterious, flirtatious, emailing guy codenamed Blue who also goes to Creekwood High? From page one, Albertalli also amply—and convincingly—heaps other mysteries into Simon’s life: how can he stop a fellow student from blackmailing him? Why don’t straight people have to come out as straight? Should he tell his friends and family he’s gay? Simon relies on a mix of authentic teenage voices, red herrings, and diverse characterizations to inspire the reader to accompany Simon on his journey.” —Todd Wellman

Yeti and the Bird, by Nadia Shireen [Picture Book]

Yeti and the Bird is about the biggest, hairiest, and loneliest Yeti in the forest. All of the other animals are afraid of the Yeti because he is so big and hairy. Only one little bird is not afraid of the Yeti. What begins with a THUNK! ends with lasting friendships. Written and wonderfully illustrated by Nadia Shireen, Yeti and the Bird is a great read aloud picture book for the whole family.” —Jen Steele

Jillian, by Halle Butler [Adult Fiction]

“Megan is a mess. Her coworker, Jillian, is a hot mess. Both are depressed: the former totally aware and using it as bridge-burning fuel; the latter so self-deluded that any inkling of it bubbling to the surface is prayed away or written off as low blood sugar. Oh--and they hate each other. Except that they really just hate themselves for being so far behind on what they thought they should have achieved in life by 24 and 35, respectively. Halle Butler's debut novel Jillian is a scathing depiction of internalized patriarchal rhetoric. Readers sit within the heads of two women who have bought into oppressive language: one who believes she is an unlikable, crazy bitch, and the other who believes she is ever in need of rescue. This book made my skin crawl, which is certainly one of the hallmarks of great literature. Jillian is an uncomfortable reality check for those curious about how the other half lives.” —Mel Morrow

I Don’t Like Koala, by Sean Ferrell [Picture Book]

“What do you do when your parents give you a most terrible terrible stuffed animal? If you're Adam, you try to get rid of it. His parents don't understand. They don't see Koala's terrible face & paws or the eyes that follow him everywhere. Every day, Adam tries to get rid of koala, and every night koala is back and too close to him. Until a stormy night then perhaps koala isn't the most terrible terrible thing there is. A funny book with perfect illustrations to show you just how terrible koala is. A must read for the whole family!” —Jen Steele

The Room, by Jonas Karlsson [Adult Fiction]

“Björn is determined to make a good impression in his new position at the Authority. He creates and adheres to a strict, efficient routine, using his free time to catch up on only the most pertinent office jargon and politics. On one of his scheduled breaks, he discovers a room in which he feels more confident, focused, and efficient. Soon, his trips to the room start to freak out his coworkers: to them, Björn is staring at the wall for minutes on end. The office manager and a therapist are called on for a resolution. Eventually, with the room’s help, Björn turns in exemplary work that earns him a huge promotion, just as some of his coworkers start losing their minds. The Room is a freaky, savvy psychological novel that will destabilize you and lead to intense philosophical debate—a great pick for book clubs!”  —Mel Morrow

She Weeps Each Time You’re Born, by Quan Barry [Adult Fiction] 

“Barry reveals a Vietnamese people who are easy to imagine as characters in a post-apocalyptic novel a la The Road—except the sting is that these are images of people from our past, those who survived war and being carted about their country. Spanning 30 years, the novel features an artful narrator who poetically reveals the landscape while unwinding the life of Rabbit: daughter, friend, lover, ghost-whisperer, and more to those around her. It’s easy to revel in Barry’s language and story—lingering on description like it was dessert, attending scenes that coalesce as footage of a life of endless searching for what calls.” —Todd Wellman

The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud [Graphic Novel]

“A young sculptor refuses to leave New York until he makes a name for himself. Unfortunately, his name is David Smith: nothing special to strangers, but infamous in the art world for betraying his benefactor. Rejected from galleries, despised by critics, pitied by friends, kicked out of his apartment, and nearly penniless, David makes a deal with Death. He has 200 days to restore his name, trading the remainder of his life for a gift that makes work faster and easier. And then he meets Meg. Scott McCloud's The Sculptor is a brilliant fable and fraught love story reminiscent of Blankets and A Christmas Carol, with twists you won't see coming—a great read for those who want a high-stakes narrative, be they comics neophyte, veteran, or any range in between.” —Mel Morrow

My Sunshine Away, by M. O. Walsh [Adult Fiction] 

“Like most people, the older I get, the more I enjoy stories that take me back to a time when I was young. This is the case in this debut novel from Walsh, but there are many other reasons that I liked this book so much. The events of the summer of 1989 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are related by a 14 year old boy. He, much like the rest of the boys in his neighborhood, is in love with Lindy Simpson, the girl across the street. When Lindy is violently raped one night by an unknown assailant, she, and the neighborhood, are changed forever. The story centers on our narrator doing his best to find the identity of Lindy’s attacker, but there is much more going on. A parent’s hopes and fears for her child, high school survival, first love, lost innocence, and the often difficult passage into adulthood. A fantastic offering by an author that remembers what it is like to be a teenager, and allows the reader to do so as well.” —Sharon Nagel

Boswellian Pam is really excited for the sequel to The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Golden Specific, which is scheduled for publication on July 14, 2015. 

And Boswellian Jane Glaser is currently reading--and loving--Anne Tyler's novel A Spool of Blue Thread, Aislinn Hunter's novel The World Before Us, and Emma Hooper's novel Etta and Otto and Russell and James.