Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Best of the Rest of the Boswellian Holiday Selections

Heading into the home stretch of this holiday season, I have a grab-bag of books left from the Boswellians selections that could interest one two folks on your Holiday Shopping List. In this first group, I have put the books that have a bit fantastical invention scattered throughout their plots:

The String Diaries by  Stephen Lloyd Jones
"This haunting and thrilling book, set in late 1800s Hungary, 1970s Oxford, and the present day, starts with Hannah on the run; her husband is near death while their daughter lies asleep in the back seat of the car unawares. Just what or who exactly are they escaping from? The demon is a shape shifter who’s been haunting the women in Hannah’s family for generations. Now Hannah has to find a way to stop this creature before it’s too late. I don’t even know how to categorize this book. Thriller? Mystery? Historical fiction? Fantasy? No matter, I’ll just say it was great." --Jen Steele
This was also one of my top picks of the year, as well Jim Higgins at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel!

 The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

"I've been eagerly devouring The Book of Life, the final volume of The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness. She is an historian like her protagonist, Diana Bishop, and weaves a spell that enthralls readers and never lets up. A wonderful blend of magic, history, and science combined with witches and vampires, this fantasy will keep you reading well into the night. I loved the all secondary characters which are well developed and the magical world built here appears realistic. I love this trilogy and hope you pick it up on your next trip to Boswell." --Pam Stilp

The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness 
"A story about a beautiful, loving crane and a violent, greedy volcano. Or a story about George, the crane he saves and Kumiko, the mysterious woman George falls in love with. Or a story that starts at the beginning of another story's ending. In his storytelling, Patrick Ness has taken a Japanese myth, mixed it with The Decemberists song "The Crane Wife 1 & 2" and created a beautiful tapestry. It’s an ancient story magically woven into a modern setting full of primal human emotions, a story that does not truly end." --Jen Steele

The Queen of Tearling by Erika Johansen 
"19-year old Kelsea, raised in isolation, is on her way back home to ascend her throne, trailed by many who wish her killed. Her only protection is the loyal Queen’s guard, headed by stoic Lazarus, as well as the Tearling Sapphire, a powerful, magical jewel. Kelsea was educated during her exile, but kept in the dark about the state of her kingdom and the devil’s bargain her ineffectual mother, the Queen, made with the neighboring Mortmesne. Upon her arrival, a rash decision brings down the wrath of the powerful Sorceress, the Red Queen of Mortmesne. Set in world with discordant elements of a medieval past and dystopian future, I really enjoyed this novel featuring a young but determined female character who doesn’t know whom she can trust. It is filled with political intrigue, magic, adventure, and a very useful map." --Pam Stilp

If those didn't help cross off any names on your list, perhaps this next group of books will. These have a bit of the horrors we can find in the world and in the people around us: 

An Untamed State by Roxanne Gay
"While visiting her wealthy parents in Port-au-Prince, Mireille Jameson is kidnapped in front of her family. Her father, a prominent citizen, has a strict policy of not paying ransoms. The story moves back and forth between the horror that Mireille undergoes at the hands of her captors, and her personal history, both as a daughter of Haiti, and as a wife and mother. What happens to her while she is held prisoner is only part of the story. When she is released, she must regain her sense of person, and conquer the fear that engulfs her. An Untamed State is a bold and unvarnished novel that will open the reader’s eyes to a part of the world that they may not be familiar with. I highly recommend it." --Sharon Nagel
The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
"An absolute page-turner of a mystery! Taking place in an eerie Ozarks small town, a grotesque murder is the hot topic, which jumpstarts the revisiting of a peculiar incident that happened years earlier in the same town; an odd disappearance of a young woman, and new mother. Both mysterious events challenge the trust and meaning of blood ties for a particular family. Twisted and chilling!" --Carly Lenz

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld 
"Death Row isn’t exactly the place you might expect to find hope, but this book is all about small miracles in peculiar places. In the darkest of prison cells and the darkest of hearts, there is light. Denfield finds that light, coaxes it out, and encourages it to glow even brighter. This book is beautiful." --Greg Bruce

This next selection of titles all deal with the known & the unknown (and perhaps the known unknowns or unknown knowns, or whatever that was).  Characters in these books have something missing from their lives that they would love to have solved. Though, for the third title down, is about discovering a group of people who make some tough decisions for all of us 

"Tsukuru, now 36, is forced by a potential new love interest to reevaluate events from sixteen years ago, when a group of friends banished him from their circle. He is a self-proclaimed colorless, empty shell with nothing to offer. Can Tsukuru delve back into all the depressing events of his life, the missed opportunities and misconstrued circumstances, as he follows the trail of lost camaraderie? I loved the melancholic atmosphere that Tsukuru had to fight through on his journey--this is classic Murakami gold." --Jason Kennedy

 After Visiting Friends by Michael Hainey

"After Michael Hainey's father dies, the then 6 year old is given no explanation. That lack of explanation leaves a gaping hole inside the author that leads him on a journey of self-discovery, no matter the pain it might cause his family. Part memoir, part detective story-this is a haunting, fascinating and elegiac story." --Jannis Mindel

The Tastemakers by David Sax
"From a chef trying to breakout Peruvian cuisine to the chia seeds’ attempt to be the next health savior, the author of Save the Deli captures the world of food fads. The narrative jumps from specialty food award shows to bacon festivals to the art of food forecasting. The Tastemakers looks at the how long-term trends (healthy eating cocooning, authenticity, convenience) combine with marketing (from turning chefs on to black rice to convincing supermarkets to stock a new branded apple) to create the next phenomenon, and how the internet and social media has speeded up trend lifecycles. I personally think the subtitle overemphasizes the cupcake narrative, whose slow rise (about ten years) is contrasted with the lightning speed mainstreaming of the croissant style donut. The more interesting question is why hasn’t completely flatlined, compared, say, with the quick rise and fall of the açai berry. Sax tries to be neutral on most issues: he likes chefs and local sourcing and environmental trends, but he also is fascinated by stage five of food trends, which is when corporative mass market initiatives swoop in for the kill, often killing the trend in the process, or at least returning it to niche status. Greek yogurt-flavored cereal, anyone? David Sax has written a fascinating cultural narrative that will appeal to foodies and business buffs alike." --Daniel Goldin

And if none of those above have crossed names out on your list, here are some of the stragglers. They are all great, I just did not have the right grouping for these, other than they are all fantastic! Happy Holidays and enjoy all the books you get this season!
A Long Way Home by Louise Penny

"I had been looking forward to returning to Three Pines and Inspector Gamache and company ever since I finished the last page of How the Light Gets In. Penny creates such a fantastic sense of place that the reader is fully prepared to pack his bags and book a flight to Quebec. Louise Penny’s tenth novel shows us a different side of Armand Gamache. He has retired from the Surete, and he and his wife have moved to Three Pines so he can recover both mentally and physically. Not one to be without a mystery to solve for long, Gamache agrees to investigate the disappearance of Peter Morrow, a neighbor and friend. Once again, the author provides an intriguing puzzle but more importantly, another installment in the lives of those characters that I and countless other readers have come to love so well."--Sharon Nagel

The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry by Gabrielle Zevin

"I was drawn in to this lovely book by the wonderful chapter headings and compelled to stay by the wonderful characters and world of books. Connection with life and other people is everything, and it is beautiful to watch A.J.Fikry learn the truth of that."--Anne McMahon

I think this book deserves a double blast:
"Most people think that the life of a bookseller involves sitting around and reading all day. This could not be farther from the truth. A.J. Fikry runs Island Books on Alice Island, a ferry ride away from the rest of the world. He is a curmudgeonly man, who has recently lost his wife, and doesn’t see much happiness in his future. His valuable manuscript of Tamerlane has been stolen and he’s drinking a little too much. Things begin to turn around for A.J. when he meets Amelia, a publishing rep, and when a baby is abandoned in the bookstore. This story is a testament to the power of literature and bookstores; how they can bring people together and change their lives. Gabrielle Zevin has created a celebration of books and readers, where the bookstore in a community is almost a character itself." --Sharon Nagel

The Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
"I picked up Roxane Gay’s fantastic novel, An Untamed State, on a whim a few months ago. Having just finished her new book of essays, I have now progressed to being a full-fledged fan, and will yammer about her to anyone who will stand still long enough. Her funny and discerning collection of essays runs the gamut from playing Scrabble competitively, to watching Girls, to discussing current issues like abortion and women’s reproductive rights. She has the uncanny ability to state things in both an articulate and relatable way that will cause the reader to shake her head and say, ‘Yes, that is exactly how I feel too.’ I look forward to reading whatever this talented author produces in the future."--Sharon Nagel

 Lila by Marilynne Robinson

"Lila’s early life was terribly hard, her upbringing almost feral, but she knew she was loved by Doll, the woman who rescued her from the nightmare of her natural home. Years later, grown and alone, she seeks shelter from a storm in a church in Gilead. She meets John Ames; their discussions cause her to re-evaluate and struggle to reconcile the disparate stages of her life. A very moving story, told in a fascinating voice, one that challenges the reader to the same honesty."--Anne K. McMahon

Last, but not least, one of the hottest selliing books of the season. A brillant look at becoming organized. I am sure Mel would tell you that my desk needs this book, but it would just get lost on it.

"I LOVE this book. Marie Kondo is in the tidying business. She's paid to help people learn how to organize their stuff. Her appointment waiting list is three months long! But Marie Kondo is really a magician whose vocation is guiding people to the happiness in their lives. Thanks to this glorious little book, you don't have to fly to Japan and wait for a private lessons to discover her secrets. The how-to is very simple: you are to sort through your possessions one by one, asking (and answering!) for each item ‘does this bring me joy?’ And you must start with your socks! It seems very hocus-pocus and new-age-y, but I found Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up inspirational and motivational. Her voice is gracious and firm, kind and resolute. The results are instantaneous (try her unique folding technique and vertical storage methods); the change is permanent. But don't take it from me--take it from the tiny drawer that I fit every single one of my heavy wool sweaters into!!" --Mel Morrow

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