Friday, November 27, 2020

2020 Top 5 Picks - Part 5

Guess what? Okay, you guessed it. I've got more top 5 picks from Boswellians for you today. I suppose the image to the right of this sentence and the post title above this paragraph don't exactly make for a suspenseful introduction. Oh well. Hopefully, you've spent the last few days without a Top 5 Picks Post in enough suspense that you'll be excited - relieved even - that without further ado I introduce you two three more booksellers and their favorites of 2020! Say hello to Madi, Jen, and Parker!

Madi loves true crime, campy horror, fiction you might call fierce, memoirs by comedians, and lots of books you might find in between those categories. First on her list is Luster - in fact, this is a double first, because it's on Parker's top 5 list, as well! We'll get to Parker soon, promise.

#1 Luster by Raven Leilani was a super buzzy novel this year, and according to both of these booksellers, for good, good reason. The novel centers on Edie, a young black woman working in New York publishing and barely making rent each month, who finds herself navigating a suburban white couple’s open marriage. Madi says, "I was hesitant to read this at first - an open marriage? I don't do romance - Nope! This book is So. Much. More. The sheer amount of women supporting women is reason alone to read it - Highly Recommend!. Parker also loves Edie's voice - it's a powerful one that grabs hold of you and won't let go until her story is told.

#2 on Madi's list is a bit more traditionally what I think of as a "Madi book" - The Last Book on the Left: Stories of Murder and Mayhem from History’s Most Notorious Serial Killers by Ben Kissel, Marcus Parks, Henry Zebrowski, and illustrator Tom Neely. Madi says, "To no fan's surprise, the boys of Last Podcast on the Left have created something awesome. With nine chapters on the most notorious serial killers in true crime history, this book is not for the faint of heart, but then again, neither is the podcast. For fans of the show, like myself, this book is a wonderful reevaluation of the killers, but told completely fresh - all the content was written originally for this book, both the facts and the jokes. While it is a gruesome topic, the humor and commentary intercut in the narrative (thankfully) provide some comic relief. It's a truly unique true crime book, including the cartoon illustrations throughout. Whether you are just getting into true crime, want to read a fresh take on these killers, or are just a fan of Last Podcast, this book is a must-have."

Madi's #3 is Action Park: Fast Times, Wild Rides, and the Untold Story of America's Most Dangerous Amusement Park by Andy Mulvihill and Jake Rossen. Another notable feature of "Madi books" are their long subtitles. Her recommendation: "There never has and never will be another place like Action Park. In his memoir, Andy Mulvihill, son of founder and operator of Action Park, recounts the inception, operation, and eventual closure of the park that shaped not only his adolescence but his adulthood as well. This book hilariously details how the infamous New Jersey park was his father's way of allowing people to be as dangerous as they might want, which, apparently, was extremely. The first-hand account of the home-grown, family run park brought some humanism to a place frequently labeled as a ticketed death trap, though the risk for injury and even death was very real. As a person mildly obsessed with amusement parks, I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone who loves non-commercial parks; my hometown park even got a shout out (hey, Kennywood!). While it's a family narrative at its core, the stories in this book are sometimes terrifying but usually hilarious. There really is nothing in the world like Action Park."

#4 is Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine. With her award-winning poetry book Citizen, Rankine started a new conversation about existing in America, and now, with Just Us, she invites us all to join that conversation. As everyday white supremacy becomes increasingly vocalized with no clear answers at hand, how best might we approach one another? Rankine, without telling us what to do, urges us to begin the discussions that might open pathways through this divisive and stuck moment in American history. "This consciousness-raising, bravura combination of personal essays, poems, photographs, and cultural commentary works on so many levels and is a skyscraper in the literature on racism." - Christian Science Monitor

#5 Save Yourself by comedian Camoren Esposito. Madi says, "This is the perfect bundle of female empowerment, gay pride, and comedy wrapped in one. Though she has spoken of her childhood in her stand up, I was not prepared for the depth of this memoir or the complicated issues addressed, from struggles within Catholicism to eating disorders to coming to terms as well as coming out with her own sexuality. This memoir is wonderfully written, emotional, and hilarious. It is an essential reminder that women and LGBTQ+ people can and will carve out their own space to thrive among a society that too often tries to ignore, or worse, silence them."

Next on our list of Boswellians for today's post is, as mentioned before, Parker! And as also mentioned before, on their list is Luster - I won't re-link it here, but if you got to this part of the post and are thinking to yourself, "I really do think Luster sounds great" - why not scroll back up to the top of the page and give that book link a click? So then, moving onto Parker's recommendations:

#1 Bonds of Brass: Book One of The Bloodright Trilogy by Emily Skrutskie. The opening volume of this space opera fantasy has earned lots and lots of praise from authors and critics alike. A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend - the man he trusts most and might even love - only to learn that his friend is secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.  Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that his goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs? Caitlin Starling, author of The Luminous Dead, calls this "a high-octane galactic adventure replete with heart, drama, and a keen edge of pain."

#2 The Montague Twins: The Witch's Hand by By Nathan Page, illustrated by Drew Shannon. This one had a few staff recommendations - from Chris and Jen, too - and the best summary is this: think The Hardy Boys meets the comic Paper Girls, with just a little bit of Scooby Doo tossed in for good measure. It's a graphic novel adventure about two brothers who are teenage detectives and maybe, just maybe, are dabbling in a bit of magic, too. After a strange storm erupts on the beach, they discover there is more to their detective skills than they had thought. Their guardian, has been keeping secrets about their parents and what the boys are truly capable of. At the same time, three girls go missing after casting a mysterious spell, which sets in motion a chain of events that takes their small town down an unexpected path. They discover there are forces at work that they never could have imagined, which will impact their lives forever.

#3 Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth, illustrated by Sara Lautman. This New York Times bestseller is, as Ron Charles says in The Washington Post, "A delectable brew of gothic horror and Hollywood satire." Which sounds just about perfect for Parker's reading list, so I can see why they chose it. The award-winning author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post makes her adult debut with this highly imaginative and original horror-comedy centered around a cursed New England boarding school for girls - a wickedly whimsical celebration of the art of storytelling, sapphic love, and the rebellious female spirit.

#4 the last on Parker's list is Tweet Cute by Emma Lord. Parker says, "Pepper's family started Big League Burger as a mom-and-pop shop when she was a little girl. Now they have gone corporate and, possibly soon, international. Now Pepper is in at an elite private school for the children of business moguls, where she is expected to make high grades, all while her mother asks her to write snarky tweets for the company. Enter Jack, a classmate of Pepper's whose family has owned the local deli, Girl Cheesing, since his Grandma started it. Soon Big League Burger announces a new line of grilled cheeses, one of them using the exact same (secret) recipe as Girl Cheesing's most popular sandwich. Jack takes this attack against his beloved Grandma to Twitter, sending a tweet at Big League Burger’s account. Twitter war commence! Pepper and Jack find themselves going head-to-head and tweet-to-tweet to defend their families’ businesses. Little do they know that they have also been talking to each other anonymously via Weazel, a messaging app Jack developed for the students at their school. I knew I was going to love Tweet Cute as soon as I hit page two. Emma Lord's debut is fantastic! I was incredibly invested in Pepper and Jack's stories, from their family and school dramas to their romance, I haven't wanted two characters to get together as badly as I did with them. Emma Lord's writing is extremely witty, which led to perfect banter and hijinks between the characters. I loved this book with every fiber of my being, I can't recommend this one enough!"

Okay, how about one more Boswellian's worth of top 5 recommendations? I bring you Jen, our gift buyer and runner of the in-store (well, in-Zoom these days) Books & Beer book club, which has been a great showcase for her eclectic taste in books. 

#1 on Jen's list is Mexican Gothic, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a book that made the 2020 Boswell Gift Guide - link right here, because you knew you wouldn't escape it! - Jen says, "When Noemí Taboada’s father receives a most troubling letter from his niece, he sends Noemí as the family’s ambassador to determine if Catalina is in any danger. Immediately upon arrival it is clear to Noemí that she is an unwelcome visitor. Her cousin’s new family are the Doyles; an English family that lives in High Place, a crumbling mountaintop estate where nothing is what is seems and something sinister lurks. Mexican Gothic has everything you want in a gothic novel - gloom and doom, mystery and romance, monsters and nightmares. Silvia Moreno-Garcia cranks up the melodrama to thrill and delight readers. Unputdownable!"

#2 Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots. We had a great virtual event with Walschots (check out the video here) in October, where she chatted with Jason. Margaret, whose picks we'll see in our next post, loved this one, too! So what does Jen have to say? This: "This was so fun to read! Becoming another causality of a "superhero" rescue, Anna loses her job and is laid up on her friend's couch for weeks. Healing from her encounter with the world's most indestructible hero, Anna starts thinking of all the money she's lost by being out of a job, not to mention the dead coworkers left behind; she's inspired to create a formula to determine the cost of years lost not just for herself but for the world. What does it cost when the most powerful superhero flies in to save the day? Armed with her data, Anna starts to gain a following online and finds herself recruited by one of the most elusive villains there is. Hench delightfully twists the perspective on superheroes. You will think twice next time you root for those caped heroes!"

#3 is Afterlife by Julia Alvarez. This one made a few lists this year - several must read / most anticipated lists during its pre-pub-push, as well as being named a Time magazine Must Read of 2020. It's the first adult novel in almost fifteen years by the internationally bestselling author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents.  Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including - maybe especially -members of our human family? How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? And how do we stay true to those glorious souls we have lost?

#4 is The Eight Detective by Alex Pavesi. It's a novel about books and murders and maybe a little bit of fiction and the real world blending - all ingredients that make something a solid Jen pick. Jen says, "Thirty years prior to living in self- imposed exile, Grant McAllister wrote The White Murders, seven murder mysteries that cover his seven mathematical rules to detective fiction. Now, Julia Hart, editor of Blood Type Books, has come knocking on his door. After discovering Grant's book in a box of secondhand books, Julia's publisher would like to reprint The White Murders for a new audience. As she reads Grant's stories and the more time she spends with him, Julia begins to suspect that there is an all too real mystery to unravel. With alternating chapters between editor and author and the seven whodunits from The White Murders, The Eighth Detective is a one-of-a-kind mystery!"

#5 The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is Jen's final pick. Jen says this one "charmed me from the very beginning. Linus Baker is your typical by-the-book company man, so when he is given a classified assignment - go to a secret location for a month and observe the six children of the orphanage and its head master - you could say the unflappable Mr. Baker may be in over his head. Especially when one of those children is the antichrist. After a shaky first meeting with the children, Linus meets the children's caretaker, Arthur Parnassus, an enigmatic man who will challenge Linus's way of thinking. TJ Klune delivers a heartfelt, down-right delightful, and engaging novel. It will have you laughing out loud too!" Shoutout to Kelli O'Malley, another Boswell-associated fan of this one, too!

Well, that's one more installment of top 5 choices! Keep your eyes peeled, our sixth and final installment of the Boswellians top 5 picks is coming soon to this space. Thanks!

No comments:

Post a Comment