Monday, March 1, 2021

Staff Recommendations for the Week of March 2nd, 2021

Though it may seem a little surprising or disorienting that today is the beginning of the month of March, seeing as how in many ways it seems that last month was also, well, March, we have at least spent many months reading books and have some new titles to recommend to you. So here's a roundup of books coming out on Tuesday, March 2, that Boswellians love! Both new hardcover releases and newly-in-paperback books! First, a couple brand new books coming out this week:

Jen Steele recommends The Lost Apothecary, by Sarah Penner. Jen says, "Reeling from the discovery of her husband's affair, Caroline Parcewell decides to go to London on what was supposed to be an anniversary vacation. One afternoon she takes part in mudlarking and discovers a curious vial which reignites a long-buried passion for history. As Caroline embarks on uncovering the vial’s secrets, she discovers more about herself and her marriage. Meanwhile, in 18th century London, there's a hidden apothecary dealing in poisons. Nella is the heir of the apothecary. What used to be a place where all could go for health and healing is now something more sinister. Nella now works in the shadows, helping women right the wrongs done to them by men. The rules are simple: the poison must never be used to harm another woman, and the names of the murderer and her victim must be cataloged in the apothecary's register. A definite page turner that kept me up late just to find out what happens next!!"

Parker Jensen recommends The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer, by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan. Parker says, "When Liza Rodman was a child, she and her family summered in Cape Cod. Her mother worked as a maid in a local motel and partied the night away, leaving Liza and her younger sister to be watched by anyone who was willing to take them on, and I mean anyone. Enter Tony Costa, handyman at the same motel as Liza's mother. He would take the young girls for trips in his truck, buying them popsicles and taking them deep into the woods to show them his "secret garden." Liza loved spending time with Tony; she felt that he was the only adult in her life who truly saw her and treated her like she mattered. Then one day in the late 60s, he disappeared. It would take her into adulthood to discover the truth behind Tony's sudden absence - he was a brutal serial killer. The Babysitter is a unique true crime read as we get to examine the serial killer through the eyes of his family but also the eyes of young child who idolized him. I've never read a true crime book quite like this. I will never forget the chills I got while reading the scenes of Tony taking Liza to his "secret garden," a place in which he buried his victims, all young women. Half memoir and half true crime, The Babysitter is a truly chilling read, one that will stick with me for years to come."

There are three books getting their paperback releases this week that we're into, as well.

The first is one followers of this blog should know well - and if you said, "I'll wait for it in paperback," well guess what - your wait is over! Chris Lee's #1 tip top book of 2020, The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe is in softcover now. He says, "The Knockout Queen is an intimate, articulate, violent book about good and bad people and good and bad things and all of them just happening to each other all the time for no reason except that they can. Michael, the drollest teenaged narrator since forever, lives tenuously in an LA suburb with his scraping-by aunt after mom’s gone to jail for stabbing abusive, drunk dad. His only close relationships are the decades-older men he hooks up with on Craigslist and his neighbor Bunny, daughter of the town’s leading real estate shyster. She's an Olympic hopeful, but she's also a teenager trying to navigate high school, loyalty, and boys as a girl who’s 6-foot-3. These are a couple of kids clinging to each other to whom Thorpe gives the enviable, pitiable, beautiful, and ugly depth of real, living, breathing human beings. Are they moral? Who cares - they are ALIVE." Daniel and Tim are also fans. In fact, we all loved this novel so much we invited Thorpe to join us for a virtual conversation last year, and she and Chris had an excellent chat about everything from teenagehood, friendship, and morality to middle-age torture devices. Yes, really. Check out that video right here!

The next new-in-paper novel is Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore, another author who was gracious enough to drop by via technology for a virtual conversation with Daniel Goldin - check that video out here, and then check out Daniel's recommendation, right here: "Odessa, Texas is pretty much the armpit of Texas, or would be if oil gushed out of your armpit. It’s the 1970s and the area is booming. Newcomers are hoping to make their fortune in the oil field, and many are out of control. Gloria, the daughter of Mexican migrants, is savagely assaulted and is only saved by knocking on the door of a young mother several miles away. She begins the story, and it is continued by a series of other women and girls, each struggling to be heard. Particularly affecting is Debra Anna, a young neighbor that befriends a PTSD-stricken vet living in a nearby drainage pipe. These two stories and several others collide in a tense climax, but I think the plot is outshined by the hard-edged writing (no quotes, Cormac style), vibrant characters, and keen sense of place. Desolate? Absolutely. But there’s just enough hope here to keep you reading Valentine, a truly powerful novel." This is another one that got a second rec - yup, from Tim! He adds, "Wetmore's writing is stunning. An absolutely amazing debut. Get ready!"

Finally, how about a little nonfiction that Daniel recommends? Okay then! Try Hidden Valley Road: Inside the Mind of an American Family by Robert Kolker. Daniel says, "I loved this book! Journalist Kolker chronicles the Galvin family, who settled in Colorado Springs with the creation of the Air Force Academy. Don and Mimi wound up having twelve kids, and six of them were eventually diagnosed as schizophrenic. The family history, often from the perspective of Lindsay, the youngest child (non-diagnosed) alternates with a history of the diagnosis and treatment of schizophrenia. The split between advocates of nurture and nature hypotheses continues since the break between Freud and Jung. I can’t believe how Kolker was able to give such distinct life to the six men who presented their illnesses in such different ways. It’s a tragic story, but it’s also about  the survival story of the six kids who weren’t diagnosed, including one who seems to have skirted by the illness. If you are a fan of Brain on Fire, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, or the recent Boswell pick An Elegant Defense, Hidden Valley Road is for you."

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