Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 29, 2021

 Another week with a couple new releases in paperback that we're wild about. Let's dive into them now.

A Burning
by Megha Majumdar, as recommended by Kay Wosewick: "The borders in the slums of a large Indian city are porous enough to entangle the lives of three people of different social standing. Each dreams of a different life. Two have the chance to fulfill their dreams if they toss the third to the wolves. Majumdar has set a morality play in a location where morality is a costly luxury. This tender but ultimately brutal tale will raise your empathy and scorch your heart."

Daddy: Stories by Emma Cline, comes with this recommendation from Madi Hill: "Emma Cline’s Daddy is a beautiful short story collection that showcases what a talented writer she is. Each story is unique but tied together by the way they are written: you, the reader, are dropped in the middle of each person’s story during a particularly low point of their lives. Cline allows the narrators to describe as much or as little as they want about how things were, but always details the consequences of their actions with which they now must live. This collection rings with nostalgia for the way things were, but clearly reminds that life only moves forward. Cline’s ability to capture a variety of voices shows how different people at different points in their lives handle their current surroundings. This multitude of perspectives show just how similar we really are, and for that, this book deserves to be read."

The paperback release of Homeland Elegies, the lauded novel by Wisconsin native Ayad Akhtar, came in May, yet due to a clerical error (I wrote down the wrong date) our staff recommendations for this spectacular novel haven't been included in the blog - UNTIL NOW!

From Chris Lee: "Akhtar might just have written that good and daring thing, a new entry into my favorite genre: the Great American Novel. Certainly it’s one of the boldest books on existing in this country post-9/11. Not since Exley’s A Fan’s Notes (and those in the know will know what I mean) can I recall a novel in which a writer was so unashamed to expose the ugliest parts of his country and of himself to create a portrait of an American living in, with, and against America. There’s far too much in this novel for any sort of reductive summary of its parts to give you an idea of what it’s ‘about,’ which of course is a part of its brilliance; there’s little so rare and as rewarding as to read a writer who is willing to do the necessary peeling away of layer after layer of nuance and contradiction, not just throwing out but dismantling and subverting platitudes and easy, false truths, to approach the world honestly. But here, a few broad strokes - it’s about being an immigrant, about being perceived at once as an enemy of the state and an enemy of your family’s homeland. It’s about how history, geography, education, economics, medicine, and yes, Donald Trump, put a father and son at odds with each other, with themselves, and with their country. Most of all, it is an exhaustive examination of that most base, central question in a time when it’s most needed - what is to be an American? This novel is astounding."

From Daniel Goldin: "At first, I felt like I was reading a memoir. But then I began to wonder. Was Ayad Akhtar’s father really Trump’s doctor? And then I realize – classic autofiction misdirect! As the plotline of this second novel unfolds, the story twists and turns around our assumptions about who Ayad Akhtar is. I’m still processing the story, and know that this is not an Indie-Bound-worthy recommendation, but I might have to read it again to say something one millionth as erudite, provocative, and searching as Homeland Elegies."

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 22, 2021

Looks like we've got a couple of paperback picks for you this week - and away we go!

Chris Lee recommends Death in her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh, acclaimed author of books like My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Eileen. Of this, Chris says, "Ottessa Moshfegh is a modern day Camus. An elderly woman finds a note in the woods that proclaims someone is dead. Murdered, in fact. She investigates between dog walks and early evening naps, but soon facts, memories, and suppositions entwine and overlap until the simple act of asking a question can unravel the thread of an entire life. Ponderous, violent, forgetful, and deft, Death in Her Hands is a genre-bender that teases you into asking - is this noir? Horror? A whacked out farce? Or a sly literary trick? I’ll tell you what it is - absolutely brilliant."

A fun, booksellerish note - Chris's recommendation was chosen as the Indie Next list's top pick last year, the first time a Boswellian has had the #1 Indie pick.

Daniel Goldin recommends Saving Ruby King, the debut novel from Chicago author Catherine Adel West. Daniel says, "Ruby’s mom Alice has died. Her friend Layla knows that Ruby’s dad Lebanon is abusive, and she’s suspicious that maybe he’s responsible for Alice’s death, only Layla’s dad Jackson, a church minister, wants her to have nothing to do with this. What Layla doesn’t know is that Jackson has a secret that binds him close to Lebanon and has led to some blackmail. And what just about any of the younger generation don’t know is that their grandmothers (Sara, Naomi, Violet) also have a secret, but with Naomi dead and Sara dying in a hospital, will they ever find out how this connects to the family legacies? West expertly juggles several characters here and really gives you a rich portrait of Chicago’s South Side. I don’t necessarily think West was intending to write a thriller, but I thought she did well with the mystery elements, offering twists and double twists that changed my perceptions of the characters and made the story hard to put down. I also really liked the way Catherine Adel West made the Church a character in the story, which reminded me of the church ladies functioning as the Greek chorus in Brit Bennett’s The Mothers. I imagine the church as a symbol of redemption, and sure enough it is the church that brings together at least one set of estranged characters. Saving Ruby King is an intensely satisfying reading experience. As the trade journals like to say, highly recommended for all collections!"

We hosted author Adel West last fall when her novel debuted - check out that fantastic conversation here:

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 15, 2021

We have a few choices for you this week. First up is Jason Kennedy, who recommends this month's #1 Indie Next pick (check out the whole list right here!), the brand new novel by Joshua Henkins: Morningside Heights. Here's what Jason says, "Morningside Heights chronicles a family’s attempt to make their life work through an unexpected curveball. There is real love between the parents, Spence and Pru, and their child Sarah, and even for Arlo, Spence’s child from a previous, short-lived marriage. When Spence is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, everyone’s life is turned upside down. While this story centers around Spence’s decline, it really is Pru who shines. She loves her husband, though she never conceived of becoming a caregiver and slowly dissolves into his disease. It’s heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. A great testament that life continues to evolve and rebuild in the face of adversity."

Next, Jen Steele picks the perfect picture book for summer - Paletero Man by Lucky Diaz, with illustrations by Micah Player. Jen says: "Paletero Man is a lyrical feast for the senses! Inspired by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band song of the same name, Paletero Man follows a young boy as he rushes through his Los Angeles neighborhood to buy his paleta from the Paletero Man. In his excitement to get to Paletero Jose, he races past the neighborhood vendors with no time for small talk. But his money has fallen out of his pocket along the way, and he does not discover it is missing until he is in front of Paletero Jose's cart. What is he to do?! Joyful, brilliant illustrations and a catchy song make this a wonderful addition to family story time.

Want to listen while you read? Here's the inspirational song!

Plus A Paperback Pick! One of Jen Steele's absolute favorite books of last year gets its paperback release this week: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. 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!"

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Jenny Chou Interviews Author Caroline O'Donoghue

Today on the blog I’m chatting with Irish writer Caroline O'Donoghue, author of the newly released All Our Hidden Gifts, an emotionally rich novel of loneliness, friendship, and sacrifice. Lucky me, I got an advance copy a few months ago, so I can promise that if you like your YA spooky and full of magic, this is the book for you. The unpredictability of the story made for a page-turner, and the characters!

Prickly and hilarious Maeve, her righteously angry best friend Lily, and Lily’s delightful genderfluid sibling, Roe, absolutely won my heart. In addition, Caroline O'Donoghue wove issues of social justice including LGBTQI+ rights and religious fanaticism into the plot, making for a thought-provoking read. 
Caroline, thanks so much for joining me on the blog, and congratulations on the publication of your first YA and on four starred reviews - from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and Bookpage! As we say here in the States, you really hit it out of the park! Blog readers can check out my review on the Boswell Book Company website right HERE.

Two years earlier, before the story begins, Maeve dumped her best friend Lily on the way from the depths of unpopularity to a shaky position in a clique a few rungs higher. Lonely and uncertain, she’s not even sure she even likes her supposed new friends. And then she finds a pack of tarot cards in the dusty basement of her school and that find leads to all sorts of changes in her life. Tell us about the challenges Maeve is dealing with in All Our Hidden Gifts.

CAROLINE O’DONOGHUE: Maeve is the kind of deeply insecure girl that, if you were to meet her in real life, you might not necessarily read her as insecure. She’s funny, she’s strong-willed, she can stand up for herself, she’s reasonably quick in a conversation. But if you scratch the surface, you’ll find that Maeve simply doesn’t like herself. And that comes out in everything: in her rejection of Lily, in the way she explodes with rage when she feels like someone is criticizing her, her general defensiveness. She believes herself to be bad, and she’s constantly afraid everyone’s going to realize.

JC: What sparked your interest in tarot, and do you have experience reading cards? Also, what was your first inkling that you might be a writer?

CO: I got my first pack of tarot cards when I was twelve, and much like Maeve, brought them into class and read for anyone. I was terrible, I didn’t really understand the point of tarot cards at all, but it didn’t matter because all the girls in my class were immediately swept up in the romance of them. Years later, in my 20s, I got back into them again and they became a huge hobby and interest of mine. I love their history, how open for interpretation they are, how wonderful they are as a tool for self reflection.
I first started writing at around seven I think. I wrote an essay for school and got praise from a teacher, and it was the first time I’d ever done something that I found both immensely enjoyable and also seemed to make the people around me happy. Usually it’s one or the other. I decided to keep doing it, and I haven’t stopped!

(If any blog readers would like to try tarot for themselves, we sell the Beginner’s Guide to Tarot at Boswell, which includes a deck of cards and a book to get started.) 

JC: There are so many intriguing characters in All Our Hidden Gifts! From Maeve and Roe to their new friend, Fiona, to the members of the COB, a creepy and mysterious religious organization holding rallies all over town. Did you have the book planned out from start to finish before you started writing? Were there any characters whose roles unexpectedly expanded? 

CO: I did plan the book, but I strayed from the plan quite a lot. I originally planned for the COB and (their American leader) Aaron to have a much smaller role, but they were so compelling to write that they ended up becoming central figures.

When I first started writing Fiona, she was going to be a slightly stuck-up posh girl who turned out to have a heart of gold. She was arrogant because she was beautiful and rich, but beneath that surface stuff, she was clever and loyal and funny. I changed that completely once I started writing her. Fiona *is* a little arrogant, but she’s arrogant because she’s good. She’s one of those people who are just a bit good at everything and knows it. I think these people can be a little terrifying, and I’m always surprised when they turn out to be nice, too.

I love the promise of something magical that both the UK and American covers of your book give to readers. There are similarities, but the color schemes are wildly different, and the American cover has a picture of Maeve while the UK cover doesn’t. Why did your American publisher decide to feature her on the cover? Did you get any input on the cover art?

CO: I don’t have much to do with covers at all, I’m afraid, but all the Gifts covers have been absolutely spectacular. However, I think I love the US one most of all: I love Maeve’s strength, and her unflinching stare.

JC: I don’t think it’s giving anything away to say that early in the novel Lily disappears, seemingly as a result of Maeve’s tarot reading. I’d love to discuss where she goes and why and the fascinating twist that is Lily’s reaction to her disappearance, but we don’t believe in spoilers here at Boswell Books!

Friends, get yourself a copy of All Our Hidden Gifts and find me in the store when you’ve read it. We’ll chat! So instead of giving the ending away, let’s imagine you get to be an Indie bookseller for a day. What new or upcoming titles would you recommend to blog readers?

CO: Gosh, that’s hard because the US and UK book markets are so different, and I don’t know what’s coming out in the US! But in terms of stuff I’m really looking forward to, I can’t wait to read The Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (Boswell hosts Boulley for a virtual event on Tuesday, June 29 - click here to register and get more info!), Enchantee by Gita Trelease and Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. I also loved The Secret Detectives by Ella Risbridger, Burn by Patrick Ness and We Played With Fire by Catherine Barter.

Thank you so much, Caroline, for answering my questions. Thank you for your time and for your words. Blog readers, you can keep up with Caroline O'Donoghue on Twitter and Instagram @Czaroline.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 8, 2021

A new week has arrived, and with it, many more staff recommendations. If you didn't know it before, you do after the last two weeks - June begins summer reading time in the eyes of the book world, which means many great releases! 

Let's begin this week's roundup with the most-recommended book of the week. That's ¡Hola Papi! : How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons by John Paul Brammer, which clocks three Boswellians backing it! Jen Steele starts us off: "LGBTQ advice columnist John Paul Brammer delivers an earnest and quick-witted memoir with stories about his life, from growing up in rural Oklahoma and being bullied in middle school to moving to New York City and finding his voice. ¡Hola Papi! has that fresh memoir experience where each chapter is a response to a reader's question. Reading this was like being invited in and staying a while; there was a connectedness I felt while reading about JP’s experiences, whether it was being able to relate to growing up mixed race and not speaking Spanish or commiserating with him as meets “the one.” Do yourself a favor and luxuriate in the warmth of each chapter."

Parker Jensen chimes in: "John Paul Brammer's voice is everything I've been looking for in the many essay collections I've picked up in the last couple of years. Simply put, Brammer's voice is fantastic. He is self-aware in a rare way that allows for the wittiest and most truthful of observations on life, relationships, one's own history, and the world, without crossing into the self-indulgent or self-deprecating. Although, I think he'd say I was giving him too much credit (but I'd wholeheartedly disagree). The essays in ¡Hola Papi! come together to compose a glimpse into the many different phases of Brammer's life, stitching together his coming of age as a gay Mexican boy growing up in rural Oklahoma to the many triumphs and tribulations of life as a gay man across the country and world. As a reader I felt like I was growing up alongside Brammer as he came to reckon with his self, his identities, his past, and his own actions. His own acceptance of the many parts of himself, the many experiences that culminate to make him who he is today, gives me hope and faith. I had to keep sticky notes next to me while I was reading, something I rarely do, to make sure I was saving passages to come back to. Passages that so concisely put into words things I've felt and thought, but so much more beautifully than I could have imagined saying myself. And passages that will stick with me and encourage me to grow. And what marks a better read that something that fundamentally changes the way you think, makes you want to grow, and excites you to see how you too will change and develop in the years to come?"

And Kay Wosewick rounds it out: "Each chapter of ¡Hola Papi! begins with John Paul (JP) asking an important question, followed by a story that describes his personal path to an answer. This is fitting given that JP stumbled into writing an advice column, and quickly surprised himself by giving solid advice drawn from years of irrepressible self-examination. Growing up in small-town Oklahoma at the bottom of the pecking order gave him empathy for outsiders. High school in a larger town proved he could build his identity from inside-out instead, instead of having it defined from outside-in. In college he stumbled through awkward and uncomfortable gay experiences before finding successful ways to move easily through the gay world. JP found a large, needy audience ready to gobble up his advice on such issues. Alas, PJ’s memoir also depicts a society that still contains a staunchly anti-LGBTQ faction. While there is progress, the US sadly has a long way to go to achieve full acceptance and integration of LGBTQ individuals."

Whoa! But, you ask, are there other books the Boswellians like this week? There are! Like Rabbits by Terry Miles, which Jason Kennedy recommends: "K is fascinated about coincidences and random facts that continually pop up. Enter Rabbits - a game you only know you are playing when you are already neck deep into it. K meets the legendary, Alan Scarpio, who is reported to have won the sixth iteration of the game. Why? He tells K the game is broken and needs to be fixed before the next iteration starts or there could be deadly consequences. Before more can be discussed, Alan ends up missing and K starts finding clues everywhere. When the game begins, people start disappearing and dying all over the world. The world, the human civilization depends on this game, even though nobody knows who started it or how old it really is. A brilliant idea that kept me plowing through the book looking for clues trying to see how or if K could save the world. So many twists and mind games going on in this one, I feel like the Terry Miles really can surprise everyone who reads this."

Jenny Chou keeps us going with a recommendation for All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O'Donoghue. Jenny says: "If you like your YA spooky and magical, All Our Hidden Gifts is the book for you! Main character Maeve’s voice is one of the highlights. She veers between sharp and cynical and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Two years earlier, before the story begins, Maeve dumped her best friend Lily on the way from the depths of unpopularity to a shaky position in a clique a few rungs higher. Lonely and uncertain, she’s not even sure she likes her supposed new friends. When Maeve finds a pack of tarot cards in the dusty basement of her private Catholic school, an unexpected talent for divination wins her a bit more social status, until a reading goes horribly wrong and Lily disappears. Her relationship with Lily’s gender-fluid sibling Roe turns from aloof into a delightful mixture of friction and electricity when the two of them pair up to bring Lily back from... wherever she disappeared to. All Our Hidden Gifts is an emotionally rich novel of loneliness, friendship, and sacrifice. I liked the unpredictability of the story, and the characters absolutely won my heart."

Kay Wosewick's second recommendation of the blog post is for Legends of the North Cascades, by Jonathan Evison. Kay says, "Dave has sustained significant psychological damage from three tours in Iraq. When his wife dies in a car accident, he has few options to support himself and a seven-year-old daughter. Unable to retain a job and about to lose his home, Dave decides to apply the many outdoor skills he learned, and loved, as a child. He and Bella move to a cave in the North Cascades wilderness. Life goes reasonably well until winter approaches, when family and individual rights are pitted against society’s expectations and laws. I closed the book with a deeper understanding of people who live at the very edges of society, where life is fragile because so few viable options exist. This is a wonderful adventure story spiked with relevant social issues."

Finally, our fearless proprietor Daniel Goldin recommends Night Came with Many Stars by Simon Van Booy, author of the Boswell bestseller The Illusion of Separateness. Of Van Booy's latest, Daniel says: "After her mother dies, a young Kentucky girl falls prey to her abusive father, forever known only as Carol’s Daddy, who winds up using her as stakes in a poker game. Fifty years later, Samuel and Eddie are forever bonded by a shop class accident. How the stories connect, and how seemingly small acts can resonate over generations, drives the latest novel from the author of the Boswell favorite, The Illusion of Separateness.  Van Booy loves bonds, he loves repercussions, he loves large characters on a small stage, and most of all, he loves grace. Is it sentimental? Unabashedly, but it’s counterpointed by a spare style, where often what’s unsaid is as important as what is. There’s no speculative element to the story, and yet, in its contemplativeness, I’d recommend it to folks liking Matt Haig’s books. Affecting and wondrous!"

Tim McCarthy just read a book that came out last week - but let's recommend it now! It is The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu, by Tom Lin, and Tim says: "In some ways it has a classic western feel: the tough towns always primed for violence, death in an instant, or more slowly if water isn't found soon, the clanging of rail spikes as the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific hammer toward their convergence. In other ways it surprises: the "miracles" revealed by the Ringmaster of a traveling magic show, the wisdom of a prophet with no memory who knows what's on the horizon, the truly amazing quality of the writing. Ming Tsu is a Chinese American orphan, raised by the white killer-for-hire who trained him. "For a long time it had ceased to trouble him to kill." He married a white woman after her father laughed at his proposal and was beaten for it, then convicted of miscegenation and sentenced to work the railroad line. Now he's got scores to settle and a wife to find, even though a judge ruled they were never married. He's wanted, but whites likely wouldn't know he's coming except that he's "bigger than them Chinese normally is." Oh, he's coming, and just pray he’s not coming for you! The novel has a mysterious air about the fleeting aspects of memory, what we try to hang on to and what we try to get back. These characters often frightened me and always filled me with wonder. Remarkable!"

And this week brings with it three new picks for paperback releases, as well! 

First it's Chris Lee for Filthy Beasts, the memoir from Kirkland Hamill. Chris says: "Filthy Beasts is a chronicle of family wounds accrued during a childhood lived between extremes – the crustiest of upper crust New York and exile from elite society to an alcoholic mother’s native Bermuda. Hamill is that rare beast, a most generous kind of memoirist who opens up his entire world to you, without hedging or over-explanation, and trusts you to understand it. Particularly sensitive is Hamill’s writing about brotherhood and the childhood traumas which resulted from necessary self-preservation yet delayed his own self-discovery. An honest, elegantly bold book."

Then we have Tim McCarthy for Wisconsin-based writer Larry Watson's The Lives of Edie Pritchard. Tim says: "To see the pattern of Edie Pritchard’s relationship with the men in her lives is to also see a primary reason why our country has been so deeply troubled for so long. These men seem to think only about what they want. They insist on getting what they want. Often the women join them, as they fall in line with generations of harsh cultural training. Edie manages them at times, in order to avoid a crisis, or gets away when she must, but ultimately I’m left wondering about the possibility of connection and change. We see her for decades before she wonders who she really is outside of other people’s projections, sometimes complicit by giving in to men’s pressures. The moments when she fiercely stands her ground are memorable, and her ultimate independence is admirable. There’s a little room for redemption too, as characters keep learning about themselves and others, but societal change is slow and people pretty much remain who they are. Watson is an expert at detailing the feel of American western traditions confronting a modern world, one long hard-scrabble day at a time. He’s a strong writer, and maybe his greatest asset is that he won’t budge on stubborn truths for the sake of comforting outcomes, which gives him ultimate credibility but leaves my jury still out on the question of hope."

Finally, a big deal paperback with three recommendations! Wisconsinite Christina Clancy's debut novel, perhaps the perfect vacation read, is now available in paperback - The Second Home

From Daniel: "Beyond Cape Cod, Clancy’s debut is also a love letter to Milwaukee, and how can I not love that? Truly The Second Home is a top-notch work of smart escapism, an adroitly written, emotional rollercoaster, and perfect for summer or whenever you vacation."

From Chris: "Like the summer you learned to surf, this novel’s glow will stay with you for a long time to come."

And from Jane Glaser: "The Second Home, Christina Clancy's heartfelt novel, raises so many ideas in a book that’s positioned for summer escapism, making it perhaps the perfect book for reading group discussions."

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 1, 2021

A new month, and a new batch of many recommendations. Here they are!

Let's start with recommendations from Kay Wosewick - this is good week for her, as she has three books coming out that'll hit her recommendation shelf!

First from Kay is Ninth Metal by Benjamin Percy. Kay says: "Five years after a huge meteor shower leaves large deposits of a mysterious metal scattered around Northfall, this once-tiny but now-bulging town near the Boundary Waters feels right out of the gold rush days. The town’s established mining company is battling upstart Black Dog Energy for control of a large, private interest of this highly valuable (and did I mention addictive?) metal. Chockfull of characters with competing interests, a couple individuals with special powers, crooked police, murders, and much too much testosterone, Ninth Metal is guaranteed to give you a wildly intense ride. And there’s more to come!"

Kay's second recommendation is for a book a bit more earth-bound: We Are What We Eat: A Slow Food Manifesto by Alice Waters. Kay says: "Americans' typical diet today emerged largely from trends that started taking root in the 1950s: consumer demand for convenience, product uniformity, constant availability, getting a deal, having variety, and getting immediate satisfaction; advertising helped form these 'needs.' The trends have only strengthened over time. A typical meal today consists of fast foods or highly processed convenience foods thrown together at home. Not healthy for us, not healthy for the planet. Waters proposes moving toward radically more biodiversity of fresh foods sourced seasonally from a growing base of local farmers, accompanied by simple food preparation at home. Roughly 7,000 programs worldwide are engaging in a version of this process today. Waters suggests that getting local farmers and schools to collaborate would be an effective kick-start for the movement. A boost for local commerce and consumers, environmentally regenerative, healthy, and yummy: what's not to like?"

Kay recommendation #3 is The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, of which Kay says: "St. Christopher’s is described as one of University of Cambridge’s smallest colleges, yet it feels filled with beautiful gardens, sunny open spaces, shady nooks, and numerous notable architectural features. At the same time, this small campus curiously holds the surprise of frighteningly dark corners. Some long-time employees here abuse privileges to merely gain private delight, while others win more substantial reward. In the midst of a liberal-leaning town, social disparities are in inverse proportion to the size of St. Christopher’s seemingly cozy setting. Perhaps this feeds the madness that is afoot? That is, the grizzly murders of young maidens. Filled with a cast of iron-strong wills and some perfectly placed, much-appreciated distractions, The Maidens will keep you on the edge of your seat to the end."

Onto our next multi-recommendation-bearing-bookseller, Chris Lee. His first is for Catch the Rabbit, the debut novel by the Yugoslavia-born writer Lana Bastašić, who translated her own book for its English edition. Chris says: "Amazing, heart-wrenching, wondrous. A years-spanning story of an intense friendship and how history (you know, wars and stuff) weighs on people's bonds. More than a decade ago, Sara left Bosnia, never to return. Now, drawn back by a long-lost childhood friend, she’s on a road trip through the Western Balkans, her own past, and a landscape scarred by social and political violence. Bastašić wrestles questions of obligation and understanding into one woman’s deeply personal reckoning. What do we owe the people who’ve shaped us, who taught us how to feel alive? What we know (and un-know) of our friends, our histories, and ourselves? It’s a story of how a person can misunderstand her friend and herself and then be completely wrecked and rebuilt as she grows to a new understanding of her world. Prepare to be split in two. WOW!"

Andrew Shaffer (author of the Obama-Biden mysteries Hope Never Dies and Hope Rides Again) has a new collection of poetry out this week called Look Mom I’m A Poet (And So Is My Cat), and Chris offers up his recommendation-in-verse:

Well, these are certainly
some poems you can read
if you want to have a laugh,
and maybe a chuckle,
or even a moment, now and then, of thoughtful pondering:

If you want me
to categorize:
call these joke poems, or
The Steak-umms of words.

I’d recommend
you keep this book handy,
like on the coffee table
or near the toilet
and enjoy it
at your leisure
and so people who stop by
know how cool you are.

If you'd like, a hardcover edition is also available to order right here. Do note the hardcover edition is nonreturnable. 

Margaret Kennedy suggests One Last Stop, by Casey McQuiston. Margaret says, "For all the romance fans that fell head over heels for Red White and Royal Blue, get ready - Casey McQuiston's latest will have you in love all over again. One Last Stop follows August, a practical college student new to NYC with no patience for the 'magic' the city has to offer. That all changes when she meets the mysterious Jane on the subway. Jane is an outgoing, music loving, gay lib punk that acts like she walked straight out of the 1970s - which is not far from the truth. August's subway crush turns out to be trapped in time on the Q train, unable to step off and removed from her original decade. With a menagerie of new friends, including a frog bone sculptor, a hipster psychic, and an army of Brooklyn's finest drag queens, August finds herself breaking out of her shell as she works to get Jane home - but how can she say goodbye to the girl that has her heart? Filled with witty dialogue, beautifully detailed scenes, and music that will have you dancing on the table, Casey McQuiston once again gives us a couple to root for and a book to read again and again."

Jen Steele closes out the recommendations of this week's newest books with her words for Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid, which are as follows: "Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit are the children of the world-famous crooner Mick Riva. However, they may know him best through celebrity magazines. Raised by their mother June, the siblings grow up in Malibu and bond over surfing. Told in two parts, we learn the family's history from the mid-fifties to late seventies and then of the day of the Riva's annual end-of-summer party in 1983. Each chapter reveals a new heartbreak, all leading up to the most explosive party the siblings have ever hosted. Taylor Jenkins Reid sets the scene for family drama and manages to transport you to Malibu's past effortlessly. I was mesmerized by the Rivas, my heart breaking with them at one turn, and laughing out loud at the next, especially at Kit's astute observations. Make an 80's surfing playlist and add this to your summer read pile!"

It's the beginning of summer, and you want to take an easily-totable paperback book with you to read in the great out doors (or as outdoors adjacent as you feel like getting) and perhaps you wonder, do we have some paperback picks? DO WE EVER!

Daniel Goldin suggests The Book of V by Anna Solomon. He says: "Story #1: a retelling of The Book of Esther – Vashti, the first wife is banished, and the king orders a pageant to choose wife #2. Story #2: Vivian, the wife of a Watergate-era Senator, is the subject of sexual assault by her husband, and when one incident becomes semi-public, goes into hiding with her childhood friend in Massachusetts. Story #3: Contemporary Brooklynite Lily has given up her career for her husband and children. She’s promised to provide dresses for the Purim celebration, but her attention lapses when her mother is diagnosed with cancer. The three alternately told stories link together, through the connections between women, the plight of women in a male-dominated world, and the connection between truth and storytelling, notably how stories are affected by who is telling the story. The Book of V is a potent novel for mind and spirit and will likely be the subject of much discussion."

Chris has two paperback picks for you. The first is Broken People by Sam Lanksy, one of his favorite novels of the last few years. He says: "Is loving yourself just a matter of hating yourself less? What’s more important - finding the truth of the past, some sort of personal inciting incident, or learning to live without the need for it? Lansky’s novel is rangy, searching, and razor-sharply self-critical autofiction about Sam, a (self-described) broken young writer desperate to be healed via a weekend ayahuasca trip led by a bougie middle-aged white guy shaman who promises (then spends the whole book infuriatingly, hilariously hedging) to fix everything that’s wrong in three days or less. Lansky’s sickness is a symptom and a symbol; a cultural signifier, a self-manifested punishment, and simple bad luck. Sam relives layers of memory (particularly his relationships and sexual history, his sobriety and identify as an addict) rediscovering and recontextualizing the stories he tells as an act of self-definition. And so what if, at the end of three days, Sam isn’t fixed? Lansky makes this question feel breathtakingly, viscerally life-or-death until, beautifully, it isn’t, and the real question emerges: can a broken person accept that he doesn’t need to be fixed?" Kay is a fan of this one, too!

Chris also recommends Wisconsin-born humorist Alexandra Petri's book of essays, Nothing Is Wrong and Here Is Why. He says: "Alexandra Petri glares into maw of the American abyss, and the abyss stares back, but then Petri smirks, and the abyss kinda chuckles, and everybody says, aw, jeez, and gets to have a laugh at our horrible, horrible mess. If good comics punch up, then Petri is firing a bazooka at the sky, blowing up the bad faith charlatans in charge with a direct and deviously brilliant trick: asking you realize just how baldly, absurdly evil the president and his sycophants are if you take them and their lies at face value. Petri doesn’t flinch in the only book about politics this year worth the time it takes to read. Standing ovation."

Does Kay Wosewick have a couple paperback picks for you, too? You know she does! The first one is Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth. Kay says: "Two men and three women meet the odd criteria set for the ‘Chosen Ones.’ They will save the world from the ‘Dark One’ - whether they want to or not. Years after successfully completing their assignment, three of them are hijacked to a parallel universe to repeat their performance. They are not very happy. Roth’s world building is exquisite, as is her construction of parallel universe mechanics. And did I mention the maddening, flawed, and entertaining characters? Roth’s first adult sci-fi is a resounding triumph! I'm ready for more."

Kay also has a paperback nonfiction pick - Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World's Largest Owl by Jonathan C. Slaght. Of this, she says: "Tag along with a doctoral student undertaking the first significant study of largest owl in the world. The fish owl, with a wingspan of 2 meters, lives in a narrow habitat in Japan and far eastern Russia. Slaght spends four intense winters in a remote, sparsely populated area of Russia, accompanied by two to three characters with knowledge of the habitat and/or simply a willingness to endure extreme, often dangerous conditions. Obviously a dedicated researcher, Slaght is also a gifted writer, giving the reader vivid experiences of the vast wilderness, of barely avoided disasters, of the exhaustion brought by unexpected setbacks, and of the delights of learning firsthand about fish owls."