Monday, July 19, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of July 20, 2021

Jen Steele and Kay Wosewick are our recommenders of new books this week. And so along with them, away we go!

First on Jen's list is She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, a new release by Tor, the imprint that's quickly becoming one of Jen's most-recommended publishers. Jen says: "She Who Became the Sun is a captivating rags-to-riches tale of war and vengeance, power and fate, love and identity. Set in 14th century China, this historical fantasy follows a girl fated to nothingness. After bandits have killed her father, the girl is determined to avoid her fate and will do what it takes to not just survive but to reach greatness; her name will be known for the next ten thousand years. She takes her brother’s identity and joins a monastery to escape starvation and poverty. From monkhood to commander of the Red Turban rebellion against the Mongols, Zhu’s path to power is brutal and emotional. Shelley Parker-Chan debuts an epic queer reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty in glittering and magnificent proportions!"

Let's go to Kay for our next pick. That's The Council of Animals, by Nick McDonell. Kay says: "This fable is a creative and thoughtful resolution to the dark trajectory of life on earth today. An elite council of animals votes barely in favor of killing and eating the last humans on earth because they caused the Calamity that ruined much of the planet. Told through voices of several animals and one human, the end feels profoundly just."

Back to Jen for her second pick, which is, you guessed it, from! The Past is Red, by Catherynne Valente - Jen says: "A long time ago the world flooded. Cities have drowned, money is a thing of the past, and the only "land" to live on is a floating mass of garbage. According to Tetley Abednego, it is the most wonderful and magical place to be. You could say she is hopelessly optimistic, or perhaps she is the only one who truly gets it. Either way, Tetley is the most hated girl in Garbagetown when she decides to destroy something for the greater good. If only the people of her beloved home could see what she sees. Tetley Abednego truly is the most loved girl in Garbagetown! The Past is Red is an insightful, heart-rending, and hopeful novella; there is so much packed into it, and Tetley is just the character to guide you through - imagine if Pollyanna lived in a post-apocalyptic world."

And Kay wraps up our new release recommending with Intimacies, by Katie Kitamura. Kay says, "I love Kitamura’s writing. She writes quietly about powerful people and intense situations. Intimacies portrays an employee at The Hague who is translating for an African dictator accused of atrocities. The dictator seems to have taken a liking to his translator. Meanwhile, the translator’s relationships with both her best friend and her boyfriend run afoul. Even drastic situations come off almost gently through Kitamura’s unique voice. You’ll barely know you’ve been punched!"

And how about a couple paperback picks, too? Okay!

Daniel Goldin love love loves Crooked Hallelujah, the novel (novel-in-stories, if you like) by Kelli Jo Ford! Here's his take: "The complicated bonds of three generations of Cherokee women are explored in Ford’s striking debut, a chapter of which won the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize. At the start, Justine is a teenager rebelling against Lula, her strict Holy Roller mom. A decade later, Justine is raising her own daughter, hoping that she can give Reney a better future. Both Justine and Reney struggle with abusive men as mom and daughter move away from their Oklahoma reservation and back again, toward dreams and away from reality. Eventually the elements rebel and the family must confront tornadoes, fires, and more. Crooked Hallelujah is not quite a novel and not quite not a novel as Ford plays with style, chronology, and perspective (a heads up to you plot obsessives). One particular piece follows a lesbian couple that moves to rural Texas and have a life-threatening test; it’s a great story, but seemed ancillary to the rest of the plotline. But I actually enjoyed that chapter a lot, so I can see how the decision was made to include it – just too good to let go! Come to think of it, that’s my feeling about the whole book – I didn’t want it to end"

Kelli Jo Ford was kind enough to join us virtually for a conversation when the hardcover edition of this book was released - check that out here!

Tim McCarthy recs CH too! He says: "This is the story of four generations of Cherokee women and their men in Oklahoma and Texas. The words are uncomplicated, all the more beautiful for their graceful, plain-spoken style. The writing is easy to love, and so are the people. We feel their strength and sorrow, the excited warmth of new romance and the hot anger of losing it. Everyone is confused about the reasons everyone else does things. Welcome to humanity, but the simplest human joys are right there for you, for anyone who can see them and try to hold on. The book is just as gorgeous as the awe-inspiring mess of being alive. It grows and deepens like life itself. Justine says, “You’ve got to keep moving, whatever you do,” and in less than 300 pages we’re moved through rich details of full people, daily survival, and love no matter what else comes. An exceptional debut!"

Speaking of Tim McCarthy, he also recommends the newly-in-paperback novel Northernmost by Peter Geye. Tim says: "There's a humanity to this novel that runs deeper than most, a gradual but constant movement through the earthy details of life and love. It's powerful, like the glaciers that form a vital part of the setting, and the longer I read the more it overtook me. We see the members of one family, several generations apart, and find the connections between a man who becomes a legendary survivor in 1890s Norway and a woman looking for the meaning of family and happiness in present-day Minnesota. Their struggles are timeless and universal. We know the descendants will continue, their blood crossing generations in defiance of personal isolation and beautiful but treacherous landscapes. I wondered at times how they did it. So did they, but their love is the greatest answer to how and why. I understand Geye's characters, and I think they would understand me. What greater compliment could I give a novelist?"

Did Peter Geye also decide to join us for a virtual conversation about his novel? YES HE DID! Check that out right here:

And that's it! Until next week, hope you enjoy a good read or three!

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