Monday, July 5, 2021

Staff Recommendations, Week of July 6, 2021

It's a new summer month, and that means lots of new books!

Proprietor Daniel Goldin has three recommendations this week. 

#1 is Shoulder Season, the latest novel from Wisconsinite Christina Clancy, author of The Second Home. Daniel says: "Sherri Taylor is just an ordinary East Troy teenager, recently orphaned, looking for a job. On a whim, her friend Roberta, currently working at the Wooden Nickle in Southridge, suggests they apply for jobs at the Playboy Resort in Lake Geneva. And with that, Sherri is a legendary Playboy Bunny. Though it’s billed as a family friendly resort, the truth is a bit murkier, and Sherri will find herself going places and doing things she never would have expected. Will she follow in the footsteps of Dorothy and find her way back home to Kansas, I mean Wisconsin? This enjoyable story, seeped in the 1980s and with a cast of unforgettable fellow Bunnies, is a hell-and-back story, driven by Sherri’s spirit."

Chris Lee endorses Shoulder Season, too: "With her second novel, Christina Clancy is cementing her spot as the bard of heartfelt stories of strong, funky Wisconsin women. As a Playboy bunny picaresque, Shoulder Season delivers – there are peeks behind the scenes (and under the ears) of life as a bunny, including cocktail lists and crazy parties, handsy customers and perverted pool boys, celebrity dalliances and down-to-earth romances, and yes, even a few whiffs of cocaine in the air. It’s a book about escaping to a wonderland – I’ll spare you the ‘down the rabbit hole’ puns – and about what a woman will put herself through to ditch the past and grab onto the allure and glamor of a new life."

Daniels #2 is Razorblade Tears by SA Cosby. Daniel says: "Cosby follows up the award-winning Blacktop Wasteland with another stand-alone, a revenge thriller featuring two ex-cons, Ike (Black) and Buddy Lee (White), on a quest to find the killers of their sons. Isaiah and Derek were gunned down in front of a restaurant on their anniversary. Their dads are both ex-cons with some violent history, and both had trouble coming to terms with their sons’ identities, but in their grief, they find each other and hope to figure out what happened. Why such a brutal slaying for these two, one a chef and the other a journalist at a small LGBTQ paper, by what appears to be a biker gang, no less? I like the way Cosby plays with buddy-comedy thriller tropes - Ike’s the put-together serious fellow, while Buddy Lee is the unemployed trailer park jokester. Razorblade Tears also needs a little warning – lots of bloodshed and some slurs from the villains that still might not sit with some readers. But if you can handle that, it’s edge-of-your-seat tension all the way."

And #3 is Stories to Tell: A Memoir by Richard Marx. Daniel's rec: "This is what you want in a music memoir – the story behind the songs, interesting details about recording sessions, crazy tour stories, a whole mess of name dropping (Luther Vandross telling Marx to take his hands off the cashmere walls? A feud with Kenny Loggins? Barbara Streisand rejected ‘Right Here Waiting’ because she doesn’t wait for anyone? All that and plenty more is in there), and the sense that the musician you’re reading about is basically a good egg.  I’ve always been curious about how Marx’s breakout first single was about how the music business chews you up and spits you out; now that I know that he was pitching his songs and singing backing vocals for years before his first single, it makes sense. When Lionel Richie sang ‘All Night Long,’ who was responding with ‘All night’? That’s right, Richard Marx."

Kay Wosewick also offers up a trio of recommendations. #1 for her is from one of her favorites, Michael Pollan, whose latest is This is Your Mind on Plants. Kay says: "Pollan takes us on three journeys: one with opium, one with caffeine, and one with mescaline. The opium and mescaline journeys are likely new for most readers, but who doesn’t know all about caffeine? YOU, ME and ALMOST EVERYONE ELSE!! Caffeine is by far the most widely used drug in the world (~90% of humans use it), yet few of us think much about it. As he always does so well, let Pollan enlighten you."

#2 is The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue. From Kay: "Who can resist the fraught relationships and guaranteed misbehaviors at a run-down Catholic all-girls boarding school that houses a handful of ‘scholarship’ students amongst a wealthy group of goodie-goodie students bent on making those few other girls uncomfortable? Add one well-off eccentric girl who befriends one of the scholarship girls plus one handsome, charismatic male art teacher who isn’t afraid of pushing boundaries, and you have the ingredients for an entertaining evening or two trying to solve a mystery presented early in the story. I confess I failed to solve the mystery but enjoyed trip."

And #3 - The Sound of the Sea: Seashells and the Fate of the Oceans by Cynthia Barnett. Kay's take: "Hints of the earth’s wild history are visible in rock layers embedded with fossilized shells in areas as diverse as Mount Everest and the Canadian Rockies. Remnants of man and seashells dating back many thousands of years can be found together along virtually every coastline worldwide, and often many hundreds of miles inland. Shells have been used as money in cultures as diverse as American tribal nations and Asia countries with sophisticated trade networks. Shells even had their own short-lived equivalent of tulip-mania. Alas, declines in economically and culturally important shell habitats are occurring around the world. Barnett’s portrait of the intertwined world of man and shells is fascinating and lively, even as it adds to the story of our degrading home planet."

Paperback releases with seals of approval from Boswellians are numerous.

Anxious People
by Fredrik Backman has a legacy recommendation. Kira McGrigg has left us for the west, but this recommendation remains: "Anxious People is an onion of a novel that's kind of about a bank robbery gone wrong, kind of about a father and son, and kind of about all sorts of anxious, endearing characters who are really just trying to find their footing in the world. These pages are full of layers and unassuming at first, but there's a good chance it'll make you shed a tear or two, and you won't regret it even a little bit. I always start out a Backman novel thinking it's a little cheesy, and yet he always ends up proving me wrong. His ability to really put into writing all of the facets of human nature, and to weave together a story that's at once multifaceted, compelling, laugh-out-loud funny, and utterly relatable is a gift, and I'm thankful to experience it. Anxious People and all of the ridiculous, complex characters within hold that truly perfect blend of depth and levity that Backman has perfected in his novels - I can't think of a better book coming out in 2020, and I can't wait to make all of my friends read it too."

The Aunt who Wouldn't Die
by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, as recommended by Jen Steele: "Three generations of women, and one of them won't die! Newlywed Somlata has married into a once wealthy family that is unwilling to accept the fact that someone needs to get a job. When Pishima, the matriarch of the family dies, she decides to stay on this earthly plane in order to torture her ungrateful family. Soon Somlata is visited by the mischievous ghost of Pishima who wants Somlata to do her bidding. As Somlata tries to ignore the ghost and focus on convincing her husband to work, Somlata's role in the family becomes appreciated. Boshon is a modern young woman who does not believe in love and instead wants the freedom to go and do as she pleases. When a childhood crush returns to the village, Boshon may have to contend with matters of the heart. The Aunt Who Wouldn't Die is a cheery family drama filled with love, fearlessness, and gold."

The Party Upstairs
by Lee Conell gets a recommendation from Chris Lee: "This is the kind of first novel that’s so good it makes me, as a writer, super-duper jealous. Conell takes on an upstairs-downstairs-in-NYC premise that has every bit of potential to fall into clichés, but her aim is true – even that title is layered with extra dashes of evocation, reference, and resonance. The drive of the story is the brewing fight between back-at-home-swimming-in-liberal-arts-education-debt Ruby, her meditating-birdwatching-trying-to-avoid-a-mental-breakdown-building-super father Martin, and her grew-up-in-the-penthouse-but-definitely-doesn’t-think-she’s-better-than-you oldest friend Caroline. The voice of the building’s last rent controlled Marxist Grandma figure even drops in from time to time with gently reminders that strife in work, relationships, meditation, and birdwatching is all a quite natural byproduct of the structures of capitalism. You don’t say? It’s definitely a big ideas novel about the tense intersections where money, class, and power become personal, but it’s the way Conell puts the pressure on character’s hearts as much as their wallets that make The Party Upstairs one you won’t soon forget."

In case you missed it, Chris interviewed Conell in the blog about this book when it came out last year - check that out right here.

Paul Tremblay brings the summer thrills and horrific chills with Survivor Song, which Chris Lee and Jason Kennedy both recommend. From Chris: "An epidemic super-rabies sweeps across New England, turning the infected, animals and people alike, into raging, violent, biting (don’t call them the Z-word!) dangers to themselves and everyone else. The whole book takes place over just a few hours, and you can’t put it down, experiencing this desperate race to stay alive in real time. Tremblay does what he does best, taking a classic high horror concept and executing it with intimate, frightening, this-is-all-too-real surgical precision."

Jason adds: "Paul Tremblay has delivered another pulse-pounding, jet-fueled story that whips by in a blur and left me out of breath."

Finally, in paperback news, The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata gets a facelift and a whole lot of love from three booksellers.

Chris Lee says: "Michael Zapata’s debut is one spectacular, swirling, sci-fi scented literary wonder, a love letter to storytelling, heritage, and theoretical physics. It’s a stunner, a book of survival, aftermaths, and the history that we inherit and pass on, telling and retelling the stories that create the world."

Jen Steele says: "A mesmerizing and stirring novel.  I really enjoyed the many layers of this novel. With captivating characters and the stories they tell, Michael Zapata gives us a passionate love letter to storytelling and the joys of science fiction. At the heart of this novel is the refugee - and we are all refugees here. An enlightening read for sure!"

Margaret Kennedy says: "A little bit of sci-fi, a little bit of history, and a lot of love for stories is what makes The Lost Book of Adana Moreau a truly amazing novel. Zapata weaves a tale of intertwining lives, from New Orleans to Argentina to Israel to Russia and back, all centered around the people that brought Adana Moreau’s words to life."

Phew! That's a lot of recommending. Which means you have much reading to do. Enjoy!

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