Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of January 11, 2022

Welcome to the weekly roundup of what we've been reading and recommending over here on Downer Avenue. Let's get right to it.

This week starts by being Jonathan Evison week. We've got two recommendations for his new novel, Small World. The first comes from Daniel Goldin, who says: "If you liked West of Here, Evison’s grand epic of Washington State from a decade ago, you’re likely to love Small World, which has a similar dual narrative, only on a more national scale. Four families' lives - Black, Italian, Chinese, and Indigenous - are tied together throughout the settlement of the West, by the building of the railroads in the past and one fateful journey of Amtrak’s Coast Starlight line in the present. Does fortune favor the bold, or is there way more randomness involved in the process, leaving (and I’m just preparing you here) not every soul with the happiest of endings? I really enjoyed the twists, and while coincidence abounds, I wouldn’t expect anything less from a novel on such a grand scale; it is a Small World after all."

Kay Wosewick offers this rec of Evison's novel: "Small World is a brilliant tale of 1850s Americans and their descendants in 2019. He follows two Irish twins orphaned on their journey across the Atlantic, an escaped slave, a ‘fresh off-the-boat’ Chinese man who’s landed in unfriendly San Francisco, and two wandering American Indians who joined forces on a whim. Descendants of all are on the same train heading north in Oregon during a snowstorm in 2019. As Evison shifts between characters in the 1850s and 2019, Small World reads like a seamless masterpiece."

We've got an event coming up with Evison this month, too! Wednesday, January 26, 7 pm for our Readings from Oconomowaukee series hosted jointly with our pals over at Books & Company of Oconomowoc. Click here for more info & to register.

Kay also recommended Evison's last book, which is out in paperback today - that's Legends of the North Cascades, and here's what Kay says about it: "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."

Did we do an event for that book? We did! Check out the video of that right here.

But Evison isn't the only person with a new book out this week! We've got a couple YA recommendations as well as a new picture book to tout.

Kay Wosewick keeps us rolling with here recommendation of Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, by Meg Long. Kay says: "Sena is a tough loner on a rough planet. Reduced to living as a petty thief, she crosses the wrong gangster. She’ll live only if she can heal his prize fighter wolf Iska. Hop on for a freezing cold, terrifying ride with a blazingly warm, you-can-breathe-now end."

Tim McCarthy jumps in with a couple of recommendations now, the first for the new book from America's National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Jason Reynolds, Ain't Burned All the Bright. Tim says: "With long strings of memorable words built into dramatic, thought-inspiring illustrations, Jason Reynolds and Jason Griffin show us how hard and how wonderful it can be to breathe through these frightening times. Mother's news story that never changes, Father's incessant cough heard from his isolation, Brother's endless video gaming, and Sister's protest preparations. A family suffocating. An oxygen mask must be around here somewhere! It is, but not to be found in a box. It's in all the tiny and monumental signs of love that sometimes get overpowered and overlooked. This is a desperate and gorgeous word-picture of whole life rising in the face of despair. Something to savor again and again. Do this just for you. Come and get the book!"

Tim also recommends the latest picture book from author Jacqueline Woodson and illustrator Rafael López, The Year We Learned to Fly. Tim says: "This is the story of four seasons in the life of a young girl and her brother, encouraged by a loving grandmother to lift their arms and fly above the world's obstacles. Springtime storms may trap them indoors. Summer conflicts can hold them in silence. Dark autumn skies make their room much too quiet. Winter brings a move away from neighbors and friends. Lift your arms, close your eyes. Fly, and imagine what can be! It's the second lyrical, sweet picture book from Woodson and illustrator Rafael Lopez, and it's inspired by a monumental book about enslaved people "lifting up and flying away home": The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales, written by Virginia Hamilton and illustrated by Leo and Dianne Dillon, which is among the greatest of children's books. Here, Woodson and Lopez have beautifully honored and extended their work!"

And let's wrap up with a couple more trade paperback edition releases of note from two Wisconsin-linked authors.

The first is a book that was popular at Boswell and throughout the Midwest - Raft of Stars by Andrew J Graff. This one also was lucky enough to get the Tim McCarthy treatment - here's his rec: "It’s a small northern Wisconsin town, tucked up against a massive forest, a place where they know Milwaukee folks won’t understand. Sometimes you just shoot coyotes when their numbers cross a line and you start losing cows. It’s a place where two young boys have father problems, and the problems suddenly get big, so the kids run. There’s a young new sheriff in town who had to leave his home, too. He was looking for a quiet place away from his Houston mistakes, maybe a dog, and some distance from complications, but he won’t get that now. The boys are out there alone, and distance doesn’t work anymore. Their stories drew me in right away. Many of the characters seem familiar because they’re like me. Any glimpse of close human connection brings a sense of both need and dread, in equal measure. The suspense works well, too, as lines get drawn and necessarily crossed. The emotions feel true, as an intense fight for survival draws out their full force. I enjoyed the ride!"

Did we have a virtual event with Graff? You bet we did! Click here to see him in conversation with fellow former Midwesterner J Ryan Stradal.

Finally, just because I'm cruising through our backlog of event videos, here's one more event video for a book getting its trade paper release today - Claire Holroyde chats about her debut novel The Effort, a sci fi disaster adventure about the all-too-real possibility of a deadly comet approaching earth, with JS Dewes, author of The Last Watch.

No comments:

Post a Comment