Monday, February 7, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of February 8, 2022

 Lots of new books this week, and we have a lot of recommending to do, too.

Kay Wosewick, our most prolific recommender, has three new books she loves to tell you about this week. The first is The Music Game, by Canadian author Stéfanie Clermont, translated from French by JC Sutcliffe. Kay's take: "The Music Game is a delicious sneak peek into a generation (Millennials, of course) that acknowledges few boundaries, alternates between excess and emptiness, repeatedly taste-tests and spits out adulthood, and ebbs and flows within the cacophony that surrounds them. Yeah, a bit scary. But also exciting."

Next, Kay on Clean Air, by Sarah Blake: "Clean Air’s climate disaster scenario is inventive and frightening, but my favorite aspect is it, in effect, invokes Earth goddess Gaia. Blake takes the story into thriller territory with the first murders since the ‘Turning’ crisis ten years earlier. Clean Air is a wonderful addition to climate change fiction."

And here's Kay on The Adventurists, by Richard Butner: "This astonishing story collection stars protagonists with special gifts such as telepathy, time travel, and traversing parallel worlds. A few other stories employ fantastic futuristic technologies to great effect. Butner stretched my brain this way and that and quite possibly reactivated some long-unused circuits. I see a second reading in my not-too-distant future."

For something completely different, now, we've got Chris Lee with a write-up for the latest from Chuck Klosterman - The Nineties: A Book. Chris says: "Maybe it’s no surprise that a guy born smack in the middle of the Gen X years, whose salad days align pretty much exactly within the confines of 90s, is a little persnickety at the swell of nostalgia for the decade. Klosterman would like to set the record straight. Fortunately, he’s mostly uninterested in retrospective reevaluation and generally steers clear of ‘you couldn’t do that today!’ finger wagging, though he has his moments. What’s great about this book is how Klosterman surveys the years past to understand how we understood the world at the time. And yes, that’s the generic, generalized ‘we’ – were, he asks, the 90s the last era of American monoculture? 

Klosterman is most insightful when he’s going back to view things through the eyes of people as they lived through it – the Seinfeld finale, the siege in Waco, The Real World, OJ’s white Bronco, Nirvana’s earth-shaking pep rally - this is how it felt as it happened. And yeah, he gets a little lost in the swirl of his own ideas here and there, but what honest pontificating 90s slacker doesn’t? It’s all the more forgivable, because, really, he does a pretty darn good job at an impossible task. How can you expect to capture a whole decade in a few hundred pages? Especially as Klosterman’s central argument is that it was during the 90s when time, memory, and our understanding of world events collapsed into something of a sloppily mediated metanarrative. Do I just like reading about the staples of my (elder Millennial) childhood? Maybe – I do really miss Hollywood Video. But, honestly, for anyone who’s interested in recent history written with wit, a bit of contrarian snarl, and an eye for connections both subtle and weird (how did a change in credit card laws lead to the rise of indie filmmaking?), you will want to relive The Nineties."

Let's go to the kids section, where we've got a recommendation from Tim McCarthy for Loyalty, a new middle grade novel by Avi. The Tim take: "It's 1774 in Massachusetts, the eve of the American Revolution. Thirteen-year-old Noah Cope has just watched his minister father get tarred and feathered because he's loyal to the Church of England and to the King. His father will die from the burns within days. Noah's hatred for the rebel Sons of Liberty and his loyalty to his father's memory are powerful, but events on the horizon will challenge all of that. He'll need to work for his family, and he has a lot to learn. He'll get help from his boss, a young freed Black man who becomes a true friend, and he'll learn about the hypocrisy of both sides as they talk about Liberty while acting like tyrants and keeping slaves. Will he ever find someone worthy of his loyalty? Avi has written about early America and great moral dilemmas many times (The Fighting Ground, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, Something Upstairs), but the struggle over what loyalty means to us has never seemed more timely. His ability to show us American crisis so deeply and clearly through the eyes of a boy becoming a man proves once again what I’ve long believed. Avi is among our most gifted writers for kids."

And in new paperback releases: Terry Miles's novel Rabbits gets this write-up from Jason Kennedy: "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."

And that's what we've got! See you next week with more books we love.

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