Sunday, March 20, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of March 22, 2022

Another week, another great batch of books! Here's what's new that we are recommending.

Daniel has a "brag-rec" written up for French Braid, the latest book from acclaimed novelist Anne Tyler. Daniel says: "Some Anne Tyler novels are hyper focused, with one character in the spotlight or a very compact time frame. Others have the scale of epics, following multiple characters over generations. French Braid is one of the latter, following the Garrett family over the course of 60-odd years. The way Tyler sees it, sometimes you don’t get the kid you would expect, but maybe your sibling will. Together, you’ll still look like a family tree - or should I say rug? Tyler’s canvas broadens a bit here. One character actually shops at Giant instead of Eddie’s, and by the end of the story, hardly anyone lives in Baltimore! This may be Tyler’s 24th novel, but nobody can say she’s coasting. Did I mention I’ve read all 24? Is this brag-reviewing? It’s not necessarily the quirkiest of her novels (we’re talking about a plumbing supply business here), but it’s as eloquent, heartfelt, and quietly humorous as she gets, with several scenes that stopped me in my tracks. Happy reading!"

Jenny is up next with a pair of recommendations. Her first is for Disorientation by Elaine Hsieh Chou (no relation). Jenny says: "Ingrid Yang doesn’t want to write a PhD dissertation; she wants to have written one. Waiting for her on the other side of the inconvenient dissertation is an (almost) guaranteed tenured position at a small, Northeastern college and therefore a lifetime of the one thing she wants above all else: security. If only she could motivate herself to actually like the poetry of Xiao-Wen Chou, a Chinese-American poet as beloved to high school English teachers as Robert Frost. Or find one single original angle on his writing. That would work too. Or maybe she should just become an accountant (though she’s not entirely certain what they do). Then a handwritten note appears in an archive box she’s looked through a thousand times. And that note changes everything. Uncharacteristic sleuthing and social justice protests follow as the plot twists, allowing Ingrid to begin to grow into the person she’s meant to be. Elaine Hsieh Chou takes on cultural appropriation in her own unique way in this devilishly clever novel. I read it with the words “Are you kidding me?” on a never-ending loop through my brain, but the truth is, no, she isn’t kidding. Because both the author and the character have experiences I can’t comprehend, from racist jokes at their expense to the ache of having what is rightfully theirs usurped by a person from a non-Asian background. So while the hilarious portrait of Ingrid’s many struggles made me laugh, the writing also made me imagine life outside my own skin, and both these make Disorientation a must-read."

Jenny also recommends The Impossible Us, a new novel by Sarah Lotz. Here's Jenny's take: "No question, Bee and Nick are soulmates. They share a sense of humor and live by the rule that you can never have too much David Bowie in your life. Both are in a dark place when it comes to romance, and they can’t believe their luck when a misdirected email brings them together. So what if things sometimes feel a bit… off? Like Bee thinking the currency in England is pounds, not euros, and Nick having no idea what the word 'app' means? Their decision to meet in real life has disastrous consequences that threaten to keep them apart forever. Because it isn’t just their pop culture references and currencies that don’t line up perfectly; neither, as it turns out, do their universes. This parallel universe romance sucked me in from page one and never let go. I loved reading the story from two points of view on opposite sides of the mesh separating Bee and Nick. Particularly interesting were the different trajectories taken by the characters. But the real pulse pounding thrill came from wondering how it could ever work out for them. No spoilers here. Let’s just say that if you like your sci-fi romances nice and twisty, this is the book for you."

Paperback picks! These books just got their paperback release, and we love them still.

Kay Wosewick recommends Day Zero by C Robert Cargill. Kay's words: "Cargill’s Sea of Rust was the first book I read where I genuinely cared about an AI character. Cargill has done it again! Day Zero takes place over about the first 24 hours of war between humans and AIs. All AIs are loaded with Azimov's Three Rules of Robotics, but in the early hours of the war, many received a download disabling the kill switch if they disobeyed any of the laws. Of course, the question that arises is, without the kill switch, will AIs - especially those working and living in homes with humans, such as nannies and domestics - turn against humans or not? Day Zero is a dynamite, read-in-one-sitting book!"

Next we have Madi Hill for the paperback release of Save Yourself by comedian Carmen Esposito. Madi says: "Cameron Esposito's Save Yourself is the perfect bundle of female empowerment, gay pride, and comedy wrapped in one. Though she has spoken of her childhood in her stand up, I was not prepared for the depth of this memoir or the complicated issues addressed, from struggles within Catholicism to eating disorders to coming to terms as well as coming out with her own sexuality. This memoir is wonderfully written, emotional, and hilarious. It is an essential reminder that women and LGBTQ+ people can and will carve out their own space to thrive among a society that too often tries to ignore, or worse, silence them."

See you next week, book people!

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