Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of May 17, 2022

Welcome to another week of staff recommendations from your favorite Boswellians. 

First it's Jenny and Daniel for This Time Tomorrow, the latest novel from the beloved Emma Straub. Jenny says: "2022 is shaping up to be an excellent year for time travel novels. Literally one super-star read after another, and as I write this, it's only February. In This Time Tomorrow, Emma Straub's take on the time-travel twist, we don’t need to understand the science behind main character Alice’s journeys to her past, just her motivations for going back to age sixteen - first accidentally and then on purpose. At the start of the book, she’s forty, and it’s apparent that Alice is not living her best life. Her father, the most important person in her life, is dying, and everyone else is caught up in the chaos of their own life or is just dull background noise in Alice’s. So, when the opportunity arises, Alice tries to rearrange her present-day life over and over again from the springboard of her sixteenth birthday. Fixing certain problems often leads to bigger problems and lots of laughs for the reader, but the heartbeat of the novel is Alice’s relationship with her dad. Her longing to somehow adjust his path by changing her actions gives This Time Tomorrow a sense of poignancy and tenderness. Trust me, you’re going to fall in love with Alice and the people who stumble in and out of her life over the course of this absolutely delightful book."

And from Daniel: "On her fortieth birthday, with her life in a holding pattern, Alice Stern inadvertently spends the night in the guard house of her father’s Upper West Side co-op and finds herself back at the age of 16 with so many of her life decisions ahead of her. Most notably, her father, author of the legendary Time Brothers novel, is alive and well and no longer facing the end of his life in a hospital bed. Can Alice change her own life’s trajectory in 24 hours? Should she? After reading this alternatingly whimsical and poignant but always delightful story, I am convinced that every writer, whatever their chosen genre, should write a time travel novel. The reading world will be better for it!"

Want to see Straub in person? Great news! Emma Straub will be in conversation with Noah Weckwerth at the Elm Grove Women’s Club, 13885 Watertown Plank Road, Thursday, May 26, 2022, 7 pm. Tickets cost $28 plus tax and fee and include a copy of the book. Click here to purchase tickets.

Let's stick with Jenny for See You Yesterday, the newest book from Rachel Lynne Solomon. Jenny says: "Signing up for physics her freshman year of college was a mistake that becomes clear the moment Barrett sits down next to the unbearably annoying Miles, a know-it-all who puts her on the spot in front of the class and the professor for absolutely no reason. She’s never seen Miles before in her life, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know each other. It doesn’t take long for Barrett to figure out she’s become stuck in a time loop of endless Wednesday the 21st of Septembers. And caught there with her? Ugh. Miles. What ensues is hilarious and very nearly broke my heart (not unexpected for a Rachel Lynn Solomon novel). Writing a book set almost entirely in just one day is challenging, but Solomon’s creativity makes for a real page turner. Barrett’s combination of outspoken and insecure land her in trouble with every repeat, while Miles pretty much has to be dragged out of the physics library, where he’s determined to find the scientific solution to reaching Thursday, September 22nd. Barrett’s sense of adventure doesn’t mesh with Miles’s cautious personality, so watching the two learn to understand each other makes for a charming read. I’m not giving anything away to tell you that my favorite enemies-to-lovers trope is well played here, but the path to Thursday, September 22nd leads through an unexpected and epic twist that fans of YA romance won’t want to miss."

And now, over to Jason for his take on Just Like Mother, the debut book-for-adults from Anne Heltzel. Jason says: "Anne Heltzel has put a disturbing ring to the term Mother in this book. Maeve is born into a cult called The Mother Collective, which has extreme views on motherhood. Maeve’s best friend is her cousin, Andrea, who makes Maeve promise she will never leave. When Maeve is caught in a tight spot, she flees and enters foster care. Years later, Andrea reaches out to reconnect with Maeve, and that is when some real creepiness reintroduces itself. There are some very graphic scenes that left me squeamish, but Heltzel does an amazingly dark job of weaving a perfect trap for her character and not triggering it until Maeve is almost too far inside. Really looking forward to what twisted ideas she can come up with for what should be normal, comforting life experiences. Mother will never mean the same thing to me."

And now, as is often the case here on the staff rec roundup, two from Kay! First, Kay recommends Family Album by By Gabriela Alemán and team translated by Dick Cluster and Mary Ellen Fieweger. Kay says: "Alemán’s eclectic short stories left traces that unexpectedly popped up and demanded my attention again: why this, how that? The stories meander around Ecuador to places where mysteries may be solved or deepened, where curiosity may be rewarded and lack of curiosity punished, and where characters range from kind to cruel, outlandish to simple, but always one-of-a-kind."

Kay also suggests Metropolis, the latest from BA Shapiro. Kay says: "This clever, engaging, and twisty story is set in a gothic storage warehouse in Cambridge, MA. The book opens with news of a serious injury after someone falls down an elevator shaft. The warehouse is fascinating: two people live in their units, another uses it as an office, and a fourth moved the contents of her children's bedrooms there after the father unilaterally sent them to school in Switzerland. The residents' lives are entwined at the time of the accident and become more-so in the aftermath. As with Shapiro’s other books, there is a strong art/artist thread. The setting is picture-perfect for a thrilling story."

And now, out in paperback today, guess what? It's ANOTHER Kay rec. Woohoo! The Arbornaut: A Life Discovering the Eighth Continent in the Trees Above Us by Meg Lowman is the book, and Kay says: "Meg Lowman is a scientific powerhouse and innovator. She is a pioneer in researching the top of forests where there is a great diversity of life that has barely begun to be recognized. Many natural areas around the world have followed Lowman’s lead and have built systems to convey visitors to treetops to observe entirely new habitats. Lowman’s leadership and creativity have led to significant leaps in understanding this previously overlooked habitat, which she calls the Eighth Continent. Lowman’s introduction to this overlooked habitat is fascinating."

The latest out in paperback from Taylor Jenkins Reid is Malibu Rising, and here's Jen with recommending duties: "Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit are the children of the world-famous crooner Mick Riva. However, they may know him best through celebrity magazines. Raised by their mother June, the siblings grow up in Malibu and bond over surfing. Told in two parts, we learn the family's history from the mid-fifties to late seventies and then of the day of the Riva's annual end-of-summer party in 1983. Each chapter reveals a new heartbreak, all leading up to the most explosive party the siblings have ever hosted. Taylor Jenkins Reid sets the scene for family drama and manages to transport you to Malibu's past effortlessly. I was mesmerized by the Rivas, my heart breaking with them at one turn, and laughing out loud at the next, especially at Kit's astute observations. Make an 80's surfing playlist and add this to your summer read pile!"

Next up, Chris has mucho praise for The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin: "By now, anyone who’s paying attention at all knows what happens to the families on the losing end of gentrification. And if we’re being honest, we don’t care – that’s development, that’s progress, catch up or get left behind. That’s the starting place for Vlautin’s latest. Lynette wakes up before the sun to work shifts at two crappy jobs (plus her sex work side hustle) as she tries to scrape together enough cash to buy the house she lives in with her alcoholic mother and developmentally disabled brother from their absentee landlord. Vlautin brings a razor-sharp eye for detail to his dirty realism version of ‘the night of crime that changes it all.’ This isn’t just what happens when a person is pushed over the edge – Vlautin is unflinching about staring back at the economic, social, and familial pressures can shove a person over the cliff. It’s also a tour of the “before” photo of Portland – definitely the latest & greatest book for those who dig glimpses of the parts of cities that lousy new money hasn’t ruined yet. Also, I’ll say that the vibe of the novel is that of an Eagles song turned into a book by someone who hates the Eagles because they’re too soft. This a compliment. I think I’ll be walking around Vlautin’s Portland in my head for a long time to come."

Now, back to Daniel to wrap things up with Swimming Back to Trout River by Linda Rui Feng: "Dawn is an architecture student whose love for Beethoven and classical music proves to have dangerous consequences during China’s Cultural Revolution. Momo is another music lover, but he safely kept to engineering. And as for Cassia, the love of her life was attacked for being the son of a spy, and worse, for liking Western literature. Cassia wound up marrying Momo and mothering Junie, but the parents struggle with June’s disability, and a second pregnancy does not fare better. All three adults wind up in the United States, but the mess of the past isn’t any less messy stateside as it casts a shadow on the present. Linda Rui Feng’s gift is in the descriptions, the little moments, and the internal ruminations. Quietly beautiful!"

We hosted a great event featuring Linda Rui Feng last year when this book came out in hardcover - click here to check out the video evidence of her fantastic conversation!

Finally, Chris raves about The Great Mistake, a novel by Jonathan Lee (no relation): "Wow. If you want a classic, capital N, The Novel kind of book, you couldn’t do much better than The Great Mistake. As a stylist, Lee is top shelf; he so obviously delights in the English language, and each of his sentences is a masterclass in wonder, humor, and precision – even the shapes and sounds of his lines are full of surprises. You want more than style? You got it. Lee tracks the life of Andrew Haswell Green (the mostly forgotten Father of Greater New York) through the 19th century, creating a remarkably full measure of the man’s life, public and private. In doing so, the book offers a window into the life of America’s greatest city as it came into its modern form. Honestly, the best comparison I can think of is that this is the novel Charles Dickens might write if he’d recently crawled out of the grave."

Tim chimes in for this one: "The last attempt on Andrew Haswell Green's life, the one that succeeded, came in November of 1903. It was Friday the 13th. This we're told on page one, and with the end of his remarkable life a new mystery began. Did the people of New York really know the man they credited with the very existence of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Museum of Natural History, the New York Public Library, and a unified Greater New York City? Jonathan Lee gives us a novel of this renowned and yet somehow obscure historical figure. With a unique talent for using words and phrases, Lee unwinds the details of a life and a death. He opens a window into the heart of someone who knew mayors, governors and presidents, but was so often alone. It’s possible that over a century later we feel closer to him than people of his time, so who cared enough to kill 'the father of Greater New York' on his own Park Avenue doorstep? The Great Mistake is beautifully crafted and thought-provoking historical fiction, a novel of substance and style for lovers of literary intrigue."

Jonathan Lee joins us this coming Tuesday, May 24, 7 pm for a conversation with Chris about this fantastic book, and we hope you'll join us as well - click here to register and get more info now!

Read on, dear readers. We'll see you next week with another armful of great books.

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