Monday, May 2, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of May 3, 2022

A new week, a new month, and new books. Here's what we recommend.

First, Kay Wosewick with two new books. The first is Poguemahone, an epic-in-verse from Irish author Patrick McCabe, whose 40+ years of novels include titles such as The Butcher Boy and The Big Yaroo. Kay says: "Stream-of-consciousness writing whips back and forth in time, recounting a lifetime of thoughts and experiences of an Ireland-born brother and sister who make their way to London. Written in poetic form, large swaths of empty space on the page seem to aid digestion of often-intense content. Poguemahone is a creative monster and a mighty head-spinner."

Next, Kay recommends Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt. Kay says: "This debut will lead you through a gamut of emotions including heartbreak, but you won’t regret, or forget, the time you spend with Marcellus, a Giant Pacific Octopus who lives in an aquarium in a small town. He knows the locals and just met a new resident. He’s pulled many tricks before, but there’s one more trick he must do before he dies, which he knows will be soon. Marcellus narrates some chapters. You will fall in love."

Proprietor Daniel Goldin recommends this one as well. He says: "If you can say one thing about widowed aquarium cleaner Tova Sullivan, the once-again-jobless Cameron Passmore, and star-aquarium-attraction Marcellus the Octopus, it’s that they’ve all had their share of misfortune. Yes, this is a story of grief, of losses both recent and in the past. But it’s also a story of found family, of hope, and of purpose. Van Pelt infuses all her characters with grace, not just the protagonists but the members of Tova’s Knit-Wit social group, Cameron’s Aunt Jeanne (who raised him after his mom disappeared), and even the elusive developer who Cameron suspects is his father. But the star of the show is probably Marcellus, whose dexterity and wisdom never fails to inspire. Why haven’t I read Sy Montgomery’s The Soul of an Octopus? And while I’m asking, why haven’t you read Remarkably Bright Creatures?"

Van Pelt  is In-Person at Boswell Book Company, Friday, May 13, 2022, 6:30 pm. Click here to register.

Speaking of Daniel, he has two other recs for us. The next is Fly Girl, the new memoir by Ann Hood. Daniel says: "Waiter, truck driver, cocktail pianist – I like a well-done job memoir, and Fly Girl soars. Several books have featured flight attendants over the years, though the most famous (Coffee, Tea, or Me?) was actually written by a male airline executive. Last year there was a round of publicity with lots of great flight attendant stories, but it turned out the book itself (Falling) was not an insider memoir but a thriller. Acclaimed novelist and memoirist Ann Hood started when flying was still glamorous, when first class TWA passengers had carved chateaubriand and even coach had a choice of entrees, but folks in these positions had to confront unruly passengers, not-so-friendly crews, less-than-desirable schedules, endemic industry sexism, a long decline in quality due to deregulation, and in TWA’s case, the nightmare that was Carl Icahn. But for someone with the travel bug, you probably couldn’t have a better life, with the exception, perhaps, of being a writer, and the nice thing is, Hood was able to do that as well."

Ann Hood, joins us for a virtual event Thursday, June 16, 2022, 7 pm. Click here to register.

Daniel recommends a non-event book, too! It's One Day I Shall Astonish the World by Nina Stibbe, and Daniel says: "Susan and Nina may have met working at Nina’s parents’ shop, but their lives veer in drastically different directions when Susan leaves school to have a child with her Roy. They both wind up at the University of Rutland, only Nina is an academic poet with a taste for inappropriate older academics, while Susan becomes, through a series of promotions, her driver. If you haven’t already guessed, their relationship by this point becomes rather warped. Can this friendship ever resolve itself? Should it? Best known here for her epistolary memoir Love, Nina (adapted for the BBC by Nick Hornby!) and as a finalist for several humor prizes, Stibbe’s latest is her take on an Elena Ferrante novel, channeling Barbara Pym with a bit of Maria Bamford. Funny, wise, and just a little weird!" 

Let's go to Rachel Copeland for Book Lovers by Emily Henry, who has fans from her last novel, Beach Read. Of this new book, Rachel says: "Highly competent literary agent Nora Stephens is tired of being the evil shrew girlfriend in the “romantic hero falls for plucky small-town heroine” trope - after the fourth breakup, enough is enough. When her pregnant sister proposes a small-town getaway to embrace romance novel tropes and clock some sister bonding time, Nora begrudgingly agrees. Now if only she could escape the company of her editor nemesis, Charlie Lastra, who's popping up all over the same small town. I really appreciate this book not only for the steamy romance and the meta-commentary on romance novel tropes, but also the representation of people who are not warm and cuddly. There's someone out there for everyone! Emily Henry has such a great facility with making characters who feel real, and Book Lovers might be her best work yet."

Jenny Chou wants you to read all night with the first novel for adults from Holly Black: Book of Night. Jenny says: "If you, like me, are waiting not-so-patiently for Leigh Bardugo to write the sequel to her adult novel, The Ninth House, here’s something to keep you busy in the meantime. Holly Black’s first foray into writing for grown-ups is an urban fantasy with a stunning mix of magic, horror, heists, and the perfect amount of impossible romance. There is nothing I love better than an author who creates a believable twist on magic, and Black’s world building is outstanding. Every page feels overcast and dark, and no wonder; human shadows are infused with power to be sold or traded and even killed for. Additionally, her characters are nuanced and sharply portrayed. Main character Charlie tries to keep a low-profile as a bartender, hiding from her past as a thief, but as in all the best novels, that past just won’t leave her alone. Her sister and seemingly perfectly nice boyfriend struck me as not to be trusted from the beginning. Were my instincts right? Find out for yourself on May 3rd! But here’s a warning for you, clear your schedule before you turn to page one, because you won’t put Book of Night down until you reach the gasp-out-loud last page."

Jen Steele picks I Kissed Shara Wheeler, the latest from the bestselling author of One Last Stop and Red, White & Royal Blue (that's Casey McQuiston, fyi). Jen says it all succinctly: "If you’re looking for a great YA beach read, then look no further. Full of humor, heart and snark, I Kissed Shara Wheeler is the kind of fun, queer romcom you've been waiting for!"

Paperback Picks? Sure!

Kay on Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson: "Damnation Spring is a must-read for fans of Overstory. Whereas Overstory speaks of the stunning ecology of old-growth forests and the environmentalists who champion them, Damnation Spring transports you directly into the lives and homes of third and fourth generation loggers and their families - people who rely on old-growth forests to maintain very modest lives in small communities dependent on logging. Damnation Spring thrust me into the shoes of loggers, and I stepped out of those shoes with a big dose of empathy injected into my environmentalism. Davidson has written a gritty, humbling, remarkable first book."

Kay on Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy: "Twins Inti and Aggie are very different, yet they are inseparable. McConaghy’s themes of nature versus nurture as well trauma’s varied legacy apply to the twins as well as to many people they come to know well. Much of the story takes place in Scotland’s wildest lands, where Inti is leading the reintroduction of wolves, much to the consternation of local sheep farmers. Hefty doses of conflict of may raise your blood pressure, but in the end, McConaghy will win your heart. This is a wonderful book."

And Kathy on the same: "A heartfelt and heart-wrenching novel that tells the story of biologist Inti Flynn, in Scotland with her team of biologists to reintroduce wolves to the remote Highlands in the hope that they can help to heal a dying landscape. Accompanying her is her twin, Aggie, who has been emotionally damaged by events in her past that are revealed in stages throughout the book. Facing anger and resentment from people in the town, Inti struggles to persuade them to care about the wolves as she tries to help her sister heal. The narrative weaves together past and present to explore both environmental issues and the effects of trauma."

Chris Lee on Punch Me Up to the Gods by Brian Broome, which won the Kirkus Nonfiction Prize: "Generous, fearless, funny, and gentle, Broome chronicles his own story to understand how and where he (along with so many other Black outsiders) doesn’t fit in America. His sentences are pure style, a joy to read, and he slips between as many voices as he has existences: Black, gay, poor, masculine, abused, uncool, scared, addicted, ashamed, angry, proud, and full of joy. And on and on. Yes, that’s a lot of signifiers, but only because this is an awful lot of book. Where do you live when every space you inhabit is an intersection of tensions? How does a man who’s spent his life being choked finally learn to breathe? Broome interrogates the world with the rigor and tenacity of the greats, and Punch Me Up to the Gods is everything a great memoir should be."

Madi Hill on the same: "Brian Broome's Punch Me Up to the Gods is a love letter to James Baldwin while being a painfully honest memoir in its own right. Outlined by Gwendolyn Brooks' poem "We Real Cool," this memoir recounts the challenges Broome faced as a Black, gay man while growing up in a small working-class town in Ohio through his move to Pittsburgh where he is hopeful to find acceptance but spirals with addiction. Broome beautifully captures the conflicts he faced, from being seen as not masculine enough for the Black community to being fetishized for his skin color and assumed masculinity in the gay community, while using drugs to dull his pain for not fitting these prescribed niches. The chapter interludes in which Broome observes a toddler on the bus with his father allow him to recollect on the life lessons of his past as he travels through different neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, each evoking a different memory. A completely unique book full of moving parts that each inspire deep feelings from the entirety of the emotional spectrum, Punch Me Up to the Gods deserves recognition, as it is one of the most powerful memoirs I have ever read."

And Daniel on the same, too: "Growing up Black and gay in a declining Ohio steel town was not easy for Brian Broome. The White kids ignored him (when they didn’t encourage his minstrelry), and the Black boys shamed him. And with his parents divorced, his father’s decline, and his mother taking on multiple part-time jobs, there was hardly a parental role model to be had. A move to Pittsburgh turned out not to be the hoped-for panacea. Told in a series of harrowing, heartbreaking, and sometimes outrageous vignettes and framed by a bus ride (which is sort of a journey to self-realization), Punch Me Up to the Gods confronts the racism and homophobia that led to Broome’s crippling addiction and eventual recovery. A triumph!"

Jen Steele for Velvet Was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: "Maite is a lowly secretary at a law firm. Her romance comic books and music collection are what keep her warm at night. When her beautiful next-door neighbor, Leonora, knocks on her door one night, Maite does not know what to expect and finds herself taking care of Leonora’s cat while Leonora is out of town. When Leonora does not return, Maite sets out to find her with the hope that she can finally get paid for her pet sitting. However, Maite will soon realize she has become entangled in something she has no business to be involved in. Enter Elvis - his boss wants him to find Leonora at all costs. It turns out Leonora is a radical activist with incriminating photos of a powerful politician. Elvis and his crew are not the only players in town, either - there are other government agents involved, and everyone is coming for the last person to see Leonora alive: Maite. 1970’s Mexico City is volatile, and you can either keep your head down and stay small, or you can light the match. Silvia Moreno-Garcia delivers a first-rate, red-hot noir based on historical facts, and I loved every moment!"

Phew! That's a lot of books! Hope you can read them all by next week's blog - see you then, dear readers.

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