Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of August 30, 2022

We end August on a nice note here at the Boswellians blog - recommending to you some books that we love, one of our favorite things to do. Picks to help you find a great endcap to this year's summer reading list.

First, a double-rec, from Rachel Copeland and Jenny Chou, of Alexandra Rowland's novel A Taste of Gold and Iron. First, from Rachel: "Following an altercation with the body-father of his sister's newborn child, Prince Kadou must prove his loyalty to his sister, the sultan, and figure out who is behind the counterfeit currency plot that could ruin their country of Arasht. Crippled with anxiety, Kadou finds himself stuck with a terse new bodyguard, Evemer, who doesn't seem to like Kadou all that much. After a series of incidents in which Kadou improbably proves himself more canny, dutiful, and capable than Evemer thought possible, an undying loyalty and trust grows between them - and evolves into something more. In every way, this is the romance I've been waiting for. The slow build between Kadou and Evemer was so well done that I often flipped back to reread passages just for fun. Also, every (non-evil) character in this book is iconic, and Rowland had me cackling, blushing, and screaming at multiple points. Rowland's worldbuilding encompasses not only the touch-taste of precious metals that drives the plot, but also a fully realized system of genders, pronouns, orientations, even degrees of paternity. I finished this work wanting - maybe needing - to revisit it immediately to recapture the feeling of pure joy that infuses every page."

And from Jenny: "Alexandra Rowland’s latest novel is a lush fantasy, with a setting evoking the Ottoman Empire and a plot filled with palace intrigue, betrayal, and a glorious enemies-to-lovers romance. All that is plenty to draw me in, but the main character, Prince Kadou, really stole my heart. He’s a complicated bundle of anxiety, terrified of losing his sister, the reigning sultan, and scared his actions might cause pain to another person. One of the few people he’s not overly protective of is himself, which leads to clashes with his new bodyguard, Evemer. He finds the prince’s behavior self-indulgent and heartless. Prince Kadou has a rare talent, a magical ability to detect the purity of metal, and he and Evemer become drawn into an investigation of counterfeit currency circulating through the kingdom. Their hasty judgments of each other's character begins to shift as each questions the loyalties of everyone around them. Watching Prince Kadou and Evemer navigate what they truly mean to one another is really the soul of this delightful novel. You’ll be glad you met these two as you think about them long after turning the last page!"

Now let's go to Jen for the latest from Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Malibu Rising, Daisy Jones & The Six, and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoCarrie Soto is Back. Jen says: "A riveting, fast-paced, and enthusiastic look at the world of tennis through the eyes of Carrie Soto, the world's finest athlete. It's been five years since Carrie Soto retired as the reigning champion of women's tennis, and it's all about to be taken away by powerhouse Nicki Chan. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Carrie decides to step back onto the court to remind everyone who the world's greatest player is. Taylor Jenkins Reid delivers a gripping comeback novel with a fierce character you will be rooting for until the very last page. A must read!"

And now a Daniel Goldin rec: A Game Maker’s Life: A Hall of Fame Game Inventor and Executive Tells the Inside Story of the Toy Industry by Jeffrey Breslow with Cynthia Beebe. Daniel says: "If you are curious about the world of toys and games, this book is for you. Breslow, a long-time idea person at Marvin Glass Associates and Big Monster Toys, gives the inside story on Operation, Simon, Ants in the Pants, SSP Racers (gyroscope powered!), and more. I love some of his tricks of the trade – like start with a clich√© and work backwards. You might think brand extensions are a recent trend, but that was Marvin’s philosophy since day one. If Moody Mutt (1953) was a hit, could Swimming Puppy and Robo the Robot Dog be far behind? Please note that despite the subject matter, this book is not for kids and needs a warning even to adult readers; Breslow was the survivor of a mass shooting at his office, and he takes a chapter to discuss the incident. But that aside, it’s mostly fascinating anecdotes about hits like Polly Pocket and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and bombs like the Clone video game, which they hoped would be the next Pac Man. It wasn’t!"

Event alert: Jeffrey Breslow visits Boswell In-Peron on Wednesday, September 14, 6:30 pm. Click here to register and find more info.

Now, a paperback original recommendation from Parker Jensen: Suburban Hell by Maureen Kilmer. Parker says: "Amy, Melissa, Liz, and Jess don't fit in with the rest of the PTA moms in their suburb; they'd rather keep up their close-knit friendship and monthly wine nights than worry about whose lawn is the greenest or who will manage the ice cream bar at the school carnival. Their friendship is an escape from the hectic lives they lead, so when Liz suggests building a She Shed in her backyard, they are eager to jump onboard. But after construction begins on their clubhouse, the ladies begin receiving strange burn marks, household objects become possessed, and worst of all, Liz begins to change from her positive loving self into something, or someone, much more sinister. Amy, Melissa, and Jess will need to confront whatever spirit is haunting their neighborhood if they are going to save themselves and Liz. Desperate Housewives meets The Exorcist in this bonkers and hilarious lite-horror comedy. I had a blast reading Suburban Hell, there was never a boring moment as the book juggled comedy, scares, and a touching story of friendship and grief."

Parker also recommends Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney. Parker says: "Daisy Darker's family has spent years avoiding being in the same room all together. Each of them has their reasons, and secrets, for staying as far apart as possible, but they cannot deny Nana one last family reunion on her 80th birthday. Besides, once they all gather on the secluded island she resides on, Nana will finally be sharing what is in her will. What none of them expect is at the stroke of midnight when they find Nana murdered in the Kitchen. With a storm raging and the tide too high to cross for the next 8 hours, the Darker family will be forced to confront the misdeeds of their past before it is too late, because someone is beginning to pick them off one by one. The Darker family is full of some of the wickedest and most despicable people I have had the pleasure of reading about. I couldn't get enough of their endless drama, secrets, and tragedies. And some secrets are worth killing over. Daisy Darker is a thrilling ride filled with numerous twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end."

Over we go to Sarah Clancy for her latest rec: Dead Flip by Sara Farizan. Sarah says: "We've all said things that we've regretted to those we love. Things not meant to be said outside of our own heads. Sometimes we apologize and, if we're lucky, sometimes we're forgiven. Cori and Maz never got their chance for forgiveness when their friend Sam disappeared one Halloween night. Years later, they have both dealt with the loss of their friend poorly. Cori, lost in the expectations of those around her, struggles to find herself. Maz, unable to leave the guilt behind, slowly self-destructs to forget the pain. In an apparent miracle, Sam returns just as he was, but something isn't quite right. Farizan brings life to these characters and their trials in a heartfelt way and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout."

Finally, Jen Steele ends the month with a middle grade pick: Lily and the Night Creatures by Nick Lake, with illustrations by Emily Gravett. Jen says: "Lily is not happy about getting a new sibling. She's chronically ill and feels like her parents are replacing her with a 'perfect' baby. When the big day arrives, Lily is sent to stay with her grandmother overnight. Realizing she forgot to bring her favorite stuffed animal, Lily decides to go home and get it before her grandmother notices she's gone. And then things get spooky. Her parents are home with no baby, and they are not what they seem. Aided by the night creatures, Lily must defeat these 'not-parents' and save her home. Nick Lake delivers a big-hearted novel filled with humor and chills."

And now, books getting their paperback release this week that we are fond of. 

Daniel Goldin recommends The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang: "In a Chinese restaurant in Haven, Wisconsin (maybe standing in for Appleton?), a family prepares for a grand celebration. The oldest son, Dagou, has returned to town, tail between his legs (though still with two women fighting over him), to work at the family restaurant. His brothers Ming, a successful tech executive, and James, a medical student, are on their way home, too. The family is already on edge because of their parent’s separation, but when Leo reneges on a deal to give Dagou a piece of the restaurant and a recently discovered cache of money disappears, the family explodes. You absolutely don’t have to have read the inspirational source for this sharp-witted and passionate tale to enjoy it, but if you aren’t fluent in Dostoevsky, you might want to read The Brothers Karamazov Wikipedia entry afterwards."

Along with our pals at Books & Company, we hosted an extra-special event for this book when it was first released - check out the video below of Lan Samantha Chang in conversation with the one and only Chang-rae Lee. Wow!

We also hosted an event with Mary Roach for Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law, cohosted by Schlitz Audubon Nature center, and have two recs on that book (event video below). First, from Daniel "Can a cougar go to jail? They can in India, where there is a three-strikes rule for putting down an attacking animal. Prior to that, they’ll be put in cages with limited free time in a facility that is not open to a public. What does that sound like to you? Intrepid (and often amusing) science journalist Mary Roach travels the world looking at how we handle conflicts between humans in nature, from bear attacks to falling trees. Elephants, stoats, monkeys, bears, gulls, and more fight with humans for habitats, invasive species (also generally thanks to humans) compete with indigenous ones, and NIMBY-ism runs rampant – we want to protect animals, except when they are bothering us. A fascinating read! And don’t skip the footnotes, or you’ll miss some of the funniest lines and asides."

And from Kay Wosewick: "Human encounters with wildlife - bears, blackbirds, backyard poisonous plants, and so much more - are increasing as land development shrinks wildlife habitat. Roach recounts dangerous engagements, some head-shaking practices, and plenty of laugh-out-loud turf wars. "

That's it for this week, we'll see you in September with more recommendations, dear readers - read on!

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