Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of September 20, 2022

New week means new recommendations, right? RIGHT! Here they are.

Daniel Goldin starts us off with the latest Elizabeth Strout novel, Lucy by the Sea. Daniel says: "Starting moments after the close of Oh William!, Elizabeth Strout’s latest finds Lucy Barton in lockdown with her first husband William in a small town in Maine. The joy of Lucy is in her astute observations; the peril is that her heightened sensitivity and sometimes passive nature can lead her into many a fraught relationship. I loved the way Strout showed that Lucy is a citizen of Strout’s Yoknapatawpha, with appearances not just by Bob Burgess, but also Olive Kitteridge’s aide at the assisted living center. Reading Lucy by the Sea recaptures every small memory of early COVID, from the panic about surfaces and the desire to escape urban environments to the eventual politicization of the virus, so beautifully that I was willing to relive them."

Next it's both Jason Kennedy and Madi Hill singing the praises of Ghost Eaters, the latest from Clay McLeod Chapman. From Jason: "Erin's on-again-off-again boyfriend Silas finds a drug that allows him to see the dead. When he suddenly dies one day, Erin and her friends attempt to contact him. Clay McLeod Chapman amps up the anxiety and suspense in this drug-fueled horror novel about love and loss. Both Erin's friends and the Richmond scenery that they inhabit have storied pasts with sins in abundance. When the end came, it leveled me - such a great book!"

Madi says: "How far would you go to see a loved one that had passed? Ghost Eaters imagines a world in which it’s possible but at a very steep price. After the overdose death of her ex-boyfriend and best friend Silas, Erin and her friends have to navigate their grief while trying to establish their post-college adult lives. When one of the friends reveals he and Silas found a magic mushroom that allows the living to speak to the dead, the friends try to find Silas, but encounter much more of the spirit world than intended. Though supernatural, Chapman uses this horror story to explore how people cope with mourning and addiction, especially in an already difficult transitory time for these early twenty-something characters. His exploration of an abusive relationship beyond the dead is creepy but gripping. Ghost Eaters explores how history is never truly in the past, and the impact the dead still have on the living."

Sticking with Madi, she also suggests you read Cryptid Club, the new book of comics from Sarah's Scribbles creator Sarah Anderson. Madi's rec: "Cryptid Club is a collection of web comics by Sarah Anderson that are the cutest cryptids you will ever see, and not just because they're impossible to photograph. You don't have to be a believer to enjoy the trials and tribulations of the likes of Mothman, Slenderman, and the Loch Ness Monster, among other creepy creatures. Anderson takes the horror out of the horrific and makes them a very lovable bunch with very human problems, like dating and the struggles of high-waisted pants. Cryptid Club will make you want to believe."

Let's go now to Jen Steele for Legendary Creatures: Mythical Beasts and Spirits from Around the World by Adam Auerbach. Jen says: "Legendary Creatures is a first-rate collection of mythical beasts and folklore. Not only does it give the reader an enjoyable glimpse into the otherworldly, but Adam Auerbach also illustrated these astonishing creatures. A perfect jumping off point for any kid interested in learning more about mythology."

And we stay with Jen, because she also recommends Wildoak by CC Harrington. And of this, Jen says: "Set in early 60s Cornwall, Maggie, a young girl with a stutter is sent to stay with her grandfather for a few weeks. Maggie spends most of her days in Wildoak, a beautiful forest near her grandfather’s place that’s under threat of destruction. It is in Wildoak that Maggie discovers Rumpus, a lost snow leopard who needs her help. CC Harrington delivers an engaging novel about what connects us all. I was absolutely charmed by these characters, and I know you will be too!"

How about a paperback pick with Wisconsin ties? Daniel Goldin brings us The Family Chao, a novel by Lan Samantha Chang, with this rec: "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."

Thanks for navigating our way again this week, dear readers, and until next time, read on.

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