Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of October 4, 2022

Welcome to October! What better way to begin a new month than with a new batch of books? Here are our picks for the week.

First up is Daniel Goldin with an exciting debut novel by British author Joanna Quinn called The Whalebone Theatre. Daniel says: "I love books where the experiences that shaped the characters as children help define their lives as adults. Christabel, Florence, and Digby grow up with absent or negligent parents on a country estate on the southern coast of England that has seen better days. When a dead whale washes onshore, Christa’s dream of mammalian conquest is fulfilled when it turns out that neither the king nor anyone else wants it. How it becomes the bones of a theater is something that’s too complicated to describe here. Let us just say that when war rears its ugly head and special forces comes calling, the Seagraves are already prepared to give the performances of their lives. Already a bestseller in the UK, The Whalebone Theatre offers enough twists on the classics of the genre to stand beside the classics."

Joanna Quinn will be in virtual conversation with Daniel Goldin and Lisa Baudoin for a Virtual Readings from Oconomowaukee Event, Tuesday, October 11, 2 pm. Click here to register for this broadcast.

Next we've got Chris Lee with a seasonally appropriate recommendation: Malice House, a new novel by Megan Shepherd. Chris says: "This is, to me, just the best kind of good, old-fashioned, 80s style (John Saul, anyone?) horror novel. So much fun. A not-very-successful artist (though quite talented horror flick summarizer [this is somehow her job, and yes, I am jealous]) inherits her famous-writer-father’s ramshackle oceanfront estate, complete with his collections of Pulitzer medals, books, booze, and maybe a few demons. Further ingredients include: a strange, secret manuscript, monsters that range from the near-comically warped (Pinchy the ankle-tendon-snapping blob from under the bed, anyone?) to the truly dark, sinister, and all-too-human varieties, and so, so many dark family secrets to be revealed. And Shepherd packs lots more into a book that veers from haunted-house creeper to small-town-power-struggle thriller to gothic-family-curse mind-blower, and she hits the best notes of each horror subgenre along the way. A perfect Halloween-season novel and/or beach read for cool weirdos."

Kay Wosewick has invented this recommendation for Nature's Wild Ideas: How the Natural World Is Inspiring Scientific Innovation by Kristy Hamilton: "Biomimicry is a simple idea: take inspiration from nature to solve human problems. Putting it into action? Well, that’s not so simple. Hamilton describes a baker’s dozen of biomimicry projects, each in a different field of study, each with its unique source of inspiration. Three of the sources are human bones, reptile spit, and pomegranates. Curious? Hamilton’s writing is very accessible, and this book will sate anyone’s curiosity."

Tim McCarthy join us in the recommending with his write-up for the first in a new series that's the latest in YA mystery reboots of beloved 80s/90s cozy whodunits - that's right, it's Murder, She Wrote for a new generation. By the Time You Read This I'll Be Gone is written by Stephanie Kuehn. Tim says: "This is a smart and savvy teen mystery. Beatrice Fletcher is the great-grandniece of Jessica Fletcher, the ageless TV murder-solving hero of Cabot Cove, Maine’s Murder, She Wrote. Bea has serious anxiety issues, but she’s intense and curious enough to face a risk-filled world. Her psychiatrist helps her manage the anxiety, she has a few good high school friends, and her interest in macabre true crime gives her the intensity. Now she’s writing for a start-up web site about the cold-case murder of a Cabot Cove teenage girl. It all comes together in a dangerous way when she posts that her closest friend is missing and that several other Cabot Cove teens have recently disappeared. Both the digital world and her cozy little seaside town soon know that she’s the first one to report him gone. Is she a suspect? Bea is the creation of an author who’s the mother of teens and also a clinical psychologist. It shows. She sounds true to teen reality, and also true to people who keep going despite their fear. This is the first of a series. I’m hooked! Just like I was hooked on the TV show."

Finally, Jen Steele with a middle grade book recommendation: A Rover's Story, the new book from Newbery Honor author Jasmine Warga. Jen says: "I absolutely adored everything about this book! Resilience is a Mars rover who is learning code and preparing for the day NASA will send him to Mars. As Resilience (Res for short) learns his code for the mission, he starts to learn human emotions from the hazmats creating him. Yet the other rover in the lab is not experiencing the same thing - could something be wrong with Res? The day for launch fast approaches, and Res is determined to show he is worthy. A Rover’s Story is a tale of heart and bravery, compassion, and wisdom. Resilience is sure to become a beloved character for all."

Jasmine Warga appears In-Person at Greenfield Public Library, 5310 W Layton Ave, on Wednesday, October 5, 6:30 pm, in conversation with Amanda Zieba. Click here to register for this event. Cosponsored by the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition.

Paperback picks ! Some good books get their paperback release this week. 

Jenny Chou recommends Blue-Skinned Gods, a novel by SJ Sindu. Jenny says: "There are two reasons why a person might be born with blue skin.  They might be the tenth and final reincarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu or, possibly, within their DNA is a rare recessive gene that has a chance of popping up when even distantly related people conceive a child together. Ten-year-old Kalki’s blue skin, his parents insist, comes from being a living god, one who can heal and perform miracles. His father creates a religious retreat in India called an ashram, and he welcomes Westerners interested in meditation and yoga and locals who yearn to be cured of back pain, bad luck, and more. Many simply want a blessing from a god. Secretly, doubts flicker through Kalki’s mind. Is he a healer? What if he is simply casting an illusion over people desperate to believe? Kalki’s journey from a living god in India to the mascot of his American cousin’s rock band, the Blue-Skinned Gods, is full of loss and much soul-searching. Blue-Skinned Gods is such a compelling take on identity written from the vantage of an adult recalling glimpses of his childhood and twenty-something years. This is absolutely the right choice, because this is a book that asks a question that I think needs an adult’s perspective to answer: Does having faith mean believing in a lie? And faith could mean belief in a god or gods, in our parents, or even in our political leaders. Blue-Skinned Gods is a great story, but it’s also a book that I’m still turning over in my mind days after the last page."

Speaking of Jenny, she, Jason, and Kay all are fans of Andy Weir's hit follow-up to The Martian: Project Hail Mary. From Jenny: "I knew after reading an advance copy of Project Hail Mary on January 10th that I’d found one of my Top 5 Books of 2021. Turn off your phone because you don’t want to talk to anyone until you reach the last page in this thrill ride of a novel. When the scientific world heartily rejected his theory on the possibility of life evolving without water, microbiologist Ryland Grace retreated in disgrace to life as a middle school science teacher. As it turned out, he likes teaching kids, and he’s good at it, but just as quickly as he was banished, Ryland is yanked back from obscurity to become earth’s one hope for survival. The beginning finds Ryland waking from a coma without the slightest idea of his name or where he might be. Slowly, he becomes more aware, and he's startled to find himself alone on a spaceship, eons from earth, most likely on an important mission, but without a clue where he’s headed or why. Fascinating doesn’t begin to describe the story from that point, and the plot combines chemistry and math with humor and compassion. I loved Ryland’s creativity, and he’s a problem-solving genius, but the connections he makes in space give this outstanding novel its delightful punch of emotional depth."

From Jason Kennedy: "Did you like Mark Watney? Then, you will absolutely love Ryland Grace. Who is he? Waking up in a strange environment, Ryland can remember little about his life other than his name. He’s in a bed with tubes running into pretty much every bodily opening he has, and the other two other beds have dead people in them. In short order, he figures out that he is humanity’s last hope to save Earth. The writing is funny and pitch perfect, the science is wildly creative and carefully explained. This is the book I was not expecting to be blown away, by and I loved every second of it."

And from Kay: "Andy Weir hits his third consecutive homerun, this time out of the ballpark! Project Hail Mary brilliantly explores two themes: ‘save planet Earth’ and ‘first alien contact.’ Saving the planet entails solving an environmental problem that is entirely new to humans and aliens alike and is a terrific story in itself. But the alien/human encounter (starring Rocky and Grace, respectively) is even more impressive. Neither an aggressive brute nor a spectacularly advanced, intellectual creature, Rocky is much more advanced than humans in some ways, and much less advanced in other ways. Having evolved under very un-Earth-like planetary conditions, Rocky’s physicality and understanding of the universe differs significantly from Grace’s. At the same time, there are enough similarities to enable Rocky and Grace to develop communication, then cooperation, and eventually personal attachment. Relationship building and joint creative problem solving among alien and human are portrayed with great humor and tenderness, and there’s still plenty of ‘sci’ for even the geekiest reader. Project Hail Mary is a radiant gem."

See you next week for more recommeding. Until then, read on.

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