Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Staff Recommendations, Week of December 6, 2022


It's December! And the first week of December brings a handful of new releases we recommend you snag. Consider this your minature gift guide (and hey, if you want a not-so-minature gift guide, click here and browse our full gift guide online) for the absolute latest in book gifting. Even if you're gifting books directly to yourself. Away we go.

This week begins with a whole lotta Jason! Jason Kennedy first recommends Stella Maris, the second novel in the highly anticipated Passenger books by Cormac McCarthy. Jason says: "Now we get Bobby Western's sisters tale. Alicia commits herself to a psychiatric hospital because, as we know from The Passenger, she has had delusions for most of her life. In a series of discussions with her psychiatrist, we are dazzled by clever wordplay, math, and the relationship between a sister and brother. This is a fast and challenging read. Cormac McCarthy has deftly fleshed out a brilliant mathematician in Alicia, who struggles with the world and how it works."

Conrad Silverberg chimes in with this delightfully annotated recommendation: "Stella Maris is the second book, a coda if you will, of Cormac McCarthy's duology* that began with The Passenger. From what I had heard, I was expecting a kind of Rashomon**-like experience with different characters recasting themselves in the lead role, shoehorning themselves into the center of events, whose perspectives contradict and utterly supersede those of all others. But, that's not quite it. More like McCarthy was so enthralled with the backstory of one of The Passenger's major characters (if, for the most part, an off-stage character - a sort of Fifth Business***), he couldn't help but bring them to the fore and flesh out their story. We can only be grateful that he did. We come to know one of the most richly layered, intricately developed, deeply flawed yet completely compelling characters you'd ever hope to meet in fiction. The sister of The Passenger's protagonist is very much the lynchpin that ties everything together, and so maybe Fifth Business after all.

Notes:
*Like a trilogy, but with two books - I suppose that's better than calling it a bi-ology.

**The book of short stories by the Japanese master Ryuno Akutagwa, perhaps better known from the 1950 film adaptation by the great Akira Kurasawa.

***The role in a play or opera that is neither hero nor heroine, villain nor confidante, but is absolutely essential to bringing about the story's denouement - like some doddering old nurse who absentmindedly switched two babies at birth only to reveal all at the end."

Jason also recommends Cursed Bunny, a paperback original by Bora Chung. He says: "This collection has all horror in it. Especially the kind of horror that makes you chuck the book away in squirming disgust - but then you quickly collect the book again to continue reading because you simply have to know what is going to happen. Read this if you want your mind warped and dreams filled with the grotesque."

What else does Jason have for us today? A recommendation of The Tatami Galaxy by Tomihiko Morimi, translated by Emily Balistrieri, that's what! Jason say: "This book will make you think about how our decisions can or cannot change our fate or outcomes. The unnamed narrator lives out four different scenarios based on which school organization he joins. It’s interesting that his decisions lead to him the same friends, situations, and frustrations. The narrator is always wondering if it’s greener over the hill or if their life is just the way it’s supposed to be. A fun, whimsical tale."

Daniel Goldin gets in on the recommending with The Ingenue, the second novel  by Milwaukee native Rachel Kapelke-Dale. Daniel says: "Saskia Kreis, a once-piano prodigy who now writes test prep questions, returns to Milwaukee after her the death of her mother, the writer of feminist fairy tales, only to find that the family home that she expects to inherit has been gifted to someone else. And not just anyone else, but Saskia’s former secret lover. Basically, WTF? I really enjoyed the way mom’s revisionist stories are woven into the story, as well as the local Milwaukee details that infuse the narrative. But really, it’s the suspenseful way the secrets are peeled away in The Ingenue that makes this a Midwestern Gothic not to be missed."

Kapelke-Dale will be in town this month for a neat event, too. On Tuesday, December 13, 6:30 pm, she will appear at Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N Prospect Ave for a conversation with book influencer Brynn Teaman. Registration is required, so click here and reserve a spot.

And now it's over to Tim McCarthy for the latest in comedic cozy mysteries featuring well-known Vermont politicians. That'd be paperback original Feel the Bern: A Bernie Sanders Mystery, by Hope Never Dies author Andrew Shaffer. Tim says: "Crash Robertson spent five years studying political science at Georgetown, and she's figured out how to put it to work. She was the Sanders intern hopeful carrying the best bottle of maple syrup to her interview. She's also whip smart and a Vermont native. Now she's Bernie's only assistant at a harvest festival in her very own hometown. It's a weird set of circumstances because she hasn't been home in years and showed no sign of wanting to go back. Then things get really interesting. A floating body shows up in Lake Champlain, and so does a billionaire who's buying out struggling maple syrup businesses and making a cheap imitation with… that’s right, high fructose corn syrup. Can you say MINO!? (Maple In Name Only). Bernie will never stand for this, but really, how much drama can a cute little town like Eagle Creek stand? Oh, you’d be surprised. I enjoyed this every bit as much as Schaffer’s Obama-Biden mysteries, and… there are recipes involved. So Happy Holidays! Take a break. Read the book. Feel the Bern!"

We've got one book to recommend with its paperback version hitting our shelves this week.

Jen Steele wants you to set sail with Maiden Voyages: Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them by Si├ón Evans. Jen says: "What marvelous book! An exquisite blend of history and biography, Maiden Voyages takes you on a cruise to a part of women's history that is not often discussed. Sian Evans highlights the unsung sheroes of the day as well as giving the reader a truly informative book."



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