Monday, April 24, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of April 25, 2023

After a few weeks of neglect, the staff rec blog is back. Who knows, we might even get to some of those left out weeks worth of recs soon, too! But this week is full of good released, and you've surely been waiting with baited breath for the Boswellians words on new books, so away we go.

First up is a two-fer. In the Lives of Puppets by TJ Klune has recs from Jen Steele and Margaret Kennedy. First, from Margaret: "In this new retelling of the classic Pinocchio, TJ Klune once again grabs us by the hearts and takes us on fantastical, heart wrenching journey of found family and love of all forms. Victor Lawson, who lives with his android father in a robot-populated future, is possibly the only ‘real boy’ (human) left. When his father is kidnapped and taken to the City of Electric Dreams, Victor teams up with a lovable vacuum, a delightfully sadistic nurse, and an angry amnesiac android to get him back. Along the way, they will learn new things about themselves, each other, and what it really means to be human. If you give a robot a heart, won’t it feel love just the same? Bittersweet and whimsical, Victor’s story reads like a fairytale of old, and yet at the same time brings a message of forgiveness and hope that is entirely unique for anyone disillusioned with the world as it is now."

And Jen adds: "It's official, I will drop whatever I'm reading to read a new book by TJ Klune. In The Lives of Puppets is the book that you should stop everything and read right away. Victor Lawson, a real boy raised by his android father Gio, lives in a forest far from civilization with a lovable vacuum cleaner named Rambo and Nurse Ratched, a robot built both to heal and drill (if you misbehave). When Victor finds a discarded android, it will change his life in unimaginable ways. Poignant, thought provoking, funny, and sure to make your heart skip a beat in this twist on The Adventures of Pinocchio."

Daniel Goldin for Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl by Renée Rosen. Daniel says: "Much like Park Avenue Summer was a fictional take on Helen Gurley Brown, Rosen’s latest imagines the life of another groundbreaking woman, Estée Lauder, through the eyes of everywoman Gloria Downing, who meets Lauder when she gets a job washing hair at a neighborhood salon and works her way up to the buying department at Saks. Many of Lauder’s life elements are woven into the story - Rosen offers an appendix to differentiate the true from the tweaked. But more than entertaining historical fiction, Fifth Avenue Glamour Girl is also a fascinating exploration of artifice and reinvention. What else would you expect from a story about the Queen of Cosmetics?"

Tim McCarthy for The Rediscovery of America: Native Peoples and the Unmaking of U.S. History by Ned Blackhawk. Tim says: "Blackhawk adds to a series of highly praised recent books on indigenous history by going beyond cultural perspectives to offer an objective and encompassing new look at America. He’s focused on how original communities have both shaped and been shaped by the newcomers to this land throughout U.S. development. Past portrayals of European arrivals leading glorified national progress have been incomplete at best and a continuation of indigenous elimination at worst. Here we have a new foundation for history, showing how all aspects of America have been influenced by its complex Native-newcomer interface. Beginning with the Spanish arrival in the southwest and ending with late 20th century activism to renew self-determination, Blackhawk (Western Shoshone) shows us the work he’s doing as a Yale history professor and faculty coordinator of the Yale Group for the Study of Native America. Meanwhile, I’m the grateful retired teacher who’s forever waking up to the ways our past defines our present. Blackhawk’s advanced scholarship and interpretation are enormous contributions to my quest. His elaborately documented accuracy satisfies beyond anything I’ve read in a career of teaching young children about American history."

Rachel Copeland was made glad by Happy Place by Emily Henry. Rachel says: "Harriet and Wyn were each other's happy place until five months ago, when their years-long relationship suddenly, and secretly, ended. Now, at one last annual getaway with their four best friends, they have to grit their teeth and pretend everything's fine - and that they're not still madly in love with each other. This is Emily Henry at her most mature - capturing that real, enduring love that goes beyond the spark and the declarations, to the aches and pains of a life lived uncertainly, the façades we build to avoid causing a fuss. Harriet and Wyn broke my heart and then put it back together in that wonderfully bittersweet way that only a god-tier writer can achieve. It's a story to keep you up past your bed time, to make you cry, to make you say 'damn you Emily Henry' with not just love but gratitude in your heart."

Kay Wosewick has two recommendations for this week. First, Secret Life of the City by Hanna Bjørgaas. Kay says: "Bjørgaas's musings can serve as a rough guide to what to look for, and how to engage with, a variety of life in large cities. From trees, ants, soil, crows, pigeons and others, there is much to learn. Over the course of a year, Bjørgaas becomes less judgmental (pigeons!), more curious and exploratory, and decidedly wiser about nature in the city."

Next, Kay recommends Ascension by Nicholas Binge. Of this, Kay says: "Ascension glides so effortlessly you won’t realize you haven’t shifted in your chair for hours. It has tentacles in many genres - adventure, thriller, sci-fi, horror, psychology, philosophy, many sciences - plus fabulously eclectic characters. Stunning."

Finally, in the new-new books, here's Jenny Chou with a rec for a new YA novel, Star Splitter by Matthew Kirby. Jenny says: "Jessica Mathers has every right to be angry. First her parents abandoned her on earth for a research trip into outer space, and then, once she’s settled in with her grandmother and her friends, they insist she join them on their mission. Space travel in 2199 means using a 3-D printer to teleport across the universe. Before departure, a hard drive backs up memories for safekeeping in case the traveler's body is destroyed. When Jessica climbs out of the printer light years away from earth expecting to see her parents, she instead finds herself on a crashed ship on a bleak, seemingly abandoned planet. The truth behind what happened makes for a thrilling page-turner, but what I found really interesting was the way Star Splitter explores how life experiences can create wildly divergent emotional journeys. Because while illegal, it is possible to print two copies of the same person. The dual-narrative of dual Jessicas is brilliantly done here, and the wholly unexpected ending really packs an emotional punch. Teen readers will love the twisty plot, but don't miss out on this clever sci-fi just because you’re a grown-up!"

But it wouldn't be the staff rec blog without some paperback picks, would it? Nope. So here are some!

Daniel recommends Marrying the Ketchups by Jennifer Close, which gets a snazzy new cover in this paperback edition. Daniel says: "The Sullivans have run their family restaurant in Oak Park for three generations, but three unexpected occurrences send the family into disarray - the 2016 election, the Cubs World Series victory, and the sudden death of Bud, the family patriarch. Then there are the setbacks that should have been expected, given the ill-chosen life partners of the Sullivan third generation, Gretchen, Jane, and Teddy. The story is centered on them, two sisters and a cousin, with special appearances by Teddy’s younger half-sister Riley, as their lives spin out of control, sending them back to Sullivan’s. But family is not the best place to avoid drama. This first-rate fractured family free-for-all is Chicago-infused and food forward, from sandwich loafs to sliders. So glad I finally read a Jennifer Close novel - I can’t wait to read another!"

Daniel also recommends Search by Michelle Huneven. Of this, he says: "Restaurant reviewer Dana Potowski is asked to be on the committee to pick the new minister for her Unitarian Universalist congregation and decides to write a memoir about the experience, but how is she going to do that when she’s agreed to confidentiality? The committee, a varied lot of big personalities, seems to be on the same page regarding generalities, but when it comes to the specifics, conflicts arise, factions take hold, and Dana’s not exactly the only committee member keeping a few secrets.  If you had asked me for a shortlist of compelling plots for a novel, I would not have come up with this one, but I would have been dead wrong, and not just because whenever I describe it to someone, I often get the response: I would read that! Search is a wonderful novel filled with vibrant characters, essential philosophical questions (most notably, what do we want from life?), and a cornucopia of foodie delights."

No comments:

Post a Comment