Monday, May 1, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of May 2, 2023

Hello faithful readers. Once again, we have a selection of brand new books coming out this week that we have read and love and want you to enjoy, too. Let's get right to business.

Daniel Goldin is first with Paper Names by Susie Luo. Daniel says: "Two families, two economic trajectories, entwined by fate. Despite being a successful engineer in Dalian, Tony/Tongheng Zhang dreams of a better life in the United States, even after realizing that he’ll have to start over from the bottom. While working as a doorman in Manhattan, Tony bonds with Oliver, a young lawyer who lives in the building, who agrees to give Tony’s daughter Tammy piano lessons. The friendship winds up being a rung on the economic ladder from Flushing to Scarsdale; if only the worst thing they had to deal with was the uncomfortableness of a mentor relationship that veers into, how to put this? Tammy really likes playing Celine Dion songs. Like Tony, Oliver has also reinvented himself, distancing himself from his grandfather’s criminal past, but it might be difficult to outrun. I really liked the dual nature of the story – the multiple identities and reinvention, the parent/child expectations and disappointments. A captivating family drama!" 

Next up is Jason Kennedy for The Ferryman by Justin Cronin. Jason says: "Proctor is a Ferryman, an individual who helps citizens ‘retire’ to a mysterious island when their time comes. On the island, they become reborn as a younger version of themselves, ready to join the world anew. The first day we meet Proctor, he is called in to help his father ‘retire,’ and things pretty much go bonkers afterwards. Justin Cronin has crafted a strange world that has connections to our own (both historically and philosophically), but then he veers off into a dystopian/utopian world hidden behind leagues and leagues of brilliant blue ocean. This is by far my absolute favorite book by Cronin, from the surprises he unleashes, the trippy sequences that he lulls you into, to the frenetic, anxiety-driven ghost chases."

Does regular recommender Kay Wosewick have a book to add this week? No, she has two! First, it's Swamp Story by Dave Barry. Kay says: "Bad day? Pick up Swamp Story and it won’t take long before you start cracking up with laughter. Great medicine, great entertainment. Dave Barry needs to write more 'Florida Man' fiction; he’s a master."

Next, Kay suggests The Power of Trees: How Ancient Forests Can Save Us if We Let Them by Peter Wohlleben. Kay says of this book: "Wohlleben has taken off his gloves and has named the enemy: foresters, and associated players like government agencies, lumber companies, lobbyists, and the heavy machinery that kills soil for centuries (think of still-visible Roman roads). New, non-green careers for all (OK, that's my personal contribution). Next steps: 1) In unforested areas, plant pioneer species such as birch and aspen, which in time will shade and nurse the beech, oak, maple, etc. that will grow into ancient forests. 2) Leave existing forests to rehabilitate themselves as needed or to manage themselves if intact. 3) Pay forest owners for carbon they sequester; collect carbon tax for tree removal; find replacements for wood-based products. This is the third book 'save the forests' book I’ve recently read, but Wohlleben has nailed the solution in just a few strokes. FABULOUS!!!"

Let's go to Jen Steele next for her brief but pithy mention of Hula by Jasmin Iolani Hakes. Jen says: "A family saga set in Hilo, Hawai’i, Hula follows the women of the legendary Naupaka family. Narrated by a chorus, Hakes delivers a nuanced novel about family, home, and healing. A dynamic read!"

And now, over to Rachel Copeland for her take on Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros. Rachel says: "Violet Sorrengail comes from a family of military excellence, so when her mother forces her into the dragon rider program, she has no choice but to succeed or die trying. It doesn't help that the war college conscripts the children of rebels executed in the recent uprising, and her mother was the executioner. With fellow cadets looking for any opportunity to kill her and a body that breaks more easily than most, Violet has to rely on her wits to make it through the deadly program. And that's just the beginning! The thing with a new fantasy series is that you just have to dive in and trust that the writer knows what they're doing, and you're in good hands with Yarros. Hands down, this is one of the strongest openings to a fantasy series I've read in years. Violet is a character for us book nerds out there, one who makes you think it's possible to will your way into badassery through sheer determination, and honestly - we love to see it."

Tim McCarthy jumps in with his recommendation of the latest One and Only middle grade novel from Katherine Applegate, The One and Only Ruby. Tim says: "Just as delightful and touching as the first two books in this series, The One and Only Ruby is such a welcome continuation of the stories about Ivan and Bob. Applegate gives human voices to animals in a way that makes us laugh and cry, warms our hearts, and reveals a sense of truth about their lives. She teaches us, through them, about love and family and loss and hope and courage. The young elephant Ruby was born in Africa but lived with the gorilla Ivan and the small dog Bob at an American shopping mall zoo that degraded them for customer entertainment. Now they all have some dignity and safety in a park sanctuary, where Ruby is the littlest elephant, just getting her tusks as she navigates the responsibilities of growing up among her herd. Illustrator Patricia Castelao treats us to charming pictures that emphasize the body language of these beautiful creatures. The stories are based on true events, and Applegate offers us ways to help real elephants. This series is as unique and entertaining as children’s literature can be."

And in picture book recommendations, we have Jenny Chou for When You Can Swim, written and illustrated by Jack Wong. Jenny says: "My favorite vacation adventure took place off the coast of Hawaii, on a dolphin-watching cruise with my extended family of children, siblings, nieces, and nephews. Far from the shore we jumped into the ocean and dove down, down, experiencing the joy of swimming. When You Can Swim celebrates that feeling of confidence in the water, of holding your breath and opening your eyes to the wonder of oceans, lakes, and swimming pools. But it also celebrates learning to swim with a diverse group of kids and grownups and individual experiences with swimming. Readers will experience ‘a pond at dusk when the fish awaken,’ a sandy beach, and a flowing river along with the animals who inhabit the water and shorelines. The water welcomes all, spanning abilities from the wary to the confident. Beautiful illustrations and lovely prose make this a read-aloud to enjoy over and over. In a touching afterword, the author describes the changing attitudes towards swimming over the course of three generations of his family."

And those are the recs! We'll be back next week with more great books. Until then, read on.

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