Sunday, June 18, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 20, 2023

Five newly released books get the staff recommendation treatment this week, plus a few paperback picks for you as well. 

First up, Jen Steele recommends Lucky Red, the debut novel from Claudia Cravens. Jen says: "Set in Dodge City in the late 1800s, a young woman is caught up in other people's expectations and wants. But what does Bridget want, and how will she make it happen? Lucky Red is about carving your own way in a world that wants to keep you under its thumb. A thrilling western full of grit, passion, and whiskey!"

Next it's Chris Lee and his write-up of Adult Drama: And Other Essays by Natalie Beach. Chris says: "The hook of the book is Beach’s viral essay about that Instascammer, though trying to explain Beach (or anyone, really) by their viral moment is something like painting a portrait from a pinhole projector’s shadow. Fortunately, (to strain a metaphor) Beach fleshes out her self-portrait with aplomb into a charming chronicle of a millennial writer’s becoming. First of all, she’s just plain good at writing – totally open yet never guileless or naïve. And I love how each essay is so much of its place in time, yet also dips into history and culture to understand how the world got to those moments. Plus, how great is it to read about someone who seems to actually enjoy work and writes about it in ways so much fresher and more interesting than just the old ‘oof, day jobs, amiright?’ With wit and perspective, Beach’s essays cram together the pleasures and horrors and tedious in-betweens of life as she figures out that she was the star writer all along."

Kay  Wosewick is up next, and she recommends a new graphic novel entitled Night Fever, written by Ed Brubaker and illustrated by Sean Phillips and Jacob Phillips. Kay keeps it short and sweet this time: "Dark, Kafkaesque, haunting. The illustrations perfectly capture the story’s shifting moods."

Oli Schmitz jumps into the fray with the latest installment of Juno Dawson's Her Royal Majesty's Coven trilogy. Book number two is titled The Shadow Cabinet, and of it, Oli says: "In this thrilling sequel to Her Majesty's Royal Coven, Dawson builds on the characters and events of book one, masterfully managing multiple perspectives and complicating some of the characters we thought we understood. As secrets are unraveled and elements of the Coven's history - and narrators' pasts - come to light, the story flows naturally between moments of fear, joy, confusion, and love. The sequel stands out for its emotional range, nuanced characters, and page-turning plot. I can't say more without spoiling book one, but if you're looking for a summer series to whisk you away, the release of The Shadow Cabinet is a great excuse to dive in!"

Guess what! Juno Dawson is visiting Milwaukee this week, so if you're reading this blog before 5:30 on Friday, June 23, 2023, there's still time for you to get down to the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center. More info and registration here.

And we wrap up the recommending with Daniel Goldin, who has a couple of kids books to suggest. The first is a new middle grade novel by Caroline Hickey called Ginny Off the Map. Daniel says: "When Ginny’s family is transferred by the military from North Carolina to Maryland, things are hard enough. But things do get worse – her father has been deployed to Afghanistan. It’s so hard for Ginny to make new friends – her obsession with geography is hardly infectious, and she just can’t be outgoing like her sister Allie. Will Ginny even survive the summer? I really liked how Ginny slowly learned to empathize with others while still being herself.  And yes, the story is also packed with fascinating facts."

Daniel also recommends Wombat by author / illustrator Philip Bunting. This book actually came out last week, but I wanted to be sure to include it on the blog, so here it is now. Daniel says: "Counting, shapes, colors, rhyme - no concept is out of reach for Philip Bunting’s simple but expressive wombats. You can only imagine the fun a kid would have reading this book out loud - every word or phrase sounds funnier when it ends in b-a-t. And while it’s true that wombats are an Australian thing, this could be just the book to help wombats overtake kangaroos and koalas as world’s favorite marsupial."

Now we move on to books getting their second life as softcovers this week. Oli Schmitz recommends Joan: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Katherine J Chen. Oli says: "Chen's take on the life of Joan of Arc richly imagines a complicated young woman behind the legendary historical figure; not the martyr or the saint, but the girl who lived. Reading this felt like being at Joan's side, let in on her perspective and motives as she makes her way from a childhood of survival-mode to the height of French military leadership, growing into the formidable warrior we remember. I especially appreciated Joan's voice and inner thoughts, delivered in such a way that she read like a real person. This may be my favorite retelling of Joan of Arc's story!"

Ottessa Moshfegh's Lapvona gets a recommendation from Chris Lee, who says: "Moshfegh is the modern bard of violence and delusion, and Lapvona lies somewhere in the territory between lost books of the Bible and Shakespearian tragedy. In a medieval fiefdom struck by drought and ruled by superstition, a demented power struggle plays out between a bitter shepherd, his deformed but pious son, an ignorant priest, a blind, witchy midwife, and a heretical, frail lord. Is there a wolf among them, or are they all sheep for slaughter? Captivating and brutal, this is a heady novel of ideas that will grab you hard and shake away any scraps of complacency you might have left."

This one is on Parker Jensen's rec shelf, too!

And those are the recs. Here's to another great week of reading for you and recommending for us. Until next time, read on.

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