Friday, June 30, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 27, 2023

Better late than never, right? A few days belated (though just in time for the weekend, so how about that, eh?) but nonetheless great, here are this week's recommendations from the Boswellians.

Let's begin with Jenny Chou and her write-up for The Rachel Incident by Caroline O'Donoghue. Jenny says: "Rachel is a college student, uncertain about love and friendship, and with a desperate need to be taken seriously. Her best friend is her bookstore coworker. He’s gay, which everyone around him seems to know, even in closeted 2009 Ireland. When a married English professor turns both their lives upside down, the results are messy and surprising, and the repercussions span years. The Irish setting makes the book feel timely in 2023 America regarding the social justice chaos we’re currently facing. How is it that Ireland has moved forward on issues like abortion and LGBTQ rights while we’re backtracking? The Rachel Incident is the laugh-out-loud, clever, and sometimes cringe-inducing book we all needed in our early twenties to let us know that life would have its ups and downs during that long slog to becoming a grownup, but we’d end up mostly okay."

Now it's Chris Lee who recommends Dead Eleven, the debut horror novel by Jimmy Juliano set on a mysterious island in Lake Michigan. Chris says: "Clifford Island is a fictional (or is it?) speck of land in Lake Michigan off the edge of Door County. And this place is very weird. When I moved to Milwaukee, I thought it was a little weird – just why were all these strangers being so, so very nice? And sure, Wisconsin lags a little behind the times now and then, but it’s nothing compared to Dead Eleven’s stuck-in-'94, technology-hostile inhabitants, living on an island that may or may not have some major demon problems. Visitors wish these people were just Wisconsin nice. Instead, when a man arrives looking for his missing sister, he gets threatened, run around, and finds himself smack in the middle of a plot to keep an ancient, world-disappearing evil at bay. Super weird stuff. In small-screen, high drama, lots-of-jump-cuts style, the book goes a bit all over the place as it tracks several stories – the brothers, the sisters, the lives of several islanders – all the way through to a die or save the world trying conclusion. Quirky, nostalgic summer fun."

Speaking of summer fun, come to Boswell for a fun event featuring Juliano on Friday, July 28, 6:30 pm. Click here to register and find out more.

Custard and Milwaukee and Bears, oh my! Jen Steele recommends How to Catch a Polar Bear, a new middle grade novel by Stacy DeKeyser. Jen's recommendation: "Stacy DeKeyser’s latest middle grade novel is inspired by a true event - a polar bear escape at the Milwaukee Zoo! Nick and his friends Ace & Penny have a busy summer ahead of them. Not only are they trying to solve the mystery of how a polar bear escaped, but they also have to contend with bullies, a summer job, a feisty monkey, and all the frozen custard you can eat. Simply delightful, treat yourself to How to Catch a Polar Bear (and some frozen custard) this summer!"

Paperback picks? Okay!

First up is Less is Lost by Andrew Sean Greer, recommended thusly by Daniel Goldin: "If you think you heard the last of Arthur Less, last seen in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning, around-the-world journey, you’re wrong. This time the writer in a pretty much continuous midlife crisis must navigate the United States as he is shaken by the death of an old lover, and despite a seemingly perfect current beau, Arthur takes a whole bunch more gigs, most of which do not go as planned, as he searches for some variation on inner fulfillment and maybe some acceptance from his dad. But sometimes it seems not everybody wants more Less. Greer is tops in capturing types and bringing them to glowing life, from his late lover’s widowed ex to the impulsive science fiction writer who demands Less interview him (but why?!). On top of that, Greer can make any situation funny, even German translation, and yet, through all the guffaws, there's a chunk of heart too."

How about a triple-rec?! That'd be Upgrade by Blake Crouch, which has laudatory words from Jason Kennedy, Kay Wosewick, and Jenny Chou. First, from Jason: "Logan Ramsey is attempting to live a life that makes up for his Mom's ultimate failure, which caused a massive famine and killed millions. Twenty years later, he is part of a government organization that hunts down scientists and others modifying DNA. On a mission to recover an illegal package which they think contains altered DNA of some form, Logan is caught in a bomb blast. The blast introduces a virus into his system that begins changing his DNA. Logan's life is about to turn upside down as he must flee from family and friends for their safety. Blake Crouch uses this novel as a platform to express our collective anxiety of the future of homo sapiens and Earth. The science is fascinating as always with his books, and the dire warnings are completely well researched and accurate. Another blast of a book from Blake Crouch."

From Jenny: "Not only is Upgrade a fast-paced thriller, but author Blake Crouch takes a deep dive into the science of DNA. Since I find our genetic code fascinating, I couldn’t put this novel down. Main character Logan answered for the catastrophic destruction unleashed on our planet by his scientist mother, and he served time in prison following her death. After his release, several decades in our future, he’s a detective investigating labs suspected of modifying DNA, which has become illegal. When a mysterious virus targets him specifically, he recovers to find he’s now an upgraded version of homo sapien, with increased strength and speed and the ability to recall everything he’s ever read and process new information instantly. Who did this to him and why? The answer seems to lie with his sister, who also received an upgrade. They’ve seemingly been handed the task of saving humanity from a decimated planet, but along with these skills comes an ability to think critically without letting emotion guide them. So much of this book is food for thought. Perhaps the biggest question of all: if saving our species means giving up what makes us distinctly human, is it worth the price?"

And take it home, Kay: "Crouch has outdone himself. Upgrade is masterful story about a tiny group of people illegally testing massive genetic alterations on a few people - without their knowledge. You’ll fly through this book, gaining insight into faults in our thinking, sensing the elation of having a perfect body, and perhaps vicariously feeling the power of thinking deeply about multiple complex subjects at once. The scope and depth of Crouch’s research is the engine that makes Upgrade feel vividly real."

That's it for the recommendations this week. Hope you can cram them all in for a great weekend of reading, and we'll be back next week, maybe even sort of on time, with more great books. Until then, read on.

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