Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of August 22, 2023

Welcome to another wonderful week of book recommendations from your friendly neighborhood Boswellians. Here are the books that we think you'll enjoy.

First, a book that actually came out last week but was originally slated to be released next week - at least that's what I wrote down when Jen originally wrote about it a couple months ago. So I'll split the difference and hit you with it today. Jen Steele recommends Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas. Jen says: "I loved this book! Isabel Cañas writes with such historical detail that it feels like you are right there with Nena and Néstor. Set in 1840s Mexico, Vampires of El Norte is powerful historical fiction with a supernatural twist! It’s a world of vaqueros and vampires, hacendados and healers, war and lost love. Put this novel at the top of your summer reading list."

We stick with Jen for our next rec, a middle-grade graphic novel called Barb and the Battle for Bailiwick by Dan Abdo and Jason Patterson. It's the third installment in the Barb the Last Berzerker series. And of if, Jen says: "Our favorite Zerk is back! It’s time for the big showdown between Barb and Witch Head. Will Barb prevail? Probably my favorite new middle grade graphic novel series. Full of action, humor, and lots of heart. Barb & Porkchop are the new dynamic duo!"

As for paperback picks, our first is a major favorite of the Boswellians - Lark Ascending by Silas House, a book that has four Boswellian recommendations. We love, love, love, love it! First, from Daniel Goldin: In the not-too-distant future, fires have ravaged much of the world, and America, like much of the world, has been taken over by extremists. Even the isolated Maine woods have become too dangerous. The only option is for Lark and his family to escape to Ireland, the only country still open to refugees. But during the harrowing voyage, not only does tragedy strike at every turn, but hopes for a peaceful resettlement are dashed. Can Lark, with the help of two newfound companions (one canine) find peace in the legendary settlement of Glendalough? I’m not generally a dystopian reader, but Lark Ascending’s beautiful language and imagery, combined with the emotional heft of the story, drew me in from the first paragraph."

Next, from Chris Lee, who picked Lark Ascending for his 2022 top 5: "If, like me, you have a less-than-sunny outlook on the prospect of avoiding simultaneous civil collapse and climate catastrophe in your lifetime, then you may find it counterintuitive when I tell you this novel of a young man running from the aftermath of those very events is the most comforting thing I’ve read all year. A dark book for dark times, Lark Ascending is, all the same, written so beautifully, full of honesty and compassion. In his old age, Lark recalls his harrowing journey to escape an America ruled by fundamentalist and swept by massive fires, sail across a stormy Atlantic, and trek across Ireland to a thin place that may offer sanctuary. House offers something necessary - hope that through all the violence, hatred, death, scarcity, and destruction of the impending collapse, a glimmer of humanity might remain."

We hosted House for an event for this book, but it wasn't one we recorded. But why don't we share with you this one, from our pals of Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis, who hosted House on the same tour?

Tim McCarthy chimes in: "It's Lark's clear voice that carries us through many terrifying moments. As an old man, he's asked to write the “whole particulars” of how he came to be in Ireland, starting with the ocean crossing after America became a war-torn, burning wasteland, and then looking further back to the way his family survived and escaped North America. They headed for the one place Lark’s parents thought they could be safe. All the while, he insists on living. There’s so much regret inside the grief, but ascend he does. And he has reasons: the people he loves who told him not to give up, and the sudden appearance of a dog. Protecting a dog is surely enough reason to live. Ascension defines the novel. The writing ascends to uncommon heights of beauty while affirming life as the refusal to submit, even when the desire to quit is relentless. Lark Ascending is brave in a way we desperately need, brave enough to see beauty through enormous pain. It’s also a warning. House makes us feel that this could easily happen to us, and soon."

And Kay Wosewick ties it all together: "Lark grows up as climate-driven wars pit gun-toting fanatics intent on complete control against loosely formed bands of resisters. While most of Lark's early life is spent idyllically at a distance, he is finally forced to travel a long distance through war zones. Lark recounts times of bliss and harrowing moments of horror with equally affecting and lovely prose."

Now we go back to Chris we go for another paperback release: Malice House Megan Shepherd. Chris says: "This is, to me, just the best kind of good, old-fashioned, 80s style (John Saul, anyone?) horror novel. So much fun. A not-very-successful artist (though quite talented horror flick summarizer [this is somehow her job, and yes, I am jealous]) inherits her famous-writer-father’s ramshackle oceanfront estate, complete with his collections of Pulitzer medals, books, booze, and maybe a few demons. Further ingredients include: a strange, secret manuscript, monsters that range from the near-comically warped (Pinchy the ankle-tendon-snapping blob from under the bed, anyone?) to the truly dark, sinister, and all-too-human varieties, and so, so many dark family secrets to be revealed. And Shepherd packs lots more into a book that veers from haunted-house creeper to small-town-power-struggle thriller to gothic-family-curse mind-blower, and she hits the best notes of each horror subgenre along the way. A perfect Halloween-season novel and/or beach read for cool weirdos."

Kathy Herbst recommends Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng. Kathy says: "Another well-written, emotionally moving book from Ng. This one weaving the stories of America's past, present, and, possibly, its future. 12 -year- old Bird searches for the mother who left him years ago in order to understand why she left and what connection she might have to a series of small acts of rebellion. Ng's novel encompasses grief as well as hope for an America living under an oppressive regime, ongoing police brutality, racial violence, and economic inequality."

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

No comments:

Post a Comment