Monday, September 11, 2023

Staff Recommendations, Week of September 12, 2023

Another week, another great bunch of books to add to the ol' to-read stack. Here are the recs.

Both Chris and Jason recommend Rouge, the latest novel from Bunny and All's Well author Mona Awad. First, from Chris: "Mona Awad's mesmerizing new novel is a dark fairy tale of grief, love, obsession, memory, and the shadows we find in the mirror. Of Tom Cruise, secret worlds, and skin care. Rouge asks this heart-rending question: how does a mother's love both protect and break someone? A gripping book about the ways we'll destroy ourselves for a dream (a nightmare) of beauty."

And Jason adds: "At the heart of this cerebral, hallucinogenic, and haunting new novel lies a relationship story of Mother and Daughter. And beauty and beauty products. Belle comes home to bury her mother, who accidentally fell into the ocean. It all begins innocently enough, but when Belle begins to pack up her mother's things, her mother's pair of red heels seem to guide her to an opulent, strange spa called Rouge. Trust in Mona Awad to take you on a bizarre, fairy-tale story that has seriously horrible things to say about the beauty industry. It’s also a wonderful story about miscommunications and missed moments between parent and child. Rouge never let me go - this is Mona Awad's best yet!"

Kay jumps into the recommeding pool next with Crossings: How Road Ecology is Shaping the Future of Our Planet by science writer Ben Goldfarb. Kay says: "I am so excited to discover a new (at least for me) subject in ecology/environmental studies: road ecology. Road ecology is the study of how life changes for plants and animals near roads and traffic. One of the biggest road ecology issues is all too familiar: roadkill. US drivers kill one million animals every day! Wow. Remedial action is uncommon. Of projects completed, many were initiated by individuals or small groups to fix massive, ongoing roadkill in a specific location. The design of overpasses and underpasses that successfully draw targeted animals across is surprisingly challenging, but there is progress. Other issues under this umbrella include noise and light pollution; excess heat generation; and runoff of salt, oil, exhaust, and other poisons. Road ecology is a young field, so it is rarely considered when new roads are planned. Since every major new road comes with thousands of other new roads built to and from it, road ecology must be incorporated into the planning process. Get involved when possible! A final note: one of the most environmentally impactful road ecology actions is to remove roads from national and state lands, especially forests. Every little unpaved road negatively affects the environment. Let’s get to work!"

Kathy now recommends a new short story collection, this one by Kate Atkinson, who is also author of Life After Life and Shrines of Gaiety. The book is Normal Rules Don't Apply, and of it Kathy says: "An imaginative and engaging book of short stories that are full of wit, humor, and unexpected connections. The characters and the situations they face are delightfully inventive, with spot on observations about human nature and relationships. Couldn't put it down, so I read one after another, though I usually pace myself with a book of short stories!"

Next, Jen recommends Godkiller, the first book of a new fantastical series by Hannah Kaner. Jen says: "This book gave me chills just from the prologue! Hannah Kaner has created a fantastical world full of wild gods, political intrigue, and danger around every corner. Can a godkiller, a knight, and a young noble girl with a god of white lies entwined within her soul work together, let alone trust each other? Godkiller is a captivating fantasy that will have you hooked from the start!"

And Daniel recommends a new board book by Elise Gravel called I'm Hungry. Daniel says: "Elise Gravel, beloved (at least by me) for her collection of message monster customizable postage stamps, also has a series of board books, a contemporary take on the classic Mr Men and Miss children’s books. In I’m Hungry, a monster eats a slice of pizza, followed by the plate, the pizza box, and more. That monster is hungry! Giggles aplenty, all the way to the surprise ending."

Onto the paperback picks. We'll stick with Daniel for his words for Lucy by the Sea, a novel by the one and only Elizabeth Strout. Daniel says: "Starting moments after the close of Oh William!, Elizabeth Strout’s latest finds Lucy Barton in lockdown with her first husband William in a small town in Maine. The joy of Lucy is in her astute observations; the peril is that her heightened sensitivity and sometimes passive nature can lead her into many a fraught relationship. I loved the way Strout showed that Lucy is a citizen of Strout’s Yoknapatawpha, with appearances not just by Bob Burgess, but also Olive Kitteridge’s aide at the assisted living center. Reading Lucy by the Sea recaptures every small memory of early COVID, from the panic about surfaces and the desire to escape urban environments to the eventual politicization of the virus, so beautifully that I was willing to relive them."

Oli Schmitz is next to sing the praises of Nona the Ninth. Oli says: "This third installment in The Locked Tomb series feels like the beginning of the end, with a story that had me under its thrall from beginning to end. Muir's humor and incredibly distinct character voices shine through as usual, but Nona is decidedly brighter than the previous two books' narrative styles. Even through Nona's sunny eyes, readers will see signs of a coming apocalypse around every turn: chaos and uncertainty surrounding her as she goes to school, pets a very good dog named Noodle, and plans a party. And just as pressing as the chaotic present is the unraveling of the past, chapters which I had to hold myself back from skipping to in order to find out how the path of humanity veered toward a future of Necromancers in space 10,000 years from now. Where many dystopian and sci-fi books fail when it comes to a “how we got here” storyline, Muir handles it as expertly as the character dynamics and truly, perfectly unhinged humor. Now is the perfect time to dive into The Locked Tomb series!"

And Chris Lee recommends the memoir Stay True by Hua Hsu, which was both one of Chris's top 5 books of last year and a Pulitzer Prize winner! Chris says: "This memoir is so many things: a time capsule of 90s America from a West Coast outsider, a dissection of friendship through lenses of philosophy and language theory, a lived account of Asian diaspora in America. It’s road trips, cigarette breaks, mixtapes, and late nights goofing off. It’s the tone of nostalgia from a Smashing Pumpkins song. It’s the core-deep impact a friend can have, and it’s the tragedy of an early, senseless, violent loss. This book tore me completely apart. For anyone who’s ever found a friend who let them find themselves, for anyone who’s ever lost a friend who took a chunk of you with them, this book is going to destroy you then put you back together again, a little wiser and a little more tender."

That's it for this week's recs. We'll catch you right back here next week with more books for your stack(s). Until then, read on.

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