Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Staff Recommendations, Week of January 16, 2023

A few suggestions of what to read this week from your friendly neighborhood Boswellians.

Daniel Goldin starts off our recommending this week with an upcoming event book - Amina Gautier's new collection of flash fiction entitled The Best That You Can Do: Stories. Daniel says: "Gautier, who is Professor of English at Marquette, has written three previous award-winning collections of stories. In her fourth, flash fiction pieces (generally two-to-three-page stories) are clustered together (as few as six and as many as 27) to form a powerful larger narrative. One of my favorites is 'Quarter Rican,' which focuses on a woman (and her children and grandchildren), who falls in love with and is then abandoned by her friend’s brother. Another is 'Caretaking' about a homebound woman, her caregiver, and the folks in the greater orbit. Her best stories can be simultaneously humorous, empathetic, and politically pointed - they play with time, place, and perspective, giving the larger narratives an almost three-dimensional quality."

Gautier's will visit Boswell for this book on Thursday, January 25, 6:30 pm. Click right here to register and find out more.

Next up, it's a classic double rec. Kay Wosewick and Jen Steele both suggest you check out The Fury, the new novel from Alex Michaelides. Kay says: "This locked-room thriller (OK, private island thriller) is filled with big personalities, hidden histories, theatrical behaviors, and, of course, a murder. The twists and turns are masterful and almost endless. Michaelides fried my brain again." 

And from Jen: "The Fury is a striking thriller with a cinematic, noir feel - definite Sunset Boulevard vibes. There's an unreliable narrator, a reclusive movie star, and a cast of characters full of secrets and motives. This was one novel I did not want to put down!"

And now, back to Daniel Goldin for another event book - last night's event, in fact (assuming you are reading this blog the day it's published)! The book is True North, the author is Andrew Graff, and the review is this: "It’s the early nineties and Sam Brecht has just bought his uncle’s rafting business in the Wisconsin Northwoods. But what he doesn’t know is that the town has some new slick competition, and on top of that, there’s talk of selling out what turns out to be sacred Native land to out-of-town miners. And what Sam hasn’t told his wife Swami is that his teaching job is on shaky ground – there’s no back-up plan. True North is an adventure novel that keeps you on the edge of your seat rooting for their marriage, their business, non-catastrophic runs, and the wilderness itself. I guess you’d call that quadruple excitement!"

While you may have missed out event with Andrew Graff, it doesn't mean it's gone forever - we recorded his conversation, and you can click the video icon below to watch him chat about this novel of whitewater adventure. Not a bad way to spend an hour on a cold day like today!

Now we go over to Jenny Chou for her write up of Emily Wilde's Map of the Otherlands by Heather Fawcett. Jenny says: "Book One in this delightful series about Emily Wilde, recently tenured professor of Faerie folklore, bookish introvert, quasher of pleasant conversation, and oh-so-clever heroine, made my list of Top Five Books of 2023, so imagine my excitement upon stumbling across (much as Emily Wilde is wont to) an advance copy of Book Two. Her life’s work of assembling an encyclopaedia with an entry on every species of the fae complete, she begins a new project: a map of the realms of Faerie. Meddling in her plans as always is the exiled Faerie king, Wendell Bambleby, who has not given up his hope of coaxing Emily to marry him. This time the meddling isn’t entirely his fault, as one cannot always prevent one’s own attempted murder. His stepmother's poisonous scheme leads Emily back to the Faerie realm in search of a remedy, armed only with her wits, an extensive knowledge of the fae, and Wendell's (un)helpful advice to find his cat. I adored this next installment of the Emily Wilde series for the romance, the witty sparring, and the cleverly built world readers will want to visit again and again. Book Three can’t get here soon enough."

We wrap up the new releases with Oli Schmitz and their recommendation of Most Ardently: A Pride and Prejudice Remix by Gabe Cole Novoa. Oli says: "Most Ardently is the queer and trans Pride and Prejudice retelling of my DREAMS, using the structure of the source text– a tale of moving from misunderstanding to growth and acceptance – to deliver an emotional and ultimately hopeful journey to trans joy. Novoa's new take on the classic Austen novel is beautifully done and engaging all the way through, with changes to the original plot and location (bringing the characters closer to London) that enable a strong connection to real queer history. I think contemporary readers will relate easily to Oliver Bennet, whose resolve to be seen as himself transcends his Regency-era London setting. Gabe Cole Novoa's contribution to the Remixed Classics series is a charming and accessible approach to a classic story, one that can resonate with readers regardless of their familiarity with Pride and Prejudice or their relationships to gender non-conformity. This is the sort of young adult novel that I desperately wish I'd had access to as a teen, and I'm so happy that it exists for readers today."

Over in the paperback department, we've got Kay Wosewick recommending The Dolphin House, a novel by Audrey Schulman. Kay writes: "The inspiration for Schulman's novel is a brief but groundbreaking study conducted on dolphins in the summer of 1965. A young woman is hired to feed four 'research' dolphins who live in a lagoon on St. Thomas. Having grown up around pigs and horses (intelligent animals), Cora is naturally curious. Unlike the scientists, she gets in the water, and is immediately struck by a fascinating variety of sounds. The dolphins flee to the farthest corner, so Cora pretends to be busy and ignores them. Perfect! The dolphins soon come to check her out, and so begins their friendship. In a very short time, Cora devises ways to communicate with the dolphins - a gigantic step in animal research at the time. Scientists and journalist from around the world come to St. Thomas, and soon the world knows that dolphins are highly intelligent creatures. Schulman's story is breathtaking, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, and a must-read for animal lovers."

This week also sees the anticipated paperback release of Horse by Geraldine Brooks. We've got recs from two Boswellians here. First, from Daniel Goldin: "Much like People of the Book chronicled the Sarajevo Haggadah through a contemporary rare books expert, Horse tells the story of Lexington, a legendary horse whose bloodline courses through many a prized thoroughbred, via the investigations of Jess, a White scientist at the Smithsonian bone lab, and Theo, a Black art historian who comes into possession of a once-lost painting. In telling the story of the groom Jarret Lewis, Brooks chronicles how slavery was entwined in the horse breeding and racing, benefitting stakeholders even if they didn’t own slaves themselves, and the legacy of racism that Theo endures. Brooks’s novels celebrate the untold stories that are in the margins of history; she’s done it again with Horse, and the fact that her late husband, beloved writer Tony Horwitz (Confederates in the Attic), helped her with the research, makes her latest novel even more poignant."

And from Tim McCarthy: "Horse is based on the life of a truly great American racehorse in the middle 1800s named Darley, who came to be known as Lexington. It's also the story of Lexington's glory being rediscovered many years later at the Smithsonian, by lovers of animals and paintings. The stallion's history is endearing, and through his courage and grace, Brooks reveals the nature of people and of America, on the brink of Civil War and as we live now. She’s adept at showing the beautiful Kentucky landscape, the personality of the horses, and the spectacle of racing in a society where whites casually own people. All this in stark contrast with the anguish and terror of being owned and used at the owner’s whim. It’s the enslaved young trainer Jarret’s close connection with the horse that fully exposes the single-minded profit motive for possessing them both. Jarret tells us that, in the end, it's only horses who are honest, and in the end a memorable story needs heart and strong characters. This novel has both, in human and equine form."

Tim also recommends Wise Hours: A Journey into the Wild and Secret World of Owls by Miriam Darlington and out in paperback today. Tim says: "When I really like a book, it's usually more about the writing and less about the topic or the themes. In Darlington’s case, the writing is both exciting and graceful, with a very personal touch, as she explains the mythology and symbolism attached to owls while celebrating their natural world. And I love the topic as well. I've been sharing the experience of seeing Great Horned Owls with a six-year-old child, as they nest in our neighborhood and hunt from our trees. His fascination exceeds even mine. Darlington’s fascination began when she and her son were suddenly face to face with a Great Grey Owl as it gripped its owner’s leather glove. That launched a need to write about owls, both wild and in remarkable domestic places. Then her son got very ill, but she decided to carry on and show us glimpses of her own inner world while writing about theirs. By setting out to find all the wild European owl species as she faced her greatest fear, she’s given us a loving tribute to the beauty and struggle of living, in owls and in the people dedicated to their well-being."

And those are the recs of note for this week. We'll see you again soon right back in this digital spot with more great reads for you to read about. Until then, read on.

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