Monday, February 5, 2024

Staff Recommendations, Week of February 6, 2024

Now that everyone has spent a full weekend of fun celebrating Groundhog Day (this is what everyone did this weekend, right?), it's time for some more reading. Here are the weekly recommendations, courtesy of the Boswellians.

Milwaukee hometown hero Nick Petrie returns to the shelves with the latest Peter Ash thriller, #8 in this most excellent series, The Price You Pay. Two Boswellians weigh in - first, Daniel Goldin: "I’m guessing when Nick Petrie talks to fans, a lot of them want to know when we’re going to read more about Lewis’s backstory. Well, here it is! Lewis’s former buddy Teddy has been living in the Northwoods, trying to achieve a normal life. But wouldn’t you know it, his therapist-lover blabs to another guy she’s sleeping with, and wouldn’t you know it, he has ties to a crime syndicate that knows that Teddy’s stories of the Ghost Killers, who are so legendary that there’s a quarter-million-dollar bounty on bringing the gang in alive. The Ghost Killers do indeed kill, but they have a code not unlike Dexter, the serial killer of serial killers – only the extreme baddies, only when necessary. This endangers the life not just of Lewis and the gang, but everyone they love, and that includes Peter Ash and June, once they decide to help out, which of course they do. This is one of the more brutal entries in the series, and though I consider myself to have a delicate stomach for these sorts of things, I couldn’t stop reading!"

And from Chris Lee: "Here’s something I love: a good, thriller-y crime novel with the speed, the swagger, and the vibes of a 90s action flick. Petrie does it right! The setup: reluctant solver-of-problems-that-no-one-else-can-solve Peter Ash and his best bud and (often literal but sometimes just metaphorical) partner in crime Lewis are trying to hunker down all quiet and warm with their families in their cozy Milwaukee neighborhood during a freezing Midwestern February. But when a crime syndicate threatens to air out Lewis’s dirty laundry from his ‘bad old days’ as the ringleader of the country’s former foremost crew of murderers-of-murderers, well, plans change. Houses explode. Computers are hacked. Doors are kicked in. The bullets (and knockout darts!) fly. Along the way, our heroes have to ask themselves some tough questions – does their moral code really make them different from the baddies they’re chasing? Can doing bad things for good reasons ever really be right, or are we perhaps just grasping for rationalizations? Here’s one thing that’s sure: Petrie’s books are best when he writes his heroes into lousy weather. There’s just something about that classic man vs the elements vs teams of hired killers story that Petrie has perfected. This one’s a high-tension page turner where the fists are flying fast as the ice and snow."

The blog posted a day early this week just so we can alert our faithful readers that Nick Petrie will be at Boswell for a special day-before-the-official-release-date celebration of The Price You Pay. The event is Monday, Feb. 5, 6:30 pm at Boswell. Click here to register at Petrie will be in conversation with Bill Schweigart, author of novels such as The Guilty One.

The next rec is from Kay Wosewick, who suggest you read The Women, the latest novel by Kristin Hannah. Kay says: "The Women is a gorgeous, intimate, long overdue ode to Vietnam’s women vets. Hannah’s hero eventually finds some peace, but many women did not return home or returned home too broken to live well. Thanks to Kristin, this novel will surely bring long-overdue recognition of and thankfulness for the brave women who served in Vietnam."

Next up, we go back to Chris for his take on the academic literary world send-up, Set for Life, the debut novel by Andrew Ewell. Chris writes: "His marriage, his friendships, his novel, his career, his ego – just how fast can one man sabotage them all? I want to give a copy of this to every writer I know. It’s at once a riotous sendup of academic creative writing culture and a sincere portrait of a writer bumbling his way toward something like honesty in his art and in his life. It’s a darn good book."

And now, another event book joins the fray, with recommendations from Daniel and Kathy Herbst. That would be The Road from Belhaven by Margo Livesey. Daniel says: "When Lizzie’s parents die and her grandparents take custody of her, it slowly becomes clear that she’s meant to inherit the family farm, with only a few complications. One, the boy she’s interested in has big-city plans. Two, Lizzie discovers she has an older sister. And three, Lizzie’s somewhat uncontrollable second sight predicts more complications. Yet despite not being able to control this gift, she can still make her own choices. Set in nineteenth century Scotland, Lizzie’s hardscrabble coming-of-age story is inspired by Livesey’s own grandmother. A compelling story, beautifully told (my favorite Livesey novel to date!), and likely appeal to fans of Claire Keegan and Jeannette Walls."

And Kathy adds: "Growing up on her grandparents' farm in 19th century Scotland, Lizzie is still a child when she begins having glimpses into the future. She doesn't see everything, and she has to accept the reality that she has no control over what she sees. The life she has known changes dramatically when a sister she didn't know she had comes to live on the farm, and Lizzie begins to question what she believed to be true about her family and what she kind of life she wants for herself. An absorbing story that takes us on a journey with Lizzie as she leaves the farm and moves to Glasgow to follow a young man she is in love with and to create a different life for herself. What happens to Lizzie, how her life evolves, and the sometimes difficult the choices she has to make are at the center of this heartfelt book. Written with compassion for a flawed but still engaging young woman."

Livesey joins us at Boswell for a conversation with Milwaukee author Liam Callanan on Wednesday, February 21, at 6:30 pm. Click here to register and more at

Finally, we wrap up the new book recommending by heading back to Kay for her words about Your Shadow Half Remains by Sunny Moraine. Kay says: "A brutal plague of sorts spreads rapidly - mere eye contact with someone immediately makes both enraged and deranged; usually they kill each other. Dead bodies are on the street, in homes, in stores - everywhere. Riley thinks she might be safe at her grandparents’ home in the country. She finds their messy remains, cleans up, and moves in. Living alone for an extended period of time is, well, not mentally healthy, especially on top of PSTD.  Enjoy a dose of quiet horror in a tiny package."

Now onto the picks in the paperback realm. We've got one book to recommend that's getting its second life as a softcover this week.

Jason Kennedy recommends Lone Women by Victor LaValle: "I can barely contain myself when a Victor LaValle book is announced, and Lone Women doesn't disappoint at all. Adelaide is running away from a horrifying situation in California; she treks to Montana with a secret and a big, locked trunk. Montana is a huge land with few people, and Adelaide hopes that she can hide her secret away, until the secret escapes to terrifying consequences. She meets people who aren't who they say they are and don't have her best interests at heart. Who can she trust? Does she really understand her burden that she has been saddled with? This brilliant historic, horror novel will bring questions like these into focus."

Those are the recs and we're sticking to 'em. Until next week, read on!

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