Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 18, 2024

A few picks for your book pile, courtesy of the Boswellians. Here we go.

First up is Sandwich, the new novel from Catherine Newman. It's her follow-up to We All Want Impossible Things. The new novel comes recommended by Daniel Goldin and Chris Lee. First, from Daniel: "One family, one week – that’s the setup for Catherine Newman’s big-hearted brainy beach read. For those of us in the Midwest, I probably need to note that Sandwich is a town on Cape Cod. And Rocky, the heroine, is classic sandwich generation, dealing with her newly adult children, her newly fragile parents, a newly uncontrollably menopausal body, and a whole mess of secrets. Sometimes I find first person narratives claustrophobic, but Rocky’s voice is captivating, alternatingly funny, sad, angry, frustrated, and ten other adjectives you can discover yourself when you read Sandwich."

And from Chris: "Angry, heartbroken, joyous, scarred, melancholic, rueful, bursting with rage and so, so, so full of love. If any narrator has ever reached down their own throat and pulled themselves inside out onto the page, then surely Catherine Newman’s Rocky. On a week’s vacation to their favorite cramped and humble Cape Cod rental cottage, Rocky and her family clog toilets and spill secrets. Salt water clarifies, and Newman captures exactly how a simple, good, old-fashioned beach trip can recalibrate the rest of your life. Sharply written, with a piercing, observant eye, this is a beautiful book."

And we stick with Daniel for the next recommendation, which is the new novel from The Most Fun We Ever Had author Claire Lombardo. The book is Same as It Ever Was, and the rec is this: "A chance encounter with an old neighbor and failed friendship leads to memories of that fateful time, derailing Julia Ames’s carefully controlled life in the time leading up to her daughter heading off to college and her son’s marriage. Quandaries come at Julia like Whac-A-Mole, and while it doesn’t quite seem fair, it’s also hard to completely excuse Julia from some of the troubles - you might have to forgive her more than once before you get through Same As It Ever Was. But I think in the end, readers, like me, will be cheering her on, in this compelling and emotionally satisfying coming of (middle) age novel."

And now it's over to Rachel Copeland for The Runes of Engagement, a new fantasy novel by Tobias Buckell and Dave Klecha. Rachel says: "When rifts opened and spilled out orcs and trolls, suddenly the military organizations that were tasked with keeping monsters at bay needed the expertise of the Tolkien-reading, Dungeons & Dragons-playing crowd. When one platoon of Marines is tasked with retrieving a VIP (Very Important Princess) who could help broker peace, the task becomes increasingly difficult as resources are lost and the team must rely on fictional knowledge for real (or unreal) world problems. As a lifelong fan of both nerdy pursuits and action movies, Runes of Engagement is exactly what I didn't know I needed! The Marines are a fun mix of jarhead and scholar (sometimes both in one), and the various characters they encounter - an artsy troll, a mysterious ranger, a suspiciously helpful child who attracts danger - are absolutely the kind of characters I hope to encounter every time I play D&D. I hope we see more from Klecha and Buckell!"

We've got a few paperback picks coming your way this week, too! First up is The Memory of Animals, a novel by Claire Fuller that comes recommended by Jason Kennedy and Kathy Herbst. First, from Jason: "Claire Fuller gave me PTSD at the very outset of this book as Neffy went into a vaccine trial to combat a pandemic. When virus mutates rapidly (cue more PTSD), and Neffy wakes up from fighting off the virus with the experimental vaccine, the world is gone. But there are other people trapped with her in the medical building, and this is the heart of the story: how they relate to and end up relying on one and other. It's a novel about the human condition during a crisis, but Claire Fuller also looks at the trip Neffy took to get to this point. The future is a frightening place, but we can't live in the past."

And from Kathy: "A mesmerizing book that, in our COVID world, hits uncomfortably close to home. Set in London during a deadly pandemic for which the world is unprepared, Neffy, a disgraced marine biologist, has volunteered for an experimental vaccine trial. When the staff and most of the other volunteers flee the hospital, Neffy is one of five remaining and the only one of the five who received the vaccine. Cut off from society and left to fend for themselves, these strangers are forced to rely on each other to survive. In part a meditation on choices made in order to survive, this is also very much Neffy's story, with chapters dedicated to her life as a marine biologist, her fascination with octopuses, and her complicated family relationships."

We hosted a fun event with Fuller at the store when this novel was originally released in hardcover, and she had a great conversation with Boswellian Jenny Chou. Click the image below this sentence to watch the video recording of that event.

And now we go to Kay Wosewick for a couple of her picks. First, she recommends George: A Magpie Memoir by Frieda Hughes. Kay says: "A nest destroyed by a storm leaves a tiny magpie stranded in Frieda’s garden. How difficult can it be to take care of a little bird until it can live on its own? Frieda decides to find out. Well, it’s very messy, and it takes a surprising amount of time. It adds another level of stress to Frieda’s already fragile marriage, especially as George grows more demanding by the day. George veered Frieda’s life in a new direction. Note: Sylvia Plath fans might find this book of special interest because Frieda Hughes is her daughter."

Kay also suggests Many Things Under a Rock: The Mysteries of Octopuses, written by David Scheel, with illustrations by Laurel "Yoyo" Scheel. Kay says: "This intimate portrayal of octopuses’ daily life is based on 25 years of diving in coastal Alaskan waters. Octopuses spend much of their time privately observing the neighborhood from a safe, hidden home, often under a rock. Hunting and eating habits, mating, predator avoidance, and interactions with other octopuses are described. While most books about octopuses focus on their intelligence, this is the first book I’ve found that paints a full picture of how octopuses live - and die - in the wild."

And those are the recs! Check this space next week for more great book selections from the Boswellians, and until then, read on.

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