Monday, June 24, 2024

Staff Recommendations, Week of June 25, 2024

It's the first official recommendation blog of summer. Let's dive into some books.

First up, it's A Taste for More, a Milwaukee-set novel paperback original by Phyllis R Dixon that's recommended by Daniel Goldin, who says: "Margo left behind her Mississippi country past (and her daughter Lana, at least temporarily) for Milwaukee to find a better life. But with the big city comes big problems, and just about anything that could happen to Margo does – family feuds, racism, the riots, crime, double crossing, schemes gone awry, best friend fallouts, fires, and just about every kind of bad relationship you can have. She’s going to do anything she can to overcome the odds and make the Fourth Street Café a success, all for her daughter. But is it worth it? A Taste for More has some enjoyable if over-the-top plotting (everything but the evil twin), but at its heart, A Taste for More is a Black woman’s survival story. And it’s hard not to root for Margo!"

Here's Jason Kennedy with a rec for The Daughters' War, the latest from Christopher Buehlman (aka Christophe the Insultor). Jason says: "The story of Galva is one of loss. And of horrific brutality. Galva lands in a war-torn country that has been ravaged by Goblins and is on the brink of collapse. Since the Goblins have poisoned and rid the world of horses, Galva joins an experimental group that directs magically designed birds called Covids. They are crazy strong and frightening and are the brightest hope to stop a Goblin victory. As they trample and fight their way to breaking the sieges, Galva finds love, heartache, sorrow, and betrayal that bites right down to her core. Christopher Buehlman has added another amazing chapter in this brutal world. I am eagerly anticipating more to follow."

Now here's Kay Wosewick with Fire Escape: How Animals and Plants Survive Wildfires, a book written by Jessica Stremer, with illustrations by Michael Garland. Kay says: "This is a wonderful, comprehensive, brightly illustrated middle-grade dive into all aspects of wildfires, including types of wildfires, their impact on plants, animals and land, descriptions of firefighter jobs and firefighting techniques, prescribed burns, animal helpers (very fun), evolving theories about fire management, and more. There is a helpful glossary, extensive bibliography, and source notes. This is an impressive book. It’s the 9th in the series, with 4 more planned soon."

And it's Jen Steele now with Children of Anguish and Anarchy, the latest novel from Tomi Adeyemi, and the final book in the Legacy of Orïsha series. Jen says: "Zelie is up against a terrifying villain, a king obsessed with becoming a god. And he needs Zelie’s power to become one. With her brother and friends, along with new allies, can she defeat the king and save their homeland? Heart-pounding action, awesome world building, and emotional throughout, Adeyemi's finale in the Legend of Orisha trilogy was well worth the wait!"

And Jen wraps up our month of recommending (the new books, anyway) with The Yellow Bus, a new picture book written and illustrated by Loren Long. Jen says: "The Yellow Bus is a heartfelt picture book about, you guessed it, a yellow bus! I've never felt such emotion for a vehicle the way I do for this forgotten yellow bus. Loren Long delivers an absolutely heartwarming picture book with stunning artwork. At the back of the book, he explains how he got the idea for this book as well as how he created the artwork. A real treat!"

Last Minute Addition! From Jason Kennedy: Hey, Zoe, by Sarah Crossan. Jason says: "When Delores discovers a sex doll in her garage, it begins the decimation of her marriage. Why does he want it and not her? Zoe is the top-of-the-line sex doll crossed with ChapGPT. Zoe doesn't really factor into the ultimate ending of the story, except as a shoulder for Delores to rest her weary head and figure out what happened to her life. A very contemplative novel about relationships and how they are ciphered in a way that even the couples can't always see where they are and where they are going."

We've got a few paperback picks for you this week, too. The first comes from Jane Callanan, who recommends The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel. Jane says: "The Art Thief is definitely one of my favorite nonfictions I've ever read! Finkel's descriptions were so immersive and captivating that I genuinely could not put the book down. The story is complex and unique, and it ensures an informative read for all. Filled with some of the art world's most interesting stories, fascinating fun facts, and a high-risk heist, this book will keep you entertained and in awe!"

Jenny Chou recommends Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, the hit novel by Gabrielle Zevin. Jenny says: "Sadie Green lost her best friend, Sam, at age twelve. Did she betray him unforgivably, or was she just a kid caught up in a situation she didn’t know how to escape from? That question, and the concept of betrayal, haunt Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow. Seven years later, Sadie and Sam crash into each other's lives again as college students while standing on a train platform in Boston, and they seamlessly pick up a conversation as if it had never broken off. These are two people who finish each other's sentences. Roommates and partners drift along on the periphery of their lives while Sadie and Sam obsess over the thing that brought them together in the first place: video games. Both are creative geniuses, and the first game they design together propels them from obscurity to fame in the gaming community. The result is messy, at times hilarious, often heartbreaking, and never without emotions that feel so raw they almost bleed off the page. Ultimately, this is a book about connections, the ones we find, the ones we lose, and the ones that nearly do us in. I’m not a gamer (though they’d probably love this book), but it doesn’t matter. Gabrielle Zevin drew me into her world with her flair for telling a powerful story and her mesmerizing take on what it means to love."

Chris Lee recommends Dead Eleven, a Wisconsin-set horror novel by Jimmy Juliano that's perfect summer reading. Chris says: "Clifford Island is a fictional (or is it?) speck of land in Lake Michigan off the edge of Door County. And this place is very weird. When I moved to Milwaukee, I thought it was a little weird – just why were all these strangers being so, so very nice? And sure, Wisconsin lags a little behind the times now and then, but it’s nothing compared to Dead Eleven’s stuck-in-'94, technology-hostile inhabitants, living on an island that may or may not have some major demon problems. Visitors wish these people were just Wisconsin nice. Instead, when a man arrives looking for his missing sister, he gets threatened, run around, and finds himself smack in the middle of a plot to keep an ancient, world-disappearing evil at bay. Super weird stuff. In small-screen, high drama, lots-of-jump-cuts style, the book goes a bit all over the place as it tracks several stories – the brothers, the sisters, the lives of several islanders – all the way through to a die or save the world trying conclusion. Quirky, nostalgic summer fun."

Finally, here's Daniel Goldin for Wellness, the latest novel from Nathan Hill. Daniel says: "Jack Baker and Elizabeth Augustine are two people who meet in college in 1990s Wicker Park and fall in love. Thirty years later they are hoping to move with their son to a condo in a wealthy Chicago suburb. That’s a good story in and of itself. But Hill’s second novel, following The Nix, is also about parenting, religion, sex, real estate, Minecraft, placebos, art, controlled Prairie burns, bats, psychology, cleanses, coyotes, conspiracies, and class. Wellness asks the question: do our stories reflect our reality, or do they create said reality? And with all that to cover, 600 pages actually seems a little too short. I loved this novel."

Those are our recommendations of the week! Check back next week for more great books, and until then, read on.

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