Staff Picks 2019 February

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Ghost WallGhost Wall: A Novel by Sarah Moss. With an intro like a gut punch, Moss quietly guides you through the agonizing inner world of familial abuse with gentle, trembling hands. The dread and subtle tension that crescendos throughout is muted at first, but like a ringing in the ear, it soon becomes all you can hear. This is a warped story of historical reenactment, ancestral obsession gone too far, and the bonds of self-discovery that form under strain, ritual, and overbearance. ~ Joe Michon-Huneau
The War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul from the Revolution to the Civil WarThe War Before the War: Fugitive Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul from the Revolution to the Civil War by Andrew Delbanco. Slaves fleeing their Southern masters before the Civil War were fugitives. Their fates depended on the doggedness of their pursuers, and their varying reception in the North. Delbanco reveals how fugitive slaves helped push the country into a war which, ultimately, freed those on the run. ~ Mike Hare
The Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' RollThe Birth of Loud: Leo Fender, Les Paul, and the Guitar-Pioneering Rivalry That Shaped Rock 'n' Roll by Ian S. Port. This is so much more than just another history of the birth of the electric guitar. Port's masterwork covers it all, not just the minutiae of the cultural influences, technical innovations and inventors’ personal lives/travails/aspirations, but even more entertainingly, his research strikes countless rich pockets of tasty anecdotes in the fertile young soil of rock and roll's formative years and the myriad Gods who shaped it. Dick Dale, The Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, The Beatles, Hendrix and more and, of course, the unstoppable creative forces that were Leo Fender and Les Paul. An overflowing gold mine of amplified, electrified, rock and roll treasure awaits here. Highly recommended! ~ Jon Fine
Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout HistoryLady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History by Tori Teller. The Green River Killer, the Son of Sam, the Boston Strangler, Ted Bundy, Jack the Ripper. For too long the list of Epic Villains has been dominated by men. Lizzie Borden, after all, can only be credited with two murders and a good lawyer. This fascinating exposé offers a compelling argument that the female sex can be every bit as lethal as its male counterpart. The overriding message seems to be that, if you have any suspicions at all about the woman who is offering you a brownie, feed a bit of it to the dog before you take a bite. ~ Alden Graves
The White DarknessThe White Darkness by David Grann. Picture the obsessed Antarctic explorer Henry Worsley alone, sustaining himself on melted snow and the dried and canned food he’s dragged behind him on a threehundred- plus pound sled, avoiding pitfalls both figurative and literal. This slim, photo-filled volume of Antarctic exploration is, paradoxically, a perfect winter read. Relativity is key: vicariously experiencing Worsley stubbornly battling through winds reaching fifty mph and temperatures that hover around the negative thirty degree mark, eking out warmth from within canvas walls and layers of sweaty wool will make your drafty living quarters seem downright balmy in comparison. ~ Joe Michon-Huneau
The Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary FilmThe Wild Bunch: Sam Peckinpah, a Revolution in Hollywood, and the Making of a Legendary Film by W. K. Stratton. A meticulously researched history of the western film that is now ranked with “Shane” and “The Searchers.” Much of the book’s focus is on Sam Peckinpah, the movie’s visionary, eccentric director. It was a labor of love that had been incubating in Peckinpah’s mind for many years and, after the disaster of “Major Dundee,” his professional future rested upon its success. Much to the displeasure of Warner Brothers, he insisted upon assembling his own crew and hiring a cast of actors who, with the exception of William Holden, were not box-office draws. A fascinating look at the evolution of a landmark film and its brilliant creator. ~ Alden Graves
Hey, KiddoHey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Krosoczka is a writerillustrator best known for his popular kids series Lunch Lady and Platypus Police. His graphic memoir, however, is a powerful story that will appeal to all ages. At a young age Krosoczka was abandoned by his heroin-addicted mother, leaving his ornery grandparents to pick up the slack. He grows up amid an atmosphere of cigarette smoke, casual barbs, and endless cocktails, all the while seeking to express the turmoil of emotions inside. What could be bitter is sweetened by Krosoczka’s adult understanding of the family tensions that produced his situation and the delightful art that proves to be his liberation. Great stuff. ~ Charles Bottomley
The Cold Is in Her BonesThe Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale. Inspired by the myth of Medusa, this reads like a dark and twisted fairy tale. Chafing against the conformities of femininity and the confines of her family’s farm, Milla longs for more. Her daily life is comprised only of her parents, her brother, two neighbors, and the ever-present fear of demons, who are possessing the village girls. This beautifully written, timeless tale explores themes of vengeance and otherness through the lens of a small country village afflicted by demons and, worse yet, the people who created them. ~ Hanna Yost
The Last Romantics: A NovelThe Last Romantics: A Novel by Tara Conklin. An engrossing story of three siblings and their emotionally detached mother after the death of their father causes the children to quickly grow up. Each sibling’s unique and conflicting personal values will keep you intrigued as their lives progress from elementary school and throughout the rest of their lives. ~ Laura Knapp
Where Reasons End: A NovelWhere Reasons End: A Novel by Yiyun Li. A woman converses with her deceased son in a series of personal, philosophic musings and nostalgic reminiscences as she tends to her grief. Their banter is whimsical, and her pain is like a neutron star after a supernova. But—as her son explains—"perhaps there is no true togetherness when some pains remain incomprehensible." ~ Alex Bell
You Know You Want This: "Cat Person" and Other StoriesYou Know You Want This: "Cat Person" and Other Stories by Kristen Roupenian. You think you’ve got this down: relationships, roles, rules, when you sense a pinprick, a puncture, and, suddenly, a punch. You’re bruised and winded, you try to make it right, but you’re faltering, and a voice in your head says you know you want this. ~ Mike Hare
Foundryside: A Novel (The Founders Trilogy #1)Foundryside: A Novel (The Founders Trilogy #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett. From the author of City of Stairs comes another fun, imaginative fantasy with its own fascinating magic-tech system that powers the industrial city of Tevanne. Amongst the squalor of the city’s poor lives Sancia, a young thief about to make her biggest score…or so she believes. Magic, industrial espionage and ancient history combine to make this a great start for Bennett’s new series. ~ Ben Parker
The Girls at 17 Swann Street: A NovelThe Girls at 17 Swann Street: A Novel by Yara Zgheib. Anna arrived at 17 Swann Street as her last resort. Faced with an eating disorder, she meets other woman with similar illnesses who, like Anna, are working toward their recoveries. This story is powerful and at times heartbreaking. Beautifully written and full of determination, strength, and honesty, this is a must-read by a very talented author. ~ Suzanne Rice
Fox 8: A StoryFox 8: A Story by George Saunders. A simple, heartfelt plea for human kindness, written by a fox whose tenuous grasp of the English language has tragicomic results. ~ Joe Michon-Huneau
Golden Child: A NovelGolden Child: A Novel by Claire Adam. Adam's debut novel is an exploration of a family's inner turmoil when dealing with their twin boys who could not be less alike in terms of their intelligence and demeanors. This novel will keep you guessing as one of the teenage boys goes missing after a robbery occurs in their rural Caribbean town. Adam's style of writing paints a fascinating picture of one family's stressful experiences in Trinidad and Tobago. ~ Laura Knapp
The Au PairThe Au Pair by Emma Rous. Set in a small village on the English coast, this is a great contemporary Gothic-style tale that will keep you guessing. Ever since Seraphine and her twin brother were young, rumors and whispers have flown around the village about their mysterious origins. The story has a sinister undertone as Seraphine starts to probe for answers about her true parentage. Anonymous threats, illicit affairs, and tales of sprites and changelings make this a real page-turner - great for curling up by the fire on a cold day! ~ Ashley Castle
WandererWanderer by Sarah Léon. A lean piece of subtle romance and creative ambition lost somewhere in the past that becomes resurrected in the winter snow when a piano prodigy returns to visit his mentor to tell him he has given up music. Léon’s tale is a chamber drama mixed with frequent linear flashbacks that moves the story at a brisk pace. A strong debut from an up-andcoming storyteller. ~ Alex Bell
Milkman: A NovelMilkman: A Novel by Anna Burns. In an unnamed country at an unmentioned time, a young woman struggles with life in a rigid sectarian society where even an emblem on a foreign car can bring down the wrath of the state upon the offender. This is a fiercely original book, darkly reminiscent of Orwell and Swift. Its complexity may occasionally be challenging, but the author, through the unfiltered thoughts and observations of her central character, provides some hope to the reader that an undaunted spirit can never be completely conquered by time, place, or circumstance. ~ Alden Graves
The Wolf in the WhaleThe Wolf in the Whale by Jordanna Max Brodsky. This novel is a truly mystical read, full of traditions, myth and spirituality and entwined with Viking lore and history. This is a marvelous tale of warring gods, heroes, and shapeshifters based on an ancient Inuit myth and Icelandic sagas. It is perfect for a snowy day. ~ Maeve Noonan
Catch-22: 50th Anniversary EditionCatch-22: 50th Anniversary Edition by Joseph Heller. A blackly humorous, scathing indictment of war in all its nonsensical iterations. Follow the haphazardly desperate U.S. bombardier Yossarian and a mishmash of his eccentric compatriots in their Mediterranean misadventures amidst the absurdities of the Second World War. Heller’s classic narrative jumps around in time, replaying events from different perspectives for comedic and tragic effect. Alternately hilarious, bizarre, and deathly heavy. ~ Joe Michon-Huneau
The Name of the RoseThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. A cryptic, highly literary murder mystery set in an Italian monastery in the early 1300s. Narrated by a Benedictine novice tailing his master, an ingenious Franciscan friar sent on a mission of papal mediation, the duo become the de facto sleuths in solving a series of murders which seem to mirror the signifying events corresponding with the apocalyptic Seven Trumpets in the Book of Revelations. Inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle and Jorge Luis Borges alike, this tale of secrets and intrigue features religious and political controversy, forbidden manuscripts, and a dangerous, labyrinthine library. ~ Joe Michon-Huneau