Monday, March 20, 2017

Big event splash: Patty Yumi Cottrell tonight, plus Renée Rosen with Osher, Dan Egan at Schlitz, Theresa Caputo signing info, Boris Fishman preview, and more

What's up with Boswell this week? Also please note that Boswell may not be open to the general public until after our event with Theresa Caputo on Saturday, March 25.

Monday, March 20, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace.

I first met Patty Yumi Cottrell... Strike that. I first got to recognize Patty Yumi Cottrell as a barista at Colectivo, though I think it was still Alterra then. But it was when she was browsing in the bookstore that we first chatted. I love that when you spot someone in a different context, it gives you license to say hello. "Don't I know you from...?"

It was kind of thrilling when I got to know Cottrell in another context, through her first published novel. And what a novel it is. Sorry to Disrupt the Peace was published last week by McSweeneys, and even before publication it was a book to look out for from Buzzfeed. Publishers Weekly gave it a starred review and called the novel "stellar."

Here's my rec: "When Helen Moran hears that her brother has died at his own hand, she leaves her social services job in New York to come home to her family. But it’s not that easy. Helen hasn’t been home in close to five years and has a fractured relationship with her adoptive parents, and now she’s determined to figure out exactly why her brother (they are both Korean but not blood siblings) pulled the trigger. She may call herself Sister Reliable, but Helen is anything but, especially as a narrator. Hypersensitive to details, Helen is unable to connect the dots, and the continuous misses create a powerfully hypnotic narrative of estrangement." (Daniel Goldin)

McSweeneys is a well-respected publisher but it doesn't have the heft of a Knopf or Riverhead that can get all the major book reviewers to feature a key title on pub week. I think you'll be seeing stellar reviews of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, but many will be well after our event. And then you'll say, "Oh, yeah, Daniel told me to go to see that author." And then I hope you'll say, "Why don't I listen to him more often?"

Patty Yumi Cottrell, now a certified Los Angeleno, has had work appear in Bomb, Gulf Coast, and Black Warrior Review. And yes, we're serving Colectivo Coffee at this event.

Tuesday, March 21, 1:00 pm, at Boswell:
Renée Rosen, author of Windy City Blues.

I first remember hearing about Renee Rosen at a rep night (that thing we do that sometimes makes the store close early, as happened on Sunday).  Our Macmillan rep Anne was telling us about a YA novel she really liked, called Every Crooked Pot.

Much like many adult novelists turn to YA, Rosen's second work was historical fiction, set in the world of the Chicago Mob. Dollface came out in 2013 and once again we had a sales rep singing its praises. But it wasn't until Ms. Rosen tackled my sweet spot, department stores, that my head was turned. What the Lady Wants, a novel about Marshall Field and his unusual family life, wound up getting multiple reads at Boswell, and went on to be a big hit. This was followed up by White Collar Girl, which we cosponsored at the Lynden Sculpture Garden.

For her newest novel, Windy City Blues, we teamed up with the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UWM. What I knew is that Rosen always has a great program that shows how she drew from real life events to create her historical fiction. And I know Osher attendees well enough to know that they would love her presentation. And they love daytime events. And we find that we can get a lot of Chicago authors to Milwaukee if we have them take the Hiawatha train up. The only problem is that they can't get back the same night. The only late return train is on Saturday, when we don't host many authors at night. (Note: as I say that, I noticed that we have at least four upcoming Saturday night events. Go figure!)

Yes I read this too! My rec noted that "the story not only weaves in Chicago music history but the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in Chicago. I recommend it as a compelling story with appealing characters and lots of historical detail."  As I noted above, this event is cosponsored by UWM's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The event is free. Let us know if you want more weekday afternoon events.

Wednesday, March 22, 7 pm, at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, 1111 E Brown Deer Rd:
Dan Egan, author of The Death and Life of the Great Lakes.

Congratulations to Dan Egan, who had the bestselling book in the Milwaukee metro his first week of sale, according to Bookscan. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes is also getting great reviews, including yesterday's rave from John Hildebrand in the Journal Sentinel: "In his marvelous new book "The Death and Life of the Great Lakes," Dan Egan shows the lakes as a single ecosystem in which we are the keystone species, the one with the heaviest footprint, the scariest thing around. That’s quite a charge considering the cast of grotesques to enter the Great Lakes in the past century — sea lamprey, toad-faced round goby, zebra and quagga mussels, bighead carp — except that we, inadvertently, let them through the door."

The book is going to continue to get attention around the country, as Egan promotes the book at appearances. I was randomly searching for interesting stories and learned that Egan will be appearing in Cleveland in June, and then noted that Suzanne DeGaetano at Mac's Books included it as one of the books to look out for this year in a Cleveland Plain Dealer article. I guess it's not surprising that Great Lakes cities are jumping on this first--here's a great review from Eva Holland in The Globe and Mail, Canada's Toronto-based national newspaper.

Egan will be appearing at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center to discuss the book on Wednesday. Admission is free with your Schlitz Audubon membership or admission to the grounds ($8 adults). While the grounds normally close at 5, there will be a Great Lakes hike starting at 6 pm.

Saturday, March 25, 11:30 am, at Boswell:
A ticketed signing with TLC's "Long Island Medium," Theresa Caputo, author of Good Grief: Heal Your Soul, Honor Your Loved Ones, and Learn to Live Again

Here's what you need to know.

1. Tickets are $25.99, plus taxes and fees.

2. You get a signed copy of Good Grief and a photo with Theresa.

3 There is no personalization or inscriptions, no signing of backlist, no books from home.

4. There is no presentation. The program is at the Riverside Theater. Click here to buy tickets to Theresa Caputo Live! The Experience.

5. Can someone wait in line with you? Yes, even if we close the doors to the general public, we will allow one companion to wait with you.

6. You can bring a gift for Theresa. It must be unwrapped or in clear plastic.

7. There are no readings. You can apply to be on the reading waiting list here.

Monday, March 27, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Boris Fishman, author of Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo, in conversation with Joel Berkowitz

Joel Berkowitz, director of the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM is one of my favorite partners to work with and not just because his events always bring a good crowd of enthusiastic attendees. No, it's also because he is a passionate about fiction in a way that makes a bookseller's heart glow. His enthusiasm is also addictive, and I couldn't help but read Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo once we had the event in place.

Let me explain this one: "In Fishman's second novel, Alex and Maya are two Eastern European Jewish immigrants, one who came over from the former Soviet Union as a child, the other an adult exchange student who left the Ukraine as an adult. As they are not able to conceive children and decide to adopt. Only the Montana-born child they adopted is now, at eight, sort of going feral, running away to hide in streams and forests. And so they decide to head back to the birth parents to try to figure out what's going on. It's a very different take on an immigrant story and cultural identity, as well as a road novel, and at least for Maya, a tale of midlife awakening. It's one of those books that alternately caresses, tickles, and occasionally punches you."(Daniel Goldin)

Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo has won raves from Steven G. Kellman at the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote that "his second novel is a fresh, unpredictable departure from his first. Max may or may not do rodeo, but from now on expect Boris Fishman to do anything." And Cathleen Schine in The New York Times Book Review wrote: "Don’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo is a novel about finding the right words for what was once foreign but is no longer. It is suffused with sadness as well as humor, with hope as well as weary despair, and Fishman describes the turmoil of family, parenthood and cultural emotion with urgent, sly detachment. His language has the originality and imagination of someone who comes to English with unexpected thoughts and rhythms in his head, and he is, simply, a joy to read."

This event is sponsored by the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM, where he is also a Professor of Foreign Languages and Literature.

There are a few other events this week where Boswell is selling books.

Friday, March 24, 4 pm, at Marquette's Cudahy Hall, Room 001, 1313 W Wisconsin Ave: Joseph Scapellato, author of Big Lonesome: Stories. This Marquette grad's work was hailed by Claire Vay Watkins as "hailed by Claire Vaye Watkins as "Wallace Stegner on peyote, Nathaniel West in a sweat lodge, Larry McMurtry on a vision quest." Here's an interview with Scappelato in Necessary Fiction.

Saturday, March 25, 6:30 pm, at Preservation Hall, 740 Lake Ave, in Racine: Naomi Shihab Nye as part of Deb Marett's 15 Minutes of Fame event, tying in to her art exhibit. $5 admission. Additional speakers include Nick Demske, Timothy Westbrook, Paul Willis, Olu Sijuwade, Travis DuPriest and Thea Kovak. More about the project here.

Sunday, March 26, 3 pm, at the Jewish Museum, 1360 N Prospect Ave: "We Knew Then That the Jews Would be Shot: Wehrmacht’s Role in the Holocaust by Bullets," a talk based on the book Marching into Darkness, by Waitman Wade Beorn. This event, copsonsored by the Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Research Center, is free with admission, but registration is requested.

Please note that Thursday's talk with Thomas Buergenthal at the Marquette Law School is full.

We've got lots more events to tell you about on the upcoming events page of the Boswell website.

And don't forget to open tomorrow's email newsletter, with important information about an upcoming event going on sale. You can sign up for it here.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Boswell Bestsellers: Peter Heller's detective, James Crawford's buildings, Kwame Alexander's poetry, NBCC's award winners, plus the Journal Sentinel book review links.

Don't forget that Boswell is closing at 4 pm today for a staff meeting, followed by sales rep presentations in Oconomowoc. We normally do this at 5, but we needed an additional hour to get ourselves out to Books and Company. We'll be back to serve you with even more book knowledge on Monday morning at 10 am.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
2. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
3. The Hearts of Men, by Nickolas Butler
4. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
5. Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman
6. Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
7. Celine, by Peter Heller
8. Morning Paramin, by Derek Walcott
9. In This Grave Hour V13, by Jacqueline Winspear
10. Swing Time, by Zadie Smith

We had two reads on Celine, the third novel from Peter Heller. If you are browsing Boswell, you might notice a poster for our event for The Dog Stars, drawn by Nick Berg. Of the new book, Lisa Shea in Elle Magazine writes: "Like Mark Twain and Toni Morrison, Heller has a rare talent that hooks both literary and commercial readers. The book's irresistible suspense springs from the dynamic between his elegant, visionary imagination as it immerses you in the wilderness of the American West and its sleek-and-scruffy small towns, and his unerring instinct for writing classy, edge-of-your-seat, page-turning whodunits."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Eyes Wide Open, by Isaac Lidsky
2. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan (event Wed 3/22, 7 pm, at Schlitz Audubon)
3. Flock Together, by B.J. Hollars
4. From the Mouths of Dogs, by B.J. Hollars
5. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
6. The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking
7. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
8. Fallen Glory, by James Crawford
9. Identity Unknown, by Donna Seaman (event at Boswell Thu Mar 30, 7 pm)
10. In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney

New to the list is James Crawford's Fallen Glory: The Lives and Deaths of History's Greatest Buildings, which like Celine, came out March 7. It's about 20 buildings now not among us, from the Tower of Babel to the Pruitt-Igoe public housing in Saint Louis, to New York's Twin Towers. The Scotsman had a review from Stuart Kelly, who wrote: "Each building and city with which it is associated is a keyhole into a panorama of the times, with some assured and enlightening essayistic notes on their continuing meaning and what they tell us about history"

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
2. All the Missing Girls, by Megan Miranda
3. Americanah, by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie
4. Windy City Blues, by Renée Rosen (event at Boswell Tue Mar 21, 1 pm, with Osher)
5. The Japanese Lover, by Isabel Allende
6. Everyone Brave is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave
7. Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman
8. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
9. Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur
10. North Water, by Ian McGuire

Quietly Isabel Allende's The Japanese Lover has exceeded her recent predecessor novels' sales at Boswell. It's sold 2-3 times what we sold of Ripper and Maya's Notebook, likely stemming from a publisher change, which generally infuses a little more energy into publication on both sides, and also due to a staff rec from Boswellian Scott Espinoza, which has kept the book at the front of the store for much longer than it normally would be. Her newest novel, set at senior housing, was praised by Ron Charles in The Washington Post: "The Japanese Lover may be furnished with oxygen tanks and painkillers, but it blasts along like a turbocharged wheelchair."

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
2. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
3. Live and Let Live, by Evelyn M. Perry (event Fri 3/31 at Woodland Pattern)
4. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, and David Luhrssen
5. Polygyny, by Debra Majeed
6. New American Hagaddah, by Jonathan Safran Foer/Nathan Englander
7. Spain in Our Hearts, by Adam Hochschild
8. You Are Here, by Jenny Lawson
9. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
10. How to Watch Soccer, by Ruud Gullit

Congratulations to Evicted and Lab Girl, which both won National Book Critics Circle Awards. The fiction winner was Louise Erdrich's LaRose. All three have staff recs from Boswell booksellers, which is an extra cool thing. Melissa Cronin in Popular Science wrote: "Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl reminds us that, in ways, we are strikingly like our blossoming brethren." Listen to Hope Jahren on the "On Point" show, which airs here on Wisconsin Public Radio.

 Books for Kids:
1. Throwing My Life Away, by Liz Czukas
2. Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli
3. Toothpaste Millionaire, by Jean Merrill
4. Music of Dolphins, by Karen Hesse
5. Out of Wonder, by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjorie Wentworth
6. The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
7. Almost Everything Book, by Julie Morstad
8. Triangle, by Mac Barnett, with illustrations by Jon Klassen
9. Bee, by Britta Teckentrup
10. A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum, by Davide Cali, with illustrations by Benjamin Chaud

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets received a starred review in Booklist: "...Here, in this beautiful book, along with his coauthors, poets Chris Colderly and Marjory Wentworth, Alexander offers a collection of 20 poems. The hook? All are written in tribute to well-known poets, such as Maya Angelou, e. e. cummings, Sandra Cisneros, Robert Frost, Gwendolyn Brooks, and William Carlos Williams, among others." Here's Kwame Alexander talking to Rachel Martin about the book on NPR's Morning Edition.

The Journal Sentinel has an extra big collection of book review this week, with so many that some of them leaked out of the TapBooks section.

First up is Dan Egan's The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, reviewed by John Hildebrand. Hildebrand offers his observations: "In his marvelous new book The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, Dan Egan shows the lakes as a single ecosystem in which we are the keystone species, the one with the heaviest footprint, the scariest thing around. That’s quite a charge considering the cast of grotesques to enter the Great Lakes in the past century — sea lamprey, toad-faced round goby, zebra and quagga mussels, bighead carp — except that we, inadvertently, let them through the door."

A little drama from Mike Fischer, who in addition to books, reviews theater for the Journal Sentinel. His take on Rosalind: A Biography of Shakespeares Immortal Heroine, the new work from Angela Thirlwell: "What’s best in these discussions is Thirlwell’s anecdotes, supplemented by numerous interviews, involving actors who’ve played Rosalind during the past half century. It’s telling, for example, to hear from Adrian Lester, Rosalind in an all-male 1991 production in which he spent early rehearsals 'trying to play a woman.'"

From editor Chris Foran comes a review of Ike and McCarthy:Dwight Eisenhower's Secret Campaign Against Joseph McCarthy, from David A. Nichols. Foran reports: "Ike and McCarthy is Nichols' third book seeking to reassess — and upgrade — history's appreciation of Eisenhower's political ad leadership savvy in an area where some have thought Ike was lacking: 2011's Eisenhower 1956 details his role in foreign affairs, tamping down the Suez crisis before it turned into World War III, while 2007's A Matter of Justice repositions the 34th president as being more progressive on civil rights than previous biographers have suggested." Golf-loving naif? This book says no.

But wait, there's more! It's time for Carole E. Barrowman's Paging Through Mysteries column. This week two books are featured. First up is Jess Kidd's Himself, "a fabulously imaginative, darkly comic Irish tale set 'in the arse-end of beyond' in a village called Mulerigg." Barrowman offers that Kidd has taken a Tom Jones-like character and put him in the world of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Add murder and serve!

Also reviewed by Barrowman is Lola, the first novel from Melissa Scrivner Love, a noted television writer. Her story of a gang leader's girlfriend who is actually the brains behind the operation (and has 46 hours to get them out of a double cross or she will die brutally) is called "achingly beautiful" by Barrowman, and she compares Lola to Lisbeth Salander, as both "are damaged from years of sexual abuse."

Act now and you can also read this feature in the Fresh section, featuring 13 new garden books to "inspire, inform, and charm," selected by Joannee Kempinger Demski. I think it's an indication of gardening's move to niche status in publishing that none of these titles come from the large, traditional publishers, or even the traditional imprints like Workman's Storey or Sterling's Lark, let alonng Penguin Random House's Clarkson Potter. The good news is that it makes room for entrepreneurial newcomers.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Connecting the Threads: Reading Fiction About Adoption: Patty Yumi Cottrell, Boris Fishman, Lisa Ko

Did you ever notice how even when you're not actively interested in a particular area, your reading will inadvertently have a theme? I've written about this before, but it's happened again. It turns out that three recently published or about-to-be published novels are touch on adoption.

Despite a relative once telling me when I was young that I was adopted, and believing it for a bit, I am not - nor have I adopted children. But I've always had a good number of friends who were adopted and as I hit adulthood, a number of my friends and colleagues adopted as well. I was an adult before anyone told me that two of my cousins were adopted. I should have noticed that their sibling (not adopted) looked more like another mutual cousin than like his own brother and sister, but I didn't.

Just out this week is Patty Yumi Cottrell's Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, which features a Korean American woman struggling with the death of her brother. Helen has made a new life for herself in New York, but when her brother commits suicide, she returns home to Milwaukee to make sense of it. Or since she has a bit of a different sensibility about these things, she attempts to solve the case, detective style. The story has a disconnected alienation about it, and Helen's not a particularly reliable narrator. And while she sees kinship with her brother (they are adoptive siblings as well, not from the same birth family), sometimes it seems that their real bond is in their mutual lack of connection.

As Nathan Scott McNamara writes in The Los Angeles Times Review of Books: "The question of why Helen remains alive when her brother is dead is the book’s quiet obsession. Though estranged from her adoptive parents, Helen had stayed in touch with her adoptive brother via small exchanges. 'I began to scroll through our text history and I could say that many of his texts were very basic and practical. KOBE BRYANT!!! said one of them.' It’s not that the two of them shared their feelings — they basically didn’t — but they shared the understanding that there was someone out there that endured the same experiences and kept on going."

This led me to read Boris Fishman's Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo. It turns out Fishman's second novel, which was a New York Times notable book of the year in hardcover and is now in paperback, is also about adoption, from the perspective of the mother, and I think also touches on themes of alienation and connection. Father Alex is a Byelorussian immigrant while his wife Maya is a Ukrainian exchange student he met while she was studying in New York. They wind up adopting when they can't have kids.  Both are Jewish but when they ask for a Jewish orphan, the counselor laughs, and they wind up the parents of a boy from Montana. The only problem is that when he gets to be about eight, he starts acting a bit feral, running away into the winds, jumping in ponds.

Maya decides the only thing to do is drive to Montana and confront the parents, but she's also trying to get Alex out of his comfort zone, as the furthest west he's ever gone is to visit his cousins in Chicago. Like Helen, Maya has a mystery to unravel. How did their son Max get to be the way he is and why did the parents leave them with a parting plea, "Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo"? While Fishman's novel sets a different tone from Cottrell's, both sort of touch on adoption as a metaphor for our desire for connection, and the profound alienation that we're left with when the connection feels incomplete.

For the third perspective, the birth parent, I turn to The Leavers, the novel from Lisa Ko that is not coming out until May 2. I can't help it - there's already so much buzz about this book, and I desperately want to connect the three books. Don't worry - I'll have more to say about The Leavers when we get to pub date. But for now, I want to note that Ko's story is about a birth mother Peilan (Polly) and the son Deming that she leaves behind when she disappears.

Unlike the two earlier children, Deming (renamed Daniel by his adoptive parents) is older when he's sent to foster care and then adoption. He has vivid memories of his mother and can more easily verbalize his alienation of living in a small college town with his adoptive parents. That's also partly because he's an adult for much of the book, and can verbalize his feelings rather than running away into the woods. And when his childhood friend gives him a lead on his mother, now back in Fuzhou, China, he's able to act on it.

Of the three books, I found that The Leavers led me to more questions about the adoption process. Do foster parents rename their children? Apparently that has been the case if they are fostering with the attempt to adopt. Shouldn't you wait until you adopt? Or does this book take place long enough ago that we'd Americanize every name, continuing the tradition of Ellis Island where immigrant after immigrant would find themselves with a new identification when they landed. I know that the practice of taking on names is actually more common in China than other places, so I was surprised that Peilan was upset about Deming being called Daniel, even though she took the name Polly, but I think that's as much exacerbated by her situation of losing her son, and asserting his Deming identity was her way of keeping control.

Having read all three books in a short time frame, I tried to think back about other fiction about adoption, and it turns out that two of my favorite writers have touched on this subject. From Elinor Lipman comes Then She Found Me, a first novel about a woman reuniting with her birth mother. The book, by the way, has a lighter tone than the film. Then there's Anne Tyler's Digging to America, about two families adopting children from Korea. I didn't read it, but there's also The Red Thread from Ann Hood.

I remembered a novel by Michael Downing from 1999 called Breakfast with Scot, about a gay couple who take in the son of one of their sisters after she dies. Though I think the novel is old enough that adoption probably wouldn't have been the option for two men. But to me, it's a different and actually more culturally widespread story when a child is extended family.

So we'll see if my literary adoption journey will continue. And who knows what other thread I'll find in my reading.

The event details:
--Patty Yumi Cottrell appears at Boswell on Monday, May 20, 7 pm, for Sorry to Disrupt the Peace
--Boris Fishman appears at Boswell on Monday, May 27, 7 pm, for Don't Let My Baby Do Rodeo, in conversation with Joel Berkowitz of the Sam and Helen Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at UWM
--Lisa Ko appears at Boswell on Monday, June 12, 7 pm, for The Leavers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

More details on the Friends of the UWM Golda Meir Library event for Sara Paretsky on May 11, plus a link to our latest email newsletter.

Today's email newsletter announced the spring author event for the Friends of the Golda Meir Library. We're honored to cosponsor a visit from Sara Paretsky on Thursday, May 11, 7 pm. This event is free, but registration is requested. She will be appearing in conjunction with Fallout, the 18th novel in the V.I. Warshawski series, or the 19th if you include a collection of Warshawski stories.

Paretsky was last in Milwaukee for a traditional author event in 2013 for her book Critical Mass, though she was at Murder and Mayhem Milwaukee this past November. It was there that we chatted, and she noted that she really enjoys Milwaukee fans and would like to come back. And it's also where Boswellian Jen hand-sold her a copy of Girl Waits with Gun.

For those of you who get our email newsletter, you've probably already read about the book, said to be the first time that Warshawski leaves Chicago to track a killer. If you pay attention to these things, you might notice that marketing is stepped up a notch on this one, no doubt connected to her publisher change. For example, a lot of high-profile crime writers are weighing in this time. Look at this lineup of lit love!

Harlan Coben writes: "Sara Paretsky is a legend, and Fallout is her finest novel to date--an extraordinary read from an extraordinary author. If you haven t read her yet, now is the time."

And from Lee Child: "Fallout is the best yet in one of our genre s crucial, solid-gold, best-ever series. Paretsky is a genius, and she s never afraid to dig a little deeper."

C.J. Box weighs in: "Even out of her Chicago comfort zone in pursuit of a faded missing actress and a young filmmaker in Fallout, legendary V.I. Warshawski is as dogged and ferocious as ever. So is Sara Paretsky, who is at the top of her crime novel game."

Note the 1989 photo of Paretsky from her website, at right.

Jeffery Deaver declares: "Simply superb! As a fan of V.I. Warshawski from the very beginning, I can say without a doubt that Fallout finds both author and protagonist at the top of their games."

Karin Slaughter goes in for the kill: "An astonishing tour de force -- thrilling, moving, illuminating -- from an author of matchless intelligence, craft, and power. This is why Sara Paretsky reigns as one of the all-time greats."

Seating is limited, so register now for the event.

Don't get our email newsletter? Why not read it now? We've got more event features, plus staff recommendations of new picture books.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Boswell Events! Debra Majeed on Wednesday, B.J. Hollars at the Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center Thursday, and Patty Yumi Cottrell next Monday.

Here's what's happening at Boswell this week.

Wednesday, March 15, 7:00 pm at Boswell:
Debra Majeed, author of Polygyny: What It Means When African American Muslim Women Share Their Husbands

The first African American and Muslim woman to receive tenure at Beloit College sheds light on families whose form and function conflict with U.S. civil law. Polygyny, multiple-wife marriage, has steadily emerged as an alternative to the low numbers of marriageable African American men and the high number of female-led households in black America.

Featuring the voices of women who welcome polygyny, oppose it, acquiesce to it, or even negotiate power in its practices, Majeed examines the choices available to African American Muslim women who are considering polygyny or who are living it. She calls attention to the ways in which interpretations of Islam’s primary sources are authorized or legitimated to regulate the rights of Muslim women. Highlighting the legal, emotional, and communal implications of polygyny, Majeed encourages Muslim communities to develop formal measures that ensure the welfare of women and children who are otherwise not recognized by the state.

Thursday, March 16, 7:00 pm at Urban Ecology Center, 1500 E Park Pl:
B.J. Hollars, author of Flock Together: A Love Affair with Extinct Birds

After stumbling upon a book of photographs depicting extinct animals, Associate Professor of English at UW Eau Claire's B.J. Hollars became fascinated by the creatures that are no longer with us; specifically, extinct North American birds. And so begins his yearlong journey, one that leads him from bogs to art museums, from archives to Christmas Counts, until he at last comes as close to extinct birds as he ever will during a behind-the-scenes visit at the Chicago Field Museum.

Armed with binoculars, a field guide, and knowledgeable friends, he begins his transition from budding birder to environmentally conscious citizen, a first step on a longer journey toward understanding the true tragedy of a bird's song silenced forever. Told with charm and wit, Flock Together is a moving elegy to birds we've lost, and Hollars's exploration of what we can learn from extinct species will resonate in the minds of readers long beyond the final page.

Suggested general admission is $10 and $5 for Urban Ecology Center members.

Monday, March 20, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Patty Yumi Cottrell, author of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace

Helen Moran is thirty-two years old, single, childless, college-educated, and partially employed as a guardian of troubled young people in New York. She’s accepting a delivery from IKEA in her shared studio apartment when her uncle calls to break the news: Helen’s adoptive brother is dead.

According to the internet, there are six possible reasons why her brother might have killed himself. But Helen knows better: she knows that six reasons is only shorthand for the abyss. Helen also knows that she alone is qualified to launch a serious investigation into his death, so she purchases a one-way ticket to Milwaukee. There she searches her childhood home and attempts to uncover why someone would choose to die. She faces her estranged family, her brother’s few friends, and discovers what it truly means to be alive.

Cottrell’s debut has shades of Bernhard, Beckett, and Bowles, but is also a bleak comic tour de force that’s by turns poignant, uproariously funny, viscerally unsettling, and is the singular voice of Patty Yumi Cottrell.

Here's an early review of Sorry to Disrupt the Peace in the Portland Mercury.

And my take: "She may call herself Sister Reliable, but Helen is anything but, especially as a narrator. Hypersensitive to details, Helen is unable to connect the dots, and the continuous misses create a powerfully hypnotic narrative of estrangement."

Monday, March 13, 2017

What did the book club think of "The Sellout"?

You never know how people are going to react to books. Sometimes I think I've matched the perfect book to the perfect person, and it doesn't work out that way at all. And sometimes I think the In-Store Lit Group is notgoing to like a book and they do.

Even Suzanne, who started off the round robin discussion, said, "I loved the book, but I don't think many of you are going to like it."

The Sellout is one of those books that has become a must read for many. It had its first pop in sale when it won the National Book Critics Circle Award but really exploded after it was the first American novel to win the Man Booker Prize. Now of course some of you might think the rule had already been changed because Marlong James, who won for A Brief History of Seven Killings, has been living in the United States a long time and currently teaches in Minnesota, but no, he was still officially Jamaican.

To me, The Sellout is the quintessential Man Booker book (though The Guardian begs to differ), densely packed with ideas, and words and pointed humor. There are books we pick because I want to help them get some attention and momentum, and there are others where I think we should read them because we (and particularly I) am missing out if we don't. This was clearly the latter.

The narrator, who never gives his name but can be called Me (of the Kentucky Mees), The Sellout, or Bonbon (most reviewers liked calling him the last one), is an urban farmer in Dickens, California, a agricultural suburb of Los Angeles which was deed such eons ago. You may think that's funny and crazy but there was just a This American Life piece on an island of Hawaii that is privately owned and still kept to the standards of the 1800s, with traditional Hawaiian spoken and no running water. Note that in the French jacket, there's a map of the United States, but the designer did not include California, where the book takes place.

Me's father was a social scientist, a single father who raised Me, and after his untimely death, Me created his own social experiment, in between raising delicious watermelon (including square ones) and marijuana. I think the fact that he took on a slave is a bit overblown. It's Hominy Jenkins, the last surviving Little Rascal, who comes to Me and asks to be enslaved, but his other plan, to resegregate, is definitely the result of a Me brainstorm. I'm not giving anything away by saying this takes him all the way to the Supreme Court.

And yes, there's a love story too, and many, many side plots and bits. Three of our favorites: the bastardized black versions of the classics from Foy Cheshire; the racially-charged plotlines of The Little Rascals episodes that came up with more and more ways to turn white people black and black people white; and Dickens thwarted attempt to come up with a sister city. I would say Dave Chappelle is a good comparison for the humor.

I'm not really going to go into any other details, for fear that I say something that gets me in trouble. Let's just say no target goes unskewered. Some in the group thought it was trying to hard to be provocative while others loved it. Note that unlike the French, who renamed and repackaged Beatty's novel, the Italians hewed closely to the American and British editions.

On Monday, April 3, 7 pm (yes, back to our regular time), we'll be discussing Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies, as part of Milwaukee Public Library's Big Read. It's a historical novel set in the Domincian Republic.

On Monday, May 1, 7 pm, we'll be discussing Edna O'Brien's The Little Red Chairs, the story of a war criminal hiding out in a remote Irish village.

On Monday, June 5, 7 pm, the In-Store Lit Group will be discussing Yaa Gyasi's Homecoming, which goes on sale in paperback on April 25. It's the story of two half-sisters and their descendants in Ghana and the United States and won the John Leonard Prize. I won't be there (we have a big offsite) so we'll have a fill-in moderator.

Paul Beatty photo credit: Hannah Assouline

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Could it be the annotated Boswell bestseller list for the week ending March 11, 2017? It could!

Here's what's selling at Boswell this week!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline
2. The Hearts of Men, by Nickolas Butler
3. The Confessions of Young Nero, by Margaret George
4. Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
5. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah (ticketed event at Elm Grove Library April 26, close to selling out)
6. Exit West, by Mohsin Hamid
7. News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
8. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
9. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
10. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
11. Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay
12. Autumn, by Ali Smith
13. Beneath the Bonfire, by Nickolas Butler
14. 4 3 2 1, by Paul Auster
15. The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney

It's a rare week outside of the fall holiday season where I feel like hardcover fiction has to extend to 15 because the sales are so good. It doesn't hurt that we had several great fiction events, and that it was a good release week too. I have to give a shout out to Exit West, the new novel from Mohsin Hamid that got an early rave from Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times. And Viet Thanh Nguyen's words omn the front page of the Sunday NYT Book Review: "This gentle optimism, this refusal to descend into dystopia, is what is most surprising about Hamid’s imaginative, inventive novel. A graceful writer who does not shy away from contentious politics and urgent, worldly matters — and we need so many more of these writers — Hamid exploits fiction’s capacity to elicit empathy and identification to imagine a better world" gave me goosebumps.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. The Death and Life of the Great Lakes, by Dan Egan
2. At Mama's Knee, by April Ryan
3. Books for Living, by Will Schwalbe
4. The Presidency in Black and White, by April Ryan
5. Illusion of Justice, by Jerome Buting
6. South and West, by Joan Didion
7. Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods, by John Gurda
8. Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance
9. The Stranger in the Woods, by Michael Finkel
10. The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking

Folks who read our email newsletter will know that several of us have gone gaga over Michael Finkel's The Stranger in the Woods. Michael Harris is also a fan, noting in the Toronto Globe and Mail that the book is "Finkel’s stunning account of one man’s obsessive withdrawal from society. The reporting alone would make this book worth reading; at times, the story is so richly detailed, so full-immersion, that it borders on becoming a non-fiction novel. More important, Finkel finds a way, in a brief 190 pages, to bring us well beyond the mere facts of the case: The Stranger in the Woods is, ultimately, a meditation on the pains of social obligation and the longing toward retreat that resides in us all."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Little Red Chairs, by Edna O'Brien (book club discussion 4/6, 7 pm)
2. In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez (book club discussion 5/1, 7 pm)
3. The Sellout, by Paul Beatty (and this was our March discussion--the blog was supposed to go up Thursday or Friday, but it will now be ready next Tuesday)
4. The Samurai's Garden, by Gail Tsukiyama
5. The Illusion of Separateness, by Simon Van Buoy
6. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
7. The Lilac Girls, by Marth Hall Kelly
8. All the Missing Girls, by Megan Miranda (mystery book club discussion 3/27, event 4/19, 7 pm)
9. Flight, by Sherman Alexie
10. The Drifter, by Nick Petrie

My Worcester sister just called me to say she read The Drifter twice! Really, it's that good. Chandler (Arizona) sister just finished The Mothers and loved it. Now can you see why we all get along?

Here's more about Kelly's breakout paperback. I know folks have been really excited by The Lilac Girls but what a pop it had in Milwaukee last week. Yes, we sold some but the numbers on Bookscan were enormous. I actually had to check her event page to see if she had been in the area. But no. She's going to do two events in the Chicago area, including Libertyville on March 15 and Women and Children First on the 16. And before you ask, we did write a proposal to add on March 17, but alas, it just didn't work. But if you like historical fiction, why not attend our event with Renee Rosen on March 21 for Windy City Blues?

And while I don't think I know anybody in that part of Nassau County, I'd be giving a shout out to the Glen Cove Public Library, who is hosting Kelly on May 9. I can't remember what my parents used to do in Glen Cove, but I think they went there with some regularity. Community concerts? Folk dancing? Movies? The possibilities are endless.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Brick Through the Window, by Steven Nodine, Eric Beaumont, Clancy Carroll, and David Luhrssen
2. Evicted, by Matthew Desmond
3. Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
4. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
5. Live and Let Live, by Evelyn Perry (event at Woodland Pattern, Fri 3/31, 7 pm)
6. The Wiscom of Menopause, by Christiane Northrup
7. Cataclysm, by Zeynab Ali
8. Dark Money, by Jane Mayer
9. The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe
10. Lion/Long Way Home, by Saroo Brierley

We've just announced this collaboration with Woodland Pattern for Evelyn Perry's Live and Let Live, a new sociological study of Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood. She'll be at WP on Friday, March 31. This is free, and we'll be splitting proceeds on book sales. I just started reading this today and I'm very excited.

Sales exploded this week for On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, from Timothy Snyder, who appeared at Marquette Law School last year for Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning. Here's a review in The Guardian by Richard J. Evans, who notes that after a flourishing period for democracy, the world is falling under the sway of strongmen who "dismantle civil liberties, silence critical voices and suppress independent institutions," often with popular support for what they are doing.

Books for Kids:
1. The Playbook, by Kwame Alexander
2. The Crossover, by Kwame Alexander
3. Booked, by Kwame Alexander
4. Flying Lessons and Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh
5. Summerland, by Michael Chabon
6. Monster, by Walter Dean Myers
7. Out of My Mind, by Sharon M Draper
8. The Red Queen, by Victoria Aveyard
9. Going Bovine, by Libba Bray
10. Hollow City, by Ransom Riggs
11. I Am the Messenger, by Markus Zusak
12. A Is for Activist, by Innsanto Nagara
13. Nelson Mandela, by Barry Denenberg
14. Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanha Lai
15. The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan

We always have to give a shout out for school sales, and this week one of our local districts shaped not just the kids list, but several of the adult ones as well. At the top, however, was our recent visit from Kwame Alexander, who visited South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center for a middle school event. You should note that Flying Lessons also contains a story from Alexander. At the top is new nonfiction work, The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life, of which Kirkus Reviews writes: "The advice never feels heavy-handed, and the author's voice shines through."

Over at the Journal Sentinel, Jim Higgins confesses to a dilemma: "The only thing more difficult than reviewing Sarah Manguso's 300 Arguments is not reviewing it. Her biting collection of aphorisms merits a wide audience, especially of people taking life on the Mithridates plan of self-inoculation against the world's toxins. But be forewarned that Manguso's bracing words often suggest those toxins are self-generated."

The TapBooks page also features a review of The Idiot from critic Mike Fischer, who writes that "Batuman’s semi-autographical first novel, stretches a brief anecdote in The Possessed about first love into a full chronicle of lost illusions, featuring a heroine awakening to the realization that beauty cannot exist apart from the world, with its attendant disappointment, hurt and pain. It’s a funny, thoughtful and poignant portrait of an artist as a young woman."

I'm out of town so I won't see the other print reviews until Tuesday. Why not pick up a copy of the Journal Sentinel and read them yourself. Print is fun, goes good with coffee.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

One last post about Nickolas Butler's "The Hearts of Men." Serving s'mores five ways, none of which measure up to the original, but bear in mind, we have no running water or heat source.

The Hearts of Men goes on sale today.

For our event with Shotgun Lovesongs, which like The Hearts of Men, was on the first day the book went on sale, we served pickled eggs. If you've read the book, you know that stealing pickled eggs is a pivotal moment in the book. We got ours from Bay View Packing and truthfully, they were better than you'd think they'd be.

But what to do about The Hearts of Men? It's first day of sale so you have to celebrate. Usually you host these sorts of things in a market where the author's family lives so they can provide the party. But aside from our friend Mary (who knows Nick from the days when he used to take authors around Madison), we're his best friends here. And that means we have to serve something, right?

What to do? Camp. Scouts.

I got it, we'll make s'mores.

Problem #1: we don't have a fireplace.

Problem #2: we don't have a kitchen.

Problem #3: we don't have running water.

Being that I am a Top Chef addict, I decided to do s'mores three ways. Which quickly turned to five ways. Friend of Boswell Carl was visiting while I was doing my planning. He said he loves when any contestant does anything three ways. I am waiting for someone to do something five ways and for Tom to say, "That's a bit much" and kick them out.

I have to talk about Top Chef Charleston for a moment. While it was not a terrible season like Texas, I found it a disappointing setup (newbies vs. vets) that I couldn't get past. I could go on.

S'mores #1: S'mores cereal. The truth is that s'mores is to summer what pumpkin spice is to fall and peppermint is to December. I decided to head through a market and see what s'mores flavored treats I could find and found this cereal first. I think it's leftover from last summer. It's dry without milk, but I know that eating dry cereal is a thing.

S'mores #2: the toaster pastry. I have seen these on the shelves for a while, and while I try a new flavor of Pop Tarts every few years, I haven't had one since root beer. This one has the creamy marshmallow texture that is missing in some of the other varieties, but I'm not sure the crust approximates graham cracker.

S'mores #3:  "Backpacker Bites." What I did not find was a s'mores granola bar variation, but I'm guessing that those sold out at the end of last summer. I'm not sure how you would call that sugar swirl marshmallow. I've heard similar complaints about the Girl Scouts s'mores cookie.

I had a weird moment when I decided that maybe s'mores was really a culture of Girl Scouts, not Boy Scouts, and needed to find any sort of reference. I found one in this S'mores Party program.

S'mores #4: No-bake traditional. Now I get creative. For this, I used real graham crackers, and spread on dark cocoa cookie buttter, and then sprinkled on mini marshmallows. I should have used the small marshmallows instead, as these have that cereal texture. That said, it's close enough.

Amie offered to make s'mores bars. Teasha has a recipe for s'mores dip. I thought they involved too much preparation for my taste. Plus I was already serving s'mores five ways. I didn't want to go crazy on this. Seven ways? That's nuts.
S'mores #5: No-bake traditional variation. Once again I used graham crackers, but spread with marshmallow fluff. Kraft sells one using their Jet Puffed brand but as a person who grew up on in New York, I went with Massachusetts-based Fluff, which is the first choice for fluffer nutters. Then I tried to drizzle on chocolate ice cream topping. It didn't come out right, nor did it harden. I read the instructions and it turns out the package needs to be soaked in hot water. Hoping it works better tonight.

It turns out we were not the first event. There was an Eau Claire celebration on Monday Now the pressure is off.

Daniel Halpern talked about The Hearts of Men on NPR last December.

Also, just learned that The Hearts of Men will be reviewed in Sunday's New York Times Book Review. Too early to link, but I'll come back and post it when it's available, which is usually on Thursday.

Are we serving this stuff? Yes we are. If you're honorable. See you tonight at 7, and we'll  have signed copies afterwards.