Friday, June 28, 2013

On the Menu Today at Boswell--Fiction Staff Recs of New Releases from Curtis Sittenfeld, Max Barry, Maggie O'Farrell, Eli Brown, and More.

Staff recs for new fiction! As you've been seeing on the blog and our last email newsletter (and in the bookstore, of course), there's a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for Colum McCann's TransAtlantic and Simon Van Booy's The Illusion of Separateness. But those are not the only novels were touting of late. Here are some books that came out in the last month that Boswellians have been crowing about.

Sisterland, a novel by Curtis Sittenfeld (Random House)
"Vi and Kate are sisters who are gifted with what they call senses; in other words they are psychic. Kate has done her best to suppress her talent, choosing to live a conventional life as a wife and mother. Vi, on the other hand, has embraced her intuition and become a professional medium. When Vi predicts, in an extremely public way, that a deadly earthquake will hit St.Louis, Kate must choose whether to support her sister or separate herself from the ensuing uproar. This latest offering from the author of Prep and American Wife is a beautifully-written exploration of the relationship between sisters, both as children and adults, and the way that we react to the people that are closest to us, as well as the most like us."
--Sharon K. Nagel (Jannis is also a fan!)

Instructions for a Heatwave, a novel by Maggie O’Farrell (Knopf)
"What happens to one Irish family living in London during the oppressive 1976 summer heatwave when patriarch Richard Riordan mysteriously disappears when on a seemingly simple walk to buy the morning newspaper? As his three adult children return home to support their mother, Gretta, past resentments and longstanding secrets emerge in this insightful portrait of a family in crisis. I was immediately engaged with all of the characters, who are not only vulnerable, but also endearing. Subtle, graceful writing at its best!"
--Jane Glaser (Jane has the Indie Next pick for this book)

Cinnamon and Gunpowder, a novel by Eli Brown (Farrar Straus Giroux).
"Ahoy, ye scallywags! Behold the most entertaining (and perhaps only) pirate-adventure-romance-cookbook you will ever read. Persnickety and fainthearted chef, Owen Wedgwood, has found himself in a most disheartening situation: he has been kidnapped and held captive aboard the ship of the nineteenth century's most feared pirate, Mad Hannah Mabbot. Wedgwood shall live, he is told, so long as he provides the lady captain with a weekly feast. The situation seems dire, as the ship's galley is less than adequate - but what choice does Wedgwood have? To survive, the chef must learn to rely upon his talents, his guts, and the members of an absurdly colorful pirate crew. Eventually finding his place among the motley bunch, Wedgwood soon realizes that the voyage has only just begun. Cinnamon and Gunpowder is hugely entertaining, mixing high-seas adventure, seaborne romance, danger, laughs, and some of the tastiest, albeit strangest, food ever served aboard a pirate's ship.
--Nick Berg

Lexicon, a novel by Max Barry (Penguin Press).
"Max Barry has always been one of my favorite writers, but with Lexicon he has catapulted to all new heights. A secret society operating behind the scenes controls people all over the world using persuasion words that can kill and manipulate. Wil Parke wakes up in airport with two guys interrogating him. The questions seem pointless, the situation seems bizarre, but Wil can't convince them that he has no idea what they want or need. Then the story explodes with action, with Wil is being attacked from all sides. At the same time, we learn about Emily Ruff, who is training to be a persuader in this secret society. She does the forbidden and falls in love, and that is when everything hits the fan. The clever use of flashbacks and the alternating point of view (between Emily and Wil) make this one hair-raising adrenaline rush."
--Jason Kennedy

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls, by Anton Disclafani (Riverhead)
"This is a lovely coming-of-age story set in North Carolina in 1930. Fifteen-year-old Thea has done something dreadful, so she has been sent away from her family home in Florida to an all-girls boarding school. The novel unfolds slowly and beautifully so that the reader is given hints about what heinous act Thea has committed. Although the plot includes young girls, boarding school, horses, and forbidden love, the storyline feels fresh. I look forward to reading more from Disclafani."
--Sharon K. Nagel

A Questionable Shape, by Bennett Sims (Two Dollar Radio)
"Mazoch discovers his father missing from his home. All that is left is a smashed window and a pool of blood. The worst is feared, that his father has turned into a zombie and is lost. However, in Bennett Sims’ zombie universe, zombies return to what was familiar in the lives before they turned. With the help of his friend Vermaelen, they attempt to track all of Mazoch's father’s old haunts in life before a hurricane hits Baton Rouge, threatening to wipe out any undead left out in the elements. I loved how humanity has to functions after a zombie apocalypse, as Bennett Sims explores the ideas of memory and what remains in us and what will be forgotten after our loved ones are gone"
--Jason Kennedy

And finally, though I wrote a whole essay about Andrew Sean Greer, I didn't post my staff rec. It's not like I'm late or anything--the book's only been out for three days.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, by Andrew Sean Greer (Ecco)
"Greta Wells is a woman living in the West Village in 1985. Her twin brother has died of AIDS, and his lover is also ill. Her long-term partner tried to be supportive through this long crisis, but eventually bailed. Nothing seems to help her depression, until her doctor suggests electroconvulsive therapy. She agrees, but then next morning, she winds up as another Greta in 1918 and after the next treatment becomes a different Greta in 1941. I have been excited by the possibilities of all the new time shifting novels, with this one more akin to “Sliders” than anything else. But of course at its heart, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells might indeed make your head spin, not because of the plotline, but for the emotion, beauty, and wisdom at the heart of the story."
--Daniel Goldin

Thank you to the Boswellians, for taking that extra step of writing up your recs. There are a lot of folks out there who are happy you did it.

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