Monday, December 28, 2015

OK, there may be a storm a-coming but after it's over, come out for Meg Jones, author of "World War II Milwaukee" on Tuesday, December 29, 7 p;m, plus a January 2016 event preview!

Tuesday, December 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Meg Jones, author of World War II Milwaukee:

We've only got one event this week, but it's one you won't want to miss. Meg Jones is a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel who reports on military and veterans issues. As per the Pulitzer Prize website, "she has traveled to Iraq four times and three times to Afghanistan as an embedded reporter with Wisconsin National Guard and reserves troops since 2003." Jones was a Pulitzer finalist too, for her reporting on chronic wasting disease in Wisconsin's deer population.

Her new book, World War II Milwaukee, channels her experience in war reporting to World War II, using archival research to retell war stories with a Cream City connection. As Bonnie North noted in Jones's interview on WUWM's Lake Effect: "For Jones, writing a book was new territory compared to her reporting on military and veterans issues. While the interest in the topic was strong, she only knew the bigger picture of Milwaukee in World War II. Jones framed the book based on her knowledge of a Milwaukee captain of the USS Arizona at the beginning of the war, and the role Douglas Macarthur played in commanding the USS Missouri and his signature on the Armistice with Wisconsin Made pens."

The Journal Sentinel features a podcast with Meg Jones. World War II Milwaukee is also the Book Preview title in the Shepherd Express this week. Yes, it's not the greatest weather today, but the storm will be over by tomorrow morning.

Let's keep it going! Here are our January events at and or-cosponsored by Boswell:

Wednesday, January 6, 7 pm, at Boswell;
Of Mice and Men preview with actor Jim Pickering.

From the Rep: "One of the most celebrated works in American literature, Of Mice and Men is a compelling tale of friendship and survival. George and Lennie are migrant workers who dream of settling down on a farm where the land stretches on forever and the soft rabbits need tending. This classic drama is a touching portrait of two underdogs in pursuit of the American dream. Mark Clements remounts his critically-acclaimed production using Milwaukee Rep favorites after a record-setting production in Philadelphia, where it won 8 Barrymore Awards (including Best Production)."

Buy your tickets to the Milwaukee Rep here.

My sister Merrill used to have a great time teaching Of Mice and Men in her high school AP class. I wish I could come invite her to see the show, but I just don't think she'll make the trek from Arizona in January.

Friday, January 8, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Rebecca Scherm, author of Unbecoming. 

I just finished this one for our Monday. What brainy fun! January 4 book club discussion (and yes, you're welcome to attend). Who would have guessed that we'd pick two novels (the other is Boy, Snow, Bird) that had Hitchcock references? We've actually had a great holiday sale with this book, a great choice for the reader who wants a more cerebral take on a heist novel.

Here's Kim Kankiewicz in the Star Tribune doing a better job of making this point: "Unbecoming documents the evolution of an antihero, but it also represents the heist novel’s coming of age. Grace argues that art is 'not there to look nice [but] to scratch at people’s brains.' Traditional caper stories 'look nice.' They entertain without provoking deep thought. By introducing complex themes and one of the most compelling characters in recent fiction, Scherm has elevated the heist novel beyond entertainment. Like a painting that becomes more intriguing the longer you study it, Unbecoming is a genuine work of art."

Tuesday, January 12, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Nicholas Petrie, author of The Drifter.

You're going to think that my New Year's resolution for 2016 was only to read thrillers, but that's not the case. When I heard that there was a local angle to a new thriller from Putnam, I jumped at the chance to read it early. Whether you like genre or not, there's something cool about reading a book set in Milwaukee; just ask readers of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. The setup is an Iraq war vet who, while helping a deceased buddy's widow fix up her house, finds a suitcase filled with cash. She knows nothing about it, but someone put it there, right?

You're going to hear lots more about Petrie's debut, and after the celebratory launch at Boswell, Petrie goes on tour around the country, then returns for two library events, on Wednesday, January 27, 6:30 pm, at Whitefish Bay, and Friday, January 29, 6:30 pm, at Greendale. The latter will be a conversation with director (and mystery fan) Gary Niebuhr.

Thursday, January 14, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mark Zimmermann, author of Impersonations.

Zimmermann teaches at MSOE and last read at Boswell with the Hartford Avenue Poets.  His publisher notes: "Each of the persona poems in this collection is written in the voice of a historical figure, contemporary cultural icon, or well-known literary character. The poems are written in the lipogram form, a constraint in which certain letters of the alphabet are deliberately omitted from the work. In Impersonations, Zimmermann has limited himself to the letters contained in the name of each persona; for instance, the poem "Sigmund Freud" uses only the letters s, i, g, m, u, n, d, f, r, and e."

From Marilyn Taylor: "The artful manipulation of language is difficult enough for poets who have all 26 letters of the alphabet at their disposal, but here Mark Zimmermann has risen to that challenge under severe self-imposed restrictions.,.Much like the old-time magicians who could extricate themselves from locked barrels, Zimmermann's speakers manage, remarkably, to escape their impediments and speak, convincingly and eloquently, from their souls."

Thursday, January 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Hagedorn, author of The Insane Chicago Way: The Daring Plan by Chicago Gangs to Create a Spanish Mafia .

Wisconsin resident Hagedorn, who teaches in the department of criminology at University of Illinois Chicago, follows up his books People and Folks and A World of Gangs, with The Insane Chicago Way, which as the publisher notes, is "the daring plan by Chicago gangs in the 1990s to create a Spanish mafia, and why it failed. The book centers on the history of Spanish Growth and Development (SGD), an organization of Latino gangs founded in 1989 and modeled on the Mafia's nationwide Commission. "

"Hagedorn's tale is based on three years of interviews with an outfit solider, as well as access to SGD's constitution and other secret documents, which he supplements with interviews with key SGD leaders, court records, and newspaper accounts. The result is a stunning, heretofore unknown history of the grand ambitions of Chicago gang leaders that ultimately led to SGD's shocking collapse in a pool of blood on the steps of a gang-organized peace conference."

Thursday, January 21, 7 pm (reception), 7:30 (talk):
a ticketed event with Jennifer Robson, author of Moonlight Over Paris at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 W. Brown Deer Road.

Margy Stratton, the producer of the Women's Speaker Series at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, has been working to bring over Jennifer Robson for close to a year. Robson, author of the historical novels After the War Is Over and Somewhere in France, is a historical novelist who focuses on Europe during and after World War I. I think that historical fiction is the sweet spot for this series, based on our terrific showings for Melanie Benjamin and Renée Rosen, and I'm thrilled to help welcome Robson to the United States (she's Canadian).

Jocelyn Kelley asked Robson about her subject in the Huffington Post blog: "I think I first became seriously interested in the Great War when I was in high school. In one of my English classes we were asked to choose a poem to study, and I picked Wilfred Owen's "Strange Meeting." I was so overcome by it that I read through all his other published poetry, then I began to read Siegfried Sassoon and then, probably when I was 17 or 18, my parents gave me a copy of Vera Brittain's Testament of Youth. I have re-read it countless times since and the moment when she learns of her fiancé's death still brings tears to my eyes."

As always, tickets for this event include admission, wine and refreshments, and a copy of Moonlight Over Paris. The cost is $25 or $20 for Lynden Sculpture Garden members. In addition to Milwaukee Reads, sponsors are Bronze Optical, with MKE Localicious providing food. And dare I say it? This event is perfect for perfect for Downton Abbey fans!

Tuesday, January 26, 5 pm (reception), 6 pm (talk), at the Central Library Reading Room, 814 W. Wisconsin Ave, 1st floor.
Lindsay Starck, author of Noah's Wife:

You're going to think all I do is read, and yes, one of the reasons I cut back on gift buying (congrats to Jen, who did a great job this year with boxed cards and ornaments), was to have a little more reading time, and that was successful, as my reading went up 20% over 2014 (66 books this year vs. 55 last year). And one thing I focused on were upcoming events with local ties. And the first thing that jumped out at me was Lindsay Starck's debut novel.

Yes, it's called Noah's Wife, but don't be fooled. It's not a historical novel, and while it's not religious per se, it does ponder questions of faith. The story is set in a town besieged by floods, so I'm guessing the author was reading maps and spotted the particularly brutal El Nino the country is dealing with. And yes, there are animals - the town's main attraction was a zoo, and when that flooded, the animals were moved to various homes and shops. And yes, there's Noah, a minister who comes to unite the town after the failure of his predecessor. But it turns out the challenge might be a bit too much for him. The story is told from a number of perspectives, and its heartfelt and a bit quirky too. Think early Anna Quindlen crossed with early Alice Hoffman, only there's no magic.

This event of course is sponsored by the Milwaukee Public Library, and how could it not be? As Starck notes in her first novel, she practically grew up there.

Wednesday, January 27, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Jessica Chiarella, author of And Again.

Many of our first-time authors have local connections. Others have a very high-profile going into publication. Many times an author will have found some success, or at least solid reviews, and will tour for the paperback, such as Celeste Ng. But other times it just feels right to make a leap of faith and try our best to help break out a book and author. And that's the case with Jessica Chiarella, author of And Again. She's from Chicago (making it an easy trip that doesn't break the publisher's budget) and still in her MFA program at University of California Riverside.

I am always interested in books edited by Sally Kim. And Chiarella's premise is intriguing - what if you had a terminal illness, but then got the chance to swap out your bodies for a freshly minted clone? The story follows four people selected for this experimental program, and the complications (because you know there will be complications) that ensue.

And Again has been getting some very good advance reviews. Kirkus writes that "Chiarella's engaging writing creates so many haunting moments that readers will find themselves moving quickly through the story, as well as awaiting her next work. This is a novel about what it means to be human, with all the flaws and vulnerabilities that implies, and whether we can ever truly begin again." They are making the comparison to Station Eleven and it seems fair - both are books that have speculative elements that are not necessarily for folks who read genre. Instead, the challenge is to get folks to read outside their comfort zone. As a boookseller, the reward is that if a customer comes back and does like the book, it sticks with them longer than just recommending exactly what they'd like.

Thursday, January 28, 7 pm, at Boswell:
A ticketed event with Amy Cuddy, author of Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, in conversation with Lake Effect's Bonnie North.
This event is co-sponsored by Milwaukee Public Radio, WUWM.

You may have seen Amy Cuddy's TED talk. No, you had to have seen it - it's the second most watched talk of all of them. And the book just came out, on December 22. It's after Christmas and it's all about you and how to be more confident. Cuddy, is an associate professor at Harvard Business School. I'll let them excplain her work: "Social psychologist Amy Cuddy, Associate Professor at Harvard Business School, uses experimental methods to investigate how people judge and influence each other and themselves. Her research suggests that judgments along two critical trait dimensions – warmth/trustworthiness and competence/power – shape social interactions, determining such outcomes as who gets hired and who doesn’t, when we are more or less likely to take risks, why we admire, envy, or disparage certain people, elect politicians, or even target minority groups for genocide."

Among Cuddy's influences are her colleague William Ury, co-author of Getting to Yes. His take: "What could be more important in life than being yourself? In this wonderfully engaging, intelligent, and practical book, Amy Cuddy unpacks the cutting-edge psychology of presence when we most need it. I recommend it highly!" Another work referenced is Susan Cain's Quiet. Cain offers this praise: "Amy Cuddy is the high priestess of self-confidence for the self-doubting. In Presence, she uses her warmth, empathy, and laser-sharp intelligence to decode the mysteries of presence under social pressure. A must-read for--well, for everyone."

Tickets are $30 and include admission and a copy of Presence.

Friday, January 29, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Charles Ries, author of The Fathers We Find: The Making of a Pleasant, Humble Boy.

You may know Charles Ries as Marquette University's senior director of development design and innovation in university advancement. But he's also known for his poetry, having already read at Boswell. Now his coming-of-age novel is out, based loosely on his own story of growing up on a mink farm in Southeastern Wisconsin. On the Marquette website, the author refers to his work as “a mash-up of the secular and the spiritual, the ordinary and the mystical.” His growing up in a "devout Catholic family. Of his six siblings, five entered the convent or seminary" has influenced the story of Chuck, who "stumbles to enlightenment" while navigating the nuns, priests, and hardworking churchgoers in his life.


Our holiday hours:
Thursday, December 31: 10 am to 5 pm
Friday, January 1: 10 am to 5 pm
Saturday, January 9: We'll open at 11 am after inventory

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