Monday, August 19, 2019

Boswell alert - Mark Hineline at the Urban Ecology Center, Caitlin PenzeyMoog's spice-filled memoir, Patricia Skalka's latest David Cubiak mystery - special afternoon event

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

Tuesday, August 20, 7 pm, at Urban Ecology Center, Riverside Park, 1500 E Park Pl:
Mark L Hineline, author of Ground Truth: A Guide to Tracking Climate Change at Home

Mark L Hineline appears at Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center with his guide for novice scientists to get closer to nature and observe climate change in their own neighborhood. Cosponsored by Boswell. Please pay what you can for admission. Hineline is Instructor in History, Philosophy, and Sociology of science at Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University.

We know that the Earth’s climate is changing, and that the magnitude of this change is colossal. At the same time, the world outside is still a natural world, and one we can experience on a granular level every day. Hineline’s Ground Truth is a guide to paying attention instead of turning away and gathering facts from which a fuller understanding of the natural world can emerge over time.

Writing for Slate, Rebecca Onion says, “Hineline’s wonderful new book advocates the addition of a new kind of individual action to supplement our political struggle [against climate change] - one that’s both pragmatic and emotionally resonant.” Along with detailed guidance, Hineline ponders the value of everyday observations, probes the connections between seasons and climate change, and traces the history of phenology - the study and timing of natural events - and the uses to which it can be put. Ground Truth invites readers to help lay the groundwork for a better understanding of the nature of change itself.

Wednesday, August 21, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Caitlin PenzeyMoog, author of On Spice: Advice, Wisdom, and History with a Grain of Saltiness

Caitlin PenzeyMoog, UWM alum, Deputy Managing Editor of The AV Club, and granddaughter of Milwaukee spice legends Bill and Ruth-Ann Penzey, grinds up a revealing look at the history and production of spices with modern, no-nonsense advice on using them at home.

Every home cook has thoughts on the right and wrong ways to use spices. These beliefs are passed down in family recipes and pronounced by television chefs, but where do such ideas come from? Many are little better than superstition, and most serve only to reinforce a cook’s sense of superiority or cover for their insecurities. It doesn’t have to be this way.

PenzeyMoog’s notes On Spice come from three generations of family in the spice trade and dozens upon dozens of their collected spice guides and stories. Learn where spices come from - historically, geographically, botanically, and in the modern market - and see snapshots of life in a spice shop, how the flavors and stories can infuse not just meals but life and relationships.

Thursday, August 22, 2 pm, at Boswell:
Patricia Skalka, author of Death by the Bay

You know Patricia Skalka from the Dave Cubiak mysteries. She's also President of the Sisters in Crime Chicagoland chapter. Now this sometimes Wisconsin-based author returns to Boswell for a special afternoon event with the fifth installment of her popular series.

A scream from a medical conference disrupts Sheriff Dave Cubiak’s lunch at the Green Arbor Lodge. Leaping into action, he finds the ninety-three-year-old director of the Institute for Progressive Medicine collapsed, dead of a heart attack. As Cubiak interrogates the witnesses, he’s struck by the inconsistencies in their stories - some evade questions and others offer contradictory statements. Then another scream pierces the air.

Past and present merge as long-buried secrets rise to the surface. The resourceful sheriff must rely on wits and the memories of friends and family to uncover the dark truth behind the Institute for Progressive Medicine. Dedicated and new fans alike will find themselves captivated by this intelligently plotted story as Cubiak untangles the twisted threads of this intricate mystery.

More upcoming events on the Boswell upcoming events page.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 17, 2019

Here are the Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 17, 2019

Hardcover Fiction:
1. A Dangerous Man V18, by Robert Crais
2. The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J Ryan Stradal
3. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
4. Inland, by Téa Obreht
5. Chances Are, by Richard Russo
6. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
7. City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
8. Lady in the Lake, by Laura Lippman
9. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
10. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, by Olga Tokarczuk

In the review world, Tea Obreht's Inland was definitely the start of the new releases. Carolyn Kellogg imagines the panic of being lost in the desert without enough water in the current day: "Before hoofing it back to modern comforts, you consider what it was like to try to make it in the desert West a century ago: the relentless sun, the endless thirst, nothing between you and the elements but a scrap of determined hope. That is where Téa Obreht plops us down, in a whisper of a town in the Arizona Territory in 1893, in Inland, her first book since her 2011 bestselling debut, The Tiger’s Wife. Suffused with magical realism, “Inland” is a sweeping story of the outcasts who drift into this desolate corner of the West. There’s a huge cast, stretching back half a century, who orbit around two characters in particular."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Chase Darkness with Me, by Billy Jensen
2. The Art of Inventing Hope, by Howard Reich
3. Educated, by Tara Westover
4. How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X Kendi
5. On Spice, by Caitlin PenzeyMoog (event at Boswell Wed 8/21)
6. For the Good of the Game, by Bud Selig
7. The Source of Self Regard, by Toni Morrison
8. Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
9. The Witch's Guide to Self Care, by Arin Murphy-Hiscock
10. Witcraft, by Jonathan Ree

Ibram X Kendi received the National Book Award for Stamped from the Beginning in 2016. Now his follow-up, How to Be an Antiracist, has arrived. Here's what Ericka Taylor says on the NPR website: "Despite the nature of its title, Kendi has gifted us with a book that is not only an essential instruction manual but also a memoir of the author's own path from anti-black racism to anti-white racism and, finally, to antiracism. Such critical self-reflection is, in fact, the responsibility of the antiracist. Kendi explains that, "like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination."

Paperback Fiction:
1. Ghosts of the Garfagnana, by Paul Salsini
2. Hope Rides Again V2, by Andrew Shaffer
3. Hope Never Dies V2, by Andrew Shaffer
4. Milwaukee Noir, edited by Tim Hennessy
5. The Overstory, by Richard Powers
6. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. Madame Bovary, by Gustav Flaubert
9. Native Tongue V1, by Suzette Haden Elgin
10. A Thread So Fine, by Susan Welch (event at Boswell, Thu Sep 5, 7 pm)

Our Science Fiction Book Club is reading Suzette Haden Elgin's Native Tongue on Monday, September 9, 7 pm. It's got a Wikipedia entry! I don't think they thought through how the cover treatment would come off on websites. Definitely could have been on our what to read after our Handmaid's Tale table. Another book club surge has been for Flaubert's Madame Bovary. Here's Roxana Robinson's New Yorker piece on teaching Madame Bovary.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. A Prisoner of Her Past, by Howard Reich
2. Spirit of a Dream, by David Rearick (event at Boswell, Wed Sep 4, 7 pm)
3. 111 Places in Milwaukee that You Must Not Miss, by Michelle Madden
4. I'll Be Gone in the Dark, by Michelle McNamara
5. Calypso, by David Sedaris
6. The Fall of Wisconsin, by Dan Kaufman
7. Locking Up Our Own, by James Forman
8. Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari
9. Milwaukee Jazz, by Joey Grihalva
10. Dear Friend, by Yiyun Li

The sales pop for I'll Be Gone in the Dark is definitely connected to our visit last Friday from Billy Jensen, the author of Chase Darkness with Me. For one thing, Jensen helped finish McNamara's bestselling true crime book. Though to my knowledge, Jensen is not credited on the book itself, the Murderinos in the audience (those are folks who follow My Favorite Murder podcast) were well aware. My apologies if I missed the credit, but I thought I checked the cover, the title page, and the acknowledgements.

Books for Kids:
1. Dog Man For Whom the Ball Rolls V7, by Dav Pilkey
2. Lulu and Rock in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse, with illusrations by Renée Graef
3. Pigeon Has to Go to School, by Mo Willems
4. Dear Black Boy, by Ebony Lewis
5. House of Salt and Sorrows, by Erin A Craig
6. King of Kindergarten, by Derrick Barnes, with illustrations by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
7. We Don't Eat Our Classmates, by Ryan T Higgins
8. Calling the Water Drum, by Latisha Redding, with illustrations by Aaron Boyd
9. Marvel Alphablock, by Peskimo
10. Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, by Jeff Kinney

Back to school rules! One new release is King of Kindergarten, written by Derrick Barnes with pictures from Vanessa Brantley Newton. Trade reviews are ecstatic. School Library Journal called the book "joyful and empowering," while Booklist wrote: "This upbeat picture book follows an African American boy through his first day of school, from waking up in the morning to riding the school bus home. Taking hold of his mother's words that he'll be the King of Kindergarten, the royal metaphor gives him courage throughout the day as he meets new people and situations with bravery and excitement."

Though there's no printed book reviews this week in the Journal Sentinel, you can read the very hard-working and always reading Barbara VandenBurgh's review of Inland here, where she observes that "The Serbian-American writer displays dazzling dexterity and wit with the English language, transporting the reader to a fantastical late 19th century that borders on outright fantasy, where descriptions wax decadent and ghosts are treated as a matter of fact."

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Romance in the Bookstore - The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, by Abbi Waxman

Today is Bookstore Romance Day, a new promotion conceived by Billie Bloebaum. While we didn't do any programming this year, I had a good excuse - I'm off to the 20th anniversary of a former bookseller. Boswell also generates a lot of romance too - we've had three proposals, one wedding ceremony, and countless dates at the store. I've even had requests for a wedding reception, but I think that would be hard to pull off.

One of the things about romance is that like several other genres that had lost presence in bookstores (true crime comes to mind), it's really made a comeback. The new romances have diverse protagonists, and are often LGBT and disability friendly. But more than that, the women have agency. These are trends that have been ascendant for years, but it's really noticeable now.

Another thing that I think is different is a generation trend about genre snobbishness. One of the things I remember about working in a bookstore when I was young was that it was okay to turn up your nose at other people's reading tastes. I don't see that among my younger booksellers - this my be part of a bigger change about the way we think about difference.

In celebration of sorts, I read, on my colleague Jen's recommendation, The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. And while the publishers didn't tag this book specifically as a romance, it does have an alternate designation as romantic fiction on our bibliographic website, and there is certainly a romance at the heart of the story. It is also published by Berkley, which is one of the imprints where we are seeing a lot of the new romance. This charming romantic comedy is also a nice bookstore novel - I got a copy, gave it to a friend, and then bought another. Can there be higher praise from a bookseller?

This is Abbi Waxman's third published novel and like the others, it's set in a Los Angeles neighborhood called Larchmont Village. It's kind of similar to our Downer Avenue neighborhood, functioning a bit like a small town, and a little out of the way, such that we often have locals come to the bookstore who were kind of surprised to find this nice shopping street. It's partly because it our main street doesn't really go anywhere.

At the center of the story is Nina Hill, a young bookseller at Knight's in Larchmont Village whose mom now lives in Australia. She has no relatives, because she was conceived in a tryst and her mom asked the gentleman involved to waive paternity. He was married and things were messy. Nina's made her family her new friends, and she is very scheduled. Each chapter beings with a page from her planner. Between work, her weekly book club meeting (a different genre every week of the month) and her champion trivia team, there's not a lot of spare time.

Three things happen.
a. She meets a guy on one of the other trivia teams who seems kind of interesting.
b. It becomes clear that her bookstore is having financial problems.
c. She gets a note saying that her birth father has died and that she's in the will

Regarding that last revelation, it turns out that she's gone from no family to lots and lots and lots of family. Some of her new relatives are happy with her discovery; many others are not. And there you have the three problems that need to be solved.

The romance is pretty straightforward, and kind of follows what I read to be the Harlequin formula, only without restrictions on which page each plot point must occur. The family drama takes a few more unexpected turns. But it's really Nina who drives the story. It's just hard not to love her. And there's no question that while she finds a few new loves (family, romantic partner), she will always love, love, love books.

Here's Boswellian Jen Steele's recommendation that convinced me to pick up the book: "I loved every bit of this delightful novel! Nina Hill has everything she could every want: a dream job working at her local independent bookstore, trivia nights with her friends, weekly book clubs, and the most observant cat, Phil. She may have every moment planned in her spectacular daily organizer. Nevertheless, there are some things you just can't plan. Nina gets a visit from a lawyer and learns that the father she never knew has died, leaving her with siblings and many questions. Overwhelmed with the sudden onslaught of new people in her life, not to mention the potential fling with the cute guy from a rival trivia team, Nina beings to realize real life is much harder than it is in books. She must learn how to navigate around her newfound family and all these new emotions. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill is a funny, wistful novel with a relatable bibliophile!"

As booksellers, we have two pieces of advice for Nina:

1) Why are you having all your author events on Saturday evenings. Monday through Friday are much easier nights to schedule, unless it's a launch party or has a strong entertainment element. But the book event we live through in Nina is hardly entertaining, nor is it a family/friends launch.

2) You had a street festival (family friendly, no less) and you closed the store? Now we do lose sales at the Downer Classic bike race, but my neighbor who like me is a shopkeeper, told me at one point that he did more than 10% of his annual sales at his neighborhood's annual street festival. 10% of the whole year's sales!

There is a real bookstore in Larchmont Village called Chevalier's. It's been open since 1940. You should go. Oh, and here's an interesting but not particularly new article on pressure to develop the neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

the books of Karen Dukess's The Last Book Party, a novel for the end of summer

I was cleaning up our break room when I came across The Last Book Party, a July novel from Karen Dukess. As the reading hoarder I can be, I wound up setting it aside for one last perusal before moving on. It had some bookseller love when it was published. So I tried it.

I know that I’m always supposed to be reading ahead, but like any number of readers in the publishing and bookselling world (including authors) who complain that reading, the thing we love that brought us to this industry, can sometimes feel more like work than pleasure. Sometimes it’s nice to read something that isn’t under deadline. There’s no Indie Next quote desired, the author isn’t coming. That said, I’m not sure I could handle reading a book that was out of print, unless my goal was to convince someone to republish it. So of course I turned my diversion into a blog post.

Here's the set up. Eve Rosen is an editorial secretary at Hodder, Strike who has dreams of moving up in the hierarchy. They read books off the slush pile, sometimes aloud to the co-workers. The editorial folks are different from the publicity people; they are introverted and don’t have progressive parties. I should note that when I was in publishing, I don’t think there was much outside socializing between the brains (editorial) and the money (sales, marketing, publicity). But it’s also possible I just wasn’t invited. I should note that one of the recent attendees at our book club worked in editorial and her closest friend was in publicity. So every house is different.

In any case, Eve* is passed over for a promotion and jumps ship to assist Henry Grey, an old-school, Cape-Cod-based New Yorker journalist who has been working on his memoirs for years. She first meets him through his son Franny, an unbookish artist type with whom she has a dalliance, back when she was still in publishing. But it turns out the connections are web-like. Franny’s roommate at Choate is Jordan Grand, the hot young author that is Hodder, Strike’s big property. Meanwhile, Henry Grey’s memoir languishes unedited in the drawer of Malcolm his editor.

Henry lives an artistic life with his spouse Tillie the poet, who worked for years in Henry’s shadow, but now has a flourishing career. Their lives seem so exotic to Eve, whose family may live nearby, but are world’s away in terms of this insular world. And the season will all culminate in the Grey’s end-of-season book party, a costume extravaganza where everyone comes dressed as book characters.

And did I imagine that there’s a lot of secrets and withholding of information? Some things are revealed pretty early, such as Jeremy Grand is actually Jeremy Greenberg, who like Eve is just a middle-class Jewish kid, only he's from New Jersey.

Well, you can only imagine what happens. The story is a bit of a play on the innocent whose clumsy maneuverings crash down the intricate house of cards that the other players have constructed. And it’s also a play on the mentor story, calling to mind two novels from 2018, Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry and Sigrid Nuñez’s The Friend. I have this tendency when I’m reading to call out advice to the protagonist, “Please don’t do this,” but they always do what I hope they won’t.

In a way, the awful things that happen don’t destroy Eve so much as jump-start her. When I hear authors offer advice to others, one common refrain is “Read, read, read. Write, write, write.” And the thing about Eve is that she is just having trouble with the latter, and is even called out for it. But she has no such issues with the former, and that is one of my favorite parts of The Last Book Party. I loved Eve’s voracious reading habit, and from bookstores to libraries to flea markets, there were books everywhere. Classics mix with popular fiction of the time; mixed in are a number of lost treasures. I spent more than a few moments searching for the story behind obscure titles and authors. I wouldn't mind talking books with Alva the librarian.

If there were ever a book that demanded a reading list, this is one. So hereforth are the books of The Last Book Party.

The Cremation of Sam McGee, by Robert Service (12)
The detective novels of Ngaio Marsh (17)
The detective novels of P.D. James (17)
The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough (17)
MyAntonia, by Willa Cather (17)
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith (18)
Love in Bloomsbury: Memories, by Frances Partridge (37)
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte (37)
Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson (38)
A Wreath for the Enemy, by Pamela Frankau (67)
Cape Cod, by Henry David Thoreau (73)
The Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Birds (Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 73)
The Encyclopedia of Ancient Battles, edited by Michael Whitby and Harry Sidebottom (73)
World’s Fair, by E.L. Doctorow (73)
Stones for Ibarra, by Harriet Doerr (73)
Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville (73)
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins (73)
Rich Man, Poor Man, by Irwin Shaw (73)
War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy (73)
I’ll Take Manhattan, by Judith Krantz (84)
Harold and the Purple Crayon, by Crockett Johnson (85)
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, by Eric Hodgins (89)
Anna and the King of Siam, by Margaret Landon (91)
Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw (92)
Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink (92)
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (92)
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte (92)
Marjorie Morningstar, by Herman Wouk (93)
Exodus, by Leon Uris (93)
The Secret of the Old Clock, by Carolyn Keene (94)
Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier (94)
The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (94)
Sweet Savage Love, by Rosemary Rogers (94)
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett (96)
The Robert McCloskey books (103)
The novels of Dominic Dunne (113)
The novels of Bret Easton Ellis (113)
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe (114)
Middlemarch, by George Eliot (114)
Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison (114)
Scoop, by Evelyn Waught (114)
Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish (114)
Zuleika Dobson, by Max Beerbohm (114)
Snappy Eats of 1932, by the Temple Sisterhood of Pine Bluff, Arkansas (114)
Gentleman Prefer Blondes, by Anita Loos (114)
The novels of Don Delillo (116)
The novels of Thomas Pynchon (116)
Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson (116)
Thy Neighbor’s Wife, by Gay Talese (124)
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert (139)
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy (140)
Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak (140)
Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov (140)
Take Forty Eggs, by Basil Collier (152)
Eleanor and Franklin, by Joseph P Lash (153)
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison (153)
Dracula, by Bram Stoker (194)
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas (194)
Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by Truman Capote (194)
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald (194)
Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne (194)
The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins (196)
Goodbye, Columbus, by Philip Roth (197)
Dangerous Liaisons, by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos (198)
Bright Lights, Big City, by Jay McInerney (205)
Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle (205)
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (205)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (226)
Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (226)
Tourist Season, by Carl Hiaasen (226)
The novels of Edna Ferber (226)
The novels of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (226)
The novels of Sidney Sheldon (226)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach

This book so feels like the end of summer, what with a lot of high schools already in session. Dukess's novel sort of feels like a bookend to John Glynn's Out East, a memoir about another publishing person out of his league in another summer resort community.

*I called the protagonist Eva in our email newsletter. It was a last-minute addition and we didn't proof thoroughly.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Brake for Boswell - and come for these events - Paul Salsini tonight, Andrew Shaffer (Hope Rides Again) tomorrow, J Ryan Stradal sold out, Michael Moreci and Javier Ramirez on Thursday, Billy Jensen with Doug Gordon Friday

I should note that between June 18 and 26 of this year, we had eight speakers and seven were female. It's just one of those random things of the calendar.

And now, what's happening at Boswell.

Monday, August 12, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Paul Salsini, author of The Ghosts of the Garfagnana: Seven Strange Stories from Haunted Tuscany

Milwaukee author of A Tuscan Series, Paul Salsini continues his fictional explorations of the haunted side of Tuscany.

Strange things are known to happen in the rugged Garfagnana region. It is a little-known area of high mountains, either brilliantly white or deeply forested, small villages, some of them abandoned, and rippling streams. And there is something eerie and mysterious about it.

This was the place with a bridge built by a devil in the Middle Ages, a mountain that contains a witches’ coven, an underground cavern where voices can be heard, and a village that had been flooded but whose church bells can be heard under the lake on cold winter nights. Salsini reflects this mood with supernatural stories - a friendly ghost haunts a monastery, a statue cures the sick, and a village sleeps for a hundred years. All these and more make their appearance in Salsini’s latest, The Ghosts of the Garfagnana.

Paul Salsini is the Milwaukee-based author of The Cielo, Sparrow's Revenge, and The Fearless Flag Thrower of Lucca. Salsini is an instructor at Marquette University and formerly worked for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Want to know more? Here's a link to Paul Salsini's interview on Lake Effect.

Tuesday, August 13, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Andrew Shaffer, author of Hope Rides Again and Hope Never Dies

The New York Times bestselling author rides into Boswell with the sequel to his hit Obama and Biden mystery, Hope Never Dies, in which the former POTUS and VPOTUS reprise their roles as BFFs-turned-amateur-sleuths as they chase Obama’s stolen cell phone through Chicago.

Shaffer chats about the second entry into his series that The New Yorker calls, “a giddy premise, a bit of Resistance wish-fulfillment for those who’d like to see Biden and Obama trading one-liners and cracking skulls.” In Hope Rides Again, Biden’s old pal Obama invites him to meet a benefactor whose endorsement could turn the tide for Joe if he decides to run for president. But the two friends barely have time to catch up before another mystery lands in their laps.

When their number-one suspect winds up full of lead on the South Side, the police are content to write it off as just another gangland shooting. But Joe and Obama smell a rat. Set against the backdrop of a raucous city on St. Patrick’s Day, Joe and Obama uncover a vast conspiracy that goes deeper than the waters of Lake Michigan - exactly where they’ll spend the rest of their retirement if they’re not careful.

We'll have a drawing for Obama and Biden action figures and scented candles.

At capacity - Wednesday, August 14, 7 pm, at Café Hollander, 2608 N Downer Ave:
J Ryan Stradal, author of The Lager Queen of Minnesota - signed copies can be ordered here

This event is fully registered. However, cancellations do occur. Check back at to see if any spots have opened up. In addition, there will likely be some last-minute standby seats available the night of the event, but space is limited. We'll also have signed copies available after the event, or you can reserve a signed copy now. Personalization requires payment in advance.

Kirkus’s starred review calls The Lager Queen of Minnesota, “an absolutely delightful read, perfect for a summer day with a good beer and a piece of pie.” J Ryan Stradal is author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest, which won the American Booksellers Association Indie’s Choice Award and the Midwest Booksellers Choice Award. He is a contributing editor at TASTE Magazine.

Thursday, August 15, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Michael Moreci, author of We Are Mayhem: A Black Star Renegades Novel, in conversation with Javier Ramirez

Michael Moreci had to cancel his June appearance at Boswell, so we have rescheduled his return to the store for a chat with Javier Ramirez, a bookseller at Oak Park’s Book Table, about We Are Mayhem, the second installment of Moreci’s Star Wars-inspired series that Nerdist calls "the next big thing."

A ragtag group of misfits known as the Black Star Renegades not only possesses the will to fight for galactic freedom, they also possess the ultimate ace in the hole: the mythical Rokura, the most powerful weapon ever known. Too bad they haven’t figured out how to use it. Rebel Cade must embark on a dangerous mission into uncharted space to discover the Rokura’s origins and learn how it can be wielded. If he doesn’t, all hope for the galaxy might be lost.

As reviewed in USA Today, “Those who dig Arthurian legend, Guardians of the Galaxy cosmic high jinks and especially Star Wars mythology will find oodles to love.”

Michael Moreci is a Chicago-based novelist and comic books writer recognized as one of Newcity Lit's "Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago 2018." His comics include Roche Limit and Burning Fields. He's also written Suicide Squad for DC, Planet of the Apes for Boom!, and the forthcoming Black Hole Repo.

Friday, August 16, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Billy Jenson, author of Chase Darkness With Me: How One True-Crime Writer Started Solving Murders, in conversation with Doug Gordon

Billy Jensen talks true crime capers with Wisconsin Public Radio’s Doug Gordon, Producer and Host of BETA. Jensen is a journalist turned cold case investigator who helped complete Michelle McNamara’s #1 New York Times bestseller, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark.

Register for this free event at Attendees can also upgrade to a book-with-registration for signing line priority at the special price of $24.70, with tax and ticket fee included. No refunds for book-with-registration upgrade after August 15, 2019.

Journalist Billy Jensen has built his career on solving cold case murders, often using information found on social media and in other places the police don't think to look. When detectives have no answers, they call Billy, the world's first digital "consulting detective."

Step inside the world of true crime as Billy solves the Halloween Mask Murder, finds a murderer/fugitive hiding out in Mexico, and investigates the only other murder in New York City on 9/11. Readers will also follow Billy closely as he helps finish Michelle McNamara's I'll Be Gone In the Dark after her sudden death. Full of twists, turns, and rabbit holes, Jensen’s Chase Darkness with Me allows readers to ride shotgun with Billy as he uses groundbreaking techniques to identify the criminals behind seemingly unsolvable murders.

Please note that if we get close to capacity in registration, you'll need to be registered to attend this event. It's at

We're taking a long summer weekend, so our next event is Mark Hineline at the Urban Ecology Center on August. Keep up to date with all our Boswell events on our upcoming event page.

Photo credits!
J. Ryan Stradal: Anna Pasquerella
Billy Jensen: Robyn Van Swank

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Boswell bestsellers for the week ending August 10, 2019

Here's what's selling at Boswell.

Hardcover Fiction:
1. A Dangerous Man V18, by Robert Crais (event is today at 3 pm, registration has closed but we have space for you)
2. The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
3. Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens
4. The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
5. The Lager Queen of Minnesota, by J. Ryan Stradal (this event is at capacity, we're checking on cancellations)
6. Chances Are, by Richard Russo
7. City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert
8. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong
9. The Chain, by Adrian McKinty
10. Knife V12, by Jo Nesbo

Richard Russo's Chances Are, his first stand-alone novel in a decade, hits our top 10 fiction for the second week in a row. While we've never hosted him at Boswell, I know he'd been to the Harry W. Schwartz stores and he continues to be an advocate for independent bookstores. He is one the father of Emily Russo, one of the co-owners of Print: A Bookstore, in Portland, Maine. Another friend of bookstores, Mameve Medwed, reviewed Chances Are for the Boston Globe, writing: "Along with his wry eye for irony and regret, [Russo] offers up a compelling mystery. Savvy readers who pride themselves on anticipating a plot twist, spotting a red herring, and identifying the who-did-it are in for a surprise."

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Four Sacred Secrets, Preethaji and Krishnaji
2. Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink
3. Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown
4. One Country Club Drive, by Marty Peck (also in paperback)
5. Trick Mirror, Jia Tolentino
6. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
7. The Bastard Brigade, by Sam Kean
8. For the Good of the Game, by Bud Selig
9. The Source of Self Regard, by Toni Morrison
10. The Second Mountain, by David Brooks

Jia Tolentino's Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, has a strong first week at Boswell. I looked at the list of the reviews and they were almost all raves (that's an official designation, by the way), including this from Kirkus: "In these nine stunning pieces, New Yorker staff writer Tolentino seamlessly melds together journalistic social criticism and revealing personal essays. To varying degrees of intimate context, she places herself within each narrative, reporting on broad social currents while revealing very specific encounters."

Paperback Fiction:
1. The Overstory, by Richard Powers (In Store Lit Group Mon Oct 14)
2. The Incendiaries, by Ro Kwon (In-Store Lit Group Mon Nov 4)
3. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
4. Death Takes a Bow V4, by David S Pederson
5. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
6. Vintage 1954, by Antoine Laurian
7. Severance, by Ling Ma (Books and Beer Book Club selection, Mon Oct 21, 7 pm, at Cafe Hollander)
8. Make/Shift, by Joe Sacsteder
9. My Year of Rest and Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh
10. Call Me Zebra, Azareen Van Der Vliet Oloomi (In Store Lit Group Mon Aug 26, Pen Faulkner Prize)

All the In-Store Lit Group meetings are at 7 pm at Boswell. Needless to say, we met last Monday, which tends to help sales. All the books are featured in our front-of-store book club case, which Kay oversees. I'm happy to say that I've been pretty good at keeping up with the shelf talkers. Now I have to dig into Call Me Zebra, which I've heard will be an interesting experience. Another table that is featured in the store celebrates the life of Toni Morrison. Her most acclaimed novel, Beloved, also had the best sales for us last week. I still remember the experience of reading it when it came out and talking to other Schwartz people, most notably Carole and Monica.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. One Country Club Drive, by Marty Peck
2. Death Wins All Wars, by Daniel Holland (event at Boswell Wed Sep 25, 7 pm)
3. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R Covey
4. 111 Places in Milwaukee You Must Not Miss, by Michelle Madden
5. Calypso, by David Sedaris
6. Last Girl, by Nadia Murad
7. Milwaukee Jazz, by Joey Grihalva
8. The Fall of Wisconsin, by Dan Kaufman
9. Locking Up Our Own, by James Forman
10. Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

With this week's sales, 111 Places in Milwaukee You Must Not Miss skirts ahead of the 2nd edition of 100 Things to Do in Milwaukee Before You Die. Both were written by local authors, but they are part of national series. We've got them displayed next to each other and we actually marketed them similar - both authors planned a number of events around town so we stepped back and gave them a feature in our newsletter. Have they ever done an event together? I guess you'd call it competitive touristing.

Books for Kids:
1. Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
2. Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson
3. London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd
4. Out of My Mind, by Sharon M Draper
5. Seedfolks, by Paul Flesichman
6. Lulu and Rocky in Milwaukee, by Barbara Joosse/Renée Graef
7. Pigeon Has to Go to School, by Mo Willems
8. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Board Book, by Eric Carle
9. I Am a Bunny board book, by Ole Risom/Richard Scarry
10. You Go First, by Erin Entrada Kelly (event Wed Sep 25, 6:30 pm, at Greenfield Public Library - register here)

As the school year gears up, some districts are turning to Boswell to fill out their classroom libraries. The most popular title this week for that was Fish in a Tree, by Lynda McNally Hunt, a 2016 story about Ally, a young student who hides her inability to read by causing trouble. But Mr. Daniels sees the bright student behind the trouble maker. From the starred Booklist review: "Offering hope to those who struggle academically and demonstrating that a disability does not equal stupidity, this is as unique as its heroine."

Speaking of review, there are some today in the Journal Sentinel.

First up is a review from Book Editor Jim Higgins, focusing on Alan Paul and Andy Aledort’s Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Steve Ray Vaughan (on sale August 13). The book is an oral history, though Higgins, like much of Wisconsin, is focused on his death after an Alpine Valley concert in 1990. It was very foggy!

Ann Levin profiles Candace Bushnell, as the women of Sex in the City near 60. Regarding her new book Is There Still Sex in the City (now with six friends reporting in), Levin notes that "it would be a mistake to dismiss this book as romantic fluff. Bushnell’s style may be breezy, but many of the characters deal with disappointment, heartbreak and perhaps just as lethal — resignation."

The latest suspenseful novel from Shari Lapena has Mary Cadden at USA Today on the edge of her seat. Set in a Hudson Valley town, which is Mayberry for ex-pat New York City dwellers, Cadden notes that Someone We Know is another hit from the author of The People Next Door: "As the story quickly progresses, so do the clever plot twists and turns. Lapena’s prose is tight and the chapters unfold in staccato, unnerving and mirroring the hurried and scattered thoughts of the characters. With each passing page, the story unfolds at an increasingly breakneck pace. The reader begins to jump to conclusions as much as the neighbors do until the final reveal confirms our worst suspicions: that we don’t really know our neighbors at all."

Barbara VanDenburgh at USA Today spotlights five new releases:
1. Lost You, by Haylen Beck
2. Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino (featured above)
3. The Birthday Girl, by Melissa de la Cruz
4. The Mosquito, by Timothy C Winegard
5. The Women of Copper Country, by Mary Doria Russell

See you today at one of our events - Howard Reich as at the JCC at 2 pm, while Robert Crais is in conversation with Nick Petrie at 3 pm.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Thrillwaukee Focus: Robert Crais and "A Dangerous Man"

One of the things I like about mystery series is their placeyness. Laura Lippman knows Baltimore, William Kent Krueger is all about rural Minnesota, and Sarah Paretsky has kept most (but not all) of V.I. Warshawski's cases in Chicagoland. But when you're writing about Los Angeles, you have to compete with some bigwigs - Michael Connelly, Walter Mosley, James Ellroy, Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, and Dorothy B. Hughes, an author who hits a lot of best-of lists, but is not as well known as some of these other writers. Her novels are currently being republished by New York Review of Books. It looks like her most noted title is In a Lonely Place. I'm told it's quite superior to the Humphrey Bogart adaptation.

The list goes on. My guess is that this is particularly fertile territory because, like New York, there are a lot of writers living there, and since many of them are screenwriters, the mystery/thriller works better as a genre than say, the linked short story collection from multiple perspectives.

One name that comes up again and again is Robert Crais, who has been writing Los Angeles mysteries since 1987. While many of you have read many of his books, his latest, A Dangerous Man, is only my second, following The Monkey's Raincoat, his first published novel in this very colorful Los Angeles series. And it's fascinatingly similar and yet different, much the way the mystery genre of the 1980s has morphed into the popular thrillers of today.

For one thing, while both books feature Elvis Cole and Joe Pike, their roles have reversed. In the early books, Elvis was the detective and star, while Joe was the sidekick. Elvis was quirky, dressed casually SoCal with a Disney-themed office. And one early novel's copy described Joe as sociopathic hardly the hero of a series. But that was then. Now Joe is more like a Hollywood action star, with the mandatory military credentials, a way with weapons, and the blessing of American secret forces of all stripes. He's shown in a much more positive light, hardly a sociopath. And Elvis is now like his gofer. At least in one of the action scenes, he shows he can carry a weapon. I was waiting for him to get kidnapped and have Joe save him. But that role is played by other actors here. 

In A Dangerous Man, the story starts with Joe being in the wrong place at the wrong time, a bank where two goons are getting ready to kidnap a teller. These hired hands don't know much, and when Joe goes after them, they don't have much of a chance. Isabel is a young woman who is trying to figure out what to do after the death of her mom. She's inherited the house, but living day to day. Her greatest solace is her childhood friend Carly and Carly's mom Joyce, who've become a second family.

But someone's after Isabel; she is not in the clear at all. And things get even stranger when the U.S. Marshalls enter the picture; her death is tied to the death of a retired Marshall in Palmdale, linked by the same killer syndicate. The villains might think Joe is a goon for hire, but really, he's just helping out because it's the right thing to do. In that way, he reminds me of Nick Petrie's Peter Ash, which is a good thing because Petrie is our conversation partner for Crais on Sunday, August 11, at Boswell. 

In this case, I'm not going to say too much more. This is not a "what did the book club think?" post, after all. I will note the action is fast-paced, the dialogue is prominent but doesn't overwhelm the story so much to seem like a film treatment (and since this is a series, you can't sell the film rights anyway, because somebody probably already owns Pike and Cole), and while it's probably lower-key in placeyness than the early Crais novels, there's still plenty of local color, from Los Feliz to Koreatown to Burbank to Malibu.

One thing I enjoyed about the Crais's work is how he tried to breathe life into his side characters. Witnesses, bit players, law enforcement folk all have their little tics that humanize them. Sometimes it gives them warmth, while other times they are infuriating. John Chen their inside person in forensics, is nothing short of a mess, but he's there when it counts. But really, has their been Crais novel when he went off the deep end, or is that coming in the future. Because he's definitely wired.

At this point in the game, writers with big names can submit passable stuff and still get substantial sales in mass merchants based on their past work. Others are using ghost writers, and just to show that writing can be a family business, it's not uncommon for the son or daughter of a series writer to take over the character. Being that Crais is writing only one book every two years, it's pretty clear he's still working hard.

And it appears that the extra year pays off. Reviews on Crais's books continue to be great. Kirkus Reviews wrote: "If you’ve always wished Lee Child’s Jack Reacher had a little more balance in his life - but the same formidable talents - you'll love Joe Pike and the latest book in this long, superb series." It's a trifecta of raves at the trades - Publishers Weekly and Booklist were also enthusiastic.

In the consumer press, Tom Nolan had this to say in The Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Crais unspools this tense and involving saga - which races all over the Los Angeles area, from the fading allure of the 'Miracle Mile' to the sun-blasted San Fernando Valley to the shores of Malibu - with dashes of wit, lots of local color, many bursts of sudden action and some 300 pages of relentless suspense."

So yes, Robert Crais is coming, for the first time to Boswell, this Sunday, August 11, 3 pm. As noted, he'll be in conversation with Nick Petrie (at left). This event is cosponsored by Crimespree. No signing restrictions, but if you have a pile of books to get signed, we'll ask you to wait until the end of the line. Over the years, Crais visited Mystery One many times, and sometimes Schwartz was able to get a second event as well. It's a homecoming, of sorts. The event is free, but we are registering through Saturday. Your click will help us make sure we've set out enough chairs. It's gonna be a good one! The link is

Future Thrillwaukee events:

Tuesday, August 13, 7 pm, at Boswell: Andrew Shaffer, author of Hope Never Dies and Hope Rides Again

Friday, August 16, 7 pm, at Boswell: Billy Jensen, author of Chase Darkness with Me, in conversation with Doug Gordon. Register at

Tuesday, August 22, 2 pm (note time), at Boswell: Patricia Skalka, author of Death by the Bay, the latest Dave Kubiak mystery

Sunday, September 8, 3 pm, at Boswell: William Kent Krueger, author of This Tender Land, the #1 Indie Next pick for September. Register at

Friday, October 4, 7 pm, at Boswell: Joe Hill, author of Full Throttle. This one is registration required at and it's almost sold out.

Monday, October 7, 7 pm, at Boswell: Craig Johnson, author of Land of Wolves, the latest in the Longmire series. Tickets at