Monday, April 11, 2022

Spotlight on Emily St John Mandel and Peng Shepherd

Here's what's going on.

Thursday, April 14, 12 pm, at the Wisconsin Club
The Friends of the Milwaukee Public Library Literary Lunch
Emily St John Mandel, author of Sea of Tranquility
In conversation with Marcella Kearns of Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
Virtual tickets available here

Tickets for this in-person luncheon are sold out, but virtual broadcast tickets are still available on the Friends website. It will be a Zoom setup, and I should just note that Chris is doing the tech for this, though Mandel and Kearns will have lavalier microphones instead of the hand-held ones we use in the bookstore. Books are signed (tip-in) too.

Sea of Tranquility
is getting amazing reviews and rightfully so. It's a powerful reading experience. Kevin Canfield in the Star Tribune called it a "full-on mind-blower," continuing: "Inspired by real-world ills and eccentric philosophical theories, Mandel has crafted an enthralling narrative puzzle, plunging her relatable characters into a tale that spans five centuries." I should also note between the great reviews and word of mouth for The Glass Hotel, and the Station Eleven HBO Max series, her previous two novels are still selling great, such that I had to do an emergency reorder of those books over the weekend.

I should also note that this is at least the fourth in-person trip to the Milwaukee area (she also did Shorewood Reads and she might have done another regional "read" as well) plus we did our very first virtual author event with Mandel for The Glass Hotel. We had a lot of programs cancelled in March and April of 2020 - it was only in the third week that we figured out how to do these Zoom programs.

Here's Tim's rec. Jenny and I read it too, but mine is pretty short, as I was trying to hit the deadline for the Indie Next list: "I'm trying to understand why Mandel's writing casts a spell on me. I don’t have a complete answer, but I’ve decided on this: her style is steady and beautiful, she’s smart without sounding pretentious, and her characters feel true. There's a flesh and blood intimacy about them that makes me feel safe in their world, even as we’re brought to the edge of catastrophe. When tragedy comes, I want to face it with these fictional people. This novel builds on The Glass Hotel (which I loved!) and Station Eleven (which I now must read!). It brings the past and future together as if connections across time are waiting to be discovered. It throws our reality into doubt by questioning how we came to be, and it shows us that technology will never hide our humanity. I’ll forgo the summary and just say that Mandel has created a dazzling story with humble simplicity, then tied it tight with a perfect ending."

Monday, April 18, 6:30 pm, at Boswell
Peng Shepherd, author of The Cartographers
in Conversation with Jim Higgins of the Journal Sentinel
Register for this event here

Talk about a hot book. All our copies are on hold of this book, and that's after I placed a good-sized event order. We've had no less than five reads on this novel (including me - I finished The Cartographers over the weekend), a speculative mystery-thriller that has an element of romance and a lot of map lore. I don't know what sells the book the most, but Jason and I concur that a lot of our customers really love maps. In addition to a great conversation with Jim Higgins, Marcy Bidney of the UWM American Geographical Society Library will be attending with a few maps that readers are going to love!

Despite respectable but hardly blowout sales on The Book of M, not only are we selling The Cartographers in bestseller numbers, but we have a very strong registration too. We might even hit capacity, and that's with our new higher capacity (though admittedly, not quite the capacity that we had pre-COVID.) The book is reminding me a bit of City of Dark Magic, by Magnus Flyte (Meg Howrey and Christina Lynch), another book that blew out expectations that had a similar multi-genre appeal. It even has a hero with a similar skillset, though in this case she's cataloging music manuscripts instead of mapmaking. I contest that both jobs are librarian adjacent!

Here's what Kay had to say about The Cartographers: "The Cartographers is set alternately in New York Public Library's spectacular and slightly mysterious cartography room and in a rural New York home about 20 years ago where a tight knit group of PhD cartography students spent a summer working on what they were certain would be a mapping masterpiece. A fire and a death ended their project and scattered the students. Now, one of them - a cartographer at the NYPL - has died at work under suspicious circumstances, and his daughter is obsessed with learning why an old NY state road map was the only item in her father's special hiding place. As both stories move forward, old mysteries are revealed and new mysteries arise. Sharp characters, eerie settings, and many twists add up to a very satisfying thriller. "

Whatever you say about our two next event novels, they are both thrill rides of a sort. And the two events have something in common too - You've already lost your chance to see Emily St John Mandel in person; don't pass up Peng Shepherd.

More on the Boswell upcoming events page.

Photo credits
Emily St. John Mandel by Sarah Shatz

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