Your Library Curated: Best New Books

  • Virgil Wander by Leif Enger:  Midwestern movie house owner Virgil Wander is “cruising along at medium altitude” when his car flies off the road into icy Lake Superior. Virgil survives but his language and memory are altered and he emerges into a world no longer familiar to him. Awakening in this new life, Virgil begins to piece together his personal history and the lore of his broken town, with the help of a cast of affable and curious locals–from Rune, a twinkling, pipe-smoking, kite-flying stranger investigating the mystery of his disappeared son; to Nadine, the reserved, enchanting wife of the vanished man, to Tom, a journalist and Virgil’s oldest friend; and various members of the Pea family who must confront tragedies of their own. Into this community returns a shimmering prodigal son who may hold the key to reviving their town. With intelligent humor and captivating whimsy, Leif Enger conjures a remarkable portrait of a region and its residents, who, for reasons of choice or circumstance, never made it out of their defunct industrial district. Carried aloft by quotidian pleasures including movies, fishing, necking in parked cars, playing baseball and falling in love, Virgil Wander is a swift, full journey into the heart and heartache of an often overlooked American Upper Midwest by a “formidably gifted” (Chicago Tribune) master storyteller.   virgil wander
  • An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris:  Set in a fractured United States, in the southwestern country now known as Texoma. A world where magic is acknowledged but mistrusted, especially by a young gunslinger named Lizbeth Rose. Battered by a run across the border to Mexico, Lizbeth Rose takes a job offer from a pair of Russian wizards to be their local guide and gunnie. For the wizards, Gunnie Rose has already acquired a fearsome reputation and they’re at a desperate crossroad, even if they won’t admit it. They’re searching through the small border towns near Mexico, trying to locate a low-level magic practitioner, Oleg Karkarov. The wizards believe Oleg is a direct descendant of Grigori Rasputin, and that Oleg’s blood can save the young tsar’s life. As the trio journey through an altered America, shattered into several countries by the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Depression, they’re set on by enemies. It’s clear that a powerful force does not want them to succeed in their mission. Lizbeth Rose is a gunnie who has never failed a client, but her oath will test all of her skills and resolve to get them all out alive.   easy death
  • Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo:  When Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night to tell her that the day of reckoning has arrived and they have to leave home immediately, Louisiana isn’t overly worried. After all, Granny has many middle-of-the-night ideas. But this time, things are different. This time, Granny intends for them never to return. Separated from her best friends, Raymie and Beverly, Louisiana struggles to oppose the winds of fate (and Granny) and find a way home. But as Louisiana’s life becomes entwined with the lives of the people of a small Georgia town–including a surly motel owner, a walrus-like minister, and a mysterious boy with a crow on his shoulder–she starts to worry that she is destined only for good-byes. (Which could be due to the curse on Louisiana’s and Granny’s heads. But that is a story for another time.) Called “one of DiCamillo’s most singular and arresting creations” by The New York Times Book Review, the heartbreakingly irresistible Louisiana Elefante was introduced to readers in Raymie Nightingale–and now, with humor and tenderness, Kate DiCamillo returns to tell her story.  louisiana's way home
  • Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan:  When poet and writer Joy Davidman began writing letters to C.S. Lewis–known as Jack–she was looking for spiritual answers, not love. Love, after all, wasn’t holding together her crumbling marriage. Everything about New Yorker Joy seemed ill-matched for an Oxford don and the beloved writer of Narnia, yet their minds bonded over their letters. Embarking on the adventure of her life, Joy traveled from America to England and back again, facing heartbreak and poverty, discovering friendship and faith, and against all odds, finding a love that even the threat of death couldn’t destroy. In this masterful exploration of one of the greatest love stories of modern times, we meet a brilliant writer, a fiercely independent mother, and a passionate woman who changed the life of this respected author and inspired books that still enchant us and change us. Joy lived at a time when women weren’t meant to have a voice–and yet her love for Jack gave them both voices they didn’t know they had. At once a fascinating historical novel and a glimpse into a writer’s life, Becoming Mrs. Lewis is above all a love story–a love of literature and ideas and a love between a husband and wife that, in the end, was not impossible at all.   becoming mrs lewis
  • A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult:  The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center–a women’s reproductive health services clinic–its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage. After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages, he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic. But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters:  A nurse who calms her own panic in order to save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester, disguised as a patient, who now stands in the crosshairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard. Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day. One of the most fearless writers of our time, Jodi Picoult tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation…and, hopefully, understanding.   spark of light
  • The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin:  Uptight elfin historian Brangwain Spurge is on a mission:  survive being catapulted across the mountains into goblin territory, deliver a priceless peace offering to their mysterious dark lord, and spy on the goblin kingdom–from which no elf has returned alive in more than a hundred years. Brangwain’s host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is delighted to show Brangwain around. They should be the best of friends, but a series of extraordinary double crosses, blunders, and cultural misunderstandings throws these two bumbling scholars into the middle of an international crisis that may spell death for them–and war for their nations. Witty mixed media illustrations show Brangwain’s furtive missives back to the elf kingdom, while Werfel’s determinedly unbiased narrative tells an entirely different story. A hilarious and biting social commentary that could only come from the likes of National Book Award winner M.T. Anderson and Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin, this tale is rife with thrilling action and visual humor…and a comic disparity that suggests the ultimate victor in a war is perhaps not who won the battles, but who gets to write the history.   assassination of brangwain spurge
  • Waiting for Eden by Elliot Ackerman:  Eden Malcom lies in a bed, unable to move or to speak, imprisoned in his own mind. His wife Mary spends every day on the sofa in his hospital room. He has never even met their young daughter. And he will never again see the friend and fellow soldier who didn’t make it back home–and who narrates the novel. But on Christmas, the one day Mary is not at his bedside, Eden’s re-ordered consciousness comes flickering alive. As he begins to find a way to communicate, some troubling truths about his marriage–and about his life before he went to war–come to the surface. Is Eden the same man he once was:  a husband, a friend, a father-to-be?  What makes a life worth living?  A piercingly insightful, deeply felt meditation on loyalty and betrayal, love and fear, Waiting for Eden is a tour de force of profound humanity.   waiting for eden
  • A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe:  Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease–and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade. With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help. Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage…with his own condition:  The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work–the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own. Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.    notorious vow
  • King Alice by Matthew Cordell:  It’s a snow day, and Alice’s father wakes to find her dressed in royal garb, declaring she is “KING Alice! The first!” King Alice is full of creative ideas for how to spend the unexpected day off, and whatever she says goes. While her mother tends to the baby, King Alice and her drowsy but willing father write and illustrate a story. Even though King Alice is bursting with ideas and hops from one game to another, she faithfully returns to their story–the one where, just like in real life, she calls the shots. After a well-earned timeout breaks King Alice’s stride, father and daughter make amends and return to their bustling, chaotic story featuring pirates, unicorns and fairies. Though most of King Alice is filled with the lively pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations that won Cordell a Caldecott Medal for Wolf in the Snow, the story within the story is rendered via Cordell’s children’s stash of art supplies, and his fluid, humorous dialogue keeps things moving at a brisk pace. The bond between father and daughter is the heart of this sweet but never saccharine story. King Alice’s father goes all in, never turning down a game in the name of traditional gender roles–he spends most of the book in a tiara and toy earrings–which is refreshing to see. Long may King Alice reign.   king alice
  • Transcription by Kate Atkinson:  A novel from the multiple award-winning author Kate Atkinson is always cause for celebration. Transcription, based on the life of a former Secret Service worker during World War II, is no exception. A hallmark of Atkinson’s work is her playful use of time. Transcription starts at the end of a life when, at 60, Juliet Armstrong is hit by a car in a London street. Readers are then plunged back to the 1940s, when 18-year-old Juliet finds herself at loose ends after the death of her mother. Eager to assist in the war effort, she join MI5. Quickly plucked from the initial tasks of departmental filing and collating, she is placed in an agency-owned apartment, where she transcribes recordings of the secret comings and goings of a group of fascist sympathizers. Juliet is eventually given a nom de guerre and sent to infiltrate a group of wealthy appeasers. The work is mostly dull (transcribing) and occasionally terrifying (shimmying down drainpipes). When the war ends, she presumes her role with the agency is finished as well. A decade later, Juliet is producing children’s radio dramas, and the personnel overlap between MI5 and the BBC is unusually high. When she is confronted by persons she thought were long gone, she realizes that not everything was tied up as neatly as she was led to believe. Though the war is over, it turns out there are still enemies that must be reckoned with.   transcription
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