Wednesday, July 26, 2017

"It's comic book Wednesday", says Peter, and that's why we're telling you about new novels (and events) from Fred Van Lente and Benjamin Percy, well-known for their work in comics and graphic novels


What with the last week of entertainment news being all about San Diego Comic-con, it's hard not to get into the comic book groove.

Fact #1: A substantial number of our staff reads graphic novels and comics.

Fact #2: Some of the best writers in the world of letters are writing comics, though of course these writers are still at the mercy of sales. High profile projects from Roxane Gay and one of two series from Ta-Nehisi Coates featuring The Black Panther have recently been discontinued. You can read that story from Alex Abad-Santos on Vox. Note: it's actually two of three, because Coates was collaborating with Gay on World of Wakanda.

And as an aside, Peter just told me that Rainbow Rowell is going to be writing The Runaways.  I once bought Rowell tea. If you have a comic book question, ask Peter.

Fact #3: Two authors with comic book/graphic novels ties are coming to Boswell in August. I wanted to get the word out that both events are free, and both authors will sign their other work.

Fact #4: Event #1 is Fred Van Lante, who is visiting us for his book, Ten Dead Comedians, a cross between Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and the television series Last Comic Standing. Literally. Get it?

Fred Van Lente is at Boswell on Sunday, August 6, 3 pm. This event is cosponsored by Crimespree Magazine!

But that's not the best comparison. Booklist called it "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory meets Lost." You can watch Van Lente at the Penguin Random House Open Book event.

Van Lente has written or cowritten Cowboys and Aliens (you might know the film), Action Philosophers, Chaos War, Alpha Flight (both with Greg Pak), Generation Zero, Magnus, and more. As our Jason noted, Alpha Flight is a team of Canadian superheroes.

Fact #5: Event #2 is Benjamin Percy, whose new novel is The Dark Net. Percy has visited Boswell for previous novels, and always gets a good crowd, in part because he is a great writer. In addition to his novels, his writing guide Thrill Me (it's often on my rec shelf!) is used in classes around the country. Also, he did have a stint teaching at Marquette, so we can claim him a sort of local guy. I certainly do!

Benjamin Percy is appearing at Boswell on Thursday, August 10, 7 pm.

Here's Boswellian Sharon Nagel's recommendation of The Dark Net: "In Percy’s latest, dark forces are gathering to take over the world unless an unlikely group of folks can stop them. The Dark Net is the criminal underbelly of the Internet. Most people know nothing about it, but it is used by a select few for nefarious purposes such as human and drug trafficking. Hannah, a twelve-year old blind girl, her Luddite aunt Lena, a reporter, and Mike, a former child evangelist who runs a homeless shelter, are the unlikely heroes who must stand against the demons of the Dark Net. Fast-paced and exciting, you won’t be able to stop reading this cyber thriller until you find out what happens."

Percy dabbled in the visual storytelling arts before; his short story Refresh, Refresh was turned into a graphic novel. But now he's as well known for his work on Green Arrow and Teen Titans.

Note that the Milwaukee area is a hub of activity for the world of Green Arrow. Another digital first series, The Dark Archer, features Carole E. Barrowman as one of the writers.

We don't sell the individual comics, though we might have some collected volumes in stock; our focus is on the authors' new novels We're happy to order in something we don't have, but leave us a few days.

Obviously, we're hoping folks who know the authors by their comics will discover Ten Dead Comedians and The Dark Net and will buy them as well!

Fact #6: A partial list of comic book shops. If you're looking for an individual comic, there are lots of great options in the Milwaukee area.

a. Collectors Edge, 4 locations, including one at 2004 N Farwell Ave and another at 2330 S Kinnickinnic Ave in Bay View

b. The Turning Page, 2452 N Murray Ave, blocks from Boswell

c. Vortex, 8118 W National Ave in West Allis

d. Lost World of Wonders, 6913 W Oklahoma Ave, which I believe is in the city of Milwaukee. Peter gives LWOW three thumbs up.

e. Classic Comics and Collectibles, 6815 N Green Bay Ave in Glendale focuses on collectible, but can special order new titles.

f. Kowabunga Comics, 102 N Main St in Oconomowoc

Note that comic book hours vary. Check first!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Focus on plays and playwrights: a blog post in four acts

1) Tuesday, June 25, 7 pm, at Boswell:Victor Lodato, author of Edgar and Lucy.

We've been talking up Victor Lodato since his novel Edgar and Lucy came out. Heck, we've been talking up Victor Lodato since his first novel, Mathilda Savitch came out.

Here's our buyer Jason Kennedy talking about the book: "This tale of grief and love is told through the eyes of eight-year-old Edgar. He loves the two women in his life, his mother, Lucy, and his grandmother, Lucy's mother-in-law. Lucy is really unaware of how to raise her son (and she has not really come to grips with her own past traumas), and the grandmother is the one who takes care of him. When Edgar's grandmother dies, there is a lot of growing up that both Lucy and Edgar have to do together. Can they? Of course there will be trials ahead for this relationship when Edgar goes missing and Lucy has to desperately find him as a bearded stranger in a green truck explodes from nowhere to throw this book into darker territory. Love is what will hold Edgar and Lucy together. The writing just grabbed me and dragged me into its depths; I simply adored this novel and its characters."

Here's Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney in The New York Times Book Review: "For all of its existential searching, Edgar and Lucy ends up being a riveting and exuberant ride, maybe best described by its young protagonist’s musings about his nascent life."

Lodato's story "Herman Melville, Volume One," appeared in The New Yorker. Here's an interview with Lodato and fiction editor Cressida Leyshon.

Lodato, however, is as well know for his plays as he is for his fiction. He is a recipient of the Weissberger Award for Motherhouse, and has also received a Helen Merrill Award, the John Golden Prize, and the Julie Harris Playwriting Award. Here's a list of his plays:

The Bread of Winter, with this from The Washington Post: "The Bread of Winter threads a heart-tugging story line into an apocalyptic vision that's as artfully elliptical as haiku. This spooky play has an anguished lyricism about it. It's like Matthew Arnold's famous poem "Dover Beach" rewritten for the era of carbon-footprint paranoia.”

3F, 4F, with this from the San Francisco Chronicle: “Tantalizingly quick-witted ... the dialogue has an exhilarating snap and tempo that reminds one of Edward Albee."

Arlington, with The New Yorker saying in their review: "It's hard to believe that this musical monologue…was written by a man, so accurately drawn is the inner life of Sara Jane, a young housewife whose husband is away at war."

And here are more plays: The Woman who Amuses Herself, Slay the Dragon, Wildlife, Motherhouse Dear Sara Jane, and The Eviction.

2) Wednesday, August 16, 7 pm, at Boswell: Irish Fest Preview event, featuring Kathleen Anne Kenney, author of Girl on the Leeside

As we mentioned last week, Wauwatosa raised Kathleen Anne Kennedy is appearing at the Irish Fest Literary Corner, with a preview event at Boswell. Boswellian Anne McMahon, who volunteers at Irish Fest, read Girl on the Leeside and enjoyed it.

But like Lodato, Kenney has a second calling as a playwright. She has had numerous short plays presented in Minnesota theaters and has published the play The Ghost of an Idea, a one-actor piece about Charles Dickens . Her play New Menu was a winner in the 2012 Rochester Repertory Theatre's national short-play competition. She is currently at work on a novel based on her 2014 stage play, The Bootleg Blues.

3) Wednesday, August 23, 7 pm, at Boswell: The In Tandem Theatre presents a preview of All the Great Books (Abridged)

We work with a theater company just about every season to feature one of their upcoming productions. Often, but not always book related, this preview features not one book in the tie in, but all of them.

Join us for a scene preview from In Tandem Theatre as they present All the Great Books! (Abridged). An English class eagerly awaits graduation until they realize they haven’t passed their final exam! The drama professor, student teacher, and gym coach team up to get them through all the great works of literature – in 90 minutes flat — as the literary canon explodes in this hilarious, high-energy comedy!

As the publisher says, "Confused by Confucius? Thoroughly thrown by Thoreau? Wish Swift was swifter? Then buckle up and hop aboard as you zip through everything you didn’t get around to reading in school, a ninety-eight minute roller-coaster ride through the world’s great books."

All the Great Books (Abridged) opens at the Tenth Street Theatre on Thursday October 5th 2017. The play is directed by Chris Flieller and features actors: Ryan Schabach (professor), Chris Goode (student teacher) and Doug Jarecki (coach).

Purchase tickets for the play!

4) We're hoping to work again with a theater group to dramatize a scene from a book as part of an author event. Several of our prior collaborations have been among the most memorable events we've ever been a part of

1. Dava Sobel and Soulstice Theater, for A More Perfect Heaven

2. Christopher Moore and Theatre Gigante, for The Serpent of Venice

3. Emily St. John Mandel and the Soulstice Theater, for Station Eleven.

I can't believe that we haven't done this since 2014!

Coda) Recently I visited the Drama Bookshop in New York and set up a display of my brother-in-law's monologue collections. Don't you think he'd be a great speaker? More on Gus Edwards and his work here. And here too. Pay attention to his conversation with Douglas Turner Ward of the Negro Ensemble Company.

Monday, July 24, 2017

No-sweat Summer Event Alert: Kathleen Davis on parenting teens, award-winning playwright and novelist Victor Lodato, illustrator Andy Rash at Whitefish Bay Library storytime, Janette M. Braverman on leadership and communication, and Edward Kelsey Moore offers laughs and heart in an Indiana town.

Monday, July 24, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Kathleen Davis, author of You Never Told Me That!: A Crash Course in Preparing Your Kids for Independence.

The day is finally coming when your baby bird will fly away from the family nest. But is he or she ready? Are you? There are thousands of handbooks on raising infants, toddlers, and adolescents, but few manuals for preparing your social media-obsessed teen for life in the real world until now.

In this irreverent guide, Whitefish Bay mother, Kathleen Davis offers invaluable, commonsense advice to help you help your kid become a successful-or at least functional-adult. She covers the big and small stuff, from doing laundry to paying bills to building character and showing empathy for others. And she doesn't shy away from tough topics like drinking, drugs, and sex. You Never Told Me That! throws a lifeline to soon-to-be empty nesters. Whether your kids are off to college, their first apartments, or new jobs, it's time to get them ready for real life.

Kathleen Davis is a writer, painter, and Realtor who is currently raising her two teenage sons, Henry and George, in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. She studied design at the Savannah College of Art and Design and earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In her spare time, she has spent several years volunteering as a coach and mentoring middle and high school students. She is passionate about the importance of education and worked with the school district of Whitefish Bay to develop its anti-bullying program so that all kids could come to school and feel safe.

Tuesday, July 25, 7 pm at Boswell:
Victor Lodato, author of Edgar and Lucy

A rich novel about a mother’s complicated love for a non-standard-issue child—and the complicated love that child feels for her—and their drive to create family wherever they can find it.

Eight-year-old Edgar Fini remembers nothing of the accident people still whisper about. He only knows that his father is gone, his mother, Lucy, has a limp, and his grandmother believes in ghosts. When Edgar meets a man with his own tragic story, the boy begins a journey into a secret wilderness where nothing is clear—not even the line between the living and the dead. In order to save her son, Lucy has no choice but to confront the demons of her past.

Our buyer Jason Kennedy says, “This tale of grief and love, told through the eyes of eight-year-old Edgar. He loves the two women in his life, his mother, Lucy, and his grandmother, Lucy's mother-in-law. Lucy is really unaware of how to raise her son (and she has not really come to grips with her own past traumas), and the grandmother is the one who takes care of him. When Edgar's grandmother dies, there is a lot of growing up that both Lucy and Edgar have to do together. Can they? Of course there will trials ahead for this relationship when Edgar goes missing and Lucy has to desperately find him as a bearded stranger in a green truck explodes from nowhere to throw this book into darker territory. Love is what will hold Edgar and Lucy together. The writing just grabbed me and dragged me into depths its depths, I simply adored this novel and its characters.”

Victor Lodato is a playwright and the author of the novel Mathilda Savitch, winner of the PEN Center USA Award for fiction. His stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, and Best American Short Stories. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Wednesday, July 26, 3 pm (note time), at Whitefish Bay Library, 5420 N Marlborough Dr:
Andy Rash, illustrator of May I Have a Word?

Enjoy a funny and clever picture book about consonants and wordplay, perfect for children learning letter sounds, illustrated by Whitefish Bay’s Andy Rash.

A battle of the magnet letters ensues across the refrigerator door when C and K get into a fight about who gets to start the cooler (kooler?) words. When the two letters storm off in opposite directions, everything is turned upside down. SOCKS are now SO, there aren't any CLOCKS to TICK or TOCK, and the world is just out of LUCK--until other letters work to bring C and K back together again.

Andy Rash is an illustrator, animator, and children's book author with over fifteen years of experience in publishing (and this bio simply doesn't indicate how delightful he is!) He is the author and illustrator of Archie the Daredevil Penguin, Ten Little Zombies, and Superhero School. 

Wednesday, July 28, 7 pm at Boswell:
Janette M. Braverman, author of 10 Reasons Communication Brings Transformation: Unleash Your Greatness.

10 Reasons Communication Brings Transformation: Unleash Your Greatness explains how transparent communication and effective leadership are not always evident in businesses or ministries. This contributes to many people leaving churches in droves after being hurt by toxic leaders. These leaders could also be the reason people leave their corporations. At times the issues are raised to superiors but frequently not resolved because conflicts are avoided.

Braverman examines the theory that you can’t transform others if you haven’t transformed yourself. In her introduction, she notes that “10 Reasons not only covers information about exactly what you can do to improve your communication skills, but it also explains how you can go about doing so. It provides biblical direction on the craft of effective communication, proven methods for effective one-on-one communication, conflict resolution, and communicating with global audiences.”

She asserts that candid conversations are essential for their transformation to occur. Braverman includes her own personal stories, communication and leadership strategies. She also teaches leaders how to pursue their own passions through living an essential life. Included also are interviews with mega-church leaders Bishop Darrell L. Hines of Christian Faith Fellowship Church and St. Pastor Jason Web of Elm Brook Church.

Janette Braverman’s professional experience spans more than 20 years in the information technology and manufacturing industries. Braverman is the first African American County Board Supervisor for Ozaukee County and also owns her own consulting business called Leaders Leaving Legacies, LLC.

Tuesday, August 1, 7:00 pm, at Boswell:
Edward Kelsey Moore, author of The Supremes Sing the Happy Heartache Blues.

From the author of the bestselling The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, comes an exuberant and poignant new novel of passions, family, and forgiveness.

When a late-in-life love affair blooms between Mr. Forrest Payne, the owner of the Pink Slipper Gentleman’s Club, and Miss Beatrice Jordan, famous for stationing herself outside the club and yelling warnings of eternal damnation at the departing patrons, their wedding brings a legend to town. Mr. El Walker, the great guitar bluesman, gives a command performance in Plainview, Indiana, a place he’d sworn he’d never set foot in again.

Edward Kelsey Moore is the author of the bestselling The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat. His short fiction has appeared in Indiana Review, African American Review, and Inkwell, among others. His short story “Grandma and the Elusive Fifth Crucifix” was selected as an audience favorite on Chicago Public Radio’s Stories on Stage series.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Boswell annotated bestsellers for the week ending July 22, 2017

Here's what sold at Boswell last week!

Hardcover Fiction:
1. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, by Arundhati Roy
2. The Late Show, by Michael Connelly
3. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
4. The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead
5. Meddling Kids, by Edgar Cantero
6. Less, by Andrew Sean Greer
7. Camino Island, by John Grisham
8. A Horse Walks into a Bar, by David Grossman
9. Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigiani
10. The Force, by Don Winslow

This week Penguin Random House holds four of our top five hardcover fiction titles, but what might be even more interesting is that one division of PRH, Knopf Doubleday, has five of our top eight. Of the remaining three, Less from Hachette's Lee Boudreaux Books imprint (which I think is from the Little, Brown division, not the Hachette Books division), is a novel by Andrew Sean Greer that matches his buoyant personality, as anyone who participated in his kazoo concert knows. Arthur Less avoids his younger boyfriend's impending nupitals by heading off on he most exhausting round-the-world book tour ever. Booklist wrote: "While such luminaries as Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, and John Irving have praised Greer's previous novels, including The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, Less is perhaps his finest yet." Ron Charles in The Washington Post called Less "the funniest novel you'll read this year" and he's also won praise from Armistead Maupin, Karen Joy Fowler, and Chabon himself.

Hardcover Nonfiction:
1. Killers of the Flower Moon, by David Grann
2. Hunger, by Roxane Gay
3. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken
4. Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
5. Theft by Finding, by David Sedaris
6. Devil's Bargain, by Joshua Green
7. Help Thanks Wow, by Anne Lamott
8. Hue 1968, by Mark Bowden
9. The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben
10. Dream Hoarders, by Richard V. Reeves

Our buyer Jason noted that that Devil's Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency was sold to bookstores with very little notice and if you're interested in that kind of thing, we have another anonymous political release coming out shortly. Joshua Green has been all over, to the point where I started forgetting just how many times I saw it referenced. Bret Stephens wrote in The New York Times Book Review: "If there’s a lesson to draw from Devil’s Bargain, Joshua Green’s deeply reported and compulsively readable account of Bannon’s fateful political partnership with Trump, it is not to underestimate the honey badger." Huh? You'll have to read the review.

Paperback Fiction:
1. Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley (In-store Lit Group discussion Mon Aug 7, 7 pm)
2. The Excellent Lombards, by Jane Hamilton
3. Today Will Be Different, by Maria Semple
4. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
5. The Fishermen, by Chigozie Obioma
6. Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
7. The Portrait, by Antoine Laurain
8. All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
9. Lilac Girls, by Martha Hall Kelly
10. Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles

While my reading hold on the hardcover nonfiction list is slipping, I've got a solid six of the top ten paperback fiction books under my belt, with another, Before the Fall, on the docket for the In-Store Lit Group, after I finish another mystery/thriller, The Trust from Ronald H. Balson, who is coming to Boswell on October 3. One other stat to note is that Hachette Book Group holds the top three titles, and four of the top five. Today Will Be Different, one of those four, had a run on the national hardcover lists, after a long paperback run for its predecessor, Where'd You Go, Bernadette? but the current paperback fiction list is particularly hard to break into, being that The New York Times has deemed it worthy of only 10 slots. It's a little odd to me, being that I think this is a core list for their reader, but well, whatever. The Boston Globe notes that Julia Roberts will be starring in the HBO adaptation of Today Will Be Different.

Paperback Nonfiction:
1. Live and Let Live, by Evelyn M. Perry
2. Evicted, by Mattthew Desmond
3. Ars Botanica, by Tim Taranto
4. You Never Told Me That, by Kathleen Davis (event at Boswell on Mon Jul 24, 7 pm)
5. On Tyranny, by Timothy Snyder
6. Cream City Chronicles, by John Gurda
7. No Is Not Enough, by Naomi Klein
8. Paris All Your Own, by Eleanor Brown
9. The Other Shore, by Thich Nhat Hanh
10. 2 Kinds of People, by Joao Rocha

Thich Nhat Hanh's talks are collected and published, and generally they sell. The Other Shore: A New Translation of the Heart Sutra with Commentaries is a new interpretation. The publisher says it's "radical," but I am not expert to concur or disagree. The publisher notes that "this new translation came about because Thich Nhat Hanh believes that the patriarch who originally compiled the Heart Sutra was not sufficiently skillful with his use of language to capture the intention of the Buddha's teachings--and has resulted in fundamental misunderstandings of the central tenets of Buddhism for almost 2,000 years."

Books for Kids:
1. Dog Man, by Dav Pilkey
2. Creepy Carrots, by Aaron Reynolds, with illustrations by Peter Brown (Aaron Reynolds is coming in September!)
3. The Principal's Underwear is Missing, by Holly Kowitt (and she will be doing something with Boswell as well, sometime this fall)
4. Baby Animals Eyelike Sickers
5. Once and For All, by Sarah Dessen
6. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
7. Giant Jumperee, by Julia Donaldson
8. When Dimple Met Rishi, by Sandhya Menon
9. The Last of August V2, by BZrittan Cavallaro
10. May I Have a Word?, by Caron Levis, with illustrations by Andy Rash (Rash at Whitefish Bay Library, Wed Jul 26, 3 pm)

Yes, it may be summer, but we're already thinking about fall. Creepy Carrots has a follow up, A Creepy Pair of Underwear*, and writer Aaron Reynolds will be doing some school visits for us. Contact Todd for details. In the original book, which has won or been a finalist for literally bunches of awards including a Caldecott Honor. Jasper Rabbit, who loves carrots, worries that they are following him. In the new book, you can only imagine what haunts Jasper. And here's Reynolds on Twitter, letting folks know about the new book's upcoming release on August 15. Soon!

In the Journal Sentinel book section, Jim Higgins profiles C.J. Hribal, whose story "Do I Look Sick to You? (Notes on How to Make Love to a Cancer Patient") won the Bellevue LIterary Review's annual fiction pricze for "outstanding writing, related to themes of health, healing, illness, the mind, and the body." A few days ago, we had several copies of the journal, but I don't know if we've sold out yet, because I can't remember how to look them up.

Also featured in the print edition is a review of Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-changing Friendship, by Michelle Kuo. Sharon Peters in USA Today writes about the author's experience volunteering for Teach for America in Arkansas. When one of her charges is arrested for murder, she "returned to Artkansas to visit him in jail, to try to udnerstand. And ultimately, she put her new life and new carreer on hold so she could spend daily time in the jail with Patrick."

The print edition features an interview with Terry Tempest Williams, whose new book is The Hour of the Land. Laurie Hertzel first wrote the piece for the Star Tribune. When asked about the unusual structures the author is known for, Williams noted: "The structure was inspired by Jorie Graham's poem entitled "WE," first published in the London Review of Books. Each chapter, each national park, is in response to a line from that poem."

*Yes, it's the autumn of underwear. They are all Dav Pilkey wannabes, which is not a bad thing.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

New display! Celebrate Irish Fest with a book table

My rule of thumb is that when I see three events that can be linked together, there should be a display. Sadly, I don't always have the energy to make this happen, but believe me, when I don't do it, I feel guilty. But when the publicist at Nan A. Talese told me about the new novel, Girl on the Leeside, by Kathleen Anne Kenney, a table started taking form.

As soon as I learned there was flexibility in the date, being that Kenney is from Wauwatosa, and was planning to do Irish Fest, I hooked her up with Maricolette at the Irish Fest Literary Corner, where they always have a meet and greet and signing. And we decided to repeat what we did two years ago and have an Irish Fest preview event on Wednesday. Kenney, a playwright, has written a novel set in an Irish village about a young poet who meets an American academic. Edward Rutherford, whose many novels include The Princes of Ireland, offered this recommendation: "In its hauntingly evocative Irish setting, this is a book suffused with poetry - real poetry. It is a book of awakenings of every kind, and of moving surprises. Like all good stories, as this local tale unfolds it becomes universal." And yes, our resident Irish lit fan, Anne, read it and enjoyed it.

As I was working on another event with Ronald H. Balson, I found my second connection. Up to now, Balson's events have been Jewish themed. Once We Were Brothers continues to be a book club favorite, and his most recent novel, Karolina's Twins, was a successful event at the Harry and Rose Samson Jewish Community Center, is is now a presentation by Barbara Rinella, the popular literary interpreter. She'll come up again later. The new novel, The Trust, heads to Northern Ireland, where Private Investigator Liam Taggart attends his uncle's funeral. It turns out that Uncle Fergus knew he had a target on his back, and left his fortune to whomever would solve his murder. And does this connect to Northern Ireland's sectarian war? I'm not giving anything away to say that it does.

And finally, in the wake of another successful Ozaukee Family Services spring brunch with Barbara Rinella (I told you it would come up again), our friend Pam mentioned that the fall luncheon usually features an author. After some searching, the featured speaker is going to be J. Courtney Sullivan, the bestselling author of Commencement and Maine. Her new novel, Saints for All Occasions, is about two sisters in an Irish Catholic family, and folks have been comparing her work to Anne Tyler. We have a great recommendation from Boswell's Sharon, who called it "a sweeping saga...featuring drama, secrets, and humor."

What a lineup! And that calls for a table display. We're featuring new works about Ireland and Irish-American, focusing on fiction. Included are previous guests at Boswell Sebastian Barry, whose new novel is Days Without End, and Sara Baume, author of A Line Made by Walking, her second novel. I would have included Alice McDermott, but her new novel, The Ninth Hour, doesn't come out till September 19. Why not reserve a copy now?

Here are the events that are mentioned.

Wednesday, August 16, 7 pm, at Boswell: an Irish Fest Preview event with Wauwatosa’s Kathleen Anne Kenney, author of Girl on the Leeside, the story of a young poet in a small Irish village whose life is changed by an American academic.

Thursday, August 17-Sunday, August 20, at Irish Fest: The Irish Fest Literary Tent, featuring Tony Macaulay, Rex Owens, Valerie Biel, John Sexton, and Michael McCarthy. Books at Irish Fest are sold by Little Read Book and Rainbow Booksellers.

Tuesday, October 3, 7 pm, at Boswell: Ron Balson, author of The Trust, in which P.I. Liam Taggart investigates a crime while visiting Northern Ireland for his uncle’s funeral

Tuesday, November 7, at Shully’s Watermark is Thiensville: The Ozaukee Family Services Luncheon, featuring J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Saints for All Occasions, the story of two sisters in a large Irish Catholic family. Ticket info here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Books About Young Children Left with a Relative, Part Two: Bianca Marais's "Hum If You Don't Know the Words"

By now, I'm hoping you're familiar with Indies Introduce, the American Booksellers Association that tries to highlight debut authors. About ten booksellers make up a semi-annual panel, one each for adult and kids titles, and this group reads through 50-60 titles that are submitted by publishers. Each is only allowed a certain number of submissions, so I'm sure there's some politics as to which ones make the cut.

The year I was on the panel, our selections including Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, Hannah Kent's Burial Rites, and Antoine Laurain's The President's Hat, all of which went on to great success at Boswell and elsewhere. I enthusiastically recommended being on the panel to Jason, our adult buyer, and what a treasure trove this experience has been. He's read all kinds of great books he might not have read under usual circumstances, and his enthusiasm has been infectious, leading me to read Finn Murphy's The Long Haul and Augustus Rose's The Readymade Thief.*

However, the book from the Indies Introduce that has found the greatest success among Boswell booksellers is definitely Bianca Marais's Hum If You Don't Know the Words, which has now been read by no less than five Boswellians. I took that as a dare, and recently brought the number of fans to six.

The novel is set in South Africa in the 1970s. The Conrads live in a whites-only suburb of Johannesburg, where the father, Keith, is a supervisor at a mine. Boisterous Robin, along with her much quieter sister Cat, are taken care of by Mabel, their black maid. There's tension, not between whites and blacks, but between Brits and Afrikaners, a legacy of the Boer War.

Meanwhile, Beauty Mbali is a teacher with two children, one of whom, Nomsa, is going to high school far away. What she doesn't know is that Nomsa, a brave woman who was taught to stand up for justice, is helping lead a very large protest, in response to government decree that students must be taught in Afrikaans, not English. But the government retailiates violently and Nomsa disappears. And Beauty sets off to find her, not knowing if she's even alive.

At this same time, Robin's family is attacked at a party, leaving Robin abandoned. She and Mabel are taken away, with Robin eventually put in the care of Edith, her mother's sister. And this is where I was reminded of Simon Van Booy's Father's Day. Robin is not much different than Van Booy's Harvey in age, and just as precocious. Like Jason, Edith is in no position to take care of a little girl. She's trying to be good, and even gives up her job as a flight attendant, but, well, things don't quite as well for Marais's characters. She winds up bringing in Beauty, who is hiding out in Johannesburg while trying to find her daughter.

The story alternates between Robin and Beauty's stories. Robin slowly gets a new family, including Maggie, the librarian heroine (and who doesn't love that), young Morrie Goldman and his family, Edith's friend gay friend Victor, and King George, a mixed-race gentleman who lives in the basement. Even the evil Afrikaner social worker turns out to be not quite what Robin expected. But the true heart of the story is the relationship between Robin and Beauty.

Putnam has been positioning the novel as great for readers of The Help and The Secret Life of Bees. Marais had several sensitivity readings, as she was well aware that a white writer portraying the lives of black South Africans during Apartheid could run into problems, particularly because the story is a little more nuanced.

Here's what our buyer Jason Kennedy wrote about Hum If You Don't Know the Words: "Bianca Marais does a remarkable job at breathing life into such a sad and tense time in South Africa's history; this is a book many people should have on their must-read lists of 2017."

In addition, Sharon called the novel "terrific," Anne proclaimed it "great" (informally, while she so me carrying around the advance reading copy), and Jane regaled me with several email messages about how good the book was and what interesting discussions it would spark. In other words, perfect for book clubs!

We're so excited about this upcoming visit from Bianca Marais to the Lynden Sculpture Garden in River Hills on Sunday, July 23, 2 pm, as part of their Women's Speaker Series. Both Jason and I have met Ms. Marais, Jason at Book Expo during the Indies Introduce presentation, and I at a Putnam reception for several authors in Chicago.  We both can vouch that Marais is the kind of author you really want to meet, which you can't always say about debut authors. You will love her!

Here's my suggestion. The book is just out and your book club has probably selected books out for at least a few months, if not the whole season. But why don't one or two of you consider attending Sunday's event? You can decide for yourself if it works for your group, and you'll be ahead of the game at getting material to prepare for the discussion.

Want a sneak peak? Marais will be speaking to Mitch Teich on Lake Effect on Friday's show.

Tickets are $30, including the book, tax, admission, and light refreshments. If you belong to the Lynden Scultpure Garden, the cost is $25. Visit their website or call them at (414) 446-8794. And I have to say, it wouldn't be a bad thing to read Father's Day before or after.

*Augustus Rose is coming to Boswell on Tuesday, August 22, 7 pm.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Books About Young Children Left with a Relative, Part One: Our Book Club Discusses Simon Van Booy's "Father's Day"

I had been feeling remiss for not reading Simon Van Booy's Father's Day, a novel that had three great readings at Boswell, plus we did sell hundreds of The Illusions of Separateness, plus there was a Boswell reference in his last short story collection, Tales of Accidental Genius. So when the hardcover opportunity came and went, I realized that this would be a great slot for our In-Store Lit Group. I hate to repeat, but the group so much liked The Illusion of Separateness, that I thought we'd do a return engagement.

Of course, who doesn't love The Illusion of Separateness*? I was sort of shocked to see that demand for Illusion trails Van Booy's an earlier short story collection, Love Begins in Winter, as well as his first novel, Everything Beautiful Began After, which I still have to read. We're also looking forward to his first kids book, Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things, which comes out in October.

But I digress, as always. Father's Day is the story of Harvey, a young girl growing up on Long Island, who is sent to the care of her uncle Jason when her parents die in a freak accident. Now I should just say that Jason doesn't really want to take care of Harvey, and most social service agencies wouldn't go through the effort of placing her with him, but there's something special that Wanda sees, in Jason, and jumps through a number of hurdles to make it happen.

Jason and his brother Steve (Harvey's dad) were abused by their father, and it's left him, as one of my old friends used to say, tortured. Jason is, to his reckoning, damaged goods, and absolutely not the person who should be raising a little girl. But he takes this on, because in the end, he is not the person he thinks he is. He is, in fact, good.

This is sort of Van Booy's philosophy in a nutshell - we all have the potential for goodness, and even greatness. It's a delicate line to walk, and I think were Van Booy to explode in popularity, he would get the kind of backlash that follows writers that flirt with inspiration. I think it's Van Booy's writing skills and quirkiness that allow him to skirt the haters for now, plus his relative obscurity.

Father's Day jumps around in time a bit, most notably when Harvey is in her twenties. She's working for an animation studio in Paris, and Jason comes to visit, and Harvey decides to give him a series of gifts that unlock some memories, and also provide some revelations. Even though our book club talked about them at length, it's hard for me to talk about them without giving too much away, but there's also something to be said that giving away spoilers actually helps garner more readers.

Did the book club like the book? I think we had one naysayer and everyone else just sighed fondly. Several folks questioned Harvey's motivations for moving so far away from Jason and others simply found the name Harvey confusing. Since I've knew at least one woman named Harvey, it wasn't an issue to me. I have yet to meet a female David or Jeffrey, but I'm sure they are out there.

Father's Day has the kind of connective tissue that made so many people like The Illusion of Separateness. It's a more intimate story, so on one hand, it doesn't have the scope, but on the other hand, it feels more instinctively like a novel, and less like linked stories with a purpose. I know that the market for this book is not tapped. I would love to send out 100 copies to people of influence who I thought would like it. But I have other fish to fry, so this writeup will have to suffice.

I also thought that the Long Island and Queens detail rang true to me. Apparantly Mr. Van Booy picked up a lot of this local color during a stint as a restaurant reviewer. You've got to listen to this book club discussion with Arsen Kashkashian of Boulder Book Store on KGNU Boulder Public Radio, as it's filled with interesting details.

Is your book club planning to talk about Father's Day? HarperCollins has a sheet of discussion questions.

On Monday, August 7, 7 pm, we'll be discussing Noah Hawley's Before the Fall, Edgar Award winner for best novel. It also just won best novel at Thrillerfest, presented by ITW. Best first novel went to Nick Petrie's The Drifter!

On Tuesday, September 5, 7 pm, we'll be Nicole Dennis-Benn's Here Comes the Sun. It's back to school time, as this one's a little more dense than our last two. It was shortlisted for the John Leonard First Novel prize, presented by the National Book Critics Circle, and won a Lambda Literary Award.

*This is rhetorical. No need to write back if you disagree. I know that people disagreee about books.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"&" the Relatively New Ticketed Events: Nancy Pearl with Kathleen Dunn on September 9 and Kate DiCamillo at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts on October 29

I guess we're in the midst of fall ticketed events. If you don't get our email newsletter, you might not have heard about these.

#1: Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust and her first novel, George & Lizzie, at Boswell on Saturday, September 9, 7 pm. Pearl will be in conversation with Wisconsin Public Radio's Kathleeen Dunn. If you love those shows with Pearl and Dunn (yes, does sound like a country music band), you'll love this in-store event.

Tickets are $29, and include admission and a copy of George & Lizzie. A $19 Boswell gift card will be available on the night of the event only.

As you know, Kathleen Dunn will be retiring this August. It will be hard to say goodbye. We're so grateful for her participation in this event. And yes, this event is cosponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio, and $5 from each ticket will be donated back to Wisconsin Public Radio.

Here's a condensation of my recommendation of George & Lizzie, the quriky and charming novel from Pearl: "It’s hard not to root for Lizzie, a hero in the vein of Laurie Colwin or more recently, Elizabeth McKenzie’s The Portable Veblen. She's living proof that you can overcome the burdens of your past, especially if you remember the mantra that nobody cares what happened to you in high school."

I just want to say a word about titles with ampersands. One of my booksellers told me that I spelled the title of the novel wrong because I spelled out "and." But the truth is that especially when your writing is going back and forth between html code, those ampersands can be pesky. It's my feeling that using one over the other was a decision made by the art director, not the writer, but I could be wrong.

#2: Kate DiCamillo, author of Raymie Nightingale and La La La: A Story of Hope, at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts in Brookfield's Mitchell Park on Sunday, October 29, 2 pm. This is the second collaboration between Boswell and Oconomowoc's Books & Company.

Tickets are $22, and include admission and a copy of La La La. There is no gift card option for this event, but think of how close you are to the holidays. La La La makes a great gift. DiCamillo is one of the most inspiring speakers you'll ever hear and does very little touring to bookstores. This is her first public event in Milwaukee since 2012.

Here's more about this very special book. "With the simplest of narratives and the near absence of words, Kate DiCamillo conveys a lonely child’s yearning for someone who understands. With a subtle palette and captivating expressiveness, Jaime Kim brings to life an endearing character and a transcendent landscape that invite readers along on an emotionally satisfying journey."


The Wilson Center is a beautful venue with convenient parking. We had such a great time there with Adriana Trigiani last week. And there are lots of great places to eat beforehand in Sendik's Town Center. Our first week of sales on this one was very strong - we could sell out on this one, especially because there's a lot of DiCamillo love floating around the Milwaukee area. The Elmbrook Schools are having a DiCamillo district read this fall, and First Stage will be performing The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

I also didn't catch that our partners on this event, Books & Company, generally spell their store with an ampersand. I'm trying to catch this and hope that the coding doesn't mess me up.

All this and one other fall event already sold out! But there are plenty more exciting events to come this fall. Stay tuned.