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  • BN Editors 3:00 pm on 2019/08/13 Permalink
    Tags: , blood truth, , , , new releases,   

    A Guest Post from Author J. R. Ward on Blood Truth, the Final Chapter of the Black Dagger Brotherhood Legacy Series 


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    The world of J. R. Ward‘s Black Dagger Brotherhood series is darkly thrilling and addictive, filled with characters that fans are voraciously eager to learn more about. As the fourth and final novel in her Black Dagger Legacy series hits B&N bookshelves, Ward was kind enough to tell us a bit about the story behind the quartet.

    I am so excited for Blood Truth to be out! It is the story of Boone, the last of the Black Dagger Brotherhood trainees to get an HEA, and what happens as he goes on the hunt of a serial killer with Butch O’Neal, our former homicide cop, now full-fledged vampire and Brother. In the course of the investigation, Boone meets the female he is destined to be with, but as usual, things are not simple and he and Helania have to fight for their love—and fight to survive a madman!

    Or… is it a madwoman? #nospoilers

    This is the final book in the BDB Legacy series, and as such, it’s nice to revisit these novels and where they came from. This quartet was born out of two objectives: 1) I wanted to write the stories of the training class’s members, and show the fascinating journeys of these young males and females who are joining in the protection of the race; and 2) readers were asking for more on the original Brothers, and I needed to find a way to give them what they wanted.

    A little more on the second part of things. Every one of the big BDB books has an HEA at the end, but that does not mean that the couple in question stop living. In my head, they are all continuing on in the world, fighting in the war, loving their mates, living in the mansion. There is so much going on, and so many things I want to show readers, but there is only so much I can fit into any given book—and there is an argument to be made that, in some of the books, I’ve overdone it with the subplots. The thing is, with the BDBverse as big as it is, and as vibrant and dramatic as it can be, the biggest challenge for any of the books, no matter the series, is how much can I show without losing the impact of the main story.

    Thus, the BDB Legacy! In each of these books, an original Brother is highlighted. They are involved in the main plotline, and integral to it, and so it gives me a chance to update folks in an organic way. Each of these refocuses provides further insight into the original HEA and into the way that couple is evolving. Readers have commented again and again how wonderful it is to see favorite people returning—and I think this is more like we all are in real life. For the most part, people don’t just get married and fall off our radar screens. Even if we don’t see them face to face, or even if we lose touch, we still hear about them. I love being able to include readers into what’s going on in my head!

    As always, I am so grateful to everyone who supports my books and loves the Brothers as much as I do! I really think people are going to be surprised by the twists and turns in Blood Truth—and I have to be honest. Vishous has the best line in the book. Hands down. But he wouldn’t have it any other way, true?

    Happy Reading!

    J.R.

    Blood Truth is on B&N bookshelves now.

    The post A Guest Post from Author J. R. Ward on <i>Blood Truth</i>, the Final Chapter of the Black Dagger Brotherhood Legacy Series appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 1:00 pm on 2019/07/29 Permalink
    Tags: a door in the earth, amy waldman, bill schutt, candice fox, , , , , j.r. finch, , , mary doria russell, new releases, old bones, , steve cavanagh, the darwin strain, the girl who lived twice, the inn, the women of copper country, thirgeen: the serial killer isn't on trial he's on the jury, tidelands,   

    August’s Best New Fiction in 2019 


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    Historical fiction fans have hit the jackpot this month. Two Cold War-era novels, a new series by Preston & Child centered on the infamous Donner Party, and fresh offerings from historical masters Philippa Gregory and Mary Doria Russell await you. If that’s not enough, Lisbeth Salander is back in her sixth outing, and Eddie Flynn takes on a serial killer serving on the jury of his own crime.

    The Inn, by James Patterson and Candice Fox
    Aussie author Candice Fox usually joins forces with James Patterson for their Oz-set Detective Harriet Blue series, but this time, the duo sets the action in a quiet town outside Boston. Former Beantown homicide detective and widow Billy Robinson runs the beloved Gloucester Inn, a long-term rental full of unconventional guests who have slowly become a family. The arrival of cocksure, violent criminal Mitchell Cline threatens the peace, forcing the denizens of the Inn to take a stand before everything they hold dear is destroyed.

    Old Bones, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
    Archaeologist Nora Kelly (who appears in previous Preston and Child books) headlines her own brand-new series, which kicks off with a chilling look at the infamous Donner Party. Everyone knows the lengths that group they went to for survival in the mid-1800s, but is there more to the story? When historian Clive Benton approaches Kelly about a diary he believes will shed light on a rumored third, lost camp of the Donner Party, a centuries’-old cold case gets jumpstarted. With FBI Special Agent Corinne Swanson beside her, Kelly leads an excavation that proves extremely perilous, from storms and avalanches to foul play dictated by greed.

    Tidelands, by Philippa Gregory
    A master of English historical fiction, usually featuring the fraught lives of noblewomen in the Tudor period (The Other Boleyn Girl and many more), Gregory turns her focus on a non-royal this time. Destitute Alinor lives in the coastal, secluded Tidelands, married to an abuser and struggling to survive amid the turmoil of civil war. On Midsummer’s Eve of 1648, she stands in the graveyard waiting for a ghost to assist her in escaping her husband. When her lamentations beneath the full moon seem to have paid off, the other villagers turn against her, convinced that even if she’s not a witch, her differences (ambition, sudden wealth) mark her as something to be stamped out.

    First Cosmic Velocity, by Zach Powers
    Short story writer Powers’s debut novel will intrigue fans of The Prestige with its use of twins. It’s 1964, and the Chief Designer of the Soviet space program has a big problem. The capsules he’s launched into orbit are impossible to retrieve, and his cosmonauts have never actually returned; he’s relied on twins to fool the world into thinking his missions are successful. One such twin, Leonid, and his brother (also called Leonid), are the final twins left. One will be launched into space to die, and the other will continue the ruse on earth, pretending to the press that he has come back.  But now Premier Khrushchev wants in on the action, and the Chief Designer’s ruse is about to come crashing down in spectacular fashion if he can’t build a working spacecraft in time to send Khrushchev’s dog to perform the first canine launch.

    The Girl Who Lived Twice, by David Lagercrantz
    Book six in the Millenium Series (following the original trilogy created by Stieg Larsson), continues in Lagercrantz’s talented hands and finds the iconic Lisbeth Salander fully off the grid. If that sounds impossible to imagine (what’s a hacker with nothing to hack?) her friend Mikael Blomkvist agrees, and he’s eager to locate her. A dead man with Blomkvist’s contact info in his pocket apparently held secrets worth killing over, and Salander is closer than ever to confronting her sociopathic twin, Camilla. Prepare to lose sleep over this one!

    Thirteen: The Serial Killer Isn’t on Trial. He’s on the Jury., by Steve Cavanagh
    If the full title of this staggeringly original and terrifying book doesn’t hook you, I don’t know what will. In book three of the Eddie Flynn series, about a con artist-turned-defense attorney who has battled the Russian mob and lived to tell about it, Flynn takes on a high-profile murder case. He doesn’t yet know the real killer, Joshua Kane, has finagled a spot on the jury and intends to frame Eddie’s client for the crime. Worse, Kane is bumping off his fellow jurors when he senses they won’t vote his way.

    The Women of the Copper Country, by Mary Doria Russell
    In her previous historical novels, Doc and Epitaph, Russell depicted the relationship between professional gambler Doc Holliday and western folk hero Wyatt Earp. With Women, the author sets her sights on a copper-mine town in Michigan in the early 1900s, as viewed through the lens of a woman few remember: Annie Clements, “America’s Joan of Arc.” The wife of a miner, Annie has had enough of the horrific working conditions suffered by her husband, Joe, and the husbands of her friends. Ironically, Joe has never joined the union, and he bristles at Annie’s independent streak, but Annie’s not about to let that stop her from calling for a strike and standing up against unfettered capitalism.

    A Door in the Earth, by Amy Waldman
    As a former Afghanistan correspondent for the New York Times, critically acclaimed author Waldman (The Submission) is the perfect person to tell this story of tragic misperceptions set in an Afghani village. A book-within-a-book sets the stage for what’s to come: Dr. Gideon Crane’s selectively positive memoir inspires Berkeley graduate Parveen Shamsa to join Crane’s foundation and discover her roots in her family’s homeland, but what she discovers in the village of Crane’s book is that Crane’s account is not the whole story of American interventionism, and in fact continues to incite worse and worse consequences.

    The Darwin Strain, by Bill Schutt and J. R. Finch
    In their third adventure, R.J. MacCready, Yanni Thorne and special guest-star Jacques Cousteau (yep, the real-life explorer), take on mythological Kraken, a volcanic hot spring with alleged healing properties hidden beneath a remote Greek island, and a simmering tension with the Russians. The early days of the Cold War form the backdrop of this thrilling tale, which also includes aliens, religious infighting, and a fascinating look at the effects of biology-gone-wrong.

    The post August’s Best New Fiction in 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Sarah Skilton 4:00 pm on 2019/05/01 Permalink
    Tags: armando lucase correa, ask again yes, blessing in disguise, , , , , , , , , , light from other stars, liv constantine, mary beth keane, new releases, queen bee, resistance women, , , the daughter's tale, , the last time i saw you, ,   

    May’s Best New Fiction 


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    This month kicks off summer beach read season and we couldn’t be more delighted by the historical fiction and sweeping family sagas in our TBR pile. Whether you’re in the mood for a lowcountry tale of two sisters intrigued by the same widow, a murder mystery in high society Baltimore, or tales of resistance in Nazi Germany, there’s plenty to keep you company while the waves crash against the shore.

    The Guest Book, by Sarah Blake
    Following the success of The Postmistress, Sarah Blake is back with a gripping new historical novel that depicts three generations of a privileged American family. The Miltons embody the American dream in a manner not seen since the Gettys or Vanderbilts. In the 1930s, they purchased Crockett Island off the coast of Maine as a summertime getaway. Each generation since has enjoyed the secluded, gorgeous setting, but eventually the family wealth dries up and the fate of the homestead rests in the hands of three cousins, each with separate agendas. The island’s origin is steeped in misery—but what, if anything, will the newest generation do to mitigate the sins of the past?

    Queen Bee, by Dorothea Benton Frank
    Fans of Frank will be delighted to re-visit Sullivan’s Island for the author’s twentieth tale, set as always in lowcountry South Carolina. Sibling rivalry rears its head when beekeeper / librarian Holly’s newly separated sister, Leslie, sweeps back into town to wreak havoc. Leslie has set her sights on Holly’s widowed neighbor, Archie, father of two. Problem is, he’s the same man whose young kids Holly has come to view as a key component of her happiness and purpose. Add the sisters’ hypochondriac mother to the mix and you’ve got a warm family saga and pitch-perfect beach read.

    Blessing in Disguise, by Danielle Steel
    If you loved the Mamma Mia films, you’ll devour Steel’s latest in a single weekend. Isabelle McAvoy has loved, lost, and lived to fight another day as the single mother of three daughters. Each daughter has a different father, and the relationships that produced them are as disparate as the circumstances that brought them into Isabelle’s life. From true love matches to ill-advised unions, Isabelle has learned a lot along the way—but it turns out her journey, and that of her daughters, is far from over.

    The Last Time I Saw You, by Liv Constantine
    With her thrilling debut, The Last Mrs. Parrish (picked for Reese Witherspoon’s book club), Constantine proved her skill at creating memorably devious characters. Her new novel, a twisty murder mystery set among Baltimore high society, ratchets up the tension even more. On the surface, Doctor Kate English is living an enviable life. She appears to balance a perfect family, inherited wealth, and a fulfilling career. All that changes when her mother is viciously killed and the only woman Kate trusts to solve the crime is her prickly, estranged former friend, Blaire, a woman not known for treading lightly.

    Ask Again, Yes, by Mary Beth Keane
    Keane’s new book is tender and wise, literary fiction of the highest caliber, and readers will immediately feel pulled in to the story of two families whose lives are forever entwined. As next-door neighbors in a New York suburb, and colleagues at the police department, Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope first met in the 1970s. The two men were never exactly friends, but in the ensuing years, their children Peter and Kate grow up together as close as can be. When a shocking act tears the neighbors apart, can either family find a way back from the depths of trauma? Will Peter and Kate’s now-forbidden relationship overcome their parents’ misgivings? Demand this one for your book club: they’ll thank you for it!

    Resistance Women, by Jennifer Chiaverini
    This compelling World War II historical is firmly in Chiaverini’s wheelhouse, based on real people and filled with excitement. It’s the early 1930s and Mildred Fish Harnack from Wisconsin is enjoying her new life in Berlin. Recently reunited with her German husband, Arvid, and pursuing a doctorate in American Lit, she finds the cosmopolitan city invigorating and stimulating. When the political tide takes a horrifying turn, she and three other women—Martha Dodd (the US ambassador’s daughter); Greta Lorke (an aspiring playwright); and Sara Weitz (a student)—vow to resist Hitler’s regime, putting their lives and the lives of their loved ones on the line.

    The Daughter’s Tale, by Armando Lucas Correa
    A dual-timeline story presented with realistic and harrowing detail, Tale depicts the escape by Amanda Sternberg from Germany when her husband is killed in a prison camp in 1939. Though Amanda sends her eldest daughter to Cuba to live with an uncle, she keeps her youngest daughter, Lina, by her side to face an uncertain future in France. Present-day Lina, now called Elise Duval and living in the U.S., is stunned to discover a series of letters written by her mother that shed light on the past, and the choices Amanda was once forced to make.

    The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, by Juliet Grames
    This moving debut set in Connecticut and Calabria, Italy, finds the immigrant Fortuna sisters, Stella and Tina, struggling to grow up under the thumb of a domineering father. Did I mention Stella has a penchant for near-death experiences and an independent streak a mile wide? She’ll also do anything to keep her younger sister Tina safe from pain or hardship, which makes their eventual estrangement all the more mysterious. This has the potential to be an excellent read-alike for Kate Atkinson’s Life After Lifewhile also being wholly original.

    Light From Other Stars, by Erika Swyler
    A perfect book for fans of Interstellar, this sci-fi drama, grounded in realism and the bonds of family, follows 12-year-old Nedda and her quest to become an astronaut. Nedda’s father, a former physicist for NASA, is driven to prolong Nedda’s childhood by slowing it down via entropy. As a result, he subsumes the entire town of Easter, Florida, into a sinkhole in time. Yet years later, Nedda finds herself aboard a vessel in space, and it may be Nedda’s mother and grandmother who are responsible for Nedda’s success. This looks to be a mesmerizing and beautiful coming of age story about dreams fulfilled and paths not taken.

    How Not to Die Alone, by Richard Roper
    Years ago, Andrew made a split-second decision to pretend he was a family man in order to secure a job. His seemingly benign lie has come back to haunt him when a new employee and mentee, Peggy, enters his life and his heart. Like the rest of Andrew’s colleagues, Peggy assumes Andrew is married with two daughters, so how can he come clean after all this time? Each moment of his career feels like a glimpse into his own future; as an administrator in the U.K.’s Death Council, Andrew is responsible for going through the belongings of people who have died alone. If Andrew doesn’t make some changes, he may very well share their fate. Alone promises to be a charming and poignant read.

    The post May’s Best New Fiction appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Dave K. 4:00 pm on 2019/04/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , new releases, spring fever,   

    15 New Vinyl Releases to Spin This Spring 


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    After what felt like an endless winter, spring is finally here! At last, we can put our coats and hoodies away, open our windows, and get some sun on our skin. And since your windows are open, why not put a new record from the Vinyl Store on your turntable and crank up the volume? We’ve got a lot of spring arrivals this year, including new albums from Sara Bareilles, Khalid, the National, and Vampire Weekend, along with new film and Broadway soundtracks and a best of R.E.M. collection. Read on for more, and keep checking in with the Vinyl Store to see what we’re adding to our collection.

    Free Spirit, by Khalid
    Khalid makes quintessential spring music; sunny, chill, and full of good vibes. Free Spirit is his follow-up to debut album American Teen and 2018 EP Sunplay, and his baritenor voice remains just as impressive. His brand of R&B is refreshing, veering neither into celebrity swagger or rainy day melancholia. Even songs that aren’t explicitly positive—“Talk” being a great example—carry an earnest optimism. “Better” and the album’s title track “Free Spirit” are two of the best songs here, and the whole album is perfect for welcoming warm weather.

    Amidst the Chaos, by Sara Bareilles
    When Sara Bareilles isn’t contributing music to Broadway, she’s making great albums of her own. Her latest effort, Amidst the Chaos, is inspired by the 2016 presidential election and cultural developments that followed. “Armor” is a response to #metoo and the confirmation of Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, and “A Safe Place to Land” is about family separations along the U.S.-Mexico border, and features a duet with John Legend. It’s not all sad, though; “No Such Thing” and “If I Can’t Have You” were both written for Barack Obama.

    Dumbo 2019 Soundtrack
    The remake of classic Disney film Dumbo means a redo of the soundtrack as well. That work was trusted to legendary film composer Danny Elfman, whose goal was to give the film a very distinct musical identity. In some cases—as with the film’s main theme—this means simpler compositions than one might expect from Elfman, driven by his belief that Dumbo is a simple story. Elfman’s intuition results in a dynamic soundtrack that is in turns playful and sinister; the differences between the playful woodwinds and timpani in “Meet the Family” and the tense strings in “Holt in Action” are startling.

    Begin Again, by Norah Jones
    Begin Again is album number seven for the multi-talented Norah Jones, and it might be the most fun one yet. Jones told Rolling Stone that her intentions for this album were “quick and fun and easy and low-pressure,” so she kept her songwriting process spontaneous and didn’t spend more than three days on any of the seven tracks here, including recording time. Consequently, these songs are looser than her previous albums, and frankly it’s something she should do often. The title track is ultra-catchy and driven by a simple piano melody, and the guitar in “A Song With No Name” is downright relaxing, despite its somewhat chilling lyrics.

    Stages Live (CD/DVD), by Josh Groban
    Originally recorded for PBS in late 2015, Stages Live features Josh Groban doing what he does best: singing hits from the Broadway stage. Josh’s voice is in particularly good form on “Bring Him Home,” “Over the Rainbow,” and our personal favorite, “Pure Imagination.” While this album is missing a couple of songs from the studio album Stages, it does come with a DVD of the entire live performance, featuring duets with Kelly Clarkson (“All I Ask of You,”) and Audra McDonald (“If I Loved You”). Through it all, Groban’s unparalleled diction and range allow him to connect emotionally with every song.

    In Time: The Best of R.E.M., by R.E.M.
    Originally released in 2003, this collection starts with R.E.M.’s 1988 album Green and ends at their 2001 album Reveal. Alongside obvious favorites like “Losing My Religion,” “Everybody Hurts,” “Stand,” and “Man on the Moon” are less-appreciated songs like “All the Right Friends” (from the Vanilla Sky soundtrack) and “E-Bow the Letter.” In Time offers a solid overview of R.E.M.’s impressive legacy as a band and demonstrates why they were one of alt rock’s breakthrough bands. Their sound, built on jangly guitars and Michael Stipe’s folk-music voice, holds up beautifully.

    Father of the Bride, by Vampire Weekend
    Singer and lead guitarist Ezra Koenig said he was aiming for a springtime vibe with this album, and he wasn’t kidding. “Harmony Hall” has a real Grateful Dead-Meets-Paul Simon feel to it, and fans of Cornershop will love “Unbearably White,” whose title might be a cheeky reference to the most common criticism of the band. But “Sunflower” is the clear standout, opening with a guitar riff that will get stuck in your head for weeks, and featuring a bubbly tempo that compliments the equally bubbly lyrics. Play this one with the windows open.

    We Get By, by Mavis Staples
    Mavis Staples has been performing rhythm and blues, with a heavy emphasis on blues, since the late 1960s, so it comes as no surprise that she’s really good at it. Her upcoming album We Get By was produced by Ben Harper (who also wrote the songs), and will hit shelves around her 80th birthday. For someone who jokes about being over the hill, Staples sings with more gusto and conviction than most younger blues singers, and keeps the music stripped down to the essentials. “Change,” the album’s lead single, is both powerful and simple, with a roadhouse guitar lick and catchy backup singers underscoring Staples’ own smooth, gutsy vocals.

    12 Little Spells, by Esperanza Spalding
    Jazz savant and Harvard professor Esperanza Spalding’s newest album furthers her reputation as a furnace of ambition; each song is meant to correspond with a part of the human body, and they all have their own videos. But don’t worry, this record more than holds up on its own. Jazz is often used as background music these days, but Spalding’s freewheeling, intellectually stimulating compositions require the listener’s full attention. To borrow a phrase from Paste Magazine, this is not “dinner jazz.” What it is, however, is really good, especially the tracks “Thang,” “Until the Next Full,” and “The Longing Deep Down.”

    Aladdin Soundtrack
    Disney’s remake of its 1994 classic Aladdin doesn’t just have an updated soundtrack, it has two completely new songs. Alan Menken and the songwriting duo Pasek & Paul (of La La Land fame) wrote a new duet for Aladdin and Jasmine, and a solo for Jasmine titled “Speechless.” They’ve also updated “Arabian Nights” and “Friend Like Me,” which has been altered to suit Will Smith’s comedic style. They’ve certainly got big shoes to fill—the original soundtrack is beloved for good reason—but the new voices of Aladdin and Jasmine (Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott, respectively) are incredible, and Smith is as effortlessly charming as ever.

    I Am Easy To Find, by the National
    I Am Easy to Find is the National’s eighth studio album, and their most ambitious in two ways, Not only is it their longest effort to date, it’s a companion piece to a short film that will be released alongside the record. It’s also another impressive take on college rock by a band that has basically mastered it; the somber lyrics and interesting composition make these songs more fun and spring-appropriate than one might expect. They’ve also picked some mega-talented female guest vocalists, including longtime David Bowie collaborator Gail Dorsey and Lisa Hannigan, who supplies Blue Diamond’s voice on Steven Universe.

    Living Mirage, by The Head and The Heart
    Seattle-based folk band The Head and The Heart are set to release Living Mirage this May, and without cofounder Josiah Johnson. In his absence, the band has spiced up their tried-and-true folk sensibility with flourishes of pop; the album’s lead single, “Missed Connection,” adds piano and even synth to the mix. If this song reminds you of the Killers, or even Toto, you aren’t the only one. The album’s title track, on the other hand, holds tighter to the band’s traditional folk sound, albeit with peppier and more prominent drums. The band has said that this album is about change and rebirth, making it perfect for spring.

    California Son, by Morrissey
    Morrissey takes on hits and obscurities from the 1960s and ’70s on his upcoming covers album California Son. His version of Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over” has already been praised by Orbison’s son, which makes sense given Morrissey’s vocal style and rockabilly roots. Other tracks on this unique album include Bob Dylan’s “Only a Pawn in Their Game,” protest singer Phil Ochs’ “Days of Decisions,” and in a real treat for rock music obsessives, Jobriath’s “Morning Starship.” It’s not just Morrissey on this record, either; guest vocalists include Petra Haden, Sameer Gadhia, and Billie Joe Armstrong, among others.

    40, by Stray Cats
    Rockabilly revivalists the Stray Cats haven’t released a new album in over two decades, but after a handful of shows celebrating the band’s 40th anniversary, they jumped back in the studio and recorded twelve new songs, all originals. The album’s first single, “Cat Fight (Over A Dog Like Me),” is as playful and bouncy as their classic material, complete with a full-blast Setzer guitar solo to remind us how good rockabilly can be. Even more impressive is the band’s chemistry; after all those years apart, they sound like they never stopped touring together. When you listen to this record, so will your neighbors.

    Come From Away Soundtrack
    Newfoundland isn’t often the setting of musicals, but Come From Away isn’t most musicals. It tells the strange and compelling story of what happened when 9/11 led to the forced landing of thirty-eight international aircraft in Gander, a small town whose population was doubled by the sudden influx of displaced passengers. The soundtrack is more infectious and fun than the subject matter would suggest; the Irish flourishes in “Blankets and Bedding” are a welcome surprise, and “Me and the Sky” will make any listener consider becoming a pilot. “Something’s Missing” is the soundtrack’s tearjerker, in which the passengers and airline staff confront the aftermath of 9/11.

    The post 15 New Vinyl Releases to Spin This Spring appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jenny Shank 8:01 pm on 2019/04/04 Permalink
    Tags: , new releases, , opening up   

    5 of the Best New Memoirs of Spring 


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    Memoirs offer readers the opportunity to take a journey through another human’s life. No matter how different the particulars of the memoirist’s experience from our own, the best memoirs tap into something universal. Here are five fabulous memoirs hitting bookstores this spring that together capture a panoply of the American experience.

    Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob 
    In 2014, novelist Mira Jacob’s young son Z became obsessed with Michael Jackson, and he had a lot of questions about him, such as, “Was Michael Jackson Brown or was he white?” Jacob, whose parents are from India, is married to Jed, a Jewish man she met when they were growing up together in New Mexico. She told Z Michael Jackson turned white. “Are you going to turn white?” Z asks. His difficult, important, sometimes silly questions sparked Jacob to write a graphic memoir that takes the reader on a funny and bittersweet journey, illustrated with drawings of the people in her life cut out like paper dolls that move from scene to scene. As Jacob struggles to answer her son’s questions, she delves into her own complicated history of growing up brown, with skin darker than that of her parents, prompting her Indian relatives to describe her as “plain.” Jacob writes with honesty, humility, humor, and wisdom as she recounts painful and poignant moments from her life—such as the time she won a fifth grade Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest, and then, after she sent in her picture for the program, was given the wrong address for the banquet. Harder for her to bear is the way her in-laws vote in the 2016 presidential election, even after Jed writes them to say, “Please consider how this will harm our family.” Searching, candid, and full of heart, Good Talk provides an insightful conversation about race in America today.

    The Collected Schizophrenias: Essays by Esmé Weijun Wang
    It’s believed that approximately one percent of people have schizophrenia, and skilled and intelligent writer Esmé Weijun Wang takes care to guide readers through “the wilds” of the disorder. Wang, who won a 2018 Whiting Award and was named one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists on the strength of her debut novel, The Border of Paradise, was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, after she was forced to drop out of Yale due to what she thought at the time was bipolar disorder. In between debilitating bouts with hallucinations and delusions, Wang has accomplished incredible achievements, from earning a degree at Stanford to becoming a medical researcher to making her name as a fashion blogger to racking up impressive writing honors, including the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize for this book. She explains the overachieving in this way: “I care about recognition as much as I care about my own self-regard, because I don’t trust my self-evaluation.” With admirable candor and probing insight, Wang chronicles bewildering experiences that include hospitalizations (“My third hospitalization occurred in rural Louisiana. I told the doctor that I was a writer and studied psychology at Yale and Stanford, which was about as believable as my saying that I was an astronaut and an identical twin born to a Russian ambassador”) and episodes in which she believes she is dead. “People speak of schizophrenics as though they were dead without being dead, gone in the eyes of those around them,” Wang writes, but The Collected Schizophrenias goes a long way toward restoring life and humanity to those with this condition.

    Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, by T Kira Madden
    In this harrowing memoir with a surprising conclusion, T Kira Madden describes a childhood of neglect set amid lavish privilege in Boca Raton, Florida. Madden’s Chinese Hawaiian mother grew up in Hawaii. Her father was Jewish and wealthy, the brother of Steve Madden, famous for his shoe empire. Through crystalline essays, Madden captures the experience as it must have felt to live it, in kaleidoscopic, fragmented fashion, out of chronological order. Madden’s mother is her father’s second wife. He left his first wife after Madden’s mother “rescued a mannequin from the J.C. Penney dump” and propped him up in the car and in the apartment for protection—they called him “Uncle Nuke.” Both Madden’s parents struggled with sobriety, and she was often left to her own devices, resulting in behavior including truancy and alcohol use, as well as experience with sexual assault. As shoebiz goes on in the background, Madden attends the kind of wealthy prep school whose students routinely receive plastic surgery as bar and bat mitzvah gifts; as one of the school’s few nonwhite students, she’s referred to by a racial slur she eventually adopts as a nickname. Despite the chaos of her upbringing, Madden’s love and forgiveness for both of her parents graces every page of this frank, lucid book.

    What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir in Essays by Damon Young 
    Damon Young is the cofounder and editor-in-chief of VerySmartBrothas, a senior editor at The Root, and a writer of great wit and acumen who tells the story of growing up black and male in Philadelphia with incredible verve. He wrote this book, he explains, “to examine and discover the whys of my life instead of continuing to allow the whats to dominate and fog my memories.” Why did he wait until age 26 to earn a driver’s license? Why did his mother die young? Why did he enjoy Kool-Aid into adulthood? How can he reconcile the fact that he’s troubled by his neighborhood’s gentrification when he also enjoys the upscale amenities this brings? Young tells stories from his life in his trademark kinetic, discursive, joke-cracking style. These essays will amuse and trouble. “Thursday-Night Hoops,” about a pickup basketball league Young plays in with mostly white teammates, should be required reading to help understand the complexities and contradictions of black and white people coexisting in America today.

    The Body Papers: A Memoir by Grace Talusan
    Grace Talusan immigrated to America with her family from the Philippines when she was a preschooler. In this moving, clear-eyed memoir, which won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, she probes the events of her life, documenting them with photographs and official papers. She involves the reader in her quest to make sense of who she has become by charting where she’s been. “Immigration is a kind of death,” she writes. “You leave one life for another one with no guarantee of seeing your loved ones or home again.” The portrait Talusan creates of her father, Totoy, is one of the most complex and beautiful parts of the book. Totoy grew up in a compound with his family in Manila. To punish him when he was ten, his mother hung him. Totoy thought he would die, but he survived, immigrated to America (after having all his rotting teeth pulled), and became an ophthalmologist. When Grace was young, Totoy and her mother practiced stricter Filipino-style parenting but grew toward an American permissiveness and warmth. After Totoy learns that his visiting father had been sexually abusing Grace from age seven to thirteen, he becomes her fierce protector, disowning his entire extended family to defend his daughter, and doing everything he can to help her heal. But Talusan is still working on healing. It’s clear that telling her story with such openness and perceptiveness, is part of that ongoing process. “Reaching out to other people and connecting,” she writes, “which is the exact opposite of how I felt when I was being abused, is why and how I am alive.”

    The post 5 of the Best New Memoirs of Spring appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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