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Journalist Mirin Fader documents the rise of an unlikely superstar, the child of Nigerian migrants who lived a hardscrabble life in Sepolia, Greece, until eventually being discovered. And he didn’t even want to play basketball – he originally wanted to follow his father into soccer. Fader does a great job of not only tell Antetokounmpo’s story, but also trying to get to the heart of what makes Giannis tick and why he is so beloved, particularly in Milwaukee. So much research and so many interviews enhance the narrative. Several are person-on-the-street variety – that could have been you, Bucks fan! While I hope nobody would take advice from me about sports books – I read them occasionally but any time the author starts getting into the nuts and bolts of actual play, I zone out – I can vouch that our buyer, a sometime Bucks season ticket holder, also loves the book.
— Daniel Goldin
Mirin Fader lays out the unlikely, hollywood-esque story of the rise of Giannis, from living in poverty in Greece to the top of the NBA as a two-time MVP of the league. This is a look at how Giannis is Giannis. How Milwaukee was the perfect city to fit his blue collar work ethic and humbleness. It's about how family is the most important thing to him, and where you come from doesn't define you but can be a spring board to fight for a better life. Mirin Fader did hundreds of interviews, far and wide, to cast the largest possible net. Reading some sections of the games Giannis played, I remember being there, sitting in my seat, cheering and watching it unfold. Now, though, I have more perspective. I am even more in awe of Giannis and his family. At the end of it all, one major takeaway for me from this book is that nothing else matters if your family is not there supporting you and you lifting them up, too.
— Jason Kennedy
In this engaging work of historical fiction, Groff creates a story for real life poet Marie de France, who was cast out of the French court of Eleanor of Aquitaine and sent to an ailing abbey to be its prioress. Angry and resentful at first, Marie slowly takes charge, transforming the abbey and empowering the women who live and work there. Wonderful blend of historical people and events and the author's vivid imagination.
— Kathy Herbst
This book was one of the most stunning ways to begin 2021. I absolutely love this book. First, this is my only (but surely not the last) experience with Matt Haig’s writing. He crafts his story by masterfully taking the reader by the hand and - quite literally - jumps through time and space of the main character’s life (or, lives). The story is easy and enjoyable to follow. It was definitely a satisfying page turner that remained thought provoking even when I wasn’t reading. Second, I am a nerd for how words are strung together to convey descriptions. For example, when the reader is faced with the physical sensations of how depression grips the main character’s body, it’s some of the most beautiful yet painful sentences I’ve ever read. From what I know about the author, perhaps only someone who has truly experienced the physicality of such low moments could be able to illustrate them so clearly. And, if one can relate to these sensations, it makes the writing all the more powerful. Haig’s descriptiveness allows the reader to share in the lows and highs of every emotion and situation the main character gets into, and it’s part of what makes this novel so great. The reader is placed in her shoes, exploring life with her - if not as her. Lastly, I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in existential questions that deal with the self and introspection or philosophy that deals with solitude and the development of the self. Overall, it’s such an inspiring and refreshing read.
— Rose Camara
Surrealist humor meets monotonous office life in the new book Several People Are Typing. Written in the form of instant messenger conversations, this book had me laughing in disbelief at the absurd and unexplained happenings at this company. Each employee has their own problems, ranging from the mundane to the hilariously insane, but none more so than Gerald - who accidentally uploaded his consciousness into the firm's slack server. But who cares, because his productivity is suddenly through the roof now that he doesn't need to eat or sleep, so does he really have it that bad? With constant, sourceless howling, frighteningly illegible emoji conversations, missing briefs, and a growing sentience in the app's help Bot, Kasulke exaggerates the average American office to seem as crazy as it sometimes feels like in this wonderfully deranged novel.
— Margaret Kennedy
Several People Are Typing is the kind of book you get someone else read with you just so you have a person to text "WHAT JUST HAPPENED" after every chapter. I am a bit leery when it comes to AI, and this nightmarish set up had me giggling and gasping at every hilarious twist. Perhaps it is from familiarity with Slack and mundane office work, but for a novel about a man trapped in a professional instant messaging program and told through the very same media, I myself was ensnared. Read this as a commentary on capitalism and the toxic praise that comes from not taking a break and working yourself into oblivion (in this case, literally), or just enjoy it as a humorous science fiction mix up - either way, it is an enjoyable foray into a very weird book.
— Madi Hill
This is Krueger's latest in the mystery series featuring Sheriff Cork O'Connor, a man with both Irish and Ojibwe heritage. It's entertaining for the storytelling and fascinating for the cultural complexity. The series features Cork as a law man with Indigenous family and friends, as well as a white Irish police lineage going back to Chicago city cops. This entry is special, because we meet Cork at the beginning, as a 12-year-old boy whose father Liam is the Sheriff of a county including Minnesota Boundary Waters and the Iron Lake Reservation. Cork and his friend find a haunting scene in a sacred place called Lightning Strike. It’s the body of a respected Ojibwe man who is a family friend. Is there a killer out there, or did he take his own life? Krueger does two things extremely well here. The first is developing a political and cultural context to show the impact of the 1956 Indian Relocation Act on indigenous people and communities, after the law encouraged them to move off reservations and into large cities. The second, as he also did in his stand alone novel This Tender Land, is creating great characters who face tough social stress. The children in both books are extraordinary. Cork is a kid with heart, relentless curiosity, and the knack for investigation skills that he’ll need as a Sheriff throughout the series. I enjoyed every last minute!
— Tim McCarthy
Two recent best sellers relied heavily on research pioneered by Suzanne Simard: Richard Power’s Overstory and Peter Wohlleben’s Hidden Life of Trees. Simard’s research proved that clear-cut logging old forests causes virtually irreversible damage to the land. But far more importantly, her research discovered why: the trees live as a community, acting for the good of the forest as a whole. This is accomplished via vast underground networks of roots and mycorrhiza that direct nutrients from healthy to needy trees, send warning signals of coming infestations and disease so trees can prepare defenses, and so much more. Clear-cut the trees, the network dies, and replacement trees won’t grow. Simard pursued her research despite belittlement, false criticism, and even sabotage of her research by a powerful clique of men with vested interests in maintaining existing logging practices in British Columbia. But her research proved popular among fellow academics and students, and eventually became mainstream. Growing up in a multi-generation logging family in British Columbia, Suzanne’s insatiable curiosity started her down this forest road when she was just six years old. I spent several enchanted evenings with Suzanne in beautiful British Columbia as she described her pioneering journey. Thank you for your tenacity Suzanne.
— Kay Wosewick
Lynette just wants to be safe. That's why the only time she leaves her overly secure apartment is to meet with the five other final girls (the women who are left alive after defeating their killer. Think: Laurie Strode in Halloween) and their therapist in a church basement. But when it seems like their monsters are coming back to kill, she is forced to leave her hiding place to figure out why someone is going after final girls again. This was my first-time reading Grady Hendrix's work, and I am already hooked. Imagining classic horror films as if they were the result of tragic realities is done in an extremely original way that leaves you wondering where the story will lead, while trying to match each final girl to the correct classic horror heroine. Hendrix's style is so much fun but surprisingly tense, perfect for the horror fan who doesn't take themselves too seriously.
— Madi Hill
After Daniel Sutherland is found brutally murdered on his boat, the lives of several seemingly unconnected women will collide in unimaginable ways. Laura has been struggling to stay afloat and keep her head down ever since an accident as a child left her with scars she wishes she could forget. Miriam knows an outsider when she sees one - it takes one to know one. So, when she discovers Daniel's body and realizes Laura was the last known person so see him alive, she takes it upon herself to help Laura, while possibly getting the revenge she has been longing for all these years. Meanwhile, Carla is spiraling - it was only a few months ago that her sister died suddenly and tragically. Now her nephew has been murdered. But with even more tragedy littering her past, she might do anything to find peace. All three women are harboring painful memories and secrets that threaten to pull them apart. What would they do to finally be able to move on? Not for the faintest of heart, Paula Hawkins’s latest is a dark and brutal story that kept me in my favorite chair reading from the first page to the very last.
— Parker Jensen
Horror and social commentary go together like peanut butter and jelly, like pizza and sushi, like outcast teenagers from broken homes and a closet full of old slasher tapes (that’s our heroine, Jade). The vampire, the zombie, Godzilla, even Michael Meyers and Freddy Krueger are most powerful as symbols of our bigger fears: of the dark, of ourselves, of the atomic bomb and the rot at heart of suburbia. Stephen Graham Jones leans hard into this tried and true formula in his latest, with a bit of a twist. When the richy-riches show up to develop a busted old mountain town into a lakeside vacation idyll, Graham Jones takes the opportunity to explore questions like who really is an outsider and who in a community of mostly poor and Indigenous people is going to get screwed by change (hint: it’s probably not the richy-riches). He knows he has the credentials to lean into all the ugliest parts of this story, and fair warning, he does so pretty unsparingly. Still, at its heart, this book is a love letter to slashers and us weirdos who love ‘em, and it grabs your attention like a speed boat rip-roaring across a quiet mountain lake. Watch out for that propeller!
— Chris Lee
Okay, so Stephen Graham Jones has written his love story to slasher films. This has it all: gore, suspense, red herrings, and a Final Girl. However, this book has more in it than just another horror novel - it has underlining message about trust. Who is safe to trust? Are they trustworthy? Is there anyone to open up to and trust? Because trust has been shattered and is never able to be reformed. Jade is a half-Indigenous girl of 17 who is obsessed with slasher films. She knows them all, knows their individual story arcs. And now she feels like she is living in one and knows who the Final Girl is. Her job is to prepare her for the bloodbath that is destined to come. Perhaps. I've come late to the Stephen Graham Jones game, but his last two books have been real gems.
— Jason Kennedy
Andy Weir hits his third consecutive homerun, this time out of the ballpark! Hail Mary brilliantly explores two themes: ‘save planet Earth’ and ‘first alien contact.’ Saving the planet entails solving an environmental problem that is entirely new to humans and aliens alike and is a terrific story in itself. But the alien/human encounter (starring Rocky and Grace, respectively) is even more impressive. Neither an aggressive brute nor a spectacularly advanced, intellectual creature, Rocky is much more advanced than humans in some ways, and much less advanced in other ways. Having evolved under very un-Earth-like planetary conditions, Rocky’s physicality and understanding of the universe differs significantly from Grace’s. At the same time, there are enough similarities to enable Rocky and Grace to develop communication, then cooperation, and eventually personal attachment. Relationship building and joint creative problem solving among alien and human are portrayed with great humor and tenderness, and there’s still plenty of ‘sci’ for even the geekiest reader. Hail Mary is a radiant gem.
— Kay Wosewick
Did you like Mark Watney? Then, you will absolutely love Ryland Grace. Who is he? Waking up in a strange environment, Ryland can remember little about his life other than his name. He’s in a bed with tubes running into pretty much every bodily opening he has, and the other two other beds have dead people in them. In short order, he figures out that he is humanity’s last hope to save Earth. The writing is funny and pitch perfect, the science is wildly creative and carefully explained. This is the book I was not expecting to be blown away, by and I loved every second of it.
— Jason Kennedy
I knew after reading an advance copy of Project Hail Mary on January 10th that I’d found one of my Top 5 Books of 2021. Turn off your phone because you don’t want to talk to anyone until you reach the last page in this thrill ride of a novel. When the scientific world heartily rejected his theory on the possibility of life evolving without water, microbiologist Ryland Grace retreated in disgrace to life as a middle school science teacher. As it turned out, he likes teaching kids, and he’s good at it, but just as quickly as he was banished, Ryland is yanked back from obscurity to become earth’s one hope for survival. The beginning finds Ryland waking from a coma without the slightest idea of his name or where he might be. Slowly, he becomes more aware, and he's startled to find himself alone on a spaceship, eons from earth, most likely on an important mission, but without a clue where he’s headed or why. Fascinating doesn’t begin to describe the story from that point, and the plot combines chemistry and math with humor and compassion. I loved Ryland’s creativity, and he’s a problem-solving genius, but the connections he makes in space give this outstanding novel its delightful punch of emotional depth.
— Jenny Chou
A very exclusive, very private lodge in the Colorado Rockies has pristine creeks chockfull of trout, and very wealthy clients. Jack takes a fishing guide job late in the season, replacing someone who left suddenly. Bad vibes hit Jack almost immediately upon arrival, but melt away as he enjoys an exquisitely relaxing day fishing with his charming client. Unfortunately, neither of them can ignore increasingly visible oddities suggesting the lodge is a cover for something else. Something sinister. Both are compelled to discover what's really going on; they do, and it's a nasty surprise. Prepare for lovely highs and grim lows, an increasingly common combination for Peter Heller, one of my favorite authors.
— Kay Wosewick
Suspenseful and intriguing, Never Saw Me Coming had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Usually in horror stories, the psychopaths are the ones we run away from, the ones waving the knife. It’s true for this book too, but with a twist – the unfeeling villains are in fact the narrators. The main story follows Chloe Sevre, certified psychopath getting a free ride to college by participating in a psychology study on people like her. It's a stroke of luck for Chloe, because the college hosting the program is the same college that the boy she is planning to kill attends. As Chloe plots “the accident,” however, someone else is plotting murder, too - and Chloe and her fellow psychopaths are the intended victims. The narrators aren’t exactly the good guys here, but as the book goes on and plot twists abound, you find yourself rooting for them anyways. A thriller of a different kind that kept me hooked!
— Margaret Kennedy