We are recovering from the whirlwind book-buying binge y’all went on last week. During Rhubarb Days last week, we had our single best day outside of the day before Christmas, for which we thank you all very, very much. We were delighted to see everyone, and equally thrilled to send everyone home with books. Naturally, while everyone is hunkered down this week reading those books, we are going to continue the relentless new release march.
Though we are going to be a bit leisurely about it. Let's go perambulate through the stacks and see what catches our eye. Like A Distant View of Everything, the latest Isabel Dalhousie novel from Alexander McCall Smith. NOT the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Dalhousie books follow the musings and observations of Ms. Dalhousie as she navigates the oftentimes tempestuous waters of better society. These aren’t the sort of books where characters worry as to whether they’ve fired five or six shots or how many seconds are left on the nuclear bomb timer; they are more like watching a garden grow, where seeds planted in the rich loam of humanity slowly sprout and push up tender shoots.
No, not like that. “Shoots,” like tendrils of green stuff that blooms with flowers. Not the other “shoots.” You’ve been watching too much TV, we think.
And speaking of rich loam, Crystal Stevens is here to teach us a new word this week. Vericulture! It’s the process of using worms to turn crap into carp! Now, we’ve been reading Mary Roach’s Stiff this week, and the whole idea of worms being used to assist in decomposition has an entirely different mental context, thank you very much, but Stevens, in Worms at Work, wants us to build bins in which we can toss our food waste. With the power of worms, we can turn that garbage into soft, silky plant chow. That's right! Your leftover Eggs Benedict can feed the strawberries and marigolds. It’s all part of the cycle of life, kids, and you’re actively contributing.
And speaking of marigolds, this week’s picture book is Marigold Bakes a Cake. Mike Malbrough does all the words and art in this delightful take of what happens when you let a fussy cat in the kitchen. Well, it’s not entirely the cat’s fault, really. Someone let some stupid birds in too, and they aren’t helpful in the slightest. Birds are always wrecking things.
And speaking of wrecking things, our new favorite flip book is—oh, wait. That’s next week. Drat. You’ll have to wait.
So, over here, we’ve got the second book in David D. Levine’s Arabella series. Arabella and the Battle of Venus is sort of like Jane Austen meets Edgar Rice Burroughs. [He did Venus books too! And you thought we were being lazy in our pulp comparisons!] Victorian manners! Three-masters sailing between the stars! Irascible young lady adventurers! Napoleon trying to take over the solar system!
What more could you want?
And speaking of books that have everything, let's wander over here and check out Maggie Hall’s The Ends of the World, the latest book in a series that Teen Vogue calls a “Da Vinci Code-style thriller for teens.” Now, we like Teen Vogue—a lot—but we were sort of hoping they’d set the literary bar a little higher than The Da Vinci Code, but we certainly understand why they went there for the blurb.
Also, “Ends”? As in, the world is going end multiple times like the fourteen endings of the cinematic version of The Lord of the Rings? Or do we have to make it plural just because no one shows up for a single “end” any more. It’s like the Spinal Tap amps that go to eleven.
And speaking of amping up the tension, how about Lisa Maxwell’s The Last Magician? Before we even open the book, we’re already presented with an ultimatum. The LAST Magician. It’s like of like The Last Jedi, isn’t it? We know the author is leaning on some unrevealed details to subvert the baseline definition of “last,” but it's a wee bit of bait and switch before we even open the book. Frankly, we're going to call this one "Time Thief, On the Brink," and move on.
And speaking of snarky summaries, here are a few more to round out this week.
The Late Show: Michael Connelly admits that even he’s getting tired of writing Bosch books, and reboots his enthusiasm with a new character and series. We approve.
The Bone Mother: David Demchuck does Eastern European Monster Self-Help Group. Tears and chaos ensue.
Amid Stars and Darkness: Look. You can’t have both: stars generate light, which has a deleterious effect on darkness. Though, if you like Luc Besson’s take on Valerian, you’ll probably dig Feener's SF Romance.
Arrowood: The tag line is “The rich go to Sherlock Holmes; everyone else goes to Arrowood.” What? The plebs are stuck with a guy who is so cheap he doesn’t spring for two ‘w’s?
Caesar's Last Breath: Sam Kean does the alchemy of air, told with wit and verve. Sign us up.