“Do you know what’s in the morgue right now, Quintana?”
“The red wine you hid there on Tuesday.”
“No, that’s all gone. We had to give a few bottles to the cleaning lady to keep her quiet.”
Welcome to the doldrums—those lazy days when the wind doesn’t blow, the grass doesn’t grow, and even the ladybugs are sluggish. While we don’t mind a few days like this ourselves, a “few” can turn into “Holy cow! Where did July go?” This week’s list of books is intended to keep the doldrums at bay, and we’re starting off with Roque Larraquy’s darkly comic and strange novel, Comemadre. Publishers Weekly gives it a starred review and says: “Shuttling between B-movie horror and exceedingly dark comedy, this novel is somehow both genuinely scary and genuinely funny, sometimes on the same page.” They go on to say that Comemadre is a “wickedly entertaining ride,” and one of our bookseller pals at Powell’s says: “I’m not entirely sure what the f*ck just happened.”
So, there you go. Macabre. Literary. Funny. What the F*ck Just Happened. We should make some signs.
And speaking of perplexing literary experiments, Andrew Shaffer is responsible for Hope Never Dies: An Obama Biden Mystery. That’s right. Joe Biden and Barack Obama as a crime-fighting duo. Obama graciously inhabits the Sherlock Holmes role in this crisp and chatty crime caper, while Biden shows Watson a thing or two about how the sidekick should steal the show. Sure, it’s all wish fulfillment, smothered with a heaping dose of earnest What-If?-ery, but come on, you can’t tell us you’re not delighted by the phrase “first book in a new series” that comes along with this title.
And speaking of books published by Quirk Books, we have the latest installment in that free verse space opera that is William Shakespeare’s Jedi the Last. Ian Doescher continues his reworking of the canonical Star Wars stories as if they were penned by the Bard of Avon himself. Filled with all those things that make for a good summertime Shakespeare in the Park production, Jedi the Last continues the epic family saga that spans galaxies and generations. Sword fights! Scenery Chewing! Sardonic Sidekicks! Beer Sales During Intermission!
Over here, we have the first of several books out this week that attempt to confound you by showing only the back of a character. Julie McElwain’s A Twist in Time continues the adventures of Kendra Donovan, a modern-era FBI agent who has been thrown back to 1815, where there is murder and fancy dress parties afoot.
And look, another figure whose face we cannot see! Fiona Davis’s The Address is a “delicious tale of love, lies, and madness” (according to People Magazine), set in the historic Dakota, Manhattan’s most famous apartment building. What goes on at the Dakota? Are there fancy dress parties? Is there a dead body in the basement? Inquiring minds want to know!
And rounding out this week’s design triumvirate is Hannah Kent’s The Good People, a “literary novel with the pace and tension of a thriller that takes us on a frightening journey towards an unspeakable tragedy.” This one is set in Ireland, which is obvious from the cover, right? The New York Times Book Review says it is a “dramatic tale of desperation, set in a bleak time and place where no amount of protective ritual and belief—or goodness—can rescue people from their circumstances.”
Which translates to: more than one dead body.
And speaking of dead bodies, here’s Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues, the story of sad sack Milo, who is down to his last five attempts to figure out What It All Means. You get 10,000 chances at life, you see, and Milo has spent the first 9,995 flailing a bit. He’s trying to impress a girl—a very special girl—and he hasn’t quite figured it out. And he’s only got a few chances left . . . NPR says this is “the most fun you’ll have reading about a man who has been killed by both catapult and car accident.” We’re not quite sure we have the same definition of “fun” as NPR, but we’ll parse that as “this book is for fans of Christopher Moore, Neil Gaiman, and Kurt Vonnegut.”
Seriously. Most reviews are just secret bookseller hand signals. Put it over here. Next to these books. Yes. The blue ones. It'll sell here. No. Not there. What are you trying to do? Kill a writer's career? Geez.
And if you were wondering how you could get that “Read a Helpful Non-Fiction” book on the summer bingo card, we’ve got Emma Mildon’s Evolution of a Goddess: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Activating Your Feminine Superpowers. Mildon puts the matriarchy back in mythology with a number of excellent goddess stories that you might not know—stories about war and love and death and the night sky. She even includes an awesome “goddess assessment,” which provides you some advice and insight into how a little goddess goes a long way in your modern life.
And speaking of a little whiff going a long way, we also have Barney Shaw’s The Smell of Fresh Rain. It’s a book about smells, sure, but think of it as an adventure novel—a fantastic quest to discover elusive answers about the human condition! “What does three o’clock in the morning smell like?” asks Shaw’s son, and Shaw—not having a pat answer—sets off to find out. Along the way, he catalogues a couple hundred smells, which are included in the book.
So, yeah, it’s a sniffer thesaurus. What? Like you have one of these already.
And we’ll end with Robert Leonard Reid’s Because It Is So Beautiful: Unraveling the Mystique of the American West. Leonard has been writing about the natural world for some time, and this collection of essays highlights his persistent affection for the natural landscape. He’s like Muir, Thoreau, Twain, and Abbey all rolled into an a single voice, which is to say that he’s got some things to say about the natural world and our place in it.