Weekend reading

Seira Wilson on February 21, 2020
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This weekend's bag of books is packed with familiar names and a couple of exciting debuts. One of us is taking home a dark story set in Odessa, Texas, narrated by five strong women, while another editor is going for a wild romp in 2012 Austin where a Whole Foods Market deli maid writes hilarious letters to an ex-boyfriend about bad dates, a bad boss, and a Lululemon takeover.  We've also got a nonfiction graphic novel about basketball from an award winning young adult author, a flashback to Man Booker award magnet Hilary Mantel, a check-in with old friend Walter Mosley's private detective Leonid McGill, and a post-Civil War era work of historical fiction from an author who imparts goodness into even the bleakest of moments.


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Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore

The eerie and menacing cover of a threatening sky and empty oil fields sets the tone perfectly for Valentine, Elizabeth Wetmore's debut, which has beckoned me for months. When a young Mexican girl is viciously raped and beaten by a brooding oil-slick cowboy, the small town of Odessa, Texas must decide where the law lies. Narrated by five women – this is the story of their resilience and care and how they lead their lives amidst the violence, poverty, and racism that surrounds them. The opening of this book made me turn on all the lights, but with every passing page I’m buoyed by the stories of these women who are sun-baked strong despite their wounds. I can’t wait to finish it this weekend.--Al Woodworth



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The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate

Lisa Wingate—author of the best-selling and heartwarming novel Before We Were Yours—returns to break and mend hearts again with The Book of Lost Friends (April 7). Switching between Louisiana in 1875 and Louisiana in 1987, the experiences of three women in the post-Civil War era struggling to reconnect with loved ones and build new lives alternates with that of a schoolteacher new to town who uncovers a book that reveals a fascinating history. Wingate excels at finding the kernels of goodness in every heart in even the darkest moments, and I expect The Book of Lost Friends will prove to be the perfect way to spend a relaxing weekend. —Adrian Liang



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The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories by Hilary Mantel

The book world is abuzz with the highly-anticipated release of the conclusion of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall trilogy (The Mirror & the Light, March 10). That reminded me of her gem of a short story collection, which I plan to revisit this weekend. Bookended by tales about two very different kinds of home invasions, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher is chock-full of vivid detail and devilish wit. Standouts in the collection are the semi-autobiographical “Sorry to Disturb,” which illustrates the perils of being too polite, the spooky “Terminus” that exquisitely depicts the madness and longing of loss, and the tender “How Shall I Know You?” where a writer’s encounter with a needy child leads to a stark reminder of her own fragile state. Many of the stories mine the baser sides of humanity, but Mantel does it with a wink. At the conclusion of “Winter Break” a ghastly truth is revealed, and like the woman who witnesses it, we want to look away...but only until the next page. They don’t hand out Man Bookers like candy, and these stories further explain why Mantel has two on her mantel (so far). --Erin Kodicek



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Trouble Is What I Do by Walter Mosley

Reading a new entry in the Leonid McGill series by Walter Mosley is kind of like checking in with an old friend you wish you saw more often. It's been five years since the last McGill novel, and I’ve missed McGill’s fast-paced, this-side-of-shady ducking and dodging. In Trouble Is What I Do, McGill, a NY private eye, is hired to deliver a letter to a wealthy bride-to-be, letting her—and her corrupt father—know of her black lineage. A job like this appeals to McGill's yen for ruffling feathers among society's elite. But the juice might not be worth the squeeze when the irate father of the bride hires someone, too: an infamous assassin. Weekends were made for reads like this. --Vannessa Cronin



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The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry

While I appreciate the sentiment of not judging a book by its cover, when it comes to literally judging a book by its cover, I’m all in. And the cover of The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry (April 7) is pretty stunning: cherry red lips and heart-shaped glasses, with blue font. And the book is as fun as the jacket, so far. Twenty-eight year old Roxy is working the deli at Whole Foods Market, renting her spare bedroom out to her spare bedroom, artistically blocked and romantically misguided. When a Lululemon opens in the spot of a former beloved video store, Roxy decides to rebel against the rapid change that is gentrifying her hometown of Austin. Told through letters to aforementioned ex-boyfriend and roommate, Roxy details wacky adventures with a colorful cast of characters, set against 2012 Austin.-- Sarah Gelman


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Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang

Gene Luen Yang's nonfiction graphic novel, Dragon Hoops (March 17) begins with Yang questioning if he's run out of ideas after his last book.  What ends up inspiring Yang is a huge surprise for him: basketball.  Not just any team or player though, Yang finds himself drawn into--and drawing--a pivotal time for the men's varsity basketball team at Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland, California where Yang teaches. The school is buzzing about the upcoming California State Championship, something that has eluded the team time and again. Yang brings his curiosity and interest in knowing what makes his characters tick to this story, and he also explores the history of the game, racism, and assimilation.  I can't wait to see what happens and I think a lot of different readers will be inspired by this graphic novel--even, and maybe especially, those who didn't think they wanted to read a book about basketball. --Seira Wilson 

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