The rumors (and, you know, newspaper articles) are true: the bookstore I’m working at is closing after 12/31 of this year.
Needless to say, I’m pretty devastated. I think our store is a great one, and I find it incredibly depressing that a profitable bookstore is being closed. But here we are.
The Harlem Hellfighters – Max Brooks
The greatest war story you’ve never (yet) seen on the big screen, The Harlem Hellfighters reads like an action movie put on the page. In the depths of World War I, hundreds of thousands of Americans enlisted to fight in the trenches. The African-Americans who fought were relegated to menial labor outside the battlefield by the U.S. Army…except for the Harlem Hellfighters. Fighting under France’s banners, the Hellfighters rose above the United States’ racist military policies to become one of the most decorated regiments of the war. Max Brooks retells their story in a fast-paced graphic novel illustrated by Canaan White’s stark black-and-white art. While the thick lines used in the artwork can occasionally make the visuals difficult to follow, White adeptly conveys the chaos of war. A rousing paean to a group of forgotten African-American heroes, The Harlem Hellfighters should become a favorite among graphic novel fans. The recently optioned film rights will undoubtedly bring additional interest to the work.
The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris – Jenny Colgan
After a freak chocolate-factory accident that costs her two toes and a lot of dignity, Anna Trent is convinced her life is in freefall. Her old French teacher, Claire, isn’t so sure. In fact, she’s convinced that Anna might benefit from reinventing herself in Paris, and she calls in a few favors to get Anna a job at a ritzy chocolate shop in the heart of the City of Light. Jenny Colgan links Anna’s Parisian misadventures with Claire’s own love affair with France–and the owner of the chocolate shop Anna’s now bumbling around. The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris is a gentle, clean read; any incidents of sex are alluded to rather than detailed. Chocoholics and anyone who’s dreamed of remaking themselves in a new city should flock to this sweet title.
I Shall Be Near to You – Erin Lindsay McCabe
As the Civil War rages, newlywed Rosetta Wakefield faces an impossible choice: send her husband, Jeremiah, to fight, or…well, everyone around her tells her there’s only one option. Rosetta sees another one, however, and shears off her hair so she can join Jeremiah in the Union Army. As Ross Stone, she witnesses storied battles like Bull Run and Antietam and learns to navigate camp life as a man. I Shall Be Near to You is written in a jaunty, idiosyncratic language, reminiscent of a rural accent, and features strong character relationships. For those who enjoy historical novels with a heavy dash of romance, I Shall Be Near to You may be an excellent fit.
Kabu-Kabu – Nnedi Okorafor
A kabu-kabu, for the unaware, is an illegal Nigerian taxicab–and the subject of a humorous, rollicking tale in Nnedi Okorafor’s first published short story collection. Covering a variety of genres, including magical realism, fantasy, and science fiction, Kabu-Kabu is an inventive book that features Nigerian and Nigerian-American protagonists. Okorafor’s stories do range in quality; she chooses to include the first short story she ever wrote, and the collection would, frankly, be stronger without it. Standouts include the titular “Kabu-Kabu,” in which a woman looking for a ride to the airport gets more than she bargained for; “Spider the Artist,” in which a battered wife and a robot form an unlikely friendship; and the multiple stories set in the world of Windsingers, where some women can fly as easily as a wind blows. Fans of world literature and speculative fiction alike may find themselves fans of Okorafor after sampling her work here.
Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields – Wendy Lower
Descriptions of Nazi atrocities are often rife with male figures. While women, like Ilse Koch or various employees of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, occasionally show up in mainstream historical narratives, they are rarely featured with the same level of scrutiny as Nazi men. Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies provides a compelling argument that we ignore women witnesses, accomplices, and perpetrators of genocide at our own peril. Focusing not on well-known names or sadistic camp guards but on teachers, nurses, secretaries, and wives, Lower demonstrates that the Nazi regime required women to function: as educators of German children, typists of death orders, and assistants to euthanasia. The book features the photographs and stories of thirteen specific women, under whose watch one of the greatest crimes of the 20th century was committed and details the difficulty in bringing them to justice after the war’s end. Hitler’s Furies is not a book for the faint of heart, but history buffs interested in the Holocaust will find a groundbreaking new narrative to enjoy.
Ancillary Justice – Ann Leckie
Breq was once a spaceship–specifically, she was the Justice of Toren, an interstellar voyager who could control hundreds of bodies, called “ancillaries,” at once. These days, she’s a single person, one who loves music and carries the memories of a betrayal that happened twenty years ago. Her slow, determined search for revenge is interrupted by the discovery of a person who once served on Justice of Toren, now drug-addled and stranded on a cold, distant planet. Ann Leckie’s first novel is a thick, contemplative space opera that twines Breq’s past and present together in a thoroughly alien landscape. Fans of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness may find in Breq’s story satisfying parallels to Genly Ai’s journey across the planet Gethen. A worthy addition to the world of space-faring stories.