This installment: an acting job that might end fatally (f); dystopia a little too close to home (f); hot times in the Chinese restaurant trade (f); race, gender and great stories get a workout here (f); and death can be funny (J-nf).
Editor’s Note: Since our print collection is currently unavailable, the titles and links below all direct you to our digital ebook collections, either in Overdrive or Hoopla*. You can learn more about using those services on our blog, and contact us if you need assistance.
*Restrictions to using Hoopla apply based on your home address.
The Last Act by Brad Park
An improbable plot but so well done I just embraced it as an adventure. Tommy is a short, dynamic actor but he hasn’t made it big enough yet for economic stability. Along comes a bizarre offer from the FBI: impersonate a prisoner and get close to their target who knows where documents to take down a drug lord are stashed. They offer lots of money which would be especially helpful now that Tommy’s girlfriend is pregnant. Dazzling twists and turns as things turn out to be not what they seem. Great characters, especially his mother-in-law, Barb Bump, and lots of inside dope about theater games which play out here in “real life.”
Sealed by Naomi Booth
What a book to be reading right now—dystopia squared! Mara and Pete have left the city for the outback where the atmosphere might be cleaner. The disease they’re fleeing, Cutis, involves overgrowth of skin which ultimately seals up orifices. (Hideous—you get the picture.) An autoimmune reaction to rising pollution run totally amok. Yes the blue mountains are beautiful, but the community has become a virtual ghost town and those who remain are hard-bitten. Mara, who’s been tracking the illness, is pregnant and cynical. Pete is eternal optimist. They grew up together. Intense ending with a tiny ray of hope. It gave me the shivers.
Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lilian Li
I know the trade can be brutal, what with heat, knives, egos, and high emotion. Here it’s ramped up with family conflicts galore. Jimmy, aka Little Boss, has been running the family restaurant, has big plans to start his own, and is undercapitalized. Does his old mother really need to live in her huge house? His toothsome realtor is in on the scheme. But what about older brother Johnny in Beijing? When the original restaurant burns down, things get gnarly indeed. And who’s actually pulling the strings? Well-drawn characters can go from fierce to tender in a heartbeat. Lots of inside dope. My rare dining out experiences may never be the same.
*Audiobook available via Hoopla.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
This stirring, original novel has a circular form. We learn about 16 women who all constellate around Amma, a black, lesbian British playwright whose production is about to happen. We meet her friends, family members, and influences and each has a rich story to tell. I was especially gripped by Dominique; she falls under the spell of what seems like a goddess but turns out to be a paranoid demon. And loved getting to know Amma’s feisty daughter Yazz. Race and gender get a workout here but so skillfully embedded in each tale that the material feels very fresh.
Will the Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty
Let’s hear it for the coolest, funniest mortician on the planet! Here she answers big questions from tiny mortals—the book’s subtitle— and boy, these are doozies. At heart I think many of us are fascinated by the grutty aspects of mortality, but kids have the temerity to ask, for instance, about what might dead Fido look like dug up, or how they deal with a body on a space flight. Turns out there are 3 solutions (who knew) and we explore defunct Dr. Lisa’s possible fate in full detail. This is a children’s book but in these dark times we all need a laugh, and it certainly worked for me. Charming illustrations and well documented sources, too.
See you next week.