Featured books will be available for the public today. To place them on hold, call the Walla Walla Public Library at 527-4550 or go to wallawallapubliclibrary.org.

Fiction

“A Bend in the Stars,” by Rachel Barenbaum

Set in 1914 Kovno, Russia, Barenbaum’s rousing debut follows two headstrong siblings striving to build their lives amid the fog and confusion of impending war. 

Jewish Miri Abramov and her fiancé, Yuri, both work as doctors, but Miri is often shunned (even by patients) in a society where a woman surgeon is so uncommon that some even believe she is a witch. Miri’s brother, Vanya, is a brilliant physicist bent on expanding and/or disproving Albert Einstein’s still unpublished theory of relativity. 

He believes that proof of his equations lies in the August 1914 solar eclipse, which locals see as an omen of the devil. Vanya hopes to photograph the celestial phenomenon to show that light, in fact, bends as day turns into night. 

He also hopes to sell a photograph to American scientists, thereby buying safe passage for him, Miri, and Yuri. But as WWI intensifies, Miri is called away to the front lines, and Vanya must risk being captured to complete his observations. 

Barenbaum deepens the narrative with strong secondary characters marked by competing desires, such as the passions of Russian soldier Sasha Petrov and the deviousness of Russian Kir, who is trying to steal intellectual property. Fans of Kristin Hannah will enjoy Barenbaum’s exhilarating tale.

— Publishers Weekly

“In the Shadow of Spindrift House,” by Mira Grant

“Stranger Things” fans are likely to be engrossed by Grant’s seductive account of four teens who band together to solve paranormal mysteries. Harlowe, whose parents were killed by a cult when she was four, became friendly with schoolmates Kevin, Andy, and Addison in third grade, and the quartet has spent nine years hunting mummies and explaining why some ducks floated in midair. 

With high school ending, their fellowship faces its end, too, until Harlowe proposes that they travel to Maine to seek a $3.5 million reward. That bounty will go to anyone who enters a haunted house long enough to track down the original deed and resolve a dispute among three families as to its current ownership — a mission that has already left several people dead. 

Despite a formulaic setup, Grant makes the horrors of Spindrift House palpable. Gradually readers come to understand the implications of the entrancing opening passage about humanity’s imposition of the “mathematical aberration of the straight line” on nature. This strong stand-alone from Grant (the Newsflesh series) will satisfy fans of classic tales of horror and the eldritch.

— Publishers Weekly

Nonfiction

“Vegetables Illustrated: An Inspiring Guide with 700+ Kitchen-Tested Recipes,” by America’s Test Kitchen

With step-by-step illustrations, the editors of “America’s Test Kitchen” offer 700 recipes featuring 70 vegetables — arranged alphabetically from artichokes to zucchini — intended to help home cooks create more enticing dishes, add to their vegetable repertoire, and “turn any vegetable into a superstar.” 

There are several recipes for the potato, for example: Yukon Gold can be mashed in buttermilk; red potatoes can be braised with lemon and chives; and russets can be twice-baked with bacon, cheddar, and scallions. Other recipes utilize more unusual items, such as sunchoke chowder and salads of foraged nettles, purslane, or pickled ramps. 

Recipes also include meats: roasted chicken with honey-glazed parsnips; okra-filed gumbo with chicken, shrimp, and sausage; and rack of lamb with mint-almond relish. 

Appearing throughout are sidebars explaining food science (“Why do Artichokes turn brown?” and “Why Does Cilantro Taste Soapy?”), illustrated vegetable prep instructions, and photographs demonstrating “Vegetables Reimagined” (ricotta cheese is rolled within slices of eggplant and baked). This sturdy must-have cookbook is a highly informative reference highlighting the versatility of vegetables.

— Publishers Weekly

“The Edge of Every Day: Sketches of Schizophrenia,” by Marin Sardy

A shape-shifting debut memoir about a family’s coming to terms with schizophrenia — or not.

Essayist and critic Sardy delivers an extraordinarily ambitious and accomplished narrative about significant challenges. 

She chronicles the immense difficulties in trying to maintain a semblance of sanity while both her mother and brother suffer through schizophrenia that they refuse to acknowledge, with the rest of the family in various states of denial as well. 

The structure keeps readers off balance, as the author refuses to follow conventional notions of chronology or connection, illuminating mental illness from the inside out. “Mental illness is not contagious, but madness often is,” she writes, a crucial distinction in her exploration of how, “in my family, psychotic illness has threaded its way through four generations in a row” and how those not afflicted have suffered through the effects of coming to terms with the delusions of schizophrenia, which seem so real to the one suffering and so outlandish to anyone else. 

At the outset, the book seems to be a memoir about coming-of-age while the author’s mother was falling apart, refusing to acknowledge her condition, spending all of her sizable inheritance, and telling her daughter that now is a particularly good time to emigrate to Pluto. 

Meanwhile, her father, whom her mother refused to acknowledge as such, remained in a state of denial while trying to provide a safe harbor when he had the children. 

Yet much more of the narrative concerns her relationship through her 20s with her brother, who showed similar signs of disintegration from schizophrenia, resisted diagnosis and treatment, and suffered from increasingly harmful delusions, leaving him in jail or homeless — though rarely completely out of touch with his family. The author herself suffers from bouts of depression, which she acknowledges and probes in her unsettling narrative.

Both powerful and disturbing, this impressive debut memoir suggests just how challenging it can be to regain some semblance of balance after that balance is lost.

— Kirkus Reviews

Others

“The Outside,” by Ada Hoffmann (fiction)

“The Black Jersey,” by Jorge Zepeda Patterson (fiction)

“The Fate of Food: What We’ll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World,” by Amanda Little (nonfiction)

“Every Man a Hero: A Memoir of D-Day, the First Wave at Omaha Beach, and a World at War,” by Ray Lambert and Jim DeFelice (nonfiction)

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