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.
“Gods of Jade and Shadow: A Novel,” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Moreno-Garcia (“The Beautiful Ones”) crafts a magical novel of duality, tradition, and change, set in the late 1920s as Mexico transitions from its post-Revolution period to the Jazz Age. Casiopea Tun leads a constrained life in her grandfather’s household in a small town, barely daring to dream of more. Such dreams are quickly snuffed by both her grandfather and her spoiled, narcissistic yet self-deprecating cousin, Martín Levya. A minor act of rebellion, opening her grandfather’s secret chest, releases the injured and imprisoned Mayan death god, Hun-Kamé, Supreme Lord of Xibalba, and inexorably binds her to his quest to regain his underworld throne. Hun-Kamé’s bond to Casiopea infects him in return with vestiges of mortality — a circumstance his ambitious twin, Vucub-Kamé, plots to use to his advantage, assisted by a somewhat reluctant Martín. Moreno-Garcia’s seamless blend of mythology and history provides a ripe setting for Casiopea’s stellar journey of self-discovery, which culminates in a dramatic denouement.
— Publishers Weekly
“Copperhead,” by Alexi Zentner
Zentner (“Touch”) wades into thorny racial and class thickets in this steely and often gripping novel. The action unfolds over several days in the rural university town of Cortaca, N.Y., a thinly veiled Ithaca. Jessup is a high school senior who “will always have been born into the wrong family,” blue-collar congregants of the Blessed Church of White America. He stopped attending the white nationalist church after his half-brother and stepfather were convicted in the beating death of two black college students four years earlier. Jessup excels at athletics and academics, and is dating the daughter of his black football coach, when his stepfather’s release stirs up old memories in Cortaca, where “history is everything.” A racially-tinged accident involving a boy from a neighboring town forces Jessup, aware of how bad it will look given his family history, to return to the Church, and its 20-year-old media-savvy spokesman, for help. The short chapters, most no longer than three pages, lend the narrative a propulsive, if occasionally choppy, feel. There’s a tendency to hammer home themes such as the indelible markings of family and class, and in the book’s last third, the taut drama morphs briefly into a conspiratorial thriller that strains credulity. Nonetheless, Zentner’s portrait of a young man’s conflicting desires for disavowal and belonging is rich and nuanced.
— Publishers Weekly
“Black Death at the Golden Gate: The Race to Save America from the Bubonic Plague,” by David K. Randall
Journalist Randall (“The King and Queen of Malibu”) delivers a fast-paced and well-researched narrative about the efforts to eradicate bubonic plague from San Francisco at the turn of the 20th century. The disease claimed its first victim in Chinese immigrant Wong Chut King in 1900 and then established itself over the next several years, threatening the entire country. Randall vividly recounts the efforts of Dr. Joseph Kinyoun, surgeon of the Marine Hospital Service and the city’s chief quarantine officer, and his replacement, Dr. Rupert Blue, to overcome corrupt politics, inaccurate journalism, and a disregard for Yersina pestis (the bacterium that causes plague) to convince state and local officials of the danger. Unlike his thwarted predecessor, Blue established ties to Chinatown, where the plague first appeared, and hired a Chinese interpreter who brought more cases of plague to his attention. When Blue focused on catching the flea-infested rats that surged through the district, rather than assuming the inhabitants were to blame, he succeeded in temporarily halting the disease’s spread. After the Great Earthquake of 1906, the plague flared up in other neighborhoods, this time mainly infecting white victims, and Blue’s extensive rat extermination program was successful again. Underscoring how prejudice, complacency, and willful ignorance can be as dangerous to public health as bacteria, Randall spins an action-packed and stirring tale.
— Publishers Weekly
“Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe,” by Steven H. Strogatz
Strogatz (“The Joy of X”), a professor of applied mathematics at Cornell University, provides a reminder that calculus has practical applications and makes the field accessible to readers at all levels in this far-ranging survey. He begins with the ancient Greeks and their search for ways to calculate the areas of circles and curves by slicing them into smaller pieces. Centuries later, Galileo studied the relationship between the length and movement of pendulums. Strogatz introduces the characters behind the math, covering great partnerships (such as that of astronomers Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe, whose work led to Kepler’s laws of planetary motion) and seething rivalries (such as that of Pierre de Fermat and René Descartes, who laid the groundwork for differential calculus, and the famous competition between calculus innovators Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz). Strogatz also gives plenty of real-world applications, from designing microwave ovens to plotting the course of spacecraft and fighting HIV. His discussion is clear and accessible, with plenty of diagrams, and mercifully few equations. Strogatz successfully illuminates a notoriously complex topic and this work should enhance appreciation for the history behind its innovations.
— Publishers Weekly
“Haunting Paris: A Novel,” by Mamta Chaudhry (fiction)
“Jacob’s Ladder,” by Lyudmila Ulitskaya (fiction)
“They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South,” by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers (nonfiction)
“Midnight Chicken: & Other Recipes Worth Living For,” by Ella Risbridger; with illustrations by Elisa Cunningham (nonfiction)