Review of Helene Wecker’s The Hidden Palace – sequel to The Golem and the Jinni

Book cover of The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker

Fans of Helene Wecker’s award-winning historical fantasy novel, The Golem and the Jinni, rejoice – after eight years of waiting, we finally get a sequel!

The Hidden Palace comes out on June 8 and picks up shortly after the end of the first book (don’t worry – there are unobtrusive reminders in the text to get you up to speed with the preceding events). The evil sorcerer who had imprisoned jinni Ahmad in a metal vial (spoilers!) was defeated at much personal cost in the first book. Ahmad and Chava, the golem, now must weather the rapid changes at the turn of the twentieth century in New York City: the sinking of the Titanic, the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and the beginning of the Great War, as well as changes in their relationship to each other and their communities.

Once again, Wecker has crafted an immigrant chronicle for the ages that grapples with the dual problems of the diaspora: attempting to assimilate into a new culture while at the same time keeping close one’s native culture, all while trying to find a place in the world. The Hidden Palace is a sweeping character-driven epic of a family forged in love, not blood ties, whose members fight and love and learn, falling apart and together organically. Even though I only read The Golem and the Jinni once many years ago, this new book felt like coming home, as if I never really left Ahmad and Chava’s world and was now spending time with treasured friends. The tone is melancholy with measured pacing so that readers can truly immerse themselves in the world, and while no one gets a happy ending, exactly, Wecker ends her novel on a hopeful, bittersweet note. The Hidden Palace is a worthy successor to its smash hit predecessor and will wrap you again in a fully realized world you won’t want to leave.

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!

Readalikes for The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles catalog link

Thanks entirely to the kids on TikTok, nine years after it was first publised, The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller is once again a bestseller! If you’re waiting for your copy, or if you’ve read it and would like something similar, I’ve picked some romantic books that have the same feeling as Achilles: sweeping historical events, thoughtful mythological retellings, or a lush fairy tale tone.

Never heard of Song of Achilles? Here’s the scoop:

Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War.

Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. Find The Song of Achilles on Overdrive here and on Hoopla here (no holds, no waiting!).

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker catalog link

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

After her creator dies en route to America, Chava, a golem from a Polish shtetl, must navigate the streets of 1899 New York City by herself — her only ally is a rabbi unsure whether to destroy her, or allow her to fulfill her destiny as the harbinger of destruction. Ahmad, a jinni from Syria’s deserts has been released from his thousand-year-old glass bottle by a tinsmith but has little intention of remaining a metalworker, despite his uncanny talent for it. Chava and Ahmad meet and discover that they’re soul mates, but a dangerous adversary threatens their future. This vibrant blend of myth, adventure, and romance will enchant fans of stories based on folklore.

The Golem and the Jinni Overdrive link

Uprooted by Naomi Novik catalog link

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

A tale inspired by the “Beauty and the Beast” story follows the experiences of Agnieszka, who becomes the latest girl chosen to serve an immortal wizard who protects their village from the malevolent forces of a nearby forest.

Uprooted Overdrive link



The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson catalog link

The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson

A concubine in the royal court of Granada at the height of the Spanish Inquisition and her mapmaker friend risk their lives to escape when the latter is accused of sorcery.

The Bird King Overdrive link

The Bird King Hoopla link

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty catalog link

The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty

Nahri, a young con artist, inadvertently summons a mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, revealing the existence of true magic before the future of a magical Middle Eastern kingdom falls into her hands.

The City of Brass Overdrive link


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden catalog link

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

The Bear and the Nightingale Overdrive link

All plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.

Readalikes for Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Firefly Lane book cover/catalog link

Author Kristin Hannah is having a great 2021 so far – her newest novel, The Four Winds, is a runaway bestseller, and one of her older novels, Firefly Lane, has been turned into a Netflix romantic drama TV series. If you are one of the many people on the library’s holds lists for Firefly Lane and want something similar, check out the recommended titles below from your friendly neighborhood librarians! If you don’t know anything about Firefly Lane, here’s the scoop:

Inseparable best friends Kate and Tully, two young women who, despite their very different lives, have vowed to be there for each other forever, have been true to their promise for thirty years, until events and choices in their lives tear them apart.

Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. Find Firefly Lane on Overdrive here

It's Not All Downhill From Here book cover/catalog link

It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan

Confident that her best days are still ahead, a successful businesswoman relies on close friends and her resourcefulness when an unexpected loss turns her world upside down.

It’s Not All Downhill From Here Overdrive link


Sweet Salt Air book cover/catalog link

Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

Two childhood friends reunite at a summer retreat, each harboring a horrible secret that would test the bounds of their longtime relationship if revealed.

Sweet Salt Air Overdrive link



The Friendship List book cover/catalog link

The Friendship List by Susan Mallery

Reuniting in the aftermath of a devastating loss, two single moms, lifelong best friends, create a list of challenges, from skydiving to getting tattoos, before their prospects and perspectives are transformed by unexpected love.

The Friendship List Overdrive link


Swing Time book cover/catalog link

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Two dark-skinned dancers with very different talents share a complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in early adulthood in a story that transitions from northwest London to West Africa.

Swing Time Overdrive link


My Sister, the Serial Killer book cover/catalog link

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Realizing that her beautiful, beloved younger sister has murdered yet another boyfriend, an embittered Nigerian woman works to direct suspicion away from the family, until a handsome doctor she fancies asks for her sister’s number.

My Sister, the Serial Killer Overdrive link


All plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.

Review of Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer – Noir Eco Thriller

Hummingbird Salamander catalog link

Security consultant ‘Jane Smith’ receives a mysterious note with a key that leads her to an abandoned storage locker. Within is a taxidermy extinct hummingbird and a set of clues left by an infamous eco-terrorist named Silvina. As Jane follows the trail to find the matching salamander, she is plunged into a dangerous world where she races trained killers to find answers. Jeff VanderMeer’s newest novel, Hummingbird Salamander, is an intricate noir eco-thriller.

This latest offering from VanderMeer explores themes of trauma, identity, generational abuse, and environmentalism. It is more grounded and easier to follow than the surreal Annihilation and the Southern Reach trilogy, so it is a more accessible entry point for people new to VanderMeer’s unique brand of eco science fiction. But fans of those earlier novels shouldn’t worry, as there is still the same pervasive aura of unreality and surrealism that devotees have come to expect.

For fans of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.

Look for Hummingbird Salamander to come out on April 6, 2021. Click the book cover above to be taken to our catalog, where you can place an advance hold with your library card number and PIN.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!

Review of ‘Sorrowland’ by Rivers Solomon – Seminal Gothic Horror

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon catalog link

Vern flees into the woods to escape the cult she grew up in, heavily pregnant. As she and her babies scrape out a living in the forest, they are pursued by a hellish fiend and the hauntings, visions that afflict her and everyone else belonging to the cult. Her body begins to change, becoming something more, something stronger and faster. When she and her children are forced from the safety of the trees, Vern must reckon with her upbringing and return to the place where it all began.

This excellent Gothic horror novel set in the present day United States features well-drawn characters and a mostly LGBTQ+ and BIPOC cast. Solomon deftly explores themes of identity, transformation of self, human intimacy, and grappling with generational trauma. A salient and incisive addition to the horror genre, this book is a deep meditation on the lasting effects of white supremacy and systemic racism.

For fans of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Changeling by Victor Lavalle, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and Kindred by Octavia Butler.

Look for Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon on May 4, 2021. Click the book cover above to be taken to our catalog, where you can place an advance hold with your library card number and PIN.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!

Readalikes for The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library catalog link

This week in our readalikes corner, it’s libraries, libraries, libraries! It’s a little self-indulgent on our part, but to be fair, The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles is one of the most-requested books on our holds lists. Based on a true story, [the book] describes how a lonely, 1980s teenager befriends an elderly neighbor and uncovers her past as a librarian at the American Library in Paris who joined the Resistance when the Nazis arrived.

Sounds really interesting, right? Click the book cover up above to put a hold on it in our catalog.

But you might have to wait a while (it comes out on February 8, 2021), so we’ve curated a list of books that you might like to try in the meantime. Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. 

Lions of Fifth Avenue catalog link

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

A New York Public LIbrary superintendent’s wife reevaluates her priorities upon joining a woman’s suffrage group in 1913, decades before her granddaughter’s efforts to save an exhibit expose tragic family secrets.

Lions of Fifth Avenue Overdrive link



The Archivist catalog link

The Archivist by Martha Cooley

A battle of wills between Matt, a careful, orderly archivist for a private university, and Roberta, a determined young poet, over a collection of T. S. Eliot’s letters, sealed by bequest until 2019, sparks an unusual friendship and reawakens painful memories of the past.

The Archivist Overdrive link

People of the Book catalog link

People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

In 1996, Hanna Heath, a young Australian book conservator is called to analyze the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a priceless six-hundred-year-old Jewish prayer book that has been salvaged from a destroyed Bosnian library. When Hanna discovers a series of artifacts in the centuries’ old binding, she unwittingly exposes an international cover up.

People of the Book Overdrive link

Book Woman of Troublesome Creek catalog link

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

A last-of-her-kind outcast and member of the Pack Horse Library Project braves the hardships of Kentucky’s Great Depression and hostile community discrimination to bring the near-magical perspectives of books to her neighbors.

Book Woman Overdrive link

Book Woman Hoopla link

The Library Book catalog link

The Library Book by Susan Orlean 

The author reopens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history, and delivers a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution: our libraries.

The Library Book Overdrive link




All plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.

Readalikes for The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

The Four Winds catalog link

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah doesn’t come out until February 1, but it’s already topping the library’s holds lists. That’s the power of Kristin Hannah, author of bestselling novels The Nightingale and The Great Alone, so it’s understandable that you’ll be chomping at the bit to read Hannah’s newest novel! Rather than World War II or the 1970s, the Four Winds is set during the Great Depression:

Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

Your friendly librarians have selected the following books as readalikes for The Four Winds, whether that is because of setting, tone, character, or other factors. You can find the Four Winds on Overdrive here. Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. 

I Will Send Rain catalog link

I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows

In 1934, as the earliest storms of the Dust Bowl descend on the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma, Annie Bell and her husband and children struggle against hardship as the wheat harvest dries out and people around them pack up to leave.




Promise catalog link

Promise by Gwin Minrose

Barely surviving an F5 tornado that rips through her 1936 Mississippi hometown, an African-American laundress and great-grandmother searches for her family among the catastrophe’s survivors while bonding with the traumatized teen daughter of a despised white judge.

Promise Overdrive link



Some Luck catalog link

Some Luck Jane Smiley

Follows the triumphs and tragedies of a farm family from post-World War I America through the early 1950s.

Some Luck Overdrive link




A Piece of the World catalog link

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the twentieth century.

A Piece of the World Overdrive link

A Piece of the World Hoopla link

By Starlight catalog link

By Starlight by Dorothy Garlock

In early 1930s Montana, in the small town of Colton, Maddy Aldridge struggles to make ends meet during the Great Depression. With her mother long dead, her stubborn younger sister fighting her at every turn, and her father’s arthritis deteriorating so badly that she has to run the family store alone, her desperation grows by the day. Enter Jeffers Grimm with a proposition too great for her to turn down: open an illegal speakeasy in the mercantile’s basement, defy Prohibition, and make enough money to make her worries disappear. 

By Starlight Overdrive link

All readalike plot summaries courtesy of Novelist, The Four Winds summary courtesy of author’s website.

Readalikes for The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library catalog link

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is the newest book topping the holds list at many libraries, including RRPL. If you’re someone still patiently waiting for your copy to come in, check out the titles below for other novels that will tide you over while you wait. Or if you’ve already read and loved it, the books below will help scratch that itch for something in the same vein. If you’ve never heard of The Midnight Library, you’re in luck – I’ve got a summary below just for you:

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

Find The Midnight Library on Overdrive here.

Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available.

Oona Out of Order catalog link

Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore

As the countdown to the New Year begins, soon-to-be-19 Oona Lockhart faints and awakens 32 years in the future in her 51-year-old body; and, greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random.

Oona Out of Order Overdrive link


The Five People You Meet in Heaven catalog link

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom

Killed in a tragic accident at a seaside amusement park while trying to save a little girl, Eddie, an elderly man who believes that he had lived an uninspired life, awakens in the afterlife, where he discovers that heaven consists of having five people, acquaintances and strangers, explain the meaning of one’s life.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven Overdrive link



The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells catalog link

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

After the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix, and the breakup with her longtime lover, Nathan, Greta Wells embarks on a radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her suffocating depression. But the treatment has unexpected effects, and Greta finds herself transported to the lives she might have had if she’d been born in different eras.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells Overdrive link


The Dinner List catalog link

The Dinner List by Rebecca Serle

In a novel imbued with magical realism, when Sabrina Nielsen arrives at her 30th birthday dinner in New York City, she finds at the table not just her best friend, but also her favorite professor from college; her father; her ex-fiance Tobias; and Audrey Hepburn.

The Dinner List Overdrive link


Life After Life catalog link

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Follows the experiences of a woman, who after being born on a snowy night in 1910, repeatedly dies and reincarnates into the same life to correct missteps and ultimately save the world.

Life After Life Overdrive link



All plot summaries courtesy of Novelist.

Books on Democracy and Government

It sure seems like 2020 is back from the dead to plague us in the new year, doesn’t it? If you, like me, would like a refresher on democracy and how our government works, I’ve chosen some books that will educate and inform.

Click any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can request a copy of the book with your library card number and PIN. We’ve also included links to our e-media services Overdrive and Hoopla where available. 

The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton

Plato’s Republic

Democracy in One Book Or Less:
How It Works, Why It Doesn’t, and Why Fixing It Is Easier Than You Think 
by David Litt

You Call This Democracy? How to Fix Our Government
and Deliver Power to the People
by Elizabeth Rusch

Twilight of Democracy: the Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism
by Anne Applebaum

A User’s Guide to Democracy: How America Works
by Hannah McCarthy and Nick Capodice

A User's Guide to Democracy catalog link

Surviving Autocracy by Masha Gessen