Book Review: Lark Ascending by Silas House

In a future where fires ravage a North America that is run by extreme right-wing fundamentalists, 20-year-old Lark and his family have hidden away in the mountains of Maine for several years undisturbed. When ecological disasters begin to threaten their safety, their group secures passage on a boat headed to Ireland. After a terrible voyage they land, but only Lark has survived. Alone, he begins a harrowing journey by foot in search of Glendalough, a camp rumored to provide asylum. Along the way, Lark gains two companions – a dog named Seamus and Helen, a local woman who is familiar with the roads and the dangers of traveling them.

Lark Ascending by Silas House is a post-apocalyptic novel that is gorgeously written. Told by Lark at age 90, this novel about climate change, human behavior, resilience, survival and love will break your heart a few times on the way to its ultimately hopeful conclusion. Fans of Station Eleven and The Road should put this at the top of their to-read lists.

-Carol

YA Book Review: Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver

Summer Cartwright is a 16-year-old influencer living a charmed Hollywood, California life. She’s rich, well-connected, and she just signed a massive book deal for an upcoming tell-all style memoir. When a new post from Summer’s Instagram account announces that the social media star will be dead in the next five minutes, the guests are her Halloween party think it’s just part of the entertainment. Her friends know different. That’s not Summer’s brand. Something is wrong. There were right-Summer was actually dead. As the police begin to investigate, those closest to Summer begin their own search for the killer. The suspect list keeps growing as the motive for the murder appears to be the book she was working on. If Summer was dead, would the book and the dark secrets it was set to reveal go away?

Told from the points of view of Summer’s bff, Grace, Summer’s ex-boyfriend Adam, Summer’s number one fan, Cora, and her one-time roommate, Lanie, Live Your Best Lie is a twisted, suspenseful debut. The narrator does an excellent job of juggling the various character points of view as well as flashbacks, but the inclusion of social media posts and comments, police interviews, and newspaper articles make for an interesting read. A delightfully wicked read as well as a timely cautionary tale-social media never tells the whole story and influencers only show what they want you to see.

Hand this to fans of Karen McManus and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes to solve the puzzle along with the characters. The clues are there for the clever reader, but so are the red herrings. Readers who make it to the end will be rewarded with a final twist you won’t see coming.

Thank you to Netgalley, Disney Audiobooks, and Melissa de la Cruz Studios for an advanced reader copy.

A Page-Turner to Pick Up

Sleepwalk
by Dan Chaon

Will Bear lives off the grid and travels across the country with his 60-pound Pitbull named Flip. Will works as a ‘fixer’ in order to clear his and his terrible mother’s debts, and his jobs are most often illegal ones, like assisting with black-market adoptions and cleaning up murder sites and sometimes worse. Will goes by at least six other aliases and carries multiple burner phone in order to stay untraceable, and he micro-doses LSD daily in order to cope with his PTSD – which makes the line between the reality and imaginary more than a little fuzzy for him.

It is between gigs when Will receives a call from a young woman named Cammie, who claims to be his daughter. Will, a one-time prolific sperm donor, wants to believe that Cammie is the real deal, but also thinks that his boss, a shadowy organization that he distrusts, might be trying to lure him to his demise. And how would Cammie, a stranger, have access to one of his burner phone numbers anyway?

Set in a near future where implants monitor the country’s population and an ecological disaster has left New York City underwater, this unconventional buddy road trip and adventure novel makes for a dangerous and rough ride. Though not for every reader, Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon is a mix of dystopian, crime and literary fiction that stars a big-hearted contract killer who is desperate to make a real connection. Don’t miss this unusual, compelling and unforgettable read by one of my favorite Ohio authors.

-Carol

Stay In…With a Laugh Out Loud Read

Ms. Demeanor
by Elinor Lipman

Jane Morgan, a 39-year-old attorney, is caught having sex on the roof of her high-rise Manhattan apartment at midnight by a nosy neighbor with binoculars. Jane is charged with indecent exposure and is both fired from her firm and sentenced to six months of home confinement.

Jane’s perpetual cheerleader and current bill payer, her identical twin sister Jackleen, encourages Jane to use this down time to embrace her love of cooking by demonstrating old fashioned recipes on TikTok. When Jane discovers and introduces herself to (coincidentally) a neighbor who is also under house arrest, Jackleen prompts Jane to charge him for three home cooked meals a week.

Perry, who wears a less-than-fashionable location-monitoring ankle bracelet of his own, is intrigued by Jane as they spend time together over her meals. Eventually, the two begin to share in other evening activities —making things awkward when Jackleen decides she wants to date Perry, too.

Cabin fever gets the best of Jane, and she takes things a bit too far when she learns that her peeping tom (aka the witness to nudity on the rooftop and reason for Jane’s home incarceration) has died. Jane is curious if there was foul play and gets her parents to attend the woman’s wake —resulting in Jane inadvertently orchestrating a “green card” wedding for a Polish expatriate whose Visa has expired.

If this all sounds a bit mad-cap, it is! This novel is equal parts romance, mystery, comedy, and sibling rivalry story. Pick up Ms. Demeanor by the always witty Elinor Lipman. This quick read with its snarky lead character, breezy banter and hilarious hi-jinx will leave you laughing out loud.

-Carol

The Further Adventures of Finlay Donovan

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano is the third book in the Finlay Donovan series. This newest addition picks up where book two leaves off, so it’s best to read them in order. Click on the covers to find these titles in the catalog.

Here’s a quick recap:

Finlay Donovan is a stressed-out writer and mother to two young children with a deadline, writer’s block, and an infuriating ex-husband. She does not need any more drama in her life, but that’s exactly what she gets after a meeting with her agent in a crowded coffee shop. Overhearing Finlay describe the plot of her new book, a customer mistakes her for a contract killer. Before she knows it, Finlay accidentally finds herself involved in a real life crime! Book two brings back Finlay and the motely crew she gathered in the book one-Vero, her nanny with a secret past and Detective Nick Anthony, the dreamy hot cop. This time it appears that Finlay is not the only one who’s done with her Stephen, her ex. On top of everything else, he seems to have attracted the attention of the Russian mob! Which brings us to book three. The unresolved issues of the previous book are still in play, so it seems like a risky move to enroll in the Citizen’s Police Academy, but that’s exactly what Finlay and Vero do. Danger, romance, and hilarity ensue. Vero’s past secret is revealed, as is the identity of the mysterious hitman, EasyClean, but fans will rejoice in the knowledge that there are still loose ends and further adventures of Finlay and Vero to come.

This series is pure addictive escapism. Non-stop shenanigans, close calls, and toddler antics are par for the course with Finlay and Vero. Fans of witty banter, will-they-won’t-they sexual tension, and the ugly realities of parenthood with enjoy this series. Finlay and Vero are quite the dynamic duo and the love interests are dreamy.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is available January 31, 2023. Thank you to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

~Megan

Getting Cozy With Legends & Lattes by Travis Baldree

Viv is ready to hang up her sword and quit the mercenary life for something quieter-and sweeter. Armed with a legend, an artifact, and a little known Gnomish beverage, Viv sets about opening her coffee shop on a ley line in Thune. Her new venture attracts a motley cast of characters, including a baker, a business-minded succubus, and the head of the local mob.

This book is as comforting as a latte and a warm cinnamon roll on a wintery day. Having spent nearly a decade working in coffee shops myself, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Viv’s shop open and evolve. I savored the pages dedicated to the pure joy of a cinnamon roll. I laughed each time Thandri had to change the chalkboard menu and delighted in meeting their customers. While this does take the better half of the book, it’s not all coffee and sweets. As Viv and her crew learn the ropes of the business, trouble is quietly brewing. But Viv isn’t just building a business-she’s building a community and family who have her back when tragedy strikes.

I cannot stress enough how absolutely charming and delightful this book is. If you enjoy a good slice of life story with quirky characters and happy ending, this one is for you. I recommend taking this book to a local coffee shop to be enjoyed with a latte.

Happy Reading!

Megan

Historical nonfiction treat

Once Upon a Town: the Miracle of the North Platte Canteen

by Bob Greene

Written in 2002, this is a portrait of the North Platte Canteen in North Platte, Nebraska. From December 17, 1941 until the end of World War II more than six million GIs traveling in troop trains stopped in North Platte on their way to the Pacific coast. In this small city of 12,000, the young men and women were welcomed, thanked, and treated to a feast. There they enjoyed coffee, home-cooked food, and friendly conversation.

From 1941 until the canteen closed, 55,000 volunteers from 125 different towns, some 200 miles away, gave both food and time to make sure not one of these trains were missed and that each soldier was fed. Given the shortages and rationing at the time, it was a miracle. (The only federal funding received was a $5.00 bill from President Roosevelt. He had heard about the Canteen and wanted to help.)

The original idea for the Canteen came from Rae Wilson, a young salesperson at the local drugstore. The citizens of North Platte were expecting Company D.134th Infantry of the local National Guard unit to pass through the town on the way to the Pacific Coast on Christmas Day 1941. That day there was a Company D that came through, but it was a Kansas unit of the National Guard. The community shared what they had with those soldiers and decided to make it their mission to welcome all GI’s that passed through.

For more information you will want to take a look at the following website. https://lincolncountymuseum.org/the-north-platte-canteen1.

~Emma

Christine’s Best of 2022!

If I could add 25 books here, then it would have been easier to pick! I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Click on the titles below to reserve your copy!

When Brooklyn Was Queer by Hugh Ryan

Non Fiction: Gender Studies, LGBTQ+, History “Hugh Ryan’s When Brooklyn Was Queer is a groundbreaking exploration of the LGBT history of Brooklyn, from the early days of Walt Whitman in the 1850s up through the queer women who worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, and beyond. No other book, movie, or exhibition has ever told this sweeping story. Not only has Brooklyn always lived in the shadow of queer Manhattan neighborhoods like Greenwich Village and Harlem, but there has also been a systematic erasure of its queer history–a great forgetting.

Ryan is here to unearth that history for the first time. In intimate, evocative, moving prose he discusses in new light the fundamental questions of what history is, who tells it, and how we can only make sense of ourselves through its retelling; and shows how the formation of the Brooklyn we know today is inextricably linked to the stories of the incredible people who created its diverse neighborhoods and cultures. Through them, When Brooklyn Was Queer brings Brooklyn’s queer past to life, and claims its place as a modern classic.”

Ring Shout by P. Dejeli Clark

Fiction: Horror/Paranormal “IN AMERICA, DEMONS WEAR WHITE HOODS. In 1915, The Birth of a Nation cast a spell across America, swelling the Klan’s ranks and drinking deep from the darkest thoughts of white folk. All across the nation they ride, spreading fear and violence among the vulnerable. They plan to bring Hell to Earth. But even Ku Kluxes can die. Standing in their way is Maryse Boudreaux and her fellow resistance fighters, a foul-mouthed sharpshooter and a Harlem Hellfighter. Armed with blade, bullet, and bomb, they hunt their hunters and send the Klan’s demons straight to Hell. But something awful’s brewing in Macon, and the war on Hell is about to heat up. Can Maryse stop the Klan before it ends the world?”

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

Fiction: Teen, Fantasy, Witches “On the way home from a party, seventeen-year-old Ivy and her soon-to-be ex nearly run over a nude young woman standing in the middle of a tree-lined road. It’s only the first in a string of increasingly eerie events and offerings: a dead rabbit in the driveway, a bizarre concoction buried by her mother in the backyard, a box of childhood keepsakes hidden in her parents’ closet safe. Most unsettling of all, corroded recollections of Ivy and her enigmatic mother’s past resurface, with the help of the boy next door.

What if there’s more to Ivy’s mother than meets the eye? And what if the supernatural forces she messed with during her own teen years have come back to haunt them both? Ivy must grapple with these questions and more if she’s going to escape the darkness closing in.

Straddling Ivy’s contemporary suburban town and her mother’s magic-drenched 1990s Chicago, this bewitching and propulsive story rockets towards a conclusion guaranteed to keep readers up all night.”

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Fiction: Fantasy “Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon–like all other book eater women–is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairy tales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger–not for books, but for human minds.”

Hester: A Novel by Laurie Lico Albanese

Fiction: Historical “Isobel Gamble is a young seamstress carrying generations of secrets when she sets sail from Scotland in the early 1800s with her husband, Edward. An apothecary who has fallen under the spell of opium, his pile of debts have forced them to flee Glasgow for a fresh start in the New World. But only days after they’ve arrived in Salem, Edward abruptly joins a departing ship as a medic–leaving Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible.

When she meets a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is a man haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows–while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. As the weeks pass and Edward’s safe return grows increasingly unlikely, Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. Together, they are a muse and a dark storyteller; the enchanter and the enchanted. But which is which?

In this sensuous and hypnotizing tale, a young immigrant woman grapples with our country’s complicated past, and learns that America’s ideas of freedom and liberty often fall short of their promise. Interwoven with Isobel and Nathaniel’s story is a vivid interrogation of who gets to be a “real” American in the first half of the 19th century, a depiction of the early days of the Underground Railroad in New England, and atmospheric interstitials that capture the long history of “unusual” women being accused of witchcraft. Meticulously researched yet evocatively imagined, Laurie Lico Albanese’s Hester is a timeless tale of art, ambition, and desire that examines the roots of female creative power and the men who try to shut it down.”

Mem by Bethany C. Morrow

Fiction: Science Fiction, Humanity/Identity “Set in the glittering art deco world of a century ago, MEM makes one slight alteration to history: a scientist in Montreal discovers a method allowing people to have their memories extracted from their minds, whole and complete. The Mems exist as mirror-images of their source — zombie-like creatures destined to experience that singular memory over and over, until they expire in the cavernous Vault where they are kept.
And then there is Dolores Extract #1, the first Mem capable of creating her own memories. An ageless beauty shrouded in mystery, she is allowed to live on her own, and create her own existence, until one day she is summoned back to the Vault. What happens next is a gorgeously rendered, heart-breaking novel in the vein of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. Debut novelist Bethany Morrow has created an allegory for our own time, exploring profound questions of ownership, and how they relate to identity, memory and history, all in the shadows of Montreal’s now forgotten slave trade.”

Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin

Fiction: Horror/Apocalyptic, Transgender “Beth and Fran spend their days traveling the ravaged New England coast, hunting feral men and harvesting their organs in a gruesome effort to ensure they’ll never face the same fate.

Robbie lives by his gun and one hard-learned motto: other people aren’t safe.

After a brutal accident entwines the three of them, this found family of survivors must navigate murderous TERFs, a sociopathic billionaire bunker brat, and awkward relationship dynamics–all while outrunning packs of feral men, and their own demons.”

Which Side Are You On? by Ryan Lee Wong

Fiction: Asian American, Literary “Twenty-one-year-old Reed is fed up. Angry about the killing of a Black man by an Asian American NYPD officer, he wants to drop out of college and devote himself to the Black Lives Matter movement. But would that truly bring him closer to the moral life he seeks?
 
In a series of intimate, charged conversations, his mother–once the leader of a Korean-Black coalition–demands that he rethink his outrage, and along with it, what it means to be an organizer, a student, an ally, an American, and a son. As Reed zips around his hometown of Los Angeles with his mother, searching and questioning, he faces a revelation that will change everything.
 
Inspired by his family’s roots in activism, Ryan Lee Wong offers an extraordinary debut novel for readers of Anthony Veasna So, Rachel Kushner, and Michelle Zauner: a book that is as humorous as it is profound, a celebration of seeking a life that is both virtuous and fun, an ode to mothering and being mothered.

Lavender House by Lev AC Rosen

Fiction: Thriller, Historical, LGBTQ+ “Lavender House, 1952: the family seat of recently deceased matriarch Irene Lamontaine, head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. Irene’s recipes for her signature scents are a well guarded secret–but it’s not the only one behind these gates. This estate offers a unique freedom, where none of the residents or staff hide who they are. But to keep their secret, they’ve needed to keep others out. And now they’re worried they’re keeping a murderer in.

Irene’s widow hires Evander Mills to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death. Andy, recently fired from the San Francisco police after being caught in a raid on a gay bar, is happy to accept–his calendar is wide open. And his secret is the kind of secret the Lamontaines understand.

Andy had never imagined a world like Lavender House. He’s seduced by the safety and freedom found behind its gates, where a queer family lives honestly and openly. But that honesty doesn’t extend to everything, and he quickly finds himself a pawn in a family game of old money, subterfuge, and jealousy–and Irene’s death is only the beginning.

When your existence is a crime, everything you do is criminal, and the gates of Lavender House can’t lock out the real world forever. Running a soap empire can be a dirty business.”

The Trees by Percival Everette

Fiction: Mystery/Thriller, Anisfield-Wolf Winner “Percival Everett’s The Trees is a page-turner that opens with a series of brutal murders in the rural town of Money, Mississippi. When a pair of detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrive, they meet expected resistance from the local sheriff, his deputy, the coroner, and a string of racist White townsfolk. The murders present a puzzle, for at each crime scene there is a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till.

The detectives suspect that these are killings of retribution, but soon discover that eerily similar murders are taking place all over the country. Something truly strange is afoot. As the bodies pile up, the MBI detectives seek answers from a local root doctor who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years, uncovering a history that refuses to be buried. In this bold, provocative book, Everett takes direct aim at racism and police violence, and does so in a fast-paced style that ensures the reader can’t look away. The Trees is an enormously powerful novel of lasting importance from an author with his finger on America’s pulse.”

A Prayer For the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers

Fiction: Science Fiction, Robots, Gender Non-Conforming “After A Psalm for the Wild-Built comes this tale of hope and acceptance in the second volume of the USA Today bestselling Monk and Robot series. After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home. They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe. Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?”

A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Fiction: Psychological, Women, Japan, Pacific NW “In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace–and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox–possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.

Full of Ozeki’s signature humor and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.”

Shannon’s Top Ten of 2022

It’s that time again! All this week, your favorite RRPL librarians will be sharing their Top Ten best books of 2022. I read a lot of good books this year, so it was tough to pare down my list to just ten titles – but here they are, my best of the best for 2022!

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.

Cover image and RRPL catalog link
10. Chainsaw Man
(continuing series)
by Tatsuki Fujimoto
cover image and RRPL catalog link
9. Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfeld
cover image and RRPL catalog link
8. Iron Widow
by Xiran Jay Zhao

cover image and RRPL catalog link
7. The Jasmine Throne
by Tasha Suri
cover image and RRPL catalog link
6. Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators’ Revolution
by R. F. Kuang
cover image and RRPL catalog link
5. Siren Queen
by Nghi Vo

cover image and RRPL catalog link
4. Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands
by Kate Beaton
cover image and RRPL catalog link
3. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
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2. Nettle & Bone
by T. Kingfisher

And my favorite book of 2022 is:

cover image and RRPL catalog link
1. Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

For those that may remember my first Top Ten list waaaay back in 2020, this choice for my favorite book of 2022 should not be much of a surprise. I love Tamsyn Muir’s Locked Tomb series, and the first book, Gideon the Ninth (often delightfully described as “lesbian necromancers in space”) was my number one favorite book back in 2020. I actually preordered this book and was so excited to read it when it came in the mail, and it did not disappoint in the slightest.

Tamsyn Muir’s latest addition to the series is about a new character, Nona, who is possibly the sweetest person on any planet. All she wants for her birthday is to have a party with all of her friends and her favorite dogs, but intergalactic politics keep getting in the way. And there’s an ominous blue entity hanging in the sky above the city where she lives, which definitely isn’t good. I can’t say more without spoiling the plot, but Muir has outdone herself once again. This book made me laugh, cry, and want to throw it across the room – all in the best way, of course! Muir’s books are always challenging, deep, and deeply felt, and once again her characters have stolen my heart. A note – while you technically could pick this up and read it as a standalone, it will be extremely confusing. Go back and read the first two books, then try this one. If you aren’t addicted after that, this series just isn’t for you.

So that’s a wrap on 2022! Be sure to keep checking back – there will be new Top Ten lists from our librarians out every day this week!

New Historical Fiction

The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks

This historical fiction novel is told from the perspective of Betty Gow, the Lindbergh’s 26-year-old Scottish nanny. Betty observed early on that the Lindbergh’s were very distant from their child and their home. Betty was ready to fill the gap and fell quickly in love with the little boy. She was the one who was responsible for the daily care of the toddler, Charles Lindbergh Jr.

On Tuesday, March 1, 1932, the child was kidnapped from the family home. The Lindbergh’s had built a twenty-room stone house on 390 remote acres near Hopewell, New Jersey. They were looking for privacy after Charles’ transatlantic flight from New York to Paris five years earlier. He was considered a hero.

The first suspect in the kidnapping was the nanny, Betty Gow. She was determined to clear her name from suspicion and help uncover what happened that night. All window shutters in the baby’s room were closed tight except for one. That shutter was warped and impossible to close. It was determined that the kidnapper came through that window and took the child leaving a ransom note demanding $50,000.

The toddler was eventually found dead seventy-three days later. The accused kidnapper, Bruno Richard Hauptmann, was arrested two and a half years later. Hauptmann was executed for the murder on Friday, April 3, 1936.

This is a treat for fans of historical fiction. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the kidnapping and death of Charles Lindbergh Jr. The author offers a possible solution based a much research.

Betty Gow

~Emma