What we’re reading now, spring edition…

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Two soldiers on opposing sides of a war throughout time begin to fall in love via the letters they exchange. While it’s a short read, the book is dense with meaning and subtext, and readers will enjoy the romance and intrigue of this intergalactic Romeo and Juliet story. Shannon

Black Cloud Rising by David Wright Faladé

Tells the story of the African Brigade, a unit of former slaves tasked with rooting out pockets of Confederate guerilla fighters in the Tidewater region of Virginia and in North Carolina’s Outer Banks through the eyes of formerly enslaved Sergeant Richard Etheridge of the African Brigade. Dori

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

It’s 1937 when Mila Pavlichenko a young history student, mother, and sharpshooter joins the Russian army. Her rifle skills are soon apparent and she becomes a sniper. She rises through the ranks and is put in charge of a platoon. Her job is to train others and to kill Nazis. Mila is very successful at her job. Americans are very curious about this lady sniper when she comes to Washington D.C.  as a guest of the White House. Is she for real? Emma

A Night at the Sweet Gum Head by Marty Padgett

A deep look at 1970’s gay Atlanta through the lens of the Drag scene, political activists, and the bars that brought them all together. Deeply researched and well written, this non-fiction gives detailed insight into how a community of people who just wanted to live their lives had to become leaders and inspiration in order to exist. Christine

Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark

Set in 1920’s Georgia, this vivid horror story asks the question: What if the Klu Klux Klan was led by actual demons? Stray dog eating, multi-eyed, otherworldly demons. Three Black female demon hunters, led by Maryse, who gets her guidance from ethereal Gullah Aunties, must destroy the Klu Kluxes to stop the spread of White Supremacy. A beautiful and gory blend of historic events with a horror twist. Christine

Goodnight, Beautiful by Aimee Molloy

A thriller that does not hide the inspiration it takes from King’s Misery. As a newlywed couple tries to put down roots in a small town, tragedy strikes when the husband comes up missing and his wife has to beg the authorities to care all while it becomes more and more apparent that he has been lying to her this whole time. As he fights for his life through the only way he knows how, his wife has to reconcile the man she loves with the man she has uncovered. Christine

The Sentence by Louise Erdrich

A touchingly funny book about a small bookstore in Minnesota run by a group of Native American women during the pandemic, and the community of unusual, crazy, genuine people whose lives are touched by this place and by each other.  It’s one of those books where you truly fall in love with the characters and more than anything, want them to find peace and happiness in their lives.  Sara

Review of Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin

Tell Me an Ending book cover with RRPL catalog link

Nepenthe is a cutting-edge company that specializes in a certain kind of psychiatric medicine. Unlike traditional therapy, Nepenthe doesn’t dispense medication or help you process your memories. Instead, they delete those memories entirely, and can even make you forget that you got a memory deletion in the first place! In Jo Harkin’s debut novel, Tell Me an Ending, five people must grapple with the fallout of memory deletions in their lives: Noor, a doctor who works at Nepenthe; William, a former police officer with PTSD; Finn, whose wife had a memory deleted; Mei, a girl who remembers a place she’s never been; and Oscar, who doesn’t know who he is, why he’s on the run, or how his bank account is full of money.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I actually did. I usually love the juxtaposition of a world-altering scientific breakthrough used for something mundane like deleting painful memories of a break up, but I felt that this novel lacked heart. Harkin’s novel is best understood as an investigation of the morality and ethics of memory deletion, less akin to novel than a philosophy discussion in a textbook. The book does have an emotional payoff at the end, but the characters are almost blank slates until more than halfway through the novel, making it difficult to connect with them. All in all, I wanted Harkin to go for more with this book: push her concept farther, develop her characters more, and steer the plot in a less mundane direction. While Tell Me an Ending can be described as science fiction, this is a literary novel that asks questions about how memories define us and if nature or nurture makes us who we are.

Release date: March 1, 2022

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC!

What We’re Reading Now…..

Cover image for The echo wife

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey

Evelyn is the leading scientist on genetic cloning. When she discovers a clone of herself at her ex-husband’s house, she realizes that he has stolen her research to make the perfect wife. Somehow, the husband ends up dead on the kitchen floor, and Evelyn and her clone have to cover up the murder in this science fiction-flavored domestic thriller. Shannon

Cover image for Reprieve : a novel

Reprieve by James Han Mattson

I just picked up this new novel that snagged a starred review in Booklist and am really excited to dig in. Described as a literary horror tragedy, this thought-provoking book looks at marginalization and systemic oppression through a classic haunted house story, with some contemporary twists. The haunted house in this tale is actually a full-contact escape room attraction, and a team of contestants must stay in the house to win thousands of dollars. That can’t end well, right? After each interlude of court documents or descriptions of that evening, the story moves to longer, more character-driven chapters, where readers get to know the key people in the large cast, including Kendra, a Black teenager new to Nebraska and Jaidee, a gay Thai college student. Nicole

Cover image for Anatomy : a love story

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz 

I’m currently reading a YA book with a lot of crossover appeal.  Noble Blood fans rejoice! Dana Schwartz, host of the chart-topping podcast about history’s most infamous and ill-fated royals, has written a gothic mystery filled with grave robbers, dark magic, and 19th century science. Hazel Sinnett wants to be surgeon more than a wife, dressing in men’s clothes to attend courses at the Edinburgh Anatomist’s Society. When she’s discovered, she makes a deal: Pass the medical exam independently, and the University will permit her to officially enroll. The only problem? Hazel needs bodies to study. While she’s made the acquaintance of resurrection man Jack, Jack is trying to solve the mystery behind his missing friends and several graveyard secrets. Oh, and stay alive during a plague. Anatomy: A Love Story is the latest pick for Reese Witherspoon’s YA Book Club. Two additional titles that I love: The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr. (So exceptionally good, and a debut, and impossible for me to write an adequate blog review so I’m glad it can be shown off in some way), Real Life by Brandon Taylor. Thanks! Kari

Cover image for The magnolia palace : a novel

The Magnolia Palace by Fiona Davis

The story centers around the Henry Clay Frick family in 1919 and later his mansion/collections/museum which were given to the city of New York. Two models decades apart are drawn to the Frick family. I’m not sure how the novel will end but am enjoying the plot. This is a book for fans of historical fiction, art history and landmarks of New York. Emma

Cover image for A head full of ghosts

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay’s story of a televised exorcism and its aftermath does one of the things that I love about the horror genre; instill the reader with a sense of doubt. A Head Full of Ghosts gives multiple (and temporally varied) perspectives on a family’s experience having their lives turned into a paranormal investigation show when it is suspected that their eldest daughter is possessed. Tremblay gives the reader no certainty on what’s “really” going on and holds a tread of tension that I am unsure is ever broken. Greg

Cover image for The unlikely escape of Uriah Heep

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

This was a delightful novel about two brothers, Charley Sutherland, a college English professor who has a concealed magical ability he can’t quite control: he can bring characters from books into the real world, and his somewhat estranged brother Rob, who is left to reluctantly help clean up Charley’s messes. The real trouble begins when they discover there is another person with this summoning ability, and they are NOT using it for good. As the fictional world begins to threaten the real world, the brothers must unite to try and put things in order. I thought the ending was a little unrealistic at first, but then remembered that the whole book is about fictional literary characters living in the modern world, so I guess anything goes! Sara

Cover image for The witch's heart

The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec

Gornichec takes a largely overlooked member of Norse mythology, Angrboda, and tells her story, including her relationship with Loki. A relationship that directly results in the events that would induce Ragnarok and the end of the world. The Witch’s Heart takes a well-known pantheon and builds upon it an entirely new story that provides depth to characters both unknown and prominent in popular culture. Trent

Cover image for These bones

These Bones by Kayla Chanault

A multi-generational story about the Lyons family and their neighborhood, the Briar Patch. A short novel written with the most beautiful and haunting prose; it explores poverty, racism, ghosts, and otherworldly beings. Horror comes in many forms. Christine

5 New Books to Read in 2022

New year, new books! There are so many great books being published this year and below you’ll find five books that I’m particularly excited for! I can’t wait to read these titles and I hope you’ll get inspired by my picks as well.

In addition to stocking up on new releases in the coming months, this year I’m planning on revisiting some favorite classics as well. I’ll be spending some time with H.P. Lovecraft and Emily Bronte again, while making time to dive into some non-fiction titles and biographies (which is a bit out of my typical reading comfort zone).

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space. Expected publication: April 2022

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic and Velvet Was the Night comes a dreamy reimagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set against the backdrop of nineteenth-century Mexico. Expected publication: July 2022

Book of Night by Holly Black

#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black makes her stunning adult debut with Book of Night, a modern dark fantasy of shadowy thieves and secret societies in the vein of Ninth House and The Night Circus. Expected publication: May 2022

Such a Pretty Smile by Kristi DeMeester

A biting novel from an electrifying new voice, Such a Pretty Smile is a heart-stopping tour-de-force about powerful women, angry men, and all the ways in which girls fight against the forces that try to silence them. Expected publication: January 2022

Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty

Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy. Expected publication: July 2022

What books are you looking forward to checking out this year?

Review: All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris

Find it here.
Ellice Littlejohn escaped her poor, small-town Georgia life at 14 and has rarely looked back since building a successful life and law career for herself in Atlanta. She does the best she can to help her younger brother, Sam, but his past run-ins with the law and her fancy corporate lawyer gig means that Ellice keeps the two parts of her life separate. She was successful at that until the morning she arrives at work to find her boss and lover, Michael, dead in his office. In a whirlwind of events in the aftermath of Michael’s murder Ellice finds herself in the center of a conspiracy that she never saw coming. 

This debut novel has it all-secrets, lies, murder, and suspense. Mixed in with all the action and drama are themes of racism, white supremacy, and family secrets. 

Readalikes:

Fall into a Good Book

Sometimes I read a book and immediately want to re-read it. This is the case with Agatha of Little Neon, a debut novel by Claire Luchette.

Agatha is a nun, who, along with her three fellow sisters in a diocese in Buffalo, New York, has been diligently serving the lord. Agatha has felt safe, anonymous and lucky to have become part of a close-knit group of women. For years, Frances, Mary Lucille, and Therese have been her constant companions and they have fulfilled Agatha’s need for connection. When their diocese goes bankrupt, the four sisters are sent to Woonsocket, Rhode Island, to oversee and become caretakers for a half-way house where they encounter addiction and real-world problems that are often out of their control.

It is there that Agatha, who is reeling from the loss of their convent and from being separated from Mother Roberta, their beloved Mother Superior, is forced further from her comfort zones into learning and teaching geometry at a local girl’s school because of shortages. There, too, is where Agatha begins to become disenfranchised with the Catholic Church and to question her limited role in it.

Not only are Agatha’s story and journey compelling, the language alone in this novel kept me turning the pages with its short, vignette-like chapters, filled with Agatha’s poignant and thoughtful ruminations. Agatha of Little Neon is a charming and smart, quiet novel of self discovery. Read it, and then maybe read it again.

-Carol

Review of She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan book cover and catalog link

In an exciting and fresh new historical fantasy debut, after an orphaned young girl is told that she is destined for nothingness by a fortune teller, she instead takes the fate of greatness that was meant for her deceased twin brother. Pretending to be a boy, the peasant girl Zhu becomes a monk, a soldier, and eventually a general in her quest to seize greatness and wrest control of ancient China from the Mongol Empire. 

Besides being a gripping feminist reimagining of Chinese history, the novel employs a refreshingly original magic system that is tied in with Chinese beliefs and historical facts. In an fascinating twist, the concept of the ‘mandate of heaven’ that defined who had the right to rule in historical ancient China becomes an actual flame that the chosen few can summon. The characters are complex and layered, especially Zhu, with robust queer representation and exploration of gender beyond the binary. Parker-Chan deftly explores what someone will do to survive, whether that is to compromise their values or even kill in cold blood, which is also tied in with the lure of power and womanhood in ancient China. The concept of immutable fate is central to the story – and in less-skilled hands could be boring – but Parker-Chan plays with the uncertainty of how Zhu’s fate will be achieved, and for how long she will keep the greatness she is promised. This is a top-notch historical fantasy novel (and the first installment of a duology) with a complicated, ruthless female lead – for anyone who enjoyed And I Darken by Kiersten White. 

Published on July 22, 2021.

ARC (advance reader copy) courtesy of NetGalley.