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.

If You Plant It, They Will Come

Our 2021 One Book, One City reads are all about Monarch butterflies, tracing their travels, and learning about the importance of their journey. Monarchs are amazingly beautiful, but are just one of many pollinators that are threatened by decreasing habitat and climate change. If you remember one thing, remember that pollinators support our food crops – and finding ways to decrease habitat destruction or build new habitat will provide sustenance to future generations.

Native plants and their varying cultivars have evolved together with pollinators, and so have ideal flower sizes and shapes to support the many pollinators we need. And because they’re from Ohio, they’re easy to grow – no picky plants in the bunch! Here at Rocky River Public Library, with the help of the Beach Cliff Garden Club and library volunteers, we put in a pollinator garden that is officially certified by Monarch Watch. We’ve called our garden “Monarch Trails & Tales” and it includes milkweed for Monarchs, their only food, as well as numerous native perennials. Take a look at it the next time to visit and see what kinds of pollinators you spot – there’s butterflies and bees of course, but also small flies that are essential to pollination!

Lots of local nurseries sell native plants, and the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District sell native plants in groups of 50 for a reasonable cost. If we all sacrifice a little lawn or even plant containers of native plants, we can grow and nurture our pollinator population, creating pollinator pathways and beautiful gardens at the same time.

As Douglas Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware and author of numerous books about the intersection of plants, animals and humans, writes “…we humans have disrupted natural habitats in so many ways and in so many places that the future of our nation’s biodiversity is dim unless we start to share the places in which we live –our cities and, to an even greater extent, our suburbs — with the plants and animals that evolved there”

~ Dori

RRPL Summer Reads

My summer reading list is off to a great start!

Currently I’m reading The Five Wounds by Kirstin Valdez Quade. This is a debut novel about a New Mexican family.   The story begins with Angel, a 33-year-old man, living in Las Penas, New Mexico with his mother.  It is Holy Week and Angel has been given the part of Jesus in the Good Friday Procession.  At the same time, Angel’s 15-year-old daughter shows up pregnant on his doorstep, and so begins the family’s year long journey of love and sacrifice.

The Five Wounds: A Novel by [Kirstin Valdez Quade]

I also hope to read –

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

This novel is a Read With Jenna Book Club Pick as featured on The Today Show. Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of summer, but over the course of twenty four hours, their lives will change forever.

The The Sunset Route: Freight Trains, Forgiveness and Freedom on the Rails in the American West by Carrot Quinn.

The unforgettable story of one woman who leaves behind her hardscrabble childhood in Alaska to travel the country via freight train—a beautiful memoir about forgiveness, self-discovery, and the redemptive power of nature.

The Sunset Route: Freight Trains, Forgiveness, and Freedom on the Rails in the American West by [Carrot Quinn]

Mary

RRPL Summer Reads: Sci Fi, Fantasy, and Fairy Tales

As I am the resident science fiction and fantasy nerd librarian, you probably figured that of course my TBR list for this summer would be heavy with the weirdest and most interesting books. And you’d be right! Below are the five books I am most excited to read this summer, in no particular order.

Click on any of the book covers below to be taken to our catalog, where you can put them on hold with your library card number and PIN.

Wendy, Darling by A. C. Wise book cover and catalog link

Wendy, Darling by A. C. Wise 

I love any retelling of classic fairy tale, but a feminist retelling? Gotta have it. In Wise’s version, Wendy has grown up and has had children of her own. When Peter Pan kidnaps her daughter, Wendy must follow him to Neverland to save her daughter from the clutches of the boy who wouldn’t grow up.

Published June 1, 2021.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo book cover and catalog link

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo 

Like fellow librarian Nicole, I also want to read this fantasy reimagining of The Great Gatsby! There’s magic, mystery, and Jordan, a side character in the original novel, reimagined as a queer Vietnamese girl. Sign me up!

Published June 1, 2021. 

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

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan 

When a book is described as Mulan meets Song of Achilles, how could this not be on my TBR list? In this fantastical retelling of Chinese history, a queer female monk will rise to greatness against the Mongol army.

Published July 20, 2021. 

A Master of Djinn by P. DJÈLÍ Clark book cover and catalog link

A Master of Djinn by P. DJÈLÍ Clark 

Another historical reimagining, this debut novel stars a female detective tasked with solving a mass murder set in an alternate history 1912 Cairo where both humans and supernatural creatures dwell.

Published May 11, 2021.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri book cover and catalog link

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

Last but not least, this novel features a princess and a priestess working together to save their homeland from the princess’ traitor brother.

Published June 8, 2021.

Fellow science fiction and fantasy readers: did I miss any books that you’re excited to read this summer? Let me know!

RRPL Summer Reads- The Chosen and The Beautiful

It’s finally June which means that summer is officially right around the corner! We will be counting down the days until the first day of summer, Sunday, June 20th, by sharing the books we are most excited to read in the months ahead. Each week you’ll get a look at titles that Rocky River Public Library staff can’t wait to dive into!

My first summer read pick is The Chosen and The Beautiful by Nghi Vo.

This book, just published yesterday (!) is a Best of Summer Pick for Time Magazine and a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 Pick for Oprah Magazine, so I’m definitely not the only person who has been looking forward to this title to hit bookshelves.

Nghi Vo’s debut novel The Chosen and the Beautiful reinvents the American classic story of The Great Gatsby through a queer, magical, immigrant lens. Reimagining Fitzgerald’s character Jordan Baker as a young, queer woman who was born in Vietnam and raised in white, American high society, Vo invites readers along for a fresh, imaginative look at this Gatsby woman. Jordan has money, education, invitations to the most exclusive parties of the Jazz Age, but is treated like an exotic attraction by her peers.

Vo, a Milwaukee-based author, whose previous works include the novellas Then the Tiger Came Down the Mountain and The Empress of Salt and Fortune, said in a recent interview that her early influences include Neil Gaiman, British fantasy writer Angela Carter, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” author Patricia Highsmith, and the popular podcast series “Welcome to Night Vale.”

As many students have had to throughout the years, I first read The Great Gatsby in my high school freshman English class, and wasn’t particularly impressed. I’ve re-read it since then and am a fan of Fitzgerald’s works now, but am very excited to read a modern, diverse voice such as Vo’s take on this well-known narrative. I also love magical realism and this new novel sounds like an amazing mash-up of some of my favorite literary elements!

What are some titles you are excited to read this summer? We’d love for you to share your titles with us this month in the comments! Happy reading!

Discover@RRPL

The Kew Gardens Girls

by Posy Lovell

During WWI, women were hired to replace men who were serving in the military to work at Kew, the Royal Botanical Gardens in London. Not everyone was pleased with this decision including the Gardens’ foreman Mac. The women’s lesser wages for the same work as men reflected this attitude. Ivy Adams, an illiterate teenager from Hackney, and Louisa Taylor, escaping her abusive husband in Kent, were both hired. Bernie Yorke, a former school teacher and a Quaker was also hired. It is soon discovered that Bernie refuses to enlist and he becomes a target of the “white feather campaign”. Men out of uniform were given white feathers, often by Suffragettes hoping to shame them into enlisting. Because Bernie was a conscientious objector, he lost his job at Kew. Soon Lady Winifred (Win) Ramsay begins as a volunteer worker at Kew Gardens just to keep busy while her husband is in the Navy. The three women become fast friends as they fight for equal pay for women at Kew and as they support pregnant Ivy as she waits for Jim to return home from the war.

This debut novel is a mixture of friendship, romance, sadness and fight. It’s a treat for fans of historical fiction. For those interested in Kew Gardens, please enjoy a brief tour/history at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=khOfA1JhLyg.

~Emma

Gretchen Berg COMING SOON – April 6th

You are cordially invited to author Gretchen Berg’s presentation of  The Operator.

Join us on Tuesday, April 6th from 7:00 – 8:00 pm.

Please register for the Zoom event at – 

https://rrpl.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=26453&backTo=Calendar&startDate=2021/04/01

The early 1950’s in Wooster, Ohio is the setting for this debut novel. Vivian Dalton is a switchboard operator who has a penchant for eavesdropping on telephone conversations. The operators are not supposed to listen in on  conversations, but they all do. When a rumor about Vivian’s husband is discussed over the phone lines, it’s not fun anymore. Vivian needs to find out who is spreading the rumor and if there is any truth to it. Vivian does not confront her husband initially but attempts to discover the truth on her own. Has she been living a lie?

~Emma

New Books Tuesday @RRPL

Semanur’s off this week, so I get the fun task of letting you know what books are coming out today!

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn: Joining the elite Bletchley Park codebreaking team during World War II, three women from very different walks of life uncover a spy’s dangerous agenda against a backdrop of the royal wedding of Elizabeth and Philip.

Code Breaker by Walter Isaacson: A portrait of the Nobel Prize-winning scientist explores the impact of James Watson’s The Double Helix on her career and how her team’s invention of CRISPR technology enabled revolutionary DNA-editing approaches to fighting disease.

Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison: Disregarding messages from an anonymous texter who claims her fiancé is not the man he pretends to be, Claire travels to Italy for her destination wedding before harrowing discoveries and accidents expose ominous family secrets. 

2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Eliot Ackerman & James Stavridis: Two former military officers and award-winning authors present a near-future geopolitical thriller that depicts a naval clash between America and Asia in the South China Sea of 2034. Co-written by the National Book Award-nominated author of Waiting for Eden

The Dark Heart of Florence, No. 15 (Lady Emily) by Tasha Alexander: While Colin teams up with a fellow agent to investigate a series of burglaries at his daughter’s palazzo in Florence, Lady Emily secretly launches an inquiry into the falling death of a man in Tuscany.

How to Do the Work: Recognize Your Patterns, Heal from Your Past, and Create Your Self by Nicole LePera: The expert behind the popular @the.holistic.psychology Instagram account outlines alternative-therapy approaches to improving mental, physical and spiritual health by tapping the power of the self to overcome trauma and create a more authentic and fulfilling life. 

Everything After by Jill Santopolo: Helping troubled students navigate personal losses, a university psychologist is forced to reckon with her own painful past when a tragic event compels her to reevaluate her goals, passions and sense of identity.

Life’s Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive by Carl Zimmer: The New York Times “Matter” columnist investigates the science community’s conflicting views on what it actually means to be alive as demonstrated by laboratory attempts to recreate life and the examples of particularly remarkable life forms. 

The Little French Bridal Shop by Jennifer Dupee: Renovating an inherited colonial property in her Massachusetts hometown to manage painful losses, Larissa buys a wedding gown as a private joke only to have word of her impending nuptials spread throughout the community. A first novel. 

Last Call: A True Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green: Documents the decades-long effort to capture the “Last Call Killer” of 1980s and 1990s New York City, discussing how he took advantage of period discrimination to prey upon gay victims against a backdrop of the AIDS epidemic.

The Arsonists’ City by Hala Alyan: The scattered members of a Middle-Eastern clan unite at an ancestral home in Beirut to change a new patriarch’s decision to sell the property, igniting revelations about their family’s past in Lebanon, Syria and the United States. 

The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn: Receiving ominous threats during a 10-year college reunion, Ambrosia and her best friend discover that they are being targeted by an unknown adversary who would exact revenge for a dangerous secret from their past. 

My Heart by Semezdin Mehmedinovic: An intimate work of autobiographical fiction by the author of Sarajevo Blues traces the experiences of a writer who in the wake of a life-risking heart attack reevaluates his past as a member of a Bosnian war refugee family. 

Two Meals a Day: The Simple, Sustainable Strategy to Lose Fat, Reverse Aging, and Break Free from Diet Frustration Forever by Mark Sisson: The New York Times best-selling author of The Primal Blueprint uses his health and fitness expertise to bring you the facts about the latest diet trend: intermittent fasting.

The Hospital: Life, Death and Dollars in a Small American Town by Brian Alexander: The award-winning author of Glass House presents an intimate portrait of a small American hospital to identify the economic and systemic causes of today’s lower life-expectancy rates and poorer health quality. 

My Old Home: A Novel of Exile by Orville Schell: A former Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism dean and Emmy Award-winning PBS producer presents the story of a rare Chinese student at 1950 San Francisco’s Conservatory of Music who upon returning home is confronted by an erratic new government.

Sarahland by Sam Cohen: A debut story collection imagines new origins and futures for its cast of unforgettable protagonists—almost all of whom are named Sarah. 

~ Dori