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?

Book Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

It’s been some time since I read a novel that truly surprised me and Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street not only surprised me, it astonished me. This strikingly original, difficult, and heartfelt novel disguises itself as a horrific story about a serial killer and a missing child, leading readers down disturbing paths and in all the wrong directions as it slowly but surely reveals itself to be much more.

Told through the perspective of multiple narrators, we follow the life of Ted, a strange and lonely man who lives at the end of the forebodingly named Needless Street. He has boarded up all the windows in his house, which sits at the edge of a deeply wooded park and regularly hosts visits with his estranged daughter. His only friend appears to be his cat Olivia- who is also a narrative voice and is quite charming.

The tale opens on the anniversary of the disappearance of a young girl, a disappearance that Ted was initially suspected of causing, and we also meet the vengeful sister of the missing girl who is still trying to track down her sister’s potential murderer years later. This deeply layered plot is revealed little by little with each chapter, and keen readers will note right off the bat that all is not as it seems with each narrator, and we are clearly not getting a complete picture.

The final few twists of this novel are stunning, and absolutely heartbreaking, making this a standout novel of psychological horror, but also an emotional story of trauma and finally, and most importantly, hope. A detailed author’s note at the end further explains Ward’s excellent work on this story and why this is a very realistic tale of trauma. Highly recommended for fans of deeply woven mysteries, unreliable narrators, and psychological horror.

Note: There are some very upsetting and intense scenes in this novel, particularly depicting animal abuse and child abuse, so please proceed with this trigger warning in mind.

Request a copy here or snag a digital copy here!

Shannon’s Top Ten of 2021

It’s the end of the year (where did the time go??), and there’s been a lot of really great books published in 2021! My list is of course very science fiction and fantasy heavy, but what can I say? I’m a lady who likes spaceships and unicorns.

Without further ado, here is my top ten of 2021 – 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.

The Last Graduate book cover and RRPL catalog link
10. The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
Hench book cover and RRPL catalog link
9. Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots
The Witness for the Dead book cover and RRPL catalog link
8. The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

Broken (in the Best Possible Way) book cover and RRPL catalog link
7. Broken (in the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson
The Hidden Palace book cover and RRPL catalog link
6. The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker
Sorrowland book cover and RRPL catalog link
5. Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

Light from Uncommon Stars book cover and RRPL catalog link
4. Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki
The Empress of Salt and Fortune book cover and RRPL catalog link
3. The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo
She Who Became the Sun book cover and RRPL catalog link
2. She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

And last but not least, my favorite book of 2021:

The Kingdoms book cover and RRPL catalog link
1. The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

Time travelling alternate history queer love story – plus naval battles and the Napoleonic Wars… what’s not to love? You can read my review of this excellent novel here. You can also find all of these titles by searching in our digital library.

Well, that’s a wrap on 2021 for me. Be sure to check out the top ten lists of other staff members this week!

Nicole’s Top Ten of 2021

Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley– An iconic work of early English literature is updated in Headley’s feminist adaptation, bringing to light elements never before translated into English.

A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben– A suspenseful, dark tale of family trauma, abuse of power, and the bonds of sisterhood that centers on supernaturally gifted twins Abby and Martha Waite and follows Abby’s choices after she discovers she has been diagnosed with late stage melanoma.

The Push by Ashley Audrain– A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family and one woman’s deeply affecting and difficult story of motherhood, womanhood, grief, and guilt.

Build Your House Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith– Haunting and inspired, this novel looks at the stories of three women in Vietnam, weaving together Vietnamese folklore and themes of national and racial identity, women’s bodies and their burden, and sweet revenge.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca– A standout novella featuring an interesting combination of atypical structure, beautiful writing, and body horror about two women who meet in a queer chat room. This book, and the ending in particular, will keep you thinking long after you finish this short work.

Love and Fury: A Novel of Mary Wollstonecraft by Samantha Silva– An amazingly well-crafted and beautiful historical fiction novel of Mary Wollstonecraft – arguably the world’s first feminist and one of the world’s most influential thinkers. Inspiring and enlightening.

Betty by Tiffany McDaniel– Perhaps my most favorite book of the year, this heartbreaking and remarkable novel is inspired by the life of McDaniel’s own mother. Set in rural Ohio during the 50s, readers follow Betty Carpenter, as she endures terrible discrimination, violence, loss, and love in this luminous and often emotionally difficult book.

The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling– A beautifully written gothic romantic thriller with a dash of magic and horror. Drawing inspiration from such classics as Bluebeard and working the dangerous bridegroom trope, Starling delivers an engaging and tense tale.

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo– A skillful and fantastical reimagining of The Great Gatsby that reimagines Jordan Baker as a queer Vietnamese immigrant, embellishing upon Fitzgerald’s original plot  with commentary on gender, race, and  sexuality, set in a magical Jazz Age New York.

Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness by Kristen Radtke– A timely and moving meditation on isolation and longing, both as individuals and as a society, delivered in a beautiful graphic novel.

Carol’s Top Ten of 2021

I read some really great books this year. It’s always so hard to pick my absolute favorites, but I did my best to list ten of the (fiction) titles I enjoyed the most below:

Ridgerunner by Gil Adamson

Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

Early Morning Riser by Heiny

Morningside Heights by Joshua Henkin

Featherweight by Mick Kitson

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Hope you find something wonderful to read before the year is out and that you have a safe and happy holiday season!

-Carol

Warm Up with a Good Book

Featherweight by Mick Kitson

Annie is born in the mid-19th Century, alongside coal-covered canals of the Black Country, in the West Midlands of England, to a large Romani family. When her father dies, her mother becomes desperate and makes the impossible decision to sell Annie, who is almost nine years old to the highest bidder at an annual fair. Overnight, Annie becomes daughter to the famous, and foul-mouthed bare-knuckle boxer Bill Perry, the legendary “Tipton Slasher,” who though over-fond of drink, dotes on the girl.

As Annie grows up, she ends up taking care of an aging and ailing Bill more and more. When Bill ends up in financial trouble, Annie decides to train as a fighter, herself, in order to get him out of the jam. Soon enough, Annie becomes a legend in her own right, and along with the opportunity to attend school and become literate. Will that be enough to allow her to escape to a better life?

This rollicking read is filled with run-ins with the law, robberies by dangerous highway men, the finding of first love, and of course, plenty of fist fights. Annie’s independence and joie de vive make her a delight to spend time with, and her determination to succeed no matter the obstacles in her path, makes her downright inspirational. If you like action-packed historical fiction with strong and unique characters, a vivid setting and old world dialect, don’t miss Featherweight. It will knock you out!

-Carol

Review of You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson

You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Janina Matthewson and Jeffrey Cranor book cover and RRPL catalog link

Miriam grows up during the Great Reckoning, an apocalyptic war that destroys nations, displaces thousands of people, and kills millions more. Later, when civilization slowly begins to function again, the nascent New Society government concludes that tribal loyalties, including familial bonds, are to blame for the Great Reckoning. As an adult, Miriam perfects a technique that helps children to forget traumatic memories, and the New Society uses it in ways she never intended to create the Age Ten Protocols. The government takes babies from their families and raises them in child care centers, then erases those memories when they turn ten years old, destroying those dangerous family ties. Now an elderly woman, Miriam writes a memoir of her extraordinary life in the new novel You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Janina Matthewson and Jeffrey Cranor.

This book is a companion novel to Within the Wires, an audio drama podcast written by one of the writers of Welcome to Night Vale, Jeffrey Cranor, and writer and voice actor Janina Matthewson. Longtime listeners of Within the Wires will certainly find breadcrumbs of new information to chew over, as this novel provides much backstory to the world of the podcast. As a standalone novel, it is a stark dystopia that may confuse readers not aware of its extensive audio drama roots. I have listened to Within the Wires since its first episode, and as I read, I found myself preferring the podcast and the intimacy with which we get to know the characters. In this novel, the narrator is carefully writing her own memoirs in a New Society that will not publish anything too radical, so there is a substantial distance between Miriam and the reader that means we never really get to know her as a person.

However, the authors explore intriguing philosophical questions throughout the course of the novel: in a post-apocalyptic society, what lengths are too far to go in trying to prevent another worldwide war? Are family ties and tribalism truly the root of all war and conflict? Is it ethical – and if not ethical, then necessary – to erase memories and destroy families in the pursuit of peace? With Miriam as our unreliable narrator versus the New Society’s narrative, who is telling the truth? Fans of Within the Wires and new readers who are intrigued by this unique concept for a dystopian novel should check this one out. If you like the book, make sure to listen to the podcast in your favorite podcast app!

Release date: December 7, 2021

Thanks to NetGalley for the Advance Reader Copy!

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