New Historical Fiction

Pilot Ward Millar makes a last-minute decision to bail out over North Korea. Unfortunately, even with a parachute, Ward breaks both of his ankles and is easily captured by the North Koreans and Chinese. Ward needs medical attention which his captors provide haphazardly if he shares information, mostly false information, with them.

At home when Ward’s wife, Barbara, receives notification that her husband is missing in action, she believes he still alive. Barbara is a woman of deep and sustaining faith and refuses to believe that Ward is dead despite what family and friends have to say.

North Korean soldier Kim Jae Pil is a Christian. He and his family have kept their faith secret to survive. Kim is forced to serve as a solder but wants to and plans to escape from the army and reunite with his family. Ward and Kim eventually meet and together plan their escape.

This novel is based on the true story of an American POW during the Korean War and a North Korean soldier who became unlikely allies. They were united in their shared faith in God during a daring escape to freedom. The novel is a story of courage, determination, unlikely friendship, and enduring faith.

~Emma

A Clever Little Story

The village of Prometto, Italy (population 212) is in big trouble. It will cost 70,000 euros (nearly $71,000) to repair the town’s failing water system and their treasury is depleted. Signor Speranza, a vacuum repairman and the town’s part-time mayor must come up with a plan to save their beloved town.

Speranza starts a rumor that the Italian movie star, Dante Rinaldi, is coming to Prometto to film a movie. He convinces the local butcher, Signor Maestro, to give him most of 70,000 euros as long as at least one of his 15 sons gets a part in the movie. Thanks to social media, the rumor spreads quickly. Everyone wants a part. Speranza decides to start filming the movie with no knowledge and little equipment while waiting for Dante to arrive. He employs his assistant, Smilzo, to provide the screen play, help with auditions, and film the movie. Unfortunately, all of the above is a lie and Signor Speranza gets buried deeper and deeper with all his lies.

The debut novel by Christine Simon is a quick fun read.

~Emma

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!

Curl up with a good book

Library director, Christopher Wolfe, suffered an incapacitating stroke and Liesl Weiss is named interim director for the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at a Toronto university. Under her leadership two prized items have been discovered missing. One item is a Plantin Polyglot Bible which was published between 1568 and 1573. The other is a Peshawar manuscript, an early mathematical document that was found in 1881 in Pakistan. The Plantin was a recent acquisition thanks to generous donors who want to see the item. Is it misplaced or was it stolen? A library staff member is suspected of the thefts when she goes missing. Police are eventually called in to locate the missing staffer and hopefully find the missing documents.

This is an interesting account of fundraising in academic libraries. For a Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, donors are essential and need to be wined and dined. That seemed to be the main focus for library director, Christopher Wolfe, and he was very good at his job. On the other hand Liesl Weiss was content to work behind the scenes and was contemplating retirement. The interim director position is forced upon Liesel with at least 3 mysteries to solve.

An intriguing premise for a debut author.

~Emma

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

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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