Banned Books Week 2021: Shannon’s Favorites

The logo for banned books week: a yellow banner with black text that reads "Banned Books Week" over an icon of a red book.

It’s Banned Books Week again, and now more than ever, it is important to talk to about censorship and the right to read. We as librarians stand against censorship and banning books, and in fact, some of my favorite books are on the list of the most frequently challenged books.

In honor of this important week, here are some of my favorite books from the list:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas book cover + links to RRPL catalog

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A powerful, moving story ripped straight from the headlines, of a Black girl who was the only witness to her friend’s death at the hands of a police officer; this book is number 30 of the 100 most challenged books of the decade.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi book cover that links to RRPL catalog.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

An excellent graphic memoir that details the author’s childhood growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution; I read this in college and it changed my perspective on regular people living in the Middle East. Number 40.

The Giver by Lois Lowry book cover that links to RRPL's catalog.

The Giver by Lois Lowry

I read this dystopian classic in grade school, and it has remained one of my favorite books. It truly helped me see the world differently. This one is number 61.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan book cover that links to RRPL's catalog.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan

A beloved series of science fiction space opera graphic novels, Saga is often challenged in libraries due to violence and sexual content. This series come in at number 76 on the list of most challenged books of the decade.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
book cover that links to RRPL's catalog.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
Number two on the list of most challenged books of 2020, this important book teaches racism to children of a new generation.

These are my favorite banned books, but plenty of books are challenged in libraries every day. To participate in Banned Books Week yourself, check out the Banned Books Week website for challenges, activities, interviews with authors, and more.

Image with two hands holding a book that reads: Censorship divides us. The picture is a link to the Banned Books Week website.

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here some of the new exciting releases for you to take a look at this week!

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead – A furniture salesman in 1960s Harlem becomes a fence for shady cops, local gangsters and low-life pornographers after his cousin involves him in a failed heist in the new novel from the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad.

Guinness World Records 2022 by Guinness World Records – This latest edition of the world’s best-selling annual book looks at how despite pandemic and lockdowns, record-breaking has continued, with a focus on how people are going to extreme lengths to save the environment.

Talk to Me by T. Coraghessan Boyle – Becoming the assistant to animal behaviorist Guy Schermerhorn and his juvenile chimp, Aimee Villard finds herself in an interspecies love triangle that pushes hard at the boundaries of consciousness and the question of what we know and how we know it.

Travels With George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy by Nathaniel Philbrick – Written at a moment when America’s founding figures are under increasing scrutiny, the author, retracing George Washington’s journey as a new president through all thirteen former colonies, paints a picture of 18th-century America as divided and fraught as it is today.

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach – A best-selling author offers an investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty – A family of tennis stars debate whether or not to report their mother as missing because it would implicate their father in the new novel by the New York Times best-selling author of Big Little Lies.

Enemy at the Gates by Vince Flynn & Kyle Mills – CIA operative Mitch Rapp accepts a job protecting the world’s first trillionaire, but also uses him as bait to catch a traitor with access to government secrets in the latest addition to the series following Total Power.

Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan – Everyone knows television reporter Lily Atwood—and that may be her biggest problem.

The World Played Chess by Robert Dugoni – As his own son gets ready to leave for college, Vincent Bianco recalls his final summer before college in 1979 during which he received an education of a lifetime while working alongside two Vietnam vets as a laborer on a construction site.

Unbound: My Story of Liberation and the Birth of the Me Too Movement by Tarana Burke – The founder and activist behind the “me too” movement shares her own story of how she came to say those two words herself after being sexually assaulted, in this debut memoir that explores how to piece back together our fractured selves.

The Missing Hours by Julia Dahl – A standalone novel from an award-winning author confronts the aftermath of a campus rape and the lengths that some will go to keep the truth hidden.

Harrow by Joy Williams – With her mother missing and her boarding school closed, Khristen searches the post-apocalyptic landscape until she reaches a “resort” on the shores of a putrid lake in the author’s first novel since The Quick and the Dead.

Water: A Biography by Giulio Boccaletti – Spanning millennia and continents, here is a stunningly revealing history of how the distribution of water has shaped human civilization.

~Semanur

Review of Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki book cover and catalog link

Shizuka Satomi, revered and feared violin instructor, is known as the Queen of Hell in the classical music world. As it turns out, the name is more apt than most people know – Shizuka made a deal with the devil to deliver seven talented, tortured souls to hell. So far, she has sent six souls to the fire, and while seeking her seventh, meets Katrina Nguyen. Katrina is a young runaway trans girl who is seeking safety and peace to play violin and be herself, and to Shizuka, is the perfect seventh soul to complete her deal. To further complicate things, Shizuka begins to fall for Lan Tran, the local donut lady who is actually an interstellar starship captain in hiding from the Galactic Empire. Lyrical and moving, Ryka Aoki’s new novel Light from Uncommon Stars surprises and delights at every turn.

This sort of mash-up should clash like discordant notes played off-key, but instead it sings like the most harmonious melody. The novel somehow combines science fiction aliens and a fantastical deal with the devil into a larger, cohesive whole, and this is only by the skill of the author. Aoki’s novel is queer, light, and witty, but with a darker edge that does not shy away from the lived experience of many trans people, with lyrical and dreamlike prose that employs extensive musical allegory. The author examines questions of identity, purpose, existence, and the ineffable beauty of music: how one person can competently play a piece of music without that spark that makes music special, and another can play like a beginner but infuse their feelings and message into the song, lighting the world on fire. For a defiantly joyful, queer meditation on family and identity, try Light from Uncommon Stars, coming out on September 28, 2021.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advanced reader copy!

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

We have some new releases picked out for you to dive in for the following week. There is an adventure, humor, romance and many more for you to enjoy!

My Heart Is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham  Jones – Protected by horror movies – especially the ones where the masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them, Jade Daniels, an angry, half-Indian outcast, pulls us into her dark mind when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian lake.

19 Yellow Moon Road by Fern Michaels – Maggie Spritzer and the other members of the Sisterhood investigate The Haven, a commune run by the dubious sons of a disgraced, Ponzi-scheme-running Chicago businessman in the latest novel of the series following Bitter Pill.

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson – June Jones emerges from her shell to fight for her beloved local library, and through the efforts and support of an eclectic group of library patrons, she discovers life-changing friendships along the way.

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang – When she suddenly loses her ability to play the violin, Anna Sun must learn to listen to her heart and falls in love with a man her parents disapprove of, forcing her to choose between meeting expectations and finding happiness in who she really is.

Whiplash by Janet Dailey – Returning to the family ranch, Val Champion, whose dreams of a Hollywood acting career have become a nightmare, finds that she is no safer at home when she comes face-to-face with her first and only true love – rodeo man Casey Bozeman.

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins – Three women unknown to each other are each questioned in connection with the gruesome murder of a young man found on a London houseboat in the new novel by the New York Times best-selling author of The Girl on the Train.

You Can Run by Karen Cleveland – To get her son back, CIA analyst Jill Bailey must do something she thought she’d never do with the help of a hard-hitting journalist, forcing them both to confront their loyalties to family and country.

What the Cat Dragged in by Miranda James – Librarian Charlie Harris and his faithful feline companion, Diesel, have inherited Charlie’s grandfather’s house, along with a deadly legacy: a decades-old crime scene, in an all-new mystery in the New York Times best-selling Cat in the Stacks series.

The Education of Nevada Duncan Carl Weber & C. N. Phillips – Heir to the Duncan and Zuniga crime family fortunes, Nevada Duncan must attend the world’s most elite school for the children of underworld figures where he learns the importance of friendship as an enemy lurks in the shadows who wants what Nevada has.

The Last Guests J. P. Pomare – A wife finds herself racing for answers when the decision to rent out her family vacation home takes a deadly turn.

Revelator by Daryl Gregory – Returning to the backwoods of Tennessee for her grandmother’s funeral, and to check on Sunny, a mysterious 10-year-old girl her grandmother adopted, professional bootlegger Stella soon discovers that Sunny is a direct link to her buried past and her family’s destructive faith.

The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha – Maya, genetically engineered for genius and trained for revolution, vows to stop an operation trading in genetically enhanced children with the help of Gray, who, unable to escape the time bomb in his head, has found his purpose in his final days – keeping Maya safe.

~Semanur

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here are some of the new books coming to our shelves this week for you to add to your book list!

Lightning Strike by William Kent Krueger – In this prequel to the acclaimed Cork O’Connor series, 12-year-old Cork stumbles upon the body of a man hanging in a tree – the first in a series of events that cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family and himself.

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny – When a visiting professor spreads lies so that fact and fiction are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart, leading to murder, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache must investigate this case as well as this extraordinary popular delusion – and the madness of crowds.

The Guide by Peter Heller – Trying to return to normalcy after a young life filled with loss, Jack takes a job as a guide for the elite Kingfisher Lodge where he, while guiding a well-known singer, discovers that this idyllic fishing lodge may be a cover for a far more sinister operation.

The Women of Troy by Pat Barker – Held captive by the victorious Greeks, one time Trojan queen Briseis, formerly Achilles’s slave, forges alliances when she can with Priam’s aged wife, the defiant Hecuba and the disgraced soothsayer Calchas, all the while shrewdly seeking her path to revenge.

The Failed Promise: Reconstruction, Frederick Douglass, and the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson by Robert S. Levine – Drawing on letters, articles and the most important African American newspaper of the time, the author recreates the conflicts that brought Frederick Douglass and the wider Black community to reject President Andrew Johnson and call for a guilty verdict in his impeachment trial.

Hero of Two Worlds: The Marquis De Lafayette in the Age of Revolution by Mike Duncan – The New York Times bestselling author looks at the life of the Marquis de Lafayette, who helped fight and finance the American Revolution as well as the French Revolution and the overthrow of the Bourbon Dynasty.

Feral Creatures by Kira Jane Buxton – After rescuing pets who had been trapped in their homes during the apocalypse, a Cheeto-loving crow, S.T., and his bloodhound bestie, Dennis, discover humanity’s last hope for survival in this follow-up to Hollow Kingdom.

The Secret Staircase by Sheila Connolly – After a body is discovered in a hidden staircase at Barton Mansion during renovations, Kate Hamilton hunts to identify this man who was murdered in 1880, and learns that digging up the past can be deadly when a second body is found.

Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by Kat Chow – After her mother dies unexpectedly of cancer, a Chinese American writer and journalist weaves together the story of the fallout of grief that follows her extended family as they emigrate from China and Hong Kong to Cuba and America.

The Second Rebel by Linden A. Lewis – Astrid seeks to bring down the Sisterhood from within, while, on an outlaw colony station deep in space, Hiro val Akiro seeks to bring a dangerous ally into the rebellion, and Lito sol Lucious continues to grow into his role as lead revolutionary.

~semanur

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.

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!

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

Here we have some new exciting releases for you to take a look at this week!

Rabbits by Terry Miles – Conspiracies abound in this surreal and yet all-too-real technothriller in which a deadly underground alternate reality game might just be altering reality itself, set in the same world as the popular Rabbits podcast.

Animal by Lisa Taddeo – Joan returns to Los Angeles to come to terms with a childhood trauma and forge the power to fight back against the people who hurt her in a new novel by the author of Three Women.

One Two Three by Laurie Frankel – The Mitchell sisters – teenage triplets – find everything changing in their town when a handsome new student enrolls at Bourne Memorial High who happens to be their family’s sworn enemy.

Castle Shade by Laurie King – Queen Marie of Romania, granddaughter to both Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II calls on Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes to investigate a series of strange accidents in Castle Bran in the latest addition to the series following Riviera Gold.

Love for Beginners by Jill Shalvis – Starting a new life after waking up from a coma, Emma Harris finds her plans of opening up a doggy day care derailed by her childhood nemesis, but she soon learns that life isn’t what you are given, it’s what you make of it.

Pack Up the Moon by Kristan Higgins – When his wife leaves him letters, one for every month in the year after her death, Joshua is led on a journey of pain, anger and denial that eventually makes room for laughter and new relationships.

The Bullet by Iris Johansen – Eve Duncan puts her happily-ever-after with Joe on hold when his ex-wife shows up, on the run with enough secrets to get them all killed.

The Disappearing Act by Catherine Steadman – A British actress new to Hollywood, Mia Eliot is forced to play the role of a lifetime when a girl she only met once disappears and an imposter shows up in her place, forcing her to question her sanity as the truth goes beyond anything she could have ever imagined.

The President’s Daughter by James Patterson – A one-time Navy SEAL and past president, Matthew Keating, after his daughter is kidnapped by a madman, embarks on a one-man special-ops mission that tests his strengths as a leader, a warrior, and a father.

Tom Clancy Target Acquired by Don Bentley – Taking on a cushy assignment in Israel at the request of Ding Chavez, Jack Ryan Jr. finds himself the target of trained killers after helps a woman and her young son, forcing him to use all his skills to protect the life of the child.

The Stepsisters by Susan Mallery – Brought back together when Cassidy, the little sister they have in common, suddenly needs them both, Daisy and Sage must cast aside their hatred for each other to care for Cassidy and are caught off guard when long-buried secrets lead to forgiveness and a powerful friendship.

The Hidden Palace by Helene Wecker – Pretending to be human, magical beings Chava, a golem, and Ahmad, a jinni, find their lives intertwined as they try to make sense of the world around them and the people whose lives they have unwittingly affected.

~Semanur

New Fiction for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Image contains text: Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month - most titles available on Overdrive or Hoopla, and all titles are available in the library catalog. Image also includes book covers for The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo, Black Water Sister by Zen Cho, My Year Abroad by Chang Rae Lee, She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan, Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian, Bestiary by K-Ming Chang, Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan, Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee, Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto, and Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu.

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, so it’s a perfect time to read some new fiction by Asian American and Pacific Islander authors! We’ve curated a small selection of new and new-ish (published in 2020) books, with everything from romance to science fiction, to literary fiction and young adult fiction.

Click the image above to be taken to our Overdrive ebook catalog, where you can search for each book by title or author. Find the Hoopla ebook catalog here. Individual links to the library’s catalog for each physical book are below.

Destination Wedding by Diksha Basu

Bestiary by K-Ming Chang

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan

My Year Abroad by Chang-Rae Lee

Luck of the Titanic by Stacey Lee

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo