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

Review of The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley

The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley book cover and RRPL catalog link

An excellent speculative fiction alternate history set during the Napoleonic Wars featuring a time travelling LGBTQ+ love story. In The Kingdoms by Natasha Pulley, Joe Tournier wakes up on a train station platform with no memory of who he is. He’s in London, but everyone is speaking French. When he receives a postcard with his name on it, mailed a hundred years ago, Joe journeys to the lighthouse pictured on the card and is kidnapped through a portal into the past by a mysterious man.

Pulley’s novel is at once both a romantic love story across time and space and a well-researched alternate history that examines how the use of future technology would change events in the past, and how far nations would be willing to go for information from the future. This book is for anyone who has ever wondered what would have happened if the French won at Trafalgar, if the telegraph was invented fifty years earlier, or even what would happen if a sailing ship battled against a steam-powered battleship. The twisty, turny plot may be confusing or hard to follow at first, but the payoff in the end is well-earned. Pulley does not pull her punches, either in the story or the action, but her take on naval ship battles is visceral without being over the top with gore. For anyone who loved Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell or Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series.

Look for the Kingdoms on May 25!

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!

Review of Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer – Noir Eco Thriller

Hummingbird Salamander catalog link

Security consultant ‘Jane Smith’ receives a mysterious note with a key that leads her to an abandoned storage locker. Within is a taxidermy extinct hummingbird and a set of clues left by an infamous eco-terrorist named Silvina. As Jane follows the trail to find the matching salamander, she is plunged into a dangerous world where she races trained killers to find answers. Jeff VanderMeer’s newest novel, Hummingbird Salamander, is an intricate noir eco-thriller.

This latest offering from VanderMeer explores themes of trauma, identity, generational abuse, and environmentalism. It is more grounded and easier to follow than the surreal Annihilation and the Southern Reach trilogy, so it is a more accessible entry point for people new to VanderMeer’s unique brand of eco science fiction. But fans of those earlier novels shouldn’t worry, as there is still the same pervasive aura of unreality and surrealism that devotees have come to expect.

For fans of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy, The Broken Earth trilogy by N. K. Jemisin, and Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler.

Look for Hummingbird Salamander to come out on April 6, 2021. Click the book cover above to be taken to our catalog, where you can place an advance hold with your library card number and PIN.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

These are the books we are adding to our collection this week. Click on the pink text to go to our catalog and place a hold today!

Hooked: Food, Free Will, and How the Food Giants Exploit Our Addictions by Michael Moss – The best-selling author of Salt Sugar Fat reveals how the processed food industry targets the human body’s evolutionary instincts with unsafe products while taking advantage of legal loopholes to avoid health liabilities.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – Waiting to be chosen by a customer, an Artificial Friend programmed with high perception observes the activities of shoppers while exploring fundamental questions about what it means to love. By the Nobel Prize-winning author of Never Let Me Go.

Life After Death by Sister Souljah – A sequel to the best-selling The Coldest Winter Ever continues the gritty experiences of a returned Winter Santiaga. By the author of No Disrespect and A Deeper Love Inside.

The Lowering Days by Gregory Brown – Growing up in a riverside region of 1980s Maine, three brothers from the Penobscot Nation find their childhood innocence shattered by a nearby paper mill fire that divides their community. A first novel.

Band of Sisters by Lauren Willig – Eschewed by her wealthy graduated classmates, a former scholarship student reluctantly volunteers to help World War I French civilians before finding herself surrounded by desperate families in villages decimated by German bombs.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner – Secretly dispensing poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them, a London apothecary triggers unintended consequences that shape three lives across multiple centuries.

Haunted Hibiscus by Laura Childs – When their literary haunted house costume party is disrupted by an untimely double attack, Indigo Tea Shop proprietress Theodosia Browning and her sommelier, Drayton, investigate suspects including a man with a claim to the Bouchard Mansion property.

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker – A guilt-ridden police chief and a tough-as-nails woman who was forced to support her family as a girl work together to protect loved ones when the latter’s father is released after 30 years in prison.

The Affair by Danielle Steel – A fashion magazine executive navigates a scandal involving her son-in-law’s affair with a Hollywood actress, while her daughters support each other through infidelity, commitment issues and personal secrets. By the best-selling author of Neighbors.

Lightning Game by Christine Feehan – Returning to his family’s Appalachian homestead only to encounter another GhostWalker on the property, Rubin helps the alluring stranger gain control over her lightning powers before uncovering her disturbing ulterior motive. By the best-selling author of the Carpathian series.

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen – A sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer finds the unnamed “man of two minds” and his blood brother dealing drugs in 1980s Paris, where he navigates the worlds of privileged clients while trying to reconcile two politically polarized friends.

Dark Sky by C. J. Box – Reluctantly accompanying a Silicon Valley tech baron on an elk hunting trip, Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett finds himself defending his high-profile charge from a vengeful sharpshooter. By the Edgar Award-winning author of Long Range.

~Semanur

Review of ‘Sorrowland’ by Rivers Solomon – Seminal Gothic Horror

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon catalog link

Vern flees into the woods to escape the cult she grew up in, heavily pregnant. As she and her babies scrape out a living in the forest, they are pursued by a hellish fiend and the hauntings, visions that afflict her and everyone else belonging to the cult. Her body begins to change, becoming something more, something stronger and faster. When she and her children are forced from the safety of the trees, Vern must reckon with her upbringing and return to the place where it all began.

This excellent Gothic horror novel set in the present day United States features well-drawn characters and a mostly LGBTQ+ and BIPOC cast. Solomon deftly explores themes of identity, transformation of self, human intimacy, and grappling with generational trauma. A salient and incisive addition to the horror genre, this book is a deep meditation on the lasting effects of white supremacy and systemic racism.

For fans of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Changeling by Victor Lavalle, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and Kindred by Octavia Butler.

Look for Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon on May 4, 2021. Click the book cover above to be taken to our catalog, where you can place an advance hold with your library card number and PIN.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC (advance reader copy)!

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

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

Relentless by Mark Greaney – Attempting to secure an operative who is among several who have gone missing throughout the world, the Gray Man secures vital intelligence from a team of assassins, before an undercover agent in Berlin makes a life-threatening discovery.

A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas – Nesta and Cassian must face their haunting pasts in order to stop a dangerous alliance of treacherous human queens in the fourth novel of the fantasy series following A Court of Wings and Ruin.

Dark Horses by Susan Mihalic – A darkly gripping debut novel about a teenage girl’s fierce struggle to reclaim her life from her abusive father.

A Fatal Lie by Charles Todd – Dispatched from London to investigate the discovery of an unidentified body in a peaceful Welsh village, Ian Rutledge uncovers a tangle of deception involving a child’s tragic fate and a woman bent on hiding the past.

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates – The technologist, business leader and philanthropist who founded Microsoft draws on the input of experts in physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science and finance to create an accessible, concrete plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid certain environmental disaster.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey – A precarious arrangement between a man, his wife and his wife’s clone explodes in a violent confrontation that forces the two women to figure out a creative way to stay out of prison.

Margaret Truman’s Murder on the Metro by Margaret Truman & Jon Land – Robert Brixton investigates the sudden death of the vice president. In Margaret Truman’s Murder on the Metro, Jon Land’s first thrilling addition to the New York Times bestselling Capital Crimes series, Robert Brixton uncovers a sinister plot threatening millions of American lives!

Black Church, The: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song by Henry Louis Gates – The Harvard University professor, NAACP Image Award recipient and Emmy Award-winning creator of The African Americans presents a history of the Black church in America that illuminates its essential role in culture, politics and resistance to white supremacy.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood – Elevated to prominence for her social-media posts, a woman begins suffering from existential anxieties while learning the languages, customs and fears of her fans throughout the world, before an urgent text from home transforms her virtual perspectives.

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams – A debut based on the true story of the 1841 transport ship Rajah follows the experiences of a crew of Englishwomen convicts, sentenced to a distant penal colony for petty crimes, who realize that a killer is among them.

~Semanur