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

Love WandaVision? Read These Graphic Novels

Scarlet Witch has been a favorite character of mine since childhood. I’m sure there is still a late 90s era Scarlet Witch action figure at my parent’s house somewhere, in all her red and pink spandex glory. Disney+ recently launched a new streaming series all about Wanda (Scarlet Witch) and her love Vision, entitled WandaVision. The show is an entertaining blend of era-specific sitcoms, think I Love Lucy, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch, etc., shrouded in mystery and ominous tones reminiscent of the best of The Twilight Zone.

Not since Game of Thrones (RIP Dany- you will always be my Queen) has a television show inspired me to read weekly AV Club articles, peruse the internet for other fan’s theories and predictions, and talk at length with friends about episodes. It is so much fun.

If you’re enjoying the show, but not well-versed in the comics history of this stellar character, I would highly recommend reading one or all of the graphic novels below! They are collected volumes of some of Wanda and Vision’s best story arcs and would serve as a great introduction to these two. Conversely, if you are an established fan like myself, re-reading these might give you a greater appreciation of the show, in addition to fuel for your plot theories. *wink wink*

The Vision: Little Worse Than a Man by Tom King

The Vision wants to be human and in this Eisner award winning series he decides that family is about as human as it gets. So he heads back to the beginning, to the laboratory where Ultron created him and molded him into a weapon. The place where he first rebelled against his given destiny and imagined that he could be more -that he could be a man. There, he builds them. A wife, Virginia. Two teenage twins, Viv and Vin. They look like him. They have his powers. They share his grandest ambition (or is that obsession?) the unrelenting need to be ordinary. What could go wrong?

Avengers: Vision and the Scarlet Witch- A Year in the Life by Steve Englehart

In a world full of heroes, villains, and monsters, there are few stranger phenomenons than the marriage of a mutant witch to a heroic synthozoid! As this unlikely couple settles into their home in Leonia, New Jersey, they find themselves at odds with the members of their complex families, including Ultron, the Grim Reaper, Quicksilver, and Magneto. When Wanda uses the power of a village of witches to make herself pregnant, the happy twosome becomes a happy foursome when twin sons William and Thomas are born, the future Wiccan and Speed of the Young Avengers!

House of M by Brian Michael Bendis

I read this story arc years ago but want to revisit it thanks to WandaVision and some sly Easter eggs that seem to point to this potentially being important to the show’s mysterious plot. In 2005, Bendis and Coipel created the world of the House of M storyline. This was one of the many times that Scarlet Witch changed reality with her powers. The Avengers are trying to determine what to do with Wanda, with some believing they need to kill her. Wanda creates a new world known as the House of M- she said “no more mutants,” and 98% of the world’s mutants instantly lost their powers. Oops?!

Avengers: The Children’s Crusade by Allan Heinberg

Another story arc I read years ago, The Children’s Crusade picks up following Wanda’s actions in House of M. Wanda has disappeared. While some knew where she was, the world soon learned that Wanda was still alive and well, and that sent the Avengers to find her and the X-Men to try and possibly kill her. Eventually, they take her back into the fold of the Avengers and the X-Men are held off for now.

Scarlet Witch: Witches’ Road by James Robinson, Vanesa Del Rey, Jordie Bellaire & Cory Petit

This is the first collected volume of this great series from some of my favorite writers and artists, like Jordie Bellaire (check out her Buffy reboot! SO GOOD.). Witchcraft is broken – and Wanda is on a journey across the globe to fix it. From the back alleys of Manhattan to the serene Greek Isles to the Irish countryside, the former Avenger will face myths and legends from ancient lore, cure curses, and discover there’s is even more to her complex family history than she knew. In Spain she will visit a church where witches like her were once burned at the stake – and be haunted by the ghosts of the Spanish Inquisition!

All the titles above are available via Hoopla or through our catalog! Are you watching WandaVision? Do you have a favorite Scarlet Witch or Vision comic? Share in the comments! Happy reading !

New Books Tuesday @ RRPL

In this week’s releases we have new adventure, mystery, suspense, romance and many more genres for you to choose from!

Irish Parade Murder by Leslie Meier – When a brash new reporter is implicated in the murder of a corrections officer, Lucy Stone uncovers a bizarre mystery while interviewing a stranger whose revelations change everything for Lucy’s family. By the author of Invitation Only Murder.

Tropic of Stupid by Tim Dorsey – Embarking on a Sunshine State road trip to meet long-lost family members, Serge Storms discovers that he may be related to a notorious serial killer before encountering a park ranger with her own mysterious agenda.

If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier – When her favorite true crime podcast host goes missing, an adrift young woman sets out to investigate and plunges headfirst into the wild backcountry of Northern California and her own dangerous obsession.

Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz – Retiring from his Nowhere Man activities in exchange for an unofficial pardon, former government assassin Evan Smoak is entreated by a unlikely client to help rescue a fellow orphan from a dangerous foster home.

The Russian by James Patterson & James O. Born – Investigating a trio of horrifying murders in three major U.S. cities against a backdrop of his impending nuptials, Detective Michael Bennett risks getting caught in a deadly trap set by a particularly elusive killer.

Just As I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson – The Academy, Tony, and three-time Emmy Award-winning actor and trailblazer tells her stunning story, looking back at her six-decade career and life.

Highland Treasure by Lynsay Sands – Rescued from an English dungeon and escorted to safety in the Highlands, a traumatized Lady Elysande de Valance falls in love with a Scottish clan’s healer and leader, Rory Buchanan, who is too busy to consider matrimony.

The Paradise Affair -A Carpenter and Quincannon mystery- by Bill Pronzini – Piggybacking a search for two con men onto his wife’s plans for a second honeymoon, Quincannon encounters more trouble than anticipated when Sabina becomes embroiled in a locked-room murder case.

Chatter: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It- by Ethan Kross – An award-winning psychologist and White House policy advisor explains how to distinguish between one’s inner critic and the more rational, positive self, offering counsel on how to avoid giving in to negative mental chatter to establish healthier self-advocacy.

We Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen – Two superpowered individuals who have lost all memory of their real identities use their respective powers to commit or fight crime before teaming up together to stop the mad scientist behind a devastating medical conspiracy.

Faye, Faraway by Helen Fisher – A heartfelt, spellbinding, and irresistible debut novel for fans of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Outlander that movingly examines loss, faith, and love as it follows a grown woman who travels back in time to be reunited with the mother she lost when she was a child.

Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth by Avi Loeb – Harvard’s top astronomer lays out his controversial theory that our solar system was recently visited by advanced alien technology from a distant star.

~Semanur

Discover Your 2021 Reading Goals

Like many other librarians and avid readers, I have set a reading goal for myself each January for at least the past decade. The book number tends to steadily increase, though I’ve stuck to 50 books for the last couple years. 50 books seemed daunting when I first set that goal, but after realizing I should count everything I read (not just novels) it was definitely an attainable goal. Between the single issue comics I regularly pick up and the plethora of cookbooks I seem to always have checked out, I’m able to get to my goal without too much trouble. This year I’m planning to revisit some old favorites for second or third readings (looking at your American Gods) in addition to a good variety of newly published titled and new to me titles.

If you are someone who hasn’t set a reading goal before, or perhaps you’ve struggled with not completing your goal, I’m here to encourage you to give it another try! Most importantly to remind you- if you are setting this reading goal for fun, because you enjoy reading, then make sure you have FUN! I have plenty of friends who seem to beat themselves up for not reading more, but your reading habits aren’t for any awards or competition. Read what you like, as often as you like. If that means 5 books a year, then that is fabulous!

I often hear people putting pressure on themselves to read “important” books. Just the other day my husband semi-jokingly said “2021 will be the year I read Crime and Punishment!” as he grabbed the Dostoevsky classic off our home bookshelf. Is he actually going to read this book? Probably not. Is it a book that he might feel he is supposed to read because #literature? Yes. But who really cares about all that? If all you want to read in 2021 is romantic comedies, cozy mysteries, or heartwarming dog stories, then you do you.

This year, as I ease back into my routine after some relaxing time sequestering myself away during the holidays, I’m looking at what I am most excited to read in the coming months. Below you will find some of the soon-to-be published titles I cannot wait to read in 2021!

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Peaces by Helen Oyeyemi

Getaway by Zoje Stage (no cover art available)

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

Star Eater by Kerstin Hall

Poison Flowers and Pandemonium by Richard Sala

If you are a horror fan like me I highly recommend checking out this awesome post from Emily Hughes on the Tor Nightfire blog- you can see all the horror books being published in 2021 in a handy dandy month by month list! *heart-eyes emoji*

2020 was obviously a difficult year, and even though there is a light at the end of the tunnel for 2021, we aren’t out of the woods yet so be kind to yourself and read what brings you joy and happiness. What are you most excited to read this year? Share in the comments below!

Top FifTEeN of 2020 (Heh! No one will notice the extra five, right?)

This has been an unusual year (such an understatement!) and (not shockingly) it’s translated to what I wound up reading this year… (so much insight!) But like every previous year, it was a struggle to decide which books and why. Hopefully you’ll find a new book to try or you’ll have a happy “oh! meeee too!” moment! (Bonus comments in parentheses because you can’t see me doing eyerolls at myself. Enjoy!)

Now let’s get on to the goods, in alphabetical order by author, The Books:

Adult Fiction

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders by Tessa Arlen

It felt like reading an excellent BBC series: engaging characters, smart mystery, and a great WWII time/place setting. The second book in the series will be out before the end of the year: Poppy Redfern and the Fatal Flyers! (Historical Mystery)

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Mr. Backman can write a likable,  curmudgeonly character like few can but this book is really more of an ensemble journey and each character has their own quirky personality. The beginning is a little dark but quickly becomes an uplifting story of how individuals can build their own supportive community. (General Fiction)

Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

Just like when you hear about any picture of a perfect wife, husband, or marriage, it becomes clear there is no such thing as perfect. Quiet and thoughtful, suspenseful and satisfying, this book was everything I wanted it to be. (General Fiction)

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

I loved Ready Player One and was a little worried the sequel wouldn’t live up to the original, what a waste of a decent worry! All the pop culture references, interesting future-thinking ideas, and plenty of exciting plot twists, this is *chef’s kiss* a delight! Fun extra -the IRL setting is Columbus, Ohio!(General Fiction/Science Fiction)

Weather by Jenny Offill

Odd, quirky, sometimes uncomfortable, and completely engaging. If you’re looking for a book short on pages and long on impact, this might be the one for you! (Literary Fiction)

Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts was on my list last year and prompted me to read this older title by the same author. Yep, just as good! It’s a long-game mystery with shades of The Shining suspense. (Mystery)

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

The family relationships, the wanting to be a part of something while also needing to be an individual, watching how society’s views on a variety of topics changed with the decades, all made each page of this book a pleasure. If you grew up in a small town, you’ll feel this story that much more deeply. (General Fiction)

Fortune Favors the Dead by Stephen Spotswood

Mix a little Thin Man, Nick and Nora, with a little Mickey Spillane, add a female Sherlock Holmes and Watson, put World War II espionage into the background, and you’ll get close to understanding why you want to read this next. It’s a debut and I’m typing this with my fingers crossed that the second book will be coming soon! (Historical Mystery)

Mr. Nobody by Catherine Steadman

This author consistently connects her characters and action in smart and surprising ways, with conclusions that are unexpected and satisfying. I’ve only listened to the audio versions of Ms. Steadman’s books, and I don’t plan to change that, it’s like hearing a radio drama with all the sound effects a listener could hope for! (Mystery)

Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson

Charming and insightful, this is the story of a “bot” who has a degree of self-awareness that he needs to seek therapy before going on a journey to fulfill his dreams. It’s not a simple journey as he needs to hide his true nature as our society is prejudiced against AI and are as likely to attack him as help him. You might shed a tear or two along the way, but it’s worth it. (General Fiction)

Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots

If you like superhero/supervillain movies or you’ve watched The Boys on Amazon Prime, you will love every page of this book. Anna shows some small but special abilities with numbers but she’s tired of being a contract worker for whichever villain needs temporary help. Offered what seemed to be an easy and high paying gig changed everything, just not for the better. With engaging characters, interesting thoughts on how we think of good vs. evil, and some really clever surprises, this book checked all the boxes for me this year. (General or Science Fiction)

Adult Nonfiction

Barnstorming Ohio to Understand America  by David Giffels

The 2020 General Election may have cost Ohio our “bellwether state” title but if you want a better understanding of how one state can represent so much of the entire USA, this book is the one to read. The author uses his own travels to different locations and conversations with individuals to make each experience engaging for the reader. (Nonfiction)

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

I’m embarrassed to say this is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Gladwell but this book sent me off on a “what else” deep dive, and now I’m a die-hard fan. I learned so much but reading the book felt more like I was reading a series of short, connected, stories. If you pick this one up, we can talk about how crazy it is that our brain defaults to what we want to believe even when the facts show a different reality. Just, so good!

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Individually, they are funny and the laughs only increase as they tell how they became a couple. I listened to the audio version and highly recommend this option as Megan and Nick are the readers -it starts to feel like you’re in a candid conversation with new friends.

Teen Fiction

The Darkness Duology: Courting Darkness and Igniting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

The characters and setting are part of the His Fair Assassin series, and it feels like catching up with old friends (who can kick some serious hiney). Sybella must protect her younger sisters from being used as political pawns while also trying to keep the new Queen safe from enemies within the Royal House. The author always provides such strong women as main characters but remembers to give them flaws and quirks so they remain relatable. Ms. LaFevers never disappoints! (Historical Mystery)

Of course, I also think pretty highly of the books I suggested for the RRPL Gift Guide -ya know- and I might be counting those books as part of a bigger list for the year? Anyway… Happy Holidays, with books and snackies, for all!!

-Stacey