Banned Books

Banned Books Week may have ended on September 24, but it’s important to keep the conversation going as more books continue to get challenged. Most commonly, books by Authors of Color or LGBTQ+ authors get challenged (Publisher’s Weekly).  

While it’s nice to believe that challenged books get a bump in sales and promoted more, that just isn’t the case for the majority (Book Riot). Often, authors don’t even know their book was challenged as very few challenges become newsworthy. It could be as simple as a bookstore choosing to pass on buying a book because it is “subversive” or a school library quietly pulling a book from their shelves.  

One way to help combat challenges is to read! Read banned books, talk about them with friends, and let your local library know that you are glad they have books by Authors of Color, books by LGBTQ+ authors, books that reflect actual communities. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a list of the most challenged books from 2021 (ALA)

  1. Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe 
     
  1. Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison 
     
  1. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson 
     
  1. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez 
     
  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 
     
  1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie 
     
  1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews 
     
  1. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison 
     
  1. This Book is Gay by Juno Dawson 
     
  1. Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin 

-Linnea

From Page to Screen: Fall Releases

The storylines of this season’s blockbusters may seem vaguely familiar. Hollywood is drawing inspiration from the book world once again with a slew of streaming shows and movies based on books. From war epics to vampires, fall into the plot of a great book before you see it on the big screen. Here are a few highlights from this season’s upcoming releases.

September

Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

The legend of Marilyn Monroe–aka Norma Jeane Baker–comes provocatively alive in this powerful tale of Hollywood myth and heartbreaking reality. Marilyn Monroe lives–reborn to tell her untold history; her story of a star created to shine brightest in the Hollywood firmament before her fall to earth. Blonde is a dazzling fictional portrait of the intricate inner life of the idolized and desired movie star as only the inimitable Joyce Carol Oates could paint it.

Coming to Netflix on September 28.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

Abby and Gretchen have been BFFs since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act…different.

And as the strange coincidences and bizarre occurrences begin to pile up, Abby realizes there is only one possible explanation- Her best friend Gretchen, her favorite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not going to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend.

Coming to Amazon Prime Video on September 30.

October

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

It is autumn 1981 when inconceivable horror comes to Blackeberg, a suburb in Sweden. The body of a teenager is found, emptied of blood, the murder rumored to be part of a ritual killing. Twelve-year-old Oskar is personally hoping that revenge has come at long last–revenge for the bullying he endures at school, day after day.

But the murder is not the most important thing on his mind. A new girl has moved in next door–a girl who has never seen a Rubik’s Cube before, but who can solve it at once. There is something wrong with her, though, something odd. And she only comes out at night.

Coming to Showtime on October 7.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . . This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

Coming to Netflix on October 28.

November

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts

It is in 1950’s Brighton that Marion first catches sight of Tom. He teaches her to swim, gently guiding her through the water in the shadow of the city’s famous pier and Marion is smitten–determined her love alone will be enough for them both.

A few years later near the Brighton Museum, Patrick meets Tom. Patrick is besotted, and opens Tom’s eyes to a glamorous, sophisticated new world of art, travel, and beauty. Tom is their policeman, and in this age it is safer for him to marry Marion and meet Patrick in secret. The two lovers must share him, until one of them breaks and three lives are destroyed.
 Coming to Amazon Prime Video on November 4.

She Said by Jodi Kantor & Megan Twohey

For many years, reporters had tried to get to the truth about Harvey Weinstein’s treatment of women. Rumors of wrongdoing had long circulated. But in 2017, when Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey began their investigation into the prominent Hollywood producer for the New York Times, his name was still synonymous with power.

During months of confidential interviews with top actresses, former Weinstein employees, and other sources, many disturbing and long-buried allegations were unearthed, and a web of onerous secret payouts and nondisclosure agreements was revealed.

Coming to theaters on November 18.

-Melinda

It’s Fall!

Welcome, Autumn Equinox! As we enter chillier fall days, visit pumpkin patches, and begin to don our cozy sweaters, let’s remember we are also entering spooky season!  

On this day in 1692, the last witches were hanged in the Salem Witch Trials. Seven women and one man were hanged on September 22, 1692, totaling about twenty lives taken. After this set of executions, public opinion began to shift and witch trials subsided. Over 250 years later, Massachusetts formally apologized for the events in the late 1600s. Now Salem has plenty of witchy attractions, to educate and entertain visitors, from the official courthouse documents at the Peabody Essex Museum to the witch wax models at the Salem Wax Museum. 

Embrace your inner witch and get the most out of spooky season with these titles: 

In Defense of Witches: The Legacy of the Witch Hunts and Why Women are Still on Trial by Mona Chollet 

Wicked Girls: A Novel of the Salem Witch Trials by Stephanie Hemphill 

The Salem Witch Trials: A Primary Source History of the Witchcraft Trials in Salem, Massachusetts by Jenny MacBain 

The Crucible by Arthur Miller 

A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts by J.W. Ocker 

The Path of the Witch: Rituals & Practices for Discovering Which Witch You Are by Lidia Pradas 

-Linnea

National Hispanic Heritage Month

Today marks the beginning of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which will last until October 15. On September 15, Mexico celebrates their independence from Spain, with most Central American countries celebrating on September 16, and Chile celebrating on September 18. It is a time for the United States to acknowledge and commemorate the contributions and achievements of Hispanic Americans. The influence of Central America is everywhere in the United States, from food to culture to language.  

Interested in cooking? Try these Mexican cookbooks: 

Chicano Eats: Recipes from My Mexican-American Kitchen by Esteban Castillo 

Mi Cocina: Recipes and Rapture from My Kitchen in México by Ricky Martínez 

Plant Powered Mexican: Fast, Fresh Recipes from a Mexican-American Kitchen by Kate Ramos  

Planning your next vacation? Explore Central America and beyond: 

Lonely Planet’s Best of Central America 

Fodor’s Essential Chile

Footprint: Belize, Guatemala & Southern Mexico

Love history? There’s plenty to learn: 

Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration by Alfredo Corchado 

Diego Rivera by Pete Hamill 

Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States by Felipe Fernández-Armesto 

El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America by Carrie Gibson

And of course, there are plenty of authors with rich bibliographies to further expand our appreciation: 

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo 

Violeta by Isabel Allende 

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez 

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez 

-Linnea

Pride Month: Fiction Spotlight

This week for Pride Month, I pulled some books that focus on LGBTQ+ representation in fiction! 

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera 

What if a service existed to let you know you had 24 hours left to live? Would you do anything differently? Reckless Rufus and anxiety-ridden Mateo become unlikely friends after meeting on their last days alive and set off to enjoy themselves, and maybe do a few things they wouldn’t normally. Through adventures, tough goodbyes to loved ones, and virtual reality travels, Rufus and Mateo build a deep, emotional and romantic connection that reminds us to always tell people we love them and to make every day count. The title tells us exactly what we’re getting into, but it doesn’t make the ending any less heartbreaking. 

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston 

A meet-cute on public transportation is pretty much the most classic, ideal love story. For August, a cynical 23-year-old woman, New York City seems like the perfect place to confirm her beliefs that the world is just not a romantic place. But like a scene from a movie, August begins to fall for punk rock Jane on the subway during her commute. Turns out, though, that Jane is from the 1970s, having been displaced in time. August sets off to rescue Jane, while gaining insight into the queer culture of New York City in the 70s and trying to make subway dates fun. Full of pop culture references, witty characters, and lots of heart, McQuiston’s sophomore novel is an absolute delight. 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid 

Being in the public eye and scrutinized at every turn makes it a challenge to be true to oneself. For Evelyn Hugo, the bombshell Old Hollywood actress, she kept up the false narrative of a maneater to keep her and her true love, Cecilia, a secret from tabloids. Finally ready to tell her story, she recruits unknown journalist Monique Grant to tackle the tale and reveal her authentic self. Is the price of fame worth it when Evelyn couldn’t step on the red carpet with her partner, instead having to attach herself to men she didn’t always love? Reid wrote a beautifully intricate story that sucks you in, unable to put the book down until you finally find out just how it all fits together. 

Some other LGBTQ+ novels to check out are:  

You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat 

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin 

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn 

Less by Andrew Sean Greer 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker 

-Linnea

New and Upcoming Graphic Novels

Spring is in the air, the sun is making it’s slow but triumphant return to Northeast Ohio, and there are great new graphic novels being published! We’ve got some stellar new fiction and non-fiction titles making their way to our graphic novels shelves. Below you’ll find five new graphic novels or soon to be published books that you should add to your to-be-read pile ASAP.

The Me You Love in the Dark by Scottie Young

Writer Skottie Young, author of the fantastic I Hate Fairyland series, and artist Jorge Corona, follow up their critically acclaimed series Middlewest with a haunting new tale. An artist named Ro retreats from the grind of the city to an old house in a small town, hoping to find solace and inspiration—only to realize that the muse she finds within may not be what she expected. Fans of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman will enjoy this beautiful, dark, and disturbing story of discovery, love, and terror.

Request the print book here or read it on hoopla here.

Fine by Rhea Ewing

For fans of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Meg-John Barker’s Queer, Fine is an essential graphic memoir about the intricacies of gender identity and expression. As Rhea Ewing neared college graduation in 2012, they became consumed by the question: What is gender? This obsession sparked a quest in their quiet Midwest town, where they anxiously approached both friends and strangers for interviews to turn into comics. A decade later, their project has exploded into a fantastical and informative portrait of a surprisingly vast community spread across the country.

Fine won’t be out until April, but you can get on hold for the book now!

Karmen by Guillem March

Spanish writer and artist Guillem March, best known for his work on Batman, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn, takes up his pen for a cutting-edge story about a highly unconventional angel named Karmen and the young woman she takes under her wing when heartbreak strikes too hard. Packed with intriguing twists and metaphysical musings, this gorgeously drawn series brings tenderness, heart, and humor to the delicate and difficult matters of life and death that we all face.

Karmen is set to be published early in May, so keep your eyes peeled for this title.

Crushing by Sophie Burrows

This quiet, wordless book is artist and author Burrows’ graphic-novel debut. A young woman, pale and rosy-cheeked with a straight black bob, lives alone in London—except for her cat. One night she runs down to the local kebab and pizza shop in her pajamas and encounters a young man, pale and freckled with floppy red hair, also wearing pajamas. Unfortunately, they don’t notice each other surreptitiously noticing each other and head their separate ways. The story conveys life as a series of small indignities, slight misses, and minor connections but ends on a hopeful note. The backmatter includes mental health organizations and crisis lines and a note from Burrows referencing inspiration from missed connections columns and pandemic isolation. 

Request a copy of Crushing here.

Policing the City: An Ethno-graphic by Didier Fassin and Frederic Debomy; Translated by Rachel Gomme

Adapted from the landmark essay Enforcing Order, this striking graphic novel offers an accessible inside look at policing and how it leads to discrimination and violence. What we know about the forces of law and order often comes from tragic episodes that make the headlines, or from sensationalized versions for film and television. Around the time of the 2005 French riots, anthropologist and sociologist Didier Fassin spent fifteen months observing up close the daily life of an anticrime squad in one of the largest precincts in the Paris region. This ethno-graphic is chilling in the parallels that can be seen in the struggles of Black people in the United States, exemplified by the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Request a copy of Policing the City here.

Happy reading!

Infinite Goodness: Pi Day

Lemon, peach, apple, 3.14159, oh my! Pi Day, which falls on Monday, March 14, is fast approaching! Pi day is an annual holiday devoted to celebrating the infinite mathematical constant π, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter that starts off as 3.14. This Pi Day, indulge with a slice (or two, or three!) of your favorite pie and some of the books below.

How to Bake Pi: An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics by Eugenia Cheng: What is math? How exactly does it work? And what do three siblings trying to share a cake have to do with it? Using insights from the kitchen, professor Eugenia Cheng provides an accessible introduction to the logic and beauty of mathematics.

Pie Academy: Mastering the Perfect Crust and 255 Amazing Fillings by Ken Haedrich: Here’s the only pie cookbook you’ll ever need. Novice and experienced bakers will discover the secrets to baking a pie from scratch with step-by-step photos and recipes, advice about tools and ingredients, tips for gorgeous fluted and lattice pie tops, and more.

The Book on Pie: Everything You Need to Know to Bake Perfect Pies by Erin Jeanne McDowell: Start with the basics, including ways to mix pie dough for extra flaky crusts, storage and freezing, and tips for decorating, before diving into dozens of recipes for all different kinds of pies: fruit, custard, cream, chiffon, cold set, savory, and mini.

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World by Matt Parker: Exploring and explaining a litany of glitches, near misses, and mathematical mishaps involving the Internet, big data, elections, street signs, lotteries, an Olympic team, and even the Roman Empire, stand-up comedian Matt Parker uncovers the ways math trips us up and how essential math is in everyday life.

One Poison Pie by Lynn Cahoon: What’s a kitchen witch to do when her almost-financé leaves her suddenly single and unemployed? For Mia Malone, the answer’s simple: move to her grandmother’s quirky Idaho hometown, where magic is an open secret and witches and warlocks are (mostly) welcome. But when her first catering job takes a distasteful turn, Mia must find out which of the town’s eccentric residents has an appetite for murder before her fresh start comes to a sticky end.

The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman: When her efforts to pursue a professional culinary life away from her family’s northern Michigan orchard end in disappointment, Sam spends a summer working for the family pie shop and begins to understand the women in her life, her family’s history, and her passion for food as she prepares beloved ancestral recipes.

The Curse of the Cherry Pie by Amy Patricia Meade: When Tish Tarragon’s friend pulls out of the prestigious Virginia Commonwealth Bake-Off, an anxious Tish reluctantly takes her place. As the bake-off gets underway, Tish learns that her signature bake, a frangipane cherry pie, has played a deadly role in the previous two competitions. Is the curse of the cherry pie about to strike again?

Pieometry: Modern Tart Art and Pie Design for the Eye and the Palate by Lauren Ko: Whether you want to impress at the holidays or just spruce up a family meal, Pieometry is your guide to transforming a traditional dessert into a modern masterpiece. The pie-making genius behind the popular Instagram account @lokokitchen reveals how to build 50 sweet and savory pies from crust to top. Look for butternut bacon macaroni and cheese pie, lavender blackberry cream pie, honey ricotta tart, grilled cinnamon pineapple pie, and more.

Pie all the Time: Elevated Sweet and Savory Recipes for Every Occasion by Taylor Harbin: Whether you’re craving comfort food, an exciting new flavor, a quick treat, or a celebratory indulgence, the answer is always pie. Taylor Harbin, the creator behind the blog “All Purpose Flour Child,” offers familiar classics, inventive flavors, and easy methods for flawless pies every time.

Sweet as Pie by Alicia Hunter Pace: The path to true love isn’t quite as easy as pie, but it sure is sweet in the end. Jake Champagne is looking forward to a new team, new town, and clean slate in Laurel Springs. After a disastrous year, the hockey hotshot is leaving his past behind – even betting his best friend that he can stay away from women. But he’s happy to reconnect with a piece of home when he visits childhood friend and now successful baker Evie. Between slices of Mississippi mud pie and chicken potpie, Jake starts to remember what a fool he was to let Evie get away.

March is Women’s History Month

From pioneering scientists to determined suffragists to avant-garde artists to mothers, Women’s History Month celebrates the accomplishments of ordinary and trailblazing women in American society. You can celebrate by reading the works of female authors throughout the month. Below is a list of 31 inspiring, empowering, and entertaining titles by some of the most current female authors. Read one each day this month or throughout the year!

Matrix by Lauren Groff: Cast out of the royal court, 17-year-old Marie de France, born the last in a long line of women warriors, is sent to England to be the new prioress of an impoverished abbey where she vows to chart a bold new course for the women she now leads and protects.

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters: A trans woman, her detransitioned ex and his cisgender lover build an unconventional family together in the wake of heartbreak and an unplanned pregnancy.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This reimagining of the classic gothic suspense novel follows the experiences of a courageous socialite in 1950s Mexico who is drawn into the treacherous secrets of an isolated mansion.

We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry: Nearly three centuries after their coastal community’s witch trials, the women athletes of the 1989 Danvers Falcons hockey team combine individual and collective talents with 1980s iconography to storm their way to the state finals.

The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcom X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation by Anna Malaika Tubbs: Much has been written about Berdis Baldwin’s son James, about Alberta King’s son Martin Luther, and Louise Little’s son Malcolm. But virtually nothing has been said about the extraordinary women who raised them, who were all born at the beginning of the 20th century and forced to contend with the prejudices of Jim Crow as Black women.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson: The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Warmth of Other Suns identifies the qualifying characteristics of historical caste systems to reveal how a rigid hierarchy of human rankings, enforced by religious views, heritage and stigma, impact everyday American lives.

Dog Flowers by Danielle Geller: Drawing on archival documents in a narrative account, Geller explores how her family’s troubled past and the death of her mother, a homeless alcoholic, reflect the traditions and tragic history of her Navajo heritage.

Love and Fury by Samantha Silva: In August of 1797, as her midwife struggles to keep her and her fragile daughter alive, Mary Wollstonecraft, the mother of the famous novelist Mary Shelley, recounts the life she dared to live amidst the impossible constraints and prejudices of the late 18th century.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante: Beginning in the 1950s, Elena and Lila grow up in Naples, Italy, mirroring two different aspects of their nation.

Circe by Madeline Miller: Circe follows the banished witch daughter of the Titans as she practices her powers for an inevitable conflict with one of Olympus’ most vindictive gods.

Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia: An affluent Cuban immigrant reckons with her daughter’s drug addiction and her own culpability in their self-destructive choices.

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich: Based on the life of Erdrich’s grandfather, The Night Watchman traces the experiences of a Chippewa Council night watchman in mid-19th century rural North Dakota who fights Congress to enforce Native American treaty rights.

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall: In this collection of essays, Kendall explores how feminism has not acknowledged the many ways in which race, class, and sexual orientation intersect with gender. Through a biographical lens, Kendall examines how issues like food security, access to education, safe housing, and healthcare connect to feminist concerns, and ponders why they continue to be ignored by mainstream feminists.

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay: The best-selling author of Bad Feminist presents a frank memoir of food, weight, self-image, and learning how to feed one’s hunger in healthy ways.

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore: Moore recounts the struggles of hundreds of women who were exposed to radium while working factory jobs during World War I, describing how they were mislead by their employers and became embroiled in a battle for workers’ rights.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel: In this memoir graphic novel, Bechdel offers a darkly funny family portrait that details her relationship with her father, a historic preservation expert dedicated to restoring the family’s Victorian home, a funeral home director, a high school English teacher, and a closeted gay man.

Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law by Mary Roach: Join Roach on an irresistible investigation into the unpredictable world where wildlife and humans meet. What’s to be done about a jaywalking moose? A grizzly bear caught breaking and entering? A murderous tree? As Roach discovers, the answers are best found not in jurisprudence but in science: the curious science of human-wildlife conflict, a discipline at the crossroads of human behavior and wildlife biology.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh: In a four-color, illustrated collection of stories and essays, Brosh’s debut chronicles the many “learning experiences” she has endured as a result of her own character flaws, and the horrible experiences that other people have had to endure because she was such a terrible child. Possibly the worst child. For example, one time she ate an entire cake just to spite her mother.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: Fighting an ugly custody battle with an artistic tenant who has little regard for the strict rules of their progressive Cleveland suburb, a straitlaced family woman who is seeking to adopt a baby becomes obsessed with exposing the tenant’s past, only to trigger devastating consequences for both of their families.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: In early 1900s Korea, prized daughter Sunja finds herself pregnant and alone, bringing shame on her family, until a minister offers to marry her and move with her to Japan in the saga of one family bound together as their faith and identity are called into question.

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen: Coming out of exile to ascend her rightful throne, Princess Kelsea Raleigh Glynn, with a cadre of soldiers and the magical Tearling sapphire to protect her, makes a daring decision that evokes that wrath of the evil Red Witch, forcing her to embark on a quest to save her kingdom and fulfill her destiny.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Separated by respective ambitions after falling in love in occupied Nigeria, beautiful Ifemelu experiences triumph and defeat in America while exploring new concepts of race, while Obinze endures an undocumented status in London until the pair is reunited in their homeland 15 years later, where they face the toughest decisions of their lives.

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn: In an effort to keep himself footloose and single in spite of the efforts of the town’s matchmakers, Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, begins a sham courtship with Daphne Bridgerton.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean: Orlean reopens the unsolved mystery of the most catastrophic library fire in American history, and delivers a dazzling love letter to a beloved institution: our libraries.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: Two half-sisters, unknown to each other, are born into different villages in 18th century Ghana and experience profoundly different lives and legacies throughout subsequent generations marked by wealth, slavery, war, coal mining, the Great Migration, and the realities of 20th century Harlem.

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: The Japanese Breakfast indie pop star presents a full-length account of her viral New Yorker essay to share poignant reflections on her experiences of growing up Korean-America, becoming a professional musician, and caring for her terminally ill mother.

The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin: Haunted by dreams of the dead who seek to invade Earthsea through him, the sorcerer Alder enlists the aid of Ged, a former Archmage, who advises him to find the holiest place in the world, which holds the key to preserving Earthsea.

The Flowering: The Autobiography of Judy Chicago by Judy Chicago: In this provocative and resonant autobiography, world-renowned artist and feminist icon Judy Chicago reflects on her extraordinary life and career.

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado: Women and their bodies, and the violence done to them, occupy the center of Machado’s inventive, sensual, and eerie debut horror collection. These stories use situations at once familiar and completely strange to reveal what it is like to inhabit the female body.

We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays by Samantha Irby: Sometimes you just have to laugh, even when life is a dumpster fire. In her second collection of essays, Irby explores what it means what it means to be “fat and black.”

Call Us What We Carry: Poems by Amanda Gorman: The presidential inaugural poet and unforgettable new voice in American poetry presents a collection of poems that includes the stirring poem she read at the inauguration of President Biden.

Fiona and Jane

Request a copy of Fiona and Jane from the Library here.

Fiona and Jane (or Jane and Fiona, depending on who you ask) have been best friends since second grade. Over the years their closeness waxes and wanes, but they’re always within each other’s orbit, offering solace for heartbreak, family crises, identity struggles, and more. Beautiful, ambitious Fiona attracts attention wherever she goes and, having never known her father, keeps her mother close and the memories of their brief time in Taiwan even closer. She moves to New York with her boyfriend after college to attend law school and chase after internships, but a devastating heartbreak, loneliness, and financial ruin sends her back home to California. Jane, quieter and less confident than Fiona, is raised by her demanding and religious mother once her father moves to Taiwan for work. When Jane discovers and reveals her father’s secret, she finds her family changed forever.


Fiona and Jane has received considerable buzz, but I have mixed feelings about the book. I love Jean Chen Ho’s writing style. She packs an emotional punch in such simple language, and the characters are authentic and flawed. Chapters “Korean Boys I’ve Loved” and “Go Slow” are true standouts for how they tangle with the messy emotions of friendship and romantic love; Jean Chen Ho writes about how you can be competitive with a friend, but not jealous, and how you can feel lonely even within close relationships. The friendship between Fiona and Jane feels real. They move away, have misunderstandings, and keep secrets from each other, all while still being deeply concerned and invested in their friendship. Fiona and Jane is written as a series of short stories, with alternating viewpoints and time periods, and this is where the book loses its effectiveness. We only get to see glimpses of Fiona and Jane instead of witnessing their full journey; the book doesn’t offer much in terms of character development. Jane, in particular, could have closure or a full-circle moment when it comes to her father’s death and her queer identity but after spending the first few chapters with her, Jean Chen Ho doesn’t return to Jane until the end and ultimately bypasses the opportunity. We learn a lot about Fiona through her relationships with others, but her identity as she sees it feels largely hidden. Despite the structure, the little moments of friendship that Jean Chen Ho captures are beautiful. It’ll be worth seeing how her work develops after this debut.

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!