Monday, July 13, 2020

The Library of Legends takes place in 1937 China as the Japanese bomb the city of Nanking. The story follows 19-year-old Hu Lian, a student evacuating with her classmates from Minghua University. She and over 100 students and staff must flee to the Western regions of China to safety, all while transporting a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends.

Along the way, Lian gets to know her classmate Shao and a maidservant that has been with him since childhood, Sparrow. Lian is also worried for her mother, whom was forced to flee to Shanghai and must wait for a letter from her before the school will let her travel to Shanghai to find her. Many things happen along the journey, notably, Lian is forced to spy for a teacher due to a secret from her past.
However, the biggest surprise is that Lian find herself in the center of a legend unfolding before her eyes.
This book was very interesting. I really enjoyed watching the legend unfold and learning about this aspect of history. My only criticism would be that the characters felt a bit under-developed at times, and everyone was so in love with Shao despite his many flaws. Ultimately, I do think this is a read that many will enjoy. I also learned that it is loosely connected with Chang's two other books so it might benefit readers to read them together. I would like to go back and read the other two to better see the connections. 

Reviewed by Publicity Librarian, Megan Bryant

Rating: ★★★ (3.5)

Read-alikes: The Paris Hours by Alex George; Beach Read by Emily Henry; A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight; Things in Jars by Jess Kidd; The Guest List by Lucy Foley; The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

Set in 1997, Writers & Lovers tells the story of Casey Peabody, a 31-year-old, struggling writer, working on her first novel. The story begins with her living in the the garden-shed-turned-apartment of her brother's friend. Casey is grieving from the sudden death of her mother, a few months before, and heartbreak from an unexpected romance gone sour.

Much of the beauty of this novel is found in the combination of the ordinary and the literary. Casey lives in Massachusetts and works as a waitress so much of the novel takes place in the restaurant or in literary settings with other writers that she knows. Casey soon finds herself in a love triangle with an older well-known author and a struggling writer she believes is just like all the other heartbreakers she has dated.

While the love triangle of this book ends up being really sweet, the novel is ultimately about Casey's experience and process as a writer and her struggling with her grief. The novel explores themes of grief and loss, love, finding one's identity, pursuing dreams, dealing with anxiety, and feminism.

I loved this novel and would highly recommend it! The ending is triumphant and gives readers the happy ending they are hoping for. This book is also brimming with literary references, and Lily King does an amazing job creating beautiful settings. Five stars!

Reviewed by Publicity Librarian, Megan Bryant
Rating: ★★★★★

Read-alikes: The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel; Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson; Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid; The Dutch House by Ann Patchett; Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano; Long Bright River by Liz Moore; A Good Neighbor by Therese Anne Fowler; All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

The Glass Hotel centers on an evening in which a message is scrawled in the lobby of the glass wall of Hotel Caiette, a five-star lodging on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island, where brother and sister Paul and Vincent are working. That night, Vincent meets Jonathan Alkaitis, and her world changes forever - and reaches a tipping point when she learns a few years later that Alkaitis has been orchestrating a Ponzi scheme. This novel explores the broadness of human connect, addiction, how people can disappear into roles and what they will do for appearance, love and loss, and more.

I can only describe this book as captivating. Mandel does an excellent job of both developing her characters and creating exquisite scenes. The descriptions of the Hotel Caiette are beautiful. Told from multiple, shifting perspectives, the characters are flawed but so easy to become invested in, making readers want the best for them even if they clearly do not want the best for themselves. This is a story that is heartbreaking and totally worth the read.

Reviewed by Publicity Librarian, Megan Bryant.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Read-alikes: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel; Dead Astronauts by Jeff VanderMeer; Writers & Lovers by Lily King; Life After Life Kate Atkinson; The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

On the way home, the school bus breaks down…..the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind on the bus: "Best get moving. At nightfall they'll come for the rest of you." Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when a broken digital wristwatch begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. The classmates heed the bus driver's warning, heading out into the woods--bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them--the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for the friends: "Avoid large places. Keep to the small."

I liked that Small Spaces is an eerie book that combines the familiar world of riding the school bus with the terrifying answer of what is hiding in the dark. This is the perfect creepy read for a rainy day.

Reviewed by Librarian, Mary Lynn Saxton.
Rating: ★★★★★

Read-alikes: City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab; Nightbooks by J. A. White; The Mothman's Curse by Christine Hayes; Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee; The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman; Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

One Second After by William R. Forstchen

This survival story finds John Matherson and his small North Carolina community dealing with the aftereffects of an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) strike against America. All electronics have been wiped out, which means: cars stopped on the roads; electricity is down; running water is out after a day or two; cell phones and internet are down. Of course, during the first day, they don't know all this; they only know that nothing is working! Eventually for the town, the worst is not knowing what is going on or how long it will last. The worst for John, though, is his fear for his beloved youngest daughter who has juvenile diabetes... and her insulin supply is running out.

This book raises a lot of questions about our current society and how we are so dependent on our creature comforts... if our technological infrastructure falls apart, can we rediscover how to clean water, grow food, and care for common injuries? Some of the lessons learned in this book apply to our current pandemic situation even. This includes some social lessons: some people who were formerly low on the totem pole, like hippies and survivalists, are suddenly very popular and in high demand! Even the librarians who find a stash of 1800s literature--in print--on the invention of electricity become local heroes too.

Reviewed by Library Assistant, Denise Fudge.
Rating: ★★★★★

Read-alikes: Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank; The Passage by Justin Cronin; The Dog Stars by Peter Heller; Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry; The Remaining by D. J. Molles; Wool by Hugh Howey; The Sunrise Lands by S. M. Stirling.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple


What would you do if your mother suddenly went missing? For 8th grade Bee, this question becomes a reality when her eccentric and erratic mother, Bernadette Fox vanishes without a trace - and right before their family trip to Antarctica! Told through a compilation of emails, official documents, and secret correspondence, Bee investigates her mother's disappearance and learns about her past as a genius architect along the way.

Readers will have so much fun with this book! Bernadette is quirky, determined, and true to herself. While Bernadette is definitely a flawed character and that can lead to some long-winded and frustrating sections of the book, the ending more than makes up for it. I would recommend both the book and the movie but definitely read the book first!

Reviewed by Publicity Librarian, Megan Bryant.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Read-alikes: Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter; The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin; The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion; Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng; Life After Life by Kate Atkinson; Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn; Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty; The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt; Commonwealth by Ann Patchett; Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple.

Friday, March 20, 2020

There are some days that are such a disaster that you beg for a do-over. What if you got the chance? Would you believe that it was really happening? What would you do different if you could? High-school student Elllison Sparks is given that chance for a do-over. Now she needs to do it right! Read this fun Young Adult Book by Jessica Brody, available at Rowlett Public Library as a book or eBook.

This is an extremely entertaining story with fun twists and makes for a great read for fans of time travel! You can also check out our Blind Date with a Book post on Facebook for more read-alikes.

Reviewed by Librarian, Mary Lynn Saxton.
Rating ★★★★★

Read-alikes: To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han, 100 Days by Nicole McInnes, Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, Nemesis by Anna Banks, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey, Zeroes by Scott Westerfield, Between the Notes by Sarah Huss Roat, The Underdogs by Sara Hammel, My Name Is Not Friday by Jon Walter, Once and For All by Sarah Dessen, I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.