Book Bites: Our 2023 Preview
You know the old saying: New year, new precariously high TBR pile. We can help with that! New books bring new laughs, tears, comforts, twists, and aha moments — there's nothing better. Check out our round-up of some soon-to-be-released favorites we know will earn a treasured spot on your shelf. Whether you’re in the mood for a loving picture book, a coming-of-age story, a thriller, historical fiction, or more, you’ll find something to suit you in our list below. Happy reading!
My Baba's Garden by Jordan Scott; Sydney Smith
Every day, the boy gets dropped off at his Baba's house on the way to school. She makes him breakfast and walks him to school — the love is there in the words and on the page. One day, Baba moves in with the boy's family and he cares for her in return. A gorgeous ode to love between a grandparent and a grandchild.
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang
Lina Gao has been raised by her grandparents for the past five years after her parents left China for LA and took only her sister. Feeling a sense of loneliness, Lina asks to join her family in LA. It is only when she arrives that she realizes the life they talked about did not truly exist. As she tries to understand how her family has lived during their time apart, Lina must start school again, which makes her nervous as she is still learning English and fears judgment from her peers. While Lina is feeling many emotions, she does her best to keep them to herself, making it harder for her to enjoy being back with her family. Follow Lina on her journey as she learns to navigate the change alongside her friends and family.
Always the Almost by Edward Underhill
Sixteen-year-old trans boy Miles Jacobson wants to win back his ex-boyfriend and win a prestigious classical piano competition, but when Eric Mendez, a queer boy, moves to town, Miles reconsiders what he really wants. Engaging characters and a beautifully unfolding plot combine to make this a coming of age story full of joy.
My Father's House by Joseph O'Connor
Based on the true story of an Irish priest at the Vatican, this novel is a heart-racing literary World War II thriller. In Nazi-occupied Rome in 1943, Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty organized a choir in the Vatican -- a group of diplomats, citizens of neutral countries and local Italians who met regularly to sing, but primarily to organize fund-raising activities for a POW Escape Line. A series of taped interviews and prepared statements from these participants 20 years later along with a third-person narrative of events describe the Christmas Eve covert distribution of funds to various parties who helped escaped prisoners get out of the country. The author's ability to create a you-are-there feeling had me sitting on the edge of my chair, unable to put the book down. Recommended.
The Crane Husband by Kelly Barnhill
A girl (who is never named) takes on the management of her household and the bringing up of her young brother, Michael, as her Mother weaves and makes cheese. One day Mother welcomes a crane into the house and asks that they call him Father. Mother stops making cheese, selling her work, even eating, and disappears into her studio with the crane. As the family falls apart and the girl is visited by social services for truancy, she plans revenge against the crane. A dream-like retelling of a Japanese fairytale. I loved it.
The Blackhouse by Carole Johnstone
This novel is set in the Hebrides, where we face weather and more in these secretive islands. Maggie McKay has arrived to write a story about her past and that of the island. Robert Reid disappeared during a storm years ago, the same night the sweet young Lorne disappeared. This place holds so many secrets. Why are people following Maggie? They know that she was there as a wee child, when she claimed a man she'd never met had been murdered. Was it a fake? Who committed crimes?
Fall into the wind and figure out what Maggie tries to learn. You will not be able to put it down. The outcome is maybe what you guessed, but isn't that the fun?
In Memoriam by Alice Winn
Henry Gaunt and Sidney Ellwood are dear friends and roommates at their boarding school. It's 1914 and the Great War has begun. Gaunt's family asks him to enlist so that he can fight back against the anti-German sentiments they face, and he does so immediately to help his family and to escape his feelings for Ellwood. Ellwood rushes to join him at the front, followed by so many of their classmates. The story of Gaunt and Ellwood's friendship and love, told through prose as well as letters, dispatches from the front, and school papers, brings home the devastating cost of war — its humanity as well as its inhumanity. Simply gorgeous.
Exiles by Jane Harper
What mother leaves her six month old in a stroller alone at a crowded festival? That is the question that has plagued family and friends of Kim Gillespie for a year. Kim disappeared that night, never to be seen again, and those that knew her just don't understand how she could leave the baby unattended. The investigators never recovered a body, but it is presumed she jumped off of a ledge into the water below. A year later at the same festival, there is an appeal held, asking the crowd for help with details. Kim's daughter, Zara, is leading the quest for new information that would explain what happened to her mom. Aaron Faulk has returned to see his friends, the Racos, for the christening that didn't happen last year due to Kim's disappearance. When he starts to study the details of that night with fellow cop Greg Raco, something doesn't add up. Thrown in the middle of this mystery is an unsolved hit-and-run from five years ago and a few budding romances that may or may not go anywhere. So many moving parts that brilliantly come together in the end. Highest praise for another great book that only Jane Harper could write!
A Fever in the Heartland by Timothy Egan
Although this is primarily the story of one evil man who became very powerful in 1920s Indiana, it is also an exposé of the zeitgeist of the 1920s, a decade that saw Prohibition, a harsh new anti-immigration law, and a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in America's midwest. D.C. Stephenson was a con artist who became possibly the most powerful man in Indiana politics in the 1920s by attaching his personal charisma to the resurgent KKK movement and then buying judges, local politicians, police and even church leaders. As a Grand Dragon, the "Americanism" he preached was about the hatred of anyone who wasn't White, Anglo-Saxon, and Protestant. In his private life, Stephenson was a liar, a cheat, a wife-deserter, a lush, and a predator of women. One of his attempted conquests was Madge Oberholtzer. Stephenson's brutal physical attack on Oberholtzer eventually led to his arrest for murder, followed by a trial that revealed Stephenson's true character to the public. Whether or not this revelation led to the subsequent weakening of the Klan's hold on the minds of Indiana's population, it destroyed Stephenson's control of Indiana politics. Recommended especially to those interested in early 20th century U.S. history.