Book Buzz: Romantic Fiddlers, Murderbots, and Appalachian Memoirs

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For October, we’re looking at historical fiction set in Civil War and Reconstruction-era Texas, an intriguing science fiction series, and a meditative memoir about rural Kentucky.

Paulette Jiles’s Simon the Fiddler (2020)

Ever since Paulette Jiles was suggested to me as an author to try, I’ve kept an eye out for new books from her. Her books Enemy Women and News of the World have cemented her as one of my favorite historical fiction writers working today. I love how she blends historical realism with lyrical prose and complex, engaging characters. Simon the Fiddler is the story of a minor character from News of the World, and this book focuses on his life story as an itinerant musician in Civil War-era Texas and his love for an Irish governess.

Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Anthony Doerr, Charles Frazier, and Philipp Meyer.

Cassie Chambers’s Hill Women (2020)

A few years ago, it seemed like everyone was reading or talking about J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy. Vance’s book certainly was an interesting, thought-provoking one. It’s part memoir of growing up poor in Ohio as refugees from Kentucky coal country and becoming a West Coast lawyer with an Ivy League degree and part sociological examination of Appalachian culture. Still, I must confess (as someone originally from Appalachia), I had a pretty serious problem with the self-appointed voice of Appalachia being someone who was not actually raised in the region and who chose to flee even farther from it as soon as possible, especially since I found some of his conclusions and recommendations out of touch with the reality of life there. That’s not to say that Vance’s perspective (and life choices) are not valid or that he didn’t raise some good points in his book, but I will admit that I did bristle at the way he was subsequently regarded as the voice of Appalachia rather than just a voice from there.

All of that is preamble to say that I think Cassie Chambers’s memoir addresses some of the issues I had with Vance’s. Like Vance, Chambers grew up in poverty but eventually graduated from an Ivy League law school. Unlike Vance, Chambers was raised in the rural Kentucky hollers that Vance’s family had left behind before he was born, and she returned home to those hollers to practice law. Chambers’s memoir is, like Vance’s, just as much a family memoir as a personal one, but she grounds it in the experiences of the women in her family–especially her mother and grandmother–and the experiences of the women she helps in her work as an attorney.

Recommended for those who enjoy the work of J.D. Vance and Beth Macy.

Martha Wells’s The Murderbots Diaries series (2017-present)*

We’ve been making a concentrated effort to expand our contemporary science fiction collection at the library, so we were excited to add this new series to the collection. The story of Murderbot is both thought-provoking and full of adventure. Murderbot is the protagonist–an antisocial robot who has hacked its own controls to gain independence. After freeing itself, Murderbot really just wants to be left alone to watch TV, but that’s never going to happen. Complications (including unwanted friendships with humans) ensue.

We have the first 5 books in the series. Book 6 is slated for a 2021 release.

Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Megan Whalen Turner and Ann Leckie.

*The first book of the series is also available as an ebook in Libby.

What’s your favorite new-ish books? What books are you buzzing about these days? Have you read any of these books? Tell us in the comments! As always, please follow this link to our online library catalog for more information on any of these items or to place them on hold.

Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

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