Book Buzz: Chinese-History-Inspired Epic Fantasy, Unwitting Hitwomen, WWII-Era Cooking Contests, and Audiobooks Galore

Every month, we’re profiling new-ish releases that are getting critical and commercial buzz. For May, we’re looking at a fantasy series rooted in Chinese history, a funny cozy mystery with a bit of bite to it, a heartwarming tale set on the homefront during WWII, and a pair of very different audiobooks.

If you love fantasy:

R.F. Kuang’s Poppy Wars series (2018-2020)*

One of my goals for the blog has been to profile more fantasy/science fiction this year. It’s not a genre I am particularly well read in, so I’ve enjoyed trying to cover more works that are outside my wheelhouse. (More coming in June. 🙂 ) This trilogy, which recently wrapped up and is now optioned for a TV adaptation, really jumped out at me because of the way it blends epic military fantasy with 20th century Chinese history, particularly revolving around the Second Sino-Japanese War.

The series is the story of Rin, a war orphan who finds herself in her country’s elite military academy and possessing lethal shaman powers. Rin increasingly realizes that she has the ability to save her country from another horrible war, but at what cost to her own humanity?

This series was Kuang’s debut, and she has generated a lot of praise for her unique worldbuilding and complex, compelling characters, though be forewarned that the violence in the books is very realistic, brutal, and grim.

*Book 2 is also available as an ebook in Libby.

Recommended for those who enjoy the works of Ken Liu, S. A. Chakraborty, and N.K. Jemisin.

If you enjoy funny mysteries:

Elle Cosimano’s Finlay Donovan Is Killing It (2021)**

Finlay Donovan isn’t really killing it. On the contrary, her head is barely above water. She is a single parent who is struggling to take care of her kids and finish her suspense novel. She has lunch with her agent to hash out the plot of her book, but someone at a table overhears and assumes that Finlay is in the murder-for-hire business. Complications ensue, to put it mildly.

A sequel is already expected to be released next year.

**Ebook also available in Libby.

Recommended for those who enjoy the work of Maria Semple.

If you like heartwarming historical fiction:

Jennifer Ryan’s The Kitchen Front (2021)

During WWII in Britain, life at home is no picnic. Between the Blitz and rationing, it’s not easy to achieve any semblance of normalcy. A radio show on the BBC decides to approach the situation with a novel contest–a cooking contest but one that embraces the limits of rationing. The prize is the job of being the show’s first female cohost. Four very different women (a war widow, a servant, an upper class society wife, and a chef) enter the contest for very different reasons. The resulting contest is more Great British Baking Show than Hell’s Kitchen in tone, and the book should appeal to fans of both inspirational historical fiction and culinary fiction.

Recommended for those who enjoy the works of Jojo Moyes, Mary Ann Shaffer, and Rhys Bowen.

If you want audiobooks:

Ed Caesar’s The Moth and the Mountain (2020)

This unusual biography is the story of a peculiar man, one you probably have never heard of. (He was certainly new to me, and I like to think of myself as a history buff.) Maurice Wilson was an English WWI veteran haunted by his experiences during the war and unable to settle down afterward. In the early 1930s, battling depression and an unhappy love life, Maurice decides to be the first man to summit Everest. His plan for scaling the mountain is to crash a plane onto the lower slopes and then attempt his solo climb from there. You can imagine how that works for him, but his story is an endlessly fascinating one in its own right.

Recommended for those who enjoyed David Grann’s Lost City of Z.

Reunion Beach: Stories Inspired by Dorothea Benton Frank (2021)

When Dorothea Benton Frank passed away in 2019, she was planning to write a book entitled Reunion Beach. That was, sadly, not meant to be, but her friends and admirers in the literary world wanted to create a tribute to her. The result is this anthology, which features work from Elin Hilderbrand and Adriana Trigiani, among others, that pays tribute to Frank and her work, particularly her love of her native Lowcountry South Carolina.

Recommended for fans of Dorothea Benton Frank and/or the contributing authors.

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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