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Karen's Picks

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Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea By Rita Chang-Eppig Cover Image
ISBN: 9781639730377
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - May 30th, 2023

I picked this up looking for swashbuckling historical fiction with a badass heroine, and ended up finding a far deeper story. Shek Yeung takes the trauma inflicted upon her, twists it to her will, and commands a fleet of pirate ships stalked by anti-piracy forces and Western imperialism. If you’re a fan of ship battles and swordfighting, there’s plenty here for you to sink your teeth into. But this is first and foremost the story of a woman in the South China Seas amassing power while straddling the line between not enough and too much, battling society’s views of women both on and off a pirate ship, and facing her own demons as she attempts to survive pirating and motherhood. Chang-Eppig did her research. The blend of Chinese mythology with real Qing dynasty history, and the constant threat of European navies’ thirst for power and riches is fascinating. But Shek Yeung as a protagonist doesn’t pull a punch or stay her blade. She’s a pirate–bloodthirsty, brutal, cutthroat, even shockingly violent at times. Chang-Eppig embraces many harsh realities of piracy in her prose. There are no song and dance numbers in this one, no Yo-Ho-Ho’s. Instead you’ll find women who live with a ferocity that leaps off the pages, who have plenty of flaws, but draw you to them and their stories like a castaway is drawn to a drifting ship’s lone lantern in the fog.

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The Jules Verne Prophecy By Larry Schwarz, Iva-Marie Palmer Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316349819
Availability: Coming Soon - Available for Pre-Order Now
Published: Christy Ottaviano Books - June 27th, 2023

When Owen Godfrey’s mom takes him across the Atlantic for the summer, her son skateboarding through the streets of Paris, finding ciphers, symbols, and maps that lead to a potential treasure, getting into trouble, and almost dying isn’t what she has in mind. But when he and his new friends from the old science fiction writer Jules Verne course he’s enrolled in find a dusty old book in a mysterious library, they’re sent on a treasure hunting adventure by Jules Verne himself from beyond the grave. Owen, Rose, and Nas are an unlikely trio of adventurers, reluctant heroes, and above all, big Jules Verne book nerds. This book was funny, engaging, and kind, and the action was exciting and fast-paced. Let Schwarz and Palmer sweep you into an action-filled adventure on skateboards, hot-air balloons, boats…and maybe even a submarine! This was extra fun for me because I’m a huge Jules Verne nerd, but you don’t have to know who Verne is to get pulled onto this action-packed adventure through the streets, skies, and catacombs of Paris. Just don’t forget to bring your pointy-toed green slippers!

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The Adventures of Amina al-Sirafi: A new fantasy series set a thousand years before The City of Brass By Shannon Chakraborty Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062963505
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Voyager - February 28th, 2023

Let me introduce you to Amina al-Sirafi, Muslim woman pirate, captain of her own ship and crew, feared across the region for her ruthlessness and cunning…retired. And then the mother of a past crewmate shows up at the doorstep of Amina’s home with a proposition: rescue her granddaughter who’s been kidnapped by a dastardly Frankish sorcerer…or her own daughter will be in danger. Captain al-Sirafi and her aging crew pulled from their own retirements embark on yet another–and perhaps their last–adventure. Before the Barbarossa brothers in the Mediterranean, before Blackbeard in the Caribbean, Chakraborty gives us rip-roaring action that rivals swashbuckler novels of old, a witty chaos-loving demon Amina can’t seem get rid of, and a heist for the ages, all in the underutilized setting of the Indian Ocean during the Islamic Golden Age. Their rescue mission becomes a heist, and the characters you meet along the way are charming, entertaining, and ripe with dimensions. Amina al-Sirafi’s narration is laugh-out-loud funny, brash, and brimming with heart as she tells the tale of poisoners, assassins, demons, and thieves. This is a pirate adventure of the highest order at a time when we really need some good pirate stories.

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Demon Copperhead: A Pulitzer Prize Winner By Barbara Kingsolver Cover Image
ISBN: 9780063251922
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Published: Harper - October 18th, 2022

It’s hard to find words to describe how much of a masterpiece this is. But I’ll try. Kingsolver based this book off of the Dickens classic David Copperfield, but instead of Victorian England, she sticks you in the thick of the opioid epidemic in Virginia’s Appalachian mountains. We follow the unwanted and oft abused Damon from harsh trailer park life into even harsher foster homes as he bounces around, mistreated, used, ignored, doing his best to be invisible so no one notices he’s hungry and dirty. Through it all his gritty resilience and laugh out loud wit makes you love this young boy harder than you ever thought you could love a fictional character, so much you’ll want to protect him and all his preciousness–his passion for drawing comics, his ability to love despite everything, and his fight. Finally, someone has given this part of the country the respect its beautiful lands and people deserve. Kingsolver tells the story of their long exploitation, and she tells it not with condescension or derision, but with much-needed care. This is the best novel of 2022, and no other books even come close.

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The Hacienda By Isabel Cañas Cover Image
ISBN: 9780593436691
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Berkley - May 3rd, 2022

Gothic horror, vengeful ghosts, history, folkloric occult themes, forbidden romance, and a super hot priest? Already on board. But then The Hacienda also delivers on superb atmospheric writing, a bevy of multi-layered and powerful characters, and a house that becomes more than merely a setting. After her insurgent father is killed in the war, Beatriz takes control of her own fate by agreeing to marry the rich royalist Don Rodolfo Solórzano, ignoring whisperings of his late wife’s mysterious demise. But as she settles into her new life as matron of the hacienda San Isidro, it becomes frighteningly apparent that the hacienda doesn’t want her there, and it’s willing to do whatever it takes to get rid of her. Cañas suspends her readers in a crucial time in Mexico’s history, right after the Mexican War of Independence, and she uses this remote very haunted house and the people moving through it–both alive and dead–to symbolize the war and the terror it wreaked, even as it masterfully presents for us the most horrific and long-lasting of ghosts: colonialism. Powerful, arresting, and seriously scary, it’s a feast perfect for fans of Daphne du Maurier and Guillermo del Toro. Buen Provecho.