Cold-Weather Novels

Since Davenport is right in the middle of the Midwest, cold weather is basically a given. While I enjoy snow, ice, and winter in general, I know others who would much rather only read about winter or watch snowy scenes on television. To satisfy all types of winter people, I wanted to look at what cold-weather novels the Davenport Public Library owns. For this blog, I have focused on thrillers, mysteries, and horror titles.

Below I have gathered some cold-weather novels that were published in 2023 and 2022 AND that we haven’t talked about on the blog before. All the titles below are, as of this publication, owned by the Davenport Public Library. This is only a brief glimpse of the cold-weather novels we own, so feel free to ask in the comments for more! Descriptions have been provided by the publishers or authors.

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Dead of Winter by Darcy Coates

When Christa joins a tour group heading deep into the snowy expanse of the Rocky Mountains, she’s hopeful this will be her chance to put the ghosts of her past to rest. But when a bitterly cold snowstorm sweeps the region, the small group is forced to take shelter in an abandoned hunting cabin. Despite the uncomfortably claustrophobic quarters and rapidly dropping temperature, Christa believes they’ll be safe as they wait out the storm.

She couldn’t be more wrong.

Deep in the night, their tour guide goes missing…only to be discovered the following morning, his severed head impaled on a tree outside the cabin. Terrified, and completely isolated by the storm, Christa finds herself trapped with eight total strangers. One of them kills for sport…and they’re far from finished. As the storm grows more dangerous and the number of survivors dwindles one by one, Christa must decide who she can trust before this frozen mountain becomes her tomb. – Provided by Darcy Coates

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The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

A young author is invited to an exclusive writer’s retreat that soon descends into a pulse-pounding nightmare—in the vein of The Plot and Please Join Us.

Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she must discover the truth—or suffer the same fate. – Provided by Simon & Schuster

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City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita

A stranded detective tries to solve a murder in a tiny Alaskan town where everyone lives in a single high-rise building, in this gripping debut by an Academy Award–nominated screenwriter.

When a local teenager discovers a severed hand and foot washed up on the shore of the small town of Point Mettier, Alaska, Cara Kennedy is on the case. A detective from Anchorage, she has her own motives for investigating the possible murder in this isolated place, which can be accessed only by a tunnel.

After a blizzard causes the tunnel to close indefinitely, Cara is stuck among the odd and suspicious residents of the town—all 205 of whom live in the same high-rise building and are as icy as the weather. Cara teams up with Point Mettier police officer Joe Barkowski, but before long the investigation is upended by fearsome gang members from a nearby native village.

Haunted by her past, Cara soon discovers that everyone in this town has something to hide. Will she be able to unravel their secrets before she unravels? – Provided by Penguin Random House

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The Drift by C.J. Tudor

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. After she was evacuated from a secluded boarding school during a snowstorm, her coach careered off the road, trapping her with a handful of survivors. They’ll need to work together to escape—with their sanity and secrets intact.

Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She’s in a cable car stranded high above snowy mountains, with five strangers and no memory of how they got on board. They are heading to a place known only as “The Retreat,” but as the temperature drops and tensions mount, Meg realizes they may not all make it there alive.

Carter is gazing out the window of an isolated ski chalet that he and his companions call home. As their generator begins to waver in the storm, something hiding in the chalet’s depths threatens to escape, and their fragile bonds will be tested when the power finally fails—for good.

The imminent dangers faced by Hannah, Meg, and Carter are each one part of the puzzle. Lurking in their shadows is an even greater danger—one with the power to consume all of humanity. – Provided by Penguin Random House

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Ascension by Nicholas Binge

A mind-bending speculative thriller in which the sudden appearance of a mountain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean leads a group of scientists to a series of revelations that challenge the notion of what it means to be human

The only way out is up. . .

An enormous snow-covered mountain has appeared in the Pacific Ocean. No one knows when exactly it showed up, precisely how big it might be, or how to explain its existence. When Harold Tunmore is contacted by a shadowy organization to help investigate, he has no idea what he is getting into as he and his team set out for the mountain.

The higher Harold’s team ascends, the less things make sense. Time moves differently, turning minutes into hours, and hours into days. Amid the whipping cold of higher elevation, the climbers’ limbs numb and memories of their lives before the mountain begin to fade. Paranoia quickly turns to violence among the crew, and slithering, ancient creatures pursue them in the snow. Still, as the dangers increase, the mystery of the mountain compels them to its peak, where they are certain they will find their answers. Have they stumbled upon the greatest scientific discovery known to man or the seeds of their own demise?

Framed by the discovery of Harold Tunmore’s unsent letters to his family and the chilling and provocative story they tell, Ascension considers the limitations of science and faith and examines both the beautiful and the unsettling sides of human nature. – Provided by Penguin Random House

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Cold-Weather Books Published in 2022:

Breathless by Amy McCulloch

Leech by Hiron Ennes

Echo by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Hidden in Snow by Viveca Sten

December’s Celebrity Book Club Picks

It’s a new month which means that Jenna Bush Hager and Reese Witherspoon have picked new books for their book clubs! Reminder that if you join Simply Held, these titles will automatically be put on hold for you.

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Jenna Bush Hager has selected We Must Not Think of Ourselves by Lauren Grodstein for her December pick.

Curious what We Must Not Think of Ourselves is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

On a November day in 1940, Adam Paskow becomes a prisoner in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Jews of the city are cut off from their former lives and held captive by Nazi guards to await an uncertain fate. Weeks later, he is approached by a mysterious figure with a surprising request: Would he join a secret group of archivists working to preserve the truth of what is happening inside these walls?

Adam agrees and begins taking testimonies from his students, friends, and neighbors. He learns about their childhoods and their daydreams, their passions and their fears, their desperate strategies for safety and survival. The stories form a portrait of endurance in a world where no choices are good ones.

One of the people Adam interviews is his flatmate Sala Wiskoff, who is stoic, determined, and funny—and married with two children. Over the months of their confinement, in the presence of her family, Adam and Sala fall in love. As they desperately carve out intimacy, their relationship feels both impossible and vital, their connection keeping them alive.

But when Adam discovers a possible escape from the Ghetto, he is faced with an unbearable choice: whom can he save, and at what cost ?

Inspired by the testimony-gathering project with the code name Oneg Shabbat, New York Times bestselling author Lauren Grodstein draws readers into the lives of people living on the edge. Told with immediacy and heart, We Must Not Think of Ourselves is a piercing story of love, determination, and sacrifice. – Algonquin Books

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Reese Witherspoon has selected Before We Were Innocent by Ella Berman for her December pick.

Curious what Before We Were Innocent is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

A summer in Greece for three best friends ends in the unthinkable when only two return home. . . .

Ten years ago, after a sun-soaked summer spent in Greece, best friends Bess and Joni were cleared of having any involvement in their friend Evangeline’s death. But that didn’t stop the media from ripping apart their teenage lives like vultures.

While the girls were never convicted, Joni, ever the opportunist, capitalized on her newfound infamy to become a motivational speaker. Bess, on the other hand, resolved to make her life as small and controlled as possible so she wouldn’t risk losing everything all over again. And it almost worked. . . .

Except now Joni needs a favor, and when she turns up at her old friend’s doorstep asking for an alibi, Bess has no choice but to say yes. She still owes her. But as the two friends try desperately to shake off their past, they have to face reality.

Can you ever be an innocent woman when everyone wants you to be guilty? – Penguin Random House

This title is also available as a Libby eBook and in large print.

Join Simply Held to have Oprah, Jenna, and Reese’s adult selections automatically put on hold for you!

Need to finish your reading goal? Try these short books!

As it nears the end of 2023, the pressure is mounting for those of us who set lofty reading goals at the beginning of the year. Do you need to finish your reading goal, but you’re worried you might not make it? As someone who always believes that she can read more books than she usually has time for, I frequently find myself reaching for short books to hit my goal at the end of the year. Since I was looking for short books for myself, I figured making a list to share would be beneficial for all.

Many more short books can be found at the library, but I focused on titles owned by the Davenport Public Library that were published from 2021 to 2023. Below is a list of fiction and nonfiction titles that have less than 200 pages. The descriptions are provided by the publisher. Want more suggestions or have a favorite short book? Drop a comment below.

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Fiction:

The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson

New York Times bestselling author Peter Swanson pens a spectacularly spine-chilling novella in which an American art student in London is invited to join a classmate for the holidays at Starvewood Hall, her family’s Cotswold manor house. But behind the holly and pine boughs, secrets are about to unravel, revealing this seemingly charming English village’s grim history.

Ashley Smith, an American art student in London for her junior year, was planning on spending Christmas alone, but a last-minute invitation from fellow student Emma Chapman brings her to Starvewood Hall, country residence of the Chapman family. The Cotswold manor house, festooned in pine boughs and crammed with guests for Christmas week, is a dream come true for Ashley. She is mesmerized by the cozy, firelit house, the large family, and the charming village of Clevemoor, but also by Adam Chapman, Emma’s aloof and handsome brother.

But Adam is being investigated by the local police over the recent brutal slaying of a girl from the village, and there is a mysterious stranger who haunts the woodland path between Starvewood Hall and the local pub. Ashley begins to wonder what kind of story she is actually inhabiting. Is she in a grand romance? A gothic tale? Or has she wandered into something far more sinister and terrifying than she’d ever imagined?

Over thirty years later the events of that horrific week are revisited, along with a diary from that time. What began in a small English village in 1989 reaches its ghostly conclusion in modern-day New York, many Christmas seasons later. – William Morrow

This title is 96 pages.

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Blue Hour by Tiffany Clarke Harrison

What is motherhood in the midst of uncertainty, buried trauma, and an unraveling America? What it’s always been—a love song.

Our narrator is a gifted photographer, an uncertain wife, an infertile mother, a biracial woman in an unraveling America. As she grapples with a lifetime of ambivalence about motherhood, yet another act of police brutality makes headlines, and this time the victim is Noah, a boy in her photography class. Unmoored by the grief of a recent devastating miscarriage and Noah’s fight for his life, she worries she can no longer chase the hope of having a child, no longer wants to bring a Black body into the world. Yet her husband Asher—contributing white, Jewish genes alongside her Black-Japanese ones for any potential child—is just as desperate to keep trying.

Throwing herself into a new documentary on motherhood, and making secret visits to Noah in the hospital, this when she learns she is, impossibly, pregnant. As the future shifts once again, she must decide yet again what she dares hope for the shape of her future to be. Fearless, timely, blazing with voice, Blue Hour is a fragmentary novel with unignorable storytelling power. – Soft Skull Press

This title is 140 pages.

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Thornhedge by T. Kingfisher

There’s a princess trapped in a tower. This isn’t her story.

Meet Toadling. On the day of her birth, she was stolen from her family by the fairies, but she grew up safe and loved in the warm waters of faerieland. Once an adult though, the fae ask a favor of Toadling: return to the human world and offer a blessing of protection to a newborn child. Simple, right?

But nothing with fairies is ever simple.

Centuries later, a knight approaches a towering wall of brambles, where the thorns are as thick as your arm and as sharp as swords. He’s heard there’s a curse here that needs breaking, but it’s a curse Toadling will do anything to uphold… – Tor Books, imprint of MacMillan Publishers

This title is 116 pages.

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If An Egyptian Cannot Speak English by Noor Naga

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, an Egyptian American woman and a man from the village of Shobrakheit meet at a café in Cairo. He was a photographer of the revolution, but now finds himself unemployed and addicted to cocaine, living in a rooftop shack. She is a nostalgic daughter of immigrants “returning” to a country she’s never been to before, teaching English and living in a light-filled flat with balconies on all sides. They fall in love and he moves in. But soon their desire—for one another, for the selves they want to become through the other—takes a violent turn that neither of them expected.

A dark romance exposing the gaps in American identity politics, especially when exported overseas, If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English is at once ravishing and wry, scathing and tender. Told in alternating perspectives, Noor Naga’s experimental debut examines the ethics of fetishizing the homeland and punishing the beloved . . . and vice versa. In our globalized twenty-first-century world, what are the new faces (and races) of empire? When the revolution fails, how long can someone survive the disappointment? Who suffers and, more crucially, who gets to tell about it? – Graywolf Press

This title is 186 pages.

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And Then I Woke Up by Malcolm Devlin

In the tradition of Mira Grant and Stephen Graham Jones, Malcolm Devlin’s And Then I Woke Up is a creepy, layered, literary story about false narratives and their ability to divide us.

In a world reeling from an unusual plague, monsters lurk in the streets while terrified survivors arm themselves and roam the countryside in packs. Or perhaps something very different is happening. When a disease affects how reality is perceived, it’s hard to be certain of anything…

Spence is one of the “cured” living at the Ironside rehabilitation facility. Haunted by guilt, he refuses to face the changed world until a new inmate challenges him to help her find her old crew. But if he can’t tell the truth from the lies, how will he know if he has earned the redemption he dreams of? How will he know he hasn’t just made things worse? – Tordotcom, imprint of MacMillan Publishers

This title is 167 pages.

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Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

In a crowded London pub, two young people meet. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists—he a photographer, she a dancer—and both are trying to make their mark in a world that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence, and over the course of a year they find their relationship tested by forces beyond their control.

Narrated with deep intimacy, Open Water is at once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity that asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body; to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength; to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, and blistering emotional intelligence, Caleb Azumah Nelson gives a profoundly sensitive portrait of romantic love in all its feverish waves and comforting beauty.

This is one of the most essential debut novels of recent years, heralding the arrival of a stellar and prodigious young talent. – Black Cat, imprint of Grove Atlantic

This title is 166 pages.

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Assembly by Natasha Brown

Come of age in the credit crunch. Be civil in a hostile environment. Go to college, get an education, start a career. Do all the right things. Buy an apartment. Buy art. Buy a sort of happiness. But above all, keep your head down. Keep quiet. And keep going.

The narrator of Assembly is a black British woman. She is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate, set deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself. As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?

Assembly is a story about the stories we live within – those of race and class, safety and freedom, winners and losers.And it is about one woman daring to take control of her own story, even at the cost of her life. With a steely, unfaltering gaze, Natasha Brown dismantles the mythology of whiteness, lining up the debris in a neat row and walking away. – Little, Brown and Company

This title is 106 pages.

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Nonfiction:

This Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor

Humans are a varied and divergent bunch with all manner of beliefs, morals, and bodies. Systems of oppression thrive off our inability to make peace with difference and injure the relationship we have with our own bodies.

The Body Is Not an Apology offers radical self-love as the balm to heal the wounds inflicted by these violent systems. World-renowned activist and poet Sonya Renee Taylor invites us to reconnect with the radical origins of our minds and bodies and celebrate our collective, enduring strength. As we awaken to our own indoctrinated body shame, we feel inspired to awaken others and to interrupt the systems that perpetuate body shame and oppression against all bodies. When we act from this truth on a global scale, we usher in the transformative opportunity of radical self-love, which is the opportunity for a more just, equitable, and compassionate world–for us all. – Berett-Koehler Publishers

This title is 159 pages.

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The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende

“When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating,” begins Isabel Allende. As a child, she watched her mother, abandoned by her husband, provide for her three small children without “resources or voice.” Isabel became a fierce and defiant little girl, determined to fight for the life her mother couldn’t have.

As a young woman coming of age in the late 1960s, she rode the second wave of feminism. Among a tribe of like-minded female journalists, Allende for the first time felt comfortable in her own skin, as they wrote “with a knife between our teeth” about women’s issues. She has seen what the movement has accomplished in the course of her lifetime. And over the course of three passionate marriages, she has learned how to grow as a woman while having a partner, when to step away, and the rewards of embracing one’s sexuality.

So what feeds the soul of feminists—and all women—today? To be safe, to be valued, to live in peace, to have their own resources, to be connected, to have control over our bodies and lives, and above all, to be loved. On all these fronts, there is much work yet to be done, and this book, Allende hopes, will “light the torches of our daughters and granddaughters with mine. They will have to live for us, as we lived for our mothers, and carry on with the work still left to be finished.” – Ballantine Books

This title is 174 pages.

Online Reading Challenge – December

Welcome Readers!

This month the Online Reading Challenge travels to Cuba. Our Main title for December is Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. Here’s a quick summary from the publisher.

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity—and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution…

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest—until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary…

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage. – Penguin Random House

This title is also available in large print, Libby eBook, and Libby eAudiobook.

Next Year in Havana is the first book in the Cuba Saga by Chanel Cleeton.

  1. Next Year in Havana (2018)
  2. When We Left Cuba (2019)
  3. The Last Train to Key West (2020)
  4. The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba (2021)
  5. Our Last Days in Barcelona (2022)
  6. The Cuban Heiress (2023)

As always, check each of our locations for displays with lots more titles to choose from!

Online Reading Challenge – November Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Challenge Readers!

How did your reading go this month? Did you read something set in Africa that you enjoyed? Share in the comments!

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”
― Yaa Gyasi, Homegoing

I read our main title: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. This is a multigenerational saga that spans countries and centuries. Two half-sisters are born in eighteenth-century Ghana in different villages. The kicker: they don’t know the other exists. One sister, Effia, marries an English slave trader, moves into Cape Coast Castle, and lives a life of comfort and somewhat peace. She raises half-caste children with her white husband. The other sister, Esi, is captured in a raid on her village, imprisoned in the dungeons of Cape Coast Castle, sold into slavery, and shipped off on a boat. She ends up in America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery.

This book follows Effia and Esi’s descendants through eight generations. It discusses slavery in the past all the way through to racism in the present. One thread loops through Ghana with Effia’s family. Another thread travels America with Esi’s family. Readers switch back and forth between each woman’s descendants to learn how past actions influence their futures.

Gyasi’s debut novel was absolutely breathtaking. I listened to the audiobook and wished that I would have had access to the family tree that was in the front of the print book. If you decide to give this book a listen, Knopf Double Day has a copy of the family tree online that you can use. As I was reading, I was amazed that this was the author’s debut novel! Homegoing was beautifully written and tore at my heart as it introduced characters with heartbreaking stories of loss, danger, and love. Gyasi does a wonderful job of telling the accounts of a family and how their bodies are affected by events/people/places out of their control, while also being sensitive to their souls.

In December, we’re headed to Cuba!

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center

“Every real human interaction is made up of a million tiny moving pieces. Not a simple one-note situation: a symphony of cues to read and decipher and evaluate and pay attention.”
― Katherine Center, Hello Stranger

Sadie Montgomery has spent her life struggling. Determined to not need anything from her father, she decided not to study medicine and became an artist instead! She has had her share of ups and downs, but it looks like her life may finally be on the upswing. Sadie has just learned that she is a finalist in the North American Portrait Society competition with a prize of $10,000. This competition has the opportunity to publicize her work more and hopefully bring more commissions her way.

Everything’s great, right?! Wrong. Her joy is shattered when she learns that she needs to have surgery right now. The surgery will be minor and she will only need to stay in the hospital for less than a week. In the midst of recovery though, Sadie discovers that the surgery has altered her ability to paint portraits in a big way: she can no longer see faces. Sadie has prosopagnosia, also known as face blindness. This should hopefully be temporary, but the doctors can’t give her any definitive answers. This is the worst news a portrait artist could receive.

Sadie is devastated. Her new reality consists of avoiding looking at faces or seeing a disconnected jumble of facial features every time she looks at a person’s face. Her life just can’t seem to go right. She still wants to be an artist, her family is going through some extra messy drama, and Peanut, her dog, is now sick! In the midst of this madness, Sadie also may have met the man of her dreams. Actually, she may have met TWO men of her dreams. What is she to do? With her perceptions screwed up, Sadie walks through life slowly, wanting to make sure she knows who she is talking to without having to tell everyone she meets that she is face blind. Her journey to acceptance is rough, but at least she has these men, and Peanut, to distract her. Right?!

This title is also available as a Libby eBook, Libby eAudiobook, large print, CD audiobook, and Playaway audiobook.

“We’re all just doing the best we can. We’re all struggling with our struggles. Nobody has the answers. And everybody, deep down, is a little bit lost.”
― Katherine Center, Hello Stranger

New Contemporary Novels with a Twist!

When I was shelving new books last week, I noticed a new subgenre of contemporary novels with a twist. These books are ones that have contemporary settings, but have unusual/strange/peculiar premises. Fascinated by this, I started hunting for even more and came up with the following list.

Below I have gathered contemporary novels that were released in 2023. All descriptions have been provided by the publisher and/or author.

Ripe by Sarah Rose Etter

A year into her dream job at a cutthroat Silicon Valley start-up, Cassie finds herself trapped in a corporate nightmare. Between the long hours, toxic bosses, and unethical projects, she also struggles to reconcile the glittering promise of a city where obscene wealth lives alongside abject poverty and suffering. Ivy League grads complain about the snack selection from a conference room with a view of unhoused people bathing in the bay. Start-up burnouts leap into the paths of commuter trains, and men literally set themselves on fire in the streets.

Though isolated, Cassie is never alone. From her earliest memory, a miniature black hole has been her constant companion. It feeds on her depression and anxiety, growing or shrinking in relation to her distress. The black hole watches, but it also waits. Its relentless pull draws Cassie ever closer as the world around her unravels.

When she ends up unexpectedly pregnant at the same time her CEO’s demands cross into illegal territory, Cassie must decide whether the tempting fruits of Silicon Valley are really worth it. Sharp but vulnerable, unsettling yet darkly comic, Ripeportrays one millennial woman’s journey through our late-capitalist hellscape and offers a brilliantly incisive look at the absurdities of modern life.

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House of Cotton by Monica Brashears

Magnolia Brown is nineteen years old, broke, and effectively an orphan. She feels stuck and haunted: by her overdrawn bank account, her predatory landlord, and the ghost of her late grandmother Mama Brown.

One night, while working at her dead-end gas station job, a mysterious, slick stranger named Cotton walks in and offers to turn Magnolia’s luck around with a lucrative “modeling” job at his family’s funeral home where she’ll impersonate the dead. There’s a lucrative fee involved and she accepts. But despite things looking up, Magnolia’s problems fatten along with her wallet. And when Cotton’s requests become increasingly demanding, Magnolia discovers there’s a lot more at stake than just her rent.

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Chlorine by Jade Song

Ren Yu is a swimmer. Her daily life starts and ends with the pool. Her teammates are her only friends. Her coach is her guiding light. If she swims well enough, she will be scouted, get a scholarship, go to a good school. Her parents will love her. Her coach will be kind to her. She will have a good life.

But these are human concerns. These are the concerns of those confined to land, those with legs. Ren grew up on stories of creatures of the deep, of the oceans and the rivers. Creatures that called sailors to their doom. That dragged them down and drowned them. That feasted on their flesh. The creature that she’s always longed to become: the mermaid.

Ren aches to be in the water. She dreams of the scent of chlorine, the feel of it on her skin. And she will do anything she can to make a life for herself where she can be free. No matter the pain. No matter what anyone else thinks. No matter how much blood she has to spill.

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Confidence by Rafael Frumkin

At seventeen, Ezra Green doesn’t have a lot going on for him: he’s shorter than average, snaggle-toothed, internet-addicted, and halfway to being legally blind. He’s also on his way to Last Chance Camp, the final stop before juvie.

But Ezra’s summer at Last Chance turns life-changing when he meets Orson, brilliant and Adonis-like with a mind for hustling. Together, the two embark upon what promises to be a fruitful career of scam artistry. But things start to spin wildly out of control when they try to pull off their biggest scam yet—Nulife, a corporation that promises its consumers a lifetime of bliss.

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Notes on Her Color by Jennifer Neal

Gabrielle has always had a complicated relationship with her mother Tallulah, one marked by intimacy and resilience in the face of a volatile patriarch. Everything in their home has been bleached a cold white—from the cupboards filled with sheets and crockery to the food and spices Tallulah cooks with. Even Gabrielle, who inherited the ability to change the color of her skin from her mother, is told to pass into white if she doesn’t want to upset her father.

But this vital mother-daughter bond implodes when Tallulah is hospitalized for a mental health crisis. Separated from her mother for the first time in her life, Gabrielle must learn to control the temperamental shifts in her color on her own.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle is spending a year after high school focusing on her piano lessons, an extracurricular her father is sure will make her a more appealing candidate for pre med programs. Her instructor, a queer, dark-skinned woman named Dominique, seems to encapsulate everything Gabrielle is missing in her life—creativity, confidence, and perhaps most importantly, a nurturing sense of love.

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The Dog of the North by Elizabeth McKenzie

Penny Rush has problems. Her marriage is over; she’s quit her job. Her mother and stepfather went missing in the Australian outback five years ago; her mentally unbalanced father provokes her; her grandmother Dr. Pincer keeps experiments in the refrigerator and something worse in the woodshed. But Penny is a virtuoso at what’s possible when all else fails.

Elizabeth McKenzie, the National Book Award–nominated author of The Portable Veblen, follows Penny on her quest for a fresh start. There will be a road trip in the Dog of the North, an old van with gingham curtains, a piñata, and stiff brakes. There will be injury and peril. There will be a dog named Kweecoats and two brothers who may share a toupee. There will be questions: Why is a detective investigating her grandmother, and what is “the scintillator”? And can Penny recognize a good thing when it finally comes her way?

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Want more? Here’s a list of ten more unusual contemporary novels! Share your favorite in the comments.

August Blue by Deborah Levy

Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang

Dykette by Jenny Fran Davis

The Last Animal by Romana Ausubel

Big Swiss by Jean Beagin

Open Throat by Henry Hoke

Biography of X by Catherine Lacey

The Guest Lecture by Martin Riker

Ghost Music by An Yu

The Survivalists by Kashana Cauley

Everything is Ok by Debbie Tung

Debbie Tung has created a graphic memoir full of comforting comics about anxiety and depression in Everything is Ok. Debbie’s words and drawings are relaxing, gentle, and relatable, as she walks you through her own anxiety and depression.

Debbie shares her struggles and relationships with her own anxiety and depression. She digs deep and shows how normal it is to find getting out of bed incredibly hard. Her stories of overthinking, intrusive negative thoughts, and the nearly constant switches between highs and lows are incredibly important as it breaks down the stigma of not sharing mental health struggles with the world.

Debbie’s stories are deeply personal, yet very relatable. Her twisty road to recovery is long and hard, but when she finally vocalizes her need for help, readers can see how her drawings and attitude start to change. Debbie even details her conversations with her therapist, something I found deeply moving. She didn’t need to invite readers into her deepest and most personal spaces, but she did, and I will forever be grateful she is illustrating and sharing her mental health struggles. Her journey to be more mindful and caring to herself and her mental health was enlightening. Debbie is merciful with herself and in doing so, gives readers permission to treat themselves with kindness and to open up. Seeing someone who also struggles with mental health issues shows readers that they are not alone and that it is okay to have dark places as long as you are being kinder to yourself and learning how to love yourself on your road to recovery.

Library Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday

All three Davenport Public Library locations will be closed Thursday, November 23rd and Friday, November 24th in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday. All three buildings will reopen with the regular hours on Saturday, November 25th: Main (321 Main Street) 9am to 5:30pm, Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) 9am to 5:30pm, and Fairmount (3000 N Fairmount St) 9am to 5:30pm.

Even though our physical locations will be closed, you can still access free digital content for all ages. Your Davenport Public Library card gives you access to free eBooks, digital audiobooks, magazines, movies, and music through LibbyFreegalTumbleBooksQC Beats, and Kanopy!

Have a safe and happy holiday!

2024 All Iowa Reads Selections

In the middle of October 2023, the All Iowa Reads Selections for 2024 were announced on Iowa Public Radio’s Talk of Iowa program. All Iowa Reads was established in 2003 as a way to foster a sense of unity through reading. In libraries across the state, patrons are encouraged to read these selections at some point within the calendar year.

The All Iowa Reads titles are selected by three different committees run entirely by volunteers. One committee selects the adult titles, another selects the teen titles(ages 12-18), and the third selects the kids titles (ages 8-12). For more information about their process and requirements, visit the State Library of Iowa All Iowa Reads website.

More information and resources about the All Iowa Reads Selections for 2024 will be posted in 2024 on the State Library of Iowa’s website in January.

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The 2024 Adult All Iowa Read selection is The Seed Keeper by Diane Wilson. The following description is provided by the publisher, Milkweed Editions.

A haunting novel spanning several generations, The Seed Keeper follows a Dakota family’s struggle to preserve their way of life, and their sacrifices to protect what matters most.

Rosalie Iron Wing has grown up in the woods with her father, Ray, a former science teacher who tells her stories of plants, of the stars, of the origins of the Dakota people. Until, one morning, Ray doesn’t return from checking his traps. Told she has no family, Rosalie is sent to live with a foster family in nearby Mankato—where the reserved, bookish teenager meets rebellious Gaby Makespeace, in a friendship that transcends the damaged legacies they’ve inherited.

On a winter’s day many years later, Rosalie returns to her childhood home. A widow and mother, she has spent the previous two decades on her white husband’s farm, finding solace in her garden even as the farm is threatened first by drought and then by a predatory chemical company. Now, grieving, Rosalie begins to confront the past, on a search for family, identity, and a community where she can finally belong. In the process, she learns what it means to be descended from women with souls of iron—women who have protected their families, their traditions, and a precious cache of seeds through generations of hardship and loss, through war and the insidious trauma of boarding schools.

Weaving together the voices of four indelible women, The Seed Keeper is a beautifully told story of reawakening, of remembering our original relationship to the seeds and, through them, to our ancestors. – Milkweed Editions

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The 2024 Teen All Iowa Reads selection is Hollow Fires by Samira Ahmed. The following description has been provided by the publisher, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

This powerful, gripping thriller from a New York Times bestselling author shows the insidious nature of racism, the terrible costs of unearthing hidden truths—and the undeniable power of hope.

Safiya Mirza dreams of becoming a journalist. And one thing she’s learned as editor of her school newspaper is that a journalist’s job is to find the facts and not let personal biases affect the story. But all that changes the day she finds the body of a murdered boy.

Jawad Ali was fourteen years old when he built a cosplay jetpack that a teacher mistook for a bomb. A jetpack that got him arrested, labeled a terrorist—and eventually killed. But he’s more than a dead body, and more than “Bomb Boy.” He was a person with a life worth remembering.

Driven by Jawad’s haunting voice guiding her throughout her investigation, Safiya seeks to tell the whole truth about the murdered boy and those who killed him because of their hate-based beliefs.

This gripping and powerful book uses an innovative format and lyrical prose to expose the evil that exists in front of us, and the silent complicity of the privileged who create alternative facts to bend the truth to their liking. – Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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The 2024 Kids All Iowa Reads selection is Tumble by Celia C. Pérez. The following description has been provided by the publisher, Kokila.

From the award-winning author of The First Rule of Punk and Strange Birds, a dazzling novel about a young girl who collects the missing pieces of her origin story from the family of legendary luchadores she’s never met.

A 2023 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book

Twelve-year-old Adela “Addie” Ramírez has a big decision to make when her stepfather proposes adoption. Addie loves Alex, the only father figure she’s ever known, but with a new half brother due in a few months and a big school theater performance on her mind, everything suddenly feels like it’s moving too fast. She has a million questions, and the first is about the young man in the photo she found hidden away in her mother’s things.

Addie’s sleuthing takes her to a New Mexico ranch, and her world expands to include the legendary Bravos: Rosie and Pancho, her paternal grandparents and former professional wrestlers; Eva and Maggie, her older identical twin cousins who love to spar in and out of the ring; Uncle Mateo, whose lucha couture and advice are unmatched; and Manny, her biological father, who’s in the midst of a career comeback. As luchadores, the Bravos’s legacy is strong. But being part of a family is so much harder—it’s about showing up, taking off your mask, and working through challenges together.

Stay tuned in January 2024 for more information about these All Iowa Reads selections.