The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt

“Why read at all? Why does anyone do it in the first place? Why do I? There is the element of escape, which is real enough—that’s a real-enough comfort. But also we read as a way to come to grips with the randomness of our being alive. To read a book by an observant, sympathetic mind is to see the human landscape in all its odd detail, and the reader says to him or herself, Yes, that’s how it is, only I didn’t know it to describe it. There’s a fraternity achieved, then: we are not alone. Sometimes an author’s voice is familiar to us from the first page, first paragraph, even if the author lived in another country, in another century.” Bob held up his stack of Russians. “How can you account for this familiarity? I do believe that, at our best, there is a link connecting us.”
― Patrick deWitt, The Librarianist

In celebration of National Library Week in April, I was on a hunt for a book about librarians that I had not read yet. Enter The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt, a novel that combines my love of senior citizens with my love of librarians. Bob Comet is a retired librarian. He’s spending his retirement surrounded by books in his mint-colored house in Oregon. Bob has his small comforts and his routines. On his daily walk one morning, Bob stumbles upon a confused elderly woman standing lost in a market. She’s staring into the cold sections with a lost look on her face. Lucky for Bob, and the clerk working behind the counter, the lost woman has a note secured around her neck letting people know where she lives. Bob volunteers to escort this lost woman home to the senior center. Once they arrive, Bob is intrigued by the people he meets. He decides to volunteer at the senior center, a decision that changes his whole life. The more Bob interacts with the people at the senior center, the more parts of his past and character are revealed to the reader.

This book felt like a warm hug from a close friend. The characters were charming, full of quirks and colors. Every person Bob met ended up shaping his life in some way. Even though this book was charming and cheerful, it was also full of melancholy and bittersweet with a bit of darkness under the surface. Bob’s past is colorful and complicated. He has a knack for finding bizarre and full-of-life people that he welcomes into his life. The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt reads like a love story to loners, to the outcasts in life who aren’t sure where they fit, to the introverts who want to be left alone amongst the fast-paced world they live in. People’s pasts are a mystery and this book is a prime example to never judge a person by the calm front they present.

This title is also available in large print or CD audiobook.

The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris

Are you wanting to read something outside your comfort zone? Book clubs are an excellent way to expand your reading palette! Lucky for you, the Davenport Public Library has a wide number of different book clubs for you to join. My latest read, The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris, is the April selection for See YA, an adult book club that reads young adult titles.

The author includes a content warning on her website regarding the heavy topics covered in The Cost of Knowing. These topics include: racism, anxiety, depression, poverty, anti-Black violence, self-harm, parental & sibling death, and mentions of slavery and police brutality. If any of these are triggering to you, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this blog post to learn what the next book is that See YA will be discussing. If you’ve decided to give this book a try, below is a brief description to tell you more.

Alex Rufus is trying. He has been through a lot in his sixteen years of life. Right now he’s juggling his job at the local ice cream shop, his relationship with his girlfriend Talia, and protecting his younger brother Isaiah. In his quest to be perfect in all aspects of his life, Alex finds himself struggling, falling short of almost everyone’s expectations of him.

One major hindrance is that Alex can see the future. Every single time he touches an object or person, he is thrust into a vision of that thing. He sees the future of his car, his hoodie, the ice cream scoop he uses at work, and his future with Talia. That one freaks him out the most. In his vision of Talia, they are on the verge of breaking up with her looking at him with the most hatred in her eyes that he has ever seen. Alex spends his time cursing these visions, wishing that they would stop distracting him so that he could live an anxious-free ordinary life.

Alex’s desire to get rid of these visions increases when touching a photograph calls forth a vision of his younger brother Isaiah’s fast approaching death. Everything changes. Alex is desperate to find a way to break himself from these visions and change the future. Wanting more time with Isaiah, time that he knows he won’t get, he reaches out, bringing up memories of the past while looking for more ways of connection. Growing up as young Black men in America, Alex and Isaiah have had to wrestle with their pasts and their futures, but with such a short amount of time left, Alex is willing to try anything to win this battle against time and death.

This title is also available as a CD audiobook.

See YA (2024)

Join the adult book club with a teen book twist. See why so many teen books are being turned into movies and are taking over the bestseller lists. Registration is not required. Books are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Eastern Branch. The club meets the first Wednesday of the month at the Eastern Branch at 6:30pm. You can find more information about See YA by visiting LibCal, our online event calendar.

If you’re interested in joining See YA, we will be meeting Wednesday, April 3rd at 6:30pm at the Davenport Public Library | Eastern Avenue Branch to discuss The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris.

April 3: The Cost of Knowing by Brittney Morris
May 1: Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
June 5: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

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

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

‘I am learning how to be
sad
and happy
at the same time.’ – Jasmine Warga, Other Words for Home

Lately novels in verse have been popping up on the top of my to-read list. Novels in verse are stories that are written using poetry instead of the typical format of a novel (sentences, paragraphs, and chapters). These books don’t have to rhyme, although some do! If you’re looking for a quick read, give a novel in verse a try. My latest read was a novel in verse that hit me right in the feels: the Newberry Award Honor winner, Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga.

Jude and her family live in a beautiful seaside town in Syria. Her parents run a store, while her older brother attends school. When the war in Syria creeps closer to their home, her parents decide that it would be best for Jude and her mother to move to Cincinnati, Ohio to live with relatives. Jude is devastated. She doesn’t want to leave her older brother and father behind, but her parents have already decided they must leave.

When Jude and her mother land in Cincinnati, everything moves too fast and the world is too loud. Her family try to help the two assimilate, but Jude is at a loss. She used to watch old American movies with her brother and best friend, but those movies are nothing like the real America where she now lives. A big confusion for her: Americans need to label everything. Jude and her mother are suddenly ‘Middle Eastern’, something she has never been called before. Jude is incredibly observant, noticing the new opportunities available to her, the new ways people react to her, and the new friends she finds. Jude’s new life is full of so many surprises, both good and bad, but she is able to live up to her brother’s words to ‘be brave’.

This middle grade free verse novel was beautifully written. It is authentically written, descriptive, and thought provoking. Warga talks about many issues that immigrants face when they flee their unsafe homelands and then the issues that pop up once they land in a new place. There are themes of resilience, belonging, family, and identity. This is a story of one family’s transformation before and after the war began in Syria. Their lives will never be the same, but they have no choice.

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

Somebody that I Used to Know by Dana L. Davis

My latest read unexpectedly mentioned places in Iowa that I was already familiar with: Davenport, NorthPark Mall, and the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines.  Since I already knew the author, I should have guessed she would have thrown mentions to this area in her book. Young adult romance author Dana L. Davis grew up in the Midwest and was born in Davenport. She put those unexpected mentions of Iowa in her latest book, Somebody That I Used to Know, the story of a young aspiring musician whose ex-best friend has popped back up in her life out of nowhere.

Dylan Woods has her life planned out completely. She has been obsessively practicing for her Juilliard audition. Juilliard is her destiny. As her audition gets closer, Dylan’s parents throw a wrench in her plans. Her ex-best friend Langston is coming for a short stay.

Dylan hasn’t seen Langston in years. He moved to Los Angeles years ago to make his dreams come true and become a musician. Now Langston is Legendary, the biggest teen R&B artist in the world. He’s going to crashing in Dylan’s basement for a couple weeks. Everyone is excited, except for Dylan. She has no desire to share space with Langston, especially since he’s now a ‘bad boy’. Plus – it’s weird. Why would Langston willingly choose to crash at her house in Iowa when he could literally go anywhere in the world?

When Langston shows up though, Dylan starts having doubts. Maybe he hasn’t changed much from her childhood friend. He still has the bucket list they made years ago. And he wants to start crossing things off the list with her! The more the two talk, the more Dylan sees that Langston isn’t as shallow as she thought. Her memories of their older times together come flooding back, reminding her of their shared love of music and how she has changed through the years. Langston may not be that bad. In fact, she might be catching feelings for him, her ex-best friend, the one who ghosted her so long ago.

A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo

“But here’s the important thing when it comes to art. This is what I’ve learned: The art is greater than you and your feelings. You have to serve it. It is not you…Whatever you’re creating may come from within you and your life, but then…it walks away and affects other people you don’t know and have never met. That’s the beauty of it.”
― Malinda Lo, A Scatter of Light

Discovering who you are can be a messy process. Malinda Lo tackles self-identity in A Scatter of Light. Set against the backdrop of the first major Supreme Court decisions legalizing gay marriage, Lo has created another queer coming-of age story that is bittersweet, romantic, and full of love and loss.

Rural California, 2013. Chinese-American teenager, Aria West, has big summer plans. After high school graduation, she plans on spending her summer with her two best friends in Martha’s Vineyard. After Aria becomes entangled in a scandal at a graduation party, she instead finds herself uninvited to Martha’s Vineyard and exiled to spend the summer with her grandmother, artist Joan West, in California. Aria isn’t sure what to do with herself until she meets her grandmother’s gardener, Steph Nichols. Aria quickly becomes friends with Steph and Steph’s group of friends, all of whom are queer. Aria finds herself second-guessing who she is when she develops a crush on Steph, throwing their friend group into turmoil. That summer in California points Aria down a life path that she didn’t think possible for herself. What she thought was going to be a boring and lost summer ends up becoming a summer of reflection, poetry, and self-discovery that changes her future.

Told from the viewpoint of adult Aria looking back at her eighteen-year-old self, readers relive her transition from leaving her school and childhood behind to her start towards independence. This is a  gloriously messy coming of age story all about how messy self-discovery can be. Lo wrote so beautifully that I felt my own teenage angst echoed through Aria’s actions.

A Scatter of Light is considered the companion novel to Last Night at the Telegraph Club. It’s not necessary for you to read one to understand the other, although A Scatter of Light ties up loose ends and answers questions I had after finishing Last Night at the Telegraph Club.

“…how we were only a small moment in time. In the scale of the universe, we’re just a blip.”
― Malinda Lo, A Scatter of Light

This title is also available in large print as well as an Libby eBook and Libby eAudiobook.

No Romo – Books Featuring Aromantic Characters

So in the last year I finally read The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (see my love letter to Mackenzi Lee here). Aside from being an exciting adventure and a story of feminism and determination, it’s also a remarkable book because of the main character’s complete lack of interest in romantic relationships. She’s focused instead on her ambitions, her family, and her desire for true friends.

What that captures (that most other books don’t) is something called ‘aromanticism’, which is the lack of romantic attraction to anyone. It’s not extremely common, but it does exist, and is often lumped in with asexuality, the lack of sexual attraction to anyone. For a nonfiction treatment of this broader topic, try the excellent book Ace by Angela Chen.

There are some really great books featuring asexuality, including Let’s Talk About Love, Tash Hearts Tolstoy, and Beyond the Black Door, but in all these cases the main character still experiences romantic attraction. For similar characters who don’t have romantic attractions and/or don’t pursue romance, you’ll want to try these titles:

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Tarnished Are The Stars by Rosiee Thor

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Hazel’s Theory of Evolution by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Also check out our Libguide of similar books: No Romo: Great Books Without Romance.

Romance Reads: Wedding Date series by Jasmine Guillory

“I’ve never seen you look at anyone or anything like you look at her. And you’re just going to throw all of that away for some bullshit reason? Because you’re too scared for something real?”
― Jasmine Guillory, The Wedding Date

The Wedding Date is the first book in the Wedding Date series by Jasmine Guillory. I enjoyed this title as it’s a contemporary multicultural romance with one of my favorite romance tropes: fake dating!

Alexa Monroe works in Berkeley as the mayor’s chief of staff. She has a busy professional life, but with her sister living across the country in New York, her personal life isn’t as fulfilled as she wishes it was. When Olivia comes to California for a visit, Alexa is excited and a bit hesitant to see her. Their relationship isn’t the best, but she’s determined to try fixing it. Deciding to visit Olivia at the hotel where she is staying, Alexa is so caught up in her emotions that she misses the attractive guy who is in the hotel elevator with her. Fate intervenes, the elevator gets stuck, and Alexa soon finds herself as a last-minute date to a wedding with elevator guy.

Drew Nichols is a pediatric surgeon in Los Angeles. Spending the weekend in Berkeley for his ex’s wedding festivities is not how he wanted to spend his time, especially since his date wasn’t able to come. Getting stuck in the elevator with the stunningly attractive Alexa Monroe is the perfect distraction that Drew needed. In fact, he is so drawn to her, he asks her to be his last-minute wedding date and his fake girlfriend to the wedding.

Alexa and Drew have more fun than they originally thought they would have had at the wedding. After the weekend is over, the two head back to their high-stress jobs, but soon find that they can’t stop thinking about each other and the good times that they had. Alexa and Drew begin talking and decide to spend more time together with the assumption that their relationship, or whatever they want to call it, is only short-term. This long-distance dating situationship starts to get messier and messier, soon leaving the two to have to think about what they actually want and need from each other.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Wedding Date series

  1. The Wedding Date (2018)
  2. The Proposal (2018)
  3. The Wedding Party (2019)
  4. Royal Holiday (2019)
  5. Party of Two (2020)
  6. While We Were Dating (2021)

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Some days (or weeks or months), all I want to read are romance novels. I’m deep in the midst of several romance reads right now. These books serve as a major deviation from my usual reads of twisty crime thrillers and are a necessary light read for me when I just need a break.

I noticed the cutesy cover of Helena Hunting’s latest romance novel peeking out from the new shelves a few weeks ago and was intrigued enough to start it.  I devoured this book in less than 3 days. Such a fun light read with charming characters! Meet Cute by Helena Hunting tells the story of a couple’s long road to a happily-ever-after with a pinch of Hollywood magic when a famous hunky heartthrob bumps into his ultimate fangirl again after years apart.

Kailyn Flowers knows exactly what she wants and exactly what she needs to do to get it. Described by friends and family as very controlled, rational, and calm under any circumstances, Kailyn has one glaring exception that leaves her breathless: Daxton Hughes. Daxton is the former teen actor that she had a complete and total crush on when she was younger. In law school, Kailyn believes herself to be in control until she literally runs into Daxton and the two are left sprawled on the ground. Kailyn reverts back to her fangirl self and may have mortified herself by professing (loudly) her undying love for Daxton. After that situation ended, Kailyn thought she’d never see him again, but oddly enough their meet cute leads to a friendship and a sort of friendly rivalry that helps them both survive law school. Their friendship takes a huge hit at the end of school however when Daxton betrays Kailyn in a way for which she will never forgive him.

Flash forward years and Kailyn has an established job at a reputable law firm that gives her joy. One day, a new client comes into the office and she is floored. Daxton Hughes has walked back into her life and he desperately needs her help. Dax is now guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister and is very overwhelmed. Kailyn finds herself drawn into his messy life. Once meeting Dax’s younger sister, Kailyn knows she would do anything to make sure this struggling girl and her older brother find a positive way to manage their new normal.

Dax and Kailyn meet frequently to discuss work matters. While these meetings are initially chilly, they quickly turn friendly. Once Dax’s sister starts meddling, these friendly and benign meetings turn into flirty charming dinner dates that leave the both of them yearning for more. Kailyn is hesitant to go further because despite the chemistry palpable in the air, how can she let Daxton back into her life when he has hurt her in the past? Their complicated past and even more complicated present may be enough to keep the two apart.


This book is also available in the following format:

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

Do you read your star signs? Do you follow what your stars tell you? I’ll admit I sometimes check my star sign (Gemini over here), but it’s not something I do every day. None of my friends really live by their astrological signs either, so when I read Minnie Darke’s debut novel, Star-Crossed, I was pleased to see that I was going to be learning more about horoscopes throughout this novel.

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke tells the story of childhood sweethearts Justine and Nick. Justine is a major skeptic and a Sagittarius, while Nick is an Aquarius  and an astrological devotee. Specifically Nick is a true believer and follower of the horoscopes by his favorite astrologer in a local magazine. After bumping into each other, Justine realizes that Nick’s favorite astrologer works for the same paper that she works for! Moving up as a coffee runner, Justine finds herself with more responsibilities at the newspaper. One of those responsibilities: inputting in the horoscopes for each issue.

Justine and Nick continuously run into each other, leading Justine to believe that the two will eventually fall in love with each other. Nick’s actions continuously prove otherwise. He IS NOT falling in love with Justine. Feeling torn up about this, Justine decides to tweak his horoscope in order to lean Nick more towards her loving arms. By changing Aquarius, Justine is changing fate. What Justine fails to realize is that Nick is not the only astrological devotee of her newspaper. Other Aquarius are making very important life decisions and changes based on Justine’s new horoscopes.

This novel takes fate and destiny and turns them upside down by charting Justine’s meddling throughout months of the newspaper’s horoscopes. By discussing horoscopes, Darke shows readers how going through life on your own is overwhelming, so finding friendship and help through the stars helps people make choices that are hard to figure out when it feels like you are alone.


This book is also available in the following formats: