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Library Li's Top Reads from 2021

Lis top reads

Here are Li's top 2021 reads, in no particular order. You can click on each title for the catalogue information: 

#noescape by Gretchen McNeil (Young Adult) *
We follow our main character as she becomes the first to solve a notoriously hard Escape Room, and is recruited to take part in an exclusive game - an escape room that is bigger and better than any you’ve ever seen. I won’t say any more about the plot, but this is the first time I have been glad to be reading on an eReader, because being able to ‘search’ for a name made it so much easier to link the characters in this book to the first two, in the series and that connection was really cool. Content warnings: gore, language, emotional abuse, toxic family relationships. Overall Rating: 5+ stars

Hideout by Jack Heath (Adult)
CONTENT WARNING: This book is very dark.
Once more back into the wonderfully sick and twisted mind that hides behind the youthful face of Jack Heath. If you like Jack Reacher’s moral code, and don’t mind some gore and tough topics, hit this up. This is book 3 in the series about Timothy Blake, and this one dives into a world that is not for the faint hearted. (Spoiler Alert: If you’ve read the first two, you know about our hero’s odd food habits, but let me tell you, this new dark aspect of the human mind is even more twisted than that.) We head into a part of the internet that a lot of people won’t be aware of, with non-consensual pornography and live-streamed torture. Please, don’t let that put you off. It is by no means a celebration of these things, it’s a hard look at society and the darker aspects of what we see in day to day. I also really enjoyed the way that the author observes society through the lens of this outcast MC. Overall Rating: 5+ stars

Threadneedle by Cari Thomas (Crossover Young Adult/Adult)
Threadneedle is a contemporary urban fantasy. Our main character is a high school girl, who has spent her entire life trying to fly below the radar, trying to go unnoticed. Raised by her aunt after becoming an orphan as a baby, Anna has been raised with the knowledge that magic is dangerous. Her aunt is a Binder - charged with keeping the cowan (non-magic folk) from finding out about magic, and as such, is determined that Anna too will become a Binder. But Anna has always been drawn to magic, and when Selene, an old friend of Anna’s mother, returns to London, Anna is drawn into the world of magic by both Selene and Selene’s daughter, Effie. When Effie (and the hot boy, Attis), join Anna’s school, she worries that they will show their magic to the cowans. The rest… well, I just can’t tell you any more about the plot, because you need to read it! Overall Rating: 5+ stars

Eat Your Heart Out by Kelly de Vos (Young Adult)
I don’t pick up books just because they have a fat girl on the cover. I don’t pick up books because they have a Black person on the cover. Honestly, half the time I don’t even look at the covers. But I know how important it is that we have this representation, so yay for this book cover! While this book is set at a Fat Camp, it’s really body positive! I was gonna say “our main character is perfectly happy with being bigger than sample size”, but then I remembered that there are in fact SIX main characters. That is perhaps the main downside to this book, by the way. This book was honestly hilarious, and while I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending, I really enjoyed the journey. The moving between the characters was a little confusing, though again, I was listening to the audiobook. Despite the death and Zoms, this is a light, quick read. Content Warnings: Gore, fatphobia, zombies, death. Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

Ski Weekend by Rektok Ross (Young Adult) *
Going into it, I thought Ski Weekend was going to be in the “locked room, someone-is-a-bad-guy” genre. Nope. Not at all. This is an intense survival story. Basic premise here is that our narrator, Sam, is on her way with a carload of classmates to their Senior Ski Weekend. In an attempt to take a shortcut, the car ends up in a snowbank, and the teens are stranded. No cell reception, very little food, and terrible weather combine to leave them stuck, hoping for rescue. We get to learn more about Sam, and her place in the group (a group that does not usually exist together), and she learns things about herself as well. Content Warnings: Death, injuries, discussions of illness, discussions of eating disorders, starvation (mentions of the Donner Party). Overall Rating: 4 stars

Not My Problem by Ciara Smyth (Young Adult)
Compared to the rest of the books in this list, this book is a nice read, not super heavy, it’s a Young Adult Slice of Life, and it’s done perfectly. This book is very LGBT+ positive, with our main character being LGBT+, as well as at least one of our secondary characters. It also talks about the impact of alcoholism on families, and the pressure teens put on themselves to be and do everything in the right way. Interpersonal relationships play a role too, and I actually enjoyed that this book didn’t quite tie everything up in a perfect bow. We do get some resolutions, but some things are left open, and it’s done in a way that feels oddly complete. Content Warnings: Alcoholism, talk of emergency contraceptives, language. Overall Rating: 5 stars

Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis (Young Adult)
I love me a good survival story. And I love a female character who doesn’t give a damn if people don’t like her. Ashley is a girl who has grown up on the wrong side of the tracks, with a family life that isn’t perfect. She’s had to take care of herself since she was young, and it’s given her a sense that if something needs to be done, she can do it. At a party in the woods one night, Ashley finds her boyfriend in a… compromising situation with another. Drunk, Ashley runs from the situation, and finds herself injured, at the bottom of a ravine. What follows is a story that keeps you hooked. I don’t know if Mindy McGinnis is a woodsman, but the detail in this book is wonderful. I loved Hatchet, I loved the way you learned each small step with Brian, and this book was the same. I didn’t know you could make rope from your own hair, but now I do! Despite this being a fiction book, I learned a lot. Content warnings: there’s discussions of sex, some language, injury, dead things/people, gore, discussions of drugs, pain. Overall Rating: 5+ stars

The Prison Healer by Lynette Noni (Young Adult)
Full disclosure, I didn’t like the cover. That’s why it took me so long to read this. The Prison Healer is kind of dystopian, fantasy, SET IN A PRISON HOSPITAL. Our main character has been in the prison since she was seven, arrested with her father who was suspected of being a rebel sympathiser. Her only goal is to survive in a place where death is literally waiting around every corner (think Hunger Games, District 12 level of deprivation). Things happen, people show up in the prison, and Kiva is forced to make decisions that may very well kill her. That’s all you get, read it! Content Warnings: Illness, pain, injury, death, drowning, self harm, burning, beatings, death, mental torture, physical torture. Overall Rating: 5 stars

Terciel and Elinor by Garth Nix (Crossover Young Adult/Adult)
I bought my own (signed!) copy of this book, knowing I would need to re-read it over and over again, and I was right. If you’ve read the original Old Kingdom Trilogy, you’ll want to read this. T&E is the direct prequel to Sabriel, which is Book One of the original Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix. It tells the story of the meeting of Abhorsen, father of Sabriel, and the unknown mother of Sabriel who dies in the very first scene of Sabriel. I adore these books, so I was excited to read T&E and I absolutely loved it. It builds further on the world of the Old Kingdom, and there are just so many little Easter eggs that add to the original trilogy. Honestly, I won’t say much about the plot, as it needs to be taken as a part of the series, it’s a bit like an origin tale. Y’all should read this series, here’s my recommended order: 
Terciel and Elinor
Content Warnings: reanimated dead, death, murder, burning. Overall Rating: 5 stars

Mirror’s Edge by Scott Westerfeld (Young Adult)
I had a wee bit of a crazy excitement dance the other day when I found out that this is NOT the last in this series! I read the original series, which begins with Uglies, when I was a teen, and many times since. Still a great series, they are very much a product of their time, and yeah, I can see flaws. It’s interesting though, because this new series, while set in the same world, is set so far in the future that you can see how the society in the books have changed, how perceptions have changed. It makes the contrast between the vibe of the original and the new seem almost planned, which, if they are, kudos! So well done. While Uglies is very much about freedom of individual choice, this new series focuses on a macro level, where we are closely tied up in the ruling family of one of the cities. It’s more of a push for global freedom, and anti war. It’s hard to describe, but the world is so well crafted, and there are enough throwbacks to the original series, that it’s a very enjoyable read. You can read these alone, but I love me a throwback/Easter egg, so I would recommend the original four first. Content Warnings: death, war, fighting, violence, emotional abuse, physical abuse (maybe?), talk of nuclear war, radiation, natural disasters. Overall Rating: 5 stars

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Adult)
If you loved The Martian, this will hook you. It’s funny, that same dry humor; it’s clever; it’s science. Honestly, I think everyone should read this, but I can understand how some people don’t find aliens and space travel interesting. Fair, but also, sci-fi isn’t normally my jam, and I inhaled this. Our main character is so funny, despite his amnesia. The science/languages used is so believable and ingenious. The storytelling itself is amazing, we flick back and forth from the present day - our main character woke up in a hospital bed and doesn’t know his own name, let alone where he is - and the past, seamlessly filling us in on how he got there, while also filling in the gaps in his memory. I can’t say more without ruining the plot, but they do make a quick trip to NZ (to get a prisoner out of Paremoremo… ), and this book held me and didn’t let me go. Content Warnings: death, climate change, science, implied language (he censors himself well!), loneliness, discussions of suicide and techniques (it fits, I promise, it’s not gratuitous). Overall Rating: 5+ stars

*These titles aren't in the library yet, but feel free to place a suggestion for purchase.

Posted by Li

19 January 2022

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