Are you a reader who reads all kinds of different books? Because I’m a reader who reads all kinds of different books… and I’ve been reading a variety of genres in my new fiction choices this year. Here are three new novels, all with absolutely nothing in common, that I’ve particularly enjoyed in the first months of 2022.
The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams: Historical Fiction: Set mainly in Oxford, England, mainly between 1890 and 1928, this story is told in first-person by Esme Nicoll, the daughter of an lexicographer who is on the team of academics and editors compiling the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s devoted father is the only parent she has, and she grows up playing under the table where men are compiling slips of paper with words, definitions, and quotations on them. Esme begins a secret game where she absconds with the slips that are dropped under the table. This collection is only the beginning to her own secret Dictionary of words she collects over the years, from slips and also from people around her. Esme’s conviction that words more commonly used by women, and by poor people, and other people who aren’t white male Oxford academics, are just as valuable as the ones that make it into the OED, is the energy that propels the story forward. I loved this unusual perspective on a historical event dear to the hearts of English majors everywhere.
The Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan: Fantasy: The first word that comes to mind for this one is “gorgeous,” because of the lush descriptions of landscapes, plants, garments, mythical creatures, and magic. Xingyin is the daughter of the Moon Goddess and a mortal archer. She plays the flute beautifully and lives in isolation on the moon with her mother and their faithful servant. She must leave her safe home and go into the Celestial Kingdom to make her own way. In the Celestial Kingdom, she becomes a famous archer who travels for miles to join in battle with evil forces. There is wonderful world-building, adventure, and romance packed into Xingyin’s story. I loved that the fantasy is based on Chinese legends and I loved learning more about them. This is marketed as being Book One of the Celestial Kingdom Duology, extra points for originality to the author for a duology instead of the typical fantasy trilogy.
Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins: Suspense: Here’s a book to read in one sitting. It’s mostly set in the South Pacific, mostly in Hawaii and an uninhabited island called Meroe Island. It’s told in multiple points of view, and it opens with the first-person narrative from Lux, whose college career was brought to a halt by her mother’s fatal cancer. Lux, now in her late twenties, is trying to find a new direction and ends up following a gorgeous guy called Nico out to Hawaii, where they plan to take his boat and explore the world together. This project is stalled out until two young women hire Nico and Lux to take them to Meroe Island for a few weeks. Meroe is beautiful but has a somewhat sinister reputation, and all the characters discover that the island lives up to its cloudy reputation. The story flashes from breathtakingly beautiful tropical scenery to the dark depths of emotion and drama between the characters. I loved the plot twist at the end.
Correction: I’d say that these three books do have one thing in common: you won’t be able to put them down! Happy Reading!