Count me as the newest member of the Brigid Kemmerer fan club. I would cancel plans to get back to these pages if needed. The premise of the story is simple enough: a mysterious illness is sweeping the kingdom, and the cure is unfairly distributed between wealthy citizens and the rest of the populace. Two friends, Tessa and Wes, risk their lives nightly to Robin Hood the cure into the hands of their poor neighbors. In the castle, King Harriston and his brother, the King's Justice, Prince Corrick try to balance the expectation of their consul members with a looming rebellion against systemic inequality. For me, it's the outstanding character arcs and THAT TWIST that make it juicy and delicious and compelling. The main characters are all deeply wounded by traumatic parental deaths; they cope in drastic ways, whether by cruelty, coldness, or trying to heal the kingdom's ills. The use of morally-grey protagonists and the complexity of politics vs. idealism are excellent. Wes and Tessa are delightful; Corrick and Tessa are dynamite. The slow-burn relationships, as they all learning to truly see and trust each other, are splendid. I am hooked and cannot wait for the next two installments.
Fans of Red, White & Royal Blue, get ready: Charlie and Dev are the new couple in town and you will adore them. Even as someone who doesn't tend towards rom-coms, I truly loved this book. The plot--a reality TV show romance between the Bachelor (or Prince Charming, in this case) and his producer--is fun and precious. What really makes this book incredible to me is two-fold. First--the sensitivity and respect used towards mental health challenges. They are a characteristic of many people in the book, and a genuine component of the main love story. Both Dev and Charlie are able to love someone because of all their pieces and parts, not in spite of them; but they're still learning that they themselves deserve such love in return. Second is Charlie's exploration of his own sexual orientation. The guidance given to him by loved ones is tender and insightful. I think this book will help a lot of people (myself included) learn more if they are curious, both about themselves and the myriad identities we can all possess. This is definitely a 2021 highlight for me, and brings the rom-com genre to a new level.
Absolutely exquisite! I want to vanish deep into the forest to read this book and never return...at least until the sequel is here! It is a stellar fantasy debut with powerful character arcs forged on a desperate quest; wholly original magic; enthralling world building; and abundant plot twists. Becker does many things very well, but two stand out to me: 1. Create a vivid and impressive character of the land and nature in which her human and magical beings exist. 2. Tackle serious social justice issues, confronting bigotry, man-made borders, violence, and environmental destruction within high fantasy. Fans of Tamora Pierce, The Books of Pellinor, the Abhorsen series and the Chronicles of Narnia will adore this quest to help a friend that may just save the entire world.
Wisewomen. Midwives. Healers. Warriors. Sisters. These women are the center of Willa Reece’s debut novel, Wildwood Whispers. This book is an homage to nature, the family you find, and the connections you inexplicably know in your bones. It is beautifully rendered and cleverly plotted; it delights in the splendor of a quiet Appalachian mountain town, and it celebrates the magic that comes from finding your village and honoring our Earth. Wildwood Whispers speaks to the power of those who will unite against destruction and who will find deliverance when they believe in powers greater than themselves. Fans of Jules Watson and Barbara Kingsolver will be enchanted with this story.
This may be one of the most important, well-researched, take-it-to-family-dinner and discuss books I've read. It is profoundly personal--McGhee takes the reader on her own journey from student to young adult and scholar facing more and less diverse communities and circumstances. It is also deeply and broadly researched to demonstrate that inequality and segregation in housing, education, health care, public works, and communities results in loss and detriment for all. I can already see how this book has changed my perspective on my town, workplaces, social groups, and view on my world. I find the pace of the book and the research enjoyable, although deeply unsettling; and I appreciate that McGhee veers towards actionable steps in her poignant conclusion.
The Jasmine Throne is fire and water: smoldering, intense, and voracious. It is a story about the resilience of women--against religious fanaticism, political maneuvering, poverty, misogyny, and generational trauma. Pryia and Malini, respectively a temple child and imprisoned princess, contrive a tentative alliance from which a thirst for one another grows. They fill a need for each other, amidst the plotting and chaos, but they also respect the mutual ambition of the other. Each woman is a weapon, forged in the fire of family violence and expectation, and honed to create a path entirely her own. Together, they will burn the empire down and from the rain of its ashes, rise. A tremendous new release that starts an epic queer, feminist, India-inspired trilogy.
This was such a delight to read - poetic, evocative, and tender. In a world where there are witches amongst humans (called shaders), their power is used to stabilize the atmosphere. Every witch is connected to a season when their powers are most profound, but Clara is an Everwitch, bound equally to all seasons. The abilities and traits of these seasonal beings are beautifully described; such an homage to nature, time, and change. Living with the trauma of her power’s instability, Clara is isolated and exhausted. With a new tutor, she faces mounting pressure but also begins to understand her capabilities and necessity in a time when Earth is roiling with climate change consequences and increasingly erratic weather patterns. Simultaneously a story about finding and trusting yourself, it’s also an environmental warning, a sweet romance, and a lyrical journey.
A modern, queer, pastry-filled retelling of “The Snow Queen” that handles sexual assault, coping with trauma, and recovering yourself with absolute delicacy and honesty. It's a must-read. Anna-Marie’s work to reimagine fairy tales with queer, Latinx representation is genuinely splendid. In this latest marvel, they weave together environmental commentary with flora turning to mirrors; intersperse recovering painful memories with gentle waves of pastry magic; explore and condemn white, heteronormative privilege; challenge the stigmas against male victims; and illuminate robust female relationships. All of this in their distinctively luscious writing creates an absolute powerhouse novel.
Deliciously dark and creepy, this gothic reimagining of "Little Red Riding Hood" is an ethereal delight. It's tremendously imaginative and lusciously descriptive--while I can't say I'd like to get lost in the Wilderwood (unless, of course, Eammon is there), I absolutely get swept there on every page. There's a good balance of macabre and humor, and the plot is evenly paced with well-chosen perspective shifts that build vibrant tension. It's perfect for fans of Sarah J Maas, or anyone who seeks a fresh, feminist take on old fairy tales.
Powerful character arcs, wildly imaginative, and some of the strongest world-building I've read. This is a complex, West African-inspired epic fantasy that spares no detail, or life, and brings the reader into a rich tapestry of politics, plotting, rebellion, and the search for truth and freedom. Excellent; Sci-Fi/fantasy readers will be thrilled!
Utterly incredible. I'm in awe of Namina Forna's imagination and capacity to write so many characters, human, immortal, and creature, who resonate and connect so intensely. Queer-friendly, strong character diversity, intense female empowerment, and a bit of romance amidst a lot of magic, fantasy and overthrowing the patriarchy - fantastic. The Alaki women are phenomenal and I have the utmost respect for the depths of sisterhood forged between these women. They are brutalized and outcast from their born-families and ultimately finding refuge and power with their found-sisters. The ending, with its excellent twists and reveals, sets up well for the series, while also giving an immensely satisfying conclusion. I highly recommend for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Nnedi Okorafor, Tamora Pierce, Alison Croggon, and Akwaeke Emezi.
Reading this book is like driving on the twisted mountainous roads that connect its settings; readers of Delia Owens, Tana French, and William Kent Krueger will love it. The storytelling is masterful – the layers and connections are beautifully and gradually woven towards the stunning, bittersweet conclusion. We like to believe we know people, especially those whom we love the most; but we likely do not, cannot. Chris Whitaker reveals this delicately and respectfully, but honestly. People are both simple and complicated; life is darkness and light; we can exist in secrets, truths, and the space between. He creates a world and characters who will linger with you long after you’ve finished the book, examining each one in turn, realizing how many sides to each one existed simultaneously. It is a marvelous, haunting book.
Wintering is going on my “Great Unlearn” curriculum – the pieces that help me deconstruct the rules, restrictions, assumptions, expectations, and guidelines that I (we?) absorb from childhood, when we become too wild on our own and “need” to be structured. “Wintering” is about preparing for and experiencing the literal season, as illustrated by Nordic cultures and animals; as well as the metaphoric – illness, death, depression, change. These are the times we desperately want to avoid, but inevitably cannot. May guides us through myriad winters, reflecting on her experiences and those of friends and family: what happened, how they cope, what they learn. She draws comparisons and lessons from our animal brethren and surrounding Earthly cycles to show that wintering – resting, hibernating, retreating – is a necessary lifeforce of its own, and one we don’t consider or appreciate nearly enough. It is a quiet declaration that allowing ourselves to step back and weave our own way is not only OK, but desperately necessary for our individual and collective good. Read this in your coziest nook; listen while you’re working your sourdough; keep it close, as you’ll want to come back to it again and again.
In Amanda Sellet’s YA debut, Mary Porter-Malcolm is the new girl at the public school. She is kind and awkward, a bookworm from a literary family who speaks like it’s 1800 and relates better to book characters than her IRL classmates. At first, I found her a bit too uncomfortable, until I realized she reminded me of myself at 15…but I digress. After a disastrous first day, Mary overhears three girls – Lydia, Arden, and Terry - discussing the school’s romantic prospects. When she warns that Terry’s apparent crush is “a Vronsky” and to be avoided, the other girls are confused and fascinated. They integrate Mary into their group and develop The Scoundrel Survival Guide based on literature’s most infamous rogues, cads, and Lotharios. The girls are supportive, fun, and fiercely loyal; in return for her wisdom, they plot Mary’s ‘debut season,’ full of shopping and sleep-overs, and culminating with the Winter Formal. Things become more complicated when “The Vronsky” (aka Alex Ritter) befriends Mary and she finds herself falling for him. Is it possible that Mary cast him as a villain without understanding him, thus giving poor advice to her new friends? And does that make Mary more of an Emma than she realized? Just what would Jane Austen do? I adore Mary; the trio made me laugh and wish I could high-five them, especially Lydia; the Porter-Malcolm family is complicated, but provide Greek Choir-like insight, assistance, and humor; and the romances in the book are sweet, but ultimately take a second seat to the bonds of friendship and trusting yourself
For fans of Kate Morton, Sarah Waters, and creepy houses, “Plain Bad Heroines” spices up gothic tradition with wit, camp, Hollywood dazzle, and a spectacular coastal New England setting. The five heroines will charm and infuriate.Their well-developed humanity is a highlight of the book, as are the vivid illustrations of the supporting cast – the peculiar, creepy, and downright deadly things keen on foiling the five. Our heroines are connected by two things - Mary MacLane’s scandalous 1902 memoir exploring her sexuality and the Brookhants School for Girls in Little Compton, Rhode Island. In 1902, Libbie Brookhants and Alexandra Trills are dealing with the fallout from three tragic student deaths at Brookhants School, all under bizarre circumstances and within curious proximity to the MacLane book. Between the two women are also years of love, secrets, and tensions that will spiral to disastrous consequences. In 2015, mercurial wunderkind author Merritt Emmons’ debut book about Brookhants has been optioned for film. Harper Harper, indie-sweetheart and Instagram’s favorite celesbian, has signed on as producer and lead actress. Audrey Wells, B-listed and suffocating under her mother’s scream queen shadow, somehow lands the other. Curious and unsettling circumstances immediately envelop the film and its stars. A cheeky narrator guides us between perspectives, centuries and locations while supplying mostly trustworthy information and reminding us that curses, history, and women are rarely as they appear.
Willowjean “Will” Parker is a circus runaway-turned assistant detective; and she might be falling for a client, a socialite whose mother was murdered during a Halloween séance…possibly by her husband’s ghost. Working for Lillian Pentecost, infamous NYC private eye, Will guides us on a witty romp through murder, embezzlement, blackmail, and family secrets come to light.