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.