I'm either reading ten books at once, or stuck in a reading slump. I gravitate towards books--YA, fiction, SFF, memoir and even culinary narratives--that look at magic, folklore, traditions, tropes and stereotypes in new and imaginative ways.
For fans of Shirley Jackson, Helen Oyeyemi, and Samantha Hunt: an Australian gothic novella about monsters, long-held family secrets, changelings, transformation, fences, birds, and disappearing schools. Urban myths come to life, colliding and weaving through the life of Bettina Scott as she tries to navigate her way out of her small Western Queensland town, after receiving a mysterious note from someone who may or not one of her vanished brothers. Chilling, bewildering, and utterly magical, this short novel will have you questioning which way is up.
If you are looking for a book to salivate over, a book to savor, this is the book for you. The descriptive writing! The character development! Aiden Thomas has crafted a warm, and eerie story about Yadriel, a young brujo who only wants to show his traditional Latinx family that he has what it takes to join the men of the family in their daily and upcoming Dia de los Muertos rituals. All that feels nearly impossible while his family continue to deadname him and misgender him. And then Yadriel accidentally summons the ghost of the recently-deceased local “bad boy.” Who cares deeply for his family. And tries to protect his friends. Whose restless energy fills whatever room he’s in. And has a cute smile. Oh no, Yadriel. A sweet #ownvoices YA read filled with friendly and not-so-friendly ghosts; complex, growing family relationships; brujxs; cemeteries; marigolds; giant pit bulls definitely not named after mutant turtles; and fierce cousins. You won’t want to miss this tenderly woven and magical story.
When CeCe is told by the neighborhood boys that she can't be a pirate, she goes to her grandfather--a man with a ship and a lot of tattoos--to see if he can teach her all about a pirate's life. Smart, vivid illustrations by Brigette Barrager adorn Isaac Fitzgerald's rollicking text. As CeCe learns just what it takes to be a pirate, readers are immersed in increasingly colorful and high-spirited adventures. For all young readers, the sailors, the swashbucklers, the landlubbers, and any oceanically inclined. You'll find your adventure in between these pages.
An absolute fever dream of a book, you'll want to read this story over and over again. Oyeyemi’s sentences and turns of phrase are as delightful and delicious as the magical gingerbread she writes about. I had to keep going back and re-reading passages because I was so focused on how the words sounded so pleasing together, I started losing their meaning. If you are looking for a fairy tale you probably haven't read before, a fairy tale that truly adheres to fairy tale logic, talking dolls, magic mushrooms, stories meandering within stories, and a country that Wikipedia claims doesn’t exist, this is the story for you.
Terrance the box turtle was born without a shell, so his parents gave him a shell of his own. But when someone points out that his non-traditional apparel looks "weird," Terrance begins a hunt for a different shell that reflects who he is and looks good. This sweet picture book features tiny turtle butts, a very good hermit crab friend, a trash-loving raccoon, a lot of imagination, and ALL of the shells. Punny, colorful, and adventurous, this picture book will keep young readers entertained, even on the twentieth re-read.
I have no words. Erin Morgenstern used all the words, and now they are buzzing around in my brain in an utterly impossible, and magical way. Closing the final page of The Starless Sea immediately prompted me to request the audiobook. To open the book back up and begin from page one again. Morgenstern’s sophomore novel is about a love of stories, a love of storytelling, and how inseparable, and timeless our own stories and mythologies are. But it is also about bees, keys, swords, cats, good cocktails, doors, video games, underground labyrinthe libraries, stars, pirates, and sculptors, and approximately a hundred other images that have been superimposed into my brain in trying to devour this book. The Starless Sea easily slid into the top spot of my favorite books.
Gideon the Ninth would very much like to get out of indentured servitude to the Ninth House, Keepers of the Locked Tomb. But when the Emperor is looking for necromancers, Harrowhawk, heir to the Ninth House and famed necromancer, decides to throw her hat in the ring. Gideon is the only swordswoman strong enough to take on the challenges posed by the emperor. Mad Max: Fury Road by way of Deadpool featuring necromancers and sword-fighting in space. Utterly ridiculous in the most extravagant and delightful ways.
Best title of the year alert! For a book about a ghost with no memory and a girl left in an orphanage by her father amidst World War II, Thirteen Doorways is heartfelt and surprisingly relevant. The novel is compelling, not just because you are eager to uncover secrets of both past and present, but because the characters feel so achingly similar in the middle of a time and place that seems to be going up in flames.
Moira Fowley-Doyle's latest is an emotional gut-punch of a book. Deena Rys' older sister Mandy is presumed dead, having last been seen at the edge of a cliff. But then Deena starts receiving letters from Mandy that tell the story of their family history, and why all the Rys women wind up cursed by their 17th birthday. Deena, along with old and new friends, sets off on a cross-country tour of Ireland to find her sister, and get some answers. Weaving in Irish folklore, historical and recent events surrounding reproductive rights, queer rights, and bodily autonomy, All the Bad Apples leaps from the page, grasps your hand, and invites you to scream along with it.
I have never been so mad to realize a newly released title was an author's debut. Sweet, tender, funny, I devoured this book. I wanted to cancel plans for this book! Spending time with these characters was the literary equivalent of curling up by the fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate, while it's snowing outside. McQuiston's words were a direct line to my 23-year-old self. I couldn't believe they stared back at me from the page. And while I wish this book had been around when I had just come out, when I was figuring myself out, reading it now is almost just as good.
If you were to combine the literary genius of Jeff Vandermeer with the cinematic prowess of Guillermo del Toro you would end up with Rory Power. Her debut novel, Wilder Girls, is captivating and grotesquely delightful.
The Raxter School for girls was put under quarantine when a disease known only as The Tox hit the island. The teachers died. The girls were infected. And then they began changing--bodies distorting and growing spines, gills, silver hands. Hetty, Byatt, and Reese are as close as any three girls can be in a world where a normal life is a thing of the past. And then Byatt goes missing. And Hetty will do everything in her power to save her.
Wilder Girls is a powerhouse novel filled with a tangled web of secrets and something wriggling under the surface.
This tiny tortoise tackles the impossible when his Sarah boards the bus and she doesn't return! Truman must leave his seven green beans, cross uncharted territory and face insurmountable obstacles to reunite with his girl. Even if it takes a thousand tortoise hours. This sweet adventure will keep you on your tortoise toes and have you grinning from ear to ear.
Reading Mason Deaver's debut feels like what it might be like to hug sunshine; warm, tender, comforting, but not without a little sunburn. Ben is kicked out of their home, without so much as the shoes on their feet, when they tell their parents they are nonbinary. They move in with their estranged sister and her husband who try to help Ben cope with their anxiety and starting at a new school in the middle of the year. But then Ben meets Nathan Allen, the boy next door, whose friends eagerly accept a new face into the fold. Readers will find themselves basking in the warmth as Ben begins to come into themself, dedicate themself to their talents, and be vulnerable, angry, and scared with their loved ones. I read most of this book in a single sitting. I was invested in Ben's story from the very first page and I cannot wait to see what Deaver writes next.
Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's Stardust and Naomi Novik's Uprooted, in her latest novel Jennifer Donnelly combines elements of the original Grimm Brothers story with the Disney version of Cinderella. This time, the tale follows the youngest stepsister, Isabelle, after Ella gets her prince. This novel is an earnest, beautiful howl and a refusal to fit into the glass slipper presented to us.
Violet Saunders is new to Four Paths -- a town whose population is rapidly decreasing as the Gray begins picking them off one-by-one. But Violet, along with Justin, May, Harper, and Isaac, are all descendants of the town founders who originally trapped the monster. I'm not saying they're the only ones who can save the day, but despite the secrets they've been burying for years, the missing hand, the grief they carry, and their magic powers -- they might be the best qualified.
The Raven Cycle meets Stranger Things in this unearthly, spine-tingling read you won't want to put down. Plus! multiple!! on-page!! multi-generational! bisexual! and queer! characters!!! My favorite book of 2019 so far.
Leah is sarcastic, dramatic, and anxious. Like, all the time. Leah is a mostly good daughter, a kick-ass drummer, and she's also bisexual. NBD. Despite her best friend Simon's (of Simon vs. Homo Sapiens Agenda) coming-out ordeal last year, she still struggles to be vulnerable with the people she loves the most.
In this companion novel, Leah faces prom, graduation, casual racism, friendship drama, and relationship drama. Ultimately a feel good story, with a focus on personal growth, Leah's story had me wanting to simultaneously hug and high-five my teenaged self.
The novel follows Marin, a college freshman who has decided to stay in her dorm room for winter break. Her best friend Mabel is traveling from California to spend a few days with Marin and try to convince her to spend the break with her family. While Mabel is visiting, readers learn about the events of the summer leading up to the girls' starting college. Calling this a narrative about love and loss would be reductive, because the story is so much more than that: found families, evolving relationships, understanding how someone you thought you knew isn't who you thought they were, and how you can still love them anyway.
When I turned to the final page, my brain was full of exclamation points and question marks. And I immediately turned back to page one. The San Francisco Chronicle describes this novel as "...a watery dream that pushes the boundaries between fiction and fantasy..."