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.
A high octane, cinematic adventure with some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve read this year. Eris is a Gearbreaker, a rebel, who, alongside her ragtag crew, take down the Windup mechas terrorizing the Badlands under false pretenses of their Godhood. Until the day she gets caught and is thrown in prison. There she meets Sona, a cybernetically-enhanced Windup pilot. But there’s much more to Sona than meets the eye. A high-stakes adventure for fans of Pacific Rim about colossal mechas, a tyrannical regime, and two girls on opposite sides of a war who come to realize they’re fighting for the same reasons. And possibly falling for each other.
Harlow wants to get better SAT scores, save West Finch from falling into the sea, and for her best friend Ellis to stick to The Plan. Ellis wants to make varsity track, and to stick to The Plan, more or less. Tommy, Ellis’ twin brother, wants to not be living any more. Three teenagers fracture and fall together as they navigate their small-town coastal Maine summer, constantly trying to rewrite, remember, and forget the past while also keeping the future on a narrow track. These deeply empathetic characters are constantly making ill-advised choices, navigating their stormy waters the only ways they can figure out. The complexities and intricacies of their relationships with each other and the world around them move at a breakneck speed so compelling I couldn’t put the book down.
A 1970's & present-day Sapphic remix of Kate and Leopold. A full-hearted novel that reaches for your hand and holds you close when you need it most. A love letter to new places and new friends that call you home, McQuiston's sophomore novel brings all the charm and banter that I fell in love with from her debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue.
Nghi Vo’s Jordan Baker has my heart in the palm of her hand and gently bruises it with each beat of my pulse. Glimmering and sharp, The Chosen and the Beautiful will leave you cut open, feeling like someone new as you follow Jordan as she dances and drinks her way through the deadly orbit of Daisy Buchanan and 1920s New York white elite lifestyle. Supposedly adopted by the Bakers from Vietnam as an infant, Jordan has grown up with money, education, and has always been left feeling like she’s on the other side of the door. The company she keeps loves confiding in her: her ghosts, her family, her friends, and even the not-so-friendly company. And Jordan has secrets of her own, secrets that will burn. You might know The Great Gatsby. But there’s worlds more to this cast of characters that keep it intoxicating, like a good strong drink you keep going back to taste. Especially when you think it might be poisoned.
When Dean is cast as Romeo in his high school's production of Romeo and Juliet, he realizes he doesn't want to wait to transition any longer. His family, friends, and girlfriend are currently under the impression that Dean is a tomboy lesbian. But Dean wants everyone to see him as he is in the rest of his life, not just on the stage. A love letter to theater, found queer family, and the roller coaster that is finding and standing up for yourself in the middle of high school. Stoeve's debut is full of hope and courage - I read it in a single afternoon!
The Ones We’re Meant to Find is unlike anything I’ve read before. A story about sisters, climate change, “rights & wrongs,” and being human. Kasey and Cee are not like other girls. For one Kasey, who prefers her own company as opposed to the other students at school, can’t quite get the hang of caring for others as deeply as she cares for her sister, who disappeared three months ago. Not when the daily news reports highlight the impending megaquakes, tsunamis and other world-ending disasters that are all too common. And Cee? Cee is stuck on an abandoned island with only the memory of her sister, Kasey. Told in He’s masterful lyrical, animated narrative style, the twists and turns always had me second-guessing which way was up and I could not get enough of it. I need new words for the emotions I felt in my chest as I read--some tumultuous combination of aching, fondness, and trepidation.
A little bit A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, a little bit Mandalorian, a little bit Rat Queens, Persephone Station is a rollicking, heartfelt, adventure (in space!). An interplanetary corporation and its recent leader (who may have obtained the position through less-than-legal means) are trying to colonize “backwater” and "abandoned" land. Our morally-grey cast of characters won’t let that stand. The pay doesn’t hurt either. The not-quite-blackmail hurts a little though. The story follows three fascinating characters: Rosie, owner of Monk’s bar with dark secrets behind their tourist-slash-criminal bar; Angel formerly of the Corpse Corps who leads a rag-tag group of criminals and assassins; and one-of-a-kind Kennedy, who despite outward appearances, is not human at all. Persephone Station shines with colorful worldbuilding just brimming with enchanting details. The danger might be intense, but you’ll still want a front seat to the show.
Grace Porter, PhD, 28 has spent the last 11 years of her life rigorously studying to become The Best in the field of Astronomy. It’s all part of her and her military father’s Plan. To celebrate her graduation, Porter goes to Vegas with a couple friends. And she wakes up with muddled memories of the previous night, a ring on her finger, and a note from her wife on the hotel’s bedside table. This was not part of The Plan. For the star girls, the earth girls, the lonely creatures, the girls who have to fight for their place in the world, the girls with flowers in their hair and the ones who love them - this book’s for you. A tender and intimate coming of age-romance that emphasizes self love and found families -- Honey Girl is a soothing balm.
(This book cannot be returned.)
Reading Fireheart Tiger is like trying to watch the individual flames of a bonfire. Pretty in their own right, each flame, each character, each piece of dialogue, each sentence adds to a blaze that will leave you in awe. A queer love triangle, magical politics, betrayal, magical girls, ruthless girls, kindhearted and cunning girls, this novella has it all. Thanh is a royal member of the court in Eldris, who has fallen in love with the princess of the neighboring, domineering kingdom, Ephteria. Sent there as a political diplomat at a young age, Thanh is back in Eldris to help her mother negotiate with the Ephterians. But then the princess shows up. And the fire that burned the palace is back to haunt Thanh. But possibly, the fire wants something else. This novella is a perfect, warm read while you're waiting for the snow to melt and the world to thaw outside.
A seasonal-focused, ingredient driven cookbook with straight-forward instructions that result in delicious and flavorful soups. For the cook looking to broaden their repertoire, for the cooks and anyone who could eat soup everyday of the week -- this one’s for you. I made 6 soups within a month, and each was worth repeating.Whatever your mood, whatever is in your fridge and cabinets, there’s a soup for you.
I do not recommend listening to this audiobook while driving down the Pike in the dark after your shift at the bookstore because this is one of the most creepy, terrifying books I’ve ever read. While horror is not my usual genre, the main characters were so relatable and endearing that I had to follow them to the end. Even when I was yelling at my car speakers when they couldn’t see what was right in front of them. Kara, or Carrot as she is know by her uncle, is a freshly-divorced 30-something who has managed to find mostly-stable ground working and living at her uncle’s museum of curios, the Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities, and Taxidermy, in North Carolina. And then she finds a hole in the wall. Which leads to a hallway that shouldn’t be physically possible. Which leads to a locked bunker with a body inside. Which leads to a new world, filled with water, and bunkers, and willow trees. But of course, there’s much more than meets the eye. With more curiosity than common sense, Kara and her best friend, Simon, decide to explore. And discover the meaning of the ominous graffiti they find, Pray they are hungry. If you, too, wish you could celebrate Halloween year-round, this is the book for you.
Eury’s life was uprooted after Hurricane Maria destroyed her home in Puerto Rico. Spending a summer in the Bronx was supposed to help her recover, but Eury is haunted by more than just a devastating storm and an absent father. And he’s followed her to New York. Pheus, who has lived his whole life in New York, could charm honey from a hive with his voice and guitar. He was excited to spend the summer with his friends, and serenading Melaina, his on-again, off-again flame. But when Eury arrives, it takes everything for him not to trip over his usually-suave tongue. A contemporary magical-realism take on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, the latest from Rivera looks at generational trauma and the trauma that arises from natural disasters. But more than that, Never Look Back is about what it means to be seen, by others who see a twisted version of your reflection, and those who can see you as you are. Rivera’s exquisite writing is the literary equivalent of a lullaby, fast-dance music, an acoustic set, a full-orchestra symphony, and of course, a bachata.
A school for wizards! The Chosen One! But imagine if the Chosen One was just a sweet, dumb jock with a penchant for slaying monsters who had a hard time saying ‘no.’ And if the bright, often-relegated Lady Sidekick was just as intelligent, rude, and ruthless as she wanted to be. If she was the so-called hero of the story. And one more small thing - if the magical school they attended was actively trying to kill them, morning, noon, and night while they were just trying to study. Self-aware, witty, and brutal, A Deadly Education is your new favorite magical read. You’ll fall in love (or possibly terror) with El from the very first line when she declares her intent to kill Orion after he saves her life for the (gasp) second time
This is a sparse, atmospheric, emotionally resonant and absolutely devastating read in the best possible ways. Watch Over Me follows Mila, after she has aged out of the foster care system and finds work teaching foster children on an idyllic, but isolated farm owned by foster parents, Terri and Julia. Mila just wants to carve out a place to call her own, find a family she can claim for herself, and forget all about her mother's boyfriend, Blake. But as much as Mila wants to put her past behind her, the ghosts that reside on the farm make that decidedly impossible. Ghosts and family and belonging and resilience set to the backdrop of the fog-covered northern California coast. A pitch-perfect read while the weather cools and the leaves start to fall.
With The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, V. E. Schwab took a knife to my chest, cut my heart out, pinned it to paper, and exposed it for the world to see. Its characters are clever and wicked and delightful and joyous and profoundly sad and trying their damndest. In 1700’s rural France, a woman makes a Faustian deal for more time and freedom and, as a result, walks through the world without a single person being able to recognize her. Until one day, three centuries later, she walks into a New York bookstore. And the man who works there remembers her name. What lengths will we go to, to leave a mark on the world? Schwab’s gloriously imaginative and detailed novel considers the grand and the simple. Two lovers. The devil. Can anyone win at the end?
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.
Red and Blue are on opposite sides of the Time War - one a part of the collective entity known as The Garden, and the other a soldier of the Commandant, a high-tech-centered group. But this story, for all it’s expansive and ambitious concepts, focuses instead on the hunger of Red and Blue, for competition, for experience, for each other.Reading This is How You Lose the Time War, a 2020 Hugo Winner, was like experiencing a work of art in person for the first time after only having read and heard about it in textbooks. The sheer joy el-Mohtar & Gladstone have for their craft, for the language and storytelling, shines brightly on every page. You’ll find yourself simultaneously reading a love letter for the written word and love letters between two characters on opposite sides of the Time War.
I devoured Camp. The exuberance of the main character, Randy, leaps off the page even as he tries to quiet himself to win the heart of his crush, Hudson. Camp is a summer full of theater, misadventure, drag, hiking, friendship in all its forms, toxic masculinity in safe spaces, team-building obstacles courses, and the obstacles courses we build for ourselves.
The latest in DC Comics’ young adult graphic novels series from YA royalty Alex Sanchez and Julie Maroh features the origin story of Aqualad. Jake Hyde is a young man who lives in Truth or Consequences, NM (a real town!) and desperately wants to go to the University of Miami to study oceanography. But he’s hiding secrets from everyone--from his mom, his best friend, and he starts learning secrets about himself. And not just about the strange “birthmarks” on his body. You Brought Me the Ocean has a cinematic quality that makes the joys more joyful, the heartbreaks more sorrowful, and the discoveries even more captivating.
Joy and heartache and astrology and queerness and school drama and first loves and new loves and family and found family are at the center of this beautiful YA debut. A Coretta Scott King Honor book told in two interweaving, harmonizing voices about two girls, one kicked out of her mother's home in Trinidad to live with her father in Minneapolis. And the other, a girl in Minneapolis whose recent diagnosis has her flung into an uncertain future where she has one wish. You'll want to spend as much time with Audre and Mabel as they do with each other.
With so much uncertainty, I like being able to make declarative statements. Here's one: The Boy in the Red Dress is my favorite YA of the year. No question. Veronica Mars meets Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Lambert's debut is a fun, enchanting mystery set in 1930 New Orleans that follows Millie, who helps her aunt run The Cloak and Dagger, a queer-friendly speakeasy. On New Year's Eve, when a young socialite is found dead in the club's courtyard, the police suspect the club's headliner and Millie's best friend, the titular character, Marion. And Millie is the only one willing to actually investigate what happened and clear her friend's name. It was so easy to fall in love with every character, so fully-realized, each with their own hopes and dreams and flaws, that with every scene I found myself hoping each new suspect wasn't the murderer. With all the glamour and grit of a Baz Luhrman film, Lambert's novel kept me guessing, kept me luxuriating in the ballrooms and back alleys. I didn't want to leave.
The intergalactic road trip-found family novel you didn't know you needed. If you, too, are still looking to fill the gap in your heart that Joss Whedon's Firefly left behind, this is for you. Ignore what the back cover summary says, this book is about an unforgettable motley cast of characters who just happen to be traveling through space together, punching wormholes to a distant planet. All the delightful tropes of a road trip book--engine troubles, passengers bickering, unexpected side of the road attractions, hijinks, and uncovered secrets abound--in space!
If you're looking for a book that lovingly showcases the outdoors, this memoir is for you. If you're missing the chance to breathe in backcountry air, and hike all day, this is the memoir for you. If you've never stepped foot in the woods, but are looking for strong, thoughtful voices that take a hard look at what it takes to create the outdoors and public lands enjoyed by so many? This is the memoir for you. Byl fell in love working seasonally in the dirt, and mud, and rain, and sunshine for the National Parks Service and for public lands. This series of interconnected essays examines the long-held differences between academia and manual labor, between white collar jobs and blue collar jobs, and gender stereotypes within those spheres. Each aspect of the work she describes--learning how to use an axe, build stairs in the back country, how to lead a group of strangers into the woods--is so beautifully written, and thoughtfully considered that the words feel comforting, even when she is describing back-breaking labor. I wish I knew who wrote the back cover summary, because it really puts it best, "Dirt Work is a contemplative but unsentimental look at the pleasures of labor, the challenges of apprenticeship, and the way a place becomes a home."
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.
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..."