This YA debut is wonderfully tender and toothed. Using the natural world’s hostile indifference as inspiration, a group of angry high school kids (one of my favorite kinds of characters) band together to unveil a horrifying secret at the center of their town. I loved the Skyla Arndt’s old-school gothic technique of really dialing in to the physical decay of the mundane settings the kids spend time in, and the love story at the center gives some sweetness to the book’s bite. A little bit of mystery, a little bit of nature nerdery, and overall well-paced storytelling with not a paragraph wasted.
Pierce Brown is at it again, rewarding his loyal legion of Howlers for their ability to keep track of a million different characters/loyalties/feuds/family ties with another powerful ride. Perhaps the most introspective book of the Red Rising series while approaching the grandest scale, Light Bringer feels like coming home. Hearts will break. Mayhem will ensue. Last page will leave you frantically looking up the expected release date of the final book.
Disclaimer: If you don’t want spoilers, do NOT read the acknowledgements in advance. I’m probably the only weirdo with that habit, but just in case.
What if Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile was crossed with your wildest daydreams about the people-watching we all do on vacation (come on, admit it), and was written for a young YA audience? It would result in the outlandishly fun mystery/romance/coming-of-age story woven in J. Mercer’s TRIPLICITY, which will make you want to solve a ticking clock mystery on a cruise ship with your besties and re-live your first real kiss.
A memorable collection from a dynamic new press thematically unified around that most primal of fears: deep, murky water occupied by things unknown. The grotesque swims parallel to the lyrical in Fish Gather to Listen. There is much here to disturb and delight, often simultaneously.
Strange and sensual, surprising and intimate, Nell Stevens weaves a meditation with music and sensation that interprets human life as a collection of rapid and urgent desires, pleasures, pains, tastes, jealousies, and reveries. The historical facts are merely the stage for Stevens’ story to dance over–irreverently, longingly, ultimately full of life.
I absolutely adore Jeff VanderMeer’s work. This is the eighth book of his that I’ve read, and the first I’ve ever disliked. Still love Jeff, he remains one of my favorite authors, but this was a slog. I wish I had more to say, but that is that.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Rachel Swearingen read from her newest short fiction and immediately knew I was in the presence of power. This book is further proof. In her story collection HOW TO WALK ON WATER, Swearingen’s talent is on brilliant display, unearthing complex and cutting realities. Her unpredictable (and often delightfully unhinged) characters feel so damn real, you’ll be pulling out your high school yearbook to look up their names.
Filled with awe over LUNGFISH by Meghan Gilliss. Striking, honest, and inventive prose. The dual question at the heart is one so many of us have worried at–how can you believe an addict?/how can you accept that the hurt they’ve caused is real? Gilliss approaches the answers without forgiveness, but not without tenderness, and always with structural brilliance and surprise.
Mapping the Interior is a powerhouse of a novella by Stephen Graham Jones. It’s astonishing to me how some writers can make such a gut-punch impact in 100 slim pages that others struggle to achieve after 400. This story is haunted by searing recursive imagery and faulty memory, lenses blurred by love and dissociation. Mostly limited to the walls of the family home, the setting heightens the urgency, accelerating with every page. The forces who watch from the edge of this story never fully reveal themselves, but we all know them, and they are terrifying–especially seen through the eyes of the narrator–just a boy who barely knows what has happened to him, and later, a man trying to make sense of it.