Sharks in the Time of Saviors is steeped in place in the best kind of way. Kawai Strong Washburn’s jaw-dropping prose gives an intimate family portrait of a working-class family strung tensely between Hawaii and the mainland. Washburn blends Hawaiian mythology, tensions related to class and race, and the perennial struggle of finding how to belong in a family. The natural world is a character in and of itself that pulls on the characters’ destinies, making the novel immersively Hawaiian through and through. The multiple perspectives of the novel create a revolving door that provides different paths to understanding the sacred energy that permeates the modern setting of the book in surprising and irreversible ways.
Terrifying and visceral, The Need makes looming monsters out of our most primal and mundane thoughts. It explores the endless exhaustion and elation of parenthood, while also using anxiety as its plot’s rocket fuel. I loved the uneasy ambiguity permeating each page. Phillips is a wizard of language whose novel here is the narrative equivalent of smashing a vase on the floor. Bam!
All the adventure and suspense of the high fantasy genre, swirling with Black power, magic, and rage. Tomi Adeyemi uses her book to address racism, oppression, and police brutality through the lens of an alternative ancient Nigeria where magic and might are currencies of power. A necessary YA parable for our times, with gorgeous imagery and memorable characters. Can’t wait for the film!
This volume of short stories has been on my to-read list for over a year–I added it when a close friend of mine told me, in no uncertain terms, to read it. Since then, it’s been recommended several more times. Now that I’ve read it, I understand why. Gutsy and gutting, structurally fascinating, and observant about all the unspoken things just beyond the edge of comfortable, Carmen Maria Machado’s prose is here whether you like it or not. This is quite a book. It’s a master class in style and somehow remains literary and poignant while spinning off of 90’s kid horror Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and including a sex scene on every other page. How does Machado do it? I have no idea, but I deeply enjoyed it.
Favorite Stories in this Collection: -The Husband Stitch -Real Women Have Bodies* -Eight Bites -Difficult at Parties
Good Talk is a graphic memoir that delivers in new ways, centering around hard and crucial conversations about race and identity. The intimacy of the book makes the national (and even international) topics of discussion very immediate and alive–Mira Jacob has given us the gift of her own experience through remembered conversations that span generations of hurt and hope. An essential read for the current cultural moment and far beyond.
Such good writing, in such a dumb story. Like many others, I bought this book out of love and the trust that the same storyteller who wrote The Last Unicorn could do no wrong. My trust was well-placed in some aspects–great characterization of the main figures in the book, sumptuous descriptions that struck all the right tones for the enchanting Seattle area, and an interesting sense of trying to figure out what joy means for a person aging past their middle years. Unfortunately, the magical bits are lackluster, predictable, and at times just kind of nutty, and not in a good way. Greek mythology retold–it’s been done better.
Longer is a strange and fascinating little book with a shadow of a plot underneath many bright starbursts of philosophy. The science fiction setting serves as the backdrop for what is really a four-person drama about the ethics of mortality and what we determine the word “living” to mean. Thought-provoking and uneasy, as much of the best sci-fi happens to be.
The Water Cure is a parable that defies pinning down in terms of its historical and geographical setting, certainly intentionally so. It is a violent tale with sparse and evocative prose, and it bristles with rage at the harm that women have absorbed throughout Western history. Taking that gigantic, cascading multi-generational hurt and distilling it into two precise individual voices is Mackintosh’s immense achievement in this frightening and propulsive read.
Courtney Maum’s guide is information-packed and delightfully balanced, with heaping helpings of snark and empathy both. What outsiders imagine about the life of a published author is completely different from the insider’s reality, and this book helps translate expectations for the well-meaning and wide-eyed debut novelist.
As the title suggests, Dark Age plunges us into the darkest waters yet seen in the Red Rising saga. Humor and hope are both at their leanest portions, and in their place brutality and desperation are served. The worlds tear themselves apart in this one. Pierce Brown delivers his normal labyrinthine entanglement of alliances, betrayals, secret, and sieges, this time through an ambitious five perspectives. (Virginia’s perspective was the most rewarding, in my opinion.) Whereas the first trilogy of the saga is about the journey of one man, more than ever the series tips toward the journey of an entire political movement, one that spans nine planets and seems to doom everyone in one way or another. After five books with Darrow, loyal readers can’t help but invest emotionally in these unforgettable characters and feel their losses along with them–some of them, this time, were particularly hard. But I admire how Brown was brave enough to go all the way into the dark with this installment, and to create an absolute powder keg setup that book six will no doubt set off within its first few pages. Looking forward to the next ride.