Isabel Cañas brings a dreamy haunted song of a story into the world with her debut, The Hacienda. Deeply atmospheric and psychological, this novel explores the costly war for the soul of one house that is both isolated from and shaped by the social unrest that surrounds it. Cañas brings us a tale that is dark and beautiful, that will make you want to light at least one candle against the late hours of the night, examine the unspoken yearnings of your heart… and listen to your walls.
I absolutely love the cinematic, pulp-meets-literary quality of Benjamin Percy’s writing. His pacing is fearless and fast, and this second installment in his Comet Cycle is a wild, dark, slippery ride filled with horrors and lots of very wonderfully gross mushroom action. But also banter. I liked this book even more than the first (would totally work as a standalone). I’m excited to see even more of Percy’s twisted imagination unleashed in the next installment. What on earth… or elsewhere… could be next?
Sorrowland is difficult to classify, and (as I’ve probably mentioned before) that is something I always enjoy. This book is horror, it’s a motherhood story, it’s a political allegory, it’s erotic, it’s fantastical… it’s wild, just like its protagonist Vern. And I think that’s part of Solomon’s point with this story, that there’s no such thing as too much, that we limit the power of others and the possibility of the world when we say “no, that’s too different; no, that’s not allowed; no, that’s not normal; no, that’s too far.” These are the questions of this novel: Why can’t we do away with limits? Why can’t we reinvent reality? I deeply respect Solomon’s boldness with this nightmarish, fabulist piece of social criticism.
Sarah Perry’s sophomore novel may be a gothic tale about fear, but the writing itself is absolutely fearless. Uniting several different stories that cross time and place by cataloging them as proof in a surreal monster investigation, Perry dissects the idea of guilt in ways both sweeping and intimate. In a narrative style that pulls the reader (at times uncomfortably) close, the story allows us to discover and dread along with our protagonist. Unnerving, at times devastating, at times funny, and always honest, this is a modern, cursed gothic story told with a wildfire level of passion, even as it masquerades beneath British restraint.
We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu boldly goes where YA rarely does–into fabulism, into difficult conversations about sexuality, and into visual narrative, all while slowly revealing the mysteries of the dangerous, sentient woods of Shivery, Minnesota. I love seeing fiction for young adults that treats them with respect, and this book honors the many wonders and troubles of learning to know oneself. The supernatural elements in this novel unite to create what we slowly understand to be a psychological landscape as much as a physical one.
I will always love this book. I read it so many times as a teenager at the turn of the millennium and the enchantment it held for me then is a lasting spell. Block’s writing is fearlessly stylized and she navigates the dark with so much love and tenderness. Her voice as a writer is very recognizable, and not for everyone: the feelings and the beauty she wields are supersaturated. For me, the stories here are still captivating and a crucial portal to my own awakening as a writer. I re-read it with so much gratitude.
Oh, this collection is so insane. And delightfully so. Kelly Link is a high profile player in a group of contemporary voices who have taken the traditional literary scorn of genre fiction and turned it into a dare. This kind of no-rules, dark, and playful prose is thrilling and fresh. Link’s tongue stays firmly in-cheek throughout this journey of weird, but it’s captivating, bold, and beautifully unrepentant.
My favorites in this collection: The Summer People The New Boyfriend *Two Houses
Sue Rainsford’s style in Follow Me to Ground is sensational, quietly bizarre. It achieves a very difficult feat–making magic feel real, personal, and everyday. The book is captivating, with mysteries and grisly heat around every turn. The way Ada’s narrative is interspersed with short interviews from the townspeople adds another dimension to the strong culture that Rainsford creates, and it’s all very bewitching. This would have been five stars for me but for my feminist uneasiness at how the heroine’s desire, while all-consuming, is portrayed as her undoing, and how the men in her life seem to have ownership over her immense power, whether applied with love, cruelty, or both.
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!