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.
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.
Samantha Garner’s debut novel The Quiet is Loud–fusing tarot symbolism, Filipino / Norwegian mythology, and supernatural abilities–is a fresh take on the concept of people with powers. A multi-layered reckoning with family tensions, the pressure and vulnerability around disclosing identity, and the anxiety created by lifelong guilt, this story is so much richer than its thrilling initial concept. I loved the off-balance exploration of curse vs. blessing and the realistic portrayal of how grief impacts our relationships. (Also, the many descriptions of food are omnipresent and so, SO good.)
Few authors have the guts to write something that is wildly, fantastically strange and dead serious at the same time. Peng Shepherd has the guts, and her novel The Book of M is a stunner. Technically audacious, plotted with clear eyes, and emotionally searing, this sci-fi epic is a new classic. From an emotional standpoint, this one was personally difficult for me to get through. (If you’ve ever been close to someone who has suffered from debilitating memory loss, there are many tough moments to swallow.) But that doesn’t make the book any less brilliant.
No Gods, No Monsters is surprising, wild, and multifaceted. Cadwell Turnbull shows off his significant writing chops while wielding an interconnected multiplicity of plotlines in this thoughtful urban fantasy. The narration is complex–not only do we have several different time periods and character groups, but the veiled identity of our first person narrator slips in an out of the reader’s consciousness like a spell. Considering the world Turnbull has built, the disorientation feels incredibly fitting. It’s a book to tilt you out of what you thought you knew.
I really enjoy Kay as a storyteller, and he’s my husband’s favorite author, so we like to bond over reading his books together. While my soulmate was happy to give this beast five enthusiastic teary-eyed stars, I had a harder time stepping over the flaws in the execution of the whole, while still deeply enjoying certain sections. One of the things that likely contributed to this (which I didn’t realize until about the middle of the book), was that this title is a “GGK Avengers” of sorts, where we see returning characters, battle references, and cultural traditions that are pulled from other Kay worlds in previous books that I haven’t read. So… I believe that this novel is meant to be a crowd-pleaser for loyal Kay fans while also being readable as a standalone. For me, it was too many characters, too many gratuitous concubines, and too chaotic of a perspective-shifting situation. That said, I absolutely loved Folco and would gladly read an entire book of his adventures. And of course, as in every Kay book, the high quality banter at court was 100% on point. I will also always be thankful for this book as it kept me company in the airport during a long, looooong delay. 🙂
Becky Chambers brings us a beautiful, gentle little book in A Psalm for the Wild-Built. The novel envisions a lovely future where human beings have figured it all out and sentient robots are living in their own natural utopia. The descriptions are gorgeous and the book provides a nurturing space for all of us who need to take a moment to remember who we are and why we’re here. It’s a fun solarpunk meditation walk, filled with humor, contemplation, and the earnest hijinks of a delightful robot named Mosscap. Also, this book will really, really make you want to have some good tea and to upgrade your bedroom linens and pillows.
Sidenote: As someone who has also read The Wild Robot, I strongly feel that Mosscap and Roz are related.
Rebecca Roanhorse brings us a gorgeously drawn fantasy world inspired by the pre-Columbian cultures of the Americas in Black Sun. Everything from clothing to languages to rituals pulls from Roanhorse’s deep study of these cultures, woven together with a healthy dose of new magic. Exploring this part of the world and time in history from an epic fantasy angle is incredibly refreshing and satisfying. I want to walk around in the world of the book–it’s a powerhouse of sensory description, absolutely begging for a film adaptation. Xiala was my favorite character, and anyone who knows me and also reads this book will understand that she’s an obvious choice.
Reading The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is like savoring a hot cup of tea, sip by sip, in a hypnotic state. It’s just such a pretty experience. For me, the plot was almost secondary to my enjoyment of how this novel works as a love letter to art and to New York City. As Addie travels throughout the world and into and out of so many experiences, I felt like I was traveling, too–something we’ve all been missing during the pandemic. There are so many lush moments where food, destinations, performances, and people create a moment, and that’s what this story is… a collection of moments, and an assertion that all of them matter. Just beautiful.