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October Reading Wrap-Up!

Yes, we’re belated again, but last month I promised that I would stop talking about how belated all of my monthly wrap-ups are, so we’re just going to move on and forget that I already broke that promise.

October was such a fun month–in addition to experiencing October-ish things, like hiking in nearby Letchworth State Park, going on a ghost tour of an allegedly haunted old mansion, and going to a set of five haunted houses, I soaked up all of the fall weather and Trader Joe’s pumpkin-related products that I could find. I was also in Orlando for a week for a work conference, but went early enough that I was also able to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios for the first time, which made me ridiculously happy–I nerded out hard with my friend as we got frozen Butterbeer (delicious), went on the Hogwarts ride (the experience of waiting in line inside the castle was honestly more fun than the ride itself, but I mean that in a good way), explored Knockturn Alley, and picked out a wand at Ollivander’s (I ended up choosing Narcissa Malfoy’s wand, as it best matched my overall aesthetic, plus the actress also plays Polly in Peaky Blinders, so it was a double win). I may end up doing a separate post with a more full/thorough review of my experience there as someone who isn’t traditionally a theme park person–what do you guys think?

My October reading didn’t go quite as expected–I had set aside a dark fantasy TBR stack for the month that I didn’t end up picking from as much as intended–but I still had some really great reads, including a great YA historical fantasy, a novella from one of my favorite science fiction authors, and a re-read of a favorite from 2018.

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 4

Audiobooks: 0

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Emergency Skin by N.K. JemisinGet a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia HibbertThe Deep by Rivers SolomonThe Beautiful by Renée AhdiehTrail of Lightning by Rebecca RoanhorseStorm of Locusts by Rebecca RoanhorseLove Her or Lose Her by Tessa BaileyAphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista MateerTo Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (re-read) (5 stars) – Update: upon re-reading, I changed my rating from 4 to 5 stars, because this book is fantastic. In the world of Trail of Lightning, a series of rapid catastrophic climate-change-related events have fractured what was once the United States and buried much of it underwater on an accelerated timeline. In the aftermath, the Navajo nation of Dinetah has formed in what was once the Southwestern United States, and Navajo legends and magical powers are manifesting among its people. Our main character Maggie possesses gifts that help her to slay the monsters that threaten her people, but also have her questioning whether she herself may be monstrous as well. An especially strange new monster has Maggie set on a new path, where, in between fighting monsters and dealing with beings out of Navajo legends, she grows closer with an attractive young medicine man while being haunted by her history with her former love, the legendary Monsterslayer. Urban fantasy can be very hit-or-miss for me, but I really enjoyed this book. With its post-apocalyptic setting and mythology-laden world-building, I think it would be great for readers of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. I loved that Rebecca Roanhorse took the very real threat of climate change as inspiration for the book’s setting and used that as a jumping-off point to introduce Navajo mythology into the world. It was so interesting getting to learn more about Navajo myths and legends. Maggie is a prickly, somewhat isolated main character at the beginning of the book, but we see a lot of growth even during this relatively short novel. I found it very easy to root for her, and I loved the concept of the clan powers, which played a large role in the book. The book’s secondary characters were also great; I especially loved Kai, her mysterious medicine-man love interest, and of course his grandfather Tah as well, but also thought Coyote was a great character. I think the world that Rebecca Roanhorse created has the potential for so many more stories, and I’m very excited to see where she takes Maggie next. Definitely recommend. I received a free signed copy of Trail of Lightning at an autographing session at BookCon.

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse (4 stars) – After re-reading Trail of Lightning, I could not have been more excited for the sequel, and although I did absolutely still enjoy the read, this one didn’t quite work for me as well as the first book did. It’s a month after the events of the first book, and Maggie Hoskie, our badass, monsterslaying protagonist, is living with her elderly friend Tah, whose nephew and Maggie’s love interest, Kai, is still MIA. So Maggie’s been taking on jobs with the local Thirsty Boys mercenary crew to fill the time, and after a job goes sideways, she finds herself the guardian of a young teenage girl named Ben, and from there on the road after Kai, who seems to have been abducted by a cult leader called the White Locust. I still absolutely love Maggie as a main character; she’s tough, but is learning to care about people more and more; newcomer Ben added more to the story by bringing out Maggie’s protective side and casting her into a big sister role. The world Roanhorse created with this series is fascinating, and I would easily read ten books set here; every time we see a new angle of the Sixth World, I’m impressed with her creativity all over again. What was missing for me this time was Kai and Coyote, two of my favorite main characters from the first book, who are both pushed to the back burner for this one and aren’t given enough time to shine. I like both of their dynamics with Maggie, and I felt that the side characters from this book didn’t hold as much interest for me, with the exceptions of Ben and Rissa. Quite a few interesting things are set up towards the end of the book that definitely bode well for future stories in this series, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (4 stars) – I’ve seen the phrase “vampires are back!” associated with The Beautiful more than anything else, and although I’m not averse to the idea (although I don’t believe vampires in literature really went anywhere in the first place, nor did I want them to), I think it’s misapplied to this book in particular. It sets up Twilight-esque expectations, or maybe a new version of True Blood, when that’s simply not the case. The Beautiful is a lot of things, but I absolutely would not call it a vampire book. That being said, I absolutely loved it. Check out my full review here.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon (4 stars) – The Deep is a short but profoundly impactful novel that blends history and fantasy together to tell the story of Yetu, a young woman who shoulders the intense burden of being the historian for her people, the wajinru, who are mer-people descended from enslaved pregnant African women who were thrown overboard on the journey to the Americas. While all other wajinru are able to spend most of their lives spared from reliving the horror of the collective memories of their people, Yetu must constantly bear it all, and, understandably, she’s struggling to do so and still survive. When her people gather together for an event where they periodically share the memories, guided by Yetu, she flees, and embarks on a journey where she learns more about herself and her people. It’s a powerful story, one that deserves to be widely read, and one that I would absolutely recommend. I received an ARC of The Deep from the publisher at BookExpo.

Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin (3.75 stars) – Technically a short story, but I’ll take anything I can get from N.K. Jemisin, who’s one of my favorite authors. “Emergency Skin” is science fiction, told in second person, and follows a soldier sent back to a destroyed Earth from an extraplanetary colony that abandoned our planet centuries previously, in search of genetic information that would help to ensure the survival of his society. It’s a very quintessentially N.K. Jemisin story that utilizes several hallmarks of her writing (twists, second person narration, commentary on current societal issues), but, having recently read her fantastically amazing short story collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?, I’d say that overall it wasn’t one of her strongest stories for me. I’d definitely still recommend the read, though, especially as it’s free if you have Amazon Prime.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (3.5 stars) – This contemporary romance, set in England, follows web designer Chloe Brown, a guarded woman dealing with her fibromyalgia diagnosis, and Redford Morgan, an artist-turned-property-manager, who’s dealing with insecurity and the aftermath of a traumatizing relationship. Our story kicks off when Chloe undergoes a near-death experience and decides that she needs to, well, get a life–to stop being afraid to make bold life decisions and go out and experience the world. She initiates this by moving out of her family’s house, but stalls trying to accomplish any of the next few tasks (ride a motorcycle, travel the world with minimal luggage, have meaningless sex, etc) until she meets Red, who she seems to think is the sort of “dangerous” guy who could help her with her list, but who in actuality is a complete sweetheart who happens to ride a motorcycle. While working through Chloe’s list, with some necessary modifications, the two confront their mistaken first impressions of each other (Red assumes Chloe is a rich snob, Chloe assumes Red is carefree and full of himself) and end up falling for each other. You can read my full review here; I received an eARC of Get a Life, Chloe Brown from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this second installment in Bailey’s Hot and Hammered series quite as much as the first book, Fix Her Up, but it was still a fun, quick read that I think a lot of contemporary romance readers will likely enjoy. Love Her or Lose Her follows a married couple (unusual for a romance novel!), Rosie and Dominic, who, despite a deep love for one another that began when they were childhood sweethearts, find themselves at a point in their marriage where they’re only truly able to connect in the bedroom; otherwise, their communication has completely broken down. Rosie in particular has been feeling the strain, and kicks off the novel by leaving Dominic, as she’s feeling unappreciated and unsatisfied both professionally and in their relationship. The plot of the novel revolves around Rosie and Dominic’s attempts to reconnect through a hippie version of last-ditch couples counseling Rosie initially proposes as a challenge to Dominic, thinking there’s no way he’ll let his guard down enough to try therapy, and Rosie’s efforts to start her own restaurant, which she’s been dreaming about her entire life. My full review is linked here; Love Her or Lose Her comes out on January 14th. I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer (3 stars) – I didn’t enjoy this poetry collection nearly as much as Mateer’s other collection Honeybee, which I read earlier this year, but it’s a gorgeously designed book with a great concept that I think a lot of readers will likely appreciate. Although I love Greek mythology, the poetry in this collection was in parts too pared down and in other parts too over-explained for my personal preference.

 

Have you read any of these? How did your October reading go?

Book Review: The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1)

 

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: YA historical fantasy

Release date: 10/1/19

 

I’ve seen the phrase “vampires are back!” associated with The Beautiful more than anything else, and although I’m not averse to the idea (although I don’t believe vampires in literature really went anywhere in the first place, nor did I want them to), I think it’s misapplied to this book in particular. It sets up Twilight-esque expectations, or maybe a new version of True Blood, when that’s simply not the case. The Beautiful is a lot of things, but I absolutely would not call it a vampire book. That being said, I absolutely loved it.

A much more accurate description of this book would be that it’s a young adult romantic historical fantasy, which is, I guess, a less succinct genre tag than “vampires,” but, I don’t think, a less appealing one. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that express disappointment over the lack of vampires in The Beautiful, and a lot of ratings that may be lower than the book deserves, but all of this could have been avoided if different expectations had been set.

But I’m going to stop talking now about expectations and ratings, and talk about the book itself, which I don’t think we’re hearing nearly enough about. The Beautiful is the story of feisty, headstrong, fun-loving Celine Rousseau, the antithesis of a timid, clumsy, Bella Swan-type YA heroine, who flees to New Orleans haunted by what she had to do to survive in her hometown of Paris. In the company of several other girls from around the world, Celine takes up residence in a convent while awaiting viable marriage proposals and becomes drawn into the seductive underworld of New Orleans society when she meets a mysterious, confident, pants-wearing woman who wants to employ her for her dressmaking skills. While Celine is visiting the headquarters of this attractive, dangerous underworld known as the La Cour des Lions, a murder is committed, and Celine becomes sucked into the investigation as well as the orbits of two former friends and present enemies, dark and alluring leader of the Cour des Lions Sebastien Saint Germain and savant police detective Michael Grimaldi.

So, why did I like this book? The New Orleans setting was a huge part of that. Ahdieh’s descriptions of the lush, vibrant, diverse city portray a New Orleans that’s both alluring and sinister, and the perfect setting for a fantasy story. Celine is a heroine who isn’t afraid–of danger, of intrigue, to do what needs to be done, or to just have a good time, and I very much appreciated that. Female friendships and side characters aren’t overlooked in favor of the romance; I liked both Pippa, Celine’s conventional and loyal British friend, and Odette, a member of La Cour des Lions, who flaunts conventions and gender norms in every scene she steals. And the romance itself was a lot of fun to read about; I wasn’t aware that this book actually had a love triangle, and although I know a lot of readers can’t stand those, I am definitely not one of them. Did I need a lot more backstory about why Bastien and Michael hated each other? Yes. Did it make any sense that Michael was somehow the best police detective in New Orleans at age nineteen? Of course not. But if that’s what needed to happen so that we could set up an angsty love triangle, then I’m on board.

If you enjoy romance-centric YA, and the idea of a series that’s lighter on fantasy but heavy on atmosphere appeals to you, I think you’ll also really like The Beautiful.–just don’t expect it to be Twilight.

 

I received an ARC of The Beautiful from the publisher at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

End of the Year Book Tag!

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I was already thinking about posting a combination TBR for November and December (particularly because I’m not sure how much reading I’ll be able to fit in during these two months, with a possible NaNoWriMo and Chrismakkuh shenanigans happening) when I discovered the End of the Year Book Tag, which was created by Ariel Bissett. 

Basically, we’ve got a bunch of questions about what we’re planning on doing with the remainder of our reading year, which somehow is only about 2 more months. Now is definitely about the time when I start assessing what and how much I’ve read over the course of the year, and try to self-correct and pick up books I’ve been meaning to get to but haven’t yet. I always end up feeling like I haven’t found enough favorites, and waffle between putting pressure on myself to find new 5-star reads and trying to use the last few months of the year to pick up books I’m genuinely excited about and think I’ll love. And on that note, let’s get to the questions!

Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?

The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett. This was one of my most highly anticipated ARCs from BookExpo, and I started it last month but put it on indefinite pause when I realized that I was really not liking it. I’m determined, however, to persist and see if I can find out what all the hype is about, or whether it’ll end up being a miss for me.

Do you have an autumnal book to transition into the end of the year?

Deathless (Leningrad Diptych, #1)

Sort of! I’ve always thought of Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente as a very autumnal book, or at least a fall/wintery one, and I started it the other night with the goal of finally, finally reading it (it’s been on my TBR shelf for literal years).

Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?

The Witches Are ComingThe Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3)In the Dream HouseDead Astronauts

There are 4 new releases coming out this month that I’m really looking forward to: The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (essay collection), The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black (YA fantasy, third book in trilogy), In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (memoir), and Dead Astronauts by Jeff Vandermeer (science fiction).

What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?

Ninth House (Alex Stern, #1)Magic for LiarsMiddlegame

My top three books to read by the end of the year are three of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and all happen to be fantasy: Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo, Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey, and Middlegame by Seanan McGuire.

Is there a book you think could still shock you and become your favourite book of the year?

This is such a hard question. I’d really love for any of my three most anticipated books to become a new favorite, but also in general, I’d really love to find a bunch of new 5-star books in the coming months. If I had to guess, I’d say Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is a strong contender for a 5-star read, given my past track record with that author.

Have you already started making reading plans for 2020?

The City We BecameHarrow the Ninth (The Locked Tomb, #2)The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient, #3)House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City, #1)

Heck yes! My 2020 shelf on Goodreads is currently at 33 books I’m looking forward to, and I’m planning on a post sometime in December focused on my most anticipated reads of next year. The covers above are a sneak peek at what I’ll be freaking out about in that post.

 

What are you looking to read before the end of the year? Let me know in the comments!

September Reading Wrap-Up

I had set a vaguely defined goal for myself for September (something like “read lots of books”) and I’m happy to report that I accomplished that. Not only did I finish more books than I have in the past few months, but I read several books that I rated over 4 stars, and I honestly enjoyed every single thing I read in September.

Let’s go to the stats and reviews:

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 2

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Sapphire Flames by Ilona AndrewsKill the Queen by Jennifer EstepThe Future of Another Timeline by Annalee NewitzShame Is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary LambertParkland by Dave CullenWe Died in Water by Meg FloresBloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovernRadio Silence by Alice OsemanThe Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (4.5 stars) – Sapphire Flames is technically the fourth book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, although it’s also technically the start of a new trilogy featuring the younger sister of books 1-3’s protagonist. I’ve actually just finished this one and LOVED it; I’m an Ilona Andrews superfan, but this was actually one of my favorites of hers. It’s set in a version of our world that features warring dynasties of magical families, and our main character Catalina has a very unique power; we follow her trying to solve a friend’s mother’s murder, protect her own family, and maybe connect with her crush, Alessandro, who has more than a few secrets up his sleeves. Honestly, this book is SO GOOD, and I think it’s also a great starting point for readers new to Ilona Andrews.

Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary Lambert (4.5 stars) – An impactful, striking, shiver-inducing autobiographical collection of poems that discuss sexual assault and its aftermath, falling in love, heartbreak, mental illness, and survival. There were several poems in this collection that made me pause, re-read, and take a moment to consider how Lambert used so few words to say so much. Her writing style is sometimes fluid and sometimes jarring; the poems are relatable and very readable but contain a lot of depth. I’d definitely recommend this one.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (4.25 stars) – I absolutely loved this YA contemporary retelling of Twelfth Night that dealt skillfully with mental illness and sibling relationships; my full review will be up soon. I received an ARC at BookExpo from the publisher.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (4 stars) – really well done YA contemporary, revolving around two misfits and a science fiction podcast. I absolutely loved the main characters, and the writing and perspective felt extremely authentic. I did feel that the plot stumbled a bit towards the end, but overall I really loved this one.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (4 stars) – Creative, feminist time-travel science fiction, set mainly in the 1990s and 1890s. Check out my full review here.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen (4 stars) – A very necessary and topical read. I listened to Dave Cullen’s Columbine on audiobook last month and was impressed by his research and thoroughness, and I wanted to pick up Parkland especially because it focuses almost exclusively on the March for Our Lives kids and movement rather than the school shooting itself; although the books are related, they emphasize very different things. The Parkland kids are so impressive and inspirational, and I think Cullen did a great job capturing what they are trying to accomplish.

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern (4 stars) – the first graphic novel I’ve picked up in literally years, because it’s by the author of a webcomic I adore (My Life as a Background Slytherin). It’s a parody of historical/Regency romances, with an added fantastical element, and I quite enjoyed it. We follow Lucy, our heroine, who feels like a misfit under the constraints of proper society; Lord Byron (“from books!”), a poet with a very short attention span and a penchant for stabbing any vampire he sees; and Sham, a mysterious vampire hunter, on their adventures around England while trying to infiltrate a secret vampire society but keep getting sidetracked. I found it very cute, quirky, and funny, although for me it maybe wasn’t quite as consistently hilarious as McGovern’s webcomic tends to be, likely because there’s a lot more plot in a graphic novel than a 1-page webcomic. The art style and colors are likewise adorable and fun, and I’m definitely glad I picked it up.

We Died in Water by Meg Flores (4 stars) – We Died in Water is a memoir told in short prose poems that focuses on themes of love and leaving, using the ocean to help tell the author’s story in a variety of metaphors. The memoir itself mirrors the waves in structure, by repetition of the stories of loving and heartbreak that both the author and her mother experienced, stories that echo each other and force both the author and the reader to wonder if we are doomed to repeat our families’ pasts. As someone who’s always loved the ocean (as you can probably garner from my account name), I loved the integration of waves and ocean imagery into the author’s retelling of her story, and I found the writing overall to be lovely and fluid, while still retaining clarity, which can be difficult in a book with a nontraditional structure. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful little book, and I’d recommend it if you enjoy unconventional structures, poetry, and the ocean.

I received an early copy of We Died in Water from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep (3.75 stars) – Mistakenly thought this was UF when I picked it up (the leather pants threw me off!) but it’s actually a really fun, fast-paced royal revenge plot in a full fantasy world with a writing style that reminds me of UF. I really enjoyed it–our main character Everleigh, a minor royal, survives an assassination attempt on the royal family, and joins a gladiator troupe, where survival turns into a desire for vengeance. She has to use the magic she’s kept hidden her entire life as well as every ounce of the cold rage that fuels her in order to do what she’s never even imagined–try to kill the queen. It’s got action, humor, and the hint of a romance, plus literally every character is wearing black leggings at all times, which is a fantasy world I can really get behind. There’s also a really interesting magic system featuring everything from enhanced senses, shapeshifting, and elemental magic. I’m about to start the second book, Protect the Prince, and I’m really interested to see where the story goes from here.

 

Have you read any of these, or are any of them on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Genre: science fiction

Rating: 4 stars

I have mixed feelings about time travel-focused science fiction; it’s never an element that draws me toward a story, but I’ve found it to be an interesting plot device in the hands of the right author (prior to picking up this book, namely Connie Willis, whose writing style I love). One of the things that can make or break a time travel plot is the method of time travel presented, and this was an element that I really enjoyed in The Future of Another Timeline: time travel is geology-based, and centers around specific rock formations in several locations around the world. We’re never sure whether the rock formations are a natural occurrence or whether they’re a remnant of a past advanced or alien civilization, but we know that one travels through time by tapping out specific patterns into the rock, and that humanity has barely scratched the surface of what the machines are truly capable of, and that explanation/non-explanation worked for me, because it felt unique, somewhat organic, and added a persistent oddness and potential for twists in the story.

The Future of Another Timeline follows time-traveling geologist Tess, who is ostensibly a researcher focusing on the late 1800s but in actuality is part of a secret organization dedicated to fighting for women’s and non-binary persons’ rights and preserving their contributions to society by manipulating the timeline and fighting against a shadow organization attempting to suppress women and non-binary persons in the past so that they can create a male-dominated future. We’re also following Beth, a teenager in the 1990s in California who is enmeshed in riot grrl culture and who’s dealing with a complex and precarious family situation, as well as the fact that she and her friends have just killed a rapist. We bounce back and forth between these two storylines throughout the book, with a few interludes from other perspectives, as Tess and her organization strategize about how to save the future while Beth deals with both emotional fallout and rising danger.

I found the writing style of Timeline to be concise, clear, and quick-moving; Newitz’s background as a science journalist feels clear in the story’s telling. It’s a fascinating premise, and one that could be intimidatingly complex if not told as succinctly as it was. The emotional depth of the story, however, was more inconsistent; I felt much more connected to Beth’s story than Tess’s, and not just because one involved time travel and one didn’t, but because Beth felt like a more fully realized character, whereas I never truly felt like I had a handle on who Tess was, beyond her fight for societal justice.

Beth’s portion of the plot, as well, was more gripping for me, probably because it was much more personal and immediate; it was as though, strangely, even though this is a book about time travel, it may have been a stronger story without the time travel element altogether, and just focusing solely on Beth. Newitz creates a fully realized vision of 1990s California, rife with punk rock, hypocrisy, the allure of freedom, and the crushing weight of restrictions placed on teenagers that prevent them from fully realizing that freedom as it lurks just out of reach with the escape of college. There were parts of Tess’s story that did work for me as well, particularly the parts featuring the other members of her society, the Daughters of Harriet (named for Harriet Tubman, who became a senator in this version of history), but for me the parts set in the 1890s tended to drag and felt oddly paced.

If you enjoy fast-paced, well-written science fiction that focuses on politically relevant issues, I do think you’ll enjoy this one. The Future of Another Timeline comes out tomorrow, September 24th.

 

Thank you so much to the publisher for the opportunity to pick up an ARC of The Future of Another Timeline at BookExpo.

Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (release date 7/9/19)

Genre: YA weird fiction

Rating: 4 stars

A lot of people have been calling Wilder Girls a female version of Lord of the Flies; I’d say it’s much more of a YA take on Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, since both involve an all-female cast, weird fiction focused on a very specific environment, and an overlying sense of unease and strangeness. Unlike Vandermeer’s creation of humid Florida otherness, Wilder Girls is set on an isolated island off the coast of Maine, home to an all-girls boarding school that has been completely cut off from the mainland for a year and a half after the outbreak of a mysterious disease referred to as the Tox. The Tox, along with causing intermittent episodes of crippling pain and affliction, warps the bodies of the girls to suit its opaque purposes: one character’s hair glows, and the cover illustration shows a metaphorical look at the potential for beauty in these mutations, but the reality for the rest of the girls is much more sinister: our main character Hetty’s eye has been sealed shut, her best friend Byatt has grown a second, alien spine, and our hair-glowing friend Rae can’t use one of her hands.

The disease and quarantine, however, are affecting more than just the girls’ bodies. The majority of their teachers are dead, and no other adults are left alive on the island; the Navy sends food intermittently, but it’s never enough; and the girls are forced to be constantly vigilant against the threat of attack from Tox-warped wild animals from the surrounding forest. Contact with the outside world is almost non-existent, but the girls still left alive have become survivors, adapting to an unthinkable new reality with pragmatism and strict adherence to the new rules of their lives. Until a few crucial things change: Hetty acquires new information that makes her question what’s really happening on the island, and her best friend, seemingly irrepressible, blue-blooded, capricious Byatt, goes missing.

I love weird fiction (think Vandermeer or Samanta Schweblin) and am delighted to find the genre finding a foothold in YA. Powers creates an intensely atmospheric setting in Raxter Island that feels like a character itself, and the mysterious illness plaguing the island’s inhabitants is a constantly creeping antagonist, at times forced to the background and at other times reasserting its presence forcefully, throughout the other horrors that the characters encounter. Hetty is a tough, survival-focused main character, and I loved her loyalty to her friends, her determination, and her slowly developing romance with Rae. I also loved complex, morally grey Byatt, who I could easily read another entire book about.

Wilder Girls is fascinating and immersive, and I didn’t see a lot of the plot twists coming, but the pacing is a bit irregular and unconventional, which may bother some readers, although it wasn’t an issue for me personally. And I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but I do need to address the ending. I really don’t mind an open-ended or thought-provoking ending as long as it’s done well–Kelly Link is one of my favorite authors, for example, and all of her stories both end and begin ambiguously. But I didn’t feel that this was the case in Wilder Girls, and rather than feeling ambiguous, the ending struck me as unfinished, and unfortunately didn’t work for me, which is why I’m giving this 4 stars rather than 5.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read an eARC of Wilder Girls in exchange for an honest review.

 

Most Anticipated New Releases: Second Half of 2019 (Belated but still happening!)

Earlier this year, when I posted my two blog posts (here and here) about my most anticipated new releases for the first half of 2019, I promised to later compile another post featuring the books I’m most excited about for July through December. And then I forgot about it until June, when I was planning to post it, but then somehow forgot about it again after finishing about half of it, because it’s been a really crazy summer. I thought about not posting this at all, considering it’s now September and this is a few months late (and many of the books on the list have already been released), but decided to go for it anyways. Personally, I love looking at lists of anticipated new releases and adding the intriguing ones to my TBR, and since we’re not all completely on top of our new release reading anyways (me especially!), I figured that this would still be somewhat relevant, and would, if nothing else, still help me to track the books I have an eye on for the fall and early winter.

So, here we go! There are a ton of books on this list; some are from authors I already know and love, but others are debuts or from new-to-me authors, and we’ve got a lot of different genres represented as well. Let’s jump in, from earliest release to latest…

Oval

Oval by Elvia Wilk (release date 6/4) – Near-future literary science fiction that I don’t know a ton about, but am nevertheless intrigued by. Goodreads says that “Oval is a fascinating portrait of the unbalanced relationships that shape our world, as well as a prescient warning of what the future may hold.”

Bunny

Bunny by Mona Awad (release date 6/11) – This literary fiction release is set at an MFA program and deals with complex female friendships, so I’m in. I think there might be a magical realism element as well, but I can’t quite tell from the synopsis, so don’t take my word for it. Per Goodreads, “the spellbinding new novel from one of our most fearless chroniclers of the female experience, Bunny is a down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, friendship and desire, and the fantastic and terrible power of the imagination.”

Wilder Girls

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (release date 7/9) – A lot of people have been calling this a female version of Lord of the Flies; I’d say it’s much more of a YA take on Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, since both involve an all-female cast, weird fiction focused on a very specific environment, and an overlying sense of unease and strangeness. I was able to read an eARC of this one from NetGalley and gave it 4 stars; my full review will be up shortly.

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams (release date 7/9) – I’m normally not into World War II historical fiction (like Tudor-era historical fiction, I read tons of it when I was younger and got burnt out awhile back), but this book is about spies, there’s a strong romantic element, and it’s set in the Bahamas, so it feels like a new angle on the time period. I’m currently listening to this one on audiobook and enjoying it.

The Last Book Party

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess (release date 7/9) – From Goodreads: “In the summer of 1987, 25-year-old Eve Rosen is an aspiring writer languishing in a low-level assistant job, unable to shake the shadow of growing up with her brilliant brother. With her professional ambitions floundering, Eve jumps at the chance to attend an early summer gathering at the Cape Cod home of famed New Yorker writer Henry Grey and his poet wife, Tillie. Dazzled by the guests and her burgeoning crush on the hosts’ artistic son, Eve lands a new job as Henry Grey’s research assistant and an invitation to Henry and Tillie’s exclusive and famed “Book Party”— where attendees dress as literary characters. But by the night of the party, Eve discovers uncomfortable truths about her summer entanglements and understands that the literary world she so desperately wanted to be a part of is not at all what it seems.” Sounds bookish and drama-filled, so I’m on board.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers (release date 8/8) – Somehow, I missed hearing about this new novella from Becky Chambers until just recently, and it’s currently on its way to me from Book Depository. Not a part of her Wayfarers series, Goodreads says that “in her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves.”

Rage (Stormheart, #2)

Rage by Cora Carmack (release date 8/27) – You can check out my full review for Rage, sequel to romantic YA fantasy Roar, here; I really enjoyed this new installment in the Stormheart series, which for me is a very underrated YA saga.

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4)

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (release date 8/27) – Sapphire Flames is technically the fourth book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, although it’s also technically the start of a new trilogy featuring the younger sister of books 1-3’s protagonist. I’ve actually just finished this one and LOVED it; I’m an Ilona Andrews superfan, but this was actually one of my favorites of hers. It’s set in a version of our world that features warring dynasties of magical families, and our main character Catalina has a very unique power; we follow her trying to solve a friend’s mother’s murder, protect her own family, and maybe connect with her crush, Alessandro, who has more than a few secrets up his sleeves. Honestly, this book is SO GOOD, and I think it’s also a great starting point for readers new to Ilona Andrews.

Whose Story Is This?: Old Conflicts, New Chapters

Whose Story is This? by Rebecca Solnit (release date 9/3) – Rebecca Solnit writes politically relevant, concise essays that make you think more deeply about issues you only think you understand; I’ve read three of her previous collections (Men Explain Things to Me, Call Them by Their True Names, and The Mother of All Questions), which were all excellent. This newest collection focuses on marginalized voices and who gets to tell the story of our politically divided present.

Well Met

Well Met by Jen DeLuca (release date 9/3) – rom-com set at a Renaissance Faire. I think that’s all I need to say? I’ve been reading more and more contemporary romance lately, and this one sounds very cute.

After the Flood

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag (release date 9/3) – I’m still a sucker for any type of female-driven post-apocalyptic fiction, and this one focuses on a mother and daughter attempting to survive in a world overrun by flood waters.

Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove, #1)

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin (release date 9/3) – Another weakness of mine is romantic YA fantasy, and this one’s getting comparisons to Sarah J. Maas (hopefully in the vein of ACOTAR rather than Throne of Glass, which I’m not a fan of). It involves witches and an arranged marriage between a witch and witch-hunter, which sounds very intriguing.

The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (release date 9/10) – the unexpected sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale is on mine and everyone else’s TBR for the fall. I’m not sure what to expect, and haven’t read anything about the plot, nor do I want to, before diving in.

Gideon the Ninth (The Ninth House, #1)

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (release date 9/10) – I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Gideon from the publisher at BookExpo, and it turned into my favorite book so far of 2019. It’s an awesome, twisty science fantasy read featuring necromancy, political intrigue, a competition between magical Houses, and humor. Check out my full review here.

Bloodlust & Bonnets

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern (release date 9/17) – I absolutely LOVE McGovern’s webcomic My Life as a Background Slytherin (it’s seriously hilarious; check her out on Instagram @emilyintheweb), and I somehow missed hearing about her new graphic novel until recently. It sounds like tons of fun–a satirical historical fantasy featuring vampires and Lord Byron. I’m eyeing it as a potential read for Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon this fall.

The Future of Another Timeline

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (release date 9/24) – I’m actually reading this one right now, and it’s got an awesome premise: feminist time-travelers from the near-future are trying to prevent the erasure of women’s contributions to society by an insidious MRA-type time-travel group, while we also get flashbacks to the Riot Grrl era of the early ’90s. I’m picky about time travel books, but this one really works for me.

Ninth House

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (release date 10/1) – this one has to be on pretty much everyone’s list of most anticipated books of the year. It’s the adult debut from previously-YA author Bardugo, whose Six of Crows duology I absolutely loved, focusing on secret societies at Yale, with fantastical elements. It sounds dark and twisty and like a perfect book to pick up in October.

Trinity Sight

Trinity Sight by Jennifer Givhan (release date 10/1) – I’m going to let Goodreads take this one (I picked up an ARC at BEA): “Anthropologist Calliope Santiago awakens to find herself in a strange and sinister wasteland, a shadow of the New Mexico she knew. Empty vehicles litter the road. Everyone has disappeared-or almost everyone. Calliope, heavy-bellied with the twins she carries inside her, must make her way across this dangerous landscape with a group of fellow survivors, confronting violent inhabitants, in search of answers. Long-dead volcanoes erupt, the ground rattles and splits, and monsters come to ominous life. The impossible suddenly real, Calliope will be forced to reconcile the geological record with the heritage she once denied if she wants to survive and deliver her unborn babies into this uncertain new world. Rooted in indigenous oral-history traditions and contemporary apocalypse fiction, Trinity Sight asks readers to consider science versus faith and personal identity versus ancestral connection. Lyrically written and utterly original, Trinity Sight brings readers to the precipice of the end-of-times and the hope for redemption.”

Aphrodite Made Me Do It

Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer (release date 10/1) (poetry collection) – I read Mateer’s poetry collection Honeybee and absolutely loved it after picking up a copy at BookCon this year, and it made me want to read a lot more from her. Based on the title, I assume that this collection also focuses on love and lost love.

The Last True Poets of the Sea

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (release date 10/1) – I heard about this one at the YA Buzz panel at BookExpo, where it was pitched as being extremely unique and hard to describe–and even though that was pretty vague, I was still intrigued enough to pick up an ARC after the panel. Early reviews are very positive, and several mention that it’s either inspired by or a retelling of Twelfth Night.

Frankissstein

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (release date 10/1) – Winterson’s The Passion was one of my favorite reads a few years ago, and I’ve been wanting to pick up more from her ever since. Frankissstein is supposedly half historical fiction about a take on Mary Shelley and her inspiration for Frankenstein and half speculative literary fiction about AI, and I’m very intrigued.

Wayward Son (Simon Snow, #2)

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (release date 10/3) – The sequel to Carry On, which is probably one of my favorite YA books, has been on my radar for months. I read Carry On in one sitting during my first ever round of participating in Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon, and it fits into one of my absolute favorite niche genres: satires/homages to portal fantasy tropes and classics. I have no idea what to expect from Wayward Son, except that it’s set in the U.S., but I’m hoping to love it just as much as the original.

The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (release date 10/8) – Another ARC I picked up at BookExpo’s YA Buzz panel, this one is being called a YA version of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1)

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (release date 10/8) – YA historical fantasy featuring New Orleans vampires, inspired by Anne Rice. There’s no way I’m not picking this one up, and I stood in line for a veryyy long time at BookExpo to pick up an ARC! To me, this is the epitome of a great-sounding October read, and I’m very much hoping to love it.

It Would Be Night in Caracas

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo (release date 10/15) – I’m very interested in this new release from new imprint Harper Via, which focuses on translated, international fiction. From Goodreads: “Told with gripping intensity, It Would be Night in Caracas chronicles one woman’s desperate battle to survive amid the dangerous, sometimes deadly, turbulence of modern Venezuela and the lengths she must go to secure her future.”

The Deep

The Deep by Rivers Solomon (release date 11/5) – this is a short novel based on a Hugo-nominated song and written by the author of An Unkindness of Ghosts, a science fiction work I read last year. It sounds like it will be an intense and moving read; Goodreads describes the premise thusly: “Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian.”

The Witches Are Coming

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (release date 11/5) – I really enjoyed West’s previous essay collection Shrill, which talked a lot about feminism and body positivity; this one is supposed to be more of an examination of how Trump won the 2016 election and how pop culture trends contributed to current societal issues.

In the Dream House

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (release date 11/5) – Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties is one of my all-time favorite short story collections, so I’ll absolutely be looking to pick up her new book, which is a memoir about her experience in an abusive relationship.

Queen of the Conquered

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender (release date 11/12) – The Goodreads blurb says it all for this one: “An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression.”

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3)

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black (release date 11/19) – I’m cautiously looking forward to the third and final (I’m assuming?) book in Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy, considering that I did enjoy the first 2 books in the series, but they weren’t quite perfect. They’re definitely twisty books with memorable characters, but I’m hoping that book 3 will bring more depth and resolution to the series.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha, #2)

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (release date 12/3) – the anxiously awaited sequel to YA fantasy hit Children of Blood and Bone finally comes out in December, and I’m very excited to see where the story goes after Book 1’s twist ending. I really loved the characters and lush worldbuilding of the first book, and I have a feeling that Book 2 won’t disappoint.

 

Are you excited for any of these new releases? Do you know of any intriguing ones I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!