Highlights: October 2021

Fall is in full swing and we have entered October, the month that brings us all things creepy, crawly, and spooky! That means that it’s time for Kate’s annual Horrorpalooza review series, as well as all the horror movies, and it’s time for Serena to find all things cozy and autumn-esque! We also have a list of books that we are looking forward to this month as the days get shorter and pumpkin themed everything permeates our lives.

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Animorphs Graphix #2: The Visitor”

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I’m tickled pink that a cult YA series from the 90s is seeing a re-birth here in the 2020s. What a weird thing, to have read all of these books as a kid and now to be re-reading them as graphic novels when I have kids myself! I very much enjoyed the first book that came out about a year ago. I had a few quibbles about some of the artistic choices, but overall, I was surprised by how much fun I had reading that. With that firmly in mind, while I still don’t love the artwork (most notable in this cover), I’m really excited to dive into this second book and see how the events here are depicted in this format.

Book: “Blood of the Chosen” by Django Wexler

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I really enjoyed the first book in this series when I read it last summer. Wexler writes excellent fantasy (science fiction??) worlds and he fills them will well-formed, exciting characters. In this series, we follow a pair of siblings who were separated at a young age and find themselves on opposing sides of a brewing conflict that appears to have no winners. The stakes were high in the first book. So high, that I wonder where they will go from there. But Wexler has proven more than capable of handing escalating forces in past series of his that I’ve enjoyed, so I’m sure he’ll manage it here! I found myself preferring Maya’s story in the first book, and generally coming down on her side of the moral dilemma, so I’m curious to see if that will remain true here.

Book: “Vespertine” by Margaret Rogerson

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Margaret Rogerson is one of those authors I Goodreads stalk. In that, I’ve been checking her profile for updates of a new book almost since the day I read the last page of her latest book. It’s been a long wait, too, but “Vespertine” is finally here! Yet another cover that I think is fantastic, so she’s three-for-three there. The description focusing on a fighting nun sounds pretty awesome as well. I’m a bit bummed that there doesn’t seem to be any romance in this book, as that was one of the things I liked best about her first two books. But it’s also the first in a duology (I think it’s only two??), which is also a first from her as the previous two were stand-alones. So maybe there will be romance there? Or, of course, there are perfectly good books that don’t have romantic subplots. Just my preference that they do. Super excited to get to this one, as I’ve been patiently waiting for soooo long to crack it open.

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Cackle” by Rachel Harrison

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I really loved Rachel Harrison’s debut novel “The Return”, so of course I would be interested in reading her next book. Especially since this one has to do with witches! Annie has always been the type to go along to get along, so when she finds herself recently dumped by her long term boyfriend and in a whole new town, she is anxious, lonely, and a little bit lost. But the she meets Sophie, a beautiful and incredibly charismatic woman who is more than happy to take Annie under her wing. Sophie is gregarious and charming, but everyone else in town seems to be a little scared of her. Could it be that Annie’s new friend is a witch? And what does that mean for Annie? Witches are great, but so are complex female friendship plot points, so this one sounds doubly interesting!

Book: “Nothing But Blackened Teeth” by Cassandra Khaw

Publication Date: October 19, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Given that Japanese horror tales are some of the stories that scare me the most (I left “The Ring” as a fully traumatized teenager), when I saw that a new novella with such a theme was coming out I knew I needed to read it. And not only is the cover absolutely horrifying, “Nothing But Blackened Teeth” by Cassandra Khaw is a novella, the perfect length for a late autumn night. Cat and her friends have all come together for a wedding at a Heian-Era mansion in rural Japan. They’ve all been known to be thrill seekers, and a wedding in a haunted house sounds fun. Until Cat starts seeing things. And the story of a long dead, spurned bride starts to unfold right before her eyes. Ghosts and wedding weekends don’t tend to mix well. Throw in some yokai to boot and you have a blood curdling tale of terror!

Book: “Where They Wait” by Scott Carson

Publication Date: October 26, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I’m a super anxious person, and the past two years (between new parenthood and pandemic) has been very stressful at times. I have been trying to meditate more and look into mindfulness programs, but when I read the description for Scott Carson’s “Where They Wait” I was like ‘oh GREAT, let’s make THAT scary, huh?’ But I have to admit, it does sound intriguing. After he’s let go from his prestigious newspaper job, Nick is hired to do a write up of a new mindfulness app called Clarity. It seems like the usual program, but as he starts to look into it more, some things seem off. What kind of mindfulness app has a meditation segment with a creepy song that lulls people into a freaked out state before a good night’s sleep? Nick starts to look into this more, and realizes that he has a dark connection to Clarity and the song. I haven’t read anything by Carson yet, and this one sounds like it’s going to be a truly trippy story.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: September 2021

Summer is starting to wind down, and we can start dreaming about fall. The time to be overwhelmed with all things pumpkin. But there are still some warm days ahead, good excuses to sit outside and read some books. Here are a few titles that we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks:

Book: “The Last Graduate” by Naomi Novik

Publishing Date: September 28, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Confession: I received an ARC for this book back in the spring and, yeah, I couldn’t wait to read it. So I’m not so much looking forward to reading it at this point, but I am looking forward to sharing my review with you! After the dramatic events of the first book, El, Orion, and their friends have one more year in the dangerous Scholomance school before their own treacherous graduation ceremony. But it soon becomes clear that the school is not operating as usual, and El will quickly need to come up with a new approach if she and her friends have any chance of surviving. I’ll give you a super hot preview of my review: I loved the heck out of this book!

Book: “A Song of Flight” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Date: September 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: September is a real banger of a month, as not only does the second “Scholomance” book come out, but also the third and final book in Juliet Marillier’s “Warrior Bards” trilogy. About a year has passed since the end of the previous book, and Liobhan, Dau, and Brocc are more or less where you’d expect them. Liobhan and Dau attempt to balance their burgeoning relationship with the challenges posed as Swan Island warriors. Brocc continues to live in the Fae realm, attempting to puzzle out the secrets of the strange and dangerous Crow Folk. After a prince goes missing, the three all see their lives become upended, and mysteries both new and old begin to demand answers. I’m excited to see how this trilogy is going to wrap up!

Book: “The Bronzed Beasts” by Roshani Chokshi

Publishing Date: September 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: This is probably one of the more buzz-y books of the month. I’ve been a bit tepid on this series overall, but I’ve still enjoyed parts of both of the first books. I definitely have favorite characters, and I’m curious to see how their stories will play out. At the end of the previous book, the crew believe Severin has betrayed and abandoned them. Instead, Severin has a long-game plan that will not only fulfill his promises to his friends, but hopefully save the life of his beloved Laila. The second book introduced a lot of bigger magical components, so I’m excited to see how they come into play here. I really have no idea how this one will wrap up, but I’m optimistic for a good ending.

Kate’s Picks:

Book: “Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery” by Brom

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I love a “Beauty and the Beast” (romantic or not) tale, and if you have it take place during Puritanical times and involving some kind of devil-y creature and a woman who is out of place I am almost assuredly going to trip all over myself to read it. “Slewfoot: A Tale of Bewitchery” by Brom sounds like it’s going to be just that. Abitha is a young wife, sent to the colonies two years ago to marry a man she didn’t know, who now lives in a small Puritan community she doesn’t like. When he dies suddenly and unexpectedly her only ally is gone, and she is left to fend for herself in a community she doesn’t fit into. Slewfoot is an ancient entity that has only recently revived from a long sleep, and he isn’t sure what his place is in this new world. As both try to find their places in a new and strange world, they also find themselves targeted by the people in the community. On top of all this, there are beautiful illustrations to boot. It seems like the perfect read to gear up for the upcoming Halloween season!

Book: “White Smoke” by Tiffany D. Jackson

Publication Date: September 14, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Tiffany D. Jackson is one of my must read authors, whose thrillers have kept me on the edge of my seat and knocked me down, emotionally. So when I read that she was going into full on horror mode with “White Smoke”, I was absolutely on board and not only requested it from NetGalley, but also put a preorder in at my local bookstore. I’m just that excited. Marigold and her newly blended family have moved to a new house, which has been provided by them through her mother’s new job. Sure, it’s a little run down, and sure, the contractual agreement to stay for three years seems odd. But Marigold has her own problems, like high anxiety and bratty stepsister Piper, that concern her more. Until strange things start happening in the house. Objects start moving around. The sound of footsteps can be heard late at night. And a rancid smell pops up, though Mari is the only one who can smell it. As things get more dire, Mari has to try and figure out what is going on. But the problem is that it may not just be the house, but the whole community that is the problem. I’ve been looking forward to this one for awhile, and am ready for Jackson to scare me!

Book: “As Good As Dead” by Holly Jackson

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

Why I’m Interested: We have finally come to the end of Holly Jackson’s “Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” series, and while I figured it would just be a trilogy I am not sure I am ready for it to end. Enter “As Good As Dead”, the third and final book. When we left off, our teen detective Pippa was on a bit of a downhill spiral. A trial she had connections to ended up going poorly, and an acquaintance was murdered right in front of her eyes, with her feeling a bit responsible. And now, as she’s getting ready to head off for college, she starts getting threats online, where someone is implying that SHE is going to be the next person to disappear. Will she be able to figure out who is after her? And will she be able to reconcile her guilt? I look forward to seeing how things work out for Pip, and I can’t wait to see how “As Good As Dead” wraps everything up.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: August 2021

It’s hot. Oh, need more? It’s also humid, and we’ve had a lot of smoke drifting in from fires. So, summer is definitely here! While we both appreciate our A/C for the magic it is, neither of us is quite prepared to complain enough to want winter back. Fall, on the other hand…But the evenings are still lovely and there are a bunch of books lined up to fill our time this coming month. Check out our picks below!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Forestborn” by Elayne Audrey Becker

Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Firstly, I love everything about this cover. Without reading the book description at all, I could already have a fairly clear sense of the type of fantasy story we’re dealing with. Rora and her brother are shifters, a kind of magical being that are particularly feared recently after a dark omen has foretold two shifters and death. But they’ve found their way, under the watchful arm of their friend, the young prince of the land. But when he falls ill with a magical disease, Rora, her brother, and the prince’s grim older brother must venture into the wild lands in pursuit of a cure. This book has a lot of potential to be just the sort of thing I like! I mean, I’m always down for the “grim older brother” romantic interest type at the very least.

Book: “Nolyn” by Michael J. Sullivan

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Yes, yes, I know. I haven’t even managed to read and review the very last book in his previous series! But what can I say? I have a hard time finishing things I’m enjoying so much! But now that Sullivan is releasing a new trilogy, it’s probably safe to finish that one out. At the very least so I can jump into this one next! Set in his same world of Elan, only many centuries after the events of the “Legends of the First Empyre,” the stories follows Nolyn, the heir to the empyre who returns from exile to find himself caught up in more than he had expected. I still haven’t read Sullivan’s original series, but all of his books are written to be enjoyed by new comers as well, so I’ll probably still jump to this one next rather than go back to the first ones. I’m really excited to see what’s in store next!

Book: “Wildwood Whispers” by Willa Reece

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Why I’m Interested: In some of the marketing and early reviews for this book, I found some comparisons to “Practical Magic” and that’s all it took! I can definitely see it, too, given the description of a grieving woman returning to her small-town home in the Appalachian Mountains after the death of her best friend. The story describes a town full of old folktales, deep woods, and mysteries to be found and explored, all while delving into what it means to return home and to process grief. I think this one will ride or die on the strength of the writing, but if it’s anything like the style found in “Practical Magic,” I’m sure I’ll love it!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Why I’m Interested: While it’s true that sometimes YA horror can be a bit hit or miss for me, I am always looking for a book that will hook me in and give me a case of the willies. If a cute side romance is involved I’m even more game. So when I heard about “The Dead and the Dark” by Courtney Gould, it definitely had potential! In small town Snakebite, Oregon, teenagers are disappearing. Logan is visiting with her two dads, who grew up in Snakebite but left as outsiders, and now have a ghost hunting show. Ashley is a local and well to do daughter of a popular family, but her boyfriend is missing and Ashely has been seeing visions of him. When the town thinks that Logan’s dads are to blame, she and Ashley team up to try and figure out what is going on, and start to fall for each other. This has ‘Kate’ written all over it, honestly.

Book: “How We Fall Apart” by Katie Zhao

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Similar to the above statement, I also am always on the lookout for YA mystery thrillers where it’s hard to know who to trust, and everyone seems like they could be duplicitous. “How We Fall Apart” by Katie Zhao seems to have the potential to check all those boxes. When Queen Bee of Sinclair Prep Jamie Ruan goes missing and ends up murdered, it’s her former friend Nancy and her new friends Krystal, Akil, and Alexander who brunt the suspicion of their peers. The rumors are started by the online persona of The Proctor, who has everyone’s secrets up their sleeves to air at their whim. Now Nancy and her friends need to find out who really killed Jamie, before they all lose everything. Downright scintillating.

Book: “My Heart Is a Chainsaw” by Stephen Graham Jones

Publication Date: August 31, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Jones is one of my must read authors, as his horror stories are deeply disturbing as well as supremely moving. He weaves in lots of themes with the scares, about identity and hope and what it means to be Indigenous in the United States. But he also has a deep love for all things horror, so when it was announced he was writing a ‘final girl’ slasher story, I was PUMPED AS HELL. “My Heart Is a Chainsaw” is the story of Jade, a teenage girl in a small Idaho town that is starting to gentrify. When she starts seeing the tell tale signs that her town is falling victim to a slasher killer, she taps into her encyclopedic knowledge of the slasher genre to try and find the ‘final girl’ who will save them all. This is not only a highly anticipated book of the month for me, but also of the entire year.

Highlights: July 2021

It was a super hot June here in Minnesota, and while we aren’t missing the snow and ice by any means, it would be nice if July would settle down with the heat waves. But that said, between holiday weekends and longer days, we are taking advantage of all the outdoor time when it isn’t uncomfortable to do so. And we have some titles that we are looking forward to read on these hot summer days! Here are our picks for July’s Highlights!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Red Wolf” by Rachel Vincent

Publication Date: July 27, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Well, I have to go for the Triple Crown of “Red Riding Hood” stories for the summer, of course! But after enjoying the first two so much, I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit nervous whether this one will keep up or break the streak! In many ways, with its story of a girl named Red who must venture into a dark wood every month to bring supplies to her grandmother, it’s definitely the one of the three that sounds most similar to the original tale. I guess that could either be a good or bad thing, in the end! Either way, props to the art department for another stellar cover. All three definitely knocked it out of the park on that front.

Book: “The Empire’s Ruin” by Brian Staveley

Publication Date: July 6, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I’ve really enjoyed all of the books I’ve read by Brian Staveley in the past, both his original “Unhewn Thrown” trilogy and the stand-alone “Skullsworn” set in the same world. So I was beyond thrilled when I saw that he was coming out with a new book. Even more so when I saw the cover featuring a rough and tumble redhead, promising more adventures for one of my favorite characters from the original trilogy, the fierce Gwenna. She shares the book with a character we met in “Skullsworn,” Ruc, as well as with a thief-turned-priest who grew up alongside Kaden before his adventures began. I’m a bit sad not to have more chapters from Adare’s perspective, but I’m excited to see the fallout of the world after the events of the first trilogy and to see what is in store next for my lovely Gwenna! The book description promises new locations out side the Annurian empire as well as the return of some powerful force. Could we be getting even more history regarding the Nevariim and Csestriim?

Book: “She Who Became the Sun” by Shelley Parker-Chan

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Why I’m Interested: This book is billed as “Mulan” meets “The Song of Achilles.” While I haven’t read the latter, even the barest hint of “Mulan” is usually enjoy to get me to pick up a book. I’ve had on and off success with retellings of this story, but this book looks particularly interesting as, as far as I can tell, the only real “Mulan” connection is a Chinese setting and the story of a young girl taking on the identity of her brother. This leaves a lot of room for original storytelling. The book is also billed as being queer, so I’m curious to see how that romance is worked into the story. There are also a number of references to our main character, Zhu, doing whatever it takes to survive, so I’m hopeful for another ruthless, powerful warrior character there. Also, again, the cover art here is fantastic!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Falling” by T.J. Newman

Publication Date: July 6, 2021

Why I’m Interested: This book is getting a lot of buzz, and while it took me awhile to actually look into the hype, once I did I was VERY interested. “Falling” is billed as “Jaws” on an airplane, and given that “Jaws” is a much loved movie in our household, anything that has shades is sure to please! Bill is an airplane pilot with a loving wife and two kids. But one flight, he is suddenly given a message: crash the plane, or his entire family dies. Once he confirms that his family is, indeed, in danger, Bill has to figure out how to save both his loved ones, and his passengers and crew. Talk about high stakes! It may damper my perception of flying for awhile, but hey, I’m not getting on a plane until probably next year, so whatever!

Book: “The Book of Accidents” by Chuck Wendig

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Why I’m Interested: While “Wanderers” had some pretty glaring misses for me, overall I enjoyed Chuck Wendig’s writing style and approach to a story filled with darkness as well as hope. When I found out he had a new horror novel coming out, I was absolutely on board, and thus we have “The Book of Accidents”! Nate is a man who overcame an incredibly abusive childhood, and now has wife Maddie and teenage son Oliver to care for and love. When his father is on his deathbed, he offers Nate the childhood home, and while Nate has bad memories, his family is interested to move for a change of setting. But once they move in, they all start experiencing strange things. And a dark entity has it’s sights on all of them. Sounds creepy, which is great, but knowing Wendig you can count on a lot of genuine heart as well.

Book: “The Final Girl Support Group” by Grady Hendrix

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Well I mean, come on. I’m sure you can guess. 1) I love slasher movies, especially those that deal with Final Girl heroines and tropes. And 2) Grady Hendrix has never steered me wrong. Lynette is part of a support group for Final Girls, women who has survived a slasher killer and whose story became entertainment for the masses. But when one of their own ends up murdered, Lynette is convinced that they are all in danger. Now Lynette and her compatriots have to try and figure out who is going after them, and see if they can survive again…. especially since survival has been hard to cope with for all of them. Anything slasher is going to be a home run for me, and Hendrix has the knowledge and the wry sense of humor to make this a really fun ride.

What new books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: June 2021

The weather is warm, people are out and about, and the days are longer and longer. It sure feels like summertime here in Minnesota! As we slowly keep shifting back to a new normal, where outside is still king and finding things to do in nature are prioritized, we do have a number of books we look forward to reading in our backyards in the nice (hopefully not too hot for Kate) weather! Here are our Highlights for June!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “The Hidden Palace” by Helene Wecker

Publication Date: June 8, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I really loved “The Golem and the Jinni” when I originally read it years ago. I enjoyed it just as much when I picked it for bookclub and re-read it. It was a beautiful meld of historical fiction and fantasy, using its magical elements and characters to touch on themes of immigration, other-ness, and found families. It also definitely read as a stand-alone story, so imagine my surprise when I saw this popped up, a sequel featuring the same main characters as the original story! I’m excited to see what lays in story for our golem and jinni, especially as it seems we will also be revisiting a few of the human characters we met in the first book whose lives were affected by encountering these magical beings.

Book: “For the Wolf” by Hannah Whitten

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Why I’m Interested: There are three “Red Riding Hood” related books coming out in the next two months. Three! It’s always so funny when trends like this hit, because it seems too coordinated to be chance, but it likely is just that. Either way, as a fan of fairytale re-tellings, this all sounds great to me. “For the Wolf” is the first one coming out (thought not the first on my review schedule because I’m not coordinated enough to manage that!). The story follows Red, a second daughter, a daughter destined to be sacrificed to the Wolf, the powerful warden of the Wilderwood. All of the other second daughters before never returned from their journeys into those dark woods, and Red has no expectation of a happy fate either. But fearing the powerful forces building within her, Red believes the only way to keep her beloved sister safe is to face this eternal banishment, locking herself away from the world. All is not as it seems, however, and Red soon discovers that neither the Wolf nor the Wilderwood are what she or her people have always thought.

Book: “The Wolf and the Woodsman” by Ava Reid

Publication Date: June 8, 2021

Why I’m Interested: And here’s the second one for the month! Like I said before, I’m always game for a good fairytale re-telling, but this one has the added bonus of a super unique and cool cover. Other than the obvious fairytale it’s covering, the story also dives into other Russian fairytales and folklore, following the explorations of Evike and a mysterious Woodsman who is not what he seems as they search for a magic powerful enough to save their country from a cruel leader. The story explores themes of religion, persecution, and the power of the majority over the minority in a conquered nation. I’m really excited to check out this one, too!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “That Weekend” by Kara Thomas

Publication Date: June 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I have been waiting not terribly patiently for Kara Thomas to come out with another YA thriller, and the time has finally come! Thomas is one of my must read authors, as her thrillers are always well plotted, addictive, and are filled with dark twists and turns. “That Weekend” sounds like it’s going to continue that grand tradition. When Claire goes on a secret weekend getaway with her best friends Kat and Jesse, she thinks it’s going to be the time of her life. But then she wakes up on the side of a mountain she has no memory of being on, and Kat and Jesse are nowhere to be found. As Claire tries to remember what happened, suspicions about her role in their disappearance starts to turn her world upside down. Thomas is sure to surprise her fans with this book, as she never makes it too easy to figure out what’s going on.

Book: “Malibu Rising” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Full disclosure time! So I read “Malibu Rising” a couple of months ago. And in another act of full disclosure, it’s probably not going to make it on the blog, even though it’s super good, as it’s not one of the genres that I cover. But I can absolutely say that you need to go out and read this book, because it is AWESOME. It follows four adult siblings in 1980s Malibu. The oldest, Nina, is throwing her annual summer beach party at her lavish mansion, though she is in personal turmoil as her marriage is ending. Over the course of the party, secrets are revealed, resentments arise, choices are made, and an invitation to someone most of the siblings don’t want to see sets off a chain of events that ends with disaster. I loved this book. If you liked Reid’s previous book “Daisy Jones & The Six”, definitely get your hands on this one!

Book: “Survive the Night” by Riley Sager

Publication Date: June 29, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Here we have another author whose entire catalog I have really enjoyed! So yeah, I was REALLY excited when I heard that Riley Sager had a new book coming out this summer, “Survive the Night”. Charlie is desperate to get away from her college campus, as her best friend and roommate Maddy was brutally murdered, and Charlie blames herself and hasn’t been coping. When she runs into the affable Josh at the campus ride board, he says that he can drop her off at her grandmother’s on the way out to see his father. But as they start to ride together, Charlie starts to notice things that don’t sit well with her. Is she letting her paranoia and anxiety get the best of her? Or has she found herself in a car with a dangerous killer? Sager always has fun summer reads, and this cat and mouse thriller will almost assuredly suck me in.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: May 2021

We’re fully into Spring now, and as the temperatures trend upwards we have dreams of summer to be sure! That means long walks, outside activities, and a long weekend here and there for a little bit of relaxation. And with a new month comes a new list of books we’re excited to check out! Here is what we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “The Shadow in the Glass” by J.J.A. Harwood

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Why I’m Interested: The cover immediately caught my eye when I was browsing through the books coming out this month. Looks like a fairytale retelling to me! And, of course, it is. And this time we’re diving into a dark re-imaging of the Cinderella tale. After her wealthy benefactor passes away, Ella’s future, which once was filled with balls and a wealthy marriage, has taken a turn, her days filled with toil and hardship. But when a mysterious figure arrives on night offering Ella the chance to regain the life she lost, Ella must face the fact that all wishes come with a price. And for these, the price might be too high. “Cinderella” isn’t my favorite fairytale, but I do like darker versions of the classics, so I’m excited to see what this one has to offer!

Book: “Black Water Sister” by Zen Cho

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I’m not typically a big fan of contemporary fantasy, but I really enjoyed Cho’s “Sorcerer to the Crown” when we read it a few months back for book club. Plus, the premise of this one sounds pretty unique! Jess is a young woman who doesn’t feel as if she knows herself. After moving back to her native land of Malaysia, Jess’s credits the current stress of her life as the cause for the strange voice in her head. But before she knows it, she’s caught up in her dead grandmother’s world of ghosts, feuds, and gods. With such players on the stage, will Jess sink or swim as she forges her own way forward? Also, this is another fantastic cover!

Book: “The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng” by K. S. Villoso

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Well, obviously! I’ve been enjoying the heck out of Villoso’s “Chronicles of the Bitch Queen” trilogy. Each entry has been higher stakes than the last, and with the dire state of things in the last book, with Queen Tali imprisoned in her own country, I was eager to get my hands on this final entry. With so many forces aligned against her, Tali must once again pull together all of her strength and the aid of the few people she trusts to attempt to save not only herself and her son, but her country. To get there, however, she must delve even deeper into the hard choices that her warlord father made before her. And with the lingering threat of dragons long returned, will Tali be up to all of these challenges? There are a lot of string to tie up in this last entry, so I’m really excited to see how it all comes together!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Hour of the Witch” by Chris Bohjalian

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Though I find it to be a very frustrating and maddening time to read about, I also am deeply fascinated by the Puritans in American during the Colonial era. Especially the Witch trials and accusations of witchcraft in general (and I love to see a story that shows a woman taking control of her own destiny in this setting, of course). So when I read about Chris Bohjalian’s “Hour of the Witch”, I knew that I had to read it. It covers those topics, but also is described like a modern woman in potential peril thriller. Mary Deerfield is a young woman living in Boston in the 1660s, and she is married to an abusive man who is a well liked member of the community. One night he goes too far and she demands she be granted a divorce. But then someone finds three tined forks buried in her yard, and people start to whisper that perhaps she is a witch, and it puts Mary in even more danger. I love a suspenseful thriller, and this time period is an awesome aspect of this one.

Book: “Arsenic and Adobo” by Mia P. Manansala

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Since this is a year that my reading goal is expanding my genre choices, I was kind of interested in giving another cozy mystery a shot after enjoying “The Widows of Malabar Hill”. But I didn’t want to go full on ‘woman who owns a yarn store solves mysteries’ into it (not that there’s a problem with that, of course). Enter “Arsenic and Adobo” by Mia P. Manansala. It follows Lila, a woman who returns to her small town after a break up and who helps out at her auntie’s diner. When her ex boyfriend eats at the establishment, they get get into a huge fight… and then he drops dead from poisoning. Now Lila has to not only figure out who killed her ex to save her auntie’s restaurant, she also has to clear her own name. The cover is cute, the story sounds fun, and there is promise of recipes in the back. I’m in.

Book: “While Justice Sleeps” by Stacey Abrams

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Like many people during the past couple of years, I have come to greatly and deeply respect Stacey Abrams for the fantastic political mind and organizer that she is. There is no way that Georgia would have gone blue in the Senate run offs this year had she not been at the helm. What I didn’t know until recently was that Abrams is not only a political powerhouse, but she’s also a fiction author! And her newest book is a political thriller! “While Justice Sleeps” follows Avery Keene, a law clerk for the powerful and notoriously cold Supreme Court Justice Wynn. When Wynn is suddenly hospitalized and falls into a coma, he leaves Avery as his power of attorney, which shocks everyone, Avery included. As Avery starts to look into his work, she finds that he’s been digging into one of the cases that is supposed to go before the court… one that could have sweeping and controversial medical implications. And it could be a reason that someone would want him dead. Another genre I’m not as familiar with, but Abrams is more than enough to gt me to check it out.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: April 2021

Birds are chirping, rain is falling, the air smells great, and in Minnesota people around us are leaving their homes for outdoor activities (while being safe, of course). Just get some vaccines in everyone’s arms, and it will be a great spring indeed! Until then, we have some books that we are hoping will help pass the time.

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Dustborn” by Erin Bowman

Publication Date: April 20, 2021

Why I’m Interested: First things first: I absolutely love the cover art for this book. It’s kind of creepy, but also sci-fi feeling, and definitely post-apocalypitic. Which is perfect for a book that is being marketed for fans of “Mad Max.” Well, I’m that fan, so here I am! The story is that of a young woman who’s grown up in a water-less wasteland. Every day is a struggle, tormented by dangerous dust storms that can strike at any moment. For Delta, these everyday struggles are made all the harder by the dangerous secret she carries burned into her very skin: a map to the one oasis left in his deserted place. But no one can read it. When her entire family and tribe is captured by a maniacal tyrant, Detla is left with no choice but to venture out into the unknown in search of this mystical place and the secrets locked in her own history. Very excited to check this one out!

Book: “The Helm of Midnight” by Marina Lostetter

Publication Date: April 20, 2021

Why I’m Interested: A heist book that isn’t be touted as the next “Six of Crows” in all of the marketing promotions! Mostly because it’s not YA, I think. But the combination of heist story and serial killer/murder mystery sounds very intriguing. Add in some steampunk fantasy elements and an adult fantasy story, and I’m all in! When an ancient mask is stolen, the thieves unwittingly release the spirit of a deadly, serial murderer from long ago. Now terror wanders the streets and death strikes again. But there is a pattern and motive behind these killings, and it is up to a wily group of individuals to crack the code and uncover the dark mystery at the heart of their deadly foe. There’s not tons to go on from the description, but in some ways that makes it all the more appealing. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to get. But I’ve been hankering for a good mystery story, and if fantasy comes along with it, all the better!

Book: “The Light of the Midnight Stars” by Rena Rossner

Publishing Date: April 13, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I really enjoyed “The Sisters of the Winder Wood” with its creative, lyrical style of writing and the Jewish folk stories woven throughout the atmospheric story. So I was really excited to see another book by this author coming out this spring. In many ways, it sounds a lot like the first books. Instead of two sisters, this time there are three, each with their own special kind of magic. When they and their family begin to fall under suspicion for these abilities and for their religious beliefs, they must strike out into a new world. There, each sister must confront her own unique challenges and find her own path through this perilous world. On one hand, there’s a lot here that may be too similar to the first book. But on the other hand, I really liked that one? So, do I really care?? We’ll find out soon!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Whisper Down the Lane” by Clay McLeod Chapman

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Even though it is a topic that is sure to send me into the white hot rage of 10,000 suns, the Satanic Panic period in our culture, aka when people were convinced that devil worshippers were hiding in plain sight all over the country, is deeply fascinating to me. So when the description for “Whisper Down the Lane” by Clay McLeod Chapman ended up in my email box, along with a download link, I was on board. Even if I knew it was going to be an emotional read. Richard is starting a new life as a husband, stepfather, and teacher at an elementary school. He’s trying to forget the days that he was Sean, a five year old who found himself enmeshed in accusations towards his Kindergarten teacher of Satanism and dark rituals, which led to his teacher’s suicide. But now, a mysterious notes and calls are being sent Richard’s way, and someone is starting to accuse him of terrible things. Or is it just his guilty conscience?

Book: “The Forest of Stolen Girls” by June Hur

Publication Date: April 20, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Given how much I liked June Hur’s previous historical mystery, “The Silence of Bones”, I snatched up the opportunity to get “The Forest of Stolen Girls” from NetGalley. And one again, Hur takes a historical setting I’m not as familiar with (1400s Korea) and gives it a timeless feel, as well as a dive into a dark history that still echos today. Hwani is returning to home village on Jeju Island after years of being on the mainland. A few years earlier, she and her sister were found unconscious in the forest, not too far from the horrific murder scene of another girl. Their father has made it his mission to find out what happened to her, along with other girls who went missing…. but then he too disappeared. Hwani teams up with her estranged sister in hopes of finding their Dad, but stumbles upon a far reaching and dark web of murder, disappearing women, and a man in a mask. This all sounds right up my alley.

Book: “You Love Me” by Caroline Kepnes

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Because it’s Joe Goldberg, that’s why. Okay, I will expand upon that. I have loved Caroline Kepnes’s “You” series ever since I read “You” and “Hidden Bodies” in 2016, and I was hoping, HOPING that she would write more stories about Joe, the obsessive and creepy (but incredibly funny) psychopath. And now, five years later, it has finally happened. Joe has left Los Angeles, left his criminal charges behind, and is once again unattached (as things with Love blew up after the whole accused of murder thing). Now he’s in a small town in the Pacific Northwest, volunteering at a library and trying to live more on the straight and narrow…. Until he meets Mary Kay, the friendly librarian. Joe is in love again, and you know what that means… Nothing good will follow. I’m so, so happy that we have finally come back to this awful, and awfully funny, character.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: March 2021

The temperature is finally starting to rise, the snow is starting to slowly melt, and we can sometimes hear a bird or two chirping in our neighborhoods! Does this mean that we can assume that we’re in the clear regarding another snow storm? Not on your life! But as we start to dream of Spring after an arduous pandemic winter, we have some books that we are also looking forward to this month.

Serena’s Picks

Book: “The Bone Maker” by Sarah Beth Durst

Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Durst has always been a bit of a hit or miss author for me. But when I do enjoy her books, I really love them. Conversely, of course, there are a few of her that I really haven’t enjoyed. But a few things about this title stood out to me. First, it’s main character is a middle aged woman. I’ve talked before about how rare it is to find fantasy books that feature with middle aged or older women. Everyone has to have their grand adventure in their twenties, apparently! The story also focuses on what happens to the heroes after they have one. Kreya and her friends defeated their mortal enemy, but at great cost. And now she and they have had to go on living their lives for twenty more years coping with the fallout. Of course, evil lingers in the dark and seems to be rising again. I so hope that this is one of Durst’s hits!

Book: “An Unexpected Peril” by Deanna Raybourn

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Why I’m Interested: “Interested” is definitely the right word here. I can no long unequivocally say that I’m “excited” for the next entries in this series. There have been too many flops, most recently the last one to come out, for me to think of this series as at all reliable in what it delivers. I’ve really loved some of the books, but it’s also begun to all feel a bit tired and stretched too thin. However, this book seems to involve Veronica and Stoker solving the mystery of a mountaineer’s death and sees them tied up in international politics when a princess goes missing. Seems like a fresh enough story, though I’m not to pleased about the line in the description about Veronica’s own ties to the Royal family. I’m so sick of that plot line. We shall see!

Book: “Namesake” by Adrienne Young

Publication Date: March 16, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I really loved “Fable” when I read it last year. I love pirate/sea-faring stories but I also seem to be fairly picky about what I expect those sorts of books to deliver. “Fable” had it all. An appropriately ruthless main character. Adventure on the high seas. A treasure hunt. And a constant guessing game as to who one should trust. In the end, it seemed to wrap up most of the plot lines before jumping to a sudden cliffhanger. The book description seems to be hinting that Fable will begin to uncover more about her mother. This is a really interesting concept, as the first book largely focused on Fable’s dysfunctional relationship with her father. I’m a bit wary about where the romance is headed, though, since it was already well-established at the end of the first book. Please no added drama in some misguided attempt to pique interest!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “She’s Too Pretty to Burn” by Wendy Heard

Publication Date: March 30, 2021

Why I’m Interested: This one grabbed my attention as I was perusing NetGalley, and I decided to go out on a limb and ‘Wish For It’. After getting lucky, and reading up on the description, it became VERY clear that I had hit the jackpot. Veronica is a fledgling teen photographer who is looking for inspiration. She then meets Mick, a shy and magnetic girl, at a party, and they immediately hit it off and fall for each other. When Veronica impulsively takes Mick’s picture, even though Mick hates having her picture taken, it starts a chain reaction of desire, obsession, art elevation, and perhaps even murder. We have a teenage Sapphic romance in the art world, AND, not only that, it’s a re-imagining of “The Picture of Dorian Gray”. I mean COME ON! It just SCREAMS ‘KATE IS GOING TO LIVE FOR THIS!’

Book: “Good Girl, Bad Blood” by Holly Jackson

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I loved loved LOVED “A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder” last year, and I told myself that I would absolutely hop into any more stories that concerned teenage detective Pip Fitz-Amobi and her penchant for looking into mysteries in her home town. This time, Pip has sworn off of her detective work and has instead dived deep into a podcast about her previous case and the court cases that come after. But when one of her close friends approaches her to investigate his older brother’s disappearance, Pip thinks that maybe she could solve another crime. But as she starts to investigate, she starts to find weird connections to people in her town, and begins to wonder if there is more danger at hand than she thought. Wherever Pip goes, I will follow, and given this book has been on my list awhile, the excitement is real.

Book: “Later” by Stephen King

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Why I’m Interested: My man Stephen always has a spot on my highlights lists when he has a new book coming out, for one thing. The pulp looking cover is also to die for. But as always, it’s the content that pulls me in, and “Later” is no exception. Jamie is the son of a single mother who has preternatural abilities that he is trying to keep secret. But when a detective catches wind of his talents, she enlists him to help her in a strange case involving a dead murderer who may make good on a promise to keep on killing. It sounds like it’s going to be eerie, and in line with King’s old school stories about coming of age, grey areas of morality, and a good old fashioned supernatural threat. Hopefully my wait on the library hold list won’t be TOO long…

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: February 2021

The long winter continues, but at least in February we have an excuse for fancy chocolates and self-care thanks to Valentine’s Day and Galentines Day! And while we may not be feeling overly romantic this year, with quarantine meaning a nice dinner at home and children meaning a little less relaxation, our everlasting love for books continues to beat from our hearts. Here are some of the titles we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Daughter of the Salt King” by A.S. Thornton

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Why I’m Interested: After the “City of Brass” trilogy ended last summer, I’ve been having withdrawals from my djinn fantasy stories. So it didn’t take much more me to scoop up this book once I saw that it was set in a similar type world. Emel is the daughter of the Salt King. But unlike other princesses in other lands, this role brings her and her many sisters nothing but suffering. Instead of any freedom, they are used as lures by their father in his attempts to trap visiting dignitaries into advantageous marriages with his nation. Emel longs for nothing more than her freedom, and she might just gain it when she discovers a dark secret hidden by father, a wish-granting jinni who might be an ally to her cause.

Book: “Fireheart Tiger” by Aliette de Bodard

Publication Date: February 9, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I’m always on the lookout for a good short story or novella, so I was definitely interested when this book popped upon my radar. Plus, romantic fantasy and comparisons to “Howl’s Moving Castle” are sure to be wins in my book. The story follows Thanh, a princess who has grown up away from home as a political hostage. When she returns, however, things are very different than they were when she first left. She sees the wrongs taking place in her country and crosses paths again with her first love. Now Thanh has to decide for herself what role she wants to take in forming the future of her home and her own life.

Book: “We Are the Fire” by Sam Taylor

Publication Date: February 16, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I’m not going to lie, I initially clicked on this one only because of the cool cover and the fact that I think the cover models look bizarrely like Clarke and Bellamy from the show “The 100.” Look it up, tell me I’m wrong! But I was definitely pulled in by the description of fire warriors who have grown up together in an army they were unwillingly enlisted into. From what I can tell, this book also starts out with an established romance between the two, something you don’t often see in books with romance plots that are heavily featured. I’m excited to see what this book has in store!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “The Project” by Courtney Summers

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I loved Summers’s previous book “Sadie” so much that I knew that I was going to need to read whatever she came up with next. And just for good measure, this time it’s about a cult! BE STILL MY HEART. Lo is a young woman working for a magazine, whose sister Bea left her life and joined a group called The Unity Project, an organization that is as mysterious as it is powerful. When a man claims that The Project was responsible for his son’s death, Lo sees an opportunity to investigate and perhaps find out what happened to her sister. But as she gets closer to the leader, Lev, she starts to wonder if the rumors about the group are true. The premise alone sounds creepy and tantalizing, and given Summers’s grit you know that there will be lots of darkness to behold.

Book: “The Survivors” by Jane Harper

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Though we still aren’t revisiting the Aaron Falk series as of yet, I liked Jane Harper’s previous standalone mystery “The Lost Man”. Therefore, it was a no brainer that I read her newest standalone, “The Survivors”. Kieran has returned to his coastal Australian small town with his girlfriend and baby, this visit being the first after a long time away. Kieran and his family suffered a terrible trauma when he was younger, an accident that changed not only them but also the town, which then also had to deal with the fallout of a missing girl who never came home. Now, a body is found on the beach, and the paranoia and pain of the small town comes back to the surface. And long forgotten or pushed down secrets start to bubble up. Harper has shown that she knows how to craft a solid mystery that has a lot of very human elements to it, so “The Survivors” will no doubt have heart as well as suspense.

Book: “The Initial Insult” by Mindy McGinnis

Publication Date: February 23, 2021

Why I’m Interested: We have ourselves another reinterpretation of a story by Edgar Allan Poe, guys!! So of COURSE I’m interested! And while Mindy McGinnis has been a little hit or miss with me, an update of “The Cask of Amontillado” starring two teenage girls just reeks of awesome! Tress Montor and Felicity Turnado used to be best friends…. Until Tress’s parents disappeared while driving Felicity home, and Felicity claims to not remember what happened. Now Tress lives with her strange and mean grandfather on his exotic animal ranch, and Felicity is popular and powerful. So during a party, Tress decides to try and get her to tell the truth, by slowly bricking her into a coal shaft. But when their truths start to come to light, and a panther from the ranch escapes, the stakes go higher and higher. I mean, come on, this sounds SO cool

What new books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!

Highlights: January 2021

Happy New Year! We have finally said goodbye to the tire fire that was 2020 and things are hopefully, HOPEFULLY, starting to trend towards the positive in the New Year (please let those not be famous last words). With new beginnings and a new feeling of hope in the air, we have our first set of Highlights for 2021!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Siege of Rage and Ruin” by Django Wexler

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I really liked the first two books in the “Wells of Sorcery” trilogy. Perhaps the first one more than the second, but both were still favorites from my reads of last year. Beyond its compelling characters, part of what made both those books stand out so much was the wildly unique magic and world-building at the heart of the story. Each had twists and turns that took me completely by surprise. That makes it all the more exciting going into this third and final book: I honestly have no idea what to expect! Beyond a reunion between Isoka and Tori, something that should provide much of interest on its own as each of these two young women have seen and experienced so much since they were last together.

Book: “The Mask of Mirrors” by M. A. Carrick

Publication Date: January 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: M. A. Carrick is the joint pen name for Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, both authors and anthropologists. I’m not familiar with any of Helms’ work, but I have read and enjoyed Brennan’s books. One of her titles, “Driftwood,” made it onto my Top 10 list for 2020, even! So, while I’m nervous about any book with comparisons to “Six of Crows” at this point (a million times burned and all of that), having a solid author at the helm is probably one of the few things that would get me on board. Plus the cover is lovely and *sigh* I’m a sucker for con artists and thieves (hence the million chances given to previous “Six of Crows” wanna-be novels). Fingers crossed that this one will turn out well!

Book: “Winterkeep” by Kristin Cashore

Publication Date: January 19, 2021

Why I’m Interested: Yes, you read that right, a new book in the “Graceling Realm” series! It’s been, oh, years and years, and honestly I don’t think any of Cashore’s fans expected a return to this series. Featuring a new land full of airships, telepathic foxes, and political mysteries, the story also features the return of familiar faces, mainly Bitterblue, the young queen of her land, and Giddon, her friend and advisor. I’ll just say right now that I’m way more excited about this book than I have any right to be. So much so that I have a re-read planned this month for the first three books in the series, so get ready for that!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Concrete Rose” by Angie Thomas

Publication Date: January 12, 2021

Why I’m Interested: I made a promise to myself that I would henceforth start reviewing Angie Thomas’s books on the blog after “The Hate U Give” and “On The Come Up” made my top ten lists the years they came out. And given that I loved both, I was, of course, VERY excited to read “Concrete Rose”, a prequel to “THUG” that focuses on one of the most compelling characters in that book. Maverick Carter is a teenage boy in the 90s with a hot girlfriend, a caring mother, and a potential position in the local gang The King Lords given his father’s notoriety. But when he finds out that he is the father to a three month old boy, and after the boy’s mother runs, Mav has to grow up very fast. Now he has to try and raise his son, and build a life that’s better for himself so he can be a good dad. I loved Mav in “THUG”, so seeing his backstory is sure to be a treat.

Book: “Possession” by Katie Lowe

Publication Date: January 21, 2021

Why I’m Interested: We have another thriller book with a podcast element to it, but instead of the more familiar ‘the podcast is trying to get justice out of righteousness’, we instead have a potential victim being accused years later of being a criminal. Hannah and her daughter are living a quiet life in the years after Hannah’s husband was killed by an intruder. Hannah has no memory of that night, and has rebuilt her reality. But now a popular podcast has turned its narrative on her husband’s murder, saying that the man convicted didn’t do it, and spinning an angle that leans towards Hannah. As Hannah’s friends and loved ones start turning on her, she has to try and keep it together while still hiding the deep secrets of her old life. Sounds like a fun twist on a usual trope.

Book: “Don’t Tell a Soul” by Kirsten Miller

Publication Date: January 26, 2021

Why I’m Interested: What better way to start of 2021 than with a good old fashioned ghost story! Teenager Bram is in need of a change; a change from her reality, and a change in scenery as she tries to leave behind a scandal. This brings her to a small town where her uncle has been working to renovate an old mansion, but who has a haunted life of his own. As Bram tries to settle in, the various people in town make it hard, but what’s worse is that there are rumors of other girls who have lived in the house that Bram now resides in. Rumors of girls who died there, and whose spirits are still within the walls. Can Bram protect herself from their terrible fates? I can’t wait to find out.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments!