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!

Highlights: December 2020

Happy holidays everyone! Tis the season of dark, and cold, and snow. But also of twinkle lights, warm fires, and lots of tasty, tasty treats. Given the need to be socially distanced so much more, the treats are really coming in strong. Add lots of time at home which turns into tons of baking. Mix in the fact that we don’t have as many gatherings during which to share the treats. And it all results in us sitting in front of our fires stuffing an entire batch of fudge down our own gullets. While reading a good book, of course! Here are the titles we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks:

Book: “The Bitterwine Oath” by Hannah West

Publication Date: December 1, 2020

Why I’m Interested: In a lot of ways, this looks more like a Kate book than one for me. But every once in a while I’m tempted into the darker side of fantasy where there’s a lot of cross-over with horror. This story focuses on an a small town in Texas that has an urban legend about a group of wronged women who murder 12 men every 50 years. Horrifying as that is on its own, there are rumors of the supernatural and magical tied up with it. Now 18-yaer-old Natalie Colter will find herself not only caught up in this mysterious coven-like group, but even recruited to join. It all sounds very witchy and interesting. The cover is also super creepy. We’ll see how I do!

Book: “A Wolf for a Spell” by Karah Sutton

Publication Date: December 1, 2020

Why I’m Interested: Would it be too shallow to just say because the cover is so, so pretty?? I mean, that’s not the only reason. But lookit!! That has to be one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen for a book in a long, long time. Even if the book turns out not to be great, I’d be tempted to buy it just to display on my shelf. In this Russian fairytale, Zima is a young wolf who has been taught to never trust humans. But when she needs help from the notorious witch, Baba Yaga, Zima finds her life turned upside down! Almost literally! After a spell goes wrong, Zima finds herself in Baba Yaga’s body and teaming up with even more humans in grand adventure to defeat an evil tsar. The whole story sounds very endearing. Now just to get my hands on a copy…

Book: “The Artic Fury” by Greer Macallister

Publication Date: December 1, 2020

Why I’m Interested: To round out my genres for the month, here’s an interesting-sounding historical fiction novel featuring a group of women explorers who set off on an expedition into the artic. Things don’t go to plan, however, and the story is told from two timelines: one the expedition itself, and the second, a trial during which the leader of the expedition must account for the events that took place on this dangerous mission. I love survival stories in general, and the promise of a fateful adventure into the frozen Artic sounds super exciting. Plus, what better to read about in dark, cold December than a bunch of people hiking away somewhere even darker and colder?

Kate’s Picks:

Book: “The Good Girls” by Claire Elizabeth Bartlett

Publication Date: December 1, 2020

Why I’m Interested: Small town scandals and the fight against Patriarchy is always going to pull me in, so when I read the description of “The Good Girls” by Claire Elizabeth Bartlett I was officially interested. After a well liked teenage girl appears to be murdered in a viral video, the suspicion focuses in on the town party girl, as well as her academic rival. But not all is what it seems as partier, perfectionist, and cheerleader all have their motives, their secrets, and their own pains and frustrations they have to face due to their reputations. As someone who loves a twisty mystery with simmering rage, this definitely is on my list.

Book: “Admission” by Julie Buxbaum

Publication Date: December 1, 2020

Why I’m Interested: While I wasn’t all that interested in the College Admissions Scandal that rocked the celebrity world recently, I do have to admit that it is a very juicy story in terms of exposing the rich for misdeeds and schadenfreude when they are caught. So since I love me some hot goss, “Admission” by Julie Buxbaum is probably going to be a guilty pleasure read for me when I get to it. Wealthy and privileged Chloe has everything going for her: a hot boyfriend, a mother whose celebrity is on the rise, and admission to her number one pick for college. But when it’s exposed that her mother bribed the school to get her admitted, Chloe has to face some hard truths about how much in life she has actually earned, as well as the scandal that explodes around her. Sounds like an entertaining read to be certain.

Book: “What She Found in the Woods” by Josephine Angelini

Publication Date: December 1, 2020

Why I’m Interested: It sounds like this book has just about everything: A privileged girl running away from private school scandal, a handsome but mysterious boy who seems free spirited but could be something darker, and a body in the woods! Magdalena is hoping to escape a scandal at her school, and flees to her isolated family home. It’s in the woods near home that she meets Bo, a charismatic and handsome stranger who entices her and entrances her with his personality and love of life. But then a mutilated body shows up, throwing a wrench into Magdalena’s hopes of a quiet and scandal free existence. It sounds strange and mysterious, so I’m obviously IN.

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

Highlights: November 2020

Tis the season of being thankful! And while there are a lot of things in the world that are pretty darn stressful right now, there’s still a lot of good to be found. The leaves are all falling, the scarves are getting pulled out, pumpkin spice has invaded everything. And, of course, a lot of new books are coming out! Here are the one’s we’re most looking forward to this month.

Serena’s Picks:

Book: “The Awakening” by Nora Roberts

Publication Date: November 4, 2020

Why I’m Interested: I’ve read a few of Nora Roberts’s traditional romances years ago. And I know she’s written a bunch of books in other genres. So when I saw this book pop up as the first in a new fantasy trilogy for her, I thought now was as good a time as any to jump on that train. The story features Breen, an unassuming young woman who travels to Ireland in search of her past and finds an entire different world. Like, literally, a different world with dragons, and fairies, and all of that magical stuff. With her small life exploding around her, Breen must come to find a place for herself within a destiny that threatens to overwhelm her.

Book: “The Burning God” by R. F. Kuang

Publication Date: November 17, 2020

Why I’m Interested: I know, I know! I haven’t even gotten around to reading/reviewing the second book in this trilogy! But man, it’s not for want of trying. Turns out, super popular books are kind of hard to get your hands on when you’re on a miles-long waiting list at the library. There’s a decent chance I’ll just break down and buy the sequel just so I can get to this book which I have an e-ARC of all queued up. Oh the trials of blogging, when you miss the initial rush and then end up with ARCs for later books in series that you still need to catch up on. It’s like whining about having too many good things! Without knowing what happens in the middle book in this trilogy, I don’t have anything specific about this book that I’m looking forward to other than my complete confidence in the strength of the author’s abilities to tell a darn good story.

Book: “The Princess Knight” by G.A. Aiken

Publication Date: November 24, 2020

Why I’m Interested: I enjoyed the first book in this series, “The Blacksmith Queen,” so I’m definitely curious to check this one out as well. From the sounds of it, it’s not a direct sequel in that our main characters are no longer Keely and Cain. Instead, this story focuses on Gemma, a member of the War Monks who have made warfare an art form. But she parted with them to support her sister Keely in her bid for the throne and now finds herself working with an untrained, unruly collection of fighters. A challenging situation is made all the more difficult by the strangely compelling leader of this group, Quinn. While the first book in this series didn’t blow my socks off, it was still a fun read, so I’m curious to see whether this change in focal characters will add or substract from my overall experience.

Kate’s Picks:

Book: “We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and A Half Century of Silence” by Becky Cooper

Publication Date: November 10, 2020

Why I’m Interested: True crime continues to be a hot commodity, and as it continues to be sought out by the public, people are starting to examine it as a form of ‘entertainment’ and trying to find ways to make it less problematic. I for one am all for this, and I’m therefore “We Keep The Dead Close” caught my attention. Author Becky Cooper first heard about the long unsolved murder of Jane Britton when she was an undergrad at Harvard, the tale having transformed into something of an urban legend. Cooper was interested in trying to solve what exactly had happened to her, as the real Jane seemed to have gotten lost in the campus lore. She talks to people who knew Jane, family members, classmates, and even the man who was rumored to have been her killer. Going beyond the usual whodunnit format, “We Keep the Dead Close” will no doubt be more than what I usually expect from the genre.

Book: “Those Who Prey” by Jennifer Moffett

Publication Date: November 10, 2020

Why I’m Interested: You had me at ‘campus cult’, Moffett. “Those Who Prey” showed up on a 2020 YA Thriller List and I made quick note of it. One of my favorite topics in true crime is that of cults and cult activity, and it has been that way ever since I was in California when Heaven’s Gate committed their mass suicide, so of COURSE I am eager to give this a whirl. Emily has found herself isolated and lonely during her freshman year at college. Far from home and not making friends easily, she is excited when a group approaches her and starts to befriend her. She joins the Kingdom for the companionship, and is eager to make new friends and find a stronger relationship with God. But the longer she stays, the stranger things get. And by the time she’s on a mission trip in Italy, things have gone terribly wrong. Consider me fully on board.

Book: “These Violent Delights” by Chloe Gong

Publication Date: November 17, 2020

Why I’m Interested: This one is a BIT out of my usual wheelhouse, for a number of reasons. The first is that it’s technically a fantasy, or at least is described as such. The second is that it’s a retelling of “Romeo and Juliet”, a play and story that I, as a rule, don’t really care for. But “These Violent Delights” is catching my eye because I love the idea of the 1920s Shanghai setting, and there is mention of a monster. Juliette and Roma are former loves who find themselves now on the opposite sides of a gang war. Juliette’s Scarlet Gang has run things for generations, and Roma’s White Flowers are gunning to take the business and power away. But when members on both sides start dying horribly by their own hands, Juliette and Roma have to set aside their differences, and feelings, and try to figure out what has them in danger. I may be gambling on this one, but I’m excited to do so.

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

Highlights: October 2020

It’s that time of year, folks! The time of year where the days start to get shorter, the wind and leaves dance through the air, and the scary and spooky feelings of Halloween get kicked up as well! Though it’s probably going to be a very different Halloween this year than we’re used to, that isn’t going to stop the feelings of the season. Kate has her Horrorpalooza reads all in order, and Serena is breaking out the cardigans. We also have books we’re looking forward to!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “Return of the Thief” by Megan Whalen Turner

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Why I’m Interested: I’ve been a fan of Whalen Turner’s “The Queen’s Thief” series for years now. It’s been a long haul, around 20 years I think, to get to this point, but here we are, the last book in the series! Luckily, each book in this series has read well enough as a stand-alone, completely its own story arc fully and leaving the characters in places that aren’t too unstable which has made the wait time between books much more bearable. So it will be bitter sweet to finally pick this one up and know we’re truly at the end of the line. Sadly, I was remiss on putting my name on the holds list at the library, so it will probably be a bit before I get around to reading this and reviewing it. Unless I break down and buy it…we shall see!

Book: “Murder on Cold Street” by Sherry Thomas

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Why I’m Interested: Yet another book that is continuing a much-loved series. While I did struggle a bit with the previous book in this series, I’m still a big fan of Thomas’s writing style overall and her unique take on the Sherlock Holmes story. With a return to England and a return to a good old murder mystery, I’m hopeful that this book will return to some of the strengths that originally drew me in to this series. I’m also still intrigued by where the romance between Charlotte and Lord Ingram is ultimately headed. Will we see any new developments (finally!) in this one?

Book: “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” by V.E. Schwab

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Why I’m Interested: A break to all the continuations of book series comes in the form of a new, stand-alone novel by V.E. Schwab. The story sounds super originally, following the centuries-long life of a woman cursed/blessed to live forever but to never be remembered. Until, of course, she finally meets someone who does remember. I’m really intrigued by the entire concept, and if anyone is capable of pulling it off, it’s Schwab. The last thing I read from her was her YA duology which was…ok. But she also really wowed me in the with her “Shades of Magic” trilogy and other standalone works. In a lot of ways, this book doesn’t sound anything like what she’s written before, so I’m curious to see what she’ll do with it!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Ring Shout” by P. Djèlí Clark

Publication Date: October 13, 2020

Why I’m Interested: I was a big fan of the book “Lovecraft Country” when I read it a few years ago (no I haven’t started the show yet, but I will!), and reading the description of “Ring Shout” by P. Djèlí Clark gave me some similar vibes. “Ring Shout” takes the idea of American Racism as the true horror and adds some cosmic and inter-dimensional elements as well. Three Black women are working to rid the world of Klu Kluxes, demons from another world that have been summoned by a sorcerer (D.W. Griffith, the man who brought the racist film “Birth of a Nation” to the screen), that have started amplifying the racist hate of the white people in this country. Led by the intrepid Maryse Bordeaux and her sword, these women and others hope to fight off the demons and bring justice to Black and other marginalized people before The Klan takes over. Unique concept and biting satire, a great combination.

Book: “I Hope You’re Listening” by Tom Ryan

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Why I’m Interested: True crime podcasts continue to be a big part of my entertainment life, and so I always like seeing books that take that idea and run with it. So I was, of course, very interested when I stumbled upon “I Hope You’re Listening” by Tom Ryan on a ‘Fall Thrillers’ list. It follows Dee, an amateur podcast host whose show focuses on people who have gone missing, in hopes of getting information and attention that can lead to them being found. What her listeners don’t know is that she was a girl left behind in a notorious kidnapping case, where he childhood best friend was kidnapped before her eyes as hasn’t been seen since. Now, just as her podcast is getting more attention, another girl in her town is taken without a trace. Dee wants to help, but wants to keep her identity secret, and her own traumas under control. I’m sure it will keep readers on the edge of their seats.

Book: “The Haunting of Beatrix Greene” by Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, and Vicky Alvear Shecter

Publication Date: October 28, 2020

Why I’m Interested: The Halloween season wouldn’t be complete without a ghost story or two, so look no further than “The Haunting of Beatrix Greene”, a joint effort by Rachel Hawkins, Ash Parsons, and Vicky Alvear Shecter. Beatrix Greene is a medium working during the first Spiritualist obsession in the 1800s. The only issue is that she’s a fraud who is just trying to make ends meet. When she’s invited to Ashbury Manor by noted scientist and skeptic James Walker, she is hesitant, but wants to make him eat his hat. James has his own motivations for wanting her to be there, potentially exposing her as a fraud not at the top of the list. But both of them are completely shocked when they and their companions find themselves in a very haunted house…. and in grave danger. What a way to top off the Halloween season!

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