Not Just Books: May 2023

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

Movie: “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 3”

Hot take: Marvel has been struggling lately. You heard it first here. But I’ve still been diligently making my way to the theater in the hopes that things will turn a corner soon. And while this movie was perhaps not that corner, it was still a whole lot better than the several movies that came before it. Mostly because I imagine it would be really hard to make a truly bad movie with a cast that is this good and has this level of chemistry with one another. Though, I will say this movie continues the trend where everything has to be SO GRIM all of the time. Can we just get back to some happy storylines? Maybe some love stories that don’t end in tragedy?

Netflix Show: “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story”

No, no we cannot. Because here we go with “Bridgerton,” another of my go-to feel good franchises, taking on a story that we all know is made up of one tragedy after another. And that’s not even adding in the marital horror that we got in this one that I wasn’t even expecting! But, again, the show was saved by fantastic casting and excellent writing. I really did enjoy this one, but man, I’m so sick of the bummer storylines. I can’t wait for season 3. If they make that one sad somehow, I might just riot.

TV Show: “The Great American Baking Show”

What do you look to when you see sadness all around? Baking reality tv, of course! I knew there was an American version of this show, but I never really looked into it. But here’s a win for Roku’s advertising on my TV! I saw the poster for this one pot up, I saw my two familiar judges, and I clicked right on through. I know Paul has been a judge for a few seasons on this show now, but I am happiest with my favorite two judges together. I also really liked the two new hosts. I also really liked that this was happy. I repeat, happiness was found here.

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Star Trek: Picard”

Back in 2020 Serena and I both picked the first season of “Picard” for a Not Just Books post, as the revisiting of “Star Trek”‘s Captain Jean-Luc Picard in his later years was satisfying and pretty interesting. I did watch Season 2, and while it was fine, it didn’t make the cut when I watched it. But let me tell you, this third and final season was AMAZING, if ONLY because it has finally decided to give in to the fan service that Trekkies have been clamoring for since Season 1. Picard has gone back to his quiet life on the vineyard, but then he gets an SOS message from his former crew member/ former lover Beverly Crusher seeking his help. Picard enlists the help of Will Riker in hopes of helping Bev, and then reunites with more former crew members as they all have to face a new, but familiar, villain that threatens The Federation. I love “Next Generation” and all of its players so seeing so many of them come back (Bev! Geordi! WORF!) was so satisfying, but what is ALSO satisfying is that it harkens back to other “Trek” series like “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager” as well. It just feels like a reunion of old friends that I’ve missed for a very long time.

Film: “Evil Dead Rise”

I’ve been an “Evil Dead” fan since high school, and “Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn” is a top 3 horror movie for me. And while it’s true that Bruce Campbell has hung up the chainsaw, fear not, fans, because “Evil Dead Rise” is a FABULOUS new story for the “Evil Dead” canon, tapping into its scary and gory roots and creating a new iconic Deadite and a new iconic hero. Both of whom are women. Beth, facing a personal crisis, goes to visit her sister Ellie and her nieces and nephew in a shabby L.A. apartment building. When an earthquake hits, nephew Danny finds a strange book and recordings in a newly opened area. When he plays the records, an evil force possesses Ellie, turning her into a Deadite. Now Beth has to try and save herself and her niblings before Ellie takes their souls. This movie is a goddamn blast, with disgusting special effects, a rad successor to Ash Williams in Beth, and an assuredly legendary new horror villain in Deadite Ellie. And yes, there is a chainsaw. And a cheese grater. MAKE OF THAT WHAT YOU WILL. I loved this movie, I was clapping my hands in glee through the last third of it.

TV Show: “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars”

Well it’s true that Season 15 of “Drag Race” was a little bit of a mixed bag for me (top two notwithstanding, I love them both), but luckily “All Stars” Season 8 has started and it is off to a grand start! Last season was All Winners, and while it was nice seeing all of these queens showcased for the entire season, I missed the old format, and that format is BACK! A few of my previous faves have been selected to compete this All Stars cycle (Heidi N Closet! JESSICA WILD!!), and seeing them back with even bigger and better concepts and wardrobes and performances has been a treat. It’s also really cool seeing a few queens who were either from early seasons (again, JESSICA WILD!!), or were early outs on their season (like Jaymes Mansfield or Kahanna Montrese), being given another chance, and seeing their growth is a joy. I also love seeing who they are picking for the lip sync assassins this season, as they have been FIERCE thus far (Aja was PHENOMENAL!). I love having this show back and back to the levels I expect. In a moment where laws are being passed to oppress trans people and drag performers, it’s all the more important to find the joy and subversion in these artists and the art of drag!

Beach Reads: Summer 2023

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Back for 2023, here is a list of some more favorite beach reads! Perhaps a little early, but Memorial Day is the traditional kick off to Summer, after all, and that’s just a week away. “Beach read” is a very fast and loose term for books people read over the beautiful summer months when we really should be outside “doing things” but are instead reading…maybe outside. Some people see these months as an opportunity to slog through long classics (we’re looking at you “Moby Dick”) before the busy-ness of the fall starts up, but for the sake of this list, we’re limiting our choices to fast paced, mostly feel good books (though there’s some obvious leeway here for Kate’s horror tastes!) that could be easily brought along on vacations. So, still a very loose definition, but hey, we had to start somewhere! We will select one title for each of the genres we most read.

Serena’s Picks

Fantasy Title: “Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faieries”

I actually had a really hard time narrowing down my choice for the fantasy genre on this list. I guess I was really in the mood for “cozy fantasy” last year, as there were several that popped up as good options for this one. But, ultimately, I landed on this one. It just hits all of the right vibes for what I look for in a beach read style fantasy novel. The titular character, Emily Wilde, has a great narrative voice. There are quirky side character galore. And there’s a love slow burn romance at the heart. It’s also a refreshing take on fairytales and Fae fantasy stories. It uses a lot of familiar concepts and plots, but the way everything is woven together works perfectly. It’s also a nice, stand-alone story in a genre that’s full of series (though, to be fair, there is a second book coming out this winter, but that in no way undercuts the fact that this is already a stand-alone story on its own).

Science Fiction Title: “Eversion” by Alistair Reynolds

Science fiction is often the genre where I’m most likely to run into the same problem Kate does for many of her books: the genre doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to the “coziness” of what we usually think of when we talk about beach reads. Space is scary in its vastness and its unknowns. So, while I can’t say that “Eversion” doesn’t have its legitimately creepy aspects, I can say that they don’t rise beyond what you often find in science fiction. It’s also just a super fun and interesting read. The story is woven together with a series of jumps forward and backward in time where both the reader and the main character is left trying to piece together what exactly is real and what is happening altogether. Every time I thought I had it figured out, another layer would be pulled back, and I’d have to start all over again! But that was the fun of it all! My husband also really liked this one, so consider this a double recommendation!

Mystery Title: “A Study in Charlotte”

I haven’t reviewed this one on the blog, but Kate gave it to me for Christmas several years ago, and I really enjoyed it. As you can probably guess from the title, this is yet another Sherlock Holmes retelling with the famous detective being reimagined as a young woman named Charlotte. Is it confusing now having this series and the “Charlotte Holmes” series by Sherry Thomas? Yes, yes it is. This one, however, is a YA story, the Charlotte we have here is actually a many-generations-down relative of the original Sherlock, and the story is set in contemporary times. It’s a really fun version of the story, and definitely a fun little mystery to enjoy while relaxing this summer.

History Title: “The Monsters We Defy”

I always struggle with this category. I always want to recommends books for this list that I have personally read and enjoyed. And the reality it, as far as historical fiction goes, I read very little straight “historical fiction.” It’s always a combined with other genres I enjoy, often mysteries. But I also read a lot of historical fantasy fiction, so that’s what I went with here. Yes, there are fantastical elements to this book, but I do think the historical setting and commentary is by far the predominant feature. The story takes place during the Jazz Age of 1925 in Washington, D.C. The story follows a young woman who puts together a ragtag group to pull off a heist. And yes, one the members is a jazz musician who uses their abilities to hypnotize everyone who uses the music.

Kate’s Picks

Horror Title: “The Whispering Dead” by Darcy Coates

I figure that perhaps a person going to the beach for a relaxing day or a full vacation may not be super into something incredibly scary or disturbing, so “The Whispering Dead” by Darcy Coates is probably a good choice. Keira comes to in a strange town with no memories of who she is, but with the distinct impression that she is being hunted. When she takes refuge and hides in an abandoned cemetary groundskeeper’s home, she realizes that she can see ghosts, and that they want her help in passing on. It has entertaining characters, whether it’s amnesiac medium Keira, or quirky Zoe, the earnest but kind of paranoid barista who becomes her best friend, “The Whispering Dead” has some creepy ghostly moments and an engaging supernatural mystery, but never full goes into terrifying material that may waylay an enjoyable day in the surf!

Thriller Title: “The Wife Who Knew Too Much” by Michele Campbell

When it comes to breakneck thrillers that have a lot of soap and suds (which is my favorite kind to take on vacation), Michele Campbell is an author who usually delivers and makes for a fun read, and “The Wife Who Knew Too Much” is making the list this year. It has everything: lost loves, the cold elites, a dead wife, and a mistress who is pulled in perhaps because her lover isn’t being fully honest with her. Tabitha, a working class girl who worked at a country club one summer, fell in love with wealthy golden boy Connor, but it ended in heartbreak. When they meet up again later in life he is married but claims it’s pretty much over and that his wife is a manipulative and vicious person. But when his wife ends up dead, and she leaves a note that implicates Connor, as well as a mysterious and damning ‘her’, Tabitha realizes she may be in far too deep. Drama and danger, this is absolutely a page turner for a relaxing vacation.

Graphic Novel Title: “Cryptid Club” by Sarah Andersen

I know that with my distractibility and antsiness, especially on a trip, I may need a book that I can put down and pick up easily, and “Cryptid Club” by Sarah Andersen not only fits that bill, but also has one of my special interests at its heart: CRYPTIDS!! This collection of comics about cryptids like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and my very favorite cryptid Mothman, is both a fun set of stories about urban legends that have captured weirdoes imaginations, while also letting them explore the social anxieties of these beings and how they are so much like us with very human problems. Andersen is charming and hilarious, and I love seeing where she takes these legends and makes them so, so funny and also relatable. And since it’s comic strip form, it’s easy to take a break to jump in the water for awhile.

Non-Fiction Title: “Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood” by Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova

I’ve been watching “Drag Race” for 10+ years, and while every season has successful and popular queens, Season 7 gave us the comedic duo of Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova, whose banter, chemistry, and humor launched them into the pop culture stratosphere with web shows and traveling shows. And now books! Their first book, “Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood” is a parody on women’s centered self help books, but also has essays and conversations about their friendship, their experiences in drag and their other artful pursuits, and the importance of self love and self fulfillment. And it’s also, of course, incredibly funny as they ruminate, satirize, and go off on tangent after tangent. I found this book funny and quick, and given that there are so many attacks on drag and LGBTQIA+ culture it’s all the more important to lift up these voices and experiences. It’s just a bonus that this one is such a laugh riot.

Another Take: Spring 2023

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Don’t just take it from us, other readers like these books, too! And we have decided that we would like to showcase other reviewers and bloggers that have their own thoughts and feelings about books that we have loved. Here are a few of the books we’ve enjoyed recently and what other bloggers have to say about them.

“The Foxglove King” by Hannah Whitten

When Lore was thirteen, she escaped a cult in the catacombs beneath the city of Dellaire. And in the ten years since, she’s lived by one rule: don’t let them find you. Easier said than done, when her death magic ties her to the city.

Mortem, the magic born from death, is a high-priced and illicit commodity in Dellaire, and Lore’s job running poisons keeps her in food, shelter, and relative security. But when a run goes wrong and Lore’s power is revealed, she’s taken by the Presque Mort, a group of warrior-monks sanctioned to use Mortem working for the Sainted King. Lore fully expects a pyre, but King August has a different plan. Entire villages on the outskirts of the country have been dying overnight, seemingly at random. Lore can either use her magic to find out what’s happening and who in the King’s court is responsible, or die.

Lore is thrust into the Sainted King’s glittering court, where no one can be believed and even fewer can be trusted. Guarded by Gabriel, a duke-turned-monk, and continually running up against Bastian, August’s ne’er-do-well heir, Lore tangles in politics, religion, and forbidden romance as she attempts to navigate a debauched and opulent society.

But the life she left behind in the catacombs is catching up with her. And even as Lore makes her way through the Sainted court above, they might be drawing closer than she thinks.

Serena’s Review (8 Rating)

The Harvard Crimson (4.5 Stars)

Takes Two to Book Review (5 Stars)

Past Midnight (4 Stars)

“One for My Enemy” by Olivia Blake

In New York City where we lay our scene, two rival witch families fight to maintain control of their respective criminal ventures. On one side of the conflict are the Antonova sisters, each one beautiful, cunning, and ruthless, and their mother, the elusive supplier of premium intoxicants known only as Baba Yaga. On the other side, the influential Fedorov brothers serve their father, the crime boss known as Koschei the Deathless, whose community extortion ventures dominate the shadows of magical Manhattan.

After twelve years of tenuous coexistence, a change in one family’s interests causes a rift in the existing stalemate. When bad blood brings both families to the precipice of disaster, fate intervenes with a chance encounter, and in the aftershocks of a resurrected conflict, everyone must choose a side. As each of the siblings struggles to stake their claim, fraying loyalties threaten to rot each side from the inside out.

If, that is, the enmity between empires doesn’t destroy them first.

Serena’s Review (9 Rating)

Culture Fly (5 Stars)

Utopia State of Mind

Coffee, Stars, Books

“Divine Rivals” by Rebecca Ross

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish—into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.

Serena’s Review (8 Rating)

One Book More (5 Stars)

Sifa Elizabeth Reads (5 Stars)

Becky’s Book Blog

Book: “Lone Women” by Victor LaValle

Adelaide Henry carries an enormous steamer trunk with her wherever she goes. It’s locked at all times. Because when the trunk opens, people around Adelaide start to disappear.

The year is 1915, and Adelaide is in trouble. Her secret sin killed her parents, forcing her to flee California in a hellfire rush and make her way to Montana as a homesteader. Dragging the trunk with her at every stop, she will become one of the “lone women” taking advantage of the government’s offer of free land for those who can tame it—except that Adelaide isn’t alone. And the secret she’s tried so desperately to lock away might be the only thing that will help her survive the harsh territory.

Crafted by a modern master of magical suspense, Lone Women blends shimmering prose, an unforgettable cast of adventurers who find horror and sisterhood in a brutal landscape, and a portrait of early-twentieth-century America like you’ve never seen. And at its heart is the gripping story of a woman desperate to bury her past—or redeem it.

Kate’s Review (9 Rating)

The Bashful Bookworm (4.5 Pinecones)

Books, Bones, & Buffy (5 Stars)

A Book Wanderer (4 Stars)

Book: “This Delicious Death” by Kayla Cottingham

Three years ago, the melting of arctic permafrost released a pathogen of unknown origin into the atmosphere, causing a small percentage of people to undergo a transformation that became known as the Hollowing. Those impacted slowly became intolerant to normal food and were only able to gain sustenance by consuming the flesh of other human beings. Those who went without flesh quickly became feral, turning on their friends and family. However, scientists were able to create a synthetic version of human meat that would satisfy the hunger of those impacted by the Hollowing. As a result, humanity slowly began to return to normal, albeit with lasting fear and distrust for the people they’d pejoratively dubbed ghouls.

Zoey, Celeste, Valeria, and Jasmine are all ghouls living in Southern California. As a last hurrah before their graduation they decided to attend a musical festival in the desert. They have a cooler filled with hard seltzers and SynFlesh and are ready to party.

But on the first night of the festival Val goes feral, and ends up killing and eating a boy. As other festival guests start disappearing around them the girls soon discover someone is drugging ghouls and making them feral. And if they can’t figure out how to stop it, and soon, no one at the festival is safe.

Kate’s Review (9 Rating)

Courtney Reads Romance (4 Stars)

Carole’s Random Life (4 Stars)

Books, Bones, & Buffy (4 Stars)

Book: “The Haunting of Alejandra” by V. Castro

Alejandra no longer knows who she is. To her husband, she is a wife, and to her children, a mother. To her own adoptive mother, she is a daughter. But they cannot see who Alejandra has become: a woman struggling with a darkness that threatens to consume her. Nor can they see what Alejandra sees. In times of despair, a ghostly vision appears to her, the apparition of a crying woman in a ragged white gown.

When Alejandra visits a therapist, she begins exploring her family’s history, starting with the biological mother she never knew. As she goes deeper into the lives of the women in her family, she learns that heartbreak and tragedy are not the only things she has in common with her ancestors.

Because the crying woman was with them, too. She is La Llorona, the vengeful and murderous mother of Mexican legend. And she will not leave until Alejandra follows her mother, her grandmother, and all the women who came before her into the darkness.

But Alejandra has inherited more than just pain. She has inherited the strength and the courage of her foremothers—and she will have to summon everything they have given her to banish La Llorona forever.

Kate’s Review (9 Rating)

Horror DNA (4.5 Stars)

The Lit Bitch (4 Stars)

Cocoa With Books

Highlights: May 2023

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Here’s hoping all those April (snow) showers are going to bring some May Flowers this month! We are getting up against the summer months, with promises of outdoor get togethers, sunnier weather, and hopefully some fun books coming up on the horizon. Books that maybe we can read outside in balmy, seasonable weather (now look at how we’ve probably jinxed this). Here are some of the ones we are looking forward to the most for May!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “A Crown of Ivy and Glass” by Claire Legrand

Publication Date: May 9, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I really enjoyed Legrand’s YA “Empirium” duology. It walked the line of adjusting YA fantasy tropes just enough to be both recognizable as a staple of the genre but also able to stand on its own strengths. And one of those strengths was the overall quality of writing, in general. That being the case, I’m very excited to see what Legrand has in store for readers with this, her first adult fantasy romance novel. It’s been compared to “Bridgerton” and, of course, “A Court of Thorns and Roses.” Love the former, hate the latter….so…we’ll see!

Book: “The Late Mrs. Willoughby” by Claudia Gray

Publication Date: May 16, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I was blown away by the first book in this series, “The Murder of Mr. Wickham.” There’s no over emphasizing the sheer feat of mastery that was handling almost the entire cast of Jane Austen’s romantic heroes and heroines and never seeming to miss a step. Add on top of that an excellent mystery and two original characters, and…yeah, truly amazing. Given that she was able to manage all of that, I barely have any concerns about a second book falling prey to “sequel syndrome.” Instead, I’m simply happily looking forward to yet another murder mystery to be solved by our beloved Jonathan Darcy and Juliet Tilney!

Book: “Witch King” by Martha Wells

Publication Date: May 30, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I’ve been a big fan of Martha Wells’ for forever. And since I haven’t had a chance to review any of her books yet for the blog, when I saw this upcoming stand-alone novel coming out this spring, I knew this was my opportunity! The description also sounds right up my alley, with the story following an “over it” demon who wakes up after having his body killed off and must travel around gathering up his scattered group of friends and piecing together what exactly went so wrong as to leave him “dead” at the bottom of the ocean. Again, my familiarity with the reliability of this author allows me to happily sit back and anticipate what will surely be an awesome read!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Warrior Girl Unearthed” by Angeline Boulley

Publication Date: May 2, 2023

Why I’m Interested: “Firekeeper’s Daughter” was my favorite read of 2021. Like, hands down, no contest whatsoever. So when I saw that not only did Angeline Boulley have a new YA thriller coming out, but that it was bringing back some of the characters from her debut, “Warrior Girl Unearthed” officially became one of my most anticipated reads of 2023. Perry Firekeeper-Birch expected her summer to be pretty chill, but after she crashes her Aunt Daunis’s Jeep she has to work to pay off the damages. When she gets a job working at a local tribal museum, she starts to learn about Indigenous artifact repatriation, and makes it her mission to bring Ojibwe objects back to her tribe. When a promise to return artifacts is broken, Perry decides that the only way to bring her peoples’ history back is by other, more heist-like means. Not only am I excited to read a new story by Boulley, I’m also excited to see what Daunis has been up to…

Book: “We’ll Never Tell” by Wendy Heard

Publication Date: May 16, 2023

Why I’m Interested: Soapy sudsy thrillers always pique my interest, and I have been waiting for Wendy Heard to have a new YA thriller since I devoured “She’s Too Pretty to Burn”. Because of these two factors, I am VERY stoked for “We’ll Never Tell”, which combines salacious Hollywood secrets, teenage gossip, and a murder house. WOOOOOOO, bring it on! The YouTube channel “We’ll Never Tell” is run by a group of teens who anonymously explore urban areas of L.A. that are generally off limits. With their senior year in full swing, the friends decide to take on a notorious location, a house that had a brutal murder/suicide in the 1970s. But after one of their own is attacked during the shoot, they have to figure out what happened, and if one of them is responsible. This one is going to be hard to put down.

Book: “The Salt Grows Heavy” by Cassandra Khaw

Publication Date: May 2, 2023

Why I’m Interested: Cassandra Khaw’s previous novella “Nothing But Blackened Teeth” really set me on edge, so of course I wanted to read whatever they came out with next. And when I saw that “The Salt Grows Heavy” was coming out, and that it sounded like a gory retelling of “The Little Mermaid”, I couldn’t have been more excited. A mermaid and a plague doctor have fled the kingdom she had been the queen of, as her children destroyed the land and left it in ruin. But when the mermaid and the plague doctor stumble into a village with three mysterious surgeons with dark motives, they find themselves in danger once again. Khaw knows how to bring the body horror so this one has some serious potential to be super disturbing, which is great.

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

Highlights: April 2023

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

As predicted, March was a big dud on the whole “spring” front. Instead, we had several dumps of snow and had to shovel quite a lot. But we’re all really crossing our fingers that April will come through for us! At least the temperatures are begrudgingly climbing out of the below thirties and it’s getting lighter and lighter later in the evenings. Of course, more light just means more time to read before feeling guilty about not getting the sleep we guess we need. Here are some books we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “One for My Enemy” by Olivie Blake

Publication Date: April 4, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I feel like Olivie Blake is kind of taking the “Silvia Moreno-Garcia” route to book popularity. She had published several books already before she became a big hit. And now publishers are digging into her back catalog and breathing new life into some of these titles that didn’t get major releases the first go around. So, too, “One for My Enemy,” a “Romeo and Juliet” retelling that places the classic love story in modern NYC and also adds in a healthy dose of Russian folklore, like Baba Yaga and Koschei the Deathless. Every single aspect of that sounds great to me, so I can’t wait to see what this has to offer! I’ve also never read a book by Blake before, so this should be a great first introduction!

Book: “Untethered Sky” by Fonda Lee

Publication Date: April 11, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I really loved Fonda Lee’s “Jade City” trilogy. But it can’t be denied that all three were fairly massive tomes. So I was excited to see that she was releasing a novella next, something where I could again experience the thrill of her action-packed writing style and creative world build while also…not having to commit tons of time to the endeavor. I also love the general premise of this book, a young woman who makes it her life’s mission to join a group who trains and flies massive birds, using them to protect the realm from dangerous manticores. Plus, the cover on this one is super cool; who could pass on that??

Book: “Divine Rivals” by Rebecca Ross

Publication Date: April 4, 2023

Why I’m Interested: Here’s another author whose work I’ve already really enjoyed! Plus, this one is ticking a lot of my own particular boxes. As the name suggests, it’s an “enemies to lovers” romance that focuses on a pair of journalists who are vying for the same promotion at the newspaper where they work. But Iris, the young woman of the pair, soon takes a job that brings her to the front lines in a war between gods. As a big fan of Lois Lane, I’m always down for a story about intrepid reporters in my fantasy stories. I can’t wait to check this one out!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “The Haunting of Alejandra” by V. Castro

Publication Date: April 18, 2023

Why I’m Interested: There are two big blaring elements of this book that makes me super, super excited for it. The first is that I really love V. Castro’s horror style, as she has lyrical prose, a lot of feminist perspectives, and a Chicana voice that comes to all of her stories. The other is that I have been full on obsessed with the La Llorona folktale ever since I was in grade school. The idea of a weeping woman snatching up children scared the piss out of me, and I’ve loved it ever since. So V. Castro taking on La Llorona is PERFECTION! Alejandra is a frazzled mother of three in a crumbling marriage. She has been uprooted from Texas to Pennsylvania due to her husband’s job, and staying at home with the kids is stressful. On top of that she’s started seeing visions of a sinister, sobbing woman in white, and her hatred towards herself is spilling over. When she starts to look into her family history and the women before her, their unspoken traumas also led to the woman in white. Alejandra needs to solve the mystery of this family curse before she falls to it as well. GIVE IT TO ME!

Book: “Sisters of the Lost Nation” by Nick Medina

Publication Date: April 18, 2023

Why I’m Interested: This is an example of one that has been popping up on my various social media feeds from book influencers and lovers that I know and love. Given that this is a debut I am unfamiliar with Nick Medina, but this one has enough buzz that I have high hopes to be adding a new must read author to my list! Anna is an Indigenous girl living on a reservation just trying to get through each day, between the cruelties of her peers and the outside visitors to the casino she is always on alert. Then girls in the community start to disappear, with members of the tribe looking for answers but finding little, and Anna begins to try and do her own investigation into the missing girls as well as the history of the reservation and the casino. And when her own sister disappears, Anna’s investigation becomes personal. But she starts to wonder if otherworldly forces are coming into play. It sounds like a mix of a hardboiled mystery and some kind of horror story, so obviously I’m in.

Book: “For You and Only You” by Caroline Kepnes

Publication Date: April 25, 2023

Why I’m Interested: Can I just say ‘it’s the new Joe Goldberg book’ and call it a day? No? Okay, well, fine, I can expand on that. It’s the new Joe Goldberg book, and I love the “You” series so I am always going to be amped when a new one comes out. But I am also always interested in seeing what Joe is going to do next, and how author Caroline Kepnes is going to keep the very clear formula of these books (aka Joe obsesses over a new one, stalks her, and fucks her life totally up) fresh, interesting, and suspenseful. After the death of Mary Kay and a short stint in Florida, Joe is now living in Boston and has written a book! Not only that, he has entered an fellowship program at Harvard in hopes of getting his book out there and promoted by some of the best academic minds in literature. But Joe is predictably Joe, and when he meets fellow aspiring author Wonder he is completely obsessed. But Joe’s past is filled with skeletons, they are starting to crop up. Welcome back, Joe!

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

Highlights: March 2023

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

So a lot of people may be able to say that March is a signal towards the beginning of Spring. In like a lion, out like the lamb and all that. Not necessarily so here in Minnesota, as winter really likes to hold on, and on, and on. So while we may have some hope of getting outside at the end of the month and out of our winter hovels, it’s not a guarantee. So we cling to our books, and we both have some anticipated titles this month!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “The Foxglove King” by Hannah Whitten

Publication Date: March 7, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I really enjoyed Whitten’s “For the Wolf” duology, even if the second book, “For the Queen,” was a bit weaker than the first. Either way, Whitten had proven her fantasy chops as far as I am concerned. I also liked the premise of this book as following a young woman named Lore who has some sort of death magic and then, of course, gets caught up into palace schemings and wars between gods. On the other hand, the book description makes no effort to hide the likely love triangle between Lore, the “bad boy” prince, and the “dutiful” monk. I can make some overall predictions, I think, just on those character beats alone. I’m on the record as not enjoying love triangles, but I do think Whitten is a supremely capable author, especially with her characters, so I’m hopeful!

Book: “A Tempest at Sea” by Sherry Thomas

Publication Date: March 14, 2023

Why I’m Interested: Thomas’s “Charlotte Holmes” series is by far my favorite currently running mystery series. While I’ve had favorites, I haven’t had any major problems with any of them. A minor quibble here or there, but nothing to hang your hat on. Instead, her mysteries have been reliable complicated and compelling, and I have enjoyed getting to know the large cast of characters who surround our brilliant detective. What’s more, I’m particularly excited for this book given the dramatic manner in which the last one ended, with Charlotte faking her own death to throw Moriarty off of her trail. How will she handle this going forward? I can’t wait to find out!

Book: “The Fairy Bargains of Prospect Hill” by Rowenna Miller

Publication Date: March 28, 2023

Why I’m Interested: While I have yet to finish “The Unraveled Kingdom” trilogy, I do remember quite enjoying the first book in the series, “Fray.” It was a unique combination of fantasy story and social commentary. So, too, this book sounds like it has a lot to offer, telling the two of a family whose orchard has always shared a boarder with the Fae, with whom they have relied upon for small trades and bargains throughout their tenure. But when two sisters find themselves slamming up against the restraints put upon women of this time, they begin to wonder whether these tried and true bargains can be pushed further. One can imagine where this story will likely go, but I’m also intrigued by this combination of fantasy elements and a historical novel that is focused on some of the issues of the time.

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Piñata” by Leopoldo Gout

Publication Date: March 14, 2023

Why I’m Interested: The cover immediately caught my eye when it showed up on one of my social media feeds. And after looking into it, I realized that “Piñata” by Leopoldo Gout was going to be a searing and uncompromising possession story. Architect Carmen has traveled to Mexico to work on a large project involving a centuries old Church, bringing daughters Izel and Luna with her. But after an accident on site opens a long forgotten room, and Luna is involved in the aftermath, they return home under stress. Once home, Luna starts to act strange, and all of them are plagued with strange and disturbing images and visions. Something in the room is out now, and it is angry. This is the kind of possession story that catches my eye.

Book: “Lone Women” by Victor LaValle

Publication Date: March 28, 2023

Why I’m Interested: While westerns aren’t really a genre I find myself gravitating towards, if Victor LaValle is involved I am going to take a big old chance on a western. I’ve loved his other horror works that not only take on scares, but also contemporary societal issues, and now it’s taking on historical societal issues that undoubtedly have resonance today! In 1914, Adelaide is running from a terrible secret and a terrible background, bringing a locked steamer trunk with her wherever she goes. She decides to try and take advantage of a Government offer of land for anyone who can make a living on it, and heads to Montana in hopes of laying low. But she soon realizes that there are other dangers besides a murky past, and that the secret she’s been keeping may need to come out if she wants to survive. So vague, so of course that just makes me more interested!

Book: “London Séance Society” by Sarah Penner

Publication Date: March 21, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I loved Sarah Penner’s previous novel “The Lost Apothecary” and how she weaved both historical fiction and psychological women’s thriller fiction into one well crafted story. So of course I was interested in her next book, “The London Séance Society”, and what a bonus ghosts and Victorian Spiritualism were! When her younger sister Evie is murdered, Lenna seeks out Vaudeline, a world renowned medium who also happened to be Evie’s former teacher. Lenna becomes a new apprentice, and when Vaudeline gets word that a friend and head of the London Séance Society has been murdered as well, both women seek out the exclusive group to see if they can help solve the crime. Lenna soon realizes that Evie had her own connection to the group, and then the two women wonder just what the London Séance Society may be hiding. Historical intrigue and ghosts, what more could I want?

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

Another Take: Winter 2023

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

Don’t just take it from us, other readers like these books, too! And we have decided that we would like to showcase other reviewers and bloggers that have their own thoughts and feelings about books that we have loved. Here are a few of the books we’ve enjoyed recently and what other bloggers have to say about them.

“The Poison Season” by Mara Rutherford

Leelo has spent her entire life on Endla, coexisting with the bloodthirsty Forest and respecting the poisonous lake that protects her island from outsiders who seek to destroy it. But as much as Leelo cares for her community, she struggles to accept that her younger brother will be exiled by his next birthday, unless he gains the magic of enchanted song so vital to Endla.

When Leelo sees a young outsider on the verge of drowning in the lake, she knows exactly what she’s supposed to do. But in a moment that will change everything, Leelo betrays her family, her best friend, and Endla by making an unthinkable choice.

Discovery could lead to devastating consequences for both Leelo and the outsider, Jaren, but as they grow closer, Leelo realizes that not all danger comes from beyond the lake—and they can only survive if Leelo is willing to question the very fabric of her society, her people, and herself.

Serena’s Review (8 Rating)

One Book More (4 Stars)

The BiblieoSanctum (4 Stars)

Dark Dispatch

“Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries” by Heather Fawcett

Cambridge professor Emily Wilde is good at many things: She is the foremost expert on the study of faeries. She is a genius scholar and a meticulous researcher who is writing the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. But Emily Wilde is not good at people. She could never make small talk at a party–or even get invited to one. And she prefers the company of her books, her dog, Shadow, and the Fair Folk to other people.

So when she arrives in the hardscrabble village of Hrafnsvik, Emily has no intention of befriending the gruff townsfolk. Nor does she care to spend time with another new arrival: her dashing and insufferably handsome academic rival Wendell Bambleby, who manages to charm the townsfolk, get in the middle of Emily’s research, and utterly confound and frustrate her.

But as Emily gets closer and closer to uncovering the secrets of the Hidden Ones–the most elusive of all faeries–lurking in the shadowy forest outside the town, she also finds herself on the trail of another mystery: Who is Wendell Bambleby, and what does he really want? To find the answer, she’ll have to unlock the greatest mystery of all–her own heart.

Serena’s Review (9 Rating)

Smart Bitches Trashy Books

Your Words My Ink (4 Stars)

Books, Bones, & Buffy (5 Stars)

“The Last Tale of the Flower Bride” by Roshani Chokshi

Once upon a time, a man who believed in fairy tales married a beautiful, mysterious woman named Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada. He was a scholar of myths. She was heiress to a fortune. They exchanged gifts and stories and believed they would live happily ever after–and in exchange for her love, Indigo extracted a promise: that her bridegroom would never pry into her past.

But when Indigo learns that her estranged aunt is dying and the couple is forced to return to her childhood home, the House of Dreams, the bridegroom will soon find himself unable to resist. For within the crumbling manor’s extravagant rooms and musty halls, there lurks the shadow of another girl: Azure, Indigo’s dearest childhood friend who suddenly disappeared. As the house slowly reveals his wife’s secrets, the bridegroom will be forced to choose between reality and fantasy, even if doing so threatens to destroy their marriage . . . or their lives.

Serena’s Review (8 Rating)

Becky’s Book Blog

Tea Leaf Reads (4 Stars)

Coffee Killed the Bookworm (4 Stars)

“Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Stephen Graham Jones

December 12th, 2019, Jade returns to the rural lake town of Proofrock the same day as convicted Indigenous serial killer Dark Mill South escapes into town to complete his revenge killings, in this riveting sequel to My Heart Is a Chainsaw from New York Times bestselling author, Stephen Graham Jones.

Four years after her tumultuous senior year, Jade Daniels is released from prison right before Christmas when her conviction is overturned. But life beyond bars takes a dangerous turn as soon as she returns to Proofrock. Convicted Serial Killer, Dark Mill South, seeking revenge for thirty-eight Dakota men hanged in 1862, escapes from his prison transfer due to a blizzard, just outside of Proofrock, Idaho.

Dark Mill South’s Reunion Tour began on December 12th, 2019, a Thursday.

Thirty-six hours and twenty bodies later, on Friday the 13th, it would be over.

Don’t Fear the Reaper is the page-turning sequel to My Heart Is a Chainsaw from New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones.

Kate’s Review (9 Rating)

Books, Bones, and Buffy (4 Stars)

The Inkblotters (A+)

The Bibliosanctum (4.5/5 Stars)

“The Black Queen” by Jumata Emill

Nova Albright, the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High, is dead. Murdered the night of her coronation, her body found the next morning in the old slave cemetery she spent her weekends rehabilitating. Tinsley McArthur was supposed to be queen. Not only is she beautiful, wealthy, and white, it’s her legacy—her grandmother, her mother, and even her sister wore the crown before her. Everyone in Lovett knows Tinsley would do anything to carry on the McArthur tradition.

No one is more certain of that than Duchess Simmons, Nova’s best friend. Duchess’s father is the first Black police captain in Lovett. For Duchess, Nova’s crown was more than just a win for Nova. It was a win for all the Black kids. Now her best friend is dead, and her father won’t fact the fact that the main suspect is right in front of him. Duchess is convinced that Tinsley killed Nova—and that Tinsley is privileged enough to think she can get away with it. But Duchess’s father seems to be doing what he always does: fall behind the blue line. Which means that the white girl is going to walk.

Duchess is determined to prove Tinsley’s guilt. And to do that, she’ll have to get close to her. But Tinsley has an agenda, too.

Everyone loved Nova. And sometimes, love is exactly what gets you killed.

Kate’s Review (8 Rating)

Lace and Dagger Books (4/5 Stars)

Utopia State of Mind

“How To Sell a Haunted House” by Grady Hendrix

When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.

Most of all, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. Unfortunately, she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.

But some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…

Kate’s Review (9 Rating)

The Lit Bitch (4 Stars)

Run Along The Shelves

Caffeinated Reviewer (4 Cups)

Highlights: February 2023

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

It’s February! The month of flowers! The month of chocolate! The month of romance! The month where if you have kids you sit around at home and fantasize about some nebulous future where you can once again go on a romantic dinner date but instead you just drink wine and re-watch episodes of “The Office.” Luckily for us, being homebound always comes with the perk of more time to check out the many books we’re looking forward to this month!

Serena’s Picks

Book: “The Last Tale of the Flower Bride” by Roshani Chokshi

Publication Date: February 14, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I’ve been a bit hit or miss with Roshani Chokshi’s books in the past. But even while I sometimes struggle with her flowery writing style, it’s undeniable that she’s a talented author. So I was excited to see that she was releasing her first fantasy novel for adults this winter. I know that she does an excellent job with characters, so perhaps being freed from some of the YA fantasy tropes will free her up to really dive into this aspect of her writing. Plus, the gothic vibes of the story about a husband who travels to his wife’s strange ancestral home and discovers many secrets in her past sounded right up my alley!

Book: “Empire of Ruin” by Django Wexler

Publication Date: February 23, 2023

Why I’m Interested: I’ve really been enjoying Wexler’s “Burningblade and Silvereye” trilogy so far. But of course, it all comes down to the last book in the series where the whole thing will either come together or crash into a burning pile of disappointment. But I’m really not too worried about the latter. Wexler is proven author will several solid ending under his belt. So now it’s a matter of just how it all concludes. The end of the book saw the return of one of the all-powerful Chosen who had died out years before but, of course, he’s quite evil and has his own plans for their world. I’m so excited to see how our beloved siblings deal with him and, hopefully, figure out their own stuff, too.

Book: “The Magician’s Daughter” by H. G. Parry

Publication Date: February 21, 2023

Why I’m Interested: First off, I’m really digging this cover. It’s definitely eye-catching and stands out from the other covers you see a lot of right now. I also love stories that blend fantasy with historical fiction, so this book, set in 1917 sounded right up my alley. The story follows Biddy, a young woman being raised by a magician as her guardian. But soon she learns her guardian is hiding dark secrets and she begins to question everything. I love that the central relationship in this book seems to be between Biddy and Rowan, the magician. We see a lot of siblings and romances, but guardian and ward seems pretty unique. Can’t wait to check this one out!

Kate’s Picks

Book: “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Stephen Graham Jones

Publication Date: February 7, 2023

Why I’m Interested: The first and obvious reason is that I love Stephen Graham Jones and think he is a genius and a horror master. The second is that I am VERY happy that he has decided to continue his Jade Daniels series, which he started with “My Heart Is A Chainsaw”. Love Jones’s love for all things horror, and love how much he deep dives into the genre and just turns it on its head. In “Don’t Fear The Reaper” Jade has left prison behind after being released, and is returning to Proofrock. Just when another horror movie situation has started to unfold, as an escaped serial killer has descended on the town during the snow storm. While Jade doesn’t want to be bound to horror anymore, she will have to tap into her suppressed knowledge if she wants to survive. LET’S GOOOOOO!

Book: “She Is a Haunting” by Trang Thanh Tran

Publication Date: February 28, 2023

Why I’m Interested: Ghost stories are always my jam, and this one popped up in my mailbox and grabbed by attention almost immediately. I mean sheesh, look at that cover! And I also love a ghost story that takes on greater themes like grief, broken families, and colonialism, and this sounds like it’s teeming with all of that. When Jade (another Jade!) returns to her ancestral home of Vietnam to visit her father (with whom she has a troubled relationship), she thinks the worst thing is going to be the awkwardness. But when she settles into the mid-restoration French colonial home, it’s clear that something is wrong with the house. From visions of ghostly brides to the unnerving feeling of insects everywhere, Jade is convinced something is wrong. Though her family doesn’t believe her, she knows she needs to unearth the house’s secrets to save her loved ones. How creepy. I’m IN.

Book: “Spite House” by Johnny Compton

Publication Date: February 7, 2023

Why I’m Interested: Another haunted house story! And this was one that was jumping all over my various social media feeds, and the hype really caught my eye. Eric and his daughters Dess and Stacy are traveling in their car back to his home state of Texas, fleeing from a mysterious past and trying to stay together in spite of the tension and dwindling funds. So when Eric sees an employment ad that is looking for a caretaker of a local house, that happens to be notoriously haunted, he jumps at the chance, agreeing to help the elderly owner find some evidence of any kind of supernatural activity. But once he and his daughters move in, things start happening, and they realize that this slightly creepy job is actually a nightmare. Two haunted house stories this month, how lucky are we?

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

Not Just Books: January 2023

While we do love us some books, believe it not, we do have a life outside of reading. So to highlight our other pop culture interests, on the last Monday of each month, we each will highlight three other “happenings” from the last month. Big events on favorite TV shows, new movies we’ve watched, old movies we’ve “discovered,” etc. Pretty much whatever we found of particular interest outside of the book world during the last month. Share your own favorite things in the comments!

Serena’s Picks

Movie: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”

Count my husband and I in the group of people whose money Netflix lost by only releasing this movie in theaters for one weekend! I’m not sure what went on behind this poorly thought out decision, but I hope all the dollars they left on the table remind them that yes, some people still do want to actually go out to the theater! I mean, at this point, any excuse to escape my children sounds good. But the opportunity to watch a smart, hilarious, murder mystery as well? Definitely! Ah well. We still watched on Netflix the Friday it was released and enjoyed the heck out of it. Fans of the first movie are sure to love this one, as will those who are first timers to “Knives Out.”

Netflix Show: “The Recruit”

From a sure bet to a very questionable new release. Questionable because I really couldn’t tell what I was getting into after watching the trailer. Is this an action show? A comedy? Are we supposed to like this kind of ridiculous dude bro who seems to be a walking, talking 20-something stereotype? Well, yes to all of the above. And you have to give all the credit to Noah Centineo for this one. As I said, this is a character who you really should dislike. But Centineo’s charm and douchey charisma (is that a thing??) carry the entire thing. You find yourself rooting for this bumbling guy who seems to stumble from one disaster to another. I did struggle towards the end when one of the main female characters made some decisions that truly catapulted her into “too stupid to live” territory, but, again, my investment in Centineo’s character ultimately won me over.

TV Show: “Veronica Mars”

Yes, yes, I’m admitting to be very late to this show. Not only did I not watch it when it was originally on, but I really wasn’t even aware it was a thing until fairly recently when I went down a Kristen Bell rabbit hole and discovered it in her back catalog. I’ll also admit that I watched the first half of the first season over several months, still not understanding what all the fuss was about. And then Logan and Veronica kissed, and my little shipping heart was all in. Yes, I’m also unfortunately spoiled for the end, but that just means I can very tidily turn of my viewing experience before any…unpleasantness ruins my “happily ever after.”

Kate’s Picks

TV Show: “Trixie Motel”

One of my dearest friends, David, has been living outside Minnesota, spending his time on archaeological digs or out west working on his dissertation. But whenever he is in town we try to get together to relive our glory days of ordering in Chinese food and watching queer content (as this was how our friendship was solidified during our time working together at the Science Museum of Minnesota). For his winter visit we sat down and started “Trixie Motel”, a renovation show that is the project of hilarious drag queen/musician/comedian Trixie Mattel. I’ve been a Trixie fan since she was on “Drag Race” on Season 7, but seeing how she has expanded her brand over the years has been really fun. Now she and her partner have bought a motel in Palm Springs, and they are renovating it to make it campy and kitschy as well as fully functional and enjoyable. This show shows how the renovations went, and is humorous as well as really neat to see in terms of transformation. I’m not a big home renovation show person, but this one was VERY entertaining.

TV Show: “Bluey”

So this is a little bit the influence of my daughter at work, as right now she is VERY into “Bluey”, an Australian cartoon about a blue heeler puppy and her family. But if I am being totally honest, I, too, really really love “Bluey”! The show is little eight minute shorts following Bluey, her sister Bingo, and her parents Bandit and Chilli as they go through general family and childhood things. A lot of it is centered around imaginative play and family time, and it’s incredibly cute. But my husband and I also feel that it does a GREAT job of capturing some of the more silly but also very endearing aspects of childhood, and parenthood, and how sometimes we are all just doing our best out there. It’s been described as ‘a show for parents that kids just happen to like’ in a joking manner, but it hits the nail on the head in a lot of ways. And as someone with a very spirited toddler, it’s fun to cuddle up with her and be like ‘oh that is absolutely something she would do’ whenever Bluey or Bingo are being their sweet, sometimes frustrating, but hilarious and wonderful selves.

Film: “M3gan”

It was once again field trip time for the Terror Tuesday crew, and we had been much anticipating “M3gan”, the new killer doll horror film with an AI twist. The trailer alone was so unhinged that I sent it to the group chat the day it dropped with an ‘OMG????!!!!’ message. And “M3gan” lived up to the WTF-ness of the trailer and more. When Cady is orphaned in a terrible car accident, she is sent to live with her Aunt Gemma, who is a robotics and AI developer for a toy company. Gemma, hoping to help Cady but to also work on her newest creation, introduces her niece to M3gan, a robot doll that uses AI to learn, connect to, and provide care, teaching, and comfort to its owner. But as M3gan learns more, and Cady becomes more and more attached, things start to take a sinister turn. It’s part AI run amok, part creepy doll, and M3gan is a SUPER FUN AND VICIOUS villain. Our group had a serious hoot at the theater, as it has moments of genuine suspense, but also a lot of dark humor to round it all out.

Diving Into Sub-Genres: Portal Fantasy

This post may contain affiliate links for books we recommend.  Read the full disclosure here.

We each have our own preferred genres of choice. Kate loves horrors and thrillers, really anything that will keep her up at night! And Serena enjoys escaping through hidden doors into realms of magic and adventure. We also read mysteries, historical fiction, graphic novels, etc. etc. And that’s not even counting the multitude of sub-genres contained within each greater genre. In this series, one of us will present a list of our favorites from within a given sub-genre of one of our greater preferred genres.

Portal family is probably the largest and most popular sub-genre in fantasy fiction. I know that second part is a pretty hefty claim, but even among the most picky of fantasy readers, those who hardly ever read the genre as a whole, there’s a decent chance they hold a special place for some portal fantasy novel or another. It’s unavoidable when some of the biggest titles in fantasy fiction fall under this subgenre; even more so when many of those titles (“Harry Potter,” “The Wizard of Oz”) are also children’s and middle grade fiction, works that many readers will enjoy as kids even if they go on as adults to read very little in the fantasy genre as a whole.

Portal fantasy is also a wide, sprawling sub-genre on its own. It’s definition is simple: it’s a story that involves characters travelling through a “portal” (wardrobe/train platform/tornado/etc.) from our real world into some magical, fantasy realm. Already you can see the huge potential and likely list off a good number of titles that would fall under this category. What’s more, a broad interpretation of this subgenre would just be characters travelling from world to world, none of which need include our real world. For example, the “His Dark Materials” trilogy utilizes both of these options. We have characters travelling from our world to new worlds, like Will in the second book, “The Subtle Knife.” But there are also several characters, like Lord Asriel, who never travel to “our world” at all, but only between different, unique worlds.

The definition of “portal” can also vary. Some would say there needs to be an actual passage way from one distinct world to another unique world; others would count the Daevabad trilogy as a portal fantasy, simply due to the hidden nature of the city itself, unseen and inaccessible by humanity. Portal fantasy is also one of the oldest subgenres of fantasy. Some of Shakespeare’s plays would likely count (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) and, of course, there is Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.” Between all of these definitions, and the fact that portal fantasy is a popular subgenre in fantasy fiction for all ages (probably the most popular by far in children’s fantasy), there are a million options to choose from, but here are a few that I particularly enjoy and I think represent the subgenre well.

“The Chronicles of Narnia” by C. S. Lewis

This is probably one of the first books/series that comes to most people’s minds when they think of “portal fantasy.” Not only is it a supremely popular children’s series, but the portal itself holds much of its appeal simply by how ubiquitous it is: what child hasn’t crawled into a closet or wardrobe and wished there was a door way to another world to be found at the end? The titular wardrobe in the first book, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” is the most well-known of the portals found in this story. But if you continue reading, you’ll also find children swept away through a painting and simply by the winds felt on a cliffside.

“Wayward Children” series by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire has created a series that not only features portal fantasies as the primary premise of all of her books, but each book does a deep dive into the types of people who walk through these magical doors. The types of people who look for them, and those who don’t. And she paints a world that holds so many doorways to so many unique worlds that she’s even made a sort of flowchart to diagram the sorts of worlds her characters may come from and travel to. Where does each world fall on a scale of chaos or order? Good or evil? These novellas are all incredibly unique and highlight a lot of the appeal that the portal fantasy subgenre holds for the many readers who enjoy it and wish they, too, could find their door to another world.

“The Fionavar Tapestry” series by Guy Gavriel Kay

This is one of the first adult portal fantasy series that I remember reading as a teenager. Up to that point, for me, portal fantasy was something found in children’s and young adult fiction, but not so much in the stuffy works that made up adult fantasy. The story follows five men and women who find themselves pulled into a fantasy world where they each have important roles to play. And this is definitely adult portal fantasy all around, as Kay dives into some pretty dark themes throughout the series. I remember really enjoying it, but also being rather shocked as a teenage reader by certain scenes. It’s one of those fantasy series that has stuck with me throughout the years, but also one that I need to return to soon as I haven’t ever re-read it.

“The Invisible Library” by Genevieve Cogman

This eight book long series wrapped up recently, back in 2021 and was massively popular during its run. It’s a fairly standard portal fantasy, with its main character, Irene, travelling from realm to realm in her work for a Library that collects fiction from these various worlds. Throughout the series she gathers a group of friends around her and encounters all sorts of wild worlds, including time travel. These are really lovely books, all the more appealing for featuring a heroic librarian as their heroine!

“In Other Lands” by Sarah Rees Brennan

This is another fairly straight-forward portal fantasy, but its quirky take on not only the the magical world and the beings that populate it but on its protagonist make it stand out as a great, modern story. The word “deconstruction” has been used when describing this book’s take on its central trope, but it does so in an interesting and hilarious way, rather than the usual, more pretentious sort of deconstruction. The hero is also a young teenage boy who is just as snotty and irreverent as you’d expect from a boy of that age. And yet you can’t help rooting for him anyway!

“Shades of Magic” trilogy by V.E. Schwab

Lastly, I’m including one of my favorite portal fantasies of all time. This is also a nice mixture of the two definitions of portal fantasy in that one of our main characters travels in the traditional direction (from our world and into a magical one), but our other main character is from the magical world and travels not only to our world, but also to other, unique worlds beyond. This trilogy not only has unique worlds (varying Londons each with different levels of magic), but I really enjoyed the way the magic system and travel between these works worked. Fans of portal fantasies should definitely check this trilogy out if you haven’t already!

What portal fantasy books are your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

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