Pub Day Picks // October 20, 2020

Happy Pub Day! While I didn’t get enough sleep last night and kind of feeling it this morning, I’m excited that it’s publishing Tuesday. Perhaps I’ll treat myself to a couple of these since I didn’t get to sleep all that much and probably could use a book or two before bed. Here’s my picks for today:

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M Danforth

While I haven’t had a chance to read Danforth’s first novel, this one seems like something that will definitely delight me. I’m going to give myself some grace though because her last book wasn’t written for adults, so I’m going to say that’s the reason I didn’t hear of her. However, this one sounds exactly like something I would get into. It takes place at a school. Nefarious things happen there. I mean, you had me at “horror-comedy.”

Our story begins in 1902, at The Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it The Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, The Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever—but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.

Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer, Merritt Emmons, publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded-Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, opposite B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern heroines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled—or perhaps just grimly exploited—and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.

A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period illustrations, Plain Bad Heroines is a devilishly haunting, modern masterwork of metafiction that manages to combine the ghostly sensibility of Sarah Waters with the dark imagination of Marisha Pessl and the sharp humor and incisive social commentary of Curtis Sittenfeld into one laugh-out-loud funny, spellbinding, and wonderfully luxuriant read.

Among the Beasts and Briars by Ashley Poston

Prior to my research on what’s being published today, I hadn’t heard about this book. However, I had heard of Ashley Poston as she’s famous for her fantasy YA novels Geekerella and The Princess and the Fangirl which is a series that takes classic fairy tales and retells them with a modern twist. Among the Beasts and Briars seems like Ashley Poston’s moved on from retellings to telling her own story. I can’t wait to check this one out and see! Also, this cover is absolutely gorgeous.

Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.

The Neil Gaiman Reader by Neil Gaiman

As a huge fan of Neil Gaiman’s work, I am so excited about the Neil Gaiman Reader. I don’t think I’ve read books like this before, but from its description, it sounds like a collection of short stories written by Neil Gaiman. If you’re a fan of magic existing in the real world right under your very own nose, then you should definitely give Neil Gaiman a chance. His writing always exports me to a new world and I’m always so inspired by his work.

Spanning Gaiman’s career to date, The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction is a captivating collection from one of the world’s most beloved writers, chosen by those who know his work best: his devoted readers. 

A brilliant representation of Gaiman’s groundbreaking, entrancing, endlessly imaginative fiction, this captivating volume includes excerpts from each of his five novels for adults —Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Anansi Boys, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane—and nearly fifty of his short stories. 

Impressive in its depth and range, The Neil Gaiman Reader: Selected Fiction is both an entryway to Gaiman’s oeuvre and a literary trove Gaiman fans old and new will return to many times over.

Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly

Oh, another fairy tale retelling that I’m immediately drawn to because I love fairy tale retellings? Of course, this one is also based on Snow White, but this is one sounds like it’s more what do you do when the Evil Queen gets what she wanted feeling.

Once upon a time, a girl named Sophie rode into the forest with the queen’s huntsman. Her lips were the color of ripe cherries, her skin as soft as new-fallen snow, her hair as dark as midnight. When they stopped to rest, the huntsman took out his knife . . . and took Sophie’s heart.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Sophie had heard the rumors, the whispers. They said she was too kind and foolish to rule — a waste of a princess. A disaster of a future queen. And Sophie believed them. She believed everything she’d heard about herself, the poisonous words people use to keep girls like Sophie from becoming too powerful, too strong . . .

With the help of seven mysterious strangers, Sophie manages to survive. But when she realizes that the jealous queen might not be to blame, Sophie must find the courage to face an even more terrifying enemy, proving that even the darkest magic can’t extinguish the fire burning inside every girl, and that kindness is the ultimate form of strength.

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