Pub Day Picks // August 17, 2021

Happy Tuesday! Another glorious pub day with some great books I’m excited are now in the universe. I’m most excited for Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko mostly because I just finished Raybearer and astonished at how incredible that book was. Seriously, I highly recommend that one.

But there’s some others as well, including my favorite romance of August, a new book from Sylvia Moreno-Garcia, and the end of a big fantasy trilogy.

Velvet was the Night by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a “delicious, twisted treat for lovers of noir” about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

Redemptor by Jordan Ifueko

The hotly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestselling YA fantasy about Tarisai’s quest to change her fate

For the first time, an Empress Redemptor sits on Aritsar’s throne. To appease the sinister spirits of the dead, Tarisai must now anoint a council of her own, coming into her full power as a Raybearer. She must then descend into the Underworld, a sacrifice to end all future atrocities.

Tarisai is determined to survive. Or at least, that’s what she tells her increasingly distant circle of friends. Months into her shaky reign as empress, child spirits haunt her, demanding that she pay for past sins of the empire.

With the lives of her loved ones on the line, assassination attempts from unknown quarters, and a handsome new stranger she can’t quite trust . . . Tarisai fears the pressure may consume her. But in this finale to the Raybearer duology, Tarisai must learn whether to die for justice . . . or to live for it.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon

When a personal trainer agrees to fake date her client, all rules are out the window in this delightful romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Boyfriend Project!

When it comes to personal training, Taylor Powell kicks serious butt. Unfortunately, her bills are piling up, rent is due, and the money situation is dire. Taylor needs more than the support of her new best friends, Samiah and London. She needs a miracle.

And Jamar Dixon might just be it. The oh-so-fine former footballer wants back into the NFL, and he wants Taylor to train him. There’s just one catch — no one can know what they’re doing. But when they’re accidentally outed as a couple, Taylor’s game plan is turned completely upside down. Is Jamar just playing to win . . . or is he playing for keeps?

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

Legacy of Light by Matthew Ward

Warfare, myth and magic collide in Legacy of Light, the spectacular conclusion to Matthew Ward’s acclaimed Legacy trilogy.

For the first time in many years, the Tressian Republic and the Hadari Empire are at peace. But war never sleeps.

In Tregard, Empress Melanna Saranal struggles to protect a throne won at great cost.

In Tressia, Lord Protector Viktor Droshna seeks to harness forbidden power to restore all he’s lost.

As the sins of the past are once more laid bare, every road leads to war. Darkness gathers, alliances shatter and one final battle looms. What hope remains, lies within the light.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

What are you excited for today?

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker // Spotlight

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker // Spotlight

Thanks Avon Books for sending me a gifted copy.

Every once in a while, I get the urge to read a little bit of romance. I guess that’s probably obvious from the romance reviews I share on this page. But when you combine royalty and baking in an enemies-to-lovers/grumpy and sunshine story, I couldn’t help myself and grabbed a copy.

Battle Royal by Lucy Parker sounds like a fun-filled book with delicious treats, some awkward moments, and a whole lot of romance. I can’t wait to pick this one up soon.

The book is out on August 17th!

Add it to Goodreads | Find Battle Royal on Amazon | Find Battle Royal on Bookshop.org

Beloved author Lucy Parker pens a delicious new romantic comedy that is a battle of whisks and wits.

Ready…

Four years ago, Sylvie Fairchild charmed the world as a contestant on the hit baking show, Operation Cake. Her ingenious, colorful creations captivated viewers and intrigued all but one of the judges, Dominic De Vere, the hottest pastry chef in London. When her glittery unicorn cake went spectacularly sideways, Dominic was quick to vote her off the show. Since then, Sylvie has managed to use her fame to help fulfill her dream of opening a bakery, Sugar Fair. The toast of Instagram, Sugar Fair has captured the attention of the Operation Cake producers…and a princess.

Set…

Dominic is His Majesty the King’s favorite baker, the go-to for sweet-toothed A-List celebrities, and a veritable British institution. He’s brilliant, talented, hard-working. And an icy, starchy grouch. Learning that the irksome Sylvie will be joining him on the Operation Cake judging panel is enough to make the famously dour baker even more grim. Her fantastical baking is only slightly more troublesome than the fact that he can’t stop thinking about her pink-streaked hair and irrepressible dimple.

Match…

When Dominic and Sylvie learn they will be fighting for the once in a lifetime opportunity to bake a cake for the upcoming wedding of Princess Rose, the flour begins to fly as they’re both determined to come out on top.

The bride adores Sylvie’s quirky style. The palace wants Dominic’s classic perfection.

In this royal battle, can there be room for two?

  • Publisher: ‎Avon (August 17, 2021)
  • Language: ‎English
  • Paperback: ‎416 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0063040069

New to Me Series // The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

New to Me Series // The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

Thanks Tor Teen for the gifted copy of these books.

I didn’t really get into Western stories until my husband and I watched a few together. I’ve never read Westerns before and when I think about it, it sounds like old white dudes riding on their horse with a cigarette pursed at their lips and a bad attitude. I know, I’m definitely being reductive here, but that’s what I thought. But then I recently heard of Charlotte Nicole Davis and her The Good Luck Girls series that combines westerns with more inclusive characters and a little bit of a dystopian/fantasy vibe. Oh yeah, I know this would be a series I will really enjoy. And with the sequel, The Sisters of Reckoning, out on August 10th, I figured it would be fun to share these books. I haven’t read these yet, but I will definitely adding them to a future TBR!

Here’s more about The Good Luck Girls

Aster, the protector
Violet, the favorite
Tansy, the medic
Mallow, the fighter
Clementine, the catalyst

THE GOOD LUCK GIRLS

The country of Arketta calls them Good Luck Girls–they know their luck is anything but. Sold to a “welcome house” as children and branded with cursed markings. Trapped in a life they would never have chosen.

When Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by Arketta’s most vicious and powerful forces, both human and inhuman, their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one Good Luck Girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe. It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


Here’s more about The Sisters of Reckoning

The Good Luck Girls are free. Aster’s sister and friends have new lives across the border in Ferron, while Aster remains in Arketta, helping more girls escape. But news of a new welcome house opening fills Aster with a need to do more than just help individual girls. And an unexpected reunion gives her an idea of how to do it. From there, grows a wildly ambitious plan to free all dustbloods, who live as prisoners to Arketta’s landmasters and debt slavery.

When Clementine and the others return from Ferron, they become the heart of a vibrant group of fearless fighters, working to unite the various underclasses and convince them to join in the fight. Along the way, friendships will be forged, lives will be lost, and love will take root even in the harshest of circumstances, between the most unexpected of lovers.

But will Arketta’s dustbloods finally come into power and freedom, or will the resistance just open them up to a new sort of danger?

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon // Book Review

The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon // Book Review

Thanks Read Forever Books for the gifted copy of the book.

I’m fairly new to Farrah Rochon’s writing and only started reading her work with The Boyfriend Project last year. I remember devouring that book in a single day. It helped that my mental health wasn’t the best at the time and reading romances felt more comforting to me than looking at my phone. But what I got from her story is something more than a romance; it felt like these were real people in very difficult situations trying to move on from someone who played them all.

I was so excited about The Dating Playbook and yep, it totally exceeded my expectations. I think you’ll really love this one too.

Here’s more about The Dating Playbook

When a personal trainer agrees to fake date her client, all rules are out the window in this delightful romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Boyfriend Project!

When it comes to personal training, Taylor Powell kicks serious butt. Unfortunately, her bills are piling up, rent is due, and the money situation is dire. Taylor needs more than the support of her new best friends, Samiah and London. She needs a miracle.

And Jamar Dixon might just be it. The oh-so-fine former footballer wants back into the NFL, and he wants Taylor to train him. There’s just one catch — no one can know what they’re doing. But when they’re accidentally outed as a couple, Taylor’s game plan is turned completely upside down. Is Jamar just playing to win . . . or is he playing for keeps?

My thoughts

While this book was definitely a romance, I found myself also considering this a book of personal growth. Not my personal growth, but growth for both Taylor and Jamar. Taylor is an up-and-coming personal trainer who’s made one too many mistakes with getting her company off the ground. Now, with $20,000 in debt, she’s worried about making rent, paying off her car, or even finding solid work without a college degree. Jamar is this former NFL player who’s been out since he hurt his knee six months into his professional career. While people still remember him from his college years, he still wants to get back in the game not only for himself, but also as a promise to his passed best friend.

Throughout the story, you see both Taylor and Jamar grow. Mostly importantly, you see them grow together. That’s probably the part I love the most about this story. I love seeing couple push each other in positive ways to become much better people not just for themselves, but for each other. It made me happy to see Taylor’s motivation to go back to school and see Jamar give himself grace for the things that happened in his past. I know that people are very capable of growing on their own, but with a romance story, it’s always nice to see a couple become who they’re supposed to be together.

It makes the story feel much more real to me. I was rooting for both of these characters the entire time and hoping the best for them. I also loved how complex the issues were. It wasn’t just the going back to school or helping out an old friend; there were layers to it and each layer had to be peeled back before either of them could get better. It just reminds me that everyone’s struggles are different; some people have it easy and some people face more difficult challenges. The strength that both of these characters had to find that was motivational!

It was also super funny. I found myself laughing out loud at Jamar’s stupid jokes and Taylor’s no-nonsense way of motivating Jamar. Their dynamic was truly one of my favorites and put a smile on my face every time I read a conversation between the two. I also loved seeing London and Samiah again as they helped Taylor through some difficult decisions. Honestly, their presence in this book was definitely more than in past books and I welcome it very much.

And the football! I became a football fan because of my husband. He was very into college football at the time we started dating, so I started watching the games with him. Not only did I really enjoy watching the game, but I loved the strategy and way the game is played. I really love watching all sports because it always makes me think in different ways; how to move the ball a certain number of yards, how to pitch the ball in a certain angle to make sure it lands where you want it to. It’s all very technical, which I love and so when this book included a little bit of football, I definitely had my eyes on it. I will say, there isn’t a lot of football playing in this book, but since the book is set in Texas with a former pro player, there was definitely the appearance of a few fans of the game.

I thoroughly enjoyed this one and maybe loved it more than The Boyfriend Project! I can’t wait to book three and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee // Book Review

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee // Book Review

I went into this book was very different expectations than what came out of it. Dark academia is my favorite kinds of stories and I thought A Lesson in Vengeance had it in spades. There was an interesting and inclusive cast of characters, a big question mark around one Felicity, and a story that really caught me off guard at the end.

CW: mental abuse, physical abuse, animal death

Here’s more about A Lesson in Vengeance

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

My thoughts

I’m not a huge fan of thrillers. Most of the time, I either figure out the murderer by the end or the ending is so convoluted that I end up throwing the book across the room. This time, I was totally thrown off guard. I was expecting one thing and it went in a completely different way that I didn’t even imagine. There were definitely clues to it throughout the story, but it just doesn’t hit until the truth comes out.

The setting of the book was my favorite; an old home with tons of history. I loved how generations of girls went there and most of them study literature. There’s a few references to some great horror books written by women while you read along. I also loved the whole underground “skull and crossbones” style coven that’s mainly for girls who come from affluent families. While I’m not a huge fan of books where everyone is super well off, super rich, and super entitled, I thought it was interesting with a character like Felicity who’s dealing with the loss of her best friend/girlfriend, Alex.

The plot itself moved slowly digging more deeply into Felicity’s psychosis rather than having her chase clues across campus to find out some truth. I loved the usage of witchcraft and its presence in young people’s lives. The school with the underground coven, the witchcraft practiced by the founders of the school, the tradition that’s passed on from generation to generation of students, and the stories that get passed down as well. It was interesting to see how steeped Felicity was in that reality; how she truly believed there was dark forces at the school, how the author makes you believe it too.

Ellis was so determined to prove that magic didn’t exist while you’re constantly reminded through Felicity that it does. There were moments in the book where I was so worried for Felicity because there was something about Ellis that you couldn’t put your finger on. You couldn’t tell if Ellis truly liked Felicity or if this was all a ploy to have Felicity play into Ellis’s hands. Because you’re reading the book through Felicity’s perspective, that’s the only perspective you get. You want to know more about Ellis and you think that there’s something going on there that you didn’t see before, but you only know as much as Felicity does. That unreliable narrator really made it more intriguing to figure out what’s really going on.

I thought it was interesting that all these characters were way beyond their years. They’re all supposed to be seniors in a private school, but they lived and acted way older. It surprised me the most to find out that Ellis was a 17-year-old Pulitzer Prize winning author who smoked cigarettes and drank bourbon while using a typewriter to write her stories. But there was still a level of naivete within all of them. They were still young in so many ways despite it. I wish the other characters, (Leona, Kajal, and Clara) were a bit more fleshed out. You get glimpses into their worlds and who they are, but then the plot reverts back to Felicity and Ellis’s relationship. I would have loved if their involvement in the story was a bit deeper.

The only things I didn’t like about this story was that it didn’t end with a paranormal trope. I was hoping for some ghosts to come out and stir things up or magical witches coming down to bring their vengeance, but they’re used in a different way than I imagined. I won’t go into it because it will definitely spoil the story.

Overall, it’s a spooky one with some atmospheric vibes, a lot of unanswered questions that get the most unique answers at the end. It’ll keep you reading and then it will slap you in the face.

I received a copy of A Lesson in Vengeance from the publisher. My opinions haven’t been influenced by the author or the publisher.

The 32 SFF books I’m anticipating for the rest of 2021

The 32 SFF books I’m anticipating for the rest of 2021

Earlier this year (can you believe it was earlier this year? Neither can I), I put together a list of all the science fiction and fantasy books I’m anticipating in the first half of 2021. I mentioned in my post that I would also put out a list of the second half of the year later on. Well, the second half of the year is here and it’s quite a list of books that I cannot wait for.

Honestly, I could have also made a contemporary YA and romance list because there’s so many good stories coming out. But, since fantasy and science fiction are where I love reading the most, I just worked on this list. It’s a huge one, so I’ll keep the description brief with links to affiliate pages for pre-orders, and a little bit about why I’m excited for the book.

This list started off with over 50 books on it, but after a little bit of thinking and really considering what I’m excited for, I’m so glad to have it to 32 science fiction and fantasy books in both YA and adult to share! Of course, the books that didn’t make it will be included to my weekly pub day picks, so you won’t miss out.

Time to roll up those sleeves and get to sharing!

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.

September 7, 2021

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Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

From the New York Times bestselling author of Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens comes a thrilling new YA fantasy about a teen girl with mythic abilities who must defend her world against restless spirits of the dead.

October 5, 2021

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Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Shanghai is under siege in this captivating and searingly romantic sequel to These Violent Delights, which New York Times bestselling author Natasha Ngan calls “deliciously dark.”

November 16, 2021

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The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

The Last Magician meets The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in this thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy following a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and is thrust into a battle between witches and wizards.

August 31, 2021

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The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley

An African tightrope walker who can’t die gets embroiled in a secret society’s deadly gladiatorial tournament in this thrilling historical fantasy set in an alternate 1880s London, perfect for fans of The Last Magician and The Gilded Wolves.

September 7, 2021

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Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place in Under the Whispering Door, a delightful queer love story from TJ Klune, author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller The House in the Cerulean Sea.

September 21, 2021

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Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Lee Mandelo’s debut Summer Sons is a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost.

September 28, 2021

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A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story. Featuring Arthur Rackham’s original illustrations for The Sleeping Beauty, fractured and reimagined.

October 5, 2021

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A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.

November 2, 2021

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Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

September 28, 2021

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You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

Farscape meets The Great British Bake Off in this fantastic space opera You Sexy Thing from former SFWA President, Cat Rambo.

November 16, 2021

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The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

In this action-packed magical fantasy epic, a heroine at the head of a powerful empire confronts a raging battle as she’s forced to do whatever it takes to restore peace.

November 11, 2021

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Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

The Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an East Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis in Jade Legacy, the page-turning conclusion to the Green Bone Saga.

November 30, 2021

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The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick

The Liar’s Knot is the second book in the dark and dazzling Rook & Rose trilogy by M. A. Carrick, a magical fantasy adventure “perfect for those who like their revenge plots served with the intrigue of The Goblin Emperor, the colonial conflict of The City of Brass, the panache of Swordspoint, and the richly detailed settings of Guy Gavriel Kay” (Booklist, starred review).

December 7, 2021

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Dark Rise by C. S. Pacat

In this stunning new fantasy novel from international bestselling author C. S. Pacat, heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war are reborn and begin to draw new battle lines. This epic fantasy with high-stakes romance will sit perfectly on shelves next to beloved fantasy novels like the Infernal Devices series, the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and the Red Queen series.

September 28, 2021

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Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the creature menacing their home—and uncover ancient deadly secrets.

September 28, 2021

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A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C.B. Lee

Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island.

September 7, 2021

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Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer, #1 New York Times-bestselling author, returns to the fairytale world with this haunting retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.

November 2, 2021

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Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

October 19, 2021

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Steelstriker by Marie Lu

Explosive action and swoon-worthy suspense collide in this riveting conclusion to the Skyhunter duet from #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu

September 28, 2021

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The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi

Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with the final riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever.

September 21, 2021

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Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Within These Wicked Walls is an indulgently Gothic fairy tale, comparable in mastery with Mexican Gothic and Jane Eyre. An intricate magic system, a grimly humorous Black heroine, AND a heart-thumping romance? This book leaves nothing wanting.”- Jordan Ifueko, New York Times bestselling author of Raybearer

October 19, 2021

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Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

Once Upon a Broken Heart marks the launch of a new series about love, curses, and the lengths that people will go to for happily ever after from Stephanie Garber, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Caraval

September 28, 2021

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Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

From New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer comes a blockbuster fantasy series about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

September 14, 2021

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Girls of Fate and Fury by Natasha Ngan

New York Times bestselling author Natasha Ngan delivers a stunningly beautiful, heartbreaking finale to the epic Girls of Paper and Fire series.

November 23, 2021

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Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

An unforgettable fantasy debut inspired by West African mythology, this is Children of Blood and Bone meets The Little Mermaid, in which a mermaid takes on the gods themselves.

November 2, 2021

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A History of Wild Places by Shea Earnshaw

The New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep weaves a richly atmospheric adult debut following three residents of a secluded, seemingly peaceful commune as they investigate the disappearances of two outsiders.

December 7, 2021

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The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinka

The Wicked Deep meets House of Salt and Sorrows in this new standalone YA fantasy set in a snow-cloaked kingdom where witches are burned, and two enchantresses secretly compete for the heart of a prince, only to discover that they might be falling for each other.

December 7, 2021

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Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA readers.

September 21, 2021

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Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists.

October 19, 2021

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A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown

The highly anticipated second—and final—book in the immersive fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore that began with the New York Times bestselling A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, from author Roseanne A. Brown. Perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Renée Ahdieh, and Sabaa Tahir.

November 2, 2021

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Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Reckoners series, the Mistborn trilogy, and the Stormlight Archive comes the third book in an epic series about a girl who will travel beyond the stars to save the world she loves from destruction.

November 23, 2021

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Small Favors by Erin A. Craig // Book Review

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig // Book Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

A haunting YA fantasy story about a young girl who’s way smarter than her peers, falls in love, saves her family, and watches her town descend into chaos. Oh, and she’s a bee keper too. I was super excited to read this one, especially when the box arrived with a bell, some forest floor (the box literally had twigs in it), and a handwritten note from the author. I’ve been meaning to read her first book, A House of Salt and Sorrows, but alas, the world is cruel in that way. I guess now I’ll read her first book since I loved her second book and anticipate more from her.

CW: violence, homicide, suicide, arson, blood, and alcoholism

Here’s more about Small Favors

Ellerie Downing is waiting for something to happen. Life in isolated Amity Falls, surrounded by an impenetrable forest, has a predictable sameness. Her days are filled with tending to her family’s beehives, chasing after her sisters, and dreaming of bigger things while her twin, Samuel, is free to roam as he wishes.

Early town settlers fought off monstrous creatures in the woods, and whispers that the creatures still exist keep the Downings and their neighbors from venturing too far. When some townsfolk go missing on a trip to fetch supplies, a heavy unease settles over the Falls.

Strange activities begin to plague the town, and as the seasons change, it’s clear that something is terribly wrong. The creatures are real, and they’re offering to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand, for just a small favor. These seemingly trifling demands, however, hide sinister intentions. Soon, Ellerie finds herself in a race against time to stop Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves from going up in flames.

My thoughts

This was the first book I read from Erin A Craig, and I have to say, color me impressed. The story was beautiful with a dark and haunting vibe all throughout. From the cover, I was imagining this story to be a bit more light-hearted, but the town’s descent into madness, definitely gave you a completely different vibe. It didn’t take long for the atmospheric writing to set in and I was creeped out by things at night. It’s not a scary book, per se, but it’s definitely got the atmosphere. I might have had some goosebumps .

I was a little skeptic at first. The story starts off pretty quaint, but when Ellerie mentioned that her life will be pretty boring and how she’s just going to get married off to someone, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I was worried this would be a theme throughout the book or something she focuses way too much time on. However, I was changed as the book continues to move.

This read like you were reading the origins of a fairy tale. A young girl who’s pretty bored with her life meets a young fellow in the woods. He’s mysteriously, but provides a sense of reprieve from the humdrum of her life. And then things start happening. Ellerie sees a mysterious woman in white from the corner of her eye, her baby sister is speaking with an imaginary friend, the townspeople inexplicably starting to fight each other and then do unspeakable things to each other.

Ellerie was definitely my favorite character. While I tried to like her sisters and her brother, I just couldn’t. They weren’t as smart as Ellerie, but it was obvious they were sucked into the madness of the town. Of course, you see that with Ellerie as well, but I guess reading the book from her POV helped with understanding her thought process. I also liked Whitaker, the strange boy who comes out of the woods one day and somehow instantly falls in love with Ellerie. I know, not everyone’s a fan of insta-love, but it doesn’t bother me! I kind of guessed what was happening with him pretty early on, but I loved watching how Erin A Craig writes him into the story.

The madness was really the part that I enjoyed the most. You watch it slowly start to happen. First, it’s a finger pointed at one person from another. It’s completely irrational, but maybe you think it’s just some small town thing people do .But then you see more things happening up until the point where they’re killing each other and it becomes chaos. I love watching it grow from such a single entity and bloom into something bigger. Oh, I wonder if that makes me a part of the villains in the story.

I won’t get into the villains, though. It’s quite a surprise the way Erin A Craig presented them and truly, I don’t want to give this away because this was the part that felt most like a fairy tale to me. You know, when you’re making deals with someone you shouldn’t be making deals with? That’s exactly what I got from this book and it truly captured me in this world.

The story itself is slow burning all the way up to the end. It felt like such a good pace up until all the action started taking place. Then, it just kept moving so quickly that I was worried I’ll be left with a lot of questions without any answers. And this being a standalone novel, if the questions didn’t get answered then they’ll never get answered. But they did and thankfully I loved the ending.

Overall, fantastic! I’m super impressed with Erin A. Craig’s writing, especially since this is the first book I’ve read from her. I cannot wait to read more from her in the future (including her first book).

My August 2021 TBR

My August 2021 TBR

This post contains books gifted by Tor Teen, Orbit Books, Get Underlined, and Read Forever.

A couple of days late, but it’s finally here and ready for your perusal. I used to do TBR posts more frequently, but then I dropped off because I’m very lazy. But recently, I’ve been thinking about accountability, especially when it comes to the books I read and share. To give you some context, I can read about eight books a month. More books if the month is really good, but mostly I read less because doing this and working full time is a pretty big list of things to do. But I love to read, of course. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this.

I wanted to share this with you so that you know what I’m reading and what you can expect throughout the month. Reviews will be up a few days after I finish reading each book and unless I DNF or swap out books from the list, I’m pretty beholden to what is here. I hope that gives you some context into what I do every month and give you some ideas on what you should read next!

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I feel like every summer, I take on one big science fiction tome. I might have doubled up last summer, but this summer I wanted to read a space opera. When I heard about Adrian Tchaikovsky and his body of work, I decided why not. It sounds like a cool book and I do love a team of aliens coming together to fight for the greater good.

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . .

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

You had me at dark academia. I’ve always been such a fan of this sub-genre and when I heard about this book and how it’s set in some secluded mountains with the girls living in a boarding school and practicing witchcraft, well, it definitely got my attention. It also sounds like there will be intrigue and a bit of a mystery as two young students discover hidden beneath the dark halls.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon

I’m a huge fan of Farrah Rochon’s The Boyfriend Project books. Of course, there’s only one out so far, but this is the second and said to be a super fun one as well because it’s got fake dating! I always know fake dating is such a bad idea, but it’s one of my favorite tropes if you do it right. It also features football, which is randomly one of my favorite sports to watch.

When a personal trainer agrees to fake date her client, all rules are out the window in this delightful romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Boyfriend Project!

When it comes to personal training, Taylor Powell kicks serious butt. Unfortunately, her bills are piling up, rent is due, and the money situation is dire. Taylor needs more than the support of her new best friends, Samiah and London. She needs a miracle.

And Jamar Dixon might just be it. The oh-so-fine former footballer wants back into the NFL, and he wants Taylor to train him. There’s just one catch — no one can know what they’re doing. But when they’re accidentally outed as a couple, Taylor’s game plan is turned completely upside down. Is Jamar just playing to win . . . or is he playing for keeps?

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

One of the first picks from my “Suggest My Reads” question I asked back in July. Last month, I opened up a suggestion box for people who follow me to recommend me a read. I chose two books from that list and credited those people for helping pick out a book for me to read. This is the first one and it’s kind of serendipitous that she picked it because the second book in this series comes out this month. Is it divine intervention? I’ve already heard so many good things about this book and been putting off reading it for a while. No time like the present especially for a book with young people choosing the path that’s right for themselves and defying the wishes of people above them.

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick

A little while back, a friend of mine suggested this book to me. She mentioned that not a lot of people gave this book enough love, but also that it was so good that it deserved to be read and reviewed and adored. I love stories about con artists and magical balls. I think I will definitely love this one.

Fortune favors the bold. Magic favors the liars.

Ren is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house, securing her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as nightmare magic begins to weave its way through the City of Dreams, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled…with Ren at their heart.

The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a dazzling and darkly magical fantasy adventure by Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing together as M. A. Carrick

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This was the second book I picked from my “Recommend a Read” survey. I think I actually like that name and maybe I’ll keep it for every month. I’ve already read a few books from the Wayward Children series, but I never read the first book. Funny enough, I liked the books I read from the series but I wasn’t completely enamored by it. Then I heard that the books I should be reading are the first few of them, and I suddenly realized the mistake that I had made. I cannot wait to dive into this novella and find out the secrets behind this magical door.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

A Blade So Black by LL McKinney

The Fantasy Book Club pick of August! I’m so excited to read this one, especially when I read that it’s supposed to be an Alice in Wonderland retelling. I love Alice in Wonderland in all its whimsy and madness, so I can only imagine this one being just the same. Perhaps with a more likeable protagonist and it doesn’t hurt that the premise also sounds like she’s already been to Wonderland and now journeying through the world to find a cure for her mentor.

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker

This book, well. I don’t have a reason for reading it. It sounded beautiful with magic and mystical woods. I love a YA fantasy like this, so I added it to my list in hopes of reading it before the end of the month.

TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE.

Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return.

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.


What are you reading this month?

Jade City by Fonda Lee // Book Review

Jade City by Fonda Lee // Book Review

This was the Fantasy Book Club pick of July and wow, what a book it was. This intricate and complex story grasped me from the first page. It’s filled with action and intrigue while this crime family in a big city try to fight for their ability to stay in control. As the world crumbles around them, so does their family. It’s a lot to go into, but I’ll try my best.

Here’s more about Jade City

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

My Thoughts

The story follows the Kaul family: Lan is the pillar, the leader of the family. Hilo is the “Horn”, which basically felt like the “muscle” or military leader of the family. Shae is the youngest sister who decided to take off her jade. And Anden is an adopted son who’s currently at the academy learning how to use jade. The family was so complex and each character except for Hilo felt so realized and filled with conflict. I loved Shae the most. She was so capable and yet pushed away her family for personal reasons. She could definitely be the pillar, but that gets explained a bit more as the story goes on. I also loved Anden. His complicated upbringing that led to him being a part of the Kaul family was heartbreaking (and watch out, there’s some self-harm and suicide here) and then his internal conflict of wearing jade made so much sense especially when he finally gets the chance to use his powers.

I also loved Lan, but his role in the book seemed so secondary in comparison to the others. Hilo did have a bigger section of the book, but his story wasn’t my favorite and honestly, I didn’t like him very much.

The action in this book was incredible. The scenes were so well described that it was like watching a movie in my head. I will say, it’s pretty gorey with a lot of violence, so heads up if you’re not a fan of those kinds of things. If you’re a fan of action movies, gritty fight scenes, and even those East Asian movies with martial arts, then you’ll be a fan of the action here. It wasn’t just the action, but the descriptions of the scene being destroyed or the owners of the restaurant hiding in the back were really worth the read.

Jade is a super important resource in this book. It’s used for everything from monastery prayers to healing, but the way jade is used for the Kaul family is economically and physically. The powers imbued by jade are only wielded by a certain group of people. Anyone else that uses it can become extremely addicted leading to hysteria and death, so there’s a level of elitism when it comes to wearing and using jade. I really loved how jade played a role in the story. It was a resource, but it also had a complicated past that really plays out in the book. I felt like jade was a character on its own with how important it was to the family and to the business.

The lore behind this world was amazing. It was so realized and I loved the way it plays into both the history of the Kaul family and the current state that their in. There was some antiquated rules these families continued to abide by and it was interesting to see both the older generation and the newer generation go head-to-head around it. Although, it felt like tradition and history were extremely important, the story does lead you to believe that the younger generations are trying their best to change that.

I do wish there were parts that were better explained. It was a little confusing to figure out what all the different roles within the family were and how the traditions were ingrained into the world. I think I finally figured it out on my own, but some time to discuss the family line or the history would have been beneficial to me. I also wasn’t a fan of the gender roles and family bloodlines, but it made sense for the story. I just hope that book two goes into this a bit more and maybe defies it because it feels too antiquated to be in a modern fantasy book.

I really loved that this book was a slow burn. I know many folks won’t like the pacing of the story, but for me, it felt complex and needed the space to dive into all the parts. There’s enough in the book to keep you interested, but there were some parts I wished moved a little faster. That’s my own personal preference, so it didn’t take away from the book.

Overall, this was action packed and full of intrigue and suspense. I enjoyed it immensely and cannot wait to read the second book.

Pub Day Picks // August 3, 2021

Happy August! I thought with it being one of the last months of the summer that the publishing train would slow down a bit. I was very wrong as today and the rest of this month will be a slew of releases that I cannot wait to read! Here’s what I’m excited for that’s publishing today.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park

When up-and-coming investment banker Jess Kim is passed over for a promotion, laid off in a virtual meeting, and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out of the building. Not sure what’s next, she moves back home to Tennessee with her domineering Korean mom, who tries to set her up with her pastor’s son Daniel Choi, an M&A lawyer by day and a successful video game streamer by night. Turns out he’s swoony and smart, not the awkward preacher’s kid she remembers. With his help, Jess launches a Korean cooking YouTube channel focused on easy meal prep for busy professionals.

All is going well until her mom walks on the show mid-live recording and argues about cooking technique. While she hates being berated by her mother in front of the world, it actually works in their favor—they go viral!

Soon her cooking channel becomes an actual media company and brand. When a client is suddenly interested in buying Jess out, she finds herself sitting across the table from the very investment firm she quit not so long ago. But there’s just one other problem: Daniel, the guy whose been helping her and that she’s been falling for, is the firm’s new general counsel.

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.

Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott’s revelatory, mesmerizing, and game-changing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio, and an interloper who arrives to bring down the carefully crafted Eden-like facade.

Ballet flows through their veins. Dara and Marie Durant were dancers since birth, with their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, homeschooled and trained by their mother. Decades later the Durant School of Dance is theirs. The two sisters, together with Charlie, Dara’s husband and once their mother’s prize student, inherited the school after their parents died in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago. Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, back broken after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around each other, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school’s annual performance of The Nutcracker, a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration, an interloper arrives and threatens the delicate balance of everything they’ve worked for.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.

What are you excited for today?