Audiobook Review: Luster by Raven Leilani

Luster by Raven Leilani

Published: August 4, 2020 by Macmillan Audio

Buy this book at: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art and someone else’s open marriage

Edie is stumbling her way through her twentiessharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She’s also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriagewith rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric’s family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way. 

Review: This is probably one of the sharpest, wittiest debut novels I have ever read. The author is very good at evoking an atmosphere and feeling from the reader with her words. The entire book felt authentic and raw to me. Which is also why I found it largely sad and uninspiring.

The audiobook narrator was just perfect for this book too. Edie is cynical and fatalistic about literally everything. The narrator perfectly matched that attitude and it was wonderful. That’s also why I wasn’t really invested in this book for most of it. Most of the book is Edie making foolish decisions, getting hurt by it, and repeating those decisions. Which, I think, a lot of us can probably relate to from our early 20’s. I know I can. And an older, hopefully wiser, version of me wanted to appeal to her to stop it. That she was destroying herself for the convenience of others and it wasn’t worth it.

The ending of this book made it for me. I listened to the entire last three hours in one sitting, it was absolutely riveting. All of a sudden all those fatalistic, disparate threads of plot were pulled together in a beautiful moment of clarity for Edie. That ending took this book from a two star book to a four star book, without a doubt.

Reading Progress Updates

I have a lot of in progress reading going on, so thought I would put out some of my thoughts.

Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor

Goodreads

Progress: Page 46 of 310

Synopsis: 1878- The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation, passionate and painful devotion to art and to one another. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation, outspoken and generous of heart; and ever following along behind them in the shadows is the unremarkable theatre manager, Bram Stoker. Fresh from life in Dublin as a clerk, Bram may seem the least colourful of the trio but he is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration. But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager?s devotion to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen. This exceptional novel explores the complexities of love that stands dangerously outside social convention, the restlessness of creativity, and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time.

Thoughts so far: It took me awhile to get on board with this story. I didn’t really enjoy the writing style and had a hard time figuring out what I was being told. But once I got past that I am quite enjoying the look at a young Bram Stoker.

Pride’s Children: Purgatory by Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt

Goodreads

Progress: Page 52 of 490

Synopsis: WHAT YOU DO WITH AN OBSESSION COUNTS

“I, KARENNA ELIZABETH Ashe, being of sound mind, do… But that’s it, isn’t it? Being here proves I am not of sound mind…

So begins Book 1 of the Pride’s Children trilogy: Kary immediately regrets the misplaced sense of noblesse oblige which compels her to appear, live on national television—at exorbitant personal cost.

What she cannot anticipate is an entanglement with Hollywood that may destroy her carefully-constructed solitudinarian life.

A contemporary mainstream love story, in the epic tradition of Jane Eyre, and Dorothy L. Sayers’ four-novel bond between Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane, Pride’s Children starts with a very public chance encounter, and will eventually stretch over three separate continents.

Thoughts so far: This was another one that the writing style took me a little while to jump into to and I was a bit concerned that maybe the story just wasn’t for me. It didn’t take long though for me to catch up and really start to enjoy myself. I adore Andrew. He is quirky, funny, smarmy and just so much fun.

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Goodreads

Progress: Page 78 of 340 pages

Synopsis: Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am.

She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them.

Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

The can’t-look-away story of three entangled families living in a house with the darkest of secrets.

Thoughts so far: This story seems strange to me so far. A double suicide, an abandoned baby, missing house residents and then suddenly it all comes together for an inheritance at the house where it all went down. It’s been okay so far, but nothing is blowing my socks off yet.

New Releases Wednesday

Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

Published: August 4, 2020 (ebook and audiobook)

Goodreads

Synopsis: When Nancy Hennessy is murdered, she leaves behind two best friends, an adoring husband and daughter, and a secret lover whose identity she took to the grave. Nancy was gorgeous, wealthy, and cherished by those who knew her—from the outside, her life was perfect. But as the investigation into her death flounders and her friends Eleanor and Mary wrestle with their grief, dark details surface that reveal how little they knew their friend, each other, and maybe even themselves.

A gripping, immersive novel about impossible expectations and secrets that fester and become lethal, Imperfect Women unfolds through the perspectives of three fascinating women. Their enduring, complex friendship is the knot the reader must untangle to answer the question Who killed Nancy?

Imperfect Women explores guilt and retribution, love and betrayal, and the compromises we make that alter our lives irrevocably. With the wickedly sharp insights and finely tuned suspense that has drawn comparisons to Patricia Highsmith and Paula Hawkins, Araminta Hall returns with another page-turning, thought-provoking tour de force.

My Thoughts: This sounds like a wonderful story about a group of women who are entwined in a story of the past and grief. What happens when the friend you thought you knew turns out to be much more mysterious?

Bronte’s Mistress by Finola Austin

Published: August 4, 2020 by Atria Books

Goodreads

Synopsis: Yorkshire, 1843: Lydia Robinson—mistress of Thorp Green Hall—has lost her precious young daughter and her mother within the same year. She returns to her bleak home, grief-stricken and unmoored. With her teenage daughters rebelling, her testy mother-in-law scrutinizing her every move, and her marriage grown cold, Lydia is restless and yearning for something more.

All of that changes with the arrival of her son’s tutor, Branwell Brontë, brother of her daughters’ governess, Miss Anne Brontë and those other writerly sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Branwell has his own demons to contend with—including living up to the ideals of his intelligent family—but his presence is a breath of fresh air for Lydia. Handsome, passionate, and uninhibited by social conventions, he’s also twenty-five to her forty-three. A love of poetry, music, and theatre bring mistress and tutor together, and Branwell’s colorful tales of his sisters’ elaborate play-acting and made-up worlds form the backdrop for seduction.

But Lydia’s new taste of passion comes with consequences. As Branwell’s inner turmoil rises to the surface, his behavior grows erratic and dangerous, and whispers of their passionate relationship spout from her servants’ lips, reaching all three protective Brontë sisters. Soon, it falls on Lydia to save not just her reputation, but her way of life, before those clever girls reveal all her secrets in their novels. Unfortunately, she might be too late.

Meticulously researched and deliciously told, Brontë’s Mistress is a captivating reimagining of the scandalous affair that has divided Brontë enthusiasts for generations and an illuminating portrait of a courageous, sharp-witted woman who fights to emerge with her dignity intact.

My Thoughts: I really adore historical fiction. This sounds romantic and scandalous all at the same time. I would love to see the Bronte sisters handle a family scandal.

Audiobook Review: Broken People by Sam Lansky

Broken People by Sam Lansky

Published: June 9, 2020 by Hanover Square Press

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: A groundbreaking, incandescent debut novel about coming to grips with the past and ourselves, for fans of Sally Rooney, Hanya Yanagihara and Garth Greenwell

“He fixes everything that’s wrong with you in three days.”

This is what hooks Sam when he first overhears it at a fancy dinner party in the Hollywood hills: the story of a globe-trotting shaman who claims to perform “open-soul surgery” on emotionally damaged people. For neurotic, depressed Sam, new to Los Angeles after his life in New York imploded, the possibility of total transformation is utterly tantalizing. He’s desperate for something to believe in, and the shaman—who promises ancient rituals, plant medicine and encounters with the divine—seems convincing, enough for Sam to sign up for a weekend under his care.

But are the great spirits the shaman says he’s summoning real at all? Or are the ghosts in Sam’s memory more powerful than any magic?

At turns tender and acid, funny and wise, Broken People is a journey into the nature of truth and fiction—a story of discovering hope amid cynicism, intimacy within chaos and peace in our own skin.

Review: I gave up on this book about halfway through. It was just boring. It wasn’t so awful that I felt I needed to give it one star, and the writing was somewhat competent, but it was really pointless. Another point that hindered this book is that it read like a poorly disguised memoir and the audiobook was voiced by the author. It was monotone and came across as whiny.

The first 20% of this audiobook was about the main character, Sam, whining to his friends. And his friends whining back at him. Seriously, we spent (what felt like) hours hearing his friends drone on and on about their pointless lives. Brand name clothes they bought, disappointing lovers they had, drugs they did recently, bad parties they attended, and on and on. At one point I forgot to put it on pause and walked away for 20 minutes and when I returned had no idea that I’d missed anything because we were STILL WHINING when I got back.

I thought things would pick up once we got to the shaman. That was mildly more interesting until Sam has a conversation with his friend about whether it’s a moral problem to see a white shaman who was using rituals inspired by indigenous people. And his friend replies (not an exact quote but close), “Well yeah, probably, but capitalist worshippers are screwing over everyone anyway so whatever.”

It was just so asinine. Nothing actually happens. Then I realized what happened when I read a few other reviews. Sam wrote a memoir, by all accounts a profound one. He approaches his editor (this is real life Sam, not character Sam) and says he wants to write a memoir. His editor replies, “Sam, buddy, memoir sequels are not really a thing. So that’s a no.” So Sam went home and wrote this memoir and then called it fiction.

In the end this was nothing more than a young white male whining about the endless privileges he enjoys. It was boring. I didn’t want to read an entire book about Sam’s self loathing and woes about being a prep school graduate who would consider a dusty condo in the middle of Manhattan to be slumming.

Take My Money! Sunday

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Expected publication: January 2021 by One World

Goodreads

Synopsis: A whipsmart debut about three women–transgender and cisgender–whose lives collide after an unexpected pregnancy forces them to confront their deepest desires around gender, motherhood, and sex.

Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn’t hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child. But then her girlfriend, Amy, detransitioned and became Ames, and everything fell apart. Now Reese is caught in a self-destructive pattern: avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

Ames isn’t happy either. He thought detransitioning to live as a man would make life easier, but that decision cost him his relationship with Reese–and losing her meant losing his only family. Even though their romance is over, he longs to find a way back to her. When Ames’s boss and lover, Katrina, reveals that she’s pregnant with his baby–and that she’s not sure whether she wants to keep it–Ames wonders if this is the chance he’s been waiting for. Could the three of them form some kind of unconventional family–and raise the baby together?

This provocative debut is about what happens at the emotional, messy, vulnerable corners of womanhood that platitudes and good intentions can’t reach. Torrey Peters brilliantly and fearlessly navigates the most dangerous taboos around gender, sex, and relationships, gifting us a thrillingly original, witty, and deeply moving novel.

Why I’m Excited: It’s not often that I come across a book that sounds so utterly unique. This is that book and it made me HAVE to read it. It sounds emotionally riveting and one of a kind.

Where Madness Lies by Silvia True

Expected publication: January 29, 2021 by John Hunt Publishing

Goodreads

Synopsis: Germany, 1934. Rigmor, a young Jewish woman is a patient at Sonnenstein, a premier psychiatric institution known for their curative treatments. But with the tide of eugenics and the Nazis’ rise to power, Rigmor is swept up in a campaign to rid Germany of the mentally ill.

USA, 1984. Sabine, battling crippling panic and depression commits herself to McLean Hospital, but in doing so she has unwittingly agreed to give up her baby.

Linking these two generations of women is Inga, who did everything in her power to help her sister, Rigmor. Now with her granddaughter, Sabine, Inga is given a second chance to free someone she loves from oppressive forces, both within and without.

This is a story about hope and redemption, about what we pass on, both genetically and culturally. It is about the high price of repression, and how one woman, who lost nearly everything, must be willing to reveal the failures of the past in order to save future generations.

With chilling echoes of our time, Where Madness Lies is based on a true story of the author’s own family.

Why I’m Excited: World War II historical fiction is having a moment, much of coming across almost exactly the same storylines in the process. But this one sounds different. This is examining two women, separated by time but not by circumstance. I am further intrigued that this is based on a story from the author’s family history. I am sure that will make it an emotional story.

Review: Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawaii Strong Washburn

Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawaii Strong Washburn

Published: March 3, 2020 by MCD

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis:Sharks in the Time of Saviors is the story of a family, a people, and a legend, all wrapped in one. Faith and grief, rage and love, this book pulses with all of it. Kawai Strong Washburn makes his debut with a wealth of talent and a true artist’s eye.” –Victor LaValle, author of The Changeling

In 1995 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, on a rare family vacation, seven-year-old Nainoa Flores falls overboard a cruise ship into the Pacific Ocean. When a shiver of sharks appears in the water, everyone fears for the worst. But instead, Noa is gingerly delivered to his mother in the jaws of a shark, marking his story as the stuff of legends.

Nainoa’s family, struggling amidst the collapse of the sugarcane industry, hails his rescue as a sign of favor from ancient Hawaiian gods–a belief that appears validated after he exhibits puzzling new abilities. But as time passes, this supposed divine favor begins to drive the family apart: Nainoa, working now as a paramedic on the streets of Portland, struggles to fathom the full measure of his expanding abilities; further north in Washington, his older brother Dean hurtles into the world of elite college athletics, obsessed with wealth and fame; while in California, risk-obsessed younger sister Kaui navigates an unforgiving academic workload in an attempt to forge her independence from the family’s legacy.

When supernatural events revisit the Flores family in Hawai’i–with tragic consequences–they are all forced to reckon with the bonds of family, the meaning of heritage, and the cost of survival.

Review: I finished this book well over a week ago and I find that I still don’t know quite what to make of it. It was fascinating, interesting, confusing, head scratching, and magical. So in the end I come to a high three star rating, probably closer to 3.5 stars.

I thought that I was going into a book about a boy who is saved by sharks and develops magical powers. And the struggle of his family and larger community to come to terms with the scope of those powers and what they mean. To an extent, this was accurate. But the book was also not about that at all. It was about Noa’s family. The struggle of his mother and father to survive the ever increasing cost of survival in Hawaii while trying to get their three kids to better themselves and their lives. The struggle of a brother and sister who feel overshadowed by their magical brother and cope with that stress in entirely different ways.

I really was drawn in to this family. I was rooting for them and cared for them deeply. I also loved the weaving in of the myths and magic of Hawaii. I could tell just how deeply the author feels connected to his Hawaiian heritage and it was beautifully done. This was a book about things that divide us and the things that mend those divides.

The only problem I had with this book is that it dragged in places. It was a heavily character driven plot but sometimes the only thing the characters seemed to want to do was complain for chapters at a time. When I got past those parts the story swept me up in its magic in an instant. But getting through some of those sections was hard. This book felt like it needed one more good pass by the editor’s scalpel to be utterly perfect.

Review: Reproduction by Ian Williams

Reproduction by Ian Williams

Published: May 5, 2020 by Europa Editions

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: A hilarious, surprising and poignant love story about the way families are invented, told with the savvy of a Zadie Smith and with an inventiveness all Ian Williams’ own, Reproduction bangs lives together in a polyglot suburb of Toronto.

Felicia and Edgar meet as their mothers are dying. Felicia, a teen from an island nation, and Edgar, the lazy heir of a wealthy German family, come together only because their mothers share a hospital room. When Felicia’s mother dies and Edgar’s “Mutter” does not, Felicia drops out of high school and takes a job as Mutter’s caregiver. While Felicia and Edgar don’t quite understand each other, and Felicia recognizes that Edgar is selfish, arrogant, and often unkind, they form a bond built on grief (and proximity) that results in the birth of a son Felicia calls Armistice. Or Army, for short.

Some years later, Felicia and Army (now 14) are living in the basement of a home owned by Oliver, a divorced man of Portuguese descent who has two kids—the teenaged Heather and the odd little Hendrix. Along with Felicia and Army, they form an unconventional family, except that Army wants to sleep with Heather, and Oliver wants to kill Army. Then Army’s fascination with his absent father—and his absent father’s money—begins to grow as odd gifts from Edgar begin to show up. And Felicia feels Edgar’s unwelcome shadow looming over them. A brutal assault, a mortal disease, a death, and a birth reshuffle this group of people again to form another version of the family.

Reproduction is a profoundly insightful exploration of the bizarre ways people become bonded that insists that family isn’t a matter of blood.

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Europa Editions!***

There is only one word that I can come up with for this book. It was bizarre. From what I understand the author is a poet. This makes a lot of sense to me as much of this narrative reads more like prose. And I got the sense that the author was doing a lot of exploring of the bounds of fiction. I appreciate that too but it didn’t work for me.

Parts of this read like a poem, others like diary entries, others like bullet points. And then occasionally the author would throw in what can only be described as rap lyrics. It made it very difficult for me to connect with the story in any way because the story kept changing. I also hated that the author insisted on typing out everyone’s accents. That made this so hard to follow in addition to everything else. Whenever anyone spoke I would not be able to determine what was happening without reading it twice. It was incredibly bizarre and I still don’t know quite what to make of it.

Outside of the writing style, I wasn’t invested in the plot or characters either. The plot was fine (nothing special), but the characters were awful. Felicia alternately comes across as a naive little girl or a crazy person. One second she’s finally realizing that she was deceived and taken advantage of and the next second she’s trying to stab people. And Edgar was just horrible. Selfish, persistent liar, abusive son, abusive lover, borderline rapist, takes advantage of young and naive women. He was a real gem. I haven’t hated a character as much as him in quite a long time.

Some people will undoubtedly love this book and the way it explores how we write fiction. But, it didn’t work for me.

Review: The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun

The Law of Lines by Hye-Young Pyun

Published: April 7, 2020 by Arcade

Buy this book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Rating:

Synopsis: From the Prize-Winning Author of The Hole, a Slow-Burning Thriller about Unseen Forces that Shape Us and Debts We Accumulate, in Life, in Death.

Winner of several of Korea’s top literary awards, The Law of Lines follows the parallel stories of two young women whose lives are upended by sudden loss. When Se-oh, a recluse still living with her father, returns from an errand to find their house in flames, wrecked by a gas explosion, she is forced back into the world she had tried to escape. The detective investigating the incident tells her that her father caused the explosion to kill himself because of overwhelming debt she knew nothing about, but Se-oh suspects foul play by an aggressive debt collector and sets out on her own investigation, seeking vengeance.

Ki-jeong, a beleaguered high school teacher, receives a phone call that the body of her younger half-sister has just been found. Her sister was a college student she had grown distant from. Though her death, by drowning, is considered a suicide by the police, that doesn’t satisfy Ki-jeong, and she goes to her sister’s university to find out what happened. Her sister’s cell phone reveals a thicket of lies and links to a company that lures students into a virtual pyramid scheme, preying on them and their relationships. One of the contacts in the call log is Se-oh.

Like Hye-young Pyun’s Shirley Jackson Award–winning novel The Hole, an immersive thriller that explores the edges of criminality, the unseen forces in our most intimate lives, and grief and debt. 

Review: ***Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley and Arcade!***

This book took a little while for me to buy in. The synopsis says this is a slow burn and that is entirely accurate. This is the kind of story that is all about the characters. If the author cannot make you care about their characters then the story is lost. I cared.

This is a story about grief. Both Se-oh and Ki-jeong have been struck with grief. For Soe-oh it is the death of her father. Her grief is enhanced by events from her past that may have contributed to her father’s death in ways she never anticipated. For Ki-jeong it is the death of her estranged sister. She isn’t willing to accept that her sister died and she ultimately knew nothing about her, or her life. This sets the two of them on a quest.

But this book is also about more than that. It’s about poverty and the cycle of poverty that is seen all around the world. Along with the devastation and desperation that comes with it. It affected everyone in this story but all of the characters were too far into their own cycles of grief and poverty to see it, let alone offer any compassion or empathy to anyone else.

I enjoyed this story very much. It was highly literary and an excellent character piece. I do think it is being marketing poorly as a mystery or a thriller. It is neither of those things. It’s a story about two women and the unpredictable ways that their lives intersect while searching for their respective answers.

Take My Money! Sunday

It’s been a busy few days. Started a new position at the day job, so was trying to train while working from home (not easy). Plus the husband had to work, so I had the child at home by myself while trying to train at my new job. See definition of “Impossible” to describe this task! But I did have a few books come across my radar that make me want time to move faster, so I bring them to you.

Gaijin by Sarah Z. Sleeper

Expected publication: August 1, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: The Japanese word gaijin means “unwelcome foreigner.” It’s not profanity, but is sometimes a slur directed at non-Japanese people in Japan. My novel is called Gaijin…

Lucy is a budding journalist at Northwestern University and she’s obsessed with an exotic new student, Owen Ota, who becomes her lover and her sensei. When he disappears without explanation, she’s devastated and sets out to find him. On her three-month quest across Japan she finds only snippets of the elegant culture Owen had described. Instead she faces anti-U.S. protests, menacing street thugs and sexist treatment, and she winds up at the base of Mt. Fuji, in the terrifying Suicide Forest. Will she ever find Owen? Will she be driven back to the U.S.? Gaijin is a coming-of-age story about a woman who solves a heartbreaking mystery that alters the trajectory of her life.

Why I’m Excited: This books sounds absolutely haunting. It is a story of not fitting in and trying to find the silver lining. And sometimes, even along a hard journey, there is beauty to be found. This synopsis roped me in and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since.

Brides of Rome by Debra May MacLeod

Expected Publication: October 27, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: It is a world of power and privilege, secrets and sacred duty. It is the world of ancient Rome. And it is the esteemed Vestal Virgins-priestesses of Vesta, goddess of the home and hearth-who protect the Eternal Flame that protects the Eternal City.

Dedicated to a thirty-year vow of chaste service, Priestess Pomponia finds herself swept up in the intrigue, violence, wars, and bedroom politics of Rome’s elite-Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian and his maneuvering wife, Livia-all the while guarding the secret affection she has in her heart.

But when a charge of incestum-a broken vow of chastity-is made against the Vestal order, the ultimate punishment looms: death by being buried alive in the “Evil Field.”

In Brides of Rome, Book One in the Vesta Shadows series, Debra May Macleod skillfully recreates the world of ancient Rome with all its brutality and brilliance, all its rich history and even richer legend. A true page-turner that is as smart as it is compelling, this must-read novel brings the Vestal order to life like never before.

Why I’m Excited: I have a fascination with the worlds of ancient Rome and Greece. Their priestesses and temples were among the first pagan religions, and traces of that are carried into paganism today. So stories like this always draw me to them. And this story sounds excited too.

Take My Money! Sunday

Hella by David Gerrold

Expected Publication: June 16, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: A master of science fiction introduces a world where everything is large and the problems of survival even larger in this exciting new novel.

Hella is a planet where everything is oversized—especially the ambitions of the colonists.

The trees are mile-high, the dinosaur herds are huge, and the weather is extreme—so extreme, the colonists have to migrate twice a year to escape the blistering heat of summer and the atmosphere-freezing cold of winter.

Kyle is a neuro-atypical young man, emotionally challenged, but with an implant that gives him real-time access to the colony’s computer network, making him a very misunderstood savant. When an overburdened starship arrives, he becomes the link between the established colonists and the refugees from a ravaged Earth.

The Hella colony is barely self-sufficient. Can it stand the strain of a thousand new arrivals, bringing with them the same kinds of problems they thought they were fleeing?

Despite the dangers to himself and his family, Kyle is in the middle of everything—in possession of the most dangerous secret of all. Will he be caught in a growing political conspiracy? Will his reawakened emotions overwhelm his rationality? Or will he be able to use his unique ability to prevent disaster?

Why I’m Excited: This sounds like a great idea for a sci-fi. A planet full of giant things and a neuro-atypical young man trying to survive in it. Sign me up!

The Apocalypse Strain by Jason Parent

Expected Publication: June 25, 2020

Goodreads

Synopsis: A multi-national research team, led by a medical genomics expert suffering from MS, study an ancient pandoravirus at a remote Siberian research facility. Called “Molli” by the research team, the organic substance reveals some unique but troublesome characteristics, qualities that, in the wrong hands, could lead to human extinction. The researchers soon learn that even in the right hands, Molli is a force too dangerous to escape their compound. But the virus has a mind of its own, and it wants out. 

Why I’m Excited: I am a bit obsessed with the idea of plagues running amok and killing off the entire world. I play Plague Inc obsessively, I read books about it, I read historical stuff about past plagues. I am obsessed. And this sounds so good.

The Charmed Wife by Olga Grushin

Expected Publication: January 12, 2021

Goodreads

Synopsis: Cinderella married the man of her dreams—the perfect ending she deserved after diligently following all the fairy-tale rules. Yet now, two children and thirteen and a half years later, things have gone badly wrong and her life is far from perfect. One night, fed up, she sneaks out of the palace to get help from the Witch who, for a price, offers love potions to disgruntled housewives. But as the old hag flings the last ingredients into the cauldron, Cinderella doesn’t ask for a love spell to win back her Prince Charming.

Instead, she wants him dead.

Endlessly surprising, wildly inventive, and decidedly modern, The Charmed Wife weaves together time and place, fantasy and reality, to conjure a world unlike any other. Nothing in it is quite what it seems, and the twists and turns of its magical, dark, swiftly shifting paths take us deep into the heart of what makes us unique, of romance and marriage, and of the very nature of storytelling.

Why I’m Excited: I know what you’re thinking, it’s another fairytale retelling. Sort of. But not really. It’s a “what happens after happily ever after.” And I know that it doesn’t come out for…well forever, but I am too excited not to talk about it. I have scored an ARC for this one, and I cannot wait!