RaveShelf Awarenessn her soul-piercing sophomore novel, Bright Burning Things, Harding has crafted a sensitive, nuanced portrait of a single mother whose deep descent into alcoholism jeopardizes everything she holds most dear ... Capricious yet graceful stream-of-consciousness narration ... Like its heroine, Bright Burning Things is defiant and challenging, a wisp of crackling flame that illuminates even as it devours. Harding\'s intimate and exquisite character work draws readers toward new depths of empathy and forgiveness. With its tenderness for the protagonist, this novel stands as a searing indictment of the stigma placed on addiction and the undue burden laid on mothers, and as a plea for understanding as much as for change.
PositiveShelf AwarenessTradition and change clash to devastating effect in Okezie Nwoka\'s compelling and heartrending debut ... Nwoka writes with a sure rhythm all their own, slipping easily between structured passages and stream of consciousness inner monologues. Alternating between third-person narrative and the diary entries of a mysterious prisoner, God of Mercy translates major religious conflicts to a small, personal scale ... While the front matter includes a map and cast of characters, Nwoka trusts readers to follow the story without much expository cultural background, and the result feels authentic and organic. Book clubs looking for stories to inspire deep discussion need look no further.
Charlie Jane Anders
PositiveShelf Awareness... [an] insightful, instructive essay collection ... Readers will find wisdom on traditional topics such as worldbuilding and creating dynamic characters, but Anders also discusses imposter syndrome, how to harness authentic emotion and fiction\'s place as a tool ... Originally conceived as a series of blog posts published on Tor.com during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, Anders\'s essays provide an inspiring testament to the power of art to bring clarity and healing. Aspiring writers will pick up tricks of the trade, but her advice about taking refuge in creativity could apply to any art.
RaveShelf Awareness[A] riveting, gracefully spare novel of self-discovery ... Onuzo\'s astute portrait of a woman attempting to find her way to her future by mining the past mirrors the mythical creature from which the story takes its title, a bird that flies forward while looking backward. Onuzo shows that making peace with the past can be a starting point toward self-acceptance, and that imperfect families can find common ground in unexpected ways.
RaveShelf Awareness... a mind-bending update on the classic tragedy that cleverly keeps its spirit intact while modernizing relationships and plot points ... Faye drops the Bard\'s best beats into a blender with thought experiments, existential dilemmas and some snicker-worthy double entendres, then sets it to delirious fun. The story draws its allusions from a few of Shakespeare\'s best-known works. However, readers unfamiliar with the source material should have no trouble following the plot or investing in the emotional stakes. Ben and Horatio\'s complicated history and heavy sexual tension add a heart-stirring romantic subplot, but don\'t mistake this mind-bending romp for Hamratio slashfic. Faye has invested considerable care in creating and balancing her trio of protagonists ... wears its heart on its sleeve down to its explosive and sentimental conclusion.
RaveShelf Awareness... a bold, breathtaking historical fantasy debut seething with intrigue and action ... Vibrant and passionately inventive, She Who Became the Sun gives the aphorism \'live life like your head is on fire\' dazzling new meaning.
RaveShelf Awareness... ambitious ... The sands of reality constantly shift under readers\' feet as the author feels pressure to ignore his Blackness or speak out about Black issues, receives a visitation from Nicholas Cage and faces the truth about his book\'s tragic genesis. Mott\'s unflinching meditation on racism, violence and navigating life as a Black man in America is a surreal and searing triumph
RaveShelf Awareness\"...a frank, sometimes dark, often funny portrayal of queer parenthood ... Arnett walks a fine line between humor and pathos, sensitively conveying Sammie\'s loss of a social circle, her fear that others will judge a lesbian couple unfit to parent a boy, and her abdication of self for marriage and family ... Complicated, fearless and confidently messy, With Teeth should resonate with any reader who has ever felt like a stranger in their own life.\
PositiveShelf AwarenessMatthew Dicks captures the yearning and uncertainty of youth in this reflective coming-of-age story ... elebrates the healing magic of friendship and reclaiming one\'s agency. Told in Michael\'s wry, often anxious voice, this quietly triumphant feel-good novel addresses the burden of grief, the complications of family and the mysteries of first love. Dicks imbues his protagonist with a believable blend of cynicism and naivete ... Readers\' hearts will ache for him as he flounders when learning to trust Sarah, only to soar as he finds the strength to stand up for himself and others.
emily m. danforth
RaveShelf Awareness[An] indulgent greenhouse of grotesqueries shadowed by gothic elements and pepped up with metafiction and mystery ... the story is illustrated with deliciously unsettling black-and-white line drawings by cartoonist Sara Lautman ... Danforth delivers her narrative in an urbane, droll voice akin to a Victorian novelist writing for BuzzFeed. Her diverse, largely gay and lesbian cast takes a large, glorious step forward for LGBTQ representation in the horror genre ... The relentless, multilayered curse lends psychological and body horror elements, but the brooding atmosphere and careful characterization make Plain Bad Heroines an easily cultivated obsession.
Rachel Howzell Hall
RaveShelf Awareness... complex, emotionally charged ... This #ownvoices mystery keeps to a fast pace and has plenty to say during the ride, offering a strong, likable sleuth. Her will-they-won\'t-they dynamic with sexy, honorable Nick adds a sweeter layer of tension in an already suspenseful atmosphere, but Hall also showcases a dynamic cast of supportive women coworkers ... Domestic abuse acts as a through line in the plot, and Hall portrays her characters as survivors with complex inner lives, not as helpless victims. Questions abound and should confound readers as much as they do Gray. The twisted answers will likely appeal to Gone Girl fans. And Now She\'s Gone combines heart, smarts and wit in one package.
PositiveShelf AwarenessDespite the premise\'s roots in the bumper crop of UFO sightings during the Cold War, readers won\'t find extraterrestrials here. Instead, Castleberry examines the ways in which humans can become aliens in their own lives and homes. Dark turns, desperate times and deliberately loose ends abound in this ambitious, provocative web of lives.
RaveShelf Awareness... a charming story of an unlikely collection of readers who band together to save what remains of Austen\'s home. Along the way, their shared passion for the author of Pride and Prejudice brings hope, healing and surprising connections into each of their lives in ways that will gratify bibliophiles in general and Janeites in particular ... Knowledge of the works referenced will add to the experience, but the elegant homage that emerges is not metafictive enough for prerequisites. The Jane Austen Society stands on its own as a moving examination of the power of story ... Jenner creates the same feeling of safe suspense. Even though Chawton House\'s current existence makes the Society\'s success a foregone conclusion, the desire to see its members come together and rise above their individual struggles builds emotional investment in their goal. While Jenner\'s narrative is not the true story of the Society\'s founding, she has created such a sweet and graceful version that readers will likely wish it were.
PositiveShelf Awareness...expansive ... Though a more sensationalized take on the topic might use this incident as its climax, Mbue\'s nuanced and realistic approach positions it as one skirmish presaging decades of struggle ... Told through the first-person viewpoints of multiple villagers, as well as the chorus of Thula\'s contemporaries, How Beautiful We Were captures the small yet universal dramas wrought by love, birth and death ... This epic and empathetic saga shines a truthful albeit unflattering light on globalization.
RaveShelf AwarenessThe novel...is a caustic, absurd and endearing exploration of Asian American stereotypes, police procedurals and the immigrant experience ... In Yu\'s playful mixture of formats, including montages and a children\'s show, lines blur between Willis\'s thoughts and the show\'s dialogue. Readers will often find themselves unable to tell reality from television, which is Yu\'s point in a nutshell ... In a passionate and clever ending that parodies television courtroom dramas while offering a brief history of anti-Asian discrimination in the U.S., Yu shows that sometimes the only way out of a prescribed narrative is to beat it at its own game. Leading with laughs but sneaking in a dose of wrenching irony, Yu\'s format-bending, deeply felt examination of the American dream is an exercise in encouraged empathy that will hold readers\' hearts right up to its brilliant finale.
Perumal Murugan, trans. by N. Kalyan Raman
PositiveShelf AwarenessAs the story progresses, its sophistication and maturity more closely evoke Animal Farm. Poonachi\'s owners live under an inept bureaucracy, adding satirical humor for readers but hardship for the characters ... Translated by N. Kalyan Raman, this earthy tale is as emotionally affecting as any human-centered drama. Readers will have to decide for themselves whether Poonachi\'s few moments of happiness outweigh the drudgery of her life. Ripe for discussion by book clubs who love eclectic titles, The Story of a Goat is a frank exploration of oppression, greed, love and what good can be made of even the most meager life.
RaveShelf Awareness... a lens superheated with feminist rage. The raw, smart, outspoken result practically sears the reader\'s hands ... The familiar mythological figures and use of lush natural settings give the narratives a sense of antiquity, although sprinklings of modern dialogue and technology complement the material surprisingly well. The resulting sense of neutrality in time period contributes to an impression of reading adult fairy tales ... According to her author\'s note, MacLaughlin wrote the entire book in a three-month burst, and the finished product retains that frenetic energy of creation. Some stories hew closely enough to each other to feel somewhat repetitive. However, the fatiguing nature of reading multiple accounts of sexual assault also highlights the seriousness of the subject matter. Realizing that The Metamorphoses itself has always contained these assaults and yet remains a literary touchstone for multiple cultures will likely have a heavy emotional impact on many readers. MacLaughlin\'s stories are vivid, wrenching and urgent. Literary fiction readers and classics fans will not want to miss this gutsy reimagining.
RaveShelf AwarenessFilled with appalling stories of malpractice and marginalization, her report will galvanize readers to ask how women can demand better care. Everything Below the Waist is a call to action, insisting \'[w]e need clinicians who focus less on controlling women\'s fertility and more on enhancing our health.\' Women of childbearing age in particular should not skip this important and well-researched analysis of a field that holds their lives in its hands.
RaveShelf Awareness... a sprawling, ambitious spell of a story ... Thoughtful, slightly awkward Zachary makes a perfect every-reader, with his desire to take part in stories and his sympathetic nostalgia for the Choose Your Own Adventure novels. Morgenstern delivers more of the lush, lavish prose passages that made readers fall in love with The Night Circus, creating elaborate scenes that include a sprawling dollhouse landscape, a perpetual party set in a pocket universe outside time and an ocean made of honey. In a narrative of enormous scope and scale, Morgenstern takes slow, painstaking care in assembling the story\'s components behind fairy tale sleight-of-hand. Readers should enter her world prepared to spend a large portion of the experience combing for clues in short, metafictive fables written in a romantic, whimsical style reminiscent of the Flax-Golden Tales on the author\'s website. While the plot takes its time coming together, the journey is nothing short of magical, like a fantastical, delirious dream that makes awakening back to reality a disappointment. Set aside a few quiet hours to devour this opulent feast.
RaveShelf AwarenessMoriarty soars in this raw, dryly funny adult debut ... Moriarty offers an examination of modern womanhood, a satire of the self-help industry and a searing exploration of unresolved grief ... At its heart, Moriarty\'s complex and nimble plot serves as a vehicle for a deeper story of the devastating, lifelong trauma caused by a great loss ... Abi relates the exhaustion and isolation of grief in wry but heartrending detail. Redemptive and hopeful, Gravity Is the Thing announces the arrival of a fresh, funny and perceptive voice in adult fiction.
PositiveShelf Awareness... sensitive, lighthearted ... Ginder adds just the right amount of sparkling waters and ancient ruins to give this family drama a sunny lightness despite dark themes of infidelity and thwarted plans. Will and Sue Ellen\'s journeys to find versions of themselves not defined by their relationships with Dean feel authentic, the resolutions well-earned. Sometimes humorous and always witty, Honestly, We Meant Well will inspire readers to ponder their own roads less traveled.
RaveShelf Awareness[Simsion] grants Professor Don Tillman the perfect send-off in the closing chapter of this hilarious and heartwarming series ... Simsion returns to comic form seamlessly ... newcomers should have no trouble following the action. A meditation on parenting in our times, an indictment of discrimination and a fond farewell to a one-of-a-kind character, The Rosie Result will make readers fall in love with the series all over again.
RaveShelf Awareness[A] heartrending debut novel that will likely be a book club favorite ... In an open letter to readers, Rum has said that while writing this story, she fought her own apprehension about breaking the code of silence that surrounds the Palestinian immigrant community, as well as her fear of adding to stereotypes against it. Luckily for readers, she chose authenticity over caution. The result is a raw, sympathetic look into a world where parents order girls in their teens to marry against their will, a woman who helps her daughter-in-law with a newborn is considered too soft-hearted, and spousal rape and abuse are blamed on the victims who are shamed into silence ... However, the picture is not without hope or light ... Crafted with thoughtfulness and empathy, A Woman Is No Man celebrates resilience and the courage required to speak out against an unjust way of life.
RaveShelf AwarenessPoetic ... Subramanian, who lives in New Delhi, never shrinks from the dangers and discrimination facing impoverished women, but she also gives her characters resiliency and hope in the form of each other. Whatever society may say about Joy\'s transition or Deepa\'s disability, the girls have boundless support from their clique, their wise and cunning headmistress and the mothers of Heaven. Subramanian\'s rich imagery conjures up the bustle of a diverse city where children live in poverty mere blocks from three-story homes where their mothers work as maids. With its heroic young cast, A People\'s History of Heaven has huge YA crossover potential, and its social commentary makes it a wonderful book club selection. As colorful as a Rangoli design, this bittersweet coming-of-age story will linger in the reader\'s mind.
PositiveShelf AwarenessIn this accomplished first novel, K Chess ... primarily tells the present-day story from Hel and Vikram\'s alternating points of view, [but] her multiverse gains further depth from transcripts of interviews with UDPs about events around the migration and life in the new New York City. Light, accessible science fiction elements enable the plot rather than take center stage. An allegory for refugeeism, othering and coping with staggering loss, Famous Men Who Never Lived will leave readers haunted by the UDPs\' broken past but hopeful for their future.
S. A. Chakraborty
PositiveShelf AwarenessChakraborty is master of her world, unafraid to play with cultural and class conflicts. Intricately plotted ... Readers new to Chakraborty\'s work should begin with The City of Brass or, at a minimum, study the included glossary and maps. For returning readers, the expansion of this mythology-infused world and the emotional fireworks of character reunions should provide plenty of incentive to rejoin Nahri on her journey. Political maneuvers, attempted assassinations and violent skirmishes build to a cliffhanger ending that leaves little room for a happily ever after in the next installment, though with Chakraborty\'s magic touch, anything is possible.
RaveShelf AwarenessFaye brings readers a feisty, feminist heroine ... stuffed with danger, luscious period clothing and zinging Jazz Age patter ... As only the best historical fiction can do, The Paragon Hotel captures a certain period in time and gives the reader ample opportunity to draw connections with the present day. Faye\'s talent sparkles like champagne bubbles and bugle-bead fringe on a flapper\'s gown.
RaveShelf AwarenessWritten in Eleanor\'s snarky, seething voice, this warped gem will throw readers off-balance with its mix of horror and humor ... With her irreverence, pluck and cringe-worthy mess ups, Eleanor often seems like a nonplussed chick-lit heroine who landed in the wrong genre, a deliciously successful gambit ... A raw exploration of grief and illness woven into a more traditional horror story, The Bus on Thursday will chill readers across the board.
RaveShelf Awareness\"My Sister, the Serial Killer is a short, sharp debut novel ... Beauty is a beast in this sly, absurd take on the black widow trope. Braithwaite\'s greatest trick lies in keeping the sisterly relationship believable, with Korede constantly scoffing in disbelief at Ayoola\'s shallowness and lack of common sense, yet always rushing in to tidy her sister\'s messes. While the serial killer plot device suggests the horror genre, My Sister, the Serial Killer has frequent overtones of dark comedy brought on by Ayoola\'s naïveté and lack of remorse ... This short chiller comes with a surprising bite and a reminder never to underestimate a pretty face—or a plain one.\
RaveShelf Awareness\"The narrator also tells anecdotes of other innocent people who encountered the monsters associated with Thistle, adding depth and scope to the threat much as Stephen King does in It. Moreover, the impermanence of setting and Keisha\'s vulnerability while sleeping in her truck, stopping in unfamiliar locations, ratchets up the tension ... Fans of the podcast [Welcome to Nightvale] will no doubt enjoy this expansion of Keisha\'s quest, but readers who have no familiarity with the story will likely appreciate its surprises and chills even more. Ultimately an endorsement of everyday heroism and community, Alice Isn\'t Dead resonates as a love story, a road trip novel and a campfire tale that taps into our most primal fears.\
PositiveShelf Awareness\"Like Kathryn, Park suffered from stomach cancer, which took his life at age 41. Some of his most powerful passages meditate on the horror of cancer, which Mara compares to torture ... While not an uplifting read, Park\'s final novel hums with quiet importance and thwarted promise ... [a] quiet, heartfelt story.\
PositiveShelf AwarenessTan draws an astute portrait of a staid family thrown into disarray in this assured first novel ... With its measuring of expectation against reality, What We Were Promised establishes Tan as a new talent with a sharp eye for the intricacies of human relationships.
RaveShelf AwarenessWith boundless imagination, Rajaniemi invents a mortal realm with a steampunk flair ... Sci-fi and fantasy readers longing to immerse themselves in a fascinating new world will love exploring Summerland, and its capable, determined female lead steals the show. This standalone begs for a sequel.
PositiveShelf AwarenessThough lightened with comedic moments, the quiet tragedy of familial resentment lies at the heart of the story. Li focuses steadily on the troubled relationship between immigrant parents and their American-born offspring ... A smart combination of Chinese American life, service industry travails and the ups and downs of belonging to a family, Number One Chinese Restaurant will make great discussion fare for book clubs.
PositiveShelf AwarenessChuck Palahniuk takes the United States\' divided politics to their extreme conclusion and proves along the way that his gift for social satire has only sharpened with time ... This pitch-black comedy achieves the aim of any great satirical work: it amuses, unsettles and leaves the reader slightly less sure of the boundaries of reality.
PositiveShelf AwarenessCarroll sets the bar high in a novel that shifts seamlessly between epic love story, the anatomy of a crisis of faith, family tragedy and trauma survival saga. While the separate parts initially seem tenuously connected, as the novel progresses they interlock to show the far-reaching impact of choosing one path over another as the moral right for a huge portion of the world population ... Carroll uses his thorough mastery of the philosophical underpinnings of Church history to buttress his portrayal of the deeply wounded souls linked to it. Both moving and enlightening, The Cloister will engross readers of any--or no--faith.
RaveShelf AwarenessMartin writes impressively about the inside of the human body, but even more incisively about the landscape of the metaphysical heart ... While readers may think they know the deep, dark secret from the get-go, in the end Martin pulls out bigger guns than expected, leaving forgiveness far from a foregone conclusion. Bittersweet and graceful, The Queen of Hearts marks Martin as a fresh voice filled with promise.
Mira T. Lee
RaveShelf AwarenessAn expansion of a short story published in the Missouri Review, Mira T. Lee's debut novel, Everything Here Is Beautiful, explores the relationship between two sisters, the eldest committed to protecting her spontaneous, joyful but mentally unstable sibling ... Lee's spotlight illuminates the stress mental illness places on families, the difficulties of navigating the healthcare system – though the United States' proves better than Ecuador's – and the resilience of family, whether formed by blood or by love. Like Miriam Toews's All My Puny Sorrows, Everything Here Is Beautiful is filled with unexpected, fragile moments of beauty.
PositiveShelf AwarenessAlthough immediately challenged to survive, Gork also faces the typical pits and pratfalls of a teenage human--with the inherent insecurity, shifting social alliances and mystery of how to break into the dating scene. Hudson often plays the awkward stage for a laugh, particularly in Gork's cheerful determination to court Runcita, which he refuses to acknowledge as a suicide mission. The pursuit leads Gork through the halls of his school, the Underworld and the lair of Dr. Terrible, a frenetic tour that constantly gives the audience new reasons to chuckle or goggle. Though the conceit of a high-tech society populated by dragons skews toward quirky, Hudson revels in his unusual world ... Big-hearted and gawky, Gork gives us a lovable loser sure to win the hearts of sci-fi readers and fans of offbeat comedies.