RaveBookreporter... a tender, literary meditation of two women finding themselves and each other ... Fans of LaCour’s YA fiction will adore this novel, and for readers of adult contemporaries who are new to her, this is a beautiful place to begin. I’ve loved her writing for a long time, and I hope this isn’t the last of her adult novels. Her voice shines here, along with her distinctly contemplative intimacy. She writes with careful, chosen prose, propulsive and poetic at once. You can almost feel her sunlight, taste the intricacies of a yerba buena, breathe in the weight of her characters’ wanting and their loneliness. She brings her trademark sapphic tenderness, brimming with ache, to deliver a lyrical, complex love story between a lesbian and a bisexual women, both granted rich interiority ... There’s so much pain here, but it’s rendered with such deliberate, careful compassion. It makes room for the wound and grants grace for the process of its healing ... There still aren’t many literary novels about the lives of flawed, fully explored queer women, so I’m grateful for this beautiful addition to the growing canon ... Lovely and clever, Yerba Buena is a queer, quiet contemplation on what it means to choose to love.
RaveBookreporterThere, within the sharp, supple sweetness of Ocean Vuong’s Time is a Mother, lies both devastation and wry relief for anyone who knows what it is to grieve ... Vuong has said that \'the only place I can control is the page,\' and what marvelous control he wields over it. This book of poetry is a luminous remembrance for the mother he’s just lost ... every line is at once its own gut punch and jewel ... If you’ve read Vuong’s work before, you know you can expect to be dazzled, and he thoroughly delivers ... Vuong’s approach feels so effortlessly dazzling, at once fresh and familiar. It’s a challenge to describe his writing, because it’s nearly impossible to evoke exactly how he works his specific wonders ... It’s an exquisite kind of ecstasy. At the same time, there’s joy here, not to mention humor --- a reveling in the play of language, not only the work. Vuong writes with a sense of mischief as he bites back. Time is a mother.
RaveBookreporterThere are some books that feel like a revelation. That crack the world open and give you something you’re not entirely sure you’d ever been brave enough to ask for. That make you feel like, Oh, there you are. I’ve been hoping I’d find something like you. An instant comfort read, one that you know, even while reading it, you’re going to revisit because it feels so deeply good just to be in. That’s what Freya Marske delivers in A Marvellous Light. This is a balm, though it’s also a romp. Propulsive magical intrigue is beautifully balanced with some of the most lush, tender and fiercely cathartic romance. It’s tons of fun and also extremely sexy, exquisitely written and one of my favorite books of the year ... What a sheer joy to read. Marske’s writing is exquisite, evocative and precise yet comfortably readable, and she constructs intricate worldbuilding that’s also easy to understand. A Marvellous Light features one of my favorite magic systems of all time, rooted in consent and enhanced by string, not unlike how one might play cat’s cradle. It’s a genius, fitting premise ... With its sheer tenderness, and the deep care and catharsis with which it was written for queer readers, A Marvellous Light absolutely dazzled me.
S. Qiouyi Lu
RaveTor.comS. Qiouyi Lu’s richly imagined debut novella In The Watchful City sings an intricate symphony, brimming with cleverness and ache ... In the Watchful City is a sharp, glittering jewel, each mirrored facet shining brilliantly. Thrilling, tender, and alive with possibility, it is a deeply rewarding read, and I’m very excited to read ær future works. This is a tour de force that strengthens Lu’s position as one of the most skilled writers of the speculative genre.
RaveBookreporter... an epic premise explored intimately, making for one of the most hopeful post-apocalyptic imaginings. This is a strikingly smart use of genre, an exciting beginning to a series that already has delivered on its promise of nuanced, satisfying warmth ... In another context, the sentiments explored between Dex and Mosscap could come across as saccharine or too trite to take entirely seriously. But in Chambers’ accessible, cleanly wrought narrative, we arrive at them in such a way that they feel simply, searingly true. A Psalm for the Wild-Built is genuinely comforting and optimistic. It is a meditative, queer, tender exploration of the rituals and practices of being human and what it is to have faith in oneself and each other. Deeply kind and a necessary balm, it serves as a reminder of how compassionate fiction can be. It reads like a walk in the woods on a warm day, sun-dappled and rich with promise.
RaveBookreporter... a speculative take that reads even truer to the source material now than the original. Wielding the dexterous literary voice she flexed in her Singing Hills Cycle, Vo breathes fresh life and insight into the characters, themes and atmosphere. This is a reimagining that not only does justice to the original, but unearths what was subtext, centers what was margin, and cuts into the very meat of Fitzgerald’s intent. It’s a big task, to reinvent the wheel, particularly one so beloved and well-studied. Vo is a prime example of how a deft writer can do it successfully, strengthening the canon with the palimpsest of her interpretation ... You probably know the basics of the plot beats and the characters, but Vo’s exploration is a writhing, revolutionary thing. Her worldbuilding slots so cleanly into Fitzgerald’s plot it’s as if, perhaps, it was always there just underneath ... Contextualizing Gatsby’s famous themes through the lens of a queer magic immigrant Asian woman just makes sense, giving them new depth and insight ... If you’ve never read Nghi Vo before, prepare yourself for some of the sharpest prose you’ve ever come across. This voice is deftly drawn, the perfect evocation of Jazz Age bloodstained glamour. It truly feels like the Gatsby you know, with the camera perspective shifted just enough to gift a fresh angle, letting a new story come through. This is a quick, accessible read, but every word is cuttingly witty and well-placed, often mirrored with dual meaning ... Brilliant and devastating, The Chosen and the Beautiful is stiletto-sharp and sultry, an ambitious project that more than fulfills its potential.
Mia P Manansala
RaveBookreporterI love how Manansala gives us a Filipino-American cozy, balancing diaspora tension with humor, romance and mystery. As a Fil-Am reader, we deserve this shape of joy, too. We deserve to be heroes across genres. While I love and deeply need the explorations of Filipino and Filipino-American identity through literary fiction, I’m also so grateful to find representation across the bookshelf. We deserve to witness our families and cultures through the mediums of mystery and humor, too, and Manansala does it so well. She weaves a compelling, propulsive murder mystery that’s specifically Fil-Am, and it’s so cathartic to get to see so much of myself and my family in Lila --- except for the murdered food critic ex-boyfriend, of course ... Manansala writes her with nuance, compassion and complexity, making her feel very relatable. Lila makes assumptions she has to learn to check, makes mistakes, and has miscommunications with her best friends. She has a lot to balance --- between her family, her love life and the multiple attacks within Shady Palms --- and reads so real throughout the novel ... Expect multiple twists, a layered plot, and a light, fun and compassionate read centered on family, community and food.
RaveBookreporter... sweet, swoony ... I am one of many fans of McQuiston’s debut, Red, White, and Royal Blue, and they’ve only grown as a writer ... The book invites readers in, reminding us that it is a process, to become. And it’s okay to be figuring it out. It revels in sharing that process with found family, especially queer trans found family --- all the secondary characters are magnetic and compelling, and readers will love them just as much as August does ... It’s a magic rom-com, and it has magic rom-com rules --- à la Kate and Leopold, for example --- but I felt a twinge of discomfort that it was never really acknowledged that people do in fact live their entire lives on the New York subway, and not by choice or magic ... Also, I wanted more of the dissonance between the New York Jane knew and the New York August lives in now ... Though I wanted more of those moments, McQuiston truly knows how to write a heart-skipping romance. They unbury their gays here, and give anxious, lonely queer readers hope, love and magic. Of what it means to build a home when you never felt like you belonged, of wanting to build that home in another person, of what it means to choose yourself. This is desperately, achingly, furiously romantic, especially between the leads but also between the Love Actually-style stories of the supporting cast. A love story and a coming-of-age tale, yes, but also a celebration, a battle cry and a hint of a riot, One Last Stop is sure to be one of the biggest hits of the summer and beyond.
RaveBookreporter[A] monumental, imaginative masterpiece of motherhood, self-discovery and freedom ... Greenidge clearly demonstrates that she is an expert at her craft ... This is history woven with magic and music, hope sharpened into specificity, a diasporic song brimming with bite, ache and wonder. The voice of the book grows as Libertie does, ever-inquisitive and revelatory. This is a brilliantly rendered, finely tuned, nuanced portrayal of motherhood, love and freedom ... Libertie reads like an act of love ... Greenidge writes beautiful, propulsive prose that is lyrical and frank, defiant and revelatory.
RaveBookreporter... a tender romance propelled through a sprawling space opera. This is a husbands-to-friends-to-lovers romance, a slowburn that features a lot of pining-while-married, but it’s also about healing from abuse, and an emerging disillusionment with the very empire that’s given you everything you’ve ever known. Ultimately, it’s about two partners brought together by circumstance who fall in love by bringing out the best in each other, and falling for the complete versions of the other person. I appreciate that their relationship is never the central conflict --- that they get to fall in love while unearthing a political conspiracy and navigate the fallout together. The central conflict between them is miscommunication, but only because each thinks the other doesn’t want him. Kiem and Jainan hold each other’s hearts so carefully and tenderly, each finding himself unworthy of the other ... explores the process of working one’s way out of internalized victim blaming with sensitivity. It shows the scope and depth of trauma: how it spirals, how it reshapes a person, how it affects everything they do, and how they manage themselves in other relationships. It also clearly expresses that survivors of domestic abuse are worthy of love ... This novel is queer in the very fabric of its making, and it feels quite fitting for a space opera ... Exciting, cathartic and desperately romantic, Winter\'s Orbit is a tenderly healing joy. I look forward to Maxwell’s next book.
Robert Jones Jr
RaveBookreporter... Jones, Jr. delivers a tour-de-force of a debut, summoning Baldwin and Morrison to craft a spectacular, shattering, singular novel. This is an intimate, epic, polyphonic evocation of Black queer love as a nurturing, unnamed power within the ceaseless torment that was a plantation. Jones lays bare the white-colonizer constructs of homophobia and cissexism, the devouring, ongoing choice of cruelty that was slavery, which continues to manifest its deep rotting roots in the foundations of this country. Above all, he devotes the heart of his novel to the glory of Black queer love ... Jones underscores the necessity not only of memory, but of restoration. Of bringing to light the love and courage that have been deliberately scourged from history, because the villains of this story are the founders of this country. Because it never should have taken the courage it did to love like this. Because these love stories should have existed clean of tragedy. But they did not, and they deserve a reckoning. Queer Black people have always existed, and the systemic injustice they face today is an unchecked extension of that colonizer abduction. Jones explores clearly how whiteness stole, brutalized, marginalized and interrupted Black life and love. He evokes how whiteness corrupted queerness into perversity and sin, even when white people themselves have always been queer too. Jones explores how white entitlement couples with white insecurity and manifests through violence when it comes to Black bodies. This includes just as equally white women and queer white men ... nearly impossible to review in a few words. And as a non-Black reader, I encourage you to seek out coverage of the book from Black voices. Entire courses can be taught on it, and I hope they will be. It is devastating, harrowing and true. Lyric, prescient and profound, it is sure to be one of the most beloved novels of the year. At its core is a truth, and a reckoning: Black queer love as freedom, as future, as hope.
RaveBookreporter... an intimate, intergenerational saga centered on a trans artist in search of himself, his community and answers to the questions his mother left behind ... This is a story about community, how constructed systems of power work to destroy queer and trans people of color and the immigrant community at the root, as well as resilience, even though it should not be necessary just to survive. How found family is a lifesaving thing, a freeing remaking that allows for the multitudes of shifting truths we can hold ... explores the possibilities of masculinity outside of white cisheteronormativity, that lives inside the contradiction of, when at last presented with another person who shares at least some of his experiences with gender, \'I think to myself, It is terrifying to be visible, and then I think, I have been waiting all my life to be seen.\' And that’s what this masterpiece of a book will do for so many readers ... Every single page of this novel is incandescent in its precise, propulsive beauty. Lyric, poetic and deeply wise, The Thirty Names of Night is a radiant work of fiction that feels like an outright act of healing. Joukhadar weaves an intimate story across generations, and he ties them together in a way that’s both viscerally satisfying and openly enchanting. This is a love letter to a queer and trans community, Syrian American immigrants, the act of art and of naming oneself, and our place in the world, among other migratory creatures. Joukhadar gives us unapologetically queer and trans immigrant catharsis in the wake of unimaginable destruction and grief ... Powerful, poignant and deliberately hopeful, its far-reaching impact makes The Thirty Names of Night a modern classic that is sure to dazzle readers for a long time. But I also can’t imagine a book that I needed more this particular year. It is one of my all-time favorite novels.
emily m. danforth
RaveBookreporter... ambitious ... a dizzying kaleidoscope of sapphic desire, sorrow and strangeness, wrapped within meditations on how narratives influence each other, why we read horror and who gets to tell our stories ... Danforth pays homage to gothic horror, even including illustrations by Sara Lautman, centering complex queer women across generations. She revels in the genre’s unreliable narration, blending it with the constructed fabrication of social media posts and meta-mockumentary, leaving her characters and her readers questioning what, after all, is real ... a celebration of complex lesbians and disastrously delightful queer women. Because this is a very long book and there are so very many characters, it does stand out that they are very white. I don’t mind this, but I did find myself wishing the novel felt a bit more aware of its whiteness, especially as it moves through time and the unnamed narrator is so very aware of everything else ... a lengthy but haunting read. Don’t expect a tidy ending, not for the novel or for any of its characters. Revel in the uncanny strangeness of its premise, its languorously practiced execution, the sweet rot of the orchard, and the gentle hum of ceaseless, nearing dread. Let the thrill of parallels wash over you, the nascent desire a thing with claws ... Some stories are doorways, and this one is a puzzle box that opens to a tangle of vines, ominous and inviting, with defiant queer women at its core.
RaveBookreporter... an immersive, innovative, unputdownable adventure. Epic in scope and intimate in its telling, this is a must-read for lovers of lush, literary fantasy ... This is one of my favorite fantasies of the year. Intricate and inspired by a rich history, it is also wholly original and rendered in such an accessible, compulsively readable way. Roanhorse’s writing is propulsive and lush, and makes the worldbuilding so inviting. Each main character is compelling in their own right, wrestling with moral ambiguity, the intricacies of their histories and the choices they have to make as the world shifts beneath their feet. This is an epic, brimming with far-reaching political intrigue, celestial prophecy and divine retribution made flesh, and its telling is strengthened for its root within these genuine, flawed, fascinating characters ... will certainly appeal to fans of George R. R. Martin, Andrzej Sapkowski and N. K. Jemisin, but it’s also inviting to new readers of fantasy, or those who can’t seem to get invested in a big, intimidating series. The narrative moves through time, but in a readably near-linear fashion, all building to the Convergence. Though it alternates between perspectives, there are only four, and each is clearly distinctive, the roles they have to play in each other’s stories coming to the fore early on. Lovers of the genre will revel in the beautifully crafted world, the morally complex character work, the compelling build of romance, the sharply wielded scenes of violence and of magic. And while I do love some popular, blockbuster fantasy adventure stories, I felt safe in Black Sun in ways that I rarely do in other works ... This is an Indigenous, pre-Columbian narrative, and I love how it considers power, politics and identity in a world untouched by Columbus’ imperialism. There are multiple queer and trans characters who get to live in a universe without the homophobia and transphobia that came along with colonization. One of the main characters is disabled, and though I can’t speak to the representation of blindness with any authority, my initial impression was that it reads better rendered than some other popular portrayals of disability in this genre. Roanhorse mentions in her ending notes that she has done her research. There is no sexual assault, unlike many popular epic fantasies, or gratuitous violence whatsoever --- just well-placed, well-wielded brutality that’s purposeful for the story, making it an all the more impactful and far less traumatizing read ... a vibrant, vicious novel. It sings off the page with adventure and destiny, prophecy and revolution. It was just the sort of inviting escape I needed. This is a stunner, and I eagerly anticipate the next novel in the series.
V. E. Schwab
RaveTor.comI don’t want to say this book exemplifies a writer at the top of her game, because anyone who’s read Schwab’s other books knows, she just hits peak after peak. It feels unfair to relegate any of her other masterpieces as a part of an ascent, and I so look forward to her future work already. But Addie does feel like a career triumph. Like an author stretching out, exhaling, expanding, taking the scope to tell a different sort of story. You don’t need to have read Schwab’s other books to enjoy Addie—it’s a great introduction to her work—but the many fans who go into this book with expectations will find them thoroughly met and more. Her propulsive, lyric prose is here, her morally complex, entrancing characters, her unique shape of magic, all wrought within this entirely fresh premise that will no doubt become a long-lasting favorite ... weaves wonderings of art, of influence, of storytelling and legacy and the question of what we are to each other, all within a deliciously haunting queer fairytale ... defies genre, blending romance and history, fantasy and monstrosity, cresting through peaks of time, centered on a young (and also, technically very old) woman with both less and more agency than anyone alive ... romantic, ambitious, and defiantly, deliberately hopeful. Epic and intimate at once, it asks what art is. What it can be, what it saves, what it distorts, what it inspires, and what it can’t capture ... V.E. Schwab is simply one of the most skilled writers working in her genre. This is a clever premise, executed brilliantly. The feat of this book is frankly awe-inspiring. She renders our world so clearly we recognize it, and then fills in the corners, the cracks, so that it feels as if the very air around us brims with her own specific magic, and we might just see it if we know where to look. I am a lifelong New Yorker, and the way she writes my city makes me see it in an entirely new, wondrous light. That’s what she does—she shows us our world, tells us there’s curses and magic written within its very making, that there’s meaning to our myths and our gods, and I believe her ... This book feels timeless.
RaveBookreporter... a masterpiece of scope and depth, an elucidation of generational inheritance made personal ... an entirely new approach, yet [Gyasi] shines equally as bright, if not brighter, demonstrating her impressive range and profound skill as a storyteller ... This is a masterful work that surely will be recognized as one of the most splendid and sublime literary novels of the year, if not the decade. Within a propulsively readable, relatively short page count, Gyasi weaves a compelling tapestry of ideas and questions that are universally relatable, presented in a crucially specific, original narrative. She explores Gifty’s changing relationship with God and the Bible from such a place of compassion --- of grace and grief, sin and suffering, and the shifting shape of love ... Gyasi’s keen eye radiates here, along with her inviting voice and the magic precision of her sentences. Each is a masterpiece in its own right, and the book feels fresh ... From this trap, this purgatory, this tearing liminality, Gyasi writes a wreck and a wonder ... so well-measured and exquisitely drawn. There is not a word, a sentence or an idea out of place. The subject matter is complex and heavy, but the world of this book is so well-imagined --- brilliant, spare and expansive at once. It’s thoroughly satisfying, and Gyasi’s nimble writing makes this feat feel effortless. This is a deftly crafted, resplendent work that is defiant, devastating, hopeful and true.
RaveBookreporterThere is so much brilliant, hefty, important work done in this slim novel. In a fierce, encompassing sense of the word, The Death of Vivek Oji is hopeful ... Just as the story is edged in brutality and loss, it is filled with messy, undeniable beauty ... There is heartbreak here, but not necessarily in the shape you are expecting. It is as unique and poignant as how Emezi writes hope. There are depths to this book, vast and powerful, and I am once again in awe of Emezi’s incredible voice. The Death of Vivek Oji is a marvel and a must-read. Strong and delicate at once, it is lyric, love-soaked and utterly magic.
Alaya Dawn Johnson
RaveBookreporter... brims with a bright, bloody brutality, an electric knife wound dug through the meat of history to get at the splintered bone of unmistakable, vicious truth. Alaya Dawn Johnson crafts an ambitious work of love and power with a lyric, deft hand ... Johnson writes Trouble the Saints with a balance of intricate, poetic magic and sharp, unapologetic ruthlessness ... Johnson delivers a haunting literary evocation. Trouble the Saints is brutal, clever and true.
RaveBookreporterSilvia Moreno-Garcia cuts to the quick of gothic horror, delivering a brilliant, page-turning romp that is as clever as it is chilling ... Moreno-Garcia delivers on every promise she makes with Mevican Gothic. She masterfully executes tropes of the genre while reinvigorating every single one, and Noemí makes for a deeply gratifying protagonist through it all. The book gets at the true terror of the world and positions a brilliant, passionate and impulsive heroine to fight it at its very core. The eldritch villain is the horrific reality of white supremacy and the monstrosity of insecure, self-righteous masculinity. Moreno-Garcia lays bare its willful, selfish violence, how it’s inextricable from western imperialism and rape culture, and as widely accepted, inescapable and built to thrive within our system of governance as law itself ... a dark, seductive fairy tale --- magical, haunted and subversive on every level. Noemí is a savvy knight, Catalina is no damsel, and the castle is knowingly built on brown bodies, while the prince at the end has always been the hideous, ravening dragon and evil queen all at once ... The book is truly terrifying, but even though it emphasizes that racist, imperialist evil has always been cyclical, it is still beautifully hopeful. It never loses sight of how brown women can save themselves and each other, even as it indicts how evil this system is that puts them in threatened positions ... Thoroughly satisfying on every page and brimming with eerie, encroaching menace, Mevican Gothic is a pitch-perfect masterpiece.
RaveBookreporterTalusan excavates the complicated intersections of her own identity in this exquisite, unapologetic gem of a memoir ... I’m so grateful that Talusan breaks this ground. Her intimate interrogation into race, sexuality, gender, desire and love is a fierce, vulnerable, refreshing narrative. She never positions herself as the hero. She leans into the intricacies of her truth, her mistakes and her hurts, the messy work of loving others and loving oneself. And as she writes from a place that defies so many labels, she evidences both the porous permeability and imposed impermeability of perception and expectation ... Please read Fairest. Its complexity is rewarding, not only because of Talusan’s powerful, vibrant language, unique perspective and fresh, self-aware voice, but because of what she refuses to answer. Nothing of existence is binary, but this poignant book is wholly triumphant.
RaveBookreporterMajumdar allows these three voices to intertwine and shift through time. Her expertly rendered details breathe off the page, evoking sights and smells, filth and splendor ... Urgent, heartbreaking, ruthless and true, Majumdar’s debut sears with an expert, unapologetic hand. She writes with a command of each of her three POV characters, the detailed landscape of her world, and the brutal, inevitable conclusion. A Burning is unflinching, even when exploring its bloodiest, most vicious realities. It interrogates the role of the press in the obfuscation of the truth, the bloodthirsty nature of media and social media, the terrible choices that marginalized people must make to survive, the ease with which insecure men become radicalized if it makes them feel powerful, and the futility of innocence in a world literally governed by corruption.
RaveBookreporterThere’s queer tragedy here, but it’s never exploitative. The deliberate misunderstanding of \'deviancy\' as a capital offense, whether in sexuality, gender or political thought, is not fiction, and though the novel begins with the unjust, state-sanctioned murder of a queer woman and alludes to many more, Gailey lets that injustice read as injustice. They center this narrative on Esther choosing to resist. They give queer women and nonbinary folks agency, letting them be the heroes of their own stories. They reckon with the complexities of \'fighting back,\' of violence as resistance, of the weight of killing, even in self-defense. They demonstrate the patriarchy inherent in the tropes of the genre, and they write resistance into it. The short, sharp plot moves swiftly, and Gailey’s biting voice shines in this setting, brimming with wit and alive with joy. Upright Women Wanted weaves the conceits of a Western romp with the fabric of an anti-fascist call to arms, all wrapped in a love letter to queer resistance and community. A love letter to the power of representation, of getting to read about a love and a life like the kind you’ve only dreamt about, and choosing to fight for a world in which you can live without fear.
C Pam Zhang
RaveBookreporter... [a] triking tinderbox of a debut ... Zhang challenges many narratives of nonbelonging ... This is a novel that explores the messiness of diaspora, of longing for a home that you’ve never lived in, of understanding that America doesn’t belong to anyone except its indigenous peoples, and the dream of American gold and possibility is written in the blood of native genocide and erasure ... This is a story of becoming, and it’s a messy one, the beauty and breadth of it as inextricable from unimaginable hunger and threat as the landscape and history of the West itself. Zhang’s prose is bite-sharp and sun-bright, ravenous with lean, thundering adventure and parched, desperate longing ... asks and asks, wants and wants, seeks and fights, acquiesces and burns with rage. This is a powerful, masterful innovation of a novel. Of the violence of white Western imperialism, how it brutalizes this land and the nonwhite peoples within it and who came to it, how it continues to rewrite that history. Of birthright and burial, of storytelling and body. Of queer, unruly gender and desire, of diaspora and nonbelonging. Zhang’s incisive, poetic writing haunts the page, fervent and vicious and true.
RaveTor.comGratton’s latest masterpiece, unapologetically queer and brimming with vicious promise ... an epic, compulsively readable triumph that is not only an immersive addition to the canon of historical action adventure fantasy, but a reclamation of the genre and the history, a restoration: a revolution in and of itself ... Gratton doesn’t just change their genders, but uses her reimaginings of Shakespeare’s work to craft expansive lore all her own ... By consciously reframing both Shakespearean and contemporary gender dynamics, Gratton asks us to experience the complexities confronted by her women characters in positions of power, the potency of her men characters relegated to prophet or heir-giver. Her writing is not binary, all her central characters manifest ambition and desire, strive for power and justice, but gender and genre conventions are purposefully upended with this telling. A familiar story is subverted, remade vibrant and fresh. And there is tragedy here—it’s Henry IV—but it’s handled deftly, with purpose, tenderness, and clever twists ... with each perspective, Gratton builds an intricate, intoxicatingly immersive world ... Gratton created an absolute vindication. She knows the canon, she shattered it, and stitched the pieces back together with queer, feminist love to make it something even more beautiful and brilliant ... This is Shakespearean epic at its bloodiest, most haunted, most tormented, all the while brimming with earnestness and love. This is a paean to the powerful, complex women who have always existed, here given the spotlight they deserve. Lady Hotspur is a triumphant remaking, purposeful, magnificent, and wise.
N. K. Jemisin
RaveBookreporterN. K. Jemisin always brings it, and in The City We Became, she brings it hard, sparking a fresh adventure that will appeal not only to her many fans and New Yorkers, but also to most lovers of innovative genre fiction ... Her work comes to a more intimate place in this novel, in which the world she’s building is the living incarnation of New York City itself ... literalizes the very soul of New York, reckoning with the souls inherent in every city around the world: the messy, tangled, terrifying magic that defines the shifting breath and pulse of a cityscape. I happen to be a born and bred New Yorker, and for me, Jemisin captures my home in all its complexities. In her evocation, she is as critical as she is loving. She unapologetically explores the intricacies of how this city goes about losing its soul, and crafts a reclamation of the Black, brown, indigenous, creative, queer, trans, anti-capitalist, immigrant heart of New York. She brings together the boroughs in a Birds-of-Prey/superhero-esque origin story to work together and unite their strengths against the manifestations of their antitheses, and she does it in clever, creative prose that bites with New York wit and sings with New York compassion ... Jemisin explores how we can come together and fight back.
K. M. Szpara
MixedBookreporterEvery reader will have a different take, and I know many who love this book unequivocally. But my discomfort is twofold, beginning with the dual points of view ... I will never be comfortable being asked to sympathize with a man who not only is himself a slave owner, torturer and rapist, but who owns the company that enables it and actively perpetuates that system ... There’s nothing titillating about rape culture and assault. The tagline states, \'There is no consent under capitalism,\' and that’s certainly emphasized, but the dynamic is so inextricably imbalanced, and the sex scenes are explicitly rape. Literary relationships certainly do not need to be healthy, and I love complex queer narratives, but it feels incongruent to ask the reader to reckon with the degree of sexual, emotional and physical violence and blatant lack of agency, and still be open to the idea of romance. Docile doesn’t inherently romanticize an abusive relationship, but it asks you to root for one ... Szpara’s writing is unflinching, effective and compelling, and serves to explore the beats of the power dynamic at play. I just don’t know if it’s worth further traumatizing queer readers and survivors for the sake of this point ... My other concern is that this is a book about slavery in America that never reckons with race ... fails to reckon with the racist realities at the core of its premise and this nation ... unquestionably sharp in many ways, and I love the queer, dystopian critique of toxic power dynamics on both systemic and intimate levels. Many readers find the book cathartic, and that isn’t something that I can police. But I personally walked away uncomfortable at the graphic abuse, the abusive relationship portrayed as romantic, and the lack of racial consciousness within a slave narrative.
RaveBookreporterJeff VanderMeer’s neon, epic tesseract of a novel is exactly what his fans could expect of the next installment in his canon --- which is to say, something brave and consciously wild, and wholly, defiantly unexpected ... VanderMeer reestablishes himself as \'the weird Thoreau\' here, weaving a labyrinthine mesmer out of apocalypse, purpose, translation, sublimation and hope ... Because there is hope here, too. It always feels essential to VanderMeer’s writing, as behemoth as it is. There is play in the work of his words, in his entropic tesseract of gory-glory, be calm-becalmed, the cataclysm/catechism of the duck (yes, the duck). His deconstructive modes, his repetition and reignition, are rendered with his practiced mastery. Even as they sprawl across the mutating wilderness of his story, they are rooted in intimacy, in the interplay of his characters and their relationship to themselves and the earth. There’s an affection, a tenderness, even within the scream of a wormhole, even when nothing remains and everything does (and both are equally terrifying) ... VanderMeer interrogates the well-trod dichotomy between creator and creation, but he makes it fresh and strange. He explores the viscera of humanity’s relationship with the environment, and it’s wild and wonderful even as it’s devastating ... may not attract every reader. There are uncomfortable truths here, and challenging means of exploring them. Yet so much of VanderMeer’s appeal thrives within his unapologetic, fractal prose. For those who seek brilliant, strange, intricate science fiction, there will be much joy and vindication to be found within this kaleidoscope of a novel.
Carmen Maria Machado
RaveBookreporter... a messy, ferocious thing. Brilliant and devastating, incisive and defiant, it is at once an intensely personal evocation of a queer woman’s domestic emotional abuse, and the gestation of an archive investigating the conspicuous absence of research and narrative documenting queer women’s domestic abuse throughout history ... Anyone who has read her magnificent debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, knows that Machado is a master of form and style, manipulating them to get at the heart of each work ... The pieces work incredibly effectively: guiding the reader into the fantasy of her relationship, through the creeping, emerging horror of it, the gaslit, frantic terror and depression ... The material is so dark it nearly feels wrong to call it pleasurable to read, but it is, because Machado is that good, because each vignette packs such an intense punch both by itself and as part of this carefully curated narrative ... incisive and vulnerable, mesmeric and haunting ... unsettling because it should be. It’s vindicating even though it shouldn’t have to be. Harrowing and incandescent, it might resist being called a triumph, but it reads like one. It will burrow in, sit with the reader and shift you from within. I am profoundly grateful for this book and everything Machado has written.
RaveBookreporter... a bone-rattling scream of glory ... action-packed space sci-fi meets bloody necromantic fantasy, spiked with a nefarious murder mystery, no small amount of humor and an incredibly refreshing daub of queer romance ... Muir blends genre here with a deft, clever hand. The fresh and somewhat bizarre premise is anchored in hot, creative, propulsive prose and a highly addictive protagonist. Gideon is cutthroat and unapologetic, but she’s also a fiercely fun, funny, excellent character, and it’s an absolute joy to see her at the center of this action-packed, death-soaked space romp. Muir crafts original, compelling dynamics throughout her unique cast of characters, as they navigate choice and chance, guilt and rage, secrets and self-loathing ... It’s nothing short of pure bliss to get to experience a fun, vicious, high-stakes sci-fi horrorshow where the protagonist and most of the central cast are well-developed queer women. Gideon the Ninth is a rare thing: a genre-balking, exquisite, black magic sort of adventure. It’s tender at times too, and Gideon is one of my favorite protagonists to come out of sci-fi/fantasy this year. Vindicating and visceral, this one’s a triumph.
PositiveBookreporter... a lengthy epic that spans sci-fi, pandemic and thriller to deliver a heady apocalypse story crafted all too pitch perfectly for our present moment ... The central gem of this novel is its eerie prescience ... almost sickeningly plausible, often uncannily familiar and truly terrifying ... The other strength lies in how author Chuck Wendig can build a story. It’s terrifically well-paced for a novel of its size. I was engaged throughout almost all of the 800 pages and invested in most of the vivid characters. Wendig builds in twist after twist, each one well-planted yet surprising, expanding the world of the story outward. He grapples with faith and self, bias and identity, tech, morality and hope ... The violence is almost all purposeful and suits the tone. It is the apocalypse, after all. However, I felt that the assault and its circumstances, while gruesomely plausible, was gratuitous ... I also wished that with such a varied cast and tone, there had been more queer characters ... Still, it’s Chuck Wendig, so there’s humor here, amidst the frightening prescience and apocalypse of it all, along with joy and love.
RaveBookreporter... a fierce, compassionate work ... a wonder --- a stunning, compulsively readable feat of inquisitive literature and an indictment of the dangerous Western assumptions surrounding immigrants and Black womanhood ... an exquisite feat. As Patsy navigates New York, her incisive observations of America, class, colorism and privilege are fresh and earned. Her story challenges the concept of a \'good immigrant,\' of a good mother, of Black motherhood. Dennis-Benn allows Patsy to carve out a path for herself, not to escape danger or to create a better life for her daughter, but because she wants to --- and she deserves to, and I\'m so grateful for Patsy\'s messy, sometimes selfish, chosen path. It is due an intricate literary evocation, and Dennis-Benn\'s execution is pitch-perfect ... Dennis-Benn writes both women with such incredible voices, such insight and compassion, that the book is wholly a joy to read ... the author chooses to let Patsy resonate with forgiveness, growth, dignity, queer joy and love.
RaveBookreporterIt’s a soft thing, bitter and tender, bigger and more intimate than most novels imagine they can be. A quiet, resonant work that sings and hums and aches off the page, full of wisdom --- sprawling both the broad scope of the story and the gems of sentences, fragments, that crack the world open and reveal something fragrant, or rotting, but true ... Vuong’s award-winning poetic ear echoes through every phrase. His writing is clean and wretched at once, ruthlessly evocative of terrible, familiar things, the parts of history and present we pretend not to remember. Fresh, vulnerable and ceaseless, defiant of form, it blends poetry, fiction and what might be akin to memoir into something that could have become arcless but instead bends towards refrains, motifs, the absence of culmination. ... The work smolders off the page, graceful, and is both raw and careful at once. Vuong wields language deftly: as a vehicle through time, as the space between bodies, as a bridge spanning a wound. Yet he never forgets the presence of the wound. This is one of the best books I’ve read in my lifetime. A masterpiece.
MixedBook ReporterIf the premise sounds like it can get a little heavy-handed, I thought it did at times ... at its heart, The Binding is an elegant, lush, slow-burn romance --- and that\'s what I wanted from it! The romance is the driving force of the entire narrative, and it\'s both sensual and beautifully evoked. I didn\'t like that it had to be \'forbidden.\' It\'s a fantasy world with magical memory loss, but everyone is just as homophobic as they are in the real world? Sigh. And I didn\'t love getting caught up in the morally messy intricacies of how men would use memory manipulation to repeatedly brutalize women while I was trying to watch this absolutely gorgeous love story unfold ... There are certainly other readers who may enjoy the premise and form more than I did. And ultimately, despite my discomfort at these elements, I couldn\'t help but fall for Collins\' well-written unreliable narrators, her eloquent magical prose, and the tender, fierce love story at the core of this novel.
RaveBookreporterThe Affairs of the Falcóns a powerful, gripping novel of complex choices and the tangle of family. Of the terrifying intricacies of rape culture, of the strict power striations of citizenship. Of the encompassing, enduring messiness of motherhood, and what that means to a woman, an undocumented Peruvian immigrant woman in America. This is a propulsive, engrossing debut and an absolute must-read.
Samanta Schweblin, Trans. by Megan McDowell
RaveBookreporter\"Samanta Schweblin\'s Mouthful of Birds maintains its power in Megan McDowell\'s immaculate translation. Nightmarish and prescient, these 20 short stories weave magic and trauma through allegory and vivid imagery ... Schweblin\'s works are exemplary short stories. She is a master of the craft, and each piece opens a strange, compelling window into a fully imagined yet artfully withholding world ... Overall, Mouthful of Birds is elusive yet enticing, with some stories blunter than others. It is a ferocious triumph of a short story collection—dark, magic and true.\
RaveBookreporter\"This anthology is necessary reading. Each essay in this expertly curated collection is exquisite in its own right, and the very existence of this book is a revolution against the imagined monolith of \'black women\' ... Well-Read Black Girl is a special, potent volume that is expansive and introspective, diverse, eloquent and wise. Pick up this book, and let these outstanding essays speak for themselves.
RaveBookreporterA mesmeric pastiche, a cleverly hilarious indictment, a vicious, unapologetic tour-de-force: Gina Apostol’s Insurrecto is an astonishing literary masterpiece. With a measured hand and a biting voice, she explores the blatant, often-untold atrocities of America’s actions in the Philippines ... Do not be intimidated. Treat Insurrecto like the masterpiece that it is, with patience and an open mind. Within it I found the poignancy of women artists, the fallibility of storytelling, the savage truth that is America, something like the word for home. I found this novel to be revolutionary, reclamatory, restorative, bitingly funny, eminently wise and sophisticated, an insurrecto in and of itself.
RaveBookreporter\"Personal and expansive, intimate and wise, Nicole Chung\'s memoir is a fiercely successful balancing act of family, identity, becoming and love ... Compassion-filled, truthful and page-turningly compelling, All You Can Ever Know is dexterous, honest work. Exquisite and inquisitive, it gets at the heart of what it means to belong.\
PositiveBookReporter\"How Are You Going to Save Yourself sits in your mouth and leaves a taste like blood, a push like a bruise. It curdles in your stomach, but you can\'t stop swaying to its rhythm. You realize this is terrifying, and familiar ... There were times when I needed to put it down, step back and breathe. I was able to pick it back up again because Holmes knew exactly what he was doing and how, dragging into the light the pathetic, masochistic, unimaginable cruelty of toxic masculinity.\
RaveBookreporterWayétu Moore does something quite astonishing in She Would Be King, a novel that is awash in poetry, ancestry and hints of what might be called magic, but decidedly rooted in the brutality of history. Composed and compelling, brimming with devastating truths and sparkling with ferocity, this is a masterpiece of a debut. Moore\'s voice is at once vibrantly original and steeped in lineage ... The lives of these three characters intersect in sharply powerful ways ... Dynamic and mesmeric, this story is freshly woven and gorgeously evoked. It\'s action-packed and fast-paced, but lingers on prescient moments and brims with aching heart. Moore does not miss a beat. She Would Be King was an honor and a joy to read.
RaveBookreporterSharlene Teo\'s trenchant, feverishly unique debut novel soars as it struggles through the complexities of monstrosity, womanhood and loneliness ... Ponti is centered on Szu, an uncomfortable, insecure teenage girl; her tenuous, wealthy best friend, Circe; and Szu\'s mother, Amisa, the former star of a once-cult classic film, Ponti. The book leans back in time to explore how Amisa came to be Ponti, and looks into the future, where Circe has never really been able to free herself from Szu and Amisa\'s influence ... Onti explores a different perspective of motherhood, family and friendship than what I\'m used to, and I loved reading about the intricacies of Amisa\'s relationships with herself and others. The voices of all three of these women are ferocious and unapologetic, even Szu\'s unsure one, and they were fiercely refreshing to read. Bizarre and vivid, desperate and surreal, Ponti is a dark, delicious read.
Margot Lee Shetterly
PositiveBookreporter.comWhen we think of the aeronautical boom today, we speak instead of the astronauts, we conceive of gawky, brilliant, skinny white boys. This is no accident, but a continuation of the very injustice and erasure that Shetterly confronts and combats with her work ... Restoring the truth about the individuals who were at once black, women and astounding mathematicians, in a world that was constructed to stymie them at every step, is no easy task. Shetterly does it with the depth and detail of a skilled historian and the narrative aplomb of a masterful storyteller ... Shetterly traces the interweaving lives of these four women and their contemporaries, each as astounding as the next ... Shetterly is never heavy-handed, but always searingly honest, and it's refreshing and devastatingly frustrating that the injustices these women endured extended to their erasure from history.