Full of twists, turns, and biting social commentary, this highly original (and highly discussable) debut novel will leave you with your jaw on the floor. Editorial assistant Nella Rogers is thrilled when Wagner Books hires another Black woman. Finally, she won’t be the sole Black voice at the publisher, she won’t endure microaggressions alone, and maybe she’ll even make some progress on her stalled-out racial diversity efforts. But new hire Hazel doesn’t turn out to be the ally and friend she expected. Meanwhile, threatening notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk, saying LEAVE WAGNER NOW. The atmosphere grows ever creepier as Nella tries to befriend Hazel, while surreptitiously investigating her past. The ending left me gobsmacked: I was desperate to discuss it with a fellow reader asap.
From Holly: Anne recommended this to Elizabeth Cooper in Episode 244: You love to read—don’t ruin it, and when she described it as an immersive, apocalyptic fantasy, I knew I needed to pick it up! I described this young adult novel to a friend as “Buffy meets Longmire meets The Hunger Games” and it's some of the most imaginative fantasy writing I've encountered in recent years. The main character, Maggie, is a monster hunter with special powers. When a young girl goes missing, she’s called upon to investigate, and you’re dropped right into the action with her. I was enraptured by the world-building and the Navajo mythologies that Roanhorse introduced, and I can't wait to read more in The Sixth World series.
From Chelsey: I’m always on the lookout for new picture books to share with my nephews. When I heard Anne recommend this title for Sara’s collection in Episode 260: A little free library with a life of its own, I knew I needed it for “Aunt Bookworm Reading Time.” The illustrations—and the message—in this Newbery, Caldecott, <em>and</em> Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book are beautiful. It’s the story of a young boy named CJ and his grandma encountering a diverse group of passengers on a bus ride to their local soup kitchen. As they pass through the neighborhood, CJ has lots of questions for his grandma, and she answers them with honesty and care.
- by Louise Penny
In the idyllic small town of Three Pines, Quebec, where people don’t even lock their doors, a beloved local woman is found in the woods with an arrow shot through her heart. The locals believe it must be a hunting accident, but the police inspector senses something is off. The story is constructed as a classic whodunit but it feels like anything but, with its deliberate pacing, dry wit, and lyrical writing. A stunningly good first novel. Still Life is the first in a series that keeps getting better. Great on audio.
- by Kevin Wilson
This weird and wonderful story focuses on a powerful Southern political family with one tiny problem: when their kids get mad, they spontaneously combust. The husband is angling to become Secretary of State, and may even run for president one day—but if the truth gets out, his career is over. And so the family calls on an unlikely candidate to step in as a nanny-of-sorts: an estranged old friend with a troubled past who has no idea what she’s in for. A surprisingly poignant meditation on friendship and motherhood, hopes and dreams, triumph and defeat, and a story about becoming your own person, and forming your own family—whether that’s the one you’re given, or the one you find. This is a SHORT book, so if you need some momentum in your reading life, this could be the ticket.
- by Sarah Gailey
This is a noir detective procedural set at a school of magic. Ivy, a private investigator who’s down on her luck, is called to investigate gruesome murder at the school where her twin sister works. It’s not going to be straightforward and simple to figure out how a woman got split in half by a magical spell in a library. Plus, these sisters have a complex relationship—they haven’t seen each other in ten years and the cause of the rift is because Tabitha was magic and Ivy was not. Gailey plays with the family saga but also magic teens and the noir novel so you get to see how they’re subtly turning the genres in really fun ways.
A rollicking, big-hearted, constantly surprising space opera set in a future that feels good. This friendly and soothing sci fi story features the patched-together ship Wayfarer and its motley crew, who take on a mission so lucrative they’ll be set for years, should they succeed, but so dangerous they might die trying. The mission drives the story, but is almost beside the point in a book widely beloved not for exciting intergalactic exploits but for its seamless worldbuilding and palpable feeling of love and community. Like so many great science fiction writers, Chambers builds her story on big themes—friendship and love, gender and politics, mortality and prejudice—making the story every bit as smart as it is kind. This book kicks off the Hugo Award-winning Wayfarers series; the whole series is inclusive, diverse, and barrels of fun.