Now that summer is nearly here, it’s getting time to plan your poolside reading. Here are five that can let your mind drift while soaking up some sun.
Celebrate the glorious last days of summer with The All-Night Sun by Diane Zinna, a stunning debut novel that explores the depth of grief and the intensity of young adult female friendships. Lauren Cress, a twenty-eight-year-old adjunct English professor at a small college, has been mired in grief since the deaths of her parents ten years ago. She copes with her loss by taking refuge in her work, leaving her personal life to suffer. Her charismatic eighteen-year-old student, Siri, draws her into her orbit, and they strike up an unlikely and inappropriate friendship. Siri’s life seems to hold parallels to her own, and as the school year progresses their intense friendship becomes Lauren’s only escape from her loneliness and depression. When the year is almost out, Siri extends an invitation to go back to Sweden with her to celebrate Midsommar.
Once there, Lauren is drawn to Siri’s older brother Magnus, and in response, Siri reveals a side of herself Lauren didn’t know she had: one that’s spiteful and even cruel. The climactic Midsommar’s eve is both heartbreaking and cathartic as Lauren comes to terms with the parts of her past she’d forgotten. The All-Night Sun is a beautifully written, character-driven study on loneliness, grief, and the limits of memory, and Diane Zinna’s meticulous research on Sweden and her poetic turns of phrase shine on every page.
Take a whirlwind European vacation with protagonist Chelsea Martin in Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay, as she attempts to recapture the last time she was truly happy. The twenty-seven-year-old nonprofit worker has buried herself in work since her mother died of cancer seven years ago, and her father’s decision to remarry provides a wake-up call that she needs to do something to get out of her slump. She decides to relive her gap year vacation and try to rekindle the romances she had along the way: will the Irish Colin, French Jean-Claude, or Italian Marcelino be the one to bring happiness back to her life? It certainly couldn’t be her irritating coworker Jason. Written with sparkling humor and beautiful descriptions, Paris is Always a Good Idea is a breezy, enjoyable story with relatable characters.
Want: A Novel by Lynn Steger Strong offers an unflinching look at the precariousness of the middle-class dream in America through the eyes of 34-year-old Elizabeth, wife, mother of two young girls, and teacher and part-time adjunct professor. She and her husband, an investment banker-turned-artisanal woodworker, live in a cramped apartment and have begun proceedings to file for bankruptcy. Meanwhile, a childhood friend she’s mostly lost touch with over the years has come back into her life, stirring up old feelings as Sasha, her friend, is dealing with a crisis of her own. Want is sharp and unapologetic in its examination of womanhood, privilege, and the so-called ‘middle-class’ of America, one drowning in debt and quietly trying to survive. The present tense gives it an almost confessional feel, and the story is one that will linger with the reader long after they put it down.
In The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Bengali author Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay, originally published in 1993, three women deal with the decline of their once-wealthy house in their own way. 18-year-old Somlata, newly married to her handsome, 32-year-old “blissfully unemployed” husband, learns it’s now her job to encourage him to find work. But when the bitter old matriarch of the family, Aunt Pishima, dies, her spirit decides to linger—and sticks around to offer Somlata some very unhelpful advice. Somlata has her own ideas for how to save the family from financial ruin, however, and they don’t involve over-salting the food or having an affair. And Somlata’s daughter, Boshon, is the face of the family’s future as a modern, fiercely feminist teenager. There are plenty of twists and lots of laughter to be had in this short novel, and it’s a story that will move and entertain in equal measure.
In The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel, Eva Traube is a semi-retired librarian living a quiet life in Florida until the day she spots a photograph in a magazine while shelving books. It’s a photograph of a book she’s intimately familiar with, one that’s currently part of an exhibit in Berlin’s Zentral- und Landesbibliothek library. She must summon the courage to face old ghosts and revisit her past as a World War II forger and code-writer to help the children she smuggled to safety reclaim their names and identities. The story switches seamlessly from present to past, and explores an aspect of World War II that is often overlooked in fiction. The love story between Eva and Rémy, her forger partner, is touching and well-developed, and despite the characters often having different names due to the story’s premise, there’s little confusion. The Book of Lost Names is well-researched and touching, and the plot will pull you along and keep you guessing at times.
Whether you let loose with Lauren, travel with Chelsea, or discover new definitions of cleverness and bravery with Somlata and Eva, one of these books is sure to satisfy your need for fall escapism. — Kate
The month of July has been packed with a variety of literary experiences, created by the Bay Area Book Festival to cover your summer reading, further professional goals, inspire personal transformation, address current events, and of course offer plenty of great family programming.
Here are our July book picks:
WHAT WE’RE READING – ADULT BOOKS
Before and After the Book Deal: A Writer’s Guide to Finishing, Publishing, Promoting, and Surviving Your First Book by Courtney Maum
There are a lot of “how to write and publish a book” guides out there, but none are as frank, surprising, and funny as this breath of fresh air from novelist Maum, who unveils the secrets that editors, agents, and published writers typically keep under lock and key. In a serendipitous feat of timing, Maum’s “everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask” guide comes out during a time of profound reckoning and truth-telling for the notoriously secretive publishing industry. Famed writers like Anthony Doerr, Ottessa Moshfegh, and Lisa Ko spill the beans about the road to publication and what happens next, and Maum frames their journeys–and her own–with the conversational warmth and verve of a friend confiding trade secrets over drinks. Whatever stage of the drafting/publication/promotion process you’re in, this book is your expert advisor, therapist, and straight-shooter, all in one.
For more candor and insights, check out “Ready, Set, Publish,” Maum’s recent Bay Area Book Festival # UNBOUND conversation with NaNoWriMo’s Grant Faulkner and She Writes Press’ Brooke Warner.
F*ck Like a Goddess: Heal Yourself. Reclaim Your Voice. Stand in Your Power by Alexandra Roxo
Transformational healing coach Roxo’s favorite Greek myth is the tale of Persephone, fated to spend half the year in the underworld with Hades, only to emerge triumphantly in spring. The myth is a thematic fit for Roxo’s earthy guide to female self-knowledge and freedom, which carries serious “rebirth and regenesis” vibes. Roxo’s mission is to help every woman sublimate trauma, self-doubt, and dissociation into a radically different energy that paves the way for passionate engagement with the world and oneself. Called a “sharp forceful debut” by Publishers Weekly, F*ck Like a Goddess uses storytelling and exercises to guide readers to a place, in Roxo’s words, of “wildness and joy unbridled.”
On July 29, Bay Area Book Festival #UNBOUND is partnering with The Battery to present a special live event with Roxo for its Women Lit members.
The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See
The setting for See’s multigenerational novel is a Korean island called Jeju, known for its “Three Abundances: wind, stones, and women.” And not just any women, but a fierce collective of intrepid female divers who are the island’s primary breadwinners. See’s portrait of familial legacies, underwater adventure, and global upheaval feels both intimate and panoramic, and is all the more riveting for its framework within a real-life matriarchy that finds itself suspended between tradition and modernity. Oprahmag.com called The Island of Sea Women a “mesmerizing historical novel that women’s strengths—and the strength of their friendships.”
See and bestselling author Sue Monk Kidd dove deep into the complexities of these friendships, and the challenges of depicting them in fiction, in a recent BABF #UNBOUND conversation with Aimee Phan, “Braving Deep Waters.”
WHAT WE’RE READING – CHILDREN’S AND YA BOOKS
Cat Dog Dog: The Story of a Blended Family by Nelly Buchet, illustrated by Andrea Zuill; ages 3-7 years
This book has only two words—“cat” and “dog”—but what Nelly Buchet and Andrea Zuill do with those two words is sheer delight and it brought them three starred reviews. And rightly so! Buchet and Zuill take us to a blended family, because, you know… They’re not always easy, for humans or for pets. Come with us and meet Cat and Dog, who live with their human in a suburban house with a big backyard. Sure, they fight like… well, cats and dogs, but they’re used to one another. Dog—a different dog!—lives a happy only-child life in the city with his dad. He has the bed to himself, he never has to share his toys, and that’s the way he likes it. So, what happens when Dog’s dad and Cat and Dog’s mom move in together? These two words make a wonderfully smart, heart-warming, and laugh-out-loud picture book. Two words is all Nelly Buchet and Andrea Zuill. Really. Or… would there be a surprise word or two?
Check out our recent virtual conversation with Nelly Buchet and Andrea Zuill.
On These Magic Shores by Yamile Saied Méndez; ages 8 – 12
Many families and children struggle to find a safe life, including Minerva Soledad Miranda, a young Latinx teen who is terrified that her mom, after not returning home from work one night, may have been wrongly taken by ICE. Afraid that she and her two little sisters she takes care of may be taken to foster homes or holding centers for migrant children, Minerva decides to pretend everything is normal until her mom returns. The plan falls through almost immediately. Luckily, Minerva finds a special, mysterious, and magical helper to get to the bottom of her mother’s worrying disappearance. Though, Yamile Saied Méndez touches upon many heavy problems like racism, immigration, stereotyping and income inequality, her extraordinary ability to craft wonderful characters full of life and smarts, and with big dreams makes On These Magic Shores a tale that will warm your heart and make you laugh.
Check out our recent virtual conversation with Yamile Saied Méndez and Aimee Lucido (In the Key of Code), moderated by ten-year-old Naomi Wilson from Cinnamongirl, Inc., an Oakland-based nonprofit that empowers girls of color with mentorship and educational opportunities.
This Time Will be Different by Misa Sugiura; ages 14 – 18
Misa Sugiura’s This Time Will be Different introduces us to CJ, who discovers a hidden talent for floral arrangement in her family’s flower shop—only to make another discovery that leads her to fight, for the first time in her life, for what is important to her. With a deft pen, Sugiura paints CJ and other characters true to life, with all their flaws and vulnerabilities. And she lets them grow. Just like Sugiura lets the reader grow and find truth when it comes to racism and by breaking through myths like those of the model minority. She does that with a deft pen, lots of humor and glorious romance. A book that will pull you in from page one!
Check out our recent virtual conversation with Misa Sugiura, Abigail Hing Wen, and Jasmine Edwards, moderated by Jasmine Edwards, senior of Bentley School in Lafayette and a member of Cinnamongirl, Inc.
The Bay Area Book Festival was founded on principles of social justice. In light of current
events, we are proud to claim solidarity with everyone speaking up and doing the work to
dismantle a longstanding legacy of racial inequality.
Actions may speak louder than words, but words also have the power to change our hearts and
minds and inform our actions. Books can give us the ability to confront the truth and bear
witness—to our own lives, and to others. Our June picks address our strange and volatile times
to help invigorate, inform, and transport us:
WHAT WE’RE READING – ADULT BOOKS
Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride
Irish literary superstar McBride burst onto the international scene with her debut novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, which took six months to write and nine years to publish. Once it finally made its way into the world, it became a sensation, winning the Women’s Prize for Fiction and leading Anne Enright to designate McBride as “that old-fashioned thing, a genius.” Strange Hotel, McBride’s third novel, is just as convention-defying, delving deep into the singular consciousness of a woman who lives inside her own head, haunted indelibly by the past and seeking refuge in thought at the expense of emotion. A feat of profound psychological suspense and insight, Strange Hotel is the perfect novel for these decidedly strange and distanced times.
Catch McBride in a riveting Bay Area Book Festival #UNBOUND conversation with Brooke Warner of She Writes Press.
WE KEEP US SAFE: Building Secure, Just, and Inclusive Communities by Zach Norris
At a time when the meaning of “community” and collective accountability is a matter of urgent import, and when the role of law enforcement in our cities is under deserved scrutiny, We Keep us Safe offers a compassionate, hopeful re-imagining of what “public safety” really entails. Called “an enormously important contribution in the efforts to advance human rights in this country” by bestselling Just Mercy author Bryan Stevenson, this is a blueprint for the kind of community we need to create and sustain, now more than ever.
Catch Norris, the Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, with Conor Dougherty, Joe Wilson, and San Francisco Chronicle journalist Heather Knight in an #UNBOUND conversation about homelessness and the housing crisis, “No Place to Shelter: What COVID-19 Reveals About Inequality,” on June 25th at 7 PM.
Love Child’s Hotbed of Occasional Poetry by Nikky Finney
National Book Award winner Finney’s latest collection is subtitled “Poems and Artifacts,” and it’s easy to see why: with its cast of ancestors, witness-stand testimonies, and relics from 400 years of black American life, this book gives new meaning to the term “docu-poetry.” In a starred review, Publishers Weekly says that “Finney’s skillful, sweeping epic ambitiously connects personal and public history.” This is a gorgeous, sweeping masterwork from one of contemporary poetry’s most original and visceral voices.
In these tumultuous times, we’re finding comfort and inspiration in revisiting this cathartic #UNBOUND conversation between Finney and Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown, in which they talk about the murders of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, the role of identity in poetry, and the profound mission these remarkable poets share: the ability to bear witness through art.
WHAT WE’RE READING – CHILDREN’S AND YA BOOKS
Here Comes Ocean by Meg Fleming, illustrated by Paola Zakimi – Ages 5-8
Award-winning children’s book author Meg Fleming whisked us away on an adventure of shell-collecting, shoreline-exploring, and sand-castle-building. The delightfully exuberant rhymes and the sun-drenched, animal-filled illustrations of this picture book were exactly what we needed at the Bay Area Book Festival to bring us a sense of discovery, rejuvenation, and playfulness to beat the sameness of day-to-day. This book is as invigorating as a sea breeze.
Check out our recent conversation with the author and illustrator and pick up some Spanish along the way from Argentinian illustrator Paola Zakimi.
Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw, translated by Laura Watkinson; ages 10-15
On the Horizon by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Kenard Pak; ages 10-15
Two books we read in tandem. Because they are important. Bestselling authors Lois Lowry and Jan Terlouw write about war, heroism and humanity that transcends geography, nationality and time. With On the Horizon, two-time Newberry Award medalist Lowry draws from her own childhood memories of Hawaii and Japan in an honest and empathetic account of lives lost and forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. Jan Terlouw’s Winter in Wartime has been in print for almost fifty years, for good reason: this beloved novel, based on Terlouw’s own boyhood in wartime Holland, is a young-adult classic with the suspenseful pacing of a thriller. Heroism, not war, takes center stage in these books: the everyday heroism of young people in extraordinary times. We need these voices, young and old to remind us of universal humanity.
On Saturday, July 11, will be featuring Lois Lowry and Jan Terlouw in conversation with seventh-graders Tej Wong and Quinn Boyd-Roberts in the episode ‘Heroism in the Face of Tragedy.’ Check out our upcoming schedule for details.
The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall; ages 14 and up
We were swept away across the high seas in Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s fantasy debut. Tokuda-Hall doesn’t shy away from connecting fantasy to history. In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, protagonist pirate Florian, born Flora, and Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, high-born imperial daughter, cross lines of class and identity to fall in love, cross paths with haunting mythical creatures and double agents along the way to their shared fate.
Want to know more about this riveting debut? Check out ‘Beyond Our World: Shifting Identities and Steady Hearts’ our recent conversation with Maggie Tokuda-Hall, Rebecca Hannover, and Jennifer Leon.
Perhaps you caught this recent illuminating KQED story about how California arts nonprofits and individual artists/writers have sprung into action to support people who are isolated, traumatized, and scared in the midst of the pandemic. The Executive Director of Californians for the Arts, Julie Baker, used the term “second responders” to describe the role of the arts in times of crisis:
“A first responder comes in and saves a life. A second responder comes in and helps to rebuild a life.”
That’s what we’re trying to do with our virtual #UNBOUND author conversation series. After our May launch, we’re now looking at an uncertain summer. Our June programming offers a literary lifeline, centered on authors and books that bring you peace of mind, food for thought, and balm for the soul. Here are some of our favorites:
WHAT WE’RE READING – ADULT BOOKS
Rebel Cinderella by Adam Hochschild
Trust bestselling author and historian Adam Hochschild to unearth one of history’s forgotten heroines and give her story the page-turning treatment it deserves. Russian immigrant Rose Pastor Stokes spent her first twelve years in America in a sweatshop, only to skyrocket to the upper class when she married an heir to a massive mining and real estate fortune. It’s a classic Cinderella story: that is, if Cinderella converted her prince to socialism, became an antiwar and labor activist, caused a scandal by promoting birth control access, and was dubbed “one of the most dangerous influences of the country” by a sitting President.
Want more? Check out our virtual conversation with Adam Hochschild on June 2, 7pm.
Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke by David Talbot
When Festival Writer & Development Manager Suzanne Rivecca first moved to San Francisco years ago, journalist David Talbot’s history of the city, Season of the Witch, opened her eyes to the political machinations, complex roots, cultural and social and racial intricacies, and utter, wild, unduplicated uniqueness of this topographical and emotional roller-coaster of a town. With Between Heaven and Hell, he once again takes an enormously complicated subject—sickness and recovery—and renders it not only digestible, but relatable and compelling. You might not expect a book about a major medical catastrophe and its aftermath to be uplifting, but this one is—as well as emotionally wise, funny, and raw in its honesty. A lifelong workaholic, Talbot says that his stroke ultimately made him a better person: more present, grateful, and mindful. It certainly hasn’t dampened the wit and rigor of his writing, which is as sharp and insightful as ever.
Want more? Check out our virtual conversation with David Talbot and Sir Michael Moritz on June 11, 7pm.
Elderhood by Louise Aronson
Elderhood, a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, is a clear-eyed, empowering, and penetrating look at aging. Aronson brings her professional expertise—she’s a geriatrician and Professor of Medicine at UCSF—and her incisive voice to bear on a subject that’s all too often avoided, sentimentalized, or cloaked in fear. In a culture and a country that worships youth and averts its eyes from the realities and rewards of growing older, Elderhood is exactly the antidote we need to the misinformation and invisibility that we sometimes project upon the experience of aging. Aronson’s wish is for all of us to “look at the final third of life with the same concern, creativity, and rigor as we view the first two-thirds.”
Want more? Check out our virtual conversation with Louise Aronson and KALW’s Jenee Darden on June 18, 7pm.
WHAT WE’RE READING – CHILDREN’S AND YA BOOKS
Love By Sophia by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail; Ages 5-8
“An art-positive story rich in love, determination, and delightfully big words for brains of all sizes,” is what Kirkus Reviews says in a starred review of this supercalifragilisticexpialidocious third book in Averbeck’s Sophia series, where precocious Sophia and her pet giraffe Noodle learn how to look at life, love, and art. And we, at the Bay Area Book Festival, concur. We’ll let you in on a secret: Our Children’s programmer, Mina Witteman, isn’t American or a native-English speaker, so she jumps at every chance to up her vocabulary. And Sophia’s empowering smarts and big words are just plain beguiling.
Want more? Check out our virtual conversation with Jim Averbeck and Yasmeen Ismail on June 27, 10 am.
The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth by Ian Lendler; ages 10-15
Dinosaurs existed. That’s a fact that we accept today. But not so long ago, the concept that these giant creatures could have roamed Earth millions of years before humans even existed was unfathomable. People believed that what we now know are dinosaur bones were the bones of giant humans. Or large elephants. Or angels, even. In The First Dinosaur: How Science Solved the Greatest Mystery on Earth Ian Lendler takes you on a skull-and-bone and fossil filled journey that will unearth Earth’s greatest mystery.
Want more? Check out our virtual conversation with Ian Lendler and amazing 11 year-old Aria Sindledecker on June 6, 11 am.
Girls Garage: How to Use Any Tool, Tackle Any Project, and Build the World You Want to See by Emily Pilloton; ages 14 and up
Girls Garage is the only book you’ll ever need for a lifetime of building and repair. Packed with over 175 illustrated tool guides, 11 how-to projects, 21 essential skills, and 15 inspiring stories from real-world builder girls and women, this 300 page compendium will inspire you to fill up your toolbox and get building! With a background in architecture and construction, Emily Pilloton started the nonprofit Girls Garage to give girls the tools to build the world they want to see. Since 2013, girls ages 9-18 have come to Girls Garage’s workshop eager to use power tools and build real-world projects for their community. The Girls Garage book puts that same power into girls’ hands around the world, inviting them to join a thriving, diverse, and fierce movement of fearless build.
Since its inception in 2015, The Bay Area Book Festival has built a reputation for the quality of its literary programs, its international scope, and its commitment to informed public discourse, empathy, and open-mindedness. Although we’ve had to cancel our in-person Festival (May 2-3), we’ve gone virtual with the Bay Area Book Festival #UNBOUND, launching over the weekend of May 1-3. We’re dedicated to continue sharing the works of great authors, supporting booksellers, and engaging the literary community. During these trying times, books make us feel much less alone, no matter how far from home (or from each other) we are. In this monthly column, we hope to bring you a slice of literary goodness in the form of new books to enjoy, share, and discuss – even if it’s from a distance.
WHAT WE’RE READING – ADULT BOOKS
Godshot By Chelsea Bieker
To have an assignment, Pastor Vern said, you have to be a woman of blood. Thus begins Chelsea Bieker’s first novel, the tale of a suddenly motherless young woman whose life has been upended by a charismatic cult. Our Director of Literary Programming, Kisky Holwerda, was enraptured by this debut, which Entertainment Weekly called “fiercely written and endlessly readable…a godsend.” This riveting story of trauma, resilience, and feminist awakening has earned comparisons to works by Margaret Atwood and Emma Cline; but the vision and voice of Godshot is entirely Bieker’s own.
Golden Gates: Fighting for Housing in America by Conor Dougherty
This illuminating exploration of San Francisco’s historic, unparalleled housing crisis, by New York Times economics reporter Dougherty, does justice to the complexity of a situation we Bay Area denizens are all too familiar with. From low-income renters to displaced communities of color to affluent techies, everyone has a stake in this issue—and, as Dougherty shows, the factional voices threaten to drown one another out. The New Yorker recently lauded Golden Gates for shedding light on the counterproductive nature of tribalism and the need for concrete, workable solutions to a crisis that impacts us all.
Ledger by Jane Hirshfield
Since the shelter-in-place order began, our Executive Director, Cherilyn Parsons, has been dipping into Hirshfield’s ninth volume of poetry for a daily dose of transcendence and beauty. Hirshfield’s work is a bracing tonic for troubled times: Ledger‘s first poem, “Let Them Not Say,” was circulated widely, as a source of prescient, bittersweet solace, on the day President Trump was elected in 2016. Fittingly, Publishers Weekly praised the book as “both a paean and a heartbreaking plea.”
WHAT WE’RE READING – CHILDREN’S AND YA BOOKS
Outside In by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cindy Derby; Ages 3-9
Is there a book that celebrates being outside in a timelier way than Outside In? We don’t think so. This gorgeous picture book by New York Times bestselling author Deborah Underwood is an exquisite celebration of the outdoors. It shows us how outside is inseparably connected to inside and, more importantly, how we can still enjoy the beauty of nature while inside. We see, we hear, we experience nature in its full glory. Might you doubt the book’s power? It garnered not just one, but FIVE starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and other literary trades, and it is bound to become a classic that deserves a place in everyone’s library!
Accordionly: Abuelo and Opa Make Music by Michael Genhart, illustrated by Priscilla Burris; Ages 3-6
Most of us are stuck inside now; and we know just how hard that can be: even if we share a native tongue with those we’re sheltering in place with, , it can sometimes feel like we don’t speak the same language. In this adorable picture book, two grandpas, Abuelo and Opa, can’t communicate due to a language barrier. Their grandson’s clever thinking finds a way for everyone to share the day. How? With music! Reading this book with your little ones will make everyone sing and dance together again.
Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros; Ages 8-13
“Honest and tender…a must-read,” says Kirkus Reviews in its starred rave for this middle grade novel by Ernesto Cisneros: a story that tugs at your heartstrings from the first page. Cisneros takes you deep into Efrén’s life with his hard-working but undocumented Mexican parents. When his mother is deported by ICE, Efrén has to step up and care for his younger siblings, juggling schoolwork, caretaking, and intense worry about his mother’s fate, while trying to figure out who’s trustworthy and who’s not. In this exceptional debut, Cisneros shows us the grit, courage, and resilience of our nation’s immigrant communities in a time of widespread injustice and uncertainty.
Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay; Ages 14-18
“A singular voice in the world of literature,” bestselling YA author Jason Reynolds proclaims on the cover of Randy Ribay’s new YA novel. A National Book Award Finalist and an NPR “Best Book of the Year” (amongst a long list of other distinctions), Ribay’s novel follows Jay Reguero, whose pre-college plans consisted of biding his time and playing video games. Everything changes when his cousin Jun is killed by the police in the Philippines. Jay has no choice but to return to his home country and reckon with painful truths about his family, himself, and the story behind this tragic loss. Ribay pulls you into Jay’s and Jun’s life stories unflinchingly, without shying away from the emotional and political complexities and dangers of this fraught and riveting terrain. A truly remarkable book.
In the mood for a great fantasy but aren’t sure which one to pick? Or maybe you’re eager for a new sci-fi book but haven’t found one that stands out to you yet. Search no more, for here are five new books (and one old favorite) that definitely deserve a place in your TBR pile.
My Beautiful Life
By K. J. Parker
Subterranean Press, $40.00, 112 pages
K. J. Parker’s latest novella, My Beautiful Life, is an exploration of one individual on his deathbed, looking back at his early life, and at his own rise and eventual fall. Newcomers to Parker’s universe and old fans alike will enjoy his familiar dry humor and the conversational tone of the story. My Beautiful Life may be something of a character study, but it is a fascinating one.
Upon the Flight of the Queen
By Howard Andrew Jones
St. Martin’s Press, $28.99, 464 pages
The second book in the Ring-Sworn Trilogy, Upon the Flight of the Queen is just as thrilling and immersive as the first book. War and espionage, magic and dragons, and compelling characters fill this epic fantasy, which will fully satisfy fans of the first book and leave them eagerly waiting for book three.
Council of Fire (Arcane America)
By Eric Flint
Baen, $25.00, 480 pages
Alternate history is difficult to get right. There’s a delicate balance between writing a compelling story and one that that still feels plausible. Historical science fiction allows writers to get away with more, but it can also require more suspension of disbelief. Council of Fire, part of the Arcane America series, hits that balance just right. When Halley’s Comet splits the Atlantic, separating the Old World from the New, the effects on both sides of the ocean create a fascinating new timeline readers in any world won’t be able to put down.
Hell Divers VI: Allegiance
By Nicholas Sansbury Smith
Blackstone Publishing, $24.99, 400 pages
The sixth book in the Hell Divers series, Allegiance brings us into a world trying to recover from a bloody war and reaching for peace. Xavier Rodriguez, new king of the islands, but try to manage tensions at home even as across the world, androids attempt to hunt down human survivors. Soon the Hell Divers are in a race against time to keep the human genome from being wiped out entirely.
Target Rich Environment, Volume 2
By Larry Correia
Baen, $25.00, 352 pages
Larry Correia has given us another collection of his stories, and once again he pulls no punches. Volume 2 of Target Rich Environment is a breathtaking read, filled with giant robots, giant monsters, and great struggles of good versus evil. This is an excellent pick for all fans of action horror.
The Books of Earthsea: The Complete Illustrated Edition (Earthsea Cycle)
By Ursula K. Le Guin, Illustrated by Charles Vess
Gallery / Saga Press, $59.99, 1008 pages
Like so many, A Wizard of Earthsea was one of my first fantasy novels. Though I only have vague memories of it now, just looking at the new illustrated editions is enough to fill me with nostalgia for those early books. What else is there to say? This collection is a perfect gift for all fantasy fans, young or old.