The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (★★★★☆½)
This super original novel — Walker’s sophomore follow up to The Age of Miracles — explores a mysterious illness that quickly infects residents of an allegedly cursed college town in California, trapping the infected in a perpetual state of sleep. With a premise that’s as intriguing as her first novel (if you’re not in the know, it’s set in a world where the earth’s rotation begins to gradually slow down), it’s no surprise that I was immediately hooked. Pick up The Dreamers for the unique story, stay for the beautiful prose.
Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson (★★★★☆½)
True crime enthusiast Stevie is determined to solve the decades-old murder and kidnapping at the prestigious Ellingham Academy boarding school. With a story that alternates between the present day and the events of 1936, when Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter were kidnapped, Johnson’s new series is a fun-page turner full of a lovable cast of weirdos and several intriguing mysteries to solve. The only downside? The book ends on a major cliffhanger that will leave you wanting so much more.
My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Robin (★★★★☆)
Much like Hot Tub Time Machine, you know exactly what you’re getting with this graphic novel. Starring a cutesy girl named Nora who happens to be dating a bear, My Boyfriend is a Bear is a surprisingly adorable story with even more adorable artwork from artist Cat Farris. A little weird at times (for obvious bear on human reasons), this graphic novel may be a metaphor for prejudices and the way that opposites attract … but also might not be a metaphor at all? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (★★★★★)
I was not emotionally prepared for the conclusion of the Shades of Magic series, which features the darkest and most high-stakes story yet. In true book hangover fashion, my heart still aches over this beautifully written and perfectly plotted final book. Picking up where the cliffhanger in A Gathering of Shadows left off, A Conjuring of Light does not let down in the world- and character-building department. Read: you will not be disappointed. This book deserves all the stars, and has me even more stoked for the comic book spin-off series The Steel Prince.
Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas (★★★★☆½)
I was very cautious (and also super annoyed) going into Tower of Dawn, because honestly, who wants an entire Chaol book? Thankfully, I was proven completely wrong … but only after I powered through the slow opening. After those first 200-ish pages, it was full stream ahead for the remainder of the novel, with the penultimate book in the Throne of Glass series even — dare I say it? — redeeming Chaol. The story’s success is due in large part to healer Yrene, who makes her triumphant return to the series, as well as some pretty shocking reveals that set the stage for the series conclusion (review below).
The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee (★★★★☆)
Monty, Percy, Felicity and their pirate friends return in this cute, fluffy follow up to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. Set before the events in The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, Lee’s short story length tale follows Monty and Percy as they settle into their new relationship. There’s only one problem: despite Monty’s reputation as a rake, he and Percy have yet to be intimate with one another. With that knowledge weighing heavily on him, Monty turns to Felicity for help. What could go right?
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (★★★★☆½)
Part memoir, part self-help(ish) book, part something else entirely, Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive seeks to remove the stigma society places on depression, by revealing the author’s own struggles with the disease, as well as peppering the book with facts and statistics on depression and suicide. Super personal and very raw, I see this as a sort of companion to Notes on a Nervous Planet, which is structured in a very similar manner. Warning: this one is not nearly as light-hearted, but equally helpful.
Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage (★★★☆☆½)
Baby Teeth stars a pint-sized sociopath with designs to kill her mother, the mother herself, and the father who is completely oblivious to his wife and daughter’s true selves. You know, totally normal family dynamic type stuff. The story is made up of alternating chapters that switch between the crazed daughter who is too smart/demonic to be believable, and her mother, who is convinced she will never be a good enough wife and mother. While a super interesting premise — mostly because the kid is not alright — the plot definitely drags at times.
Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood (★★★★★)
Rust & Stardust is based on the 1948 kidnapping of 11-year-old Florence “Sally” Horner, a crime that would go on to inspire the Vladimir Nabokov classic Lolita. Despite being pulled straight from history, Greenwood’s novel is less a true crime story and more historical fiction, exploring the horrors that Sally was most likely forced to endure during her 21-month ordeal, and the ramifications it had on the people in her life. This heartbreaking and beautifully written novel deserves every single star (and then some).