Creeeeeepy…. A slow, torturous plot unfolding at a pace that will have you reading faster and faster to see what happens next! Dark and with a dreamy haze over it– excellent for dark and stormy night reading.
The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi, (List Price: $30, William Morrow, 9780063206502, February 2023)
I love nothing more than a place-driven, character-driven novel, so this book was right up my alley. Fiona McFarlane explores colonial Australia through the eyes of many of the inhabitants of a small farm town on the edge of the desert as they react to the disappearance of a young boy. McFarlane does not shy away from exploring the brutal history of European colonialism and the effects it had on this country. Her prose is captivating and her characters are multifaceted. I’m sure Cissy, the headstrong older sister of the missing boy, will be a favorite of many readers. Fans of Michele de Kretser and Maggie Shipstead will enjoy this book.
The Sun Walks Down by Fiona McFarlane, (List Price: $28, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374606237, February 2023)
Reviewed by Kate Storhoff, Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
“I think that all books start out with an irritation in our conscious brain, a bit of sand in the old prefrontal cortex, and then become a collaboration between our front brain, which deals in logic and puzzles and language and things making sense, and our mid- and back brain, which both deal with emotion and sense memory and symbol and metaphor. And those collaborations, depending on what other elements we draw into them, can manifest in very different ways.
For both of these stories, I was thinking about abandonment, of the ways in which women are punished for ambition, of the cruel and unexpected ways in which generational trauma follows us and bites at our heels. I was thinking about the ways in which we are failed by our mothers, and fail our mothers, and fail ourselves. And I was thinking about the solidarity of siblings. And from that, two very different stories emerged, both of which come to very different conclusions. What do I think? It doesn’t matter what I think. The only thing that matters is what the story thinks.” ―Kelly Barnhill, Interview Clarksworld
What booksellers are saying about The Crane Husband
This incredibly eerie and strange book follows a young boy whose mother inexplicably brings home a crane, and tells her two sons to refer to him as father. A retelling of a Japanese folk tale, the industrialist hellscape backdrop does very well to solidify what could be an absurd story. Very well written, great for sci-fi, horror, and folk story fans.
―Alex Einhorn from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA | Buy from Fountain Bookstore
Creepy, melodic, and absolutely haunting, The Crane Husband is a resplendent novella destined to leave you aching. The protagonist, an unnamed fifteen-year-old girl, has to take the responsibility of protecting her family after her artist mother brings home “Father” – a crane who is sometimes a man. Sacrifices abound and love is its central theme, even when it takes wing.
―Jordan April from Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Flyleaf Books
A beautifully written retelling of the Crane Wife folktale that focuses on family and sacrifices we make for love.
―Kelley Barnes from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC | Buy from Page 158 Books
One review of Barnhill’s latest work declared her to be the next Angela Carter, which is a strikingly accurate comparison considering The Crane Husband is a retelling of a traditional Japanese folklore story, centered around the experience of the women involved. Similar to Carter as well, Barnhill leaves us in the world of the mystical and strange, often to an unsettling degree, as we follow a family whose mother has welcomed a crane into their home after the passing of her husband. With deceptively straightforward prose that is guaranteed to keep you turning the page wondering where this bizarre story will turn next, The Crane Husband is an excellent read.
― Elizabeth Findley from Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews in Chapel Hill, NC | Buy from Epilogue Books
About Kelly Barnhill
Kelly Barnhill is the author of the adult novel When Women Were Dragons and several middle grade novels, including the New York Times bestselling novels The Girl Who Drank the Moon, winner of the 2017 John Newbery Medal, and The Ogress and the Orphans. She is also the recipient of the World Fantasy Award, and has been a finalist for the SFWA Andre Norton Nebula Award and the PEN America Literary Award. She lives in Minneapolis with her family.
This book is such an unexpected delight! It’s told in an epistolary style- journal entries, with you, the reader, being an outside observer to events that have already happened. However, Heather Fawcett’s style of writing is such that it seamlessly blends with the narrative and you forget entirely that you’re reading a journal! It’s cozy, heart-warming, absolutely page-turning, and will leave you both satisfied and wanting more. It’s unique, enchanting, and one of my favorite reads of this year, perfect for anyone who loves fantasy and especially the fae!
Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett, (List Price: $28, Del Rey, 9780593500132, January 2023)
The powerful combination of otherworldly magic with this world’s grit gets me every time, in every Wayward Children novella. This one’s for anyone who’s ever experienced loss as a kid, been a lost kid, or lost their innocence—for all of us in one way or another. For Antsy, it’s the loss of her father and all the loss that occurs in its wake, and then Antsy finds the Shop Where the Lost Things Go and a vast series of doors to incredible and unusual places—but it’s easy to lose track of yourself when you’re busy finding new things, new people, and new worlds…
Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire, (List Price: $21.99, Tordotcom, 9781250213631, January 2023)
Bad Cree is the perfect mix of mystery, horror, and suspense. Johns uses the importance of dreams in Cree culture to cover several issues involving corporate greed, trauma, and familial grief. Also, her use of symbolism throughout the book makes for an ethereal experience for the reader and she highlights the strength that can come from the female bonds of sisterhood/motherhood throughout the plot. This is an incredibly enjoyable debut that is as creative as it is moving.
Bad Cree by Jessica Johns (List Price: $28, Doubleday, 9780385548694, January 2023)
Reviewed by Stuart McCommon, Novel. in Memphis, Tennessee
“You don’t need to be a hero to take a stand against evil and fight for good in this world, that is how you become one.” This quote from the graphic novel embodies this story to perfection. The story is gripping and the art work is drawn to perfection. This graphic novel is perfect for any Japanese Manga or Anime fan. When the world began the gods sent down then heavenly spear to create the world. After the land was created, the gods separated the spear into parts. Three belonged to the earth: the trees, the flowers, and the stone. The fourth part is the spirit of the spear, the essence of life itself, stayed in the air. When a great mountain ogre, the Oni, accidentally discovers one of the three earthly pieces of the spear, he becomes obsessed to gain the power of the spear, and release the world of the dead. The only hope for the world is the spirit of the spear. To save the world and stop the Oni, he comes to earth to a lonely couple beseeching the gods for a son. The only challenge is that he is no bigger than your thumb. How can someone so small defeat a powerful Oni? It will take courage, training, and friends.
Issunboshi by Ryan Lang, (List Price: $34.99, Oni Press, 9781637150818, October 2022)
Ithaca takes place in a time while Odysseus is away, and is narrated by Hera, the goddess of women. Many suitors have arrived to try and take the hand of a could-be widow. It’s up to Penelope and her band of women to hold things together, not just for her, but for the sake of the entire kingdom. From unexpected visitors, suspenseful skirmishes, and a lust for power, this is the story of the not so quickly told, unsung protectors of Ithaca. What an amazing, gorgeous take on what was going on while Odysseus has been gone. Spoken from the viewpoint of Hera, this captivating story brings up many people that are usually left by the wayside as far as Greek mythology is concerned. There were a lot of characters, and at first it was a bit difficult to remember which person was which. For the most part, North solves this by giving insight into what each one of them is doing whenever mentioned. From traitors of the kingdom, to a coming of manhood for my personal favorite character, Telemachus, the suspense and build up never failed. The marathon of the middle was exactly that for me, but that is North’s beautiful attention to detail, pulp, and background building that I love from her writing. The ending was a shot out of nowhere. Wondering who would come out on top at the end was something I questioned during the entire read. All I know is, like with almost all of her books, the last five or six chapters tie everything together and are somehow always better than the rest of the book, if that’s even possible. All of my questions, answered. All loose ends, tied.Six stars out of five; I suggest everyone grab this book when it comes out if you are a fan of Greek Mythology, fiction, suspense, and all around good writing. This is the setup of a series, and it was extremely captivating the way North went out of her way to have all the geography, gods, and goddesses of ancient Greece historically accurate. She definitely showed the conflict between them and how some, if not all, are more “humanly” than I had considered when I went through school learning about Greece. It was really nice to have a change of pace from North’s usual writing, but this had her style all over it. Will be grabbing a physical copy in September, to add to my collection of Claire North books and I cannot wait to see what happens next in the story of Penelope.
Ithaca by Claire North, (List Price: $28, Redhook, 9780316422963, September 2022)
“I’ve never (yet!) set fire to a large Scottish mansion as Devon does, nor numbered my body count in the dozens as Devon has. (Though hope springs eternal, as they say.) But I did grow up reading fairy tales and believing in false happy endings, as she did, and my life has been irrevocably altered by parenting, single or otherwise, as hers was.
Out of personal apocalypse and a total collapse of hope, good things eventually came about—for me, and for Devon.
The Book Eaters is both a love letter to fairy tales, and a critical examination of their flaws. Above all, it is a story about family love in the midst of ruination: how we define it and defend it, how we find it and fight for it.” –Sunyi Dean, Letter to readers
What booksellers are saying about The Book Eaters
This has definitely become one of the books that I wish I had written! Sunyi Dean manages to perfectly capture the feeling of wanting to devour a good book, in all of its fantastical glory. Between the morally grey characters, English moor setting, and enviable prose, Dean has written a modern fairy tale for the ages, where the girl saves herself and monsters are not the ones you would expect. A truly stunning debut novel! ―Hallie Smith from Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina Buy from Main Street Books
This dark and at times disturbing debut novel is an exploration of the depths that a mother will go to in order to protect her son. Devon Fairweather is a book eater – a secret race that literally consumes the written word – and has a privileged but strictly controlled life. All that changes when her son is born a mind eater, and she’s forced to rebel against her upbringing to ensure his survival. Perfect for anyone in need of a Gothic fantasy fix.
―Jude Burke-Lewis from Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi Buy from Square Books
A truly dark and fantastical read that is rich with an assortment of literary references and gothic elements. The Book Eaters is a deliciously unique take on vampirism that you’ll really want to sink your teeth into. ―Kassie Weeks from Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Florida Buy from Oxford Exchange
A wonderfully fantastic story about a secret line of people who do indeed eat books, and their unfortunate brethren who are doomed to consume minds. I quickly found myself rooting for the main character Devon, who is a book eater princess and mother fighting to help her mind eater son. There are some creepy bits, but not too bad for this non-horror reader. Inventive worldbuilding and compelling read! ―Serena Wyckoff from Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida Buy from Copperfish Books
About Sunyi Dean
Sunyi Dean is an autistic SFF writer, and mother of two. Originally born in the States and raised in Hong Kong, she now lives in Yorkshire. When not reading, running, falling over in yoga, or rolling d20s, she sometimes escapes the city to wildswim in lonely dales. The Book Eaters is her debut, and you can find her online @Blind_Nycteris.
These animal stories are masterpieces of skill in the narratorial voice, shining jewel-like displays of how much characterization can be snuck in the smallest choices in diction. Lispector is like Thurber and Saint-Exupery in that she can write a story as enthralling for children as adults.
The Woman Who Killed the Fish by Clarice Lispector, (List Price: $17.95, New Directions, 9780811229609, September 2022)
Reviewed by Conor Hultman, Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi
In this Greek-inspired fantasy, the adult debut of Wilder Girls author Rory Power, families rule with the power of saints or gods, and siblings find themselves on opposing sides of a brewing war. The world building was very unique and interesting to me, and I would recommend for fans of court politics in their fantasy.
In a Garden Burning Gold by Rory Power, (List Price: $27, Del Rey, 9780593354971, May 2022)
A wonderfully bent fairy tale from T. Kingfisher, the princess is not out to marry the prince, instead she’s out to kill him for his sins.This is a darker-than-usual Kingfisher title–the wit and sharp writing is there, but usual laughs she provides aren’t nor should they be. This is not a story where laughter would be right. It’s a story about endurance and necessity in a situation where there’s precious little to laugh about. Highly recommended dark fantasy for the genre-savvy who want their fairy tale with blood and bite to it.
Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher, (List Price: $25.99, Tor Books, 9781250244048, April 2022)
“Unlike most of my work, Apples turned up in my head whole one day a few years back. I knew exactly where it was headed, how I’d get there, and how I’d wreck the neighborhood on the way there before I ever touched one letter on my keyboard.”–Cathrynne M. Valente (My Favorite Bit)
The newest book by the prolific and much-beloved Catherynne Valente is described as a thriller, a horror story, and a fairy tale. But more detailed descriptions are delibertately lacking. That was intentional: “It has such a massive twist that we’ve worked so hard not to spoil in the lead-up to its release (and reviewers have kindly helped out!)”
The story centers around Sophia, who is a happy housewife with the perfect husband living in a gated community she loves. Until one day she discovers what looks like the tip of a human finger when she is cleaning her house. Suddenly, Sophia’s perfect life seems not quite so perfect.
The conspiracy of silence around the plot and its twists has not prevented a rising chorus of surprised delight from Valente’s readers. Valente has written across multiple genres and formats, including the recently released speculative climate-change graphic novel The Past is Red, which was a recent Read This Next! selection by Southern booksellers. Her work, as an interviewer for Gridmark Magazine notes, includes stories of myth and superheroes, science fiction and fantasy, comedy and horror, and both middle-grade and adult.
“It’s very important to me to always be trying something new,” says Valente, “pushing the edges of my skill level”
What booksellers are saying about Comfort Me With Apples
As crisp and delicious as its namesake, with an equally rotten core. Catherynne M. Valente continues to be one of the most creative, diabolical, and insightful writers of our time. ― Jenny Luper from Page 158 Books in Wake Forest, NC Buy from Bookmarks
Small and delicious, more thrilling than thriller. Valente’s prose is gorgeous and strange. I caught the mystery halfway through the narrative, which didn’t lessen any of this little novel’s power. For that witch in your life, or for a woman you know that needs to be reminded of her own ancient worth. ― Aimee Keeble from Main Street Books in Davidson, NC Buy from Main Street Books
What a creepy delight this short book was! Valente’s masterful prose creates a sense of suspense and unease that permeates the whole book– we know something is amiss, however, it isn’t until the very end that we understand who and what the threat really is. Comfort Me With Apples is like if The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bible combined and made one twisted new story. ― Jessica Baker from Bookmarks in Winston-Salem, NC Buy from Bookmarks
Yowza, this book! I don’t really know how to classify it – sort of horror, sort of sci-fi, sort of a class of its own. A retelling of Adam and Eve, but with a cast of Stepford-like characters, this packs a lot of wildness in just over 100 pages. Apples truly is difficult to describe without giving anything away so trust me – just read it. ― Andrea Richardson from Fountain Books in Richmond, VA Buy from Fountain Bookstore
About Catherynne M. Valente
Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of over two dozen works of fiction and poetry, including Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, and Hugo awards, as well as the Prix Imaginales. Valente has also been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with a small but growing menagerie of beasts, some of which are human.
Bolu Babalola’s prose had me enraptured from the very first page! The artful way that she rewove and spun myths from around the world was absolutely masterful, and I enjoyed reading fresh takes on stories that I knew, while also having the opportunity to encounter stories that I wasn’t familiar with at all. LOVE IN COLOR is for anyone who is constantly in awe of the power of love, and also for anyone who may need to be reminded of it.
Love in Color by Bolu Babalola (List Price: $25.99, William Morrow, 9780063078499, 4/13/2021)