Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: Beach Read by Emily Henry

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is the ultimate summer beach book, ironically (and I love it) titled Beach Read by Emily Henry!

January is a romance novelist, and a fairly successful one at that. But she no longer believes in love after her beloved father passed away and she found out he’d been cheating on her mom, and he left her his beach house on Lake Michigan, where he saw the other woman. This is a real problem, because January has an impending deadline but her novel isn’t coming together, and she’s out of money. So she heads to her dad’s love nest to take the summer to finish her novel and pack up the house to sell it. She gets a major shock when she arrives and discovers her next-door-neighbor is none other than Gus, her college rival and celebrated literary fiction novelist. Their re-acquaintance borders on antagonistic, but when she learns that he’s also struggling with his book, they decide to challenge each other to swap genres for the summer and see what happens.

I think for the rest of time, as soon as it is summer I will be asking people if they’ve picked up Beach Read yet–it was one of those rare books that hooked me from the first page and kept me absolutely riveted until the very end. Yes, it’s a romance novel, and I think romance novels rock, but it’s got prickly characters who’ve been deeply hurt and big discussions on love, relationships, family, and how you connect with people that should appeal to anyone, no matter what your go-to genre may be. This book is also genuinely funny–it’s set in a small, fictional Lake Michigan town and populated with hilarious characters who surprise and delight you, and January herself has a cutting sense of humor as she reckons with a version of her history that she realizes was never true. I also love the setting, but I admit that I am biased–I grew up and currently live about an hour away from Lake Michigan and yes, the beaches really are sandy, there are waves, and no, you cannot see Wisconsin from the shore, so it feels like being at the ocean but without the salt or sharks. Everything about this book felt so true and genuine to me, from the big questions about how to make relationships work to the funny details about what it’s like to be a writer. Don’t sleep on this book. You won’t be sorry you read it!

Happy reading, and if you hit the beach this summer, don’t forget your sunscreen!

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is one of my favorite spy thriller books of recent years, Who is Vera Kelly? by Rosalie Knecht!

Content warning: homophobia, but I don’t recall anything else!

Vera Kelly is a bit of an enigma. In her mid-twenties, she’s working for the CIA in Buenos Aires in the 1960s, and the political climate is tense. But her job is relatively mellow–she passes time undercover as a student, tries to befriend the more radical student groups, and transcribes secretly tapped telephone conversations. But then a political coup throws the city in chaos and the CIA withdraws from the country without extracting her. Vera’s cover is blown and she’s left without a way home, with enemies closing in on all sides.

There are so many reasons why I love this book. First off, Vera is queer! Her story is a dual timeline narrative, alternating between her time in Argentina and her young adulthood years, starting with when her mother catches her acting a bit too amorous with her high school best friend. This ensuing fallout definitely shapes Vera’s worldview, and sets her on a long path to the CIA. Which brings me to setting–I love that this is a spy story set in the latter half of the twentieth century that isn’t about how bad the Soviets are. Yes, the Cold War had a huge impact on politics and culture, especially in the ’60s, but let’s not forget that the CIA was meddling in South America an awful lot, and the U.S. was not always the good guy there.

And on that note–this is a spy story that’s a little quirky. It doesn’t gloss over the boring, mundane aspects of spy work, nor does it romanticize the danger and action. Vera is no queer lady Jason Bourne (although if anyone wants to write me that story, PLEASE), but she is a smart, unconventional, determined heroine who is trying to survive the best she can. She’s not mercenary, nor is she a committed patriot–which makes sense, considering that she knows she’d be fired if her handlers knew about her sexuality. Because of who she is, Vera has the unique perspective of being critical and grateful to the CIA at the same time.

This is the perfect pick for people who can’t handle or don’t want to read a lot of violence or sexual assault, because this book doesn’t get very dark. There are some really great action moments, some heartbreaking scenes in Vera’s past, but underneath it all, a dry sense of humor that I couldn’t get enough of!

Bonus: The sequel, Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery just came out last month! It’s about what Vera does after the events of this book, and it’s already one of my favorite books of 2020! All my fingers crossed that Rosale Knecht will write more Vera books!

Happy reading!

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

Hello, I am back in your inbox after a week off due to the Fourth of July weekend, and I am so excited about this week’s pick, which totally embodies summer shenanigans and fun–The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon.

Caleb and his brother Bobby Gene never go anywhere, which is why they have to make their own fun at home. After a misadventure involving trading their baby sister to a neighborhood boy who always wanted a sister in exchange for a bag of fireworks, the brothers meet an older boy named Styx Malone. Styx tells them about the Great Escalator Trade–trading up smaller things for something worth slightly more, until you can get something you really want. Before they know it, the boys have set their sights on a motorized scooter–but Caleb and Bobby Gene are breaking their parents’ rules to get the trades they need.

This middle grade adventure will definitely appeal to fans of Christopher Paul Curtis for its laugh out loud humor and hijinks, and careful examination of larger, more serious social issues. Readers will be all in from the beginning with Caleb’s earnest an humorous narration about wanting something more out of his life than just sticking around home–he doesn’t want to be ordinary. Styx seems like a ticket to adventure, to fun, and to making his mark, and the slow reveal that Styx might be in over his head is masterful, leading to some lies, betrayals, and big revelations about why Caleb and his family stick so close to home all the time–it has to do with his dad’s fear that Caleb and Bobby Gene might be seen as a threat anywhere outside their small town. Most kids might not make the clear connection between Caleb’s dad’s fear and the tremendous loss of Black life in America, but the subtlety is what’s so brilliant about this book.

This is a novel about three Black boys having adventures, scheming their next trade, and getting into a little bit of trouble, but it’s not a book about tragedy. The characters don’t exist in a vacuum; their story is about finding fun and joy, learning that each person has something extraordinary inside of them, and that sometimes adults let you down, but the good ones are just trying to keep you safe.

With so much attention being given to books about anti-racism, please remember to pick up books about Black joy, too! This is an excellent pick, plus the audiobook was so much fun!

Happy reading,

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

Before we get into this week’s pick, I wanted to let you know that Book Riot is running a short reader survey! Tell us more about yourself and potentially win an ereader! It’ll only take a few minutes and you can see the questions and giveaway details at bookriot.com/2020survey.

Now, to wrap up Pride Month, I picked one of my absolute favorite books of the year so far: The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune!

Content warning: Talk of past child abuse/neglect (nothing graphic)

Linus is a caseworker with the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s thorough, impartial, and his reports are always meticulous. But his personal life is rather lacking, and he dreams of taking a vacation to the sea. When his good work catches the attention of Extremely Upper Management, they assign him a case that throws his entire life upside down. Linus is sent to the seaside, where an orphanage on a nearby island is in need of an evaluation. Six highly unusual children live there with their caretaker, Arthur, and it’s Linus’s job to ensure they’re being well looked-after. But this island holds secrets that could jeopardize their future, and Linus will learn that Arthur is determined to keep his makeshift family together, no matter what he may think of them.

I love the whimsical world building and sense of humor in this book! It makes the story feel like a contemporary fairy tale, and it made me love Linus from the very start. This book is a wonderful journey in which Linus must open his eyes to see that the world contains so much more than he has ever imagined–and that’s a bit scary at first. Mainly because kids he’s meant to evaluate are unlike any he’s ever met, and some of them are still struggling with the effects of adult neglect and prejudice. But Linus must learn to sit with his discomfort and be open to listening and witnessing differences, and along the way he sees how hearts and minds can change. The cast of characters is so imaginative, and the shenanigans that the kids get up to had me laughing out loud in certain parts. The romance that eventually blossoms between Linus and Arthur is sweet and subtle, and so the focus of this book is more on found-family and learning to stand up for the marginalized. If you need a really happy read that will make you laugh and cheer, I promise you this book is just the thing!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

The Last Place You Look cover imageThis week’s pick is one of my favorite mysteries starring a bisexual PI, The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka!

Content warning: kidnapping, talk of rape, some violence

Roxane Weary is a bisexual PI grieving her cop dad’s death. She’s broke, she drinks too much, and she is way too dependent on her dad’s former partner. When a woman asks Roxane to look into her brother’s case one last time before his scheduled execution, Roxane agrees reluctantly. She needs the money, but she doesn’t believe there is anything more to dig up on a ten-year-old murder case. But as she slowly emerges from her haze of grief to examine the facts of the case, Roxane realizes that certain things may have been overlooked, and she starts getting pushback on very simple questions. She begins to suspect that there might be something weird going on–and her father’s department might be covering up the truth.

This is a fantastic start to great mystery series (four books and counting) about a tough and sarcastic PI with a great heart. Roxane is a good detective with great instincts, and her connections to the police allow her to make good traction while working slightly outside of the law. This first novel is a whopper of a case–you have an old murder mystery, a Black man who is charged with the crime because of his proximity to the victims, and the growing suspicion that there’s a lot more to this case than first appears. The action is excellent, and it builds to one really explosive ending.

Roxane isn’t at a great place at the start of the series, but she really grows and develops as the series progresses. What I also appreciate about these mysteries is that each one has some really excellent subplots–usually another smaller mystery, some family drama, and relationship woes. Roxane dates both men and women, but her character subverts a lot of tropes, and she’s just so capable and sardonic that you can’t help but want more. Read the books in order, because I promise you’ll care just as much about Roxane’s life as you will about the mysteries she solves. Start with The Last Place You Look, and follow it up with What You Want to See, The Stories You Tell, and Once You Go This Far.

Bonus: The first three books are out now, and the fourth hits shelves next month! Read them now and get caught up in time for the new release!

Happy reading,

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: Cantoras by Carolina de Robertiis

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

cantorasContinuing our LGBTQ+ readathon for Pride Month, this week’s pick is Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis.

Content warning: sexual assault, conversion therapy, homophobia, talk of political torture and violence

Today, Uruguay is one of the most egalitarian of South American countries. It was the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2013, and it has a large middle class. But this wasn’t always the case. This novel opens in the 1970s, only a few years into a military dictatorship, and follows five women who live in the capital, Montevideo. Anita, Flaca, Romina, Malena, and Paz all discover one another and recognize that they are cantoras, women who love other women. To escape the oppressive environment of the city for a week, they head to a small town on the coast, where they camp on the beach and feel the most free they’ve ever been. They decide to buy a shack there, and over the next ten years that place becomes their refuge from the world as their relationships shift, but their friendship remains.

This is a really eye-opening and incredible book that looks at what life was like under the dictatorship, not just for queer people, but for anyone who dissented. The friendship between these five women is powerful, and they support and love each other like no other. For them, finding their refuge is an awakening to their identities, and they can explore who they might want to be when no one is looking. The effects of these discoveries are felt throughout nearly every aspect of their lives when they return home–relationships are broken off, new lovers are found, political callings are discovered, and new careers are forged. The author also examines how the dictatorship absolutely ruins lives–one woman in this group is never able to process what happened to her as a young woman, and is not given the space to heal while she must remain vigilant against drawing any attention to herself. There are moments of deep sadness and tragedy, but the book ends on such a bittersweet note, reminding readers of how hard LGBTQ+ people have fought for their rights and just how far we’ve come in a few short decades. I can’t think of a better book to read for Pride month.

Bonus: This book just came out in paperback last week, so be sure to pick up a copy!

Happy reading,

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

June is Pride Month, and I’d like to spend this month focusing on books written by LGBTQ+ writers about the LGBTQ+ experience. Of course, we can’t do that without acknowledging that the LGBTQ+ rights movement was led by trans women of color, and Black citizens are still fighting for their rights today. That’s why this week’s pick is an excellent novel by a Black trans writer whose work I admire a lot: Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender.

Content warning: mental health and suicide discussion, homophobia

In this middle grade novel, Caroline Murphy lives on the U.S. Virgin Islands, and attends school on St. Thomas. She hates school because she’s bullied by the other kids for being different–she was born during a hurricane (which is bad luck), her mother left without any explanation, and she sees a spirit that follows her wherever she goes. Caroline is lonely, but when Kalinda moves from Barbados to St. Thomas, Caroline makes her first real friend. It’s not long before Caroline realizes that her feelings for Kalinda are more than platonic, but same-sex relationships and attractions are frowned upon on their island. Just as Caroline reaches her breaking point, she decides to search for her mother, and heads out in the middle of a hurricane.

This is such a beautifully written story about what it means to be an outsider in your own home, and how one girl finds the strength to keep asking questions, and ultimately figure out how to be comfortable in her own identity. The descriptions of Caroline’s home are beautifully written, and are just as textured and lush as the gorgeous book cover. Although Callender doesn’t shy away from some of the big issues that Caroline’s journey touches upon, such as discussions of mental health and suicide ideation, and incidents of (nonviolent) homophobia, this book doesn’t feel depressing or heavy. Caroline’s journey to discover where her mother went is eye-opening, transformative, a little heartbreaking, but ultimately triumphant because along the way, Caroline discovers her own strength and her best friend is with her every step of the way. I loved the combination of magic and self-discovery in this book, and I hope you’ll pick it up (and continue to support books by queer Black writers this month, and every other month of the year).

Happy reading, and happy Pride!

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram.

Content warning: depression, discussion of suicide, bullying

Darius the Great is Not Okay is a memorable book about Darius, an Iranian-American teen who loves tea, lives with depression, and struggles with feeling like he’s “enough” no matter where he goes. When the book begins, Darius is being bullied at school and his white dad doesn’t seem to know what to do about it. The lack of empathy is frustrating for Darius because his dad is the only other one in the family also taking medication for clinical depression, so Darius thinks he’d understand how hard life can be. Then the family receives word that Darius’s maternal grandfather, who lives in Iran, is sick. The family drops everything and travels across the world, and Darius and his little sister meet his mother’s extended family in person for the first time. In Iran, Darius finds more reasons to stick out–at home, he’s too Persian, and here he’s too American. But he also meets Sohrab, a boy his age who lives next door to his grandparents, and in Sohrab, Darius finds his first real friend.

This book is surprisingly funny amidst all of its soul-searching and family angst, and Darius is a winning protagonist. He’s warm and sensitive, inquisitive and funny, vulnerable and so honest. I adored his love of tea, how he loves his little sister, and his bravery in connecting with people in a new place. This book also offers a great perspective on mental illness–at the beginning of the book, Darius’s depression is managed responsibly with medication, and a lot of his hang ups have to do with his relationship with his dad, who seems so distant to Darius that he refers to him by his first name. The mental illness discussion is further explored when Darius discovers that his Persian family views mental illness very differently, and he has to rely on what he knows to be true about his depression–that it’s manageable with medication–in order to stay strong. The friendship angle is so delightful. It doesn’t quite verge into the territory of romance, but the deep understanding that Darius and Sohrab share is uplifting and allows Darius to learn to be okay with who he is, and who he isn’t. This is a YA book, but I recommend it for fans of great family stories that get to the heart of cultural differences, mental illness, and what it means to find self-acceptance. It’s also great for readers who loved Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Bonus: I listened to the audio, and it was narrated wonderfully by Michael Levi Harris. Plus, a sequel is on the horizon! Darius the Great Deserves Better will hit shelves on August, so now’s the time to read this great book!

Happy reading!

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

Girls Made of Snow and GlassThis week’s pick is Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust.

Content warning: None that I can recall!

Calling all fairy tale retelling fans! This is one of the best Snow White tales that I’ve ever read. Mina is a young woman with a heart of glass–her sorcerer father replaced her real heart and she grew up unaware, until one fateful day when she realizes just how different she is from other people. When her father secures them a place at court, Mina becomes convinced that she’s incapable of love, so the next best thing is being loved–so she’ll make the king fall for her. But marrying the king means becoming a stepmother to Lynet, the young princess.

Lynet has grown up in the shadow of her dead mother, pampered and over-protected when all she wants to do is run and explore. She adores no one more than her beautiful stepmother Mina, but when her father makes Lynet queen of the Southern Territories–where Mina is from–and then suffers a tragic accident, she sees that her stepmother is full of anger and hate, and she must flee her only home in order to survive.

This is a beautifully told, magical book about discovering who you truly are, and learning to be at peace with what you find. The fantasy world is also lush and intriguing, from a northern kingdom that’s destined to live in ice and snow, to a beautiful and exciting southern territory with universities, people, and exciting new opportunities. Bashardoust also rejects the idea of a prince character altogether, and instead creates a fascinating female surgeon who is keen to study medicine, and who intrigues Lynet to no end–it’s not much of a spoiler to say there’s a blossoming romance there! I loved how neither of the main characters is perfect–Mina’s guiding belief is that she’s unlovable, so she neglects to see just how much Lynet truly loves her, and Lynet believes that she’s destined to be just like her dead mother, failing to understand how she can bravely forge her own path. Bashardoust subverts the evil stepmother archetype by giving her a backstory and making her lovable, even if she doesn’t think she is, and the resolution to this story is so memorable that I can’t think of Snow White the same way ever again.

Bonus: The audiobook performance by Jennifer Ikeda is excellent, but I’m torn–I think I would love to experience this novel in print, since the language is beautiful and worth lingering over! Plus, look for Bashardoust’s newest fantasy book, based on Persian mythology, Girl, Serpent, Thorn out in July!

Happy reading!

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book: The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

Welcome to Read This Book, a weekly newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.

Content warning: Talk of genocide, alcoholism, sexual abuse/rape, brutality

I’ve not read Louise Erdrich’s entire (extensive!) backlist, but I picked up her newest book recently and I was completely blown away. Set in 1953 on the Turtle Mountain Reservation, this book follows Thomas, a night watchman, and Patrice, a young woman looking for her sister. Thomas guards the local jewel bearing plant at night, where he has plenty of time to correspond with various members of the Chippewa Nation as part of his job as council member. When he learns that Congress wants to revoke their treaties under the guise of setting the people “free” and selling their land out from under them, Thomas is alarmed and knows they must fight it. Patrice works at the plant, but her worries are a bit more personal–she’s scared for her older sister, who moved to Minneapolis and hasn’t contacted her since. Thomas and Patrice’s stories intertwine with others in their community as Thomas looks for a way to fight for their treaties, and Patrice’s eyes are opened to the dangers beyond her world.

All of Erdrich’s books are powerful, but this one especially took my breath away. She does such a brilliant job of setting the scene and she effortlessly contextualized so many historical events within the narrative. The people living on Turtle Mountain in the 1950s aren’t that far removed from the genocide and violence that first arrived on their land in the 19th century, and many of the young characters are survivors of the government schools. The phantoms of the past haunt the characters both literally and figuratively throughout the novel as they figure out how to keep living, even as the federal government wants to wash their hands of them. One thing that never fails to impress me about Erdrich’s writing is how she can write about such atrocities with a perfectly measured magical touch, so that you know exactly what she’s talking about without her ever having to spell it out for you, and as a result you feel what the characters are experiencing rather than simply absorb the facts of countless cruelties. This is a really powerful book that explores the past, but is a good reminder that these struggles aren’t over–they just keep repeating themselves.

Bonus: I listened to the audiobook version, which is narrated by Louise Erdrich herself, and it was a fantastic experience.

Happy reading,

Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.