Welcome to Margaret's staff recommendations
From debut author Brian D Kennedy, A Little Bit Country not only gives us a sweet-as-can-be love story that will rival any ballad on the radio but also a much-needed look into what it means to love country. The book is set in Wanda World, a country music theme park owned by one of the biggest superstars in the industry. Emmett, an openly gay country singer is working there for the summer in the hopes that he will leave with a record deal. Luke, who comes from a struggling home with bad ties to country music, is only there for the paycheck. When the two meet, sparks will fly, and unexpected family secrets will come out of the closet. The characters are well written - they care for and accept the other even when they are unable to relate and struggle to make good decisions despite the tough situations they are put in. With an ending that left me elated and wondering how I didn't see that coming, I couldn't put this book down. To all those who are gay and love country music, an industry that doesn't always love you back for that, A Little Bit Country gives a nice sense of hope for the future.
A cute, funny new rom com in a high fantasy world inspired by D&D is here in the form of So This is Ever After, by F.T. Lukens. You ever wonder what happens directly after the villain is defeated and the screen fades to black? Our hero hadn’t thought that far ahead either. But now the evil king is dead, the prophecy fulfilled, and Arek the farm boy is suddenly in charge of ruling a kingdom. To make things even more ridiculous (due to a fine print spell that came with taking the throne) Arek now has three months to fall in love and create a soul-bond with a co-ruler. Or die. With adorable attempted-wooing and giggle-inducing jabs at high fantasy tropes, I sped through this book in one sitting. Not only is it a romance for the ages, but the secondary plotlines of the side characters and the actual politics and infrastructural fixing of the kingdom were a pleasant surprise that made the book all the better. This is one rom com I will forever keep on my bookshelf and lend out to the next friend who throws their scholarly textbook tome on the ground and says, “oh my god, I just want something fun!”
Compelling and personal, Grace D Li’s Portrait of a Thief tells the tale of five Chinese American college students as they confront the meaning of identity and attempt to pull off a heist that will shake the world. Will Chen, an art history major at Harvard, and four of his friends are offered a dangerous opportunity from a wealthy Chinese businesswoman - steal back art that was stolen from China, which western museums refuse to return. Li keeps the action rolling as the heist is pulled off and yet is able to explore each of the five friends’ motivations for agreeing to this lucrative deal. The characters are motivated by their place in the Chinese American diaspora, yet each has their own complicated relationship with their heritage. As the children of immigrants or immigrants themselves, they grapple between what is expected of them and what they want as the try to do the impossible and shape history in the process.
Suspenseful and intriguing, Never Saw Me Coming had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. Usually in horror stories, the psychopaths are the ones we run away from, the ones waving the knife. It’s true for this book too, but with a twist – the unfeeling villains are in fact the narrators. The main story follows Chloe Sevre, certified psychopath getting a free ride to college by participating in a psychology study on people like her. It's a stroke of luck for Chloe, because the college hosting the program is the same college that the boy she is planning to kill attends. As Chloe plots “the accident,” however, someone else is plotting murder, too - and Chloe and her fellow psychopaths are the intended victims. The narrators aren’t exactly the good guys here, but as the book goes on and plot twists abound, you find yourself rooting for them anyways. A thriller of a different kind that kept me hooked!
Amidst the clashing viewpoints and lifestyles of 1970s America one teen girl tries to make sense of it all and find out who she wants to be in Mary Jane. The story opens on a 14-year-old girl from a straight-laced, conservative family whose worldview is shaken when she takes a summer nanny job for a doctor. Expecting a family much like her own, Mary Jane is surprised and strangely delighted when the Cones turn out to be a bohemian, openly amorous, rock n' roll couple with a free-spirited 5-year-old. On top of it all, a rock star and his famous wife are living in the attic as the doctor helps the rocker recover from his drug addiction. Throughout the summer, Mary Jane encounters and embraces new music, new clothes, and a new way of looking at herself and what she wants to be, all while inadvertently helping the Cone family and their guests grow as well. A wonderful read about found families and finding yourself - this is already one of my favorites of the year!
Surrealist humor meets monotonous office life in the new book Several People Are Typing. Written in the form of instant messenger conversations, this book had me laughing in disbelief at the absurd and unexplained happenings at this company. Each employee has their own problems, ranging from the mundane to the hilariously insane, but none more so than Gerald - who accidentally uploaded his consciousness into the firm's slack server. But who cares, because his productivity is suddenly through the roof now that he doesn't need to eat or sleep, so does he really have it that bad? With constant, sourceless howling, frighteningly illegible emoji conversations, missing briefs, and a growing sentience in the app's help Bot, Kasulke exaggerates the average American office to seem as crazy as it sometimes feels like in this wonderfully deranged novel.
For all the romance fans that fell head over heels for Red White and Royal Blue, get ready - Casey McQuiston's latest will have you in love all over again. One Last Stop follows August, a practical college student new to NYC with no patience for the 'magic' the city has to offer. That all changes when she meets the mysterious Jane on the subway. Jane is an outgoing, music loving, gay lib punk that acts like she walked straight out of the 1970s - which is not far from the truth. August's subway crush turns out to be trapped in time on the Q train, unable to step off and removed from her original decade. With a menagerie of new friends, including a frog bone sculptor, a hipster psychic, and an army of Brooklyn's finest drag queens, August finds herself breaking out of her shell as she works to get Jane home - but how can she say goodbye to the girl that has her heart? Filled with witty dialogue, beautifully detailed scenes, and music that will have you dancing on the table, Casey McQuiston once again gives us a couple to root for and a book to read again and again.
A fun-loving galactic prince and a duty-bound diplomat are suddenly thrust together in this gripping tale of sci-fi thrills, political conspiracy, and royal scandal. As someone nowhere close to inheriting the interplanetary throne, Prince Keim paid absolutely no attention to politics. That is, until his cousin - a royal ambassador to the planet Thea - turns up dead just months before the signing of an important treaty. Suddenly, Keim is now the new ambassador to a planet he knows nothing about, and is paired with Jainan, the Thean diplomat with his own past. As they sort out the treaty, their own problems, and their growing feelings, the two begin to suspect that the ambassador’s death was not just an accident, and something darker is at play at the edges of the galaxy. Written with brilliant suspense that holds you from the first chapter, Maxwell keeps you guessing at what will happen next and racing through the pages to connect the dots. Part murder mystery, part romance, and all over thrilling, this book will be your next favorite space read.
Misty, a 10-year-old living in a little Appalachian holler, has the unique ability to talk to anything around her in nature and at home. The crawdads give her comfort when her father leaves and her mother grows distant, the trees tell Misty tales when her sister stops talking to her, and even her trailer's front door promises to keep her family safe. But everything changes when the neighbor boy tries to use her powers for his own needs, and in the process he hurts Misty in a way that makes her wonder if she can ever recover. A tribute to backwoods magic that you can't claim isn't real, the pains and horrors of mistreatment at the hands of others, and growing up and healing no matter the age. Blooms puts into beautiful words one girl accepting the power she holds, both magical and natural, and the strength that every woman has even if they don’t know it.
We Ride Upon Sticks is an empowering tribute to the decade of the ‘80s, girlhood, and women of all sorts. The story follows the 1989 varsity girls field hockey team of Danvers High, ready to start another season after an impressively long losing streak. This time, however, they are going to do whatever it takes to get to States - even if it means following in the footsteps of those teen girls that lived in their town three centuries ago by dabbling in a bit of witchcraft. Told from the point of view of all the girls at once with the collective ‘We,’ Barry introduces us to each of these teen girls that signed their name in the devil’s book (which is actually just a spiral notebook with Emilio Estevez on the cover), giving us their hopes, struggles, and reasons for turning to darkness. Except, are dark forces really at work here? Or is it just the ever-constant, ever-changing ordeal of being a woman? Barry expertly weaves a tale with big hair, outrageous fashion, and rocking music without being over-the-top cheesy, giving us a story that every girl and woman has lived through while at the same time being entirely unique.
The funniest book you will ever read. for real. The same Scooby-esque shennanigans and convoluted traps/plans, but this time with more swearing. And shotguns. And ancient, all-devouring evils. READ IT.
A little bit of sci-fi, a little bit of history, and a lot of love for stories is what makes The Lost Book of Adana Moreau a truly amazing novel. Zapata weaves a tale of intertwining lives, from New Orleans to Argentina to Israel to Russia and back, all centered around the people that brought Adana Moreau’s words to life. The narrative follows Maxwell Moreau, the son of a Dominican refugee and extremely talented science fiction writer in 1930s New Orleans, and Saul Dower, a driftless young man in Chicago in 2004 who suddenly finds himself in possession of said writer’s lost manuscript. As Saul races against a hurricane to deliver the book home, Maxwell struggles to find his father and meaning in a world without his mother. Zapata skillfully bounces back and forth between the stories of these two men and everyone they come in contact with, showcasing a wide variety of refugees and people, without making the narrative overwhelming and confusing. He pays tribute to science fiction and quantum physics by touching on the vast amounts of universes found right in front of us; everyone has a story to tell, everyone is a parallel universe unto themselves, and history is only relative to those that still remember.
Younge-Ullman delivers a stunning young adult novel about sex, sexual harassment, power, and realizing when enough is enough. Libby is our high school senior heroine, dealing with harassment in more points of her life than she thinks. Her father, an astoundingly aggressive and selfish man bulldozing over the family, drops the double bomb on Libby that a) he spent all her college money, and b) he is going to turn their house into a B&B, making Libby homeless in six months. Suddenly, Libby is trading dreams of college for a waitress job. She's also crushing hard on her best friend Noah, but her past hookups keeping interrupting their possible romance in her memories and flashbacks. And were those past hookups even consensual? It's no wonder that, when one of the gross customers gets a little too handsy, Libby snaps. Too bad that man she just dumped a pitcher of sangria on has half the town in his pocket, and someone was filming. Will Libby crumble under the pressure coming from all sides of her life, or will she rise to the occasion and finally stand up for herself to her friends, family, and the whole community? Taking place over the course of a week, He Must Like You shows a wonderfully real take on passive harassment, dubious consent, and straight-up jerks that women and teenage girls deal with all the time, without being too dark. A must-read for everyone
A new take on the superhero narrative – think of Super Adjacent as a less gritty, young adult version of The Boys. In this world, superheroes have become commercialized, getting money for their high-tech gear from a superhero corporation called Warrior Nation. Claire is a young fan/intern at Warrior Nation who sees the superheroes as more god-level movie stars than actual people – that is until she meets cocky yet ill-prepared new hero, Girl Power. Meanwhile, college student Bridgette has stuck by her boyfriend Vaporizer’s side through good and bad during his time as superhero, but she thinks that the sponsorships and fans are starting to mean more to Vaporizer than her wants and needs. When all the superheroes are kidnapped, however, Claire and Bridgette will have to put their heads together to save the people they love by being heroes themselves. The book switches between Claire and Bridgette’s points of view as they struggle with strained relationships, unwanted fame, upset families, and corrupt power, both super and natural. You’ll be hooked until the end with the cool concept, great writing, and the mystery of who’s behind the mask.