Cara Romero wants to work. After being laid off at the factory, Cara meets with a job counselor to help her find a new job. Told through 12 counseling sessions, Cara shares her life's story: from the Dominican Republic to Washington Heights, through marriage and motherhood, family, friends, lovers, and faith. Insightful, heartwarming, and laugh-out-loud funny, How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water is a new favorite! Grab your favorite cafe and settle in, Cara Romero is a character you will not forget.
— Jen Steele
Ogunyemi’s powerful stories center on a moment in the 1980s when four young women led a protest at their school, ending in tragedy. The stories dart forwards and backwards, to the United States and back to Nigeria, as Nonso, Remi, and Aisha navigate love, careers, racism, and the pull of Christianity and Islam against traditional Nigerian spirituality and religion. Connections are so important to this book, not just in the subtle ways that the stories fit together, making me feel like a literary detective, but in the strong bonds of friendship that connect these wonderful women.
— Daniel Goldin
Hannah looks like an ordinary young woman, which is a great advantage in her profession as a bodyguard. Dumped by her boyfriend/coworker the day after her mother's funeral, she's determined stay professional and prove herself to her boss - but then she gets assigned to Jack Stapleton. You know him, of course - twice voted sexiest man alive, blockbuster movie actor, and recently the subject of a death threat or two. With his mother's health in question, Hannah has no choice but to pretend to be Jack's girlfriend in order both keep him safe and not worry his family. Now she just has to do her job... and guard her heart. What a thoroughly charming book this is! Hannah's matter-of-fact voice is so funny that I could listen to her talk about security and guns all day, and Jack is so wonderfully quirky (always misses when throwing away trash, does tricks on horseback) that I couldn't help but fall for him along with Hannah. Center's writing style is super charming and adorably weird (there's a character named Dog House!); I was laughing the whole time.
— Rachel Copeland
Moreno-Garcia imagines a somewhat kinder Island of Dr. Moreau set in 19th century Yucatán. A wealthy Mexican landowner finances an estate, labs, and materials for Dr. Moreau, whose job is to create hybrid human/animals to replace unruly Mayan laborers. Twenty years later, Dr. Moreau has two modestly successful hybrids who are his daughter’s playmates and best friends; all other hybrids are seriously defective and unable to work. Moreau’s financer loses his patience just as Carlota turns 18, throwing everyone on the estate into jeopardy. This fascinating, fast paced, genre-defying novel will appeal to readers of thrillers, horror, gothic fiction, romance, and even sci-fi.
— Kay Wosewick
Silvia Garcia-Moreno does it again! This time we're transported to 19th century Mexico, in the lush Yucatan peninsula. You feel the suffocating heat of the land, the burn of the alcohol, the desire of a getaway, and the chill on the back of your neck that something is not right. The Daughter of Doctor Moreau is the captivating historical fiction read that you need this summer!
— Jen Steele
For some romance readers, every time we crack open a historical romance, we hope to find a spiritual successor to Pride and Prejudice. I would like to humbly submit that perhaps Sophie Irwin has managed to produce this holy grail: a novel of manners that brings the Regency era to life for a modern audience. After the deaths of her parents, Kitty Talbot has one option to save herself and her four sisters from destitution: she has to marry a man, the richer the better. When a chance encounter lands Kitty and her sister Cecily in the good graces of the de Lacy family, an advantageous match seems inevitable - until the elder de Lacy, Lord Radcliffe, returns to find his younger brother infatuated with a rank upstart. Today's readers can find much to relate to - wealth disparity isn't exactly a thing of the past, after all - while still enjoying nods to a bygone era. Make yourself a cup of tea - this is a story to savor.
— Rachel Copeland
Sibling Dex and Mosscap continue their soul-searching quest in A Prayer for the Crown-Shy. Like the first book, A Psalm for the Wild-Built, our beloved characters have unanswered questions. As they journey across Panga, Mosscap is ready to meet humans and find out what they need. There’s a profound calm in reading the Monk & Robot series. Full of humor and quiet thoughtfulness, Becky Chambers exquisitely delivers an elegant philosophical fantasy.
— Jen Steele
Logan Ramsey is attempting to live a life that makes up for his Mom's ultimate failure, which caused a massive famine and killed millions. Twenty years later, he is part of a government organization that hunts down scientists and others modifying DNA. On a mission to recover an illegal package which they think contains altered DNA of some form, Logan is caught in a bomb blast. The blast introduces a virus into his system that begins changing his DNA. Logan's life is about to turn upside down as he must flee from family and friends for their safety. Blake Crouch uses this novel as a platform to express our collective anxiety of the future of homo sapiens and Earth. The science is fascinating as always with his books, and the dire warnings are completely well researched and accurate. Another blast of a book from Blake Crouch.
— Jason Kennedy
Crouch has outdone himself. Upgrade is masterful story about a tiny group of people illegally testing massive genetic alterations on a few people - without their knowledge. You’ll fly through this book, gaining insight into faults in our thinking, sensing the elation of having a perfect body, and perhaps vicariously feeling the power of thinking deeply about multiple complex subjects at once. The scope and depth of Crouch’s research is the engine that makes Upgrade feel vividly real.
— Kay Wosewick
Not only is Upgrade a fast-paced thriller, but author Blake Crouch takes a deep dive into the science of DNA. Since I find our genetic code fascinating, I couldn’t put this novel down. Main character Logan answered for the catastrophic destruction unleashed on our planet by his scientist mother, and he served time in prison following her death. After his release, several decades in our future, he’s a detective investigating labs suspected of modifying DNA, which has become illegal. When a mysterious virus targets him specifically, he recovers to find he’s now an upgraded version of homo sapien, with increased strength and speed and the ability to recall everything he’s ever read and process new information instantly. Who did this to him and why? The answer seems to lie with his sister, who also received an upgrade. They’ve seemingly been handed the task of saving humanity from a decimated planet, but along with these skills comes an ability to think critically without letting emotion guide them. So much of this book is food for thought. Perhaps the biggest question of all: if saving our species means giving up what makes us distinctly human, is it worth the price?
— Jenny Chou
Chen's take on the life of Joan of Arc richly imagines a complicated young woman behind the legendary historical figure; not the martyr or the saint, but the girl who lived. Reading this felt like being at Joan's side, let in on her perspective and motives as she makes her way from a childhood of survival-mode to the height of French military leadership, growing into the formidable warrior we remember. I especially appreciated Joan's voice and inner thoughts, delivered in such a way that she read like a real person. This may be my favorite retelling of Joan of Arc's story!
— Oli Schmitz
2022 is shaping up to be an excellent year for time travel novels. Literally one super-star read after another, and as I write this, it's only February. In This Time Tomorrow, Emma Straub's take on the time-travel twist, we don’t need to understand the science behind main character Alice’s journeys to her past, just her motivations for going back to age sixteen - first accidentally and then on purpose. At the start of the book, she’s forty, and it’s apparent that Alice is not living her best life. Her father, the most important person in her life, is dying, and everyone else is caught up in the chaos of their own life or is just dull background noise in Alice’s. So, when the opportunity arises, Alice tries to rearrange her present-day life over and over again from the springboard of her sixteenth birthday. Fixing certain problems often leads to bigger problems and lots of laughs for the reader, but the heartbeat of the novel is Alice’s relationship with her dad. Her longing to somehow adjust his path by changing her actions gives This Time Tomorrow a sense of poignancy and tenderness. Trust me, you’re going to fall in love with Alice and the people who stumble in and out of her life over the course of this absolutely delightful book.
— Jenny Chou
On her fortieth birthday, with her life in a holding pattern, Alice Stern inadvertently spends the night in the guard house of her father’s Upper West Side co-op and finds herself back at the age of 16 with so many of her life decisions ahead of her. Most notably, her father, author of the legendary Time Brothers novel, is alive and well and no longer facing the end of his life in a hospital bed. Can Alice change her own life’s trajectory in 24 hours? Should she? After reading this alternatingly whimsical and poignant but always delightful story, I am convinced that every writer, whatever their chosen genre, should write a time travel novel. The reading world will be better for it!
— Daniel Goldin
After reading Sea of Tranquility, a novel that veers from a hundred years in the past to almost 300 in the future, I wondered if a new reader to Emily St John Mandel would love it as much as I did. I decided they would, with a caveat that they might have to stop everything and read the author’s previous novels. But for folks who’ve read Station Eleven and The Great Hotel, with both references that tie the story together and laugh-out-loud meta-commentary (you’ll know it when you get to it), the rewards are mind-blowing.
— Daniel Goldin
I'm trying to understand why Mandel's writing casts a spell on me. I don’t have a complete answer, but I’ve decided on this: her style is steady and beautiful, she’s smart without sounding pretentious, and her characters feel true. There's a flesh and blood intimacy about them that makes me feel safe in their world, even as we’re brought to the edge of catastrophe. When tragedy comes, I want to face it with these fictional people. This novel builds on The Glass Hotel (which I loved!) and Station Eleven (which I now must read!). It brings the past and future together as if connections across time are waiting to be discovered. It throws our reality into doubt by questioning how we came to be, and it shows us that technology will never hide our humanity. I’ll forgo the summary and just say that Mandel has created a dazzling story with humble simplicity, then tied it tight with a perfect ending.
— Tim McCarthy
As humans, what do we really want in life? You can probably think of lots of things, but I’m going to guess that connections with others are definitely in the top three. Besides her brilliantly crafted sentences, the sometimes significant, sometimes small ways her characters and her books connect to each other make Emily St. John Mandel’s books unforgettable and so compelling. The Sea of Tranquility is her best yet for tying together some loose ends that I didn’t even realize were loose. I loved revisiting characters from previous books in timelines that sometimes cross one another but often run in parallel universes. It’s not a spoiler for either book to say that Mandel’s novel Station Eleven appears in The Sea of Tranquility as a novel written by one of the characters. The most significant connection of this fictional author’s life is made on a book tour to promote it. And if you are like me, the beauty of the ending will make you cry. All that said, these connections are bits of joy implanted in the book. You don’t need to have read previous titles. The Sea of Tranquility will keep you up reading late into night, and you’ll carry the story in your thoughts as you go about your day, constantly checking the time, waiting for the minute you can return to Emily St. John Mandel’s exquisitely built world.
— Jenny Chou
This book was one of the most stunning ways to begin 2021. I absolutely love this book. First, this is my only (but surely not the last) experience with Matt Haig’s writing. He crafts his story by masterfully taking the reader by the hand and - quite literally - jumps through time and space of the main character’s life (or, lives). The story is easy and enjoyable to follow. It was definitely a satisfying page turner that remained thought provoking even when I wasn’t reading. Second, I am a nerd for how words are strung together to convey descriptions. For example, when the reader is faced with the physical sensations of how depression grips the main character’s body, it’s some of the most beautiful yet painful sentences I’ve ever read. From what I know about the author, perhaps only someone who has truly experienced the physicality of such low moments could be able to illustrate them so clearly. And, if one can relate to these sensations, it makes the writing all the more powerful. Haig’s descriptiveness allows the reader to share in the lows and highs of every emotion and situation the main character gets into, and it’s part of what makes this novel so great. The reader is placed in her shoes, exploring life with her - if not as her. Lastly, I would highly recommend this for anyone interested in existential questions that deal with the self and introspection or philosophy that deals with solitude and the development of the self. Overall, it’s such an inspiring and refreshing read.
— Rose Camara