Welcome to Rachel's recommendations! Check out what Rachel has been reading below.
Mika Moon is lonely; it's the reality of being a modern witch. When she's invited to a mysterious place called Nowhere House to tutor three young witches, she should refuse, but she doesn't. In a house run by a housekeeper, a groundskeeper and his retired actor husband, and a grumpy (and gorgeous) librarian for an absentee archeologist who fosters the girls, Mika is the only person who can help the girls control their magic. Now all Mika has to do is keep the girls' feet on the ground (literally!) and her heart guarded from something she shouldn't want - to love and be loved. Finally, a witch book that really nails it! The magic in this book is that perfect balance of wicca-ish and Sabrina the Teenage Witch silliness, but the real winner is the human element of found family. Mandanna's writing is relentlessly charming - mark me down as devotee!
Following an altercation with the body-father of his sister's newborn child, Prince Kadou must prove his loyalty to his sister, the sultan, and figure out who is behind the counterfeit currency plot that could ruin their country of Arasht. Crippled with anxiety, Kadou finds himself stuck with a terse new bodyguard, Evemer, who doesn't seem to like Kadou all that much. After a series of incidents in which Kadou improbably proves himself more canny, dutiful, and capable than Evemer thought possible, an undying loyalty and trust grows between them - and evolves into something more. In every way, this is the romance I've been waiting for. The slow build between Kadou and Evemer was so well done that I often flipped back to reread passages just for fun. Also, every (non-evil) character in this book is iconic, and Rowland had me cackling, blushing, and screaming at multiple points. Rowland's worldbuilding encompasses not only the touch-taste of precious metals that drives the plot, but also a fully realized system of genders, pronouns, orientations, even degrees of paternity. I finished this work wanting - maybe needing - to revisit it immediately to recapture the feeling of pure joy that infuses every page.
Tennal Halkana can't escape the truth of his existence no matter where he runs, who he sleeps with, or how many drugs he takes - he's a mind reader, the result of illegal neuromodification experiments. Out of options, he's conscripted into the military, forced to sync with Surit Yeni, an architect capable of controlling a mind as wild and chaotic as Tennal's. Yet Surit won't sync an unwilling reader, so they fake the sync and plan Tennal's escape. What follows is a fight they never anticipated - for autonomy, for justice, and for each other. Maxwell deepens the worldbuilding established in Winter's Orbit with a focus on the mysterious alien remnants that seem to have endless horrifying possibilities. I don't know how it's possible in a story that engages in difficult topics such as coercion and mental health issues, but Ocean's Echo left me with a distinctly warm feeling. Can one feel hugged by a space opera? Asking for a friend.
Maud Blyth has a mission: pose as a lady's maid on board an ocean liner to escort an old lady who has key information in the fight against a magical conspiracy to steal power from every magician in England. And then the old lady gets murdered. Armed with a notebook filled with her brother Robin's visions of the future, a scandalous actress, a bored lord, a surprisingly helpful thief, and a foulmouthed bird, Maud has to find the murderer before she becomes the next victim. The second book in the Last Binding trilogy manages to capture the same energy of the first book while being almost entirely different - and no matter what, I'm here for the Edwardian clothing, the cat's cradle-esque magic, and the queer romances. One gets the feeling she could take the world established in this trilogy and spin it into a few more series - or maybe that's my wishful thinking. To say I'm ready for the next book would be an understatement - I'm slamming my fists on the desk screaming WANT. BOOK. NOW. Respectfully.
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.
Clemency Fry thought her fears of marriage were unfounded when she became engaged to a man who appreciated her rebellious spirit - until she finds out that her fiancée has a dark past with multiple victims in his wake. When the mysterious Audric Ferrand comes into town on the hunt for her fiancée, Clemency has no choice but to participate in Audric's plan to bring the scoundrel down. This is my first time reading Madeleine Roux, but I wasn't surprised to find that she usually writes in the horror and science fiction genres. The Proposition has a sinister edge to it that kept me turning the pages. The real standout is the prose - Roux fits right in with Austen and the Brontës.
Lucy loves nothing more than gorillas and her job as a zookeeper, so she's thrilled that her zoo will be featured on a hit nature docuseries... until she's asked to be part of the filming process. Lucy and cameras do not mix, and what's worse is that the show's gorgeous and popular host, Kai Bridges, overhears her complaining about his overblown ego and lack of brains. But if she wants a promotion to senior keeper, she has to play nice - on camera and with her new nemesis. Kerry Rea had me both cackling and crying in this book, which is not an easy thing to do! I enjoyed Lucy's initial pettiness toward Kai quite a bit (maybe more than I should have), and their banter was top tier. This book has a ton of heart, and it left me wanting more in the best way.
Grey Brooks is known for starring in a teenage drama, but she wants more substantial roles now that she's nearing thirty. When her publicist sets up a fake, tabloid-pleasing romance with former-heartthrob-turned-Oscar-winner Ethan Atkins, the arrangement seems easy enough - until it becomes clear that the chemistry isn't only for the paparazzi. But with Ethan's alcohol abuse after the tragedy that derailed his career, is a Hollywood happily ever after even possible for them? I started this book expecting a frothy Hollywood fantasy type romance, but instead I was pleasantly surprised by the gravity and depth of the story. Wilder brings these two lonely characters together in such an artificial way, yet their connection is immediate and palpable. I can't wait to see more from this author.
Beauty and the Beast meets Jane Eyre in this sweet historical romance from Mimi Matthews. Shy bluestocking Julia Wychwood only feels confident on her beloved horse's back. Captain Jasper Blunt seems to be her opposite in every way - from his vicious reputation in battle to the rumors of his illegitimate children locked away in his remote ruined castle, complete with a locked tower room. But his intimidating exterior doesn't fool Julia, and their marriage of convenience might just be the love match of the season. My favorite romance novels are the ones where the two main characters are equals - in this case, both equally lost and needing someone to see past rumors and lies. Historical romance enthusiasts will want to keep an eye on this series from Mimi Matthews!
Fitness influencer Crystal Chen made a name for herself by ignoring the haters - she's curvy and her followers love her body positivity message. When an offensively hot new gym patron steals her squat rack, she takes it upon herself to teach him a few things about gym etiquette. The last person she expects to see at her grandmother's engagement party is Squat Rack Thief - but of course he's the fiancé's grandson. Look, I'm completely allergic to the concept of exercise, but I loved Set on You anyway. Amy Lea captures the stress of being a one-woman social media force and the difficulty of balancing a private life with a public persona. I also enjoyed how, once Crystal and Scott called a truce, the two became best friends in a way that felt so organic. I'm 100% on board to hear more from Amy Lea.
Purple-haired scientist Bee Königswasser's big opportunity at NASA comes with one problem in the form of her project's co-lead, the man who hates her the most: Levi Ward. But when she confronts him about missing supplies and lack of email access, suddenly Levi is... nice? Helpful? Supportive? Surely this is some sort of bizarro world where Levi never hated Bee to begin with. I just need to know… how does Ali Hazelwood do it? By the end of the first page, I knew Love on the Brain would be one of my favorite reads of the year. Every page is a delight, every character is wonderful - you just have to read this for yourself.
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.
Lanie Bloom has a great life - her dream job as an editor and a fiancé who fits every requirement on Lanie's 99-item list, inspired by the works of beloved and reclusive writer Noa Callaway. No one has ever seen her, but Lanie and Noa have corresponded professionally for years. But when Lanie finally learns the truth about her favorite author, everything she thinks she knows is called into question. This book gave me all the good 80s and 90s Meg Ryan rom com vibes, and like a lot of reviewers out there, I actually did read it in one sitting - it's just that addictive. Lanie is a winning protagonist - at times frustratingly impulsive and stubborn, but with an outstanding capacity to reflect and redirect herself in a way that feels both relatable and aspirational. This book left me wanting more in the best way possible - like the best romance novels, I just wanted to spend more time with this story.
Highly competent literary agent Nora Stephens is tired of being the evil shrew girlfriend in the “romantic hero falls for plucky small-town heroine” trope - after the fourth breakup, enough is enough. When her pregnant sister proposes a small-town getaway to embrace romance novel tropes and clock some sister bonding time, Nora begrudgingly agrees. Now if only she could escape the company of her editor nemesis, Charlie Lastra, who's popping up all over the same small town. I really appreciate this book not only for the steamy romance and the meta-commentary on romance novel tropes, but also the representation of people who are not warm and cuddly. There's someone out there for everyone! Emily Henry has such a great facility with making characters who feel real, and Book Lovers might be her best work yet.
There's a spy aboard the RMS Olympic in 1926, and Jane Wunderly is on the case with Redvers, posing as his wife as they look for the suspect. But what starts out as a search for a spy becomes more complicated when a passenger's husband goes missing, yet his existence is disputed by all but the wife and Jane herself. With everyone else doubting the flighty socialite's claims, it's up to Jane to prove her investigative talents. Three books in, this series delivers! I love all of the historical detail so much, and I especially love that Jane flouts societal standards with quiet confidence. Much like Redvers, I would trust Jane's instincts any day.
When artist and banking heiress Hattie Greenfield is found in a compromising position with her father's business rival, intimidating financier Lucian Blackstone, she has no choice but to marry him. As a suffragette and one of the first female scholars admitted to Oxford, Hattie is horrified to lose what little legal autonomy she had to a man she barely knows, even if she is wildly attracted to him. When the two head to Scotland for a business trip instead of a romantic honeymoon, Lucian's taciturn nature and ruthless business tactics start to make sense as she learns of the dire situation of the mining community in her new husband's hometown. There's so much going on in this romance novel, and it's fantastic - Dunmore does the work, setting her characters in the midst of multiple historically accurate legal and moral struggles and touching upon everything from Marx to Sojourner Truth. Oh, and did I mention that this is also a very steamy romance novel? Three books in, Dunmore's ability to balance serious and sexy is verging upon legendary.
"Will everything we build turn to nothing but ugliness?" After the events of Foundryside, Sancia and her friends are making great strides at democratizing the art of scriving in the city of Tevanne. But then an eldritch god is resurrected, one who can rewrite reality and destroy worlds, and Tevanne is the first on his list. Shorefall takes the implications of Foundryside and makes them a horrible reality - a soul-crushing, time-bending, world-ending reality. But what is reality, when symbols can divorce body and mind, when the death of thousands can make endless midnight, when love can rip whole civilizations apart? This book broke my heart in the best way possible; this series is a must-read!
After her boyfriend declares that they should try an open relationship, YouTube-famous violinist Anna Sun decides to use this as an opportunity to break out of her rut. But her first attempt at a one-night stand with Quan Diep isn't successful, or the second or third, because they both have serious issues to overcome. When Anna's lifechanging diagnosis coincides with a family tragedy, Quan is the only one she can turn to - but can they work past their issues and fight for each other? Wow - I didn't think I could love Helen Hoang and her writing more, but this one blew me away. Anna and Quan's struggles are incredibly relatable and so important to discuss and understand. This is the romance novel to shove in people's hands if they dare say romance novels are too fluffy or sentimental.
Diana, Lady Templeton, and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham, are always at each other's throats - he's an incorrigible rake, and she's a wealthy young widow. When Diana wagers that he'll be married within a year, Jeremy is confident he'll win. But then Jeremy's former mistress gives him negative feedback about his so-called skills, and he realizes he needs an honest review from his toughest critic: Diana. As a longtime reader of Regency-era romance novels, I'm ashamed to say I did not know about this series until the second book. If you read romance for the banter, this one is for you - Waters knows the genre well, and she has aptitude for both winking at tropes and using them sincerely. This book hasn't even been released yet, and I already can't wait to read the next in the series.
Ruthie (responsible, hardworking young manager of a retirement community) and Teddy (flaky, hot mess son of the retirement community owner) are opposites. When once-and-future-tattoo-artist Teddy gets trapped into being a personal assistant for two demanding residents of the community, Ruthie is sure Teddy will be gone the next day. Instead, Teddy thrives, working his way into everyone's hearts with his sweet nature and impulsive, fun personality. With his inevitable departure on the horizon, Ruthie just needs to guard her heart long enough to stay safe in her protective bubble of the retirement community forever. I have to say - this one really got to me. I cared so much about each character, and when I was done reading, I immediately flipped back to my favorite parts to enjoy them again. It's rare to find a romance novel that has both heart and sizzle in equal measure, but Sally Thorne makes it seem easy.
If your employer is evil, are you evil as well? Anna Tomedlov is a hench, temping for various low-rent villains to make ends meet. Her work is making spreadsheets, not holding people hostage or making death rays. When a superhero inadvertently ruins her life, she decides to exact revenge in the only way she knows how: compiling data that proves that superheroes cause way more damage than supervillains. Beginning to end, this novel is so compelling that reading it was effortless. Anna is such a relatable character - like so many hourly workers, she's just trying her best to survive and pay rent. Sure, there are superpowered people in this story, but make no mistake: this is the story of an ordinary young woman using her greatest asset, her brain, to gain power and agency.
Raised by her parents' murderer in the land of Faerie, surrounded by strange magic, fantastical elegance, and unimaginable cruelty for over half her life, Jude Duarte becomes a sword sharpened slowly and painstakingly. Not happy to simply survive amidst the Folk, Jude fights back with hand and mind, surprising and intriguing those who underestimated her. Every choice is a matter of life and death, and trust is not an option. This is an edge-of-your-seat court intrigue plot from the perspective of a teenage girl who just wants to not feel powerless anymore. Jude is a wonderfully realized character, at times scared, jealous, calculating, gullible, loving, and violent - she does not fit into any mold. The endings of both The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King left me breathless. I am dying to read the final installment in this series!
Having been a Max Barry fan for a while now, I have to say - I love this book even more than I hoped I would. It's way more science fiction than his previous novels, in a way that reminded me of The Martian, Ender's Game, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Four people on a battle-ready spaceship run by AI, hunting down murderous alien lifeforms - what could go wrong? Besides being a space adventure, the book also highlights relevant topics, such as replacing human intelligence with AI, developing military at the expense of civilian life, and using media to create a narrative. You won't be able to put this book down!
When the gargantuan 500-story apartment building called Los Verticalés - the Vert, if you're cool - collapses and becomes the Heap, Orville joins the dig effort to rescue his brother Bernard, miraculously alive and broadcasting from... well, somewhere inside the Heap. Orville's daily calls to his brother are like a soap opera to the outside world, but being a minor celebrity isn't all it's cracked up to be, so when someone approaches Orville with a lucrative advertising deal, he refuses. And yet, somehow, that's Orville's voice on calls to his brother, peppering in casual mentions of products. What follows this inciting incident is an insane cat-and-mouse game/hostage situation/heist that is weirdly hilarious from start to finish. What an impressive debut novel! Adams thoroughly establishes two microcosms of society, the Vert and Campertown (where the diggers live), while keeping the story moving along with multiple perspectives. I couldn't put it down!
It's already difficult to be a teenager, but Greer Walsh has an extra issue - well, two, actually. Being fifteen with a size 30H bra means avoiding tight clothing, physical contact, sports, and especially boys, so Greer is overwhelmed when she finds herself trying out for the volleyball team and crushing on the boy who just moved to town. This is a fantastic debut from Laura Zimmerman! Greer is such a relatable character, simultaneously confident and insecure, trying her best to be seen for her intelligence and not her body. For all the people who changed in the bathroom stalls for gym, wore baggy sweaters to hide excessive sweating, caked on makeup to hide pimples, smiled with closed lips to hide braces, and hid other numerous flaws in inventive ways - this is for you.
Seventeen-year-old Lenore's family is the definition of Black excellence - a lawyer, nonprofit business owner, a pre-law student, and an actual 10-year-old genius. So why can't she commit to a major? The summer cruise along the coast of Europe with her family is supposed to be a getaway, perhaps complete with whirlwind romance, but instead the pressure is on to figure out her whole life plan or face the disappointment of her family. Then sweet, helpful Alex Lee with his ten-year med school plan shows up to ruin her whole summer - and steal her heart in the process. This book is so sweet. I really felt for Lenore - not everyone can, or should, figure out their whole life by seventeen! - and I rooted for her as she figured out ways to open up about her struggles with her loved ones. I look forward to more from Elise Bryant!
When a sudden storm kills 40 men in the blink of an eye, the women in the Norwegian village of Vardø are left wondering who to blame, for surely this must be an act of God or the work of witches. When witch-hunter Commissioner Absalom Cornet arrives in the small village with his new wife, the divide among the women turns dangerous. This lyrical and strange novel felt like a spell of its own, pulling me against my will toward the inevitable and shocking conclusion. That Hargrave is able to craft such beautiful words to describe such ugliness speaks to her formidable abilities as a writer. I already can't wait to read what she writes next.
Intrepid lepidopterist Veronica Speedwell and natural historian Stoker Templeton-Vane are back again for another adventure! When Prince Albert Victor, son of Queen Victoria, does something to potentially embarrass the royal family, it's up to Veronica and Stoker to reverse the damage before it's too late. Priceless diamonds, brothels, and Jack the Ripper - this one has it all. I love this series, and I was ecstatic to see a new entry, especially after the fourth book's conclusion. Prepare yourself for yet another nail-biting escapade because Raybourn does not hold back!
When a wolf attacks Bisou Martel in the woods, she kills it in self-defense. The next morning, the body of a fellow student is found in the woods, and a dark and dangerous mystery starts to unfold. Based on Little Red Riding Hood with a decidedly feminist twist, this book is undeniably spellbinding. Arnold uses second person for most of the narrative, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. In truth, if you present as female, you have probably dealt with slut shaming, toxic masculinity, and incels; Arnold covers these topics alongside examples of supportive female friendships, loving and consensual (and safe) sex, and frank descriptions of menstruation. The result is a book that feels wholly unique and entirely necessary.
"How could you let people exist, how could you permit them all this dangerous freedom to decide? What might they decide?" Beetle just wants to make life easier for people; their products gently nudge you to treat yourself better while logging your every moment, emotion, action, and decision. You can even be prevented from future illegal activity! So when, unpredictably, George Mann goes home and murders his entire family, surely technology is not to blame. Surely human irrationality, or Zed, must be the culprit! Honestly, this book really freaked me out. As I was reading, my smart watch gently nudged me to take another fifty steps or so. Life is so close to being like Zed, and like many great dystopian novels, Zed asks the question we should all be asking constantly: who watches the watchmen?
On the last day of high school, bitter rivals Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have one more chance to one-up each other. It's the school's traditional senior class scavenger hunt around Seattle, and these two overachievers have to set aside their differences and figure out if they'd rather win the grand prize or each other's hearts. This book was a win all the way through! Solomon manages to create a rivalry that wasn't heavily weighed on one side or the other. If you've been craving a well-written YA romance, you should put this one on your list.
In post-Civil War Massachusetts, Caroline Hood's father, a celebrated scholar and essayist, decides to open up a school for young women. When the students start developing strange symptoms, the adults are unable to pinpoint a cause. What follows is a subtle, suspenseful exploration of misogyny, oppression, and the line between medical treatment and abuse. This is the kind of novel that should be studied; I couldn't help but make notes and underline as I read. Caroline's narration pierces with its insight, its world-weariness, its naiveté, its disappointment. This is a work that will stick with you long afterward.
When PhD student Dani Brown is rescued by security guard and ex-rugby player Zafir Ansari, they become a minor celebrity couple, complete with their own hashtag. Dani takes it as a sign that she's found her latest friend-with-benefits. Zaf is hesitant - after all, as a romance novel aficionado, he knows that this trope never ends well - but it would be excellent publicity for his sports charity. I could not put this book down! This romance novel is a wonderful follow-up to Get a Life, Chloe Brown, and a story that absolutely stands on its own. Hibbert has a knack for creating lovable, well-rounded characters that are flawed in all-too-familiar ways. I can't wait to see who she makes me fall in love with next.
After her friend gets unfairly targeted for a dress code violation, Molly Frost decides to start a podcast and ends up starting a revolution. In her crusade to eliminate the school dress code, she and her friends discover what true friendship is all about. What an incredibly timely and important book! Despite the fact that the book has a clear rhetorical purpose, the characters and the situation feel all too real. Firestone perfectly captures the problems of enforcing a strict dress code on young people, from stressing over the expense of school-appropriate clothing to being targeted for wearing normal clothes while having a developed body. This should be required reading in schools.
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"How long can we be expected to follow the rules of a system that doesn't support us?" The world is changing, and Dr. Cecelia Cobbina is changing along with it. After an incident in Africa gives Cecelia the ability to think at the speed of light, she takes it upon herself to discover the origin of her powers and help others like her. It's crazy how much Grayson and Martinez pack into these first four volumes of this new series, incorporating weighty subjects like climate change, microaggressions, detention centers, and disenfranchisement of veterans into a superhero narrative in a way that feels timely and oh-so-relevant. Remarkably, Dr. Cobbina's mental powers are visualized using Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences, splitting her thoughts into different mental tracks with corresponding colors. The result is a compulsively readable comic series that left me wanting - no, needing - more, as soon as possible.
We split in two sometimes: move to a new city, change a hairstyle, gain a new nickname. The other half vanishes, unused, like a dream, or perhaps a box of pictures in the attic. Desiree Vignes lost her other half years ago, when her twin sister Stella decided to pass as white, leave her family behind, never return. Some people can do that. What they don't realize is that the vanishing halves have a way of returning, spotting you across the room, looking you in the face and seeing the real you, the one you left behind. From start to finish, Brit Bennett's follow-up to The Mothers is a revelation. This is a novel you want to savor, even as it unfolds so naturally and beautifully that you can't help but devour it. If her first novel made her a new author to look out for, this one proves that Brit Bennett is here to stay.
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