Perhaps unsurprisingly, with all of us stuck at home, forgoing our daily commutes and coffee stops and hikes and happy hours, book sales are up. After all, for many of us, reading is one of the more comforting things we can do with our time.
Which is why I thought it might be time for another book recommendation post. Here’s the first isolation reading list I put together. But if none of those books strike your fancy (or if you’ve already sped through them, like my friend Kat who reads something like five books per week), here are some more.
Some I’ve read and love. Others are next up on my own reading list.
The Magnolia Sword
High up on my own to-read list, this book is based on the REAL MULAN. Do I need to say more?
I’m a sucker for historical stories inspired by true events (because of course I am). Especially when those stories are about women. So you know this blurb grabbed me and didn’t let go:
“It’s 1986, the heart of the Cold War, and Marie Mitchell is an intelligence officer with the FBI. She’s brilliant, but she’s also a young black woman working in an old boys’ club. Her career has stalled out, she’s overlooked for every high-profile squad, and her days are filled with monotonous paperwork. So when she’s given the opportunity to join a shadowy task force aimed at undermining Thomas Sankara, the charismatic revolutionary president of Burkina Faso whose Communist ideology has made him a target for American intervention, she says yes. Yes, even though she secretly admires the work Sankara is doing for his country. Yes, even though she is still grieving the mysterious death of her sister, whose example led Marie to this career path in the first place. Yes, even though a furious part of her suspects she’s being offered the job because of her appearance and not her talent.
In the year that follows, Marie will observe Sankara, seduce him, and ultimately have a hand in the coup that will bring him down. But doing so will change everything she believes about what it means to be a spy, a lover, a sister, and a good American.”
One of my all-time favorite books (alongside its sequel: Vengeful), think of this as a study of toxic masculinity against a backdrop of superpowers:
“Victor and Eli started out as college roommates―brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find―aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge―but who will be left alive at the end?”
They Never Learn
Hello, 911: this book killed me and then killed me again. If you ever wondered what DEXTER would be like with a female lead, wonder no longer. This is that book. I couldn’t put it down.
From the blurb: “Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.
Every year, she searches for the worst man at Gorman University and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself—but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Scarlett insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge, Dr. Mina Pierce. Everything’s going according to her master plan…until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.
Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay…and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.”
The City and the City
Recommended by my brilliant friend and fellow author Zoe Wallbrook, this puzzling book is about two cities that exist on top of each other and soundly ignore each other’s existence…until the day a body from one turns up in the territory of the other.
Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
Lyrical, haunting, and somehow still propulsive, this YA novel toes the line between literary, romance, and horror. Per the back jacket of the book:
“Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery…who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.”
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro
Per the book’s back cover: “Born under the crumbling towers of her kingdom, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves. It nearly tore her nation apart. But her arranged marriage to the son of a rival clan heralds peace.
However, he suddenly disappears before their reign can begin, and the kingdom is fractured beyond repair.
Years later, he sends a mysterious invitation to meet. Talyien journeys across the sea in hopes of reconciling their past. An assassination attempt quickly dashes those dreams. Stranded in a land she doesn’t know, with no idea whom she can trust, Talyien will have to embrace her namesake.
A Wolf of Oren-yaro is not tamed.”
The Silence of Bones
I’m currently making googly-eyes at this YA historical that sounds right up my alley:
“1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.
As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.
But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.”
The Kill Club
Would you kill a stranger to save a loved one? That’s the dilemma behind this intense thriller, where a network of abuse victims connected by a mysterious benefactor are killing each other’s abusers. Of course, in the end it’s not quite that simple.
The Shadow of the Fox
From the back of the book: “Every millennium, whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers has the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for one wish. The time is near…and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto.
When demons kill half-kitsune Yumeko’s adoptive family, she’s forced to flee her home with one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of mysterious samurai Kage Tatsumi, who is Yumeko’s best hope for survival. But he’s under orders to retrieve the scroll. An uneasy alliance forms, and Yumeko begins the deception of a lifetime, knowing her secrets are more than a matter of life or death—they’re the key to the fate of the world.”
Now, to you, friends: What are you reading and loving? What should I be adding to my own to-read list?