It’s that time again! Time to talk about what I’ve been reading (and would recommend to y’all)!
So far this year, I’ve read 10 books, including an unpublished manuscript from Daniela Petrova that made me WEEP (you can’t read that one yet, but I strongly encourage you to get her debut: Her Daughter’s Mother). Here are the books I recommend from that early year reading spree:
(Please note that links below are affiliate links, which means if you click through and purchase something, I get a small commission at no extra cost to you.)
(Books marked with an * were written by a writer from a marginalized group. By supporting these authors, you’re telling publishers we want more books from underrepresented authors. Yet another win-win situation.)
Includes some late-year reads from ’22 that didn’t make it into my Christmas round-up.
Following the story of the world’s most prolific female pirate, this novel is part history lesson, part character exploration. Go into it expecting a literary exploration of character and themes (they market it as adventure, but it reads more literary to me) and get ready to meet a historical figure who deserves a lot more recognition.
I got an early copy of this to blurb and deeply enjoyed spending time with a historical woman I’ve long admired.
Description: When Shek Yeung sees a Portuguese sailor slay her husband, a feared pirate, she knows she must act swiftly or die. Instead of mourning, Shek Yeung launches a new plan: immediately marrying her husband’s second-in-command, and agreeing to bear him a son and heir, in order to retain power over her half of the fleet.
But as Shek Yeung vies for control over the army she knows she was born to lead, larger threats loom. The Chinese Emperor has charged a brutal, crafty nobleman with ridding the South China Seas of pirates, and the Europeans—tired of losing ships, men, and money to Shek Yeung’s alliance—have new plans for the area. Even worse, Shek Yeung’s cutthroat retributions create problems all their own. As Shek Yeung navigates new motherhood and the crises of leadership, she must decide how long she is willing to fight, and at what price, or risk losing her fleet, her new family, and even her life.
Description: When her family moves to Bardell, Georgia, on the cusp of her senior year, Avery Anderson is uprooted from DC and thrust into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between Avery’s mom and Mama Letty makes for a frosty arrival and reveals a decades-old conflict they refuse to talk about. Every time Avery tries to look deeper, she’s turned away, leaving her desperate to unearth the secrets that divide her family.
While tempers flare at home, Avery finds friendship in unexpected places: with Simone Cole, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, a member of the town’s most prominent family, whose mother’s murder remains unsolved. As the three girls grow closer—and Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoms into romance—the sharp-edged opinions of their small Southern town begin to hint at something insidious underneath. Avery soon discovers her family’s roots are deeply entwined with Bardell’s racist past. With Mama Letty’s health dwindling every day, Avery must decide if digging for the truth is worth toppling the delicate relationships she’s built—or if some things are better left buried.
Let the Mountains Be My Grave*
Why I liked it: Like a burst of adrenaline, this novella throws you into the middle of the Italian partisan resistance against the Nazis, with a fantasy twist. Expect magic, fight, and lots of heart.
Let the Mountains Be My Grave unfolds at breakneck pace in 1944 Italy, where partisan Veleno thinks of nothing but killing as many Nazis as he can before leaving this world.
Beloved by the ancient Italic goddess Angitia, Veleno is the perfect person to recover a strange weapon the Nazis are planning to use against the Allies in the battle of Montecassino, but doing so may force him to confront his death differently than he expects.
Why I liked it: Wow. This was one of the most intense books I’ve read this year so far. I loved the worldbuilding (it’s a master class in building backstory) and was rooting for the main character from page one. TW for sexual abuse and other forms of abuse and harm, though I thought it was all handled with care.
After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct … but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.
Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.
Why I liked it: This gorgeous, engaging, slow-burn historical story had me weeping by the end. I am SO glad I got an advance copy (it hadn’t been on my radar to read and I loved it!). If you love dual timelines, history, and women finding their power, this one’s for you.
Description: 2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she begins to suspect that her great aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.
1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.
1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family’s grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.
Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart’s Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.
Why I liked it: Pitched as The Little Mermaid with Filipino mythology, this book is part thriller, part fantastical myth retelling, part heart. CW for domestic abuse and gaslighting, though I think it was handled with great care.
Description: Seventeen-year-old Malaya is cursed. In her family, every girl’s first love ends in death after falling for someone evil. Good thing Malaya’s dream guy isn’t monstrous.
Except the curse is real and preventing Malaya from noticing how much he has gaslit and isolated her until she can’t be saved. With no other options, the sea witch is the only one to help her. Bartering her voice for a new life where she and her abusive boyfriend never met, Malaya accidentally swaps places with an alternate timeline version of herself who didn’t make her mistakes. As she tries to undo the switch, the sea witch uses Malaya’s voice to unleash Filipino mythological creatures into the worlds.
Can a champion, an alternate timeline sister, and Malaya fight these beasts and stop the sea witch before she destroys both timelines?
Now, to you: What have you been reading?