Happy summer, my fellow readers! It is yet again time to talk about things I’ve been reading (and would recommend to you!). First, obviously, if you haven’t read The Wicked Unseen, go grab that! It’s not as scary as it sounds, promise.
If you have read it (and reviewed it, please and thanks!), here are some other books I love…
So far this year, I’ve read 29 books, not including the multiple times I read the final copy of The Wicked Unseen and the drafts of my 2024 book (We Are the Beasts) and my 2025 book (announcing soon!). Here are my favs (other than my own books) from the latest bunch:
(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.)
She Who Became the Sun*
Why I liked it: I loved everything about this book. The smooth writing. The narrator on the audiobook. The historical tidbits. The feminist perspectives. The complicated characters. The queerness. I cannot say enough good things about this fabulous book.
Description:In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.
When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.
After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
Dead End Girls*
Why I liked it: This fabulous queer thriller had me enraptured and I finished it in just a couple days. I loved the messy characters, ADORED their romance (and romantic subplots rarely hit for me!), and I think this might be my favorite Wendy Heard book now, which is saying something.
Description: In one week, Maude will be dead. At least, that’s what she wants everyone to think. After years of research, Maude has decided to fake her own death. She’s figured out the how, the when, the where, and who will help her unsuspectingly. The why is complex: revenge, partly. Her terrible parents deserve this. But there’s also ‘l’appel du vide,’ the call of the void, that beckons her toward a new life where she will be tied to no one, free and adrift. Then Frankie, a step-cousin she barely knows, figures out what she’s plotting, and the plan seems like it’s ruined. Except Frankie doesn’t want to rat her out. Frankie wants in.
The girls vault into the unknown, risking everything for a new and limitless life. But there are some things you can never run away from. What if the poison is not in the soil, but in the roots? This pulse-pounding thriller offers a nuanced exploration of identity, freedom, and falling in love while your world falls apart.
If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come*
Why I liked it: If you want to weep uncontrollably because you love some characters so much you can barely breath, this book is for you!
Description: Avery Byrne has secrets. She’s queer; she’s in love with her best friend, Cass; and she’s suffering from undiagnosed clinical depression. But on the morning Avery plans to jump into the river near her college campus, the world discovers there are only nine days left to live: an asteroid is headed for Earth, and no one can stop it.
Trying to spare her family and Cass additional pain, Avery does her best to make it through just nine more days. As time runs out and secrets slowly come to light, Avery would do anything to save the ones she loves. But most importantly, she learns to save herself. Speak her truth. Seek the support she needs. Find hope again in the tomorrows she has left.
Why I liked it: Ironic, sarcastic, messy, enraging. This book delivered on every promise it made. And it’s the only book I’ve ever read that depicted the publishing industry accurately.
Description: Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks.
So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.
So what if June edits Athena’s novel and sends it to her agent as her own work? So what if she lets her new publisher rebrand her as Juniper Song—complete with an ambiguously ethnic author photo? Doesn’t this piece of history deserve to be told, whoever the teller? That’s what June claims, and the New York Times bestseller list seems to agree.
But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.
Why I liked it: The story follows Indra – raised in an anti-tech cult and forced to embrace tech in order to save her own life…only to find that that tech has now turned her into a human machine and may yet rob her of her humanity altogether. In Dylan’s typical style (much like her previous Mindwalker, which I also recommend), this high-octane thriller catapults us straight into danger while also asking us to question the role of tech and tech companies in our own world. I listened on audio and the narrator did an excellent job. Highly recommend the audiobook for other audio aficionados like myself.
Description: Born into a religious cult on the fringe of society, Indra Dyer lives a simple, tech-free existence. But when an illicit trip to the city leaves her with a debilitating – and terminal – condition, Indra must make a choice: die faithful or betray her Order and accept the cure Glindell Technologies is offering.
Forced to sign over full ownership of her life, Indra is horrified to learn the true nature of Glindell’s plans. Instead of saving her body, they upload her mind to a first of its kind MindDrive, housed in a fully robotic shell.
On the outside, Indra still looks the same; on the inside, she’s not so sure. More than once, she finds herself in places she really shouldn’t be, with no memory of how she got there, and dangerous abilities she can’t explain. So when news breaks of an attack against Glindell’s biggest rival, Indra begins to suspect the worst.
With help from her one friend at the company, Tian — a research assistant with questionable morals and a smile that won’t quit — Indra must uncover the truth behind the procedure that saved her life, before Glindell can use it to change the face of technology, and what it means to be human, forever.
The Forty Elephants
Why I liked it: It takes a lot for me to not like a historical novel about a lesser-known lady criminal. So I was primed from page one to enjoy the tale of Alice Diamond, one of the most prolific lady thieves in US history.
Description: London in the 1920s is no place for a woman with a mind of her own. Gang wars, violence, and an unforgiving world have left pickpocket Alice Diamond scrambling to survive in The Mint, the gritty neighborhood her family has run for generations. When her father goes to jail yet again and her scam artist brother finds himself in debt to the dangerous McDonald crime syndicate, Alice takes over. Fighting for power at every turn, she struggles to protect her father’s territory and keep the people she loves safe from some of London’s most dangerous criminals.
Recruited by the enigmatic Mary Carr, Alice boldly chooses to break her father’s edict against gangs and become part of a group of notorious lady shoplifters, the Forty Elephants. Leaving The Mint behind, she and the other girls steal from the area’s poshest department stores, and for the first time in her life, Alice Diamond tastes success. But it’s not long before she wants more—no matter the cost. And when her past and present collide, there’s no escaping the girl from The Mint.
It Came From the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror*
Why I liked it: This collection of essays on queerness and horror was an absolute delight. Thoughtful, odd, endearing, disturbing…there’s a bit of everything in here.
Description: Horror movies hold a complicated space in the hearts of the queer community: historically misogynist, and often homo- and transphobic, the genre has also been inadvertently feminist and open to subversive readings. Common tropes—such as the circumspect and resilient “final girl,” body possession, costumed villains, secret identities, and things that lurk in the closet—spark moments of eerie familiarity and affective connection. Still, viewers often remain tasked with reading themselves into beloved films, seeking out characters and set pieces that speak to, mirror, and parallel the unique ways queerness encounters the world.
It Came from the Closet features twenty-five essays by writers speaking to this relationship, through connections both empowering and oppressive. From Carmen Maria Machado on Jennifer’s Body, Jude Ellison S. Doyle on In My Skin, Addie Tsai on Dead Ringers, and many more, these conversations convey the rich reciprocity between queerness and horror.
What have you been reading?