The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (June 9, Harper)
I know the first book in this series got really mixed reviews, but I loved it. And this one kept me up way too late more than one night, too. The story takes place in the future, but a future that has far more in common with high-fantasy settings like Westeros than futuristic sci-fi worlds. In Invasion, we learn why that is as we see the “past” (still several years distant from 2015) through the eyes of a woman named Lily, through whose eyes Kelsea witnesses the scary, Handmaid’s Tale-esque society that inspired the Crossing, and we finally learn why this version of the future looks so much like the faraway past. I did not see it coming.
Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Some of my English-major friends would probably dare to call me “lapsed.” I don’t read poetry as much as I used to, nor am I particularly drawn to the classics now that I don’t have to be. It’s even a little sad that I needed the excuse of National Poetry Month to pick up EBB again as she’s always been one of my favorites. I love the concept of this collection: sonnets she wrote, but purported to have translated from—you guessed it—the Portuguese. Just some of the loveliest love poetry you’ll ever read.
When We Were Animals by Joshua Gaylord (April 21, Mulholland)
I downloaded this on a whim because it has a gorgeous cover, a female protagonist, and—I think I’ve written about this before, somewhere—a coming-of-age story that uses monstrousness and violence as a metaphor for that difficult process. However, there ended up being a little bit too much going on here, at least for me, and one reveal in particular took me all the way out of the story (it happens toward the end; I bet you’ll know it when you see it). In this town, teenagers “breach,” going feral at the full moon for around a year. I like how, in this unnamed town, going breach is just the tradition, the way hanging out at the mall is in other places.
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Mare is a Red who must disguise herself as a high-born Silver, but then of course must save the world from corruption. This book has gotten hella hype, but it took me about two months to finish it because I found it weirdly slow and paint-by-numbers-y. Now, I know I’m in the minority—no need to yell at me for it! There’s a movie in the works, and even if I hadn’t known that going in, I would have thought the book read like it was written with the movie in mind. I can’t pinpoint perfect examples to prove this theory, but the editing felt pretty heavy-handed. Some things were spelled out so explicitly (at one point, the protag even says, “I’m different.”) that I just couldn’t stay immersed for more than a few pages at a time. Great cover, though.
Verdict: Bypass (or don’t if it’s your thing, but if I could go back in time, I probably would)
Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
Jesmyn Ward writes, and here I quote Cheryl Strayed as Sugar, “like a motherfucker.” I just love every single brutal, beautiful, brave sentence on every single page. This is her memoir, about poverty and race and how awful and wonderful and resilient human beings are capable of being. I’m only a couple of chapters in, but I already feel all the same feels I felt when reading her novel, Salvage the Bones, which is also gorgeous and amazing.
Verdict: Buy, and get Salvage the Bones while you’re at it.