This is ostensibly a YA book that would also be good for middle grade readers. Elatsoe—Ellie—lives in a world much like ours but where magic, fae, and vampires also exist. She is the descendent of a famous Lipan Apache who developed a method of bringing back the ghosts of dead animals, a skill that is passed down through her family. Ellie is very good at connecting with the dead, so when her cousin suddenly dies and visits her through the ghost realm, she knows that his death was not an accident. With the support of her parents and her best friend at her side, she delves into the secrets of perfect-looking Willowbee, Texas—bringing danger to them all. Elatsoe has great world-building and characters who are friendly enough that you’d like to join them, even when facing immortal evil.
Real Men Knit, by Kwana Jackson
Her Harlem neighborhood is devastated when Mama Joy suddenly dies, leaving her four adopted sons and longtime worker in charge of her declining yarn shop. The youngest son, Jesse, wants to keep the shop afloat and he appeals to Kerry, who has been visiting and working in the shop most of her life, to help him. They have a long history of not-quite liking each other, so when they’re thrown together, sparks fly. This book was a fun, comfort read. Sometimes I just need a nice romance and this one checked all the boxes.
Cousin Kate, by Georgette Heyer
This first time I read this book, I liked it well-enough. I think I liked it more this time around. It’s meant to be a gothic romance, but the gothic never quite manifests. Instead, it is an interesting story about penniless Kate who is taken in by her wealthy aunt to be a companion to her cousin Torquil. She soon realizes that there are some big secrets, even violent secrets, at her new home which might put her life in danger. I think you can see this one as one of GH’s attempts at Regency mystery. There isn’t much of a mystery, but you never quite know what turn the story is going to take. I think this is a fun read.
The Moorstone Sickness, by Bernard Taylor
This was a real gothic horror. A young married couple, Hal and Rowen, decide to move to very rural Moorstone after losing their son. The village is perfect, yet Hal can’t quite like it. The people are all beautiful and friendly, but only to a point. The stories about themselves they tell don’t quite add up. And people who are friendly one day are completely different the next. Hal and Rowen fight about it, but he can’t make her see that something is wrong, until it’s too late. I liked this one enough. The problem I had with it is that you knew what the ‘thing’ was about a third of the way into it. Had it been written as a novella, it could have been truly terrifying, but instead there was a lot of unnecessary build-up. Still, it was fun.
The Time of Green Magic, by Hilary McKay
When Abi and her new stepbrothers move into an ivy covered home in the middle of London, it feels as if they’ve moved to the country, especially with all the wildlife that they now encounter. The old house is odd but peaceful until Abi discovers a secret magic. When younger brother invites a new kind of wildlife into the house, the magic and real-life clash. This is a delightful middle grade book that explores blended families and how a crisis can bring them together. I very much recommend this one.
My Brilliant Life, by Ae-ran Kim
This story was both delightful and gut-wrenching. It follows 16-year-old Areum who has accelerated aging disease, so his body is that of an 80-year-old. He is very close to his parents who love him dearly and he wants to give them back something before he dies—which is likely to be soon. He writes their teenaged love story and how he came to be born. It’s a quiet book. Areum’s insights are both worldly and naïve and his capacity to love and accept is inspiring. There were a couple of passages I marked for rereading and they are just as lovely the second and third time as the first. I read an advanced reading copy, and now I plan to get a finished copy for my library. I will definitely read this book again.
A Head Full of Ghosts, by Paul Tremblay
This book actually scared me. Most of the horror I’ve been reading is eerie, discomforting, but I haven’t been frightened. This book did it. I wound up only reading it during the day. Fifteen years after her family’s breakdown on TV through the reality show, The Possession, Merry is working with an author to tell the story beyond what was seen on TV. As she is the only surviving member of her family, she tells what happened when she was eight and her 14-year-old sister began showing signs of acute schizophrenia or maybe possession by an evil spirit. On the verge of losing their house, the Barret family agree to be filmed as they wrestle with Marjorie’s illness. The story is interesting, not just in the surface, linear story, but how pop culture and the internet can feed alternative interpretations and hide the real story. Definitely recommend!
The Last Watch, by J.S. Dewes
So, this book. I’m not quite sure what to write about it. I liked it … enough? Even though I had been looking forward to it, I found it a bit of a slog to get through. I’ve just been reading other reviews to see if I could get my head around why it didn’t do anything for me. It’s a story of outcast soldiers monitoring the edge of the universe, the Divide, and who are the only ones in a position to do anything when the universe starts contracting. The first third was really clunky, with lots of soldier/prison tropes and a forced love story. The second two thirds is action packed—but almost too crammed with action. The two POV characters see some growth, particularly Cavalon, the rogue playboy, but it wasn’t really enough to make me care about the characters. The weird thing is that this is the first in a series and where the book left off actually interests me more than the whole of The Last Watch. There is a good chance I’ll read the second one, but we’ll see how I remember it next year when the second book comes out.