Bookmail – October 20, 2021

Happy bookmail day! Here’s what came in recently. Thanks to the publishers who sent advanced reader copies.

At the End of Everything by Marieke Nijkamp – January 25, 2022; Sourcebooks Fire

The Hope Juvenile Treatment Center is ironically named. No one has hope for the delinquent teenagers who have been exiled there; the world barely acknowledges that they exist.

Then the guards at Hope start acting strange. And one day…they don’t show up. But when the teens band together to make a break from the facility, they encounter soldiers outside the gates. There’s a rapidly spreading infectious disease outside, and no one can leave their houses or travel without a permit. Which means that they’re stuck at Hope. And this time, no one is watching out for them at all.

As supplies quickly dwindle and a deadly plague tears through their ranks, the group has to decide whom among them they can trust and figure out how they can survive in a world that has never wanted them in the first place.

Base Notes by Lara Elena Donnelly – February 1, 2022; Thomas & Mercer

In New York City everybody needs a side hustle, and perfumer Vic Fowler has developed a delicate art that has proved to be very lucrative: creating bespoke scents that evoke immersive memories–memories that, for Vic’s clients, are worth killing for. But the city is expensive, and these days even artisanal murder doesn’t pay the bills. When Joseph Eisner, a former client with deep pockets, offers Vic an opportunity to expand the enterprise, the money is too good to turn down. But the job is too intricate–and too dangerous–to attempt alone.

Manipulating fellow struggling artists into acting as accomplices is easy. Like Vic, they too are on the verge of burnout and bankruptcy. But as relationships become more complicated, Vic’s careful plans start to unravel. Hounded by guilt and a tenacious private investigator, Vic grows increasingly desperate to complete Eisner’s commission. Is there anyone–friends, lovers, coconspirators–that Vic won’t sacrifice for art?

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray (Beasts of Prey #1) – September 28, 2021; G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

There’s no such thing as magic in the broken city of Lkossa, especially for sixteen-year-old Koffi, who holds a power within her that could only be described as magic–a power that if discovered could cost her life. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, Koffi knows the fearsome creatures in her care and paying off her family’s debts to secure their eventual freedom can be her only focus. But the night those she loves are gravely threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi finally unleashes the power she doesn’t fully understand, upending her life completely.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six–an elite warrior–and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, Ekon encounters not only the Shetani–a vicious monster that has plagued the city for nearly a century and stalks his nightmares, but Koffi who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani could also be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon form a tentative alliance and together enter the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild, frightening magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

The Beholden by Cassandra Rose Clarke – January 18, 2022; Erewhon

Orphaned as young women, Celestia and Izara De Malena find themselves land rich but destitute, with only a failing rainforest acreage, Celestia’s perfect manners, and Izara’s nascent magic to their aristocratic names. With the last of their money running out, they enact a dangerous plan–using a spell she doesn’t fully understand, Izara summons the Lady of the Seraphine and demands a favor: a husband for Celestia, one rich enough to enable the De Malena sisters to keep their land. But a favor from the river goddess always comes at a cost . . .

Now, five years later, rumors of war and disease are spreading, Celestia’s husband has been called away on a secret mission for the Emperor, and the Lady of the Seraphine is back to collect her due. Izara will be forced to leave the academy where she has been studying to become a mage; Celestia will be pulled from her now-flourishing farm while newly pregnant with her first child. Together, they must repay their debt to the Lady–embarking on a mission that will put them on a collision course with Celestia’s husband, the Emperor, and a god even more powerful than the Lady of the Seraphine.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu – February 1, 2022; Tin House Books

In the twelve unforgettable tales of Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century, the strange is made familiar and the familiar strange, such that a girl growing wings on her legs feels like an ordinary rite of passage, while a bug-infested house becomes an impossible, Kafkaesque nightmare. Each story builds a new world all its own: a group of children steal a haunted doll; a runaway bride encounters a sea monster; a vendor sells toy boxes that seemingly control the passage of time; an insomniac is seduced by the Sandman. These visions of modern life wrestle with themes of death and technological consequence, guilt and sexuality, and unmask the contradictions that exist within all of us.

The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinska – December 7, 2021; Sourcebooks Fire

It’s Karnawał season in the snow-cloaked Kingdom of Lechija, and from now until midnight when the church bells ring an end to Devil’s Tuesday time will be marked with wintry balls and glittery disguises, cavalcades of nightly torch-lit “kuligi” sleigh-parties.

Unbeknownst to the oblivious merrymakers, two monsters join the fun, descending upon the royal city of Warszów in the guise of two innocent girls. Newfound friends and polar opposites, Zosia and Marynka seem destined to have a friendship that’s stronger even than magic. But that’s put to the test when they realize they both have their sights set on Lechija’s pure-hearted prince. A pure heart contains immeasurable power and Marynka plans to bring the prince’s back to her grandmother in order to prove herself. While Zosia is determined to take his heart and its power for her own.

When neither will sacrifice their ambitions for the other, the festivities spiral into a wild contest with both girls vying to keep the hapless prince out of the other’s wicked grasp. But this isn’t some remote forest village, where a hint of stray magic might go unnoticed, Warszów is the icy capital of a kingdom that enjoys watching monsters burn, and if Zosia and Marynka’s innocent disguises continue to slip, their escalating rivalry might cost them not just the love they might have for each other, but both their lives.

The Perishing by Natashia Deón – November 9, 2021; Counterpoint LLC

Lou, a young Black woman, wakes up in an alley in 1930s Los Angeles, nearly naked and with no memory of how she got there or where she’s from. Taken in by a caring foster family, Lou dedicates herself to her education while trying to put her mysterious origins behind her. She’ll go on to become the first Black female journalist at the Los Angeles Times, but Lou’s extraordinary life is about to become even more remarkable. When she befriends a firefighter at a downtown boxing gym, Lou is shocked to realize that though she has no memory of meeting him, she’s been drawing his face for years.

Increasingly certain that their paths previously crossed–and beset by unexplainable flashes from different times that have been haunting her dreams–Lou begins to believe she may be an immortal sent for a very important reason, one that only others like her will be able to explain. With the help of her friends, Lou sets out to investigate the mystery of her existence and make sense of the jumble of lifetimes calling to her, just as new forces rise to threaten the existence of those around her.

Survive the Dome by Kosoko Jackson – March 29, 2022; Sourcebooks Fire

Jamal Lawson just wanted to be a part of something. As an aspiring journalist, he packs up his camera and heads to Baltimore to document a rally protesting police brutality after another Black man is murdered.

But before it even really begins, the city implements a new safety protocol…the Dome. The Dome surrounds the city, forcing those within to subscribe to a total militarized shutdown. No one can get in, and no one can get out.

Alone in a strange place, Jamal doesn’t know where to turn…until he meets hacker Marco, who knows more than he lets on, and Catherine, an AWOL basic-training-graduate, whose parents helped build the initial plans for the Dome.

As unrest inside of Baltimore grows throughout the days-long lockdown, Marco, Catherine, and Jamal take the fight directly to the chief of police. But the city is corrupt from the inside out, and it’s going to take everything they have to survive.

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