Bookmail – November 10, 2021

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

Adult

Moon Witch, Spider King by Marlon James – Riverhead Books, February 15, 2022

In Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Sogolon the Moon Witch proved a worthy adversary to Tracker as they clashed across a mythical African landscape in search of a mysterious boy who disappeared. In Moon Witch, Spider King, Sogolon takes center stage and gives her own account of what happened to the boy, and how she plotted and fought, triumphed and failed as she looked for him. It’s also the story of a century-long feud–seen through the eyes of a 177-year-old witch–that Sogolon had with the Aesi, chancellor to the king. It is said that Aesi works so closely with the king that together they are like the eight limbs of one spider. Aesi’s power is considerable–and deadly. It takes brains and courage to challenge him, which Sogolon does for reasons of her own.

Both a brilliant narrative device–seeing the story told in Black Leopard, Red Wolf from the perspective of an adversary and a woman–as well as a fascinating battle between different versions of empire, Moon Witch, Spider King delves into Sogolon’s world as she fights to tell her own story. Part adventure tale, part chronicle of an indomitable woman who bows to no man, it is a fascinating novel that explores power, personality, and the places where they overlap.

Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston – Tordotcom, February 01, 2022

At the turn of the 20th century, minstrel shows transform into vaudeville, which slides into moving pictures. Hunkering together in dark theatres, diverse audiences marvel at flickering images.

Redwood, an African American woman, and Aidan, a Seminole Irish man, journey from Georgia to Chicago, from haunted swampland to a city of the future. They are gifted performers and hoodoo conjurors, struggling to call up the wondrous world they imagine, not just on stage and screen, but on city streets, in front parlors, in wounded hearts. The power of hoodoo is the power of the community that believes in its capacities to heal.

Living in a system stacked against them, Redwood and Aidan’s power and talent are torment and joy. Their search for a place to be who they want to be is an exhilarating, painful, magical adventure.

Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness edited by Dave Ring – Neon Hemlock Press, October 31, 2021

A speculative anthology edited by dave ring. Queer witches, the knife edge between the sacred and the profane, and infinite darkness. Stories, poems, comics, art and games. Find your coven, craft new rituals and hex your enemies.

The anthology includes work from: Rasha Abdulhadi, Sharang Biswas, C.B. Blanchard, Die Booth, Priya Chand, Tania Chen, H.A. Clarke, Kel Coleman, Amelia Fisher, Craig L. Gidney, Diana Hurlburt, Tamara Jerée, Ruth Joffre, Marianne Kirby, L.D. Lewis, Danny Lore, Hanna A. Nirav, Chelsea Obodoechina, Suzan Palumbo, Nicasio Reed, Almah LaVon Rice, Jordan Shiveley, Imani Sims, Cecilia Tan, R.J. Theodore, Elizabeth Twist

The book also includes: Comics from Grace Fong & Caleb Hosalla, Story games from Mercedes Acosta & Allie Bustion, Art from Matt Spencer & Frances P and the incredible cover from Robin Ha!

We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2020 edited by C. L. Clark, Charles Payseur – Neon Hemlock Press, August 24, 2021

We’re Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2020, edited by series editor Charles Payseur and guest editor C.L. Clark, showcases sixteen queer science fiction, fantasy and horror short stories published in a difficult year.

Within these pages: A trans woman growing plums on a distant moon. Queer shape shifters falling in love despite brutal intolerance. Video game urban legends. Magic onions. Art history. Archaeology. The tropes of classic movies dashed and subverted. The fragile freedom found in online gaming. True crime podcasts. A non-binary house who refused to eat children.

We’re honored to amplify these incredible stories for a wider audience.

Contributors: Charlie Jane Anders, Anya Johanna DeNiro, Innocent Chizaram Ilo, Gem Isherwood, L.D. Lewis, Naomi Kanakia, Gwen C. Katz, Kristen Koopman, RB Lemberg, Lina Rather, Nicasio Andres Reed, Gabriela Santiago, Waverly SM, Carlie St. George, Brendan Williams-Childs, & John Wiswell.

Young Adult

Briar Girls by Rebecca Kim Wells – Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, November 16, 2021

Lena has a secret: the touch of her skin can kill. Cursed by a witch before she was born, Lena has always lived in fear and isolation. But after a devastating mistake, she and her father are forced to flee to a village near the Silence, a mysterious forest with a reputation for luring people into the trees, never to be seen again…​

Until the night an enigmatic girl stumbles out of the Silence and into Lena’s sheltered world. Miranda comes from the Gather, a city in the forest brimming with magic. She is on a quest to wake a sleeping princess believed to hold the key to liberating the Gather from its tyrannical ruler–and she offers Lena a bargain. If Lena assists her on her journey, Miranda will help her break the curse.

Mesmerized by Miranda and her promise of a new life, Lena jumps at the chance. But the deeper into the Silence she goes, the more she suspects she’s been lied to–about her family’s history, her curse, and her future. As the shadows close in, Lena must choose who to trust and decide whether it’s more important to have freedom…or power.

Dig Two Graves by Gretchen McNeil – Disney-Hyperion, March 29, 2022

Seventeen-year-old film noir fan Neve Lanier is a girl who just wants to be seen, but doesn’t really fit in anywhere. When Neve is betrayed by her best friend, Yasmin, at the end of the school year, she heads off to a girl’s empowerment camp feeling like no one will ever love her again. So when she grabs the attention of the beautiful, charismatic Diane, she falls right under her spell, and may accidentally promise to murder Diane’s predatory step-brother, Javier, in exchange for Diane murdering Yasmin. But that was just a joke…right?

Wrong. When Yasmin turns up dead, Diane comes calling, attempting to blackmail Neve into murdering Javier. Stalling for time, Neve pretends to go along with Diane’s plan until she can find a way out that doesn’t involve homicide. But as she gets to know Javier – and falls for him – she realizes that everything Diane told her is a lie. Even worse, she discovers that Yasmin probably wasn’t Diane’s first victim. And unless Neve can stop her, she won’t be the last.

In this twisted game of cat and mouse, the reader never quite knows who’s telling the truth, who’s playing games, and who is going to end up dead.

Ready When You Are by Gary Lonesborough – Scholastic Inc., March 01, 2022

A remarkable YA love story between two Aboriginal boys — one who doesn’t want to accept he’s gay, and the boy who comes to live in his house who makes him realize who he is.

It’s a hot summer, and life’s going all right for Jackson and his family on the Mish. It’s almost Christmas, school’s out, and he’s hanging with his mates, teasing the visiting tourists, avoiding the racist boys in town. Just like every year, Jackson’s Aunty and annoying little cousins visit from the city — but this time a mysterious boy with a troubled past comes with them. As their friendship evolves, Jackson must confront the changing shapes of his relationships with his friends, family and community. And he must face his darkest secret — a secret he thought he’d locked away for good.

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen – Random House Books for Young Readers, November 02, 2021

A way to survive.

A way to serve.

A way to save.

Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata–a mermaid–collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.

But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi does the unthinkable–she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it.

To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail. . . .

Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she doesn’t, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.

Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger – Levine Querido, November 23, 2021

A highly descriptive story which absorbs the audience into its world, readers will become invested in reading until the very end.–School Library Connection

Nina is a Lipan girl in our world. She’s always felt there was something more out there. She still believes in the old stories.

Oli is a cottonmouth kid, from the land of spirits and monsters. Like all cottonmouths, he’s been cast from home. He’s found a new one on the banks of the bottomless lake.

Nina and Oli have no idea the other exists. But a catastrophic event on Earth, and a strange sickness that befalls Oli’s best friend, will drive their worlds together in ways they haven’t been in centuries.

And there are some who will kill to keep them apart.

A Snake Falls to Earth is a breathtaking work of Indigenous futurism. Darcie Little Badger draws on traditional Lipan Apache storytelling structure to weave another unforgettable tale of monsters, magic, and family. It is not to be missed.

Middle Grade

Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl by Julie Kagawa – Disney-Hyperion, April 05, 2022

Shinji Takahashi is just an ordinary kid. An ordinary homeschooled smart-alecky orphan kid being raised by his globe-trotting aunt Yui. But when a magical guardian decides to use him as a conduit to awaken its power, Shinji’s life takes a turn for the anything-but-ordinary. Captured by the menacing Hightower Corporation, which is bent on using the guardian’s magic for its own nefarious purposes, Shinji must team up with a brilliant young tech whiz named Lucy and her robot mouse, Tinker, in order to escape.

Together the two turn to the venerable Society of Explorers and Adventurers and its ragtag cast of spelunkers, hackers, mapmakers, pilots, and mythology experts (among other things) to return the guardian to its rightful home and release Shinji from its magic–which seems to be draining his life force. Time is ticking, the Hightower Corporation is hot on their tail, and success or failure might depend on one small thing–Shinji finally coming around to the belief that he is anything but ordinary.

Based on the Society of Explorers and Adventurers lore that exist across the Walt Disney Parks, Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl is the first book in an all-new action-adventure series that brings S.E.A. into the twenty-first century through a blend of science and magic, and a focus on two young characters on an epic journey through time and place.

Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz Ryan – Disney-Hyperion, February 1, 2022

On the brink of her Quinceañera, and her official coronation, Solimar visits the oyamel forest to sit among the monarch butterflies. There, the sun pierces through a sword-shaped crevice in a boulder, which shines on her and sends the butterflies humming and swirling around her.

After the magical frenzy, she realizes she’s been given a gift―and a burden: she can predict the near future! She has also become a protector of the young and weak butterflies. This alone would be a huge responsibility, but tragedy strikes when a neighboring king invades while her father and brother and many others are away. The remaining villagers are taken hostage―all except Solimar.

Can this princess-to-be save her family, the kingdom, and the future of the monarch butterflies from a greedy and dangerous king?

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