June 2024 Books

New Books Read

Pan Macmillan UK

A Power Unbound by Freya Marske***
The Last Binding book 3 of 3
**Book Hangover Alert
Delightful. Every book in this series has been utterly delightful. This one follows the romance between Lord Hawthorn and Alan Ross, journalist, thief, and seller of pornography who we met in the last book, as they continue to try to keep the Last Contract from stealing the magic of every magician in England. Adored it.
5/5 haughty lords

Hachette Books

My Mama, Cass by Owen Elliot-Kugell*
CW: fat shaming
Fascinating memoir from the daughter of Mama Cass Elliot, of the Mamas and the Papas. Elliot-Kugell tells the story of her mother’s rise to fame and her incredible potential cut short. She shares memories of her own and of those close to Cass during her life. Elliot-Kugell also brings up the important theme of fat shaming, which was ever present in Cass’s life and likely had a hand in her untimely death. It’s well known that the medical establishment dismisses overweight people, especially women. We’ll never know for sure, but Elliot-Kugell implies that Cass likely had some serious undiagnosed health problem that led to her heart attack at age 32.
3.5/5 songs


Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siecle by Elaine Showalter
I read this book as research for my writing. Showalter compares the attitudes around sexual freedom at the end of the 19th century to those at the end of the 20th century. It was a fascinating book, though was more literary criticism than history (which I would have known going into it if I had bothered to look up Showalter, who is a literary critic). The book was written in the 1990s and I wonder what Showalter’s thoughts would be about sexual attitudes today.
3/5 male quest romances

Bloomsbury Publishing

Let us Descend by Jesmyn Ward***
CW: racism, slavery
Ward’s prose is just lovely. This book tells the story of Annis, born into slavery in the deep south. Her mother teaches her to fight and teaches her to stories of her warrior grandmother. Stories that will help Annis when she is sold down the river and must navigate the hell that is the journey south, the slave market, and a new master. Very heavy, obviously, but Ward is clearly a master.
3.5/5 fighting staffs

Little, Brown Book Group

The Olympian Affair by Jim Butcher*
Cinder Spires book 2 of ?
I’ll be honest, I read the first book in this series a long time ago, and I remember almost nothing about it except that I liked it and was mad I had to wait so long for the second one. I still enjoyed this book, even though I didn’t remember much about the plot of the first one or the relationships of the characters to one another, or if we’d even met some of the characters before. Still enjoyable. Still a big fan of Rowl the cat.
3.5/5 cats

Faber and Faber

Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky***
**Book Hangover
CW: war
I went to an author event at the Philly library with this author and Sara Novic of True Biz, which was so cool. I got both books at the event. This is a poetry book that tells the story of a small town resisting military occupation by all pretending to be deaf. It’s utterly gorgeous and heartbreaking. It was interesting because it wasn’t quite a novel-in-verse, but the poems were related and built on each other in a way you don’t usually see with poetry collections. I loved it. The first poem in the book hit me so hard I had to stop and sit there for a long moment.
5/5 puppets

Shark Heart: A Love Story by Emily Habeck*
This book was an easy and enjoyable read. Wren’s husband is turning into a great white shark, literally. She must figure out how to navigate love and her marriage through the transformation. I liked the premise of this story. I loved the magical realism aspect of there being an incurable disease where people just slowly turn into animals. I also liked the love story. I didn’t really love the lyric writing style. Occasionally the prose would devolve into poetry, but it felt like it was trying too hard. I didn’t feel like that choice improved the storytelling. I also reached part 2 and was like oh, that’s where I thought the story was going to end. Why are there 200 more pages? I did read the whole thing, and I did enjoy part 2 (which turned out to be Wren’s mom’s backstory), but I thought maybe the timelines of part 1 and part 2 could have been woven together so that they didn’t feel so separate. I literally would have been satisfied stopping at the end of part 1.
3.5/5 great white sharks

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Books

Legend by Marie Lu*
Legend book 1 of 4
I loved Lu’s The Kingdom of Back, and one of my MFA professors recommended I read this book as research on writing styles. The novel follows two teens in Los Angeles of the totalitarian future. June is a prodigy groomed for service in the military. Day is a rebel from the slums sabotaging the Republic. When June’s brother, a commander for the Republic is killed and Day is blamed for the murder, the two must race to uncover the truth of what’s really going on in the Republic. It was fun and fast paced.
3/5 trials

DC Vertigo

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman*
Sandman Universe
This story is in the Sandman universe as well and follows Timothy Hunter as he tries to decide whether to become a magician. We see John Constantin, a character from the other Sandman comics, and three other magicians each show Timothy something of the world of magic. I think what I liked most about this was the way each section had a different illustrator and a slightly different style. It was really cool.
3/5 owls

DC Vertigo

Sandman: World’s End by Neil Gaiman
Sandman Volume 8 of 11
I think I’m finally satisfied on my Sandman kick for a while. Can’t read the rest too fast or it’ll be over. This volume is fun. It’s a bunch of nested tales told by people stranded at the inn at the end of the world. Very fun.
3.5/5 necropoli

*This book only includes straight, white, cis people. My Mama, Cass is a memoir, so maybe this designation isn’t fair. The Olympian Affair might have some non-white character but race isn’t an important part of the narrative, so it doesn’t seem significant. One of the characters in Shark Heart has a lesbian relationship at one point but the book still feels very straight, you know what I mean? Legend has a few nonwhite characters as well, though race isn’t really examined in this future society.

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read A Power Unbound for LGBTQIA+ rep and class consciousness in fantasy. Read Let Us Descend for a magical realism tale of slavery that includes LGBTQIA+ rep. Read Deaf Republic for disability rep and community solidarity during wartime.

Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQIA+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.