The Night Ship is based on an actual historical event, infused with the menace of a slithering creature that wields curses as its weapon and with the menace of humans when we’re pushed to the brink of survival. Kidd plays with two timelines; 9 year old Mayken on the Batavia in 1629, a real-life ship bound for the Dutch East Indies where she meets with adventure and mythological horrors belowdecks, and 9 year old Gil who’s been transplanted onto a small treacherous island off the Western Coast of Australia in 1989, alone after the death of his mother, adrift amongst a fishing community that doesn’t know what to do with him and his expressive tortoise…and then he hears of a Dutch ship that was wrecked off the coast of his island 300 years earlier… You will fall deeply in love with both Mayken and Gil as they discover human nature–the best and unfortunately the worst of it–as only children can. Haunting, mesmerizing, captivating, the writing is magnificent, overflowing with wit and then heartbreak. It will effortlessly transport you from the isolation of the accursed high seas to a seemingly sleepy island that is festering with ghosts and the evil of men. And it will hold onto you long after you put it down.
This book blew my mind wide open. Everything I’ve ever read about evolutionary biology and the polarity of male versus female has been through the same ultra-Victorian pinhole in which the “God” of evolutionary science Charles Darwin presented it 200 years ago; males are aggressive and interesting, while females are boring passive babymakers, hardly worth studying. Well, Lucy Cooke tears Darwin and his successors’ theories on sex/gender a new one…respectfully…sort of. I was laughing out loud, snorting, rolling my eyes, and gasping as I listened to the audiobook. It is so funny, so engaging, and an extremely accessible piece of science writing that is perfect for folks who typically gravitate towards non-fiction science books and for those who are new to the genre (like me)!
Based on ancient Mexican folktales and with a layered protagonist, Bindle Punk Bruja is wholly new from anything I’ve read before. Half-Mexican and white-passing witch Rose dreams of owning her own illegal jazz club in 1920s Kansas City while trying to refine the powers she inherited from her abuela and weaving her way through various romances and the intricacies of a sexist, racist, xenophobic society. Along the way she meets with a bevy of characters both fictional and historical, including Al Capone and the KKK. From the first page to the last, Mesa’s debut draws you in and douses you with delicious Jazz Age imagery, clever dialogue, and beautifully rendered characters. Bindle Punk Bruja is fun, sexy, and downright dangerous at times, just like Rose. It has a certain bite to it, also like Rose. And it never slows down.
Yoly lives in a future that’s been depleted by a string of climate disasters, with frightening creatures guarding the countryside outside of her home in the Valley and a harsh climate that makes growing her crops difficult. Yoly’s dream of leaving her home for Silo is dashed by a lack of funds, but her attempt to find other ways to fulfill her dream is derailed when she discovers dark secrets about the world she lives in. Her objective changes: she must fix the world. Don’t be fooled by this being a middle grade novel. The world building–the way technology works, how this futuristic society looks and how it functions–is fantastic. And this is dystopian fiction at its best; pointing out the inequality in society, our lack of action on climate change, and how these two things intersect. But Cartaya also gives us a hopeful pathway to fix the wrongs of generations that came before us.
Magic, romance…and arsenic. Kulper plunges us into the boozy, rollicking, and seemingly shallow setting of one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, but she gifts her readers with main characters whose sincerity and goodness glistens under the masks they wear, whose moral compasses always point North, even if they sometimes veer off the path a smidgeon. Better yet, this 1920s era crime novel sparkles with magical realism. Eighteen-year-old Ruby uses her ability to read minds to find horrid, evil men and then she puts her beautiful little darlings–an array of poisons she harvests from her mother’s beloved garden–to work to stop their abuses…forever. When she meets Guy, a young chemist’s assistant at the mortuary, sparks fly. But he has a secret of his own, and his investigative talents may be stellar enough to start to piece together clues about these mysterious serial poisonings, putting Ruby’s nighttime career at risk. Oh dear, what’s a girl to do? Just delicious!