Books I Loved, and Think You Will Too
all of these are 2022 releases.
1. The Chosen and the Beautiful by Nghi Vo came out in June, 2021. This
is a magical retelling of The Great Gatsby and so much more. Vo imagines
a completely different interpretation for Fitzgerald’s minor character, Jordan
Baker, and The Chosen and the Beautiful is her story. The magic is
exquisite, and so is the writing.
2. Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes. This is horror, a haunted-starship
story, brilliantly done. A troubled first-person narrator who may have an
extraordinary ability, or be mentally ill, and her crew board a space luxury
liner that vanished without a trace years ago. What could possibly go wrong?
Our narrator’s self-doubt makes the story even more credible and suspenseful.
3. The Annual Migration of Clouds, by Premee Mohamad. This sparse
novella tackles so many issues; the consequences of climate change, the social
contract between an individual and a community, coming of age, interaction with
a different species. The story is about Reid, a young woman in a subsistence
community, who is accepted to a mysterious academy. Reid, like her mother and
many others, has been colonized by a fungus that exerts more control over her
nervous system as it grows. Her compound is so self-sufficient, so complete,
that Reid’s leaving creates a hole. Is leaving the right thing? Will the fungus
even let her? Mohamad plays out these issues honestly, elegantly and with
4. The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. At first, this seems like a story
about a haunted bookstore, and it is—at least, Tookie, who is a bookseller in a
bookstore run by a well-known writer named Louise, is being haunted. About a
third of the way through the story, things change, as Erdrich takes us through
the Black Lives Matter movement and the first months of the pandemic. She never
forgets the ghost, or Tookie and her family.
5. Siren Queen, by Nghi Vo, which comes out in May, 2022. Siren Queen
is set in the 1930s, in Hollywood, in the same world as The Chosen and the
Beautiful or at least one very much like it. Luli Wei is a Chinese American
girl enthralled by movies, who wants to be a star, and she faces racism and
misogyny in her journey. Magic fills this world and definitely fills the world
of movies, but the corrupt studio system, with its control and exploitation of
talent, looks the same as in our world, at least at first. The characters and the
prose are beautiful and the movies are wonderful.
6. Inheritors of Power by Juliette Wade. This is the third book in
Wade’s The Broken Trust series. It came out this year, but you must read the
two previous books. This is pure science fiction, following a society who long
ago colonized another planet. Wade is studying systems, how they function and
how they fail. Specifically, the nation of Varin uses a rigid caste system. The
caste system is failing society, and the response of the power elite is to “double
down” on some already bad decisions. What happens when power is concentrated
rather than decentralized? It sounds academic, but we view these questions
through the lens of one or two families, and those relationships are intense
and complicated. The world of Varin is exquisitely imagined.
7. Revelator is Daryl Gregory’s
gothic horror novel, set in the 1940s in what is now the Great Smokey National
Park. Stella is a successful moonshiner, determined never to go back to the
rural home she fled when she was a child. Stella is part of a family with a
strange heritage. When her grandmother dies, she has to go back and face what
she fled. Side by side with terrifying and strange images of the God in the
Mountain are expertly written scenes of Stella and her partner mixing up the
latest batch of ‘shine. Gregory captures the speech rhythm of the time and
place, there’s plenty of action, and a creepy, powerful, terrifying thing
living in the mountain.
8. Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry. Bacchanal is a battle of
powers, set in a Black traveling carnival in USA in the 1940s and 50s. The
magical characters in the carnival are drawn from African folklore. The writing
is beautiful, the characters intriguing and distinctive, and the time period
9. The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick. This is the second book in the Rook
and Rose series. M.A. Carrick is the pen-name of Marie Brennan (the Lady Trent
series) and Alyc Helms (the Dragons of Heaven series). Book Two delivers on the
promise of the first book, The Mask of Mirrors, as it follows wily young
con artist Ren, her sister Tess and a host of characters in the magical city of
Nedežra. If you love crime lords, decadent aristocrats, masked vigilantes, con
artists, complicated loyalties, sharp banter, magic and fashion, this series is
10. Grave Reservations by Cherie Priest. Leda Foley is a psychic and a
travel agent in Seattle. When she intervenes psychically (by changing his
flight plans) and saves the life of a police detective Grady Merritt, she comes
to his attention as someone he can use to solve a case. Priest always has
interesting characters, a gripping premise, and brilliant settings. This book
had all of those things and it made me laugh out loud.