It's the last week of the month, and devoted readers know what that means: mass market paperbacks! Additionally, publishing is swamping us with a number of titles that were pushed back from early spring, AND we've got paperback editions of books that came out in hardback last year. All of which is to say there is no dearth of interesting books this week.
We're going to start off with Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic, which smacks its subject right there on the cover. Moreno-Garcia, who has been doing fabulous work these last few years, rolls right along with a neo-Victorian gothic country house novel that is infused with fungal weirdness. It's Daphne du Maurier meets H. P. Lovecraft, with—let's be frank here—Moreno-Garcia's own delightful decadence and atmospheric creativity mixed in. A fabulous read!
And speaking of fabulous reads, S. A. Chakroborty's The Empire of Gold drops this week. The Empire of Gold concludes her stunning trilogy of magic and intrigue in a richly imagined Middle Eastern world. There's palace intrigue, warring families, people coming back from the dead, and creatures of sand and fire. There's no excuse to not start this series if you haven't, because it's all here now.
Meanwhile, Kevin Kwan is back with Sex and Vanity. Kwan, fresh off the immensely popular Crazy Rich Asians trilogy, introduces us to Lucie Churchill, daughter of a Chinese-American mother and a decidedly not Chinese father. Lucie falls for a boy from Hong Kong with a Aussie accent and a surfboard. Unfortunately, her father has other plans. Naturally, hijinks ensue. Since this is a Kwan novel, there's a fair amount of scathing commentary about wealth and classism, which is to say: "popcorn-chomping fun."
And speaking of delicious fun, Becky Albertalli has a new Simonverse novella. It's Simon and Blue and Leah and Nick and all the gang, but in college! Albertalli splits the crew up and sends them to far-flung colleges, and Love, Creekwood goes all epistolary-style on the trials of long-distance relationships. Fans of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat will recognize Albertalli's penchant for email, but in this case, it delightfully frames an all-too-brief exploration of maintaining connections across distances.
Additionally, Colson Whitehead's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Nickel Boys, is out in paperback this week. The Nickel Boys follows Elwood Curtis as he is unfairly sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy. Curtis falls in with a fellow "delinquent" named Turner, and the novel explores the very different reactions to the terrible system that has them in its power. It's a book that will sink its teeth into you and not let go. Plan accordingly.
And speaking of prize winning books, Sarah M. Broom's The Yellow House is also out in paperback this week. Winner of the 2019 National Book Award in Nonfiction, The Yellow House is the story of a shotgun shack that Broom's mother bought in New Orleans East in 1961. Ivory Mae raised twelve kids in that house, until Hurricane Katrina wiped it and a large portion of the surrounding neighborhood off the map. Broom's story is equal parts memoir and social history, and is a book that will linger in your mind long after you finish.
We're delighted by A. E. Ali's Our Favorite Day of the Year. It's a picture book about four kindergartners who discover their classmates all enjoy different holiday traditions. There's Musa, who really likes Eid because of all the fabulous food. There's Mo, who digs Rosh Hashanah; Moisés is keen on Christmas and Las Posadas; and Kevin, who thinks Pi Day is awesome. Brightly illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell, Our Favorite Day of the Year is a great introduction to different cultures for kiddos at a time when they're just starting to be aware of other cultures around them.
And speaking of cultures around us, we've also got Haboo, a collection of tales from the Lushootseed-speaking peoples of the Puget Sound. Drawn from a period of oral traditions, Haboo highlights the Myth Age, a time before the world transformed. These fables feature talking animals, anthropomorphic trees, and wise old rocks, who manage to speak of the human condition without being, you know, human.
In the Now in Paperback Department, we have The Princess Beard, the third volume in the Tales of Pell, written by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne. This is fantasy turned on its ear, shot out the window, and slingshotted back with a round of moon cheese trailing behind it. It's full of goofy characters, absurd moments, and lots and lots of wordplay. (Look at that title, for crying out loud!) If you liked the first two, well, here you go. If you haven't gotten on board with the hijinks of Dawson and Hearne, well, here you go. We have all three.
Additionally, Dawson's recent Star Wars novel, Black Spire, is out in paperback this week too. Black Spire is the secret history of Galaxy's Edge, the new Disney Parks expansion which . . . no one is visiting right now. But in Black Spire, you get to experience all that scum and villainy the old school way: with your mind.
You can't go wrong with firing up those brain cells. They still do all sorts of magic when you get them focused on a thing. Yay for brain cells!
And hey, if your brain cells are needing a little brain food, why not feed them something from the Official Black Spire Outpost Cookbook? Braised Shaak Roast! Mustafarian Lava Buns! Spicy Mandalorian Stew! Huttese Slime Pods—oh, wait. Maybe not that last one. Nerf Kebabs!
And while we're on the subject of food, how about Maddie Day's Nacho Average Murder? What? It's got a cat on the cover, who has just knocked over a margarita onto a plate of nachos. Silly kitty. Why are you messing with the snacks when there is MURDER AFOOT!
No, seriously. There's a murder. It's in the title. There are also nachos—recipes for them, in fact. True facts.
Meanwhile, A. S. King's Dig is out in paperback this week as well. Dig addresses family disfunction, colonialism, patriarchy, and white privilege as five estranged cousins attempt to find their way out of a toxic family history that threatens to poison them. Over the last decade, King's YA novels have broached a number of complicated and nuanced topics, and Dig is no exception. It'll challenge you, but you've got the brain cells for it!
And in a much different vein, we offer Tree, a board book by Petra Bartikova and Magdalena Takacova. This book is basically a tree, and as you uncover each layer of the tree, you learn all sorts of fascinating tidbits about the critters who live in this tree. Adorable illustrations! Educational captions! Three-dimensional viewing! Hidden chambers! Fun for the whole family.
And speaking of things growing in soft loam, Merlin Sheldrake has some things to tell us about fungi in Entangled Life. What's he got to share? Well, we can just skim the subtitle for that. "How fungi make our worlds, change our minds, and shape our futures." So, there you go. It's all about symbiosis, decomposition, psychedelic expansion, and the "Wood Wide Web." It turns out we're not in charge, really. The sponges are.
Such a letdown, we know. But there it is. Also, we couldn't pass up the opportunity to circle back. We started with a book about fictional fungal weirdness, and we ended with a "true facts!" book about fungal weirdness. Circle of life, dear readers! Circle of life.