This week's selection of books mirrors what's happening around the house with the temperature. At first, it's too cold, and then it's too hot, and then it's too cold again. Back and forth, and forth and back. We don't want to say that winter is over, because that's when the Mistral sneaks up on you (and book club fans know what we're talking about, right?).
Anyway, let's start off with the chilly and spooky. Here's Simone St. James's The Sun Down Motel, which is the story of intrepid explorer Carley Kirk, who heads off to Fell, New York, to find out what happened to aunt Viv thirty-five years ago. It has something to do with the creepy hotel that seems like it is from another time and place. And maybe it is, right? St. James hits us right in the sweet spot with a dual narrative between Carly and Viv as both try to figure out the secrets of Fell and its creepy motel.
And speaking of creepy resorts and long-hidden secrets, Alexis Schaitkin's debut Saint X revolves around unresolved questions regarding a family tragedy at a Caribbean resort named Saint X. Back in the day, Claire and her family came for a visit, but her sister Alison turns up dead before the vacation is over. But that's all backstory. Sort of. Years later, Claire winds up in a NYC cab driven by one of the two main suspects in her sister's death. Naturally, she gets obsessed about this guy, and eventually he snaps. "Do you want to know what happened? Do you really want to know?"
We're not sure we do. But you're braver than we are, aren't you. Though, you might want to check the thermostat and keep the lights on for the final act of this one.
How about something a little less chilling? Here's Lisa Kleypas's latest Ravenel family novel. In Chasing Cassandra, we have wealthy railway magnates squaring off against quick-witted and headstrong ladies. The sparks fly, naturally, as these two try to outwit the other. Why? Because that's what love is all about, don'tcha know?
We adore this bit from Booklist's review of Chasing Cassandra: "Railway magnate and business mogul Tom Severin has five emotions, and love isn't one of them." We hope whoever wrote that line took the rest of the day off.
Meanwhile, Natasha Pulley is back with The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, a sequel to The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Now, you're probably wondering how Pulley could top the haunted Victorian-era London her characters roamed around in The Watchmaker of Filigree Street. Ah, well, there's always the road trip, of course. The Lost Future of Pepperharrow takes our clairvoyant clockmakers in a delightfully gothic steampunk Toyko! What's not to love about that?
Meanwhile, culture writer and man-about-town, Eric R. Thomas has put together his first collection of essays. Here For It: Or, How to Save Your Soul in America chronicles Thomas's attempt to find his place in America, which is a bit of an interesting journey for a black gay man who was raised in a Baptist community. Thomas is very self-aware and self-deprecating about the very small Venn Diagram intersection he's built for himself, and Here for It is one of those memoirs that is delightfully relatable, surprisingly insightful, and persistently quotable.
Meanwhile, in the How To Diagnose Your Social Dysfunction Department, we have Cailin O'Connor's and James Owen Weatherall's The Misinformation Age: How False Beliefs Spread. O'Connor and Weatherall suit up and tackle the awkward topic of "Why are people so eager to believe stuff that is likely going to kill them?" Marvelously, they do so with the utmost respect for the true believers and their lack of critical thinking skills. Because, let's be honest here, it's not just that one guy down at the end of the street who's been huffing glue out of a sack. It's sort of, well, not an epidemic, but a trend, at the very least. We won't spoil the ending, because getting there is definitely part of the education.
Okay, now it is time for Things We Liked When They Came Out in Hardback, But Which We Like Twice as Much Now Because They Cost Half as Much.
It's an inverse proportion ratio thingie. Math, in other words. Don't fret about it. No one likes math.
Which isn't true, but you wondered whether you should agree with us for a second, didn't you? Even though you knew we were full of it. That feeling is a social influence, and it's part of what O'Connor and Weatherall talk about in their book with that awesome rabbit on the cover.
We saw one last week, in fact.
(No, we didn't.)
Anyway, look! Paperbacks!
Eight hundred pages of feminist fantasy and dragons! New York Times Bestseller. Loved by authoritative outlets everywhere (which you aren't going to blindly believe because, yes, that's right, O'Connor and Weatherall). Don't believe the hype. Read it for yourself! Surely you have some free time this weekend?
And here's Silva Moreno-Garcia's Gods of Jade and Shadow. It's got Mayan death cults and flappers! And . . . no, seriously, that should be more than enough. Come on. Name another exquisitely rendered speculative novel about life in a Mexico filled with Jazz Age atmosphere and mythopoetic death gods. And no, American Dirt is not a valid answer. Geez.
And here's G. Willow Wilson's The Bird King, which has a RAVE + indicator next to it. (We didn't even know the scale went to "+," but there you go.) It's fantastic escapism set during the Spanish Inquisition (who didn't want to escape then, right?), and is filled with heartbreaking characters, gorgeous writing, and relationships you won't ever want to end.
And finally, let's swing it back to chilling with Hanna Jameson's The Last. Do you know what's worse than the end of the world? Being stuck in an isolated chalet with a bunch of other survivors when the world ends. Oh, that doesn't seem so bad? Okay, how about this: one of the survivors goes missing, and is later found in one of the cisterns on the roof. The cistern that supplies the drinking water for the building . . . It's a dystopian locked-room murder mystery! The horror! The chills! Who is going to die next?
Oh, we can't end on that note. Uh, let's see. Oh, Twilight of the Gods, Scott Oden's follow-up to A Gathering of Ravens is out this week. A Gathering of Ravens is our current favorite Vikings & Monsters book (What? We have very specialized tastes), and Twilight of the Gods picks up a couple hundred years later, when things are even more dire than they were before. Grimnir—the aforementioned Viking Monster—and his protege, Dísa Dagrúnsdottir, struggle to preserve the old ways (fire and blood, presumably), but they have to deal with a new champion who is rallying folks with a cry of "kill all the pagans!" Oden knows a thing or two about Ragnarok, and Twilight of the Gods has got all the sword-smashing, battle-shrieking, and fire-bombing trappings of a massive slugfest.
Ah, still too dark. Let's try for something a little more uplifting. Something that celebrates how the nights are getting shorter. How about this?
What? You can make all that sweet, sweet stuff at home? Sign us up!