Curious what the NetGalley team is reading? Wish you could steal a peek at our bookshelves? You’ve come to the right place. Check out the books we’re recommending this month, and share your favorite recent reads in the comments!
Destiny’s Embrace by Beverly Jenkins
Beverly Jenkins’ Destiny’s Embrace, the first book in the Destiny series, transports readers to 19th-century California. Ranch owner Logan Yates is reluctant to settle down until he meets his new housekeeper Mariah Cooper. He’s certain she’ll run back to Philadelphia once she sees the work it will take to get the house in order. But she surprises him at every turn with her determination, spunk, and sharp tongue. Mariah and Logan feel like a classic Ms. Bev couple—he’s intense in his desires and pursuit of her, she’s fiery and unafraid to go toe-to-toe against him when necessary. I had read the other two books in the series, and it was wonderful to finally go back to the beginning, knowing how far Logan, his mom, and brothers all come by the end of the series. One of my 2021 reading goals is to finish some of the unread romance series on my TBR. This was the final book I had left in the Destiny series, and it’s exciting to both tick it off and to start thinking about which Jenkins series I’ll dive into next!
With the Fire on High written and narrated by Elizabeth Acevedo
With the Fire on High follows 17-year-old Emoni Santiago, a high school senior who lives with her two-year-old daughter, Emma, and her grandmother. Emoni carefully balances life as a student and a mother, while also working part-time to provide for Emma. She isn’t certain what her future holds after graduation until she enrolls in a culinary arts class and begins to think seriously about turning her cooking skills into a profession. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve found so much solace in both books and baking, so Emoni’s story really hit home for me. I loved the playful ways she’d describe her recipes, her willingness to stand up for herself, and her relationship with her daughter. It’s a quietly powerful story made all the better by author Elizabeth Acevedo’s incredible narration of the audiobook!
A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day by Jackie Lau
Every single book in Jackie Lau’s Holidays with the Wongs novella series is a delicious treat that I wish I could share with everyone I know. In this final volume, Amber and Sebastian’s meet cute happens in the grocery store. She’s surprised to see how grown-up her brother’s best friend is, and the two quickly jump into a friends-with-benefits arrangement. Lau amps up the heat while continuing to deliver her trademark tenderness, humor, and wonderful character growth. Lau does a lot of amazing things in this book (from parents acknowledging they need to stop meddling in their kids’ lives to showing supportive friend groups), but my favorite subtle element was showcasing how Amber’s passions don’t need to be commodified. This was such a fantastic ending to the series, and I loved seeing how each member of the Wong family grew and evolved (except for Ah Ma, who should never change because she is perfect). If you’re new to the series you can certainly jump in here, but you’ll appreciate the family more if you start with the first novella.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
It seemed like The Vanishing Half was on every end-of-year list I looked at, so I had to pick it up! The Vignes twins ran away from their small Black community at 16 years old, finding their way to New Orleans and, eventually, to two separate lives. From the publisher: “It’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities.” It’s a beautiful and emotional story, exploring the reasons that someone may want to pass as something other than themselves.
The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
The Boyfriend Project is the first in a series by Farah Rochon that follows a group of women who find out that they’ve all been dating the same guy after a viral social media moment. The three women become friends and decide to spend the next six months on a dating hiatus to focus on themselves and their careers. Samiah is trying to work on her dating app passion project, but she’s finding herself distracted after meeting her irresistible new coworker, Daniel. Little does she know, he’s only there to investigate some fraudulent activity at the company. This was such a fun, sweet rom-com, with a great female friend group. I could see this being a great movie because it was just so entertaining. I adored the gradual relationship growth between Daniel and Samiah. I can’t wait to see where Rochon takes these ladies in the next book.
One Fine Duke by Lenora Bell
I adore Lenora Bell’s heroines, who are quirky and go after what they want, and Mina is no exception. I also have a thing for stuffy dukes who become enraptured by their heroine and thought the hero, Andrew, was really special. Mina is trying to solve a mystery, and those scenes were heightened by Andrew confronting the trauma from a past kidnapping. It allowed for a vulnerability that was wonderful to see in a duke hero. Meanwhile, I am obsessed with Mina’s professional-minded ladies group who meet up, drink, and talk about their specialties while using knitting as their cover story and the way that Bell crafted Mina into a sex-positive heroine. I cannot wait to read Love is a Rogue, which follows Andrew’s sister Beatrice.
Tiny House, Big Love by Olivia Dade
Tiny House, Big Love was my first Olivia Dade book, but it won’t be my last. This short novel follows Lucy Finch, who convinces her best friend Sebastián Castillo to join her on a house-hunting reality TV show. What follows is a satire of house hunting shows that will make you laugh out loud and the best pining hero I have ever read. Quiet and serious Sebastián is deeply in love with Lucy. The deep-rooted longing that Dade writes from his POV is marvelous and you can’t resist loving flighty and heartfelt Lucy.
Do No Harm by Christina McDonald
Wow—Christina McDonald has done it again! I’ve been in a terrible reading slump recently and this book totally pulled me out of it. Dr. Emma Sweeney is happily married to Nate, a police detective, and mother to a wonderful little boy named Josh. When Josh is diagnosed with cancer and they can’t afford the only treatment that may save his life, Emma must consider what lengths a mother will go to help her child. She enters the risky and dangerous world of illegally sold medications. Can she make it out unscathed? McDonald looks at what a mother is willing to do to help her child, while also exploring the opioid epidemic and the dangerous and sometimes tragic situations people find themselves in while trying to find affordable healthcare options. I highly recommend this book and author!
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
Science fiction isn’t normally my go-to genre, so I knew this book might be a challenge for me—but really, that’s exactly why I loved it so much. I’ll probably be thinking about many of these stories for the rest of my life, because they really confront you with big ideas and even bigger questions. Each of the short stories in this book asks: What if? What if science could alter the way we perceived beauty? What if the human race only had a set number of generations, and our time was running out? What if angels were real, but their presence was akin to a natural disaster? As a result, most of these stories aren’t exactly plot or character-driven. They take you on a journey while exploring abstract ideas and mythologies. If you’re like me and you love learning, you’ll have a lot of fun.
The Blind Light by Stuart Evers
Full disclosure: The author is a colleague at NetGalley in the UK, but I swear that does not color my judgment. I’ve heard this Leo Tolstoy quote many times: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I’ve never quite bought it, because I don’t think that would be true even of individuals, much less families of individuals who generate elaborate amalgams of relationships and emotions. As I was reading The Blind Light, I often had the thought that Stuart Evers might be a kindred spirit in this regard. His characters have complete internal lives and complicated relationships, each drawing out different aspects of each other in various combinations as real people do. They all make the best choices they’re capable of making within the moral vagaries of a world full of constant reminders that life is fragile and finite. We see this in a rich story that spans decades, and in lives that are full of love, joy, pain, anger, confusion, fear, loyalty, temptation, and so much more.