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!
A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
This novel follows a family through their experiences of fleeing the Spanish Civil War, immigrating to Chile, and making a life there. The main characters endure a lot of hardship, but come to love their new country and create rich lives for themselves there. Long ago, I read several of Isabel Allende’s earlier novels and really enjoyed them. I really enjoyed this one as well. The story doesn’t include any elements of magical realism (like many of Allende’s earlier novels), but it has a similar warmth and expansive scope. As someone who didn’t know much about the history of the Spanish Civil War or of Chile, I found the book had just the right amount of history and detail. It explained the situation and the context for the characters, without feeling like it stopped the action or slowed the story.
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper
Do you ever read a book so good that you’re mad at yourself for not picking it up sooner? This is how I felt after finishing The Gravity of Us. The story follows Cal, a 17-year-old social media journalist whose entire world is turned upside down when his family relocates from NYC to Houston, where his dad is taking part in NASA’s Mars program. The only bright spot for Cal, who misses his city and best friend, is his new crush: fellow Astrokid Leon. If he isn’t there already, put Stamper on your radar because this is a writer to watch. The Gravity of Us is such a strong debut. Stamper has a real gift for capturing the voices of his characters and making them feel completely human (in all of their selfish, vulnerable, complex, beautiful glory). I listened to the audiobook, which is wonderfully narrated by Michael Crouch and includes a larger cast for the chapters that include segments from the Shooting Stars tv show. The Gravity of Us is a really lovely YA book that I’d highly recommend if you’re in the need for something comforting to read right now.
Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai
Girl Gone Viral is a book that wrapped me in a blanket, made me a cup of tea, and told me everything would be okay. Katrina’s privacy is put at risk after a patron live tweets her interaction with a stranger in a coffee shop. She retreats with her bodyguard Jas to his family’s peach farm, where she uses the tools she’s gained in therapy to manage her PTSD and panic disorder and starts to find the courage to fully embrace the concept that “happiness is a radical act.” This is a book where the heroine shows that strength can come in the form of kindness and compassion, and there’s something so empowering about reading that, especially coupled with Jas’ unwavering respect for the choices she makes and boundaries she sets regarding her mental health. This book is comforting and warm (just like its two cinnamon roll protagonists) and celebrates love found between two genuinely wonderful people. The cherry on top of this reading experience was interviewing Alisha Rai and getting to talk about happiness, therapy, and these two fantastic characters.
Heavy Vinyl: Y2K-O!, Vol. 2 by Carly Usdin, Nina Vakueva
Queer girls saving the world? Yes please! Carly Usdin continues to give me everything I want in a comic with this second volume of Heavy Vinyl. Chris is still a newbie to the vigilante fight club, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t bringing her A game when the team learns about an evil plot to destroy digital music and blame it on Y2K. And when she isn’t kicking ass, Chris is training up for the Battle of the Bands competition and working to find the confidence to get more intimate with her new girlfriend Maggie. I love this universe and this cast. Usdin’s books are huge comfort reads for me since they focus on communities packed with acceptance, love, and badass ladies. This volume continued to bring fun late-90s nostalgia, and let us get to know members of the team even better. Plus, as a Jersey girl, I do love seeing familiar landmarks throughout. If you haven’t read this series and are looking for a fun and musical read, now’s the perfect time to pick it up!
He’s Come Undone by Emma Barry, Olivia Dade, Adriana Herrera, Ruby Lang, Cat Sebastian
I love romance novellas. They’re like perfect little chocolate bonbons—small, sweet, and satisfying—and if that’s true then this new anthology is a heart-shaped box packed with deliciousness. The book includes five stories, each featuring a buttoned-up hero who slowly comes undone as he falls in love. I loved reading how each author dealt with this character trope, and discovering who they felt his perfect match was. Emma Barry’s winning opener is a tale of a pianist struggling to perform and the piano technician who helps her find her voice once more. Olivia Dade’s delightful and funny entry follows a math teacher who is thrown for a loop when asked to mentor the true-crime-loving new art teacher. Adriana Herrera takes readers on a passionate journey where two friends must decide if they’re willing to risk everything to be together. Ruby Lang pairs a doctor with an improv acting teacher in a moving narrative about caring for others without losing yourself. Cat Sebastian closes the anthology with an emotional story of two childhood friends reuniting as adults to discover their feelings for each other have only grown over the years. He’s Come Undone is written by some of my favorite romance authors, as well as new-to-me authors, which made this collection a particularly wonderful treat. Together these authors strike a perfect balance of heart, humor, and heat—and romance readers won’t want to miss it when it hits shelves on May 12!
Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson
This is a delightful sci-fi romp! It begins with a king and his talking cat, who live in a city that has continued to expand for as long as anyone can remember. Robson doesn’t waste time getting to the heart of the story—it moves briskly to present its mystery and then starts to unravel it. I won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll love uncovering the strangeness in this quick read.
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
I just re-read Nimona, which I originally picked up after reading the back copy: ‘Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism!’ Who could resist? Nimona, a shapeshifter ready for trouble, joins local villain, Ballister Blackheart, in what she expects to be a vicious scheme against Sir Goldenloin and the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. How could she know that Blackheart’s history with the Institution, and with Goldenloin, was so complicated? Nimona herself has a complicated past, and her unpredictable actions lead to danger and drama and dragons… This graphic novel reminds me a bit of Dr. Horrible (a villain who’s just trying to do good), with much less farce and singing. It’s funny, yes, but also very touching.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I recently listened to the audiobook of Daisy Jones & the Six and knew I needed to read more of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books. I really loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which in many ways was very similar to her more recent release—following a woman who gained a lot of fame, her tumultuous romantic relationships, all the while being interviewed about her past. Evelyn Hugo’s reflections on her love affairs, having to hide her bisexuality, and how she manipulated people and situations because of her fear of losing her fame was very interesting to read. The interviewer has an interesting role in the narrative as well. I shed a few tears as I got to the end of this audiobook because of how deeply I came to care for Evelyn Hugo. I really enjoyed this as an audiobook because of how it enhanced the interview aspects of the story. I can’t wait to dive deeper into Taylor Jenkins Reid’s backlist because these two books were fantastic.
The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Abby Jimenez’s debut, The Friend Zone, was one of my favorite reads of 2019. I think I squealed when I was approved for The Happy Ever After Playlist on NetGalley and immediately started reading. This is a companion novel, following The Friend Zone heroine’s best friend, who goes through something very traumatic at the end of that first book. The Happy Ever After Playlist starts two years later. Sloan is living a half-life, still unable to fully process her grief. Her world shifts when a stray dog literally jumps through the sunroof of her car and begins to bring her back to life. This mirrors the meet-cute in The Friend Zone, which also has a funny car incident. Sloan tries to find the dog’s owner, Jason, who happens to be a famous singer. Jimenez writes heroes who have deep emotions and feel grounded in reality, and Jason was really fantastic. For me, this book is about grief in the way that The Friend Zone was about self-worth, which makes the story very emotional to read. As the reader, you want so badly for Sloan to find her happily ever after. But Jimenez balances the dark moments of her books with hysterical levity, especially when The Friend Zone’s Kristen (who is a riot to have in a scene) makes appearances. I adored the very sappy way that this book ended. It just made all of the horrible things Jimenez put these four characters through worth it.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
I just finished the first novella in the Binti series and really enjoyed it. I love space stories and this one was so unique. The world and culture of the main character, inspired by the Himba of Namibia, are incredibly fascinating and inspired. Okorafor uses common space opera tropes (like warring alien species and characters attending space academy) in ways that feel fresh. I can’t believe how much character and story she was able to achieve in 80 pages. This first novella feels very insular in that it mainly follows Binti’s thoughts and feelings as she leaves home. Along the way, her space journey to Oomza University is interrupted and she meets an alien named Okwu. I’m excited to read the two sequels and hopefully see the world and cast of characters expand.
Stargazing by Jen Wang
Kelly always gives me the best book recommendations and she didn’t steer me wrong with Jen Wang’s Stargazing. I didn’t expect this book to hit me in my feelings as much as it did. This middle grade graphic novel follows Christine, who’s having trouble living up to the high expectations of her Asian parents. She becomes friends with her new neighbor, Moon, who is eccentric, artistic, full of life, and allowed to do things that Christine isn’t. The two grow and learn from each other in such a beautiful way. I was definitely crying at multiple points throughout this short read. This is the second graphic novel that I’ve read from Jen Wang and her art is just perfection. She’s definitely becoming a new favorite!
Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen
What an incredible debut novel! Please See Us is a riveting thriller that follows the unlikely friendship between two very different women, both struggling to move forward with their lives while living in Atlantic City. Women are disappearing and Clara, a boardwalk psychic, starts seeing disturbing images and begs Lily to help make sense of it all. This is a real edge-of-your-seat kind of book—incredibly tragic and filled with stories of women who never seemed to have a fighting chance. My heart ached for each of them, all held back by something or someone in their lives, just trying to get beyond this crumbling boardwalk town.
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler
Dawn by Octavia E. Butler is a story about the human race being rescued by aliens after humanity has destroyed the planet in a devastating war, but that rescue comes at a cost. The aliens offer a genetic give-and-take with those they rescue, which will result in permanent changes to future generations of humans. Dawn is a book that made me think deeply about the very definition of humanity, and about what it would mean to sacrifice aspects of that humanity, even if that meant a net benefit. Though it wasn’t fast-paced, I found that every time I picked it up to read just a few pages, I had to drag myself away when I ran out of time to read. It was truly a compelling story, and one that I continue to think about weeks after finishing.
Women Talking by Miriam Toews
After several friends urged me to read Women Talking, I finally picked it up and it is the most fascinating book I’ve read this year. Not only did I learn about the Mennonites and the awful event that inspired this book, but what impressed me most was how Toews played with the reader’s perspective. The book follows the conversations between the women of the colony through the point of view of a man. Readers are therefore forced to constantly question what we read. The slow realization that this is exactly what the women have to do (take the male gaze off their worldview) and how difficult it is, added another, deeper layer to the story. Women Talking is a gripping, thoughtful, and wise novel with beautiful female characters and lots of food for thought about life, societies, and human nature.
Fears of Your Life by Michael Bernard Loggins
Reviews of autobiographies often contain words such as “raw,” “honest,” and “unflinching.” However, I’ve never read an autobiography as unselfconsciously vulnerable as Fears of Your Life. Author Michael Bernard Loggins has not written a memoir—this book simply lists his fears. I don’t think he wrote it in an attempt to help anyone overcome their own fears or feel less alone due to inexplicable, random terrors. I believe he simply needed to put his own fears down on paper. Because of that, it is one of the most candid and touching books I’ve ever read.
Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar
There are a few books that I believe shaped my view of the world as a child: The Monster at the End of this Book, A Wrinkle in Time, and pretty much anything by Roald Dahl. Looking back, I’m sad that I did not know about Louis Sachar until my college days. His books, especially the Wayside School series, would have made me feel less alone in my literary taste and sense of humor. These books are a collection of stories, each focusing on a different student in Mrs. Jewls’ class. The marketing and book jacket copy accompanying these books usually emphasize the wacky adventures of the students, but I think the stories are neither wacky nor adventurous: They are a completely realistic portrayal of the world from a weird perspective. Beneath the Cloud of Doom is the fourth book in the series, and the first in 25 years. I’m so glad Sachar revisited these characters after such a long time.