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!
Check, Please!: Sticks & Scones by Ngozi Ukazu
I’ve been an avid Check, Please! reader since it first launched on Tumblr, and reading through this second and final graphic novel was both emotional and incredibly satisfying. For me, reading this book was like reuniting with my old friends. It’s funny and joyous—and stars a fantastic cast of characters who uplift and support each other through thick and thin. This installment introduces some heavier topics, but I loved Ukazu’s commitment to showing that queer stories don’t need to be centered around pain or suffering. Bitty and Jack’s are centered around love, joy, family (both found and blood), and it’s so beautiful to read. Part of the dedication reads that the book is for “anyone who wants to thrive in a place where the world says they can’t,” and I think Ukazu infuses the series with that message and creates that space to thrive for her characters. I’ve loved watching these characters grow and evolve, and I’m looking forward to revisiting them for years to come.
Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight by Alyssa Cole
I’ve said it before and I will say it again and again and again: Alyssa Cole is the romance novella queen. Romance novellas can be so tricky because you really need that perfect blend of character development, romantic development, and plot development in a limited amount of pages. Alyssa Cole hits it out of the park every time. Agnes Moor’s Wild Knight is a medieval Scottish romance following Agnes Moor (a Black member of King James IV’s court) and Gareth MacAllister, the white highland knight competing in a tournament to win her favor and her kiss. Cole blew me away all over again with this story. Agnes is intelligent, brave, bold, and incredibly lonely. She believes she’s resigned to spending her days alone, treated without respect in a land far from home. Enter Gareth: the highland warrior who has been unable to think of anyone but her since they met months ago. He’ll fight for her, protect her, comfort her—anything to be the one who is by her side. If you haven’t read this one yet, I highly recommend it (especially if you’re an Alyssa Cole fan). The ebook is all of 99 cents (a STEAL for such a beautiful story), and I spy it available in paperback on Bookshop as well.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Between the World and Me is a book that’s been on my TBR list for years, and I’m so glad that I finally took the time to read this personal, powerful, and moving letter from a father to his son. I’m not sure what praise I can give to this book that hasn’t been said before, but I will say that it lived up to all of the hype in its nuanced and thoughtful discussion of race, American history, and how both impact the lives of Black citizens today. Ta-Nehisi Coates narrates the audiobook, and I’m so glad I made the choice to listen instead of reading because I felt I gained so much from his narration. In addition to looking at past and present American society, Coates also shares stories from his own life, and I was particularly captivated by the way he spoke about his time at Howard University and how the library shaped him as a person: “The pursuit of knowing was freedom to me, the right to declare your own curiosities and follow them through all manner of books. I was made for the library, not the classroom. The classroom was a jail of other people’s interests. The library was open, unending, free. Slowly, I was discovering myself.”
The Season by Sarah MacLean
Given the fact that we’re all likely to be isolated this summer, my friend Dana and I decided to host a virtual summer readalong on our personal Bookstagrams to read all of the books published by one of our favorite romance authors, Sarah MacLean! The #summerofsarahmaclean began earlier this month, and I was so excited to dive into her debut novel, The Season, for the first time. Unlike her other historical romances, The Season is a YA novel and it does a fantastic job of both capturing the young voices of its protagonists and giving readers an entry point into the historical romance genre. The book follows Lady Alexandra as she makes her society debut alongside her two best friends. Despite her desire to avoid marriage, Alex soon finds herself unable to stay away from the Earl of Blackmoor, a close friend to her three older brothers who she’s known since childhood. The trademarks of MacLean’s later books are all here: frank discussions of feminism and gender inequality, fierce female friendships, and hilarious banter between the hero and heroine. This is a must-read for both MacLean fans and YA readers who love historical fiction and romance.
The New Husband by D. J. Palmer
One major benefit of working with NetGalley members is getting to see what books everyone is talking about. I picked up this one after seeing glowing reviews from our members and I’m so glad I did! Nina’s husband disappeared two years ago and she has since been trying to rebuild a life with her two children, Maggie and Connor. After a chance encounter (or so we think), a new man comes into her life. Simon is a teacher at Maggie’s school, a widow who seems to be everything Nina is looking for. He also oddly reminds her of her missing husband. As Nina puts her trust into this man, things start to seem off and she begins to question every little detail of their new relationship. This was one of those books that sucked me right in and I could NOT put it down! This is the second book I’ve read by this author and I’m hooked.
Devoted by Dean Koontz
I’ve been a Dean Koontz fan for more years than I can remember, but it has been a while since I read a book set in one of his alternate worlds. I don’t typically read books that stray far from reality. Still, Koontz has a way of creating a fictional world with such depth that it seems believable. You almost forget that these situations don’t exist. Devoted is a perfect example. Woody and his mother Megan have been living a private life since his father was killed in a work-related helicopter accident. Woody, a high-functioning autistic 11-year-old who doesn’t speak, finds himself uncovering the truth behind his father’s death while investigating the company he worked for and the men behind it. What Woody doesn’t know yet is that he is gifted in ways he could never imagine, and his connection to some special canine friends may be the thing that not only saves Woody and his mom but all of mankind. Devoted is a deeply moving story filled with incredible bonds of love and human connection. And, as we always expect from Koontz, one amazing golden retriever named Kipp, who is about to change the world.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Dear Martin by Nic Stone was such a powerful read and sadly still as relevant as it was when it was first published in 2017. In many ways, it reminded me of The Hate U Give both for its themes and its accessibility. It’s such a great book and any teen could pick it up and get something out of it. I listened to the audiobook and loved the narrator, Dion Graham. I want to listen to any book he’s narrated now! When I reached the ending, I wished I could follow Justyce into college and read as he continued to process his feelings about everything that’s happened to him, which is why I’m so excited that Nic Stone has written a sequel: Dear Justyce, coming September 29 of this year.
The Virgin and the Rogue by Sophie Jordan
I couldn’t put down Sophie Jordan’s latest historical romance, The Virgin and the Rogue, the sixth novel in her Rogue Files series. When Charlotte Langley’s sister gives her a tonic for her monthly cramps, it ends up being more of an aphrodisiac and makes Charlotte act in some uncharacteristic ways. When she corners Kingston, a rake and her sister’s stepbrother-in-law, things get steamy. However, Charlotte’s betrothed to a boring man and Kingston’s not ready to settle down. I loved that the set-up for this novel was a love potion of sorts. This trope is always so much fun because it causes doubt for the main characters’ true feelings and Jordan utilized it perfectly as a complication. From the title, you know that this story will follow the standard historical romance character archetypes, but it still feels really fresh and modern. Both Charlotte and Kingston have an abundance of feelings and they’re right there on the page. Charlotte’s agency is never in question, despite the involvement of this tonic, and she takes her life into her own hands. I’m very excited for the next book, which follows Nora, the herbalist sister who accidentally made a very powerful love potion.
The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton
When I saw Hilarie Burton’s memoir pop up on NetGalley, I immediately requested it because I love her and her husband, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. I follow them on Instagram and knew they lived on a farm in upstate New York with their two children and wanted to learn how they ended up there. I thought that this was just going to be about their life on the farm, but it follows Burton’s life from meeting her now-husband to present day. Her writing style was really funny and relatable. It felt like I was getting to know her as we chatted over coffee. I loved that she wasn’t afraid to talk about her own relationship with her mental health, her career ups and downs, her difficulties getting pregnant and coping with miscarriages, and her experiences with facing sexual harassment while being an actress. A great deal of the book is about Burton’s life in Rhinebeck, NY and the people of the community that have become family, which was really beautiful and heartwarming. Burton also shares family recipes and that added another fun layer to the stories of her life. If you’re a fan of her or her husband’s work, you would adore this book. Even if you aren’t familiar with them, I think any reader can connect with her journey and will find this memoir to be very touching.
Critical Role—Vox Machina: Origins by Matthew Mercer and Matthew Colville, illustrated by Olivia Samson, color by Chris Northrop
Vox Machina: Origins is based on a web series called Critical Role, which follows a game of Dungeons & Dragons played by a group of voice actors. I didn’t know anything about the web series, but the comic makes for a great entry point because it’s a prequel story. Vox Machina: Origins has been a nice way for me to get back into fantasy storytelling and has a lot of really cool characters. I have a soft spot for a ragtag group of unexpected heroes and this graphic novel features just that. This book was action-packed with many intertwining plots and intriguing backstories that made me not want to put it down. Also, the characters were a riot!
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
It’s been a while since I picked up a YA fantasy, but Truthwitch reminded me why I’ve always loved them: strong world-building, clever and imperfect characters driven by their values, and important, unbreakable friendships. Safiya and Iseult are each powerful in their own right—Iseult is a Threadwitch who can see and understand the invisible ties that bind the people around her, and Safiya is a Truthwitch who must keep her power a secret for many would kill to have her ability to recognize truth from lies. These two characters strike a perfect balance to one another. A 20-year truce is coming to an end, and war is coming to the Witchlands, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next in the series.
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
It’s been a pleasure to revisit the various worlds of His Dark Materials over the past couple of months. I’ve just finished book three and love how all of the characters are coming back together in their journeys—sometimes joyful, sometimes bitter. Asriel’s war is ramping up but Lyra and Will refuse to be tools in the battle. They have their own plans to delve into the world of the dead to find yet another character we thought was gone. Pullman’s world and characters are inventive and exhilarating.
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I read this in a single sitting. I wish I didn’t have to say “this is so important, this is so timely” but, it is. A slim, approachable, conversational little book, it was adapted from the author’s TED Talk and is immediately digestible for anyone. (In fact, I bought six copies to give to friends!) What does feminism mean today? Why do we use the word “feminism” and not “human rights”? Need a few specific, relatable examples of gender inequality? Here you go.
Giraffes on Horseback Salad by Josh Frank and Tim Heidecker, illustrated by Manuela Pertega
What if I told you that one of the creators of the Adult Swim show Tom Goes to the Mayor adapted an old unproduced screenplay into a graphic novel? That show had a, shall we say, selective and focused appeal, so you may not have any reaction at all. But what if I said that the screenplay was written by Salvador Dalí? That makes it more interesting, I think. Add in the fact that Dali wrote this screenplay for the Marx Brothers and, if you’re like me, you would not be able to resist reading that book. You’d soon find that the book has a perfect title, but only because the appearance of any giraffes, salads, and horses’ backs are incidental and inconsequential to the plot. When you combine the Marx Brothers’ anarchy with Dalí’s surrealism, you realize that the plot itself is mostly incidental and inconsequential. It’s a bit of a mind-bender that can’t be easily digested, but it’s very much worth it if you generally find reality to be just a bit too real.
I have enjoyed reading books by Sophie Jordan and Sarah MacLean after reading Johanna Lindsey and Kathleen Woodiwoss. I picked up a book from Amalie Howard as I’ve been looking to new Authors in historical romance stories. Especially during this quarantine. Looking forward to reading more during this time.
The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman. A lovely, heartwarming story that is the perfect prescription for times such as these.
The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd is the most memorable book I’ve read in a long time. It was so powerful and should be on everyone’s “Must Read” list!