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!
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
Alyssa Cole’s first thriller is a winner! Sydney Green is working on a walking tour that honors the Black history of her Brooklyn neighborhood. But the deeper she digs into the past, the more she sees parallels in the present—communities gentrified, families forced out, racial profiling used by the police and government. It all hits too close to home when she starts to wonder about the sudden disappearances of her neighbors. The atmosphere is eerie, every scene laced with an insidious undertone that keeps the reader from ever feeling fully comfortable. There is no single villain here, instead the horror comes from the real ways communities like Sydney’s are targeted. This was one of my most-anticipated books of the year, and Cole absolutely delivered—blowing me away once again with her craft, plotting, and character work. If you find yourself intrigued (and you should be!), check out this spoiler-free interview to learn about Cole’s inspiration, love for NYC, and more!
Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters
Who doesn’t love a road trip romance? Megan and Scarlett were high school friends who had a falling out after graduation. Now, the wedding of a mutual friend is thrusting them back together. Scarlett is hoping to make amends, and suggests they travel together from Florida to Quebec. Along the way, they finally acknowledge the spark of interest that’s always been there between them. This book has some of my favorite tropes (forced proximity, only one bed, snowed in, friends-to-enemies-to-lovers) and it also does a great job of capturing those mid-20s feelings of not knowing what to do with your life. While the romance is key, Winters honors the platonic bond that existed between Megan and Scarlett for years and the hurt caused by the breakup of their friendship, which isn’t written about as frequently but can be just as devastating (and sometimes more so) than a romantic breakup. Readers looking for a queer romance featuring heroines finding themselves and each other will find a lot to love here.
A Phoenix First Must Burn edited by Patrice Caldwell
With the spooky season upon us I was craving some magic and decided to dive into A Phoenix First Must Burn, a young adult SFF anthology that was published earlier this year. The tagline is “Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic, Resistance, and Hope” and it lives up to every word. I went into the collection familiar with some of the authors (Justina Ireland, Dhonielle Clayton, Elizabeth Acevedo) and excited to read others for the very first time (L.L. McKinney, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Ashley Woodfolk). Clayton’s “Hearts Turned to Ash” was a standout for me, as was anthology editor Patrice Caldwell’s queer vampire short “Letting the Right One In.” I’d highly recommend this to YA readers who love short stories, but also to anyone who wants a great introduction to this incredible list of authors. I’d find myself finishing a story I really enjoyed and going right to my TBR to make sure that author’s books were on my list.
Fence: Rivals by C.S. Pacat, illustrated by Johanna the Mad
Earlier this month I treated myself to the fourth volume of the Fence comics, and proceeded to tear through it in a single sitting. This series follows an underdog fencer on his journey to make the school team and beat his nemesis, who happens to be his roommate. In this installment, the team goes to their first practice match and learns that if they want to win they’ll need to find a way to rely on each other—a task easier said than done for prodigy Seiji, whose blunt feedback isn’t always well-received by his teammates. Meanwhile, Nicholas learns just how hard he’ll have to work if he ever hopes to spar against Seiji as equals. I frequently recommend this to fans of Check, Please and Yuri On Ice. It is a very slow burn, but one with lots of delicious tension and teasing moments that are sure to make the romance incredibly satisfying when it truly kicks off. I also appreciate that there are background slow burn romances for other characters, so even though there is no kissing yet, it still feels packed with romance. There’s also a novel (Fence: Striking Distance) hitting shelves this month by Sarah Rees Brennan that I can’t wait to read!
Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell
I was left with a big smile on my face after reading this fabulously twisty book. Saffyre Maddox is a 17-year-old girl with a tragic past that she hasn’t opened up about to anyone. Owen Pick is the sad, overlooked, socially awkward former teacher who has had a terrible run recently. When Saffyre goes missing after a string of unsolved sexual attacks on women, the Fours family across the street is quick to point fingers. What they aren’t sharing is that they’re more connected to the case than they let on. This book went in directions I never saw coming and I found myself rooting for the most unlikely of characters. The story is incredibly engrossing and it took me all of two days to devour it.
The Safe Place by Anna Downes
I could just close my eyes and float away reading this book. Emily is having a tough time of it. After losing her job, apartment, and her agent all in one day, when the opportunity to escape and hideout for the summer presents itself, she jumps at the chance. A summer working in France, helping out the wife and daughter of her former boss on a beautiful private estate, with a guest house and vehicle to go along with it… how bad could it be? I tore through this one and was as blindsided as Emily was when the truth came out. Caught up in the laughter and friendship, it seemed like the perfect, safe place. Downes did a fabulous job of sucking me right into this perfect little world and left me wanting more. This was my first book by this author and I’ll absolutely be back for more!
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
I recently re-read the first two books in the Earthsea Cycle—A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan. Earthsea is an archipelago, made of uncountable islands. In A Wizard of Earthsea, a young wizard called Sparrowhawk comes to terms with his power, and the shadow creature he accidentally releases into the world. For fantasy lovers, this book builds an amazingly rich world, and explores themes of balance in the universe, the dangers inherent in power, and coming of age. In The Tombs of Atuan, a young girl is taken to become the new high priestess to the “Nameless Ones.” Her story deals with isolation and faith, while being a part of—yet separate from—a cult-like group of female priests. Her encounter with Sparrowhawk opens her eyes in many ways, and Le Guin even ties in one event from the first book in this follow-up.
The Roommate by Rosie Danan
The telltale sign of a great romance novel is one that pulls you in from the first chapter, makes you stay up late, and has you sneaking in chapters at every opportunity. The Roommate was that book for me. Readers who loved The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang will adore this close proximity romance that has tons of sex worker positivity and a beautiful emphasis on female pleasure. Rosie Danan’s debut is not just steamy but also hilarious with awkward situations for the protagonists as well as really sweet moments. I’m highly anticipating Danan’s sophomore novel following one of The Roommate‘s fantastic supporting characters.
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
I finished the audiobook of Girl, Serpent, Thorn and I really loved this YA fantasy world. Melissa Bashardoust captures a fairytale tone, while also exploring multifaceted girls who yearn for more, make bad choices, face those consequences, and strive to make things right. Soraya lives in the shadows due to her curse and her touch being poison, but she wants more and I think this is a great commentary for girls about breaking free of the place society has told them to stay in. The world was so lush and interesting. I haven’t been reading a lot of YA fantasy recently but this gorgeous book kept me hooked. It’s also queer and I really enjoyed the relationship development. I am so excited to dive into Bashardoust’s first book Girls Made of Snow and Glass, which is another fantasy fairytale retelling.
The Kingmaker by Kennedy Ryan
The Kingmaker was a whirlwind of emotions, drama, and steaminess. I was absolutely hooked on the explosive relationship between Lennix and Maxim. The book begins when Lennix is a teen protesting the pipeline construction on her tribe’s lands. There she meets Maxim and instantly has a connection with him, but what she doesn’t know is that Maxim is the son of the man trying to build the pipeline. This starts a decades-long forbidden and second chance romance that was all-consuming. Lennix and Maxim meet again in Amsterdam, where they are both vacationing. That section where they truly fall in love after having thought about each other for years was perfection. But the truth comes out about Maxim’s family and they both become jaded from heartbreak. The second half of the novel has that enemies-to-lovers chemistry that I adore. The cat and mouse chase of Maxim trying to prove himself again to Lennix was swoon-worthy. Lennix’s growth from a young teen who wanted to save her people and the world to a strong business woman was really fantastic. The ending was jaw-dropping and a major cliff hanger. I’m so glad that the second book is already out so I can dive into it ASAP.
Secret Crush Seduction by Jayci Lee
Secret Crush Seduction was so much fun! I was immediately drawn to this book by the amazing Harlequin Desire cover and found the story to be unputdownable. This book utilizes the brother’s best friend and unrequited childhood crush tropes really well. The heroine Adelaide Song is an heiress to a fashion empire, but she needs to prove to her grandmother that she’s no longer a wild party girl. She enlists the help of Michael Reynolds, a family friend and the company’s go-to for PR, and while working together sparks ignite. There is great tension from the feeling that their relationship would be forbidden by their families and because of their age gap. Michael is also dealing with a secret that he feels would make him unworthy of Adelaide. I really loved seeing all of the Korean-American culture in the story, especially reflected in the food scenes. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series and hopefully get a glimpse at these two being happy together.
The Answer Is… by Alex Trebek
In The Answer Is…, Alex Trebek offers readers a collection of stories from his life, and what he thinks of them with the benefit of hindsight. He says in the introduction that he has never written such a book, despite many requests from publishers, because his life is not really that interesting. He chose to write at this time because he received so much support from all over the world after he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He thought he should write something personal because so many people really do care. I’m glad he did. His life is not especially interesting in and of itself—it seems like the kind of life most people lead despite his obvious fame. The fascinating part is that he has managed to find a balance in which remodeling a bathroom for his wife is as rewarding as meeting the Queen of England, and where hearing a college kid recite some terrible poetry in a university tournament is as memorable as seeing Peggy Noonan beat Bob Woodward to the buzzer on a question about the press coverage of Watergate. One gets the impression that if his life had taken a different path and he had never hosted Jeopardy (and he has always insisted on being called “host” rather than “star,” because the contestants are the “stars”), he would still be the same person. That’s not the kind of inspiration you get from a lot of memoirs, but I think it’s better.