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Books I've Been Reading: Dispatch #4

As an indie bookstore owner, I read a lot of books -- which you probably would've have guessed! I love talking about books I've read, past and present, and thought it would be nice to make a little online spot here for faraway friends or those who can't visit the shop in person. In irregular dispatches, I'll collect all the story-feathers and tale-winds I've gathered out in the meadow of pages. I hope you find your next favorite story here!

Spring has arrived with all her glory: the cherry blossoms are blooming and carpeting the sidewalks, the daffodils are in full swing and the sun feels stronger everyday. It's almost time for reading beneath your favorite park trees and on picnic blankets! Time is an illusion, but it feels almost surreal spring is here -- and yes, it impacts my reading. Romance suddenly becomes more appealing! Call it spring fever.

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer Armentrout

Listen, I like a trashy book now and again. Add in a fantasy element and I'm probably down to give it a try. This super popular series is, in a word, trash. The worldbuilding could be so interesting if it made a goddamn lick of sense. The characters are all wet noodles. There are crucial parts of the plot that I literally still don't understand, and instead of, you know, explaining them, Armentrout just repeats them a thousand times until you go "well, okay, I guess." BUT, despite all of that: there is a hot bad boy with dimples and his type? Violent women. So, I get down with that. The sex scenes in this book were weirdly hot considering no one had a personality at any point. I don't know. Am I desperate for any shred of serotonin? Probably. Am I gonna read the next one? Absolutely. Available in paperback for $19.99.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Okay, this book has been talked about a lot and also has a lot of problems. But I'm going to be honest with you: this YA dark fantasy absolutely did it for me. It sucked me in and truly had the dark, gritty undertone that is often missing. I thought Albert nailed how fucked-up fairytales are; so many modern fairytale-based books don't manage the complete chaos that many original tales hold. Fairytales don't usually make sense when you examine the mechanics of them, but they are savage and wild and that's what I love most about them. I think if you can appreciate that aspect of this book and sort of ignore the less-than-great stuff, it's a treasure for stepping into stranger worlds. Available in paperback for $10.99.

Lesser Known Monsters of the 21st Century by Kim Fu

We're reading this book for April's Selkie Book Club, so it comes as no surprise that I love it. The structure is loosely a bestiary of modern "monsters" -- guilt, sexuality, shame, grief. It's definitely a literary magical realism collection, but it avoids a lot of trappings of the genre. The prose is lucid and glimmering. I think this book is not for everyone (as is the case with most great books), but it will shine with the right reader. Fu expertly deals with dark topics, turning them just slightly so the light can hit them. Most of all, I admire Fu's restraint -- she is an expert at giving you just what you need and nothing more. Available in paperback for $16.95.

Dark Night, Golden Dawn by Allison Carr Waechter 

I was lucky enough to do a beta read of this book over the holidays and I haven't stopped thinking about it since! Waechter has created an absolutely immersive world that is so easy to fall in love with. Imagine Bridgerton meets dark academia -- swoon, right? Waechter's cast of characters are a joy to spend time with and I love the way she writes a romantic subplot. The sex scenes in this book are SCORCHING HOT and I'm here for it. If you're looking for a new adventure or craving some well-written fantasy romance (which to be honest, can be very hard to find!), this book will absolutely suit your craving. Bonus points: the main character is fat AND hot. Not hot despite being fat. Not hot for a fat girl. HOT AND FAT. We love to see it! Available in paperback for $15.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

I finished my advance copy of this about a week ago and I really enjoyed it! Patel retells a famous Hindu myth of a much-reviled woman, which is no easy task. Though I felt this book took awhile to get on its feet and I'm not a fan of the first-person narration, I came away really loving the book and Patel's writing. I think her greatest strength is deep characterization of complex people -- you will never think any of her characters are one-dimensional! -- and the setting. Patel's description of places and food had my head swimming with its gorgeous details. She has an incredible talent to put you right in the place she's talking about (and also make you very hungry for the delicious food she's describing!) I wouldn't be surprised if this book is hit-or-miss with many of you, but I do recommend giving it a read and taking the time to wade through the beginning. Available in hardcover for $28.

On deck
A Kingdom of Flesh & Fire by Jennifer Armentrout
Welsh Witchcraft by Mhara Starling
Mrs. Death Misses Death by Salena Godden