Hello everybody. Today I’m sharing my spoiler free reviews for some of the books published in June and July of 2020 that I have read and loved. For most of these books, I’ve actually done detailed non-spoiler reviews, as well as interviews with the authors. You’ll find links to those down below. What are some of your favorite new books? Leave a comment below and let me know!
Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Publication date: July 7th 2020
Book synopsis: It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again. Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her step sisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew . . .
My thoughts: This book was a wonderful retelling of Cinderella, with an amazing Black queer female main character, lots of twists and turns, a good dose of romance, beautiful writing and lots and lots of fairy tale goodness. Definitely a new favorite of mine! Click here to read my detailed non-spoiler review of this book, as well as the interview that I did with the author.
Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath of Ambar #1)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: June 23rd 2020
Book synopsis: Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge. Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl–Gul–in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance–and discovers a magic he never expected to find. Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.
My thoughts: This book has amazing world-building and is filled with magic, political intrigue, mythological elements and wonderful characters. I honestly can’t wait for the next book to come out! Click here to read my detailed non-spoiler review of this book, as well as the interview that I did with the author.
The Crow Rider by Kalyn Josephson (The Storm Crow #2)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Publication date: July 7th 2020
Book synopsis: The thrilling conclusion to the epic Storm Crow duology that follows a fallen princess as she tries to bring back the magical elemental crows taken from her people. Click here for the full synopsis.
My thoughts: Since this is the second and final book in a duology, I can’t say too much about the plot without spoiling the first book. However, I will say that this was a very satisfying conclusion to this duology. I loved how the character arcs and relationships were developed in this book. This book was also very action packed and really delivered in terms of battles and warfare. Click here to read my detailed non-spoiler review of this series, as well as the interview that I did with the author.
Splinters of Scarlet by Emily Bain Murphy
Publisher: HMH Books For Young Readers
Publication date: July 21st 2020
Book synopsis: For Marit Olsen, magic is all about strategy: it flows freely through her blood, but every use leaves behind a deadly, ice-like build-up within her veins called the Firn. Marit knows how dangerous it is to let too much Firn build up—after all, it killed her sister—and she has vowed never to use her thread magic. But when Eve, a fellow orphan whom Marit views like a little sister, is adopted by the wealthy Helene Vestergaard, Marit will do anything to stay by Eve’s side. She decides to risk the Firn and uses magic to secure a job as a seamstress in the Vestergaard household. But Marit has a second, hidden agenda: her father died while working in the Vestergaards’ jewel mines—and it might not have been an accident. The closer Marit gets to the truth about the Vestergaard family, the more she realizes she and everyone she’s come to love are in danger. When she finds herself in the middle of a treacherous deception that goes all the way up to the king of Denmark, magic may be the only thing that can save her—if it doesn’t kill her first.
My thoughts: With its beautifully descriptions, interesting characters, fairy tale references and ballet elements, this book offers an enchanting journey full of intrigue and magic that will definitely please fans of the genre. I highly recommend it and will definitely be keeping an eye out for the author’s other works. Look forward to my detailed non-spoiler review of this book, as well as an interview that I did with the author, which will be up on the blog on September 22nd.
Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce
Publisher: Random House UK
Publication date: July 23rd 2020
Book synopsis: It is 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. She is going to travel to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty, in her unlikely pink travel suit, is not the companion Margery had in mind. And yet together they will be drawn into an adventure that will exceed every expectation. They will risk everything, break all the rules, and at the top of a red mountain, discover their best selves. This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.
My thoughts: I loved the characters in this book. Margery is an intelligent but naive spinster turned explorer, and Enid is her young and attractive assistant with uncanny resourcefulness and streetsmarts. Despite the fact that they both have their flaws, they also remain incredibly charming characters, and you just can’t help but fall in love with them. I also loved the unlikely friendship that develops between these two women who don’t really seem to have anything in common at first. And although the story is about an expedition and the search for a rare beetle in the tropical wilderness of New Caledonia, the characters and their unique friendship remain the most fascinating aspect of the book. At times incredibly funny and at times also very emotional, this book was a joy to read.
Miss Iceland by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir (Translated by Brian FitzGibbon)
Publisher: Grove Atlantic
Publication date: June 16th 2020
Book synopsis: Iceland in the 1960s. Hekla is a budding female novelist who was born in the remote district of Dalir. After packing her few belongings, including James Joyces’s Ulysses and a Remington typewriter, she heads for Reykjavik with a manuscript buried in her bags. There, she intends to become a writer. Sharing an apartment with her childhood and queer friend Jón John, Hekla comes to learn that she will have to stand alone in a small male dominated community that would rather see her win a pageant than be a professional artist. As the two friends find themselves increasingly on the outside, their bond shapes and strengthens them artistically in the most moving of ways.
My thoughts: This book is set in the 60s in Iceland and through the eyes of our main character, Hekla, we explore themes such as gender roles and queer culture. Hekla wants to become a professional writer but in this society, it is inconceivable for women to become poets. At some point in the story, Hekla becomes romantically involved with another aspiring poet. Despite the fact that they both have the same passion, she finds herself unable to tell him that she is a poet too, well aware that despite being a poet himself, he won’t understand her passion for writing since she’s a woman. The title of the book, Miss Iceland, refers to recurring scenes in the book, where several characters, both men and women, comment on Hekla’s beauty, urging her to enter the competition for Miss Iceland. This serves as a contrast between who she identifies as, an independent woman who wants to write, and who society wants her to be, a woman who is defined by little more than her beauty. The book also looks at the rampant homophobia prevalent in the Icelandic society of the 60s. Hekla’s best friend is a gay man and the book offers a painfully realistic of the hardships he faces in this society. Overall, this book was very poignant and incredibly realistic in its exploration of its various themes.
The Disaster Tourist by Yun Ko-eun (Translated by Lizzie Buehler)
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Publication date: July 2nd 2020
Book synopsis: For ten years, Yona has been stuck behind a desk as a coordinator for Jungle, a travel company specializing in vacation packages to destinations devastated by disaster and climate change. Her work life is uneventful until trouble arises in the form of a predatory colleague. To forestall any disruption of business-as-usual, Jungle makes Yona a proposition: a paid “vacation” to the desert island of Mui. But Yona must pose as a tourist and assess whether Jungle should continue their partnership with the unprofitable destination. Yona travels to the remote island, whose major attraction is an underwhelming sinkhole, a huge disappointment to the customers who’ve paid a premium. Soon Yona discovers the resort’s plan to fabricate a catastrophe in the interest of regaining their good standing with Jungle–and the manager enlists Yona’s help. Yona must choose between the callous company to whom she’s dedicated her life, or the possibility of a fresh start in a powerful new position. As she begins to understand the cost of the manufactured disaster, Yona realizes that the lives of Mui’s citizens are in danger–and so is she. In The Disaster Tourist, Korean author Yun Ko-eun grapples with the consequences of our fascination with disaster, and questions an individual’s culpability in the harm done by their industry.
My thoughts: This book is a satirical exploration of natural disasters through the lenses of tourism and consumerism. The book also looks at Nature in terms of its untamable power and its unpredictability. With regards to the prose, the book has a clear and precise writing style that makes the story almost compulsively readable. In addition to this, the book has a well-paced plot, filled with both social commentary and dark humor, which makes for a very enjoyable reading experience. Click here to read my detailed non-spoiler review of this book, as well as the interview that I did with the author.
Wonderscape by Jennifer Bell
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication date: June 4th 2020
Book synopsis: When Arthur, Ren and Cecily investigate a mysterious explosion on their way to school, they find themselves trapped aboard The Principia – a scientific research ship sailing through hazardous waters, captained by one Isaac Newton. Lost in the year 2473 in the Wonderscape, an epic in-reality adventure game, they must call on the help of some unlikely historical heroes, to play their way home before time runs out. Jumanji meets Ready Player One in this fast-paced adventure featuring incredible real-life heroes, from the internationally bestselling author of The Uncommoners series.
My thoughts: I really liked our main characters, Arthur, Ren and Cecily. Each one of them has something unique that they bring to the team and I really enjoyed seeing them work together to solve puzzles and help each other escape enemies and dangerous situations. It was also really fun to see the characters travel from realm to realm and having to figure out the puzzles to be solved in each one. Overall, this book was a lot of fun and one that both children and older readers will definitely really enjoy. It also offers a great way for young readers to discover various historical figures that they might not know much about, such as Wangari Maathai and Tomoe Gozen. Click here to read my detailed non-spoiler review of this book, as well as the interview that I did with the author.