New Books

Hooray, It’s Time for New Books!

RABBIT RABBIT! It’s the first day of December and I am excited about books! (Spoiler: I am always excited about books.) I have read so many great 2021 releases that I have been waiting to share with you, and now we’re nearing the finish line. I could not be more excited if I swallowed a cat and broke out in kittens.

December has a lot of great releases to offer us this year, more so than usual because of all the rescheduled dates from earlier in the year. At the top of my list to buy is Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo. I have a few of today’s awesome titles to tell you about, plus on this week’s episode of All the Books! Danika and I discussed great books that would make great gifts, such as The Art of Ramona Quimby, Black Futures, All Boys Aren’t Blue, and Reclaimed Rust! I love giving—and getting—books as gifts!

And now, it’s time for everyone’s favorite gameshow: AHHHHHH MY TBR! Here are today’s contestants:

How to Catch a Queen by Alyssa Cole

In my opinion, Alyssa Cole IS the queen. I love her romance novels so much! This is the start of the Runaway Royals series (the second will be out in May.) Shanti Mohapi weds the Sanyu, king of Njaza, in an arranged marriage. And while it’s obvious they are attracted to one another, she doesn’t harbor any illusions that this is anything but an arrangement, until their passions boil over in the bedroom, leading to hot and heavy nights. But when political turmoil upends the kingdom, Shanti flees, and Sanyu must decide if he has what it takes to get her back.

Backlist bump: A Princess in Theory: Reluctant Royals by Alyssa Cole

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir

Hey, all you fans of feminist fairytales and Gideon the Ninth! This is the story of a princess trapped in a tower by a witch—because that’s what witches do—who must figure out how to rescue herself when all the princes who come to rescue her become dragon lunchmeat. Floralinda expected to be rescued right away, but when it doesn’t happen, she must figure out how to get past 39 flights of scary monsters make it to the bottom of the tower. Helping her, begrudgingly, is a fairy named Cobweb, who blows into her room during a storm and cannot fly away because her wing is broken. Together they will take on the Night-Boar and the Devil-Bear, and all the other Big Bads, to prove princesses don’t need rescuing.

Note: This is being published by a boutique press, which means it’s a limited edition item. If you’re a collector, and/or love Tamsyn Muir, you can get a signed and numbered copy from the Subterranean Press site while supplies last, or there’s also a digital version available!

Backlist bump: The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko

Finding My Voice by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

And last, but not least: Soho Press is releasing this groundbreaking Own Voices YA classic for its 30th anniversary. Seventeen-year-old Ellen Sung is part of the only Korean American family in her Minnesota town, and her classmates at her all-white school continuously point it out. When she begins an unexpected romance with the star quarterback, Ellen must stand up to racism at school and disapproval from her parents, and along the way discovers she has a voice of her own. This new edition includes an introduction from Kat Cho.

Backlist bump: Somebody’s Daughter by Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Thank you, as always, for joining me each week as I rave about books! I am wishing the best for all of you in whatever situation you find yourself in now. – XO, Liberty

Today In Books

Penguin Random House Purchasing Simon & Schuster: Today In Books

Penguin Random House Purchasing Simon & Schuster

ViacomCBS Inc., which owns Simon & Schuster, said it plans to sell the third largest U S. publishing entity to the largest one, Penguin Random House. If you feel like some sticker shock: $2.175 billion in cash is the price. “Approximately one-third of all books sold in America will now come from one corporation, Bertelsmann. And because the now-combined shares of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster are so high, the deal also raises antitrust concerns and may attract attention from the U.S. Justice Department.”

The Guardian’s Best Books Of 2020

The Guardian has revealed its Best Books of 2020 list with separate lists for fiction, children’s, crime and thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, memoir and celebrity books, politics, ideas, sports, nature and science, poetry, comics and graphic novels, art, food, and stocking fillers. So many lists. So many books. Chosen by Guardian critics, you can check out all the lists here.

Grammy Nom Omits Alex Trebek’s Name From Own Memoir

The 2021 Grammy Award nominations nominated Ken Jennings for the Best Spoken Word Album for Alex Trebek’s memoir The Answer Is…: Reflections on My Life. But they didn’t nominate Alex Trebek, who is also a narrator on his memoir with Jennings. “’This should 100% be Alex’s Grammy nomination. He wrote this book and reads much of the audiobook!,’ the Jeopardy! champ said on Twitter following the nominations announcement Tuesday. ‘Who do I speak to about this.’”

What Are Publishers Really Doing To Diversify?

In this moment of reckoning with the lack of diversity in publishing, what are publishers really doing to address the problem?

The Kids Are All Right

New Children’s Book Releases for December 1, 2020

Hey readers! We’re back with another week of children’s new releases!

The Square Root of Possible by Lyn Sisson-Talbert and David E. Talbert

For everyone watching Netflix’s Jingle Jangle on a loop, there are also some tie-in children’s books to keep the good time going! This picture book is based on the song from the film, about a down-on-his-luck inventor and the granddaughter hoping to inspire him to get back to work.

How to Build An Orchestra by Mary Auld and Elisa Paganelli

If you’re musically inclined, this book comes with downloadable music and accompanying CDs, about a conductor auditioning instruments for the orchestra.

Ritu Weds Chandni by Ameya Narvankar

This colorful picture book is about Ritu and Chandhi’s upcoming wedding, and Ritu’s niece Ayesha, who’s looking forward to the celebrations. But not everyone feels the same way and has vowed to stop the wedding, but Ayesha is determined to save her cousin’s big day.

Cat Kid Comic Club by Dav Pilkey

Just in time for the holidays, Dav Pilkey drops a new graphic novel about friends who introduce a group of frogs to the ins and outs of comic writing, focusing on creativity and persistence in making dreams come true.

Never After: The Thirteenth Fairy by Melissa de la Cruz

This new series from the author of The Descendents follows Filomena Jefferson-Cho, a girl who suddenly meets one of the heroes from her favorite book series. When he tells her that the story is real, Filomena is swept up in a world-saving adventure and a battle against an evil enchantress.

Goodbye, Mr. Terrupt by Rob Buyea

It’s the end of an era! The seven kids who met in Mr. Terupt’s fifth grade class are finally eighth-graders, and preparing to say goodbye at last to their favorite teacher.

Follow Me by K.R Alexander

Tamal is new in town and living in an infamous house that no one wants to go into. At first it seems no one wants to talk about what happened there, but then Tamal meets the terrifying ghost who resides in the house, who only he can see. And she wants to talk about it. And she wants something from Tamal.

Until next week!

Chelsea (@ChelseaBigBang)

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The Goods

Best Books 2020

Welcome, readers, to our guide to the best books of 2020. Whether they were buzzy or lost in the shuffle, prize-winners or under the radar, we’ve assembled the books from 2020 you must not miss. Dive on in!

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Check Your Shelf

Book Recs for All Kinds of Appetites

Welcome to Check Your Shelf. Despite this extremely non-traditional Thanksgiving weekend, I still managed to eat enough to strain the waistband on my comfy pants…there’s been a lot of napping in the McLain-Horner household over the last few days.

Collection Development Corner

Publishing News

And then there were four…Penguin Random House’s parent company is officially purchasing Simon & Schuster.

Penguin Random House employees in Canada have protested the publisher’s decision to publish a new book by Jordan Peterson.

A Somerville (MA) mother started an indie publishing house to showcase more stories of “the South Asian experience.”

A new online bookstore for LGBTQ+ readers opens in the UK.

Scholastic Book Fairs revamp their options for the pandemic.

New & Upcoming Titles

Pope Francis’ new book supports demands for racial justice and speaks out against COVID-19 deniers and conspiracy theorists.

Yusef Salaam, one of the five teens who became known as the “Central Park 5” in 1989, will publish a memoir next year.

Lorde went to Antarctica and is publishing a photo book to prove it.

46 books from 2020 that indie booksellers were grateful for this year.

Books of the week from Booklist Reader, Bustle, LitHub, The Millions, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today.

November picks from Amazon (history), Crime Reads, and LitHub (bio/memoir).

December picks from Epic Reads and New York Times.

Best books of 2020 from BBC, Book Page, (general & SFF), Kirkus (picture books), LitHub (short story collections), New York Times, Shelf Awareness (children’s/YA), Smithsonian Magazine (food), Time (children’s/YA, nonfiction), and Wired (cookbooks).

15 mysteries and thrillers to look for in 2021.

What Your Patrons Are Hearing About

The Thirty Names of Night – Zeyn Joukhadar (USA Today, Washington Post)

The Freezer Door – Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore (New York Times, Washington Post)

Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future – Pope Francis (NPR)

A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery From the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War – William G. Thomas (New York Times)

On the Riot

15 of the best post-apocalyptic books in 2020.

How to find LGBTQ+ new releases.

10+ new self-help books, and how to find more.

Angst all the way down: where to get started with John Green books.

All Things Comics

Simon & Schuster is launching two new graphic novel lines for young readers.

Kid Quick, DC’s first non-binary character, will appear in next month’s anthology, DC’s Merry Multiverse.

On the Riot

11 comics to relax with.

10 middle grade graphic novels to gift this year.


Writer’s groups have been protesting Audible’s exchange policy, which allows users to return their audiobooks within 1 year of the purchase, and allows Audible to avoid paying authors and narrators their royalties. Audible has since altered its return policy.

The Grammy nominees for Best Spoken Word Album have been announced.

Audiobooks to soothe you during Lockdown 2.0.

5 literary thrillers on audio.

On the Riot

The neuroscience of audiobooks.

How to find audiobooks for sleep.

7 audiobooks for Indigenous Heritage Month.

Book Lists, Book Lists, Book Lists


12 nonfiction books kids will actually read.

14 YA books that prove that all teens are messy in the best way.

10 YA books with saints & angel mythologies.

Epic Reads has a (dare I say it?) EPIC YA Holiday Gift Guide!


20 life-changing books to gift to someone you love.

7 books you should read AFTER dinner this holiday season (this is from the Ladies of Horror Fiction, so that should tell you a few things about the content of this list).

6 SFF novels that defy genre distinction.

5 SFF reads with Chinese representation.

5 SFF books with an astonishing number of twists and turns.

5 books about women fighting their way out.

Companion reading for a truly fraught holiday season.

10 romantic books for readers new to the genre.

On the Riot

7 children’s books by Asian writers.

10 ancient mythology and folktale books for kids.

5 of the best morally ambiguous monster hunting YA novels.

YA books set in bookstores.

Food & travel book recommendations for all your pandemic armchair travels.

20 must-read short books for short attention spans.

15 of the best books for teachers

12 books for coping with a COVID winter.

5 new books to read if you love Toni Morrison.

14 books about pop culture to distract you from 2020.

Books you should read if you’re a middle child.

Level Up (Library Reads)

Do you take part in Library Reads, the monthly list of best books selected by librarians only? We’ve made it easy for you to find eligible diverse titles to nominate. Kelly Jensen created a database of upcoming diverse books that anyone can edit, and Nora Rawlins of Early Word is doing the same, as well as including information about series, vendors, and publisher buzz.

See you on Friday!

—Katie McLain Horner, @kt_librarylady on Twitter. Currently reading Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey.

Swords and Spaceships

Swords and Spaceships for December 1

Happy Tuesday, shipmates! It’s Alex, with some new releases for your perusal. December is kind of an uneven month on the new release front because of the holidays, but there’s a huge number of books dropping this week! I hope everyone had a great weekend (we had smoked salmon and I made the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever baked in my life) and is staying warm (if applicable) and safe. See you on Friday!

Something cute for you: The penguins of Shedd Aquarium took a trip to Soldier Field

Also, Ernesto’s Sanctuary for Syrian Cats celebrated its fifth birthday and my heart is full of rainbows

Looking for non-book things you can do to help in the quest for justice? and The Okra Project.

New Releases

Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir

Each flight of stairs in the witch-built tower that imprisons Princess Floralinda contains a dreadful, different monster to guard it. If a lucky man makes it to the top of the tower, he gets the princess and a golden sword. But no one’s made it past the first flight… and the last prince was a long, long time ago.

Comes a Pale Rider by Caitlín R. Kiernan

This is the second collection of short stories about Caitlín R. Kiernan’s monster slayer with albinism, Dancy Flammarion. Across the American South, Dancy continues her war against the monsters, heading for madness and possibly salvation. Two brand new stories are included.

King of the Rising by Kacen Callender

A bloody revolution has burned through the islands of Hans Lollik. Former slave Loren Jannik tries to lead the survivors in the desperate struggle to keep the islands free. But revolution doesn’t provide food or weapons, and the rebels are soon going to run out of options as they continue their fight against the conquering Fjern. Loren must choose the revolutions course, and it could bring them all victory–or spell the doom of their freedom.

Take a Look at the Five and Ten by Connie Willis

Ori isn’t a big fan of the holidays, because they involves the awful meals cooked by her stepfather’s fourth wife and the presence of the woman’s Grandma Elving, who will not stop telling stories about that one Christmas she worked at Woolworth’s. But this Christmas, Ori finds an unexpected ally in her relative Sloane’s latest boyfriend, who is convinced that Grandma Elving’s boring stories about that one particular Christmas are actual traumatic flashbulb memories that hide something much more interesting.

A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir

The newly-released jinn are on the attack, destroying villages and cities–and this path of destruction is just the beginning of their vengeance. The Blood Shrike and her remaining family are the top of the kill list for Nightbringer and the newly self-declared Empress. And Laia, still struggling with her own losses, throws herself against the coming apocalypse, determined to destroy the Nightbringer if it’s the last thing she ever does.

The Thirteenth Fairy by Melissa de la Cruz

Filomena Jefferson-Cho lives a boring, perfect suburban existence, and it’s bumming her out. Then one day, she finds she’s being followed by Jack Stalker, the hero of her favorite book series. And even weirder, she’s definitely not dreaming or hallucinating–and Jack insists that the stories are real and that he needs her help. Soon she’s immersed in the suddenly very real world of her favorite books, facing evil fairies and sorcerers, and she’ll need to find the truth that hides behind all fairytales if she wants to save the kingdom.

The Blade Between by Sam J. Miller

Ronan never wanted to return to Hudson, a sleepy upstate down that is haunted by its own ghosts of violence and hatred. But when his father falls ill, he has no choice but to come “home.” He rekindles his friendship with his first love, Dom, and Dom’s wife, Attalah. With the town seemingly falling apart around them, torn by evictions, gentrifying real estate developers, and the political paroxysms of an upcoming mayoral election, the three friends come up with a clever plan to rattle the interlopers and expose them. But what they unleash is not the truth, but something far more unknowable–and uncontainable: the spirits that have been raging at the changes in their town.

News and Views

An excellent video essay on the costumes of Pacific Rim

Cover reveal for Flame Riders by Sean Grigsby

Cory Doctorow has put up a master post for the Attack Surface lectures series

An excellent interview with Usman T. Malik

Searching for books in which no bad things happen

Marginalized people living varied and fulfilled lives in genre fiction is historically accurate

A survival guide to medieval fairy tales

Moving beyond diversity: A conversation we need to have in SFF

Fireside Magazine failed in a massively racist way by having an essay written by a Black woman read by a white narrator with a “auditory blackface” accent. The editor-in-chief has now stepped down and the former editor-in-chief has temporarily taken back over until a better hand to helm the magazine can be found.

On Book Riot

This week’s SFF Yeah! podcast is about secrets.

5 of the best morally ambiguous monster hunting YA novels

15 of the best post-apocalyptic books in 2020

See you, space pirates. If you’d like to know more about my secret plans to dominate the seas and skies, you can catch me over at my personal site.

Kissing Books


Happy Monday, folks! I hope you had a good week. If November was any example, we’re just going to fly through the rest of 2020! But first, we’ve got an exclusive first look!

I’m excited to be able to share a bit of one of Berkley’s 2021 romances with with you! In The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, lady and thief Cecilia leads a charmed double-life…at least until she meets Ned Lightbourne, who has been sent to kill her. The two must pair up in a haring quest to protect the ladies of the Wisteria Society crime sorority, who have gotten on the wrong man’s bad side! This book is not only a historical romance, but it has fantastical elements including flying houses! I haven’t gotten my hands on a copy yet, but it sounds like lots of fun!

Are you ready for a look into India Holton’s debut historical romance?

(Psst! Keep reading for a look at the cover!)

There was no possibility of walking to the library that day. Morning rain had blanched the air, and Miss Darlington feared that if Cecilia ventured out she would develop a cough and be dead within the week. Therefore Cecilia was at home, sitting with her aunt in a room ten degrees colder than the streets of London, and reading aloud The Song of Hiawatha by “that American rogue, Mr. Longfellow,” when the strange gentleman knocked at their door.

As the sound barged through the house, interrupting Cecilia’s recitation mid-rhyme, she looked inquiringly at her aunt. But Miss Darlington’s own gaze went to the mantel clock, which was ticking sedately toward a quarter to one. The old lady frowned.

“It is an abomination the way people these days knock at any wild, unseemly hour,” she said in much the same tone the prime minister had used in Parliament recently to decry the London rioters. “I do declare—!”

Cecilia waited, but Miss Darlington’s only declaration came in the form of sipping her tea pointedly, by which Cecilia understood that the abominable caller was to be ignored. She returned to Hiawatha and had just begun proceeding “toward the land of the Pearl-Feather” when the knocking came again with increased force, silencing her and causing Miss Darlington to set her teacup into its saucer with a clink. Tea splashed, and Cecilia hastily laid down the poetry book before things really got out of hand.

“I shall see who it is,” she said, smoothing her dress as she rose and touching the red-gold hair at her temples, although there was no crease in the muslin nor a single strand out of place in her coiffure.

“Do be careful, dear,” Miss Darlington admonished. “Anyone attempting to visit at this time of day is obviously some kind of hooligan.”

“Fear not, Aunty.” Cecilia took up a bone-handled letter opener from the small table beside her chair. “They will not trouble me.”

Miss Darlington harrumphed. “We are buying no subscriptions today,” she called out as Cecilia left the room.

In fact they had never bought subscriptions, so this was an unnecessary injunction, although typical of Miss Darlington, who persisted in seeing her ward as the reckless tomboy who had entered her care ten years before, prone to climbing trees, fashioning cloaks from tablecloths, and making unauthorized doorstep purchases whenever the fancy took her. But a decade’s proper education had wrought wonders, and now Cecilia walked the hall quite calmly, her French heels tapping against the polished marble floor, her intentions aimed in no way toward the taking of a subscription. She opened the door.

“Yes?” she asked.

“Good afternoon,” said the man on the step. “May I interest you in a brochure on the plight of the endangered North Atlantic auk?”

Cecilia blinked from his pleasant smile to the brochure he was holding out in a black-gloved hand. She noticed at once the scandalous lack of hat upon his blond hair and the embroidery trimming his black frock coat. He wore neither sideburns nor mustache, his boots were tall and buckled, and a silver hoop hung from one ear. She looked again at his smile, which quirked in response.

“No,” she said, and closed the door.

And bolted it.

Ned remained for a moment longer with the brochure extended as his brain waited for his body to catch up with events. He considered what he had seen of the woman who had stood so briefly in the shadows of the doorway, but he could not recall the exact color of the sash that waisted her soft white dress, nor whether it had been pearls or stars in her hair, nor even how deeply winter dreamed in her lovely eyes. He held only a general impression of “beauty so rare and face so fair”—and implacability so terrifying in such a young woman.

And then his body made pace, and he grinned.

Miss Darlington was pouring herself another cup of tea when Cecilia returned to the parlor. “Who was it?” she asked without looking up.

“A pirate, I believe,” Cecilia said as she sat and, taking the little book of poetry, began sliding a finger down a page to relocate the line at which she’d been interrupted.

Miss Darlington set the teapot down. With a delicate pair of tongs fashioned like a sea monster, she began loading sugar cubes into her cup. “What made you think that?”

Cecilia was quiet a moment as she recollected the man. He had been handsome in a rather dangerous way, despite the ridiculous coat. A light in his eyes had suggested he’d known his brochure would not fool her, but he’d entertained himself with the pose anyway. She predicted his hair would fall over his brow if a breeze went through it, and that the slight bulge in his trousers had been in case she was not happy to see him—a dagger, or perhaps a gun.

“Well?” her aunt prompted, and Cecilia blinked herself back into focus.

“He had a tattoo of an anchor on his wrist,” she said. “Part of it was visible from beneath his sleeve. But he did not offer me a secret handshake, nor invite himself in for tea, as anyone of decent piratic society would have done, so I took him for a rogue and shut him out.”

“A rogue pirate! At our door!” Miss Darlington made a small, disapproving noise behind pursed lips. “How reprehensible. Think of the germs he might have had. I wonder what he was after.”

Cecilia shrugged. Had Hiawatha confronted the magician yet? She could not remember. Her finger, three-quarters of the way down the page, moved up again. “The Scope diamond, perhaps,” she said. “Or Lady Askew’s necklace.”

Miss Darlington clanked a teaspoon around her cup in a manner that made Cecilia wince. “Imagine if you had been out as you planned, Cecilia dear. What would I have done, had he broken in?”

“Shot him?” Cecilia suggested.

Miss Darlington arched two vehemently plucked eyebrows toward the ringlets on her brow. “Good heavens, child, what do you take me for, a maniac? Think of the damage a ricocheting bullet would do in this room.”

“Stabbed him, then?”

“And get blood all over the rug? It’s a sixteenth-century Persian antique, you know, part of the royal collection. It took a great deal of effort to acquire.”

“Steal,” Cecilia murmured.

“Obtain by private means.”

“Well,” Cecilia said, abandoning a losing battle in favor of the original topic of conversation. “It was indeed fortunate I was here. ‘The level moon stared at him—’”

“The moon? Is it up already?” Miss Darlington glared at the wall as if she might see through its swarm of framed pictures, its wallpaper and wood, to the celestial orb beyond, and therefore convey her disgust at its diurnal shenanigans.

“No, it stared at Hiawatha,” Cecilia explained. “In the poem.”

“Oh. Carry on, then.”

“‘In his face stared pale and haggard—’”

“Repetitive fellow, isn’t he?”

“Poets do tend to—”

Miss Darlington waved a hand irritably. “I don’t mean the poet, girl. The pirate. Look, he’s now trying to climb in the window.”

Cecilia glanced up to see the man from the doorstep tugging on the wooden frame of the parlor window. Although his face was obscured by the lace curtain, she fancied she could see him muttering with exasperation. Sighing, she laid down the book once more, rose gracefully, and made her way through a clutter of furniture, statuettes, vases bearing long-stemmed roses from the garden (the neighbor’s garden, to be precise), and various priceless (which is to say purloined) goods, to part the curtain, unlatch the window, and slide it up.

“Yes?” she asked in the same tone she had used at the doorstep.

The man seemed rather startled by her appearance. His hair had fallen exactly as she had supposed it would, and his shadowed eyes held a more sober mood than before.

“If you ask again for my interest in the great North Atlantic auk,” Cecilia said, “I will be obliged to tell you the bird has in fact been extinct for almost fifty years.”

“I could have sworn this window opened to a bedroom,” he said, brushing his hair back to reveal a mild frown.

“We are not common rabble, to sleep on the ground floor. I don’t know your name, for you have not done us the courtesy of leaving a calling card, but I assume it would in any case be a nom de pirata. I am all too aware of your kind.”

“No doubt,” he replied, “since you are also my kind.”

Cecilia gasped. “How dare you, sir!”

“Do you deny that you and your aunt belong to the Wisteria Society and so are among the most notorious pirates in England?”

“I don’t deny it, but that is my exact point. We are far superior to your kind. Furthermore, these are not appropriate business hours. We are ten minutes away from taking luncheon, and you have inconvenienced us twice now. Please remove yourself from the premises.”


“I am prepared to use a greater force of persuasion if required.” She held up the bone-handled letter opener, and he laughed.

“Oh no, please don’t prick me,” he said mockingly.

Cecilia flicked a minuscule latch on the letter opener’s handle. In an instant, with a hiss of steel, the letter opener extended to the extremely effective length of a rapier.

The man stepped back. “I say, there’s no need for such violence. I only wanted to warn you that Lady Armitage has taken out a contract on your life.”

From across the room came Miss Darlington’s dry, brusque laugh. Cecilia herself merely smiled, and even then with only one side of her mouth.

“That is hardly cause for breaking and entering. Lady Armitage has been trying to kill my aunt for years now.”

“Not your aunt,” he said. “You.”

Well I’m ready! And nothing has me more ready than this cover, designed by Katie Anderson with art by Dawn Cooper!

Isn’t it delightful! So much purple; so many weapons! Read more about The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels on Berkley, and follow India Holton on twitter, instagram, and facebook.

(Transparency note: I am publishing a book with Berkley in 2022. (!!!))

See you for an extra-long Kissing Books on Thursday!

As usual, catch me on Twitter @jessisreading or Instagram @jess_is_reading, or send me an email at if you’ve got feedback, bookrecs, or just want to say hi!

Read This Book

Read This Book: PUDD’NHEAD WILSON by Mark Twain

Welcome to Read This Book, the newsletter where I recommend a book you should add to your TBR, STAT! I stan variety in all things, and my book recommendations will be no exception. These must-read books will span genres and age groups. There will be new releases, oldie but goldies from the backlist, and the classics you may have missed in high school. Oh my! If you’re ready to diversify your books, then LEGGO!!

Today is Mark Twain’s 185th birthday, but he doesn’t look a day over 150. The New York Times lauded him as the “greatest humorist the United States ever produced.” William Faulkner called him the “Father of American Literature.” His novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (that many of you read in high school) is often regarded as the “First Great American Novel.” Did you read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in high school? I did not. Instead we read stories like The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Pudd’nhead Wilson.

Puddnhead Wilson Book Cover

Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain

Determined that her baby son Chambers will not share her fate of being enslaved for the rest of his life, Roxy secretly exchanges him with her master’s son, Tom. The two boys’ lives remain entwined even as they head in very different directions. “Tom” becomes the heir to a fortune and goes off to Yale where he develops a habit of drinking and gambling too much. “Chambers” is set for a lifetime of servitude. Then a strange sequence of events, where the much-derided town lawyer David “Pudd’nhead” Wilson plays a key role, changes everything. 

It’s been decades since I’ve read Pudd’nhead Wilson, and all I remembered about the story was how the word “Pudd’nhead” always made me chuckle. Before I told y’all to read this book, I had to revisit the story and see if the pudd’n had any substance. I am happy to report Pudd’nhead Wilson was still enjoyable, despite the story feeling slightly disjointed. That’s not surprising since apparently Twain quickly wrote the book as an attempt to stave off bankruptcy.

Although the story sometimes felt like it was all over the place, I actually found that to be the best part of Pudd’nhead Wilson because it was like experiencing two stories in one. There was the mystery involving Roxy, “Tom,” and Wilson. Of course, there was the main switched at birth narrative between Chambers and Tom. I was anticipating the big reveal and was nervous about the consequences for the involved parties, especially Roxy. 

Overall, Pudd’nhead Wilson provides insightful society commentary about small town life and Antebellum America. If you’re excited about the story, but worried that it means you’re in for a long read, then fret not! Pudd’nhead Wilson is a short read for any avid reader even if you continue on to read about Those Extraordinary Twins.

Until next time bookish friends,


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What's Up in YA

🎧 📚 Great YA Nonfiction on Audio

Hey YA Readers!

Let’s continue our journey of YA nonfiction for this last Monday of November and explore another format: audiobooks. I’m a huge audiobook listener, though the bulk of my listening is adult nonfiction. This doesn’t mean I don’t listen to YA on audio, but when I do, it’s not a surprise that I lean toward nonfiction. Something about nonfiction — be it the way it’s easier to dip in and out, be it the way it’s like listening to a podcast — makes it easy for me to enjoy aurally.

Here are some outstanding YA nonfiction books to listen to in their audio format. You’ll notice that the bulk of these are memoirs or essay collections and that’s purposeful: though the often do include photos or images, one of the things that makes nonfiction for young readers so great in print are the visuals. In these stories, the visuals aren’t exceptionally vital to the text itself.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Performed by Johnson, this is an outstanding and moving memoir about growing up at the intersection of Black and queer. It’s vulnerable, open, and compelling and would pair so spectacularly with Stamped (below!).

Americanized book cover

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

Performed by Lameese Issaq, Saedi’s memoir is a humor-soaked memoir about life as an illegal immigrant in America. We get a great look at Saedi’s family, her relationship with her sister, and the lengths that her parents went to to obtain green cards for them all. Sprinkled throughout the story are FAQs about Iranian culture and tradition which are written in a really funny yet informative manner. 

Obviously cover image

Obviously: Stories From My Timeline by Akilah Hughes

Hughes performs her own audiobook, which is a series of essays for YA readers on everything from growing up in a small Kentucky town to becoming a spelling bee champion to graduating at age 15 and moving herself to New York to pursue her dream. This is another listen for readers who love a good laugh.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

A brutal and powerful verse memoir about growing up in an unstable family dealing with schizophrenia, absenteeism, sexual assault, and the foster care system. But through it all, Nikki’s solace in writing comes through, as does her commitment to being a survivor. Messy and challenging and moving, the memoir is made even more explosive by Grimes performing the audio herself.

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Reynolds is such a natural performer, and he carries this must-read adaptation of Kendi’s adult book to the teen audience perfectly. It’s not a history book — a refrain that comes up over and over — but instead is a searing look at racism and antiracism today. The book clearly breaks down the differences between being racist, an assimilationist, and anti-racist, and listeners get a solid look at some of the most lauded Black leaders and where and how they did and did not advance anti-racist causes.

When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors, asha bandele, and Benee Knauer

I listened to the adult edition of this book, but the young adult rendering is also performed by Khan-Cullors, with a forward by and performed by Angela Davis, and I suspect it’s just as outstanding aurally. This is a look at the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement and the systemic injustices experienced by Black people in America. Readers who aren’t familiar with the criminal justice system and the American police state will have their eyes opened here.

Grab some headphones or a blue tooth speaker and enjoy these outstanding works of nonfiction on audio.

Thanks for being here, and we’ll see you later this week. New book releases not highlighted because of last Thursday’s holiday will absolutely be included there, so you’ll get a nice load of books for that ever-expanding TBR.

— Kelly Jensen, @heykellyjensen on Instagram and editor of Body Talk(Don’t) Call Me Crazy, and Here We Are.