Nov 232022

Booklist: Divya’s latest (after Machinehood, 2021) is full of twists and turns to keep readers glued to the pages, with rich worldbuilding that will truly invest them in the character’s fates. MERU transcends genres and will appeal to fans of science fiction, philosophy, and fantasy.

Nov 032022

Publishers Weekly: Empathy convincingly overcomes anxiety in this thoughtful, inventive, and impressively understated space opera from Divya, [who] filters the immensity of outer space through the lens of close personal relationships, crafting compassionate and responsible characters (whatever their physical forms may be) that will surely win over readers.

Nov 012022

Library Journal: With their collection of 23 stories, previously published across the genre fiction landscape and one original to this volume, Khaw (Nothing but Blackened Teeth) presents a book that is a terrifying joy to read. Many of the entries invoke fairy tales and/or mythologies from all over the world. They are lyrical, brutal, and intensely unsettling and mostly center women—quite often as the monsters. While not long, the stories are immersive, with lush and detailed settings, intriguing characters, and beguiling and beautiful lines. The original tale, “How Selkies Are Made,” and “And in Our Daughters, We Find a Voice” are two water-infused, stellar examples, but every story will dig into the reader, threatening to never let go, especially because each ends perfectly.

VERDICT Khaw’s critical acclaim and popularity are skyrocketing, and this collection showcases exactly why. It allows readers a chance to swim around in their unique brand of intensely unsettling tales, submerging themselves in a larger pool of their beautiful but horrific waters. For fans of the dark speculative stories by Angela Slatter, Nadia Bulkin, and Samanta Schweblin.

Oct 282022

Publishers Weekly: Butcher, the son of bestseller Jim Butcher, puts a fun twist on hard-boiled urban fantasy thrills in his debut. Hero Grimshaw Griswald Grimsby is a failure who was scrubbed from the Auditor program of the Department of Unorthodox Affairs and now uses his meager magical talents to entertain children at Mighty Magic Donald’s Food Kingdom. Despite his paltry skill set, Grimsby is implicated in the murder of powerful Auditor Samantha Mansgraf, who, in her last moments, used her own blood to scrawl his name. Mansgraf’s retired ex-partner, Leslie Mayflower, aka the Huntsman, rapidly concludes that Grimsby would have been no threat to Mansgraf, but as the Hunstman isn’t magical himself, he reluctantly brings Grimsby along to search for clues in Mansgraf’s lair outside of Boston. Together, this unlikely duo find reference to a mysterious Hand and face off against mechanical/magical constructs, succubi, and Department personnel on their way to solving the crime. While not a true coward, Grimsby’s understandable fear in the face of players who are all more powerful than he is makes him an accessible hero (“He tried to steel himself, but it ended up feeling more like tinfoiling himself”). This is sure to capture genre fans.

Oct 262022

New York Times: For more high-intensity drama in contemporary romance, you can’t go wrong with a restaurant setting. Food, feelings, knives and fire! Which is to say: Kitchen-centered romances are great at exploring more than one kind of appetite, and Ruby Barrett’s THE ROMANCE RECIPE (Carina Press, 282 pp., paperback, $15.99) stands alongside favorites like Alexis Hall’s “Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake” and Solace Ames’s erotic romance gem “The Submission Gift.”

Sophie Brunet is fresh off a cooking competition show she didn’t win, and fresh out of an engagement to a man who reacted poorly when she told him she was bi. Desperate to escape the limelight, she accepts the head chef job at a Boston restaurant — but she’d be enjoying it a lot more if her boss were less of a control freak (and less distractingly hot).

Amy Chambers has always had to be the strong one. When her father left, when her mother died, when she decided her restaurant would pay cooks and servers a living wage no matter what. Hiring a famous TV chef and applying for a new reality series with a cash prize is a last-ditch effort to get her restaurant out of the red. Her crush on Sophie was easy to ignore when it happened across the distance of a television screen — but performance pressure and close quarters have a way of turning up the heat.

The feelings in this one are dialed up so high you almost can’t look at them directly: It would be like staring into the sun. Such a style can drift into self-indulgence if the author’s voice isn’t strong enough to carry it — fortunately, Barrett’s wry, lightly bitter tone is a perfect complement to that rich, heavy angst.

Sophie’s soft yet joyful exploration of her bisexuality lightens Amy’s tragic family dynamics, and the climactic payoff feels more than usually well earned. Like Rosie Danan or Kate Clayborn, Barrett has a way of making palpable the full journey of a relationship: It’s not just two hot bodies being hot in proximity to each other — though the sex scenes are definitely spicy! — but two distinct lives growing toward a shared future.