she’s reading: april

Dear TBR,

The book world is such a fun place, and people in their fandoms are crazy in a good way. Going out into that world sometimes is a good reminder of why we write, of who our readers are, and how awesome this whole job can be.

Of course, stories like Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s remind us of how NOT awesome it can be, but it’s usually publishers and not readers who are responsible for that…!

It’s been a good reading month, though busy; I’m pretty happy because I turned in my manuscript the last day of March! I’ve already gotten edits back, and they’re due the 25th of May. So, the work is moving right along at a good clip. Hopefully I’ll eventually noodle through all of the edits, but until then I’m procrastinating reading like mad.

THE RENAISSANCE OF GWEN HATHAWAY: RenFaire novels are a particular love for me; Jen DeLuca’s WELL MET series is a particular favorite of mine (and I’m hoping someday Kelly Herold will someday finish her portal RenFaire novel which includes time travel and a lovely villain). I love Renaissance Faires more in theory than in practice, however, because they never feel like a place for people of color, celebrating, as they are, a mostly made-up history of a time which didn’t feature people of color. This novel does, however, have a Black girl in it as a love interest – AND there is size and queer representation, as Gwen is a fat heroine being wooed by Arthur, a thin and somewhat nerdy boy with two Dads. I love Arthur. I want to hug him and squeeze him and call him George. He made me cry by being awesome. Gwen is dealing with her first Renaissance Faire after her mother’s death, and is trying to take her place as the jewelry maker for the family’s stall. Her father, who, like her, is mostly non-communicative and not apt to try anything new, are really struggling, and the story of how they struggle through this year anniversary of the death of the bright and beating heart of their family is worth reading.

LUCY CLARK WILL NOT APOLOGIZE: Lucy Clark’s parents are absolutely insane. They are… self-help gurus, and nutters who – okay, only *I* think they’re nutters, but I’m not a huge fan of people who treat self-help like a new religion. ANYWAY. It’s mostly Lucy’s Dad who is very popular on the self-help circuit, and Lucy is basically neglected, sent to an absolutely hideous boarding school, and then when she gets into trouble, not only is her best friend withdrawn from the school, she is suspended and sent to one of her Dad’s protegees, who is supposed to be a positive influence on her. That person is supposed to find Lucy something to do that will turn her onto a new path. That new path comes in the form of being a companion to an elderly woman named Edith.

Rather than the awful-piled-on-awful task that Lucy fears, Edith turns out to be AMAZING, with an amazing best friend, fun and quirky inhabitants of the New York converted mansion in which they live, but there’s one small snag: Edith is convinced someone is trying to kill her. Convinced. Eventually, Lucy begins to believe that something is …up. But, who is trying to scare an old lady? And why?

This is a meandering mystery with a lot about being enough, about having self-esteem, about not apologizing for surviving and standing up for yourself. The boarding school and teacher are SERIOUSLY OTT awful, Lucy, though sixteen, is almost written as a middle grade student, her emotional inner life seems to be so simplified, and the denizens of Edith’s house seem to come straight out of a Ransom Riggs novel – they’re all so quirky as to not seem real. But, it’s a fun, slightly Gothic mystery nonetheless.

NIC BLAKE AND THE REMARKABLES: I couldn’t really review this novel until I’d had my moment interviewing the author — and while I made a point of not discussing spoilers then, I *really* want to avoid them now. Nic Blake is homeschooled, Black, and Gifted. REALLY Gifted — in a way that’s like magic, only stronger. (As the author says “Wands are evil in this book… take that the way you will.”) Nic’s family has an ancestral gift which manifests as power to do things. The people – her enslaved ancestors – could fly. They flew away from slavery and lived in a place called Uhura, which in Swahili means “freedom.” Nic doesn’t know much about the details, though. She’s never been to Uhura. She lives with her Dad, and the two of them move a lot. Most of the people they know are Unremarkables; ordinary humans without the Gift. The reason for that, and the reason her next-door neighbor can tell her new puppy is a Hellhound is part of a lot of other secrets and surprises are found as they put their all into doing something that feels impossible for a couple of kids — saving Nic’s father from a fate worse than jail.

Way back in the day, the Wizard With the Scar books were praised for hooking the reader with myriad New Things Per Page. The author has all of that going on, plus multi-layered bits of Black history, emotional resonance and themes of self-esteem, being “enough,” and using your God-given gifts, even if you aren’t particularly remarkable. This is going to be a very, very popular fantasy series.

WHISTLEBLOWER: I have a *lot* of mixed feelings about this indie book. I have a lot of mixed feelings about being a whistleblower, too, I guess. Sometimes knowing that Something Should Be Done about a thing, and actually setting out to do it are two very different things. In this New Adult novel, college student Laurel feels somewhat invisible and unmoored at her college. She’s made it onto the paper — but she’s basically coasting through life, showing up late, hung-over, or both, to almost everywhere. It’s …fun? But “fun” for a college junior is wearing a bit thin. It’s almost a relief to Laurel to get the story she’s pitched to the paper rejected — it’s the kind of story she figures the paper won’t really run with, because it’s based on hearsay, because she stayed out too late partying and couldn’t come up with anything stronger. She’s disgusted with herself for not taking herself seriously enough to do her best — but then, her story gets scooped by a stronger, sharper writer — and in a twist, that other girl gives her credit for the idea. Their editor decides that they both should investigate to uncover whether or not what they suspect is true. As it turns out, Something Rotten is happening at the college with the football coach, the man whose finger is on the pulse of so many futures. Laurel just wants to help the people he’s hurting, but the golden boy quarter back of the football team is baffled, hurt and infuriated. He swears the coach isn’t who Laurel thinks he is. Laurel swears otherwise. They set out to prove each other wrong – and of course catch feelings along the way. Suddenly it’s turned out that Laurel is a whistleblower — and she’s not sure that’s what she ever intended to be.

This story was a little scary to read, as I think the world is actually uglier than the way the author portrayed it and I worry when people downplay things. Young women get death threats these days from looking at someone wrong — I think the author deliberately brushed lightly over quite a few things which I felt were more serious. I also felt like Laurel drank way too much — and that’s my Old Lady coming out, I’m sure, but she didn’t seem safe enough to kick back and not have all her senses about her. The jocks and sycophants surrounding her were some nasty people and I kind of wish the author would have taken things more seriously — BUT, this was meant to be somewhat light and not erring on the side of too message-y. Did I like it? I’m not sure yet – a very mixed bag, but also interesting and thought-provoking.

Fresh onto the TBR:

  • Enter the Body, by Joy McCullough
  • To Wrack & Ruin, by Ann Aguire, a Kindle Vella serial
  • Both Feet in the Grave, Jeanine Frost
  • The Secret Service of Tea and Treason, by India Holton
  • In Memoriam, by Alice Winn


Until the next book, 📖

Still A Constant Reader

About the author

tanita s. davis is a writer and avid reader who prefers books to most things in the world, including people. That's ...pretty much it, she's very boring and she can't even tell jokes. She is, however, the author of nine books, including Serena Says, Partly Cloudy, Go Figure, Henri Weldon, and the Coretta Scott King honored Mare's War. Look for her new MG, The Science of Friendship in 1/2024 from Katherine Tegen Books.

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