Saturday, May 30, 2020

Book Haul: May 2020

Welcome to Stacking the Shelves and Mailbox Monday, where I get to show off the books I’ve gotten recently. I haven’t done a haul since March. So . . . oops. Here’s what I’ve added to my shelves in the past two+ months. As you can see, I’ve been acquiring a lot of fantasy / horror / speculative fiction because I’d really like to escape from the world right now.

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May 2020 Book Haul

How To Breath Underwater: Stories by Julie Orringer

Adult Literary Short Stories

Nine brave, wise, and spellbinding stories make up this award-winning debut. In "When She is Old and I Am Famous" a young woman confronts the inscrutable power of her cousin's beauty. In "Note to Sixth-Grade Self" a band of popular girls exerts its social power over an awkward outcast. In "Isabel Fish" fourteen-year-old Maddy learns to scuba dive in order to mend her family after a terrible accident.

Why I’m excited: I desperately need a good short story collection in my life. I usually enjoy books about young women, so this one seems promising. It’s gotten good reviews from people I follow on social media.

All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

Young Adult Fantasy

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

Why I’m excited: I read The Scorpio Races and liked the writing style enough that I wanted to read more of the author’s work. I picked this book because it’s set in the state where I live. That means I’ll either love it or be super critical. Who knows?

An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Young Adult Fantasy

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

Why I’m excited: The hype. This series has been popular for years. I want to know why everybody is so obsessed with it. Also, it’s inspired by ancient Rome. How awesome is that? I want more books based on ancient times.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Adult Historical Fantasy

Alaska, 1920: a brutal place to homestead, and especially tough for recent arrivals Jack and Mabel. Childless, they are drifting apart—he breaking under the weight of the work of the farm; she crumbling from loneliness and despair. In a moment of levity during the season's first snowfall, they build a child out of snow. The next morning the snow child is gone—but they glimpse a young, blonde-haired girl running through the trees.

This little girl, who calls herself Faina, seems to be a child of the woods. She hunts with a red fox at her side, skims lightly across the snow, and somehow survives alone in the Alaskan wilderness. As Jack and Mabel struggle to understand this child who could have stepped from the pages of a fairy tale, they come to love her as their own daughter. But in this beautiful, violent place, things are rarely as they appear, and what they eventually learn about Faina will transform all of them.

Why I’m excited: Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and fantasy is a genre that I want to read more often. This novel seems like an intriguing combination of the two. And, I can never pass up Alaska stories.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

Young Adult Contemporary (Or Fantasy?)

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

Why I’m excited: I was searching for books that are similar to Neal Shusterman’s brilliant Challenger Deep and came across this one. I’m curious about how the author blends fantasy and reality.

No True Believers by Rabiah York Lumbard

Young Adult Contemporary

Salma Bakkioui has always loved living in her suburban cul-de-sac, with her best friend Mariam next door, and her boyfriend Amir nearby. Then things start to change. Friends start to distance themselves. Mariam's family moves when her father's patients no longer want a Muslim chiropractor. Even trusted teachers look the other way when hostile students threaten Salma at school.

After a terrorist bombing nearby, Islamaphobia tightens its grip around Salma and her family. Shockingly, she and Amir find themselves with few allies as they come under suspicion for the bombing. As Salma starts to investigate who is framing them, she uncovers a deadly secret conspiracy with suspicious ties to her new neighbors—but no one believes her. Salma must use her coding talent, wits, and faith to expose the truth and protect the only home she's ever known—before it's too late.

What I thought: I’ve already read and reviewed this one. It’s a “one more chapter” novel. I told myself I’d read one more chapter before bed, and then it was suddenly midnight, and I had no intention of putting the book down. Once the plot gets moving, it really takes off. You’re in for a wild ride.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Adult Historical Mystery

The enigmatic Vida Winter has spent six decades creating various outlandish life histories for herself—all of them inventions that have brought her fame and fortune but have kept her violent and tragic past a secret. Now old and ailing, she at last wants to tell the truth about her extraordinary life. She summons biographer Margaret Lea, a young woman for whom the secret of her own birth, hidden by those who loved her most, remains an ever-present pain. Struck by a curious parallel between Miss Winter's story and her own, Margaret takes on the commission.

As Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good, Margaret is mesmerized. It is a tale of gothic strangeness featuring the Angelfield family, including the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess, a topiary garden and a devastating fire.

Margaret succumbs to the power of Vida's storytelling but remains suspicious of the author's sincerity. She demands the truth from Vida, and together they confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

Why I’m excited: This is one of those modern classics that I feel like I’ve been hearing about for my entire adult life. It’s won a ton of awards, has excellent reviews, and is beloved by book clubs. I want to know if it lives up to the hype. Also, I’m getting vibes of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which is one of my favorite books of 2020 so far.

Elevation by Stephen King

Adult Horror

Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.

 Why I’m excited: I’m currently trying to lose weight. It might be nice to read about a character who’s as miserable as I am. I’m so hungry all the time!

Lily And Dunkin by Donna Gephart

Middlegrade Contemporary

Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade.

Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse.

One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.

Why I’m excited: It gets excellent reviews, and I love middlegrade books. They’re usually fast-paced. I always feel accomplished when I finish a book in one day.

The Outsider by Stephen King

Adult Horror

An eleven-year-old boy’s violated corpse is found in a town park. Eyewitnesses and fingerprints point unmistakably to one of Flint City’s most popular citizens. He is Terry Maitland, Little League coach, English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Detective Ralph Anderson, whose son Maitland once coached, orders a quick and very public arrest. Maitland has an alibi, but Anderson and the district attorney soon add DNA evidence to go with the fingerprints and witnesses. Their case seems ironclad.

As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, King’s propulsive story kicks into high gear, generating strong tension and almost unbearable suspense. Terry Maitland seems like a nice guy, but is he wearing another face?

What I thought: I’ve already read this one. Honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with it. It’s creepy, but very, very slow. It needed more action.

Have you read any of these? What did you think?


  1. Lots of great books here! I really enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes series even when I was seriously burnt out on most YA fantasy! I'm planning on reading The Thirteenth Tale this autumn!
    I hope you enjoy your new reads!

    Stacy Renee @ LazyDayLit

  2. I loved and adored The Thirteenth Tale, and also Setterfield's last book Once Upon a River. 👍✨

    Lily and Dunkin sounds wonderful. I will add it to Goodreads. 😊

    Thanks for sharing your haul. 📚✨

  3. I've definitely been using books as a way to escape these weird times, too!

  4. An Ember in the Ashes and Lily and Dunkin are both great. I hope you enjoy them!

  5. Hey Aj, I haven't read any of these, but I would really like to read The Snow Child. Happy reading and I hope you enjoy all your new books! 🙂

  6. I feel bad seeing some of these. I have unread ARCs (physical) of some of these books. I would have sent them to you. Oh, well. Lily and Dunkin has been on my radar for a while, because, like you, I saw lots of great reviews. I have read and enjoyed other books by the author as well.

  7. I love the cover for An Ember in the Ashes!
    My post:

  8. What a great list of books! Enjoy them and have a great week!

  9. All the Crooked Saints didn't work for me, despite my love for The Raven Cycle! I just couldn't connect with the story. Hopefully, you enjoy it more than I did. :) An Ember in the Ashes is one I read recently and LOVED. I immediately purchased the rest of the series. It definitely lives up to its hype! I have a copy of No True Believers, but I haven't started it yet. Clearly I need to pick it up first thing in the morning, since I'm not going to want to stop until I've finished. ;)

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

  10. I haven't read any of these but I do see a lot of books on my tbr list. I have the two Stephen King books, The Thirteenth Tale, and An Ember in the Ashes sitting on my shelf right now. I look forward to your thoughts so I can decide if I should hurry up to read them.

  11. Oh, I remember enjoying The Thirteenth Tale but it was years, I'd be curious to reread it. I've had An Ember in the Ashes on my shelves for a while, I need to read it too! I've heard great things about it.

    Have a great week and happy reading!

  12. I haven't seen any of your new titles before.I need to get back into my Fantasy reading. Enjoy your books!

  13. ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS looks good.

    Ohhhhh....I LOVED THE THIRTEENTH TALE. A favorite of all time.

    Nice to see you joined in the Mailbox Monday meme. Hope to see you each week.

    ENJOY this first week of June.

  14. I'm glad to see you at MM.
    Great book haul. Surprisingly I have 4 of them. All the Crooked Saints is much different than some of her other books. The Snow Child is haunting and beautiful. I haven't read An Ember in the Ashes or The Thirteenth Tale both of which I have in Audible.
    Enjoy all of your reading!

  15. No True Believers sounds like it has an interesting plot. I haven't read any of the books though. I stopped reading Stephen King a good few years ago. I felt his books were going into either weird endings or I was chugging through slow and coming of age stuff with little happening.

  16. I liked The Outsider, but it clearly was not the best King book. Elevation is a fun read and a bit off the wall, but I still liked it.

    Enjoy your books. I've been exercising more and eating smaller meals and doing yoga, which has helped me lose weight over time, but it has been a year or two long process of new disciplines for me.