Our favorite books of 2022

As one would expect, our staff spends a lot of our free time reading. And we rounded up our favorite books we dove into this year for you to enjoy!

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher

How dare you (me) ask me to pick a favorite book out of the many many great ones I read this year?! I will go with my gut feeling of Nettle and Bone, which surprised me, made me laugh, and felt familiar and new all at once. In this fairy-tale-esque story, Marra must go on a quest to save her sister from her husband, a prince. Joining her are a heartwarming cast of characters: a witch (and her possessed chicken), an ex-soldier, her fairy godmother, and of course a dog made of bones.

– Ellen Whitfield, vice president

A Rover’s Story by Jasmine Warga

This book reminded me why I fell in love with reading at such a young age! Imaginative and chock full of learning, this educationally entertaining middle grade novel is one that will be in classrooms everywhere for years to come! An instant classic!

– Elysse Wagner, campaign strategist

Somebody Feed Phil the Book: Untold Stories, Behind-the-Scenes Photos and Favorite Recipes: A Cookbook by Phil Rosenthal

Somebody Feed Phil is hands down one of my favorite shows on Netflix, so I was so excited when I heard that Phil Rosenthal was coming out with a book in October. He has such a colorful, effervescent personality on his show, and that shines through in his book as well. I can’t wait to cook my way through the recipes — and hopefully use this book for travel inspiration in 2023!

– Angelle Barbazon, lead publicist

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

It’s kind of unfair to every other great book I’ve read this year, but when I read a new Backman book, it’s always five stars and it’s always one I’ll recommend to people for years to come. Continuing the story from where Beartown left off, Backman’s writing about the icy, troubled hockey town is — as always — beautiful and heartwrenching and funny and insightful. And yes, I am putting off reading The Winners until next year…so I think I can already see what my fav book of 2023 might be.

– Jenn Vance, publicist and digital marketing strategist

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

I recently moved from New Orleans back up north to be closer to my family, but I read Salvage the Bones while I was visiting New Orleans in April. The story details a Mississippi family’s experience with hurricane Katrina in which Jesmyn weaves a visceral, raw, and beautiful account of family, place, and heritage. If you’re looking for a book to punch you right in the gut, then you’re absolutely going to want to pick this one up. 

– Layne Mandros, publicist

Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman

Have you ever seen a movie adaptation before reading the book it was based on? That’s what happened to me with CMBYN. I loved the movie and finally got around to reading André Aciman’s masterpiece of a novel, which had me in tears at the end. This is easily in the running for best love story ever written, and no I will not explain because my words won’t do it justice. You’ll have to read it and experience it for yourself.

– Jackie Karneth, publicist

The House In The Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

This was my first time reading Klune’s work, and I adored his writing style. It was also my first time reading fantasy in awhile, so discovering the characters and their magical skills was so much fun. This book is so cozy and has a great message: “You can have the life you want, you just have to go out and find it!”

– Corrine Pritchett, publicist and digital marketing strategist

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

This is the incredible retelling of the famous Ramayana tale, but instead of focusing on the main character, Rama, it focuses on the tale’s villain, Kaikyei, the wicked stepmother. But in this tale, Kaikeyi is a woman of her circumstance, and with the use of her magic and willpower, Kaikeyi creates the future she’s always imagined as a diplomat, a queen, and a revolutionary. Of course, that future isn’t without its turmoils and Kaikeyi must fight to continue the great work she’s doing or face losing her family all together.

– Simone Jung, publicist

Before You Go by Tommy Butler

This book was a surprise for me in the best possible way. I knew nothing about this book going into it, (saw it on a bookshelf and liked the cover) but was immediately sucked in on the first page. A speculative literary fiction novel that weaves together the life of a man named Elliot Chance struggling with mental health and the meaning of life with the imaginings of the Before and After. As someone who has struggled with mental health myself, this book was relatable and moving. Heartwarming and heartwrenching in equal parts, this story and these characters will stick with you and may have you looking at life with a new perspective. 

– Rachel Hutchings, publicist and digital marketing strategist

Book Lovers by Emily Henry 

I’ve been a big fan of Emily Henry for awhile now, but this book became an instant favorite as soon as I started it. I saw such a large piece of myself in Nora and I couldn’t help falling in love with Charlie as well. This book also made me think about book publishing and press as a job, which introduced me to Books Forward! For that, it will always have a piece of my heart. 

– Rachel Lachney, intern

How to develop an elevator pitch

Describe yourself in three words. I’m sure you’ve been faced with this dreaded, near-impossible task at some point. The longer you consider your options, the farther you seem to be from your goal. How can anyone distill their identity, with its many layers, into only three words?

As an author, you’re about to face a similarly head-scratching challenge: creating a 1-2 sentence elevator pitch for your book. Packaging the plot, emotional interest and core selling points of your work into such a small container may feel daunting, but with a systematic approach it can be simple and pain-free. And, as you navigate through the various stages of your book’s life, you’ll quickly find this pitch to be one of your most valuable assets!

What is an elevator pitch?

Also called a logline, an elevator pitch is a brief description of a book that serves as a plot summary and presents a sales hook. Traditionally, this logline will be no longer than two sentences, so concision is key. 

Your goal with your elevator pitch is to grab your audience’s attention–whether they are an agent, publisher, bookseller, librarian or general reader–and get them excited about your book. That said, your pitch can’t be full of empty promises. It has to accurately describe your plot, match the tone of the book, and reflect what makes your work compelling and unique. 

How do I write an elevator pitch?

A good logline will use original, descriptive words and will address the following questions in a clear and concise way:

  • What is the setting?
  • Who is the protagonist?
  • What does the protagonist want? What is their central motivation or goal?
  • What is at stake for the protagonist?
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist, and how do they relate to the protagonist?
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? What action will they take?

25-Word Example (based on André Aciman’s “Call Me By Your Name”):

  • Italy in the 1980s: 17-year-old Elio falls passionately in love with an American man. The six weeks they spend together, though fleeting, change him forever.
  • What is the setting? Italy in the 1980s
  • Who is the protagonist? 17-year-old Elio
  • What does the protagonist want? To find love
  • What is at stake for the protagonist? Heartbreak (implied)
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? The fleeting six-week time limit that restricts their romance; a society that doesn’t understand love between two men (implied)
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? He pursues a life-changing romance with an American man

50-Word Example (based on Mason Deaver’s “I Wish You All the Best”):

  • When 18-year-old Ben comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re kicked out of the house and forced to switch schools. Dealing with heightened anxiety, they’re torn between their desire for anonymity and their growing attraction to charming student Nathan, whose friendship helps Ben believe a happier life is possible.
  • What is the setting? High school
  • Who is the protagonist? 18-year-old Ben
  • What does the protagonist want? A happier life
  • What is at stake for the protagonist? They risk losing the safety net of their anonymity 
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? Their parents who kicked them out; their heightened anxiety
  • What will the protagonist actually do in the story? What action will they take? They attend a new school, and they fall into a promising new friendship with Nathan

75-Word Example (based on Lisa See’s “Shanghai Girls”):

  • In Shanghai in the late 1930s, 21-year old Pearl and her younger sister May have their glamorous lives upended after they learn they’ve been sold as brides to suitors from California. As bombs drop suddenly on their beloved city, traveling to the United States may be the fresh start they need; but living with these strange men in an unwelcoming country puts their bond as sisters and best friends to the ultimate test. 
  • What is the setting? Shanghai in the late 1930s
  • Who are the protagonists? 21-year old Pearl and her younger sister May
  • What do the protagonists want? A fresh start; safety from the bombs that fall on Shanghai
  • What is at stake for the protagonists? Their bond as sisters and best friends
  • Who (or what) is the antagonist? The war that’s destroying their city, the unknown suitors they marry, and the unwelcoming Americans they encounter
  • What will the protagonists do in the story? Marry suitors, and move from Shanghai to the United States to escape the threat of war

What should I avoid doing when writing an elevator pitch?

Avoid major spoilers

You’ll want to share enough information in your logline to pique the reader’s interest, but not so much that they know every major plot detail. You should leave the reader wanting to know more. 

Avoid buzzwords, cliché phrases, and vague language

Words that are overused in book marketing lose their impact and become vague over time. They can also detract from what makes your book unique. Instead, opt for original adjectives and precise language whenever possible.

Avoid focusing too much on themes

When asked “what is your book about?” it may be tempting to reply with the book’s core themes or philosophical talking points. “It’s about liminality; second chances; the risks we take for the ones we love; the power of storytelling.” You get the idea. While important to the story, without an explanation of plot to contextualize them, these themes can end up feeling lifeless.

Avoid excessive name-dropping

Unless the protagonist is famous and the sales hook relies on their name-recognition, cutting out character names can save you lots of precious space. 

Avoid “meanwhile” statements 

Focus on one major conflict whenever possible. Mentioning too many subplots in your elevator pitch can be confusing for the reader and may detract from your primary selling points.

How should I use my pitch when it’s ready to go? 

Your elevator pitch may be one of your single greatest assets as an author. It can:

  • Help you get connected with an agent
  • Help you or your agent find the right publisher
  • Help you or your sales team pitch to buyers
  • Help you grab the attention of booksellers and librarians
  • Be adapted into a book blurb to hook readers
  • Be adapted into social media posts to promote your book

Is it okay to have more than one elevator pitch?

Absolutely! It can be useful to have a few options to choose from. So if you can’t decide on just one logline, don’t stress. As an exercise in building your repertoire, consider creating different loglines based on length– one at 25 words, one at 50 words and one at 75. Then, mix and match, or select your favorite from the bunch.

When writing an elevator pitch, try not to think about all of the exciting details you’re leaving out. You’ll inevitably have to keep much of your novel’s plot hidden from view, but that’s a good thing! Those will be the surprises that shock and delight your reader down the road. 

Instead, think of what you can include in your pitch by addressing the list of questions above. Focus on what makes your book stand out from the crowd. Keep your pitch fresh, compelling and concise, and you’ll be all set!

Fun fantasy book recommendations for fans of Willow

One of my absolute favorite things is when a fantasy book sweeps me away and makes me laugh, and I’m really excited for the premiere of Willow at the end of November, because it feels right up that alley. If you’ve watched and want some more books that give the same feeling, check these out – they’ll take you on a journey filled with danger, adventures, and new friends who make you laugh!

The Art of Prophecy by Wesley Chu: So many stories begin the same way: With a prophecy. A chosen one. And the inevitable quest to slay a villain, save the kingdom, and fulfill a grand destiny.

But this is not that kind of story.

It does begin with a prophecy: A child will rise to defeat the Eternal Khan, a cruel immortal god-king, and save the kingdom.

And that prophecy did anoint a hero, Jian, raised since birth in luxury and splendor, and celebrated before he has won a single battle.

But that’s when the story hits its first twist: The prophecy is wrong.

What follows is a story more wondrous than any prophecy could foresee, and with many unexpected heroes: Taishi, an older woman who is the greatest grandmaster of magical martial arts in the kingdom but who thought her adventuring days were all behind her; Sali, a straitlaced warrior who learns the rules may no longer apply when the leader to whom she pledged her life is gone; and Qisami, a chaotic assassin who takes a little too much pleasure in the kill.

And Jian himself, who has to find a way to become what he no longer believes he can be–a hero after all.

The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman: Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.

But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.

Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.

Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.

In the Shadow of Lightning by Brian McClellan: Demir Grappo is an outcast–he fled a life of wealth and power, abandoning his responsibilities as a general, a governor, and a son. Now he will live out his days as a grifter, rootless, and alone. But when his mother is brutally murdered, Demir must return from exile to claim his seat at the head of the family and uncover the truth that got her killed: the very power that keeps civilization turning, godglass, is running out.

Now, Demir must find allies, old friends and rivals alike, confront the powerful guild-families who are only interested in making the most of the scraps left at the table and uncover the invisible hand that threatens the Empire. A war is coming, a war unlike any other. And Demir and his ragtag group of outcasts are the only thing that stands in the way of the end of life as the world knows it.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman: This tale of true love, high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts was unforgettably depicted in the 1987 film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Fred Savage, Robin Wright, and others. But, rich in character and satire, the novel boasts even more layers of ingenious storytelling. Set in 1941 and framed cleverly as an “abridged” retelling of a centuries-old tale set in the fabled country of Florin, home to “Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions.”

Nettle and Bone by T. Kingfisher: Marra never wanted to be a hero.

As the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter, she escaped the traditional fate of princesses, to be married away for the sake of an uncaring throne. But her sister wasn’t so fortunate—and after years of silence, Marra is done watching her suffer at the hands of a powerful and abusive prince.

Seeking help for her rescue mission, Marra is offered the tools she needs, but only if she can complete three seemingly impossible tasks:

—build a dog of bones

—sew a cloak of nettles

—capture moonlight in a jar

But, as is the way in tales of princes and witches, doing the impossible is only the beginning.

Hero or not—now joined by a disgraced ex-knight, a reluctant fairy godmother, an enigmatic  gravewitch and her fowl familiar—Marra might finally have the courage to save her sister, and topple a throne.

The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden: In South Africa, the future looks promising. Personal robots are making life easier for the working class. The government is harnessing renewable energy to provide infrastructure for the poor. And in the bustling coastal town of Port Elizabeth, the economy is booming thanks to the genetic engineering industry which has found a welcome home there. Yes–the days to come are looking very good for South Africans. That is, if they can survive the present challenges:

A new hallucinogenic drug sweeping the country . . .

An emerging AI uprising . . .

And an ancient demigoddess hellbent on regaining her former status by preying on the blood and sweat (but mostly blood) of every human she encounters.

It’s up to a young Zulu girl powerful enough to destroy her entire township, a queer teen plagued with the ability to control minds, a pop diva with serious daddy issues, and a politician with even more serious mommy issues to band together to ensure there’s a future left to worry about.

The Blacksmith Queen by G.A. Aiken: With the demise of the Old King, there’s a prophesy that a queen will ascend to the throne of the Black Hills. Bad news for the king’s sons, who are prepared to defend their birthright against all comers. But for blacksmith Keeley Smythe, war is great for business. Until it looks like the chosen queen will be Beatrix, her younger sister. Now it’s all Keeley can do to protect her family from the enraged royals.

Luckily, Keeley doesn’t have to fight alone. Because thundering to her aid comes a clan of kilt-wearing mountain warriors called the Amichai. Not the most socially adept group, but soldiers have never bothered Keeley, and rough, gruff Caid, actually seems to respect her. A good thing because the fierce warrior will be by her side for a much longer ride than any prophesy ever envisioned …

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin: In the city of Shadow, beneath the World Tree, alleyways shimmer with magic and godlings live hidden among mortalkind. Oree Shoth, a blind artist, takes in a strange homeless man on an impulse. This act of kindness engulfs Oree in a nightmarish conspiracy. Someone, somehow, is murdering godlings, leaving their desecrated bodies all over the city. And Oree’s guest is at the heart of it. . .

Discworld by Terry Pratchett: Imagine, if you will . . . a flat world sitting on the backs of four elephants who hurtle through space balanced on a giant turtle. In truth, the Discworld is not so different from our own. Yet, at the same time, very different . . . but not so much.

In this, the maiden voyage through Terry Pratchett’s divinely and recognizably twisted alternate dimension, the well-meaning but remarkably inept wizard Rincewind encounters something hitherto unknown in the Discworld: a tourist! Twoflower has arrived, Luggage by his side, to take in the sights and, unfortunately, has cast his lot with a most inappropriate tour guide–a decision that could result in Twoflower’s becoming not only Discworld’s first visitor from elsewhere . . . but quite possibly, portentously, its very last. And, of course, he’s brought Luggage along, which has a mind of its own. And teeth.

A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar: A Stranger in Olondria

Jevick, the pepper merchant’s son, has been raised on stories of Olondria, a distant land where books are as common as they are rare in his home. When his father dies and Jevick takes his place on the yearly selling trip to Olondria, Jevick’s life is as close to perfect as he can imagine. But just as he revels in Olondria’s Rabelaisian Feast of Birds, he is pulled drastically off course and becomes haunted by the ghost of an illiterate young girl.

In desperation, Jevick seeks the aid of Olondrian priests and quickly becomes a pawn in the struggle between the empire’s two most powerful cults. Yet even as the country simmers on the cusp of war, he must face his ghost and learn her story before he has any chance of becoming free: an ordeal that challenges his understanding of art and life, home and exile, and the limits of that seductive necromancy, reading.

Cozy mysteries to curl up with this winter

I am personally a huge fan of the winter – it gives me an excuse to stay indoors and curl up with a good book without feeling like I’m missing out on too much. Cozy blankets, warm drinks and a roaring fire is my idea of a good time. I find myself gravitating toward mysteries in the winter, the cozier the better, and with that in mind, here are a few series you might want to check out!

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutano

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate. Especially when it is inadvertently shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding where Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for the family wedding business–Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!–and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love–and biggest heartbreak–makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon

With few other options, African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown accepts a less-than-ideal position turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. Stranded without luggage or money in the Irish countryside, she figures any job is better than none. The perk? Housesitting a lovely cliffside cottage. The catch? The ghost of the cottage’s murdered owner haunts the place. Falsely accused of killing his wife (and himself), he begs Gethsemane to clear his name so he can rest in peace.

Gethsemane’s reluctant investigation provokes a dormant killer and she soon finds herself in grave danger. As Gethsemane races to prevent a deadly encore, will she uncover the truth or star in her own farewell performance?

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

Death By Dumpling by Vivien Chien

The last place Lana Lee thought she would ever end up is back at her family’s restaurant. But after a brutal break-up and a dramatic workplace walk-out, she figures that helping wait tables is her best option for putting her life back together. Even if that means having to put up with her mother, who is dead-set on finding her a husband.

Lana’s love life soon becomes yesterday’s news once the restaurant’s property manager, Mr. Feng, turns up dead–after a delivery of shrimp dumplings from Ho-Lee. But how could this have happened when everyone on staff knew about Mr. Feng’s severe, life-threatening shellfish allergy? Now, with the whole restaurant under suspicion for murder and the local media in a feeding frenzy–to say nothing of the gorgeous police detective who keeps turning up for take-out–it’s up to Lana to find out who is behind Feng’s killer order. . . before her own number is up.

The Plot Is Murder by V M Burns

Samantha Washington has dreamed of owning her own mystery bookstore for as long as she can remember. And as she prepares for the store’s grand opening, she’s also realizing another dream–penning a cozy mystery set in England between the wars. While Samantha hires employees and fills the shelves with the latest mysteries, quick-witted Lady Penelope Marsh, long-overshadowed by her beautiful sister Daphne, refuses to lose the besotted Victor Carlston to her sibling’s charms. When one of Daphne’s suitors is murdered in a maze, Penelope steps in to solve the labyrinthine puzzle and win Victor.

But as Samantha indulges her imagination, the unimaginable happens in real life. A shady realtor turns up dead in her backyard, and the police suspect her–after all, the owner of a mystery bookstore might know a thing or two about murder. Aided by her feisty grandmother and an enthusiastic ensemble of colorful retirees, Samantha is determined to close the case before she opens her store. But will she live to conclude her own story when the killer has a revised ending in mind for her?

Shady Hollow by Juneau Black

Reporter Vera Vixen is a relative newcomer to Shady Hollow. The fox has a nose for news, so when she catches wind that the death might be a murder, she resolves to get to the bottom of the case, no matter where it leads. As she stirs up still waters, the fox exposes more than one mystery, and discovers that additional lives are in jeopardy.

Vera finds more to this town than she ever suspected. It seems someone in the Hollow will do anything to keep her from solving the murder, and soon it will take all of Vera’s cunning and quickness to crack the case.

Hollywood Homicide Kellye Garrett

Actress Dayna Anderson’s Deadly New Role: Homicide Detective

Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semi famous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward. But Dayna soon finds herself doing a full-on investigation, wanting more than just money–she wants justice for the victim. She chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes, and movie premieres, loving every second of it–until someone tries to kill her. And there are no second takes in real life.

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

On the day he retires, Inspector Ashwin Chopra inherits two unexpected mysteries.

The first is the case of a drowned boy, whose suspicious death no one seems to want solved. And the second is a baby elephant.

As his search for clues takes him across the teeming city of Mumbai, from its grand high rises to its sprawling slums and deep into its murky underworld, Chopra begins to suspect that there may be a great deal more to both his last case and his new ward than he thought.

The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian

A chance for a new beginning in Portland, Oregon. A stowaway from Paris who needs help deciphering an ancient book. And an alchemical mystery neither can refuse.

Unpacking her belongings in her new fixer-upper house, alchemist Zoe Faust can’t help but notice she’s picked up a stowaway. Dorian Robert-Houdin is a living, breathing gargoyle―not to mention a master of French cuisine―and he needs Zoe’s expertise to unlock the secrets of a centuries-old text. Zoe, who’s trying to put her old life behind her, isn’t so sure she wants to reopen her alchemical past…until a crime committed on her front porch leaves her no choice.

Mimi Lee Gets A Clue by Jennifer J. Chow

Mimi Lee is in over her head. There’s her new Los Angeles pet grooming shop to run, her matchmaking mother to thwart, her talking cat Marshmallow to tend to–oh, and the murder of a local breeder to solve…now if only Mimi hadn’t landed herself on top of the suspect list.

Mimi Lee hoped to give Los Angeles animal lovers something to talk about with her pet grooming shop, Hollywoof. She never imagined that the first cat she said hello to would talk back or be quite so, well, catty–especially about those disastrous dates Mimi’s mother keeps setting up.

When Marshmallow exposes local breeder Russ Nolan for mistreating Chihuahuas, Mimi steals some of her cat’s attitude to tell Russ off. The next day the police show up at Hollywoof. Russ has been found dead, and Mimi’s shouting match with him has secured her top billing as the main suspect.

Hoping to clear her name and save the pups Russ left behind, Mimi enlists help from her dreamy lawyer neighbor Josh. But even with Josh on board, it’ll take Mimi and Marshmallow a lot of sleuthing and more than a little sass to get back to the pet-grooming life–and off the murder scene.

Books paired with Dolly Parton songs to celebrate Diamonds & Rhinestones’ release

We don’t need a new Dolly Parton album as an excuse to listen to her songs and compile a reading list, but we are excited for her new greatest hits album, so you know we couldn’t help ourselves. Once you’ve settled in with some of these books, check out our Dolly Parton-inspired playlist and stream Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection, available now!

I Will Always Love You + The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Achilles, son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath. They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Eagle When She Flies + Becoming by Michelle Obama
In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her — from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it — in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations — and whose story inspires us to do the same.

9 to 5 + Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig
The societies we live in are increasingly making our minds ill, making it feel as though the way we live is engineered to make us unhappy. When Matt Haig developed panic disorder, anxiety, and depression as an adult, it took him a long time to work out the ways the external world could impact his mental health in both positive and negative ways. Notes on a Nervous Planet collects his observations, taking a look at how the various social, commercial and technological “advancements” that have created the world we now live in can actually hinder our happiness. Haig examines everything from broader phenomena like inequality, social media, and the news; to things closer to our daily lives, like how we sleep, how we exercise, and even the distinction we draw between our minds and our bodies.

Coat of Many Colors + Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward
Joshua and Christophe are twins, raised by a blind grandmother and a large extended family in rural Bois Sauvage, on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. They’ve just finished high school and need to find jobs, but after Katrina, it’s not easy. Joshua gets work on the docks, but Christophe’s not so lucky and starts to sell drugs. Christophe’s downward spiral is accelerated first by crack, then by the reappearance of the twins’ parents: Cille, who left for a better job, and Sandman, a dangerous addict. Sandman taunts Christophe, eventually provoking a shocking confrontation that will ultimately damn or save both twins.

Jolene + My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry
When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start and leave the secrets of the past behind. But then she takes on her first murder case and meets Joe, a convicted murderer to whom Lily is strangely drawn — and for whom she will soon be willing to risk almost anything. But Lily is not the only one with secrets. Her next-door neighbor Carla may be only nine, but she has already learned that secrets are powerful things. That they can get her whatever she wants. When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep twelve years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way.

Islands in the Stream + All That’s Left in the World by Erik J. Brown
When Andrew stumbles upon Jamie’s house, he’s injured, starved, and has nothing left to lose. A deadly pathogen has killed off most of the world’s population, including everyone both boys have ever loved. After danger breaches their shelter, they flee south in search of civilization. But something isn’t adding up about Andrew’s story, and it could cost them everything. And Jamie has a secret, too. He’s starting to feel something more than friendship for Andrew, adding another layer of fear and confusion to an already tumultuous journey. The road ahead of them is long, and to survive, they’ll have to shed their secrets, face the consequences of their actions, and find the courage to fight for the future they desire, together. Only one thing feels certain: all that’s left in their world is the undeniable pull they have toward each other.

Little Sparrow + Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia
Harlem, 1926. Young Black women like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead. Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She spends her days working at Maggie’s Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Harlem’s hottest speakeasy. Louise’s friends, especially her girlfriend, Rosa Maria Moreno, might say she’s running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don’t tell her that.

When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she’s been trying to ignore — two other local Black girls have been murdered in the past few weeks. After an altercation with a police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or wind up in a jail cell. Louise has no choice but to investigate and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind hell-bent on taking more lives, maybe even her own….

My Tennessee Mountain Home + Truth or Beard by Penny Reid (plus all the other books in the Winston Brothers series)
Identical twins Beau and Duane Winston might share the same devastatingly handsome face, but where Beau is outgoing and sociable, Duane is broody and reserved. This is why Jessica James has been in naïve and unhealthy infatuation with Beau Winston for most of her life. His friendly smiles make her tongue-tied and weak-kneed, and she’s never been able to move beyond her childhood crush. Whereas Duane and Jessica have always been adversaries. She can’t stand him, and she’s pretty sure he can’t stand the sight of her… But after a case of mistaken identity, Jessica finds herself in a massive confusion kerfuffle. Not helping Jessica’s muddled mind and good girl sensibilities, Duane seems to have gotten himself in trouble with the local biker gang. Certainly, Beau’s magic spell is broken. Yet when Jessica finds herself drawn to the man who was always her adversary, now more dangerous than ever, how much of her level-head heart is she willing to risk?

Here You Come Again + Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows us the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.

Hard Candy Christmas + You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince by Timothy Janovsky
Matthew Prince is young, rich, thoroughly spoiled and on top of the world. But one major PR misstep later, and Matthew is cut off and shipped away to spend the holidays in his grandparents’ charming small town hellscape. It’s bad enough he’s stuck in some festive winter wonderland — it’s even worse that he has to share space with Hector Martinez, an obnoxiously attractive local who’s unimpressed with anything and everything Matthew does. Just when it looks like the holiday season is bringing nothing but heated squabbles, the charity gala loses its coordinator and Matthew steps in as a saintly act to get home early on good behavior…with Hector as his maddening plus-one.

Books Forward BFFs November Influencer Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the November 2022 newsletter here!

African-inspired fantasy books for Wakanda Forever

Happy Wakanda Forever, everyone! If you’re like me and you fall madly in love with fictional worlds on the screen, then you’ll probably be searching for fictional books that carry the same vibe. Well, we have a great list of African-inspired fantasy books to hold you over before Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits the big screen.

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment, by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the empire. But when Sylah and Anoor meet, a fire burns between them that could consume the kingdom—and their hearts.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution. And when she joins forces with Sylah and Anoor, together these grains of sand will become a storm.

As the empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winters

The Omehi people have been fighting an unwinnable fight for almost two hundred years. Their society has been built around war and only war. The lucky ones are born gifted. One in every two thousand women has the power to call down dragons. One in every hundred men is able to magically transform himself into a bigger, stronger, faster killing machine.

Everyone else is fodder, destined to fight and die in the endless war. Young, gift-less Tau knows all this, but he has a plan of escape. He’s going to get himself injured, get out early, and settle down to marriage, children, and land. Only, he doesn’t get the chance. Those closest to him are brutally murdered, and his grief swiftly turns to anger. Fixated on revenge, Tau dedicates himself to an unthinkable path. He’ll become the greatest swordsman to ever live, a man willing to die a hundred thousand times for the chance to kill the three who betrayed him.

Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray

Magic doesn’t exist in the broken city of Lkossa anymore, especially for girls like sixteen-year-old Koffi. Indentured to the notorious Night Zoo, she cares for its fearsome and magical creatures to pay off her family’s debts and secure their eventual freedom. But the night her loved ones’ own safety is threatened by the Zoo’s cruel master, Koffi unleashes a power she doesn’t fully understand–and the consequences are dire.

As the second son of a decorated hero, Ekon is all but destined to become a Son of the Six–an elite warrior–and uphold a family legacy. But on the night of his final rite of passage, a fire upends his plans. In its midst, Ekon not only encounters the Shetani–a vicious monster that has plagued the city and his nightmares for nearly a century–but a curious girl who seems to have the power to ward off the beast. Koffi’s power ultimately saves Ekon’s life, but his choice to let her flee dooms his hopes of becoming a warrior.

Desperate to redeem himself, Ekon vows to hunt the Shetani down and end its reign of terror, but he can’t do it alone. Meanwhile, Koffi believes finding the Shetani and selling it for a profit could be the key to solving her own problems. Koffi and Ekon–each keeping their true motives secret from the other–form a tentative alliance and enter into the unknowns of the Greater Jungle, a world steeped in wild magic and untold dangers. The hunt begins. But it quickly becomes unclear whether they are the hunters or the hunted.

Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata–a mermaid–collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home.

But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable–she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.

To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail . . .

Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she fails, she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.

A Master of Djinn by P. Djeli Clark

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems….

A Song of Wraith and Ruins by Roseanne A Brown

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Akata Witch transports the reader to a magical place where nothing is quite as it seems. Born in New York, but living in Aba, Nigeria, twelve-year old Sunny is understandably a little lost. She is albino and thus, incredibly sensitive to the sun. All Sunny wants to do is be able to play football and get through another day of school without being bullied. But once she befriends Orlu and Chichi, Sunny is plunged in to the world of the Leopard People, where your worst defect becomes your greatest asset. Together, Sunny, Orlu, Chichi and Sasha form the youngest ever Oha Coven. Their mission is to track down Black Hat Otokoto, the man responsible for kidnapping and maiming children. Will Sunny be able to overcome the killer with powers stronger than her own, or will the future she saw in the flames become reality?

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt.

Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family.

When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

In the first novel in Marlon James’s Dark Star trilogy, myth, fantasy, and history come together to explore what happens when a mercenary is hired to find a missing child.

Tracker is known far and wide for his skills as a hunter: “He has a nose,” people say. Engaged to track down a mysterious boy who disappeared three years earlier, Tracker breaks his own rule of always working alone when he finds himself part of a group that comes together to search for the boy. The band is a hodgepodge, full of unusual characters with secrets of their own, including a shape-shifting man-animal known as Leopard.

Drawing from African history and mythology and his own rich imagination, Marlon James has written an adventure that’s also an ambitious, involving read. Defying categorization and full of unforgettable characters, Black Leopard, Red Wolf explores the fundamentals of truths, the limits of power, the excesses of ambition, and our need to understand them all.

Get a book recommendation based on your Halloween costume

Have you planned your Halloween costume yet? We’ve paired up some classic ensembles with book recommendations!

Pirate

The Wisteria Society Of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton
Want a novel that feels like Bridgerton, Sherlock Holmes, and The Princess Bride all rolled into one? Check out this novel about Cecilia Bassingwaite, consummate Victorian lady and simultaneous thief and Ned Lightbourne who is tasked to kill her. However, she is soon forced team up with her handsome would-be assassin to save the women who raised her–hopefully proving, once and for all, that she’s as much of a scoundrel as the rest of them.

A Clash Of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix By C.B. Lee
Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island. Join Xiang as she helps Anh and her crew uncover the secret’s of her late father’s pendant and his allegiance to The Dragon Fleet, a group only talked about in legends.

The Mermaid, The Witch, And The Sea By Maggie Tokuda-Hall
In a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic, a desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial lady find a connection on the high seas. Hold your breath as you follow the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, double agents, and the all-encompassing Sea herself.

Zombie

The Passage by Justin Cronin
The gripping beginning of a trilogy following Amy—abandoned by her mother at the age of six, pursued and then imprisoned by the shadowy figures behind a government experiment of apocalyptic proportions. Special Agent Brad Wolgast risks everything to save her, but as the experiment goes nightmarishly wrong, he can’t stop society’s collapse. And as Amy walks alone, across miles and decades, into a future dark with violence and despair, she is filled with the mysterious and terrifying knowledge that only she has the power to save the ruined world.

Zone One by Colson Whitehead
After the worst of the plague is over, armed forces stationed in Chinatown’s Fort Wonton have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One. Mark Spitz is a member of one of the three-person civilian sweeper units tasked with clearing lower Manhattan of the remaining feral zombies. Taking place over three days, this chilling horror story is a dazzling portrait of modern civilization in all its wretched, shambling glory.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her “our little genius.” Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh. This groundbreaking thriller is emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy
Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine until his audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All is leaked to the whole school. Now him and his sister decide to run and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, illustrated by Wendy Xu
A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft. Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. And Tam Lang, her childhood crush, is battling dark forces that are after werewolves and their magic. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

Shady Hollow by Juneau Black
In the first book of the Shady Hollow series, reporter Vera Vixen is a relative newcomer to Shady Hollow. The fox has a nose for news, so when she catches wind that the death might be a murder, she resolves to get to the bottom of the case, no matter where it leads. As she stirs up still waters, the fox exposes more than one mystery, and discovers that additional lives are in jeopardy.

Witch

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations.But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed into a ceiba tree, leaving them with more questions than answers. Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, this spellbinding tale will stay with you.

The Change by Kirsten Miller
In the Long Island oceanfront community of Mattauk, three different women discover that midlife changes bring a whole new type of empowerment. Guided by voices only Nessa can hear, the trio of women discover a teenage girl whose body was abandoned beside a remote beach. The police have written the victim off as a drug-addicted sex worker, but the women refuse to buy into the official narrative. Their investigation into the girl’s murder leads to more bodies, and to the town’s most exclusive and isolated enclave, a world of stupendous wealth where the rules don’t apply.

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
After her fathers death and a proposal from handsome Don Rodolfo Solórzano, Beatriz ignores the rumors surrounding his first wife’s sudden demise, choosing instead to seize the security that his estate in the countryside provides. But Hacienda San Isidro is not the sanctuary she imagined. Desperate for help, she clings to the young priest, Padre Andrés, as an ally. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to fight off the malevolent presence haunting the hacienda and protect the woman for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction.

Superhero

Faith by Julie Murphy
Faith Herbert is a pretty regular teen, except for the fact that she recently learned she could fly. Her romantic daydreams aren’t enough to distract Faith from the fact that first animals, then people, have begun to vanish from the town. Only Faith seems able to connect the dots to a new designer drug infiltrating her high school. But when her investigation puts the people she loves in danger, she will have to confront her hidden past and use her newfound gifts—risking everything to save her friends and beloved town.

The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune
Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right? But after a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee
Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship–only it turns out to be for the towns most heinous supervillain. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

Ghost

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon
Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She’s used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South The ship’s leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot–if she’s willing to sow the seeds of civil war.

In the Night Wood by Dale Bailey
In this contemporary fantasy, the grieving biographer of a Victorian fantasist finds himself slipping inexorably into the supernatural world that consumed his subject. Charles and Erin pack up and move to Hollow’s remote Yorkshire mansion so he can work on his biography. In the primeval forest surrounding them, an ancient power is stirring, a long-forgotten king who haunts the Haydens’ dreams. And every morning the fringe of darkling trees presses closer. Soon enough, Charles and Erin will venture into the night wood and learn that the darkness under the trees is but a shadow of the darkness that waits inside us all.

The Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card
Stanford Solomon’s shocking, thirty-year-old secret is about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford has done something no one could ever imagine. He is a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley. And now, nearing the end of his life, Stanford is about to meet his firstborn daughter, Irene Paisley, a home health aide who has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead.

Devil

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Casiopea Tun dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico.Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever—and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world. But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

Detective

Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke
When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules — a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders — a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman — have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes — and save himself in the process — before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

In the Woods by Tana French
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte Holmes is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her. But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.

Wizard

Jade City by Fonda Lee
Jade is the lifeblood of the island of Kekon. It has been mined, traded, stolen, and killed for — and for centuries, honorable Green Bone warriors like the Kaul family have used it to enhance their magical abilities and defend the island from foreign invasion. When a powerful new drug emerges that lets anyone — even foreigners — wield jade, the simmering tension between the Kauls and the rival Ayt family erupts into open violence. The outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones — and of Kekon itself.

Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears, whisking her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor. In order to join The Wondrous Society, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each with an extraordinary talent that sets them apart–an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have.

A Far Wilder Magic by Allison Saft
When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist. So when aspiring alchemist Weston Winters arrives at Welty Manor finding only Margaret, she begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

Princess

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Camellia Beauregard is a Belle. In the opulent world of Orleans, Belles are revered, for they control Beauty, and Beauty is a commodity coveted above all else. In Orleans, the people are born gray, they are born damned, and only with the help of a Belle and her talents can they transform and be made beautiful. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that the very essence of her existence is a lie—that her powers are far greater, and could be more dangerous, than she ever imagined. And when the queen asks Camellia to risk her own life and help the ailing princess by using Belle powers in unintended ways, Camellia now faces an impossible decision: save herself and her sisters and the way of the Belles—or resuscitate the princess, risk her own life, and change the ways of her world forever.

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
For princess Hesina of Yan, the palace is her home, but her father is her world. Before he died, he was supposed to teach her how to rule. The imperial doctors say the king died a natural death, but Hesina has reason to believe he was murdered. She is determined to uncover the truth and bring the assassin to justice. But in a broken system, ideals can kill. As the investigation quickly spins out of Hesina’s control, she realizes that no one is innocent.

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a suspicious surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi’s wit and will, indeed, get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she’s falling in love with the very boy who killed her dearest friend.

Mermaid

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow
In a society determined to keep her under lock and key, Tavia must hide her siren powers. Meanwhile, Effie is fighting her own family struggles, pitted against literal demons from her past. Together, these best friends must navigate through the perils of high school’s junior year. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice at the worst possible moment. To save themselves from drowning, it’s only Tavia and Effie’s unbreakable sisterhood that proves to be the strongest magic of all.

Skin of the Sea by Natsha Bowen
A way to survive. A way to serve. A way to save.
Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata—a mermaid—collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home. But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi goes against an ancient decree and does the unthinkable—she saves his life. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy the gods.

Out of the Blue by Jason June
Crest is not excited to be on their Journey: the month-long sojourn on land all teen merfolk must undergo. The rules are simple: Help a human within one moon cycle and return to Pacifica to become an Elder—or fail and remain stuck on land forever. In Los Angeles, Crest meets Sean, a human lifeguard whose boyfriend has recently dumped him. Crest agrees to help Sean make his ex jealous and win him back. But as the two spend more time together, and Crest’s perspective on humans begins to change, they’ll soon be torn between two worlds. And fake dating just might lead to real feelings.

What is bookish swag, and how do I use it?

As an author, you have a lot to think about, and as you make your way through your publishing journey, you might be wondering, “What is swag and do I need it?”

Bookish swag is just any item you use to help promote your book – whether it’s through a giveaway or as part of a preorder opportunity. It can be very simple, or you can make a box filled with items that pertain to your story!

Is it something that’s totally necessary? Absolutely not! But it can help your book stand out, and possibly give readers another reason to preorder. And there are options that fit almost any budget.

Bookmarks are a classic, cost-effective option, and can include a quote, your book cover, a headshot, and any other information you think readers, bookstore owners, or librarians might need. And when you order them in bulk, they are fairly cost-effective! You can also search bulk order sites for items related to your book to get ideas.

Get creative! We asked influencers about some of their favorite swag they’ve received, and here are some examples they gave!:

  • Magnets
  • Totes
  • Sunglasses
  • Candles
  • Sunscreen and lotion
  • Notebook
  • Chapstick
  • Playing cards
  • Jewelry
  • Postcards from cities visited in the book
  • Beach towel
  • Coasters
  • Pens and pencils
  • Wine glasses and cups
  • Key chain
  • Candy and snacks
  • Stickers and temporary tattoos

There are tons of different directions you can go in. When we worked on a children’s book about a character made from salt from the swamps of Louisiana, we got together with a local spice company to create custom spice blends for swag boxes with a sticker of each character from the book on them.

When possible, it’s good to brand any swag you make with your website or the book title, so readers will remember you every time they use it! And when in doubt, have your friends and early readers give feedback on what they think.

Books Forward BFFs October Influencer Newsletter

Check out the latest newsletter for our Books Forward Friends. This issue features highlights of our BFFs, fun titles available for review, and special opportunities for our friends.

Download the October 2022 newsletter here!