It’s April 1, which means that 1) your risk of sitting on a whoopie cushion is at an all-time high, and 2) spring is undeniably here! As the earth comes back to life, wake up your bookshelves with 5 great reads that take you to places you’ve never been, and times you’ll never see. From the corrupt demimonde of a bygone San Francisco to the darkly enchanted Norwegian countryside, these books will inspire you to explore:
Frog Music, by Emma Donoghue
Donoghue turns her gimlet eye on two women scraping out a living in seedy late 19th-century San Francisco: Blanche, a French burlesque artist and sex worker, and Jenny Bonnet, a wild woman who dares to trade petticoats for pants and is shot dead in the opening pages of the book. The murder, based on a real-life unsolved crime, converges with a heat wave and smallpox epidemic, thickening the muck that Blanche sifts through in her efforts to find out who killed her friend.
Savage Girl, by Jean Zimmerman
Alleged to be raised by wolves, and rescued from a Wild West sideshow by a rich New York family, eerily beautiful “savage girl” Bronwyn becomes the subject of intrigue, gossip, and lust when she’s introduced into the upper crust of Gilded Age New York. And when her male admirers start turning up murdered, the depth of Bronwyn’s savagery comes into question. Whether the killer is the girl or her would-be protector, the eccentric son of the family that took her in, is at the heart of Zimmerman’s vivid, richly realized novel.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton
This book covers more than Ava’s story, opening its arms to encompass the enchanted, often miserable saga of three generations of Lavender women, culminating in the story of Ava, a girl born with wings. The family’s sorrows are indeed strange, a heady mix of bad romance, immigrant experience, and pure magical realism.
Sekret, by Lindsay Smith
Psychically gifted Yulia and her mother and brother live a secretive life in 1960s Russia, constantly in fear of capture by the Soviet forces that stole her father away from them. Her worst fears are realized when she comes home one day to an empty house—almost empty. She’s enlisted by force into the KGB’s special cadre of teen psychics, where she learns that even her thoughts aren’t safe in Soviet Russia.
West of the Moon, by Margie Preus
Elements of Norwegian myth, fairytale journeying, and coming-of-age are woven into this middle grade book, with themes dark enough to intrigue older readers. In mid-19th century Norway, sisters Astri and Greta are waiting for their America-bound father to send for them. But after their cruel aunt sells prickly heroine Astri into servitude—and she realizes the extent of her new guardian’s cruelty—she determines to retrieve Greta and find passage to America on her own.