New Releases: Forbidden Love, a Drag Queen Heist Ring, and a Return to the Grishaverse

There are so many reasons to celebrate today, whether you’re a fan of thrillers, heists, and mysteries (oh my!), an avid reader of queer lit, or you’ve simply been counting down the minutes until we got back into the Grishaverse. Just try not to order at least half this post right now, for enough killer (in some cases, literally) reading to get you through the rest of winter.

King of Scars, by Leigh Bardugo
What do you really need to know about this book other than that it’s by fantasy queen Leigh Bardugo herself? I guess you might be interested to know it’s set in the Grishaverse and led by King Nikolai Lantsov. You may want to hear that with his borders weakened and enemies at the gates, he has a whole lot of work to do to stop them. And you definitely want to know there’s a dark magic rising within him that forces him to travel to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic lives, aided by a monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, in order to learn to quell that which threatens to to destroy everything. Ravka, Nikolai, and his legacy are at stake, and no one knows what and who will remain standing by the end.

Spin, by Lamar Giles
Giles is one of the freshest and most fun thriller authors in YA, and his newest might be my favorite yet. Paris Secord, aka DJ ParSec, has been killed, and everyone wants answers. That includes her former best friends, Kya and Fuse, the two people who found her body that night. It also includes ParSec Nation, Paris’s rabidly devoted group of loyal fans whose darker contingent leaps on Kya and Fuse—far from friends themselves—when some ill-advised social media sniping suggests they’ve got blood on their hands. Now it isn’t just curiosity driving them to find the killer, it’s saving their own lives.

The Cerulean, by Amy Ewing
Hello, and welcome to a fantasy series based out of a Sapphic Utopia. Sounds perfect, right? Not so much to Sera, who seems to be the only Cerulean who doesn’t feel an attraction to girls like she’s supposed to. When she’s chosen to be her people’s latest sacrifice, necessary to help them find a new planet, she doesn’t die. She lands, still alive, on Kaolin, where she meets twins Leo and Agnes, the latter of whom has the inverse of Sera’s problem: she’s a lesbian in a homophobic society. When the twins discover blue-haired, silver-skinned Sera while searching for additions to their father’s freak show, they each bond with her in their own way. But when Sera learns some dangerous secrets, she realizes she must return home before everyone on Cerulean suffers.

Death Prefers Blondes, by Caleb Roehrig
If you’ve been dreaming of the perfect queer read for fans of the Ocean’s 11 franchise—or, even better, Ocean’s 8—prepare to feel blessed by Roehrig’s third thriller. This one centers around bisexual heiress Margo, aka Miss Anthropy, aka the head of a thieving ring of drag queens who’ve all got their own private reasons for needing influxes of cash. Also in the gang (and given POV’s) are Margo’s stubborn best friend, Axel; handsome dancer Leif; sweet and tough orphan Davon—and, much to Axel’s chagrin, Axel’s little brother, Joaquin, who’s drawing the eye of another one of the queens. With their acrobatic skills, technological connections, and stellar talents for disguise, the quintet seems unbeatable…until they knock off a dangerous target who hates to lose and has a team of violent minions at his disposal. They’re running for their lives when an even bigger mystery falls into Margo’s lap, one that places a target on her chest too big to ignore.

The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Ali, by Sabina Khan
Khan’s debut about a Bengali Muslim teen who’s caught between the white girl she loves who’s tired of being a secret and the family who can never know about her is a memorable one. Finding a girlfriend isn’t Rukhsana’s problem; she and Ariana have been happily dating in secret for six months. But Ariana doesn’t understand why Rukhsana can’t come out to her family as she has, and even Ariana’s mother is starting to grow impatient (and Islamophobic) about it. Then the secret comes out in the worst possible way, and soon Rukhsana and her family are on their way to Bangladesh, where things only get harder and more restrictive for her. Then she finds her grandmother’s diary, and learns there’s so much more to her mother and grandmother’s upbringing than she ever could have imagined, and that fighting for her heart is a battle she can’t afford to lose.

A Curse So Dark and Lonely, by Brigid Kemmerer
Kemmerer is double trouble this year, and the first of her two releases is this fantasy retelling of “Beauty and the Beast.” (You can find more on the other here.) Prince Rhen is heir to Emberfall, cursed to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year until a girl falls in love with him. But at the end of each autumn, he turns into a violent, destructive beast, and now that he has destroyed everything that matters, he’s out of hope that the curse will ever be lifted. Then Harper is sucked into his world from the streets of Washington, D.C., and she has no idea what to make of it or of him. What she does know is how to survive, and Rhen will need her by his side when a powerful enemy tries to take Emberfall down.

The Wild Lands, by Paul Greci
I have a huge thing for survival stories and for stories set in Alaska, so this book in which Alaska has been cut off from the world by natural disasters and a tiny ol’ breakdown of civilization is at the top of my to-read list. Travis and his little sister, Jess, are two of the only survivors remaining, and food is running out. They have hundreds of miles to cross, rife with desperate and dangerous survivors and starving animals who see them as prey. But they must attempt the journey in order to stay alive, even if the travel itself might kill them.

The Lonely Dead, by April Henry
Legendary mystery author Henry is back at it again with this newest about a girl named Adele who can see and speak to the dead…not that she wants to. And she definitely didn’t want to discover her ex–best friend Tori is dead by coming upon her shallow grave in the woods, especially when she can’t give an alibi for the murder. Now Adele is the number one suspect, and the only way to clear her name is to work with Tori’s ghost to find out who’s really behind her death, and do it before she becomes the killer’s next victim.

The Dead Queens Club, by Hannah Capin
The fastest way to get something on my to-read list is to tell me it’s a contemporary based on a historical event, so guess how incredibly psyched I am for this story helmed by an analog to Anne of Cleves, the only girl to get out of a relationship with her best friend, Henry, relatively unscathed? But there are breakups, and then there are mysterious deaths, and with two of his exes dead, Henry’s starting to look guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, even to the one girl who’s supposed to believe in him.

Bloom, by Kevin Panetta (illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau)
Ari loved working at the family bakery as a kid, but now that he’s graduating high school, all he wants is to move away to the city to be with his band. Then his bakery replacement, Hector, arrives, and bam, he’s messing with Ari’s plans and his heart, with his dream of having the very job Ari’s dying to leave behind. As they spend more time together, feelings blossom out of control against the fragrant backdrop of the bakery—but is there really a future for them when part of Ari’s heart is in the city?

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