Vanessa Diaz is the newest addition to the Catapult team. She recently left a decade-long corporate career to read and sell books all day and wonders why she didn't do it sooner! She writes for a book blog and for herself in her spare time, hoping to pen a book of her own someday.
This book is brilliantly done - it pays homage to the mystery greats but manages not to be super predictable, a delightful blend of British cozy and contemporary mystery. This isn't exactly a short read (not that it's huge, but substantial at 500ish pages) and I devoured it in one sitting on a Sunday, sitting on the couch eating Goldfish crackers and tea (and wine, sssh) because I could not be bothered to spare time for a real meal. One of my favorite books I've read this year - gave me major Agatha Christie vibes.
One summer in late 1960s New York, the four Gold children hear that there's a woman in the neighborhood who will tell you the exact day on which you will die. They find their way to the woman and each await their turn, heading home with new information they're not sure they should trust. The rest of this family saga is told in four parts, one for each of the siblings: Simon, who runs off to San Francisco to live freely as a gay man; Klara, who dreams of being a world-famous magician; Daniel, an army physician looking for safety and security in his work, and Varya, a scientist studying aging and how to reverse or even halt it affects. Each of these stories explores the way in which the knowledge these characters have been given affects the trajectory of their lives, blurring the line between fate and free will, of destiny and choice. At its root it is also about the complicated love that exists between siblings and about the responsibility we feel - or perhaps don't- to the ones we love. -Vanessa
This West African fantasy is set in Orisha, where the maji were rooted out and massacred by a ruthless king who feared their magic. Zélie is a diviner who has the chance to restore magic to Orisha, but she must first outrun the prince who wants nothing more than to see her and her kind dead. With her brother and a defiant pricess by her side, Zélie embarks on a quest to defeat the oppressive monarchy and harness her newly awoken magical abilites for good. The story is compeling the world-building lush and the links to contemporary cultural discssions hard to miss. This is a must-read for lovers of fantasy and anyone still chasing that Wakanda high.
This debut is such a beautiful gut punch. In a black community here in San Diego, seventeen-year-old Nadia Turner is coping as best she can with her mother's sudden death. She meets Luke Sheppard at a local diner, who's waiting tables after his promising football career is cut short by an injury. The two spend a summer lost in love when Nadia discovers that she's pregnant, just as she's preparing to move far away for college. Oh, and one more wrinkle: Luke is their community church's pastor's son. This is a story about secrets and impossible choices, one that dives deep into the question of "what if" and how the wondering itself can go on to ripple throughout our lives in unexpected and heartbreaking ways. The book's title is a reference to the Greek chorus of sorts: a group of older church ladies who narrate the story. -Vanessa
Starr Carter is doing her best to navigate two very different worlds: the fancy prep school she attends in the "good" part of town and the poor neighborhood where she and her family live. Straddling these distinct environments has her questioning her identity - her blackness, her roots, how her future will be shaped by both. This struggle is brought into sharp and painful focus when she watches helplessly as police shoot and kill her unarmed friend Khalil. His death soon becomes a national headline as riots and protests explode all over the country. Only Starr really knows what happened that fateful day, and she must try to find the courage to tell that a story that not everyone is prepared to believe and many are eager to discredit. This is an essential and difficult read with its finger right smack on the dizzying pulse of our country's turmoil, one that forces readers to examine the painful reality of what it means to be black in America. -Vanessa
I'm such a sucker for books about books, especially when they feature intriguing women and are set in idyllic English locales. This gothic novel tells the story of Vida Winter, a renowned and eccentric English novelist who wrote a famous set of tales, but one tale is missing from the collection - guess which one? Many have tried to pry the story behind the missing tale from Vida, but she's lied to every single one of them and has thus remained shrouded in mystery. Facing old age and ailing health, she decides she's ready to tell the story - her story- and selects a young biographer working in a rare book shop to tell it to. What follows is a crazy-beautiful ride full of twists and turns, a cast of beguiling characters (include some feral twins and maybe a ghost?) and some seriously beautiful language about book love. -Vanessa
The first in the Flavia de Luce Series by Alan Bradley - I love the subject of this series so, so hard: dress-hating, science-loving, eleven-year-old Flavia de Luce. She lives in an old English country house with her widowed father where she spends her days devising ways to torture her two older sisters, concocting potions and poisons in her very own chemistry lab and sticking her nose where it probably doesn't belong. With her trusty bike Gladys in tow, she finds herself embroiled in and ultimately solving crimes in and around the nearby village of Bishop's Lacey. Think of this as Harriet the Spy meets Agatha Christie - kinda cozy, but with a healthy dose of super snarky girl power. -Vanessa
First, I swear that I do indeed read stuff that's not set in England. Secondly, I recommend this book left and right because it's just such a superb example of the ridiculous prowess of the one, the only, the original queen of crime. The tale she weaves and the final reveal are nothing short of ingenious, especially when you consider how long ago she was killing the game (no pun intended). You think you know where she's going with this one and then BAM. Fooled you. All hail! -Vanessa
I probably read this twenty times when I was a kid. It is just so good! Little Claudia Kincaid decides she wants to run away, but not just anywhere: she's going to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and find a way to live there. She bamboozles her little brother into going along for the ride and pulls off her master plan, and the two end up stumbling upon a headline-making mystery in the process. I've been reading mysteries (and trying to live inside a swanky museum, sssh) ever since. -Vanessa
This book... it completely changed the way I look at mental health diagnoses. It’s the very real and alarming true story of a young woman who appears to have a mental breakdown from one day to the next. Her condition deteriorates more and more quickly as doctors struggle to accurate diagnose her symptoms: could be bipolar mania, could be schizophrenia, could be something else. Her struggle to find answers will frustrate and unnerve you when at least it’s revealed what the problem really is. You’re forced to examine what you know and believe about mental illness and healthcare, as well as what a privilege it is to have access to that care. -Vanessa