Vanessa Diaz is Catapult Bookseller Emeritus, having left San Diego for the rainy, greener grasses of Portland, Oregon where she writes & edits for the prestigious independent editorial book website, Book Riot.
I absolutely love books, movies, etc that take a villain and give them some a fully fleshed-out backstory, especially when that villain is a woman and the story is complex and nuanced (think Elphaba in Wicked or Maleficent). This is precisely what Madeline Miller does in Circe: she takes the witch from The Odyssey and gives her a beautiful, harrowing, complicated narrative to create a character that you feel for, root for, cry for, hope for. This is an age-old story turned stay-up-all-night page turner that I am absolutely in love with. Mythology rocks.
“A gingerbread addict once told Harriet that eating her gingerbread is like eating revenge…with darts of heat, salt, spice, and sulfurous syrup, as if honey was measured out, set ablaze, and trickled through the dough along with the liquefied spoon.” That sentence alone hooked me, but it’s Helen Oyeyemi’s unique and twisty reworkings of fairytales and folklore that I can’t get enough of. This story is a little weird, a little whimsical, gorgeously written with a touch of snark. My kind of book 100%. -Vanessa
This is one of my favorite pieces of YA I’ve read in a long time. A heist, stolen treasure, a merry band of misfits, all set in a magical reimagining of Belle Epoque Paris. The story is a page-turner, but what absolutely slayed me were the lush, elegant descriptions of the clothing, the food, and magic itself. Plus the fact that the characters are diverse and nuanced. Can’t wait for the next installment!!
I love a cozy mystery but have long lamented the genre’s extreme lack of diversity both in authorship and characters. Enter Sujata Massey! She has written this fantastic cozy set in 1920s India featuring Perveen Mistry, India’s first and only woman lawyer. This is a great new series in a fantastic setting with a wonderful heroine to root for: capable, intelligent, independent, and resilient in the face of endless discrimination and, ya know, murder!
I’m not sure just how to do this beautiful read justice. Set in the middle of the AIDS epidemic in 1980s Chicago, it’s a story of profound loss and tragedy, of betrayal and estrangement, but also of love and hard-fought redemption. This is one of those reads that you stay up late to finish through tears; though it will tear you wide open, it will put you back together too. -Vanessa
Gah! This book is a beautifully written and heartbreaking retelling of the Oedipus myth set in the canals of Oxford. It’s told from the perspective of Gretel, a lexicographer attempting to track down the mother who mysteriously abandoned her in her youth. If you remember Oedipus, you’ll sort of see the tragedy coming. There is a twist to how it happens though, and it’s every bit the gut-punch when it does. *shivers*
Victoria Schwab (aka V.E. Schwab) is one of my absolute favorite fantasy authors! She writes novels for adults as well as YA and Middle Grade fiction and all of it is just brilliant, mind-bendy, world-building perfection. I read City of Ghosts in one sitting on an airplane and was sucked right into Cass’ ghost-hunting escapades in Edinburgh. It’s both a fun page-turner and a love letter to that specific gorgeous and haunted feel of one of my favorite cities in the world. -Vanessa
I'll admit that I have a major soft spot for books about books, especially ones like this with a touch of mystery. Reclusive author Vida Winter is famous for a particular collection of stories where the thirteenth tale is missing. Facing the final years of her life, she's finally ready to reveal the secret of the missing story. She selects a biographer and bookseller (someone pick me for this PLEEEEASE) to tell her story to, taking readers on adventure set long ago in the English countryside. Be stil, my heart!
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