“On The Smugglers’ Radar” is a feature for books that have caught our eye: books we have heard of via other bloggers, directly from publishers, and/or from our regular incursions into the Amazon jungle. Thus, the Smugglers’ Radar was born. Because we want far more books than we can possibly buy or review (what else is new?), we thought we would make the Smugglers’ Radar into a weekly feature – so YOU can tell us which books you have on your radar as well!
It’s 2020 already! Here are some of our highly anticipated reads of 2020:
On Ana’s Radar:
A year with a new N.K. Jemisin book is a year with a N.K. Jemisin on my highly anticipated read of course – there isn’t a single Jemisin book I haven’t loved and I know this one won’t be any different:
ive New Yorkers must come together to defend their city from an ancient evil in this stunning new novel by Hugo Award-winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin.
Every great city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got six.
But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs in the halls of power, threatening to destroy the city and her six newborn avatars unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
I am also a huge Silvia Moreno-Garcia fan and have also loved all her books to date. Mexican Gothic is therefore, one for this list:
He is trying to poison me. You must come for me, Noemí. You have to save me.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find — her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough, smart, and has an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.
I adored The Epic Crush of Genie Lo and now the sequel, The Iron Will of Genie Lo is knocking on my door SOON:
The fate of the heavens is at stake in this hilarious and highly-anticipated sequel to the The Epic Crush of Genie Lo, from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Rise of Kyoshi
Genie Lo thought she was busy last year, juggling her academic career with protecting the Bay Area from demons. But now, as the Heaven-appointed Guardian of California, she’s responsible for the well-being of all yaoguai and spirits on Earth. Even the ones who interrupt her long-weekend visit to a prestigious college, bearing terrible news about a cosmos-threatening force of destruction in a nearby alternate dimension.
The goddess Guanyin and Genie’s boyfriend, Quentin Sun Wukong, do their best to help, but it’s really the Jade Emperor who’s supposed to handle crises of this magnitude. Unfortunately for Genie and the rest of existence, he’s gone AWOL. Fed up with the Jade Emperor’s negligence, Genie spots an opportunity to change the system for the better by undertaking a quest that spans multiple planes of reality along with an adventuring party of quarrelsome Chinese gods. But when faced with true danger, Genie and her friends realize that what will save the universe this time isn’t strength, but sacrifice.
This year will mark the LAST EVER book in the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner and although I am NOT READY, I am also TOTALLY READY. Bring it on:
Neither accepted nor beloved, Eugenides is the uneasy linchpin of a truce on the Lesser Peninsula, where he has risen to be high king of Attolia, Eddis, and Sounis. As the treacherous Baron Erondites schemes anew and a prophecy appears to foretell the death of the king, the ruthless Mede empire prepares to strike. The New York Times–bestselling Queen’s Thief novels are rich with political machinations, divine intervention, dangerous journeys, battles lost and won, power, passion, and deception. Features a cast list of the characters in the Queen’s Thief novels, as well as two maps—a map of the world of the Queen’s Thief, and a map exclusive to this edition.
I am loving to see so many Brazilian authors getting translated and published into the US. One of the books I am most looking forward to this year is this one by Lucas Rocha:
An absorbing debut novel about three gay friends in Brazil whose lives become intertwined in the face of HIV, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Bill Konigsberg.
Ian has just been diagnosed with HIV.
Victor, to his great relief, has tested negative.
Henrique has been living with HIV for the past three years.
When Victor finds himself getting tested for HIV for the first time, he can’t help but question his entire relationship with Henrique, the guy he has — had — been dating. See, Henrique didn’t disclose his positive HIV status to Victor until after they had sex, and even though Henrique insisted on using every possible precaution, Victor is livid.
That’s when Victor meets Ian, a guy who’s also getting tested for HIV. But Ian’s test comes back positive, and his world is about to change forever. Though Victor is loath to think about Henrique, he offers to put the two of them in touch, hoping that perhaps Henrique can help Ian navigate his new life. In the process, the lives of Ian, Victor, and Henrique will become intertwined in a story of friendship, love, and self-acceptance.
Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.
I am also super looking forward to Sarah Gailey’s first YA book, When We Were Magic
Keeping your magic a secret is hard. Being in love with your best friend is harder.
Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love.
That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night.
When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong. Their first attempt fails—and their second attempt fails even harder. Left with the remains of their failed spells and more consequences than anyone could have predicted, each of them must find a way to live with their part of the story.
I love Black Panther’s Shuri (her comics is super good too) and there is going to be a MG novel featuring her!
An original, upper-middle-grade series starring the break-out character from the Black Panther comics and films: T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri! Crafted by New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone. Shuri is a skilled martial artist, a genius, and a master of science and technology. But, she’s also a teenager. And a princess. This story follows Shuri as she sets out on a quest to save her homeland of Wakanda.
For centuries, the Chieftain of Wakanda (the Black Panther) has gained his powers through the juices of the Heart-Shaped Herb. Much like Vibranium, the Heart-Shaped Herb is essential to the survival and prosperity of Wakanda. But something is wrong. The plants are dying. No matter what the people of Wakanda do, they can’t save them. And their supply is running short. It’s up to Shuri to travel from Wakanda in order to discover what is killing the Herb, and how she can save it, in the first volume of this all-new, original adventure.
Another ongoing series I love that which will see its conclusion this year, is the Murderbot diaries by Martha Wells. And it will end with a bang, or rather, a whole full NOVEL:
You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.
Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.
This next title is the FinnPoe story we HAVE ALWAYS WANTED AND DESERVED (but never got from Star Wars):
Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres—his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.
But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?
Last but by no means, least, the ONE book I am MOST looking forward to this year is Harrow the Ninth, the sequel to my favoritest book of 2019, Gideon the Ninth.
She answered the Emperor’s call.
She arrived with her arts, her wits, and her only friend.
In victory, her world has turned to ash.
After rocking the cosmos with her deathly debut, Tamsyn Muir continues the story of the penumbral Ninth House in Harrow the Ninth, a mind-twisting puzzle box of mystery, murder, magic, and mayhem. Nothing is as it seems in the halls of the Emperor, and the fate of the galaxy rests on one woman’s shoulders. Harrowhark’s health is failing, her magic refuses to cooperate, her sword makes her throw up, and even her mind threatens to betray her. What’s worse, someone is trying to kill her. And she has to wonder: if they succeeded, would the universe be better off?
On Thea’s Radar
So, obviously there are a ton of books on Ana’s list that would definitely make my own–in particular, N.K. Jemisin’s newest I NEED IN MY LIFE NOW–but in no particular order, here are my top picks.
Alma Katsu writes some pretty terrifying and effective historical horror (I read The Hunger–the story of the doomed Donner party–and *ahem* devoured it whole. Her new book tackles another ill-fated party: aboard the Titanic.
From the acclaimed and award-winning author of The Hunger comes an eerie, psychological twist on one of the world’s most renowned tragedies, the sinking of the Titanic and the ill-fated sail of its sister ship, the Britannic.
Someone, or something, is haunting the ship. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the Titanic from the moment they set sail. The Titanic‘s passengers expected to enjoy an experience befitting the much-heralded ship’s maiden voyage, but instead, amid mysterious disappearances and sudden deaths, find themselves in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone. While some of the guests and crew shrug off strange occurrences, several–including maid Annie Hebbley, guest Mark Fletcher, and millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim–are convinced there’s something more sinister going on. And then disaster strikes.
Years later, Annie, having survived that fateful night, has attempted to put her life back together by going to work as a nurse on the sixth sailing of the Britannic, newly refitted as a hospital ship to support British forces fighting World War I. When she happens across an unconscious Mark, now a soldier, she is at first thrilled and relieved to learn that he too survived the tragic night four years earlier. But soon his presence awakens deep-buried feelings and secrets, forcing her to reckon with the demons of her past–as they both discover that the terror may not yet be over.
Featuring an ensemble cast of characters and effortlessly combining the supernatural with the height of historical disaster, The Deep is an exploration of love and destiny, desire and innocence, and, above all, a quest to understand how our choices can lead us inexorably toward our doom.
The third and final book in the Daevabad trilogy is also high on my list of books to read in 2020:
The final chapter in the bestselling, critically acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy, in which a con-woman and an idealistic djinn prince join forces to save a magical kingdom from a devastating civil war.
Daevabad has fallen.
After a brutal conquest stripped the city of its magic, Nahid leader Banu Manizheh and her resurrected commander, Dara, must try to repair their fraying alliance and stabilize a fractious, warring people.
But the bloodletting and loss of his beloved Nahri have unleashed the worst demons of Dara’s dark past. To vanquish them, he must face some ugly truths about his history and put himself at the mercy of those he once considered enemies.
Having narrowly escaped their murderous families and Daevabad’s deadly politics, Nahri and Ali, now safe in Cairo, face difficult choices of their own. While Nahri finds peace in the old rhythms and familiar comforts of her human home, she is haunted by the knowledge that the loved ones she left behind and the people who considered her a savior are at the mercy of a new tyrant. Ali, too, cannot help but look back, and is determined to return to rescue his city and the family that remains. Seeking support in his mother’s homeland, he discovers that his connection to the marid goes far deeper than expected and threatens not only his relationship with Nahri, but his very faith.
As peace grows more elusive and old players return, Nahri, Ali, and Dara come to understand that in order to remake the world, they may need to fight those they once loved . . . and take a stand for those they once hurt.
Speaking of books in series, how could I possibly resist this newest addition to the Hunger Games/Panem canon?
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.
On the subject of dystopias, this tale of “benevolent alien contact” sounds fascinating and its early comps to Jeff VanderMeer and Carmen Maria Machado immediately have me hooked:
A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porter’s fresh, pointed debut is perfect for fans of Jeff VanderMeer and Carmen Maria Machado.
Trina Goldberg-Oneka is a fifty-year-old trans woman whose life is irreversibly altered in the wake of a gentle—but nonetheless world-changing—invasion by an alien entity called The Seep. Through The Seep, everything is connected. Capitalism falls, hierarchies and barriers are broken down; if something can be imagined, it is possible.
Trina and her wife, Deeba, live blissfully under The Seep’s utopian influence—until Deeba begins to imagine what it might be like to be reborn as a baby, which will give her the chance at an even better life. Using Seeptech to make this dream a reality, Deeba moves on to a new existence, leaving Trina devastated.
Heartbroken and deep into an alcoholic binge, Trina follows a lost boy she encounters, embarking on an unexpected quest. In her attempt to save him from The Seep, she will confront not only one of its most avid devotees, but the terrifying void that Deeba has left behind. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on.
And since Jeff VanderMeer is also fantastic:
The first book in a two-volume fantasy about a boy who inherits his grandfather’s mansion and discovers three strange doors, evidence his grandfather did not die of natural causes but spectacularly unnatural ones, and clues to the family’s ties to an alternate Europe immersed in a war fought with strange tech and dark magic. Publication is set for July 2020.
Next up, a science fiction story about the end of everything that sounds freaking phenomenal:
Ravaged by environmental disaster, greed, and oppression, our planet is in crisis. The future of humanity hangs in the balance – and one woman can tip it over.
Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.
It’s humanity’s last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this – to step out of Valerie’s shadow and really make a difference.
But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi begins to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret – and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared …
Goldilocks is The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Martian – a bold and thought-provoking new high-concept thriller.
Sarah Beth Durst’s fantasy novels are exquisite–her new entry coming from Harper Voyager is a standalone and I am SO EXCITED for it.
“National Velvet with monsters and a big helping of palace intrigue, Race the Sands is monstrous (literally), heartwarming, and empowering in equal measure. An incredibly fun and inspiring read.” – Katherine Arden, New York Times bestselling author of The Bear and the Nightingale
In this epic standalone fantasy, the acclaimed author of the Queens of Renthia series introduces an imaginative new world in which a pair of strong and determined women risk their lives battling injustice, corruption, and deadly enemies in their quest to become monster racing champions.
Life, death, and rebirth—in Becar, who you are in this life will determine your next life. Yet there is hope—you can change your destiny with the choices you make. But for the darkest individuals, there is no redemption: you come back as a kehok, a monster, and are doomed to be a kehok for the rest of time.
Unless you can win the Races.
After a celebrated career as an elite kehok rider, Tamra became a professional trainer. Then a tragic accident shattered her confidence, damaged her reputation, and left her nearly broke. Now, she needs the prize money to prevent the local temple from taking her daughter away from her, and that means she must once again find a winning kehok . . . and a rider willing to trust her.
Raia is desperate to get away from her domineering family and cruel fiancé. As a kehok rider, she could earn enough to buy her freedom. But she needs a first-rate trainer.
Impressed by the inexperienced young woman’s determination, Tamra hires Raia and pairs her with a strange new kehok with the potential to win—if he can be tamed.
But in this sport, if you forget you’re riding on the back of a monster, you die. Tamra and Raia will work harder than they ever thought possible to win the deadly Becaran Races—and in the process, discover what makes this particular kehok so special.
Next up, a debut that has been getting a lot of buzz as an incisive examination of capitalism, power, sex, and abuse.
K. M. Szpara’s Docile is a science fiction parable about love and sex, wealth and debt, abuse and power, a challenging tour de force that at turns seduces and startles.
There is no consent under capitalism.
To be a Docile is to be kept, body and soul, for the uses of the owner of your contract. To be a Docile is to forget, to disappear, to hide inside your body from the horrors of your service. To be a Docile is to sell yourself to pay your parents’ debts and buy your children’s future.
Elisha Wilder’s family has been ruined by debt, handed down to them from previous generations. His mother never recovered from the Dociline she took during her term as a Docile, so when Elisha decides to try and erase the family’s debt himself, he swears he will never take the drug that took his mother from him.
Too bad his contract has been purchased by Alexander Bishop III, whose ultra-rich family is the brains (and money) behind Dociline and the entire Office of Debt Resolution. When Elisha refuses Dociline, Alex refuses to believe that his family’s crowning achievement could have any negative side effects—and is determined to turn Elisha into the perfect Docile without it.
Content warning: Docile contains forthright depictions and discussions of rape and sexual abuse.
Then, there is this Persian inspired fairytale that sounds amazing:
A captivating and utterly original fairy tale about a girl cursed to be poisonous to the touch, and who discovers what power might lie in such a curse…
There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.
And last but not least, Dread Nation was (in this reader’s opinion) a brilliant and incisive take on the zombie apocalypse, loaded with racial, economic, and social criticism. I’m excited for the second book in the controversial series.
The sequel to Dread Nation is a journey of revenge and salvation across a divided America.
After the fall of Summerland, Jane McKeene hoped her life would get simpler: Get out of town, stay alive, and head west to California to find her mother.
But nothing is easy when you’re a girl trained in putting down the restless dead, and a devastating loss on the road to a protected village called Nicodermus has Jane questioning everything she thought she knew about surviving in 1880’s America.
What’s more, this safe haven is not what it appears – as Jane discovers when she sees familiar faces from Summerland amid this new society. Caught between mysteries and lies, the undead, and her own inner demons, Jane soon finds herself on a dark path of blood and violence that threatens to consume her.
But she won’t be in it alone.
Katherine Deveraux never expected to be allied with Jane McKeene. But after the hell she has endured, she knows friends are hard to come by – and that Jane needs her, too, whether Jane wants to admit it or not.
Watching Jane’s back, however, is more than she bargained for, and when they both reach a breaking point, it’s up to Katherine to keep hope alive – even as she begins to fear that there is no happily-ever-after for girls like her.
And that’s it from us! What books do you have on your radar?