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Bethany's Picks

Bethany is a longtime fantasy reader and writer who joined the Odyssey in the fall of 2020. She is currently a Frances Perkins Scholar at Mount Holyoke College, which makes being part of the web order and Mount Holyoke shop team extra rewarding! She is also enjoying curating the store's social media presence.

She loves science fiction with deeply felt humanity, fantasy with real world questions, and non-fiction about rebuilding the world around us. Her interests lie in YA fantasy, but has a lot of manga, cute middle grade, and historical fiction under her belt. Her all-time favorite series include The Queen's Thief, The Murderbot Diaries, The Imperial Radch, and The Craft Sequence.

She's trying to catch up on fiction reading she's missed while in school, and some of her picks come from her coursework. That doesn't make them any less genuine!

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The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062678119
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: Harper Voyager - July 3rd, 2018

This a glittering and vicious fantasy trilogy masterfully set in a world of Djinn set against an invaded Cairo. Nahri was abandoned as a child, making a living with her odd healing powers. When she fakes a ritual that summons a very real djinn warrior, he is not happy to be awake--but also realizes she belongs to a different world, the one he once was part of.

Daevabad is the protected center of djinn life, but the differing clans and marginalized part-djinn population are by no means safe with each other in that city. Nahri, as descendent of long lost healers, is caught up in power struggles and her own conflicting dreams.

This series will wrench your heart time and again but in the end transform that to joy. A great read if you like rogue vs. paladin frenemies, richly imagined magical worlds, and seemingly impossible political and personal snarls hammered into gold.

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Star Daughter Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062894625
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: HarperTeen - August 11th, 2020

In this luminous debut, celestial courts and messy coming of age twine together in a duality of harmony and discordance. Sheetal is the daughter of a star, but feels very human: trying to escape the scrutiny of strict aunts and navigate her father's grief with her mother gone. But the star side of her is breaking through and it's getting too hard to hide--especially when she doesn't exactly know what is happening.

When her ignorance of her own power goes deeply wrong, she seeks help from the heavenly side of her family. The opulent heavenly realm glitters--and reminds her of all that's been withheld from her. She's thrust into a contest where mortals compete, inspired by stars--and realizes that something is at stake for the whole mortal world in the competition. Sheetal has to figure out how to defy powerful immortals and still obtain the favor she desperately needs.

This quest is driven by a keen mix of guilt and love. Her need to discover her potential while integrating both sides of her identity is also intensely relatable. How do you choose to belong to both and see both the wonder as well as the flaws in homes that seem set against each other?

In the end, Sheetal must trust her loved ones (friends and family) while still holding to her own convictions. Her future between these two communities isn't sewn up neatly, but she has come into her own. I loved the way Thakrar portrayed Sheetal's ambivalence and longing for both of her worlds, and the course that brought her to deeper friendship and community with those she loved.

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SLAY Cover Image
ISBN: 9781534445437
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - September 1st, 2020

Kiera is an honors student by day and a gamer by night. She might get drawn into frustrating debates with friends about who gets to wear dreads, while her bestie and boyfriend dislike each other but she's keeping things in balance. Then her beloved game Slay gets linked with a crime, and her safe space for being Black in her own way is now a source of deep conflict. Because Kiera is hiding this from everyone: she's the creator of Slay.

This book lets Kiera and her community be complex and have differing opinions on what the right way to live is. The stakes get higher and higher not just for Kiera's game but for her own safety and sense of self, and I love that she both fights for herself and leans on those who love her. The rich depiction of the VR world she's created and the sense of belonging she finds there was one of the high points of this story. But so was the way the teens in it had strong, intelligent positions that sometimes clashed.

A book with a nuanced depiction of community, virtual and in-person, with thought-provoking discussions between teens that felt genuine, I recommend this to anyone who wants to get lost in a virtual world but also bring themselves into it and still be accepted.

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The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water Cover Image
By Zen Cho
ISBN: 9781250269256
Availability: Not in Stock
Published: Tordotcom - June 23rd, 2020

This novella feels like the book variant of a cheeky historical fantasy drama, where nuns get to be both mystical masters of martial arts AND hilariously cunning. Deeply satisfying as a classic fantasy adventure story in a historic Malay setting, this short book has bandits, tragic pasts, relics of deities, and a sweet (though low-key) queer romance.

I particularly loved that the dialogue felt snappy and modern but drew from a different dialect of English. This novella is for fans of Ann Leckie who want something a little more funny, fans of Asian dramas that want a slight deeper immersion, and fans of fantasy looking for something with a unique kick.

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Ancillary Justice (Imperial Radch #1) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316246620
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Orbit - October 1st, 2013

An incredibly effective colonial power, the Raadch calls itself “civilization” and enforces its view in military domination. And Breq (part AI, part human remains) is determined to destroy the ruler of this massive empire, a near impossible task when its clones carry out its will all over the empire. Breq's dangerous knowledge of this ruler and a misstep made hundreds of years ago is all that can make it work--and what also makes Breq a fugitive.

This is the kind of thought-provoking science fiction that does something no other genre can by bending expectations of gender, loyalty, and humanity. 

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Castle Shade: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes Cover Image
ISBN: 9780525620860
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Bantam - June 8th, 2021

King returns with her signature blend of meticulously drawn historic moment, compelling mystery, and my personal favorite detective couple. As you might expect of a mystery set in the region of Transylvania, there is a question of vampires--and bathing in the blood of virgins. This question is tied, however, to bigger political questions when Queen Marie of Romania is the apparent target of gossip-mongering.

In this installment, Russell and Holmes collaborate more than they've been able to in recent times to sort out motives and machinations in a complex and changing world. Satisfyingly, they unravel more than just who is behind the main plot, and enable others they encounter to move forward free of some of their burdens--another thing I deeply love about how King writes her people and how her Holmes and Russell live in their world.

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Heavy: An American Memoir Cover Image
ISBN: 9781501125669
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner - March 5th, 2019

This memoir is addressed not to the world at large but to an audience of one. Laymon shares the pain of growing up Black and big to his mother—both a source of love and pain herself.

He doesn't shy, in this raw and poetic account from implicating himself in other peoples’ pain. Who is blameless in a cycle of abuse? What does writing to and for your own people mean? Laymon invites us to listen in on this riveting conversation with his past, his mother, and himself.