Much Ado About You | Samantha Young
Summary: Visit a quaint English village bookstore after life kicks you when you’re down! That’s what one Chicagoan does when too many disappointments pile up at once. She’s attempting to rediscover herself and that means avoiding tangled relationships like new love. But her stay becomes more than melodrama and pints at the pub. She’s engaged with all of the village, meddling and being meddled with in turn… and loving it.
Gush Sesh: Listening to the audiobook is a hoot – the narrator, Imani Jade Powers, is very good at giving so many different characters identifiable voices. Then there’s the fantasy of finding what you were never dreaming possible during your vacation away from home. In fact, what does ‘home’ mean after you’ve taken up business, residence, friendship, trust, busybodiness, and publicly admitted to some stupidly drunken confessions in your new digs? However realistic or not you find this work, the attempt to reunite a spirited woman with her dignity, integrity, and strength is a valid cause. I might be biased, but of all five destinations I listed here, this is the one most likely to carry me across the water.
The Ancestor | Danielle Trussoni
Summary: Investigate your birthright to an Italian castle in the Alpine mountains! Our New Yorker nobody with a failing marriage is contacted out of the blue by people who have served her family for centuries. She’s proven that she’s genetically related to the bloodline of kings and queens, and thus, has a place to fill if she wants to take it. But is it everything she fantasizes about in the beginning? What might the cost be for becoming nobility?
Gush Sesh: There are points where the descriptor ‘horror’ is used for this work, and I’m not going to fight it as a theme or flavor, but consider it a redirect. The mystery here is easily explained – it’s the surrounding circumstances and responsibilities that come with her new position that make Bert (Alberta) worry, shiver, and lose sleep. Missing children, abandoned villages, loss of communication, wild and hairy monsters, blizzards. What’s true and what isn’t anymore? – the horror is very personal.
The Bear and the Nightingale | Katherine Arden
Summary: Explore the edge of the Russian wilderness! Vasya is the heroine of an immersive Russian folk tale filled with fae, outcasts, magic, demons, family, and sacrifice. Her determination to escape the expected, traditional roles for women of her time create strife and suspicion in her village. Set in a frosty folkloric landscape of myths and challenges, she has little support in searching for her independence. Can she rely upon anything more than her own hidden talents?
Gush Sesh: Listening to the audiobook, I was enthralled with the fairytale-telling feel of Arden’s words. She sent me to a place that might once have existed, might still exist in the anonymity of its mountains and winds and forests. It’s a story of balance found with nature rather than taking possession of it or altering it for man’s own need. There are many points of view regarding religion and spirituality, so keep an open mind. The bringer of storms is on his way!
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows | Balli Kaur Jaswai
Summary: Learn to write fiction with the Punjabi community of West London! Nikki is thoroughly modern and western in style. She teaches women of older generations to work around the constraints of their traditional Sikh customs while expressing themselves in short story form. The fantasies and insights delivered are so creative, she might as well make a project of printing this collection of original stories. The community’s “moral police” known as the Brotherhood might object – but how strongly?
Gush Sesh: The beauty of sound is appreciated in listening to this audiobook. The voices of the women are produced audibly, making Meera Syal another favorite narrator. It’s a fun and thoughtful romp through experimental writing attempts and the gossipy sisterhood of neighbors. You expect at the end of the work to find your own printed copy of their stories, amateurishly bound and ready to read, but don’t be disappointed. Consider this book to be the instructions on how to write your own scandalous stories with a big dose of laughter and mystery along the way.
Nocturne | Elizabeth Donald
Summary: Welcome to Memphis after dark at Nocturnal Urges, the most popular club in the Memphis nightlife! Part legal bordello, part feeding ground for the city’s vampires, Nocturnal Urges offers pleasure and pain in one sweet kiss. It’s the ultimate addiction, both drug and sex at once. For the vampires, it’s the only way to survive in a world where the creatures of the night are a dark underclass, ignored until the humans need another fix. The physical setting for three of Donald’s stories, this club encounters mysteries, sex, crime, and devotion as only the undead can express.
Gush Sesh: Nocturne is the pairing of two stories: Nocturnal Urges and A More Perfect Union. Following them is Abaddon, my favorite AND most detested story of the series (it made me cry so hard). All three are published together in Nocturne Infernum if you can find a copy. Unique, modern, intelligent, and feisty, Donald’s stories are more than entertainment – they are political statements about civil and sexual rights, independence, privilege, agency, and STILL MADE ME BAWL at the sad romance of it all.
Update! The Illinois Heartland Library System now owns a copy of Nocturne Infernum, all three stories under the same cover! This was accomplished through the kindness of our dear author, Elizabeth Donald, who read the above review and responded by insisting we have access to her most recently published version of the works. Her donation is housed at the Smithton Public Library District.