Books Not To Miss | Debuts and Picks of the Month, June 2022

These books were selected by LJ reviewers and editors as titles of particular note in the June 2022 issue of the magazine. Along with all the starred reviews in the June issue, these are essential titles to know, buy, suggest, and read.

These books were selected by LJ reviewers and editors as titles of particular note in the June 2022 issue of the magazine. Along with all the starred reviews in the June issue, these are essential titles to know, buy, suggest, and read.

Babalola, Bolu. Honey and Spice. Morrow. Jul. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780063141483. $27.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE

DEBUT As the host of the popular advice show at her college, sharp-tongued Kiki has plenty of relationship advice to dispense, but when it comes to her own dating life, she guards her heart fiercely. Everything changes when she meets the new guy on campus, Malakai, a sexy filmmaker, whose player ways are creating waves among the Black student body. When Kiki and Malakai are thrown together for an academic project, they decide to start a fake relationship in order to ensure the success of their assignments. Will Kiki and Malakai be able to overcome their preconceived notions of each other and get to know their true selves? Will their undeniable chemistry develop into something real? Babalola, author of the short story collection Love in Colour: Mythical Tales from Around the World, Retold, has written a beautiful and witty novel that’s a celebration of love, friendship and Black joy that will wend its way into readers’ hearts. VERDICT Brimming with Afro-Caribbean culture, British banter, pop culture references, and plenty of steam, this book will appeal to fans of the fake-dating trope, novels with a well-developed cast of characters, and feminist romances with strong themes of friendship.—Migdalia Jimenez

Meadows, Foz. A Strange and Stubborn Endurance. Tor. Jul. 2022. 544p. ISBN 9781250829139. $27.99. FANTASY

In Meadows’s (“Manifold Worlds” series) new fantasy, Velasin “Vel” vin Aaro discovers that his father has arranged his marriage to a woman in the neighboring Tithena, hoping to repair country relations. When an abusive ex reveals Vel’s preference for men, his father tries to disown him but is foiled by a Tithenai envoy. Now Vel must marry Caethari “Cae” Aeduria, the brother of his former betrothed. Cae is taken by surprise with the news that he is to marry a man whose country forbids same-sex relationships. However, when unknown forces try to end the political marriage through violence, Vel and Cae must learn to trust, to heal, and possibly to love in hopes that their tenuous bond, along with their countries, will survive. The author notes that the book contains some scenes of sexual abuse and self-harm, but the pervasive plot of magic and action, family, and a growing relationship are the core of the story. VERDICT An emotionally gripping, delightful queer fantasy filled with political intrigue, family dynamics, and tender moments that will grab readers’ hearts and minds.—Kristi Chadwick

Pearse, Sarah. The Retreat. Pamela Dorman: Viking. (Detective Elin Warner, Bk. 2). Jul. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9780593489420. $27. SUSPENSE

Pearse follows the best-selling first “Elin Warner” novel The Sanatorium with a riveting, twisty page-turner. Memories of the murders at Reaper’s Rock, a small island off England’s coast, still linger. But, 20 years later, it’s the site of a luxury eco-resort. When the guests find a body on the beach, Detective Sergeant Elin Warner is sent to the island. After a recent case triggered panic attacks, Elin isn’t sure she’s ready to run an investigation again. It appears the young woman’s death, a fall over a banister, was an accident, but she wasn’t supposed to be on the island, and something about her death tweaks Elin’s suspicion. When two more people die, Elin begins to wonder if the stories of a curse on the island might be true. The murders pile up, and Elin and Police Constable Steed dig into the island’s history of murder and violence, looking for connections to the current deaths. VERDICT Readers of Pearse’s earlier book or Ruth Ware’s suspense novels will be hard-pressed to put down this atmospheric, sometimes creepy novel.—Lesa Holstine

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