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Matt's Picks

Camp Damascus - Chuck Tingle

Camp Damascus Cover
Love is real. Demons are real. Kill the demons.

Camp Damascus is the world's most effective gay conversion camp. Nestled in the Montana wilderness, parents send their children from around the world to experience the program's 100% success rate.

But, this story isn't about that. This story is about Rose Darling, a God-fearing young lady who can't stop puking up flies. It's about her parents who ignore her visions of an eerie woman with sagging, pale skin who watches from the woods.

It's about the desires deep inside Rose that don't seem to make any sense, and her waking nightmares that are beginning to feel more like memories. And maybe, just maybe, it's a little bit about Camp Damascus after all.
 
Camp Damascus is a super creepy book. It’s got actual demons, ominous warnings, and secretive conspiracies. It’s also got love, hope, and defiance in the face of bigotry and hatred. It’s a supernatural horror novel which somehow manages to perfectly strike a balance between utterly chilling and beautifully heartfelt. Just… maybe don’t google the author!


Cemetery Boys - Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys Cover

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can't get rid of him.

In an attempt to prove himself a true brujo and gain his family's acceptance, Yadriel decides to summon his cousin's ghost and help him cross to the afterlife. But things get complicated when he accidentally summons the ghost of his high school's resident bad boy, Julian Diaz - and Julian won't go into death quietly. The two boys must work together if Yadriel is to move forward with his plan.

But the more time Yadriel and Julian spend together, the harder it is to let each other go.

Cemetery Boys is absolutely wonderful! With a super soft and adorable gay romance, fantastic trans masculine representation, and a core message of queer joy, this piece of spectacular queer latinx YA is well worth reading!
 

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet - Becky Chambers

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet Cover

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn't expecting much. The ship, which has seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past. But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer.

The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptillian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful - exactly what Rosemary wants. Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime: the chance to build a hyperspace tunnel to a distant planet. 

They'll earn enough money to live comfortably for years... if they survive the long trip through war-torn interstellar space without endangering any of the fragile alliances that keep the galaxy peaceful. But Rosemary isn't the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

I adore Becky Chambers' writing. She hasn't failed me yet, and I suspect she never will. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is the first in her Wayfarers series of books, which are all beautiful sci-fi stories set in the same universe and sharing some characters but with their own unique stories to tell. It's a lovely read, full of humanity and hope and beauty, and I cannot recommend it enough!

Herc - Phoenicia Rogerson

Herc Cover
This should be the story of Hercules: his twelve labours, his endless adventures...everyone's favourite hero, right? Well, it's not.

This is the story of everyone else: Alcmene: Herc's mother (She has knives everywhere) Hylas: Herc's first friend (They were more than friends) Megara: Herc's wife (She'll tell you about their marriage) Eurystheus: Oversaw Herc's labours (He never asked for the job) His friends, his enemies, his wives, his children, his lovers, his rivals, his gods, his victims. It's time to hear their stories.

Told with humour and heart, Herc gives voice to the silenced characters, in this feminist, queer (and sometimes shocking) retelling of classic Hercules myth.

Herc is a fascinating read, full of wit. It is of course a very different approach to Hercules than you might have encountered in the past (there's certainly no singing Danny DeVito satyrs in this one!), but this difference is exactly what makes it stand out! It's clear that the author has done her research here, and she manages to present a thoroughly unique vision of the mythical "hero" because of it.


One Last Stop - Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop Cover

Moving to New York City is supposed to prove cynical twenty-three-year-old August right: magic and cinematic love stories don't exist. But then, she meets this gorgeous girl on the train. Jane.

Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile. August's subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon she discovers there's one big problem: Jane is displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help Jane.

Maybe it's time to start believing in some things after all.

A wonderful time-travelling lesbian rom-com. It's funny, it's emotional, it's brilliant. I cannot express enough how much I loved this book. The romance between August and Jane, who meet on a train, is incredibly compelling. And when August and Jane realise that Jane is stuck on the train, and displaced in time from the 1970s, it is wonderful to watch August's friend group rally around her and help find a solution. One Last Stop is Casey McQuiston's best book, in my opinion, so if you've enjoyed their other books (Red, White & Royal Blue and I Kissed Shara Wheeler) then you'll almost certainly enjoy this!


Gideon The Ninth - Tamsyn Muir

Gideon the Ninth Cover

Brought up by unfriendly, ossifying nuns, ancient retainers, and countless skeletons, Gideon is ready to abandon a life of servitude and an afterlife as a reanimated corpse.

She packs up her sword, her shoes, and her dirty magazines, and prepares to launch her daring escape. But her childhood nemesis won't set her free without a service. Harrowhark Nonagesimus, Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House and bone witch extraordinaire, has been summoned into action.

The Emperor has invited the heirs to each of his loyal Houses to a deadly trial of wits and skill. If Harrowhark succeeds she will be become an immortal, all-powerful servant of the Resurrection, but no necromancer can ascend without their cavalier. Without Gideon's sword, Harrow will fail, and the Ninth House will die.

Of course, some things are better left dead.

Gideon The Ninth is absolutely worth all the hype it gets! A book about necromancers and their loyal warrior bodyguards exploring and ancient space palace full of dark experiments? Brilliant. With a very lovable main character, a wonderful sense of humour, and a heart-breakingly perfect ending, there's a lot to love about this book! Read it! It's so good!


Legends & Lattes - Travis Baldree

Legends & Lattes Cover

After decades of adventuring, Viv the orc barbarian is finally hanging up her sword for good. Now she sets her sights on a new dream - for she plans to open the first coffee shop in the city of Thune.

Even though no one there knows what coffee actually is. If Viv wants to put the past behind her, she can't go it alone. And help might arrive from unexpected quarters.

Yet old rivals and new stand in the way of success. And Thune's shady underbelly could make it all too easy for Viv to take up the blade once more. But the true reward of the uncharted path is the travellers you meet along the way.

Whether bound by ancient magic, delicious pastries or a freshly brewed cup, they may become something deeper than Viv ever could have imagined.

Legends & Lattes is the cosy fantasy novel we all need. The whole thing just absolutely has the vibe of sitting in a nice cosy coffee shop with a warm cup of coffee and a good book, and I love it so much. So rest assured it is absolutely worth the hype. It's such a lovely and wholesome story, with low stakes and good vibes. The romance is super cute, the whole concept of a retiring adventurer opening up a cosy coffee shop is incredible, and the found family vibes are immaculate.


Stone Blind - Natalie Haynes

Stone Blind Cover

Medusa is the sole mortal in a family of gods. Growing up with her Gorgon sisters, she begins to realize that she is the only one who experiences change, the only one who can be hurt. And her mortal lifespan gives her an urgency that her family will never know.

When the sea god Poseidon commits an unforgivable act in the temple of Athene, the goddess takes her revenge where she can - and Medusa is changed forever. Writhing snakes replace her hair, and her gaze now turns any living creature to stone. The power cannot be controlled: Medusa can look at nothing without destroying it.

She is condemned to a life of shadows and darkness. Until Perseus embarks upon a quest to fetch the head of a Gorgon...

Stone Blind is an incredibly powerful book. With Haynes’ trademark wit, and some absolutely beautiful writing, Medusa’s story is explored in a new light. Haynes doesn’t hold back at all in Stone Blind, and the brutal honesty with which she handles characters often considered “heroic” (I’m looking at you, Perseus) is brilliant. With a core theme of what it means to be a “monster” and what it means to be “beautiful”, Stone Blind is gripping from beginning to end and might just be Haynes’ best work yet.


In the Lives of Puppets - TJ Klune

In The Lives of Puppets Cover

In a strange little home built into the branches of a grove of trees live three robots - fatherly inventor android Giovanni Lawson, a pleasantly sadistic nurse machine, and a small vacuum desperate for love and attention. Victor Lawson, a human, lives there too.

They're a family, hidden and safe. The day Vic salvages and repairs an unfamiliar android labelled 'HAP', he learns of a shared dark past between Hap and Gio - a past spent hunting humans. When Hap unwittingly alerts robots from Gio's former life to their whereabouts, the family is no longer hidden and safe.

Gio is captured and taken back to his old laboratory in the City of Electric Dreams. So together, the rest of Vic's assembled family must journey across an unforgiving and otherworldly country to rescue Gio from decommission, or worse, reprogramming. Along the way to save Gio, amid conflicted feelings of betrayal and affection for Hap, Vic must decide for himself: can he accept love with strings attached?

True to form for TJ Klune, this book is full of cosy found family vibes and gentle kindness. With a good dash of humour (especially from Rambo, who I love with all my heart) and plenty of musings about what it is to be alive, In the Lives of Puppets is a fantastic read and absolutely matches up to his other brilliant books (The House in the Cerulean Sea and Under the Whispering Door)