Find it at your library!

Nina Revoyr is a writer I really enjoy reading, and I wish her works were better known. It can be tough to find books that feature queer characters that go beyond coming out stories. Coming out stories certainly have their place, but it’s also important to me to read books about queer people living their lives and getting into interesting situations and, you know, being the people they are. In Southland, Revoyr has created a mystery/historical hybrid novel which explores complicated race relations in LA through the years, from World War II to the 2000s.

Jackie Ishida decides to dig into her grandfather’s past when a mysterious will discovered after his death bequeaths the corner store he used to own to a man Jackie has never heard of before. The store was sold after the Watts riots in the 1960s, but Jackie still wants to find out why Frank would have left it to a virtual stranger. Through connections she makes at the funeral, she meets James Lanier, the cousin of the man named in the will. Lanier has some unanswered questions of his own about what happened during the riots and what his cousin’s connection was to Jackie’s grandfather, and he agrees to help her find out the truth.

One thing I love about this book is how it’s really about the relationships—there’s a lot of them, and they’re all rich and complex and realistic. The mystery is solid and kept me turning pages, but what I cared about most was the people. The most powerful reveals had to do with the connections between them, as opposed to the nitty-gritty details of the crime Jackie and Lanier uncover. Recommended for fans of historical fiction and mysteries with substance—these characters and what they went through will stick with you.

Find it at your library!

I’d been familiar with the concept forever, but I didn’t have a name for it until an early episode of New Girl when Schmidt decided to dump CeCe for her own good by being mean to her until she gave up on him. Fortunately for their relationship (for a while, anyway), CeCe knew Schmidt was a fan of Jack London’s novel White Fang and immediately caught on to what he was doing. 

“Are you White Fanging me?” she asked. Schmidt tried to play innocent, but everyone knew White Fang was the only book on his Kindle (though he points out that he has “many PDFs”).

Not a fan of half-hour Fox sitcoms or wolf books? That’s okay, you’ve still seen this shtick enough times to be bored by it. People get together, but one of them decides the other is too perfect for them and proceeds to sabotage the relationship for the other’s perceived benefit. Because love may be grand, but nothing feels as good as being a martyr.

Now, I normally don’t have much patience for plots that hinge on White Fanging. I also am not typically enthused to read about vampires (none of us are really over Twilight yet, are we? Will the specter of Twilight ever clear, so that we can enjoy vampire-y stuff without immediately imagining Kristen Stewart’s pasty face and heavy mouth-breathing?). But I am willing to make allllll the exceptions for Certain Dark Things.

These are vampires like you haven’t seen before. Moreno-Garcia has created different races (breeds?) of vampires, originating from all over the world and in varying degrees of creepiness. Atl is a Tlahuihpochtli from the North hiding out in Mexico City after several of her family members were wiped out by rival vampires. On the train, she meets Domingo, a garbage collector and streetwise kid who is drawn to the mysterious woman and her big bioengineered dog. Maybe because she’s feeling vulnerable, Atl asks Domingo back to her place, and so begins one of the strangest yet sweetest partnerships I’ve ever seen in fiction.

Of course, because Atl is a vampire and Domingo is just a kid with a heart of gold, there’s all kinds of ambivalence and tooth-gnashing about whether or not they should be friends, let alone anything more. But Domingo has all these good qualities—he’s protective, strong, smart, resourceful—and he keeps coming in super-handy, because Atl is being hunted by the same vampires who took out her family.

Don’t let the White Fanging or the vampires scare you away—Certain Dark Things is a dark, fun ride.