You know you’ve found a friend forever when you go missing and that person poses as a human trafficker to find you. This is just one in a series of unfortunate events that befall Poornima and Savitha, the heroines of our Spotlight Pick, Girls Burn Brighter--but nothing breaks their extraordinary bond. Senior Editor Adrian Liang cautions: "This is not an emotionally gentle novel. You'll be outraged and hopeful, shocked and awakened."
Learn more about today's best books of the month releases below, or browse all of our favorites for March here.
Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel is the epic start of what promises to be an addictive new series. The Children of Blood and Bone is influenced by Adeyemi’s West African heritage and in her book she melds religious deities (the Orïsha) and a diverse landscape into a refreshing new take on fantasy. The Children of Blood and Bone is told from multiple points of view as Inan and Amari, children of the iron-fisted king, and Zélie and Tzain, siblings who have suffered greatly under the king’s regime, find themselves on a dark, magic-filled quest for power. Their journey is accompanied by violence, betrayal, and internal conflict, but friendship and even star-crossed love also follow them across seas and over mountains. The Children of Blood and Bone is enriched with themes that resonate in today’s social and political landscape: injustice, discrimination, and a struggle for change. The level of danger and action ramps up with each chapter and I found myself racing through the final pages, holding my breath right up to the cliffhanger ending. --Seira Wilson
As tough as the steel-toed boots she wears, Harley McKenna was raised from a young age to take over her father’s meth-cooking and protectionism racket in rural Oregon. She can shoot with both hands, she can break her way out of a locked car trunk, and she helped dispose of her first body when she was 17. (Chainsaws and lye were involved.) But not everyone in her father's operation thinks Harley should eventually be in charge. While her father is in Mexico, a series of attacks sparks a potential coup inside his organization just as Harley has to beat back her family's longtime nemesis. The gripping action flips between the bloody “lessons” Harley learned as she grew up and the highly orchestrated actions she takes now to rid herself of the competition. Tess Sharpe crafts tension like a veteran, and the fact that this is her debut novel makes the gut-churning windup all the more impressive. Barbed Wire Heart is a hard-hitting thriller with a serrated and feminist bite, and Harley McKenna is a brand-new protagonist whom you'll root for even when you're not sure what her end game truly is. —Adrian Liang
Fascinating and often moving, Broad Band sheds light on the true stories of women who pioneered crucial technological and social leaps throughout the history of computing. Much like the dedicated female mathematicians in Hidden Figures, the women in Broad Band solved new and complex technical problems while also dealing with stifling social mores that kept them marginalized in the writing of the “official” history. Author and VICE reporter Claire L. Evans relates these stories with a candor and humor that matches the relentless spirit of the subjects. Broad Band is an inspiring and timely read for anyone interested in the digital world. --Matt Fyffe
As Crimson Lake opens, former cop Ted Conkaffey is in a bad way: accused but not convicted of killing a teenager, his marriage is over, he doesn’t know when he’ll see his baby daughter again, his job is gone, and the thin blue line has turned its back on him. Alone, he spends his nights drinking in a cheap rented house in the grim suburb of Crimson Lake, listening to the sounds of angry neighbors and opportunistic teens throwing missiles at his front windows and grappling with “dark thoughts.” Even when his parole officer sets him up with a job as an investigator, it doesn’t seem like a leg up: his new boss Amanda Pharrell did time too, for murdering her best friend when they were teenagers, and Crimson Lake residents haven’t forgotten. When they go to interview the family in their first case together, Ted can only pray they don’t recognize his face from TV. Two investigators operating under this level of scrutiny and hostility is a great set up for a tense thriller and Fox does a superb job of weaving past and present murders together, setting up a literary shell game to keep the reader guessing who’s guilty and who’s innocent. And the humbled, by-the-book cop finding himself working for a damaged woman with an unorthodox approach to investigating adds an additional layer of complexity to a story that is shaping up to be a great new series. --Vannessa Cronin
Auntie Poldi is a stout, bewigged German widow who retires to a Sicilian fishing village so she can drink herself to death with a sea view. And death does arrive, not to Poldi but to the handsome Valentino, a young local she hired to do some odd jobs around her new house. Poldi puts the drinking on hold (sort of) to concentrate on fulfilling the promise she made to Valentino’s dead body that she would find his killer. The thing is, discreet inquiries are not Poldi’s strong suit; she’s Miss Marple by way of Auntie Mame, with a dollop of the Golden Girls. As she tells our narrator, her nephew, who records her madcap adventures during his dutiful monthly visits, “when the chips are down, show plenty of cleavage.” Hilarious, reckless, and endearingly melancholy at times, Poldi makes friends, enemies, sage comments, and even a little whoopee as the case winds to its satisfying and unexpected conclusion. --Vannessa Cronin
“My mother was a cup of sugar. You could borrow her anytime.” Filled with sayings that bolster the heart and then kick it, Gun Love is a story about a single mother and her daughter, the car that they live in, and a trailer park in Florida that fills with guns through gun trafficking—“In no time the weapons became stacks of metal rising in layers on both beds.” It skates between funny and fierce, heartbreaking and shocking, as these two women navigate a world where guns are as ho-hum as asking a neighbor for flour. But as one character observes, “once you get a gun, you’re at 99.6 degrees Fahrenheit all the time” and the minute a gun enters their Mercury, their lives will never be the same. Jennifer Clement is a talented writer, with prose that made me jitter with excitement and fear for the gun love embedded within her novel and beyond. --Al Woodworth