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Joanna's Staff Favorites
Joanna has been at Annie Bloom's since November 2021. She primarily reads young adult, sci-fi/fantasy, graphic novels, children's books, and romance (so much romance!), and loves nothing better than giving long lists of recommendations. She's delighted that Annie Bloom's has started a new romance-specific section, nestled between fiction and mystery. Come talk to her about books and Dungeons & Dragons.
I’m calling it now—Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute is THE young adult rom-com of the year. Talia Hibbert delivers a masterclass in character, voice, and banter, all with an emotionally resonant core. Celine and Bradley are ex–best friends, current nemeses. She’s a content creator and conspiracy theorist, he’s an athlete with OCD, and they couldn't be more different. When they both get into a program that involves being extremely outdoors, they're suddenly back in each other’s orbits, and the two start to realize that maybe they're not so different after all—especially when it comes to their feelings.
Bradley and Celine’s friends-to-rivals-to-something-else journey is funny and sweet, while their end-of-high-school, worried-about-their-futures journey is incredibly relatable. Fans of Hibbert’s adult romances and newcomers alike will adore her first foray into writing romance for young adults.
Do you play Dungeons & Dragons but end up befriending beholders and being kind to kobolds? Do you long for high fantasy that maybe isn't so end-of-the-world high stakes? Are you feeling a little bit emotionally vulnerable about where your life's at right now? Legends & Lattes is exactly what you need. Debut author Travis Baldree is here to give you a break from harsh reality with this cozy, slice-of-life fantasy gem. Full of sweet, non-human fantasy folks just trying their best, Legends & Lattes invites you to grab a steaming mug of coffee and a cinnamon roll fresh from the oven, pull up a chair, and stay awhile.
I need a thousand more cozy fantasies, and I need them now.
A Caribbean Heiress in Paris is quite possibly my favorite romance novel of 2022, with a fiery, competent heroine and a Scottish, equally competent hero, both of whom have good reason to want a marriage of convenience. A wonderful romance for any fan of the genre, newcomers to historical romance (hi, Bridgerton converts!), or readers of historical fiction that might consider dipping their toes into romance. Plus, I'm always on the lookout for books that ask for a little more accountability from their romance heroes about where they/their family got their wealth.
Strike the Zither was a surprise favorite of the year for me, coming in late in the game, and Zephyr is a new favorite morally grey character—I’d call her unlikeable except for the fact that I absolutely adore her. She’s a genius strategist for a warlordess vying for control of the realm, and she’s the best of the best (and knows it); however, a mysterious strategist for a rival faction might just be her match.
This book has deeply fascinating characters, a genuinely cunning lead, and plot twists that surprised the hell out of me. I can’t wait for the sequel, Sound the Gong, next year.
I didn't know what to expect when I started Nona the Ninth, and yet this book — this precious book, with its lovely, warm-hearted, unforgettable Nona at the center — exceeded every hope I could have had for this third installment. Nona is more of a character portrait than it is particularly plotty, but the payoff is so good, and we still get some incredibly fascinating, terrifying, critical pieces of worldbuilding that set us up for a wild ride to the finish with Alecto the Ninth. Despite the surprise of Nona in the midst of what was originally supposed to be a trilogy, Alecto will be the actual final book in this series, I'm sure, because something as singularly lovely as Nona cannot happen twice.
A literary marvel about translation, colonization, and revolution. Kuang’s profound and exacting prose—as well as her mind-blowing magic system based on the power and pitfalls of translation—had me in its clutches for two weeks straight as I read it exclusively on the bus to and from work. This book is absolutely unforgettable, and I can’t wait for people to read it so we can discuss.
This book. This book. Childhood-best-friends to he-thinks-she-died-in-the-war to strangers to lovers? Starring a trans main character? Sign me all the way up.
Alexis Hall deals with trauma and heartbreak so tenderly, my own heart broke and healed several times over. The absolute PEAK of historical romance pining.
A brutal, action-packed mix of sci-fi and fantasy inspired by the only female emperor of China. After her sister is killed by a mecha pilot, Wu Zetian knows there is only one path forward: revenge. This book has anime-style giant mechas, gender criticism, romance, a war against aliens, and a heroine at its helm that I truly believe could take over the world. Hands-down my favorite book of 2021.
No book has blown my mind (or activated my queer pining!) quite like the first two installments in Tamsyn Muir's Locked Tomb series. Set in a complex universe with both reanimated skeletons and sleek space ships, Gideon the Ninth explains absolutely nothing to you. Instead, it drops you into the deep end and trusts that you'll learn how to swim through the soup by the end—and somehow, Harrow is even more bonkers. I might have been intimidated away had I not been so incredibly invested in these characters—not to mention puns and meme references that had me banging my head on the wall and a dad joke that actually made me scream. Harrow and Gideon (both the characters and the books) are everything to me, and I'll gladly hyperfixate on them until Nona the Ninth comes out in September, at which point I expect I'll have a new love. Please come talk to me about these books!
A fantastic middle grade adventure, and one I simply won't stop talking about, ever. Middle school kid Zachary Ying has always been a little bit out of place—never more so than when the spirit of the First Emperor of China possesses his AR headset and drags him on an absolutely bonkers adventure across China involving heists, legends, tyrants, and epic battles. And amid all the twists and turns, at its core, this book has incredible heart. You should absolutely buy Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor for the kids in your life, and also for yourself. No equivocations.
With this as Xiran Jay Zhao's middle grade debut following their veritable YA masterpiece, Iron Widow, they have cemented themself as one of my all-time favorite authors.
An absolutely gorgeous YA contemporary, a heroine at its center with incredible grit, heart, and voice. Yamilet is a YA heroine for the ages, incredibly real and deeply relatable, and the writing itself is piercing and true. At once hilarious and heartbreaking, this book is one I'll be yelling about for a long time to come. Many tears were shed—and I can't wait to jump back in and feel it all again.
All My Rage is a stunning, complex novel about family, trauma, love, rage, and hope spanning two generations of Pakistani Americans. I'm convinced that these characters are as real as anyone I know. Tahir's prose is a lyrical gut punch, bruising and tender in equal measure, that left my heart feeling raw for days. Fans of Tahir's previous work and newcomers alike will be struck by this unforgettable book.
Legendborn is the Black Girl Magic Arthurian retelling that you've been waiting for. Secret societies, generational magic, descendants of King Arthur's Round Table, a war against demons, and a teen girl drowning in grief who threatens to disrupt the whole system. Bree is a refreshing protagonist with grit and a level of assertiveness I can only aspire to, and Deonn handles the narrative deftly and with flair. An absolute rush of a read, with some of my favorite characters in recent memory. I cannot wait for the second book!
Vanja is one of my favorite YA protagonists in years—she's not good, not nice, not sweet. Instead, she's greedy, vicious, and clever. Her journey involves heists (gotta save up money to flee the country—and a distasteful future bound to one of her (literal) godmothers), running from a nosy detective-in-training who's hot on her trail (really, doesn't he have anything better to do?) and an eclectic and supportive found family (ugh, emotions). Fans of Six of Crows will love this group of miscreants and their shenanigans. An absolute gem of a book. (If you know, you know.)
I adore this quirky little sci-fi series! Murderbot is my favorite robot character in years — endlessly charming and (sometimes distressingly) relatable. The adventures in each novella are bite-sized in length, but hold a whole lot of fascinating sci-fi worldbuilding, human (and non-human) emotions that punch you right where you're tender, and humor. I would die for Murderbot — a sentiment, of course, that would make it very, very uncomfortable.
This gorgeous sci-fi novella follows two women (rival agents in a war across space and time) who begin to connect by leaving a series of letters for each other in various timelines. This book is lyrical and intense, heart-wrenching and soul-healing—and, at its core, deeply romantic. The prose is so beautiful that I found myself snapping my fingers like I was at a poetry reading, with not an unnecessary word in sight. It's astonishing how well co-authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone are able to mesh their writing together. I recommend this book unequivocally for any fan of sci-fi, romance, or poetry—there's something in there for any of you. A perfect book.
My go-to recommendation to get people into historical romance. The Duchess Deal is a rom-com in the truest sense of the word: it's got a lot of humor baked into the plot itself, with shenanigans galore, but has real heft and heart as well. A sprinkle of Beauty and the Beast, a dash of Shakespearean swearing, one mangy cat up to no good, a marriage of convenience, and two main characters who begin to heal from their traumas together. This may be a perfect book -- I'm rereading this series for the umpteenth time right now.
If you're an audiobook person, consider getting this book from Libro.fm or the library app, Libby—the voice actor who narrates this book, Mary Jane Wells, is absolutely incredible. I've listened to the audiobook multiple times.
Adorable and high stakes all at once! This charming adventure involves a magical town, an impossible task, several toads, and an uncertain destiny for three intrepid young witches. Claribel Ortega balances the whimsy and wonder of a magical society with the incredible danger inherent in a world of monsters (both supernatural and human). In Witchlings, friendship is magic—but only if you're also willing to fight hard, be clever, and take risks. A wonderful book that I hope brings on a new era of magical children's books.
This book instantly became one of the most important books I've ever read—as a fat woman, a longtime fanfic reader, and an avid disliker of the final season of Game of Thrones. It's funny, charming, introspective, and healing, all at once, with a couple at the center that is so easy to root for. Marcus is a gem of a hero and I aspire to be more like April/become her best friend. (Also, the miscommunication/ keeping secrets trope is actually done super well here!) I read Spoiler Alert during a particularly rough time in my life, but this book was there to heal pieces of me I didn't know were hurt. This book upgraded Olivia Dade from my TBR (extremely long) to my insta-buy list (extremely short).
A lush, gorgeous story about first love, secrets, and discovering who you are, with deeply resonant art and characers. I'm so glad The Girl From the Sea is an Oregon Battle of the Books choice for 2022/23, so more people get the chance to read this beautiful book! Absolute perfection.
A simply gorgeous coming-of-age novel about questioning your queerness, relationships, and identity. Racquel Marie deftly balances banter and charm with serious introspectiveness, exploration, and the high stakes of high school. I needed Ophelia when I was a teenager, but I'm glad I at least have her now. This book has my whole heart (and made me cry in a coffee shop at eight o'clock in the morning).
John Green is a prolific author of young adult fiction (of which I am a huge fan), but in my opinion, The Anthropocene Reviewed is his best work yet. His writing is both entertaining and deeply revealing as he reviews various items, moments, and concepts on a five-star scale. I cried three separate times over sports alone while reading this book, and I don't even care about sports. This form really suits his writing. This is due, at least in part, to his 15 years' worth of experience making video content for the Vlogbrothers YouTube channel he shares with his brother, Hank—videos which are, in essence, personal essays. The Anthropocene Reviewed is the story of what makes us human, told in bite-sized pieces. A truly precious book.
The literary heist novel of my dreams. A team of young Chinese Americans comes together to steal back Chinese artifacts from several Western museums, with a reward of fifty million dollars on the line—along with their promising futures if they fail. Grace D. Li weaves a narrative that is as much an engrossing heist story as it is a reflection on the Chinese diaspora, a critique of colonialism, and a series of complex character portraits. I was swept away by the high stakes, the writing, and the characters themselves, and I can't wait until more people get a chance to read it so I can talk about it. A fantastic debut—I eagerly anticipate whatever Li writes next.
A depressed-but-always-smiling-for-the-camera TV meteorologist and a single dad sports reporter star in this charming, funny, deeply personal office romance set in a Seattle news station. Ari Abrams and Russell Barringer (casual office acquaintances) team up to get their bosses (notoriously warring exes) back together—but in the process, they find themselves becoming something more than casual. Solomon’s writing is as delicious as always, with witty dialogue, a love interest that will steal your heart, and a narrator that just may make you feel a little less alone out there.
NON-RETURNABLE. May take longer to arrive. Please confirm this is the edition you want.
A lush, contemporary retelling of the Hades and Persephone myth. Persephone escapes the glowing metropolis of Olympus and the fate Zeus has planned for her, and takes refuge on the other side of the River Styx with the mysterious, powerful Hades —but even as Persephone and Hades start to fall in love, Hades is keeping secrets. Katee Robert writes some of the sexiest romance books today, and Neon Gods is one of her very best. Fans of Lore Olympus looking for more Hades/Persephone content, as well as lovers of the spicier side of romance in general, will love this series starter.
A heroine inspired by Alexis from Schitt's Creek (a rich girl cut off from her funds and sent to a small Pacific Northwest fishing town) and a grumpy fisherman widower hero are an unlikely pair, but Piper and Brendan instantly became one of my favorite couples in romance. Not only is this book incredibly sexy, it also managed to hit me right in some of my most vulnerable spots. Like Alexis before her, Piper will worm her way into your heart until you want only the best for her—fortunately, Brendan definitely qualifies. I got this book from the library in an attempt to curb my buying habits, but ended up buying it from Annie Bloom's before I was even done—I just knew it would be one I'd want to keep forever.
NON-RETURNABLE. May take longer to arrive. Please confirm this is the edition you want.
The Duke Who Didn't is one of my go-to comfort reads—relentlessly kind and hopeful. Jeremy Wentworth is swoonworthy, not primarily because he's smooth or attractive or powerful, but simply because of how deeply in love with Chloe he is from page one. Chloe, in turn, is a heroine for the ages: smart, practical, and endearingly afraid to hope. This is perhaps Courtney Milan's best historical so far (which is saying quite a lot). Note that this book is non-returnable, so keep that in mind when ordering—but I promise it's worth it.
Sometimes a book gives you everything you didn't know you needed—in this case, it was a couple of queer idiots in space doing necromancy and swinging swords and hating each other *so much* (but they can’t stop thinking about each other). I spent most of Gideon the Ninth confused as hell, and I loved every second of it. I’d get to the point where I’d wonder, “Am I reading…a pretentious book?” but then a second later it would slap me in the face with the most absurd meme reference or pun. It’s probably not for everyone, but to me, this series is a damn delight, and I cannot wait for book 3.
NON-RETURNABLE. May take longer to arrive. Please confirm this is the edition you want.
Rafe is one of my most precious, break-glass-in-case-of-emergency comfort books; I reread it at least once a year. Dr. Sloan Copeland (a young surgeon who's the mother of precocious Black twins, recently divorced, and in desperate need of a new nanny) makes for a smart, vivacious, deeply relatable narrator. Our hero, Rafe, is truly a man pulled straight out of a dream—he's got tattoos, a motorcycle, and serious kitchen skills, and he's kind, sensitive, and attentive, both in and out of bed. Other than a very brief nasty moment with Sloan's ex near the end, this book is 100% pure comfort. Reading this book is self-care. The sequel, Xeni, is equally wonderful. (Note that this book is non-returnable, but it is absolutely worth it.)
One of my all-time favorite historical romances. In Unmasked by the Marquess, Cat Sebastian delivers a dramatic, emotional, cleverly plotted Regency romance while also exploring queerness and nonbinary identities. I've always loved characters who disguise themselves as other genders (whether for safety, advantage, or fun) and this book brings the irrevocable queerness of the act to the forefront. Of course, it's the tenderness and emotional depth of Robin and Alistair's relationship that has me coming back to this book again and again.
Love, Z is an utterly precious story about a robot who wants to know the meaning of love, a word that just does not compute for their robot family. So, Z goes on an adventure to try and find out what love means, and asks a lot of charming characters along the way for what they think the meaning is. In the end, when Z's family finds them, they're so worried about Z—and Z realizes they've known the feeling of love all along, even if they didn't know the definition. Jessie Sima is one of my go-to children's author/illustrators for good reason. This book is so sweet and emotional that I cried typing this review.