Stephen King, Later: Despite being in the Hard Case imprint, this is standard King (as the protagonist says several times, this is a horror story). He’s a kid who can see ghosts, and his literary agent mom wants him to keep it a secret. But after she recruits him to get a final story out of her most important client in order to save their financial futures, he’s vulnerable to exploitation by her cop lover. Brisk and King-y, with appearances of various King evils (hi, deadlights!).
Katherine Addison, The Witness for the Dead: Sequel to The Goblin Emperor, but this time following the cleric who speaks to the dead as he navigates a hostile ecclesiastical environment, investigates several different deaths, and (much against his inclination) makes a few friends. Like the first book, the goodheartedness of the narrator, despite his learned mistrust, makes this a relatively gentle story even when murder and other nastiness is involved.
Ben Aaronovitch, What Abigail Did That Summer: Barely teen Abigail has a precocious interest in magic, but the Folly won’t yet take her on. So she makes her own trouble/fun, and—with a new friend in tow, plus a fox spy/minder—goes off in search of whatever it is that’s pulling a Pied Piper on local children. Aaronovitch’s mouthy teen was not the best of his voices, but it’s still interesting to see other takes on the magic of his world.
Martha Wells, Fugitive Telemetry: There’s a murder on Preservation Station where no murder should be, and Murderbot gets sucked into the investigation, especially since it suspects that GreyCris might be involved. Much frustration with humans ensues.
C.L. Polk, Stormsong: The second book in a series—the first book involved a lot of politics and magic; at the beginning of this one, alt-England’s magic power system has been destroyed just as winter storms come with even greater force, threatening the crops and lives of many citizens. Grace, now appointed the Queen’s chancellor, has to navigate palace intrigue, intrigue among the storm-fighting magicians, pressures for democratic reform, captives from the foreign power that tried to use necromancy against them, and an intriguingly sexy reporter who is about to reveal Grace’s secrets and the secrets of the realm—among other things. If you like whirlwind political fantasy, you might like this.
KJ Charles, The Gentle Art of Fortune Hunting: Two siblings come to town to snag wealthy mates from the ton; they pretend to be well-bred but are merely well-trained. It’s all going well except for the suspicions of the man’s target’s uncle. It will not surprise you to learn that the two men fall into bed, and then into love. Best line: “Robin sat and listened to music for several hours, and was disappointed to learn that only forty minutes had passed on the clock.”
David Wong, Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick: Zoey Ashe, heiress to her estranged father’s criminal empire, is also extremely hated online because alienated young men. And one of the city’s warlords is apparently inciting that hatred, which becomes very personal, involving her mom and her cat. Wong is good at ridiculous extremes and making fun of his characters’, and by extension our, complicity in systems that are too big to change individually.
Naomi Novik, A Deadly Education: Very strong In Other Lands vibes: magic exists; here it’s much nastier than you think, not much more prosaic. The snarky, smart, secretly powerful outsider ends up hanging out with the super-powerful, super-competent, secretly miserable popular guy (actually, he suspects her of using dark magic, which she doesn’t). She’s trying to make alliances that will get her through graduation alive, since monsters prey on isolated magic-users, while he’s killing anything that threatens anyone, which turns out to have a bad effect on the magic ecosystem. It moves well and has a great cliffhanger.
Genevieve Cogman, The Dark Archive:Well, the plot point that was obviously coming finally came, though it was only discovered and not resolved. Also, our heroine spends more time with her new Fae apprentice than with Kai as old enemies reappear and threaten them. The end is an epilogue that suggests that the shenanigans are only beginning (and that I read as a nod to readers who had been waiting for the penny to drop for a while now).
Stephen Graham Jones, The Only Good Indians: After a group of young male friends slaughters elk where they shouldn’t have, the spirit of Elk Head Woman comes after them. While racism and poverty structure their lives and explain something about why they did it, Elk Head Woman doesn’t care. Warning for gore.
Stephen King & Joe Hill, In the Tall Grass: Short story (audiobook checked out via my library) with a classic King horror vibe: A brother and sister are traveling across the country when they hear a child calling out for help just off of the road. Bad things happen, including child death.
N.K. Jemisin, The City We Became: The boroughs start to achieve sentience/manifestation in a person, and an extradimensional white entity tries to kill them. There are some nice subtle things, like the way Manhattan didn’t remember his previous life and connections while Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island (all women) did. The extradimensional evil’s human allies are setting up to literally die of whiteness, though most seem unconscious of this.
Cherie Priest, I Am Princess X: After her best friend dies, the protagonist moves to Georgia, but returns to San Francisco to spend the summer with her father (from whom her mother is now divorced). There, she spies stickers using the identity of Princess X—the superhero she created with her friend. As she investigates, she starts to wonder if her friend is dead after all. Combination YA and implausible thriller.
Grady Hendrix, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires: Salem’s Lot meets The Stepford Wives, sort of. A white housewife and her friends begin to think that a new white guy in town is a danger, but sexist gaslighting and white indifference to Black suffering mean that authority is asserted against them instead. I found it really hard to get through because through most of the book the protagonist is so isolated—the book club members also disbelieve her, buying into the same racism and sexism as the white men. Multiple times, the protagonist would tell someone that she saw the bad guy harming a child, and the person would respond that she had no evidence of this, because her direct witness testimony did not count as evidence. If this will make you incandescent with rage and/or grief, stay away, but otherwise it is a brisk Stephen King-esque read. There is also a sexual assault whose aftermath is detailed.
Rivers Solomon, Sorrowland: Vern, a heavily pregnant teen, flees her Black separatist compound. But in the woods around them lurk fiends who hunt and taunt her. As she raises her twins, her own body seems to turn against her, hiding perhaps monstrous secrets of her own. Vern doesn’t know how, much less who, to trust, and she doesn’t know how to ask for the help she needs, though she finds people who extend it to her anyway. This is a worthy sequel to Solomon’s first novel, a story of rage and injustice that doesn’t feel hopeless despite how little faith it has in America (especially its white people).
Daryl Gregory, The Album of Dr. Moreau:In the early 2000s, a boy band made of animal-human hybrids, the WyldBoyz, is ending their tour when their awful promoter is killed. A mystery with lots of animal puns ensues. It’s a fun novella with Gregory’s usual inventiveness despite some grim backstory.