As a child, Billie Anna began her illustrious career in book-loving by reading (and rereading) authors like Tamora Pierce, Gail Carson Levine, and Rick Riordan. A lover of all things fantasy and fairytale, she will talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime about N.K Jemisin and Brandon Sanderson. She most recently finished The Poppy War series, and will never recover from the heartbreak, or the hangover. Billie Anna also occasionally enjoys (aka, needs to read more of) feminist literature, social commentary, and a good classic (Jane Austen's her favorite).
Billie Anna's March 2023 pick
Whimsical, original, yet nostalgic, this book is exactly what I was looking for. Biddy has been raised on a mystical island by her magician guardian, Rowan, and his rabbit familiar, Hutch. She’s at the age of bursting - sixteen - and dying to get away from home to see the world for herself. But the world arrives violently on her doorstep instead, and changes everything she thought she knew. I loved Biddy for being so exquisitely believable. A bookworm, she’s intelligent and brave, but also intimidated by a world she’s never seen, and rightfully afraid when she’s thrown into danger. The other characters are beautifully complex as well - less heroes and villains than flawed people who’ve made different kinds of mistakes. Although the protagonist is young, this book would be enjoyable for all ages. It’s exciting and high stakes while maintaining the warm comfort of a classic or fairytale. I loved it!
Billie Anna's August 2023 pick
By now I am used to being pleasantly baffled by the metaphysical musings of Ms. Blake, and Masters of Death is no exception. Take a concept (Death), add a grandson (troublesome), sprinkle in a vampire realtor, a poor excuse for a poltergeist, a family curse, a demonic mastermind, and the most annoying archangels you’ve ever seen, and you have scraped the top layer of this book. I loved each and every one of the various storylines offered up, I loved the twisting ways in which they secretly intertwined, and I especially loved getting to peel them back in layers as the book went on. In the usual Blake style, the prose and dialogue is hilariously sharp and witty, until it bashes you over the head with something devastatingly heartfelt. My grasp on the rules and fabric of this book’s reality are about as good as a feeble mortal can hope for, but Blake does an excellent job of winding her way through the murky waters of metaphysics and depositing us readers on the shores of understanding(with our hearts if not fully with our minds). Come for the ambitious tackling of humanity’s fundamental beliefs, stay for the tender story of love, betrayal, and forgiveness. Masters of Death is an absolute delight.
Billie Anna's May 2023 pick
Brilliantly relevant, and wonderfully imaginative, with crossover historical/fantasy and YA/Adult appeal. This book masterfully explores themes of colonization, racism, coming-of-age, and maintaining cultural identity, all while grounding itself in a fascinating, steampunk-esque dragon academy setting. Anequs faces no shortage of challenges, but she remains unapologetically herself, and refuses to back down when it comes to fighting for what she believes in. She makes new enemies, and forges a tightly-knit group of fellow outcasts and allies. I loved this book. I loved stubborn Anequs and her loving family, I loved the cool science and magic, I loved the excellent queer/BIPOC/neurodivergent/disabled representation. I can’t wait to read more in this world, and to see Anequs and her crew continue to disrupt and dismantle white supremacy (with dragons!).
Billie Anna's April 2023 pick (1 of 2)
The Warden is a cozy-ish fantasy mystery that stars Aelis: a queer wizard sheriff in a remote town whose adventures include wary locals, mysterious enchantments, evil wizards, and the undead.
Don’t let the cover fool you, this is no dark, sweeping epic (at least not yet). Rather, its protagonist is a disgruntled and privileged (albeit hardworking) necromancer with a chip on her shoulder about always having to prove herself. Aelis was best in her class, but she finds out quickly that all the theory in the world doesn’t compare to actually facing the threats she’s studied about.
The style of this book is a little slow and rambling, featuring a lot of Aelis’s thoughts and flashbacks - which contributed to the more cozy atmosphere, even though we’re dealing with creepy spooky things. The magic system is refreshing while still maintaining a classic, nostalgic feel. I found the side characters delightful, especially the innkeeper husbands, half-orc tracker, and heart-flutteringly gorgeous elfling.
Aelis may prefer a good book and a glass of wine(relatable), but she proves she has what it takes to be a Warden in the wild, lawless North.
Billie Anna's April 2023 pick (2 of 2)
North America, 2049. Temperatures are sky high, storms and natural disasters rage, and every citizen is implanted at birth with a “Flick”- a computer that gives them access to information and entertainment 24/7. The poor and marginalized live precariously on the relentlessly buffeted mainland while the powerful and wealthy float in protected off-shore cities that cater to their every whim. Rose, a high-society escort; Grant, a disenchanted heir to wealth; and the all-female team of White Alice slowly converge on one another in the frigid North of Canada. Each has their secrets, and all of them are devastating.
Michelle Min Sterling has crafted a horrifically realistic picture of our future, laced with poignant commentary on gender, race, and privilege. It reads almost like a thriller, with danger and intrigue at every turn. This book was riveting, chilling, and yet, hopeful.
Billie Anna's January 2023 pick (1 of 3)
I want to LIVE in this book, but I can’t, because I would die, because I would foolishly run after the faeries, because I’m no cool-headed Emily Wilde. She’s truly a force to be reckoned with - brilliant, logical, blunt, and headstrong. She’s a complete genius at everything except getting along with people. I love her. This book was so cozy - even though Emily and Wendell were freezing half to death the whole time. The use of a journal medium is incredibly well-done: the narrative is smooth, Emily and Wendell’s voices are distinct, and their irritable “not-flirting” across the entries(and the whole book) is hilariously in denial. The writing is utterly enchanting, and I was absorbed from the very first word. If you love the melodramatic/no-nonsense pair of Howl and Sophie from Howl’s Moving Castle, you will love Wendell and Emily. They are really THAT good. Romance plays support to the mysteries and wonders of Emily’s research, which I found to be a delightful balance. Top it off with gruff but warm-hearted villagers, terrifying and beautiful faeries, and a rather lazy wolfhound, and you have one of my favorite books of all time. I am devastated to have finished it already, but can definitely count on many rereads to come!
Billie Anna's January 2023 pick (2 of 3)
In Barrow of Winter, H.M. Long creates an eerily beautiful world of cold and darkness. Thray, our protagonist, is a warrior and priestess - used to the stark reality of survival. Her internal struggle over identity, family, love, and duty was compelling, and her enigmatic siblings from the north were equally as interesting. I found the writing atmospheric, the plot engaging, and the characters complex. This is a harsh and dangerous landscape, and Thray is constantly pushed to her limits. The mythology is intricate and rich, with gods that are present and active in the world.
Barrow of Winter is the third installment in a series of interlocking companions. You don’t need to read the others first, but they serve as prequels to Barrow so check them out if you want more of this world!
Billie Anna's January 2023 pick (3 of 3)
Every time I read N.K. Jemisin, I think she cannot once again reveal something new to me about humanity, our beauty, and our darkness. Every time, she does.
Told in three distinct POVs, on an angry post-apocalyptic planet, full of myriad peoples, histories, and disasters, this book is a marvel. Jemisin has fully realized a reality in which the world fractures and ends over and over again, yet humanity goes on. It astounds - delving into systemic oppression, exploitation, love, identity, and environmental calamity on a scale both global and horrifically personal.
This book takes some getting used to. Read the first 5 chapters with an open-mind, absorb the lore and unique style, then devour the rest of the book once it has its hooks in you. The characters and relationships in this book are so damnably real, so twisted and imperfect. They’re rivaled in brilliance only by the insane world building and scientific imagining. Truly, the mounting tension and twists of the first two thirds of this book set up the most unbelievable final act. It completely took my breath away.
Billie Anna's November 2022 pick (1 of 4)
Dark and dripping with gore, the House of Hunger lives up to its name. Lisavet and the Houses of the North are not vampires, they are human nobles - depraved creatures of excess who drink the blood of the young to remain young themselves. This book is drenched in gothic creepiness and seduction. Think Crimson Peak and Jane Eyre, complete with mysterious noises in the dark and disturbing secrets the protagonist has to discover before it’s too late. Hunger (unsurprisingly) features heavily as a theme. The excessive and unnatural appetites of the nobles, the bloodmaids’ desperate and unflinching desire for a better life, Marion’s inexplicable draw to her new mistress. And always, always, Lisavet’s hunger. It’s seductive, atmospheric, and thrilling - you will devour this book!
Babel: Or the Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution (Hardcover)
Billie Anna's November 2022 pick (2 of 4)
“An act of translation is then necessarily always an act of betrayal”
This book is astounding in its scope and depth. Kuang’s writing, particularly the use of witty and informative footnotes, is devilishly intelligent and addictive. You’ll spend the book wrapped in cozy dark academia imagery, all while the characters grapple with imperialism, violence, and complicity. Robin’s course of study at Babel is fascinatingly extensive - I felt as though I was attending these classes myself. Robin’s personal life is just as intriguing, as he struggles to deal with a ridiculously complex and weird father/guardian relationship, his own complicated feelings around identity, and a brilliant yet difficult cohort of friends. With Babel, R.F. Kuang has cemented her status as one of my favorite authors. Read Babel, and read The Poppy War too!
Billie Anna's November 2022 pick (3 of 4)
Short and decidedly not sweet, this is Miller’s take on the myth of the sculptor Pygmalion. In Ovid’s original, the sculpture-turned-maiden is nameless and voiceless - the perfect woman. Galatea positions itself in direct conversation with the original. Miller’s Galatea muses, “ I don’t think my husband expected me to be able to talk”. She is not a perfectly sculpted body made soft and pliant just for his hands, she is not the perfectly obedient object of his whims and desires, she is not a doll. She is a woman, and thus a disappointment. Miller’s writing is striking as always, with understated prose that belies an emotional and cultural depth stretching beyond the scant 50 pages. Galatea is disturbing, as it’s intended to be, satisfying, as it should be, and tragic, as it must be.
Billie Anna's November 2022 pick (4 of 4)
This book made my skin crawl, and it was absolutely captivating. Not a single one of these characters is likable, nor do any of them make good decisions. Unreliable narrators abound, and Hawkins’ writing is raw, ugly, and real. Shame colors the entire book, most directly from Rachel. Shame for her drinking and actions while drunk. Shame at being divorced and unemployed and a mess. Hawkins unearths deep, ugly thoughts that most people repress, or at least keep silent about. Pride, lust, contempt. The events of the book unfold through various viewpoints, with twists and turns that will take you by surprise (unless you’ve seen the movie), yet still feel satisfying. I was sick to my stomach the whole time, convinced I was a terrible person, but I couldn’t put it down.
Billie Anna's October 2022 pick (1 of 5)
I absolutely loved this book. Think the Salem Witch Trials, but the so-called “Devil” is real, and the Witch gets her revenge. This book is deliciously spooky, awesomely gruesome, and tastefully gory. It filled me with rage, and then gave me the bloody pay-off I so desperately needed. There’s a host of characters that you will love and hate in turn. You will love fiery Abitha and magnificent Samson. You will ache for the well-intentioned Reverend and Goodwife Carter. You will despise the commonplace evil of characters like Goody Dibble and Wallace Williams. Brom’s writing is atmospheric and creepy, while also being wonderfully glowing and alive, and the illustrations are stunning. Slewfoot is a spooky treat!
Billie Anna's October 2022 pick (2 of 5)
This book is an absolutely adorable and surprisingly touching romance, complete with blackmail, reluctant allies, one bed, and lots of crime. If you’re looking for a sunshine x grumpy pairing where the grump is a woman, look no farther. Marian is prickly, and that’s just what Rob loves about her. While the plot of this book is fun and clever, the character arcs are why you’ll stay. Cat Sebastian writes about love and intimacy with immense understanding and tenderness, and consent is beautifully depicted in this book. It was refreshing to read a hetero pairing where penetrative sex was not the goal, and we love a woman in charge! In short, you’ll fall in love with Marian’s sharp tongue, you’ll fall in love with Rob’s inescapable charm, and you’ll fall in love with the cat. Delightful!
Billie Anna's October 2022 pick (3 of 5)
Told in the present, but interspersed with memories of childhood, Daisy’s story is bittersweet to say the least. Rather than cherished by her family on account of her limited lifespan, Daisy has always been treated as an uncomfortable afterthought. The narration, wistful and bitter in turns, is a devastatingly realistic portrayal of a family fractured by their past. Set in a gothic house by the sea during a storm, this book is delightfully creepy and atmospheric. Feeney crafts a real sense of terror as dead bodies appear and go missing, secrets get unearthed, and accusations fly. The relationships between characters are strained for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons, and I gobbled up each tidbit of the truth as it was slowly fed to me.
Billie Anna's October 2022 pick (4 of 5)
Think you know the story of the witch in Rapunzel’s tower? Think again. This book is a lush fairytale, rooted in history and steeped with a dark and feminine magic. We start slow, exploring Halewise’s youth as an odd child in a superstitious and religious medieval town. As she grows into a teenager, Haelewise learns of love, loss, sisterhood, and the ancient wisdom of women. The tale starts to race, as Haelewise herself races through the forest to find the tower. This is the perfect book to curl up with on a chilly or stormy night, as you imagine the harsh and beautiful world of 12th century Germany for a magical young girl on her own. If you love the works of Madeline Miller or Naomi Novik, you will love the tale of Haelewise, and the path that brought her to the tower of Gothel.
Billie Anna's October pick (5 of 5)
In The Secret History, Donna Tartt weaves a hypnotic spell that will get you drunk on academics, elitism, and the tension of a secretive group of friends who both envy and desire one another. This book is a modern Greek tragedy, with all the hedonism and madness of the greats wrapped up in a picturesque Northeastern landscape. The characters should not be likable, and they often aren’t - they are privileged, selfish, and pretentious college students who murder one of their supposedly dearest friends. Yet, just like Richard, you find yourself hoping they accept him. Although Bunny’s death is revealed on the first page, watching the characters spiral into an ever-churning maelstrom of suspicion, paranoia, and guilt is as captivating as a trainwreck. You will not be able to look away
Billie's September 2022 pick (1 of 3)
I so love it when books are smarter than me. Gideon is the most delightful herbo to ever swing a sword. Through her irreverent eyes and inappropriate mind, we witness genius necromancers at their craft as they attempt to solve a ten thousand year old mystery in a haunted castle on a dead planet. This is good stuff. Muir’s writing is hilariously bawdy and sharp, and the science of necromancy is immaculately developed far beyond my, or Gideon’s, understanding. The stakes of this book are impossibly large - immortality and galactic war type large - yet also undeniably personal. This series is heavy on the science, magic, gay panic, swords, skeletons, and dumb comebacks. If you haven't started this delectable series yet, do it!
Billie's September 2022 pick (2 of 3)
Miller’s writing is both the knife and the soothing balm. Circe is not a heroine, not an ingenue, not a villain. She is all these and more. She is a child reaching for knowledge, an exile seeking closeness, a god searching for vitality. She is contradiction. Her story, in Miller’s lyrical prose, is not tragic, but achingly full of growing pains. Circe narrates her life with a tender grace for her younger self, truthfully admitting the depth of her childish follies and cruelties, but wrapping them in a bittersweet sort of understanding. Her reflections contain both the naive reasoning of youth and the compassionate wisdom won after millennia of mistakes. The theme of immortality’s sorrow is not unique to Miller, but the astounding beauty of her execution is what sets this novel apart. I read this book in one day. I will begin rereading immediately. Circe, the tale of a nymph, a witch, a goddess, is the most human story I have ever read. I cannot recommend this book enough.
Billie's September 2022 pick (3 of 3)
This book is a spectacular contemporary fantasy that combines the classic magic of Arthurian legend with the emotionally steeped experience of a black teenager discovering her ancestry in the American South. It follows Bree, a fierce and brave teen girl who discovers a secret society descended from King Arthur and his knights - complete with magic, swords, and wizards. Bree dives into this shadowy organization, all while searching for answers about her mother’s death - and a possible connection between the two. Tracy Deonn’s writing is lush - bringing Bree, her friends, and their world of ancient magics brilliantly alive. This book powerfully and tenderly deals with racism, loss of a parent, new independence, self-doubt, and a host of other challenges that teenagers and adults alike will recognize. The second book, Bloodmarked, releases in November (and let me tell you, it is amazing), so don’t miss out on picking up the first book
Billie Anna's November 2022 pick
Pulling The Wings Off Angels is my first of K.J. Parker's novels, and it certainly won't be my last. This short theological fantasy pulls you in from the get go, beginning with our protagonist literally nailed to the wall, and it doesn't slow down. Bursting with a delicious, dry wit, this novel drags us at breakneck speed from one theological conundrum to the next. Parker deftly works through the intricacies of what justice, mercy, fairness, and guilt can mean if God is real, but can’t hear or see you commit your crimes. A sensational, brain-tickling read, and one I will definitely revisit.
Billie Anna's October 2022 pick
In Arden High: Twelfth Grade Night, one of Shakespeare’s most amusing plays gets retold as a queer coming-of-age love triangle. Vi starts her freshman year at a new, magically-inclined high school - alone for the first time without her twin, Sebastian. Although she quickly finds a lively band of friends, Vi struggles to handle her brother’s absence. She has to figure out her own identity, all while dealing with a new crush roping her into helping him pursue his own crush - who just so happens to like Vi instead. Full of hilarious misunderstandings, adorable queer romances, and gorgeous illustrations, this book is well worth a read!
Billie Anna's August 2022 pick, 1 of 3
Sonora Reyes’ debut novel is a hilarious and heartfelt story about young love, cultural belonging, and the courage it takes to be yourself. Yami starts at a new school, trying desperately to avoid being ruthlessly outed and rejected - again. She’s convinced she can make it through the year as a straight girl, but new friendships and crushes combine with a heart wrenching familial crisis to make Yami’s junior year a whole lot more than she bargained for. This book is a brilliant queer coming of age, and will have you blushing, laughing out loud, and tearing up by the end. Filled with humor and serious topics explored by a deft hand, The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School shouldn’t be missed!
Billie Anna's August 2022 pick, 2 of 3
This series will haunt you. In the stunning conclusion to R.F. Kuang’s blood-drenched trilogy - Rin, Kitay, and Nezha circle each other as the tides of war once again turn. The Burning God will have you gripping your book, balancing on the edge of your seat, trying to read through your horrified tears. A brilliant exploration of the brutal reality of war, this series asks its readers and its characters: How far would you go if you had all the power? What cost would you pay to achieve what you want? The answer for Rin - everything. But, faced with a powerful enemy god, a reluctant anchor, and a western invasion, everything she has might not be enough. This series will burn itself into your heart with the same ferocity as Rin’s fire. It is truly unforgettable.
Billie Anna's August 2022 pick, 3 of 3
Alcatraz Smedry is a delightfully snarky and purposefully unreliable narrator in a similar vein to Riordan's Percy Jackson. On his 13th birthday, Alcatraz suddenly finds himself pulled into a secret world of evil, information-controlling Librarians who steal his inheritance and try to kill him. Formerly known as a breaker-of-things and all-around nuisance, Alcatraz now finds out he has...powers? And a prestigious legacy? Cousins?? This book is clever and funny, with lots of snark and commentary from Narrator Alcatraz. Sanderson blends irreverent humor with a heart-warming message about how accepting our flaws can turn them into strengths. This book will have you rooting for Alcatraz to break more things!
Billie Anna's July 2022 pick, 1 of 2
Inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology, The Wolf and The Woodsman is a lush and dark tale of magic, blood, and prejudice. An outcast in her village, Èvike is sacrificed by the only family she's ever known to spare their favored seer. Èvike is a battleaxe of a protagonist, filled with bitterness and a murderous rage for the men who took her mother. But, paired with a one-eyed prince who challenges her every belief, she is forced to confront new enemies and an unknown heritage. Together Èvike and Gaspar face down strange new magic, bloodthirsty witches, a deadly zealot and his followers, and most importantly - their own prejudice towards one another. Reid's masterful combination of history, folklore magic, and a fiery enemies-to-lovers romance makes this book a must read.
Billie Anna's July 2022 pick, 2 of 2
Fans of Pride and Prejudice and Bridgerton will love this debut by Sophie Irwin. Kitty, the eldest Talbot daughter, heads to London to seek a wealthy husband and save her family from financial ruin. Her schemes are opposed by the serious Lord Radcliffe, who sees her for the cunning adversary she is. But, after striking a deal, the two begrudgingly take on the London season as allies. Featuring witty banter, a host of lovable characters, and an excellent slow burn romance between two very stubborn people, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting is an absolute delight. Irwin’s dry humor will have you giggling throughout, and the ending will leave you cheering. Definitely read this book!