Tantalizing Tales — June 2024 — Part One

Happy June, readers! We have so many great books to cover from the first half of the month, and a few selections from earlier this year that I want to highlight here, as well!

First up is Looking For Smoke by K. A. Cobell. This debut YA mystery by a member of the Blackfeet tribe tells the story of Mara Racette, whose move to the Blackfeet Reservation with her parents hasn’t gone anywhere near as well as hoped. The tight-knit locals are quick to remind her that she grew up far away, as if that’s some sort of personal failing.

So when local girl Loren includes Mara in a traditional Blackfeet Giveaway to honor Loren’s missing sister, Mara thinks she’ll finally start making some new friends. Instead, a girl from the Giveaway, Samantha White Tail, is found murdered. Because the four members of the Giveaway group were the last to see Samantha alive, each becomes a person of interest in the investigation. And all of them–Mara, Loren, Brody, and Eli–have a complicated history with Samantha.

Despite deep mistrust, the four must now band together to take matters into their own hands and clear their names… even though one of them might actually be the killer.


The stakes are even more immediate for another group of students, locked together in their university library. In Eva Jurczyk’s new literary mystery That Night In The Library, seven students gather in the basement of their university’s rare books library on the night before graduation. They’re not allowed in the library after closing time, but it’s the perfect place for the ritual they want to perform–one borrowed from the Greeks, said to free those who take part in it from the fear of death. And what better time to seek the wisdom of ancient gods than in the hours before they’ll scatter in different directions to start their real lives?

But just a few minutes into their celebration, the lights go out–and one of them drops dead. As the body count rises, with nothing but the books to protect them, the group must figure out how to survive the night while trapped with a murderer.


A similarly otherworldly premise permeates The Wilderness Of Girls, the YA debut of Madeline Claire Franklin. After growing up in foster care, Rhi is hungry for a fresh start and begins working at the Happy Valley Wildlife Preserve. While in the woods, she stumbles upon a surreal sight: a pack of wolves guarding four feral and majestic girls. After Rhi gains their trust, they reveal that they’re princesses from another land, raised by a magical prophet they call Mother–and they’re convinced that Rhi is their lost fifth sister.

Unsure what to believe, Rhi ushers the girls to civilization, where they’re met with societal uproar and scrutiny, dubbed by the ravenous media and true crime junkies as “The Wild Girls of Happy Valley.” Desperate to return to their kingdom, the girls look to Rhi for help. Rhi knows the girls are deluded, but at the same time she’s drawn in by their boldness and authenticity–traits she is afraid she has lost within herself. And when Rhi witnesses strange phenomena she can’t quite explain, the line between fantasy and reality grows blurry.

A gripping exploration of how the world teaches young girls to cage their wildness, this ambitious novel also examines what happens when they claw themselves free.


Another teenage girl looks for answers in an entirely reality-based setting, in Janice Lynn Mather’s Where Was Goodbye? Karmen is about to start her last year of high school, but it’s only been six weeks since her brother, Julian, died by suicide. How is she supposed to focus on school when huge questions still plague her? Why is Julian gone? How could she have missed seeing his pain? Could she have helped him?

When a blowup at school gets Karmen sent home for a few weeks, life gets more complicated. Things between her parents are tenser than ever, her best friend’s acting like a stranger, and her search to understand why Julian died keeps coming up empty.

New friend Pru both baffles and comforts Karmen, and there might finally be something happening with her crush, Isaiah. But does she have time for either, or are they just more distractions? Will she ever understand Julian’s struggle and tragedy? If not, can she love—and live—again?


We travel back to the mid-20th century for the events described in Under The Paper Moon, the intrigue-filled historical mystery debut from film and television writer Shaina Steinberg. It’s 1942, and as far as her father knows, Evelyn Bishop, heiress to an aeronautics fortune, is working as a translator in London. In truth, Evelyn—daring, beautiful and as adept with a rifle as she is in five languages—has joined the Office of Strategic Services as a spy. Her goal is to find her brother, who is being held as a POW in a Nazi labor camp. Through one high-risk mission after another, she is paired with the reckless and rebellious Nick Gallagher, growing ever close to him until the war’s end brings with it an act of deep betrayal.

Six years later, Evelyn is back home in Los Angeles, working as a private investigator. The war was supposed to change everything yet Evelyn, contemplating marriage to her childhood sweetheart, feels stifled by convention. Then the suspected cheating husband she’s tailing is murdered and suddenly Evelyn is back in Nick’s orbit again.

Teaming up for a final mission, Evelyn and Nick begin to uncover the true nature of her case— and realize that the war has followed them home. For beyond the public horrors waged by nations there are countless secret, desperate acts that still reverberate on both continents, and threaten everything Evelyn holds dear…


Finally we wrap up with two speculative fictions titles with strong LGBTQ+ theming, for those of you looking for your next great read for Pride! The first is Ocean’s Godori by Elaine U Cho. Our heroine Ocean Yoon has never felt very Korean, even if she is descended from a long line of haenyeo, Jeju Island’s beloved female divers. She doesn’t like soju, constantly misses cultural references, and despite her love of the game, people still say that she doesn’t play Hwatu like a Korean. Ocean’s also persona non grata at the Alliance, Korea’s solar system-dominating space agency, since a mission went awry and she earned a reputation for being a little too quick with her gun.

When her best friend, Teo, second son of the Anand Tech empire, is framed for murdering his family, Ocean and her misfit crewmates are pushed to the forefront of a high-stakes ideological conflict. But dodging bullets and winning space chases may be the easiest part of what comes next.

A thrilling adventure across the solar system that delivers hyperkinetic action sequences and irresistible will-they-won’t-they romance alongside its nuanced exploration of colonialism and capitalism, Ocean’s Godori ultimately asks: What do we owe our past? How do we navigate our present while honoring the complicated facets of our identity? What can our future hold?


And finally finally, the book from April that’s absolute top of my to-read pile from that month, John Wiswell’s full-length debut Someone You Can Build A Nest In. I’ve enjoyed his short fiction for yoinks, and can’t wait to get into his queer monster-hunting tale with a huge twist.

Shesheshen is a shapeshifter, who happily resides as an amorphous lump at the bottom of a ruined manor. When her rest is interrupted by hunters intent on murdering her, she constructs a body from the remains of past meals: a metal chain for a backbone, borrowed bones for limbs, and a bear trap as an extra mouth.

However, the hunters chase Shesheshen out of her home and off a cliff. Badly hurt, she’s found and nursed back to health by Homily, a warm-hearted human, who has mistaken Shesheshen as a fellow human. Homily is kind and nurturing and would make an excellent co-parent: an ideal place to lay Shesheshen’s eggs so their young could devour Homily from the inside out. But as they grow close, she realizes that humans don’t think about love that way.

Shesheshen hates keeping her identity secret from Homily, but just as she’s about to confess, Homily reveals why she’s in the area: she’s hunting a shapeshifting monster that supposedly cursed her family. Has Shesheshen seen it anywhere?

Eating her girlfriend isn’t an option. Shesheshen didn’t curse anyone, but to give herself and Homily a chance at happiness, she has to figure out why Homily’s twisted family thinks she did. As the hunt for the monster becomes increasingly deadly, Shesheshen must unearth the truth quickly, or soon both of their lives will be at risk.

And the bigger challenge remains: surviving her toxic in-laws long enough to learn to build a life with, rather than in, the love of her life.


Let me know if you’re able to get to any of these books before I do, dear readers! I’d love to hear your opinions, and see if that will help spur me to push any of them higher up the mountain range that is my To Be Read pile! Will also update this post with more cover photos when the server starts cooperating again. **Updated with photos June 14th at 5:07 p.m.

And, as always, you can check out the list of my favorite books this year so far in my Bookshop storefront linked below!

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2024/06/14/tantalizing-tales-june-2024-part-one/

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