I would like to now call to order year 3 of the Fantastic Strangelings bookclub. YEAR THREE, Y’ALL. We have traveled to distant lands, crossed time, explored ancient lore, listened to unique voices, laughed hysterically, stretched our minds, gotten comfortable being uncomfortable, fallen in love with characters, haunted gothic castles, explored race, sexuality, hate and love. And we’re just getting started, because already I have read so many books coming out this year that will take us to beautiful and terrible places and expand our minds and our outlook with new and amazing stories from fascinating writers who make us think and laugh and learn.
And the first book of the year is such a good one because it’s a quirky, cozy mystery but with stronger themes on invisibility that are so worth exploring. And if you’ve been waiting to join the Fantastic Strangelings this a perfect month to start with.
It’s The Maid, a novel by Nita Prose.
Dorothy Barker looks slightly nervous because some murder mysteries can be terrifying but this one is a refreshing sort of Agatha Christie-esque story and I loved it. Here’s a quick taste:
Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.
Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.
But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed.
A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.
I think you’re really going to like it.
And if you’re anything like me and need several books to get you through the month, here are some other books coming out in January that I recommend:
Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan (Book 1 in a gorgeous fantasy inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess)
Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz (A darkly gothic tale of grave-robbing, surgery and young romance in 19th century Scotland. Seems like a weird combo, but it totally works.)
Deserter by Junji Ito (the latest graphic novel story collection by Ito – master of bizarre body horror – does not disappoint)
My Annihilation by Fuminori Nakamura (I don’t even know how to classify this book. Psychological thriller, puzzle box sort of novel that implicates the reader in a crime? Very complex, but in a good way.)
How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (Strange and haunting sci-fi. And Arctic Plague, a theme park for dying children, a talking pig, interstellar starships. There’s a lot going on here and all of it is fascinating.)
I’m opening up the discussion below and on the Fantastic Strangelings facebook page if you want to discuss last month’s book, A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw, but no worries if you haven’t read it yet. Discussions stay open forever so you can drop in whenever you want.
Happy reading and welcome to our new members!