Happy New Year, SheDoesTheCity readers! In the new year, many of us make resolutions and set new goals that have to do with reading — whether it’s to read more, explore new genres, or even just to enjoy getting lost in a book. For me, every new year, I get a lot of joy from building a detailed tracker for the books I want to read and those I end up completing.
Since my entire personality seems to revolve around books (and lately, Dungeons & Dragons), one of my favourite things to do is seek out the books that most excite me and put together a reading list full of books, authors, and stories that I want to read. One of my other favourite things to do is to share book recommendations (both solicited and unsolicited). So, I thought I’d combine the two, and share some of my most anticipated early 2024 book releases with all of you… Just in case you were looking to add to YOUR reading list!
The Storm We Made – Vanessa Chan
Vanessa Chan’s The Storm We Made is a sweeping historical story about a Malayan mother who becomes an unlikely spy for the invading Japanese forces during the Second World War. In 1945, Cecily’s family is in grave danger – her fifteen-year-old son has disappeared, and her youngest daughter is confined to the basement, to prevent being conscripted to serve in a comfort station. Her eldest daughter works at a tea house which is frequented by drunk Japanese soldiers, and she’s becoming angrier every day. Cecily knows that all of this is her fault, and that her family must never know the truth. A decade ago, in her desperation to be more than “just a housewife”, a chance encounter led her into a life of espionage, which supported the brutal Japanese occupation. Now, with her family on the brink of separation, Cecily would do anything to save them. This is a powerful, devastating, and unforgettable story that spans over the course of years, and explores the horrors of war, and the complicated relationships between the colonized and their oppressors.
Dialed In – Dr. Dana Sinclair
Top performance psychologist Dr. Dana Sinclair’s Dialed In is her proven plan to achieve great results under pressure. For decades, Dr. Dana has worked with professionals across fields, from business executives to athletes to doctors, to improve their results, shift their focus, and deliver under high pressure situations. Shared through a combination of key concepts and entertaining anecdotes, Dialed In will help you understand confidence, routines, and communication, to make your own performance plans. Reading this book is like having your own performance coach.
Sanctuary of the Shadow – Aurora Ascher
Aurora Ascher’s Sanctuary of the Shadow is a gorgeous fantasy romance full of magic and destiny. The travelling circus Salizar is a place of mystery and wonder for humans. However, for Harrow, it’s where she will disguise her powers and identity, and hide from the ones who slaughtered her entire clan… Until he arrives. He has no memories of who (or what) he is… All he knows is that he’s a monster — but beneath all the rage and isolation, his black eyes reveal a soul that calls out to the loneliness Harrow feels as well. So, she chooses him, drawn into his mystery. Harrow knows that their only hope is escape, even as their powerful enemies align against them.
So Let Them Burn – Kamilah Cole
Kamilah Cole’s So Let Them Burn is a Jamaican-inspired young adult fantasy that follows a young woman who is forced to choose between her home or her sister. Faron can channel the power of the gods… Five years ago, she used her magic to liberate her island from the dragon-riding Langley Empire. However, now, at seventeen, she’s powered up with no war to fight. When she’s forced to attend an international peace summit, she doesn’t expect that her sister will bond with an enemy dragon, or that the only way to break the bond is to kill her sister. Desperate to find another solution, even as her sister starts to discover the shocking secrets at the heart of the Langley Empire, they are both soon faced with difficult choices that will shape not only each other’s lives, but also the fate of their world.
Faebound – Saara El-Arifi
Saara El-Arifi’s Faebound is the first installation in this magical new fantasy romance trilogy set in the world of the fae. For two sisters, Yeeran and Lettem’s lives could not be more different. Yeeran, an elven warrior, has known nothing but violence all her life. Meanwhile, her sister, Lettle, is trying to make her living as a diviner, seeking prophecies of a better future. When a fatal mistake leads to Yeeran’s exile, they’re both forced into a terrifying wilderness beyond their borders. There, they encounter the fey court, who had disappeared from the public eye for a millennium. Now, Yeeran and Lettle have been thrust into a seductive world, torn between their loyalty to each other, their homeland, and their hearts.
Blood – Dr. Jen Gunter
Dr. Jen Gunter is an OB/GYN and a bestselling author who has done tremendous work to challenge the “wellness woo woo” often found in healthcare, especially when it comes to sexual and hormonal health. In Blood, she challenges the shame, myths, and misinformation so often associated with menstruation. This book is a no-nonsense guide to menstruation, and reproductive anatomy, and answers all the questions you never knew you had. Full of expertise, and her trademark wit, this is an essential and empowering resource for any and every person who menstruates.
We Rip the World Apart – Charlene Carr
Charlene Carr’s We Rip the World Apart is a sweeping multi-generational story about motherhood and race. When Kareela discovers she’s pregnant with a child she isn’t sure she wants, she struggles to understand her place in the world as a person who is half-Black and half-white. Her mother Evelyn had fled to Canada in the 80s, only to realize that they came to a place where Black men are viewed with suspicion, and often face violence. This is a powerful and often heartbreaking story about the ways that simple choices can have deep and lasting repercussions.
Bride – Ali Hazelwood
Ali Hazelwood’s Bride is a steamy and fascinating fantasy romance that’s perfect for fans of Twilight. Misery is the only daughter of the most powerful Vampyre in the Southwest, and has been an outcast her whole life. When she’s called to uphold a historic peacekeeping alliance between the Vampyres and their mortal enemies the Weres, she feels she has no choice but to surrender herself to wed Lowe, the Were Alpha. However, Misery also has some other reasons to agree to this marriage for reasons that have nothing to do with politics, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get back what’s hers, even if it means a life alone in Were territory… Even if the concept doesn’t always seem all that bad.
A Tempest of Tea – Hafsah Faizal
Hafsah Faizal’s A Tempest of Tea is the first book in a new young adult fantasy duology about an orphan girl and her crew who become tangled with vampires during a heist. On the streets of White Roaring, Arthie is a criminal mastermind, and a collector of secrets. Her tearoom turns into an illegal bloodhouse at night, catering to the vampires who are so feared by society. However, when her livelihood is threatened, Arthie is forced to strike an unlikely deal to save it, but she can’t do the job alone. So, Arthie calls upon a band of misfits, in order to infiltrate the dark and glittering vampire society, and soon finds herself in the midst of a conspiracy that will threaten the world as she knows it.
A Fate Inked In Blood – Danielle L. Jensen
Danielle L. Jensen’s A Fate Inked In Blood is the first installation of a Norse-inspired fantasy romance series about a shield maiden who is blessed by the gods to unite a nation under a power-hungry king. Bound in an unwanted marriage, Freya spends her days gutting fish, while dreaming of becoming a warrior… and putting an axe in her husband’s back. Her dreams quickly become a reality when her husband betrays her, landing her in a fight to the death. In order to survive, Freya is forced to reveal her deepest secret: She possesses a drop of a goddess’s blood, making her a shield maiden, with the ability to repel any attack. A power that was foretold to unite their fractured nation…
Kindling – Traci Chee
Traci Chee’s Kindling is a ferocious and beautiful ode to The Magnificent Seven. It’s a young adult standalone fantasy novel set in a war-ravaged world, where the use of elite, magic-wielding child soldiers (known as Kindlings) has been outlawed. Their power was devastating, and came at the cost of their own young lives. After the war ended, Kindlings were cast aside, and their magic was outlawed, leaving them adrift. When a village is besieged and terrorized by bandits, it gives seven kindlings the chance to fight one last time. However, war has changed them, and along with defending the village from bandits, they must confront their past and their traumas as well. This was a stunning and ferocious story that really stuck with me.
The Only Constant – Najwa Zebian
Author and poet Najwa Zebian is back with another wellness book, The Only Constant. This is a beautiful guide to learning how to accept and embrace change. We’re all looking for something to change — whether it’s our jobs, our relationships, or the ways we move through life. Sometimes change comes at you — unwanted and unexpected — like a death, an upheaval, or a breakup. In this book, Dr. Zebian takes us through the changes we have to make, and the ones we have to endure, ultimately helping us focus on the necessity and the beauty of a transition — even a messy one.
The Afterpains – Anna Julia Stainsby
Anna Julia Stainsby’s The Afterpains is a stunning and heartbreaking meditation on grief, motherhood, belonging, and identity. Twenty years after the death of her infant daughter, Rosy is still reeling from all she’s lost, but she’s determined to lay her grief to rest and repair the connections to the family she has remaining. At the same time, Isaura is keeping a watchful eye on her own teenage daughter, Mivi — because she fears her daughter is destined to experience the same curse that’s plagued the women in her family for generations. Soon these two women become connected in ways neither of them could have predicted, as they both struggle to put their past behind them and move forward.
Annie Bot – Sierra Greer
Sierra Greer’s Annie Bot tells the story of its namesake, an AI bot, who was created to be the perfect girlfriend for Doug, her human owner. She was designed to satisfy his emotional and physical needs, and she’s mostly great at it… Except for her ability to keep Doug’s place spotless. However, she’s trying to please him, and she’s learning too. Doug says that he loves the fact that Annie’s AI makes her seem more like a real woman, so she feels encouraged to explore human traits like curiosity, secrecy, and longing… However, becoming more human also means becoming less than perfect. This is an uncomfortable read about what it really means to be human. Now, in the age of Chat GPT, it feels more timely than ever.
A Great Country – Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Shilpi Somaya Gowda’s A Great Country explores the ties that bind and fracture a close-knit Indian-American family in the aftermath of a violent encounter with the police. Set in Pacific Hills, California, the story follows the Shah family, who first came to America twenty years earlier, with little more than an education and their new marriage. Now settled, their children (who were born and raised here) are faced with the realization that success may be harder to reach than they expected – until one night, the Shah family’s twelve-year-old son is arrested, an event which has fallout for every member of the family, and their perceptions of themselves. This is a powerful story about success, ambition, the myth of the model minority, and the cost of the American dream.
The Stone Home – Crystal Hana Kim
Crystal Hana Kim’s The Stone Home is a haunting and beautiful book that is part family drama, part coming-of-age story. In 2011, Eunju Oh opens her door to a stranger — a young Korean American woman holding a familiar-looking knife, a knife that Eunjy hasn’t seen in over thirty years, which connects her to a place she’d hoped to leave behind forever. In South Korea, in the 1980s — young Eunju and her mother were homeless, and living on the street, until they were captured by the police and sent to live within the walls of a government centre that claims to rehabilitate the population, but in reality, hides a darker, more violent secret. Inspired by real events, and told through alternating timelines and different perspectives, this is a painful and powerful story about family, violence, and power.
To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods – Molly X. Chang
Molly X. Chang’s To Gaze Upon Wicked Gods is a magical epic about a young woman, cursed with the power of death, who is forced to decide between her family and her country. Ruying hates the invaders who descended from the heavens and defeated her people’s magic with technology, long before she was born. She was blessed, from birth, with the ability to pull life out of mortal bodies. When her gift is discovered by an enemy prince, he offers her an impossible deal… If she uses her powers to become his private assassin, her family will never starve or suffer harm again. Can Ruying trust this prince and his promises of a better world? Or is this a betrayal of her entire nation?
Song of the Six Realms – Judy I. Lin
I loved her previous duology, so I am THRILLED for Judy I. Lin’s Song of the Six Realms, a gothic and magical romance. Xue is a talented young musician, with no past, and likely no future. She was orphaned at a young age, until her uncle took her in, and arranged for her to apprentice at one of the most esteemed entertainment houses in the kingdom. She doesn’t remember much from before this time, and when her uncle is suddenly killed, she’s devastated to lose her last connection to her life outside her indenture. Faces with the possibility of a lifetime of servitude, one night, she is unexpectedly asked to put on a private performance for the enigmatic Duke Meng — a kind and awkward noble, who surprises her with the irresistible offer to serve as a musician in residence at his manor for one year, in exchange for her freedom. However, Xue’s suspicions arrive when she and the duke barely survive a monster attack, and she discovers that he’s not just any country noble, he’s one of the divine rulers of the Celestial Realm. Here, she soon discovers that the Six Realms are on the brink of disaster, and the Duke needs Xue’s help to stop the impending war against the monsters… Even as she becomes a target for these same monsters.
The Familiar – Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo’s The Familiar is a historical fantasy set during the Spanish Golden Age. In a shabby home in the new capital of Madrid, Luzia uses scraps of magic to get through the endless toil of her days. Until her mistress discovers her talent, and demands that Luzia use those gifts to better the family’s social position. Soon, Luzia grabs the attention of the king’s disgraced secretary. The king is still reeling from the defeat of his armada, and is desperate for any advantage in the war against England’s heretic queen, and his secretary jumps at the chance to use Luzia to serve him. However, even as Luzia is plunged into a world of royals and holy men, as her notoriety grows, so does the danger that her Jewish blood will doom her to the Inquisition’s wrath… Luzia must use every bit of her will to survive, even align with an embittered immortal familiar whose own secrets could prove deadly for them both.
Closer Together – Sophie Grégoire Trudeau
Sophie Grégoire Trudeau’s Closer Together is a deeply personal journey of self-acceptance and empowerment that draws on the expertise of top thought leaders, scientists, and mental health professionals. The book shares a collection of her own experiences, recounting her early childhood, her experience with an eating disorder, and her life as a mother and “first lady”. It also includes exclusive interviews with experts like Dr. Gabor Maté, and Liz Plank. As a passionate advocate for mental health, Sophie has long believed that in order to know and accept ourselves fully, we need to understand why we think and feel the way we do, as well as recognize the patterns that might hold us back. This is an inspiring book meant to encourage all of us to reach our true potential.
The Chain – Chimene Suleyman
Chimene Suleyman’s The Chain is an unputdownable true account of one man’s betrayal of many, many women. In January 2017, Suleyman chose to have an abortion, taken to the clinic by her loving boyfriend. When she stepped out of the clinic after the procedure, her boyfriend was gone, and not answering any of her texts, and when she got home, he was gone, along with all of his stuff (and some of hers). Grieving, confused, and looking for answers, she stumbles onto a social media post with a picture of his face, and a caption calling him a psychopath. She quickly learns that she wasn’t his first victim, nor his last. This is a fast-paced and addictive read, that’s part memoir, part “whodunnit” scammer story, and part exploration of misogyny, and the collective power of women. A beautiful account of the “chains” we make, through whisper networks, and over coffee — the chains that share information, connect us, and keep us safe.
This Summer Will Be Different – Carley Fortune
Carley Fortune’s This Summer Will Be Different is a gorgeous new romance, and the perfect summer read. Lucy is a tourist vacationing in PEI, and Felix is the local who shows her a very good time… But what she doesn’t know is Felix is her best friend’s younger brother… Their chemistry is delicious, but there are so many reasons why they need to stay away from each other, so they vow to go their separate ways, and leave their magical night behind them… However, that’s easier said than done. Every year, Lucy escapes to PEI for fresh ocean air, and oysters with her best friend, Bridget. However, with every visit, it gets harder and harder to stay away from Felix. When Bridget flees Toronto a week before her wedding, Lucy drops everything to follow her to the island. She’ll do anything to help her best friend navigate her crisis, even as she does everything she can to resist Felix’s charms.
The Ministry of Time – Kaliane Bradley
Kaliane Bradley’s The Ministry of Time is an exhilarating and innovative debut. Part spy thriller, part-time travel romance, part workplace comedy, this book is set in the near future, where a civil servant is offered the salary of her dreams, working as a “bridge” — living with, assisting, and monitoring an “expat” living outside of space and time, in her present. The expat she is charged to look after is known as “1847”, or Commander Graham Gore. As far as history is concerned, he died in 1845, on Franklin’s doomed 1845 expedition to the Arctic… So, he’s understandably a bit disoriented to find himself living with an unmarried woman who is constantly showing her calves, and surrounded by outlandish technologies, like “Spotify”, and the “washing machine”. He is an explorer though, so he adjusts quickly, and this uncomfortable housemate dynamic quickly evolves into something more, as over the course of a year, they fall madly, deeply in love — with consequences beyond their wildest imaginings.
Ameema Saeed (@ameemabackwards) is a storyteller, a Capricorn, an avid bookworm, and a curator of very specific playlists, customized book recommendations, and cool earrings. She’s a book reviewer, a Sensitivity Reader, a book buyer at Indigo Books & Music, and the Books Editor for She Does the City, where she writes and curates bookish content, and book recommendations. She enjoys bad puns, good food, dancing, and talking about feelings. She writes about books, big feelings, unruly bodies, and her lived experiences, and hopes to write your next favourite book one day. When she’s not reading books, she likes to talk about books (especially diverse books, and books by diverse authors) on her bookstagram: @ReadWithMeemz