Written by: Andrea Marks-Joseph
There’s lots of romance and magic in this month’s list! Talented, troublemaking children steal from a sorcerer; magical baked goods cause breakups throughout the city; a ballerina is captured in a sumptuous gilded prison inside the world of The Nutcracker, and a rom-com about a demon summoning gone wrong!
We have characters with some unique and entertaining jobs this month —at a queer community’s bakery; hosting a podcast about sex and disability; running an escape room; doing holiday-season window dressing at a department store, and a Notting Hill inspired story featuring a speciality donut shop in Toronto.
October’s most anticipated releases also include a powerful novel about the aftermath of a male high school student’s sexual assault, and a memoir from Broadway star Sutton Foster about how crafting helped her navigate her wild and colourful life. We even have a Romance novel that takes us to India, where the protagonist takes a leap of faith and shakes up her whole life.
Happy October! There’s a whole reading wonderland out there waiting for you!
1 - Knot My Type by Evie Mitchell (4 October - Contemporary Romance)
A colourful illustrated cover featuring a woman in a wheelchair and playful typographical use of the ropes she uses in the book! File that under ‘Things we love to see!’
Knot My Type (also such a fun title!) is about Frankie, who hosts a boundary-breaking, stigma-crushing podcast about disability and sex. She’s a sexologist who uses a wheelchair, speaks her mind, and gives all kinds of advice. When one of her listeners asks for advice on accessible rope play as a disabled person, she’s gotta go out and do some research before she can offer guidance on the topic. That’s how Jay comes into the picture. He’s a carpenter and a rigger, very skilled in the art of ropes. The two have unmistakeable chemistry while he helps her explore the world of accessible bondage, and one thing leads to another. But he only has casual flings and she only does relationships, so that makes things very tricky…
2 - Not Your Average Hot Guy by Gwenda Bond (5 October - Paranormal Romance)
When Callie’s mom goes out of town, she’s in charge of running their family’s escape room business, the amazingly named Great Escape! But things do not go smoothly. In fact, all hell breaks loose. Literally.
A Satanic cult shows up and performs a ritual to summon “the right hand of the devil” which ends up being the devil’s intern. He’s also annoyingly-handsome, very sweet, and the actual Prince of Hell, Luke Morningstar (but Callie doesn’t know that last bit). With each action-packed chapter, the cult tries to end the world, while Luke works with Callie to save it. Not Your Average Hot Guy also has a lovely nonbinary best friend, a very good dog, and a protagonist who loves books as much as we do. All this comedic chaos seems perfect for fans of Lucifer and Good Omens. The author calls it a “fun, nerdy, apocalyptic rom-com” and there’s already a sequel coming in April!
3 - Tonight We Rule the World by Zack Smedley (5 October – Young Adult Contemporary)
This is going to be a difficult read, and it certainly won’t be for everyone. But it feels like an important, poignant, necessary conversation to have if you can. Zack Smedley presents complex issues of trauma and identity within a story that is compelling, dynamic, and deeply emotional. (Most reviewers have reported sobbing at least once while reading this book.)
A few days after coming out as bi, and a few months before graduating high school, Owen’s entire life is upended when it is revealed that he was sexually assaulted by another student. It’s something he’d kept to himself, and now everyone knows, and everything around him is changing. There’s heartbreak and emotional abuse in this book, but there is also a powerful narrative as we witness Owen rebuild his life after the devastation. Tonight We Rule The World is a multi-faceted coming-of-age story which explores grief, relationships, and an unfolding mystery.
4 - Children of the Fox by Kevin Sands (5 October - Middle Grade Fantasy)
“Five kids with unusual talents are brought together to commit an impossible crime.” I was honestly sold after reading that line alone! But have a look at the book’s magnificent cover and tell me it doesn’t make you wanna dive into this immediately. Children of the Fox feels like a combination of the 'quirky kids teaming up on a quest that can only be fulfilled by them’ energy of The Mysterious Benedict Society and the 'troublemaking misfits band together for a daring heist' setup of Six of Crows.
This story is magic-infused and thrilling, and it’s also going to be a series! Like all fun heist stories, these criminals are hired for their unique talents —as a con artist; expert at acrobatics and knives; an excellent researcher; ability to climb walls like a spider; and a kid who can obtain anything. They are motivated by the idea of “more money than they’ve ever dreamed” and oh yes –they’re robbing the most powerful sorcerer in the city!
5 - A Holly Jolly Diwali by Sonya Lalli (5 October - Contemporary Romance)
I love stories set in the wondrous, vibrant cities of India; I also love when a serious, sensible, “type-A” protagonist unravels into someone more carefree and impulsive. A Holly Jolly Diwali gives us all that and more.
When she's laid off from her job as a data analyst, Niki Randhawa realizes that practical hasn't exactly paid off for her. She books a last-minute flight to India to attend her friend’s wedding, which takes her “from bustling Mumbai to the gorgeous beaches of Goa” around the time Diwali, the festival of lights, is celebrated. At the wedding, she meets free-spirited musician Sameer, and when the two of them join their friends on a group honeymoon, he helps Niki get in touch with her creative side and with her Indian roots. The passion they share, and the freedom she finds in herself inspires Niki to live the kind of bold life she never would have dreamed of!
6 - Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life by Sutton Foster (12 October – Memoir)
Hooked is a charming, creatively-inspired memoir from Sutton Foster, Tony Award-winner and star of the TV show Younger. “From the moment she picked up a cross stitch needle to escape the bullying chorus girls in her early performing days, she was hooked.” Cross stitch took her on a journey to try all kinds of new crafts (Crochet! Collages! Drawing! Painting!) and deeply enriched her life.
Foster not only entertains us with tales of her creative endeavors, but she inspires us to try them for ourselves. The intimate, amusing stories come with accompanying patterns and recipes! She also shares how “crafting has kept her sane while navigating the highs and lows of family, love, and show business.” Through Hooked, Foster reflects on her relationship with her agoraphobic mother; her divorce being splashed on the pages of the tabloids; her struggles with fertility; the joys of adoption; and the thrills she found on stage. This will be a great read for fans of Sutton Foster, but also for anyone who enjoys stories of how crafting can shape and change your life for the better, one project at a time.
7 - The Heartbreak Bakery by A.R. Capetta (12 October – Young Adult)
The Heartbreak Bakery is a sweet, magical love letter to the vast and vibrant queer community. The teenage protagonist, Syd, is bisexual and agender, and works at a bakery which doubles as a safe queer space. There are three trans main characters in this novel, and they all have different gender identities.
When Syd bakes a batch of brownies after being dumped, ripples of heartbreak are sent through Austin’s queer community because the brownies turn out to be magical. Everyone who eats them breaks up! It’s a delicious disaster! But “the cute bike delivery person, Harley (he or they, check the pronoun pin, it’s probably on the messenger bag), believes Syd about the magic baking. And Harley believes Syd’s magical baking can fix things, too—one recipe at a time.”
The Heartbreak Bakery features sweet young love, delicious baked goods, and instructions to make them yourself. The author used to be a professional baker, and filled this book with actual recipes! This novel would be a fantastic gift, and baking the recipes could be a lovely experience to share with someone who’s reading along with you.
8 - Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey (19 October - Contemporary Romance)
It’s two weeks before Christmas in Manhattan, and Stella is caught staring at a department store’s window display. Aiden, the man who has discovered her, is the store manager, but she doesn’t know that. When he asks what she thinks of the display, she tells him the honest, unfortunate truth.
Aiden (whose character was inspired by Ted Lasso) likes her passion, so he hires her. Now they’re working together, trying to ignore the chemistry between them, and dazzling shoppers with her creativity. Window Shopping is a steamy workplace romance, a feel-good holiday story, and I love that the heroine of this story has recently been released from prison and is building a beautiful new life for herself after incarceration.
This is a great pick if you love grumpy/sunshine Romances (Stella’s the grumpy; Aiden the sunshine). I can’t believe we’re already into the season of holiday stories, but I am delighted to have some new hopeful, sweet, festive stories in our lives.
9 - Midnight in Everwood by M.A. Kuzniar (28 October – Fantasy, Retelling)
“A spell-binding retelling of The Nutcracker, filled with enchanted toys, decadent balls, fierce feminine friendships and a forbidden romance." Midnight in Everwood’s main character is Marietta, who loves nothing more than ballet, but will be obligated to take her place in Edwardian society after this Christmas. When a mysterious man purchases the neighboring townhouse, he constructs an elaborate set for Marietta’s final ballet performance, and she discovers it carries a magic of its own!
We travel with her to the fantastical settings for which The Nutcracker is known: a snowy forest, the glittering sugar palace, and meet the captain of its king’s guard. But Midnight in Everwood is not all enchanting confectionary and glamorous Christmas decorations; Marietta encounters danger at every turn: ice giants, shadow goblins, and soon she finds herself trapped in the opulent palace by the sadistic king. There’s excellent representation of female friendship, rebellion, and empowerment in this story, which I’m so excited to read!
10 - Donut Fall in Love by Jackie Lau (26 October - Contemporary Romance)
Donut Fall in Love is a heartfelt, delightful love story between a famous actor and an innovative baker. Ryan Kwok and Lindsay McLeod meet when Ryan knocks over the tower of speciality donuts Lindsay had carefully set up. They connect “over grief and bubble tea” when he signs up for a celebrity baking show and she agrees to give him lessons. It was pitched as Notting Hill set in Canada, and the cover will make you want to take a deep breath in and order some donuts immediately!
Jackie Lau’s books are always delicious and lively, with vivid descriptions of Toronto and its food. You will need snacks by your side! Though certainly filled with romance, Donut Fall in Love also discusses racism, social media, and celebrity culture. Lau’s stories also feature awesome, relatable Asian characters and their complex, endearing families who stay with you long after you’ve finished reading the novel.
Andrea Marks-Joseph is a South African freelance writer and book reviewer. She can be found on Twitter @stargirlriots and at stargirlriots.com