Clever contemporary mythology retellings

Plus exciting debut books and the upcoming Aspen Lit Prize ceremony

Hey, readers!

Here’s one thing I never fully considered about what it’s like to work for yourself: if you want to take a break, no one is around to pick up the slack. And that, readers, is the situation I’m in this week. I’m taking next week off to go to Palm Springs (yay!!). I’ve been dreaming about sitting by a pool for well over a year and that desire only intensified when it we got snow in Denver this week. My husband and I are fully vaccinated, and we feel super lucky to be able to spend a week in the dessert with two (also vaccinated) friends. We’re looking forward to hiking at Joshua Tree, lounging by the pool, and, most importantly, just being somewhere else.

And so while today’s newsletter is a bit brief, I’m looking forward to sharing all the books I read next week with you when I get back!

On the blog and on the pod.

Inspired by a recent read, I wrote a blog post about retellings of classical myths set in contemporary time periods. I had a lot of fun with this one and included some books you might not realize have mythological connections.

Last week on Novel Pairings, we shared our Spring “Short Story Club” episode. We discussed Octavia Butler’s pandemic story “Speech Sounds” and each offered two novels that would pair well with the story.

Coming up this week is our episode on Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I really enjoyed revisiting that old favorite and got so much out of my discussion with Chelsey.

This week in books.

This week I read…

  • Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann (out May 11th). This book felt tailor-made for my reading taste. It’s a family story with an interesting structure, an evocative setting, and nuanced characters. Add to that some epic drama and clever mythological references, and you have a book that I truly cannot resist. Olympus, Texas starts out slower than the back cover description might lead you to believe. There’s a lot of groundwork to lay to ensure we understand the intricate relationships between Swann’s ensemble cast before things get moving. But after about the first third, things pick up and the story gets intense. What I love is that Swann is able to build in a dramatic plot while exploring themes of loyalty and legacy, and whether anyone has free will or is merely destined to repeat the mistakes of our families. At times some of the characters fell flat, but given that they’re based on mythological archetypes (and it’s such a large cast), that actually made sense for the story and I was impressed with the level of complexity Swann was able to include. If you love mythological retellings, family sagas, or books with a strong sense of place, Olympus, Texas is worthy checking out! Amazon | Bookshop

Now I’m reading…

  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. This is the April selection for the FictionMatters Book Club. So far it’s absolutely stunning, but certainly complex so I’m looking forward to being able to unpack it with a group of thoughtful readers. And it’s not too late to join us for the April discussion! Click here to learn more about the FictionMatters Book Club. Amazon | Bookshop

  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. I’m reading this for an upcoming episode of Novel Pairings and it is so good! Amazon | Bookshop

Links I love.

The Aspen Literary Prize will announce their winner this Wednesday! You can attend the virtual event and announcement for free by registering here.

51 debut books to look forward to this spring and summer

Hanya Yanagihara, the author of the soul-crushing A Little Life, has a new book coming out next year.

The New York Times Book Review podcast is celebrating 15 years! Check out these 10 memorable conversations from their time on the air.

The Sephora sale is happening for 2 more days! My top picks are the Biossance Sheer Mineral Sunscreen, Drunk Elephant bronzing drops, and the Tata Harper Resurfacing Glow Mask.

End notes.

Watching: Nonstop Gilmore Girls episodes because it’s the one thing I can have on as background noise while I do some of my more mindless tasks.

Listening: I loved this interview with audiobook queen, Julia Whalen!

Making: This was strictly a Blue Apron week for us. I’m always so thankful for the way our weekly boxes eliminate planning. I don’t have a partnership with them, but you can get $80 off your first four boxes with this link.

Loving: Knowing that I’m about to be someplace very, very warm!

Readers, I hope you’re getting an escape of your own this week—even if it’s the briefest of respites. For questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing or responding directly to this newsletter. I love hearing from you!

If you’re looking for more book recommendations and delightful bookish community, consider supporting FictionMatters on Patreon.

And if you enjoyed today’s newsletter, please forward it to a book-loving friend. That’s a great way to spread bookish cheer and support the newsletter!

Happy reading!


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