Each week as part of SunLit — The Sun’s literature section — we feature staff recommendations from book stores across Colorado. This week, the staff from Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins recommends three novels with diverse storylines.
Chain Gang All-Stars
By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah
From the publisher: Loretta Thurwar and Hamara “Hurricane Staxxx” Stacker are the stars of “Chain-Gang All-Stars,” the cornerstone of CAPE, or Criminal Action Penal Entertainment, a highly-popular, highly-controversial, profit-raising program in America’s increasingly dominant private prison industry. It’s the return of the gladiators and prisoners are competing for the ultimate prize: their freedom.
From Heather, Bookseller: After I fell in love with his short stories in 2018, a collection of Black Mirror-esque stories with a humor and horror mix that truly makes your heart pound, I couldn’t wait to read whatever he wrote next. This book is true to his style but offers an uncanny reality in which America’s prison system has introduced the controversial CAPE program where prisoners can opt in to fight to the death.
The logical conclusion? Americans are obsessed. Adjei-Brenyah captures this world too close to home, as he flicks between multiple perspectives, from executives to protesters to the humans who have become fodder for entertainment. The novel culminates in an absurd portrait of the capitalist prison system.
Yellowface: A Novel
By R.F. Kuang
From the publisher: Authors June Hayward and Athena Liu were supposed to be twin rising stars. But Athena’s a literary darling. June Hayward is literally nobody. Who wants stories about basic white girls, June thinks. So when June witnesses Athena’s death in a freak accident, she acts on impulse: she steals Athena’s just-finished masterpiece, an experimental novel about the unsung contributions of Chinese laborers during World War I.
But June can’t get away from Athena’s shadow, and emerging evidence threatens to bring June’s (stolen) success down around her. As June races to protect her secret, she discovers exactly how far she will go to keep what she thinks she deserves.
From Teresa, Bookseller: Athena and Juniper are “friends,” although (to be honest) the more accurate word would be frenemies. When Athena abruptly dies, Juniper does the unthinkable and steals her manuscript. What follows is darkly funny, horrible and had me cringing until the very end. I couldn’t put this book down. It was riveting, explored who can tell what stories and then deep dives into the ugly world of publishing…weird combination but Kuang cracked the code for an amazing book.
The Fiancée Farce
By Alexandria Bellefleur
From the publisher: Tansy Adams’ greatest love is her family’s bookstore, passed down from her late father. But when it comes to actual romance… Tansy can’t get past the first chapter. Tired of her stepfamily’s questions about her love life, Tansy invents Gemma, a fake girlfriend inspired by the stunning cover model on a bestselling book. They’ll never actually meet, so what’s the harm in a little fib? Yet when real-life Gemma crosses Tansy’s path, her white lie nearly implodes.
From Andrea, Marketing and Events:I got so invested in this book! I’m a huge fan of fake dating, so this book was absolutely in my ballpark. I loved the dynamic between Tansy and Gemma. The mixture of a “sure of herself” woman and someone who was more subdued was super cute, especially when their roles changed in order to protect the other. The ugly characters that were against Tansy and Gemma’s union made me absolutely livid and I got up multiple times to walk around in order to burn off my anger. Overall, it was a story that enraptured me and made me really root for love.