Book covers for "The Charm Offensive," "The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina," and "White Smoke." (Images: Atria Books and Katherine Tegen Books.)

The Mary Sue Book Club, September 2021: Romance, Magical Realism, and More

Best books for the best month.
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Because it marks the waning of the Texas summer heat and it is the month of my birth, September is my favorite month. Until this year, it also marked the beginning of another school year for me, which some may dread, but I was always excited for it. Halloween and an anniversary make October a close runner-up, but there is nothing like September.

With a new month starting tomorrow, that also means new books are coming out. Below, I have compiled some of the most interesting novels and novellas coming out in September 2021. I’m probably only going to be able to get to 1–2 this month because I’ve promised myself to hunker down on my year-long book goals, but all of these are definitely on my TBR list to check out soon.

While I love non-fiction, I don’t really look for titles of that type, so there is only one on this list (the first book). Also, this list is completely and absolutely based on my interest and experiences. Because it is not based on popularity or pre-orders, I hope that you will find something you like and feel is worth checking out via purchasing or requesting from your local library.

NOTE: Because they have already been highlighted through guest essays and the Our Books Our Shelves series with Tor Books, there are a few books left off that also release in September 2021.

We Are Not Broken by George M. Johnson

Book covers. (Image: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.)

(Image: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.)

In writing about #TransBooks365, I was delighted to find that George M. Johnson, writer of the memoir-manifesto All Boys Aren’t Blue, has another book releasing in a few days!

The journalist’s and activist’s book follows four boys (George, Garrett, Rall, and Rasul) and their relationship with their grandmother. Raised by Nanny, each of the boys have her love as an emotional rock throughout growing up. The story touches on themes of vulnerability, sacrifice, and culture. Prepare to get teary because they leave letters for her throughout the book, too.

We Are Not Broken releases Sept. 7.

The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

Book cover. (Image: Atria Books.)

(Image: Atria Books.)

After watching The Bachelor Season 24 premiere, I can safely say that I am not a fan. However, I have always enjoyed listening to my friends discuss the way the show is framed. The production is very much shot and edited for high drama. That is why, despite not liking the show, I’m very much interested in Alison Cochrun’s The Charm Offensive.

The story follows a successful producer, Dev, for the long-running reality dating show Ever After. Despite his occupation, his love life is a mess. Dev’s escape at work doesn’t last, as the show casts disgraced tech personality Charlie Winshaw. Winshaw is not TV material but needs to rehabilitate his image. Things go off-script as Dev finds that he and Winshaw have more chemistry than Winshaw and any of the women competing for on the show.

The Charm Offensive releases Sept. 7.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova

Book cover. (Image: Atria Books.)

(Image: Atria Books.)

For fans of magical realism comes Brooklyn Brujas author Córdova promising bad spirits and a familial curse.

When the Montoyas are invited to collect an inheritance by Orquídea Divina, their already strange family finds that, over seven years, these blessings manifest in unexpected ways. After they discover a shadowy figure has begun picking off the family, the Montoyas must travel to Ecuador to unearth secrets and hopefully stop the curse killing their family.

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina releases Sept. 14.

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village by Maureen Johnson and Jay Cooper

Book cover. (Image: Ten Speed Press.)

This title alone caught my eye. No, I’m serious. If Covid-19 ever ends, I, too, would like to visit the English countryside and NOT get murdered. This illustrated novella serves as a tool to do just that. Descriptions also mention allusions to classic crime series, so you’re welcome in advance.

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village releases Sept. 14.

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

Book cover. (Image: Katherine Tegen Books.)

(Image: Katherine Tegen Books.)

Tiffany Jackson is taking up a considerable amount of my TBR list, and her newest novel, White Smoke, is one of them. I’ve heard nothing but praise for her YA thrillers Grown and Monday’s Not Coming.

Marketed as something between The Haunting of Hill House and Get Out, White Smoke follows Marigold and her new-blended family as they move into a new house that came one-year free as part of her mother’s new job.

Soon after moving in, creepy AF things start happening in the house. There is a weird odor (only Mari can smell), and things seem to disappear. Her new 10-year old step-sister, Piper, tells Mari that a friend wants her out of the house. Old me would have said NOPE, but seeing an Black author tackle what looks like horror-social commentary has me excited. I’m looking forward to reading this to kick off spooky season.

White Smoke releases Sept. 14.

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Book cover. Book cover. (Image: Penguin Teen.)

Mecha stories (you know, with big robots) aren’t in my wheelhouse, but this book looks very interesting. Iron Widow is the intro to a new series that blends Chinese history with mecha science fiction.

In this world, young men are paired up with women to pilot large robots in order to defend China from aliens beyond The Great Wall—a procedure that usually leaves the women of the pairs dead. After her sister’s death, Zetian offers herself up to pair with the respected pilot responsible. Defying all odds, she kills him and is labeled as the “Iron Widow.” The governing power aims to take her down because her survival is seen as a threat to the patriarchal order and the war.

Iron Widow releases Sept. 21.

Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Book cover for Summer Sons. (Image: Tordotcom.)

(Image: Tordotcom.)

Next is spooky debut from author Lee Mandelo—just in time for October!

After years together, best friends Andrew and Eddie experience six months apart as Eddie begins his graduate program. A few days before they were supposed to meet up again, Eddie is found dead in what is deemed a suicide. In southern gothic fashion, Andrew is on a search for answers. In his mission to find the truth, Andrew unearths long-held, bloody secrets as well as a lurking phantom inching towards him.

Summer Sons releases Sept. 28.

Chronicles From the Land of The Happiest People on Earth by Wole Soyinka

Book cover. (Image: Pantheon Books.)

(Image: Pantheon Books.)

I chose this book on the description alone, but it turns out Wole Soyinka is a legend?! The Nigerian playwright and scholar was the first Black person, period, to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986. His award also marked the first time a person of color won who was in a colony that used to be a part of the British Empire.

Anyways, this book is described as a whodunnit loaded with satirical humor “and a scathing indictment of political and social corrup­tion.” Some of the characters include an entrepreneur selling body parts, a doctor engaged in ritualistic practices, and a royal about to work at the United Nations in NYC.

Chronicles From the Land of The Happiest People on Earth releases Sept. 28.

(featured image: Atria Books and Katherine Tegen Books)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.