And now, for our first batch of October books! These books all came into the world on the 6th, so the good news is, you can all read them immediately!
"Eventide is an evocative YA historical fantasy thriller by debut author Sarah Goodman, for fans of Jennifer Donnelly and Libba Bray.
MADNESS, SECRETS, AND LIES
Wheeler, Arkansas, 1907
When their father descends into madness after the death of their mother, Verity Pruitt and her little sister Lilah find themselves on an orphan train to rural Arkansas.
In Wheeler, eleven-year-old Lilah is quickly adopted, but seventeen-year-old Verity is not. Desperate to stay close to her sister, Verity indentures herself as a farmhand. But even charming farm boy Abel Atchley can’t completely distract her from the sense that something is not quite right in this little town. Strange local superstitions abound, especially about the eerie old well at the center of the forest. The woods play tricks, unleashing heavy fog and bone-chilling cold…and sometimes visions of things that aren’t there.
But for Verity, perhaps most unsettling of all is the revelation that her own parents have a scandalous history in this very town. And as she tries to unearth the past, sinister secrets come with it—secrets that someone will go to violent lengths to protect….
A haunting tale of long-buried secrets, small-town scandal, and single-minded vengeance by talented debut novelist Sarah Goodman."
I quite enjoyed Eventide for its atmosphere, mysteriousness, and focus on the importance of family (both blood and created). And it was mostly a win for me! So let’s break down all the things I enjoyed, and the one thing I kind of didn’t!
- The setting/time period was great! So few books seem to be set around the turn of the 20th century, or maybe I am just missing them, but either way I loved this one! It’s the dawn of the automobile, and technology in general is just starting to creep into everyday life. But it’s old enough to still have a very historical feel, one that I thought the author captured really well! Plus, being in small-town Arkansas puts an extra spin on it, because it felt (naturally) more isolated, and therefore made the atmosphere even more on point.
- The family focus was wonderful. Ugh, I felt so bad for Verity. She’s lost her mother, her father has gone mad, and now she and her sister (the only family she has left, mind) are shipped off on an orphan train. Look, “orphan train” in general sounds awful, so we know she’s not in for a treat. But then they’re legit offered up like cattle and wow, no thank you. Verity ends up working for a couple on a farm (also I love them) while Lilah is adopted by the town teacher. But Verity isn’t willing to let Lilah go, and that is at the heart of the story.
- As it turns out though, even as Verity tries to find her way back to Lilah, she ends up making a family of her own along the way. I liked the message that it sent, that even if you are low on genetic family, you can choose people who will be there for you and love you just the same. Without giving too much away, it was just really great to me that there was hope for Verity to find her people again.
- There is definitely plenty of mystery throughout! We’ve got family secrets, personal secrets, some creepy stuff that isn’t explained, and basically lots of pieces of the puzzle to unravel, which kept me interested in the story throughout.
The One Issue I Had:
- The magic parts just didn’t fully work for me. And I am probably pickier than most when it comes to magic and supernatural and such, so do take that for what it’s worth. The magic stuff just required a bit more suspension of disbelief than I had to give, apparently.
Bottom Line: So atmospheric with characters I really cared about, I enjoyed both the mysteriousness and family aspects of this book greatly.
They use magic to silence the world. Who will break the hush?
Seventeen-year-old Shae has led a seemingly quiet life, joking with her best friend Fiona, and chatting with Mads, the neighborhood boy who always knows how to make her smile. All while secretly keeping her fears at bay… Of the disease that took her brother’s life. Of how her dreams seem to bleed into reality around her. Of a group of justice seekers called the Bards who claim to use the magic of Telling to keep her community safe.
When her mother is murdered, she can no longer pretend.
Not knowing who to trust, Shae journeys to unlock the truth, instead finding a new enemy keen to destroy her, a brooding boy with dark secrets, and an untold power she never thought possible.
So, Hush was an interesting series starter! There’s a plague of sorts that killed her brother, and basically caused she and her mom to live as the town pariahs. This for me is just rude, because they didn’t do anything, yet 99% of the townspeople were awful to them. Because people suck, and unfortunately, that felt truly realistic. Crowds of people believing nonsense lies and treating others horribly? YEP, we’re living it! So that to me was a really chilling and intensely relevant situation.
After her mother is murdered and Shae finds less than no sympathy from the townspeople, she sets off to infiltrate the group that she believes has killed her mother. But there’s more to it, much more, than Shae can know. I really loved that even as completely defeated as Shae was, she was able to keep on fighting for what she thought was right. Even when no one had her back, she had her own back.
The world is certainly very interesting, and though I do wish we’d gotten more information on it, I suspect we will in the subsequent book(s?) so I can’t fault it. Shae herself knows very little about it, so it makes sense that the reader is in the dark. The magic system, too, is interesting though needing a bit more development, but again, that could certainly be forthcoming.
I liked Shae, and I look forward to getting to know and understand her better. At times it seems like her sole motivation and character traits are the awfulness she’s trying to fight against, which does make sense. But I’d love to know who she is underneath the pain, too. I’m also hoping that some of the relationships that we begin to see are developed more in the next book.
Bottom Line: Overall a pretty good series beginning, as long as the sequel answers most of my burning questions- and yes, I will definitely be reading the sequel!
From debut author Cole Nagamatsu comes an atmospheric contemporary fantasy about three teens coming of age in the wake of a mysterious death.
Last summer, Link Miller drowned on dry land in the woods, miles away from the nearest body of water. His death was ruled a strange accident, and in the months since, his friends and family have struggled to make sense of it. But Link's close friend Noemi Amato knows the truth: Link drowned in an impossible lake that only she can find. And what's more, someone claiming to be Link has been contacting her, warning Noemi to stay out of the forest.
As these secrets become too heavy for Noemi to shoulder on her own, she turns to Jonas, her new housemate, and Amberlyn, Link's younger sister. All three are trying to find their place—and together, they start to unravel the truth: about themselves, about the world, and about what happened to Link.
Unfolding over a year and told through multiple POVs and a dream journal, We Were Restless Things explores the ways society shapes our reality, how we can learn to love ourselves and others, and the incredible power of our own desires.
Ah, I am back again with some mixed thoughts! There were parts of this that definitely worked for me, but then parts that really didn’t. The funny part is, I can usually put “characters” or “plot” all in one category or the other, but here… less so. Instead, I am going to talk about each aspect separately, and give you my thoughts that way!
The three main POVs come from Jonas, Noemi, and Amberlyn. Jonas has just moved to town to live with his dad after some violence at his last school. Jonas, at first, was okay? Like I didn’t quite know what to think of him, but I was sympathetic to him having to move far from everything and everyone he knows. But as the story went on, I just wasn’t feeling Jonas, frankly. And I can’t even properly pinpoint why, just that he got on my nerves and View Spoiler »his pining for Noemi, when she had already been quite honest about her distaste for sexual acts was just… icky, I guess? It felt almost like he was okay with it when she tried to force herself to be physical with him and just no thank you. « Hide Spoiler
Noemi was the opposite, actually. At first, I found her a little meh. I thought she was supposed to be some kind of “manic pixie dreamgirl” type, but she really wasn’t- or perhaps she was, but only in Jonas’s head, not for real. The more we read about Noemi, the more I started to understand her, got what made her tick.
I’d say Amberlyn was among my favorites. Actually, her dead brother Link was my favorite, and I was pretty salty that I liked the dead guy best of all, but here we are. Amberlyn was obviously sympathetic, considering what she’d been through, and if anyone was entitled to have some rough moments it was her. I also enjoyed where her story went throughout the book.
So, first things first, the woods in question were definitely atmospheric. The whole town seemed so, really, so the author nailed that. But the whole “weird stuff happening in the woods” motif never really connected for me. I was down for figuring out what happened to Link, obviously, but I had a hard time buying some of the things that happened along the way. Keeping this vague for spoiler reasons but if you really want to know, it’s your funeral. View Spoiler »Look I am sorry but I will never be able to believe that the forest is sentient. I can’t. I think that is a “Shannon” problem and not an actual book problem though, so take it with a grain of salt. « Hide Spoiler
This is probably my biggest complaint about the book, honestly. It was a slow go. I guess I just don’t think it needed to be as long as it was? It’s character driven, which I am fine with (and even prefer, often), but it just gets a little draggy, especially in the middle when it felt like not much was happening, and the characters didn’t feel like they were progressing a ton.
I did really like how the group of friends had to learn to cope with Link’s death, and all the changes in their lives. In some ways, it was very coming-of-age, as they all had to try to figure out who they really were, who they wanted to be. They also had to deal with some family stuff, and lots of friendship and relationship issues, and that I quite appreciated. And it did, for the most part, provide a satisfying conclusion, so that is certainly a plus!
Bottom Line: A bit of a mixed bag for me, but I definitely loved the atmosphere and other aspects of this one- definitely more good than not!
A hitched ride home in a snow storm turns sinister when one of the passengers is plotting for the ride to end in disaster.
When Mira flies home to spend Christmas with her mother in Pittsburgh, a record-breaking blizzard results in a cancelled layover. Desperate to get to her grief-ridden mother in the wake of a family death, Mira hitches a ride with a group of friendly college kids who were on her initial flight.
As the drive progresses and weather conditions become more treacherous, Mira realizes that the four other passengers she's stuck in the car with don't actually know one another.
Soon, they're not just dealing with heavy snowfall and ice-slick roads, but the fact that somebody will stop at nothing to ensure their trip ends in a deadly disaster.
Five Total Strangers is certainly compulsively readable and highly entertaining, though I did have a few issues with it that perhaps took me out of the story a little? Though if I am being completely fair, I probably noticed these things more than a typical person did- partly because I live here, and partly because I am just kind of weird about random stuff? Anyway, I will break it on down!
- Like I said, this book was a page-turner! I wanted- nay, needed– to know who was up to what! There is a mystery here, no question, but I didn’t have any idea what was going on, and I love that! I basically couldn’t put it down.
- While the main character gets herself in a very messy situation, it made sense why she’d make these choices. Like- you might read the synopsis and be like “girl, why the heck?” and right? But it does make sense in context! I mean, your home life is a mess, and you know your mom is going through it, you’d want to be home from Christmas too!
- The author nails the atmosphere. I mean, it feels exactly as desperate as you’d expect, being stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere! I was creeped out, no question!
- I liked Mira, and rathered she not be murdered by a blizzard compatriot. I mean, the fact that she cared so much about her mother’s well-being was quite lovely. And I was certainly interested in the other characters too, even if I wasn’t sure if I could trust a damn one of them.
- The geography was just wrong. Again, look, I know that this is likely a “me” thing. But the way these people were driving made no sense! And the author kept talking about Newark Airport like it’s in Pennsylvania when it is very not and then implying that I-80 is near Philly, which again, so much nope. And while it is maybe a silly gripe, it did take me out of the story because I kept having to suspend… well, not disbelief, perhaps suspend knowledge of Mid-Atlantic Highway Systems? 🤷♀️
- I would have liked to know more about the cast of characters, especially at the end. I mean, I liked getting to know them as much as we did, and I did enjoy that they were all fairly mysterious throughout (they had to be, for the sake of the story, really). But after we knew all the stuff, it would have been nice to find out a bit about them. An epilogue, perhaps?
Bottom Line: I devoured this atmospheric thriller, even if a few things may have taken me out of the story a bit. Definitely worth the read, especially as winter approaches (so you, too, can be freaked out by impending weather patterns!)