These books are late July/early August releases! Look, I have many to offer! Adult, YA, all the genres! Stuff for everyone!
A hilarious and vulnerable coming-of-age story about the thrilling new experiences––and missteps––of a girl's freshman year of college
Some students enter their freshman year of college knowing exactly what they want to do with their lives. Elliot McHugh is not one of those people. But picking a major is the last thing on Elliot’s mind when she’s too busy experiencing all that college has to offer—from dancing all night at off-campus parties, to testing her RA Rose’s patience, to making new friends, to having the best sex one can have on a twin-sized dorm room bed. But she may not be ready for the fallout when reality hits. When the sex she’s having isn’t that great. When finals creep up and smack her right in the face. Or when her roommate’s boyfriend turns out to be the biggest a-hole. Elliot may make epic mistakes, but if she’s honest with herself (and with you, dear reader), she may just find the person she wants to be. And maybe even fall in love in the process . . . Well, maybe
*TW via author’s website: Fresh depicts: drinking, drug use, profanity, sex, and one scene with sexual assault.
I have mentioned this before, but I love books about the college transition. Frankly, I find them wildly important (any coming-of-age transition, not just college) and so underrepresented, which is odd, considering that pretty much all of us have or will have gone through the post-high school transition to some thing or another! Anyway, Fresh was a really fun take on the first year experience, and was quite charming!
Elliott feels so refreshingly real, and I loved her from the start. She and I are very different people, but I absolutely connected with her from the start. She is funny, charming, and flawed, and I loved every bit of her. The author did a tremendous job not just showing us who Elliott is, but fleshing out her relationships as well. I loved watching her meet her new friends, wondering where those relationships were going to go, etc. Not only that, there is a huge focus on family! Elliott doesn’t just run off to college and forget her family; no, she is homesick, and misses them, even while having fun, and I love that this dichotomy was highlighted.
I also loved that the author fully explored Elliott’s emotions. Like yes, she was excited about college, but also scared, and apprehensive, and stressed. Her emotions ran the gamut, and it felt so realistic and authentic. She also grows so much during her freshman year, and I found that to be a great message.
Speaking of great messages, the book was wholly sex positive, but also was super clear that being sex positive includes not wanting to have sex being okay too. Everyone’s comfort levels were respected, and that was the representation I was here for. I also thought it was great that Elliott had to explore not only her sexuality, but why she was so averse to relationships.
Also, it was just plain funny at times! I love well-placed humor, and this book had it! It also had some heavy moments, but the balance was pretty much spot on.
Bottom Line: Fun and heartwarming while still handling some tough topics, Fresh (and Elliott!) shines.
Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range--five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.
As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents' deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.
In my ridiculous mind, this book was about a cult, à la The Village. View Spoiler »It wasn’t. Like at all. Which is good I guess, since no one wants to guess the entire premise on page 3. ? « Hide Spoiler It was definitely giving me great vibes of creepiness and isolation in the woods, which is a great start to any novel that is supposed to be mysterious, so I enjoyed it from the start.
In Ellerie’s once seemingly idyllic town, strange events start to occur. At first, they can be chalked up to a feud between neighbors, scorned lovers, and what have you. But as time goes on, it’s clear that there is more at play. When a medical emergency makes her parents unavailable to hold down the fort, it falls on Ellerie (and mostly useless twin brother Samuel) to keep everyone alive through the harsh winter. Of course, this becomes even harder when the townspeople begin to turn on each other, and Ellerie finds herself caught in the middle of several groups’ squabbles.
I really liked Ellerie, and loved how she stepped up when her crappy brother wouldn’t. She cares deeply for her sisters, but she also wants to see the town be safe, which I liked. I also liked love interest Whitaker, even if I didn’t really trust him through a large chunk of the book. He seemed at least like a decent guy at his core, and like he actually did care about Ellerie. (In fairness, I think their relationship could have been fleshed out a bit more, but it was still good.)
As I mentioned, the atmosphere for the story was wholly on point. The author did a phenomenal job of making the stakes feel very high, and the whole town felt thick with wrongness. It was spot on, and made me so excited to learn what was the cause of the town’s struggles. I also heavily rooted for Ellerie and her family, because they were incredibly likable, and I wanted them to make it!
My one qualm with the story was that the ending felt… rushed perhaps? Too open? I am not entirely sure, but I didn’t feel wholly satisfied. Like, the story does wrap up, so don’t think you’ll just be left completely hanging, but I did want more, especially after a strong start.
Bottom Line: So creepy and atmospheric, it’s a great sophomore offering from Erin A. Craig, and I cannot wait for whatever she does next!
Brinkley Saunders has a secret.
To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.
In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.
But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.
Heartbreak For Hire has a very fun premise, and is a quick and entertaining read! Let me break down what worked for me and what did not.
What I Liked:
- It’s a cute, feel-good story about reclaiming control of your life. I mean, who doesn’t appreciate that!? Brinkley has been wallowing and stagnant for a long time. Her job has allowed her some financial freedom, but when men are introduced into the workplace, Brinkley and her coworkers feel betrayed, and like their safe space is no longer safe. Really, this is a good thing, because goodness, something has to get Brinkley out of her rut!
- The premise itself is quite fresh! Basically, Brinkley’s company ruins the lives of life ruiners. Seems good, right? (And yes, we all know that things won’t go as planned hah.) Her boss is kind of gross, IMO, and I was always cheering for Brinkley and her coworkers to tell her where she could go. She was quite manipulative, but I suppose that is par for the course when the occupation is literal manipulation.
- Definitely liked Mark. He seemed pretty level-headed and down to earth, and kind of a great match for Brinkley, who needed some of that in her life.
- Complex mother-daughter relationship. It is also high key toxic, don’t get me wrong! But let’s face it, some parent-child relationships are toxic, and I liked that the book showed Brinkley navigating that! Her mother isn’t evil or anything, she’s just really misguided, and kind of taking her own mistakes and dreams out on Brinkley.
What I Didn’t:
- I had a hard time connecting with Brinkley, which would be my qualm with this one. Like, she did grow on me a bit as the story went on, but I didn’t completely like her? Or connect to her in any way, I suppose. It wasn’t even that I disliked her, don’t misunderstand! I just felt mostly apathy toward her.
Bottom Line: Perfect and unique rom-com material, feel-good and uplifting, just wanted to like Brinkley a little more.
Revenge is a dish best served cold.
The students at Roanoke High School have created a soundtrack that runs constantly in Mildred Waco’s mind . . .
Change your hair, Mildred.Change your face, Mildred.Change your body, Mildred.Everyone hates you, Mildred.Are you really going to wear that, Mildred?
The stares, the snickers, the constant teasing—combined with Mildred’s own self-doubt and absentee parents—takes its toll. Stumbling upon the Crossroads Magicks shop, Mildred decides she will no longer simply endure the bullying and skeptically buys a revenge curse.
But when she begins to lose her memory and Roanoke students are found brutally murdered, Mildred realizes that she may have bought more than she bargained for. With time running out, Mildred will have to stop the terrible forces she’s unleashed or lose her soul forever.
Whew, this book was… something. Look, I assumed going in that it was going to be campy and not the sort of book I should take too seriously. Which is fine! I am down for just plain fun sometimes! The problem was, for me, it crossed the line from “entertaining” to “problematic” in a damn hurry, which I cannot really get on board with. That, and there were a lot of things that just didn’t make sense. But we’ll get to that.
When I read the premise of the book, it sounded like it could be kind of fun, in what I assumed was a way for the bullied girl to take back her agency. That isn’t exactly how it works, however. I was morbidly fascinated enough to keep reading, which I guess is a quasi-positive? I was almost desperately hoping it would have some redemptive qualities, but I really wasn’t able to find any. So I am just going to tell you why it was so rough for me, via bullet points I jotted down while reading.
- So, we’re really going there with the fat shaming, eh? And it is problematic in two ways, really. The first is obvious, in that Mildred is teased for her weight. And even Mildred’s mom fat shames her, which, at the start of the book was something I could kind of sympathize with (my dad loved to police my food intake, so I was definitely feeling for her!) But then. THEN. Mildred forgoes any kind of food with nutritional value, noms donuts around the clock, and like.. girl, you gonna get scurvy in a minute. Even then, I was mad at Mom. And frankly, that the book needed to make donuts the villainous food that all fat people must eat and cannot possibly help themselves from shoving into their bodies by the dozen, which pretty heavily infuriated me. But… Mildred literally cannot walk up the (few) steps at school without gasping for air. And she needs a special desk. And then I am kind of wondering if it is fat shaming as much as Mrs. Mildred’s actual concern for her daughter’s health? Because if you can’t even catch your breath as a teen doing a very basic stroll, things aren’t going great. Which leads me to my biggest issue….
- Why is mental health and a damn pediatrician visit never mentioned!? Clearly shaming is not the answer. Not by a long shot. Nor is food policing. But it’s incredibly obvious that Mildred has some serious mental health issues going on, and likely some serious physical issues as well! But instead, let’s… make her go on a diet and let her be bullied at school? It’s absurd!
- Speaking of which, I get that kids can be cruel, but this book is seriously over here trying to make me believe that every. single. person. in Mildred’s school not only ignores her, but hates her to the point of cruelty? That they all make comments? That everyone is mean to her? Even when she is not around, all they can think about is how unappealing she is? Nope nope do not buy. Frankly, I cannot imagine thinking so much about any human being, positively or negatively. Sounds exhausting.
- Not only that, the freaking school employees basically tell her to keep on being bullied. Like, unless this is actual 1927 (see below), no school staff would say anything of the sort, because hello, lawsuits.
- Okay this is probably a petty gripe, but why is everyone named like this is the Class of 1927? You gonna name your kid Mildred, then wonder why bullies have come a-knocking? And okay, maybe it is a family name, sure! But why is everyone else in Mildred’s life named after all my grandma’s besties? It was confusing, and a little weird.
- I didn’t actually care about anyone, even Mildred. Like, I felt bad for her in the way I would feel bad for any human being who was clearly depressed, had severe self-esteem issues, probably some kind of medical problem, and relentless bullying. But otherwise? Mildred was wildly unlikable, and didn’t really have any kind of qualities that redeemed her, outside of pity. Which then kind of made me feel bad because wow, shouldn’t I feel drawn to this poor girl? Well, Idk what that says about me, but I was not. So when things started getting dicey, I could not have possibly cared less if folks were murdered. Die, don’t die, it’s all the same to me.
- Suuuper convenient Parent-in-YA Syndrome. For those who don’t recall, PIYAS is when parents nonsensically disappear because the plot could not continue unless they absurdly vanished into thin air. Mildred’s parents are apparently huge fans of this trope, because they nope out of the picture just in time for Mildred to get into Shenanigans™. Look, I don’t know about you, but my parents would have never left me alone for weeks on end as a teen. And I was a responsible, mostly well-adjusted teen. Mildred can’t even take care of herself in the most basic of ways! In fact, is this even legal? In addition to the pediatrician and psychiatrist calls, I’mma need a quick Childline call too.
And then, things get weirder. As you can read from the synopsis (being careful not to venture near spoiler territory), the book takes a turn for the gory. There are entire side-plots that get introduced that have no business being bothered with, especially considering this book is less than 300 pages. Trying to add entire new groups of people was… ambitious, and it didn’t work out.View Spoiler »I could have handled all of that, at least to some extent, if at least there was some kind of redeeming message in the end. Reader, there was not. « Hide Spoiler
Bottom Line: Ooof.
Welcome to my first half star review! It gets the half because of my morbid fascination to continue, I guess? Technically, I had given it a one star, but then got so mad writing about the donut bit that I took a half away. ?
History and the speculative collide with the modern world when a group of high school girls form a secret society after discovering they can communicate with boys from the past, in this powerful look at female desire, jealousy, and the shifting lines between friendship and rivalry.
After her life is upended by divorce and a cross-country move, 16-year-old Saskia Brown feels like an outsider at her new school—not only is she a transplant, she’s biracial in a population of mostly white students. One day while visiting her only friend at her part-time library job, Saskia encounters a vial of liquid mercury, then touches an old daguerreotype—the precursor of the modern-day photograph—and makes a startling discovery. She is somehow able to visit the man in the portrait: Robert Cornelius, a brilliant young inventor from the nineteenth century. The hitch: she can see him only in her dreams.
Saskia shares her revelation with some classmates, hoping to find connection and friendship among strangers. Under her guidance, the other girls steal portraits of young men from a local college's daguerreotype collection and try the dangerous experiment for themselves. Soon, they each form a bond with their own "Mercury Boy," from an injured Union soldier to a charming pickpocket in New York City.
At night, the girls visit the boys in their dreams. During the day, they hold clandestine meetings of their new secret society. At first, the Mercury Boys Club is a thrilling diversion from their troubled everyday lives, but it's not long before jealousy, violence, and secrets threaten everything the girls hold dear.
Mercury Boys was such a hugely anticipated book for me, and as it turns out, I have such a huge case of mixed feelings going on here that I hardly know where to begin! I guess we should begin, as always, with the positives! Interestingly enough, I found the positives to be very positive, but the downsides to be equally important.
What I Liked:
- You ever find yourself down an absurd, old-timey Wikipedia rabbit hole? I do it all the time. And of all my rabbit holes, one of the most fascinating has to be daguerreotypes. There is something about them so completely haunting, but at the same time, communal. Like yes, the world was wholly different back then, but then you see these people who, in photograph, look so relatable. Anyway, I find the whole history of daguerreotypes and early photography mind-bogglingly fascinating, so to have a whole book based on the premise was pretty awesome.
- Going to various places in time via the girls’ dreams was fabulous! I mean, come on! We got to go to the Civil War for goodness sake! We even got to take some journeys to other countries in addition to the various time periods.
- I really liked the focus on family and friendship. This is extra good because any “romance” was squicky at best. Lila was such an awesome friend to Saskia, and frankly, Saskia should listen to Lila more often, and not the other way around. Saskia and her dad are reeling after her mom’s affair, and trying to start over. Her dad, he tries, and he tries hard. But it’s a lot, suddenly becoming a single parent. So what I am saying here is, I love Mr. Saskia and Lila, and everyone else can exit stage left.
- There were a lot of really great emotional moments. I was gutted by Saskia’s journey to take a daguerreotype of a deceased child, and Adrienne hanging out in Civil War medical tents was eye opening. Also, the girls’ real life struggles were really moving too. Saskia was having such a rough go, trying to navigate her mother’s nonsense, helping her father, trying to fit in, etc. Lila is going through her own stuff, which would be spoilery to mention I think, but again, it was moving. And also, Mr. Saskia has a pretty great arc, if small.
What I Didn’t:
- The aforementioned squickiness. Look, I can understand having a quasi-crush on a long-dead inventor. I guess? I mean look, I don’t regularly catch feels from the deceased, but you do you, girl! The problem was, apart from his living status (in that he was not), he was significantly older than Saskia, married with a myriad of children, and therefore it seemed rather predatory, even if nothing particularly predatory happened? Does this make sense? I guess it’s akin to a teen hanging out with a teacher, where like, the teacher isn’t technically doing anything illegal, but it sits right with literally no one. I looked it up, because of course I did, and in this picture that Saskia snuggles with, he was 30. So, at the very least, homie is close to twice her age. Just saying.
- The toxicity of the club. Why the heck did Saskia stick with Paige and her sister?! Look. I get that we make terrible choices in our youth. And I can even understand Saskia falling in with Paige to begin with, as the new girl at school, with only Lila in her life, etc etc. But how is there no crossed line that will act as enough of a wake up call? I am being vague as not to spoil, but wow. Lila at least can see that certain things are just not okay, but Saskia just went with it, and I now have a lot of questions about her reasoning in general.Also, it was honestly pretty toxic of Saskia herself to pressure Lila into taking the daguerreotypes in the first place. Like… you do not care about your friend’s future because… you’re fascinated by a dead fellow? Okay ?
- Saskia was high key showing many symptoms of depression but it wasn’t spoken about. I mean, she wanted to stay in bed all the time, she was making terribly inappropriate life choices, and seemingly was fine with risking her own (and her friends’) hides more than once because she was so desperate to cling to Cornelius. That… isn’t rational behavior at all, and red flags were going up for me. I feel like that could have been an awesome thing to acknowledge and show her working toward dealing with, but alas.
Bottom Line: While I had some mixed feelings, I cannot deny that Mercury Boys was an inventive and unique story that I quite enjoyed reading!
Courtney Gould’s thrilling debut The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the parts of you that can’t remain hidden, and about finding home in places―and people―you didn’t expect.
The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won't stay hidden any longer.
Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV's ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there's more secrets buried here than they originally let on.
Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.
*TW, provided via the author: Some of the thematic material in The Dead and the Dark involves child death and endangerment, violence including strangulation and drowning, homophobia and homophobic slurs. For a more detailed description of sensitive content please visit gouldbooks.com/books/tdatd
The Dead and the Dark was pretty fabulous, in more ways than one, so I am going to tell you about them!
- I was so pleasantly surprised by the character development and relationship development, especially for a mystery/paranormal book! Logan and her family have been going through some upheaval for some time, and the story delves so deep into their family dynamics. I also loved how we even got some insight into her fathers’ relationship, too! It made me feel like her fathers were actual characters, not caricatures.We also see wonderful development of Logan herself, and Ashley, who is so much more multifaceted than we initially think. At first, we think these young women will never be able to even stand in the same room as each other, but the more we get to know them both, the more we see how genuine each is- and so do they. It’s also really interesting to see Ashley’s relationships within her small town. The dynamics of Snakebite are so different, especially to Logan who has been all over the country.
- Because of how well done the characters were, the stakes felt so high. When you actually like the characters in a murdery book, you get really emotional when they die and such.
- The writing was so good! You know when the author just makes you feel stuff, based on just how beautifully they write? Yeah, that happened here. Not only that, but the author absolutely nailed the atmosphere. This is impressive for any book, let alone a debut!
- Huge focus on diversity and overcoming hatefulness. I love how the author wove these important messages into the story! All the characters had to contend with some kind of hate being thrust upon them, in some cases more than one instance, and the author brilliantly illustrated how Snakebite’s bigotry was harmful to everyone in the town.
- Kept me guessing throughout. A few times I thought I knew. But I had no idea. These are my favorite kinds of books!
- There were some bananas twists and a plot that moved at a great pace. It was such a great combination of character development and plot that I never felt overwhelmed, nor did I feel bored. And when certain things were revealed, I was pretty blown away!
Bottom Line: A book that nails both character development and being thrilling, a rare feat indeed!