So, all my October books fit into one post, woo! Also, they freaking slayed, guys. You need these in your life. Bravo, October authors!
Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty
Wrath by Sharon Moalem & Daniel Kraus
HellSans by Ever Dundas
The Sevenfold Hunters by Rose Egal
Singer Distance by Ethan Chatagnier
Into the Riverlands by Nghi Vo
Lute by Jennifer Marie Thorne
From idyllic small towns to claustrophobic urban landscapes, Mallory Viridian is constantly embroiled in murder cases that only she has the insight to solve. But outside of a classic mystery novel, being surrounded by death doesn’t make you a charming amateur detective, it makes you a suspect and a social pariah. So when Mallory gets the opportunity to take refuge on a sentient space station, she thinks she has the solution. Surely the murders will stop if her only company is alien beings. At first her new existence is peacefully quiet…and markedly devoid of homicide.
But when the station agrees to allow additional human guests, Mallory knows the break from her peculiar reality is over. After the first Earth shuttle arrives, and aliens and humans alike begin to die, the station is thrown into peril. Stuck smack-dab in the middle of an extraterrestrial whodunit, and wondering how in the world this keeps happening to her anyway, Mallory has to solve the crime—and fast—or the list of victims could grow to include everyone on board….
So I loved this book a lot. The characters caught my attention from the start, and obviously the idea of a murder mystery in space is fabulous! Not only did it have all the basic elements that make a murder mystery fun and thrilling, but it has space shenanigans! I sure love a space shenanigan.
While I loved our human main character Mallory, I also adored the full cast of characters- and all the various alien species this includes. Mallory is convinced that she is the reason folks on Earth have ended up meeting their demise, so when the chance arises to hop aboard a spaceship with nearly no humans, all aliens? This seems like the perfect solution.
Only, the mysteries follow Mallory. Which made for a really fun reading experience. Layers upon layers of mysteries, both from the past and what occurred on Earth, and the present. And as more humans approach Mallory’s new home, the stakes grow even higher.
The book also has a nice dose of humor, which really worked for me. Adding light moments with some very obviously heavier ones made for the perfect balance. Things aboard the space station could be brutal, and certainly action-packed, but when mixed with the lighter moments and the great characters and their relationships, it was balanced wonderfully.
Bottom Line: Loved this perfect blend of intensity, humor, and character development. I could not put it down, and I cannot wait for book two!
In a future much nearer than you think, where scientific experimentation is exploited for commercial profit, unwisely under-supervised cutting-edge technology creates a menace that threatens the very fabric of human existence.
Wrath is the story of a lab rat instilled with human genes whose supersized intelligence helps him to engineer his escape into the world outside the lab: a world vastly ill-equipped to deal with the menace he represents. Modified through advances that have boosted his awareness of humankind’s cruelty in the name of science, and endowed with a rat’s natural proclivity to procreate regularly, Sammy has the potential to sire a rodent army capable of viciously overwhelming the human race.
Well, Wrath was delightfully messed up! I suppose it requires some level of suspension of disbelief to believe that rats have been made to have the thought process of humans, but in fact, there is a lot of discussion of how that could be accomplished (the answer is obviously “not well”, as you may have gathered from the synopsis) so really it wasn’t a big stretch.
I loved pretty much everything about this book. It is obviously very thought-provoking, and raises a ton of questions about science and morality. It also isn’t much of a stretch to assume that someone with a little too much of a desire for wealth and celebrity would literally mutate animals for his own gain. Since we’re privy to several characters’ points of view, we also get to see what decisions other people involved in this would make- and of course, ask ourselves what we’d do in their shoes.
The horror element was spot on, too. Because on one hand, sure, Sammy the Rat sounds adorable. But… he’s also a mutated rat? So talk about conflicting feelings. There is also a child’s perspective involved, via young Dallas, and without giving too much away, I found his point of view lovely because it really reminds the reader that humanity is still alive and well.
There is definitely some gore in this one, so be aware if that is something you have trouble with. And obviously, rats do get harmed in this process. But if it sounds like your jam, it is wonderfully unique, and full of action, character examination, and you know, rats with elementary-level brain development.
Bottom Line: Who knew I needed a book about human-brained rats so badly? Turns out, I did.
When every word you read, whatever it says, fills you with euphoric calm - that's HellSans; a typeface used everywhere by the government. To keep people happy. Blissful. And controlled.
Unless you're allergic. And then every word is agony. Then HellSans is hell, and reading it will slowly kill you.
HellSans is the story of two women.
CEO Jane Ward is famous and successful, until she falls ill with the allergy and her life falls apart, dumping her in the ghetto with the other HSAs (HellSans Allergic). Where she meets...
Dr Icho Smith, a scientist who has a cure for the allergy. But she's on the run from the government, and the Seraphs, a terrorist group with their own plan for the HSAs...
HellSans innovative structure allows you to read either Jane or Icho's story first, before their lives meet in the terrifying finale.
HellSans is dystopia writ large. A novel where words can kill.
HellSans is certainly unique, that is for sure! I mean, a font that can create bliss, but also pain for those allergic? That is a new one for me! And while I did have a wee bit of trouble with comprehending the font bit, I did love the rest! So let’s break it down!
What I Liked:
- The characters and their relationships were wonderfully developed. I really enjoyed Icho and Jane, and their personal journeys with HellSans. They were each invested but for very different reasons. I also loved their relationship that grew as they were dealing with the ramifications of HellSans on their lives. Oh, and for fun, their stories are told separately at first- and you can read them in any old order, that is clever! (And don’t worry- the stories are not repetitive, which was my concern heading in!)
- There is a lot of great social commentary. There are a lot of people who are treated poorly in this society. And not just because of allergies to HellSans, though that is a big one. So not only does it tackle abelism, but a whole host of other societal issues that we face. I won’t go into too much detail, because I feel like I’d have to get into spoiler territory, but I enjoyed it.
- There is a good amount of excitement and high stakes in the plot. There are a ton of great twists and turns, and plenty of adventure to keep the reader guessing.
- Cyborgs. Everyone who’s anyone has a cyborg. Need I say more?
What I Had Trouble With:
- I just don’t understand how a font has any of these properties? I mean, there are plenty of fonts that are not easy on the eyes, I get it. But… just how? I wish this had been explained a bit more, because it was hard for me to suspend my disbelief that a font can have that much power over folks. Just… how can one be allergic to a font even?
Bottom Line: The story and the characters were awesome enough to overcome any issues I had with Fonts With Powers™.
There’s nothing hijabi alien hunter Abyan wants more than to graduate from Carlisle Academy and finally rid the Earth of aliens, the Nosaru.
Everything is going to plan until the Nosaru kill one of Abyan’s squad mates. To make matters worse, the school admins replace her elite squad member with a sub-par new recruit, Artemis. Despite Artemis failing every test—and bringing the team down with her—their cutthroat instructors refuse to kick her out.
Together Abyan, Artemis and the rest of the team unravel the mystery of why Artemis is actually there, what the Nosaru really want, and what Carlisle Academy has been hiding from them all.
The Sevenfold Hunters is a fun adventure with a pretty large (seven, obviously) cast of characters who are training to fight off some real baddies- alien baddies, in fact. After they lost one of their own in the school year prior, he’s replaced with his girlfriend, and the squad has mixed feelings. But, they’ll have to work together if they want to defeat their enemies- whoever they end up being.
What I Liked:
- I loved the “found family” concept. A lot of these kids didn’t exactly have a great support system waiting in the wings, so they became each other’s people. That is a lovely sentiment, yeah? Plus, it helps to explain why they were so hard on Artemis, since they were still grieving the loss of their squadmate. The relationships they all developed with each other were great!
- Such a fun, diverse cast! They were certainly all very different, from all kinds of backgrounds, and from all over the world. They all also had really different personalities, which was great, and even though it was a shorter book, they seemed pretty well developed, too.
- There was a lot of mystery surrounding the school and the Nosaru. I mean, who the heck can the squad trust at this point? They don’t know, and neither does the reader, which really ups the ante. The Nosaru, who are the alien ne’er-do-wells, are also more complex than meets the eye.
- I was definitely invested in the outcome. Sure, because I really enjoyed the Sevenfold and didn’t want them to die, but also because I really just wanted to know what Nosaru wanted, and what was going to happen.
What I Had Trouble With:
- I didn’t fully understand the world. Full disclosure, I have no idea if this will have a sequel. If it does, perhaps it will answer some of my burning questions. But as it stands now, I just need more information on the Nosaru, the schools, and just the world in general.
- The beginning was a little draggy for me. There is quite a bit of time focused on the characters in the beginning, which I am usually cool with. I like character focus! But at times, it felt like too much character focus, and not quite enough on what the heck the book was about otherwise. It does eventually pick up, no question, but I feel like starting the action a bit earlier would have made the pacing flow better.
Bottom Line: An enjoyable and diverse cast of characters stand out in this one, and the Nosaru have definitely piqued my interest!
The odds of the planet next door hosting intelligent life are—that’s not luck. That’s a miracle. It means something.
In December 1960, Crystal Singer, her boyfriend Rick, and three other MIT grad students take a cross-country road trip from Boston to Arizona to paint a message in the desert. Mars has been silent for thirty years, since the last time Earth solved one of the mathematical proofs the Martian civilization carved onto its surface. The latest proof, which seems to assert contradictory truths about distance, has resisted human understanding for decades. Crystal thinks she’s solved it, and Rick is intent on putting her answer to the test—if he can keep her from cracking under the pressure on the way. But Crystal’s disappearance after the experiment will set him on a different path than he expected, forever changing the distance between them.
Filled with mystery and wonder, Ethan Chatagnier’s Singer Distance is a novel about ambition, loneliness, friendship, exploration, and love—about how far we’re willing to go to communicate with a distant civilization, and the great lengths we’ll travel to connect with each other here on Earth.
Singer Distance was a really interesting story, probably not at all what I expected, but enjoyable nonetheless. In a world where there are Martians, they are definitely smarter than us, and have been sending us puzzles for decades, a group of math wizard grad students take a road trip to attempt to solve their latest puzzle. Crystal is at the center of it all, and her boyfriend Rick will do just about anything to help her get there.
The story is far less about the Martians, and far more about Rick and his journey. It’s about the lengths we go to to achieve goals, and the lengths we go to for the people we love. After their initial journey, Crystal starts to drift away. At first, Rick hears from her frequently, but as the months, then years, pass, she grows more distant. But Rick can’t seem to let go, and while Crystal is off chasing math answers for aliens, Rick is chasing Crystal.
It’s certainly a quiet story, though a lovely one. It’s light on the Martians- we don’t actually really have much to do with them outside the puzzles- but heavy on humanity. While I’d probably have preferred a bit stronger of an ending, it was still sufficient. I did have some idea of where the twists were heading, but I think that was okay, for it was more how Rick would respond to the twists of his life than how the reader would.
Bottom Line: Quiet, but with a lovely human-centered story, it was worth the journey even without the Martians.
The Hugo, Locus, Igynte Award Finalist and Crawford Award-Winning Series
Wandering cleric Chih of the Singing Hills travels to the riverlands to record tales of the notorious near-immortal martial artists who haunt the region. On the road to Betony Docks, they fall in with a pair of young women far from home, and an older couple who are more than they seem. As Chih runs headlong into an ancient feud, they find themselves far more entangled in the history of the riverlands than they ever expected to be.
Accompanied by Almost Brilliant, a talking bird with an indelible memory, Chih confronts old legends and new dangers alike as they learn that every story—beautiful, ugly, kind, or cruel—bears more than one face.
The Singing Hills Cycle
The Empress of Salt and FortuneWhen the Tiger Came Down the MountainInto the Riverlands The novellas of The Singing Hills Cycle are linked by the cleric Chih, but may be read in any order, with each story serving as an entrypoint.
Gosh this series is so lovely! To be fair, this one is a bit more… quietly lovely, perhaps? But still, a quality offering as always. In this installment, cleric Chih hears a story that focuses on women, and more importantly, how stories about women are told. It, as all the others, are applicable in any time and in any world- and certainly, in ours.
While the beginnings of this one felt a bit more low key to me, the ending was incredible, and certainly worth the lead-up. Plus, Nghi Vo’s writing is positively stunning, and always, always worth reading.
Bottom Line: If you haven’t started this series, you must, and if you have, you certainly won’t want to miss this latest installment.
Wicker Man meets Final Destination in Jennifer Thorne's atmospheric, unsettling folk horror novel about love, duty, and community.
On the idyllic island of Lute, every seventh summer, seven people die. No more, no less.
Lute and its inhabitants are blessed, year after year, with good weather, good health, and good fortune. They live a happy, superior life, untouched by the war that rages all around them. So it’s only fair that every seven years, on the day of the tithe, the island’s gift is honored.
Nina Treadway is new to The Day. A Florida girl by birth, she became a Lady through her marriage to Lord Treadway, whose family has long protected the island. Nina’s heard about The Day, of course. Heard about the horrific tragedies, the lives lost, but she doesn’t believe in it. It's all superstitious nonsense. Stories told to keep newcomers at bay and youngsters in line.
Then The Day begins. And it's a day of nightmares, of grief, of reckoning. But it is also a day of community. Of survival and strength. Of love, at its most pure and untamed. When The Day ends, Nina―and Lute―will never be the same.
Lute was another huge win for me! First things out of the way: I admit to being a tad confused when the book started? But honestly that is such a minor thing that it doesn’t even matter. Because legit, once I got into the story (which did not take long), I was into the story! (I tell you this in case you too find yourself a little iffy for the first few pages- it is just so worth it!)
I don’t know how to describe why I loved this so much without giving too much away, so sorry if I am vague and/or short. You should just go into this knowing very little, so I will just explain a few things I enjoyed.
- I really enjoyed the main character, Nina. I also found her to be really relatable. She doesn’t really believe in this whole “seven dead folks” business, which I would not have either. But she’s also trying to raise her kids, and deal with her husband, and fulfill her role on the island, and everyone is losing their minds. So you can understand. I also loved the development she undertook during the course of the story. She comes to realize some things about herself, and I was a huge fan.
- The atmosphere is incredibly on point. I mean, I was creeped out by Lute from the start! Even when I was Team Nina, thinking that everyone had lost their minds, this island was still giving me the heebie-jeebies. And it only gets more terrifyingly atmospheric as the story builds.
- I legit just fell into this story and could not stop reading. It was one of those books that I lost all track of time while reading, and when I did have to take a break, I was mad about it. I just wanted to know all the things! It was so very readable, and intense.
- I liked the other characters, too. I feel like this is important, because when you have a group of people where some are going to maybe die, it doesn’t bode well if you don’t care if they die. But I cared about plenty of characters enough to absolutely worry about their safety.
- There are some great themes and some great twists that I want to talk about but can’t so just trust me. Gah I hate not being able to say stuff but. This is for your own good.
Bottom Line: I devoured this book, simply could not put it down. Atmospheric, with great characters and great twists, I loved every minute.