We know, WE KNOW!! It’s been AWHILE. Haley and I have been incredibly busy in our lives — Haley is quite literally taking the children’s librarian world by storm and I’ve just been recovering from some reading malaise — BUT we miss this little corner of the world and have decided to dust off the old URL and try some blogging again.
There will be some thematic changes coming to the blog that we really think you’ll love, but we just had to get started by returning to one of our favorite posts — a good old Book of the Month At a Glance. We really hope these posts help you choose how to fill that blue box this month and would love any feedback that you might have!
This month the BOTM overlords have blessed us with 7 Main Box picks, so let’s get right to it!!
Sign Here by Claudia Lux (Fantasy Thriller)Sign Here by Claudia Lux
Published by Berkley on October 25, 2022
A darkly humorous, surprisingly poignant, and utterly gripping debut novel about a guy who works in Hell (literally) and is on the cusp of a big promotion if only he can get one more member of the wealthy Harrison family to sell their soul.
Peyote Trip has a pretty good gig in the deals department on the fifth floor of Hell. Sure, none of the pens work, the coffee machine has been out of order for a century, and the only drink on offer is Jägermeister, but Pey has a plan—and all he needs is one last member of the Harrison family to sell their soul.
When the Harrisons retreat to the family lake house for the summer, with their daughter Mickey’s precocious new friend, Ruth, in tow, the opportunity Pey has waited a millennium for might finally be in his grasp. And with the help of his charismatic coworker Calamity, he sets a plan in motion.
But things aren’t always as they seem, on Earth or in Hell. And as old secrets and new dangers scrape away at the Harrisons’ shiny surface, revealing the darkness beneath, everyone must face the consequences of their choices.
After a few Octobers of less than thrilling selections (get it? it’s a pun), it seems BOTM has heard us and has decided to go in hard on spooky reads for the month of October! This one is about a guy who works in Hell and is thiiiis close to getting a promotion, but has to meet that pesky soul-quota. It’s told with multiple POV’s, both in Hell and on Earth, and seems to play both in the dark humor of a story literally set in Hell, as well as the intrigue a family murder-mystery. What jumped out to me when reading early reviews here was both the overall high ratings AND the comparisons to Grady Hendrix, who I really love. That said, even though there is a dark-humor undertone, be aware that this is still very much a thriller and there are some serious content warnings — including child abuse and torture that happen on page. All that said, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive and this one sounds both funny and poignant. I’m not typically a horror girl, but this one might just have to make its way to my house this month.
Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott (Fantasy Retelling)Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott
Published by Anchor Books on September 13, 2022
In the tradition of modern fairytales like American Gods and Spinning Silver comes a sweeping epic rich in Eastern European folklore--a debut novel about the ancestral hauntings that stalk us, and the uncanny power of story.
The Yaga siblings--Bellatine, a young woodworker, and Isaac, a wayfaring street performer and con artist--have been estranged since childhood, separated both by resentment and by wide miles of American highway. But when they learn that they are to receive a mysterious inheritance, the siblings are reunited--only to discover that their bequest isn't land or money, but something far stranger: a sentient house on chicken legs.
Thistlefoot, as the house is called, has arrived from the Yagas' ancestral home in Russia--but not alone. A sinister figure known only as the Longshadow Man has tracked it to American shores, bearing with him violent secrets from the past: fiery memories that have hidden in Isaac and Bellatine's blood for generations. As the Yaga siblings embark with Thistlefoot on a final cross-country tour of their family's traveling theater show, the Longshadow Man follows in relentless pursuit, seeding destruction in his wake. Ultimately, time, magic, and legacy must collide--erupting in a powerful conflagration to determine who gets to remember the past and craft a new future.
An enchanted adventure illuminated by Jewish myth and adorned with lyrical prose as tantalizing and sweet as briar berries, Thistlefoot is an immersive modern fantasy saga by a bold new talent.
Ok all, I’m reading about all of these books in real time as I write this blog post and I literally already want both of these books. Thistlefoot is a modern fairytale retelling featuring descendants of Baba Yaga who inherit her house — “a sentient house on chicken legs.” One of my absolute favorite reads this year so far is Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher, and the modern fairy-tale/retelling vibes I’m getting from Thistlefoot feel very similar (plus a dash of Howl’s Moving Castle maybe?). The author is also part of the research team for the podcast Lore, which I love and so I honestly think this might have to be my main pick for the month. Early reviews are overwhelmingly positive, with just a few comments on the slower pacing at times, but overall reviewers praise its emotional storyline and beautiful writing. Content warning: there are puppets. My guess is some will be frustrated that this was a mid-September release that is only just now coming out in the October BOTM, but I think it makes sense that they held it back for spooky month.
The Family Game by Catherine Steadman (Thriller)The Family Game by Catherine Steadman
Published by Ballantine Books on October 18, 2022
A rich, eccentric family. A time-honored tradition. Or a lethal game of survival? One woman finds out what it really takes to join the 1% in this riveting psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Something in the Water, Mr. Nobody, and The Disappearing Act.
Harry is a novelist on the brink of stardom; Edward, her husband-to-be, is seemingly perfect. In love and freshly engaged, their bliss is interrupted by the reemergence of the Holbecks, Edward's eminent family and the embodiment of American old money. For years, they've dominated headlines and pulled society's strings, and Edward left them all behind to forge his own path. But there are eyes and ears everywhere. It was only a matter of time before they were pulled back in . . .
After all, even though he's long severed ties with his family, Edward is set to inherit it all. Harriet is drawn to the glamour and sophistication of the Holbecks, who seem to welcome her with open arms, but everything changes when she meets Robert, the inescapably magnetic head of the family. At their first meeting, Robert slips Harry a cassette tape, revealing a shocking confession which sets the inevitable game in motion.
What is it about Harry that made him give her that tape? A thing that has the power to destroy everything? As she ramps up her quest for the truth, she must endure the Holbecks' savage Christmas traditions all the while knowing that losing this game could be deadly.
You knew BOTM was going to have a psychological thriller in the mix of October of all months and here we are with The Family Game. Make it a thriller that explores issues of class and family ties and the main character is a novelist? Don’t think you could have come up with a more BOTM book with a random-topic generator, to be quite honest. Even better, early reviews of this one are strong, with reviewers praising the raising tension levels, twist ending, and original premise. Lovers of thrillers will enjoy the pacing and twists that apparently keep things fresh, even for frequent readers of the genre. Overall, this one seems like a very solid pick for lovers of psychological thrillers. Also, I haven’t seen Haley’s picks for the month yet, but if this one isn’t in her box, I’ll eat my hat.
Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese (Historical Fiction/Retelling)Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 4, 2022
Isobel Gamble is a young seamstress carrying generations of secrets when she sets sail from Scotland in the early 1800s with her husband, Edward. An apothecary who has fallen under the spell of opium, his pile of debts have forced them to flee Edinburgh for a fresh start in the New World. But only days after they've arrived in Salem, Edward abruptly joins a departing ship as a medic––leaving Isobel penniless and alone in a strange country, forced to make her way by any means possible.
When she meets a young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is a man haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows––while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. As the weeks pass and Edward's safe return grows increasingly unlikely, Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. Together, they are a muse and a dark storyteller; the enchanter and the enchanted. But which is which?
In this sensuous and hypnotizing tale, a young immigrant woman grapples with our country's complicated past, and learns that America's ideas of freedom and liberty often fall short of their promise. Interwoven with Isobel and Nathaniel's story is a vivid interrogation of who gets to be a "real" American in the first half of the 19th century, a depiction of the early days of the Underground Railroad in New England, and atmospheric interstitials that capture the long history of "unusual" women being accused of witchcraft. Meticulously researched yet evocatively imagined, Hester is a timeless tale of art, ambition, and desire that examines the roots of female creative power and the men who try to shut it down.
A vivid reimagining of the woman who inspired Hester Prynne, the tragic heroine of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, and a journey into the enduring legacy of New England's witchcraft trials.
Ok so, I’m going to start this off with a funny story that will hopefully give you some insight into my undying levels of nerdy book-lover. In my freshman year of college, I joined an organization that around this time of the year threw a Sinners and Saints party. So, I, being the hilarious nerdy book-lover that I often think I am, rented a like 18th century dress and adorned it with a handmade Scarlet A and went to this party as Hester Prynne, the ultimate sinner or saint. Let’s just say it turns out the point of the party was NOT to demonstrate your random literary knowledge, but rather to generally have an excuse to dress in a skimpy angel/devil costume more appropriate for the Florida weather, but I found it hilarious (and still do). And so I’ve always had a soft spot for dear Hester Prynne and this book is definitely calling my name. It’s not-quite-a-retelling, but instead a story about the fictional woman who might have inspired Hester Prynne. This is a historical romance between a Scottish seamstress and young Nathanael Hawthorne, and it explores feminism, inspiration, and witchcraft. This novel is being praised for being well-researched and beautifully written, and has excellent early reviews. If you enjoy historical fiction with a literary flair, this one’s definitely for you!
Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong (YA/Historical Fiction/Fantasy)Foul Lady Fortune by Chloe Gong
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on September 27, 2022
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of These Violent Delights and Our Violent Ends comes the first book in a captivating new duology following an ill-matched pair of spies posing as a married couple to investigate a series of brutal murders in 1930s Shanghai.
It’s 1931 in Shanghai, and the stage is set for a new decade of intrigue.
Four years ago, Rosalind Lang was brought back from the brink of death, but the strange experiment that saved her also stopped her from sleeping and aging—and allows her to heal from any wound. In short, Rosalind cannot die. Now, desperate for redemption for her traitorous past, she uses her abilities as an assassin for her country.
Code name: Fortune.
But when the Japanese Imperial Army begins its invasion march, Rosalind’s mission pivots. A series of murders is causing unrest in Shanghai, and the Japanese are under suspicion. Rosalind’s new orders are to infiltrate foreign society and identify the culprits behind the terror plot before more of her people are killed.
To reduce suspicion, however, she must pose as the wife of another Nationalist spy, Orion Hong, and though Rosalind finds Orion’s cavalier attitude and playboy demeanor infuriating, she is willing to work with him for the greater good. But Orion has an agenda of his own, and Rosalind has secrets that she wants to keep buried. As they both attempt to unravel the conspiracy, the two spies soon find that there are deeper and more horrifying layers to this mystery than they ever imagined.
Another historical fiction/fantasy Shakespeare-inspired duology set in Shanghai coming to us from Chloe Gong and I personally could not be more excited! I also am a HUGE fan of spy books (anyone else read Portrait of a Spy? I really enjoyed it!) and so this one sounds right up my alley. Early reviews are strong, but being honest, there’s definitely a lot of OMG CHLOE GONG SPY NOVEL TAKE ALL MY MONEY reviews in there from folks who rated 5 stars before reading, so maybe take the almost 4.5 with a slight grain of salt. If you’ve read the These Violent Delights duology, this one features Rosalind, Celia and Alisa from those novels. Some complaints include a bit of predictability in the plotting and pacing, but you’ll always see some of that with retellings and series (no one is surprised that there’s a plot twist 85% in to the first book anymore, right?). The author has provided context warnings for this book, which include blood, violence, murder, weapon use, needles, description of human experimentation, descriptions of war, descriptions of head injury. I will probably pick this one up as an add-on next year so that I can read it a bit closer to book #2.
Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah (Historical Fiction)Jacqueline in Paris by Ann Mah
Published by Mariner Books on September 27, 2022
From the bestselling author of The Lost Vintage, a rare and dazzling portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier's college year abroad in postwar Paris, an intimate and electrifying story of love and betrayal, and the coming-of-age of an American icon - before the world knew her as Jackie.
In August 1949 Jacqueline Bouvier arrives in postwar Paris to begin her junior year abroad. She’s twenty years old, socially poised but financially precarious, and all too aware of her mother’s expectations that she make a brilliant match. Before relenting to family pressure, she has one year to herself far away from sleepy Vassar College and the rigid social circles of New York, a year to explore and absorb the luminous beauty of the City of Light. Jacqueline is immediately catapulted into an intoxicating new world of champagne and châteaux, art and avant-garde theater, cafés and jazz clubs. She strikes up a romance with a talented young writer who shares her love of literature and passion for culture – even though her mother would think him most unsuitable.
But beneath the glitter and rush, France is a fragile place still haunted by the Occupation. Jacqueline lives in a rambling apartment with a widowed countess and her daughters, all of whom suffered as part of the French Resistance just a few years before. In the aftermath of World War II, Paris has become a nest of spies, and suspicion, deception, and betrayal lurk around every corner. Jacqueline is stunned to watch the rise of communism – anathema in America, but an active movement in France – never guessing she is witnessing the beginning of the political environment that will shape the rest of her life—and that of her future husband.
Evocative, sensitive, and rich in historic detail, Jacqueline in Paris portrays the origin story of an American icon. Ann Mah brilliantly imagines the intellectual and aesthetic awakening of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, and illuminates how France would prove to be her one true love, and one of the greatest influences on her life.
Ok much like I was not personally shocked by the psychological thriller choice this month, can anyone be surprised that there’s a WW2 historical fiction selection this month as well? That said, this one is an interesting take on Jackie Onassis’ postwar year spent in Paris in the late 1940s. Combining Kennedys and WW2? Now THAT is a BOTM book if I’ve ever heard one. This book is getting rave reviews from historical fiction fans who are calling it well-researched and a beautiful look at both Jackie and the city of Paris, but note that it is a loose portrayal of Jackie and not firm history. There are aspects of romance, suspense, and a look at the hold Communism was gaining on the world at this time. Overall, this seems like a strong selection for people who love the Kennedy’s or Paris or historical fiction — and if you love all three, it’s definitely a sure thing.
As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh (Young Adult/Historical Fiction)As Long as the Lemon Trees Grow by Zoulfa Katouh
on September 13, 2022
Salama Kassab was a pharmacy student when the cries for freedom broke out in Syria. She still had her parents and her big brother; she still had her home. She had a normal teenager’s life.
Now Salama volunteers at a hospital in Homs, helping the wounded who flood through the doors daily. Secretly, though, she is desperate to find a way out of her beloved country before her sister-in-law, Layla, gives birth. So desperate, that she has manifested a physical embodiment of her fear in the form of her imagined companion, Khawf, who haunts her every move in an effort to keep her safe.
But even with Khawf pressing her to leave, Salama is torn between her loyalty to her country and her conviction to survive. Salama must contend with bullets and bombs, military assaults, and her shifting sense of morality before she might finally breathe free. And when she crosses paths with the boy she was supposed to meet one fateful day, she starts to doubt her resolve in leaving home at all.
Soon, Salama must learn to see the events around her for what they truly are—not a war, but a revolution—and decide how she, too, will cry for Syria’s freedom.
This book is absolutely STUNNING. I mean, just look at that cover. An own-voice debut from Katouh that shines a light on the Syrian revolution, this book is getting probably the best reviews of any novel on this list — wholly positive and laudatory. However, please note that the atrocities going on in Syria are not taken lightly in this novel, and nor should they be. But there are definitely some trigger warnings mentioned by reviewers, including sexual assault , parental deaths , murder, war and torture, child abuse and torture, and starvation, much of which is shown on the page. This is absolutely a book that will inspire strong emotions in you — readers report crying, laughing, screaming, but most of all, absolutely loving this book. The writing is strong, the Islamic representation is strong, and overall this sounds like an incredibly important and moving story that needs to be told. It’s definitely going into my BOTM this month.
The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling (Ex-Hex Series #2/Fantasy Romance)The Kiss Curse (The Ex Hex, #2) by Erin Sterling
Published by Avon Books on September 20, 2022
Welcome to Spooky Season!! The follow-up to Erin Sterling’s New York Times bestselling hit The Ex Hex features fan favorite Gwyn and the spine-tinglingly handsome Wells Penhallow as they battle a new band of witches and their own magical chemistry.
Gwyn Jones is perfectly happy with her life in Graves Glen. She, her mom, and her cousin have formed a new and powerful coven; she’s running a successful witchcraft shop, Something Wicked; and she’s started mentoring some of the younger witches in town. As Halloween approaches, there’s only one problem—Llewellyn “Wells” Penhallow.
Wells has come to Graves Glen to re-establish his family’s connection to the town they founded as well as to make a new life for himself after years of being the dutiful son in Wales. When he opens up a shop of his own, Penhallow’s, just across the street from Something Wicked, he quickly learns he’s gotten more than he bargained for in going up against Gwyn.
When their professional competition leads to a very personal—and very hot—kiss, both Wells and Gwyn are determined to stay away from each other, convinced the kiss was just a magical fluke. But when a mysterious new coven of witches come to town and Gwyn’s powers begin fading, she and Wells must work together to figure out just what these new witches want and how to restore Gwyn’s magic before it’s too late.
That’s right, folks, WE ARE STILL GOING. We picked a heck of a month to come back with 9 freaking books from BOTM today. ANYWAY! This is the second book in a witchy romance series. BOTM carried the first one and I was like — witchy romance? Abso-LUTELY going into my cart. Have I read it? Absolutely not. Will I get the second one? You bet your sweet bippy I will. It’s just been a crazy reading year and I feel like this might be the time for me to binge both of these romances. I really enjoy Rachel Hawkins (the author behind this penname) and many readers called The Ex Hex “the perfect Halloween read”. I think if you loved the first one, you’ll love the second, and if you missed your chance, well, add both on this month!
Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young (Mystery/Fantasy)Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young
Published by Delacorte Press on September 27, 2022
A deeply atmospheric story about ancestral magic, an unsolved murder, and a second chance at true love.
Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.
But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.
August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.
The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.
Readers, I am losing steam. But for Adrienne Young, I will push on. I have adored Young ever since Sky in the Deep and am excited to see this one as a BOTM selection. Plus, a mystery-thriller with aspects of magical realism with the main character running a teashop sounds like an excellent October read. The early reviews are excellent, and readers are saying that Young’s first adult novel is an atmospheric read that will keep you up way past your bedtime. It’s spooky and dark and emotional and many are calling it their favorite Young book of all. I love the idea of the island feeling like it’s own living character (reminds me a bit of Wilder Girls almost?) and aspects of magical realism mixed into the mystery sounds pretty perfect for an October evening read.
What’s in The Box?
Haley’s Box #1
Haley’s Box #2
What About You?
What did you add to your box this month? I ended up having to pass on Lemon Trees AND Hester only because the 3 I picked felt like more October-y reads than the others. But those will be showing up in coming months for sure. To me, this is the strongest BOTM month in awhile. What do you think of our picks? Let me know in the comments!