We are so excited to see another subscription service in the game to rival Book of the Month. There’s nothing like some good, healthy competition to keep things interesting. Since boxes will be going out any day now (we can’t wait!) we thought we would break down the first round of picks. We are both so excited for this new box and can’t wait to see the great titles they choose going forward. Like Book of the Month we will be doing prediction posts and reviews of our monthly picks, so stay tuned for that!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at these picks!
Ithaca by Claire North (Historical Fiction/Retelling)Ithaca (Penelope, #1) by Claire North
Published by Redhook on September 6, 2022
This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, famed wife of Odysseus, as it has never been told before. Beyond Ithaca's shores, the whims of gods dictate the wars of men. But on the isle, it is the choices of the abandoned women—and their goddesses—that will change the course of the world. Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom. Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door. No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus' empty throne—not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning, wit, and her trusted circle of maids, can she maintain the tenuous peace needed for the kingdom to survive. On Ithaca, everyone watches, including the gods. And there is no corner of the land where intrigue does not reign.
From the multi-award winning author Claire North comes a daring, powerful, and moving tale that breathes new life into ancient myth, and tells of the women who stand defiant in a world ruled by ruthless men. It's time for the women of Ithaca to tell their story...
Is it really a book subsccription box if we don’t get at least one Greek mythology retelling at some point? With similarities to titles Like Circe by Madeline MIller and Ariadne by Jennifer Saint, Ithaca takes a classic Greek myth and gives it a feminist spin. This particular reimagining brings Penelope, the wife of Odysseus from the Odyssey, to the forefront and kicks off what appears to be the start of a duology. Thought provoking in tone, stylistically complex, and rich in detail; Ithaca seems to be the perfect read for those new to this particular trend and devotees of the subgenre alike. While Aardvark has this one listed as historical fiction, readers should go into Ithaca understanding that it has plenty of literary flair. Many will know Claire North from her science fiction, and, while Ithaca is a departure for the author, reviewers seem to like it well enough. Many readers noted its consistent, albeit slow pace, as well as as it’s numerous- but frequently shallow- characters. From what we can tell, Ithaca is a solid pick for those who have been pining for an Odyssey retelling. We can’t wait to tell you what we think!
The Night Ship by Jess Kidd (Historical Fiction)The Night Ship by Jess Kidd
Published by Atria Books on October 4, 2022
Based on a real-life event, an epic historical novel from the award-winning author of Things in Jars that illuminates the lives of two characters: a girl shipwrecked on an island off Western Australia and, three hundred years later, a boy finding a home with his grandfather on the very same island.
1629: A newly orphaned young girl named Mayken is bound for the Dutch East Indies on the Batavia, one of the greatest ships of the Dutch Golden Age. Curious and mischievous, Mayken spends the long journey going on misadventures above and below the deck, searching for a mythical monster. But the true monsters might be closer than she thinks.
1989: A lonely boy named Gil is sent to live off the coast of Western Australia among the seasonal fishing community where his late mother once resided. There, on the tiny reef-shrouded island, he discovers the story of an infamous shipwreck…
With her trademark “thrilling, mysterious, twisted, but more than anything, beautifully written” (Graham Norton, New York Times bestselling author) storytelling, Jess Kidd weaves a unputdownable and charming tale of friendship and sacrifice, brutality and forgiveness.
Many here will recognize Jess Kidd from her Book of the Month selection: Things In Jars (doesn’t that title just makes you nostalgic for the days of hints/riddles?). The Night Ship is an epic historical novel, based on a real-life event,. It follows the lives of two characters — a newly orphaned girl in 1629 who was shipwrecked on an island off Western Australia, and a lonely boy in 1989 who, 300 years later, arrives on the same island, discovering the story of an infamous shipwreck. Evenly paced and dramatic, this intricately plotted, parallel narrative tackles questions of friendship, sacrifice and survival. With comparison to The Mercies by Kiran Milkwood Hargrave and The Night Tiger by Yangzhee Choo, the narrative carriers with it almost a folkloric quality. Many reviewers, regardless of how much they enjoyed The NIght Ship, described KIdd’s tale as haunting. Reviews on this one are overwhelmingly positive, characterizing the characters we meet as complex and the plot as arresting. Haley is definitely excited to read this one and cannot wait to share her review with all of you.
The House In The Orchard by Elizabeth Brooks (Gothic Fiction)The House in the Orchard by Elizabeth Brooks
Published by Tin House Books on September 27, 2022
1945: War widow Peggy is grateful to have inherited Orchard House from her husband’s Aunt Maude; she looks forward to making a fresh start in rural Cambridgeshire, with her young son. The moment she sets eyes on the rambling property, however, doubt sets in. From the bricked-up cellar to the scent of violets and rotting fruit, the place seems shrouded by dark mysteries. When Peggy discovers Maude’s teenage diary gathering dust inside a broken desk, she begins to read, searching for answers.
1876: Orphaned Maude is forced to leave London, and her adored brother Frank, to live with a stranger. Everyone—especially Frank—tells her not to trust Miss Greenaway, the enigmatic owner of Orchard House, but Maude can’t help warming to her new guardian. Encouraged by Miss Greenaway to speak her mind, follow her curiosity, and form her own opinions, Maude finds herself discovering who she is for the first time, and learning to love her new home in the orchard.
But when Frank comes for an unexpected visit, the delicate balance of Maude’s life is thrown into disarray. Complicating matters more, Maude witnesses an adult world full of interactions she cannot quite understand with implications beyond her grasp. Her efforts to regain control and right the future as she sees fit result in a violent tragedy, the repercussions of which will haunt Orchard House for the rest of Maude’s life—and beyond. Psychologically gripping and masterfully told, The House in the Orchard explores the blurred lines between truth and manipulation, asking us who we can trust, how to tell guilt from forgiveness, and whether we can ever really separate true love from destruction.
Here on Stuck in the Stacks we love a good gothic novel. Set it in a creepy old house and we’ll take two please! Set primarily in 1940s England, our protagonist Peggy inherits a sprawling and mysterious mansion complete with an old journal kept by her late husband’s aunt Maude, dating back to the 1870s. Readers who enjoy a story within a story will want to pick this one up. Beneath the mystery and atmospheric setting is a dual narrative about family, both the traumas we experience and the issues we inevitably inherit. Reviews of this one are interesting because readers are pretty evenly divided. The consensus seems to be that if you develop a love for the characters, then The House In The Orchard will be a hit for you, but if you go into it expecting a scary ghost story for spooky season, you’ll likely be disappointed. We cannot wait to see in which camp we fall in!
The Marsh Queen by Virginia Hartman (Contemporary Fiction)The Marsh Queen by Virginia Hartman
Published by Gallery Books on September 6, 2022
For fans of Where the Crawdads Sing, this powerful novel, set amid the lush landscape of the Florida wetlands, delves into past crimes, old memories, and the eloquent, limitless expanse of parental love.
Loni Mae Murrow’s life as a bird artist at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, is tidy, if a trifle constrained—until she’s abruptly summoned back home to the wetlands of northern Florida, where she grew up. Her mother, critical and difficult, has grown frail and been resentfully consigned to assisted living, and her younger brother, Phil, juggling a job, a wife, and two young children, needs her help. Loni may not be her mother’s only child, but there are some things only a daughter can do.
Going through her mother’s things when she returns, Loni finds a cryptic note from a woman whose name she doesn’t recognize: “There are some things I have to tell you about Boyd’s death,” it reads. Boyd is her father, a man who drowned in a boating accident out on the marsh when Loni was twelve and Phil just a baby. The circumstances of his death, long presumed a suicide, turn out to be murkier than anyone thought.
Against her better judgment, she finds herself drawn into a dangerous quest to discover the truth about how he died, struggling all the while to reconnect with her mother through the remnants of their past and to reconcile with her brother and his pushy, provincial wife. At last moved to avenge the wrongs done to her family, Loni has to decide whether to join the violence or end it.
It is unsurprising that a book set in a Florida marsh is getting comparisons to Where The Crawdads Sing. But it would seem that the setting is about as far as the parallels go through. Nature lovers and readers of family dramas will want to add this one to their box and/or TBR. It tells the story of Loni Mae Murrow, who is summoned home to look after her ailing mother. While there, she finds a cryptic note in her mother’s belongings about Loni’s father, leading her on a dangerous journey to find the truth about his death. The Marsh Queen should not be a book that is picked up for its mystery or suspense, but rather its a title to sink into and live in, with rich detail and flowery prose as vivid as the landscape it describes, its a literary, contemporary novel that reader’s can get lost in on a cool Fall evening. Neither of us picked this one, so everyone who chose it will have to report back and let us know what you think! Is it comparable to Where The Crawdad’s Sing? Is the writing as gorgeous as some are saying? Let us know!
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What did you think of this month’s selections? What are you hoping to see in November? Let us know in the comments!