Your TBR pile is towering, and you don’t know what to read next. Who do you turn to? Your fellow readers, of course! When the Bookish team is looking for new books to pick up, we browse BookishFirst—a platform where readers can earn points by leaving reviews of upcoming books and use those points to win free books. Here, the Bookish editors have selected the top reviews of April releases from BookishFirst readers. Check out what real readers had to say about these buzzy new titles (including their star ratings), and then visit BookishFirst for an excerpt from each book!
Psst: If you want the chance to win books and be featured here, sign up at BookishFirst.com!
Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
Creepy and fast read— 4 stars, devouringbooks
“Little Darlings tells the tale of every mother’s worst nightmare: her baby being stolen and exchanged for a monster. As fascinating as changeling stories are, I have not found that there are a ton out there. The only ones that I have read before this are The Replacement and the Trylle series, both of which were great. Little Darlings incorporates folklore into the tale as well, giving it a terrifying edge over the other books I mentioned.
This story had me captivated as I felt so bad for Lauren, the mother of two twin boys who were taken. I never knew what to think. I found myself doubting Lauren at times, just like other characters in the novel. At points, I believed that she was genuinely crazy. Lauren was a character who received my genuine sympathy.
The chapters alternated between Lauren’s story and Harper’s, the detective on the case. This alternating storyline ramped up the tension and kept me on the edge of my seat. This story was filled with so much folklore, but it was the dark kind. The combination of all of this made the story spooky and thrilling at the same time.
I was really excited for this one, and while it was great, I wanted it to be even spookier. The changeling babies were creepy, but I wanted them to be a bit more sinister. Although it wasn’t exactly as sinister as I wanted it to be and at times I felt like Lauren came across as too crazy, I loved reading this book. It had so much folklore at its core and kept me wanting more. I hope that everyone checks this one out, because it was a great read. If you are looking for a dark thriller this book is for you.”
Cape May by Chip Cheek
Fast-paced, intriguing dissolution of a marriage — 3 stars, eseide
“Henry and Effie are newlyweds honeymooning during the off season in Cape May, New Jersey, in Effie’s uncle’s beach house in 1957. They don’t really know each other very well, they’re sexually inexperienced, and are having some difficulty with the awkwardness of being around each other all day. Bored and restless, they decide to leave early and go home.
Then they see lights on at a nearby house… neighbors! They get excited, thinking maybe meeting some new people will liven things up. They have no idea just how much.
Their new neighbors, Clara and Max, are not completely unfamiliar to Effie. Clara was a friend of the family while she was growing up during the summers at Cape May, and Clara often teased the younger Effie to the point of bullying. Effie is reluctant to spend any time with her, but they can’t escape Clara’s constant invitations to parties, and soon they’re captivated by Clara’s carefree bohemian lifestyle with her lover, Max.
Clara throws wild parties that quickly get out of hand, replete with gin and casual sex. She brings in cosmopolitan friends from New York, and the Georgia newlyweds are swept up in the hedonism. This decadence, however fun at first, quickly devolves into dangerous flirtations and destruction.
The drunken sex parties got somewhat repetitive, and the story takes a while to get going, but nevertheless, it maintained my interest. Just about every character is loathsome, but even though these people are self-centered and repugnant, I couldn’t help but keep reading to see what they would do. The focus on Henry’s experience offered some specific insights, but the lack of attention to other characters, specifically Effie, were detrimental to rounding out the story’s perspective. There is a strange leap forward in time in a rushed epilogue, but at least it serves to answer the curiosity of ‘So, what happened to them?’
It’s a fun book with a psychological bent of what superficially milquetoast people are capable of when shown a wilder side of life.”
Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock
From beginning to end this was full of surprises — 5 stars, jmkolin
“When Maud Warner entered a New York restaurant and shot financier Sun Sunderland as he lunched with his friend Burt Sklar, was he the actual target or was she really aiming for Sklar? Maud was raised as a member of New York society, but when her step-father died her mother turned over control of their finances to Sklar. After the death of her mother, Maud and her brother were informed that there was no money left of the millions that he initially controlled. Now Maud has carefully plotted her revenge. Having become a frequent poker player, she knows the importance of a good bluff and she uses this to her advantage.
She was referred to as ‘Mad Maud’ when she first started making accusations against Sklar, but time has passed and she was forgotten by most of her old friends. Now Sunderland is dead. News of his infidelity and financial manipulations are flying through society and his best friend Sklar played a part in all of it. It seems ‘Mad Maud’ was right and now she has to find a way to use these accusations to her advantage.
Jane Stanton Hitchcock has written a story that is full of unexpected twists. From Maud’s opening shot to her final surprising testimony in court, her actions are calculated and she never shows her hand until the game is over. From the New York society dinners to the illegal poker dens, this story was pure fun to read and I would highly recommend it.”
In the Night of Memory by Linda LeGarde Grover
Hauntingly beautiful and profoundly heartbreaking — 5 stars, nancyadairb
“Azure Sky was the storyteller who kept the visual memory alive for her elder sister Rainfall Dawn. Their mother Loretta roused them from their bed on the couch, and wrapping them in a blanket, took them outside to see the northern lights flashing in the night sky. Loretta folded her blanket and drew it across her shoulders, chanting and dancing in the old way. The next morning Loretta left the girls, unable to care for them, hoping that rehab would change her life and reunite her family.
Azure and Rainy never saw their mother again.
They were two halves of the same sister, stronger together than apart. But the county did part them. Azure survived; Rainy was broken. When they were teens their extended Ojibwa family tracked them down and through the Indian Child Welfare Act returned them to their people.
In the Night of Memory by Linda LeGarde Grover is hauntingly beautiful and heartbreaking. Different voices tell the story of Loretta, Azure, and Rainy, which is the story of a community broken by colonialism and the removal of Native children. And how, having lost Loretta, they determine not to lose Loretta’s children but bring them back home.”
The Gillespie County Fair by Marc Hess
Inside the hearts and minds in a small Texas town — 5 stars, clennek
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Gillespie County Fair. There is so much more to this book and storyline than one would expect by reading the title. It has small-town politics, secrets within secrets, and characters acting on erroneous information. I particularly enjoyed the characters, the way they interacted with each other, and the motivations behind their actions.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever lived or dreamed of living in a small town. There is a uniqueness to this environment which is further enhanced by the author’s depth of knowledge about this small town in the always surprising state of Texas. I can’t wait to read more books by Marc Hess.”
King of Kings by Wilbur Smith
Surprised me! — 4 stars, marjoh13
“King of Kings by Wilbur Smith began very slowly for me. At first I thought I might give up but I felt compelled to read the entire book and give it the attention it deserved. I am so glad I did. After a few days of picking it up and putting it back down I found myself truly drawn into the story and the characters.
The author does such a good job of developing the characters fully and then allowing the reader to become immersed in the entire story. All at once I found myself looking forward to continuing to read. The uniqueness of the story as it unfolds is true genius and the writing is superb. While this is a book that you may find difficult to get into immediately, it is a story well worth staying with.”
Please note that some reviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.