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 June 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!
The First Mistake by Sandie Jones
The devil is in the details — 5 stars, seacountry
“Sandie Jones’ The First Mistake begins with Alice Davies, a successful interior designer and devoted mother and wife, experiencing a few annoying but ordinary little intrusions on her happiness. Her younger daughter is being bullied, her older daughter is stressed and sullen, her best friend seems to be a bit resentful of her good fortune, and her husband is in Japan negotiating a business deal for the company she owns. It’s revealed that Alice hasn’t always been happy and has worked hard to leave the pit of despair that she fell into when her first husband Tom suddenly died 10 years prior. Alice is understandably afraid that the rug will be pulled out from under her again. Maybe it’s just normal stress. Maybe she’s just a little paranoid….
Well, if that were the case, we wouldn’t have a novel! We certainly wouldn’t have a Sandie Jones novel. Jones returns to the domestic suspense that made her debut The Other Woman a hit. As in The Other Woman, a female protagonist tries to separate truth from lie, friend from foe, and delusion from reality, somewhat doubting her own sanity all the while. It is said that God is in the details, and so is the devil. Paying attention to the details in this novel will be well-rewarded at the end.
There are three acts to this novel. When the timeframe and narrative perspective change, things go from bad to worse (and, of course, far more interesting). I found myself reading much faster when the second part began. Most readers will quickly figure out that Alice can’t quite trust people around her but will be surprised to learn exactly why.
Plenty of bad decisions are made, many difficult decisions result from them, and the emotional stakes are high. The result is a great deal of fun. Stick this one in your carry-on this summer. That will not be a mistake.”
Wicked Fox by Kat Cho
A 2019 must read — 5 stars, postcardsforariel
“This has to be my favorite book of the year thus far. It is addictive and thrilling with action, strong characters, and a great slow-forming friendship. Not to mention the Korean folktales woven into the story. And the cover is absolutely stunning.
Wicked Fox is written in third person and revolves around Miyoung who is a Gumiho, and Jihoon. In the beginning, Miyoung is an independent and standoffish character who doesn’t trust anyone, but we also see another, more vulnerable side of her from the very beginning. We see just how lonely she really is. She’s always moving from place to place with her mother and doesn’t have roots or friends. Then there’s Jihoon. I really liked him. From the outside, he’s likable and has many friends. He’s carefree and gets away with (mostly) everything, but much like Miyoung, we also see another side of him. Both characters recognize something in themselves in each other and slowly form a friendship.
What I really liked about this book was the slow-burn friendship. It wasn’t just that both characters had chemistry or a connection, but that they slowly became friends and learned to trust one another. Jihoon never gave up on Miyoung and taught her that it’s okay to trust and let others in. Although Miyoung was reluctant to form any kind of friendship with anyone, she eventually started to look forward to having a friend.
I also liked that the book took place in modern-day Seoul. But my favorite aspect about the book was the narration. I don’t normally gravitate towards third-person narratives because it often feels like a story is being told rather than being lived, but this wasn’t the case for Wicked Fox. The narration between Miyoung and Jihoon felt relatable and easy. Their friendship wasn’t forced or insta-love. It was well developed and slow, making it that much more believable.”
A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson
Fast-paced legal thriller — 5 stars, jesmlet
“A murder victim who might not be a good guy. A young suspect who may be a victim herself. And parents who would do anything to protect their daughter. A Nearly Normal Family asks of us, what would you do to protect the ones you love?
This was a definite page-turner for me, offering a glimpse of Sweden’s legal system and a translation that was great but maybe not quite perfect. Divided into three sections, we first have the overprotective pastor father, then teenage Stella, then finally the mom who in the past was both literally and figuratively absent. I could’ve done with a bit more mom and a bit less hand-wringing dad, but overall the pacing was solid and moved the story forward. There were little tidbits of wisdom and moral pondering that I really appreciated and the ending was definitely worth the journey. ”
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
A thrilling blend of fantasy and mystery — 5 stars, bcake99
“Magic for Liars is about the lies we tell ourselves and each other. It is about the disastrous things that result from these lies, no matter how well-meaning they were, or how innocent they seemed.
It begins with the gruesome death of a staff member at the Osthorne Academy of Young Mages. After an investigation by the authorities rules the death a suicide, the heads of the Academy are unsatisfied. Enter Ivy Gamble, PI. Ivy isn’t like her sister—she isn’t magical like Tabitha and she doesn’t want to be. Though she spends most of her days following cheating spouses or investigating insurance fraud, she is reluctantly convinced (namely, by a large sum of cash) to re-investigate the death at Osthorne.
Ivy Gamble is a hot mess and an absolutely fascinating character. She is morally gray from head to toe and maybe a little bit out of her depth, but at her core she is intelligent and trying her best. The story unfolds entirely from her perspective as she sleuths around Osthorne, allowing herself to slip in to Tabitha’s world. There is some time given to explaining the magic in this world as Ivy peeks into classrooms and gets to know staff, but there isn’t a deep dive into its limits and intricacies. This seemed to be a sticking point for some readers, but I never found myself bothered by it. The narrator of this story is non-magical, so it felt right that we only had topical glances at the various subjects via Ivy’s encounters with them. Their relationships and interactions drive this plot forward without losing any of the atmospheric tension you’d hope for in a good mystery. This book doesn’t give you that feeling of satisfaction that comes at the end of a typical mystery novel. No, the end of Magic for Liars is devastating. It is devastating and brilliant.
While this book sits firmly in both the realms of mystery and fantasy, it subverts both genres. The evil in this book does not manifest in the form of a sadistic killer, nor is it a dragon to be slain. Ivy Gamble is not our hero, nor is this the story of her redemption. She arrives at Osthorne Academy as a deeply flawed person, and eventually departs in similar form. We don’t get to see her redemption. The choices she makes throughout her investigation are not always good, sometimes even amoral, and some of them will even make you uncomfortable. You might even see a little of yourself in their choices.”
The Haunted by Danielle Vega
Keep the lights on — 5 stars, lewislanereads
“I’ll admit, this had me hooked from the first page. When someone tells you that Danielle Vega is the young adult genre’s answer to Stephen King, you have to wonder, because that is a high threshold. However, I hate that I doubted it because Vega’s writing and style certainly blew me away with her The Haunted.
This is a book to read in the daylight or a one to read to scare you just enough that you’ll sleep with an extra light on and your bedroom door closed. Don’t be alarmed, this has just enough spookiness to it that it will get your nerves going and make you wonder about the noises in the dark at night, but it is a thrilling tale through and through. This is definitely for fans of Stephen King and Grady Hendrix, even if you don’t regularly read YA.”
The Paper Wasp by Laura Acampora
What really happened? — 4 stars, sasha
“The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora is not at all what I expected, based on the description, but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it!
The Paper Wasp is Abby’s story, told by Abby herself. Acampora uses first person narration, at times having a stream of consciousness vibe, to tell of Abby’s highs and lows as she strives to make a name for herself in Los Angeles. She also introduces the reader to Elise, her friend and ticket out of Michigan. As both are focused on their respective, but different, career paths, it seems inevitable that their paths will cross, but to what end?
This was a fun book to explore. I could really immerse myself in the story and the character of Abby, thanks to the first-person narration. At the same time, it made me wonder what really happened during the story’s timeline, especially as I learned more about Abby and was witness to some of her later decisions.
If you want a good page-turner that dives into the mind of someone both motivated but twisted, a book with some unseen twists and turns, I highly recommend The Paper Wasp.”
In at the Deep End by Kate Davies
Life and love in modern London— 5 stars, djcuthbert84
“Kate Davies’ In At The Deep End is a funny and rather charming Bridget Jones-esque look at life and love in modern-day London. Julia is certainly one of the more interesting and realistic characters to be brought to the page in this tale of sexual awakening. Her inconsistencies, doubts and feelings as you go through the novel make her seem all the more genuine, which helps propel you forward in wanting to know what she will get up to. Davies is excellent in making this humor part of the story she is weaving here, rather than just an opportunity to demonstrate her wordplay or wit. It’s impossible to read this this and not think about Bridget Jones in terms of Julia’s character, but Davies’ approach to the subject matter, especially with her takes on LGBT life and modern sexual culture in general, stands on its own. A rather fascinating and enjoyable debut by an author to watch! ”
Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau
If you read one fantasy romance this year, make it this one! — 5 stars, caffeinatedfae
“Fantasy and romance are my favorite genres, so I knew I needed to pick up this book immediately. When this book arrived, I nearly fell over with excitement simply because the cover is so incredibly beautiful. I couldn’t wait to dive in and see if the story lived up to the cover.
Fortunately for me, the story was gorgeous. Kingdom of Exiles is the first book in the Beast Charmer series, and it sets up a beautiful world that I can’t wait to explore in more books. The description of the world itself is enough to keep me coming back. Maxym M. Martineau knows how to make it feel like you’re there exploring the cities and forests side by side with the characters.
Not only were the descriptions on point, but the characters had depth. Each character was well written and added fantastic elements to the story. They each had a reason to be there, and I loved seeing the chemistry between Leena and Noc. Leena’s character arc was probably one of my favorite storylines that I have read this year. I felt so deeply for her. It was as if she was my best friend. I rooted for her, I cried for her, and I laughed with her. I also really loved Noc. He was a mystery that I wanted to solve. I enjoyed each character and loved the relationship between all of them.
All in all, this is one of my favorite books that I have read this year. The characters were well developed, and the plot was fun and unique. I loved everything about it. If you like fantasy and romance, this is the book for you.”
The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren
Handmaid’s Tale meets YA — 4 stars, kbaccellia
“Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven from the evil outside. She’s taught to be submissive and obedient to their leader Daniel. When the ceremony the Matrimony comes, Miriam is excited as she feels Caleb will choose her as his wife. But nothing goes as planned, Miriam is left with lots of questions–including whether or not Daniel is actually a prophet.
This Handmaid’s Tale-meets-YA-book has all the makings of a cult novel. There is a haven out in the desert, away from modern day civilization with a man who professes to be a prophet. The women are supposed to be submissive and humble, and they’re not supposed to speak out. Everything that Miriam isn’t. There’s a lot in this book regarding the Matrimony ceremony where the boys ‘choose’ the girl that they feel God revealed to them in a dream to be their wives. They write down their dreams in a journal which Daniel ‘interprets’ and helps the boys to know who their chosen wives will be. The girls have no say in these decisions, and are separated from the boys from the age of seven.
Caleb’s point of view shows readers the other side of the cult from the male perspective. When things don’t go his way, he reacts first in anger and then tries to appease Daniel. He has his own questions, including questions about why his own prayers weren’t answered. At the end of the novel, he confronts Daniel and demands the truth.
Miriam’s questioning of her faith, Daniel, and God are shown in a very realistic way. When a new member’s family joins the flock, this only adds to her questions. Those around her either try to silence her or shame her. Miriam is strong, courageous, and not afraid. Even if that means she could lose everything she’s ever known.”
Please note that some reviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.