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 book reviews of October 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!
Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
Riveting! — 5 stars, heatherericksonauthor
“Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur is a fascinating memoir about a daughter, her mother, and the unhealthy dynamic between them. We get our first glimpse of their relationship the night that Malabar, Adrienne’s mother, wakes 14-year-old Adrienne to tell her, “Ben Souther just kissed me!” Ben Souther was the best friend of Malabar’s husband! What would Adrienne do? From the first page to the last, I was completely riveted by this colorful and memorable family and their complicated relationships.
The setting of Wild Game was part of the novel’s charm. Cape Cod has a mystique all its own. Malabar’s dishes from the sea to the table would rival any gourmet’s and they captured my imagination throughout the novel. As a mother, I couldn’t help but wonder how another mother could be so blind to the position she had put her daughter in. Would Adrienne ever wrestle free of the power Malabar seemed to have over her?
One thing about Wild Game that I especially appreciated was the conscience of the author. She was keenly aware of the feelings of the other characters and how her actions would affect them. This wasn’t a novel about blame; it was about healing. How do we move beyond the inadequacies of our origins to a place where we are healthy and whole?
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys
A history lesson you won’t want to end — 4 stars, writeontrend
“Under the oppressive dictatorship of Francisco Franco, the Spanish people are suffering. Daniel sees it in the pained look on his mother’s face. The Spain of 1957 is not the one she remembers from her youth. Franco’s military ruthlessly patrols the streets and Daniel’s photographic curiosity has already resulted in one unpleasant run-in with them. His fluent Spanish might not be enough to smooth over his next one.
Ana dreams of the life depicted in the glossy pages of the magazines left at the American hotel where she works. Ana’s parents did not survive the Spanish Civil War, and Ana and her siblings live as outcasts in poverty and fear. Julia, Ana’s sister, warns her about pursuing her futile dreams and getting too friendly with the hotel guests. They cannot afford for her to lose her job.
When the hotel assigns Ana to Daniel’s family’s suite, Daniel has the chance to view the streets through Ana’s insider’s point of view. If he can just persuade her to write the captions that will accompany his images, he can build a portfolio worthy of admission to a journalism school. However, Spain has secrets that she holds close and so does Ana. Can Daniel convince her that his intentions are noble ones? Can Ana trust him? Will their growing connection cost Ana her job and her family their future? Will Daniel’s drive to get the perfect shot get him thrown in a Spanish prison, or worse?
Ruta Sepetys presents a tale that is meticulously researched and thoughtfully and compellingly told. The Fountains of Silence is a tale of hope and the important part it plays in seeing people through periods of struggle and hardship. Ana and Daniel are relatable and relevant characters through which Sepetys explores the themes of feminism, privilege, politics, and religion. At the root of this beautifully told story is an important history lesson that reads like a movie put to a page. Sepetys has once again delivered a novel that will keep readers of all ages reading until late into the night and Googling the places and historical points learned about the next morning.”
Fireborne by Rosaria Munda
Favorite book of the year (so far)! — 5 stars, rachelisce
“I don’t quite know how to express my love for this book. I’ll admit I was a little skeptical going in and the sheer number of characters introduced in just the first two chapters was a bit overwhelming. But by the end of the second chapter, I was already on my way to falling hard.
I love the world: It’s vibrant and well-developed, and it allows for some awesome examinations of sexism, classism, ableism, and privilege. Our main characters have to grapple with a lot of hypocrisy in the society around them, and they’re often forced to choose between multiple terrible options. I found these very real gray areas extremely compelling.
I really truly love all the characters and I especially adore Lee and Annie. They’re both trying to do the best they can for their people and be the best people they can be, and I was rooting for them both so hard. The very best part of this book is the relationship between Annie and Lee. I am utterly thrilled by any situation in which two characters have some sort of deep, strong connection that everyone around them can sort of see but not quite understand. They hit a lot of rough spots in this book, but underneath everything, they have such profound respect for each other and care about each other so deeply. Even when they’re not on speaking terms, you know they’d each drop everything for the other in a heartbeat.
It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve been this on fire (haha) about a book—Fireborne is, without doubt, my favorite read so far this year, and the Aurelian Cycle is very likely my new favorite current series. I seriously can’t comprehend the idea of waiting at least another year for book two.”
Takes One to Know One by Susan Isaacs
From laugh-out-loud to edge of your seat — 5 stars, jmkolin
“Corie Geller gave up a position with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to become a wife and mother, although she still works for the FBI on a contract basis. She is fluent in Arabic and now scouts Arabic fiction for publication. Responding to an article in the Shorehaven Sentinel, she joins a support group for freelancers who meet weekly for lunch.
Corie’s training kicks in when she notices one member behaving strangely. Pete Delaney must always sit facing the window, where he continually watches his car. His responses to questions from the group seem terse and he rarely offers any personal information. Using her contacts with the FBI, she begins to investigate Pete. She also consults with her father, a former police officer who saw to her training in martial arts and encouraged her interest in law enforcement. What she eventually finds is more than she ever considered, putting her in mortal danger.
Susan Isaacs is in top form with this thriller. Corie’s description of life in the suburbs and dealing with a teenager are humorous and sometimes had me laughing out loud. Isaacs can also put you on the edge of your seat as she builds tension. This is a book that I could not put down and Takes One to Know One has become one of my favorite books this year.”
The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis
Feminist adventure story — 5 stars, seasaltdaydreams
“It’s been a while since I’ve had a proper book hangover. You know the feeling when you’ve read a book that you loved and you can’t possibly fathom reading anything else now that it’s over? That was The Good Luck Girls for me. I couldn’t seem to put it down once I started reading.
The Good Luck Girls follows sisters Aster and Clementine, teenage girls living in the harsh country of Arketta and branded with elaborate tattoos known as favors. They only have each other to rely on. After Clementine accidentally kills a man, the two escape with their best friends Mallow and Tansy, and enemy Violet. Now on the run from the law, and with no one to trust but themselves, the five of them form an unlikely alliance. They set out to find the mysterious Lady Ghost, a woman believed to have the power to remove their favors and free them from life as Good Luck Girls once and for all.
To put it simply, I loved this book. I immediately identified with the character of Aster. Though the story is told in third person, it is told from Aster’s perspective. Aster is incredibly brazen, yet pragmatic. She’s fully aware of the peril involved in the girls’ escape and in their travels to find Lady Ghost.
Nicole Davis does an excellent job of worldbuilding, all the while tackling the heavy topics of slavery, sex-trafficking, and poverty. I found it very easy to imagine the cruel country of Arketta, although at times I wish I had a map to go back to.
It was hard for me to read that final chapter and say goodbye to the characters I had come to care about so much. I really hope there’s a sequel!”
The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
Dark and seductive — 5 stars, lifeofaliterarynerd
“The Beautiful follows headstrong Celine Rousseau as she leaves Paris and her past behind to embark on a journey to a new city brimming with possibility and adventure. But when murders start happening around her, Celine fears the city isn’t as glamorous as she thought.
The Beautiful was superbly written. There a sly grace that reflects the setting and genre of the story and creates the most haunting, seductive, and mysterious atmosphere. I really loved getting chapters from the murder’s perspective—they were both chilling and alluring, a perfect combination to keep you engaged. New Orleans is the ideal setting for a dark vampire story. You get the magic aura of the city combined with the way the city is intrinsically alive and thriving, even in the face of such a looming threat.
I thought Celine was a very strong character. I loved her zeal for life. She wants freedom and adventure and she will not be shamed for it. She cares deeply for the select few she counts as friends, and she will protect them at all costs. Sébastien is one suave aristocratic criminal. His charisma and charm will pull you right in. He’s the epitome of a brooding bad boy, but that’s why you love him. I loved seeing him in the middle of La Cour des Lions. The glitzy underground crime ring showed his power and sway among the people of New Orleans. As the police officer who keeps getting in the way of Celine’s investigation, Michael Grimaldi is not high on her list of favorite people in the city, but there was something about him that I really liked. I feel like Michael and Bastien are two sides of the same coin, so of course I love them both. There is most definitely going to be a love triangle of sorts that may cause some complications in the future.
I am very eager to learn more about this world and the supernatural creatures that inhabit it. The Beautiful brings seductive supernatural creatures back to the forefront of YA with enchanting writing, mesmerizing characters, and a setting as deliciously wicked as the creatures that haunt it. I was hooked from the very beginning and I did not want to stop reading. I loved each element so much that I’m eagerly awaiting book two and the inclusion of more supernatural creatures!”
Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury
An alternate history thriller — 4 stars, seacountry
“I love alternate histories. Empire of Lies is a particularly fascinating one. It begins by asking the question, ‘What if the Ottoman Empire conquered Europe?’
Most of the novel takes place in Paris in the year 2017, but this is not the Paris we’re used to. Notre Dame is the Fatih Mosque and Turkish is the official language. Kamal is a highly respected police detective who is beginning to question his orders. The government is reacting to economic turmoil by imprisoning anyone who questions, criticizes, or satirizes it, and the woman Kamal loves, Nisreen, is being watched.
There’s a great deal of prelude in Empire of Lies, but that’s unavoidable. Raymond Khoury has fascinating changes to the world and powerful character motivations to show us. This is as much a procedural thriller as it is a science fiction novel. The tone struck me as somewhat similar to that of Jo Walton‘s Small Change series, another alternate history that hinges on a good police detective being asked to do terrible things by his government.
Much like another BookishFirst book, Annalee Newitz‘s The Future of Another Timeline, Khoury comments on world politics in this novel. Both novels grapple with who should control the world, who gets to make history, and whether the future can be changed. The final chapter of Empire of Lies appears to leave an opening for a sequel. Whether or not that comes to pass, Empire of Lies is entertainment that will make the reader think.”
War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi
Sisters who must navigate a brutal, unforgiving world — 5 stars, andreajanel_reads
“This story was unlike anything I have ever read. It completely immerses you in a brutal, savage world that demands sacrifice from its oppressed population. All Onyii has ever known is the shadow of war—it has destroyed everything she has ever loved. She cares for her little foundling sister Ify with fierce tenderness, a characteristic at odds with the hard shell she projects upon the world.
Then Ify is stolen away and Onyii’s sanctuary is destroyed in a brutal raid. Onyii struggles to maintain her humanity as she is forced to become an instrument of doom for the rebellion. Meanwhile, Ify is amazed by the world she is now a part of, and soon severs her bond with Onyii. They will be reunited in a daring plot that upsets the status quo, throws their world into chaos, and forces them to face their demons.
It’s a beautifully woven story that explores the lasting effects of war upon the psyche of children, and illuminates a forgotten era of history that left an entire population of indigenous people decimated. The sisters themselves are complex. They are a direct manifestation of their surroundings and demonstrate the precarious edge that separates good from evil.
This is one of the best books I have read all year. War Girls is a helter-skelter race for survival against impossible odds. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a diverse dystopian YA read.”
She’s Out by Lynda La Plante
Filled with twists and turns until the very end! — 5 stars, brittani
“When we think of felons, we don’t think about the dreams they have for their lives once they leave prison or the plans they have to do something good for the world after serving time. But that’s just what protagonist Dolly Rawlins sets out to do in She’s Out. Lynda La Plante crafts a twisty, tumultuous road for Dolly as she leaves prison and works to find her million-dollar stash of diamonds to fund a children’s home for orphans. But first, Dolly must stave off more than five people who also want those diamonds. If you like a good page-turner, I highly recommend She’s Out. You won’t be disappointed!”
Cupid’s Match by Lauren Palphreyman
I loved it! — 5 stars, stephcheng2
“This book takes the classic myths you know and love and sets them in the modern day. Set in a small town outside of Los Angeles, the world of cupids, gods, and other Greek myths turn young Lila Black’s life upside down.
Lila struggles with learning how to deal with what she thinks love is supposed to be and her newfound feelings for an immortal god of love. Cupid, reckless and wild, seeks out his Match, which sets into motion the possible end of the world. Now, the two of them must figure out how to save themselves and the world from eternal doom.
With lots of romance and tension, this is a compelling story. Readers who are fans of young adult romance and fantasy stories will love Cupid’s Match.”
A River of Royal Blood by Amanda Joy
Stellar debut — 4 stars, ylmpastmidnight
“A young adult fantasy book about sisters dueling to the death for a crown? It sounds reminiscent of other sibling rivalry books out there but this one definitely stands out!
The imagined world of A River of Royal Blood is intricate and detailed. The queendom of Myre finds it’s ruler through the Rival Heir tradition, where two sisters who are of age will fight to the death and winner takes the crown. What a cruel tradition.
There is a magick system in place in this world and everyone who has magick seems to have their own different strengths. Princess Eva has marrow and blood magick, but she can’t access it. Her older sister Princess Isadore already wields her persuasion magick so expertly. The sisters were once close, flashbacks to their childhood memories show them in happier times, but those days are over with Eva’s 17th birthday approaching.
Most of the book is about Princess Eva learning about her magick and how to access it. She’s definitely got family issues. She grew up knowing she will either kill her sister or be killed by her! It’s cutthroat to be a royal, right? She has lots of conflicted emotions about her magick, her identity, the history of their queendom, her family, and knowing who to trust and trying to figure out who loves her. But what I love about Eva is that she wants to know the history of their kingdom and if she reigns, she has plans on how she could fix the injustices that took place. There is a lot of history being told in the story, but this book kept me engaged.
A River of Royal Blood is a stellar and solid debut, full of magick, political intrigue, sibling rivalry, some romance, some killing, and lots of blood and secrets. I am so looking forward to the next book in this series!”
Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris
More than a journey — 4 stars, marquis784
“This book tells the story of the life and survival of Cecilia ‘Cilka’ Klein during her time at the Auschwitz concentration camp and the years that follow. Her story is revealed through alternating chapters, beginning with her initial experience in Auschwitz where she is sent with her older sister Magda. Her release in 1945 is just the beginning of more years of struggling to survive. She is accused of being a spy and working for the Nazis at Auschwitz and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. She’s transferred to the Vorkuta Gulag, Siberia. Once again, Cilka uses her courage and resilience to do whatever she needs to do to survive.
Cilka becomes very useful in the hospital where they offer to train her as a nurse. She develops relationships with the other nurses and Dr. Yelena, who helps to protect her, and begins to work in the maternity ward. Being in the nursery provides Cilka with another view of the cruel inhuman treatment of the prisoners. Although she tries to stay under the radar, Cilka can’t help but question many of the practices she witnesses She is able to stir up concern among the staff and make changes to improve the living conditions and treatment of the mothers and babies.
Cilka’s Journey is a tale of survival and empowerment. Once she’s released, she no longer has the structure of working at the hospital and protection of the other women. Cilka must decide how to start a new life once again.”
Supernova Era by Cixin Liu
Superb sci-fi — 4 stars, rampant_reading
“Supernova Era was originally published in China, and the English translation is not one that science fiction fans will want to miss! Far from Earth, a star has exploded, creating a supernova. The radiation from the supernova will kill everyone over the age of 13 on Earth before a year has passed. With time rapidly running out, adults begin to frantically train their children to carry on the world created by past generations. A future after the supernova may not be one humanity can survive, but the next generation will give it their all!
Cixin Liu has been praised as the master of Chinese science fiction, but I hadn’t had the pleasure of reading any of his work before Supernova Era. I have loved sci-fi for as long as I’ve been reading, and I must say Supernova Era is some of the best I’ve read! The stakes could not be higher, and the plot flows quickly because of the urgency felt by every character.
I would recommend Supernova Era to readers who devoured Ready Player One, as well as those who would like to increase the amount of translated literature they read!”
Please note that some reviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.