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 September 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!
Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff
Part thriller, part bioethics debate — 4 stars, seasaltdaydreams
“I love a good book about bioethics. There’s something so addictive and propulsive about the apex where innovation and human life meet, and I’m fascinated by the dangerous and potentially unknown consequences. Mother Knows Best puts the bioethical debate over DNA modification front and center.
Part thriller, part science fiction, Mother Knows Best tells the story of Claire, a 39-year old woman with a rare genetic disorder. After her first son dies of complications caused by the hereditary disease, she seeks out renowned fertility doctor Robert Nash, who she believes can help her conceive a child who will not inherit her disease. With the help of his star research assistant Jillian, Claire is able to conceive. But when the press and the FDA get wind of Robert’s illegal experiment with human life, Claire and Robert flee, leaving Jillian to face the consequences entirely on her own.
Years later Claire and Robert are still living in secret with their daughter Abigail. When Abigail gets the results of a school-sponsored DNA test, she starts asking questions. Questions that threaten to expose the life Claire and Robert have carefully built, and could put the three of them in the crosshairs of the most dangerous force of all, Jillian.
The story is told in the first person, alternating between the three women of the story. Each one represents the motives that led to the creation of Abigail. Claire represents the maternal love and hope for a child that has a life without suffering. Jillian represents scientific exploration and hunger for fame. Abigail is a child looking for answers to the secrecy that has surrounded her since childhood. Together they form a cohesive storyline exploring the challenges of genetic modification.
I found this story most intriguing and thought-provoking. Though the scenario was somewhat improbable, it was believable and brought just the right mix of science and heart. ”
Frankly in Love by David Yoon
Frankly, I loved it — 5 stars, lifeofaliterarynerd
“Frank Li is torn between wanting to please his very traditional Korean parents by acing the SATs, getting into a top tier college, and only dating Korean girls when he falls for Brit Means who is kind, brilliant, and white. So, Frank teams up with fellow Korean American Limbo kid, Joy Song, to pretend to date each other so they can each see people who their parents won’t approve of in secret, and Frank learns more about love—and himself—along the way.
I immediately loved Frank. He’s such a kind and earnest person that it’s easy to care about him and fall into his story. He feels like a friend. You want to spend time with him and help him with his problems or hold him when he’s sad.
David Yoon’s writing is gorgeous. It reminds me of John Green—a lot of fluidity and effervescence. It’s larger than life words and dialogue, deeply infused with emotions that create captivating scenes that completely pull your focus.
There’s a real struggle in the story. Frank works to reconcile the flaws of those he loves and respects, and weighs his familial and cultural responsibility to them. We see all the Limbo kids dealing with their parents’ casual racism and thoughtlessness, while they try to educate them or introduce new ways of thought, and fear disownment for being too outspoken or defiant. It’s messy and uncomfortable and it’s family.
I deeply treasure the pure friendship between Frank and Q. It was so wonderfully genuine. You can clearly see the deep love and respect the two have for each other. I also really enjoyed the gathering of the Limbo kids’ families. Seeing them bond through their shared experiences and support each other was great.
Frankly in Love really hit me. I felt the impact of the book over and over again—Frank’s joy at finding love, the fear of disappointing your parents, the pain of losing people you care about. It’s a story of personal identity, family responsibility, and the messiness of first loves. It’s a debut you don’t want to miss. ”
Rules for Vanishing by Kate Alice Marshall
Stay away from Lucy’s road! — 5 stars, nvarg
“Rules for Vanishing is, hands down, my favorite book this year. There I said it. This story was just so darn spook-tacularly fantastic!
Once a year a mysteriously creepy road appears in the forests of Briar Glen, Massachusetts and the ghost of Lucy Gallows beckons. Last year Sara’s sister Becca decided to follow the road and find Lucy and she’s been gone ever since. After a mysterious text message goes out to the high schoolers of Briar Glen, Sara and her ragtag team of friends decide to find the road and find Becca. Among them are true believers and skeptics, but everything changes once the road reveals itself.
The rules are simple. Don’t leave the road. When it’s dark, don’t let go. There will be other roads; do not follow them. But rules were made to be broken and broken rules bring consequences.
Kate Alice Marshall’s writing is transportive and honestly, it’s nightmare-inducing. I could not stop thinking about the road for days after I finished reading. This book was unexpected and original and I loved every spooky second of it!
Rules for Vanishing is a documentary-style novel told primarily from the perspective of Sara. Throughout Sara’s retelling, the reader is given transcripts of calls and text messages, as well as video evidence, that begins to make you question if what you’re being told is the truth and if what happened on the road was real.”
The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen
Absolute work of art — 5 stars, kayciamanda
“With equal parts teenage awkwardness, classic high school drama, and queer romance, plus, the occasional superpower, Lauren Shippen’s The Infinite Noise is everything you could ask for in a YA novel (and more). This delightful book is the best kind of origin story: Not only does it mark the beginning of Caleb’s journey as he comes to terms with his growing powers of empathy, but it also serves as the start to the complex relationship between him and his classmate Adam.
The Infinite Noise switches POVs from chapter to chapter, and Shippen impressively manages to form distinct voices for both Caleb and Adam’s narration, while staying true to her consistent and wonderful style of writing throughout. Her characters are so well-written that they’re immediately easy to relate to, and even easier to love. The plot of the book itself kept me interested until the very end, and the pacing is perfect for the compelling story being told. Even though at times I wished the novel moved faster so I could instantly see what happened next, as soon as I finished it, I wished I could go back and linger within the pages for even a little while longer.
For those like myself who are familiar with Shippen’s prior work on ‘The Bright Sessions’ podcast, The Infinite Noise is a beautiful elaboration on a story you’re already familiar with. For those who haven’t listened to ‘The Bright Sessions’ before, this story will still connect with you in a way that makes it feel like you’ve known it your whole life. My favorite thing about this book is that it forces you to feel every feeling possible, and feel them to the fullest (in true empath fashion). In the words of a certain protagonist I know, The Infinite Noise (and the emotions its unforgettable story evokes) has ‘found a home in my chest,’ and I don’t see it leaving any time soon.”
The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
Feminist punk rock sci-fi — 4 stars, ataylor
“In The Future of Another Timeline, time travel is real and changes in the past create divergent futures. While many use the time travel machines for scientific research, the Daughters of Harriet are locked in a secret edit war with what we would call men’s rights activists, bent on creating a world where women have no control over their own bodies. These men are in league with Anthony Comstock, a real historical figure who was able to get information on birth control and abortion declared obscene, and therefore illegal.
When the novel opens, Tess has traveled from 2022 to 1992, to observe and intervene at a punk rock concert where the Comstockers are likely to appear. Living in 1992 is Beth, a teen riot grrl with difficult family issues. Narration alternates between Tess and Beth, dancing across timelines and history, from the 90s to the Chicago World’s Fair, to prehistoric eras, and many places in between.
This is a very compelling, slightly frightening book, and a call to action on women’s reproductive rights. I appreciate that Newitz makes some attempt at explaining the mechanism of time travel without getting bogged down in the details. Leaving the ‘how’ of time travel as a subject of current scientific research seemed like an absolutely logical answer to me, and consistent with the state of real world science. What drives this novel is the relationships between women, and their desire for autonomy.
I highly recommend this book for science fiction fans, feminists, political activists, and to the public at large. ”
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
Beautifully raw and eye-opening — 5 stars, hclift
“Juliet Milagros Palante is trying to find herself. She is ready to proclaim to the world that is she is a proud Puerto Rican lesbian. After reading a book written by Harlowe Brisbane, she decides the best way to find herself as a woman and feminist is to go directly to the source and an authority on such topics. Juliet writes a compelling letter to Harlowe and requests the opportunity to work as an intern.
Before leaving for her summer internship with Ms. Brisbane, Juliet comes out to her family and is met with less than desirable results. More confused than ever, Juliet leaves, hoping the time away will help mend her relationship with her mother.
Juliet Takes a Breath is a beautifully written book that deals with tough subjects: racism, self-identity, awareness, and the confidence needed to embrace the world we live in. It is raw, unbiased, and gives the reader an opportunity to imagine walking in another person’s shoes. Gabby Rivera takes a no-holds-barred approach in describing what she calls a ‘partially auto-biographical’ time in the life of a girl diligent in accepting who she is. The confusion and frustration Juliet feels is palpable. Anyone, regardless of race, age, or identity will fall in love with both Juliet and Gabby.”
The Trouble with Christmas by Amy Andrews
Nice Christmas Story — 4 stars, valcat68
“This book was a fun and delightful read. It’s a Christmas romance about a young artist who escapes New York and goes to Credence, Colorado in hope of finding her muse and getting her painting ability to come back. Suzanne rents a cottage on a ranch and meets the nephew of the owner, Joshua, who wants nothing to do with her.
Suzanne tells her parents that she cannot be home for Christmas because she has a new boyfriend who loves Christmas and goes all out for it. Of course her parents decide to join her for the holiday to meet her new boyfriend, and Suzanne has to convince Joshua to pretend that they are in love.
The Trouble with Christmas is a fun book with lots of sizzle and great characters. I had never read a book by this author but will in the future.”
Ghost Fire by Wilbur Smith
A story of love, betrayal and revenge — 4 stars, jmkolin
“The Courtney family saga returns in Ghost Fire. In 1754 Theo and Constance Courtney lost their parents in an attack on Madras, India by the French. Sent to their cousin Gerard in Calcutta, Constance is introduced into society while Theo is sent to work for the East India Company. As Theo learns to trade and earns a reputation in business, Constance learns to use her beauty to her advantage. Lured by rumors of the riches amassed by the Company, Calcutta comes under brutal attack. Theo believes that Constance is dead, while she believes that Theo has deserted her to save himself.
Theo’s travels take him to America. There he finds love and once again suffers loss. The skills that he learns will serve him well when he later joins the Rangers and once again finds himself in a war with the French. Meanwhile, Constance finds her way to Paris, where she supports herself with the favors of wealthy men. Their paths will eventually cross again, but time has changed them both.
From the stifling heat of Calcutta to the wilderness trails of North America, Wilbur Smith has written a story of betrayal and revenge that also displays the courage of those people who fought and settled in a new land. Fans of historical fiction will find this an excellent entry in the Courtney novels.”
Please note that some reviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.