Grace here, ready and excited to start my favorite month of the school year. For clarity, I love October. It’s when you start to feel settled into school, when you have a comfortable rhythm and an idea of which challenges (and joys) you’ll be facing. It’s when the leaves really start changing, when you inhale apple cider with just about every meal, when runs get that crispy air to them.
In October, I almost exclusively read horror and dark fantasy. I want my reads with a paranormal edge, to make me think that there’s a veil and some things we just really aren’t seeing. I love scouting for books that will feel good to be curled up with, to look forward to a night of costumes and pumpkins. In case you haven’t guessed, Halloween is my favorite holiday.
This year, I’ve taken on the task of highlighting releases I’m psyched for in a given month. It both gives WLS a little structure during my off times (as this is when I start to get pretty busy), and allows me to shed some light on the modern book industry when I occasionally get on a reading binge that has me stuck in 2009. Without further ado, here are five titles releasing this month that I want you to put in your calendars!
Novel: Damsel by Elana K. Arnold | Goodreads
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen (B&B)
The rite has existed for as long as anyone can remember: when the prince-who-will-be-king comes of age, he must venture out into the gray lands, slay a fierce dragon, and rescue a damsel to be his bride. This is the way things have always been.
When Ama wakes in the arms of Prince Emory, however, she knows none of this. She has no memory of what came before she was captured by the dragon, or what horrors she has faced in its lair. She knows only this handsome prince, the story he tells of her rescue, and her destiny to sit on the throne beside him. Ama comes with Emory back to the kingdom of Harding, hailed as the new princess, welcomed to the court.
However, as soon as her first night falls, she begins to realize that not all is as it seems, that there is more to the legends of the dragons and the damsels than anyone knows–and that the greatest threats to her life may not be behind her, but here, in front of her.
I love the idea of a very classic fairy tale. When I think of dragons and damsels in YA, well, there hasn’t been much coverage. While I normally hate amnesiac storylines, this is a situation in which it actually works — allowing the writer to show a deeper story behind our usual “she got saved by the prince” narrative. I’m thrilled.
Novel: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee | Goodreads
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen
Felicity Montague is through with pretending she prefers society parties to books about bone setting—or that she’s not smarter than most people she knows, or that she cares about anything more than her dream of becoming a doctor.
A year after an accidentally whirlwind tour of Europe, which she spent evading highwaymen and pirates with her brother Monty, Felicity has returned to England with two goals in mind—avoid the marriage proposal of Callum Doyle, a lovestruck suitor from Edinburgh; and enroll in medical school. However, her intellect and passion will never be enough in the eyes of the administrators, who see men as the sole guardians of science.
But then a small window of hope opens. Doctor Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician that Felicity idolizes, is looking for research assistants, and Felicity is sure that someone as forward thinking as her hero would be willing to take her on. However, Platt is in Germany, preparing to wed Felicity’s estranged childhood friend Johanna. Not only is Felicity reluctant to opening old wounds, she also has no money to make the trip.
Luckily, a mysterious young woman is willing to pay Felicity’s way, so long as she’s allowed to travel with Felicity disguised as her maid. In spite of her suspicions, Felicity agrees, but once the girl’s true motives are revealed, Felicity becomes part of a perilous quest that will lead her from the German countryside to the promenades of Zurich to secrets lurking beneath the Atlantic.
I listened to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue on audio, so it dulled my interest a few times, but I loved the fresh take on historical fiction. There are only a couple books that have captivated me historically — which makes no sense, since I’m a history major! — and those are few and far between. I would love to read the second in this installment, and it makes the era sexy again in a way that I know many of my readers would enjoy.
Novel: Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore | Goodreads
Release Date: October 9, 2018
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.
Anna-Marie McLemore writes elegant magical realism that fleshes out modern day discussions revolving around gender and sexuality. I can capture her writing style in one line, because she is that distinctive as a writer. I’m currently in the middle of Blanca & Roja, and will have finished it by the time this post goes up. I love her detail, her cultural infusions, her delicacy in characters who are still strong. She also does a great job with family dynamics and rivalries. She’s worth checking out, and this book is too.
Novel: Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrand | Goodreads
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
Literally if you put “beware the woods” in any book’s synopsis, I will read it — and probably love it, to be honest. I’ve also read books by Claire LeGrand before, and loved it. I love that this synopsis is straight-up setting. I love that as a whole, it’s a bit unsettling. Everyone who has raved about it has said it’s perfect for Halloween, which means that I’m buying it immediately.
Novel: The Boneless Mercies by April Genevieve Tucholke | Goodreads
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: FSG (Macmillan)
A dark and gorgeously drawn standalone YA fantasy about a band of mercenary girls in search of female glory. Won in a major six-house auction!
Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies—girls hired to kill quickly, quietly, and mercifully. But Frey is weary of the death trade and, having been raised on the heroic sagas of her people, dreams of a bigger life.
When she hears of an unstoppable monster ravaging a nearby town, Frey decides this is the Mercies’ one chance out. The fame and fortune of bringing down such a beast would ensure a new future for all the Mercies. In fact, her actions may change the story arc of women everywhere.
Full of fierce girls, bloodlust, tenuous alliances, and unapologetic quests for glory, this elegantly spun tale challenges the power of storytelling—and who gets to be the storyteller. Perfect for fans of Maggie Stiefvater, V.E. Schwab, and Heidi Heilig.
I’m in the middle of The Boneless Mercies right now and it’s a bit slower than April Genevieve Tucholke’s previous works. That being said, she has a grasp of language that’s truly talent, and she weaves dark (but strangely comforting) worlds filled with crackling tension. It feels like a ballad in a lot of ways, and I’m excited to see what she does later in the book.