September is THE month for publishing. It must be the idea that kids are back to school or something. Still, every year, I find myself inundated by review copies of highly anticipated sequels, the buzziest of buzzed books, and other new releases that make me drool. It also means that no matter how hard I try and how often I read, I always end up behind with not just my reviewing but also my reading. Because I am so hopelessly behind in both, here are the books I have read that had a September 13th release date.
Courtney Summers’ novels always manage to destroy me, and I’m the Girl is no different. All Georgia Avis wants is for others not just to recognize but also to reward her beauty. After all, beautiful people run the world; it is something we all know because we see it daily in the news. At seventeen, Georgia is impatient and ready to do what it takes to reap those rewards owed to her. What she endures with no complaint and, even worse, no idea about its heinousness hits you in the gut. Georgia does understand the world even though she appears naive and innocent, but what strikes the reader the most is her belief that there is no other way to obtain what you want. It is as heartbreaking an idea as it is repugnant. Watching Georgia maneuver not only a murder investigation but also the life of the highly wealthy as she tries to obtain everything she wants is Ms. Summers at her finest.
Defend the Dawn is the second in Brigid Kemmerer’s Defy the Night series, which certainly does not disappoint. There remains that urgency that drives the first book as Tessa and Corrick continue to search for solutions to the Moonflower shortage. This time, we get out of the kingdom and learn more about some of the surrounding kingdoms with plenty of danger and action to drive the plot. At the same time, Tessa gets the opportunity to sit and reflect on her growing feelings and on everything she discovered in the previous book. There is plenty of smoldering, but there is also the necessary reflection to lend legitimacy to Tessa’s feelings and potential relationship. Ms. Kemmerer does add a spark of cruelty with one heck of a cliffhanger ending, but I cannot fault her for that choice. It just heightens the anticipation to see how it all ends.
The Ballad of Never After is another sequel that ends with the meanest but most surprising endings, but it certainly is one wild ride of a story. In this second book of the Once Upon a Broken Heart series, Stephanie Garber continues Evangeline’s search for her happily ever after, including yet another tenuous partnership with everyone’s favorite bad boy, Jacks. What makes the sequel so powerful is that we learn a little more about the Prince of Hearts’ past, revealing him to be a much more complicated Fate than readers possibly imagined. The Ballad of Never After moves swiftly and is one of those novels that is over before you want it to end – always a sign of an engaging and well-written story. With that ending, it will be a long wait until the third book’s release!
Silver Under Nightfall by Rin Chupeco is dark, complicated, and sexy, and there is so much to love within its pages. I particularly love Mx. Chupeco’s use of morally ambiguous characters to blur the lines between good and evil and human and monster. They do this with great effect, particularly around Remy’s relationship with his father. Silver Under Nightfall may be a book about vampires, but they are not the scariest monster Remy battles, making it a book with monsters that is all too realistic in its portrayal of relationships. Plus, it has excellent spicy scenes to help keep you warm as the nights grow cooler.
In each and every book, Deb Caletti manages to break me down to the most basic of levels AND builds me back up to become a person filled with a greater sense of female empowerment, better insight, and a more positive outlook towards humanity. With The Epic Story of Every Living Thing, this feels especially true. Some of it is because it is a pandemic novel, and Harper stirs up all those same emotions that we all felt creeping out of our homes after lockdown, confused about the rules of wearing a mask, wondering what is safe and what is not. Part of it is the fact that Harper has anxiety, and Ms. Caletti is exceptionally good at portraying what it feels like to live with anxiety. For me, what struck me hardest of all is the domineering nature of Harper’s mother and the overbearing, highly regulated relationship they have. Harper’s story stirred up so many emotions that I had to take reading breaks to ease my own anxiety and turmoil.
What makes Ms. Caletti a stellar author though is not just her ability to allow readers to share in her character’s emotions but rather how she builds both her characters and her readers back up after dragging them down to the lowest of lows. As Harper learns to break the ties that bind, you simultaneously discover your own strengths. While Harper releases her fears, you relinquish yours. What once felt impossible now feels possible. It is a feat very few authors can accomplish, yet Ms. Caletti does it time and again. The Epic Story of Every Living Thing is simply the latest example of her greatness.