#1 THE YEAR OF THE WITCHING BY ALEXIS HENDERSON
A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.
In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.
But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.
Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.
THIS REVIEW IS NOT FOR ANY ONE GENRE. IT IS INTENDED TO BE A FALL READING LIST FOR 2020. THESE READS ARE NOT FREE. HOWEVER THE REVIEWS FOR THE NEXT 5 PICKS, WHICH HAVE BEEN PULLED FROM VARIOUS LISTS, ARE ALL BASED ON THE FIRST FIVE© SENTENCES. THE OPINIONS IN THIS BLOG ARE MINE, JENNIFER STARKS, AND MINE ALONE. ENJOY.
Sentence One: SHE WAS BORN breech, in the deep of night.
THOUGHTS: Lyrically PERFECT! The imagery harnesses a wicked vibe I’m liking already.
Sentence Two: The midwife, Martha, had to seize her by the ankles and drag her from the womb.
THOUGHTS: Visually brutal. Informative and riveting.
Sentence Three: She slipped out easy, dropped limb into Martha’s arms, and lay still as stone.
THOUGHTS: First thought, ew. Second thought, huh? Third thought, ohhhhh. GREAT line.
Sentence Four: The midwife’s daughter gave a low groan that bubbled up from her belly.
THOUGHTS: …so the midwife’s daughter is in the room or she is the baby? I may be overthinking here.
Sentence Five: She grasped at the folds of her nightdress, its hem soaked black with blood, but she made no move to reach for her child.
THOUGHTS: Okay, the midwife’s daughter is the one having the baby? Interesting.
#2 LOVECRAFT COUNTRY: A NOVEL BY MATT RUFF
Soon to be a New HBO® Series from J.J. Abrams (Executive Producer of Westworld), Misha Green (Creator of Underground) and Jordan Peele (Director of Get Out)
The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy.
Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
At the manor, Atticus discovers his father in chains, held prisoner by a secret cabal named the Order of the Ancient Dawn—led by Samuel Braithwhite and his son Caleb—which has gathered to orchestrate a ritual that shockingly centers on Atticus. And his one hope of salvation may be the seed of his—and the whole Turner clan’s—destruction.
A chimerical blend of magic, power, hope, and freedom that stretches across time, touching diverse members of two black families, Lovecraft Country is a devastating kaleidoscopic portrait of racism—the terrifying specter that continues to haunt us today.
Sentence One: Atticus was almost home when the state trooper pulled him over.
THOUGHTS: Very unlucky.
Sentence Two: He’d left Jacksonville two days before in a secondhand ’48 Cadillac Coupe that he’d bought with the last of his Army pay.
THOUGHTS: Informative. Great flow. This pace and imagery is effortlessly drawing me in.
Sentence Three: The first day he drove 450 miles, eating and drinking from a basket he’d packed in advance, stopping the car only to get gas.
THOUGHTS: Having traveled by car more than once, I can say this isn’t the most engaging way to adventure, but for Atticus, during that period of time, it was probably the safest.
Sentence Four: At one of the gas stops the colored rest room was out of order, and when the attendant refused him the key to the whites’ room, Atticus was forced to urinate in the bushes behind the station.
THOUGHTS: Men pee outside all the time. Back then? Not so much. It took real courage to do some of the mundane things we are accustom to nowadays. I think our MC Atticus is a brave man indeed.
Sentence Five: He spent the night in Chattanooga.
THOUGHTS: I must read more. And I did.
#3 BOOK OF JOAN BY LIDIA YUKNAVITCH
The bestselling author of The Small Backs of Children offers a vision of our near-extinction and a heroine—a reimagined Joan of Arc—poised to save a world ravaged by war, violence, and greed, and forever change history, in this provocative new novel.
In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet’s now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.
Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one—not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself—can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.
Sentence One: Burning is an art.
THOUGHTS: UM. I think Firemen would agree, but also disagree. Or, are we talking about something else entirely?
Sentence Two: I remove my shirt and step toward a table where I have spread out the tools I will need.
THOUGHTS: Well. If the MC needs tools, I’m guessing my theory of burn-burning wasn’t too far off. This is weird. I like it.
Sentence Three: I swab my entire chest and shoulders with synthetic oil.
THOUGHTS: Well. It’s getting weirder. I may be getting a smidge anxious.
Sentence Four: My body is white against the black of space where we hover within a suborbital complex.
THOUGHTS: Oh! Space. This is a refreshing turn. I love that our MC has no name, but already she’s a self-mutilating alien. FUN.
Sentence Five: CIEL.
THOUGHTS: MUST READ MORE. DID READ MORE.
#4 ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE: A NOVEL BY GAIL HONEYMAN
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
The only way to survive is to open your heart.
Sentence One: When people ask me what I do–taxi drivers, dental hygienists–I tell them I work in an office.
THOUGHTS: As long as this MC does in fact work in an office I see no problems here.
Sentence Two: In almost nine years, no one’s ever asked what kind of office, or what kind of job I do there.
THOUGHTS: That’s a little sad. Okay. A lot sad. People are so self-involved.
Sentence Three: I can’t decide whether that’s because I fit perfectly with their idea of what an office worker looks like, or whether people hear the phrase work in an office and automatically fill in the blanks themselves—lady doing photocopying, man tapping at a keyboard.
THOUGHTS: People do assume a lot of mundane things when they hear the phrase “work in an office,” but that’s still lame. Just ask the poor woman what she actually does for a living.
Sentence Four: I’m not complaining.
THOUGHTS: Great. Nobody likes a Negative Nelly.
Sentence Five: I’m delighted that I don’t have to get into the fascinating intricacies of accounts receivable with them.
THOUGHTS: Not half as delighted as I’m sure they are. My God. Re-typing that sentence nearly bored me to death. I don’t know how you accountants keep from losing your ever-loving minds.
#5 GIRL JACKED: A MYSTERY THRILLER NOVEL (DETECTIVE JACK STRATTON MYSTERY THRILLER SERIES: BOOK 1) BY CHRISTOPHER GREYSON
Jack Stratton’s a good guy on the ugly side of life. Eight years ago a bomb blew apart his world and he’s been picking up the pieces ever since. Guilt has driven a wedge between him and the family he loves. When Jack hears the news that his foster-sister Michelle is missing, it cuts straight to his core. The police think she just took off, but Jack knows Michelle would never leave her loved ones behind—like he did. Forced to confront the demons from his past, Jack must take action, find Michelle and bring her home… or die trying.
Entrenched in his family’s sleepy hometown, Jack uncovers a world of lies and deception along with an up-close view of his personal demons. When the hunt for his sister takes a nasty turn, Stratton must protect his vulnerable new partner and fight for his own survival.
A guilt-ridden detective. A missing sister. One final chance for redemption.
Sentence One: Two women anxiously waited on the hard, wooden bench of the Fairfield police station.
THOUGHTS: Well. That doesn’t sound fun. Something has gone wrong already.
Sentence Two: Haddie Williams and her much younger friend—one of her many foster children over the years—looked down the hall toward its opposite end, seeking news, not sure they wanted to hear it.
THOUGHTS; Police stations are full of bad juju. These women have every right to be worried.
Sentence Three: At last, a lanky police detective with a downcast face ambled toward them.
THOUGHTS: Uh-oh. Here comes bad news.
Sentence Four: As he handed the old woman a copy of the missing person report, he said, in a monotone, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but there’s nothing more we can do.”
THOUGHTS: There’s the bad new. I knew it was coming.
Sentence Five: The words hit Haddie like a punch in the chest.
THOUGHTS: Of course they did. I can’t imagine hearing something like that about a loved one. This has been a smooth intro. It had me reading more than I could put on here as this post is already SO long. My FINAL THOUGHTS are simple. If you’re looking to start your FALL To Be Read pile, why not start with a few of these. Curl up with a cup of tea and get lost in ANY of these list worthy books. HAPPY READING.