Sunday, June 7, 2020

Read with Us 2020: A Debut Novel

For our May book in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge, we chose A Debut Novel. And we all participated this month! (Sort of ... none of us actually read these books in May 🤣)

(Note: The title of each book links to its Amazon page. These are affiliate links.)

Val's pick: A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson is a delightful YA take on the who-done-it genre.

Pippa Fitz-Amobi is headed into her senior year of high school and must complete a Senior Capstone Project, the subject of which is up to the student to choose.  Pippa decides to use her project as a means to investigate a murder that happened in her town 5 years ago – a murder that everyone else thinks was solved, but Pippa isn’t so sure. She teams up with the one person with as much interest in re-investigating the case as she does – the alleged murderer’s younger brother.

I really enjoyed this book. It had a lot of characters, and therefore a lot of suspects – I appreciated that it wasn’t obvious who the killer was. There were several twists along the way – I had a halfway inkling towards the end of who I thought did it, but I definitely didn’t have it completely figured out. If you like mysteries that aren’t too dark or scary, this is a great option.

I read this book on kindle, but I would recommend reading the hard copy, as the book includes lots of “evidence” Pippa gathers, and some of the formatting of that is lost in kindle. 4.5 stars.

Content warnings: I read this over a month ago, so it’s hard to remember, but I think the f-word may have been used.  There were a couple scenes of teen drinking/partying. It is mentioned that teens were sexually active, but nothing was described on the page. Although it’s technically YA, I don’t think I’d want a young teen reading it.

Steph's pick: Love Comes Softly by Janette Oke

I started reading one book, hated it, and then remembered that Love Comes Softly was the debut novel for Janette Oke. It’s a story of pioneers settling the West. The copy I have takes me back for two reasons: 1) I have my grandmother’s copy and 2) this was the first book that made me enjoy reading. Whether it be nostalgia or just loving books set in a different time, I really enjoyed the book again. The characters have real character—they have to process through and learn how to keep moving when life gets hard. And if I could be Ma Graham from this book I would—she’s a supporting character, but she’s known for her wisdom, cooking, and grit. It is fascinating to think about how much more difficult simple tasks were—like baking a cake. How do you keep the temperature on a wood stove even? Can you imagine hauling water, then boiling it, just to wash your clothes? Or having to know how to sew clothes to fit not only your body type, but also each family member? This is the first book in a series, so I’ll probably be running through the whole thing since social distancing is still in place. The story is engaging and it flows well. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Becky's pick: The Thorn Bearer by Pepper Basham

My intention was to read Kimberly Duffy's debut novel, A Mosaic of Wings, for this category. But then I got sidetracked by a rewatch of Lost, and I didn't read nearly as much at the end of May as I expected to. I have read a handful of debuts in 2020, though, so I went back and picked out one of my favorites: Pepper Basham's The Thorn Bearer

When her fiance calls off the wedding after learning her shameful secret, Ashleigh is sure she's too broken for any man to love. Her best friend Sam accompanies her aboard the Lusitania as they return to Ashleigh's home in England ... where her sister (and Sam's ex fiancee) Catherine awaits them. 

There is a lot that happens in this book ... from the sinking of the Lusitania to the bombing of a WWI hospital to a journey back to Appalachia ... and I can't really say much about any of it without spoiling things! But I really enjoyed this book and especially the sensitive way the author deals with sexual abuse. I would definitely recommend this book and the sequel (The Thorn Keeper), which is even better! 4 stars.

Content Note: While nothing is overly explained, Ashleigh is a victim of sexual abuse, and both sexual abuse and promiscuity are mentioned repeatedly. Basham handles everything tastefully, but this wouldn't be a novel for younger teens.

See my reviews of The Thorn Bearer and The Thorn Keeper.

Have you read any great debut novels this year? We'd love some recommendations! 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click the link and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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