Member Reviews

A big thanks to NetGalley and Random House for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Starlings by Amanda Linsmeier is a YA dark fantasy novel about how twisted a family's roots can be. Kit thought everything was right in her world as she had no real family, until her father dies and secrets are revealed. Kit is asked to join her grandmother and family in their old hometown of Rosemont, but nothing everything is at it seems. As Rosemont may be a bit too perfect. Especially how all the Starling women to be at the center of it all. Yet, as perfect as everything is, Kit can't help but wonder why her father kept it all from her. And why he left in the first place.

This book, is so hard to pin down with the details. It's a dark fantasy. It's a horror. It's so creepy and delicate in the details, it's amazing. It reminded me a lot of House of Hollow and Small Favors, and both of those still haunt me to this day. I guess this one will too.

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I was very excited to read this book. I love a good horror/fantasy book, but this one left me wanting a lot more. I found the plot to be too similar to other books along the same vein and the characters didn't really spark anything for me. The writing itself was fine, but the tone felt lackadaisical and I didn't get any sense of worry or menace coming with the plot points. The conflict felt like it dropped in and out and the climax of the story felt like it came too late. The romance felt like it was forced in to check a box and the ending was just to neat. I was left wanting more than what this book gave me.

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this was a really good! I liked the characters, and they were super well-developed. the plot was super cool and fun to read, and the writing was also smooth and easy to understand
highly recommend

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Real Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars

This is author Amanda Linsmeier’s debut novel, a total mashup of genres ostensibly written for the YA set but also dealing with and handling some hefty subjects. I’d like to say it all hits, but it’s closer to about a 50% success rate.

Starlings wants to be a book about monsters, small town values, traditions, and putting familial duty above all other things, but it honestly mainly came across as “Midsommar” meets Main Street USA.

I’m really not kidding about “Midsommar”. I felt its influence all over this book. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because I loved that movie, but I do tend to think it might be a problem when it’s so evident the reader can’t stop being reminded of it.

Linsmeier does have talent, because I did read the book and I won’t sit here and say it was a horrible read. I just think it wasn’t a consistent book and the climax bothered me more than I’d like to admit.

I was provided a copy of this title by NetGalley and the author. All thoughts, opinions, views, and ideas expressed herein are mine and mine alone. Thank you.

File Under: Cult Horror/Dark Fantasy/LGBTQ Fiction/Sapphic Romance/Standalone Fantasy/Supernatural Fantasy/YA Fantasy/YA Fiction/YA Horror

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this eARC.

Starlings follows teen Kit and her mother in the wake of her father's death, as they return to the town where he grew up to visit his mother, whom he claimed was dead.

This was a fun, spooky read! It has a bit of a slow start as Kit gets acclimated to Rosemont, but the creep factor is definitely there the whole time. There were a few moments where I felt that the writing was trying to hard, being overly flowery, but in all I was absolutely riveted and I'll definitely be revisiting this read when spooky season hits.

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Creepy, haunting and mysterious. This is a gothic horror reminiscence of Small Favors by Erin Craig or the House of Hallow by Krystal Sutherland.

There exists an improbable town of Rosemont with beautiful roses that bloom year round - even in the depths of the Wisconsin winters. When Kit's dad passes away, she finds out that her dead grandmother isn't actually dead, she invites Kit and her mother to come and visit the town for Christmas.

This story is about sacrifices and deciding what is worth living for. It touches on grief, toxicity, being stuck, family dynamics, and history.

I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for those that like a little scary, but don't want to jump into the more traditional horror books that exist.

4 out of 5 stars. And 2 out of 5 for scare factor.

Thank you NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the free advanced reader copy. I am voluntarily leaving my honest opinion.

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I think I might just need to stop requesting ya books that I'm not sure of the author. The descriptions were so detailed I was almost bored. Like you don't need to describe literally everything. Like colors and what people are wearing ect. It makes it read like a school assignment. Still this was just not my Forte but could be someone who loves this genre.

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I really enjoyed the first half of this book. It had culty vibes and I was very invested in figuring out the mystery of the town. However, there were two kissing scenes and they both came out of nowhere. Too abrupt. The second "romance" especially just didn't feel realistic to me and quite forced. Also, I felt the ending where she defeats the villain of the story was rather lackluster. Be aware that this book takes place in the Winter in case you are a seasonal reader.

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I really enjoyed the vibes this story gave me. It's a weird town, all about their Eternal Roses that seem to be the lifeblood, and Kit is treated like some kind of royalty just because she bears the last name of Starling.

Kit is just rolling with the small weird things that she notices in this town, I mean she's only going to be there a short time before she and her mother go back to their normal lives, but when something happens to her mother and no one including the grandmother she just met don't seem concerned, Kit knows she will do whatever it takes to figure out what is going on.

I loved Kit, and while it did take a bit for the story to build and really take off, then it flew by. The story of Kit and the town of Rosemont sucked me in and wouldn't let me go until the last page.

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This is a YA gothic fantasy that delves into themes of family secrets, generational trauma, and the allure of a mysterious but unsettling small town. The story follows Kit, a teenager who discovers a hidden side of her family following her father's untimely death. With the revelation of a grandmother that she thought was dead and an invitation to her father's hometown, Rosemont, Kit embarks on a journey to discover why her father lied. The mystery that unravels the dark history of her family yields an ancient bargain she is destined to fulfill.

The town in this is unsettling and Kit's interactions are eerie. Rosemont, with its eternal roses and a picturesque 1950s aesthetic, holds a haunting atmosphere that sets the stage for the untold secrets that lie within. The author weaves together elements of gothic fiction and infuses the entire town and surrounding forest with an ominous presence. One of the strengths of the story is its exploration of generational trauma. The Starling family, particularly the women, are at the heart of the town's mysterious history. Through Kit's perspective, we witness the weight of her family's legacy and the impact on her journey of self-discovery. I enjoyed the bisexual representation in the story.

While the storytelling is generally strong, there are moments where the prose feels slightly clumsy, particularly in the use of metaphors. However, this does not detract significantly from the overall reading experience. Although grief is not the primary focus of the story, the exploration of Kit's emotions regarding her father's passing adds emotional depth to her character.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Children's Publishing for the eARC. This is an honest review.

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I loved this book. I went into it not really knowing anything which made the book so much better in my opinion. I loved that I didn't see things coming and that I was finding out what's going on with the main character even when it came to the basic plot that is in the summary. I love Kit. She is such a great main character. She is strong, but also not afraid to show her emotions. The plot of this story was dark and creepy and I loved it. It was the perfect creepy atmosphere.

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This turned out to be a pride read so at least that's one good thing that came out of this.

Anything dark fantasy is my thing, but sadly, this wasn't it. I try very hard not to give out 1-star ratings because I know how hard it is to write a book and get it published, so this is an exception for me.

I've read great YA dark fantasies/horrors, so it's not the fact that this is YA that bothered me. The story just wasn't good. It was very cliched and formulaic and read like a YA version of a bad M. Night Shyamalan movie. There's a scary town and with a huge secret/curse, a grandma that might or might not be evil, and an actual evil monster.

I'm down for new twists to this tropey plotline, but there was nothing new in Starlings that we've never seen before. Unless you're new to the dark fantasy/horror genre (in any form of media), then you can skip this one. This is like a beginner's guide to the "creepy towns with a deadly secret" horror genre.

This novel was supposed to be intense and somewhat of a horror, and before any big reveals, I did get a little tiny bit of Midsommar vibes: YA edition (and a bit of Silent Hill), but that quickly fell apart when I realized that it was turning out to be extremely formulaic, with an MC that was way too trusting of people, and an ending that seemed to be wrapped up way too neatly.

I hated the characters and their bare minimum characterization. All of the side characters were just stock characters (gay black guy who works at a flower shop? check. cute blonde who works at a diner with dreams of Hollywood? also check.). Kit felt like an outline of an MC. I get being young and naive (we've all been there), but she ends up trusting and falling in love with the first cute guy she meets in town. Even when she realizes that the guy is keeping secrets from her, she's still into him.

Same with Agatha, her grandmother that she barely knows. This woman kept the biggest bombshell of a secret from Kit, but yet at the end, Kit ended up trusting her. Sure, Kit's mother was missing for a majority of the book, and Kit was technically on her own, but it made no sense for Kit to let her guard down around someone who was totally cool with sacrificing her to the big bad monster. It made no sense.

Oh, and the ending? All this time, you mean to tell me that no one in Kit's family tried to break the curse? Every Starling woman was cool with sacrificing themselves and their daughters to a creepy rapey demon monster? Okay.

Also, Kit's second love interest. I'm all down for falling in love with ghosts, but that honestly came out of nowhere and I felt like it was there to show that yes, Kit is bi.

At least the writing was easy to read, so that's a plus.

Thank you to Delacorte Press and NetGalley for this arc.

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~~Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's for the ARC!~~

The pacing was really off with this one. The mystery took really long to solve, but when it was revealed, the pacing ramped up and rushed to the end. It's a shame, too, because the twist was interesting but not enough to make up for the snails-pace of the first half of the book.

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#Netgalleyarc This book was kinda creepy, but not in a weird or bad way, and was one that had me hooked and wanting to get to the end. I don’t really know what to compare it to but I really enjoyed it, it was a little twisted but again not in a bad way. It was suspenseful and from beginning to end. A good summer read.

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First I'd like to thank Netgalley and Random House Children's/Delacorte Press for the ARC copy of this book. This in no way alters my opinions.

I found the pacing of this book to be a little off. The beginning is strong only to slow towards the middle, but then at the end is too fast.

I was left wanting to know more. I wish we got to see more of the magic and mystery, and how everything truly came to be.

Overall I enjoyed the book and would love to see Amanda write a second part to the story.

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I was instantly captivated by the atmosphere in the story. This is a story of grief, legacy, and family. I felt like the plot was fun of smoke and mirrors, even with the romance. But the end is majestic and the MC is not passive, she fights to save herself while honoring those who came before her. I loved it!
Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to access this story in exchange for an honest review.

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4.5 stars. Starlings follows a teen girl, Kit, who discovers a sinister side to her family when she visits her recently deceased father’s picture-perfect hometown. This honestly exceeded all my expectations. Linsmeier nails the atmosphere, Rosemont is so seemingly perfect it‘s eerie, and as the story progresses and more is revealed it feels like going on an old school Disneyland ride but the ride becomes absolutely deranged. This was such a dark, compelling read I literally had goosebumps long after I was finished.

*Special thanks to NetGalley and Random House, Delacorte Press for this e-arc.*

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Note: In accordance with FTC guidelines, please note in reviews that your ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed Starlings. I found the concept intriguing and the world building was fascinating. Another reviewer compared it “Stars Hollow but things that go bump in the night” and I couldn’t agree more. The characters were realistic and inviting and I could picture the town of Rosemont as I read. The main character was angsty but ultimately likable as she attempted to process through her trauma and unlock the horrific secrets to her newfound family history.

However, the pacing was off. At times the story moved very slowly and at other points, it felt rushed. I wanted to know more about the monsters in the woods and the Starling women. I think this might have been better as trilogy of sorts.

Overall, this is a solid dark YA fantasy read with elements of horror and magic to entice a reader to root for our young heroine yet still wish we could love in a town like Rosemont (minus the dark secret parts).

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Starlings is a creepy YA fantasy about a girl named Kit who discovers that her father, who recently died, lied about his family. Instead of being dead as he claimed, Kit’s paternal grandmother is living in a small idyllic town called Rosemont. Kit and her mother go to visit her, and then things start to go horribly wrong. It’s up to Kit to solve the mystery of this creepy town and save her mother - and herself.

I loved the premise of this book! YA Fantasy is my favorite genre to read, and I was really excited to explore this world. I did really enjoy the characters and the mystery. However, there were a few big issues that stuck out to me. The pacing in particular was frustrating - the first half of the book crept by so slowly, and then the last 20% flew by and wrapped up too quickly. I really think that if the first part of the book had sped up and the last part slowed down, the book would have been more enjoyable.

I wasn’t a big fan of the insta-love (I never am), and when it happens twice in one book, it was just doubly annoying. I usually think villains are hot, but a villain who has been with your great grandmother? Not hot. Still, the story and characters were totally intriguing and creepy, and I read this book in less than 24 hours because I didn’t want to put it down. I liked it but just didn’t love this one! Still, I will keep an eye on this author and will read her books in the future!

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House for the ARC in exchange for an honest review!

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I went into this book completely blind, and I am so thankful that I did! Following the death of her father, Kit learns that he lied about having no family and discovers her grandmother Agatha Starling. To connect with her grandmother and learn more about her father’s hometown, Kit visits Rosemont, a town where roses bloom year and where the Starling women are revered. However, things are not what they seem in Rosemont, and the more Kit digs for answers, the more dangerous situations she finds herself in.

This book was captivating from the very beginning, the mystery surrounding the Starling women and how the author was slowly giving the audience clues in each chapter about the truth. The plot twists kept me on my toes, and overall this was a great fast-paced YA horror/urban-fantasy read!

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House Children’s/Delacorte Press for providing me with this arc to read!

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