Cover Image: Starlings


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Member Reviews

Overall, I give this 3.5/5 stars. 

Starlings by Amanda Linsmeier is an entertaining book about Kit Starling, who—after the sudden loss of her father—visits the grandmother she thought was dead and finds herself in a bit of a horror story. The book addresses themes of human selfishness: a town’s horrid history of murder and cannibalism finds its parallel in the residents’ traditional sacrifice of young women in order to maintain their own wealth and comfort. Over and over, they continue the cycle—‘others must die so that I can live. So that I can live as I would like.’ And all the while, they treat the Starlings with a disingenuous reverence. There is a lot to talk about thematically with this book. The twists were a bit predictable, but there is a compelling depth to the story, and Kit is a fairly well-written main character.

Additionally, the author handles the aftermath of suicide well. She explores Kit’s struggle with feeling abandoned by her father, a realistic feeling after the suicide of a loved one, and she does it without casting him as a villain.  

The primary problem with this book was the pacing. The romance between Kit and Bear happens really fast, and then the relationship between Kit and Sabelle is even more jarring. I ended the book feeling like these two characters didn’t even know each other well enough to form a friendship, much less to start kissing in the woods. The ending is just as abrupt. The climax passes quickly. The denouement just drops you on the floor like a rag doll. It’s not falling action. It is plummeting action. Literally, Kit’s mother wakes up from being asleep, is told that a demon kidnapped her and tried to take her child as a bride, then learns that her daughter murdered the demon, and just kind of says, “By the way, I promise to stop parentifying you now. How about we get some therapy?” The story ended on a really strange note, and it felt like the resolution was an afterthought. 

We also never got some answers to conflicts that seemed pretty important but then were just abandoned. How did Juliet die? Was Jack killing the Starling women when he was done with them? Did Daniel really never tell his wife about Rosemont? Why would the mom actually agree to take Kit there to see Agatha? It seems like an irresponsible choice, whether she knew or not. If she knew, WTF?!?! If she didn’t know, she still knew that her husband had claimed all his life that his family was dead and then been haunted by monsters from his past to the degree that he ended his own life. I would never have taken my child there. And so what if Agatha threatened to reach out on her own? Let her. I would still never take my child there. We never get an answer, and I waited for one until the very end.
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This book is a must-read for 2023.
Linsmeier explores cycles of generational trauma and abuse with a gentle, intentional touch in this gothic YA fantasy about a girl seeking answers about her deceased father.
You will fall in love with angsty Kit Starling and obsess over the creepy residents of Rosemont, home of the eternal roses and rife with legends of monsters who go bump in the night. The story is filled with twists, betrayals, and toe-curling kisses that will leave you flipping pages into the wee hours of the morning.
Crossing my fingers for a prequel or two that follow some of the incredible Starling ladies.
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I received an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

“I don’t look for frightening things anymore. Except somewhere, in the deepest recesses of my bones, I feel like they still look for me.”

First of all, this book is beautifully written. It flows beautifully, almost like a song. The story was written in a way that wasn’t obvious as to how it would end. (Then again, maybe it was obvious and I’m just dumb). This book fits into so many categories and blends each one seamlessly. Contemporary, mystery, thriller, paranormal, and fantasy, all rolled up into one twisty knot. 

This book is written as a standalone and at first I was concerned as to how the hell it was going to get wrapped up in such a short book (300ish pages?) but it did. Nothing felt rushed and the story had a natural feel the whole time. I fully expect this book to become the next booktok obsession, so be ready for it.

Let’s quick talk about representation and any triggers.
LGBTQ?- yep. We have a bi main character, a gay florist, and a hottie monster.
POC?- some, but only one specifically named.
Disabled persons?- not that I saw
Neurodivergence?- possibly, depression is hinted but not explicitly stated.

And now for the triggers-
Abuse, domestic violence, forced relationships, narcissistic behavior, death of a parent, death of a relative, kidnapping, m*rder, and self unaliving. 

This book is listed as 12+ but I would say 14+ is better simply because of some language and mature themes. 
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for providing me this copy and this opportunity

TL;DR- Kit decides to confront generational trauma by fighting a god
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Starlings by Amanda Linsmeier

This book was so creepy! From the moment Kit and her mom drive into Rosemont something feels off. The place is too perfect. They take a trip to the pleasantly perfect town to visit the grandmother Kit never knew she had. All anyone in town can talk about are the eternal roses and Crowning Day. Everywhere Kit goes she gets strange looks and people whispering about her behind her back. She finds out that her family, the Starlings, are famous for saving the town when it was first founded. 

During their visit a lot of strange events start to occur around town. Children are found dead in the surrounding woods. Kit and her mom start to experience headaches and bodily pain. Halfway through the visit, Kit's mom even goes missing and no one takes it seriously. Even stranger is that her grandmother doesn’t seem to be worried at all. She even seems happy that Kit will most likely be staying for Crowning Day after all. This leads Kit to not trust her grandmother at all as well as question what is so important about the town’s upcoming festival.

One of the few comforts Kit has while in town is meeting Bear. He is a charming guy who happens to like many of the same things Kit does. He is even willing to help her break into the town museum to find answers about the town, her family, and her mom's disappearance.

Just as Kit is beginning to trust a few other people around town she learns that not everyone in town is who they say they are… Some are not even what they appear to be…

I definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good horror mystery! Thank you NetGalley, Amanda Linsmeier, and Random House Children’s Books for allowing me to read this advanced copy of Starlings! Also, I absolutely loved the look of the cover!
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Star Rating: —> 4.5 Stars

Wow. WowwowWOW! This was one hell of a thrill ride! More of a creepy fantasy haunted house ride with mild scares, but that didn’t change the impact of the mood of the mystery… I was dying to know what was at the very root of things the entire time! There was just this underlying air of sinister energy the whole book! Sure, a few things were easily guessable, but the rest? NOPE. I cannot wait to check out more from this author! I loved how well she wove fantastical elements with the horror elements! It was nothing short of masterful. 

I was wholly & truly impressed! I also loved that the author made the MC Bi! Bisexuality never gets near enough representation in books! 

All in all I cannot recommend this enough!

A huge thank you to NetGalley & Random House Children’s Publishing for the ARC! This in no way changed my opinion or review!
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Starlings has all the makings of a good YA horror--parental secrets, strange happenings, weird/cute small town, flowers no one can explain, and historical tragedy. It starts out strong with Kit and her mother going to visit the grandmother she's never known, whom her father said was dead. But after her father's suicide, Kit is called to the family seat in Rosemont to get to know the grandmother she never knew. 

Then her mother disappears, leaving behind an uncharacteristic note that sends all of Kit's alarm bells ringing. Unfortunately nearly no one else seems to care about this, including grandma. Determined to find her mother, Kit unwittingly unearths Rosemont's terrible history and the curse that keeps it from further doom--one that she is intricately connected to. 

All together, I mostly liked this. It has a Midsommer vibe and the mystery of the Starling family kept me interested. I do feel like Kit spun her wheels too often--like nothing she ever attempted seemed to amount to much and the climax was so easily dealt with that it undercuts the story a bit. I also didn't think the plot could support a love triangle and felt that about 80% of the romance could have been cut out.
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Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the free copy of this book. Unfortunately, I will not be reading this to completion. I don't really like the writing style of this book. It's one of those "It's not you, it's me" situations. However, I don't feel it right to mark down the book because I couldn't get into the writing style, so I'm giving it a 3 star.
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Kit Starling has just recently lost her father and is headed to the town of Rosemont to see her her paternal grandmother, Agatha, for the first time with her mother. Once she arrives, she uncovers family secrets as she grieves that loss.  But that's not the only loss Kit is facing.. now her mother has gone missing! 

This book is a quick and captivating read that is super creepy - it's definitely a Young Adult novel that focuses on Kit's "coming of age" as she navigates through Rosemont and tries to find answers. She realizes that she can't trust the people that she thought she could, not everything is as it seems.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for an honest review! I look forward to reading more from Amanda Linsmeier, I enjoy her writing!
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Monsters come in many forms, and the most chilling kind aren’t the kind that go bump in the night.

Fans of the Claire LeGrand’s Sawkill Girls will enjoy this dark contemporary fantasy about a quaint, small town with a terrifying secret and a fierce main character who is brave enough to break a brutal and seemingly impossible generational curse that holds her family and the entire town captive.

Things I loved: 

- The subtle supernatural elements and original lore

The dark fantasy elements in the story were developed enough to set up a fascinating and original world where monsters and magic exist, but subtle enough to let your own imagination terrify you. 

- A strong-willed FMC who can save herself 

Kit finds herself in some terrifying scenarios and has little to no help from anyone. Even when she is able to form some bonds and friendships, there is not much others can do to get her out of the trouble she faces. 

I loved how Kit was resilient and creative to create her own solutions when presented with ultimatums and impossible odds. Was she perfect? Did she always make smart decisions? Not at all. 

There were plenty of times I found myself yelling at the pages, but her character was consistent, believable, and relatable.

I really enjoyed this story and nearly devoured it in one setting. The eerie suspense and the dark fantastical elements were well blended in this YA gem. I’m a fan and can’t wait to see what else Linsmeier has coming. 

Things to note:
This story may include triggering content which includes but isn’t limited to: 
Mention of and description of abuse/ torture, death/parent loss, abandonment, mention and depiction of murder, death, anxiety, and depression 

Thank you to Netgalley, Random Children’s & Delacorte Press for a complimentary copy of this e-book. I am leaving a voluntary review. All thoughts and ideas expressed are my own.
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This is a super quick & captivating read with all of the spooky small town vibes. I loved the dark atmosphere and it actually dealt with some darker themes than I was expecting. It kept me wanting to read more to find out what the big secret of the town was and how it involved Kit’s family. Some twists were predictable but others were pretty good. This book is mainly about family, but has a hint of romance as well. The only thing is that I thought the romance got a little strange toward the end. Overall a solid 4 star read.

Thank you to Random House Children’s for the ARC!
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This book was so creepy and cool. Kit and her mom felt very "Lorelai and Rory" to me, and the town definitely had stars-hollow-esque vibes...until everything fell apart and the horrifying secrets of what makes this town so perfect began to unwind. Creepy and modern and beautiful and so easy to get sucked into. I read it in like 2 days.

I like when horror novels have a botanical twist to them, and that appealed to me in STARLINGS. I loved Sabelle. Loved the florist guy. I want Belinda to bake for me. I want to shake every single person in this town to their senses. If you didn't know this was a horror going in the first few chapters would not clue you in until suddenly WHAM THERE IT IS, BE SCARED NOW. Not to mention the way Amanda Linsmeier so delicately and masterfully navigated really heavy feelings of grief and depression folded into our main girl's journey of chasing the mystery of her missing mother and running away from her monsters, but literal and imagined.

Such a beautiful and cool debut.
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I love the cover and the premise sounds exactly up my alley, but the writing style didn't quite work for me. The main character/narrative voice was a bit formal for my taste, so I couldn't fully immerse myself in the work. I can understand WHY the voice is semi-formal, given the characters and setting, though, so I know this will work for plenty of folks.
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So, I really liked the beginning and the ending. The middle, not so much. It’s starts off kind of creepy with an isolated town with no reception. I thought there would be more of the MC coming across things that would connect her to her father but it goes in another direction. It feels like a good portion of the book she’s helpless and yelling out all the obvious problems with the town. It never feels like she does much or gets any real answers until the end. Although I thought the ending was cool I wish the clues she had gave us more of why strategic works at the end. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for the ARC.
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I had very conflicted thoughts over this one.

The good: 
I like a good paranormal horror story, and I enjoyed this story immensely. The setting is small town, everyone knows everyone, including a secret everyone shares. Yes. I love this. The story states it is like Stars Hollow (and proceeds to lay out the set of Gilmore Girls). Starting off things aren't quite right, and relationally everyone is super abrupt, awkward, and secretive. I pretty much saw the twist in the middle coming and honestly I couldn't have been happier for it. This was exactly the kind of creepy story I've wanted. Loved this plot!

The bad: 
I wasn't a huge fan of the writing style. First person present tense is a bit of a pet peeves of mine. It has to be done exquisitely in order for me to accept. But it was forgiveable. The dialogue  and inner monologue was kind of rushed. A lot of times I felt like I was trying to catch up to what was going on in the present, and got kind of confused as to who was who and what was what. 

Mostly though, I had a real problem with how the messaging was handled. I believe the author was trying to convey positive a story of getting out of a cycle of abuse and abusive relationships. A message I fully support. However, I believe it may have unintentionally villainized men completely. Absent father, passive husbands, dismissive policemen, the one "good guy" is the gay florist but even he is keeping secrets and also fairly passive. To be fair most everyone is complicit to abuse, other than a loving mother, and helpful female spirit. But again, all the men are the villains. Why can't there just be good and bad people of all genders? I'm so sick of the women = good and men = bad narrative.

So yeah, read this if you hate men.

Thank you netgalley and Delacort press for a review copy of this book.
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ARC was given by NetGalley & Delacorte Press in exchange for an honest review.

Content/Trigger Warnings: Loss of a loved one, grief, depictions of anxiety, brief mentions of dead animals, depictions of claustrophobia, abduction, death, murder, depictions of blood, scene of suicidal ideation, scene of forced drugging/sedation, manipulation, scenes of emesis, mentions of starvation (in the past), talk of cannibalism (in the past), graphic deaths recounted, scene of drowning

“The wind whispers, sending chills down my spine. It almost seems to call my name. Silkily, a caress against the back of my neck. Starling.”

This was such a captivating read! Wow, friends. Truly, my curiosity was running wild with this book. I won’t lie, there were a few moments where I thought this might not live up to my expectations or I should, my high hopes for loving this book. After finishing this book, I can happily say that this was such a great read, perfect for the wintery season to give you some light goosebumps or tingles. And you can rest assured, I’m looking forward to what this author will have instore for us next!

Kit Starling is grieving the loss of her father, a huge inspiration to her and why she wants to become an author. When Kit finds out that she has a grandmother, after all this time, she and her mother set out to Rosemont. Filled with many questions of why her father lied and now even more secrets seem to be spilling out before her, on top of her mother missing Kit has more questions than ever. Something isn’t right in Rosemont, something much darker and it’s all linked back to her family, the Starlings.

“What they had was imprinted on us forever. It will never die,” Agatha said. It will die, I silently vow. I’m going to be the one to kill it.”

I was a bit nervous, I won’t lie. Books surrounding mother-daughter relationships just haven’t been my cup of tea as of late. I have struggled with the dynamic for a while now and officially decided to bench it. So when I learned this have a very close-knit mother-daughter bond, I was a bit hesitant. However, I was pleasantly surprised by this dynamic. Despite my worries, I really enjoyed the bond Kit and her mother have. In their grief, it seemed to solidify their relationship and the way Kit’s mother is written, it’s very obvious how much she loves Kit and how devoted she is to her. I just really loved it and even Kit being fully determined to find her mother was really nice to see. I just really loved the both of them and their bond they share with one another.

Speaking of Kit, I was a little worried with Kit’s character, as well. There were moments where Kit almost came off as extremely oblivious and almost like she couldn’t put the bigger picture together, but despite that, I loved that her love for her mother was the fire that caused her to keep pushing forward, to seek out the answers she needed, and to ultimately put the bigger picture together. I was very pleasantly surprised by that. I appreciate the author made sure to not box Kit’s character into a particular hero role. Throughout this whole book, Kit truly just craves family and we see moments where she’s crumbling to pieces, but also finding family in places where she didn’t think she could have it. I really adored that. And I have to mention Kit is either bisexual or pansexual. There are two characters in this book that Kit is attracted to and let me just say, I love a good F/F romance where one of them is a monster girl. That’s all I’ll say.

“She tastes like salt and sugar and darkness, and the promise of light just barely beneath it. I shouldn’t want to kiss her this much. But I do it anyway.”

Okay, that’s not all I’ll say. Let’s talk about about ‘Sabelle because I truly, with my whole chest, need fan art of this character. I fell madly in love with ‘Sabelle’s character. Now, I might be a little bias because I love anything with monsters, but her character really hit my intrigue when we get her first appearance. Truly, one of the best entrances for a character I’ve ever seen. ‘Sabelle’s whole personality reminds me of the wind, how it’s very light, but ever changing depending on seasons and weather. Honestly, I’m a little salty that it took a hot minute for her to come back into the storyline and I wish she would have been brough back sooner, but I still love her character and the scenes we do get were chef’s kiss.

Though there were many things I loved about this book and so, so many quotes, there were a few things that really held me back from fully loving it the way I hoped I would. While this is a subtle thing, it still irked me and there were a few scenes where Kit’s weight was brought up. Now, if it was to show the passage of time then I probably wouldn’t have an issue with it, but that wasn’t the case. There was a huge emphasis of how thin Kit was and it didn’t really serve any purpose. It was just a little annoying and felt like it took away from the story at times. I think my biggest issue with this book was that it became very predictable of the direction the book was going to go. Two of the big plot twists, I predicted right around the 40% mark and that kind of hindered my enjoyment once they were both confirmed. Though I will say, despite predicting those plot twists, the ending still surprised me and saved the book for me.

“So I’ll say, when you get a chance run. And never look back. Or maybe just fight, like I’m not brave enough to do.”

Overall, I’m trying so hard not to say too much. I genuinely believe the best way to go into this book is to go in not knowing a lot about it. I think if I would have know more about this book than I did, I don’t think I would love it the way I do. This was a really fun read though. I went into this book expecting mystery, maybe a little romance, and that’s exactly what I got, with some added bonuses. I loved the cover, I have so many quotes highlighted, and the important side characters like Beth and Miles just have my whole heart. If the cover of this book doesn’t entice you, let me just recommend that you give it a chance because it truly deserves it.

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
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Amanda Linsmeier perfectly captures reader by creating this dark and eerie atmosphere with the language and the dialogue. The tension hit just at the right spots and the characters were so realistic and I could really relate to the FMC, Kit.
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This was not my typical genre, but I really enjoyed it.  The start was a bit slow, but once I got into it I really got into the story.  My favorite aspect of this book was the setting - I loved how it felt familiar yet with a sinister undertone.  I also enjoyed the characters, especially the FMC.  The twists kept me guessing and made me not want to put this one down!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children's, Delacorte Press for an eARC of Starlings! 

I recently started delving into the Horror genre and when I saw this pitched as Midsommer in Stars Hollow- I just had to read Starlings! Amanda Linsmeier perfectly captures reader by creating this dark and eerie atmosphere with the language and the dialogue. The tension hit just at the right spots and the characters were so realistic and I could really relate to the FMC, Kit. I definitely can't wait for this book to release and it's in my pre-orders!
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Starlings is an atmospheric read. I found myself pulled into the story and not wanting to put it down. I needed to keep reading. 
Rosemont reminded me of places that felt familiar such as a creepy version of Stars Hollow. As soon as MC, Kit, enters this secluded little town I could feel that something was off. And when Kits mother went missing and she becomes determined to save her my heart really felt for her. She is put in an impossible situation and yet Kit continued to fight! 
I think my favorite part of this story was the vibe. It was dark and mysterious, yet almost cozy. I enjoyed the reveal halfway through the book even though I called it pretty quickly. I felt satisfied in my knowing not irritated that it was obvious. 
One thing I didn’t really care for was the MCs need to latch onto someone to love (and make out with). I understand there was an underlying theme involved with Kits revelation about herself but I think the story could have been just as strong without it. But that’s just my opinion. 
Overall it was a gripping read and I’ll definitely be picking up books by Amanda Linsmeier in the future.
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This gave me major Pleasantville vibes and I adored it! The imagery in this book was incredible and I could envision this city like my own. I love the feminist theme throughout and thought this was a very fresh new spin on a supernatural type book. I will definitely be rereading this one!!
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