Fact: The Library and Netflix are not the same thing. This is what I need to tell myself every time I get the urge to go crazy and put a ton of books on hold. Books don’t disappear or get put back into the vault; they will be there. If you haven’t guessed already, I did it again (cue, Britney). Giddiness over took me and I reserved too many books that became available at the same time. #BookNerdProblems! Plus, one book I loved needed some processing time, which led to me rereading it again … just to make sure it was really that good. It was.
The Books I Loved, Liked and Sorta Liked
It was overall a very good month for me: lots of lovely books and some okeydokey books too. While no book earned the dreaded loathe title this month, a couple books were meh, but had enough redeemable qualities that kept me reading. For those who feel a bit faint-hearted looking at the length of this post, there is a TL;DR at the end.
The Lovely Books
Also known as the books I loved this month.
What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera
My Review: This is not a spoiler because she tell us this on the 3rd page: she is in prison and receives hate mail from other mothers. What can a mother who suffers from postpartum depression do to become reviled by all? And… you’re there. Some won’t want to read this book because of this; I understand. She never tries to justify or gain our sympathy and fully accepts the consequences of her actions. She only wants to share her story. Although we know her fate, we come to care for this woman who will commit such a monstrous act. We meet her as a child, bright and vivacious, but also living with a Mom who – best guess – is bipolar. Eventually, circumstances force them to leave Sri Lanka and move to the US, where she thrives. We watch her fall in love and start to see just a glimmer of darkness that soon turns into shards of glass, slicing those she loves. What we also see very clearly is her deep love for her daughter, and we silently scream for a different outcome that won’t happen.
To Read or Not To Read? Read it. I know the subject matter will turn some of you off, which is more than fine. Right now, this stands as the best book I’ve read this year. I read it twice. The first time completely dry-eyed, even though my heart broke a thousand times. The second time, I finally lost it at the very end, long after the deed was done. And to be clear, this is fiction but it has changed how I look at women who suffer from postpartum depression and the difficulties they face.
Confession of the Lioness by Mia Couto
Book Description: In an isolated village, women are being stalked and killed by a lion. Archangel Bullseye (yes, that’s his real name) is hired to kill the lion but discovers the real threat against the women of Kulumani may be less lion and more man.
My Review: Magical realism at its finest. Honestly, I’m not 100% confident that I know what was real and what was not, but I like it all. Couto captured the oppression of women so well and how superstition can be used to free or enslave you. “Pains pass, but they don’t disappear. The migrate into us, come to rest somewhere in our being, submerged in the depths of a lake”. Good God, yes.
To Read or Not to Read? Read it, if you’re fan of magical realism.
Winter and Stars Above by Marissa Meyer
Book Descriptions: In Winter, Cinder and company finally make it to Lunar where she battles her evil Aunt Levana to reclaim her rightful throne. Stars Above featured nine short stories (five previously unreleased with the one story taking place after the events of Winter) starring our favorite characters from the Lunar Chronicles.
My Reviews: Winter is a great conclusion to the Lunar Chronicles. Since this is a re-envisioning of classic fairytales, I expected the happily ever after endings for our main couples. What I loved was that nobody put a ring on it and they focused on the bigger issues first — like helping others. This was nice because they were A) babies (okay, teens) B) just meet. Winter and Jacin’s story got a bit short-shifted because so much else was going on, and I didn’t feel a strong connection to them … until Stars Above. They have a great story that definitely helped me better under Jacin’s devotion to Winter. The Little Android is also an exceptional story and a redux of the Little Mermaid without the singing crab. And finally, we get to visit the gang one more time after the events of Winter.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. A great YA series overall that I highly recommend.
The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
Book Description: Joe chooses Carl Iverson, a convicted murderer as his subject for a college writing assignment. While Iverson admits to being a murderer, as his story unfolds, Joe starts to question his guilt and begins looking for other possible suspects with grave consequences.
My Review: Full disclosure: the story takes place in Minneapolis and Austin MN, and I have lived in both cities, so hometown pride! Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It’s a good, easy and entertaining mystery/thriller with likable main characters who you want to see succeed. The unwinding of Iverson’s life and what really happened was also well done. It was somewhat predictable, which is not meant to be a diss. Sometimes, I need the protagonist to actually be a good guy, not an anti-hero, and win.
To Read or Not To Read?: Read it. This is the first book in a series (loosely related by characters) and I’m anxious to read the next book.
The Okey Books
These are the books that I liked, starting with the ones I really liked.
The Year We Turned 40 by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
I received an advanced copy from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Book Description: Three best friends are given the chance of a lifetime — to go back in time and redo the year they turned 40.
My Review: I really liked this story. We meet the ladies, Jessie, Gabriela and Claire, on the eve of Jessie’s 40th birthday where each lady experiences a life-changing event. I like the fact that going back in time (and yes, you’re either onboard with the premise or not) didn’t automatically make things better. They “land” after their life-changing event, so they still have to deal with the consequences but can now choose to respond differently. And the changes they make don’t necessarily make things easier; in some instances, things become even more difficult for them. There were times I wanted to yell at them (and maybe did), hug them and give them a hi-five.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it. They deal with real issues, such as adultery, infertility and so on, but it’s not a heavy read and would make a great beach read.
How To Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
Book Description: Johanna Morrigan embarrasses herself on live TV and decides to remake herself into a better girl, choosing writing about music, drinking, smoking and casual sex as her new self.
My Review: A good coming of age book. Johanna is funny, sad, honest and lives in a very different world from my teenage years. My parents would never let me do everything her family allowed her to do, but it felt real and right in her world.
To Read or Not To Read Read it, especially music-lovers.
The Dokey Books
These books border loathe territory but still had some redeeming qualities too.
The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry
Book Review: Henry absolutely has talent and I look forward to seeing what else she writes. I like that Natalie is Native American and adopted. I am adopted too and thought she handled how that feels, both good and bad, very, very well.
What I didn’t like. At all: Insta-love. Here’s the rub, though: I’m not Dana Scully; I’m Fox Mulder. I want to believe in your insta love. But I didn’t. This was all — he’s hawt; she’s hawt. And I don’t believe hawtness alone can “split the world”. I couldn’t figure out what made Beau so special, beyond being able to traverse in each other’s plane of existence. What if he had been ugly? Another irritant was a big time information dump 9 PAGES before the end of the book, which did explain their connection but still didn’t give it heft or make me a believer. In fact, the information dump made me long for the days when I learned how to grow potatoes on Mars. And the ending? Me no likey. I believe what Henry intended was something artsy and profound, but it ended up being too murky and easily misread.
To Read or Not To Read: Eh, dealer’s choice, If what bothered me is already making you twitchy, then skip it. If you think it sounds amazing and I’m an old coot (to be fair, I am), then read it and I hope you believe.
Will You Won’t You Want Me by Nora Zelevansky
I was provided an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher for an honest review.
Book Review: I ultimately enjoyed Marjorie’s arc through the book, going from high school “it” girl to realizing 10 years later that her life has gone no where. But there were a couple things that really, really bothered me, including instant backstory on every character we meet. It interrupted the momentum and was often unnecessary.
However, what truly upset me is something most will likely find trivial. Her boss, who is really a red shirt character, exists for one purpose: to fire Marjorie. But she doesn’t merely fire her, she also sends an email to her entire contact list that implies Marjorie is mentally ill (“seeks the lifetime of treatment she clearly needs”) and tells Marjorie that she has no recourse. This offends me deeply because: A) Lots of people read fact into their fiction, especially one that so carefully grounds itself in current reality (we hear about the mass killing at the Dark Knight Rises showing in Aurora, etc.). People with a real mental illness (which Marjorie does not have) already deal with enough stigma and don’t need people thinking they can pull that crap. Plus, this book isn’t about mental illness or even bad bosses for that matter. B) It also essentially makes the book moot. A smart Marjorie would have gotten a copy of that email, sauntered into some plush NY law office, watched a lawyer’s pupils turn into dollar signs and not had to worry about money for a very long time. Thus ending Marjorie’s journey at some 30 or so pages in. I would call that a doh moment on the author.
So why did I keep reading? It was my first book through Netgally and I didn’t want DNF it. Once you get past the really unnecessary incident with her boss, it does touch upon some important themes that have absolutely nothing to do with mental illness. Yup, still bitter.
To Read or Not To Read: If you can get past the things that annoyed me, which may or may not even bother you, then it’s standard chick lit. If you can’t, then you may want to skip it because there are simply too many great books that should be read instead.
TL;DR – My Recommendations
Okay, here’s the short and sweet of it for those who wish I wouldn’t babble so much (won’t ever happen): The must-reads are What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera, Confession of the Lioness by Mia Couto, Winter and Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (for YA fans) and The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens.
To Another Great Reading Month
I already have a stack of books on the nightstand by my bed for this month. It was a much, much bigger pile, but I returned some books unread because it was seriously stressing me out. And I don’t want reading to become “work”. I’m also planning to participate in Erin’s Read My Books Challenge in July, so I’ve been setting aside a few (dust-covered) books to read for her challenge. As always, I will be linking up with the awesome hosts of Show Us Your Books, Jana and Steph on Tuesday.
What great books did you read this month?