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?
I completely agree with your assessment regarding mental illness and what bothered you about “”Will You Won’t You Want Me”. Grrrrr…
“The Life We Bury” sounds like a great mystery read (I love a good mystery!) so I will add that to my list 🙂
I hear ya about feeling overwhelmed with #allthebooks. I am trying to pace myself this month because there is so much I want to read, but I also have real-life stuff that needs to get taken care of, ya know? Also, I didn’t know you were adopted; have you ever written a post about that? I’d love to hear your story 🙂
It honestly bothered me horribly. I know it won’t for many, but that is a sore spot for me, especially when it is so unnecessary. I really enjoyed The Life We Bury and think you will too. Joe is a great character and I really love his relationship with autistic brother. Plus, it was actually nice to have a likable main character and cops who weren’t corrupt and actually did serve and protect. I hear you – so many good books, so little time. Like I said, I have to remind myself that I don’t need to check out every book at once! LOL! No, I haven’t written much about being adopted and probably should!
I added What Lies Between Us. Sounds heartbreaking and fascinating…both characteristics I enjoy in my reads.
The Life We Bury is already on my “to read” list. AND, I’m currently reading a book that I thought would be great for Minnesota in my USA Reading Roadtrip challenge…but although the lead character lives in MN, the book mostly takes place in Iowa. So, now I can use The Life We Bury.
How to Build a Girl is on my tbr list as well. I’m a music lover. So, I need to read it.
It is heartbreaking and fascinating. There are periods you forget about what she does to only have her remind you and crush your heart. It was also very eye-opening to me in the sense that I never thought about how much women with postpartum depression must suffer and often in silence. Because who wants to admit they unhappy when they have a beautiful newborn everyone is cooing over? I think you’ll enjoy How To Build a Girl. Many of the bands I didn’t know (it takes place in London) but I was also listening to NKOTB when I was 14 too. #NotAshamed
I’m going to read What Lies Between Us and The Life We Bury.
I hope you enjoy them, Steph!
I was on the fence about the Love That Split the World. I loved the IDEA of it and parts of it were excellent. But… you are right. Bad case of insta-love and that ending was just… ugh.
The Midwest Darling
I will definitely checkout the next book Emily Henry writes because there were definitely some strong points to the book. But the insta-love that didn’t connect for me and lackluster ending really make this a so-so book for me.
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
You had so many great book choices for April! Even though the subject matter seems tough, What Lies Between Us sounds like a very good read! The Life We Bury also sounds like a really interesting read! I loved the Lunar Chronicles so much, and 100% agree with you that Winter was a great ending to the series. Now I just need to read Stars Above!
The Year We Turned 40 sounds like a really interesting read. I read a book called The Repeat Year, which has a similar context, a woman goes back in time to relive a pivotal year and she tries to make different choices in order to change the outcome of her life. I think that you’d really enjoy it!
It is definitely a tough, heart-breaking subject matter but What Lies Between Us was so good – at least for me. I really also enjoyed The Life We Bury and can’t wait to read his other books.The Lunar Chronicles is one of my favorite YA series and Stars Above is fantastic! Sometimes short stories can be tough but these were great. Thanks for the recommendation, I’m definitely going to check out The Repeat Year. It is fascinating to think about how we would do things differently. And I liked the fact in The Year We Turned 40 that even knowing what happened before, didn’t make things easier. New choices meant new consequences.
Jana @ Jana Says says
I went to add a bunch of these to my TBR and discovered they’re already there. So that was nice. I’ll probably bump a couple up on the list and request them from the library once I’m through a couple of the NetGalley ones I have left to read. I’m overwhelmed at this point and have to calm my shit down with these books.
I hear you! I have to calm down too and remember the library is not Netflix. I’ve managed to control NetGalley a bit better – only because I have stopped checking it out constantly. LOL!
Emma @Ever Emma says
I also have to keep reminding myself that the library isn’t Netflix. I don’t read nearly fast enough to keep buying and borrowing so many books! What Lies Between Us. . . I’m reading between the lines and guessing that she killed her kid? hmmm That actually sounds interesting to me. . . seeing things from that point of view. Adding the majority of these books to my TBR. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t insta-love in Split the World that it was like a weird supernatural-like connection because they were the only two people who could do what they could do.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who has that problem! Yup, you got it. Horrifying and reading it just broke my heart – for her and everyone. I would have absolutely bought the supernatural connection from being able to traverse in each other worlds if Henry had been able to make me a believe. But she didn’t. Beau was so much like the boy Natalie broke up with and I wasn’t able to see what she thought was so different and special about him. And I really, really wanted to believe.
Oh some of these sound so interesting!! I too absolutely loved The Lunar Chronicles but I haven’t read Stars Above yet!
Definitely check it out, Heather. It had some great short stories about our favorite couples and you’ll really enjoy it.
Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue says
Hmm, I went through a big magical realism phase in my early 20s, I wonder if I’d still be into it now.
I completely agree on insta-love – Can’t stand it! Although that’s probably another theme my early 20s self was really into… How we change!!
Magical realism is probably not one of my favorite genres but Couto pulled it off perfectly. And I really liked not knowing what was real and what wasn’t. Yeah, insta-love can really ruin a book when it falls flat. And for me, it fell flat in this book. For some, the ending ruined it for them, but they bought into Natalie and Beau’s relationship. I didn’t like either, so the book overall didn’t work as much for me.
Jenn @ Optimization, Actually says
Winter!!! I read it as soon as it came out because I loved the series so much. It was satisfying, but the more time passes, the harder it is to jump back into the world. I think, from now on, I’m only going to start series that are already finished. I have not read the collection of short stories, because I feel like sometimes the “here’s some more stuff” that gets published after a big success just isn’t as well done (definitely had that issue with the Magnus Bane book after the Shadow Hunter series), but based on your recommendation, I might pick it up.
I LOATHE insta-love. I don’t believe it in one bit, and I think it’s just sloppy to skip all that good character development that happens when you meet someone who changes you in that way. Plus the start of the relationship is the fun bit – who wants to skip straight through to the boring “how do we stay together” stuff???
I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I got Winter as soon as it came out by some lucky chance. And then I forgot about it and had to return it unread because there was a waiting list and couldn’t renew it. It took me almost 5 months before I was able to get it again! I’ve been thinking the same thing – wait until a series is finished to start reading. A) because I’m getting old and can’t always remember what happened in the previous book. B) I want to make sure the series as a whole is worth it. Sometimes a really bad ending can taint a whole series. It might not be fair or right but it can happen. I have a love/hate relationship with insta-love. Like I said, I’m Fox Mulder and I want to believe but you got to make me believe. And if you don’t, then it really bothers me. And yes, it can really affect the whole character development too, which is what happened for me in the Love that Split the World. I got Natalie but Beau is a blank space to me.
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family says
I run into the same library problems as you. I put a gazillion on hold and they all come in at the same time. Then I feel pressured to get them read before they are due back, especially the new releases, which I know may take awhile for me to get back again! I added What Lies Between Us to my to read list. I’ve only read Cinder and need to catch up with this series. I already had The Year We Turned 40 on my to read list and I had just added Will You Won’t You Want Me after reading another blogger’s review today!
Exactly! Some of the books had a pretty long waiting list so I thought it would be months before I would receive them. And then the emails started to arrive. And I do feel such pressure to read them too, even though it’s all in my head. I try to prioritize by which ones I really, really want to read and how readily I can get my grubby little hands on it again. If you enjoyed Cinder, the whole series is quite good and I recommend it.
Olya @ The Siberian American says
What Lies Between Us sounds like such a powerful book! I have The Year We Turned Forty on my NetGalley list, so I’m glad you liked it. It’s so interesting to read your perspective on Will You Won’t You Want Me? I usually get get really upset when mental illness is portrayed in a negative light, but I barely noticed that e-mail in the story.
It is a really powerful book Olya. I still think about it and my heart cries a bit. It doesn’t surprise me that you didn’t notice the email in Will You Won’t You Want Me because I don’t think many did. But I was going through a bit of a relapse with my depression at the time and mental illness is a real hot button topic for me, so it was like a punch in the face. In some ways, I think it mostly disappointed me because it was just unnecessary.
Confession of the Lioness sounds really good. I read Cinder a while back but I feel like I should give it another shot. For some reason, I didn’t love it.
I really enjoyed Confession of the Lioness. Both the cultural aspect and superstitions made it a very different story, which was a nice change of pace. I really liked Cinder. but it did take a little bit for me to warm up to her. Overall, though, I enjoyed the series. Give it another try and if it doesn’t work for you – no harm, no foul.
So several reviews I read hated the ending of The Love that Split the World and therefore I kicked it off my reading list. A bad ending will ruin an entire book for me sometimes. I dont like gambling. LOL. The Year We Turned 40 sounds like an interesting read. I will have to add it to my list. I think I might add What Lies Between Us and I already have the Marissa Meyer series on my TBR list and I have got to get to it!!
I’m the same way – a bad ending can really ruin a book for me too. The Year We Turned 40 was really good, fast read. The Lunar Chronicles is a really great series and I hope you enjoy it!
aw man i totally get where you’re coming from with the love that split the world. i’m not against insta love though.. maybe because my husband and i met, spent 4 days together and then basically got married. haha. not really, but i feel like it was a bit like that. but most YA books don’t even have 4 days.. anyway yeah the ending was stupid. Marjorie sounds like an idiot. added all your lovely books to my list, and babble away girl! i do as well lol
I’m not against insta-love if they can make believe. And I want to believe. But if they can’t, then it annoys me to no end. And unfortunately, I didn’t buy into this great love that could split the world. And thank goodness someone likes my babbling! LOL! I like your book babble too! 🙂
Jessica @ Pleas(e) & Carrots says
What Lies Between Us sounds so interesting! Adding it to my TBR list!
I hope you enjoy it, Jessica!
First, I just want to say that I completely relate to the whole “putting way too many books on hold at the library only to have them miraculously become available all at once” thing. That is, quite literally, the story of my life. Thankfully my library has a “pause holds” option that holds your place in line until you’re ready to resume an active hold. I currently have 10 paused holds! I already have a bunch of books checked out, and I really want to finish all of those before June when Erin and Dani’s challenge starts.
I’m adding What Lies Between Us, The Life We Bury (I was on the fence about this one, and your review made me feel like I definitely need to read it!), and How to Build a Girl. When I saw your note that it’s great for music lovers, I was sold! 🙂
I noticed my library has a freeze on holds, but I didn’t realize it would hold my place in line. Next time, I’m using it! I’m doing Erin and Dani’s challenge too, although I plan to read both new and old books. Most of my old books don’t overly appeal to me at this point but I’d like to read them and then donate them. I hope you enjoy the Life We Bury as much as I did. I really liked the main characters quite a bit. Lately, it seems like so many protagonists are anti-heroes, which I don’t mind, but I really needed a hero who was a likable, decent human being and does the right thing. And that was Joe. And I really loved his relationship with his autistic brother, Jeremy.
I don’t think I have a strong opinion either way about magical realism, but Confessions of the Lioness sounds fantastic!
Give it a try, Allison! I really enjoyed it and liked not always knowing what was real and what wasn’t.
what lies between us sounds fascinating. Often times I tend to like books that make me slightly uncomfortable and toe the line. the Life we bury is also catching my eye.
Me too, Carrie. It can really open my eyes, as it did with What Lies Between Us. I really enjoyed The Life We Bury too. It’s simply a good, solid read and I’m anxious to continue on with the loose series.
Rose @ Ramblin' Rose says
So I did not know what Love that Split was about but I am adopted too so now I feel like I must read it. I love reading, hearing about adoption just because each situation is so unique but it’s also so personal. The other weekend I was talking to an acquaintance and I learned that she had given a child up for adoption 18 years ago and it was just so refreshing to hear the other side of the story first hand.
Even though I overall wasn’t a huge fan of the book, she did a really good job with handling Natalie being adopted. Definitely give it a try and I’d be interested to hear your thoughts afterwards. Maybe you’ll feel differently than me. Every adopted kid has their own experiences and mine mirrored Natalie pretty closely. Just know if you do read the book, the ending, in particular, has received a very mixed reaction.
lisacng @ expandng.com says
What lies between us is going on my list even though the subject matter is sad. The Cinder book has been on my list for a while. Just waiting for the right time. I’ll give the Lion book, and magical realism, a try!
I hope you enjoy the books, Lisa! What Lies Between Us definitely has a very sad and difficult topic and she handled it so well. I really enjoyed the Lunar Chronicles series and liked her spin on the classic fairy tales. There were definitely times I wasn’t sure what was up and what was down in Confession of a Lioness but I still liked it!