Do you remember being graded on a curve? I remember being the person who ruined the curve a few times. And also the person who got horribly punished by curve grading too. 😀 This month it felt like I was grading on a curve after two phenomenal books last month. I shouldn’t compare, but I’m only human! And amazing books linger and linger and linger.
The Books I Loved, Liked and Maybe Liked Or Not
Another month full of books that captured my heart. Or not.
The Books I Loved
These are the books I wholeheartedly recommend and love.
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel
Book Description: After her Mom’s suicide, Lane now lives with her wealthy grandparents and her cousin, Allegra and quickly discovers the magic and horror of being a Roanoke Girl.
Book Review: This is a messed up book and I love it. Whenever I say that about a book full of twisted people, I wonder what that says about me? 😀 Lane’s bitterness, resentment and guilt, while completely understandable, grew old at times and I was like “why ya gotta be such a bitch?”, especially to those who really didn’t deserve the Queen B act. Other times her bitterness, resentment and guilt led to epic bitchiness that made me proud to be a woman. Complex, I know 😀 Her grandfather was a piece of work and I wish he was a bit more front and center so we could really see the angel and devil he was.
To Read Or Not To Read: Yup. It’s not a pretty topic but it’s an engaging read with lots of messed up people, if that’s your jam. Clearly, it’s mine.
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini
Book Description: A no-holds-barred memoir about her life in the Church of Scientology and painful split from the controversial religion.
Book Review: I never expected to love this book that much. I applaud Leah for not only waking up but not slinking away into the night and instead standing up to Scientology. It’s also very clear from the book how much she at one time deeply believed in it and how it crushed her when she began to see the truth. She was also very smart in how she wrote the book, knowing that Scientology would do all it could to discredit her, by being honest about her own past mistakes and describing how they would try to attack her. So when they did, it became less effective because they were doing just as she said they would. I suspect that’s why Scientology never sued her because Leah would love to go to court and force them to discredit her.
To Read Or Not To Read: Read it. It’s an eye-opening read and really pissed me off.
The Books I Liked
The books that I overall enjoyed, ranked from most liked to liked.
Echoes In Death by J.D. Robb
Book Description: Someone is preying on wealthy couples and his latest victim is only able to describe him as “The Devil”.
Book Review: This is book #44 in the series and it is good but not as great as the previous few books, which were excellent. I will also say that a good In Death book is often times a great book in comparison to other books for me. I just have ultra high expectations when it comes to these books. 😀 The reason it didn’t resonate as strongly was the case was a bit slow for me and the secondary characters that I love didn’t have very prominent roles.
To Read Or Not To Read: Absolutely. While a series, the books can be read as a stand-alone and this would be a good place to start, actually. While I missed the secondary characters, a newbie would not and get a better sense of Eve and Dallas without them.
The Dark Room by Jonathan Moore
Book Description: The San Francisco Mayor is being blackmailed and must either kill himself or have damaging photographs exposed to the public.
Book Review: The premise really drew me in and overall this was a solid story. I like Cain, the homicide investigator, quite a bit. He was smart, shrewd and compassionate while also willing to bend the rules when necessary. My biggest quibble is that the killer, while logical (which is important because I despise Scooby-Doo bad guy reveals) was also the more boring choice. I liked some of the more nefarious groundwork laid out.
To Read Or Not To Read: Yes. It’s a great book and I’m hoping to Moore continues to write more books featuring Cain.
The Forgotten Girls by Owen Laukkanen
Book Description: Agents Stevens and Windermere track a serial killer who targets those society most often ignores: the forgotten girls.
Book Review: I enjoyed this quite a bit. It’s a solid thriller and I like how Laukkanen focused on individuals often overlooked, runaway Native American girls. I also liked how the women and girls in the book, no matter how small their role, felt real. They weren’t perfect but they also weren’t weak sisters. He based his story on a real serial killer in Vancouver who was murdering women in the 80s/90s and their deaths were largely ignored. My only real quibble is the manhunt started to drag a bit, like when you watch a superhero movie and all the face punching grows old, but otherwise a strong book.
To Read Or Not To Read: Read it. A fast read that will hold your attention. If true crime interests you more, Laukkanen recommended On the Farm by Stevie Cameron on the real life serial killer (Robert Pickton) who inspired his book.
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens
Book Description: Strange things have been occurring to Lindsey who fears her abusive ex-husband is seeking revenge after being released from prison.
Book Review: It took me a long time to read this book. Stevens has a way of making you feel like a part of the action and I vicariously felt Lindsey’s tension and fear, which didn’t always make me want to pick-up the book and continue reading but I persevered. The motive and villain seemed fairly apparent to me (and I was right) and I have somewhat mixed feelings about the father. Relationships with abusers are messy and complex, which Stevens handled well but I won’t lie: there was a point where I worried that he would be painted a hero. And he was and wasn’t. I can’t say more without going into spoiler territory but for those where spousal abuse is a trigger, you probably want to avoid this story.
To Read Or Not To Read: Read it. You feel very connected to Lindsey and her daughter, Sophie, which can be a good and bad thing.
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia
Book Description: A small town’s darkest secrets come to light during the investigation of young woman’s brutal murder.
Book Review: This book takes place in a fictitious town in Southeastern Minnesota but name-checks real places. I’ve shopped at the Apache Mall in Rochester, admired the Foshay Tower in Minneapolis and devoured tapas at Solera, so when I have a connection to a book, it automatically gets an extra bonus point or two. Hattie is manipulative, although not intentionally cruel, but with the innocence of youth. I was right/wrong with who did it and I can’t say more without giving away the twist, which I have mixed feelings about. It felt a bit like a cheat and I wasn’t really thrilled about the somewhat hopeful ending a character received, which not only didn’t really feel earned, but I would have punched that character hard because that was earned.
To Read or Not To Read: Sure. It’s a bit of a slow read but passes the time just fine too.
The Books I Loathed(ish)
I didn’t outright loathe these because I …
A) Read the entire book (I am also a book masochist)
B) Rant more when I really hate a book
But these are pretty so-so books and I feel grumpy about having read so many last month.
The Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
Book Description: Lincoln’s job is to read people’s work email and finds himself falling in love with Beth through her email exchanges with her best friend, Jennifer.
Book Review: Rainbow Rowell is a perfect example of curve effect. I found E&P to be fantastic but Fangirl was meh and Attachments was eh, so slightly better in Tanya-speak. While I love the idea of initially meeting Jennifer and Beth via email, it also made it difficult to connect with them. In fact, I kept forgetting who was who until Lincoln fell for Beth. Everything was vanilla to me, which I like as a scent but not as a book. Right or wrong, E&P set the standard and none of her other books have lived it up to it.
To Read Or Not To Read: Eh, says it all. I read this for my IRL book club and everyone liked E&P a lot more.
The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry
Book Description: A boy’s death connects to the notorious “Goddess Murders,” in which three descendants of accused Salem witches were brutally murdered.
Book Review: I loved the premise of this book because the Salem Witch trials fascinate (and horrify) me. I like how Barry used both the past and modern day witch hunt as an allegory to how we demonize those different from us and the dangers of doing so. But for the love of Glinda, this book was boring for such a strong premise and full of wasted potential. Lots of blah, blah, blah and very little double, double toil and trouble.
To Read Or Not To Read: Eh. I’m pretty sure there are better books about witches out there.
The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Book Description: After Annalee, a sleepwalker, disappears and is found dead, her oldest daughter, Lianna seeks out what really happened with devastating consequences.
Book Review: I learned a lot about parasomnia, think of it as sleepwalking on steroids, from this book, so yay? Obviously, my enthusiasm isn’t super high for this just okay book. It’s a bit slow (a lot slow) and only became interesting at the end, which is supremely frustrating. Because there, in the end, is where the more interesting story lie (I can’t tell you why without spoiling the story and I’m no spoiler!. Errr … normally.). But the book ends when I actually start to get my Rhett Butler on and give a damn about these people.
Yes, I know Rhett didn’t give a damn in the end but work with me, people!
To Read Or Not To Read: Eh. It’s a fairly tedious route to get to a semi-decent ending. There are better thrillers/mysteries out there.
TL;DR – My Recommendations for You
This month I highly recommend The Roanoke Girls, Echoes in Death, The Dark Room and The Forgotten Girls for those who enjoy a good mystery/thriller. I also recommend Troublemaker for those who enjoy an interesting memoir or want to know more about Scientology. Pass on The Attachments, The Fifth Petal and The Sleepwalker unless the premise really calls to you. After all, I’m no Book Nazi! Read what you want!
To More Great Books
I have discovered a new phenomena: Book Guilt. That’s right, My name is Tanya and I suffer from Book Guilt. The number of books on my nightstand overwhelm me so I get more books to ease my anxiety. Logical? No. But very me. Even though the dust gathered on my ignored books mock me, I can’t help myself and read something else. Oh well. I’ll never run out of books to read (thankfully) but I am going to cut back on putting books on hold this month.
Well, I’m going to try. Maybe.
What good books did you read last month?
P.S. As usual, I’m participating in the Show Us Your Books Link-Up hosted by Jana and Steph. Be sure to see what everyone else is reading!
I have said before (and I’m sure I’ll say again) that I think everyone who reads Rainbow Rowell’s books relate to each one differently. We all seem to have our faves and have one that is so-so. I surprised myself how much I enjoyed Attachments, but I found Landline to be so-so. Others I know loved Landline.
I added The Dark Room. The plot sounds interesting.
I have yet to read that Chevy Stevens, but I’ll get around to it.
I love how clever Rowell is with her hooks – fan fiction, email, etc. but I just had such a hard time getting into both Attachment and FanGirl. At this point, I’m passing on Carry On and Landline right now and hanging onto the great memory of E&P. It was my first Chevy Stevens and I’m definitely interested in reading more of her books.
kathy @ more coffee, less talky says
i’m not a fan of rainbow rowell books. everyone loved elanor and park and couldn’t stop raving about it so when i finally got it from the library, i was totally underwhelmed. i mean, it was ok but it wasn’t mind-blowing and it didn’t make me want to read any more of her other books.
I definitely enjoyed E&P but her other books have underwhelmed me. Like I said to Erin, I like her hooks but the characters don’t feel very developed – all hook, little substance. I’m going to give her books a rest for now.
The Roanoke Girls is on my list, glad to hear you liked it! Leah Remini’s book is also on my list, I am very curious. It’s a documentary as well, right?
wow, you’re up to book 44! i am on like book 5. i like to space them out, otherwise they get to same same for me. i honestly can’t imagine how the story/relationship/characters can go on for 44 books, but if you love them i’m sure she does it well.. and i can’t wait to one day get to them all haha.
oh i am so sad you didn’t love attachments. i read that first, then E&P. I loved them both separately for different reasons, but I thought Attachments was just so adorable. I agree with you about fangirl.. i liked the story better than all the fanfic or whatever. Landline was so-so for me.
Leah has a show on A&E (I think) about Scientology but it’s not about her book, per se. I haven’t watched it but heard good things about it and know that it’s been renewed for a second season. Honestly, I’m not sure how Nora does it because most series start to lose their steam but I still love these books. She’s done a great job making Eve and Roarke both grow as individuals and a couple while also expanding the secondary characters too. Rowell kills me because her books start so good, but both FanGirl and Attachments lost steam for me. I found Attachments to be quite dull, actually.
Brittany Pines says
Agree with Erin, everyone seems to have a different favorite of Rowell’s…but that’s kind cool IMO- better than everything being super generic and the same. The Forgotten Girls is definitely going on my TBR- one of my yearly goals is to read more NA stories. Same here on book guilt- I haven’t read the last 3 books I’ve gotten from the library, and one I didn’t even pick up. So I just gotta stop until I have more time. Ebooks/audiobooks it is, haha.
I agree – I would never want books to be super generic and the same. I always find it interesting to see which books people love and hate and why. Definitely read The Forgotten Girls, I enjoyed the story but it also made me mad, thinking about how we do “forget” about those that society deems not worthy. I get so excited to pick up my holds books but then I just stare at them on my nightstand and pick up something else. ACK!
I didn’t love Landline at ALL but Attachments was so adorable and sweet to me. I really liked the characters. Eleanor and Park was really good in a different way. I love that her books evoke different feelings in everyone. I heard someone raving about how much they loved Fangirl and all of the complexities in it (which I enjoyed but did not think about) on a podcast last week and it made me really think that over. I’ve only read the first of the In Death series but I’m sure I’ll get to more of them down the road! I can’t believe how many are in that series though!! I have The Roanoke Girls from Netgalley and I have been putting it off but I’m going to try it soon.
It’s funny how everyone has a different favorite Rainbow Rowell book. I noticed Landline seems to be the book that most people didn’t really like. I felt like FanGirl touched upon some important topics – mental illness, abandonment, etc but never really explored them. She was always rushing back to tell us more about Simon Snow. Right now, I’m taking a break from her books. I love the In Death series, it is one of my favorites! Err … obviously. 😀 I really like Roanoke Girls. It’s a fast read.
SMD @ Life According to Steph says
I loved The Roanoke Girls.
Added The Forgotten Girls, but noticed it’s part of a series so I added the first one too and will probably read in order because I have issues with that. LOL.
Normally I like to start at the beginning of a series too, but since it was a NetGalley book, I decided to jump in. The good news is that I like the series and would now go back and start at the beginning. Always a positive sign!
I probably say this every month, but I love the format of your reviews! I really liked Attachments and thought it was cute, but I haven’t read anything else by Rowell. I just added Roanoke Girls to my list.
Thanks, Carly!:D I think if I had started with Attachments, I would have enjoyed it more. E&P surprised me with its depth and darkness, so I keep expecting it in her other books, which hasn’t happened. So my expectations are probably not right. I hope you enjoy Roanoke Girls. I really liked it!
Jana @ Jana Says says
NOOOOOOOOOOO!!! Attachments is my favorite Rowell book!!! And my mom won’t stop recommending The Sleepwalker to me but I’m not sure.
Currently reading Never Let You Go and The Roanoke Girls is my next NetGalley book.
Oh no! Attachments just did not rock my world. Like all Rowell books, she captures my attention right away but somewhere along the way I lose interest. I’m not sure why. The Sleepwalker had a good ending but like I said in my review, it also made me mad because the book would have been a really interesting had the ending happened a third way into the story.
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
You really did read a lot of good thrillers this month and quite a few I haven’t heard of so they went on my list! I think that The Forgotten Girls, The Dark Room, and Never Let You Go all sound really interesting. I’ve had Roanoke Girls on my TBR list for a while, so obviously I need to read it sooner rather than later! I’m not usually one for nonfiction, but Leah Remini’s book sounds too good to pass up. I watched the HBO documentary on Scientology, and it was so interesting and very scary too.
I did have quite a few good thrillers this month. I bet you can’t guess what my favorite genre is? 😀 I’m not a big non-fiction fan either and read it for Erin’s 6.0 Reading Challenge. It’s a really good, eye-opening. It made both mad and sad and a book I encourage everyone to read!
Rebecca Jo says
I have a love/hate relationship with Rainbow Rowell too – some books, love, others I’m just cringing through.
Roanake Girls has me SOOO intrigued. I’ve seen others talk about it & I gotta pick that one up sooner rather than later!
I’m glad to hear someone else has a love/hate with Rainbow Rowell. She seems so universally loved that I feel bad not loving her! LOL! Roanoke Girls is really good. Lots of messed up characters but a good, fast read. I hope you like it!
Oh my gosh, you brought back memories of high school with that whole “grading on a curve” thing. I was one of those people that hated it because it always happened to be in a class I did well in, and I knew my grade was going to get screwed up! Ha, ha, ha…
I always liked Leah Remini so I will have to check out her book. Do you remember when she was on Saved By The Bell as Zach’s girlfriend when they had those summer episodes one season? lol 🙂
Grading on curve – it was either my savior or bane! LOL! I was hit and miss with Saved By The Bell, so I don’t remember it but Leah does talk about being on the show. I knew her but couldn’t say I was really fan going into the book, but I am now.
I was debating The Roanoke Girls but you’ve convinced me to add it to “the list”. Pam 🙂
Yay! Now hopefully you love it as much as I did!
Mattie Dulka says
I can’t wait to read The Roanoke Girls!
I hope you enjoy it, Mattie!
Oh yes, grading on a curve! I’ve been watching that Leah Remini show on A&E and it’s really unbelievable. I’m going to have to look for the book too.
I have not watched her show but want to now. I bet it really is unbelievable and I’m glad she’s exposing the truth!
Olya @ The Siberian American says
Oh girl, I know all about book guilt! haha. Too many books, too little time! I love what you said about The Roanoke Girls. I felt the same.
LOL! I’m glad someone else understands my pain or book guilt!
Sorry you were “meh” about Attachments. I actually really enjoyed that one. I like different formatted books though! I’m really curious about Troublemaker, so I’m really happy to see you loved that one and would recommend it!
I love Rowell’s hooks – email, fan fiction, playlists – but both FanGirl and Attachments lost my interest unfortunately. Definitely give Troublemaker a read. It’s a fascinating look at Scientology.
Lauren @ Oh Hey! I Like That! says
I loved Troublemaker! I had no idea about all that went on behind the scenes in Scientology! And I’ve got The Roanoke Girls on my TBR list!
Me neither, Lauren. It was definitely an eye-opening read and made both mad and sad. I hope you enjoy The Roanoke Girls. It’s a fast, good read!
I, too, suffer from Book Guilt. You’re not alone, friend.
I keep seeing The Roanoke Girls on everyone’s list but I tend to shy away from effed up books. Haha. Maybe this one is worth it, though. Ha!
It seems like quite a few of us suffer from Book Guilt! We should start a club! Ahhhh … if you’re not really into effed books, I’m not sure if you would enjoy The Roanoke Girls. It was a can’t-put-down book for me but I like messed up people and dark subjects. 😀
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family says
Roanoke Girls was already on my to read list. I just added Never Let You Go because I didn’t know Chevy Stevens had a new book out. I’ve read a couple of her books and usually find them to be good suspenseful reads. You and I have similar feelings about Rowell’s books. I loved Eleanor & Park but found Fangirl to be “eh”. I liked Attachments more than Fangirl but wasn’t a fave. I don’t think I’ could read Troublemaker. I’m not a big fan of Leah Remini but I am curious about scientology…especially after all the Tom Cruise hoopla! LOL!
The Stevens book just came out. It was my first Stevens book and I would definitely read more of her work. I’m pretty sure that I actually have several of her books on my TBR! LOL! Yeah, I like Attachments more than FanGirl but it was pretty “eh” in my mind. She definitely talks about Tom Cruise because that was basically what broke her. I wasn’t a big fan of Leah’s either but I have a lot of respect for her now.
Jill K. says
You are not alone with the book guilt! Right now I am trying to decide which ones will come on vacation, even though I know I will buy more to read while I am away.
LOL! It’s like we need a ton of books and then we need some more to feel guilty over! Have a great vacation!
Rachel @ Never Enough Novels says
I’ve heard of Roanoke Girls but didn’t actually look into it. I’m glad I didn’t! It actually sounds like it’s not for me, so thank you for the helpful review!
It’s definitely not a book for everyone and I’m glad I could help you decide whether it was right for you!
Kathy @ Kathy Reads says
I tend to grade books on a curve, sometimes, too. I’m still waiting on my library to purchase The Roanoke Girls; I feel like I have to read all that dysfunction. I’ve heard others rave about Troublemaker after they read it, and I’m surprised about Bohjalian’s book. I’ve loved what I’ve read from him in the past, but there’s always that one book that doesn’t quite make the grade.
I find that a really amazing book can affect how I rate the books after it. I hold them to a higher standard, which is probably not fair. But vice versa happens too with some okay books earning a higher rating than deserved after I read an awful book! LOL! That was my first Bohjalian book so I can’t compare it to his others. I found the ending good but it was really slow for me. But I like fast-paced books, so it just might be me!
Ericka @ A Quiet Girl's Musings... says
Someone else really had good things to say about the Chevy Stevens book, so much so that I’ve already added it to my TBR. Reading through your description of Attachments, I understand where you are coming from. I know many ppl who absolutely ADORE Rainbow Rowell and her work. I’ve liked her stuff, what I’ve read, but haven’t been blown away like so many other ppl seem to have been.
It’s a good book. Like I said, it was hard for me to read at times because she does such a good job with creating tension and fear. 😀 Yeah, I have a love/hate relationship with Rowell. E&P, I really enjoyed but everything else has paled in comparison. It might also simply not be genre either. 😀
You didn’t like attachments?!?! You’re breaking my heart!!!! I loved it in all its 90s glory!! And I sort of liked the way it was laid out. I saw Roanoke Girls on Blogging for Books and it sounded interesting. May have to go grab it now that I’ve read your review.
I initially was really into Attachments but eventually it grew dull and boring to me. That’s what happened with FanGirl too. I like how she always tries to find an interesting hook or angle – fan fiction, email, etc. I really liked The Roanoke Girls. It is more my genre, thriller, than perhaps Rainbow Rowell is.
Alexandra Consolver says
I’m intrigued by Roanoke Girls. It takes place in KS too, so I am curious about that. Bummer that you did not like Attachments, I started it once but had to return it to the library. I’d like to give it another shot. XO – Alexandra
Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things
I really enjoyed Roanoke Girls and hope you like it if you give it a try. Ugh. I hate it when I have to return a book mid-read. 😀 But if you were enjoying it when you returned it, you’d probably like it!
wow, you read so many good-sounding books! putting several of them on my tbr – thanks for sharing. I also love when you’re familiar with a book’s location setting!
Thanks, Lauren! I don’t know why I get so excited when a book takes place in a location know, but I do! 😀
I shared the same feelings about Troublemaker. I was surprised to enjoy that book as much as I did. I also enjoyed Attachments. I love Rainbow Rowell’s sense of humor. That book hit me in all the familiar places with the time and setting. I’m now interested in Everything you Want Me To Be. I’ve recently become interested in Mystery/Thrillers. That seems like a good fit.
I didn’t expect to enjoy Troublemaker so much but I really did. I like the 90s vibe to Attachments but I grew bored eventually. I’m beginning to think that genre-wise, Rowell and I are not a great fit. I hope you enjoy Everything You Want Me to Be!
Alison @ Puppies & Pretties says
I might have to look into Everything You Want Me To Be only because it is based in SE MN (I’m from there) and it would be fun to read so,thing that drops places that I’ve been!
I’m originally from SW MN, although I lived for 4 years in Austin, MN so I SE MN too. 😀 You will definitely recognize places she references, which is always fun!
Emma M. says
Aw man! Attachments is my favorite Rowell novel! I completely agree concerning Leah’s book. It’s a fascinating read. I love twisted characters. . . a lot. I think it just says that we like complex people. Nothing wrong with that!
I’m beginning to think that Rowell just isn’t my jam. Perhaps, it’s a bit of a genre thing. I do think she is a good writer though! Leah’s book was fascinating and horrifying. I love twisted characters and agree it means we like complex characters. One-note characters ain’t my thang! 😀
Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue says
Ohh, I love Attachments! It might be my favorite RR book. I thought it was super cute. But I know we don’t usually have the same taste in books. I’d considered Roanoke Girls – It sounds interesting – but honestly I don’t love messed up characters that much, and my library doesn’t have it, so not sure it’s worth a purchase for me…
While I liked Attachments, I didn’t LOVE it. I also wasn’t super gaga over E&P. It was a “passed the time just fine” for me. Roanoke Girls would be a thriller I’d turn to when I’m looking for something out of my norm.