It’s the first Thursday of March (how can that be true?), so it’s time for another review of the books I loved, liked and loathed. The good news is that February was a very good reading month for me with no book earning the dreaded “loathe” honor. This makes me very happy because bad books are painful. What made me less happy was that I forgot how much our “mood” dictates what we feel like reading. Or at least it does for me.
This month I craved lighter reads, which is normally not an issue because I would simply choose books that reflected my mood. However, I went a little overboard with all the great recommendations from the January Show Us Your Books link-up and reserved a bunch of books. Unfortunately, you are at their mercy, meaning books become available whether you have the time or inclination to read them. #FirstWorldBookProblems
The Books I Loved, Liked and Loathed this Month
Because I am a trooper, I did read every book. My mood may have influenced my reaction to one book, although minimally, I hope. Regardless, every book this month was an enjoyable read, so all-in-all, a good month for a book nerd. Let’s dig in!
Books I Loved
My favorite books from the past month and highly recommended.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Book Synopsis: The story is set during World War 2 in Nazi-occupied France and follows two very different sisters, Vivanne and Isabelle. Vivanne just wants to keep her daughter safe and go unnoticed, while Isabelle wants to help the rebellion and live dangerously. In the midst of war, they deal with betrayal, heart-break and loss as they try to survive Nazi occupation.
My Review: Stories that deal with Nazis and the Holocaust can be difficult books for me because I cannot fathom such hate, so I almost returned the book unread because I wanted something lighter. But thankfully I persevered because this is a great book. This story doesn’t shy away from the ugliness of war and neither sister is perfect, which I like, and their mistrust of one another, prickly parts and actions felt natural versus contrived. We witnessed firsthand how their decisions — good or bad, thoughtful or reckless, right or wrong — can affect so many lives.
To Read Or Not To Read: Read it. It’s not a beach read and weeks later I still think about it.
Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Book Synopsis: Everyone falls. Every. Single. Person. Falls. The trick is getting back up because not everyone does. Dr. Brown shows us how to rise strong through using our struggles to write a new ending (or is it really a beginning?) to our story.
My Review: I consider myself to be a work in progress and have a love/hate relationship with self-help books. The great ones can make a tremendous difference, the bad ones — those that do more damage than good — make me really angry. This is definitely one of the good ones, although it wasn’t an easy read for me. I read it in small bites because I had to stop so frequently and really think about what she said. She was dropping truth bombs all over me and some of them I didn’t really like. This book had a big impact on how I view myself and others. I will be writing a more detailed review and how I’m rising strong later this month.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it. Self-help books are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you struggle with feeling like you’re enough, your worthiness and being vulnerable (or simply dealing with your emotions in a constructive manner), this book may be very helpful. For a more in-depth review, go here.
Brotherhood in Death by JD Robb
Book Synopsis: This case is very personal to Lt. Eve Dallas as it involves a relative of her colleague and mother-surrogate, Dr. Charlotte Mira. Lt. Dallas had a very difficult childhood and throughout the long-running series (42 books and counting!) has slowly been able to move past it with the help of Dr. Mira. When Dr. Mira’s husband is attacked and his cousin is killed, Lt. Dallas must race against the clock before more vigilante justice is served to the Brotherhood.
My Review: What I have always loved about the In Death series, is that sometimes the dead guy is not a good guy himself. He may, in fact, be worse than his killer and lesser people might sit back and do nothing. Eve Dallas is not the kind of person or cop. The In Death books are essentially an excellent procedural, with more depth than you would expect. While sympathetic to the killer’s motive, I liked the fact that Dallas didn’t turn them into heroes either. She had compassion to their situation but also knew the truth: revenge sounds good but doesn’t lessen the pain.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. But I do recommend starting at Book #1: Naked In Death. And just think, you’ll have 41 books to read before you get to enjoy this one. 🙂 And if that gave you a mild heart attack, you can read this as a stand-alone book. My first In Death book was #22. I loved it and started from the beginning.
Books I Liked
Books I enjoyed and do recommend overall.
The Martian by Andy Weir
This book didn’t initially appeal to me because:
A: I don’t like science.
B. It involved science.
C. I don’t like science. At all.
After pretty much every single person I know told me to read the book, I finally did.
Book Synopsis: Mark Watley is the kind of guy you want to have a beer with. He’s smart, snarky and apparently the MacGyver of Mars. Seriously, the guy can jerry-rig anything, which is a good thing, since his fellow crew mates left him behind on Mars, believing he was killed in a storm. Oops. Mark must figure out a way to survive until he can be rescued, and NASA must figure out a way to rescue him before he runs out of potatoes (read the book, then you’ll understand).
My Review: This is definitely an enjoyable read, thanks in large part to Mark Watley being an amazing character. He has to be since he carries the book on his shoulders, which was also the book’s weakness. He faced non-stop problems, as expected, but since it was just him, disco music and 70s shows, it eventually grew old and somewhat predictable. While there were other characters in the book (his crew mates and the people at NASA), we never connected with them beyond a superficial level. Mark was such a great character that I just wished the supporting characters were as developed and interesting as it was to learn about growing potatoes on Mars.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it. It’s a good book and I suspect an even better movie.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This is the book that was most affected by my mood to read something light and familiar versus something new.
Book Synopsis: Shadow is just days away from his freedom when he learns that his wife has been killed. Now free but without his great love, he joins the mysterious Wednesday on a road trip. He soon learns that Wednesday is no ordinary old man, nor even a regular man. Instead, he is one of the great Gods trying to rally other old Gods against the upstart Gods, like the Internet.
My Review: I love, love, LOVE the premise of the book. Old Gods versus Upstart Gods sounds amazing. And yet, I was underwhelmed overall. I understood how the Old Gods faded and lost power (and some of the very best passages were their heartbreaking stories) but the Upstart Gods were a bit of a joke. Frankly, I never understood why they cared so much about the old Gods in the first place. Wednesday was an interesting character and I understood his motivation for wanting to go to war with the Upstart Gods, but for understandable reasons we didn’t get into his head much. Unfortunately, Shadow didn’t intrigue me as much.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it. There are some very interesting characters and some of the stories about the various Gods are better than the actual story.
FYI: Starz is creating a series based on this book and just announced Ian McShane as Wednesday, which is fabulous casting. I may have been so-so on the book but knowing Ian (and his awesome voice) will be playing Wednesday, makes me very interested in the series.
More Great Books to Come
I’m still paying the price (sort of) for requesting a bunch of books at once. Oddly enough, it’s lighter books that are filling my bookshelf right now, and I can’t wait to dive into them. I’ve linked up with Show Us Your Books hosted by Jana and Steph and seriously recommend every book lover stop by because there are a ton of great books for you to discover. But don’t be like me and request every book at once. They will undoubtedly all arrive at the same time. 🙂
Have you read any of these books? Agree or disagree with my reviews? What good (or bad) books did you read this month and recommend (or don’t)?
Jana @ Jana Says says
I love that you join us 🙂
I LOVED The Martian. Any book that starts with “I’m pretty sure I’m fucked” is okay by me! I mostly skimmed the sciency stuff and I think that helped with my enjoying the book. That, and Watney is just an awesome character (perfectly played by Matt Damon, I might add).
A lot of other bloggers have read and recommend Nightingale but I won’t read it. Historical fiction isn’t my jam. I did have Rising Strong on my Kindle and then forgot about it. I do want to check it out.
Femme Frugality says
I’m going to have to check out the Martian! Sounds up my alley. Rising Strong sounds worth a read, too, though I have noticed the same thing about self help books…. Garbage or gems, and very little in between!
Definitely check out The Martian. It’s a good read! I really enjoyed Rising Strong and thought many of her lessons were applicable to me, although they might not be for everyone. Self-help is so personal, ya know. 🙂 And yeah – there are are some BAD self-help books out there and some are really popular too.
Thanks, Jana! I LOVE that you and Steph host the link-up. I have discovered so many good books from it! 🙂 Yeah, that was a fantastic first line and really set the tone for the book and Watney’s personality and character. I can absolutely see Matt Damon nailing him. I suspect the reason why I enjoyed but did not love book was because everyone kept telling me how amazing it was. There was no way it could live up to expectations. Definitely check out Rising Strong, I really enjoyed it as I really connected with the material.
I think I read three books in February. Usually I’d be able to spout out the exact number of books and their subsequent titles but February was kind of a blur for me. Kiddo was sick and then I caught it and I vaguely remember laying on the couch watching a lot of episodes of Murder She Wrote. Ha! 🙂
But I digress… I am with you on self-help books so if you recommend it, that it is a good book and worth reading, I will check it out 🙂 I am writing Rising Strong down now so I can request it at the library 🙂
Oh no! Sorry to hear you and the kiddo weren’t feeling well last month. That is always tough. My Grandma used to watch Murder She Wrote and I remember watching it was her! Definitely check out Rising Strong. It really made me think and is helping me on my quest to live authentically.
Jenn @ Optimization, Actually says
I really liked The Martian – and the movie was even better, with more done and said with the supporting characters, so you might really like it (plus a few of the problems cut out, which was fine, because there were so many anyway). I LOVE self help books, but, like you said, they’re not always easy to read. I’ve read some that made me upset, and some that were a waste of time, but overall I’ve learned so much about myself in the last couple of years and they’ve had a huge positive impact on my communication skills and general attitude. I’m juggling about 3 different ones right now – 2 are just fun, but 1 I’ve been reading since January because it’s harder to digest.
I definitely want to watch The Martian now, whereas before I was more indifferent to it because of my aforementioned dislike of science. I loved Rising Strong and she was definitely dropping some very uncomfortable truth bombs on me, but I’m glad that I was receptive to hearing them. Sometimes I am admittedly not. 🙂 The good books can have such a profound impact on our lives and for me, Rising Strong was definitely one of the good ones!
Olya @ The Siberian American says
I really liked The Nightingale too! I don’t like science either, so I’ve always stayed away from The Martian. Sounds like I need to give it a try!
The Nightingale was fantastic. It’s been over a month and I still think about it. Definitely give The Martian a try. Weir does a good job of making the science understandable, plausible and not too boring. And when it starts to get a bit much, just lightly skim those sections because Mark Watney is an awesome character.
My aunt is a big fan of the JD Robb books. Maybe I’ll try one – at number one of course!
The Eve Dallas series is one of my favorite. I love finding a great series but really long-running ones, like this one, typically grow old but I still love this one. I will say Naked In Death is good and I felt the series only improves because she adds more great supporting characters. Every book may focus on one case, but the character development is serial.
Brittany Pines says
I have read an Eve Dallas book, but had no idea there were 42! Wow.
Honestly, I had to look a couple times to make sure it was book #42 because that is insane, especially considering the overall quality it still so high. Lots of authors lose enthusiasm for their characters, which always show, and some even ruin their series. 42 books in and I’m still enjoying them!
I’m glad you finished Nightingale, it’s such a great story about how women helped during the war.
I have American Gods on my TBR list so I’m sad to see it was just okay for you.
I never really thought about how hard it must have been to live in a Nazi-occupied territory or even worse – to have the enemy live with you. While I didn’t love American Gods, some of the passages about the varying Gods are so beautiful and really stuck with me. My overall reception may have ticked upward had I also not had to rush to finish it, which gave it that “homework” feel versus reading for enjoyment too.
i absolutely adored the martian 🙂 i went into it thinking i would hate it because i don’t like math or science, and i think because i had such low expectations, it far exceeded them. i also loved the nightingale, god the ending killed me. i just started the in death series recently, have only read naked in death but look forward to reading the rest!
I honestly feel if my expectations had not been so high (and like unrealistically high) that The Martian would have made the love list versus the like list. The ending killed me too. So good. I really love the In Death series and hope you do too. Some people may be overwhelmed by the idea of 42 books but that’s the kind of news that makes me giddy. 42 greats books to read – woo-hoo!
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family says
I loved the Nightingale! I was pleasantly surprised with The Martian. It didn’t seem like my type of book but I ended up loving the story. I saw the movie as well….which was great, but I almost always enjoy the book better. I added Rising Strong to my TBR list. I enjoy non-fiction/self-help books.
I typically enjoy the books more than the movie too, but I suspect that the movie version will win for me. I definitely want to see it now whereas before I was more indifferent. Let me know what you think of Rising Strong. I really enjoyed it and hope you will too.
Heather H says
I adored The Martian and I really want to see the movie again. I thought Matt Damon was awesome in it. I am hoping to read some of Brene Brown’s books this year – she seems really inspirational! I had no idea the In Death series was so long, lol!! I am starting the Nightingale asap for a book challenge and fully expect to cry…most historical fiction does that to me.
I can absolutely see Matt Damon perfectly embodying Watney’s character and look forward to watching the movie. Rising Strong was my first Brene Brown book but her previous two books are on my reading list now. I really enjoyed it. Have tissues ready because you’ll definitely need them when you read The Nightingale.
I read The Nightingale this month and I liked it, too. I feel the same way about The Martian – no thanks to math and science. I would totally see the movie, though.
And I feel you on the feast or famine at the library! I had like six books at a time last month and was so sad about those I had to let go of for later!
I really enjoyed The Nightingale and thought The Martian was good, mostly because Watney is truly a great character. I definitely want to see the movie and suspect it will be one of the rare times the movie beats the book for me.
It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who experiences feast and famine with books. I get so excited when the library notifications start hitting my inbox, but there were a lot of them! 🙂 Ongoing, I’m trying to be smarter about it, but I’ll get giddy and order a bunch books after I go through the latest link-up. I can’t help myself!
I completely agree with you about The Martian! I hated the science aspects of it (and usually just skimmed over those parts) but the rest of the plot was so good! The movie is good too! Matt Damon was perfectly cast as Mark Watney in my opinion.
I have to check out the movie. When it was in the theater, it didn’t overall appeal to me (again science) but now I’m eager to see it. Matt seems like he would be the perfect Mark Watney. He has the charisma to carry all those solo scenes.
I don’t like science either, so for the first 50 pages of The Martian, I was thinking “does this get any better?” Then, it did.
The Nightingale was a beautiful, heart-wrenching story.
I consider myself a work in progress as well, but I’m not that big of a self-help book fan. Reading is escapism to me. I feel like when I read self-help that I’m throwing myself straight into the pot of my problems.
I was the opposite – the science didn’t bother me the first 50 pages. It was later that all the repetition (something would break, he would need to use science and math to fix it) got to me and I started skimming. The Nightingale was beautiful and I’m so glad I didn’t send the book back unread. I actually couldn’t put it down and stayed up late to keep reading.
I definitely have to be in the right mood to read self-help. Even then, I’m not always receptive to what the author is saying. Sometimes, it is a bad book and other times I can’t handle the truth bombs they are delivering. Reading is an escapism for me too, although for me, I have to pay attention to how many “heavy” books I read. I need to mix it up with lighter reads.
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
The Martian wasn’t my favorite book specifically because of all the science that was involved, but I still kind of want to see the book. I’m so glad that you loved The Nightingale! It makes me so excited to read it!
I enjoyed The Martian but it won’t be making my Best Of list, although I do think the Mark Watney character was excellent. I hope you enjoy The Nightingale as much as I did. It’s not a beach read but I still think about it weeks after I read it.
The Martian was my favorite read of 2015!!! I haven’t seen the movie yet but I want to. Nightingale has been on my TBR list for awhile but I keep putting it off because I am going to have to be in the right mood for it.
So many people loved The Martian. I definitely enjoyed but I can’t say that I loved it, although I do recommend it. Keep The Nightingale on your list because it is a keeper, although I agree that you want to be in the mood for something a bit heavier. It didn’t depress me but it did break my heart in several places and I needed to go hug my cat. 🙂
lisacng @ expandng.com says
Definitely LOVED The Martian. One of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. The movie is good too but not as suspenseful since the book was so suspenseful already. Nightingale is already on my list! Glad you persevered and it was worth it.
The Martian is definitely a worthwhile read. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’m looking forward to it. Matt Damon seems like he would be the perfect Mark Watney. The Nightingale was great and I’m so glad I didn’t send it back unread!
Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad says
I saw The Martian in the cinema and I had no idea what it was even about, but I loved it! So now I want to read the book. It helps that I love science and in fact studied botany at university – so when it got to that bit in the film I nearly stood up and yelled YAAAAAS in the cinema… Nerd alert.
You are going to love the book, especially since the beginning is really dedicated to growing food! I am not a science person, so the fact that I actually enjoyed more of the science parts than expected, speaks tremendously to Weir’s writing and Watney being a great character.
Brie @ A Slice of Brie says
Oh so many good books to talk about!
I haven’t actually read Nightingale, but it’s an upcoming book club pick later this summer, and I’m really looking forward to reading it. I almost always enjoy reading about books that are set during WW2.
Rising Strong is on my nightstand, but I also having Daring Greatly and want to read that one first. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it!
The Martian was totally out of my normal genre, but I ended up really liking it! I do feel like it’s not really a “science” book and I think that’s what makes a lot of readers question if they should bother reading it. It was way more funny than I ever expected!
I read American Gods a few years ago and I was so confused the whole time…I wanted to like it, but it’s just not my style.
You’ll really enjoy The Nightingale (hopefully), especially since you’re a fan of WW2. It was a great read, although heart-breaking at times, as war stories should be. I LOVED Rising Strong and didn’t do my homework beforehand, so I didn’t know about her other books. They are now on my reading list! The science part of The Martian made me question whether I would enjoy but I did. And yes – I didn’t expect it to be so funny, which I really enjoyed. Okay, I feel better knowing I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t enthralled with American Gods. There were parts I really enjoyed but other parts where I was bored.
I liked The Martian, but didn’t love it. I had science problems. My eyes sort of glaze over when it comes to science talk, although I absolutely love hearing about discoveries and cool things. Just not in detail. The humor kept me going, though. Cracked me up a few times. I can’t wait for the American Gods series to start on Starz. I hope they do it well.
That’s exactly how I felt. Eventually, my eyes glazed over all the science bits, but the humor and the general awesomeness of Watney kept me going. While I was somewhat meh on American Gods, the fact that Ian McShane, whom I adore, is going to play Wednesday has me much more interested in the show than I originally was. Hopefully, they nail it (or make it better!)
Rose @ Ramblin' Rose says
I really enjoyed The Martian when I read it last year. I watched the movie recently and thought they did a good job with that as well. I don’t think they captured Watney’s sarcasim as well in the movie. American Gods and Nightingale have been on my list for awhile.
I can see how capturing some of Watney’s sarcasm might be hard, since a lot of it was his thoughts. I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’m looking forward to watching it, eventually! 🙂 I really loved The Nightingale and had much higher hopes for American Gods. It’s by no means bad but I loved that premise so much and didn’t feel like the book delivered on it. Again, it wasn’t necessarily the book I would have chosen to read at the moment, so that may have tainted my opinion too. There are some beautiful passages in the books though. It just dragged a bit for me.