“I get so emotional, baby, every time I read a book.” Okay, that’s not how the song goes but how I feel every time I start a new book. Everything from excitement to fear course through my body as I wonder — will I turn into a slobbering fool? Hulk out because the book sucked something fierce? Or hug the book to my chest, close my eyes and try to absorb all its goodness inside of me? If you haven’t figured it out yet, several books this month made me emotional, so very, very emotional.
Well, at least the first few books made me feel all the feels. The third book in particular made cry a year’s worth of tears. This month made me sad, angry, amazed, hopeful, resolved and annoyed — just as good books should do.
Books I Loved
These are the books that I love and love and love some more.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Book Description: Louise becomes romantically entangled with her controlling boss while also becoming his lonely wife’s new best friend, but who is fooling who?
Book Review: OMG. OMG. OMG. This book blew my mind. It sounds like a tale as old as time of a meek wife and her controlling husband, which we’ve read countless times before. And it is … until it isn’t. You catch on quickly that something deeper is going on, but what is really happening doesn’t become clear until the end. And then you will bow down twice to Pinborough’s brilliance and hail her your Queen. I strongly recommend that you do not read any reviews on Goodreads or Amazon because they may contain spoilers and you don’t want to be robbed of experiencing this story through naive, sweet eyes.
To Read or Not to Read: What are you doing? Why haven’t you run to the library or Amazon or your nearest bookstore to get this book? Screw work and start reading now because I need to talk to someone about this book in detail! Errr … but maybe finish reading my post first. 😉
The Mothers by Brit Bennet
Book Description: In the aftermath of her mother’s suicide, Nadia takes up with her pastor’s son and the fallout from their relationship reverberates for years after.
Book Review: I echo the many rave reviews of The Mothers you’ve likely seen in this link-up and elsewhere. Bennet’s writing is superb. The story is, perhaps, not the most hopeful but it is honest. Nadia, Luke and Aubrey feel like real people, struggling to respond to what others/life laid at their feet and their own choices. You care so deeply about them that when they make a bad choice, you just don’t cry out “no”, you want to dive into the book and help prevent the mistake. And these mistakes feel like honest, earned ones. Not some trope or manipulation by the author to impart a life lesson or to keep soulmates apart a bit longer, but life mistakes others have sincerely made before them and will continue to do so after them. I think the Mothers would nod their heads in agreement.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it. Again, Bennett is an excellent writer. This sentence speaks volumes to me “Magic you wanted was a miracle, magic you didn’t was a haunting”. #truth.
The Memory Book by Lara Avery
Book Description: Sammie is graduating top of her class with big plans for college but a terminal genetic disorder is slowing robbing her of her memories.
Book Review: Wow. This book. It is something special. How could I not fall in a love with Sammie who “tried emotions in middle school and we didn’t care for them” or “who cared more for the fate of Middle Earth than actual Earth”? She was witty, sarcastic, fragile, frustrating and so determined. What everyone young woman should be. Her brief journey reminded me repeatedly why we must live every day and not wait until “some day” to start, and no matter how unfair and cruel it may seem, especially with someone so young, that death serves a hard purpose: to make living special.
To Read or Not To Read: I highly recommend this book and highly recommend that you don’t read it in public where you might be embarrassed by the amount of tears and snot that ooze out of you. Because not only did I ugly cry, I wailed. Wailed so hard and long that my cat gave me side-eye over my dramatics. And if you don’t shed a few tears, then get thyself to Oz and ask the Wizard for a heart.
The Girl Before by JP Delaney
Book Description: Jane becomes obsessed with the previous occupant of One Folgate Street and her relationship with Jane’s new lover and his role in her death.
Book Review: This story has the almost required twist books must have these days, but that is not what makes this book special and Delaney knows it. What makes this a great read is how he constantly makes us revise our opinions of the main characters. Truths, lies, fear and manipulation play a major role and impact us more than any real twist does in this story. FYI, I was wrong about the who the “villain” was, which always pleases me. I also felt a little bit sad for humankind because a little narcissistic sociopath apparently exists inside all of us. Some just have more control over it.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it. You’ll get spun around and around, trying to figure out motives and what’s true and not.
The Books I Liked
These are the books I liked, from most liked to liked.
Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen
Book Description: After a piece of music brings out a violent reaction in her daughter, Julia sets out to the find the composer and save her daughter.
Book Review I am a fan of the Rizzoli and Isles series by Gerritsen (although not a fan of the show) but haven’t read any of her stand-alone books until now. The scenes from Italy during WW2 particularly struck a chord with me because I cannot fathom some irrational hate. She did some excellent research to make it true to what happened to Italian Jews during WW2. While the present time freaked me out a bit because creepy kids are the worst. It borders on being almost a horror story (Creepy Kid + Nazis = Scary in TanyaLand) that has a bit of a pat, rushed ending, which kept it from being a love. If you do read the book, be sure to read the historical notes. It is important that we never forget the price of hate or standing idly by while millions are murdered, while honoring those who sacrificed their lives for what was right.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it. It’s a solid book that kept me engaged.
Nevernight by Jay Kristoff
Book Description: A young girl joins a school of assassins, seeking vengeance against those who destroyed her family.
Book Review: I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I love Mia. I love the story concept but … good heavens is it verbose. O Readers, Kristoff is in love with his writing. And it weighs down the story so hard. Let me give you an example, “The girl felt the words in her chest. In the deepest, darkest place, where the hope children breathe and adults mourn withered and fell away, floating like ashes on the wind.” Now imagine 448 pages of this. I almost DNFed it because annoyed and bored. But after reading the reviews, I gave it another try. On page 59, I fell in love with Mia when she explained why being called a cock is worse than a cunt. And it did get better, much, much better. Or I finally got use to his love and overuse of metaphors and similes.
To Read or Not to Read: I started the book ready to punch someone because too many damn words but ended the book in love with Mia and ready to dive into book 2. Also, while considered YA, it does have graphic violence and sexually explicit scenes, which you may want to take into consideration if you thought your teen might like it.
Right Behind You by Lisa Gardner
Book Description: Sharlah’s older brother killed their father to save her life, but 8 years later he appears to now be on a random killing spree. Along with her soon-to-be adoptive parents, Sharlah seeks to find answers.
A good, solid mystery with characters that you want to see succeed. Quincy and Rainie are apparently characters from an earlier Gardner series that she brought back but I am unfamiliar with them. I like that the kids, Sharlah and Telly, aren’t just brats the way so many kids come across in TV shows. They had hard lives and it shows realistically. It’s probably a bit predictable but sometimes predictability makes for good comfort food or books.
To Read or Not To Read: Sure. It passes the time just fine.
The Books I Liked. Sort Of.
These books didn’t quite meet my expectations. They weren’t bad, nor great … just ok.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Book Description: Cath feels safe writing Simon Snow fan fiction while real life and real relationships leave her feeling lost as she struggles to find her place and self at college.
Book Review: I enjoyed Eleanor and Park quite a bit but Fangirl was a bit of a letdown for me. By no means a bad book, it just didn’t have quite the spark and depth E&P did. Plus, the fan fiction grew old fast. In small doses it was interesting but there are pages and pages of it. Eventually, I started skipping them because I didn’t need pages of them to get what they represented. Maybe you found some other hidden, profound meaning in them, but it read like Harry Potter fan fiction to me. And when I’m in a HP mood, I read HP.
To Read or Not to Read: Like I said, it’s not a bad book but if you dislike fan fiction or don’t like reading a story within a story, then you probably want to skip this one.
The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams
Book Description: The past and present mix with a jilted wife in the present and 1920’s flapper forced to help prohibition agents catch her bootlegger stepfather.
Book Review: This was my first Williams book and it left me a bit underwhelmed. I’d heard great things about her so maybe she’s just not my jam or this isn’t her best book. The present storyline was generic — a typical, husband done did me wrong story and the ties to the 1920’s were minimal. The supernatural element also seemed really out of place too and added nothing to the story. The past was a bit more interesting but still felt a bit off to me. Obviously the 1920s, has a language of its own, but it felt so stylized that it read caricature more so than authentic, if that makes sense. Gin is a grand dame; Anson is a hardboiled agent and so on. They not spoke in that manner but thought that way too.
To Read or Not To Read: Dealer’s choice. If you like stories that take place in past and present, then I would suggest Playing with Fire if spooky/historical fiction gives you thrills or The DollHouse if you want strong female characters or The Lake House for an intricately woven plot.
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
Book Description: After the death of her husband, a woman assumes various identities as she tries to outrun her past.
Book Review: I share a name with the first fake name Tanya, Amelia, Debra and so on has. She was also probably the most interesting, given the toast she had after her husband died from falling down the stairs and sex with her lover before going on the run, but then she becomes … boring. With the same scenario playing over and over: find a new identity and hide. Rinse and repeat. The real Debra Maze added some real spark to the story and I wish the story stuck with her and dumped TanyaAmeliaDebraEmmaSoniaPaige or whatever her name was.
To Read or Not to Read: I read this for my real life book club. We agreed: an okay book that got a little too repetitive. It passes the time if you’re looking for a quick read, but there are far better thrillers out there too.
TL;DR – My Recommendations for You
This month I highly recommend Behind Her Eyes, The Mothers, The Memory Book and The Girl Before. All excellent books that interestingly enough feature strong women as leads. Flawed, intriguing, intelligent women who aren’t Mary Sues waiting around for someone to save them. I also enjoyed Playing with Fire quite a bit and recommend Nevernight for those who don’t mind wordy fantasy. Skip Fangirl (unless you love fan fiction), The Wicked City and The Passenger. They aren’t godawful but there are also far better books in their respective genres too.
To More Great Reads
I have a few Netgalley books to get through this month and hopefully I selected better choices than my previous picks. 😀 As usual, I’m linking up with Jana and Steph for their awesome Show Us Your Books link-up. Be sure to check out what everyone is reading!
What good books did you read last month?