“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?
the memory book killed my heart, while also making me laugh several times. i’m still sad over it. i haven’t read that beatriz williams one, haven’t even heard of it – only read one of hers, and have a couple more on my list. added basically all the rest on your list because why not.
Me too, Kristen. The Memory Book made me both laugh and cry, so so good. I’m not sure whether I’ll read another Beatriz Williams books. Like I said, it seriously underwhelmed me and my TBR is so long. We’ll see. I hope you enjoy the books! There are some real good ones in there!
I just got Behind Her Eyes yesterday and reaaally need to read at least one library book before starting it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen, haha. Love love loved The Mothers and hope Bennett publishes another book again soon.
Oh man, I hope you enjoy Behind Her Eyes as much as I did. The ending blew my mind! I can’t wait until Bennett has a new book out. She is a superb writer.
SMD @ Life According to Steph says
I just got your first one delivered last night. So that will be next!
I also have The Girl Before on my list!
I hope you like it as much as I did. It seriously shocked me and I am rarely that surprised. But I both laughed and went WTF and immediately started rereading the book, which always a good sign!
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
You seriously had so many good reads this month! I’ve heard from everybody and their mothers about how good The Mothers is so I really hope to read it soon! Behind Her Eyes sounds like a really intriguing book and like one that I wouldn’t be able to put down. It’s definitely going on my list. I read The Girl Before this month as well, and I absolutely loved it, so I’m glad that you loved it too! Playing With Fire sounds like one that I’d like to pick up eventually since I love WWII books.
I truly loved The Mothers. The writing is so beautiful and I ached for Nadia, Luke and Audbrey to the point where I still think of them and wonder how they are doing now and then remind myself that they don’t actually exist. 😀 Behind Her Eyes is really good. It seems like a regular, solid book but the ending – mind boggling. I didn’t realize initially that Playing with Fire had a WW2 connection and I am ultra-sensitive to Nazi stories but it is beautifully, heart-breaking.
Jana @ Jana Says says
I have The Girl Before sitting on my Kindle (thank you, NetGalley). I have added that first one.
Fangirl is not my favorite of the Rowell books. I couldn’t stand the Simon Snow parts to the point that I refuse to read Carry On. However, I think it’s cool that she wrote all the fanfic inside the book.
P.S. I love your review posts. They’re some of my favorites.
I really liked how The Girl Before kept me on my toes as I tried to sort through all the lies and truths Delaney weaved. Yeah, the Simon Snow parts really started to annoy me in Fangirl and I like Harry Potter! It just felt Simon/Harry and Baz/Draco had more character development than the actual characters did. Awww … that means a lot to me, so thank you!
Rebecca Jo says
I know I could never read The Memory Book … those sort of books bother me & I cant shake them. That’s the sign of a good book, but I get so hung up on anything like that.
OK – you totally sold me on Behind Her Eyes… heading to check it out now on Amazon.
I totally get that, Rebecca Jo. I feel the same way about books on race/WW2. I can’t read many of them because they destroy for me a long time afterwards. Oh, I hope you enjoy Behind Her Eyes as much as I did! Sometimes I get nervous praising a book so highly but it been a long time since a books surprised me that much.
I think I missed the memo to read The Girl Before this month 🙂 Now it’s going on my TBR. I loved your review of The Mothers. I also read it and I’m still trying to form my opinion. I just wasn’t pulled into it as others have been. I do feel Bennett nailed the truth of life versus fairytale storytelling. It was very realistic to me.
LOL! There were a lot of reviews for The Girl Before this month! Somehow, I managed to snag a copy right away, which doesn’t always happen. I loved The Mothers but can see how others might not like it or feel a bit removed from the characters. And I agree that Bennett nailed the truth of life versus fairytale storytelling, especially how the consequences of our choices/decisions can’t always be undone or made right. Sometimes we gotta live with the hurt we created.
Mattie Dulka says
Well I immediately added behind her eyes! The next two loved books are on my list and I can’t wait to read them. I’m about halfway through The Girl Before and I’m SO GLAD there’s a twist because at this point I’m like, “Well, there had better be a twist or this is too obvious.” And now I just want to shut myself in a room and read until I finish!
I hope you enjoy Behind Her Eyes. The book itself is solid as you’re always trying to figure out what exactly is going on but the ending – yowser! Blew my mind! Well, the twist isn’t huge (definitely not Behind Her Eyes or Gone Girl level). For me, what I loved about The Girl Before is how my opinions and allegiances kept changing as more facts and truths came out.
Kelly @ Noodle to the Rescue says
I am so curious to read Behind Her Eyes now! Currently reading I Let You Go and I know there’s a big twist in that one too.
You read my post so I know you know we don’t quite agree about The Mothers. I don’t really know why I didn’t get into it.
Fangirl was definitely not my favorite RR book, I liked Attachments and Landline much better.
I loved I Let You Go too and named it one of my favorite books from 2016. The big twist was a big surprise to me and I loved how dream-like the story read too. While we felt differently about The Mothers, it would be ultra boring if everyone had the taste in books too, right? At least that’s what I remind myself when I find a book boring that everyone else adored! Because it definitely happens. I do think the characters in The Mothers could be cold/unlikeable to some and did at times to me as well. But I also felt a kinship to them and loved that Bennett let them make honest, bad decisions that weren’t fixed easily, if ever. Oh, I’m glad to hear Attachments is better because I have to read that for my book club. And I won’t lie – my enthusiasm to read Attachments lowered dramatically after Fangirl left me underwhelmed.
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family says
Oh man, after those reviews I immediately put The Memory Book and Behind Her Eyes on hold at the library! The Girl Before is currently sitting on my night stand and is my next book up to read! I’ve enjoyed Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series. I enjoy reading about WWII so I may have to check this one out…..although anytime I see the word “horror” and book in the same sentence I usually stay away! Fangirl is my least favorite Rowell read so far. I thought that the Passenger was just an okay read.
I hope you enjoy both books, Nancy! They are very different from one another but I like to read a variety of genres, otherwise I get bored. The Memory Book truly broke my heart and I went through so many tissues. My cat, Max, got annoyed with my theatrics and need to hug him every five minutes! The ending of Behind Her Eyes makes the book. If you’ve read the Rizzoli and Isles books, then I would say the “horror” aspect of Playing with Fire is similar to Mephisto Club. Different type of villain but that book gave me the willies and I would classify it horror lite. The “real” horror in the book is the Nazis. If you like Gerritsen’s other books, I think you’ll like Playing with Fire too.
You has some great reads this month! I have Fangirl on my TBR also Wicked City. I too loved The Mothers. Happy Reading!
Thanks, Pam! Happy reading to you too!
Olya @ The Siberian American says
I LOVED The Girl Before. Such a great book! It sounds like I really need to Behind Her Eyes, and pretty much everyone from this linkup loves The Mothers, so that’s high on my list! Haha. If you ever want to give Beatriz Williams another try, read one of the books from the Schulyer sister series. They really are great!
The Girl Before was a really good book that kept me on my toes. Behind Her Eyes is great in my humble opinion. Yes, The Mothers has been well-loved by this link-up overall and I really enjoyed it. Hmmmm … I wonder if the Williams books I saw praised were from the Schulyer series? I bet they were and will have to give them a try.
I keep forgetting about these book link-up posts, lol! Maybe next month 🙂
I didn’t know Beatriz Williams had a new book, but that’s okay because I am not a fan of her writing. If you didn’t like the book, I totally get it. Seriously, don’t bother with any of her others.
Behind Her Eyes and The Memory Book sound so good! I will have to check those out. Also, I have totally ugly-cried over a book. Bailey looks at me and then crawls into my lap once I am done sobbing. Ah, cats… 🙂
I didn’t like Williams writing style in the 1920s portion because it feel really over-styled that read fake to me. Honestly, it felt the whole book was bit forced. The modern part was boring and the supernatural element seemed like an afterthought, like her publisher said, “hey, add some supernatural element” and she did. Olya recommended her Schulyer sister series, which I may try or not. My TBR is big, so sometimes I don’t give second chances and sometimes I do. There is no rhyme or reason either. 😀
Definitely give Behind Her Eyes and The Memory Book a try and I hope you enjoy them as much as I did. Oh, that’s so sweet that Bailey offers comfort. Max just gave me side-eye but he may have been afraid that I was going back to my crying phase. 😀
I bought The Mothers last week. I’ll be working that into my reading mix soon.
I’ve got this The Girl Before on my tbr.
I’m intrigued by your review for Behind Her Eyes. Adding it.
Britt Bennett is an exquisite writer and bow down to her abilities there. I liked Behind Her Eyes so much. You like messed up people, so I think you’d enjoy it too!
Wow, now I have to go to the bookstore tomorrow! Lol. Definitely interested in a lot of these titles and can’t wait to add them to my list.
LOL! And now I’m on the hook if you don’t like it. 😀
Rachel @ Never Enough Novels says
I just saw the Memory Book on another blogger’s list this month, but that was the first I’ve heard of it! Sounds like something I definitely need to check out.
Yes, Kristen reviewed it too. I’m pretty sure it’s relatively new release and definitely an all-the-emotions kind of book!
Your reviews are always so entertaining and well worded!
I don’t read a lot of modern/thrillers/mystery, but that first book kind of has me intrigued…
Thanks, Audrey! I appreciate your kind words very much! Thrillers/mysteries are probably my favorite genre, which is why when one surprises me so much, I love it even more! Behind Her Eyes definitely caught me off guard with that ending!
“Behind Her Eyes” is going on my list immediately! I had NeverNight on my list but now that I know what the writing is like I might give it a pass. That is just too much for me. Also I felt the same way about Fangirl. I liked the story but the fanfiction just got boring and tedious.
Yay! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Ah, NeverNight. Man, that’s a tough one because ultimately I liked it but it took some time to get there. I had multiple mini-rages before I did. 😀 Yes, the fanfiction was just too much. A little bit was okay but pages and pages of it – nope.
These all sound like great reads! I, too, really enjoyed The Mothers. I am dying to read The Girl Before…I need to get it asap after hearing about it everywhere this week! 😉
Thanks, Heather! The Girl Before was all over the link-up this month and I really liked it overall. Delaney did a great job messing with my expectations of who these characters were.
Crystal Ward says
Just placed a hold on Behind Her Eyes after reading your post! (My library is so slow to get new books that I’m shocked they have it!)
Awesome! I hope you get your mitts on the book soon and love it! The ending boggled my mind. I swore; I laughed and immediately began rereading the book.