July was killer. I turned another year older, which some moments made me snarl like a crazy woman. It was also killer hot in LA, which made me irritable. So basically I was a crazy old lady but I had good company with all the crazy killers in the books I read last month. Honestly, when I put together this month’s recap, every single book involved murder. Ummmm … I’m not sure what that says about me. But maybe, just maybe, people ought to think twice before they annoy me. Just kidding. Sort of.
The Books I Loved, Liked and Loathed in July
It was all murder and mayhem last month and see which books did it the best.
Book I Loved
This book will likely make my top 10 of 2016.
Night Film: A Novel by Marisha Pessl
Book Description: The daughter of a reclusive horror film director commits suicide, but Scott McGrath, a veteran reporter, suspects something more sinister.
Book Review: I honestly don’t know where to begin, but I love this book. It’s the kind of book that you read while hugging your cat because you’re scared. Sometimes. There were times I wanted to pull the blanket over my head but then it would be dark. And scary. Other times I wanted to run around my apartment shouting “redrum!” (redrum is code for super duper scared in TanyaLand). Every time I thought I had it figured out, the book would align with my thinking and then take a hard turn left. This is not a graphically violent book but more psychological terror.
To Read or Not To Read: If you like books that play some mind games with you and some ambiguity (there are still parts I don’t know whether they are real or not), then YES! If you’re not into scary/unsettling books, then this is probably not the book for you.
P.S. To be completely honest, there may be zero murders in this book. Or many.
P.S.S. You might not find this book very scary and think I’m a wimp. You would not be wrong.
Books I Liked
These are the books I liked, ranked from most liked to liked.
A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Book Description: Grace Mae’s family sends her to an insane asylum to hide family secrets when a visiting doctor recruits her to help him investigate crime scenes.
Book Review: This is YA but doesn’t read like one besides Grace being a teenager. Grace and her friends, Nell And Lizzie, may (or may not) be insane but they are also strong young women too. Society may have turned on them, but they don’t act like typical victims. Grace does make some choices; one in particular that felt a little extreme, only because I didn’t sense Grace was in that dark of a place to go that far.
To Read or Not To Read: Yes, especially those who like YA where there is no romance, dystopia (although an insane asylum isn’t exactly the Ritz) or fantasy elements.
The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow
Book Description: Retired hitman Frankie Machianno is a beloved member of his community, but someone from his past wants him dead.
Book Review: This is my first Winslow book and I’m looking forward to reading more of his books. There were a lot of flashbacks in the book as Frankie tries to figure out who is after him. Sometimes those got a bit confusing since characters never tend to linger long in mob stories, and I would have preferred more current action and fewer flashbacks. But still, I liked Frankie and he was pretty moral for a hitman. And apparently a really good cook and lover, so all-in-all, not a bad guy for a bad guy.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it, especially if you’re a fan of mob stories. It’s my impression that this book is probably a bit slower-paced and tamer than some of his more recent works.
End of Watch by Stephen King
Book Description: The Bill Hodges trilogy comes to a close as Hodges and his partner, Holly, confront Brady Hartsfield, the Mercedes killer, one last time.
Book Review: Overall, this was a good conclusion to the series but I’m not going to lie: I really don’t like Brady and wished his story had ended with Mr. Mercedes. I do like Hodges, Jerome and Holly, in particular, and did enjoy seeing their story conclude. Sort of. There was some sadness too. Okay, I cried. But not over stupid Brady who suddenly got superpowers in a series where all the things that had previously gone bump in the night were real people doing bad things, rather than bad guys who could take over people’s minds. I don’t mind supernatural elements, but it threw me for a loop when I realized that King was going there.
To Read or Not To Read: Sure. Why not. Just start with Mr Mercedes and know that spooky things (more super ability versus actually scary) will happen in the final book.
The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens
Book Description: When the victim of a fatal car crash isn’t who he is supposed to be, Detective Alexander Rupert stumbles onto a case that restore his reputation.
Book Review: I love, LOVED, Eskens book The Life We Bury. While this is not a direct sequel, the detective from the the book is a secondary character, it takes place in the same world. But it’s not as good, which broke my heart. What I loved so much about The Life We Bury — characters you could truly like and a story not trying to be the next Gone Girl — were not here. Characters just suddenly change willy nilly. Yes, people can hide their ulterior motives, but some of the character zig zags gave me whiplash. And it wasn’t a Keyser Soze WTF but just a WTF. At the same time, I still really like Max (and not just because he shares a name with my cat) and book 3 will focus on him.
To Read or Not To Read: Yes, even with all my kvetching. It’s not a bad book by any means. It’s not as good as The Life We Bury, which I highly recommend, but there are a few tidbits you need from this book to help set-up book 3, which comes out in September and I am really excited to read.
Murder in Time by Julie McElwain
Book Description: FBI agent Kendra Donovan accidentally goes back in time and ends up hunting a serial killer.
Book Review: This is one of those stories where I like the side characters much more than I like the leads. Kendra is just too much of a unicorn. She’s some genetically modified person with super intelligence, yet that really never shines through for me. She’s upset when a man responsible for the death of some of her teammates is turned into an asset versus prosecuted. I get that; I’d be pissed too. But I think it’s weird that such a unicorn like Kendra (we hear how smart and young she is a lot) can’t figure out a way to get revenge without making it obvious that she did it and thus becoming a criminal in the eyes of the FBI. And even worse, who really cares because now she is stuck in the past? Maybe. There is some mumbo jumbo about being able to go back. This felt to me like it was supposed to be Outlander: Murder Mysteries.
To Read or Not To Read: Sure. Why not. Just know it’s like Chinese food. It’s fine while you’re reading it, but it won’t keep you full for long.
Book I Don’t Know How to Rate
In other words, I am feeling indecisive.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Book Description: Intertwined together is the true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the serial killer it helped spawn.
Book Review: Okay, I am a moron. Or a poor reader of book flaps. I did not realize this was a non-fiction book. I expected a thrilling tale about catching a serial killer with the World’s Fair as the backdrop. But what I got instead was a very well-written and researched book on how the World Fair came to be and some snippets about a serial killer. This is not what I expected and the fault lies with me. So the moral of the story: read the damn book flap correctly.
To Read or Not To Read: If you are a history buff (which I am but not about the World’s Fair), then you’ll likely enjoy this book. If you want to read an intense book about a serial killer, then this is probably not for you.
TL;DR – My Recommendations for You
I highly recommend Night Film: A Novel by Marisha Pessl. A Madness so Discreet by Mindy McGinnis and The Winter of Frankie Machine by Don Winslow are also great reads worthy of your TBR. This month there is no book that I would recommend you avoid. 🙂
To More Great Books
Well, I’ve already read three books in August and only one involved murder and mayhem, but the month is still young. 🙂 My decision to stop putting a ton of books on hold has worked well for me. I’m more eager to dive into my books versus it feeling like homework. But I also have to confess that I may have have recently placed about 3-4 books on hold. I just can’t help myself; I am a book addict. #SorryNotSorry. As always, I’ll be linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books Link-Up. Be sure to check it out for some awesome book recommendations.
What books catch your eye? What books do you recommend for me?