Like is such an ambiguous word. Some equate like to average or okay. While others consider like to be high praise. It depends on the person and sometimes the subject matter. And this month I liked a lot of books. Not like/love but liked enough to be glad I read (most of) them while remaining very aware of their flaws and still enjoying them enough to not go berserker over those huh? moments. And that, my friends, is actually pretty high praise.
The Books I Loved, Liked and Loathed
While most books fell firmly into the like camp, a couple almost earned the loathe title. Perhaps I had too high of expectations for them, but I always expect greatness from every book I read. I mean — why else would I read them?
The Books I Liked
These are the books that I liked, from most liked to liked.
Final Girls by Riley Sager
Book Description: After surviving a massacre, the media dubbed Riley a Final Girl. Now someone is murdering Final Girls and the two remaining survivors must figure out why before they become extinct.
Book Review: I like the premise of this book, especially as a quasi-horror fan (I like scary movies but not torture porn). The final girl is a familiar trope to any horror movie fan and these girls are understandably messed up survivors. They also have secrets and agendas that are not clear. They manipulate. Lie. Antagonize. I did not like them but they fascinated me. I constantly revised what I thought was “really” happening and speculated some crazy scenarios, so when the reveal happened, it disappointed me to see Sager play it safe. It wasn’t illogical or throw your book bad (Ahem. I See You) but I wish she took the risks she teased and tempted us with throughout the book. Thus, I consider the book to be very good with an average ending. I also think Sager greatly over-estimated my fondness for Quincy and you will have to read it to see if you agree with me. 😀
To Read or Not To Read: If you like messed up women and messed up scenarios, this is right up your alley. FYI: While based on a horror trope (the final, surviving girl), this is more a psychological thriller versus a horror novel.
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Final Girls is now available.
The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
Book Description: Two pregnant women strike an unlikely friendship that leads to the ultimate betrayal.
Book Review: You’re immediately drawn into this book and you recognize Meg and Agatha. They are you, your friends, your co-workers. You vicariously live their lives they project and you get to know their secrets. Big, big secrets. You sympathize. You judge. And you’re grateful to not be them. Agatha surprised me and even though she is horribly, horribly screwed-up and does some awful things, I wanted her to be okay. And maybe she will be, eventually.
To Read or Not to Read: Sure. A solid reads that drags a bit in the beginning, but then takes off and you can’t stop reading.
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. The Secrets She Keeps is now available.
Come Sundown by Nora Roberts
Book Description: The Longbow’s are a close knit family, minus Alice who left home many years ago, and her sudden, shocking reappearance brings danger into their lives.
Book Review: I like that the young female leads are intelligent, capable, confident women who don’t feel threatened by other women. They are also, sadly, deeply dull. The elder Longbow women, on the other hand, felt more like real women and should have been the focus on the book. It also felt like Roberts was making a not-so subtle message to her presumably large female audience, especially stateside (which also likely leans Caucasian). For example, Miss Fancy, the 90 year-old matriarch (and best character) rocks t-shirts that say “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” and “Women Belong in the House and the Senate”. I guess Roberts is trying to make amends for her 80’s romance books where the female lead only existed to find a man to take care of her. These women take care of themselves and their men respect them for it.
To Read or Not To Read: Sure. I admit to being a bit bored until Alice returned home because Quincy’s story was so damn predictable. But major bonus points for Miss Fancy and her t-shirts. 😀
Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon
Book Description: Twin sisters, different in every way, both struggle to deal with the aftermath of their childhood.
Book Review: This books toggles between today and the past and I found the past to be more interesting, albeit a little predictable. It’s where everything happens and today is dealing with the aftermath, although rather quickly once we understand what happened in the past. Sometimes the things happening today also felt a bit like filler or too distracting from the main crux of the story. Family can be your salvation or ruination and we very clearly (and sadly) see the devastation but the redemption arc is too quick and easy to be satisfying. And the twist that happened surprised (and delighted) me. Unfortunately, as things got very interesting, it was over.
To Read or Not To Read: Sure. Overall an enjoyable, fast read.
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Don’t Close Your Eyes is now available.
My Not-So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Book Description: Kate Brenner lives the perfect Instagram life but real life isn’t nearly so picturesque or perfect.
Book Review: I read this for my book club. Years ago, I read Can You Keep a Secret, which I enjoyed tremendously. This was good but not quite as great. Kinsella clearly has a formula that works for her, although it would grow tiresome if binged (or at least it would for me). Her books are very fluffy but with enough depth to keep them from being too saccharine and rotting your teeth. The book felt a little too long with the estrangement between Katie and Alex feeling particularly orchestrated and then rushed into a HEA.
To Read or Not To Read: Sure. It’s a good, light summer beach read.
Bring Her Home by David Bell
Book Description: The father of a missing girl uncovers secrets that leave him uncertain who his daughter really is.
Book Review: This book has a very interesting premise but the execution doesn’t quite live up to its potential. The characters appear very one-dimensional with rather simplistic writing (which feels weird since Bell is an English Professor who oversees a MFA program). Fortunately, the mix of expected and surprising twists kept me interested. On the flip side, the book runs about 100 pages too long and relies on a very big willingness to suspend disbelief. And someone who rarely reads mysteries or watches cop shows.
To Read or Not To Read: Yes, provided you have the willingness to suspend disbelief or the curiosity of a cat. To be clear, I’m the latter, not the former. 😀
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Bring Her Home is now available.
The Books that …
Float into the ether of the forgotten. Not awful. Not satisfying. Just there.
Domina by L.S. Hilton
Book Description: Judith Rashleigh thought her past was behind her, but stolen artwork and multiple dead people are hard to keep hidden.
Book Review: This is a sequel to Maestra, which was a strange book with a fascinating protagonist in Judith. But Domina doesn’t have that same spark. Long stretches of blah, blah, art and more art and less murder and intrigue. Still some smut sex (I mention this because not everyone enjoys graphic sex scenes) but even that doesn’t have quite the same titillation either. This is book 2 in a trilogy and suffers the normal book 2 problems of being overstuffed without much happening at the same time.
To Read or Not To Read: Dealer’s choice. You do need to read Maestra first and be warned: Domina ends on a cliffhanger, although not a particularly stressful one.
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Domina is now available.
Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica
Book Description: When Clara’s husband is killed in a car crash just days after she gave birth, her grief consumes her and she begins to question whether Nick’s death was truly an accident.
Book Review: I had a strong disconnect with this book. I completely understand what Kubica intended and it just didn’t work for me, although it might for you. Given the circumstances, I should feel intense sympathy for Clara but felt mostly annoyance. She never convinced me to go down the rabbit hole of her fear and paranoia. Instead, I seriously thought she needed a 5150 psychiatric hold and child services to step in for her children’s protection. Having Nick narrate every other chapter also robbed the story of tension and made the not-so-great ending obvious to me.
To Read or Not To Read: This was my first Kubica book so I cannot compare this to her other works and diehard fans should certainly still give this a try.
Note: I received an arc from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review. Every Last Lie is now available.
TL;DR – My Recommendations for You
For those who enjoy a good psychological thriller (and can withstand some horror, more serial killer than supernatural) should read The Final Girls. Mystery lovers who especially like examining family dynamics will enjoy The Secrets She Keeps, Come Sundown and Don’t Close Your Eyes. My Not-So Perfect Life is perfect (HA!) for those who want a light, fun beach read to go with their fruity, pool-side drink.
To More Great Reads
Erin’s Reading Challenge started this month and I need to start tackling my list. My Netgalley queue is also a bit unwieldy at the moment, and I keep telling myself to stop requesting new books from them, which means that I immediately go to their website and make lots of requests. I also pout dramatically whenever I am denied and cheer wildly when I am accepted. And then I freak out because the number of books I need to read is getting a bit insane. Ah, the problems of a #BookNerd are so very difficult. 😀 As usual, I’m linking up with Steph and Jana for their Show Us Your Books link-up!
What books did you read and love (or like or loathe) in June?
Brittany Pines says
Totally agree about Kinsella’s writing- I read a lot of the Shopaholic books in my early 20s and while her more recent work has gotten good reviews, they just don’t appeal because I overdid it back then 🙂
It’s so funny because it has been years since I read Can You Keep a Secret and it surprised me how much Perfect Life had such a similar flavor. I definitely couldn’t binge her work and can see how too much could get exhausting.
kathy @ more coffee, less talky says
Grrr I don’t like it when the books I have don’t blow me away 🙁 I read a few not-so-great ones this month as well.
It’s truly a huge pet peeve. I know it’s ridiculous but it still annoys me because of the time investment. Here’s to us having a better reading month in July!
After reading a few Mary Kubicas, I realize she is just not for me. LOL
This was my first and it didn’t super impress me. And admittedly, I had high expectations because I’ve seen her get so much praise. I’ll give her one more shot just in case it’s more about this particular book than her catalog.
Rebecca Jo says
I hate when a book is like that – 100 pages too long & drug out with information that makes you want to just slam your head.
I havent read a Sophie Kinsella in years… that one intrigues me though
YES! The number of pages doesn’t make a book worth more. Seriously. A good book is what makes it worth its price! It had been a long time since I read Kinsella too. It was a nice, summer read.
I am also trying to gear up for Erin’s Challenge (I enjoyed the last one so much!). I am trying to get through the Thorn Birds for a book club (loving it but it’s hefty). I have Perfect Life on my tbr, along with so many others, lol!
I have never read The Thorn Birds but I do recall it being quite a big book! Good luck! I need to get cracking with Erin’s Challenge. I mean, we are 12 days into July and I have not read one book yet for the challenge. LOL!
The Sophie Kinsella book sounds interesting 🙂 I’ve never heard of her before.
She’s known for light and fluffy books, although I do appreciate that she doesn’t go completely saccharine either. She’s actually great for summer because it’s a fun, light read.
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family says
Although I like psychological suspense, I really hate horror reads, so not sure I could do Final Girls. Just added The Secrets She Keeps and Don’t Close Your Eyes to my to read list though. I used to read a lot of Kinsella but not many of her newer books. I’m on the fence about reading the Kubica book. I’ve read her other three and enjoyed some better than the rest.
Yeah, I had a difficult time trying to figure out if Final Girls is more psychological thriller or horror. I lean more towards psychological thriller as the scenes that describe the “horror” the Final Girls survived isn’t described as it is happening (minus Quincy a bit at the end). It’s matter-of-fact, like a news story, which made it less stressful and scary. But still, if you hate horror, it may still be too close to horror for you. I wasn’t super impressed with Kubica’s book but haven’t read her others so I can’t compare how it rates. I always say give it a try. If it doesn’t grab you right away, then it probably won’t. 😀
I have Final Girls on my list, but was worried it would be a little too horror-ish, so it was nice to read your review mention it was more of a psychological thriller? The Secrets She Keeps sounds really interesting too!
I felt it was more psychological thriller, although eye of the beholder. But it’s more head games in my mind than scares. The scenes that describe what happened to the girls (i.e. how they become Final Girls) are fairly matter-of-fact, which makes them a lot less scary in my book. I’m a wimp and I wasn’t scared, if that helps you decide! I really liked The Secrets She Keeps. It had some good twists and I had way more sympathy for a character than expected, given all the awful things she does.
I like that you put these in order of most liked to liked. (Have I said that before? Either way, I appreciate it. Even though I don’t do that… lol.) I’m not a big thriller or horror reader, nor do I gravitate toward the modern fluff-stuff. I like historical fiction. I’m glad most of these were decent reads for you, though!!
Glad you like that, Audrey! Thriller/Mysteries are my favorite genre. Fluff is not something I typically read either, but Kinsella was my book club’s choice. 😀 They wanted something lighter after I broke them with Small Great Things. LOL! Have you read Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart? It’s great and historical fiction (it’s based on a real character and events) so I think you would really enjoy it.
Jana @ Jana Says says
My NetGalley queue is RIDICULOUS right now. I’m finishing up the few library books I have and then it’s NetGalley only until the queue is cleared out.
I know a bunch of people who love Mary Kubica but her books are never a priority for me.
Okay, I feel better knowing I’m not the only one with an out of control NetGalley queue! 😀 I’ve seen a lot of Mary Kubica praise here and there and I was so excited for her new book. It bummed me that she didn’t rock my world. I’ll give her another try, just in case it was more that book than her overall.
I think My Not So Perfect Life looks like a cute one. I need to get a copy somehow this summer. I REALLY want to read Final Girls.
My Not-So Perfect Life is definitely a cute book. Perfect for the summer, in my opinion! I really enjoyed Final Girls and hope you do too!
Jill K. says
My library surprised me by having The Secrets She Keeps so I guess I’ll give it a go!
YAY! I love it when that happens. So often I think they won’t have a book and do. And then they don’t have books I expect them to have. LOL! I hope you enjoy it!
Olya @ The Siberian American says
Final Girls is coming up on my list, and I’ve been curious about it. Bummer that the author played it safe, though!
It was safe to me, but it might not be for you. I’m kind of wacky. 😀 And she did tease some more crazy (and riskier) possibilities that I would have loved. But it’s still overall a good, intense book. Hope you enjoy it!
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
I have Final Girls from Netgalley, and I really need to get on reading it, it sounds so good! I added The Secrets She Keeps and Don’t Close Your Eyes because both of those sound like such great thrillers. I loved My Not So Perfect Life so much, and it really is the perfect light and summery beach read for the season. And I’m totally the same way when it comes to Netgalley, I say no more and then I go and request books. I have laid off recently, but now I’m getting way to many books from the library. The list never ends!
I liked Final Girls a lot, particularly because it’s a bit different. The Secrets She Keeps and Don’t Close Your Eyes are both really good. My Not-So Perfect Life is the perfect summer beach read. Sweet but not too sweet! I’ve finally stopped requesting NetGalley books (for today at least) but just picked up 3 books that were on hold at the library. Such horrible, horrible problems!
hmmm final girls sounds intriguing, though terrifying haha. definitely adding The Secrets She Keeps. My Not-So Perfect Life is on my kindle.. i agree about Kinsella having a formula, I read several of the shopaholic books in a row and needed like a year off before reading another of her books as they definitely get old. hmm. even though you didn’t love Every Last Lie, i am intrigued (though i think i read another of hers and didn’t love it, VERY slow).
Final Girls was definitely intense and kept me guessing. It didn’t scare me and some books have scared me before, which is why I lean towards it being more of a psychological thriller versus horror. The Secrets She Keeps is really good. Agatha is terribly messed up and yet I still cared for her, even after she does horrible, horrible things. So that makes her a good character in my book. Kinsella definitely has a formula. And one that clearly works for her but I’m okay if it’s another five years before I read another. 😀 My biggest quibble with Every Last Lie wasn’t the pacing so much, but the main character. If you don’t go down the rabbit hole with her, I think it’s really hard to enjoy the book.
Kinsella’s Can You Keep a Secret? is one of my top ten enjoyable books. I re-read it every year or so.
My Not-So Perfect life was okay but not amazing.
I laughed so dang hard when I read Can You Keep a Secret, which is why I will always have fondness for Kinsella. I couldn’t binge her books but I do appreciate her charm.
I haven’t read any Nora Roberts books but I have a few on my TBR now. And after reading Finding Audrey, I want to read Kinsella’s new one too!
I really The Obsession by Roberts. And some of her trilogies but more the supernatural/fantasy ones. I love her In Death series that she writes under J.D. Robb. I have not read Finding Audrey but it’s on my TBR. I’ve heard lots of good things about it. Some day!