This month every book, except for one, was a mystery of some sort. In other words, I got my Scooby-Do on and put my nose to the ground to sniff out some bad guys. But not for a Scooby treat. Nope. I’m more high class than dog treats. I work for red velvet cupcakes, salted caramels and dark chocolate. 😀 And just like in Scooby Do, some villains were surprising, some were good and some were Old Man Winters (i.e. lame).
The Books I Loved
These are the books that made me laugh, and cry, and think. And love.
Salt to Sea by Ruth Sepetys
Book Description: We follow a group of refugees as they seek to board the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff and flee war-torn Germany at the end of WW2.
Book Review: I had seen this book praised so many times but both eagerness and trepidation filled me when I started reading it. I find WW2 books difficult to read and typically read only one a year. Even though I inadvertently read a WW2 book (Playing with Fire) in January, this was one of my choices for Erin’s 6.0 Challenge so I persisted (ha!). I’m so glad I did. Sepetys wrote a tremendous book. It immediately griped your attention and your heart. I loved how it focused on kids (late teens/young adults) and their experiences because we don’t often think about what they endured. It broke my heart, gave me hope and reminded me why I force myself to read stories about Nazis: to never forget the destruction of unmitigated hate.
To Read or Not To Read Yes. It’s a fictional take on a real event and an overall excellent read. I am excited to read more of her work.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Book Description: Jason wakes up in a world not quite his own and must find his way back to his wife and child while battling knowledgeable and growing forces.
Book Review: I read this for my book club and we overall loved it. I understood what was happening (mostly) and yet had a ton of questions afterwards (in a good way). It became a bit of a mind f*ck, especially when you think about what you would do in Jason’s shoes. And survival of the fittest took on a whole new meaning when you’re enemy #1. Note: there are some heavier science parts (a la The Martian), which I mostly skimmed. Big Bang Theory taught me all I need to know about Schrödinger’s cat. And in Tanya’s world, the cat always lives.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it, especially science fiction lovers. Like I said, it’s in the vein of The Martian in that science/physics plays an important role but here — a willingness to be Fox Mulder and believe is essential.
The Books I Liked
These are books I enjoyed overall, from most liked to liked.
The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens
Book Description: The murder of Jennavieve Pruitt tests the friendship between Detective Max Rupert and Attorney Boady Sanden.
Book Review: I definitely enjoyed this book over The Guise of Another but not as much as The Life We Bury. This book brought back two popular characters from The Life We Bury, Detective Max Rupert and Attorney Boady Sandens and pitted them against each other. But really, Rupert’s role was minor and more to set-up the next book, which will heavily feature him (and looks really good). The mystery was pretty solid and kept me guessing. I just really loved Joe and Jeremy (from The Life We Bury) and their relationship and none of the other characters have captured my attention and heart like them. My understanding is they return as main characters in book 5 and 6.
To Read or Not To Read: Yes. It is a solid mystery with a few twists and turns. It kept me engaged and I look forward to continuing the series.
Ill Will by Dan Chaon
Book Description: Dustin’s testimony sent his adopted brother to prison, but he’s been exonerated by DNA evidence. Now the sins of his past, along with his investigation into a string of drowning deaths, put him and his family in danger.
Book Review: This is a book full of messed up, broken people. Broken by life. Broken by their choices and responses. A harsh look at how far we will go to avoid the truth or protect ourselves, even at the cost of loved ones. It’s weird and sad. Tense and depressing. Surreal and haunting. Not really hopeful. At all. Messed up. Messed up. Messed up. But Good.
To Read or Not To Read: Sure. Just don’t expect to feel high on life afterwards. More likely you’ll need a hug. A big one.
The Yard by Alex Grecian
Book Description: The Murder Squad, a group of Scotland Yard detectives, find themselves being hunted by a deranged killer.
Book Review: I am a Jack the Ripper fan and stumbled upon this series when nothing on my TBR appealed to me. It takes place immediately after Jack the Ripper terrorized London and focuses on the department who hunted him, unsuccessfully. I really like Detective Inspector Walter Day, who is new to the team, and the cast of supporting characters. There is certain amount of foundation being built, which made some sections a bit slow, but I like where it appears to be going and I’m happy to have a new mysteries series to enjoy. And yeah, I peeked ahead and the real Jack shows up in future books.
To Read or Not To Read: Absolutely. Especially those who enjoy historical mysteries and/or Jack the Ripper. Because just like Santa Claus, he’s coming. 😀
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
Book Description: After the death of her two children, Ruth’s life is put under a microscope as the public and police turn against her.
Book Review: There are parts of this book that are tremendous and other parts where it really, really drags. I don’t really care for the reporter and found him rather annoying and weird, especially his obsession with Ruth. It felt like a device versus something genuine. What the book did exceptionally well was place a huge spotlight on how we judge women. How we demonize them for not behaving in a way we, the righteous public, consider proper. This made me uncomfortable at times because I am guilty of doing this too. Ruth lost her children and didn’t act the way a mother should in the eyes of the law, her neighbors and the general public and that’s really why they found her guilty. Not a spoiler, we know she’s in jail on the first page but whether she is guilty or not we don’t learn until the end.
To Read or Not To Read: Dealer’s choice. I love the moral complexity behind Ruth but other parts of the story were tedious. The ending was strong, if that helps. 😀
The Books that I Loathed
I feel bad about it but I also feel mad too.
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
Book Description: Zoe finds a picture of herself in a newspaper ad and discovers women in these ads have become victims of violent crimes, including murder.
Book Review: I Let You Go was one of the best books I read in 2016. Maybe I expected too much but this fell flat to me. It starts with a terrific premise, stronger than I Let You Go to be quite honest, but suffers from weak execution. The story meanders and lacks tension which is strange, given how palpable the tension was in her debut novel. However, my biggest frustration really lies in the villain. In this instance, the villain reveal should have made me gasp, while also nodding my head as I recall little details where the character seemed off but Mackintosh slyly distracted me from pondering it too deeply. That’s a good villain reveal. Where it makes perfect sense after some thought (because it needs to hold up under scrutiny to really be great) but shocked me in the moment. Here, my eyes start rolling so hard that I had to close them, out of fear that my eyeballs might roll out. It almost felt like she knew the villain reveal was weak because she tacked on a “twist” in the epilogue that felt ill-advised and made question if she is more of a one-hit wonder. Ouch.
To Read or Not To Read: I recommend I Let You Go versus this book but … if you loved I Let You Go, you may wish to give it a shot, because maybe it’s me, not the book. People on GoodReads seemed to either love it or hate it. Just know that if you get bored and start thinking you should clean your toilet, stop reading. Jump ahead to the ending or ask me how it ends. I’ll tell you because I See You .. r pain.
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Book Description: 12 years after her disappearance, Gil spots on his wife on a street corner.
Book Review: Ingrid, the mother, is a well-developed character. Sadly, she is the only one. We get to know her no-good, chronically cheating husband through the letters she leaves behind in random books for him to find. Or not. But we don’t know him now. How he has changed or not. Whether he has regrets or not. We don’t really know anyone. Everyone is very one-note, which makes for a boring read. Flora is unlikeable. Nan is a nag. Those are character traits but people, real people, are more than one trait. Another book with great potential that did not live up to the hype.
To Read or Not To Read: Skip it. There are far too many good books about families to waste on a mediocre book.
The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
Book Description: Edie channels the dead and falls in love with one of her clients who may have murdered his wife.
Book Review: I found the idea of the book far more entertaining the actual book. The book moved rather slowly at times. And the mysteries — who was Hopeful Doe, was Sylvia murdered, what’s Edie’s secret — seemed mundane and more like afterthoughts versus earthquakes. I also have a rather major quibble with what Edie’s secret was. I understand her shame and running from it, but I honestly don’t see how it would be “news” and she would face possible prosecution over it. And it really bothers me that Patrick, who lives in a very big glass house in my book, could throw stones. I could rant but I’m just not into the book enough to do so, because dear book, it’s you, not me.
TL;DR – My Recommendations for You
This month I highly recommend Salt to Sea by Ruth Sepety, Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and Ill Will by Dan Chaon. I strongly discourage you from reading Swimming Lessons and The Possessions. Those who love a good mystery series should check out The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens (although start with the Life We Bury) and The Yard by Alec Grecian. Dealer’s choice on I See You by Clare Mackintosh. I disliked it but you may love it. And that’s what makes books so amazing. We all respond differently to books.
To More Great Books
So last month I pledged to not put anymore books on hold and I mostly lived up to it. I had to put Dark Matter on hold for book club so that doesn’t count. But also requested 8 books via NetGalley because apparently I have a strong need for more books! And I got approved for 7, which is made me very, very happy! Thankfully, they also weren’t all being released in April too. 😀 Ah, the trials and tribulations of a #BookNerd.
What good books did you read in March?