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 Ruta 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.
To Read or Not To Read: Skip it. If you want to read a book about really messed up people, read Ill Will by Dan Choan, The Roanoke Girls or Behind Her Eyes instead.
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.
I’m linking up with Jana and Steph for another Show Us Your Books Link-Up. Be sure to check it out and see what everyone read last month!
What good books did you read in March?
I was a huge fan of I Let You Go. I See You was mediocre to me.
The Yard sounds fascinating. Will definitely keep my eye out for that.
I still need to read The Life We Bury.
I See You was such a disappointment after I Let You Go. Hopefully, her next book will be more like I Let You Go. I really enjoyed The Yard and need to pick up book 2. Not only do I enjoy a good mystery but I love that era and knowing Jack will make an appearance makes me a happy camper! Love, love The Life We Bury. It’s just a good solid book with characters I like and sometimes I need a book like that! No crazy twists or unlikeable main characters. Just good people trying to the right thing in this crazy, crazy world.
I read I See You a while back and although I thought it was alright (I’m not the biggest thriller fan, so “alright” is about as good as they get to me), I’m totally with you on the villain reveal and the epilogue.
I thought the villains motivations were so pathetic, I just couldn’t believe that the villain wanted to involve Zoe for the reasons given. I didn’t buy it at all. And the epilogue. Urgh, no.
I hear that her other book is better so I’d definitely like to give that a go sometime.
Maybe I’ll listen to it on audio instead, as that’s more preferable for me when I’m reading a thriller.
Thank you! I was so torked when I got to the end. I almost gave-up but I’m the kind of person who has to see a book to the bitter end — in most cases. I’m also trying to break myself of this habit too. Because I loved I Let You Go so much, I kept thinking it will get better and it got worse instead. The villain was stupid. It didn’t make sense at all. And it needs to make sense to be good. And the epilogue. Ugh. I may have screamed.
Alexandra Consolver says
Seems like a split month, that scooby doo bit at the top was cracking me up! 😛 I got Salt to the Sea on kindle daily deals for $1.99 I can’t wait to read it. I’ve heard awesome things about Dark Matter as well. I just finished watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries… and I looooved it. I’m definitely trying to figure out which mysteries/series will fill the void. XO – Alexandra
Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things
I am a crazy cat lady but I love me some Scooby Doo! 😀 I borrowed Salt to Sea from the library but I would absolutely buy it, especially if I found it for $1.99. It’s so good and you immediately get pulled into the story. Dark Matters is so weird and great and weird. 😀 Oh, Kristen keeps talking about Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries and it sounds soooo good. I need to watch it!
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
So I added The Yard and Ill Will to my list because they both seem like books that I’d love. I know that eventually I’ll give Dark Matter a chance, I just hated all of the science in The Martian which is why it wasn’t one of my favorites from last year. And I’m so glad that you loved Salt To The Sea! It was seriously one of my favorite books from last year, and I a great YA novel about a very tough subject. I just finished I Let You Go this past month, and I have I See You on my list as well. I hope that I end up liking it!
I hope you enjoy all the books. I need to pick up book 2 in Murder Squad series. Normally, I’d have probably binged the series by now but my TBR (library holds and NetGalley books) have me buried. 😀 Ill Will was strange and wonderful and I felt bad for them at the end. And that’s all I will say! Yeah, the science aspect scared me away from The Martian for the longest time. And there definitely is some science/physics stuff in Dark Matter, but you can skim those parts. What really matters is that you just roll with it. Being able to believe is key! Salt to the Sea is definitely going to be one of my favorite books of the year. So well-written and I’m anxious to read more of her work. I hope you end up enjoying I See You. It didn’t rock my world but it may rock yours!
SMD @ Life According to Steph says
Mysteries are my jam.
The Ruta book is on my list but I am off of WWII books at the moment.
Mine too. I will always, always love mysteries. Salt to the Sea is a phenomenal book. I completely understand a need for a break from WW2 books but definitely keep Salt to the Sea on the list for when you’re ready. It’s worth the emotional roller coaster.
Rebecca Jo says
Hey – just consider it a challenge to get all those books read for NetGalley … its a good thing 😉
Dark Matter sounds so interesting – I just get nervous at Sci-Fi books – Its like talking geometry to me. CONFUSION. I would have never made it through The Martian if I hadnt seen the movie first. That’s how bad I am with sci-fi.
That’s the right attitude! The good thing is the books are a bit spaced out as far as when they are released. Otherwise I’d probably be sweating a bit! I’m not into science or physics and those parts did drag a bit for me, so I mostly skimmed them and doing so did not affect my enjoyment or understanding of the story. Like I told Ashley, being open and not a skeptic is what really matters when it comes to enjoying the story. 😀
Jill K. says
Salt to Sea sounds really good. My summer reading list is getting so long!
It’s really good, Jill. I was surprised by how much I loved it, given how hard WW2 stories are for me. But the characters are the kind that you quickly fall in love with and I had a big pit in my stomach throughout the book worrying about them.
I just got Dark Matter from my library and I am so excited to read it. I loved his Pines trilogy. I’ve been wanting to read I Let You Go and I See You, so I’ll probably read I Let You Go first.
I really loved the Pines trilogy too. I did not watch the show but the books I tore through! Definitely read I Let You Go – that’s a terrific, albeit slow-moving story. I See You is just slow and then lame. But hopefully if you give it a shot, you’ll have a different experience than me! 😀
I’m going to read Dark Matter sometime this spring!! I’m not *always* into Sci-Fi, but I loved The Martian and enjoyed other sci-fi so I think I will enjoy Dark Matter. I LOVED Salt to the Sea too. I can’t wait to read some of her other books.
I hope you enjoy Dark Matter, Heather! It’s different from The Martian but if you handled the science parts of that book, you’ll do just fine. And like I told others, I skimmed the science/physics parts so I the gist of what was going on and it did not affect my enjoyment or understanding of the book. Salt to the Sea is fantastic and I cannot give it enough praise! I’m anxious to dive into her other books too.
Jana @ Jana Says says
I’ll pass on the WW2 book. After The Lilac Girls, I am done with them. Probably for good.
Dark Matter was excellent and I’m thrilled you enjoyed it!
I have a hard time with WW2 books too. Typically I can only manage one per year. I had Lilac Girls on my TBR but I took it off. I’m not sure if I could do it. Dark Matter was terrific and I recommend it to everyone!
Olya @ The Siberian American says
I really need to read Salt to the Sea soon! I know I would love it. Thanks for the heads up on Ill Will. I have it in my queue, but I know I need to be in the mood for a book like that.
Salt to the Sea is excellent. It will definitely be one of my favorite books from 2017. Ill Will is a good but somewhat depressing book. I enjoyed it but it broke my heart a bit because … yeah.
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family says
I really liked I Let You Go and I See You has been on my to read list….so I may give it a shot. I’ve been wanting to read Salt to Sea for awhile now and I’ve heard good things about Dark Matter. I’m not a big science fiction fan but surprisingly loved the Martian.
Definitely give it a shot, Nancy. Like I said, people seemed to either be in the love or hate club and you may be in the love camp! Salt to the Sea is a great book. Heartbreaking but so good! I was surprised by how much I enjoyed The Martian too but the main character was so good so that helped, I think.
Salt to the Sea sounds interesting. I wasnt sure if I wanted to read Dark Matter or not before today but you and someone else have convinced me!
Salt to the Sea is fantastic and I really loved it. Dark Matter is really good too. It’s different and plays with your mind (which I like) and is really fast read too. I hope you enjoy it!
Ooooh- definitely checking out The Yard. I love me some histories-mysteries 🙂
I hope you enjoy it, Audrey! I love mysteries too. And historical mysteries that take place in the time of Jack the Ripper are some of my favorites!
mmmmm salted caramels. Salt to Sea is on my list! i felt the same about Dark Matter – I could skip the heavy science bits and still enjoy the story. i had no idea the life we bury was a series of sorts. interesting, or at least connected. hmmm. ill will sounds heavy. the yard sounds good – have we talked about ripper street? it doesn’t focus on jack the ripper that much, only really in the first few episodes, but still. if you like that stuff! little deaths sounds interesting! i let you go was SO good that i am super weary of reading anything else of hers lol. i’ll skip that one.
I love me some salted caramels. So yummy. Just like I love me some good books! LOL! I think Crouch wisely made sure that you could skim the science bits and get the gist of it without making your mind go kaboom for us non-science people! Life We Bury isn’t a serial, serial but loosely connected. I would say 3 and 4 seem to be the most connected as The Heavens May Fall sets-up book 4, whereas book 1 and 2 are more connected by characters versus storyline, if that makes sense! You’ve mentioned Ripper Street and I meant to check it out because .. Jack. 😀 Honestly, I’d skip I See You. I wish I had. 🙁
Ooh, The Yard sounds great!
It’s really good! I hope you give it a shot!
Kristin Darhower says
I really like Sepetys.
I almost thought about doing the audible of I See You, but the blurb didn’t pull me in…glad I didn’t 🙂
If you like the author, Gilly MacMillan is similar in style.
I’ve heard great things about Sepetys other books and I’m anxious to read more of her work. Ugh. I See You was such a disappointment to me. I’m not sure how it would be on audible. But you may have saved yourself from hours and hours of boredom. I have not read anything by Gilly MacMillan, although I see her stuff everywhere. Thanks for the recommendation; I’ll check her out!
I love a good mystery. I own The Yard (love anything related to Jack the Ripper) and can hopefully read it soon. I really want to check out Ill Will, Dark Matter, and Salt to the Sea (my sister owns this, so that’s a step in the right direction!)
Me too! Mysteries are my favorite and love Jack the Ripper. He fascinates (and terrifies) me. All great books and I hope you enjoy them!
I think I read Dark Matter faster than any book ever because I was like, OMG what is going to happen?! So good! I have I See You (and I Let You Go) on hold from the library right now, so I kind of skipped over that review, but am bummed to see you didn’t like it.
I whipped through it too, Carly. It’s was such a good read and I had no idea what was happening at first, so I love that too. I didn’t like I See You but hopefully you have a different reaction than me! 😀
Ange // Cowgirl Runs says
I enjoyed The Martian, so I’m going to add Dark Matter to my list because it sounds really interesting, and is a bit of a new genre for me 🙂
I enjoyed The Martian too, even most of the science parts! Dark Matter has some definite science/physics bits but you can skim them, if make your mind explode (like mine)!
Wow, The Yard sounds so good! You had me at London, lol 🙂
LOL! I hope you enjoy The Yard. I need to pick up book 2 because I got to get to Jack. 😀
I just picked up Salt to the Sea at a thrift store. Very excited to read it! Pam 🙂
I hope you love it, Pam! I thought it was a fabulous book!
Kristi @ Mi Vida Ocupada says
Thanks for the list! I loved Dark Matter too!