May was a strange reading month for me. Every book was good but no book was truly exceptional. The kind that makes you race to your computer or phone to sing its praises on Twitter. Every new book, I thought this would be the one … the one I loved this month. But alas, just as my dream to be taller than 5 feet without wearing shoes has never come to pass, neither did my quest to find a book I love this month. The good news? There is always a new month and new books on the horizon.
The All Good Books
Books I really enjoyed but didn’t quite hit the love mark for one reason or another. Books are ranked from most liked to liked.
City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
I was provided an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher for an honest review.
Book Description: After the events of The Twelve, the survivors try to rebuild their world, but hidden in the shadows, the First awaits.
Book Review: This is the final chapter in the Passage Trilogy. There was a long wait in-between The Twelve and City of Mirrors and Cronin wisely included a brief recap in the beginning. These are long books (600+ pages) and as much as I enjoyed the first two books, I did not have time to reread them, which did initially make it a bit difficult to get into the book because I had forgotten so much. 🙂 Thankfully, it was worth the wait, mostly. My biggest gripe is we spend about a third of the book getting the backstory on Zero or the First, which felt like an entirely different book. I guess origin stories are all the rage, but it didn’t really change how I felt about him, ya know? I would have much rather spent time with the principal characters. Like the previous two books, there are a couple time jumps and we lose some people we care about too. I hate that but also appreciate the author not sugarcoating war either. Overall, a satisfying conclusion to a series I enjoyed (which is a good thing, since it was nearly 2000 pages all together. This will probably scare some of you more than the vampires will.)
To Read or Not To Read: Read it if you’re fan of YA and vampire/dystopian books.
Be Frank with Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson
Book Description: Alice is hired to be the assistant to legendary author MM Banning, which includes caring for her eccentric son, Frank.
Book Review: It never makes it fully clear but Frank is likely autistic. He is also a really cool nine-year old. He dresses like a 1930’s movie star and can’t spell worth a darn but uses words like dilettante (which I had to look-up) and sanctimonious properly. This is a fun book and Frank is really well-developed, but I wanted a little bit more depth overall, especially given some of the issues Frank faces with his school and classmates. I firmly believe a book can be both lighthearted and provide sharp commentary.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. Frank is a great character.
A Conspiracy of Faith by Jussi Alder-Olsen
Book Description: An old message found in a bottle from two kidnapped boys lands on Detective Carl Morck’s desk.
Book Review This is the 3rd book in the Department Q series and they just keep getting better. Things that bothered me previously, the somewhat cliched, dumb villains, are gone. This villain is three dimensional and not a cartoon villain who twirls his oversized mustache. There are parts of his past that made me feel sympathetic towards him but did not excuse his current actions, although certainly explained his depravity. He has the ego of a man who has been getting away with murder for years and was a good foe for Morck. It was a fast-paced read and the side characters Rose and Assad continue to entertain and intrigue me as well.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it if you’re a fan of mysteries/thrillers. This can be read as a stand-alone, although I do recommend starting with book one.
What Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross
Book Description:: On impulse, Lucy kidnaps a baby girl and 21 years later, her daughter, Mia, discovers the truth.
Book Review: Not that this makes it right in any way, but I do want to make it clear that Mia was loved by Lucy and did not experience 21 years of horrific abuse. The fact that this wasn’t a story of abuse and recovery was what drew me to it. Every chapter is a from a singular perspective, Lucy (the kidnapper), Marilyn (the biological Mom), Mia (the daughter) and so on. I have mixed feelings about how it worked. Sometimes it worked brilliantly; other times I wanted a more cohesive story because it lost some of its emotional resonance with its diary-like, confessional chapters. I expected to feel all the feels, including ugly crying and didn’t. It felt like there was so much set-up and not enough time given to Mia to work through her emotions. There is a certain amount of ambiguity at the end, which ultimately felt right, but did seem rushed.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. It’s an interesting story and does make you think about those moments where life changes in an instant.
Maestra by L.S. Hilton
Book Description: When Judith’s efforts to do the right thing wind-up getting her fired, she takes matters into her own (killer) hands.
Book Review: I overall enjoyed this book, but it definitely will not be for everyone. It does have explicit sex scenes, which some don’t mind and some do, so I wanted to give you fair warning. Judith is an fascinating character. She didn’t originally set out to do bad things, in fact, tried to do the right thing initially. She isn’t 100% morally corrupt but is definitely teetering of the edge of becoming a full-blown psychopath (and likely is by the end). She is extremely manipulative and cunning, which I like. She is also scared, uncertain and protective of those she does love and are hurt by her actions. This is a trilogy, even though it had a fairly closed-ending in my mind, but I will read book 2 to see what mayhem Judith is creating.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it. Judith isn’t really a likable character and yet I couldn’t help but root for her to get away with murder.
The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson
Book Description: Beatrice arrives in the small town of Rye to teach Latin, much to disapproval of certain townsfolk, while the specter of World War 1 looms in the background.
Book Review:This was good but a bit of a slow read for me. I tend to prefer fast-paced books and this meandered for a bit. I think those who enjoy Downtown Abbey might like this. There are certainly some colorful characters, although they lack a certain amount of depth given the backdrop of WW1. I admit that there may be some bias on my part since I recently read the Nightingale where there was a greater sense of urgency. These are two very different stories. We do briefly go to war with a couple of characters and the idyllic nature we had been enjoying disappears quickly, as it should.
To Read or Not to Read: Definitely read it if you are a fan of historical fiction or WW1 stories.
The So-So Book
Not great but not bad book either.
The Madwoman Upstairs By Catherine Lowell
Book Description: Samantha Whipple is the last remaining descendant of the Bronte family who is searching for the reported hidden family fortune.
Book Review: I’m not a big fan of the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre – meh. Wuthering Heights – well, I like Heathcliff … the cat. The overall premise of the book intrigued me, but it really didn’t work for me. The first third was a lot of back-and-forth between Samantha and her college professor about various classic books and their meanings and was really slow-paced. It did pick-up a bit but never enthralled me. I thought it was going to be more of a scavenger hunt which it was, but in the most boring way possible.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it, if you’re a big Bronte sisters fan. You’ll like enjoy all the tidbits about them, although not sure if they are real or fictional, probably a bit of both. If you haven’t read anything by the Brontes, I suggest you start with the real McCoy and read Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.
To More Great Books in July
Well, that’s a wrap for May. Like I said at the beginning, lots of really good books to recommend with no real stinker among them. The Madwoman Upstairs was by no means a bad book, just not my cup of tea. HA! I will say that it did make me interested in finding a good biography on the Bronte sisters, because the tidbits about them were the best part of the book for me. As always, I will be linking up with Jana and Steph for their monthly Show Us Your Books extravaganza, also known as my favorite post, ever!
I’m also participating in a couple of challenges this summer, including Book Challenge by Erin 5.0. It doesn’t officially start until July 1st, so you’ve still got time to pick your books and join us! I love connecting with fellow book lovers because for a long time — I thought I was the only book nerd. 🙂
Any books catch your eye? What books did you love in May?