It’s time for my favorite monthly post: book reviews! This month I read my weight in books. Seriously. I was dealing with allergy issues and the blahs, so I spent most of my time sneezing and reading books. Even better, no book earned the dreaded loathe title, with many instead earning the coveted love title. This makes me so happy. We give hours of our lives to reading and it only seems fair that they spin a worthy yarn.
The Books I Loved, Liked and Loathed this Month
I read quite a mix this month from YA to romance to horror to mystery. This is a long post so feel free to jump to the TL;DR at the end of the post for my recommendations.
The Books I Loved
This month several books made my heart pitter patter, which pleases this book loving lady. Let’s dig in!
Red Rising (Book 1) by Pierce Brown
Book Description: Darrow, a member of the lowest caste, is recruited to infiltrate the inner circle of society and destroy the caste system from inside.
Book Review I fully expected to enjoy this book but didn’t realize how much I would love it. While there is a strong Hunger Games influence, it is by no means a carbon copy beyond a carefully crafted world, full of characters you grow to love and hate. I also love that Brown created a complex world, because life is rarely black or white. Most life exists in the gray. And Darrow, who is a great main character, begins to see what seems simple (Golds are all bad) is not fact. I also really, really, really, really appreciated the lack of a love triangle in this book. And if one eventually exists in the series, please lie to me.
To Read or Not To Read: YES, unless YA and a dystopian worlds do not appeal to you. It is also a very violent and cruel world they live in, where wealth and value are tied directly to skin color. Ahem.
Apprentice In Death by J.D. Robb
Book Description: A sniper with an unknown vendetta begins killing what appears to be random targets.
Book Review: Another great addition to the In Death series that is now 43 books strong. While less graphic then the preceding book, it still moves at a fast-pace with a great supporting cast. Almost everyone you love makes, at least, a brief appearance too. Long-time fans will also experience the shock of Eve and Summerset enjoying a somewhat tender moment. Or at least the two of them getting along. For now. 🙂 At face-value, the In Death books are mysteries, but at their core, they tend to have an underlying message. This time Robb examines the role nature versus nurture plays in our lives.
To Read or Not To Read: Yes. While I always recommend starting a series at the beginning, I realize that 43 books may make some of you say “nope” and I get it. The In Death books can be read as stand-alone. I started on book 22, fell in love, then started back at book #1.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joel Hill
Book Description: Judas Coyne collects unusual items, but his purchase of a ghost brings great danger to him and his loved ones.
Book Review: I started reading this creepy book in the evening, and this little wimp quit because she was ready to crawl under her bed and hide, until she remembered the boogey man hangs out under there. Therefore, I smartly finished the book in the comfort of the bright, California sun with a purring cat next to me. The beginning freaked me out, but as the book progressed, my fear decreased. The intensity remained high, but now I understood what was happening. Plus, they also left their home. So basically a road-trip ghost is less terrifying than a home ghost in TanyaLand. Logical? Nope.
To Read or Not to Read: Absolutely. You root for aging rocker Judas Coyne and his current girlfriend, Georgia, to survive, and they don’t make the stupid mistakes most characters in horror books/movies do, which is refreshing. A great read for those who like horror/ghost stories. If not, then skip it.
All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
Book Description: Jenny takes a drug to erase memories of her rape, but the trauma to her and her family still remains.
Book Review: Described as provocative and morally complex, I would also add infuriating. I thought this book would focus on the aftermath of Jenny taking the drug to erase the memory of her rape, which it does. But at the core, it examines how people respond to the rape. How we protect ourselves and those around us when threatened, even in ways we couldn’t imagine. Some opinions expressed made my blood boil and feel slightly ill — because deep down I agreed with a few of them. This book had me completely hooked, pissed as Hell and unable to put it down. My biggest quibble is that the ending was a little too pat. Walker wrote a truly complex book, so I wanted a messier ending. The somewhat happy(ish) ending rang a tiny bit false to me.
To Read or Not to Read: Yes. This is a book about a rape and those scenes are not easy nor should they be. The narrator rambles at times (or at least appears to), which gets annoying but really is just who he is. This also makes a great selection for a book group.
The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis
Book Description: The stories of two women searching to find themselves while living at the famed Barbizon hotel in 1952 and present day.
Book Review: This book hit the right note on so many levels, which is especially impressive for a debut book. The characters, which could have easily been standard paint-by-the-numbers, felt real and authentic. Initially, I found the action in 1952 with Darby, Esme, Sam and Stella more intriguing. Rose, in present time, annoyed me on occasion. She lacked a certain amount of self-awareness for a smart woman, but she got rightly called out and grew as a person. Davis delivered some solid insight about women, whether in 1952 or 2016, finding their power and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.
We aren’t weak. We don’t need anyone’s help. We help ourselves, and we help out each other. My life is rich and full and I get to do whatever the hell I want, when I want … Don’t you dare project your own fears on me. I reject them. If you’re lonely and scared, you better deal with it now, because life only gets lonelier and scarier, no matter how many people fill your home or your heart. It’s up to you, sweetheart. Ultimately, you’re on your own.
To Read or Not To Read: Yes. A great book about women finding themselves, sometimes where they least expect it.
Books I Liked
Books that I overall enjoyed, ranked from most liked to liked.
Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart
Book Description: Constance and her sister’s are back. This time Constance must find an escaped prisoner in hopes of keeping her job.
Book Review: Based on real-life sisters, the books presents a fictionalized account of actual events from their lives. Overall, another strong outing, although I enjoyed Girl Waits with Gun a tiny bit more. This was still a great book, and you can’t help but cheer Constance when she outwits men, both villains and peers, who underestimate her mental acuity and strength.
To Read or Not To Read: Read it! We owe a lot to women like Constance who were trailblazers without ever intending to be.
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Book Description: Bex, an American, meets and falls in love with Nick at Oxford. And oh yeah, he’s the Crown Prince.
Book Review: Young Tanya loved Romance. Old Tanya is kind of an old coot, so romance fell out of favor years ago. But my curiosity over this book outweighed my general ambivalence towards romance, so I gave it try. And I can happily report this book earned its praise. It won’t change your life but will entertain you. Some predictability exists, which all good romances have built in them, and the characters seem real versus just caricatures of Will, Kate, Harry and company.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. Don’t worry if you’re not a huge Royals fan because I’m not and it didn’t affect my enjoyment.
Wolf Lake bt John Verdon (#5 Dave Gurney Series)
Book Description: After visiting a hypnotherapist, four people claim to have the same nightmare, then each commit suicide.
Book Review: The idea that someone could implant a nightmare into people had definite potential. Add in the fact that a good majority of the book takes place at a weird, secluded hotel (Hello, The Shining) made me expect (want) an intense thriller. Which it was and wasn’t. I expected to be terrified, which didn’t happen, although it was probably wrong of me to expect to be. The Gurney series are good mysteries but not horror stories. 🙂 Still, I enjoyed the story overall, but I don’t ever want to read about Madeline taking another dang shower. Seriously.
To Read or Not to Read: Yes. A solid series for fans of mysteries.
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
Book Description: Jane Eyre is reimagined as Jane Steele, a young woman who leaves a trail of bodies behind her as she tries to reclaim her childhood home.
Book Review: I’m not a Jane Eyre fan. At all. But the idea of a murdering Jane Eyre intrigued me. Jane Eyre, the book, still exists as written by Charlotte Bronte in this world and is referred to multiple times (so this is not Pride and Prejudice with zombies thrown in). I do like Jane Steele. She is both pragmatic and impulsive. She is not a sociopath but also doesn’t feel much (any) guilt over the murders she’s committed until she meets Mr. Thornfield whom I greatly preferred over Mr. Rochester. Perhaps, because he does not have a crazed wife hidden in the attic, although there is someone in the basement. 🙂 My only complaint is that her kills would be considered “heroic”, which felt like an attempt to keep Jane likable.
To Read or Not To Read: Yes, unless you’re a Jane Eyre purist.
My Sister’s Grave by Robert Dugoni
Book Description: Tracy Crosswhite sets out to prove the man behind bars for her sister’s disappearance is not guilty.
Book Review: Overall, a decent book with well-developed characters and some decent twists. To me, the biggest flaw — and what keeps it rated a like — is that the entire story could have be resolved had someone told the truth. Yes, many people keep secrets that create ripples in our lives, but in this instance, it eventually became a little unbelievable. Keeping the initial secret was a mistake, but a very understandable (and realistic) choice that bordered on insanity by the end.
To Read or Not to Read: Sure. It’s a fine way to spend a few hours.
TL;DR – My Recommendations for You
Okay, let’s break it down. There were no loathe books (yay!), so you really can’t go wrong with any of these books. The ones that I strongly recommend you add to your TBR are: Red Rising by Pierce Brown (if you’re a fan of dystopian YA), Apprentice In Death by J.D. Robb, Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (if you’re a fan of horror), All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker and The Dollhouse by Fiona Davis.
To More Great Books
September was a really good reading month for me, in both quality and quantity. Hopefully, October treats me just as well, although I don’t think my quantity will be as high. But that’s okay. The amount of books I read every month doesn’t matter to me. I only care about how the book makes me feel. This month, I’m also wrapping up Erin’s Challenge, which means I will have completed my first book challenge. Woo-hoo! As always, I’m joining the Show Us Your Books link-up, hosted by Jana and Steph. Be sure to checkout what everyone is reading!
What books are you adding to your TBR? Any good recommendations for me?