It’s time for another edition of The Books I Loved, Liked and Loathed, which sounds like a bad country song. 🙂 Seriously, though, this is my favorite post every month because I am a huge bookworm who loves to read and talk about books. Unfortunately, this month was a mixed bag for me. There were highs; there were lows. And lots of swearing and eye-twitching too. In other words, the perfect country anthem. To be honest, I’m not a fan of country music but grew up in a rural community, so I know all about having friends in low places. There were also a few books this month that I’d like to drop-kick to low places too.
Going Out of My Comfort Zone
Like many, I have my favorite authors and genres and can be a creature of habit. Thanks to participating in the Show Us Books link-up hosted by Jana and Steph, I’ve been introduced to so many new authors and great books. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return the favor. This will be a long post, so feel free to jump to my TL;DR list at the bottom.
The Books I Loved (and They Loved Me Back)
The best books I read this month.
All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
Book Synopsis: Elfrieda is a beloved and successful concert pianist, married to a great guy and desperately wants to end her life. Her sister, Yolandi, is going through her second divorce, can barely make ends meet and is trying to tether her sister to this earth.
My Review: This book does an amazing job dealing with a sensitive topic. We whisper about depression and suicide but they are rarely discussed openly. This is an emotional book. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you will feel. Fear, anger, frustration, joy, sorrow, helplessness, acceptance but most of all: you will feel their love.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. Please note that Toews does something stylistically that annoys me — she doesn’t use quotations marks in her dialogue — but don’t let that stop you from reading this. This is a special book.
The Book of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
Book Synopsis: After her older sister tells her that she never says “yes” to anything, Shonda decides to say “yes” to everything and it changes her life.
My Review: I LOVED this book. I loved her honesty about being a mom, especially the nugget that applies to women as a whole — most women have become incredibly good at either feeling ashamed or shaming others. I see this a lot, online and off. I could relate to so much of this book and found it very inspiring, especially her take on learning how to own your accomplishments, which I’m going to discuss more on Monday. I’ll leave you with my favorite quote: “Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be.”
Can I get an amen?
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. It is a very easy, fun read that will also have you take a closer look at your own life. I also a wrote more in-depth review on Shonda’s take on owning your badassery.
Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs
Book Synopsis: The threat of war between the fae and the werewolves looms large after Mercy takes in a human child wanted by the fae.
My Review: I am a big fan of the Mercy Thompson series and book #9 did not disappoint. Adam finally put an end to discontent in the pack regarding his marriage to Mercy, thank goodness. The sniping was not only getting old, it was making some smart characters appear dumb, which is a pet peeve of mine. Zee and Tad also make a welcome return. Overall, if you enjoy urban fantasy books, I highly recommend this book, although suggest you start at the beginning with Moon Called.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. Mercy is a strong female character and I love that her husband loves that about her too. 🙂
The Books that Treated Me Well
Books I enjoyed and didn’t leave me high and dry.
The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
Book Synopsis: Two young girls meet for the first time and by the end of the day, they will be charged with murder. 25 years later, their paths cross once again when one of the girls discover a dead body.
Book Review: This book covers a lot of themes from nature versus nurture, social class to redemption. Can you be redeemed? And if you can, will society allow you to be redeemed and forgive past sins? I like hopeful endings and this book does not have one, which upset me at first. I stomped around and whined about it to my cat (who was unsympathetic), then I went back and reread the last couple of chapters. Marwood gave it the right ending. Any other would have rang false and it broke my heart. This book made me think about how we like to be judge, jury and executioner, which can turn us into villains too.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it. It slows down a bit in the middle, but once the girls truly reconnect, it moves fast. It wasn’t a tearjerker, which actually makes me feel like I should shed a few tears for them now.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Book Synopsis: Two sisters, Claire and Lydia, have been estranged for 20 years. The murder of Claire’s husband and the disappearance of a teenage girl bring them back together, along with the certainty that these two events are connected to the disappearance of their own sister 25 years ago.
My Review: This book has been recommended so often that I figured it was time to see what all the fuss was about. The killings are depraved and vile, although not the first book I have read dealing with these types of murders (not sure what that says about me). There were times where I wanted to throw one of Claire’s Louboutin’s at her head, but all was forgiven with her take no prisoner’s response once she got her hands on the killer. I also like that the killer wasn’t a cartoon villain but a cunning and worthy opponent.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it if you don’t mind graphic violence.
The Keeper of Lost Causes and The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Book Synopsis: Department Q is where has-been detectives go to solve unsolvable, cold cases.
My Review: I inadvertently checked out book #2 first, so I had to run back to the library (only a block away!) for book #1, hence the 2-for1. Because publishers like to name-check other famous authors to appeal to their audience, it didn’t surprise me that Adler-Olsen was compared to Stieg Larsson. Larsson is Swedish and Adler-Olsen is Danish, which somehow makes them similar, I guess. I was a huge fan of the Millennium Trilogy (hated The Girl in the Spider’s Web like Lisbeth hates her father) but they are very different from one another. Carl Morck, Assad and Rose have the potential to be really great characters but currently lack depth. The villains also tend to be rather one-note. However, I like him enough to keep reading and hope the characters become more fleshed out.
To Read or Not to Read: Read them. They are not necessarily beach reads (ya know – murder and mayhem) but are not heavy, emotional reads either.
The Book I Hugged and Hurled
I’m going to start ranting from here on out. You have been forewarned.
In the Woods by Tana French
Book Synopsis: As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours. Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
My Review: French is a very good writer, and her descriptions were, at times, breath-taking. The new mystery is not really similar to what happened to Ryan beyond involving a child, and I guessed the culprit pretty quickly. What sold me on reading the book (and why I included the entire book flap description) was the mystery behind the disappearance of his friends. It ends without us knowing what really happened 20 years ago, which didn’t bother me initially. Knowing this was a series, I assumed (and you know what they say about assuming) we would continue to learn more about that fateful day and eventually find out what happened at some point. Wrong. The next book isn’t about Ryan. Nor is the next or the next or ever. I don’t mind ambiguous endings; in fact, I like them, except in a mystery. I can grudgingly accept justice not being served, but not knowing the “who” behind a central mystery makes me mad, especially after I gave the book hours of my time. Thus, my love/hate relationship with Tana French and while I appreciate her writing, I don’t trust her. Henceforth, she has been abjured a la True Blood style from my reading list.
To Read or Not to Read: Skip it if you need a Scooby-Doo reveal like me. Read it if you can stand not knowing and won’t still be twitchy about it weeks later.
Books Who Done Did Me Wrong
More ranting to commence in 3, 2, 1 …
Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
I enjoyed the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices books. The world she created was interesting, but I wonder if she is getting bored with it. This book was 720 pages of dullness. A little action would be happen, then lots of yada, yada, yada, followed by furtive looks between star-crossed lovers, blah, blah, blerch, snort, gag, ack. This is YA and I am definitely an adult, but there was more urgency in her previous books and the tropes didn’t feel so … tropy (it’s a word in my world). This book was highly rated so it might appeal to those who are actually her target audience.
To Read or Not to Read: Read it if you’re a diehard Shadowhunters fan, otherwise skip it if you’re an old coot like me.
Rosemary and Crime by Gail Oust
I chose this book to be a palate cleanser in-between darker reads. But I knew it wasn’t meant to be when the main character said she had never experienced “calm before the storm” on the first page. I thought she must be very young, naive and sheltered because most teens understand such a basic concept and have experienced it too. On the next page, we learn her husband of 20 years had abruptly divorced her and was dating someone only a few years older than their kids. Just one example of her stupidity. There are more but sharing them would turn me into a raging mini-Hulk.
To Read or Not to Read: I did not finish the book due to extreme stupidity.
TL;DR – My Recommendations
Okay, here’s the short and sweet of it: The must-reads are All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews, The Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs (for those who like Urban Fantasies) and The Wicked Girls by Andrew Marwood. Avoid at all costs: Rosemary and Crime by Gail Oust.
To Another Great Reading Month
Confession time: I did it again. I swore I wouldn’t put a ton of books on hold at the library but ummmmmm …. I currently have 15 reserved. Some will take months to eventually make their way to me due to the long waiting list, but when they do, it will happen at once and when I have no time to read. 🙂 #FirstWorldBookProblems. The life of a book nerd is awesome.
What great books did you read this month? Or ever. I obviously need more books to add to my reading list, so please share. 🙂
yes to the year of yes! ‘Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be’ – yes. love this so much. i haven’t read any patricia briggs books but i really want to, they are on my list. i still haven’t finished the first cassandra clare series (just have the last book left) and then i will read the other one.. the clockwork one, what is that called? haha. i am not sure about lady midnight though, i have seen mixed reviews though i am trying not to read them haha because i am easily swayed, which i hate.
I’m with you on The Year of Yes – such a great book. So many good nuggets and a real celebration of embracing who you are and recognizing that it’s okay to be you. I started the Briggs books years ago and stopped after the second book. Eventually, I reread them and fell in love with the series. I really think you’ll enjoy them. I liked Infernal Devices (the clockwork one!) but Lady Midnight feels like a retread. It was also more twee to me. I am easily swayed by reviews too, which can be good and bad. I try not to let those who I don’t really know affect me (and frequently fail to do this) but those who I trust and generally like the same books, I do put a lot of stock into what they say.
I enjoy your reviews because what bothers you about a book, would most likely bother me too 😉 The book where they don’t use any quotation marks to indicate a conversation, is already bugging me and I haven’t even cracked open the first page! I am also with you when you said you were annoyed by the book “In The Woods” because the author did not tie up loose ends regarding a mystery that she set up. Arghhh! That is super annoying!!! Now I want to know what happened and I haven’t even read the book! 🙂
I initially had a really hard time with Toews book too. I was like WTF! But … I read ahead to see if it was worth it and it was. Eventually I was able to mentally add the quotation marks and I’m glad I did. Because it is truly a special book. I’m surprised you couldn’t hear me ranting and raving like a loon when I realized that In The Woods didn’t have a satisfying ending. To be fair, I was completely fine with the ending as is, provided we eventually got resolution (and not necessarily justice) at some point in the series. But to know that won’t happen, just irritates me. Plus, the mystery around Ryan was the best part of the book and a huge part of the book. If it just served as a backdrop to give context to his character, I wouldn’t have been upset. Bleech. Argh. Snort! I get twitchy just thinking about it!
Jana @ Jana Says says
The Year of Yes is already on my TBR and the first book sounds like one I need to read.
Pretty Girls is a fucked up book. I found it a standard thriller but the circumstances surrounding the thriller part? FUCKED. UP.
I LOVE #firstworldbookproblems! It needs to be a thing.
I think you’ll enjoy All My Puny Sorrows. Toews did an amazing job of capturing all the emotions, although the whole quotation mark thing was annoying, it’s worth powering through it. Yeah, Pretty Girls was definitely a messed up a book!
I want to read that yes book. I really like Shonda Rhimes. I enjoyed Pretty Girls but yes, the graphic violence was tough to read. And if you have kids, you’ll never want them out of your sight after you read it.
I really liked The Year of Yes, more than I even thought I would. I could relate to Shonda, which I really didn’t expect. Yeah, the violence was difficult at times in Pretty Girls but it was still a good read.
SMD @ Life According to Steph says
Aw, I loved the Tana French Dublin Murder series. I thought all four were enjoyable. I don’t need things wrapped up at the end and that helps.
I have such a love/hate for that book because I really enjoy her writing, but the mystery behind Detective Ryan was why I read the book.
Two books on here are already on my radar – The Keeper of Lost Causes and Into the Woods. You’re convincing me to get to those sooner rather than later.
Karin Slaughter is one of (if not my top) favorite thriller writers.
I definitely enjoyed The Keeper of the Lost Causes. Both Morck and his assistant, Assad are fun characters that just need a bit more depth and have the potential to be really great. Pretty Girls was my first Slaughter book (that I can remember at least), so I’m anxious to check out more of her books. So many good books to read!
Jenn @ Optimization, Actually says
I read The Mortal Instruments not too long ago and I liked it a lot! But then I read the spin-off about Magnus Bane and I thought that was less good. I wonder if maybe she’s trying to stretch this one world too far. Or just not putting as much effort into the follow up books.
I’ve read one book by Patricia Briggs (the first of the Alpha and Omega series) and I wasn’t a huge fan. But I really like the Kate Daniels series (by Ilona Andrews), and I honestly couldn’t tell you why I like one and not the other when they’re so similar. Maybe I just didn’t give it enough of a chance. 😛 Sometimes it takes more than 1 book to get really immersed in the author’s world.
You have very eclectic taste! I stick pretty heavily to fantasy and self help type books, but I do try to force myself to branch out every once in a while – usually with a classic so I can understand what all the fuss is about.
I think she is getting bored with the world, personally. She hasn’t written anything outside of this world that I can recall, so I can’t blame her waning interest because mine faded too! I have only read the first book in the Kate Daniels series and I loved it! Unfortunately, the 2nd and 3rd books are not available at my library. I suspect they got lost and the demand must not be high enough to replace them. I prefer the Mercy Thompson series, but the Alpha and Omega series has grown on me. The first book was the weakest one and they get better. I get in book ruts, so the link-up has really helped me expand my horizons, although sometimes I get whiplash going from stories about werewolves to suicide to murder mysteries. 🙂
Rachel ¦¦ A Nesting Nomad says
I feel that the synopsis for In the Woods heavily implies that all will be revealed about all the circumstances in question, eg Ryan’s mystery as well! So to not have it revealed would have annoyed me to the max. I think I’d like Year of Yes, that’s going on the list, but I don’t read half as quickly as you so I’m trying to limit my list slightly…. Oh and your reviews are hilarious, by the way. Just in case you didn’t already know.
Thank you! That was one reason why I was so irritated with French because the synopsis made me think their was a tie-in between the two murders. And the best scenes were in regards to what happened back then. I would have been absolutely fine if the series continued with Ryan and we uncovered a few more tidbits in subsequent books. She writes beautifully but nope. Abjured. And thank you for your kind words in regards to my reviews. I try to keep them entertaining and honest and sometimes blerch is the right word to describe how I feel!
Oh man – the same thing always happens to me at the library. I try to stagger it a bit, but it’s hard when you know some books will take awhile to get to you!! I’ve heard such good things about Year of Yes that I really think I need to get my hands on a copy soon 🙂
I try to stagger my requests too but sometimes I get carried away and suddenly I have reserved 15 books. 🙂 The Year of Yes was really a great book and as someone who needs to start saying “yes” more often, it was just the kick in the pants I needed.
I have thought about reading that Tana French book before, but I’m more of a thriller fan than a mystery fan. And you don’t figure out who did it?? That would drive me crazy, too.
Nope. You learn the killer of the current mystery, which was pretty standard to me and I guessed the mastermind pretty quickly. But the mystery behind Ryan’s past is not answered and was the far more interesting mystery. And it did drive me bonkers. I still get twitchy thinking about it!
Brittany Pines says
Did not know SR had written a book. Interesting.
Pretty Girls keeps coming up…I may have to give it a try!
LOL! I was like, who is SR? Ack! Yes, Shonda did write a book and I really loved it. It was very motivational to me, and I was surprised by how relatable she was. Pretty Girls has definitely popped up a lot in the link-up, which was one of the reasons I read it. I had to find out what all the fuss was about!
I’ve got to get back into the Mercy series. I stopped at book 6? or 5? I don’t remember, I’ll have to check goodreads. I honestly like the Alpha/Omega books a bit better, have you read those? And oh… the Mortal Instrument books/spin offs. I read the first three and it was just way too soap opera-y for me. I couldn’t keep reading them lol
The Midwest Darling
I have read the Alpha/Omega books and they are starting to loosely connect a bit more. You definitely don’t have to read both to understand what’s going on but things that are happening in one world affects the other too, specifically with the fae. Soap opera-y is a good way to describe Lady Midnight, which is likely the last book for me too.
Ashley @ The Wandering Weekenders says
That’s such a bummer that you didn’t like the newest Cassandra Clare novel! I’m in love with her books, and I’m making my way through them, even if it’s a little slow. Pretty Girls has been on my list for so long! I need to finally read that one!
I really, really wanted to love Lady Midnight too. Like I said, I read The Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices, so I was eager to dive into her new book and it just fell flat for me. Hopefully, it won’t for you when you get to it! Pretty Girls is a good read and I enjoyed it, which always feels awful to say when the crimes are so heinous.
Nancy @ NY Foodie Family says
Oh, I read The Year of Yes this month as well and really liked it! I’ve also read Pretty Girls….gruesome but a decent read. I’ve heard good things about Tana French but haven’t read any of her stuff. I’ve added All My Puny Sorrows to my to read list.
I really enjoyed The Year of Yes too. I found myself nodding my head so many times. Her sister telling her that she had been sleepwalking through life really hit me hard because that’s what I’ve been doing too. French is a very good writer, but I just can’t after she left me hanging. How do I know she won’t do it to me again? Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice and I’m liable to go nutso wondering what really happened!
Olya @ The Siberian American says
All My Puny Sorrows and The Wicked Girls both sound really good and right up my alley!
I really enjoyed them both. Very well written and I still think about them afterwards – always a sign of a great book! I hope you check them out!
I didn’t expect to, but really loved Shonda’s book! She’s amazing. I have Pretty Girls on my list already and I’m adding Wicked Girls now!
I was intrigued by the premise as being someone who needs to say “yes” more often myself but I was surprised by how much I loved it too. I didn’t expect to see so much of myself in her. Pretty Girls is a good read, not amazing but definitely worth your time. I really liked Wicked Girls (after I got over my angst of a non-hopeful ending) and it really made me think about redemption. I also like that we didn’t find out exactly what happened that fateful day until the very end of the story.
Emma @Ever Emma says
I love books that make me feel many different emotions, so I’m excited to check out All My Puny Sorrows! Already have A Year of Yes on hold at the library!
All My Puny Sorrows definitely made me feel. Sometimes I was cheering with them and laughing and crying. I felt it was a really honest look at depression and suicide without being preachy. The Year of Yes is likely going to be one of my top 10 books of 2016. I hope you enjoy it too!
I love your rating system. I’m so glad you loved Year of Yes – it’s on my list to read soon for sure.
Thanks, Steph! I hope you enjoy The Year of Yes – I thought it was fantastic.
I read Shonda’s book this month too! It’s always nice to read a book about a woman who’s kicking ass and not sorry for it! I’ve seen Pretty Girls popping up a lot and I need to get my hands on it soon! every review I read makes me want to read it even more!
Exactly – I love that she owned her badassery and wasn’t apologetic. Every time I find myself deflecting a compliment or going “who me” over an achievement, I’m going to think of her and stop. Thank you is the always the right answer. Pretty Girls is definitely a good read and I think you’ll enjoy it.
Lauren @ Oh Hey! I Like That! says
I can usually handle some graphic stuff, but Pretty Girls put me over the edge. I’m excited to give the Year of Yes a try because, honestly, I love me some Shonda Rhimes!
It was definitely graphic and there were parts that skimmed. It’s why I can handle violence in books better than I can in the movies! You’ll definitely enjoy The Year of Yes, especially being a Shonda fan!
Rose @ Ramblin' Rose says
Ooohhh, you gotta lot of books that look great! Puny Sorrows and the Jussi series is definitely getting added to my list. I loved the Millennium series too even though it has been years since I read it. A girl I work with is listening to the Spider Web on audio and she thought it was good. Her one complaint was that they changed a characters name?
Wicked Girls is on my bookshelf. So glad to hear the favorable review. But so is the first two French books. I don’t know if I can handle a neverending cliff hanger like that. There’s a couple tv series that got cancelled and you never found out the end and I still think about them years later randomly.
I really liked All My Puny Sorrows. I hated that Toews didn’t use quotation marks, but thankfully I put on my big girl pants and endured because it was worth it. I probably revisit my favorite parts of the Millennium series every year. I’m a big rereader. 🙂 I don’t remember them a changing a character’s name, but I also didn’t read the whole book. I read the first 3rd and didn’t like and read the ending and didn’t like it. And understood why Larsson’s wife was against his family continuing to publish under Steig’s name and with his characters.
Without a doubt, French is a great writer. I actually really loved the book until I realized that there was going to be no closure. I could have handled it what happened in the past was just mentioned to give his character context, but it made up a big chunk of the book, and in my opinion, the most interesting part of the book. But I just don’t trust her to not do it to me again and I simply not mature enough to handle it well, obviously. 🙂 OMG! I hate it when a show ends on a cliffhanger and then gets cancelled. It drives me berserk!
The Book of Yes sounds fantastic!
It is, Akaleistar! I hope you get a chance to read it. 🙂
lisacng @ expandng.com says
I also like Pretty Girls, but like you, didn’t put it in the “perfect book” category. I can’t put my finger on why though…
For me, it hit one of my pet peeves: all the cops are dirty or bumbling idiots. It was definitely worth reading but it’s not a book that will stay with me for a long time.
Love your descriptions & reviews! I definitely need to read Year of Yes, and maybe a couple of the murdery ones, too!
Thanks, Crystal! I am encouraging everyone to read The Year of Yes because there are so many good nuggets in there that at least one or all of them will resonate with you.
Huh, I don’t usually like mysteries that much, but I’m intrigued by In the Woods…and also hesitant if the ending isn’t satisfying. Major reading dilemma…
And I can’t decide if I should put a hold on Year of Yes at the library and wait months and months to get it, or just buy a copy.
I hear you, Allison. I really liked In the Woods until I realized there was going to be no resolution or closure and I didn’t even know I needed it until not getting it made me go a little bonkers. LOL! I got mine for the library and it was a definite wait. For me, the wait period was shorter for the physical book versus the ebook, so that’s another consideration.
SMD @ Life According to Steph says
I loved the Dublin Murder Series, and how the next books picks up from a character’s point of view from the previous.