I had a goal this month to read 12 books and I did it! Of course I maybe sort of cheated the system a bit by adding two graphic novels, a full length comic book, and an audiobook to make sure I could fit all 12 in. I felt like I was giving my books a huge amount of time this month, but some of them were really hard to get into and some were really long. But I did it! The majority of the books I read this month were pretty middle of the road, but I do have a couple of great recommendations.
The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
Rating: 2 stars
This one really fell flat for me. It’s about Jane, a woman who has the gift of being able to see true love in all its forms. On her 29th birthday she receives a letter from another woman who has the gift and is told that before her 30th birthday she needs to identify and record the six types of true love in the lives of people around her. At first I appreciated the slow buildup and just assumed the book would get a lot more exciting. It didn’t. In fact I found myself incredibly frustrated by Jane. I was not a fan of how many “true love” stories meant tearing apart happy marriages. As if it’s perfectly acceptable and logical to leave the lives you have for a chance at love with someone new. Honestly, the only minor storyline that I actually had huge interest in were from her brother Flynn and the woman he fell in love with only through watching her from his window. Now that’s a story I would have loved to have read! I also felt zero chemistry between Jane and her love interest Cam. Overall, it was a pretty fast read and it wasn’t terrible. I just did not like it.
If I Live by Terri Blackstock
Rating: 4 stars
This was a solid third installment and conclusion to the fast paced If I Run series. Just like in the first two books, Casey is still running for her life, trying to stay alive while also gathering evidence to put away a huge grouping of corrupt cops that killed her father and best friend. Dylan is still slyly trying to help her, while appearing to be working with the force to capture her. Their relationship continues to grow, especially after they find themselves in even more life threatening situations. I really enjoyed this series. It was fast and thrilling with a worthwhile conclusion. Also, I just want to point out how much I appreciate the cover of the book stating which number in the series it is! Why don’t more books do that?? I avoid reading so many series because it’s frustrating and annoying to try and figure out which order to read them in.
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Rating: 5* stars
A delightful, charming, and introspective book about a high school acapella group and a girl who disguises herself as a boy to join it. I expected this to be a very light and fast stereotypical YA book. Girl pretends to be boy, falls for boy in the group, misunderstandings and embarrassment follow. And while it did eventually follow that path, there was a whole lot more going on. Jordan is a tall, broad, first generation Asian-American poor girl, with a deep singing voice. She goes to a private arts boarding school on full scholarship with a theater concentration, but she’s never cast in any parts because of her voice. On a whim she decides to dress as a boy and try out for the prestigious male acapella group on campus and gets in. Being forced to dress and act like a boy makes her realize how much more confident she is in that role. But the more she acts like a boy, the more she realizes she really wants to be a girl. She questions her sexuality and is filled with a lot of confusion. I loved Jordan’s story and I especially love the wonderful cast of supporting characters – her fellow Sharpshooters. While this book does eventually end in a romance, it takes a good long while to figure out which of the boys she’s interested in. This is the first book in a very long time that I stayed up way too late to finish. I highly recommend it!
The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Rating: 5 stars
I never read graphic novels. Ever. But I happened to see this at a Barnes and Noble and was curious so I bought it. I took it on vacation with me, hoping for a different reading experience. And I loved it! It’s the story of a hard working dressmaker named Frances whose work is seen at a ball and is secretly commissioned by Prince Sebastian to design him dresses and keep his secret that he loves to wear them. Sebastian and Frances go out in the evenings with Sebastian disguised as Lady Crystallia. Of course, his secret is eventually discovered and he’s filled with shame and embarrassment. Overall, this was a really interesting look at a twist in gender identity with a boy who just loves to wear dresses. Obviously as a graphic novel it wasn’t incredibly deep, but the illustrations were fantastic at displaying all of the emotion required. I ADORED the ending. If you’re at all interested in graphic novels, or just a new and fun (and fast!) reading experience, this would be a terrific book to pick up. But read it in hard copy, not digitally!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Rating: 3 stars
I wanted to like this book so badly. It’s been raved about everywhere! And honestly, I was underwhelmed. It wasn’t a BAD book. It was just very subtle and melancholy with the occasional funny quip, but possibly not so funny when it wasn’t meant to be that way when Eleanor said it. I loved the character of Raymond. And I enjoyed watching how Eleanor sunk further into her unknown depression, yet she perseveres and survives. And it’s worth celebrating. I just read an article that this is part of a new genre called “up lit” where the story is meant to be uplifting and make you feel good. And it did – but not until the last 10% of the book. I understand why it took so long to reach that point, but I just really, really wish it had happened a lot earlier on.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (audiobook)
Rating: 5 stars
I read the book last month and loved it so much. It popped up on my Libby app as finally being available on audio from the library, so I decided to go ahead and listen to it since I was saving up my favorite podcasts for a vacation. The audio was so well done! Each character was voiced by a different person and I loved how well the personalities shined through. I’m still pretty new to the audiobook world and after listening to the same thing I had previously read, I can definitely guarantee I get a much richer experience through real reading. But if audiobooks are your thing, this is a great one! (The netflix adaptation was also really great!)
Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate
Rating: 4 stars
It took me awhile to decide how I felt about this book. There are seven main characters and each chapter alternates between their points of view. You vaguely know from the start that there is an illicit affair going on between a teacher and student. But with so many characters, there are also SO many other things going on. It was interesting how each storyline wove together and formed a pretty strong novel, even though it seemed like each character could have had their own full book. I did struggle a bit with the teacher-student love thing, but it was pretty much EXACTLY how the plot of Slammed (Colleen Hoover) was, and that’s one of my all time favorite books. The only thing I didn’t like were how Juniper’s chapters were so choppy and stilted. Overall, it was a nice book.
In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
Rating: 2 stars
I decided to give graphic novels another shot, this one with illustrations by the same person as The Prince and the Dressmaker, but a different author. I was pretty disappointed. It’s the story of a teenage girl who is recruited into playing an online game for the sake of empowering women in a largely male population. I’m not a gamer, but thought since I’m surrounded by gamers in real life, maybe reading this would give me some sort of connection point with them. But no, it was a weird story. So much going on, I couldn’t really figure out what the point or theme of it was. Just…not for me.
Most of All You by Mia Sheridan
Rating: 4 stars
I started this book thinking it was going to be pretty cliche. Gabriel had a horrendous thing happen to him as a child and as a result he can’t physically get close to people. He goes to a strip club and finds a woman who he hopes will teach him how to get past that barrier. Crystal/Ellie had her own rough childhood and feels worthless yet hardened to all men. But the story got interesting. And I was into it. I had a lot of other stuff going on in my mind while reading this book and it was hard to give it my full attention, but I liked it. I especially liked how Ellie knew she could never be whole if she depended solely on Gabriel. She needed to find worth in herself on her own before she would be free to love and be loved. This is a lovely story of growth born in grief.
The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce
Rating: 3 stars
I had a love hate relationship with this book. First of all, it took me an entire week to read which is pretty ridiculous. Partly because I was just really busy and unable to concentrate all week, and partly because I just could not get into the book. It had a slew of quirky characters which usually makes for a great story. But I just didn’t feel that close to anyone. Their internal struggles felt too far away to grasp. And it bothered me. There were some chapters that I adored and some chapters that I couldn’t stand to read. I didn’t want to abandon it, but I was never really into it. The end, however, was epic.
Runaways by Rainbow Rowell and Kris Anka
Rating: 3 stars
I’m pretty sure this is the first comic book I’ve ever read. I only picked it up because I love Rainbow Rowell’s books and in the last year she’s only been promoting this Runaways series. I’ve never heard about it before, but assumed since this was a Volume 1 issue, it would be okay to jump into it. Unfortunately, I feel like I was lacking context of past adventures on every single page. Which isn’t the book’s fault, exactly. I just wish it had said somewhere you really should read the older versions in order to fully grasp what’s going on! Overall, though, despite the constant references to things I didn’t understand, it was interesting. And fast. A good way to get a book out of the way. 🙂
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Rating: 5* stars
Wow, what a book. So much happens in this book it felt like reading three, even though this is only the first in the trilogy. I love how as a fantasy type book – which I often tend to avoid – it started out very straightforward and easy to connect with. I’m often turned off by books that immediately jump into all the random and specific things that you need to know in order to understand the story. Which honestly, I find very overwhelming and off putting. This was about a human girl, Feyre, as she fights against the odds to keep her and her useless family from starving to death. She ends up breaking a treaty between the humans the the faeries that she did not even know existed and is forced to be the captive of the High Fae Lord, Tamlin. This book is filled with exquisite yet flawed characters, which I really adored. Oftentimes in this type of book the heroine or hero makes all the right choices and is revered for it. This felt more true to life with a lot of anguish, sorrow, and regret in so many of the choices they each made. Maas really toys with your loyalties in which characters you should be rooting for as well. Overall, I absolutely adored it and couldn’t wait to jump into the next book! (Which I’m reading right now and can barely force myself to put down.)