Hi bookish friends,
I am playing catch-up big time on my monthly updates and so now you get a 3-for-1 deal. March, April, and May were pretty productive in terms of reviewing ARCs (6) and getting to read from my own shelf (9). I listened to 6 memoirs and read 11 suspense-horror-thriller novels, 12 books that loosely fall into the romance/Chick Lite, or YA genres, and 3 poetry collections. I had a very casual TBR for the three months but mostly just picked what caught my eye. Of course, in April, I participated in Dewey’s readathon (see stats here) and loved every minute of it.
Books read in March: 8
Books listened to in March: 1
Total pages read (includes “pages” from audiobooks) in March: 2744
Books read in April: 9
Books listened to in April: 2
Total pages read (includes “pages” from audiobooks) in April: 3750
Books read in May: 9
Books listened to in May: 3
Total pages (includes “pages” from audiobooks) in May: 3789
Tunnel of Bones (Victoria Schwab) ♠♠♠
Book #2 in the Cassidy Blake series missed the mark a bit. I love Paris and the Catacombs have been something I still regret not visiting during my last Paris trip, so this story should’ve felt like it was written specifically for me. I just kept waiting the whole time for more. I don’t even know exactly what was missing, but the feeling of wonder and adoration like I had with book #1 never arose.
I recommend this series to anyone who loves a bit of a creepy story.
The Institute (Stephen King) ♠♠♠♠
Super fast read, more plot than character development, which isn’t the usual King mode. It read similarly to the Mr. Mercedes series but had definitely more of a paranormal, maybe even slightly superhero-type feel. The plot turns real scary once you let yourself evaluate how cruel humanity can be in the name of the greater good for society. And if that concept is not on point with our current societal climate, what is?! How much can we abuse a group of individuals before they begin to revolt? Sleeping Beauties, another fairly recent King novel, asked a very similar question. What happens when we forget to appreciate and respect the very people who greatly contribute to everything society accomplishes?
I recommend this book if you like to be challenged in your believes while reading.
A Strangely Wrapped Gift (Emily Byrnes) ♠♠
This poetry collection wasn’t for me. I failed to see any growth in Emily Byrnes and her foreword discussing mental health and bringing awareness to it, didn’t shine through in her poems as much as I was expecting. Nevertheless, Byrnes is talented and there were a few poems I truly enjoyed. He has a knack with metaphors and allegories, which was mostly evident in her longer poems. Had there been more of those, I would’ve rated this book much higher. For a full review of this ARC, see my write-up on here on the blog or on Goodreads.
Poetry is incredibly personal and not everyone is going to relate to a specific poem, thus I do recommend this collection simply because when I liked a poem, I really liked it and I think you might too.
The Honey-Don’t List (Christina Lauren) ♠♠♠
This was my first book by the duo Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings and I was thoroughly entertained by this story. Frenemies to lovers, witty humor, some steamy scenes, and a whole lotta misunderstandings made for a fun time. It just didn’t take it beyond that and won’t be a plot I will particularly remember. Check out my blog or Goodreads for a full review of this ARC.
I recommend this book if you are looking for a breezy read.
Squall (Chad Norman) ♠♠
I love Mary Shelley and her voice was distinctly reflected in these poems. Yet, somehow, the collection isn’t very memorable, and little growth was notable from beginning to end. This is one of those books that would be quirky to own and display on a coffee table as the idea is much better than the execution. You can find my full ARC review on my blog or on Goodreads.
I recommend this book nonetheless since it is poetry and poetry is incredibly subjective.
My Sister, the Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite) ♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
I’ve been wanting to read this novel ever since it was released and when it was suddenly available through my library right that moment, I jumped on it. I loved the setting! I vicariously enjoy traveling to different countries through books (especially at this time wher we can’t really travel). The richness of the surroundings and the authors skill to paint a picture with words added tremendously to the reading experience. The plot line is odd and unusual and just the right amount of creepy. Unfortunately, I did not like either of the sisters and the whole story left me feeling weird, but not in a good way. I just ended up being confused on how to even rate this novel.
I do recommend this book for two specific reasons though: 1) it’s horror and 2) it’s an own-voices story and we need more of those, specifically in the horror genre!
Again, But Better (Christine Riccio) ♠♠♠♠
Cute! That’s really all I need to say. Some of the plot development wasn’t to my liking (magic?) but it didn’t take away from me enjoying this book.
I recommend this book to anyone looking to read about someone starting over, even at a young age.
Open Book (Jessica Simpson) ♠♠♠♠
It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for Jessica Simpson ever since her reality show with her ex-husband. When I heard she was writing book, I hit that purchase button immediately. Despite the fact that I have the Kindle book, I ended up listening to the audiobook because Jessica reads it herself. Her book was deep and felt very honest. She got emotional quite a few times and many moments were truly relatable. I am a bit annoyed that she released exclusive songs with the audiobook, which was not announced during pre-orders and are not available to anyone owning the physical book.
I recommend this memoir if you’re looking for an honest experience of a young celebrity in Hollywood and the music industry.
The Maltese Falcon (Dashiel Hammett) ♠♠♠
This is one of those classic detectives novels which gets recommended over and over again. I don’t know if this is representative of Hammett novels or if I just started with the wrong book, but it felt really dry to me. There were lots of twists and turns as I would expect from that genre but I just couldn’t care that much about the characters. I kept thinking that I bet this would be a fun movie but it just wasn’t working as a book.
I recommend this book only if you are looking for a classic detective novel.
Mainely Needlepoint Series (Lea Wait) ♠♠♠ and 1/2, ♠♠♠ and 1/2, and ♠♠♠♠
There is small-town Maine living. There is needlework. There are quirky characters of various ages. There are budding and ending relationships. And of course there is a mystery. Need I say more?
I recommend this series if you enjoy a light read that follows characters over many installments.
Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris) ♠♠♠♠♠
This is technically a re-read, but I couldn’t remember if I actually ever finished the book. This is an abysmal confession given that this is my favorite movie of all time. Just like in book 1 in the series, Thomas Harris delivered again. It was masterfully done. I was creeped out and felt uncomfortable most of the time. This slow burn carried on throughout the entire book leaving me afraid to read on but always having to read on anyway. I enjoyed every minute of it. That feeling of “you think someone is watching you or someone is right behind you but every time you look there is nothing” is exactly what I look for in a great thriller or horror read.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves to be scared.
Girl Gone Viral (Alisha Rai) ♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
Another super fun summer read with just the right amount of lovey-dovey love and interesting characters. I enjoyed the modern setting with the modern problems. My only gripe is both protagonists were rather innocent during the more steamy scenes, which to me didn’t fit their persona throughout the other parts of the story. Read my full ARC review here on the blog or on Goodreads.
I recommend this book if you’re looking for romance in today’s world.
Instant Mom (Nia Vardalos) ♠♠♠♠
I only knew Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding but had been seeing her book around the circuits quite a bit. Turns out this memoir was super candid, felt conversational, and revealed much about her life and struggles I had no idea about. It was an interesting perspective on motherhood, professional life, and how they intersect, especially if they don’t go as planned.
I recommend this book if you’re looking to hear stories about fertility struggles and adoption.
The Two Lives of Lydia Bird (Josie Silver) ♠♠♠♠♠
Oh Josie Silver! You did it again! Her debut novel, One Day in December, surprised me big time and so I had high expectations for her second book. Who would’ve thought that I’d love this one even more?! Lydia’s story, her grief, and her experiences felt so real and were utterly relatable. Her growth was organic and I was rooting for her the entire time. I walked along her in her journey. At times I laughed out loud. At others I cried a little. I didn’t want this book to end.
I highly recommend this novel!
Bringing Down the Duke (Evie Dunmore) ♠♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
Oh enemies to lovers! That’s one of my favorite clichés in the romance genre. Putting this in the setting of the suffragette movement was genius and gave this novel some unexpected depth. The tension between the Duke and Annabelle was delicious and I cannot wait to see what Evie Dunmore writes next.
I recommend this book if you’re looking for a romance in a historical setting that feels very modern and progessive.
What the Wind Knows (Amy Harmon) ♠♠♠♠♠
Beautiful writing full of poetry and magic meets a tragic story in a past Ireland. This was an emotional ride that made me love, grief, and revolt along with the characters. Anne is a strong, independent woman who slips back in time to an Ireland of unrest and civil war just to find encounter a love she hadn’t known. The journey is what makes this book!
I recommend this book to anyone who loves Ireland as much as I do and/or who enjoys reading about interpersonal relationships in a historical setting.
How to Walk Away (Katherine Center) ♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
This promised to be an emotional read with some heavy content that makes you think. Sadly, it fell short. I liked the protagonists but had just hoped for more. On top of this, some of the tropes employed in the plot line just felt too cliché for subject matter.
I don’t think I can recommend this book. It’s not light enough to be a fluff read and it’s not deep enough to honor the actual plot.
Over the Top (Jonathan Van Ness) ♠♠♠♠
JVN is a charismatic and interesting person. He is fun and relatable but also has depth and a voice worth listening to. All this gets highlighted in his memoir, which feels very much like a conversation.
I recommend this book, especially if you like the Fab Five.
While You Sleep (Stephanie Merritt) ♠♠♠♠♠
I loved this book the first time I read it and I think I loved it even more this time around. This novel is a little bit Gothic haunting story, character study, mystery, and life journey mixed together in a way that simultaneously elates you and tears you back down.
Everyone should read this book.
Never Cry Wolf (Fawley Mowat) ♠♠♠
This book is hailed as a scientific recount of the lives of arctic wolves. DO. NOT. read it like that. It’s an entertaining memoir of Mowat’s experiences in the far circles of Canada. And for that it is quite an enjoyable read. Though be warned, he can be kind of an asshole at times – the way he talks about Inuits for example and the way he dismisses scientists and their scientific method.
I recommend this book if you want to learn a bit about the lives of wolves in a beautiful and wild country.
Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein) ♠♠♠♠
Another one of those books I missed as a child growing up outside the USA that gets mentioned over and over again. Well, I finally picked it up and found it to be lovely. Some poems were wildly better than others but the combination of witty rhyme, whimsical storytelling, and beautiful illustrations made me a believer.
This is one of those classics you just need to explore.
We Are Going to Need More Wine (Gabrielle Union) ♠♠♠♠
An interesting listen that plays with your emotions. Gabrielle Union can be crass. At times she is infuriating and frustrating. But she is also candid, funny, and lovable. She has a strong viewpoint and she speaks up for what she believes. She is a great advocate to have on your side. If you’re interested in learning more about the Black experience, give her a listen. She tells it how it is and you better believe her.
I recommend this book because she challenges you with her memoir.
Karamo (Karamo Brown) ♠♠
Karamo is one of my favorites of the Fab Five but his memoir just didn’t work for me. It was poorly written. He repeats himself often. And at times it felt like a plug for his podcast. Had I not listened to him read this book, I would’ve DNF’ed that sucker.
I do not recommend this book.
The Elephant’s Girl (Celesta Rimington) ♠♠♠♠
Magical middle grade book meets coming-of-age tale. Lex can hear the wind and elephants speak to her. She doesn’t remember her past but now the time has come to find out. The plot was engaging and the characters relatable. And who doesn’t love a zoo as the main setting??? Check out Goodreads or my blog for a full review of this ARC.
I recommend this book.
A Happy Catastrophe (Maddie Dawson) ♠♠♠
So, what happens after the happily-ever-after? Maddie Dawson tells us Marnie and Patrick’s journey once they finally found each other. I really liked Matchmaking for Beginners, but book 2 fell a bit flat for me. The characters seemed so well developed in the first installment but somehow in this novel they were hard to root for and stiff. You can find my full review of this ARC here on my blog or on Goodreads.
I’d say read the first book but I am not sure I can recommend book #2.
Where the Crawdads Sing (Dalia Owens) ♠♠♠♠♠
Oh man, this is one of those books I regrettably avoided on purpose simply because there was so much hype around it. Color me schooled, because this novel was fantastic! I read somewhere that the setting is the main character and I wholeheartedly agree! Dalia Owens made me love the marshland. She made me want to live the simple life collecting plants, exploring the waters, and rising with each sunrise. Despite the fact that Kya’s story is a tragic and deeply painful one, I found myself envious of her experiences. She accomplishes the unaccomplishable. She makes me feel proud to be a woman. I felt like I was reading the true-life story of a fellow scientist but one with more connection to mother Earth than I could ever dream of. I read this book with my book club and every single woman in it loved it!
Read this book. Now.
The Near Witch (V.E. Schwab) ♠♠♠
I’ve been wanting to read this one for a while. I mean it’s Victoria Schwab’s debut!!!!! Anyway, I loved the plot but really struggled with the pacing. It felt off leaving weird lulls that just sort of threw me out of the storyline and forced me to wiggle myself back in. I honestly think this would’ve worked way better as a graphic novel.
I recommend this book to any Schwab fan simply for the purpose of completeness.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism (Grady Hendrix) ♠♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
Campy horror at its best! The references to pop culture were a pure nostaliga fest for me. I am pretty sure I read this whole book with a smile on my face despite it being horror. To be honest, the most frightening part of the story was growing up. We all remember puberty and we all know puberty was a bitch!
I recommend this book so much I think I might hunt you down with a copy in my hands.
How Not to Die Alone (Richard Roper) ♠♠♠
I’ve been reading a lot of contemporary lit/romcom/chick lit type books these days and I found myself having a hard time relating to the protagonist. And the only reason I can come up with is that he is a man. This carried over in a way that I just felt like there was something missing the entire time. The subject matter should’ve been right up my alley – I mean he evaluates death scenes – it’s morbid and weird – just what I love. The romantic relationship was also organic and felt natural and relatable. So I really don’t know why I walked away from this book thinking this as just meh but that is what happened.
I recommend this book because I think that this was simply just not for me but that doesn’t mean it isn’t for you.
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows (Balli Kaur Jaswal) ♠♠♠ and 1/2♠
Hello! A naughty book club? Yes, please! The storyline was fun and engaging. The women were all unique, interesting, and relatable each in their own way.
I recommend this book.
HOW WAS YOUR SPRING? DID YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BOOK? MY FAVORITES WERE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE TWO LIVES OF LYDIA BIRD, WHAT THE WIND KNOWS, WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING, MY BEST FRIEND’S EXORCISM, AND MY REREAD OF WHILE YOU SLEEP.