I can’t believe we’re already four months into 2021…and it feels just as crazy as 2020. Anyways, in March I had a very good reading month, reading a total of 17 books of various genres. Looking at the book I read this month, they were honestly all over the place. I have older books, new books, thrillers, fantasy, romance, historical. Lol, I read a book in pretty much every genre.
So, let’s get into the books!
- India Black (Madam of Espionage #1) by Carol K. Carr (published 2010)
- I have been wanting to read this series for so long, but I just couldn’t stand it. I think most of it was because it handles such deep topics like prostitution is such a flippant and light way. This is supposed to be a light suspense novel with spies, and yet the beginning really threw me off. India is a woman who runs a whorehouse, and one of her customers ends up dead. The way prostitution is handled is so far from reality I never felt drawn into the story. Victorian prostitutes led a brutal life. Many were forced into prostitution because of poverty, and yet this book makes it seem light and fun, as if these women are happy to do it. India herself is such a selfish, spoiled woman with little kindness. As the suspense continues, I did like some of the mystery scenes, but it wasn’t enough to save this book for me.
- Falling for the Mysterious Viscount by Bridget Barton (published 2020)
- I found this while looking for a fun, clean historical romance. But honestly, I was pretty disappointed. Most of the book was filled with silly misunderstandings which kept the characters apart just to pad out the page count. The only part I truly enjoyed were the friendships between Lavinia and her sister and Samuel and his best friend. The romance was entirely insta-love (they met three times and then were entirely in love…okay), and since the entire book centered around the effects of this insta-love, I couldn’t really enjoy the book. It was an interesting premise of a viscount who decides to disguise himself as a commoner to find a woman who loves him for who he is and not his wealth, but the execution fell flat for me.
- Never Never by Brianna R. Shrum (published 2015)
- I loved the idea of telling Peter Pan’s story from the perspective of James Hook, but this book was really disappointing to me. James feels like such a mopey character and despite some attempts for us to sympathize with him, he seems like a horrible human being, only looking out for himself. He is honestly just as bad as Pan. Any nuance Peter Pan had in the original is gone, exchanged for a more clear-cut villain with no rational reasoning. Honestly, this book ruins Pan’s character. It doesn’t help that it feels like nothing happens in the book. Besides the beginning and the end, there is no plot progression. Everyone knows how the story will end, so there is no suspense or unexpected twists. Really interesting premise, but the characters and pacing fell flat for me.
- Cocaine Blues (Phryne Fisher #1) by Kerry Greenwood (published 1989)
- I enjoyed the quirky humor for the most part, but the mystery wasn’t that interesting. Phryne is honestly a pretty annoying protagonist, and I could never enjoy her as the main character. Some of the twists were interesting, but overall the book fell flat for me, especially since I’ve heard so many good things about it.
- Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (published March 2021)
- I have love Ishiguro’s writing, so I went into this book with such high expectations. Unfortunately, while there were some interesting themes in this book, the story itself was very confusing. I liked the idea of a robot girl navigating a very human world, but I found all the messages confusing and a lot of subplots mentioned and then completely forgotten for the rest of the book. Is this a tale about a robot who learns how to care for her human girl? Not really. It is an examination of what it means to be human? Kind of. Is it a commentary on our society replacing deep human interactions with technology. Could be, but probably not. On a completely shallow level, it’s about a robot girl name Klara who become a companion to the sick human girl Josie, and she has a fascination with the sun. There are definitely other aspects of the book, but the plot is pretty boring, honestly. If some of the deeper examinations had been handled better, I would have enjoyed it more, but as it was, I was disappointed by this book coming from such an amazing author.
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (published 2014)
- I have a feeling that Ng’s writing just isn’t for me, because I read Little Fires Everywhere and wasn’t a big fan of it either. I was intrigued about understanding why Lydia died, but there were too many flaws in this books for me to enjoy it. All the characters are kind of horrible human beings. I couldn’t blame the children, but I had no sympathy for Marilyn and James, as pretty much all their decisions were selfish. The timeline is very confusing, constantly jumping back and forth in time until I was confused about everything. So often I would have to go back to a previous section to see if I could figure out when it was set. Finally, the book is just pretty boring. 90% of the book is about ordinary family stuff and none of the characters were deep enough for that to be enough to keep my interest, and very little content felt like it was actually important to understand the main question: why did Lydia die?
- The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron (published 2017)
- I read a lot of historical books with duo perspectives (one modern and one historical), but most of them are less than a hundred years ago for the older perspective. I love the idea of following the harsh life of young Neanderthal girl, as well as a modern archaeologist as their lives parallel each other. I also appreciated the main theme that ancient Neanderthals should not be looked down upon and were just as human as us, even if their culture was underdeveloped. Saying that, this book was so boring. Most of the book is told from the Girl’s perspective, a Neanderthal girl who must survive in a brutal world. Less than a fourth of the book focuses on the archaeologist’s perspective, which I didn’t mind because I found the Girl’s story much more interesting. You could have cut out Rose’s perspective and the story would have been better. Saying that, while there were some great scenes in the Girl’s story, most of it was pretty boring. Find food, talk about sex, somebody dies (usually by on animal attack), rinse and repeat. I could understand and appreciate the brutal world Cameron was reconstructing in this book that existed for prehistoric man, but there felt little progress to the plot besides everybody dying eventually.
- The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin (published Jan. 2021)
- This is an extremely moving fictionalized tale of the real life Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888, where a sudden blizzard swept across the Great Plains and killed over 200 people. In this book, we follow two sisters, Raina and Gerda, who are both teachers, as their and their students’ lives are changed by this horrific blizzard. There are some very disturbing scenes in this book, and if you cannot handle children dying, don’t read it. It’s also a moving tale. Saying that, there is a lot of filler, and I found myself dismissing certain secondary plotlines as being pointless, especially many of the scenes following the years after the Blizzard. I understand that the author wanted to show just how much these characters’ lives were changed in one day, but spending nearly a third of the book on it was a bit much. I did enjoy this book, especially the middle section focusing on surviving the blizzard.
- The Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse (published Feb. 2021)
- I loved the dark ambience of the setting, set in an isolated old sanatorium which has been converted into a hotel. The initial mystery was so good! I was intrigued and I enjoyed the book in the beginning. It focused a bit too much in Elin’s head, but for the most part I enjoyed the idea of a massive blizzard isolating everyone in this Swiss hotel when there is a murderer on the loose. I also enjoyed the character arch of Elin figuring out exactly why her brother died when she was a child. However, the ending was horrific…not only did it feel like Elin found random clues just when she needed them, but the revelation of the murder and reason in the ending was an absolute mess. There were too many twists and predictable tropes. Really good premise, but such poor development of the mystery.
- The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly (published Jan. 2021)
- Here is my biggest criticism of this book: three timelines are too much. I don’t mind two timelines, but it’s really impossible to balance three timelines with three completely different sets of characters. While there is some slight overlap between eras, it is pretty slight. I could barely keep track of each of the set of characters. I think all of them would have been interesting stories, but all together it felt like we would jump to one era right as another era was getting interesting. It wasn’t a horrible book, and each individual story was interesting enough, but because the book tries to tell three stories in one, I never felt like I got enough of each story to truly care and understand the characters.
- The Lost Village by Camilla Sten (published March 2021, published in 2019 in Swedish)
- I love the premise of a town where everyone vanished in one day, and years later a documentary crew comes in to discover why. I also enjoyed to book jumping from modern day to the 1950s right before everyone in the town vanished. Saying that, the plot was incredibly predictable, so any mystery was rather lost on me. I figured out the ending less than a fourth of the way in. However, I did enjoy the characters in the modern day, especially Alice and her ex-best friend’s conflict. I also enjoyed the question of whether what was happening was supernatural or real. Saying that, looking back at a couple plot points earlier on, the ending twist didn’t entirely make sense, even if it seemed obvious in some ways. I won’t say this was an amazing book, but I still enjoyed reading it.
- The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel (published 1998)
- I had extreme mixed feelings about this book. I’m a Christian myself, and one who loves researching this Historical Jesus vs. the Biblical Jesus. I say this, because I feel like this book should have been an easy win for me, as it simply reaffirms my Christian beliefs. However, I honestly didn’t find it all that convincing. I’ve read many better books analyzing the arguments for and against the existence and divinity of Jesus Christ, and this was one just mediocre. It is organized into a bunch of interviews Strobel had with different Christian experts. In this I felt was the weakness of the book, because not once does the book take serious consideration for arguments against the general Christian beliefs. Strobel himself, even though he was an atheist, was never an expert in ancient and Biblical teaching, so many of his questions to the experts felt surface level. I guess I just wanted a deeper dive instead of a shallow analysis of the historical reasoning in believing in Jesus Christ. It wasn’t a bad book for someone who knows nothing about religion, but it wasn’t a great book that I can see, if I had not been Christian, convincing me to become Christian.
- Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card (published 1992)
- Ruin and Rising (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo (published 2014)
- These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong (published 2020)
- King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild (published 1998)
- This nonfiction history has the perfect balance between scholarly information and entertaining narrative. Set from about 1870 to 1910, it follows the rise of King Leopold of Belgium in the Congo and his lust for power and fortune. His production of rubber caused the deaths of millions of the native people of Congo, in what can only be pronounced a genocide. This was a fascinating book, mostly following the most important men who participated in the rise of the Congo, as well as the activists who helped lead to its demise. I really enjoyed reading this book!
- Stillhouse Lake (Stillhouse Lake #1) by Rachel Caine (published 2017)
- This book really stood out for me among predictable thriller/mystery novels. The idea of understanding the mentality of a woman who finds out she was married to a serial killer is fascinating. Mostly, books and movies focus on the killers themselves, but usually ignore those close to them who realized they were living so close to a monster the entire time. Gwen/Gina is a brilliant character, and I felt like it was easy to get into her mindset of a woman trying to protect her children against people who believed she was guilty of helping her husband. I felt her pain and inability to trust anyone. I felt her struggle to be normal and not be consumed with paranoia. Outside of that, the mystery itself was also well handled, though definitely not at the forefront of the book. This is a really enjoyable book and one I see myself continuing on in the series because.
Have you read any of these books? Do any of them look interesting? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, thank you so much for reading, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,