April, May and June Reads

Quarantine happened, and I slowed WAY down on reading. And then I got too busy with helping facilitate distance learning for my first grader, that I totally lost track and didn’t post what I’ve been reading! So, now, in probably not the order I read them, here are the books I read in the last three months!

The Hour of the Assassin

If you’re looking for a quick political thriller, Hour of the Assassin is the book for you! Fast paced from the very beginning, this book is impossible to put down. The characters are engaging, and I found myself reading the whole book in about two days.

The author made an interesting choice to spread out backstory through most of the book, choosing to reveal relationships between the characters much later than I would have expected. The book maintains suspense throughout, and has a really good payoff in the end.

The Holdout

Another thriller that is impossible to put down, The Holdout gives a detailed look into the role of being a juror, being placed on a high profile case, and the ramifications on your life once that trial is put forward.

This is another book I read in a couple days, and it was one where I absolutely did not see the ending coming. The book changed points of view every other chapter, and we got to see inside the mind of all twelve people on the jury. All while trying to solve a current day mystery.

The book is already optioned to become a movie for Hulu, and I’ll definitely be watching.

How to Speak Dragonese

The Third How to Train Your Dragon book is just as fun, and hilarious, as the previous two. I love these books, because I listen to them as audiobooks, and they’re narrated by David Tennant, and they’re only a 2-3 hour commitment.

Toothless is kidnapped by Pirates, and Hiccup needs to get him back. That is the simplified plot of this installment. However, for the first time, the author has chosen to end the book on a cliffhanger, where you can only learn what happens next through reading the next book. I’m currently on hold to get the next book to find out what happens next!

The Kissing Game

Out of all the books I’ve read this year, The Kissing Game is the only one that I’ve read that I wouldn’t recommend. While it wasn’t terrible, it definitely isn’t one of my favorites.

I think the main problem with the book is it’s not made clear it is part of a series. It’s the third book in a series, to be specific. Therefore, the author just assumes you know the characters and she doesn’t flesh them out at all. After all, you’re supposed to know them as background characters in the other two books.

And I know romance books are usually contrived and follow a format, but I found this book a little too contrived, and I didn’t find myself rooting for the characters at all.

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

If you love tragic romance, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is for you! Telling the story of a woman (Lydia) whose fiance dies tragically in a car accident. Soon after, she realizes when she takes a sleeping pill, she can live a life where Freddy never died. While in her waking life, she moves through her grief, and eventually the idea that she may be able to love again.

While it starts off really depressing (I cried through about the first quarter of the book), the book really does give off a feeling of hope. As Lydia begins to function more, and is ready to move on, you can see her growth and her healing through the tragedy.

The Box is Protection Not Prison

I fell into a bit of a reading rut this spring, and in order to jump start my reading again, I picked up this short story written by a friend. I don’t want to say too much about it, because I don’t want to give anything away, but this story is very timely. If you want to read a story that has a commentary on mass media and biases that feels like you’re reading about what is happening right now, you should definitely check this story out.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

My favorite book of 2019 was Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and the Six. I was supposed to see Reid at the Des Moines Book Festival back in March, but because of Covid, that was canceled. I put myself on the list for this book, and it was delivered right before I went on vacation, and this has easily become one of my top books I’ve read for the year so far.

Where Daisy Jones seemed to be a fictional story that included many elements of bands like Fleetwood Mac, Evelyn Hugo definitely felt like it took its inspiration from stars like Elizabeth Taylor. The book follows Evelyn Hugo as she navigates stardom through Old Hollywood and the studio system, the transition into the “New Hollywood” and as an aging actress in the industry.

Along the way we learn her story as it is told around her many husbands. The story is at once heartwarming, tragic, and includes a twist that made me gasp out loud.

March Reads

Red, White, and Royal Blue

Red, White and Royal Blue is easily my favorite book I’ve read in 2020, so far. I went into it skeptically, like I do most books that have been overhyped, and then read it all in one day.

The book follows Alex, the son of the first female President of the United States, and Henry, a literal Prince of England. They start off at odds with one another, a feud if you will. But then it becomes very obvious that they are in love, and the book quickly becomes one of the most realistic, love stories I have read.

The book is achingly romantic, and I found myself rooting for the success of Alex and Henry’s relationship. I borrowed this book from the library, but I will probably end up purchasing it so I can re-read it over and over again.

The Alice Network

This month’s book club pick was The Alice Network. I listened to this book on audio, and I ended up strapping the blue tooth speaker to the waist belt of the baby carrier and spending four hours one day listening to the book while I cleaned. For perspective I normally just listen to audiobooks in the car. This book was that good.

The book follows two different women in two different times. Eve, a British spy in France during World War I, and Charlie, a pregnant nineteen year old American, who seeks out Eve to search for her missing French cousin, post World War II.

The book flips between both timelines and you get to see how strong both women are as they face different obstacles, while also watching the two form an amazing relationship with one another. Along for the ride in post WWII is Finn, Eve’s Scottish driver.

Each story has heartbreaking revelations, and the author really shines a light on PTSD following fighting in a war.

If you enjoy historical fiction, definitely check this one out.

Things in Jars

For Christmas this year, my sisters gifted me with three months of a Book of the Month Club subscription. Things in Jars was my pick for January.

This book was, different. I don’t know if I would have chosen it if it hadn’t been offered up to me in a curated pick of five choices, but it was right up my alley. Victorian London, supernatural aspects. Maybe? Ever since finishing the book, I’ve had a hard time figuring out if everything that happened was real, or if it was in Bridie’s head.

The book follows Bridie, a private investigator as she tries to solve the case of a missing child. She is joined by a handsome ghost, Ruby. As they solve the case, it becomes more and more surreal. I’m about a week out from finishing the book, and I’m still trying to figure out the ending. I will be passing the book to a friend so I can talk to someone about what it was exactly that we just read.

Time of Contempt

At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this installment of The Witcher Series. The first half of the book is a lot of explaining about politics and movement in the universe. A lot. It’s pretty tedious.

And then about half way through the book, everyone converges together for the first time, and everyone is happy! And then everything happens. There is an epic battle, and for the first time the tide has turned against our heroes, and the book ends sort of on the morose note.

I currently have the next book on hold. It’ll be available in a month. It’s going to be a long month.

The Huntress

After reading The Alice Network I had high hopes for The Huntress, and I was not disappointed. The book had engaging characters and a plot that caused me to not want to put the book down.

The book follows three people: Jordan, an aspiring photograph, Ian, a former war reporter turned Nazi hunter, and Nina, a Russian fighter pilot. They are all affected by a woman who is known as The Huntress, and when you find out how each one is affected, really is the heart of the story.

Like in The Alice Network the second the storylines of these people converge, the story becomes even more interesting, and the plot moves even quicker.

If you enjoy World War II stories, or just historical fiction in general, I highly suggest you pick this book up.

The Sinner

The eighteenth installment of The Blackdagger Brotherhood series. While I didn’t completely fall in love with Syn like I normally do with any of the Brothers who is featured, I loved Jo, who we have been following for several books now. That and the conclusion of the Dhestroyer prophecy really made the book nearly impossible to set down.

Butch has always been one of my favorite Brothers, and his relationship with Vishous has been one of my favorites of the series. The focus on Butch and Vishous and their role in the war against the lessers, was touching and enthralling all at once.

Syn is flawed, and it took me a while to feel any sympathy for him. I was more in love with Jo, a half-breed waiting for her transition, even though she didn’t know she was a half breed. Once Jo was brought into the secret world, the book got infinitely better and I started enjoying her and Syn together. Maybe it’s because the last two romances of the series were so intense, but Syn is definitely no Muhrder.

February Reads

The Boy Next Door, Meg Cabot

Told in a series of e-mails, I read The Boy Next Door in one day. I couldn’t put down. It’s been a long time since I had read a book where I just wanted to site and binge it all at once.

Telling the traditional boy meets girl, boy lies to girl, boy and girl fall in love, girl learns the truth, they get together in the end formula, this book is funny, light, and even though you know in the end they’ll end up together, it is a romance after all, you keep wanting to read and find out what happens.

I have loved Meg Cabot since I first started reading The Princess Diaries over a decade ago. She does not disappoint with this book. Even though everything is told through the confines of e-mail exchanges, you still get to know and love all the characters in the book.

The Call of the Wild

February’s book club pick was Call of the Wild. I had remembered vaguely reading this while I was in middle school, but I also couldn’t remember if we had read this or White Fang. It was this.

This was very difficult to get through at first. The writing is full of dry, complex language, and is told through the perspective of the dog. My friends recommended listening to the audiobook. I had it done in two days.

This book, while it was easier to listen to than read, was still hard to listen to. As long as you go into it only attaching yourself to Buck, you’ll be fine. While it was interesting to listen to the dog adapt from a spoiled house dog to a fully wild dog, the descriptions of the violence was really off putting.

The Last Wish

So, after I read Blood of Elves last month, I learned The Last Wish is technically the first book in The Witcher series. And I can see why.

The Last Wish introduces Geralt and explains who The Witcher is, along with giving us many adventures (it’s a collection of short stories) to get to know him in. If you have watched the Netflix series, this book is pretty much all of the Geralt portions.

The fun part of this book is noticing that each story is basically a popular fairy tale retelling. I had fun figuring out each story and which fairy tale it was tied to.

The best part of this book was getting to know Geralt better, and really seeing his personality show through, since he was barely in Blood of Elves. And if you’ve only watched the show on Netflix, you’ll be surprised by how funny and verbose he is.

January Reads

Wayward Son

First book of 2020 was Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell. I had been looking forward to this book for over a year when I learned it was being release. And I wasn’t let down.

A sequel to the book Carry On, Wayward Son deals with the aftermath of being a child soldier, and what to do after your destiny is fulfilled.

The book moves between the points of view of Penny, Simon and Baz as they embark on a road trip across America to rescue Agatha, who has moved to San Diego to just get away from everything.

Fast-paced, and often heartbreaking, Rowell explores PTSD and depression as Simon and his friends struggle with their post-Chosen One life.

If you read and enjoyed Carry On, you will love this book.

Good Omens

Good Omens was the book my book club picked for the month. It was a light, funny read, and I enjoyed it, but, I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t watched the mini-series on Amazon Prime first.

Dealing with the Apocalypse, Crowley and Aziraphale, a demon and an angel respectively, try and find a way to stop it, because they love earth too much.

The book is full of humor and absurdity, and doesn’t take itself seriously at all, and I love that about the book.

You could tell Gaiman helped adapt the show for television, and was in fact the screen writer, as the books was very faithfully adapted, and the show follows not only the plot, but uses all the same dialogue.

The Blood of Elves

After bingeing the Netflix series with my husband during Christmas break, I absolutely fell in love with the high fantasy universe of The Witcher. I immediately put myself on the waiting list for the first book of the series at the library.

The book came in much quicker than I thought and I dove right in. Only to learn, this is in fact NOT the first book in the series, it’s technically the third (or second, depending on which list you look at). I didn’t let that deter me, I kept reading.

This book assumes you’re already familiar with the characters and the universe and just dives right into the conflicts. It is a quick read, full of lots of back and forth dialogue. Geralt is not featured heavily in the book, but Ciri and Yennefer are.

When Geralt is in the book, he is easily likeable, and there is always a fight scene that plays out so cinematically that I found myself holding my breath.

Now that I’ve finished this book, I’m waiting on pins and needles for the books that come before this one to arrive at the library for me to read.