This month I read some really big chunky books. One of which was A Little Life. Reading A Little Life was honestly a little bit traumatic and tainted every other book I read this month, so take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. I was mostly just reading to fill the gaping fissure in my heart caused by Jude St. Francis.
💩 = Hot Garbage 😢 = I shed a tear 😭 = I ugly cried
🍆 = Some steamy scenes (Rated R) 💎 = A gem
💘 = Warmed my heart 👻 = Scary! 🤢 = Gross
😍= Swoon-worthy love-story 🚩 = Red Flag!
A Touch of Ruin & A Touch of Darkness by Scarlett St. Clair ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
These books are a rather steamy Hades and Persephone retelling. I adored the way it was written. The way these books were written felt very reminiscent of a Meg Cabot book (until we got to the very explicit sex scenes). The story takes place in a modern version of ancient Greece, where the gods and goddesses live among the regular people and own nightclubs. Persephone is a goddess who is interning at a newspaper. She has lived a very sheltered childhood and doesn’t have any powers, despite the fact she’s a goddess. She’s attempting to live her college life pretending to be mortal. Hades is a notorious bad guy, who owns nightclubs and makes deals for people’s souls (also he’s still in charge of the underworld). Persephone kind of accidentally gets trapped in a deal with Hades and then romance ensues.
The second book picks up where the first one left off. More Hades and Persphone romance. I did in fact ugly cry during the second book.
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
I’m a Nesta stan and I truly adored this book. Sarah J. Maas made us a three-course meal with the original ACOTAR books and this felt very much like dessert. Just a little treat. I read this at the same time as A Little Life and it was such a welcome break from the world of Jude. It’s pretty steamy and it’s scary to think that this might be shelved as YA, because it was A LOT.
This book follows Nesta (Feyre’s eldest sister) and Cassian (Rhys’s best friend). Nesta has some pretty severe trauma from the events of the last book. She’s been drinking and sleeping around to try to numb herself. Feyre decides to lock Nesta in this house (with so many stairs) until she gets her shit together. There’s a whole plot with like women warriors, but let’s be honest, I’m just here for Nesta and Cassian.
Feyre and Rhysand are insufferable in this book. I could not stand them. Every time Rhys was on the page, I was like GTFO. I love Feyre and Rhys in their books, but Nesta hates Rhys and you can really understand why.
Spoiler (Highlight text to read) > I hate nothing more than a pregnancy storyline in my fantasy romances. I hate it so much. I’m so glad we didn’t have to deal with Feyre’s pregnant butt as the main storyline, but I’m annoyed that it happened at all. It happens far too often and I hate it. Feyre is actual like 20 and she’s going to live until she’s like a billion years old, why did she need to have a kid right now? No thank you.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
😭 😭 😭 🤢🚩 💘💎
I’m still crying weeks later about this book. I have a lot of thoughts about this book, like actual pages and pages of thoughts. It’s a controversial book. It’s often labeled as torture porn for its graphic depictions of everything from self-harm and suicide to rape and assault. Those people aren’t wrong. It’s a lot. Like a lot, a lot. It’s a miserable story. I gave it five stars, because, without question, it is one of the best books I’ve ever read, but a very large part of me wishes I had never read it. I read the trigger warnings and thought I would be fine. For me, it wasn’t the graphic content that stuck with me, but just the complete hopelessness and anguish of this novel. I fell in love with Jude and it was truly terrible to watch his trauma win.
The back of the book and most reviews I’ve read, summarize this book as a story of four friends over the course of several decades. I think that is a terrible summary. This is the story of Jude St. Francis and the people who love him. We start with these four college roommates who are moving to New York in their late twenties, but the story quickly becomes about Jude. Jude has had the actual worst childhood imaginable like he was tortured in a variety of ways by a variety of people for the first fifteen years of his life, which we see through Jude’s memories. Jude becomes a lawyer and we watch his career take off, but also he is continually tortured by his past. The book grows increasingly bleak and does not have a happy ending (aka, I cried so hard I thought I might throw up).
It’s a story about male friendship and found family. It’s about the ways trauma and memory change the fabric of a person irrevocably. It’s about loving someone who is broken and being unable to help them. It’s about success and self-destruction. It’s about the incomprehensible depths of human suffering. Yanagihara has truly written a masterpiece, but it’s not fun to read. I love a sad book, but this book is not hopeful or redemptive. It is, however, bruisingly brilliant.
The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
When Emma was a young teen, she went to a summer camp. One night all three of her cabinmates disappear and are never found. Fast forward several years in the future, and Emma is returning to camp as an art teacher. While there she is trying to uncover the mystery of the missing girls. This thriller was fine, but it wasn’t anything special.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
Scythe is a YA dystopian in a world several hundred years in the future. Science has advanced to the point that we no longer die naturally. In order to keep the population under control, a group of people called Scythes are tasked with killing a certain number of people every year. The novel follows two teens who are apprentices to a scythe, as they learn about the corruption and morality of death in a world where death isn’t inevitable.
I really enjoyed this book. The concept is fantastic and the story is great!
Pestilence by Laura Thalassa ⭐️⭐️/5
Ummmm… What did I just read? The central idea behind this book is that our main character falls in love with the first horseman of the apocalypse. He’s riding through the world spreading this disease that kills everyone. She tries to kill him but is unsuccessful and he kidnaps her and tortures her. He literally drags her behind his horse, so she dislocates her shoulders and has terrible road burn. Then they fall in love? Not quite sure how that transition happens… This book was weird AF, but honestly, I was still just trying to cope with my trauma over reading A Little Life, and this book worked well.
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
A dog walker in a rich neighborhood gets married to a rich guy. His wife has recently died under suspicious circumstances. I read it in an evening and it was a good time, but not a memorable one.
The People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
If you’ve read any other of my reading wrap-ups, you’ll know I love Emily Henry. I read Beach Read at the beginning of the year and decided I was an Em Hen stan. I was really excited to read her newest book, another adult romance. This one follows Poppy, a travel writer, and Alex, a high school teacher, as they rekindled their friendship on a vacation in Palm Springs. Poppy and Alex became best friends in college and took a vacation together every summer for years, but something happened and they haven’t really spoken in two years. Poppy decides she misses Alex and plans a vacation for the two of them.
First of all, the chemistry between the two of them is unmatched! I have never rooted so hard for a couple to get together in a book before. The flashbacks to all their trips are amazing. However, they were no Augustus and January. I think I love Beach Read too much, for this to live up to it. But it was still so good! I also was still recovering from A Little Life (I still am not totally recovered), which may have added a cynical lens.
Spoilers (Highlight to read) I understand that this isn’t how romance books work, but I wanted it to stop at the 80% mark when they are at the wedding. I know there is always another conflict after they get together, but I didn’t want it! I didn’t like the real ending because it felt like they didn’t really fix their conflict. I’m not entirely convinced they are going to stay together and it breaks my heart!
The Push by Ashley Audrain ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
This book was way darker than I was expecting. I heard really good things about it and it was good, but it certainly wasn’t what I thought I was signing up for. It is this eerie story about motherhood. It follows Blythe, as she becomes a mother. I don’t want to get into the plot too much because I think it unfolds really beautifully (but I’d check out content warnings if anything around motherhood, suicide, or child death are not something you’re interested in reading about). We also get to see Blythe’s mother and grandmother’s journeys into motherhood. I think this book does a beautiful job unraveling the dark side of being a mom and generational trauma, through these four generations of women. It’s beautifully written and the central mystery is very gripping.
The Haunting of Ashburn House by Darcy Coates ⭐️✨/5
A good spooky book is hard to come by and this wasn’t it. It follows Adrienne, as she moves into her great-aunt Edith’s old creepy house. Adrienne has no money and only has a cat. She’s essentially trapped at this house that’s about a mile from town because she has no money, no car, no cellphone, not even internet access. So when bad things start happening at the house she’s in trouble. I didn’t like the ending. I thought the tension was poorly set up and I didn’t particularly care for Adrienne.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
I read Little Fires Everywhere last year and loved it, so I was looking forward to reading another book by Ng. Similarly, to Little Fires, Everything I Never Told You explores family dynamics within the framework of a mystery. In this case, Lydia, the middle child of the Lee family ends up dead in a lake. Through discovering what happened to Lydia, we also learn about her mother, who dropped out of medical school to raise her kids, and her father, who is a professor at a local high school and one of the only Asian people in their 1970’s Ohio town. The book explores the ways in which both parent’s experience shapes their expectations and dreams for Lydia and their other two children.
The Hunger by Alma Katsu: I was about halfway through this one when I just got too bored. I wanted something creepier!
The Lost Village by Camilla Sten: Again, I was looking for something spookier. I got about 25% of the way into this one before I gave it up.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer: I read this on Carly’s recommendation (from Uncarly). I just wanted to be a cool girl like her, but I’m not. It’s incredibly well written (it literally won a Pulitzer) and I could see how you could easily love this book. It’s funny and charming, but it just wasn’t for me. I read like 70% of the book before gave up.