What I Read: May 9-15

Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes: This was absolutely fantastic. I already knew Paul Holes was a whip-smart and experienced detective, but his compassion and care really shone through in this book. A must-read for anyone interested in true crime as a genre. Thank you Celadon Books for the ARC!

Slightly Wicked (Bedwyn Saga #2) by Mary Balogh: This was such a drag compared to book one. I did not like Rannulf/Ralf as a love interest and, beyond the opening section, this was just so painfully boring. I do have book three (which focuses on Freyja) on hold and I should be able to read it soon. I am seriously determined to get to Wulfric’s book (which is the sixth and last in the series) but I was told that it’s more rewarding if you read the rest first.

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4) by George RR Martin: This is BAD. It’s so boring compared to A Storm of Swords and to be quite honest, I gave up about 55% of the way through. However, I am counting this as “read” because I made it through more than 500 pages…I just couldn’t handle 400 more of a bunch of nothing. If you’ve watched the show, you could probably skip this one. I will read A Dance with Dragons (eventually) though.

Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor: This is a 60-ish page story written in 1938, and follows two friends as they write letters back and forth at the very beginning of Hitler’s rise to power and the formation of Nazi Germany. It’s powerful and pretty horrifying (conceptually, at least).

Make It Sweet by Kristen Callihan: Lucian Osmond is a former professional hockey player who loves to bake. If that doesn’t grab your attention, maybe this isn’t the book for you. I read this in the span of one afternoon, and really enjoyed the majority of my time with Lucian and Emma. A few parts dragged a bit for me, but overall this was really cute.

CURRENTLY READING: I haven’t started it yet, but I think my next read is going to be The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley. Thank you Books Forward PR for the ARC!

What I Read: May 2-8

When Things Get Dark edited by Ellen Datlow: After a few DNFs (right in a row, yikes) I found myself reaching for this anthology inspired by Shirley Jackson. As with most short story collections, I really enjoyed some stories, disliked a few, and found the rest to be pretty middle-of-the-road. If you are a Shirley Jackson fan, you’ll probably enjoy this. Each story adds an unsettling feeling to everyday life, and most feature the ambiguous, open-ended “conclusions” that are a hallmark of Jackson’s work.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw: Another short story collection? Who am I? This one actually came after another string of DNFs (again…yikes). This is a quick read filled with heartbreak, humor and some incredibly thoughtful observations and musings on life.

Slightly Married (Bedwyn Saga #1) by Mary Balogh: I picked this up after the entire series came (sort of…?) recommended by someone online. This deviates a bit from what usually draws me to historical romance but I was INVESTED. This series follows the six Bedwyn siblings, and starts by focusing on Aidan (the second oldest) as he ends up in a marriage of convenience with Eve, as a way to honor her brother’s dying request. Aidan is gruff but honorable, and is a very Jane Austen-esque love interest. I already have book two checked out from Libby and I’ll probably be reading it this week or next. (Also, I don’t mind reading the entire series just to get to Wulfric’s book…)

The Rakess (Society of Sirens #1) by Scarlett Peckham: This has been sitting on my tbr shelf for quite awhile, and I’m glad I finally gave it a shot. Seraphina is a “Rakess” (if you read historical romance, that means exactly what you assume it does). She doesn’t apologize for the lifestyle she’s chosen, and is actively working to change society’s attitudes about what women should and should not be held accountable for (and ostracized for) compared to their male counterparts. There are a lot of great things about this book but it got a bit too melodramatic for me in the final chapters. I would consider picking up book two, however (whenever that happens to be released).

CURRENTLY READING: Unmasked by Paul Holes, which is easily one of the best true crime books I’ve read so far. I purchased a signed copy of this book, but also received an ARC from Celadon Books (thank you!)

REVIEW – The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The Maidens is good. It’s not GREAT, but it’s definitely a decent read that keeps you moving, with short, punchy chapters. There’s an interesting (and sinister) murder mystery, and a few major plot twists that will definitely shock some readers. Although I had the killer figured out pretty early on, another twist caught me off guard (and i’m honestly not sure how I felt about it, even weeks after finishing the books).

I think Michaelides is claiming his place as the author of some reliably twisty and compelling summer thrillers. If you’re a fan of darker, psychological mysteries, you’ll want to give this one a shot!

Thank you Celadon Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Last Call: A Story of Love, Lust, and Murder in Queer New York by Elon Green

Last Call is a great read for fans of true crime – it’s a heartbreaking, gruesome tale of a man who preyed on gay men in the 80s and 90s. Last Call is incredibly well-researched and amazingly written – packing a ton of information into a relatively short book.

Elon Green focuses a lot on the victims of the Last Call Killer and less on the killer himself (this is relatively common among newer true crime books, and for good reason), and does so with great care and compassion.

Last Call might also be a good choice for those new to true crime, since it’s a shorter book and the murders are relatively recent, it’s easy to follow if you’re not familiar with the genre.

Thank you Celadon Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin

This book has so many layers – it starts off as an almost external examination of the relationship between sisters. There are surface observations of different families enjoying their vacations in paradise.

Then Alison disappears. And her body is discovered a few days later. The narrative shifts into a heartbreaking exploration of a family’s terror and grief. Most importantly, grief from the perspective of a little girl.

We move quickly into the (near) present. Little sister Claire is how an adult, but her sister’s mysterious death shapes her entire life. As she uncovers more details about her older sister, she also learns more about herself.

This does slow down a bit towards the middle and, at times, Claire is a very unlikable character, but the story is unique and compelling and complex. This will likely be a very popular pick for book clubs in 2020!

Thank you Celadon for providing me with a copy of this book.

REVIEW – The Whisper Man by Alex North

The Whisper Man is chilling, but it’s also very sad.

A good examination of father-son relationships and forgiveness, The Whisper Man offers up a slower-burning story that picks up speed towards the end. The last chapter is probably the most impactful and terrifying.

It’s a solid thriller with some interesting twists and an overwhelming sense of dread.

Thank you Celadon for the ARC!