April got off to a pretty slow start since my sister was in town for a week and I had a lot going on at work and with friends, but I made up for it this past weekend! Unfortunately most of what I’ve been reading so far this month hasn’t been living up to my expectations, but I’m still excited to talk about these books.
A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
A Study in Scarlet Women is a female retelling of Sherlock Holmes in which Charlotte Holmes must clear her father and sister of suspicion in connection to a trio of deaths while also fighting society’s expectations and learning to support herself after becoming a social pariah.
I really struggled with this book, and I’m still not quite sure what I thought of it. It switched perspectives a lot in the beginning and I had a hard time keeping track of all the different characters, so I was confused for a lot of the book. Plus it was hard to connect to Charlotte when so many of her motives and desires were kept hidden. And she seems to be in love with this lord, but he’s married, and I have a hard time rooting for their relationship (I also want to smack him for clearly marrying someone who’s terrible for him). I’m also really surprised that this was the next pick for my romance book club, because the romance is pretty non-existent in this book. I would really consider it to be more of a mystery or historical fiction. I’m curious to know more about what happens in future books, but I haven’t quite decided yet if I’m going to continue with the series. I’d almost rather get a quick plot summary and then move on, but we’ll see.
Update: So I would say my opinion was not the prevailing opinion at my book club meeting. They loved it and were really impressed with how Thomas handled a lot of the pacing and how she created the romantic tension in the book. I’ll admit, I have a lot more respect for this book after hearing my book club analyze it, but I still can’t say I overly enjoyed reading it. I’m a lot more willing to pick up the sequels than I was before my book club, though.
River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
River of Teeth is an alternative historical fiction novel set in a world in which a real bill that was proposed to introduce hippos into the swamps of Louisiana for use as an alternative meat source was actually passed. With the bayous overrun by feral hippos, fearless leader Winslow Houndstooth puts together a crew in order to rid the Mississippi delta of these dangerous creatures while simultaneously getting his revenge.
With such a wild premise, this book had so much potential. But honestly, it just didn’t do a lot for me. The story felt like it was spending a lot of time building towards the end, but the payoff just wasn’t satisfying enough for me. I did really like the characters and I’m interested in continuing their story, but I also wasn’t sure I really felt the need to pick up the next book once I finished River of Teeth. I think I will just because it’s so short, but yeah, this wasn’t my favorite book and didn’t live up to my expectations.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is the story of famous movie actress Evelyn Hugo, who is finally ready to tell her life story. Selecting reporter Monique Grant from obscurity to be her biographer, Hugo recounts the tale of her seven husbands and who the real love of her life was without explaining exactly why she picked Monique to write her story.
This book was amazing. Like, holy crap. It was such a page-turner throughout the whole thing and I totally didn’t see the twist coming at the end, and it was such an excellent look at human character and what drives us to do what we do. This whole book was amazing and I was completely blown away by it. My only hesitation in obsessing over this book is that the characters made a lot of decisions I strongly disagree with, though I do think those decisions were true to their character. It just made for a bit of a depressing read sometimes, though it was excellently done. I just want everyone to live happily ever after ok? But really, this book is really good and I think if you’re at all interested in it, you’ll really enjoy it.
A Duke in Shining Armor by Loretta Chase
After consuming a little too much brandy, Olympia runs away from her own wedding as A Duke in Shining Armor opens. Tasked by his best friend to make sure everything goes smoothly and to take care of the bride, the Duke of Ripley has no choice but to follow her and make sure she’s safe when he sees her take off. What ensues is a road trip and a comedy of errors as the two fight their feelings for each other and try to figure out what to do about the groom abandoned at the altar.
Chase is usually such a strong writer, but this book was a bit of a bust for me. It did pick up towards the end, and it’s still Loretta Chase, so overall it was an enjoyable read, but it’s far from my favorite of her books. I think a lot of it is that it happens way too quickly. I mean, their entire relationship develops over the course of three days or so. Also, I didn’t really like Ripley for a good chunk of the book. Like, I enjoyed the story significantly more when it switched to Olympia’s point of view, but then I had to question what she liked about him, because I was not a fan of his for a lot of this book. He just didn’t seem to have any purpose or accomplishments other than to drink and cause trouble, and something about his speech pattern was rather off-putting. It did seriously pick up by the end and did have a satisfying conclusion, but my issues with the first half or so definitely prevented me from fully enjoying this book. And while I know I should be excited for Ashmont’s book, I’m really not.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
Children of Blood and Bone is one of the most hyped books of 2018, following the young Zelie as she embarks on a quest to bring magic back to her world a decade after watching her maji mother’s brutal murder. With the help of her brother and a rogue princess, Zelie must evade the crown prince and deliver her people from the oppression they face.
Warning: Unpopular opinion ahead. Everyone has been raving about this book in the online book community, but I actually thought it was just another overhyped YA fantasy. It was a fun, action-packed book, but I didn’t think the characters or the world were that developed. I’m not sure I ever got a clear sense of who the characters were and found myself questioning a number of their choices, plus I had a bit of a hard time telling their voices apart when the story switched POVs. And I had some serious issues with one of the romantic pairings, in addition to how instalove-y the whole thing was. I also felt like the book pulled back a lot from the violence depicted in the story. I don’t necessarily need the violence to be more graphic, but I want to see more of the emotional impact of it. I think that’s something that A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas does really well that this book didn’t quite accomplish, and it kept me from getting emotionally invested. The characters saw terrible horrors, but they seemed to move past them pretty quickly and never had to deal with the longterm impact of witnessing those horrors.
As for the world building, I still don’t have a clear sense of how magic works in this world and question some of the explanations for why the magic wielders and non-magic wielders hate each other (though I suspect we’ll get more answers in future books). And a lot of plot points felt super convenient and like the characters were just moving from point A to point B with the story directing them along instead of the characters leading the story. I also think the story got a bit heavy-handed in drawing parallels between the fantasy world in this book and today’s world. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that analysis and insight as I very much think fantasy is a way to grapple with the issues we’re facing today in the real world and Adeyemi had some excellent points, but sometimes it went far enough that it pulled me out of the story instead of subtly weaving it all together.
Overall, I think there’s a lot of potential in this book and I’m excited to see where it goes as Adeyemi develops as a writer (this is a debut, after all), but it didn’t live up to the hype for me.
An Unseen Attraction by KJ Charles
An Unseen Attraction is a historical romance novel that follows the story of Clem, a lodging-house keeper, and Rowley, a taxidermist. As their friendship slowly evolves from tea by the fireside to something more, the two find themselves in danger after another lodger is brutally murdered and dumped on their doorstep.
I wanted something fun and addicting after being disappointed in Children of Blood and Bone (and frankly everything else I’ve read this month besides The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), so I picked this since I’d heard good things and KJ Charles keeps popping up in my Twitter thread with some great commentary on the diversity discussions currently happening on romance Twitter. While I did like Clem and Rowley and thought their romance was cute, and the intrigue in this story kept me turning the pages, I was a little let down by this one! I’m having a hard time putting my finger on what exactly I didn’t like because I think a lot of the plotting and character development was well done, I just didn’t connect all that much with Clem and Rowley, and I think there was a spark and tension missing between the two of them that I really love in romance novels. Overall I do think this is well done and I’ll probably pick up another Charles novel, I’m just not sure it will be the sequel to this one.
Alright, that’s it for the first half of the month. I have to admit, it’s been a disappointing reading month so far. I’m really hoping it picks up during the second half of the month, because I’m itching to read a really good book after so many reads that just didn’t do it for me. Fingers crossed!
Let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading lately!