It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 8 January 2018

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Button
Hosted by Kathryn from Book Date, this is a weekly event to share what we’ve read in the past week and what we hope to read, plus whatever else comes to mind. To learn more about each book, just click on the book cover!

It has been a great holiday season. My reading slowed down during the last few days of the year, but I cannot complain at all about these past three weeks. I read some amazing books, even though it means I now have to write the reviews for them all.


Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds Everless by Sara Holland The Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson Green by Sam Graham-Felsen Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys The Lost Plot by Genevieve Cogman The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Amanda Reynolds’ novel is an intense story about the fragility of memory as well as the lies people tell themselves and others. It mimics other stories of a similar nature, but that makes it no less intriguing. While it is a novel I doubt I will remember in six months’ time, I had no problems compulsively reading it, complete with pounding heart and a frantic reading pace in order to learn all the secrets. Escapist literature at its finest.

Sara Holland’s debut novel is a crazy time-bending novel. Yes, it is somewhat predictable, but the story managed to surprise me several times with its various twists and turns. The few things that bothered me were not enough to diminish my interest in the story or prevent me from compulsively reading it. I think it a solid first novel and am intrigued enough to be excited about the future of Jules’ story.

Tyrell Johnson’s post-apocalyptic novel is a fantastic study of survival and sacrifice. The main character kicks ass but still manages to show vulnerability and a sense of honor. If I had one complaint it is the difficulty I had reconciling Lynn’s age with her inner monologue. She is twenty-seven but sounds like a teenager. You can easily explain it away as a result of her isolation and her role in the family, but every time she mentioned her age I was jolted afresh that this is not a Katniss Everdeen type of situation.

Lots of debut authors releasing first novels in January, and Sam Graham-Felsen is yet another one. His novel about race relations around the time of the Los Angeles riots is a difficult read. The main character is a young white boy on the cusp of puberty growing up on the outskirts of the projects in Cambridge, MA. I struggled with the novel for several reasons, and I still cannot determine whether that is the what the author intended or if I discovered a flaw in his novel. If anyone else has read this one, I would love to discuss it with you.

Marieke Nijkamp is not a debut author, but her work is new to me. I cannot say I enjoyed her newest novel. In fact, it left me in a profound funk for most of the day while reading it and after I finished. Still, she makes some excellent points about those suffering from mental health issues and how we perceive them in society.

The historical fiction/mystery by Rachel Rhys was a pleasant surprise. The historical details were fascinating and the characters interesting. The mystery left a bit to be desired, but I enjoyed Lily’s journey across the world more than I expected I would.

Irene and Kai and The Library and their crazy shenanigans remains one of my favorite series to date. Each story gets better as we learn more about the various worlds and the Library and the whole Fae/Dragon/Library dynamics. Genevieve Cogman’s latest Invisible Library novel is a treat.

Chloe Benjamin’s novel is a heartbreaking look at life and loss and the ideas of free will and fate. The story is not what I expected it to be, but this is one instance where that is a good thing. It is a fitting novel to read at the beginning of a new year when the desire for change is high and when people naturally reflect on their life. It is going to take me some time to figure out just what I took away from reading it because there is so much to the story.

The latest novel by Sara Barnard is one of those novels that makes you smile the entire time you are reading it. The story of Rhys and Steffi is too sweet for words and absolutely charming. Yet, she prevents it from becoming completely saccharine by her detailed insight into severe anxiety. In fact, she does such a great job explaining the complete merciless arbitrariness of anxiety that I suggested my husband read it so that he might learn something about his own anxiety. That he would get the pleasure of experiencing first love all over again through Rhys and Steffi is just an added bonus.

Melanie Benjamin’s latest historical fiction foray provides an intriguing glimpse into early Hollywood and the art of making movies. However, this is the third novel of hers I have read and the third novel of hers I struggled to enjoy.  This time, I was not fond of her portrayal of Mary Pickford, so much so that the scenes in which the story was told from her POV were tedious and annoying. I think my lack of enjoyment of her novels stems from the characters about whom she writes and how she portrays them. In every novel of hers I have read, the most famous person in the novel strikes me as false and overly exaggerated, which then renders them cartoonish. I am certain that I will be in the minority here because everyone raved about her Truman Capote novel even though I was not wholly convinced it was as good as everyone claimed it to be. I see the same thing happening here, so if you have read it I would love to know if you agree or disagree with me.

Leni Zumas’ novel starts out slowly but builds to a compelling potential dystopian future in which abortion has been outlawed and a fertilized egg is considered a human.This tale of four women draws you in as they face their own complex and uniquely female problems. I wasn’t certain what to make of the story at first; Ms. Zumas uses language a bit coarser and blunter than I would expect from a woman. Once I moved past that though, she captures what it means to be female in this male-dominated modern world. With the yahoos in Washington, it is all too easy to see how the future she describes could come to pass, making it a cautionary tale and a warning for all.


Not a one.


Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson


White Trash by Nancy Isenberg


January Review Copies remaining:

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances The Taster by V. S. Alexander The Night Child by Anna Quinn The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

So, what are you reading?

15 Responses to It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? – 8 January 2018
  1. Kay
    January 8, 2018 | 6:45 AM

    Very nice. Loved your little recaps and thoughts. I have THE IMMORTALISTS and DANGEROUS CROSSING to read. Plus I have ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL and THE NIGHT CHILD as well. And maybe more. Can’t think right now. You’ve been reading a lot. A good thing.

    • Michelle
      January 8, 2018 | 8:41 AM

      It has been a good thing. I have found a good balance of reading versus everything else that I hope I can keep up as the year progresses.

  2. Sarah's Book Shelves
    January 8, 2018 | 6:51 AM

    I loved Swans of Fifth Ave, but DNF’d Girls in the Picture (which I realized I forgot to put in my update today!). The entire thing was annoying to me. I just did not care.

    And – I finished Anatomy of a Scandal, but was sort of hate reading it by the halfway point.

    • Michelle
      January 8, 2018 | 8:43 AM

      I was not a fan of Swans and thought this was even worse. Annoying is an accurate word. Whiny and repetitive are two more words I would use to describe it.

      Well, I will now start Anatomy with a skeptical mind and hope I don’t have to hate read it!

  3. Brandie
    January 8, 2018 | 8:21 AM

    I’ve been really curious about The Immortalists – going to check it out.

    • Michelle
      January 8, 2018 | 8:44 AM

      It’s good. A bit slow. A bit high-minded. I can see it being one of those that people are either going to love or question other people’s sanity for loving.

  4. Jenny @ Reading the End
    January 8, 2018 | 6:34 PM

    Hahahaha, I’m kind of relieved to hear this about Melanie Benjamin. I felt a little squicked out by her first book, and then I never hopped on the train with her second one. But it sounds like I maybe wouldn’t like her work anyway.

    • Michelle
      January 9, 2018 | 8:34 AM

      Which book of hers bothered you? The Lindburgh book or the Alice one?

      Yes, I don’t think you would like her work. I don’t know if I like her work.

  5. Kailana
    January 8, 2018 | 8:24 PM

    Looks like you are off to an awesome start with the reading!

  6. Anne Simonot
    January 9, 2018 | 11:21 AM

    I tried to read Ms Benjamin’s Lindbergh novel and it was so – annoying is probably the right word! – I had to give up. Definitely not a fan.

    • Michelle
      January 9, 2018 | 11:29 AM

      I am so glad I am not the only one! I try and try because I have met her in person. She is a lovely woman who is diligent about her research. Yet there is something about her writing I just cannot enjoy.

  7. susan
    January 12, 2018 | 6:28 PM

    Wow you finished a lot of books! I guess I had seen The Wolves of Winter and it seemed to get high marks so I’m thinking about maybe picking that one up. A page-turner right?!

    • Michelle
      January 14, 2018 | 6:25 PM

      I was not impressed with that one as much as I had hoped.

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