I managed to get through quite a few books this month! Some were great, some were so-so, and some weren’t even worth a recommendation. Here are the seven, with brief reviews:
Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs (hardcover, 352 pages). 3 out of 5 stars. From the book jacket this sounds like a really creepy horror novel, but it’s not as scary as it seems and it’s actually more of a teenage adventure novel than a spookfest. It was pretty well-written and the weird photos scattered throughout are an interesting touch, it just wasn’t quite what I thought it would be. I think it’s the start of a trilogy or series, because it ends on a rather abrupt note.
The Host, by Stephenie Meyer (paperback, 619 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. I didn’t expect to like this as I wasn’t a fan of Twilight, but it’s actually pretty good. The pacing was quick without feeling rushed and I felt like Melanie/Wanderer was a much more relatable heroine than Bella Swan. I knocked off a star because I felt like the story kind of got mushy and stupid at the end, and also because I hate the fact that every teenage adventure novel ever these days has to involve a love triangle. Seriously! Dumb romantic angle aside, it was really good. (Note: I’m not against romance in books, I just want it to be more realistic.)
Snow Falling On Cedars, by David Guterson (hardcover, 460 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. This bored me to death. It’s a good story–an island split by racial differences, war and a murder trial–but the author’s writing style was so painfully slow and some parts (cough, the sex scenes, cough) were so poorly written they made my mind wander. Also, the big “mystery” doesn’t turn out to be too mysterious in the end. I think as a movie this might have worked better, because it would have moved at a less turtleicious pace.
False Memory, by Dean Koontz (paperback, 751 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. HUGE HUGE SPOILER ALERT! This book is supposed to be about phobias so terrifying they put your nightmares to shame. It’s not. It’s about a scumbag psychiatrist who brainwashes his patients and uses them for his own evil ends. I think if the book jacket had been more straightforward about this, I wouldn’t have been so disappointed, because I admit mind control is freaking scary. Or, it would have been scary if there had been more mystery about the source of the phobias and why the main characters are losing their minds; it’s the old rule of horror–what you can’t see and don’t know is scarier than what’s right in front of you. But you find out early on what’s going on, and then you’re treated to hundreds of pages of Mr. Smug Psychiatrist being smug and our characters figuring out how to beat him, which is interesting, but not all that scary. That’s the first strike.
The second is the wordiness; the book is too long and the writing drags on and on in places with descriptions of clothes, food, people, etc. Draggy pacing ruins the horror. The third strike is the stupid and annoying haikus, repeated throughout the book. I’ll add another strike for the fact that I just never felt much of a connection to the main characters. Overall, it was okay, but I felt duped by the book jacket and annoyed with Koontz’s writing. This was the first Koontz novel I’ve sampled and if it’s indicative of his work on the whole, it will also be the last.
Bleeding Kansas, by Sara Paretsky (hardcover, 448 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. Okay, this one was better. The story of a small Midwestern town and the feuds between families and neighbors, this contemporary story was fast-paced and very interesting. I felt like I’ve met all of the characters within and so many of the events and conversations that take place were so true to life. I’m not sure if you have to live in the Midwest to feel that way about the story. Anyway, I really liked it up until the end, which seemed a little too pat and left a character or two without the comeuppance they so richly deserved, but on the whole I loved it and will be reading more of Paretsky’s novels soon.
And She Was, by Alison Gaylin (paperback, 384 pages). 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve read lots of books where the protagonist has memory loss, but never one with a hero who literally cannot forget anything, ever. I think the author did a good job of balancing this quirk of memory as both a blessing and a curse. The mystery–the disappearance of a little girl, which comes back to haunt her neighbors a decade later–had a couple of good twists in it. I recommend this one to any mystery or crime lover.
The Nightmare Thief, by Meg Gardiner (hardcover, 368 pages). 2 out of 5 stars. This book was incredibly fast-paced and would be an awesome way to blow through a few hours if you were stuck with an airport layover or something like that–the time will fly by before you realize it. So why only two stars? Because after I finished it, nothing about it stuck in my brain. The characters were generic, the villains were garden-variety psychos, and none of the plot twists really felt unexpected. The whole thing was just very…meh. Very action-packed, but not much substance. Also, thanks to a jacket blurb from Stephen King, I thought there would be a horror element involved, and there wasn’t. In terms of readability, this was definitely exciting and I don’t feel it was a waste of time; there’s just nothing to distinguish it from any of dozens and dozens of other cheap paperbacks on the shelf.
That’s it for my August reads! Did you read anything this month worth recommending? Tell me about it in the comments, and don’t forget to connect with me on Goodreads here!