“When a book runs, a librian follows.”First line in The God of Lost Words by A. J. Hackwith
So that was May. It had its ups and downs but with a pretty big ‘down’ for me. I have been seeing a therapist for my depression and social anxiety since September which has helped me more than I could have dreamed of, but in May my therapist told me that he had got a new job so I can’t have any more sessions with him. And that’s the kind of luck I work with in life. At this moment, I’m still feeling a kind of relief from not having to attend those sessions anymore because they were an absolute hell (as they’re supposed to be), but a part of me also knows that this isn’t ideal. It’s going to be very hard for me to find someone else and that’s if I ever find the courage to try again.
But I also mentioned ‘ups’ so what was an ‘up’ for me in May? Stranger Things 4. I’m obsessed and watched the whole thing immediately and WHY DO I HAVE TO WAIT ANOTHER MONTH FOR THE REST? I guess I should just be happy the wait isn’t another three years… However, I think I made a mistake watching Stranger Things before the Obi-Wan Kenobi episodes that came the same day because nothing could compare, obviously, so now I don’t like the Obi-Wan series.
Before this turns into “What I watched in May”, let’s talk about what I read.
Despite my stats including a book that was mostly read in April (but finished in May), I’m still very pleased with this! I’m actually ahead of my Goodreads goal for the first time this year! My ratings could have been a bit better, though, considering I read a couple of books this month that I had high expectations for. Well, you can’t have everything.
One of the seven books will not be reviewed because that was the Danish non-fiction book Argumenter imod Kvinder (Arguments against Women) by Birgitte Possing because it only exists in Danish. It details the history of Danish women since 1849 through quotes from prominent historical people, and I gave it 3 stars. But here is what I thought about all the other books I read in May!
The Golden Fool (The Tawny Man Trilogy #2)
Author: Robin Hobb
Published: October 21st, 2002
Unfortunately, this was slightly disappointing to me. I would almost describe the plot as dormant, which isn’t necessarily bad except it was also dormant in book one so what are we doing? Even the character development turned meandering and repetitive with only a few golden (lol) moments that made sure I didn’t hate this book. I have no idea what to expect from the last book because this trilogy hasn’t been what I hoped it would be. If you’re interested in my in-depth thoughts about The Golden Fool, I have a full spoiler-filled review of it right here.
The House of Shattered Wings (Dominion of the Fallen #1)
Author: Aliette de Bodard
Published: August 18th, 2015
Buzzwords: Fallen angels, House wars, Paris
Synopsis: In the late Twentieth Century, the streets of Paris are lined with haunted ruins. The Great Magicians’ War left a trail of devastation in its wake. The Grand Magasins have been reduced to piles of debris, Notre-Dame is a burnt-out shell, and the Seine has turned black with ashes and rubble and the remnants of the spells that tore the city apart. But those that survived still retain their irrepressible appetite for novelty and distraction, and The Great Houses still vie for dominion over France’s once grand capital.
Once the most powerful and formidable, House Silverspires now lies in disarray. Its magic is ailing; its founder, Morningstar, has been missing for decades; and now something from the shadows stalks its people inside their very own walls.
Within the House, three very different people must come together: a naive but powerful Fallen angel; an alchemist with a self-destructive addiction; and a resentful young man wielding spells of unknown origin. They may be Silverspires’ salvation—or the architects of its last, irreversible fall. And if Silverspires falls, so may the city itself.
I have to say that this book had me confused from start to finish, and I really don’t know if that was my fault or the book’s. It does make it quite difficult to write a review.
One thing I can say, though, is that it’s a very plot-driven book that deals with some mysterious deaths targeting, primarily, one of these Houses in a Paris ruled by fallen angels. Of course, there is politics involved as the Houses don’t really get along, but I think that part of the book could have been handled better. It was alright, but not something that got me deeply invested. The characters also weren’t the most compelling and were sacrificed a bit for the plot, and because of the writing, they appeared overly dramatic. The writing was actually the thing that bothered me the most, and I really didn’t expect that because I’ve heard so much praise for Bodard. She had this thing about writing hesitancies into everything, so there were a lot of ellipses and characters restarting sentences both when talking AND when thinking. It was the restarting sentences in their head that made the least amount of sense to me. Do people think in full sentences like how we read them in books? An example from the book is this: “He needed to – he needed to find the trance.” Notice how it’s not even written in first person, so please explain to me how this makes sense because it happened CONSTANTLY!
UnWholly (Unwind Dystology #2)
Author: Neal Shusterman
Published: August 28th, 2012
Genre: YA Science Fiction
This one started out great, and I was sure I was going to like it just as much as the first book in the series. It introduced a couple of new characters and I thought one of them was particularly interesting because I saw so many interesting ethical questions that could be explored through him. And the book did that but only partially. I think the last half of the book became more about giving this character a love story, which I could see the potential in, but it happened too fast.
I’m also quite curious to know whether this book was planned or if the first was meant to be a standalone. Sometimes I got the feeling that Shusterman was changing some plotlines so he could stretch them further. It wasn’t a huge problem, and again, I thought the first half did a good job of convincing me this book was a natural continuation as it developed the world further.
Finally, I was a bit disappointed with the plot and that’s after praising Shusterman’s plot twists in the first book. I think the several antagonists in this book got what they wanted a little too easily and it just didn’t feel all that realistic. Was it a bit rushed because this book had to set up plotlines for future books that the first one didn’t? Maybe.
The Book of Hidden Things
Author: Francesco Dimitri
Published: June 19th, 2018
Genre: Mystery/Magical Realism
Buzzwords: Southern Italy, high school friends meeting again, friendships between men
Synopsis: Four old school friends have a pact: to meet up every year in the small town in Puglia they grew up in. Art, the charismatic leader of the group and creator of the pact, insists that the agreement must remain unshakable and enduring. But this year, he never shows up.
A visit to his house increases the friends’ worry; Art is farming marijuana. In Southern Italy doing that kind of thing can be very dangerous. They can’t go to the Carabinieri so must make inquiries of their own. This is how they come across the rumors about Art; bizarre and unbelievable rumors that he miraculously cured the local mafia boss’s daughter of terminal leukemia. And among the chaos of his house, they find a document written by Art, The Book of Hidden Things, that promises to reveal dark secrets and wonders beyond anything previously known.
This book is hard to review because I’m so confused. Like, if I had to describe it, I would say this book is about four unlikeable characters who are friends and spend the book doing unlikeable things. However,… I’m not 100% sure they’re meant to be unlikeable. A part of me kept wondering whether the author was trying to show how they were flawed people but deep down they were good. And they’re not. They’re truly awful people, which I really like reading about, but since I had this constant doubt, I don’t think I was able to appreciate it fully.
The book also made me feel like I wasn’t the target audience, and that is because of my gender. I want to put this in the male equivalent of Chick Lit (is there a name for that?) because it was very sexual. Like, so many references to sex, even when I thought the topic couldn’t possibly have any relevance to sex, well, it did. And it’s all from a male perspective (yes, that means every single woman’s boobs are described). It didn’t make me hate the book, but I also don’t think it was necessary with that many sexual references, partly also because there is some slight misogyny in there as well which I ascribed to the characters being unlikeable. But again, ARE they unlikeable?
Still, this gets three stars from me because I really enjoyed the writing and the mystery plot was very engaging. The author is Italian and you can so tell. He really made me feel that southern Italian atmosphere, and he provided so many delicious food descriptions that I’ve now been craving Italian food for a week. But would I recommend the book? I really have no idea.
The God of Lost Words (Hell’s Library #3)
Author: A. J. Hackwith
Published: November 2nd, 2021
What the hell (pun unfortunately intended)? I’ve never hated an ending to a book more, and I was already considering a 2-star rating before I hit the final 100 pages. I can only say I’m absolutely fuming! How can this be the same author who wrote the first book in this trilogy, a book I gave 5 stars?
What happened before the ending wasn’t great either. First of all, it was all plot and no characters, and the plot was really bad. Nothing was set up. Everything happened out of nowhere and every problem the characters encountered was solved by some magic I hadn’t been introduced to and when it then happened, I was left wondering why they hadn’t solved the problem sooner. Why should I care about anything then? Oh, and the ending also did the classic “let’s keep information from a character and thereby the reader for no reason because that’s the only way to create an exciting scene”. Hackwith is really fond of that because she did it more than once.
Finally, something about the characters. I went into this book loving two characters deeply while tolerating another two. I now hate everyone. Like I said, there was no focus on the characters and I sorely missed the deep conversations between them from the first two books. Instead, I was just being told things, and apparently, that passed for “character growth”. I saw none of it acted out, and I felt a lot of it made most of what happened in books one and two completely irrelevant. For example, my two favorite characters go on a beautiful journey in book two, but all of that was completely disregarded in this third one, like Hackwith hoped that if she didn’t mention it, I would forget that it happened. I didn’t and I’m angry.
The Baker’s Secret
Author: Stephen P. Kiernan
Published: May 2nd, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
Buzzwords: World War II, French village, community
Synopsis: On June 5, 1944, as dawn rises over a small town on the Normandy coast of France, Emmanuelle is making the bread that has sustained her fellow villagers in the dark days since the Germans invaded her country.
Only twenty-two, Emma learned to bake at the side of a master, Ezra Kuchen, the village baker since before she was born. Apprenticed to Ezra at thirteen, Emma watched with shame and anger as her kind mentor was forced to wear the six-pointed yellow star on his clothing. She was likewise powerless to help when they pulled Ezra from his shop at gunpoint, the first of many villagers stolen away and never seen again.
But in the years that her sleepy coastal village has suffered under the enemy, Emma has silently, stealthily fought back. Each day, she receives an extra ration of flour to bake a dozen baguettes for the occupying troops. And each day, she mixes that precious flour with ground straw to create enough dough for two extra loaves—contraband bread she shares with the hungry villagers. Under the cold, watchful eyes of armed soldiers, she builds a clandestine network of barter and trade that she and the villagers use to thwart their occupiers.
But her gift to the village is more than these few crusty loaves. Emma gives the people a taste of hope—the faith that one day the Allies will arrive to save them.
It’s the kind of 4-star book where I have absolutely no reason for not giving it 5 stars other than it just didn’t feel like a 5-star book to me. Like, I’m probably not going to remember much about it a year from now but I promise that says more about me than the book. It’s actually quite an emotional book that explores how the people in this small French village try to survive the German occupation while it also gets very deep about what it means to survive. If you think you’ve read that kind of story before, I’ll say that I thought that too before going into it, but I still think it brings something new and added some perspectives on the war that I had to stop and think about for a second.
No 5-star books but I still want to mention The Baker’s Secret as my favorite of the month. June will be dedicated to Marvelathon, and my TBR is here if you missed it. There’s a poll in it where you can decide on one of the books I read in June, and so far, three books are tied so if you haven’t voted, please help me out so I don’t have to read all three. And while you’re here, tell me how your May was. What was your favorite book of the month?