Well, I failed. Of the three remaining books I had for review, I only managed one. But there were just so many other books to read this month!
I can’t stop raving about Cara McKenna’s After Hours. I heart this book so damn hard. Erin’s taken a job on the locked ward of a mental hospital because it’s the only job she could find within an hour’s drive of her drama-prone younger sister. Said sister leans toward men of questionable worth, men who are big and brawny and more than a little mean. So when she meets Kelly, a big, brawny, slightly menacing orderly on the ward, she does everything she can to ignore the crackling attraction they share. But it’s not long before he talks her into bed, and, well, let’s just say their relationship isn’t smooth sailing. And that’s why I loved this book as much as I did. These characters felt so real. The obstacles they throw up against each other aren’t easily surmounted, and trust is hard earned and easily broken. The setting of a rural Michigan hit hard by the Great Recession colors the tone of this story: if you’re looking for hearts and flowers and rainbows, look elsewhere. What you get in After Hours is a story that could be anyone’s, and the realism of it ripples and echoes long after you’ve stopped reading.
I’d been eagerly awaiting Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead for months. The world we know was destroyed by religious fanatics, and replaced by a society that, by and large, doesn’t believe in any god. Mae, a praetorian (super strong, super fast soldier) has been assigned to bodyguard duty. Servitor Justin’s been brought back from exile to investigate a series of ritual murders. Mayhem, doubt, lust, and complications galore twist this story into a complex mystery with a strong dash of desire. Mead’s worldbuilding is phenomenal, and the way she weaves together the different mythologies and religions is tight and deftly layered. The mystery at the heart of the story is a juicy one, with false leads and tangents that kept me guessing. But while I enjoyed the book, and I’m looking forward to the next one, I often forgot this was a Richelle Mead book. It felt like there was something missing. I’m just not sure what. That’s not to say you shouldn’t read it; you should. You definitely should. (Releases June 4th)
Lucia Perillo’s Happiness is a Chemical in the Brain was sitting on a table of new releases in the front of Elliot Bay Book Company when I happened to wander in some time last year. When I walked out without buying it, I immediately regretted it, and called the store to get the title. This collection of short stories was an oft-welcome break from all the books I’d been reading for review in recent weeks. Perfect little fiction nuggets, bite-sized literary prose, although, like Junot Diaz’s Drown, I didn’t feel compelled to race through the pages to get to the end. And that’s just fine. Sometimes we need to take the time to savor our words, rather than devour them in a shower of cookie crumbs.
The Boy in the Suitcase by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis was a book that came home from the library once before, and I had to return it, unread. This time, when I put it back in my hold queue, I was determined to read it. I almost gave up, about fifty pages in, though. While the main story is clear (Nina, at the behest of a friend, goes to retrieve a suitcase and discovers a young boy has been drugged and squished into said suitcase), the problem was with the multiple points of view. We have Nina, our heroine, and Sigita, Jan, and Jucas. Eventually, you begin to see how these different narratives intertwine to give you a twisty and zig-zaggy mystery, but it’s not an approach I particularly liked. It was tempting to put the book down within the first few chapters because it’s hard to see how the conclusion will be reached by the end-and it’s not a long book.
Not satisfied with my recommendations? Blogger Anne Theriault recently posted over on Huffington Post a list of “desert island” books. I was surprised to find I’d actually read quite a few of them (for some reason, these lists always have tons of classic literature I’ve never read and probably never will). My pick from the list: Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you do. I mean, c’mon. There’s a giant talking cat named Behemoth. How can you not want to read it?