Monthly Book Review - May
I found some stellar books in May, from time travel to a dystopian series called the Gender Game, which is described as like Hunger Games or Divergent. I’ll also admit why I’m critical of a best-selling historical fiction novel that I should have liked way more than I did and gush about two titles by Angie Stanton.
I happened up on the Gender Game series by Bella Forrest via a Facebook ad. You’ve all seen them. They proclaim similarities to other popular series and attempt to draw us in. This one worked on me! The ad claims that this series is for those who liked the Hunger Games and Divergent series. There are a lot of elements that are similar to those books but plenty of differences that allow this to not feel like a repeat of either of those two storylines. The premise is that the world has been split into two distinct countries . . . Matrus, where women rule and Patrus, where men rule. A toxic river divides the two countries. Violet Bates, the main character, navigates this increasingly dangerous world with the goal to find her brother. The political machinations necessary in both countries in order to keep their respective citizens in line is wonderfully manipulative, making you wonder who is trustworthy and who is not. This is a seven-book series and I’ve only read the first three, which were all very good and acceptable for ages 12 and up. This series is complete and great for binge reading! I am already plotting my reading time to get to the remaining four books.
Here's the blub for Book One. We'll see if it hooks you like it did me.
A toxic river divides nineteen-year-old Violet Bates's world by gender. Women rule the East. Men rule the West.
Welcome to the lands of Matrus and Patrus.
Ever since the disappearance of her beloved younger brother, Violet's life has been consumed by an anger she struggles to control. Already a prisoner to her own nation, now she has been sentenced to death for her crimes.
But one decision could save her life.
To enter the kingdom of Patrus, where men rule and women submit.
Everything about the patriarchy is dangerous for a rebellious girl like Violet. She cannot break the rules if she wishes to stay alive.
But abiding by rules has never been Violet's strong suit.
When she's thrust into more danger than she could have ever predicted, Violet is forced to sacrifice many things in the forbidden kingdom ... including forbidden love.
In a world divided by gender, only the strongest survive...
Switching gears completely, I splurged and purchased a brand-new hard cover that has recently graced the New York Times best-seller list for a few weeks, The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. I wasn’t a huge fan and I am obviously in the minority because a whole lot of other readers loved this book. It was a well-written story and the premise is incredibly intriguing, but I think I really wanted this to be a true story and, of course, I knew it was fiction. I’ve just read so many compelling true-life stories and biographies of WWII that it made me wish for a real account of women of the resistance who had to pick up their lives in post-WWII Germany—that is if they were fortunate enough to have survived the war.
Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined—an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.
Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.
First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.
As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges.
Finally, I have to gush a bit over Angie Stanton’s latest novel, Waking in Time. This story set on the UW-Madison campus lets us travel into different eras as the main character uncontrollably time jumps into the past. As she tries to unravel the reasons for her inexplicable time travel and return to her proper time, we’re introduced to a fun cast of characters along with references to historical events, dress, customs, and fads. An enjoyable read for teens on up!
Still mourning the loss of her beloved grandmother and shaken by her mysterious, dying request, Abbi has just arrived at UW Madison for her freshman year. But on her second day, she wakes up to a different world: 1983. That is just the first stop on Abbi's journey backward through time. Will is a charming college freshman from 1927 who travels forward through time. When Abbi and Will meet in the middle, love adds another complication to their lives. Communicating across time through a buried time capsule, they try to decode the mystery of their travel, find a lost baby, and plead with their champion, a kindly physics professor, to help them find each other again ... even though the professor is younger each time Abbi meets him. This page-turning story full of romance, twists, and delightful details about campus life then and now will stay with readers long after the book's satisfying end.
I also read one of Stanton’s earlier books, Love ‘em or Leave ‘em. This was a delightful story about a young woman who does a favor for a friend and fills in for a cast member on dating show, certain she’ll be sent home nearly immediately but, of course, that doesn’t happen. Great summer reading with any of Stanton’s novels.
Ashley Reynolds, who hates even having her picture taken, lands herself smack in the middle of a reality television dating show. She finds herself surrounded by glamour girls and pageant queens all vying for a date with the smokin hot bachelor. Ashley's plan, to fly under the radar and get sent home early, falters when she soon discovers a knack for drawing unwanted attention her way. Bad boy quarterback Luke Townsend thought choosing between 25 stunning women would be a dream come true. How wrong he was! Luke's patience is tried by the wiles of the charmers and the persistence of the camera crews. It doesn't take long for him to realize, however, that the one girl trying the hardest to get off the show is the one who most intrigues him.
I read a couple of other novels that I picked up for free or on a .99 sale via BookBub.
North Haven by Sarah Moriarty – I give this one a solid four-star rating. Siblings reconnect after the death of their mother at their island summer home and have to navigate their relationships without the family matriarch and the pending decision to sell the property or not.
All the Lies We Tell by Megan Hart – (Quarry Road Series Book One) This was a three-star for me. I just never connected with the characters enough to consider reading on in the series. Others may feel differently.
What have you all been reading lately? Do you binge on series, too?
June is stacking up to be a great reading month, too!