Hello and Happy Last Day of March! You know what that means – time for another monthly book review!
I read four books this month and they were about as varied as it gets: fantasy/romance, domestic thriller, biography of a Founding Father, and a sourcebook for eco-conscious living. It was an unusual mix for sure! Let’s dive in.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
As an orphan and a witch, Mika is very used to being on her own. Apart from a rare gathering with other witches here and there, she mostly keeps to herself and moves around a lot. Then one day, a mysterious invitation is sent to her: there are three young witches in need of training in a house in the English countryside. Would Mika consider coming to be their teacher? Intrigued, she arrives at Nowhere House where she finds an eclectic bunch of unrelated people who have formed their own little family within the safe haven of the estate. It’s possibly reckless and dangerous to have so many witches living in one spot, but Mika can’t help but feel like she’s finally found a place to belong…even if there are a few people who don’t seem entirely welcoming (like the handsome but cranky librarian, Jamie).
My library always has a little display of books based on a theme and during February there were a variety of love stories. I saw this one on display, thought the cover was cute, and decided to check it out. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for the book kind of dwindled from there. I found this one hard to get into, and I couldn’t get invested in the characters or the conflict. To be completely honest, the writing felt simplistic and tried too hard; it was fairly tame and sweet and then would have a random swear word or sexual reference that felt really jarring. The lone steamy scene felt weird and out of place, particularly because Mika and Jamie did not have very believable chemistry. Their sunshine-meets-grumpy dynamic felt forced to me and I cringed through a lot of their interactions. I liked the idea of the diverse, quirky cast of characters, but none of them had much depth and I found myself wishing for a lot more character development. I don’t mean to bash this book – it was a Goodreads Choice Awards for Fantasy in 2022 so apparently a lot of people like it! I think if you’re in the mood for a cutesy, if predictable, story that has a magical cottagecore vibe and doesn’t require a lot of effort, you might like this one. It was just a big miss for me. [Here’s an example of how reading is so subjective: This book, which I did not at all enjoy, has a higher Goodreads rating than Love at First, which I read last month and adored so much that it made my top recommendations list. Not every book is going to resonate with every reader so take all reviews, mine included, with a grain of salt].
Watching You by Lisa Jewell
From Goodreads: Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighbourhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you.
Ooopph – a description like that sucked me right in! This book is a rotating-narrator look at the people in a neighborhood: Tom, the handsome headmaster of the local school who everyone seems infatuated by, Jenna, the teenaged girl who doesn’t trust him or the ramblings of her paranoid mother, Joey, the lonely woman who recently got married but is unsatisfied with her life, and Freddie, Tom’s son who keeps track of it all through secret photos and spying. I loved this one! It was twisty, turny, compulsive, and binge-worthy. I could not put it down! The pace was perfect: just when I felt like we had been going off of unanswered questions too long and felt the need for dots to start connecting, revelations started happening. My brain was swirling around various possibilities and while I did guess some of the twists (and the killer!) in advance, there were plenty of twists that I did not see coming. There is a strong believability factor in this book, which makes it a great domestic thriller – you can just imagine a neighborhood like this where people are watching each other’s comings and goings. It wasn’t jumpy or gory so it’s an excellent choice in thriller if you don’t like actually being scared while reading. I highly recommend!
The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams by Stacy Schiff
This biography was chosen by an online book club I’m a part of and while I do really enjoy history and learning about important people and events, this is probably not a book I would have chosen on my own. That being said, I am glad I read it! It’s FULL of information about Samuel Adams and before this I knew nothing. Now that I know just how much he contributed to the Revolutionary War, I’m actually shocked that the only thing I knew before reading was his name (and honestly, I really only knew that because of the beer company). I found it fascinating to see how Adams contributed to the ideas that led to mindset shifts and ultimately led to revolution – without his efforts I truly think things would have looked totally different. He was an absolutely critical Founding Father! As much as I did gain from reading, I also have to say this book was a hard read. The vocabulary is high-level, the sentences are long and intricate, and I found myself having to reread paragraphs to be able to understand. It’s definitely a more challenging read than other biographies I’ve read so just be aware of that if you’re interested in reading it.
Remodelista: The Low Impact Home: A Sourcebook for Stylish, Eco-Conscious Living by Margot Guralnick & Fan Winston
From Goodreads: Low-impact living is about making thoughtful, eco-friendly choices in your home. But being sustainable doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. That’s where Remodelista comes in. In this comprehensive guide, they decode the secrets to creating a home that’s good for the planet—and totally livable.
This was another book I saw on display at my local library and I was immediately intrigued. I spent the next couple weeks casually reading section by section when I had some leisure time here and there. I really enjoyed flipping through and got lots of inspiration! I will say, the actual interiors weren’t as inspiring to me as the tips and suggestions for more eco-conscious living, but I took lots of notes on things that interested me as I was reading and I have many things I want to implement within my own home over time. If you’ve been here awhile, you likely know that sustainability is very important to me and I found this book to have TONS of good information. I actually want to have my own copy as something to refer back to and use as a sourcebook in the future so I’ll be on the lookout for a secondhand copy 😉 If you’re interested in sustainable living, this is a great resource!
What have you been reading lately?