I eliminated only two titles from my TBR list over the past two months—a poor effort considering how much I read. The library is to blame. Nearly every book I put on hold over the past six months arrived on my Kindle all at once, and I had to read like the wind to keep up.
I read a lot of great stuff, though. July has probably been my most fun reading month yet.
Mount TBR Reads
The Absolutist by John Boyne
I have to prepare myself for a John Boyne book. Boyne is in the same club as Kazuo Ishiguro. I know I will enjoy the read, but I want to make sure I’m emotionally ready. You’re never really for a book like The Absolutist, though.
The story is heartbreaking. Definitely one of Boyne’s better novels. I also appreciated the symmetry of the title. The novel names Will the absolutist, but Tristan also embodies the label in an entirely different way. Finally, although Boyne presents Tristan as the ultimate coward, his choices regarding Tristan’s character are anything but cowardly. It made for an interesting dichotomy.
In case I haven’t made myself clear—this is a very good book. 😊
A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
I kept putting off reading this because I thought it would be more complicated. I’d heard the politics rivaled A Game of Thrones. It is most definitely a novel about politics, and there are factions to keep track of, but there is not a vast, continent-spanning cast of characters.
In my opinion, it’s a very well-put-together novel. I can absolutely understand why it won a Hugo award, and I look forward to reading the sequel. I expected a stronger emotional punch, though. I felt what I was supposed to feel during certain events but wanted a deeper investment. I hope that will come as the series continues.
Other Great Reads
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Project Hail Mary is one of those reads where five stars are not enough. The story hit all the right notes, and the ending was even better than I could have anticipated. The science and disasters did get a little tedious in the latter third, but I remained engaged enough to stick with the story, knowing I could trust it all to work out.
Razorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Two fathers, one black, one white, set out to avenge the deaths of their sons—who were married. Neither of them was comfortable having a gay son, but they’re even less enchanted with their sons’ deaths.
As with Cosby’s last novel, Blacktop Wasteland, this is as much an exploration of the culture of rural Virginia as it is a mystery wrapped inside a thriller. Both are great reads, but Razorblade Tears has edgy humor to it that balances the darker themes. I liked it very, very much.
Set My Heart to Five by Simon Stephenson
Calling all Murderbot fans! Set My Heart to Five is cuter and sweeter but has all the dry humor I would expect from a book about a sentient robot. Briefly, the book tells the story of Jared, a robot dentist who has no desire to be more until one day he notices an odd set of digits in his number cloud. Working out what it means sets him on the path to discovering his emotions—which he’s not supposed to have. Armed with an emotional wheel, Jared heads to Hollywood to write a movie about robots with feelings, hoping to convince humanity that he is not dangerous. I laughed, cried, and enjoyed every minute of this story.
Not Pretending Anymore and Hate Notes by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland
This writing duo is fast becoming my go-to for contemporary romance. Their books feature all the story I’m looking for with added humor and so much heart. I always feel so damn satisfied after turning the last page. I’m glad I wasn’t driving while I listened to the epilogue of Hate Notes. So incredibly moving and just the best.
Well Fed (Mountain Man #4) by Keith Blackmore
A great cap to the series. I loved the ending. The only slightly off note about this book for me (and it feels slight because there was so much goodness, including Wallace and Collie) was the number of times Gus passed out or proved ineffectual. He was badass in the first half of the book, single-handedly destroying Mortimer. Then when Collie showed up, he seemed to lose his nerve. Having read that this problem is even worse in the next book, I have decided to end the series here, leaving the characters in a good place.
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