Book Of The Month is a subscription service that sends you one hardcover book per month out of five selections for a low monthly subscription fee. You can add 2 more titles to your monthly delivery for $9.99 each, and the price overall is very cheap for full-size hardcovers.
Book Of The Month is not paying me to promote their service. I just love it so much that I’ve turned my monthly deliveries into a feature on my blog 🙂 I do encourage you to try it though, because if you like hardcovers it’s a great deal.
You can use my referral link to sign up if you’re interested in trying it. You’ll get your first three months for just $9.99 each plus a cute tote. And I’ll get a free book when you join. Win, win!
When it comes to my April 2017 Book Of The Month selections, I enjoyed all 3, though I thought The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Into The Water by Paula Hawkins were more solid picks than Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane. Find out why in my review below! And don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a brand new copy of The Nightingale on Instagram and Twitter!
The Nightingale By Kristin Hannah Giveaway
When I ordered The Nightingale from Book Of The Month, I forgot that I already owned it on Kindle. My mistake is your gain, however, as I’ll be giving away my brand new hardcover copy of the book to one of you (only open to U.S. residents).
The giveaway will run through the end of the day on Sunday August 6th 2017. You can enter in one of three ways (or all three if you’d like to maximize your chances):
- Follow my blog on WordPress and leave a comment on this post.
- Follow me on Instagram and leave a comment on my Instagram giveaway post.
- Follow me on Twitter and retweet my Twitter giveaway post pinned to the top of my Twitter page.
Terms and conditions are included at the end of this post.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Publication Date: February 3rd 2015
Published By: Sr. Martin’s Press
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. When the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.
As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.
What I Liked
Two strong female protagonists. The character of Isabelle or The Nightingale in the novel is based on an actual historical figure – a Belgian woman named Andrée de Jongh – who showed incredible courage during World War II. I won’t provide any plot spoilers and I suggest you don’t look up Andrée de Jongh’s feats until after you read the book for this very reason. The author could have chosen to make Isabelle’s sister’s character Vianne a foil to Isabelle’s bravery, having Vianne react more helplessly and passively to the war and to German occupation of France. Instead, Vianne is portrayed in many ways as just as courageous as her sister, though the difficulties she faces during the war are not of scope to get their own Wikipedia page. There’s definitely a trend for strong female protagonists in historical fiction (Dinah Jefferies‘ books come to mind), but I found the characters of Vianne and Isabelle in this novel to be particularly well developed and especially inspiring with their steadfastness and determination in the face of unimaginable risk.
The pace and abundance of action. A lot happens in this novel and I was tearing through the pages to see what new story line, historical development or predicament the characters might find themselves in next. The first few chapters set up Vianne and Isabelle’s relationship as well as Isabelle’s relationship to her father before the war, and they’re a slower introduction to how the pace of the book feels overall. Once the German invasion starts, the action really gets going, from bombings, subterfuges, violent scenes involving the main characters and others, hiding places, hikes in the night across territorial borders, romance, and one act of bravery after the other. Even among this abundance of events, the author is able to expertly paint scenes of everyday life in a small village during the German occupation of France through Vianne and Isabelle’s experiences as they try to keep their family fed on rations and cope with the presence of the Germans in their home. Overall, I felt that the plot was really captivating and exciting while not losing its authentic human element.
What I Didn’t Like
The cheesy romance novel parts. There’s something about historical fiction novels – even when they depict really strong independent women like Vianne and Isabelle – and the need to include a cheesy romantic story line for every woman significantly involved in the narrative. Isabelle is an unbelievably courageous and headstrong figure, but apparently the author thought the incredible and inspiring story of her life would not be interesting enough without throwing a tortured love attachment in the mix. There may be very slight spoilers in the next part, so you can stop reading now if you prefer. I wonder why there is a need to subject every heroine to gritty love scenes in the woods and to the attentions of some male character who is shown to be even braver than the central heroine herself. In times of war, wouldn’t you think that someone like Isabelle, with everything she was trying to accomplish, would not have had time to worry about her love life? And if these romantic story lines must be included at all costs, could they at least be better written, so I don’t have to cringe at them?
Action-packed and well-written historical fiction novel based on an inspiring true story, with two incredibly brave and steadfast female protagonists.
Into The Water by Paula Hawkins
Publication Date: May 2nd 2017
Published By: Riverhead Books
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return. Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present. Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.
What I Liked
A page turner with plenty of plot twists. I feel like every chapter of this book makes the reader focus on a new character as the potential culprit of the death that is at the center of the plot – at least for the first half of the novel. As I was reading it, I kept gasping inwardly at the rapid change of suspects and the twists the plot took quickly from one potential explanation to the next. The author dribbles little bits of evidence slowly to her readers, so that what you believe may be true at the beginning of the novel turns out to be very far from what actually happened. I wouldn’t say any of the plot twists are huge and incredibly surprising – they’re interwoven more subtly into the narrative and coupled with the reader slowly gaining more knowledge of each character, so that eventually a complete picture starts to form. I would say by about halfway or two thirds into the book, the plot twists start to thin out and most readers should be able to guess the direction in which the plot is going. Because of Hawkins’ writing and how she gets you invested in her characters, you’ll still want to read on and find out for sure.
The supernatural and historical elements. I was reading Into The Water on a sunny day at the beach, so not exactly a suggestive backdrop for the book itself. Despite this, I still found the novel pretty creepy. I thought the author did a really great job of setting the scene in a small suburban town with this river at its center, drawing historical stories of past witch drownings that occurred in the area into the narrative to add a supernatural element to the modern day story line. I particularly liked the way in which the author inserted chapters that were written from the point of view of the victims of the town’s river – whether accused witches in past centuries or recent casualties – into the narrative. It made me feel, as a reader, that I was living the last days or weeks of their lives with these women, before they were sacrificed or sacrificed themselves. Water is obviously central to the plot and when she writes of the pull of the water on the women of the area, Paula Hawkins turns the water of the river into a character itself – like a demon in elemental form who is trying to lure souls to perdition. There still are flesh and blood bad guys in the story, so don’t worry – it’s not a fantasy novel cloaked in the guise of a crime thriller.
What I Didn’t Like
A couple small things. There was nothing I found really problematic in this book that was central to its execution, so instead I’m going to discuss two small ways in which I think the novel could have been even better. There were a couple times in which I thought small plot elements felt improbable, to the point that I made a note of it at the side of the margin. None of these instances were part of the central plot of the book, so they were pretty easy to overlook, but I still noticed them and they were still slightly distracting. I also wish that Hawkins had integrated the historical stories of the witch drownings that had occurred in the area even more into the narrative. They’re presented as secondary narratives that add to the overall creepiness of the river and setting, but if they had somehow been further enmeshed in the lives of the characters I think it would have made the book even more special among a plethora of crime thriller offerings.
Expertly written and creepy crime thriller that stands above the crowd of similar books being released at the moment, due to the solidity of the narrative and its suggestive setting.
Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
Publication Date: May 9th 2017
Published By: Ecco
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
Since We Fell follows Rachel Childs, a former journalist who, after an on-air mental breakdown, now lives as a virtual shut-in. In all other respects, however, she enjoys an ideal life with an ideal husband. Until a chance encounter on a rainy afternoon causes that ideal life to fray. As does Rachel’s marriage. As does Rachel herself.
Sucked into a conspiracy thick with deception, violence, and possibly madness, Rachel must find the strength within herself to conquer unimaginable fears and mind-altering truths. By turns heart- breaking, suspenseful, romantic, and sophisticated, Since We Fell is a novel of profound psychological insight and tension. It is Dennis Lehane at his very best.
What I Liked
The beginning. In the first 50 to 100 pages of this novel, I was convinced I would end up loving it. Lehane’s initial writing style was at the level of complex literary fiction rather than the action-packed crime thriller I was initially expecting. I’ve read other reviews in which some readers have mentioned they found the first half of the book slow. However, I actually enjoyed the extensive time Lehane dedicated in this first section to developing the character of his protagonist Rachel and her relationship first to her mother and then to the men in her life. The beauty and fluidity of the writing and the interesting delve into the main character’s past made me progress quickly from chapter to chapter. When the tone of the novel started changing from character exploration to actual crime thriller about one third of the way into the book, I initially really appreciated the contrast between the two. It was as if Lehane had decided to expertly lull his readers into a state of complacency before shocking them by starting to introduce major plot twists and making them wonder about principal characters in the narrative.
What I Didn’t Like
The second half. Once I got about two thirds into the book, the action really started to ramp up. Unfortunately, the quality of the writing and the construction of the plot did not hold up to this shift. I found that the dialogue between Lehane’s characters became progressively more cheesy and inauthentic as I neared the final chapters of the book. It was honestly bad enough to be grating and make me have to push myself to finish with only a few chapters to go. In combination with the degeneration in the quality of the dialogue, the plot of the novel also pretty much went off the rails. A lot of the decisions made by the main characters from the second half of the book onward were just not believable, and many of the circumstances which surrounded the central crime plot of the book were improbable at best. You really had to suspend disbelief to go along with the author’s narrative choices, and there was nothing nuanced, subtle or realistic about the crime story line which is the central focus of the novel.
The male point of view. I seem to be having an issue with female portrayals by male authors recently. I had the same problem – though involving a very different kind of novel – with Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. Though dealing with completely different topics and time periods, both male authors of these two recent reads of mine just really missed the marked in terms of trying to portray women’s thoughts, actions and reactions accurately. It was particularly jarring in the case of Since We Fell, because Lehane really seemed to be representing Rachel’s characters in a way that felt pretty authentic in the first half of the novel. By the time the actual crime thriller plot gets going, however, Lehane falls into the same trap of García Márquez by portraying Rachel as completely focused on the man in her life to the detriment of her own safety, basic logic and certainly a healthy feeling of self worth. It gets to the point that Lehane has Rachel sexually fantasizing about this male character at a time in the narrative when to any woman this is going to seem highly unlikely and honestly comes off as really bad romance novel material.
I was torn between a 2 or 3 rabbit rating for this book. If I did half rabbits, I would give it 2.5 rabbits. It was definitely a disjointed read which started off very promising before degenerating into bad action movie/romance novel territory.
Have you read The Nightingale, Into The Water or Since We Fell? What did you think of them? Do you agree with my ratings? Let me know in the comments.
If you want to read my previous reviews for my Book Of The Month deliveries here are links to my April 2017, March 2017, February 2017, January 2017, December 2016, November 2016, October 2016 and September 2016 posts.
Here’s an image from my Instagram of my May 2017 Book Of The Month selections.
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