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!
My July selections for Book Of The Month were all pretty different from each other. Two were technically thrillers, but diametrically opposite in terms of what the genre can encompass. Dark Matter ended up being by far my favorite out of the three titles, and it’s definitely in my Top 5 Book Of The Month reads to date (idea for a new post once I’ve caught up with my BOTM reviews?). Shrill was funny and thought-provoking but felt like an anthology of articles more than anything, and I struggled with whether to give Final Girls 2 or 3 stars (before settling on 3). Read my reviews to find out why.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Publication Date: July 26th 2016
Published By: Crown
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
“Are you happy with your life?” Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious. Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits. Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.” In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
What I Liked
The suspense. This book was a RIDE. I had read many positive reviews of it online before selecting it and had also had it recommended to me in person, but I still wasn’t sure if the sci-fi elements of the thriller would work for me. They definitely did. The book is so precisely crafted and expertly written that you feel that even amidst the crazy action taking place on nearly every page, the author has thought through all the possible ramifications. There are no plot holes, no improbable twists, despite the the fact that you’re dealing with story lines that are futuristic and technologically implausible today. The book starts with a rather mundane setting and an everyday set of circumstances, before sling-shooting the reader into alternate realities including mind-bending scenarios and existential quandaries. The last three fourths of the book are a tour-de-force of building tension that will barely let you take a breath and regroup, but I loved every minute of it.
The science. I’m no quantum physicist and am not educated on the most recent science when it comes to parallel universes. I do love science in general and enjoy some sci-fi content (from TV shows, to movies, and now novels as well), but I’m by no means a sci-fi buff. I wasn’t sure if the whole multiverse thing was going to work for me from a believability perspective. I think that Crouch does a masterful job of introducing us to the science behind his plot, however, without bogging the reader down with an overdose of information. You end up with all the details you need to follow Crouch’s protagonist on his adventure, and whatever confusion is left over about what may actually be happening is of the good kind that leaves you wanting to learn more and figure the mystery out. This book does get a little trippy and a couple times you have to step back and just let the action occur without thinking about the scientific mechanics of it too much. However, Dark Matter It’s definitely one of the books I’ve read to date that is most successful in melding futuristic, complex science with a thoroughly frightening and believable plot.
The protagonist. I think I’m naturally drawn to reading books with female protagonists, because it’s just so much easier for me to relate to them. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to connect and understand Crouch’s male protagonist as much as I would have a female one. This book is in essence based on existential questions, however, that are common to all human beings – Who are we? Where do we come from? What’s the meaning of life? Where do we belong? Because the thriller is so rooted in these fundamental dilemmas, the reader feels instantly invested in Jason’s story and pulled at a gut-level to care about the outcome. Just as soon as you’ve connected with Jason and decided that he’s the hero you’re rooting for, Crouch throws a wrench into that connection by building even more uncertainty into the plot, almost as if as a reader you’ve been shoved into a house of mirrors and no longer know up from down or left from right. No spoilers but it’s breathtaking and you’ll definitely want to experience it for yourself.
What I Didn’t Like
Nothing. Honestly, I thought this book was P-E-R-F-E-C-T. And now I’m looking for recommendations of what my next Blake Crouch title should be. Fingers crossed that they’re all this good.
A crazy ride through different realities amidst futuristic science and mind-bending action, that still connects the reader to the existential questions that are at the basis of human experience. Unmissable.
Shrill: Notes For A Loud Woman by Lindy West
Publication Date: May 17th 2016
Published By: Hachette
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.
With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss–and walk away laughing. Shrillprovocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.
What I Liked
It’s funny. This memoir had me chuckling to myself at times, and then at other times even literally laughing out loud. Rather than write a paragraph about how funny the book was, I thought I’d just leave a few quotes here for your enjoyment.
“Feminism is really just the long slow realization that the things you love hate you.”
“Every human being is a wet, gassy katamari of triumphs, traumas, scars, coping mechanisms, parental baggage, weird stuff you saw on the Internet too young, pressure from your grandma to take over the bodega when what you really want to do is dance, and all the other fertilizer that makes a smear of DNA grow into a fully formed toxic avenger.”
“If you’re the very luckiest kind of astronaut ever, your big payoff is that you get to visit a barren airless wasteland for five minutes, do some more math, and then go home—ice cream not guaranteed.”
It’s relatable. When West is able to connect her life experiences successfully with a more theoretical discussion of the sexism, fatphobia, and bullying she’s experienced as a woman in her life, her writing provides a very lucid view of what’s wrong with the way in which women are still treated in our society today. As a woman myself who has experienced many of the same social pressures, acts of subtle and not so subtle discrimination and impossible standards of perfection to which women are subjected, I often felt like yelling out AMEN after each of West’s most poignant passages. West has a knack for phrasing the injustices that women have to deal with in a very clear and satisfying manner, making the average woman feel that she’s speaking for all of us. This is West’s writing at its best, when she’s able to effectively tap into that wider current of discontent and frustration to which all women can also feel connected. An example below of a passage that made me feel like West was hitting the nail on the head.
“When you raise every woman to believe that we are insignificant, that we are broken, that we are sick, that the only cure is starvation and restraint and smallness; when you pit women against one another, keep us shackled by shame and hunger, obsessing over our flaws rather than our power and potential; when you leverage all of that to sap our money and our time—that moves the rudder of the world. It steers humanity toward conservatism and walls and the narrow interests of men, and it keeps us adrift in waters where women’s safety and humanity are secondary to men’s pleasure and convenience.”
What I Didn’t Like
It lacked structure and sometimes felt preachy. West is first of all a journalist, and her memoir feels like a set of essays or articles more than a cohesive narrative. Some of the chapters of the book are not consecutive in chronology and it felt disjointed to have to jump back and forth both through time and very different topics. I also felt that sometimes West claimed the moral high ground in her stories without reflecting on her own often inappropriate or misguided actions that definitely contributed to some of the questionable situations in which she found herself. I’m not trying to victim-blame – West was absolutely the victim of sexism, bullying and online trolling – but she’s also far from a perfect human being in her actions and doesn’t seem to have any valid perspective on that. The book tends to feel like a collection of funny or sad or disturbing stories from someone’s life that the author sometimes is able to really successfully connect to a larger discourse and sometimes is not.
Funny, thought-provoking memoir about a specific kind of female experience that often effectively reconnects to larger themes of sexism, fat-shaming and violence against women experienced by all women alike.
Final Girls by Riley Sager
Publication Date: July 11th 2017
Published By: Dutton
Plot Teaser (from Goodreads)
Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him.
Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.
What I Liked
The premise. Call me morbid, but I’m a sucker for anything having to do with serial killers. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I find extreme life-circumstances yes, horrifying, as I’m supposed to, but also fascinating, because they get at the crux of human experience. After reading several positive reviews of Finals Girls and learning that the story had to do with women who had survived killing sprees by serial killers, I decided that it would be one of the thrillers I would read out of the bigillion coming out these days. Unfortunately, the execution just doesn’t live up to the premise, and once I thought about it more, I realized that the premise itself was flawed. First of all, it’s hard to believe that only three women qualified as Final Girls in the United States (a claim made in the book) considering the rate of violence in this country. Also, it just felt really contrived to slot these three women into a weird high-school like club and have the media and society in general so on board with this artificial construct. Unfortunately, I went from feeling excited about the premise to rolling my eyes at it.
What I Didn’t Like
The plot. You’ll see that I’ve given this book 3 stars but that the review is structured as a negative one (with one part good to two parts bad). That’s because I was torn between a 2 or a 3 star rating, but decided to go with 3 since I felt that though I didn’t like the thriller, it would likely be more palatable to other readers. There were definitely parts of the plot of this thriller that worked – some twists that did feel like they came out of nowhere and took you by surprise, but also unfortunately others that you could see coming from a mile away and that felt cheesy as hell. The action was halting, with some parts of the book that felt really slow and uninteresting, and then others in which the characters’ haphazard decisions felt improbable at best. The ending in particular was predictable and also melodramatic in a way that had me rolling my eyes (again) hard. Sometimes I felt a little shiver of fear going into certain scenes that felt closer to what you should actually feel reading a thriller, but most of the time unfortunately the plot did not succeed for me.
The poorly developed characters. Let me just lay it down for you. I did not like or connect with any of Sager’s characters. The protagonist in particular – Quincy – was dull as paint. The efforts on the author’s part to make her more human – by giving her a cold mother, a conflicted romance with her boyfriend, a weird relationship with the cop that saved her, and a very very weird and apropos of nothing obsession with baking – did nothing to animate her into a flesh-and-blood figure I could care about. I was wondering why Sager’s female primary characters fell so flat, and then I realized that Riley Sager is a pseudonym to make a male author (Todd Ritter) appear female to potential readers of his female-targeted thriller. I respect the game, but suddenly it became very clear to me why Sager’s characters were not working. There are some male authors that are able to produce relatable, realistic and sympathetic female protagonists, but Sager is not one of them. His main character unfortunately reads like a one-dimensional romance novel heroine plopped into a thriller.
A simple thriller that may work for some fans of the genre, but suffers from superficial plot devices and a lack of character development.
Have you read Dark Matter, Shrill or Final Girls? 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 June 2017, May 2017, 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 July 2017 Book Of The Month picks.
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