I read a lot more books than I review.
There are many reasons I choose not to talk about a book on this blog.
Time is the obvious one. I read seventy-seven books last year; even if I did this full-time, I couldn’t write that many reviews.
Another might be that I didn’t enjoy the book. With a few exceptions, like my review of Die for Me, I rarely discuss books I didn’t enjoy or ones that disappointed me.
In this post, I want to talk about five (fairly) recent books I did enjoy but decided not to review.
From the day that old Nana Reja found a baby abandoned under a bridge, the life of a small Mexican town forever changed. Disfigured and covered in a blanket of bees, little Simonopio is for some locals the stuff of superstition, a child kissed by the devil.
Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable.
This was a lovely book and the first of Mexican author Sofia Segovia’s novels to be translated into English.
I loved the world and the sense of hidden mysteries the author managed to build. I definitely think this book is worth reading, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.
The reason I did not review this book is that I feel I would be repeating myself. Despite the non-European setting, this book is similar to Sarah Perry’s, The Essex Serpent and Bridget Collins, The Binding both of which I’ve reviewed.
In terms of story, they are all original. But, they share a similar writing style, narrative structure, and a historical setting.
Although I genuinely enjoyed The Murmur of Bees, I felt a review would be a rehash; I didn’t have anything to say about this book that I hadn’t already said before.
However, if you love historical fiction with a little bit of sparkle or otherworldly mystery, The Murmur of Bees is lovely.
Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. What would happen to an astronaut’s body if it were pushed out of a space shuttle? Do people poop when they die? Can Grandma have a Viking funeral?
In, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? Doughty blends her mortician’s knowledge of the body and the intriguing history behind common misconceptions about corpses to offer factual, hilarious, and candid answers to thirty-five distinctive questions posed by her youngest fans.
This was hilarious. It’s also informative and interesting— if you’re a person who isn’t afraid to talk about death.
If you’re one of those people intent on ignoring the subject of death, your own or others, this is probably not for you.
I love when serious subjects are treated with a tongue-in-cheek irreverence, and I have a fairly dark sense of humor, so I thought this was highly entertaining. In the audiobook version, the author does her own narration, and I think she does a wonderful job.
The reason I did not review this book is that there’s not much to discuss. The book is what it says it is; a mortician answering questions about death. It’s funny and well-written, but there’s not a lot more you can say about it.
If you want to read a lighthearted, non-fiction book about death, Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs, is really entertaining.
It is 1793. Four years after the storming of the Bastille in France and more than a year after the death of King Gustav III of Sweden, paranoia and whispered conspiracies are Stockholm’s daily bread. A promise of violence crackles in the air as ordinary citizens feel increasingly vulnerable to the whims of those in power.
When Mickel Cardell, a crippled ex-soldier and former night watchman, finds a mutilated body floating in the city’s lake, he feels compelled to give the unidentifiable man a proper burial.
The Wolf and the Watchman is a Swedish novel written by author Niklas Natt och Dag and was released in English last year.
I actually did try and write a review for this book. The result was about eleven-hundred words of me giving a history lesson on eighteenth-century Stockholm explaining things I though potential non-Swedish readers absolutely had to know to understand the book.
Which, of course, you don’t need to know. Even people not interested in eighteen-century Swedish history, native or international readers alike, can enjoy this book without having to sit though a lecture.
Once I’d scratched out that portion of the text, all I had left was: It’s great but really grotesque, don’t read it if you’re squeamish.
It had to face the fact that I can’t write an interesting review of this book. So, instead, I settled for putting it on my list of 2019 Favorite Reads of The Year.
I do think this is a fantastic book. Considering I’m not fond of the crime genre, that’s saying a lot. It puts a great spin on the Nordic Noir genre and paints a vivid, unflattering but truthful, and immersive picture of Stockholm in the eighteenth century.
The characters are believable and relatable despite the historical setting, and the plot is a page-turner.
However, it really is grotesque. Not scary, not gory, grotesque.
I don’t consider myself squeamish, but there were times when I literally had to pull the headphones out of my ears because the descriptions made my whole body tense in sympathy and distaste.
Despite those feelings of revulsion, I couldn’t put this book down.
The gods of the Myriad were as real as the coastlines and currents, and as merciless as the winds and whirlpools. Then one day, they rose up and tore each other apart, killing many hundreds of islanders and changing the Myriad forever.
On the jumbled streets of the Island of Lady’s Crave live Hark and his best friend, Jelt. They are scavengers: living off their wits, diving for relics of the gods, desperate for anything they can sell. But now there is something stirring beneath the waves, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it. Something valuable. Something dangerous.
In 2018, I read Frances Hardinge’s previous book, A Skinful of Shadows, and thoroughly enjoyed that. I read Deeplight at the beginning of the year and enjoyed it, but not quite as much as A Skinful of Shadows.
One reason I chose not to review Deeplight is that, like The Murmur of Bees, this book is very similar in style, structure, and voice to The Binding.
But the main reason is that I didn’t like it enough. I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t love it. The over-arching plot was great, and the story well-written, but it’s one of those books that left me feeling like it didn’t quite live up to it’s potential. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t.
It’s a feeling I’ve felt with several books I’ve mentioned in this post like The Essex Serpent, The Binding, and The Murmur of Bees. I’ve been trying to put my finger on this emotion and having recently returned to reading high-fantasy, I think I’ve figured it out.
All these books share elements of otherness, magic, or fantasy, and I spend the entire book waiting for the story to kick-off and dive into the mystery. Something that never happens because these are all books focused on relationships, and that “otherness” is only there for a bit of flavor. It’s there to add an extra layer of interest, but the author has no intention of actually examining or explaining it on a deeper level.
As a fantasy lover, I feel robbed.
However, this has nothing to do with the quality of the story. It’s about me as a reader and what intrigues me.
In the case of Deeplight, I found the whole plot surrounding these Gods fascinating, and I wanted the story to focus on them. But, that’s not what Deelplight is. Instead, it’s a story about maturing and accepting that sometimes the people who claim to love you are the ones holding you back.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother.
Speaking of Gods, Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia is another book I that enjoyed but wasn’t quite what I expected it to be.
I wanted it to be about Mayan mythology; instead, it’s a story about relationships, maturing, and finding your own way. There are strong elements of folklore and legends, but not as much as I would have liked. Even the parts dealing with the Gods are more relationship drama than mythology.
I enjoyed Gods of Jade and Shadow but, it’s the type of story that went in one ear and out the other. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, not every book you’ll ever read stays with you.
However, despite enjoying the story, the fact that I forgot most of the plot almost immediately after reading this book also means I’m not interested in reviewing it.
And there you have it, five books I enjoyed but didn’t review.
Having reached the end of this post, I want to, once again, emphasize that these are books I had a good or excellent time reading; these are all wonderful reads.
Except for when I decide to review a whole series, I don’t plan in advance what books to review. That decision usually happens without much thought; I finish a book, feel I have something to say about it, and review it.
But, just because I don’t have a lot to say bout a book doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy it. So, if you find any of these blurbs interesting, give the book a chance.