When I decided to start a Recent Reads series back in August, my original intent was to discuss some of the books that I was reading a little more often. Of course, I then proceeded to skip over this series for the next two months! I was actually surprised to look back and realize it had been so long. My initial intent was to discuss some of the books that I’d read specifically around Halloween for this week’s Recent Reads, only to realize that I already have several of those books already earmarked for another upcoming post. Instead, I decided to focus on a few of the books that were most surprising, in a good way or a bad way, to me over the past month or so, as a kind of unofficial theme. It might be a bit of a stretch by now to call some of these books “recent” but they are books that have stood out to me lately in one way or another, and I thought they’d be worth mentioning anyway.
I’ve been hesitantly meaning to try a Colleen Hoover book for years now. I first added a couple of her books to my TBR back in 2015 when I started my Goodreads account, but never ended up picking any of them up. I eventually decided that if any of her books was going to appeal to me, it was going to be Verity. Granted, this book is a departure from her usual style to a degree, so it might not be the best one to start with, but I ended up loving it! This book is about a struggling writer named Lowen who is hired to finish off a bestselling series by popular author Verity Crawford after an accident leaves her unable to finish it herself. Hired by Verity’s husband, Jeremy, Lowen visits the Crawford home to sort through Verity’s notes and start writing, and soon discovers a disturbing manuscript that appears to be Verity’s journal, the contents of which would devastate her husband if they were to be revealed. As Lowen and Jeremy begin to develop feelings for each other, she must decide what to do with this manuscript and whether Verity’s journals are even true. To be honest, I went into this book not expecting very much at all, and ended up loving it! Although I didn’t particularly care for the romance and found some of the sex scenes (which are fairly explicit) a bit repetitive, I thought the book was a very compelling and creepy thriller. I hope that Colleen Hoover writes more books along these lines.
Another book that was a huge surprise for me was Station Eleven. I’ve been hearing about this book non-stop for several years now, and to be honest, I didn’t have a strong interest in it even when I picked it up. I chose it for a prompt relating to books that represent the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and this was my choice for pestilence. It set in a world where the vast majority of the population is wiped out due to a mysterious and fast-acting virus, and follows the remaining survivors in the days and years afterwards as they have to figure out how to survive. I do tend to like dystopians, but it is not a genre that I tend to pick up very often, and I was especially hesitant about this one because I found the summary a bit vague. I think what stood out most to me about this book is how eerily realistic the dystopian setting was. It definitely seemed like a plausible scenario that was very unnerving to read. I thought the book was beautifully written and I liked it a lot more than I expected, although there were some parts that felt a bit slow. I ended up rating this book 4.5 stars and struggled a lot with whether to round it up or down for Goodreads purposes. I ultimately settled on a 4 because I’m not sure how much of it will really be memorable to me, but I was definitely surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.
Unfortunately, the third book was surprising to me because I ended up being disappointed with it. I picked up Hidden Bodies, despite seeing multiple reviews complaining that it wasn’t worth reading, in part because I’m anticipating the second season of the Netflix series, but also because I loved You and hoped that this book was not as bad as others had said. For me, it was a bit of a mixed bag. In the first chapters, I found myself thinking that I didn’t get why everyone complained because it really wasn’t *that* bad, but as the story went on, I started to agree with the consensus. When I originally read You, I gave it 4 stars but I think if I had first read it now, I would have given it 5. It was such an amazing and unique concept and so well-executed, and this book just didn’t hold up in comparison. I still found Joe Goldberg a very interesting character, but this book suffered because it took away the “gimmick” of the second-person narration. The entire premise of having Joe move to Hollywood and try to deal with the hypocrisy and celebrity culture there could have been so good, but I found it dragged out and repetitive after a while. The side characters weren’t as strong as those from You, and toward the end, I definitely found myself ready for the book to be over. It’s unfortunate because I was really hoping that this book would surprise me despite the reviews I’d seen, but I have to agree that it felt like an unnecessary sequel.