I’d like to start out this post by saying that this year was actually a pretty great reading year – I didn’t read THAT MANY books that I completely disliked or couldn’t finish. But, of course, there were some – and some that I was very much not expecting to be so disappointed by. This post is highlighting those books – the ones I expected to love but was let down by in one way or another. I have to make the disclaimer that I DO NOT THINK these are bad books, and I COMPLETELY respect those who enjoyed or even loved the books below. Sometimes reading tastes don’t align, and that’s okay! I’d actually love to know if you disagree with any of my opinions below – if you enjoyed one of the books, what was it that worked for you?
Title: The Sun is Also a Star Author: Nicola Yoon Genre: Contemporary My Rating: 2 stars
This book, although not my lowest-rated book of the year, I consider to be my biggest disappointment because I whole-heartedly thought I’d love it. The story follows two strangers, Daniel and Natasha, who meet in New York City and develop an unlikely relationship over the span of a single day. My problems with the book included the pacing (SO slow, with choppy chapters) and the love story (completely unrealistic in my opinion). Although I typically don’t mind character-focused, slice-of-life type stories, this one just did not work for me – I was left bored and unsatisfied!
Title: Not All Migrate Author: Krystynna Byers Genre: Contemporary My Rating: 1 star
I had received this book as an eARC on Netgalley, and I was really disappointed to not connect with the story and have to leave my dissatisfied review. This book follows a man who has lost his wife and two daughters in a car accident and is informed that his wife had an unknown drug in her system at the time of the crash. He sets out to find out what the drug was and who supplied it to her, but ends up addicted himself (not a spoiler – the addiction part is essentially the entire book). The premise was completely unbelievable to me and the writing of the book was so graphic and strange that it took everything in me to complete the book at all. I said in my inital review that although this book could be entertaining to someone, I’m just not sure who that someone is – definitely not me or anyone looking for a traditional thriller.
Title: Appalachian Book of the Dead Author: Dale Neal Genre: Contemporary (?) My Rating: DNF’d/1 star
This year, I only DNF’d two books – this unfortunately was one of them. I don’t even know how to describe the genre or the plot of this book, it was that unusual. I’ve seen it described as a “metaphysical thriller,” but I’m not really sure what that means. The book was very slow-paced and ominous, but there was no clear plot that I could distinguish by the time I quit reading about halfway through. I had received a physical ARC of this book from the publisher, but even that could not motivate me to finish this strange story.
Title: The Lost Man Author: Jane Harper Genre: Thriller My Rating: DNF’d/1 star
This was the second of two books I couldn’t finish this year. I had picked it up as part of my Goodreads Choice Award Thriller Nominees reading challenge, but after attempting to read it both physically and as an audiobook, decided it wasn’t worth suffering through. The plot follows two men searching for answers after the mysterious death of their third brother, but the writing is extremely slow-paced and focuses heavily on the atmosphere of the Australian desert that the story is set in. I found absolutely nothing that intrigued me from the start of the book, and after reading in other reviews that the pace never picks up, decided I could put the book down with the decision that it was not the thriller for me. I know Jane Harper is a very popular writer, so I’m sure this book as well as her others appeal to many readers, but I don’t foresee myself racing to pick up her books again anytime soon.
Title: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Author: Stephen R. Covey Genre: Nonfiction My Rating: 2 stars
This book is highly regarded as a nonfiction classic, an authority on the topic of forming habits and becoming successful in a business sense as well as in one’s personal life. I was excited to soak up all of the knowledge, but very quickly found it to be outdated, preachy, and long-winded. I have read a number of other nonfiction books that seemed to say the same things that this book did, but in much more concise and impactful ways.
Title: The Unhoneymooners Author: Christina Lauren Genre: Contemporary Romance My Rating: 2 stars
This was a VERY popular contemporary romance book this year, and I had no reason not to believe that I’d love it as much as everyone else. What came out of it was the realization that I prefer this “rom-com” type story in movie form MUCH more than in book form – I think it just took way too much of my time for a story that is so overly cheesy and lacks any real substance. I can totally respect that other people might connect with this type of light-hearted story, but now I know better before jumping into them myself.
Title: My Lovely Wife Author: Samantha Downing Genre: Thriller My Rating: 2 stars
Another very hyped book this year, My Lovely Wife is a thriller that follows a couple that murders women as a way to spice up their marriage. Again, I had no reason to think that I wouldn’t love it, but after completion I have concluded that I don’t enjoy stories from a serial killer’s perspective. I didn’t find anything suspenseful or surprising about the story and was expecting more from the amazing thriller this was supposed to be.
Title: Someone We Know Author: Shari Lapena Genre: Thriller My Rating: 2 stars
This was the third Shari Lapena thriller that I’ve read, and unfortunately my least favorite. The story follows several members within a neighborhood where one woman turns up dead and everyone starts pointing fingers and discovering secrets that everyone else is hiding. I had a number of problems with the tropes used, including cheating/lying between every married couple involved, and the fact that every single person had a motive to be the killer made the ending unsurprising and unsatisfying.
Title: One Nation Under Taught Author: Dr. Vince M. Bertram Genre: Nonfiction My Rating: 2 stars
This book, which I read way back in January, had me really excited – as an engineer myself, I can totally see the need for more graduates of STEM fields and think that a book designed to educte on that topic is a great idea. However, this book ended up being a 200-page advertisement for Project Lead the Way, one program that – although I see its merit – claims to have all of the answers and be ready to solve all of America’s education problems, and it just rubbed me the wrong way.
I was super excited to read this book, a dystopian novel about two separate but nearly identical experiments being done on boys and girls to study how being raised completely isolated from the opposite sex would impact their development and potential for success. A great premise, but unfortunately I was disappointed by the execution of the book because of its slow pace, limited surprising elements, and too-late action.
With that, I’m actually glad to be done writing this post – I don’t enjoy talking badly about books or revisiting all of the books that left me with disappointed feelings – I’d much rather talk about favorites! So my next post will highlight my top 10 FAVORITE books that I read in 2019. Feel free to comment and let me know (or leave a link to your own post) either your favorite or most disappointing books that you read this year!
Earlier this week I posted about 15 new releases I want to read in 2020 – but I definitely have a long list of backlist titles I want to get to, as well. New releases can be fun, especially when they’re super hyped online, but backlist titles also hold a lot of merit and I think it’s important to keep up with a mix of old and new titles. Below are 20 books released BEFORE 2020 that I want to make a priority to get to next year!
Boomer1 – Daniel Torday – 2018
Undead Girl Gang – Lily Anderson – 2018
Love, Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli – 2007
Dress Codes for Small Towns – Courtney C. Stevens – 2017
How to Walk Away – Katherine Center – 2018
Beartown – Fredrik Backman – 2017
November 9 – Colleen Hoover – 2015
Eliza and Her Monsters – Francesca Zappia – 2017
The Nowhere Girls – Amy Reed – 2017
Birthday – Meredith Russo – 2019
Red White, and Royal Blue – Casey McQuiston – 2019
Autoboyography – Christina Lauren – 2017
Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit – 2014
The Radium Girls – Kate Moore – 2017
The 4-Hour Workweek – Timothy Ferriss – 2007
City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert – 2019
Middlegame – Seanan McGuire – 2019
Neverworld Wake – Marisha Pessl – 2018
The Cabin at the End of the World – Paul Tremblay – 2018
Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand – 2018
Have you read any of these books? Have I been missing out having not read them yet, or could I skip them to make way for 2020 new releases?
Here’s a fun (read: discouraging) activity: go through your entire owned TBR list and count just how many books you thought you would have read by now but haven’t. I don’t consider my book collection huge by any means, but I was astounded to find that I have 56 books currently sitting on my shelves that I had every intention of reading this year. Although I will be carrying them into 2020, I’m declaring now that any books on this list that I haven’t read by the end of 2020 will be donated. In my opinion, there’s no reason to hoard stacks and stacks of books that remain unread year after year, so in order to keep my number of unread books low, I made the list below.
See the below list for all of the books I currently own and have not read – and plan to read within the next year. This list does not contain the 12 books I plan to read in December (read that post here), but it does contain all of the others.
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Hatchet – Gary Paulson
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Metamorphasis – Franz Kafka
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
It Ends With Us – Colleen Hoover
Peak – Roland Smith
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants – Ann Brashares
The Second Summer of the Sisterhood – Ann Brashares
Girls in Pants – Ann Brashares
Forever in Blue – Ann Brashares
Truly Madly Guilty – Liane Moriarty
Tuesdays with Morrie – Mitch Albom
The Limit – Kristen Landon
Carry On – Rainbow Rowell
Historical Fictions (3)
Phantoms in the Snow – Kathleen Benner Duble
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
All the Missing Girls – Megan Miranda
Good as Gone – Amy Gentry
Pictures in the Dark – Gillian Cross
The Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling
The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths
The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
The Lying Game – Ruth Ware
The Silent Wife – A.S.A. Harrison
Attached – Amir Levine and Rachel Heller
Blue Like Jazz – Donald Miller
Good to Great – Jim Collins
The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands – Dr. Laura Schlessinger
The Tipping Point – Malcolm Gladwell
Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill
Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein
Science Fiction (1)
Do You Dream of Terra-Two? – Temi Oh
A Coach’s Life – Dean Smith
Beyond Basketball – Mike Krzyzewski
Cubs Essential – Lew Freedman
Gold Dust – Chris Lynch
Hate Mail From Cheerleaders – Rick Reilly
Million Dollar Throw – Mike Lupica
One Yard Short – Les Steckel and Rob Suggs
Our Boys – Joe Drape
QB1 – Mike Lupica
Quiet Strength – Tony Dungy
The 33-Year-Old Rookie – Chris Coste
The Boy Who Saved Baseball – John H. Ritter
The Jordan Rules – Sam Smith
The Power of Negative Thinking – Bob Knight
Toughness – Jay Bilas
Travel Team – Mike Lupica
I would love input as to which of these books I should prioritize and read right away in 2020. Let me know if you have read any of them and your thoughts! If not, what are the top books you own and want to get to at some point in 2020?
Hello December! I wish I could express just how excited I am for this month – Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, and this year it will be even more special because I am expecting a baby ANY day now! I can’t wait to see how much better this little Christmas baby makes the holiday season, which for me is already so full of love and family and joy.
BUT… in the back of my mind I still know that I have SO MANY BOOKS that I want to get in before the end of the year. I know that between the holiday craziness and a newborn baby I will DEFINITELY not get to most of the books that I want to, but I’ve picked 12 that I WANT to and feasibly think I CAN read before the end of the month – and as an extra little challenge, I named this post 12 Books before Christmas so that I can hopefully spend the last full week of the year completely enjoying my family without stressing or thinking about any reading goals I have yet to complete 🙂
There’s not much of a rhyme or reason to this TBR, but I have included the 12 books I want to read below with the short blurbs on why!
Title: Station Eleven Author: Emily St. John Mandel Genre: Dystopia
Why I Want to Read It: These first two books on my list are a little bit of a cheat – I’ve actually finished them both already. (It’s the 4th of the month, and every day counts!!) This is a book that I had seen hyped all over the internet, claiming to be a creepy, sort of hard-hitting post-apocolyptic dystopia novel about a traveling Shakespeare troupe navigating a world whose population has been wiped out by 99.99%. I’ll save my full thoughts for my December wrap-up, but unfortunately this one did not live up to the hype for me!
Title: Artemis Author: Andy Weir Genre: Science Fiction
Why I Want to Read It: Again, I already have read it – but this had recently been added to my shelves as a thrift store find. I loved both the book and the movie of The Martian by Andy Weir, so I thought this book by him might be worth a try. Again, full thoughts to come, but I was so extremely pleased to find that I loved this one just as much!
Title: An Unwanted Guest Author: Shari Lapena Genre: Thriller
Why I Want to Read It: I have read all three other books by Shari Lapena, including her 2019 release Someone We Know, and to be honest my opinion on her is still up in the air. I believe the three other books I have rated 2, 3, and 4 stars – so I’m hoping this one will help me solidify my thoughts on whether I connect with Shari Lapena’s writing or not!
Title: The Dilemma Author: B.A. Paris Genre: Thriller
Why I Want to Read It: Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris is one of my all-time favorite thrillers – I absolutely loved the writing, the story, and the way I was left thinking about it for hours/days/months after finishing it. I was lucky enough to receive an eARC of this book, set to be released in January, and I’m pumped to read more of her writing in this new thriller that I really don’t know anything about.
Title: The Bridge of Little Jeremy Author: Indrajit Garai Genre: Contemporary
Why I Want to Read It: I was sent a physical copy of this book by a representative of the author in return for a review, based on my feelings about Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. I expect this book to similarly be very character-focused and potentially hard-hitting, which I’m excited to get into and share my thoughts about this previously unknown-to-me book and author.
Title: Until We Meet Again Author: Michael Korenblit and Kathleen Janger Genre: Historical Fiction
Why I Want to Read It: This one’s an interesting one – this book actually belongs to my husband, who recommended I read it several months ago. I haven’t gotten around to it yet because it seems to be quite out of my comfort zone, but I’d really like to fit it in by the end of the year so that I can relay my thoughts back to him 🙂
Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway Author: Ruth Ware Genre: Thriller
Why I Want to Read It: This year Ruth Ware became one of my favorite thriller authors after reading only one book – The Turn of the Key – and I now want to get to ALL of her backlist titles. I’ve been told that they aren’t as good as her most recent release, but I’d like to make that decision for myself – starting with this one!
Why I Want to Read It: I read The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis early on this year and gave it 4 stars – I really connected with the hard-hitting story, complex characters, and McGinnis’s style of writing. Since this seems to have more of that hard-hitting subject matter, I have high hopes that I’ll enjoy this book just as much.
Title: Everything I Never Told You Author: Celeste Ng Genre: Contemporary
Why I Want to Read It: You might see a theme here, but I read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere this year and – spoiler alert – it’s ending up in my Top 10 of 2019 (post to come!). This is her only other full-length novel to date, and I can’t wait to dive in (pun intended, see the cover) to this one and hopefully love it as well. A bonus is that it’s pretty short and should be easy to squeeze in!
Title: Night Film Author: Marisha Pessl Genre: Thriller
Why I Want to Read It: Marisha Pessl is an author that I have not yet explored yet but think that I will really love, based on reviews of her books Night Film and Neverworld Wake. This one I just happened to stumble upon in a thrift store, so I picked it up and would love to prioritize it this month!
Title: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Author: Fredrik Backman Genre: Contemporary
Why I Want to Read It: One more time – I’ve read one book so far by Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove. That book really surprised me in how much it impacted me by the end, and I hear that that’s what all of his books do. I hope to get to Backman’s entire backlist eventually, but this one by the end of the year will be good enough progress towards that goal for me.
Why I Want to Read It: Gillian Flynn has been hit-or-miss for me with her last two books; I absolutely adored the book and movie of Gone Girl, but then was extremely disappointed in how much I disliked Dark Places. This one will be the tie-breaker – is Gillian Flynn one of my favs, or was Gone Girl an anomoly for me?
Just writing about these books has made me excited all over again to read them – I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these books before and what you thought of them. If not, what are you planning on reading in December? I realize now that I have absolutely no seasonal reads, and I’m treating this month more like a catch-up month for my physical TBR – are you planning on reading holiday-themed books for the month instead?
Hope everyone has/is having a wonderful holiday season!
If you’re new to my blog or didn’t see my GR Choice Award post from the end of October, I decided this year to take a page out of Booktuber Booksandlala‘s book and read all of the finalists in the Mystery/Thriller category in order to place a fully unbiased vote. Because this is a somewhat daunting task – reading 10 books within the two weeks after the finalists are announced – I decided to make some predictions and get a head start by listing and reading some of the most-hyped thrillers that I’ve seen this year. I’m happy to report that 6 of my predictions actually did end up in the Top 10, and of those I had already read 5 – leaving only 5 more to read within the last two weeks!
Below are the Top 10 Finalists in the Mystery & Thriller category of the Goodreads Choice Awards. I’ve listed them in order of number of rankings on Goodreads, which in my prediction post I also mentioned is most likely the order in which they will get the most votes, ultimately meaning the book with the most ratings will win, regardless of actual average rating. I also included a column to indicate whether each book was in my original predictions list or not.
The Silent Patient
An Anonymous Girl
Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
My Sister, the Serial Killer
The Turn of the Key
The Lost Man
Lock Every Door
The Whisper Man
The great news is that I was successful in my goal – I was able to pick up and give every single book on this list a shot. (The bad news? One of them I DNF’d because of how much I disliked it…). So, I feel VERY confident that I am able to place an unbiased vote in this category, which is a really great feeling! Below is MY personal list of rankings of these books, from my LEAST favorite down to my FAVORITE thriller on the list of finalists, and my vote for best mystery/thriller of the year.
10. The Lost Man by Jane Harper My Rating: 1 star My Thoughts: This book is about two men whose brother turns up dead in the middle of the Australian desert, and the two remaining brothers are left to solve the mystery of his death. Unfortunately I DNF’d this book near the beginning – I tried reading it in physical form and via audiobook, but I just couldn’t get into the story at all. After reading other reviews of the book, it appears that it’s slow-moving throughout the whole book, and I just didn’t think I could push through.
9. My Sister, the Serial Killerby Oyinkan Braithwaite My Rating: 2 stars My Thoughts: This book follows a young woman named Korede whose sister has killed three of her past boyfriends and calls on Korede to clean up her messes and help her cover up her crimes. Although this is one of the most-hyped thrillers of the year, I did not enjoy the characters or story at all. I didn’t find anything shocking (thanks to the title, there’s not much to be surprised by) and there is really no mystery being solved, either. Very disappointing!
8. The Whisper Man by Alex North My Rating: 2 stars My Thoughts: This book is set in a town where, 20 years ago, five young boys were abducted and killed by a man known as the “Whisper Man” because of the way he would sit outside their windows and whisper creepy things in the nights leading up to their disappearances. I thought the premise of this book was very adequately creepy, but ultimately the mystery was pretty unsurprising and unoriginal. I would have loved a few more twists to help the story stand out in my memory a little more!
7. An Anonymous Girlby Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen My Rating: 3 stars My Thoughts: I REALLY wanted to like this book, which is about a young woman who enters a psychological study that she thinks is going to be a one-time-thing, but actually ends up consuming a large part of her daily life after she becomes more involved in the study and the psychologist running it. I was really intrigued by the unique format that this story is told (two different perspectives, one of them told in second-person), but I soon grew bored with it and found myself not caring at all what happened to the characters.
6. Run Away by Harlan Coben My Rating: 3 stars My Thoughts: This book follows Simon, a middle-aged man with three children, the oldest of whom is a daughter who has gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd in college, dating an obvious drug dealer, and when he turns up dead, she runs away and goes missing. Simon is then determined to take matters into his own hands and go searching for his missing daughter. I’m not exactly sure why, but this thriller felt very different to me than other thrillers I usually read. It took a little while to get into, but once I was well into the book, things started clicking and I actually found myself pretty invested in the story. I enjoyed the way things came together in the end, and although not life-changing or a new favorite, this book was a pleasant surprise and a solid read for me.
5. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides My Rating: 3 stars My Thoughts: This was a VERY popular thriller this year, about a woman who killed her husband in their home and hasn’t spoken a single word in the 6 years since the incident. The firt half had me COMPLETELY hooked. I loved the mystery and enjoyed the format in which it was told. By about 3/4 of the way through the book, I had some theories that ultimately ended up being correct, which did take away from some of the enjoyment of the ending for me. But, I do very much understand the hype of this book and why so many people have considered it their favorite thriller of the year.
4. The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth My Rating: 4 stars My Thoughts: This book shifts back and forth between the perspectives of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law with a rocky relationship. When one day the mother-in-law turns up dead, everyone in the family begins to wonder about what secrets everyone else has been hiding. Although I actually wouldn’t consider this book a thriller, and the mystery aspect is a little weak, I surprisingly still enjoyed the story because of the complex character dynamics. Was it the most exciting book I’ve ever read? No, but I can still appreciate that it had many layers and the little mystery it did have was wrapped up nicely.
3. Miracle Creek by Angie Kim My Rating: 4 stars My Thoughts: This mystery follows the story and court case after an explosion at an oxygen-treatment center leaves two people dead, a handful of people injured, and a bunch of people looking suspicious as the mystery is revealed of what ultimately caused the disaster. I wouldn’t call it your typical thriller – much more of a mystery, as the tragic event happens right away and the entire rest of the book is filling in the pieces of what really happened. A good majority of the book is told through the court case following, and although I wouldn’t normally pin myself as a courtroom-mystery-lover, I actually did really enjoy this story as a whole, including the courtroom scenes and way of revealing the mystery.
2. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager My Rating: 4 stars My Thoughts: Another extremely-hyped thriller this year, this book follows Jules, a young woman hired to be an apartment-sitter for a luxury apartment in Manhattan. Soon after starting, she starts to notice weird and creepy things about the apartment’s occupants and the building itself, making her question whether the arrangement is too good to be true. This one definitely lived up to all of its hype – the atmosphere is just so creepy and intriguing and the mystery and reveals were well-crafted. Most people either love or hate the big twist/reveal at the end, but I definitely fall on the love side and think that Riley Sager really can do no wrong at this point.
1. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware My Rating: 5 stars My Thoughts: This book follows Rowan, a young woman who has been hired by a wealthy family to be a nanny caring for the three children living at home. Told in letter-form, after-the-fact, the story is told from Rowan’s perspective as she tries to defend herself from the murder of one of the children. So many bloggers and Booktubers are calling this book the perfect thriller, and I have to agree – I loved everything about it. The writing and atmosphere are so well-done, and I truly did not know which direction the mystery was going to go. If you have not read this book and are looking to pick up one thriller from this year, I think this is the one to choose.
So clearly, my pick for best thriller is The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware! Again, I thought it was really enjoyable to read all of these thrillers throughout the last couple of months and be able to place my vote having read (or tried to read) every single book on the list.
I’d love to know if anyone else tried this challenge this year, but even if not – which book did you vote for in the Goodreads Choice Awards?
In my October TBR post, I said that this month was ALLLLL about the thrillers. And it totally was. I ended up reading 15 books in October, 12 of which were mystery/thrillers, and 12 of which I’m predicting could end up on the 2019 Goodreads Choice Awards Mystery & Thriller nominee list (see those predictions here). I’m super proud of meeting my reading goals this month and pleasantly surprised with how many books I loved – I’d definitely say I found myself some new favorite thrillers this month!
I typically wrap up my reading in chronological order of how I read the books, but this time I think I will start with all of my thrillers, ordered from favorite to least favorite, and then into the non-thrillers at the end.
Brief Summary: This book is about a young woman named Lowen who is hired as a writer to complete the remaining books in a series started by a famous author, Verity Crawford, who suffered an accident that has left her unable to finish her work. In order to perform this job, Lowen agrees to move into the Crawford household for a short period in order to sort through Verity’s office to find any notes on the series that may have been previously prepared. Spending so much time in Verity’s home and going through her things, Lowen starts to uncover much more about Verity than she ever bargained for – and that’s really all I want to say about the plot!
My Thoughts: I was so, so, so pleasantly surprised by this book – I couldn’t put it down! It feels weird to say that I enjoyed reading it, because some parts are so messed up that enjoyment is not quite the right word, but I was completely immersed. Everything from the basic plot to the characters to the pacing I thought was done perfectly, and I personally loved the ending. I do consider it to be a thriller and think it’s a little odd that people are arguing that it’s not… but as a Colleen Hoover rookie I can’t speak to how different it is from her other books. All I can say is that I was on the edge of my seat reading this book and if Colleen Hoover wants to continue dabbling in the thriller world, I will continue to read.
Title: The Turn of the Key Author: Ruth Ware Genre: Thriller Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 5 stars
Brief Summary: This book follows Rowan, a young woman who has been hired by a wealthy family as a nanny caring for the three children living at home. The story is actually told in letter-form, after-the-fact, as it is known by the reader that Rowan has been charged for the murder of one of the children, and she is recounting the experience from the beginning to prove her innocence.
My Thoughts: I’m sure most people at this point have heard of this book and all of the hype that surrounds it – so many book bloggers and Booktubers are calling it the perfect thriller, and I actually would have to agree. The writing and atmosphere of this book are so well done, I truly did not know which direction the story was headed and what the solution to the mystery was going to end up being. I listened to the audiobook and would highly recommend – not only did it help immerse me fully into the story, it also helped me speed through the book as quickly as possible since I was so interested to get to the ending!
Title: The Last Time I Lied Author: Riley Sager Genre: Thriller Pages: 370 My Rating: 5 stars
Brief Summary: This is the second thriller novel written by Riley Sager, and it follows young woman Emma as she returns to the same summer camp that she last attended when she was 15 years old. Her first time at the camp, Emma’s three bunkmates went missing, were never found, and caused the camp to be shut down due to safety concerns for the campers. 15 years later, the camp is reopening and Emma goes back as an instructor with hopes of getting closure for her three friends lost all those years ago.
My Thoughts: I feel like this book has been SEVERELY underhyped compared to Riley Sager’s other two thrillers, and I have to say that this one is by far my favorite. I absolutely loved the fun and creepy setting of the summer camp and thought that the mystery, twists, and reveals were smart and ultimately shocking – at least to me. I felt fully invested in the story and characters and was itching to get to the end so I could get some answers. Although there was one MAJOR plot hole that I noticed (would love to discuss with others that have read it 😊), I honestly enjoyed the book so much that I’m willing to overlook it and still give it a 5-star rating.
Title: Lock Every Door Author: Riley Sager Genre: Thriller Pages: 368 My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This thriller, Riley Sager’s latest release, follows Jules, a young woman hired to be an apartment-sitter for a luxury apartment in Manhattan for six weeks. Although the apartment building is creepy and the job comes with some odd ground rules, the pay is so good that Jules can’t possibly turn the opportunity down. Soon after starting, however, she starts to notice weird things about the apartment and other tenants in the building and questions whether the arrangement is too good to be true.
My Thoughts: Another extremely-hyped thriller that actually lived up to the hype for me. The atmosphere was just as creepy and intriguing as everyone has said, and I think the mystery and reveals were well-crafted. Unfortunately, my reading experience was tainted JUST SLIGHTLY due to the fact that I knowingly spoiled the ending for myself before picking the book up. I think the ending really would have shocked me if I didn’t know what was going on going in, but I still thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience and am already looking forward to Riley Sager’s 2020 release.
Title: The Silent Patient Author: Alex Michaelides Genre: Thriller Pages: 323 My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This book is told in two perspectives – one is from Theo, a psychotherapist who is interested in treating Alicia Berenson, a woman who killed her husband in their home and hasn’t spoken a single word in the 6 years since the incident. Theo believes he can get her to speak and finally shed some light on the tragedy, what happened, and whether Alicia is truly guilty of the crime. The second perspective is from Alicia, told through the journal entries she wrote recounting her life and relationship with her husband several months leading up to the incident.
My Thoughts: I went into this book pretty much completely blind to the synopsis, and I’m really glad I did. The first half had me COMPLETELY hooked. I loved the mystery and enjoyed the format in which it was told. By about ¾ of the way through the book, I had formed some theories, some of which turned out to be correct. I don’t consider myself a great mystery-solver, nor do I usually try to guess the endings of books, but for this one I just so happened to do so and unfortunately it did take some of the satisfaction out of it for me. I still think it’s a good thriller, and understand why so many people have read and loved it, but ultimately not my favorite of the month.
Title: Run Away Author: Harlan Coben Genre: Thriller Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This book follows Simon, a middle-aged man with three children, the oldest of whom is a daughter who has gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd after her college experience didn’t quite go according to plan. She is dating an obvious drug dealer, and when he turns up dead, she runs away and goes missing. Simon is then determined to take matters into his own hands and go searching for his daughter, navigating the dark world of drugs and dangerous men that he can’t believe his daughter has been involved with.
My Thoughts: I’m not exactly sure why, but this book felt very different to me than other thrillers I usually read. It could be because I’m unfamiliar with the author, or I’m unfamiliar with following a middle-aged man instead of a 20-something young woman, but something in the tone of this book I felt difficult to connect with, especially at the beginning. But I pushed through (thanks to the audiobook), and about halfway through things started clicking and I finally started to feel invested in the story. I enjoyed the way things came together in the end, thought the mystery was smart and well-revealed, and although I don’t think I found a new favorite author or thriller, am satisfied with the read.
Title: Two Can Keep a Secret Author: Karen M. McManus Genre: Thriller Pages: 329 My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This book follows high-schooler Ellery as she and her twin brother move to Echo Ridge, a small town that their mother grew up in and their aunt went missing from at age 17. Soon after arrival, one of the teachers at the high school turns up dead and a public threat is made by an anonymous person that one of the homecoming queen nominees will be next, and the entire town is left fearing for the safety of themselves and everyone around them.
My Thoughts: Unfortunately I don’t have too much to say about this book… YA thrillers are not my favorite to begin with, and this one didn’t do anything particularly special to stand out in my mind. I wouldn’t say that anything about it was bad – I actually think the ending was pretty good – but the plot
Title: An Anonymous Girl Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen Genre: Thriller Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This book is about a young woman who enters a psychological study that she thinks is going to be a one-time-thing but actually ends up consuming a large part of her daily life. Although she doesn’t think she is in any immediate danger, she starts to question the motives of the individual running the study and wondering if the payment, although generous, is worth having her own morality scrutinized in such detail.
My Thoughts: I wanted to like this book, and for the first half I was intrigued by the unique format of the story, but ultimately I grew bored with it and found myself not caring what happened to the characters. I think that I’ll soon forget most of the details of the book, which to me is a big indicator that it didn’t resonate or impact me much at all.
Title: Someone We Know Author: Shari Lapena Genre: Thriller Pages: 292 My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This is a domestic thriller following several members of a neighborhood with lots of secrets. When one of the women turns up dead, everyone starts pointing fingers and wondering if they can trust their neighbors, friends, and even own family.
My Thoughts: Ugh… the more I think about this book, the more upset I get about it – 3 stars might be generous. I think the writing is good – Shari Lapena knows how to write in a way to keep you turning the pages – and the mystery is fairly well-crafted…. but there is just so much cheating and lying that it totally goes out of the realm of possibility for me. Not every married person is having an affair and has a burner phone, so it’s annoying when every character in a book is/does. It actually made the ending far less shocking to me, because every person was made out to look shady and had a motive for being the murderer.
Title: The Institute Author: Stephen King Genre: Thriller Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 2 stars
Brief Summary: This novel is about Luke Ellis, a young boy who is kidnapped in the middle of the night and brought to “The Institute,” a compound where several kids are being held captive and studied for their apparent telekinetic or telepathic abilities.
My Thoughts: Although the synopsis of this book sounds right up my alley, I was super disappointed by this book. I really didn’t get much of a thriller/horror vibe at all – much more of a dystopia/action-type book, but even so I found it to be pretty below average. Not only did I not feel any suspense or pull to the characters and their well-being, but I also found the plot as a whole to be unoriginal and the ending extremely unsatisfying.
Title: My Lovely Wife Author: Samantha Downing Genre: Thriller Pages: 374 My Rating: 2 stars
Brief Summary: This book is said to be “Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith” – it follows a married couple who, 15 years into their relationship, gets bored and decides to start murdering people to keep their spark alive.
My Thoughts: This thriller, although very well-loved in the book community, was just not for me. I found the first 300 pages just flat-out boring, and by the time things actually got interesting, it all happened and wrapped up way too quickly. I completely understand and agree with the comparison to Dexter – I personally didn’t enjoy that show either, so it’s clearly something with me not caring to watch/read from the serial killer’s perspective!
Brief Summary: This book is about J, a boy who has been raised for his entire life in a single building along with 25 other boys without the knowledge or influence of the female gender. A couple of miles away, the very same experiment is being done on a set of 26 girls raised without ever coming into contact with a male. As the kids grow older, some of them start to ask questions and the experiment authorities start to fear failure of the experiment they’ve been working so long to keep intact.
My Thoughts: Again, the premise of this book sounds just like something I would love, but I found myself completely underwhelmed by the execution. I would not consider it to be a horror or thriller in any capacity, as there was no suspense or thrill in the entire first 300 pages. The last bit of the book, although action-packed, didn’t have me invested enough to care about the outcome.
Brief Summary: This sci-fi book is all about memories. We follow two different individuals, the first being Barry, a New York City cop investigating a new disorder showing up in individuals called False Memory Syndrome, where sufferer’s minds are suddenly infiltrated by memories of entire lives they have not lived, causing some of them to go mad and eventually resort to killing themselves to make the false memories stop. The other main character is Helena, a researcher studying the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s and working on a solution to allow those suffering to preserve memories to be revisited later, when memory loss causes them to forget the most precious people and moments in their lives.
My Thoughts: I love love love Blake Crouch’s sci-fi writing. I loved Dark Matter when I read it earlier this year, and I think I loved this one even more because of how much I enjoyed the characters themselves. I really appreciate how Blake Crouch’s plots and science elements are just enough to keep your mind reeling, but not too much so that you feel lost or stupid for not fully understanding (it is still fiction, after all). This book doesn’t necessarily have much more twists and turns, so I wouldn’t call it a mystery/thriller, but that’s not what I wanted out of it so I was completely satisfied with the story and complex journey that these characters were on. Highly recommend to fans of Dark Matter, highly don’t recommend to anyone who didn’t care for that book – I found them to be very similar in a lot of ways.
Brief Summary: This book follows several different members of a community impacted by a school shooting. It dives into all of the characters’ (including the shooter himself) relationships, upbringings, and understandings of the world both before and after the incident, revealing insights and asking questions about humanity at its core.
My Thoughts: This is definitely a tough book to review because of its highly sensitive subject matter, but I have to say that I appreciate the intent of this book to show that everybody’s life is complex – whether you’re a popular kid, a well-established working adult, a loner, or someone in-between, everyone has highs and lows that no one else can possibly understand. With that, everyone – even a “monster” capable of shooting another human – has loved ones and redeeming human qualities, too. Not every issue is black and white, and not every person can be tagged as good or evil. Outside of the hard-hitting stuff, I found his book to be pretty entertaining but maybe a bit too long. It switches between character perspectives and timelines often, which was sometimes hard to keep straight, and I didn’t love the ending, but again it’s hard to say that this book is overall good or bad when its intent seems to be just to get you to think a little deeper about things you may judge prematurely.
Title: Through a Daughter’s Eyes Author: Mary DeJong Genre: Memoir Pages: 123 My Rating: 5 stars
Brief Summary: This nonfiction book goes back and forth between memories and written accounts of the author’s life watching her father battle cancer. It captures some of her happiest memories, playing basketball with her dad and playing at the park with her best friends, and some of her worst, getting the news that her dad has passed away and standing at her father’s funeral as a middle-school student.
My Thoughts: Full disclosure, this is absolutely a biased review as I went to high school with the author of this book and know the community that was impacted by this loss. But with that, I think that this book is as emotional and powerful as it gets, even for being so short in length. I loved the format and getting the different timelines and perspectives and was totally immersed. I feel like after reading this book I’ve been given some new perspective on family and life and really appreciate that.
I’m extremely happy with the reading I got done in October, and I’m happy to say that I still feel motivated going into November – which is good, considering my ambitious November TBR. I’d love to know if you’ve read any of the books above or what your reading plans are for November – we’re getting down to crunch time for finishing everything we want by the end of the year!!
You know what time of the year it is…. Goodreads Choice Award time! If I’m not mistaken, I believe the nominees for the 2019 GR Choice Awards will be announced tomorrow, with multiple voting rounds going on until winners are announced in early December.
This year I thought it would be super fun to take a page out of Booksandlala‘s book (AKA my favorite Booktuber, check her out if like Booktube videos and somehow haven’t found her already!) and read all of the nominees in the Mystery & Thriller category.
However, me being me, I had to take it one step further and try to get a little head start by predicting the books that I think will be nominated and ultimately win the category. I wanted to release this list today, so that when nominees are announced tomorrow I can see how many I got correct and how many I missed 🙂
So read on if you’re interested in my predictions, my rationale for selecting them, and my ratings & rankings for the ones I have already read.
How the Awards Work
For those not familiar with the Goodreads Choice Awards in general, I thought I’d briefly explain the awards and voting schedule.
The Goodreads Choice Awards are a set of popular-vote book awards voted on by the users of the Goodreads app/website. The awards are separated by category, most of them being genre-related (Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, etc.), with some additional categories including Debut Author and Best of the Best. 2019 will be the 10th year of the awards, and the categories seem to change slightly from year-to-year. There are a number of rules for what books can be nominated for the awards, which I was easily able to find on the Goodreads website, but the major criteria are that the books must have been released between November 16, 2018 and November 15, 2019, books can be nominated for only one genre category, and opening round nominees must have an average rating of 3.5 or higher (although write-in votes can have any rating).
The Opening Round of the awards typically starts on the last Tuesday of October (this year will be tomorrow, October 29th) and lasts for 6 days. It consists of 15 nominees selected by Goodreads based on titles shelved under each category, average rating, and number of ratings. Voters can vote for any of the 15 nominees OR write in a vote for any book of their choosing.
The Semifinal Round begins the following Tuesday (November 5th this year) and lasts for 6 more days. It consists of the 15 original nominees plus the 5 most-written-in titles to make up a list of 20 nominees. Voters can vote for any of the 20 nominees on the list.
The Final Round of voting begins the following Tuesday (November 12th) and last for 14 days. This round consists of the top 10 nominees determined by the Semifinal Round. Voters can vote for any of these top 10 books.
And finally, the winners for each category of the Goodreads Choice Awards are announed on the first Tuesday of December, which this year falls on December 3rd.
My Mystery & Thriller Predictions
As I mentioned, the selection process for opening-round nominees is slightly unclear, but we do know it involves a book’s average rating, its number of total ratings, and the genre that it is shelved most commonly as. With this information, I went in and looked up all of the thrillers I could find and think of and listed them based on number of ratings. I also made sure to look at authors with books previously nominated for this award because repeat nominations (for authors with new books) is common. Filtering out books with an average rating of less than 3.5, below is my predicted Top 15/Opening Round nominees.
# of Ratings
The Silent Patient
An Anonymous Girl
Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
The Turn of the Key
The Lost Man
My Lovely Wife
Lock Every Door
Two Can Keep a Secret
Karen M. McManus
Before She Knew Him
The Last House Guest
The Night Olivia Fell
And some titles I think might come up as write-ins:
Someone We Know
I Know Who You Are
The Night Before
The Family Upstairs
My Pick/Ratings So Far
Of the 22 books I listed above, I have read 11. Below is my personal ranked list of these titles from my favorite to least favorite – tune into my October wrap-up in a couple of days for some more in-depth thoughts of almost all of them!
Verity – Colleen Hoover – 5 stars I absolutely loved this book’s premise and execution – very suspenseful, great twist and ending!
The Turn of the Key – Ruth Ware – 5 stars Super atmospheric and suspenseful, enjoyed the mystery and characters, satisfying ending.
Lock Every Door – Riley Sager – 4 stars Also super atmospheric and suspenseful, I enjoyed the reveals even though I spoiled this book for myself!
The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides – 3 stars Amazing premise, loved the format, first half of book was 5 stars but twist was predictable and ending unsatisfying.
Run Away – Harlan Coben – 3 stars Took a while to get into, overall good mystery and satisfying ending.
The Last House Guest – Megan Miranda – 3 stars Easy read, pretty good twist and reaveals, ultimately forgettable.
Two Can Keep a Secret – Karen M. McManus – 3 stars Quick read, nothing outstanding, YA thrillers are generally not my favorite and this one followed that trend.
An Anonymous Girl – Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen – 3 stars Intriguing beginning but grew bored with the storyline, not surprised by the twists, not invested in the characters by the end.
The Institute – Stephen King – 2 stars Very long, not suspenseful in my opinion, underwhelming ending.
My Lovely Wife – Samantha Downing – 2 stars Did not find the serial killer perspective interesting, not suspenseful at all, not invested in characters.
Inspection – Josh Malerman – 2 stars Great premise but had some weird focuses/tangents, not suspenseful, action came too late in the story for me to feel invested.
But with that, my predicted winner is overwhelmingly The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Lala does a really great job in her video from last year explaining that the winner of these awards is almost never the book with the highest rating on the nominee list – it is usually the book with the most ratings – and The Silent Patient is far and away the most-rated book on the list. I can’t wait to find out if my predictions are correct!
I would love to hear some additional opinions on this topic – are you a fan of the Goodreads Choice Awards, do you have any predictions for nominees or winners, and have you read any of the books on my prediction list?
I plan to post some updates throughout the voting periods following the nominees and trying to read any that I have not yet read. Also let me know if you want to join me in that challenge!