Title: Station Eleven Author: Emily St. John Mandel Genre: Dystopia Pages: 333 MyRating: 2
BriefSummary: This novel is set after the world’s population is nearly eradicated by a sudden outbreak of the Georgia Flu, which kills 99.6% of humans. The story follows a group of Shakespearean actors as they roam the midwest United States and perform for the small groups of survivors they meet, as well as a few characters’ background stories from before the near apocalypse.
MyThoughts: I’m disappointed that I was so disappointed by this book. I feel really similarly as I did after reading The Night Circus (another confusingly super-hyped book) – way too slow-moving, lots of perspectives and storylines all muddling together, and overall no real payoff from what promises to be a suspenseful, action-packed story. I first tried picking up the book physically, wanted to give up about ⅓ of the way through, and then decided to try the audiobook, re-listening to the first part and pushing through to the end. I wish I could even say that I understand what people love about the book… but I really can’t. I’d appreciate insight if anyone has it as to what made you love the story!
BriefSummary: This book follows Jazz, a resident of the first city on the moon, Artemis, and a smuggler of forbidden goods to the city’s wealthier inhabitants. Being on the wrong side of the law but the right side of the rich, she gets herself into all kinds of shenanigans just trying to make ends meet for herself.
MyThoughts: I loved this. I love Andy Weir’s ability to make science readable yet actually hold merit (as far as I understand, this is true). I love how his characters are humorous and make the story fun to read. I’ve seen feedback that the main character in this book is too crude or immature to be realistic, but I actually disagree and enjoyed reading about a girl who makes sex jokes (there ARE a lot of them, so sure, maybe it gets a little old – but I’d rather keep them than take them all out) and doesn’t have a relationship propelling the plot or distracting her from the issues at hand. If you liked The Martian by this author, then I’d say that this book is at least worth a shot – there are plenty of differences, but the things I loved the most about that book also appeared here.
BriefSummary: This is an isolated, closed-circle mystery that takes place in a lodge hotel in upstate New York during a huge blizzard. When one of the guests turns up dead, there is no way for the police to be contacted or for any of those remaining to leave, resulting in everyone theorizing who could be the culprit and trying to avoid becoming a victim themselves.
MyThoughts: This is definitely my favorite Shari Lapena thriller out of the four she’s written so far. I don’t think there’s anything extremely original or surprising in it, but I don’t that’s the point of this type of mystery. I felt satisfyingly creeped out by the atmosphere she created and enjoyed seeing how the story played out.
Title: The Death of Mrs. Westaway Author: Ruth Ware Genre: Mystery/Thriller Pages: 0 (audiobook) MyRating: 3 stars
BriefSummary: This book follows young woman Hal after receiving a letter stating that a relative of hers has passed away and left a substantial inheritance that is hers to claim. This confuses Hal as she doesn’t believe herself to have any living relatives, and certainly not rich ones – but her dire financial situation convinces her to attend the funeral anyway and attempt to play the part she needs to to receive the funds.
MyThoughts: This was… not my favorite thriller, but I can’t say there’s anything inherently wrong with it, either. I have a hard time with mysteries that have lots of characters because of how hard it is to keep everyone plus the storyline straight. This one has many characters plus a bunch of convoluted family dynamics, making it a little hard to follow and ultimately making the ending less than satisfying because of how much I likely missed or forgot. The atmosphere was very similar to her most recent release, The Turn of the Key, which I loved. I’d still recommend this book to Ruth Ware fans, and I plan to continue reading from her backlist, but be prepared to concentrate on keeping the characters and storyline straight in your head.
Title: Everything I Never Told You Author: Celeste Ng Genre: Contemporary Pages: 282 MyRating: 3 stars
BriefSummary: This story follows the Chinese-American Lee family before and after the death of “favorite child” Lydia, focusing on each family member and their emotions and secrets they are withholding from the other members.
My Thoughts: This was a seriously emotional read and a deep character study into these realistic characters and complicated family dynamics. Although I enjoyed the reading experience and flew through the book, a couple of months later I’m struggling a little bit to remember specifics of the plot, so it’s hard to say it was life-changing or impactful beyond the enjoyable experience.
BriefSummary: This book follows high-school softball player Mickey Catalan after she suffers major injuries to her lower body in a car crash with one of her teammates. Determined to overcome the pain and return to her old self, she becomes dependent on painkillers and starts walking down a dangerous path to keep her supply coming.
MyThoughts: Because of its dark subject matter, it’s hard to say this book was great – but it was great. I loved reading about a high-school softball player (something I was too and enjoyed relating to) who isn’t known for being pretty, or funny, or even nice. She’s known for being tough. And that makes it strangely believable that she could slip into the scary world of drugs despite her athletic commitments and the risk of getting caught destroying her future. The book didn’t drag for a second, which is a feat in my opinion for a hard-hitting contemporary. I was completely invested, and Mindy McGinnis took something I personally can’t relate to (addiction and the opioid epidemic) and made me empathetic towards the characters involved. Highly recommend to those who can handle the subject matter.
Title: My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry Author: Fredrik Backman Genre: Contemporary Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars
BriefSummary: This story is told from the perspective of seven-year-old Elsa, who considers her grandmother to be her best and only friend. Her grandmother tells her stories of the fantasy Land of Almost-Awake and ends up leading Elsa on a quest to form relationships with people around her who she never thought she’d like.
MyThoughts: This was a sweet story, but I didn’t love the child as a narrator. I think fans of whimsical and slightly fantastical stories will enjoy this much more than I did!
Title: Until We Meet Again Authors: Michael Korenblit and Kathleen Janger Genre: Historical Nonfiction Pages: 298 MyRating: 3 stars
BriefSummary: This is the telling of the story of two Polish families fleeing their homes in hopes of surviving the Holocaust and avoiding deportation or punishment by the Nazis. Specifically, we follow 17-year-old sweethearts Meyer and Manya through their journeys, at times leaving their families and each other in attempts to keep everyone as safe as possible.
MyThoughts: This was a fascinating story and obviously hard-hitting subject matter, written in an appropriate way for young readers. While I think that took away a little bit from its impactfulness for me personally, I definitely think it’s a story worth reading about for everyone of all ages.
As I said in my most recent post, Top 10 Most Disappointing Books I Read in 2019, this year was a great reading year in terms of quantity AND quality of books read – making it really difficult to narrow down my Top 10 Favorites of the year. I started by looking at all of my 5-star ratings – which, surprisingly, ended up being almost exactly 1/5 of the total books I completed. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a variety of genres represented, proving that I enjoy all kinds of books and that I should continue exploring outside of my comfort zone.
I ultimately was able to narrow the list down to my Top 10 favorites, listed below along with some explanation of what exactly I loved so much about each of them. If you have read any of the books below, I’d love to know if you enjoyed them yourself. If you haven’t read any of the books I list, I’d encourage you to pick at least one of them up! 🙂
This book was not only my favorite read of the year, but also my biggest surprise. I had no idea what the premise was, and I have not read any of Colleen Hoover’s other books, but I picked this one up as part of my Goodreads Choice Award Thriller Nominee Predictions reading challenge – and I am SO GLAD that I did. This book follows a young writer named Lowen, hired to complete the remaining books in a series started by famous author Verity Crawford. In order to perform this job, Lowen moves into the Crawford household temporarily in order to sort through Verity’s office to find things that might help in her writing, and ends up uncovering all sorts of things about Verity and her family that she never expected. I definitely recommend going into this book not knowing much more than that – a combination between a thriller and a romance, this book kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I absolutely loved every single twist and turn that the plot took – all the way up through the ending. Highly recommend, and I’m very excited to read more from Colleen Hoover in the future!
Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
If you have spent a lot of time on the bookish internet, then you no-doubt have heard of this super-hyped, universally highly-rated book. The story is about Evelyn Hugo, a fictional Hollywood actress who, now at the end of her life, is giving an exclusive interview to young journalist Monique revealing everything about her life, including the seven men she married and what each one brought to her life. The story is smart and complex, but told in a way that is very easy to follow and is nearly impossible not to become invested in. I loved the unraveling of the story and the way that everything connects and becomes important at just the right time, and think that this book can appeal to fans of almost every genre in literature.
Title: Little Fires Everywhere Author: Celeste Ng Genre: Contemporary
This book is one of the slower-paced on my list of favorites, something that is both surprising and unsurprising to me. The story mainly follows two families of very different backgrounds that become intimitely involved with each other’s lives through employment arrangements and their children becoming friends, but ultimately end up on different sides of a custody battle happening for a third family in the community. I ended up loving all of the well-developed, complex characters and appreciated how the book made me think about morally charged issues including abortion, adoption, and how knowing the people behind these decisions can change your viewpoints very quickly. I think Celeste Ng did a wonderful job interweaving multiple story lines in a realistic and impactful way, and would definitely recommend this book to those who enjoy slower-paced, character-study type books.
This was the second Blake Crouch book that I read this year and – spoiler alert – they BOTH ended up on my favorites list. Recursion I liked just a little bit more – this science fiction novel is all about memories, and a disorder that is showing up in individuals called False Memory Syndrome. This syndrome is infiltrating sufferer’s minds with memories of lives they have not lived, causing some of them to go mad and eventually kill themselves to make the flood of false memories stop. I absolutely loved everything about this book – I 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 fulling understanding (it is still fiction, after all). I found the exploration of memories super intriguing and also found myself really invested in the characters and their outcomes. I highly recommend this book to you if you already know you like Blake Crouch’s writing, or if you are intrigued by the phenomenon that is False Memory Syndrome 🙂
Title: Dark Matter Author: Blake Crouch Genre: Science Fiction
Very similarly to Recursion, Dark Matter is a sci-fi novel that gives you plenty to think about yet remains entertaining and readable. This novel follows Jason, a seemingly average husband and father whose life is completely derailed when he’s attacked one night and awakes to find himself in a life just slightly different from his own – his wife is no longer his wife, and his son seems to no longer exist. The story takes off from there, exploring the possibility of alternate universes and the implications of wanting to step into a reality not your own. This is the book that got me completely hooked onto Blake Crouch as a writer, and if the premise sounds at all interesting to you I’d recommend it as a great sci-fi read.
Title: The Girl He Used to Know Author: Tracey Garvis Graves Genre: Contemporary/Romance
This is the first ARC I have ever received – the publisher kindly sent me a physical copy in exchange for an honest review. I was so, so happy when I ended up completely falling in love with the characters and story, a pretty straightforward second-chance romance that follows Annika and Jonathan throughout two timelines, one when they first meet in college and the second ten years later. I found myself falling in love with both of the characters twice over, and appreciated that they were crafted not to be perfect but to be realistic, making the overall story and love story feel authentic and genuine.
Title: The Art of Fielding Author: Chad Harbach Genre: Contemporary/Sports
This was another one that took me completely by surprise, as it’s my husband’s book and I read it per his recommendation. It’s a contemporary novel that follows the players on a midwestern baseball team. Although baseball takes up a majority of their time, and therefore makes up a lot of the book’s plotline, the characters also deal with plenty of other issues. I was COMPLETELY invested in this story – the characters are super complex and the book is long enough that we get very intimate with all of their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, and uncertainties. I think that non-sports-lovers can and will enjoy this book, but fans of baseball will enjoy it that much more.
I’m a sucker for a dystopia – I loved The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner, and The 5th Wave, despite some of their inherent flaws/plotholes and immature writing. When I first heard about Scythe, I was so intrigued by the synopsis, by the fact that it seemed to be more of an adult read, and because so many people online actually loved it. After reading it myself, I can say that the online community is correct and this book is COMPLETELY worth the hype. Absolutely the best dystopian novel I’ve ever read. Just this last month I read the sequel, Thunderhead, and I can’t wait to get to the recently-released conclusion, The Toll.
Title: The Last Time I Lied Author: Riley Sager Genre: Thriller
If you don’t consider Verity to be a thriller (I do, but many don’t), then here I listed my favorite thriller of the year. This is the second of three thrillers I read by Riley Sager this year, and by far my favorite. The story follows a young woman who is returning to a summer camp as an instructor 15 years after she attended as a camper and her three bunkmates went missing. Not only is she hoping to gain closure for herself, she’s hoping she can dig up some secrets and solve the mystery that has remained open since that time. I loved the atmosphere Sager created in this book, and the plot itself had me on the edge of my seat completely unsure of what to expect with every page flip. Highly recommend to thriller lovers, whether you have read any of Riley Sager’s other works or not.
Title: I Shouldn’t Be Telling You This Author: Kate White Genre: Nonfiction
And finally, rounding out my top 10, we have the sole nonfiction book. I try to read as much nonfiction as I can, but a lot of them in the “self-help” realm start repeating the same information and blend together in my mind. This book, however, completely stood out. If I could recommend ONE book for a woman looking for career-focused advice, this would be it. It covers everything from how to apply for and land your first job, to how to impress your boss, to how to get promoted, to how to manage other people, all the way up to how to handle reaching the “big job” that you’ve spent your career striving for. Even though my industry is COMPLETELY different from the magazine/media industry (the author’s area of expertise), I still found so many helpful tips within this book. They are actionable, there are a lot of them, and it fully flushes out one idea before moving onto the next. I plan to reread this book several times throughout my career, and because of that would recommend to anyone at any point in theirs.
With my Top 10 set for 2019, I’m so excited to get into 2020 and discover what great reads are waiting for me next year. If you haven’t already, check out my posts below that include some of the books I’m planning to get to! And let me know what your favorite reads have been this year, and what you’re planning on reading next year (if you know)!
2019 was such an amazing reading year for me – I completed over 100 books, found some new all-time favorite authors, and really honed in on my personal reading tastes for the first time. Looking forward to 2020, I have already become aware of a number of books to be released that I’m excited to try for one reason or another. Some are by authors that I already know I love, some are by authors that I want to give a second chance, and a some are authors completely unknown to me but have such an interesting premise that I want to check them out as soon as possible.
Below are 15 of my most anticipated releases for 2020 along with a short blurb on why I’m excited to read the book as soon as it comes out. Please let me know if any of these are on your radar for next year or if there are any other books you have your eye on!
Books by Favorite Authors
The Dilemma by B.A. Paris Anticipated Release: January 2020
B.A. Paris has quickly become one of my favorite thriller authors – two of her books, Behind Closed Doors and Bring Me Back, were both 5-star reads from me. I have very high hopes for this new one, which I actually was lucky enough to receive as an e-ARC from NetGalley and will be getting to read very soon!
Home Before Dark by Riley Sager Anticipated Release: July 2020
Riley Sager is an author I discovered this year, and after reading his debut novel Final Girls, I immediately had to read his subsequent books The Last Time I Lied and Lock Every Door. Every single one has been either 4 or 5 stars because of his extremely atmospheric writing, so I’m expecting nothing less from his upcoming thriller!
Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis Anticipated Release: March 2020
I actually have only read one book by Mindy McGinnis, The Female of the Species, but I absolutely loved it. Kind of a mix between a thriller and a contemporary, it completely stood out from all of the other books that I read this year and makes me very interested to read more from her to see if the vibe is the same throughout. In addition to this 2020 release that I want to try as soon as it comes out, I also have Heroine on my shelves already after being released this year – I plan to get to BOTH of them early in 2020!
Untitled by Ruth Ware Anticipated Release: July 2020
Another author that I only had to read one book from to fall in love with – Ruth Ware’s The Turn of the Key was released this year and quickly became a favorite of not only mine but so many people on the Bookternet. As I try to get to all of her backlist titles as well, I definitely am planning on keeping up with her future releases as they come.
Lucky Caller by Emma Mills Anticipated Release: January 2020
Foolish Hearts was my first exposure to Emma Mills, which I read this year and loved despite it being a young-adult contemporary-romance, not typically my favorite genre. Something about it really tugged at my heartstrings and actually made me feel quite nostalgic for the books that I read as a teen. If any of her other books are the same way, I do not want to miss out, which is why I’ll be keeping up with her future releases along with chipping away at her backlist when I can!
Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power Anticipated Release: July 2020
Rory Power’s debut novel, Wilder Girls, was released just recently and I decided to try it out right away because of the hype I was seeing about it online. What I loved about it was the creepy premise and atmospheric writing, and although I wanted more from the plot, I could tell that Rory Power’s writing was something I connected with and really could fall in love with if the right story came along. I’m hoping that’s Burn Our Bodies Down!
Authors I Want to Give a Second Chance
You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen Anticipated Release: March 2020
I have only read one of this duo’s books, An Anonymous Girl. I unfortunately did not like the story itself and grew bored of the characters and the mystery. However, many readers of this book shared similar feelings as me and claim that their first book, The Wife Between Us, was much better. I hope to try that one out as well as their 2020 release to see if it was just the story I didn’t connect with, or if this writing duo just doesn’t do it for me so that I can know for future years.
The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren Anticipated Release: March 2020
Ironically, this is another writing duo that I have only read one book from and am skeptical about my connection with. The Unhoneymooners was a huge contemporary romance released this year that I read and actually REALLY disliked. Something about the characters rubbed me the wrong way, and the fact that this book was so beloved in the online community makes me think that maybe Christina Lauren books are just not for me – but I am willing to give them one more chance before writing them off completely.
Loveless by Alice Oseman Anticipated Release: April 2020
The firt and only book I have read by Alice Oseman is Radio Silence, another book very beloved by the online book community. Although I didn’t hate it, I didn’t connect with the story as much as so many other readers seemed to. It may be because of the young-adult focus or for some other reason, but I think one more chance is warranted for Alice Oseman before I decide not to read any of her future releases.
He Started It by Samantha Downing Anticipated Release: April 2020
When I read My Lovely Wife this year, a super-hyped thriller, I was really disappointed in how much I disliked the story, which followed a married couple of serial killers. I do, however, think that it was completely plot-based and have some hopes that I could enjoy future Samantha Downing thrillers with a different premise.
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel Anticipated Release: March 2020
I am actually currently halfway through my first book from this author, Station Eleven. My thoughts are still very much undecided – on one hand, the post-apocolypic premise should be something I absolutely love, but I’m feeling a little underwhelmed and confused by the execution so far. But, I’m wanting to give it its fair chance to come together in the end, and with this author’s next release already announced I’m sure I will give it a chance regardless of whether I end up loving this current read or not.
Authors Unknown to Me
Strange Exit by Parker Peevyhouse Anticipated Release: January 2020
I have not read anything by Parker Peevyhouse before, but I have become intrigued in trying one of his books because of Booktuber Booksandlala. For the most part, if Lala enjoys a book (especially sci fis and thrillers), then I will too. Why not test this theory with Peevyhouse’s newest release in January?
Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson Anticipated Release: March 2020
Peter Swanson is a thriller writer that I had not heard of before but became aware of as I was planning my Goodreads Thriller Predictions. Although his book didn’t end up on the 2019 nominee list, I still think that I would like to try one of his thrillers in the future in hopes that I connect and find a new favorite thriller author!
The Other People by C.J. Tudor Anticipated Release: Feburary 2020
C.J. Tudor’s The Chalk Man was released in 2018, yet I have continued to see rave reviews about it well into this year. I definitely plan to get to it sometime in the future, but want to be one of the first to read his upcoming 2020 release as well so that I can be in-the-know if it turns out to be another favorite of the online book community!
Beach Read by Emily Henry Anticipated Release: May 2020
I saw mixed reviews of Emily Henry’s When the Sky Fell on Splendor after its release this year. Although I don’t think I will go back and read that one, this 2020 release sounds to have a very different premise (contemporary instead of science fiction), so I’m willing to give it a try in hopes that this is the genre she is meant to be writing!
Are there any upcoming releases that I’m missing that you’re looking forward to – or is anything on my list also on yours? I’d love to know – the more prepared I can be for upcoming books, the more likely I’ll be to prioritize and actually get to them soon after release!
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!
In my November TBR post, I revealed my ambitious reading plans for the month that included reading all of the Goodreads Thriller nominees and participating in Tome Topple, Buzzwordathon, and Sci Fi Month. I’m pleasantly surprised with my ability to stick (mostly!) to that original plan and ended up having a great reading month. Below are all of the books I completed along with which readathon/challenge it fulfilled for me. I’d love to know if you read any of the books below or participated in the readathons I mentioned above!
Title: Illuminae Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff Genre: Science Fiction Pages: 596 My Rating: 3 stars Readathon/Challenge: Sci Fi Month
Brief Summary: This book tells the story of Kady and Ezra, two teenagers forced to evacuate their home planet (not Earth) and board two different warships in a space battle between powerful space entities. The book is most notable for its unique writing style – the story is told dossier-style through emails, medical reports, memos, IMs, interviews, etc.
My Thoughts: My thoughts on this book are actually a little bit conflicting – on one hand, I absolutely love the multi-media format and thought it added an interesting element to the sci-fi story and made for a fun reading experience. I also really came to enjoy the relationship between the two main characters and found myself rooting hard for them not only to survive but to reconnect with each other in the end. However, that’s where my love for the story ends – the rest of it I actually found to be extremely confusing and boring. It took a long time for me to understand (if I ever did fully understand…) the universe they were in, what had happened in the past, and what they were fighting for in the present. I don’t typically love action movies or books, so I’m not surprised that I didn’t love the action scenes, but I also can’t think of a single OTHER character in the book that I fully knew, understood, or cared for. I do think I would pick up the second book in the series, because again I love the format and do think a lot of work went into building the story, but I’m not rushing out to buy it right this second.
Title: The Whisper Man Author: Alex North Genre: Thriller Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 2 stars Readathon/Challenge: Goodreads Mystery/Thriller Nominees
Brief Summary: This book follows a few different perspectives of people living in a town where, 20 years ago, five young boys (like ages 7-8) were abducted and killed. The man responsible for the murders has been caught and become known in the town as the “Whisper Man” because of the way he would sit outside of their windows and whisper creepy things to in the days leading up to their disappearances. Now, 20 years later, the town is reeling because a new little boy has gone missing, and although the people and authorities know it can’t be the Whisper Man because he’s being held in jail, the similarities are eerie and have people wondering if there was an accomplice to the previous murders and if that accomplice could be back, looking for more little boys to abduct and kill.
My Thoughts: The premise of this book is super creepy – I mean, abducted and murdered children is absolutely a topic that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up, and this book did a good job of building the suspense between the past and the present. Once the initial creepiness wore off, though, I found this mystery a little disappointing in that it didn’t do anything super original or surprising in any way. I would have loved a few more twists or something that would really make this book stand out in my mind, but unfortunately, I think most of the details will fade in my memory and this book will drop far down on my list of good or favorite thrillers.
Title: The Mother-In-Law Author: Sally Hepworth Genre: Thriller Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 4 stars Readathon/Challenge: Goodreads Mystery/Thriller Nominees
Brief Summary: This book shifts back and forth between the perspectives of a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law with a complicated relationship. They didn’t exactly start off on the right foot, and since then their relationship has consisted of tip-toeing around each other, not exactly outwardly fighting but each knowing that the other isn’t her biggest fan. When one day the mother-in-law turns up dead, everyone else in the family begins to wonder about secrets within the family and whether the apparent suicide is what it appears to be, or if foul play could be involved.
My Thoughts: I’ll start this review by saying that I absolutely would not consider this book to be a thriller – although there is the mystery element of the murder/suicide, the majority of the story reads like a contemporary or chick-lit book. We get to know the past of the relationship between the mother- and daughter-in-law, plus the upbringings of both and how that affected their family dynamic. I surprisingly enjoyed the story because of these complex relationships and dynamics, and ultimately I was satisfied with the eventual reveal of the mystery. Was it the most thrilling thing I’ve ever read? No, but I can still appreciate a story with many layers and that actually tackles many hard-hitting issues a lot of families may deal with.
Title: My Sister, the Serial Killer Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite Genre: Thriller Pages: 226 My Rating: 2 stars Readathon/Challenge: Goodreads Mystery/Thriller Nominees
Brief Summary: This book follows a young woman named Korede, who frequently gets phone calls from her sister telling her that she accidentally killed her boyfriend and needs help cleaning it up. Korede has gone along with her sister three times now, covering up her mess and her crimes, but now she is conflicted because her sister’s new boyfriend is someone Korede actually has feelings for and doesn’t want to turn up dead – does she try to warn him and risk turning in her sister, or stay silent and risk another deadly accident?
My Thoughts: I’ve definitely seen this book around the Bookternet quite a bit, with reviews that differ greatly. Of the critiques I’ve seen, most say that the writing is chopping, the pacing is off, and the book itself is too short for the plot to fully developed. After finishing the book, I actually didn’t mind any of those things and disliked it for completely different reasons. In my opinion, the story is completely dull and I really hated almost all of the characters. I wasn’t rooting for anyone, I wasn’t scared or shocked by anything in the plotline (I mean, the title is pretty clear on what you can expect), and I didn’t really understand the point of any of the side stories that were thrown in. I wouldn’t say that I regret reading this book, but I’m disappointed after all of the buzz I’ve been seeing about it this year and definitely wouldn’t consider it a top thriller.
Title: Thunderhead Author: Neal Schusterman Genre: Dystopia Pages: 504 My Rating: 4 stars Readathon/Challenge: Tome Topple
Brief Summary: This is the second book in the very popular Arc of a Scythe series by Neal Schusterman, in which we follow characters in a futuristic world where humans have conquered mortality and the only way to die is to be selected and gleaned by a Scythe. Scythes are highly-respected and highly-trained members of the society tasked with gleaning a certain number of people every year in order to keep population under control. Otherwise, the world is a completely perfect and self-sufficient place, thanks to the Thunderhead – an entity based on todays “Cloud” that is all-knowing and all-controlling in terms of managing hunger, income, crime, etc. This second book continues the story of two apprentice scythes from the first book in the series and dives much deeper into the Thunderhead’s role itself.
My Thoughts: I read Scythe, the first book, earlier this year and absolutely loved it. I am very happy to say that Thunderhead is a very solid second book that didn’t suffer from “second book syndrome” at all in my opinion. I loved learning more about the world and each of the characters, and the new characters and plot advancements were enough to keep me invested throughout the book and intrigued for the third and final book in the series. This is a must-read for lovers of the dystopian genre!
Title: The Night Circus Author: Erin Morgenstern Genre: Fantasy Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars Readathon/Challenge: Tome Topple
Brief Summary: This fantasy book is generally about a traveling magical circus that pops up in random locations all over the world and is open to the public from dusk to dawn. When people attend the circus, they are awe-struck by the experience – delicious food and smells, dazzling decorations, and highly entertaining performers everywhere they look. Throughout this story, we get to know the behind-the-scenes members of this circus, including the originator himself and many of the employees and performers who make it all come together, including two young magicians raised in preparation for a competition with each other to determine whose powers are greater.
My Thoughts: I am not a very big fantasy reader, so I knew that it was unlikely that I’d fall head-over-heels in love with this book like everyone else seems to… but after finishing it, I’m actually a little confused by the hype. I will say that the writing is absolutely BEAUTIFUL and the descriptions of the circus absolutely make me wish I could go and experience it for myself. But the plot…. Is non-existent? The synopsis makes it sound like there will be a fast-paced, action-packed competition between two magicians, but that is so not what happens, and I found myself both bored and confused as I waited longer and longer for any action to happen. Plus all of the other side characters and stories were a little confusing and also took away from any sort of action. Overall it’s hard to say that I hated it, because I definitely wanted to finish the story, but even harder to say that I loved – or even liked – it. I’d love to hear some feedback from anyone who loves this story – did you go in with different expectations, or did I miss something in the story that made it more impactful?
Title: Wilder Girls Author: Rory Power Genre: Science Fiction Pages: 353 My Rating: 3 stars Readathon/Challenge: Sci Fi Month
Brief Summary: This book has been described as many things – a fantasy/sci fi/horror gender-bent retelling of Lord of the Flies has been the most common description that I’ve seen. The story follows a group of girls being quarantined on Raxter Island, where they were attending an all-girls school until a mysterious disease broke out and started causing mutations and eventually killing most of the inhabitants. Because nobody knows what the disease is or what is causing it, people on the mainland don’t want to risk it spreading and choose to keep the girls stranded on the island with few resources being shipped over every couple of days to keep the survivors alive until some kind of cure is found. This leaves the girls extremely hungry, scared, and determined to find out more about the island’s inhabitants and history to explain their mysterious situation.
My Thoughts: This book was good – even great at the beginning – but just wasn’t ENOUGH for me. I wanted more time with the characters, more information and background when it came to the setting, and definitely more answers at the end. I really enjoyed the story itself but all of the lingering questions left me unsatisfied and hesitant to recommend it to people who don’t know what they’re getting into.
Title: Nine Perfect Strangers Author: Liane Moriarty Genre: Contemporary Pages: 450 My Rating: 3 stars Readathon/Challenge: Buzzwordathon
Brief Summary: This contemporary story follows nine individuals as they check in to a 10-day health resort that promises to completely change their lives through mysterious and unconventional measures. The “patients” don’t quite know what to expect, but most are willing to try just about anything to get their lives back on track – something that the staff know well and even use to their advantage at times.
My Thoughts: I have been reading a LOT of thrillers and sci-fi lately, so it was nice to get back into contemporary and just read about characters living their lives – and in this case, trying to improve them. I thought the character development was great – this book is told through over 10 character perspectives, so the fact that I could easily keep all of them straight and actually end up invested and caring about all of them is really impressive. I loved the first half of the story (the slower and arguably more boring half) because I was so interested in each of the characters and intrigued enough in the situation to really want to know how they would all change by the end. The twist(s) that happened throughout the second half seemed unrealistic and unnecessary to me, though, and took away from my enjoyment a bit. I’d recommend this book to people who really enjoy character-driven books almost bordering on character studies, and then say to keep an open mind about where the story may go!
Title: Miracle Creek Author: Angie Kim Genre: Thriller Pages: 351 My Rating: 4 stars Readathon/Challenge: Goodreads Mystery/Thriller Nominees
Brief Summary: 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.
My Thoughts: I wouldn’t call this book 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.
Title: Station Eleven Author: Emily St. John Mandel Genre: Dystopia Pages: 333 My Rating: stars Readathon/Challenge: Buzzwordathon
Although I do wish I could have completed a few more books in November, overall I’m happy with my reading experiences and hopeful that I will finish the year off strong with a good reading month in December. I’d love to know what reading plans you have for the last month of the year!
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!!