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)!
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!!
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!
I am loving fall so far and all the inspiration and motivation it’s giving me to keep reading 🙂 This month I read 11 books – while that’s not my highest of the year, I’m still very happy with that amount and really happy with the books themselves that I was able to complete! Without too much of an intro, let’s go ahead and get into the wrap-up!
Title: Golden State Author: Ben H. Winters Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia Pages: 319 My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This book takes place in a futuristic society where lying is among the very worst crimes a person can commit. We follow Lazlo, a member of this society’s “Speculative Service,” as he enforces the laws requiring citizens to tell the truth at all times.
My Thoughts: This is a WILD ride of a book… at first it seems clearly dystopian, then it turns into sort of a mystery/thriller, and then it erupts into complete chaos. I didn’t know who was good and who was bad, who and what I was supposed to believe, and I CERTAINLY didn’t know what to expect from the ending. Not sure I’m completely satisfied with how it wrapped up, but it had/has my mind reeling, and I really enjoy that. Aside from the ever-twisting plot, I really enjoyed reading about the nuances of this society – for example, finding out that fiction books are outlawed because of their obvious deviation from the true world, and that sarcasm is considered okay as long as all parties understand that the speaker isn’t deliberately trying to mislead the listener. Overall a great read, and I fully recommend to fans of dystopias, science fictions, and government conspiracies.
Title: Appalachian Book of the Dead Author: Dale Neal Genre: Metaphysical Thriller (?) Pages: 250, DNF’d at 100 My Rating: 1 star Publication Date: September 3, 2019 An ARC of this book was provided to me by SFK press, but I am under no obligation to review positively or otherwise. All thoughts are my own and are given voluntarily!
Brief Summary: This book has been described as a “metaphysical thriller,” as it starts out by telling the story of an outlaw escaping prison and disappearing into the woods in South Carolina, murdering the unlucky few who get in his way. The book then follows several different individuals living in the near vicinity, paranoid by the news of this escaped convict but otherwise trying to live their lives.
My Thoughts: I just could not get into this one… I was confused about the tone and vibe of the writing – very slow-paced and ominous, but no clear plot – and I didn’t care about or connect to ANY of the characters. I unfortunately DNF’d after 100 pages, which is something I have a really hard time doing, but my reading experience was that bad.
Title: Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office Author: Lois P. Frankel Genre: Female Nonfiction Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This nonfiction book highlights “101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make that Sabotage Their Careers,” and then offers advice and solutions to stopping them.
My Thoughts: The format of this book was enjoyable – each of the 101 sections/tips were short enough to easily digest, and it offered plenty of convenient stopping points for reading this book in small chunks. Most of the advice was pretty generic, but overall good. Some of it started to rub me the wrong way, however – her advice to women “with thin skin” and who find themselves getting overly emotional at work is to just “get over it”… really? That along with a few of the sections on personal appearance felt way over-simplified and a little outdated. Overall not life-changing, and I will not be re-reading or recommending in the future, but there are some helpful nuggets if the reader is open to some tough love.
Title: The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth Author: Alexandra Robbins Genre: Miscellaneous Pages: 448 My Rating: 5 stars
Brief Summary: This book explores “quirk theory,” or the idea that quirks and things that usually make us feel excluded early in life (like in high school) are exactly the traits that make us unique and successful later in life. The book follows seven individuals from different locations in the U.S. throughout one school year, going in-depth to their feelings and experiences – particularly how their quirks make them feel in relation to their peers and if there is anything they wish they could change about themselves or their situations. The book alternates between their stories and the author’s expression of different social theories, how they apply to each individual, and what it means for us as the readers and society as a whole.
My Thoughts: This book is really hard to summarize in just a few sentences because of just how in-depth it goes to each of the followed individuals’ lives, plus we get constant commentary from the author relating everything back to different psychological and social theories. It was really, really interesting, plus the seven different storylines made it feel like reading a fictional novel. I enjoyed seeing how each of the individuals’ lives played out, and I think I gained some insight and confidence that my own quirks should be celebrated and honed, not ignored. I would DEFINITELY recommend this book to high-schoolers or any individuals who are struggling with feeling excluded from their peers.
Title: The Last House Guest Author: Megan Miranda Genre: Thriller Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This thriller follows Avery, a young, 20-something woman living in Littleport, Maine and working as a property manager for some of the vacation homes. It follows two timelines, the first being the summer of 2017 when Avery’s best friend Sadie is found dead in the water near her family’s vacation home, and the police are questioning everyone near to her to find out whether it was an accident, a suicide, or a murder. The other timeline is one year later, as Avery is dealing with the closing of Sadie’s case and wondering whether the police might have gotten it wrong.
My Thoughts: As an audiobook, I generally enjoyed this story. The setting of Maine gave it a great small-town, beachy vibe that was both fun and a little creepy. I can’t say that anything in the story was particularly great or terrible – a pretty run-of-the-mill thriller. I didn’t predict the ending, but that’s not usually my strength or my goal when reading thrillers. I love to just absorb the story and twists as they come – but some reviews I’ve seen say that the twists were obvious, and veteran thriller readers may find this story unsatisfying. If you’re a fan of Megan Miranda, I think this one is worth a try, but if you require huge plot twists or over-the-top storylines, you may want to skip this one.
Title: The Art of Fielding Author: Chad Harbach Genre: Sports/Contemporary Pages: 512 My Rating: 5 stars
Brief Summary: This book mainly follows the players on a midwestern collegiate baseball team throughout the senior year of team leader Mike Schwartz and junior year of talent standout Henry Skrimshander. 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 including plummeting self-esteem, messy relationships, and uncertainty about the future.
My Thoughts: Whew… this book. There is so much more than meets the eye. First of all, I will say that although this book centers heavily around baseball, I do not think you have to be a sports fan in order to enjoy it. But if you ARE a baseball fan, you will enjoy it that much more. These characters are SUPER complex and the story is long enough that we get very intimate with their thoughts, hopes, dreams, fears, and uncertainties, which I think makes the story extremely relatable and easy to become invested in. Since my husband was the one who originally recommended this book to me, I think I can safely recommend it to both men and women – anyone who is looking to dive into an emotional story with lots of ups and downs, not unlike what we all go through in life in general.
Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone Author: Laini Taylor Genre: Fantasy Pages:418 My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This fantasy novel follows Karou, a college student who spends half of her life in the human world, attending art classes and struggling with a nagging ex-boyfriend, and half of her life in a fantastical world, running errands for her part-human-part-animal father figure and receiving wishes in return – one of which she used to have her hair permanently grow in a bright blue color. She doesn’t know much about this other world, or her own past for that matter, and suddenly things start happening in and around this fantastical world that cause her to start questioning more deeply, which ends up putting her in danger and leaving her wondering if she should abandon the other world to live safely as a human, or risk everything to get the answers she’s been looking for.
My Thoughts: I’ll start out by saying I am NOT a fantasy reader. I prefer my fiction realistic, but I have seen this book and Laini Taylor often highly rated and recommended by members of the book community, so I decided to give it a try – and I really enjoyed it! I appreciated that I could still identify with the main character as a person (not just a mysterious magical being), and the fantastical world/magic system was complex enough to make for a compelling and satisfying story while also staying simple enough that I could follow and understand it all. I enjoyed the entire story, including the ending, and although I don’t think I will be continuing with this series nor will I only be reading fantasy from now on, I’m glad that I branched out and overall enjoyed my reading experience with this one.
Title: Maybe in Another Life Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid Genre: Contemporary Pages: 342 My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This book starts with main character Hannah moving back to her hometown of Los Angeles after several years moving from city to city, job to job. On one of her first nights back, she is confronted with a turning-point decision: go home with her best friend after a night of drinking and dancing, or stay out with an old fling possibly wanting to rekindle their romance? The story then splits into two alternate realities, following Hannah as she lives out her life based on the two possible outcomes of this decision.
My Thoughts: I think the concept of alternate realities is really interesting, and I loved reading about both possible outcomes and the compounding effect of one seemingly simple and trivial decision in the main character’s life. It really makes you think about all of the pivotal decisions in your own life and where you might be had you chosen a different path (which I guess is equally exciting and terrifying, depending on your personal outlook). I don’t think any of these characters were overly compelling, and this is not my favorite TJR book to date, but it was a thought-provoking page-turner of a book and I was ultimately left extremely satisfied after reading it.
Title: Final Girls Author: Riley Sager Genre: Thriller Pages: 339 My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This book follows Quincy, a woman who is twelve years removed from a traumatic life event where she was the sole survivor of a mass murder in a cabin in the woods. This puts her in a very small and exclusive group of women known to the press as “final girls,” something she shares with only two other women in the country. When one of the other final girls is found dead having committed suicide, and the other shows up suddenly at Quincy’s doorstep, Quincy is forced to dig up old memories and emotions she’d been repressing in an attempt to form a normal life after such an abnormal past.
My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this as my first Riley Sager read. The idea of uniting sole survivors from mass murders into this kind of “final girls club” is really intriguing, and that was enough to pull me through the first half of this book, which has very little thrill/mystery to it other than the backstories of all of the final girls. Once the twists and mysteries of the present time are revealed, it becomes more of your typical thriller and although it includes one of my least favorite plot devices – women with memory problems – I still enjoyed the ride and didn’t predict any part of the ending. So far I see why the Riley Sager hype is there and I’m excited to get to his subsequent books!
Title: After I Do Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid Genre: Contemporary Pages: 336 My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: In this book, a couple that has been married for 9 years finds themselves in a rut in their relationship – they are constantly fighting, resent each other over small things, and are just generally unhappy being together. They decide to take a one-year break from their marriage, during which they are free to explore other people and relationships and are not allowed to contact each other in any way. The goal is for each of them to re-evaluate the relationship and decide if they want to fight for their marriage or go their separate ways for good.
My Thoughts: As someone who is married, a lot of the elements of this book hit close to home – it’s super common for small, nitpicky items to add up and boil over into a huge fight if you can’t communicate before it gets to that point, and it’s definitely difficult to learn to love the other person past the honeymoon phase of the relationship. Other than the interesting ways this couple chose to deal with their issues, I didn’t find myself super invested in the relationship and rooting for one outcome or the other. The couple is very average – which is what they’re supposed to be – but it made the overall story kind of boring and forgettable.
Title: One True Loves Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid Genre: Contemporary Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This book follows Emma, a young woman who is celebrating her engagement to a man named Sam when she suddenly gets a phone call from her previous husband, Jesse, who has been presumed dead for 3 years. With this revelation that Jesse is still alive, Emma is caught in between her feelings for both men and wondering if it’s possible to love two people at the same time.
My Thoughts: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books are so unique and I always find the plots super interesting to think about. I mean, nobody can imagine losing the love of their life early and having to move on to another relationship only to find out that the first person is still alive. However, with this book I just didn’t feel like I had enough time with the characters to be fully invested in any relationship. The story flips back and forth between current-day Emma and Sam, current-day Emma and Jesse, high-school Emma and Sam, and high-school Emma and Jesse – which are all relationships with completely different dynamics that make it really hard to sink your teeth into one before you’re whisked into another.
As I said in my October TBR, I am sooo excited to get to reading allll the thrillers this upcoming month. Let me know what you read in September and what you have planned for October!
I started out my September TBR post last week by saying how excited I am for it to be September and all of the exciting things I have to look forward to this fall! I’m sure I’m not alone in that love for fall activities and cozy fall weather – but August has definitely been a whirlwind, trying to cherish these last bits of summer while I still have them.
For those reasons, August was a bit of a slower reading month, and I only have 7 books to wrap up (4 of them were actually audiobooks, so that’s really telling of my reading habits!), but still a good reading month in itself and I definitely found some great reads to recommend. As usual, my reading stats and then mini-reviews for each book are below!
Title: Swapping Purples for Yellows Author: Matthew Duffus Genre: Contemporary Pages: 285 My Rating: 4 stars This ARC was provided to me for free by SFK Press, but I am under no obligation to review positively or otherwise. All thoughts are completely my own and are posted on my own accord!
Brief Summary: This book follows the Sutherlands, your typical middle-class family with plenty of drama but trying to hold it together, if not for their own sakes but for everyone else’s. Alternating between Rob, the father and professor at the local university, Molly, the mother struggling with her identity and gambling issues, and their two teenage daughters, this slice-of-life story dives into each character’s thoughts, feelings, and problems over the course of an action-packed weekend.
My Thoughts: At the very least, I thought this was an entertaining slice-of-life story in which readers can find at least one character to relate to. At the most, though, I think this story is a real teacher of empathy and reminder that you never really know what is going on behind-the-scenes of someone else’s life. With the length of this story only spanning three days, you get such an in-depth view to all of the characters’ perspectives and nuanced situations that you can’t help but root for all of them and none of them at the same time. Do I think this book had such a profound message that I’ll be thinking about it every day for months to come? No, but I can appreciate a story that gets me out of my own head and into the shoes of a person/family with a life as complex as mine.
Title: The Unhoneymooners Author: Christina Lauren Genre: Contemporary Romance Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 2 stars
Brief Summary: This is a very popular contemporary novel that features an enemies-to-lovers romance plotline. Olive and Ethan are the maid of honor and best man in a wedding where every single OTHER person – including the bride and groom – gets food poisoning and becomes violently ill. Because of the illness, the bride and groom cannot attend their non-refundable honeymoon, so Olive and Ethan step up to redeem the trip – even though they hate each other.
My Thoughts: Like I said, this book is super popular and I’ve seen it hyped everywhere on the bookternet, and I wanted to love it. I actually think that if I watched this book as a movie, I’d love the light-hearted cheesiness of it, and I’d appreciate that it only took up an hour and a half of my time. But I listened to the 10-ish hour audiobook instead, and it just felt like a waste of my time. If you love rom-com books and are looking for a light summer read, this probably would be right up your alley! I just didn’t find anything great about it. Plus – I’ve lived in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, which is where these characters are from, and at first I thought it was cool hearing them mention places I know and have been to myself. But I don’t know, when the audiobook narrator mispronounces Mankato and Menards… it loses its charm pretty quick. Overall just not my cup of tea, and I will probably steer clear of rom-com books like this one in the future.
Title: Gone Author: Michael Grant Genre: Dystopia Pages: 558 My Rating: 3 stars
Brief Summary: This book, probably intended for a middle-grade audience, is a dystopia that follows a group of kids all under the age of 15 after every single adult instantaneously disappears. Nobody knows why it happened, where they went, or what they are supposed to do now that the kids are completely on their own.
My Thoughts: I’ve said it before, but there is a special place in my heart for dystopias, no matter who they are intended for. I really loved the focus on kids in this one – no adult characters for us to follow even if we wanted to. The story was super intriguing and kept me turning the pages. I was disappointed in the middle and ending though – absolutely zero questions were answered. There are something like 5 more books in the series, each of them probably consisting of 500+ pages, and I just don’t want to have to read all of them to get to the bottom of the mysteries uncovered here. So I will not be continuing, but I would recommend this book to any dystopia-lovers ready to dive into the whole, long series.
Title: On the Island Author: Tracey Garvis Graves Genre: Contemporary Romance Pages: 328 My Rating: 5 stars
This contemporary novel alternates between perspectives of teacher/tutor, Anna,
and student, T.J., the two victims of a tiny plane crash between islands in the
Maldives on the way to T.J.’s family’s vacation home for the summer. When their
pilot has a heart attack and dies on the way down, Anna and T.J. land in the
water alone and eventually wash up onto shore with nothing more than the clothes
on their backs. As they struggle to live on the island until the authorities
can locate them, their relationship becomes possibly the most important factor in
My Thoughts: This is the second novel I’ve read by Tracey Garvis Graves (first was The Girl He Used to Know), and my second 5-star rating. I just love her books – her character development is amazing and I always end up caring so deeply for both characters in the relationship despite all of the flaws they inevitably have. This story particularly is also incredibly suspenseful – I spent every page wondering if Anna & T.J. were going to survive, and if they did, what was going to happen to their relationship. Can’t wait to keep on reading TGG’s books.
Title: Influencer: The Power to Change Anything Author: Kerry Patterson, et. al. Genre: Business/Nonfiction Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 4 stars
This book is a non-fiction guide to identifying the vital behaviors that lead
to any rapid and profound change, whether in an individual or organization. It teaches
how to apply strategies for changing both thoughts and actions, making change
not only possible, but inevitable.
My Thoughts: I always enjoy self-help-type books that offer real stories and case studies showing how the strategies being highlighted actually work in the real world, and this book definitely had a lot of that. I thought the information was simple and clear and presented in a helpful way. Definitely recommend to anyone looking to make changes happen on an individual or organizational basis.
Title: Forever, Interrupted Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid Genre: Contemporary Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This book is about Elsie, a young woman whose husband is suddenly killed after only two weeks of being married. After his death, Elsie has to deal not only with her grief, but also with getting to know her mother-in-law who never even knew her son was in a relationship – let alone married. We alternate between reading about the early stages of Elsie and Ben’s relationship and Elsie’s present-day struggles.
My Thoughts: This book was HARD to rate! On one hand, it’s a really nice love story that we get to see develop between Elsie and Ben. But then we are constantly thrust back into the tragedy of his death, and those sections are really, really hard to read. Ultimately I think the fact that this book made me feel so much is a testament to the storytelling and writing, so it deserves a good rating – but readers should definitely know going in that the story is extremely sad.
Title: Jane Steele Author: Lyndsey Faye Genre: Classic Retelling Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars
This is a retelling of the classic novel Jane Eyre, centered around a character
named Jane Steele. Though her life and personality are like Jane Eyre in many
ways, there is one major difference – Jane Steele is a serial killer.
My Thoughts: I had some mixed feelings about this one. The things that I liked include the fact that Jane Steele is a fan of Jane Eyre, and even references the classic novel several times throughout the book. I thought it was a clever way to incorporate the old story and help me relate to the main character with our mutual enjoyment of Jane Eyre. I also ultimately enjoyed the story of Jane Steele’s life and particularly liked the ending. However, for a non-classic, I thought this book really dragged on. One of the benefits of being a classic retelling, in my opinion, is the option to keep the interesting parts/themes of an old story but take out all of the wordiness and unnecessary description that classics are known for. Also, I thought that the fact that Jane Steele was a serial killer ended up being a much less exciting and prominent part of the story than I expected. Some people may find that to be a positive, since there are many other key plot points that make the story unique, but it’s used as such an attention-grabber that I just expected it to be more of the focus. I still would recommend this story for lovers of Jane Eyre, but anyone else may want to skip it!
Let me know if you have read any of these books, if they are on your TBR, or what you are planning on reading this fall!
July 2019… AKA my biggest, and possibly best, reading month
so far of the year! 14 books completed, 9 of them being either 4- or 5-star
reads. I’d call that a success!
In my July TBR post, I mentioned that not only was I planning on participating in The Reading Rush readathon, but I loosely set my entire month’s TBR based on the readathon’s prompts. I didn’t read every single book on that TBR, nor did I read the 7 books in 7 days for the readathon itself, but I think this month overall was still a resounding success. See below for all of the books I completed and my thoughts!
Title: Foolish Hearts Author: Emma Mills Genre: Contemporary Pages: 320 My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This young adult contemporary is about Claudia, a high school girl who finds herself accidentally eavesdropping on the breakup of her school’s “it” couple, Iris and Paige. This puts her on rocky terms with Iris right before being assigned her partner for multiple English class assignments and to work their school’s play together, making for a very interesting senior year filled with drama, rumors, boy band fandom, new friends and relationships.
My Thoughts: Just adorable. I don’t read a lot of young adult because of how ridiculous and dramatic I find some of the characters and storylines, but this one actually broke through the cheesiness and reminded me of exactly the type of story I would have read when I was in middle school – in a good way!
Title: A Keeper Author: Graham Norton Genre: Mystery Pages: 221 My Rating: 3 stars Release Date: August 13, 2019 Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Book for the eARC in exchange for an honest review!
Brief Summary: Elizabeth is a divorced, single mom stuck with the unfortunate task of going through her late mother’s home and belongings. In doing this, she finds a collection of old letters that she can only assume are from her father, a man she was never told much about. This book flashes back and forth between the two women’s lives to reveal the events that actually happened all those years ago, and what Elizabeth is going to do about it after finding out.
My Thoughts: This book is definitely a page-turner. I was super intrigued by the story and enjoyed it alternating between past and present. I wish some of the mystery’s reveals were more shocking or suspenseful, but I enjoyed the story altogether. I would specifically recommend this book to people who like slow-burning mysteries that aren’t necessary thrillers!
Title: 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Author: Stephen R. Covey Genre: Self-Help Pages: 319 My Rating: 2 stars
Brief Summary: This book, originally published in 1989, is a very highly-regarded self-help book promising to share the seven habits that successful individuals implement in their everyday life to achieve that success.
My Thoughts: I felt extremely “meh” about this one. I found it to be outdated, preachy, and long-winded. I do think it has some fundamentally good advice, but I can think of at least one or two other books that say what this book was trying to say, but in more concise and impactful ways. If you’re an avid self-help reader, I’d skip this one – you can find the principles elsewhere.
Title: The Perfect Stranger Author: Megan Miranda Genre: Thriller Pages: 337 My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This thriller follows Leah, a former journalist who moved out of Boston and into rural Pennsylvania to become a teacher. Strange things start happening to the people around her – her roommate suddenly goes missing, and a different woman who looks eerily like Leah is found assaulted by a nearby lake. She works with police officer named Kyle, who she also happens to strike a romantic connection with, to solve these mysteries and find out if they are connected in any way.
My Thoughts: I had a great experience reading this thriller – very creepy and twisty, great pacing, and I really didn’t know which characters to trust. I enjoyed the entire plot along with the ending and at first was planning to give this read 5 stars. The only reason I lowered it down to a 4 is because it was pretty quick to leave my memory in the days after putting it down – but overall very enjoyable and I’d highly recommend for thriller fans and/or fans of Megan Miranda. Planning on getting to more of her books soon!
Title: Brave, Not Perfect Author: Reshma Saujani Genre: Female Nonfiction Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This book is written by Reshma Saujani, a lawyer and politician who gave a popular TED Talk about her experience running for Congress (and losing), and later starting the non-profit organization Girls Who Code – two difficult life choices that have shaped her life and success to this day. This book relates those experience to a lesson she thinks should be taught to girls everywhere at every age – to strive for bravery, not perfection, in a world that historically has encouraged the exact opposite.
My Thoughts: I picked up this book for a book club at my workplace and found it INCREDIBLY relatable and inspiring. I absolutely love the Girls Who Code organization, so I’ll admit I probably was biased because of my admiration for the author to begin with, but I think she makes excellent points about the way girls are raised today and gives plenty of actionable tips to help prevent the perfectionist tendencies engrained within ourselves and that we want to avoid passing on to future generations.
Title: Sometimes I Lie Author: Alice Feeney Genre: Thriller Pages: 262 My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: Another thriller, this one follows Amber, a young woman who regains consciousness within a hospital bed, where she has been stuck in a coma for several days. Though she cannot open her eyes or speak, she can hear the people around her – the doctors, her husband and sister, and a mysterious individual who sneaks into her room at night. This book alternates between three timelines: present day in the hospital, the days leading up to the accident that brought her there, and twenty years in the past to help solve the puzzle of Amber’s life and those around her.
My Thoughts: I’ve been known to really dislike thrillers that give the main character memory problems – the only ones that I’ve enjoyed (this one and What Alice Forgot) I think do it in the best way, though, with an actual accident that can be attributed to causing memory loss. Aside from the gap in Amber’s memory, I think this story was well-crafted and I enjoyed putting all of the pieces together that relate Amber’s family, coworkers, and others to her accident and the current state of her life. Maybe a little predictable, but still overall enjoyable.
Title: The Astonishing Color of After Author: Emily X.R. Pan Genre: Contemporary Pages: 460 My Rating: 5 stars
Brief Summary: This contemporary story follows Leigh in the months following her mother’s suicide. In the midst of her grief, she is given reason to believe that her mother has actually returned as a bird and is urging her to travel to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. Believing she is following her mother’s wishes, and believing that doing so will bring her mother closer and possibly offer some insight to her death, Leigh goes on a journey between past and present, real and fantastical, to find out more than she thought possible about her mother, her family, and herself.
My Thoughts: This book is undeniably beautiful – on the outside (because the cover IS gorgeous) and on the inside. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the writing and the story, even though magical realism is not my usual cup of tea. All of the characters are super well-developed, and I feel like I learned a lot about people and cultures different from me and my own. I also think this book covers the delicate topics of suicide and loss in a way that will resonate with a lot of different people, as hard as it is to address.
Title: Holes Author: Louis Sachar Genre: Contemporary Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 5 stars RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book and watch the movie adaptation
Brief Summary: This middle-grade story is about a boy named Stanley who is sent to a correctional camp after being accused of stealing a pair of tennis shoes. At the camp, Stanley and the rest of the campers are forced to dig one hole, each, every day – five feet in diameter and five feet deep. The book alternates between Stanley’s experience and the historical story of the campsite, which may be more closely related than Stanley first realizes.
My Thoughts: I mean, how could I rate this any fewer than 5 stars? I grew up LOVING the movie, which follows the book almost identically. The nostalgia combined with the humor and life lessons this book provides makes it a classic and a book I can’t wait for my future kids to read!
Title: Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink Author: Katrina Alcorn Genre: Family Pages: 262 My Rating: 5 stars RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with 5+ words in the title, Read an author’s debut book
Brief Summary: Kristina Alcorn was a 37-year-old mother with a great husband, three healthy kids, and a thriving career when she suddenly found herself pulling her car over to avoid having a major panic attack on the freeway – with her kids in tow. Wondering how someone like herself, with a supportive partner and flexible workplace, could possibly be struggling with work-life balance, she tried to look both within herself and to her peers to see if she was alone or if parenthood is a bigger struggle than anyone makes it out to be. Turns out it is, and Kristina set out to find if there’s anything that can be done about it, if only to help herself out of the breakdown she was spiraling into. This book is a recollection of that time in her life when she re-learned how to be a mother PLUS truly thrive in her professional and social lives.
My Thoughts: As a mother-to-be (due in December!) this book highlighted all of the fears I have about having a kid and planning to keep the rest of my life (marriage, job, social events) intact. While it was a little scary to read about this seemingly perfect mother completely break down under the stress, it ultimately showed me that I won’t be alone in ANY of the feelings I might have in motherhood. And that is a REALLY comforting feeling. I found this book entertaining, relatable, reassuring, and most importantly helpful. Highly recommend to all moms (and dads!) out there just trying to stay above water.
Title: The Number Devil Author: Hans Magnus Enzensberger Genre: Miscellaneous/Math Pages: 255 My Rating: 3 stars RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with a non-human main character
Brief Summary: This fictional story is about Robert, a school-aged boy who hates math but is visited in his dreams by a “number devil.” The devil leads him through all kinds of mathematical theories and makes them fun and interesting, putting fun cartoonish twists on them and creating easy ways to remember and utilize them later on.
My Thoughts: I love that this book tries to make math fun. I absolutely love finding patterns and things within numbers and found myself pleasantly surprised by learning a few things myself from the number devil. I do think it’s a LITTLE over-the-top with the whimsy, subtly renaming some of the terms, which I think would make it confusing to carry things from this book over into math class (for example, the book always calls prime numbers “prima donnas,” which is catchy and easy to remember, but it might take a while for a kid to make the connection when their teacher tries teaching prime numbers for the first time). But I think that if this book can convince someone that math/numbers are fun, then that’s a great thing!
Title: The Color Purple Author: Alice Walker Genre: Classic Pages: 288 My Rating: 4 stars RR Prompt Fulfilled: Read a book with purple on the cover
Brief Summary: This classic novel is about Celie, a young, woman of color living in the southern United States writing letters first to God, then to her long-lost sister separated from Celie at childhood. She tells of her experience bearing children at an extremely young age, being married off to a man who is in love with another woman, and eventually finding true love herself. The book covers absolutely everything from sexism and feminism to racism to LGBTQ+ rights to sexual and domestic abuse.
My Thoughts: I first read this book in high school I believe as an optional AP English assignment. Reading it again now, I actually can’t believe I was encouraged to read it then – it is extremely graphic with its sexual descriptions and has some really disturbing subject matter. But if you can get through all of that, it’s really incredible how hopeful the narrative still is, even with all of the abuse and hardship Celie goes through she still has the strength to hope for a brighter future and for health and happiness for those around her. I don’t know if I have much else to say about this book that hasn’t already been said, because it is such a classic, but if you have not yet read this book and are prepared for the powerful yet disturbing story of Celie’s life, then I agree with everyone else that this is a must-read.
Title: Moneyball Author: Michael Lewis Genre: Sports Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 3 stars RR Prompts Fulfilled: Read a book you meant to read last year, Read a book in the same spot the entire time
Brief Summary: This book primarily is about the Oakland A’s, a baseball team that has had to overcome budgetary challenges to stay competitive with the best teams in the MLB. They must get creative with drafting strategies, finding recruits with talents invisible to the big-budget teams but that they can rely on to produce winning results for the A’s.
My Thoughts: At the risk of sounding like a complete idiot, I honestly didn’t expect this book to focus quite so heavily on baseball. This book was recommended by a top executive at my company, so I thought there would be parallels drawn between the baseball world and the business world – but no, this is a baseball book through and through. If you know that going in, and if you’re interested in learning about baseball statistics and strategies, then I do think there are a lot of really interesting stories in here and facts that I had no idea about, as a pretty casual baseball fan.
Title: Stargirl Author: Jerry Spinelli Genre: Contemporary Pages: 0 (audiobook) My Rating: 4 stars
Brief Summary: This middle-grade contemporary is known as a celebration of nonconformity, a story about a teenager named Stargirl who transfers to Mica Area High School and completely throws everyone for a loop. The other students don’t know whether to marvel at her confidence or shun her for being so different – and one boy named Leo is the most confused of all as he ends up falling for her and her unconventional ways.
My Thoughts: Again, hard not to love this one if you read it as a child or teen, which I did! I think everyone can relate with wanting to fit in in high school and having conflicting feelings about those who choose to stand out, and this book does an excellent job of describing those complexities and teaching the lessons of accepting others even when it doesn’t seem like the popular choice.
Title: The Science of Harry Potter Authors: Mark Brake and Jon Chase Genre: Miscellaneous/Science Pages: 202 My Rating: 2 stars
Brief Summary: As the title suggests, this book dives into some of Harry Potter’s most intriguing magical elements (Platform 9 ¾, flying broomsticks, talking paintings, etc.) and evaluates whether any of them would be feasible today or in the future as backed by science.
My Thoughts: I was unfortunately super disappointed by this book. I picked it up on a whim, as someone who has enjoyed all of the Harry Potter movies (unfortunately not yet the books!) and a lover of all things science-y and analytical. But I found myself REALLY bored by some of the book’s sections and skipped ahead just to the ones I was interested in, and unfortunately even those weren’t as interesting as I’d hoped.
Note to self: Next time I plan on reading 14 books in a month, maybe try writing some of these summaries/reviews as I go instead of leaving them to the very end. That was a lot for one night!
Whew – and with that all done, on to August and yet another ambitious TBR! Definitely let me know how your July went, if you have read any of the books I mentioned above, and what your plans are for the next month and rest of the year! Happy reading!
I’ve had the idea for a while to start doing themed TBRs every month… and while I don’t want to give away what that means for the future, I can say that this month is the start of that – and what better thing for books to have in common than being really, really cheap?
While searching Alibris (one of my favorite book-buying sites) for books on my “someday” TBR, I found that a large number of them cost only 99 cents – typically it’s because the book has been well-loved by a library or other previous owner, so the books are by no means in mint condition – nor are they brand-new releases. But I don’t mind small wear and tear at all – I actually really like giving books a new home and second (or third, or fourth) life!
Full disclosure, once shipping is added these books cost more than 99 cents each – but the good news is that the more I buy from the same seller, the less each book’s shipping costs end up being. This haul ended up costing me about $4 to $5 per book, which I would still consider extremely affordable.
Also, I know there is some controversy over used books and whether we should be buying old copies when we can afford new, full-priced books and support the author with the purchase. Although I see both sides of the argument, ultimately I think reusing and recycling things does good for our planet. So I’m happy with buying a mix of brand-new books, which I buy to support the authors, and used books, which I buy to give a second life.
With ALL that being said, time to get into the TBR. Below are 8 books that I’m planning to read in August, all of which were purchased online for 99 cents!
On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves (2012)
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (1938)
A Classic Retelling
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (2016)
Gone by Michael Grant (2008)
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (2011)
A Miscellaneous Nonfiction
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robins (2009)
A Science Fiction
Golden State by Ben Witners (2019)
The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling (2012)
Many of these are out of my comfort zone or were purchased on somewhat of a whim, so I would LOVE to know if you’ve read any of the books above and what you thought!