Monday, May 1, 2023

#gretchensbooks2023 - April

The way I read this month was bizarre. I started by reading and listening to two romance stories, then read and listened to two thrillers (in which the main characters had something bad/mysterious to their sisters), then listened to and read two non-fiction books. Usually my genres don’t correspond like that, so it would take me a second at times to remember which story was which! I've also been super obsessed with documentaries this month. Which has absolutely nothing to do with books, but also if you have any that you'd recommend, send them my way!


Book #61 of 2023 πŸ“– Dani’s Story: A Journey From Neglect to Love by Diane & Bernie Lierow ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 July 2011

The story that captivated a nation - how a horribly neglected little girl was rescued by her loving adoptive parents. In July 2005, a six-year-old girl named Danielle was removed from her Florida home after authorities found her living in bug-ridden squalor, subjected to horrific neglect and so damaged by her own mother that recovery seemed hopeless. But hope was waiting for Dani?and help. In October 2007, Bernie and Diane Lierow, a hard-working couple with five boys of their own, adopted her and utterly transformed her life. This book tells the moving story of how the Lierows rescued Dani and helped her recover to the point where she can not only communicate, something once thought impossible, but can say of herself, "I pretty."


This story was captivating. I thought it would be a memoir from the girl’s point of view (not realizing how severe her disabilities were before starting it). It ended up being from the adoptive mom’s perspective, and it was very well-written. I found myself tearing up more than once, and googling A LOT. I kept thinking “I couldn’t even handle taking care of cats, and look what they chose to do for this girl!”


Book #62 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Night Shift by Alex Finlay ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Mystery/Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 March 2022

It’s New Year’s Eve 1999. Y2K is expected to end in chaos: planes falling from the sky, elevators plunging to earth, world markets collapsing. A digital apocalypse. None of that happens. But at a Blockbuster Video in New Jersey, four teenagers working late at the store are attacked. Only one inexplicably survives. Police quickly identify a suspect, the boyfriend of one of the victims, who flees and is never seen again.

Fifteen years later, more teenage employees are attacked at an ice cream store in the same town, and again only one makes it out alive.

In the aftermath of the latest crime, three lives intersect: the lone survivor of the Blockbuster massacre who’s forced to relive the horrors of her tragedy; the brother of the fugitive accused, who’s convinced the police have the wrong suspect; and FBI agent Sarah Keller who must delve into the secrets of both nights—stirring up memories of teen love and lies—to uncover the truth about murders on the night shift.


This was a well-written mystery with a lot (though not too many) of people who could have been the murderer. I liked that the story wrapped everything up in the end, and that the resolution made sense and was believable. I enjoyed the different points of views.


Book #63 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Good Girl Complex by Elle Kennedy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Contemporary Romance

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 February 2022

She does everything right. So what could go wrong?

Mackenzie “Mac” Cabot is a people pleaser. Her demanding parents. Her prep school friends. Her long-time boyfriend. It’s exhausting, really, always following the rules. All she wants to do is focus on growing her internet business, but first she must get a college degree at her parents’ insistence. That means moving to the beachside town of Avalon Bay, a community made up of locals and the wealthy students of Garnet College.

Twenty-year-old Mac has had plenty of practice suppressing her wilder impulses, but when she meets local bad boy Cooper Hartley, that ability is suddenly tested. Cooper is rough around the edges. Raw. Candid. A threat to her ordered existence. Their friendship soon becomes the realest thing in her life.

Despite his disdain for the trust-fund kids he sees coming and going from his town, Cooper soon realizes Mac isn’t just another rich clone and falls for her. Hard. But as Mac finally starts feeling accepted by Cooper and his friends, the secret he’s been keeping from her threatens the only place she’s ever felt at home.

I really enjoyed Kennedy’s Off-Campus and Briar U series, so I figured I’d check out some of her non-hockey romances as well.


I liked the storyline of this one. I was a little apprehensive about the main character at first, because I thought she was naive, but she toughened up which made me really like her!


It ended very rapidly. Like CONFLICT RESOLVED BAM DONE. I would have like a little more of a wrap up to everything else that was going on.


Book #64 of 2023 πŸ“– Scandalized by Ivy Owens ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

πŸ“šGENRE: Contemporary Romance

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 23 August 2022

Exhausted and on deadline with a story that could make or break her career, investigative journalist Georgia Ross is on the verge of a meltdown when a cancelled flight leaves her stuck in the airport overnight. But when a familiar face appears—the older brother of her childhood friend—and offers help, Gigi seems to have caught a break. 

Alec Kim is handsome, humble, and kind—exactly the sort of man that Gigi has forgotten existed after her own painful heartbreaks. An evening of reconnection followed by a night of no-strings-attached passion with Alec feels like a gift—that is, until Gigi finally realizes that their childhood connection isn’t the only reason he seems so familiar to her.

Alec is determined to prove to Gigi that he is truly the man she thinks he is, even if it means coming clean about his fame—and his family’s connection to the story Gigi’s been working so hard to break. But as their feelings for each other grow deeper, Gigi and Alec must navigate a new reality…one where both of their hard-won careers are put directly in the path of an international scandal.

I read that Ivy Owens is the pen name for Lauren of Christina Lauren (of whose books I haven’t read any of yet!)


I was (almost) more into the side scandal than the actual romance in this book! How do I get a spin-off with more of that story? That being said, I enjoyed the romance as well, and found both the main characters to be very likeable.


Book #65 of 2023 πŸ“– A Breath After Drowning by Alice Blanchard ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 10 April 2018

Child psychiatrist Kate Wolfe's world comes crashing down when one of her young patients commits suicide, so when a troubled girl is left at the hospital ward, she doubts her ability to help. But the girl knows things about Kate's past, things she shouldn't know, forcing Kate to face the murky evidence surrounding her own sister's murder sixteen years before, bringing Kate face to face with her deepest fear.

This book has been on my TBR list for half a decade. It was only in my desire to clear my public library list of books I saved to read that I finally borrowed it to read.


I never wanted to put this book down. I started it one night and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Then as soon as I woke up, I picked the book up again and read until I had to leave for an appointment. I was SO SURE I knew what was going to happen, but I was SO WRONG. This was a page turner for me! 


Book #66 of 2023 πŸŽ§ All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 10 January 2023

One year ago, Isabelle Drake's life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle's entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle's past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust... including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.

This one came highly recommended by one of my favorite bookstagramers, so as soon as it was available on Libby I put a hold on it. I really liked her debut novel, A Flicker in the Dark, so I was hoping this would be just as good!


This one could have gone in a lot of different directions, and because of that, I didn’t find it predictable. I laid in bed listening to this instead of watching tv because I needed to know what would happen. 


Book #67 of 2023 πŸ“– Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t by Edward Humes ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Non-Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 8 January 2019

On an April night in 1989, Jo Ann Parks survived a house fire that claimed the lives of her three small children. Though the fire at first seemed a tragic accident, investigators soon reported finding evidence proving that Parks had sabotaged wiring, set several fires herself, and even barricade her four-year-old son inside a closet to prevent his escape. Though she insisted she did nothing wrong, Jo Ann Parks received a life sentence without parole based on the power of forensic fire science that convincingly proved her guilt.

But more than a quarter century later, a revolution in the science of fire has exposed many of the incontrovertible truths of 1989 as guesswork in disguise. The California Innocence Project is challenging Parks's conviction and the so-called science behind it, claiming that false assumptions and outright bias convicted an innocent mother of a crime that never actually happened.

If Parks is exonerated, she could well be the "Patient Zero" in an epidemic of overturned guilty verdicts—but only if she wins. Can prosecutors dredge up enough evidence and roadblocks to make sure Jo Ann Parks dies in prison? No matter how her last-ditch effort for freedom turns out, the scenes of betrayal, ruin, and hope will leave readers longing for justice we can trust.

I’m not sure how this ended up on my TBR list, but the story was very intriguing.


I knew next to nothing about fire forensics, so I was a bit concerned that this would be a difficult read due to my own lack of understanding. I was very wrong. This was an easy read (despite all the new info!) 


The ending! I need more closure. This book was published too soon. Google to the rescue!


Book #68 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The National Team: The Inside Story of the Women Who Changed Soccer by Caitlin Murray ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Non-Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 2 April 2019

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team has won three World Cups and four Olympic gold medals, set record TV ratings, drawn massive crowds, earned huge revenues for FIFA and U.S. Soccer, and helped to redefine the place of women in sports. But despite their dominance, and their rosters of superstar players, they’ve endured striking inequality: low pay, poor playing conditions, and limited opportunities to play in professional leagues.

The National Team, from leading soccer journalist Caitlin Murray, tells the history of the USWNT in full, from their formation in the 1980s to the run-up to the 2019 World Cup, chronicling both their athletic triumphs and less visible challenges off the pitch. Murray also recounts the rise and fall of U.S. professional leagues, including the burgeoning National Women’s Soccer League, an essential part of the women’s game.

Through nearly 100 exclusive interviews with players, coaches, and team officials, including Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Hope Solo, Heather O’Reilly, Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Pia Sundhage, Tom Sermanni, and Sunil Gulati, Murray takes readers inside the locker rooms and board rooms in engrossing detail. A story of endurance and determination, 
The National Team is a complete portrait of this beloved and important team.


I knew there had been a lot that happened with the Women’s National Team, but I never knew the true extent of their story. WOW. Girl power! I found the story easy to listen to. Informative, but not overwhelming. It covered the whole history, essentially from conception until their latest World Cup win.


Book #69 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Last Orphan (Orphan X #8) by Gregg Hurwitz ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Adventure Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 14 February 2023

As a child, Evan Smoak was plucked out of a group home, raised and trained as an off-the-books assassin for the government as part of the Orphan program. When he broke with the program and went deep underground, he left with a lot of secrets in his head that the government would do anything to make sure never got out. 

When he remade himself as The Nowhere Man, dedicated to helping the most desperate in their times of trouble, Evan found himself slowly back on the government's radar. Having eliminated most of the Orphans in the program, the government will stop at nothing to eliminate the threat they see in Evan. But Orphan X has always been several steps ahead of his pursuers.

Until he makes one little mistake...

Now the President has him in her control and offers Evan a deal - eliminate a rich, powerful man she says is too dangerous to live and, in turn, she'll let Evan survive. But when Evan left the Program he swore to only use his skills against those who really deserve it. Now he has to decide what's more important - his principles or his life.


I’ve really enjoyed all of the stories in this series, and this most recent release was no different. I enjoyed Evan’s relationship with the girl he was helping. He always has so much character growth in each book.


Book #70 of 2023 πŸ“– Always Watching by Chevy Stevens ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 18 June 2013

She helps people put their demons to rest. 

But she has a few of her own…

In the lockdown ward of a psychiatric hospital, Dr. Nadine Lavoie is in her element. She has the tools to help people, and she has the desire—healing broken families is what she lives for. But Nadine doesn't want to look too closely at her own past because there are whole chunks of her life that are black holes. It takes all her willpower to tamp down her recurrent claustrophobia, and her daughter, Lisa, is a runaway who has been on the streets for seven years.

When a distraught woman, Heather Simeon, is brought into the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit after a suicide attempt, Nadine gently coaxes her story out of her—and learns of some troubling parallels with her own life. Digging deeper, Nadine is forced to confront her traumatic childhood, and the damage that began when she and her brother were brought by their mother to a remote commune on Vancouver Island. What happened to Nadine? Why was their family destroyed? And why does the name Aaron Quinn, the group's leader, bring complex feelings of terror to Nadine even today? 

And then, the unthinkable happens, and Nadine realizes that danger is closer to home than she ever imagined. She has no choice but to face what terrifies her the most…and fight back. 

Sometimes you can leave the past, but you can never escape. 


I’ve been watching 20/20 lately, and while reading this book, I just happened to be watching an episode on a cult! Talk about perfect timing. This story was different from Stevens’s others in that aspect, but still just as intriguing. I was rooting for the main character the whole time, and was genuinely worried about how this (very fictional) story would turn out. There were a couple storylines intertwined which made it even more interesting!


This was a little slow at times. I’m not much for a slow burn book, I prefer rapid suspense!


Book #71 of 2023 πŸ“– Skipping Christmas by John Grisham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Holiday Humor

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 6 November 2004

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. 

Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty, they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash, they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences—and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.


This was a fun little story (and what the movie Christmas With Kranks is based on, which I have surprisingly never seen - going to rectify that now!) Unlike Grisham’s usual stuff, this was not law based in anyway. It was a fun little holiday story!


Book #72 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 13 October 2020

Young Saffyre Maddox spent three years under the care of renowned child psychologist Roan Fours. When Dr. Fours decides their sessions should end, Saffyre feels abandoned. She begins looking for ways to connect with him, from waiting outside his office to walking through his neighborhood late at night. She soon learns more than she ever wanted to about Roan and his deceptively perfect family life. On a chilly Valentine’s night, Saffyre will disappear, taking any secrets she has learned with her.

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart. In his thirties and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct—accusations he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel forums, where he meets a charismatic and mysterious figure.

Owen lives across the street from the Fours family. The Fours have a bad feeling about their neighbor; Owen is a bit creepy and suspect and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night. Could Owen be responsible? What happened to the beautiful missing Saffyre, and does her disappearance truly connect them all?


This was an intriguing psychological drama. I had no idea which turn it would take, and though it wasn’t high suspense, I was still eager to find what would happen next.


I didn’t find any of the characters to be particularly likeable. They weren’t exactly unlikeable, but none of the appealed to me.


Book #73 of 2023 πŸ“– The Kill Jar: Obsession, Descent, and a Hunt for Detroit’s Most Notorious Serial Killer by J. Reuben Appelman ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

πŸ“šGENRE: True Crime/Non-Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 14 August 2018

Four children were abducted and murdered outside of Detroit during the winters of 1976 and 1977, their bodies eventually dumped in snow banks around the city. J. Reuben Appelman was only six years old when the murders began and even evaded an abduction attempt during that same period, fueling a lifelong obsession with what became known as the Oakland County Child Killings.

Autopsies showed that the victims had been fed while in captivity, reportedly held with care. And yet, with equal care, their bodies had allegedly been groomed post-mortem, scrubbed-free of evidence that might link to a killer. There were few credible leads, and equally few credible suspects. That’s what the cops had passed down to the press, and that’s what the city of Detroit, and Appelman, had come to believe. When the abductions mysteriously stopped, a task force operating on one of the largest manhunt budgets in history shut down without an arrest. Although no more murders occurred, Detroit remained haunted.

I’ve been on a non-fiction kick lately. Less so with books (but that’s mainly because I have so many fiction already stacked in my nightstand), but especially with tv. Other than the Grey’s I put on for noise when I sleep, my tv viewing has been nothing but documentaries and docuseries  for the last month. Currently, I am binging old seasons of 20/20. (My doctor told me that it is good for people with depression to watch tv because it gives them a break from reality…I don’t think this is what she had in mind!)


The story is certainly interesting, and makes me wonder about all the conspiracies behind it. In fact, I wish there was a book that focused more on that (perhaps someday!)


So my library only had a “large print” version of this book, and since I can’t find it anywhere else, I borrowed it. The print size was so distracting to me! Which isn’t a flaw with the book, just my reading experience.

With the writing, I felt like the author writing about himself detracted a lot from the story. I kept saying, “wait, what does this have to do with anything?” The story felt very scattered. I’m now going to go re-listen to the True Crime Garage episodes on this case to hopefully get a better understanding.


Book #74 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Family Drama

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 3 July 2014

In the early hours of a summer morning, a young woman steps into the path of an oncoming bus. A tragic accident? Or suicide?

At the center of this puzzle is Adrian Wolfe, a successful architect and grief-stricken widower, who, a year after his third wife’s death, begins to investigate the cause. As Adrian looks back on their brief but seemingly happy marriage, disturbing secrets begin to surface. The divorces from his two previous wives had been amicable, or so it seemed; his children, all five of them, were resilient as ever, or so he thought. But something, or someone, must have pushed Maya over the edge.


At no point did I find the story to be highly engaging, but also I wanted to know how it was going to turn out.


Again, I didn’t find these characters particularly likeable. The description made it sound like it would be more of a thriller, but it was definitely more of a drama.


Book #75 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Last Seen (Amateurs #3) by Sara Shepard ⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Mystery

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 4 October 2018

When you make a deal with the devil . . .

Someone will get burned. Shy and musically gifted nine-year-old Damien Dover went missing from his home in the Catskills two months ago. The trail has gone cold, with no new leads.

When the killer they know all too well tasks Seneca, Maddox, and Madison with solving the case and finding the boy, they can't imagine what his interest in the tragedy could be. But with Aerin kidnapped and at the twisted mastermind's mercy, her friends have no choice but to play his game and try to solve the puzzle.

As the three amateur sleuths hit the Jersey Shore to gather clues, they begin to uncover the true background of the killer, and the horrors that shaped him into who he is. The scavenger hunt leads them to a serial criminal, a former victim, and dark secrets they could never have seen coming. 

Aerin struggles to play nice with the person who killed her sister while her friends work feverishly against the ticking clock to save her life. Every clue they uncover leads them closer to Aerin--and to the killer. But will he really let Aerin go... or does he have one more murderous surprise in store?

I read the first book in this series a hot minute ago, but never read the second one. I wish I would have read them all in succession in a close time proximity..I think that would have made me like this more.


The characters are all likeable (well, the good ones) and I rooted for them the whole story. I enjoyed the twists this little mystery took.


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(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

Reading Challenge: 75/120 books read in 2023

You can find previous book reviews here and add me on Goodreads here!

Saturday, April 1, 2023

#gretchensbooks2023 - March




Me, during spring break: reads one book 😬

March was busy. Mostly busy being exhausted, but busy nonetheless. Very little actual reading, lots of audio reading! But hey, we're a third of the way through the year, and I'm halfway to my reading goal! Now if only I could make an actual dent in my TBR list instead of adding books to it as fast as I read them....


Book #43 of 2023 πŸ“– Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: YA Contemporary Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 5 June 2018

Lifelong best friends and next-door neighbors Hannah and Emory have never gone a single day without talking. But now its senior year and they haven't spoken in three months. Not since the fight, where they each said things they couldn't take back. They're aching to break the silence, but those thirty-six steps between their bedroom windows feel more like thirty-six miles.
Then one fateful night, Emory's boyfriend, Luke, almost dies. And Hannah is the one who finds him and saves his life.

As Luke tries to make sense of his near-death experience, he secretly turns to Hannah, who becomes his biggest confidante. In Luke, Hannah finds someone she can finally talk to about all the questions she's grappling with. Emory just wants everything to go back to normal--the way it was before the accident. She has no idea why her relationship is spiraling out of control. But when the horrifying reason behind Hannah and Emory's argument ultimately comes to light, all three of them will be forced work together to protect the one with the biggest secret of all.


What a sweet story about friendship. I was a little worried about where this story would go, but I loved the way it played out! The characters were very likeable, and I liked the growth they all had.


Book #44 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The One by John Marrs ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Romance / Science Fiction / Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 March 2018

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for.

That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love.

Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others…

I think I saw this recommended somewhere, but also it’s a Netflix show that recently (I think) came out so maybe that is why I chose to read it? (Now that I've also watched the show, the book is much better!)


The story idea was very modern, and as far as I know unique to story-telling. Though it’s about love, there is a lot of mystery and darkness to it which ups the intrigue factor. With the various stories/perspectives, it felt like a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter.


It took me a hot second to keep up with all the storylines, but that’s pretty typical when listening to this many perspectives in a audiobook.

FREE on Kindle with Amazon Prime!


Book #45 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 23 March 2021

Abigail Baskin never thought she'd fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. He's a good guy, stable, level-headed, kind—a refreshing twist from her previous relationships. 

But right before the wedding, Abigail has a moment of uncertainty. The drunken one-night stand from her bachelorette weekend, the sexy guy who wouldn't give her his real name, didn't really mean anything, she keeps telling herself. She puts the incident out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life. Their honeymoon on a luxurious, secluded island in Maine will be the beginning of their blissful lives together.

Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail's future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something much, much more. Something special. Something real—and he's tracked her down to prove it.

Does she tell Bruce and ruin their idyllic honeymoon—and possibly their marriage? Or should she handle this psychopathic stalker on her own? To make the situation worse, strange things begin to happen. She sees a terrified woman in the night shadows, and no one at the resort seems to believe anything is amiss . . . including her perfect new husband.


I knew the direction this had to take because I knew it was a thriller, but holy cow. Not only did it take that direction, but it took that direction with a bunch of other sharp twists as well!


You can definitely tell it’s a woman’s perspective that’s been written by a man.


Book #46 of 2023 πŸ“– The Sporty One: My Life As A Spice Girl by Melanie Chisholm ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

πŸ“šGENRE: Memoir

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 27 September 2022

25 years ago, The Spice Girls, a girl band that began after five women answered an ad in the paper, released their first single. 'Wannabe' became a hit and from that moment and, almost overnight, Melanie Chisholm went from small town girl to Sporty Spice, part of one of the biggest music groups in history. 

Beginning in her bedroom in the north-west of England dreaming of performing on stage, THE SPORTY ONE follows the meteoric rise of the Melanie and The Spice Girls, from the incredible highs of becoming one of the world’s most recognizable popstars – playing at Wembley, conquering the BRITs, closing the Olympics – to the difficult lows. For the first time ever, Melanie talks about the pressures of fame, the shaming and bullying she experienced, the struggles she has had with her body image and mental health, and the difficulty of finding yourself when the whole world knows your name. 


I enjoyed how in-depth Melanie went into her mental health issues. I can’t imagine how difficult that would be to share with the whole world as a famous person. I enjoyed hearing about how the Spice Girls formed (I had no idea!) and about her music career after (also which I hadn’t known about).


It got a little long winded at times. The thing I struggled with most was the language because it’s a dialect I’m not used to. (Nothing against the book! Just took some getting used to).


Book #47 of 2023 πŸŽ§ You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 25 May 2021

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?


This was intriguing! I kind of had predicted the ending pretty early, but I was still anxious to see if the ending would be a happy one or not. There were a handful of twists, though some were expected, they still made me gasp! Though predictable, I thought the execution was great.


I did not love the ending! I just did not! It’s well-written, I just didn’t like it!


Book #48 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Amendment by Kiersten Modglin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 February 2022

First, there was the arrangement.
A simple, yet salacious fix to the problems looming in their marriage.
But when 
things took a tragic turn, Peter’s and Ainsley’s lives quickly fell into disarray.

Now, their secrets have been exposed.
They know the truth—about each other and their marriage.
As they struggle to move on from their past and the damage they’ve caused, new problems begin to surface.

Someone they love is hiding a catastrophic secret. The fragile ground they stand on is starting to crumble. Their family is being torn apart at the seams. And, maybe worst of all, a threat from the past is lurking, ready to unveil the things they’d kill to keep hidden.

They thought the nightmare they’d made it through was over, but the worst is just beginning…

Once, they vowed to do anything to make their marriage work.
Now, that vow will push every boundary they have left.
In order to survive, they’ll need to completely trust each other.
But can they?

Last time they did, things went terribly wrong…
This time, it might be worse.

If there’s one thing that’s certain, their secrets are too big to let anyone walk away alive.

For starters, this was the middle book in a trilogy. If you want to read it, make sure to read “The Arrangement” first!


This story was very fast paced, and continued the chaos from the previous book in the series. I loved all the drama and suspense. The communication problems between these two enraged me, which I suppose is a sign of good writing.


I didn’t love the ending. On one hand, I’m super excited to read the third one (once I find it, it’s not on Libby), but on the other, I didn’t like the turn it took. Without giving anything away, the final twist was fine, but the turn it took to enable that twist to take place didn’t do it for me.

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Book #49 of 2023 πŸŽ§ If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: YA Contemporary Romance 

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 April 2013

If he had been with me, everything would have been different…

Autumn and Finn used to be inseparable. But then something changed. Or they changed. Now, they do their best to ignore each other.

Autumn has her boyfriend Jamie, and her close-knit group of friends. And Finn has become that boy at school, the one everyone wants to be around.

That still doesn't stop the way Autumn feels every time she and Finn cross paths, and the growing, nagging thought that maybe things could have been different. Maybe they should be together.

But come August, things will change forever. And as time passes, Autumn will be forced to confront how else life might have been different if they had never parted ways…


I was SO engaged in this story. So much so that I didn’t even realize for most of it that it seemed like nothing was happening. For whatever reason I thought this was more of a thriller or mystery, which it was not at all. It was a really sweet story, and though the ending is pretty much given away, it was still heart-wrenching.


A quarter way through the story, I was like, “wait..what is the premise of this story!” And again halfway through I asked the same question. It felt like nothing was happening pretty much the whole story. Except something was happening.

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Book #50 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Dream Job by Kiersten Modglin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller/Suspense

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 12 May 2020

Autumn Sanderson goes by Lark now.
No one in her new life can know who she was.
No one from her old life can know where she is now.

Drowning in debt, Lark is desperate to land a job—any job. When she finds herself at an 
interview for a mysterious company offering her an exorbitant salary, she jumps at the chance.
But things aren’t quite what they seem...

She soon learns of the company’s peculiar hiring process. 
Locked in a luxury cabin with five strangers who go only by their code names, Lark begins to question exactly what it is she signed up for. The company, riddled with secrets and led by a cryptic boss known only as Mr. X, has strange rules and even stranger challenges for their candidates. After each day’s competition, the candidates gather around the dinner table to eat, drink, and spill their darkest secrets.

When Lark sees something she shouldn’t, she begins to ask questions, but soon gets a warning to stop. It’s obvious she’s in danger, but why? What does the company want? How much can she trust the others in the house?

Trapped in the remote house with no technology allowed, Lark realizes she must take drastic measures to find out the truth.

The job of her dreams may cost her life...

I’d enjoyed a couple other books by this author, so I figured I’d see what else she had available on Libby. I wasn’t disappointed!


This was a good one! I predicted some of the ending, but not exactly. And the story to get there was excellent! Even though I had a hunch as to how it was going to go, I wasn’t certain, and I was anxious to see how it would go.


I really didn’t like some of the characters, but that made the book better!

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Book #51 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 13 April 2021

There's only been one time that Rose couldn't stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be...dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern's mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of what families keep hidden.


Tho was my first book from this author. I loved the constant suspense in this book. It wasn’t heavy suspense, but I was always wondering how it was going to turn out. I had my suspicions, and even though I was pretty sure they were correct, I didn’t know if they would actually come to light to all the characters in the story. Sometimes when dual perspectives are introduced it’s hard to keep track of who is speaking with audio, but it was very easy to follow with this book!

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Book #52 of 2023 πŸ“– A Painted House by John Grisham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 6 February 2001

Until that September of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers — and two very dangerous men — came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke’s world.

A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born ... and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly, bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives — and change his family and his town forever....


I was two-thirds of the way through the story before realizing that this wasn’t one of Grisham’s law books, and I was still enjoying it. I usually don’t care for his non-legal thrillers, but I was anxious to keep picking this book up and continue reading. 


It did start out a little slow, which made it a bit hard to get into at first.


Book #53 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda ⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 26 July 2022

Ten years ago, Abigail Lovett fell into a job she loves, managing The Passage Inn, a cozy, upscale resort nestled in the North Carolina mountain town of Cutter’s Pass. Cutter’s Pass is best known for its outdoor offerings—rafting and hiking, with access to the Appalachian trail by way of a gorgeous waterfall—and its mysterious history. As the book begins, the string of unsolved disappearances that has haunted the town is once again thrust into the spotlight when journalist Landon West, who was staying at the inn to investigate the story of the vanishing trail, then disappears himself.

Abby has sometimes felt like an outsider within the community, but she’s come to view Cutter’s Pass as her home. When Landon’s brother Trey shows up looking for answers, Abby can’t help but feel the town closing ranks. And she’s still on the outside. When she finds incriminating evidence that may bring them closer to the truth, Abby soon discovers how little she knows about her coworkers, neighbors, and even those closest to her.


I found the characters to be pretty likeable. I was interested in the story enough to keep listening to it. I found the atmosphere of the setting to be interesting, and I was very much able to picture what the mood of this location would be.


This story just wasn’t very suspenseful to me. The pacing was slow, and I felt like the great reveal was anti-climactic. 


Book #54 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Domestic Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 23 April 2019

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago. 

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body. 

But the autopsy finds no cancer. 

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation. 

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?


I really enjoyed the growth of some of the relationships in this story. And that there were multiple suspects, each with their own reason for the supposed murder.


I didn’t feel like the story was very suspenseful. I was curious about the ending, but not anxious to find how the story resolved like I usually am with books of this genre.


Book #55 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 6 March 2018

Small, perfect towns often hold the deepest secrets.

From the outside, Essie’s life looks idyllic: a loving husband, a beautiful house in a good neighborhood, and a nearby mother who dotes on her grandchildren. But few of Essie’s friends know her secret shame: that in a moment of maternal despair, she once walked away from her newborn, asleep in her carriage in a park. Disaster was avoided and Essie got better, but she still fears what lurks inside her, even as her daughter gets older and she has a second baby. 

When a new woman named Isabelle moves in next door to Essie, she is an immediate object of curiosity in the neighborhood. Why single, when everyone else is married with children? Why renting, when everyone else owns? What mysterious job does she have? And why is she so fascinated with Essie? As the two women grow closer and Essie’s friends voice their disapproval, it starts to become clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident. And that her presence threatens to bring shocking secrets to light. 


I really liked all of the storylines in the book. There was so much going on, but it was still easy to keep track of.


The description made this story sound way more dramatic than it actually was.

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Book #56 of 2023 πŸ“– What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Nonfiction/Biography

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: August 2017

If you scrolled through the Instagram feed of 19-year-old Maddy Holleran, you would see a perfect life: a freshman at an Ivy League school, recruited for the track team, who was also beautiful, popular, and fiercely intelligent. This was a girl who succeeded at everything she tried, and who was only getting started. But when Maddy began her long-awaited college career, her parents noticed something changed. Previously indefatigable Maddy became withdrawn, and her thoughts centered on how she could change her life. In spite of thousands of hours of practice and study, she contemplated transferring from the school that had once been her dream. 

When Maddy's dad, Jim, dropped her off for the first day of spring semester, she held him a second longer than usual. That would be the last time Jim would see his daughter. 
What Made Maddy Run began as a piece that Kate Fagan, a columnist for espnW, wrote about Maddy's life. What started as a profile of a successful young athlete whose life ended in suicide became so much larger when Fagan started to hear from other college athletes also struggling with mental illness. 

This is the story of Maddy Holleran's life, and her struggle with depression, which also reveals the mounting pressures young people -- and college athletes in particular -- face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless connectivity and social media saturation.


“…when you don’t know how high the wire actually is, dancing along the edge doesn’t seem reckless; it seems like the only place to walk.”


I think this was so wonderfully written. I had no idea what to expect going into it. How do you tell the story of someone who hid so much? I think Kate Fagan did an excellent job. Maddy’s story was pieced together, but so much information about the commonalities of struggling with mental health issues and illnesses was also shared. It was real, and raw, and eye-opening. As someone who has battled my own mental demons, I could relate to a lot. I’d be curious to see how someone who hasn’t had mental health struggles would interpret this book. 


Book #57 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 24 May 2016

Kelsey has lived most of her life in a shadow of suspicion, raised to see danger everywhere. Her mother hasn’t set foot outside their front door in seventeen years, since she escaped from her kidnappers with nothing but her attacker’s baby growing inside her—Kelsey.
Kelsey knows she’s supposed to keep a low profile and stay off the grid for their protection, but that plan is shattered when her dramatic car accident and rescue by volunteer firefighter and classmate Ryan Baker sparks media coverage.
A few days later, she arrives home to find her mother missing. Now, to have a chance at a future, Kelsey will have to face her darkest fears. Because someone is coming for her. And the truth about the past may end up being the most dangerous thing of all.


This escalated quickly! It started out with a big event, but I didn’t expect the wild ride that event kickstarted.


This one was a little too out there/unbelievable for me. Not bad, just extreme.


Book #58 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Mystery/Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 5 April 2022

A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancΓ©e, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the
truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses
in all of them?


I enjoyed the story overall. I feel like it could have gone in a cliche way, and I liked that it didn’t. The storyline was familiar, but the direction it took was unique.


I didn’t love the ending, but I didn’t hate it. I like how everything turned out in the end, I just wish there was a little more resolution with one of the character; I think it wrapped up too quickly for him.


Book #59 of 2023 πŸ“– Madly, Deeply: the Diaries of Alan Rickman by Alan Rickman ⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Memoir/Autobiography

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 18 October 2022

From his breakout role in Die Hard to his outstanding, multifaceted performances in the Harry Potter films, Galaxy QuestRobin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and more, Alan Rickman cemented his legacy as a world-class actor. His air of dignity, his sonorous voice, and the knowing wit he brought to each role continue to captivate audiences today.

But Rickman’s ability to breathe life into projects wasn't confined to just his performances. As you'll find, Rickman's diaries detail the extraordinary and the ordinary, flitting between worldly and witty and gossipy, while remaining utterly candid throughout. He takes us inside his home, on trips with friends across the globe, and on the sets of films and plays ranging from 
Sense and Sensibility, to NoΓ«l Coward's Private Lives, to the final film he directed, A Little Chaos.

Running from 1993 to his death in 2016, the diaries provide singular insight into Rickman's public and private life. Reading them is like listening to Rickman chatting to a close companion. Meet Rickman the consummate professional actor, but also the friend, the traveler, the fan, the director, the enthusiast; in short, the man beyond the icon.


Jurassic Park - what the hell is the plot? Great dinosaurs.”

I always wondered if people who were in movies were especially judgmental and scrutinizing when they watched movies. Now I know!

This book was….a lot. Like 10 billion words a lot. (Maybe a slight exaggeration…the intro only said it was over a million)

I thought it was really interesting which people got footnotes explaining who they were (because they expected the reader not to know), and which did not have the footnotes to explain who they were (because they expected the reader to know).


I really liked his language. The way he described things was really beautiful. You could tell he was an intelligent man. The book was hard to get into, but once I got used to the style I was fairly engaged in it. I also liked that they included photos of a few of his actual journal pages. 


It was a little choppy to read, especially in the beginning. I think choppy is already difficult to read, but when I had no idea who he was talking about, it was even more difficult. The entries in the beginning were just short jotted notes that didn’t do much in story telling. 


Book #60 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell ⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Mystery/Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 28 July 2020

Meet the first Mrs. Ford
Beautiful. Accomplished.
Wealthy beyond imagination.
Married to a much younger man.
And now, she’s dead.

Meet the second Mrs. Ford.
Waitress. Small-town girl.
Married to a man she never forgot,
From a summer romance ten years before.
And now, she’s wealthy beyond imagination.

Who is Connor Ford?
Two women loved him. And knew him as only wives can know.
Set amongst the glittering mansions of the Hamptons,
The Wife Who Knew Too Much is a decadent summer thriller about the lives of those who will do anything for love and money. Who is the victim? Who is the villain? And who will be next to die?


The story was engaging, and I was very curious to see how it would all play out. 


I can’t say I loved the characters. I still rooted for the main character, but she needed to get it together and stand up for herself. She was too naive. And I hated Connor. I don’t think he was redeemable in anyway. The ending was too easy, and I would have like some real repercussions. 

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(Summaries are from Amazon, but all reviews are my own!)

Reading Challenge: 60/120 books read in 2023

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