Saturday, May 30, 2020

#gretchensbooks2020 - May

I really struggled with reading in the beginning of this month. After surgery, I just really didn’t have the focus for it. I was crabby because I couldn’t do things for myself and just wanted to sleep to pass the time until I could function like a normal human being again. Luckily I was able to kick it into gear the second half of the month! It helps that there is literally nothing else to do except lay around in the hammock/at the pool and read!

56. A Touch of Terror,” by Gary Ponzo (4/5★)

A rogue Russian agent known as The Machine has infiltrated the U.S. border with a case of uranium powerful enough to destroy the entire west coast. FBI agent Nick Bracco recruits his mafia-connected cousin Tommy to help track down the case and try to save the nation from the devastating attack. But this time Nick and his partner, Matt McColm, have met their match.

This was the most recent book in an FBI thriller series that I just loved. I began the series because it came free with Kindle Unlimited when I was in Costa Rica 5.5 years ago, and have continued it since. I don’t think these are books I would have picked up normally, but since my selection was limited to Kindle Unlimited while I was there, I ended up reading them, and I’m glad I did!

This was the sixth book in the series, and just as good as the rest! It’s about an FBI agent and his partner hunting down terrorists- some books connect to the others via the “bad guys,” but this one was a stand alone. Definitely a series I recommend!

57. Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty (2/5★)

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can?
It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

Moriarity’s books always come highly recommended, but I frequently seem to struggle getting into them. I think maybe it’s because I always listen to them on audiobook instead of reading them? I like to up the reading speed to keep my attention, which is harder to do when they’re read in an accent, which hers always are. I have read/listened to a couple that I really liked, so I am continuing to hold out hope!

This one was no different. In fact I think it was worse. I managed to listen to the whole thing, but it didn’t ever really feel like there was a plot. I mean there was technically, but just barely. It felt like just a constant description of activities, and I never had any real suspense, wondering how things were going to turn out. It is marketed as a thriller, but there is literally no thrill. This was a book I probably should have DNF’d, but I really wanted to give her writing another shot. Sigh. Maybe the next one. 

58. The Silence by Susan Allott (3.5/5★)

It is 1997, and in a basement flat in Hackney, Isla Green is awakened by a call in the middle of the night: her father phoning from Sydney.  30 years ago, in the suffocating heat of summer 1967, the Greens’ next-door neighbour Mandy disappeared. At the time, it was thought she had fled a broken marriage and gone to start a new life; but now Mandy’s family is trying to reconnect, and there is no trace of her. Isla’s father Joe was allegedly the last person to see her alive, and now he’s under suspicion of murder.
 Isla unwillingly plans to go back to Australia for the first time in a decade to support her father. The return to Sydney will plunge Isla deep into the past, to a quiet street by the sea where two couples live side by side. Isla’s parents, Louisa and Joe, have recently emigrated from England—a move that has left Louisa miserably homesick while Joe embraces this new life. Next door, Steve and Mandy are equally troubled. Mandy doesn’t want a baby, even though Steve—a cop trying to hold it together under the pressures of the job—is desperate to become a father.  
 The more Isla asks about the past, the more she learns: about both young couples and the secrets each marriage bore. Could her father be capable of doing something terrible? How much does her mother know? What will happen to their family if Isla’s worst fears are realized? And is there another secret in this community, one which goes deeper into Australia’s colonial past, which has held them in a conspiracy of silence?
I received an ARC of this book, and since it’s publishing date is May 19 I figured I better put down my other books and read this one before it officially came out!

I think this was the first novel I’ve read set in Australia, and I really enjoyed it. It was a little slow moving, but also was different than any thriller I’d read prior. (Though I would classify it as more mystery, less thriller).

I appreciated that it shed light on the Aboriginal people, and I think that is a part of history I am going to do a little more digging into. I like when fiction books can inspire me to learn more about their basis in reality.

I also like how it was multi-perspective, and that it bounced back and forth between 1967 and 1997, slowly closing the gap of what took place in between.

59. Follow Me by Kathleen Barber (4/5★)

Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past. 

But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private. 

This thriller was published in February, and I had immediately seen so many great things about it via the bookstagrams that I immediately requested it from the library. Due to closures, I was finally able to pick it up last week!

This thriller is very YOU-esque. So much so that I had to close the book at 11PM because I was getting too creeped out being alone! It was definitely a story that held my interest the whole way through, and was full of suspense up until the very end!

The only thing I didn’t like was that it wasn’t a very accurate depiction of an influencer of this magnitude. Someone with a million followers has to put in a lot more work than what the book portrayed. Otherwise, I definitely recommend!

60. Verity by Colleen Hoover (5/5★)

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. 

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of the night their family was forever altered. 
Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her. 
Due to graphic scenes and mature content, this book is recommended for readers 18+.

Okay. THIS is officially my new favorite Colleen Hoover book! 

I absolutely devoured this book!! It is less romance focused than most of her work, and much more suspenseful! Outside of Hoover, I’m not usually into the lovey stuff, but am a big fan of thrillers, so this was a great change of pace that had my heart racing. Very cleverly written, it was not what I expected, but I mean that in the best way possible. I have a love/hate feeling about the many questions!!! 

61. Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini (4/5★)

After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate. 
As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime. 
For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences. 
Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.
I’ve had this book sitting on my shelf since before it’s release last year, but only just got around to reading it. Honestly I think the length of it is what made it so daunting- 650 pages, large book, small print! I did do this partially on audio so that helped.

I really liked that this started years before WWII actually began, because most books of this era that I have read don’t do that. It was a different perspective, one of those in the resistance, than most books I’ve read of this era as well. 

I also liked how the author had a pretty lengthy note at the end explaining what happened to the real characters (since this is inspired by true events) after the “story” ended.

62. Bad Memory by Lisa Gray (3.5/5★)

Private investigator Jessica Shaw is leading a quiet life in a Californian desert community, where she spends her days working low-level cases. But when a former resident asks Jessica to help her sister, Rue Hunter—a convicted murderer whose execution is days away—Jessica can’t resist the offer.
Rue doesn't remember what happened the night two high school students were killed thirty years ago, but everybody in town is certain she’s guilty. As Jessica looks for answers, she finds that local rumors point one way and evidence points another. And nobody wants to face the truth. Meanwhile, Jessica can’t shake the feeling that someone is stalking her—now more than ever, she knows she can’t trust anyone.
As Jessica digs deeper, she encounters local secrets in unlikely places—including the police department itself. But the clock is ticking, and Jessica must find the truth fast—or Rue’s bad memory may be the death of them both.
I read the first book in this “series” last summer, and found to to be good enough that I decided to read the second one as well. You do not need to read the first to understand this one, however!

Bad Memory was published in October, and is a thriller about a private detective investigating a 30-year-old murder case, just before the woman convicted for the crime is about to be executed for the crime.

The story is faced paced, and though not full of on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense, it kept my attention and held my desire to need to know what happened. Also, I unintentionally read this whole thing today, so that speaks to its engagement.

The way it ended I am expecting a third book, which I look forward to reading!

63. A Cold Trail by Robert Dugoni (3.5/5★)

The last time homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite was in Cedar Grove, it was to see her sister’s killer put behind bars. Now she’s returned for a respite and the chance to put her life back in order for herself, her attorney husband, Dan, and their new daughter. But tragic memories soon prove impossible to escape.
Dan is drawn into representing a local merchant whose business is jeopardized by the town’s revitalization. And Tracy is urged by the local PD to put her own skills to work on a new case: the brutal murder of a police officer’s wife and local reporter who was investigating a cold-case slaying of a young woman. As Tracy’s and Dan’s cases crisscross, Tracy’s trail becomes dangerous. It’s stirring up her own haunted past and a decades-old conspiracy in Cedar Grove that has erupted in murder. Getting to the truth is all that matters. But what’s Tracy willing to risk as a killer gets closer to her and threatens everyone she loves?
This is the seventh book of a series I read a couple years ago, published this past February. It’s another series that I think I picked up because it was free on kindle unlimited, and that I got hooked on after book one. Book seven was just as intriguing, and I really had no idea whodunnit until it got closer to the very end. 

The series follows a detective through different cases, different from your average thriller these days, but just as good!

64. In the Darkness by Mike Omer (3.5/5 ★)

An online video of a girl clawing at the ceiling of her own grave could be the worst thing FBI forensic psychologist Zoe Bentley has ever seen. Perhaps even more disturbing is the implication of the video’s title: “Experiment Number One.”
Zoe and her partner, Special Agent Tatum Gray, work as fast as they can to find the monster behind the shocking video, but soon another one shows up online, and another girl turns up dead. Meanwhile, a different murderer is on Zoe’s mind. Rod Glover has been tormenting her since childhood, and his latest attack is a threatening photo of himself with Zoe’s sister. As Glover’s threats creep toward action, Zoe’s torn between family and duty.
Zoe must think fast to prevent another murder. With her own family’s safety on the line, Zoe feels she’s never been in more danger. And while she’s always known her job could send her to an early grave, she always assumed she’d be dead first.
I read the first book (“A Killer’s Mind”) in this short series earlier this quarantine after it was recommended to me and really enjoyed it, so when a friend bought the second book I was eager to read it.

I really enjoyed this one as well, and am excited to see that a third book in the series is coming out next month.

This was about a different case than the first book, but they brought in bits from the first book into this one, though I expected that to play a bigger part than it did. Perhaps in the third book. 

Also, I started another series by the same author and am halfway through the first book, I definitely recommend this series, and Omer as an author!
65. The Prisoner’s Wife by Maggie Brookes (4/5 ★)

Inspired by the true story of a daring deception that plunges a courageous young woman deep into the horrors of a Nazi POW camp to be with the man she loves. 

In the dead of night, a Czech farm girl and a British soldier travel through the countryside. Izabela and prisoner of war Bill have secretly married and are on the run, with Izzy dressed as a man. The young husband and wife evade capture for as long as possible—until they are cornered by Nazi soldiers with tracking dogs. 

Izzy's disguise works. The couple are assumed to be escaped British soldiers and transported to a POW camp. However, their ordeal has just begun, as they face appalling living conditions and the constant fear of Izzy's exposure. But in the midst of danger and deprivation comes hope, for the young couple are befriended by a small group of fellow prisoners. These men become their new family, willing to jeopardize their lives to save Izzy from being discovered and shot. 

The Prisoner's Wife tells of an incredible risk, and of how our deepest bonds are tested in desperate times. Bill and Izzy's story is one of love and survival against the darkest odds.

Happy (almost) publishing day to this book! Official release is tomorrow! I started this book while I was in the middle of another WWII era novel, which complicated things so I had to put it down, but once I picked it back up again I got more into it than I expected. 

Set mainly in Czechoslovakia, this is another one that is different from the typical books I’ve read of this era. It was based on a true story of a Czechoslovakian farm girl marrying a British POW and running off with him while dressed as a boy, only to end up in a POW camp and have to survive as a boy until liberation. It is based on a true story following that premise, though the details the author took her own liberties with, using research and others’ stories to keep the main storyline accurate. 

One thing I didn’t like was how the author wrote the female lead’s verbal English. The girl was constantly practicing “I am, I was, you are” etc., but when she actually spoke sentences, she always missed the “be” verb. Now I’ve never spoken German or Czech, her first languages, so maybe that was a common mistake in translation, it just seemed odd to me. Otherwise, though I wasn’t sure about it at the beginning, I found I really liked this novel!

66. Spider’s Web by Mike Omer (4/5 ★)

Twenty-year-old Kendele Byers is savagely killed and buried in a shallow grave. She had a violent past, a bizarre, kinky line of work, and the suspect list grows longer every day. 
But when another woman is murdered, Detective Mitchell Lonnie realizes that there's something much more sinister afoot: a connection between the two murders. Both victims had received a clue hinting at their oncoming demise several minutes before they were attacked. There's a serial killer in Glenmore Park. Even worse, he seems to be accelerating his murder pace. 
Now Mitchell and his partner need to locate the killer before more innocent women die. But when his sister gets involved, Mitchell's focus begins to unravel. Soon his pursuit becomes personal, and the stakes rise very high.
I found this series on kindle unlimited after beginning another by Omer and knew I had to read it. I really liked that it pulled in the main character from his other series! Also it freaked me out enough that I couldn’t read it too late at night, which is key to a great murder mystery! This was the first of three (so far) books in the series, and now I am off to start the second! 

67. The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell (2/5 ★)

Be careful who you let in. 

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. 
She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them. 
Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone. 

I felt like this book went on and on without any real thrill. It wasn’t so dull that I didn’t want to listen to it, but I felt like I kept waiting for something interesting to happen.

It was very odd. There were definitely some twists at the end, but the suspense just wasn’t there to make them that intriguing. 

I loved the first book I read by Lisa Jewell, but I’ve been really let down by everything of hers I have read since. Does anyone have anything by her that they really recommend??

68. Deadly Web by Mike Omer (3.5/5 ★)

Detective Hannah Shor is desperate to prove her worth to her superiors, and herself. When a middle aged man is found stabbed to death in his apartment, she might just get her chance. But then she finds that the deceased was a vile Internet Troll, sexually harassing women on Twitter. Hannah starts wondering if she really wants to catch his killer.

And the night is far from over. Only several hours later, a young woman is strangled to death. Detective Jacob Cooper discovers that the victim was lost in her own virtual world–a recluse who spent all day sucked into a violent online role-playing game. To find the murderer, Jacob might have to step into the game.

Now Hannah will have to push aside her qualms, and Jacob will have to find a way to overcome his technophobia, if they want to crack the cases. Their search will take them into the seedier parts of the Internet and uncover shocking secrets as they attempt to expose a killer.

The setting for this was the same town as the first book, and included the same department (for the most part). First, I really liked that this book was told partially from the perspectives of different detectives than the first book in the series. Also, though the first series focused on multiple murders from the same killer, this one had two completely different cases going on at once, which I also liked. Book three, here I come!

Loretta Lynn and the late Patsy Cline are legends--country icons and sisters of the heart. For the first time ever Loretta tells their story: a celebration of their music and their relationship up until Patsy's tragic and untimely death. 

Full of laughter and tears, this eye-opening, heartwarming memoir paints a picture of two stubborn, spirited country gals who'd be damned if they'd let men or convention tell them how to be. Set in the heady streets of the 1960s South, this nostalgia ride shows how Nashville blossomed into the city of music it is today. Tender and fierce,Me & Patsy Kickin' Up Dust is an up-close-and-personal portrait of a friendship that defined a generation and changed country music indelibly--and a meditation on love, loss and legacy.

This story began with a brief intro on how Loretta Lynn got into the music industry, and how her relationship with Patsy Cline began. It was part autibiographical about Loretta’s career, and part about her relationship with Patsy and the impact she had on Loretta’s life- music and personal. Fun fact: Patsy Cline taught Loretta Lynn how to shave her legs! A very interesting story..

The audiobook was also performed by Loretta Lynn’s daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell, who assisted in writing it.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog at no additional cost to you!*

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

Reading Challenge: 69/100 books read in 2020

You can find previous book reviews here!

No comments:

Post a Comment