Thursday, July 2, 2020

#gretchensbooks2020 - June

Summertime means pool reads!! As a kid, I hated being outside. I hated sweating and being hot. As an adult, I love it! (Well not the sweating part so much). I definitely spend the majority of my summer outside - whether it be doing something active or just reading for leisure in the pool or laying in my hammock. I read a lot of really good ones this month!!

70. I Found You by Lisa Jewell (3/5★)

In the windswept British seaside town of Ridinghouse Bay, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on a beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside. 

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, newlywed Lily Monrose grows anxious when her husband fails to return home from work one night. Soon, she receives even worse news: according to the police, the man she married never even existed. 

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty Ross are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. The annual trip to Ridinghouse Bay is uneventful, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just because he’s a protective older brother. 

Who is the man on the beach? Where is Lily’s missing husband? And what ever happened to the man who made such a lasting and disturbing impression on Gray? 

I loved the first Lisa Jewell book that I read, but the last couple have kind of flopped for me. This one has begun to redeem her! It has some twists and suspense, which is exactly what I want out of a thriller. I was about ready to give up on her writing, but I think I will explore some other titles now!

71. Web of Fear by Mike Omer (3.5/5★)

Detective Hannah Shor gets a case in the worst way possible - a friend calls her for help. Her 12-year-old daughter has been kidnapped, and Hannah joins forces with the FBI to bring her home safely. 
When the kidnappers post an image of their captive on Instagram, the situation spins out of control. Now, the whole world is watching. Rumors spread like wildfire, and online vigilantes add fuel to the raging flames. As Hannah digs deeper, she unravels dark secrets from the family's past. With the realization that the kidnapping is about more than just a ransom, Hannah needs to close in on the truth, before Abigail's time runs out.
This was the third book (and so far final) in the short series by Omer, and I think it was my favorite one - but they’ve all been good! Though these mysteries have been a series, you do NOT have to read them in order. If you’re up for a good police procedural book, then I recommend these ones!

72.  Leave Me by Gayle Forman (4/5★)

Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention--meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack. 

Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves. 

With bighearted characters--husbands, wives, friends, and lovers--who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing the fears we’re all running from. Gayle Forman is a dazzling observer of human nature. She has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head on and asks, what happens when a grown woman runs away from home?

Forman has written some of my favorite books, and because of that I buy all of hers when they are released. This one has been out a few years, but I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. This was different than Forman’s other novels. Instead of the typical young adult character, this book focused on a mother in her forties. Though I love a good teenage angst book, I like this one as well! I think it is probably very relatable for many people. I was left with some unanswered questions that I need answers to, however!!

73. The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton Morgan (4.5/5★) 

While Hilarie Burton Morgan's hectic lifestyle as an actress in New York and Los Angeles gave her a comfortable life, it did not fulfill her spiritually or emotionally. After the birth of their first son, she and her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the star of The Walking Dead, decided to make a major change: they bought a working farm in Rhinebeck, New York, and began a new chapter in their lives.
The Rural Diaries chronicles her inspiring story of farm life: chopping wood, making dandelion wine, building chicken coops. Burton looks back at her transition from urban to country living—discovering how to manage a farm while raising her son and making friends with her new neighbors. She mixes charming stories of learning to raise alpacas and buying and revitalizing the town’s beloved candy store, Samuel’s Sweet Shop, with raw observations on the ups and downs of marriage and her struggles with secondary infertility. Burton also includes delicious recipes that can be made with fresh ingredients at home, as well as home renovation and gardening tips.
Burton’s charisma, wide eyed attitude, and fortitude—both internal and physical—propels this moving story of transformation and self-discovery. The Rural Diaries honors the values and lifestyle of small-town America and offers inspiration for anyone longing to embark on their own unconventional journey.
I would have read this book regardless due to Burton being the author, but as someone who 90% of the time unashamedly chooses books based on their cover, LOOK GORGEOUS THIS BOOK JACKET IS.

Anyway, I picked this book up one night with the intention of reading a chapter or two and then packing it for my trip home that week, and next thing I knew I had turned the last page. A beautiful story, Burton will have you laughing one minute, and crying the next. Some stories fill your heart, this is one of them. 

74. Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier (4.5/5★)

All it takes to unravel a life is one little secret...

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They're admired in their community and are a loving family―until their world falls apart the day their son Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding Sebastian, she learns that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman. This discovery sparks Marin back to life. She's lost her son; she's not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix.


This one another book that came highly recommended by the bookstagram universe. As soon as our library ordered it I put in a request so I could be the first to read! Wow, y’all. This one was suspenseful! It has been a busy week, so it took me a bit to get through this, I can see why it came so highly recommended. The ending especially, I was unintentionally verbalizing my shock as things just keep happening. I definitely recommend this to anyone who likes thrillers!!

75. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (4/5★)

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute. 
The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

I told myself I wasn’t allowed to but any more books until I made a reasonable dent in my TBR stack at home. Whoops. That didn’t last long. I was unsure as to how I would feel about this, as prequels tend to be letdowns IMO. However, I was pulled to know Coriolanus’s history, and whether he was always such a villain, or if he was such your typical victim of society villain.

It was a LONG story- 517 pages, ending with an epilogue. I read the original trilogy my sophomore year of college when a friend recommended them to me, a couple years after the third book was published. While I don’t remember the books exactly (after having seen the movies so many times), this one felt more philosophical than the others. That being said, I googled  nearly every name of all the characters in this prequel and the original series which led me to really admire the research Collins had to do to write these novels. It probably could have been shorter, but it also may be one of my favorite villain stories.  I also really liked that you could see bits and pieces of how the Hunger Games evolved over time.

(This last sentence may be a bit of a spoiler, but I like that I was left disliking Snow, and feeling that he was just an evil person, rather than feeling bad for him because of a poor upbringing like most villain stories tend to leave you feeling.)

76.  Filthy Rich: The True Story Behind the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal by James Patterson (4/5★)

Jeffrey Epstein rose from humble origins into the New York City and Palm Beach elite. A college dropout with an instinct for numbers -- and for people -- Epstein amassed his wealth through a combination of access and skill. But even after he had it all, Epstein wanted more. That unceasing desire -- and especially a taste for underage girls --resulted in sexual-abuse charges, to which he pleaded guilty and received a shockingly lenient sentence.

Included here are police interviews with girls who have alleged sexual abuse by Epstein, details of the investigation against him, and a new introduction with up-to-the-minute developments on the case, including Epstein's death by suicide.

An explosive true story from the world's most popular thriller writer, FILTHY RICH is a riveting tale of wealth, power, and the easy price of justice for America's wealthiest citizens.

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard of the most recent events regarding Jeffrey Epstein, but I would fathom that most don’t know the history. There is a Netflix special with a handful of episodes that details a lot of this, and is based on the book. The Netflix version focuses mainly on the sexual exploitation of the underage girls, and also includes the recent events. Since the book was published four years ago, it doesn’t include the recent arrest/death, but I liked that it went a little more into who he was professionally, etc. than the Netflix episodes did. It’s definitely one I would recommend, if only because it really shows how money is power, especially when you’re a member of that good ol’ boys club. 

77.  Thicker Than Blood by Mike Omer (4/5★)

A murderer who drinks his victim’s blood? FBI profiler Zoe Bentley and Agent Tatum Gray thought they’d seen it all, but this young woman’s barbaric murder is especially hard to stomach.
They didn’t expect to work this case. But vampirism aside, the murderer’s MO is identical to that of Rod Glover—the serial killer who’s been pursuing Zoe since childhood. Forensics reveals the murder to be his work, but not his alone; desperate to fulfill his sick purpose, he has taken on an equally depraved partner.
Zoe’s own frustration grows after another woman turns up dead and drained—and another goes missing. Time is running out: Zoe knows her own death will be the climax of Glover’s sinister play, which has been unfolding for twenty years. To stop Glover and his vile partner, she’ll need to plunge deep into their motives; but this means drawing ever closer to becoming another casualty of a dark, dark thirst.
I need to stop reading murder books before bed. I went to cancel my two month free trial of Kindle Unlimited earlier this month, and they gave me a third free month! Which was great, because this book is the third in a series I began during  quarantine available on Unlimited and was just published on June 23. I really enjoy the varied perspectives of this series, and that they include the killer’s perspective throughout. I also really liked that this one had more of a psychological aspect to it than the first two did. This is the sixth book I have read by Omer in the past few months, and I really recommend him as an author!

78. Coyote Zone by Kathryn Lane (3.5/5★)

(Since it’s original release, this has been republished as Danger in the Coyote Zone.) 

Nikki Garcia is an unlikely Sam Spade: a former international auditor turned private investigator who lands an assignment in Mexico to find a missing ten-year-old girl, Bibi Lombardi. The child’s estranged parents have been fighting over custody of her and one of them could be responsible for her disappearance. It’s an easy child-snatching case—right? Nikki thinks so until a marijuana-smoking bag lady provides eye-witness information on the girl’s abduction. Following the lead, Nikki pursues a group of dangerous criminals through designated UNESCO locations, archaeological sites, picturesque colonial towns, and barren deserts . But when Bibi’s mother SofĂ­a receives a ransom request, Nikki is already undercover with a gang of “Coyotes.” Nikki’s boss and fellow private eye, Floyd Webber, thinks she is on the wrong trail. Floyd is certain someone purposely gave her misleading information on the abduction to prevent her from recovering the child. Or is the kidnapper headed north to the U.S. border where Bibi’s fate could be much worse than her current situation? Eduardo Duarte, who is enthralled with Nikki, fears the forces of evil will prevail if she continues in the search, so he starts a search of his own to find her. Will he locate her before it’s too late? And what will become of little Bibi?

I received this book a couple years ago, right after it was published, but it sat in the stack of my other received books that I never got around to reading because I kept checking things out at the library. Honestly it took me awhile to get through, but I was in kind of a reading slump in general. I must have picked it up and put it back down a dozen or so times over the past two months. That being said, I got really into it the past couple days. It was a different sort of mystery than I typically read, but I could feel the anxiety build up in me during the suspenseful parts, which is pertinent to a good suspense novel. I know she has another book out, and I may have to give it a go.

79. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (4/5★)

Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship—like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor—April and her best friend, Andy, make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day, April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world—from Beijing to Buenos Aires—and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight. 
Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety, and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us. 

The Carls just appeared. 

Since I’ve read (and loved) all of the other Green brother’s work, and since I know they’ve worked together on many endeavors, I figured I should give Hank’s a shot as well. I bought the book awhile ago, but hadn’t read it yet. With the sequel coming out this July, I figured it was time. What an absolutely bizarre story this was. I’m quite certain I’m slightly above the age range of the target audience for this one, but I really enjoyed it. The more I read, the harder it was to put down. The protagonist is very unlike able, but I think that’s kinda the point. I’m glad I put reading it off this long because now I’m super anxious for the sequel to come out next week!!

This is definitely a YA novel, and while I would have enjoyed it in high school, I think I got more out of it now. There was such a reflection of modern-day society, with some seriously deep undercurrents about people’s fear of change, social media, and how many will do/say what they need to in order to get their face in the limelight. There is definitely surface level reading of this book, and digging deep into reality when reading this book.

Y’all this book was so out there, and will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it!

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

Reading Challenge: 79/100 books read in 2020

You can find previous book reviews here!

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