Tuesday, September 29, 2020

#gretchensbooks2020 - September

First month back to school! I was just happy to have time to finish one book this month! I'm happy that I hit my official goal of 100 books read this year....now I need to beat last year's total of 116! Reading slowed down because of school starting, and it is likely about to slow down even more because of school starting x2...I'm going back for my second Master's degree beginning October 1! I finished my last one in ten months, and am hoping to complete this one in the same amount of time (or less!), which means dedicating much less time to reading. Luckily I found some FABULOUS audiobooks this month that I knocked out in a few days each because I couldn't stop listening!!

97. Sweet Girl by Rachel Hollis (4/5★)

Max Jennings is in a bad mood. The secrets from her past make it her natural state of being.
Max’s bad mood means that very few people actually truly understand her or know that her dream is to be a pastry chef. When a rare opportunity to work for world-famous Avis Phillips presents itself, Max jumps at the chance. Avis and her staff aren’t stingy with the tough love, so Max spends every spare minute practicing her craft.
As Max bakes brownies and custards, cookies and galettes, she builds an unlikely friendship with a man she once loathed, and finds herself falling into something she’s spent the last six years avoiding. Will she let her painful past stand in the way, or will she muster the strength to forgive herself and realize her full potential?
Okay, so I have the unpopular opinion of disliking Rachel Hollis’s self-help-y memoirs. However, her fiction I (so far) have a completely different opinion of! I bought all three books in the “Girls” series when I saw them at my hometown bookstore, and  this was the first that I read. 

It was a really sweet story, and though I don’t typically read a lot in this genre, I really enjoyed it.

I began this book in July, but set it aside last month so I could read Midnight Sun when it came out, and only just now had the time to pick it up again.

This story made my heart feel so good. I have had such a huge ball of emotions built up in my chest as of late- good emotions, I think, but ones I can’t quite put a name to. I think that made this book all the better. While the main character Max was frustrating at times, it was great to see her grow throughout the story. I usually read heavier books with more suspense, so though this book had an underlying tough topic, the overall lightness of the narration was a good change of pace. 

With my mind being so occupied with all the changes and chaos as we head back to school/work, it was good to pick this one back up again. I like having something to read that doesn’t make me think too much when I just need to relax! I’m looking forward to reading the other two books in the series!

98. Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (5/5★)

What was it like? Living in that house.
Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism. 

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father's book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father's death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction. 

Alternating between Maggie’s uneasy homecoming and chapters from her father’s book, Home Before Dark is the story of a house with long-buried secrets and a woman’s quest to uncover them—even if the truth is far more terrifying than any haunting.

This book was EXACTLY what I needed! I’ve been in such a reading slump, unable to get into anything- especially audio. I got a notification for a shortened skip-the-line loan on Libby for this book at just the right time. 

I really enjoyed another book I read by Sager last September, so when this came highly recommended on the bookstagram after its publishing date I this summer, I figured I would give it a go.

Growing up, I loved ghost stories. I still do! A couple times a week I read my class short stories from the Scary Stories collection as we wait for dismissal. This book was pretty much a ghost story for grown-ups! I finished in less than a week because I listened every chance I got- arriving places was a let down because I had to get out of the car and turn the book off! 

I loved that it switched back and forth between the daughter’s perspective (present) and the father’s perspective (past). They also had a different performer for each part, and both were fabulous.

I definitely recommend this book!!

99. Three Days Missing by Kimberley Belle (4/5★)

It's every parent's worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night. When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing--vanished from the cabin where he'd been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she's too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan's trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat's traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan's disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat. As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

Someone on Facebook recommended this author to me this summer, and I wish I remembered who, because I’m very appreciative! This was the first I read (listened) to by her, and it won’t be the last (I’ve already downloaded two more!) 

This was more mystery than thriller, and while I had two guesses on how it would end, neither were right! It wasn’t graphic, and despite it being about a kidnapped child, it wasn’t overly morbid. The story was fast-paced, and keeps you wondering - I was hooked from the very beginning. I also love stories with multiple perspectives which this story had. 

100. The Guest List by Lucy Foley (5/5★)

The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body
On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.
But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast. 
And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?

Oh. Em. Gee. Y’all!! Another 2020 release that was raved about on the bookstagram, “The Guest List” was full of secrets and I couldn’t put it down! I was third on the waitlist at the library, but because they kept pushing back due dates it took until now to get a copy. It took only three work days for me to finish this, and if I had the time, it would have been much less!!!

Just when I thought my mind had been blown to max capacity, I was shocked by another unexpected realization - my jaw literally could not drop any lower. Have a mentioned yet that this is a MUST READ??

I liked how the book told the story essentially from the “beginning,” but also inserted random chapters towards the “end” of the plot line, so you knew where it was headed, but not how it would end up there. All of the characters seem to have their own issues and secrets, and while you can try to piece them together throughout, you really have to get to the end to make sense of it all!

I can definitely see why the book world raves about this one- highly recommend!!

101. Dear Wife by Kimberley Belle (3.5/5★)

Beth Murphy is on the run… 
For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning—one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her. 

Sabine Hardison is missing… 
A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play. 

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

Another great thriller by Belle! This story was very fast paced, and easy to follow. I had some suspicions about the plot line that turned out to be correct, which didn’t happen with the last book of hers I listened to, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I have one more of hers downloaded to listen to next, then I guess I’ll have to start borrowing the print copies from the library.

This reminded me of another book I’ve read about a battered woman running off from her husband, but I can’t figure out what book it is. If you happen to read this and it reminds you of another book as well, please let me know, it’s driving me crazy that I can’t figure it out!

102. The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle (3.5/5★)

Everyone has secrets
Iris and Will have been married for seven years, and life is as close to perfect as it can be. But on the morning Will flies out for a business trip to Florida, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt: another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board and, according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers. 

Grief stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. Why did Will lie about where he was going? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to uncover what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she finds shock her to her very core.

The third book by Belle that I’ve listened to in the past week, and the third I’ve really enjoyed!! Belle keeps her readers in suspense throughout the whole story, and like the others, you really don’t know what’s going to happen and how the problem will be resolved until the end. Libby doesn’t have anymore audiobooks by her, but I definitely want to read the rest. If you like a good mystery/thriller, I recommend Kimberly Belle. If you were the one who recommended her to me, THANK YOU!!

103. YOU by Caroline Kepnes (4/5★)

East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card. 

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting. 

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder. 

Whew! I ended up listening to most of this on audiobook, and the performer was just as creepy sounding as Penn was in the Netflix show! In fact, the character was probably even creepier, if that’s possible! The book was pretty similar to the show, and I’ve already started book two, which I’ve heard is different- I guess we will find out. I definitely recommend the audiobook for this one!

104. The Gretchen Question by Jessica Treadway (3/5★)

The Gretchen Question recounts a day in the life of Roberta Chase, who does not have much time left to make peace with the son who’s punishing her for withholding his father’s true identity. A single mother torn between protecting her only child or revealing herself fully to the people she loves most, Roberta finds herself at war with conflicting loyalties, the increasing betrayal by her own body, the confused love she feels for her oldest friend, and a trauma from her past that casts a deep and possibly permanent shadow not only over her own life, but over the legacy she will bestow upon her son. 

Portraying the most intense and even shameful moments of motherhood, and the things we leave unsaid even to those we want most to hear them, the novel is also a celebration of one woman’s private reckoning with the source of her life’s most profound pain―as well as its greatest pleasure.

Knowing nothing about this book, I bought it for obvious reasons. Essentially the whole book takes place over one day, but it was done wonderfully. It’s not the type of book I would have normally picked up, but it was an interesting change of pace. 

It was a pretty quick read, and the ending gave me some serious feels. Though, the story was depressing, and I don’t think it would be a lot of people’s cup of tea. 

Also, I learned from this book what a “Gretchen question” (die Gretchenfrage in German, because it comes from German literature) is, AND a fun European fairytale about Clever Gretchen, so that was a bonus!

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

Reading Challenge: 104/100 books read in 2020

You can find previous book reviews here!

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