Saturday, November 6, 2021

#gretchensbooks2021 - October



October is spooky season, so I tried to get in all the thrillers and ghost stories that I could! (Which, tbh, is not unlike most of my reading in any given month)


119. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter (5/5🌟)

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.
The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Wowee! This was another thriller with a lot of jaw-dropping “WHAT JUST HAPPENED”s. It was SO GOOD!! Twist after twist, I’m surprised my eyeballs stayed in my head. Whoever recommended this author to me, thank you! If you like mystery/thrillers, I recommend this book!!


120. Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena (3.5/5⭐️)

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets—even the dead.
Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there, and Fred and Sheila Merton certainly are rich. But even all their money can't protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered after a fraught Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.
Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of the siblings is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you'd know.
Wouldn't you?

I met my reading goal for the year! 🎉

Is it really fall if there isn’t a new Shari Lapena thriller to read?? This was slow moving to start for me. It took a few weeks to get through the first half (but to be fair, I  was busy and didn’t have a ton of free reading time). However since it was due back to the library I had to sit down and finish, and FLEW through the second half. The killer wasn’t who I predicted, and while I should have guessed it, the way the story was told makes you really question who it could be.


121. When I Was You by Minka Kent (4.5/5⭐️)

After barely surviving a brutal attack, Brienne Dougray rarely leaves her house. Suffering from debilitating headaches and memory loss, she can rely only on her compassionate new tenant, Dr. Niall Emberlin, a welcome distraction from the discomfiting bubble that has become her existence.

But Brienne’s growing confidence in her new routine is shaken when she stumbles across unsettling evidence that someone else is living as…her. Same name. Same car. Same hair. Same clothes. She’s even friended her family on social media. To find out why, Brienne must leave the safety of her home to hunt a familiar stranger.

What she discovers is more disturbing than she could have ever imagined. With her fragile mind close to shattering, Brienne is prepared to do anything to reclaim her life. If it’s even hers to reclaim.

I need to stop reading in public. I was working on this one via my kindle app on my phone while waiting for the Preds to start warm ups when my jaw DROPPED because of something I wasn’t expecting. I’m just going to hope I’m not interesting enough to catch someone’s eye who is people watching because my expressions when I read 🥴 luckily people and filled in so I had my mask on for my second jaw drop. I mean I SHOULD have expected that one, but I was being hopeful! This is a fast pace thriller that just keeps you enthralled even when you know what’s happening. I’m learning I need to read my random Kindle downloads more often, because they seem to always hit the spot!

This was a Prime First Reads novel. I get an email every month with a selection of books from different genres available on kindle. You get to choose 1 or 2 books each month- free! If you have Prime, keep an eye on your email the first week of the month!


122. Fractured by Karin Slaughter (3.5/5⭐️)

With its gracious homes and tree-lined streets, Ansley Park is one of Atlanta’s most desirable neighborhoods. But in one gleaming mansion, in a teenager’s lavish bedroom, a girl has been savagely murdered. And in the hallway, her horrified mother stands amid shattered glass, having killed her daughter’s attacker with her bare hands.

Detective Will Trent of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation is here only to do a political favor; the murder site belongs to the Atlanta police. But Trent soon sees something the cops are missing, something in the trail of blood, in a matrix of forensic evidence, and in the eyes of the shell-shocked mother. Within minutes, Trent is taking over the case - and adding another one to it. He is sure another teenage girl is missing and that a killer is on the loose.

Armed with only fleeting clues, teamed with a female cop who has her own personal reasons for hating him, Trent has enemies all around him - and a gnawing feeling that this case, which started in the best of homes, is cutting quick and deep through the ruins of perfect lives broken wide open: where human demons emerge with a vengeance.

This was the second book in the Will Trent series, and it was just as good as the first! I really love Will Trent as a character, and I like how Slaughter gives away more about him in small pieces at a time. I got so mad towards the end of this story, but calmed down when it actually ended. Looking forward to reading more of Will Trent’s investigations. If you’re into crime thrillers then this series is for you!


123. The Haunting by Lindsey Duga (3.5/5⭐️)

The only life 12-year-old Emily has ever known is the cold, unloved existence of being an orphan. But everything changes when the Thorntons, a young couple from London, adopt Emily, whisking her away to a new life at their grand estate.

At first, life at Blackthorn Manor is wonderful. But as Emily explores the grounds and rooms, she stumbles upon a mysterious girl named Kat, who appears to be similar in age, and the two become fast friends.

That's when things take a turn for the worse. Kat seems to know a curious amount about the estate, and strange things happen whenever she's around. In one case, Emily narrowly avoids getting toppled by a bookcase in the library; in another, the fire erupts in the fireplace, nearly burning Emily's hands. It's almost as if someone -- or something -- wants Emily dead.

Emily must find out what happened to the Thorntons and, more important, how Kat is connected to these strange goings-on at Blackthorn Manor before it's too late!

This was a middle grade spooky story, and though as an adult I knew exactly what would happen, my kid self would have loved this. I bought a handful of “scary” stories for my classroom library from our recent Scholastic book fair, and being that it’s October I wanted to read them all before I put them out for my kids. After graphic novels, scary stories are definitely the first to fly off my bookshelves!


124. Pretty Please by Diane Hoh (3.5/5⭐️)

Along with her four best friends, Johanna Donahue is one of “the Beautiful People” at Salem University. It’s Friday evening—party night on campus—and Johanna’s got a hot new outfit to wear. Everything is perfect . . . except for the voice in her head warning her not to go.
Against her better judgment, Johanna goes to the party, where she meets a great guy named Evan Colt. She finally starts to chill out . . . until a freak accident sends her crashing into a glass door.
When she returns from the hospital, her face covered in bandages, Johanna finds the mirror in her dorm room shrouded in black. Is this someone’s idea of a cruel joke? Before long, Johanna realizes that this is much more than a college prank—and her problems are bigger than a scarred face. She’s the object of someone’s obsession— someone infatuated with beauty, someone who has killed before and is about to kill again.

Another book from a series I use to love. Totally different from the thrillers of today (these books started coming out before I was born!) but such fun stories nonetheless, especially during spooky season! I was able to download most of the books on kindle, but they’re not all available. The hard copies are listed for up to $800 on Amazon! The books are good, but not that good!!


125. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (3.5/5⭐️)

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched. 

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing. 

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago. 

This was a fun little mystery! It didn’t have all the suspense that most thrillers have, but it did keep my curiosity going. I liked how the story was told in reverse and I think that added to the suspense. It was jaw-dropping, but still intriguing. From the title, I assumed there would be many missing girls, but there was only two. The writing seemed too dramatic for only two missing girls. I do like this author though, and will likely read more by her! 


126. The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (4/5⭐️)

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

This book came highly recommended, but after being disappointed by another book of hers that was highly recommended, my hopes were not high for this one. Having no expectations benefitted me in this case, because I really enjoyed this spooky thriller! Part paranormal, part actual murderer, I was captivated from the beginning. The story is split perspective between Viv in the past and Carly (Viv’s niece) in the present. The characters were likeable and the setting was unique. I had a love/hate relationship with the ending however!!


127. The Judge’s List by John Grisham (5/5🌟)

In The Whistler, Lacy Stoltz investigated a corrupt judge who was taking millions in bribes from a crime syndicate. She put the criminals away, but only after being attacked and nearly killed. Three years later, and approaching forty, she is tired of her work for the Florida Board on Judicial Conduct and ready for a change.

Then she meets a mysterious woman who is so frightened she uses a number of aliases. Jeri Crosby’s father was murdered twenty years earlier in a case that remains unsolved and that has grown stone cold. But Jeri has a suspect whom she has become obsessed with and has stalked for two decades. Along the way, she has discovered other victims.

Suspicions are easy enough, but proof seems impossible. The man is brilliant, patient, and always one step ahead of law enforcement. He is the most cunning of all serial killers. He knows forensics, police procedure, and most important: he knows the law.

He is a judge, in Florida—under Lacy’s jurisdiction.

He has a list, with the names of his victims and targets, all unsuspecting people unlucky enough to have crossed his path and wronged him in some way. How can Lacy pursue him, without becoming the next name on his list?

I look forward to October every year because it almost always means a new John Grisham release. His books take up 1/3 of one of my bookshelves, and I’m always excited when I get to add another to my collection! 

The book’s premise had me curious, and as always, Grisham’s writing had me emotional. TWICE I got SO MAD at the complaining party that I had to remind myself this was indeed just a story and NOT real life but she was just being SO STUPID! I kicked my feet and yelled, “GET HIM ALREADY!” more than once and then was immediately thankful there was no one here to see me make a fool of myself over fictional literature. 

Another great Grisham novel! 


128. Dear Child by Romy Hausmann (3.5/5⭐️)

A windowless shack in the woods. A dash to safety. But when a woman finally escapes her captor, the end of the story is only the beginning of her nightmare.

She says her name is Lena. Lena, who disappeared without a trace 14 years prior. She fits the profile. She has the distinctive scar. But her family swears that she isn’t their Lena.

The little girl who escaped the woods with her knows things she isn’t sharing, and Lena’s devastated father is trying to piece together details that don’t quite fit. Lena is desperate to begin again, but something tells her that her tormentor still wants to get back what belongs to him…and that she may not be able to truly escape until the whole truth about what happened in the woods finally emerges.

This thriller was translated from German and marketed as a cross between Room and Gone Girl. It definitely had those Room vibes, but it was more of a drama than a thriller I thought. The beginning pulled me right in off the bat but the middle kinda lost me. The ending however was full of drama again! I really liked the split perspective between three of the characters. 


129. Harry Potter: A History of Magic by British Library, J.K. Rowling, Julian Harrison (5/5🌟)

As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the US, readers everywhere are invited to explore the extraordinary subjects of the Hogwarts curriculum – Potions & Alchemy, Divination, Care of Magical Creatures, and more – and examine incredible historical artifacts, items from J.K. Rowling’s personal archive, and stunning original artwork from Harry Potter series artists Mary GrandPré, Jim Kay, and Brian Selznick. 

Published in conjunction with the special exhibition Harry Potter: A History of Magic (coming to the New-York Historical Society after a record-breaking sold-out run at the British Library), this complete catalogue of the over 150 artifacts on display gives readers an up-close look at magical treasures from all over the world. Exclusive to the New York run are amazing artifacts from American institutions — including an original Audubon illustration, a narwhal’s tusk (or is it a unicorn’s horn?), an ancient Iranian astrolabe, and more — as well as never-before-seen original artwork by Mary GrandPré and early correspondence between J.K. Rowling and her American editor, Arthur Levine. 

This special publication is an essential volume for Harry Potter fans, history buffs, and bibliophiles, and a fascinating exploration of the history of the magic at the heart of the Harry Potter stories.

This book upped my levels of appreciation for the Harry Potter novels even more. With going to HP World over fall break, I figured now was the perfect time to finally read it! I never realized (or really never took the time to think about) how much research had to go into writing those stories. So many of the names have historical meaning (Sirius being a dog was the only one I noticed before) and the subjects studied are rooted in traditions and folklore from around the world. His book detailed the real life animals, herbs, plants, potions, etc. that were used as inspiration in the HP novels. I also really loved reading the drafts and edits of pages of the novels before they reached their published state. It was fun to see what “could” have been!


130. Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman (5/5🌟)

Lisa Power is a tortured ghost of her former self. The author of a bestselling thriller called Thief River Falls, named after her rural Minnesota hometown, Lisa is secluded in her remote house as she struggles with the loss of her entire family: a series of tragedies she calls the “Dark Star.”

Then a nameless runaway boy shows up at her door with a terrifying story: he’s just escaped death after witnessing a brutal murder—a crime the police want to cover up. Obsessed with the boy’s safety, Lisa resolves to expose this crime, but powerful men in Thief River Falls are desperate to get the boy back, and now they want her too.

Lisa and her young visitor have nowhere to go as the trap closes around them. Still under the strange, unforgiving threat of the Dark Star, Lisa must find a way to save them both, or they’ll become the victims of another shocking tragedy she can’t foresee.

WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAT?! (My actual exclamations as I neared the ending of this book). The suspense and thrill of this novel were on point, and the ending made me actually tear up. The author is a Minnesotan, and I loved that that was where the story was set. This was a random download from Prime Free Reads way back in January 2020 and I only just now got around to reading it. Definitely a fun thriller for October!!

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

Reading Challenge: 130/120 books read in 2021

You can find previous book reviews here!

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