Thursday, March 3, 2022

#gretchensbooks2022 - February


I just finished month two of my Kindle Unlimited subscription and instead of making a dent in the KU list, I just keep adding more to it! I got a 3-month subscription for 99 cents, and it goes through March 31. A 2-month FREE promotion keeps popping up in my instagram though...I saved it in hopes I'll be able to use it once this promo is up - there is no way I'm going to get through my list! That being said, it has made it harder to actually make a dent in the book pile in my living room..


Book #18 of 2022: Game On: Tantalizing Twenty-Eight by Janet Evanovich (4/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 2 November 2021

When Stephanie Plum is woken up in the middle of the night by the sound of footsteps in her apartment, she wishes she didn’t keep her gun in the cookie jar in her kitchen. And when she finds out the intruder is fellow apprehension agent Diesel, six feet of hard muscle and bad attitude who she hasn’t seen in more than two years, she still thinks the gun might come in handy. 

Turns out Diesel and Stephanie are on the trail of the same fugitive: Oswald Wednesday, an international computer hacker as brilliant as he is ruthless. Stephanie may not be the most technologically savvy sleuth, but she more than makes up for that with her dogged determination, her understanding of human nature, and her willingness to do just about anything to bring a fugitive to justice. Unsure if Diesel is her partner or her competition in this case, she’ll need to watch her back every step of the way as she sets the stage to draw Wednesday out from behind his computer and into the real world.

This was the most recent release in the Stephanie Plum series and listening to it made me want the books to be released faster! LuLu and Grandma Mazur make me literally LOL and the performer does such a great job with the dialogue and personalities of the characters. There’s not a lot to say about this book- if you’ve read the series you already know. It’s very lighthearted and cracks me up!


Book #19 of 2022: The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel (3.5/5

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 31 March 2020

Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, in a small town with big secrets, The Familiar Dark opens with a murder. Eve Taggert, desperate with grief over losing her daughter, takes it upon herself to find out the truth about what happened. Eve is no stranger to the dark side of life, having been raised by a hard-edged mother whose lessons Eve tried not to pass on to her own daughter. But Eve may need her mother's cruel brand of strength if she's going to face the reality about her daughter's death and about her own true nature. Her quest for justice takes her from the seedy underbelly of town to the quiet woods and, most frighteningly, back to her mother's trailer for a final lesson.

I’m almost positive this was recommended on insta, but I can’t remember by who. The story was fairly fast-paced, and while it was constantly evolving, it almost seemed too fast. Before I knew it, I was done with the book. I enjoyed the story line. There was plenty of suspense, but as I said, it moved too quickly so it wasn’t high suspense. That being said, I did not see the ending coming at all, and I really loved how it ended! 


Book #20 of 2022: Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover (5/5🌟)

πŸ“šGENRE: Contemporary Romance

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 18 January 2022

After serving five years in prison for a tragic mistake, Kenna Rowan returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But the bridges Kenna burned are proving impossible to rebuild. Everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out, no matter how hard she works to prove herself.

The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter. But if anyone were to discover how Ledger is slowly becoming an important part of Kenna’s life, both would risk losing the trust of everyone important to them.

The two form a connection despite the pressure surrounding them, but as their romance grows, so does the risk. Kenna must find a way to absolve the mistakes of her past in order to build a future out of hope and healing.

Ugh. My heart. I loved this book. I sat down to start it and before I knew it I had read the whole thing in one sitting (minus the break I forced myself to take to make lunch). I could not relate to this story in any way, but it filled me with so much emotion that I could not put it down. CoHo does it again with another unforgettable read! (Also, available on Kindle Unlimited!)


Book #21 of 2022: Drive by Kate Stewart (5/5🌟)

πŸ“šGENRE: Contemporary Romance

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 13 October 2017

Music . . . the heart’s greatest librarian.
The average song is three and a half minutes long; those three and a half minutes could lead to a slow blink, a glimpse of the past, or catapult the soul into heart-shattering nostalgia.
At the height of my career, I had the life I wanted, the life I’d always envisioned. I’d found my tempo, my rhythm. Then I received a phone call that left me off key.
You see, my favorite songs had a way of playing simultaneously. I was in love with one man’s beats and another’s lyrics. But when it came to the soundtrack of a life, how could anyone choose a favorite song? So, to erase any doubt, I ditched my first-class ticket and decided to take a drive, fixed on the rearview.
Two days.
One playlist.
And the long road home to the man who was waiting for me.


πŸ’­“Because music is the hearts greatest librarian. A few notes had the ability to transfer me back in time.”

πŸ’­“Everyone, at some point in their life, breathes and grieves through song, but for me, it was daily therapy. When a certain song plucked those strings in my chest, I felt it all, and it was freedom.”

πŸ’­”And music was my navigation. I had followed the music my whole life. My guidance, my protection, my ammunition…but music was loyal and stayed with me, my constant, my comfort, and, at times, my enabler.” 

πŸ’­”Always ask for more of a good thing, Stella. Never know when you’ll have it again.”

First off, I am never going to recover from this one.

This was another book available on Kindle Unlimited that was recommended by my favorite bookstagramer, @lalalifebookclub, and was written by the same author of the Ravenhood series that I read last month.

After reading a whole kindle book one day, I decided to start this one. I did NOT realize how captivated I would be right from the get go. I probably would have stayed up all night to finish it if my iPad battery hadn’t already run so low.

I loved so many things about this book. The cover art was gorgeous. I love that it was set around music for obvious reasons. The main character was a spitfire and her spunk was constantly cracking me up. I loved the story line, and I loved the music.

Something unique about this story was that each chapter of the kindle version linked a song to go with it, so of course I played the song as a read the chapter- I loved adding to the reading experience in that way. The story was told in both present day and past perspectives from the main character, and when the perspective shifted to present, the music stopped. It resumed again when her last returned. If you read it, the playlist is also available on YouTube. Pop in your headphones and press play. It was amazing. 


Book #22 of 2022: A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins (3/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 31 August 2021

When a young man is found gruesomely murdered in a London houseboat, it triggers questions about three women who knew him. Laura is the troubled one-night-stand last seen in the victim’s home. Carla is his grief-stricken aunt, already mourning the recent death of yet another family member. And Miriam is the nosy neighbor clearly keeping secrets from the police. Three women with separate connections to the victim. Three women who are – for different reasons – simmering with resentment. Who are, whether they know it or not, burning to right the wrongs done to them. When it comes to revenge, even good people might be capable of terrible deeds. How far might any one of them go to find peace? How long can secrets smolder before they explode into flame?

πŸ’­FAVORITE QUOTE:  “Irene had read in a newspaper article that the happiest people on earth were unmarried, childless women. She could see why. There was a lot to be said about that sort of freedom. For not being answerable to anyone. For living exactly how you pleased.”

Paula Watkins has never blown me out of the water, and this one was no different. It was fine, but nothing overly special. I really enjoyed the ending, and I thought the twists in how everything wrapped up was excellent. However, this Slow Fire Burning was in fact, very, very slow burning. There was a lot of jumping around that left me feeling a little lost.


Book #23 of 2022: Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes (4/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Memoir
πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 20 October 2016

She’s the creator and producer of some of the most groundbreaking and audacious shows on television today. Her iconic characters live boldly and speak their minds. So who would suspect that Shonda Rhimes is an introvert? That she hired a publicist so she could avoid public appearances? That she suffered panic attacks before media interviews?

With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: 

With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: 

With three children at home and three hit television shows, it was easy for Shonda to say she was simply too busy. But in truth, she was also afraid. And then, over Thanksgiving dinner, her sister muttered something that was both a wake up and a call to arms: 
You never say yes to anything. Shonda knew she had to embrace the challenge: for one year, she would say YES to everything that scared her.

This poignant, intimate, and hilarious memoir explores Shonda’s life 
before her Year of Yes—from her nerdy, book-loving childhood to her devotion to creating television characters who reflected the world she saw around her. The book chronicles her life after her Year of Yes had begun—when Shonda forced herself out of the house and onto the stage; when she learned to explore, empower, applaud, and love her truest self. Yes.


πŸ’­ “I think that I am this happy, because I really don’t want the fairy tale.”

πŸ’­ “Happiness comes from living as you need to. As you want to. As your inner voice tells you too. Happiness comes from being who you actually are, instead of who you think you are suppose to be.”

The beginning of the audiobook I was a little unsure if I would follow through the whole things, but I quickly grew to really enjoy it. I liked how the audio version incorporated Shonda’s actual speeches, such as at the Dartmouth commencement ceremony.

One thing I really related to was Rhimes’s stance on marriage. It’s a beautiful thing for a lot of people…but not me. I related to her in that I tried to want it, I did, but when it comes down to it, it’s just not something that works with the way I want to live my life. Like her, I was never the little girl who dreamed of growing up and having this big, beautiful wedding. I dreamed of growing up and doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I want to do it πŸ˜

My heart connected with the challenge of saying yes. When I battled mental health issues, I had a lot of saying no. And while I still say no if I truly don’t think the opportunity will make my heart happy, I say yes way more, especially if it is to new adventures. I say yes to experiences. I say yes to time with friends and family.

But also like Rhimes, I say NO to working on the weekend. I gave up working outside of school hours two months ago and it’s the best thing I’ve done for myself in awhile. I love my job, but I love my life more.


Book #24 of 2022: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty (3/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Contemporary Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: May 2010

Alice Love is 29, crazy about her husband, and pregnant with her first child. So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym (a gym! She HATES the gym) and is whisked off to the hospital, where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over - she’s getting divorced, she has three kids, and she’s actually 39 years old. 

Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes. Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over....

I tried listening to this as an audio a couple years ago, but couldn’t get into it. I’m starting to run out of audiobooks, so I decided to give it another go.

I definitely got more into the story this go ‘round. I wasn’t so captivated that I listened to it straight through, I did pause and listen to a couple podcasts in the middle.

There were technically multiple perspectives in the story, but only one main one. The other perspectives sort of had their own stories, and honestly I could have done without them. Either I needed more from them to be worthwhile, or I would have liked them taken out.

I loved how the story ended! I liked the original ending, but then I listened to the epilogue and loved it even more.


Book #25 of 2022: Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly (4/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Memoir

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 17 October 2017

The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few have. Now, he takes us inside a sphere utterly hostile to human life. He describes navigating the extreme challenges of long-term spaceflight—the devastating effects on the body, the isolation from everyone he loves and the comforts of Earth, the pressures of constant close cohabitation, and the catastrophic risks of depressurization or colliding with space junk. But perhaps the most haunting challenge is that of being unable to help should tragedy strike at home, something Kelly knows about firsthand. 

Kelly's humanity, compassion, humor, and passion resonate throughout, as he recalls his rough-and-tumble New Jersey childhood and the youthful inspiration that sparked his astounding career. Here, in his personal story, we see the triumph of the human imagination, the strength of the human will, and the infinite wonder of the galaxy.

The audio was read by the author/astronaut himself, which always adds to the experience.

I liked how he went back and forth telling his story, switching between his time as an astronaut and his life growing up that led to him being an astronaut. I like learning the background, but often times astronaut background is military and I get bored hearing about it. This gave me the opportunity to learn his whole history without losing my interest.


Book #26 of 2022: The Firm by John Grisham (5/5🌟)

πŸ“šGENRE: Legal Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 February 1991

When Mitch McDeere signed on with Bendini, Lambert & Locke of Memphis, he thought that he and his beautiful wife, Abby, were on their way. The firm leased him a BMW, paid off his school loans, arranged a mortgage, and hired the McDeeres a decorator. Mitch should have remembered what his brother Ray–doing fifteen years in a Tennessee jail–already knew: You never get nothing for nothing. Now the FBI has the lowdown on Mitch’s firm and needs his help. Mitch is caught between a rock and a hard place, with no choice–if he wants to live.

I know I’ve seen the movie at least a dozen times, but either I’ve never read the book like I thought I had, or I really just forgot how good it was!! (Re?)reading this one really just made me want to forget about my whole TBR pile and read nothing but the Grisham books on my shelf until I plowed through them all. I’m practicing my willpower however, and waiting until March to begin the next one. (Also, the book was way better than the movie!)


Book #27 of 2022: The Nowhere Man (Orphan X #2) by Gregg Hurwitz (3/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 17 January 2017

Spoken about only in whispers, the Nowhere Man can only be reached by the truly desperate, he can —He will do anything to save them. 

Evan Smoak is the Nowhere Man. 

Taken from a group home at twelve, Evan was raised and trained as part of the Orphan Program, an off-the-books operation designed to create deniable intelligence assets—i.e. assassins. Evan was Orphan X. He broke with the Program, using everything he learned to disappear and reinvent himself as the Nowhere Man.  

But his new life is interrupted when a surprise attack comes from an unlikely angle and Evan is caught unaware. Captured, drugged, and spirited off to a remote location, he finds himself heavily guarded and cut off from everything he knows. His captors think they have him trapped and helpless in a virtual cage but they don’t know who they’re dealing with—or that they’ve trapped themselves inside that cage with one of the deadliest and most resourceful men on earth. 

πŸ’­ “Standing in the same place with a clearer mind meant it was no longer the same place.”

πŸ’­ “Someone who thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room rarely is”

πŸ’­ “They say exercising can add seven years onto the end of your life. But I figure those seven years are about what you get if you add up all the hours you’d spend sweating your sorry ass on a treadmill. So I figure, why not skip all that misery, live out the good days, and hit the dirt when it’s time?”

The action started off immediately in this book which I loved, but unfortunately it died out pretty quick. The majority of the story was about Evan trying to escape being captured, and honestly it got old pretty quickly. The action picked up in the last quarter though, so at least the book ended on a high note. 

I do plan on reading book 3, but if there is as much of a dull in the middle as there was with this book I’ll probably stop after that.


Book #28 of 2022: The Topeka School by Ben Lerner (2/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 October 2019

Adam Gordon is a senior at Topeka High School, class of ’97. His mother, Jane, is a famous feminist author; his father, Jonathan, is an expert at getting “lost boys” to open up. They both work at a psychiatric clinic that has attracted staff and patients from around the world. Adam is a renowned debater, expected to win a national championship before he heads to college. He is one of the cool kids, ready to fight or, better, freestyle about fighting if it keeps his peers from thinking of him as weak. Adam is also one of the seniors who bring the loner Darren Eberheart—who is, unbeknownst to Adam, his father’s patient—into the social scene, to disastrous effect.

This had been sitting in my holds for months, so I was excited when it finally became available. Unfortunately, it fell very flat for me. I’m not sure if my expectations were just very high and I was let down, or if the storyline was just really that dull. I really thought there would be more drama, or at least more intense drama. I probably should have DNF’d it, but I kept thinking that maybe it would get more interesting. Maybe this just wasn’t my type of fiction. 


Book #29 of 2022: Nightmare Hall: The Wish by Diane Hoh (3.5/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Horror


“Wishes granted, fortunes told,”promises the sign on the booth at the back of the campus pizza place. Inside the booth sits a mechanical fortune-teller called the Wizard. His cold glass eyes give Alexandria Edgar the creeps. Her friends at Salem U think she’s crazy—they’re busy making wishes for the Wizard to grant.
But soon, their wishes turn into their worst nightmares: Alex’s roommate, who wished to look less ordinary, is disfigured in an accident. Another girl who wished to shed a few pounds can’t stop losing weight. As her friends face the consequences of their wishes, Alex suspects that her fears about the Wizard are becoming a reality. And she has good reason to be afraid: The truth is even more diabolical than she could have imagined, threatening the group’s very lives.

My favorite 90s horror series! At some point I’ll learn that no matter how certain I am that I know the villain, I’m literally always wrong. I underestimate these books every time, even though I love them! They’re old, but if you can track one down (or download on Kindle Unlimited) I recommend the series. They’re not as intense as modern day thrillers, but they’re still good!!


Book #30 of 2022: Never Saw Me Coming by Vera Kirian (3/5⭐️)

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 7 September 2021

You should never trust a psychopath. But what if you had no choice?

It would be easy to underestimate Chloe Sevre… She’s a freshman honor student, a legging-wearing hot girl next door, who also happens to be a psychopath. She spends her time on yogalates, frat parties and plotting to kill Will Bachman, a childhood friend who grievously wronged her. 

Chloe is one of seven students at her DC-based college who are part of an unusual clinical study of psychopaths—students like herself who lack empathy and can’t comprehend emotions like fear or guilt. The study, led by a renowned psychologist, requires them to wear smart watches that track their moods and movements.

When one of the students in the study is found murdered in the psychology building, a dangerous game of cat and mouse begins, and Chloe goes from hunter to prey. As she races to identify the killer and put her own plan for revenge into action, she’ll be forced to decide if she can trust any of her fellow psychopaths—and everybody knows you should never trust a psychopath.

I found this thriller recommended on bookstagram, and found it to be pretty good. I thought the premise was unique. I enjoyed the campus setting, and the characters were interesting, though I wish they would have gone a little deeper into psychopathy and how it presents. 


Book #31 of 2022: New From Here by Kelly Yang (5/5🌟)

πŸ“šGENRE: Middle Grade Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 1 March 2022

When the coronavirus hits Hong Kong, ten-year-old Knox Wei-Evans’s mom makes the last-minute decision to move him and his siblings back to California, where they think they will be safe. Suddenly, Knox has two days to prepare for an international move—and for leaving his dad, who has to stay for work. 

At his new school in California, Knox struggles with being the new kid. His classmates think that because he’s from Asia, he must have brought over the virus. At home, Mom just got fired and is panicking over the loss of health insurance, and Dad doesn’t even know when he’ll see them again, since the flights have been cancelled. And everyone struggles with Knox’s blurting-things-out problem. 

As racism skyrockets during COVID-19, Knox tries to stand up to hate, while finding his place in his new country. Can you belong if you’re feared; can you protect if you’re new? And how do you keep a family together when you’re oceans apart? Sometimes when the world is spinning out of control, the best way to get through it is to embrace our own lovable uniqueness.


“Taxes are like wedgies for adults.”

I was sent an ARC of this middle grade novel and I absolutely loved it. The story gave a very kid-friendly explanation as to what was happening in both China and the U.S. when Covid changed our world. The way the story explained racism was very age appropriate, and I really appreciate Yang's emphasis on kindness, because our world needs it. 


Book #32 of 2022: El Peor Dia de Karen (La Hermanita de Las NiΓ±eras #3) by Ann M. Martin

πŸ“š GENRE: Children’s

πŸ—“ PUBLISHED: 7 September 2021

Karen tiene un dΓ­a terrible. No encuentra sus jeans nuevos ni el premio en la caja de cereal, y Bubu el gato no quiere jugar con ella. ¡Hasta la castigan en su habitaciΓ³n!

Lo intenta todo para que el dΓ­a mejore, pero nada parece funcionar y la persigue la mala suerte. ¿SerΓ‘ este el peor dΓ­a de su vida?

Karen is having a terrible day. Her favorite jeans are missing, there's no prize in the Crunch-O cereal box, and Boo-Boo the cat won't play with her. She even gets punished and sent to her room!

Karen tries everything to make her day better, but nothing is going right and her bad luck just won't go away. Will this be the worst day ever?

No rating or real review for this one since it’s a kid’s book. Just getting my Spanish reading in for the month. It’s fun reading chapter books I loved as a kid for this challenge since they’re book I wouldn’t re-read as an adult otherwise.


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

Reading Challenge: 32/120 books read in 2022

You can find previous book reviews here!

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