Sunday, July 31, 2022

#gretchensbooks2022 - July


July did NOT start as a good reading month for me. For starters, I spent the first week barely moving because I had an ear infection...then sinus issues...then another ear infection... Also, the Libby app was down and I couldn't download the new books that were available for me. I knew with a week of Air Camp thrown in there I wouldn't get any reading done that week either (I don't think I even got any sleeping done that week!) All in all, there was definitely NOT enough pool reading done this summer. 


Book #96 of 2022: Prodigal Son by Gregg Hurwitz (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Action

🗓PUBLISHED: 26 January 2022

As a boy, Evan Smoak was pulled out of a foster home and trained in an off-the-books operation known as the Orphan Program. He was a government assassin, perhaps the best, known to a few insiders as Orphan X. He eventually broke with the Program and adopted a new nameThe Nowhere Man―and a new mission, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. But the highest power in the country has made him a tempting offer―in exchange for an unofficial pardon, he must stop his clandestine activities as The Nowhere Man. Now Evan has to do the one thing he’s least equipped to do―live a normal life.

But then he gets a call for help from the one person he never expected. A woman claiming to have given him up for adoption, a woman he never knew―his mother. Her unlikely request: help Andrew Duran―a man whose life has gone off the rails, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, bringing him to the deadly attention of very powerful figures. Now a brutal brother & sister assassination team are after him and with no one to turn to, and no safe place to hide, Evan is Duran’s only option. But when the hidden cabal catches on to what Evan is doing, everything he’s fought for is on the line―including his own life.

This wasn’t my favorite in the series, but I’m wondering if it’s because I listened to the audio version instead of reading it. I just didn’t feel the suspense that I did with the other novels. I have book 7 reserved on audio already, so I’m going to give it another chance, otherwise when book 8 comes out I’ll go back to ebooks for the series. The performer isn’t bad, I’m just not as engaged as I have been with the previous books.

It did end with quite the cliffhanger, which was probably the most exciting part of the book for me!


Book #97 of 2022: The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight For Freedom, and the Men Who Tried To Make Her Disappear by Kate Moore (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Biography

🗓PUBLISHED: 22 June 2022

1860: As the clash between the states rolls slowly to a boil, Elizabeth Packard, housewife and mother of six, is facing her own battle. The enemy sits across the table and sleeps in the next room. Her husband of twenty-one years is plotting against her because he feels increasingly threatened―by Elizabeth's intellect, independence, and unwillingness to stifle her own thoughts. So he makes a plan to put his wife back in her place. One summer morning, he has her committed to an insane asylum.

The horrific conditions inside the Illinois State Hospital in Jacksonville, Illinois, are overseen by Dr. Andrew McFarland, a man who will prove to be even more dangerous to Elizabeth than her traitorous husband. But most disturbing is that Elizabeth is not the only sane woman confined to the institution. There are many rational women on her ward who tell the same story: they've been committed not because they need medical treatment, but to keep them in line―conveniently labeled "crazy" so their voices are ignored.

No one is willing to fight for their freedom and, disenfranchised both by gender and the stigma of their supposed madness, they cannot possibly fight for themselves. But Elizabeth is about to discover that the merit of losing everything is that you then have nothing to lose...

I really struggle with audiobooks that are read in accents, especially when they don’t match the setting of the story. Once I got past that though…

Holy cow this story was infuriating. There was A LOT that went on, and though it was an overwhelming amount of information at times, the reality of women at this time was incredibly interesting.


Book #98 of 2022: The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han (2/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: YA Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 5 May 2009

Belly measures her life in summers. Everything good, everything magical happens between the months of June and August. Winters are simply a time to count the weeks until the next summer, a place away from the beach house, away from Susannah, and most importantly, away from Jeremiah and Conrad. They are the boys that Belly has known since her very first summer—they have been her brother figures, her crushes, and everything in between. But one summer, one wonderful and terrible summer, the more everything changes, the more it all ends up just the way it should have been all along.

I had very high expectations for this book, and because of that I was very let down. The series was raves about on Instagram, and they usually don’t make tv shows out of bad books.

First off, the protagonist’s name is Belly. BELLY. You find out eventually it’s actually Isabel, but wtaf?! Why would you call a girl that?! Why would you call ANYONE that?! I thought maybe I was just mishearing a name like “Baylee,” but nope. It’s Belly. WHY.

I just did not connect with the main character at all. There was no depth to her, and while I understand her jealousy and flip-flopping between boys is pretty realistic, it’s not enjoyable in a book. Maybe it was just to juvenile for me?? I usually really enjoy YA novels, but this one missed the mark.

Also I have mixed thoughts about the performer on the audiobook. For most of it she was good, but she would say dialogue with a very happy/laughing voice like that was how the character said it (which was fine and made a lot of sense) but she’d continue the tone when finishing the non-dialogue part of the sentence which was weird. 

I don’t plan at reading the remaining two books in the series, but I will watch the show on Prime. Perhaps it will be better than the book!


Book #99 of 2022: Finding Perfect (Hopeless #2.6) by Colleen Hoover (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 30 November 2019

Friends Daniel, Six, Holder, Sky, and Breckin are planning to celebrate the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday with a Friendsgiving dinner at Sky’s parents’ house.

But things have been off within the tightknit group and when Daniel reaches out to Six to ask the hard questions he hasn’t dared to bring up since they last spoke about their shared secret, he’s dismayed to learn that it’s this very secret bringing a cloud over the holiday. Suddenly, Daniel must do everything he can to find answers for the one person he loves the most in the world, but will this search only lead to despair.

This short story was packed full of heart wrenching emotion. I was reading it at the pool and trying not to cry.

Definitely read Hopeless and Finding Cinderella before reading this AND read All Your Perfects, as they all connect.


Book #100 of 2022: The Astronaut and the Star by Jen Comfort (3.5/5

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 March 2022

Astronaut Regina “Reggie” Hayes wants to be the first woman on the moon―it’s all she’s ever dreamed of. But after a PR disaster, Reggie is off the list for a lunar mission. To rehabilitate her reputation with NASA, she agrees to a different kind of assignment: astronaut “training” with a Hollywood action hero.

Jon Leo is a charmer. With credits that include an underperforming sitcom and a campy action flick called Space Dude, his upcoming role in a prestigious movie could prove he’s a star. But Jon isn’t just big muscles and an otherworldly smile―he’s also a total space nerd. He’s pumped about his own personal space camp…until he meets ice-cold Reggie.

Although Reggie and Jon are polar opposites, their mutual attraction is undeniable, and it only takes a few weeks in close quarters for them to give in to its magnetic force. Jon is set on convincing Reggie this is a match made in the heavens, but her future is in space, and his is among stars of the Hollywood kind. The odds of successfully launching a real relationship outside the confines of the training base are anything but optimal.

Reggie, content with keeping things casual, is forced by a sudden turn of events to confront the possibility of losing Jon forever. Now, she’ll do whatever it takes to win both the man and the moon.

This book came out a couple months ago, and though contemporary romance isn’t my typical genre of choice, the cover was beautiful and it was about an astronaut, so I was all in!

Of course I was rooting for the couple the whole time, even though the female main character was a brat (that’s the nice way of putting it). I did appreciate her character development.

I liked the brief bit of action towards the end, and the ending was perfect, I thought!


Book #101 of 2022: The Recovery Agent by Janet Evanovich (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Mystery/Adventure

🗓PUBLISHED: 22 March 2022

Lost something? Gabriela Rose knows how to get it back. As a recovery agent, she’s hired by individuals and companies seeking lost treasures, stolen heirlooms, or missing assets of any kind. She’s reliable, cool under pressure, and well trained in weapons of all types. But Gabriela’s latest job isn’t for some bamboozled billionaire, it’s for her own family, whose home is going to be wiped off the map if they can’t come up with a lot of money fast.

Inspired by an old family legend, Gabriela sets off for the jungles of Peru in pursuit of the Ring of Solomon and the lost treasure of Lima. But this particular job comes with a huge problem attached to it—Gabriela’s ex-husband, Rafer. It’s Rafer who has the map that possibly points the way to the treasure, and he’s not about to let Gabriela find it without him.

Rafer is as relaxed as Gabriela is driven, and he has a lifetime’s experience getting under his ex-wife’s skin. But when they aren’t bickering about old times the two make a formidable team, and it’s going to take a team to defeat the vicious drug lord who has also been searching for the fabled ring. A drug lord who doesn’t mind leaving a large body count behind him to get it.

This is the first non-Stephanie Plum book I’ve read by Evanovich, and it definitely didn’t measure up. I was expecting the humor from the Plum series, and it wasn’t there.

In the spirit of complete honestly, I didn’t read the description of the book before I read it. I just knew I liked the Plum series and the cover of the book was pretty! This mystery book leans on the side of action and adventure, and it’s rare I engage with books like that. The storyline was fun, just not really my cup of tea. 

I don’t see myself reading anymore books in this series if more are published, BUT I did find the next Stephanie Plum novel is slated for publication in November, so I’m excited for that!!


Book #102 of 2022: The Other Side by Chevy Stevens (2/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 2 April 2013

Sandy is working the biggest case of her life—the Campsite Killer, who has been hunting women for almost forty years. She's finally close to nailing him, if she can just keep her head in the game. But when an old friend calls with a lead about Sandy's mother's murder, Sandy is pulled into the past—a past she thought she'd closed the door on. Her life is about to get real complicated, real fast.

“What? That was the dumbest book I ever read.” were the words that came out of my mouth when I turned the last page. I know it was a short story, and you can’t get TOO deep with that, but bing-bang-boom it was over with no suspense! I was excited for a Chevy Stevens short story because I like her books, but this was a let down.


Book #103 of 2022: The Tumor by John Grisham

📚GENRE: Short Story

🗓PUBLISHED: 19 January 2016

THE TUMOR follows the present day experience of the fictional patient Paul, an otherwise healthy 35-year-old father who is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Grisham takes readers through a detailed account of Paul’s treatment and his family’s experience that doesn’t end as we would hope. Grisham then explores an alternate future, where Paul is diagnosed with the same brain tumor at the same age, but in the year 2025, when a treatment called focused ultrasound is able to extend his life expectancy.

Focused ultrasound has the potential to treat not just brain tumors, but many other disorders, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, hypertension, and prostate, breast and pancreatic cancer.

For more information, you can visit The Focused Ultrasound Foundation’s website. Here you will find a video of Grisham on the TEDx stage with the Foundation’s chairman and a Parkinson’s patient who brings the audience to its feet sharing her incredible story of a focused ultrasound “miracle.”

Readers will get a taste of the narrative they expect from Grisham, but this short book will also educate and inspire people to be hopeful about the future of medical innovation.

This was, ah, interesting. 

This was not a story, it was..well, im not sure what it was to be honest. Like a medical brochure, but written in book form? Medical fiction? I don't know. It was a story, but with a definite agenda - which I'm not necessarily saying is a bad thing, just wasn't very....entertaining? I don't know. I can’t even give this a rating.


Book #104 of 2022: Dark Horse (Orphan X #7) by Gregg Hurwitz (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Action/Adventure

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 February 2022

Evan Smoak is a man with many identities and a challenging past. As Orphan X, he was a government assassin for the off-the-books Orphan Program. After he broke with the Program, he adopted a new name and a new mission--The Nowhere Man, helping the most desperate in their times of trouble. Having just survived an attack on his life and the complete devastation of his base of operations, as well as his complicated (and deepening) relationship with his neighbor Mia Hall, Evan isn't interested in taking on a new mission. But one finds him anyway.

Aragon Urrea is a kingpin of a major drug-dealing operation in South Texas. He's also the patron of the local area--supplying employment in legitimate operations, providing help to the helpless, rough justice to the downtrodden, and a future to a people normally with little hope. He's complicated--a not completely good man, who does bad things for often good reasons. However, for all his money and power, he is helpless when one of the most vicious cartels kidnaps his innocent eighteen year old daughter, spiriting her away into the armored complex that is their headquarters in Mexico. With no other way to rescue his daughter, he turns to The Nowhere Man.

Now not only must Evan figure out how to get into the impregnable fortress of a heavily armed, deeply paranoid cartel leader, but he must decide if he should help a very bad man--no matter how just the cause.

I did enjoy this book, but I’ve come to the definite conclusion that I prefer reading the books in this series rather than listening to them on audio. The next one comes out in February and I’m very excited for it. I loved the action in this one, but I loved the character development even more.


Book #105 of 2022: Those Girls by Chevy Stevens (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 7 July 2015

Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father's temper. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. As events spiral out of control they find themselves in a horrifying situation and are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives.

Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer. But when one of the sisters goes missing, followed closely by her niece, they are pulled back into the past. And this time there's nowhere left to run.

Chevy Stevens back in rotation again with another awesome thriller! I read one of her new releases a year or so ago and have been determined to read everything of hers.

This story is told in alternative perspectives. It begins in the past, then jumps forward to the present (a jump I did NOT see coming!) I loved the Campbell sisters, and was rooting for them every step of the way. It was a bit terrifying at times and definitely got my heart rate up.


Book #106 of 2022: Broken Horses by Brandi Carlisle (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Memoir

🗓PUBLISHED: 6 April 2021

Brandi Carlile was born into a musically gifted, impoverished family on the outskirts of Seattle and grew up in a constant state of change, moving from house to house, trailer to trailer, fourteen times in as many years. Though imperfect in every way, her dysfunctional childhood was as beautiful as it was strange, and as nurturing as it was difficult. At the age of five, Brandi contracted bacterial meningitis, which almost took her life, leaving an indelible mark on her formative years and altering her journey into young adulthood.

As an openly gay teenager, Brandi grappled with the tension between her sexuality and her faith when her pastor publicly refused to baptize her on the day of the ceremony. Shockingly, her small town rallied around Brandi in support and set her on a path to salvation where the rest of the misfits and rejects find it: through twisted, joyful, weird, and wonderful music.
Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile takes readers through the events of her life that shaped her very raw art—from her start at a local singing competition where she performed Elton John’s “Honky Cat” in a bedazzled white polyester suit, to her first break opening for Dave Matthews Band, to many sleepless tours over fifteen years and six studio albums, all while raising two children with her wife, Catherine Shepherd. This hard-won success led her to collaborations with personal heroes like Elton John, Dolly Parton, Mavis Staples, Pearl Jam, Tanya Tucker, and Joni Mitchell, as well as her peers in the supergroup The Highwomen, and ultimately to the Grammy stage, where she converted millions of viewers into instant fans.

Evocative and piercingly honest, 
Broken Horses is at once an examination of faith through the eyes of a person rejected by the church’s basic tenets and a meditation on the moments and lyrics that have shaped the life of a creative mind, a brilliant artist, and a genuine empath on a mission to give back.

I loved that the audiobook was performed by Brandi Carlile herself, AND she performed a song or two between each chapter. Bonus, there was an hour and a half of music performed by her at the end, too! I honestly didn’t know that Brandi Carlile was a performer before I started this, I just knew her as a song writer. From listening I found some songs I’ve really loved were originally performed by her! Her life was very interesting to learn about, and I loved how she encouraged everyone to write about their lives, because I so agree! We all have stories that have made us into the people who are, no matter how dull we think those stories may be.


Book #107 of 2022: The Au Pair by Emma Rous (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Suspense

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 January 2019

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny, were born in the middle of summer at their family's estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is smiling serenely and holding just one baby.

Who is the child, and what really happened that day?

I tried this audio once before and couldn’t get into it. I had to power through the beginning this time, but it got more interesting as time went on. I wasn’t as engaged in it as I am with most suspense novels, and the stories of these characters were so interwoven that it got confusing at times. The story was flip-flopped between one character in the past, and a second character in the present. The story had a lot of potential, it was just a little too messy for me.


Book #108 of 2022: Reputation by Sara Shepard (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Mystery/Suspense

🗓PUBLISHED: 3 December 2019

Aldrich University is rocked to its core when a hacker dumps 40,000 people's e-mails—the entire faculty, staff, students, alums—onto an easily searchable database. Rumors and affairs immediately leak, but things turn explosive when Kit Manning's handsome husband, Dr. Greg Strasser, is found murdered. Kit's sister, Willa, returns for the funeral, setting foot in a hometown she fled fifteen years ago, after a night she wishes she could forget. As an investigative reporter, Willa knows something isn't right about the night Greg was killed, and she's determined to find the truth. What she doesn't expect is that everyone has something to hide. And with a killer on the loose, Willa and Kit must figure out who killed Greg before someone else is murdered.

One summer when I was in college I tore three Shepard’s “Pretty Little Liars” and “The Lying Game” series. Since then, I’ve have every other book she’s written on my TBR list. Some of them are geared toward middle grade/YA readers, but this one felt like it was for more of an adult audience.

Most of Shepard’s books tend to be series, but this one was a stand alone. The story is told via multiple perspectives that all intertwine and keep you guessing. The author keeps everyone a viable suspect until the very end, and for the most part I liked how the character’s storylines wrapped up (minus one…) 


Book #109 of 2022: The Chamber by John Grisham (5/5🌟)

📚GENRE: Legal Thriller


In the corridors of Chicago's top law firm: Twenty -six-year-old Adam Hall stands on the brink of a brilliant legal career. Now he is risking it all for a death-row killer and an impossible case.

Maximum Security Unit, Mississippi State Prison: Sam Cayhall is a former Klansman and unrepentant racist now facing the death penalty for a fatal bombing in 1967. He has run out of chances -- except for one: the young, liberal Chicago lawyer who just happens to be his grandson.

While the executioners prepare the gas chamber, while the protesters gather and the TV cameras wait, Adam has only days, hours, minutes to save his client. For between the two men is a chasm of shame, family lies, and secrets -- including the one secret that could save Sam Cayhall's life... or cost Adam his.

When I first read this, it immediately became my favorite John Grisham book. I don’t know necessarily that I thought it was the best storyline, it just evoked a very emotional response from me for whatever reason. I loved the development of the relationships in this book. I loved the writing. It’s still my favorite!


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

Reading Challenge: 109/120 books read in 2022

You can find previous book reviews here and add me on Goodreads here!

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