Saturday, September 3, 2022

#gretchensbooks2022 - August


 I DON'T know where I found the energy to read this month. Most days I come home and collapse on the couch and that's it. The end. I put the TV on, but I don't even watch it. I forget how draining August is. September will be better, right? RIGHT????


Book #110 of 2022: The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 22 June 2022

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of bourbon, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple living in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is powerful; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous.

One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage isn’t as perfect as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey immediately suspects Tom of foul play. What she doesn’t realize is that there’s more to the story than meets the eye—and that shocking secrets can lurk beneath the most placid of surfaces.

I’ve been waiting a hot minute for this audio to be available!

This book gave me “The Woman in the Window” vibes in the beginning, but absolutely turned out to be Riley Sager’s style. Just when I thought it was over, MORE happened! 

I didn’t like that it was so much like TWITW, because it made the first half feel like I’d already read it before (and quite frankly that book bored me. Also, I feel like most of the suspense was in the second half of the story. This wasn’t my favorite of his, but I enjoyed it well enough. 


Book #111 of 2022: Stay Awake by Megan Goldin  (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 9 August 2022

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who claims to live in her apartment. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing. In its place is a bloodstained knife. Her hands are covered in scribbled messages, like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE.

Two years ago, Liv was thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, similar to the message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years? Liv finds herself on the run for a crime she doesn’t remember committing. But there’s someone who does know exactly what she did, and they’ll do anything to make her forget―permanently.

I read this book in less than two days, and while I didn’t LOVE it, I was definitely engaged. It is most definitely a psychological thriller!

This is the second ARC I’ve received of Goldin’s novels, and once I made the connection that she had also written Night Swim, I was super excited to read this one.

The story is told between two perspectives, the main character and the detective solving the crime involving her. It also flips back and forth between the present and the past. 

I didn’t love the ending of it. I don’t feel like I understand why the murderer did what they did?  It was never explained so I feel like I’m just left hanging not knowing the motive.

I’d love for a spin off from this book about the detective and another crime!


Book #112 of 2022: Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 31 December 2019

Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond.

But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.

In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder.

When a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.

But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that 
really happened.

Hm. I had originally started this last year, but DNF’d it only 6% in. I decided to give it another try.

Once I got past the accented performer (it always takes me a moment to adjust, she had a very strong English accent that fit the character very well) I was pretty engaged. I didn’t really connect with the characters, nor the story line, but the writing was very fast paced which made it easy to continue listening to.

Also, the epilogue?! Very unexpected. I had to go back and listen to it twice to make sure I understood it correctly.


Book #113 of 2022: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Suspense/Family Drama

🗓PUBLISHED: 13 May 2015

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

This was a re-read, but the prequel just came out so I had to prep myself. I remember really liking the book because it was unpredictable, but I couldn’t remember WHY. When I finished it I did remember the ending, but until I had gotten to it I totally forgot! This was just as good the second time around, and I’m curious as to what the prequel will be about!


Book #114 of 2022: Family of Liars by E. Lockhart (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Suspense/Family Drama

🗓PUBLISHED: 3 May 2022

A windswept private island off the coast of Massachusetts. 
A hungry ocean, churning with secrets and sorrow.
A fiery, addicted heiress. An irresistible, unpredictable boy. 
A summer of unforgivable betrayal and terrible mistakes.
Welcome back to the Sinclair family. 
They were always liars.

I definitely didn’t like this one near as much as We Were Liars, but it was still good!

It does start with a warning that there will be spoilers to We Were Liars, and though there are only a couple, definitely read that once first.

This book was about the adults in We Were Liars - basically their origin story. There was drama, but not as much suspense I didn’t think. 


Book #115 of 2022: Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Suspense

🗓PUBLISHED: 19 July 2022

When Paris Peralta is arrested in her own bathroom―covered in blood, holding a straight razor, her celebrity husband dead in the bathtub behind her―she knows she'll be charged with murder. But as bad as this looks, it's not what worries her the most. With the unwanted media attention now surrounding her, it's only a matter of time before someone from her long hidden past recognizes her and destroys the new life she's worked so hard to build, along with any chance of a future.

Twenty-five years earlier, Ruby Reyes, known as the Ice Queen, was convicted of a similar murder in a trial that riveted Canada in the early nineties. Reyes knows who Paris really is, and when she's unexpectedly released from prison, she threatens to expose all of Paris's secrets. Left with no other choice, Paris must finally confront the dark past she escaped, once and for all.

Because the only thing worse than a murder charge are 
two murder charges.

I was uncertain about the structure of the story, told in six parts, but I don’t think it could have been done any other way. I like the varied perspectives, both past and present, and did not see ANY of the twists coming in the end. I also liked the main character, and was rooting for her the whole story. 


Book #116 of 2022: The Stolen Hours by Allen Eskens (4.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Suspense

🗓PUBLISHED: 7 September 2021

Lila Nash is on the verge of landing her dream job—working as a prosecutor under the Hennepin County Attorney—and has settled into a happy life with her boyfriend, Joe Talbert. But when a woman is pulled from the Mississippi River, barely alive, things in the office take a personal turn.
The police believe the woman’s assailant is local photographer Gavin Spenser, but the case quickly flounders as the evidence wears thin. It seems Gavin saw this investigation coming—and no one can imagine how carefully he has prepared.

The more determined Lila is to put Gavin behind bars, the more elusive justice becomes. Battling a vindictive new boss and haunted by the ghosts of her own unspeakable attack, which she’s kept a dark secret for eight long years, Lila knows the clock is ticking down. In a race against an evil mastermind, it will take everything Lila’s got to outsmart a killer—and to escape the dark hold of her own past.

This might be my favorite novel in the series! I liked that it was about a different main character than the previous books, but still one that appeared in those books and was connected to the previous main characters.

I loved the mystery and the connections between the characters. I was in suspense this whole novel, and was so anxious as to what would happen next and how it would end!

I LOVE how it ended!!!


Book #117 of 2022: Artemis by Andy Weir (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Science Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 14 November 2017

Jasmine Bashara never signed up to be a hero. She just wanted to get rich.
Not crazy, eccentric-billionaire rich, like many of the visitors to her hometown of Artemis, humanity’s first and only lunar colony. Just rich enough to move out of her coffin-sized apartment and eat something better than flavored algae. Rich enough to pay off a debt she’s owed for a long time.
So when a chance at a huge score finally comes her way, Jazz can’t say no. Sure, it requires her to graduate from small-time smuggler to full-on criminal mastermind. And it calls for a particular combination of cunning, technical skills, and large explosions—not to mention sheer brazen swagger. But Jazz has never run into a challenge her intellect can’t handle, and she figures she’s got the ‘swagger’ part down.
The trouble is, engineering the perfect crime is just the start of Jazz’s problems. Because her little heist is about to land her in the middle of a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself.
Trapped between competing forces, pursued by a killer and the law alike, even Jazz has to admit she’s in way over her head. She’ll have to hatch a truly spectacular scheme to have a chance at staying alive and saving her city.
Jazz is no hero, but she is a very good criminal.
That’ll have to do.

I usually listen to audiobooks on the Libby app, but I was recently sent a 3-month free trial of Audible. I’ve used Audible before, but I don’t like to pay for audiobooks (only real books) which is why I only use it when given free months! Anyway, for the first time ever I ran out of books on Libby to listen to, so I finally opened the Audible app.

I LOVED The Martian. LOVED it. So much that I read it AND listened to it all within the same year. And of course I own the DVD. 

That being said, when I saw he had more space-themed novels I knew I had to read them.

I very much enjoyed this book, though not near as much as The Martian. I had the hardest time remembering it was a standalone novel and NOT a sequel to the Space Case middle grade trilogy that I read last year. I swear it could have been an extension of those stories, just about an older character.

I like how diverse the moon base was, because that just makes sense. The main character was pretty likeable, especially since she was coined a criminal from the very beginning. The only thing I didn’t like about her was that she would make sexual innuendos (which was fine), but then point out that she was making an innuendo, which just made it weird.


Book #118 of 2022: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (4.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Science Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 4 May 2021

Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission—and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, Ryland realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Hurtling through space on this tiny ship, it’s up to him to puzzle out an impossible scientific mystery—and conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And with the clock ticking down and the nearest human being light-years away, he’s got to do it all alone.

Or does he?

This was the final Weir book that I had on my list to read, and though it was space themed, I wasn’t sure if I would like it. The premise is built on one guy out in space saving the world, and I wasn’t sure how the story of one man by himself  could be that interesting (but then again, The Martian was basically that as well and I loved that book). 

I liked that this story flipped between present and past, and it took time to figure out how and why exactly the main astronaut ended up way out in space.

I also really liked how it ended. Without saying too much (though possible spoiled to follow) he could have gone with the expected happy ending, and I love that he didn’t.


Book #119 of 2022: The Rainmaker by John Grisham (5/5🌟)

📚GENRE: Legal Thriller


In his first courtroom thriller since A Time To Kill, John Grisham tells the story of a young man barely out of law school who finds himself taking on one of the most powerful, corrupt, and ruthless companies in America -- and exposing a complex, multibillion-dollar insurance scam. In his final semester of law school Rudy Baylor is required to provide free legal advice to a group of senior citizens, and it is there that he meets his first "clients," Dot and Buddy Black.

Their son, Donny Ray, is dying of leukemia, and their insurance company has flatly refused to pay for his medical treatments. While Rudy is at first skeptical, he soon realizes that the Blacks really have been shockingly mistreated by the huge company, and that he just may have stumbled upon one of the largest insurance frauds anyone's ever seen -- and one of the most lucrative and important cases in the history of civil litigation. The problem is, Rudy's flat broke, has no job, hasn't even passed the bar, and is about to go head-to-head with one of the best defense attorneys -- and powerful industries -- in America.

I can’t remember if I’d ever read this one, but boy was it good! I don’t know how one can make suing an insurance agency interesting, but boy did John Grisham do it!

I watched the movie after, and first of all, Matt Damon was a BABY! But more importantly, it leaves out soooo many parts of the book. I know movies are never as good as the books, but this one didn’t even come close to living up to its original.


Book #120 of 2022: The Initiation (Nightmare Hall #14) by Diane Hoh (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Horror/Suspense

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 August 1994

The first months of college take a toll on Molly Keene. In high school she knew everyone, but at Salem University she’s just another face in the crowd. No one notices her besides Norman, a peculiar intellectual who invites her to join his new club: the Others. The first meeting is just small talk, but at the second, things get weird. A ceremony takes place in the woods, around a campfire. Norman declares that the Others have secret powers which give them the right to impose their will on the school. It should be funny, but Molly isn’t laughing. As she makes more friends, Molly tries to get away from Norman and his creepy club. But she has already been initiated, and the Others aren’t going to let her go without a fight.

Eh. This wasn’t my favorite in the series. It had the suspense of the rest of the books, but I felt the ending was predictable. It wasn’t hard to guess the “bad guys” in this one, and I’m usually fooled when I read these books.


Book #121 of 2022: Single-Minded by Lisa Daily (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 17 June 2017

Alex has planned and executed her life with laser focus since she first met her future husband at the play-doh table on the first day of kindergarten. They have a terrific life, a gorgeous house on the bay, and fantastic careers they love. There's only one problem: Alex's husband has a secret. A big one.
Now, Alex's perfectly planned life has completely fallen apart, her biological clock is starting to feel like the timer on a nuclear device, and she finds herself drooling over her completely-dreamy-but-definitely-off-limits client, a star chef opening a hot new restaurant.

This was a random book I picked off the shelf in the work room at school. I’m not a huge romance reader, but I always like something light for the pool, and this one did the trick. It definitely made me tear up at least once, so it’s got the emotional turmoil. It was fun and humorous - a good summer read. (Only $1.99 on Kindle!)


Book #122 of 2022: The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (4.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 4 May 2021

Before Owen Michaels disappears, he smuggles a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her. Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers—Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered, as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss, as a US marshal and federal agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they’re also building a new future—one neither of them could have anticipated.

I ran out of audiobooks to listen to on Libby, so I randomly picked this one after seeing the cover floating around everywhere.

I began with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised! I flew through it, and couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I didn’t see the ending coming, and really liked all the suspense throughout. 


Book #123 of 2022: Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 2021 June 22

Raised on an island off Massachusetts by a mother who wrote songs for famous musicians, Jane Quinn is singing in her own band before she's old enough to even read music. When folk legend Jesse Reid hears about Jane's performance at the island's music festival, a star is born--and so is a passionate love affair: they become inseparable when her band joins his on tour. Wary of being cast as his girlfriend--and haunted by her mother's shattered ambitions-- Jane shields her relationship from the public eye, but Jesse's star power pulls her into his orbit of fame. Caught up in the thrill of the road and the profound and lustful connection she has with Jesse, Jane is blind-sided by the discovery she makes about the dark secret beneath his music. Heartbroken and blackballed by the industry, Jane is now truly on her own: to make the music she loves, and to make peace with her family Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early 70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?

I had one this book in a giveaway from a bookstagrammer who I’ve followed for years (@lalalifebookclub - she’s fabulous) many months ago, and I figured it would be a good end of summer read.

It’s not a book I would have picked out in my own, but I really liked it! I loved all the technical music bits, and I also liked how the story played out. The main character was true to herself and I think I loved that the most.


Book #124 of 2022: Frankie & Bug by Gayle Forman (4.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Middle Grade

🗓PUBLISHED: 12 October 2021

It’s the summer of 1987, and all ten-year-old Bug wants to do is go to the beach with her older brother and hang out with the locals on the boardwalk. But Danny wants to be with his own friends, and Bug’s mom is too busy, so Bug is stuck with their neighbor Philip’s nephew, Frankie.

Bug’s not too excited about hanging out with a kid she’s never met, but they soon find some common ground. And as the summer unfolds, they find themselves learning some important lessons about each other, and the world.

Like what it means to be your true self and how to be a good ally for others. That family can be the people you’re related to, but also the people you choose to have around you. And that even though life isn’t always fair, we can all do our part to make it more just.

Gayle Forman always writes such good novels, so when I saw she had written this children/middle grade book, I had to check it out.

What a beautiful story. It dealt with A LOT of deep subjects at a very age-appropriate level. And it really showed how humans are born innocent children and that hate is taught.


Book #125 of 2022: The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Science Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 12 October 2021

1973: a final, top-secret mission to the Moon. Three astronauts in a tiny spaceship, a quarter million miles from home. A quarter million miles from help.

NASA is about to launch Apollo 18. While the mission has been billed as a scientific one, flight controller Kazimieras "Kaz" Zemeckis knows there is a darker objective. Intelligence has discovered a secret Soviet space station spying on America, and Apollo 18 may be the only chance to stop it.

But even as Kaz races to keep the NASA crew one step ahead of their Russian rivals, a deadly accident reveals that not everyone involved is quite who they were thought to be. With political stakes stretched to the breaking point, the White House and the Kremlin can only watch as their astronauts collide on the lunar surface, far beyond the reach of law or rescue.
Full of the fascinating technical detail that fans of 
The Martian loved, and reminiscent of the thrilling claustrophobia, twists, and tension of The Hunt for Red OctoberThe Apollo Murders is a high-stakes thriller unlike any other. Chris Hadfield captures the fierce G-forces of launch, the frozen loneliness of space, and the fear of holding on to the outside of a spacecraft orbiting the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour as only someone who has experienced all of these things in real life can.
Strap in and count down for the ride of a lifetime.

I started listening to this, and my first thought was, “this voice sounds a lot like the performer of the Andy Weir audiobooks….” which is turn out, it was. That made it really hard to separate this book from the two by Andy Weir that I also listened to this month!

You could tell that this was written by an astronaut, because it had details that one would only think of had they been to space. For example, he mentioned when the characters first lost gravity and were floating around having a conversation that it was difficult to make eye contact because your there was no common ground for “eye level” which I had never though about before.

This story was really intriguing for the vast majority of it. It lost me a little in the end and I became a bit disinterested, but I don’t know if that was the story or just my own preoccupied mind. 


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

Reading Challenge: 125/120 books read in 2022

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