Monday, October 3, 2022

#gretchensbooks2022 - September


It has been a hot minute since my physical books read outnumbered by audiobooks read. I think the beginning of this school year has stressed me out so much that I really made time to escape to book world this month, and I'm glad I did! I much prefer reading books to listening to them, but I also like to go out and do things which limits the time I have for real reading. I have been way too exhausted this month to do too much and just wanted to be home, hence all the reading!



Book #126 of 2022: Slammed (Slammed #1) by Colleen Hoover (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: January 2012

Following the unexpected death of her father, eighteen-year-old Layken becomes the rock for both her mother and younger brother. She appears resilient and tenacious, but inside, she's losing hope. Then she meets her new neighbor Will, a handsome twenty-one-year-old whose mere presence leaves her flustered and whose passion for poetry slams thrills her.

Not long after a heart-stopping first date during which each recognizes something profound and familiar in the other, they are slammed to the core when a shocking discovery brings their new relationship to a sudden halt. Daily interactions become impossibly painful as they struggle to find a balance between the feelings that pull them together and the forces that tear them apart. Only through the poetry they share are they able to speak the truth that is in their hearts and imagine a future where love is cause for celebration, not regret.

This is the final CoHo trilogy I had left to read, and I was running out of time to read it this year. I took this one out to the pool one day and despite being exhausted from school, I finished it in just a couple days. I really liked the characters in the story, and though it’s not my favorite CoHo book, it was a good one.


Book #127 of 2022: Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

📚GENRE: Self-Help/Inspiration

🗓PUBLISHED: 9 April 2019

Abby Wambach became a champion because of her incredible talent as a soccer player. She became an icon because of her remarkable wisdom as a leader. As the co-captain of the 2015 Women’s World Cup Champion Team, she created a culture not just of excellence, but of honor, commitment, resilience, and sisterhood. She helped transform a group of individual women into one of the most successful, powerful and united Wolfpacks of all time.

In her retirement, Abby’s ready to do the same for her new team: All Women Everywhere.

Wolfpack, Abby’s message to women is:

We have never been Little Red Riding Hood. We Are the Wolves.
We must wander off the path and blaze a new one: together.

She insists that women must let go of old rules of leadership that neither include or serve them. She’s created a new set of Wolfpack rules to help women unleash their individual power, unite with their Wolfpack, and change the landscape of their lives and world: from the family room to the board room to the White House.

Make failure your fuel: Transform failure to wisdom and power.
Lead from the bench: Lead from wherever you are.
Champion each other: Claim each woman’s victory as your own.
Demand the effing ball: Don’t ask permission: take what you’ve earned.

In Abby’s vision, we are not Little Red Riding Hoods, staying on the path because we’re told to. 
We are the wolves, fighting for a better tomorrow for ourselves, our pack, and all the future wolves who will come after us.

Honestly I think this was just a speech put into a book?? I’m not exactly sure, but I didn’t feel like it could be given a rating. I like that the audio was performed by Abby, and she had a great message to share!


Book #128 of 2022: Point of Retreat (Slammed #2) by Colleen Hoover (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 10 August 2012

As Layken and Will’s emotion-packed story continues, a stunning and unforeseen revelation about Will’s past leaves them questioning everything that they thought they knew about each other. With the foundation of their relationship at risk, they must decide whether they are willing to fight for a future together, or to retreat back into solitude and heartache.

How far does Will have to go to prove to Layken his love for her will last forever? It will require something truly extraordinary to keep this couple together, and the decisions they make and the answers they find will change not only their lives, but the lives of everyone around them.

I tore through this one in a few hours one morning.  It was a continuation of Slammed, but this time from Will’s perspective. I like that Hoover switched narrating characters as she continued the story. This one made me tear up a few times, and it felt more emotional than the first one (which seems like would have been hard to beat). 


Book #129 of 2022: This Girl (Slammed #3) by Colleen Hoover (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 30 April 2013

Layken and Will’s love has managed to withstand the toughest of circumstances, and the young lovers, now married, are beginning to feel safe and secure in their union. As much as Layken relishes their new life together, she finds herself wanting to know everything there is to know about her husband, even though Will makes it clear he prefers to keep the painful memories of the past where they belong.

Still, he can’t resist his wife’s pleas, and so he begins to untangle his side of the story, revealing for the first time his most intimate feelings and thoughts, retelling both the good and bad moments, and sharing a few shocking confessions of his own from the time when they first met.

This Girl, Will tells the story of their complicated relationship from his point of view. Their future rests on how well they deal with the past in this final installment of the beloved Slammed series.

This was the final book of the Slammed trilogy, and it was one I could have done without. Like she often does, Hoover wrote this book as basically a re-write of the first book, but from the male main characters’s perspective. Those are my least favorite books because you really don’t learn anything new, and considering I finished book 1 two days before I started this one, the story was still very fresh in my mind.

The only reason I didn’t rate it lower was because of the ending. It really pulled at my heart and I liked how it wrapped the trilogy up. There wasn’t a lot of “new” in this book which was its downfall, but the parts that were new were wonderful.


Book #130 of 2022: I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jeanette McCurdy (4.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Memoir

🗓PUBLISHED: 9 August 2022

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother’s dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called “calorie restriction,” eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while Mom chided, “Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?” She was even showered by Mom until age sixteen while sharing her diaries, email, and all her income.

I’m Glad My Mom Died, Jennette recounts all this in unflinching detail—just as she chronicles what happens when the dream finally comes true. Cast in a new Nickelodeon series called iCarly, she is thrust into fame. Though Mom is ecstatic, emailing fan club moderators and getting on a first-name basis with the paparazzi (“Hi Gale!”), Jennette is riddled with anxiety, shame, and self-loathing, which manifest into eating disorders, addiction, and a series of unhealthy relationships. These issues only get worse when, soon after taking the lead in the iCarly spinoff Sam & Cat alongside Ariana Grande, her mother dies of cancer. Finally, after discovering therapy and quitting acting, Jennette embarks on recovery and decides for the first time in her life what she really wants.

Three three celebrities I’ve been told I look like are Jodi Sweetin, JoJo Siwa, and Jeanette McCurdy. That reason alone was enough to make me want to read her memoir when it came out. But then there was SO MUCH BUZZ about it, that they were back ordered everywhere!

Whoa. This was a lot. It was very much a testament to the concept that you don’t know someone just by looking at them. Other than the articles I’ve read since her book was published, I had no idea the abuse that McCurdy suffered, and watching her act, you would have never guessed it.


Book #131 of 2022: In the Name of the Children: An FBI Agent’s Relentless Pursuit of the Nation’s Worst Predators by Jeffrey L. Ruben (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Memoir

🗓PUBLISHED: 17 July 2018

During his 30-year career with the FBI, Jeff Rinek worked hundreds of investigations involving crimes against children: from stranger abduction to serial homicide to ritualized sexual abuse. Those who do this kind of work are required to plumb the depths of human depravity, to see things no one should ever have to see—and once seen can never forget. There is no more important—or more brutal—job in law enforcement, and few have been more successful than Rinek at solving these sort of cases.

Most famously, Rinek got Cary Stayner to confess to all four of the killings known as the Yosemite Park Murders, an accomplishment made more extraordinary by the fact that the FBI nearly pinned the crimes on the wrong suspects. Rinek's recounting of the confession and what he learned about Stayner provides perhaps the most revelatory look ever inside the psyche of a serial killer and a privileged glimpse into the art of interrogation.

In the Name of the Children takes readers into the trenches of real-time investigations where every second counts and any wrong decision or overlooked fact can have tragic repercussions. Rinek offers an insider's perspective of the actual case agents and street detectives who are the boots on the ground in this war at home. By placing us inside the heart and mind of a rigorously honest and remarkably self-reflective investigator, we will see with our own eyes what it takes—and what it costs—to try to keep our children safe and to bring to justice those who prey on society's most vulnerable victims.

With each chapter dedicated to a real case he worked, 
In the Name of the Children also explores the evolution of Rinek as a Special Agent—whose unorthodox, empathy-based approach to interviewing suspects made him extraordinarily successful in obtaining confessions—and the toll it took to have such intimate contact with child molesters and murderers. Beyond exploring the devastating impact of these unthinkable crimes on the victims and their families, this book offers an unprecedented look at how investigators and their loved ones cope while living in the specter of so much suffering.

I went into this with the presumption that it would be a bunch of short stories or chapters about FBI crimes against children. While that was partially correct, it was also a memoir about the author - how he came to work for the FBI, the effects working for the FBI had on him, etc. I was a little disappointed at first, but once I got past my expectations being wrong, I was really interested in the book. Sometimes non-fiction audiobooks lose me, but I was engaged in this one the whole time. I wish it had covered more cases, but it was well-written and engaging.

Also, this is FREE on Audible!


Book #132 of 2022: Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 June 2021

Malibu: August 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time for him to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come rising to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.
I was hesitant to read (listen) to this one due to my previous experience with Jenkins’s work. Daisy Jones was such a popular book, but after attempting it twice, I finally DNF’d it. This one also seemed to be popular, but I was worried I’d be let down again.
I needn’t be worried though, I actually enjoyed this story. I’m not sure why- it wasn’t super eventful, but I liked listening to the story.


Book #133 of 2022: The Runaway Jury by John Grisham (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Legal Thriller


In Biloxi, Mississippi, a landmark tobacco  trial with hundreds of millions of dollars at  stake begins routinely, then swerves mysteriously off course. The jury is behaving strangely, and at least one juror is convinced he's being watched. Soon they have to be sequestered. Then a tip from an anonymous young woman suggests she is able to predict the jurors' increasingly odd behavior. Is the jury somehow being manipulated, or even controlled? If  so, by whom? And, more important, why?

This was the book that made me fall in love with John Grisham’s writing. I was in eighth grade and it was the first Grisham book that I had ever read; I’ve been devouring them ever since.

From the very first page, Grisham jumps right into the story. There is no get-to-know-you with the characters, just drama from the start.

That being said, after reading the whole thing, I’m shocked this was what got me interested in Grisham. I’ve read/re-read 10 Grisham books this year, and this was no where near the most engaging. I liked it, but he has so many better books.


Book #134 of 2022: The Sacrifice of Sunshine Girl by Paige McKenzie (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Paranormal/Fantasy

🗓PUBLISHED: 4 April 2017

Is Sunshine Griffith who she thinks she is? Now that her luiseach powers are fully awakened, and having barely survived an abyss full of demons at the end of Book Two, Sunshine must figure out who-or what-has been organizing the forces of darkness against her.

Thanks to her brainiac boyfriend, Nolan, they not only unearth that Sunshine's death would trigger a calamitous event, but that all civilization depends on her survival. So when an unexpected event unleashes a fierce war between the luiseach and the demon army, Sunshine will learn a shocking truth about herself. Can she bring herself to make the ultimate sacrifice to save humankind?

This was the final book in the Sunshine Girl trilogy. After reading book one, I had to order the remaining two. Honestly, I think the first one was the best. I enjoyed this enough to finish the trilogy however, and I do think it’s worth it to read all three. Knowing who the author is, I thought the very end of the story was pretty clever.


Book #135 of 2022: The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Stau (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 February 2022

The watcher sees who you are...and knows what you did. 

It’s the perfect home for the perfect family: pretty Nora Howell, her handsome husband, their two teenage daughters, and lovable dog. As California transplants making a fresh start in Brooklyn, they expected to live in a shoebox, but the brownstone has a huge kitchen, lots of light, and a backyard. The catch: its previous residents were victims of a grisly triple homicide that remains unsolved.  

Soon, peculiar things begin happening. The pug is nosing around like a bloodhound. Nora unearths a long-hidden rusty box in the flowerbed. Oldest daughter Stacey, obsessed with the family murdered in their house, pokes into the bloody past and becomes convinced that a stranger is watching the house. Watching them.

She’s right. But one of the Howells will recognize his face. Because one of them has a secret that will blindside the others with a truth that lies shockingly close to home—and to this one’s terrifying history.

This was a Goodreads giveaway win, and one I kept putting off reading for no real reason whatsoever. Holy cow. I read it in a day. It’s wasn’t crazy twisty turny, but I was SO engaged and wanting to find out how it would end.


Book #136 of 2022: Sister Dear by Hannah Mary McKinnon (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Suspense

🗓PUBLISHED: 26 May 2020

When Eleanor Hardwicke's beloved father dies, her world is further shattered by the discovery of a gut-wrenching secret: the man she's grieving isn't her biological dad.

With her personal life spiraling, a desperate Eleanor seeks out the family she never knew she had, finding an infuriatingly enviable half-sister.

Perfectly perfect Victoria has everything Eleanor could ever dream of. Loving childhood, luxury home, devoted husband. And this gets Eleanor thinking - aren't good sisters supposed to share?

This book was recommended to me a few years ago by a friend, and I’m glad it was! The story was so engaging, and I enjoyed listening to it. Until the end. I HATED the end. Maybe it was because I was already in a bad mood after a bad day, but I was so angry with the end of this book!! I wanted to stop listening even with 20 minutes left because I was afraid I was going to get even more angry with the last 20 minutes….AND I WISH I WOULD HAVE. Exactly what I thought was going to happen, HAPPENED!! Ugh. I need to read happier books.


Book #137 of 2022: Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins (3/5

📚GENRE: Suspense/Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 4 January 2022


Beautiful, wild, and strange―Meroe Island is a desolate spot in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. It’s the perfect destination for the most adventurous traveler to escape everything... except the truth.


Six stunning twentysomethings are about to embark on a blissful, free-spirited journey―one filled with sun-drenched days and intoxicating nights. But as it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in, sending them on a dangerous spiral of discovery.


When one person goes missing and another turns up dead, the remaining friends wonder what dark currents lie beneath this impenetrable paradise―and who else will be swept under its secluded chaos. With its island gothic sensibility, sexy suspense, and spine-tingling reimagining of an Agatha Christie classic, 
Reckless Girls will wreck you.

This was a random borrow as I’ve been running out of audiobooks and it was available. The story was engaging enough that I enjoyed listening to it, but was also mildly predictable. It was more drama than the suspense/thriller it is marketed as. The real action really didn’t happen until the very end.


Book #138 of 2022: Hocus Pocus & The All-New Sequel by A.W. Jantha (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Spooky/Middle Grade

🗓PUBLISHED: 10 July 2018

I finally caved and bought this book on an unintentional Target shopping spree one weekend, and told myself I would wait until October to read it. However, with Hocus Pocus 2 coming out on Disney+ on October 1, I decided I needed to read the book first because there was no way I could put off watching it.

The first story followed along with the movie VERY closely. In fact I watched the movie AS I read the book. There were some extra details thrown in the writing and a couple extra events added, but otherwise they adapted the screenplay pretty accurately.

I enjoyed the sequel as well, and look forward to seeing how much it correlates to the movie. (Edit: The book sequel did NOT corelate to the movie sequel AT ALL!)

P.S. This book is FREE with Kindle Unlimited!


Book #139 of 2022: Real Bad Things by Kelly J. Ford (2.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Family Drama/Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 September 2022

Beneath the roiling waters of the Arkansas River lie dead men and buried secrets.

When Jane Mooney’s violent stepfather, Warren, disappeared, most folks in Maud Bottoms, Arkansas, assumed he got drunk and drowned. After all, the river had claimed its share over the years.

When Jane confessed to his murder, she should have gone to jail. That’s what she wanted. But without a body, the police didn’t charge her with the crime. So Jane left for Boston—and took her secrets with her.

Twenty-five years later, the river floods and a body surfaces. Talk of Warren’s murder grips the town. Now in her forties, Jane returns to Maud Bottoms to reckon with her past: to do jail time, to face her revenge-bent mother, to make things right.

But though Jane’s homecoming may enlighten some, it could threaten others. Because in this desolate river valley, some secrets are better left undisturbed.

This was my Prime First Reads pick for August, and though I started it last month, I only just finished it this month. Usually I only read ebooks when I’m sitting around waiting somewhere, and there just wasn’t a lot of solo waiting around this month.

I thought the premise of the book sounded interesting, but I wasn’t as engaged as I thought I would be. The characters were kind of annoying and not very likeable. I think the ending was suppose to be a twist, but I had suspected it for at least half the book so it wasn’t very exciting.

P.S. This book is FREE with Kindle Unlimited.


Book #140 of 2022: Mr. Murder by Dean Koontz (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Mystery/Horror

🗓PUBLISHED: 5 July 2006

Martin Stillwater has a vivid imagination. It charms his loving wife, delights his two little daughters, and gives him all the inspiration he needs to write his highly successful mystery novels. But maybe Martin’s imagination is a bit too vivid.

One rainy afternoon, a terrifying incident makes him question his grip on reality. A stranger breaks into his house, accusing Martin of stealing his wife, his children—and his life. Claiming to be the real Martin Stillwater, the intruder threatens to take what is rightfully his. The police think he’s a figment of Martin’s imagination. But Martin and his family have no choice but to believe the stranger’s threat. And run for their lives. But wherever they go—wherever they hide—he finds them.

I was a big fan of Dean Koontz when I was younger, and as I’ve started to run out of audiobooks on the Libby app, I decided to see which of his were available.

I’ve listened to a couple of his before, and I think they must read better when you’re physically reading them versus listening to them, because I get lost and distracted when I listen to the story sometimes. I didn’t dislike this story by any means, but I think I would enjoy it more if I had read it in a book.

In true Dean Koontz fashion, this story was weird and bizarre!


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

Reading Challenge: 140/120 books read in 2022

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

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