Tuesday, February 28, 2023

#gretchensbooks2023 - February

             

What a great month of reading! I don't read a lot of romance, but there was a hockey series I had seen recommended, so I decided to start the month with that. Turns out, there was actually a spin-off from that series too, so of course I had to read that one too! I'm pretty sure all I did this month was read...but I'm not mad about it!

                                


Book #21 of 2023 📖 The Deal (Off-Campus #1) by Elle Kennedy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 24 February 2015


She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy…

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and 
make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

...and it’s going to be oh so good

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like 
him.


TW: rape, domestic abuse


I’d heard of this series awhile back, and at the end of last year I bought all the books but wouldn’t let myself read them until this year. I decided February was the perfect time for this romance series!


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

This book had a good amount of spice and a good amount of drama. Both of the main characters were very likeable (maybe too likeable??) and you couldn’t help but root for their relationship. It is a very light read, feel good romance, despite the mention of a few heavy topics.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

I think this story needed just a little more oomf. More emotion or more spice - something. As I mentioned, the characters were very likeable, and I think maybe they needed a little more flaw to them. They both had their baggage, but it wasn’t character flaw baggage.


Book #22 of 2023 📖 The Mistake (Off-Campus #2) by Elle Kennedy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 6 May 2015


He’s a player in more ways than one…
College junior John Logan can get any girl he wants. For this hockey star, life is a parade of parties and hook-ups, but behind his killer grins and easygoing charm, he hides growing despair about the dead-end road he’ll be forced to walk after graduation. A sexy encounter with freshman Grace Ivers is just the distraction he needs, but when a thoughtless mistake pushes her away, Logan plans to spend his final year proving to her that he’s worth a second chance.

Now he’s going to need to up his game…
After a less than stellar freshman year, Grace is back at Briar University, older, wiser, and 
so over the arrogant hockey player she nearly handed her V-card to. She’s not a charity case, and she’s not the quiet butterfly she was when they first hooked up. If Logan expects her to roll over and beg like all his other puck bunnies, he can think again. He wants her back? He’ll have to work for it. This time around, she’ll be the one in the driver’s seat…and she plans on driving him wild.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

I loved the ending of this story. I had a vision in my mind of how I wanted it to end, and I was very worried it wouldn’t go that way. Like it’s predecessor, this was a light-hearted romance with a little bit of drama and a little bit of spice. And of course I loved the hockey theme.


Book #23 of 2023 📖 The Score (Off-Campus #3) by Elle Kennedy⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 11 January 2016


He knows how to score, on and off the ice
Allie Hayes is in crisis mode. With graduation looming, she still doesn’t have the first clue about what she's going to do after college. To make matters worse, she’s nursing a broken heart thanks to the end of her longtime relationship. Wild rebound sex is definitely not the solution to her problems, but gorgeous hockey star Dean Di Laurentis is impossible to resist. Just once, though, because even if her future is uncertain, it sure as heck won’t include the king of one-night stands.

It’ll take more than flashy moves to win her over
Dean always gets what he wants. Girls, grades, girls, recognition, 
girls…he’s a ladies man, all right, and he’s yet to meet a woman who’s immune to his charms. Until Allie. For one night, the feisty blonde rocked his entire world—and now she wants to be friends? Nope. It’s not over until he says it’s over. Dean is in full-on pursuit, but when life-rocking changes strike, he starts to wonder if maybe it’s time to stop focusing on scoring…and shoot for love.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

The storyline is pretty predictable after reading the first two books in the series, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Also, the final wrap up of the book absolutely has me picking up book four as we speak. 


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

I felt like the ending was way too fast. There needed to be more of the bad stuff. 



Book #24 of 2023 📖 The Goal (Off-Campus #4) by Elle Kennedy⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 26 September 2016


She’s good at achieving her goals…
College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.

But the game just got a whole lot more complicated
Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

This one was a little different from the others in that there was more domestic activities involved. This is more a series positive, but I like how each book ended in a way that began the next story, even though the next story was about a different couple. 


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

Tucker’s mom made me so mad. 



Book #25 of 2023 📖 The Legacy (Off-Campus #5) by Elle Kennedy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 21 September 2021


Four stories. Four couples. Three years of real life after graduation…
A wedding.
A proposal.
An elopement.
And a surprise pregnancy.

Life after college for Garrett and Hannah, Logan and Grace, Dean and Allie, and Tucker and Sabrina, isn't quite what they imagined it would be. Sure, they have each other, but they also have real-life problems that four years at Briar U didn't exactly prepare them for. As it turns out, for these four couples, love is the easy part. Growing up is a whole lot harder.

Come for the drama, stay for the laughs! Catch up with your favorite Off-Campus characters as they navigate the changes that come with growing up and discover that big decisions can have big consequences…and big rewards.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

This was the final book in the Off-Campus series, and I liked that it kind of wrapped up the previous 4. It was more like four short stories chronologically put into one longer book. I liked the the four parts each revolves around a different couple.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

The drama happened really fast. So quickly that it was hardly drama, which while it makes sense for the set up of the book, it’s less exciting from a readers perspective.


                                

Book #26 of 2023 🎧 The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 11 April 2017


When Leah Stevens’ career implodes, a chance meeting with her old friend Emmy Grey offers her the perfect opportunity to start over. Emmy, just out of a bad relationship, convinces Leah to come live with her in rural Pennsylvania, where there are teaching positions available and no one knows Leah’s past. Or Emmy’s.­

Then there’s a wave of vicious crimes in the community and Emmy Grey disappears, and Leah realizes how very little she knows about her friend and roommate. Unable to find friends, family, a paper trail or a digital footprint, the police question whether Emmy Grey existed at all. And mark Leah as a prime suspect.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

There was a lot of mystery in this one which made it very enjoyable. It could have gone in a few different directions, and I think the author took the right one. I like the bits of past memories thrown in; I think it really added to the story.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

I do think the ending would have been better with more of an explanation. It seemed a bit too rushed. Also, Leah was a little bit annoying at times with some of her decisions.



                                

Book #27 of 2023 🎧 Nine Lives by Peter Swanson ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 15 March 2022


Nine strangers receive a list with their names on it in the mail. Nothing else, just a list of names on a single sheet of paper. None of the nine people know or have ever met the others on the list. They dismiss it as junk mail, a fluke—until very, very bad things begin happening to people on the list.

First, a well-liked old man is drowned on a beach in the small town of Kennewick, Maine. Then, a father is shot in the back while running through his quiet neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. A frightening pattern is emerging, but what do these nine people have in common? Their professions range from oncology nurse to aspiring actor, and they’re located all over the country. So why are they all on the list, and who sent it?

FBI agent Jessica Winslow, who is on the list herself, is determined to find out. Could there be some dark secret that binds them all together? Or is this the work of a murderous madman? As the mysterious sender stalks these nine strangers, they find themselves constantly looking over their shoulders, wondering who will be crossed off next…


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

This was more mystery than thriller, and I was very curious as to why these people all ended up on this kill list.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

There was a lot of characters to follow I. TBR is story. Also, morally, I hated it. Which isn’t to say it wasn’t “good,” the ending was just upsetting to me.


                                

Book #28 of 2023 🎧 Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5


📚GENRE: Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 3 March 2020


Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Deathtrap, A. A. Milne's The Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox's Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, John D. MacDonald's The Drowner, and Donna Tartt's The Secret History.

But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife.

To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects . . . and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

The storyline was interesting and I had no idea how it would end. 


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

I didn’t love the style of the book. It was written as a fictional memoir. This was easy to forget, usually, byt when it would go from dialogue to summarizing it was noticeable, and I don’t think for the better.



                                

Book #29 of 2023 🎧 Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 10 January 2017


The danger isn’t all in your head . . .

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

But soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves . . . until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment—and accidently learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? And what about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jetlagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself . . . So how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

Yet the danger Kate imagines isn’t nearly as twisted and deadly as what’s about to happen. When her every fear becomes very real.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

I like that you know who the killer is for the majority of the book, but you’re kept guessing as to how it’s going to end, and if he will get away with it.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

The performer was a little awkward at first. One of the characters has an English accent, and she has a hard time transitioning between that and the American accent at first. It stops pretty quickly, but it was noticeable enough to distract me from the story.


                                

Book #30 of 2023 📖 Sorry Not Sorry by Naya Rivera ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Memoir

🗓PUBLISHED: 13 September 2016


Navigating through youth and young adulthood isn't easy, and in Sorry Not Sorry, Naya Rivera shows us that we're not alone in the highs, lows, and in-betweens. Whether it's with love and dating, career and ambition, friends, or gossip, Naya inspires us to follow our own destiny and step over - or plod through - all the crap along the way.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

I liked that there were pictures throughout the story. I hate when it’s just a section in the middle, because half the time you haven’t been introduced to the people or the stories yet. Naya’s book had the photos WITH the stories which was great. I also liked that she covered a lot of her life, and wasn’t just focused on the Glee-era (although I loved that era!)


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

I know Naya is a blunt person, and that’s fine, but some things she said just really gave me an icky feeling. Like using the r-word is never acceptable. How does that even happen in a revised and edited published book??


I also didn’t love the organization of the book. It skipped around a lot from elementary aged to grown to kid to high schooler. It was kind of organized by theme, but even the themes were too scattered to make logical sense.


                                

Book #31 of 2023 📖 Sisters in Sanity by Gayle Forman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: YA Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 September 2007


Britt Hemphill doesn’t know who she can trust. Her free-spirit mother has disappeared, and her father, once Britt’s partner in crime, has remarried and shipped her off to Red Rock, a so-called treatment facility for troubled girls. And the counselors at Red Rock? They’re completely insane. Britt’s horror at the “therapy”—vicious name-calling and grueling physical labor—is second only to her hatred for the backstabbing patients, who win privileges by ratting each other out.

But when V, Bebe, Martha, and Cassie, the four girls who keep Britt from going over the edge, help her sneak out to go see Jeb, her maybe-more-than-friends bandmate, she starts to believe that there may actually be people who can help her—and people that she can help by taking down Red Rocks. Sisters in Sanity perfectly captures the feeling of being trapped in a world that refuses to understand you—and fighting back.


I think this is the last Gayle Forman I had yet to read, so I figured it was time! 


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

This was such a sweet story. It is a YA read, so it’s not overly descriptive or complex, but the message was great nonetheless. The story was infuriating, but the girl power camaraderie was awesome.


                                

Book #32 of 2023 🎧 The Family Game by Catherine Steadman ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 18 October 2022


THE RULES

1. Listen carefully

2. Do your research

3. Trust no one

4. Run for your life

Harriet Reed, a novelist on the brink of literary stardom, is newly engaged to Edward Holbeck, the heir of an extremely powerful family. And even though Edward has long tried to severe ties with them, news of the couple’s marital bliss has the Holbecks inching back into their lives.

As Harriet is drawn into their lavish world, the family seems perfectly welcoming. So when Edward’s father, Robert, hands Harriet a tape of a book he’s been working on, she is desperate to listen.

But as she presses play, it’s clear that this isn’t just a novel. It’s a confession.

A confession to a grisly crime. A murder. And, suddenly, the game is in motion.

Feeling isolated and confused, Harriet must work out if this is part of a plan to test her loyalty. Or something far darker. What is it that Robert sees in her? Why give her the power to destroy everything?

This might be a game to the Holbeck family—but losing might still prove deadly.

READY OR NOT, HERE THEY COME . . . 


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

The author performed the audiobook, and she did such a great job! She transitioned flawlessly between accents, which was a problem I had with the last audiobook that I listened to. I had no idea where this story was going to go, and I did not see the ending coming. 


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

The ending was like wham-bam-done, here’s what happened after. I would have liked more of the drama of how it all ended, not just the telling about it after the fact.


                                

Book #33 of 2023 📖 The Chase (Briar U #1) by Elle Kennedy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 6 August 2018


Everyone says opposites attract. And they must be right, because there’s no logical reason why I’m so drawn to Colin Fitzgerald. I don’t usually go for tattoo-covered, video-gaming, hockey-playing nerd-jocks who think I’m flighty and superficial. His narrow view of me is the first strike against him. It doesn’t help that he’s buddy-buddy with my brother.

And that his best friend has a crush on me.

And that I just moved in with them.

Oh, did I not mention we’re roommates?

I suppose it doesn’t matter. Fitzy has made it clear he’s not interested in me, even though the sparks between us are liable to burn our house down. I’m not the kind of girl who chases after a man, though, and I’m not about to start. I’ve got my hands full dealing with a new school, a sleazy professor, and an uncertain future. So if my sexy brooding roomie wises up and realizes what he’s missing?

He knows where to find me.


TW: sexual assault


💭FAVORITE QUOTES:

“Jee-zus. One measly stomach pumping and poor Daphne gets Voltemorted?”


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

I really liked the characters in this story and the storyline was fun! There was an added depth to the characters that I don’t think always existed in the previous series.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

After reading the original series, this one is very predictable. I don’t necessarily dislike that, but others might!


Book #34 of 2023 📖 The Risk (Briar U #2) by Elle Kennedy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 18 February 2019


Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team. And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me. I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend. For every fake date…he wants a real one. Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him. That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

I felt like this book had lots of added drama that the other books in both this series and the one it spun off from really didn’t have.


Book #35 of 2023 📖 The Play (Briar U #3) by Elle Kennedy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 7 October 2019


What I learned after last year’s distractions cost my hockey team our entire season? No more screwing up. No more screwing, period. As the new team captain, I need a new philosophy: hockey and school now, women later. Which means that I, Hunter Davenport, am officially going celibate…no matter how hard that makes things.

But there’s nothing in the rulebook that says I can’t be 
friends with a woman. And I won’t lie—my new classmate Demi Davis is one cool chick. Her smart mouth is hot as hell, and so is the rest of her, but the fact that she’s got a boyfriend eliminates the temptation to touch her.

Except three months into our friendship, Demi is single and looking for a rebound.

And she’s making a play for me.

Avoiding her is impossible. We’re paired up on a yearlong school project, but I’m confident I can resist her. We’d never work, anyway. Our backgrounds are too different, our goals aren’t aligned, and her parents hate my guts.

Hooking up is a very bad idea. Now I just have to convince my body—and my heart.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

There was a lot of chaos in this story, and I really enjoyed it! Even though some of the chaos was pretty sucky and dark.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

In both this series and the one it spun off from, you can always guess which couple/characters the next one will focus on because of a tidbit thrown in at the end. There was no tidbit in the previous book to introduce this one. (A super minor issue! But I liked that little part in the others). Also, this one didn’t introduce the next story either.



Book #36 of 2023 📖 The Dare (Briar U #4) by Elle Kennedy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 16 June 2020


College was supposed to be my chance to get over my ugly-duckling complex and spread my wings. Instead, I wound up in a sorority full of mean girls. I already have a hard time fitting in, so when my Kappa Chi sisters issue the challenge, I can’t say no.

The dare: seduce the hottest new hockey player in the junior class.

Conor Edwards is a regular at Greek Row parties…and in Greek Row sorority beds. He’s the one you fall for before you learn that guys like him don’t give girls like me a second glance. Except Mr. Popular throws me for a loop—rather than laughing in my face, he does me a solid by letting me take him upstairs to pretend we’re getting busy.

Even crazier, now he wants to keep pretending. Turns out Conor loves games, and he thinks it’s fun to pull the wool over my frenemies’ eyes.

But resisting his easy charm and surfer-boy hotness is darn near impossible. Though I’m realizing there’s much more to Conor’s story than his fan club can see.

And the longer this silly ruse goes on, the greater the danger of it all blowing up in my face.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

The way this one started was both pitiful and adorable. Honestly I think I was my favorite of the series. I loved the relationship that developed between the characters.


                                

Book #37 of 2023 🎧 Come Find Me by Megan Miranda ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: YA Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 29 January 2019


After surviving an infamous family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Kennedy Jones has made it her mission to keep her brother's search through the cosmos alive. But then something disturbs the frequency on his radio telescope--a pattern registering where no signal should transmit.

In a neighboring county, seventeen-year-old Nolan Chandler is determined to find out what really happened to his brother, who disappeared the day after Nolan had an eerie premonition. There hasn't been a single lead for two years, until Nolan picks up an odd signal--a pattern coming from his brother's bedroom.

Drawn together by these strange signals--and their family tragedies--Kennedy and Nolan search for the origin of the mysterious frequency. But the more they uncover, the more they believe that everything's connected--even their pasts--as it appears the signal is meant for them alone, sharing a message that only they can understand. Is something coming for them? Or is the frequency warning them about something that's already here?


This book was….odd. While listening to it, I thought that it felt like a YA read. Turns out it is! I didn’t realize Megan Miranda had YA reads.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

This was definitely a unique story. I liked the main characters, and that they both grew throughout the story. I liked that there was dual-narration for the two characters on the audio as well.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

This was a little too sci-fi for me. Though it was well-written, I just didn’t connect to the story.


                                

Book #38 of 2023 🎧 Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5


📚GENRE: Historical Fiction/Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 14 January 2020


North Carolina, 2018:

Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, her dream of a career in art is put on hold - until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will get her released from prison immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy Southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to be free, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940:

Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and in great need of work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

I liked the dual-timeline/POV. I think having both perspectives made the storyline more mysterious. It was very bittersweet with mild drama and a lot of character growth.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

The book was very slow to start. I’d heard it was good though, which is the only reason I didn’t DNF it in the beginning. It wasn’t highly suspenseful like I’d hoped it would be.


(FREE with Kindle Unlimited!)


                                

Book #39 of 2023 🎧 Five Survive by Holly Jackson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: YA Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 December 2022


Eight hours. Six friends. Five survive.

Red Kenny is on a road trip for spring break with five friends: Her best friend - the older brother - his perfect girlfriend - a secret crush - a classmate - and a killer. 

When their RV breaks down in the middle of nowhere with no cell service, they soon realize this is no accident. They have been trapped by someone out there in the dark, someone who clearly wants one of them dead.

With eight hours until dawn, the six friends must escape, or figure out which of them is the target. But is there a liar among them? Buried secrets will be forced to light and tensions inside the RV will reach deadly levels. Not all of them will survive the night. . . . 


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

This one was really intriguing. I had no idea where the story was going to go and whose secret was the one that was getting them into life-threatening trouble. I really liked the main character, Red, and I felt myself really feeling for her guilty-conscience. 


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

I didn’t love the ending. (Spoilers ahead! Stop reading now if you haven’t read the book!) I didn’t like that Oliver and his mom died. I wanted them to live with what they did to others and suffer for it in prison or something. I felt like they got the easy way out.


                                

Book #40 of 2023 📖 I Know You Remember by Jennifer Donaldson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: YA Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 October 2019


Zahra Gaines is missing.

After three long years away, Ruthie Hayden arrives in her hometown of Anchorage, Alaska to this devastating news. Zahra was Ruthie's best friend--the only person who ever really understood her--and she vows to do whatever it takes to find her.

Zahra vanished from a party just days before Ruthie's return, but the more people she talks to, the more she realizes that the Zahra she knew disappeared long before that fateful night. Gone is the whimsical, artistic girl who loved books and knew Ruthie's every secret. In her place is an athlete, a partier, a girl with secrets of her own. Darker still are the rumors that something happened to Zahra while Ruthie was gone, something that changed her forever...

As Ruthie desperately tries to piece together the truth, she falls deeper and deeper into her friend's new world, circling closer to a dangerous revelation about what happened to Zahra in the days before her disappearance--one that might be better off buried.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

This was such a good YA thriller! The mystery was engaging, and I gobbled up everything that happened at the end! I kept guessing what would happen, but I was way off!


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

I did feel like parts of the conclusion happened a little too fast. I would have liked some more out of some of the events.


                                

Book #41 of 2023 📖 The Brethren by John Grisham ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Legal Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 27 December 2005


Meeting daily in the prison law library, taking exercise walks in their boxer shorts, these judges-turned-felons can reminisce about old court cases, dispense a little jailhouse justice, and contemplate where their lives went wrong. Or they can use their time in prison to get very rich—very fast.

And so they sit, sprawled in the prison library, furiously writing letters, fine-tuning a wickedly brilliant extortion scam—while events outside their prison walls begin to erupt. A bizarre presidential election is holding the nation in its grips, and a powerful government figure is pulling some very hidden strings. For the Brethren, the timing couldn’t be better. Because they’ve just found the perfect victim.


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

I mean, it’s John Grisham. I love his style.


💔WHAT I DIDN’T LOVE:

This one was pretty slow and uneventful. It didn’t have very much of the law aspect that I love in Grisham’s novels, and it took me a couple weeks to get through.



                                



Book #42 of 2023 🎧 The Perfect Son by Freida McFadden ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5


📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 October 2019


Erika Cass has a perfect family and a perfect life. Until the evening when two detectives show up at her front door.

A high school girl has vanished from Erika's quiet suburban neighborhood. The police suspect the worst--murder. And 
Erika's teenage son, Liam, was the last person to see the girl alive.

Erika has always sensed something dark and disturbed in her seemingly perfect older child. She wants to believe he's innocent, but as the evidence mounts, she can't deny the truth--
Liam may have done the unthinkable.

Now she must ask herself:

How far will she go to protect her son?


❤️WHAT I LOVED:

I loved the suspense in this one! There was an obvious direction for the story to go, so I was pretty sure it would have to go in a different direction, but I had no idea how the author would make that happen. The ending was fabulous and unexpected!



                            



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

Reading Challenge: 42/120 books read in 2023

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