Monday, January 2, 2023

#gretchensbook2022 - December


Finished the year off strong with 21 books! I had some tests to take this month, so with the studying I wasn't sure I'd have reading time, but clearly I found some! (Though, to be fair, I think I read 7 books in the final week of the least!)


Book #173 of 2022: My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry by Fredrik Backman (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 16 June 2015

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy—as in standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-strangers crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa takes refuge in her grandmother’s stories, in the Land-of-Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas, where everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

When Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has wronged, Elsa’s greatest adventure begins. Her grandmother’s instructions lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and old crones but also to the truth about fairy tales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

Backman seems to have two different writing styles. The style of Beartown (which I loved) and Anxious People (which I did not love). This book was the style of the latter.

It’s not that it’s a bad book (I did like it better than Anxious People), it’s just odd and not my style. This one had too much fantasy in it for me. Also, I felt like the introduction of the storyline and characters took the whole first half of the book.

I originally was going to read it in print, but I couldn’t get into it so I tried audio instead, which I liked better.


Book #174 of 2022: Post Secret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God by Frank Warren

📚GENRE: Non-Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 29 November 2005

The PostSecret phenomenon lives on! Frank Warren, “the most trusted stranger in  America,” offers the fifth book in his New York Times bestselling series. PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God—born from Warren’s collaboration with the American Visionary Art Museum’s “All Faiths Beautiful” exhibition—is another provocative collection of never-before seen, artistically created postcards from around the world revealing the shocking, soulful or laugh-out-loud funny thoughts and feelings we all share about life’s most profound questions. The original PostSecret was selected by the Los Angeles Times as a Favorite Book of the Year. The website has won numerous Weblog “Bloggie” Awards—including Weblog of the Year and Best American Weblog—a Webby and a People’s Voice Award and receives more than six million visitors a month, proof positive that we live in a PostSecret world!

I remember back when Post Secret first began, and we thought it was the coolest thing. I read one of the books many years ago, and since have followed Post Secret on Facebook and Instagram instead. I’ve been wanting to (re)read these books for awhile, so I finally borrowed the two that the local library held.

There were a couple secrets that I related to pretty strongly, and there were two that I questioned the handwriting because I swore it was mine, so that was interesting. 

I decided I can’t really give these a rating, because how do you rate a compilation of secrets?


Book #175 of 2022: Post Secret: Extraordinary Confessions from Ordinary Lives by Frank Warren

📚GENRE: Non-Fiction


Frank Warren is the founder and curator of the PostSecret project. For the project, which was started in October 2004, Warren asked people to write a secret they had never told anyone on a handmade postcard and mail it to him. He then displayed selected cards—the authors are anonymous—on his website, The response was overwhelming, and the cards are astonishing in their honesty and creativity. Each card bears an intimate, powerful, or even chilling sentiment, told through handmade illustrations, photographs, collages, and other creative means.

This was the other Post Secret book that my library offered. It was just as interesting as the first! Again, I’m not giving this a rating, because I recommend them to anyone who is curious about other people’s lives! 

The most relatable secret to me in this book was “I hate people who “reply to all” on emails.” 🤣


Book #176 of 2022: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 January 2019

Looking to earn some easy cash, Jessica Farris agrees to be a test subject in a psychological study about ethics and morality. But as the study moves from the exam room to the real world, the line between what is real and what is one of Dr. Shields’s experiments blurs.

Dr. Shields seems to know what Jess is thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Jessica’s behavior will not only be monitored, but manipulated.

Caught in a web of attraction, deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

I really enjoyed this one! I didn’t know what to expect, but then I got really into it and was afraid I was going to HATE the ending. I got so frustrated with the main character at some points, and so mad at the gaslighting from the other characters. Ugh! This book really enraged me, but in a good way. I wasn’t mad at the writing, the writing made me mad. Does that make sense? What I mean is, the authors did a good job!

Free on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #177 of 2022: The Orphan Beach by Laura Thomas (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 18 February 2020

Heart-broken, grief-stricken, and experiencing a crisis of faith—now she is the prime target for a crazed killer.

When detective Max Bennett returns to work his ex-girlfriend's case on the Oregon Coast, he knows revealing the truth behind their breakup will destroy any possibility of a second chance together.

A manuscript, a maniac, and a mother’s love propel Juliet’s flight to a beach in Mexico as she desperately pursues hope and healing. Will she ever find freedom from the ache of abandonment? And when a troubled soul chooses Juliet as his perfect victim, can Max prove his love for her by risking his own life? Or will Orphan Beach be the end of their story?

Ugh. I feel like the story line has potential, but the writing was very juvenile.

It started out with a very dramatic scene of the detective pulling the main character away from her mother’s grave like she was in imminent danger…..which she definitely was not.

Also, they kept bringing God into the story, which felt so out of place. I don’t mind religion, spirituality, faith, etc. in books, so long as it fits. It felt so frequent and forced in this story though that it completely took away from the dramatics.

The story was very surface level, and fairly predictable. I was engaged the whole read, it just didn’t hold a lot of suspense.

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #178 of 2022: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #1) by Holly Jackson (4.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 2 May 2019

Everyone in Fairview knows the story.

Pretty and popular high school senior Andie Bell was murdered by her boyfriend, Sal Singh, who then killed himself. It was all anyone could talk about. And five years later, Pip sees how the tragedy still haunts her town.

But she can't shake the feeling that there was more to what happened that day. She knew Sal when she was a child, and he was always so kind to her. How could he possibly have been a killer?

Now a senior herself, Pip decides to reexamine the closed case for her final project, at first just to cast doubt on the original investigation. But soon she discovers a trail of dark secrets that might actually prove Sal innocent . . . and the line between past and present begins to blur. Someone in Fairview doesn't want Pip digging around for answers, and now her own life might be in danger.

I kept seeing this book pop up on both Goodreads and Instagram, and since I was running out of audiobooks, I figured I’d give it a go.

I had no expectations going into the story. In fact, for the first time ever, I’m not sure I even read the description before starting it. However, I was immediately engaged.

I really liked the multiple performers on the audiobook. I also like the additional effects they added to make it seem like you’re actually listening to an interview. It made the story that much more captivating. 

Overall, the storyline was great. There were so many possible suspects, that I really didn’t know who to pick. At the end, it was easy to look back at all the clues that led up to the final whodunit. 

I am immediately beginning book two!


Book #179 of 2022: Good Girl, Bad Blood (A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder #2) by Holly Jackson (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 30 April 2020

Pip is not a detective anymore.

With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.

But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared, on the very same night the town hosted a memorial for the sixth-year anniversary of the deaths of Andie Bell and Sal Singh.

The police won't do anything about it. And if they won't look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town's dark secrets along the way... and this time 
everyone is listening. But will she find him before it's too late?

Again, I didn’t even bother looking at the description before listening to this book. The way the first book ended, I had NO idea how she would consider the series to write a second, and even a third book.

Again, I really liked the effects added to make it sound like you’re listening to an actual podcast on those parts, as well as the multiple cast members for the different story characters.

This story wasn’t as engaging as book one, but it was still enjoyable. I feel like it just started to pull in things that weren’t very believable in this narrative.


Book #180 of 2022: The Street Lawyer by John Grisham (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Legal Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 January 1998

A homeless man takes nine lawyers hostage in the firm’s plush offices. When it is all over, the man’s blood is splattered on Michael’s face—and suddenly Michael is willing to do the unthinkable. Rediscovering a conscience he lost long ago, Michael is leaving the big time for the streets where his attacker once lived—and where society’s powerless need an advocate for justice.
But there’s one break Michael can’t make: from a secret that has floated up from the depths of Drake & Sweeney, from a confidential file that is now in Michael’s hands, and from a conspiracy that has already taken lives. Now Michael’s former partners are about to become his bitter enemies. Because to them, Michael Brock is the most dangerous man on the streets.

I can’t recall if I’d read this book before or not. I think I had, but I’m not actually sure.

I was 100% engaged throughout the story, but when I got to the end, I felt like nothing really happened. I mean a lot HAD happened, I think it just wasn’t as suspenseful as Grisham’s other work. It was a much gentler story, and I felt like everything moved very smoothly without a lot of chaotic complications. I was really pleased with how it ended. Sometimes Grisham ends his novels in a way that makes my jaw drop - the writing is great but I hate how it ends. Not this time. That’s one thing I like about Grisham’s writing - you never know if you’ll get a happy ending or not.


Book #181 of 2022: As Good As Dead (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #3) by Holly Jackson (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 28 September 2021

Pip is about to head to college, but she is still haunted by the way her last investigation ended. She’s used to online death threats in the wake of her viral true-crime podcast, but she can’t help noticing an anonymous person who keeps asking her: Who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears?

Soon the threats escalate and Pip realizes that someone is following her in real life. When she starts to find connections between her stalker and a local serial killer caught six years ago, she wonders if maybe the wrong man is behind bars.

Police refuse to act, so Pip has only one choice: find the suspect herself—or be the next victim. As the deadly game plays out, Pip discovers that everything in her small town is coming full circle . . .and if she doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears. . . 

Ugh. This series really went downhill. The performance of the narrative was great on audio, the story itself was not.

First of all, it was so incredibly unbelievable. It started out okay, but then kept getting worse and worse. Three stars is probably generous. 

I really liked the main character, Pip, in the previous books, but she became very unlikeable in this book. She was so smart! Until now, when she all of a sudden was very, very dumb.

Also, the first two books were very mystery-based, and this one had a mystery, but it was a very tiny part of the story.

I would recommend the first two books in this series, but not this one.


Book #182/#184/#186 of 2022: the Lizzy & Diesel series: Wicked Appetite, Wicked Business, and Wicked Charms by Janet Evanovich (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: September 2010, June 2012, June 2015

Life in Marblehead has had a pleasant predictability, until Diesel arrives. Rumor has it that a collection of priceless ancient relics representing the Seven Deadly Sins have made their way to Boston's North Shore. Partnered with pastry chef Lizzie Tucker, Diesel bullies and charms his way through historic Salem to track them down—and his criminal mastermind cousin Gerewulf Grimorie. The black-haired, black-hearted Wulf is on the hunt for the relic representing gluttony.

Caught in a race against time, Diesel and Lizzie soon find out that more isn't always better, as they battle Wulf and the first of the deadly sins.


When Harvard University English professor and dyed-in-the-wool romantic Gilbert Reedy is mysteriously murdered and thrown off his fourth-floor balcony, Lizzy and Diesel take up his twenty-year quest for the Luxuria Stone, an ancient relic believed by some to be infused with the power of lust. Following clues contained in a cryptic nineteenth-century book of sonnets, Lizzy and Diesel tear through Boston catacombs, government buildings, and multimillion-dollar residences, leaving a trail of robbed graves, public disturbances, and spontaneous seduction.


Before he was murdered and mummified nearly a century ago, notorious bootlegger Collier “Peg Leg” Dazzle discovered and re-hid a famous pirate’s treasure somewhere along the coast of New England. A vast collection of gold and silver coins and precious gems, the bounty also contains the Stone of Avarice—the very item reluctant treasure seeker Lizzy Tucker and her partner, Diesel, have been enlisted to find. While Lizzy would just like to live a quiet, semi-normal life, Diesel is all about the hunt. And this hunt is going to require a genuine treasure map and a ship worthy of sailing the seven seas . . . or at least getting them from Salem Harbor to Maine.
Greed is eternal and insatiable, and Lizzy and Diesel aren’t the only ones searching for the lost pirate’s chest. People who have dedicated their entire lives to finding it are willing to commit murder or make a deal with the devil just to hold the fortune in their hands. One of those people may even be Wulf, Diesel’s deceptively charming and enigmatic cousin. Wulf desires the Stone of Avarice. He also desires Lizzy. It’s hard to say how far he’s willing to go to gain either one.

These books were very much the style of the Stephanie Plum series, but with a bit of supernatural infused. I can’t say that I loved the storylines (they were fine, just nothing to write home about), but the books were very humorous! Like Stephanie Plum, the main girl was quirky and not too bright, but things always worked out in her favor in the end.

First book is FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #183 of 2022: The Plight Before Christmas by Kate Stewart (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 19 December 2021

Clark Griswold was onto something, at least with his annual holiday meltdown.
And since the last three weeks of my life have been riddled with humbug—another breakup, a broken toe,
an office promotion I deserved and didn’t get—I’m not at all in the mood to celebrate nor have the happ, happ, happiest Christmas EVER.

When Mom insisted that we all gather at my Grandparent’s ancient cabin for an old school family Christmas, I fully intended to get into the holiday spirit with the help of the three wise men, Johnnie Walker, Jack Daniels, and Jim Beam. But those boys did absolutely nothing to offset the shock or temper the sting of seeing my EX on our doorstep the first day of our holiday soiree.

Apparently, Santa missed the memo, and this elf is pissed.

Stuck for a week with the man who obliterated my heart nearly two decades ago, I did the only thing I could do and put on my game face, thankful for the home advantage.

I knew better than to drink that last cup of eggnog.

I knew better than to get tongue tangled beneath the mistletoe with the only man to ever break my heart.

I knew better than to sleep with Satan’s wingman on the eve of the Lord’s birthday.

I could blame the nog. I could blame the deceitful light blue eyes, thick, angelic hair, and panty evaporating smirk…but mostly, I blame Eli because he always knew exactly which of my buttons to push.

I foolishly thought a family Christmas filled with nostalgia was going to turn my inner Scrooge around, but this year’s festivities went up in flames. Leave it to the ghost of my Christmas past to be the one to light the match.

Fa la la la la, la FML.

I’m not usually a seasonal reader (though I do like to binge thrillers in October) but I really loved a handful of Stewart’s books earlier this year, so I decided to try out her Christmas themed novel this month.

I don’t read a lot of romance, so I’m not sure how this rates in comparison, I just know I really enjoyed it!

I’m not sure if this is a spoiler or not, but the mechanic mentioned in this story is the main character of the Ravenhood series by the same author which I loved! I didn’t make the connection until I read it at the end of the books.

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #185 of 2022: Find Her by Lisa Gardner (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 9 February 2016

Seven years ago, carefree college student Flora Dane was kidnapped while on spring break. For 472 days, Flora learned just how much one person can endure.

Miraculously alive after her ordeal, Flora has spent the past five years reacquainting herself with the rhythms of normal life, working with her FBI victim advocate, Samuel Keynes. She has a mother who’s never stopped loving her, a brother who is scared of the person she’s become, and a bedroom wall covered with photos of other girls who’ve never made it home.

When Boston detective D. D. Warren is called to the scene of a crime—a dead man and the bound, naked woman who killed him—she learns that Flora has tangled with three other suspects since her return to society. Is Flora a victim or a vigilante? And with her firsthand knowledge of criminal behavior, could she hold the key to rescuing a missing college student whose abduction has rocked Boston? When Flora herself disappears, D.D. realizes a far more sinister predator is out there. One who’s determined that this time, Flora Dane will never escape. And now it is all up to D. D. Warren to
 find her.

This was a random purchase from the bookstore last winter. It’s the 9th book in the series, but I don’t think it’s necessary to read them in order. I don’t feel like there was anything I didn’t understand because I hadn’t read the previous books. It may have helped me understand the main detective better, but that’s about it.

I thought the storyline was unique, and I did not predict the ending at all. The twists were unexpected to me. 


Book #187 of 2023: The Lager Queen of Minnesota by J. Ryan Stradal (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 23 July 2019

Two sisters, one farm. A family is split when their father leaves their shared inheritance entirely to Helen, his younger daughter. Despite baking award-winning pies at the local nursing home, her older sister, Edith, struggles to make what most people would call a living. So she can't help wondering what her life would have been like with even a portion of the farm money her sister kept for herself.

With the proceeds from the farm, Helen builds one of the most successful light breweries in the country, and makes their company motto ubiquitous: "Drink lots. It's Blotz." Where Edith has a heart as big as Minnesota, Helen's is as rigid as a steel keg. Yet one day, Helen will find she needs some help herself, and she could find a potential savior close to home. . . if it's not too late.

Meanwhile, Edith's granddaughter, Diana, grows up knowing that the real world requires a tougher constitution than her grandmother possesses. She earns a shot at learning the IPA business from the ground up--will that change their fortunes forever, and perhaps reunite her splintered family?

Here we meet a cast of lovable, funny, quintessentially American characters eager to make their mark in a world that's often stacked against them. In this deeply affecting family saga, resolution can take generations, but when it finally comes, we're surprised, moved, and delighted.

I didn’t really know what to expect from this one, and I really only picked it out because “Minnesota” was in the title. 

This was a sweet story that didn’t have a lot of complex drama in it. For a long while I wasn’t exactly sure of “the point,” since it lacked the drama that the stories I usually read encompass, but I ended up really enjoying it. The end felt a bit abrupt, but it was perfect for the story.


Book #188 of 2022: Book of Horrors (Nightmare Hall #16) by Diane Hoh (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Horror

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 October 1994

Reed would die to work for Victoria McCoy—and she may get the chance to do just that
Reed Monroe chose Salem University for one reason: the opportunity to study with Victoria McCoy, writer-in-residence and bestselling author of horror fiction. When she learns that a lingering illness is preventing McCoy from teaching any classes, Reed starts a fan club for other McCoy obsessives. Although it only attracts a few members, the club is her passion until she hears about the opportunity of a lifetime: Victoria McCoy is hiring a new assistant. It’s a job that any horror fan would kill for. After she’s hired, Reed learns that the position was open because the last assistant disappeared, and that every one of McCoy’s employees has vanished mysteriously. To survive freshman year, Reed must confront the possibility that her idol might be a murderer.

The story ended very abruptly I thought, and I would have liked more of a detailed resolution. This one also felt much simpler than others in the series.

Book #189 of 2022: Last Breath (Nightmare Hall #17) by Diane Hoh (3/5⭐️)

College can really drive a person crazy . . .
Am I losing my mind?

That’s the question that haunts Salem University student Cassidy Kirk when weird things start happening to her.

A paper she slaved over for Psych 101 disappears. Cash vanishes from her bag. She shows up for a party that’s not happening until 
next week. Then she’s almost run down by a black car with tinted windows that no one else sees.
Is she going crazy? Or is someone trying to kill her? As things go from bad to much, much worse, Cassidy starts to suspect that she has an enemy out there. With time running out, she must figure out who’s out to get her and why—or the next breath she takes may be her last.

Book #190 of 2022: Win, Lose or Die (Nightmare Hall #18) by Diane Hoh (3/5⭐️)

For new recruit Nicki, college tennis becomes a match to the death
A scholarship to college is what every high school student dreams about. But for military brat Nicki Bledsoe, who’s changed schools eight times over twelve years, a tennis scholarship to Salem University means having to prove herself all over again. It doesn’t help that Nicki gets a far-from-warm welcome from Libby DeVoe, the school’s reigning tennis star. The fiercely competitive Libby seems intent on making Nicki’s life miserable.
Someone writes “go away, loser” in hair mousse on Nicki’s locker. A tire on her car is slashed. Her lucky tennis racket is destroyed. It has to be Libby . . . right? Nicki is determined to prove that she doesn’t scare so easily . . . but it’s already too late. Her enemy has put a plan in motion to beat Nicki in a terrifying game—and losing means certain death.

I should know by now it’s never who I expect it to be.

Book #191 of 2022: The Coffin (Nightmare Hall #19) by Diane Hoh (3/5⭐️)

A twisted psychopath carries out the ultimate revenge . . .
Salem University violinist Tanner Leo can’t wait for her strict psychiatrist father to leave for Hawaii so she can have the house all to herself. But after he leaves, Tanner finds that she is not, in fact, alone: She has a madman for company.
It starts when Tanner comes home from school to discover the housekeeper gone, her pocketbook suspiciously left behind. Someone else is in the house . . . someone who viciously attacks Tanner. She wakes up in her father’s soundproof music room, a stranger in a terrifying Halloween mask sitting across from her.
A prisoner in a silent torture chamber, Tanner frantically tries to figure out who her assailant is and why he’s locked her in. But the worst is yet to come. As her friends search for her, Tanner must find an escape hatch—before a monster with a familiar face buries her alive in a coffin made just for her.

Book #192 of 2022: Deadly Visions (Nightmare Hall #20) by Diane Hoh (3/5⭐️)

Rachel is haunted by terrifying visions of death—and all of them are coming true
Rachel Seaver is having visions. In a tranquil seascape painting, she sees a terrified woman drowning in the ocean waves. That night, she has a dream in which a student she barely knows is murdered. The next day, she finds out he’s dead—the victim of a drowning. In a still-life painting of a vase of flowers, Rachel sees someone tumbling down a steep flight of metal stairs. The same night, a poet falls down the fire escape at Nightingale Hall.
Rachel’s visions keep getting worse as her mind’s eye paints terrifying pictures of murder. And then she starts receiving death threats that claim she won’t live to see another Monday.
Someone is watching Rachel . . . watching and waiting . . . A stone-cold killer with the perfect canvas on which to immortalize her forever.

This one was more predictable than the series usually is.

Book #193 of 2022: Student Body (Nightmare Hall #21) by Diane Hoh (3/5⭐️)

It’s payback time when an accidental fire sends an avenging stalker after a group of college friends
Victory Alexander and her buddies are celebrating Salem University’s big team win with a barbecue in the woods. But when gusty March winds ignite a fire that rages out of control, Tory barely escapes the blaze in time.
Basketball star Hoop Sinclair isn’t so lucky.
When Tory and her friends realize he’s missing, it’s too late to go back—or to tell anyone. After all, they were partying on forbidden state park property. If the secret gets out, they could be expelled.
The next day, an injured person turns up—unconscious, burned beyond recognition. Is the bandage-swathed body in the hospital bed Hoop?
To make matters worse, Tory and her friends are being stalked by a terrifying mummified creature. The student must find out who it is—before they wind up paying for their choices with their lives.

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

Reading Challenge: 193/120 books read in 2022

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

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