Saturday, April 1, 2023

#gretchensbooks2023 - March




Me, during spring break: reads one book 😬

March was busy. Mostly busy being exhausted, but busy nonetheless. Very little actual reading, lots of audio reading! But hey, we're a third of the way through the year, and I'm halfway to my reading goal! Now if only I could make an actual dent in my TBR list instead of adding books to it as fast as I read them....


Book #43 of 2023 📖 Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: YA Contemporary Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 5 June 2018

Lifelong best friends and next-door neighbors Hannah and Emory have never gone a single day without talking. But now its senior year and they haven't spoken in three months. Not since the fight, where they each said things they couldn't take back. They're aching to break the silence, but those thirty-six steps between their bedroom windows feel more like thirty-six miles.
Then one fateful night, Emory's boyfriend, Luke, almost dies. And Hannah is the one who finds him and saves his life.

As Luke tries to make sense of his near-death experience, he secretly turns to Hannah, who becomes his biggest confidante. In Luke, Hannah finds someone she can finally talk to about all the questions she's grappling with. Emory just wants everything to go back to normal--the way it was before the accident. She has no idea why her relationship is spiraling out of control. But when the horrifying reason behind Hannah and Emory's argument ultimately comes to light, all three of them will be forced work together to protect the one with the biggest secret of all.


What a sweet story about friendship. I was a little worried about where this story would go, but I loved the way it played out! The characters were very likeable, and I liked the growth they all had.


Book #44 of 2023 🎧 The One by John Marrs ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Romance / Science Fiction / Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 March 2018

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for.

That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love.

Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others…

I think I saw this recommended somewhere, but also it’s a Netflix show that recently (I think) came out so maybe that is why I chose to read it? (Now that I've also watched the show, the book is much better!)


The story idea was very modern, and as far as I know unique to story-telling. Though it’s about love, there is a lot of mystery and darkness to it which ups the intrigue factor. With the various stories/perspectives, it felt like a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter.


It took me a hot second to keep up with all the storylines, but that’s pretty typical when listening to this many perspectives in a audiobook.

FREE on Kindle with Amazon Prime!


Book #45 of 2023 🎧 Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 23 March 2021

Abigail Baskin never thought she'd fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. He's a good guy, stable, level-headed, kind—a refreshing twist from her previous relationships. 

But right before the wedding, Abigail has a moment of uncertainty. The drunken one-night stand from her bachelorette weekend, the sexy guy who wouldn't give her his real name, didn't really mean anything, she keeps telling herself. She puts the incident out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life. Their honeymoon on a luxurious, secluded island in Maine will be the beginning of their blissful lives together.

Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail's future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something much, much more. Something special. Something real—and he's tracked her down to prove it.

Does she tell Bruce and ruin their idyllic honeymoon—and possibly their marriage? Or should she handle this psychopathic stalker on her own? To make the situation worse, strange things begin to happen. She sees a terrified woman in the night shadows, and no one at the resort seems to believe anything is amiss . . . including her perfect new husband.


I knew the direction this had to take because I knew it was a thriller, but holy cow. Not only did it take that direction, but it took that direction with a bunch of other sharp twists as well!


You can definitely tell it’s a woman’s perspective that’s been written by a man.


Book #46 of 2023 📖 The Sporty One: My Life As A Spice Girl by Melanie Chisholm ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨

📚GENRE: Memoir

🗓PUBLISHED: 27 September 2022

25 years ago, The Spice Girls, a girl band that began after five women answered an ad in the paper, released their first single. 'Wannabe' became a hit and from that moment and, almost overnight, Melanie Chisholm went from small town girl to Sporty Spice, part of one of the biggest music groups in history. 

Beginning in her bedroom in the north-west of England dreaming of performing on stage, THE SPORTY ONE follows the meteoric rise of the Melanie and The Spice Girls, from the incredible highs of becoming one of the world’s most recognizable popstars – playing at Wembley, conquering the BRITs, closing the Olympics – to the difficult lows. For the first time ever, Melanie talks about the pressures of fame, the shaming and bullying she experienced, the struggles she has had with her body image and mental health, and the difficulty of finding yourself when the whole world knows your name. 


I enjoyed how in-depth Melanie went into her mental health issues. I can’t imagine how difficult that would be to share with the whole world as a famous person. I enjoyed hearing about how the Spice Girls formed (I had no idea!) and about her music career after (also which I hadn’t known about).


It got a little long winded at times. The thing I struggled with most was the language because it’s a dialect I’m not used to. (Nothing against the book! Just took some getting used to).


Book #47 of 2023 🎧 You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 25 May 2021

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?


This was intriguing! I kind of had predicted the ending pretty early, but I was still anxious to see if the ending would be a happy one or not. There were a handful of twists, though some were expected, they still made me gasp! Though predictable, I thought the execution was great.


I did not love the ending! I just did not! It’s well-written, I just didn’t like it!


Book #48 of 2023 🎧 The Amendment by Kiersten Modglin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 February 2022

First, there was the arrangement.
A simple, yet salacious fix to the problems looming in their marriage.
But when 
things took a tragic turn, Peter’s and Ainsley’s lives quickly fell into disarray.

Now, their secrets have been exposed.
They know the truth—about each other and their marriage.
As they struggle to move on from their past and the damage they’ve caused, new problems begin to surface.

Someone they love is hiding a catastrophic secret. The fragile ground they stand on is starting to crumble. Their family is being torn apart at the seams. And, maybe worst of all, a threat from the past is lurking, ready to unveil the things they’d kill to keep hidden.

They thought the nightmare they’d made it through was over, but the worst is just beginning…

Once, they vowed to do anything to make their marriage work.
Now, that vow will push every boundary they have left.
In order to survive, they’ll need to completely trust each other.
But can they?

Last time they did, things went terribly wrong…
This time, it might be worse.

If there’s one thing that’s certain, their secrets are too big to let anyone walk away alive.

For starters, this was the middle book in a trilogy. If you want to read it, make sure to read “The Arrangement” first!


This story was very fast paced, and continued the chaos from the previous book in the series. I loved all the drama and suspense. The communication problems between these two enraged me, which I suppose is a sign of good writing.


I didn’t love the ending. On one hand, I’m super excited to read the third one (once I find it, it’s not on Libby), but on the other, I didn’t like the turn it took. Without giving anything away, the final twist was fine, but the turn it took to enable that twist to take place didn’t do it for me.

FREE with Kindle Unlimited!


Book #49 of 2023 🎧 If He Had Been With Me by Laura Nowlin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: YA Contemporary Romance 

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 April 2013

If he had been with me, everything would have been different…

Autumn and Finn used to be inseparable. But then something changed. Or they changed. Now, they do their best to ignore each other.

Autumn has her boyfriend Jamie, and her close-knit group of friends. And Finn has become that boy at school, the one everyone wants to be around.

That still doesn't stop the way Autumn feels every time she and Finn cross paths, and the growing, nagging thought that maybe things could have been different. Maybe they should be together.

But come August, things will change forever. And as time passes, Autumn will be forced to confront how else life might have been different if they had never parted ways…


I was SO engaged in this story. So much so that I didn’t even realize for most of it that it seemed like nothing was happening. For whatever reason I thought this was more of a thriller or mystery, which it was not at all. It was a really sweet story, and though the ending is pretty much given away, it was still heart-wrenching.


A quarter way through the story, I was like, “wait..what is the premise of this story!” And again halfway through I asked the same question. It felt like nothing was happening pretty much the whole story. Except something was happening.

FREE with Amazon Prime!


Book #50 of 2023 🎧 The Dream Job by Kiersten Modglin ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller/Suspense

🗓PUBLISHED: 12 May 2020

Autumn Sanderson goes by Lark now.
No one in her new life can know who she was.
No one from her old life can know where she is now.

Drowning in debt, Lark is desperate to land a job—any job. When she finds herself at an 
interview for a mysterious company offering her an exorbitant salary, she jumps at the chance.
But things aren’t quite what they seem...

She soon learns of the company’s peculiar hiring process. 
Locked in a luxury cabin with five strangers who go only by their code names, Lark begins to question exactly what it is she signed up for. The company, riddled with secrets and led by a cryptic boss known only as Mr. X, has strange rules and even stranger challenges for their candidates. After each day’s competition, the candidates gather around the dinner table to eat, drink, and spill their darkest secrets.

When Lark sees something she shouldn’t, she begins to ask questions, but soon gets a warning to stop. It’s obvious she’s in danger, but why? What does the company want? How much can she trust the others in the house?

Trapped in the remote house with no technology allowed, Lark realizes she must take drastic measures to find out the truth.

The job of her dreams may cost her life...

I’d enjoyed a couple other books by this author, so I figured I’d see what else she had available on Libby. I wasn’t disappointed!


This was a good one! I predicted some of the ending, but not exactly. And the story to get there was excellent! Even though I had a hunch as to how it was going to go, I wasn’t certain, and I was anxious to see how it would go.


I really didn’t like some of the characters, but that made the book better!

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #51 of 2023 🎧 The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 13 April 2021

There's only been one time that Rose couldn't stop me from doing the wrong thing and that was a mistake that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Fern Castle works in her local library. She has dinner with her twin sister Rose three nights a week. And she avoids crowds, bright lights and loud noises as much as possible. Fern has a carefully structured life and disrupting her routine can be...dangerous.

When Rose discovers that she cannot get pregnant, Fern sees her chance to pay her sister back for everything Rose has done for her. Fern can have a baby for Rose. She just needs to find a father. Simple.

Fern's mission will shake the foundations of the life she has carefully built for herself and stir up dark secrets from the past, in this quirky, rich and shocking story of what families keep hidden.


Tho was my first book from this author. I loved the constant suspense in this book. It wasn’t heavy suspense, but I was always wondering how it was going to turn out. I had my suspicions, and even though I was pretty sure they were correct, I didn’t know if they would actually come to light to all the characters in the story. Sometimes when dual perspectives are introduced it’s hard to keep track of who is speaking with audio, but it was very easy to follow with this book!

FREE on Kindle Unlimited


Book #52 of 2023 📖 A Painted House by John Grisham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 6 February 2001

Until that September of 1952, Luke Chandler had never kept a secret or told a single lie. But in the long, hot summer of his seventh year, two groups of migrant workers — and two very dangerous men — came through the Arkansas Delta to work the Chandler cotton farm. And suddenly mysteries are flooding Luke’s world.

A brutal murder leaves the town seething in gossip and suspicion. A beautiful young woman ignites forbidden passions. A fatherless baby is born ... and someone has begun furtively painting the bare clapboards of the Chandler farmhouse, slowly, painstakingly, bathing the run-down structure in gleaming white. And as young Luke watches the world around him, he unravels secrets that could shatter lives — and change his family and his town forever....


I was two-thirds of the way through the story before realizing that this wasn’t one of Grisham’s law books, and I was still enjoying it. I usually don’t care for his non-legal thrillers, but I was anxious to keep picking this book up and continue reading. 


It did start out a little slow, which made it a bit hard to get into at first.


Book #53 of 2023 🎧 The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda ⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 26 July 2022

Ten years ago, Abigail Lovett fell into a job she loves, managing The Passage Inn, a cozy, upscale resort nestled in the North Carolina mountain town of Cutter’s Pass. Cutter’s Pass is best known for its outdoor offerings—rafting and hiking, with access to the Appalachian trail by way of a gorgeous waterfall—and its mysterious history. As the book begins, the string of unsolved disappearances that has haunted the town is once again thrust into the spotlight when journalist Landon West, who was staying at the inn to investigate the story of the vanishing trail, then disappears himself.

Abby has sometimes felt like an outsider within the community, but she’s come to view Cutter’s Pass as her home. When Landon’s brother Trey shows up looking for answers, Abby can’t help but feel the town closing ranks. And she’s still on the outside. When she finds incriminating evidence that may bring them closer to the truth, Abby soon discovers how little she knows about her coworkers, neighbors, and even those closest to her.


I found the characters to be pretty likeable. I was interested in the story enough to keep listening to it. I found the atmosphere of the setting to be interesting, and I was very much able to picture what the mood of this location would be.


This story just wasn’t very suspenseful to me. The pacing was slow, and I felt like the great reveal was anti-climactic. 


Book #54 of 2023 🎧 The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Domestic Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 23 April 2019

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago. 

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body. 

But the autopsy finds no cancer. 

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation. 

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?


I really enjoyed the growth of some of the relationships in this story. And that there were multiple suspects, each with their own reason for the supposed murder.


I didn’t feel like the story was very suspenseful. I was curious about the ending, but not anxious to find how the story resolved like I usually am with books of this genre.


Book #55 of 2023 🎧 The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 6 March 2018

Small, perfect towns often hold the deepest secrets.

From the outside, Essie’s life looks idyllic: a loving husband, a beautiful house in a good neighborhood, and a nearby mother who dotes on her grandchildren. But few of Essie’s friends know her secret shame: that in a moment of maternal despair, she once walked away from her newborn, asleep in her carriage in a park. Disaster was avoided and Essie got better, but she still fears what lurks inside her, even as her daughter gets older and she has a second baby. 

When a new woman named Isabelle moves in next door to Essie, she is an immediate object of curiosity in the neighborhood. Why single, when everyone else is married with children? Why renting, when everyone else owns? What mysterious job does she have? And why is she so fascinated with Essie? As the two women grow closer and Essie’s friends voice their disapproval, it starts to become clear that Isabelle’s choice of neighborhood was no accident. And that her presence threatens to bring shocking secrets to light. 


I really liked all of the storylines in the book. There was so much going on, but it was still easy to keep track of.


The description made this story sound way more dramatic than it actually was.

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #56 of 2023 📖 What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Nonfiction/Biography

🗓PUBLISHED: August 2017

If you scrolled through the Instagram feed of 19-year-old Maddy Holleran, you would see a perfect life: a freshman at an Ivy League school, recruited for the track team, who was also beautiful, popular, and fiercely intelligent. This was a girl who succeeded at everything she tried, and who was only getting started. But when Maddy began her long-awaited college career, her parents noticed something changed. Previously indefatigable Maddy became withdrawn, and her thoughts centered on how she could change her life. In spite of thousands of hours of practice and study, she contemplated transferring from the school that had once been her dream. 

When Maddy's dad, Jim, dropped her off for the first day of spring semester, she held him a second longer than usual. That would be the last time Jim would see his daughter. 
What Made Maddy Run began as a piece that Kate Fagan, a columnist for espnW, wrote about Maddy's life. What started as a profile of a successful young athlete whose life ended in suicide became so much larger when Fagan started to hear from other college athletes also struggling with mental illness. 

This is the story of Maddy Holleran's life, and her struggle with depression, which also reveals the mounting pressures young people -- and college athletes in particular -- face to be perfect, especially in an age of relentless connectivity and social media saturation.


“…when you don’t know how high the wire actually is, dancing along the edge doesn’t seem reckless; it seems like the only place to walk.”


I think this was so wonderfully written. I had no idea what to expect going into it. How do you tell the story of someone who hid so much? I think Kate Fagan did an excellent job. Maddy’s story was pieced together, but so much information about the commonalities of struggling with mental health issues and illnesses was also shared. It was real, and raw, and eye-opening. As someone who has battled my own mental demons, I could relate to a lot. I’d be curious to see how someone who hasn’t had mental health struggles would interpret this book. 


Book #57 of 2023 🎧 The Safest Lies by Megan Miranda ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 24 May 2016

Kelsey has lived most of her life in a shadow of suspicion, raised to see danger everywhere. Her mother hasn’t set foot outside their front door in seventeen years, since she escaped from her kidnappers with nothing but her attacker’s baby growing inside her—Kelsey.
Kelsey knows she’s supposed to keep a low profile and stay off the grid for their protection, but that plan is shattered when her dramatic car accident and rescue by volunteer firefighter and classmate Ryan Baker sparks media coverage.
A few days later, she arrives home to find her mother missing. Now, to have a chance at a future, Kelsey will have to face her darkest fears. Because someone is coming for her. And the truth about the past may end up being the most dangerous thing of all.


This escalated quickly! It started out with a big event, but I didn’t expect the wild ride that event kickstarted.


This one was a little too out there/unbelievable for me. Not bad, just extreme.


Book #58 of 2023 🎧 The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Mystery/Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 5 April 2022

A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the
truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses
in all of them?


I enjoyed the story overall. I feel like it could have gone in a cliche way, and I liked that it didn’t. The storyline was familiar, but the direction it took was unique.


I didn’t love the ending, but I didn’t hate it. I like how everything turned out in the end, I just wish there was a little more resolution with one of the character; I think it wrapped up too quickly for him.


Book #59 of 2023 📖 Madly, Deeply: the Diaries of Alan Rickman by Alan Rickman ⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Memoir/Autobiography

🗓PUBLISHED: 18 October 2022

From his breakout role in Die Hard to his outstanding, multifaceted performances in the Harry Potter films, Galaxy QuestRobin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and more, Alan Rickman cemented his legacy as a world-class actor. His air of dignity, his sonorous voice, and the knowing wit he brought to each role continue to captivate audiences today.

But Rickman’s ability to breathe life into projects wasn't confined to just his performances. As you'll find, Rickman's diaries detail the extraordinary and the ordinary, flitting between worldly and witty and gossipy, while remaining utterly candid throughout. He takes us inside his home, on trips with friends across the globe, and on the sets of films and plays ranging from 
Sense and Sensibility, to Noël Coward's Private Lives, to the final film he directed, A Little Chaos.

Running from 1993 to his death in 2016, the diaries provide singular insight into Rickman's public and private life. Reading them is like listening to Rickman chatting to a close companion. Meet Rickman the consummate professional actor, but also the friend, the traveler, the fan, the director, the enthusiast; in short, the man beyond the icon.


Jurassic Park - what the hell is the plot? Great dinosaurs.”

I always wondered if people who were in movies were especially judgmental and scrutinizing when they watched movies. Now I know!

This book was….a lot. Like 10 billion words a lot. (Maybe a slight exaggeration…the intro only said it was over a million)

I thought it was really interesting which people got footnotes explaining who they were (because they expected the reader not to know), and which did not have the footnotes to explain who they were (because they expected the reader to know).


I really liked his language. The way he described things was really beautiful. You could tell he was an intelligent man. The book was hard to get into, but once I got used to the style I was fairly engaged in it. I also liked that they included photos of a few of his actual journal pages. 


It was a little choppy to read, especially in the beginning. I think choppy is already difficult to read, but when I had no idea who he was talking about, it was even more difficult. The entries in the beginning were just short jotted notes that didn’t do much in story telling. 


Book #60 of 2023 🎧 The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell ⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Mystery/Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 28 July 2020

Meet the first Mrs. Ford
Beautiful. Accomplished.
Wealthy beyond imagination.
Married to a much younger man.
And now, she’s dead.

Meet the second Mrs. Ford.
Waitress. Small-town girl.
Married to a man she never forgot,
From a summer romance ten years before.
And now, she’s wealthy beyond imagination.

Who is Connor Ford?
Two women loved him. And knew him as only wives can know.
Set amongst the glittering mansions of the Hamptons,
The Wife Who Knew Too Much is a decadent summer thriller about the lives of those who will do anything for love and money. Who is the victim? Who is the villain? And who will be next to die?


The story was engaging, and I was very curious to see how it would all play out. 


I can’t say I loved the characters. I still rooted for the main character, but she needed to get it together and stand up for herself. She was too naive. And I hated Connor. I don’t think he was redeemable in anyway. The ending was too easy, and I would have like some real repercussions. 

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

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

Reading Challenge: 60/120 books read in 2023

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