Monday, July 10, 2023

#gretchensbooks2023 - June

How is month one of summer already over? It was a busy month with finishing moving and unpacking, vacation, and spending time with family and friends. I did still get some good reading in though!                                 

Book #83 of 2023 ðŸŽ§ The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 February 2022

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. After all, her father was never around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before her daughter was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close but working constantly to stay afloat is hard...and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers
:This Jess understands.

At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98 percent compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Peña. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Peña. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt 
not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get ‘to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could launch GeneticAlly’s valuation sky-high, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.

A friend and I went to meet the duo that makes up Christina Lauren while they were on their book tour for The Love Experiment, which is the sequel to this book. I ended up buying few more of theirs as well, but this was the first one I read! Though romance books are typically pretty predictable, I still enjoyed the storyline of this one. 


Book #84 of 2023 ðŸŽ§ How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Horror

🗓PUBLISHED: 17 January 2023

When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.
Most of all, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. Unfortunately, she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market. 
But some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…

I did not know what to expect from this one, and it sure was interesting! At first I wasn’t sure I liked where the story was going, but then I ended up enjoying it. If you like an interesting paranormal twist, this book is for you!


Book #85 of 2023 ðŸŽ§ How I’ll Kill You by Ren DeStefano ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 21 March 2023

Make him want you.
Make him love you.
Make him dead.

Sissy has an...interesting family. Always the careful one, always the cautious one, she has handled the cleanup while her serial killer sisters have carved a path of carnage across the U.S. Now, as they arrive in the Arizona heat, Sissy must step up and embrace the family pastime of making a man fall in love and then murdering him. Her first target? A young widower named Edison—and their mutual attraction is instant. While their relationship progresses, and most couples would be thinking about picking out china patterns and moving in together, Sissy’s family is reminding her to think about picking out burial sites and moving on. 

Then something happens that Sissy never anticipated: She begins to feel protective of Edison, and before she can help it, she’s fallen in love. But the clock is ticking, and her sisters are growing restless. It becomes clear that the gravesite she chooses will hide a body no matter what happens; but if she betrays her family, will it be hers?

This was the first book I’d read by this author, and I really enjoyed it! I loved how the story headed, just as much as I hated it. I found the main character very likeable, but the others questionable. It was very much a love/hate relationship. I don’t know what ending would have satisfied me, to be honest!


Book #86 of 2023 ðŸ“– The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 14 May 2019

Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion...she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is...Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.

This month is going to be filled with Christina Lauren novels! I loved that the main characters in this book were from Minnesota, first of all. And I love that most of it was set in Hawaii. I found the characters likeable, and their banter entertaining. This book definitely sets the stage to continue reading this author in the future. The humor in this was so fun!


Book #87 of 2023 ðŸŽ§ You Shouldn’t Have Come Here by Jeneva Rose ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Thriller 

🗓PUBLISHED: 25 April 2023

Grace Evans, an overworked New Yorker looking for a total escape from her busy life, books an Airbnb on a ranch in the middle of Wyoming. When she arrives at the idyllic getaway, she's pleased to find that the owner is a handsome man by the name of Calvin Wells -- and he's eager to introduce her to his easygoing way of life. But there are things Grace discovers that she's not too pleased about: A lack of cell phone service. A missing woman. And a feeling that something isn't right with the ranch.

Despite her uneasiness, the two bond and start to fall for one another. However, as her departure date nears, things change for the worse. What began as a playful romance soon turns into a complicated web of lies. Grace grows wary of Calvin as his infatuation for her seems to have morphed to obsession. Calvin fears that Grace is hiding something from him -- including her reason for staying at his ranch to begin with. Vacation flings typically end in heartbreak, but for Grace and Calvin, it'll be far more destructive.

There was a horse in this book named Gretchen, so that was cool. The dude performing the male part of this book had a really creepy narrating voice, and for most the book I couldn’t decide if he was portraying the character as creepy, or if that was just his “normal person” voice.

Honestly I was interested in the story, but I felt like nothing was really happening. Or maybe things were happening, but they just weren’t suspenseful? I didn’t expect the ending to wrap up as it did, which was a plus. Though maybe not super believable since there weren’t a lot of clues leading that way??


Book #88 of 2023 ðŸ“– Something Wilder by Christina Lauren ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 17 May 2022

Growing up the daughter of notorious treasure hunter and absentee father Duke Wilder left Lily without much patience for the profession…or much money in the bank. But Lily is nothing if not resourceful, and now uses Duke’s coveted hand-drawn maps to guide tourists on fake treasure hunts through the red rock canyons of Utah. It pays the bills but doesn’t leave enough to fulfill her dream of buying back the beloved ranch her father sold years ago, and definitely not enough to deal with the sight of the man she once loved walking back into her life with a motley crew of friends ready to hit the trails. Frankly, Lily would like to take him out into the wilderness—and leave him there.

Leo Grady knew mirages were a thing in the desert, but they’d barely left civilization when the silhouette of his greatest regret comes into focus in the flickering light of the campfire. Ready to leave the past behind him, Leo wants nothing more than to reconnect with his first and only love. Unfortunately, Lily Wilder is all business, drawing a clear line in the sand: it’s never going to happen.

But when the trip goes horribly and hilariously wrong, the group wonders if maybe the legend of the hidden treasure wasn’t a gimmick after all. There’s a chance to right the wrongs—of Duke’s past and their own—but only if Leo and Lily can confront their history and work together. Alone under the stars in the isolated and dangerous mazes of the Canyonlands, Leo and Lily must decide whether they’ll risk their lives and hearts on the adventure of a lifetime.

This was my third CL book this month, and so far my least favorite, but only because of the setting. The main female character was a rancher, and that’s just not my preferred story setting. 

That being said, I really enjoyed the suspense in this story. Romance isn’t my top genre to read, so the mystery in this book amped it up for me. Also, I truly had no idea if this story would have a happy ending or not. And if it had the happy ending, WHICH happy ending it would be.


Book #89 of 2023 ðŸ“– The King of Torts by John Grisham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Legal Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 27 December 2005

As he digs into the background of his client, Clay stumbles on a conspiracy too horrible to believe. He suddenly finds himself in the middle of a complex case against one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, looking at the kind of enormous settlement that would totally change his life—that would make him, almost overnight, the legal profession’s newest king of torts...

I was way too invested in this story. I wanted the main character to succeed so bad!! I haven’t de idea if I’m satisfied with the ending yet. Part of me is, but part of me was hoping for something different.


Book #90 of 2023 ðŸ“± See It End (Dr. Gretchen White #3) by Brianna Labuskes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Police Procedural

🗓PUBLISHED: 18 April 2023

Criminologist Dr. Gretchen White thought Detective Lauren Marconi could never cross certain lines. Then Lauren, with fresh blood on her hands, is arrested for an execution-style slaying. Even as the evidence mounts, Gretchen is convinced she’s innocent. Because Lauren would have known how to get away with murder.

Forced to team up with Lachlan Gibbs, the combative by-the-book star of Internal Affairs and Lauren’s boyfriend, Gretchen starts digging for the truth. But when she begins to uncover Lauren’s closely guarded secrets, the investigation raises more questions than answers. As Lauren’s decade-long obsession with the victim comes to light, Gretchen can’t help but doubt her own instincts.

She knows better than most that not everything is as it seems. And with Lauren’s future on the line, it’s more important than ever to see this mystery through to the end.

This is the third book in the Gretchen White series, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first two. I did miss the banter between Gretchen and Lauren, but Gretchen’s whit made up for it. I hope there will continue to be more books in this series!

(FREE on Kindle Unlimited!)


Book #91 of 2023 ðŸ“± Out of the Ashes by Kara Thomas ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Mystery/Suspense

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 May 2023

When she was thirteen years old, Samantha Newsom’s family was murdered and their Catskills farmhouse set ablaze in an unsolved crime that left nothing behind but ashes.

Twenty-two years later, Sam is pulled back to her hometown of Carney, New York, under the shadows of the grim tragedy she’s never forgotten or forgiven. Authorities mishandled the evidence, false rumors were seeded about her family, suspects yielded nothing, and the case went cold. Not anymore. Investigator Travis Meacham has been assigned to the case, and he has news for Sam: a prison inmate has come forward with a shocking admission. Sam’s baby sister, presumed dead in the fire, made it out of the house that night.

It’s not the only reveal that upends everything Sam thinks she knows about the crime and her family. But Carney protects its secrets. And this time, Sam might not be able to escape the town alive.

I grabbed this book from Prime First Reads (I think?) though it was already on my reading list. I’d read that it was inspired by a real life case that is also super intriguing! 

I’m this book was so hard to put down! I’m glad I started it while I was on the solo part of my vacation, because I wouldn’t have been very social otherwise. 

There were so many directions this story could have taken, which made it that much more suspenseful. I liked how the overall storyline ended, but the actually ending made me kind of sad. I wanted even more resolution than what I was given.

(FREE on Kindle Unlimited!)


Book #92 of 2023 ðŸ“± Pestilence (Jack Randall #2) by Randall Wood ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Crime Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 3 November 2023

The bombing of an American Embassy in Africa pulls Special Agent Jack Randall out of his current doghouse status with the FBI and sends him on the trail of one of the worlds most wanted terrorist. While sifting through the debris, his team discovers a mysterious shipment of medications. Medications they soon discover that are valuable enough to kill for. Jack is forced to embark on two missions, catching the terrorist responsible for the bombing and discovering the source of the medications. The trail leads him from the deserts of Africa, to the Centers for Disease Control, and on to the higher offices of the United States Government. As the team uncovers the true nature and purpose of the medications, Jack is faced with a decades old plot involving secret treaties, biological warfare, and deadly plagues.

Alright, so I started this series years and years ago. And I thought I had read multiple books in the series, but turns out I had only read the first one! But I knew I wanted to read the rest. I had been waiting to read them because they were on Kindle Unlimited, and I only get KU when I can get it free and I have a lot of reading time. Turns out they aren’t in KU anymore, but I bought a couple anyway because I needed some Kindle books to read on vacation.

Man, this story is practically a horror story. I mean it’s not, it’s action, but the premise is terrifying. I’d be curious to see how this book would have been different had it been written after the Covid pandemic.


Book #93 of 2023 ðŸŽ§ A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 15 March 2016

One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime. One boy. One girl. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. Or so they believe. When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation? Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.

Oh, my heart. This was such a beautiful story, but also painful. I had a prediction of what would happen, but I was way off with the tragedy. I thought the ending was a great wrap up. Make sure you have some tissues!!


Book #94 of 2023 ðŸ“± Scarcity (Jack Randall #3) by Randall Wood ⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Crime Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 6 January 2013

A teenage girl is kidnapped in Mexico City as a young boy in Afghanistan is wounded by artillery fire. A plane crashes in Florida while a man desperately waits for a new heart in Maryland. A senator’s daughter is critically injured in a car accident as a captured drug runner makes a deal with the DEA. Before he can settle into his new job with Homeland Security, Jack Randall of the FBI finds himself pulled into the seedy world of black market organ trading. With help from an old friend from Interpol he soon uncovers an evil well fed by the desperation of good people. An evil that strikes with the power to force its deeds on anyone. Jack soon learns that in order to defeat such an enemy, he may have to go to war against his own people, and himself.

This book didn’t have a whole lot to do with Jack Randall, which I think is why I didn’t enjoy it as much as the previous books in the series. The topics were interesting (drug trade, black market organs, etc.) but I want more of Jack and his pals.


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

Reading Challenge: 94 /120 books read in 2023

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