Monday, September 4, 2023

#gretchensbooks2023 - August


In the words of the wise philosopher Taylor Swift,  "August slipped away into a moment in time." Seriously did August go so fast! I know it was a busy month, but man. I only read one actual, physical book! Thank you Libby for the audiobooks, because one book for the month would have been pitiful. In May I was on track to finish 200 books this year (though my goal is only 120) but then summer came and life was busy and there is no way that is happening now. But that's okay! I'm still adding to my TBR and checking them off when I can. So many books, so little time!!


Book #106 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 4 April 2023

Picture a lovely cottage on a cliff, with sloping lawns, walking paths, and beautiful flowers. It’s Gabe and Pippa Gerard’s dream home in a sleepy coastal town. But their perfect house hides something sinister. The tall cliffs have become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Over the past several months, Gabe comes to their rescue, literally talking them off the ledge.

Until one day, he doesn’t. When Pippa discovers Gabe knew the victim, the questions spiral. . . .Did the victim jump? Was she pushed? And would Gabe, the love of Pippa’s life, her soulmate . . . lie? As the perfect faΓ§ade of their marriage begins to crack, the deepest and darkest secrets begin to unravel. Because sometimes, the most convincing lies are the ones we tell ourselves.

I haven’t read a ton of Sally Hepworth, but this is definitely by favorite so far! The mystery was constant throughout, as was the emotion. I enjoyed the dual-perspective - one from one the the main characters, and the other from the dead woman. I think that added a lot to the mystery of what happened and why it happened.


Book #107 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Mystery

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 11 June 2019

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.

This one kept me guessing! It was raw and emotional, and though I sort of predicted the ending, it was interesting to see how it came together. I thought the story idea was unique as well.

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #108 of 2023 πŸŽ§ In A Holidaze by Christina Lauren ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Contemporary Romance

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 6 October 2020

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: 
Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

I was hoping to save this one for Christmas time, but it was ready on Libby, and since I’m running out of audiobooks on there, I figured I’d listen to it now! This was a fun story! I hadn’t really read the synopsis prior to listening to the book, so I didn’t know what was coming. I was a little thrown off at first, but then I really enjoyed it! It wasn’t spicy, which I tend to prefer, but rather very sweet. A mild amount of drama and some personal growth, but mostly a romance!


Book #109 of 2023 πŸŽ§ The Winners (Beartown #3) by Fredrik Backman ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Literary Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 27 September 2022

Over the course of two weeks, everything in Beartown will change.

Two years have passed since the events that no one wants to think about. Everyone has tried to move on, but there’s something about this place that prevents it. The destruction caused by a ferocious late-summer storm reignites the old rivalry between Beartown and the neighboring town of Hed, a rivalry which has always been fought through their ice hockey teams.

Maya Andersson and Benji Ovich, two young people who left in search of a better life, come home and joyfully reunite with their closest childhood friends. There is a new sense of optimism and purpose in the town, embodied in the impressive new ice rink that has been built down by the lake.

Maya’s parents, meanwhile, are caught up in an investigation of the hockey club’s murky finances, and Amat—once the star of the Beartown team—has lost his way after an injury and a failed attempt to get drafted into the NHL. Simmering tensions between the two towns turn into acts of intimidation and then violence. All the while, a fourteen-year-old boy grows increasingly alienated from this hockey-obsessed community and is determined to take revenge on the people he holds responsible for his beloved sister’s death. He has a pistol and a plan that will leave Beartown with a loss that is almost more that it can stand.

This was not my favorite of the series. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but at times it felt like it dragged on, or was including useless details. There were definitely some parts that tugged at my heart strings and I loved those parts (for better or worse), I just got bored during some parts of the story. 


Book #110 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Contemporary Romance

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 2 May 2023

I was nervous for this one. I LOVED Fortune’s first book so much, and wasn’t sure if this would live up to it. I’d also seen others say that they didn’t love this one as much. I listened to it on audio (which usually has a negative impact on how I’ll enjoy the story) but still found I really enjoyed it! Not as much as Every Summer After, but I still thought it was a good story and was eager to listen to it. I enjoyed the performer, and the shifts between present and past.


Book #111 of 2023 πŸ“– The Last Juror by John Grisham πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

πŸ“šGENRE: Legal Thriller/Crime Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 25 April 2006

This wasn’t exactly a legal thriller, but in some minor ways it was. I really enjoyed this story! I can’t recall if I’d read it before or now, but even if I had it would have been back in high school. I loved the friendship between Callie and Willie. I also enjoyed Willie’s journey navigating life in Clanton. Speaking of Clanton, it is my favorite setting of Grisham’s, so even though this wasn’t a Jake Brigance story, it still added to my enjoyment. There was a lot of thrill and drama in this story, each part introducing a new bit of chaos.


*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog (and my reading addiction!) at no additional cost to you!*

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

Reading Challenge: 111/120 books read in 2023

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

#gretchensbook2023 - July



I am incredibly late in posting this (so late, in fact, that I am also working on August's post). But I am bound and determined to make this the one thing on my "to do" list that I check off today! 


Book #95 of 2023 πŸ“± The Inmate by Freida McFadden ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 13 June 2022

There are three rules Brooke Sullivan must follow as a new nurse practitioner at a men’s maximum-security prison:

1) Treat all prisoners with respect.

2) Never reveal any personal information.

 Never EVER become too friendly with the inmates.

But none of the staff at the prison knows 
Brooke has already broken the rules. Nobody knows about her intimate connection to Shane Nelson, one of the penitentiary’s most notorious and dangerous inmates.

And they certainly don’t know that 
Shane was Brooke’s high school sweetheart—the star quarterback who is now spending the rest of his life in prison for a series of grisly murders. Or that Brooke's testimony was what put him there.

But Shane knows.

And he will never forget.

I thought this book was ending and I was disappointed, but it took a turn that perked me back up again! I liked the twists throughout, even if they happened a little too abruptly at times.


Book #96 of 2923 πŸ“– Security (Jack Randall #4) by Randall Wood ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Crime Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 20 December 2014

Deep under the city of Niagara Falls lies the largest tunnel ever constructed. Soon to be completed it will supply a steady supply of water to the Robert Moses Power Plant, a facility that supplies most of the energy for the upper east coast of the United States. Jack and his team arrive to inspect the security of the project before it goes into operation, but Al Qaeda has other plans. Taking over the facility the terrorist now hold the staff and the entire eastern seaboard hostage. Jack finds himself cut off and trapped. He has two problems. One, he's 400 feet underground, and two, one of the hostages is his wife. The terrorist think they have the upper hand, but they don't know Jack.

This one took me a little longer to get into than previous stories in this series. I had a hard time keeping track of the characters and which side they were on and where in the world they were. It was an interesting topic that I hadn’t read much about in the fiction world (pirates and terrorists), so that aspect was unique to me. While I had a slow start, the story picked up and I was more interested and easily finished it. I like that Jack had more of an appearance in this story that he had in book 3 of the series.


Book #97 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Never Lie by Freida McFadden ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 19 September 2022

Newlyweds Tricia and Ethan are searching for the house of their dreams.

But when they visit the remote manor that once belonged to Dr. Adrienne Hale, a renowned psychiatrist who vanished without a trace four years earlier, 
a violent winter storm traps them at the estate… with no chance of escape until the blizzard comes to an end.

In search of a book to keep her entertained until the snow abates, 
Tricia happens upon a secret room. One that contains audio transcripts from every single patient Dr. Hale has ever interviewed. As Tricia listens to the cassette tapes, she learns about the terrifying chain of events leading up to Dr. Hale’s mysterious disappearance

Tricia plays the tapes one by one, late into the night. With each one, another shocking piece of the puzzle falls into place, and
 Dr. Adrienne Hale’s web of lies slowly unravels.

And then Tricia reaches the final cassette. 

The one that reveals the entire horrifying truth.

This was an interesting story with twists I didn’t see coming. I loved the suspense and the way McFadden wrapped the story up was genius. 

(FREE with Amazon Prime!)


Book #98 of 2023 πŸŽ§ One by One by Freida McFadden ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 13 July 2020

One by one, they will get what they deserve...

"I stayed up all night reading this book and loved it!" --Amazon

A night spent sleeping on dirt and leaves is not how Claire Matchett expected to spend her vacation.

She thought this would be a break from the stresses of work and raising her young children. A chance to repair her damaged marriage. A week of hiking and hot tubs with two other couple friends. It sounded like heaven.

Then Claire’s minivan breaks down on a lonely dirt road. With no cell reception, the group has no choice but to hike the rest of the way to their hotel. But it turns out the woods aren’t as easy to navigate as they thought.

Hours later, they are lost. Hopelessly lost. 

And as they navigate deeper into the woods, the members of their party are struck down mysteriously one by one. Has a wild animal been hunting them? Or is the hunter one of them?

But as more time passes, one thing becomes clear:

Only one of them will return home alive.

I absolutely did not see the ending coming. And the explanation in the epilogue was very interesting! That being said, the main thing I didn’t like was how it went from the end of the story to the epilogue. The epilogue explained what happened, but it’s just not the same as hearing the story AS it happens. It was a fun story. Well, as fun as murder stories can be. 

(FREE with Kindle Unlimited!)


Book #99 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger ⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 8 November 2022

What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods, spectacular views, a hot tub and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It'll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company and lots of R & R.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare. 

A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated past, with secrets that run blood deep.

How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact a payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?

I’m still not sure what my feelings are on this story. The idea is certainly unique. It is told from multiple perspectives, and it definitely kept me guessing on how exactly the stories were all connected. That being said, I’m not sure I’m sold on how it all played out. Maybe I needed more detail on the behind the scenes stuff? I’m not sure.


Book #100 of 2023 πŸ“– The Bleachers by John Grisham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Sports Fiction

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 15 July 2004

Now, as Coach Rake’s “boys” sit in the bleachers waiting for the dimming field lights to signal his passing, they replay the old games, relive the old glories, and try to decide once and for all whether they love Eddie Rake – or hate him. For Neely Crenshaw, a man who must finally forgive his coach – and himself – before he can get on with his life, the stakes are especially high.

I was surprised to find I enjoyed this story. It is short compared to Grisham’s other novels, and is not law-based whatsoever. I didn’t love that it glorified an abusive coach, but the high school nostalgia was heartwarming in a strange way.


Book #101 of 2023 πŸŽ§ One of Us is Dead by Jeneva Rose ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller 

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 26 April 2022

Opulence. Sex. Betrayal … Sometimes friendship can be deadly.

Meet the women of Buckhead—a place of expensive cars, huge houses, and competitive friendships.

Shannon was once the queen bee of Buckhead. But she’s been unceremoniously dumped by Bryce, her politician husband. When Bryce replaces her with a much younger woman, Shannon sets out to take revenge …

Crystal has stepped into Shannon’s old shoes. A young, innocent Texan girl, she simply has no idea what she’s up against …

Olivia has waited years to take Shannon’s crown as the unofficial queen of Buckhead. Finally, her moment has come. But to take her rightful place, she will need to use every backstabbing, manipulative, underhand trick in the book …

Jenny owns Glow, the most exclusive salon in town. Jenny knows all her clients’ secrets and darkest desires. But will she ever tell?

Who amongst these women will be clever enough to survive Buckhead—and who will wind up dead? They say that friendships can be complex, but no one said it could ever be this deadly.

I decided to borrow this book because I had enjoyed other thrillers by this author. I thought the story was unique in that you didn’t know which character died until the end of the book. I enjoyed the multi-perspective throughout the story, though I liked some characters and couldn’t stand others. 

FREE with Audible!


Book #102 of 2023 πŸ“– Mary, Will I Die by Shawn Sarles ⭐️⭐️⭐️πŸ’«

πŸ“šGENRE: YA Horror

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 7 September 2021

It starts innocently enough. Four kids - three girls, one boy - are at one of their houses, playing games. One of them has read about "Bloody Mary" and the idea that if you look into a mirror and say her name thirteen times, she will show you the future. Some legends say she'll show you your one true love or a skull to mark your death within five years. Others say that conjuring Bloody Mary will bring her into your world.

Both sets of legends are true. The kids go through with the act, saying her name thirteen times. One girl looks in the mirror and sees her longtime crush. One girl looks in the mirror and sees the boy in the group. But she pretends to see something else. One girl looks in the mirror and sees a girl she's never seen before but can't get out of her mind. And the boy . . . he sees a skull. But he pretends to see something else. They try to laugh it off. And mostly they forget about it. Or at least they don't talk about it. Yet over the next few years, whenever they look into a mirror, it's like there's always another figure standing in the background, getting closer.

Just short of five years later, the four of them are no longer friends, having gone on separate paths. The girl whose house it was has always tried to avoid the mirror they used - because she always sensed someone in the background. One morning as she's passing by, she sees much more than her own reflection - it's a scary figure taunting her. She startles and breaks the mirror. When the pieces are put back together (barely), the figure is gone.

That day in school, a new girl arrives. Her name is Mary . . . .

This was a random purchase from Scholastic when I needed to meet a spend. I always enjoy middle grade and YA horror, and this one was no different! The cover was creepy, and I had to keep it covered or upside down when I wasn’t reading it. The story definitely had a creepy feel to it!


Book #103 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Want to Know A Secret? By Freida McFadden ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 5 January 2021

Everyone has secrets.

YouTube baking sensation April Masterson knows the secret to the perfect gooey brownies. Or how to make key lime squares that will melt in your mouth. But if you keep watching her offline, you may find out some other secrets about April. 
Secrets she’d rather you didn’t know.

Like where did her son go when he snuck out of the house? What was she doing with the local soccer coach behind fogged windows?

And what’s buried in her backyard?

Everyone has secrets. Some are worse than others.

April’s secrets are enough to destroy her. 

I’ll make sure of that.

McFadden does it again! I thought this story would be pretty obvious, but I should have known better. I was so interested to see how it all played out, and loved how McFadden engineered the ending. What a fun little mystery this was!

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #104 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Ward D by Freida McFadden ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 8 May 2023

Medical student Amy Brenner is spending the night on a locked psychiatric ward.

Amy has been dreading her evening working on Ward D, the hospital’s inpatient mental health unit. There are very specific reasons why she never wanted to do this required overnight rotation.
 Reasons nobody can ever find out.

And as the hours tick by, Amy grows increasingly convinced 
something terrible is happening within these tightly secured walls. When patients and staff start to vanish without a trace, it becomes clear that everyone on the unit is in grave danger.

Amy’s worst nightmare was spending the night on Ward D.

And now she might never escape.

This took a turn I did not expect! I love the anticipation that McFadden had in this novel.

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!


Book #105 of 2023 πŸŽ§ Stranger in the Lake by Kimberly Belle ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

πŸ“šGENRE: Thriller

πŸ—“PUBLISHED: 9 June 2020

When Charlotte married the wealthy widower Paul, it caused a ripple of gossip in their small lakeside town. They have a charmed life together, despite the cruel whispers about her humble past and his first marriage. But everything starts to unravel when she discovers a young woman’s body floating in the exact same spot where Paul’s first wife tragically drowned.

At first, it seems like a horrific coincidence, but the stranger in the lake is no stranger. Charlotte saw Paul talking to her the day before, even though Paul tells the police he’s never met the woman. His lie exposes cracks in their fragile new marriage, cracks Charlotte is determined to keep from breaking them in two.

As Charlotte uncovers dark mysteries about the man she married, she doesn’t know what to trust—her heart, which knows Paul to be a good man, or her growing suspicion that there’s something he’s hiding in the water.

This book had been on my TBR list for awhile, because I’d enjoyed other thrillers from this author. I really enjoyed this mystery too! I’m not sure I loved the ending, but I do think that it was a good ending for the story, even if I wanted things to be different. 


*This post may contain affiliate links, which means when you purchase something through that link, you're helping support this blog (and my reading addiction!) at no additional cost to you!*

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

Reading Challenge: 105 /120 books read in 2023

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