Sunday, November 5, 2023

#gretchensbooks2023 - October

October was a great reading month! I had a hard time putting books down most of the time. For the first time in a long time, I read more than I listened to, and the books I read were all really good! 

Book #117 of 2023 📖 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

📚GENRE: Fantasy

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 October 2019

The fourth book in the beloved Harry Potter series, now illustrated in glorious full color by award-winning artist Jim Kay. With over 150 illustrations!

Harry Potter wants to get away from the pernicious Dursleys and go to the International Quidditch Cup with Hermione, Ron, and the Weasleys. He wants to dream about Cho Chang, his crush (and maybe do more than dream). He wants to find out about the mysterious event involving two other rival schools of magic, and a competition that hasn't happened for a hundred years. He wants to be a normal, fourteen-year-old wizard. Unfortunately for Harry Potter, he's not normal - even by wizarding standards. And in this case, different can be deadly.With over 150 dazzling illustrations from Jim Kay, this new fully illustrated edition of the complete and unabridged text of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is sure to delight fans and first-time readers alike.

I still hadn’t read my illustrated version of this book, so my goal was to do so before 2023 was over. I figured October was the perfect month to do so, with the goal of finishing it before my brother and I headed back down to Harry Potter World in Florida during fall break.

I’ve always thought this was my least favorite book, but I really enjoyed it this time! I think maybe it’s just my least favorite movie. There was SO MUCH MORE in the book that I wish had made it into the movie!

Book #118 of 2023 🎧 Home or Away by Kathleen West ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Contemporary Fiction

🗓PUBLISHED: 29 March 2022

Two friends, one Olympic dream, and the choice that stood in the way.

Once Leigh and Susy were close friends and teammates bound for Olympic hockey gold, but when Leigh’s sure-fire plan to make the final roster backfired, she left everything behind to start over, including the one person who knew her secret.
Two decades later, Leigh’s a successful investment banker, happily married, and the mom of a hockey prodigy, so when a career opportunity lands the family back in Minnesota, Leigh takes the shot for her kid. Back in the ultra-competitive world she left behind, the move puts her in Susy’s orbit, a daily reminder of how Leigh watched from the sidelines as her former teammate went on to Olympic glory. 
Despite the coldness between them, Susy can’t help but hope that Leigh might lace up her skates and join her in the coaches’ box—after all Leigh knows better than anyone how hard it is to be a woman in this world.  Susy knows soon her daughter, Georgie, will be seen as a “girl athlete,” relegated to the B team, with less support and opportunity to advance. 
But Leigh believes keeping Susy at arms’ length is the only way to hide her history with her former coach Jeff Carlson. When he hints of new favors in exchange for her son’s ice time, Leigh is caught in the ultimate bind: come clean about what happened when she was an Olympic hopeful and risk her marriage or play Jeff’s game. In a moment of desperation, Leigh realizes the one person she thought was her biggest competitor—her former teammate—might turn out to be her biggest ally. 
Told with Kathleen West’s trademark wit and compassion, 
Home or Away is a story about overcoming our pasts, confronting our futures, and the sustaining bonds of female friendship.

A hockey novel set in Minnesota? I’m sold!

I really enjoyed this story and the messages it focused on. The main female adult character was (mostly) likeable, though I really wanted yell at her sometimes. 

Book #119 of 2023 📖 The Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

📚GENRE: Historical Fiction/supernatural Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 4 October 2022

1920s England. Sarah Piper’s lonely, threadbare existence changes when her temporary agency sends her to assist an obsessed ghost hunter. Alistair Gellis—rich, handsome, and scarred by World War I—has been summoned to investigate the spirit of the nineteen-year-old maid Maddy Clare, who is said to haunt the barn where she committed suicide.

Maddy hated men in life, and she will not speak to them in death. But Sarah is unprepared to confront an angry ghost—real or imagined—on her own. She’s even less prepared for the arrival of Alistair’s associate, rough, unsettling Matthew Ryder, also a veteran of the trenches, whose scars go deeper than Sarah can reach.

Soon, Sarah is caught up in a desperate struggle. For Maddy’s ghost is no hoax—she’s real, she’s angry, and she has powers that defy all reason. Now, Sarah and Matthew must discover who Maddy was, where she came from, and what is driving her desire for vengeance—before she destroys them all....

This is definitely one of my favorite Simone St. James books. I could not put it down! Nearly finished it into two days but I made myself go to bed instead of staying up to finish it.I was so invested in the story and curious about the main characters growth. 

Book #120 of 2023 🎧 Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 22 October 2019

Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak.

During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good.

Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” 
can come around twice.

With Christina Lauren’s signature “beautifully written and remarkably compelling” (Sarah J. Maas, 
New York Times bestselling author) prose and perfect for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner, Twice in a Blue Moon is an unforgettable and moving novel of young love and second chances.

I’m uncertain on my feelings on this book. I was interested enough to read the whole thing, but I didn’t love the plot line. Spoilers to follow: The main character got screwed over, and I don’t like that she forgave him. Or rather that she got back with him. Forgiveness is fine, but girl, that trust was so broken it should not have been given back.

Book #121 of 2023 📖 Grimoire Girl: A Memoir of Magic and Mischief by Hilarie Burton Morgan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Memoir

🗓PUBLISHED: 3 October 2022

Since childhood, Hilarie Burton Morgan has felt the call to record, keep, and catalogue life in all its strange wonder. It was a whimsical habit, with no clear goal. And then, when she became a mother, the importance of all that collecting snapped into focus. 

In an effort to patchwork together an anthology of traditions, curiosity, and magical thinking that she could pass down, Burton Morgan realized she was crafting a grimoire

In her most intimate book yet, Burton Morgan shares how she’s creating an inheritance of mischief and magic that will outlive her. What’s more, she shows readers how they too can look at the elements of their lives and collect the pieces into a tangible collection of a lifetime of learning. Because in its purest form, a grimoire was a guide to keep you alive.

Like the grimoires of old, full of life-saving wisdom, these pages record the people, places, ideas and habits that have kept Burton Morgan alive, in her signature voice that is at once honest, witty, and charming. Accompanied by whimsical two-color illustrations by Olivia Faust, the book also includes Simple Spells, which are ways to bring magic into your daily life: create an altar that delights and inspires, practice candle magic and poetry spells, make an oracle deck, or channel your inner kitchen witch with recipes and potions.

So begin creating your own inheritance, take a long look inward and decide...

What wisdom will be written on the pages of your Grimoire?

This was a fun layout! I loved the theme of the book, and think it would have been more fun to read with a brand new journal next to me. Hilario is so fun to learn about, because she is so quirky and eccentric in the best way. 

Book #122 of 2023 📖 Everyone Here is Lying by Shari Lapena 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 25 July 2023

Welcome to Stanhope. A safe neighborhood. A place for families.

William Wooler is a family man, on the surface. But he’s been having an affair, an affair that ended horribly this afternoon at a motel up the road. So when he returns to his house, devastated and angry, to find his difficult nine-year-old daughter, Avery, unexpectedly home from school, William loses his temper. 

Hours later, Avery’s family declares her missing. 

Suddenly Stanhope doesn’t feel so safe. And William isn’t the only one on his street who’s hiding a lie. As witnesses come forward with information that may or may not be true, Avery's neighbors become increasingly unhinged. 

Who took Avery Wooler?

Nothing will prepare you for the truth.

Oh. Em. Gee. 

I finish a book on Saturday afternoon, and while I had a newly published book arriving on Tuesday, I knew I couldn’t go two days without reading a little bit so I started this one.

And then I finished the whole thing in one night.

I love all of Lapena’s books, but this one is my favorite!! 

Book #123 of 2023 🎧 The Coworker by Freida McFadden ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 29 August 2023

Two women. An office filled with secrets. One terrible crime that can't be taken back.

Dawn Schiff is strange.

At least, everyone thinks so at Vixed, the nutritional supplement company where Dawn works as an accountant. She never says the right thing. She has no friends. And she is always at her desk at precisely 8:45 a.m.

So when Dawn doesn't show up to the office one morning, her coworker Natalie Farrell―beautiful, popular, top sales rep five years running―is surprised. Then she receives an unsettling, anonymous phone call that changes everything…

It turns out Dawn wasn't just an awkward outsider―she was being targeted by someone close. And now Natalie is irrevocably tied to Dawn as she finds herself caught in a twisted game of cat and mouse that leaves her wondering: who's the real victim?

But one thing is incredibly clear: somebody hated Dawn Schiff. Enough to kill.

I love books with unreliable narrators, and this one had me guessing the whole time whether either of the perspectives in this book fell in that category. I’m not sure if I liked the ending or not, and I don’t know how to explain why I feel that way without spoilers, SO, do NOT continue reading if you haven’t yet read this!

SPOILERS: honestly, I really wanted Dawn to still be alive and for Natalie to go down for it. I knew that would make Dawn a bad guy in the story, but Natalie just rubbed be wrong and I wanted her to have real life, long term consequences. (And by real life, I mean in the book, I recognize this is not a work of nonfiction!)

FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Book #124 of 2023 📖 The Exchange by John Grisham ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Legal Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 17 October 2023

What became of Mitch and Abby McDeere after they exposed the crimes of Memphis law firm Bendini, Lambert & Locke and fled the country? The answer is in The Exchange, the riveting sequel to The Firm, the blockbuster thriller that launched the career of America’s favorite storyteller. It is now fifteen years later, and Mitch and Abby are living in Manhattan, where Mitch is a partner at the largest law firm in the world. When a mentor in Rome asks him for a favor that will take him far from home, Mitch finds himself at the center of a sinister plot that has worldwide implications—and once again endangers his colleagues, friends, and family. Mitch has become a master at staying one step ahead of his adversaries, but this time there’s nowhere to hide.

To be fair, I’ve already got a bias towards Grisham’s writing. If he writes it, I’m going to buy it, and I’m going to like it. This is especially true if the story is law-based, which this one (sort of) was. I liked reading about Mitch and Abby again, though I wouldn’t exactly call this a sequel to The Firm, as it had nothing to do with that plot line. I didn’t love the ending of this one though. I needed more!

Book #125 of 2023 🎧 Forsaken Country by Allen Eskens ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

📚GENRE: Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 20 September 2022

Max Rupert has left his position as a Minneapolis homicide detective to live in solitude. Mourning the tragic death of his wife, he's also racked by guilt—he alone knows what happened to her killer. But then the former local sheriff, Lyle Voight, arrives with a desperate plea: Lyle’s daughter Sandy and his six-year-old grandson Pip have disappeared. Lyle’s certain Sandy's ex-husband Reed is behind it, but the new sheriff is refusing to investigate. 

When Max reluctantly looks into their disappearance, he too becomes convinced something has gone very wrong. But the closer Max and Lyle get to finding proof, the more slippery Reed becomes, until he makes a break for the beautiful but formidable Boundary Waters wilderness with vulnerable Pip in tow.

Racing after the most dangerous kind of criminal—a desperate father—and with the ghosts of their own pasts never far behind, Max and Lyle go on the hunt within a treacherous landscape, determined to bring an evil man to justice, and to bring a terrified child home alive. 

I wasn’t sure I was going to like the ending of this, but then I thought they ended it perfectly! This is probably my least favorite in this series so far, as it took me a little bit to get into, but I still really enjoyed it.

Book #126 of 2023 🎧 Good Bad Girl by Alice Feeney ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

📚GENRE: Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 29 August 2023

Twenty years after a baby is stolen from a stroller, a woman is murdered in a care home. The two crimes are somehow linked, and a good bad girl may be the key to discovering the truth.

Edith may have been tricked into a nursing home, but at eighty-years-young, she’s planning her escape. Patience works there, cleaning messes and bonding with Edith, a kindred spirit. But Patience is lying to Edith about almost everything. 

Edith’s own daughter, Clio, won’t speak to her. And someone new is about to knock on Clio’s door…and their intentions aren’t good.

With every reason to distrust each other, the women must solve a mystery with three suspects, two murders, and one victim. If they do, they might just find out what happened to the baby who disappeared, the mother who lost her, and the connections that bind them.

This book was much more family drama, much less thriller than her other books. I wasn’t so sure about it at first. I had a hard time keeping track of characters (probably due to listening to the audio instead of reading the book). Eventually I caught on, and was quite interested. I did not see the ending (or rather the conclusion) coming.

Book #127 of 2923 📖 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

📚GENRE: Fantasy

🗓PUBLISHED: 11 October 2022

There is a door at the end of a silent corridor. And it's haunting Harry Potter's dreams. Why else would he be waking in the middle of the night, screaming in terror? It's not just the upcoming O.W.L. exams; a new teacher with a personality like poisoned honey; a venomous, disgruntled house-elf; or even the growing threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Now Harry Potter is faced with the unreliability of the very government of the magical world and the impotence of the authorities at Hogwarts. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), he finds depth and strength in his friends, beyond what even he knew; boundless loyalty; and unbearable sacrifice.

This stunning illustrated edition brings together the talents of award-winning artists Jim Kay and Neil Packer in a visual feast, featuring iconic scenes and much loved characters -- Tonks, Luna Lovegood, and many more -- as the Order of the Phoenix keeps watch over Harry Potter’s fifth year at Hogwarts. With its oversized format, high-quality paper, ribbon bookmark, and color on nearly every page, this edition is the perfect gift for Harry Potter fans and book lovers of all ages.

This is my second fave HP book, and the illustrations make it that much better. I enjoy watching the movies, but gosh I forget how much better the books are!

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

Reading Challenge: 127/120 books read in 2023

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