Saturday, March 2, 2024

#gretchensbooks2024 - February


I didn't get in as much reading this month as I would have liked, but I feel like I say that every month! I DEVOURED like nine Elle Kennedy romance books last February, so I thought I could get through my whole romance TBR stack this February as well...needless to say that didn't happen!

Book 15 of 2024 📖 Misfit (Prep #1) by Elle Kennedy (5/5🌟)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance 

🗓PUBLISHED: 29 November 2022

Welcome to Sandover Academy, where the delinquents roam…and you can't trust a soul.

Finding out your mom is marrying some rich guy you've never met is enough to make any eighteen-year-old's head spin. And for RJ Shaw, it gets worse: he's being sent to Sandover Academy for senior year. If there's one place a misfit hacker like RJ doesn't belong, it's an ivy-covered all-boys boarding school for rich delinquents. There's no point trying to get along with anyone. That is, until he meets Sloane Tresscott in the woods on the outskirts of campus. Gorgeous and sharp-tongued, Sloane is pure temptation. Except Sloane is the one girl he's forbidden from touching.

The headmaster's daughter.

Good thing RJ doesn't believe in rules. Sure, Sloane insists she's swearing off boys this year, but he wants her bad, and he's going to win her over if it kills him―unless her ex-boyfriend, the ruling king of Sandover, kills him first. Luckily, RJ's unwittingly made some friends. His new stepbrother Fenn, a pretty boy with a self-destructive streak. Lawson, self-proclaimed agent of chaos. And Silas, the All-American good guy who can't actually be as nice as he seems.

If RJ wants to survive prep school and win Sloane's heart, he'll need to figure out a way to use all the secrets hidden in the walls of Sandover.

Last year, I read 9 Elle Kennedy books in February. I’d never read her before, but I started the Off-Campus series and was HOOKED. 

I devoured this book, and would have read it faster if I had the time. I love all of the characters (well, except Duke). I love the snark and the funny one-liners.

There were a couple of side stories that weren’t really needed. Silas, for example. Though maybe his bit was needed to continue the series. I could have done without him. 

And Lawson, but quite frankly I enjoy Lawson and though his perspective added nothing to the story, I loved it and I’m glad his very minor storyline and perspective was included. I hope the series eventually has a book that is mainly about his evolution.

Lastly, I really like the mystery that is woven into this book, and cannot wait to start book 2 to see how it continues!

Book 16 of 2024 🎧 Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 1 August 2023

When Ruth Sterling was a teenager, she slipped away one night, desperate to escape an abusive home and a troubling boyfriend. Pregnant, alone, and prepared to do anything to survive, she eventually makes a life for herself―and soon, for her newborn daughter Catherine. For more than twenty years, Ruth has lived quietly and has provided for her daughter. But she is always ready to run at a moment’s notice, and never allows either of them to put down roots too deeply. Now, Catherine is grown and craves a life for herself. This is something her mother will do anything to prevent―but for what reasons? It has always been just the two of them against the world. But how well do they really know each other? When Ruth’s deeply held quest to keep Catherine by her side reveals cracks in her carefully constructed world, both mother and daughter begin a dance of deception. They both have secrets. But which one of them carries the real darkness inside?

This wasn’t my favorite of hers, but it was a fun little thriller. I liked the multi-perspective and the story being told in a varied timeline. I didn’t feel a whole lot of suspense during the final climax of the story, but the writing kept me interested. The characters weren’t super relatable, or even that likeable to be honest. They weren’t horrid people by any means, I just couldn’t connect with them in any way. 

Book 17 of 2024 🎧 I Said Yes by Kiersten Modglin (2/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 18 February 2020

They have the perfect marriage, but soon the cracks begin to show.

After Mark and Hannah meet during a chance encounter, the two begin a whirlwind romance that quickly alters the world Hannah once knew.
This world is dark and dangerous.
It means an existence filled with secrets, lies, and questions Hannah never thought she’d have to ask.

When she discovers Mark’s darkest secret, Hannah must face the reality of the world she’s entered and make a decision about how to move forward. In an effort to protect herself both from Mark’s secrets and her own, Hannah is forced to face the truth about herself, her life, and her marriage before it’s too late.

One of them is lying…
Someone is dead.

Who is telling the truth in this twisted domestic thriller?
And when the police come knocking, the most important question is: 
whose lie turned deadly?

There are some books by Modglin that I really enjoyed and would absolutely recommend. This was not one of them. 

For one, I didn’t care for the characters. The husband was clearly an asshat, and the wife had no substance. I looked at the time on my audio only to realize I was more than halfway through the story and didn’t feel that anything of substance had happened yet.

Even at the end, my first thought was ”that’s it?” 

Book 18 of 2024 📖 Rogue (Prep #2) by Elle Kennedy (5/5🌟)

📚GENRE: Contemporary Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 7 March 2023

It's been a long time since Casey Tresscott has felt like her life was her own. After the car accident that nearly cost her everything, she's used to her family's coddling and the relentless whispers at school, no matter how much they sting. After all, she's found a safe harbor in her budding relationship with Sandover's golden boy, Fenn Bishop…or so she thinks.

Beneath Fenn's pretty, party-boy surface is a dangerous truth about the night Casey almost died. He thought lying to her was the right thing to do, but when the secret shakes loose, he just might lose her for good.

Because Casey is done being taken advantage of.

Grasping for the control she's been missing, Casey finally snaps―telling off her bullies, gallivanting with rebels and playboys, and shirking her headmaster father's strict curfews, despite the consequences. A desperate Fenn must ally with his stepbrother RJ and the other Sandover delinquents to uncover the full story of Casey's accident and the ones responsible if he hopes to win her back.

But what happens if Casey is no longer the same girl he first fell for? Is there any hope for their future if she's gone rogue for good?

I loved this continuation of the story! I’ve been absolutely captivated through both of this books so far, and am anxiously awaiting what I hope with be a third book in the series! 

Silas really drove me crazy in this one, and though I know he was suppose to, it also rationalized my dislike for him in the first book even though he wasn’t awful then.

I also really enjoyed Casey’s growth in this book.

Book 19 of 2024 🎧 Our Little Secret by Kiersten Modglin (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Mystery

🗓PUBLISHED: 24 August 2021

Bad things don’t happen in Cason Glen. 
The locals make sure of it.

So, when the residents of the town’s most exclusive subdivision discover one of their own is missing, it sends a wave of panic and discord throughout the neighborhood.
They are supposed to be safe.
But they quickly realize not everything is as it once seemed in their idyllic world.
Slowly, the cracks have begun to show, revealing the dark and devious truth behind their home, their neighbors, and the lengths some people will go to protect their secrets. 

Someone’s missing.
Someone’s dead.
Everyone’s lying. 

In a town full of masterfully woven webs, these six friends are about to watch their world unravel. And, if they’re not careful, one of them might be the next to disappear… 

When everyone you know is a liar, how do you decide whom to trust?

The great thing about Modglin, is that she always jumps right into the action. There is no get to know the characters piece (which is also a downside). This mystery was a fun one to follow, and though I was nervous about the ending, I ended up being satisfied with it!

Book 20 of 2024 🎧 None of This is True by Lisa Jewell (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: 8 August 2023

🗓PUBLISHED: 8 August 2023

Celebrating her forty-fifth birthday at her local pub, popular podcaster Alix Summer crosses paths with an unassuming woman called Josie Fair. Josie, it turns out, is also celebrating her forty-fifth birthday. They are, in fact, birthday twins.

A few days later, Alix and Josie bump into each other again, this time outside Alix’s children’s school. Josie has been listening to Alix’s podcasts and thinks she might be an interesting subject for her series. She is, she tells Alix, on the cusp of great changes in her life.

Josie’s life appears to be strange and complicated, and although Alix finds her unsettling, she can’t quite resist the temptation to keep making the podcast. Slowly she starts to realize that Josie has been hiding some very dark secrets, and before she knows it, Josie has inveigled her way into Alix’s life—and into her home.

But, as quickly as she arrived, Josie disappears. Only then does Alix discover that Josie has left a terrible and terrifying legacy in her wake, and that Alix has become the subject of her own true crime podcast, with her life and her family’s lives under mortal threat.

Who is Josie Fair? And what has she done?

I loved the performance of this one! The podcast effects really added to the story.  I liked the varied perspectives the story was written through and the additionally stories shared via the podcast within the story.

Book 21 of 2024 📱 Resistance (Jack Randall #6) by Randall Wood (3/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: FBI Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 23 September 2017

While Anna struggles with her new identity, the Shepherds mission continues. But a mistake is made. One that may compromise one of their own. At the same time, their opposition intensifies, as Special Agent Jack Randall of the FBI returns from the cold to become the head of the investigation. He quickly monopolizes on the Shepherds mistake and zeros in on the band of assassins. But even if he manages to capture one, will the other Shepherds allow it? With the General refusing to back down, and the White House under increased pressure to defeat them, the Shepherds soon find themselves face-to-face with Jack Randall, and the outcome is like nothing either party expected.

These damn cliff hangers! I’m enjoying most of this storyline, and the fact that it is six books long is killing me. There is no resolution at the end of the first two books, just cliffhangers. 

There is a chunk of the story that I’m not into, but it’s the back story of some of the characters and therefore I suspect at least mildly important, so I’m trying my very hardest to read it and not just skim those parts.

Book 22 of 2024 📖 The Graham Effect (Campus Diaries #1) by Elle Kennedy (5/5🌟)

📚GENRE: Hockey Romance

🗓PUBLISHED: 31 October 2023

Gigi Graham has exactly three goals: qualify for the women's national hockey team, win Olympic gold, and step out of her famous father's shadow. So far, so good, except for two little things. Fine–a little thing and a big, grumpy thing. She needs to improve her game behind the net, and she needs help from Luke Ryder.

Ryder is six-foot five, built, opinionated, rude…and sexy as hell. But he's still the enemy.

Briar's new hockey co-captain has his reasons, though. The men's team just merged with a rival program, leaving Ryder with an angry roster where everyone hates one another's guts. To make matters worse, the summer coaching spot he's angling for with the legendary Garrett Graham is out of reach after he makes the worst possible first impression on his hero. So, really, this compromise with Gigi is win-win. He helps her make the national team, she puts in a good word with her dad.

I was probably biased towards this book before I even opened the cover, but regardless, it lived up to my expectations and then some. I LOVED Kennedy’s hockey romance series Off-Campus, so much though that I read all 5 of them last February. And then I read all 4 of the spin-off series, Briar U, also last February. When I saw another spin-off series was in the works, I knew they’d be an auto-buy.

I had three Kennedy books in my TBR pile, and though I loved them all, this was my fave. I love the hockey romance world, and this one was even more awesome because the female main character was also a hockey player. 

I see the next in the series comes out in May, and I doubt I’ll be able to wait until next February to read it! 

Book 23 of 2024 🎧 Counting the Cost: A Memoir by Jill Duggar (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Memoir

🗓PUBLISHED: 12 September 2023

Jill and Derick knew a normal life wasn’t possible for them. As a star on the popular TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, Jill grew up in front of viewers who were fascinated by her family’s way of life. She was the responsible, second daughter of Jim Bob and Michelle’s nineteen kids; always with a baby on her hip and happy to wear the modest ankle-length dresses with throat-high necklines. She didn’t protest the strict model of patriarchy that her family followed, which declares that men are superior, that women are expected to be wives and mothers and are discouraged from attaining a higher education, and that parental authority over their children continues well into adulthood, even once they are married.

But as Jill got older, married Derick, and they embarked on their own lives, the red flags became too obvious to ignore.

For as long as they could, Jill and Derick tried to be obedient family members—they weren’t willing to rock the boat. But now they’re raising a family of their own, and they’re done with the secrets. Thanks to time, tears, therapy, and blessings from God, they have the strength to share their journey. Theirs is a remarkable story of the power of the truth and is a moving example of how to find healing through honesty.

I’d heard good things about this memoir, so though I didn’t watch whichever show it was that was about the Duggers, I was curious about Jill’s story. I’d heard enough about the family to know there had been some drama, so I guess you could say I was nosey in reading this! Despite not having much background about the family, and not really knowing what to expect from the memoir, I really enjoyed the writing! I also really liked that Jill was the performer of the audiobook.

Book 24 of 2024 🎧 The Liar’s Wife by Kiersten Modglin (3.5/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Domestic Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 16 July 2020

Palmer Lewis married a liar. 

But just how deadly are his lies?

Shortly after marrying her soulmate and the birth of their son, the lies begin.

First, it's the phone calls, always held in secret, always deleted from his phone.

Then it's his odd disappearances and the little nagging voice in her head screaming: Something is not right.

When Palmer follows her gut - and her husband - she catches him with an unfamiliar woman in the park and in his biggest lie thus far. Learning from her past, she hatches a plan to protect herself and their child. But when her husband and son disappear one afternoon and don't return, Palmer must retrace her steps and dig deep to discover the truth before it's too late.

Who is the mysterious woman her husband lied about meeting? Who knows what happened to her family? Who's lying?

In this twisted psychological thriller, the better question is, who isn't?

This was one of the more exciting Modglin books I’ve listen to in awhile! As always, the action started right away, and I had no idea where it was going to go. The story went in a direction that felt unexpected to me, but the writing was still believable.

Book 25 of 2024 📖 The Associate by John Grisham (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Legal Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 27 January 2009

Kyle McAvoy possesses an outstanding legal mind. Good-looking and affable, he has a glittering future. He also has a dark secret that could destroy his dreams, his career, even his life. One night that secret catches up with him. The men who accost Kyle have a compromising video they’ll use to ruin him—unless he does exactly what they say. 

What they offer Kyle is something any ambitious young lawyer would kill for: a job in Manhattan as an associate at the world’s largest law firm. If Kyle accepts, he’ll be on the fast track to partnership and a fortune. But there’s a catch. Kyle won’t be working 
for the firm but against it in a dispute between two powerful defense contractors worth billions. 

Now Kyle is caught between the criminal forces manipulating him, the FBI, and his own law firm—in a malignant conspiracy not even Kyle, with all his intellect, cunning, and bravery, may be able to escape alive.

As is typical with Grisham, you never know if you’re going to get a happy ending or not, and I still haven’t decided which of those this was. There wasn’t a ton of law stuff, despite the setting mainly being at a law office. I enjoyed the mystery of this storyline and was constantly engaged throughout.

Book 26 of 2024 🎧 The Mother-In-Law by Kiersten Modglin (4/5⭐️)

📚GENRE: Thriller

🗓PUBLISHED: 17 March 2020

When Loren meets Jack, she’s sure he’s the man she’s been waiting for - a perfect husband and father for her young daughter. Shortly after their wedding, their plans to start a life together are put on hold when the couple receives word that Jack’s father has died. 

In an effort to appease her new husband, Loren invites her mother-in-law, Coralee, to stay with them while she grieves. When strange things begin to occur just after her arrival, Loren questions how much she knows about the woman she invited into her home.

One calculated move after the next, Coralee attempts to drive a wedge between Loren and her new husband. Jack believes his mother’s strange behavior is just further proof she needs their help, but Loren isn’t so sure. As Coralee’s actions become increasingly sinister, Loren is pushed to her breaking point, and she realizes she must do whatever it takes to get rid of her mother-in-law for good.

This was definitely my favorite Modglin book from the past few months! The suspense was there, and so was the emotion. I was absolutely infuriated for a big chunk of this book, but that’s was because the storyline made my blood boil!

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(Summaries are from Amazon, but all thoughts about them are my own!)

Reading Challenge: 26/120 books read in 2024

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