Goodreads Best of 2019 Nominees I’ve Read

  • FICTION:
    • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood A beautiful follow up to one of my all-time favorites, The Handmaid’s Tale. Review here.
    • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane This novel follows two men who were NYPD beat cops and then how their families intertwine when they happen to move into the same neighborhood. This was a well-written examination of family dynamics, mental health, love, and forgiveness. It was really hyped up on #bookstagram, and was a BOTM selection for June. I gave it a 4/5 stars because it was a little lengthy for me, but very well done.
  • MYSTERY & THRILLER
    • The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth This book was an absolute surprise to me! I was expecting a thriller but it was much more of a family examination. It ended up being a heartfelt story that showed that there are always many, many sides to the truth. There were multiple perspectives which really underscored that you need to see the world from someone else’s point of view, and it was an astounding look at trying to understand one another. 5/5 stars
    • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager This was an AMAZING thriller set in the fictional NYC hotel The Bartholomew. Sager did a phenomenal job of not only creating a creepy setting, but also creating a twisty book that completely blindsided me. 5/5 stars!
    • An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen An interesting thriller about a professor running a psychological study and the person she uses as a subject…and how the study isn’t what it seems.
    • Miracle Creek by Angie Kim I wouldn’t have put this one in the thriller category, personally. This read like a courtroom drama with a lot of family dysfunction. It was certainly well-written, but I wasn’t in love with it like many people were. 4/5 stars.
    • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides This book BLEW MY MIND! I read it in less than 24 hours! The author’s writing style was compulsively readable and impossible to put down. The twist was PHENOMENAL! I really don’t want to blow it, but it was just so, so great. The writer uses some different, slightly unconventional writing strategies in order to create the twist. I’ve seen others say that the twist was too predictable for them, but honestly, I felt blindsided. Absolutely worth all of the hype! 5/5 stars
    • The Whisper Man by Alex North The Whisper Man was a the nickname of a serial killer that terrorized a town in the English countryside about 20 years ago, and when some new crimes that look like the work of the Whisper Man — who got his name by whispering in the victim’s bedroom windows at night — the detective from the original case goes back to work. This novel is not just a creepy atmospheric novel of a serial killer (and possibly ghosts?). It is also an exploration of how far a parent would go for their child, how parental relationships change over time, and how to deal with loss. It absolutely kept me on my toes the whole time and I was able to read it in only two days. 4/5 stars.
    • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware Rowan takes a job as a nanny for three young girls in rural Scotland, where her only company is often her charges and the caretaker of the house, Jack. This novel is written as a series of letters from jail, where Rowan has been charged with the murder of one of the girls. There were so, so many twists & turns and I was stunned by how well this one was done. A definite winner for me! 4/5 stars.
  • HISTORICAL FICTION:
    • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid This book holds a special place in my heart as my first ARC. I wrote a review article about it for Candor Magazine — check it out!
    • The Huntress by Kate Quinn This was a wonderfully written historical novel about Nazi hunters and a mysterious woman who enters the life of a Boston teen. 5/5 stars!
    • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert  I LOVED this novel of 1940’s New York City! Our main character Vivian takes on a job at her aunt’s low-budget theatre after dropping out of college. She meets a lively cast of characters at the Lily Playhouse and this novel is all written as Vivian looks back on her past and how she learned what life was all about. 4/5 stars
  • FANTASY
    • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo Quite possibly my favorite book of 2019. I am so looking forward to the rest of this creepy, gothic series about ghosts & the occult at Yale. Review here.
    • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern Her first book, The Night Circus, is one of my favorite books EVER. This was written just as beautifully, but I just…don’t understand this one. Definitely need a re-read, but initial rating is a 4/5.
  • ROMANCE:
    • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren I am sad to report that this is my first CLo book, but it will NOT be the last! This was a hysterical enemies-to-lovers tale filled with wacky characters, a little bit of steaminess, and lush descriptions of tropical locales. 4/5 stars for me!
    • The Bride Test by Helen Hoang A cute, steamy, #ownvoices novel that gave a voice to characters with autism and the Vietnamese community. Esme & Khai have great chemistry and it was an adorable read. The fact that Esme was chosen by Khai’s mom felt strange to me, but only because it’s really not part of my culture. It was a little far-fetched and over-the-top, but sometimes the best romances are. 4/5 stars
    • Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center A cute, but somewhat predictable, romance novel. This is the 3rd book I’ve read by Katherine Center and they’re always enjoyable & lighthearted. I like the ‘twist’ at the end and everything is resolved. 4/5 stars.
  • DEBUT NOVEL:
    • The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I loved this debut novel that took you in and out of other worlds & doorways & stories. Beautifully done and a pleasure to read. Review here.
  • YA FICTION:
    • With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo This book will resonate with SO MANY teens. It examines family dynamics, teenage parenthood, poverty, race, and sexuality, to name a few. Gorgeously written descriptions of all of Emoni’s cooking were the icing on the cake — pun intended! Review here.
    • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Ruta Sepetys has taken another era of history often overlooked and written a beautiful story of oppression, young love, and sacrifice. Her short chapters and jumps in character perspective make this a quick, compelling read. She deftly includes quotes from documents about Franco & this era in history in between chapters so that the reader can quickly get an understanding of the historical context. I never felt lost; Sepetys is marvelous at weaving a story into meticulous research. I loved each character, up until the triumphant end. 5/5 stars
    • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas Angie Thomas is the queen of realistic YA fiction. She has yet again created such vivid and authentic characters and a book that is compulsively readable. Her books should be required reading in late middle school/early high school! 5/5 stars
  • YA FANTASY/SCI-FI
    • Wilder Girls by Rory Power I absolutely loved this story of survival and female relationships. It was a creepy, gory story, intertwined with a mystery. Hetty and her fellow classmates at Raxter Island School in Maine are living with an unknown disease called the Tox. They are sent supplies based on the generosity of the Navy, but secrets are hiding underneath all the levels of survival and struggle. They’re not only trying to survive the elements, the disease, and wild animals, but it almost becomes the hardest part to survive each other. 4/5 stars

REVIEW: The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood

The Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood is a historical fiction novel based on the real-life Dionne Quintuplets, born in 1934 in a small farmhouse in rural Canada. The novel is written as a bunch of fictional journal entries by one of the quints’ nurses, Emma, with actual news articles interwoven throughout the novel. I thought it was an interesting and well-done way to present a real life story to modern readers.

This book started off REALLY strong. I loved the way that the author included actual news articles into the story. I really felt the stress of keeping FIVE infants alive (all the feedings, cleaning, washing, etc. etc). It made me so upset to see a mother torn apart from her children, and how these innocent children were exploited from birth by almost everyone around them. It was really heartbreaking. I loved learning about the quints, and essentially watching them grow up. I did a lot of googling to learn more about them, and their story is really tragic. Here‘s an article about the last remaining sisters.

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Unfortunately, the ending was abrupt and didn’t really fit well with the tone of the rest of the book. I was not thrilled with the dull ‘romance’ that the author tried to pull together and I certainly didn’t like the way that the author rushed to tie-up loose ends by smushing all of the correspondence together at the end. The ending incident was not fair because it essentially accused a real person of a fictitious crime.

The ending ruined the book for me. I was ready to give it a 5 star rating until the last 50 pages or so. While it is worth reading to learn about this historical tragedy, I think the author needed to change the ending to make sure it fit into the story much more seamlessly. In the end, I gave this 2.5/5 stars.

REVIEW: Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

I LOVE a good downfall-of-the-United States story, and Wanderers was A GOOD ONE. It was a long, epic tale of science fiction, politics, and the resilience of humanity.

Shana wakes up one morning to find her sister, Nessie, sleepwalking, and unable to wake her. Other sleepwalkers join, and Shana and other loved ones ‘shepherd’ the ‘flock’ of sleepwalkers through the United States. These sleepwalkers cannot be stopped and will ignore any obstacle in their way. Scientists from the CDC are working non-stop to figure out what’s going on — why are the sleepwalkers impenetrable to needles? How can they survive without food? Why are others around the globe growing sick?

In addition to the medical mystery surrounding the walkers, we also see the affects of a right-wing splinter group that take advantage of the chaos swirling around the country, and act upon the racist things they were only saying privately. This was an interesting inclusion because I feel like it was really speaking not only to the current political climate, but because it’s an area not often explored when reading these types of massive apocalyptic novels.

Wendig does a phenomenal job of tying together all of the threads — the neo-Nazis, the shepherds & the flock, the CDC — in a way that is mostly understandable to the reader (I did have some trouble with the science, especially the artificial intelligence, because those are topics I just don’t know a ton about). While there aren’t any real people named as characters, I could see that he pulled inspiration from a number of current politicians and celebrities, often the most problematic ones. I really thought this novel was well-done, though a little lengthy. If you want to see one way the world ends, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out. 4/5 stars for me!

End of the Year Book Tag!

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October 2019 Wrap-Up

I am super excited that I was able to read TEN BOOKS in the month of October! I was also so thrilled that I got to be a volunteer at the Boston Book Festival and meet two of the authors whose books I read this month (I still have 6 more books I acquired from the BBF to get to!)

  • After The Flood by Kassandra Montag: I read this one as a buddy read with some friends on Bookstagram in the #papercatbookclub! It was not only an excellent book, but we had some excellent discussions about it as well. This novel was a beautifully written story about the world after there are huge floods, and only small bits of land are left. In this watery world, resources are scarce and gangs of brutal pirates are the ones in charge of the seas. Mira has a daughter, Pearl, born on the water, but her oldest daughter Row was kidnapped before Pearl was born. Mira hears that Row is still alive, and begins a mission around the world to find her. This novel is a testament to a mother’s love and how our children change our lives. 4.5/5 stars
  • The Whisper Man by Alex North: This was a creepy thriller — perfect for October! The Whisper Man was a the nickname of a serial killer that terrorized a town in the English countryside about 20 years ago, and when some new crimes that look like the work of the Whisper Man — who got his name by whispering in the victim’s bedroom windows at night — the detective from the original case goes back to work. This novel is not just a creepy atmospheric novel of a serial killer (and possibly ghosts?). It is also an exploration of how far a parent would go for their child, how parental relationships change over time, and how to deal with loss. It absolutely kept me on my toes the whole time and I was able to read it in only two days. 4.5/5 stars. (Thanks to Bookish First & Celadon Books for the free ARC!)
  • Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: I loved this book SO F*CKING MUCH. It has been compared to adult Harry Potter, and tbh it’s kinda close. Full review here.
  • The Topeka School by Ben Lerner: I tried so, so hard to enjoy this book. The synopsis makes it sound really intriguing, but the writing was too lofty for me, and I just really couldn’t get into it. I had to DNF.
  • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware: Ruth Ware can be hit or miss for me, and this one was definitely a hit. Rowan takes a job as a nanny for three young girls in rural Scotland, where her only company is often her charges and the caretaker of the house, Jack. This novel is written as a series of letters from jail, where Rowan has been charged with the murder of one of the girls. There were so, so many twists & turns and I was stunned by how well this one was done. A definite winner for me! 4/5 stars.
  • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys: Ruta Sepetys never disappoints. She is a phenomenal storyteller and a master at research. She has taken another era of history often overlooked and written a beautiful story of oppression, young love, and sacrifice. Her short chapters and jumps in character perspective make this a quick, compelling read. She deftly includes quotes from documents about Franco & this era in history in between chapters so that the reader can quickly get an understanding of the historical context. I never felt lost; Sepetys is marvelous at weaving a story into meticulous research. I loved each character, up until the triumphant end. I will never not read something Sepetys writes — she’s the queen of YA historical fiction in my book! 5/5 stars.
  • Wilder Girls by Rory Power: I finished Wilder Girls by Rory Power in just a couple of reading sessions, and I absolutely loved this story of survival and female relationships. It was a creepy, gory story, intertwined with a mystery. Hetty and her fellow classmates at Raxter Island School in Maine are living with an unknown disease called the Tox. They are sent supplies based on the generosity of the Navy, but secrets are hiding underneath all the levels of survival and struggle. They’re not only trying to survive the elements, the disease, and wild animals, but it almost becomes the hardest part to survive each other. Hetty’s best friend Byatt goes missing, and Hetty will do anything to bring her back. This book is a well-written, almost poetic examination of the spectrum of female relationships and what we will do for those we love. The ending was a bit too ambiguous for me, so I’m giving this a 3.5/5, rounded to a 4/5.
  • Quintland Sisters by Shelley Wood: This book started off REALLY strong. I loved the way that the author included actual news articles into the story. I really felt the stress of keeping FIVE infants alive (all the feedings, cleaning, washing, etc. etc). It made me so upset to see a mother torn apart from her children, and how these innocent children were exploited from birth by almost everyone around them. It was really heartbreaking. However, the ending was abrupt and didn’t really fit well with the tone of the rest of the book. I was not thrilled with the dull ‘romance’ that the author tried to pull together and I certainly didn’t like the way that the author rushed to tie-up loose ends by smushing all of the correspondence together at the end. 2.5/5 stars.
  • Slay by Brittney Morris: This book was an awesome and important examination of what it means to have safe spaces for POC. The premise of the game/the fact that no one in Keira’s life knows that she created it/etc is really unbelievable in the most literal sense — I literally had to suspend my disbelief that her parents/sister REALLY had no idea that she created this game played by hundreds of thousands of people daily. I loved the interactions Keira had with her white friends; those were believable and incredibly accurate. It’s absolutely an important YA read, and I think kids will really enjoy the gaming aspect and maybe won’t find it as unbelievable as I do. SLAY, Brittney Morris; can’t wait to read what you do next! 4/5 stars
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone: Justyce McAllister is an honor student, poised to graduate high school and enroll at an Ivy League school. A series of events unfold in his life that make him question who he is and who he wants to be. It is a well-written look at race, class, and power, and done in a way that is authentic and important. 4/5 stars.
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ANSWERS

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg: When a young woman is discovered brutally murdered in her own apartment, with an intricate pattern of lines carved into her face, Copenhagen police detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner are assigned to the case. In short order, they establish a link between the victim, Julie Stender, and her landlady, Esther de Laurenti, who’s a bit too fond of drink and the host of raucous dinner parties with her artist friends. Esther also turns out to be a budding novelist—and when Julie turns up as a murder victim in the still-unfinished mystery she’s writing, the link between fiction and real life grows both more urgent and more dangerous. But Esther’s role in this twisted scenario is not quite as clear as it first seems. Is she the culprit—or just another victim, trapped in a twisted game of vengeance? Anette and Jeppe must dig more deeply into the two women’s pasts to discover the identity of the brutal puppet-master pulling the strings in this electrifying literary thriller.

Pretty as a Picture by Elizabeth Little: Marissa Dahl, a shy but successful film editor, travels to a small island off the coast of Delaware to work with the legendary–and legendarily demanding–director Tony Rees on a feature film with a familiar logline. Some girl dies. It’s not much to go on, but the specifics don’t concern Marissa. Whatever the script is, her job is the same. She’ll spend her days in the editing room, doing what she does best: turning pictures into stories. But she soon discovers that on this set, nothing is as it’s supposed to be–or as it seems. There are rumors of accidents and indiscretions, of burgeoning scandals and perilous schemes. Half the crew has been fired. The other half wants to quit. Even the actors have figured out something is wrong. And no one seems to know what happened to the editor she was hired to replace. Then she meets the intrepid and incorrigible teenage girls who are determined to solve the real-life murder that is the movie’s central subject, and before long, Marissa is drawn into the investigation herself. The only problem is, the killer may still be on the loose. And he might not be finished.

Follow Me by Kathleen Barber: Audrey Miller has an enviable new job at the Smithsonian, a body by reformer Pilates, an apartment door with a broken lock, and hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers to bear witness to it all. Having just moved to Washington, DC, Audrey busies herself impressing her new boss, interacting with her online fan base, and staving off a creepy upstairs neighbor with the help of the only two people she knows in town: an ex-boyfriend she can’t stay away from and a sorority sister with a high-powered job and a mysterious past. But Audrey’s faulty door may be the least of her security concerns. Unbeknownst to her, her move has brought her within striking distance of someone who’s obsessively followed her social media presence for years—from her first WordPress blog to her most recent Instagram Story. No longer content to simply follow her carefully curated life from a distance, he consults the dark web for advice on how to make Audrey his and his alone. In his quest to win her heart, nothing is off-limits—and nothing is private.

From Alaska With Love by Ally James: A soldier has six weeks to convince the only woman he has ever longed for to take a chance on life with him in Alaska….Sara’s letters were the only bright spot during Gabe’s devastating tour in Iraq. With each new correspondence he fell harder, needed her more, wanted to be with her. Now, after initially rejecting his offer to meet, she’s shown up at the door of his isolated cabin in Alaska looking for…what? Gabe’s not sure what made Sara change her mind, but he knows he never wants to let her go. Major Gabe Randall is everything Sara Ryan wants but nothing she feels she deserves. A modern-day spinster, Sara hides behind family obligations and the safe, quiet life she’s resigned herself to living. But secretly, even though she may have stretched the truth about who she is in her letters to him, she wants Gabe. Will he still want her when he discovers the real woman behind the pen? Once they meet, Gabe asks her for six weeks in Alaska. Six weeks to spend getting to know each other, and then she’ll have to decide whether they are better together or apart

My Way to You by Catherine Bybee: When a wildfire nearly destroys Parker Sinclair’s family home, it’s just one more disaster to add to her mountain of stress. For the past two years, she has shouldered the responsibility of raising her younger brother and sister after their parents’ untimely deaths. Forced to leave college for a crappy job that barely pays the bills, Parker manages her family property, which consumes every aspect of her life. Now winter is coming and the forecast isn’t spreading sunshine on the dark cloud over her head. The last thing Parker needs is a mudslide destroying everything she has worked so hard to maintain. Colin Hudson’s job as a public works supervisor is to protect Parker’s property and neighborhood from further damage. But it’s a little hard when the owner of the land is a control freak who tries to do everything herself. The hardworking, attractive young woman is far from the “hot mess” she claims to be. In fact, her tight grip of control is one of the things that attract him the most. It’s also the hardest to crack. Now Colin’s working overtime to help Parker open up her heart, trust him, and let him in. As Parker and Colin work together to keep her home and neighborhood safe, they may be in for another disaster. Or they may just realize that sometimes it takes destruction to create something new.

A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones: Del Sol, New Mexico is known for three things: its fry-an-egg-on-the-cement summers, its strong cups of coffee—and a nationwide manhunt? Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff–an election her adorably meddlesome parents entered her in–and she expects her biggest crime wave to involve an elderly flasher named Doug. But a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of it’s reminding Sunny why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that trouble at her daughter’s new school and a kidnapped prized rooster named Puff Daddy, and Sunshine has her hands full. Enter sexy almost-old-flame Levi Ravinder and a hunky US Marshall, both elevens on a scale of one to blazing inferno, and the normally savvy sheriff is quickly in over her head. Now it’s up to Sunshine to juggle a few good hunky men, a not-so-nice kidnapping miscreant, and Doug the ever-pesky flasher. And they said coming home would be drama-free.

How close was I? Check here to see the guesses!

Judging 2020 Books By Their Covers!

The old adage says, “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” But, I LIKE TO BE JUDGY SOMETIMES (ok, always). I’m going to look at books coming out in the beginning of 2020 and tell you what I think the synopsis is, then tell you their ACTUAL synopsis in this post!

The Tenant
Out January 2020

MY GUESS: The Tenant is a psychological thriller about a British family who decide to rent out part of their house to make extra money. The person who rents is a young, single male, and soon after he moves in, weird stuff starts happening in the neighborhood, like cats going missing. In the end it’s not the tenant doing the weird stuff, its some old woman down the street who no one liked.

Pretty as a Picture
Out February 2020

MY GUESS: Shallow girls in LA become victims of a serial killer.

Follow Me
Out March 2020

MY GUESS: Follow Me is a sci-fi thriller about how technology has taken over this woman’s life. She’s an influencer and her influence somehow has invited a stalker into her life. First, her stalker happens to be everywhere she is on the Internet. Then, the stalker goes IRL and the influencer must use a nerdy, geeky hacker-type to stop the stalker from getting too close.

From Alaska With Love
Out April 2020

MY GUESS: I think this is a long-distance romance story about a couple that meets when breeding and then adopting this dog, told in letter format. The dog lives, because I refuse to believe otherwise.

My Way To You
Out April 2020

MY GUESS: A woman is widowed and she finds love in the place she least expects it.

A Bad Day for Sunshine
Out May 2020

MY GUESS: A tough-girl beat cop in New Mexico tries to make a name for herself in a male-dominated field, all while tracking a poacher that turns to murder.

What do you think? Am I a good judge? 😉 Check out the ACTUAL synopses here!