Followers by Megan Angelo was a really fun read. This is a dual timeline story that examined the high price that comes with fame & followers. It follows Orla & Floss in the present day, and Marlow in 2051. Marlow lives in a separate state called Constellation, and it’s similar to The Truman Show, where everyone is a reality star. I found myself super interested in the sci-fi future that Marlow was living in and I was fascinated by the mysterious Spill and it’s aftermath.
Orla & Floss are NYC residents in 2017, trying to find fame and often failing. They reminded me of the Instagram ‘influencers’ of the current age, and it was an interesting examination of cancel culture and D-list celebrities.
I thought the ending was wonderful and, without spoiling it, I REALLY wanted MORE of that side of things! This book was a satirical look at privacy and social media, but also a heartfelt look at friendships, family, and fame.
This novel comes out on January 14, 2020 from Graydon House Books. Add it to your TBR on Goodreads!
Thanks so much to bookishfirst.com for the opportunity to read & review this ARC. If you want to try reading & reviewing on BookishFirst, type in my referral code: c19189acce945646f and we BOTH get points! 😀
OOPS. This is 10 (!!) days late. Life, especially around this time of year, just gets so hectic! Between work, Thanksgiving travel, & getting everything done, I’m just settling in now to reflect on my November reads.
Wanderers by Chuck Wendig: This absolute brick of a novel was a well-written, end-of-the-world novel that was reminiscent of our current political climate taken to the extreme. 4.5/5 stars. (More in-depth review here).
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern: This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019. It was gorgeously written but I’m not entirely sure I understood what I read. I definitely felt this way with her first novel, The Night Circus, the first time I read it too, and I’ve now read & re-read it about 6 times — and it’s one of my favorite books. The Starless Sea will definitely be getting re-read at some point in 2020, but my initial rating is 4/5.
Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things: This book is sort of cute. It will be popular in the romance section of high school libraries. But if you’re looking for a thoughtful romance about class & privilege, you won’t find it here. Edie is…a fine main character. Her cousins and aunt are the worst. The girls at her school suck. I found myself doing a lot of skimming & scanning as I read because I wasn’t super thrilled with anything happening. *Shrug* And because I am a Masshole, this is nothing like the REAL Mansfield, MA. I have family that lives there that we visit often. If you’re going to use a real town name, at least research it a little bit. The author made her version of Mansfield more like somewhere in the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard, and this just isn’t it. DNF.
There, There by Tommy Orange: This book was an absolutely stunning read, and an important one. Tommy Orange is one hell of a writer, and you can feel the pain and the weight of the injustices against Native Americans in his prose. Each character had a heart-wrenching story. The prologue took my breath away. The ending was a bit confusing and I wasn’t a fan of the last 30 pages. Otherwise, Orange is a brilliant talent of #ownvoices fiction and I cannot wait to read what he writes next. 4/5 stars.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman: This has been a popular book on my library shelves and I was so excited to finally get into it myself! This was an easy-to-understand dystopian world where no one dies, unless they are murdered by a professional scythe. It’s a fascinating moral question: who lives & who dies, and who gets to choose that? It’s fast-paced and a gripping start to a trilogy. 5/5 stars
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James: This was a weird and crazy YA sci-fi thriller. A little too long, but the action REALLY ramps up in the final act. A fun, quick read. 3.5/5 stars.
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehesi Coates: This book was an important look at slavery from the perspective of a slave. It was written in the vernacular of the day, however, making it harder to follow than I thought it would be. 3.5/5 stars
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: This was a wonderful story about Depression-era librarians who went house to house on horseback with books. It was a great tale of friendship, and touched on issues of race, poverty, domestic violence, and loss. I really enjoyed this one! It was also my November Book of the Month pick 🙂 4.5/5 stars
Bunny by Mona Awad: This book was a wacky mix of Mean Girls and The Secret History. Strange but fun read. 3.5/5 stars.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!
Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?
I can’t just not finish a book. I either need to take the plunge & finish it, or I need to just DNF it. I just began reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern, one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I’m only a few chapters in, but I can already tell it is going to be magical.
Do you have an autumnal book to transition to the end of the year?
Kind of. I definitely read a lot of spooky-ish reads this October. Ninth House & The Turn of the Key were both wonderfully atmospheric and totally allowed me to feel okay with the oncoming fall. I don’t have one book that I re-read annually to get me ready for the season, but depending on when the next installment in the Alex Stern series is published, a Ninth House reread will absolutely be necessary.
Is there a new release you’re still waiting for?
I am a member of the Book of the Month club, so I am eagerly anticipating what will be available to select in December boxes (yes, already!). I’m hoping The Wives by Tarryn Fisher and Long Bright River by Liz Moore are December options. I am also already excited about January releases and I’m hoping we get a sneak peek at them in December boxes. Additionally, I have an ARC of Hearts, Strings, and Other Breakable Things which will be out in December, and I’d love to read & review it prior to its pub date. I am also looking forward to the Little Women retelling, Meg & Jo, which will be out in December as well.
What are three books you want to read before the end of the year?
one of my goals this year was to read my Book of the Month books in the month they arrived! I’ve been pretty good at it, and sometimes selections were bumped to the next month, but I was able to meet this goal the majority of the time.
Is there a book that could still shock you and become one of your favorites?
Who knows? There are a ton of books on my TBR cart & shelves, and I can’t wait to read them! Plus, I listed a ton of them in this ABC of TBR post!
Have you already made reading plans for 2020?
I’ve been super lucky to be sent some ARCs of some exciting 2020 books but haven’t had the chance to get to them yet! I want to get to those ASAP, possibly even before 2020 arrives! Otherwise, I will continue with my goal of reading my BOTM selections in the month(ish) that I receive them. I’m really looking forward to reading:
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!)
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.