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It’s the end of April so I could easily wait and lump April’s reads into this post, but… this list is going to be long enough. I’m a little overdue for sharing book reviews! I was going to do a video to go along with this and I filmed one once, but I was partly out of the frame for more of the video than I thought I was while filming. I was going to refilm, but I can only put that off for so long, so… here we are.
I’m going to do this a little differently. Usually, I add a “You Should Read This If…” at the end, but sometimes they feel pretty basic. Instead, I thought I’d try, “If you like ________” read these books and see how that goes. If you’ve read my previous book review posts, let me know what you like best and what’s most helpful for you. If you haven’t and you’re wondering what I’m talking about, take a look at my Top Books of 2018.
If you like experimental styles…
Empty Set, by Verónica Gerber Bicecci. The narrator explores emptiness and loneliness through a mixture of prose and diagrams.
I would say you need to at least be open to experimental styles of storytelling to read this book, especially after reading reviews. Some people enjoyed how Bicecci told the story, others didn’t. I loved it. There were times I was a little confused, but I was also incredibly fascinated with the way Bicecci wove together prose and the diagrams to make the story. This was originally published in Spanish, so at the end there’s a note from the translator discussing a stylistic part of the story that didn’t translate easily from Spanish to English because of differences in the language. I loved reading how she worked to find a solution to it. Some reviews stated they wished the note had come at the beginning, but I was happy it came at the end. It allowed me to think through this aspect of the story without being told about it and having it explained, in a way, in advance.
If you like thrillers…
Lies by T.M. Logan. Joe sees his wife having a fight with her friend’s husband and when he confronts the man, he ends up knocking the man out. At the same time, Joe’s son has an asthma attack so he leaves to tend to his son. When he returns, the other man is gone, and he soon realizes he’s being set up for the man’s murder.
This was not a groundbreaking thriller. I saw the end coming pretty early on in the book. But I enjoyed every minute of this one. I listened to this on audiobook, which was the perfect way to take in the story, and I’m hoping his next book will be out on audiobook soon so that I can listen to that one, too.
Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica. Told in two POVs, you follow Nick before he’s in a car accident and his wife Clara after the accident that takes his life. The police say he was driving too fast, but Clara starts to look into the accident after their daughter–who was with him, but unharmed–starts to have nightmares about the bad man in the black car.
Kubica tends to be hit or miss with people. I typically enjoy her novels… when I listen to them on audiobook, as I did with this one. Out of all her books that I’ve listened to, this was my least favorite, but I thought the mystery was compelling. I was a little let down by the end and wished one of my theories had been true. As I said, this isn’t my favorite of hers, but I got through it pretty quickly and since I usually enjoy her novels I’m happy I read it.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Alicia is an artist who gained notoriety after she shot her fashion photographer husband to death and stopped speaking. Theo is a psychoanalyst who gets a job at the psychiatric facility where Alicia lives and hopes he’ll be able to help her speak.
This book, ya’ll. It had so many tropes that made me want to pull my hair out. At the same time, I really enjoyed the read. The chapters are so small you can easily “just-one-more-chapter” your way through the book… and I did that in two sittings. I loved every moment of it, but also complained about all the tropes to my critique partner as I read the book.
Bird Box by Josh Malerman. Something is out in the world that, with one glance, will cause people to become lethally violent. Malorie and her two children are some of the few survivors. They live in an abandoned house by a river. Malorie knows of a community with other survivors, but in order to get to it, they must take a boat down the river blindfolded.
This is the book the Netflix movie is based off of. (I haven’t watched the movie yet, but plan to.) This has been on my to-read list for awhile and I’ve heard it described as one of the scariest books some people have read. I’m usually not scared by books anymore, but I always enjoy reading one that freaks me out, and I hoped this one would do it. There were moments that had me on the edge of my seat, but unfortunately it didn’t scare me. That being said, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a fascinating story and I wondered how it would end. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it.
Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson. I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Hen and her husband have moved into a new house. When they have lunch with a neighbor and get a tour of the house, she finds something that could possibly connect her neighbor with a murder. Is Matthew a killer?
I love Peter Swanson’s books so this was a must-read for me. As always, I was really drawn into the story. I started to feel a shift toward the end… not a bad shift, but one that felt partly like a conversation our society needs to have. This has a strong mental health element, so be aware of that if it’s something that would be hard to read. Overall, I really enjoyed this. (See my original review.)
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. A group of old college friends end up snowed in when they meet for their annual New Year’s Eve trip at a secluded resort of cabins in Scotland. While there, someone is killed.
You can see more of my thoughts in my original review, but I felt disconnected from the story itself (instead of being part of it, I was definitely observing it) and I felt disconnected from the characters. I don’t think I ever grew to love any of them, although there were a few I enjoyed. In some ways, I think the disconnect from characters worked, since they were also disconnected from each other, but I really enjoy getting attached to some of the characters and feeling like I’m in the story. All that being said, I really enjoyed it and would 100% read more from her in the future.
The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks. A woman watches the younger woman her ex-husband is engaged to.
The synopsis tells you to assume nothing about this book and I obviously didn’t pay attention to that because I assumed a lot about it at the start. And then in the middle. 😂 I read An Anonymous Girl at the end of 2018 and that put this book higher on my list of books to read. I listened to this one on audiobook and I really enjoyed it. I don’t know what I can say without spoiling the book, so… I really enjoyed it. I will definitely read the books they come out with in the future.
Still Lives by Marie Hummel. Kim Lord is an artist who’s new exhibit–Still Lives–is taking the art world by storm. It features self-portraits of Lord depicting herself as famous, murdered women. Maggie works for the gallery that’s hosting a gala for the exhibit, but Kim Lord doesn’t show up for the gala, and soon Lord’s boyfriend (and Maggie’s ex) is held on suspicion of murder.
I listened to this on audiobook and maybe I should have read it. I had a hard time concentrating, even though everything about it makes for the perfect story. I actually enjoyed the backstory of Maggie and her ex. I loved the tension that created for Maggie now that the gallery she worked for is hosting the gala for Kim Lord. I appreciated the commentary on our society’s interest in murdered women. I loved the commentary on how the art world works. Everything about it was really fascinating. I just had a hard time concentrating throughout. That being said, I’d recommend it if it sounds like a book you’d enjoy and I’ll definitely look out for more from Hummel in the future.
If you like atmospheric thrillers…
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. Apparently, all the back of the book (I listened to the audiobook) says is, “You will be terrified and you won’t know why.” A couple goes on a road trip to the boyfriend’s parent’s farm and the girlfriend is thinking of ending things.
“You will be terrified and you won’t know why.” 100% yes. Earlier I said it’s hard to scare me with a novel. Well…while I wasn’t sleep-with-the-lights-on-scared (I was actually in a car–a passenger, of course–on my way to a farm when I finished the story and fell asleep after 😂), but this was so eerie. I was a little freaked out at times and I couldn’t figure out why I was. When it was done, I thought, “WTF?” And I’d really like to read it again. I think it’s best not to know too much about this one. Just go in knowing this is a book you’ll experience.
Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda. Paul and Mia–husband and wife–drive out to their lake house for the “best day ever.”
This novel is “atmospheric” in that you really, really, really grow to hate Paul (the narrator). And if you don’t… well, I don’t want to be the type of person who says we shouldn’t be friends, but… I also want to say we shouldn’t be friends. I was so emotionally invested in this and I listened to it in record time because I couldn’t stop. This is a great one to listen to, if you’re into audiobooks and looking for something new.
The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd. Juliette’s life was ruined when her dad was swept up in a scandal and left town. When she loses her job and her place to live, she finds out her father (who was presumed dead) is living on an island, so she goes to join him to discover if the rumors about her dad were true.
This is a reread for me. I followed this series as it was released and absolutely loved it. The biggest thing I’ve always remembered about it is how well Shepherd brought everything to life. I was Juliette (until she did something in this one that really ticked me off 😂) and I was on that island with her. One note I also like to make about this one is that it is hard to read at times. The scandal involves vivisection on animals. But in terms of that, it gets better after the first novel and it’s a fascinating series, so I do recommend it. Just be aware that there are a few scenes that can be difficult. This is inspired by The Island of Doctor Moreau, so I actually have a copy of that on its way so that I can read the book that inspired this one.
If you like contemporaries…
Welcome to Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand. When Irene’s husband is killed in a plane crash off a Caribbean island while she thought he was on a work trip in Florida, she decides to fly to St. John (with their two sons) and discovers he had a mansion and a double life on the island.
This book has everything that I love: family secrets, family drama, travel. My big complaint is I didn’t feel it was as emotional as it could have been. I like to feel the emotions the characters are feeling and… I just thought the story lacked the strong emotions that could/would be involved in a situation like this. But I flew through this and was sad when I realized the book was coming to an end. I hoped there would be more to the story and when it ended I knew that yes, yes there was. It doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, necessarily, but there are things that need to be wrapped up. And sure enough! This is the first in a trilogy. I’m excited to read the next installment when it’s released!
The Curiosities by Susan Gloss. I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. After a failed in-vitro attempt, Nell returns to work as the director for a non-profit for an artist’s colony and oversees the residency of three artists, all of whom have different personalities and idiosyncrasies.
I always feel like my descriptions for this book don’t do it justice, but I loved all of it: the dynamics between all of the characters, the art aspect, and it takes place in Madison, which is the perfect location for it. I think this is a book that a lot of people will be able to connect to because of all that it deals with.
Five Feet Apart by Rachel Lippincott with Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis. Stella and Will are two teens who live with Cystic Fibrosis. They meet while they’re hospitalized and are drawn to each other, even though people with CF are supposed to stay six feet apart.
I thought this was an interesting premise: two teens who are drawn to each other but have to stay a certain distance apart because they both live with CF and keeping that distance reduces their risk of cross-infection. Additionally, Will has a B. cepacia, which has taken him off the lung transplant list. Stella is anxiously awaiting her lungs and if she gets it, it would take her off the list, too. I appreciated the book and would encourage you to read it or watch the movie if you aren’t familiar with CF. I first heard about the disease when I read a book that had a character who has CF when I was young and it’s a disease that needs all the attention it can get. And when you read/watch it, I’d also suggest looking at reviews from people who live with CF, like this one.
The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker. Calla visits her estranged father in Alaska when she learns that he’s been diagnosed with cancer.
This book has received a lot of hype AND it takes place in Alaska, so I wanted to check it out. I didn’t love it as much as everyone else does, but I enjoyed it quite a bit. Calla was, at times, an obnoxious character and at one point I even sent a friend a few snaps to complain about her because I was so frustrated, but she was also introduced to a side of life that she hadn’t seen before. I loved following Calla and her dad as they reconnected. It wasn’t the best read of the year, in my opinion, but I enjoyed it.
If you like hard-hitting contemporary…
A Heart in a Body in the World by Deb Caletti. Annabelle runs from her home in Washington to Washington D.C., with her grandpa following along as her support team, in response to a traumatic event.
When the book you starts you know some sort of traumatic event has happened, but you don’t necessarily know what it is, and you don’t even know which side of it she’s on. Was something done to her or did she do something? Either way, you can tell this event has had a major impact on her. This book has a lot of trigger warnings (which you can find on Goodreads), but if you can stay away from them I think it really enhances the read not to know what happened. However, I felt like the reveal of what happened took a little too long. I was just so ready to find out what happened that I don’t think it had as much of an emotional impact on me as it could have. Also, I listened to the audiobook and I think I may have missed some nuances that would have been in the written text that would have added to some of the emotional impact. Since I haven’t actually seen the book, I can’t guarantee that, but that’s my guess. This is a book that’s received a lot of hype and that’s for good reason. I didn’t love it as much as others, but I really appreciated it and it’s a worthy book to add to your TBR.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book follows Melinda, who learns how to find her voice again after believing no one cared what she had to say.
This was a re-read. I talk about this book a lot, so I’ve been planning to reread it for a while. I finally did in preparation for Shout to come out (which I still haven’t read yet). I ended up reading the 20th-anniversary edition, which has a Q&A with the author that I also found insightful and a good accompaniment to the book. However, the fact that the 20th-anniversary edition was just released and the book seems just as relevant today as it was when it was first released… I’m trying to find a nice way to say it makes me mad, but why should I find a nice way to say that? We need to create change so that this story becomes a shocking depiction of the past.
If you like historical fiction…
Learning to See by Elise Hooper. I received a copy of this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This book follows Dorothea Lange, a portrait photographer from San Francisco who uses photography to shed a light on those most impacted by the Great Depression when it hit, and later used it to share the stories of the innocent Japanese Americans who were imprisoned during WWII.
I often struggle with historical fiction that covers a large expanse of time in the life of one person and I felt that with this book. I start to feel like it drags on. That being said, I appreciated following this strong female character who fought to achieve her dreams and later used her photography skills to share the hardships that others were going through.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Reclusive movie icon Evelyn Hugo decides to share her story, but will only share it with one journalist: Monique. Monique is in the middle of a divorce, working for a company that doesn’t appear to be moving her forward, so no one is as shocked as she is when the request comes through.
I feel like everyone has heard about this, so I can’t say a lot that hasn’t already been said. I listened to the audiobook, which was fantastic. This book has been so hyped that I expected to be let down by it, but I wasn’t. It really is an enjoyable read. At one point as it neared the end I reflected that I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as great as people made it out to be, and then I was in tears as a few things happened to wrap up the story. I had a slight issue with the end… mostly because I would want people to discuss part of it, but I can’t really say more without spoiling how it ends. While I still don’t think it quite lives up to the hype, I really did enjoy every minute of it and I’ve thought about it a lot since it finished. I felt a little bit of a loss when it was over and I knew I wouldn’t be listening to Evelyn’s story anymore.
If you like horror…
Meg by Steve Alten. Jonas must face the megalodon–a prehistoric shark that could tear apart a T Rex–when one is released from one of the deepest canyons of the Pacific Ocean.
In the span of a few weeks I had a couple of shark dreams so naturally I had a desire to read a shark horror novel. 🤷🏻♀️😂 I listened to the audiobook, which was perfect. I probably wouldn’t have finished it if I had physically read the book. If you read this, don’t think too hard about it, know that there are some tropes you can expect from a 90’s horror novel, and enjoy the ride!
If you like Reese Witherspoon…
Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon. How to be Southern.
I enjoyed the stories about Reese’s grandmother and there were a few moments where you caught a glimpse into Reese and her life, but read this if you want to know how to be Southern, Reese Witherspoon-style. It sounds exhausting and expensive to me, but it might not to others! I’d recommend getting this from the library before you spend money on it to make sure you like it and if your library has the audiobook, she narrates it and it’s only 4 hours long.
Whew! Remind me next time I miss a month (or two) how much work it is to get caught up on book reviews. I’ll do better with staying on top of these in the future.
What have you read recently? I’d love to know! And if you’ve read any of these or if any of them have caught your eye, let me know.