What I Read October 2018

Time for book talk! So this month I fully intended on only reading thrillers, mysteries, and anything else that sounded a little bit spooky and in theme with being close to Halloween. I usually only read Christmasy books in December and often try to read romances in February around Valentine’s Day, so I figured I might as well start picking scary reads in October. However, the way my personal life has shaped up this month, I just couldn’t get into many of those seasonal choices. I started many books. I’m in the middle of many books. Books I was desperately hoping I could finish by today so I could add them to my October list and not have to wait another whole month to write about them because they’re just so fantastic! But, you’ll just have to get what I have. ūüôā It actually ended up being a month of very eclectic book choices, going back and forth between something heavier followed by a couple of much lighter topics. And with the exception of one book that I just wasn’t thrilled by, everything else was rated 4, 4.5, or 5 stars! Check them out!

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll
Rating: 4 stars

Doris is a somewhat quirky and independent teenage girl that doesn’t quite fit in with her smalltown Alabama family. Nell is uprooted from her home in Chicago and is forced to leave her boyfriend when her mom takes a new job in Alabama. Grant is the high school football star who is also an alcoholic that is riddled with pain over his mistakes. Together the three of them find their way to Unclaimed Baggage, a store that is responsible for going through lost luggage and reselling anything worthwhile. As they work together they build a beautiful and endearing friendship that helps hold the trio together through everything they must endure that summer. I really enjoyed the friendship aspect of this book. It touched on racism, religion, feminism, and more, but the heart of the story was in the friendship. It made me greatly jealous for the ease and simplicity yet total loyalty that comes with a teenage friendship. I also enjoyed hearing about the things that were found – I wish there was a bit more on that! Overall, a solid YA novel.

A Sloth’s Guide to Mindfulness¬†by Ton Mak
Rating: 5 stars

I got this book as a birthday gift from my friend who understands how crazy I (and most people probably!) feel sometimes. It was so cute! I thoroughly enjoyed sitting down for the 10-15 minutes it took to read the entire thing. Each page was just a little note on how to be more mindful accompanied by adorable black and white illustrations of a chubby sloth. I don’t usually pay much attention to gift books like this, but I’m so glad it came to me and I read it right away because it was exactly what I needed. I know I’ll need to read it again many times in the future too!

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager
Rating: 4.5 stars

I’ve been in the mood to read some darker books this Halloween season and this was what I picked to start me off. Emma was a 13 year old camper at an affluent summer camp when her three older roommates disappeared and were never found. She was haunted by this experience for 15 years until the camp owners decided to reopen and asked her sign on as the art instructor. Reluctantly, she agrees to go to try and find some closure. Secretly, she is on a mission to figure out what really happened that summer so she can get on with her life. Overall, the pace of this book was pretty slow. There isn’t really a whole lot that happens. But it was interesting and I was always eager to jump back into the story. I loved the ending.

Best Served Cold by Emma Hart
Rating: 4 stars

Raelynn and her ex-boyfriend Chase have competing ice cream stores right next to each other in Key West. Raelynn is furious with Chase for stealing all of her ideas and has retaliated by giving him the silent treatment for 2 straight years. At risk of losing her own shop, she decides to shut down for two weeks and do some renovations and come up with fresh ideas. Chase becomes intrigued and enters back into her life, as much as she despises it. I really enjoyed this fast and fun story. I admit that Raelynn was more than a little obnoxious at the beginning, but all of their conversations and fights felt pretty true to what would happen in real life. I loved Chase and how he was such a genuinely good guy, despite making a really stupid mistake. I always enjoy books where the main character has her own bakery/restaurant/shop and this was a really cute take on owning an ice cream parlor. My only complaint is that once again SO MUCH swearing. It’s not necessary! It drives me nuts. It’s a pretty big turn off. But overall, this was a nice book to read after my last one.

You by Caroline Kepnes
Rating: 4 stars

Joe is a stalker, psychopath, murderer. He has his sights set on Beck, a self-centered hypersexual grad student/writer. That’s basically all you need to know! I’m kind of disturbed by how much I liked this book. It’s entirely from Joe’s first person narrative, going over all of his thoughts about Beck and everyone else he interacts with. His control and ability to be both wonderful and terrible, while justifying the most horrific actions, is fascinating. Beck, though. I hated her. I couldn’t believe how much Joe loved her when I could not stand her! Overall, this made for a pretty good October/creepy read.

Heating & Cooling by Beth Ann Fennelly
Rating: 5 stars

I wanted to read this book from the first time I heard about it (green lit on The Popcast). I was, however, under the impression it was all about marriage – the heating and cooling cycle of a lifelong relationship. (Perhaps Jamie didn’t actually read it and SHE is the one who put that idea into my head!) I’m not sure if I was misinformed or I drew that conclusion on my own. So I was surprised to dive into the book and realize very little of it was about marriage – just so you know that going in! But overall, a really fast and unique book. I’ve never heard of a micro-memoir before and really enjoyed the 52 entries that ranged from one sentence to four pages each. Some of the essays were laugh out loud hilarious. Some of them were shocking. Some were sad, some were more informational. I loved the range and thoroughly enjoyed the two evenings I spent reading this book.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter
Rating: 4 stars

This book alternates between 31 year old Andrea who is trying to uncover some crazy mysteries about her mother’s past, and her mother 32 years earlier and what her life was like and ultimately landed her in witness protection. I was a little put off by the first chunk of the book and didn’t like any of the flashback chapters. But it definitely grew on me by the end and I really liked it how it all came together. It was a bit heavy, but a good October read.

Save the Date by Morgan Matson
Rating: 3 stars

Charlie is the youngest of five siblings and has always been enamored by her family. In one of the last weeks of living in their huge house, the Grant family is holding older sister Linnie’s wedding. This entire book takes place on the day before, day of, and day after that wedding. Basically, it’s just an insanely improbable story that felt a lot like slapstick comedy. Every single tiny thing that could go wrong for a wedding will and does. It’s slightly humorous. But it also started to really bug me after awhile. It was just pretty ridiculous. And maybe this is a weird thing to judge a book on, but it seemed like it would just be too easy to write. Give everyone crazy personalities and quirks and just have them interact under high pressure stakes with every possible thing that could go wrong. While I definitely liked the characters and did enjoy how it ended, the whole book just felt kind of meh to me. I needed something light after the last book and this fit the bill. It just wasn’t that amazing.

Perfect Harmony by Emily Albright
Rating: 4.5 stars

Pippa is an amazing 17 year old cellist with very high hopes for her future. All of that is instantly threatened when a competing cellist, Declan, joins her school in the middle of their senior year. She is immediately threatened by him, but determined to remain kind and civilized toward Declan while she starts to get cozy with her long time crush and twin brother’s best friend, Noah. As I’m sure you can imagine, things get sticky between this little love triangle. I definitely could have done without a lot of the stressful teenage angst between everyone and their friends. But overall, I really loved Pippa and Declan was a fantastic swoony character. I also just enjoy reading anything that centers around orchestra! If this book didn’t have all the annoying friendship drama, it would have definitely been a 5 star book for its sweet and touching YA romance.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Rating: 4 stars

I have a love hate relationship with poetry. I really, really want to love it. I adored poetry in high school and then it started feeling too obnoxious. More recently, I started following Rupi Kaur on instagram and have been really drawn to the short poems she posts pretty regularly. I received this book last Christmas and finally made myself pull it off the shelf and start it! I was able to read the entire book in two short sittings because almost all of the poems are less than a page long – most of them a single sentence. Part of me wonders how that really constitutes an entire collection of poetry. And yet – they really pack a punch! I’m really looking forward to reading Kaur’s second book and will definitely be on the lookout for future publications.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia
Rating: 4 stars

Maya is a 23 year old speech therapist who works in the same psychiatric care facility where she was a patient at age 16. Lucas is a 19 year old whose father took him to live off the grid ten years earlier after being tangled up in a questionable murder case. Presumed dead, Lucas causes quite the media stir when he’s found raiding a sports supply store which results in the death of one of the owners. Uncooperative, violent, and unresponsive with anyone else, Maya ends up being the one who takes his case, despite not actually being a psychologist. The two of them turn out to be quite the team despite the twists and professional objections that continue to separate them. Overall, I actually really enjoyed this book. The reviews were mixed, which I should never really take into account, but I hate wasting my time on something that doesn’t have a lot of solid recommendation behind it. It was the perfect slightly dark book to finish off my month of attempted spooky reads!

Book Review: The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre

The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre
Rating: 5 stars

Helena is an extremely famous, but very difficult to like, romance author. She’s written 14 bestsellers in her 32 years of life. She lives by rules and is extreme in her privacy. But she is suddenly diagnosed with brain cancer and given three months to live. She knows that before she goes she has to write a final book – the truth about the death of her husband and loss of her daughter. She needs to confess her truth to alleviate the guilt that has weighed her down so much in the last four years. She also realizes that in order to get the book written in time, she’ll need the help of a ghostwriter. Someone who can write well, match her voice, and be fast. She finds that in her writing nemesis, Marka Vanske.

Helena is not a very likeable character. She is rigid, uncompromising, condescending, angry, and driven by her characters and the worlds she creates. And yet you feel so passionately sad by how she is living and how closed off she has become from everyone. In her final months she is forced to let in Kate Рher agent, and Marka Рher sworn enemy. They help her work through her most painful years and ultimately be able to die in peace.

I decided to read this book because it pops up on amazon every single time I search a Colleen Hoover novel. Hoover is my favorite, so I figured they must be similar in style. And they are! Unfortunately, there was no romance in this book. But you don’t miss it. The little bit of friendship and trust that buds between the characters is fantastic. The book is so well written. It’s marketed as a mystery, and there is a bit of it. You’re told at the beginning that Helena has killed her husband, but it takes you until the end of the book to figure out how and why. Overall, this was really a beautiful book and well worth picking up.

Book Review: The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
Rating: 5 stars

Naomi is well known among parents of missing children as “the child finder.” As a lost child herself, with no memory of what happened the first nine years of her life before she was found, she has an innate ability to get into the mindsets of the children that are gone and more often than not, is able to find them. Sometimes she finds them in time, and sometimes it’s too late. But she’s incredible at what she does. She’s optimistic and full of hope when looking for the lost children, but has a deeply hard time trusting and loving people that want to be close to her.

In¬†The Child Finder,¬†Naomi is hired to look for Madison Culver, a child who mysteriously disappeared in the northern Oregon woods three years ago at age five. It seems impossible that she would have survived a day, let alone three years, but her mother refuses to believe Madison dead. Soon after the book begins, you find that Madison did indeed survive, thanks to a rescue from a deaf and mute old man named B. Mr. B nurses Madison back to life and keeps her captive for his own comfort and pleasure. Madison learns how to keep him from getting angry by being whatever he needs from her. She doesn’t talk because seeing her lips form words makes him extremely angry. She starts to call herself “The Snow Girl” and constantly makes up stories and fairy tales in her mind to separate that persona from Madison, the girl she used to be.

This book is definitely a page turner. If you’re highly sensitive, you should know that Mr. B does use Madison for sex, but it’s never described and she does not seem truly aware of it happening, thanks to the imaginative nature of her mind. I did have a little bit of a hard time believing that a five year old could be as mature and intuitive as Madison became in the three years she was held captive. If she were a few years older to begin with it wouldn’t have felt like such a stretch to me. But at any rate, it was an excellent story. It’s the first book I abandoned all else for so I could keep reading in quite awhile. I really didn’t want it to end. I highly recommend it!

Book Review: I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll

I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll
Rating: 3.5 stars

This page turning mystery is about the circumstances relating¬†to a missing 16 year old girl who traveled to London with her best friend one year in the past. We start on the train where Ella, “the witness,” sees two teenage girls flirting with two men who were just released from prison. Her mothering nature kicks in and she thinks she should try to figure out who these girls are and warn their parents that they might be up to no good. She ignores that instinct and feels haunting regret the next day when the news reports one of those girls has disappeared. Each chapter of this story is told between the varying perspectives of Ella – the witness, Henry – the father of Anna, the missing girl, Sarah – the friend, Matthew – the private investigator, and occasional interludes by the “watcher.” The bulk of the book takes place around the one year anniversary of Anna’s disappearance when everyone is hoping with renewed interest Anna will be discovered.

Every single chapter in this book ended with a mini cliffhanger. They kept me reading late into the night, even though I could barely keep my eyes open.¬†I like the shift of perspectives and learning more about what could have happened and who might have been to blame, but I ultimately found all of the characters a little bit dull. I thought the main premise around Ella’s guilt was slightly ridiculous. Why would anyone think it was their responsibility to hunt down parents of total strangers she sees across a train car just to basically tattle on them? If they were a lot younger, then maybe…? It was interesting to see how each of the characters found blame in their own actions and thought they might be the reason Anna disappeared, even if they might have truly had nothing to do with it. While the cliffhangers definitely kept my attention, about halfway through I became frustrated with how they never really went anywhere. You’re left in suspense, but nothing is ever answered until the final pages of the book. I wish we had been given a bit more¬†satisfaction after so much enticement earlier in the story. Maybe elaborate and eliminate a couple of the suspects along the way.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty decent mystery. There were a couple of twists and turns you’re not expecting. It’s a fast read and keeps your attention. It’s not one of my favorite books, but I recommend it if you like that genre.