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    What I Read | August 2017

    What I Read

    15 books this month guys, 15 BOOKS. NetGalley is really upping my books read each month! Not sure if that’s a good thing or bad thing…. Ha! I read some great books this month, but I understand if you don’t want to read through all of them. Takeaway is, read these books: Emma In The Night, The Secrets on Chicory Lane, Worth The Wrestle, Final Girls, The Doll House and all the Harry Potter books.

    *Emma In The Night by Wendy Walker

    One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.

    The genre of unreliable women narrators has become more and more popular, and so throughout this whole book I guarded myself, wondering who was lying and who was telling the truth. Couple that with the fascinating psychology of narcissism being a main component to this novel, and I was hooked. All in all, it made for a satisfying read, and I will admit I teared up at the end, which doesn’t usually happen in a psychological thriller, so you know I got involved with the characters, which is always a win in my book.

    4 stars.

    **A Selfie As Big As The Ritz by Lara Williams

    The women in Lara Williams’ debut story collection, A Selfie as Big as the Ritz, navigate the tumultuous interval between early twenties and middle age. In the title story, a relationship implodes against the romantic backdrop of Paris. In “One of Those Life Things,” a young woman struggles to say the right thing at her best friend’s abortion. In “Penguins,” a girlfriend tries to accept her boyfriend’s bizarre sexual fantasy. In “Treats,” a single woman comes to terms with her loneliness. As Williams’ characters attempt to lean in, fall in love, hold together a family, fend off loneliness, and build a meaningful life, we see them alternating between expectation and resignation, giddiness and melancholy, the rollercoaster we all find ourselves on.

    This an interesting premise, and I enjoy reading short stories, and while I can see why this book would appeal to some audiences, I think as a happily married, suburban mom, I am definitely not the correct audience for this book.

    2 stars.

    *19 Souls by JD Allen

    Private Investigator Jim Bean is a straightforward, to-the-point man. When his latest client, Sophie Evers, asks him to find her brother Daniel, Jim has no idea how complicated his life is about to become. Daniel is not Sophie’s brother. He is her most coveted prey. Clinging to the belief that they belong together, Sophie kills Daniel’s real sister to manipulate Jim into flushing Daniel out of hiding. She will create the “perfect life” for the only man she’s ever loved, no matter how many people she must kill along the way. When Jim discovers the truth about Sophie, he’s driven to set things right before her delusional plan claims even more souls.

    This was an interesting and well-paced crime story, not quite what I was expecting, but good anyhow. I enjoyed the point of view from a PI, too, not a cop, as well as having a female serial killer. I’m not sure the ending quite lived up to the rest of the book, but overall, it was a good read.

    3 stars.

    *Buried Secrets by TJ Brearton

    There’s more than bones hidden at the Larson house… Newlyweds Brett and Emily Larson have just moved into a new home deep in the countryside, and are overjoyed when Emily finds out she’s pregnant. Then they discover human bones in their garden. As the police start to investigate, three things become clear: The bones are recent. They are not here by accident. They are a message. When the police put three photographs of known criminals on the Larsons’ kitchen table, the couple realize the danger may be closer to home than they think. As the situation escalates, can Brett and Emily keep one step ahead to protect themselves – and their unborn child? 

    While I feel the story was well-written, it was a lot different than I thought it would be, and ended up being a story about mobsters and money laundering and other crimes, which is simply not my cup of tea. I was expecting some sort of thriller/serial killer/something story, and it was not that at all. I felt like the story was a little strange and far-reaching, too.

    2 stars.

    *The Secrets on Chicory Lane by Raymond Benson

    Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a romance novelist, has received a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who is on Death Row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for the disturbing, brutal murders of his wife and unborn child. As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving reunion, she steps back into memories of her past, recalling her five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the beautiful but troubled boy who lived across the street to become a murderer. Shelby and Eddie used to visit an abandoned fallout shelter in his backyard, their “secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father, enjoy innocent playtime, and, later, adolescent explorations. As they grow increasingly close, a tragedy occurs one July fourth, an event that sets in motion a lifelong struggle against an Evil–with a capital “E”–that has corrupted their all-American neighborhood. With only a few days left for Eddie to live, Shelby braces herself for a reunion that promises to shed light on the traumatic events that transpired on her street, changing everything Shelby thought she knew about the boy on Chicory Lane.

    Holy wow, I loved this book. As Shelby travels to visit her former best friend and lover before he is executed, she thinks back on her life and her memories with Eddie, and takes us with her. I enjoyed the way the story was told – through Shelby as she sifted through her memories to try to make sense of her life and Eddie’s life, and how there is quite a twist at the end, that you would never expect, because you don’t even think there will be a twist at all. The story is haunting and fascinating and tells a tale of mental illness and just how our experiences can shape us.

    4 stars.

    *When You Disappeared by John Marrs

    When Catherine wakes up alone one morning, she thinks her husband has gone for a run before work. But Simon never makes it to the office. His running shoes are by the front door. Nothing is missing—except him. Catherine knows Simon must be in trouble. He wouldn’t just leave her. He wouldn’t leave the children. But Simon knows the truth—about why he left and what he’s done. He knows things about his marriage that it would kill Catherine to find out. The memories she holds onto are lies. While Catherine faces a dark new reality at home, Simon’s halfway around the world, alive and thriving. He’s doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the truth. But he can’t hide forever, and when he reappears twenty-five years later, Catherine will finally learn who he is. And wish she’d stayed in the dark.

     I’m so torn on this book. On the one hand, it was fairly well placed and well written, with an interesting idea behind it, so I thought about giving it a 4. On the other hand, I absolutely hated the climax, resolution, and endig, and would give it a 1 or 2. . I have no problem reading books about mental illness, bad choices, family dynamics, etc., but the ending of this book made me feel just gross and awful, which is not the way I enjoy feeling after finishing a book. But like I said, it was well written and engrossing, so I can’t not give the author any credit for that. And so, I’m giving it a solid 3 stars. But I wouldn’t recommend it.

    3 stars.

    Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling

    Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry. Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.

    Well, I mean, it’s Harry Potter. I am a huge fan and lover of this series and franchise, so these books are all fabulous to me. I love going back and re-reading them, as it’s fascinating to see little bread crumbs dropped throughout the series that foreshadow future events. Jo is a complete genius and I will continue re-reading these books until I die. These books have taught me so much, and I can’t recommend them more. As you can see above, I read the first 4 books in the series in August (Kyle’s reading with me!) and I’m sure I’ll finish the last 3 this month. I also chose Sorcerer’s Stone as my #Collaboreads pick and you can read about that over.

    5 stars.

    ***Worth The Wrestle by Sheri Dew

    Why can’t I seem to conquer weaknesses that plague me?” “How do I know if I’m receiving revelation?” “Will the Lord forgive me after what I’ve done?” “Why can’t we seem to get ahead financially even though we faithfully pay our tithing?” “What if the Church’s position on gay marriage bothers me?” Those are just a handful of the countless questions Sheri Dew has heard people ask over the years. “May I answer these questions,” she writes, “and any questions you may have, by posing a different question: Are you willing to engage in the wrestle? In an ongoing spiritual wrestle?” In Worth the Wrestle, Sheri examines the process of asking good questions—whether those questions be doctrinal, procedural, historical, or intensely personal—and learning how to get answers. She demonstrates how to live by faith while seeking greater light and knowledge. And she testifies of principles that are worth wrestling for and of understanding that can be gained in no other way. 

    This book was fantastic! It was a short and easy read, but really dug into what it means to ask questions in the church — that it’s a good thing to do, as long as we’re doing so with the right spirit. I highly, highly recommend it for all my LDS friends, but think that all Christians would appreciate it’s message.

    4 stars.

    *I’m The One Who Got Away by Andrea Jarrell

    When Andrea Jarrell was a girl, her mother often told her of their escape from Jarrell’s dangerous, cunning father as if it was a bedtime story. In this real-life Gilmore Girls story, mother and daughter develop an unusual bond, complicated by a cautionary tale of sexual desire and betrayal. Once grown, Jarrell thinks she’s put that chapter of her life behind her–until a woman she knows is murdered, and she suddenly sees how her mother’s captivating story has also held her captive, influencing her choices in lovers and friends. Set in motion by this murder, Jarrell’s compact memoir is about the difficulty that daughters have separating from–while still honoring–their mothers, and about the perils of breaking the hereditary cycle of addiction. It’s also about Jarrell’s quest to make a successful marriage and family of her own–a journey first chronicled in her “Modern Love” essay for The New York Times. Without preaching or prescribing, I’m the One Who Got Away is a life-affirming story of having the courage to become both safe enough and vulnerable enough to love and be loved.

    I enjoyed this book, because I could really resonate with a lot of her thoughts, since I grew up with a single mother as well. I could really understand some of her experiences and thought processes and felt for her and for me. I do wish that we would have returned to the shocking murder at the beginning of the book, and I also wish we would have hear more about her life during the past 15 or so years. Those years were barely mentioned at the end and I would have liked a little more detail and a little more resolution at the end, it stopped quite abruptly to me. I also know a lot of the book was first published as short stories in various publications, and some of the transitions felt a bit choppy to me.

    3 stars.

    *Final Girls by Riley Sager

    Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout’s knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media’s attempts, they never meet. Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past. That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy’s doorstep. Blowing through Quincy’s life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa’s death come to light, Quincy’s life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam’s truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

    I was nervous going into this book, because I thought that I would be disappointed, since it’s been hyped up so much. However, that was definitely not the case. I was kept on my toes the whole time, trying to guess who exactly was telling the truth, and what exactly that truth was. The first half of the book dragged a tiny bit for me, but the second half kept me up late into the night (not quite a good idea, I got more paranoid the later it got!) and BOOM the ending shocked me. I’d definitely recommend this to any and all loves of a good mystery and thriller.

    4 stars.

    *The Accident by SD Monaghan

    One mistake could change your life forever. Tara has it all. Married and about to move into her dream home, she can’t explain why she is tempted by one last fling with her ex before she settles down. David would do anything for Tara. So when he finds her with another man, his world starts to crumble around him. Ryan isn’t prepared for the punch David throws at him. Stumbling, he slips over the balcony and falls three storeys to the patio below. In one split second a man will be killed. In one split second David and Tara’s life will change forever. How far would you go to save everything you have?

    This book wasn’t interesting to me at all. I actually stopped reading after a few chapters, and skipped to the end to see how it ended. It seemed like it you were interested in the book, the ending would be pretty good, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea, I guess. I got turned off when there started to be blackmailing and didn’t like either main characters by that point, either. So, overall, not for me, but I’m sure some people will like it!

    2 stars.

    *The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan

    You never know who’s watching… Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign. But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house… How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

    This was a fast-paced mystery/thriller that takes different members of a picture perfect family, and combines them into a story about how we never know what is going on behind closed doors, maybe not even in our own families. I loved the way the author wrote and drew us in to the story and the characters — I could feel myself descending into “madness” like Ashley and Corinne — terrified that maybe I was insane and that I was making it all up. I wasn’t 100% sold on the very ending, and wished it hadn’t ended on such a cliffhanger/open ending, but other than that – it was great.

    4 stars.

    Honorable Mention: Whispers of Rest**** by Bonnie Gray is a great devotional book that I ended up abandoning just because of my current stage of life, but I really love it and am keeping it so start when I have a bit more time to commit to daily scripture studying (right now I’m reading through a few verses on my phone in the morning before I get out of bed).

    Currently Reading: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling and Just Another Week in Suburbia* by Les Zig.

    On My Bookshelf: Too many! (See this Instagram post for a few details.)

    *I received free product from NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
    **I received free products from Flatiron Books in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
    ***I received free product from Deseret Book in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
    ****I received free product from Faith Words in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.