4 star reviews, 4.5 star reviews, 5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, thriller, Women's Fiction

My Top Ten Books of 2019 + Honorable Mentions

I saw a lot of book bloggers and bookstagrammers doing this and I thought it would be fun. I learned a lot about what I like to read during the process. I like books that stretch me and challenge my views and make me think.

My favorite books this year:
🥂
The Wife by Alafair Burke– This was my first book by Alafair Burke and I look forward to reading more. This book kept me guessing and I never could have predicted that ending!
🥂
Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering – reminded me of what it was like to be in college and willing to do anything to be liked. I also had an eating disorder and was prone to self-destructive behavior at that time in my life.
🥂
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia – I fell in love with the outside-the-box thinkers and the rebel heroine and the Boundary Waters. I loved this story that kept me literally on the edge of me seat.
🥂
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter – This book was like Erin Brockovich meets Mean Girls – the factory in town is poisoning people, the main character is assigned to check it out and encounters all the popular people from high school who are still acting like its high school. There is also a sweet romance.
🥂
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala – this book blew my mind and made me rage and cry and understand life for a smart, successful African immigrant who is gay and from a conservative family. This book challenged me in all the best ways.
🥂
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin – the aftermath of a school shooting and how it effects one family. This felt real to me because we are not perfect in our life or our grief.
🥂
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy– this book reminded me of what it was like to be a new mother; it reminded me of the solid group of mom friends that I had when my girls were little. The ending was a surprise.
🥂
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jenny Worth – I LOVE this show and the book gets into more details about the people and what the East End of London was like in the 1950s. 🥂
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – this book showed me what racial profiling FEELS like.
🥂
How to Walk Away by Katharine Center– all the feels and inspiration. There is so much about the human experience in this book. She is left by her fiance when she is in the hospital after becoming paralyzed in an accident that was her fiance’s fault, her fiance’s mother-in-law needs some throat-punching, there is a whole thing with her sister and a lot of sexual tension with her physical therapist.

I had a REALLY hard time narrowing it down to just TEN BOOKS, here are a few more that I REALLY enjoyed:

Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult – this book made me think, it made me see things from perspectives other than my own (as most of Jodi Picoult’s books do) and I love to understand different points of view and challenge my own.
🥂
One Day in December  by Jodi Silver – Love is all around us. I loved this book. It felt real to me. Just seeing someone on the bus and falling in love and having it be easy wouldn’t seem real, but the way this story unfolded felt real and beautiful and at times it ripped my heart out.
🥂
Winter in Paradise by Elin Hildebrand- after four glorious Christmases with the Quinn family, I didn’t think I could get as into a new family, but Irene is my mom-if-adult-kids role model, I love Huck and Ayres and I am Team Cash all the way. This book had me feeling all the feels and immersing myself in another family’s woes.
🥂
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – As a child of the 70s who grew up watching Mountain Family Robinson and Grizzly Adams, I’ve always had a part of me that wanted to live off-the-grid and this book gave me a taste of what that might be like. Along with a beautiful love story.
🥂
Watching You by Lisa Jewell – I know this has not been popular, but I loved it. I loved the characters and I found the ending unpredictable. 🥂
Did you read any of these? What did you think?

Advertisements
4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell

4/5 stars

IMG_7197

From the publisher:

When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She’s the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.

Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.

My Review:

When Lori from GetRedPR emailed me about this book, I instantly knew that I wanted to read it.  First of all, I love David Bell’s writing.  Secondly, the premise of the story had me intrigued – was it the same woman?  Two different women?  Why do they look alike?  Why did she have Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket?
This book really kept me going.  There are a lot of twists and turns and things I did not see coming.
The story is told from Nick’s point of view and really lets the reader into the mind of this very normal, relatable, real-seeming, recently divorced man with a stepson.  Nick himself has had issues with the police with regard to the stepson.  Now that this woman he saw in the grocery store is dead, he becomes a suspect for the police.  Nick knows he did not kill her and feels a connection to her since she looks like his college girlfriend who he never got over and he wants to find out why she was looking for him.
David Bell’s writing is so simple and easy to read.  There is not a lot of fluff and it doesn’t get bogged down in long descriptions or explanations, the writing just flows and makes it easy to keep reading and stay up well past a reasonable hour to find out what the heck is going on and you will do that with this book!
5 star reviews, Book reviews, thriller, Women's Fiction

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

5/5 stars

I had been thinking I needed a break from thrillers.  I was getting kind of jaded and several thrillers I read recently seemed predictable, but this renewed my faith in thrillers!  I don’t think I have ever given a thriller 5 stars, but this one seriously BLEW MY MIND!

It also renewed my faith in Lisa Jewell’s books.  I read “I Found You” last year, which lead to me quickly finding and reading “The Girls in the Garden”, “The House We Grew Up In” and “The Third Wife”.  All of which I LOVED.  But then I read “Then She Was Gone” and I will be honest, it didn’t seem possible to me and I didn’t like it that much.  I was hesitant to request this from Netgalley and hesitant to read it, because I feel bad giving a bad review, since I knew writers pour their heart and soul into their work.  I went into this book thinking I might not like it and it BLEW MY MIND!!!  It was SO GOOD!!!!

The characters are well developed and you feel invested in their stories.  Jenna is a teenager whose mom might be mentally ill and she has to take care of her.  Jenna’s best friend is Bess, who is very naive.  Joey lives with her brother and his wife and she is struggling with her marriage and growing up.  Freddie is a young autistic boy who is struggling with his own issues.  Then there is Tom Fitzwilliam, the headmaster at the school, who you are not sure if you should like or not, but he seems to have a certain charisma.

The book opens with a murder investigation but none of the characters seem like a murderer.  There is actually A LOT to unpack in this book and the plot is tight as a drum and the pacing is perfect.

This book doesn’t come out until December 26 – perfect for something to look forward to after the letdown of the holidays!  

4.5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart

4.5/5 stars

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetMy Review:

Domestic thriller; perfectly paced; wonderfully developed characters

Jessica and Evan are recently separated.  They have two sons, their biological son, Max and their adopted son, Gabe.  The characters are very well developed and relatable.  I wanted to be friends with both Jessica and Evan and I would have liked to see them get back together.

One night Evan is supposed to pick the boys up, but he doesn’t show.  Jess is annoyed until she finds out that he died on a hunting trip–when he was never the outdoorsy type.  Jess and her boys are devastated by Evan’s death and Jess finds herself not accepting it, something doesn’t feel right and she starts to investigate.  She discovers that Evan was in contact with Gabe’s biological mother.  Jess continues to investigate and I could not put this book down!  Domestic thrillers where kids are involved just make me want to make sure that the kids are safe and I can’t stop reading!

I loved this book.  I loved the characters and I wanted to be friends with them.  I could really relate to Jess, she seemed so real to me.  The story kept my interest and was the perfect blend of women’s fiction and thriller written beautifully and paced perfectly.

I am giving this book 4.5 stars because the characters were so well developed and the pacing was so right on and also because I appreciated the statistics regarding open and closed adoptions, biological parents who want to be found and those who don’t and why.  I found it very interesting as I have several friends who were adopted and some have looked for their biological parents and others have not.  I never really understood not wanting to find your biological parent or child, but after reading this I have a better understanding.

From the Publisher:

Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel.

Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Atria books for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book reviews, thriller

I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillan

3/5 stars

Processed with VSCO with m5 preset

In 1996, two ten year old boys went missing and were found – one dead, one near dead – in a shallow grave.  The detective was in over his head and a mentally impaired man was an easy target to take the blame for the murders.

Twenty years later, a friend of the boys starts a podcast to investigate what really happened after an investigative journalist brings up suspicion that the mentally impaired man did not commit the murders.

This book is told from three perspectives: Cody Swift, a friend of the murdered boys who has started the podcast to investigate what really happened; Jessy Paige, who was the mother of one of the boys and a prostitute at the time of their murders, now living a totally different lifestyle with a husband and teen daughter; and John Fletcher who was the detective on the original case and is now investigating a body found in the same area the boys were found.

I found this book extremely difficult to follow.  I did have a digital ARC, so it is possible that this was addressed in the published copy, but John Fletcher’s parts would go back and forth between current day and 1996 and it would take me a bit to figure out what time period they were talking about.  It would have been helpful if there had been some indication of what time period each section of the story was in, like maybe a 1996 or a Current Day separating the sections.

I thought it was interesting, however, how John Fletcher’s parts in the story were like a True Crime television series and Cody Swifts were like a transcript of a podcast.  The ending was a big surprise and a real WOW moment.

I would have given this book 2 stars because it was difficult to follow and it didn’t pull me in and make me want to keep reading.  BUT the ending was really good, so I gave it 3 stars.

I received my review copy from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Book reviews, thriller, Women's Fiction

The Last House on Sycamore Street by Paige Roberts

3.75/5

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset
Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

My Review:

I really liked this book and would have given it 4 stars, but I am not sure that other people would like it as much as I did.  It’s basically just the real life of a young couple and their young son.  They buy a house, they unpack, they work, the husband’s parents babysit.  I enjoy getting a glimpse into how other people live and I often find that interesting and think we all have a story to tell…but I am not sure that someone else wouldn’t find that kind of boring and feel like the story drags.

The family that owned the house before them forget to get the mail forwarded and Amy and Rob end up finding out that family is having financial issues.  They also end up befriending the family that used to live there – which I found a little odd and unrealistic, but maybe I am just being cynical.  They end up realizing that the family that used to live in the house has some addiction issues and that puts Amy and Rob and their son Noah at risk.

It is a completely realistic and relatable story.  I would not be surprised if this has all happened to someone or if someday I hear a friend tell me this happened to someone they know and for that reason, I am giving it 3.75 stars, because 3.5 isn’t enough and although it was a 4 star read for me, I can see where it would drag in spots for someone else, so I can’t give it 4 stars.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Kensington Books for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

As intriguing as it is relatable, Paige Roberts’ compulsively readable novel delves into the secrets and ties that lie between friends—and neighbors.

When Amy Kravitz opts to leave Washington, D.C., behind in favor of a less stressful life in the Philadelphia suburbs, she has a certain kind of house in mind. And on a charming street in a
family-friendly neighborhood, she and her husband Rob find it. It’s a perfect brick colonial with plenty of space, a beautiful yard, and great schools nearby. The sellers, Julian and Grace Durant, are eager to make a deal. In an unexpected bonus, the Durants’ young son, Ethan, strikes up a friendship with Amy and Rob’s introverted four-year-old, Noah.

Soon, Amy is unpacking boxes in her new home and arranging playdates for Noah and Ethan. But as weeks go by, Amy suspects something isn’t quite right. Julian’s mail keeps arriving at their old address, and Amy can hardly miss the “Final Notice” stamped on the envelopes in big, red letters. Behind the
laid-back veneer projected by the Durants, Amy senses lives reeling out of control. But how much does Grace know, how much is she choosing to ignore—and is there more at stake in Amy speaking up or in staying silent?

4 star reviews, thriller

Lies by T.M. Logan

4/5 stars

Screen Shot 2018-06-09 at 7.53.05 PM

My Review:

Riveting, enthralling, captivating, fast moving thriller

I liked Joe Lynch, he was a nice guy, if a little meek and mild, but he is a good dad and and a nice guy.

The whole story was crazy and kept me up late and had me thinking about the book during the day, anxious to get back to it and find out what happened.

Joe thinks his wife is at work, but he and his young son spot her car in traffic, then see her turn into a hotel parking lot.  They follow and Joe gets into an altercation with their family friend, Ben just as his son has an asthma attack.  When Joe returns to see if Ben is ok, Ben is gone.

Ben’s wife reports Ben missing.  But Ben starts sending Joe shocking messages that he is going to take everything from Joe.  But, since Ben is missing, Joe becomes the suspect behind Ben’s disappearance because of the altercation at the hotel.

My heart went out to Ben and I was rooting for him the whole time, but could not predict what would happen in this book.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes psychological thrillers.

I would like to thank Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for my review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

From the Publisher:

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES?
When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message . . .

 

4 star reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, thriller

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

4.5/5 stars

Screen Shot 2018-06-11 at 9.32.25 PM

From the Publisher:

There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.

My Review:

4/5 stars

I loved this book and read it in one day–I don’t remember the last time I did that!

This book was like The Great Alone meets Magic Hour (both by Kristin Hannah) with a little Child Finder by Rene Denfeld.

Lucas and Josiah Blackthorne disappeared from society ten years ago and were assumed dead.  Then Lucas is caught robbing a store.  He is violent and nonverbal, so he is sent to a psychiatric facility where he meets Maya who is a speech therapist, wrestling with her own demons.

 

Beautiful setting of the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota, a strong female lead character, a thrilling escape, a captivating mysteray and a little romance…this book has everything.  This book also explores issues of mental health in our society and how one action can have a snowball effect and affect people for decades.  I also felt that the author made a statement about power and people who think differently or want different things than the norm.  I thought these issues were well thought out and presented and encouraged deeper thought for the reader.

4 star reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

4/5 stars

I was very fortunate to get an eArc of this from Netgalley and Park Row Publishers.

I LOVE Mary Kubica’s books.  I have read them all and I loved them all.  Pretty Baby was her most unique book, different than anything I had read, but When the Lights Go Out might be a close second, if not the most unique book I have read of hers to date.

Screen Shot 2018-05-19 at 6.09.29 PM

Jessie Sloane’s mother is dying of cancer.  It was just her and her mom.  No dad, no real friends, no extended family.  So it all falls on twenty year old Jessie when her mom dies.  The stress of it all is too much for her.  She has no support and things begin to spiral out of control.

This book is a two-part narrative, with Jessie telling the contemporary story of her mother’s death, but there is another story at play: a woman’s journal entries from the late 1990s.  The journal entries tell a beautiful love story.

This is a book that can go in a lot of different directions.  There is a lot here to think about.

I enjoyed this novel immensely.  I would have liked it to have gone into more detail on certain things – but hopefully, it will give someone else the idea to flesh those parts of the story out more.  Without giving too much away, I would say that this is a story about life and family, love and struggle, what we do for love and how we identify ourselves through our relationships.

It is a very powerful novel and one that would be GREAT for book club discussions.

 

 

 

4 star reviews, thriller, Women's Fiction

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

4/5 stars

IMG-3208.JPG

Recently, I received a galley copy of Mindy Mejia’s new book, Leave No Trace, which is coming out September 4.  I had never read anything by Mindy Mejia and I absolutely LOVED Leave No Trace, so when I saw that she had another novel, I knew that I wanted to read it.

This book is about Hattie, an 18 year old girl who is wise beyond her years, growing up in a rural farming town in Minnesota and dreaming of moving to New York City.

My Review:

This book opens with Hattie attempting to run away.  The next chapter is the discovery of her dead body.  I have an 18 year old daughter and I almost put this book down because it hit too close to home.  But I LOVED–like I can not stress enough how much I LOVED “Leave No Trace” so I persisted.  And I am so glad that I did.  This book is a wild ride.  I thought I had figured out who murdered Hattie, but all I can say is: Read to the very last page.

This book is told from the point of view of three characters: Hattie; the chief of police of their small town and her dad’s best friend, Del; and Hattie’s teacher who also directs the school play that Hattie stars in, Peter Lund. I will be honest.  I did not like Hattie.  I think she was a sociopath.  She played people and was extremely self-centered, she had no feeling for other people.  But I really did like both Del and Peter and I found them sympathetic characters.

This book is different from other thrillers in that it takes you deep into the many layers of a sociopath’s personality.  It was also shocking in parts.  If you like thrillers, don’t miss this one and pre-order your copy of Leave No Trace or put in your library hold today!!

 

 

From the Publisher:

No one knows who she really is…

Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it? Hattie’s boyfriend seems distraught over her death, but had he fallen so deeply in love with her that she had become an obsession? Or did Hattie’s impulsive, daredevil nature simply put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading her to a violent death at the hands of a stranger?

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to death.