Tag Archives: thriller

Everything I read in August (my TBR challenge)

In August, I set myself a challenge to only read the books languishing on my TBR bookshelf. And to read as many as possible.

What’s a TBR bookshelf you ask? Well, I have a bit of a book buying habit. I pick up books all the time with no real plan of when I’ll get to them. Those books go to live on a small two-shelf white bookcase that lives in my office. Meanwhile, I get books from the library and buy other books that I read right away. Leaving some books unread, sometimes for years.

I needed to make a dent in the shelves on this little bookshelf before I ran out of space…and so I could continue buying more books, let’s be honest.

Here’s what I was able to clear off my TBR bookshelf this August:

The Switch by Beth O’Leary
Rom-Com
Ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, Leena escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Newly single and about to turn eighty, Eileen would like a second chance at love. But her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen… So Leena proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love, and Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire.

My Review:
4 stars
A genuine and absolute delight! This book follows Eileen Cotton and her granddaughter Leena as they switch places for two months – Eileen moves into Leena’s posh warehouse flat in London and Leena takes up residence at Eileen’s cottage in the Yorkshire Dales. The story is told in dual POVs and because of that we have two whole casts of characters to fall in love with – each of them unique and fully realized. If you like found family, Gilmore Girls vibes, or wacky British village shenanigans – pick this one up!

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
Mystery
When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

My Review:
2 stars
Danya Kukafka writes beautifully. Unfortunately, for me, this particular story was just super slow and not that memorable.

The Round House Louise Erdrich
Literary Fiction
One of the most revered novelists of our time – a brilliant chronicler of Native-American life – Louise Erdrich returns to the territory of her bestselling, Pulitzer Prize finalist The Plague of Doves with The Round House, transporting readers to the Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota. It is an exquisitely told story of a boy on the cusp of manhood who seeks justice and understanding in the wake of a terrible crime that upends and forever transforms his family.

My Review:
5 stars
It’s 1988 on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota and 13-year-old Joe’s world is turned upside down when his mother is sexually assaulted. Sadly, she doesn’t know exactly where she was when the attack occurred, making it difficult to determine whose jurisdiction the case falls under – state, federal, or tribal. This sets up the mystery at the heart of the novel. Joe and his friends, as well as his father, are trying to figure out the perpetrator – and once they do, they grapple with how justice will be served and by whom.

While the book is set in the 80s, Erdrich notes in the afterword that, at the time of writing, a third of Native women will be raped in her lifetime; 86% of sexual assaults upon Native women are perpetrated by non-Native men; few are prosecuted. The story is a commentary on the need to restore sovereign justice and ensure safety for Native women, and it is beautifully done.

The plot is exciting and well-developed. The characters are well-drawn. But my favorite part was the strong sense of place. I highly recommend this to any literary fiction lovers, especially if you like books about family dynamics or are interested in reading about Native issues from an own voices perspective.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
Short Stories
Navigating between the Indian traditions they’ve inherited and the baffling new world, the characters in Jhumpa Lahiri’s elegant, touching stories seek love beyond the barriers of culture and generations. In “A Temporary Matter,” published in The New Yorker, a young Indian-American couple faces the heartbreak of a stillborn birth while their Boston neighborhood copes with a nightly blackout. In the title story, an interpreter guides an American family through the India of their ancestors and hears an astonishing confession. Lahiri writes with deft cultural insight reminiscent of Anita Desai and a nuanced depth that recalls Mavis Gallant.

My Review:
4 stars
This collection of short stories is beautifully written. Lahiri is a master of her craft. Her book ‘The Namesake’ is one of my favorites so I was excited to give her short form prose a go – and it did not disappoint! Most of her stories focus on the Indian immigrant experience, and even more specifically – the experience of immigrating shortly after an arranged marriage to work at a university in the Greater Boston area. Even with this niche subject matter, each of the stories holds universal appeal. Lahiri shows us a lighthearted and hopeful side of the human spirit, even as her characters face challenges, which makes for a very readable little book. Pick this one up!

Atonement by Ian McEwan
Historical Fiction
On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses a moment’s flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century.

My Review:
4 stars
I found the middle third to be a bit slow-going, but well worth pushing through to get to the latter part of the book. Really enjoyed this one!

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Rom-Com
Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three-year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates – Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material – and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.

My Review:
4 stars
I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. It’s a sweet rom-com full of the smart, fast-paced dialogue style Lauren Graham is known for in her shows (Gilmore Girls, Parenthood) and lots of fun NYC settings. I also have a weird love of books that take place in 1995. It’s just a great year

Throughout the book, we get to see pages from our main character’s Filofax. I love seeing other people’s planners (even fictional people) so I thought this was a fun element. My nitpick is that the handwriting the pages are written in is really hard to read! Cool that the pages are realistic (I’m guessing it’s Lauren Graham’s actual writing?) but I was sad I couldn’t enjoy them more.

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner
Historical Fiction
The year is 1975 and Reno—so-called because of the place of her birth—has come to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity in the art world—artists have colonized a deserted and industrial SoHo, are staging actions in the East Village, and are blurring the line between life and art. Reno meets a group of dreamers and raconteurs who submit her to a sentimental education of sorts. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, she begins an affair with an artist named Sandro Valera, the semi-estranged scion of an Italian tire and motorcycle empire. When they visit Sandro’s family home in Italy, Reno falls in with members of the radical movement that overtook Italy in the seventies. Betrayal sends her reeling into a clandestine undertow.

My Review:
2 stars
This may have been a me thing… This book just did NOT hold my attention! I am a self-proclaimed know-it-all so it pains me to say this, but I just didn’t “get it,” and the plot didn’t do enough to make up for the fact that I wasn’t vibing with the subject matter. On a sentence level, the writing is very nice. However, I’m happy to be done reading it.

Since She Went Away by David Bell
Thriller
Three months earlier, Jenna Barton was supposed to meet her lifelong best friend Celia. But when Jenna arrived late, she found that Celia had disappeared—and hasn’t been seen again. Jenna has blamed herself for her friend’s disappearance every single day since then.

My Review:
3.5 stars
I knew this book was written by a Western Kentucky University professor but had no idea going in that it was actually SET in Kentucky. That was a welcome and fun surprise. Not a mind-blowing thriller but an enjoyable read with a couple unexpected moments/twists. Definitely want to pick up some of Bell’s newer titles now that I’ve read this one!

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Literary Fiction
The acclaimed, bestselling author—winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize—tells the enthralling story of how an unexpected romantic encounter irrevocably changes two families’ lives. One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.

My Review:
5 stars
I love this book so much. We follow the Cousins and Keating children from childhood to adulthood, starting with a kiss between the mother of one set of siblings and the father of another that sets into motion all the ways these two families will blend and disperse over the coming decades.

Patchett has written a pitch perfect family saga that explores divorce in full – beginning to end, an entire cast of blended family characters represented and fully realized. Each character in this tender narrative searches for connection while grappling with the damages of loss. They all share a bond that’s simultaneously painful and powerful. This is a truly brilliant, touching story.

The Round House and Commonwealth were real stand outs this month and I’m so happy that this challenge brought them to me!

I can’t wait to do this challenge again in the future. (I think I’ve decided that I’m going to make it a biannual occurrence.) But for now, it’s on to my FALL TBR!

What was the best book you read in August? xoxo

P.S. If you’re planning your “spooky season” reading, check out – 3 Spooking Books to Read this Halloween.


If You Like That Book, You Might Like This Book || BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS pt. 4

Hi friends! Today, I’d like to offer you a few more book recommendations in the form of “if you liked this book, then you might like this other book.” I love when folks on Booktube, Bookstagram, and Goodreads include comparisons to other books in their reviews! It’s one of my favorite ways to find new reads! So, I started a bookish series here on the blog to do just that for YOU. (Here’s part 1! Here’s part 2! Here’s part 3!)

In each post, I recommend books that are similar to very popular books that are more well-known. Let’s get into it, shall we?!

If you liked The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware,
you might like The Winters by Lisa Gabriele.

If you loved Ruth Ware’s ability to concoct a setting so compelling it started to feel like it’s own character, you should check out The Winters which transports readers to the Asherley estate. The Winters is a creepy and spooky modern retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca set amongst the wealthy elite in the Hamptons. Much like The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Lisa Gabriele writes an enjoyable psychological thriller that plays out inside a grand house and includes all the twists and turns that go along with strange family dynamics, inheritances, and – of course – murder.

Synopsis: 

After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded Long Island mansion of her new fiancé Max Winter—a wealthy politician and recent widower—and a life of luxury she’s never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max’s beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman’s imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell. She soon realizes there is no clear place for her in this twisted little family: Max and Dani circle each other like cats, a dynamic that both repels and fascinates her, and he harbors political ambitions with which he will allow no woman—alive or dead—to interfere.

If you liked The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, you might like Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

If you tore your way through Suzanne Collins’s dystopian young adult novel about a group of teens representing their districts by fighting to the death on live TV, you should pick up Ryan Graudin’s historical reimagining in which the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan commemorate their Great Victory by hosting a motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. Wolf by Wolf includes everything you loved about The Hunger Games and throws in a dash of The Man in the High Castle for good measure — asking, “What if the Nazis won the war?”

Synopsis:

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the Axis Tour and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

If you liked All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr,
you might like Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

Ok, if you’ve read both of these books you may think this is a bit of a stretch, but hear me out. Anthony Doerr and Dane Huckelbridge are both incredible writers. The prose in both these books is so beautiful and breath-taking, without ever feeling heavy handed. While the plots are quite different, they are similar in that they constantly come up against odds — whether at the hands of war or a plane crash — and yet humanity flourishes. Not to mention there’s a lot of French language interwoven throughout Castle of Water, and that, combined with the writing style and haunting passages about a short-wave radio, made for a reading experience that gave me some serious All the Light We Cannot See vibes. If you liked one, I’m confident that you’d like the other!

Synopsis: 

For Sophie Ducel, her honeymoon in French Polynesia was intended as a celebration of life. For Barry Bleecker, the same trip was meant to mark a new beginning. Turning away from his dreary existence in Manhattan finance, Barry had set his sights on fine art, seeking creative inspiration on the other side of the world. But when their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another’s strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

If you liked The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth by Alexandra Robbins, you might like Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

Both of these books are expertly researched, sociological looks at the lives of real teenagers in America. Robbins’s book covers popularity and psychology, while Younge explores gun violence. Quite different subject matter but the execution is similar in it’s careful reporting, meticulous interviews, and thought-provoking conclusions. If you are an educator of or advocate for teens, both of these books are must-reads.

Synopsis: 

On an average day in America, seven children and teens will be shot dead. In Another Day in the Death of America, award-winning journalist Gary Younge tells the stories of the lives lost during one such day. It could have been any day, but he chose November 23, 2013. Black, white, and Latino, aged nine to nineteen, they fell at sleepovers, on street corners, in stairwells, and on their own doorsteps. From the rural Midwest to the barrios of Texas, the narrative crisscrosses the country over a period of twenty-four hours to reveal the full human stories behind the gun-violence statistics and the brief mentions in local papers of lives lost.

I hope you enjoyed these new recommendations and I’m excited to bring you more posts in this series in the future! Do you have any book recommendations for me based on the eight books above? POP ‘EM BELOW!! xoxo

P.S. 3 spooky book recommendations, if that’s your jam!

If You Like That Book, You Might Like This Book || BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS pt. 1

Hi guys! Today, I’d like to offer you a few book recommendations in the form of “if you liked this book, then you might like this other book.” I love when folks on Booktube, Bookstagram, and Goodreads include comparisons to other books in their reviews! It’s one of my favorite ways to find new reads! So, I thought it might be fun and potentially helpful to readers to start a new bookish series here on the blog.

Basically, I’m going to be recommending books that are similar to very popular books that are more well-known. Let’s get into it, shall we?!

If you liked Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel,
you might like Blindness by José Saramago

If you thought Station Eleven was a stunning and powerful portrayal of humanity’s will to survive as a sickness sweeps the land, I think you should check out Blindness. This book stuck with me long after I read the final page. It is haunting and shattering, but honest and compassionate.

Synopsis:

A city is hit by an epidemic of “white blindness” which spares no one. Authorities confine the blind to an empty mental hospital, but there the criminal element holds everyone captive, stealing food rations and raping women. There is one eyewitness to this nightmare who guides seven strangers—among them a boy with no mother, a girl with dark glasses, a dog of tears—through the barren streets, and the procession becomes as uncanny as the surroundings are harrowing. A magnificent parable of loss and disorientation, Blindness has swept the reading public with its powerful portrayal of our worst appetites and weaknesses—and humanity’s ultimately exhilarating spirit.

If you liked The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls,
you might like Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood

If you enjoyed reading Jeannette Walls recount her heartbreaking yet oftentimes wacky childhood,  you should check out Patricia Lockwood who also explores how family and tradition shape her identity. Her book is wildly original and her family members are written so vividly they practically leap off the page.

Synopsis:

Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met—a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates “like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972.” His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the Church’s country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents’ rectory, their two worlds collide.

If you liked The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins,
you might like The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

If The Girl on the Train made you realize you’re a fan of psychological thrillers with a dash of noir, The Woman in the Window is for you.  It is dazzlingly suspenseful and full of twists that will keep you reading long past bedtime. The movie adaptation starring Amy Adams, Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman is out soon!

Synopsis: 

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors. Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

If you liked My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite,
you might like Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Both of these books are witty quick reads that are darkly hilarious but serve up some pretty serious subject matter. While Braithwaite’s book falls more in the thriller category and Queenie is more of a hard-hitting contemporary — they are both disarming, political, and unexpectedly FUNNY.

Synopsis:

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle-class peers. After a messy break-up from her white long-term boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.

That was soooooo fun and I can’t wait to bring you round 2! Have you read any of these books? What would you compare them to?

P.S. How to make time for books. 

TV Recommendation: Westworld

westworld

Have you seen the TV show Westworld yet? The series takes place in a futuristic, Wild West-themed amusement park full of lifelike robots called “hosts”. Tourists pay a premium for access to the park and are allowed to live out their fantasies amidst the hosts without consequence or fear of retaliation. But things are changing…

Westworld was created for HBO and is based on the 1973 film of the same name, which was written and directed by Michael Crichton. This show’s ever-unfolding plot will keep you on the edge of your seat. And in case you thought you didn’t need science fiction western thriller as a television genre…trust me, you do.

Here’s a trailer, if you’d like to see…

Obviously Anthony Hopkins, who plays a founder of the park, doesn’t disappoint. He’s a veteran and this role is perfect for him. But the rest of the cast seems to be right up to Hopkins-level snuff. I thought Thandie Newton, especially, was exquisite. (Evan Rachel Wood was also BAE. Even though for the entirety of my viewing experience I thought she was the same person as Rachel Brosnahan, who was in House of Cards and Manhattan, and was like, “How is this chick in so many good TV shows??!” My bad! Still impressed, just not AS impressed. LOL!)

Pro-tip: If you don’t have HBO but you DO have Amazon Prime you can sign up for a free 30-day trial of HBO on Amazon Channels. 30 days is plenty of time to watch this series (and honestly you could probably squeeze in 2 or 3 more shows after that!).

P.S. 5 other binge-worthy television shows.

Read before the movie comes out!

the-girl-on-the-train-collage

Have you read The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins? Planning on seeing the film adaptation starring Emily Blunt, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney and Rebecca Ferguson? If you haven’t read the book, there’s still time! Go grab yourself a copy before the movie version hits theaters October 7th. You won’t be sorry!

Synopsis:
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

I literally couldn’t put this book down (So many twists!) and the trailer for the film looks AMAZING. I’m planning to see the movie in the theater on my birthday. (We leave for a trip to Louisiana the next day so it seemed like the perfect, low-key outing.) Eeps! Can’t wait!

Buy the book HERE!

Watch the trailer HERE!