Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about getting up the reviews for you! Having a busy holiday weekend complicated the timeline, but I’m here today to share about eight incredible books I read this month.
Last month was a CRAZY amount of reading, for me, and I think I had hit a wall when August started. All I wanted to do was lay around and binge on television shows and I was slogging through books at such a slow pace.
There is something to be said about moderation, isn’t there?
I’m hoping to be much more motivated this next month!
My Usual Reminders
If you want to see more of what I am reading, please feel free to friend me on GoodReads! You can find me right here and I am always happy to connect with people there! There is nothing more motivating than seeing what other people are raving about and my to-be-read pile continues to grow with all of my new friends on there!
In fact, many of the books featured are ones that I have found through my friends on GoodReads.
Looking to add some variety to your stack? Feel free to join our book club! I can’t believe we have over 1,600 bookworms in this group. Our discussion this month was AMAZING and it is so much fun to have so many participating (and enjoying) the books that I selected to share. I announced our selections (here is what we will be reading in September) and you can find them pinned at the top of the group page. I am already hearing feedback that this one is amazing. I can’t wait to do a deep dive inot it.
Need another challenge to push you out of your reading comfort zone? Be sure to download this year’s Reading Challenge Worksheet.
This month’s selections:
Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar
November Road by Lou Berney
Fashion Victim by Amina Akhtar
This month’s special:
New members will get a free book with code FALLFEELS. How it works: Members will pay $14.99 when they sign up for a subscription that will renew monthly. They’ll also receive a credit for a free book at the time of this transaction (redeemable at any time). Then they’ll be renewed at the end of their second month (unless they cancel).
Here are 8 must-read books I tackled in August:
I received an advanced reader of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts & opinions are my own.
I didn’t know anything about this book going into it and, perhaps, that is why it shocked me in both its beauty and darkness. Although I had also known the general premise of Lolita, I had no point of reference that this novel had been based on a true life kidnapping crime. In Rust & Stardust, Greenwood pulls back the curtain on this horrific case and chillingly illuminates what all this girl had been through.
In 1948, Sally Horner is desperate to get into the cool club with a group of girls from school. As part of her initiation process, she has to steal a notebook at a local drugstore. When a man with the F.B.I. sees her take this notebook, he tells her that she must pay for her crime and that he won’t rat her out to her parents, as long as she follows all of his instructions.
He poses as a father from a friend from school and says that they are going on a beautiful beach vacation and would like to take Sally along with them. Sally’s mother, struggling with debilitating arthritis and pain, knows that Sally will have a wonderful adventure and begrudgingly allows her to accept the invitation. Sally knows that she must go on this trip for her court hearing and punishment for the stolen notebook.
The thing is, this guy is actually a dangerous child predator who has just been released from prison and Sally is his latest conquest.
This book wrecked me in the same ways that, A Little Life, ripped a little of my heart out. Nabbing criminals back then is a frustrating process to witness, let alone be a victim too. It takes a strong reader to read this one and I have a feeling Sally’s story is going to be imprinted on my heart for a very long time. Greenwood’s writing is poetry in motion, even in the evil bits of it.
I doubt you will be able to put this one down, but given the context of the story, know this is a dark read.
5 out of 5 Stars
I became a fan of Pessl’s writing after reading, Night Film. In fact, I recently shared that one as one of 19 chilly thriller recommendations for you to enjoy this fall. This novel couldn’t be more different from that as Pessl dips her toes into the YA world for the first time with Neverworld Wake. I’m going to recommend this one for fans of, We Were Liars, because it explores many of the same thematics, but with a Groundhog Day twist.
Beatrice and her group of friends all have been devastated by the death of Beatrice’s boyfriend, Jim. Beatrice has been estranged from her friends, but receives an invitation to celebrate a birthday with them all. After a strained night and a near-miss car crash, they receive a visitor who calls himself, “The Keeper.” He says they are actually stuck between the worlds of life and death and that in order for them to move on, they must all take a vote and unanimously choose one of themselves to save. Given the dynamics, the reader knows that they will be in for a bumpy ride.
Stuck in time, they live the same day over and over again until they can come to a decision. Of course, the death of Jim isn’t as straightforward as it seems and that is why it is so difficult to choose who should be saved in this scenario.
Pessl invents a lot of fun stories for them as they try to do the same things over and over again, but differently. The story builds to a satisfying conclusion that helps the reader understand the motivations, but I was not enraptured with this one as I had been with her last book. I loved the concept, but found it dragged a bit through different plot points, due to the repetitive nature of the story. That said, I’ll read anything she writes and can’t wait to see what she brews up next.
3 out of 5 Stars
Jar of Hearts is a book that I just could not put down this month and ticked all the boxes that are required for a twisty dark thriller. Ironically, I see that Caroline Kepnes has endorsed this book and if you are a fan of her work (OH, JOE!), you are sure to love this one.
When she was just sixteen, Angela Wong disappeared from her town without a trace. No one would have ever suspected that Georgiana Shaw, a wealthy executive rising in a pharmaceutical company, could have been involved in any way back then. The truth is though that Georgiana (nicknamed Geo) has known all along where Angela has been buried.
You see, the love of her high school life is now known as a serial killer. The two of them were the only ones that ever knew what happened to Angela and now Geo must pay for withholding evidence in the case.
Geo has learned the hard way what it takes to get ahead in life and she isn’t afraid to do that while serving time. Now the reader gets a taste of the new Geo and the sharp contrast of her teenage innocence and the boy who had captured her heart.
This book goes to some dark places and is one of those stories that keeps you up until the wee hours of the night so you can uncover all of Geo’s secrets. Hillier builds a story worthy of a sequel and, lucky for us, it is another one that has plans to be on the big screen! I can’t wait to see who will play these characters and encourage you to add this one to your stack.
5 out of 5 Stars
Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering
I love a good love story, especially of the unrequited variety, but this one took unrequited to another level.
Lucy Albright heads to a small California college and is excited to embrace all the newness of friends and experiences that college can bring. It is at a gathering that she meets Stephen DeMarco. Although she is not initially charmed by him, Stephen has never had to take a no for an answer and charms Lucy right into his bed.
The thing is, Stephen is a horrible person and Lucy is just one of many conquests that he likes to play games with. His bed offers a rotating spot to whoever is available and convenient, but Stephen lacks the emotional capacity to love anyone.
Lucy will do anything to keep Stephen’s attention resorting to eating disorders, partying, and drugs to mask her depression. Lovering writes about the obsessiveness of young love in a beautiful and brutal way. Although Lucy takes things to another level, that obsessive passion is something I remember and that desire to be loved and liked no matter what. I think that is what makes this story really shine.
The story alternates viewpoints and the longer it goes on, the more I hated Stephen and the spirals he took other women on.
This is not a feel-good love story… it is a sad story of a girl who just wanted to be loved and a sociopath who doesn’t have the capacity for that emotion.
Brilliantly written, but the book left me feeling frustrated, and hoping more for Lucy and Stephen’s journeys.
3 out of 5 Stars
I became a fan of Lisa Jewell after her gorgeous novel, The House We Grew Up In. I had high expectations for this novel and I was NOT disappointed. Jewell has a way of developing layered and believable family dramas and this thriller still has those elements folded in with a ten-year-old mysterious disappearance.
Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter and loved by all who knew her. At the age of fifteen, she leaves one day and never comes back home. It is the nightmare of every parent and Laurel has now not only found herself without her daughter, but also in a strained relationship with her other kids and a fractured relationship with her spouse.
Just as she is beginning to move forward, the police run across Ellie’s backpack and Laurel is forced to rethink if her daughter was kidnapped or actually ran away from home. Determined to move forward, she meets an incredible man at a coffee shop and decides to go on her first day since her divorce.
He is everything she dreamed of and then she meets his daughter…and she looks just like her missing daughter.
Hang on to your hands, as Jewell cleverly unfolds what has happened to Ellie through all the different eyes of these characters. The plot is smart, the pacing is excellent, and Jewell’s writing shines.
5 out of 5 Stars
One of the biggest joys for me is hosting our monthly book club discussions. This month Nicole joined us for our chat about her incredible novel, Little Broken Things, and our book club members just loved it (and her!) so very much. If you haven’t joined us for a chat yet, what are you waiting for?
The story starts right out of the gates when Quinn Cruz receives a cryptic text from her sister that says, “I have something for you.”
What she could never expect is that Nora is bringing her a frightened little girl with no explanation other than to keep her safe in her absence. Quinn has been hoping for a child of her own, but not like this. Strangely, Lucy looks an awful lot like her sister and she must question if Nora’s had a secret child that she’s been hiding from their family all these years.
While she struggles to honor her sister’s wishes, she worries just what Nora could have gotten them into and if they are all now at danger.
Baart is a gifted storyteller and shared, through our discussion, that she was able to flesh out a lot of Lucy’s character through her own adoption of her daughter. The characters are relatable and believable, most effectively in those strained relationships between mothers, sisters, and daughters.
The love is real…and so are the dynamics.
I am often asked for recommendations on clean novels for readers and I would put this one at the top of the list. If you are a fan of Diane Chamberlain, in particular, I have a feeling you will love novels from Nicole Baart!
4 out of 5 Stars
I received a copy from the publishing house. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Happy publishing day, Mary Kubica! When the Lights Go Out, hits stores today and I have been hanging on to my review for the big day. Mary joined us on the site, many moons ago, to talk about her first novel and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.
Kubica creates an unreliable narrator by blessing our narrator with a bout of insomnia that seems it will never end. Jessie’s mother is dying and she doesn’t want to fall asleep and miss this moment with her mother so she continues to push through her insomnia at any cost. After she passes, the insomnia becomes more advanced and begins to affect her memory and cause hallucinations. She’s unhinged in a way that alarms others, but that doesn’t stop Jessie from exploring her own secret past.
I raced through this book and had many theories on what had happened to Jessie and the mystery that she was trying to solve. It had a very Woman in the Window feel, and I wondered how much was real and how much was all in our narrator’s head.
My guesses were wrong though.
The answers, for me, ended up being disappointing although she did do it in a really great way. Kubica does put together an incredible story though and it is a tribute to her beautiful writing. I am still a huge fan, but I have a feeling that the ending will be a polarizing one.
Dismissing the outcome, this was still a book that I finished in a day and made me excited to see what Kubica will weave up for us next.
3 out of 5 Stars
I’m going on the record and saying that Tiffany D. Jackson is one of the most compelling YA writers right now. Allegedly, was just so fantastic that I wasn’t sure if she could match the strength of that book, but Monday’s Not Coming, was still a beautiful read. I listened to this one on audiobook and recommend you do too. The narration is fantastic and helps form the voice of this character.
If a wealthy white child didn’t show up for school for weeks and weeks, someone would be checking on the family and the child. It is here where Jackson plants her feet and says, why are we not showing up for the poor black children?
Monday and Claudia are inseparable friends and it is has worried Claudia why her friend had never returned her letters over the summer and then did not show up for school. It is through Claudia’s eyes (and persistence) that she demands the adults around her to look into the disappearance of her friend, Monday. With this persistence though, comes the reexamination of Monday’s life and what disturbing things she may have chose to ignore.
If you are looking for a meaty YA, this is it. Jackson isn’t afraid to talk about teen sexuality, racism, gentrification, and child abuse. I struggled a bit with the timelines, as it jumped from different places in time, and hoped the ending would redeem it. Even with the ending, I think the plot could have been smoothed a lot with just a consistent timeline.
That said, I’m always here for whatever Jackson is dishing up. I love her brashness and her fresh examinations on these big teenage issues.
3 out of 5 Stars
Read With Me This Year:
January 2018 Must-Reads
February 2018 Must-Reads
March 2018 Must-Reads
April 2018 Must-Reads
May 2018 Must-Reads
June 2018 Must-Reads
July 2018 Must-Reads
What did you read this month? Looking for book ideas? Check out our entire Book section of the site! Don’t forget to friend me on GoodReads! xo
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