What I Read in July

After enduring a dreadful book slump for several months (one book in April, six in May although four of those were middle grade books, and one in June), the dam finally burst in July. I got in nine books, four of which were audiobooks. It was a great reading month, with many excellent books, including a book that has soared to the top of my Best of the Year list.

Here’s hoping the reading streak continues in August!

Books I Read in July

📚Favorite Book of the Month (and Possibly Year)📚

The Push by Ashley Audrain  – Oh my goodness did I love this book. I don’t quite know how to characterize it – not quite thriller, but not not a thriller either. And I don’t really want to spoil it by trying to summarize it – suffice it to say that there is a mother who worries that her daughter is evil. The writing was stellar, as was the way Audrain depicted motherhood and grief and the decay of a marriage in these spare, powerful chapters. Fantastic book.

📚Really Good Books📚

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor  – Eddie receives a chalk man in the mail – just like the ones he and his friends used as a code the summer that their lives fall apart. Eddie learns that all his friends received the same chalk man in the mail, but no one knows who’s sending them. And then one of them turns up dead. I still can’t believe it took me so long to read this book! It was less predictable than The Burning Girls, which I LOVED, but I found the reveal to be slightly disappointing. It was still a really vivid, solid read though. And it was Tudor’s DEBUT! Amazing. I need to read more C. J. Tudor.

Hidden Pictures by Jason Rekulak – This book was a really interesting read. Mallory is a recovering drug addict whose sponsor has found a great job for her as a nanny. But Mallory’s charge – Teddy – starts drawing disturbing pictures and Mallory feels like she’s being watched. This book has supernatural elements that were done really well, and I loved the main character’s back story and how it tied into the story. The villain was excellent and there were some real surprises throughout. Also, this book contained illustrations that were crucial to the story and I LOVED them. They were so creepy and really added to the atmosphere of the story.

The Wife Upstairs by Freida McFadden 🎧– At first I thought this was a retelling of Rebecca, but it has only the slightest resemblance. It’s about a woman who moves to a remote mansion to care for a wealthy man’s paralyzed wife. It’s a good, strong thriller although I wasn’t crazy about the main character, whom I found slightly annoying. (Maybe that was a result of the audiobook narration, though?)

📚Good Books📚

There, There by Tommy Orange 🎧 – My husband and I listened to this in the car together and it was really an interesting book. The audiobook was well done. It followed a bunch of Native Americans who live in and around Los Angeles and examines how their lives eventually intersect. There was a lot of darkness and grief in this book, but I thought the language and stories were super interesting. FYI, there is a LOT of cursing, so I don’t advise listening to it in the same car with your young child.

Eat It! The Most Sustainable Diet and Workout Ever Made by Jordan Syatt and Michael Vacanti – The tone of this book was friendly and upbeat, which I appreciated. And it had a pretty no-nonsense message. But aside from a few very specific suggestions, it was basically about how the only real way to lose weight is to expend more calories than you take in. And a whole book – even a slim, easy to skim book like this one – wasn’t really necessary to get that message across.

The Other Family by Wendy Corsi Staub 🎧 – A family moves from California to New York City, into a house where a gruesome multiple murder took place years ago. This was an enjoyable if unsurprising thriller. There was a secondary character who, I thought, did and said some weird things, and that wasn’t ever fleshed out the way I thought it might. 

The A. B. C. Murders by Agatha Christie – Standard Poirot in which he receives a note from a murderer, whose plan is to kill people alphabetically based on their names and hometowns. I think I may actually prefer Nine Lives, the Peter Swanson adaptation of this story.

Take Your Breath Away by Linwood Barclay – Is it weird that one of my main gripes about this book is that the title had NOTHING to do with the story? There was even a moment where the book said the title (which I normally love), but it STILL didn’t make sense. The premise is that a woman goes missing and then some years later seemingly shows up at the door to her old house, shocked to find it’s been rebuilt. It was a fine book, held my attention. But nothing surprising here, either.

📚Books I Started but Haven’t Finished📚

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth 🎧 – I can already tell that this is a book I won’t want to turn off. 

Fourteen Talks by Age Fourteen by Michelle Icard – This is one of those rare parenting books that seems completely down-to-earth and also full of useful, actually practicable advice. I am about halfway through (and my kid is nowhere near fourteen), but I have already found some of the ideas to be usable and helpful.

The Retreat by Sarah Pearse – This is the sequel to The Sanitorium, which I read last year and enjoyed. It started slow for me, but it’s picking up some momentum.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls – I am reading this out loud to my daughter. Can you believe I’ve never read it before? It’s totally a classic, but somehow I missed it in my early years.

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor

For the second week in a row, I am featuring one of my top reads of 2022

I have been wanting to read The Chalk Man for a long time – in fact, my husband and I got it as a Book of the Month several years ago. For one reason or another, neither of us has read it yet. 

Anyway, C. J. Tudor was already on my radar. So went her newest book, The Burning Girls, sounded interesting, I put it on hold at my library. My hold came in almost right away, so I read it immediately. It was fantastic, through and through. A gripping, chilling thriller with well-developed characters that I didn’t want to put down. And now The Chalk Man is back at the top of my list. 

image from amazon.com

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mini Synopsis: Reverend Jack Brooks, teenager daughter Flo in tow, moves to a remote corner of the English countryside to replace the vicar after his sudden death. But the town – haunted by its dark history – is full of disturbing secrets, hidden violence, and malevolent ghosts.  

What I Liked About This Book: This book surprised me almost immediately, which was fun. I was able to predict a couple of the twists, but there were lots of surprises, too – which is always enjoyable. 

I loved the characters. Reverend Brooks is complex and relatable, despite being a vicar. I loved the depiction of a religious leader who struggles with the same things – parenting, interpersonal relationships, how to handle past trauma – that any layperson deals with. I know logically that religious leaders are human like the rest of us, but it was really a pleasure to read a book with a vicar as the protagonist. I like, too, that Reverend Brooks really seemed to be driven by a need to do the right thing, even if that thing wasn’t easy or popular. So many book characters make terrible decisions, and I found it refreshing to follow a character who was in pursuit of truth and justice even though it made life demonstrably more uncomfortable. 

Brooks’s daughter Flo is also a great character. She’s a teen who has to grapple with moving to a brand new home in a brand new town, trying to fit in with the local young people, and supporting a parent whose job means Flo is often alone and unsupervised. On top of that, Flo’s new home has some really dark energy that she tries to face with courage and common sense. She was a very well-crafted, believable teenage kid and I found myself really sympathizing with her situation and rooting for her.

The secondary and tertiary characters were excellent, too – awful and creepy and steeped in secrets in their own right. 

I loved the setting. There’s nothing better than a small English town with lots of dark history and hidden truths. 

And the writing was really done – evocative language, tight, effective scene-setting, insightful looks into people’s motivations. A very well-crafted novel.

What I Didn’t Like About This Book: One of the twists could have used, in my opinion, more of a build-up, more justification in advance of the reveal. For instance, there were a lot of subtle hints about one of the other twists – I picked up on it almost immediately and was delighted to have my hunch play out. This other twist seemed less… earned. It was still a good one, and I bought it. But if I were a beta reader, I would have suggested that the author drop a few more breadcrumbs about this particular twist. 

Should You Read This Book? If you like spooky thrillers, stories of complex parent/child relationships, creepy abandoned houses and ancient churches, small-town secrets, and generations-old mysteries, you will love this book. It was a top-notch thriller and I loved every minute of it. 

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

I have yet to be disappointed by a Lisa Jewell book. Every single one of her novels I’ve read has been well-crafted, exquisitely plotted, and full of interesting, richly drawn characters. 

The Night She Disappeared was no exception – and, in fact, I will not be surprised if this winds up being one of my favorite reads of the year. 

image from amazon.com

By the way, I would highly recommend going into this one reading the bare minimum about it. I have been very careful not to include spoilers below, but I read one review that seemed fairly vague, and yet the words stuck with me and I knew exactly what had happened pretty early on. As long as a book is as well-written as this one is, I don’t necessarily mind knowing how things are going to turn out (and there were a couple of surprises that I enjoyed). But this is a good one to jump into with as little information as possible.

Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mini Synopsis: Teen mother Tallulah and her boyfriend leave for their first night out since their baby arrived. When they never return, Tallulah’s mother is distraught. The police run out of leads until Sophie, new to the area and fascinated by the case, stumbles across a curious clue.

What I Liked About This Book: This was a case of the multiple narrative/multiple timeline structure working really well for me. I loved seeing the situation through Sophie’s and Kim’s and Tallulah’s eyes, I loved going back and forth between the night Tallulah disappeared and the present day as Sophie and Kim (with the help of the police) uncover what happened. It felt extremely well balanced and well-paced, and I didn’t feel some of the impatience to churn through the slow reveal of character and secrets and backstory that I do with some other authors.

The characterization, I thought, was wonderful. Kim and Sophie and Tallulah – and their individual personalities – felt rich and fully realized. I really liked each of them, and sympathized with their struggles. Plus, I am a sucker for strong, capable women who do whatever it takes to make things right. 

While it seems to me like a lot of readers did not enjoy the ending, I loved it. It was unique and surprising in some ways (although NOT in others). Sure, I can see how it might strain the boundaries of reality a bit, but that doesn’t bother me when a story is told so well and when characters are so believably drawn as they are in this novel. 

What I Didn’t Like About This Book: The story was so well-paced for me that the ending felt a little rushed. I wish Jewell had dwelt a little longer on the details of how everything happened, and that she had taken a little more time in describing the villain and said villain’s motivations. Then again, I have seen reviews that felt this book was much too long, so take my critique with a grain of salt! When I love a book and its characters, I want it to last forever. 

To that end, I also wish I knew what happened AFTER the book ends. I don’t think I can say more without spoilers, but I just wanted to see five or ten years down the road, and peek in on each of the characters and find out how they were. 

Should You Read This Book? If you enjoy Lisa Jewell books, you will not be disappointed with this one. It’s by far my favorite of her novels and I am eager to read whatever she comes up with next. 

What I Read in March

March was a solid month of reading, made up of almost 100% thrillers. Just the way I like it. 

March 2022 Reads

I read eight books this month. Six books were by authors I already know and love and two books were by new-to-me authors. Seven of the eight books I read were by women. Every single book was a library book, although three were e-books. I didn’t listen to a single audiobook this month! 

📚Books I Read in March 📚

The Burning Girls by C. J. Tudor: I need to write a full review of this one because it is one of my top two books of the year (so far). Reverend Jack Brooks, teenager daughter Flo in tow, moves to a remote corner of the English countryside to replace the vicar after his sudden death. But the town – haunted by its dark history – is full of disturbing secrets, hidden violence, and malevolent ghosts.  

The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain: Part mystery, part historical fiction, this novel jumps back in forth between points of view: Kayla Carter in 2010 Round Hill, North Carolina and Ellie Hockley in the 1965. Kayla has just moved into a new house, a house in which her husband just died. Ellie, Kayla’s new neighbor, has just returned to Round Hill after fleeing the tragic events of her summer volunteering for the SCOPE Project. Are the secrets of Ellie’s past haunting Kayla’s new home? And who is the red-haired woman trying to scare her into moving?  

Nemesis (Miss Marple #11) by Agatha Christie: Nothing is better vacation reading than Agatha Christie. In this novel, Miss Marple gets a letter from a dead man’s attorneys. The dead man – whom she knew only briefly – wants her to solve a mystery. If she succeeds, she’ll get twenty thousand pounds. But there are no further details – what the mystery is or how to proceed. 

Sleeping Murder (Miss Marple #12) by Agatha ChristieI think this ranks as one my favorite Christie novels. A young couple move to England. The wife, Gwenda, sets out to find a house while her husband is still working in Australia. She finds the perfect home… but almost the instant she moves in, strange things start to happen. Is she imagining things, or has she been here before? And why do certain spots in the house strike her with such terror? 

The Paris Apartment by Lucy FoleyJess moves to Paris to stay with her half-brother Ben… but when she reaches his beautiful luxury apartment, she finds that Ben has disappeared. The other residents of the apartment building all seem to know Ben – and all seem to have something to hide. Full review here.

Nine Lives by Peter SwansonA very satisfying riff on Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, this book presents us with a list of nine strangers who start to die, one by one. What do these nine people have in common? Why have they been marked for death? And who is stalking them?

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth WareThis book started slow for me, but ended up being quite a satisfying read. Hal Westaway, still recovering from her mother’s sudden death, and struggling to fend off a vicious loan shark, receives a letter saying she has a substantial inheritance awaiting her. Hal quickly realizes that she’s been mistaken for someone else… but is so desperate for money that she decides to try her hand at pretending she’s the rightful heir.  

Sometimes I Lie by Alice FeeneyThis book is all about secrets – the secrets we keep from one another, the secrets we keep from ourselves. Amber Reynolds is in a coma, trying to piece together what happened to her from flashes of memory and snippets of conversation she overhears. Alternating between the days before her accident, her paralyzed present, and a series of childhood diaries, Amber – and the reader – must figure out what is true and what is a lie. 

📚Books I Started in March but Haven’t Finish📚

I started The Girls Weekend by Jody Gehrman and haven’t made much headway. 

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica

Ever since I absolutely fell in love with Local Woman Missing, I have been wanting to get my hands on another Mary Kubica. The only reason it took me so long is that I was a teensy bit afraid nothing would live up to Local Woman Missing – still top of my list for best mystery/thriller of 2021!

I shouldn’t have worried – The Other Mrs. pulled me in and for a huge chunk of the book I had no idea what was going on. Only suspicions – a few of which were confirmed and one which played out only in a tangential way. Kubica’s writing is so superb, and I love how she weaves everything you need to know into the story, so that when you look back at the full tapestry, the truth was there all along.

image from amazon.com

Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Mini Plot Summary: Sadie, her husband Will, and their two children (Otto, age 14, and Tate, age 5) move to a tiny island off the coast of Maine to take guardianship of their niece Imogen, whose mother has recently died. It’s a necessary change: Sadie and Will are struggling with infidelity, although Will claims he never cheated. Sadie’s professional ethics have been called into question. And Otto had an extreme and dangerous reaction to being bullied at school. But their new home is not the fresh start they hoped for. Imogen is angry and scary. Otto is withdrawn. And then one of their neighbors is murdered – and Sadie fears that one of her family members might be involved. 

What I Liked About This Book: Let me just get this out of the way: I disliked the main character with a fiery passion. Sadie seems so removed from her children’s lives, and so reluctant to be a guardian to her niece – whom she refers to as “Will’s relative”! And she has seemingly no sympathy or compassion for Imogen’s completely understandable rage. Plus, she seems completely incapable of being a good mother to her sons. Will, on the other hand, seems to be the perfect father and husband – present and engaged in his kids’ lives, and happy to do all the cooking, cleaning, and laundry even though he also teaches college courses. Sadie seems totally unwilling to make things work with her new colleagues, and takes zero responsibility for anything that happened in her past life. And she’s completely wound up in the murder of a woman she didn’t even know. As a physician, WHY is she not considering counseling for ANY of her family members???? I just hated her so, so much. And yet that is the power and the magic of Mary Kubica’s storytelling, because never once did I even think of closing the book and saying goodbye forever to Sadie Foust. No. I had to find out what was going on. Even though she was a horrible person, she felt very real to me. We get such insight into her inner thoughts and emotional processing that I didn’t doubt for a second that she would ignore her own very troubled family while becoming obsessed with the death of a neighbor. 

I also loved the setting. This remote Maine island is perfect for a murder, and the swirling snow really added to the overall chill of the book. 

The multi-narrative structure worked really well for me here, too. We got little glimpses of the characters that eventually all fit together in one nice, clear picture. 

What I Didn’t Like About This Book: Okay, so I wasn’t wild about the Big Twist. At some point, I suspected it was coming and whined to my husband about how I didn’t want that to be the twist, because it felt easy, and like many things I’d read before. But once I got past the fact that, yes, this was happening, I was able to sink back into the story and enjoy how it ended. 

There was only one other thing I actively disliked. There’s this point where Sadie is trying to figure out who killed Morgan, and she does something that not only seemed completely uncharacteristic but also straight-up bonkerballs. And then there were no consequences, no follow up, and no mention of it ever again. There was a purpose to this little sideline – Sadie learns something important. But it just felt like a total wild hare that could have been handled differently. 

Should You Read This Book? This is a perfect winter weather thriller. And if you like hateful protagonists, and “locked-room” style mysteries, this one is for you. There were plenty of twists and turns – none particularly surprising for me, but still enough that I felt myself questioning my guesses up to the very end. Definitely a chilling, page-turning read.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

My first exposure to Lucy Foley was The Guest List, which I devoured immediately upon getting my copy in the mail. It wasn’t my favorite book, but it certainly captured my attention, so I was eager to read The Hunting Party. That was a better fit for me, and it felt like I was getting to know the author’s writing style: the slow reveal, after much hinting, of lots of secrets; multiple narrators who had complicated backstories that made them seem sinister even if they weren’t; moody, isolated settings that added to the sense of foreboding. 

When I heard that Foley had a new book coming out, I wanted to read it as soon as possible. And my library got me a copy of The Paris Apartment just a week or so after its release date. 

image from amazon.com

Sadly, I think I’m realizing that Lucy Foley might not be my Perfect Match Author. This is really disappointing, on one level, because she is so popular and I love it when I can share the excitement around a beloved author producing a new book. But on another level, not every lid fits every pot, and there are so very many other authors that ARE my perfect fit authors… so if I can release myself from the desire/obligation to read every Lucy Foley book, that opens up more time to read authors I already love and new authors I have yet to discover.

Rating:

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Mini Synopsis: Jess, hoping for a fresh start, moves to Paris to live with her half-brother Ben. But Ben is nowhere to be found… and it becomes increasingly clear that the creepy residents of his luxury apartment building are hiding something. 

What I Liked About This Book: I liked the short chapters. I liked the story Ben turned out to be investigating. 

What I Didn’t Like About This Book: This wasn’t a book for me, and it always makes me uncomfortable to give a negative review because they are so subjective and as a would-be writer myself, I can imagine how hurtful they can be. But I love reading negative reviews because they can really help me center my expectations for a book. My issues with The Paris Apartment may be exactly what makes it perfect for you. 

The first thing I didn’t like was all the secrets. We are so familiar now, as readers, with the idea that every character has a dark secret they are trying desperately to hide. And sometimes I get very weary with that type of character development. So that’s on me. But in The Paris Apartment, I felt like the secrecy was front-loaded in such a way that it made me hard to find a toehold in the story. There are multiple narrators in this novel, which I often enjoy, and the chapters were very short which normally helps move a book right along… but here, the narrative jumped around so much and so quickly that I felt like I wasn’t getting a good sense of the main plot. I had to take a weeklong break from reading this book before I felt up to diving back in… and then it took me until I was fully halfway through the book until I felt like the story really got interesting.

The characters also seemed a little one-dimensional. I did not like or care about the protagonist, and none of the other characters – maybe with the exception of Sophie – felt like they had any depth, or whether their motivations seemed realistic. For instance, there were a couple of romantic entanglements that felt like they came completely out of nowhere. I am of the mind that not every novel needs to have romance, though, so take my comments with a grain of salt.

As long as we’re talking about things that I didn’t like, I might as well be super picky and say that I grew extremely irritated by the use of French phrases quickly followed by their English translations. Jess doesn’t speak French, so I suppose it’s pkausible that most of the characters would speak English around her… but it seemed like, even in chapters where the narrator was French, we’d get a French phrase or several, followed immediately by its translation. I don’t know why this bugged me so much, but it did. I guess I think foreign phrasing should be used deliberately and for a reason that moves the narrative forward, and that the phrases should be so simple/common that most readers would understand them without a translation… or that the need to translate the phrase should be a plot point (a character saying something in French to leave the main character out might go untranslated so that the average reader experiences a similar state of confusion, for instance).

Should You Read This Book? This book – and perhaps Lucy Foley’s books in general – was not for me. But I think if you already love Lucy Foley, I have no doubt you will love The Paris Apartment too. It has all the elements I am beginning to associate with her work: lots of twists and turns, multiple characters with complicated backstories and sinister secrets, and a creepy, isolated location.

What I Read in February

It seems like February drags for a lot of people, but for me, it flies by! Having great book to read definitely helps the days go by more quickly, and I had a lot of great reads this month. And now it is MARCH, and spring is almost here!

February 2022 Reads

I read nine books in February, not that anyone would know by reading this blog. One was a middle-grade book (that I cannot find for sale anymore), but I read the entire thing out loud to my daughter so it counts. 

Of the books I read, eight were library books, and four of those were audiobooks (although I checked out two books in hardcover from the library because my audio holds lapsed at one point). I had one DNF this month, but that’s on me, not on the book (The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf). I started it right as things were ramping up between Russia and Ukraine, and my mind was having a rough time settling down enough to read. 

📚Books I Read in February📚

Hugh Pine and the Good Place by Janwillem van de Wetering: Hugh is a porcupine who values his alone time (relatable), but somehow he’s earned a reputation as the local problem solver. When he has the chance to get away from all the pestering and questions, he jumps at it – with surprising results.

🎧One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus: Five students find themselves in detention – including notorious gossip blogger Simon. They all have things they’d rather stayed buried. But when one of them winds up dead, the rest have to decide whether their deepest secrets will prove them innocent… or make them look guilty.

🎧One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus: Someone is playing a dark game of truth or dare – take the dare, or your darkest truth will be revealed to everyone. When a dare goes horribly wrong, students have to decide what the game’s real purpose is, before anyone else winds up dead.

His & Hers by Alice Feeney: The reporter and the murder detective are covering a grisly death. A death about which they each know more than they should. Will they figure out what’s going on before the bodies stack up?

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware: Nora is shocked when she is invited to Clare’s hen party – after all, they haven’t seen each other in ten years. She’s not quite sure why she agrees to attend the party in a creepy glass house deep in the woods. And when the alcohol-soaked festivities turn to murder, she can’t remember what part she played.  

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell: Teen mother Tallulah and her boyfriend leave for their first night out since their baby arrived. When they never return, Tallulah’s mother is distraught. The police run out of leads until Sophie, new to the area and curious about the case, stumbles across a clue.

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano: Someone wants Finlay’s ex-husband dead, and not just in the metaphorical sense. But can Finlay find the assassin and the person who hired the killer before the dirty job is done?

🎧The Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng: Artist Kelly steps away from her best friend’s art show to use the bathroom, but when she returns, she’s no longer in Chicago, she’s no longer an artist, and nothing of her old life is the same – except her memories. 

🎧Dog Park by Sofi Oksanan: Olenka is watching a family play with their dog in a park when a woman from her past sits down beside her. Olenka ruined Daria’s life… and now Daria has the power to do the same to Olenka.

📚Books I Started in February But Haven’t Finished📚

I started three books in February that I haven’t finished: 

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The more I read Ruth Ware’s books, the more I want to read her books. The Turn of the Key is the fourth of her novels I’ve read (the third in the past year), and I really, really enjoyed it. A very spooky semi-horror novel that is masquerading as a mystery/thriller. 

Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mini Plot Summary: The Elincourts, who live in an isolated mansion in the Scottish Highlands need a nanny for their four children – and quick. Their last few nannies quit in a hurry, blaming their leaving on vengeful ghosts. They hire Rowan Caine – a woman who stumbled across the job posting when she was searching for something else entirely. The Elincourts scarper off to a trade show almost as soon as their new nanny arrives, leaving her to handle their three youngest children. The nanny finds herself at the whims of a malicious eight-year-old, under constant surveillance from a temperamental “smart home,” and startled from sleep again and again by the troubled pacing of an unseen entity. 

image from amazon.com

What I Liked About This Book: This felt much more like a horror novel or a ghost story than a typical thriller, which I loved. It wasn’t Horror-with-a-capital-H by any means, but it had that delicious creeping dread that I associate with horror. The setting – an enormous Victorian home that’s been Frankensteined into something semi-modern and plopped into a remote corner of the Scottish moors – was absolutely perfect. The isolation really drove home just how desperate our protagonist’s plight was, and helped make all the other characters – the clearly troubled children, the handsome always-there-at-the-right-time handyman, the stern, angry housekeeper – seem extra creepy. 

I also loved the way the story unfolded. There were some genuine surprises in the plot (among less surprising but no less enjoyable twists) that were surprising because of how the story is told. 

What I Didn’t Like About This Book: The ending felt a little rushed to me. It was satisfying – I liked the way it turned out, even if part of it wasn’t unexpected – but I think it could have been drawn out a bit more so that the payoff felt a little more earned than it did. 

Should You Read This Book? If you like ghost stories and non-gory horror movies, this novel is for you. It’s fast-paced and I kept turning the pages to find out what would happen next. Definitely my favorite Ruth Ware so far… but I just borrowed a couple more from the library, so that title may or may not hold! 

January Reads

I am a little bit nervous about posting this on the blog, as I fear it locks me into doing it every month. The fact is, I WANT to do it every month… but consistency is not my strong suit. I have been pretty good about posting monthly wrap-ups on Instagram, though… and maybe I just need to get past the desire to have entirely different content on each page. 

I also really like the idea of including ALL the books I read on this blog, even if I don’t get around to writing a review. (I am even worse with reviews than I am with consistency.)

Well! We shall post January’s wrap-up anyway, and hope for the best.

January 2022 Reads

Part of November and all of December found me in a terrible book slump, so when January began the same way, I despaired. 

However, Courtney Turcotte Bond’s beautiful novel Breathtaking jolted me out of my poor reading phase, and I’ve been reading well ever since. 

I completed ten books this month, and they were all good, solid reads. 

  • Two of my favorites of the month are young adult novels — one of which I read out loud to my daughter. 
  • Unsurprisingly, 70% of the books I read were in my favorite genre: mysteries and thrillers. 
  • Half of the books I read are by new-to-me authors, which is so fun! 

It was a great month, and I hope February is just as awesome!

📚Books I Read in January 📚

4:50 from Paddington by Agatha ChristieMystery. Miss Marple’s dear friend sees a man strangle a woman on the train – but the woman’s body never shows up… at least, not until Miss Marple and her friend Lucy Eyelsbarrow start digging.

Breathtaking by Courtney Turcotte BondComing of Age/Women’s Fiction. Cara’s picture perfect life is anything but, and only her ability to write and her best friend Adam keep Cara afloat. But when Cara’s life falls apart, her writing ability deserts her and Adam abandons her. 

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha ChristieMystery. As war breaks out in the Middle East, Prince Yusef entrusts a collection of precious jewels to a friend. Far away in England, a series of ghastly murders rock a prestigious girls’ school. How are they related, and can Poirot find out before more people die?

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren WrightMiddle Grade Mystery/Ghost Story. Amy, angry at being constantly in charge of her sister, goes to stay with her aunt. The old house is where Amy’s aunt and father grew up… but it’s harboring dark secrets and ghosts that won’t be silenced until the truth comes out.

Frindle by Andrew ClementsMiddle Grade Fiction. Nick Allen just wants to sidetrack his teachers from teaching when he stumbles on the ultimate distraction: getting everyone to agree that an ink-filled writing implement is called a frindle, not a pen.

A Man with One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnellThriller. Someone tries – but fails – to kill Paul, who is now on the radar of a deadly killer who won’t stop until Paul’s dead, or finds out why he’s a target.

The Other Mrs. by Mary Kubica: Thriller. As a most necessary fresh start, Sadie and her family have just moved to a remote Maine island when their neighbor is murdered – and everyone is a suspect. 

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice FeeneyThriller. Mr. and Mrs. Wright head to the remote Scottish Highlands to try to mend their marriage, but disturbing things start happening in the old chapel they’ve rented for the weekend.

The Second Mrs. Astor by Shana Abe: Historical fiction. An exquisite, wrenching look inside the controversial courtship and 1911 marriage of 18-year-old Madeline Force and wealthy businessman John Jacob Astor IV, and at their tragic honeymoon aboard the Titanic

The Turn of the Key by Ruth WareThriller. The Elincourts need a nanny, as their last four have left in a hurry. The new nanny, stuck with four children she doesn’t know, must find out whether the ghosts who terrorized her predecessors are real before someone winds up dead.

📚Books I Started in January but Haven’t Finished📚

His & Hers by Alice FeeneyThriller. Newsreader Anna Andrews and Detective Jack Harper are both investigating a small-town murder – and suspicion swirls around both of them. 

🎧 One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus: Thriller. Gossip king Simon dies in the middle of detention, surrounded by four classmates who shouldn’t be there – and they all have reason to be glad he never had the chance to spread their secrets.

A Man with One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell

Caimh McDonnell’s A Man with One of Those Faces was my first mystery/thriller of 2022, and it was certainly a fun one! 

Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Mini Plot Summary: Paul is just trying to do some community service when a sickly man in a nursing home stabs him. And the old timer’s not the only one trying to kill Paul. On the run with Nurse Brigit (a crime fanatic) and with no one to trust but a couple of aging cops (one just days from retirement, the other a mean and cranky renegade), Paul needs to find out why he’s running and how he got mixed up in one of Ireland’s most notorious crimes before he winds up dead.

image from amazon.com

What I Liked About This Book: My favorite part of this book is how funny it is. Paul and his companion Brigit have the kind of witty repartee and amusing observations about the world that had me snorting and snickering my way through the story. For instance, there’s this part where Paul is on a rooftop and is accosted by a cat – it was ridiculous and somehow relatable and very funny. The book is also full of real characters – no one is a bland, regular Joe. You have Paul, who is living on a knife’s edge of poverty purely to spite his dead aunt. You have Brigit, an over-eager crime-novel enthusiast who sort of blunders her way through life. And you have a couple of grumpy police detectives who’ve seen it all and know it all – but still manage to be surprised. Even the side characters, like the pregnant law partner who ends up answering the phone when Paul is trying to reach his lawyer and the elderly millionaire who gives Brigit and Paul a safe place to stay, are richly imagined and full of personality. 

The plot was also very engaging – it’s the kind of story where you know all along who’s chasing Paul… but the why and the how were surprising and kept me turning the pages. 

I also love that this book takes place in Dublin. It’s full of fun words and phrases that I had to look up, either to understand their meaning or to know how to pronounce. That sounds like work, but I absolutely love reading books that use idioms and phrasing and terms that I’ve never encountered before.

What I Didn’t Like About This Book: This book started out a little slow for me, but that may have been the residue of my lengthy book slump. The thing I dislike the most about this book is that the title seems very misleading/inaccurate. I’m not saying every title has to be super meaningful to the book, but I am saying that when there is a tie in, the title can add more weight to aspects of the story than maybe it should. As in this case. Yes, there is a reason that this is called “A Man with One of Those Faces.” We get it right in the beginning, where we learn that Paul’s face is so generic and unmemorable, he can pose as the relatives of elderly retirement home residents. An interesting (if uncomfortable) concept, but it doesn’t go much beyond that. Okay, okay – there IS another time when his all-purpose looks come into play, in a backstory, but I don’t think it was important enough to make that feature the title. I realize I am being extraordinarily picky here. 

I also felt like some threads were introduced that were never tied up. Not that I need every thread tied up neatly (although I said the exact same thing in my previous review, so maybe I DO need that), but sometimes it feels unsettling to end a book and still be wondering “what happened with…?” However! There is hope! This is the first book in a trilogy (which, if I understand correctly, then became a six-book series), so perhaps some of those threads will reappear in other books. 

Should You Read This Book? This was fun, funny, action-packed, and full of really enjoyable characters. If you liked The Thursday Murder Club books, I think you would like this as well – although this has none of the deeper philosophical questions or heartfelt relationships of the Osman books. The action felt similar to that of Billy Summers – where you have a good idea of what’s going on, without seeing the full picture. I have already ordered the next two books in the series, and will report back!