I had a slow book month in September, apparently – only 14! Here is how I felt about the first half.
OK Lisa Jewell, I see you. My second book of hers and I am now fully on board. I’m always down for a good thriller, and she’s delivered 2/2 times for so far, so I’m gonna be adding more from her oeuvre to my TBR queue, for sure.
I don’t even know where to start with this but it starts with the disappearance of a teenage daughter, and goes back and forth between that timeline and present day. There are your expected twists and turns, as with all thrillers, but I think what really grabbed me was the way the mom was written. She was a solid character and I felt her pain.
This was just a great escapist read. Would recommend. I think I have it 4/5.
This book was so weird and made me feel so uncomfortable that I don’t even really want to recap it. It was VERY short though and that’s the only reason I didn’t DNF it.
I guess it’s sci-fi, sort of? An alien invasion had taken place and the survivors of the world’s population have kind of adopted the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” policy by giving in to “The Seep,” which is what the aliens are called. It’s basically like doing psychedelics, where you let The Seep into your body and you can transcend to some bizarre utopia. For instance, the main character’s wife decides one day that, with the help of The Seep, she wants to be reborn again.
No, like literally. Reborn as a baby to a new family.
The main character, Trina, goes on a downward spiral after that, dealing with the loss of her wife. It’s just weird, but not the kind of weird I like, and not that I’m saying I wanted it to be longer because I honestly wasn’t into it at all, but it just felt like there wasn’t enough time in the pages provided to really hit the mark. I had a hard time even envisioning any of the characters or the world itself. I just kind of kept picturing Eisley Cantina for various scenes.
Even Henry was like, “This doesn’t seem like a book you would like,” when he read the synopsis inside the book. One of the many times Booktubers have lead me astray.
3. You Should See Me in a Crown – Leah Johnson
This was cute but not as great as everyone on the Internet was saying (but again, I’m not an LGBTQ+ teenager, so this book definitely probably hits harder for them).
We follow Liz, a Black queer girl in a small town, as she runs for Homecoming Queen strictly because there is a large reward (her town is REALLY into homecoming) that she desperately needs in order to attend the college she got into. Liz is an extremely relatable, likable character, and it was fun reading about her stepping out of her comfort zone, and then my chest tightened when she was outed, and my face got second-hand redness when she had confrontations with other classmates, because ugh high school kids amirite.
I dunno, I had fun with this one even though it 100% was not for my demographic.
4. Burn Our Bodies Down – Rory Power
I picked this up because people kept saying it gave them Children of the Corn vibes. That would be a negative, pals. I think that Rory Power has an interesting writing style, which I really liked, but the story itself was like….I was really in it for a bit, pretty hooked after a certain point, but it just didn’t really take me there. I needed more. I mean, the “creepy small town holding secrets” vibe was there, the stern and overbearing grandma in the weird farmhouse was written well, the “OMG DO THESE TWO GIRLS LIKE EACH OTHER” tension had me flipping the pages…but Rory Power never really drove any of this home for me.
Also, I don’t even know how to explain it. Girl finds out she has a family outside of her mom and runs away from home to meet her grandma, even though mom has spent the girl’s whole life hiding her origins from her. OMG but why? I don’t know, read the book. It’s pretty fucked.
5. The Great Believers – Rebecca Makkai
OK hold on. I just started spontaneously crying as soon as I saw this book cover.
I know that I’m a pretty sensitive person in general, but I think even I wasn’t, I still would have full-on sobbed at times while reading this, and then I got all choked up while trying to explain it to Henry. I guess I have a sick fascination with reading books about the 1980s AIDS crisis, because that is LARGELY what this novel about and it is fucking heartbre—hold on, I’m crying again OMG.
In The Great Believers, we follow two separate timelines: one is in the 80s, where we meet Yale and his group of friends and watch as they navigate the murky waters in the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. At first, I was worried that too many characters were being introduced, but I felt that each one was so fleshed out, they practically jumped off the pages. I became extremely, uncomfortably, attached to Yale and rooted for him SO FUCKING HARD.
The second timeline is in the late 2010s, which finds us in Paris with the sister of one of Yale’s friends, as she tries to track down her estranged daughter. A lot of reviews I read said that they could have done without this timeline, and I can see that. I was definitely less into these chapters, but it does all tie together for one extra curb-stomp to the soul.
I have also seen this book likened to a lighter version of A Little Life, which I want to read but after how devastating THIS book was to me, I’m even more terrified of picking up A Little Life.
Earlier today in the car:
Me: I really want to read A Little Life but I’m afraid it’s going to make me want to die.
Henry: Then don’t read it.
Me: But I really want to read it.
Henry: Then read it.
Henry, being an ambivalent sounding board to Erin R. Kelly since 2001.
6. He Started It – Samantha Downing
OH MAN this was a FUN THRILLER. A group of siblings can’t get their inheritance left to them by their recently deceased grandfather until they embark on and complete the exact same road trip he took them on as children, only this time he’s with them in the form of his ashes.
There are so many twists, so many laugh out loud moments, so many OH SHIT moments — I can’t stress how fun this book is. I mean, come on – a sibling road trip, and by the way, none of the siblings particularly like each other.
The ending is a little….controversial. I think I would have given this a solid 5 had it not been for that “huh” ending, but it was still good enough that I asked Henry if he wanted to read it before I had to return it to the library, AND HE DID. And he liked it too! Except for the ending. He was a little mad about it.
Man, this also made me REALLY want to go on a road trip :(
7. The Silence of Bones – June Hur
I knew nothing about this going into it but wow, I really enjoyed it! It’s historical fiction, set in Joseon Dynasty-era Korea, about a 16-year-old orphan who is basically a servant to the police bureau, from what I understood it was so she didn’t have to live in an orphanage. She finds herself assisting the young police inspector when a noblewoman turns up murdered.
I’m not typically wild about historical fiction, but this was so dark and gritty, and I always enjoy learning more about the history of Korea (this one talks a lot about the persecution of Christians in 1800s Korea, which was scary & interesting). I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys learning about the history of Korea while also trying to solve a mystery.
8. The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendericks & Sarah Pekkanen
OH.MY.FUCKING.GOD. This thriller is a motherfucking roller coaster track of twists and turns. My work friend Megan had recently read it and loved it so I was like OK I WILL READ IT TOO TWIST MY ARM. I kept sending her messages like “WTFFFFFFF I HATE RICHARD” and she would be like INORITE.
First of all, it’s always intriguing me to when a book has two authors. I feel like I would never be able to write a book with anyone because I’m one of those Type A megalomaniac people who will be like, “OK. I can see where that would be a great idea….but we’re doing it my way.”
Anyway, holy shit this book! Every time I thought for sure I knew what was going on, what people’s motives were, etc etc,. everything was turned on its head, giving me reader’s whiplash. Hopefully Henry never planned on reading because on one of our nightly walks, I asked, “Can I tell you about that book I just finished OK great here it goes…”
Read you a book that makes you excitedly vomit the plot all over the sidewalk.
On that note, I’m gonna go back to screaming at the news. FUCK TRUMP FUCK TRUMP FUCK TRUMP FUCK TRUMP FUCK TRUMP.