For the second month in a row, I finished 13 books. This fact makes me bizarrely happy. I definitely won’t be managing thirteen in October though given I’ve decided to read IT. Eeek, wish me luck with that. But we’re here to talk about last month’s reading, so let me get on with that. I’m linking up with Jana and Steph, as always.
TL;DR at the bottom for those who need it.
If You Knew My Sister by Michelle Adams. All her life, Dr. Irini Harringford has wondered why her parents gave her away just before her 4th birthday but kept her older sister, Elle. Although she has spent her whole life trying to convince herself she doesn’t need them, deep down she still longs to understand why they didn’t want her. So when Elle manages to track her down (again) with the news that their mother has died, Irini reluctantly agrees to attend the funeral, despite having cut Elle out of her life years ago after one too many “incidents”. But as Irini is sucked back into her family’s toxic web of secrets she soon realizes that the past is much more complicated than she ever imagined. This is an interesting psychological thriller, very suspenseful. The mystery of way Irini was given away was pretty obvious, although there is an added twist that I wasn’t expecting. However, all the dialogue in this book annoyed me. The parts in between are well written, but whenever characters were conversing it just seemed really stiff and unnatural to me. I did like it apart from that but I wouldn’t read it again. 3 stars.
Forget Me by K. A. Harrington. Three months ago, Morgan’s boyfriend Flynn was killed in a hit-and-run accident. They weren’t together long, but still she can’t seem to move on. Thinking it will provide some closure, Morgan’s best friend persuades her to upload her only picture of Flynn to the social media site FriendShare along with a note to say good-bye. The girls are shocked when the site suggests she tag the photo as Evan Murphy – someone they’ve never heard of but who is very much alive. A quick search reveals that he lives in a nearby town and looks exactly like Flynn. As she digs through layers of secrets, Morgan questions everything she thought she knew about her town, her boyfriend, and even her own parents. This somehow reminded me of old-school Point Horror books (even though it’s really modern with social media and such) and it made me feel all nostalgic. I really liked the friendship between the two girls. The ending was a little predictable but that’s okay. This is exactly the kind of book I would have devoured aged 13/14. 3.5 stars.
The Wife’s Shadow by Cath Weeks. Suzy seemingly has the perfect life – a gorgeous family, a beautiful home and a successful business. But things haven’t always been that easy for her. In her past lies a life of fear and insecurity – a life she ran away from and has been hiding from ever since. When Suzy starts being followed, she fears that her past secrets may finally be catching up on her. And when she finds herself unable to do what to her is the most important thing – keep her loved ones safe – she has to decide how far she’d be willing to go to win everything back. This book is well written and I thought the creepy aspects were done well. All along I thought a certain person must be responsible but I couldn’t work out why. Then when the reveal came it was disappointingly cliché. I literally thought “ugh, that again!”. 3.5 stars.
Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway. Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life – to stay out late, surf her favourite beach, just go anywhere or do anything without her parents’ relentless worrying. But ever since Emmy’s best friend Oliver disappeared when they were children, her parents can’t seem to let her grow up. Emmy and Oliver were destined to be friends forever – maybe even more – and his absence left a huge hole in Emmy’s (and all their friends’) lives. When Oliver returns, she hopes they can pick up their friendship where it left off – but things aren’t that simple. Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart… all these years, he thought his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who had kidnapped him and kept him on the run. This is such a cute book, but as you can tell from the description it also covers some surprisingly deep topics. The cover implies a fluffy teen romance (and the synopsis on my copy does too), but it’s actually much more than that. It’s a story about growing up and the complexities of relationships – not just the romantic kind. I loved the friendship group in this story and would actually have liked to have more of Caro and Drew’s stories. There were little flashes to Drew’s problems, e.g. with not all of his family accepting his sexuality, but then it quickly flashed back to Emmy and Oliver’s story, which I suppose made sense given the title but I needed more. I would love a sequel from Drew’s point of view. This is the second book I’ve read by this author this year and I will definitely be reading more. 4 stars.
Frozen Charlotte by Alex Bell. Dunvegan School for Girls has been closed for many years. Converted into a family home, the teachers and students are long gone. But they left something behind… After her best friend dies under mysterious circumstances, Sophie sets off to spend the summer with her cousins at the old schoolhouse on the Isle of Skye. It’s been years since she last saw them – brooding Cameron with his scarred hands, Piper whose perfection seems too good to be true, and then there’s little Lilias, who’s afraid of bones and insists the antique dolls in her sister’s room talk to her. The sister nobody is supposed to mention. The sister that died. This is very creepy and it actually gets pretty dark for a teen book! I was a little annoyed that the original “mystery” was never actually resolved (I can’t say more than that without spoilers). Frozen Charlotte dolls are a real thing and… well, let’s just say I would NOT be giving them to my child! Between 3.5 and 4 stars.
Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett. Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, Zorie and her former best friend Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern-day Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets – with Zorie’s father blaming the sex toy shop run by Lennon’s two moms for his company’s losing customers. When a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness after an argument with the rest of the group. Alone. With no way to safety other than hiking. As the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world without the magic of nature and the stars? This book is so cute! I absolutely flew through it. I love the characters (well, except the dad and Reagan, but presumably that’s the point). The premise slightly annoyed me because if they were supposed to have been best friends for so long why wouldn’t she at least *try* to talk to him and find out whether he had a good reason for his actions (which he did) instead of just assuming things. Zorie’s stepmother Joy is amazing and just shows people don’t have to be related to you by blood to be the best family. There are some not exactly subtle sex scenes (points for safe sex though!) so I would definitely recommend this one more for older teens. 4.5 stars.
Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge. A girl emerges from the woods, barely alive. Her story is beyond belief, but every word of it is true. Days later, another desperate escapee is found. Pairs of victims are being abducted, imprisoned, and left with a gun. As hunger and thirst set in, only one walks away alive. It’s a game more twisted than any Detective Inspector Helen Grace has ever seen. And as she leads the investigation to hunt down this unseen monster, she learns that it may be the survivors – living calling cards – who hold the key to the case. I saw this book on a previous round of Show Us Your Books and thought it sounded fascinating. This is a decent thriller in the police procedural vein. There are excerpts from the perpetrator’s perspective and as soon as they said a certain thing I guessed who was doing it but couldn’t work out why. It’s a surprisingly fast read despite its length (421 pages) and it held my attention but I’m not sure yet whether I’ll go on with the rest of the series. 3.5 stars.
Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, things get very complicated and his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised. And for Simon, falling for Blue is a very big deal indeed… I finally got round to reading this one, a million years after everyone else! It’s cute and there were some moments I liked but… I don’t know. It just wasn’t as good as The Upside of Unrequited. I think I just didn’t like Simon very much. He’s basically horrible to his friends a lot of the time and I kept wanting to shake him. I mean, teenagers being selfish and oblivious is nothing new but uggggh. I liked the emails between Simon and Blue and I loved Abby. A high 3 stars.
Close to Home by Cara Hunter. Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a barbecue at her home. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or so they claim. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out. I really enjoyed this book. It’s very twisty and turny and I changed my mind about who I thought was responsible a dozen times. I had an inkling that something was off with a certain character, but then as the storyline continued I thought that couldn’t possibly be right. Then came the ending and well… apparently it could be, at least kind of. I was not expecting who the other person involved was. The person I felt most sorry for in all this was Daisy’s brother Leo – I was so glad he got to live with a loving family at the end. The final solution/twist does require some suspension of belief but it’s a really well written book. I definitely plan to continue this series (because I clearly need to commit to more series given my huge list of books I want to read?!). 4 stars.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. Until one evening her husband, Gabriel, returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, then never speaks another word. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations – and his search for the truth that threatens to consume him. Reading this book was a surreal experience because I swear I’ve read it before, but I can’t have because it was only released this year and I definitely didn’t read it in 2019. I’m so confused! Not every little detail was familiar, but I definitely remembered some of Alicia’s diary entries as well as Theo’s character and the parts with his wife. I suppose the twist would have been clever if I didn’t recognise it the minute things started to happen because, again, I swear I’ve read this book before?! I gave it 3 stars but it might have been more if I didn’t already know what was happening. Again, so confused!
The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton. When Rona Blackburn landed on Anathema Island more than a century ago, her otherworldly skills might have benefited friendlier neighbours. Instead, fear and guilt led the island’s original eight settlers to burn “the witch” out of her home. So she cursed them, as you do. Fast forward one-hundred-and-odd years, and all Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. And she has reason to hope that she may have escaped the thorny side-effects of the family matriach’s curse. But then a mysterious book comes out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother – seems capable of performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice. Nor senses a storm coming, and she’s certain she’s going to end up right in the middle of it. I mostly enjoyed reading this book. It’s well-written and atmospheric, very spoky in parts (would have been perfect for October) but the pacing is all over the place. It’s pretty slow for most of the book then the action suddenly ramps up towards the end and everything seems to happen at once. The epilogue is either setting things up for a sequel or is just unnecessary and confusing. 3.5 stars.
Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. After a childhood moving from one academic outpost to another with her professor father, Blue van Meer finally gets the chance to stay in one place as she embarks on her final year of high school at the elite (and unusual) St. Gallway School in Stockton, North Carolina. There, she falls in with a charismatic group of friends and their captivating teacher, Hannah Schneider. A sudden drowning, a series of inexplicable events, and finally the shocking death of Hannah herself lead to a confluence of mysteries. One year after finding Hannah dead, Blue tells her tale in the form of a syllabus for a Great Works of Literature class (with hand-drawn Visual Aids), and attempts to make sense of it all. This is the kind of book that I like to label “too smart for its own good”. It’s very much an intellectual book. The writing and whole style of it reminded me of “The Basic Eight”, but this one is even more drawn out. I liked it most of the time while I was actually reading it but once I put it down I didn’t feel compelled to pick it back up – hence why it took me 17 days to finish. I definitely feel like it was about 200 pages too long – a lot of the intellectual waffling could have been skipped. Nonetheless, I would read this author again. 3 stars.
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy. Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been her, her father and her sister against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. Between juggling multiple jobs, dealing with her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad, Ramona feels like she has to be the adult of the family. ANd, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever. The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, causing her to question her sexuality. Could it be that she likes girls and guys or is this new attraction just a fluke? This is partly a romance, but mostly a story about family, and especially the relationship between sisters. I loved Ramona as a character, but some of her decisions had me wanting to shake her. For instance, I adored how much she loved her sister but hated the way she thought Hattie’s situation had to dictate the rest of her life. Let Hattie make her own mistakes! There were a lot of side characters and it took me some time to get them all straight, but once I did I ended up liking them all. Ruth was my favourite. The plot is a little predictable and it’s also verrrry slow – this is very much a character driven book. But I did enjoy it a lot. 4 stars.
TL; DR. YA fans should definitely read Starry Eyes, Emmy & Oliver and Ramona Blue. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda was very popular a few years ago, but honestly if you haven’t picked it up yet I’m not sure you need to bother. Frozen Charlotte is a creepy YA read that would be good for October, but don’t expect some kind of masterpiece. Adult thriller fans should read Close to Home, unless you don’t like police procedurals then avoid. None of the rest were bad, but none were amazing either so you’ll have to read the descriptions above and decide for yourself.
Don’t forget to check out the link up for more book recommendations. And if you’ve read any of these let me know what you thought.