A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

A Slow Fire Burning
Author: Paula Hawkins
Publication Date: August 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

I had really high expectations for this one after obsessing and loving Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train last year. However, this just wasn’t it and didn’t live up to the hype. The Girl on the Train was a finish-in-3-days-at-4:30-am-because-I-physically-cannot-put-this-book-down book for me. ASFB was just okay.
I liked the cast of characters and how they connected to one another in various ways but overall I just felt disappointed. I wanted jaw dropping reveals or heart racing suspense and this missed the mark. Also, I always internally cringe when a “potential” or “suspected” dementia/Alzheimer’s diagnosis is used as a device to make a character appear unreliable – feels cheap, over done, and disrespectful to me.
Even so, there were some surprising moments and I did like the small hints and clues that kept me semi-engaged throughout the story. But, 3 stars.
Buzzword Readathon: October selection

When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi
Publication Date: January 2016
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Method: audiobook, ebook via TPL

Quick, emotional, impactful audiobook listen detailing a young neurosurgeon’s journey when faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis. Can confirm the epilogue had me wiping away tears. As always, guaranteed 1 star for the positive and accurate physical therapy representation. Definitely would re-read or would re-listen to the audiobook when needing perspective while working in healthcare.
Buzzword Readathon: October selection

The Turn of the Key
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: August 2019
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: audiobook via TPL, hardcover BOTM

Happy to have another Ruth Ware favorite! Not as top tier as The Death of Mrs. Westaway but far better than The Woman in Cabin 10 and In a Dark, Dark Wood, all of which I’ve read this year!
This thriller had a lot of my favorite elements, some I expected but others that were a surprise. It was presented in a letter format which made the tone very conversational, something I really enjoy. The setting included an historic, haunted Victorian house with a creepy and ominous garden with a mysterious past including poisonous plants. I liked the juxtaposition between the Victorian “smart house” and the atmospheric, overgrown cursed garden.
I feel like Ware is notorious for writing unreliable main characters, usually due to substance or alcohol abuse or misuse, but this story’s main character Rowan was unreliable in a different way that I personally find more palatable and interesting. There was a big character reveal that I definitely did not see coming that was a jaw drop moment which I always love. Like other readers, I wasn’t a fan of the ending in terms of who is at fault for the death of the child (mentioned in the synopsis) but I did like the ambiguous ending.
Knowing that Abby from Crime by the Book loved this story and gave it 5 stars, I asked her for a book recommendation with a “spooky and sinister garden” as a follow up to this story. She personally recommended In the Vines by Shannon Kirk and said this about it, “It’s got major gothic vibes + an old mansion that’s got TONS of wild gardens all around it. The gardens aren’t quite as much of a focal point as they are in THE TURN OF THE KEY but I feel like it’s exactly the vibe you’re looking for!!!” Even more excitingly, Shannon Kirk herself responded in the thread on Instagram to mention that she has a book publishing in 2022 that is in the same genre as Vines with a definite creepy garden as a focal point.

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Publication Date: February 2018
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: paperback

Surprisingly, I had to force myself to finish this book. So many people in my personal life, bookstagram, and booktok love this story, and I get it, but I could not get passed Turton’s writing style. I don’t know if it’s just too masculine for me or what. I ran into this exact problem trying to read his other novel, The Devil and the Dark Water, in September and October of this year and ended up DNF’ing it.
The first few chapters had clear fatphobic language that I just could not reconcile with or look past. Truly I was annoyed with his characters nearly from the first chapter – it was destined to be a poorly rated book from that point forward. I had trouble keeping the characters straight and couldn’t be bothered to try. But also, I wasn’t interested in trying to solve the mystery altogether.
All in all, I finished it but solely because I had purchased a copy and wanted to get my money’s worth. I might donate it to Goodwill, honestly.

The Chestnut Man
Author: Søren Sveistrup
Publication Date: September 2019
Genre: thriller, crime mystery
Method: audiobook via TPL

First and foremost, listening to this audiobook while running was WILD. Did a feel like I was running for my life while inside a Planet Fitness under hundreds of fluorescent lights? Yes, I did.
A moody atmosphere, brutal killer, and an intricate, complex plot make for a terrorizing and thrilling read. I’ll admit at times I had trouble keeping the characters straight but I could follow along well enough to get the gist of it. The themes threaded throughout the story involving the foster care system hits a little to close to home right now, but definitely added a unique dynamic to the story. And finally, automatic +1 star for correct use of the term physiotherapy.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


Excuse me while I pick up my jaw from the floor. Here we are, at the closure of the third quarter of 2021! In this post I’ll be sharing all 64 books I’ve read this year, an update on the facts and figures from the past 9 months, and reflecting on my 2021 reading goals and intentions!

Facts and Figures

Nonfiction: 16
Autobiographical: 5
Feminism: 1
Race: 5
Poetry: 1
Self-help: 2

Fiction: 48
Fantasy: 3
Fiction: 11
Historical fiction: 6
Mystery, suspense, thrillers: 17
Romance: 5
Science fiction: 6

Physical books: 32
Audiobooks: 27
Ebooks (Nook): 5

Library or borrowed books: 49
Personal collection: 8

Book of the Month purchase: 4
Buzzword Readathon challenge: 20
Buddy reads: 11

2021 TBR: 16

5 star reads: 17
4 star reads: 20
3 star reads: 25

Reading Goals + Intentions

1 | Backlist titles from 2020 favorite authors: Goal met

2 | 2021 releases from 2020 favorite authors: Ongoing, 75% complete
Only one book left to complete this goal which I plan to read in October as it’s my buzzword pick for that month
☒ Alex Michaelides’ The Maidens
☒ Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop
☒ Riley Sager’s Survive the Night
☐ Paula Hawkin’s A Slow Fire Burning

3 | New to me authors: Ongoing, 37.5% complete
No progress to report this update. I did start Stuart Turton’s novel The Devil and the Dark Water twice while on our road trip, but DNF’d it twice. I’m hoping to get actually read and enjoy The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by the end of the year! I also have Alice Feeney’s newest book Rock Paper Scissors on hold at the library, so that might happen before the year is up
☒ Fredrik Backman
☒ Leigh Bardugo
☐ Alice Feeney
☐ Lisa Jewel
☐ Lars Kepler
☐ Jo Nesbø
☐ Stuart Turton
☒ Ruth Ware

4 | Author diversity and inclusion: Ongoing, 50% complete
Of the 64 books I’ve read, 22 titles are by BIPOC authors and 3 identify as queer. I now own two books by S. A. Crosby, maybe I’ll get to one of them but I’m not too hopeful
☒ Oyinkan Braithwaite
☐ S.A. Cosby
☒ Eva García Sáenz
☐ David Heska Wanbli Weiden

5 | Genres and reading format: Ongoing
I did attempt to read a poetry collection this quarter but ultimately DNF’d it – sorry Mary Oliver. No progress picking up comedies or memoirs this year either. At the time I’m writing this, there are only 2 months left in the year, not sure I’ll really get to either at this point. Of the 64 books I’ve read so far this year, 27 have been audiobooks

6 | Buddy reads: Ongoing
Loosely buddy read Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary with my brother – we both gave it 5 stars! Honestly, I’m a little burnt out on science fiction, so I won’t likely pick another book to buddy read with him until 2022

Buddy reads with my BFF slowed down this quarter to basically nothing, which was to be expected since we were traveling for the months of August and September. A couple books we both plan to pick up and discuss before the year ends include A Man Called Ove, The Ex Hex, and Ghosts

7 | General goals: Goal met
☒ 64 books (goal 60 books)
☒ 20,409 pages (goal 20,000 pages)
☒ 5 books about race/racism (goal 5 books)

Until next time, Meryn

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP 2021 // 42 BOOK UPDATE linked here

2021 TBR // THIRD QUARTER UPDATE linked here


A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Project Hail Mary
Author: Andy Weir
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: science fiction
Method: audiobook via Audible

This book feels so special to me, and likely always will, as it’s the first book Kyle and I have ever read together AND because it’s a book we listened to in the car during our 3 month road trip. I was hesitant to start this because I was concerned it was going to be too similar to The Martian, but wow was I wrong. I really loved Ryland Grace as a main character and was so happy with the voice actor selection, Ray Porter. It’s rare that I feel attached or actually care about a character, but I genuinely needed Ryland to have his happy ending.
I loved how the story was told in flashback moments and how unexpected they were, at least in the audiobook. Present day Ryland would be mid sentence or mid thought then BAAM, flashback! I will admit I was slightly confused the first time or two while listening to the audiobook, but we quickly caught on.
I’d never read a book before which included a component of language creation and found that to be really fascinating and satisfying. Another element I unexpectedly loved was the journey Ryland takes to learn everything about Rocky, from his origin, to his language, to his physical properties and chemical makeup. Overall, PHM was smart, witty, and IMO, ended perfectly. Like honestly, I cried at the end. Kyle can confirm.

The Summer of Broken Rules
Author: K. L. Walther
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: romance, contemporary
Method: ebook read on Nook

This was cute and adorable, a perfect summer romance read! Was it predictable? Yes, of course, but still so enjoyable and a quick read. Lots of characters to keep track of and families to keep straight, including alliances. The summer game ‘Assassins’ weaved throughout the story was entertaining and heart felt. Overall, cute! Would recommend to friends, but likely won’t reread.

The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Publication Date: February 2014
Genre: science fiction
Method: audiobook via Audible

This was a reread for me, but the first time listening to the entirety of the audiobook, which we started just days after finishing Weir’s newest book, Project Hail Mary. Kyle was hesitant at first – he wasn’t sold on Wil Wheaton as the narrator, but Mark Watney’s charm and humor quickly won him over.
I didn’t think it was possible to like the story more the second time around, but I found myself laughing out loud. Some jokes definitely land better on audio, e.g. the Fonz moment with NASA.
Even more than the story, I really enjoyed the discussions we had after finishing both The Martian and Project Hail Mary, getting to compare and contrast main characters and overall storylines.
The only criticism I have is that I hated the epilogue that concluded the audiobook. I did some digging and it seems the epilogue was added later and wasn’t printed at original publication, but somehow made it’s way to the Audible audiobook. Not a fan, would not recommend the epilogue, TBH.

In a Dark, Dark Wood
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: April 2016
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

Ugh. I keep coming back to Ruth Ware hoping to rediscover the magic that was The Death of Mrs. Westaway. But, this wasn’t it. Couldn’t really stand the main character, Leonora. Personally, I’m so sick of an unreliable main character or narrator, it just feels so overdone to me. Granted, I didn’t know when I snagged this audiobook that would be the case. Even so, unimpressed. I still have the literal highest hopes for The Turn of the Key, which I expect to read by the end of the year.
Buzzword Readathon: September selection

The Break-Up Book Club
Author: Wendy Wax
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: fiction, women’s fiction, chick lit
Method: ebook read on Nook

I will unashamedly admit I picked up this book solely based on the cover. And I’m not mad about it! The Break-Up Book Club follows the lives of four different women and their experiences regarding love and romance, all tied together through one common interest – weekly book club. I loved the age range, ethnic diversity, and LGBT+ inclusivity in the main and supporting characters. The story itself hit a little to close to home at times e.g. familial drama regarding marital deception and cheating. But in the same way, it felt comforting.
This book solidified my love for stories told in multiple perspectives by a group of women and has me excited to revisit The Joy Luck Club (hopefully sooner rather than later). Also, I’m not usually one for like an enemies to lovers romance, but when it comes out of nowhere??? Yes, please. Overall, loved the multiple female perspectives, diversity and inclusivity in characters, and the exploration and discussions surrounding grief, loss, new beginnings, self discovery, and the importance of friendship.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


At the time I’m writing this, I just hit 65 books for the year. Reading was slower this quarter than I would have expected at the start of 2021, but life took us on an exciting adventure traveling the US for the months of August, September, and half of October

I definitely over estimated how much time I would spend reading on our road trip. Nonetheless, I knocked another 6 titles off this TBR which brings my completion to 53%, up from 33% at the end of Q2

I don’t expect to actually read all 30 books by the end of 2021, but I think I’ll finish out the year somewhere around 75% complete. Who knows, I may roll over some titles into 2022. I’ve already started brain storming selections for next year!

My predictions for what I’ll have finished by end of Q4 include:

1 | A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins (OCT)

2 | The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton (NOV)

3 | Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware (NOV)

4 | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (DEC)

5 | Vicious by VE Schwab (DEC)

FYI, I’m definitely not going to finish The Devil and the Dark Water considering I’ve DNF’d it twice. I set it aside in September because I just couldn’t get into it, then tried revisiting it in October when I got the audiobook from the library and it dragged even more. I give up. It’s not happening this year. Though I still fully expect to enjoy The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by the same author, given the absolute mega hype it has.

Until tomorrow, Meryn

Original blogpost READING GOALS + TBR LIST // 2021 linked here
Goodreads 2021 Bookshelf linked here


Surprised myself this quarter with reading 6 books considering we moved out of our apartment in July and were road tripping across the US during August and September. I tried so hard to get into The Devil and the Dark Water in September but found it so slow going, so I gave up with the hope to revisit it in October.

July – “last”

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly
One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

August – time of day

Survive the Night by Riley Sager
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
Endless Night by Agatha Christie

September – “dark”

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

What I’m planning to read in the next 3 months:

October – elements

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
A Slow Burning Fire by Paula Hawkins (2021 release)

November – “lost”

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams
The Lost Ones by Sheena Kamal

December – day/month/season

Tuesday with Morrie by Mitch Albom
November 9 by Colleen Hoover

BooksandLala blogpost linked here
Goodreads group linked here
INTRODUCTION linked here

Until tomorrow, Meryn


A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

White Pine: Poems and Prose Poems
Author: Mary Oliver
Publication Date: November 1994
Genre: poetry
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Sadly and surprisingly, this was a DNF for me. I found it so boring. Do I even know how to read poetry? I don’t think I jumped into this at the right time, tried to force it on myself. I’m not swearing off poetry, but this wasn’t it. Will circle back at some point, TBD.

One Last Stop
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: romance, LGBT
Method: ebook read on Nook

I had relatively high hopes for this one. I really enjoyed McQuiston’s debut Red, White, and Royal Blue but I just found this to be such a different vibe. I get why people love this, that’s fine, wasn’t for me. I liked the mixed media, almost 2000s chat forum vibes with the inclusion of various news clippings, craigslist postings, etc. However, I can’t get over the crass, crude, and childish undertones and dialogue. Also, I now know WLW romance is not for me, I basically glazed over every sex scene. It’s a no for me.
Buzzword Readathon: July selection

The Midnight Library
Author: Matt Haig
Publication Date: September 2020
Genre: fiction, fantasy, contemporary
Method: ebook read on Nook

Another hugely, hugely hyped book that didn’t deliver for me. I enjoyed the short chapters and the musical references. But other than that, it was just fine. I thought it was going to be so much more, like I fully expected to sob and connect to the main character, and that just didn’t happen. I can definitely see why people love this, it just didn’t go far enough for me.
Buzzword Readathon: August selection

Endless Night
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication Date: 1967
Genre: mystery
Method: ebook read on Nook

This was my first Agatha Christie and it won’t be my last! Before diving in, I was concerned it would be dull and predictable given its age, which was my experience re-reading a Nancy Drew classic last year, but no! Suspenseful, smart, unexpected, and gothic. Slow to start but definitely intriguing and sinister that kept me engaged and constantly guessing up until the end. Really interesting cast of characters with one of my favorite tropes or themes → marrying into money or coming into money and how that changes a character’s life and lifestyle. Overall, very enjoyable. Definitely interested in reading more classics from Agatha Christie.
Buzzword Readathon: August selection

The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Publication Date: February 2020
Genre: mystery, thriller, horror
Method: ebook read on Nook

Let me just get it out of the way – automatic deduction of 1 star for incorrect use of the term “physiotherapist.” Nothing grinds my gears more than the assumption that physiotherapist is a universal term because it’s not, it has regional significance and connotation. This is a common mistake I’ve seen from Australian and Canadian authors, but I can not offer forgiveness. This story is set in the US, therefore the US term “physical therapist” should be used. This is a hill I will die on.
*Steps off soapbox* I thought this book was great. I found it suspenseful, gripping, and eerie. Also, relatable in a scary, I-could-be-raped-and-murdered-at-any-moment-on-this-cross-country-road-trip, kind of way. Definitely had my heart racing while I read in the middle of the night in a pitch-black tent. I’ve seen negative reviews for the two different timelines and how similar the two main characters are in their respective timelines, but that made the story really enjoyable for me. As the reader, I liked being one step ahead of the main character in the present day given what we were uncovering from the flashback chapters.
While the story centers around the mysterious disappearance of main character Carly’s aunt, there are other adjunct mysteries and supernatural elements that kept me engaged, guessing, and trying to connect all the pieces to the puzzle. I’m intrigued by this author. I’ll likely pick up The Broken Girls, a 2018 release, and The Book of Cold Cases, set to release in March of 2022.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Survive the Night
Author: Riley Sager
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: thriller, mystery
Method: hardback from BOTM subscription

Survive the Night was my most anticipated book of the year, and I’m so disappointed. I have a lot to say and not enough room. Full thoughts can be found here. But the quick of it is the two biggest plot twists were predictable if you’ve read Sager’s entire back list, which I did in 2020. Based off the synopsis alone I was able to guess the conclusion, and I was right. Regardless, I was still entertained and caught by some smaller plot twists. A very quick read I sped through in less than 16 hours. This is my lowest rated of Sager’s books at 4 stars, but definitely the most disappointing given how much I hyped it up in my head. I just can’t give it a 5 star rating having guessed the two biggest plot twists.
Buzzword Readathon: August selection

Author: Madeline Miller
Publication Date: April 2018
Genre: fantasy, fiction
Subgenre: Greek retelling, Greek mythology
Method: paperback

Absolutely, 100%, WORTH THE HYPE. I don’t often annotate books, largely due to the fact that I mostly read library books, but this paperback from my collection went through it. I’m talking dog eared corners, underlined passages, curled cover, and the occasional sweat droplet from reading on the stair master. The writing style and imagery was beautiful. The story was epic and expansive. I savored every chapter of this book, going as far as rereading the first few chapters to really soak in the Greek mythology. I can see myself revisiting the story of Circe, adding new annotations and thoughts. I may be in the minority, but I really lost interest chapter 18 and beyond as Circe progressed through motherhood. Even so, a four star read. I can’t wait to dive in Song of Achilles, I have high hopes it will make me sob.

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
Author: Layla F. Saad
Publication Date: February 2020
Genre: nonfiction, race
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

I did myself a disservice by listening to this audiobook instead of actually utilizing it as a workbook, as intended. Some discussion points I enjoyed included tone policing , white exceptionalism, color blindness, optimal allyship, and called out vs. called in. Even so, I found the journal prompts and the end to be repetitive. Glad I listened to it, but my learning continues.

Impactful passage: Following advances in sciences such as the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, scientists were able to examine human ancestry through genetics. Science has proven that the concept of race is not a biological fact but rather a social concept. According to Dr. Harold P Freeman, who has studied biology and race, “If you ask what percentage of your genesis reflected in your external appearance, the basic by which we talk about race, the answer seems to be in the range of .01 percent. This is very, very minimal reflection of your genetic makeup.

People We Meet on Vacation
Author: Emily Henry
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: romance
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

No doubt, a 5 star read. And for a multitude of reasons. The first being the various levels of relatability because I don’t think I’ve ever related to a book more than this one. And no, I definitely don’t mean the romance. Main character Poppy’s parents are literally my parents. “I’m the product of a cheapskate father and a sentimental mother, which means I grew up in a house filled to the brim with junk.” And I’ve never felt so seen in a single line of text in my life. Later we get, “Or the fact that our garage was riddled with things like once used duct tape Dad was sure he could repurpose.” Anyone who has met my Dad would whole heartedly agree, these men are one in the same.
I also enjoyed how current this story felt with relevant references to influencers, Instagram, movies, the Bachelor franchise, all that pop culture stuff. The multiple and reverse timelines were a welcomed surprise, as Henry’s previous novel, Beach Read, was told linearly – other than some minor flashbacks. Prior to this book, I hadn’t really read a friends-to-lovers romance and I think I just found my trope. At least when it’s presented in this way, where we get years and years of build up, like a long history of friendship. I love a good origin story, usually in the context of parents, but this works too.
Sometimes when I finish a book, I feel like objectively its fine, but just came to me at the wrong time. But this was definitely right book, right time. A book jam packed with 12 years of vacations spent between friends when I myself leave for an 11 week vacation with my best friend/partner at the end of the month, felt like fate.

The Last Garden in England
Author: Julia Kelly
Publication Date: January 2021
Genre: historical fiction
Subgenre: WWII historical fiction
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

Three separate timelines, five female POVs, all intertwined through one beautiful, atmospheric setting, Highbury House and their immersive gardens. I have a thing for books about houses, it just a fact I’ve accepted. Add in an abundance of flowers? Sold.
Historical fiction usually isn’t my jam, especially set in World War II, but the stunning cover drew me in. If there ever was hope of loving a WWII centric story, it would be this one. Where most WWII novels focus on the men serving, and thus lose my attention, this story is a glimpse into what life was like for the women who remained at home and their efforts during the war.
During WWII, Highbury House is transformed into a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. I was so hoping for one of the women to become a “reconstruction aide” (as they were known during WWI, e.g. modern day physical therapists) and assist in rehabilitating the injured men. There were subtle mentions about the health and wellbeing of the men, but overall this very much was a story about women. Even so, I thought the story was wonderful.
My only one regret is not looking into the audiobook before starting my physical copy from the library. After finishing the book, I noticed there are five narrators of the audiobook and it has received great reviews – now I’m kicking myself for not looking into the audiobook!
Buzzword Readathon: July selection

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


I have a lot to say, so much that I had to write an entire blogpost about this book

WARNING: spoilers ahead

Survive the Night was my most anticipated book of the year, and I’m so disappointed. I consider myself a bandwagon Riley Sager super fan. To this day, I credit Home Before Dark for reigniting my love of reading in June of 2020. It’s easily in my top 5 favorite books. I recommend and I think about it on a weekly basis, the unease, anxiety, and fear it brought me. I’ve been dying to re-read it, but am forcing myself to wait until closer to Halloween.

While I had incredibly high expectations going into STN, I also knew, based off the synopsis, this wasn’t likely going to be a 5 star read for me personally, and I was right. What I have loved so much about Sager in the past is his atmospheric settings, e.g. the Baneberry Hall of HBD and the Bartholomew of Lock Every Door. But half of this story is told in a car traveling from New Jersey to Ohio, can’t say I find anything atmospheric about the interior of a slate-gray Pontiac Grand Am. Also, Sager is quoted saying this is a “love letter to the movies” which just isn’t my vibe as I’m not much of a movie watcher. Unfortunately, a lot of the 90s film references went right over my head. If I was born in the earlier 80s and growing up in the early 90s, I reckon I would feel very differently.

Now to actually discuss STN. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like for any mega Riley Sager fans, the final twist will have been very predictable and underwhelming. Given HBD was marketed as a book within a book (not a spoiler), I went into this with the strong inkling there would be a movie script/screenplay tie in, and what would you know. As the story got more and more ridiculous, ahem, cinematic, it further reinforced my assumption. Also, with such a small cast of characters, the murder reveal was not shocking in the slightest. I didn’t exactly guess the motive of the murderer, but guessing their identity wasn’t difficult given the limited character list.

Regardless, I was still entertained and caught by some smaller plot twists. A very quick read I sped through in less than 16 hours. This is my lowest rated of Sager’s books at 4 stars, but definitely the most disappointing given how much I hyped it up in my head. I just can’t give it a 5 star rating having guessed the two biggest plot twists.

I will forever be a Riley Sager fan, catch me hyping up book #6.

Until tomorrow, Meryn

Other stand along book reviews:


A review and rating of the last 5 books I read and a look into my TBR list for books to come

Deacon King Kong
Author: James McBride
Publication Date: March 2020
Genre: fiction, historical fiction
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

This just, wasn’t the book for me. I was struck by the cover last year and kept getting drawn into it. Opted for the audiobook which wasn’t a great option for me personally. It quickly became background noise. I went into it basically blind, I don’t think I had barely skimmed the synopsis once before hitting play. Their definitely were unique characters, shout out to Hot Sausage, and I was amused throughout, but I really couldn’t tell you anything about the actual plot other than Hettie hounding The Deacon about that damn Christmas money. In it for the time, an okay good time, but not for a long time.
Buzzword Readathon: June selection

Author: Yaa Gyasi
Publication Date: April 2017
Genre: historical fiction
Method: paperback

Heart breaking and heart warming. A beautifully woven story covering the lineages of two, interconnected families through eight generations. I had to take my time with this book. Each chapter felt special and important, it couldn’t be rushed through like a mystery or thriller. Reading the book cover to cover felt less like a singular, cohesive story and more like a collection of short stories, given the back and forth nature of Gyasi’s story telling. When I come back to this book in the future, I think I’ll read alternating chapters as to follow one half of the family tree more closely. I also think it would be really unique to read in reverse, to travel back in time through the generations.

The Guncle
Author: Steven Rowley
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: fiction, LGBT
Method: hardback borrowed from TPL

If a warm and meaningful hug could be boxed up into a book, like you’re favorite classic 80s or 90s family sitcom. When I say I laughed out loud, know that I really mean it. If this isn’t adapted for tv, that’ll be a damn shame – Patrick’s one liners were iconic. I loved the references to day time TV, the Emmy’s, Golden Globes, but most importantly, Hollywood Squares, that definitely unlocked a memory for me from the late 90s. I do feel like the story overall was disjointed. It’s almost as if there were 5 sub plots loosely related to the main plot that never really circled back or concluded. The cuteness and wholesomeness gets a 4 star rating, the discombobulated plot keeps it from being a 5 star read.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: May 2018
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

This was my first Ruth Ware and wow was I impressed. I started the audiobook very much on a whim and was captivated from the first chapter. This book had a lot of elements I love in my thrillers: large cast of characters, various timelines, flashbacks via diary entries, atmospheric setting (Trespassen was the Gothic house of my dreams), familial drama and secrets, and a new favorite element, distribution of wealth and/or inheritance. I also loved the tarot cards and readings woven throughout the story. I thought the pacing was excellent and well executed. Chapter after chapter I had so many questions, some that didn’t get answered until the very end. And some that are left unanswered, which puzzle me. There was a point in the last 10% of the book that I feel genuinely unsettled and sick to my stomach. As the family drama was unfolding, I was getting more and more scared and anxious. I loved it so much. I’m obsessed. The Dutch House, but make it a mystery thriller. Perfect and articulate review by Abby of CBTB linked here.
Buzzword Readathon: June selection

The Woman in Cabin 10
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: July 2016
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have started a Ruth Ware audiobook directly after finishing a Ruth Ware audiobook. But, in my defense, I was so enamored and impressed with The Death of Mrs. Westaway, that I just had to dive back in, but it wasn’t a runaway favorite like TDoMW.
There definitely was a mix of pros and cons, which landed by rating just about in the middle with a 3 of 5 star rating. I enjoyed the large cast of characters, the luxury ship setting, and the various story telling formats including email messages, breaking news alerts, forum discussions, and BBC online articles.
However, what I didn’t like, what I never like in thrillers, is an unreliable main character. It’s just so overdone in the genre. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the unreliable, alcoholic main character in The Girl On The Train, but it was the first thriller I read with that specific trope, and every other story I read following just hasn’t been as impressive or Earth shattering.
I’ll likely read all of Ruth Ware’s backlist this year, much like tackling all of Riley Sager’s books in 2020. Up next, hopefully, is The Turn of the Key, which I have very high hopes for with a 5 star prediction.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until tomorrow, Meryn


We leave for our 3 month road trip in less than a month! I’ve spent the past few weeks curating a list of books I hope to get to throughout the summer, keeping in mind we will be on the road for the entirety of August and September.

I maybe be totally over estimating how much time I’ll have to read during our trip but I’d rather be over prepared than underprepared when it comes to reading material. I’m also in the middle of making a road trip essentials card game kit, which will have 2 sets of playing cards, dice, dominos, and 1 or 2 books/manuals for card and dice games we can play in the evenings while at campgrounds and hotels.

I’ve been working on downloading ebook copies of these titles to load onto my Nook. I wish I could bring the physical copies of these books, but we’ll be tight on space in my car considering all of our camping gear.

I bought the audiobook of Project Hail Mary on Audible, hoping to turn my boyfriend on to audiobooks with this new sci-fi release. I listened to Andy Weir’s The Martian earlier this year and loved it.

I’ve got a good mix of genres, new releases, older titles, and even a high school re-read I hope to get to during our trip!

July Hopefuls

Road Trip Ebooks

Road Trip Audiobooks

Until tomorrow, Meryn