MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK RELEASES OF SUMMER 2022

New season, new books

Will my overflowing bookshelves at home keep me from requesting these new titles from the library? No, no they will not. I have all my fingers and toes crossed that Riley Sager’s new book will be a 5 star favorite. I still can’t believe I’m getting to see him speak next month in Cleveland – pinch me, I’m dreaming!

Summer releases

The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings – June 21

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager – June 21

The It Girl by Ruth Ware – July 12

Upgrade by Blake Crouch – July 12

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – July 19

Thank You For Listening by Julia Whelan – August 2

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy – August 9

The Last Housewife by Ashley Winstead – August 16

Carrie Soto Is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid – August 30

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney – August 30

Until next time, Meryn


22 Most Anticipated for Summer 2022 – Speaking Of blogpost linked here
Readers’ Most Anticipated Books of Summer – Goodreads article linked here
THE MOST ANTICIPATED CRIME BOOKS OF 2022: SUMMER READING EDITION – CrimeReads article linked here

2022 TBR // FIRST QUARTER UPDATE

A quarter into the year and I’ve read over a third of my 2022 TBR!

Only three months into the year and I’ve read 11 of the books on my 2022 TBR, making my completion percentage 36.67%, not bad if I do say so myself! And even better yet, 7 of those books I rated 5 stars!

If I’m being honest, I don’t think it’s going to take the entire year for me to read all 30 of these books. My guess is by the end of June, my completion percentage will be between 60-70%. I love this TBR project and feel so inspired and excited to read every book on this list!

My predictions for what I’ll have finished by end of Q2:

1 | A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

2 | The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

3 | Book Lovers by Emily Henry

4 | Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff

5 | In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

6 | 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard 

7 | Know My Name by Chanel Miller

What book should I pick up next?

Until next time, Meryn


2022 TBR – INTRODUCTION linked here
Goodreads 2022 Bookshelf linked here
2021 FOURTH QUARTER UPDATE + CONCLUSION linked here
READING GOALS + TBR LIST // 2021 linked here
Goodreads 2021 Bookshelf linked here

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 16

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

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Date: July 2017
Genre: historical fiction, romance, LGBT
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

Let’s just state the obvious, this book has an extreme cult following with mega, insane hype. The #1 question – is it worth the hype? Undoubtedly, yes.

The story opens with a news article, which for me, is a huge turn on. If there is one thing I love in books, of any genre, it’s a multi-format approach for the story telling. In The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, we get snippets from tabloid and magazine articles intermixed with the conversational interview between main character, Hollywood legend Evelyn Hugo and unknown journalist, Monique Grant.

This book likely would have been a 5 star read if it weren’t for booktok and bookstagram spoiling the plot. I wish, wish, wish I could have read without knowing! I was truly surprised by the big reveal tying Evelyn and Monique together. This is my plea, TJR I need a follow up story surrounding the lives and love between Harry and John. Then and only then, I can die happy.

November 9
Author: Colleen Hoover
Publication Date: November 2015
Genre: romance, new adult, contemporary
Method: audiobook via TPL

I liked this book, I did. The audiobook was great, really liked the dual narrators. It was intensely entertaining and surprising. The plot was interesting, the plot twists were immaculate which literally had me screaming in my car with not one, not two, but three jaw dropping moments.

But. Buuut. This story is incredibly problematic.

Like what the actual fuck. Truly, what the fuck.

The male main character, Ben, is consistently objectifying, controlling, abusing, and manipulating Fallon, the female main character. When Ben remarks, “I can’t believe this girl found it in her heart to forgive me” I lost it – YOU FUCKING THINK?! Your dumbass actions nearly killed her!!!!!!!!!!! Immediately no.

Don’t take my 2 star rating to mean that I hated the book, because I really didn’t. Colleen Hoover knows how to write one hell of a problematic story. I feel like I could justify a star rating anywhere from 1 to 5. If ratings were based on entertainment alone, it’d be a 5 star, but I just can’t justify a higher rating given Ben’s character. 2 stars.
Buzzword Readathon: December selection

Somebody’s Daughter
Author: Ashley C. Ford
Publication Date: June 2021
Genre: autobiography, memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL

I first came to hear of Ashley C. Ford from a podcast interview with Chelsea Fagan of The Financial Diet (episode linked here) and was drawn in immediately by her soothing voice and calm persona. The episode touches on topics such as money, shame, race, poverty, socioeconomic status, and childhood trauma as Ashley grew up having an incarcerated father. I’ve come to appreciate how effortlessly and eloquently Ashley speak about these difficult topics – her vulnerability is inspiring.

Ashley’s memoir was incredibly written and powerfully moving. While I will never claim to be able to understand Ashley’s life struggles or experience as a poor black girl, I could relate to her childhood in some sense that I grew up only 50 minutes from her hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Listening to Ashley read aloud and share her story reminded me of the short stories found in a favorite book from earlier this year, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw.

The Holiday Swap
Author: Maggie Knox
Publication Date: October 2021
Genre: holiday, romance
Method: paperback borrowed from TPL

This story was totally fine and dandy, a great quick little holiday romance covering the story of twin sisters who swap places during the Christmas season. Nothing wrong with it, just nothing super spectacular either. If this became a Hallmark movie, I would definitely indulge. A holiday romance is likely never going to get a 5 star rating from me. Romances in general likely will never get a 5 star rating – unless you are Emily Henry, to be honest.

Would recommend if you’re in the mood for a food-centric, holiday story!

The Last Thing He Told Me
Author: Laura Dave
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: mystery, fiction
Method: audiobook via TPL

My plan was to read this in 2022 given how much hype it’s gotten recently with the news of the movie adaption starring Jennifer Garner and winning the Goodreads Choice Award for best mystery & thriller in 2021. But, when 2 of my coworkers both read the book in a matter of days and both rated it 5 stars, I knew I had to get to it immediately.

I’d heard good things about the audiobook and went that route, which was a great decision – the audiobook was excellent. I was drawn in by the story immediately. So much so that I got through 70% of the story in the first day listening during my daily work commute and also while at the gym later that night.

I loved the overall plot and the mystery surrounding Owen’s disappearance and Hannah’s investigation into his past. I was obsessed with the story and the adventure the reader had gone on up until the point of Hannah meeting Owen’s brother-in-law and then father-in-law, and that’s when my enjoyment took a complete nose dive. Why, you may wonder? Because the second the story crossed into mob/mafia/organized crime territory – immediately no.

Immediately no.

If there is one thing I absolutely hate in mystery, thriller, or crime novels, it’s the mafia and/or mob. I just find it lazy and boring. There’s a million and one other ways to make a story thrilling and interesting that doesn’t involve organized crime. In the end, I was left feeling disappointed. I would definitely recommend this book to others, but I just didn’t care for the direction the story took after the half way point. Author Laura Dave has hinted at a possible sequel, which I would pick up out of curiosity.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 15

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

Memorial
Author: Bryan Washington
Publication Date: October 2020
Genre: fiction, LGBT
Method: audiobook via TPL, hardcover BOTM

It was a strong start for me, but inevitably, it fell flat, but I’m fairly certain that was the point.

I might be in the minority who really enjoyed part 1 from Ben’s perspective and his stream of consciousness type storytelling and writing style. I liked how there was an obvious, chorological progression depicting Ben and Mike’s relationship, intermixed with almost vignettes or flashbacks to add context about Ben’s past and it’s influence on him present day in his relationship with Mike.

I went into part 2 really hating Ben and Mike’s relationship obviously built due to sheer convivence. But then started to warm up to Mike specifically as we learn about his relationship with his father while in Japan.

I was surprised how distinct Ben’s perspective and chapters were from Mike’s perspective and chapters. Given what I know and have read about Washington, it’s easy for me to read Ben’s perspective and inherently know Washington wrote those chapters. But what I found really impressive is how seamless and effortless Mike’s chapters felt given their heavy Japanese influence and references. If you would have told me a Japanese co-author wrote those chapters, I would have believed you because the attention to detail related to food, culture, music, etc was spectacular.

Overall, the character representation was exceptional and the commentary on generational trauma, parental relationships, and grief was excellent, but I’m just not wow’ed enough for anything over 3 stars. I believe Bryan Washington set out on a goal to write a story about love and grief, and he absolutely did achieve that, but I’m just left feeling meh. Which again, I think was the point.

A book that is recently on my radar to read in 2022 is Fates and Furies which based on the synopsis, seems similar to this story in that the book is divided into the two perspectives of a romantic (married?) couple. I don’t know much, but my BFF demanded I read it in 2022, so I will.

The Lost Ones
Author: Sheena Kamal
Publication Date: July 2017
Genre: mystery, thriller
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

This was a wild ride with an ending I really didn’t see coming. Definitely a mystery thriller out of my comfort zone with a political-type plot that personally, I found hard to keep interested in. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the main character but I rarely am when they are alcoholics or recovering alcoholics – it’s just not my thing, maybe that has something to do with my day job. I enjoyed the setting as I don’t think I’ve read a thriller set in Canada. Oddly enough, I was reading this hardcover book the same week I was listening to Seth Rogen’s memoir Yearbook which also has many references to Vancouver and Canada – so fun to read in tandem! Always happy to read from a BIPOC author, especially in the mystery thriller genre. This is the first book in a 3 part series, I won’t be continuing. Overall, it was fine, nothing really super stands out for me – 3 stars.
Buzzword Readathon: November selection

Yearbook
Author: Seth Rogen
Publication Date: May 2021
Genre: nonfiction, memoir, humor
Method: audiobook via TPL

I had exactly zero intention of reading this book given that I know next to nothing about Seth Rogen, but omg I think that made the experience all the more enjoyable. Honestly the only reason I picked this book up was because one of my 2021 goals was to read more from the humor/comedy genre, I saw that this book was up for a Goodreads Choice Award in the humor category, and the audiobook was a short 6 hours. A perfect storm.

Seth Rogen narrates the book perfectly, as expected, but what elevated the listening experience was the diversity in the cast of supporting voice actors. The attention to details was incredible – child actors voiced dialogue from Rogen’s childhood, there were spot on impressions for Hollywood stars like George Lucas and Nicolas Cage. I couldn’t stop smiling at the conclusion of the audiobook when crediting all of those who lent their voice to the production, including Seth’s wife, parents, siblings, in laws, friends, and colleagues.

Obviously I knew it was going to be funny, and I definitely laughed out loud, but Rogen also discusses at length his childhood and adolescence as a Jewish Canadian, two pieces of his identity I literally didn’t know existed (because I’m not really a huge fan of his film work, let’s be honest). His commentary on film, production, wealth, Hollywood, social media e.g. twitter, was also incredibly insightful and poignant.

The amount of people I’ve recommended this audiobook to is actually insane. When reflecting on what rating to give this book, I couldn’t justify anything less than a 5 given how many people (bookish or not) I encouraged to read or listen to this book. Like I really didn’t shut up about it for a week. Chef’s kiss, bravo, mazal tov.

Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom
Publication Date: 1997
Genre: nonfiction, memoir
Method: audiobook via TPL

All I have to say is, book magic. I picked this book in December of 2020 to read in December 2021 as my #buzzword pick solely due to, what I feel, the iconic and familiar book title and cover. A year ago, I had no idea the emotional impact and significance this book would hold for me in this season of life.

By minute 5 of the audiobook, I was crying, nearly sobbing. You wouldn’t know from the synopsis that this is the story of a man faced with an ALS diagnosis, inching towards death chapter by chapter. I pressed play on this story less than a month after the ALS diagnosis of a close family member.

I recently picked up a used copy from a library book sale, another magical book moment. This is a story I hope to revisit time and time again, but is both hard and devastating to consume in this moment and also so comforting.

This book will forever be shelved alongside The Last Lecture, another lifelong favorite.
Buzzword Readathon: December selection

The Santa Suit
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Publication Date: September 2021
Genre: holiday, romance, chick lit
Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL

Super quick read, very cute and festive. Enjoyed the cast of characters and the couple different plots we were following. Nothing ground breaking or revolutionary, but worth picking up to get ya in the holiday spirit! My only criticism is that it feels like while the author is 65+ her self, she’s trying to write a character in her mid 30s but the pop culture and social media references more so place her in her 20s. Just some odd references that felt misplaced. Like the manuscript edits needed to be in the hands of a late 20s, early 30s year old woman, as this is the assumed age of the main character. Chick lit isn’t my favorite genre, but it’s always easy, breezy to pick up this time of year.

What’s up next on my TBR

Until next time, Meryn


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 14

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


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 13

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


2021 TBR // THIRD QUARTER UPDATE

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
FIRST QUARTER UPDATE linked here
SECOND QUARTER UPDATE linked here
Goodreads 2021 Bookshelf linked here

BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 12

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


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 11

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

Circe
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


BOOK REVIEW ROUND UP // VOLUME 2 ISSUE 10

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

Homegoing
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