Stumbling through life, one day at a time

Everything I Read In January/February

I read 25 books last year and reached my Goodreads (follow me on Goodreads) target for the first time ever! That encouraged me to set my goal to 52 books this year. While I am slightly behind already, January and February were good months for me as I was determined to complete the challenge (I still am, I’m just being a bit more realistic now).

Here are all the books I read in the first two months of 2020- with reviews so you know whether you should bother to read them as well:

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Genre: Thriller, adult contemporary

Rating: 5 stars

A couple’s fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…

Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder. [GOODREADS]

I started the year with this absolutely brilliant thriller, which was full of twists and tense moments. I loved that the story was told through the eyes of two serial killers yet it made you root for one of them. A proper moral dilemma.

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Genre: Adult contemporary, crime

Rating: 2.5 stars

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other… [GOODREADS]

Despite this book’s promising title and premise I just did not enjoy it. All of the characters – especially Ayoola, the murderer – just felt flat and I wasn’t interested in any of them. I think that of the book was longer and the characters were fleshed out a little bit more then I would have liked this book.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Genre: Adult contemporary

Rating: 5 stars

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations. [GOODREADS]

I am not a huge fan of grumpy old people so I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this book. It started out slow and it took me a while to get into it but, by the end, I was sobbing. It’s a book about loss, heartbreak, companionship and the friends you make as you struggle through life.

The Whisper Man by Alex North

Genre: Psychological Thriller, mystery, crime procedural

Rating: 4 stars

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.

But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.

Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.

And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window... [GOODREADS]

This was a creepy, suspenseful thriller (albeit a little cliched at times). Despite guessing ‘whodunnit’ quite early on, it still kept me guessing and doubting myself throughout. Not as scary as I had hoped – but I still had to close my window before I went to sleep after reading it one night!

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The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Genre: psychological thriller, mystery

Rating: 2 stars

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close? [GOODREADS]

This book was terribly written and quite boring. I didn’t care about any of the characters or which one of them got murdered. There was also a lot of creating suspense through lines like “I sensed I wasn’t alone” which got really tedious really quickly. The worst part of all was saying that the murderer did what they did because they had a personality disorder. Not okay.

Unfollow: A Journey From Hatred to Hope by Megan Phelps-Roper

Genre: Non-fiction, autobiography

Rating: 5 stars

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church – the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church’s invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God’s truth. She was, in her words, ‘all in’.

In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind. Unfollow is a story about the rarest thing of all: a person changing their mind. It is a fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief, a biography of a complex family, and a hope-inspiring memoir of a young woman finding the courage to find compassion for others, as well as herself. [GOODREADS]

Fascinating, surprising, brutally honest and actually quite sad. It’s changed my outlook and makes me stop and think twice before liking/commenting on anything on social media now. Read my full review of unfollow here.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Rating: 3.5 stars

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.

A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another. [GOODREADS]

I picked this up on a whim while browsing a charity shop back in February. It’s not as good as I was expecting but it’s a nice, quick read. I liked the writing style but the emotion kind of felt too ‘surface level’. I didn’t really feel a strong like or dislike of any of the characters yet the book made me think about things differently at times. I’d like to read ‘Little Fires Everywhere’ next as the reviews seem a bit better.

A Spark Of Light by Jodi Picoult

Genre: Adult contemporary

Rating: 3 stars

The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.

After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.

But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard. [GOODREADS]

I’ve always wanted to read something by Picoult and I started with this as it was Feb’s book pick for Beth’s Book Club. I liked it at first, then it lost me so much that I considered not reading the last two chapters. I hated the backwards timeline as it left me with more questions than answers. However, the last chapter redeemed this book for me.

The Chestnut Man by Soren Svestrup

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Crime procedural

Rating: 4.5 stars

The heart-pounding debut from the creator of the hit Scandinavian television show The Killing.

If you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath is terrorizing Copenhagen.

His calling card is a “chestnut man”—a handmade doll made of matchsticks and two chestnuts—which he leaves at each bloody crime scene.

Examining the dolls, forensics makes a shocking discovery—a fingerprint belonging to a young girl, a government minister’s daughter who had been kidnapped and murdered a year ago.

A tragic coincidence—or something more twisted?

To save innocent lives, a pair of detectives must put aside their differences to piece together the Chestnut Man’s gruesome clues.

Because it’s clear that the madman is on a mission that is far from over.

And no one is safe. [GOODREADS]

This book kept me awake at night! It is definitely one of the creepiest books I’ve read in a while. I think it was a bit too long as it dragged slightly in the middle, and in places it fell into the old cliched detective story tropes (which is why I haven’t given it 5 stars) but I really enjoyed it. When I found out it was written by the writer of the TV show ‘The Killing’ I knew it was going to be good, and it did not disappoint! It was full of twists which kept me guessing throughout. I definitely recommend.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you want to read any of them? Let me know in the comments!

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