The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 10/13/21-10/15/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warning: This book includes instances of rape, criminal trials, and police corruption. If these are triggers for you, read at your own discretion.

Rachel has a podcast called Guilty or Not Guilty that focuses on a true crime where she breaks down the evidence to figure out whether the suspect is guilty or not guilty. She travels to Neapolis, North Carolina for her subject of season 3, a rape trial between a future Olympian and the granddaughter of the former chief of police. She continues to post podcast episodes throughout the trial, giving her audience the chance to be in the jury box.

On her way to Neapolis, Rachel discovers a letter from a fan, Hannah, who asks for Rachel to look into her sister’s, Jenny’s, death. While the official report is that Jenny died from an accidental drowning, Hannah is sure that is a lie. Telling her story over a series of letters, Hannah slowly lets Rachel in on Jenny’s death and why she thinks that Jenny died under suspicious instances.

Following a present rape trial while we follow the death of another rape victim, we slowly begin to investigate who is guilty, and how history repeats itself.

As I was looking through my TBR pile, this was the book that I gravitated to the most. There is something so modern and cool about following a podcast in a book. While I am aware that she chose to follow a rape case because she wanted as much attention as she could get, there is something that feels uncomfortable about the whole guilty or not guilty thing. Considering how difficult it is for women to be believed in sexual assault trials anyway, I don’t like the idea of basically saying “do you believe her or not?”. It just doesn’t sit well with me.

I do like the idea of Hannah’s storyline, but I don’t like that we don’t meet her until the end of the novel. It just feels like a really weird resolution that totally could have happened earlier in the novel. They also totally could have met before the final scene. It almost seemed like overkill.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this novel. I think I had slightly higher expectations, but it was a solid novel nonetheless. Overall, I would give this a 4 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

How I Read It: Audiobook

Dates Read: 10/12/21-10/13/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warning: This book has instances of murder of a child, a murderer who is a child, manipulation, death (including decay), gore, and suicide. If any of these are triggers for you, please read at your discretion.

Ciara meets Oliver at a grocery store and go for coffee. They connect over their love of space travel, and quickly their connection leads to dates. Both of them feel like secrets are hovering over their relationship, but neither is willing to give in to what they know. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuts down Ireland, they decided to move in together for the 2-week lockdown, hoping that their secrets would stay out of the apartment. But as things go on, their secrets become stifling, and they have to make the hard decisions in order to keep each other.

56 days later, a body is found in the apartment. In an advanced stage of decay, the police can’t decipher who the victim is and whether it was a result of murder or an accident. They discover that the resident of the apartment is Oliver St. Ledger, a former child murderer. As they investigate, Lead Investigator Lee has a gut feeling that something more happened here, but she has no evidence to prove it.

As we switch between the past and the present, we slowly begin to unravel what happened in that apartment and relationship. But will justice be served?

This is the first book that I have read where the story is actually set during the pandemic. There are some authors who have claimed that they will never write a book in the pandemic times, but I think that the pandemic really opens up the mystery/thriller genre. Since so much of the pandemic feels like a horror movie, I hope that more thriller writers will write about this time in the future. I also am surprised that we haven’t had more adventure novels out since we have been stuck inside with only the opportunity to do nature activities instead of traveling. I feel like there are so many possibilities with the pandemic, and since there are so few books that are set in this time, each one will be so unique.

Anyway, this book is so brilliantly written. From the get-go, Howard sprinkles a little bit of doubt, then slowly regains control of the situation so that she can blow it up at the perfect time. It was so fun to read, and I cannot encourage you enough to pick it up and read it for yourself! I am going to go with 4.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 10/11/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warning: This book includes instances of murder, gore, manipulation, police investigation, poisoning, stalking, financial crime, and miscellaneous other crime. If any of these are triggers for you, please read at your own discretion.

The 3 children and their partners attend Easter dinner. When there, they learn that their parents are selling the house, which Catherine dreamed of inheriting. Their father also went on a tirade, belittling both Dan and Jenna as well. They storm out of the house, but each of them have a gnawing feeling over the day’s events. Days later, the parents are found brutally murdered, and none of the children have an alibi for Sunday night. As we follow the investigation, we have to ask what we would do for our family, would we ever cover up a crime for the people we love?

I like that we get bits and pieces of the motives and what could have been used for the murder bit by bit. It does really add to the mystery to have little hints that something important was kept from everyone, not just us. I personally found the Audrey storyline really annoying, but I think it would have been less annoying if she was actually the detective. I think following the detective in this story would have been really cool since they knew about as much as we did anyway.

I do like the psychological torture element for the partners. It does add a lot of ambiance to the mystery aspect of the story. I kinda wish that Jenna had a more established partner, since Jake always was a peripheral character.

Spoiler Alert: I will say that the murderer is pretty obvious in hindsight. It’s almost like we were so pushed towards the other two siblings that we almost ignored the murderer throughout the book. I almost wish the book led us to Rose as the killer since she was such a surprise. But I also see how she was used as a red herring, which was also a really cool idea. I think Ellen would also be a really cool killer in this case, too.

I think that this is a really cool story that definitely had me invested from the beginning. There are things that I wish happened that didn’t, but overall, I would give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 10/15/21-10/16/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

When Maggie was a child, she lived in a house called Banberry Hall for 20 days. Her father (with support from her mother) wrote a true story memoir called House of Horrors, claiming that the reason the family left was because the house was haunted by the former residents. When her father dies, she gains full ownership of the house. Since she works as an interior designer, she wanted to go and refurbish the house in order to hopefully gain a bigger profit, but more importantly gain closure over this time she doesn’t remember.

Upon coming back to Banberry Hall, Maggie immediately learned that everyone in the town hates the book. She begins to investigate the clues that were left from her family’s time in the house. As she finds more and more evidence that confirms the events of the book, she begins to believe that maybe her father didn’t make it all up. Flipping between the House of Horrors book and Maggie’s adult experience in the house, we follow a journey towards discovering what is really haunting the house once and for all.

I was listening to this book while working and let me tell you, that was a mistake. I have talked about it previously, but I am not a paranormal person. Due to a childhood trauma, paranormal/ haunted tropes get to me more than I think any other. Give me gore and I’m fine; give me a ghost and I’m running screaming. As my coworkers slowly trickled out of the building, I became one of the last people at work. One of my coworkers, who is the sweetest grandmotherly-type person, often brings me chocolate at the end of the day, thinking that I would need the little bit of sugar to get through the rest of my shift. With no warning to her presence, I turned around and she was right there. I swear I almost pooped my pants. Lessons learned, not a good idea. But it created a memory that I am always going to associate with this book, which is always one of my favorite parts of reading. There is something so magical about that.

Anyway, I totally didn’t see the ending coming. I think that it is very humanizing, but I think that the book would almost been better if it didn’t come together with a perfect bow. I think that would have made it completely unique. In the same vain, I also see why we needed closure for who the ghosts are. It’s a really hard line to cross, and I also am very introspective today about books, so ignore me, I’m being weird.

OOOOOOOhhhhhhh, I almost forgot. I hate the title of this book. Where did it even come from? It 1) was not said at all during the book and 2) was not even implied in the book. Let’s be honest, I don’t know what I would have called this book, but I also hate when titles do not match the content of the book. Again, that’s a personal feeling, but it is something that bugged me when I finished it.

I think this book is good, but I personally would give it a 3 out of 5 stars. Trying to think in a non-biased viewpoint, I would probably bump it up to a 3.5 or 3.75. I would say that it is good, but I also don’t think it is as good as Sager’s other books.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Print

Dates Read: 10/8/21-10/10/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warning: This book has moments that feature rape, sexual assault, murder, body dumping, manipulation, car accidents, and panic attacks. If any of these are triggers for you, please read at your own discretion.

Emily and Kristin are backpacking through Chile when they meet a Spanish backpacker. Kristin takes him back to their hotel room where he attacks her. She ends up killing him. A year earlier, Emily was in the exact same position in Cambodia, where Kristin killed a South African backpacker after he attempted to rape Emily. In both cases, the two women worked together to destroy the evidence and get rid of the bodies. 

Following their return home from Chile, Emily felt a nagging feeling that something wasn’t right. Kristin was not acting as if she was raped and killed in self-defense, she was acting like she had a completely normal trip. When Kristin moved back to Wisconsin from Australia soon after the trip, Emily couldn’t feel more stifled by their blood soaked history. As time continues, we watch as Emily becomes more and more paranoid and Kristin becomes more and more present in Emily’s life until we finally reach a breaking point.

This book really puts you right into it. While that is a huge plus in my eyes, there are always going to be people who wish they had time to ease into it. I think part of the reason why I immediately got into this book was because we began with action. That being said, your major conflict happens within the first 20-30 pages of the book, which does take away some of the novelty by the end of the book.

I think this is the most thriller-y book I have read in a while. I truly felt the feeling of paranoia and fear in a way that I haven’t felt in a book in a while. It was a super cool experience that kept me on the edge of my seat from page 1. For that reason, I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood

How I Read It: Print/ Audiobook

Dates Read: 2/24/21-3/2/21

How I Found It: Book of the Month

Trigger Warnings: There are instances of abuse, including manipulation, physical, and sexual abuse.

When I saw the cover of this book, I was all in. I will say that this book is 100% not what I was expecting on a romance level, but I learned a lot about the feelings and emotions of trying to come to the US with the hope of earning the American Dream.

Let’s be real, Anvar Farris was not destined to be a “good” muslim. He questions everything, has differing views on the world, and he never memorizes the Quran. When his parents moved the family to San Francisco, CA, Anvar was ready for the new experience. He fell in love, went to college for English, and felt like he had his place in the world. But when his relationship fell apart after a disagreement of religious beliefs, Anvar finds his life in turmoil. When his mother experiences a very racist situation, Anvar goes to law school to become a lawyer. He ends up getting a case, but hs client ends up dead after a bomb strike in Syria. Feeling helpless, Anvar stops living, forcing him to take charity in order to have a place to live.

Safwa was born in the wrong place at the wrong time. After her mother’s death, her father has to start working for the Americans in order to keep the food on the table. But when he is taken by the Americans, Safwa tries to take care of her crippled brother. Eventually, she has to leave her brother behind, forcing her uncle to take care of him in his last days. When her father returns to her, Safwa has to withstand his wrath. But when she meets a man, Qais, who might be able to get her out of Afghanistan once and for all, she is willing to pay the price. Once she lands in America, she tries to avoid Qais, but the deal that she made continues to catch up to her. She meets Anvar, and the relationship that they forge gives her an idea to hopefully earn the freedom she came to America for.

In my opinion, the book is a little dense. However, I also listened to this book more often than I normally do. I think that this is one of those books that I recommend that you listen to it over reading it, but that may also be what worked best for me. There were times where the timeline was slightly confusing to me, but otherwise, think that this book is pretty easily accessible for the average reader. I think overall, I would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 10/25/20-10/31/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month, Personal Recommendation

Did I hit my steering wheel on my way home from work because of this book? Maybe. Was the older man in the car beside me completely concerned for my well-being? Probably. Is that the power of this book? Absolutely.

Adeline, aka Addie, was in Villon in 1714 when her parents found her a husband. Hoping to be free, Addie began praying to all the gods to save her from her marriage. But when the sun set, Addie didn’t pay attention, finding herself praying to the gods of the dark. This god’s main currency is souls, and Addie ended up promising her soul after a lifetime of infinite freedom.

“Infinite freedom” is obviously a trick, and Adeline becomes a ghost. The second that she is out of someone’s eyesight, she is completely forgotten, with no ability to leave a mark of her own. Her only way out? To surrender her soul to the god of darkness.

Quickly, the deal becomes a war. The darkness, who Addie named Luc, is the only “person” who can remember her. But as he said, there is power in words and ideas, and soon Addie tries to find ways to outsmart Luc’s curse. And as we continue through this story, we watch their game of chess unfold move by move.

300 years later, Addie meets Henry, and suddenly she is remembered. As she tries to understand how this could be possible, she thinks that maybe she found a way around the darkness. As we switch between Addie’s 300 years and 2014, we learn about both the lack of and abundance of survival, love, and power.

So when this book was first offered to me as a Book of the Month option, I was hesitant. I am not a big fan of fantasy, and I just didn’t think I would enjoy it. When my friends from college started recommending it, I decided to give it a chance, and man, was it the right decision.

It was a little slow to get into, in my opinion, but the payoff was a million times worth the effort put in. I truly believe I could have a hours long conversation about the terms of Addie’s deal, any potential plot holes, or just the book itself with my friends, which puts this one pretty high up on the list for me. And while I personally think that Henry’s origin story is dumb, I realize that that is probably the point, so I won’t knock the story on that.

For the people who are not really interested in fantasy novels, this book really isn’t one. While the overall premise is supernatural, this book is more about the human condition, and that is why I think this book truly is for everyone. I am going to give this book 4.75 out of 5 stars, and I hope you pick it up soon!

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey

How I Read It: Audiobook/ Print

Dates Read: 1/13/19

How I Found It: Book of the Month

I’ll be honest, I listened to this book because I was on an 8 hour shift and I thought I could listen to all of it. I was only about 40 pages short, so I figured I would just finish this one out. This book does talk A LOT about sex, including conversations about rape, sexual assault, fetishes, etc. If these are triggers for you, please read at your own discretion.

This story is a collection of conversations over about 2 decades about sex, marriage, and life. And here’s the thing, even the cover synopsis is essentially that description. I don’t know how else I can describe this book.

I didn’t really enjoy this book. I like books that have a clear plotline, and this book was designed to not have one. This book also was way to heavy on sex for me. Everyone has their preferences, this just happens to be mine, so I am going to have to rate this book 2 out of 5 stars.

Writers & Lovers by Lily King

How I Read It: Audiobook/Print

Dates Read: 3/4/20-3/6/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

This book marks off the “A Book With a Flower on the Cover” badge on the 40 Book Reading Challenge from Once Upon a Book Club

Trigger Warning: This book does mention anxiety, depression, grief, and sexual offenses. If any of these are triggers for you, read at your own discretion.

When you first look at this book, you might think that this is an average length book. But if you choose the audiobook (and you become a connoisseur of audiobooks to know the average is between 12-14 hours), then you realize that this book is super short. I chose to read this book purely because I only needed a book for 2 days of work and this book was the right length for that predicament. I wasn’t expecting to completely fall into this book, but as soon as I got home (and thankfully it came in the mail that morning), I kept up reading it just to find out what happens to Casey.

Casey is a struggling writer. After working on her book for 6 years, Casey is trying to reach the end. But with a looming debt and a minimum wage job, she is just getting by. At a party, Casey meets Silas, another aspiring writer who has a very similar attitude towards the world. But when he disappears before their first date, Casey meets Oscar, an established writer whom is a widower with 2 sons. Soon, Casey finds herself in the middle of the two men, and as her personal life is growing more complicated, her mental health is continuing to fall apart around her.

I don’t know if I have ever really talked about it, but I really want to be an author one day. My biggest issue is that while I have ideas that I fleshed out, I was taught as a science major to not be flowery. And I don’t know if you know this, but novels are focused on flowery language. So, yea, I’m not getting very far. But it was cool to feel like I was writing a novel by reading this book! I don’t think that the mentions were too far for the book, but there were a lot of literary references that I just don’t know.

I did think that the mentioning of mental health issues were really nice. As someone who has gone through the process of grief, I thought that she described something that was very similar to my experience. I have not experienced anxiety in the same way as described, but I also know how similar those feelings are for other people whom I have talked to about their anxiety, so I do think that this book could be a good discussion starter about mental health.

Despite all the extremely positive ways I have described this book, I don’t know if this is a re-readable book. I also have this reticence to rate this book too high, so I am going to go with a 4.25 out of 5 stars, but I could see that value changing plus or minus .5 stars depending on my mood. What I’m trying to say is I have no idea what I’m doing anymore and I am just trying to keep up appearances, but it is getting harder and harder for me to rate these books.

But anyway, if you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

How I Read It: Audiobook/Ebook

Dates Read: 2/5/20-2/25/20

How I Found It: Book of the Month

After almost a month, I finally finished this book. Set in the 1800s, this book follows Bridie as she tries to find a missing child who also happens to be a mermaid. For the record, maybe we should stop writing books about mermaids in the 1800s because both The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock and this book had to be some of the worst books I have read. Here’s the thing, I have already let you guys know that I am not a historical fiction type of girl. But even so, there needs to be a level of writing where you can actually understand what is happening. When I think back on what happened, I truly think the plot could have been okayish, but I found myself zoning out all the time while listening to it. After reading it in ebook form, I realized that an audiobook made the writing style worse, but it still was easily distractable.

Bridie gets called into a missing child case. She meets a ghost named Ruby who is from her past. And because why not, they start to fall for each other. As Bridie investigates the disappearance, she finds herself in a really dark situation involving kidnapping, murder, and robbery. Oh and we keep going back in time to when Bridie was a child because the guy that bought her when she was a kid (I know, right?) had a creepy son.

Has anyone else notice that I have gotten worse at writing synopses? I have only been doing this for a year, but I still think I was so much better when I first started. Did this turn into a therapy session? Maybe. Okay, I think that this book isn’t as bad as The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock, so I am going to give it 2 out of 5 stars, but I really recommend that if you do want to read it, you shouldn’t read it through an audiobook.

If you guys have any thoughts or ideas, feel free to leave a comment, find me on the social medias at @elizabooksblog, or email me at elizabethslick@elizabethsbookstore.blog. And as always, I’ll see you all in the next book!