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Reading Round-up Week 1

Updated: Jan 9

Here's what I've read this week - January 1st through 7th. I'm off to a fast start mainly because I had to finish some ARC book before they published this week. I don't anticipate keeping up this pace the rest of the year.


In this post:


Weekly Stats:

  • 5 books

  • 2 audiobooks, 1 ebook, 1 paperback, 1 hardcover

  • 3 debut authors, 2 backlist

  • 3 ARCS, 2 read-my-shelf

  • Average Rating: 3.5 ⭐

Yearly Stats:


Here are my spoiler free reviews based on the order in which I read them. You can also find these on Goodreads and StoryGraph! I've also included potential prompts these books could fit into for the two reading challenges I'm participating in.


 

My Rating: ⭐⭐.75

Goodreads Rating: 3.37


Genre: Adult Mystery

Format: Hardcover - own

I really wanted to like this novel. The premise sounds amazing - murder and missing people at an old Sanatorium (now luxury hotel) with a sordid past in the middle of a snowstorm in the Swiss Alps. Yes, please. And the beginning really hooked me. The atmosphere was amazing. I loved the descriptions of the countryside and the sanatorium. It really helped set the tense scene.

The main character, Elin Warner, is a British detective on leave after a case that goes wrong. She's visiting the hotel with her long-time boyfriend for her estranged brother's engagement party. The whole thing is tense because of some shared childhood trauma, but it gets even more so when her brother's fiancee goes missing and bodies start piling up. The Swiss authorities aren't able to get to the hotel because of an avalanche, so Elin steps in to help investigate.


This book worked for me for the first 50-60%, then it went downhill fast. The writing is lovely and smart. I enjoyed the style, the shorter chapters, and the setting descriptions. I also felt the first half was pretty well plotted.


Unfortunately, the main character, Elin Warner comes across as an incompetent detective at best and a reckless one at worse. She constantly puts herself in danger wittingly and doesn't learn from her mistakes. I found it hard to believe that she was this lauded detective back in England.


The ending was heavy-handed in terms of motive and, in my opinion, didn't really make a lot of sense. Was the author trying for some social commentary? Even though the rest of the book wasn't like that? There was also the dark history of the Sanatorium thrown in at the end, but I would have loved more of that throughout instead of all at the end. I'd love to chat about the end. Hit me up on private message if you have thoughts.


Apparently the next book in the series has a more competent and less whiny Elin. The Goodreads rating jumps to a 3.75 for that book. Have you read it? Should I give it a try?


📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #1 Locked Room Mystery, #3 More than 50 Chapters, #24 Cover Without People, #34 Set in a Landlocked Country (Switzerland), #41 A Sticker on the Cover

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #9 With an Epilogue, #24 About Secrets, #29 Recommended by a Podcast


 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5

Goodreads Rating: 3.75


Genre: YA Mystery

Format: Audiobook ARC

Releases: January 9, 2024


Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this YA mystery/thriller. Usually YA reads are a hit or miss for me. This landed more firmly in the hit column.


This is the story of missing girls, a relentless search, and the power of friendship and perseverance. We have a dual POV between "Mary" - a teenaged girl who has temporary amnesia after waking up in a ditch on the side of the road covered in bruises. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. Luckily her father comes to report his daughter missing and they are able to reconnect pretty quickly. We follow her through the first 5-6 days of her "new normal" as she tries to remember pieces of her past. When her memory does come back, as the title suggests, she realizes that not everything is what it appears to be.


The second POV is from Drew - a teenaged boy searching desperately for his missing girlfriend. She went missing months ago and Drew is the prime suspect. If he is to be believed, he has nothing to do with her disappearance.


PROS: I liked the pacing. Every time I was getting a bit bored with the storyline (more on that later) or I thought it was dragging a bit, Lally would switch it up and pop us into the other POV. This kept the book moving and provided some added tension and suspense. Although I guessed the main part of the ending fairly early on (this is YA after all), there was one aspect that defied most in this genre, and I appreciated that.


I listened to this all in one day and found it a fast-paced, easy listen. I enjoyed the narrators (two narrators - a female for Mary's POV and a male for Drew's). They were delightful to listen to. The quality of the recording was good too.


CONS: Drew was extremely whiney and the "poor me" introspection got a little bit much for me. I know he's a teen, but there was a LOT of, in my opinion, unnecessary introspection and asking himself rhetorical or what if questions. Still, like I said earlier, this was counteracted with the switch in POVs every time I found myself ready to roll my eyes at him. I enjoyed Mary's POV much more. She had a lot of introspection too, but it made more sense given she was trying to piece together her memories.


This book follows the typical YA mystery trope of bumbling, blinders-on, small town cop who doesn't listen to "just kids" and ignores compelling evidence because it doesn't fit his suspect. Therefore a bunch of teenagers are able to "solve" the case before the police - I am just not buying some of the antics they get up to, but it's fiction, so... entertainment value?


The ending seemed a bit drawn out. There was the actual ending, which went on for much longer than I thought it should. Then there was a follow-up newspaper article. Then there was an epilogue. It was a lot. The reveal/twist, although not unexpected for me, was good. I found it plausible and not heavy-handed in terms of the reasons behind the villain's actions.


OVERALL - this was an enjoyable YA read for me. A few cuss words but no sexy times, so I wouldn't hesitate handing it to my own teen daughter. Definitely pick this one up if you enjoy the YA mystery genre.


Thank you to NetGalley, Megan Lally, and the publisher for allowing me to honestly review this ARC copy of the audiobook.


📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #14 A Grieving Character, #18 An Apostrophe in the Title, #24 A Cover Without People, #29 Published in the Year of the Dragon, #31 Includes a Personal Phobia, #35 Title is Lyrics from a Song, #52 Published in 2024

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #5 An Audiobook, #9 With an Epilogue, #17 Multiple POVs, #20 Debut Author, #25 About Secrets, #32 Set in a Small Town, #46 2024 New Release

 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Rating: 4.02


Genre: Clean Romance

Format: Paperback - own

Released: August 2019


Let me preface this by saying that I LOVE Katherine Center, so excuse the lovefest that is about to follow. I only discovered Center in 2023 (I know! How is that possible!) The only thing I can think of is because I usually read steamy romance and she is closed door sexy time writer. That doesn't mean there isn't sexual tension, because there is.


This book follows Cassie who is a female firefighter in a small town near Boston - a boys club if there ever was one. She has a trauma in her past that keeps her from giving her full trust in relationships. She's also hellbent on being seen as "one of the boys" and not a potential date.

Enter "the rookie" who throws her libido into overdrive and might just tempt her out of her no dating rule.


Some reviewers claim that this book glosses over pretty deep issues, and they aren't necessarily wrong. The topics of substance abuse, rape, cancer, and sexism do come up in the novel. But I'm not picking up a romance novel to dive deep into trauma and super sad issues. I'll read a literary fiction book for that. Does the ending wrap up in a sweet, pretty perfect bow? Yes. Do I want that from a romance? Absolutely! That's why we read them.


This book was a little light on the slow burn sexual tension that I usually feel from Katherine Center, which is why it is only a 4 star instead of 5 star read. Both of the main characters are holding back their feelings because of their coworker status and unfortunately that makes their initial flirting a bit off page.


But the sweetness of the characters, the tension with the fire calls, the humor and witty banter all make up for it. It was a fast, easy read. And I love that I can put it on my classroom bookshelf for students to read.


Katherine Center is an autobuy author for me. I can't wait for her 2024 release!


📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #2 Bibliosmia (fire), #4 Lowercase on the Spine, #9 Character-Driven Novel, #24 Cover without People, #31 Includes a Personal Phobia

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #9 With an Epilogue, #10 About Starting Over, #11 Author You Love (at least for me), #12 Flowers on the Cover, #36 A Quick Read

 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5

Goodreads Rating: 3.75


Genre: Mystery? Slooooowwww burn suspense?

Format: Audiobook ARC

Releases: January 16, 2024


I finished this audiobook a few days ago, and I'm still conflicted about how I feel.


I'll do my spoiler free pros and cons first:

PROS - This is a short read - under 300 pages and only 8 hours on audio, so if you are on the fence, you aren't spending too much time giving it a try. The chapters are super short, which also helps me fly through books. The narrator is a famous English actor, Alex Jennings, and he was lovely. I enjoyed his reading of the book, especially since it was written in first person.


I appreciate that Michaelides is playing around with the thriller genre format and organization (but I'm not sure it worked for me - more on that later). I've been loving the "rich people behaving badly" micro-genre lately, and this falls squarely in there. As the first chapter indicates, this is more of a Why-Done-It. The author spends the majority of the book going into the motivations and relationships between the characters.


CONS - My expectations going into this book based on the blurb were completely not what the book ended up being about. I think I may have liked it more if the pre-information I got was different. This is not a traditional locked room mystery although it does take place on an isolated Greek island with only 7 people (more information on that in the spoiler section).


This was also told in non-chronological order, so it was a mystery where the narrator/author reveals information when they want you to know it. It's not a drop clues and they were there the whole time kind of book. Although this was listed as a thriller - I would not consider it a thriller. It is slow-burn suspense - and I mean SLOW BURN. And it is more of a character study, like I said earlier.



Overall - I'm probably going to be thinking about this one for a while and I obviously had a lot to say about it, so that is why it gets 3.75 stars from me. It was an interesting deviation from the normal novel structure. If you like Michaelides, you'll probably like this book (although it is very different from The Silent Patient).


Thank you to NetGalley, Alex Michaelides, and the publisher for allowing me to review this advanced copy of the audiobook.


📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #1 Locked Room Mystery (not in a traditional sense), #3 More Than 40 Chapters, #10 Told in Non-Chronological Order, #29 Published in the Year of the Dragon, #32 Time Frame Spans a Week or Less, #52 Published in 2024

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #5 Audiobook, #7 Unreliable Narrator, #9 With an Epilogue, #25 About Secrets, #28 Character Who is an Actor, #29 Recommended by a Podcast, #32 Set in a Small Town, #46 2024 New Release, #50 A Book Everyone is Talking About

 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.75

Goodreads Rating: 4.15 (300 reviews as of posting)


Genre: Mystery, Police Procedural

Format: Ebook ARC


Mostly police procedural. Mostly the after effects of war-time PTSD. Some mystery. LOTS of trauma.


If you have triggers, this book covers them - substance abuse, opioid crisis, overdose, suicidal ideation, domestic abuse, police violence, Afghanistan war trauma, PTSD, panic attacks, divorce, drug use, overdoses, murder...


The story is told in third person from 3 characters' POVs - Marge, the sheriff of the town, and her adult deputy son, Eli who is suffering from extreme PTSD to the point of being almost non-functional. Seriously, the amount of panic attacks this guy suffers in the span of a few days has me exhausted. He self-medicates with alcohol and is basically a functioning drunk at all times. Still his mother lets him carry a weapon and stay on the force in a misguided attempt to help him. He is separated from his wife and son and unable and seemingly unwilling to help himself.


He does not handle it well when he finds the dead body of a teenaged boy in the bottom of a boat. The rest of the book is spent watching Eli suffer through panic attack after panic attack as the small, underfunded town sheriff's office tries to solve the murder and subsequent disappearance of another teenager - Caitlin.


Remember when I said there were 3 POVs? The third is from the missing girl's father who is a pharmaceutical sales rep. His chapters are somewhat inexplicably formatted in italics.


My pros and cons for this book are completely interwoven. I enjoyed reading this book since it was really well-written and smart. However, even though it was under 300 pages, it was not a fast read. The paragraphs are really long, the descriptions of everything from the foyer of the country club to the woods surrounding the town were equally as long (and IMO unnecessary), and there was very little white space on the pages.


I found it interesting the things Pease chose to spend time describing. For example, we only have one scene inside the sheriff's house, very little description of Eli's apartment, next to nothing about the interior of the police station, but multiple pages on the foyer and office of the country club where they spend one chapter.


I'm also a bit overwhelmed by all the issues this book tries to tackle (listed above). Is no one in this story functioning at a normal level? There is just trauma on top of trauma on top of trauma. The only one who doesn't seem to have any yet (although maybe there is some tension in her personal life) is the FBI agent, Alyssa, sent to help. Everyone should be in therapy or on a strong dose of Xanex. Pease leans heavily into the PTSD, especially with Eli, to the point that every time he appeared on page, I knew he was going to have another panic attack. Still, I was rooting for him and could tell he was a good guy at heart.


I wonder if this is going to be a series because the ending left a lot hanging - not with the immediate mystery (that was solved), but with the characters' arcs and the broader opioid crisis/ring in the story. There was a chapter at the end from Alyssa's POV that makes me think she may be featured more or again in a future book. I can't find any information about this being the first in a series, though. If not, it is a bit of an abrupt ending. And the point of all the character trauma reveals near the end seem a bit heavy-handed and unneeded unless they are going to be explored more in later books.


The "twist" at the end isn't a big one. I saw it coming around 50%, but it was still good to see the characters' reactions to it. Again, there was a lot that went unexplored with the major players in the bigger picture. I enjoyed the little history lesson about Al Capone and Joe Aiello and their ties to this area. It was just the right amount of interesting.


Overall, if there is another one in the series, I'll probably pick it up to see how these characters are faring. This is not a typical murder mystery/police procedural since the majority of it dealt with Eli's personal traumas than solving the case. It wasn't really a mystery since the reader was privy to more information than the characters. It was more about watching them find out the truth.


Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book so I could give an honest review.


📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #14 A Grieving Character, #29 Published in the Year of the Dragon, #32 Time Frame Spans a Week or Less, #33 An Abrupt Ending, #52 Published in 2024

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #3 About Mental Health, #9 With an Epilogue, #17 Multiple POVS, #19 One Word Title, #20 Debut Author, #25 About Secrets, #29 Recommended by a Podcast, #32 Set in a Small Town, #46 2024 New Release, #51 With a Place in the Title



So, that's a wrap on the first week of 2024 in my reading life. I'd love to know what you cracked the book on this week. My already egregiously long TBR always has room to grow!








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