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Week 3 Reading Round-Up

Week 3 of 2024 - Here we go! This week was unique because it started with Martin Luther King, Jr. day (no school) and then two separate snow storms. I only went to work 1 day this week and had a LOT of time to read. Yay! Here's my stats and reviews for January 15-22nd.

In this post:

My Stats

Weekly Stats:

  • 9 books

  • 1 audiobook, 5 paperback, 3 ebooks

  • 2 debut author, 5 backlist, 3 new release

  • 3 ARCS, 4 read-my-shelf, 2 library books

  • 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: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Rating: 4

Genre: Adult General Fiction/Mini-mystery

Format: NetGalley ARC - audiobook

Releases: January 2, 2024

A generational family story about the Joseph clan - an invisible mother, a charismatic but sometimes difficult father, three brothers, and one girl who becomes part of the family. Each family member has secrets to keep, to share with one other, and that will create decay within relationships. It emphasizes the bond and power of women, the intricacies and secrets of marriage, and the underlying misconception that blood is thicker than water.

This character-driven story begins with a body being found in the attic of a church by two of the Joseph brothers who, as roofers, are there to fix a leak. The story then jumps back in time a little less than a decade before and describes the relationships in and around the Joseph family. Told in 3rd person, we first follow Marley, the new girl in town who first falls for Baylor the oldest Joseph, then Waylon, his Irish twin. She navigates first loves, first heartbreaks, and the necessity of growing up before she's ready. She has wants desperately for Elise, the matriarch of the Joseph family to accept her and love her.

Waylon, Baylor, and the youngest brother, Shay, also get a few chapters to explain their feelings and perspectives all leading up to and just after the body is found.

Even though the story includes the mystery of the dead body, it really isn't the focus of the story. I am usually one who likes plot driven stories more, but I couldn't put this down. I enjoyed the characters, despite their many flaws, and wanted to see how they came through the pain and suffering they often caused each other. It was real and raw and I cried several times. I highlighted so many intuitive, insightful passages. One of the best books of the year so far for me. I've already requested her first book, Shiner, at the library.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Amy Jo Burns and the publisher for allowing me to read this ARC copy and give my honest review.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #9 Character Driven Novel; #10 Told in Non-Chronological Order; #14 A Grieving Character; #24 Cover Without People; #31 Includes a Personal Phobia (heights, falling from heights); #43 About Finding Identity; #44 Includes a Wedding; #49 Set in a City starting with "M"; #52 Pubbed in 2024

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #3 About Mental Health; #4 A Five-Star Read; #5 An Audiobook, #10 About Starting Over, #17 Multiple POVs, #19 One Word Title; #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


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.25

Genre: Adult Memoir

Format: Audiobook Libby

Released: 4/20/2021

As the first line of the blurb indicates, this is a memoir by author and musician Michelle Zauner about "growing up Korean American, losing her mother [to cancer], and forging her own identity" (Goodreads). And that is exactly right. Even if you've never heard of Zauner, this is an interesting and poignant read about immigration, integration, and the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters.

I love listening to memoirs on audiobook when the author tells their own story. Zauner, a singer by trade, tells her story with a lyrical voice and the emotion of the moments. I really enjoyed this story and highly recommend it on audio.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #10 Told in Non-Chronological Order, #24 Cover Without People, #14 A Grieving Character; #39 Non-Fiction Recommended by a Friend; #43 About Finding Identity; #44 Includes a Wedding; #47 Self-Insert by Author;

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #1 Meant to Read Last Year; #5 An Audiobook; #10 About Starting Over; #29 Recommended by a Podcast; #38 Memoir by a Person you Admire; #44 Popular Book You've Never Read; #45 Inspiring Non-Fiction; #50 A Book Everyone is Talking About


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Rating: 4

Genre: Steamy Billionaire Rom-Com

Format: NetGalley ARC - e-book

Releases: April 30, 2024

Sometimes you just need a little brain candy. A book you can enjoy without having to think too deeply about it. A book you can fly through, laugh a little, and know you're going to end up with a happy ending. Plus, I'd been reading WAY too many mediocre thrillers and needed a break.

Nicole Snow has been on the steamy romance scene for a while, but this was my first read by her. It did not disappoint. I'll do a longer review closer to release day, but if you enjoy the following tropes, then this is a book for you: grumpy-sunshine, billionaire, fake dating/fiance, snarky female lead, steamy sexy times.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #9 Character Driven Novel; #20 Pubbed in Year of the Dragon (2024); #52 Pubbed in 2024

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #9 With an Epilogue; #10 About Starting Over; #15 Purple Cover; #17 Multiple POVs; #18 Book You Couldn't Put Down; #27 My Favorite Genre; #36 A Quick Read; #41 Written Under a Pseudonym; #46 2024 New Release; #49 A Book About Books


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Rating: 4.16

Genre: True Crime Non-Fiction

Format: Paperback - own

Released: October 2004

This was the Maryland One Book choice from the early aughts since it is set in Maryland (where I live). The high school where I teach is using it as their Project Lit choice for January, and, since I've had it on my shelf for a while, thought this would be a perfect opportunity to read it and discuss with students.

As the subtitle indicates, this is the story of Kirk Bloodsworth, the first death row inmate exonerated by DNA in the US. Not only does the book take readers through the crime, his trials, his conviction, and his eventual exoneration, but it also gives a lot of history of the use of DNA in criminal investigations. The good news is that not only did the DNA exonerate Bloodsworth, but it also helped discover the actual perpetrator of the crime.

This was a quick read and I learned a lot. I'm excited to talk to the students about it.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #10 Told in Non-Chronological Order; #39 Non-Fiction Recommended by a Friend; #41 A Sticker on the Cover;

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #9 With an Epilogue; #13 Title Starts with "B"; #40 About a Historical Event; #45 Inspiring Nonfiction


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐.75

Goodreads Rating: 4.13

Genre: Adult Mystery; Own Voices

Format: Hardcover - Own & Signed by the Author

Released: February 1, 2022

After hearing Brendan Slocumb speak at the National Book Fest last August, I knew I had to pick up not only this book, his debut, but his second book A Symphony of Secrets as well. Slocumb himself is a black violinist in the very white-washed industry of classical music. This book touches on themes of racism, family drama, power of mentors, and the high-stakes world of classical music all with a bit of mystery thrown in.

Told in non-chronological order, this book starts with the theft of a 10M dollar violin that belongs to an up and coming young, black violinist named Ray. Then the book jumps back in time in the months leading up to the theft. We discover how a poor, black boy with very little family support ends up not only with a multi-million dollar Stradivarius, but also how he becomes so well known in the classical music industry.

I read this as part of a buddy read with the 52 Book Club Facebook Group, and I think that added to my enjoyment. We discussed the book after each part. If you have the chance to do a buddy read, I highly suggest it. It was so fun!

This wasn't a perfect book and I could tell this was a debut. The dialogue seemed a bit stilted and awkward at times. And the side characters were a bit wooden. Although this is promoted as a mystery, I think that is actually a bit of a secondary through-line overall. The ending was predictable (to me), but satisfying. I can absolutely see why this was nominated in 2022 for Goodreads Choice Awards.

I'm looking forward to reading his sophomore offering later this year.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #4 Lowercase on the Spine; #10 A Character-Driven Novel, #11 Told in Non-chronological Order; #14 A Grieving Character, #25 An Author Everyone Has Read Except You; #31 Includes a personal phobia, #41 A Sticker on the Cover; #43 About Finding Identity, #44 Includes a Wedding; #45 Chapters Have Dates; #50 A Musical Instrument on the Cover

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #25 About Secrets; #44 A Popular Book You've Never Read


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Rating: 3.25

Genre: Adult Mystery

Format: Paperback - Own

Released: January 2013

Since it's release, this Nordic Noir book has been translated into several languages, made into a movie, and hit all the best seller lists. And somehow I missed it all. 😂

This slow burn mystery/suspense is set over the course of one dinner where two sets of parents (the husbands are brothers) meet to talk about their troubled kids. The kids were involved in a horrific crime, one of the brothers is running for prime minister of Sweden, and now they need to know if they can live with covering it up or should they come clean about the entire thing. Each part of the book begins with a course from their dinner and describes what they are eating, so foodies would really like it.

The premise sounds intriguing, but this was just okay for me. Rich people behaving badly is a hit or miss micro-genre for me and this was a bit of a miss. All the characters were pretty awful. But it was an intriguing look into how far parents will go to protect their children and the age old discussion of nature versus nurture.

The ending left me a bit unsettled with its ambiguity and the fact that really no one has real repercussions for their actions. I'm not one that needs a perfectly tidy bow, but this one was a bit too messy in my opinion.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #2 Bibliosmia (describing dinner), #4 Lowercase on the Spine; #24 Cover Without People; #32 Time Frame Spans a Week or Less;

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #3 About Mental Health; #25 About Secrets; #36 A Quick Read; #44 A Popular Book You've Never Read


My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Rating: 3.61

Genre: Adult Mystery - translated from Japanese

Format: Paperback - Own

Released: January 2013

One of my goals this year is to read at least one Japanese book a month until we travel to Japan in spring of 2025. This one was recommended to me online. I love Keigo Higashino's mysteries so was very excited to pick this one up, especially since it has won many awards in Japan.

Additionally, the format of this book is intriguing. Told in multiple first person POVs almost like interviews and interspersed with detective statements and newspaper articles, the crime at the center of the book is revealed a little at a time. I enjoyed about 65% of this book. The mystery of who-done-it wasn't really that mysterious, but the why and how part was intriguing. Unfortunately it just didn't stick the landing for me.

Similar to The Dinner, this ending felt very abrupt and ambiguous. In fact, there was a pretty significant detail that was revealed right at the end that was never explored or explained. Just sort of dropped in there. I even looked at different editions online to see if my second hand copy was missing a chapter. But no. It just...ended.

There is some suicidal ideations and completions in this book if that is a trigger for you. And I don't think they necessarily added anything or helped the book at all.

Still, I enjoyed learning about this small town in Japan, Japanese houses and celebrations, and a bit of how their detectives work.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #7 Four or More POVs; #8 Features the Ocean; #10 Told in Non-Chronological Order; #14 A Grieving Character; #33 An Abrupt Ending;

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #10 About Starting Over; #12 Flowers on the Cover; #17 Multiple POVs; #25 About Secrets; #41 Written Under a Pseudonym;


My Rating: ⭐⭐.75

Goodreads Rating: 3.75

Genre: Adult Mystery

Format: NetGalley ARC e-book

Released: January 23, 2024

This book has all the elements it needs to be an intriguing gothic thriller.

Old prison turned into high-end, exclusive rehab center with new-age techniques nestled into a misty mountain and removed from all GPS locations for "privacy". - Check

Almost all characters are substance abusers either in detox or still high which makes them highly unreliable and unstable. - Check

Secluded, locked door type mystery elements. - Check

Secrets revealed a little at a time to build suspense. - Check

Secret identities and undercover infiltration. - Check

I was so into this story -- flawed, unlikable characters and all -- until about the 60% mark. It is told in 2 POVs - Meg, the drug-addict sister of a famous (also drug addicted) singer/actress who dies under mysterious circumstances in this rehab center. Meg ends up getting herself admitted to go undercover to discover who potentially killed her sister. Meanwhile, she grapples with the unknown to her (selective amnesia) and the reader childhood trauma that lead her down the path of addiction in the first place.

We also have Cara's POV. She's the naive, non substance addicted manager of The Clinic. She allows us to see the inner workings of the clinic and the police investigation. That's pretty much all I have to say about her. She has some unnecessary backstory that doesn't add to the story.

Without giving too much away, the ending left me entirely unsatisfied. I found the main character really whiny and too much in denial. (She thought "I need my oxy" at least three times a chapter. At least. We get it.) She is also able to smuggle drugs and a cell phone into the clinic even though it is supposed to be state of the art. She's not the only one with contraband stuff either. The pace, although fast through the first part, slows down considerably in the middle while the police fumble through an investigation, Meg fumbles through an investigation, and Cara fumbles through her own investigation. It's a lot of whining about not having access to enough drugs or alcohol even though she "has it under control" (Meg), whining about having four kids and carting one around to crime scenes (police), and whining about whether or not the on-site psychologist likes her or not (Cara). All of which I, as the read, didn't really care about.

Meg is also having some serious trauma flashbacks to a man with playing card eyes and an apparition of a lady wearing pinup style lingerie that visits her in the clinic. These are supposed to be from some major shared trauma from her youth (with her sister). But the payout isn't worth all the set up (IMO). I was like, that's it. After all that. Really?

And the ending... I have lots of thoughts on this particular plot device. If you've read it, hit me up. Am I being too harsh? It was really contrived to me.

I still gave this 2.75 stars (rounded up to 3) because the first 60% did draw me in and I was overall intrigued by the writing. I guess my hopes for a twisty, gothic type story just didn't live up to the execution.

Thank you to NetGalley, Cate Quinn, and the publisher for allowing me access to an ARC copy to review.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #1 Locked Room Mystery; #3 More than 40 Chapters; #4 Lowercase on the Spine; #6 Women in STEM; #14 A Grieving Character; #24 Cover Without People; #31 Includes a Personal Phobia (bees, insects, addiction, seclusion); #32 Time Frame Spans Less than a Week; #52 Pubbed in 2024

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #3 About Mental Health; #7 Unreliable Narrator; #9 With an Epilogue; #10 About Starting Over; #17 Multiple POVs; #25 About Secrets; #28 Character is an Actor; #46 2024 New Release; #51 With a Place in the Title


My Rating: ⭐ - DNF - or skimmed most of it

Goodreads Rating: 3.01

Genre: Adult Contemporary Fiction

Format: Hardback from library

Released: May 16, 2023

For such a short book, this felt like a really long read. I got about 80 pages in (almost 50%) and just didn't care about the characters. I ended up very quickly skimming the rest.

The premise is interesting - three parts each told from the POV of three different characters - a wife, her husband and her best friend. Like The Dinner, this takes place over the course of one evening where secrets are revealed and relationships are tested. But nothing really happens.

This is a quiet book with unlikable characters. On top of that, the dialogue is not separated by paragraph breaks or quotation marks so there isn't a lot of white space on the pages. This is an interesting choice by the author, but it just doesn't work for me.

I'm trying to be better about DNFing books, but since this was so short, I couldn't help but skim through the rest to see if it got any better.

📕52 Book Club 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #4 Lowercase on the Spine; #Character Driven Novel; #24 Cover Without People; #32 Time Frame Spans a Week or Less; #33 An Abrupt Ending;

📕Booklist Queen 2024 Reading Challenge Prompts: #17 Multiple POVs; #20 Debut Author; #22 Intriguing Premise; #25 About Secrets; #29 Recommended by a Podcast

Phew! That was a marathon of a week where I saw my first 5 star book and my first almost, pretty much DNF. I am not doing very well with my read a little more slowly to be able to remember the books better goal, but there is time still. I think I was at almost 30 books in January last year, so this is actually an improvement.

How are your reading goals going? Have you read any of the books listed above? I'd love to hear your thoughts and chat books!

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