What I Read: September 2022

Emily Henry: Book Lovers

Nora Stephens’ life is books and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby. Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute. If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

This was my second book by Emily Henry and even though I wasn’t a fan of the People we Meet on Vacation, I loved this one. Book Lovers checks all my boxes for romance-fun banter, a hardass heroine (can’t deal with blushing damsels), a guy who might have his broody moments but isn’t a jerk, and steamy encounters. Usually rom coms are really cheesy and I kept rolling my eyes but not this one! This was the smartest enemies to lovers trope I’ve ever read! I loved all the characters! I especially love how this book doesn’t change Nora or punish her for being ambitious and hardworking. I like that being career-oriented, valuing independence, living in the city, and being childless are qualities that aren’t villainized nor expected to change in order to have a happy ending. What gave the book more depth, though, was its focus on the Nora’s own issues and relationship with her sister. This helped round the story to be both a combination of romance and personal/family struggles. I think that even if you are not a big romance fan you could read this, I promise you won’t be disappointed.


Taylor Jenkins Reid: Carrie Soto is Back

Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record.

Those who do not have any interest in tennis as a sport might find this a tough read, but I would like to say that it is the human aspects of the game, like what it takes to rise to the top, the rivalries and competitiveness, that dominate this narrative. I watch important tennis tournament finals and semi finals but that’s all I know about tennis, until now. I learnt a lot from this book and it made me want to go and try playing it. The author immerses the reader into the elite levels of tennis with her realistic and vivid descriptions of what it is like to be part of that world, I felt as if I was there on that court and engaged in all the drama and nailbiting tension of the games. Carrie was not the most easy person to like. Her attitude in the beginning was awful. But over time, as I read through her struggles, hard work and ambition – it became so easy to root for her. To see her become the person she wanted to be. To finally enjoy the sport she used to love. It might feel a bit slow at times, especially the transcripts but it’s so worth it. If you are a fan of Tayor Jenkins Reid be sure to read this!


Riley Sager: The House Across the Lake

Casey Fletcher, a recently widowed actress trying to escape a streak of bad press, has retreated to the peace and quiet of her family’s lake house in Vermont. Armed with a pair of binoculars and several bottles of liquor, she passes the time watching Tom and Katherine Royce, the glamorous couple who live in the house across the lake. They make for good viewing—a tech innovator, Tom is rich; and a former model, Katherine is gorgeous. One day on the lake, Casey saves Katherine from drowning, and the two strike up a budding friendship. But the more they get to know each other—and the longer Casey watches—it becomes clear that Katherine and Tom’s marriage is not as perfect and placid as it appears. When Katherine suddenly vanishes, Casey becomes consumed with finding out what happened to her. In the process, she uncovers eerie, darker truths that turn a tale of voyeurism and suspicion into a story of guilt, obsession and how looks can be very deceiving.

It’s very hard for me to review this book. Some of it I really loved, but other parts were just ridiculous and slightly boring. This book is a combination of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Woman in the window ( it’s also inspired by Hitchcock’s work), Girl on the train and CoHo’s Layla! The beginning of the book is very slow-paced, but stick with it as things soon change. As a big thriller reader who can easily predict the twist or reveal, I was actually blindsided when the twist was revealed, and in true Sagar fashion, we are hit with multiple blindsiding twists. Without revealing anything I will just say this book is actually a quite different from Sager’s previous work. I felt it was entertaining, but for me, it didn’t have the high level of appeal like Home Before Dark or Lock Every Door. But I think that’s just a personal preference and the fact I didn’t expect this kind of writing from Sager.


Hazel Hayes: Out of Love

As a young woman boxes up her ex-boyfriend’s belongings and prepares to see him one last time, she wonders where it all went wrong, and whether it was ever right to begin with. Burdened with a broken heart, she asks herself the age-old question . . . is love really worth it?Out of Love is a bittersweet romance told in reverse. Beginning at the end of a relationship, each chapter takes us further back in time, weaving together an already unravelled tapestry, from tragic break-up to magical first kiss.

This was such a unique and heartbreaking book! Hazel Hayes is a total genius for making this book start with the ending of the relationship and finishing it with the day our characters met. From the first few pages I was already so invested in the heroine’s story. The whole backwards plot makes you want to continue reading it because in one way or another you just have to know what went wrong with them why did they end up the way they did. Also I feel this teaches such an important lesson about knowing when to let go and move on. and that it’s okay to move on and it’s okay for things to come to an end. I think everyone who has ever broken up following a long term relationship can relate to this book. This was one of these stories that you can’t help but be invested in. Hours after I finished it I kept thinking about how her life turned out. This book was definitely one of my favourite reads this year and I can’t wait to read more of her work!


Alice Feeney: Daisy Darker

After years of avoiding each other, Daisy Darker’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s crumbling gothic house on a tiny tidal island. Finally back together one last time, when the tide comes in, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours. The family arrives, each of them harboring secrets. Then at the stroke of midnight, as a storm rages, Nana is found dead. And an hour later, the next family member follows… Trapped on an island where someone is killing them one by one, the Darkers must reckon with their present mystery as well as their past secrets, before the tide comes in and all is revealed.

This book is homage to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, one of my favourites! I love locked-room mysteries so I was excited to read it. The setting was great—a spooky house on a cliff that’s cut off from the world based on how high the tide is. I liked that the family reunion takes place on Halloween which added to the atmospheric creepiness of the house and the events. Like Agatha Christie’s book there were some clever rhyming poems which were very clever and interesting! The majority of the Darker family was easy to hate, and the extent of the dysfunction surrounding each relationship was intense. There were interesting plot twists, including one I didn’t foresee. I thought Feeney did a great job keeping the reader guessing who was behind the killings. With all thrillers, there are unbelievable moments but with this one you really need to suspend your belief. So if you don’t mind that, you will enjoy it.


Megan Goldin: Stay Awake

Liv Reese wakes up in the back of a taxi with no idea where she is or how she got there. When she’s dropped off at the door of her brownstone, a stranger answers―a stranger who now lives in her apartment and forces her out in the cold. She reaches for her phone to call for help, only to discover it’s missing, and in its place is a bloodstained knife. That’s when she sees that her hands are covered in black pen, scribbled messages like graffiti on her skin: STAY AWAKE. Two years ago, Liv was living with her best friend, dating a new man, and thriving as a successful writer for a trendy magazine. Now, she’s lost and disoriented in a New York City that looks nothing like what she remembers. Catching a glimpse of the local news, she’s horrified to see reports of a crime scene where the victim’s blood has been used to scrawl a message across a window, the same message that’s inked on her hands. What did she do last night? And why does she remember nothing from the past two years?

Wow! Memento meets a thriller version of Fifty First Dates! I’m a huge fan of author Megan Goldin, and this did not disappoint. She proves here that her storylines are quite versatile, so readers shouldn’t go into this one expecting the same tone as her previous efforts. The story is told in multiple timelines, and Goldin manages to juggle all of them and create a cohesive story that is unique and thrilling. I also appreciated that the story could’ve easily become repetitive given the nature of the plot, but yet never felt stale. Each chapter gives us a little more knowledge than the last…until the puzzle is complete. Liv’s confusion is written so well the reader can feel it too – he dread, panic and utter bewilderment are palpable! The ending was unexpected but not completely shocking. I was focusing so much on Liv that I probably missed some clues. If you are after an intelligent and well-crafted mystery thriller that’s a bit different from the norm then look no further! Highly recommended.


Cara Hunter: Hope to Die(DI Adam Fawley #6)

When a body is found in a farmhouse in a gruesome state, DI Adam Fawley is one of the first on the scene. The murder leads Fawley to a convoluted investigation from the past, and a family torn apart by a devastating crime involving the disappearance of a child. Can Fawley piece together the facts of history with the clues in the present? Sometimes the truth is the hardest answer to face up to…

Book # 6 in the DI Adam Fawley series! If you enjoy police procedurals, you’ll love this one. This is another twisty detective novel based on a true crime case. You can read it as standalone but it would help if you read the previous ones as well. If there’s one thing I love about Cara Hunter’s books it her attention to detail, not only does she provide the reader with a gripping story line, but there’s the clever integration of things like social media opinions, suspects statements, psychological evaluations and even a fictional Netflix series that runs alongside the narrative. It’s such an original concept! The plot is complex and very clever, the pace rises and falls appropriately and it is compelling and entertaining from the beginning to the end. There were a few things that I guessed quite easily and whilst I didn’t find any of the revelations particularly shocking, it keeps pace and is engaging throughout.


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