What I Read: October 2022

Etaf Rum: Woman is No Man

In Brooklyn, eighteen-year-old Deya is starting to meet with suitors. Though she doesn’t want to get married, her grandparents give her no choice. History is repeating itself: Deya’s mother, Isra, also had no choice when she left Palestine as a teenager to marry Adam. Though Deya was raised to believe her parents died in a car accident, a secret note from a mysterious, yet familiar-looking woman makes Deya question everything she was told about her past. As the narrative alternates between the lives of Deya and Isra, she begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind her community.

I can’t believe it took me this long to pick this book up, but I’m so happy I finally did. I was truly speechless after reading it and if you haven’t read it yet, you need to ASAP! This book tells the story of three generations of Palestinian women and I was SO invested in each of their stories which were all heartbreaking, deeply emotional and gripping. A Woman is No Man explores immigration, religion, culture, gender roles, and personal freedom. Etaf Rum gets deep into the trauma of being born a female in a family that devalues women and strips them of choice while putting abusive men on a pedestal. It also examines the role women play in perpetuating stereotypes and upholding a system that oppresses them. And even though it was difficult to read at moments, I just couldn’t put it down because I had to know the outcome of these women’s lives. Reading a book like this makes me realize how lucky I am that I get to choose how to spend my time, pursue hobbies, study, travel on my own, have self worth. It makes me angry that this is not the case for women around the world. A must read!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Holly Bourne: It only Happens in the Movies

Audrey is over romance. While dealing with her parents’ contentious divorce, a breakup of her own, and shifting friendship dynamics, she has every reason to feel cynical. But then she meets Harry, her fellow coworker at the local cinema. He’s brash, impulsive, and a major flirt. And even though Audrey tries to resist, she finds herself falling for his charms. But in this funny, insightful, and ultimately empowering novel, love—and life—isn’t what it’s like in the movies.

This is the first book by Holly Bourne that I have read and I loved it! Every teenage girl should read this and I wish I could’ve read it earlier, when I was in my teens! What I liked so much is how it challenges the representation of romance throughout films. It made me want to go through every romance film and analyse it to pull them apart the way Audrey did. Why not tell about the ugly fights, the bad times, real life moments and not so happy ending (as it sometimes happens)? The story is just so realistic and raw. It portrays something that could definitely happen within a young relationship in real life. Also the whole book was so naturally funny without trying too hard, I was laughing out loud multiple times. Even though it’s classed as YA, I recommend it to everyone!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Claire Douglas: The Girls Who Disappeared

Three missing girls. A twenty year mystery. A woman who may be able to crack this cold case.  In a rural Wilshire town lies The Devil’s Corridor. A road which has witnessed eerie happenings from unexplained deaths to the sounds of a child crying at night. But nothing more puzzling than the Olivia Rutherford case. Four girls drove home but after their car crashed only Olivia was found. Twenty years later, journalist Jenna Halliday is covering the case. But the locals aren’t happy with this stranger’s arrival. Least of all Olivia. Jenna soon starts receiving threatening notes and it is clear someone wants her out of this town before she suffers a dark fate…

This is the perfect autumn/winter read, the setting is dark and eerie and it was so well described that I felt I was there. The story is set over different timelines and features an intriguing sub-plot which doesn’t make sense at first, but ties in neatly towards the end. The multiple POV and possible supernatural/paranormal elements throughout the setting really kept me intrigued throughout, even though I felt some of the pacing slowed down half way through. I never saw that ending coming and I had tried all the way through to guess different theories but that was one I didn’t see coming. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ashley Flowers: All Good People Here

Margot Davies is an aspiring investigative journalist stuck at a small-time newspaper, until one night she stumbles upon a new development in an unsolved case that took place in her hometown: the infamous murder of six-year-old January Jacobs. Margot quickly becomes obssessed with solving the case. She returns to the town she left at 8 years old, hoping to bring justice to January, who was discovered dead in a ditch only hours after her family awoke to find her gone, along with a horrifying message spray-painted on their kitchen walls. As Margot digs deeper into the case, she begins to suspect that not everything is as it seems. There is something more sinister than she ever could have imagined lurking in the town: a twisted secret that threatens to endanger the lives of everyone involved, including Margot.

Wow, what a debut by Ashley Flowers! I can’t believe this is her first book! The book is told from 2 alternative timelines, one from 1994, when January goes missing and one now where Margot returns to her hometown as a journalist. There was suspense, multiple twists and great character depth! I had so many theories and I actually predicted some things but the final twist shocked me! I don’t think I would guess this in million years! One thing I didn’t like is the ending – the book just ended with a cliffhanger and I don’t understand why that was necessary. Is Margot returning for a second book? I highly recommend if you are a true crime / thriller lover. This was definitely one of my favorite books I have read this year.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Jason Rekulak: The Hidden Pictures

Fresh out of rehab, Mallory Quinn takes a job in the affluent suburb of Spring Brook, New Jersey as a babysitter for Ted and Caroline Maxwell. She is to look after their five-year-old son, Teddy. Mallory immediately loves this new job. She lives in the Maxwell’s pool house, goes out for nightly runs, and has the stability she craves. And she sincerely bonds with Teddy, a sweet, shy boy who is never without his sketchbook and pencil. His drawings are the usual fare but one day, he draws something different: a man in a forest, dragging a woman’s lifeless body. As the days pass, Teddy’s artwork becomes more and more sinister, and his stick figures steadily evolve into more detailed, complex, and lifelike sketches well beyond the ability of any five-year-old. Mallory begins to suspect these are glimpses of an unsolved murder from long ago, perhaps relayed by a supernatural force lingering in the forest behind the Maxwell’s house. With help from a handsome landscaper and an eccentric neighbor, Mallory sets out to decipher the images and save Teddy—while coming to terms with a tragedy in her own past—before it’s too late.

I guarantee, you won’t guess where this book is going! I think this is one of the best things I have read lately and I’m not the one who usually picks horror/supernatural books!! Horror- psychological thriller-mystery- suspense genres are blended in perfectly! There are so many things I loved about it… The setting is fantastic, the house, the grounds, the forest especially after dark and the little guesthouse Mallory sleeps in are used cleverly to heighten the tension. What’s cool about this book is that the drawings are included so you get to see everything Mallory is looking at. The pacing was good and I practically flew through the book, reading it every spare moment wondering how everything would be wrapped up. The book is twisty and turns and psychological mind*uck that will leave you wondering what have you just read! And that ending… I don’t think anyone can guess that! If you are looking for something fresh and original and you don’t mind mysteries with a supernatural vibe, then this is the book for you! 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Colleen Hoover: It Starts With Us

Lily and her ex-husband, Ryle, have just settled into a civil coparenting rhythm when she suddenly bumps into her first love, Atlas, again. After nearly two years separated, she is elated that for once, time is on their side, and she immediately says yes when Atlas asks her on a date.But her excitement is quickly hampered by the knowledge that, though they are no longer married, Ryle is still very much a part of her life—and Atlas Corrigan is the one man he will hate being in his ex-wife and daughter’s life.

Do I think that this sequel was necessary? No. Do I think this book deserves 2 stars just because of that? NO! Lots of people gave it 1 star or 2 stars just because of that but in my opinion this was not so offensive. We got Atlas’ point of view, we got the closure, some cute moments between Lily and Atlas – what else do you need? This book was about the aftermath of leaving an abusive relationship, navigating the world as a single mother to the child of your abuser, and learning that you deserve your own happiness. I’m glad this book went over the struggles of it all, addressed it’s not easy and it won’t be for a while but also saying there can be some light after all.  I can tell CoHo wrote this for her fans, giving Atlas and Lily the heartwarming story they deserve. Now, the main issue is that there is no real conflict or surprises in here. And sure enough, the story progresses and ends exactly the way you’d expect. It was an alright way to pass a few hours if you’re not quite ready to leave the world of Lily and Atlas. This story won’t leave you breathless, but it shouldn’t offend either.

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Jennifer Hillier: Jar of Hearts

Aged just 16, Geo’s best friend Angela disappeared without a trace. Years later, Angela’s body is discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home, revealed as yet another victim of the notorious serial killer Calvin James. Geo’s high-school boyfriend. For fourteen years, Geo knew what had happened and told no one, carrying the secret until she was arrested and sent to prison. Why would any woman protect a man capable of committing such a heinous crime? Geo had her reasons…To Geo, Calvin is more than a monster, a serial killer with no remorse. He is something else entirely. And while Geo did her time, Calvin escaped and went on the run. Now released, Geo is ready to start over. But then the bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela…

This is my first Jennifer Hillier book and I loved it so much I bought another two straight away! First off, you need to know that there are no good guys in the story! If you are ok with that, keep reading! Second thing, Hillier is a master puppeteer and not until the twists are revealed will you then acknowledge that the clues were right there. After all, “You see what you want to see, not what’s there.” Jar of Hearts is an intense, chilling, dark and twisted psychological thriller novel that grabbed my attention very quickly and had me totally invested throughout this whole story. The narrative is divided into 5 parts and is told through alternating present-day POVs of Geo and Kaiser, who is a detective and Geo’s childhood friend. Flashbacks take us through their teenage years and the events leading up to Angela’s death. To be honest, I did not like Geo. The justification for her actions was more than a little questionable. It is hard to feel any sympathy for her. It speaks to the author’s talent to be able to weave a story around an essentially unlikeable character that comes out strong! Fast-paced, (though disturbing in parts), full of twists and turns and an ending that shocks you, this book is hard to put down till you reach the very end.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Ashley Winstead: The Last Housewife

While in college in upstate New York, Shay Evans and her best friends met a captivating man who seduced them with a web of lies about the way the world works, bringing them under his thrall. By senior year, Shay and her friend Laurel were the only ones who managed to escape. Now, eight years later, Shay’s built a new life in a tiny Texas suburb. But when she hears the horrifying news of Laurel’s death—delivered, of all ways, by her favourite true-crime podcast crusader—she begins to suspect that the past she thought she buried is still very much alive, and the predators more dangerous than ever. Recruiting the help of the podcast host, Shay goes back to the place she vowed never to return to in search of answers.

I have to say, I loved Winstead’s previous book In My Dreams I Hold a Knife so I got this book as soon as it came out. I had high expectations for The Last Housewife, but they weren’t quite reached. The story revolves around a sex cult, so there were obviously lots of disturbing scenes that were hard to stomach. Also, there is a big trend now where we see podcast incorporated into thriller/crime stories and I love it but here it just didn’t work. I would prefer if it was dual timeline. The problem is, there was lots of telling and not enough showing and this made it hard for me to really connect with the plot and the characters. Parts where Shay is talking for the podcast were so boring and long and just very odd to me. She included a lot of insight into her behaviour that seemed to be completely missing the rest of the time. Also I couldn’t see the point of her mysterious husband that we know nothing about and didn’t play any role whatsoever in the whole story. Overall, this was not for me but I’m looking forward to her next book!

⭐️⭐️💫

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