What I Read: February & March 2023

Nikki Erlick: The Measure

Eight ordinary people. One extraordinary choice. It seems like any other day. You wake up, pour a cup of coffee, and head out. But today, when you open your front door, waiting for you is a small wooden box. This box holds your fate inside: the answer to the exact number of years you will live. From suburban doorsteps to desert tents, every person on every continent receives the same box. In an instant, the world is thrust into a collective frenzy. Where did these boxes come from? What do they mean? Is there truth to what they promise? As society comes together and pulls apart, everyone faces the same shocking choice: Do they wish to know how long they’ll live? And, if so, what will they do with that knowledge?

It Is Not The Years In Your Life That Count, It Is The Life In Your Years.

Even though it’s the beginning of the year I think this will be one of my favourite books this year! This was so unique and thought-provoking that I still can’t stop thinking about it! This is not a sci-fi or fantasy book that explores where the strings came from or how the strings know your future. Instead, it provides a philosophical thought experiment of how people might respond to such a monumental piece of news about their own mortality. From the individual grieving and interpersonal relationships, to societal responses of categorising and discriminating, to how politicians mobilise support through the manipulation of our fears. Not going to go into details but you can easily draw parallels with the real world and political situations that we have. This is a book that will give you much to think about so just go and read it!


Stacy Willingham: All the DANGEROUS THINGS

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally. Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year. Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.

Narrated solely by Isabelle, the narrative alternates between the present day with flashbacks from her relationship with Ben and chapters devoted to her childhood. Isabelle is an unreliable narrator, and since she doesn’t sleep, her memory is murky, and her obsession with finding Mason has her struggling to separate reality from fantasy. The pacing is on the slower side, but I was pulled in immediately by Isabelle’s voice. The structure of the narrative, coupled with the moody atmosphere, works to slowly build a palpable level of tension. he author touches upon themes of trauma, marriage, motherhood and mental health in this story. I won’t say that the end was entirely unpredictable but I was definitely surprised by how we got there. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.



Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers:This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98 percent compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Peña. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Peña. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get ‘to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could launch GeneticAlly’s valuation sky-high, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.

This book was so sweet! When I read the synopsis it reminded me of John Marrs’ The One but it was far from that and much more realistic! Even with all the DNA and science talk, the novel wasn’t stuffy at all or hard to follow. Christina Lauren did an excellent job of presenting the facts and information in an easy to understand, enjoyable way.For fans of enemies to lovers, this one is right up your alley. I didn’t feel the enemies trope was too overplayed and even though the love story seemed to unfold fairly fast, it was pretty natural, given the circumstances. There were many instances where River seemed too good to be true, but sometimes we need that in a fun romcom!  Overall this was a really fun and cute read. It’s definitely one I recommend if you’re a fan of romance and/or a fan of Christina Lauren.



Alex lives a comfortable life with his wife Beth in the leafy suburb of Silver Vale. Fine, so he’s not the most sociable guy on the street, he prefers to keep himself to himself, but he’s a good husband and an easy-going neighbour. That’s until Beth announces the creation of a nature trail on a local site that’s been disused for decades and suddenly Alex is a changed man. Now he’s always watching. Questioning. Struggling to hide his dread . . . As the landscapers get to work, a secret threatens to surface from years ago, back in Alex’s twenties when he got entangled with a seductive young woman called Marina, who threw both their lives into turmoil. And who sparked a police hunt for a murder suspect that was never quite what it seemed. It still isn’t.

What a brilliantly deceptive, wicked and clever mystery this was! It has everything: intrigue, tension, pace, and lots of red herrings! Rolling out in two separate timelines, the mid-nineties and today, we get transported straight into the lives of two men, Alex and Rick. This is all I am willing to say because I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s the best to go blind into this one! Cleverly constructed to trick you, this book was one of those psychological thrillers I couldn’t put down until I had all the answers. If you love mysteries where nothing is quite what it seems and every character has a secret to guard, then this is definitely the right book for you!



At a busy festival site on a warm spring night, a baby lies alone in her pram, her mother vanishing into the crowds. A year on, Kim Gillespie’s absence casts a long shadow as her friends and 7 ones gather deep in the heart of South Australian wine country to welcome a new addition to the family. Joining the celebrations is federal investigator Aaron Falk. But as he soaks up life in the lush valley, he begins to suspect this tight-knit group may be more fractured than it seems. Between Falk’s closest friend, a missing mother, and a woman he’s drawn to, dark questions linger as long-ago truths begin to emerge.

The beginning was promising but then it took me a long time to get into this book as there are many characters including the three Raco sons and their wives and children, various people involved with a local festival and law enforcement personnel among others. The novel is long and most of it is spent on long, lazy days drinking wine and talking about the residents of the small town they are in and how those people are related or involved in the mysteries. It is more of a book about Aaron and some other characters moving on in their lives with the mysteries in the background. I found myself putting the book down a lot and didn’t become really engaged until the last few chapters where the excitement factor that I expect from Harper rises back up. Despite what I just said, I did enjoy ‘Exiles‘ for what it was, although not as much as I’d expected to. I absolute adore Jane Harper’s writing. Her descriptions are so vivid, you almost feel like you’re right there in Australia, seeing the sights, smelling the various scents. If anything, if ‘Exiles‘ is indeed the end of this series, then it’s a lovely send-off to a beloved character. But who knows, there is definitely a door open for another one.



There was always something slightly dangerous about Joan. So, when she turns up at private investigator Henry Kimball’s office asking him to investigate her husband, he can’t help feeling ill at ease. Just the sight of her stirs up a chilling memory: he knew Joan in his previous life as a high school English teacher, when he was at the center of a tragedy. Now Joan needs his help in proving that her husband is cheating. But what should be a simple case of infidelity becomes much more complicated when Kimball finds two bodies in an uninhabited suburban home with a “for sale” sign out front. Suddenly it feels like the past is repeating itself, and Henry must go back to one of the worst days of his life to uncover the truth. 

The Kind Worth Killing remains my favourite Peter Swanson book to date(and top 10 thrillers ever), but The Kind Worth Saving is definitely a worthy addition to the series, featuring Henry Kimball, now a private investigator, and Lily Kintner who is as sharp and devious as ever. The narrative is shared from multiple perspectives, which kept me engaged with the story and the characters. All of the characters are seriously flawed individuals and for the most part unlikeable but the author compels you to choose your favourites and root for them. Swanson does a great job of weaving the past and present together in a tight-knit plot that kept you hooked till the very last page. I enjoyed how the plot developed and found the ending more interesting because it wasn’t neatly tide up. I’m guessing we’ll be seeing more of some of the characters in the future! 

P.S. I would recommend reading The Kind Worth Killing before reading the sequel to fully understand Henry’s and Lily’s characters and their backstories. 



Diana O’Toole is perfectly on track. She will be married by thirty, done having kids by thirty-five, and move out to the New York City suburbs, all while climbing the professional ladder in the cutthroat art auction world. She’s not engaged just yet, but she knows her boyfriend, Finn, a surgical resident, is about to propose on their romantic getaway to the Galápagos—days before her thirtieth birthday. Right on time.  But then a virus that felt worlds away has appeared in the city, and on the eve of their departure, Finn breaks the news: It’s all hands on deck at the hospital. He has to stay behind. You should still go, he assures her, since it would be a shame for all of their nonrefundable trip to go to waste. And so, reluctantly, she goes.  Almost immediately, Diana’s dream vacation goes awry. The whole island is now under quarantine, and she is stranded until the borders reopen. Completely isolated, she must venture beyond her comfort zone. Slowly, she carves out a connection with a local family when a teenager with a secret opens up to Diana, despite her father’s suspicion of outsiders.  Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.

This is a though one for me to review, especially because I can’t say much without spoiling it for everyone else but I will try. Picoult researched Covid very well and for anyone interested this book will be very insightful. Also she writes very well. Structure, plot, fully-developed characters, pacing, atmosphere, the big twist, which was so clever … it’s all there. Now, things I didn’t like… The first part of the book was soooo slow! At times I wanted to give up! Luckily it picked up and turned into a real page turner. Even though I think that the message of the book is great, I felt COVID-19 was really the body of the book, and Diana’s story was just the clothing thrown on to disguise it. Picoult had all this knowledge about the virus to share, but it felt much better suited for a non-fiction book. I really didn’t like Finn’s emails to Diana and I just started skipping them after a while because there were too many medical details. I found that very unrealistic, that’s not what anyone would write to the love of their life in given circumstances! Overall, it was an “okay” read but not nearly as fantastic as I had hoped and expected. I know I’m the outlier with my thoughts, so please read the many raving reviews before deciding on this one.



On a locked ward in the world’s highest-security prison hospital for the criminally insane, a nurse has been murdered and her newborn baby kidnapped. A ransom must be paid, and the clock is ticking. Forensic profiler Dr Connie Woolwine is renowned for her ability to get inside the mind of a murderer. Now she must go deep undercover among the most deranged and dangerous men on earth, and use her unique skills to find the baby – before it’s too late. She has five days to catch the killer. But with the walls of The Institution closing in on her, will her sanity last that long?

Wow! This is a rollercoaster of a read that will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat. The beginning is brutal and pretty gruesome, but it pulled me in straight away. The book is filled with twists and turns and takes locked room thriller to another level! The setting was isolated and claustrophobic, it was well paced, chilling, tension packed, with the great character development. I was questioning myself constantly and Helen did a fantastic job of deceiving me every step of the way. I really appreciated how much work Fields put into her characters. There’s so much suspicion and paranoia flying around it’s impossible to trust anyone, and that includes the institution’s staff! I liked how the author incorporated the backstories of the inmates. Their stories were chilling, but they also give you an insight into the minds of the disturbed individuals. It’s a real page turner that that builds up to the heart stopping finale. A must read for crime thriller lovers. Highly recommended.



Twenty five years ago, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico were the best of friends, having forged a bond through the abuse and neglect they endured as residents of Savior House, a group home for parentless teens. When the home was shut down―after the disappearance of several kids―the three were split up. Though the trauma of their childhood has never left them, each went on to live accomplished―if troubled―lives. They haven’t seen one another since they were teens but now are reunited for a single haunting reason: someone is trying to kill them. To survive, the group will have to revisit the nightmares of their childhoods and confront their shared past―a past that holds the secret to why someone wants them dead.

If you are like me and you loved Every Last Fear and The Night Shift you probably can’t wait to read this one! I have a news for you – this book is nothing like those two! Instead of mystery and suspense we have adrenalin thriller with over the top storyline filled with assassins. The plot has potential and will have the reader trying to figure out the who and the what and the why from the get-go. However, it wasn’t quite as gripping, complex or tight-knit as I hoped it would be. The pace drags in parts and I didn’t really like any of the main characters. However, I did like the way the story eventually unfolded (loved the literary references as a major clue toward the end) and my eagerness to know the who and the why kept me interested. I’ll still read more from the author in hope that he will bring back agent Keller!



Britain. The near future. A right wing government believes it has the answer to society’s ills – the Sanctity of Marriage Act which actively encourages marriage as the norm, punishing those who choose to remain single. But four couples are about to discover just how impossible relationships can be when the government is monitoring every aspect of our personal lives, monitoring every word, every minor disagreement…And it will use every tool in its arsenal to ensure everyone will love, honour and obey!

Another great dystopian book by John Marrs! Marrs always paints such a frightening picture of the future, I think partly because he bases his story on real tech, and partly because it’s the way I can see things going in our current world. The book follows the journey of four couples managing their lives during this totalitarian government control over their marriages. At first it can be confusing as the author introduces the reader to an array of characters, but they each have a distinctive voice so any confusion soon goes away. I loved the format of the book, jumping between different characters, teasing out the plot lines and just keeping you going for just one chapter more. Another thing that I loved is that there is a reference to the DNA-testing and self driving cars from his other book so it felt like all three books were connected.If I had one issue with this, it’s that it was a bit long. i felt like the middle dragged a bit and i was eager to get some resolution quicker.


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