Recently Read Books

Hey guys! My friends ask me all the time “what books do you recommend I read?” When you read as much as I do, that’s a really tough question to answer. I have a really high-tech (sarcasm) way of keeping up with books I’ve read recently, as well as my to-be-read list–I keep them in the “notes” section of my iPhone. I really need to create a spreadsheet and some sort of cool rating and classification-by-genre system, but for now they go in the notes with the title and author, and they get a green emoji check mark when I’ve read them. So I wanted to share with you the books that I’ve read in the past few months, probably since around February or March or so. I have considered giving each one a rating, but then what would keep you coming back to my blog? ūüėČ If you have any questions or are curious about any of the books listed, feel free to comment and I’ll give you my super quick mini-review! So here it goes, in no particular order:

In the Blood by Lisa Unger
The Girl Before by Rena Olsen
Find Her by Lisa Gardner
The CircleI by Dave Eggers
Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
The Ex by Alafair Burke
Birdbox by Josh Malerman
The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda
The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn
Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
Love You More by Lisa Gardner
Beautiful Lies by Lisa Unger
All the Summer Girls by Meg Donoghue
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
I See You by Clare Mackintosh
The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe
Pop Goes the Weasel by M.J. Arlidge
Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo
The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
Perfect Days by Raphael Montes
In the Woods by Tana French
The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
The Life We Bury by Alan Eskens
Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Those Girls by Chevy Stevens
The Perfect Girl by Gilly MacMillan
Dare Me by Megan Abbot
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman
Saving Grace by Jane Green
Blonde Hair Blue Eyes by Karin Slaughter
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

 

“Find Her” by Lisa Gardner

I love a good crime story. I enjoy the suspense of the ‚Äúwhodunit,‚ÄĚ piecing together clues and sorting through red herons. But I am always hesitant to start ‚Äúdetective series‚ÄĚ because I‚Äôm not a huge fan of police procedurals. I can often get too bogged down in the details, and, sometimes pointless, backstories of the detectives and police personnel. So I was a little hesitant to begin Find Her by Lisa Gardner, as it is a part of the Detective D.D. Warren series. Number ten, actually. I also try my hardest not to read series out of order‚ÄĒI hate reading things in more recent books which can be spoilers for those that came before. But thanks to Find Her‚Äôs rave reviews and the fact that my employer‚Äôs library had it in stock, I picked it up and was pretty impressed. Gardner‚Äôs alternating perspectives between the aforementioned Detective Warren and the victim-turned-potential-perpetrator makes this book a perfect blend between thriller and crime.

Flora Dane has recently returned home after a 472-day abduction, during which she was brutally raped and tortured. While her family desires for her to return to her normal life, normal is no longer enough for Flora. She sets out on a vigilante mission to stop other abductors before it is too late. But when she pursues the disappearance of local college woman, Flora quickly finds herself reliving the nightmares of her own captivity and unable to cope.

This book is extremely fast paced and has constant twists and turns to keep the reader‚Äôs interest. In addition to the alternating perspectives, Gardner adds in some flashbacks of Flora‚Äôs time with her abductor, which makes the story even more engrossing and gives the reader internal conflict regarding siding with Flora, or, with the law. While some of the plot line may be rather far-fetched, Find Her is an entertaining read, sure to keep thrill seekers and crime enthusiasts on their toes. This was my first novel by Lisa Gardner (pretty insane considering she’s written almost 30,) but I’ve since read¬†Love You More¬†and have¬†Right Behind You¬† on my TBR list. Reviews promised to come soon!

4.75/5 stars! 

www.lisagardner.com

“In a Dark Dark Wood” by Ruth Ware

I’m 28. I’m at the age where most of my friends have recently gotten engaged or married, or are on their way. So bachelorette parties have been on regular rotation as of late. I’ve been to D.C., Ocean City, and Atlantic City and will be heading to Charlottesville in a few weeks, all in the name of penis straws, bride-to-be¬†sashes, shots of Fireball, and “Never Have I Ever.” Maybe that is why I enjoyed¬†In a Dark Dark Wood¬† so much, because I felt that I could somewhat relate. Although, thankfully, none of my recent bachelorette adventures have included a murder.

In a Dark Dark Wood begins with Nora/Lee/Lenora receiving a random invitation to her long lost BFF Clare’s hen party (British for bachelorette.) She can’t get a feel for why she was invited, but after talking to another mutual friend decides there’s no hurt in going. The hen party gathers in an almost fully glass cabin in the middle of the woods, ready to celebrate bride-to-be away from civilization.

Nora can’t admit to the group that she hasn’t spoken to Clare in over ten years, she isn’t invited to the wedding, and she doesn’t even know who Clare is marrying, without ruining¬†the illusion that she and Clare are blissfully reunited in the name of love and everlasting friendship.

The book alternates between scenes of tequila shots and bumps of cocaine, and Nora in the aftermath in a hospital bed, no memory of the two nights prior. I enjoyed the flipping back and forth, I felt that it added to the suspense and whodunit appeal.

A story of murder, marriage rituals and dark jealous friendships, In a Dark Dark Wood will keep you on the edge of your seat as a quick, thrilling read.

4/5 stars.

www.ruthware.com

“Sweetbitter” by Stephanie Danler

I was super excited to read Sweetbitter after seeing celebs rave about it on Instagram: Eva Longoria, Emma Roberts, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Troian Bellasario, etc. The pink book jacket with broken wine glass cover art was practically screaming my name, and its Insta-fame had me dying to dive in.

I have to be honest, I really disliked this book¬†at first. There was so much restaurant lingo, half-finished conversations, and narrator ramblings that I couldn’t quite catch what was going on and found myself utterly confused. I hit my 100 page mark and really almost gave it back up to the library. But I could feel Spencer Hastings and Chanel Oberlin begging me to read more. And you know what? I’m glad I did. I ended up really liking it. This book was certainly different than my recent reads, and I agree with many Amazon reviews that there really is no true “plot.” But once I stopped searching for the storyline and quit stressing my brain¬†trying to understand the different types of oysters and regions of wine, I let myself enjoy the reality of Tess’ navigation of adulthood. I really truly enjoyed it.

While Sweetbitter is strictly a novel and not memoir, it closely mirrors the journey of author Stephanie Danler as she makes her start in¬†New York City and the restaurant business. The story opens with Tess moving from her vaguely unhappy life in Ohio to a microscopic apartment in Williamsburg (Brooklyn, not VA, for you Virginians like myself.) Determined to find employment of any kind, and with a resume boasting previous barista work,¬†snags a job as a back-waiter in¬†one of Union Square’s most prestigious restaurants. Tess is in over her head, navigating a new city, new job, and completely new lifestyle, all while facing the typical challenges of ¬†young adulthood. She experiments with drugs, alcohol, sex, and her newfound freedom in the city. She experiences complicated adult relationships, as well as heartache, loneliness, and wondering “is this it?” While¬†Tess’ coming-of-age was much wilder and exotic than my own, I felt nostalgia for that confusing and blissful period of early womanhood. By the end of the novel, I felt I had grown up with Tess and could really feel the transformation she underwent in just one short year.

If you are interested in an action-driven, event-filled, cant-put-down read, this novel may not be the best for you, but I would encourage you to give it a go (past the first 100 pages) to experience beautiful writing, gorgeous metaphors, and an appreciation for growing up and figuring out life.

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My blind beagle Gracie loved it, too.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

www.stephaniedanler.com

“Don’t You Cry” by Mary Kubica

I read Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl a while back and really enjoyed it, so her other two novels have been on my list to read for quite some time. I managed to snag¬†Don’t You Cry in a large print edition at my local library. I felt like a speed reader turning those pages with the big words so fast!

Don’t You Cry tells two separate stories for¬†it’s first 80%. Storyline A is that of Quinn, early 20’s, entry-level career, trying to make a life for herself in Chicago. Quinn lives in a somewhat decent apartment in the heart of the city with her roommate, Esther.¬†One groggy morning, after¬†a night out drinking, Quinn wakes up to find Esther missing.¬†While not immediately alarmed, panic begins to bubble up¬†as Esther doesn’t return for several hours. Or the rest of the night. Or the next few days…
Quinn spends the rest of the week desperately trying to find out what happened to Esther and why she has disappeared–did she leave on her own free will, or is she in danger? Is Esther really the sweet, gentle roommate Quinn knows and loves?

Storyline B follows Alex (for the first few chapters I thought he was a girl, damn those unisex names) who is working a dead-end job as a diner dishwasher¬†in his run-down hometown. Alex turned down a college scholarship to stay home to take care of his incoherent alcoholic father. The highlight of his day is delivering the lunch orders to his agoraphobic neighbor. His life is dreadfully dull, until he meets a mysterious, and incredibly odd girl in the diner, who he affectionately names “Pearl.”

Quinn becomes more and more suspicious of Esther, after finding dark clues from her past in the apartment.

Alex becomes more and more fascinated by Pearl’s lunacy,¬†but is blinded by her attention and companionship.

The pieces start falling together as to how these two tales will align, and while I thought I had it all figured out, I definitely didn’t.

This was a quick read, although a little slow to start and get into. Once the suspense started building, I found it engaging with a fairly okay twist at the end.

4 out of 5 stars.

http://www.marykubica.com

Halloween Witch Wreath

pastaHalloween is my second favorite holiday (Thanksgiving being my first, I love to eat.) I love to dress up,and love to decorate our house. I don’t go full on cobwebs on the porch, but I like a nice Halloween wreath and spooky pumpkin centerpiece or two.

My Halloween wreaths the past few years have been pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself. So, I needed something equally as fun this year, for our first fall season in our new house. I came up with this super cute witch wreath, with glitter ribbon and fun colors.

I’m usually the hot glue gun’s #1 fan, but the way our house sits, my front door is directly in sunlight during most of the day. I’ve found that the sun gets so warm it actually melts the hot glue on my wreaths, causing decorative pieces to fall to their peril. So, this time around I used stick pins for attaching everything to a straw¬†wreath. Worked like a charm, and I didn’t burn off any fingers, like usual!

What you need:
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  • 10″ straw wreath
  • Two spools wide ribbon for the base color (I used black and white striped)
  • 3 spools smaller decorative ribbon (with halloween prints, colors, glitter, etc.)
  • 1 pack stick pins
  • Witch’s hat (found at Hobby Lobby)
  • Witches leg decorative piece (also found at Hobby Lobby)
  • Decorative bat clips (found at Dollar Tree)
  • Decorative flower clip

What you do:

1. Attach one end of your wide ribbon to your wreath with 4 stick pins. **Do NOT remove the plastic wrapping from your straw wreath!!! I’ve done this before–horrible mistake. You’ll end up with a completely misshapen wreath, plus a floor that looks like it belongs in a barn.**

2. Wrap your ribbon all the way around the wreath, making sure the straw is completely covered. When you’re at the end of your spool, attach the tail to the wreath form.

img_03743. Repeat with second spool of ribbon until wreath is completely wrapped.

4. Repeat these steps with your smaller decorative ribbons.

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5. Attach your witch legs to the bottom backside of your wreath using stick pins. I cut the legs off of a decorative piece I got at Hobby Lobby for $4. They also sold witches legs by themselves (but I didn’t think they were as cute.)

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6.¬†Attach your witch’s hat to the top left corner of your wreath, at an angle, closer to the front of the wreath form, using stick pins.

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7. Clip decorative bats (or other decorative pieces) to the slots in between the wide ribbon wraps on the left side of your wreath.

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8. Do the same with your flower clip, but attaching on opposite side from bats.

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9. Using any leftover ribbon, attach a small loop to the top back portion of your wreath with stick pins to use to hang.

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Happy Halloween!!!!

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“The Girls” by Emma Cline

I’m really obsessed with cults. I know, I know, that makes me sound like the ultimate emo creep. But it’s true. They’re just so¬†fascinating! I’m really intrigued as to how someone gets sucked into the commune lifestyle, abandons their family and friends, and blindly follows a savior, who inevitably is a decently¬†attractive, charismatic, middle-aged white man. It’s just so hard for me to wrap my brain around, which makes it all that much more interesting. Thanks to my slightly sociopathic obsession, I’ve seen my fair share of cult documentaries, shows, books, etc. and I was super pumped to get my hands on¬†one of the summer’s trendiest books,¬†The Girls, by Emma Cline.

The Girls¬†parallels the story of Charles Manson and his family almost to a T. I think maybe this is why I didn’t love this book as much as I had expected. I was hoping for a more imaginative story, or at least some great insight as to the secrets of the family and their lifestyle. But, being already pretty¬†familiar with the Manson case, I didn’t find this storyline especially shocking.

Evie Boyd opens the novel in modern day, reflecting on her former life as a part of the “family.” She flashes back to age 14 where she is¬†living a life pretty typical of a teenager in the late 60’s. Her parents are divorced, she is an only child, and she spends her days in suburban California drinking beers in her best friend’s basement, gossiping about girls at school and crushing on¬†the upperclassmen boys. There is nothing especially remarkable about her life, but also nothing horrendous enough for me to buy her slipping into the claws of a murderous cult.

Evie happens upon a group of hippie older girls, with whom she is immediately infatuated. The center of her obsession is Suzanne, the 17-year old female leader. She develops what can only be described as a massive crush on Suzanne,¬†hanging on her every word, doing everything she says. Suzanne and the girls bring Evie back to “the ranch,” where she meets, and,¬†unsurprisingly, hooks up with Russell, aka Charles Manson. Evie becomes a daily¬†fixture at the ranch, and gets away with always ¬†being gone from home by telling her mom she’s sleeping over at her best friend’s. This is another thing that didn’t really make much sense to me in the book; even a somewhat absentee mother would start to think it odd after not seeing her daughter practically the entire summer. And the author does nothing to make us think that Evie’s mom is abusive, an alcoholic, plain old horrible, etc. How does Evie¬†become a full fledged member of a cult with her normal-ish mom not even realizing she’s missing? Anyway, I digress.

Evie’s story continues with the family slowly unravelling, eventually to the point of homicide, just as we know to be true in the case of the Manson followers. Sans Helter Skelter. And then that’s just kind of the end. (Did I just ruin it?)

While the literature and prose of this book was gorgeous, I just didn’t love the story nearly as much as I wanted to. And I desperately wanted to love it. I was expecting this book to be one of my favorites of all time, but I found myself struggling to push through certain dry parts. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t amazing. Now, if you’re looking for a stellar first-person life-in-a-cult account, check out¬†Holy Hell on Netflix. One of the best cult documentaries I’ve seen (and again, I’ve seen a lot.) Hours of footage and testimonies from folks actually living inside a cult (for 22 years!!!!!)¬†I’ll let you have that nugget of info for free.

3 out of 5 stars.

http://www.emmacline.com