I started bookstagram long before I decided that a blog was something I was interested in trying out. I thought I would summarize my thoughts on the books I read throughout 2019 so that anyone reading this (thanks!) can get an idea of the kind of books I tend to gravitate towards. From here on out, each book will get an individual book review with more detail on the plot, my thoughts, trigger warnings etc. etc.
1. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (3 Stars)
CW: Suicide, Rape
I picked this book up because I loved The Girl on the Train. While both are thrillers, I felt like they had completely different tones. The Girl on the Train was fast-paced and energetic, I was pulled into the mystery from the start. Into the Water on the other hand was more of a slow burn. The beginning of the book felt like a lot of unanswered questions with no coherent path forward. It also took me awhile to care about the characters. It wasn’t that I disliked them, I simply felt indifferent.
However, that all changed during part two of the book. I finally got a bit more background on the characters and the pace of the novel picked up. I found myself more attached to Lena and Jules and I had enough information to start guessing (sometimes incorrectly) about what really happened to Nel.
Ultimately, I found the end of the book satisfying. I’m glad I didn’t give up after the first part. While not the most engaging thriller I’ve ever read, I encourage everyone to give it a shot. You’ll find yourself caring about the characters more than you think.
2. A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum (5 Stars)
CW: Abuse, Rape, Suicide
My life experience could not be further from the experiences of the characters in this book. I was raised by parents that allowed me a significant amount of freedom, even for American standards. I always knew I was going to go to college. I don’t want to get married or have kids, and my family loves me all the same.
The novel touches on many themes: motherhood, family, culture, gender roles, and destiny versus choice. The story is told through the eyes of three generations of Palestinian-American women, allowing the reader to experience different perspectives on each theme. The writing is raw and simplistic. It really drives home the importance of culture and the challenges faced by immigrants who feel torn between two different ways of life.
I am certain this experience is not the same for all Palestinian-Americans, nor do I believe Rum meant to say her story was universally true. Additionally, I believe she did a beautiful job of separating the cycle of abuse seen in this one family from Arab culture in general.
Overall, the book helped answer the why for me. Why do women stay in situations that appear oppressive? Well, the answer just isn’t that simple.
3. Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell (3.5 Stars)
CW: Death, Abuse
I had a hard time narrowing down the rating I wanted to give this book, but ultimately settled on 3 1/2 stars, rounded down to three. First off, I did enjoy reading this one. The book was well written, easily held my attention, and it wasn’t hard to make myself finish.
However, the mystery was easily solved and the book didn’t have any shocking twists and turns. It just didn’t read like a normal thriller and wasn’t suspenseful. The ending felt rushed and some of the characters just felt odd, especially Poppy. That’s all I’ll say because I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t had a chance to read this one.
Overall, I think this book makes for a fun beach read and I would read more by Jewell, but it wasn’t my favorite thriller.
4. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (5 Stars)
CW: Depression, Death
I absolutely LOVED this thriller! Well written, intriguing, suspenseful, chilling, with a big twist. Everything I am looking for in a well-written thriller.
I’ve seen some reviews call this book a slow-burn. Which is true, sorta. Yes, the book builds slowly, but in the perfect way. It is never boring. Rather the book reads like you’re watching a horror movie and the music is slowly starting to build. You know something is about to happen, something is going to jump onto screen. You’re tense, on the edge of your seat. The Silent Patient made me feel that way from page one up until the final popping twist. I think there were some points where I forgot to breathe I was so tense and invested in the story.
The characters are multi-dimensional, which really adds to the story and is uncommon in most thrillers. I enjoyed learning about both Theo and Alicia’s backgrounds. Best of all, I didn’t see the final twist coming. I read a lot of thrillers and can usually figure out what’s going on. This one actually took me by surprise.
If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that between work and school it takes me forever to finish books. However, this one I finished in just two days. It was that good. If you’re a fan of thrillers, push this book to the very top of your TBR.
5. No Exit by Taylor Adams (5 Stars)
CW: Child Abuse, Graphic Violence, Death
I really enjoyed No Exit by Taylor Adams. I should note, when it comes to thrillers I am not there for the book to be realistic. I read thrillers for the twists and turns and shocks. No Exit had those things in spades!
I listened to the audiobook version on one of my many trips to Atlanta. More than once I found myself gasping or saying out loud “no freaking way!” The book starts off strong and never lets up. There were points where the characters had gone through so much that I thought the book must be close to over. Wrong. It was just getting started. Did I mention the entire novel occurs over a less than 24-hour time period?
I don’t want to risk giving too much of the plot away, so I’ll just say that if you’re a fan of fast-paced thrillers and determined, intelligent women, READ THIS BOOK.
6. The Whisper Man by Alex North (4 Stars)
CW: Death, Estranged Family, Child Abuse, Alcoholism, Death
This book was something else. One of the most unsettling books I have read in quite some time. It stood out to me for two main reasons:
1. While it was a “whodunnit” thriller, it didn’t keep me guessing the way that most thrillers do. Instead of excusing character in the book at different points, I felt like I was never really sure who was responsible for the crimes. As if that character hadn’t been introduced yet, but was lurking in the shadows. I think that is part of what makes this book so creepy and unsettling.
2. This is a big one for me, all of the characters were realistic. I don’t need the plot itself to be realistic to enjoy a thriller (though this one was scarily realistic), but I need the characters to act like normal human beings. Nothing aggravates me more than children that talk and perceive their surroundings like full grown adults. Jake reacts like a child who has had his life uprooted. Tom acts like a father who is struggling to find a way to connect with his young son. Pete acts like a guy who is haunted by his past. None of their actions seem odd or out of place.
Overall, this was a wonderfully written book and I can’t wait to see what is next for Alex North. If you like creepy thrillers, pick this one up ASAP.
7. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (4 Stars)
CW: Anxiety, Depression, Death
Woah. This book. That twist. Woah. I will definitely be reading more by Sager.
This book pulled me in from the beginning. I could picture Camp Nightingale and Lake Midnight. I could see Dogwood cabin. I could see the Lodge, large and slightly ominous. I could feel the cool breeze that came off Lake Midnight in the early morning. The setting really made this book for me. I wasn’t just reading, I was there at camp with Emma.
The story itself is fast paced and once you get to the last 100 pages it takes off even more (which I didn’t expect). Sager knows how to tell a good mystery. I switched back and forth and back again as I tied to figure out “who done it.” In the end I was shocked. I consider myself an expert at solving mysteries early on, but this book got me good.
If you want a thriller that’ll keep you guessing, pick this one up. I’m so glad I read it and now I’m even more excited to read Lock Every Door.