If you have not read The Broken Girls by Simone St. James yet, do yourself a favor and read it. I randomly picked this book for my Book of the Month box and I am so glad that I did. It was such an interesting read with lots of twists and I could not stop reading this book.
In Vermont 1950 Idlewild hall was a boarding school for “troubled girls”. There are rumors that this boarding school is haunted. Four roommates end up kind of bonding over this story and their friendship continues to grow until one of them seems to just vanish. Now it is 2014 and Fiona Sheridan is a growing journalist. in 1994 her sisters body was found on the abandoned grounds of Idlewild Hall. Even though her sisters boyfriend at the time was arrested and convicted of her murder, Fiona cannot stop thinking about it and feeling as if things just don’t add up. As Fiona continues to look into it and the history of Idlewild Hall, secrets that were meant to stay hidden begin to surface.
One of my favorite aspects of this book was the jumping between time periods. I felt that it added another element and made me want to keep reading even more. This novel was also told from multiple viewpoints, which I always think adds to the story. The characters were all strong and I was able to feel a connection with each of them. I read this book really quickly and could not put it down.
Overall I give this book 4/5 stars. Like I mentioned earlier, it had strong characters, an interesting plot, multiple viewpoints, and I enjoyed the jump between time periods. I can’t wait to read more books by this author. I imagine I’ll enjoy her other novels just as much as I enjoyed this one!
My Daughter’s Mistake by Kate Hewitt is a novel that challenged how I think about different things and my judgement on people. As soon as I read what it was about I was immediately drawn in. This is my third book by Kate Hewitt and I look forward to reading more.
This book takes place in a small college town in New Hampshire. It is a safe place to live. Everyone seems to know each other, or at least know of each other. One day Jenna’s six year old daughter, Amy Rose, is hit by a car that is being driven by seventeen year old Maddie. Maddie’s mom, Ellen, a college professor insists the whole thing must be an accident because her daughter is super careful and never distracted while driving. Both mothers seem to be hiding something though, as well as Maddie.
I read this book in about a day. I thought all of the characters were well written and I liked that the novel was told from the perspective of both Jenna and Ellen. I do kind of wish that we got to see Maddie’s perspective of everything as well, but I get that the story was supposed to mainly be about the two mothers. I felt the character development throughout the novel was also well done. This book really reminded me of a lot of Jodi Picoult’s novels.
I gave this book 3/5 stars. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. My biggest issue is that there were a lot of typos and editing mistakes throughout the book and it did make it hard for me to get through the book at times because I felt like I was just constantly editing it in my head. Overall though, I felt it was a good read and I would recommend it to people who enjoy contemporary fiction and realistic fiction.
In February I read Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena. While it was not my favorite book, I still found it to be entertaining and a good thriller. It only took me about two days to read the book because I just wanted to know what happened.
Fred and Sheila Merton own a beautiful home in Brecken Hill in upstate New York. This neighborhood is extremely expensive and you have to be rich to live there. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after having Easter dinner with their three adult children. Their children are devastated about what happened to their parents. Or are they? With the death of their parents each of them are set to inherit millions, so the question is, would one of them be willing to kill for the money?
If you are interested in true crime at all, you know that murdering for money is a common motive. I love true crime so I love reading a novel like this, where it all feels so real. Some of the characters did really get on my nerves, but I almost felt like they were supposed to. Not every character in this novel was supposed to be likable. Throughout the book I kept feeling like I figured out who the murderer was, but then something else would happen and I would have to rethink everything. I liked that it was not super easy to figure out, but at the same time was kind of predictable.
I gave this book 3/5 stars. It was not my favorite book or favorite thriller I have ever read, but I did enjoy it. Like I said earlier, some of the characters really got on my nerves. That was probably the biggest downfall for me honestly. Even though I do think you were supposed to dislike some of the characters. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book. I think people who like thrillers will really enjoy this book!
I am still at a loss of words for the book Her Final Words by Brianna Labuskes. It was a thriller, but it had other elements to it. I found the whole concept to be fascinating and really different from other books.
17 year old Eliza Cook seeks out FBI special agent Lucy Thorne to confess to a murder of a twelve year old boy. This seems like an open and shut case, but Lucy believes there is more to this. After Eliza confesses to the murder she refuses to share anymore details, or even talk. This forces Lucy to go to the scene of the crime, so she can uncover what really is going on in the small town Eliza has come from.
I love a book that is centered around a small town. This small town is not unlike others, there are a lot of secrets, people have a hard time accepting outsiders, and this one is also super religious. I really enjoyed this novel. It moved quickly, there were a lot of different elements to the story, and the characters were really strong. Like I mentioned earlier, I found this book to be really different from other books and I really liked that. As someone who reads a lot, sometimes books can all start to feel the same, but this one did not make me feel like that.
I gave this book 4/5 stars. I would highly recommend it. Especially to people who enjoy thrillers, or small town mysteries. I also enjoyed the authors writing style. I have read two books by Labuskes and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them and I look forward to reading more books by her!
Wall of Silence by Tracy Buchanan was a super interesting read. It had me intrigued right from the start. As soon as I read the description I was hooked and could not wait to dive right in. This book held a lot of surprising elements and keeps the reader engaged from beginning to end.
One evening, Melissa arrives home to find her husband lying on the kitchen floor stabbed. Their three children are calmly standing around him and it does not take Melissa long to realize that one of them is responsible for this. Now her loyalties to her husband and children are torn, but quickly she makes the decision that she will do whatever it takes to protect her children, no matter the cost or consequences.
Throughout the book I kept thinking about, what would I do if I found myself in this situation? It is a tough choice to make, but I believe a lot of people would choose to protect their children, no matter what. At times I felt as if there were too many characters and it could become confusing, but overall I really enjoyed this novel. I thought the development throughout was well done, the characters were real and multi dimensional, and it kept me guessing throughout. I kept thinking I had it figured out, but then something else would happen and my prediction would be wrong and I would have to make a new one.
Overall, I give this book 3.5/5 stars. I would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers. It was well written, the characters and the plot were well executed, overall it was a very enjoyable read. I would highly recommend and I look forward to reading more books by this author.
The Best of Friends by Lucinda Berry was a heartbreaking story about both friendship and motherhood. This novel contained very strong characters, a tragic story line, and just left me in tears.
Lindsey, Kendra, and Dani have been best friends for as long as they can remember. Now they are grown with children of their own. One night a tragic accident leaves one of their teenage sons dead, another in a coma, and the third too traumatized to speak. These three mothers plunge themselves into the investigation to try and figure out what caused this bizarre incident to take place. As the investigation moves forward they begin to learn things about their own sons that they never knew. Which leaves them questioning how well do they really know their own children? And how well do they even really know each other?
This book absolutely ripped my heart out and shattered my soul. The character development throughout the novel was really well done. As I read the novel I felt the growth of each character. This book was more than just a mystery. Of course I read it because I wanted to know what happened, but it went deeper than that. This book portrayed how far some people will go to keep a secret. It depicted jealousy, pain, secrets, burdens, motherhood, friendships. This book really faced a lot of prominent issues and took them head on.
I gave this book 4/5 stars. I thought it was written well and the characters were multi dimensional. I would highly recommend this novel, and not only to people who like thrillers. It honestly felt more like a contemporary fiction book to me than a thriller. I think everyone could get something out of this book.I have read a few books by Lucinda Berry and really liked them. I am excited to read more of her books!
When She Returned by Lucinda Berry was such an interesting read. I read this book in 2021 and although it did not make it into my top five, it was one of the most memorable books I read last year. This book was different from a lot of thrillers I have read.
Eleven years ago Kate Bennett vanished from a Target parking lot. She left behind her husband and young daughter. She shows up one day at a gas station in Montana screaming for help while holding an infant. Investigators believe she may have been abducted by a cult. Kate’s husband is now remarried and her daughter barely remembers her. With Kate’s return they are all trying to navigate their new life while also figuring out what happened to Kate. Kate’s return though may not be the happy reunion they were all hoping for, as it seems she may have an ulterior motive.
I found this book to be so interesting. The whole cult aspect just fascinated me. The fact that seemingly intelligent people can be sucked into these cults, without question, is so interesting to me. This book was told from multiple viewpoints which I felt helped advance the story. This book kept me guessing until the end. I could tell Kate was up to something, I just could not figure out exactly what that was.
I gave this book 3.5/5 stars. The story line was interesting and different, the characters were likeable, but also mysterious in their own ways, and the twists kept you guessing throughout the novel. I would definitely recommend this book to people who like thrillers and mysteries. I think I read this book in about two days because I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen. I have read multiple books by this author and I would highly recommend her novels.
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Every Last Secret by A.R. Torre is a fast paced, easy to read, thriller. There was nothing groundbreaking about this book, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and it honestly did keep my guessing the whole time. When the twist came at the end I was actually a little bit surprised.
This novel follows the characters Cat Winthorpe and her husband William and their new neighbors, Neena and Matt Ryder. Cat has everything she could ever want. She has the perfect home, the perfect husband, they live in a great neighborhood and she doesn’t have to work because her husband runs a very successful business. Neena is their new next door neighbor, she also happens to be a new employee for William. Neena wants everything Cat has, including her husband. The question is, how far will Neena go to get it?
I love a good domestic, house-wife, rich neighborhood thriller. The exclusive, rich neighborhood story line always fascinates me because I have never lived somewhere like that or personally experienced it and every time I read a novel about it I can’t understand why people would want to live like this. Like I mentioned earlier, this was a fast easy read. I think I read the book in about a day. It was not the best book I ever read, but if you are looking for an easy thriller that is entertaining, that is exactly what this book is.
I gave this book 3/5 stars. I wouldn’t go out of my way to read it again, but I would recommend the book to people. The characters were interesting, the plot was good, the story seemed straight forward, but there was a good twist at the end. I am would like to read more books by this author and see how they compare.
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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a book that I have seen everywhere. It feels like everyone has been talking about it and honestly it took me a while to actually read it because when a book gets that much hype it makes me nervous. I was worried that it was not going to be that good. After reading this book though, it deserves all of the praise it has received. This book was so good. It was honestly unlike anything I have ever read before.
Evelyn Hugo was a Hollywood movie icon from the 1950s to the 80s, when she made the decision to leave the industry. She has not done any interviews since she has left the industry. Suddenly she chooses to tell her story to an unknown magazine reporter, Monique Grant. Monique has no idea why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, but she wants to use this opportunity to jump-start her career. Throughout the novel Evelyn tells Monique the story of her life and answers all of the questions everyone is dying to know the answers to. Why was she married seven times? Who did she love the most? Why did she suddenly leave the industry? Why now is she choosing to do an interview? And the biggest question for Monique, why did Evelyn choose her to write her biography?
I cannot give enough praise to this book. I felt every possible emotion while reading this novel. The story was beautiful and unlike anything I have ever read. This was one of the first books I read this year and I have no idea if I am going to be able to top it. I loved the old Hollywood feel the book had, I loved the characters, and I loved the unexpected story-lines throughout. I honestly could see this book one day becoming a movie.
I give this book 5/5 stars. I would honestly give it more if I could. I cannot stop thinking about this novel. I wish I could read it again for the first time. I would highly recommend this book to anyone. If you only read one book this year, make it this one.
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A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham was just released on January 11th. As a member of Book of the Month I was able to get it in my December box, and because of the hype, I was super excited to read it. Unfortunately, this book kind of fell flat for me. At times I really enjoyed it, but I spent most of the time being really annoyed with the main character, which just made it a difficult read.
When Chloe Davis was twelve, six girls in her small town go missing in the beginning of summer. By the end of the summer Chloe’s father confesses to the crimes and is put in prison for life. Now it is twenty years later and Chloe is working as a psychologist and getting prepared for her wedding. She feels like she finally has her life together when suddenly local teenage girls start to go missing again.
I so wanted to love this book, but I just didn’t. I’m glad I read it, it just wasn’t my favorite. Honestly I would have enjoyed it a lot more if Chloe didn’t get on my nerves so much. I thought the plot twist was interesting, but at the same time I actually predicted it pretty early on in the book. I also wish it moved a little bit faster. There were also times where I felt there were unnecessary details included.
Overall, I would give this book 3/5 stars. It was good I just felt it was missing something. I have seen a lot of mixed reviews on this book, so it really just comes down to personal taste and what type of writing style you prefer. Like I said earlier, I am glad I read it and I think the plot was super interesting, it was just lacking something for me.
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January felt literally like the longest month ever, but at the same time I am surprised it is already February. With the end of January, this post is dedicated to my January reading wrap-up! I read 12 books in January and honestly this was a great reading month for me. I read some of the best books I have ever read.
The twelve books I read this month were:
- Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- No Time to Say Goodbye by Kate Hewitt
- When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
- A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham
- Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin
- Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freedman
- It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover
- Layla by Colleen Hoover
- Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover
- The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn
Clearly, I went on a little bit of a Colleen Hoover binge towards the end. My least favorite on this list was definitely Layla by Colleen Hoover. Honestly, I don’t even know what to say about that book. I really did not like it. There is definitely an audience for it, but I’m definitely not it. I gave it 2/5 stars because I think there might be some redeemable qualities? But honestly, I don’t know. The book kind of broke my brain temporarily and I’m still trying to sort my thoughts from that book.
My favorite book was hands down The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Going into this my expectations were actually kind of low. I had been seeing the book everywhere and just kind of assumed the book was being over hyped, but that is definitely not the case. I would read that book over and over again if I could. If you do read it, I am just warning you now, be prepared to cry. I don’t cry a lot at books, but I sobbed at the end of this one. I can’t praise this book enough, so just do yourself a favor and read it.
There are some honorable mentions on this list as well. Reminders of Him was also really good and I sobbed at this book as well to be honest. I also cried at It Ends With Us so it was a big month of tears for me. If you are looking for a good historical fiction, coming of age novel, I would recommend Libertie I have not seen a lot about the book, but it deserves praise. I really enjoyed it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.
I am excited to see what February brings and how many books I read this month. Especially with it being a shorter month. Let me know what you read this month! as always be sure to check out my instagram: @bookswithmadelyn to keep up to date with my current reads!
When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain was an absolutely beautiful book. First of all, the title immediately draws you in. Second, the writing in this book was stunning. The writing was poetic and I kept going back and rereading lines just to appreciate how beautiful the writing was.
This book tells the story of Anna Hart who is a missing persons detective. A terrible tragedy sends Anna back to her hometown so she can try to process and grieve. Shortly after arriving to her hometown she discovers there is a fifteen year old girl missing and Anna quickly joins in on the case. While investigating this crime it starts to remind Anna of one of her friends who went missing years before when they were both fifteen.
I loved this book. I thought the plot was good, Anna was a sympathetic character, plus this book actually dove deeper and used actual missing persons cases and trauma theory as well. The book even touched on what makes some people more susceptible to predators than others. That approach could have easily turned into victim blaming, but it never did, it was done tactfully and I was able to relate to it in some ways and also learn from it as well.
To me, a book isn’t complete unless I am able to take something away from it. Whether that be a lesson, or an understanding of others more, etc. I was able to take a lot from this book and even able to understand my own traumas more.
I highly recommend this book. It was well-written, fast paced, there were a lot of good characters, and it kept me guessing the whole time. In the end I was kind of able to figure it out, but there were still plot twists that I did not see coming and I always appreciate an extra surprise element. Overall, I give this book 5/5 stars. This is a book that I am going to carry with me for a while and I cannot recommend it enough.
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In 2021 I read 100 books and in this blog post I am going to be sharing my top five favorite books I read last year. My reading style is kind of all over the place and this post will reflect that, but I tend to read mostly contemporary fiction, mystery and thrillers, and some historical fiction. Choosing my top five was extremely difficult because I read so many good books, but I somehow managed to curate a list of my five favorite books I read last year and here they are (in no particular order):
- A Little Hope by Ethan Joella. this book had a lot of characters and when I read the synopsis it honestly confused me, but it was such a beautiful book and it all begins to make sense once you start reading. This book follows a couple named Freddie and Greg Tyler through Greg’s cancer diagnosis. This book also touches on the stories of the people in their town and their life challenges and hardships as well. It is a simple story and the writing was beautiful. I found it to be a really impactful novel and just a reminder that you don’t know what other people are going through or experiencing in their lives.
- Miss Jane by Brad Watson is a coming of age, historical fiction novel about the life of Jane Chisolm, who was born in the early twentieth century with a genital birth defect. This birth defect causes Jane to not be able to live what would be considered a “normal” life for a woman at that time. She was unable to have kids because of it and therefore she never married. So many people told her she was destined to live a lonely life, but Jane was determined to prove her life was anything but lonely. I loved how this novel looked differences in the face and proved that just because someone is different does not mean there is anything wrong with them. While I was reading this book I kept thinking of how shame is an emotion or feeling you do not really feel until others put that feeling on you.
- Spilled Milk by K.L. Randis is a book that is based on a true story. This book follows Brooke Nolan who is being abused by her father and one day she makes an anonymous phone call about the abuse because it has been escalating. Unfortunately, social services ends up actually jeopardizing her safety so she quickly takes back what she said and is forced to keep her fathers secret longer. One night though she is at her friends house and a glass of spilled milk is what brings Brooke to tell the truth about her father. It then follows Brooke through the journey of the trial against her father and also the journey of losing family members who do not support her through the trial. I really liked how this book took abuse and looked at it as a whole and not just as a singular issue. It examined what it is like to have people not believe you when you decide to tell your truth. Brooke’s resiliency was used against her, the question of why she never told anyone was brought up, she was blamed for what happened to her and for ruining her fathers life because of what he did. I thought this book did an exceptional job at depicting abuse in a family and all the different aspects that play a part. I found this novel to be liberating, I guess is the best word I can think of. It was well written and I highly recommend the book.
- Once There Were Wolves by Charlotte McConaghy was such a good book. This book stole a piece of my heart and I read it months ago and I find myself still thinking about it. Inti Flynn moves to Scotland with her twin sister, Aggie, because Inti is leading a team of biologists in reintroducing 14 gray wolves into the remote Highlands. They are introducing the wolves to help the dying landscape in Scotland. Inti brought her sister with her because she is hoping to help heal her sister from a terrible trauma and secret that has made them leave Alaska. The town is not thrilled about the wolves and shortly after the wolves were introduced to the land, a farmer ends up dead and the town is blaming the wolves. Inti is determined to prove it was not the wolves, but that is becoming difficult when all signs are actually pointing to the man she has begun to fall in love with. The writing in this book was absolutely stunning. It was poetic and remained graceful while talking about some terrible tragedies. I would read this book over and over again if I could. The plot twist at the end really surprised me. I honestly did not see it coming. If you only read one book on this list, read this one. You will not regret it.
- A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson is told from the viewpoint of three different people. Clara is 8 years old and her older sister, Rose, is missing. She has not been seen or heard from for weeks. Clara is young and does not fully understand what is happening, but she is anxiously awaiting the return of her sister. Liam Payne is in his early thirties and he has just moved across the street from Clara’s family. This is a small town and with his new arrival around the time of Rose’s disappearance is a cause for concern for Clara. Mrs. Orchard is in her eighties and she owns the home Liam is now staying in. Mrs. Orchard is in the hospital and has asked Clara to keep an eye on her cat. Throughout the novel you find out how Mrs. Orchard and Liam are acquainted and what transpired between the two of them many years ago. I enjoyed this novel because it has a little bit of everything. It was a mixture of contemporary fiction and mystery and the three different viewpoints added a whole other element. Again, the writing in this novel was beautiful and beautiful writing will get me every time. This is another book I read months ago, but still think about. I almost wish I didn’t read it yet and that I could read it for the first time again. This book made me want to read more of Mary Lawson’s novels.
These were my top five books of 2021 and I am excited to see what will make my top five at the end of this year. Right now I have my yearly goal set at 50 books, but I am hoping to reach 100 again. I am currently on my 9th book of the year. I am surprised I was able to narrow it down to just five books. It was hard but these novels definitely deserved to be in the top five and again I highly recommend each of them. Next time you are looking for something to read I promise you will not regret reading any of these books.
Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin was such a good read. It is one of those books where once you finish it you cannot stop thinking about it. The more I read literary fiction and contemporary fiction the more I fall in love with it. There is simplicity to the stories, yet the feelings you get from them is so much more than simplistic.
This book follows Polly who seems to come from the picture perfect family. She is married to a great guy who has built a wonderful life for himself and his family, she has two perfect children, her parents are successful and well-known in her community, and her siblings are also successful in their own ways. In so many ways Polly appears to have the perfect life, except for one big thing: she is in the midst of a love affair with a painter named Lincoln.
Throughout the entire book as a reader I could just feel everything Polly was feeling and going through. Polly was relatable and her pain was palpable. I loved the connection I felt with Polly even though I have never actually been through what she was experiencing. The question that kept coming up for me throughout the entire book was, is it possible for good people to have an affair? Obviously everyone will answer that question differently, but I do not think the answer is as simple as it would appear.
Based on the reviews I have read I know not everyone loves this book, but I have to say I really loved it. This book looked at the role of women as daughters, mothers, wives, and siblings and showed the pressure that can be created for these women to always have it together and to care about everyone else’s feelings whilst no one else really seems to care about theirs. At the end of the book I was actually sad to see Polly go and to no longer be apart of her journey.
I would highly recommend this book. It is a quick read, there are a lot of funny, dry humor moments, and the writing was beautiful. I give this book 4/5 stars and I definitely want to read more of Laurie Colwin’s books in the future.