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Forget Me Not

Title: Forget Me Not

Author: Alexandra Oliva

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Thank you NetGalley for this book!

I can’t remember what it was about this book that made select it, but I’m really glad I did. This book started out really strange because I never read the blurbs ahead of time. I like to go in cold. So getting a feel for the book took a few chapters. But once the pieces fell into place, the book was smooth sailing for me, and I finished it in just a couple of days.

From Goodreads: What if your past wasn’t what you thought?

As a child, Linda Russell was left to raise herself in a 20-acre walled-off property in rural Washington. The woods were her home, and for twelve years she lived oblivious to a stark and terrible truth: Her mother had birthed her only to replace another daughter who died in a tragic accident years before.

And then one day Linda witnesses something she wasn’t meant to see. Terrified and alone, she climbs the wall and abandons her home, but her escape becomes a different kind of trap when she is thrust into the modern world—a world for which she is not only entirely unprepared, but which is unprepared to accept her.

And you couldn’t see a future for yourself?

Years later, Linda is living in Seattle and immersed in technology intended to connect, but she has never felt more alone. Social media continually brings her past back to haunt her, and she is hounded by the society she is now forced to inhabit. But when Linda meets a fascinating new neighbor who introduces her to the potential and escapism of virtual reality, she begins to allow herself to hope for more.

What would it take to reclaim your life?

Then an unexplained fire at her infamous childhood home prompts Linda to return to the property for the first time since she was a girl, unleashing a chain of events that will not only endanger her life but challenge her understanding of family, memory, and the world itself.

Because this book mentions the pandemic in the past, I knew it was set in the near future. Social media is now controlled by one tech, SocialHub, and people wear their phones are arm sleeves. See why I was confused at first? My own fault! But once I dug into Linda’s story, I couldn’t wait to see how her story, both past and present, would develop. I really enjoyed the fact that this book wasn’t just a run-of-the-mill thrillers, but rather, it has a fair amount of science fiction added to it. I found the story super creative and enjoyed the book quite a bit. Will for sure be recommending this one!

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My tattoo

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The Burning Girls

Title: The Burning Girls

Author: CJ Tudor

Genre: mystery/thriller/horror

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

Holy smokes! (pun intended) What a crazy, great book. Let me make it clear that before I even finished this one, I requested The Chalk Man from my library. I was just so impressed with this book and its multiple plots that wove together so well. The book has so many layers of mystery all were so well-written and cohesive. I’m so glad I got to read this one. Oh, and Tudor makes a reference to my favorite band, The Killers, so I immediately tweeted my thanks to her, and she replied. So cool! Hi again, if you are reading this, Ms. Tudor! =)

From Goodreads: Welcome to Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake here. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit and a note quoting scripture. “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”

The more Jack and daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider.

What I loved most about this book was that the story is really about the vicar’s past, the town’s past, and the town’s present, all at the same time. You learn more about Jack and why she left her previous post. You learn more about the martyrs from centuries ago and the girls who disappeared decades ago. And you learn about the townspeople and just what they have to hide. What I found interesting was that the story is told in first person from Jack’s perspective, but some chapters are told third person about Flo. I can’t say I’ve read a book that switches between first and third narrator like that. It didn’t confuse me at all, and I really appreciated the uniqueness of that. This book was great, plain and simple. I can’t wait to dive into The Chalk Man soon!

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With the Fire on High

Title: With the Fire on High

Author: Elizabeth Acevedo

Genre: YA lit

PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt: book set in a restaurant

I just can’t stop reading YA these days. I go through reading phases, like most people, I would guess. But I’m digging through some recent YA books that I didn’t get to the past few years. And I’ve heard so many great things about this author, and this book also happened to fit a Popsugar prompt, so it was doubly worth reading. And I’m so glad I did.

From Goodreads: With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Emoni is just such a great character. She is realistic and responsible and knows exactly what she wants. But getting there can be tricky. She’s a fantastic mom, but having a baby does cause issues that her peers don’t face. She loves cooking, but her grades aren’t the greatest. She has an amazing grandma who raised her, but her dad isn’t as in the picture as much as he really should be. I’m so thankful for the recent transition in YA lit from annoying teen girl to amazing, strong teen girl. The recent representations are so much more empowering for girls who are reading the books. I listened to this book and couldn’t get through it quickly enough. I just loved being in Emoni’s world and absolutely recommend this one.

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Everything, Everything

Title: Everything, Everything

Author: Nicola Yoon

Genre: YA romance

I figured since I’ve read Yoon’s other two books Instructions for Dancing and The Sun is Also a Star, I might as well read the first one she wrote since I loved her other two so much. And, like her others, this one is a YA love story that is a bit unconventional. I appreciate her unique takes on first loves, and although this one missed the mark for me a bit, I still loved reading about Maddy and Olly.

From Goodreads:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. It’s a form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, but basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in fifteen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives. New next door neighbors. I look out the window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black t-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly. I want to learn everything about him, and I do. I learn that he is funny and fierce. I learn that his eyes are Atlantic Ocean-blue and that his vice is stealing silverware. I learn that when I talk to him, my whole world opens up, and I feel myself starting to change—starting to want things. To want out of my bubble. To want everything, everything the world has to offer.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

This book could have been a bit better with some development. I felt that Maddy and Olly’s love was rushed. I also saw some plot holes that were never explained, which was a bit frustrating. That said, maybe I’m being too picky. Maddy and Olly were great characters, and the ending of the book made a lot of sense to me. And although, this wasn’t my favorite Yoon book, her other two were just spectacular, so I’ll definitely be looking for more of her books in the future.

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Educated

Title: Educated

Author: Tara Westover

Genre: memoir

PopSugar Reading Challenge Prompt: book set in multiple countries

How in the world did it take me so long to read this book? Of course, I’ve heard about it, but I never really read a blurb of it. I thought it had something to do with the education system and how bad it was. Totally my fault for not investigating more. I started listening to this book, but I couldn’t find enough time to do so, and I was dying to read more and more and more, so I got it on ebook, so I could fly through it. This book is exactly how a memoir should be written. I’ve read a lot, and most are just a sequence of events retelling, but this one is so cleverly crafted.

From Goodreads: Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer, she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Holy. Smokes. My jaw just dropped so many times while reading this. The terror that Tara went through really is indescribable. The mental and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her family is horrific. And although her family is Mormon and her dad is bipolar, Tara never presents these facts as FACTS about Mormonism or people with bipolar disorder. The book is a representation of Tara’s experience only, not about Mormonism or bipolar disorder as a whole. She knows her experience was singular. I could not put this book down. The story itself is captivating, but it was also so well-written. Absolutely compelling.

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The Push

Title: The Push

Author: Ashley Audrain

Genre: domestic thriller

Anytime I hear about this book, it’s being related to Baby Teeth, which was one of the most tense books I’ve ever read. The style of this book is one that I loved, but I’ve heard people struggle with it. The story is told in the second person, you. Blythe has written her side of the story directly to her ex-husband (not a spoiler…it’s in the first chapter). Remember when you did xyz….. I loved you so much…. etc. Once you adjust to the style, it’s really not hard to follow. This book really is a lot like Baby Teeth in the sense that it’s about a potentially psychopath child, but it’s not as tense because you know what the end result it (sort of) and the story is only told from the mother’s perspective.

From Goodreads: Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

I really did like this book, but it wasn’t as nerve-racking as Baby Teeth was. That book was so hard for me to read because I was in constant terror of what that child was going to do. Don’t let the second person narrator scare you away. It really does become easy to follow after just a few chapters. I really don’t know why reading a mentally troubled children (I’ve also read We Need to Talk About Kevin and Defending Jacob) is so captivating, but this one ranks high on that list.

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Sorrowland

Title: Sorrowland

Author: Rivers Solomon

Genre: Black science fiction

Thank you Netgalley for this book!

Holy smokes this book. I have already read An Unkindness of Ghosts and The Deep, so I am familiar with Rivers Solomon’s genre-bending style. I discovered them in last year’s PopSugar challenge for the “author who is trans or non-binary” prompt, so I’m using Solomon’s preferred pronouns of they/their. I am so thankful I stumbled upon their work because all their books have been outstanding. And seriously, thank you to Netgalley for letting me have this one. I was so excited to read it.

From Goodreads: Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.

But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.

To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future – outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.

So, this book isn’t at all what I thought it would be. I should have known not to expect “traditional” when it comes to a book written by Solomon. I was thinking it would be a story about a woman escaping a cult and struggling with the outside world. It is that, of course, but so SO much more. Vern begins to notice that her body is stronger than it should be. She doesn’t tire as quickly and can heal herself. By the time she realizes this, she knows she has to figure out why.

Vern’s journey takes her to people who are kind and helpful, and she finds a home, of sorts. Her children are protected, while Vern can search for answers. And those answers, whew, they are pretty crazy. And so terrible. I had no idea where this book was going once Vern left the woods, but the story just becomes richer and richer as the story unfolds. What a fantastic, important adventure.

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Instructions for Dancing

Title: Instructions for Dancing

Author: Nicola Yoon

Genre: YA magical realism

PopSugar reading challenge prompt: a magical realism book

Thank you NetGalley for this book!

I have read one other Nicola Yoon book, The Sun is Also a Star, which I absolutely loved. And I’ve been reading some heavy books as of late. So this little breath of fresh air was the perfect book. Much like Sun, this book is a great combo of light and heavy, love and heartbreak, fun and serious. I flew through this one in just a couple of days because I couldn’t stop reading. I absolutely loved it.

From Goodreads: Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.

As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

Evie is such a fun character that I really related to. She has her one group of friends, doesn’t get out much, studies a lot, snarky, and smart. Her struggles are grounded in reality, and you really understand why she feels the way she does. X and Evie’s friends are a great support system, as well. Just kept giggling at this book in the best way. Young love is always so fun to read about when it is genuine and not full of stupid YA tropes. After reading two excellent books by Yoon, I’ll be reading anything else she writes.

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Homegoing

Title: Homegoing

Author: Yaa Gyasi

Genre: Black historical fiction

PopSugar Reading Challenge Prompt: book with a family tree

I knew absolutely nothing about this book, other than the rave reviews. And by the time I was finished, I couldn’t believe how Gyasi managed to get me to care about each and every character in just a few pages. What a marvel this book is.

From Goodreads:

A novel of breathtaking sweep and emotional power that traces three hundred years in Ghana and along the way also becomes a truly great American novel. Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.

Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation.

Generation after generation, Yaa Gyasi’s magisterial first novel sets the fate of the individual against the obliterating movements of time, delivering unforgettable characters whose lives were shaped by historical forces beyond their control. Homegoing is a tremendous reading experience, not to be missed, by an astonishingly gifted young writer.

You only spend a short amount of time with each character, and although some bleed into their child’s story, some don’t. But the entire focus is on the new character. I was drawn in so quickly to each story, which felt like small snapshots into what life was like in America and in Africa around the same time. Of course, I knew that slavery would be an atrocity that characters in America face, but I really had no idea what life in Africa would be like for these characters. I was just blown away by how captivating each individual story was. The hype over this book is much deserved. I can’t wait to see what Gyasi’s next novel, Transcendent Kingdom, has in store for me.