July 2019 Reads

Holy cow I read a lot in July! I wasn’t working this summer, so I spent my time the way I did throughout my childhood — reading every spare minute I could find. I didn’t read any audiobooks and I read a bunch of page-turning new-to-me thrillers. It was a good month for reading! Keep scrolling to see all the books I read.

This month, I also started taking reviewing more seriously, posting more detailed reviews on Goodreads as well as brief ones on my Instagram stories. I also subscribed to Book of the Month, (affiliate referral link) which I am loving so far. Overall, July was a huge month for my reading!

july 2019 reads honeybeejoyous

Stats

Number of books read: 8 📘📘📘📘📘📘📘📘

Print books: 8 📚📚📚📚📚📚📚📚

Audiobooks: 0

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 star books: 2

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 star books: 2

⭐⭐⭐ 3 star books: 3

⭐⭐ 2 star books: 0

1 star books: 0

😍 Favorite book: The Last Time I Lied

☹️ Least favorite book: Second Sight

A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

a nearly normal family by m t edvardsson cover honeybeejoyous

4 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from June 30, 2019 – July 2, 2019.

A Nearly Normal Family is a Scandinavian legal thriller that tells the story of an 18 year old accused of murder, her lawyer mother, her pastor father, and what lengths a family will go to in order to protect one another.

Lately it seems I’m always reaching for thrillers, even more so when they’re told from multiple perspectives. This story is told through the perspectives of Adam the father, Stella the daughter, and Ulrika the mother, but the perspectives do not alternate chapters as one might expect. Instead, the book is divided into three parts, with each part taking its own narrator. The timelines overlap to slowly reveal progressively larger pieces of the puzzle. Not all the characters know all the details and all is not resolved for the reader until the very last sentence. This slow-burn causes you to question the knowledge and motivations of each character as you read and the multiple perspectives cause you to form judgments and presumptions of characters which are then dismantled or called into question as you read further. The short chapters (seriously each chapter is only a couple pages!) make this an easy book to stay up past bedtime reading and contemplating your own morals, ethics, and integrity.

In high school, part of our literature curriculum was to read a number of works in translation. These were some of my favorite books I read in school, but I haven’t read many translated books since then. When selecting my first Book of the Month this June, I decided to branch out a bit by selecting this novel by Swedish author M.T. Edvardsson. The novel is firmly rooted in Scandinavia, which was certainly a change for me, even though the thriller genre was not. Much of the book relied on incredibly specific intricacies of the Swedish justice system, which could have easily alienated me as an American reader, but Edvardsson expertly wove in explanations of the Swedish courts into the plot. He did this in a way that helped me have a solid understanding of what I needed to know without making me feel like I was taking a course on Swedish law. Other touches throughout the book rooted it in Europe, like the bike-friendliness of the city, the role of religion versus secularity, the closeness of other countries, and more. These cultural differences helped set the story in its context but didn’t detract from my understanding or enjoyment of the novel.

This book held my attention easily, kept me turning pages, and made me think. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a legal thriller and/or a thought-provoking story about family and secrets.

NOTE: major trigger warning for rape throughout the book. If you know that is a difficult subject for you to read about, I would strongly recommend selecting another book.

TL;DR: Really enjoyed this Swedish legal thriller told in 3 parts through 3 narrators. It made me think and made me stay up past bedtime to keep reading.

Read my review on Goodreads here.

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

speaker for the dead by orson scott card cover honeybeejoyous

4. 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐💫

Read from July 5, 2019 – July 15, 2019.

I initially read Speaker for the Dead shortly after reading Ender’s Game for the first time in high school. I remember loving it then and it certainly stood up to my re-reading as an adult. Orson Scott Card is not only skilled at building universes and developing complex characters, but he is a master of letting a story unfold just-so.

In this Ender’s Game sequel, set 3,000 years after the original book, humanity has colonized many solar systems after the buggers were wiped out. Only one of the planets in the Hundred Worlds has what can be considered intelligent alien life and humanity is wary of letting history repeat itself. So, the humans who inhabit the planet must follow strict rules as they interact with the inscrutable piggies. However, ritualistic murders, disease, and moral ambiguity cause turmoil on this planet that ripples through the Hundred Worlds. Ender, with the Hive Queen in tow, travels there to try to make amends for the Xenocide of 3,000 years ago.

Sequels are always tricky and Ender’s Game is a hard book to follow up, but this story of an older and wiser Ender delivers both in plot and in philosophy. The book calls into question the essence of personhood. It explores guilt and love and how they intertwine. It expands upon the lives and stories of the characters we already know and love as well as introducing new ones. If you liked Ender’s Game and want to read more of his story or if the Prime Directive ever made you mad in Star Trek, I would highly recommend Speaker for the Dead.

Read my review on Goodreads here.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

the silent patient by alex michaelides cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read from July 16, 2019 – July 17, 2019.

The Silent Patient is Alicia Berenson, a painter who shot her husband five times in the face and never spoke another word. Alicia’s story fascinates everyone, but especially her psychotherapist Theo Faber, who is determined to uncover the truth and thinks he will be able to get Alicia talking again.

The premise is what drew me to Alex Michaelides’s debut novel and the way the story unfolded is what kept me interested. The events are told through both Theo’s first person perspective and through Alicia’s diary entries leading up to her husband’s murder. Throughout the novel it is unclear which characters are reliable, suspicion is cast on everyone, and the truth is not revealed until the end. Michaelides explores the idea of a troubled past, what makes us who we are, and what people are capable of when they’re pushed to their limits. His writing style is perfectly suited to a gripping thriller like this one — no frills, easy to read, and keeps you turning the pages. I flew through this book in just two days and was left reeling by the ending. This book was certainly worth the hype and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a shocking, page-turning thriller.

Read my review on Goodreads here.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

lock every door by riley sager cover honeybeejoyous

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Read from July 18, 2019 – July 21, 2019.

Jules is a twenty-something with a tragic past, no family, and no job. She’s in desperate need of money and opportunity, which is why she takes a job apartment sitting in the fancy-yet-mysterious building called The Bartholomew, even though the arrangement seems too good to be true. When another apartment sitter in the building disappears and Jules looks into the building’s sordid history, she starts to suspect that everything is not what it seems. However, nothing could prepare her for what she ends up discovering.

When I read Final Girls earlier this year, I wrote in my review that I enjoyed the story, but the ending was what pushed it to a four-star read. With Lock Every Door, I felt the opposite. The premise was intriguing, the pace was quick, and the characters were interesting, but the ending barely felt like a twist and instead felt like a mildly remarkable conclusion that had been logically built to over the course of the book. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t want a twist to come out of left field, but I also don’t want to close a book that was supposed to be a psychological thriller and be left thinking, “Oh, that was it?” To be fair, maybe it’s because I’ve just come off the heels of reading The Silent Patient, whose shocking twist fully rattled me, but Riley Sager’s latest novel was just lacking a little ~something~ for me. Even so, I’m still looking forward to reading The Last Time I Lied and anything else Sager puts out in the future.

*mild no-context spoilers below* (aka if you’ve read the book you’ll know what I mean but if you haven’t it likely won’t make much sense)

For the niche audience that’s read both Lock Every Door and The Name of This Book Is Secret, did the former remind you of the latter (or can you at least see some interesting similarities between the organizations)?

Read my review on Goodreads here.

Second Sight by Aoife Clifford

second sight by aoife clifford cover honeybeejoyous

3 stars ⭐⭐⭐

Read from July 22, 2019 – July 26, 2019.

I first pulled Second Sight off the “crime” shelf in my local secondhand bookstore because the cover caught my eye. Reading the summary, I was even more intrigued. This book is about Eliza Carmody, a woman who returns to the small town where she grew up for a work assignment, but ends up being the primary witness in a police case. As things get more complicated, Eliza finds herself revisiting the mystery of her best friend’s disappearance years ago and it starts to seem like everything is more complicated than she previously thought.

Second Sight called to mind a few other books I’ve read this year. It reminded me of Sharp Objects in that it’s the story of a woman who returns to her small town on the biggest assignment of her career, only to become involved in a mystery she wasn’t expecting, one that seems to run deep in the town’s veins and even involve her own family members. The novel reminded me of All the Missing Girls in that it’s the story of a woman returning to her small town and reliving (and investigating her role in) the tragic events from a summer from her youth. Second Sight is a bit of a slow burn and the pieces to the puzzle take a long time to fall into place, but the last quarter of the book is quite page-turning. Aoife Clifford’s novel is the classic story of how nobody is who they seem in a small town and the events that happen in your childhood are often far more complicated than they seem. It was a good story and I found the mystery itself to be intriguing and satisfying, even if the story format is a bit overdone.

Note: This book is set in Australia, which most people could probably figure out. My brain is used to “small town” = American south so it took me longer than it should have. I was confused about why people were going to the beach on New Year’s Eve, but it became clear when they started talking about kangaroos. If you’re also geographically challenged, know it’s not just you!

Trigger warning for a description of rape in this book.

Read my review on Goodreads here.

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

the last time i lied by riley sager cover honeybeejoyous

5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Read on July 28, 2019.

When Emma Davis was 13, her cabinmates at summer camp left in the night and were never found, an incident she still feels guilty about 15 years later. She agrees to return to Camp Nightingale as an instructor, hoping that she can uncover what happened to her friends and finally put the past behind her. Yet, there’s something unsettling about the camp, and it’s not just her memories. The past and present intertwine as Emma finds herself getting closer and closer to finding out what really happened that night.

The Last Time I Lied is by far my favorite of Riley Sager’s novels. I finished it in one day and, needless to say, I was turning the pages frantically trying to solve the mystery and uncover the truth alongside Emma. Sager has a knack for dangling details over the reader’s head in a way that is tantalizing rather than frustrating. The story of Emma’s return to Camp Nightingale is interspersed with flashbacks to her first summer there 15 years ago, slowly revealing the connections between the past and present. While the story is gripping, page-turning, and unputdownable, the real kicker is the end. I won’t spoil anything, but suffice it to say that Riley Sager can write an ending like no other, packing a punch right up until the final moments, without it feeling like a contrived eleventh hour plot twist. Highly recommend this story to anyone and I’m so glad I picked it up.

Read my review on Goodreads here.

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

the grownup by gillian flynn cover honeybeejoyous

No rating – short story

Read on July 30, 2019.

I don’t know if I could give a fair rating to this because it’s a short story, and therefore reads much differently than a novel so I won’t rate it. But wow I did enjoy it! Creepy, weird, twisted, and twist-packed, just like I’ve come to expect from Gillian Flynn. I always feel like Flynn’s weak point is her endings, but I thought this story ended well and left me wanting more without feeling like it was missing something.

Read my review on Goodreads here.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

the woman in the window by a. j. finn cover honeybeejoyous

3.5 stars ⭐⭐⭐💫

Read on July 30, 2019.

Anna Fox spends her days drinking too much wine, chatting with fellow agoraphobes on the internet, and watching her neighbors out her window. She absolutely does not leave the house. One night, she witnesses something that horrifies her and everything begins to fall apart. In A.J. Finn’s debut novel, it’s impossible to know who’s telling the truth, who’s delusional, and who’s just plain sinister.

I’m on a roll lately because I managed to get through this 400+ page book in just a day. That either means I have no life or The Woman in the Window is a total page turner. Since I actually did go out and about yesterday, I’m going to go with page turner. Although Anna’s days are fairly monotonous, I didn’t feel bored reading. (I’m realizing that short chapters have some kind of psychological effect on me where they make it way easier to fly through a book. Anyone else?) I found the characters compelling, the plot interesting, and even though I managed to predict most of the twists, I didn’t feel too let down by the reveals. By far the best part of the book for me was around the middle, when everything spirals into confusion and doubt.

This book seems to follow in the footsteps of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, in terms of seeing the plot through the eyes of an unreliable female main character. I enjoyed this book more than either of those two (probably because Anna is more likeable than Amy or Rachel), but I don’t think this is my favorite sub-genre of thriller.

Read my review on Goodreads here.

I hope you enjoyed these more detailed reviews and found something to add to your TBR. I read some great books this month and certainly was on a thriller kick. If you have more thriller recommendations or have thoughts on any of these books, leave a comment down below!

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