January 2017 Reading Review

After failing my Goodreads challenge of 85 books in 2016 (I made it to 76), I did the only realistic thing when setting my 2017 challenge: I increased it by five books to a total of 90. I’m happy to report that one month into 2017, I have read 10 books, which puts me ahead of my challenge by 3 books. I only read 10 books in a single month once in 2016, but I’m hoping to keep up the pace because there are too many books and not enough time. If you don’t believe me, just wait until you see my February preview tomorrow! Until then, here is my January 2017 reading review that looks back at the books I read this month and what I thought of them.

January 2017 Reading Review

January 2017 Reading Review
The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty (available March 2017)
I can’t think of a better book to have kicked off my 2017 year of reading with. I’m a big fan of Liane and Jaclyn Moriarty, so even though I hadn’t read one of Nicola’s books before picking this one up, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. The Fifth Letter met and exceeded my expectations. It’s intelligent and funny women’s fiction that has the Moriarty trademark of keeping you guessing until the last page. Four close friends get together for their annual holiday and decide to write anonymous letters to each other about their lives and their deepest secrets. Lots of drama ensues, and I found the chapters alternating between the past and the present quite satisfying. It’s an easy read, and one I highly recommend.  4★


The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
I started listening to this audiobook in December and got caught up in the madness of Christmas and never finished it. I started listening to it again after Carrie’s death, which made for an entirely different reading/listening experience. Carrie was such a magnificent storyteller and I think this book was far more powerful delivered via audio with Carrie’s narration. She reflects on being cast in Star Wars, her affair with Harrison Ford during the filming of Episode IV – A New Hope, how she struggled to distance herself from Princess Leia in the post-original trilogy decades, and how her mental health issues impacted her entire life. Her narration coupled with her warm and quick-witted writing was an absolute winner for me.  4★


The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster (available April 2017)
The murder victim in The Hidden Hours worked for a London publishing house, so obviously this book caught my attention immediately. The only person who might be able to solve the mystery behind Arabella Lane’s untimely death is the new office temp and CEO’s niece, Eleanor Brennan. Eleanor has recently moved to London from Australia, leaving a troubled past supposedly behind her. Unfortunately for her, she has very little memory of the crucial hours between when Arabella was last seen alive and when her body was found, and someone is working hard to ensure Eleanor’s memories remain blurred and hazy. Each chapter begins with a short clue-esque paragraph or two that alludes to what’s going in the lives of other characters, and I found this incredibly effective to keep me turning the pages to get to the end. It’s a very clever book overall and definitely worth looking out for later this year.  4★


Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson
I was on a roll with memoirs narrated by the author on audiobook, so getting stuck into Mara Wilson’s memoir book was an easy decision. I, like many other girls of my generation, grew up watching Mara on the screen in movies like Matilda and Mrs Doubtfire, and I was interested to find out where Mara was now. This memoir is about so much more than what Mara’s been up to lately. She speaks so openly and candidly about her struggles with anxiety and OCD, and how growing up in the spotlight shaped her young adulthood and ultimately her decision to stop acting. One section of the book, a letter she penned to Matilda, brought me to tears and for me, this is one of the most moving memoirs I’ve read in a long time.  5★


The Girl Before by JP Delaney
Ahh, this book. I enjoyed this book in parts but my gosh it frustrated me! The story is told from two perspectives, with each chapter alternating between the girl before (Emma) and the girl now (Jane). Both women are intrigued by a strange rental property and, even more so, its enigmatic architect Edward Monkford. JP Delaney’s Edward is quite similar to another creepy and controlling Edward in modern fiction, and this to me was the biggest downfall with the book. The insta-love both women feel towards Edward is made even more frustrating by the eerily similar narratives that sit by side, as near mirror images of each other. You watch one woman make poor judgement errors, and then see it happen all over again. Women who ignore major alarm bells in thrillers disappoint me, and although the premise of this book was strong it didn’t live up to the hype for me.  3★


Final Girls by Riley Sager (available July 2017)
I love horror movies and I love the final girl — the girl who survives at the end of the movie. Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott is my favourite final girl, and so I went into this book with high expectations. Quincy Carpenter went on a college vacation and was the only one who came home, earning her final girl status. She is one of three well-known final girls in America, and the death of one of them, Lisa, throws Quincy and third final girl Sam into an unexpected friendship. Quincy has worked hard to regain control of her life, but Sam’s presence reveals deep cracks in Quincy’s picture-perfect existence. When Quincy realises that Sam isn’t telling her the full truth about everything, she starts to dig into the past. What she finds surprised me, but the entire cast was so utterly unlikeable that this book was hard to get fully invested in and I didn’t really care what happened to Quincy and Sam. I’ll definitely read a second potential novel from Riley Sager, though, because for all its faults, Final Girls is still an imaginative thriller.  3.5★


The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (Available March 2017)
I’m going to start off by saying that I didn’t find this book as disgusting and taboo as a) other reviews have and b) the marketing hype will have you believe. I don’t know if that says more about me or the book’s hype, so let me know what you think of the Roanoke family secret if you read it. At fifteen, Lane Roanoke moves to live with her grandparents and cousin on the huge Roanoke estate in Kansas after her mother commits suicide. She fits into the family quickly in her first Kansas summer, but she leaves abruptly near the summer’s end after she uncovers a scandalous family secret. Eleven years later, Lane’s cousin mysteriously disappears and she is thrown back into the dark and dangerous Roanoke family. In solving the mystery of Allegra’s disappearance, Lane tries to make peace with her troubled past. Another 100-odd pages would have given this novel more depth and helped me to like it more, I reckon.  3★


All Fall Down by Cassandra Austin
I’m not the world’s biggest literary fiction fan, but Cassandra Austin’s debut novel is absolutely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre. All Fall Down follows the residents of outback Mululuk after the bridge in town does, true to the title, fall down. The focus of the novel isn’t working out why the bridge fell down, but what happens to the residents after it falls down. Secrets are exposed, old flames are reignited, and family ties are tested as the isolated residents fall into two divisive camps regarding the rebuilding of the bridge. I often finish a literary novel feeling like I’m not smart enough to understand it, and I did get that in some parts here but overall All Fall Down captures the heart of the Australian outback perfectly.  3.5★


Idaho by Emily Ruskovich
This book. THIS BOOK. I’ve never read a book quite like this. Told from multiple perspectives, Idaho follows one family before and after a shocking incident tears them apart. The author carefully reveals fragments of the family’s past and where they end up in the future, while also slowly taking us through the events of the fateful day that changed their lives forever. I don’t want to give too much away, but this book covers many themes. From moving forward after an unthinkable loss to making peace with the mistakes of the past and coming to terms with a failing memory, the author tells the story beautifully. The language is stunning and every word feels perfectly placed, and the non-linear structure is pleasant to follow. This book is exquisite and I feel like I’ll be talking about it for a long time to come.  5★


The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson
I’m furious that I waited so long to read this book. I heard so many good things about it after it was published, bought a copy (naturally), and then let it sit on my shelves for months. What a mistake. This is easily one of the smartest thrillers I’ve ever read. Ted and Lily meet at a London airport bar and by the time they land back in America, they’ve hatched a plan to kill Ted’s wife. In what became quite a theme for me this month, the perspective of each chapter alternates between the main characters, an effective story-telling technique that slowly reveals the multiple layers of deception at play. It’s a tense read that’s full of unexpected twists and turns, but they’re not so unexpected that they feel unbelievable. It’s a high-stakes race to stay alive, and if you were silly like me and bought this but never read it I urge you to pick it up.  5★


So that’s it! That’s my January 2017 reading review. Leave me a comment and let me know what you read this month, and also let me know if you’re excited to read any of the books I read!
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