My Reading List: August 2017

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Aside from one book, my August reading list was all about the thrillers. Maybe it was because of the early fall weather we were having? Regardless, there were two books that I thought were really great, and another two that were just good. Keep on reading for the reviews, and here’s the link to last month’s massive book review post, just in case you missed it!

The Hate U Give

My favorite read this month was The Hate U Give. You never know how it’s going to turn out with buzzy books, but I’m happy to report that I loved this one.

The book follows Starr Carter, who witnesses the murder of one of her good friends. Two black teenagers are driving around, minding their own business. A cop pulls them over and murders her friend, Khalil. As you can imagine, Starr is devastated and Khalil’s death causes her to reevaluate her life and the community she’s a part of.

Obviously, the book is timely, and on top of that, it’s so heartfelt. I connected with Starr’s character almost immediately, and was very invested in her entire emotional journey. Starr is just a kid and deals with a situation that is absolutely terrible, but not unimaginable in today’s world.

Starr attends an elite, private school in a different neighborhood than the one she lives in. Sometimes she feels like she has to be two different people. One version of Starr is one of four black kids in her grade, surrounded by white classmates and teachers all day. The second Starr acts differently with her family and the people in her neighborhood. I could identify with Starr’s struggles and the feelings that she was either “too black” or “not black enough.”

This book has humor, warmth, and strength, all while tackling a very difficult and sensitive subject. I cannot wait to see the movie version. I’ve been following the casting announcements and the list is pretty 100 right now.

The Girl Before

When I was looking through my Goodreads TBR and spotted this book, I noticed that there’s another thriller with the same title, by a different author (The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney). After a brief internal struggle, I chose the book by Rena Olsen because the synopsis sounded a lot more interesting to me.

At the beginning of this novel, police storm into Clara’s house, arrest her husband, and take her into protective custody. Her husband tells her one thing before he’s dragged off: “Say nothing.”

I hadn’t read a good psychological thriller in a while and I thought this was pretty great. The pacing is steady, slowly and carefully giving you pieces of the puzzle until you’re able to put together the big picture. Clara was a pretty fascinating character. The book is told from her first-person perspective, so we are really in her head as she tries to figure out how to handle her husband’s arrest. Also, the narrative moves back and forth between the present and the past so that we see how Clara ended up where she is today.

It’s a fascinating look at the human mind, and the ways in which we can convince ourselves that something is the truth, or is a lie. It’s a dark and thought-provoking read, which is just the way I like my thrillers.

The Ice Beneath Her

I forgot how much I like Nordic Noir. I picked up this book based on Abby’s (also known as Crime by the Book) recommendation, and she was right, it’s a great read. The book is told from three main perspectives. There’s Peter, the detective who’s investigating the murder of a young woman who is found beheaded in the home of a infamous CEO. Emma is the fiancé of that CEO, or at least she was, up until he disappears without a word. And finally, there’s Hanne, the psychologist who’s called in to consult on the case.

I think the characters are the best part of this book. The author does an excellent job of making them fully-realized, so that I understood who they are as people. For example, Peter is kind of a jerk and a coward, but he’s still a fascinating character, and I still wanted to root for him. The writing is atmospheric, and while I was reading it, I felt like I was there in Sweden, experiencing the cold, brutal winter.

It’s a story about love and betrayal. Sometimes the ones we love the most have the ability to damage us the most. If you’re looking for a thriller with depth and strong characters, I’d recommend this one.

Girl in Snow

Remember when I talked about the danger of buzzy books? Well I’d seen a quite a bit of buzz about this book, but it disappointed me. Not to say that it was bad, but my expectations didn’t match the reality. After reading two solid thrillers, I wanted to dive into another one. This book is described as a thriller, but really it’s an exploration of these characters that happens to include a mystery, which is not as central to the story as you might think.

Lucinda Hayes is the girl who was murdered. Cameron is the boy who was in love with her, Jade is the girl who grew up with her, and Russ is one of the cops handling her case. The story is really about these three characters and their ideas about who Lucinda was. It’s set in a small town in the mountains of Colorado, one of those towns that doesn’t have much going on.

The book explores how we become who we are as people. Are we shaped by our environment, or the people who raise us, or the way we are treated by others? The answer is all of these things, and more.

While the writing was lyrical, and often beautiful, I wished that the story was stronger. The characters were strong and it was interesting to be in their minds for a while, but I lacked a deeper connection to the narrative.

Final Girls

Final Girls is the most entertaining thriller I read this month and I can see why it’s popular. The media labels Quincy as a “Final Girl” after she is the lone survivor of a horrible massacre. The storyline flashes back and forth between the day it happened and the present. The flashbacks are pretty unnerving because you know that something really terrible is about to happen. Even though we know what the horrible thing is, we don’t know how it happened. The author does a great job of building up that suspense.

Just when you start to think that you have it all figured out, the author throws some curveballs at you. It’s also fascinating the way that the author starts to reveal the cracks in Quincy’s perfect facade.

I had a few small complaints (the ending and some of the dialogue felt off to me) and one major one that had me shaking my head incredulously. I won’t mention it here, because spoilers, but if you’ve read it, let’s chat in the comments below. Overall though, I thought this book was an easy and pretty compelling read.

  • I’m reading Final Girls right now (onto the last 50 pages or so) and I totally agree with your assessment…especially about the dialogue!

    Courtney ~ Sartorial Sidelines

    • Yeah, Sam’s dialogue in particular struck me as disingenuous. I still enjoyed reading the book though. How about you?

      • I liked it – it was a good summer read!