May – June Reading Wrap Up

The last two months I’ve been fully on the reading hype, and that’s probably because 7 of the 8 (and a bit) books I’m about to talk about are some form of “thriller” novel. I’ve read some really great books recently and it’s been great to read almost exclusively from my favourite genre and really fall in love with reading again! So without further ado, here are the books I read in May and June.

As always, if you want to catch my other books posts you can click here, and feel free to chat with me in the comments or over on Instagram. I’d love to know your thoughts or if any of my reviews have made you want (or not want) to read any of these books!

Enjoy reading, or if you prefer you can watch the Youtube video version below.

Fallen (Will Trent #5) – Karin Slaughter

3/5

I thought I’d given up the Will Trent series for good after reading the first four a few years ago and finding them a tad lacklustre compared to Slaughter’s Grant County series. However, silly me spontaneously bought The Silent Wife by Karin Slaughter thinking it was a standalone, only to find out it was in fact the TENTH book in the Will Trent series. Not wanting to waste my hard earned money, I thought I’d give the fifth book a try in order to kickstart a new love for this series. Unfortunately, I was left a little underwhelmed.

Karin Slaughter is one of my all time favourite authors, so of course I enjoyed stepping back into her dark and twisted storytelling. There’s just something about this series that doesn’t excite me as much as the Grant County series did. Unfortunately when it comes to which detective duo I prefer between the two series, Grant County is easily the winner and so I feel that the Will Trent series will always feel sub-par to me.

Saying all that, I did enjoy this book and will probably continue the series at a slow pace. It’s just a shame that these books have likely been ruined for me because I can’t help but compare both series!

The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead

DNF’ed

I gave this book my best shot, managing to get to 65% before finally deciding to give up on it. Based on its historical namesake, The Underground Railroad uses the original metaphor for the network of secret routes and safe houses for African Americans escaping slavery, and re-imagines it as a real-life, physical underground railroad where trains take those fleeing slavery into the free states.

This premise sounded really interesting to me, both exciting and action-packed whilst also being hard-hitting and emotional. However, I felt the strange writing style always kept me an arms-length away from the emotion and spirit of this book. The whole thing felt very distant and detached. There were pages and pages describing the historical context which read a lot like non-fiction, but I was never sure if this was historically accurate or just part of the fictional world. I wish the author had interwoven these passages into the prose a bit more, as these sections took me out of the story.

This detached feeling meant that I cared very little about the characters and the story, which is surprising considering the subject matter. I found myself re-reading paragraphs over and over again because I was either lost in the timeline or the action was over too quickly and I missed something important. All of this meant I very quickly got bored reading this book and I had to put it down every 5-10 pages. In the end, I decided it wasn’t worth me forcing myself through it when I wasn’t getting much out of the reading experience, so I read the Wikipedia page to see how it ended instead.

I’m disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this book, but I do have The Nickel Boys also by Colton Whitehead on my TBR shelf, so hopefully I will enjoy that one much more.

Sadie – Courtney Summers

4.5/5

The two previous books had put me in a bit of a reading slump, so I was in the mood to read a couple of easy, twisty, YA mystery thrillers to get me back into the swing of reading. Sadie was the first book I read under this umbrella, which follows the alternating perspectives of Sadie, a teenage girl who has run away from her life on a trailer park to avenge her little sister Mattie’s murder, and a podcast host who’s latest broadcast is investigating Sadie’s disappearance.

This story hooked me right from the start. Sadie is such an interesting character to read about and I could feel the intense love she had for her sister through the pages.

I thought the podcast was an interesting addition to this book, although at times I felt it was over-dramatised and I wanted to go back to Sadie’s perspective. I do think it would translate well as an audiobook though as it l read very much like a true-crime podcast.

This book got a lot darker than I initially anticipated, without being too gratuitous or descriptive (it is still a YA book after all), but it had enough grit to satisfy a reader like me who loves all things dark.

Lastly, I really loved the ending, despite not usually being a fan of an ending like this where there is some ambiguity – in this case I thought it really worked!

Little Monsters – Kara Thomas

3/5

I’m a sucker for books that compare themselves to Pretty Little Liars – high school drama full of secrets, lies and mystery is such a guilty pleasure of mine! Little Monsters certainly came through on the PLL vibes, so this was a very fun and quick read for me. However, it’s also the kind of book that is easily forgettable and at the time of writing this review, I admittedly don’t remember much about the plot and had to look it up!

Our main character Kacey is new in town, she has a traumatic past but things are finally starting to look up for her when she moves in with her dad, step-mum and half-siblings. She becomes close friends with childhood besties Bailey and Jade, until they start unexpectedly distancing themselves from her, failing to invite her to one of the biggest parties of the year. But this petty drama quickly exacerbates when Bailey goes missing after the party, and Kacey starts unravelling the web of lies and secrets in this small town.

This was a fun book filled with teen angst that was definitely worth the read, however there’s not much in this book that truly stayed with me after turning the final page. The ending was unexpected, but there was a red herring that I wish had played more of a part in the end, and the final shocking sentence didn’t hit me as hard as I wanted it to. Overall, I liked this book but it was my least favourite of the YA thrillers I read recently.

Dangerous Girls – Abigail Haas

5/5

Dangerous Girls was the last book in my YA thriller sprint, and I definitely saved the best for last. Expecting this to be a fun, summery but forgettable book, little did I know that it would end up being my 2nd favourite book of the year so far!

The book takes place in Aruba, where Anna, her best friend Elise, her boyfriend Tate and a few other friends embark on a spring break to celebrate their senior year. However, when Elise is found brutally murdered in their apartment, people start pointing the finger at Anna and she finds herself trapped in a different country trying to defend herself against a barrage of media, police, and public accusations.

This book was just amazing, it made me feel such a wide range of emotions and I love when a book really affects me in that way. It is brilliantly written, weaving together various different storylines and timelines from before, during and after the trip seamlessly. The sharp contrast between the summer holiday vibes and then Anna facing a miscarriage of justice is so jarring and scary, I couldn’t help but imagine how I would react in this situation and the thought of it is just terrifying! I was completely rooting for Anna and it was so infuriating to read about how she was being treated – it reminded me of Gone Girl in the sense that Nick Dunne was over-analysed and his actions misconstrued by the media.

And then, that ending happened and when the truth finally comes out, everything just changed in an instant. I honestly did not see it coming and it had me raging for an entirely different reason (but still in a good way!)

I ended up giving this book 5/5 stars because I can’t get over how much emotion I felt whilst reading this, it was honestly the perfect summer mystery book and I can’t rave about it enough!

Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman

3/5

I really wanted to love this book, but unfortunately I think it’s a little too… pretentious for me?

Call Me By Your Name is an obsessive love story from the perspective of Elio, a wealthy young boy staying in his family’s Italian mansion for the summer. When American houseguest Oliver comes to stay for the summer, they develop an intense and powerful relationship that changes them forever.

There’s no denying that this book is beautifully written, it’s very “quotable” and it paints the dreamiest of settings that I wish I could live in forever. The risk with this kind of writing is that for some readers it can be a bit too dense, as is the case with me. There are so many cultural references that I didn’t know anything about, making it feel over-intellectual and pretentious which kept me at a distance from the heart of the story. I didn’t understand Elio or Oliver as characters and I felt that their romance came out of nowhere because of this. It lacked meaningful dialogue (they only seemed to talk about academia) and they would apparently come to an understanding based on a subtle gesture that felt like an inside joke that I wasn’t a part of.

It was only during the final section of the book that I truly understood some of the more profound insights into Elio and Oliver’s relationship and the people they became – the rest of it felt like it went over my head.

I think I would benefit from watching the film adaptation, as I can imagine the “pretentiousness” will be a bit easier to digest in this format.

Black-eyed Susans – Julia Haeberlin

2/5

Black-eyed Susans is the nickname given to the four victims of a serial killer, named after the yellow wildflower that carpeted the floor of their shared grave. One girl, Tess, was rescued from the grave barely clinging to life, surrounded by the bodies of the other victims. Her testimony convicts the killer and puts him on death row.

Two decades later, Tess starts to doubt her version of events after she discovers a patch of Black-eyed Susans freshly planted outside her house. Worrying that she might have helped to imprison the wrong man, she joins the team of lawyers fighting to prove his innocence before it’s too late.

The premise of this book sounded so promising, so it pains me to say that I found this book super boring. It is told in alternating chapters from the perspective of present-day Tess and Tess in the past as she attends therapy sessions following her ordeal with the killer. Neither perspective was particularly interesting and I feel like I learnt nothing in both timelines.

Both in the past and the present, Tess is reluctant to share anything, so there are no details whatsoever about her time in captivity, how she was kidnapped or how she escaped. The therapy sessions (which took up half of the book) were dull because of this, and present day Tess seemed to care more about a romance with one of the guys on the team of lawyers than she was about catching the real killer.

Honestly, this book felt like a chore to get through, I was begging for something interesting to happen, the ending made me roll my eyes and I was glad to have finished it. I wish I had just DNF’ed it in hindsight!

Playing Nice – J. P. Delaney

4/5

This was a very stressful and anger-inducing mystery-thriller, but in the best way possible.

It follows the alternating perspectives of couple Pete and Maddie who lead a fairly ordinary life raising their young son Theo, until one day Miles and Lucy Lambert turn up on their doorstep with the news that their babies had been accidentally switched at birth. Pete and Maddie must decide whether to keep raising the child they have formed a bond with over the last two years, knowing that their birth child is being raised by strangers, or swap with the Lamberts and start raising a child who is essentially a stranger to them.

The premise of this book is terrifying in itself, so I quickly felt so sympathetic towards Pete and Maddie as they enter into a bizarre family dynamic with the Lamberts. Boundaries are soon broken and it seems like Pete and Maddie are fighting a losing battle. I cared a lot about these characters, and the whole situation felt oddly realistic because of how well-researched it was in terms of child protection laws. The author did a really great job of turning this bizarre scenario into a completely plausible nightmare.

This was a really solid thriller, the stakes felt unbelievably high whilst remaining somewhat lifelike and I honestly couldn’t see a way out for Pete and Maddie. I would definitely recommend this if you’re a fan of the domestic thriller sub-genre!

His & Hers – Alice Feeney

4.5/5

I was seriously impressed with this book, it kept me guessing the entire way through and I loved every minute of it!

The story starts with the murder of a woman in the small, fictional British village of Blackdown. Anna, a BBC news presenter is sent back to her hometown to cover the story, and Jack, the detective investigating the murder is suspicious of her involvement. On the other hand, clues start pointing back at Jack and he becomes one of the main suspects in his own investigation. Full of twists, turns and small town secrets, this book unravels quickly to an ending I did not see coming.

We follow alternating chapters from Anna and Jack’s perspectives, as well as a mysterious 3rd narrative from the perspective of the real killer which leaves you frantically guessing who it could be. Every single chapter made me want to carry on reading so I could barely put this book down.

I loved the atmospheric, small-town vibes where everyone knows each other and has a secret to hide. Both the present day timeline and the flashbacks were really interesting, giving us a hint of high school drama that went a lot darker than I had anticipated. Plus, the last fifty pages or so were genuinely so creepy and almost horror-like in tone, which really elevated the story to new heights.

My last bit of praise is that this author tricked me, there was one sentence which made me realise I’d been completely misreading the first section of the book by making my own assumption (or the author manipulating my own assumption, that is), and I just love when that happens in a book! Overall, I thought this book was fab and I can’t wait to read more from Alice Feeney.

And that’s all for now! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and please do get involved in the comments or over on my Instagram. Until next time,

Lots of love, The Amber Approach

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