September 2021 Book Roundup

I feel like I may have been really harsh on these ARC reads this month! Most were three star reads, with one 5 star and one 1 star review. 

The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic by Jillian Peterson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: September 7
Genre: Non-fiction; true crime

The Violence Project started as psychological research project by Jillian Peterson and James Densley in 2018. It grew into a unique research center that contains the only whole database of American mass shooters to present day. Peterson and Densley wrote to prisoners incarcerated for mass shootings, talked to their family members, and survivors and victim's families.

This book was incredibly informative and an easy read for such a tough topic. I loved how the authors tackled the perpetrators’ thoughts while not naming them in light of the No Notoriety movement. The authors bring to light simple, evidence-based things any civilian can do to stop a mass shooting- encourage people to use basic gun safety, such as locking guns away; if you see something say something; and be there to cushion the impact of trauma. This is a must read for anyone in education, law enforcement, or... basically anyone who is a human and cares about the people around them or humanity as a whole. 

I learned so much reading this book. It challenged almost everything I thought I knew about school shootings, suicides, and even had information about the Benevolent Childhood Experiences scale (the opposite of Adverse Childhood Experiences). 

The Database and The Violence Project are additional resources, but I still highly recommend the book.

My only criticism is I wish we had heard more from the living perpetrators, just to see what they had to say about their own actions. 

Favorite quote: We can always choose a loving thought over an angry one.

The Night She Disappeared

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: September 7
Genre: Fiction; mystery  

I love Lisa Jewell’s writing and I was very excited when I got a chance to review this arc from NetGalley.

This story is told in three alternating timelines and three voices: Kim in June 2017, Sophie in August 2018, and Tallulah in October 2016.

Tallulah is a 19-year-old mother to Noah, living at home with her mother, Kim, and boyfriend Zach. After a rare night out, Talullah and Zack go missing, leaving Kim to raise their son and search for answers about their disappearance.

A year later, Sophie moves with her boyfriend to Upfield Common as he is the new head teacher of Maypole, a private school for students who have to retake their A levels. Sophie is a writer of cozy crime novels, and she takes an interest in Tallulah and Zach’s disappearance. Soon, someone begins leaving behind clues.

Jewell manages to catch a mother’s heartbreak in the wake of her daughter’s absence, which is no easy task.. It’s not nearly as dark or as insidious as some of Jewell’s other books, but compelling nonetheless. The first few chapters are a bit dry, but it picks up quickly after that and I found myself eager to solve the mystery along with Sophie. I did wish there was a bit more of a conclusion at the end as I still had some unanswered questions!

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria books for this arc in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

Favorite quote: Noah is a dreamy baby. But he does not like to sleep, and Kim finds this darkly stressful. Me too, Kim, me too. 
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: September 13
Genre: Domestic noir; thriller; fiction

Nina and Zac have just bought a dream home near the beach. It’s near where Nina grew up, a cute house on Mistletoe Lane. The upstairs neighbors, Chris and Vanessa, are about their age and Nina hopes to secure a friendship with the heavily pregnant Vanessa. However Vanessa is distant and quiet and Chris is aggressive and rude. Mishap after mishap has them wondering if moving to Mistletoe Lane was a mistake.

As Chris and Vanessa’s yelling and the banging sounds from their apartment intensify, and Zac and Nina’s relationship swirls the drain, Nina wonders what it is about Mistletoe Lane that seems to ruin everything.

There are sixty short chapters, and I enjoyed the plot twist but could see it coming. I also thought the characters could’ve used some development. But I enjoyed the writing style and the pacing of the story- and the plot even though I guessed it. 
Publication Date: September 14
Genre: thriller; mystery

Hank Phillippi Ryan's writing sucked me in last year with The First to Lie and I couldn’t wait to read more from her.

Lily Atwood is a seemingly perfect, beautiful news reporter in Boston with a lot of celebrity. She has a young daughter and is determined to keep her parentage a secret, and her entire life is threatened by an anonymous confidential source who evidently knows about Lily's secrets.

Greer is Lily's producer. She is sick of being in Lily's shadow and knows that Lily would be nothing without her. With little warning, Greer is swept up in the threat to Lily and now her own career is on the line.

Although Ms. Ryan's writing is just as beautiful this time around, the plot is less than compelling. It’s downright confusing, and not in an intriguing way. Unfortunately I spent most of the book confused about how the characters were so stupid and too uninterested to guess how things were connected. It was sadly nearly a DNF.

I’m sorry Ms. Ryan! Still a fan, but I recommend others read a different book and skip this one.

Thanks to NetGalley and Forge Books for the ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Reasons for Avoiding Friends

Reasons for Avoiding Friends by Megan Leavell

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: September 14
Genre: fiction; friendship

Gwen and Iris were best friends as young girls and did everything together. Even as children, their home lives were very different and they each idealized each other's mothers.

As they've grown up, they have drifted apart. Iris moved to New York City and married into (a lot) of money, and Gwen moved back to their hometown to raise her three children with her husband she met in college.

Iris views Gwen’s life as a beautiful and happy one; she’s married to her sweetheart and has three wonderful children. In reality, Gwen is often unhappy.

Gwen views Iris’ life as glamorous and perfect, but this is also untrue. Iris’ husband has been cheating on her with her friend, and she has become dependent on alcohol to get through the day.

The story is told in chapters alternating between Gwen’s story and Iris’ story. I found the book’s pace to be rather slow, and while I liked the overall message of friendship, I didn’t enjoy the story as much as I had hoped. 

Favorite quote: Technically, she was living the life she had always wanted. Only it was nothing like it was supposed to be. 

What She DidWhat She Did by Carla Kovach

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Publication Date: September 20
Genre: thriller; fiction

Marissa Baxter has dealt with a lot of trauma in her life- first from her mother’s murder, which she witnessed, then from living with an aunt and uncle who hurt her in various ways.

Her life is finally getting better, but then a strange new neighbor moves in and Marissa starts receiving letters in her letter box. Her estranged uncle is murdered and she can’t remember where she was that night. Is Marissa the killer?

I’ve seen this plot before, but the ending was unique. I enjoyed the writing style for the most part but I felt that Marissa’s thoughts of “I can’t trust anyone” were extremely repetitive. I also sometimes found the flashbacks a bit confusing. Overall, I did enjoy the story but felt that it’s missing something.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Favorite Quote: I'm a nice guy, I promise, and I know how to treat a lady. Red flag alert! 🚩🚩🚩

If you decide to read nothing else on this list, please consider reading The Violence Project. It is a really great book and so important. 

Thank you for reading!!


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