January TBR!

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If you thought 2021 would change for the way I make my TMR stacks each month, you were wrong! New year, same me piling up a massive stack of maybes!

This year I’m continuing reading one King a month with my #keeperofking crew and one true crime book a month with #bookishtruecrime. New this year I’ll be participating in the #50states50horrorbooks challenge and taking on two horror reads a month until I’ve hit a book from each of the 50 states!

I’m hoping this year to get back into the swing of things with audiobooks. Transitioning to partial telework has eliminated a lot of my commute time and with that a lot of my audiobook time. I spent last year figuring out different times to include them into my day and I’m hoping to keep up with that this year!

Since it’s the 6th day of the month already I’ll give up an update on my progress with this stack! So far I’ve managed to finish one book, The Hunger, which I really enjoyed. I’m also progressing steadily in my buddy reads for The Dead Zone and A Game of Thrones. Andddd I’ve started the audio of The Wife Upstairs. If we’re honest…I’m also planning to start another book and I’m leaning towards Addie LaRue!

See anything you’ve read? Anything you’re interested in reading?


THE HUNGER by Alma Katsu: Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.

Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.

While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased…and very hungry?”

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


A GAME OF THRONES (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin: Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall. At the center of the conflict like the Starks of Winterfell, a family as harsh and unyeilding as the land they were born to. Sweeping from a land of brutal cold to a distant summertime kingdom of epicurean plenty, here is a tale of lards and ladies, soldiers and sorcerers, assassins and bastards, who come together in a time of grim omens.
Here an enigmatic band of warriors bear swords of no man-made metal; a tribe wildlings carry men off into madness; a cruel young dragon prince barters his sister to win back his throne; and a determined woman undertakes the most treacherous of journeys. Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win the deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


THE DEAD ZONE by Stephen King: Johnny, the small boy who skated at breakneck speed into an accident that for one horrifying moment plunged him into The Dead Zone.

Johnny Smith, the small-town schoolteacher who spun the wheel of fortune and won a four-and-a-half-year trip into The Dead Zone.

John Smith, who awakened from an interminable coma with an accursed power—the power to see the future and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


THE INVISIBLE LIFE OF ADDIE LARUE by V.E. Schwab: France, 1714: in a moment of desperation, a young woman makes a Faustian bargain to live forever and is cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets.

Thus begins the extraordinary life of Addie LaRue, and a dazzling adventure that will play out across centuries and continents, across history and art, as a young woman learns how far she will go to leave her mark on the world.

But everything changes when, after nearly 300 years, Addie stumbles across a young man in a hidden bookstore and he remembers her name.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins: Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.

But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


SIX WOMEN OF SALEM by Marilynne K. Roach: Six Women of Salem is the first work to use the lives of a select number of representative women as a microcosm to illuminate the larger crisis of the Salem witch trials. By the end of the trials, beyond the twenty who were executed and the five who perished in prison, 207 individuals had been accused, 74 had been “afflicted”, 32 had officially accused their fellow neighbors, and 255 ordinary people had been inexorably drawn into that ruinous and murderous vortex, and this doesn’t include the religious, judicial, and governmental leaders. All this adds up to what the Rev. Cotton Mather called “a desolation of names.”

The individuals involved are too often reduced to stock characters and stereotypes when accuracy is sacrificed to indignation. And although the flood of names and detail in the history of an extraordinary event like the Salem witch trials can swamp the individual lives involved, individuals still deserve to be remembered and, in remembering specific lives, modern readers can benefit from such historical intimacy. By examining the lives of six specific women, Marilynne Roach shows readers what it was like to be present throughout this horrific time and how it was impossible to live through it unchanged.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


A CROOKED TREE by Una Mannion: It is the early 1980s and fifteen-year-old Libby is obsessed with The Field Guide to the Trees of North America, a gift her Irish immigrant father gave her before he died. She finds solace in “The Kingdom,” a stand of red oak and thick mountain laurel near her home in suburban Pennsylvania, where she can escape from her large and unruly family and share menthol cigarettes and lukewarm beers with her best friend.

One night, while driving home, Libby’s mother, exhausted and overwhelmed with the fighting in the backseat, pulls over and orders Libby’s little sister Ellen to walk home. What none of this family knows as they drive off leaving a twelve-year-old girl on the side of the road five miles from home with darkness closing in, is what will happen next.

A Crooked Tree is a surprising, indelible novel, both a poignant portrayal of an unmoored childhood giving way to adolescence, and a gripping tale about the unexpected reverberations of one rash act.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


BLACK BUCK by Mateo Askaripour: An unambitious twenty-two-year-old, Darren lives in a Bed-Stuy brownstone with his mother, who wants nothing more than to see him live up to his potential as the valedictorian of Bronx Science. But Darren is content working at Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building, hanging out with his girlfriend, Soraya, and eating his mother’s home-cooked meals. All that changes when a chance encounter with Rhett Daniels, the silver-tongued CEO of Sumwun, NYC’s hottest tech startup, results in an exclusive invitation for Darren to join an elite sales team on the thirty-sixth floor.

After enduring a “hell week” of training, Darren, the only Black person in the company, reimagines himself as “Buck,” a ruthless salesman unrecognizable to his friends and family. But when things turn tragic at home and Buck feels he’s hit rock bottom, he begins to hatch a plan to help young people of color infiltrate America’s sales force, setting off a chain of events that forever changes the game.

Black Buck is a hilarious, razor-sharp skewering of America’s workforce; it is a propulsive, crackling debut that explores ambition and race, and makes way for a necessary new vision of the American dream.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


WHEN YOU LOOK LIKE US by Pamela N. Harris: When you look like us—brown skin, brown eyes, black braids or fades—people think you’re trouble. No one looks twice at a missing black girl from the projects because she must’ve brought whatever happened to her upon herself. I, Jay Murphy, can admit that, for a minute, I thought my sister, Nicole, got too caught up with her boyfriend—a drug dealer—and his friends.

But she’s been gone too long now.

If I hadn’t hung up on her that night, she’d be spending time with our grandma. If I was a better brother, she’d be finishing senior year instead of being another name on a missing persons list. It’s time to step up and do what the Newport News police department won’t.

Nic, I’m bringing you home.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


COLD MOON OVER BABYLON by Michael McDowell: Terror grows in Babylon, a typical sleepy Southern town with its throbbing sun and fog-shrouded swamps.

Margaret Larkin has been robbed of her innocence — and her life. Her killer is rich and powerful, beyond the grasp of earthly law.

Now, in the murky depths of the local river, a shifting, almost human shape slowly takes form. Night after night it will pursue the murderer. It will watch him from the trees. And in the chill waters of the river, it will claim him in the ultimate embrace.

The cold moon rises, the awful squishing sounds begin…

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers: Follow a motley crew on an exciting journey through space—and one adventurous young explorer who discovers the meaning of family in the far reaches of the universe—in this light-hearted debut space opera from a rising sci-fi star.

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the aging Wayfarer. While the patched-up ship has seen better days, it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the galaxy, and most importantly, some distance from her past. An introspective young woman who learned early to keep to herself, she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kizzy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy—exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get extremely dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. Tunneling wormholes through space to a distant planet is definitely lucrative and will keep them comfortable for years. But risking her life wasn’t part of the plan. In the far reaches of deep space, the tiny Wayfarer crew will confront a host of unexpected mishaps and thrilling adventures that force them to depend on each other. To survive, Rosemary’s got to learn how to rely on this assortment of oddballs—an experience that teaches her about love and trust, and that having a family isn’t necessarily the worst thing in the universe.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


VIRAL BS: MEDICAL MYTHS AND WHY WE FALL FOR THEM by Seema Yasmin: Can your zip code predict when you will die? Will testosterone supplements boost your libido? Should you space out childhood vaccines? Does talcum powder cause cancer? Why do some doctors recommend e-cigarettes while other doctors recommend you stay away from them? Health information–and misinformation–is all around us, and it can be hard to separate the two. A long history of unethical medical experiments and medical mistakes, along with a host of celebrities spewing anti-science beliefs, has left many wary of science and the scientists who say they should be trusted. How do we stay sane while unraveling the knots of fact and fiction to find out what we should really be concerned about, and what we can laugh off?

In Viral BS, journalist, doctor, professor, and CDC-trained disease detective Seema Yasmin, driven by a need to set the record straight, dissects some of the most widely circulating medical myths and pseudoscience. Exploring how epidemics of misinformation can spread faster than microbes, Dr. Yasmin asks why bad science is sometimes more believable and contagious than the facts. Each easy-to-read chapter covers a specific myth, whether it has endured for many years or hit the headlines more recently. Dr. Yasmin explores such pressing questions as

– Do cell phones, Nutella, or bacon cause cancer?
– Are we running out of antibiotics?
– Does playing football cause brain disease?
– Is the CDC banned from studying guns?
– Do patients cared for by female doctors live longer?
– Is trauma inherited?
– Is suicide contagious?

and much more.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


WINTERKILL (Dark Iceland #6) by Ragnar Jonasson: When the body of a nineteen-year-old girl is found on the main street of Siglufjörður, Police Inspector Ari Thór battles a violent Icelandic storm in an increasingly dangerous hunt for her killer … The chilling, claustrophobic finale to the international bestselling Dark Iceland series.

Easter weekend is approaching, and snow is gently falling in Siglufjörður, the northernmost town in Iceland, as crowds of tourists arrive to visit the majestic ski slopes.

Ari Thór Arason is now a police inspector, but he’s separated from his girlfriend, who lives in Sweden with their three-year-old son. A family reunion is planned for the holiday, but a violent blizzard is threatening and there is an unsettling chill in the air.

Three days before Easter, a nineteen-year-old local girl falls to her death from the balcony of a house on the main street. A perplexing entry in her diary suggests that this may not be an accident, and when an old man in a local nursing home writes ‘She was murdered’ again and again on the wall of his room, there is every suggestion that something more sinister lies at the heart of her death…

As the extreme weather closes in, cutting the power and access to Siglufjörður, Ari Thór must piece together the puzzle to reveal a horrible truth … one that will leave no one unscathed.

Chilling, claustrophobic and disturbing, Winterkill marks the startling conclusion to the million-copy bestselling Dark Iceland series and cements Ragnar Jónasson as one of the most exciting authors in crime fiction.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


THEY NEVER LEARN by Layne Fargo: Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, she searches for the worst man at Gorman University and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself—but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Scarlett insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge, Dr. Mina Pierce. Everything’s going according to her master plan…until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.

Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay…and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


A SPY IN THE STRUGGLE by Aya de León: Since childhood, Yolanda Vance has forged her desire to escape poverty into a laser-like focus that took her through prep school and Harvard Law. So when her prestigious New York law firm is raided by the FBI, Yolanda turns in her corrupt bosses to save her career—and goes to work for the Bureau. Soon she’s sent undercover at Red, Black, and Green—an African-American “extremist” activist group back in her California college town. They claim a biotech corporation fueled by Pentagon funding is exploiting the neighborhood. But Yolanda is determined to put this assignment in her win column, head back to corporate law, and regain her comfortable life…

Until an unexpected romance opens her heart—and a suspicious death opens her eyes. Menacing dark money forces will do anything to bury Yolanda and the movement. Fueled by memories of who she once was—and what once really mattered most—how can she tell those who’ve come to trust her that she’s been spying? As the stakes escalate, and one misstep could cost her life, Yolanda will have to choose between betraying the cause of her people or invoking the wrath of the country’s most powerful law enforcement agency.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


THE PROPHETS by Robert Jones, Jr.: Isaiah was Samuel’s and Samuel was Isaiah’s. That was the way it was since the beginning, and the way it was to be until the end. In the barn they tended to the animals, but also to each other, transforming the hollowed-out shed into a place of human refuge, a source of intimacy and hope in a world ruled by vicious masters. But when an older man—a fellow slave—seeks to gain favor by preaching the master’s gospel on the plantation, the enslaved begin to turn on their own. Isaiah and Samuel’s love, which was once so simple, is seen as sinful and a clear danger to the plantation’s harmony.

With a lyricism reminiscent of Toni Morrison, Robert Jones, Jr. fiercely summons the voices of slaver and the enslaved alike to tell the story of these two men; from Amos the preacher to the calculating slave-master himself to the long line of women that surround them, women who have carried the soul of the plantation on their shoulders. As tensions build and the weight of centuries—of ancestors and future generations to come—culminate in a climactic reckoning, The Prophets masterfully reveals the pain and suffering of inheritance, but is also shot through with hope, beauty, and truth, portraying the enormous, heroic power of love.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


LIE, LIE AGAIN by Stacy Wise: All three women who live at 1054 Mockingbird Lane have secrets…and with a body at the bottom of their apartment building’s staircase, those secrets need to stay buried.

Sylvia Webb has a plan. And a potential Mr. Right. He’s sweet, simple, and dependably clueless about what she’s up to. The only thing unpredictable about him is his needy ex-girlfriend, who is this close to shattering Sylvia’s dreams. But Sylvia’s not going to let that happen.

Riki McFarlan has a good career and an amazing boyfriend who wants to settle down. If only she didn’t have feelings for her neighbor—who happens to be her close friend’s husband. With everything going so right, why is Riki flirting with something so wrong, so…dangerous?

Embry Taylor is as devoted to her children as she is to her husband, who’s a bartender by night, an aspiring actor by day. She is his biggest fan. But with his career not taking off and tensions high, even sweet Embry has something she’s desperate to keep hidden.

Lies, secrets, and revenge. For three neighbors with stakes so high, someone is headed for a downfall.

This book is available to buy from: Amazon Book Depository


Disclosure: A huge thank you to BookishFirst, Blackstone Publishing, GetRedPR, HMH Books, Amazon Publishing, Books Forward PR, and Harper Books for sending me free copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Disclosure: What Jess Reads is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This in no way influences my opinion of the above book.

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