In typical me fashion, I’m late throwing together a TBR stack for the month. In my defense it’s been raining a lot lately and I haven’t been able to drag my books outside…it’s totally not because I didn’t know what I wanted to read for this month at all!
Since my commute is back to almost full-time status, I’ve added in a few backlist books to try out as audiobooks for this month. ANNA K and SEVERANCE were both glaring at me the other day when I was putting together my pink stack, so I figured I would take it as a sign!
I’m determined to finish A STORM OF SWORDS this month despite falling a bit behind on my buddy read in April. I’ve also got a ton of ARCs that I’d like to cover, some recommendations, a handful of April carry overs, and a few buddy reads!
See anything you’ve read? Anything you’re interested in reading?
A STORM OF SWORDS (A Song of Ice & Fire #3) by George R.R. Martin: Of the five contenders for power, one is dead, another in disfavor, and still the wars rage as violently as ever, as alliances are made and broken. Joffrey, of House Lannister, sits on the Iron Throne, the uneasy ruler of the land of the Seven Kingdoms. His most bitter rival, Lord Stannis, stands defeated and disgraced, the victim of the jealous sorceress who holds him in her evil thrall. But young Robb, of House Stark, still rules the North from the fortress of Riverrun. Robb plots against his despised Lannister enemies, even as they hold his sister hostage at King’s Landing, the seat of the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, making her way across a blood-drenched continent is the exiled queen, Daenerys, mistress of the only three dragons still left in the world. . . .
But as opposing forces maneuver for the final titanic showdown, an army of barbaric wildlings arrives from the outermost line of civilization. In their vanguard is a horde of mythical Others—a supernatural army of the living dead whose animated corpses are unstoppable. As the future of the land hangs in the balance, no one will rest until the Seven Kingdoms have exploded in a veritable storm of swords. . .
THE BABYSITTER by Liza Rodman & Jennifer Jordan: Growing up on Cape Cod in the 1960s, Liza Rodman was a lonely little girl. During the summers, while her mother worked days in a local motel and danced most nights in the Provincetown bars, her babysitter—the kind, handsome handyman at the motel where her mother worked—took her and her sister on adventures in his truck.
But there was one thing she didn’t know; their babysitter was a serial killer.
Some of his victims were buried—in pieces—right there, in his garden in the woods. Though Tony Costa’s gruesome case made screaming headlines in 1969 and beyond, Liza never made the connection between her friendly babysitter and the infamous killer of numerous women, including four in Massachusetts, until decades later.
Haunted by nightmares and horrified by what she learned, Liza became obsessed with the case. Now, she and cowriter Jennifer Jordan reveal the chilling and unforgettable true story of a charming but brutal psychopath through the eyes of a young girl who once called him her friend.
A SOLITUDE OF WOLVERINES (Alex Carter #1) by Alice Henderson: While studying wolverines on a wildlife sanctuary in Montana, biologist Alex Carter is run off the road and threatened by locals determined to force her off the land.
Undeterred in her mission to help save this threatened species, Alex tracks wolverines on foot and by cameras positioned in remote regions of the preserve. But when she reviews the photos, she discovers disturbing images of an animal of a different kind: a severely injured man seemingly lost and wandering in the wilds.
After searches for the unknown man come up empty, local law enforcement is strangely set on dismissing the case altogether, raising Alex’s suspicions. Then another invasive predator trespasses onto the preserve. The hunter turns out to be another human—and the prey is the wildlife biologist herself. Alex realizes too late that she has seen too much—she’s stumbled onto a far-reaching illegal operation and now has become the biggest threat.
In this wild and dangerous landscape, Alex’s life depends on staying one step ahead—using all she knows about the animal world and what it takes to win the brutal battle for survival.
THE GIRL WHO DIED by Ragnar Jonasson: Teacher Wanted At the Edge of the World
Una wants nothing more than to teach, but she has been unable to secure steady employment in Reykjavík. Her savings are depleted, her love life is nonexistent, and she cannot face another winter staring at the four walls of her shabby apartment. Celebrating Christmas and ringing in 1986 in the remote fishing hamlet of Skálar seems like a small price to pay for a chance to earn some teaching credentials and get her life back on track.
But Skálar isn’t just one of Iceland’s most isolated villages, it is home to less than a dozen people. Una’s only students are two girls aged seven and nine. Teaching them only occupies so many hours in a day and the few adults she interacts with are civil but distant. She only seems to connect with Thór, a man she shares an attraction with but who is determined to keep her at arm’s length.
As darkness descends throughout the bleak winter, Una finds herself more often than not in her rented attic space – the site of a local legendary haunting – drinking her loneliness away. She is plagued by nightmares of a little girl in a white dress singing a lullaby. And when a sudden tragedy echoes an event long buried in Skálar’s past, the villagers become even more guarded, leaving a suspicious Una seeking to uncover a shocking truth that’s been kept secret for generations.
SEVERANCE by Ling Ma: Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. So she barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies halt operations. The subways squeak to a halt. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.
Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?
A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma’s Severance is a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale and satire.
LISEY’S STORY by Stephen King: Lisey lost her husband Scott after a twenty-five-year marriage of profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey knew there was a place Scott visited—a place that both terrified and healed him, could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live and create. Now, two years after Scott’s death, it’s Lisey’s turn to face his demons, to go to that terrifying place known as Boo’ya Moon. What begins as a widow’s effort to sort through the vast papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited.
Perhaps Stephen King’s most personal and powerful novel ever, Lisey’s Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.
RED RISING (Red Rising Saga #1) by Pierce Brown: The Earth is dying.
Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it.
The Reds are humanity’s last hope.
Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie.
That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds.
A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought. Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside.
But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.
Break the chains.
Live for more.
TO CATCH A THIEF by David Dodge: TO CATCH A THIEF is David Dodge’s most famous novel, and rightly so. Alfred Hitchcock firmly cinched its place in the annals of crime fiction by adapting it into an Academy Award winning film starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. The story centers on John Robie, American expatriate and skilled gymnast, who once-upon-a-time was Le Chat, the famous and elusive cat burglar who worked the South of France. The legend of Le Chat grew with each crime. Following the war, Robie retires to a quiet life in France and vows to leave his past behind. His retirement is shattered when a copy-cat burglar commits a string of robberies that puts the police on Le Chat’s trail again. Robie must catch the phony Le Chat before the police catch him. The Bruin Books edition of TO CATCH A THIEF is the first publication of the novel in many years and includes an introduction by Randal S. Brandt and afterword by Jean Buchanan. At last this beloved mystery is back in print.
HOUR OF THE WITCH by Chris Bohjalian: Boston, 1662. Mary Deerfield is twenty-four-years-old. Her skin is porcelain, her eyes delft blue, and in England she might have had many suitors. But here in the New World, amid this community of saints, Mary is the second wife of Thomas Deerfield, a man as cruel as he is powerful. When Thomas, prone to drunken rage, drives a three-tined fork into the back of Mary’s hand, she resolves that she must divorce him to save her life. But in a world where every neighbor is watching for signs of the devil, a woman like Mary–a woman who harbors secret desires and finds it difficult to tolerate the brazen hypocrisy of so many men in the colony–soon finds herself the object of suspicion and rumor. When tainted objects are discovered buried in Mary’s garden, when a boy she has treated with herbs and simples dies, and when their servant girl runs screaming in fright from her home, Mary must fight to not only escape her marriage, but also the gallows. A twisting, tightly plotted thriller from one of our greatest storytellers, Hour of the Witch is a timely and terrifying novel of socially sanctioned brutality and the original American witch hunt.
THE JIGSAW MAN (Inspector Anjelica Henley #1) by Nadine Matheson: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…
When body parts are found on the banks of the River Thames in Deptford, DI Angelica Henley is tasked with finding the killer. Eerie echoes of previous crimes lead Henley to question Peter Olivier, aka The Jigsaw Killer, who is currently serving a life sentence for a series of horrific murders.
When a severed head is delivered to Henley’s home, she realises that the copycat is taking a personal interest in her and that the victims have not been chosen at random.
To catch the killer, Henley must confront her own demons – – and when Olivier escapes from prison, she finds herself up against not one serial killer, but two.
THE FINAL REVIVAL OF OPAL & NEV by Dawnie Walton: Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.
In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.
Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.
Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.
THE WHISPERING DEAD (Gravekeeper #1) by Darcy Coates: Homeless, hunted, and desperate to escape a bitter storm, Keira takes refuge in an abandoned groundskeeper’s cottage. Her new home is tucked away at the edge of a cemetery, surrounded on all sides by gravestones: some recent, some hundreds of years old, all suffering from neglect.
And in the darkness, she can hear the unquiet dead whispering.
The cemetery is alive with faint, spectral shapes, led by a woman who died before her time… and Keira, the only person who can see her, has become her new target. Determined to help put the ghost to rest, Keira digs into the spirit’s past life with the help of unlikely new friends, and discovers a history of deception, ill-fated love, and murder.
But the past is not as simple as it seems, and Keira’s time is running out. Tangled in a dangerous web, she has to find a way to free the spirit… even if it means offering her own life in return.
THE PHOTOGRAPHER by Mary Dixie Carter: WHEN PERFECT IMAGES
As a photographer, Delta Dawn observes the seemingly perfect lives of New York City’s elite: snapping photos of their children’s birthday parties, transforming images of stiff hugs and tearstained faces into visions of pure joy, and creating moments these parents long for.
ARE MADE OF BEAUTIFUL LIES
But when Delta is hired for Natalie Straub’s eleventh birthday, she finds herself wishing she wasn’t behind the lens but a part of the scene―in the Straub family’s gorgeous home and elegant life.
THE TRUTH WILL BE EXPOSED
That’s when Delta puts her plan in place, by babysitting for Natalie; befriending her mother, Amelia; finding chances to listen to her father, Fritz. Soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished garden apartment in their townhouse. It seems she can never get close enough, until she discovers that photos aren’t all she can manipulate.
LET’S GO PLAY AT THE ADAMS’ by Mendal W. Johnson: Surely, it was only a game. In the orderly, pleasant world Barbara inhabited, nice children — and they were nice children — didn’t hold an adult captive.
But what Barbara didn’t count on was the heady effect their new-found freedom would have on the children. Their wealthy parents were away in Europe, and in this rural area of Maryland, the next house was easily a quarter of a mile away. The power of adults was in their hands, and they were tempted by it. They tasted it and toyed with it — their only aim was to test its limits. Each child was consumed by his own individual lust and caught up with the others in sadistic manipulation and passion, until finally, step by step, their grim game strips away the layers of childishness to reveal the vicious psyche, conceived in evil and educated in society’s sophisticated violence, that lies always within civilized men.
More than a terrifying horror story, Let’s Go Play at the Adams’ is a compelling psychological exercise of brooding insights and deadly implications.
LAKEWOOD by Megan Giddings: When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies, and the full extent of the family debt is revealed, the black millennial drops out of college to support her family and takes a job in the mysterious and remote town of Lakewood, Michigan.
On paper, her new job is too good to be true. High paying. No out of pocket medical expenses. A free place to live. All Lena has to do is participate in a secret program—and lie to her friends and family about the research being done in Lakewood. An eye drop that makes brown eyes blue, a medication that could be a cure for dementia, golden pills promised to make all bad thoughts go away.
The discoveries made in Lakewood, Lena is told, will change the world—but the consequences for the subjects involved could be devastating. As the truths of the program reveal themselves, Lena learns how much she’s willing to sacrifice for the sake of her family.
Provocative and thrilling, Lakewood is a breathtaking novel that takes an unflinching look at the moral dilemmas many working-class families face, and the horror that has been forced on black bodies in the name of science.
ANNA K (Anna K #1) by Jenny Lee: Meet Anna K. At seventeen, she is at the top of Manhattan and Greenwich society (even if she prefers the company of her horses and Newfoundland dogs); she has the perfect (if perfectly boring) boyfriend, Alexander W.; and she has always made her Korean-American father proud (even if he can be a little controlling). Meanwhile, Anna’s brother, Steven, and his girlfriend, Lolly, are trying to weather a sexting scandal; Lolly’s little sister, Kimmie, is struggling to recalibrate to normal life after an injury derails her ice dancing career; and Steven’s best friend, Dustin, is madly (and one-sidedly) in love with Kimmie.
As her friends struggle with the pitfalls of ordinary teenage life, Anna always seems to be able to sail gracefully above it all. That is…until the night she meets Alexia “Count” Vronsky at Grand Central. A notorious playboy who has bounced around boarding schools and who lives for his own pleasure, Alexia is everything Anna is not. But he has never been in love until he meets Anna, and maybe she hasn’t, either. As Alexia and Anna are pulled irresistibly together, she has to decide how much of her life she is willing to let go for the chance to be with him. And when a shocking revelation threatens to shatter their relationship, she is forced to question if she has ever known herself at all.
Dazzlingly opulent and emotionally riveting, Anna K.: A Love Storyis a brilliant reimagining of Leo Tolstoy’s timeless love story, Anna Karenina―but above all, it is a novel about the dizzying, glorious, heart-stopping experience of first love and first heartbreak.
THE LAST THING TO BURN by Will Dean: On an isolated farm in the United Kingdom, a woman is trapped by the monster who kidnapped her seven years ago. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to protect her child no matter the cost, and starts to meticulously plan her escape. But when another woman is brought into the fold on the farm, her plans go awry. Can she save herself, her child, and this innocent woman at the same time? Or is she doomed to spend the remainder of her life captive on this farm?
Intense, dark, and utterly gripping The Last Thing to Burn is a breathtaking thriller from an author to watch.
HELL ON MARS (Reality Bleed #1) by J.Z. Foster & Justin M. Woodward: Something went wrong in the Mars Felicity Station. A gate to another reality was opened, and a mysterious alien plague threatens humanity.
After communications with the station are cut, the crew of the Perihelion is sent to find out what happened. Outmatched and unprepared, they’re forced to make war on this new enemy and rescue what remains of the survivors.
This book is available to buy from: Amazon
Disclosure: A huge thank you to Minotaur Books, Doubleday, and Poisoned Pen Press 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.