Alyssa’s Reviews – A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne (FC)

“One said that literature was more important than human life so what was the problem if a few people had died in the pursuit of excellence?” – pg. 358, ALTTS

Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!

A few months ago, I found out that John Boyne was publishing a new literary fiction novel about a story stealer (among other things). And while I had not read John’s recent novel, I had loved “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas” when I was younger, so I was eager to pick up the novel and start reading it. Fortunately, I received a finished copy of the book from Penguin Random House Canada, which was unbelievably amazing!

NOTE: Some of this review may be sort of spoiler-y, as you don’t meet many of the main characters until the second section of the novel. I would encourage you not to read much about this book until after you have read it, as I feel that this story reads better when you do not know much about it. So, comeback and read my review when you have finished the book!

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Synopsis (Goodreads.com):

The new novel from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Heart’s Invisible Furies , a seductive Highsmithian psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of fame.
Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent – but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.
Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful – but desperately lonely – older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel.
Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall…

WOW. This story was shockingly beautiful. Although this book was 400 pages long, it read extremely quickly. I find that many times when I read books, I glance at the page number while reading every so often, but while reading this novel that rarely happened. I also enjoyed how it was written kind of as an anthology that came together in the end. Each part of the book was narrated by a different person and had a different focus on a certain point/event in Maurice’s life. I enjoyed that his POV was not written until the last part of the novel, as it was easier to see how people saw him and how he viewed himself.

Throughout this story, I felt very connected to all of the characters. While most of the main characters are only present throughout one part of the story, John did a great job developing them within a limited space in the novel. I felt that I had read a lot about the characters and understood them, even if they were only a large part of 100 pages of the novel. I appreciated John’s writing style especially when it came to the characters, because we weren’t introduced to them all at the beginning of the novel, but rather learned and read about them during every few 100 pages.

During the first part of the novel (and carried through the story a bit), there was a large realistic historical fiction aspect, which I greatly enjoyed. From reading just the synopsis, I did not know that there would be a focus on WWII. When I was younger, I loved reading books about the holocaust and WWII, although I haven’t read much historical fiction throughout the past five years (a.k.a. when I started my blog). Reading about this aspect made me want to read more historical fiction novels, so I hope to pick up a few sporadically throughout the year!

One of my favourite things to read about is publishing/writing/authors in a fictional book. Since the main character, Maurice, was a story stealer and a well-acclaimed author, this meant that the book had a strong focus on the publishing industry and writing novels. I have always thought about working in publishing, so I really enjoyed reading the small conversations between Maurice and his publisher and editor, as well as seeing exactly how he brought the stolen stories to life.

The one and only thing I did not love about this book was that I found many of the events very predictable, and there was not a shocking plot twist at any point during the book (the ending did not shock me, but it did slightly surprise me). I understand that this book is not supposed to be full of shocks and 180° plot twists as it was a literary fiction book and not a thriller, but I feel like I would have enjoyed it even more if there was a spike of surprise in the novel.

Overall, I loved this book and gave it 4.75/5 stars.

Thanks again to Penguin Random House Canada for sending me a finished copy of this novel! It was superb!

Have any of you read this novel yet? Let me know in the comments and we can discuss!

Good Night Book Owls!

Alyssa’s Reviews – Looker by Laura Sims (ARC)

Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!

As I featured last month in my “In My Mailbox: Winter 2019 Edition“, “Winter Vacation Reading Plans“, and “December 2018 Wrap-Up“, I recently read “Looker” by Laura Sims. The cover definitely drew me to this book, and I was really excited to read a 2019 thriller release. However, this book definitely did not meet my expectations.

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Synopsis (Goodreads.com):

I’ve never crossed their little fenced-in garden, of course. I stand on the sidewalk in front of the fern-and-ivy-filled planter that hangs from the fence—placed there as a sort of screen, I’m sure—and have a direct line of view into the kitchen at night. I’m grateful they’ve never thought to install blinds. That’s how confident they are. No one would dare stand in front of our house and watch us, they think. And they’re probably right: except for me.
In this taut and thrilling debut, an unraveling woman, unhappily childless and recently separated, becomes fixated on her neighbor—the actress. The unnamed narrator can’t help noticing with wry irony that, though she and the actress live just a few doors apart, a chasm of professional success and personal fulfillment lies between them. The actress, a celebrity with her face on the side of every bus, shares a gleaming brownstone with her handsome husband and their three adorable children, while the narrator, working in a dead-end job, lives in a run-down, three-story walk-up with her ex-husband’s cat.
When an interaction with the actress at the annual block party takes a disastrous turn, what began as an innocent preoccupation spirals quickly, and lethally, into a frightening and irretrievable madness. Searing and darkly witty, Looker is enormously entertaining—at once a propulsive Hitchcockian thriller and a fearlessly original portrait of the perils of envy.

I wouldn’t say that I particularly enjoyed this book. Was it the worst book I’ve ever read? No. But I did not like it.

One of my biggest complaints I have relating to this book is not actually about the book itself, but rather the way it’s being marketed and publicized. This book is NOT a thriller. There are no unbelievable plot twists, and no thrilling aspects to it. To be honest, I found the plot line quite dry and flat, therefore it was no way a “thrilling” book. I would categorize this book as a suspense novel, as I found it to be very suspenseful and hard to put down. The writing was very fast paced, and since this book is quite short, I was able to read it in one sitting. And to me, that would make this book a suspense novel, rather than a thriller. Had I known this before going into the book, I most likely would not have requested it in the first place.

Another thing I didn’t enjoy was the characters. The narrator, for example, was hard to understand. I was confused as to whether she was written to be a likeable character or not, or whether we were supposed to feel sorry for her or not. I am not the type of reader that dislikes a character that is “bad” or “mean”, especially if they were intentionally written that way. However, this character was just confusing to me. She didn’t really have one personality type, but rather showed that she was sensitive, carefree, and independent, while also seeming like nothing bothered her and was very needy during certain parts of the novel. Along with the narrator, I also found that none of the characters had any substance or went through any development, which I found very disappointing.

Along with the characters, I found the plot line very confusing. There was no set opening, conflict, climax, or solution. It seemed like everything just “happened”, and there was no real order in all of the chaos that existed in this story. The ending was also very random and out of the blue. I feel like there was a better way to end this story, especially because it didn’t really wrap anything up. But then again, how could it when there was no real conflict in this story? *sigh*

Perhaps my favourite thing in this novel (and the reason I am giving it more than one star) was the writing style. Most of the time, whenever I read a debut novel, it is easy to tell that the person who wrote the book is a new author. Whether they may it make take them twenty words to describe one object in the protagonists house, or make the story hard to follow, normally their are obvious indications. However, I really enjoyed the way this book was written. I thought the narrators thoughts were written concisely and to the point. It was also less than 200 pages, which made it a very easy read.

Lastly, I wanted to include my short Goodreads review of this book, as I believe it sums up my initial thoughts just after finishing this book perfectly…

I finished this book and still have no clue as to what it’s about. Is she obsessed with her neighbour? Is she obsessed with her cat? Is she mad at her ex (what happened between them anyways?)? What is happening between her and that student of hers? This book was too confusing and had no plot line whatsoever. I’m giving it two stars because I couldn’t put it down… so take that for what it’s worth. Also, the writing was very good for a debut novel.

Overall, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped and gave it two out of five stars.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster Canada for providing me with an ARC of this book!

Good Night Book Owls!

Off The Grid Readathon TBR

Hi everybody and welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!

If you read my Bookish Goals of 2019 post, you will know that one of my goals was to participate in a lot more readathons. This weekend, Shanah from the Bionic Book Worm Blog is hosting the “Off the Grid Readathon“, which will be my first readathon of the year!

These readathons will be happening every three months (January, April, July, and October) during the second week of the month from Friday at 12:00am to Sunday at 11:59pm (in your own timezone). The main point of the readathon is to stay off your phone as much as possible (hence why it’s called Off the Grid). To read more about this readathon, click here.

I know the readathon has technically already started, but I have school until 2pm today, so I plan on starting around 2:45/3pm EST. I figured this would be the best readathon to start off with since this will be my last “peaceful” weekend of the month, as I will have to start studying for my exams next week. I won’t have that much time to read for the rest of the month, so I hope to read quite a few books this weekend.

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The first book I plan on reading/finishing is “1984” by George Orwell. I have been reading this book for the past couple of months in my english lit class, and we need to finish it this weekend as we have our final reading discussion on it on Tuesday. I have enjoyed it thus far, and am interested to see how the story will come to an end.

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The next book I plan on reading/finishing is “A Ladder To The Sky” by John Boyne. I received a finished copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in December, but have only started to read it this month. I have been absolutely loving it thus far, and am ready to step back into the story of Maurice and Erich!

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If I happen to finish both of those books before the readathon is finished, I plan on picking up “Behind Closed Doors” by B.A. Paris. I bought this book on Book Outlet last month, but haven’t had much time to read it because of my ARC “overflow” and I obviously needed to read those books first. Regardless, I am still SO excited to finally pick up this thriller, as I have heard great things about it!

If you are participating in this readathon, let me know in the comments and we can talk about all the books we plan on reading! Make sure you are following the official twitter account for this readathon (@OffTheGridReads) (and while your at it, follow me as well!), so you don’t miss out on any of the fun!

Good Night Book Owls!

Alyssa’s Reviews – The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe (ARC)

Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!

While the first book I read this year was quite… awful… I was very excited to pick up a unique #OwnVoices contemporary set in a high school! Even though books set in high school are not usually my first pick, I was still thrilled when I received an unsolicited ARC of “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager” by Ben Phillipe in a beautiful package sent to my by the lovely Ashley from Harper Collins Canada/HCC Frenzy! Whenever HCC Frenzy is “pushing” a new book, I always know that it is going to be good. And let me tell you, this one did not disappoint!

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Synopsis (Goodreads.com):

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.
Yet, against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris. Be it loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. He even starts playing actual hockey with these Texans.
But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

WOW! What a great high school set contemporary to kick off 2019 with (technically this is my second book of 2019, but I’d prefer to forget the first one…)!

This was (obviously) a very character driven novel. And while Norris was made to be an unlikeable character, there was something about him that really appealed to me. I absolutely adored all of his witty and “smart-ass” comments. Norris was a very relatable and flawed teenage character, which appealed to me as I am a teenager myself. I thought that Norris developed quite a bit throughout the story, especially with the help of his friends, who were constantly bringing him back to reality after saying stupid things. Personally, I would have loved for this book to have been written as a first-person narrative instead of a third-person narrative, as I believe I would have enjoyed reading from Norris’s voice just a tad more than a narrator. However, that did not have a big impact on my overall enjoyment and reading experience.

Since this was a character driven book, there were quite a few side characters that were introduced and featured throughout this story. Sometimes I find it hard to differentiate between a variety of characters, since they can all be written with a very similar voice. However, all of the characters in this novel were written about very differently, which was great to read. I loved all of the side characters in this novel, as they each brought important characteristics/perspectives into this story. I especially enjoyed reading scenes that featured Norris’s parents. Although they were divorced, I enjoyed the way they were written. Both parent loved Norris in different ways, and didn’t let their divorce get in the way of raising Norris. Norris’s mom was one of my favourite characters in this story, as she had a great relationship with Norris and didn’t talk down to him.

Austin, Texas was a very unique setting for this story. I don’t think I have ever read a YA book set in Texas, so I was very interested to see how the setting would impact the story. Sadly, Norris only visited a small handful of places in this novel. Therefore, I would have loved to have visited different landmarks/locally popular places in this story.

One of my favourite parts of the novel was the theme of Hockey. I am a HUGE sports fan, and while Hockey is not #1 on my list (Baseball will forever be my favourite), I always love when there is a sizeable sports related theme in YA books. Since Norris is Canadian, he (stereotypically) loved Hockey, and that was very relevant in the book, even though he  lived in Texas. It was a small piece of him that he brought took from Canada to his new home, and he ended up making quite a few unexpected friends from it!

This book explored a variety of important themes that are very relevant to todays day and age. Some of the themes/issues I expected to pop up in this story since the main character is a black French Canadian living in Texas, while some of the other talked about issues I was not expecting. I appreciated how Ben did not dwell on these problems, but added them sporadically throughout the story in order to further develop Norris’s character. I thought that they were all important to talk about, especially since this was a YA novel featuring a wide cast of characters.

I really enjoyed and appreciated the ending of this novel. While it wasn’t a “happily ever after” (like I had expected it to be), I felt that it was left off on the right note. Books like these don’t always need a complete conclusion, and I thought that Ben took advantage of that and used the “open-ending” concept perfectly.

Much to my surprise, this is actually Ben Philippe’s debut novel! He did a fantastic job writing it and I look forward to reading his future novels.

Overall, I gave it a 4.25/5 stars! To read all of my thoughts while reading this book, click here.

Thanks again to Harper Collins Canada/HCC Frenzy for sending this novel my way. I am so glad that I read it!

That is all for my first review of 2019! I hope you are all having a wonderful start to the new year. Have you read this book yet or are planning on doing so? Let me know in the comments!

Good Night Book Owls!

Quick Thought: Returning “Rough” Reads

Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!

When I first started my blog in 2013, I created a series called “Quick Thoughts“, where I would discuss my opinions about different aspects about the reading/bookish community. While I haven’t continued the series as often as I had hoped, I want to bring it back in 2019 and start discussing some new topics!

Today, I have a question for all of you. When you read a book that you REALLY did not enjoy (1-2 stars), do you ever return it to the bookstore you bought it from?

Recently, I read a book that I really really did not enjoy. I had high expectations since it was a nationally acclaimed book, but I found the writing style very confusing and hard to follow. The premise of the book sounded excellent, but it made an unexpected turn that I did not appreciate.

The book I am talking about happened to be a “Heather’s Pick” novel. Heather Reisman, the CEO of Chapters Indigo, choses books that she has loved, and adds them to her “Heather’s Pick” lists. When a book gets chosen, it is an honour for the author and publishing house. A unique aspect to consider when you purchase books that are apart of this list, is that you have a 100% money back guarantee if you did not enjoy this book.

Personally, I do not think I will be returning this book, because I bought it with the intentions of giving it to my Mom to read, which she has not yet done. However, in other circumstances, I would definitely have considered returning it.

This is a very interesting topic, as a book is a form of entertainment that can be returned after fully being read/”used”. Whenever you watch a movie from a theatre, or watch a live action play or band, you are not allowed to get your money back if you did not enjoy it (in most cases). The same goes for spending money on a class or active session.

What are your thoughts on returning books you did not enjoy? I’d love to chat with all of you in the comments!

Good Night Book Owls!

2019 Bookish Goals

Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!

I hope the first few days of 2019 have been going well for all of you! With a new year comes new goals. While I am not a big fan of making “new years resolutions”, I still thought it would be fun to share a few bookish goals I have set for this year, and then I will make a post at the end of the year to see how many I accomplished! These goals will be a combination of reading goals and book blogging goals.

  1. Goodreads Reading Challenge: 40 Books

This year, I have decided to set my reading goal on Goodreads to 40 books! Even though I have never read more than 40 books in one year, I thought I would set my goal pretty high and see just how many I can read! Every year, I end up reading quite a few books from January-March and then pick it back up from October until December. This year, I am going to try my absolute hardest to read consistently over the course of all twelve months, while taking a few small breaks every now and then. This will help me avoid reading slumps and book burnouts.

2. Diversity

There has been a surge of very diverse books all around the bookish world, which have been gaining a lot of popularity recently (and for an obviously great reason!). This year, I want to try and read a lot more diverse books, whether they may be diverse in subject matter, love interests, or the ethnicity/sexuality of the author. I already have a few diverse ARCs that I was recently sent by a couple of different publishing houses, so I already have quite a stack building up!

3. Variety of Genres

Along with reading diverse books, I also want to try and read from a variety of different genres. In 2018, I found a lot of great Mystery/Thriller books and it slowly became my new favourite genre. Unlike just sticking to reading books that mostly fall into that genre, I am going to chose a lot of different books to read to see if I find any new favourite genres in 2019! As always, I like to request a lot of different ARCs from different publishing houses, and that way I will be able to expand my reading horizons easily.

4. Selective with ARCs

In 2019, I want to be a lot more selective with ARCs I request and ARCs I choose from in monthly/seasonal newsletters. I have a tendency to over request books from publishers, or even request an abundance of different books on NetGalley (which is the NEVER a good idea). While I will still (inevitable) receive a lot of ARCs, I am going to make sure they are books I know I will read and hopefully enjoy.

5. Purchase Less Books

While I very rarely purchase new books from Indigo or online, I do enjoy indulging on huge Book Outlet orders and the occasional box set or two. This year I am going to prioritize reading the books I have not yet read that are sitting on my shelves. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t treat myself here and there!

6. Read More eBooks

Purchasing books not only costs money, but it also takes up a lot of shelf space! With more publishing houses sending out eARCs and using NetGalley to send advanced copies of upcoming releases, that makes it a lot easier to read and take advantage of eBooks. I personally LOVE eBooks, and find that I read a lot quicker using digital books than I do when reading physical books. I have been reading a lot of eBooks on my iPad using the Kindle app. The Kindle app makes downloading and receiving eARCs WAY easier, since you can send them directly to your unique Kindle email address. You can also buy really discounted eBooks on Kindle/Amazon since new releases and best sellers are constantly being put on sale. I plan on reading a lot of eBooks this year, and I hope you’ll join in with me on this goal!

7. Participate in 5 Readathons

I LOVE READATHONS! Unfortunately, I didn’t participate in any this year because I didn’t have much time for any and I couldn’t find any that would work with my TBRs for each month. Thankfully, Catriona from Little Book Owl has a Readathon calendarReadathon calendar with every single readathon going on in 2019! I will be utilizing this schedule A LOT when planning my TBRs and weeks I will be able to participate in readathons.

8. Use Bookstagram

Something I have been loving recently is using Instagram to post pictures of my books! I plan on keeping this up and expanding my bookish horizons in 2019! You can see my Bookstagram page and follow me here (I’ll follow you back if you comment that you came from my blog!).

9. Create a Book Club

I have been wanting to create a book club for SO LONG. I hope that 2019 is THE year that I will finally make one! I am not sure how exactly it will be created, but I’ll find a way eventually!

10. READ HARRY POTTER

My final and most important (to my Father… hi DAD!!) is to finally read the entire Harry Potter series! I bought the entire series when I was 12-years-old and still haven’t read it yet! I hope that 2019 will be the year when I finally read the series! I think I’m going to try and read it all during the summer, but I may also try to read 1-2 books in the series each month… I’m not exactly sure yet.

I hope you enjoyed reading all of my bookish goals for 2019! What are yours? Let me know in the comments or send me a link to your post!

Good Night Book Owls!

January 2019 TBR

HAPPY NEW YEAR and Welcome back to Reading, Reading, Reading!

I am SO excited for 2019! Next year I am going to have a lot of inevitable personal changes, so I’m going to try and make this year as relaxing and fun as I possibly can. While I am not going to share my reading goals with you in this post (they will be shared in a few days), I am very happy with my picks for my TBR list this month, as I am looking forward to reading every single one of them!


This month, my TBR is compiled of six books. Three ARCs, one RC/FC (Readers Copy – not advanced, FC – finished copy), and two picks of my choice (one of those picks is an eBook). While I receive a lot of books from different publishing houses, I always make sure to include one book that I am really interested in and want to read at some point during this month.

The first book I plan on reading this month is “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager” by Ben Philippe. I was given an ARC of this book from Harper Collins Canada (a.k.a. HCC Frenzy) and am really looking forward to starting it! Lately, I have been reading a lot of heavy adult thrillers, so I am looking forward to a nice, light, and interesting teenage contemporary. Ben’s writing style in this book has been compared to John Green’s, whom is one of my favourite authors, which made me even more eager to start this novel! This book comes out on January 8, but my review should be up sometime next week.

The next book I plan on reading this month is “A Ladder to the Sky” by John Boyne. John wrote the best selling “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas” which I read in sixth grade and absolutely adored. When I found out that he was writing another book, I knew I needed to pick it up. Fortunately, the lovely people at Penguin Random House sent me a copy of it last month to review (and a hard copy copy, at that!). Since the book has already been published (and is receiving AMAZING ratings), I really wanted to get to it this month so that I can post my review ASAP. To say I am excited to read this book is an understatement.

The third book I plan on reading this month is “Behind Closed Doors” by B.A. Paris. I have heard a ton of opinions on this book, and I am interested to see what my overall opinion on this novel will be. People on the blogosphere and booktube seem to love it, while people in my personal life haven’t liked it as much as I was expecting. Like I have said a lot recently, my favourite genre has currently been domestic thrillers, and this one is a very very popular one that I think will be a book that I will really enjoy. I guess we shall find out by the end of the month!

The next book I want to read this month is “Golden State” by Ben H. Winters. I received an ARC of this book from Hachette Book Group Canada (along with a few other Winter ARCs) just this past weekend. After reading the synopsis, I thought that this book seemed very similar to 1984, which I have been reading with my English Lit class book club group. I have been enjoying it quite a bit, so I thought I would also enjoy this book as well. Like “A Ladder to the Sky”, this book has been getting stellar reviews on Goodreads, so I hope it lives up to the hype! This book comes out on January 22, so my book review will be up then.
P.S. Book Of The Month just released their January 2019 picks, and this book “Golden State” on the list!

The fifth book I plan on reading this month is “The Black Coats” by Colleen Oakes. While this book does not come out until the middle of February, I figured that it would be smart to start this one early. Especially since this book sounds like something I would enjoy this month! I received an ARC from HCC Frenzy, and am really looking forward to reading it!

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The last book I plan on reading is “The Wife Between Us” by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. I purchased this one on the Kindle App and was planning on reading it during my winter break/winter vacation. While I did not read it during my actual vacation, I still have a few days off before I go back to school, so I may read this one very soon. If not, I am not exactly sure when I will have time to read it. Among all of the books on this list, I think I am the most excited to read this one! I have heard nothing but great things about this book, and it’s another domestic thriller… which, by now, you should all know I absolutely love!


Those are the six books I plan on reading this month! What are you guys planning on reading this month? Let me know in the comments or send me a link to your post/picture, I’d love to find out! I will be posting all of my 2019 bookish goals on Friday, and I am so excited to share them all with you!!

Good Night Book Owls!