This is only the second time I’ve completed the Goodreads Reading challenge. The first time was in 2014 where I read 66 books. This year, I read 85. A new record.
I read ZERO books in 2017. Shame on me.
I have quit watching TV. It’s useless and I usually end the program feeling disappointed. “What did I just watch? Can I get my 90 minutes back, please?” I’ve lost interest in shows though I can’t promise that I won’t watch a bit when (if?) I get back to using my treadmill.
But that’s a different post.
Here are my reading stats for 2018:
I think one of the reasons I read so many books this year is because I found a lot of good books to read. I’m a member of Kindle Unlimited. I read exclusively on my Kindle. I haven’t bought a “real” book in years. My Kindle is my most prized possession.
I rarely download and read a book with less than four stars. I feel like the ratings are an excellent indicator whether a book is good or not and so far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my picks.
Here are MY five-star picks from the books I read this year (warning, there are quite a few!):
Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan
Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, Beneath a Scarlet Sky is the triumphant, epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience during one of history’s darkest hours.
Pino Lella wants nothing to do with the war or the Nazis. He’s a normal Italian teenager—obsessed with music, food, and girls—but his days of innocence are numbered. When his family home in Milan is destroyed by Allied bombs, Pino joins an underground railroad helping Jews escape over the Alps, and falls for Anna, a beautiful widow six years his senior.
In an attempt to protect him, Pino’s parents force him to enlist as a German soldier—a move they think will keep him out of combat. But after Pino is injured, he is recruited at the tender age of eighteen to become the personal driver for Adolf Hitler’s left hand in Italy, General Hans Leyers, one of the Third Reich’s most mysterious and powerful commanders.
Now, with the opportunity to spy for the Allies inside the German High Command, Pino endures the horrors of the war and the Nazi occupation by fighting in secret, his courage bolstered by his love for Anna and for the life he dreams they will one day share.
I don’t normally like war stories, but Pino’s love for Anna was inspiring and his determination to reach her was admirable.
A Criminal Defense by Williams Myers
Losing the trial of his life could mean losing everything.
When a young reporter is found dead and a prominent Philadelphia businessman is accused of her murder, Mick McFarland finds himself involved in the case of his life. The defendant, David Hanson, was Mick’s close friend in law school, and the victim, a TV news reporter, had reached out to Mick for legal help only hours before her death.
Mick’s played both sides of Philadelphia’s courtrooms. As a top-shelf defense attorney and former prosecutor, he knows all the tricks of the trade. And he’ll need every one of them to win.
But as the trial progresses, he’s disturbed by developments that confirm his deepest fears. This trial, one that already hits too close to home, may jeopardize his firm, his family—everything. Now Mick’s only way out is to mastermind the most brilliant defense he’s ever spun, one that will cross every legal and moral boundary.
This story had some very clever twists and the ending was justified and unexpected.
The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne
Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.
As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?
I found this book surprisingly gripping. It’s a slow starter but stick with it.
True Fiction by Lee Goldberg
#1 New York Times bestselling author Lee Goldberg hits the ground running in a breakneck thriller where truth and fiction collide for the unluckiest writer alive.
When a passenger jet crashes onto the beaches of Waikiki, bestselling thriller writer Ian Ludlow knows the horrific tragedy wasn’t an accident.
Years before, the CIA enlisted Ian to dream up terrorism scenarios to prepare the government for nightmares they couldn’t imagine. Now one of those schemes has come true, and Ian is the only person alive who knows how it was done…and who is behind the plot. That makes him too dangerous to live.
Ian goes on the run, sweeping up an innocent bystander in his plight–Margo French, a dog walker and aspiring singer. They are pursued by assassins and an all-seeing global-intelligence network that won’t stop until Ian and Margo are dead. Ian has written thrillers like this before, but this time he doesn’t know how it’s going to end–or if he will be alive to find out.
Action packed and hilarious.
It Ends with Her by Brianna Labuskes
He started the game. She’ll end it.
FBI special agent Clarke Sinclair doesn’t give up easily. She’s spent years tracking serial killer Simon Cross, forced to follow his twisted clues and photographs across the country. Clarke knows that Cross selects only redheaded women and that he doesn’t target another victim until Clarke discovers the previous one.
He’s never broken pattern…until now.
A girl has already gone missing in upstate New York when a second one is kidnapped—a blonde. The killer’s MO has changed, sending Clarke back to the drawing board. The closer she gets to the truth, the deeper she’s drawn into an inescapable trap made just for Clarke. Whatever Cross’s ultimate game is, it ends with her.
A deadly game of cat-and-mouse with multiple points of view.
A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White
Twelve years ago, Sarah Baker was abducted by the Watt Lake Killer and sexually assaulted for months before managing to escape. The killer was caught, but Sarah lost everything: her marriage, her child, and the life she loved.
Struggling with PTSD, Sarah changes her name to Olivia West and finds sanctuary working on Broken Bar Ranch. But as her scars finally begin to heal, a cop involved with her horrific case remains convinced the Watt Lake Killer is still out there. He sets a lure for the murderer, and a fresh body is discovered. Now Olivia must face the impossible—could the butcher be back, this time to finish the job?
As a frigid winter isolates the ranch, only one person can help Olivia: Cole McDonough, a writer, adventurer, and ranch heir who stirs long-dormant feelings in her. But this time, Olivia’s determination to shut out her past may destroy more than her chance at love. It could cost her her life.
A dark novel of survival and healing.
The Gravity of Us by Brittainy C. Cherry
Graham Russell and I weren’t made for one another.
I was driven by emotion; he was apathetic. I dreamed while he lived in nightmares. I cried when he had no tears to shed.
Despite his frozen heart and my readiness to run, we sometimes shared seconds. Seconds when our eyes locked and we saw each other’s secrets. Seconds when his lips tasted my fears, and I breathed in his pains. Seconds when we both imagined what it would be like to love one another.
Those seconds left us floating, but when reality knocked us sideways, gravity forced us to descend.
Graham Russell wasn’t a man who knew how to love, and I wasn’t a woman who knew how to either. Yet if I had the chance to fall again, I’d fall with him forever.
Even if we were destined to crash against solid ground.
Again, stick with it, you’ll thank me later.
The Girl on the Bridge by James Hayman
From New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed McCabe and Savage series comes an electrifying new thriller of taut and twisted suspense.
On a freezing December night, Hannah Reindel leaps to her death from an old railway bridge into the rushing waters of the river below. Yet the real cause of death was trauma suffered twelve years earlier when Hannah was plucked from a crowd of freshman girls at a college fraternity party, drugged, and then viciously assaulted by six members of the college football team.
Those responsible have never faced or feared justice. Until now. A month after Hannah’s death, Joshua Thorne—former Holden College quarterback and now a Wall Street millionaire—is found murdered, his body bound to a bed and brutally mutilated.
When a second attacker dies in mysterious circumstances, detectives Mike McCabe and Maggie Savage know they must find the killer before more of Hannah’s attackers are executed. But they soon realize, these murders may not be simple acts of revenge, but something far more sinister.
The Girl on the Bridge is a compelling and harrowing tale of suspense that once read will not easily be forgotten.
Disturbing story but a satisfying ending.
Stuck-Up Suit by Vi Keeland / Penelope Ward
Four consecutive weeks on the New York Times and #1 in Romance.
It started out like any other morning on the train.
Until I became mesmerized by the guy sitting across the aisle.
He was barking at someone on his phone like he ruled the world.
Who did the stuck-up suit think he was…God?
Actually, he looked like a God. That was about it.
When his stop came, he got up suddenly and left. So suddenly, he dropped his phone on the way out.
I might have picked it up.
I might have gone through all of his photos and called some of the numbers.
I might have held onto the mystery man’s phone for days―until I finally conjured up the courage to return it.
When I traipsed my ass across town to his fancy company, he refused to see me.
So, I left the phone on the empty desk outside the arrogant jerk’s office.
I might have also left behind a dirty picture on it first though.
I didn’t expect him to text back.
I didn’t expect our exchanges to be hot as hell.
I didn’t expect to fall for him―all before we even met.
The two of us couldn’t have been any more different.
Yet, you know what they say about opposites.
When we finally came face to face, we found out opposites sometimes do more than attract―we consumed each other.
Nothing could have prepared me for the ride he took me on. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for where I’d wind up when the ride was over.
All good things must come to an end, right?
Except our ending was one I didn’t see coming.
Cute and steamy.
Wait for it by Mariana Zapata
If anyone ever said being an adult was easy, they hadn’t been one long enough. Diana Casillas can admit it: she doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing half the time. How she’s made it through the last two years of her life without killing anyone is nothing short of a miracle. Being a grown-up wasn’t supposed to be so hard. With a new house, two little boys she inherited the most painful possible way, a giant dog, a job she usually loves, more than enough family, and friends, she has almost everything she could ever ask for. Except for a boyfriend. Or a husband. But who needs either one of those?
Three words: The. Sock. Story. I laughed a full five minutes, tears streaming down my face, after reading that part. I don’t feel compelled to write reviews very often, but this story, this story was sweet, raw, selfless, touching and real all at once. Diana was strong, vulnerable, independent and loving, I could easily be her friend. Her sense of humor had me smiling, chuckling and full out laughing multiple times through her story. I loved all of the characters in this story. I loved the simple complexity of this story. I loved the writing, it was easy, real, didn’t feel forced or stilted and it never, not once, jerked me out of the story. I felt like I was standing right alongside Diana every step of the way. I felt every emotion and every struggle as if I was one of her many friends helping to live her life. This story pulled every emotion out of my body so that not only was I satisfied when it ended, I was also a little relieved. I don’t have many friends, and that’s by choice. People grate on my last nerve – too whiny, too selfish, too self absorbed, too ignorant too …. something. The few friends I have are more like Diana, well rounded, independent, compassionate, honest, funny as hell and just good PEOPLE. This is why I loved Diana. We need more Diana’s in this word. Thank you for an excellent story, Ms. Zapata.
I have since read a few more books by Mariana Zapata and she’s fast becoming one of my favorite authors. CHECK HER OUT.
The Ghostwriter by Alessandra Torre
Four years ago, I lied. I stood in front of the police, my friends and family, and made up a story, my best one yet. And all of them believed me.
I wasn’t surprised. Telling stories is what made me famous. Fifteen bestsellers. Millions of fans. Fame and fortune.
Now, I have one last story to write. It’ll be my best one yet, with a jaw-dropping twist that will leave them stunned and gasping for breath.
They say that sticks and stones will break your bones, but this story? It will be the one that kills me.
This book is not a romance. It is contemporary fiction, but very suspenseful in nature. It is about a famous romance author and a dark secret she keeps
The Memory of Butterflies by Grace Green
To keep a devastating family secret from being revealed, a young mother’s desperate lies could end up destroying everything, and everyone, she loves. The Memory of Butterflies is a poignant story of family and forgiveness—of knowing when to let go and when to hold each other close.
Hannah Cooper’s daughter is leaving for college soon. The change is bittersweet. A single mother since the age of eighteen, Hannah isn’t eager to confront the pain of being alone, but she’s determined not to let her own hang-ups keep Ellen from the future she deserves. As Ellen’s high school graduation approaches, Hannah decides it’s time to return to her roots in Cooper’s Hollow along Virginia’s beautiful and rustic Cub Creek.
With the help of longtime friend Roger Westray, Hannah devotes her energies to building a new house on the site of the old family home, destroyed in a fire more than a decade ago. But Hannah’s entire adult life has revolved around one very big secret. And her new beginning comes with unanticipated risks that will cost her far more than she could have imagined—perhaps more than she can survive.
When a confrontation forces Hannah to expose her secret, the truth may destroy her beloved daughter. Hannah is prepared to sacrifice everything to protect her family, but can their lives and their bond withstand the seismic shift that’s coming?
(Geez, I didn’t realize how many 5-star books I read over this past year – but that’s a good thing!)
Drive by Kate Stewart
Music . . . the heart’s greatest librarian.
The average song is three and a half minutes long; those three and a half minutes could lead to a slow blink, a glimpse of the past, or catapult the soul into heart-shattering nostalgia.
At the height of my career, I had the life I wanted, the life I’d always envisioned. I’d found my tempo, my rhythm. Then I received a phone call that left me off key.
You see, my favorite songs had a way of playing simultaneously. I was in love with one man’s beats and another’s lyrics. But when it came to the soundtrack of a life, how could anyone choose a favorite song? So, to erase any doubt, I ditched my first-class ticket and decided to take a drive, fixed on the rearview.
And the long road home to the man who was waiting for me.
Into the Light by Aleatha Romig
Sara Adams awakes blind, unable to remember the most basic details of her life, but her darkness seems a blessing when she discovers the terrors of The Light.
Stella Montgomery investigates the news on the mean streets of Detroit, where she’s noticed a disturbing trend: young women are vanishing. When her best friend disappears, Stella investigates—despite warnings from her police detective boyfriend—following a twisted trail that leads her through the city’s most dangerous and forsaken precincts. There she uncovers something more sinister than she could have imagined: a shadowy organization known as The Light, led by the enigmatic Father Gabriel.
As Sara struggles to understand her place in the strange world she’s awakened to—an oppressive cult demanding unquestioning obedience—and her feelings for Jacob, the husband she can’t recall and whose harsh and tender attentions confuse and beguile her, Stella risks all to discover the truth. But enlightenment always comes with a price…
Away from the Dark by Aleatha Romig
(I loved her other book so much, I dove into her next one).
Nine months ago, Sara Adams awoke with no memory. The man holding her hand told her she’s a member of The Light, a tight-knit religious group led by the terrifying and charismatic Father Gabriel. As a woman in the community of The Light, her duty is to be unquestionably obedient and to submit to the will of her husband.
But as Sara’s memory starts to return and she remembers her past, she sees that everything she’s been told is a lie. The Light is an insidious and dangerous organization, and its corrupting influence reaches well beyond the confines of the remote campus where Sara is being held.
With everything at stake, Sara struggles to sort out her true memories from her indoctrination. The desire to escape consumes her, but who can she trust? And which other followers of The Light were forced into this life, brainwashed to believe they belonged? The more she remembers, the more it becomes clear that Jacob, the man who calls himself her husband, is keeping shattering secrets of his own.
But Sara cannot flee alone, leaving innocents behind. She must fight to extinguish The Light.
The Drowned Girls by Lorenth Anne White
He surfaced two years ago. Then he disappeared …
But Detective Angie Pallorino never forgot the violent rapist who left a distinctive calling card—crosses etched into the flesh of his victim’s foreheads.
When a comatose Jane Doe is found in a local cemetery, sexually assaulted, mutilated, and nearly drowned, Angie is struck by the eerie similarities to her earlier unsolved rapes. Could he be back?
Then the body of a drowned young woman floats up in the Gorge, also bearing the marks of the serial rapist, and the hunt for a predator becomes a hunt for a killer. Assigned to the joint investigative task force, Angie is more than ready to prove that she has what it takes to break into the all-male homicide division. But her private life collides with her professional ambitions when she’s introduced to her temporary partner, James Maddocks—a man she’d met the night before in an intense, anonymous encounter.
Together, Angie and Maddocks agree to put that night behind them. But as their search for the killer intensifies so does their mutual desire. And Angie’s forays into the mind of a monster shake lose some unsettling secrets about her own past . . .
How can she fight for the truth when it turns out her whole life is a lie?
From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.
After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.
But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.
Including Ivan Lukov.
The Wall of Winnipeg by Mariana Zapata
Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.
But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.
For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.
What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?
Arrogant Devil by R.S. Grey
Everyone in Cedar Creek, Texas, knows Jack McNight is an arrogant devil. Physically, I get it: he’s tan and fit, with coal-black hair that’s clearly been scorched by hellfire. Oh, and his personality? It burns just as hot.
When I show up on the doorstep of Blue Stone Ranch, I’m run-down and rockin’ my last pair of underwear. I’m hoping for a savior, but instead, I find him.
My opinion of Jack is marred by a dismal first impression, but his opinion of me is tainted even before I arrive. He’s heard I’m a spoiled princess there to take advantage of his goodwill. To him, I’m more trouble than I’m worth.
Our button-pushing banter should get under my skin. His arrogance should be a major turn-off. Problem is, devils are known to offer their own form of temptation.
Every one of his steely glares sends a shiver down my spine.
Every steamy encounter leaves me reeling.
Sure, it could be the Texas heat messing with my head, but there’s no way I’ll survive the summer without silencing him with a kiss and wrestling him out of those Wranglers.
Who knows…going to bed with the devil might just be the salvation I’ve been looking for all along.
Spilled Milk by K.L Randis
Brooke Nolan is a battered child who makes an anonymous phone call about the escalating brutality in her home.
When social services jeopardize her safety condemning her to keep her father’s secret, it’s a glass of spilled milk at the dinner table that forces her to speak about the cruelty she’s been hiding. In her pursuit for safety and justice Brooke battles a broken system that pushes to keep her father in the home.
When jury members and a love interest congregate to inspire her to fight, she risks losing the support of family and comes to the realization that some people simply do not want to be saved.
Spilled Milk is a novel of shocking narrative, triumph and resiliency.
The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker
For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realize he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.
As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.
With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.
My review of this book:
I never thought I would say this, but I actually grew to like, (respect?), the bad guy. You couldn’t help but feel sorry for his circumstances. This story was full of twists and the author did an excellent of job of wrapping the plot up into a white box and tying it off with a black string for the reader. Highly recommend. Excellent read.
And there you have it! Wow, sorry for the long post, but I guess 21 five-star books out of 85 is pretty good. I HIGHLY recommend any of these books, if you’re looking for something decent to read this next year, and if you’re part of Kindle Unlimited, you can get them for free!
I’m looking forward to “cracking” open (though I don’t actually read physical books, Ebooks for the win for me) a new set of interesting books this year. I hope I have as good of luck with these next batches of book that I did in 2018.
You can keep track of what I’m reading via the Goodreads’ Widget in the right-hand column, if you’re so inclined.