Tag Archives: new release

Review: Lock Every Door

CW: murder, missing person, cruelty against those in poverty

Final Girls is one of my all-time favorite thrillers. The Last Time I Lied was less exciting as a follow-up, though still entertaining. With a 2/2 track record, I could not miss Riley Sager’s 2019 release, Lock Every Door. I wasn’t quite confident enough to buy a copy outright this time around, but I should have been!

lockeverydoorIn the novel, Jules answers a vague ad for an apartment-sitting job. She’s just broken up with her boyfriend and needs a temporary place to stay. She’s also just lost her job and needs some quick money. But the gig turns out even better than she could have imagined: the apartment is a luxurious two-story place in the Bartholomew, famous for housing the rich and famous, and the pay is phenomenal. Jules can’t believe they’re even letting her through the door, much less willing to pay her to live in such a fancy place. Some of the rules are a little weird, but Jules moves in anyway. When one of the other apartment sitters goes missing though, Jules can’t deny that there might be more to the Bartholomew than meets the eye.

The bulk of this story takes place over six days, alternating between past and present narration; until the two meet, the past contains the meat of the story while the present serves as quick, tantalizing glimpses of the fallout to come. When the story lines merge, the narration spirals through several more climactic days before reaching its final conclusion.

” ‘I really don’t think this is a good idea,’ Nick says.

‘You said you wanted to help.’

The two of us are in the kitchen of 12A, standing shoulder to shoulder as we stare into the open dumbwaiter.”

After the initial introduction of characters and premise, it actually took me a while to warm up to this one. Sager does a lot of things right with Lock Every Door, but sadly he gives us a main character of the sort that appears in cheesy horror films, making obvious, life-threatening mistakes. Though Jules’s backstory and perspective are unusual and fascinating, her actions are frustratingly careless; it wasn’t until the plot picked up in the second half that I was able to fully invest in this story.

“Nick was right. This is not a good idea. I’m literally inside the walls of the Bartholomew. Any number of bad things could happen.”

But there is plenty to hold the reader’s attention in the meantime. First, the narration provides a wonderful set of creepy details to lend the proper atmosphere, including gargoyles perched around the building and an ancient dumbwaiter in Jules’s apartment; the narration doesn’t try too hard to force these elements into the plot (it bothers me when thriller/horror stories try to cram too many unrelated creepy elements into one plotline), but their presence keeps the reader alert and unsettled as any good thriller should. There’s also just enough suspicious activity surrounding the Bartholomew to keep the reader curious about what exactly is going on. Even Jules herself offers a distraction from her poor detective skills with an interesting exploration of what it’s like to be the one left behind in a Missing Person situation (or two), and how thoroughly the strain of poverty can break a family down. Though her specific situation is uncommon, her feelings of ordinariness and inadequacy occasionally come across as disturbingly relatable.

“I’m a dime a dozen, and everyone is looking for a quarter.”

By far the most compelling part of this novel is the mystery itself- the red herring, and the final solution. I thought it was superbly crafted; I caught all the key clues and still wasn’t quite able to solve the puzzle- the very best type of thriller experience! Furthermore, the themes behind the mystery are engaging and conducive to further thought, unlike the standard “girl finds herself running for her life from new lover / new lover’s ex” situations that really are a dime a dozen. Lock Every Door is a wild story, but (for me, at least) the concept is just plausible enough to leave me questioning the ways in which the wealthy and powerful might be abusing their levels of influence. It was almost convincing enough to allow me to overlook how very bothersome I found Jules. Almost.

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. Though not quite on par with Final Girls (which somehow manages both to spoof the slasher thriller genre and also provide a captivating story that fits within it), I did find Lock Every Door a step up from The Last Time I Lied and am eager to see what Sager will come up with next. There’s no word of a fourth release yet, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out, and I might even look into buying my own copy of Lock Every Door for a future revisit. All in all, quite a success, and I think my luck with thrillers is really turning around this year!


The Literary Elephant


Top of the TBR 8.5.19

Top of the TBR is a weekly post I created that will showcase any books added to my Goodreads TBR recently, with a short explanation of why each title caught my interest. I’ll aim for 5-10 books per post; in weeks that I’ve added more than that, I’ll hold some back, and in weeks that I don’t have enough, I’ll include titles I haven’t discussed yet. Each title will be linked back to its Goodreads page for anyone interested in exploring further, as I’m not a fan of copy/pasting synopses. Anyone who wants to take part in this series with me is absolutely welcome! Please link back to any of my Top of the TBR posts so I can see what you’re reading! ūüôā

Here are some of the new books I’ve added on Goodreads over the last two weeks:

22552026. sy475 Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (Pub: Oct 2017)

How I found it: I’ve seen this around quite a bit in the last couple of years, especially in the YA book community. I’ve been on the fence about it for a long time, but then saw this positive review from Elysa that finally convinced me!

Why I added it: I really hate to miss out on a book with so many awards on its cover, and that so many people have loved. Also, it’s written in verse, which is one element my reading life is lacking at the moment.

Priority: Low. I can pick this up at my library any time, but my August TBR is twice as long as I’ll have time for so I’m just not planning to reach for anything extra in the immediate future.

44063239. sy475 The Island Child by Molly Aitken (Pub: March 2020)

How I found it: Callum pointed this one out!

Why I added it: First of all, the cover completely drew me in. Blue is my forever favorite, and the art is just gorgeous! Secondly, from the synopsis, “Rich, haunting and rooted in Irish folklore, The Island Child is spellbinding debut novel about identity and motherhood, freedom and fate and the healing power of stories.” I mean, completely sold.

Priority: High. The publication date is far enough out that it feels easy to commit to right now. I have no idea what my reading plans will actually look like next March, but I can’t imagine this looking any less appealing at that time.

Blank 133x176Strange Hotel by Eimear McBride (Pub: Feb. 2020)

How I found it: I recently did a buddy read of McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (my review should be up tomorrow!) and loved it enough that I went searching for her other publications, which brought me to this upcoming release.

Why I added it: I’m highly intrigued by McBride’s prose style, which worked so well in¬†A Girl… Also, it’s themes sound so appealing; “It is an immensely moving and ultimately revelatory exploration of one woman’s attempts to negotiate her own memories and impulses, and what it might mean to return home.”

Priority: High. Again, February seems like a long way out but I’m sure I’ll want to grab this as soon as possible!

36242816. sy475 The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, trans. by Stephen Snyder (Pub: Aug 2019)

How I found it: August is WIT (Women in Translation) month, and this is one upcoming release I’ve been seeing on so many appealing lists lately.

Why I added it: I’ve not yet ready anything from Ogawa, but I’d like to; this seems like as good a place to start as any. It seems to be a sci-fi story in which the Memory Police can “disappear” things to control what people remember or forget. Except there seems to be one case in which it’s not working? I’m intrigued.

Priority: Middling. I’d love to pick this up if I can work it into WIT month, but I just don’t think I’ll be able to manage it. Hopefully later this fall- I do want to make an effort to read more translations regularly.

41880044The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (Pub: June 2019)

How I found it: I don’t really have a concrete answer for where I first saw this, I’ve just been seeing it around and decided to look into it this past week.

Why I added it: I haven’t been reading much contemporary fiction lately, but this one sounds potentially fun. It’s a multi-generational story set in Chicago that follows four siblings (sisters) trying to find their way in life, wondering whether they’ll ever find relationships as strong as their parents’. It just sounds like a drama-filled good time.

Priority: Low. This seems like a nice fall read, but it looks like there are a ton of holds on it already through my library, so I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it.

42185853The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (Pub: 1978)

How I found it: I saw that Vintage Classics was introducing a new Iris Murdoch series to their set, and had to check it out.

Why I added it: I’ve not read anything from Murdoch yet, but this one’s been on my radar for years. I love the covers (and especially the spines) of these editions, which will probably motivate me to pick up at least one of them sooner rather than later. This is the one I want to start with.

Priority: Low. Before I order another Vintage Classics book, I need to read the last one I acquired, Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. Which I’m hoping to get to before the end of the year, but don’t have definite plans for yet.

30200112. sy475 Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich, trans. by Bela Shayevich (Pub: Aug. 2013)

How I found it: In Ren’s excellent WIT month post of recommendations for nonfiction women in translation!

Why I added it: I really like reading about Russia, though I don’t do that as often as perhaps I should, knowing I enjoy it. And as much as I enjoy Russian settings in fiction, it really is about time I learned a bit more of the country’s actual history.

Priority: Middling. Again, I’d love to fit this into WIT month but I don’t see it happening. It is available at my library though, so I’ll make sure to pick it up at some point!

35407619The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq by Dunya Mikhail, trans. by Max Weiss (Pub: March 2018)

How I found it: Also from Ren’s nonfiction women in translation post!

Why I added it: I don’t think I’ve read anything about Iraq, and I love that the focus of this one seems to be on women who have endured too much and yet persevered. I’m also intrigued about how a beekeeper might have become a savior.

Priority: Middling. Same reasoning, although this one is not available through my library so might be harder for me to come by.

15811545. sy475 A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (Pub: March 2013)

How I found it: I’ve known about this one for a long time, probably prior to 2015/2016 when I started using Goodreads primarily for my TBR, and somehow it just slipped through the cracks. But I recently saw it mentioned in Laura’s lit fic tag post, which led me to add it this week!

Why I added it: I’ve just heard such good things about it.¬† The synopsis calls it: “a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.” I believe it’s set in Japan, which will be a nice change from the overabundance of US material I tend to reach for.

Priority: Low. This is another title easily available through my library, so I’ll pick it up when I find the time.

43744294The Swallows by Lisa Lutz (Pub: Aug 2019)

How I found it: This is another new release I’ve just seen everywhere lately, making the rounds.

Why I added it: My appetite for mystery/thrillers has apparently (finally!) increased again; I’ve been having much better luck with the titles I’ve picked up this year than I did last year. But aside from its genre, this looks like an interesting examination of gender roles, particularly in teenagers- it’s set in a school. I love creepy reads that are also thematically rich.

Priority: Middling. I’m in the mood to pick this up right away, but I just don’t think I’ll have time this month. It might make the cut for spooky October though! I’ll definitely keep this one in mind.


And that’s that for this week! It’s so sad that the second half of the year always leaves me feeling like I don’t have time to read all the things I want to read; I’m excited about this list, but I just don’t think I’ll manage to pick anything up that isn’t already on my massive August TBR. But, who knows. Despite all my good TBR intentions, I don’t really plan what I’m going to read next beyond the very next book, so anything could happen!

Have you read any of these books, or recognize them from your own TBR?


The Literary Elephant

Top of the TBR 7.22.19

I skipped this post last week because I was off Goodreads during the Amazon protest, and didn’t have many new books to talk about either. Now that I have two weeks to catch up on, I have plenty of newly added books to choose from!

Top of the TBR is a weekly post I created that will showcase any books added to my Goodreads TBR recently, with a short explanation of why each title caught my interest. I’ll aim for 5-10 books per post; in weeks that I’ve added more than that, I’ll hold some back, and in weeks that I don’t have enough, I’ll include titles I haven’t discussed yet. Each title will be linked back to its Goodreads page for anyone interested in exploring further, as I’m not a fan of copy/pasting synopses. Anyone who wants to take part in this series with me is absolutely welcome! Please link back to any of my Top of the TBR posts so I can see what you’re reading! ūüôā

Here are some of the new books I’ve added on Goodreads over the last two weeks:

41555931. sy475 Whisper Network by Chandler Baker (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: I’ve been seeing this one around all month and can’t remember where it first popped up for me, but one of the recent reviews I’ve seen that helped convince me was this one from Jenna!

Why I added it: Office politics in fiction don’t often catch my interest, but this one sounds promisingly feminist. I’m also intrigued by the little flood of negative reviews I’ve been seeing for it, on the grounds that the characters seem unlikable; I often enjoy stories with unlikable characters and suspect that it might succeed for me in the precise way is seems to have failed for others.

Priority: Low. There is a possibility I could end up hating these characters right along with the masses, but though I’m willing to take that chance I’m just too swamped with reading commitments to pick anything up on a whim right now. In fact, I’ve got such a packed reading schedule that I’ll warn you right now most of this list is going to present as low priority mainly for that reason.

39127647His Hideous Heart ed. by Dahlia Adler (Pub: Sept 2019)

How I found it: I saw this post from Lala on Instagram!

Why I added it: This is a collection of retellings of popular Edgar Allen Poe stories from thirteen prominent YA authors. I love retellings of classics, I love horror and Poe, I’m attracted to these being short stories, and I’m looking forward to sampling authors who might write novels in this genre. I haven’t heard of all of these authors, so it’ll be fun to check out their work in these shorter pieces! I still like some YA but have fallen a bit out of touch this year, and a book like this looks like an easy path back into the age range. Everything about this just seems like a perfect fit for me.

Priority: Middling. I would love to pick this up in October, but fall is a difficult time of year for me to get my hands on new releases and I’m not filling my Oct. TBR this far in advance yet.

42245770. sy475 The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: I don’t remember exactly, I’ve been seeing this around for a while. Sarah Dessen was one of my favorite authors in middle school and I still tend to notice when she has a new book coming out.

Why I added it: In 2017 I reread my favorite Dessen novel,¬†The Truth About Forever, and loved it all over again. Though I wasn’t at all interested in Dessen’s last release,¬†Once and For All, my 2017 reread convinced me that I might still enjoy some of Dessen’s work, so I’m willing to give this one a chance.

Priority: Low. I was planning to reread Dessen’s¬†Just Listen in November, and even though this one looks very summery (it takes place at a lake!) I just don’t think I’ll get around to it before November at the earliest, after my reread.

The Iliac CrestThe Iliac Crest by Christina Rivera Garza, Trans. by Sarah Booker (Pub: Oct 2017)

How I found it: In one of Callum’s exciting posts about books to read for Women in Translation month (August)!

Why I added it: I really want to incorporate more translations into my regular reading, and especially translations of women writers. I am working on a small list that I’ll try to tackle in August, mainly of books already on my shelves, but I’m also gathering some other titles that look fantastic for future reading. Callum’s description of this one sounded 100% appealing, as did the rest of his translation recs, of course! This one’s a short Gothic piece that appears full of commentary on gender identity.

Priority: Middling. This sounds like another title I’d like to rush out and read either for WIT month or as a spooky read for October, but I don’t know exactly when I’ll be able to fit it in, and I’ll have to track down a copy first!

967251In & Oz by Steve Tomasula (Pub: Sept 2005)

How I found it: Melanie mentioned this one to me! Her recommendations always seem spot-on to what I’m looking for.

Why I added it: The synopsis sounds wonderfully bizarre, and I expect it’s also thematically rich. It is: “a novel of art, love, auto mechanics, and two places: the actualities of the here and now and the desire for somewhere better. Five men and women- an auto designer, photographer, musical composter, poet/sculptor and mechanic- find themselves drawn together when they begin to suspect that the thing lacking in their lives might be discovered in the other place.” Consider me intrigued.

Priority: Low. This looks super interesting, but I’m not sure yet where I’ll find a copy.

42790782. sy475 Stranger Things: Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher (Pub: May 2019)

How I found it: I actually stumbled across this title in a used book store last week, which was a sad way to discover I’d missed one of the Stranger Things companion novels completely. It was nearly full price and my last Stranger Things companion read was only a 3-star, so I didn’t end up buying it.

Why I added it: Though I don’t think I want to own this, I am interested in the companion novels connected to Stranger Things. This one looks like a history of Hopper’s life, which especially has my attention after the direction season 3 took.

Priority: Middling. I’m already feeling the wait between seasons 3 and 4, and would love to pick this up in the fall if I can get it through my library at that time.

153480Medea: A Modern Retelling by Christa Wolf (Pub: 1996)

How I found it: In Hannah’s fantastic post about unlikable but compelling female characters!

Why I added it: I’ve already loved or previously added to my TBR all of the other books Hannah included in her excellent list, so it seems like a safe bet that I’ll enjoy this one as well. I do like picking up the occasional Greek retelling.

Priority: Middling. I’ve barely read anything Greek all year, which feels a bit odd after reading two retellings last year, plus some original Homer. I don’t know when I’ll have time and will be able to find a copy, but I’d like to pick this up before the end of the year if possible.

44287149The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan (Pub: Nov 2019)

How I found it: In Ren’s post of great upcoming nonfiction releases!

Why I added it: I’ve been trying to increase my nonfiction reading this summer, and have been enjoying it enough that I want to continue making nonfiction a more permanent part of my reading regimen. This one is about a group of people who go undercover into an asylum in the 1970s, only to emerge when they can convince the doctors they’re sane. It sounds like a fascinating inside look at diagnoses and treatments, and a historical (if you can call 40 years ago historic) look at mental illness practices. I’m unversed in the topic, but so on board to learn.

Priority: Middling. Maybe by November my schedule will have mellowed out a bit and I’ll have time to pick this up as a new release!

36478784. sy475 The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (Pub: April 2019)

How I found it: I’m not sure anymore where I first saw this title; it’s been on my radar since its release, if not before.

Why I added it: This looks like a romance that leans a bit more toward traditional contemporary than some from the genre tend to. I wasn’t sure at first if this sounded to my taste, but I keep wanting to like the romance genre and then struggling with it a bit, so it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to try another type of romance novel to see if it helps me decide where I fit in that genre.

Priority: Low. I don’t read romance often, and I do already have a couple of titles queued up for further romance genre experiments. Unsure of when I’ll get to this one.

43789029. sy475 Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy (July 2019)

How I found it: This one was just brought to my attention today by Rachel, who finds the best books. (Seriously, if you’re not following her blog, you’re missing out!)

Why I added it: “Reminiscent of the suspense of Shirley Jackson and soaked in the folk horror of the British landscape,¬†Water Shall Refuse Them is an atmospheric coming-of-age novel and a thrilling debut.” Everything about this appeals to me. Also historical heat wave. Accidental drowing. Rural seclusion. Family unraveling. It sounds so promising it almost can’t be real, haha.

Priority: Middling. I really wish I could pick this one up right away, especially since the heat wave setting sounds perfect for summer reading, but I’ll have to find a copy and try to squish it into my overflowing reading schedule.


My reading taste is so varied that my Top of the TBR lists never look very cohesive, but this one really is quite a mix! A couple of literary fictions, but otherwise all different genres and even a couple of different age ranges. Maybe someday I’ll find a niche, but I’m not in any hurry.

Have you read any of these books or recognize them from your own TBR?


The Literary Elephant

Review: Recursion

CW: suicide, death (including death of a child), gun violence, nuclear attack, Alzheimer’s diesease

Blake Crouch’s¬†Dark Matter may very well have been one of the books that “broke” the thriller genre for me. I read it in early 2017, only a few months before every thriller I picked up started to seriously disappoint me (with the major exception being Riley Sager’s Final Girls). It was my first sci-fi thriller, and such an all-around fun experience that there was no way I could miss Crouch’s 2019 release, another sci-fi thriller, titled Recursion.

recursionIn the novel, Barry is investigating a suicide in which the victim (prior to jumping) claims to have been affected by False Memory Syndrome- a new “disease” slowly sweeping the world that leaves those affected with two sets of memories, one “real” and one “false.” His investigation soon becomes much more hands-on than he intended. Meanwhile, Helena has been forced to switch her life’s focus from saving memories for those with Alzheimer’s to erasing all traces of her invented technology from the world; she learns the hard way that manipulating memories- even with the best of intentions- can only go horribly awry.

” ‘What’s more precious than our memories?’ he asks. ‘They define us and form our identities.’ “

Much in the spirit of¬†Dark Matter¬†(comparisons are inevitable),¬†Recursion¬†is also a story of what-ifs, in which some of the main characters are able to re-live parts of their lives as though they’d made different choices. Both titles examine some of the moral and emotional consequences of altering reality, as well as dissecting the science (in a novice-friendly way) that might lead to these possibilities. And of course, both are fast-paced adventures full of unique threats and psychological twists and turns.

Recursion opens on Barry’s first brush with False Memory Syndrome, which provides a perfect introduction to a concept that is, at first, as mysterious to the protagonist as the reader. When the time is right, the story doubles back to Helena’s research efforts, switching to a new protagonist with more knowledge on memory and the pertinent technology to guide the reader through a phase of discovery. Of course the two plotlines eventually merge, as Helena and Barry meet and unite against a common enemy- someone who wants to use Helena’s invention to change the world in the name of progress, no matter the consequences.

“Memory is ‚Ķ the filter between us and reality. You think you’re tasting this wine, hearing the words I’m saying, in the present, but there’s no such thing. The neural impulses from your taste buds and your ears get transmitted to your brain, which processes them and dumps them into working memory- so by the time you know you’re experiencing something, it’s already in the past. Already a memory…We think we’re perceiving the world directly and immediately, but everything we experience is this carefully edited, tape-delayed reconstruction.”

If the science sounds intimidating or you think sci-fi just isn’t the genre for you, rest assured that it’s largely a conceptual backdrop to a fairly accessible thriller plot. Crouch throws in a few sentences that must be based in fact- statements about neurons firing in the brain, memory storage, and d√©j√† vu- but the rest is one big thought experiment mainly featuring the fictional logistics of time travel via memory. As long as you understand the gist (the heroes and villains are obvious enough), it’s really not strictly necessary to pay close attention to all of the specifics. In fact, even the scientists in¬†Recursion require plenty of trial and error with the equipment in order to understand what it’s capable of. There’s no need to worry about getting bogged down in details.

It’s a smart, exciting ride that balances right on the edge between realistic and fantastic, with just enough realistic detail to ground the reader while allowing the imagination plenty of room to run free.

“Time is an illusion, a construct made out of human memory. There’s no such thing as the past, the present, or the future. It’s all happening now.”

But there are a few ways in which the layering of timelines frustrated me. Note: these are fairly small issues that come down to stylistic preference.

First is the repetition. There are moments, days, and even years that some characters experience repeatedly; in a few instances, a particular event is written out numerous times, back to back, highlighting variations. This tactic does lend credence to the matter of false/dead memories causing insanity, depression, and/or suicidal thoughts, but I nevertheless found it annoying to know I was reading scenes that were ultimately not leading anywhere productive.

Second, once it becomes clear that characters who possess the proper knowledge and equipment can revisit key moments limitlessly, the stakes are lowered. It is infinitely harder to worry about heroes dying or villains causing irreparable damage when one only has to make provisions for re-entering the moment if things turn sour, and try another path.

Third is the way that these relationships are skewed by the lack of chronology. There are several occasions in which a character must introduce him- or herself to someone they already know well, which allows for alliances to be formed with proof of knowing someone else’s secrets rather than a gradual rapport built from circumstance and personality. As a consequence, I can recall many of the events of this book, but I would struggle to tell you what kind of person any of the main characters are beyond basic motives- doing what is right, saving the world, making a name for oneself with a life-changing invention. Unfortunately, I did find it harder to invest in characters that I wasn’t able to fully understand, and books in which the characters feel like afterthoughts to the plot (even a stellar plot) never have quite the same strength that character-driven narratives do for me.

This is starting to look like a list of complaints rather than a recommendation to read a book that I had an excellent time with, but that is only because I can’t help comparing my¬†Recursion reading experience to that of¬†Dark Matter, which I enjoyed slightly more- possibly only because I happened to read it first. In the end, both are great books that I can’t see disappointing many readers, including those who are wary of the sci-fi aspect. My only gripe here is that when I have read a book that I loved (Dark Matter), I don’t hope for the author to write a very similar book that will give me a repeat experience (Recursion); I hope for something that raises the bar. Though I think¬†Recursion is an excellent book on par with¬†Dark Matter, it¬† wasn’t quite the step up into new territory that I was most hoping for.

“We have made it far too easy to destroy ourselves.”

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. This has been an extremely difficult book to review, because 1) everything is a plot twist so it’s hard to talk about without spoilers, and 2) I struggled to find the right balance between explaining why I both had a great time reading it and yet also didn’t. I believe this is a personal quirk, that for something to impress me enough for a 5-star rating it has to be great but also hold an element of surprise; sometimes greatness itself can be a surprise, but with a follow-up title I definitely need something new to supercede the greatness that I was already expecting based on the first book. (Does this make sense to anyone other than me?) In any case, I’m still on board to read more of Crouch’s work- I’m hoping to pick up¬†Pines this October, and I’ll certainly keep an eye out for future publications as well.

Have you read any of Blake Crouch’s novels? What’s been your favorite so far?


The Literary Elephant


Top of the TBR 7.8.19

Top of the TBR is a weekly post I created that will showcase any new books added to my Goodreads TBR recently, with a short explanation of why each title caught my interest. I’ll aim for 5-10 books per post; in weeks that I’ve added more than that, I’ll hold some back, and in weeks that I don’t have enough, I’ll include titles I haven’t discussed yet. Each title will be linked back to its Goodreads page for anyone interested in exploring further, as I’m not a fan of copy/pasting synopses. Anyone who wants to take part in this series with me is absolutely welcome! Please link back to any of my Top of the TBR posts so I can see what you’re reading! ūüôā

Here are some of the new books I’ve added on Goodreads over the last week:

37570548. sy475

The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold (Pub: April 2019)

How I found it: This one caught my eye from Ren’s post of her favorite new nonfiction of the year so far!

Why I added it: I’ve been interested in true crime lately (and nonfiction more generally), and this one stood out to me for the Jack the Ripper connection but primarily for the fact that “it delves into the Victorian experience of poverty, homelessness, and alcoholism, but also motherhood, childbirth, sexuality, child-rearing, work, and marriage, all against the fascinating, dark, and quickly changing backdrop of nineteenth century London.”

Priority: Low. This sounds great, but I’ve got a lot of other nonfiction already on the docket for this summer (and beyond) so I’m not sure when I’ll get to it.


Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: I’d heard of this one a while ago without looking into it, but then saw it again on Bookstagram last week, compared to Sally Rooney’s work.

Why I added it: I mean, Sally Rooney. Not having read it yet, I’m not sure how well the comparison holds up, but I was sold on unlikable characters. I love to see what a book can do beyond making characters “likable.”

Priority: Low. I’ve got some recent and upcoming new releases I’m already more focused on, so I’m not sure when I’ll get to this.

22822858. sy475 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (Pub: March 2015)

How I found it: I live in the world.

Why I added it: I feel like I’m pretty late to this one, but I don’t want to miss it completely. I hear it’s depressing and fantastic and I always meant to read it eventually but realized last week it wasn’t actually on my TBR, so I’m remedying that.

Priority: Low. This sounds like a good winter read, so I’ll put more effort into adding it to my reading schedule then.

3413831Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert K. Ressler and Tom Shachtman (Pub: April 1992)

How I found it: I’ve been thinking and chatting about Netflix’s Mindhunter series lately. Ressler is one of the main characters in that series, so I went looking through his titles, for a little more background.

Why I added it: I just read a book by John Douglas last month- Douglas was Ressler’s partner in the FBI. It seems like a good idea¬† to check out Ressler’s perspective as well! I decided to start off with the very first published book this time, since I ended up regretting not doing that with Douglas’s work.

Priority: Low. I’m planning to watch the new season of Mindhunter in August. At some point afterward I’ll read Douglas’s¬†Mindhunter book. And after that, eventually I’ll read this.

39854434Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey (June 2019)

How I found it: In Hannah’s recent romance mini-reviews post!

Why I added it: I’m still fairly new to the romance genre and struggling a bit with finding titles that I’m going to like; I think the best way to learn how to find what I’m looking for is just to keep trying different things. I know Tessa Bailey is a big name in romance, so I’ll give this new release a chance.

Priority: Low. I’m currently reading only about 2-3 romances a year, and I’ve already chosen my next contender: Kasey McQuiston’s¬†Red, White, and Royal Blue. I’ll probably pick this up after that.

36508441. sy475 Constellations by Sinead Gleeson (Pub: April 2019 – UK)

How I found it: I read Rachel’s glowing review!

Why I added it: This is a collection of nonfiction essays about the author’s life and body, which might not have caught my attention on its own, but the way Rachel describes it makes it sound absolutely brilliant. Heavy but resonant, each essay a valuable contribution to the set.

Priority: Middling. There aren’t many essay collections in my TBR, and this one sounds great so I’d like to bump it up my list if I can find the time. The catch: this one’s only out in the UK right now, which is not where I live, so I’ll have to acquire a copy before I can seriously commit to a time frame.

41940306. sx318 Lanny by Max Porter (Pub: March 2019)

How I found it: I’ve seen a few highly intriguing reviews of this one over the last few weeks, including Callum’s and Kristin’s!

Why I added it: I’m particular about magical realism, but when it works for me I really love it. I also like some experimental writing, and have seen a few readers predict that this one will appear on the Man Booker longlist later this month.

Priority: Middling. This looks fairly short and engrossing, which would be easier to fit into my reading schedule. I don’t really think I’ll get to it before the Man Booker longlist announcement, and its presence or absence there will definitely affect my timing with this one.

42046111The Body in Question by Jill Ciment (Pub: June 2019)

How I found it: Mentioned on bookstagram.

Why I added it: This looks like a nice fictional piece to read in conjunction with my true crime fascination. It’s a short work about a sequestered jury on a big murder trial, in which an affair between two jury members will have deep consequences.

Priority: Middling. I’m really curious about this one, and it is available through my library (though currently checked out and not due back until August).

36332136. sy475 The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley (Pub: July 2018)

How I found it: I read Hannah’s enthusiastic review!

Why I added it: So much of what Hannah says about this book in her review sounds appealing to me, and I’m almost always interested in classics retellings. I haven’t even read¬†Beowulf¬†yet, but I know that I will want to read a retelling of it.

Priority: Low, because I’ve not yet decided whether to go ahead and read this before¬†Beowulf or after; if after, it’ll take me longer to get around to because that’s not an urgent title on my TBR.


For once, there are no “high priority” books in this list. Priority for me is determined by a mix of excitement and ability to fit the title into my reading schedule, and with the Man Booker longlist looming ahead (finally!), I’m trying to be realistic about my scheduling expectations for once. It’s possible that when I see the list I’ll decide not to read it in its entirety and will find myself with more time for new-to-me books like these, but in the meantime I’m trying not to plan anything else for myself in August, reading-wise. I’m mentioning this mainly because I don’t want the handful of “low priority” books on this list to make it seem like I’m not excited about what I’m adding to my TBR; if it’s here, I’m excited!

Have you read any of these books, or recognize them from your own TBR?


The Literary Elephant

Top of the TBR 7.1.19

Top of the TBR is a weekly post I created that will showcase any new books added to my Goodreads TBR recently, with a short explanation of why each title caught my interest. I’ll aim for 5-10 books per post; in weeks that I’ve added more than that, I’ll hold some back, and in weeks that I don’t have enough, I’ll include titles I haven’t discussed yet. Each title will be linked back to its Goodreads page for anyone interested in exploring further, as I’m not a fan of copy/pasting synopses. Anyone who wants to take part in this series with me is absolutely welcome! Please link back to any of my Top of the TBR posts so I can see what you’re reading! ūüôā

Here are some of the new books I’ve added on Goodreads over the last week:

40163119. sy475 Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe (Pub: Feb. 2019)

How I found it: This nonfiction account of the Troubles in Northern Ireland caught my eye when Rachel first reviewed it, but I hadn’t caught the nonfiction fever yet then. When it showed up again as one of her favorite books of the year so far in this excellent mid-year post, I was ready to add it immediately.

Why I added it: Other than loving¬†Milkman, I don’t know a lot about the Troubles. I don’t know where my sudden interest in nonfiction came from (and I warn you, it’s going to be a prevalent part of this post), but suddenly everything I don’t know much about seems like a great opportunity to read a book. I think I’m finally far enough out of college that learning is fun again.

Priority: Middling. My nonfiction queue is really getting to be quite full, but it’s available through my library so I’m hoping to check it out as soon as all of my current holds have come through.

25852784Evicted by Matthew Desmond (Pub: March 2016)

How I found it: I’ve seen this one around, but again didn’t realize I was interested in nonfiction until recently. Sarah’s enlightening review was all I needed to be convinced!

Why I added it: It feels like essential reading. Landlords are everywhere, and though I’ve never had trouble with them I do want to be informed about common-but-overlooked problems with living in the US.

Priority: Middling. This seems like something that I¬†should read, but as it’s already a couple of years old it doesn’t feel quite as urgent. It is available through my library, which helps.

42188604. sy475 In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (Pub: Nov. 2019)

How I found it: I came across this title in another fun mid-year post, this one from Hannah, and thought it sounded absolutely stunning. (The cover doesn’t hurt.)

Why I added it: I already have Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties on my TBR, and rarely add multiple books by the same author, but sometimes an exception is necessary. This memoir sounds different enough from the short story collection that even if I dislike one (which seems unlikely), I’ll probably remain interested in the other.

Priority: Low. Just because I think I might still read¬†Her Body and Other Parties first, and don’t have a set schedule.

94337Mindunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit by John Douglas and Mark Olshaker (Pub: 1995)

How I found it: I watched Netflix’s¬†Mindhunter series last month or so, which led me to pick up this author duo’s most recent release. I wish I would have read this book before watching/reading the others, but the way Ren @ What’s Nonfiction? described this one to me convinced me to give this one a chance, even if I am getting to it in the wrong order.

Why I added it: I wasn’t sure after¬†The Killer Across the Table whether I wanted to read any more of these authors’ books, but sometimes it’s difficult to gauge interest based on one book. I’m intrigued enough about FBI/serial killer interviews to want to give them another (better) chance.

Priority: Low at the moment, as I was planning to take a break from this subject matter after The Killer Across the¬†Table, but I’ll probably watch Mindhunter season 2 when it’s released in August, and may subsequently want to pick this up more urgently.

29916641. sy475 Dust Bath Revival by Marianne Kirby (Pub: Nov 2016)

How I found it: Melanie recommended this one to me as a good example of YA horror. Her review is certainly compelling!

Why I added it: At first I was uncertain because zombies are my least favorite monster, but it sounds like zombies are more background material here while community unrest and the challenge of surviving in a strange and hostile place may take precedence. And that does sound appealing!

Priority: Low. This sounds like it would be a great spooky October read, but I don’t yet have a copy and I do already have a ton of spooky October reads. But it’s only a novella, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to fit it in somewhere!

36739320. sy475 Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: On the BOTM site, as a nonfiction add-on for July.

Why I added it: I did not add this book to my July BOTM box, but was intrigued enough to add it to my TBR anyway. I studied linguistics a little in college (a very little), and thought I’d like to read about the ways that the Internet has changed how we write and speak. BOTM assures it is not a dull read.

Priority: Low. I didn’t purchase a copy through BOTM this month and my library doesn’t seem to be expecting to get this one either. I’m not excited enough to rush out and buy it, and I don’t know how else I’ll get my hands on it, so this one’s pretty up in the air right now.

36510722Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: I’ve seen this one around, but somehow never really ended up looking into it until it showed up as one of BOTM’s July selections.

Why I added it: It’s been a while since I’ve read historical fantasy, and jazz-age Myan mythology fantasy sounds absolutely divine.

Priority: Middling. I’ve got a couple of other fantasy reads to finish up before I’m ready to start another one, but I’ve gotten very excited for this one very quickly! I’ll pick it up as soon as I get to a fantasy lull.

42201421The Boy and Girl Who Broke the World by Amy Reed (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: Another add-on option through BOTM. Actually, I think BOTM is launching a separate-but-connected YA box, and this is one of the choices.

Why I added it: Amy Reed is another author that I already have on my TBR for another book-¬†The Nowhere Girls.¬†I made the exception again, basically just to keep this one on my radar for now. The BOTM description won me over even though the Goodreads description doesn’t wow me, but it looks just weird enough to fit my taste. It focuses on two “loner” teens, with some magical elements thrown in.

Priority: Low. Not sure if this will be up my alley or not. I’ll probably still want to read¬†Nowhere Girls first, even if I do decide to read this one.

33786693. sy475 No Visible Bruises: What We Don’t Know About Domestic Violence Can Kill Us by Rachel Louise Snyder (Pub: May 2019)

How I found it: I read Melanie’s fantastic review!

Why I added it: Like¬†Evicted, this sounds like necessary reading about the often-overlooked challenges some face every day. It’s a true crime nonfiction about a topic much more prevalent than serial killers, so I’m interested in checking out another side to that genre.

Priority: Middling. This is a newer release that I’m more immediately interested in, but as I’ve mentioned, my nonfiction queue (and my library holds list) is quite full. I’ll pick this up as soon as I can.

42201850The Need by Helen Phillips (Pub: July 2019)

How I found it: I saw this title in Hannah’s fun anticipated releases post.

Why I added it: This is a horror novel about a mother who’s home alone with her children, faced with an intruder “who knows far too much about her and her family.” After recently enjoying Melanie Golding’s¬†Little Darlings¬†(review coming soon!) I’m in the mood for another story about the potential horrors of motherhood. It sounds deliciously dark.

Priority: High. I’m in the mood for some spooks that don’t need to wait until October, and this sounds summer friendly.


After last week, when I realized I had only added four titles to my want-to-read shelf, this week has been a killer for my TBR! And I don’t mind it. It’s so odd for me to see that I’ve added 6 nonfiction titles in a single week, though. More than half of this list! My reading tastes are certainly changing. Fiction still has my heart, but I really need to make nonfiction a more permanent part of my reading life, as I seem to be much more interested in it than ever before.

Have you read any of these titles, or see any you recognize from your own TBR?


The Literary Elephant

TBR 7.19

I set myself a goal for 2019 in which I aim to read all of the new books I acquire by the end of the following month. Recently, I’ve considered abandoning this goal, because my TBR for each month includes more than just the previous month’s purchases and it’s been disheartening to never reach the goal. But upon reflection, keeping track of which new books I read or don’t read right away is helping in the two areas I most intended it to: I’m more likely to resist buying books that I want to read¬†eventually¬†instead of¬†immediately, and I am reading a higher percentage of unread books from my shelves, rather than ignoring my own books to borrow more from the library. Of course, I still buy books that I don’t end up reading immediately, and I still use the library, but I’ve decided to at least keep tracking this goal through the rest of the year even if I’m not sticking to it as closely as I’d hoped, because I do want to see my end stats and be able to set more realistic goals for next year.

So I’ll continue to post my book haul / TBR list for each month, but at the end I’ll include a list of what I think my reading for the month might actually include.

These are the new books added to my shelf throughout June:

  1. Daughters of Passion by Julia O’Faolain. This is a short story from the Faber Stories collection. It’s about an Irish woman on a hunger strike who loses track of what’s real and what’s not (as far as I recall). This is one of only 3 Faber Stories I still needed to complete my collection, but the other two are still too expensive.
  2. Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi, trans. by Marilyn Booth. This is the winner of this year’s Man Booker International prize, for literature translated into English. I believe this is a story about three sisters from Oman. I’ve heard mixed things, but I want to start making more of an effort to read current and past prize winners so I’m going to give it a try.
  3. Flight or Fright ed. by Stephen King and Bev Vincent.¬†This is a short story collection about the horrors of planes and flight, which is a topic one of my friends is very interested in and I’ve also become a bit attracted to by extension. I originally bought this for her birthday, and then found out she had unknowingly bought it for herself¬† right after so I’ll keep this copy and find a replacement gift. I’ll probably save this for a spooky fall read, if I get around to it this year at all.
  4. The Phantom of the Opera and Other Gothic Tales¬†by Gaston Leroux and others.¬†I bought this leather-bound classics edition on sale from Barnes and Noble. It’s 800 pages of relatively short Gothic stories from a variety of authors, some I know of and some that will be new to me. I’ve been wanting to buy this since it was added to the B&N classics collection last year, and ended up buying it this month just because I could get it at a good price. I’ll probably also save this one for fall.
  5. Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach.¬†I bought this from the same Barnes and Noble sale, a clean hardcover copy for only about $5. This book features a set of twins, one of whom is missing, and may be playing a game that only her sister can solve. This one’s been on my radar for a long time, and I finally decided to give it a go.
  6. Animals Eat Each Other by Elle Nash.¬†This book features a woman who enters a “three-way relationship” with another woman and his girlfriend, but essentially I believe it’s about a crisis of identity. It sounds really weird and highly intriguing, but my library doesn’t have a copy so I bought my own. I’m really excited to pick this one up!
  7. Recursion by Blake Crouch.¬†Here is my BOTM selection from June, which I’ve also been eyeing impatiently ever since it arrived, though I’ve been so busy trying to keep up with my June library books and my buddy read of Stephen King’s 1400+ page¬†The Stand that I haven’t had time to dive into yet. This is the new sci-fi thriller from the author of¬†Dark Matter, and it deals with memory. That’s all I know and all I want to know- I’m also really looking forward to this one!
  8. City of Omens by Dan Werb.¬†I chose this nonfiction about the deaths of women in Tijuana as a BOTM add-on in June. I’m trying to incorporate more nonfiction into my reading this summer (and beyond), so I picked this up just because it was a new release that caught my attention, and I’m looking forward to learning more.


Those are all of the new books I’ve acquired this month. I haven’t read a single one yet, and I’m not even going to pretend to expect that I’ll read them all in July. From this list, I’m most expecting to read¬†Daughters of Passion, Animals Eat Each Other,¬†and¬†Recursion.¬†I’m less certain about but still HOPING to also read¬†City of Omens, Celestial Bodies, and/or Dead Letters.

In addition, I’ll also have these library books for sure:¬†The Farm¬†by Joanne Ramos,¬†Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman,¬†Again, But Better by Christine Riccio,¬†A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing¬†by Eimear McBride, and¬†Bad Blood by John Carreyrou.

I should be finishing my buddy read of¬†The Stand within the first two weeks of the month also, which will feel like SUCH an accomplishment and will also free up a lot more reading time for me, though of course until it’s done it will still occupy a good portion of my reading time.

Last but not least, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction longlist will be announced on July 24, which I hope to be reading again this year (though in a more timely manner than I managed last year). I have no idea what the nominated titles will be or how available they will be to me, so I’m not sure I’ll get to any of these at the end of July, but it’s certainly a possibility.

And so, even though I’m tentatively planning to read more than 8 books this month, I’m sure they won’t be the 8 new books I picked up in June. Which is okay.

My June wrap-up will be up next week, featuring everything I read this month, and a look at how closely it followed my May book haul / June TBR.

Happy reading, all!


The Literary Elephant