I really enjoyed everything I read this month. I would have read more but have been slogging through the fifth ACOTAR book. Not because it’s bad but it was hard to get back into the series after taking a break! Fantasy isn’t really my genre… I like it for special occasions when I have the time to really spend hours reading, immersing myself into a new world. Once I left the faerie world, it was hard to get back. If I were doing it again, I would have just read all five books in a row instead of taking a break. I’ll have my thoughts on that book next month but this month, the best things I read were probably The Night She Disappeared and The Whispers. Both are very dark. I also loved Britney’s memoir, we talked more about it on my Substack, but it made me very sad.
Everything I Read in October 2023
Thrillers and Mysteries
Bright Young Women, by Jessica Knoll.
To be totally honest, this feels more like historical fiction than a thriller as it is so meticulously researched. I am lumping it in as thriller as that is what everyone else is doing. I will warn you, this is hard to read. It also really made me respect Jessica Knoll even more than I already did as the book was such an undertaking: I think it was likely a hard book to write.
The story imagines what life was like at the sorority house after Ted Bundy’s killing spree (while also tying in some of his earlier crimes). Pamela is the sorority house president: a rule follower, type-A, jokingly nicknamed Pam Perfect. Tina is openly gay, outspoken, and determined to figure out what happened to her missing friend Ruth. The book is told from the perspectives of both Pamela (when the book begins, it is a Saturday night in 1978: the sorority house murders take place) and Ruth, one of his earlier victims. The women meet on a chance encounter, and are bonded for life.
This started slowly for me but by the end, I could not put it down. I had been eager to see what Knoll would do next. I loved her first book and disliked the second. This one, I liked the best out of all three. Highly recommend. Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
Age of Vice, by Deepti Kapoor
I wasn’t really sure what to classify this but a lot of it reads like a crime thriller, so here we are. It is a longer book, and I LOVED the first half and only liked the second half. I believe it’s going to be a trilogy (and maybe a TV series), and think both things will translate well.
The book opens in New Delhi at 3am. There has been a horrible car crash, with several people dead. The car is a fancy one, but the driver is just a (shocked) servant, Ajay. The servant is sent to prison, but did he really commit the crime? We then go back in time and meet Ajay and see how he grew up, beginning in rural India, being sold into slavery, leaving that and ultimately working for a crime family. We meet Sunny (the young, wealthy playboy and Ajay’s boss) and also Neda (a young and talented journalist, who has seemingly fallen for Sunny). The book shifts through time and is told from the perspectives of Ajay, Neda, and Sunny.
I enjoyed the first half so much that I became attached to the book, unable to put it down. But the second half was… a lot. It goes a bit off the rails. I am curious to see what happens and if there are more books. Overall Score: A- // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
The Whispers, by Ashley Audrain
I will start with a warning; this one is DARK. There is a trigger warning for child abuse and a child being very badly harmed. There is also a TW for miscarriage and infertility. If you read Audrain’s debut novel (The Push), you know what I mean when I say that it is dark. Nothing is really off limits with Audrain. It isn’t scary, but it is disturbing. There were parts where I felt like my skin crawled a little. Not from being grossed out (it isn’t gory), just from actions made by some of the characters. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed it, I guess maybe I am a sicko, or like being shocked. This one is a page-turner for sure; I read it in a single Saturday.
Four families are changed when something completely unthinkable happens. Whitney is seen as the perfect working mother. Holding down a high powered job, staying in shape, a mom to three. And then there is a neighborhood party where she just loses it… exploding in anger at her disobedient son. Nine months later, her son has fallen out of his (third story) bedroom window and is in a coma. Whitney can do nothing but sit by his bed. We meet Whitney’s best friend Blair (who has a horrible habit of snooping), their older neighbor Mara, and the doctor Rebecca (who is also a neighbor). What happened to Xavier? How did he manage to fall out of the window?
The book explores so many themes: infidelity, jealousy between friends, and more. I could not put it down, and as with The Push, I gasped at the ending. Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
The Night She Disappeared, by Lisa Jewell
When it comes to thrillers, Lisa Jewell is such a treasure. Her books are always dark and twisty, I rarely guess the twists.. she is just the greatest! My TBR pile is huge but I’ve been thinking of reading her back catalogue. This one starts out where a young couple (new parents, Lula and Zach) goes missing after a night out that ended at her friend’s beautiful country estate known as Dark Place. The young woman’s mother is determined to figure out what happened to them but hits dead end after dead end. Even Zach’s mother is convinced that the two had just run off to escape their responsibilities. A year later, a young writer moves into a cottage at the edge of the woods. One day she stumbles upon a mysterious note that says “DIG HERE.” Is this a clue to what happened? What is buried?
This is a total page turner, I absolutely loved it and thought it was (as always, with Jewell’s books!) completely unputdownable. The sort of book that keeps you up at night reading… or thinking about the plot. Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
Extremely Online, by Taylor Lorenz
This had been one of my most anticipated fall reads and it delivered! If you are not familiar with Taylor Lorenz, she was the first journalist to make influencers. The book goes way back to the beginning of social media and influencer culture, all the way to Julia Allison, who Lorenz deemed “the first influencer.” She takes us through Youtube and mommy blogging and twitter through the rise of Instagram and then Music.ly (now Tik Tok). It is fast moving and covers a lot of ground. The book is well reported and less fluffy than a lot of other books about influencer culture; Lorenz’s background in journalism shines.
It also made me realize just how small my own little lifestyle blogger influencer niche is… there are SO many influencers, on SO many platforms, doing so many different things. It is pretty wild. I devoured it in just a few sittings and learned a lot… I’ve been recommending it to anyone who is an influencer, works in social media/influencer marketing, or just loves consuming influencer content! Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org
The Woman in Me, by Britney Spears
I came for the juicy stuff (and there is plenty of it, even with all the media spoilers) but stayed for the more gut wrenching bits. This is a very sad book, and a must-read if you ask me. It’s also very quick… you will easily finish it in a few hours. I cannot imagine enduring everything that Spears has gone through. To have every single person close to her have an ulterior motive. To have everyone (including her own parents) just take, take, take. Variety’s review (I read several reviews; this one is very good) describes the book as an explanation of how she survived the men in her life and I think that is very true. Her father, Justin, Kevin… the paparazzi (mostly men), late-night talk show hosts, creepy interviewers, a sexist media narrative, etc.
This is a woman who is/was so incredibly talented and has accomplished so much yet had to beg (publicly, in court!) for her freedom. (All the while living on a $2,000/month allowance as her parents took millions of dollars from her!). A woman who has been made the butt of countless jokes. (As Amy Odell puts it, “It’s hard not to feel guilty as a fan who followed her during this terrible time in her life through the sexist narrative the press made available to us.”). I think (at least I hope) that our society is slowly waking up to how horribly we have treated so many women over the years (Monica Lewinsky and Pamela Anderson stand out to me here as well). We still have a long way to go. Overall Score: A // Order on Amazon.com or Bookshop.org