January 2019 Books to Read (and Skip)

January 2019 Books to Read

I’ve had a pretty good start to 2019 reading! But, it’s not what you’d normally expect from me. The books that worked for me were almost all brain candy and mysteries / thrillers! And, the two books that didn’t were both literary fiction…my usual go-to genre. I have no idea what’s going on with my reading, but I’m rolling with it.

Also, stay tuned for a Spoiler Discussion of An Anonymous Girl on Thursday!

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Read These

An Anonymous GirlAn Anonymous Girl by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: January 8, 2019)
375 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (St. Martin’s Press)

Plot Summary: Jessica Farris signs up for a supposedly anonymous study only to find that Dr. Shields (the psychiatrist conducting the study) seems to be able to get into her head in a much deeper way than she imagined.

My Thoughts: I have an incredibly finicky relationship with psychological thrillers. But, I think I’m starting to figure out one element that can make me like them: having part of the story told from the perspective of a psychologist or psychiatrist. I like to dig into people’s minds and have always had a weird fascination with the brains of serial killers. So, psychological thrillers that are heavier on the psychological and lighter on the thriller tend to work for me. An Anonymous Girl fits this bill. It’s less reliant on action and outlandish plot twists…the suspenseful question is not what will happen, but who can you trust? The beginning of the story sucked me in in a creepy, unsettling way. There was a “WTF is going on” vibe (What exactly is this study about? What does Dr. Shields want with Jess?) and Dr. Shields, the psychiatrist in this story, gives off a Herman Koch vibe (especially like Dear Mr. M and Summer House with Swimming Pool). This book is a giant mindf*ck!

It’s all so proper and precise and insane.

Talk to Me by John KenneyTalk to Meby John Kenney
Fiction – Brain Candy (Release Date: January 15, 2019)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (G.P. Putnam)

Plot Summary: When star news anchor Ted Grayson gets caught on video berating a female make-up artist, the media (including his own journalist daughter) attacks and Ted is forced to re-evaluate his entire life.

My Thoughts: Talk to Me is definitely Brain Candy, but it’s Brain Candy with substance (my very favorite type of Brain Candy). It’s a snarky story that’s ultimately about regret…taking place in today’s media world. Kenney’s commentary on today’s brand of journalism is spot-on and pokes fun at pretty much all parties involved. He skewers political correctness and those who don’t buy into political correctness, traditional news anchors and click-bait “news” websites…no one escapes unscathed. But, buried under all the snark is some actual heart. Ted’s struggle with his family (both wife and adult daughter) is sad, yet so common in today’s highly driven world. By the end, I felt bad for pretty much every character in the book (well, all except one side character). I also got a kick out of the quirky personalities in Ted’s newsroom…especially Murray, a Dwight Schrute-type who writes for Ted’s broadcast. My one complaint is that it dragged a bit through the third quarter. If you’re interested in stories about falls from grace, today’s media climate, and life regret, Talk to Me is for you.

How do you explain to people that after a while the money ($11 million a year) doesn’t matter, that houses don’t matter, the fame doesn’t matter? How do you explain to a nation that prizes those very things above almost all else? How do you say to your eight million viewers each evening, viewers who think you have a dream life, a dream wife, a perfect daughter, that you are a vapid, empty shell of a person with almost no real relationships and little to no integrity, that you’ve given up long ago on being a journalist?

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson WalkerThe Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Fiction – Literary (Release Date: January 15, 2019)
320 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Random House)

Plot Summary: A “sleeping sickness” (i.e. people fall asleep for long periods of time and have vivid dreams) befalls one floor of a college dorm in a small town in the California mountains (Santa Lora), but then begins to spread to the town, putting everyone on high alert.

My Thoughts: Many people raved about Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles, but I missed that one. I’ll definitely be going back to it, though, because I almost 5 star loved The Dreamers! It’s like a more literary version of Megan Abbott’s The Fever (which I loved). The Dreamers is not a thriller by any means, but it still had me on the edge of my seat with incredible tension and suspense. Walker did a fantastic job conveying the fear that an epidemic of a never-before-seen disease can cause…and it reminded me of the early days of the AIDS epidemic when the general public didn’t know how it was transmitted, etc. This is a novel about fear, hysteria, isolation, and human behavior in the face of those things. And, I love her writing style…it’s simple, yet incredibly compelling, and sets a just slightly mystical mood (which is about all the mystical I can tolerate). The Dreamers has been compared to Station Eleven (my review) and I’d say the epidemic portion of the book is somewhat similar, but overall The Dreamers shines on its own. My only small complaint (and what made me rate it 4.5 rather than 5 stars) was a somewhat anti-climactic ending. This one has a shot at making my Best Books of 2019 list! 

This town, these neighbors walking their dogs on the streets – this does not look like a place where a plague is right now unfolding. You can draw a lot of comfort from the normalcy of others – if this thing were really spreading, would the neighbors be raking their lawns? Would the mailman be delivering catalogues?

The Suspect by Fiona BartonThe Suspectby Fiona Barton
Fiction – Mystery / Thriller (Release Date: January 22, 2019)
416 Pages
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Berkley Books)

Plot Summary: When two British girls go missing while backpacking in Thailand, journalist Kate Waters tries to piece together what happened to them. 

My Thoughts: Fiona Barton is a popular mystery writer (The Child and The Widow), but this is the first time I’ve read her books. Y’all know mysteries aren’t my usual reading fare and this one didn’t blow my mind, but I solidly enjoyed it (which is more than I can usually say about mysteries!). It’s more police procedural than thriller and it doesn’t try to play “gotcha” with anything outlandish…which I appreciate in a mystery or thriller. It’s just a solid story untangling what went wrong when two girls go missing while backpacking in Thailand. It explores the dynamics of foreigners traveling in Thailand and the Thai government’s philosophy of handling incidents involving foreigners (i.e. try to avoid needing the Thai police if you’re a foreigner traveling there). It reads quickly and I was interested in how it was all going to come together. This is the third book in the Kate Waters series, but I didn’t feel lost at all jumping in without having read the first two books. A compelling mystery and a perfect palate cleanser.

Everyone wants to know the truth. Except those who don’t. Those who stand to lose by it. I know that now.

The DNF’s

Sugar Run by Mesha MarenSugar Run by Mesha Maren (January 8, 2019)
DNF at 18%
I was really excited about this one…the premise seemed right up my alley. But, I ended up feeling really disconnected from the characters and felt like too large a percentage of the writing described scenery and surroundings rather than focused on the characters.



Talent by Juliet LapidosTalent by Juliet Lapidos (January 22, 2019)
DNF at 8%
I know, a quick DNF. There was just a bit too much navel-gazing and entirely too much pontificating about Pop Tarts (yes, really). And, I heard from someone who actually finished it that the Pop Tart pontificating continues throughout the whole novel. 


What’s the best book you’ve read so far this month?

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January 2019 Books to Read


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  1. renee wrote:

    I”m with you on The Dreamers although you liked it a little more than me. An Anonymous wasn’t for me. I’m glad I passed on Sugar Run, I suspected that wasn’t one I’d enjoy and sounds like we were on the same page on that one!

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
  2. Susan wrote:

    Of all the books your recommend here I have only read one so far and it is the Anonymous Girl which, I am about done with. I have liked this book way better than their first one which is unusual since this is their sophomore effort. It will probably end up being a 4.5 star read from me since the last 20% or so seems to be dragging a tad. I will add “Talk To Me” and “The Suspect” to my tbr list.

    Have you checked out the books “Late In The Day” by Tessa Hadley and “The Weight Of A Piano” by Chris Cander? I saw these today in a list from Bookish that also highly recommended “The Dreamers”.

    Its funny as much as I love to read I also love to read about the different books others are reading and recommending.

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’ve heard about Late in the Day…mixed reviews. Haven’t heard of the other one!

      Posted 1.16.19 Reply
  3. Oooooh! I’m eager for that discussion post on Thursday, but I won’t be finished with the book yet. I don’t want the ending spoiled, so I’ll jump in on the weekend. (Hopefully I’ll be done by then!)

    Mysteries and thrillers have made up a lot of my reading this month, too and I’m enjoying them much more than usual. I agree that the psychological edge really helps. Did you read Wendy Walker’s first book, All Is Not Forgotten?

    My favorite so far this month has also been The Dreamers.

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I did! And didn’t overly love it, but did like the psychiatrist angle. LOVED her next book…Emma in the Night.

      Posted 1.16.19 Reply
  4. I’m anxious to get to The Suspect and An Anonymous Girl.

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
  5. Hahaha that Pop Tart book sounds ridiculous. I mean, they’re delicious but I don’t really want to read about them…

    I’m in the middle of I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella and I’m thrilled that it’s up to her usual fun, chick lit standards.

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
  6. Allison wrote:

    I just finished The Great Alone, for a while I wasn’t as into it as I was hoping but the ending sealed the deal for me and I’d give it 4 stars. I just started The Night Tiger, it was one of my Book of the Month picks, haven’t gotten far enough to make any judgements yet.

    My copy of The Dreamers also comes in today, so now I’m extra excited to start reading that!

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I’ll be interested to hear about Night Tiger…I researched it for my BOTM post, but haven’t heard much else about it!

      Posted 1.16.19 Reply
  7. Jan wrote:

    I loved The Dreamers and An Anonymous Girl but we differ on The Suspect. Even though I usually love dysfunctional family drama, I found this one to be a slog and skimmed much of it. I should have DNF’d as soon as I started to get annoyed.

    I downloaded Talk to Me from EW a few weeks ago and starting it today.

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      I hear ya – I don’t read a lot of police procedural mysteries, so it was a nice change of pace for me.

      Can’t wait to hear what you think of Talk to Me!

      Posted 1.16.19 Reply
  8. I read both of Fiona Barton’s earlier books and neither of them impressed me.

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
  9. SeaAnita wrote:

    I’ve read seven books so far this month. Of those seven, the one I enjoyed the most was Something In The Water by Catherine Steadman. My second favorite was Ghosted by Rosie Walsh. I haven’t heard of any on your list, but will check them out.

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
  10. Catherine wrote:

    Woo hoo! Do I get a positive go-to mark for recommending Talk to Me? I’m glad you liked it- I thought you would.

    My January has been good but not great since Talk to Me. It’s been my best book so far this month. I’m not the resource I thought I was for making good picks!

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      Oh yeah – and I haven’t heard it recommended by a single other person, so you get full credit!

      Posted 1.16.19 Reply
  11. There’s been so much hype around The Dreamers. I’m glad to see you enjoyed it!

    Posted 1.15.19 Reply
  12. Ha ha, there’s even a Pop Tart on the cover of the UK edition of Talent! (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42270153-talent) I think I might still give it a try, though.

    Posted 1.16.19 Reply
    • Sarah Dickinson wrote:

      No way – hahaha!! I can’t think of a more appropriate cover for that book based on the little of it I read!!

      Posted 1.16.19 Reply
  13. Steven wrote:

    Thanks for your reviews and recommendations. May I HIGHLY recommend you read “An Exaltation of Larks” by Suanne Lacquer. I have not read writing (and a story) this good in years. Follow this one by the follow up, “A Charm of Finches.” Lacquer’s writing is profoundly absorbing,

    Posted 1.16.19 Reply
  14. You will absolutely love The Widow and The Child by Barton – I really hope you get a chance to explore her backlist.

    Posted 1.20.19 Reply
  15. OOO I was already interested in The Dreamers, but you got me with that literary Megan Abbott line. I’ve also seen it compared to Station Eleven, which is one of my favorites! Looking forward to new Fiona Barton! I liked her last book, The Child a lot last year!

    Posted 1.21.19 Reply
  16. I heard you mention Sugar Run on your podcast, but it didn’t sound like it was for me. I guess it wasn’t for you either.

    Posted 1.22.19 Reply
  17. Genevieve wrote:

    I am really looking forward to reading An Anonymous Girl and The Dreamers. I am glad to hear that you like it. I really loved The Age of Miracles. Talk to Me looks good.

    Posted 1.22.19 Reply

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