Riley read up a storm last month, so she’s here to give you the scoop

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

2020 was a hard year for me, as I’m sure it was for most people. Needless to say, despite what I told myself in March, I faced a huge reading slump. Outside of school books, I read very, very, very little. Books just didn’t excite me the way that they used to. So when I say that I, as a full time high school IB Diploma student, read this 400 page book in two days, I need you to understand what that means.

After reading Salt to the Sea a few years ago, I knew of the talent that Sepetys had for spinning tales that not only taught me about the little known historical events and made me love the characters, but also made me feel for the characters. And here, she does it again. Before, I had known nothing about Franco. But now I feel as if I lived my past life during this time period. In most books, I feel like we understand what is happening. Which is great, don’t get me wrong. But in The Fountains of Silence I really was there. The grandeur of the Hilton, the sadness and strength in Vallecas. I kid you not, there was a minute I’m pretty sure I smelled Madrid. That’s how much I felt like I was there. 

Centered in Madrid in 1957, The Fountains of Silence follows Ana, a maid at the luxurious Hilton Hotel, and her family as they live under Franco’s intensely Catholic dictatorship. Additionally, it follows aspiring photographer Daniel, visiting with his wealthy oil family from Texas, as he explores his Spanish roots. Sepetys, in an unexpected but beautiful move, also includes primary sources throughout the book in reference to this time in history. As a student, this is something that I deeply respect and admire her for.

Perfect for all readers (but especially Sepetys fans and those looking for a little escapism) and set at a cornerstone in Franco’s dictatorship, this is a beautiful story about people and the connections we make.

The Speed of Falling Objects by Nancy Richardson Fischer

I will admit, this is not a book I’d usually go for. Nothing against the book of course, but I also have a respect-from-a-distance point of view about rainforests and a hunger for AC. However, I was extremely pleasantly surprised by this book. The life of the rainforest and the cast (pun intended) positively breathed through the pages.

Danny, who lost an eye from an accident as a child, has always had the mindset of “me” and “them”. Her dad, however, is a famous survivalist on TV. Not that they are close, to be clear. She hardly knows him. So when he invites her to come to his next episode, she gets excited. It’s a chance to prove to him she’s not all that fragile after the whole eye accident. But then she finds out that Gus Price, the teen celebrity of the decade, will be there too, ruining her dreams of daddy-daughter time.

And then their plane crashes in the middle of the Amazon. Needless to say, things are not good. Perfect for fans of Not If I Save You First or someone looking for something new and out of left field, this book is beautifully complex and a little wild. And makes me deeply, deeply appreciate my bed.

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

I am confident in saying that ghost stories are extremely underrated. Truly sad ghost stories, where it is impossible to distinguish what is real and what is fantastical and which you’d rather it be.

The only proof I need is this book. Written by an author with similar ties, How to Hang a Witch follows Sam and her stepmother as they move to Salem, Massachusetts where Sam has deep ancestral ties. She’s a distant descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the main prosecutors in the Salem Witch Trials. And it’s just her luck that a cliche that’s Mean Girls-esque in the best possible way are descendants of witches. Needless to say, they make fast enemies.

But not is all what it seems in Salem, and Sam finds this out quickly. Between the cruel Descendants group and a handsome ghost that is very territorial about her touching his stuff, Sam is in over her head. And little does she know what lurks in the woods…. A perfect mix of ghost story, fairy tale and a high school Mean Girls retelling, this book is perfect for fans of The Accident Season and for anyone feeling a little extra spooky.

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

As a teen from Texas who has never been to Alaska, this book cover alone appealed to the side of me that craves cold. I’m not going to lie, that’s why I picked it off the shelf. However, I stayed because this book is so so so delicious in the best possible way. Like a yummy piece of vanilla cupcake with a surprise ending in the form of a sprinkle center, I was h-o-o-k-e-d.

Childhood friends, Logan and Maddie used to be attached at the hip. The fact that their fathers were President of the United States and the President’s Security Guard respectively was a contributing factor. But when a security breach happens, Maddie and her father are sent to the Alaskan wilderness for safety concerns.

And then Maddie… never hears from Logan again…?

Until he is sent to Alaska to live with Maddie and her father, that is. Except now she’s tough as her pristine nails and they’re teenagers. She’s a wilderness babe, and when they’re under security threat they have to depend on each other to make it out of the woods in one, preferably non-frozen piece.

Juicy and with the best twist ending, this book is for anyone looking for a quick read that hits the spot. Especially for fans of The Speed of Falling Objects, the only other survivalist book I’ve ever read. Truly a very, very yummy, bite-sized cupcake.

Here Lies Daniel Tate by Cristin Terrill

I am a sucker for mysteries. I am guilty of exploring many Wikipedia rabbit holes. So there was something particularly enticing about this book that meant I could not say no. It was dark and twisty in the best way possible.

The main character (who never has a name), is a homeless runaway in Canada. And whenever the cold gets too much, he simply poses as a child and gets put in a group home. And in a last ditch emergency one time to save himself from being forced to get professional medical help, he claims he is a lost child from the US, opening a can of worms he was in no way prepared for.

Because he claims he’s Daniel Tate, the missing son of an incredibly rich but tortured California family.

Forced to become Daniel Tate until he can find out a way to escape, he plays a dangerous game of who to trust and who to blame. Soon he starts to ask himself: what happened to the real Daniel Tate?

Perfectly wrapped up in an almost Rebecca-esque package, this book is perfect for fans of whodunnits like Knives Out and Murder on the Orient Express, and makes you wonder: what is real and what is fake when your narrator is a con man?

Did I mention the *chefs kiss* plot twist ending??