WHAT I READ: January 2020

Historically, the month of January has always been a toss-up in terms of my reading habits. It seems I’m either slowly (and desperately) crawling my way out of a horrible reading slump caused by my attempts to cram in those last few reads before the start of the new year OR I’m extremely motivated and focused, knocking out book after book.

This year, I’m proud to report that I started 2020 off on the right foot, rounding out the month of January with a total of 14 books read.

Two-Star Reads

Dreams of 18 by Saffron A. Kent
Check out my Goodreads review here.

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Check out my Goodreads review here.

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Three-Star Reads

The Bet by Tara Crescent

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Four-Star Reads

Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me by Adrienne Brodeur
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Ask Again Yes by Mary Beth Keane
Check out my Goodreads review here.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
Check out my Goodreads review here.

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Fight or Flight by Samantha Young
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Five Star Reads

The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Credence by Penelope Douglas
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
Check out my Goodreads review here.

WHAT I READ: December 2019

December was just a tad chaotic but I managed to read seven books. Not my strongest reading month in terms of the number of books that I finished, but certainly a great reading month in terms of star-ratings.


Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas
I treated myself to an early Christmas present: re-reading Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas. This is my favorite forbidden, age-gap romance and just a super swoon-worthy book overall. I can’t wait for Penelope’s new book, Credence, coming out later this month on Kindle Unlimited.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book from a Goodreads giveaway and it definitely did not disappoint. This book is dark and hard to read, but extremely relevant and worth reading. Check out my full review here and make sure to grab a copy in March.

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon
It took me almost a month to get through this monstrosity, not because I wasn’t enjoying the story, but because of how dang long it was! I loved seeing Jamie and Claire’s reunion in this book and the start of their new adventure. I’ve already started Drums of Autumn and am super excited to carry on with the rest of the series.


The Wives by Tarryn Fisher
This was my Book of the Month pick and another one of my most-anticipated 2020 releases. It was definitely strange but super engaging and fast-paced. I’m excited to explore more of Tarryn Fisher’s work in the future.

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare
This choice was definitely heavily influenced by romance booktube. I kept seeing everyone reading this book and wanted to see what all of the hype was about. This was my first historical romance and I really enjoyed it! Such a cute story.

The Making of Outlander: The Official Guide to Seasons 1 & 2 by Tara Bennett
I picked this book up in preparation for the TV show’s return in a few short months, which I can’t wait for. It was really neat learning more about the production and how much work goes into character development, costume and set design, and filming locations.


The Guy on the Right by Kate Stewart
This book was just okay for me. Again, another book that was heavily influenced by its popularity on romance booktube, but something that just didn’t resonate with me unfortunately. It was a middle-of-the-road romance, nothing special but definitely not terrible. I just couldn’t connect with the characters.


Welcome to a new decade, y’all! Now that 2019 is behind us, I’m excited to share my thoughts on what I read – the good, the bad, and the ugly -with my Best & Worst Books of 2019.

This year was a pretty great reading year for me. I discovered some amazing books, books that are now on my list of all-time favorites. I also, unfortunately, discovered books that made me cringe, made me sigh with disappointment, and nearly thew me headfirst into a reading slump. Such is life when you’re an avid reader.

After a very rocky start, I managed to knock out 53 books in total this year, which is my new personal best, so cheers to that. I actually created a post recently detailing my specific reading stats for 2019, including ratings and a full list of every title I completed, which can be found here if you’re so curious.

Disclaimer: The opinions stated below are entirely my own. You may love the books that I disliked and dislike the books that I loved – that’s the beauty of reading! We all have different tastes, different thoughts, and different topics we gravitate toward. Please do not be swayed from picking up a book that I disliked if it’s something that interests you. Additionally, this is my list of best and worst books read in 2019. That does not mean that all of these books were published in 2019.


The Bromance Bookclub by Lyssa Kay Adams Y’all this book was so fun and fast-paced and just what I needed after my thriller binge around Halloween. It was so refreshing to read a story focused on a couple staying together and working on their relationship instead of forming it. All of the characters were endearing and charismatic, and the excerpts from the group’s historical romance novel spliced throughout the book were such a cute touch.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah A story of family and survival in the Alaskan Wilderness, The Great Alone was definitely difficult to read but impossible to put down. Kristin Hannah is the master of atmospheric settings and relationship building. Her novel, The Nightingale, is my favorite book of all time, so I will definitely be picking up any and everything she writes in the future.

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark I’ve been a huge fan of My Favorite Murder for years, so you bet I pre-ordered this baby as soon as I could. Karen and Georgia honestly feel like old friends. They’re candor, insight and humor are so appreciated and have a way of making you feel right at home. Or right at therapy? This book was everything that I wanted. While I read the physical version, I’ve heard nothing but good things about the audiobook which is actually narrated by Karen and Georgia.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager My favorite thriller of the year! In Lock Every Door, we follow Jules, a girl who’s down on her luck when she’s presented with an almost-too-good-to-be-true opportunity: getting paid to become a tenant in an infamous luxury apartment building. This book was super creepy and unsettling, and the writing was super vivid and fast-paced. My first Riley Sager, but definitely not my last!

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves My first five-star read of 2019! A story of survival and romance, we follow 30 year old Anna, a teacher, and 16 year old TJ, the student she will be tutoring for the summer. When their plane crashes, they become stranded on a remote island where they remain for almost 4 years. While this one seems a tad problematic, nothing happens in their relationship until TJ is 18. This was a super slow burn, high stakes romance that I couldn’t put down. Highly recommend!

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead I read many challenging books in 2019, but none more challenging than this one. The Nickel Boys is a fictional story rooted in reality and based on a grotesque, abusive reformatory school that operated in north Florida for over 100 years. Set in the early 1960s in a segregated Tallahassee, our main character, Elwood Curt, finds himself at the wrong place at the wrong time and is sent to the Nickel Academy, where he is subjected to awful, torturous horrors. A hard read but a necessary one.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell A thought-provoking conversation starter on abuse of power, consent, trauma, and the uber-relevant #MeToo movement, the book’s narrative switches back and forth between timelines; a vulnerable, 15-year-old Vanessa who’s being groomed for a sexual relationship with her English teacher, Mr. Strane, and present-day Vanessa, as she struggles with the aftermath of his abuse and manipulation. This is a very challenging, raw read but one that I highly recommend you pick up.

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren This book CHARMED me, y’all. The Unhoneymooners is the perfect summer romance and, I’d venture to say, my favorite Christina Lauren yet! We follow Ethan and Olive, enemies who end up on a honeymoon trip together after unfortunate circumstances. This is hate-to-love romance with a fake dating trope, which is my ~jam.~ The chemistry between these two characters was swoon-worthy and their banter was spot-on. Such a good beach read!


Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey This book DID NOT do it for me and I’m disappointed for so many reasons. I typically love a good fake dating trope and I also really enjoy a good “I’m in love with my brother’s best friend” story line. In theory, I should have enjoyed this book, but so many elements annoyed me to no end, especially the love interest, Travis. His excessive use of “baby girl” made me want to throw up and his cockiness was a major turn off for me. The illustrated cover was cute but the story was ugh.

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting On the note of cute covers, DON’T LET THIS ONE FOOL YOU. I went into this story expecting a fun, lighthearted romance, but the actual story was much more serious? Meet Cute is about Kaitlyn and Daxton, law school enemies who reconnect later in life and a second-chance romance ensues. This book had such potential and it was actually one of my most anticipated releases of 2019 (yikes), but the dialogue was cliche and cringey and I was unable to connect with any of the characters.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen I can’t quite put my finger on the specific reasons why I didn’t enjoy this book. Honestly, I was really bored and felt myself zoning out while listening to the audiobook. After perusing Goodreads, it looks like I’m the unpopular opinion on this one too so if the plot interests you in anyway, by all means, give it a go. I’m still planning on picking up their first novel, The Wife Between Us.

Elevation by Stephen King Another case of me getting bored and therefore not liking a book. I listened to this story via audiobook and felt very distracted throughout. The story line didn’t feel strong enough to keep my attention and even though the book was super short, I was ready for it to be over. 2019 was the year of me discovering that Stephen King is not for me.

A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson Okay, I blame myself for not paying attention to this book’s full title. An avid consumer of all things true crime, I was super intrigued to learn more about the BTK killer and the impacts his actions had on his family. I did not, however, expect this story to be so heavily focused on religion. I don’t want to knock her for turning to religion to cope and understand, however, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals by Rachel Hollis It’s no secret that Rachel Hollis is a bit controversial. She’s been accused of plagiarizing and she’s also been dinged for her privilege. All of that aside, I went into this book with an open mind and discovered that it just wasn’t for me. I’m not a huge fan of motivational self-help books to begin with, but Rachel’s guidance didn’t connect with me and honestly, a lot of her ideas seemed pretty common sense.


Reading Stats


  • Books Read: 53
  • Pages Read: 19,817


  • Fiction: 47 books
  • Non-Fiction: 6 books


  • Average Rating: 3.6 stars
  • 5-Star: 10 books
  • 4-Star: 17 books
  • 3-Star: 20 books
  • 2-Star: 6 books


  • New-To-Me Authors: 34
  • Repeat Authors: 8
  • Male Authors: 8
  • Female Authors: 44


  • Physical Book: 23
  • eBook: 20
  • Audiobook: 10


  • January: 2
  • February: 3
  • March: 3
  • April: 1
  • May: 0
  • June: 1
  • July: 4
  • August: 5
  • September: 9
  • October: 10
  • November: 9
  • December: 6

Books Read in 2019

#1. Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake

#2. Honeybee by Trista Mateer

#3. After by Anna Todd

#4. After We Collided by Anna Todd

#5. 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

#6. On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves

#7. The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting

#8. After We Fell by Anna Todd

#9. After Ever Happy by Anna Todd

#10. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

#11. Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals by Rachel Hollis

#12. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

#13. A Serial Killer’s Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson

#14. What You Did by Claire McGowan

#15. The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

#16. The Arrangement by Robyn Harding

#17. Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

#18. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

#19. The Outsider by Stephen King

#20. The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

#21. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

#22. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

#23. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

#24. Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

#25. Dating You/Hating You by Christina Lauren

#26. Punk 57 by Penelope Douglas

#27. Bully by Penelope Douglas

#28. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

#29. Tin Man by Sarah Winman

#30. Looker by Laura Sims

#31. The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

#32. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

#33. Elevation by Stephen King

#34. An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

#35. The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

#36. Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

#37. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

#38. Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

#39. The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

#40. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

#41. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

#42. The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

#43. American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan

#44. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

#45. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

#46. The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

#47. Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas

#48. The Guy on the Right by Kate Stewart

#49. My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

#50. The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

#51. The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

#52. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

#53. The Making of Outlander: The Official Guide to Seasons 1 &2 by Tara Bennett

WHAT I READ: November 2019

This time of year is always a killer for my reading plans. I always have the best intentions, but with the holidays and family time and just general end-of-year craziness, I don’t always accomplish everything that I set out to. That being said, I’m pretty proud of what I was able to knock out in the month of November. Check out my star ratings and reviews (if applicable) for the nine books I read last month below!


Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
Check out my Goodreads review here.

Birthday Girl by Penelope Douglas (re-read)
Check out my Goodreads review here.


Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo


The Silent Patient by Alex Michaledes
Check out my Goodreads review here.

American Predator: The Hunt for the Most Meticulous Serial Killer of the 21st Century by Maureen Callahan
Check out my Goodreads review here.


Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey
Check out my Goodreads review here.

WHAT I READ: October 2019

Well, hello there! It’s been a good, oh, I don’t know, 11 months since we last spoke? I’m riding this recent wave of inspiration, rolling up my sleeves, hopping back up on the horse, WHAT HAVE YOU, and bringing you my October 2019 reading round up.

October ended up being my most productive reading month of the year thus far. I managed to finish 10 books over the course of the month, mainly thrillers and misc. spooky stories. You just have to read those kinds of books in October, I don’t make the rules.

While it was my most productive reading month in terms of books finished, it definitely wasn’t my best reading month in terms of ratings. To summarize, I read two 5-star books, three 4-star books, four 3-star books, and a terrible Stephen King novella (?) that I rated 2-stars.

Since it’s now the middle of November, I don’t really have any thoughts regarding these books anymore, but I’m pledging to record my thoughts as I read for future books and blog posts!


The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

Synopsis: Alaska, 1974.Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed. For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if it means following him into the unknown

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

Synopsis: No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.


Looker by Laura Sims

Synopsis: In this taut and thrilling debut, an unraveling woman, unhappily childless and recently separated, becomes fixated on her neighbor—the actress. The unnamed narrator can’t help noticing with wry irony that, though she and the actress live just a few doors apart, a chasm of professional success and personal fulfillment lies between them. The actress, a celebrity with her face on the side of every bus, shares a gleaming brownstone with her handsome husband and their three adorable children, while the narrator, working in a dead-end job, lives in a run-down, three-story walk-up with her ex-husband’s cat.

When an interaction with the actress at the annual block party takes a disastrous turn, what began as an innocent preoccupation spirals quickly, and lethally, into a frightening and irretrievable madness. Searing and darkly witty, Looker is enormously entertaining—at once a propulsive Hitchcockian thriller and a fearlessly original portrait of the perils of envy.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Synopsis: When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

Synopsis: On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the centre of it.


Tin Man by Sarah Winman

Synopsis: This is almost a love story. Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first become friends, and for a long time it is just the two of them, cycling the streets of Oxford, teaching themselves how to swim, discovering poetry, and dodging the fists of an overbearing father. And then one day this closest of friendships grows into something more. But then we fast forward a decade or so, to find that Ellis is married to Annie, and Michael is nowhere in sight. Which leads to the question, what happened in the years between?This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that

The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay

Synopsis: Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.

One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”

Thus begins an unbearably tense, gripping tale of paranoia, sacrifice, apocalypse, and survival that escalates to a shattering conclusion, one in which the fate of a loving family and quite possibly all of humanity are entwined. The Cabin at the End of the World is a masterpiece of terror and suspense from the fantastically fertile imagination of Paul Tremblay. 

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Synopsis: Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking… and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone. 

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Synopsis: Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.


Elevation by Stephen King

Synopsis: Although Scott Carey doesn’t look any different, he’s been steadily losing weight. There are a couple of other odd things, too. He weighs the same in his clothes and out of them, no matter how heavy they are. Scott doesn’t want to be poked and prodded. He mostly just wants someone else to know, and he trusts Doctor Bob Ellis.

In the small town of Castle Rock, the setting of many of King’s most iconic stories, Scott is engaged in a low grade—but escalating—battle with the lesbians next door whose dog regularly drops his business on Scott’s lawn. One of the women is friendly; the other, cold as ice. Both are trying to launch a new restaurant, but the people of Castle Rock want no part of a gay married couple, and the place is in trouble. When Scott finally understands the prejudices they face–including his own—he tries to help. Unlikely alliances, the annual foot race, and the mystery of Scott’s affliction bring out the best in people who have indulged the worst in themselves and others.