Book Review : The Similars

  • THE BOOK: The Similars
  • THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Hanover ( instagram )
  • PIP! SAYS: 5/5 PAWS

Navigating high school is like navigating a mine field : you never know if the next step you are going to take is safe, and you never know when it’s all going to blow up. For Emmaline Chance it all blows up first day of junior year. Her boarding school, Darkwood, has just admitted 6 Similars: clones of six Darkwood students. One of the six cloned students is Emmaline’s best friend, Oliver. Only Oliver died during the summer. And on the first day of school Emmaline is faced with a new boy, Levi, wearing her best friend’s face.

Suddenly, junior year is infinitely more complicated. Grades and class rank pale in comparison to the big questions : why are the clones joining Darkwood? Should clones be equal citizens in the eyes of the school and law? Who are these kids, really?

REVIEW: I loved reading this book. I was all in from page one. About halfway through I rearranged my day so I didn’t have to stop reading. About 3/4 of the way through I slowed down my reading pace because I loved the story so much I wasn’t ready for it to end. (There will be a book 2! I cannot wait!)

The best part of this book for me is the way Hanover incorporates real world issues into this futuristic sci-fi book. She writes debates about Clones rights (including a required registry program). She writes about DNA and teenagers and identity. And those struggles are mirrored in the Similars (who long for an identity of their own) and the originals (who feel their identity has been stolen).

For me, I feel in love with this book on page 2, when Hanover writes about Emmaline’s grief over losing her best friend:

Within hours of my best friend’s death this summer, I had faced an onslaught of emotions so intolerable, I felt like a foreigner in my own mind. Grasping for some semblance of order, I began naming my different moods. Example: “A Zombie Just Ate My Body,” which is like being frostbitten and stun-gunned and about 94 percent dead inside. At least that one is bearable, unlike “Get That Serrated Knife Out of My Chest,” which is as painful as it sounds. I spend entire days walking around with the sensation that somebody stabbed me in the best and the knife is still inside.

pages 2-3

As someone who has struggled and failed to adequately coped with grief these words spoke to me. I know exactly what each of these moods feel like. I know what it is to live with that knife in my chest. Though our lives and realities are very different, I felt that I knew Emmaline, that I understood that part of her. And from that moment, I was fully invested in her story and her journey.

This is a beautiful, well written and fantastically paced book. The story moves at a fast pace – as Emmaline navigates her new world, she keeps asking questions, and as she starts searching for answers it becomes clear: this book is also a mystery. The reader is on the journey to the truth with Emmaline: just like she can’t stop looking for the answers, I could not stop reading. When I started this book I had no idea that I would be pulled into a story that had a thriller element – I love thrillers, and this book has a reveal that was as good as any I have ever read.

#unreadBOTMchallenge update 2

  • Number of unread BOTM books I started with : 11
  • Number of BOTM books I read: 2
  • Number of BOTM books I added:1 (Daisy Jones and the Six)
  • Total left to read:10
  • Net: -1
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  • 4 PAWS
  • Bookstagram made me do it. When this book was a featured book I passed on it … I thought it might be good but I wasn’t fully sold. And then I popped up everywhere on bookstagram and readers seemed to really love it.
  • Really interesting set up, totally shocking twist.
  • More to come as this is going to be a #thrillerthursday book.
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
  • 3.5 PAWS
  • This was a buddy read with a couple of fellow bookstagrammers. The best part of reading this book was our weekly book chat!
  • I really wanted to like this book but in the end, I felt it kind of missed the mark.

#thrillerthursday

When I first joined Bookstagram I was posting books I read – I originally intended it to be almost a log of books read. Day 1 I posted a YA Fantasy. Day 2 I posted a thriller. I have been told to pick a point of view or genre and stick to it. There is no way I could do that. I do not limit my reading to certain genres. I read it all. I want to talk about all of it.

I’ve been looking for a fun feature for Books With PIP!. A weekly theme that would give me a point of view while allowing me to read whatever I wanted. As I was writing my #bookhaul post I realized that I went into the #bookhaul looking for thrillers. While I do read it all, I go back to thrillers frequently. There are many that I have read and not yet posted about because I like the variety of books I highlight on Books With PIP!.

With that in mind, and because I like a good hashtag, I decided that the thriller books I love to read will have a home on #thrillerthursday. Every Thursday I will post a book review and if you want come into the comment section under the caption and we can discuss. I am also planning on recording videos for instastories (I’m a little camera shy so this makes me a little nervous.)

First up for #thrillerthursday is The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. I reviewed this book for the blog on Monday, please check out that post for more!

I’m excited that my love for a good thriller now has a home and purpose and that I have an excuse to keep collecting and reading thrillers!

#bookhaul & Book Buying Ban

Since organizing the unread bookcase, I have been thinking about doing a book buying ban. I kinda had a vague idea of giving up buying books for Lent. I was raised Catholic, and though it has been many years since I have truly practiced any religion, every year come Lent, I give something up (to varying degrees of success) and I do not eat meat on Fridays. This was all just in the planning phase (meaning I knew I should go on a book ban but I didn’t have any real plans to).

And then I found out about Barnes & Noble’s #bookhaul sale. Armed with a Christmas gift card I hit my local store. I bought 4 books (and didn’t buy about a dozen more). My local store did not have the book I went in to buy – so of course I hopped online where I bought 4 more (because free shipping).

  • Freefall by Jessical Barry (because I love thrillers)
  • Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (because I love time travel stories)
  • Dirty John by Christopher Goffard (because #murdermondaybookclub)
  • The Similars by Rebecca Hanover (because I love YA SciFi stories)
  • An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (because I love thrillers)
  • Red Alert by James Patterson (because NYPD RED is my favorite Patterson series)
  • Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte (because I love YA Fantasy stories)
  • Consumed by JR Ward (because I love mystery / romance / action stories)

Dirty John is the book I went to the #bookhaul sale to buy. Red Alert is the newest book in one of my favorite fun series to read (these books are like a reading vacation to me: fast paced and fun). I already owned The Wife Between Us and after talking about both books with a fellow bookstagrammer I was leaning toward reading them back to back so when I saw An Anonymous Girl was included in the sale I didn’t hesitate to add it to the pile.

The rest of the books I choose first because of the cover and then because of the synopsis in the flap. I am a sucker for a good cover. Sometimes when I look at the preview the story doesn’t catch with me. These books had both : a good cover and good story I want to read.

Now that I’ve added these 8! books to my TBR the book ban is in full effect. Two months (March and April) minimum. The rules: no books bought until I read 7 of these books (Dirty John is scheduled for a book club in the fall) or May 1 (if i finish the books before that I still have to wait until May 1). The progress so far: I already read An Anonymous Girl and I’m currently reading Four Dead Queens (a surprising second choice because this is the exact kind of book I love to buy and then not read).

I’m honestly excited about all of these books and I’m hoping this ban stops the vicious cycle of find a book, fall in love, buy the book. And before I can read it I find another book, I fall in love again, and I read it before all the other books I’ve found and loved.

Book Review: The Wife Between Us

  • THE BOOK: The Wife Between Us
  • THE AUTHORS: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
  • PIP SAYS!: 5/5 PAWS

It is, sadly, in fiction and in life, a cliched story: a man leaves his wife, for a younger woman. Boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, get married. Years pass. Man and women are no longer in love. Too much has happened. Too many disappointments. Maybe life hasn’t gone the way they hoped it would. Maybe the long hoped for child has never come. The woman stays, tries to do everything to make the man stay. The man leaves. The man moves on, finds a younger version of a woman who fits in his life. The woman is left with the scraps and pieces of a broken life.

In the opening chapters of The Wife Between Us this is the very story you think you are reading. Nellie is about to marry Richard. Vanessa was married to Richard. Nellie’s new life is in front of her, about to begin. Vanessa’s is crumbling without her marriage she has no idea how to live.

As a reader, I do not stay within one genre. My favorite books and kinds of books to read are usually phases. I will read a bunch of YA books or a bunch of cozy mysteries. Right now, I am deep in a Mystery / Thriller phase. When I’m asked why I read so many thrillers I always answer: “THE TWIST”. I love that moment when the author pulls off the twist and everything you think you know is turned around. I love to go back a few chapters and reread, looking for clues that I may have missed.

The Wife Between Us is an excellent thriller. It turns everything around: there isn’t just one twist at the end. There are several twists running through the entire book. Some that I guessed and some that I never saw coming. Nothing is wasted in Hendricks and Pekkanen’s writing. Every detail means something. It turns everything around : that cliche – man leaves wife for younger woman – even that lays the groundwork for a fantastic, twisted, thrilling plot.

This was one of the best thrillers I have ever read – fast paced and creative. I managed to read it in one day (and I do say this a lot – I am a total binge reader) but it was a feat for me considering how often I went back and reread passages and chapters looking for signs I missed. By the time I finished I felt like I already read it twice. It is still on my TBR shelf – I cannot wait to read it again.

What I Read in February

I went into this month with a really very overly ambitious TBR. I kinda thought that book blogging and Bookstagram would keep me going and I would get through this list because I wanted the satisfaction of having met my goals and being a bad ass constant reader. After hitting a wall mid month and throwing out my TBR I finished strong – reading everything I hoped I would – plus 2!

My final total for the month of February is 12! This brings me to 24 on the year and well on my way to my 2019 goal of 104. Here are the books I read in February 2019:

  • #YASERIESCHALLENGE2019 : ACOTAR Series by Sarah J. Maas
  • A Court of Mist and Fury (4 PAWS – a very long book and it was a fair few pages before I really got into it but once I did : I GOT INTO IT.)
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin (4.5 PAWS – I love this series but the one flaw that is in all of the books is they are really long and there are passages that probably could have been cut to streamline the plot)
  • A Court of Frost and Starlight (4 PAWS – This is more of a novella and it is meant to be a bridge between the original series and the next set of books. This was the book I really needed after ACOWAR – because while its not quite a “happily ever after” it’s a nice peek in to the lives of characters I really grew attached to.)
  • #unreadBOTMchallenge
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (3 PAWS : I read this for both this challenge and as a part of my first buddy read – I really wanted to like this book but it failed in it’s execution. It was meant to be Briseis’s story but like all Trojan War stories it ends up being about the men – specifically Achilles.)
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (3.5 PAWS : I read this once I caught up with all the reading I had to do – and I met my 2 BOTM books a month goal! I had really high expectations for this book, but like the Silence of the Girls, it failed somewhat in the execution. I did not like the narrator and I did not understand why he was so focused on trying to “help” Alicia. In the end the twist is shocking but I was not invested in the journey to get there.)
  • BOOK CLUB BOOKS:
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (pucksandpages# bookclub#) (4 PAWS: This book starts kind of slow and I was not really into it at first – I stuck with it because it was a book club pick and I am so glad I did because once the book got to the heart of its plot I could not put it down. I read this book in one night. The beginning may be slow but the middle and end are beautiful.)
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (pucksandpages# bookclub#) (3 PAWS: This book had all the right pieces : a book within a book, an homage to Agatha Christie and two mysteries. But neither mystery really every took flight and the twists in both were meant to be shocking, but to me they were not.)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling (pucksandpages# bookclub# HP Series Reread) (4 PAWS : This is the first book I am rereading – I joined the reread after it started – and it was absolute magic from day page one. Look for a full post on this one – but I will say this book reads like a great mystery complete with a few twists at the end.)
  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (#murdermondaybookclub hosted by @jennastopreading ) (3.5 PAWS : I wanted to love this book. It is the mystery that consumed Michelle McNamara’s final years. I am an experienced true crime reader and this book scared me to the point where I could not read it at night. The depth of the Golden State Killer’s crimes is astonishing . The sheer amount of information McNamara includes in this book is overwhelming. It’s an inconsistent read – which coupled with the fact that it is a terrifying subject made it hard for me to finish. In the end – I really wish McNamara had lived to see the GSK arrested and put behind bars.)
  • FUN READS:
  • Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand (3.5 PAWS : Part fantasy, part mystery, part coming of age. I wish there was a book like this when I was 11)
  • Winterspell by Claire Legrand (4.5 PAWS: Winterspell is what a retelling should be. It honors its roots while building a fantastic new world, new story, and new point of view)
  • Bared to You by Sylvia Day (3.5 PAWS : This was purely an indulgent, fun read. I finished all the books I wanted to / had to read and I was hoping to fit in one more and I thought this would be a fast, fun read.)

Book Review: Winterspell

  • THE BOOK: Winterspell
  • THE AUTHOR: Claire Legrand (instagram)
  • PIP SAYS!: 4.5 PAWS

I tend to read in phases, or binges. Since Thanksgiving I have mostly been reading thrillers – the fast paced nature of the plot along with the gripping sense of WHODUNIT is exactly the kind of reading I am enjoying these days. If I’m not reading a thriller, I am probably reading YA SCIFI/FANTASY. It’s long been one of my favorite genres (and one of my favorite kinds of books to buy – and sometimes read – but that’s a post for another time). I bought Claire Legrand’s most recent book, Furyborn, because of the cover. Often when a book catches my eye I will take a picture of the cover so I can add it to my TBR (it’s truly a never ending list). Occasionally, a cover will be so good, and the excerpt in the front of the jacket or the back of the book so interesting that I can’t just take a picture and move on. This is how I felt about Furyborn.

Because I am a binge reader I like to buy book series (please see this post to fully understand the extent of my love of series) or several books by the same author. One of the first “features” I did on Bookstagram was “Author Week”. I read and loved in a dark, dark wood by Ruth Ware and then read the three other books she has published.

After finishing Furyborn, I immediately turned to the internet to find out when book 2, Kingsbane, would be released (May 22: I CANNOT WAIT). I looked up her other titles and found that there were a few that sparked my interest. I ordered them from Amazon (because Prime) and dove right in.

Growing up I was not one for traditional fairytales. It’s not that I didn’t believe or didn’t want to believe. It’s almost ironic, that in a life filled with books, I preferred my fairytales animated. By the Walt Disney Company. I know that many of these movies from Cinderella to the Sleeping Beauty to the Little Mermaid are derived from classic fairytales. Even if you combine my love of a good happily ever after love story with my love of reading I still never sought to read the stories behind the movies I loved so much.

I am not very familiar with the Nutcracker story. I believe at some point in my childhood I may have seen the ballet. It is not a story I remember liking. I am only familiar with a few concepts: a girl named Clara, a nutcracker, and mice or rats. This did not deter me from wanting to read Winterspell, on the contrary, it made me want to read it more.

Clara Stole is the mayor’s daughter. With the passing of her mother many of her duties fell to her. She tries to be a mentor for her sister, she tries to care for her father. She makes public appearances on behalf of her father. She tries to help run the household. But even as she does all this she wants so much more. She trains, in secret with a man she calls Godfather, for a future that does not fully exist to her.

Not everything is as it seems. Her father, is merely a puppet. A group known as Concordia is in control of the strings. One fateful night Clara’s entire life and future are spun far from her control. And it culminates in a strange attack on her home and the kidnapping of her father. With her young sister’s fate in her hands she gives chase: she will rescue both her father and her sister though they are now separated by time, distance and magic.

Our stories say that when the human world was first made, not all of it fit. Pieces fell off the whole, like too much dough being stuffed into a small pan, and those bits dropped into cracks and were forgotten. Our stories, the oldest ones, the ones most people no longer remember, say that my country, Cane, is one of those forgotten places, hidden away in some cosmic pocket of existence, for the most part separated from the human world, but not entirely. Tenuous links connect the two worlds – like certain traveling songs, and hidden doorways and magic, if you’re able to use it.

page ix

I was pulled in from the very first words, these words. Magic will always be one of my favorite things from the literary and movie worlds (Cinderella and the Little Mermaid are still my top two Disney movies).

This book is journey through time : both the past and the future at the same time. Cane, the world where her father is taken to, exists in all times : in some ways it feels like 1890s of the original Nutcracker, in some ways it feels as modern as today.

Clara is a force to be reckoned with. She is not perfect. She is lost in her own life, and she struggles with trust and what she should believe in. But she loves her sister and her father and she believes she can save them both. This belief is what propels both Clara and the reader through the pages .

While reading this book, I found myself fully immersed in the magic of this story. This is what a retelling should be. It honors its roots while building a fantastic new world, new story, and new point of view.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: Reading Habits

I am a book lover. I don’t just mean that I love to read books: I love the actual book. I love the feel of a book in my hand. I love turning pages as I read. More often than not, I have picked out and bought a book because of its cover.

Do I try to take care of my books? Yes. But I am careful with them? No.

THE BAD: TBR books and recently read books live in stacks around my bedroom (every surface is basically book storage in loose organization: books I’ve read are together, and books I want to read are together). I pile the stacks high and if one topples, I just tend to start smaller stacks. I read in bed and oftentimes there is a book (or two) on the bed or under the pillow. I always have a book with me, and if I’m going to be away from home for any length of time (and there may be an opportunity to read) I throw the book in my bag. I’ve read books in the bath, and on the beach. The pages can get a little … damp, and sandy.

THE UGLY: When I read a hardcover book I never leave the dust jacket on. I take it off and it often ends up on a book stack … and then flattened if I forget it’s there and drop another book on the stack. Then there’s the worst crime of all: I forget to put the jacket back on the book. These books remain naked, with no jacket because I either lost, threw out or otherwise destroyed the jacket.

I almost never read a book sitting at a table or a desk. I like to read on my couch with a cat in my lap or in bed curled up under the blankets. Because of this …. I tend to break spines when I read. And finally, PIP! and Sam are both young and adventurous and interested in anything I am interested in. And by interested I mean they are jealous of things I give my attention to. They show their interest by … taking a good bite out of the book. More than a few of my books have tooth marks in them now.

PIP! loves to sink his teeth into a good book!

THE GOOD: I never, under any circumstance, EVER do the following: fold down a page to mark my place, highlight, underline or write in books. I like to read a clean page. I don’t eat while reading a book (so nothing spills on the pages) and I don’t use my books as door stops or paperweights or put them in any real danger.

These are just a few of my most loved, most read books.

I am a book lover. If you want to know what my favorite books are you just have to look at my shelves. My reading life story can be told just by looking at the books. Is the cover pristine, spine perfect? I haven’t read it yet. Does the book show signs of being read but is still in pretty good shape? I read it, and like it – but I don’t love it. I haven’t gone back to it. Is the spine fully broken? The pages looking rough around the edges? The cover coming away at the seams? Then you have found one of my favorite books. A book I have read many times. A book I have gone back to again and again, whether it’s to do a full reread or just to revisit a favorite scene or two. If you see a book like that in my home you don’t need to ask if I liked it … the book speaks for me.

February TBR Update

Where does the time go? I feel like I just posted my February TBR list yesterday. I said it from the start – my TBR was ambitious. I love reading, and I thought that willpower would get me through. But I did not account for a number of things including:

  • Having time to do anything but going to work and coming home and reading.

I’ve known since about mid January that the pace I was reading was not sustainable, but I was having such a great time I didn’t want to stop. When I finished the ACOTAR series all I wanted to do was immediately dive back in and reread books 2 and 3. But I knew that I did not have the time to do that. I had to keep pushing forward and reading books on my list. And then reading became a chore. And then I just stopped reading.

I admit I had a rough week and weekend. Yesterday, after a lot of thought, I decided to throw out the extensive must read TBR list I had and read the books I want to read. With a little under two weeks left in February I plan to read:

  • I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara (#murdermondaybookclub book – I really want to read this one)
  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz (bookclub# book – my pick- I love this book club. There’s just two of us – we read books and talk about hockey. #LETSGOPENS)
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (bookclub# book – her pick)
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (#unreadbotmchallenge buddy read – this is my first buddy read and I’m really enjoying the pace – we read a bit ever week then chat – and it crosses a BOTM book off the list!)

I’ve also returned to my old reading habits – reading more than one book at a time. I’ve been reading Silence of the Girls on and off all month – I read the chapters for the discussion and then I put it aside and go back to another book. Last night I indulged one of my favorite guilty pleasures: buy a new book, rush home and dive right in. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is a tremendous story – and it scared the daylights out of me. It is now my daytime only book. I went back to Magpie Murders so that I would be able to redirect my imagination to fiction and thus actually sleep.

I think I lost sight of why I joined bookstagram and why I started this blog. I love books. I love reading. I love to talk about and share books that I’ve loved (that’s a little legacy my Aunt Mary gave me). With this in mind, I am going to back to the start, diving back into books – and reading by mood. If I want to reread a book, I’m going to reread it. If I want to take a break and watch Hallmark or Hockey or the new football league I’m going to veg out in front of the TV.

I think one of the hardest things to do is learn how to balance your life. Find things you love and do them for the love of the thing. Cross things off your must do to do list. Laugh. Spend time with friends. Eat chocolate. Do the dishes. Make your bed. Binge watch a tv show. Read a good book.

Why am I sharing this? Social Media is a difficult place to navigate. It’s full of “best of” moments. We talk about our highs. We talk about the good things. And we compare ourselves to others. But we are more than just the best bits of ourselves. We are the bad days. And we are the days where we pick ourselves up, and say “I will try again”.

Happy Valentine’s Day

I am just going to say it: Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday. There’s no definitive history on which St. Valentine we are celebrating as St. Valentine’s day was likely another effort of early Christianity to turn Pagan Celebrations into Christian ones.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.


Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

from history.com

Perhaps we are celebrating a man who covertly performed marriage ceremonies for those who were not allowed to wed (and if that’s the case then today I will celebrate and honor all those for whom marriage equality is still a fight – those who have been told that their love is wrong and that their love is less than). Perhaps we are celebrating a doomed man who fell in love with a girl and just had to tell her.

I am celebrating Valentine’s Day reading a Romance Novel and baking chocolate cupcakes because anytime I celebrate anything books and chocolate are involved.

When doing research for this post I discovered that celebrating love in the name of Valentine goes back further in history than I knew. It became a holiday in the 5th Century : “Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400.”

The oldest surviving Valentine was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans in 1415. After being captured in the Battle of Agincourt he was sent to the Tower of London where he wrote the following poem to his wife, Bonne of Armagnac:

My very gentle Valentine,
Since for me you were born too soon,
And I for you was born too late.
God forgives him who has estranged
Me from you for the whole year.
I am already sick of love,
My very gentle Valentine.

history.com

I may not be a Valentine’s Day fan, and I might say things like “Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday”. But I think celebrating Love is more important than a one day celebration. We should celebrate all the love we have everyday. To my family and my friends I say : I love you. I love you more than I can say. My heart is full and my universe is better because I have you in my life.