Book Review: The 7 & 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

  • The Book: The 7 & 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
  • The Author: Stuart Turton
  • PIP! SAYS: 4 Paws

What would you do if you woke up in the woods one morning with no idea who you were or how you got there? And the first thing you think you see and hear is a woman in peril. Upon finding the house in the middle of the trees you discover that everyone knows who you are, and no one believes you.

Aiden Bishop wakes up on Day One in that exact situation. And then he wakes up on Day Two. In a different body. And then on Day Three, in a third.

“You were a doctor,” he says. “Then a butler, today, a playboy, tomorrow a banker. None of them is your real face, or your real personality. Those were stripped from you when you entered Blackheath, and they won’t be returned to you until you leave.”

“Somebody’s going to be murdered at the ball tonight. It won’t appear to be a murder, and so the murderer won’t be caught. Rectify that injustice and I’ll show you the way out.”

“If you don’t solve this problem by midnight in your final host, we’ll strip your memories and return you to the body of Doctor Bell and this will all begin again.”

pages 67/68/69

The Harcastle Family has invited a houseful of guests for their annual ball. Someone will die at that ball. And Aiden Bishop must solve that murder in order to gain his freedom. But it’s not as simple as that – he only knows what he can find out from manipulating the body of that day’s host. While some hosts are helpful, others are not. And each decision that he makes impacts the events and the actions of not only the other party guests but also of his other hosts.

Will Aiden Turner find the answers and win his freedom?

This was my very first “influenced by bookstagram” read. I saw about a dozen posts about this book and its very creative and different set up and narrative. It’s a mystery / thriller and that has been my genre of choice recently.

This is a detective mystery. As the reader I followed the clues and tried to piece the mystery together: who killed Evelyn Hardcastle. But this is also a thriller and the real mystery was so much more than that and the answer is so complex that it takes the efforts of eight different hosts for Aiden to find it. I admit I thought I had this one figured out … and not only was I wrong, I was missing the biggest piece.

I initially found it hard to get into the story …. it starts off slow and sluggish (exactly how Dr. Bell, the first host is feeling) and though I thought I knew what was supposed to be happening I felt lost – like I couldn’t find the plot. Once the work Aiden does within his hosts begins to pick up so does this book. The author weaves details through every chapter, every host, every decision Aiden as someone else makes. A few times I wanted to jump into the story to help him – at times Aiden’s journey seemed so much more important than solving the mystery.

This book has one narrator: Aiden. But with 8 different points of view. The entire book is a twist and a departure from the way typical mystery / detective books unfold and it makes for a very involved and fascinating read.

Although I finished this book in December, I have not shelved it yet … I definitely want to reread it – and take notes. I want to see what clues I missed and pay more attention to what Aiden says, does and sees each day in each host.

If you read or have read this book – come talk to me! I would love to know what you thought and what clues you found and what you might have missed.

Managing My TBR

I have always been a “mood” reader. I used to read two to three books at a time (I have pretty much stopped that since joining Bookstagram and writing about and reviewing books). When it comes to choosing which book I am going to start, or go back to, or finish it all comes down to mood – which book I want to read in that moment. This system worked for me for years between college and last fall when I had the worst reading slump and started about a dozen books that I DNF or quickly lost interest in.

Reading so many books in December and January was such a great experience that I gathered a really (overly) ambitious stack of books for my February TBR. I’ve known all month that in order to read all these books I would have read at a pace of three books per week and I would not be able to add a single book to this list.

Since starting Books With PIP! I have had more conversations about books with my friends than I ever have before. I love it. A friend of mine recently recommended a book to me – a book he has read and loved. The minute I got it I wanted to push it to the top of my TBR.

Me: I have so many books to read I could not possibly add one more.

700 page book I wasn’t planning on reading: Hold my beer.

With this in mind, and an unexpected day off (yay! snow day!) I have decided to read this book a little at a time in between my February TBR books – and if I have to stop reading it to finish my other books, it will still be there in March.

The Book Hangover

There is more than one kind of hangover. There’s the one where you go out with friends and having a lot of fun that night and no fun the next morning. There’s the one where you have a really deep and emotional conversation and you wake up the next morning feeling like you’ve been crying for days. And then there’s the one you experience when you finish an amazing book.

For me, there are three types of book hangovers:

THE THRILLER HANGOVER

When I finish a good thriller, if I didn’t see the twist coming, or if I guessed at parts of it, but its so good I am left completely shocked, I don’t even put the book down when I have turned the last page. I go back to the beginning and skim through, looking for clues and signs that I missed. The reason I read so many thrillers is because I love the moment when the pieces fall into place and the whole thing comes together in a big shocking moment. I also love rereading that moment once I have all the pieces and finding details that I missed.

I frequently read this books late into the night and way past my bedtime. And then I have to sleep with the light on.

Three of the best thrillers I have read lately (where I definitely went back because I had to figure out what I missed and see where the pieces were in the story and how it all fits) were:

  • in a dark, dark wood by Ruth Ware
  • (unreliable narrator with a head injury and lapses in memory!)
  • The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
  • (Old school friends hiding a dark secret!)
  • Believe Me by JP Delaney
  • (Master manipulator is the ultimate unreliable narrator!)

THE WHAT COMES NEXT HANGOVER

Sometimes I find a book with a beautifully written a story and fully realized dynamic characters that I completely invest in. I cannot get enough. I want time to simultaneously speed up (so I can find out how it ends) and slow down (so it never ends). When I get to the last page I’ve been known to stare at the final, blank page hoping that more words materialize and I get to know more: what happens in the “next” part of the story.

These are all YA books but the storytelling, the characters and their relationships are so compelling. All three of these books have upcoming sequels – and I may or may not be planning all day binge reads.

  • Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  • (one of my all time favorite books – Wayward Son out later this year!)
  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
  • (I loved this book so much I read it three times. In a row.)
  • Furyborn by Claire Legrand
  • (Features two main characters with alternate narration – one of my favorite narrative devices. I am totally going to reread this book right before book 2 comes out – May 21)

THE HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO GO ON NOW HANGOVER

This kind of book hangover is rare for me. A few years ago, I went on a weekend road trip with a good friend. We went to Maine in January and got snowed in. We spent the day in our little airbnb reading. I was reading fun books but my friend was finishing a big series that she loved. I remember when she finished the book. She staggered out of her room, grabbed a handful of string cheese and could barely find the words to talk about it. But I could see the love and wonder she had for those books all over her face. We spent that night eating a pot roast, drinking wine, and talking about our favorite books for hours. It was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on.

The first time I fell so completely in love with a book series was Harry Potter. I remember staying up through the night and well into the next day reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, just soaking up every word, everything that expanded this world that I wanted to live in more than anything. I have read this series, all 7 books in a row about 4 times now. I just started the 5th. I have read the individual books countless times. When life gets hard, or my heart gets broken, or I just need some comfort these are the books I reach for. And every time I open one I am back at Hogwarts with Harry and Hermione (my spirit animal) and Ron. And every time I finish one I mourn the fact that magic and Hogwarts are not real.

Last month I gathered and organized all the books I own, but have not read. One of my biggest reading bad habits is YA Series. I tend to buy them all and then not read any of them. This year that changes. I picked the ACOTAR series by Sarah J. Maas to kick off the challenge, because 1. it is so beloved on Bookstagram and 2. That’s the series that won the poll in my stories.

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses
  • A Court of Mist and Fury
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin
  • A Court of Frost and Starlight

To be completely honest, ACOTAR was a let down. But I am nothing if not stubborn, so I kept trucking and started ACOMAF . At some point in ACOMAF (I’m not saying what point, because #spoilers) it was like the heavens opened and I saw the light. The minute I finished ACOMAF I started ACOWAR. I was planning on finishing ACOWAR at some point last weekend. I was going to read for a bit on Friday, then I was going to Do Things. Instead, I spent ALL of Friday reading ACOMAF and the fourth book, the novella ACOFAS. The second half of ACOWAR was everything I love in a book. There was nothing else for me but reading that book. Every now and then I would emerge from the words and text a fellow book friend. I went on Instagram and posted a story asking anyone who read the book to message me so I could yell about it with someone. I spent the next day at work telling anyone who would listen how much I loved this series and how it’s been for me to return to the “real world”.

I have a very ambitious month of reading planned (that just got a little more ambitious, thank you 700 page book that I wasn’t planning on reading but has now jumped near the top of my TBR). I knew then and I know now that I have to dive into another book. But I’m not ready. So of course, I’ve returned to Harry Potter. HP3 is on this month’s TBR so two birds, one stone, I read a book I need to cross off my list and I get a helping hand back to reading other books.

Friday Favorites: February Playlist

Books are one of the great loves of my life. Another great love is music. I love the way a song can change your mood, can lift you up when you are down, can comfort you when nothing else can. I love the way music has moved through my life. I remember making mixtapes and then burning CDs: picking just the right song for the situation.

For me it makes sense that books and music go hand in hand. One of the things that makes a song for me, that makes a more than just music is the lyrics. I remember keeping a notebook of lyrics when I was in high school and my friends and I adding to it … with our favorite songs … songs that reminded us of the boy we liked or the song that made us feel better when that boy didn’t notice us or the perfect day we had on a road trip.

When I started thinking about what songs or artists I might talk about in a Friday Favorites I realized that I like with books there is so much music I want to share. So instead of sharing a song or an artist or an album here and there I decided that once a month I am going share a playlist complete with my favorite lyrics from some of the songs.

FEBRUARY PLAYLIST:

I’m just going to say it: Valentine’s Day is a made up holiday. I might not understand the point of Valentine’s Day or the history of the holiday (more on the next week) BUT I do love a good romance novel, romcom, Hallmark Movie and love song.

In celebration of this, the loviest of all months, here are some of my favorite love songs:

  • All You Need is Love, the Beatles
  • Make You Feel My Love, Adele
  • Can’t Help Falling in Love, Elvis / Kina Granis
  • Still Falling For You, Ellie Goulding
  • Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Queen
  • Kiss Me, Ed Sheeran
  • Photograph, Ed Sheeran
  • Neon Lights, Natasha Bedingfield
  • The One, Kodaline
  • I Get To Love You, Ruelle
  • I Choose You, Sarah Bareilles
  • The Book of Love, Peter Gabriel
  • Steady As We Go, Dave Matthews Band
  • Breathe, Faith Hill
  • Heartbeat, Carrie Underwood
  • Home, Vanessa Carlton
  • The Way You Look Tonight, Frank Sinatra
  • Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton
  • Crazy Love, Van Morrison
  • Maybe I’m Amazed, Paul McCartney
* Please note, these earphones weren’t connected*

Crazy Love, Van Morrison

I can hear her heart beat for a thousand miles / And the heaven’s open every time she smiles / And when I come to her that’s where I belong / Yet I’m running to her like a river’s song

Home, Vanessa Carlton

And even now / When I’m alone / I’ve always known / With you
I am home / For me it’s a glimpse / And a smile on your face / A touch of your hands / An honest embrace

I Choose You, Sarah Bareilles

My whole heart / Will be yours forever / This is a beautiful start / To a lifelong love letter / We are not perfect we’ll learn from our mistakes /
And as long as it takes I will prove my love to you

Make You Feel My Love, Adele (Bob Dylan cover)

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet / but I will never do you wrong / There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do / To make you feel my love

The One, Kodaline

You make my heart feel like its summer / When the rain is pouring down / You make my whole world feel so right when it’s wrong / That’s how I know you are the one / That’s why I know you are the one / When we are together you make me feel like my mind is free and my dreams are reachable

Neon Lights, Natasha Bedingfield

We got all the memories /So much more we can’t see / Better than our first kiss / Snow falling at Christmas / Like sleeping in on Sunday / Laughter we never faked / Bob Marley in Summer / One love for each other

Photograph, Ed Sheeran

Oh, you can fit me / Inside the necklace you got when you were sixteen / Next to your heartbeat where I should be

Steady As We Go, Dave Matthews Band

When the storm comes shelter me / I don’t say a word anymore and you know exactly what I mean  / In the darkest times you shine on me 

Still Falling For You, Ellie Goulding

And just like that / All I breathe / All I feel / You are all for me / No one can lift me, catch me the way that you do / I’m still falling for you

The Way You Look Tonight, Frank Sinatra

With each word your tenderness grows / Tearin’ my fear apart / And that laugh, wrinkles your nose / Touches my foolish heart

Wonderful Tonight, Eric Clapton

I feel wonderful because I see / The love light in your eyes / And the wonder of it all / Is that you just don’t realize how much I love you

#unreadBOTMchallenge

When I joined #bookstagram I joined a vibrant, fun community filled with readers just like me. I found readers that loved books from all genres, readers who were also cat lovers and readers who loved talking about books as much as they loved reading them.

I also discovered a group of readers (just like me) with a fairly large stack of books they bought, but had not read. I have never been able to pass up an opportunity to browse the bookshelves. I love it when my eye catches a beautiful cover. I love when I read the synopsis and know that I just have to read the story. Just like the thrill of wearing a new top or new pair of shoes, there is the thrill of rushing home from the bookshop and diving into a new book. For me, this often means that the books I own that need to be read fall lower and lower on my TBR.

One afternoon while scrolling through instagram I saw a post about Book Of the Month. I immediately knew the books in the picture were BOTM books by the logo at the top of the spine. In the caption the bookstagrammer admitted to owning a pile of BOTM books (just like me) that she had not read (just like me). She and a fellow bookstagrammer were hosting a challenge: #unreadBOTMchallenge. The idea was simple: gather up the unread BOTM books you have, snap a picture, set a goal, read the books, and report back on your progress.

My original #unreadBOTMstack. I received my January box after I took this picture.

Within the hour I posted my #unreadBOTMstack and by the end of January I had read two and set a goal of two BOTM books a month. I also set a goal that I would finish all my BOTM books by the end of the year, and that I would not buy more BOTM books until I read through about half of the stack.

My progress so far can best be described as win some / lose some:

  • WIN SOME: I met my goal in January, finishing two BOTM books:
  • No Exit by Taylor Adams
  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey
  • LOSE SOME: One of the February books is by one of my favorite authors, Jasper Fforde. I couldn’t resist so I added Early Riser to my Feburary box. Since I was already getting a box I added The Silent Patient because so many people read it and loved it in January. Then “Go Big or Go Home” kicked in and I added one more book:
  • Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  • TOTAL UNREAD BOTM BOOKS I STARTED WITH: 10
  • TOTAL UNREAD BOTM BOOKS I READ: 2
  • TOTAL BOTM BOOKS I ADDED: 3
  • TOTAL TO BE READ: 11
  • FEBRUARY TBR:
  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (my first buddy read!)
  • CURRENTLY PLANNING TO READ (this may change based on mood):
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
  • IF I HAVE TIME (this is almost guaranteed to change based on mood)
  • Goldenstate by Ben H. Winters

*I am not immediately planning on reading the Jasper Fforde book because I have a vague notion of rereading all of his books in April and May. This is still kinda TBD. Updates to come.*

Book Review: Damsel

I am afraid of The Dark. I can last roughly 7 seconds in a room without a light. I don’t know why this is. Nothing terrible has ever really happened to me in a dark room. Not that anything could because I am never in the dark. Walking any distance at night without street lights? I turn on my phone’s flashlight. Walking from room to room after dark? I turn on the light in the room I’m going to then go back to turn out lights I left on behind me. Sleeping in The Dark? NOPE. I have a lamp with a low wattage bulb that stays on all night. Power goes out? There is at least one flashlight in every room in my home.

I think my fear of the dark is entirely because of my VERY overactive imagination. I like TV and movies just fine. But for me, nothing compares to the adventure of reading a really good book. Taking the author’s words and painting an entire world filled with faraway, foreign lands and new people in my mind. Reading is and always has been my favorite journey.

One of my favorite book Genres is YA FANTASY / SCI FI / DYSTOPIAN FUTURE. I think its because my imagination gets to soar – imagining a universe with magic and fairies and dragons.

My biggest complaint about YA books (and to be honest, books in general) is how often women NEED a man to “complete” her or give her the “strength” to conquer what ever needs conquering. The YA FANTASY books that I tend to read all feature strong women who are warriors in their own right – but until they find “the one” there is something missing. The message seems to be : now that I have a man and a good relationship I can go slay the enemy. I want to say: GIRL YOU COULD HAVE SLAYED THEM BEFORE.

I am not knocking relationships. I love the happy ending. But there is a difference between Wanting a relationship and Needing one. I wonder if we should be teaching all young men and women that as great as relationships are you can be a warrior and be single. If we should be teaching them that they can win any battle on their own. If we should be teaching them that they are no damsel in distress. It’s one thing to have allies and teammates. It’s another thing to repeat the message: you can do anything once you have found the love of your life.

  • THE BOOK: Damsel
  • THE AUTHOR: Elena K. Arnold
  • PIP! SAYS: 5 Paws

And this is where the very excellent book, DAMSEL comes in.

When the King of Harding dies the prince must go through a trial to ascend to the throne: go on a quest, slay a dragon, rescue a damsel. Emory’s father is dead and his quest ends with a slain dragan and a damsel rescued: Ama.

Ama is a blank canvas. She remembers nothing before Emory rescued her. Not even her name. Emory does his best to paint his ideal picture on her, starting with her name. But deep within there is a fire in Ama’s heart. She is no one’s blank canvas. And she will stop at nothing to find out the truth of her past and who she really is.

He had said something like that before … You are my destiny, and I am yours … And a little flame in her spurted up – Do I have no say in this matter?

PAGE 61

This book is absolutely gorgeous – beautifully written and fast paced. I was drawn in from the first page: by Emory’s task and then by Ama’s quest. Ama proves her self to be more than Emory’s prize and in the process pulls off one of the best endings I have ever read.

New Years Readathon!

Happy Lunar New Year! According to the lunisolar Chinese calendar the Lunar New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice and for the Gregorian (the commonly used) calendar it is the New Moon between January 21 and February 20. It is a day to celebrate gods and family members that have come before us, as well as to spread well wishes of “good fortune or happiness, wealth and longevity”. (All information in this paragraph from wikipedia).

To celebrate Lunar New Year, I thought I would write a post about how I celebrated the calendar new year! I wish you all both a Happy 2019 and a Happy Lunar New Year!

I have a confession to make: Books with PIP! was a total surprise. One day instagram was a place for me to post pictures of my cats and occasional travels and the next I posted book reviews two days in a row. When I posted the first picture of PIP! with a book I knew I had found my thing.

Around the middle of December, I decided to plan out my reading for the rest of the month. After my very successful Thanksgiving readathon I decided I wanted to do another one to celebrate the end of 2018, beginning of 2019.

I picked out my New Year’s Day book right away: Believe Me by JP Delaney. I picked that book because it is a thriller (I can usually read a thriller in one sitting) and I had just read (and loved) Delaney’s first book, The Girl Before .

I had a harder time picking out a New Year’s Eve book until I discovered that the third book in the Icon Trilogy by Vanessa Fewings (which I had started a while back) was available.

I have another confession to make: after a friend gave me the 50 Shades books (because she read them and loved them and wanted me to read them and love them) (I didn’t) I kept on reading Romance Novels. They are usually quick and light hearted reads. There may be some drama and fights, but everything is usually resolved in a few chapters and everyone gets their happy ending.

I have a third confession to make: I love, LOVE Hallmark movies for these same reasons. And the 50 Shades movies – they are the rare case where I like the movies better than the books. The grammar is better.

And that is how I celebrated 2018 and rang in the new year: reading romance and triller books, watching the Hallmark Channel.

READATHON RECAP:

December 30: I realize that I need to reread books one and two of the Icon Trilogy, The Chase and The Game. I have a moment of panic when I realize that I will now have to read 3 books in two days to make my deadline, but I believe in myself and the power of my eyes. Also, I am stubborn. I finish book 1 and start book 2.

December 31: Here’s the biggest flaw in this reading plan. #ADULTING. I have an 8 hour shift at work. I finish book 2 before I go in. I am home by 930 pm and dive right back in. At this point I realize two things: 1. I am never going to finish book 3, the Prize, by midnight and 2. This is my challenge, my rules. I decide that if I finish the book by 3 am – which is technically still December 31 on the West Coast – it counts. I pause at about 1130 to take pictures of PIP! and Sam with a split of champagne (because #catladylife) and then I finish the Prize a little after two am.

  • BOOKS READ: The Game, The Chase, The Prize
  • THE AUTHOR: Vanessa Fewings
  • PIP! SAYS: 3.5 Paws for the Series

Tobias Wilder is many things. A billionaire Tech genius. A philianthropist. A museum owner. An art thief. Lara Leighton is also many things. The daughter of a renowned art collector. A forgery spotter. An investigator. He is Icon, an infamous art thief and she is a member of the team trying to catch him. As Lara chases Tobias from London to LA she is forced to face the truth: she is falling in love with a thief.

These books were just the thing I needed to end the year. When I ask myself “what do I want to be when I grow up” sometimes the answer is “Art Historian”. One of my favorite places in the world is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These books combine art appreciation, a little bit of mystery, a transcontinental chase and a bit of romance. At times I found myself frustrated with both Zara and Tobias, and more than once I wanted to reach into the pages to yell at them. The romance in these pages is steamy but even better is the mystery. What kept me turning pages was picking up the clues and pieces and fitting them together.

January 1: Happy New Year! This is day I’ve been waiting for. I have baked goods and junk food and an entire day in front of me with a new book to read. It’s glorious – I spend the day hanging out on the couch with Sam and my book and I eat approximately three slices of chocolate bread with peanut butter. I finish the book around 4pm. Then I get a really crazy thought: could I really finish ANOTHER book? I assess my TBR pile and decide to stick with thrillers. The Death of Mrs. Westaway it is. More chocolate bread and I finish the book at some point that night. I didn’t note the time because by that point my eyes were on full revolt and I went to bed and watched a Hallmark movie.

  • THE BOOK: Believe Me
  • THE AUTHOR: JP Delaney
  • PIP! SAYS: 4.5 Paws

I planned to read this book in one day, but actually, I read this book, cover to cover, without stopping. (Except for more tea and snacks). One of my favorite things in the book genre thriller is the unreliable narrator. It adds another layer to the mystery – figuring out what is really happening in the story (and not just what the narrator is telling you). This story is told by Claire Wright, acting student and struggling actor. When one of the less than reputable jobs she is forced to take to keep a roof over her head ends in murder she becomes entangled in a police investigation. Is she the trap or the target?

I thought I had this one figured out. I thought I knew what Claire was doing. Turns out, I was pulled into her story, exactly as she planned. Delaney and Claire executed this twist perfectly. And Claire turned out to be one of the most unreliable narrators I have ever read. After all, it does say LIE right there on the cover.

  • THE BOOK: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
  • THE AUTHOR: Ruth Ware
  • PIP SAYS!: 4 PAWS

When faced with the lowest moment in our lives who among us wouldn’t wish for something, anything to bring relief? Hal Westaway finds herself in a such a situation, money rapidly running out, with a debt that must be paid. She has no way of paying, no way out, and no hope when she receives a letter that her grandmother has dies and that she is a beneficiary. Except Hal’s grandmother died years ago, and the name of her mother in the letter is not the right name. But Hal is terrified and desperate. So she makes the journey to Trepassen to meet that family that is not really hers in the hope that she will find some relief.

What Hal finds is three uncles, two cousins, an angry housekeeper and a room that has bots on the outside of the door. She also finds that for her, there is no turning back: not from the house, or from the truth.

There is more than one mystery to be unravelled and the few crumbs that the author drops here and there were enough to keep me turning the page. However, this book is missing a sense of urgency that most thrillers have. This book reminded me of an Agatha Christy: the reader has most of the pieces but cannot fit them together. When Ware lays down the last piece is it a great twist to an intricate mystery.

TL; DR: I read 5 books in 3 days from December 30 to January 1. I loved spending a holiday with a book so much that I’m planning on reading a whole book on most major holidays! Next up: Valentine’s Day!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Breaking out of a Reading Slump

Anytime anyone asks me what I like to do in my free time or what my hobbies are my first answer is always reading. I also mention that I really enjoy movies, music, baking and dancing. But really, and truly my favorite way to spend an hour or two on a day off is on my couch, with my cats and a book.

My mother is a big fan of “Little House on the Prairie” and so she used the McGuffey Readers to teach me how to read when I was about 4 years old. For as long as I can remember books have always been my constant companion. I remember falling in love with Charlotte’s Web and A Wrinkle in Time and reading them over and over.

I find a weird joy in telling people who say “I don’t read much” or “I think I only read one book last year” that I read multiple books a week. The decor in my home revolves around my books. I regularly fall asleep reading a book. I keep two books in my car (paperbacks I have read) just in case I run into a situation and I need to pass sometime. Long line in the grocery store, costco, the bank? No problem, I’ve got the kindle app on my phone.

Last fall something terrible happened to me. I hit an absolute reading slump. For about two months I couldn’t get excited about reading. I couldn’t decide what book to read and when I would start a book I wouldn’t finish it. I spent a lot of time on my phone aimlessly surfing the internet or watching a ton of instagram stories.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. Last year was the second year I hosted and cooked for my family. That night, after loading the dishwasher, I made up my mind to try and read through some of the Book of the Month books I own but had not yet read. I pulled a couple off the shelf and paged through them, started two, changed my mind, and then started Lies She Told by Cate Holahan.

Once I started it, I could not put it down. At first I thought, let me read about 100 pages. Page 100 came and went and I was still reading. I did not put that book down until I was finished. I loved every word, but most of all, I loved the thrill of reading a good book, a book I did not want to put down, and finishing that book.

Over that weekend, I read three more books. And I’ve been back to my 2-3 books a week pace. I am spending next to no time on my phone, aimlessly surfing the internet. And the only time I spent on instagram is with Books with PIP!

  • THE BOOK: Lies She Told
  • THE AUTHOR: Cate Holahan
  • PIP! SAYS: 4.5 Paws

Imagine you had a month to write the book that would revive your failing career. What would you write about? How much of your life would find its way o the pages?

This is the exact situation Liza Cole finds herself in. Her personal life is crumbling around her. Her husband, consumed with a personal crisis, is less and less interested in Liza and the life she wants for them. Her professional life is in ruins, and she is forced to write a book on a tight deadline, a book that must meet all of her publisher’s requirements and turn her career around. The main character of this book is a woman named Beth.

Lies She Told tells both women’s stories in alternating chapters. Liza and Beth each narrate their own chapters. But Beth’s words are Liza’s. How much of Liza’s story has found its way into Beth’s?

This book is well plotted and well paced. I kept reading, page after page, because I was so invested in each woman’s story. Would Liza and her husband work things out? Would Liza be able to finish the book on time? What would Liza write next?

One of my favorite things about reading thrillers is paying attention to the details and trying to “figure out” what the big twist is. I was able to guess the twist in one part of the story. The other was such a shock I immediately went back into the book to see what I missed.

Both parts of the book are equally compelling and when I was finished I wanted to read more. More of Liza’s story and the rest of the book she is writing.

Friday Favorites & What I Read in January

Last Fall I was hit with a terrible reading slump. For the first time in my life reading did not bring me relaxation and happiness. I couldn’t decide what to read and I couldn’t finish anything once I started it. I finally broke out of the slump over Thanksgiving weekend when I read 4 books in 5 days. I rediscovered my love of thrillers and the “can’t stop till i know what happened” style of book was just what I needed. I was so excited about that and starting Books with PIP! that I kept up the pace throughout December. I ended the year reading 5 (yes FIVE!) books in 3 days between December 30 – January 1 (full post on that readathon to come!)

I didn’t start January or 2019 with an exact goal. I knew I was going to spend New Year’s Day reading – beyond that I kinda thought I’d aim for 2 books per week and see what happens. Turns out when presented with a goal I get kinda competitive (with myself) and I ended up reading. A lot.

My final total for the month of January is 12. (If you are counting books in the wreath, one of the books I read in December got mixed into my January pile when I photographed it to review it. Setting up the book wreath again with PIP! in time to get this post up would have been tricky). I probably could have read a 13th book but I decided to give myself a break from reading and watch Hallmark movies.

Here are all the books I read in January:

  • CHALLENGE & BOOK CLUB BOOKS:
  • Believe Me by JP Delaney (my New Year’s Day book)
  • The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware (the fourth and final book I read for #authorweek).
  • No Exit by Taylor Adams (#unreadBOTMchallenge)
  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey (#unreadBOTMchallenge)
  • A Court of Thrones and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (#YAserieschallenge2019 – book 1 – a head start for February)
  • the Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (bookclub# book – this was my pick. I chose it because 1. Galbraith is the pen name of JK Rowling and 2. I already owned it)
  • I DNF’ed – Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid (bookclub# book – this was my friend’s pick. I mentioned this book because I wanted to say: for me, I’m learning its ok to DNF a book. Also, because it was a book club book I wanted to mention what I did about that: I spoke with her when I was struggling to read this book and we came to an agreement and I DNF. I did read enough to justify my decision and then I went and read the last few chapters.)
  • FUN READS:
  • Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal (A spur of the moment decision – the most recent book was a 2 for 10 special at Barnes and Noble, so I decided to start with book one)
  • Watching You by Lisa Jewell (A book section at Costco find, I read it the day I bought it!)
  • Furyborn by Claire Legrand (This was 50% off at Barnes and Noble black Friday weekend and I bought it because I loved the cover and the synopsis in the front flap)
  • The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Harcastle by Stuart Turton (This was my first “I saw it on Bookstagram” book)
  • The Cat Who Sniffed Glue by Lillian Jackson Braun (Reread)
  • The Cat Who Robbed a Bank by Lillian Jackson Braun (Reread: I finished the month with these books because 1. I love them. 2. I pulled the whole series out for a blog post. 3. I had already met my “goal” for January and rereading these felt like taking a break from reading.

FRIDAY FAVORITE

So far this has been a weird weather winter. Last year was snowy and frigid … this year not so much. I am not complaining. I do not miss the frigid. Although I wouldn’t mind a good snowstorm (just ONE!).

Tomorrow is February 2nd: GROUNDHOG DAY! A nice groundhog in Punxsutawney, PA will be pulled from his home and will then tell us our future – early spring? more winter? It all depends on whether or not he sees his shadow. WILL HE SEE HIS SHADOW?

It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees a shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early.

wikipedia.com

To be honest, I do not understand what the correlation is between a groundhog seeing his shadow and when warmer temperatures will come to the northeast but that’s not the important part of this day. The best thing to come from Groundhog Day is this:

Bill Murray plays a weatherman from Pittsburgh, PA. This is the third year in a row he’s had to go to Punxsutawney to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities. Murray’s character, Phil, is feeling like a big fish in a small pond. He is restless and wants to further his career. He does not enjoy covering Groundhog Day and sees it as another chore in his boring job.

He goes to Punxsutawney with his new producer, Rita (played by Andie MacDowell) and his cameraman Larry (played by Chris Elliot). He records his segment, gets trapped by a snowstorm and then …. wakes up in Punxsutawney on February 2nd. Again. And again. And again.

Ok campers, rise and shine! and don’t forget your booties cause its COLD out there today …

Groundhog Day

This movie was released in 1993, and it is a little dated but the overall story and message are still sound: if you had an unlimited amount of do-overs what would you do again? What would you do different?

My February Reading List:

With one more day / night of reading to go in January my total is 12. I might try to fit in a quick read tonight or start one of the books on this list, but I also might give my poor eyes a break and watch a Hallmark movie. .

Until I gathered all of these books together, I didn’t quite realize HOW MANY books I planned to read in February, THE SHORTEST MONTH. As a book friend said “My reading eyes are bigger than my stomach.” Did I bite off more than I can chew? Probably. I am just stubborn enough to find a way to read all this books? Absolutely. Will I do anything other than read in my free time this month? Probably Not. It’s ok. Reading is my favorite way to spend my time, the football season is all but over, I can totally read while a Hallmark movie is on in the background and I prefer to cuddle up on my couch with my cats, a book and a blanket to going out in the cold and snow (or the heat and rain. Or any weather really. I’m an indoors girl).

I am a little nervous about this – since leaving college I have never planned my immediate TBR books like this. I usually have a book in mind that I want to / should read next. This is a full month of reading, planned in advance. My biggest worry is that I tend to read by mood (which is why I have so many unread books) and a new book always leaps over books I already own (which is why I have banned myself from buying books this month).

Ok. February. Let’s Do This:

#unreadBOTMchallenge:

  • The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker (buddy read / must read)
  • Goldenstate by Ben H. Winters (probably if I have time / might pick a different BOTM book)

#YASERIESCHALLENGE2019 :

  • ACOTAR by Sarah J. Maas.
  • A Court of Mist and Fury
  • A Court of Wings and Ruin
  • A Court of Frost and Starlight 
  • These are all must reads because I am determined to finish one YA series a month until I have read ALL the YA Series that I own. I read book one of this series in January, so ACOTAR it is for the first month of this challenge.

AUTHOR WEEK:

  • CLAIRE LEGRAND
  • Some Kind of Happiness
  • WinterSpell
  • Sawkill Girls
  • Also must reads. I really like the Author Week feature on my instagram. These books are the ones I am most excited to read!

BOOKCLUB#:

  • Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  • the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • This is my fun hockeyfriend# (we like a backwards hashtag 🙂 ) book club. We each pick a book and then we have a book chat at the end of the month.
  • She is doing a series reread of Harry Potter. I joined late so I will be starting at book 3. I am going to reread books 1-2 but given my ambitious TBR I most likely will read 3-7 then 1-2.

FUN READS:

  • Valentine’s Day Challenge: Continuing my celebrate a holiday by reading a book challenge (started on NYE / NYD) on Valentine’s Day I will be reading Love By the Book by Melissa Pimental
  • With 11-12 books scheduled TBR in February I probably don’t have time for anything else BUT I like to read by mood so there may be one or two spur of the moment reads added in or substituted.