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.

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.

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.

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.

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.