What I Saw and How I Lied

What I Saw

What I Saw and How I Lied by Judy Blundell

Method of consumption: Paperback

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Evie Spooner, a young-for-her-age 15-year-old girl, is trying to navigate life as a teenager in post-WWII New York when her recently returned from the war step-father Joe decides it’s time for a family vacation.  Joe packs up his stepdaughter and his wife Beverly, and they head down to Palm Beach, Florida, where they befriend another couple and a young man named Peter Coleridge.

The sixsome spends a lot of time together, but it’s clear there’s some animosity between Joe and Peter.  It isn’t clear why.  This story is narrated by Evie as she falls in love for the first time, learns what it means to be an adult, and is forced to deal with tragedy.

I appreciated how well Judy Blundell drew me into the time and place of this novel.  I was transported back in time to Palm Beach in an era much different than what we know today.

I was immediately enticed by the story and the characters, but they all fell flat for me somewhere in the middle of the book.  Evie seemed to me a bit TOO young for her age, the adults were mostly unlikeable, and the story grew stale.  However, the book finished out strong and left me thinking about how all of their lives were affected by the events that played out.

I look forward to reading more Judy Blundell, especially her first adult novel, The High Season, which came out on May 22, but I think this just may not have been the book for me.

I was also lucky enough to join in on the Modern Mrs. Darcy book club chat with Judy Blundell, and boy is she wonderful!  She was so open and articulate, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her talk about both What I Saw and How I Lied and The High Season.

Purchase What I Saw and How I Lied on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Twisty Thrillers

I love to read a good twisty, creepy thrillers.  The kind that mess with your mind.  And lately, there have been no shortage of those for me!

Bring Me BackBring me Back by B.A. Paris

Method of Consumption: NetGalley on Kindle

Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Publication Date: June 19, 2018

 

I am a huge, huge fan of B.A. Paris.  She currently has two published novels: Behind Closed Doors and The Breakdown, both of which are amazing.  Her third novel is due for publication on June 19th, and I was lucky enough to score an advanced copy through NetGalley.

Ten years ago, Finn McQuaid and his girlfriend were on their way back to England from a skiing trip in France.  But when they stopped at a service station in France… Layla disappeared.

Finn has now settled into a normal life with his new fiancé, but suddenly clues start turning up to suggest that Layla may be back.  Finn must discover if it’s really Layla, or if someone is playing tricks on him and Ellen.

As with all of B.A. Paris’s novels, this one will keep you guessing until the end.  Even when you think you have it figured out, you’ll discover there are still more twists.  I was so into this book, I read it in a single sitting!

 

You.JPG

You by Caroline Kepnes
Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
narrated by Santino Fontana

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

You Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Hidden Bodies Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Audiobook Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You may be one of the creepiest books I’ve ever read, and I mean that in the best way possible!  Most of the novel is told in second person, in case that wasn’t clear from the title.  Listening to it as an audiobook certainly added an extra layer of creepiness.

Joe Goldberg seems like an average post-college aged guy who works in a New York City bookstore.  The thing is, he has become obsessed with Guinevere Beck and decides that the two of them will be together at any cost.

The book is narrated by Joe to Guinevere, whom he lovingly calls Beck.  He rigs encounters between the two of them that seem happenstance and allows a relationship to blossom in what appears to Beck to be a completely natural way.  However, as the readers, we know that there is nothing natural or happenstance about it.

I was as obsessed with this book as Joe was with Beck, and although I listened during a crazy week at work, I devoted every second of free time I had to this novel.  I also enjoyed the entertaining social commentary on today’s world played out through social media.

Immediately upon finishing You, I checked out the sequel Hidden Bodies from the library.  I won’t provide a synopsis for fear of giving anything away, but I will say that while it was a good book, it wasn’t quite as good as You.

What are your favorite twisty thrillers that mess with your mind?  Let me know in the comments!

The Love Actually of Books

How to Find Love in a Bookshop.jpg

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Method of consumption: Hardcover

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

 

WARNING: This book will make you want to open your own bookshop!

If you’re looking for a feel good novel that will leave you with a huge smile on your face, this is the book for you!!  I picked it up because I figured it would be a good Valentine’s Day read, but this one works at any time of year.

Upon her father’s deathbed, Emilia Nightingale promises him that she will carry on his legacy after he’s gone.  Julius opened Nightingale Books just after Emilia’s birth, 32 years before.  However, Emilia quickly realizes that owning and running a bookshop, though it may be her legacy and her dream, isn’t quite as easy as she thought.

As she embarks on her journey to keep Nightingale Books alive, she encounters a lovely cast of characters, who all work to help her along the way.  Each of them has their own set of obstacles to overcome, as they seek to find love and happiness in their lives.

As you can imagine, this book has many cheesy moments, but I was more than happy to forgive them, as I fell in love with each of the characters and made my way through Veronica Henry’s pretty prose.

This story reminded me of a bookish-themed Love Actually, with its intertwined stories and characters, overall theme of love, and a (partly) Christmas setting.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did!

 


Memorable Quotes

After all, a town without a bookshop was a town without a heart.

 

Back to the Beginning

Life After Life.jpg

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
narrated by Fenella Woolgar

Method of consumption: Audiobook, then Hardcover

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Audio Rating: DNF

My experience with this book was much like the main character’s life.  I finished it and then went right back to the beginning.  Allow me to explain…

As you know, I typically prefer to begin novels without much prior knowledge of them.  With this story, that was a mistake!  I began listening to the audiobook with no idea what I was getting myself into.  Characters kept dying and then re-appearing.  Time was jumping around.  I couldn’t grasp what was going on!

Luckily, this is a book I already own – I was reading it because it was on my unread shelf – so I was able to easily switch over to a physical copy about 3 hours in (which translated to approximately 160 pages).  I found my spot, flipped back a bit, and started up again.  I found that it was easier to follow, but I still couldn’t quite understand what was happening.  Apparently I had missed some key information in those first 3 hours of listening…

It turns out that the main character, Ursula Todd, is reincarnated back into the same life each time she dies.  And in each new life, she brings with her some prior knowledge (though not explicitly) from her previous lives.  It’s more like a feeling, an intuition, or déjà vu.  Luckily, my friend PJ had already read this book and was able to explain this to me.

Armed with this new knowledge, I powered through, though at 529 pages (that knocks out the “more than 500 pages” category on the Modern Mrs. Darcy reading challenge!), it was tough.  I felt like I’d never finish, but once I did, I didn’t want it to end!  So I flipped right back to the beginning, and started all over again.  Well, up to the point where I’d originally began.

This book is so nuanced and subtly brilliant, I feel there are things I still will not pick up on, unless I truly do at least one more reading of it.  Perhaps someday I will.  But for now, I am contented to sit back and marvel at the work of art that is Life After Life.


Memorable Quotes

‘Hmm,’ Sylvie said, reluctant to argue with such strongly held views.

One day, of course, all this would be consigned to that same history, even the mountains – sand, after all, was the future of rocks.

‘We’re just cogs in a machine really, aren’t we?’ Miss Fawcett said to her and Ursula said, ‘But remember, without the cog there is no machine.’

‘I loved him so much.  Love him so much.  I don’t know why I use the past tense.  It’s not as if love dies with the beloved.’

Lighter Reads

In between all the heavy books, I like to mix it up with a few lighter reads.  To me, those are books that don’t require too much thought or focus.  In between the 24 hour Bone Clocks audiobook, plus the expository Deep Work nonfiction, and the high school English favorite Dracula, I needed to add some light reads to the mix!

This month, it was also important to me that my light reads come from my unread shelf (i.e. books I already own but have not yet read).  If you are interested in learning more about the Unread Shelf Project, check out Whitney’s Instagram, or the #unreadshelfproject2018 hashtag.

An Inquiry Into Love and Death

An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James
narrated by Rosalyn Landor

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Audio Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

My sister-in-law originally turned me on to Simone St. James, and I’ve now read 5 of her 6 novels.  These haunting, almost cozy mysteries take place in early 20th century Britain, each with a new, strong female character and a different ghostly element, which is usually evident by the title.

An Inquiry into Love and Death follows Gillian Leigh to the seaside village of Rothewell, where she must investigate the mysterious death of her ghost-hunter uncle Toby, alongside a handsome Scotland Yard inspector named Drew Merriken.  (Side note: every time they said Drew’s last name, I couldn’t help but thing to myself, “‘Merica!”)

As you can imagine, ghost hunting and romance ensue.  This book was just what I needed for the time, but it wasn’t anything spectacular.  If you’re interested in reading Simone St. James, I’d start with Silence for the Dead (my favorite) or The Other Side of Midnight, both of which I rated 4 stars.

A Walk to Remember

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
narrated by Frank Muller

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Audio Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Confession: In high school, I was a huge Nicholas Sparks fan.  There, I said it!  And now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…

You probably all know A Walk to Remember from the movie featuring Mandy Moore in which she sings that really pretty song (that I may or may not still sing in my shower to this day).  This is one of those instances where the movie is actually better than the book!

It’s a sweet little high school love story between the extremely pious Jamie Sullivan (great name, right?!), daughter of the local Baptist minister, and bad boy Landon Carter, son of the local Congressman.  An unlikely romance, and yet true love always finds a way.

But in a Nicholas Sparks novel, things rarely end on a high note!  This is why I finally moved away from Nicholas Sparks; I discovered through other romance novelists that love stories mustn’t always end in tragedy!  Love can have a happy ending!  Unfortunately for Jamie and Landon, their happy ending is marred by death, but whose I will not say.  Read the book (or watch the movie) to find out!

Happy reading!

Two Novels for the Price of One

The Bone ClocksThe Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
narrated by Steven Crossley, Jessica Ball, Colin Mace, Laurel Lefkow, Anna Bentinck, & Leon Williams

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Bone Clocks is a supernatural sci-fi novel told in 6 parts, from the viewpoints of 5 different characters, about a group of humanistic beings who never age, and how their “lives” affect a group of mere mortals who fall into their paths.  Each of the 5 main characters is highly flawed, and yet when you hear things from their points of view, you find yourself empathizing with even the basest of individuals, a testament to David Mitchell’s excellent writing and character development.

But while I enjoyed getting to know each of the characters, something in the story fell flat for me.  The reader is left in the dark for much of the novel about how exactly this world works, until the fifth chapter when the answers are finally revealed.  And yet this was the chapter in which I found my attention wandering most.  I didn’t so much care about the world in which these people live, or the (super lame) battles they fight through, as I felt moved by their everyday struggles and encounters.

If David Mitchell had chosen to make this story a simple study of characters, more so than a supernatural saga, I think I would have enjoyed it more.

The Bone Clocks is a bit difficult to listen to because it seems to take place in our world, until something just slightly off happens, causing you to rewind and make sure you heard correctly.  Spoiler alert: you probably did!  Despite the novels oddities, each of the audiobook narrators did a superb job, and thus the audiobook gets 5 stars from me.

But I cannot finish this review without mentioning the random, apocalyptic final chapter that felt like it came from another book entirely.  While I typically enjoy apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, I did not feel this was the place for it.  Take it out and make it a story all on its own, and I’m in!  But the way it was written left me feeling like I got 2 novels for the price of one.

Memorable Quotes:

“Men marry women hoping they’ll never change.  Women marry men hoping they will.”

 

Not The Martian

The Martian

Artemis by Andy Weir
narrated by Rosario Dawson

Method of consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫
Audio Rating⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

I was SO excited to read this one that I apparently pre-ordered it on Audible and then, forgetting that, later purchased it as my Book of the Month in November.  My friend PJ, with whom I share an Audible library, also preordered the audiobook, so I was destined to read it one way or another!

This novel is written by Andy Weir, who you may know from writing a somewhat popular novel called The Martian.  It was also made into a slightly more popular movie, featuring a guy named Matt Damon.  No big deal though!

As you can imagine, my expectations for this novel were a bit high.  So let me give you a warning: If you enjoyed The Martian, DO NOT try to compare Artemis to it in any way.  The only ways they are similar are that they both take place off Earth, and they both have characters who run into bigger and badder problems, no matter how hard they try to fix things.  And… you know, some nerdy sciencey stuff.

Artemis is the name of the only city on Earth’s moon, inhabited by about 2500 people, including a young woman named Jazz Bashara.  Jazz smuggles banned goods from Earth to the Moon with the help of a childhood, Earthbound pen pal friend.

But one day Jazz discovers the workings of a Brazilian crime syndicate happening in her beloved home city, and she must work with her friends and a few powerful allies to take them down.  It’s safe to say she runs into a few obstacles along the way!

All the Genres in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Method of Consumption: Paperback

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

 

 

This novel transcends audiences and genres in a completely unexpected way, making me love it for its quirky randomness.  However, it is clear that my opinion is somewhat controversial, since the Goodreads rating for this book is only 3.57/5.0.  I read All the Birds in the Sky for a book club pick, and I went into it knowing absolutely nothing (as I usually like to do with my reads).

When the book first began, following the story of two young children, a witch named Patricia and Laurence, a computer nerd, I thought I was reading confused middle grade fiction that couldn’t decide if it was fantasy or sci-fi.  As the story progressed, and the two main characters grew, it became clear to me that this could not possibly be written for children, when elements of a sweet little love story (and a bit of bad language) shone through.  I decided it must belong in the young adult category.  Until… I started reading about themes and issues that young adults should not be reading.

There are certainly some serious undertones to this book, which will make you take a good look at our society, but the playfulness keeps it lighthearted too.  It takes a lot to make me laugh when reading, but there were parts of this novel I found genuinely hilarious, such as the two-second time machine that Laurence builds as a young teen.  A two-second time machine??  That’s the kind of thing you’ll find in this novel that is so ridiculous it’s funny.  In fact, chapter 4 may have been the most ridiculous chapter in any book I’ve ever read, and it had me laughing out loud at a strange and random character named Theodolphus Rose.

Charlie Jane Anders takes you on an outlandish journey through her twisted imagination, as you follow Laurence and Patricia into adulthood, where their worlds and genres collide.  As the earth is headed towards the apocalypse with its rapidly rising temperatures, Laurence is working on a machine to create a wormhole to another planet, while Patricia and her magical crew attempt to save the world in their own way.  Will science or nature, sci-fi or fantasy, win?

Memorable quotes:

“Weirdness is value neutral.”

“You know… no matter what you do, people are going to expect you to be someone you’re not.  But if you’re clever and lucky and work your butt off, then you get to be surrounded by people who expect you to be the person you wish you were.”

“Maybe you can’t make up your mind as easily,  if you feel too much.”

 

The Good House, a great book

The Good House

The Good House by Ann Leary
narrated by Mary Beth Hurt

Method of consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

At the heart of this beautiful tale is the heartbreaking story of Hildy Good’s struggle with the alcoholism she doesn’t believe she has, and how it affects those closest to her.  And yet, this small-town story is about so much more.

I hesitate to recap this one and risk giving away the elements you will enjoy discovering on your own, so I’ll say no more about the story itself.  But if you’re wondering whether to read this one, or listen to it on audio, do yourself a favor and download the audiobook.  Mary Beth Hurt’s performance is so perfect, she encapsulates the characters better than I possibly could have done with the voices in my head.

If you enjoyed Richard Russo’s Empire Falls or Nobody’s Fool, then I highly recommend this novel.  If you love books about small towns with flawed characters, this is the book for you.  And if you’re into unreliable narrators you can still root for, read this!

I will certainly be checking out a few of Ann Leary’s other works from the library soon!

Memorable quotes:

“Drunkalogue”: referring to the story one tells about one’s alcoholism in an Alcoholics Anonymous Meeting

A Lady Sherlock

A Study in Scarlet WomenA Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
narrated by Kate Reading (what an apt last name!)

Method of Consumption: Audiobook

Book Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Audio Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I was understandably skeptical about this one, as I am with most re-tellings. This wasn’t a true re-telling though as it changes a MAJOR aspect of the novel: namely, the existence of Sherlock Holmes.

This is a story about a woman in Victorian London named Charlotte Holmes with an aptitude for deduction. Unfortunately, as a woman in her day, she could not outwardly practice her detective skills, so with the help of a few friends, she assumes a secret identity called – you guessed it! – Sherlock Holmes.

There were two main storylines in this novel, which (I believe) eventually converged. (Admittedly, while listening to this book, I tuned it out from time to time.) The main murder case in this book was much more interesting to me than Charlotte’s escapades.

In summary, I think I would have enjoyed this book much more if it were just a murder mystery, without the Sherlock/Charlotte plot line.

Memorable quotes: none