Creepy, haunting, atmospheric

Little Darlings. Even the title is a little off-putting. A little too saccharine, it sounds like a phrase used to thinly veil something closer to contempt. The cover is dark and twisty; reminiscent of things growing and stretching. Reaching. Clawing. Long story short, I knew right away that I was in for a good scare.

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Little Darlings is the debut novel of Melanie Golding and holy crap, way to start off with a bang! This book tells the story of new mother Lauren who recently gave birth to twin boys. While still in the hospital, Lauren is visited by a ragged, frightening woman who threatens to take her boys if she leaves them for even a minute. She says she will switch them and Lauren will never know.

Obviously, Lauren is freaked out after this interaction, she tries to tell hospital personnel and nobody believes her. The video surveillance on the ward shows nobody coming or going and Lauren is treated as though this was a hallucination.

But Lauren knows what she saw. And knows that she has to keep her boys safe. Sleep-deprived, hormonal, and frightened, Lauren has to fight her way to the boys she knows to be hers.

Part dark fairy tale, part folklore, this book was creepy and atmospheric in the best way. It left me turning pages at a furious pace, questioning every detail, and not trusting any of the characters.

Assuming you haven’t had a baby recently (if you have, wait a year or two), you should get your hands on a copy of this one the next time you’re looking for a chilling page-turner!

Huge thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

This book is my wheelhouse.

I had been reading a lot of heavy fiction. A lot of books that, while great, didn’t exactly leave me in an upbeat place. I knew I needed to throw something light and fun into the mix and this was the perfect choice.

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Amy Byler is a single mother to two kids who doesn’t ever take time for herself. Three years ago, her husband left on a business trip and never came back. Although he has called and occasionally sends money, he has been absent in the kids lives. Now he’s back in town and wants to reconnect with his kids. Although hesitant, Amy agrees and is suddenly, unexpectedly, childless.

What ensues is a fun romp of a story with underpinnings set firmly in reality. As a mom who also works in a library, I loved the literary references and book nerdiness scattered throughout. Amy ends up finding herself during this summer away from parenting and soon has to reconcile these two halves of herself that have been separated for far too long.

Perfect light summer read, I look forward to seeing what this author does next.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summer Reading

It’s memorial day weekend. The unofficial start of the lazy days of summer. Except for most of us, those “lazy days” get busier than ever.

My oldest is finishing up Kindergarten.
My sister is getting married in Pennsylvania.
Weekend trips to New Hampshire.
Week long vacations in Maine.
An extra large vegetable garden needs tending.
Nine chickens, two children and a husband all expect to be fed every damn day.

These are all good things but it somehow means that downtime goes out the window. And with it, my reading life.

I’ve gotten pretty good  at creatively fitting it in where I can and last summer I managed an average of 8 books a month. Not my best, but respectable all the same. Here are a few tips to find the time, even in  your busiest seasons.

1. Audio. Audiobooks account for about 40% of the books I read. Sometimes a little more (summer) sometimes a little less (January) but it’s definitely a significant chunk. Most (if not all) libraries have a digital catalog that allows you to access titles straight from your smartphone. I am able to listen to my book while weeding the garden, doing the dishes, and driving my kids around and it has made a huge difference for me.
Note: be careful what you’re listening to with your kids in the car. Especially if you have kids that repeat everything they hear. I can tell you from experience that it can make for some… interesting conversations.

2. You may not like this one…turn off the TV. Around this time last year we instituted a “no TV during the week” policy and it has made such a difference. Not just in my reading life. The kids know not to ask on schools nights, eliminating the “can I watch somethinggggggg” whine that was the norm. My husband and I are both more productive during the evening and enjoy spending time together that isn’t just sitting next to each other on the couch. Plus, ya know, reading.

3. Have a dedicated reading space that you love. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. Mine is an old recliner in the corner of the shared playroom/office. It has good lighting, a place for a coffee mug, it’s comfortable, and it’s near a window (fresh air is my favorite thing and I like to have an open window near me whenever possible). It doesn’t have to be the only place you read (I read outside when the weather is good), but you should try to make it the only thing you do there.

As an aside, it will help  your reading life immensely if you truly read for pleasure and not pressure. Things like Goodreads challenges, long library hold lists, and receiving advanced copies of books are all things that have caused me to feel pressured into reading and  I just end up resenting it. It’s much easier and more fun to read whatever YOU feel like reading. You can always check out that library book again. The Goodreads police isn’t going to scold you for not meeting you 100 books a year goal. Just go where your reading heart takes you. That’s a thing right?

I’ve been putting together a short list of books that I’m excited to get my hands on this summer. Leaving plenty of room for my reading heart to lead me, but these are one’s I’m really excited about.

  • Lock Every Door by Riley Sager
  • Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane
  • The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
  • Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood
  • Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
  • With The Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

It’s a pretty diverse grouping which is exactly what I like. Jumping from genre to genre is one of the ways I combat reading slumps. There are so many more that I’m excited about but these are the few that I know I’ll prioritize.

What are you looking forward to reading these”lazy” days of summer? Drop a comment below!

The Scent Keeper

“Sadness, like the dark purple juice of a blackberry. Fear, like the metallic taste of an oncoming storm. Love, which smelled like nothing so much as fresh bread.”
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I’m going to be honest, when I first read the blurb for this book, I wasn’t into it. A book about smell? An odd choice to be sure, but original, so I took a shot.

Reminiscent of The Great Alone and Where the Crawdads Sing (two of my favorites from last year) the writing in this book was just beautiful. Lyrical, poetic, prose that you can just get lost in.

The Scent Keeper follows Emmeline, who, at the beginning of the book is living on a remote island with her father. Completely isolated from the rest of the world. They spend their days foraging and gardening, with the occasional mysterious delivery from the “mermaids”. When things take a turn and Emmeline is removed from the island and placed in the care of a loving couple, she is faced with a world completely foreign to her and is forced to grow up in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Unfortunately, the ending lost this book a star. There was so much more wrapping up that should have been done. I don’t need everything tied up perfectly with a bow but I do need some idea of what’s going on. I almost thought I got a misprinted copy of the book that was missing the last few chapters.

Overall, I really enjoyed it and am so pleased to have a copy to add to my personal library.

4 stars. Sincerest thanks to St. Martin’s Press for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review, it was such a pleasure. 

 

 

 

Daisy Jones and The Six

Back in January I read Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. It had been recommended to me enough times that I knew it would be good but I had no idea I would inhale it in a matter of hours and just. want. more. Who is this fabulous Evelyn Hugo person? Was she inspired by an actual person? Is it Ava Gardner??? Elizabeth Taylor??? I wanted to keep reading it forever.

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Pretty much all of the book world has heard the buzz surrounding her newest book, Daisy Jones & The Six and I was so excited to receive an advanced copy a few months ago. But then…I didn’t read it. You know that feeling where you’re SO excited to read a book that you almost don’t want to read it? Like the book couldn’t possibly live up to the level of excitement you have going into it? That was me with Daisy Jones.

 

I finally committed to doing a Daisy Jones buddy read in March and decided I would read it on a weekend trip to South Carolina that I had planned. I woke up at 3am and headed to the airport. As I settled into my window seat,  I was sure that I would read for 20 minutes and fall asleep embarrassingly with my mouth open. Instead, I read the first 250 pages on that plane ride…

 

Daisy Jones and The Six follows the meteoric rise of a rock and roll band in the 60s and 70s. The transcript format absolutely transports the reader, to the point where I refuse to believe these are not real people. Taylor Jenkins Reid’s storytelling is unparalleled and if Evelyn Hugo didn’t do it, Daisy Jones CERTAINLY made her a must read author for me.

 

First and foremost, THE MUSIC. It is devastating to me that I cannot just go on spotify and listen to these songs. The lyrics are lovely, the descriptions of the singing are haunting my dreams, and I’ve had Fleetwood Mac on 24/7 for days. Rumor has it that this book is being turned into a TV show and while I’m not that big on TV, I am THRILLED that someone is bringing these songs to life.

 

The women in this book are DYNAMITE. They are all so powerful, supportive, and unapologetic. They take no shit from anyone, including each other and I just loved the dynamic storytelling that took place in those relationships. Daisy and Camila were far and away my favorite – talk about some strong women.

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Content warnings abound in this novel of pure Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll. The addiction story lines in particular were extraordinarily well handled. Seeing the contrast between Daisy and Billy gives the reader a glimpse of both the truth about substance abuse as well as a look at the recovery and hope that is possible.

 

In conclusion, read this book. Read it now. For those of  your not sure you’re going to enjoy the interview format, I’ve heard from many people that the audiobook is phenomenal. When I decide to re read, I’ll be going for the Audio for sure.

 

HUGE thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

Watching You

Lisa Jewell is not a new author. She’s been around for quite some time with an impressive backlist to show for it. She’s been on the NYT bestseller list and is well known amongst those who read thrillers.

But.

This was MY first by her. I have several of her others on my TBR and I hear nothing but good things but I just never got around to reading her. It often feels like if you’ve read one thriller, you’ve read most thrillers. There are only so many ways you can spin this right?

Wrong.

38355282Lisa Jewell’s newest novel, Watching You, features a wide cast of characters and plays with perception in such a well done, subtle way that the reader truly never knows what’s coming next. And if you’re like me and you try to figure it all out as you read, there will still almost certainly be a few surprises.

Watching You is about a neighborhood. There’s the happily married couple who are pregnant with their first child, the broke newlyweds who are staying with family, the headmaster and his family, the single mom and her teenaged daughter. But things aren’t quite as they seem. There’s abuse, mental illness, stalking, infidelity, and ultimately…murder.

The reader is slowly given bits of information over the course of the book. Pieces that even the characters don’t all have at the same time. It’s a look at perspective and assumption. It does a great job of showing how you never really know the entirety of someone. Not your friends; not your neighbors; not your spouse.

Watching You was well written, superbly plotted, character-driven and unputdownable. Told in multiple viewpoints (my favorite) with police transcripts added throughout, this book is a smart and suspenseful slow burn that will have you furiously turning pages trying to figure everything out.

Available now wherever books are sold!

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

2018 Wrap Up

Here we are, the final few days of the year. I know everyone says this every year but…where did the time go?

2018 was a year of immense change and progress for me and my little family and it feels like we are worlds away from where we started the year.

I started working outside the home for the first time in several years.

My husband got a new job that he absolutely loves.

My kids were/are regularly watched by people other than me. And much to everyone’s surprise…we’re all better for it.

Audrey started Kindergarten; increasing the amount of paperwork in our household tenfold.

Eliza officially became a toddler, leaving babyhood behind.

And then, most unexpectedly of all, we moved to a new house in a new town with a new school.

It’s been stressful but wonderful in all the ways you want life to be.

It also happens to be the year that I got my groove back, reading-wise.

I was always an avid reader but in recent years it had taken a backseat and I closed out 2017 with the realization that I hadn’t even read 5 books that year. I used the usual excuse (motherhood, mainly) but the real culprit was Netflix.

Two weeks into 2018, I accepted the PERFECT job for me. I work 4 days a week at my local library as their Library Assistant of Technical Services and it has 100% turned my reading life around.

I set my Goodreads goal at 24 books. Figuring 2 books a month would be challenging but doable. I hit 24 before July.

So I upped my goal to 52, a book a week essentially. And the first week in October I finished my 52nd book of the year.

And now, less than a week before the end of the year, I am finishing up my 69th and 70th books (print and audio respectively).

I’ve set my sights on 100 books for 2019 and I have no doubt that goal is within my reach. Like bumping into an old friend and falling into that relationship like no time has passed, I have fallen back into reading and it feels just as good as I remember. I can’t wait to see what great reads 2019 has in store.

But before we talk about my most anticipated reads of 2019, I want to share my top ten reads of 2018.

10. The Mothers by Brit Bennett

mothersA PHENOMENAL debut novel. I was absolutely blown away by the writing. There were sentences that I re-read over and over again. The characters were all very real; endearing in their own ways but flawed to be sure. It’s honest, thoughtful, sad, funny, and smart.

 

 

9. Rust and Stardust by T. Greenwood

rust I’ve talked about this one here before so I won’t say much. Except that this book will break your heart. Repeatedly. In the best way possible. And you should read it.

 

 

 

 

8. And Now We Have Everything by Meaghan O’Connell

everythingSo many parts had me nodding along and laughing out loud. The writing is vulnerable, reflective, and a bit sarcastic. A book that any mother, probably any woman, would enjoy.

 

 

 

7. Educated by Tara Westover

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FAVORITE NONFICTION READ OF THE YEAR! Difficult to read, impossible to put down. The audio, in particular, was extremely well done.

 

 

 

 

6. The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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Favorite thriller of the year! An atmospheric page-turner that keeps you guessing until the very end.

 

 

 

 

5. Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

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Oh my heart! This was one of those books that you just have to hug after you finish reading it. Sweet, honest, and poignant. And best of all, leading characters who love books ❤

 

 

 

4. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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In true Jodi Picoult form, this book takes a difficult topic and looks at it from all angles. Even, or especially, the uncomfortable ones. So well done, so important. Brava Ms. Picoult!

 

 

 

3. Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

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Lisa Genova is my favorite author and everything she writes is gold.

Also, keep the tissues close.

 

 

 

2. All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

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This book is so timely and important. It’s a huge departure from Giffin’s past work and I’m so glad! I love her backlist for its quick and easy chick lit but this was so much deeper and more serious. In the best way.

 

 

 

  1. The Possible World by Liese O’Halloran Schwarz

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I haven’t heard anyone else mention this one. And I don’t understand why. It’s so original and moving. I could not put it down. Definitely my favorite read of 2018. Go read it! Go go go!

 

 

 

It has been such an amazing year of reading and I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings. There are already so many books that I’m excited to get my hands on. And a couple that I’ve already received advanced copies of! *excited squeal*

Here are the books I’m most excited for:

  1. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
  2. Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal
  3. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  4. Things you Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
  5. The Invited by Jennifer McMahon
  6. Keeping Lucy by T. Greenwood
  7. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler by Kelly Harms
  8. The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
  9. Women Talking by Miriam Toews
  10. The Au Pair by Emma Rous

Leave a comment with your favorite read of 2018! I’m always looking for my next great read.