Seasonal Book Slumps & My Lone September Read

Raise your hand if you’ve experienced a reading slump over the last month/few weeks?

*adamantly waves hand above my head*

For some reason, I noticed I wasn’t alone in feeling unmotivated to crack open my books and read daily. The majority of my bookstagram friends also mentioned this same overall feeling of despair when the subject turned to bookish relations.

So what is up with that? Is it a result of the seasonal change? The start of a new school year for those of you have cute little kids? Are all my fall/autumn lovers out their preoccupied with creating those ‘perfect aesthetics,’ in their homes and on their insta feeds?

I think it is a combination of those major seasonal/life events, and probably a host of other facts as well.

Because let’s face it, I have no children that vie for my attention. Well, unless of course you count my Reesie pup. And I know all you human rearing Mom’s probably just sighed heavily and eye rolled, but you just don’t know. She thinks she is a human baby, I swear.

Anyway, the point is, I started off this fall season with literal zero motivation to read. I think a lot of it had to do with my stress level & workload increase at work. My boss quit, so yay, my co-worker and I get to split managerial duties on top of all of our day to day stuff. So I think I have been running at full speed so much that it’s burning me out.

I mean, I can’t even tell you how many nights I went to bed at 8:00pm because it’s been nearly every night. This in turn, depresses me because what I really want to do are the things I really love in life like reading.

Not to mention, Emma and I are plowing through the Outlander series with our best friend bookclub. And boy, does it take work keeping pace with her on these. She was born for monster reads, it seems. I, on the other hand, need more variety to my reading schedule. Not that I don’t absolutely LOVE the series and LOVE reading them with her (Emma, don’t feel bad AT ALL if you’re reading this, this is my issue, not yours). Two DG books back to back has been a little much. I’m pretty sure I lifted my hands skyward and sang the Hallelujah chorus when she said she wanted a break between An Echo in the Bone and Written in My Hearts Blood.

So yeah, this month of September has been a total vicious cycle for me as far as goal setting and goal missing.

I am happy to report though that I did finish one (1) book this month! Yay, for seriously small victories! *does a little happy dance* And it was a NetGalley read, so I even felt a little more accomplished than I normally do. 🙂39864868

Nell and Lady tells the story of two girls, one white and one black being raised together against the backdrop of Charlestown, SC in the 1970s.

Some horrific act occurs on the night of Lady’s 16th birthday party that alters their lives and their friendship forever. It isn’t until their mother, Willa, is diagnosed with cancer that the two woman’s paths cross again decades later.

Both women are still nursing old wounds they’ve carried within them since that night while attempting to raise their teenage children to be better than themselves.

A tragic twist of fate makes them come to realize the true meaning of family.

I gave this book 2.5 stars. There were quite a few things about it that I just couldn’t get over or that just didn’t resonate well with me.

First of all, the author does make some bold moves to touch upon some major social issues that still pop up in our media today. She takes great care to also throw in some great references to modern day works that all of us in the bookish community and food lovers in general can appreciate. But the problem I had with her highlighting the issues of racism, sexual abuse, adopted families, and many more that I won’t bring up, is that she just touched upon them. They weren’t really explored as fully as they could have been in order to bring about better growth and understanding in these characters. I felt like I wanted more emotional depth as a result.

Another thing is the characters felt a bit stock-ish. Sure, they went through a transformation, but it wasn’t until the last couple of chapters. The main reason for their reconciliation in the synopsis is misleading. And I was surprised that an ailing parent wasn’t enough for these two girls to really get over the past, or at least hash it out, and then try to make the most of the time they had.

The dialogue also felt a bit awkward to me. It was overly formal and explanative at times, which made it sound either cheesy or just cringe worthy. After reflecting on this a bit, I think the author was trying to set a “southern tone,” but if that was the case, I wanted to be transported to the south. I didn’t feel a deep connection to the setting (merely mentioning landmarks in Charleston, to someone who has never been doesn’t really do much), and as a result, the dialogue didn’t always work for me.

Wow. I have been so overly negative in this review. So let me talk about some more things I did like about this.

I really did like that Ashley Farley took “the sins of the past,” and kind of replicated similar issues in the lives of Nell and Lady’s children. Booker and Regan’s story paralleled their mother’s a lot, which made for nice juxtaposition whenever the narrator shifted. Also the fact that they act as the catalyst for a lot of things in this story was a nice surprise that you didn’t get from the synopsis.

I also liked that Booker and Regan stayed strictly friends throughout this. I love an author who can create a male/female dynamic that is strictly platonic. Because hello, it can happen. Their relationship also reminded me a lot about one of my guy friend’s from high school, so I was really drawn to that.

Also, I read something in her acknowledgments that made me feel less bad about not loving this book. Farley took a moment to thank her editor by saying that she was appreciative for becoming a stronger writer from her efforts, but she also was glad she could still sound like herself. Anyone who writes for him or herself first deserves respect in my eyes. I thought to myself, good for her to staying true to herself and her writing.

All in all, I want to thank Lake Union Publishing for the opportunity to read this story. I never read anything in the southern genre before, although I have a quite a few books on my TBR shelf now. I hope this book does the author well. It seems like she has a good following and fan base to date.

Anyone else read Ashley Farley’s books before? Am I totally off base with my review here? How is everyone doing with their reading this fall? Let’s talk if you’re feeling slumpy or just coming out of one!

Until next time, book buds!

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In the Midnight Room

Another NetGalley read finished for the month!

This vacation week hasn’t just been all play and no work. Ok, so maybe it MOSTLY has been all play and no work. There’s just something relaxing about being able to stick your toes in the sand and unwind to the sounds and smells of the ocean while diving into a good book.

In the Midnight Room by Laura McBride was one I got through NetGalley, just because. I honestly didn’t expect when I signed up for the site to be approved for nearly every single read that I requested. It is a lot different than those near impossible Goodreads Giveaways. Seriously has anyone out there won one of those?

But anyone, this one had the earliest pub date (which I missed by about a week) so I went for it. And this one was pretty good.

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Three women from different decades with diverse backgrounds find their lives intersecting in unexpected ways. All set against the backdrop of Las Vegas and the up’s and down’s that encompass this area.

We first meet June, a free spirited woman who left a small town in Jersey for the bright lights and excitement of Las Vegas in the 1960s. June’s story was intriguing given her aversion to segregation in the casino she ran with her husband. She was a trailblazer, someone who truly didn’t care what people thought of her differing opinions. I found her sections the most enjoyable to read and got through those ones the quickest.

Following June we meet Honorita, a Filipino mail order bride, who ended up striking it rich in America. Her story was tinged with sadness, but her stony exterior made it hard to feel a deep connection to her. Still, I was glad for how things ended for her.

We also have Coral, who isn’t mentioned in the original synopsis, but she has a critical role in the story. I honestly thought her character was more deeply explored than our third protagonist, Engracia. I really enjoyed her familial relations and the scenes she had with her siblings and then nieces and nephews.

And then there was Engracia. While we understand why Engracia was the way she was or acted the did, there was a lot lacking with her character. For as much time as McBride spent flushing out the other three characters, I felt like Engracia’s story was rushed and left the most holes in the plot. I wanted to know more about her.

All in all, McBride created interesting and diverse characters with realistic problems and brought them together in both unexpected and expected ways. Not only do her characters and their lives draw you in, but In the Midnight Room, also touched upon a lot of important issues in America’s history. Alluding to critical events during the Civil Rights movement, and then turning it into a personal struggle for a couple of our primary characters. In addition to racism, this book also mentioned immigration issues, particularly those surrounding sex trafficking and illegal immigration.

The writing wasn’t lush with descriptions, leaving the reader room to interpret scenes to their liking. The style didn’t show much, but rather told the reader about a lot of things the characters experienced. It was also a little introspective at times, jumping back and forward in time. Everything had purpose and meaning and came together in the end, but there were a couple of things that could have been edited out.

The pacing was a little slow at times, but there were moments of suspense that made me want to plow through multiple chapters at a time. I thought this was a solid 3 star read, and I would recommend it if you’re looking for a female oriented drama that spanned several decades and included characters with diverse backgrounds.

What is everyone else reading to close out their summers? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time bookworms!

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Best Friend Book Club Update!

(feat. Emma & Lynn)

As some of you know, my bookish (and Belgian) best friend Emma and myself began a little book club of our own to stay in touch in spite of the thousands of miles of ocean and six hour time zone between us. Last year, we started with The Fiery Cross from the Outlander series (side note: Emma spent the entire previous summer reading books 2-4. Seriously, I have no idea how she read all those pages to be honest, 1 of these books easily takes me two months). Then we moved onto The Book Thief to quench our thirst for a historical fiction. And we just finished up the next book in the Outlander Series: A Breath of Snow & Ashes.

10965I have to say, A Breath of Snow & Ashes is probably my favorite Outlander book since the third installment, Voyager. It was jammed packed with action and adventure, along with the usual familial drama that descends upon Fraser’s Ridge. I gave it a solid 4 star rating.

As long as it was, I didn’t often feel like it dragged on and on for decades of my life.

*cough*The Fiery Cross*coughcough* I’m looking at you *coughcough*.

Sure, sometimes I feel like some of themes and tropes utilized are a bit repetitive from time to time. I believe I wallowed, “Another abduction?” at Emma with an eye roll emoji. But for the most part, DG (our nickname Diana Gabaldon) does everything for a reason.

As Emma says, if someone doesn’t die in front of your eyes while reading, they will come back sooner or later. Which is good because I am all about a story with purpose in it.

Anyway, as featured in my Booktubeathon Results post, I shared summary pages from my bullet journal of the different books I read.

This one is a little different because it is apart of the best friend book club reading series. In this one, I decided to include some quotes that Emma and I shared with one another as we read on. I really thought this was a cute idea to commemorate this experience and to set these books apart from the other ones we might be reading. So I thought it made sense to share this with you all, since this is a key component to my blogging experience. Please be advised that some of the language might be strong (I probably gave her my terrible swearing habit), so if that is something that offends you feel free to look away.

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Also, I feel like it is some kind of unwritten rule of bullet journaling that washi tape will somehow save all the mistakes you make. But hey, this one actually fit the cover the title so I thought why not take advantage of that?

Our third read for the best friend book club was a success (but honestly I wouldn’t expect anything less from us)! Usually we decide to break between Outlander books because they are so cumbersome and time consuming. But due to the nature of how A Breath of Snow and Ashes ends, we’ve decided to jump right into book seven, An Echo in the Bone.

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Emma’s beautiful cover is featured here because mine is just a plain, boring lime green one. Let’s just take a minute to appreciate the gorgeous cover above.

As far as other reads this month, I’m not entirely sure I will get to them. I go on vacation starting Friday, so I might just want to take it a bit easy and continue on with this one. But I promised my Mum I would give her my copy of Crazy Rich Asians to read on the beach, so that one might also get read. I also planned to bring along my BOTM pick: Goodbye, Paris. We shall see what happens, but for now I am content with starting my fourth best friend book club read!

What is everyone else out there reading? Any other Outlander fans? Let’s connect! Emma and I love fangirling with new people! 

Until next time bookworms!

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The Last Booktubeathon Read

In my post from yesterday, I mentioned that I read 3.5 books. But I only wrote about the 3 that I completely finished in my previous post, so I thought it was fitting to give the same courtesy to the book that fell between booktubeaton and my August reads.

Brace yourself readers, this one has some beautifully aching quotes that are worth mentioning.

Also, ignore the clumsiness of this page. I was covering up bleeding pen marks with the tape, and then my gold pen bled through and created kind of a sloppy look, prompting me to switch to the orange and yeah. This one definitely isn’t A-quality for artistic talent.

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It was happened when I came across the last quote that I realized this, THIS is why the book is titled Tin Man. One of our poor protag’s (Michael/Mikey) is metaphorically “the tin man,” from The Wizard of Oz. And our title and all the themes wrapped inside of it is an allusion to this single character from another work.

(Look at me now English teachers from years past! Remembering all those literary devices and their functions, aren’t you proud? Ok, so admittedly I didn’t remember what an allusion was, but I did remember that there was a word that fit the definition. So half credit? 😉 Seriously feel free to ignore this aside here haha.)

Upon picking up this book, I knew there would be a friendship turned into a forbidden romance just from the sleeve jacket. And admittedly this thematic element is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine. I just feel like friendships can be really complex. Especially now that sexuality is (mostly) openly accepted as being a fluid thing. So the idea of purely loving and romantically loving a friend can be blurred.

Maybe this is wrong that I romanticize this, and I apologize if it offends anyone out there. But trust me, it’s not just this type of relationship I romanticize. I romanticize ALL complex relationships. I have since I was sixteen. (Flashback to the early days of Grey’s Anatomy and my favorite character was Addison Montgomery–adulterer and ‘villain,’ almost. And yes, I wanted to her ). Yeah, so no discrimination here.

But their complicated friendship aside, this book was beautifully written. There isn’t proper punctuation with the dialogue, so there were moments of did this person say this or think this or…? And I think that was part of what made this story flow so well.

The first part of the book is a little jumpy with the narration. Our other protag, Ellis, thinks both of his life in the present and also his childhood and there are allusions to the years before his marriage that are a little murky. But if you can hang in for that part of it, Michael’s section answers any questions and illuminates any confusion you might have previously experienced. And boy is Michael’s part of the tale heartbreaking.

I didn’t cry. In fact, it is so rare for a book to make me cry, but I felt my heart ache at this one. Definitely a solid 5 star read (yes, I changed my mind after writing this review lol). Definitely a strong recommendation to all my bookish friends who like complex relationships that both break and bind our hearts.

Any of my other followers read this one? Love it? Like it? Dislike it? Let’s talk about it! 

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Ruth Ware, Everywhere!

I am SO excited to talk about Ruth Ware’s latest novel: The Death of Mrs. Westaway!!

But first, I wanted to share something a little personal with you all.

Ware’s books are really special to me because my one aunt, the one who has always fostered and supported my love of reading and writing, introduced me to them!

Two years ago for my birthday, I was living in a pretty dingy, dirty apartment. I felt depressed more often than not, and really craved anything that would either literally or mentally transport me to another place.

I don’t know if she ever knew that or not, but she definitely made a point to talk to me about books, my writing projects, and everything that kept me centered in my life. And then, one crisp day in fall, in a rundown coal town in Pennsylvania, a brown package arrived.

It wasn’t anything special really. My husband and I furnish our hobbies and home with stuff from Amazon. I thought it was just another piece of sports memorabilia or one of the hundreds of books that I purchased that year. But no, it was a birthday package from my aunt.

As I opened it and read the card, it became pretty clear that she had taken the time to really think this gift through. I was, of course, touched, In her card she wrote about how Ruth Ware started out working all kinds of jobs that weren’t really her passion (definitely the previous chapter of my life, and often at times the present too) before she wrote two books and made a name for herself.

And then she went on to gush about In A Dark, Dark Wood, saying it was one of the best books she read in a long time. And alongside it, she included The Woman in Cabin 10.

Now, I believe The Woman in Cabin 10 was once offered as a BOTM option because the title sounded familiar to me. For some reason, I didn’t select it that month. But it hardly mattered to me because my aunt generously gifted it to me.

Now I feel compelled to return the favor. You see, my aunt’s son passed away this year. He, like myself and a few others in our family, suffered from depression. Unfortunately, he lost his battle with it and took his own life shortly after the new year.

She’s doing all that she can to get through it. And while I cannot begin to understand her grief, I know what it’s like to feel depressed and like you’re stuck.

So I’ve decided that I am going to repay her for her generosity and gift her with her own copies of The Lying Game & The Death of Mrs. Westaway. I’m hopeful she likes them as much as I did, and this is an author we can gush over whenever we  get together.

Also I can totally pass it off as a thank you gift because she’s letting me stay at her house for a couple of days this summer while I pick up & drop off my Belgian bestie at the airport. But that’s a story for another post. 🙂

Now onto my thoughts and feelings on Ware’s fourth read, The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

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“She had the truth. And that was all that mattered.” 

As you read this, you are probably going to ask yourself more than once: “What is the truth? What is real?” 

Ware creates another heart pounding tale built on deception & lies. Which is pretty typical for a Ruth Ware novel. However, she deploys the use of the unreliable narrator in a different manner than in her previous novels. Something I greatly appreciated whenever I noticed it.

Our protagonist, Hal, is a bit of an underdog. She’s been dealt kind of a raw deal in life, and is barely hanging on whenever we first meet her. You definitely feel for her, and even when she does some morally questionable things (to ensure her own survival), you feel she truly is a good person whose been thrust into a hard life.

And things just keep getting harder for her, right up until the very end of the novel. But it makes you as a reader commit to seeing her story through. Because in typical Ruth Ware fashion, you have some idea of how things will end, but not everything.

I also felt like Ware has grown a lot as a writer. Once again, we see a host of unique characters, all with well rounded out personalities. Her writing is descriptive when necessary, and heart pounding through nearly all 368 pages. There’s also a lot of literary elements that make this a well crafted read.

Like the nods to Agatha Christie. It’s almost like she’s accepted the title the bookish community has given her.

I really enjoyed this one, and thought it deserved 5 stars! I highly recommend to anyone who likes suspense and mystery, even if you’re a first timer to Ware’s novels.

Anyone else out there a Ware fan? What’s your favorite novel? Or are there any good mysteries your recommend? Let me know! 

Until next time, bookworms! Happy reading!

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Week 24 Reading Update!

Since it is an ungodly hour on my side of the world this Saturday morning, I thought I might as well make myself useful and post a weekly reading update! As far as my reading goals that I outlined in my BuJo go, I did accomplish (or will shortly accomplish) them!

Yay! I actually set a goal and finished one of them! *pats self on the back*

They weren’t lofty. I merely wanted to finish my current read: Small Country & to start a new book, which I will here shortly with The Death of Mrs. Westaway.

I also discovered this week that I think I need to take a hiatus from my Throwback Thursday: Classic Reads Edition. I got about 66% through my current read for this (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), and then I decided WHAT AM I DOING?

I really just don’t think I have the mind for classic reads. I struggle with focusing, retaining information, and not allowing my mind to wonder a lot with reading as it is. The classics just seem to amplify these deficiencies, and as a result I am continuously frustrated and disappointed. I might try again later in the year, but I am relieving myself of that pressure to do one classic read a month.

And also, as I discussed with my bookish bestie, classic novels are a bit outdated for our modern minds. We’re used to short snippets, or direct communication. The circumspect style of writing doesn’t really suit the modern reader, unless one is on point with focus and lives and breathes for this sort of writing.

So I am up to 7 on my list of abandoned books. But this is only the second book I abandoned in 2018, and it was also, my second classic read.

Anyway, onto the book I DID finish this week. Small Country: A Novel by Gaël Faye is actually originally in French, but the translation in English read beautifully to me.

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A coming of age story set against the backdrop of a country on the verge of civil war. Our protagonist is ten year old Gaby, a quiet, thoughtful as well as mischievous boy. His childhood is full of pranks he pulls with his friends on their neighbors as well as secret meetings where they smoke cigarettes and drink beer in their fort built out of an abandoned van.

Except the small privileges of childhood that he enjoys are on the verge of ending as the first democratic election has dire consequences in his mother’s homeland of Rwanda, and eventually, in his rather picturesque cul-de-sac.

Told through the eyes of a child, Gaël Faye’s story is full of innocence and humor. His writing style uses rich, descriptive language that makes you feel transported to the suburbs of Burundi.

Each section is short, and employs meaningful anecdotes that drive the action of the plot forward. The story was heartwarming, horrifying, and beautifully written all in one.

It is rare for me to give a story five stars, but this one felt entirely deserving. It’s one of those stories that stays with you and touches your heart deeply after you finish it.

What are some of your 5 star reads for 2018? I am always looking for recommendations! Well if you stumbled upon my blog post, thanks for reading! 

Catch you later, bookworms!

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A Mathematical Mystery & My June TBR

Firstly, I want to talk about my latest read: The Last Equation of Isaac Severy.

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This one surprised me. Sure, I chose it as an extra Book of the Month selection, but I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. The characters were complicated, all going through their own personal struggles, while this mystery of their patriarch’s last equation unfolded.

The novel opened with the death of Isaac Severy. While a shock to his family, he was entirely prepared to die. And with this tragic event, the relations of Isaac Severy find themselves brought together. Their relationships are strained, and different facets of the characters are slowly revealed to us in purposeful ways.

Told from three points of view from within the Severy family, we get a fuller picture of the mystery. Each of them have something that connects them to it, even if we don’t know it straightaway. Which allows for the story to come together at the end nicely.

The pace of this was steady throughout. There were a few twists, which then urged me to read several chapters more in one sitting, but it wasn’t heart pounding where you needed to finish the entire thing in a single setting. The mathematical concepts in this were well explained for people with little to no knowledge of it (like myself haha), without the writing becoming heavy with technical terms. And there were references to today’s culture, making you as a reader feel more connected to the story.

All in all, I thought this one was worthy of a 4.5 rating. I highly recommend this one to those who like a good mystery + family drama.

And now onto the second part of this post. My June TBR list!

Honestly, I can’t believe we are halfway through 2018! Time sure flies when you’re having fun 😉

Sadly I am not even halfway through my Goodreads Challenge. Yes, it shows that I practically am, but I am not counting The Lying Game & I accidentally clicked the “I’m finished!” button besides Sherlock Holmes on their website haha. So technically, I am only 12 books in 2018.

But I will not give up, even if I sound a bit defeatist. There are 6 months left in the year, and I only need 18 more books to complete my challenge, and I just need to keep reminding myself of that I can handle 3 books per month (if not more).

The three for June I will push myself to finish are….

37781941Burundi, 1992. For ten-year-old Gabriel, life in the comfortable expatriate neighborhood of Bujumbura with his French father, Rwandan mother, and little sister, Ana, is something close to paradise. These are happy, carefree days spent sneaking cigarettes and stealing mangoes, as he and his mischievous gang of friends transform their tiny cul-de-sac into their kingdom.

But dark clouds are gathering over this small country – and their peaceful idyll will soon shatter when Burundi, and neighboring Rwanda, are brutally hit by war and genocide.

I’m looking forward to this one. I love reading stories set in different places of the world during parts of history I am not familiar with. Knowledge is power, whoop whoop!

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Kim Lord is an avant garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all of the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances.

Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala

Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls upon the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Who doesn’t love a promising sounding thriller? Set in another unique community, I’m looking forward to diving into this one, and holding on tight!

36373481On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

I am so excited to have my hands on the latest Ruth Ware novel! I know she’s becoming a pretty big deal in the bookish community, and I’m not really in the “in crowd,” to have received this in advance. But I’m really excited for this one! She has a lovely way of writing, and also finds ways to shock you with various plot twists.

I might add some more to this list, especially those “classics,” I am supposed to be reading, but am really struggling to force myself to haha. Although The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a pretty good read to be in the middle of at present.

Anyway, what is everyone else reading this month? Link your posts to your blog/social sites below for me to check out! 

Until next time bookworms!

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