My 5 Monday: Books to Escape To

Monday already?! I don’t know about you all, but my weekend just flew by. Even though I flew from the East Coast to the West Coast and technically gained 3 hours, it still felt like I lost a whole day to travel and jetlag.

I’m not complaining though- I actually really don’t mind flying. There’s something about being in no one place, with no one you know, and having hours of silence to think (unless there is a crying child behind you, of course) that really just creates a freer feeling headspace. I always feel like I’m escaping reality when I’m in airplane, which is what inspired today’s “My 5 Monday” post! Whenever I get into that zone of feeling like I’m escaping, I like to double down a pick up a book that encompasses those same characteristics. What I would define as escapist literature would be books that have vivid settings, captivating story lines, heartfelt emotions, or a gripping mystery. Basically an immersive page-turner that can make me escape to a different time or place.

And with that, here are my 5 escapist books!

5. The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlin19286669

I first picked up this one in an airport, so for that reason alone it seems to fit my escapism needs immediately! In all seriousness though, I absolutely could not put this down from the moment I started. I wouldn’t necessarily say this is a thriller, but it has quite a few huge twists and emotional breakthroughs that really keep you hooked.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I will keep this short. In fact, don’t even read the Goodreads description, as I personally think that gives away a really interesting plot twist that I would have rather not known about going into the book. All you need to know is it’s about a young woman who goes to her hometown to deal with her late father’s paperwork, funeral, and house but finds all sorts of hidden family secrets- especially secrets surrounding her sister’s suicide years earlier.

The Silent Sister has mystery, family secrets, drama, loss, gain, and most of all- heart. I think I teared up multiple times reading this from the heartfelt messages throughout. I truly escaped my own reality by traveling to this small town, unweaving the family’s history, and growing with the characters until the very end.

4. Joyland by Stephen King13596166

Joyland is actually the first Stephen King book I’ve ever read. It’s not like I’ve exactly avoided Stephen King, it’s more like I don’t even know where to start with him. So when my fiance picked it up in one of our favorite bookstores, I knew it was finally time to start! We read this at (mostly) the same time and it made it such a fun first Stephen King experience. The cover was what immediately grabbed us, along with the almost nostalgic campy sounding description. It takes place in small town in the ’70s and is filled with carnies, a haunting murderous past, and a little coming of age narration.

I will repeat: small town, 1970s, carnivals, murder. These characteristics fit a few of my quintessential escapist needs. You’re whisked back to a tight North Carolina community, a carnival town I should stress, the place of a vicious murder, 40 years ago. Try to tell me you wouldn’t escape your current life by going to such a different time and place.

I ultimately finished this book in a few days, and was pleasantly surprised by the amount of heart and soul that this book contained. Sure there are carnies and haunting murders, but there are also bonds of friendship, families in unexpected places, and love. Now that I’ve broken into Stephen King, it definitely won’t be my last!

3. The Girls by Emma Cline26893819

I feel like this book sparked a little bit of a controversy, and it seemed like readers either absolutely loved it or hated it. I will definitely preface that this book isn’t for everyone out there, but I think most would agree that it’s a great way to escape reality for a little bit.

The Girls is another 1960s-1970s read that I devoured in a few days. Ok maybe I definitely have a fascination with the ’70s- I may or may not have once asked a hairstylist to give me Bridget Bardot hair. Similarly to Joyland, this is first a foremost a coming-of-age story, except this time about a young girl, Evie. Contrary to Joyland, I would say this book has much more emphasis on its time period and could even be considered in the realm of historical fiction. If you’re not already aware, The Girls is loosely based on the Manson girls and murders, which I may or may not have another fascination with. I was captivated by this other perspective of The Family- a young girl who is, for lack of a better word, completely normal and just learning how to be a young woman in a such a changing time and gets sucked in. It’s in this way that see just how tantalizing a tight knit group of carefree individuals is, through the eyes of an impressionable young girl. We get an insight into her psyche through her palpable descriptions and her obsessions.

I felt the descriptions of growing up as an insecure and self conscious girl was all too accurate and familiar. Emma Cline does a phenomenal job of depicting these feelings and showing how timeless insecurity and the need to fit in is. The novel is so much deeper than meets the eye, and offers a very fresh perspective on a coming of age story. I also can’t even begin to explain how blown away I was by the writing itself- I ate up every vivid description and metaphor. If the plot itself isn’t escapist enough for you, the whimsical and airy writing will be sure to do that for you. Again, even the writing isn’t for everyone, but I think it’s undeniable that Cline’s debut is fresh, unique, and truly escapist.

2. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson89724

Yes you can surprisingly escape reality in just under 150 pages! They don’t call Shirley Jackson the queen of horror for nothing, and if this story doesn’t horrify you in the best way possible and make you forget about work, tests, life, than I don’t know what can. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is eerie, twisted, sinister, macabre, yet also a little funny and endearing in a way. I know that combination sounds odd, but you have to understand the brilliance in which Jackson writes her characters and her dark story lines. It’s unclear when this story takes place, but it’s no doubt a small town back in the day- some of my classic go-to escapist qualities.

The story centers around two interesting sisters after the murder of their parents by way of arsenic poisoning. The murderer was presumed to be the older sister Constance, although we quickly start to question who the real murderer is. The younger, Merricat, protects Constance from the gossip and harshness of the town, and the two make a very unique and isolated pair. I won’t give too much away, since the book is so short as it is, but if you’re looking for a quick escape and a little chill, look no further!

1. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple13526165

Yay! You’ve reached number one through all of my ramblings! Where’d You Go, Bernadette is my ultimate escapist novel despite its deviation from the others on my list. My other 4 made me feel almost every emotion under the sun, but this one right here made me laugh out loud embarrassingly in public settings. I understand this book also got a few mixed reviews, but this book is pure comedic and satirical gold.

The story focuses on an agoraphobic, anxious, oddball mother who fails to fit in with her Seattle 1%-er neighbors. She’s quirky and silly, but also touches your heart in un-explainable and unforgettable ways. It’s also about a family in crisis when this mother disappears, and insanity ensues when her daughter tries to piece together where her agoraphobic mother could have possibly gone. The story is told in a fun and engrossing way, through series of notes, report cards, email exchanges, and official documents compiled by said daughter to solve said disappearance.

Although the story is mostly satire, it is heartwarming and ultimately the story of a mother and daughter and their irreplaceable bond. The vivid descriptions, the humor, and the quirky personalities are a different kind of escapism for me, albeit by favorite. This was my favorite read of 2017 and my favorite book to escape the madness!

Do you have any novels that you like to escape into? Whether a different time or place or with an interesting set of characters? I’d love to hear more recommendations for when you just need to unplug and escape for a little bit. Comment below! 🙂

A Friday Harry Potter Tag

Happy Friday! And I say that with extra emphasis on the “happy” for me today. In case you haven’t seen my latest bookstagram post, my fiance’s parents surprised us with Harry Potter and The Cursed Child tickets last night! It’s a two night show, so we saw part one last night and I’m already counting down the hours until I get to see part two tonight. I can’t spoil any secrets from the show, but it’s pretty freakin’ amazing and truly a one of a kind magical experience.

Since I’m still in a very Potter-ish mood today, I wanted to try out my first tag post! And what better way to get involved in a tag than a Harry Potter tag after seeing The Cursed Child?!

To be honest, I just found this tag at Jenny in Neverland’s blog and wasn’t actually tagged but wanted to use my magical mood for something fun this Friday. Also it can kind of serve as a little get-to-know-me since I haven’t officially posted one yet!

Let’s keep it going! If you haven’t done a Harry Potter tag yet- no time like the present!

1. What house are you in?

I’ve always felt a strange connection to Luna Lovegood and Professor Trelawney, so it should come as no surprise that I am most definitely in Ravenclaw! I’d like to think my witch-self reads the Quibbler religiously and practices divination too.

2. What is your Patronus?

My Patronus is an otter- I’ve taken every detailed quiz on the face of this earth and always get an otter so pretty much confirmed right? Otters represent those who are meticulous, detail-oriented, and like to use their smarts. This aligns perfectly with my house as Ravenclaw, and even with my astrological sign of Virgo. Sorry to coworkers and other group members who constantly have to detail with my determined perfectionist attitude! 

3. What is your wand?

Taken directly from Pottermore- black walnut dragon heartstring core, 13 1/4 with rigid flexibility.

wand

The black walnut wood is associated with loyalty and special charmwork ONLY if the owner is self aware and honest with him/herself about their intentions. Dragon heartstring is powerful, and bonds very closely with its owner. I also read that it is prone to accidents? Yikes! Rigid flexibility is a pretty surprising characteristic to me, as I feel that I am pretty adaptable and resilient. But this mixed with the black walnut and dragon heartstring makes me feel like the rigidness is not a prevailing factor in the wand. And yes, I am pretty tall!

4. What would your boggart be?

Easy- spiders. Many, many spiders just descending on me. I’m actually squirming in my chair right now just THINKING about multiple spiders being within 10 feet of my person. Me and Ron would be the ultimate anti-dynamic-duo when it comes to spiders. Ok moving on from the spider talk!

5. What position would you play in Quiddich?

Honestly my Quiddich position belongs in the stands… I’m excellent in the stands.

6. Would you be a pure-blood, half-blood or muggle born?

Growing up, it was always me and my dad who did everything Potter-related together. My mom isn’t the biggest fan, so I think my dad would carry the magical weight for me, making me a half-blood I suppose!

7. What job would you want to have after leaving Hogwarts?

I think I would want to start off owning my own shop, maybe in Hogsmead? Or maybe Diagon Alley. And then return to my roots at Hogwarts to become a professor and maybe take over for Trelawney.

8. Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose?

Cloak! I mean, responsibilities to the wizarding world aside, how fun would that be?!

9. Favourite book?

Ugh, what a rude question, can I pick three?! It’s my book tag so I’m cheating and choosing Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban, and Half-Blood Prince. Maybe Half Blood Prince. Yeah.

10. Least favourite book?

Order of the Phoenix? I say this because I remember having nightmares for about 4 days after certain parts…

11. Favourite film?

Once again I want to say my top three, but I’ll try to follow the rules and say Chamber of Secrets. I could just watch that one over and over again. But Prisoner of Azkaban is a very close second!

12. Least favourite film?

I think the Deathly Hallows ones. They’re just hard for me to watch and I don’t feel like I can just sit down and easily watch them like I could for all of the others.

13. Favourite character?

Ok this one is hard because I have so many different types of favorites.  I have my favorite main characters, favorite professors, favorite side characters, favorite hate-able characters, favorite underdog characters, important characters, etc. I feel like trying to answer this question with one answer would keep me up at night.

I will say Remus Lupin for now and then think about this for the rest of my life and change my answer 1,000,000 times.

14. Least favourite/most hated character?

Umbridge, hands down. I love to hate her though!

15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Since I already said Lupin, I’ll say Professor McGonagall. What bad things could even be said about that strong and intelligent woman!

16. Least favourite teacher at Hogwarts?

Ugh Professor Lockhart. So annoying. Unfortunate about his memory though…

17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?

I like everything related to Fantastic Beasts and Cursed Child too. I love anything that builds the world up more, even if not perfect.

 

Alright witches and wizards! I hope everyone has a happy happy Friday and maybe spreads some magic with this Harry Potter tag! Pictures to come later from my adventures with HP and The Cursed Child 🙂

Loved That? Look Into This! Part I

Afternoon bookworms! My mood today can pretty much be summed up by one of my favorite 30 Rock scenes:

Image result for lemon it's wednesday

But at least that means it’s now officially halfway through the week! Yay! On this fine Hump Day I wanted to do a Part I of my new “Loved that? Try this!” series where I will be giving my recommendations based on books with similar themes, characters, or plots.

I’m going to start off my first edition by featuring some of my favorite thrillers from the last year or so. And with that, let’s begin!

LOVED All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda? LOOK INTO The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok I know, I know I’m kind of cheating with this pick here since it’s the same author, BUT hear me out and cut me some slack because it’s the first recommendation on this list 🙂 What I loved the most about All the Missing Girls was the ever-present sinister and creepy am-I-being-watched undertones throughout the novel. Megan Miranda does a phenomenal job of writing eerie and atmospheric scenes that make your skin crawl. It’s not even that the plot should be considered horror, but the way she describes the woods, the caves, and even the old creaky house, is truly something horrific.

Although I loved the plot too, and loved how the novel was uniquely set backward, it was this atmospheric aspect that truly captivated me in just one or two sittings. If this aspect is what drew you too, that’s why I recommend reading more of her work. It’s not because story lines for All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger are similar. Instead, the tone of being watched and that increasing paranoia and anxiety is skillfully done in both books.

There are definitely a few similar themes in the novels, and themes I typically gravitate toward- the mysterious and enigmatic best girl friend. I love books that focus on a mystery surrounding one person’s secrets and the main character having to uncover who they really were. Miranda definitely seems to like this theme too, as it’s present in both novels, and another reason why if you liked All The Missing Girls you eat up The Perfect Stranger too.

One last aspect that I really love about these books- and please don’t laugh or judge- the covers of these books are so soft and I just love holding them while I read. If you read this in print, you must know what I mean!

And one more last, LAST thing. She has a new book coming out Jan 29, 2019! I can’t wait!!

LOVED The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent? LOOK INTO Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

memory  29095402

I’ve previously written about these two in short, but never explicitly connected why they are so perfect for readers of a very specific theme. When you break it down, The Memory Watcher and Only Daughter both focus on someone lying or putting on an act of someone different than who they really are for their own benefit. I don’t want to get too deep into spoiler territory on either of these, but that’s basically what you need to know about both books.

If you were entranced in how the narrator in The Memory Watcher assumed her role as a nanny to watch over the neighbor’s baby, you will just as much love how the woman in Only Daughter assumes her role as a girl missing years prior. Both books share webs of family secrets, deception, and twisty climaxes. And when it comes down to it, I could just really see both main characters in each book getting along. Maaaaybe it’s because they both have a knack for manipulating and deceiving, but hey I never said it would be a healthy friendship.

Similarly to my recommendation for All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger for their tones, The Memory Watcher and Only Daughter had the same undercurrents of lying, as well as very flawed main characters and very flawed family relations. Both of these books surprised me by how much they, well, surprised me- both incredibly underrated twisty page-turners that I recommend to all psycho-thriller-lovers, and especially for fans of each respective book.

LOVED The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager? LOOK INTO Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

thelasttime  LITTLE

At first glance, or first back-of-the-book-synopsis, these two books may seem like they have nothing in common. The Last Time I Lied is about a woman returning to her childhood summer camp and reliving the lies, terrors, and traumas of her past the night her friends disappeared. Little Monsters, on the other hand, is about a small town struck by tragedy and unanswerable questions when an average high school student goes missing after a party. One obvious similarity here is the disappearance and search for a missing high schooler, but the themes go so much deeper than that; because let’s face it, most all thrillers these days have a missing girl. However, these are not just stories of a missing girl- they’re stories of past trauma, teenage angst, young bullies, and childish nostalgia- and the missing girls are honestly just a coincidence in this case.

While reading both of these novels, I felt a creeping nostalgia and attachment for aspects of my younger self in a way I haven’t before. Both have all of the usual teenage suspects: angst, crushes, cattiness, and lying. It’s not exactly a positive nostalgia that I feel for these situations, but more of an emotional familiarity to these forgotten feelings. In The Last Time I Lied, I felt like I was traveling through space and time to my own camp days where all kids want to do is hang out with the older, cooler kids. The main character gets assigned a cabin of older girls who quickly show her the ways of the camp while also quickly losing some innocence. Just like in All The Missing Girls, I love the stories where there are enigmatic and flawed friends who you just can’t help but be drawn too. In the same way, The Last Time I Lied draws you into these older girls, make you want to be a part of the group, and most importantly know their secrets, all while feeling an odd sense of familiarity for teenage years as a girl. Plus there is a good ol’ mystery of what was the fate of these teenagers, and you know I was on the case for that part too, of course.

So yes, there is also the disappearance of a teenager in Little Monsters, but again it’s not just solving a mystery that’s important in this one. If you liked that sense of nostalgia for being a teenager with secrets and lies then Little Monsters is also a must-read. Instead of being taken back to my camp days in this one, I was taken back to those high school student-packed hallways, parties, and sneaking around. (I promise Mom I only snuck out once! I honestly think I was so un-sneaky that you even knew too!) The  familiar feeling of being a teenager who just wants to make friends, get your crush to notice you, and deal with rumors was all too real in this one. Don’t get me wrong, even though it’s YA, it’s not some vapid high school story. It is a story of grief, trauma, and growing up. And yes! A nice twisty and shocking mystery!

In both books, you really get a deep understanding of the inside of a teenage girl’s mind, and really see what teenagers can be capable of amidst the lies and hardships of growing up. There is also a fun sense of a creepy and foreboding force, but I promise it’s all still realistic! So if you enjoyed these themes in The Last Time I Lied, you will devour Little Monsters just as eagerly!

That’s a wrap for Part I of “Loved this? Look into that!” I swear I don’t only read books about missing girls, but would it be so bad if I did?!

Have you loved any of these and recommend looking into something else? I always want to hear from you guys! Comment below!

My 5 Monday: Required Reading

Happy Monday my bookworms! It’s been awhile since I posted, but I’ve been slowly settling back into my second home, NYC. Coming back to NYC is always a little like riding a bike, I fall right into my old ways like no time has passed: waking up to my cat’s meows, standing at my favorite end of the subway platform, going to the same place for my favorite oatmeal, and of course, listening to an audiobook through it all.

Because it’s Monday and I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs a little pick me up, I wanted to start a new weekly blog post called “My 5 Monday” which is a top five of my favorite bookish things. And this Monday I wanted to talk about some of my past favorite books, specifically my favorite required reading from my school days. My fiance is in grad school, (working his butt off and making me so proud I may add!!) and it sometimes makes me think back to my school days and all the reading that was assigned. In fact, some of the books I was required to read in college actually became a few of my favorite books of all time, and wanted to share “My 5” favorites.

In college, I was a Geography major, and have always been a lover of maps. Senior year though, I returned to my first love, reading, and took a few literature classes. I took Latino Lit, focusing on POC narrators and authors, and Classic Lit, where we read classic literature but with more intersectionality: feminist and LGBT+ focused specifically. I learned so much in these classes; both of them shaped a lot about what I know and think today, and I even got some favorite reads out of it!

And with that, here are My 5 Monday: Required Reading edition.

5. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home is a graphic novel that doubles as a memoir of Alison Bechdel’s growing up. Don’t be deceived by the title or the fact that this is a graphic novel, it is not necessarily fun and lighthearted. Although she has a knack for comedy too, Fun Home illustrates the dysfunctional and darker family issues such as internalized homophobia and death. I love how Alison Bechdel can lets us into these family issues and hardships in a, well, fun, way such as a graphic novel. If you want to know the woman behind the Bechdel-Wallace test a little more closely, this a great and quick read, yet also full of rich meaning.

4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I don’t really think I could accurately sum up such a classic in a few sentences, but this book really changed my outlook on a lot of aspects of life and religion. It also happened to take place in some of my favorite Californian scenery- San Luis Obispo County. The first 200 page description of rolling hills may not appeal to everyone, but it really holds a special place in my heart. I finished this book in a few sittings, despite the length of the book; ok maaaaybe I finished because I was approaching some deadlines, but I like to think that it was really just that compelling. The ending brought me to tears (probably the first time that had ever happened to me) so this book is really special to me, more than I could sum up on this fine Monday afternoon.

3. The Awakening by Kate Chopin

It’s kind of funny that this book is number three on my list, because that’s the exact amount of times I’ve had to read it for different classes. I love this book for many different reasons, but it hasn’t always been this way. I actually hated this book the first time I read it, I think I was too young to really grasp it. By the third time this was assigned, I was enthralled. I feel like this book has grown up with me through the years, I read it at three different stages of life, and each time it meaning something different to me. This is a quick read that I will staunchly defend as important feminist literature with themes in: free will, love, and ultimately being a woman in the Victorian era.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I promise I’m not being biased when I place this as my second favorite required reading even though it DID assist me in winning a regional competition in literature when I was in middle school. I read this book numerous times, wrote essay upon essay, and was even tested among other students on my knowledge of it. So to say I know this book like the back of my hand is an understatement. You would think with how many times I read it, this book would grow tired and boring. However, reading this book over and over again actually added to my love for it. This book was probably one of my best friends in middle school, and think what you want about me for saying that 🙂 This book was stuffed to the brims with important life lessons that kids and adults alike can benefit, and Scout will always be my little heroine.

1. The Tattooed Soldier by Hector Tobar

To say this novel, read in my Latino Lit class, changed my outlook on life is a complete understatement. Told in three different perspectives, and set during prominent historical moments, this book intertwines politics, love, history, and war. Partly set during the Guatemalan Civil War, Red Scare, and the Rodney King riots, this book covers so many important topics that will make you want to scream and cry and hug your loved ones all at once. This book impacted the way I think, and it made me love reading again after a very long dry spell of books. Whenever someone wants a reading recommendation, this is the first one I go to, and one I will always hold dear. It’s a tough read, but it will teach you in ways school doesn’t, and is an incredibly important required read.

Honorable mentions: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht, Gods Go Begging by Alfredo Vea, and The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson.

Before I started my love of thrillers and mysteries, I loved my required reading. These are some of my first loves and ones I will carry with me for a long time. Thanks for reading about some of my favorites- now I want to hear yours! What are some of your required reads that became favorites? What about ones you read but couldn’t stand? What do you think we should all be required to read in schools?

 

 

 

 

Review: Little Monsters by Kara Thomas

ABOUT:LITTLE

Name– Little Monsters
Author– Kara Thomas
Genre– YA Thriller, Mystery Thriller
Source– Purchased
Katie’s case– 5/5

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DESCRIPTION:

Kacey is the new girl in Broken Falls. When she moved in with her father, she stepped into a brand-new life. A life with a stepbrother, a stepmother, and strangest of all, an adoring younger half sister.

Kacey’s new life is eerily charming compared with the wild highs and lows of the old one she lived with her volatile mother. And everyone is so nice in Broken Falls—she’s even been welcomed into a tight new circle of friends. Bailey and Jade invite her to do everything with them.

Which is why it’s so odd when they start acting distant. And when they don’t invite her to the biggest party of the year, it doesn’t exactly feel like an accident.

But Kacey will never be able to ask, because Bailey never makes it home from that party. Suddenly, Broken Falls doesn’t seem so welcoming after all—especially once everyone starts looking to the new girl for answers.

Kacey is about to learn some very important lessons: Sometimes appearances can be deceiving. Sometimes when you’re the new girl, you shouldn’t trust anyone.

REVIEW:

Little Monsters by Kara Thomas hooked me before I even opened it, when I read that it was a high school drama that could be compared to Pretty Little Liars. I will (not so) shamelessly admit that I stuck through almost a decade of that show’s ridiculous twists, turns, cheesy writing, and plot holes galore. Although I loved every second of it, I can still admit that it maaaaybe wasn’t the best quality television out there. When I read that Little Monsters had the same feel as PLL, I was eager to get my hands on it right away, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t also a little hesitant; like I said, I know PLL wasn’t great quality.

Well, Little Monsters completely exceeded my expectations of a high school-centered YA mystery novel. I would say the only real similarity between Little Monsters and PLL is the high school setting. Ok, maybe I’m being a little dramatic- Little Monsters definitely serves up some sinister high schoolers like in PLL, but I don’t want to get too deep into spoiler territory there. All I will really say is that just like in PLL, you will have no idea what these characters are capable of, and you will be on your toes until the very. last. line.

So yes, Little Monsters is absolutely a dark and twisted high school thriller, but it’s also much more than that. I was actually moved to tears at one point in the novel. The characters were written so beautifully with their own unique voices, I actually felt like they were real people. They were complex and interesting, and very different from other YA high schoolers. Kacey is such a little gem, I wish I knew her when I was in school. She’s smart and driven, with some added spunk under her brooding appearance. And Bailey! I absolute ate up her diary entries. That was a lovely addition and I found myself hoping, “please let the next chapter be a Bailey chapter!!” I loved reading her unfiltered perspective, and it was perfectly executed.

I still haven’t even touched upon the writing in general! Kara Thomas has such a wonderful way with words, such vivid descriptions and brilliant metaphors that sound like a teenager could have actually thought them. Now, don’t take that to mean her writing is simple or juvenile, she just captures the mind of a young person so well, and it even brought me back to my own teenage years. The lying, rumors, sneaking out- and internal monologue about the aforementioned- is spot on with these teenagers. It’s not easy to master this level of writing while maintaining a childlike voice, and this is coming from someone who is really harsh while reading YA books. I’m always nit-picking what the narrator says and I think to myself, “ok would a teenager REALLY think that?!” but Thomas completely nailed it. She knows her audience, captures them, shocks them, and then does it all over again with her adult readers too.

If you want a stroll down your high school memory lane, with a hint of added small town mythology, dark secrets, and crime, this one’s for you. I’m rating Little Monsters 5/5 because I want to live in Broken Falls and just insert myself into this small town and their mysteries. I guess I will just have to keep reading Kara Thomas’ books to fill the Little Monsters, and PLL-esque high school drama, shaped void in my heart now!

Next book by her: The Cheerleaders! Already included it as a space on my Winter Bookworm Bingo card. If you haven’t already checked that out, see my last post for details!

 

Introducing: Winter Bookworm Bingo!

Happy Tuesday my fellow bookworms! Winter is beginning to show herself early here in (Northern) California in the form of rain, rain, and more rain. But being the bi-coastal dweller I am, I’m getting ready to go back to NYC this week and know I will be in for a chilly awakening! I was completely devastated that I missed the first snow of the season there, because it’s by far the most magical day of the year in New York. Everyone in the city has this collective childlike-joy that’s vibrant and completely contagious. Even though I missed that day, I’m eager for the inevitable holiday excitement that happens in NYC in December like Christmas markets and snow days.

So in anticipation of that excitement, I would like to introduce a new section I’ve been planning: a winter edition of Bookworm Bingo! I’m going to be making my own Bingo cards at the beginning of each new season that can act as a guide, challenge, or just inspiration for your next book choice. If you’re anything like me and can read the same genre for 10 books in a row, it’s a good way to branch out of a cycle and dip your toes into something new. And what better way to try something new than by doing it as a part of a game?!

My rules are:

+ you’re not allowed to use the same book for two spaces
+ you can use one dnf book
+ you can do a reread, of course!

Aaaaand here it is… Bookworm Bingo: Winter Edition!

BINGO

Before I even thought about making this a blog section, I made this as a way to challenge myself to get into more genres. Since I am now sharing it with y’all, I figured it’s also a good way to introduce some books on my TBR for winter! Because I’m incredibly indecisive, I’m sure this list will change 100 times by the end of winter, but here is just a little taste:

+ Holiday-themed cozy: In Peppermint Peril by Joy Avon (Netgalley read), ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost (Netgalley read), Slay Bells by TC Wesscott (Netgally read)
+ Cabin setting: The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
+ Snow on the cover: The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden
+ 2018 winter release: The Anonymous Girl, technically to be released January 2019.
+ Compilation of short stories: What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories by Raymond Carver, A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories by Lucia Berlin
+ Blue, white, silver cover: Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter, The Other Woman by Sandie Jones
+ Book then movie: You by Caroline Kepnes, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
+ LGBT+: This is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel, Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust
+ Retelling: Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier
+ Book in Europe: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Amsterdam)
+ Funny book: Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
+ Memoir/biography: I’ll Be There for You: The One about Friends (YES I’m letting a biography about a show or fictional characters count!), Becoming by Michelle Obama
+ Recipe: Probably going to do a lot of these! Probably a lot of macaroni and cheese ones, specifically….
+ Female lead: The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn, The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
+ Book you own but never read: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
+ Gift book: Nightfilm by Marisha Pessl (thanks Emily!!)
+ Heartwarming or feel-good: One Day in December by Josie Silver
+ Published year you were born: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
+ Thriller you can finish in one day: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas (hopefully one day?!)
+ POC lead: An American Marriage by Tarayi Jones, The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
+ Banned book for winter: The Subtle Knife by Phillip Pullman (is this in winter?? Are there bears again?!)
+ Summer/hot setting: Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard, In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
+ One word title: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
+ Goodreads choice: The Outsider by Stephen King

Have you read anything on this list that you recommend or don’t recommend? Anything you loved or anything that you read and have already forgotten about? What about any ideas that you have for me for these spaces? Let me know in the comments! I want opinions since I haven’t read anything on this list yet and am curious what y’all think.

Good luck with Bookworm Bingo and HAPPY READING!

Gift Guide for the Thriller-Lover in Your Life

I don’t know about you guys, but when I was a kid, I always got socks for Christmas. You know what I hated getting for Christmas? Socks. You know what I secretly hope everyone gets me for Christmas now? Socks. Socks and books. Now my holidays are spent in my warm, cozy Christmas socks snuggled up with the newest thriller or a classic mystery, and I know I’m not the only one. If you’re like me, or your loved one is like me, you’re always on the hunt for one of these types of books. Well, look no further, because I have the perfect book gift guide for every thriller-lover in your life. Or for yourself if you like to spoil yourself with new books as much as I do. 

FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS TO EMBRACE THE WINTER COLD: 

An Unwanted Guest By Shari Lapenaunwantedguest

I’m originally from California, where the winter is maybe 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the year. During this time, I like to pretend I understand what a “white Christmas” is and read books that will give me the chills- both in the weather and the thrill. And is there a better way to welcome the chilly weather than by murder(s) in a winter resort that’s freezing cold and the guests are even colder? Maybe even cold blooded? This who-done-it is an atmospheric page turner that would make anyone stay up late in their fuzzy socks just to figure out what happens next. A quick read that I devoured in one day would be sure to be perfect for anyone craving a cold case. Grab your blankets and hot chocolate for this one!

Goodreads Description:

A remote lodge in upstate New York is the perfect getaway. . . until the bodies start piling up. It’s winter in the Catskills and the weather outside is frightful. But Mitchell’s Inn is so delightful! The cozy lodge nestled deep in the woods is perfect for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. The Inn boasts spacious old rooms with huge wood-burning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a book and someone you love. So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul. The power’s down but they’ve got candles, blankets, and wood–a genuine rustic experience! Soon, though, a body turns up–surely an accident. When a second body appears, they start to panic. Then they find a third body. Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. They can’t leave, and with no cell service, there’s no prospect of getting the police in until the weather loosens its icy grip. The weekend getaway has turned deadly. For some couples, it’s their first time away. For others, it will be their last. And there’s nothing they can do about it but huddle down and hope they can survive the storm. 

FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS TO ESCAPE THE WINTER COLD:

The Dry by Jane Harperthedry

Maybe you’ve had enough of the cold cases? Both with the weather AND in your books? Maybe you need a warmer book, but certainly not warm-hearted in this thriller! Set during a drought in Australia, you might almost forget it’s winter here because you will practically hear the dry grass in the hot air, see the falling flies, and feel sweat drip down your face as you read this incredibly descriptive page-turner. I read this book last winter and not only is it beautifully written, it’s a great mystery and a touching story. The book hooked me from the first chapter and kept me guessing until the very end. Now excuse me while I impatiently wait for Harper’s third book in the Aaron Falk series to come out.

Goodreads Description:

In the grip of the worst drought in a century, the farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily when three members of a local family are found brutally slain.
Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk reluctantly returns to his hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend, loath to face the townsfolk who turned their backs on him twenty years earlier. 
But as questions mount, Falk is forced to probe deeper into the deaths of the Hadler family. Because Falk and Luke Hadler shared a secret. A secret Falk thought was long buried. A secret Luke’s death now threatens to bring to the surface in this small Australian town, as old wounds in bleed into new ones.

FOR THE PERSON WHO MISSES CHILDHOOD SUMMER CAMP:

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

thelasttime

Ah, summer camp as a kid: swimming in the lake, taking art classes, your friends go missing in the night never to be seen again… wait what? That last one didn’t happen to you? Well it does to Emma in this creepy mystery-thriller by Riley Sager. What can I say, I love creepy, atmospheric, descriptive novels that make me feel like I’m at the scene of the crime, and this book does not disappoint. I felt like I was returning to a childhood summer camp, but with less missing persons for me. I got this book when it first came out because I love campy stuff, and I ate this book up in a matter of days. This hit all my boxes: teenage secrets, spooky cabins, weird families, dark histories, and a haunted heroine. Just be sure not to check your kids into any Camp Nightingales this winter.

Goodreads Description:

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

FOR THE PERSON ANXIOUS TO RETURN TO THEIR CREEPY, SMALL HOME TOWN:

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

allthe

Maybe you don’t want to return to your childhood summer camp, but what about your dreaded hometown that was once the place of your best friend’s disappearance? Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls was my top read for 2018, a novel told in reverse about two disappearances that shake a small town. This book is creepy. Maybe you want a chilling read for the chilly weather, but I personally couldn’t read this alone or in the dark, it’s that good at creeping me out. I say that with the highest praise because I don’t get scared of mysteries easily, but this one was so atmospheric in a way that I had never read before, and I savored every second of it. This book made me want to hug the main character and be her friend. If you can scare me AND make me feel every human emotion, it’s a pretty good book.

Goodreads Description:

Like the spellbinding psychological suspense in The Girl on the Train and Luckiest Girl Alive, Megan Miranda’s novel is a nail-biting, breathtaking story about the disappearances of two young women—a decade apart—told in reverse.

It’s been ten years since Nicolette Farrell left her rural hometown after her best friend, Corinne, disappeared from Cooley Ridge without a trace. Back again to tie up loose ends and care for her ailing father, Nic is soon plunged into a shocking drama that reawakens Corinne’s case and breaks open old wounds long since stitched.

The decade-old investigation focused on Nic, her brother Daniel, boyfriend Tyler, and Corinne’s boyfriend Jackson. Since then, only Nic has left Cooley Ridge. Daniel and his wife, Laura, are expecting a baby; Jackson works at the town bar; and Tyler is dating Annaleise Carter, Nic’s younger neighbor and the group’s alibi the night Corinne disappeared. Then, within days of Nic’s return, Annaleise goes missing.

Told backwards—Day 15 to Day 1—from the time Annaleise goes missing, Nic works to unravel the truth about her younger neighbor’s disappearance, revealing shocking truths about her friends, her family, and what really happened to Corinne that night ten years ago.

Like nothing you’ve ever read before, All the Missing Girls delivers in all the right ways. With twists and turns that lead down dark alleys and dead ends, you may think you’re walking a familiar path, but then Megan Miranda turns it all upside down and inside out and leaves us wondering just how far we would be willing to go to protect those we love.

FOR THE PERSON A LITTLE TOO OBSESSED WITH SOCIAL MEDIA:

The Memory Watcher by Minka Kent

memory

We all know that person, the person who spends all day checking their Instagram or blog obsessively. Ok maybe I’m sometimes that person… But what about when your constant blog scrolling leads you to your daughter who you had to give up for adoption years earlier? The Memory Watcher introduces us to Autumn, whose social media scrolling does just this. I loved Autumn, she was such a fun character for me to read, and completely unlike any other narrator I’ve met. Minka Kent paints a very unique picture of the connections between social media, lies, family secrets, and the lengths we go for the people we love. This book took me maybe two days to finish, because I was so eager to get the truth. Give this as a hint to someone to maybe get off social media every now and then, you never know what you’ll stumble upon!

Goodreads Description:

When Autumn Carpenter stumbles upon the social media account of the family who adopted her infant daughter years ago, she finds herself instantly drawn into their picture-perfect existence. 
 
From behind a computer screen, Autumn watches Grace’s every memory, from birthdays to holidays to bedtime snuggles. But what starts as an innocent fascination spirals into an addictive obsession met with a screeching halt the day the McMullen family closes their Instaface account without so much as a warning. 
 
Frantic and desperate to reconnect with her daughter, Autumn applies for a nanny position with the McMullens, manipulating herself into Grace’s life under false pretenses. And it’s only then that Autumn discovers pictures lie, the perfect family doesn’t exist, and beautiful people? They have the ugliest secrets.

FOR THE PERSON SECRETLY CURIOUS WHAT A CULT WITH THEIR SPOUSE WOULD BE LIKE:

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

marriage

I should have titled this: “For the person who secretly curious what a cult with their spouse would be like, wants a wild switch up from the average domestic thriller, and just craves a fun, completely insane roller coaster of a book” buuuut that might have been too long of a title perhaps. My alternate title completely sums it up: the is a wild ride and quite the stray from the other domestic thrillers that are popular right now. This book somehow manages to be one of the darkest I read this year, but also one of the most fun. Does that make me sound twisted?! This book asks you to suspend a bit of belief, but after all of the cheating husbands and crazy children in the recent domestic dramas I’ve read, I was happy for a weird little change. If you’re like me and want to laugh, get creeped out, and scream at the characters: this is the ultimate read.

Goodreads Description:

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact, and most of its rules make sense: Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . 

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples–and then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life, and The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.

FOR THE PERSON WHO WANTS A LITTLE LESS MYSTERY, A LITTLE MORE SPUNK THIS WINTER:

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

bear

If you haven’t gotten the chance to read this one, RUN do not walk to your nearest bookseller, and do yourself a huge favor this winter. This book is a little different from the others on my list, but that’s not to say I wasn’t thrilled and terrified while reading it. The Bear and the Nightingale is a dark retelling of an ancient Russian fairy tale, filled with demons, magic, and of course, a spunky and strong heroine. If you couldn’t already tell, I read a lot of thrillers, but this was such a magical stray for me. This book actually thrilled me in a way other books this year hadn’t. Above all, this book was just a work of art both in the writing and in the story. For this reason, it is the ultimate winter read and the perfect gift for a lover of all things thrills, magic, and a little chill.

Goodreads Description:

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Have you read any of these thrilling novels this year? Are there any books you are hoping to give or receive this holiday season? Leave a comment below! I’d love to hear your wish lists for this year!