Winter Bookworm Bingo: Update 1!

Hello bookies! I hope everyone’s been transitioning smoothly into the New Year so far! Yes, yes, I know we are over a week into 2019 but I’m only just starting to really get back to reality after a very long, but necessary, winter break. My last few weeks have consisted of relaxation, family time, catching up with friends, wedding planning, and even getting a new job! Wooo! So I definitely can say it’s been a little hectic for me, but despite the chaos I’ve still been working on my Winter Bookworm Bingo challenge!

If it’s been so long that you’re thinking to yourself, “bingo? what bingo?” then I definitely wouldn’t blame you. Here’s a refresher for those who want to follow a long and challenge yourselves in the new year with me!

So far, I’ve officially checked off four boxes on my reading challenge, and although I would consider myself being a little behind on my challenge, I had such a lovely time with my family and friends this break, that I will cut myself a little slack for now. With that being said, here are my four boxes I have checked off, the one in progress, and the next two on my list.

DONE!

1. Female lead: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Handa

Winter Bookworm Bingo was off to a phenomenal start with this Christmas Carol hilarious and heartwarming retelling. Everyone knows the story- Scrooge, an old and greedy, uptight man, gets visited by three ghosts and has to promise to become a better person to all of his peers. What Dickens did not necessarily imagine was a seventeen-year-old girl with a massive Instagram following and daddy’s money that has made her a capital B Brat. Cynthia Hand shows us that not just greedy older men are capable of being Scrooges, but so can pretty young women and handsome young men be in serious need of a ghostly wake up call.

I might have a different spin on this one too, I listened to it as an audiobook, which I highly, HIGHLY recommend. The voice acting for Holly was spot. on. As a California girl myself, I’m pretty used to the dramatized valley girl vocal fry, but Holly’s was excellent. I truly believed this actress was Holly Chase, a former brat turned ghost, living out her days at a secret organization for other Scrooges. Please do yourself a favor and listen to this hilarious treat of a narration.

All in all, the Afterlife of Holly Chase warmed by heart, broke it, and then warmed it up again. I didn’t expect myself to be rooting for this comedically awful teenager and her crush, but boy was I wrong. Cynthia Hand has the perfect teenage voice down to a science, along with the angst, love, and uncertainty that comes with being on the brink of adulthood. What I’m saying is- this is not just a book about ghosts and Scrooges- it’s about second changes, forgiveness, compassion, coming of age, and love. Did I also mention it’s also hilarious?! Seriously. I was laughing out loud. Five riveting magnifying glasses for my first Winter Bookworm Bingo square.

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2. Recipe: traditional Christmas fettuccine!fet

Ok so obviously this wasn’t a book to be read and checked off, buuuut I wanted to challenge myself to read and perfect a recipe for Christmas dinner. I made my family’s traditional fettuccine like all good Italians eat on Christmas, and it was a hit! I even made it again for my family’s New Year’s Eve dinner. Yes I am definitely giving five stars (magnifying glasses) for the classic fettuccine recipe!!!

Anyone else have a cultural dish you like to make around the holidays?

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3. Heartwarming read: One Day in December by Josie Silverdec

I had a whole different kind of review planned out for One Day in December, but I really feel like it is a hard book for me to review. Yeah, I read it in two days. Yes, it was compulsive. Yep, I needed to know the ending. But did I genuinely, truly enjoy it? The jury is still out on that one, folks.

Half of my mixed feelings come from the fact that I’ve never read a romance novel and I don’t usually read “chick-lit” or heartwarming stories. I prefer my romance to be in Hallmark movies and Lifetime originals, but I think I’ve learned that’s the only place I really like to be entertained with sappy love stories with predictable endings- on TV.

The other half of mixed feelings come from the content itself. I found this book to be a compulsively readable and entertaining character study. I loved how the book spanned 10 years of friendship, relationships, family issues, and of course love. I thought this time line worked especially well in this book, and genuinely was touched by some events within this passage of time. I also laughed out loud a few times, which never hurts either!

On the other hand, this book was predictable and sappy. I know that works for a lot of people, and I LOVE predictable and sappy Lifetime movies, so I totally understand the draw. Like, I don’t watch Hallmark or Lifetime to have my heartbroken and the couple not actually get together in the end. So I respect the need for this in a book too, just maybe not my personal cup of tea. Or as the British say, “cuppa.” I also felt this book was a little problematic, and I don’t want to get too into spoiler territory here, but I definitely had to knock off a star from my enjoyment level on this one. I’ll stick to thrillers!

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4. Cover with mainly blue, white, or silver: The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

Oof, this most recent book in my challenge thus far was a little rough for me. I’ve othhonestly been avoiding reviewing it because it’s been days and I still can’t gather my thoughts on this one. A couple chapters in, I definitely knew what would happen. Halfway through, I knew what would happen AND I hated the main character, Emily. I’m not really one to DNF, but I’ll be honest, this time I solely didn’t DNF because I needed to know if I was right from the beginning, despite how much I loathed Emily.

I was right, by the way. But I guess I shouldn’t blame the author for me being too addicted to thrillers that I can spot hidden foreshadowing a mile away. I actually did like the authors writing style, and I didn’t think the plot or ending was horrible. I just simply could not stand another minute of Emily’s pathetic and pitiful inner monologue. I screamed more than once reading this, and mind you, this is coming from someone who has yet to hate even the most awful of main characters in my reading career thus far. I will say though that I was really desperate to know what happened, so I can’t lie that it definitely captivated me for awhile. I think this is why I had a hard time reviewing this one, it’s such a touch balancing act of weighing my intrigue vs. my hatred to result in an appropriate rating.

With that being said, I really do give Sandie Jones credit for making me SO passionately angry at a book. I didn’t rate this one low because I thought it was boring and forgettable, I rated it low because I was so mad at the main character for such being a pushover, wishy-washy, doormat of a woman. So in that regard, an infuriating low rating > boring low rating, in my opinion. So congrats on the two magnifying glasses for making me utterly pissed off for a week, but I guess that’s still better than making me utterly bored.

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In progress:

5. Summer setting: Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoardhere

You know when you start a book and immediately know you’re going to love it, no matter what the ending? That’s a rare feeling for me, but I’m definitely feeling that way about a third through. I’m absolutely enthralled by the characterization and writing style, but I won’t get too ahead of myself. More to come on my next update!

Next up on my list:

6. Book gifted: Nightfilm by Marisha Pessl

Thanks Emily! So excited to read this one!

7. One word title: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

My fiance has been begging me to read it for months- it’s up next I promise!

 

How are you all doing with your winter or 2019 reading challenges so far? Have any books you recommend that also check off these boxes? Let me know below! 

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!