BOOK REVIEW: This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

Title: This Time Tomorrow

Author: Emma Straub

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 31 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Contemporary, Magical Realism

Read Start Date: October 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 4, 2022 

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: With her celebrated humor, insight, and heart, beloved New York Times bestseller Emma Straub offers her own twist on traditional time travel tropes, and a different kind of love story.

On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn’t just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?

My Review: I liked this book, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. After a few too many drinks on the eve of Alice’s 40th birthday, she finds herself passing out in the guardhouse of her childhood home. The next morning she wakes up on her sixteenth birthday, in her sixteen year old body, but with her forty year old mind. She has the chance to do it all over again — the infamous night when she didn’t hook up with the “one that got away.” What strikes Alice about her sixteen year old self, is her forty year old father, who is, in the present day, dying. He seems so young, so full of life, and she finds herself just wanting to be close to him. To spend time with him.

Nevertheless, Alice goes to the party, sleeps with the one that got away, and wakes up on her 40th birthday to find that she is now married (to the one who (previously) got away) with children. What I didn’t like about this reiteration of Alice is that she almost despises her children. She has no memory of the past 24 years of her “new” life, which I find strange — wouldn’t she have remembered both time lines? Since she has no memories of her children, she feels no connection with them. She doesn’t feel like their mother, and so, she doesn’t want to be their mother. She doesn’t want the life with the husband she must love, right? Did Alice at 39 and 364 days love her family and then when she wakes up at 40 she is a different person (because she doesn’t remember her new past)? This just doesn’t square with me.

Anyway, Alice goes back in time again and does it all over again and again trying on new lives like new jackets. Each time she doesn’t remember how she got there — she is perpetually the original Alice in a new life she doesn’t remember living. Then she compares her old life with the aspects of the new life and makes a determination about which life is better — I don’t think this is a fair comparison. She has no memories, no emotions, etc. of her new timeline. How can she really judge which is best?

While it was nice that she got to spend time with her father again and again in the past, I was ultimately dissatisfied with the ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it felt like the book was about a futile journey. Since the father didn’t remember each timeline, the only one developing a longer, lasting relationship was Alice. And what happened from the age of 16 to 40 in the timeline she chose last? All of the new memories she would have had with her father, anything she started to build on the do-over night of her 16th birthday, was just nonexistent in her mind.

As of the writing of this post, This Time Tomorrow has a 3.83 rating on Goodreads, which seems to mean that it has mixed reviews. So I guess on this one, I’m not that far off the mark with my assessment. Nevertheless, I think that if you like time traveling stories with themes of father-daughter relationships, then this book is for you.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday October 29, 2022: Element

I am participating in SoCS hosted by Linda G. Hill (click on the link for the ping back to the original blog post and to see the rules). Today’s prompt is “element.” You can find the rules at the bottom of this post. This is my first time doing this, so please forgive me if it is not good. I hope to get better as time goes on.

It is Saturday and it is raining. All the potential for the day, washing down the storm drains. We could have gone to the zoo, but my toddler will not abide the downpour. Well, in truth, she would probably play in the puddles. It is I who cannot abide the downpour. I’m not a fan of getting wet, outside of the pool or the shower. My boyfriend could run for hours in the rain — and enjoy it — but not me. I like to be dry when I run. I like to be dry when I step outside the house to go on errands, etc. The rain just puts a damper on everything.

I have never figured out why that is the case. Water is an essential element of life — there can be no life without water. Humans are made mostly of water. Yet there is something about the pitter patter of the rain on my head, soaking my hair despite the rain jacket, soaking my pants despite the umbrella — infiltrating my shoes and getting into my socks that just makes me shudder. No thank you, I’d rather stay at home.

BOOK REVIEW: Hell Spring by Isaac Thorne

Title: Hell Spring

Author: Isaac Throne

Book Length: 374 pages

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Horror

Read Start Date: July 31, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 30, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In the twilight of March 21, 1955, eight people take cover in their local general store while a thundering torrent and flash flooding threatens life and livelihood alike. None of the eight are everything they claim to be. But only one of them hungers for human souls, flesh, and blood.

An overflowing waterway destroys their only path of escape. The tiny band of survivors is forced to confront themselves and each other when a peculiar stranger with a famous face tries to pick them off one by one.

Can the neighbors survive the predator in their midst as well as the 100-year flood that drowns the small town of Lost Hollow?

Or will they become victims of the night the townsfolk all remember as Hell Spring?

My Review: I received this ebook from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. The description of the book was so great that I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I just finished writing my first novel, so I know how much work and effort goes into something like this, but Hellspring just wasn’t resonating with me enough to say that I loved it. I did like it though!

The first chapter was a little strange to say the least and was almost a complete turn off for me. I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but I found it to be a little disgusting.

In short, we find ourselves in a cavern of sorts where hell hound type creatures live and dine on the souls of the damned. In the center of the cavern is a giant engorged penis (yes, that’s right) that is leaking ejaculate and is ready to blow its load (yes, you read that correctly). We get multiple sentences / images revolving around the penis and ejaculate. For example: “The gigantic head flattened on top as it engorged with the juice it would eventually spill over the arena and all within it.” And “A geyser of milky yellowish goo suspended inside a sticky transparent gel spewed high into the orange sky above the arena. It separated in mid-air and rained down globs upon all within.” I can’t think of a more appropriate time for the barf emoji.

At the end of the first chapter, a hell hound escapes the ejaculate into the “real world”, where she takes on the form of Marilyn Monroe. The year is 1955, and the biggest storm of the century is about to erupt. Marilyn is hungry and she needs to feed. But where can she find the sin riddled souls she is used to eating?

Beginning in Chapter 2 we start learning about the characters who eventually end up in Beard’s General Store (they are trapped there by the flood with Marilyn). Once we are in the general store, we do not leave for the rest of the book — all of the main aspects of the book take place there while the flood waters are rising outside. Many of the characters have committed recent “sins” for which they feel guilty, which gives Marilyn exactly what she needs.

The book is descriptive and well written, especially the scenes of the horrible acts committed by Marilyn. As the reader I somehow felt trapped along with the characters in the General Store and just wanted out. What it lacked however was the tension — the characters didn’t feel this either. After a character was devoured by Marilyn, the memories of that person were erased from the mind of the remaining people. Therefore, the characters never felt the rising tension of “will I be next” because none of them knew what was going on.

This book is extremely character driven, and usually for books like that to catch my attention, the characters have to be great — they have to be people you can really root for and whose story you are invested in. What I liked about the character development was that Isaac Thorne spent time on each person and really fleshed out the characters. Unfortunately, I just didn’t find any of the characters in Hell Spring to be all that particularly interesting — I didn’t love them enough to really be invested in their fate — would they make it out alive? Would they be eaten by the Marilyn hell creature?

The above being said, other people really loved this book. In her blog Mullen Crafts, it is stated: “Time is taken to really detail each event that occurs, drawing out the horror to the maximum. Yet for all its horror, for all the loss, for all the lies, shame, evil and deceit, the struggle in the fight between good and evil, the story ends on an unexpected note. I have not read anything by Issac Thorne before, but this piece of excellent writing will definitely send me looking for more. An excellent horror read which will leave you questioning your human decency and how you would measure up!”

I also really like what Kay Hanifen has to say about the themes of the book and Peter’s character progression. “Fundamentally, Hell Spring is about shame and the fear of being judged. All these characters harbor guilt within them for things that they don’t necessarily need to feel guilty about, particularly guilt related to sex. 

Though there are several main characters, the story is more Peter’s than anyone else’s, and I loved the way he grew and changed throughout the story, going from someone broken by self-loathing to an evangelical believer in a false prophet to a hero at the end. Though the trajectory of his arc places him as both the hero and a villain at points, his shift between these roles does not feel forced because it all ties together and culminates in a way that fits the character. He more than earns his ending.”

I gave this book 3 stars, however Hell Spring has an overall rating on Goodreads as of the writing of this post of 3.81, with 53% being in the 4 star range and 18% being in the 5 star range. It seems therefore that my assessment of the story falls a little below the average and maybe then I am an exception rather than the norm and/or maybe I haven’t given the book its due credit. You should read it and judge for yourself :).

Reviews Published
Professional Reader
10 Book Reviews

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Friday 56, October 28, 2022: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Welcome to Friday 56! Hosted by Freda’s Voice, you turn to page 56 or 56% in any book or reading device and pick a sentence that grabs you.

Two years in, I was hardened and ready to protect my sister, who I was sure would receive the same treatment that I had. Maybe hers would be even worse. She would come to each day weeping and I would wrap my arms around her and soothe her. It would be us against the world.

Rumor has it that she was asked out on her first day, by a boy in SS2. It was unprecedented. Boys in the senior classes didn’t notice juniors, and when they did, they rarely tried to make it official. She said no. But I received the message loud and clear.

My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

The above quote is taken from page 56 of the book. Our two main characters are sisters, Korede and Ayoola, who live in Nigeria. Korede, the elder sister, is a plain, average woman who works at the hospital as a nurse. Ayoola, the younger sister is beautiful — sometimes harmfully so. I’m actually not sure what she does for a living, but she seems to post a lot on social media. Men are always fawning over her, and this sometimes leads to tragedy.

At this point in the book, Ayoola has already killed her third boyfriend with their deceased father’s knife, officially making her a serial killer. Korede has helped Ayoola clean up after each murder. The sister’s seem to have a messed up bond, created by their abusive father. Korede feels the need to protect her little sister, even from her own crimes. Ayoola says that it was in self defense, but Korede often wonders if this is the case. Can it always be in self defense? Will she kill again?

One day Ayoola makes an appearance at the hospital where Korede works and meets the doctor, Tade, that Korede has feelings for. Tade is immediately overcome with want for Ayoola and Korede worries that he will become her next victim.

I really like this book so far. It’s easy to read and its an interesting topic.

BOOK REVIEW: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Title: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Author: Kim Michele Richardson

Audiobook Length: 9 hours and 26 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: September 13, 2022

Read Finish Date: September 23, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1936, tucked deep into the woods of Troublesome Creek, KY, lives blue-skinned 19-year-old Cussy Carter, the last living female of the rare Blue People ancestry.

The lonely young Appalachian woman joins the historical Pack Horse Library Project of Kentucky and becomes a librarian, riding across slippery creek beds and up treacherous mountains on her faithful mule to deliver books and other reading material to the impoverished hill people of Eastern Kentucky.

Along her dangerous route, Cussy, known to the mountain folk as Bluet, confronts those suspicious of her damselfly-blue skin and the government’s new book program. She befriends hardscrabble and complex fellow Kentuckians, and is fiercely determined to bring comfort and joy, instill literacy, and give to those who have nothing, a bookly respite, a fleeting retreat to faraway lands.

My Review: Kindred Spirits summarizes it pretty well in her blog: “Cussie Mary is never more satisfied than when she is able to carry a new bit of reading material to a beloved patron, whether it be a young, aspiring forester or an elderly, near-blind seamstress. She loves her mission as “Book Woman”, working as a Pack Horse Librarian here in Kentucky, and does not wish for any other role in what others might perceive as a lonely life. Pa, though, has a different idea. He seems hell-bent on finding her a husband, and continues to light the courting candle, much to her dismay. What ensues opens up her very narrow world to unimaginable possibilities, both dangerous and hopeful.”

Cussy “Bluet” Carter has blue skin, which makes her an outcast in the rural community of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She is ostracized by most of the community (except her book patrons) for fear that her disease is catching. This makes it difficult for her father to find her a husband, and he eventually chooses an unsavory character, who dies shortly after their wedding. Suspecting foul play, his relative harasses Cussy Mary through out the book, which lends some of the only high tension to the story.

When I first started reading this book, I thought that this was an alternate reality where blue was a code for African American. It wasn’t until I researched the blue people of Kentucky, that I realized that there was an actual family of people with blue skin — well, in actuality it wasn’t blue skin but rather a genetic blood disorder which turned the blood a brown color which in turn gave the skin a blue hue. With the administration of medicine, the blood went back to its normal color, and so did the skin.

It took me 10 days to get through as many hours, which is not common for me. While interesting, I thought this book was really slow, and not much really happened. I rented this audiobook from the library as it was under the heading “popular global”. I had never heard of it before and didn’t check the synopsis before reading. This can be a hit or miss approach — The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek a bit more miss than hit, but still worth the read if you have the time.

In researching what other bloggers felt about this book, I came across a really great blog post from Leaving LanguishLand that I would suggest you check out. I included the link in the name of the blog.

Time Travel Thursday October 27, 2022

Time Travel Thursday is hosted by Budget Tales Book Blog. This is where I take a look back at what I was reading this time last year (or the year before or the year before that…) and compare it to what I am reading now.

Books I was Reading on This Day in 2019:

Title: Crazy Rich Asians

Author: Kevin Kwan

Book Length: 546 pages

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary

Read Start Date: October 27, 2019

Read Finish Date: November 4, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm,

Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry.

Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

Series: Crazy Rich Asians is the first book in the 3-part series.

My Review: The book starts in 1986 with a bedraggled 8-year old boy named Nicholas Young who sits, soaking wet with his cousin Astrid Leong, in the lobby of a posh London hotel, the Calthorpe. Astrid’s mother had forced everyone to walk from the nearest subway stop because “it was a sin to take a taxi nine blocks” and so you can imagine how they must have appeared.

Nicholas’ mother and aunt attempt to check in to the Lancaster Suite, but are turned away by the racist general manager because they are Chinese (and being soaking wet hides the fact that they are stinking rich). When Astrid’s mother calls her husband to tell him of this outrage, Mr. Leong calls the owner of the hotel (they played golf together only the month before). A few minutes later, Lord Rupert Calthrope-Cavendish-Gore himself is guiding the Young / Leong families through the lobby. Harry Leong had bought the hotel, the racist general manager was surreptitiously fired (ha!), and we are introduced in a very fun way to the wealthiest families in Singapore.

The real story begins in 2010, when Nicholas Young is 32 years old. He works in academia, and his girlfriend Rachel Chu has NO IDEA that he is ridiculously rich. When his childhood friend is getting married, Nicholas invites Rachel to accompany him to the wedding in Singapore (and to stay for the summer), and of course, while they are there, to meet his family. What he doesn’t tell her, is that his family’s’ house rivals that of Queen Elizabeth, and that he is Singapore’s most eligible bachelor. Oops.

This book was just simply fun, amazing, and at the same time heartwarming. I felt really bad for Rachel who is thrust head first and without a clue into the shark tank of single ladies all vying for Nicholas’ attention. Rachel has to go through all sorts of trials and tribulations that would have scared off anyone — from being called a gold digger, to the dead fish in her luggage, Rachel has to overcome some pretty awful harassment. I really liked that there was no fairy tale ending, and that the relationship was left with a question mark (I guess to be answered in the 2nd book in the series).

I also liked that this book didn’t only center around Nicholas and Rachel, but was also very much about the other characters. I especially liked Astrid Leong and the fact that even though she was also super rich (she easily spends more on one dress then I make in a year) she is also, somehow, down to earth.

Would I recommend this book? 5 times yes!

Title: City of Girls

Author:  Elizabeth Gilbert

Book Length (Audiobook): 15 hours 8 mins

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction

Read Start Date: October 20, 2019

Read Finish Date: October 27, 2019

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time, she muses. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is. Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

My Review: I had some reservations in reading this book because I really hated Eat, Prey, Love — but I thought that maybe Gilbert’s fiction writing would be better than her nonfiction. At first, I had a hard time getting into the story, because I really disliked the main character, Vivian. Vivian was basically a self involved narcissist who thought the world revolved around her — and if she said she was pretty once, she did it 100 times. Vivian was a naive little rich girl — who, if you could believe it, didn’t really seem to know that there was a war on — even though this book takes place during WWII. It actually got a little annoying, how self centered this character was. To be honest, I was kind of feeling a little nostalgic (in a bad way) about Gilbert’s memoir.

At the beginning of the book, Vivian receives a letter from the daughter of an old friend, Angela, who asks Vivian what Vivian had mean to Angela’s dad. Vivian, instead writes a letter back to Angela, explaining what her dad meant to Vivian. The premise seems a little far fetched — I mean, how long was this freaking letter?? Anyway, since the letter was supposed to be about what Angela’s dad meant to Vivian, it was annoying that he wasn’t introduced until after 85% of the story had already been told. I mean, really?

And haven’t we all gotten past the “shock” of thinking of women as “sexual beings”? Sometimes I felt that Gilbert only set the book in the 1940’s so that a woman having a lot of unmarried sex was somehow “shocking”. I felt this way because I never really got the flavor of 1940 in her book, and even though WWII was the biggest thing happening at the time, it played such a minor role in the book that it was as if it didn’t even exist.

Despite my thoughts above, lots of reviews that I have read were actually pretty positive (i.e., Kristin Kraves, Carla Loves to Read, and Theresa Smith Writes. In deciding whether to read this book, you should take both perspectives into account.

What I’m Reading Now:

The themes of the above books are very different. One is a horror novel (Snow) and one is a memoir (Crooked Lines). Neither theme is what I was reading this time 3 years ago, but I am known for my eclectic reading preferences, so it isn’t a surprise.

Snow by Ronald Malfi

Todd Curry wants nothing more than to spend Christmas with his son. But when a brutal snowstorm cancels his flight from Chicago to Des Moines, Todd and a few other stranded passengers decide to rent a Jeep and make the trip on their own.

During the drive, they pick up a man wandering through the snow, who claims to be searching for his lost daughter. He is disoriented and his story seems peculiar. Strangest of all are the mysterious slashes cut into the back of the man’s coat, straight down to the flesh…

When they arrive at the nearest town, it appears deserted. Windows dark, car abandoned, fired burning unattended. But Todd and the rest of the travelers soon learn the town is far from deserted, and that they are being watched…

Crooked Lines by Jenna Zark

When you part company with the life you’ve been living, how do you start a new one?

While trying to sort out the answer to this question-along with the question of what being Jewish meant to her-Zark began writing. This book was born of the journey. Married to the cantor of a Jewish synagogue, trying to fit in to a life she hadn’t anticipated, Jenna Zark is completely unprepared when her marriage falls apart. Now staring down the prospect of being a single mom, Zark has to decide if and how to work with her former husband, now co-parent, to give her son a Jewish heritage. While the holidays and rituals in these pages are Jewish, the theme is universal and familiar for anyone who has ever experienced lifetransforming loss. Crooked Lines is Jenna Zark’s honest and compelling story of navigating divorce, single parenthood, interfaith marriage, and losing parents while holding on to one’s humor and traditions.

BOOK REVIEW: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Title: My Sister, The Serial Killer

Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite

Book Length: 223 pages

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery, Crime, Contemporary

Read Start Date: October 19, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 22, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

My Sister, the Serial Killer is a blackly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

My Review: As of writing this review, this book has a 3.7 rating on Goodreads, which I find to be a little unfair. I really liked this book for several reasons. First, I found it to be an interesting premise. Korede and Ayoola are sisters who grew up with an abusive father, that is, until he died. I never figured out whether the father just up and had a heart attack, or if the sisters had something to do with it. I would have liked to see more clarity about this topic.

Secondly, I liked that this book was easy to read. I finished it in only 3 days.

The book starts with a murder — Ayoola’s third murder to be precise. The man she killed had been her boyfriend, and she claims he attacked her. But then, why was the knife (their father’s knife) protruding from his back? Why has Ayoola done this before? Could it really be that ALL the times she has killed was always done in self defense, or could she be, as Korede thinks, a serial killer?

In darkly comedic fashion, we are with the sisters as they clean the scene, wrap the body, and carry him down in the elevator to Korede’s car. They dump him unceremoniously into the river and go on with their daily lives. Ayoola is immediately ready to get back to normal, and Korede has to reel in Ayoola’s Instagram posts which might seem in poor taste to some, and to others suspicious. Neither sister seems emotionally stable, some might even call them sociopaths.

This book is as much about Ayoola being a serial killer as it is about the complicated relationship between the sisters. Korede is extremely jealous of Ayoola because of her beauty and success with men, due to a sense of familial obligation instilled in her by their mother, continues to cover up Ayoola’s crimes. Korede, though the elder sibling, has always lived in Ayoola’s shadow. “I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I realized that Ayoola was beautiful and I was…not. But what I do know is that I was aware of my own inadequacies long before.” Korede is self-deprecating and very hard on herself — which I don’t feel is warranted. She is smart and a hard worker, having been recent promoted to head nurse at the hospital where she works. Yes, she might not be as alluringly seductive as her sister, but well, her sister clearly has some fatal flaws.

When Ayoola catches the attention of Tade, a doctor whom Korede is in love with, it is unclear for most of the book what Korede will do. Will she tell on Ayoola? Will she allow things to progress and see what happens? What will come first, family or what is morally right? I won’t spoil the ending, but I think that it is true to Korede and I wasn’t surprised.

BOOK REVIEW: The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

Title: The Lost Apothecary

Author: Sarah Penner

Book Length: 316 pages

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, Contemporary, Crime

Read Start Date: September 30, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 18, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads:  A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them – setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.
Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose – selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate – and not everyone will survive.

My Review: As of writing this post, this book has a 3.76 rating on Goodreads, which isn’t stellar for a mainstream, popular book. 37% gave the book 4 stars, while 27% gave the book 3 stars. I read this book about a year ago as an audiobook, and I remember liking it more than I did when I read it in paperback. I had given it 4 star last year, but after rereading the book, I’m switching to 3 stars. Maybe thinking it was better was due to my delirium of being a new mom and never sleeping. Anyway, I liked the story of Eliza and Nella more than Caroline. In fact, Caroline’s story really annoyed me to the point where I was rolling my eyes frequently.

I think the issue is that I just didn’t like Caroline as a character. I didn’t relate to her one bit. Caroline began the application process to attend graduate school at the University of Cambridge, as was her dream. Her then boyfriend, James, had been “adamantly against the idea” because he had plans to propose to her. The second he did “Cambridge could have fallen of the map, for all I cared–Cambridge and advanced degrees and every novel ever written by Charles Dickens. From the moment I wrapped my arms around James’ neck at the end of that pier and whispered yes, my identity as an aspiring historian rusted away, replaced with my identity as his soon-to-be-wife.” Then she takes a stable, secure job at her parent’s farm, while James steadily rises the corporate accounting ladder.

Because I guess America doesn’t offer masters degrees in history?

Regardless, even if the University she wanted to attend was in Australia, I’m still wondering, why the hell couldn’t she have gone and done her masters and still been a wife? Especially since kids were far off in the distance. “Though I’d wanted kids early in our marriage, James didn’t want to deal with the stress of long hours and a young family. And so just as he had climbed the corporate ladder every day for a decade, so too did I put that little pink pill on the tip of my tongue and think to myself, Someday.” I mean, 10 years is a long time to wait for “someday”. So Caroline puts her academic, career, AND family dreams on hold for a decade? Ummm, no thank you. There would have definitely been a Me shaped hole in the wall long before it got to the 10 year mark.

Also, from everything the book tells us of James, he doesn’t seem like he would be spending all that much time with the kids anyway…so not sure why they couldn’t have had kids early on in the marriage, since Caroline would have been the primary care giver (and since she wasn’t going back to school).

But okay, whatever, they waited 10 years. And now that they are trying for a baby, Caroline finds out he’s cheating, because, wait for it, he’s bored with his predictable, stable, and secure life. Eye roll. And then he tries to gaslight Caroline into believing that it was all HER fault! I can’t even with this guy. He’s such a piece of garbage (there are other supporting examples in the book of this) that I can’t believe Caroline didn’t notice the stench until she caught him cheating.

In all honesty, I’m not ever sure the Caroline story was really required because we learned everything that Caroline did from the Nella and Eliza storyline’s anyway.

Nella and Eliza on the other hand have stories that are much more interesting and include thrill, murder, intrigue, etc. Nella’s mother was an apothecary who dispensed remedies for women. When Nella’s mother died, Nella became romantically involved with a man. “In the weeks to follow, we fell terribly, wonderfully in love. My sea of grief grew shallower; I could breath again, and I could envision the future–a future with Frederick. I couldn’t have known that mere months after falling in love with him, I would dispense a fatal dose of rat poison to kill him. The first betrayal. The first victim. The beginning of a stained legacy.”

While I found Nella and Eliza’s story to be more interesting (I am also a big lover of the horror and true crime genres) Nella is, for all intents and purposes, a serial killer, and therefore while seemingly sympathetic, when you look deeper into her character, she is also a little dark. I mean, she’s literally been the reason why countless people are dead. And she doesn’t seem to care — or rather — she is glad that they are dead because they deserved it for being adulterous or lecherous or whatever else they did to affront the women in their lives. So in short, none of the characters are particularly relatable. I can understand wanting to harm someone who has betrayed you, but actually doing the harm is a whole different ball game.

I know that I’ve rambled a bit in this review, and I hope that I’ve made sense. Would I recommend this book? Yes…but there are other ones which I would pick up first.

First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday October 25, 2022: My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

It’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday! Hosted by Socrates Book Reviews this is where you share the first paragraph of one (or in my case sometimes several) of the books that you are currently reading.

Ayoola summons me with these words–Korede, I killed him.

I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinhan Braithwaite

First Chapter, First Paragraph, Tuesday October 11, 2022: Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi

It’s First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday! Hosted by Socrates Book Reviews this is where you share the first paragraph of one (or in my case sometimes several) of the books that you are currently reading.

‘We’ve got a problem,’ said Jack Baer. They were the first words out of his mouth, even before he sat down at the table. Gloria eyed him coolly as she steeped her tea. They were at Antoine’s–Jack’s request–and the breakfast crowd was queuing up at the door and curling around the block on this warm September morning. Jack Baer queued for no one; in fact, he seemed oblivious to the people filing into the restaurant all around him. Gloria Grossman had known Jack for the better part of a decade, though his reputation in the industry had preceded any formal introduction. He’d been a top player at CAA before opening his own boutique literary agency, and he had, from time to time, courted Gloria, enticing her to join him. Merger, was how Jack put it, framing the word in the air with his big hands to get her to visualize the marquee. But Jack had a reputation for representing difficult clients, which presented a whole host of headaches Gloria did not feel like shouldering. Ironically, it was her client, the screenwriter Davis McElroy, who was the cause of today’s meeting, and any headache that would inevitably follow.”

Ghostwritten by Ronald Malfi