The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner was the first book I read in 2022. I had this originally on my Spooky TBR last year because of the fantasy elements and the alchemy involved in making poisons. The Lost Apothecary has a fascinating premise centered around this apothecary offering poisons to women wronged by men. I did enjoy this book, although there were a few instances that stuck out to me about the story. The story wraps up quite conveniently which I feel was a bit implausible.

A woman is scorned and seeks help from an apothecary. Poisons are easily dispensed and women stay silenced. Nella Clavinger, the woman running the apothecary, keeps track of everything she’s prescribed and preserves the women who wanted more. Eliza Fanning, a young girl who was sent to Nella by her employer seeking a poison for her rotten husband. In the twenty first century, Caroline Parcewell discovers her husband’s affair and finds a vial with a bear on it leading her to look for this hidden apothecary. The three women are connected at various parts of history by a secret and enchanting place.

Out of all the stories, I found myself gravitating towards Nella and Eliza. I enjoyed reading Nella’s back story as it relates to why Nella started adding poisons to her shop. Eliza’s story is relatable as she’s a young girl who leaves her rural town and is set to explore a brand new place. Caroline’s story was more realistic, yet the most implausible as she seems to put together the existence of the apothecary despite not being a trained historian. I’m sure Caroline is incredibly smart, I just found that she may not have been able to do it on her own. I would have loved a partnership between Caroline and Gaynor, a librarian that Caroline meets. I think this would have been great to see two women using their strengths to lead this investigation.

Another annoying part of the book to me was that no one wanted to tell Eliza about her period. There’s a scene where Eliza gets her period for the first time and leaves a chair with a blood stain. For whatever reason NO ONE thought to sit down with Eliza and explain her period until the latter half of the book. Eliza thought her period was from a spirit which understandably she’s 12. I thought that was so odd. I wouldn’t say this ruined the story by any means, but I found it rather questionable especially because this book is built on women supporting women.

Overall I’m glad I read The Lost Apothecary as I thought it was a solid book to start the year off with. I’d recommend this for anyone remotely interested in history, London, and fantasy. I rated The Lost Apothecary four stars on Goodreads.

2021 End of Book Year Survey

I always look forward to writing my end-of-year posts. I typically write two posts: one summarizes the year as a whole and the other is focused on reflecting what I read. I always use Perpetual Page Turner’s End of Year Survey. It always provides a great summary of what I read. Let’s dive into my reading year in 2021.

**2021 Reading Stats**

The Number of Books Read: 35 (counting only books + graphic novels and not single-issue comics

The Number of Re-Reads: 3 which was slightly better than last year. I re-read two books last year.

Genre You Read the Most From: I would say thriller or mysteries would be the genre I read the most.

1. Best Book in 2021

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood was such a lighthearted read. I’m not usually big into reading romance, but this book was so good. I liked the science and Olive’s tenacity for researching pancreatic cancer and I thought the relationship between Olive and Adam was genuine. Ali Hazelwood is a new favorite author of mine.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going to Love More But Didn’t ?

I read The Maidens while waiting for a delayed flight at an airport. I remember finishing this book and being more disappointed in the book than the fact my flight was delayed. This was such a disappointing read. There was a big twist that didn’t work for me and in my opinion, destroyed Mariana’s main arc. Additionally, I felt that parts of this book were a bit unrealistic. For example, several young women were following around an older college professor. Everyone would find this super creepy, yet Mariana had to convince everyone that this professor was trash.

3. Most Surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read?

I selected Lock Every Door by Riley Sager for this because of what Jules had to go through. I genuinely thought nothing bad would happen to Jules until Sager pulled the rug out from under me and I realized that anything could happen. It was a nice surprise and it made me root for Jules to survive.

4. Best Sequel

A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty is book #2 in the Harper McClain series. Harper is a crime reporter in Savannah, GA. In this sequel, Harper is investigating the death of a young law student. Throughout the series, Harper is trying to find out who murdered her mom when she was young. Towards the end of this book, Harper finds a tip that may help her solve her mom’s murder. I like the setting of Savannah and I like Harper as a character.

5. Best Book from a Genre You Don’t Typically Read?

I read A League of Denial by Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru which chronicles CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and how CTE was discovered. Once CTE is discovered, it’s clear the NFL doesn’t want this to come out and tries to bury the evidence. Several football players including Mike Webster and Junior Seau are diagnosed with CTE after their deaths. I’m not big into non-fiction, but this book grabbed my attention and I was engrossed in this story. Is it because I’m getting old that I’m starting to like non-fiction? I have a few non-fiction books on my TBR and re-read pile that I hope to read in 2022.

6. Favorite Cover of A Book You Read in 2021?

I read They Never Learn recently and I have to say this cover is amazing. The first word I think of when I see this cover is gothic. The book takes place on a college campus and I think this cover summarizes the book and the setting.

7. Most Beautifully Written Book Read in 2021?

The House in the Cerulean Sea is such a lovely and beautifully written book about love and acceptance.

8. Most Thought Provoking Book of 2021?

Devil’s Knot The True Story of the West Memphis Three is a tragic story for many reasons. Three boys were wrongly convicted of murdering three younger boys. Part of this conviction was based on rumors that the three boys were into worshipping Satan which was unfounded. Adding on to the tragedy, we probably won’t find out who killed those three little boys because of this town convicting innocent teens. It’s a dark book, but well worth reading.

9. OTP (one true pairing)

Olive and Adam in The Love Hypothesis are couple goals. I love them together.

Everyone was raving about A Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. My local bookstore had this on display, another booktuber I follow was discussing Grady Hendrix as an author. I felt compelled to read this myself. I’m glad I did! I loved this book. I’m excited to read more Grady Hendrix next year.

1. Favorite Post I Wrote in 2021?

My favorite post I wrote this year was Fangirl Revisited – 6 Years Later. I remember loving Fangirl, however, when I re-read it, it felt like I was reading a completely different book.

2. Best Bookish Event in 2021?

At C2E2 this year, I met Jason Muhr and Kami Garcia who illustrate and write some of my favorite comics I have read. It was exciting being able to talk with them about their series.

1. One Book You Didn’t Get To in 2020 But Will Be Your Number #1 Priority in 2021?

I plan to go back to my Spooky TBR. I want to start with either The Guest List by Lucy Foley or The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.

3. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading / Blogging Life in 2021?

I want to read more non-fiction. I think it’s a nice break from reading the same genres all the time.

As always, I linked the Perpetual Page-Turner End of Year Survey above. Happy Reading!

2021 Pop Culture Year in Review

2021 is almost over! It’s hard to believe that 2022 will mark two years since the dreaded 2020 lockdown. While we have a vaccine and a booster, it still feels like the pandemic is far from over. 2021 was a fairly decent year especially because there was a lot more going on since I was able to get vaccinated in May.

Movies I Saw In Theaters

  • The Suicide Squad
  • No Time to Die
  • SpiderMan: Far From Home

It’s fitting that the last movie I saw in theaters before the pandemic was Birds of Prey and the first movie I saw in theaters after I was vaccinated was The Suicide Squad. Out of the above three, I would say Spider-Man: Far From Home and The Suicide Squad would be tied at number one.

Besides the above movies, I also watched WW84, From Russia With Love, Rocketman, Just Mercy, Free Brittany, Justice League Snyder Cut, Heroin(e), Charlie’s Angels 2019 film, Untouchable, I, Tonya and Pray Away. The worst movie I watched in 2021 was WW84. All the joy from the first Wonder Woman movie was sucked out of the sequel.

TV Shows I Watched:

  • Wandavision
  • Harley Quinn – animated series
  • Falcon & the Winter Soldier
  • Loki
  • Bar Rescue
  • Dopesick

I didn’t watch as much TV this year partly because I got into Critical Role while still quarantined earlier in the year. My favorite TV show I watched this year was easily Wandavision. It was such a heartbreaking show and Elizabeth Olson did such an amazing job portraying Scarlet Witch and someone suffering from the weight of grief. I did finish watching Dopesick recently which is a documentary series about the rise of Purdue Pharma and Oxycontin. It was intriguing and appalling.

Video Games I Played

  • Vampire the Masquerade Shadows of New York
  • Miles Morales
  • Night Call
  • Doki Doki Literature Club
  • Nancy Drew & The Haunted Carousel
  • Nancy Drew: Secrets Can Kill
  • Animal Crossing New Horizons
  • Nancy Drew Alibi in Ashes
  • Nancy Drew Message in a Haunted Mansion
  • Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 & 5-7

My favorite game I played this year was Spider-Man: Miles Morales. Despite the game being shorter and having no DLC, it was still my favorite this year. I’m normally not a video game soundtrack person, however, I ended up listening to the Miles Morales soundtrack on and off throughout 2021.

The most disturbing game I played was Doki Doki Literature Club. I wanted to play it to see what the game was all about. I will never touch it again. Besides playing through Doki Doki Literature Club, I played through quite a few of the Nancy Drew PC games since becoming more invested into Steam last year.

In 2022, I look forward to starting the Guardians of the Galaxy game since I finally unlocked all the PS4 trophies for Lego Harry Potter.

Gaming in 2021

  • Watching Critical Role (for the first half of the year, I couldn’t play D&D in person)
  • City of Remnants
  • Vampire the Masquerade one shot in July
  • Mysterium
  • Adventurer’s League

My highlight of 2021 was being able to play D&D in person. Beginning in 2022, I will be playing in a longer semi-weekly campaign and I’m thrilled. Watching Critical Role helped keep my love of roleplaying active while waiting to be vaccinated. This year, I didn’t play very many board games although I finally opened Mysterium for the first time and I loved it. I can’t wait to play again.

Graphic Novels / Comics I Read This Year

Single Issue Comics

  • King in Black: #1 – #5
  • King in Black: Black Cat #1 – #3
  • King in Black: Gwenom vs. Carnage #1 – #3
  • Jinny Hex #1
  • King in Black: Return of the Valkyries #1 – #3
  • Batman/ Catwoman #1
  • Future State Kara Zor-El Superwoman #1
  • Future State Green Lantern #1
  • Future State Wonder Woman #1 – #2
  • Future State Catwoman #1
  • Home Sick Pilots #1 – #5
  • Future State Robin Eternal #1
  • Hollywood Trash #1
  • King in Black: Planet of the Symbiotes #1
  • Dark Nights: Death Metal The Last Stories of the DC Universe #1
  • Luna #1
  • Future State Suicide Squad #1 – #2
  • King in Black: Black Knight
  • King in Black: Miles Morales #23
  • Future State Wonder Woman #1
  • Teen Titans Academy #1
  • King in Black: Captain America #1
  • King in Black Scream #1
  • King in Black: The Amazing Spider-Man #1
  • James Bond Agents of Spectre #1 – #4
  • Witchblood #1 – #5
  • DC Suicide Squad #1
  • Destiny NY #1 – #5
  • Miskatonic University #1
  • Vox Machina Critical Role Origins III #1 – #4
  • Life is Strange #2.1 – 2.4
  • Bettie Page Curse of the Banshee #1
  • Alice in Leatherland #1 – #4
  • DC Deathstroke #1
  • MOM #1

I read so many single issue comics partly due to the fact that I have a pull list at a comic book store. I try and stop in at least once every other week. As I review the above list, I would say there were two series that would be tied for being my favorite comic series in 2021. The first would be the King in Black main series along with King in Black: Black Cat. Another notable standout was Witchblood. I love how the series takes place in the Wild West and it’s a vampires vs. witches standoff series. Other memorable series include Destiny NY, Alice in Leatherland, and Vox Machina.

Graphic Novels

  • Glitter Vipers
  • The Vision
  • Black Mage
  • Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi Captain Phasma
  • Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Kylo Ren
  • Star Wars Adventures Vol #1
  • Aquicorn Cove
  • Wolverine Season One
  • Blackbird
  • Mooncakes

This is the first year where I have read more single issues than graphic novels. My favorite graphic novel I read this year was The Vision as I read it right when I started watching Wandavision. A runner up would be Glitter Vipers. I backed the Kickstarter for it as I liked the idea of a group of drag queens getting into vigilante work. I have a huge stack of graphic novels to read in 2022, so I’m assuming this number will be higher next year.

2021 Pop Culture Moments

  • Trump Protestors invading the capital (it’s only the seventh day of the new year!!!)
  • Afghanistan’s government collapsing to the Taliban
  • Free Britany

Podcasts I Couldn’t Stop Listening To

  • Fantastic Geeks
  • This Podcast Will Kill You
  • Not Another DnD Podcast
  • Ain’t Slayed Nobody

I didn’t discover any new podcasts in 2021. Listening to podcasts has been a hit or a miss. I usually listen to music while driving around the area and save podcasts for longer trips.

Catchiest Song in 2021

According to Spotify, my top song was “Head & Heart” by Joel Corry x MNEK.

Conventions I Attended in 2021

I attended two conventions in 2021: Planet Comic Con in August and C2E2 in December. I hope to attend Emerald City Comic Con in August next year along with Gen Con and Convergence. I might add one more out of state convention on my list for next year.

Personal Memories

Top Three Memories of 2021

Getting Married

Going on our Mini Moon

Getting Vaccinated

My Graphic Novel Backlog

I always have a graphic novel backlog. I tend to purchase graphic novels at conventions, or through backed campaigns on Kickstarter. Otherwise, whenever I travel, I like to stop at a local comic book store. As such, my pile has grown to the point that my kitty likes to sit on my pile as she has claimed it as a mini throne for her. I wanted to share my backlog and I hope to tackle it in 2022.

Teen Titans Beast Boy by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo

I was so excited to meet Kami Garcia at C2E2 this year! She was so nice and she commented on the Captain Marvel cosplay I was wearing. I read Teen Titans Raven a year or two ago and I loved it! I knew I had to purchase Beast Boy while I was at C2E2 and now I have a signed copy. Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo’s Teen Titans series are a young adult telling of each member of the Teen Titans with this one focusing on Beast Boy.

The Weatherman by Jody LeHeup, Nathan Fox, and Dave Stewart

I picked up the first volume of The Weatherman at Comix Experience in San Francisco. Nathan Bright is a TV reporter on Mars. He’s successful, he loves his job, and is supported by his girlfriend and dog. Unfortunately, his success doesn’t last long when Nathan is accused of a terrorist attack against planet Earth. Nathan cannot remember what happened, yet he’s being chased across the entire galaxy to be punished for a crime he couldn’t possibly commit.

Critical Role Vox Machina Origins by Matthew Mercer, Olivia Samson, Matthew Colville and Chris Northrop.

It should be no surprise to anyone that I picked up a Critical Role graphic novel. I’m almost halfway through the Vox Machina campaign and I’m fully invested in the lore of the campaign. I’m a sucker for anything Critical Role related including graphic novels. I was waiting to finish campaign #1 first before reading this because that’s probably when I would want more Vox Machina content if I’m not ready to let campaign #1 go.

The Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra

The Manhattan Projects is such a weird series, yet I still find myself enjoying it. The Manhattan Projects is a science fiction re-telling of the Manhattan Projects, the project that founded the Atomic Bombs used in WWII. To give an idea as to how quirky this series truly is, an A.I. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is guiding the scientists along with Harry Daghlian, a scientist whose skull is encased in this green and black liquid. Harry Daghlian was a real scientist on the Manhattan Projects, unfortunately, he was killed in an experiment hence his character is illustrated the way he is in the series. I like that this series is based on real-life events along with how these events have shaped the science fiction aspects of the series.

Plume by K Lynn Smith

Plume originally started as a webcomic in 2011 written and illustrated by K Lynn Smith. I was introduced to K Lynn Smith through her Kickstarter series, For Goodness Sake. I met K Lynn Smith at Planet Comic-Con and she had her physical volumes of Plume on sale. From reading the back of Plume, this series takes place in the Wild West and has supernatural elements to it. I’m excited to read it!

For Goodness Sake Volumes #2 and #3 by K Lynn Smith

I read the first volume of For Goodness Sake last year and missed the Kickstarter campaign for book #2. I was bummed! Fortunately, K Lynn Smith had the Kickstarter campaign for her third book, and I was able to pick up book #2 as an additional reward in the campaign. For Goodness Sake stars Rayne, a woman who renovated a bus and travels around the US with her canine companion, Copilot. Rayne meets Thatcher, a cursed individual who looks a bit like a devil. Rayne has agreed to help Thatcher relieve his curse as they travel around together. As someone who’s a fan of road trips, this series hits everything that I love reading about.

I have so much to read! It’s a great feeling, yet a bit overwhelming at the same time especially because this doesn’t include any of the single-issue comics I have on my nightstand. 2022 will be a great reading year.

Operation Stop Hate by Jessie Chandler

In 2015, me and my friend spent our spring break driving around to local bookstores in the Twin Cities. While visiting Once Upon a Crime, I met local author Jessie Chandler. She was so nice and convinced both me and my friend to buy her book. Operation Stop Hate was the first book in a series she was writing about a local federal agent. While I read Operation Stop Hate in 2016, I had this on my re-read pile for a while. I decided to bring it to my husband’s parents’ house and read it throughout the Thanksgiving Holiday.  I’m happy to say that I enjoyed this book just as much as I first read it five years ago.

Cailin McKenna is a special agent focused on domestic terror threats. She’s called in to investigate two school shootings in the Minneapolis area. From her investigation, she realizes both shooters were listening to white power music which involves Cailin going undercover in a hate group. It’s clear there’s more at stake as the group is planning an attack on a liberal area in Minnesota. Can Cailin stop the event in time without blowing her cover?

I loved Cailin as a character. I liked her tomboyish nature and I adored her relationship with Alex. At the heart of this book is a healthy lesbian relationship. Besides their relationship, I liked seeing the local places mentioned where their characters visited. I think Chandler as an author did a great job at listing various parts of Minneapolis that anyone could follow along not just those who are from the area. The only thing I disliked about Cailin was how she put off confronting her ex. Other than that, I liked Cailin as a character.

Operation Stop Hate focused on hate groups and how hatred can lead to violence. I thought the hate groups were interesting to the plot and allowed Cailin to go undercover. While Minnesota is a liberal place to live, there are several pockets within the state where I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these groups are active today. It seems like Chandler did a lot of research on hate groups while writing this book and it showed.

I think the only minor critique I had is at times the writing could have been better. I believe the author used the word “bluetoothing” at one time when she was explaining how Cailin was connecting her phone to her car. The only other thought I would add is I’m not a fan of the title of this book. While it summarizes the plot of the book, it’s not an enticing title. If I knew nothing about this book and I saw this sitting on a shelf, I’m not sure if I would pick it up to read.

Operation Stop Hate was an intriguing and fast-paced read. I’m excited to check out Chandler’s other series which seem similar to this book. Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a sequel to this which is a shame because I would read it in a heartbeat.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

CW: Sexual Assault, Suicide. (I do not discuss this in detail, this serves as a CW for the book itself)

Horror is a genre I want to read more of, but I haven’t found my go-to author in the genre. Stephen King is the only horror author I can name which means I’m still on the periphery of horror books. I have seen Grady Hendrix’s name floating around the Booktube space specifically The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. I had this on my radar, so when October rolled around, I wanted to make sure this was on my list. I finished The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires last weekend and it was a wild ride.

Patricia Campbell lives a mundane life as a stay-at-home mom. She cleans, cooks, and routinely discusses True Crime books at her book club. Patricia invites their new neighbor to her book club to help introduce him to their community. As Patricia starts to get to know her neighbor, strange events happen in their town. Patricia starts to suspect this neighbor as being a drug dealer, but maybe he’s something more. In a town over, missing kids are dying in strange ways which leads Patricia to conclude that this neighbor could possibly be a vampire. How will Patricia convince her book club that Dracula is a few houses over?

I liked how The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was filled with irony. At the women’s book club, they talk about why people don’t say anything when a strange man moves to town who seems a bit off i.e. Ted Bundy, yet Patricia has to convince everyone that this man is no good. I feel for Patricia at times because she is often gaslit and told that she’s overthinking things. Patricia’s husband, Carter, doesn’t support her and often makes horrible statements in a nonchalant way. Patricia along with Mrs. Greene were two characters I thoroughly enjoyed reading about.

I do want to be up-front, there were several horrific and grotesque scenes in this book. I went into reading this book not expecting as much horror as there was. If it helps, I have attached my Goodreads review where I put these scenes under spoiler tags to determine if this book will work for you. These scenes involve rats, insects, and a disturbing sexual assault. I did mention the content warning already to make this clear.

My main critique of the book was that all the women seemed to blend together. Patricia stood out to me along with Mrs. Greene, otherwise, the other women seemed to sound the same. I wish there was something about each of the women that I could remember. I do think this was intentional by Hendrix as these women were all stay-at-home moms.

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was a horrific, Vampire-hunting book that fits perfectly into my Spooky TBR. I rated The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires four stars on Goodreads, although I was debating between a four or five star rating. As mentioned, I do want to read more horror, so if anyone has any author suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments section below.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

Romance books are a hit or a miss for me. A five-star romance book has to have great characters, a romance I genuinely root for, and keeps me engaged throughout the whole book. The Love Hypothesis interested me because of the mix of academia, STEM, and many reviewers saying this reminded them of Adam Driver. I graduated with a degree in science and before switching my major, I started with a degree in biology. The Love Hypothesis carried a lot of nostalgia for me because I felt myself reminiscing on my years in college where science was my life. The Love Hypothesis was hands down one of my favorite romance books I have read to date and might be the best book I read in 2021.

Olive Smith is a studious Ph.D. candidate focusing on Pancreatic cancer research. In between her studies, Olive relies on her best friend, Ahn to help keep her grounded. Ahn is dating Olive’s ex-boyfriend Jeremy although Ahn feels bad about this. For Olive to convince Ahn that she’s over Jeremy, Olive fake dates Dr. Adam Carlsen, one of the most hated professors on campus. As Olive and Adam become close, Olive starts to realize that she’s truly fallen for him.

The characters in The Love Hypothesis were fun to follow. Starting with Olive, I found myself rooting for her from the beginning. As someone who’s also had a loved one die of Pancreatic cancer, I could empathize with Olive and why she chose this particular area to study. Olive is a pumpkin spice latte-loving science nerd who wants to make a difference in the world, and I felt that. Ahn as Olive’s best friend was another character I loved reading about. There are passages mentioned where Ahn has created women’s STEM groups on campus to help women wanting to go into STEM. If there was ever a solo book featuring Ahn released by the author, Ali Hazelwood, I would be all over it. Besides Ahn, Malcolm is Olive’s other friend who is studying science. Malcolm becomes the voice of reason for Olive and helps her as she navigates her relationship with Adam.

Speaking of Adam, the romance between Olive and Adam was not only convincing but they genuinely were made for each other. I enjoyed the sexier scenes between Olive and Adam as I felt they had great chemistry together. I also thought that there were real stakes in this relationship. In any romance book, a couple is tested by some big event leading to them breaking up. In this book, I felt Olive had real stakes as to how she wanted to move forward with her relationship with Adam. As I read through this book, I was angry at what Olive had been through. I’m glad Olive and Adam got together and the way everything concluded was satisfying.

The Love Hypothesis lived up to the hype. As I read the book, I found myself not wanting to stop reading. This is one of the romance books I will set as an example of what a five-star romance book looks like. Olive and Adam are my romance book OTP. (One True Pairing).

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

Happy Halloween! It’s funny how one day has so much anticipation that builds and then it’s over fairly quickly. I decided to post a book review of a dark academia thriller I read recently, The Maidens by Alex Michaelides. This book wasn’t featured on my “Spooky TBR” post I published this month. Whenever I travel, I like to bring along my kindle as I don’t like the idea of physical books taking up precious packing space. My Spooky TBR was all the physical books I wanted to read, and The Maidens was a book I purchased for my kindle. Therefore, I ended up reading The Maidens and putting aside my physical Spooky TBR pile for now.

The Maidens piqued my interest as it seemed to combine dark academia, mystery, and greek mythology into one book. When I was debating which books to load on my kindle, The Maidens was the first book that came to mind. The Maidens was a book I enjoyed reading, however, the big twist, in the end, didn’t work for me. I’m a bit underwhelmed because I was highly anticipating this and I felt the story fell flat.

Mariana Andros is a skilled psychotherapist whose grief of losing her partner, Sebastian, has pulled her down. As she moves about her day, she is alerted to murder at her niece’s college campus which also happens to be Mariana’s alma mater, Cambridge. Zoe, Mariana’s niece, teams up with Mariana to help investigate the murder. Intertwined with the murder case is a college professor, Edward Fosca, who has a special group of students called the Maidens. Mariana is determined to find evidence that Fosca was the one who killed the girls. As Mariana digs deeper, she realizes there’s a lot more at stake than just the murdered girls.

As mentioned, I liked the mentioning of various greek tragedies and mythology. Fosca is a professor who specializes in this area of study, so it made sense why various greek mythology tragedies were mentioned. I also thought Michaelides does a great job at illustrating the setting of the book. I could imagine Mariana in a fashionable trenchcoat wandering around a gloomy campus and interacting with the students as she goes. Speaking of Mariana, I liked her as the main protagonist. I was rooting for her and I could emphasize with her grief.

The story and the ultimate twist didn’t work for me. I won’t discuss spoilers, but if you’re curious, I wrote about the spoiler in my Goodreads review hidden under spoiler tags. The twist in my opinion felt a bit out there. As I read other reviews on Goodreads, I can now envision the instances in the book that led to this twist. The reason the twist didn’t work for me was because of how heavily it impacted Mariana. I loved Mariana as a character and I thought the twist cheapened her back story. Besides the twist, I found it extremely hard to believe that Mariana was the only one who noticed Fosca’s creepy behavior. If this were in real life, everyone would think Fosca was a huge creep, yet Mariana spent a majority of the book convincing others of this.

Overall, I’m glad I spent the time reading the Maidens, however, it ended up being a letdown for me. I thought this would easily be one of my favorite books I read in 2021, but this wasn’t the case. If you have read The Maidens, I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

My Spooky TBR

It’s Spooky Season! This is my favorite time of the year and now that I’m done with wedding planning, I can fully dive into the season. I went to my local book store Cream and Amber to pick up a few books to read during this time of year. I wanted to share what’s on my Spooky TBR!

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Patricia Campbell was a successful nurse turned housewife to her husband and two kids. In her free time, she and the other moms in the town are a part of a true-crime book club which allows them to discuss how evil some people can truly be. Patricia decides to welcome a stranger to their book club. As much as Patricia is captivated by the newcomer, she starts to become suspicious as children are mysteriously disappearing from the next town over. Patricia realizes that this stranger may be the next Ted Bundy or maybe something a bit more supernatural.

This is the first book I started reading and it’s really good! I find myself wanting to read this any time I have free time. I went into this thinking it would be a typical Vampire moves next door book, however, there’s a lot more horror involved. I just read a part about rats that still makes my skin crawl.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

Vivienne Jones went through an awful breakup. She drank, she cried, and she decided to cast a curse on her ex because why not? Being a witch has its perks. Although, Vivienne’s ex moves back to their home town and Vivienne realizes her curse may have brought some unintended consequences.

Romance books aren’t my favorite genre to read, however, this premise captured me right away. When I pick out books for my October TBR, I’m drawn to books starring Witches. This will be a nice break from horror as I plan on reading this right after The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

A wedding party arrives in Ireland to begin the festivities. Champagne is popped, conversations are had, and someone turns up dead. Who is the culprit, and what secrets are revealed in the process?

I’m a sucker for a good thriller. I can’t help it, they draw me in as I want to know how everything unfolds. I think thrillers can fit into Spooky Season because human beings are capable of awful deeds.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

A female apothecary waits as women visit her from across the globe. They purchase poisons to help free themselves of the men who have wronged them. Two women are bound together in different parts of history as they seek the apothecary.

I partially bought this book for the cover. The cover shows a mystical potion bottle surrounded by neon flowers. I figured I could fit this into my TBR because of the alchemy and magic associated with this book.

I can’t wait to read all these books! I think I have enough variety in my TBR to cover different genres. Once November and December hit, I either like to read non-fiction, romance, or more thrillers. If you have any of these books, let me know what you think in the comments below, or feel free to suggest other Spooky books worth reading too.

Gatekeeping Opinions That Suck

I was reading comments on a random Facebook post. This post was about audiobooks and how this particular person found joy in listening to an audiobook during their work commute. I’m not an audiobook fan myself as I prefer podcasts, however, I can see why audiobooks have gotten popular. One comment on this post was from a person who stated that audiobooks don’t count as reading. I could feel myself getting irritated once I read this. It inspired me to turn this into a full-blown post of gatekeeping opinions that suck.

Audiobooks Don’t Count as Reading

I completely disagree. Reading has evolved from reading physical books to kindles, and audiobooks making a huge comeback. This comes off as a gatekeeping opinion because it’s dictating what counts as reading. I’m a huge reader and I don’t want people to be criticized because they read differently. This opinion also discrimnates against disabled people. If someone is visually impaired leading them to listen to audiobooks, are they less of a reader due to a disability? Nope.

All Fans are Valid and Equal – (i.e reading the books or watching the movies only)

I see this a lot specifically in the Harry Potter or Game of Thrones fan communities. I do not have the bandwidth to handle reading all the Game of Thrones books, would I be less of a fan if I only watch the show? Not at all. Reading is extremely time-consuming, and watching a show or a film is a lot easier.

Playing Video Games on an Easier Difficulty

When I was younger, I had the time to play Halo Reach on the Legendary difficulty. Now, I barely have time to play a game for an hour. I don’t want to sit and struggle in my gaming free time. Therefore, I usually play on either an easier difficulty or whatever counts as the medium. I like a challenge, but I also like to use gaming as a way to unwind. It’s completely valid to be a gamer who plays in an easier difficulty setting.

Taking Six Months to Watch a Show vs. Binge-Watching

I’m a slow TV watcher. I don’t usually finish a show within a few days or a week. I have some friends that are able to binge-watch a show, and that’s cool. It doesn’t matter how much time it takes to watch a show, as long as you’re a fan of the show, you’re a fan! A good example of this is Schitt’s Creek. I love Schitt’s Creek, but I’m still on season #2 and it’s been at least four or five months since I watched. Planning a wedding doesn’t help with this as that has sucked up most of my free time. I’m still a fan of Schitt’s Creek even if it takes me the rest of this year to complete every season.

Those were all the gatekeeping opinions I have personally witnessed recently. Let me know in the comments if there were any I missed!