The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

Think Clue on steroids ~Sheila

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered.

It is the 1920’s and Aiden Bishop wakes up in a forest calling out in terror, the name of a person he does not know.

He is also in a body he does not know.

After a harrowing experience, he makes his way to a nearby home, only to find out that everyone there knows him as this someone else, and apparently he was a guest there at the previous nights party. As he attempts to puts things together he discovers that each time he sleeps, he awakens as a different guest – all the while trying to solve the murder that takes place – apparently EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I kind of feel like it is the year of the maps! This is the third book I have read recently that had a map in it! Love it!


So….
Picture yourself as a pawn in the game CLUE. You are put in a cup and you are shaken about and dropped onto the board as a guest to solve the crime….

Yet, every so often, you are tossed back in the cup, shaken up and dropped back in the game as a different pawn, trying to device what you have already learned from your past-pawn experience, as well as put things together as this new pawn…
and then..

it happens again.
and again.

And again.
and…

You get the picture. The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is like that. With each new body Aiden encompasses, he learns a little more, being able to use this body so to speak, to find out things that perhaps in the previous body he could not. The trick is of course, that none of this is in any kind of order – so some things he is experiencing too early to understand, and some things might make sense much later.

Yeah.

It’s like that.

In some ways, this book is brilliant. I listened to this on audio (incredible narration!) and found myself in bewilderment of the authors mind to come up with all of this AND keep it all straight as you weave back and forth and sideways through the guest list. I do like me a good who-done-it.

However as time went on, my mind was so tangled in the details and repetitions that it started to feel LLLLOOOONNNGGGG. Just when I thought we were close, we were not…

Honestly, I am not entirely sure what I feel about this book. I am glad I had the opportunity to experience it. It sounds like NETFLIX will have this as a series and yes, I will certainly give it an attempt to see if all things click better visually. In the end, I feel I am left with more questions than answers.

I am actually uber curious to see what others thought of this book and look forward to our discussion on June 21st on ZOOM with the Books Burgers and Brews group.

All are welcome – if you would like to get in on this book discussion feel free to register here. There is a pretty good chance I will dress the part. ;P

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

In eighteenth century London, a secret Apothecary Shop lends a hand to those in need in a very unusual way… women with a cheating spouse just need to seek out Nella who will give these ladies a little something something to make sure they never stray again… or breath for that matter…
When a young girl names Eliza comes to the shop, she is looking for more than a cure, she wants to learn the art of potions, and while Nella feels that no good can come of this – she can not deny the strange connection she feels towards the girl. Unknowingly, together, they will make history.

In present time, Carolyn Parcewell finds herself in London experiencing her ten year anniversary – alone. After recently discovering her husband’s infidelity, she takes their planned trip anyway – looking for distance and time to sort through her feelings. Having a love of history, she finds herself frequenting the local library and researching information on an aged apothecary bottle she found in the river while taking a walk. Her research connects her to London’s unsolved murders and a chance to put her mind on something other than her own personal stuff. As Caroline continues her investigating, she uncovers a long forgotten mystery that will bind her to Nella and Eliza forever.

I love book maps!

The Lost Apothecary has a little bit of magic. A little bit of mystery. AND a whole lot of fun historical happenings. I loved the back and forth of early London and the secrets of the Apothecary and its mission to help wronged women (well… most of them anyway – I don’t want to go give too much away 😉 ) and then forward to Carolyn’s story as she stumbles on long-buried secrets that lead her to the history of this very Apothecary.

Sarah Penner’s debut novel is an engaging read that I found myself seeking out whenever I had the time. I was impressed with the nice flow of the two timelines, in particular when what was happening in eighteenth-century London, was what Carolyn was discovering with her research at the same time. Nice touch, Sarah.


Overall I feel the book is worth the attention it is getting. The Lost Apothecary made the New York Times best Seller’s list seven weeks in a row, debuting at #7. It is currently being translated into 30 languages.

If I had one tiny complaint, it would be that it wrapped up too quickly. I know all good things must come to an end but I was finishing this one on audio and all of a sudden ending credits were playing and I thought I had missed something. I actually went back to listen to the last chapter again. I guess I expected more. Of course, all will be forgiven if that just means there may be a follow up book 🙂

I read this for our June book club discussion and already am contemplating ideas of bottled “potions” and something…
a little magical.

Worth the read? You bet.

Check our Sarah Penner here.

Troubles In Paradise by Elin Hilderbrandt

After all the turmoil surrounding the uncovering of Irene Steele’s husband Russ’, double life, Irene is trying to start again in St. John. Yet a visit from the FBI once again throws a wrench in the plans and reminds Irene that she really knew very little about the man she had spent her life with.

As things unfold, evidence leads to the knowledge that the crash that killed Russ may now have been the accident everyone was lead to believe. With the help of her friends and her son’s, Irene will face this storm as well.

It’s no secret that I adore Elin Hildebrandt’s books. This is the third book in the Paradise trilogy and for me it was taking a trip to a a beautiful space filled with sunshine, beach air, and old friends. The perfect read for this time of year as I crave more sunlight and days with nothing more to commit to then a good read and a lot of iced tea.

Beneath A Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

In 1943 Milan, Italy, Pino Lella has no interest in the war. At seventeen, he was about hanging with his friends and what girl he could get to catch his eye.

In a matter of hours, this would all change.

As the air raid sirens wailed, and destruction rained down on Milan, Pino Lella’s world changed for forever. And he had no idea what important role he would play in it.

We read this book in May of 2021 for Books Burgers and Brews. Honestly, this is a book I most likely would not have ever picked up. 434 pages in book format on the war? 17 hours and 43 minutes on audio? Not exactly what I would run to pick up.

And isn’t this one of the many beauties of book clubs? You find something you would have never read on your own…

The historical fiction story of Pino Lella is an amazing one. Pino is a quiet war hero and plays a role in saving many Jews from Hitler’s ruling in many ways.

The story flows well in both book and audio format ( I did a little of both, more audio then book as it fit better into my schedule), both are highly recommended.

This book is an amazing read no matter how much is fictionalized to fill in the gaps from the Authors meetings with Pino.

You may recognize Author Mark Sullivan’s name from his writing with James Patterson.

Feel free to join us VIA ZOOM on June 21st for our discussion of Stuart Turton’s book, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

The Other Emily by Dean Koontz

Essence of Koontz’ Frankenstein series

Writer David Thorne still grieves the tragic loss of his beloved Emily. Even though it has been ten years, David still can not get the images out of his head of her being taken all those years ago when her car broke down on the side of the road, presumably another of serial killer Ronny Lee Jessup’s victims.


He should have been with her… this never would have happened if he had only been there. He should have been there.

Then on chance, David meets Maddison Sutton. She is beyond beautiful, intelligent, playful – but what really shakes David to the core is that she is everything like Emily, right down to her expressions, toss of her hair, and even her kisses. Yet that is impossible. Emily would be older now, and Maddison looks like the girl David last seen a decade ago. As much as David wants to believe this is his second chance, he can not let go of that sickening gut feeling that something is terribly wrong. David must decide if the fantasy is worth looking the other way or must he continue to do what he has done for the last ten years and search for the truth no matter how painful it is.

SO….. I am a long time Koontz fan. Long before I was writing about books here ( so , before 2009 – eep!) I was reading Koontz. As years went by his writing changed and I fell away from his books – however some titles as of late, such as this one, started to pull me back in.

The Other Emily surprised me how dark it was, although I questions why I was surprised. I had forgotten that in my twenties – these were the books I enjoyed and this is exactly who Koontz always was – I had just…

forgotten.

That said – I still enjoyed this book. Dean Koontz is a gifted writer and this book surrounding an abduction of a woman is only the surface layer of what is going on here. A couple of years ago, a friend from out of state and I decided to read Koontz’ Frankenstein series together. Every Sunday we would talk on the phone about the chapters we had read. I bring that up now, because this book had a surprising likeness to what Koontz centers that series around. I don’t want to say too much as I do not wish to give anything away.

I did enjoy this book. It was a fun reminder of the powerful genius of this author. I listened to it on audio and it completely sucked me in. Absolutely recommended.



Bookies Book Club Review: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

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I read this book while on vacation this past February. If you read my review you find that I soared through the book, having trouble putting it down. I wanted to know what would happen next – and honestly reading a book like this reminded me how much I love just having time to be with a book.

When my book club chose this book to be our May read, I felt they had made a good choice but knew I was not going to read it again this quickly, knowing at times how heavy and drawn the subject matter could be. In fact when one girl asked if Elsa’s life got any better (possible spoiler here) I said no. Then I thought about my answer and wondered how I gushed about a book that is – well honestly, extremely sad.

I came up with two reasons:


  1. I rarely have time to just sink into a book without time restraints (ooh I have 30 minutes before I have to go…. or I need to get going on the laundry or start blah blah blah… ) Being on vacation with nothing but glorious time…I really was able to dig in.
  2. Kristin Hannah. Angie, in our book club, nailed it when she said Hannah just writes in a way that makes you engage. She can take a heavy hard depressing topic like this and make it readable. Relatable. dare I say enjoyable?


So What did the Bookies think?

Whey had some fun with this…

“It just kept going on and on…”
“Every page, I was like is this here break? And then … nope.”



Honestly though, as a book club choice we highly recommend. It’s true the book does not bring a lot of sunshine, yet why would it? The Four Winds is about Elsa, and starts pre- dust storm, and then carries on throughout Elsa’s adult life into her marriage, hew kids, and extended family. It’s a brutaly honest look at how things were during these times, and honestly to put a merry spin on it would have been wrong – no matter how hard we rooted for her.



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Our discussion leaned not only towards the decisions that Elsa makes throughout the book, but also into the Dust Bowl itself, each of us learning a bit about this time period and a few sharing stories that were handed down from our own relatives.

While we had a few within our 16 person group who did not enjoy the book, the majority rated it high, finding it an honest recap of the way things were as well as an interesting look into one family in particular as they made their way.

Here are some questions that we used in our discussion, taken from discussion questions on line and tweaking to make them more our own: (NOTE- spoilers to anyone who has not read the book)

1. A theme in the book is the American Dream, either through financial independence or traveling to California in search of a better life. Was the American Dream true then? Is it now?

2. Elsa came from an unloving family who told her she was “too tall, too plain, and too old” to ever meet someone and get married. How did this negative home life effect her? How did it follow her over her life? What does this negative influence do to any child or person?

3. When Elsa becomes pregnant, how does this change the lives around her? Rafe? Her parents? His parents? Elsa?

4. Loreda as she grows listens to her dads dream of making it big elsewhere. Loreda and Rafe turn out to be a lot alike in that way – dreamers. How does this differ from the way Elsa sees things? How does this effect Elsa and Loreda’s relationship as they move forward without Rafe?

5. What do you think happened to Rafe?

6. Ant becomes ill due to the dust causing Elsa to make hard decisions about moving. What would you have done in Elsa’s position?

7. When Rafe’s parents refuse to move with them, Loreda describes them as “plants that can only grow in one place”. What does this mean?

8. With the extreme poverty conditions of the time period, how does this compare to what we go through today?

9. Loreda finds her voice after going to the Communist Movement Meeting and meeting Jack. How does this change Loreda for the better? For the worse?

10. Elsa eventually falls hard for Jack and experiences romantic love for the first time. What did you think of this romance?

Jack calls Elsa a Warrior. What is a warriors definition to you? Is Elsa a warrior?

11. Elsa speaks up against the oppressors and is shot when doing so. What does this do to the story?

12. What do you think about the ending and Loreda returning home and attending college?

13. Is there a favorite part of the book for you?

14. What lessons do you take away from this period in history?



I read this book while on vacation this past February. If you read my review you find that I soared through the book, having trouble putting it down. I wanted to know what would happen next – and honestly reading a book like this reminded me how much I love just having time to be with a book.

When my book club chose this book to be our May read, I felt they had made a good choice but knew I was not going to read it again this quickly, knowing at times how heavy and drawn the subject matter could be. In fact when one girl asked if Elsa’s life got any better (possible spoiler here) I said no. Then I thought about my answer and wondered how I gushed about a book that is – well honestly, extremely sad.

I came up with two reasons:

  1. I rarely have time to just sink into a book without time restraints (ooh I have 30 minutes before I have to go…. or I need to get going on the laundry or start blah blah blah… ) Being on vacation with nothing but glorious time…I really was able to dig in.
  2. Kristin Hannah. A girl in my book nailed it when she said Hannah just writes in a way that makes you engage. She can take a heavy hard depressing topic like this and make it readable. Relatable. dare I say enjoyable?


So What did the Bookies think?

Whey had some fun with this…

“It just kept going on and on…”
“Every page, I was like is this here break? And then … nope.”

Honestly though, as a book club choice we highly recommend. It’s true the book does not bring a lot of sunshine, yet why would it? The Four Winds is about Elsa, and starts pre- dust storm, and then carries on throughout Elsa’s adult life into her marriage, hew kids, and extended family. It’s a brutaly honest look at how things were during these times, and honestly to put a merry spin on it would have been wrong – no matter how hard we rooted for her.

Our discussion leaned not only towards the decisions that Elsa makes throughout the book, but also into the Dust Bowl itself, each of us learning a bit about this time period and a few sharing stories that were handed down from our own relatives.

While we had a few within our 16 person group who did not enjoy the book, the majority rated it high, finding it an honest recap of the way things were as well as an interesting look into one family in particular as they made their way.

Here are some questions that we used in our discussion, taken from discussion questions on line and tweaking to make them more our own: (NOTE- spoilers to anyone who has not read the book)

1. A theme in the book is the American Dream, either through financial independence or traveling to California in search of a better life. Was the American Dream true then? Is it now?

2. Elsa came from an unloving family who told her she was “too tall, too plain, and too old” to ever meet someone and get married. How did this negative home life effect her? How did it follow her over her life? What does this negative influence do to any child or person?

3. When Elsa becomes pregnant, how does this change the lives around her? Rafe? Her parents? His parents? Elsa?

4. Loreda as she grows listens to her dads dream of making it big elsewhere. Loreda and Rafe turn out to be a lot alike in that way – dreamers. How does this differ from the way Elsa sees things? How does this effect Elsa and Loreda’s relationship as they move forward without Rafe?

5. What do you think happened to Rafe?

6. Ant becomes ill due to the dust causing Elsa to make hard decisions about moving. What would you have done in Elsa’s position?

7. When Rafe’s parents refuse to move with them, Loreda describes them as “plants that can only grow in one place”. What does this mean?

8. With the extreme poverty conditions of the time period, how does this compare to what we go through today?

9. Loreda finds her voice after going to the Communist Movement Meeting and meeting Jack. How does this change Loreda for the better? For the worse?

10. Elsa eventually falls hard for Jack and experiences romantic love for the first time. What did you think of this romance?

Jack calls Elsa a Warrior. What is a warriors definition to you? Is Elsa a warrior?

11. Elsa speaks up against the oppressors and is shot when doing so. What does this do to the story?

12. What do you think about the ending and Loreda returning home and attending college?

13. Is there a favorite part of the book for you?

14. What lessons do you take away from this period in history?

The Family Journal by Carolyn Brown

Sometimes, it takes blowing everything up – to find your true life. ~Sheila

Lily Anderson still finds herself reeling from a messy divorce leaving her with full custody of her two young teen children Holly and Braden. When Holly is caught smoking in the Library, Lily realizes that in her own grief she has neglected to give the attention to her kids that they need. At her wits end she takes the kids cell phones and IPADS and declares a do-over. Feeling they all need a fresh start she makes the decision to move the kids and herself back to her family home in Comfort, Texas.

The home is occupied by longtime renter Mack Cooper, a local teacher, who agrees to share the home with Lily and the kids while they take a break and reset.

Yet, things have a way of changing of changing in ways you never expect…

As Lily finds a part time job with two of her longtime friends and the kids become settled in school things start to change for the better. Mack’s occasional help with the kids and friendship isn’t a bad thing either as Lily starts to wonder if this truly just a temporary move –

or has she stumbled for once in the right direction.



“there was no room in a heart for both love and hate. She said that hate would soon eat up its half of the heart and want more and more until soon there would be no love left for anyone.”
― Carolyn Brown, The Family Journal

My Thoughts…

The Family Journal is just the type of book I like when my mind is full and I can use a mind break. Not heavy or over engaging, this book is a sweet read about a family ripped apart through divorce and circumstances and yet finds a way to reconnect in powerful ways.

I enjoyed the relationships between Lily and her kids although Holly’s change especially seemed like it changed a little too quick from rebellious young teen to complying caring daughter. Even with little notes of “hmmm…. that was easy….” it was still an enjoyable read by an author I have come to appreciate for engaging family driven stories.

Carolyn Brown is mostly a romance author which is absolutely NOT in my genre wheelhouse. However – she does have a few gems out there that are not based on heavy romance, such as The Sometimes Sisters which I recently read and reviewed.

Woman 99 by Greer Macallister

Imagine… being sent away for having a strong opinion, being cast off from society simply because – they can. ~Sheila

When Charlotte’s sister Phoebe becomes a “disruption,” Phoebe’s future plans are suddenly thrown away when her parents make the decision to place her in an asylum for women. Charlotte knows in her heart this is not where Phoebe belongs. Deeply disturbed by her parents actions, Charlotte, unbeknownst to her family, creates her own act of craziness to be placed in the asylum as well to find her sister and free her.

Charlotte succeeds to be placed in the asylum, labeled as Woman 99. Her time in the asylum makes Charlotte aware that many of the women within these walls that were labeled insane, were merely more of an inconvenience. As days turn into weeks and more truth’s are brought to light, Charlotte realizes she has more to do then find and free her sister. There are many things wrong at Goldengrove Asylum, and many people will do anything to make certain these secrets remain just that.

My Thoughts…

Talk about engaging! Woman 99 was a a very interesting read that covered not only the asylum’s of this time, but also the importance of class, and identity. I enjoy Historical Fiction novels. They often give me a taste of a topic that leads to me digging in deeper and seeking out more on the subject.

I would say that Woman 99 is definitely a timely topic. In a world that does not seem to have a plan for what to do with the many ranges of mental illness of today, we see a very different world in the late 1800’s as in the setting of this book. Women were sent away for any number of reasons including – they just were not wanted and could be sent away by family as well as husbands. Heartbreaking really to think of anyone having the power to just dispose of someone who they found to be “in the way”.

I found the book to be interesting. Not a heavy read by any means, it is more of a telling of a family and the happenings surrounding a small time period in their lives. The dialogue was engaging. I loved Charlotte’s drive and fearlessness it took to put herself into a situation that was completely unknown.

I am interested in reading more by this author, and recently picked up a copy of her book The Magician’s Lie at our Friends of the Library used book sale.

Bookies Book Club Thoughts

Woman 99 came on my radar when Author Greer Macallister said yes to being one of our Author’s at this years Wine and Words event. Our Book Club enjoys reading the authors prior the event and this book won our vote to be read this April. Our discussion was a good one, centered around mental illness, and the very realness of such asylums in the late 1800’s. We also discussed how people are treated today with such illnesses and with no place for them to go that is safe in many communities, they are often labeled as trouble and can even be placed in jail.

Some of our discussion centered around –

1. What did we find to be the worst treatment at the asylum?

2. Would any of us be so daring as to do what Charlotte did?

3. In todays world how would you diagnose Phoebe?

4. Which woman’s story within the asylum spoke to you the most?

5. What did we know of asylums such as these prior to reading the book?

*The Author also included discussion questions on the back of the book.

Morning Meanderings… What Makes A Reader?

I have been a voracious reader most of my life. As a kid I won the book worm award in grade school. I remember it was a large cardstock worm with a book and glasses…

They called my name to go the front of the gym and accept my award in front of all the grade school classes. I was so proud.

I absolutely loved the school library and the day each week that we would single file go to return the previous weeks books and check out more. What an amazing system – books MORE than you could possibly ever read, waiting for you to select it for a moment in your life.

In my early days, books were a key to other worlds, other lives, other adventures. I lived many through the pages and pages. Books were also perfect for escape when my own world became too intense… the house fire, the moving to another state, the return, the horse accident, the car accidents, the losses.

I am not sure how my reading love began as I was a “lone reader” in my house growing up. My mom and dad were not readers. My sister was too young and never had the chance to become one. I wonder now if she would have been and if this is something we would have shared over conversations on the phone or local coffee shops… gushing in excitement or deeply talking about what we had read.

As full as my life is, I am still drawn to books and fit them into every nook and cranny my mind has room for. Often, these days it is audio so I can cook or clean, drive or paint or rake while listening. Yet when I do have some time, I love to open a book and READ.

I miss not doing that more.

Above are the books that reached me this past week. Second Tuesdays for 20 years now has been our Book Clubs day to meet. This month we read Woman 99 by Greer Macallister. A good Historical Fiction read about late 1800’s Women’s Asylum’s. What an interesting read and discussion! MY review will show up soon.


The Nickel Boys By Colson Whitehead was our Books Burgers and Brews read this month – another Historical Fiction read, horrifying on an even more-so level as this book is written about the actual Dozier School for Boys which has many unaccounted for boys and buried secrets.

Which leads me to Dean Koontz book, Innocence which I am hopeful to dive into this weekend. Dean used to be a go to author for me and looking at his list of books this morning I don’t’ believe I missed any of his earlier books:
77 Shadow Street, What The Night Knows, Breathless, Relentless, Your Heart Belongs To Me, The Darkest Evening Of The Year, The Good Guy, The Husband, Life Expectancy, The Funhouse (my first by him), Demon Seed, Tick Tock, Sole Survivor, Strange Highways, Winter Moon, Shadow Fires, Ice Bound, The Eyes Of Darkness, The Key to Midnight, The Voice Of The Night, Shattered, Mr. Murder, Midnight, Lightning, Watchers, Strangers, Hideaway, Fear Nothing, By The Light Of The Moon, The Face, Whispers.
Yup… I read all of them 😀

Now I am excited to read this book that I recently found at our used book sale, as well as excited to dig into his newest release, The Other Emily.



How did you become a reader? Were you always a reader or became one later in life? Did you have someone who inspired you to read?

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys is a fictional story centered around the real Dozier School, a reform school for boys in Florida.

In 1960’s Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis is working towards his future. Kept on the right path by his Grandmother, Elwood is planning to enroll in a nearby Black College. When Elwood finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, he is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called The Nickel Academy.

While Nickel Academy is said to be a place that makes ‘young men honorable and honest’, this is not the truth of what happens. Elwood finds him in a situation that could only be compared to his worst nightmares. The boys of Nickel Academy are beaten and abused by the staff. If you make trouble, you disappear.

Elwood befriends a boy names Turner who finds Elwood to be naïve to the ways of the world. Turner feels the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble. The boy’s while opposite in their thinking, make a decision together that changes their world forever.

You know how when you are reading a good book you can lose yourself in it? Sink right down and feel all cozy immersed in this other world?

This is not that book.

The Nickel Boys at times is devastating. Made even more so by the fact that you are reading historical fiction, and while Elwood and Turner and the others within the book are fictional – the school, in fact, is not. This is a book I listened to mostly on audio, however I feel strongly that I will be going through at least part of this again in my print copy.



Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. 


Colson Whitehead is a powerful writer. The book is beautifully written, narrative heavy, and while it clearly is not a cozy blanket and cup of tea kind of read, it is hard and real and makes you want to turn the pages to know what is going to happen. Whitehead is also the author of The Underground Railroad, a soon to be Amazon Prime series. This book won Whitehead the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

This is a book I highly recommend. Not only so you get a little idea of the Dozier school, which I highly recommend if you have not read about you do, you read a powerful story about friendship and loss of freedom. Named by Time Magazine as one of the best books of the decade.

We read and discussed this with Books Burgers and Brews and it was a very interesting and engaging discussion.