Book Review: The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

7-1-2-deaths-of-evelyn-hardcastleTitle: The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle 
Author: Stuart Turton
Genre: Mystery, Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: February 8, 2018
Pages: 432
Format Read: Ebook
Standalone or series: standalone
Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle
Date finished reading: January 14, 2020

Goodreads Description: “Gosford Park” meets “Groundhog Day” by way of Agatha Christie – the most inventive story you’ll read this year.

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again.

It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

My Review: Note: This review may include some spoilers! This book was picked by a member of my book club for our group to read. It had been on my TBR for more than a year, so I was excited to finally pick it up.

7 ½ Deaths has a strong beginning. The reader is immediately thrown into an intense situation. A few members of my book club were disappointed that it started with the main character having amnesia, as the concept of an unreliable narrator seems to be overdone lately. However, what I found interesting about the main character having amnesia was that he didn’t just seem to not know the people or scene around him, but he didn’t even recognize his own body. That made me think that maybe it was not his own body. And that my friends was the first of a few twists and turns in this book. The main character is forced to relive the same day 8 times in 8 different bodies to solve the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle.

This book definitely had an Agatha Christie feel (house full of suspicious characters where a murder takes place) mixed with a bit of the fantastical like in the Netflix series Black Mirror. If you read any interviews or bios about the author, he is a huge video gamer, and this book felt very much like video game, where you have 8 lives to complete the mission.

I desperately wanted the answers to all my many questions like: Why was the main character, Aidan, being forced to solve this mystery? Who is Aidan, since he is not any of the bodies that he inhabits? Who does murder Evelyn Hardcastle? Is she murdered? With this need to have my questions answered, I read through to the very end, but I cannot say that I enjoyed the trip. There were so many characters (most of them not very redeemable characters) and the time hopping got a bit frustrating at times. One book club member dislikes time travel in books due to causality issues. I feel that there were a few of those issues in this book. About halfway through the book I really stopped caring about what was happening. I just wanted to get to the end. Even Aidan, in one of the end scenes, states, “Everything is a clutter – too many days, too many conversations.” He is not wrong.

By the time I got to the end, I was not quite sure how I wanted the mystery to play out or if I even cared. There were some twists at the end that I did not see coming, but that did not make up for the effort it took to get there. This book while incredibly unique is very involved and was just felt very meh to me.

Those who have read this, how did you feel about this book? How did you feel about the ending – particularly about Anna and Aidan leaving the past in the past and deciding to have a future together?

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ 

Reading Neil Gaiman – November 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). I thought another great addition to my Fall reads would be to read Neil Gaiman. I read my Neil Gaiman earlier this year, when I read Good Omens.

coralineTitle: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: August 4, 2002
Pages: 162
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Libby library app
Date finished reading: November 4, 2019

Goodreads Description: The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring….

In Coraline’s family’s new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close.

The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.

Only it’s different.

At first, things seem marvelous in the other flat. The food is better. The toy box is filled with wind-up angels that flutter around the bedroom, books whose pictures writhe and crawl and shimmer, little dinosaur skulls that chatter their teeth. But there’s another mother, and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Other children are trapped there as well, lost souls behind the mirrors. Coraline is their only hope of rescue. She will have to fight with all her wits and all the tools she can find if she is to save the lost children, her ordinary life, and herself.

Critically acclaimed and award-winning author Neil Gaiman will delight readers with his first novel for all ages.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

graveyardTitle: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
Pages: 307
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Libby library app
Date finished reading: November 21, 2019

Goodreads Description: Bod is an unusual boy who inhabits an unusual place-he’s the only living resident of a graveyard. Raised from infancy by the ghosts, werewolves, and other cemetery denizens, Bod has learned the antiquated customs of his guardians’ time as well as their timely ghostly teachings-like the ability to Fade. Can a boy raised by ghosts face the wonders and terrors of the worlds of both the living and the dead? And then there are things like ghouls that aren’t really one thing or the other.

This chilling tale is Neil Gaiman’s first full-length novel for middle-grade readers since the internationally bestselling and universally acclaimed Coraline. Like Coraline, this book is sure to enchant and surprise young readers as well as Neil Gaiman’s legion of adult fans.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

American_godsTitle: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 19, 2001
Pages: 635
Format Read: Audiobook/Book
Standalone or series: Book #1 in American Gods series
Where I got the book: Libby library app
Date finished reading: November , 2019

Goodreads Description: Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You’ll be surprised by what – and who – it finds there…

My Rating:

My Review: While I did enjoy reading Good Omens for a IRL book club earlier this year, I unfortunately did not enjoy reading Neil Gaiman this month as much as I would have liked. I knew when I decided to read Neil Gaiman for the first time this year that that would be stretching my reading life in a direction I did not know if I would enjoy. Fantasy tends to be one of my least favorite genres.

Coraline was a fun read and am definitely giving the graphic novel version to my niece for Christmas. However, it is definitely a story that caters to young people who need to appreciate their parents more. I feel that age-wise, I am a bit too old to truly appreciate this one.

The Graveyard Book was the most enjoyable Neil Gaiman read I chose this month. I thought it was very unusual and clever. The story had interesting characters both dead and undead, and the plot moved along with lots of fun adventures. I do recommend this book for kids and adults.

American Gods was not at all for me. This is the book I was most looking forward to reading this month and was unfortunately most disappointed in. The story had me engaged until immediately following funeral of Shadow’s wife. Is it just me or does this book assume that the reader knows norse mythology? I do not actually know anything about norse mythology, so maybe that is why the story lost my attention. I forced myself to read at least 25%, but eventually just decided to give up on it, hence the 1-star rating (which I give to all books that I DNF). This may be an unpopular opinion, but I do not recommend this book.

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ¾

Reading Rainbow Rowell – August 2019

One of my reading goals for 2019 is to become more familiar with works by different authors by featuring a different author every month (see A Focus on Authors Reading Challenge). I read Rainbow Rowell books as my August author. I had enjoyed her Eleanor & Park book a few years back and was excited about reading some more of her YA novels. Unfortunately, due to an adventurous vacation for the first half of August, I only managed to read 2 Rowell books this month, thinking they would be fun summer reads.

1429820340604Title: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: October 2015
Pages: 522
Format Read: Audiobook
Standalone or series: Book One of the Simon Snow series
Where I got the book: Library Libby App
Date finished reading: August 25, 2019

Goodreads Description: Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦

9781250073808_39862Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: September 10, 2013
Pages: 483
Format Read: ebook
Standalone or series: Standalone
Where I got the book: Amazon Kindle
Date finished reading: September 7, 2019

Goodreads Description: Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ½

My Review: In the past I have been able to read at least three books by my designated author of the month. This month I was unable to do that, and I really truly believe that it wasn’t just because I took a vacation, but that these books did not interest me enough to keep me engaged. I had pretty high expectations, since I enjoyed Eleanor and Park, but Carry On and Fangirl were not on that same level in my opinion. I chose Carry On and Fangirl, because they are somewhat connected. Carry On is about the adventures of Simon and Baz in a fantasy world, and Fangirl is revolves around Cath, who write Simon and Baz fanfiction. Technically I believe Carry On is Cath’s fanfiction. I should have picked more different books I think. I disliked Carry On a lot actually. Giving it a rating of 3-stars is actually very generous for me. This book felt a lot like Harry Potter but without the character or plot development. I really had no idea what was happening and didn’t care much about Simon and Baz. I liked that the author explored a romantic relationship between Simon and Baz, but that was about all I liked. I did like Fangirl a bit more, because I cared what happened to the main character, Cath, and felt invested in what happened to her family and how her romantic life progressed. However, I felt the author was trying to say that Cath was only writing (and a bit obsessed with) Simon and Baz fanfiction, as a way to escape her real life. I don’t write or read much fanfiction, but I don’t necessarily buy into the fact that those who read and write fanfiction are just using those worlds to escape their own.

This was an attempt to add a bit more fantasy and YA into my reading life, but it didn’t really do much for me. I think I will just have to take a break from both genres for a bit.

My Overall Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ¼

Book Review: The Book Charmer

42202000Title: The Book Charmer
Author: Karen Hawkins
Genre: Literary, Magical Realism
Publisher: Gallery Book (Simon & Schuster)
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Pages: 368
Format Read: book & ebook
Standalone or series: Book 1 of Dove Pond series
Where I got the book: BookishFirst (book) & NetGalley (ebook)
Date finished reading: July 23, 2019

Goodreads Description: New York Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins crafts an unforgettable story about a sleepy Southern town, two fiercely independent women, and a truly magical friendship.

Sarah Dove is no ordinary bookworm. To her, books have always been more than just objects: they live, they breathe, and sometimes they even speak. When Sarah grows up to become the librarian in her quaint Southern town of Dove Pond, her gift helps place every book in the hands of the perfect reader. Recently, however, the books have been whispering about something out of the ordinary: the arrival of a displaced city girl named Grace Wheeler.

If the books are right, Grace could be the savior that Dove Pond desperately needs. The problem is, Grace wants little to do with the town or its quirky residents—Sarah chief among them. It takes a bit of urging, and the help of an especially wise book, but Grace ultimately embraces the challenge to rescue her charmed new community. In her quest, she discovers the tantalizing promise of new love, the deep strength that comes from having a true friend, and the power of finding just the right book.

“A mesmerizing fusion of the mystical and the everyday” (Susan Andersen, New York Times bestselling author), The Book Charmer is a heartwarming story about the magic of books that feels more than a little magical itself. Prepare to fall under its spell.

My Review: I was fortunate enough to receive two ARC copies of this book. I received an ebook from NetGalley so am using this as my first review for the NetGalley #Reviewathon. I received a physical copy from BookishFirst, which I look forward to passing along to someone in my book club, which meets soon.

This is a sweet story filled with likable characters. The town of Dove Pond reminds me a bit of Stars Hollow in Gilmore Girls, where everyone knows everything about everyone, but unfortunately does not have a Taylor to keep the city running – until Grace moves to Dove Pond.

Grace moves to Dove Pond to afford to take care of her foster mom, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, and her niece, whose mother passed away from a drug overdose. It is only natural that Grace is struggling with these new responsibilities. Throughout the story, the reader can see the everyday difficulties of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. On a personal note, as someone who watched a family member struggle with this disease, I found those moments in the book very realistic. With all these responsibilities and a stressful city clerks job, Grace is convinced by other members of the town to help organize the town’s Apple Festival, which will also hopefully save the town from financial ruin.

There is a bit of magical realism in this story that adds a some fun and intrigue to the plot. Mama G seems to be able to read people’s thoughts. The Dove family is known to have certain powers. Ava Dove has an amazing green thumb and with the plants she grows, she creates teas that help people, depending on their needs. Sarah Dove’s power is that books talk to her. The books let her know when they will be useful to someone. Sarah has a special connection with a book about Dove Pond that insists that Grace will place an important role in Dove Pond. While the book does not tell Sarah exactly know what that role is, she befriends Grace and encourages her but can she convince Grace to stay in Dove Pond?

I enjoyed this enchanting read. It was a bit repetitious at times, but the plot still managed to flow, and I enjoyed the character interaction immensely. I feel this story possessed a lot of great lessons in hope, love, compassion and the importance/power of relationships.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦