The Hive

I struggled with today’s post because, thanks to my commute to work and what feels like endless chores around my home, I’ve listened to three pretty great reads in the last week. All were crime fiction (of course) with very different themes. This first one is a throwback to the very first book review I did on this site. Back in October 2020, I reviewed one of Gregg Olsen’s true crime books. Today I’m giving you a glimpse into his fiction writing, which is A++ and can only be compared to the likes of Karin Slaughter and Chevy Stevens.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I found this book to be a bit confusing – mostly due to my own struggle to focus on the audio while doing other things (like driving). Around chapter 22, I had to go all the way back to the very start and begin again. There are so many characters to keep straight, which definitely requires full focus. I’d either recommend listening while doing mundane tasks or sitting down with the actual book. Once I gave it the attention it deserved, I was captivated.

Title: The Hive
Author: Gregg Olsen
Rating: Loaded with Lies, Secrets & Drama
Genre: Crime Fiction
Page Count: 475 pages (13 hours, 41 minutes via audio)
Published: 2021

Marnie Spellman is the queen bee – literally – of her little town. As a child, she was famously lifted off the ground by a swarm of bees that supposedly whispered secrets of the world to her. As an adult, she built her cosmetics empire on her ability to create natural beauty products made with the honey from the bees she kept. Behind the glossy image that Marnie portrays for the world is a secret that’s been hidden for 20 years.

After a young college student is found dead in present day, and a local detective starts investigating, all signs start pointing to the case of a woman who died mysteriously twenty years earlier. What do the two deaths have in common? Why, Marnie Spellman, of course.

This story is about what happens when a group of people try to keep a secret, a determined detective comes snooping around, said group starts getting nervous, and what’s hidden in the past starts to unravel. This is also the story of the rise and fall of the queen bee and her five followers. The truth usually comes out in the end. Usually.

If you’re looking for a good gossipy crime fiction read, this is it.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: any of Gregg Olsen’s other crime fiction books.

Win The Day

I’ve read many books on habits and productivity because the reinforcement of common themes is always appreciated and needed. About three weeks ago I started a new old job (read more about that here) and that meant commuting to the office, which I haven’t done in about 9 months. When searching for a new book about creating positive habits (mainly in order to revamp my mornings), I stumbled upon Win the Day by Mark Batterson, who just happens to be one of my go-to self-help authors.

Note: This author is pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC and his writing has a Christian flair to it, meaning that he mentions God pretty frequently. If you’re okay with this, read on. If not, you might want to check out a more secular book on habits such as Atomic Habits by James Clear (a fantastic read).

Title: Win the Day: 7 Daily Habits to Help You Stress Less & Accomplish More
Author: Mark Batterson
Rating: A Must-Read
Genre: (Christian) Self-Help
Page Count: 256
Published: 2020

I found this book to be much different from Batterson’s others, which is always refreshing. While he does mention a few of the central characters and themes from some of his previous books, it’s mostly filled with new content – stories and anecdotes of successful people who’ve developed good habits. This book is basically a how-to guide for us to replicate these positive behaviors and establish our own good habits to help us win the day, the week, the year, and life in general. You’ll learn how to change your life by changing your story, that it’s important to do the hard things first, to always enjoy the moment, and much more. No matter what habit we’re trying to establish, it just takes a few simple steps compounded daily for us to become better versions of ourselves. So easy, right?

This was a great motivational read. Batterson is a master storyteller and in his latest book, he makes change seem easy. I also loved the tidbits of historical info interspersed within the pages! The writing is so encouraging and down to earth – you can’t go wrong by picking up this book.

If you’re a fan of Mark Batterson or Christian Self-Help in general, you’ll definitely want to add this book to your list. Get motivated to change some of your daily habits so you can win your day, your year, and your life!

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: Atomic Habits by James Clear.

The Marriage Pact

I enjoy a good cult story. I thought The Sixes by Kate White was a great read – actually, that novel prompted me to read all of White’s books back to back. To be honest, as soon as I started reading The Marriage Pact, I didn’t really know where it was going. It started out with too much detail and I put it down several times. Once it picked up the pace, I had to see it through. Overall, it was definitely entertaining – although I wish that there were multiple viewpoints instead of just the husband – but the whole plot became a bit ridiculous and the ending was a little out of left field. All through the last half of the book, I found myself shaking my head – what the hell!?

Title: The Marriage Pact
Author: Michelle Richmond
Rating: More Miss Than Hit
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Page Count: 432 (16 hours, 24 minutes via audio)
Published: 2017

Alice and Jake are newlyweds who find themselves entangled with a group of Friends that belong to an exclusive and secret group called The Pact. The goal is to keep marriages happy and avoid divorce at all costs. Some of the rules include planning quarterly vacations, buying monthly gifts for your spouse, and always answering the phone when they call. All of this seems pretty straightforward (at first) and joining feels like a no-brainer to the happy couple. Because let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to have the support of other seasoned couples as you navigate your new marriage?

Things quickly get out of hand when some of the rules are broken. Alice is put into a head/neck restraint for her transgressions – almost like a neck brace, but metal. For a month. Jake is accused of adultery and sent to “prison” for a week or so. Things escalate even more (if you can believe it) and the two are forced to go on the run to escape The Pact. After all of this, the ending is just so ridiculous and unbelievable. You’ll probably wonder why you stuck around to finish it.

If you’re looking to be entertained and don’t care too much about the plot, this might be a good book for you. If you’re on the hunt for a more sensible psychological thriller, keep looking.

I can’t say this book was disappointing because I really wasn’t sure what to expect – I read it for free via my Audible membership. It’s about a cultish marriage pact that the protagonists find themselves unable to escape. If you listen to it, you might be sad you wasted over 16 hours on it. Or you could revel in the fact that the drama in your marriage doesn’t even scratch the surface of this disastrous tale. If you’re looking to be entertained, give it a go; if you care about the plot, skip it.

What Color Is Your Parachute?

Warning: This post is LONG and includes highlights from my personal job search. If you’re just here to see if you should get the book, I’ll save you some time: Buy. It. Now.

This story begins in late September 2020. I had just left a really great company for what I thought was a dream come true: new industry, new career path, fully remote, fresh start. But a month or two later, my excitement segued into burnout.

Ight, Imma Head Out

I was hired as a project manager to add structure to the company and develop a department from the ground up. I won’t divulge all the details, but it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t a good fit for the environment or the position. After exhausting every possibility to change my situation, I decided the best course of action was to leave.

No Strategy, No Options

I started looking for a new job back in November 2020, just two months after I started. I didn’t have a job search strategy, I was just applying anywhere I could to get out of my current position. Obviously, that’s not the way to do it, but at the time, I felt desperate. That lack of strategy got me absolutely nowhere.

When I wasn’t sending out my resume to every employer in the tri-state area, I was spending every spare minute of my time reading blogs, watching videos, and studying up on the interview process. This was probably the only thing I did right at the time – even though I didn’t have any prospects, I was 110% ready for the interview I was hoping to land.

False Hope

Fast forward a few months and in March, a recruiter from an insurance company in NYC reached out via LinkedIn. They were hiring for a marketing project lead and thought I’d be a good fit. I did too, so I eagerly submitted an application. A few days later, I landed a phone screening, which just happened to be during a cross-country trip I took with my husband. The call took place just outside Yellowstone National Park at the first place that had service. About an hour before, we packed up our campsite, frantically searched for a signal, and pulled off the road into a deserted parking lot. While I casually chatted with my phone balancing on the dashboard, my husband walked around the lot trying to stay warm as he gave me a little privacy.

The phone screening went well – thank God! – and I was invited back for a Zoom interview. This one happened when we were in Colorado Springs. It was supposed to wrap up the minute we needed to check out of the hotel. At one point, I was in mid-sentence when the crappy hotel wi-fi went out and I had to switch to my cell phone. My husband stood outside the door while I finished my call. We cut it close but made it happen.

When I returned home, I was happy to learn that I made it to the final stage of the interview process: meeting with the hiring manager. I was so nervous, but at that point, I was also hopeful that all of my accommodations would put me ahead of the competition. Plus, I was home, so there wouldn’t be any connection issues. But, unfortunately, the interview wasn’t great and my candidacy was rejected for my “lack of problem-solving skills.” Oh, the irony.

What Color Is Your Parachute?

Author: Richard N. Bolles
Rating: A Must-Buy
Genre: Career/Job-Hunting
Page Count: 343
Published: Original 1970; Latest 2020

That last rejection really pushed me over the edge. At that point, I felt like there was no way out of a job I hated.

After turning to the Internet for help (as one does in 2021), I was led to the book What Color Is Your Parachute? by Richard Nelson Bolles. It was first published in 1970 and has been updated almost every year since. In fact, the copy I purchased is the 50th Anniversary edition. If I’m honest, I never picked this book up before because I thought I knew what I wanted to do career-wise: write and market for a company I like.

What Color Is Your Parachute? is famous for its Flower Exercise, which will help you get clear on seven important factors that I’ll describe below. Each chapter will guide you to understanding what makes you happy and fulfilled and what to look for in a company when you’re searching for a new role. Figuring this out was my Eureka moment. It helped me understand what I wanted and needed, and it helped me land my next job.

  1. Favorite People Environment – This was an easy one for me. I love working with like-minded individuals who collaborate well and are not just coworkers, but genuine friends.
  2. Favorite Working Conditions – After spending over a year at home, I can officially say that I don’t enjoy being full-time remote. There’s nothing like poping into someone’s office to say hello, having office parties and celebrations, and being surrounded by the people described above.
  3. Favorite Skills/Abilities/Talents – I got clear on what skills I have and what I actually like doing: teaching, problem-solving, team-building, writing, developing, editing, innovating, and so much more. 
  4. Knowledge/Interests – My top three interests are EXACTLY what I was doing at that great company I left in September: marketing, writing, and working with financial products.
  5. Salary – This is obviously a personal one unique to all of us. For me, the right salary is a reflection of my skills and abilities, with constant room for growth. It allows me to live comfortably, travel to new destinations, and give to charitable organizations. I’m also all about a company with comprehensive and affordable health insurance, retirement plan with a company match, fitness reimbursement, and a healthy bucket of PTO to enjoy life.
  6. Geographical Location – While I love traveling to the beach and the mountains, the right location for me at this point in time is right in the Hudson Valley where I grew up and my family still lives.
  7. Purpose in Life – I believe I was put here to help others, and coupled with all of the above, the best job for me would be getting the right financial products to the right people at the right time.

So, you can see that the above is a hell of a lot more specific than “write and market for a company I like.” Once I got this clarity, I was able to be MUCH more strategic with my job search.

34 Applications

Between late March (after my devastating rejection from the insurance company) and early June, I submitted 34 applications, carefully tracked in a “Dream Job Search” Trello board. Each was for a company I’d vetted and a position I thought would be a great fit thanks to What Color Is Your Parachute? And because I did my research, I knew exactly what questions I needed to ask should I land any interviews.

I ended up interviewing with six companies and was able to dodge a few bullets – including one hiring manager who asked if “people my age even know how to talk on the phone these days?” True story.

Full Circle

After doing the Flower Exercise, I realized that my best fit was actually at the company I left in September. Funny how life works out. I’m still grateful I tried something new, even if my tenure only lasted nine months. It was one of the biggest learning experiences of my life.

I’m even more grateful that last month, I had the opportunity to apply for a position in my old department at my old company. Which has now become my new (old) company.

My career journey has literally come full circle. It’s been a long and painful (almost) year, but I’m right where I’m supposed to be and looking forward to all of the great things to come. Now it’s easy to see why those other jobs didn’t work out – they just weren’t meant to be.

Well, friend, if you stuck around to the end, I hope this story was enough inspiration to pick up your own copy of What Color Is Your Parachute? You just might surprise yourself. I know I did!

If you need clarity on what you want to do with the rest of your life, go buy this book right now. There’s a reason why this year’s edition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the book: it works! It also happens to be A LOT cheaper than a career coach. You’re welcome!

The Last Thing He Told Me

I had a stepfather once. It was awful. Which is why this book felt so relatable – in part – and also hard to get through. The summer I was eight years old, my granny died and we abruptly moved into a new house with my mom’s soon-to-be husband. At the time, it was a lot to handle all at once, and I can definitely relate to a character who isn’t a big fan of her step-parent.

You won’t have to wait long for the action to start – the book is fast-paced and filled with lies, twists, and so much drama. I wouldn’t say it’s totally original, but it’s a book you won’t want to put down until you’ve read the very last page. And yeah, it kind of has a happyish ending.

Title: The Last Thing He Told Me
Author: Laura Dave
Rating: A Gripping Read
Genre: Thriller
Page Count: 320
Published: 2021

Hannah Michaels is just going about her day when she receives a note with the words “protect her” scribbled in her husband’s handwriting. Disturbed by this, she frantically tries to call Owen, but is unable to reach him. Later that day, Bailey, Owen’s teenage daughter from a previous marriage, finds a bag of money and a brief note in her locker. The gravity of the situation starts to set in: Owen’s not coming home. But why?

The next couple of weeks involve the highly publicized arrest of Owen’s boss, a spur-of-the-moment trip to Texas, random visits from U.S. Marshalls and FBI Agents, and the discovery of Bailey’s long-lost relatives. One thing is certain: Owen wasn’t the perfect man Hannah thought she knew.

As Hannah and Bailey try to uncover the truth behind Owen’s true identity and whereabouts, they also try to navigate their clunky and disjointed relationship. What starts out rough has a beautiful ending – at least for the two women. You’ll just have to read the book to find out what happens to Owen. Sorry, friends, no spoilers today.

This is the book you reach for when you have a few hours to kill – because you won’t want to put it down. It’s packed with action, family drama, and so many lies. Can we please get Liam Neeson to play Owen in the movie adaptation that just HAS to be made? I’m so here for it.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle.

July Bites

Finally back after taking a not-so-brief hiatus to focus on my job search. If you’ve been looking for a new role or company, you know that job hunting is basically a full-time job in itself. Video resumes? Apparently they are a thing in 2021. Well, I’m happy to report that after months of searching, dozens of applications, and a handful of interviews, I’ve found my fit with a great company. Cue ALL the celebrations!

Now that I’m back, expect to see reviews on the following (in no particular order) throughout the month. Spoiler Alert: What Color Is Your Parachute? is full of juicy job search drama.

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave hit a little hard, but it was a beautiful, well-thought-out story. I read it in one night, staying up until after midnight to finish. One day, Owen Michaels disappears, leaving behind a brief note for his wife and a duffle bag of cash for his daughter. Hannah Michaels’ life is upended as she races against time to find out the truth behind her husband’s dramatic disappearance while struggling to build a relationship with her teenage step-daughter, Bailey. If you’re looking for a good mystery with a healthy side of family drama, this is it.

What Color is Your Parachute? by Richard N. Bolles was a game-changer for me. It’s been updated almost every year since it was first published in 1970, so you can be sure it contains valuable and relevant information. It will help you get clear on the type of job you actually want to do so you can say goodbye to the Sunday Scaries for good. Along with this review, I’ll share about my own job search, which lasted about seven very long months. If you’re currently job hunting, you won’t want to miss it!

The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond sounds like a good idea, in theory. Promise to love your spouse to death do you part, commit to buying your SO monthly gifts and planning quarterly vacations, and always answer the phone when they call – those are just some of the rules. I’m all for it. But what about being put in a straight jacket and sent to an old deserted prison when you violate the rules? Yeah, I’m going to pump the brakes on this one. This story is cultish and crazy and wild. Be prepared to keep thinking, wtf did I just read!?

Full reviews to follow…stay tuned!

Behind Her Eyes

WARNING: This review has spoilers. So, if you haven’t read the book or watched the Netflix limited series of the same name, you may want to skip it.

‘What the actual f*$%!?” was the phrase I yelled out loud in my car back in 2017 when this audiobook first wrapped up. I was NOT having it. I mean, thrillers are my jam, but this fantastical body jumping bullshit was just too over-the-top for my liking. Fast forward a few years, and everyone and their mother is watching Behind Her Eyes on Netflix. Because I was curious to see how everything played out on screen, I decided to give it a shot. At that point, I knew how the story ended, so I couldn’t possibly be any more disappointed.

Well, after I binged all six episodes in two days, I decided to go back and give the book another listen. What I definitely missed the first time were the subtle hints that the author peppers throughout the book. Hints that allude to the body jumping and the mystical ending and pretty much soften the blow. And so, here is the review I didn’t think I’d ever write. TGFN – Thank God for Netflix!

Title: Behind Her Eyes
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Rating: The Creepy Read You’re Looking For
Genre: Thriller
Page Count: 320; 11 hours, 29 minutes via audiobook
Published: 2017

The Book:
Behind Her Eyes is the story of a lonely single mom who finds herself stuck in a web of lies and mind games when she has an affair with her boss while secretly befriending his wife. Yeah, talk about drama! Louise meets David at a bar after her friend stands her up; they have a great conversation, share a passionate kiss, and then he abruptly leaves. The next day at work, Louise meets the new psychiatrist, who happens to be none other than David himself – a very married David. Talk about awkward. Later, after taking her son Adam to school, Louise bumps into Adelle, his beautiful wife, knocking her to the ground. Over the next few weeks, the two start to develop a beautiful friendship – or so we think.

The story is broken up into three parts and alternates between Louise, Adelle, Now, and Then. We learn that when Adelle was a teenager, her parents died in a house fire. David rescued her, and she ended up staying a brief stint in a mental hospital. There she meets Rob, who becomes her best friend; she tries to heal him from his night terrors and he brings the laughter back into her life. But Rob has a dark side, and after Adelle teaches him how to successfully body jump (or astral project), he pulls off a stunt that leads to Adelle’s death while she’s in Rob’s body. Yes, you read that right, present-day Adelle is actually Rob in Adelle’s body.

In the Now, and through Adelle, we learn that David hasn’t been happy in their marriage for a long time. He wont’ tell her he loves her, barely looks at her, and yet controls what she does during the day, keeping tabs on her with an antiquated phone. We find out that sweet Adelle (Rob) is concocting a plan to get David to love her (him) again. Which may or may not include orchestrating her first encounter with Louise, forcing her husband into an affair with her, and teaching her to overcome her night terrors through astral projection.

After much more drama and a few more revelations, Adelle (who’s actually Louise), dies tragically and Louise (who’s actually Rob) goes on to live happily ever after with David. Except that Adam knows that something’s not quite right with his mother. He says as much and the story ends on a very chilling and ominous note.

But I still have questions:
What’s going to happen to Adam?
Did David know that Adelle was actually Rob?
Will he find out that Louise is actually Rob?

The world may never know.

The Series:
I really enjoyed how closely the limited series mirrored the book. Later, I learned this was intentional. In an interview with the Independent, Sarah Pinborough said that she went with a production company that wouldn’t soften the ending and agreed to stay true to her script. In fact, there were very few changes overall and you can read more about them in the full interview. It was very much unlike the Netflix retelling of Harlan Coben’s The Stranger, which, if you’ve been following me for a while, you know I absolutely hated! HATED.

Anyway, the casting was perfect. Simona Brown was an awesome choice to portray the beautiful and unassuming Louise. Eve Hewson (Bono’s daughter) was the perfect alluring and mysterious pick for Adelle. Tom Bateman was the sexy and elusive David. And Robert Aramayo (from Game of Thrones) was the scheming and conniving Rob.

The series was so well done that it left the audience wanting a season two, which is probably not in the works unless Pinborough decides to write a sequel. I’m here for it, though.

So, did you read (or listen) to the book? Watch the series? I want to know your thoughts!

A single mom gets caught up in web of lies and mind games after she has an affair with her boss while befriending his psychotic wife. Nothing’s as it seems in this psychological thriller that will keep you entertained well past that chilling closing sentence.

If you liked this book, you’ll love Behind Her Eyes on Netflix (or vice versa).

Too Good to be True

There are usually two sides or versions of the truth. Sometimes there are three. Too Good to be True is an engaging story that leads you down a few dead ends before ending with the truth. Kind of like a funhouse room of mirrors or one of those pitch black Halloween mazes. I was able to make a few accurate guesses at the truth, but I read (and watch) A LOT of thrillers. Because I’m not a savage, I’m not going to give you spoilers about the ending. I’ll just say that I didn’t like the way it played out. Even so, I do believe this would make a great movie.

Title: Too Good to be True
Author: Carola Lovering
Rating: A Good Read (Until the Very End)
Genre: Thriller
Page Count: 339
Published: 2021

After several failed relationships – some ending very badly – Skye Starling believes she’s found the man of her dreams. Burke is such a catch! He’s handsome, a wealthy entrepreneur, and he loves Skye just as she is – OCD included. Their whirlwind romance escalates pretty quickly. In just a few months, they meet, get engaged, and have a destination wedding. The only thing left is to live happily ever after. But if that were the case, this wouldn’t be a thriller, right? Right.

From his journal entries, we learn that Burke is actually an unemployed MARRIED father of three who’s scamming Skye for a small-ish chunk of her inheritance. This Big Plan is a last ditch effort to save his marriage. He needs the money to pay off some debts, his one daughter’s tuition, and his other daughter’s dental bills. Once he gets the $2M he needs from Skye, they’ll get a divorce and she can go on living just as she had before his arrival. Then he and his “real” wife will escape to an island and live happily ever after. But, if that were the case, this wouldn’t be a thriller, right? Right.

Just when it seems like everything is going to plan, we learn that nothing is what it seems. Maybe Burke isn’t the biggest a-hole in the world; maybe he’s just a guy desperate to save his marriage, desperate for love. Maybe Heather (the real wife) is a crazy psycho pulling all of the strings. Maybe Skye is a little too forgiving. Lets just say that Burke, Heather, and Skye are all in for a healthy serving of lies and surprise.

A sad story of love, desperation, and lies. How far will you go to save your marriage? What happens when The Big plan goes awry? Get ready for a bit of a wild ride with some twists, turns, and false truths.

If you liked this book, you might enjoy: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

April Bites

Last month I took a much needed 10-day road trip to Colorado. It was fun and relaxing (for the most part), and I can now say that I’ve been to 29 states in the U.S. When I wasn’t traveling, I was doing a lot of career soul-searching, reading, and YouTube-ing. So, with all that, I didn’t have much time to read for pleasure, and am currently sitting on a mountain of to-be-read books. But, even so, I’m super excited for some of the books on this month’s reading list. April is ALL about the thriller!

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. I’ll be honest and say that I absolutely hated this book the first time I read it in 2017. A thriller? Maybe until the end when it turns into a fantastical body-jumping mess. But I recently watched the limited series on Netflix and was captivated by the accuracy from book to screen. And at that point I knew what I was getting into with the ending, so, I decided to re-read the novel. Now that I know what to expect, there won’t be freak-out level disappointment.

The Push by Ashley Audrain is a thriller of a different magnitude. Blythe and Fox Conner are head over heels for each other – their relationship spanning two decades. But when Blythe gives birth to her first child, she isn’t able to form a bond with her. Over time, she grows increasingly wary and afraid of the daughter she believes to be a psychopath. Fox, on the other hand, grows increasingly exhausted with Blythe. The reader is left to wonder if Violet really is an evil child or if Blythe is suffering from a terrible case of post-partum depression.

The Hunting Wives by May Cobb is about a group of women who get together late at night to shoot targets and sip cocktails. But there’s more to it than that – obsession, seduction, and murder are at the heart of this elite club. When the body of a teenager is found in the woods near their meeting spot, the women get swept up into a murder investigation. Sounds wild – and very much unlike those cozy murder mysteries.

And last, but certainly not least:

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala is technically one of those cozy mysteries mentioned above, but I’m keeping it on the list because there may just be a few recipes included (and those are my jam)! After a difficult breakup, Lila moves back home and tries to help save her aunt’s failing restaurant. While she’s there, her family dabbles in matchmaking and planning and all of the normal drama that comes with a close family. Then, a well-known food critic, who also happens to be Lila’s ex-boyfriend, stops by for a visit. Right after they speak, he drops dead. Things escalate real fast and in order for Lila to save her family and the restaurant, she has to uncover the identity of the real killer. Word on the street is that this is a first in the series.

Full reviews on the best of the above to follow…stay tuned!

The Lost Apothecary

Don’t judge a book by its cover. I know this and still picked up The Lost Apothecary because the cover was strikingly beautiful. My last fantasy read was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and I was captivated by the story and her descriptive writing style – I felt like a character in the book, feeling and seeing what they did. And so, when I picked out this novel, I had hoped for a similar response. It’s really hard to write this review because I wanted to love the book, but ended up disappointed.

When I started this blog, I only wanted to write about the books I love. Unfortunately, I’ve read a few not-so-good ones this year. Reading is so subjective, though – an awful read for me might be someone else’s favorite. Or vice versa. And with that, let’s discuss…

Title: The Lost Apothecary
Author: Sarah Penner
Rating: Something Different
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Page Count: 231
Published: 2021

The Lost Apothecary is Sarah Penner’s debut novel. It’s the story of an 18th-century apothecary who creates tinctures to kill men who have, in some way, wronged the women in their lives (think an affair and the like). Even though she took a vow to do no harm, Nella has been helping these desperate women for two decades. Then, one day she meets Eliza, a young girl who will change her life forever. It’s also the story of Caroline, a present-day woman who found out her husband was having an affair just days before their 10th wedding anniversary. On a whim, she sets off on a solo trip to London to enjoy her pre-planned (and pre-paid) anniversary vacation. During an excursion, she finds a vial that links the present to the past and spends the entirety of her trip diving into research to uncover the events that unfolded out of the apothecary’s shop.

The story has a non-linear timeline that alternates between Nella, Eliza, and Caroline. I found the first two to be very compelling narratives – fun and engaging – and couldn’t wait to read more. Caroline’s chapters were almost dull and it felt like everything that played out for her was both rushed and too good to be true. In a short trip, she was able to figure out her mess of a marriage, decide to go back to school (and get accepted!), and solve the mystery of a series of murders that took place over 200 years ago. Yeah, okay! Is that where the fantasy part comes in?

Even though this book wasn’t my cup of tea, I did like the bonus recipes found in the back. And also the apothecary of poisons, which I Googled to see if they were indeed a thing. They are. No need for your search history to reflect this too!

If you read this one, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Three women, separated by 200 years, navigate life – and cheating husbands. The non-linear storyline alternates among an apothecary in 18th-centruy London, her young apprentice, and a present-day woman vacationing from the states. Maybe you’ll love it, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll get some interesting ideas from the recipes in the back.

If you (wanted to) like this book, you might enjoy: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern