Monica’s Musings: End of Story

End of Story by A.J. Finn

I’ll be dead in three months. Come tell my story.
― A.J. Finn, End of Story

Summary: So writes Sebastian Trapp, reclusive mystery novelist, to his longtime correspondent Nicky Hunter, an expert in detective fiction. With mere months to live, Trapp invites Nicky to his spectacular San Francisco mansion to help draft his life story . . . living alongside his beautiful second wife, Diana; his wayward nephew, Freddy; and his protective daughter, Madeleine. Soon Nicky finds herself caught in an irresistible case of real-life “detective fever.”

“You and I might even solve an old mystery or two.”

Twenty years earlier—on New Year’s Eve 1999—Sebastian’s first wife and teenage son vanished from different locations, never to be seen again. Did the perfect crime writer commit the perfect crime? And why has he emerged from seclusion, two decades later, to allow a stranger to dig into his past?

“Life is hard. After all, it kills you.”

As Nicky attempts to weave together the strands of Sebastian’s life, she becomes obsessed with discovering the truth . . . while Madeleine begins to question what her beloved father might actually know about that long-ago night. And when a corpse appears in the family’s koi pond, both women are shocked to find that the past isn’t gone—it’s just waiting.

My Opinion: This book makes you slow down and pay attention to every detail. I highly recommend reading the physical copy, as I was confused multiple times throughout the audiobook. Pacing-wise, End of Story is a slow read, with an over-complicated plot. It tries to weave in too many strands that it ends up being hard to keep track of.

The last few chapters were interesting, but the rest of the book never grabbed me enough that I found it irresistible. If you have read The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and enjoyed it, just be warned this is an entirely different type of book. Overall, I think this book was intriguing, but I do wish it had a little more going on in the first half to make it quicker paced.

Monica’s Musings: Bad Summer People

Bad Summer People by Emma Rosenblum

“She was adept at handling difficult personalities, stroking people’s egos, and allowing them to think they were in charge.”
― Emma Rosenblum, Bad Summer People

Summary: None of them would claim to be a particularly good person. But who among them is actually capable of murder?

Jen Weinstein and Lauren Parker rule the town of Salcombe, Fire Island every summer. They hold sway on the beach and the tennis court, and are adept at manipulating people to get what they want. Their husbands, Sam and Jason, have summered together on the island since childhood, despite lifelong grudges and numerous secrets. Their one single friend, Rachel Woolf, is looking to meet her match, whether he’s the tennis pro-or someone else’s husband. But even with plenty to gossip about, this season starts out as quietly as any other.

Until a body is discovered, face down off the side of the boardwalk.

Stylish, subversive and darkly comedic, this is a story of what’s lurking under the surface of picture-perfect lives in a place where everyone has something to hide.

My Opinion: This book is like a trash TV script. As someone who genuinely enjoys that kind of entertainment, this still somehow missed the mark. There’s no one to root for, and there’s not even an interesting downfall for any of the characters. Bad, rich people doing boring, bad things for a whole summer. Not even their offenses are thrilling. 

I nearly did not finish this book because, at the 70% mark, there was still no murder! It finally picked up the last few chapters of the story, but it seemed very tame and did not have a very intense plot line. I really wasn’t expecting much from this one, as I just wanted a fun story about rich people being devious. Definitely not my favorite, but it wasn’t bad for what it is.

Monica’s Musings: Death-Cast Series

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

“I wasted all those yesterdays and am completely out of tomorrows.”
― Adam Silvera, They Both Die at the End

Summary: On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo and Rufus to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.

Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but for different reasons, they are both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

My thoughts: Going into a book titled They Both Die At The End, you don’t really expect it to happen. The whole concept of this book is heartbreaking. Imagine knowing you will die within the next 24 hours. You may not even get the entire 24 hours. You just know you’ll die by the end of the day. That’s terrifying and morbid, and honestly gives me the chills.

Despite how morbid I realize it is, I am entertained by the whole idea. I couldn’t stop reading. Adam Silvera manages to craft a word I would hate to live in and a world that has made me realize we all should take more chances.

The First to Die at the End by Adam Silvera

“I would’ve loved that. I feel robbed.”
“You were robbed.”
― Adam Silvera, The First to Die at the End

Summary: In this prequel to the #1 New York Times bestselling phenomenon They Both Die at the End, two new strangers spend a life-changing day together after Death-Cast first makes their fateful calls.

It’s the night before Death-Cast goes live, and there’s one question on everyone’s mind: Can Death-Cast actually predict when someone will die, or is it just an elaborate hoax?

Orion Pagan has waited years for someone to tell him that he’s going to die. He has a serious heart condition, and he signed up for Death-Cast so he could know what’s coming.

Valentino Prince is restarting his life in New York. He has a long and promising future ahead and he only registered for Death-Cast after his twin sister nearly died in a car accident.

Orion and Valentino cross paths in Times Square and immediately feel a deep connection. But when the first round of End Day calls goes out, their lives are changed forever—one of them receives a call, and the other doesn’t. Though neither boy is certain how the day will end, they know they want to spend it together…even if that means their goodbye will be heartbreaking.

My Thoughts: What I love so much about the Death-Cast stories is that they take an idea that is so outlandish and somehow make it seem real. The world-building is amazing, and I loved seeing the differences in the world between this book and They Both Die at the End. It is well thought out, and you can see its growth as it changes, as something like this would if it existed in our world. But, amongst this dystopian-esque world are human stories. This is one of the many compelling factors in these books, we follow the human experiences of these people, the world is only their backdrop, and the focus is them.

Since this is the prequel there was a lot needed to explain the start of Death-Cast. I enjoyed each of the character’s stories, but it did feel a bit long-winded. However, I struggle to keep my focus with any books longer than 300 pages so that is probably just a me thing! Overall, this series ranked very highly for me, and I would definitely recommend this to fans of young adult dystopian novels.

The Lineup: Monica

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Monica’s Lineup

For what I have taken an interest in lately, see below!

TV Show: The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window

I had been putting off watching this series because I enjoyed the book The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn so much. However, enough is different about the show and the book that it didn’t feel like a let down at all! I love Kristen Bell as an actress, and I think that she played the role of Anna perfectly. I am not a binge-watch kind of person, but I finished this whole season in one day.

Overall it is definitely a satire of the book, but it is done well. I am not sure what it would be like if I hadn’t read The Woman in the Window, but I thought all the twists were done in a non-predictable way. It really portrayed how an unreliable main character like Anna can impact the viewer or reader’s perception.

Mixing wine, pills, casseroles and an overactive imagination, Anna obsesses over a hunky neighbor across the street and witnesses a murder. Or did she?

Available on Netflix.

Book: Bye, Baby by Carola Lovering

Summary: On a brisk fall night in a New York apartment, Billie hears terrified screams. It’s her lifelong best friend Cassie Barnwell, one floor above, and she’s just realized her infant daughter has gone missing. Billie is shaken as she looks down into her own arms to see the baby, remembering—with a jolt of fear—that she is responsible for the kidnapping that has instantly shattered Cassie’s world.

So begins the story of Billie and Cassie’s friendship–both in recent weeks, and since they met twenty-three years ago, in their small Hudson Valley hometown the summer before seventh grade. Once fiercely bonded by their secrets, including a traumatic, unspeakable incident in high school, Cassie and Billie have drifted apart in adulthood, no longer the inseparable pair they used to be. Cassie is married to a wealthy man, has recently become a mother, and is building a following as a fashion and lifestyle influencer. She is desperate to leave her past behind–including Billie, who is single and childless, and no longer fits into her world. Hurt and rejected by Cassie’s new priorities, Billie will do anything to restore their friendship, even as she hides the truth about what really happened the night the baby was taken.

My Opinion: This reads like relational drama with a splash of suspense. The story is narrated by Cassie and Billie, which was nice because, despite their character flaws (and they both had plenty!), I could see the complexity of their relationship from both POVs and understand their feelings, even if I often didn’t agree with them. It’s cool to see a book that gives voice to both experiences without showing preference!

This was a good read that had me feeling the range of emotions and wanting the best for everyone by the end. Please read the content warning at the end, if you have any concerns, as the book does have a couple potentially upsetting topics for some.

Available here, or as an eAudibook on Libby.

Comedy Podcast: Wild ‘Til 9

What do you get when a DIY influencer dates an ex-frat-president tech mogul? Honestly we’re not really sure either, but we’re all about to find out together. Hosted by Lauren Riihimaki (LaurDIY) and husband, Jeremy Lewis, Wild ’Til 9 is about relationships, spotting the red flags and giving the green lights, and the lifestyle in which this polar opposite couple found themselves. Things are about to get wild… but only until 9PM.

This is very new to my entertainment rotation, so I haven’t listened to a ton of their episodes together. However, I have been a fan of the LaurDIY channel on YouTube for several years, and I am happy to have found more content from Lauren and her husband Jeremy. Their banter is lighthearted and is comparable to listening in on a fun conversation with friends.

Available wherever you get your podcasts.

Music: Hozier

Hozier has definitely been my recent music obsession. Majority of people would recognize his hit song “Take me to Church”. His most recent album, Unreal Unearth, has by far blown me away. I could go on and on about the poetry portrayed in his songs, but you should give it a listen yourself!

My favorites on this album are Francesca and Unknown/Nth.

Andrew John Hozier-Byrne, known professionally as Hozier, is an Irish musician, singer and songwriter. His music primarily draws from folk, soul and blues, often using religious and literary themes and taking political or social justice stances.

Check out the album from the Derby Public Library here, or any music streaming platform.

Hobby: Jessica Braun for Lifestyle/Influence

As I am typing this, it feels so bizarre to finally share that I am expecting my first baby! I have been watching baby-prep videos on YouTube regularly to find the best and most useful products to purchase.

Most of my purchases have been based on Jessica Braun, whose down-to-earth lifestyle speaks to me. She has great recommendations and gives reasoning behind all of her choices. 90% of my registry was based on hers! I enjoy watching her daily lifestyle vlogs as well, but in the spirit of something I have been hyper-fixated on lately, this one takes the cake!

If you are expecting a baby, I highly recommend watching her videos. She links all of the products in the description of her videos for easy online shopping!

Check out her channel here, or click the pictures above to be taken to the videos!

Monica’s Musings: What Feasts at Night

What Feasts at Night by T. Kingfisher

“The silence didn’t feel peaceful. It felt thick.”
― T. Kingfisher, What Feasts at Night

Summary: The follow-up to T. Kingfisher’s bestselling gothic novella, What Moves the Dead.

After their terrifying ordeal at the Usher Manor, Alex Easton feels as if they just survived another war. All they crave is rest, routine, and sunshine, but instead, as a favor to Angus and Miss Potter, they find themself heading to their family hunting lodge, deep in the cold, damp forests of their home country, Gallacia.

In theory, one can find relaxation in even the coldest and dampest of Gallacian autumns, but when Easton arrives, they find the caretaker dead, the lodge in disarray, and the grounds troubled by a strange, uncanny silence. The villagers whisper that a breath-stealing monster from folklore has taken up residence in Easton’s home. Easton knows better than to put too much stock in local superstitions, but they can tell that something is not quite right in their home…or in their dreams.

My thoughts: After reading the first book of the Sworn Soldier series, What Moves the Dead, I was beyond excited to start this one! Like the first book, I loved how the atmosphere was described. I could visualize everything thanks to Kingfisher’s impressive vivid details.

I enjoyed this book well enough, but I think my expectations were a smidge too high. The first book kept me clinging to every page, while this one had me skimming a few sections that I felt dragged out a bit too much. However, it is still a very fast read, with only 160 pages. I was surprised there was not a more climactic race to the end. It was okay, but did not send a chill down my spine, although it is a horror story.

If I did not have What Moves the Dead to compare this to, I am not sure I would have liked the story as much. I do enjoy the characters and their personalities. I hope that this series continues, as it was a decent read. This one was just not as scary or impactful as I had hoped it would be.

For my review of What Moves the Dead, click here!

Monica’s Musings: One Italian Summer

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

“I cannot yet conceive of a world without her, what that will look like, who I am in her absence.”
― Rebecca Serle, One Italian Summer

Summary: When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliff sides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue.

My thoughts: Katy strikes me as a little too codependent and a bit too invested in her mother’s life choices, however, the pain of her loss resonated with me. Katy chooses to still go on the mother-daughter vacation she had planned, leaving her husband Eric at home. She plans to use this time to rediscover her life without her mother around.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It did remind me of Serle’s first novel, In Five Years. The magical time-jumping aspects of her books are fun, and I find that I enjoy them because they are more fictional than most of my reads.

I really liked the concept of Katy meeting and spending time with Carol as a 30 year old. I’ve thought so many times, “what I would do to be a fly on the wall in the past lives of my parents”, just to know and see what they were like before I came along. It’s one thing to see pictures and hear stories, but it would be another thing entirely to experience it. That aspect of this novel was fascinating.

Where I falter on this one is the romance aspect. *A few spoilers in the paragraph directly below*

Continue reading “Monica’s Musings: One Italian Summer”

Derby Public Library E-Services

The library has several services that allow you to check out e-books, e-magazines, audiobooks and other items digitally.

When accessing our online services, your library card number is your username, and the last 4 digits of your phone number is your pin/password.

Click the picture to go to Blackstone Unlimited!

Check out audio books from Blackstone Unlimited. Over 6,500 titles are always available with no holds or wait lists.

Click the picture to go to Hoopla!

Check out e-books, audiobooks, comics, movies, TV shows, and musics using the Hoopla website or app. There’s never a wait since Hoopla doesn’t have holds.

Click the picture to go to Libby!

The Libby app has an online website landing page. Some patrons may prefer to use Libby to access e-books and e-audiobooks found in the Sunflower eLibrary.

Click the picture to go to Sunflower eLibrary!

Check out e-books, e-audiobooks, and magazines from Sunflower eLibrary powered by OverDrive. Sunflower eLibrary has a large selection of e-books, including new releases, award winners, and non-fiction titles. Patrons can access the Sunflower eLibrary through the Libby app.

Monica’s Musings: Counting the Cost

Counting the Cost by Jill Duggar

“Getting out cost us, but it was worth it. It was worth it to find freedom from the guilt and the fear.”
― Jill Duggar, Counting the Cost

Summary: Jill and Derick knew a normal life wasn’t possible for them. As a star on the popular TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, Jill grew up in front of viewers who were fascinated by her family’s way of life. She was the responsible, second daughter of Jim Bob and Michelle’s nineteen kids; always with a baby on her hip and happy to wear the modest ankle-length dresses with throat-high necklines. She didn’t protest the strict model of patriarchy that her family followed, which declares that men are superior, that women are expected to be wives and mothers and are discouraged from attaining a higher education, and that parental authority over their children continues well into adulthood, even once they are married.

But as Jill got older, married Derick, and they embarked on their own lives, the red flags became too obvious to ignore. For as long as they could, Jill and Derick tried to be obedient family members — they weren’t willing to rock the boat. But now they’re raising a family of their own, and they’re done with the secrets. Thanks to time, tears, therapy, and blessings from God, they have the strength to share their journey. Theirs is a remarkable story of the power of the truth and is a moving example of how to find healing through honesty.

My Opinion: Overall, this memoir plays it very safe, and this is probably a wise move on Jill’s part, especially given that she does not want to burn bridges with her family. Reading this book, it seems impossible to cast her as disrespectful, rebellious, or uncaring, though other fundamentalists still somehow do so. Jill shows how she went from being obedient to slowly questioning the Duggar family values. It isn’t until about 75% in that she really shows how she began to turn away from the life she had been raised in.

It’s disheartening that Jim Bob and Michelle’s response seems to be disappointment in Jill for telling her story, though we see that it’s easier for them to maintain control and power when these issues are kept private. Although Jill doesn’t take her deconstruction as far as I’d like to see it go, this book shows the truth of the IBLP cult mentality, and how the fame from the show influenced her family’s every move.

Monica’s Musings: The Heiress

The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins

“A haunted house where the ghosts hadn’t had the courtesy to die yet.”
― Rachel Hawkins, The Heiress

Summary: When Ruby dies, she’s not only North Carolina’s richest woman, she’s also its most notorious. The victim of a famous kidnapping as a child and a widow four times over, Ruby ruled the tiny town of Tavistock from Ashby House, her family’s estate. In the aftermath of her death, that estate—along with a nine-figure fortune —pass to her adopted son, Camden.

But to everyone’s surprise, Cam wants little to do with the house or the money and even less to do with the surviving McTavishes. Instead, he rejects his inheritance, settling into a normal life in Colorado and with his wife Jules.

Ten years later, a summons in the wake of his uncle’s death brings him and Jules back into the family fold at Ashby House. Its views are just as stunning as ever, its rooms just as elegant, but coming home reminds Cam why he was so quick to leave in the first place. Soon, Jules and Cam realize that an inheritance can entail far more than what’s written in a will—and that the bonds of family stretch far beyond the grave.

My thoughts: Honestly, this book was not my cup of tea. I felt it was trying to do too much, and the different points of view made me lose interest. Showing us Ruby, Jules, and Camden’s points of view killed the flow. I got tired of going back and forth between all of them. And since I saw the reveals coming, it just made for a boring read.

We follow Ruby’s story as she writes letters to someone all about her younger life and how she came to meet the many men she marries. In between that, the book shows us the perspective of her adopted son, Camden, and his wife, Jules. The book has many twists and turns related to the family residing in the Ashby house, and soon it is clear things are not as they seem. The family has a wicked nature, and Camden and Jules are not safe staying at the Ashby House.

The ending was a meh moment that felt tossed at readers to wrap up the story, which solidified this as a two-star book for me. Overall, this was not my favorite Rachel Hawkins book, so I would suggest picking up any of her prior works instead!

Monica’s Musings: The House in the Pines

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

“You think I wanted to kill her? I didn’t. But she figured it out. Can you believe it?”
The House in the Pines, Ana Reyes

Summary: Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they’d been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can’t account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer–the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother’s house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased father’s book that didn’t stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank’s cabin….

My Opinion: This book was definitely entertaining, and I enjoyed the overall premise. The first half of the book was intriguing, but the plot wrapped up without a satisfying ending in my opinion. It was vague and relied on imagination. In some ways, it felt like the author wanted to do something different by not providing a shocking culmination.

The author portrayed the narrator as unreliable, which I struggle with, especially when their perspective is the only one we get. From the start, I agreed with Maya’s conclusions and was not surprised by the “twist”. Some parts that lost me were the chapters would occasionally go between past and present, but you didn’t know which timeline you were in. All in all, it was an okay book, and I’m glad I finished it since it was a different type of psychological thriller.