“It was a normal weekday morning, nothing out of the ordinary, until a woman’s scream echoed throughout the Boston Public Library. During the subsequent lockdown, strangers Cain, Marigold, Whit, & Winifred connect while sitting at the same table. They form a fast friendship & start spending more time together than apart. The library incident is initially ruled a false alarm, but soon after a body is discovered. Now the newly-formed group of friends is caught up in a police investigation, & it seems like not all of them are innocent witnesses. One of them might be guilty of murder.”
*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Poisoned Pen Press through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
If you’re currently in search of a mystery that’s a thrill ride from the very first chapter, look no further than “The Woman in the Library.” I hadn’t done much research before reading so the first nine pages were enough to hook me. The story lagged a bit in the middle but didn’t take long to pick back up. I finished this book in less than three days because I had to know what happens; it was all I could think about!
The first twist is common knowledge so I’m going to discuss it. The prologue is a letter from American writer Leo Johnson to Australian author Hannah Tigone; they’ve been pen pals for quite awhile but haven’t yet met in person. As a fan of her work, Leo politely but insistently asks for a new book, offering to be her beta reader. We now move into chapter one, setting up a story about four strangers connecting in the Boston Public Library during a police lockdown. After the final sentence, which is quite the enticing cliffhanger, we see another note from Leo to Hannah revealing that he’s test reading her new book. The main plot is her manuscript, & the side plot is her correspondence with Leo, though we only ever see his notes to her. I’d never read anything like that before & thought it was such a brilliant idea. I’ve seen a few reviews saying the line between fiction & reality is confusing at times, but I strongly disagree. It’s always very clear when you’re reading Hannah’s book & when you’re reading Leo’s letters. There is a clear question of how much inspiration she takes from reality, but I would call that intrigue rather than a source of confusion.
I want to give this book all the stars for it’s unique format, but the story did not completely deliver. The whodunnit reveal made sense but disappointed me; I thought there would be more to it, more connection to real life. Speaking of the side plot, there was less development as it went on, & the abrupt resolution was not satisfying. I do feel let down overall, but I must admit the final chapter left me with intriguing questions & theories floating around in my head. My biggest question is why Hannah ended her book the way she did; at the risk of sounding dramatic, that creative choice blew my mind. My final rating is three stars, & I still recommend this thrilling mystery despite an ending that fizzles. The format is a bibliophile version of Inception & fascinating to experience; you won’t be able to put this book down until it ends!
*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.
Abuse: An abusive stepfather is mentioned throughtout the book; Chapter nineteen depicts verbal & physical abuse as well as attempted sexual abuse.
Alcohol, Cigarettes, & Drugs: Mentions of alcohol, alcoholics, bars, intoxication, cigarettes, & junkies; morphine & painkillers are also mentioned in relation to a hospital patient.
Blood & Violence: Multiple mentions of blood & blood splatter | A hypothetical murderer is discussed, the killer pounding his or her victim’s head into a hard surface. | Dead bodies described with bloody hair, cut throats, and/or injuries to the breast & pubic areas | Description of a young girl leaning over a lookout to take a picture & falling to her death because of a loose guardrail | One mention & two depictions of attacks that lead to head trauma | Two mentions & one depiction of a stabbing
A character makes racially insensitive comments about black people, such as being identifiable by living in a certain neighborhood or wearing hoodies.
A character from “It” by Stephen King is referred to as the “fat kid” who might get the “pretty girl.”
In reference to hospital janitors, a character says “Immigrants, they get the job done.” He’s referencing the musical Hamilton but is met with the response “That’s not less offensive because it’s Hamilton.”
Two men involved in a bar fight are described as “thugs”; their physical appearances are not described, but that particular word could be perceived as racially-motivated & offensive.
Chr*st / Chr*ss*kes
F*ck / F*cking
H*ll / H*lluva
My G*d / Oh My G*d
Son of a b*tch
A bakery’s products are described as something that would “make you believe in G*d & willing to forsake Him at the same time.”
A character removes her shirt to show off her tattoos; her nakedness is mentioned as well as the sight of her “small breasts.”
Some of the characters go to a restaurant called Oh My Cod which is known for sexually suggestive decor & menu items, a few of which are described. Someone from the group refers to the restaurant as a “sex shop.”
Someone is called a “courteous porn star” in jest.
There’s a detailed discussion about methods of murder that give the killer sexual gratification (i.e. A certain movement while sitting atop a victim or the motion & penetration of a blade).
Two characters sleep together; the scene doesn’t fade to black, but their intimacy is described with minimal detail. In another chapter, they’re in bed together, but nothing happens beyond the two of them waking up side by side.
Two other characters sleep together off-page; it’s mentioned in a conversation with very little detail.
Stalking: There is evidence of one or more characters being stalked: robbery, phone calls, text messages with photos of front doors, & a physical attack.
“Last summer Alice Ogilvie disappeared after her boyfriend Steve Anderson ended their relationship. Now she’s home, & it’s time to go back to high school. She tries to return to normal despite the curiosity surrounding her disappearance, but the mystery on everyone’s mind grows even bigger when Alice’s former best friend & Steve’s current girlfriend Brooke Donovan disappears.
Iris Adams has one goal & one goal only: get out of Castle Cove! She agrees to tutor Alice because it’s a paid job, but her pupil is too distracted by the latest news to get any work done. When a reward is offered by Brooke’s grandmother, Iris sees an opportunity to fund her trip & gives in to Alice’s desire to play detective.
When Brooke’s body is found, Steve is arrested based on convenient but flimsy evidence. Alice & Iris aren’t convinced of his guilt so they turn to the works of Agatha Christie to guide their investigation. Along the way they face personal demons, hard truths coming to light & threatening the integrity of their partnership. Are they truly prepared for the task at hand, or will the secrets of Castle Cove prove to be too dangerous for two amateur teen detectives?”
*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Delacorte Press through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
“The Agathas” was inspired by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, & it’s not just lip service in the title. Her iconic characters Marple & Poirot are mentioned throughout, & several chapters begin with a quote from one of her many novels. If that’s not enough, there’s a special blurb about Agatha’s success, & I’m pretty sure Alice Ogilvie’s disappearance is a nod to her own 11-day disappearance. I was excited to get my hands on this book because Agatha is my favorite author; for that same reason I was terrified to start reading because the standard was set so high. The pace started slow, & the teenage tone of the dialogue took some getting used to. But just when I was starting to feel like this might not be my cup of tea, the mystery consumed me, & I flew through the last three quarters of the book.
There are two points-of-view: Alice Ogilvie & Iris Adams. I’m not sure how the chapters were divided between authors Kathleen & Liz, but the writing is seamless; the story is cohesive from start to finish while both characters remain unique & easily distinguishable from the other. I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of mixed media: Alice & Iris’ “Murder Board,” news articles, social media comments, text conversations, & transcripts from local news, police interviews, & press conferences. Those pages made me feel even more immersed in the mystery, like I was an Agatha too. I correctly identified the murderer & motive around the halfway mark, but I’m the kind of bibliophile who theorizes as I read so I wasn’t bothered by a spoiled ending. What did bother me is how the reveal happened; the location made sense thanks to excellent foreshadowing, but the interaction was a little awkward in places.
Despite a few cons, this book was a top-down, sea air thrill ride so I’m rating it four stars. I do recommend it to Agatha Christie fans, but only those who also enjoy teen novels; otherwise you might find yourself more annoyed than amused by the language & mannerisms of the youths. The coastal California setting reminds me of the Big Little Lies TV show so picture that with a teenage cast. If the result intrigues you, preorder a copy of this murder mystery right now. The release date is May 3rd, 2022.
*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.
Abuse: Iris’ dad is abusive, & it’s frequently discussed in her chapters. There are several mentions of the time he broke her wrist. He shows up a couple times, disobeying the restraining order; near the end of the book he barges into the Adams’ apartment & physically harms Iris & her mom. He is attacked in self-defense, first hit on the head & then pushed down a flight of stairs.
Alcohol, Cigarettes, & Drugs: There are several mentions of alcohol & being drunk, & the bar where Iris’ mom works is mentioned & visited a few times. There is one mention of Lucky Strikes cigarettes. There are mentions of pills & weed as well as being high. Two separate times, someone’s drink is drugged.
Blood: Some of the characters wear cheerleader costumes on Halloween that are covered in fake blood. There are a few instances when a character bleeds from a head wound.
A*$ / A*$hole
B*tch / B*ches / B*tchy
D*mn / D*mmit
F*ck / F*ckboy / F*cking / Middle finger
H*ll / Holy H*ll
Holy sh*t / Sh*t / Sh*tless
J*sus / J*sus Chr*st
Merde (French word for sh*t)
These can also be considered crude: Crap, Frickin’, Mother-Sucker, & What the F ( I don’t know if those last two will be changed in the final book, but they obviously replace What the f*ck & Motherf*ck*r )
Sensual/Sexual: There are a few mentions of condoms. Alice is shown a video of another character getting intimate with a boy from their school. One character exchanged nude photos & sexual texts with multiple people, some of which are recovered & described.
Violence: After the discovery of a dead body, an autopsy is performed off-page & discussed on-page. Crime scene photos are looked at, & the body is described in gruesome detail more than once. There is one past & two present car crashes which lead to head trauma. There are a few attacks during which a character is hit on the head. When the murderer is revealed, the murder is described in detail.
Last weekend I put on my big girl pants & knocked out my taxes. Technically they’re not that difficult, but it’s a task crossed off my to-do list so I’m celebrating the victory. 🎉 This past weekend was a different story. I found myself in a deflating situation Friday morning & spiraled so quickly, I could barely move by the afternoon. That might sound dramatic, but I feel like I’ve been moving against the tide for months so that was my body giving in to mental and physical exhaustion. I had to be gracious, allowing myself to do whatever the heck I felt like doing, including RELAX. I read books, took naps, cheered on Team USA in the winter olympics, & started season one of Downton Abbey. I also managed to continue & finish my 7-day cardio challenge which made me feel so proud. 🔥 Life is not smooth sailing, but what defines you is how you handle the waves that come along. So cheesy, I know, but it’s true. My days look much different in 2022, & I’m in career limbo at the moment, but I’m taking it one step at a time. If you’re doing your best to survive, I’m right there with you. You are NOT alone! ♥️
“Cellist Jenny Go has one thing on her mind: getting accepted into her dream music school in Manhattan. After receiving a critique about lacking artistry, she gives in to a moment of insanity and spends the night roaming the streets of Los Angeles with a boy she’s just met at her uncle’s karaoke bar. The night ends as quickly as it began, but the pair exchange contact information. When Jaewoo stops responding to her texts, she does her best to forget him and focus on music . . . until she moves to South Korea for a semester and finds out he’s a student at her new school. Not only that, he’s a member of XOXO, a new K-pop band taking the world by storm. Now a relationship is a possibility, but it means sacrificing their respective music paths. Will Jenny choose cello over Jaewoo, or is she willing to give up her dream for the boy she’s falling in love with?”
I don’t consume contemporary romance on a regular basis, but I turned to “XOXO” to fill a hole left by the disappointing romance in my last read. Unfortunately I didn’t fully connect with Jaewoo and Jenny as individual characters therefore their romance did not interest me in the slightest. Jaewoo was fine but not particularly interesting; he actually reminds me of myself which makes sense because I’m pretty boring. I didn’t like Jenny’s irresponsibility every time Jaewoo was in the near vicinity, missing cello practices and cancelling plans with friends. I understand this behavior is normal for a teenage girl with a boy on her radar, but it always irks me.
Setting my romance disappointment aside, the writing is well done, and I flew through every single chapter. My favorite part was Seoul Arts Academy. I was fully invested in the goings-on at SAA and might’ve given this book a higher rating if it was centered around the school and students. I also loved all the mentions of food, even though it made me insanely hungry. Every single dish sounds delicious, and I need to find a local Korean restaurant ASAP. Those factors saved this book, bringing my rating to a total of three stars. I think “XOXO” will appeal much more to readers of this genre who are used to cute romances and young adult behavior. I can only handle so much before I’m annoyed so I’m definitely not a member of the target audience. However, the friendships and school shenanigans won my heart so I will be rereading this book in the future.
Dieting: In Chapter 13, eBook page 99, Angela asks why Gi Taek isn’t eating. He replies that he’s on a diet, & she remarks that he shouldn’t skip meals. On eBook Page 120, Gi Taek mentions being on a diet again.
*Disclaimer: I am very thorough so just know that this section might contain spoilers.
Grammar & Spelling
eBook Page 75 – “ . . . having never been this situation before” instead of “. . . having never been in this situation before”
eBook Page 82 – “A familiar figures steps from the wings . . . ” instead of “A familiar figure steps from the wings . . . ”
eBook Page 184 – “An hour and half later . . .” doesn’t make as much sense as “An hour and a half later . . .”
eBook Page 193 – “ ‘Okay, now I think that everyone’s,’ Ian says . . .” instead of “ ‘Okay, now I think that’s everyone,’ Ian says . . .”
B*tch – Said twice
B*llsh*t – Said once
D*ammit – Said 3 times
D*mn – Said 8 times
G*d – Said 19 times
Scr*w [everyone else] – Said once
Sh*t – Said twice
Sh*tty – Said once
Sl*t – Said twice
Chapter 27, eBook Pages 192 to 196 – During their camping trip, some of the Seoul Arts Academy students hike up the campsite mountain to a shrine dedicated to the located mountain sansin (deity).
Chapter 16, eBook Pages 113 to 116 – While alone in a closet, Jaewoo & Jenny almost kiss before the door abruptly opens.
eBook Page 168 – Jaewoo & Jenny kiss on a swing set while alone in a park at night. On eBook page 181 Jenny says that they “made out for half an hour.”
eBook Page 177 – Sori tells Jenny that there will be very little adult supervision on the school camping trip so she might have a chance to “get into Jaewoo’s pants.”
eBook Page 208 – Kissing
eBook Page 210 – Jenny tells Jaewoo all about her first experience at a bathhouse, humorously saying her friends Angela & Sori saw more of her than her mom in recent years. He suggestively texts back “I wish I could have been there.”
eBook Page 214 – Jenny runs off to meet Jaewoo, & Gi Taek says “Have fun. Don’t get pregnant.”
eBook Page 215 – Jaewoo & Jenny hug & kiss in a fifth floor corner of the school, a blind spot from the security cameras.
eBook Page 229 – Jenny tells Sori to cover for her at the dorms because she’s staying at Jaewoo’s mother’s apartment due to the rain. Sori suggestively texts back “GET IT GIRL!!!!!”
eBook Page 231 – Jenny falls in asleep in Jaewoo’s bed. He eventually wakes her up, & she goes back to his sister Joori’s room.
eBook Page 248 – Kissing
eBook Pages 248 to 249 – Jaewoo & Jenny reserve a karaoke room for thirty minutes, Once they turn on some music, they spend the whole time kissing. Aside from removing each other’s shirts, nothing else happens.
“Though 18-year-old Serilda Moller has lived in the town of Märchenfeld her whole life, most of the townsfolk choose to ostracize her. Cursed by the god Wyrdith before her birth, Serilda’s eyes are covered by the golden wheel of fate and fortune, and she possesses the ability to spin fantatsical tales, earning a reputation as an impulsive liar. One night under the Snow Moon, she lies to the wrong person, the Erlking, and changes the trajectory of her small town life. Now she is at his mercy, forced to answer his call every full moon to enter his haunted castle and spin straw into gold. A mysterious boy comes to her aid the first time, but even though he’s slowly falling in love with her, his magic cannot be given away for free. It’s apparent that the Erlking will never be satisfied, and Serilda is quickly running out of currency to continue paying the price of magic. Will she find a way out of her predicament, or will she be forever bound to Erlkönig and Adalheid Castle?”
The beginning of Gilded was promising, so much so that I was prepared to hand out a five-star rating. I would highly recommend the audiobook, which I listened to all the way through; Rebecca Soler did a fantastic job as the narrator, making me feel like I was being read a fairytale before bed each night. The winter setting is cozy, and the darkness of the story kept me on the edge of my seat. I also appreciate the way foreshadowing was used. In chapter two, Serilda’s students comparing her storytelling to spinning straw into gold, transforming their dull lives in the town of Märchenfeld into something special. A second example is the moss maidens Meadowsweet and Parsely gifting jewelry to Serilda in chapter five; the crest on the ring and picture in the locket end up being significant clues that tie everything together.
I was enchanted and ready to be taken on a immerisve journey for 500 pages . . . until chapter ten. Despite dark subject matter that toed the line, it’s the romance that lost me. It fell into the insta-love category and took me out of a world that had previously enraptured me. Never once did I feel a spark between Gild and Serilda. I wasn’t invested and found myself reading at a slower pace whenever they shared a chapter. I understand that his century-long loneliness as a poltergeist and her past with bullying gave them a connection as outcasts, but their intimacy progressed too quickly. The ending was wrapped up in their relationship, and I’m not sure there’s any part of it I liked. I sincerely believe a slow-burn romance would’ve suited this dark fairytale; instead an insta-love story weighed down an otherwise promising book.
Despite my disappointment, I’m giving this book 3 stars, and the completionist in me plans on reading the sequel. If you’re looking for a wintery read and like the idea of a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, give “Gilded” a try. Maybe the insta-love won’t bother you as much as it bothered me. Beware, this book is heavily inspired by German folklore and extremely dark. I’m shocked that there are no trigger warnings and did my best to cover everything down below so you’re fully prepared for the amount of blood & violence.
Abandonment – Serilda’s mother left when she was a young child. It’s mentioned throughout the book but addressed directly in chapter 17, starting on page 154.
Abortion – Though an abortion is not performed, it is used as a threat.
Bullying – Serilda’s experience with bullying due to her appearance is mentioned throughout the book.
Blood & Violence – If you can’t stand even a hint of blood, don’t read this book. There is blood and violence in most of the chapters.
Death & Suicide – Death is a major theme throughout the book, including the death of children. Chapter 49 is the most disturbing in my opinion because it deals directly with children’s dead bodies. There is a brief mention of suicide on page 178 and miscarriage and stillbirths on page 325.
Discipline – I know this isn’t always a bad or triggering subject, but on page 10, Madame Sauer grabs a willow branch and threatens to strike Serilda’s hands, bringing back painful memories from her school days. It’s briefly mentioned again on page 170. I wanted to note this because in my opinion, it’s a controversial and borderline abusive method of discipline.
Hunting& Trophies – There are frequent mentions of the Erlking hunting for magical creatures as sport; he mounts some of them on the walls of his castle and keeps others chained in cages.
Kidnapping & Missing Children – The Erlking is known for luring children from their homes & leaving their lifeless bodies at the edge of the Aschen Wood, sometimes keeping their spirits as prisoners in his castle.
Supernatural – If you’re easily creeped out, be aware that there are mentions of demons, appearances by ghosts who bear the wounds that caused their death, & eery creatures such as the Nachtkrapp, a raven with no eyes.
*Disclaimer: In order to be thorough, there will be spoilers in this section.
Alcohol – There are approximately 10 pages that mention alcohol and drinking, possibly a few more, but nothing too extreme – Pages 3, 103, 112, 134, 269, 280, & 326
Blood, Violence, & Death – There are approximately 132 pages that mention blood, violence, and/or death, ranging from brief to descriptive & disturbing.
Page 2 – The Erlking shoots an arrow that pierces the wing of the god Wyrdith in beast form; there’s mention of bloodied feathers.
Page 12 – Serilda is daydreaming about the Erlking’s Snow Moon hunt, imagining that “after their demonic ride, there will be feasting on what beasts they’ve captured, and drinking of mulled wine spiced with the blood . . .”
Page 14 – Serilda tells the children “”the only way to kill off a Nachzehrer is by putting a stone into its mouth. That will keep it from gnawing on its own flesh while you cut off the head.”
Pages 17 to 20 – Serilda tells a story about the Erlking bringing lost children to his queen Perchta who longs to be a mother. Once they grow out of babyhood, she tires of them, & he takes them to the forest & kills them. The child in this particular story has his throat cut by a hunting knife.
Page 37 – A female ghost riding with the Snow Moon hunt has blood stains down the front of her tunic, seemingly from the gash in her throat which was the cause of her death.
Page 41 – Brief mention of a hypothetical bargain signed in blood
Page 43 – Serilda is thinking about the rumors that the Erlking murders children, how in the past children’s corpses were found at the edge of the forest, often picked clean by crows.
Page 47 – Brief mention of Serilda’s story about a water nix who bites off fingers
Page 48 – Brief mention of Serilda’s story in which she brandishes a lethal fire iron & stabs her enemies, including one of the Erlking’s hellhounds
Page 55 – The first appearance of the Erlking’s servant Manfred, a ghost with an iron chisel sticking out of his left eye socket & a beard soaked in blood. He appears frequently so his appearance is described more than once.
Page 59 – The carriage Serilda rides in is made of a beast’s ribcage, the lantern out of his jaws & skull.
Page 65 – A young ghost servant of the Erlking is noticed by Serilda. She speculates that the bruises on his neck might be evidence of abuse from when he was alive or his cause of death.
Pages 65 & 66 – One of the Erlking’s hellhounds breaks loose and attempts to attack Serilda so he puts it down with an arrow which strikes through one of its eyes and jaw.
Page 71 – The Erlking’s castle is full of taxidermied creatures; the different heads & bodies are discussed throughout Chapter 9.
Pages 73 to 74 – There is mention of tapestries depicting the brutality of the Erlking’s hunts.
Pages 76 to 77 – If Serilda cannot spin straw into gold, the Erlking threatens to mount her head and that of her father on his castle walls.
Page 80 – Brief mention of bloodstained walls which is what Serilda thought the Erlking’s dungeons would have
Page 83 – A panicked Serilda wonders how the Erlking will cut off her head, with an axe or a sword?
Pages 103 to 105 – Serilda tells another story in which the Erlking kills a child, this time by stabbing with an arrow.
Pages 118 to 119 – Mention of a tapestry depicting a stag bleeding from multiple arrow wounds
Pages 122 to 123 – Serilda is attacked by a creature with a demon face, something known as a Drude; his claws draw blood.
Page 125 – Mention of bloody footprints & a pool of blood in the throne room where Serilda is walking
Page 134 – Mention of the dried blood on Serilda’s cheek
Pages 140 to 141 – Serilda & Leyna talk about Nachzehrer, creatures that eat people & their own body
Page 161 – Serilda has a beautiful dream about some kind of celebration at a castle which suddenly turns into blood spilling from under the gates and into the lake
Page 165 – Brief mention of a wolf pack taking chickens & goats from a local farm
Pages 177 to 178 – Serilda starts to tell the school children a story about seeing a Nachzehrer, freshly risen from the grave, who had already chewed off his burial shroud and right arm
Page 178 – Brief mention of suicide, Fricz explains that someone who commits suicide could potentially become a Nachzehrer
Page 178 – Brief mention of Serilda remembering the screams & bloody footprints from Adalheid Castle in Chapter 14
Page 194 – The Crow Moon hunt catches up to a red fox who is swiftly killed with a cudgel. Serilda mentions that the hunt will end with a feast of their kills served on silver dishes in a pool of blood.
Page 194 – Back at the castle after the Crow Moon hunt, the hellhounds are lured back to their cages by bloody meat.
Page 195 – The Erlking grabs Serilda by the hair & threatens her with a blade against her throat.
Page 198 – The Erlking strikes his blacksmith, throwing him into a wall.
Page 198 – After his latest prank, the Erlking gives orders for the castle poltergeist to be strung up with rope in the dining hall.
Page 199 – The Erlking theartens Serilda, saying “Either this straw will be gold come morning or it will be red with your blood.”
Page 209 – Serilda continues her story from chapter 12, mentioning once again the prince who is badly wounded and bleeding while watching the Erlking continously stab his little sister with an arrow.
Page 210 – In that same story, the great huntress Perchta is bleeding from an arrow wound inflicted by the prince.
Page 228 – The Erlking remarks that he won’t be gutting Serilda since all the straw in the dungeon has been spun into gold.
Page 231 – Two brief mentions of blood
Page 232 – Serilda mentions that if the Erlking finds out about her lies, he will kill her and mount her head on one of the castle walls.
Page 237 – A man appears in front of Adalheid Castle, seemingly wounded with blood spilling out of his mouth
Page 238 – Serilda runs into a goblin in the castle who begins to bleed from his neck; on that same page, Serilda mentions the stench of blood in the air.
Page 240 – Another mention of the smell of blood in Adalheid Castle
Pages 241 to 242 – Serilda runs into a woman who isn’t wounded at first, but suddenly a red line appears across her throat.
Page 261 – Serilda wants to know more about Adalheid Castle & “what had happened to leave its walls haunted by so many brutally murdered spirits.”
Page 261 – Brief mention of the Erlking killing mortals & stealing children
Page 266 – Serilda considers how she might kill the Erlking; she certainly can’t walk right up to him & stab him with his own hunting knife.
Page 268 – For the Spring Equinox celebration, the citizens of Adalheid decorate their doors with garlands made of animal bones.
Page 269 – A man with a cart full of live animals passes Serilda; the animals are left caged or tied to posts to await their fate during the Erlking’s Spring Equinox hunt. A cart of rabbits is added on page 272.
Pages 272 to 273 – Lorraine tells Serilda that trying to have a conversation with the Erlking during the Feast of Death will be “ . . . asking for him to skin you alive! To pluck out your eyeballs and feed them to the hounds. To tear your fingers off one by one and . . .”
Page 273 – Brief mention of the innocent children who disappeared because of the Erlking
Page 275 – Leyna tells Serilda that the live animals will be let loose for the hunt to chase down & kill; the meat is then thrown upon the likeness of the god Velos where the hellhounds feast upon it.
Page 279 – Serilda recognizes two ghosts riding with the hunt, describing them as “covered in their own blood”
Page 280 – Music is being played at the feast by “gore-splattered musicians”
Pages 280 to 281 – The live animals are let loose, running as fast they can from the pursuing hellhounds & hunters who are cheered on by a crowd of ghosts
Page 286 – Serilda sees a tapestry in Adalheid Castle that depicss a skeleton dressed as royalty and a small body ripped in two, identified as a female child from the pink dress & ringlet curls
Pages 287 to 288 – When a drude attacks Serilda, it gives her horrible visions: the Märchenfeld school on fire with children trapped inside, her father’s body being scavenged by birds, three of her young students being poked & prodded by goblins while locked in a cage, two other students being ripped to shreds by hellhounds, Leyna and her mother being attacked by Nachtkrapp, & Gild pinned like a moth to a spinning wheel.
Pages 288 to 289 – Gild fights with two Drudes, & there’s mention of blood & entrails.
Page 289 – Gild is bleeding from a wound on his scalp.
Page 290 – Gild explains to Serilda that Drudes can torture you for hours until your heart stops, when you can’t handle any more terror & give up.
Pages 292 to 293 – Gild drags his hand through his hair which smears his fingers with blood from his head wound. Serilda cleans the wound as best she can.
Page 304 – Another mention of the Erlking’s Spring Equinox hunt throwing the captured animals’ carcasses onto the effigy of Velos for the hellhounds to feast upon
Page 306 – Serilda catches a glimpse of the hellhounds fighting over the meat hanging from the likeness of Velos.
Pages 314 to 315 – Serilda cleans her shoulder wound caused by Drude talons, gouges caked in dried blood.
Page 325 – Mention of children dying from disease as well as mothers suffering a miscarriage or giving birth to a stillborn baby
Page 334 – Brief mention of blood
Page 364 – Serilda passes by two ghost gardeners, the man with shears sticking out of his neck & the woman with a crooked head, possibly from a broken neck.
Pages 365 to 366 – The Erlking shows Serilda his collection of caged beasts, looking miserable in their confinement; some even have untended wounds.
Pages 367 to 370 – The Erlking’s fellow hunters drag their latest catch into the gardens, a chained Tatzelwurm who is promptly put into a cage.
Page 405 – Brief mention of blood
Page 409 – Mention of the great huntress Perchta liking to toy with her prey, both animal or human, no torment enough to satisfy her bloodlust
Pages 414 to 417 – Serilda’s father returns as a Nachzehrer, a zombie covered in blood with visible bones. When he can’t get ahold of Serilda, he starts to eat his own finger. Madame Sauer suddenly appears and decapitates him with a shovel.
Page 417 – It is explained that Nachzehrer come back to life to eat their family members.
Page 420 – Brief mention of blood
Page 423 – Serilda asks a Nachtkrapp if he’s found any plump mice this morning, & then tells him to stay away from the hearts of the local children.
Page 425 – A Nachtkrapp scratches Serilda’s hand & draws blood.
Chapter 49, Pages 433 to 442 – This might be the most disturbing chapter in the whole book. Five of Serilda’s favorite young students go missing after the Awakening Moon hunt. After a town-wide search, their bodies are found at the edge of the Aschen Wood. Sadly they are not peaceful & untouched; they all have holes where their heart should be, bones sticking out & covered in drying blood.
Chapter 50, Pages 443 to 454 – Serilda continues her search because the fifth child’s body was not found. She ends up in Adalheid Castle, telling a gruesome story about a massacre from the past that killed all its inhabitants. That story triggers a pool of blood that opens a door into The Veil where the Erlking resides after dawn. Right before entering, Serilda sees a horrifying sight, a little girl’s body hanging from the throne room chandelier.
Chapter 51, Pages 455 to 461 – There is mention of blood at the very beginning of the chapter, & the four children’s ghosts are by the Erlking’s side when Serilda finds him.
Page 463 – Mention of ghosts with “battered bodies & bleeding wounds”
Pages 466 to 467 – The Erlking hung Gild outside the castle with chains, non-fatal but meant as a punishment.
Chapter 53, Pages 472 to 477 – The whole chapter revolves around the Erlking wanting to abort Serilda’s unborn child.
Page 475 – At the prospect of Serilda’s magic not returning, even if the fetus in her belly is removed, the Erlking says it would be better to slit her throat and be done with both of them.
Pages 477 to 478 – The Erlking shoots his barber in the heart, black blood spilling down his convulsing body.
Pages 482 to 483 – The Erlking stabs Serilda in the wrist with a gold arrow to curse her, putting her under his control; there is mention of blood from the wound.
Page 487 – Serilda once again notes the appearances of the ghosts around her at Adalheid Castle, each of them bearing the wound or wounds that killed them.
Page 490 – Gerdrut is revealed to also be a ghost with a hole where her heart used to be.
Gods & Magic
There are heavy magical themes, mentions of curses, potions, & witches. There are seven (mostly) fictional gods who are mentioned frequently: Eostrig-god of spring & fertility, Freydon, Hulda-god of labor, Solvilde-god of sky & sea, Tyrr-god of war & hunting, Velos-god of death & wisdom, and Wyrdith-god of fate, fortune, lies, & stories.
Grammar & Spelling
Page 140 – “It was a far cry tastier that the buttered rye bread . . .” instead of “It was a far cry tastier than the buttered rye bread . . .”
By the old gods (as an exclamation) – Page 41
Damned – Page 312
Gods alive (as an exclamation) – Page 140
Page 227 – A brief kiss
Page 312 – Extended kiss
Pages 358 to 361 – A kiss that turns into touching which leads to something more but fades to black. The only additional information is that he helped her get dressed before they fell asleep side by side.
Page 363 – She briefly daydreams about her night with him, imagining his body, his hands, & his mouth.
Pages 376 to 377 – She considers the opinion of society concerning unwed couples sleeping together & ponders whether or not she feels shame for sleeping with him; she concludes that she does not.
Page 469 – She realizes she’s with child after missing her period.
Synopsis: After the loss of her beloved grandfather, 28-year-old Jemima Button is unexpectedly handed the keys to his allotment plot. She doesn’t share his enthusiasm for gardening but can’t follow through when the time comes to give it up. Now she has five chickens and a garden to care for, and her amateur mistakes are catching unsolicited criticism.
After ages of being a name on a waiting list, 42-year-old Melissa Robins finally has an allotment plot to call her own. She dives right in, eager to be creative and take her mind off her husband who is working away from home. When loneliness pushes her into a close friendship with a fellow allotmenter, tongues start wagging, and her reputation takes a nosedive.
Despite her age, 80-year-old Dorothy “Dottie” Nesbit maintains a three-days-a-week dusting routine at Lerwick Manor, a job that dates back to her parents. She also grows prize-winning delphiniums and serves as secretary on the allotment association committee. Becase of her unofficial title as local matriarch, her eyes and ears are everywhere, and she is not afraid to get involved and give an opinion.
These three women lead very different lives, but now find themselves neighbors at the Lerwick Manor Allotment Association. Together they will face the barrage of drama that is a typical day at the allotment plot. Will they weather the storm, or is one of them on her way out?
I started this book at a sluggish pace thanks to pages of drawn out description. For example, the section that describes Jemima Button’s first visit as plot owner to the Lerwick Manor Allotment Association: she enters the gate, notices the more unique gardens while following the figure eight pathway, & arrives at her destination six pages later. The detail about her grandparents’ front door is lovely, how after generations of memories it now decorates the plot which is passing from Thomas Quinn to his granddaughter. Some of the description adds to the story, but there could’ve been more editing to remove the pages of tedium, especially in the first half of the book.
Initially Melissa’s point-of-view interested me the most because I liked her personality, but by the end I found her attitude off-putting. I know gossip is an ugly thing, but she could’ve handled herself better. When you choose to spend time alone with a handsome, single man while your husband’s away for work, don’t be shocked when your small, tight-knit community starts to talk. To balance things out, I did appreciate her genuine care for Jemima as they became friends. Dottie is likeable but experiences very little development. She’s more of a bridge between characters and storylines. I enjoyed the Sassy Dottie moments; they added some spice to her character. Her POV lands in the middle which leaves Jemima, my favorite. I found her personal journey relatable, and her potential romance is what truly kept me invested in the book. The pace of her story picked up too quickly in the final chapters, but I like where people, places, and things ended up so I’m not too upset about it.
I now want chickens and an allotment plot, specifically on Shetland, so I think Erin Green did her job. However, I’m lowering my rating because of lengthy descriptions and slow pace, giving “From Shetland With Love” three stars. Don’t expect fireworks-level excitement because this book is exactly what the cover sets it up to be, a slice of life story centered around allotment plot owners and their day-to-day issues. If you like to sit outside in the sunshine and read to unwind, this might be the book for you; if you enjoy gardening, even better!
Fun Fact: Thomas Quinn named his chickens Tonight, Madras, Korma, Roast, and Nugget (or possibly Kiev); all of them are affectionately known as “his ladies.” As a tribute, Jemima named her duck Crispy. I felt you should know all that because it tickled me throughout the entire book.
Tiny as or Tinier than a newborn’s winky – Pages 33 & 301
*DISCLAIMER: In order to be thorough, there are moments that will be spoiled in this section of my review.
Page 104 – Melissa feels attraction to Levi, a man who is not her husband
Page 169 – It’s implied that Melissa doesn’t want to mention Levi’s name to her husband
Pages 171 to 173 – Melissa hugs Levi & cries on his shoulder after a tense FaceTime conversation with her husband
Pages 190 to 195 – Melissa spends the day with Levi alone, having conflicting thoughts about her marriage. Aside from being alone together in a car on a day-long roadtrip, nothing inappropriate happens.
Page 206 – Melissa & Mungo are tangled up on the floor of The Veggie Rack covered in Jemima’s pumkin chutney which has exploded. Dottie walks in on them & assumes something else is happening. Melissa humorously describes the scene as looking like a “kinky sex session with a fetish for orange lube.”
Page 231 – Jemima describes Ned’s strong jawline & cleft chin as sexy, feeling nervous flutters as he’s buttoning up a coat she’s borrowing from him
Pages 236 to 238 – Jemima lets Melissa know the allotmenters are gossiping about her & Levi’s possible affair, & the latter exclaims “You wanted to be the one to blow the story wide open, and then you can confirm that we’re shagging like rabbits in the potting shed!”
Pages 240 to 241 – Melissa contemplates the affair rumours flying around & the silly idea that she’s “conducting a full-blown knocking shop.” She glances around her small potting shed & remarks “ . . . there’s hardly enough room to stash a folded deckchair, let alone perform some sordid affair or energetic sexual gymnastics! There’s a sodding window, for God’s sake! Someone must think I’m a right exhibitionist if this is my place of choice for frolicking.”
Page 241 – While conversing with Jemima, Melissa exclaims “Seriously, don’t you? Don’t you believe me and Levi are arranging sordid shagathons in here . . . me propped up on the rickety workbench over there and him squashed in between the sodding window and my new paraffin heaters!” Jemima humourously responds “I can just imagine it, though I suggest you focus a little more on comfort and ambience: a few candles and a swathe of rich fabric might enhance the boudoir effect for both of you.”
Page 242 – Levi tells Melissa the allotmenters are gossiping about Jemima & Ned possibly sleeping together
Pages 245 to 247 – While in The Cabbage Patch, Melissa takes the opportunity to tell off the allotmenters who are present, setting the record straight that she & Levi have never kissed or slept together.
Pages 262 to 264 – Melissa scolds Levi for not backing up her outburst in The Cabbage Patch, exclaiming “We aren’t a couple. We’re not having an affair or getting jiggy in my potting shed!” Levi criticies her husband’s disinterest in her needs & wants & implies he wants more in their relationship.
Page 335 – Dottie describes Natalia as “a real-life stunner exuding sex appeal and class”
Pages 344 to 347 – Levi and Melissa have a serious conversation in front of people at the festival before slipping away to a private corner and kissing. The chapter ends suggestively with both agreeing to meet back at Levi’s place.
Pages 348 to 349 – Melissa’s husband Hamish shows up at the festival to surprise her. While helping him look for his wife, Dottie spots Levi and Melissa gleefully leaving the manor together. Hamish doesn’t mention seeing them, but it’s implied that he did.
Page 351 – Jemima walks in on Natalia sitting on Ned’s desk and describes her skimpy attire.
Pages 356 to 358 – Dottie warns Melissa about Hamish being at the festival, and she goes straight home, kissing and making up with him.
Pages 366 to 367 – Jemima and Ned share their first kiss in the Lerwick Manor garden during the sweetest, most romantic moment in the whole book.
Page 378 – Jemima and Ned kiss again.
Anxiety – Jemima’s struggles with anxiety are mentioned throughout the book. The worst & most described panic attack takes place on pages 353 to 355.
Infertility & Death/Loss – Jemima is dealing with the recent loss of her grandfather Thomas. There are also mentions of how she coped when her mother died of cancer. There is a brief mention of Ned’s parents struggling to have a child as well as their untimely deaths from cancer. On pages 306 to 310, Dottie and Melissa find Bill who has died while sitting on his allotment plot bench; his body is removed from the property by an undertaker.
📖 Synopsis: On top of trying to please her parents, Rabbi Goldblatt and Dr. Rubenstein, and manage a chronic illness, Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is secretly a best-selling author. Why is it a secret? Because she writes Christmas romance novels! When her boss requests a Hanukkah romance, Rachel isn’t sure she can find enough inspiration in the Festival of Lights to create the same magic as her Christmas books. Just when life couldn’t get any crazier, Jacob Greenberg comes back into her life, arriving in New York City to throw the ultimate Hanukkah party with his successful entertainment company. The two of them have very different memories of what transpired eighteen years ago, but one thing is clear: both of them walked away from that summer at Camp Ahava with a broken heart. Can Rachel work alongside Jacob long enough to find book inspiration at the Matzah Ball, or will the reappearance of her camp archenemy ruin the double life she’s worked so hard to maintain?
Jews come from so many different backgrounds, making our worldwide family equal parts incredible and meshuggeneh. Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt’s upbringing doesn’t mirror my own, but this messianic Jewish girl still found common ground and comfort in her story. Rachel’s dad is a rabbi so she grew up under intense scrutiny, trying to meet the high expectations of her family and community. I was nodding my head at every single sentence because my dad’s a pastor, and life as a pastor’s kid is the same as that of a rabbi’s kid; eyes are on you at all times, people scrutinizing everything you do and gossiping the minute something doesn’t meet their approval. I do not say this lightly: I get it. I totally get it! That’s the biggest reason why I connected to this book beyond surface-level enjoyment.
If you’re a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, Jacob and Rachel’s romance is for you. Thanks to miscommunication spanning eighteen years, they hold a grudge against one another for post-summer camp broken hearts. I am ridiculously persnickety when it comes to character flaws and couldn’t help feeling annoyed at the lies and secrets for no good reason. However, I fully understand that’s a major detail supporting the plot and don’t officially consider it a negative. Afterall, the conflict is what makes the ending that much sweeter. Sweeter than Sufganiyot!
For the most part, this book is a home run. Minor details were repeated when unnecessary, such as adult Jacob’s memory of young Rachel’s high ponytail and hot pink shorts (pages 56 & 78). Some Jewish phrases were explained while others were not. There are enough context clues to keep you out of the dark, but I can understand why it might frustrate non-Jewish readers, though I would encourage a quick Google search for the sake of education. In the final pages the onstage moment between Rabbi Goldblatt and his wife Dr. Rubenstein led to a sweet parent-daughter moment, but the set-up was too cheesy for my taste, the overheard dialogue unnatural.
There were very few negatives within 385 pages, but I’m leaving room for improvement because this is Jean Meltzer’s author debut, a mighty impressive one I might add. Four out of five stars. There is familiarity for members of the tribe and common ground for gentile readers. No matter who you are, it will take mere pages to feel like you’re wrapped in the cozy warmth of a Hanukkah blanket. Read this book with my blessing. Chag Hanukkah Sameach!
“My journey of Hanukkah,” Toby said simply, “has spanned ninety-one years. I have celebrated this holiday in Germany, France, New York and Paris, all over the world with my grandson, during good times and bad times alike.” She quieted, a small sadness sitting there at the tip of her throat. “But what I always explained to Jacob is that these candles are a metaphor. They remind us that we always have a choice. We can be someone who snuffs out another person’s candle and, in the process, makes the world a darker place. Or we can be the type of person who spreads light. Better to be the shamash–one candle that lights all the others and brightens an otherwise dark world.” – Bubbe Toby Greenberg, Page 182
Grammar & Spelling Page 107 – “Symbols” instead of “Cymbals” Page 166 – “Kendell Jenner” instead of “Kendall Jenner” Page 242 – “It that strange?” instead of “Is that strange?” or “Is it that strange?” Page 307 – “Leaning into whisper” instead of “leaning in to whisper” Page 354 – “Once Esther Shapiro is finished her set” instead of “Once Esther Shapiro has finished her set”
Sensual/Sexual Moments Page 89 – Sensual inner monologue about a man’s body Page 239 – Sensual inner monologue about a man’s body Page 307 – One kiss Pages 307 through 313 – Jacob visits Rachel’s apartment at night. It’s implied that they might sleep together, but nothing happens. Page 371 – One kiss Page 378 – One kiss, Jacob carries Rachel into her bedroom
Other Mentions of alcohol & drinking throughout the book plus an instance or two of drunkeness
It’s the end of July which means it’s time to do some reading & rushing for seven straight days. The Reading Rush, formerly known as BookTubeAThon, is an annual weeklong readathon that I’ve been participating in since 2017. There are reading challenges, virtual badges, social media reading sprints, giveaways, merch, and so much more. This is my 4th year, & I’m ready to make it the best one yet. Start scrolling to follow my reading journey for 7 days. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! 😉👍
✔️ Started & finished “P.S. I Still Love You” by Jenny Han| eBook on Scribd| 312 pages | Earned the Read the First Book You Touch badge| I really wanted to continue this trilogy so I cheated a teeny tiny bit. I laid out four books on my bedroom floor & touched the one I wanted to read. Ariel & Raeleen said this prompt could be interpreted multiple ways so I used creative license. 😉
It’s that time of year, time to take my Ordinary Wizarding Levels. This is an amazing Harry Potter-themed readathon run by G from Book Roast & AJ from @asjamestweets. Last year I vlogged so this year I’m blogging. I hope you enjoy following my monthlong reading journey! 📚
Last year I picked a career, read the required books, & managed to also pass the remaining exams. This year I’m focusing on passing all 12 O.W.L.s rather than a specific career. Basically I’m indecisive & want to keep my options open. 😂 Here are the exams/reading prompts & my TBR:
🧮 Arithmancy | Magical qualities of the number 2: Balance/Opposites – Read something outside your favorite genre. | I chose “The Dark Knight Returns” by Frank Miller because I don’t often read comic books, although I do like them.
🔭 Astronomy | Night Classes: Read the majority of a book while it’s dark outside. | I chose “Catching Fire” by Suzanne Collins. I was actually supposed to read “The Hunger Games” for this prompt, but I forgot to read part of it at night so I switched it to my Care of Magical Creatures textbook.
🐉 Care of Magical Creatures | Hippogriffs: Read a book with a beaked creature on the cover. | I chose “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. My original textbook was “Catching Fire,” but as you already know I made a mistake & had to switch books.
🧙🏼♂️ Defense Against the Dark Arts | Grindylows: Read a book set at sea or on a coast | I chose “The Cornish Coast Murder” by John Bude. The story is set in a fishing village on Cornwall’s Atlantic coast.
🔮 Divination | Third Eye: Assign numbers to your TBR & use a random number generator to pick your book | I assigned numbers to some of the Agatha Christie books I want to read & ended up with “At Bertram’s Hotel,” a book I previously DNFed (Did Not Finish). I’m ready to finish it!
🌱 Herbology | Mimbulus Mimbletonia: Read a book with a title that starts with the letter M | I chose “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins. By now you’ve surely figured out that I’m rereading the series in anticipation of the new prequel releasing in May. 🎉
👱🏻♀️ Muggle Studies | Read a book from the perspective of a muggle (Contemporary) | I chose “Every Deadly Kiss” by Steven James, the sequel to “Every Crooked Path.” Mr. James is one of my favorite crime authors!
For once, I completed my reading goal with time to spare & exceeded it by two. I set my goal at 55 and completed 57 books. Yay! 🎉 Now for the semi-disappointing news: I didn’t complete the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. I could beat myself up, but reading is supposed to be fun, not a competition. Not all of the 2018 challenges matched up with what I wanted to read last year, and that is okay.
*Note: The definition of “ethnicity” is different depending on who you ask so I relied solely on where an author was born. I didn’t include British authors because of my own family’s roots, but perhaps that was just overthinking on my part.