So much has happened…

since the last time I wrote.  I still have Flurry the chinchilla, but I added a puppy to my family last October and suddenly I had no free time.  Raising her has been the hardest and the most rewarding thing that I’ve ever done, and I’m typing this now with her curled up and sleeping beside me.

Her name is Pippa, and she’s a black and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  If you’re interested, you can follow our adventures on Instagram

Pippa is now over a year old, and we’ve learned to live together.  She’s a little special – she has a genetic neurological condition called Episodic Falling Syndrome, which only occurs in Cavaliers and predominantly in the black and tans or rubies.  Basically, she got two recessive genes from her parents and when she gets hot or excited, she loses control of her muscles.  It’s a lot like a seizure but she is fully conscious (not in pain or scared).  I’ve seen her turn full cartwheels and it’s terrifying, but it doesn’t hurt her and it’s over in about 30 seconds, when she gets up and continues as though nothing has happened.  At this point the only treatment is seizure medication, which I’ve opted not to do as it can damage her liver and her episodes are relatively infrequent (at their worst, once a day, compared to some dogs who have more than 30 each day).

This condition is fairly rare and not well understood.  At first the vet had no idea what it could be, but the breeder said that Pippa’s grandfather carried the recessive gene, which then led us down this trail.  I take Pip to a university vet hospital for care, and they reached out to the University of Missouri, who developed a genetic test just for her.  She’s a bit of a case study.

I’ll be back to reviewing books now that life has settled into a new normal, and you can expect some cameos from my favorite girl.



The Trembling Hills (Phyllis Whitney, 1956)

trembling hills

Why did you choose this book?

My mother introduced me to Phyllis Whitney, Victoria Holt, and Mary Stewart.  I’ve always enjoyed reading their books and I decided now was the time to read through them before they go out of print (and out of library collections) forever.

What’s it about?

It’s 1906.  Sara Jerome’s mother is the housekeeper for the Temple family, and Sara is desperately infatuated with Ritchie Temple.  He goes to San Francisco to make his way as an architect, and is staying in the home of the beautiful Judith Renwick.  When Ritchie’s parents die, he offers Sara’s mother a position in California, but she is hesitant to take it until Sara finally convinces her.  Will Sara find love and a new life in SF?


Romantic suspense, Gothic romance


This was Whitney’s third attempt at romantic suspense.  It wasn’t that suspenseful, as I was never really fearing for Sara’s life.  I also thought much of the mystery and intrigue came in too late in the story (last chapter), and too much of the resolution was contrived.  A gentle romance with historical fiction undertones more than Gothic/romantic suspense.  Some dialogue and descriptions may be offensive to modern readers (especially those relating to Chinese servant Ah Foong).

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

Sara and her mother Mary assume their roles in the Renwick household.  Judith and Ritchie have become engaged, and Ritchie is working in the insurance business with Judith’s brother Nick.  Sara begins work as a secretary in their office and befriends the youngest Renwick, plain and precocious Allison.  Judith and Ritchie have their ups and downs, and Ritchie occasionally toys with Sara’s affections, even kissing her and showing up in her room uninvited.

Sara does some investigating, determined to see if her family came from old money, in order to impress Ritchie.  She discovers that her father was Leland Bishop, nephew of the queen of old money SF, Miss Hester Varady.

The earthquake and fire occur, pushing the Renwick entourage out of their soon-to-be-destroyed home, and they take refuge in the Varady mansion.  Also in the home is Geneva Varady, Nick’s betrothed and a shy, quiet soul.

Sara realizes she loves Nick and he loves her, but he won’t marry her because he can’t betray Geneva.

Sara’s mother hates being back in the house she fled after Leland’s death, and there’s something spooky about an upstairs room.

Other stuff happens.

In the end, Hester tells everyone the truth.  Her sister Elizabeth and her husband Martin died in a shipwreck, leaving Leland behind.  She took him in and raised him.  He married a barmaid named Callie, who had a streak of insanity.  She was Geneva’s mother.  Hester forced a divorce and sent Geneva to be raised by nuns until she could later claim her.  Leland married Mary, Sara’s mom, and Sara was born.  They all lived in the Varady mansion.  One day Callie showed up and pushed Leland over the banister in a fit of rage, killing him.  Sara witnessed this but had repressed it.  Hester locked Callie in the upstairs bedroom, Ah Foong gave her a kitten, and Hester has always been haunted by the cat.  Callie eventually died.  Mary and Sara fled to Chicago to make a new life for themselves in the wake of Callie’s death (though Mary didn’t know of Callie).

Sara was disinherited by Hester, but became a successful dressmaker with Mary’s help.

When Geneva learned about her mother’s insanity and about Sara’s love for Nick, she ran to the ruined Renwick place.  A wall collapsed, killing her, and leaving Nick and Sara free to marry.

Ritchie and Judith reconciled and got married, and he finally buckled down and became an architect.

The End.

The Lying Game (Ruth Ware, 2017)


Why did you choose this book?

This is the third book I’ve read by Ware.  I really enjoy her ability to develop suspense, and this novel in particular reminded me of some of the 1960s romantic suspense novels I’ve really enjoyed (think Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney), minus the romance.

What’s it about?

Isa Wilde and her friends Fatima, Kate, and Thea, were notorious at their boarding school for their tight-knit friendship and a game they played that involved lying to everyone around them.  They spent every weekend with Kate’s father, Ambrose (the art teacher), at the nearby old mill that served as his home.  Until, that is, they were expelled and he vanished.  Seventeen years later, Isa receives a text from Kate, reading “I need you.”  She goes, and her life will never be the same.


Psychological suspense


I found this novel to be the best from Ware so far.  In a Dark, Dark Wood felt a little sporadically paced with some plot holes.  The Woman in Cabin 10 felt implausible.  This one sucked me right in.  At times, I thought I knew where it was heading and had to take a break from the growing dread I felt.  I was wrong each time, but the book certainly had pull on my emotions.  I’d recommend this, despite my frustration with the protagonist, both for her constant lying and her callous treatment of her romantic partner.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

Part I: what you know before the last 50 pages.

The four girls were at school together and were expelled after the school received nude drawings of them done by Ambrose.  Fatima was sent to Pakistan to join her parents, Thea was taken to yet another boarding school (she had a history of expulsions), Kate stayed at the mill, and Isa returned home to her father and terminally ill mother.  The night before their expulsion, the girls discovered that Ambrose had committed suicide, leaving behind a note.  They drug his body out on the beach and buried it, because Kate was too young to live independently and would have been sent to foster care.  She claimed he had disappeared, but didn’t go to the police until she reached the age of majority, months later.  Her troubled step-brother, Luc, was sent back to his opiate-addicted mother in France, since he was also too young to live on his own.  The girls haven’t been reunited in 17 years, but when a body is discovered on the beach, Kate texts them and they all return.

Part II: what really happened.

Luc and Kate were sleeping together.  Ambrose was vehemently opposed to this and was planning to send Luc away to boarding school to stop it.  Luc was distraught, and after his traumatic childhood, believed that people would always betray him.  He laced Ambrose’s wine with heroin, causing Ambrose to overdose orally.  When Ambrose figured out what had happened (he was a former addict and knew the symptoms), he penned a suicide note in order to protect both children.

After all of this comes out, Luc and Kate have an argument.  Luc, not realizing the others are in the Mill, knocks over a paraffin lamp and the Mill goes up in flames.  Luc heroically rescues Isa’s infant daughter, but is himself consumed by the inferno, along with Kate, who had run back in to rescue him. The remaining three girls create a story to protect the posthumous reputations of Luc, Kate, and Ambrose, and finally quit lying to everyone around them.

Isa and her boyfriend Owen ostensibly make up, but she realizes she doesn’t really love him, although she’ll stay with him for the sake of their daughter, Freya.

As with some of Ware’s other works, I didn’t find the protagonist particularly likable, and I became frustrated with her relationship choices.  If she would have confided in Owen, even a portion of the story, I would have been much less frustrated with her.  Regardless, this was a compelling read.

The Fifth Letter (Nicola Moriarty, 2017)


Why did you choose this book?

I order books for the fiction collection at my library.  I read the synopsis of this one while deciding whether or not to buy it and was immediately intrigued.  Also, Nicola’s sister is Liane, who wrote “Big Little Lies.”

What’s it about?

A group of four friends, who have been inseparable since elementary school.  As a bonding exercise, the clingiest of the group (Joni) suggests that they all write an anonymous letter containing a secret, to be read out loud to the group and discussed.  Someone writes an extra letter, having gotten cold feet after pouring out their dirtiest secret – that they are so jealous they want to kill or maim another member of the group.  Who wrote it?




I wanted this book to be good so badly.  “The Fifth Letter” borrows from the format and style of BLL, and is well-written, but OMG I didn’t care.  I never really felt that the characters were in danger, and to be honest, I didn’t really care if they were or not.  I also thought the revelations of secrets at the end of the novel were blah.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

The secrets:

Trina: feels like a bad mom, abusive husband.  Saw that coming and all moms have insecurities about motherhood.

Joni: a bunch of secrets – just have an honest convo with your hubby already!  So many misunderstandings could have been avoided.

Eden: Claimed to have had a baby as a teenager, but really was scarred as a result of a rape and the fact that her mother never believed her about what happened.  Pushes Joni, who cracks her head open on the edge of the pool and almost dies.

Deb: attends a divorce support group as a result of her parents’ divorce when she was a child.  Wants to kill Trina (but not really – “I would never act on it!”), because Trina (who doesn’t remember this) used to make fun of her for having warts on her hands.

Also, Eden’s hubby and Joni almost kissed, which sends everyone into fits of jealousy.  Dudes, calm down.

And there are sections where Joni “confesses” the whole story to a priest, basically as an excuse for the author to explain occurrences to the reader without actually describing the whole scene.  I think in the end Trina ends up dating the priest, who decided to become a psychiatrist after listening to Joni’s confession.  He was my fave character, which should tell you something.

I read this entire book in 3 hours (which is rare for me with adult fiction), and I kind of wish I hadn’t even given it that much time.


One reason I started a blog was to share my love of reading with others.  Another reason was to allow me to publicly share my writing.  Sometimes I’m just in the mood to spill my thoughts to the Internet, and today is such a day.  For the past several years, I’ve been watching my way through vlogbrothers videos, and today I watched Hank’s video “Thanks, Lemon,” about the death of his dog.  His central concept is that while she was just a dog, she had value to him and changed his life in many wonderful ways.  This is one of the things I find most amazing about pets.  They have such a great impact on their people.

Over Christmas, I went home to visit my dad, which is a 12 hour drive from my house.  One day, he agreed to drive 4 hours each way with me to a chinchilla ranch.  I’ve done research over the last year about these animals and decided to get two.  The ranchers had chosen a handful of chins for me to look at, and I left with two beautiful boys – a dark standard and a white mosaic.

The standard cried on the way home.  Neither of my boys had been outside the barn in which they were raised.  Neither had ever had a treat before.  Neither had been handled much by strangers.


We set forth on our long journey the next day, arriving safely home.  My first act the next morning was playtime!  I quickly got to know the personalities of my boys, and assigned them each a name.  The standard became Fog, and the mosaic became Flurry.

Fog was always curious but pretty calm for the most part.  He would let me scratch underneath his chin, and loved to hop up on my leg when I was sitting in his playpen, stretching his front feet toward the sky.  I considered this our circus training.  He also wasn’t opposed to the occasional snuggle.

Flurry, on the other hand, was always more of a handful.  He struggled more when I tried to handle him, and spent nearly all of playtime trying to escape.  He chirped in fear, and tried to bite.

About two weeks after I first got my boys, we had our routine playtime.  As I sat in the playpen, Fog scrambled up to my shoulder, a new trick he enjoyed.  Before I knew it, he had jumped off and escaped.  I chased him down and let Flurry have his turn.  Fog started walking like he was drunk, and letting me handle him with no resistance whatsoever (even on his back, which is abnormal for any chinchilla).  I rushed him to the vet ER, where they tried to run through possible causes.  I sat in the exam room (which had no tissues) and cried, mopping my eyes and nose on my shirt.

I went to work, and they filled Fog with narcotics to manage the pain.  They took x-rays and asked my approval for a CT scan.  As they laid him down for the scan, he began to die.  They called for permission to euthanize him and I went to pick up his empty cage, crying all the way.  I went from hoping it was a simple fix to mourning his loss in the course of six short hours.  The necropsy confirmed that the cause of death was brain and spine trauma, probably as a result of misjudged distance when he jumped from my shoulder.

I think many people wondered how I could possibly be so deeply impacted by an animal I only had for a couple of weeks.  But these fluffs are my kids.  I watched them grow less scared and more curious about their world.  I spent long hours holding my hand in their cage with a treat or some hay to build their trust.  I cleaned their cages, bought them toys, washed the fleece that lined their playpen, spent an hour with each just watching them play.  I talked to them, sang them a theme song I wrote each day when I came home from work, and invested my heart in them.  Watching Fog struggle to move and the fear and guilt as I rushed him to the vet were incredibly challenging.  The vet made me a set of his pawprints to remember him by.  He died just two days before his first birthday.


My handsome, sweet boy.

Some people said, “He’s just a rodent.”  Yes, but he’s my rodent.  I gave him value by learning his quirks and personality, and working so hard to give him the best possible life, even if it was for such a short time.  Even in the wake of grief, at least I still had Flurry.

We’re making progress in our relationship.  I’ve had him for almost two months, but about 80% of the time he lets me catch him, he’ll take treats from my hand, and sometimes if I’m very very patient he’ll let me scratch him.  Our bond has taken work to forge, but I’m so thankful for my little fluff.  Never ever take yours for granted.


In a Dark, Dark Wood (Ruth Ware, 2015)

So, to start off before I forget, I now have a Twitter!  I’m still mastering the art of the tweet, but feel free to follow me @biblioventuring!  Creative name, I know.  😉

Why did you choose this book?

I’ve heard so much buzz about Ware’s second book The Woman in Cabin 10.  I’ve been going through a Jennifer Weiner phase recently (no, I haven’t been blogging about it), so I decided this would be a welcome change from that type of fiction.

What’s it about?

Nora (not to be confused with another main character – Nina) has been invited to her high school best friend’s (Clare’s) hen party (bachelorette party).  The two haven’t talked in a decade, but for some reason, Nora decides to go.  Upon arriving, she realizes they will be staying in a huge glass vacation home in the middle of nowhere (cue creepy music).  The other guests include Flo (OBSESSED with Clare), Tom (nonchalent, coke-snorting theater guy), and M-something (Melanie? Melissa?) who leaves halfway through to spend time with her baby.  Some sketchy things start happening, and the chapters at the party are interspersed with present-day Nora laying half-dead in the hospital with amnesia.




Looking at the reviews on Amazon, it seems like many people didn’t enjoy this book.  As for me, I definitely did!  Was it a spine-chilling, heart-pounding suspense read like I expected?  No.  But I was so absorbed in the story that while reading it at work I wouldn’t hear people approaching and when they greeted me I would experience temporary disorientation as I pulled out of the fictional world to respond.  I’ll definitely be reading Ware’s next book.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

I’m starting to do this section so with books in a series, I don’t have to re-read the whole series to get caught up.  It’s also a good way for me to quickly remind myself of a book in case I’m recommending it to someone and get it mixed up with a similar title.

So, it turns out that the bad blood between Nora and Clare happened after Nora became pregnant by her then-boyfriend, who is now Clare’s fiance, James.  James texted Nora and ended things suddenly, and Nora went into a self-preservation flight and fell out of contact with everyone.  At the party, we learn that Clare actually sent the break-up text so that she could have James to herself.  She also encouraged Nora’s abortion.  Clare is the one responsible for setting the events in motion that killed James, and for trying to place the blame for those events on Nora’s shoulders (phony texts, unlocked doors, false testimony, etc.).


99 Days (Kate Cotugno, 2015)


Guys, I read a book!  I feel like this is newsworthy since it’s been forever….

Why did you choose this book?

This was one of the first ARCs (Advance Reader’s Copies) I picked up in my last job.  It’s a little sad that I’m just now getting around to reading it.

What’s it about?

Molly made a mistake during her junior year – sleeping with her boyfriend’s brother.  She kept the secret for a year, until her mom’s next novel was published, revealing all of the gritty details to everyone in town.  After a year away at boarding school, Molly just has to survive the summer back home.  It’s only 99 days.


Teen, fiction


This book helped to pull me out of a reading slump (hence why I haven’t blogged since June).  I read it over the course of two evenings, and found it pretty enjoyable.  The book is structured with each chapter as one of the 99 days, some with less than a page of text and others of “normal” chapter length.  I made the mistake of reading some Goodreads reviews halfway through, which I think unfairly colored my perception of the remainder of the book.  Molly definitely made some mistakes and was kind of whiny, but I found the book to be fine for some fun light reading.  Patrick, however, escaped too unscathed.

Refresher (here there be spoilers)

No really, this is a book summary/plot synopsis

Ok, I warned you…

In essence, Molly gets a job at a hotel and befriends her ex-boyfriend’s (Patrick) new girlfriend, Tess.  Patrick’s brother Gabe has been falling for Molly for most of their lives (he’s also the one she slept with), and he starts dating her again.  Molly is constantly bullied by Patrick’s twin, Julia, who becomes much nicer after Molly discovers she’s a lesbian.  However, Patrick can’t resist Molly’s charms (he’s kind of a jerk) and starts fooling around with her whenever he can.  He sneaks into her house to have sex for the first time, but upon realizing that Molly went all the way with Gabe, becomes irate with her and spills the truth about what they’ve been doing together all summer.  Just as everything is coming together for Molly, it all falls apart again, except this time not even Gabe is her ally.  Luckily, by this point the 99 days are over and Molly is off to college to bond with her new roommate Roisin, who has also had a summer filled with boyfriend drama.  Talk about a roller coaster ride of a novel – I think Molly had the ambiguous ending she deserved, but I think Patrick needed to be impacted by more of the fallout.