March Tea and a Book: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

After a long drought, I finally found a book that captivated me, kept me glued to the pages until the end, and only took two days to read because I could hardly bear to put it down.

Goodreads synopsis:
In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and their teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago.

My thoughts
I am always drawn to “moving to the country/living off the land” sorts of stories because they are inherently full of conflict–internal and external–even without ghosts. In the case of this book, I loved the notion of building a haunted house, for that’s what Helen ends up doing as she incorporates historical artifacts and materials into her home design. (The fact that the home site lies near a rather mystical and creepy bog makes it all the better.)

The cast of characters is rather large, but each individual is distinct and, in most cases, seamlessly woven into the story. I really appreciated that the characters’ behavior–be it thoughtful, reckless, or downright avoidant–pushed the plot forward, and though there were surprises, everything made sense in the end. Some horror stories show characters driving themselves insane and wrecking all their relationships in pursuit of “the truth,” bringing catharsis through spectacularly messy implosion. That can be interesting, of course, but I appreciated how the characters in this story learned from mistakes, clued in to nuances, and generally tried to be their best selves once they knew what was at stake.

Now for tea:
To pair with spooky books, I prefer simple, cozy snacks. I baked easy, delicious Irish White Scones from a mix by Odlums, “Ireland’s favorite home baking brand.” Do check the link–they have such a wide variety of scrumptious mixes. I happened to find this mix at World Market, and I do hope Odlums will make more of their products available in the U.S. For tea I chose Paris Breakfast from Mariage Freres, containing “notes of honey, malted-chocolate, vanilla, buttered brioche, and candied tangerine.” I added a splash of milk and just a bit of Turbinado sugar.

I ate my scone with fresh berries but they’d also be perfect with fruit jam and butter or clotted cream. The scones were very light and fluffy, not too sweet, with a nice crunch to the crust. Best of all, they were SO EASY to make.

A final mystery:
Readers, 2020 has been a struggle for me so far, as it’s proven well nigh impossible for me to finish a book. I started several promising stories, but with each one I lost interest by the halfway point.

The hardcover of The Invited released at the end of April, 2019, and I have no idea how it ended up in my possession. I never ordered it. I didn’t put it on any wishlist. I never sought it out at a bookstore, as far as I can remember. It simply wasn’t on my radar. One day, however, I looked up and saw it on my shelf. SPOOKY.

If one of my pals out there sent it to me, or was with me when I bought it, would you let me know? If no one responds, I’ll just have to assume that the universe took it upon itself to end my reading drought by delivering the right book at the right time. πŸ™‚

Friends, what do YOU do when stuck in a reading rut?

Featured image credit: File ID 126446344 | Β© Dabisik |

8 thoughts on “March Tea and a Book: The Invited by Jennifer McMahon

  1. Michelle

    Based on the description I can see why this book appealed to you. Glad you enjoyed it and, especially, that it detoured you out of the rut.

    Now I am all curious about that scone mix. 😊

    1. SoniaG Post author

      Since that book I’ve listened to two excellent audiobooks (what with all the driving to TN and back) and I feel like a reader again!

      Yeah, the scone mix. I really wish we had more access to Odlum’s products. So much I want to try!

  2. Michelle Cooper

    I love your spooky story about the book that INVITED itself onto your bookshelf!

    I was in a reading rut for most of last year. I found fast-paced mystery thrillers worked best – I especially liked Tana French’s ‘The Wych Elm’ and ‘The Secret Place’. (‘The Secret Place’ also has spooky supernatural elements that may appeal to you.) Currently reading the latest Rivers of London book by Ben Aaronovitch, which is good so far…
    Middle-grade mystery/adventure novels were also successful because they were so short! ‘Wed Wabbit’ by Lissa Evans was my favourite – so funny and silly, but also a real page-turner.

    1. SoniaG Post author

      Thanks so much for the recommendations, Michelle! I read The Wych Elm and it was quite a page-turner, but I wish the protagonist had been a little more likable. I will take a look at The Secret Place. I’ve heard/read “Rivers of London” mentioned here and there, but now it’s time to take a closer look.

      Oh, I love Lissa Evans’ books for adults! I will track down Wed Rabbit post haste…

  3. DeAnne

    I bet that was the one from Reading Rocks — I remember you asking for recs for books like that! I’ve put the ebook on hold, but it’s “at least 6 months” πŸ™

    1. SoniaG Post author

      Yeah, it had to be Reading Rock Books. I have a vague memory of the bookseller handing it to me. I’d read another book by that author that wasn’t my favorite, so I was hesitant, but I couldn’t bear to say no to the girl after she tracked it down for me. This was one of those cases where being polite worked in my favor!

  4. Dee Dee Chumley

    Horror/supernatural is not a go-to genre for me, but The Invited had me intrigued. I think the idea of building the house especially appealed to me. I gave it a β€œlisten” and really liked it! Just the right amount of mystery and scary.
    Sometimes stepping outside our reading comfort zone can be a good kickstart to revamping our reading life!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please verify you are human below: (required) *