Today's Reading

Chapter 1

IT'S ONE OF THOSE HEAVY SUMMER EVENINGS WHERE the air feels so thick you could swim in it. When I surface from my journey on the Piccadilly Line, even the staleness of Earl's Court Station feels like a breath of fresh air. By the time I make it up the three flights of stairs to street level, I'm winded and rummaging through my backpack for my water bottle. All I find is a Thermos full of stale coffee from this morning.

Slim men in suits sail past me like urban gazelles while I gulp down the dregs. It's as disgusting as I anticipated it might be, but I need the caffeine. My phone buzzes and I pull it from my pocket, resisting the urge to check my email and instead answering the call flashing across the screen.

"Jenny." I let all the exhaustion finally leak out into my voice. "Please tell me you're on your way. I can't face Mum's basement again without backup. Last week when I was cleaning it out there were spiders. Huge ones."

"I'm already here," she says. "But Annie, I'm staying on the front step until you arrive, because I don't feel like being dragged around the house by your mum while she tells me which walls she's knocking down."

"Good call. Also, I don't think she's allowed to knock down walls in that house; we don't even own it."

"That's a good enough reason then. And I imagine she's on one of her design rampages, with her private exhibition at the Tate looming."

I wince. Mum's a painter—quite a famous and successful one actually. Or she was, until interest in her work dried up. Unfortunately, this career slump coincided with the loss of the fortune she made from her earlier work, so for most of my life we've walked a fine line between living like squatters and being frugal because it's bohemian and arty. "I mean, Mum's design rampages will keep me from endlessly checking my empty inbox, so I'm actually on board with whatever she wants me to do. I have a backpack full of paint swatches and lots of pent-up frustration. I'm ready to tackle this basement. Except for the spiders—those have your name on them."

"Aw, my very own army of spiders," Jenny coos. "Just what I've always wanted." She pauses for a beat, as if she's considering her next words carefully. "Why is an empty inbox bothering you? Have you sent out more writing?" Jenny's been my best friend since we were nine. Last month I was made redundant from my low-paying office job, and she stepped up as the perfect mix of shoulder to cry on and motivational life coach. She made a great case for me using this as an opportunity to follow my dreams and pursue a career writing murder mysteries, because not every struggling writer has a mum with an eight-bedroom house in central London who'll let you live rent- free in exchange for help with odd jobs.

It's not the typical setup for a twenty-five-year-old who's had to move back home, though it does come with the baggage of dealing with Mum's moods. Since that's something I'd successfully escaped by moving out in the first place, this does feel like a step backward. But I have my own floor in the Chelsea house, and the place is falling apart in a rather romantic way. My childhood bedroom has its own chandelier, dust-covered and missing several of its crystals, and it casts a ghostly light over the antique typewriter I found in one of the cupboards. I don't actually write with it; I just sort of clunk the keys now and then for some atmosphere. It has a tartan- patterned plastic case and a 1960s vibe, which I love.

"I started sending out my latest manuscript to some literary agents," I say, and bite my lip when Jenny doesn't reply. "It's only been a week since I emailed the first few." I wipe the sweat from the back of my neck. I'm walking up Earl's Court Road, darting across traffic where I can. My backpack weighs a ton, but the library was having a sale and I couldn't resist. And I can justify buying seven hard copies of Agatha Christie books as 'research. "'But I'm already starting to feel like my book is actually terrible."

"It's not terrible."

"No, it really is. I just couldn't see it until I actually 'sent' it to people to 'read'."

"But you were so confident about this one!" Jenny says. I can hear the bubble in her voice; she's getting ready to go into cheerleader mode.

I cut her off before she can really get going. "I was, but I'm wiser now. You know when a toddler randomly walks up to you, and the kid's mum is beaming at it and assuming you'll find it just as cute as she does? But the toddler's got a gooey nose and old food stuck to its clothes?"

"Ugh, yeah."

"I'm that kid's mum, and I've just sent it out into the world with a gooey nose, thinking people will see it the same way I do."

"So wipe its face. Introduce it to people when it's cleaner."

"Yeah, I think that's what editing is for."

I hear Jenny suck in a breath on the other end of the line. "Annie, are you telling me you sent a book out to literary agents and you didn't even 'edit' it?" Jenny laughs long and hard, and it's infectious. I can't help it—I'm smiling broadly as I turn onto Tregunter Road.

"I just got so excited!" I wheeze, letting a laugh escape. "I did a thing, you know? I wrote many words, and they all culminated with THE END."


...

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Today's Reading

Chapter 1

IT'S ONE OF THOSE HEAVY SUMMER EVENINGS WHERE the air feels so thick you could swim in it. When I surface from my journey on the Piccadilly Line, even the staleness of Earl's Court Station feels like a breath of fresh air. By the time I make it up the three flights of stairs to street level, I'm winded and rummaging through my backpack for my water bottle. All I find is a Thermos full of stale coffee from this morning.

Slim men in suits sail past me like urban gazelles while I gulp down the dregs. It's as disgusting as I anticipated it might be, but I need the caffeine. My phone buzzes and I pull it from my pocket, resisting the urge to check my email and instead answering the call flashing across the screen.

"Jenny." I let all the exhaustion finally leak out into my voice. "Please tell me you're on your way. I can't face Mum's basement again without backup. Last week when I was cleaning it out there were spiders. Huge ones."

"I'm already here," she says. "But Annie, I'm staying on the front step until you arrive, because I don't feel like being dragged around the house by your mum while she tells me which walls she's knocking down."

"Good call. Also, I don't think she's allowed to knock down walls in that house; we don't even own it."

"That's a good enough reason then. And I imagine she's on one of her design rampages, with her private exhibition at the Tate looming."

I wince. Mum's a painter—quite a famous and successful one actually. Or she was, until interest in her work dried up. Unfortunately, this career slump coincided with the loss of the fortune she made from her earlier work, so for most of my life we've walked a fine line between living like squatters and being frugal because it's bohemian and arty. "I mean, Mum's design rampages will keep me from endlessly checking my empty inbox, so I'm actually on board with whatever she wants me to do. I have a backpack full of paint swatches and lots of pent-up frustration. I'm ready to tackle this basement. Except for the spiders—those have your name on them."

"Aw, my very own army of spiders," Jenny coos. "Just what I've always wanted." She pauses for a beat, as if she's considering her next words carefully. "Why is an empty inbox bothering you? Have you sent out more writing?" Jenny's been my best friend since we were nine. Last month I was made redundant from my low-paying office job, and she stepped up as the perfect mix of shoulder to cry on and motivational life coach. She made a great case for me using this as an opportunity to follow my dreams and pursue a career writing murder mysteries, because not every struggling writer has a mum with an eight-bedroom house in central London who'll let you live rent- free in exchange for help with odd jobs.

It's not the typical setup for a twenty-five-year-old who's had to move back home, though it does come with the baggage of dealing with Mum's moods. Since that's something I'd successfully escaped by moving out in the first place, this does feel like a step backward. But I have my own floor in the Chelsea house, and the place is falling apart in a rather romantic way. My childhood bedroom has its own chandelier, dust-covered and missing several of its crystals, and it casts a ghostly light over the antique typewriter I found in one of the cupboards. I don't actually write with it; I just sort of clunk the keys now and then for some atmosphere. It has a tartan- patterned plastic case and a 1960s vibe, which I love.

"I started sending out my latest manuscript to some literary agents," I say, and bite my lip when Jenny doesn't reply. "It's only been a week since I emailed the first few." I wipe the sweat from the back of my neck. I'm walking up Earl's Court Road, darting across traffic where I can. My backpack weighs a ton, but the library was having a sale and I couldn't resist. And I can justify buying seven hard copies of Agatha Christie books as 'research. "'But I'm already starting to feel like my book is actually terrible."

"It's not terrible."

"No, it really is. I just couldn't see it until I actually 'sent' it to people to 'read'."

"But you were so confident about this one!" Jenny says. I can hear the bubble in her voice; she's getting ready to go into cheerleader mode.

I cut her off before she can really get going. "I was, but I'm wiser now. You know when a toddler randomly walks up to you, and the kid's mum is beaming at it and assuming you'll find it just as cute as she does? But the toddler's got a gooey nose and old food stuck to its clothes?"

"Ugh, yeah."

"I'm that kid's mum, and I've just sent it out into the world with a gooey nose, thinking people will see it the same way I do."

"So wipe its face. Introduce it to people when it's cleaner."

"Yeah, I think that's what editing is for."

I hear Jenny suck in a breath on the other end of the line. "Annie, are you telling me you sent a book out to literary agents and you didn't even 'edit' it?" Jenny laughs long and hard, and it's infectious. I can't help it—I'm smiling broadly as I turn onto Tregunter Road.

"I just got so excited!" I wheeze, letting a laugh escape. "I did a thing, you know? I wrote many words, and they all culminated with THE END."


...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...