Sunday, November 27, 2016

Review: Jazz by Toni Morrison




Title: Jazz
Author: Toni Morrison
Publication Date: 1992
Genre: Literary Fiction
Recommended If You Like: Toni Morrison, deep character studies, insightful looks at the world, beautiful use of language

The Book:

In the 1920s, a man named Joe Trace cheats on his wife, Violet, and shoots his lover. Violet then attempts to attack the corpse at the funeral, after releasing her beloved birds into the cold of New York. Morrison takes readers from present to past and back again to tell the stories of her characters, cultural experience, and what love (or lack thereof) can do to a person.

What I Liked:

I love Morrison's books, period. Morrison is an absolutely brilliant writer with an expert command of language. The book is lyrical, flowing, and cuts deep to the core of the human experience.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Nope, this is an amazing book.

So..?

If you haven't read any of Morrison's work, you must. I started with Beloved, but I've loved everything of hers I've read.

Read for Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge 2016

Saturday, November 26, 2016

2017 Reading Challenges!

Here is where I will be keeping track of the reading challenges I'm doing in 2017, and how I'm progressing on them!

Cruisin' Through the Cozies:

Level four (Sleuth Extraordinaire) - Read two books from each sub-genre in level one plus an additional 20 cozy books of your choice (total of 40 books)



- Two from culinary (anything dealing with food:  restaurants, baked goods, etc.)
- Two from animal related (cats, dogs, birds, etc.)
- Two from craft related (any kind of hobbies - knitting, crocheting, scrapbooking, etc.) 
- Two from paranormal (witches, vampires, etc.)
- Two from British cozy mysteries (example:  Belinda Lawrence series)
- Two career-based cozy mystery (housekeeping, wedding planner, etc.)
- Two holiday based (set during any holiday - Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentines, etc.)
- Two travel mystery (character could be on a cruise, touring another area, etc.)
- Two historical mystery (any mystery not set in the present)
- Two are your choice!  (freebie!) (plus 20 more freebies to make 40 total)

1. Looming Murder by Carol Ann Martin (craft-related)
2. Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn (historical)
3. Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander (culinary)
4. Bel of the Brawl by Maggie McConnon (freebie)
5. Crepe Factor by Laura Childs (craft-related)
6. The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle (freebie)
7. Double Dog Dare by Linda O. Johnston (animal)
8. Love & Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea (freebie)
9. Wedding Bel Blues by Maggie McConnon (freebie)
10. Peril in Paperback by Kate Carlisle (freebie)
11. Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison (British)
12. Half-Price Homicide by Elaine Viets (career-based)
13. Hospitality and Homicide by Lynn Cahoon (career-based)
14. Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (freebie) 
15. Raining Cats and Dogs by Laurien Berenson (animal)
16. Pekoe Most Poison by Laura Childs (culinary)
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Mount TBR Reading Challenge
Mount Everest Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
1.  With Malice by Eileen Cook
2. Whiteout by Greg Rucka
3. Looming Murder by Carol Ann Martin
4. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
5. The Sea of Tranquility of Katja Millay
6. Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver
7. Tales For a Winter's Night by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
8. Don't Turn Out the Lights by Bernard Minier
9. The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
10. Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
11. Girl with a Peal Earring by Tracy Chevalier
12. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
13. The Martian by Andy Weir
14. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
15. Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade
16. Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
17. Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman
18. The Case of the Blond Bonanza by Erle Stanley Gardner
19. Year of the Dunk by Asher Price
20. The Readaholic and the Poirot Puzzle by Laura DiSilverio
21. This House is Haunted by John Boyne
22. Chocolat by Joanne Harris
23. Going Clear by Lawrence Wright
24. You by Caroline Kepnes
25. The Dinner by Herman Koch
26. Joyland by Stephen King
27. So Close the Hand of Death by J.T. Ellison
28. The Poisoned House by Michael Ford
29. Vanish by Tess Gerritsen
30. The Summons by John Grisham
31. Double Dog Dare by Linda O. Johnston
32. Nancy Drew: The New Case Files #3: Together with the Hardy Boys by Gerry Conway
33. The Surrogates: Volume 2: Flesh and Bone by Robert Vendetti 
34. Journeys to the Twilight Zone edited by Carol Sterling
35. The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich
36. Whiteout: Volume 2: Melt by Greg Rucka
37. More Information Than You Require by John Hodgman
38. The Lost City of Z by David Grann
39. Peril in Paperback by Kate Carlisle
40. Always Watching by Chevy Stevens
41. They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire
42. The Silent Sister by Dianne Chamberlain
43. Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
44. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
45. Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen
46. Nine: An Anthology of Russia's Foremost Women Writers edited by Svetlana Alexiyevich
47. The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji
48. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
49. Defending Jacob by William Landay
50. The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey
51. Half-Price Homicide by Elaine Viets
52. The Missing One by Lucy Atkins
53. The Sleep Room by F.R. Tallis
54. True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa by Michael Finkel
55. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
56. Scales of Justice by Ngaio Marsh
57. The False Friend by Myla Goldberg
58. Mindhunter by John Douglas
59. Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen
60. Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness in the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann
61. The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood
62. Beneath the Bleeding by Val McDermid
63. The Baker Street Translation by Michael Robertson
64. Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams
65. The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight
66. Raining Cats and Dogs by Laurien Berenson
67. The Drowning Tree by Carol Goodman
68. The Fever by Megan Abbott
69. The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagencrantz
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Ultimate Popstar Reading Challenge:

1. A book recommended by a librarian: The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Gailbraith 
2. A book that's been on your TBR list for way too long: Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
3. A book of letters: Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
4. An audiobook: Crooked House by Agatha Christie
5. A book by a person of color: Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
6. A book with one of the four seasons in the title: The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team by Wayne Coffey
7. A book that is a story within a story: The Lake House by Kate Morton
8. A book with multiple authors: Crime Through Time
9. An espionage thriller: The 39 Steps by John Buchan
10. A book with a cat on the cover: Raining Cats & Dogs by Laurien Berenson
11. A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: Halfway House by Ellery Queen
12. A bestseller from a genre you don't normally read: The Martian by Andy Weir
13. A book by or about a person who has a disability: Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
14. A book involving travel: When in Rome by Ngaio Marsh
15. A book with a subtitle: Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann
16. A book that's published in 2017: The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry
17. A book involving a mythical creature: Blood Pact by Tanya Huff
18. A book you've read before that never fails to make you smile: The Italian Secretary: A Further Adventure of Sherlock Holmes by Caleb Carr (because it makes me think of my trips to Scotland) (re read)
19. A book about food: Chocolat by Joanne Harris
20. A book with career advice: The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
21. A book from a nonhuman perspective: Animal Farm by George Orwell
22. A steampunk novel: Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carrier
23. A book with a red spine : Good Morning, Irene by Carole Nelson Douglas
24. A book seet in the wilderness: The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lipton
25. A book you loved as a child: The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (re read)
26. A book by an author from a country you've never visited: The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg
27. A book with a title that's a character's name: Dracula by Bram Stoker (re read)
28. A novel set during wartime: The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
29. A book with an unreliable narrator: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
30. A book with pictures: Whiteout by Greg Rucka
31. A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
32. A book about an interesting woman: Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City's Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case That Captivated a Nation by Brad Ricca
33. A book set in two different time periods: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig
34. A book with a month or day of the week in the title: Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger
35. A book set in a hotel: Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams
36. A book written by someone you admire: Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy Carter
37. A book that's becoming a movie in 2017: The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann
38. A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: Death of a Pumpkin Carver by Lee Hollis
39. The first book in a series you haven't read before: Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn 
 40. A book you bought on a trip: With Malice by Eileen Cook  

Advanced List:


1. A book recommended by an author you love: Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane (recommended by Will Lavender) (re read)
2. A bestseller from 2016: Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
3. A book with a family member term in the title: The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
4. A book that takes place over a character's life span: Orphan Number 8 by Kim van Alkemade
5. A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Bonesetter's Daughter
6. A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of: Ghost Story by Peter Straub (Quiet Horror)
7. A book with an eccentric character: The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
8. A book that's more than 800 pages: The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
9. A book you got from a used book sale: Always Watching by Chevy Stevens
10. A book that's been mentioned in another book: Lord of the Flies by William Golding 
11. A book about a difficult topic: Defending Jacob by William Landay
12. A book based on mythology: The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie (re read) 


2017 Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge
I'm going for the Sherlock Holmes level, 56+ books

1) With Malice by Eileen Cook
2) Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin
3) Whiteout by Greg Rucka
4) Different Class by Joanne Harris
5) Looming Murder by Carol Ann Martin
6) Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
7) Trust No One by Paul Cleave
8) Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver
9) Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
10) Second Life by S.J. Watson
11) Tales For a Winter's Night by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
12) Don't Turn Out the Lights by Bernard Minier
13) Murder is Bad Manners by Robin Stevens
14) Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn
15) The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
16) A Penny For the Hangman by Tom Savage
17) Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth
18) Tricky Twenty-Two by Janet Evanovich
19) Unrivaled by Alyson Noel
20) A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
21) The Amateurs by Sara Shepard
22) Meet Your Baker by Ellie Alexander
23) Bel of the Brawl by Maggie McConnon
24) Never Missing, Never Found by Amanda Panitch
25) Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman
26) The Whole Art of Dectection by Lyndsay Faye
27) Crepe Factor by Laura Childs
28) The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
29) The Case of the Blond Bonanza by Erle Stanley Gardner
30) This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston
31) Ill Will by Dan Chaon
32) The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
33) What Remains of Me by Alison Gaylin
34) The Readaholics and the Poirot Puzzle by Laura DiSilverio
35) Finders Keepers by Stephen King
36) Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
37) Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
38) Joyland by Stephen King
39) So Close the Hand of Death by J.T. Ellison
40) Blacklist by Alyson Noel
41) Vanish by Tess Gerritsen
42) Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
43) The Summons by John Grisham
44) The Hand That Feeds You by A.J. Rich
45) Double Dog Dare by Linda O. Johnston
46) Love & Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea
47) Peril in Paperback by Kate Carlisle
48) Where Are You Now? by Mary Higgins Clark
49) Wedding Bel Blues by Maggie McConnon
50) Always Watching by Chevy Stevens
51) They All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire
52) The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
53) Goodnight Nobody by Jennifer Weiner
54) Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen
55) Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennisen
56) The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji
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I'm going for Level Platinum--75 Books



1) Different Class by Joanne Harris
2) Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
3) Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
4) The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry
5) The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
6) The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn
7) The Nightwalker by Sebastian Fitzek
8) Swiss Vendetta by Tracee de Hahn
9) The Girl Who Lied by Sue Fortin
10) A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
11) Bel of the Brawl by Maggie McConnon
12) The Whole Art of Detection by Lyndsay Faye
13) Crepe Factor by Laura Childs
14) Murder in Plain English by Michael Arntfield and Marcel Danesi
15) Ill Will by Dan Chaon
16) City of Light, City of Poison by Holly Tucker
17) Gone Without a Trace by Mary Tojussen
18) The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn
19) Blacklist by Alyson Noel
20) Burntown by Jennifer McMahon
21) Love & Death in Burgundy by Susan C. Shea
22) Wedding Bel Blues by Maggie McConnon
23) Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison
24) The World's Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson
25) Hospitality and Homicide by Lynn Cahoon
26) Dis Mem Ber by Joyce Carol Oates
27) Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica
28) The Child by Fiona Barton
29) Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente
30) Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown
31) Bring Her Home by David Bell
32) The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
33) The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond
34) The Goddesses by Swan Huntley
35) Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber
36) Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka
37) Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker
38) Dead Girls Can't Lie by Carys Jones
39) The Other Girl by Erica Spindler
40) Thornhill by Pam Smy
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Reviews: A Study in Charlotte, and Northanger Abbey




Title: A Study in Charlotte
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Recommended If You Like: the original Holmes and Watson, creative retellings and continuations, clever young adult mysteries

The Book:

James Watson  has always heard the story about the Holmes family and their connection to his own family, and has always dreamed of meeting his counterpart, Charlotte Holmes. When he gets uprooted from London and sent to the same boarding school she attends, he has his chance--and when a mystery arises mimicking famous Holmes and Watson stories, he just may realize his dreams.

What I Liked:

Sherlock Holmes is my all-time favorite character, Holmes and Watson my all-time favorite literary friendship, so I'm always intrigued by a re-telling or continuation of their story. I loved the idea that their families had continued on, and their great great great grandchildren were meeting to solve a mystery together.

James and Charlotte are great complex characters in their own right, and the formation of their relationship is handled in a really realistic and compelling way. The side characters are great too, from James' father (who has a list of over one hundred things any Watson needs to know about their Holmes), to Charlotte's brother Milo (reminiscent of Mycroft).

The mystery is also excellent. It has a lot of twists and turns, and exciting moments. I really enjoyed the way the book kept nodding to the Holmes and Watson canon with the crimes.

Anything I Didn't Like?

It's so nitpicky of me, but with a book I enjoyed this much there's very little to say I didn't like. I wanted to know more about how Holmes had a child to continue on his lineage, because it seems to run so against type (even if he was married to Mary Russell ;) ). There was one sentence, almost a throwaway, about it, but I feel like it didn't necessarily make sense. I get that it had to happen though to have this story happen at all.

So...?

This is a great book. I always get both excited and nervous about Holmes' reimaginings, because I love the originals so much, but not only has Cavallaro done the canon proud, but put her own unique spin on it. I am really looking forward to the second book in the series!

Read for the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge 2016




Title: Northanger Abbey
Author: Val McDermid
Publication Date: April 14, 2015
Genre: Literary Fiction/Suspense/Gothic
Recommended If You Like: the original Northanger Abbey, clever new takes on the classic gothic genre

The Book:

This is part of The Austen Project, with contemporary authors re imagining classic Austen novels. 

Cat Morland is a reader, one who has spent her whole life in a small English village. When her neighbors invite her to accompany them on a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Cat jumps on the opportunity. 

While at the Fringe Festival, she befriends two families, the Thorpes and the Tilneys. The Tilneys own Northanger Abbey, the mysterious old home that may be the key to Cat living her book fantasies in real life.

What I Liked:

Northanger Abbey is one of my favorite classics, and I love Gothic tales. I also love Val McDermid from her Tony Hill and Dr. Carol Jordan series, so I was really excited to hear about this book.

McDermid did not disappoint. I loved this modern spin on an already great story. She makes you love the characters you're supposed to love, suspect the characters you're supposed to suspect, and boo the characters you're supposed to boo.

The suspense and tension around the possible secrets of Northanger Abbey itself were also really well-developed.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I wanted them to get to Northanger Abbey sooner ;) I loved all the set up, but was especially excited for when they finally reached their mysterious destination.

So...?

This makes me want to pick up more of The Austen Project books, and re read the original Northanger Abbey. McDermid does a great job of putting her own spin on a great tale.

Read for the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge 2016










Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Things I am Thankful For

As always, Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the wonderful The Broke and The Bookish.


*My family
I am truly lucky to have such a wonderful family that I am so close to. I live about ten minutes walk from my parents, and I'm going to be visiting my brother and sister-in-law for Thanksgiving starting tomorrow. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins I love, and my grandfather is 93 years old.

*My friends
My best friend has been in my life for 24 years now, and so has another very close friend. I have another friend I've known for over a decade, and a newer friend who came into my life a few years ago and has become such a great friend. I keep in touch with my closest friend from college, and my friends from when I studied abroad, and have been lucky enough to add friends to my life as the years have passed.

*My dog, Sherlock
Sherlock is my furry baby, and I couldn't love him more. We rescued each other about four and a half years ago, and he has brought such joy into my life.

*My job
I am so lucky to be getting to do what I love-teaching-and doing it in a place with kind coworkers, where I feel appreciated, and where my boss trusts me to do what I think is best.

*Books
Books are up there in my favorite things in the world, as I'm sure you could guess. I'm so lucky to be able to read, and to be surrounded by so many great things to read.

*This blog
I'm so glad I decided to start this blog. It's brought me so much joy, kept me writing, introduced me to great new people, and brought new books into my life.

*My health
My asthma is controlled, I'm not in physical therapy for my knee anymore, and medications seem to be working how they are supposed to.

*A sense of contentment
It's taken time, and work, but I feel so comfortable in my own skin, and so happy and settled into who I am.

*My apartment
It's all mine, full of my books, and art, and a reading corner, and a comfy cozy reading chair.

*My city
I love all Chicago has to offer, from museums to sports to independent bookstores and restaurants. Chicago is going through some tough times, but I have to believe we will come together and find a way to lift our city and its people up, and keep everyone safe.

And I'm thankful for all of you, for visiting this blog and talking with me and just generally being amazing! <3


Monday, November 21, 2016

Review: Eggnog Murder



Title: Eggnog Murder
Authors: Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, and Barbara Ross
Publication Date: Oct. 25, 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery/Novellas/Short Stories
Recommended If You Like: holiday-themed mysteries, cozy mysteries, shorter mysteries, mystery collections

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.

The Book:

Meier, Hollis, and Ross each contribute a novella-length cozy mystery themed around eggnog and the holiday season. Each of their stories contains characters from their own mystery series.

What I Liked:

These are fun, quick reads to get you in the holiday spirit. Each mystery was good, and had some nice twists at the end.

I also really enjoyed getting the glimpses into each author's characters. It makes me want to read more of their books.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't much not to like about this book. I really liked getting three cozy mysteries in one book, all holiday-themed, all with clever solutions, and all with engaging characters.

So...?

If you're looking for a fun, holiday-themed read, this is a great cozy mystery collection.