Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Review: When I Am Through With You



Title: When I Am Through With You
Author: Stephanie Kuehn
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: suspense built of situation, unreliable narrators

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:

Ben just wanted to find some meaning for his life, some hope for a future he's not looking forward to. But leading what should have been a simple camping trip soon turns into tragedy. It's a story Ben will tell--but he's going to take his time.

What I Liked:

This is a great concept for a book. From the start, there is so much suspense. You know Ben is only doling out little details at a time, and you don't know how much to trust him and how much to read between the lines. This makes you have to keep turning pages, all with a building sense of dread.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The concept didn't play through the way I was hoping for. The first third of the book felt like it was set up as a classic unreliable narrator, eerie, super psychologically suspenseful read. But then events veered onto a path that just didn't work for me.

So...?

While this book definitely kept me turning pages-Kuehn has a talent for creating suspense-this book just didn't do it for me.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: The Wicked Girls



Title: The Wicked Girls
Author: Alex Marwood
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommend If You Like: secrets from the past, suspenseful flashbacks, explorations of human nature

The Book:

When they were children, Bel and Jade spent one day together, and by the time that day was through, the world would see them as murderers.

Now adults, living new lives under new names, the two women are brought together by the mysterious strangling deaths occurring in and around an amusement park--and they are forced to wonder just how much of their own pasts will be brought out into the present.

What I Liked:

This is a book that just flies by-I read three quarters of it in a day. It is extremely suspenseful, especially through the use of flashbacks. Marwood doesn't reveal to the readers what truly happened that fateful day until the end of the book, and the build up creates a real sense of absolute dread.

Marwood also does a thorough and fascinating job of exploring the dark side of human nature--in particular, just how much a person can (or cannot) change--and how much society and the people around them will allow them to change.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel like there were one or two too many subplots and characters. The book could have been tightened up a bit.

So...?

This was a quick, suspenseful read with very little light and some real surprises (including one surrounding a side character that really stuck with me). While this is not the best of this genre I've read, Marwood will suck you into the story and you will not be able to put this book down.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: The Marriage Pact



Title: The Marriage Pact
Author: Michelle Richmond
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Genre: Psychological/Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: creepy sinister groups, relationship-centered drama, lots of twists and turns, thrillers with a deep sense of dread

I received a copy 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:

Alice and Jake are newlyweds who get sent a seemingly well-meaning, if odd, gift-an invitation to join The Pact. The Pact is a group of married couples dedicated to ensuring that all their marriages survive and thrive.

Alice and Jake are in love, and want their marriage to succeed, so they accept the invitation. But they soon realize that what they signed up for is far darker and farther reaching then they had ever imagined.

What I Liked:

This is one of those books that keeps you with your heart in your throat. There is so much suspense, and the book manages to ride the fine line between horror and thriller, keeping you in a constant state of heightened fear for the characters.

There are so many amazing twists and turns in this book as well. One of the big reveals at the end took me completely by surprise.

Richmond has also created a very unique book, which is always exciting when an author is writing in a very popular genre. I loved that I never knew where this book was going, which just upped the suspense even more.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The very end was absolutely fine, but just didn't pack the punch the rest of the book did.

So...?

I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this book, as the subject matter could have verged into cliched or cheesy, but Richmond made the story so unique and suspenseful, and even scary. I would definitely recommend this book.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: The Lying Game



Title: The Lying Game
Author: Ruth Ware
Publication Date: July 25, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: Ware's previous books, secrets from the past, explorations of female friendship

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:

When Isa gets a text from Kate, simply saying I need you, it takes her right back to her painful past. Isa and Kate, along with Fatima and Thea, were a clique of four at a boarding school, playing a game that seemed to be all for fun. But the Lying Game had consequences, consequences that are still reverberating in the present, threatening to blow apart their lives.

What I Liked:

This was such a suspenseful book! I couldn't put it down once I picked it up.

Ware is the master of the slow build. You know something is coming, as you watch the characters try to pretend everything will be fine--but there is always something (or someone) lurking around the corner, another shoe just waiting to drop. She plays that skill up once again in this book. You can't help but keep turning pages.

The reveals in this book almost entirely caught me completely by surprise. A few times I had inklings of what could be coming, but I was never able to figure out the full picture.

Ware also does a great job of examining what friendships are like between teenage girls. She perfectly captures the intensity of those bonds that can make you do anything for each other, that can linger even into adult lives.

Anything I Didn't Like?

It's really hard to find anything not to like about Ware's books. I don't think either this book or the previous one are as strong as her first book, but that doesn't mean I don't still really enjoy them.

So...?

I would absolutely recommend this book for anyone who loves a great book full of suspense and lots of twists and turns.




Thursday, July 20, 2017

True Crime Thursday: Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood


This is a fantastic, gripping, brilliant true crime book.

What I noticed about Tinseltown right from the start is that it reads like a novel. It felt like I had picked up a whodunit, and was completely sucked in. Mann has this great writing style that is so easy and fun to read.

This is also an absolutely fascinating story, one that has remained unsolved for decades. Mann tells the true tale of William Desmond Taylor, a director and actor in the Roaring Twenties, whose murder remains a mystery to this day. Books have been written, webzines have been crafted, and conspiracy theories have been spun, but Mann has what he believes to finally be the true solution.

And Mann backs his solution up with lots and lots of impeccable research. He paints a living, breathing picture of Hollywood in the 1920s, from the movies, to the people who strove to not only create them, but to create their own destinies as famous and beloved stars. Mann focuses on three of these female stars and their personal and professional struggles, but also weaves in so many other important Hollywood figures of that time, and makes them all come alive for readers.

This is a wide-reaching book of non-fiction. Mann manages to not only discuss and attempt to solve a murder, but writes of all the scandals, backstage dealings, and politics that surrounded and enfolded Hollywood at that time.

This is a book I would definitely recommend. It's one that will be joining my other true crime favorites on my bookshelves.

Monday, July 17, 2017

ALA Review: If I Was Your Girl



Title: If I Was Your Girl
Author: Meredith Russo
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Genre: Young Adult/LGBTQ
Recommended If You Like: timely and relevant reads, books that hit you in the heart, protagonists to root for, strong female protagonists

I received a copy 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.

Note: Nothing in this review is a spoiler. Anything I discuss in this review is either general, or is stated in the book summary on the inside cover, Amazon, etc.

The Book:

Amanda moved in hopes of finding that typical teenage life. But when she makes friends, and begins to fall in love, she fears the secret she's carrying might tear all that apart-that she used to be Andrew.

What I Liked:

This is a book that feels important.

With everything going on in the world today, let alone in the United States, I think this is a book people need to read.

Amanda is a strong, smart, and brave girl, who I feel everyone can relate to, regardless of their own personal circumstances. The supporting characters surrounding her feel real, like people you might have gone to high school with. The book feels immediate, and the story will suck you in.

Anything I Didn't Like?

 I completely understand why Russo ended the book where and when she did, but I definitely was left wanting more. I would love to know about the next chapter of Amanda's life.


So...?

Russo has created a world and characters that feel so very relevant and important, wrapped up in a gripping story written beautifully. I definitely recommend this book.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Bring Her Home


Title: Bring Her Home
Author: David Bell
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: twists and turns, family drama, explorations of how well we can ever truly know someone

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:

Bill lost his wife less than two years ago, and now he fears he has lost his daughter, Summer, too. But when the police tell him Summer has been found after being missing for days, it seems too good to be true. As Bill sits by Summer's hospital bed, he has to wonder if he could be this fortunate to truly get his daughter back--and how well he really knows his own flesh and blood. What happened to Summer and her friend? And who exactly made them disappear?

What I Liked:

This is a book full of twists and turns, which I always love! Just when you think you have everything figured out, Bell throws another curve ball at you. The mystery is definitely a suspenseful one that kept me guessing.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I found it hard to like the character of Bill. I suspect at least a part of this was the author's purpose, but I think I was supposed to end up liking him more than I did. I of course was rooting for him to be safely reunited with his daughter, but he had a lot of major character flaws that didn't really seem to be counterbalanced or resolved in any way.

I also was able to predict one of the twists almost entirely, which did take away a bit of the surprise.

So...?

While I prefer other writers' psychological suspense, I always enjoy Bell's books. He spins a good mystery. I'm just always left wanting a little bit more.




Sunday, July 9, 2017

Review: A Girl Called Vincent



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

Title: A Girl Called Vincent
Author: Krystyna Poray Goddu
Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Genre: Non-Fiction/Middle Grade/Biography
Recommended If You Like: biographies of strong smart women, poetry (especially Edna St. Vincent Millay's)

The Book:

Goddu tells the true story of the fascinating life of renowned female poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

What I Liked:

This book flew by! I finished it in just a few hours. It's absolutely fascinating and really well-written. I closed the book feeling I had learned so much, and had a lot of fun doing so.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There's really nothing not to like about this book. It is aimed towards middle schoolers, but I  feel adults can and should read it too.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a great, fun way to learn about a fascinating women and be introduced to her poetry.


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Review: Watch Me Disappear




Title: Watch Me Disappear
Author: Janelle Brown
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: secrets from the past, family dramas

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:

When Billie, wife and mother, disappears while hiking alone, it leaves her husband and daughter in heartbreaking turmoil. One year later, they are struggling to move on, Jonathan writing a memoir about his life with Billie, Olive attempting to find her place in school and the world.

But when Olive starts having visions of her mother, she believes Billie is telling her to come find her, that she is still alive somewhere. As she brings Johnathan into her plan to locate her mother, father and daughter learn things about Billie they might not ever have wanted to know.

What I Liked:

This is a book that kept me constantly engaged and interested--it absolutely flew by. The characters are compelling and complex, as are the central mysteries. Brown carefully doles out revelations that keep readers guessing, and excerpts from Johnathan's memoir influence and also mirror back the way readers are feeling at that moment. And the revelation in the last chapter is amazing! It's one of those that completely got me, and made me gasp out loud.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did call the other big revelation a couple chapters before it happened. I also felt that the side character of Billie's best friend didn't necessarily serve a key purpose, and was a bit irritating as a character.

So...?

I really enjoyed this book, and would definitely recommend it. It's gripping, clever, and surprising, with complex characters and an in-depth exploration of just how well we can ever really know those we love.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Two ALA Reviews: The Day I Died, and The Mesmerist

I received copies of these two books from the publishers at ALA in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the books or my reviews itself.





Title: The Day I Died
Author: Lori Rader-Day
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Genre: Psychological/Suspense/Mystery
Recommended If You Like: strong female protagonists, mysteries centered around secrets from the past

The Book:

Anna Winger lives an isolated existence, keeping herself and her son as separate from the world--and her past-- as she can. She makes a living from analyzing other people's handwriting, searching for clues about who they truly are. When the police call on her to help with the case of a missing boy, her past begins to bleed into her present in all the ways she had fought so hard to prevent.

What I Liked:

Anna is a fantastically strong, complex, and fascinating character. She feels so real, and I was rooting for her the entire book.

Her profession as a handwriting analyst was also fascinating. I loved the way Rader-Day weaved it into the book, and loved learning more about how handwriting analyst works and is used.

The dual mysteries, of the missing boy and of Anna's past, were very intriguing. Rader-Day uses flashbacks and small clues to keep readers guessing and intrigued.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I was able to figure out the solution to one of the main mysteries pretty early on. This was a bit disappointing, as I prefer it when, with a book centered around secrets from the past, the secrets come as a big surprising twist to me.

So...?

Rader-Day has a good writing style that lends itself well to this genre. She has created a strong complex protagonist in Anna, and weaved a compelling story around her. The solution to the second of the two mysteries caught me completely by surprise, and made for a gripping read.



Title: The Mesmerist
Author: Ronald L. Smith
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Middle Grade/Horror/Supernatural/Paranormal
Recommended If You Like: strong female protagonists, spooky supernatural middle grade reads, kids being the heroes

The Book:

Jessamine Grace and her mother make money off playacting at spiritualism, but never off truly communicating with the dead--until one day, when a mysterious message appears on a slate Jessamine is holding. This leads Jessamine to a group of children like her, who may be the only hope to save their city from supernatural foes.

What I Liked:

This was a really fun read! It moves quickly, and has a lot of (age-appropriate) scares. The supernatural elements were well-done and definitely creepy.

Jessamine is a strong, smart, female character that I was definitely rooting for, and I really liked the characters of the other children as well.

Anything I Didn't Like?

On occasion, the language felt a bit stilted. I think this might have been because of the author working to capture the spirit and signature of the age, but it did take me out of the book a bit.

So...?

This book will take you little time to read, and is a lot of fun. This has the potential to continue on as a good series that kids and adults can both enjoy.



Tuesday, July 4, 2017

ALA Children's Book Roundup

At the most recent ALA, I was lucky enough to get to combine my love of teaching, books, and blogging! I received ARCs of some really fantastic children's books I can't wait to use in my Pre-K classroom this coming school year!


This is a really fun read that teaches kids about what it means to be a nocturnal animal, and what it means to find and be a friend. There's some great vocabulary in here that students might not already know, and some great moments of humor as well.


This is a great book to teach kids about the rainforest, and introduce them to poetry. The book contains poetry by the children's poet laureate that is short and fun, and full of information about the rainforest. There is also a section in the back of facts and vocabulary.


I cannot wait to use this book in my classroom! What I especially love about is that it does not label a talkative child as a problem. Rather, it uses a clever story to show children the importance of being a good listener as well. It offers concrete tips for children, parents, and educators about ways to encourage a child's curiosity and desire to share, while helping them balance truly listening to others as well.


This is a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated book that tells the story of Harriet Tubman, taking readers back through her life. What I really enjoyed was that this book uses such lyrical writing, and explains this piece of history in a way younger children can understand. I would hope reading this to students would lead them to seek out more information and books on Tubman.


I'm a big fan of this publisher for books that tackle social emotional topics, and this new series does not disappoint. I think this book would be a great one to read to get children talking about being scared, and how to overcome their fears. It has a positive ending, also covers ways to be a good friend, and has tips for parents and teachers in the back.


Sorting is probably my favorite math concept to teach! I'm always looking for ways to combine math and literacy, so finding this book made me so happy. This would be a great way to introduce my students to different ways of sorting-and they could use the pictures to guess how Sam sorted. I also like that this book brings in other concepts such as shapes, colors, and rhymes.


This is a great introduction to pre-writing, and how much fun making up your own story can be. I would love to use this to inspire my students to start writing their own stories, even if they are simply starting with a squiggle. 


I love that this book encourages children to try, and not worry about perfection. I would love to use this book to start having my students sound out their names, with whatever letters they hear, as a way to introduce letter sounds and writing, and have fun doing it!



Monday, July 3, 2017

Review: The False Friend



Title: The False Friend
Author: Myla Goldberg
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: psychology with your suspense, books examining childhood, reverberations from the past, the questioning of memories

The Book:

Celia's childhood best friend went missing two decades ago, something Celia has tried her hardest to accept and move on from. But suddenly, she starts remembering what truly happened that day so many years ago. The only problem is, no one believes her-and she's beginning to wonder if she can trust her own mind.

What I Liked:

This is such a great concept. I love books centered around secrets from the past, the questioning of the reliability of memories, and the examination of the stories we tell ourselves and others.


Anything I Didn't Like?

While I am okay with ambiguous or open-ended endings when they serve a purpose, this just felt unfinished. The last page feels tacked on and almost renders meaningless everything that came before.

It was also hard to connect with any of the characters, especially the main characters. Despite Goldberg's attempt to highlight how our present selves might not even recognize (or admit to) who were as children, her characters felt somewhat one-dimensional and stuck in place.

Also, just as a warning for readers, there are some very descriptive paragraphs of childhood bullying that can be very difficult to read. These are actually where Goldberg's writing really comes alive, as she makes these scenes painfully vivid and heartrendingly real.

So...?

I had such high hopes for this book, but I just didn't love it. It was good enough to hold my interest and keep me flipping pages, but I think that was from holding out hope that the fascinating concept would come to fruition. In the end, I just felt unsatisfied.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Review: Ten Dead Comedians



Title: Ten Dead Comedians
Author: Fred Van Lente
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Genre: Mystery/Humor
Recommended If You Like: unique homages to And Then There Were None, the killer is one of us, comedy with your mystery

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:

A group of stand up comedians is brought to a mysterious isolated island, seemingly to be part of a new project by the most famous comedian in existance. But they quickly discover not all is what it seems, as they begin to be killed off one by one.

What I Liked:

I'm immediately in for any book that is an homage to And Then There Were None, one of my top three favorite books of all time. I loved all the little touches that referenced the mystery great, whether it was the island setting, or the headshots on the wall (instead of little statues), or the video accusation (instead of a record). What also drew me to this book is that it promised to be a decidedly unique take on a classic with the cast of characters Van Lente presented.


This was a mystery that definitely kept me guessing! There were a lot of great twists and turns, especially a well-done big twist at the end.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I felt the motivation behind the killings rang a little thin. It didn't seem enough necessarily within the context of the book for the murderer to have gone to such great lengths to kill this specific group of people.

It was also sometimes hard, I felt, to translate stand up comedy to the written page. There were a lot of transcripts of monologue performances that didn't always work for me.

So...?

If you are looking for a quick mystery read that is a fun, unique take on one of the best mysteries of all time, I would recommend this book. I had fun reading it, and it flew by.



Friday, June 30, 2017

Review: You'll Never Know, Dear



Title: You'll Never Know, Dear
Author: Hallie Ephron
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Psychological Suspense
Recommended If You Like: strong female characters, psychologically-driven suspense, family-centered mysteries

I received a copy 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:

Lis' sister, Janey, went missing one day from their own backyard. Forty years later, a woman turns up with Janey's doll, setting in motion a series of events that will change the lives of multiple generations.

What I Liked: 

I love a book that deals with secrets from the past, and this is a book that definitely does that. There are so many questions and twists that come up throughout the whole book, and so many mysteries to solve.

There are some really great, complex characters in this book.The main characters are all women, all strong in their own right, but with their own struggles and secrets. Everything the characters are now is somehow linked to that fateful disappearance from the past, even Lis' daughter who wasn't born when the tragedy occurred.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I sometimes felt like there was too much going on. Reveals would sometimes seem to come out of left field, and it could get difficult to keep everything straight sometimes.

So...?

This may not be the best psychological suspense I've ever read, but I did enjoy it. I read it in about a day, and found myself not wanting to put it down because I had to find out what happened.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Blog Tour and Review: The Child


 


Press Release:


This summer FIONA BARTON is back with a second novel that proves lightning can strike twice.

Barton’s 2016 debut, The Widow, was an instant global bestseller, captivating readers around the world and setting the publishing industry abuzz.

The highly-anticipated release of THE CHILD (Berkley Hardcover; June 27, 2017) reaffirms Barton’s growing reputation as a writer of rich, character-driven suspense novels. Like Tana French, Louise Penny, and Megan Abbott, Barton’s stories do more than thrill: they explore the complexities of a changing world.

The Widow delved into the secrets that exist within a marriage and the reporter’s role as voyeur.  Here Barton continues to mine those themes. THE CHILD tackles the 24/7 news cycle, and lays bare the intricacies of a different but equally fascinating relationship—mother and child.

Says Barton: “The emotions, responsibilities—and the pain—of motherhood are unique to each of us with children. Ask any woman and she will have her own story to tell.”

In a working class neighborhood of London, construction workers make a grisly discovery: the long-buried remains of a baby.  When a newspaper mention reveals the find, most readers barely give it a glance. But for two women, its threat to unearth hidden stories is impossible to ignore. For veteran reporter, Kate Waters (introduced in The Widow), it sparks the question “Who would bury a baby?” and starts a hunt for the truth about the nameless child. The story unfolds via the women’s alternating perspectives to eventually reveal: Who is Building Site Baby?

In fact, it was the allure of a hidden story that propelled Barton to her long-time career in news. A journalist and British Press Awards “Reporter of the Year,” she has worked at the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph, and brings that experience to bear in her novels.

In THE CHILD she details how Kate’s lengthy investigation into Building Site Baby’s death represents a perilous breach of the newsroom’s new culture of 24/7 online news. Says Barton: “The danger for Kate is that she risks becoming one of the dinosaurs—sidelined because she is unable and unwilling to be part of the revolution. And I feel for her.”
Though THE CHILD delivers an evocative look at the changing face of journalism, and a delicious plot twist, it is the characters’ haunting and rich emotional lives that set Barton apart and confirm her stature as a crime novelist of the first order.


My Review:

What I loved about this book was how many twists and turns there were. Barton, as she did in The Widow, keeps her readers on their toes. 

She does this really effectively through having each chapter alternate points of view. This enables Barton to add layer upon layer to the story without giving everything away. A character may drop a hint about something, and then readers find themselves in another character's head, looking at everything a different way.

I also really liked that Barton brought Kate back, a character from The Widow, and made her such a focus in this story. Kate is a strong, smart female character who works well as the backbone of The Child.

The one thing I didn't love about this book was I did feel I was able to call some of the bigger twists towards the end. I would have liked to be a little more surprised at some points. 

If you liked The Widow, or if you're a fan in general of well-crafted psychological thrillers with lots of suspense, I would definitely recommend The Child.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: Every Last Lie



Title: Every Last Lie
Author: Mary Kubica
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: psychological suspense, family-driven drama, use of flashbacks

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:

Clara's seemingly perfect life is turned upside down when her husband dies in a car crash. Their young daughter, miraculously physically unharmed, seems to remember something from the crash that suggests it wasn't an accident, but a murder.

What I Liked:

Kubica always does an excellent job of exploring the complexities of human relationships. Her characters are never one-dimensional, and neither are their connections to each other.

There are lots of twists and turns in this read, which definitely keeps up the suspense. The use of flashbacks ups the ante even more.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book did seem to move at a slower pace than I would have liked. Kubica's The Good Girl predominately took place in one isolated location, and it still had a much quicker and more engaging pace.


So...?

While this is not the best book I've read in this genre, it is still a quick and interesting read. Kubica is a really good author, so even her books that aren't her best work are still good.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: Why We Love Serial Killers



Title: Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World's Most Savage Killers
Author: Scott Bonn
Publication Date: October 28, 2014
Genre: True Crime/Non-Fiction/Psychological
Recommended If You Like: reading about true crime, psychology, textbook-like non-fiction

The Book:

Bonn examines the public's fascination with serial killers through a psychological and sociological lens.

What I Liked:

This is a really different and fascinating take on true crime. Bonn has done his research, and the lens which he looks through takes into account psychology, sociology, and history itself. He also has been in personal contact with the Son of Sam and the BTK killer, as part of his research, and brings what he has learned from studying them in as well.

Anything I Didn't Like:

This isn't something I didn't like, but more of a heads up for prospective readers. This does not read like a narrative as some true crime books do. This reads like a textbook, which I personally really liked-it made me feel like I was back in college with my highlighters and post it notes.

So...?

This was a fascinating, comprehensive read that I would definitely recommend for anyone who has read true crime.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: The Cuckoo's Calling



Title: The Cuckoo's Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith
Publication Date: April 30, 2013
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: private detectives, unique characters, mysteries about famous people

The Book:

Cormoron Strike is a down on his luck private investigator, attempting to hide all this from his new and enthusiastic temp. When the brother of a famous model walks in, insisting that his sister was murdered, Strike throws himself into the case.

What I Liked:

This is such a good book! It reads like a classic private detective book, with seedy characters, a brilliant detective with a troubled past, and twists and turns galore

The ending completely shocked me, which is always a bonus.

The book didn't lag at all either, which is impressive considering its length.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really isn't anything not to like about this book-it's a great, fun, read.

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It flies by for being over 400 pages, and will keep you engaged and guessing the whole time. I already have the next book in the series and can't wait to get started on it!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

True Crime Thursday: True Story: Murder, Memoir, Mea Culpa



This is Michael Finkel, a journalist. He was let go from the New York Times for falsifying information in a story about the chocolate trade and the working conditions of those employed to pick the cacao beans.


This is Christian Longo.  He was arrested for the murders of his wife and their three children.


What brought these two men together was the name Michael Finkel. While on the run from the law in Mexico, Longo impersonated Finkel, a journalist whose stories he had read and admired.

Finkel is hiding away at his home, disgraced after the truth about his chocolate trade story came out. When he receives a phone call from another reporter about Longo using Finkel's name, Finkel himself sees it as an opportunity to write another great story, this time one that is completely truthful. But as he gets sucked in by Longo's charms, Finkel begins to realize just how blurred the line between truth and lies can be.

This is an absolutely fascinating read. It is a murder mystery, as readers learn about the case along with Finkel. It is a psychological study of two men brought together by lies and the desire for redemption. It is a look at the relationship between journalist and subject, and where that relationship can shift and change into something resembling friendship-and the struggle to understand feeling kinship for a man who may have committed a horrible deed. And in the end, it is an examination of what it truly means to tell the truth and to tell a lie, to others and to yourself.








Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Review: The Hole



Title: The Hole
Author: Guy Burt
Publication Date: May 28, 2002
Genre: Horror/Psychological/Suspense/Thriller
Recommended If You Like: creepy reads, psychological horror

The Book:

Five students descend into a secret room on campus, locked in by a fellow student as part of what they believe will be the greatest prank yet. But when no one comes to let them out, they begin to realize they might be part of a far more terrifying psychological experiment instead.

What I Liked:

This is a creepy, suspenseful, gripping read. Burt uses flashbacks of "the Hole" expertly to both lead the reader on and keep them guessing.

The last chapter adds a whole other dimension to the story, and was definitely a major twist. I thought it was really clever-I love an ending that has me thinking back through the book to see what I missed and how everything fits.

Anything I Didn't Like?

Some of the sections moved really slowly, especially some of the flashbacks in "the Hole" early on in the story.

So...?

This is a really quick read-it just took me a few hours-and a gripping, scary, interesting one. It's worth picking up. The movie version is really good, and is actually one of those very rare occasions when I prefer the movie slightly to the book.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: The Sleep Room



Title: The Sleep Room
Author: F. R. Tallis
Publication Date: May 15, 2015
Genre: Gothic/Psychological/Suspense/Paranormal/Horror
Recommended If You Like: haunted asylums, stories with psychiatry, gothic-style horror, ghost stories

The Book:

A young psychiatrist gets the chance to work with his idol at an isolated asylum out in the countryside. He is especially interested in The Sleep Room, where young women are kept in an almost-perpetual state of sleep in an attempt to cure their seeming neuroses. But when mysterious things keep happening all around him, he is forced to consider that there may be more than meets the eye in this world.

What I Liked:

This is one creepy, suspenseful book! I'm automatically interested in ghost stories, and when they are set in an isolated asylum, especially one with a mysterious room, I'm doubly interested.

And the last chapter is mind blowing! It's one of those that made me gasp out loud when I read it.

Anything I Didn't Like?

The ending was amazing, but the rest of the book was just okay. It moves a little slowly, and then the last few chapters (besides the last one) feel rushed on their way to a conclusion.

So...?

This is by no means a bad read, it's a good one, just not a great one until the very last chapter.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Review: Dead Famous




Title: Dead Famous
Author: Ben Elton
Publication Date: Sep. 1, 2005
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: reality shows, mysteries that are very unique, locked room mysteries, the killer is one of us mysteries

The Book:

Contestants are locked in a house for a Big-Brother style British reality show called House Arrest. But then one of them is murdered, and even though the murder itself was caught on camera, the police find themselves in the middle of a complicated, twisted case they may not be able to solve.

What I Liked:

I watch a lot of reality TV (though not Big Brother), so I loved a mystery that was centered around a reality show. Elton does a brilliant job of playing around with the reality show contestant stereotypes and the tropes surrounding putting on and editing reality television.

I especially loved this mystery because not only is it set in a reality show, but because of the type of reality show, it becomes a locked room/the killer is one of us mystery, my favorite.

Elton uses flashbacks, the footage the country saw, and the unaired footage the production company kept back brilliantly to build suspense.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This was a re read for me, and it didn't quite hold up as strongly the second time through. I can't really put my finger on why, because I definitely enjoyed the re read a lot,

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It is a fun, clever, gripping read-I flew through the re read of it in a little over a day.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Review: Dis Mem Ber



Title: Dis Mem Ber
Author: Joyce Carol Oates
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Genre: Short Stories/Psychological/Gothic/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: dark and twisty, stories exploring the psychology of women, short stories that pack a punch

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:

In this collection of seven short stories, Oates explores the darker side of human nature, through the psychological lens of various women protagonists and narrators.

What I Liked: 

I always enjoy Oates' short story collections. Her stories always have an eerie edge to them, frequently verging on gothic or even supernatural horror. She draws inspiration from everywhere, big and small-from a girl looking back on the car rides with her uncle, to tales surrounding widows, to a story based on the true tale of Elisa Lam.

Anything I Didn't Like:

It's not something I don't like, it's more just a heads up, that Oates stories don't frequently have a resolution nicely tied up in a bow. She leaves her readers' imaginations working, which actually makes the stories scarier.

So...?

I definitely recommend this short story collection, but it is not for everyone. These stories are dark, and twisted, and scary.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Reviews: Hospitality and Homicide, and The Missing One




Title: Hospitality and Homicide
Author: Lynn Cahoon
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: bookstore mysteries, small town settings, romance with your mystery

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:

Jill Gardner not only owns a bookstore/coffee shop, but she also can't seem to help herself when it comes to getting involved in local mysteries. An author comes for a signing, but finds himself a prime suspect when a murder is committed that exactly mimics one in the first draft of his new book. Jill must try to figure out the truth behind the murder, keep her business going, and decide where her relationship with her police boyfriend is heading.

What I Liked:

Jill is a great lead character, surrounded by lots of interesting supporting characters. Her romance with Greg is one to root for as well.

The setting is a great one. I love small town mysteries, especially ones set in a bookstore.

The mystery was a well-plotted one, with the ending solution being a complete surprise.

Anything I Didn't Like:

There's not much to not like about this series. It has good characters, mystery, and setting.

So...?

If you're a cozy mystery reader, I would definitely recommend this series.


Title: The Missing One
Author: Lucy Atkins
Publication Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Genre: Fiction/Psychological/Mystery/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: female-centered fiction, nature-centric fiction, secrets from the past, books exploring family

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:

Kal has never felt like she truly knows her mother. When her mother passes from cancer, Kal is determined to discover the secrets of her mother's past. Taking only her son, leaving her possibly-cheating husband behind, Kal sets off to British Columbia. She heads to a remote island where a woman who once knew her mother lives, a woman who sent postcard after postcard simply stating "Thinking of You".

What I Liked:

I love a book about secrets from the past, and this definitely had plenty! I really liked the way Atkins used flashbacks to heighten the suspense and the mystery.

Atkins has also clearly done her research on orca whales-there is a lot of fascinating information about them contained in this story.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book could have been shorter. I have absolutely nothing against long books, but this was one that felt too stretched out. It would have benefited from a little editing in that regard.

Some of the secrets were a little too predictable as well. I was able to call one of the biggest ones from pretty early on.

So...?

This was a good read, but not one I would say you have to run out and get right now. If you ever get to it, it's enjoyable. (It's one of those where rating it is tricky-I would give it 3 stars, because it is good, but didn't enjoy it as much as I have enjoyed other 3 star books.)


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Review: Half-Price Homicide



Title: Half-Price Homicide
Author: Elaine Viets
Publication Date: May 3, 2011
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Recommended If You Like: career-centered cozies, strong female protagonists

The Book:

Helen Hawthorne has had to take a string of jobs to stay under the radar of her ex-husband, who was handed half of her income in an unfair divorce decree. Her current job is working at a consignment store that caters to the elite who don't have quite as much money as they would like.

But when a customer is murdered in the store, Helen finds herself once again thrust into the police's spotlight as a prime suspect. She must solve the crime to free herself from suspicion.


What I Liked:

I really enjoy this series!

Helen is a great leading character, strong with a sense of humor. The concept is a strong one, with Helen in a different job each book, which really keeps things fresh and interesting. The romance is definitely one to root for, as are the main characters.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I did feel like Viets tried to fit too much into this book. Some of the side plots felt way out of left field, and some of the minor characters verged on caricatures, and I suspect this was because there was just so much going on.

Also, just a heads up that if you haven't read the earlier books in the series, there are some spoilers for earlier plot points in this one.

So...?

While this wasn't the best book in the series, it was still a good one, and this is still a cozy mystery series I would absolutely recommend.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Review: The World's Greatest Detective



Title: The World's Greatest Detective
Author: Caroline Carlson
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Genre: Middle Grade/Mysteries
Recommended If You Like: fun mysteries, throwbacks to the Golden Age of mysteries, strong kid protagonists

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:

Toby Montrose has been passed around from relative to relative, ever since his parents disappeared in a boating accident. Now he finds himself with his Last Relative, Uncle Gabriel, who lives on Detective's Row and has fallen on hard times.

Toby dreams of being a detective himself, and when the most famous detective, Hugh Abernathy, opens up a contest to determine the World's Greatest Detective, Toby knows he has to be a part of it. But when the game is no longer a game, Toby must solve a real-life murder.

What I Liked:

This is such a fun book! It reminds me of the kid-centric mysteries I used to read when I was younger, and always enjoy revisiting. The mystery is clever, and the characters are really likable and easy to root for.

I also loved the nods to other famous literary detectives. There were some definite homages to characters like Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple that really made me grin.

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really wasn't anything not to like about this mystery. I'm hopeful it becomes a series!

So...?

I would definitely recommend this read. It won't take you long at all, and you'll have a lot of fun while reading.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten of My Anticipated Reads for the Rest of 2017



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

This week's theme is Ten of My Anticipated Reads for the Rest of 2017!

1) 

Anything billed as Serial meets In a Dark, Dark Wood automatically makes it on my can't wait to read list! I was so excited to get an ARC of this and can't wait to start it.

2)

Another ARC I was so excited to get! I've loved both of Ware's previous books and this one sounds amazing as well.

3)


I definitely pre-ordered this one. I love all things Sherlock Holmes, and this looks like a fascinating look at Holmes from conception to today.

4)


Billed as Scream meets YA!

5)


I adore this series, and while I'm sad it's ending, I can't wait to see how Petty ends it!

6) 


This is another excellent-looking YA suspense novel, about a group of teenagers who suspect their parents have come together to try to kill them.

7)


This looks like a book in the vein of You, which I read this year and could not put down.

8)


I've always been fascinated by the "fairy photographs" story, and Gaynor ties that in to a present day (fictional) tale.

9)


I'm always interested in a book where the line between fiction and reality is blurred, especially one with a book within a book.

10)


I'm always intrigued by an unreliable narrator and an exploration of how well the characters truly know each other.

What are some books you're looking forward to reading?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: The Decagon House Murders


Title: The Decagon House Murders
Author: Yukito Ayatsuji
Publication Date: June 20, 2015 (English translation)
Genre: Mystery/Psychological/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: And Then There Were None, twisty mysteries

The Book: 

When a group of students from a Japanese university, all part of a mystery fiction club, move into the Decagon House for a week, they think it is simply to visit and understand the site where a notorious multiple murder occurred the year previously. But as they start dying one by one, they begin to realize somewhere on the island there is once again a murderer.

What I Liked:

This is such a clever, gripping read! It reads as a Japanese homage of sorts to one of my all-time favorite books, And Then There Were None (a muse the book readily has the characters themselves acknowledge). This is a book that is scary, suspenseful, and surprising. I could not put this book down, and read it in less than a day. And I never saw the ending coming, it absolutely blew my mind.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I just wish that more of Yukito Ayatsuji's books were translated into English! I would read more in a heartbeat.

So...?

I studied Japanese literature in college (including a Japanese Horror class), and it was a wonderful treat to return to something I had read a lot of and loved. And to have such a great take on my second favorite book of all time just made it even better. I definitely recommend this book.