Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Reviews: Swiss Vendetta, The Turning, and Tricky Twenty-Two




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.

Title: Swiss Vendetta
Author: Tracee de Hahn
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Mystery
Recommended If You Like: mysteries in isolated locations, books with lots of characters, strong female protagonists

The Book:

Agnes Luthi, an Inspector in Switzerland, finds herself trapped in a mansion with a blizzard and a murderer. She must put aside the feelings she is still struggling with following the death of her husband, and figure out who among the many family members and guests committed the crime.

What I Liked:

I love mysteries set in isolated settings, so I was immediately drawn to this. It doesn't get much better, creepier, or more mysterious than a mansion no outsiders ever get to enter, snowed by a massive blizzard.

I also really liked that the main detective was a strong, smart, complex woman.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book tried to do too much. There were so many characters and storylines it was hard to keep them all straight, and many plot points felt like they came out of left field because so much else was going on.

So...?

I wanted to love this book, but I just didn't. There was way too much going on, and the solution to the mystery, while interesting, just wasn't strong enough to carry the book.



Title: The Turning
Author: Francine Prose
Publication Date: September 25, 2012
Genre: Psychological Suspense/Paranormal/Horror
Recommended If You Like: young adult reads, modern takes on classics, gothic horror, the paranormal, books told through letters

The Book:

In a modern take on The Turn of the Screw, Jack has been hired to spend the summer on an island, in charge of two children. But as Jack spends more time isolated from the outside world, with Flora and Miles and their strange ways, he begins to see things that don't make sense--things that seem to fit all too well into the ghost stories he's been told.

What I Liked:

The Turn of the Screw is one of my all-time favorite books, so I always excited to read any sort of take on it. This was a creepy read that had some very suspenseful moments.

Anything I Didn't Like?

This book just didn't live up to what I was hoping for. This could definitely be due in part to my love of the original source material and how hard it would be for any other take to live up to the original story. 

But this book felt rushed to me, as if Prose was making up for the slow beginning by cramming the main events in too quickly. Character changes came so fast, and not in the creepy amazing way the original used to create paranoia of the paranormal. Jack's sudden changes didn't make sense, and the ghost aspect almost felt just thrown in at those parts to explain why Jack was so different all of a sudden. I don't think it was the physical shortness of the book either, as The Turn of the Screw is not a long book itself, and still manages to spin an incredibly complex and suspenseful tale.

The ending also felt cliched, and didn't really live up to the build up.

So...?

This is not a bad book, but it's not a great one. It's a quick and easy read if you're intrigued enough by the premise, like I was, but I wouldn't say it's urgent you go out and get a copy.



I absolutely love this series! It's guaranteed to make me laugh, and I love the characters. In this entry, Stephanie is tasked to track down a fraternity brother on the run, who is accused of assaulting the Dean. But the case is much more complex than it appears, and Stephanie finds herself drawn into a web of conspiracy and intrigue.

One of my favorite parts of this series is the relationship between Morelli and Stephanie (I'm absolutely a "Cupcake" girl), and I wasn't sure I liked where Evanovich was going with them in the beginning of this book. But by the end, I was happy with where they stood, and enjoyed the solution to the mystery as well. Grandma and Lula are also hysterically funny as always.

If you haven't discovered this series yet, hurry out and get the first book (I would highly recommend you start at the beginning with One For the Money)!


Saturday, February 18, 2017

2017 Love-A-Thon!

I love the Love-A-Thon, and am so excited to be a part of it again! This weekend got busier than I expected it to, but I will jump on and participate whenever I can.

QUESTIONNAIRE


 An Introduction to You and Your Blog


My name is Becca, and I am blogging from Chicago.




I've always been a reader. My parents met in a bookstore where they both worked, My mom is a storyteller, and my dad is a poet. Reading, and words, are such a huge part of my family. I've always loved books.

I got involved in the online book community through Librarything. I then joined Goodreads as well, and got intrigued by the idea of starting a blog. It seemed like a great way to start writing again, share about one of my absolute favorite things (books!), and meet other book lovers.

I chose a blog because it gave me a chance to start writing again, which I was really missing. I chose the blog name The Bookkeeper's Apprentice as an homage to a Sherlock Holmes' non-canon book, The Beekeeper's Apprentice. Sherlock Holmes is my all-time favorite fictional character (my dog is even named Sherlock!), and I loved the idea of naming my blog as if I was his apprentice (my dream job) --and I loved the play on bookkeeper (I own so many books and keep so many of them!). 

I do also do bookstagram-I love taking pictures of what I'm reading and my surroundings (and my dog!)


I love the online book community because everyone is so friendly, gives such good recommendations, and just genuinely love books and reading so much.

I typically post reviews, especially of mystery, thriller, suspense, and true crime. I read and review a lot of ARCs, as well as older books from my TBR bookcases and the library. I frequently participate in Top Ten Tuesday, and do What Are You Reading Wednesday and Five Friday.

Favorites

My favorite foods are pizza and my mom's egg salad. My favorite beverages are chai, coffee, tea, and rumchata. 

My favorite color is purple. Besides reading, I am a preschool teacher. I love spending time with my family and friends, cheering for my Bulls, watching TV and movies, coloring, making fan videos, and doing crossword puzzles.

I have a ton of favorite TV shows, past and present, including: Lost, Alias, Sherlock (BBC), Elementary, Criminal Minds, Bones, Castle, So You Think You Can Dance, Hunted, American Horror Story, Lethal Weapon, Psych, Sense8, Scream Queens, Bates Motel, The Mole, Shadowhunters, Harper's Island, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Hercule Poirot, Midsommer Murders, The West Wing, Lucifer, This Is Us, Project Runway, Face Off, America's Next Top Model, Veronica Mars, Scooby Doo, Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, and The Amazing Race.

I have a lot of favorite movies too, including: Dirty Dancing, Identity, Scream, Psycho, Basic, Zodiac, Moana, Mulan, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, Cry Wolf, Primal Fear, And Then There Were None (1945 and 2016 versions), Murder on the Orient Express, Step Up, Rent, and Grease.

My favorite music to listen to is Matt Nathanson (I have a tattoo of one of his lyrics on my shoulder, my very first tattoo), the Hamilton soundtrack, Rob Thomas, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, and Matchbox Twenty.

I love to shop anywhere that is a bookstore! I love thrift stores too, and have recently fallen in love with Lularoe. I also love Target.


Book Talk

My favorite books as a kid were Nancy Drew, Happy Hollisters, Sam the Cat, Moomintrolls, Linnea in Monet's Garden, and Rainy Day Kate. 

My favorite book of the last 21 years remains The Westing Game, which I have read more times than I can count. 

Some of my other top books are And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie is my all-time favorite author), The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Murder on the Orient Express, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Devil in the White City, and The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. I also love any books by Gillian Flynn, Jennifer McMahon, Erle Stanley Gardner, Ngaio Marsh, P.D. James, Will Lavender, and Marisha Pessl.



Leave me a link to your Love-A-Thon post and I will try to come comment and leave some love! <3









Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Before I Fall



Title: Before I Fall
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Young Adult
Recommended If You Like: high school stories, character-driven tales, psychological insight, nostalgia, Groundhog Day

The Book:

Samantha is popular, with a gorgeous boyfriend and a group of best friends others in the school would die to be a part of. But it's Samantha who dies-and then wakes up, to relieve that last day of her life over and over again.

What does Samantha need to do to get it right this time? To figure it out, she will have to decide what really matters to her, and what is truly important in life.

What I Liked:

Oliver made high school come alive all over again for me in this book. I felt like I was right there with the characters, and it made me remember so vividly what it was like to be that age, riding in my best friend's car, music blasting.

This is also such an interesting concept for a book, and Oliver pulls it off well. Things never seen repetitive or boring, and there is a lot of suspense.

Anything I Didn't Like?

I sometimes felt like character development was a bit rushed. Despite this being a long book (over 400 pages), some characters still felt a bit one dimensional, with Oliver adding in details to flesh them out that just didn't really come together for me. I sometimes struggled with understanding the characters' motivations, even the main character and the reasoning behind her big changes.

So..?

This is a book I enjoyed, and that kept me interested--I flew through it, despite its length. But I didn't love it. Despite how well Oliver made the characters come alive, they still didn't feel as developed and three dimensional as I wanted them to be.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Book Couples I Love, and Review: Take the Fall



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

This week's Top Ten Tuesday is a romance freebie, so I decided to go with Ten Book Couples I Love!

1) Peeta and Katniss, The Hunger Games series

I was Team Peeta from the first time we met him, and Peeta and Katniss instantly became one of my OTPs. The way they come together, support each other, and grow together is so beautiful. I was so tense reading the last book in the trilogy, so afraid that they both wouldn't make it out alive, and that they wouldn't end up together.

2) Rose and Dimitri, Vampire Academy series

I love these books for so many reasons, but my top reason has to be Rose and Dimitri. They had so much romantic tension and chemistry building up between them, so many obstacles thrown in their way, and I was so rooting so hard for them to get their happy ending.

3) Nancy and Ned, Nancy Drew series

These two were one of my very first book OTPs. They are so sweet together, plus they solve mysteries as a brilliant team.

4) Vera and Phillip, And Then There Were None

This is one angsty couple that I couldn't help but root for. Their circumstances were dire, and they weren't necessarily very good people, but they seemed to have a chance to become better together. (It's also especially interesting that depending on whether you read the book, see the play, or which version of the movie you watch, their fate as a couple can be quite different.)

5) Tommy and Tuppence, various Agatha Christie mysteries

This is another excellent detective pairing. They bring out the best in each other, and go on amazing adventures solving mysteries together.

6) Elizabeth and Darcy, Pride and Prejudice
7) Emma and Mr. Knightley, Emma

It just wouldn't be a favorite book couples list without some couples from Jane Austen's books. These are classic and immensely popular couples for a reason--the buildup to their finally getting together is immense, and their love is beautiful.

8) Magnus and Alec, Mortal Instruments

I actually stopped reading this series after the fourth book, but I loved Magnus and Alec from the start. Even though I had lost interest in the other plots, I skimmed through the other books in the series to find their scenes and follow their story. 

9) Tris and Four, Divergent series

These two characters had so much chemistry to me, and so many obstacles to overcome, that I couldn't help but root for them. I loved that they made each other stronger and brought out the best in each other.

10) Lissa and Christian, Vampire Academy series

While these two faced different obstacles than their friends Rose and Dimitri, they too had so much to overcome, and so much chemistry.

What are some of your favorite book couples?

***





I'm always on the lookout for good young adult mysteries and thrillers, and Take the Fall is an excellent addition to that genre. 

It's the story of Sonia, who escaped an attack in the woods that left her best friend, Gretchen, dead. As Sonia attempts to come to grips with the events of that fateful night, she tries to understand what truly happened. But as Gretchen's secrets come to light, and Gretchen's ex-boyfriend Marcus emerges as the prime suspect, Sonia is forced to wrestle with her feelings in her fight towards the truth.

What really sets Take the Fall above many other books in this genre is the ending. It's an ending that had me gasping out loud, and frantically flipping back through the previous pages to see if it all made sense in retrospect--and it did. Hainsworth pulls off a end reveal that is shocking and brilliant.


Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: The Martian



I have a confession to make. I very rarely read science fiction. And I do mean very rarely. My favorite genres are absolutely mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and true crime, and almost all my reading comes out of these categories.

But the Popsugar Challenge had a challenge to read from a genre you don't normally read. So I went to my dad, who reads a lot of science fiction, and asked him for his recommendation. He always has great suggestions, so when he immediately said I should read The Martian, I borrowed his copy right away.

And, as always, my dad absolutely steered me right.

Weir has created the story of Mark Watney, an astronaut on a mission to Mars. But when a freak storm hits, Watney is left alone on Mars, believed dead.

Through ingenuity, intelligence, and a sense of humor, Watney somehow keeps going, figuring out a way to survive. But will it be enough to get him rescued?

I read The Martian in about a day, because I could not put it down. It was the kind of book I was thinking about whenever I wasn't reading it. I read it while I walked, and while I waited for the bus. It drove me crazy that it was sitting in my bag at work and I couldn't open it back up. As soon as I got home from work, I curled up in a chair and finished it.

What also impressed me was how thoroughly Weir must have done his research--and that he originally self-published this in serialized chapters, offering it for free before putting it on Amazon for the minimum ebook price allowed. It was there Weir's brilliant novel was discovered, and grew into the sensation it became.

I will admit quite a bit of the science went right over my head, and I did zone out a bit during some of the extremely technical scientific paragraphs. But this is truly the only negative I can find with this book, and that is solely based on my personal preference.

The Martian may be classified as science fiction, but it is also suspenseful, psychological, and thrilling. I can already tell it's going to be one of my top reads of the year.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reviews: The Nightwalker, Girl with a Peal Earring, and Where'd You Go, Bernadette



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.

Title: The Nightwalker
Author: Sebastian Fitzek
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense
Recommended If You Like: creepy reads, lots of twists and turns, a shocker of an ending

The Book:

Leon thought he was cured from the rampant and violent sleepwalking of his youth, but now his wife has disappeared. Desperate to find answers, Leon orders a motion activated camera to film what happens when he sleeps--and is stunned to see footage of him descending through a hidden door in his apartment that he has never seen before.

What I Liked:

This is a very suspenseful and eerie book. I could not put it down. Fitzek keeps the tension ratcheted up and doesn't let go.

The plot is so original too, I had to keep reading to know where the story was going. 

The ending--I won't go into details so as not to spoil it--but that last chapter is amazing, and packs such a punch. 

Anything I Didn't Like?

There really isn't anything I can think of that I didn't enjoy about this book. Every time I got worried Fitzek wasn't going to be able to live up the level of suspense and mystery he had created, he pulled out another twist. 

So...?

I would definitely recommend this book. It's a quick, extremely suspenseful read that is really original and clever. And that last chapter--worth the read just for that twist alone!


Chevalier has spun a beautiful piece of historical fiction around a famous painting. She tells the story of Griet, a maid in Vermeer's household, who becomes immersed in his world and his art.

Chevalier packs an emotional punch in a short novel, and makes art come alive through the written word. This is one of those books that truly deserves the hype it received upon its publication, and I'm only sorry I waited so long to finally read it.


I needed a light, fun read, and that is what I got here. I also got a book that manages to be emotional while still being funny.

Semple tells the story of Bernadette and her family. Bernadette has a past she doesn't talk about, and a beautiful but falling-apart home she hides away in. But when Bernadette disappears, it is left to her daughter, Bee, to piece what happened together. Bee uses faxes, e-mails, websites, and articles, plus her own experiences, to tell her mother's story, and find her.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Review: The Devil Crept In








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.

Title: The Devil Crept In
Author: Ania Ahiborn
Publication Date: February 7, 2017
Genre: Thriller/Horror
Recommended If You Like: urban legends, small towns with secrets, creepy reads


The Book:

Stevie is a kid no one takes seriously. Even his own family thinks he is imagining things. But when his cousin Jude goes missing, Stevie knows Jude is in serious trouble, and that his disappearance has ties to the body of another young boy found years ago

What I Liked:

This is a creepy book! It's got some seriously scary small town secrets from the past horror going on.

Ahiborn does a great job of executing twists and turns. I never felt like I knew where the story was going or what was going to happen.This kept me hooked, and kept me reading.

Anything I Didn't Like?

It was hard to find a character to like in this novel, which I do definitely think was something Ahiborn did on purpose. Everyone is sad, and troubled, and beaten down by life and circumstances, and no one acts the way you want them to. (I did sympathize with Stevie, but found it hard to connect with him.) This is not necessarily a negative, but the book was so dark on top of this, it was hard to find any sign of light.

So...?

This is one of those books that leaves me not entirely sure how I feel about it. I sometimes struggled with it because it was so dark, but there was also something about it that kept me hooked, and made me keep reading. I finished this book in about two days, which definitely says something. I had to know what was going to happen.