Monday, August 31, 2015

August Reading Roundup

Books read in August:

How did August go?

I read 13 books, including two of my ARCs, and the newest book from one of my favorite authors. I went to Comic Con, and got a lot of great book art. Plus, I went back to work-the new school year started and I am a Pre-K teacher (my fifth year teaching).

And I started this blog! I am so happy to have started this book blog, to get to write about books, and to get to know and interact with all you fellow book lovers!

In really exciting news, this coming month,  I will be posting my first author interview, with one of my favorite authors of all-time, Will Lavender!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall (and a Reading Challenge!)

A non-fiction hybrid of true crime, history, literature, and religion, The Poet and the Murderer is the fascinating tale of a forged Emily Dickinson poem, and the storied past of the forger himself.

Worrall weaves in the history of Mormonism and its most important religious documents, with details of Emily Dickinson's life and poetry. He does this all while telling the tale of Mark Hofmann, a man who began committing forgeries both to become wealthy, and to bring down a church he considered hypocritical, but whose hubris brought him down in a highly dramatic fashion.

Having clearly done his research, Worrall is also able to more than competently discuss handwriting analysis, which is an important component to detecting a forgery. These parts were the sections that got a little dry for me, but I will be the first to admit I picked up this book more for the literature, history, and true crime elements than the science.

4/5 stars ****

And now, the promised note on a Reading Challenge! Novel Dreams ( is hosting an awesome sounding months-long challenge/contest. The first round is up now-I highly recommend you check it out! I started The Last September by Nina De Gramont this morning for the first round.

Friday, August 28, 2015

(Top) Five Friday: Five Books I Wish More People Would Read

For my first Top Five Friday, I decided to do books I wish would get more readers. I'm always so happy when my recommendation encourages someone else to pick up a book I loved.

1 (and 1.5!): Dominance by Will Lavender, Obedience by Will Lavender 

So yes, I'm sort of cheating by squeezing two books into my first selection, but they are both by the same author, and it seems like almost no one else has read these brilliant novels. They've got incredible mysteries, tons of twists, and entire novels created within these two novels that hold clues the characters and readers use to solve disappearances and murders. I cannot recommend these enough. I'm hopeful if more people pick them up, maybe his third book will finally come out.

2.  Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder by Amy Butcher

I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this at a recent ALA convention, and I could not be happier that I did. I'm honestly not sure I would have known about this book otherwise. When the author was in college, a friend of hers committed a murder, killing someone they both knew and had been close to. Visiting Hours explores friendship, growing up, mental illness, and how well we can ever really know someone else.

3. Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

In the interest of full disclosure, this book was written by a friend of my mom's. But in total honesty, I would recommend this book wholeheartedly regardless. The protagonist is an incredibly nuanced and emotionally resonant character who is male-assigned, but emerging as her true self, a girl, trying to find herself during the already-complicated junior high years.

4. My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel

As someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I just really appreciate this book. It's well-written, insightful, comforting, and informational. It's a book that I think is really helpful and powerful for people who have any form of anxiety, and people who know and love people with anxiety.

5. Quirkyalone by Sasha Cagen

The subheading describes the book as a manifesto for uncompromising romantics, but that is not why I love this book. I love this book because it celebrates those of us who love and value our time alone, who are not only fine but happy being single, who take happiness from our relationships with family and friends, and who take happiness from just being ourselves. This book made me feel more understood, and validated.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

This is a cozy genre mystery with a protagonist, Brett, who is a female tattoo artist and owns her own shop in Las Vegas. One seemingly normal day, a woman comes in and wants to get a devotion tattoo with the name Matt in it. But that woman never comes back, and soon she has been reported missing-and it turns out her fiance's name is Chip, not Matt. And that the name she gave to Brett wasn't her own name.

Brett gets entangled in the mystery, ends up on 20/20, and finds herself followed by a large bald man with an eagle tattooed on his neck. Throw in a cop for a brother, a handsome Englishman who may be hiding something, and an opulent themed casino, and you've got a fun, quick read that flies by.

Olson's characters occasionally ride on the fine line of being a stereotype, but she clearly loves tattoos and mysteries, and just reading the descriptions of all the amazing tattoos had me plotting my next one.

I would pick up this series again in the near future.

3/5 stars ***

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

True Crime Tuesday: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

In Cold Blood is so often read and discussed that there have been multiple graphic novels and movies both based off of it, and about the writing process of it itself. When people think true crime, this is a book that almost always makes the list.

Much of this is because In Cold Blood is so well-written. Capote takes the true crime story and turns it into a flowing narrative novel. Some of the interest is certainly due to many people accusing Capote of taking artistic license with true events, spinning certain moments to fit his perspective, or inventing scenes altogether.

What is known for sure is that the Clutter family was murdered, and that Capote arrived on the scene to look into the story even before the killers, Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith, were arrested. Capote spent considerable time with the people involved, including the killers themselves, particularly Smith. Capote found himself becoming part of his own story, having a difficult personal stake in how things ended.

Things ended with the execution of Smith and Hickock, and Capote spending six years working on what would become his best known piece of literature, and one of the best known true crime novels to date.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Art!

Every year, I attend Comic Con with my dad, and one of my favorite parts of the experience is the art I am able to collect. Almost all the art I buy has something to do with books.

Predominantly I collect anything Sherlock Holmes.



And figurines, piggy banks, and pins:

And Sherlock Holmes through the ages as cats done on pieces of cardboard:

I was also able to get some The Princess Bride pieces this year:

Follow me on Bloglovin :) Bookkeeper's Bloglovin here!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Orient by Christopher Bollen (ARC)

"Who can lean on Kilimanjaro?" 

I received a copy of this arc at an ALA convention, and finally picked it up this past week. It is a heavy book to carry, particularly taking public transportation to and from work, but it is well worth lugging around.

This book is ostensibly a murder mystery, but it is also a deep and insightful study of humanity, about small towns, cities, marriages, homes, and parenthood. It's about what happens when you reach too high, when you try to rely on something that isn't attainable, and who you hurt when you keep pushing anyway.

What particularly impressed me about this book is how good a mystery it was. On top of being beautifully written, and very thoughtful, the mystery is also suspenseful and hard-hitting, The ending comes as a complete shock, but when you look back, it all makes sense, the mark of a really excellent mystery novel.

4.5/5 stars

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

*Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

On this, my first Throwback Thursday, I chose a book I had finished right at this time in 2013, Gentlemen and Players, by Joanne Harris. This is a novel I mentioned in my previous Gone Girl entry.

I love psychological thrillers/suspense/mysteries set at schools, like The Secret History, The Secret Place, The Twisted Thread, and Special Topics in Calamity Physics. The school setting is crucial to Gentlemen and Players, and Harris uses it brilliantly. There is a history to St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, the school setting of this story, linked by a Classics teacher who has taught there for over thirty years. Troublesome incidents begin to occur to faculty and students alike, and behind it all is a mysterious character with a grudge to bear and a plan set in motion.

This is a book that knows how to execute a perfect shocking twist. Trust me when I say there is a very good chance you will actually gasp out loud when you get to that twist.

4.5/5 stars

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Killer Sweet Tooth by Gayle Trent

*Killer Sweet Tooth by Gayle Trent

A cozy mystery with some delicious-sounding deserts, Killer Sweet Tooth has Daphne Martin for its protagonist, a baker with a tendency to stumble on dead bodies. This time, she finds a dead dentist, all while fending off the advances of an Elvis impersonator and constructing the perfect peanut butter banana pink Cadillac cake.

Yes, this concept certainly sounds way out there, and it could have been a disaster. But Trent recognizes the ridiculousness and embraces it. Daphne even thinks she is hallucinating the Elvis impersonator at first, and cannot stop laughing.

The mystery is clever, full of unique characters and entertaining situations. It plays right on the fine line of being over-the-top and convoluted, but Trent knows her story well and keeps a firm hold on it.

This is exactly the kind of book I need sometimes, a light fun read that is easy to process and quick to finish.

3/5 ***

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

True Crime Tuesday: Popular Crimes by Bill James

My brother was the one who first recommended this book to me. I bought it on my Kindle, and after re reading it multiple times, I ordered a paperback copy for my true crime shelf. It's one of those books that you find something new in every time you read it.

James, originally a baseball statistician, takes a fresh look at true crime and the public's fascination with them. From Lizzie Borden to the Black Dahlia to JonBenet Ramsey, James examines crime rates, evidence collection, the prison system, and even offers up some solutions of his own. He offers his own take on why we as a society love reading true crime stories, and the impact they have on our cultures as a whole.

What is especially impressive is that James revisits his own book in updated editions. He answers comments from readers that suggest one of his solutions might be flawed, by doing even more research. He adds new crime stories to his repertoire. James, like his readers, is fascinated by true crime stories himself, and comes at his subject like a reader who constantly wants to know more.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bout of Books 14!

Bout of Books

So I will admit I am a little intimidated by this. I'm very new to the book blog world (essentially three days old as of today), but this looked like way too much fun to pass up.

"The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team "

Time Devoted to Reading

I will be reading all week, whenever I can. I started back at work this week, and have Comic Con all day on Saturday, so time is a little tighter than usual, but I read every day anyway-just going to try to squeeze even a little bit more time in.

My Goals

  • To make a dent in my to be read shelves

Books to Read

  • Anything off my to be read shelves


Number of books I've read today: I'm working on two
Total number of books I've read: None finished yet, but one almost done
Books: Killer Sweet Tooth by Gayle Trent, Orient by Christopher Bollen (ARC)

Number of books I've read today: Three-Finished one, started one, read more of one
Total number of books I've read: Finished one
Books: Killer Sweet Tooth by Gayle Trent, Orient by Christopher Bollen, The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall

Number of books I've read today: Continued reading two
Total number of books I've read: One finished, two in progress
Books: Orient by Christopher Bollen, The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall

Number of books I've read today: Continued on the two I had been reading
Total number of books I've read: One finished, two in progress
Books: Orient by Christopher Bollen, The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall

Number of books I've read today: Reading two
Total number of books I've read: One finished, working on two
Books: Orient by Christopher Bollen, The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall

Number of books I've read today: Working on two
Total number of books I've read: One finished, working on two
Books: Orient by Christopher Bollen, The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall

Number of books I've read today: Three-finished one, started one, continued with one
Total number of books I've read: Two finished, working on two
Books: Orient by Christopher Bollen-finished, The Poet and the Murderer by Simon Worrall, The Missing Ink by Karen E. Olson

Mystery Monday: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

For my first Mystery Monday, I wanted to start with a classic, one of my favorite books of all time, let alone one of my favorite mysteries. For me, And Then There Were None is a constant answer to the question, "If you were on a desert island, what would you want to have with you?" I have read and re read this book so many times, and continue to pick it up at least once a year, sometimes more.

It is a mystery novel, it is a horror story, it is a psychological study of the evils that men do, it is a commentary on what justice really means (and how it can mean different things to different people). It is a lesson in the proper use of red herrings and twist endings. It is a classic for so many reasons.

And Then There Were None is the story of a group of people who have been summoned to an isolated island by a person they have never met. When they arrive, they discover that they have been brought there by a madman, who accuses them each of committing a horrible crime they were never punished for. People start to die in the manner of a nursery rhyme, and the readers and characters come to the horrifying realization that there is no one else on the island, and the killer is among the guests. U.N. Owen has been among them all along.

A particularly chilling scene puts the readers in the characters' heads, allowing them access to their thoughts-but Christie doesn't reveal which character is which. Thus, you are reading the thoughts of a murderer, still not knowing who that murderer is.

The ending packs a powerful punch, a twist you don't see coming. You will want to immediately re read the book to see what clues you may have missed. And Then There Were None offers something new to its readers every time it is opened.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Reread Review: Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon

"Dismantlement Equals Freedom. To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart."

Confession: I have a lot of books on my To Be Read shelves. I have bookcases that are only filled with To Be Read books. And yet, sometimes I can't resist revisiting an old favorite.

Anything by Jennifer McMahon is automatically an old favorite for me.

Dismantled has a fascinating premise. Four people were part of a group in college called The Compassionate Dismantlers, and their purpose was to make themselves and the world free by breaking everything and everyone down. But some of their pranks went too far, and a member died.

This death has reverberations through to the present day. One half of the group is now married with a little girl they conceived during the days of The Compassionate Demantlers. One member has disappeared. And someone they all knew well has committed suicide after receiving a mysterious postcard.

Add in an eerie imaginary friend that may just be real, sightings of a woman who may very well be a ghost, and the mystery of what really happened all those years ago, and you've got a book you won't be able to put down. I had a block of free time yesterday, and despite having read this book before, I curled up with this book for hours until I finished it.

In some of her earlier books, you can see McMahon still attempting to completely nail down her trademark style of supernatural, psychological, and mystery. The ending packs a punch, but seems a little rushed, and a little unbelievable even within the otherworldly atmosphere of the story. But what is amazing about McMahon is that even when she isn't at her absolute best, she is still incredible.

4/5 stars

Saturday, August 15, 2015

So You've Read Gone Girl...Now What?

Most readers have long since read and reread Gone Girl, and are looking for the next great psychological thriller to devour. The thriller is one of my favorite genres, and I've read quite a few. Here I've listed some of my personal recommendations for books to read once you've finished Gone Girl. Some are already quite well-known, some you may not have heard of yet. Hopefully you find at least one you haven't read yet!

*The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

These are classic originators of the narrator caught up in murder and mayhem. These were two of the first, and finest, books that dared to reveal to their readers that the previously trusted narrator may not be telling everything they know, whether they realize it or not.

The Turn of the Screw centers around a governess summoned to an old house, ostensibly to take care of two children. But when she starts to see and hear supernatural happenings, the reader must puzzle out if these are ghosts in the home, or ghosts in her mind.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is, as the title suggests, primarily about the murder of a man named Roger Ackroyd. The narrator in this instance though is not the trusted and familiar detective Hercule Poirot, but a doctor the readers meet for the first time within these pages.

*Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

This book came out just a few months ago, and immediately gained positive comparisons to Gone Girl. The narrator, Ani FaNelli, lets the readers know right off the back that there is a secret hidden in her past, a reason why a documentary crew would want to meet with her to hear her side of the story. What that secret is builds slowly and expertly, and even if you guess part of it, as I did, you won't guess it all. This book layers reveal after reveal, carefully pulling you in and never letting you go.

*The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

This is probably the book to get the most immediate comparisons to Gone Girl. I was lucky enough to get a free autographed copy at a recent ALA convention. The Girl on the Train certainly earns its comparisons. It also features a blatantly unreliable narrator, who may or may not be more reliable than the police are giving her credit for, one who believes she has witnessed a murder, but cannot prove a thing.

*Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

The narrator of this is a woman suffering from dementia, who is the prime suspect in the murder of her neighbor. This is a very clever and well-done twist on the unreliable narrator motif, with the narrator herself not actually knowing what she has done, trying to figure it out along with the readers.

*Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Like Gone Girl, Sister is a psychological thriller that examines what happens when it turns out a missing loved one may not be who we always thought they were, and the search for answers that may be too painful to confront.

*Dominance, and Obedience, both by Will Lavender

Lavender is an author I strongly feels gets far less love than he deserves. While his books do not feature first-person narrators, they are expertly drawn psychological thrillers full of endless twists and turns. Obedience centers around a college class that has been told their one and only assignment is to solve the mystery of a missing girl before she is murdered; Dominance is also focused on a college class, this one taught by a literature professor who is still in jail, as he is believed to have killed two of his female students.

*The Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon

This is the most recent of McMahon's books, but I absolutely recommend her previous works as well. The Night Sister also examines what the long-reverberating effects can be when we discover a loved one may not be what we always believed, or, sometimes more painfully, that they are what we suspected all along. Expertly tying in the past, the present, and even Alfred Hitchcock, The Night Sister brings a supernatural twist to the psychological thriller genre.

*Dark Places, and Sharp Objects, both by Gillian Flynn

If you loved Gone Girl, but haven't read Flynn's two earlier books, you definitely want to go get your hands on copies of these now. Flynn had her art perfected from the beginning, and both these books pack her patented sharp twists and turns, and expert revealing of secrets and lies from the past.

Dark Places has Libby Day for a narrator, though other characters do pop up in third person situations. Day was the lone survivor of The Satan Sacrifice of Kinnakee, Kansas, a massacre that cost her mother and sisters their lives. Through The Kill Club, an underground society whose focus is true crime, Day begins to re investigate the crime, and learns that the brother she accused may not be guilty after all.

Sharp Objects takes Camille Preaker as its narrator, a reporter sent back to where she grew up to write on the murders of two girls. But Camille has a secret from her past, one that drove her to seek help in a psych hospital.

*Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane

Like Gone Girl, Shutter Island takes what you think you know from the first half of the book, and completely and expertly turns it on its head. This book sends a U.S. Marshal to an isolated island and its mental asylum, and contains one of the greatest twists I've ever read. This was actually a favorite of my grandmother's as well.

*The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Like Gone Girl has become for Gillian Flynn, thus has The Goldfinch become for Donna Tartt-an immensely popular later work that sometimes overshadows the author's earlier writings. The Secret History is a tour-de-force of suspense, telling the tale of a group of college students who took things too far in their attempt to live outside society's norms and moral standards.

*Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

This is another brilliantly woven tale that questions just how much we can know about a loved one, especially when they are no longer there to answer our never-ending questions. McCreight is a master of a twist that packs an emotional punch, a twist that makes complete sense when you look back, but that you never saw coming. Reconstructing Amelia also plays with the idea of media, and, particularly in the vein of Gone Girl, what our own writings really say about us.

*Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

When the narrator opens with the line, "If there's one thing I've learned in the past fifteen years, it's this: that murder is really no big deal", you know you're in for a thrilling ride. Add this to the club of amazing books that completely take what you thought you knew and thoroughly and believably turn it around.

So, have you read any of these books? Do you have any other recommendations? I'd love to hear from you!

As always,

The Bookkeeper's Apprentice

Welcome to The Bookkeeper's Apprentice!

Welcome to The Bookkeeper's Apprentice, my book blog! The above is my dog Sherlock, in front of just some of my books (that above collection is from my visit to ALA this year). I am an avid reader, (even reading while I walk!), a former English major, and a Pre-K teacher.

This blog will be a collection of my thoughts on books, books read, books I want to read, lists, suggestions, and much much more. I am always open to suggestions/requests for things you'd like to see me talk about in future blog posts.

I collect all versions of anything Agatha Christie ever wrote, and anything Sherlock Holmes. I tend to read mysteries and true crime predominantly, though many other genres always find their way onto my shelves.

My favorite authors include Agatha Christie, P.D. James, Ngaio Marsh, Will Lavender, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Erle Stanley Gardner, Erik Larson, Marisha Pessl, Gilian Flynn, Jennifer McMahon, Donna Tartt, Kimberly McCreight, and Laurie King.

My favorite books include The Westing Game, Murder on the Orient Express, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, And Then There Were None, Promise Not to Tell, Dominance, Obedience, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Devil in the White City, Night Film, Dark Places, Sharp Objects, Gone Girl, Promise Not to Tell, The Secret History, Reconstructing Amelia, and The Beekeeper's Apprentice.

I am very excited about this blog, and I hope you are too!

As always,
The Bookkeeper's Apprentice